NFL Playoffs 2019: Pretenders vs. contenders entering Week 6

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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NFL Playoffs
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images /

NFC No. 2 Seed: New Orleans Saints – Contender

Since losing to the Rams in Week 2 and subsequently losing Drew Brees to injury, the New Orleans Saints have actually been more impressive than they were to begin the year. No, Teddy Bridgewater isn’t lighting the world on fire. However, the team around him has been playing at a remarkably high level.

Marshon Lattimore and the New Orleans defense have been terrific, Michael Thomas and the pieces around Bridgewater have risen to the occasion and the team as a whole is just going out and doing their job, putting them at 4-1 on the season and 3-0 without Brees.

With the Saints set to get their veteran quarterback and leader back for the home stretch of the regular season, they are in fantastic position to take control of the NFC and hit their full stride heading into the NFL Playoffs. There’s no escaping that the Saints are viable contenders once again.

NFC No. 1 Seed: San Francisco 49ers – Conditional Contender

Recently, I wrote on why the San Francisco 49ers should be considered NFC favorites after their demolition of the Browns in Week 5. That’s something that I do believe in. Kyle Shanahan’s run-heavy offense is thriving, Jimmy Garoppolo is getting his footing and the defense is both loaded and playing at a remarkably high level. The Niners check every box for being a potential contender — except one.

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They’re earning “conditional contender” status here, as did the Lions, until they actually have a tough matchup. Though the 49ers are the only remaining undefeated team in the NFC, their four wins have come against opponents that are a combined 5-15 over the first five weeks. We’ll learn much more about the 49ers as they play the Rams in Week 6 and the Panthers in Week 8 and I believe they’ll prove themselves legitimate. But until they do, they get conditional status.