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Which 2-0 NFL teams are contenders and which ones are pretenders?

Teams like the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys might not be in the greatest shape, despite 2-0 starts.

Just as there are nine winless teams through the first two weeks of the season, there are also nine teams that carry 2-0 records. While that's obviously a strong start for those nine teams, history tells us that not all will end up playing in the postseason.

In the last 25 years, 63 percent of teams that started 2-0 ended up in the playoffs, which means if that average holds, six of the NFL's nine undefeated teams will play in the postseason. But that also comes with the expectation that three teams will end up on the outside looking in at season's end.

In 2014, the Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles all followed up 2-0 starts with relatively strong seasons, but none ended up in the playoffs, despite all finishing with winning records. Only the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals managed to keep the momentum of a 2-0 start en route to postseason bids.

There are some legit contenders

New England Patriots (Net points: plus-15): Since Tom Brady took over as quarterback for the Patriots in 2001, the worst record for the team was a 9-7 season back in 2002. With four Super Bowl victories and 12 trips to the postseason in the last 14 years, it's tough to imagine the Patriots not being a contender and wins over tough opponents like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills only validate that belief.


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It's not just Brady, either. While the Steelers and Bills racked up enough yardage to make the Patriots No. 29 in total defense through two weeks, no team has recorded more interceptions than New England. The opportunistic defense has been setting up the Patriots' offense which is absolutely cooking with Brady, who leads the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns.

Green Bay Packers (Net points: plus-18): For as well as Tom Brady is playing for the Patriots, an argument could certainly be made that Aaron Rodgers has been even better. Despite missing Jordy Nelson for the year and offensive players like Eddie Lacy, Bryan Bulaga and Davante Adams suffering injuries on Sunday night, Rodgers led the Packers to a 27-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Rodgers has completed 76.8 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions to post a 128.4 passer rating through two weeks. As long as he stays healthy, the Packers will always be a top contender in the NFC.

Arizona Cardinals (Net points: plus-37): Many are saying that the Seahawks shouldn't panic after an 0-2 start, which is true; however, there is increased urgency for the back-to-back NFC champions to figure things out because the Cardinals look really good.

After double-digit victories over the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears, the Cardinals look like the real deal with an offense that leads the NFL in points scored. It also helps that the team may have stumbled across a star in rookie running back David Johnson, who earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors in Week 2 with a 108-yard kickoff return touchdown to go with 42 yards rushing and a touchdown on just five carries.

New York Jets (Net points: plus-34): Laughing at the Jets has been an American pastime for a few years now, but a lot of talent has been accrued in the last few years. A 31-10 destruction of the Cleveland Browns was followed by a 20-7 drubbing of the Indianapolis Colts on national television and it looks like the Jets could be the real deal.

While Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't going to set the world on fire with his play, he's good enough to distribute the ball behind a veteran offensive line to talented playmakers like Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The true strength of the team is probably the defensive line, though. Even without Sheldon Richardson, the Jets boast three first-round picks up front, led by Muhammad Wilkerson, who has crushed opposing offensive lines so far.

Cincinnati Bengals (Net points: plus-25): Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters that the Bengals are the most talented team in the NFL, and it's hard to argue with him after the team bullied the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers to open the season.

No matter what your opinion of Andy Dalton is, he's avoided mistakes through two weeks, throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions. It also doesn't hurt that Giovani Bernard is averaging 6.6 yards per carry and the Bengals defense has allowed the fourth-fewest amount of points and has already forced five turnovers.

Don't book your playoff tickets yet

Carolina Panthers (Net points: plus-18): The Panthers have a pair of wins, but those came against a pair of teams in the arguably the NFL's worst division, the AFC South. Carolina is No. 27 in total offense through two weeks, which was enough to outscore the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, but when tougher opponents come after the bye week, the Panthers' lack of offensive weapons could prove costly.

Atlanta Falcons (Net points: plus-6): A 26-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles looked a lot more impressive after Week 1 than it does now. The Eagles appear to have serious issues on offense and a 24-20 victory against the New York Giants isn't tremendously impressive either against the No. 31 defense in the NFL. That's not to say that the Falcons are bad. With a new head coach and the addition of Vic Beasley, who looks well worth a top-10 pick, the arrow is pointing up, but let's wait for a little more proof before we anoint the Falcons as contenders again.

Dallas Cowboys (Net points: plus-9): Saying the Cowboys might have some struggles on the way should come as a surprise to no one. Brandon Weeden will take over for at least eight weeks and that includes games against teams like the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. There's certainly more to the Cowboys than Tony Romo, as the team has a top-flight defense and an elite offensive line, but things could get bumpy with a quarterback who boasts a 5-16 record as a starter in his career.

Denver Broncos (Net points: plus-13): The Broncos eked out wins over the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs despite struggles for Peyton Manning. Both the Ravens and Chiefs have scary pass rushers, so a reprieve from that could make a huge difference, but for now the Broncos are only 2-0 thanks to elite defensive play. Unless Manning picks up his play and returns the Broncos to form soon, that defensive play likely won't be enough to carry the Broncos to a fourth straight season with 12 or more wins.

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