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Contenders or Pretenders? NFL Executives, Coaches Weigh in on 2-0 Teams

After Week 2 of the NFL season, many teams find themselves undefeated. Here are the best and worst of those.

Starting fast isn't the ultimate predictor for success in the NFL, but winning the first two games of the season can certainly set the tone.

Dating back to the 2015 NFL season, 10 of the teams to make the Super Bowl opened the season with 2-0 starts, and through this season's first two weeks the NFC's seven unbeatens is a conference record.

While the nine teams that have won their first two games dominate the top-third of our NFL power rankings, the question becomes: which of this season's teams who started 2-0 have the best chance to contend, and which teams are merely pretenders destined to come careening back to earth as the season goes along?

Here's our take on each current undefeated team, with insight from executives, scouts, and coaches from around the NFL:

Miami Dolphins: Contender

Tua Tagovailoa #1 and Tyreek Hill #10 of the Miami Dolphins in action during the first half of the game against the Buffalo Bills

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The Dolphins have built a case as the best team in the league through the first two games. After going on the road and knocking off the Los Angeles Chargers, and leaving Foxboro the following week with a victory over the division rival New England Patriots, Miami's explosiveness on offense make this one of the most taxing matchups for opposing defenses.

"They can score in bunches," an AFC Executive told FanBuzz. "So, they're for real as long as Tua is upright. Much like the Jets, they're a team with a defense that's built to play from ahead."

Miami currently boasts the NFL's leading offense, averaging 462.5 yards per game, led in large part by Tagovailoa's league-high 715 passing yards, currently Pro Football Focus' highest-graded quarterback in the league. Tagovailoa's league-high 5.7 completed air yards per attempt combined with the Dolphins' 291 yards after the catch underscore the big play ability of this offense.

With conference wins already tucked away over the Chargers and Patriots, if Tagovailoa can stay healthy, Miami has the potential to be well positioned for a deep playoff run.

Washington Commanders: Pretender

Sam Howell runs with the ball.

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By the simple virtue of the division the Commanders play in, it's difficult to buy into this team being a contender. At least until Washington shows it can hang with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, who seem to be the class of the division — and maybe the conference.

However, an NFC personnel executive disagrees and believes Ron Rivera's team has serious staying power.

"Washington was my sleeper team going in," the executive told FanBuzz. "I just think a lot of people viewed them as a 5-12 team, but they have more talent than that. I could see them going 9-8, maybe 10-17, and that could get them in [the playoffs]."

To the executive's point, there is plenty of star power on the roster; Terry McLaurin is heating up, Jahan Dotson is emerging as a high-end WR2, and the front-seven has gotten off to a punishing start. Sam Howell's emergence, leading a comeback victory over the Broncos and passing for 501 yards with three touchdowns to one interception so far, definitely inspires confidence.

Washington boasts a top-10 defense as well, holding opponents to 304.5 total yards per game. It will just take a couple of signature victories to establish legitimacy for the Commanders, and perhaps set them up for a run.

Atlanta Falcons: Contender

Bijan Robinson stares off for the Falcons.

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Suddenly, despite a dearth of established quality quarterback play, the NFC South might be the most competitive division in football, with its four inhabitants boasting a 6-2 combined record. Sunday afternoon, in thrilling come from behind fashion, the Falcons proved they belong.

Trailing 17-9 against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2, Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder led four consecutive scoring drives to seal a 25-24 victory. Ridder was somewhat inconsistent throughout the game, but the amount of dynamic playmaking ability on this offense sets the Falcons up to be in any game, especially with a back as explosive as Bijan Robinson and a receiver with Drake London's big-play ability.

"I think Atlanta is tough to play because they are well coached," an NFC North Personnel Director told FanBuzz. "And, they have a lot of skill on offense. In a mediocre division, I could see them emerging."

This season is an audition for Ridder to prove he can get the most out of the weapons Atlanta has put around him. Based on what we've seen so far, and the fact that the Falcons have the easiest remaining schedule in the league, this is one of those teams to watch who has the chance to get better as the season goes along and their quarterback gains more experience.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Pretender

Baker Mayfield throws a pass for the Bucs.

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Look, what the Buccaneers have done through two weeks might be the most pleasantly surprising story of the young NFL season.

Todd Bowles has had his veteran defense punching above its weight, holding opponents to just 17.0 points per game, and quarterback Baker Mayfield is playing some of the best football of his career with 490 passing yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

However, while you can only play who appears on your schedule, Tampa's victories have come against a Vikings team struggling to find any semblance of an identity and the Chicago Bears who might be morphing into the most dysfunctional situation in the entire sport. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that Mayfield's charmed start reverts into the mediocrity he's shown through most of his career.

Tampa's upcoming stretch against the Eagles, Saints, Lions, Falcons and Bills will go a long way towards dictating this team's ceiling in 2023.

Baltimore Ravens: Contender

Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens stands on the sideline during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals

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This is unquestionably the best supporting cast the Ravens have built around Lamar Jackson, and thus far in his career it might just be being quarterbacked by the best version of Lamar Jackson.

Not only are the Ravens 2-0 with a pair of conference victories over the Texans and NFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals stashed away for safe keeping, but Baltimore also boasts the league's fourth-highest offensive DVOA thanks in large part to Jackson's 406 passing yards, 92 rushing yards and two passing touchdowns.

"The Ravens, every year, have major injuries that hold them back," an AFC Scouting Director told FanBuzz. "This year is no different. I still think they are contenders because they finally have a legit offensive line, skill players and a dominant pass-rush, which are all components to a contending team."

Jackson and the offense built around rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers and reliable tight end Mark Andrews steal the headlines, but Baltimore boasts the league's seventh-rated defense and seventh-ranked scoring defense, holding opponents to just 16.5 points per game. Having a high-flying offense and stifling defense has the potential to be a winning formula, especially as the Bengals, Browns and Steelers all struggle to find their footing.

Dallas Cowboys: Contender

The 2023 NFL Divisional Round features the youngest group of Playoff QBs in the last half-decade. The young guns have officially arrived.

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Don't let a history of disappointing postseason performances cloud how the Cowboys are getting it done early this season.

Micah Parsons is leading a legitimate assault on the 37-year drought of a defensive player winning MVP, Dallas is holding opponents to just 5.0 points per game, including a 40-0 lambasting of the Giants on national TV, and Dak Prescott is leading an offense that's averaging a league-high 35 points per contest.

"Watching them from afar, they look legit," an NFC Personnel Director told FanBuzz.

Parsons has been throwing a sack party through the first two weeks, with three of his own, but the Cowboys' pressure rate is highest in the NFL at over 33 percent. Meanwhile, Dak Prescott has been a model of efficiency and even shown some improvement in the ball-security category, with zero interceptions so far this season.

The Cowboys' playmakers on each side of the football, combination of a dominant offense and defense, and the experience of past meltdowns to learn from might make this the toughest out in the entire NFL.

New Orleans Saints: Contender

Derek Carr looks on while playing for the Saints.

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Having the best quarterback matters, especially in a division that has three teams going through various stages of a rebuild, as the NFC South seems to have, and the Saints seem to have the best quarterback of the bunch.

While outlasting the Tennessee Titans and thumping a hapless Carolina Panthers offense doesn't exactly inspire confidence, the Saints offense is picking up steam, even before Alvin Kamara makes his return to the backfield.

The fact that the Saints have an easy road home, thanks to the second-easiest remaining strength of schedule, just might cement New Orleans' status as the team to beat in the NFC South.

Philadelphia Eagles: Contender

A.J. Brown #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles and Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles talk after the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field

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The Eagles have yet to hit their stride. Jalen Hurts seems to be going through some early-season growing pains playing under a new offensive coordinator, but Philadelphia's punishing ground game has steadied the ship as this team shakes off some of the cobwebs after losing the Super Bowl to the Kansas City Chiefs.

While the Eagles have failed to sustain drives, and the defense has allowed 756 yards through two weeks, the veterans on both sides of the ball are battle tested and have plenty of firepower to continue stacking victories.

Philadelphia's offensive line has paved the way to 178 rushing yards through two games, which is a key ingredient to winning close games down the stretch and into the postseason. Even though Hurts has yet to hit his stride, the Eagles are winning while figuring out how they're going to win the rest of the season.

San Francisco 49ers: Contender

Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after rushing for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half at Levi's Stadium

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Brock Purdy continues to gain confidence and look the part of a franchise quarterback capable of leading a roster that might have the most offensive firepower in the league.

San Francisco's foundation is built on the dominance of Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey's impact on the offense and Nick Bosa's game-wrecking ability along one of the NFL's most disruptive front-sevens.

"San Fran's a contender," an AFC Coach told FanBuzz. "They're balanced, they're well coached, they will make aggressive moves all season to acquire players to fill whatever voids pop up. I like Brock Purdy, but he still doesn't have to carry them."

The 49ers' 60 points scored is tied for third most in the NFL and its 30 points allowed through two weeks is the third-fewest. That kind of balance, given the abundance of talent across the board give San Francisco a legitimate chance to emerge as the team to beat in the NFC.

MORE: NFL Power Rankings After Week 2