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Which teams are contenders and which are pretenders heading into Week 11?

Home » NFL » NFL Contenders and Pretenders: Which Teams Are for Real Heading into Week 11?

With 10 weeks worth of evidence in the 2022 season, it’s finally time to make some bold statements about NFL contenders and pretenders.

The preseason Super Bowl odds seem like a distant memory, not to mention relatively worthless at this point. This season hasn’t unfolded the way anyone would have predicted, which is why we need to closely examine NFL contenders and pretenders ahead of the stretch run.

NFL contenders and pretenders ahead of Week 11

But who are the NFL contenders heading into Week 11 and who are the pretenders that are likely to fold down the stretch?

Even at this point in the season, these decisions aren’t easy to make. But taking into account the NFL playoff picture as it stands, we wanted to share our opinions on the NFL contenders and pretenders in 2022.

Titans – Pretender

In all likelihood, the Titans are going to win the AFC South again. But that doesn’t mean we need to take them seriously as a contender in the AFC, even if they’re guaranteed of a home playoff game as a division winner.


Tennessee has scored 21 points or less in seven of nine games, which doesn’t leave them much margin for error, even if they play strong defense.

Ryan Tannehill is having one of his worst seasons while rookie Malik Willis is nowhere near ready to take over. The situation at wide receiver isn’t all that promising either. Everything hinges on Derrick Henry and the defense, which is a combination that’s succeeded in the past. But the Titans have always offered a little more from other parts of the roster, which isn’t happening in 2022.

Jets – Contender

The Jets are arguably the biggest surprise in football this season, but at 6-3, they have to be considered a contender to at least make the playoffs.

They were able to hang tough against the Buffalo offense a couple of weeks ago and steal a win against the Bills, albeit at home. That should be enough to take the Jets seriously.

In fairness, it’s still hard to be completely sold on Zach Wilson. The loss of Breece Hall to injury was also a big blow, although acquiring James Robinson was a good move. Also, wide receiver Garrett Wilson has legitimate OROY odds, giving the Jets an offensive playmaker they perhaps weren’t expecting before the season.


The bottom line is the jets have a top-10 defense and are heading down the stretch with a 4-0 record on the road, which makes them a contender.

Chargers – Pretender

It’s been a disappointing season for the AFC West with the Broncos and Raiders fading fast. The Chargers look destined to join them, as they only got to 5-4 by beating those two teams in addition to three other losing teams, including the lowly Texans.

They’ve failed to beat quality teams, which is why they should be labeled as a pretender.

Granted, Justin Herbert gives the Chargers a chance in every game they play. But the rest of the roster is deeply flawed, as Los Angeles struggles to stop the run or use their own running game consistently. That’s not going to fly down the stretch when the Chargers are likely to collapse.

Bengals – Contender

It’s been an ugly season for the reigning AFC champs, but the Bengals are far from done in 2022.

Keep in mind that they put themselves in an 0-2 hole at the start of the season. The Bengals have managed to fight back and get themselves to 5-4 at the midway point of the season.

For what it’s worth, Cincinnati’s schedule during the second half of the season is far from easy. There are also serious concerns about the offensive line. However, Joe Burrow was able to overcome those problems last season, so he can do it again.

The Cincinnati defense has also stood tall at times, giving the Bengals a chance to get back to the playoffs, where it’ll be hard to bet against Burrow.

Rams – Pretender

It’s time to stop thinking that the Rams are going to turn things around and look like the reigning Super Bowl champs. Things have gone horribly wrong for Los Angeles this season and it doesn’t look like Sean McVay is going to fix it.

Even with the NFC West looking open, the Rams sit at the bottom and don’t appear capable of taking advantage of the glimmer of hope.

Heading into Week 11, the Rams have lost three in a row and are dealing with injuries to both Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp. They also have road games against the Chiefs, Packers, Chargers, and Seahawks left on their schedule, so losing 10 games is more likely than getting to the playoffs.

Buccaneers – Contender

It was ugly for a while, but the Bucs are still a contender. In such a weak division, Tampa’s 5-5 record is good enough to put them in first place.

The other three teams look deeply flawed, meaning the Bucs should easily win the NFC South and get to the playoffs, even if they don’t finish with a winning record.

Once Tom Brady gets to the playoffs, you won’t want to bet against him. Even after everything that’s gone wrong, the Bucs have a good defense and the GOAT at quarterback. That’s enough to make them dangerous.

Giants – Pretender

It’s hard to go against the Giants because they’ve had such a great season. Brian Daboll has turned the organization around much faster than anyone could have predicted. In fact, at 6-2, it’s getting hard to envision the Giants missing the playoffs.

That being said, New York’s schedule will be tough down the stretch.

Five of their last seven games are against their NFC East rivals, all of whom are also playoff contenders. They also have the 8-1 Vikings on their schedule. The G-Men are at risk of a potential collapse, and even if it doesn’t happen, how can they possibly win playoff games with Daniel Jones?

49ers – Contender

As usual, overlook the 49ers at your own risk. This is still the team that’s been to the NFC Championship Game twice in the last three years with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback.

They also have Nick Bosa, whose DPOY odds are increasing every week, and Christian McCaffrey, who is a perfect fit for the run-heavy offense.

Heading into Week 11, only two teams left on San Francisco’s schedule have a winning record. One of those is a Seattle team the 49ers already beat once this year. In a weak NFC West, the 49ers look like a safe bet to reach the playoffs and will be a tough out once they get there.

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