Jets and 4 other teams that might not be pretenders

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 (Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images)

The New York Jets made a huge statement with an upset over the Buffalo Bills. What other NFL teams have joined them to prove they aren’t pretenders?

The 2022 NFL season has been anything but normal. While the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs have looked like the league’s best teams for most of the season, most of the expected contenders in the preseason have either struggled (like the inconsistent Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens) or flopped entirely (like the Green Bay Packers).

There have been plenty of surprise teams but which ones are actually contenders and can shed the label of pretenders? Let’s break down the top five candidates at the halfway point, starting with the Atlanta Falcons.

5. NFL Teams That Are No Longer Pretenders – Atlanta Falcons

If you asked most NFL experts at the beginning of the season about Atlanta they would have told you that the Falcons had a bottom-two roster in the league. The consensus view for the Falcons, who moved on from Matt Ryan and turned to Marcus Mariota as a placeholder at quarterback, was that the 2022 season would become a glorified tank job to land their next franchise quarterback.

Head coach Arthur Smith has done a magnificent job with his team, getting Atlanta to play hard each and every week. The Falcons are just 4-5 on the season but sit in first place in the NFC South thanks to the struggles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints.

While it is true that Atlanta has lost to both of those teams already this season, one came with a huge blown second-half lead (against New Orleans) while the game against Tampa Bay saw the Falcons rallying before a brutal roughing the passer call short-circuited a rally. Atlanta’s style of running heavily to avoid mistakes while playing feisty defense will play in a mediocre division and gives them an excellent chance to steal an improbable division title.

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