NFL Playoffs 2019: Pretenders vs. contenders entering Week 6

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NFL Playoffs
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AFC No. 4 Seed: Baltimore Ravens – Pretender

If you’d had asked me a couple of weeks ago if the Baltimore Ravens were a pretender or contender, I likely would’ve landed on the latter. Lamar Jackson and the offense looked like a problem that the rest of the NFL wasn’t going to be able to solve while the defense, though not the caliber of past teams in Baltimore, looked good enough to give the Ravens an edge with their high-powered offense.

The past two weeks have been telling, though. A talented yet troubled Browns team moved the ball at will on Baltimore while completely stifling Jackson and the offense. Then that effort was nearly repeated against Mason Rudolph and the Steelers, who the Ravens needed overtime and a turnover in the extra frame to beat.

No one should deny the upside of the Ravens. However, the last couple of weeks have shown that Baltimore has some work to do before they actually reach that potential.

AFC No. 3 Seed: Houston Texans – Pretender

The Houston Texans would make the 2019 NFL Playoffs if the season after ended right now thanks to winning tiebreakers in the logjammed AFC South. Moreover, they’re coming off an impressive offensive showing as Deshaun Watson and Will Fuller lit up the Falcons in a 53-32 drubbing. Thus, their designation as a pretender might be a bit shocking.

What it comes down to with Houston is the glaring deficiencies of this team. The offensive line, no matter how good Watson is, remains an enormous issue that good teams are going to take advantage of. Furthermore, the defense has been fine but nothing that you’re going to write home about either. They may well win the AFC South but it’s fair to say that no team coming out of that division should be considered a real contender.