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I actually only agree on one count, as I think all three are Pretenders.
San Diego’s division is better than it’s given credit for, and they direly miss LT and Vincent Jackson. Ryan Matthews has been hurt and inconsistent, and while Mike Tolbert and Darren Sproles are nice compliments, they’re not going to scare anyone into playing eight in the box.
That puts the onus on the passing game. Sure, Antonio Gates is elite and Malcom Floyd has been a nice No. 1, but they have no one to be a solid No. 2 WR while Floyd plays Jackson’s role. Again, losing a great receiving back like LT hurts even here.
The other stat of note: San Diego is 0-3 on the road, and two of those losses were in the Pacific Time Zone to underachieving teams, so you can’t blame jet lag. This is going to be a 9-7 or maybe 10-6 season in San Diego, and that won’t be enough to win a Wild Card spot if KC stays solid or the Broncos get hot.
Now, onto Green Bay and New Orleans.
The Packers are Pretenders simply because they’re too beat up. Ryan Grant and Nick Barnett are done for the year, Jermichael Finley is going to miss a few weeks and Aaron Rodgers has a concussion.
Sorry dudes, but the trio of Matt Flynn, Donald Lee and Brandon Jackson doesn’t scare anyone.
They could’ve (should’ve) won both of the games they lost, but their three wins are against 3-2 Philly and a Buffalo/Detroit pair that is 1-9. Again, they can probably sneak out 10 wins, but that’ll get them a six seed at best.
As for New Orleans…yeah, they’re banged up now, but Thomas, Bush and Sharper will be back.
However, while the first two injuries can explain why they’re 31st in rushing, Sharper’s loss can’t explain why they’re in the bottom third of the league in rush defense—and none of the losses can explain why they can’t hang on to the football or force turnovers.
They haven’t looked like the invincible Saints of 2009 at all this year, and considering two of their wins are against San Francisco and Carolina, that’s sad. This could be a 10-win season in New Orleans, but that won’t win the South.