Thanks to AFC weaklings, Patriots have shot at perfection

The trading deadline in the National Football League passed Tuesday afternoon with no earth-shaking moves.

Most teams are at the midpoint and the list of true Super Bowl contenders can now be counted on one hand. Here’s one man’s opinion on the true contenders to go with five true pretenders, masquerading as teams to beat.

The Contenders

New England – Of course, the Patriots, even with a 42-year-old quarterback and an offensive line that’s still accepting applications, are the overwhelming favorite to again win it all.

An anemic AFC (currently 10 games under .500), combined with Patrick Mahomes’ knee, Lamar Jackson’s arm and Bill O’Brien’s in-game brain cramps, have left the Patriots’ defense with the opportunity to make history.

Is 19-0 in play? Not sure, but 18-0 certainly is. This conference is deplorable, and more importantly, the Patriots are very good.

New Orleans – This is the team with a narrative, and often that matters for some reason in the NFL. Maybe it’s Drew Brees, one of the game’s greats and an amazing human being away from the game. It’s tough to find anyone on this planet rooting against him.

And then there’s the way this team was jobbed in the NFC title game a year ago. It just feels right. They’ve played awesome through injuries to Brees and Alvin Kamara. You have to like their body of work so far.

San Francisco – Jimmy Garoppolo is now 15-2 as a starter. This is well past the fluky stage, and that nasty defense around him rivals the group in Foxborough.

The key for the Niners is weapons. Adding Manny Sanders was huge. George Kittle is Gronkowski 2.0. And the Breda-Coleman dynamic in the backfield gives defense fits.

Seattle – In my life, after watching him for three seasons, would I have ever used the “coach-quarterback” argument as a positive when speaking about Pete Carroll.

But in this era of the NFL, Pete is a top-3 guy with a top-5 QB in Russell Wilson.

Playing in the same division as the Niners and Rams, Seattle will be battle-tested.

In a losing Super Bowl, Wilson made me an admired for life.

The Seahawks scare me.

Philadelphia – I had to bring up fear, didn’t I?

What makes 4-4 Philly special? For one, attitude.

These guys have been beaten up over eight games and still keep battling. Don’t sell the win up at Buffalo short.

Yes, they are longshots. But the division is the right one. Dallas isn’t good enough to be considered a “pretender” and both the Giants and Redskins are ridiculously bad.

The Pretenders

Houston – This team, even losing JJ Watt to a torn pectoral for the year, remains the most bedazzled team on the planet. Stars are everywhere. Clutch, bigtime victories? Not so prevalent in the Coach O’Brien Era.

LA Rams – Seriously, and I’ve written this before, Jared Goff lost me when as a rookie, he could not answer the question pertaining to where the sun rises and sets. Google it. It was on “Hard Knocks.”

He gave me an anti-Goff booster shot in the Super Bowl last year when Brandin Cooks was standing alone in the back of the end zone for seconds and Goff couldn’t find him until an ancient Jason McCourty hopped on his scooter and got there in time to just break it up.

Kansas City – No defense. No reason to believe Mahomes will be healthy, I mean really healthy, again this year.

It’s time for Andy Reid, this enabler of thugs like Tyreek Hill, to go.

Green Bay – Tough not to like that offense. Aaron Rodgers is liquid offense. Aaron Jones has the look of the next Kareem Hunt (on the field). But there are tough teams in the NFC. Rugged teams. Teams that will beat the stuffing out of this finesse offense. And the winter weather won’t help the Pack either.

Baltimore – I had Josh Allen and the Bills lined up in this spot. They were perfect. And then they vomitted breakfast against the Eagles. So it’s the Ravens.

Look, we see week after week how stupid teams won’t even give themselves a real chance by playing a defense dedicated to stopping Tom Brady’s short passing game.

The same can be said for Jackson and the Baltimore run attack.

Come December and January that all changes. And the Ravens head home early.