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Who are the NFL’s top contenders at the quarter mark of the season?

There’s about a dozen teams who seem likely to be making playoff pushes when all is said and done.

Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Who are the best teams in the NFL after four games, and who seem likely to stick around? That’s what we’ll determine today, with brief capsules for the teams I think are most likely to be hanging around at the end of the year.

For teams you don’t see here, like the Detroit Lions or Denver Broncos, know that I’m not disrespecting them so much as thinking they’ll be fringe playoff teams when the dust settles. I’d love to hear your choices once you’ve reviewed mine.


Kansas City Chiefs

They simply look better than everyone else thus far. Kareem Hunt already looks like a stud running back, a creative passing attack is keeping the offense balanced, and the defense is typically terrific. They’re the NFL’s only undefeated team, and they look like one of the most dangerous squads in the entire NFL.

New England Patriots

The Patriots are just 2-2 and have an enjoyably terrible defense, but their offense remains lethal and the talent base on the other side of the ball suggests they’ll at least get to mediocre before the end of the season. That makes them dangerous, even if I’d prefer the Patriots era just sort of ended in 2017.

Pittsburgh Steelers

I don’t trust Ben Roethlisberger to hold up all year, but any time you have Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and a defense that can hold four opponents to 59 points over a four game span, you’re a contender. So much depends on health for this team, though.

Buffalo Bills

I was going to put the Denver Broncos here, but frankly the Bills look better than they do to this point. Their defense has allowed an NFL-low point total, they did a very nice job against our Falcons just this past Sunday, and there’s just enough offensive talent here to imagine they’ll be able to make a run. In a still-weak AFC, I like them better than other teams with quality defenses and suspect offenses, including Denver and Jacksonville.

Houston Texans

Houston looked very weak early on, but with Deshaun Watson playing well, they have a quarterback to go with a solid supporting cast and a terrific defense. I like their chances of coming out of the AFC South quite a bit.


Atlanta Falcons

Still one of the NFL’s better teams despite injuries, turnovers, penalties and some hiccups in their offensive gameplan. Atlanta’s going to get much healthier after the bye week and has the reigning MVP, the best 1-2 punch at running back in the NFL, a good offensive line, an elite receiver in Julio Jones, and a dangerous, young defense that hasn’t yet hit its stride. They’ll be in it until the end.

Green Bay Packers

They’re not great right now, but you have Aaron Rodgers. You’re automatically set to make a run to the postseason, at the very least, even if Green Bay wants no part of Atlanta at this point.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings can’t get this thing done with Case Keenum at the helm, but once they get Sam Bradford back, they’ll be a genuine contender again. Even without stellar rookie Dalvin Cook, they have a decent ground game, they have two of the better young receivers in the NFL, and the defense needs no introduction.

Philadelphia Eagles

I’m only picking the Eagles out of the NFC East, which will come as a little bit of a surprise considering I was bullish on the Cowboys coming into the year. Their defense simply isn’t great, however, and the offense has been scuffling a bit off and on to start the year. The Eagles, meanwhile, look solid across the board, and should be able to ride that into the postseason

Los Angeles Rams

The Seahawks are the de facto favorites in the NFC West, but the Rams have been far more impressive. Their roster is studded with talent on both sides of the ball, and it appears the coaching change from Jeff Fisher to Sean McVay unlocked their potential. With Seattle bringing one of the worst offensive lines in football to bear, I have a lot more confidence in the Rams, who could be a genuine juggernaut if they just stay healthy.

The NFC South Mashup

I’m not ready to write off any of the other teams in the NFC South, all of whom have significant flaws coupled with genuine talent. The Bucs or Panthers could still make a run, but I obviously like Atlanta better in every sense of the word.

Who do you have as the top contenders thus far?