No new teams enter the top ten this week but that doesn’t stop some major shuffling.
- Carolina Panthers 13-0 (1)- I was worried about the Panthers falling into a trap game against the Falcons but from the opening drive, it was clear the Panthers avoided the trap. The Falcons didn’t put up a single point while Cam Newton added to his already impressive MVP season. The Panthers defense deserves much needed credit after letting up 38 points against the Saints to completely shutting down the Falcons. They already have the first round bye in hand, next week they look to take the number one seed in the NFC. After that, I personally hope they go for 16-0.
- Arizona Cardinals 11-2 (2)- The Vikings sure did give them a challenge. The Cardinals played a great game and kept the pressure up which eventually led to the fumble as time was running out. Everything continues to click for this team, even after being on the verge of a loss. This may very well be the year the Cardinals take it all, now if it wasn’t for those pesky Panthers.
- New England Patriots 11-2 (5)- This team was just one loss away from being knocked out of the top five for the first time this season. Instead, they got Rob Gronkowski back and he picked up right where he left off. The Texans didn’t put up much of a fight which allowed this Sunday night game to be background noise for most people. With Tom Brady leading the charge in the AFC, I fear the Bengals and Broncos missed their shot at the top spot.
- Cincinnati Bengals 10-3 (3)- Who knows if the Bengals would have won if Andy Dalton didn’t get hurt? This had the makings of a top ten game of the season but with Dalton going down, it became clear the Steelers were going to take this one. With Cincinnati starting the season so strong, it would be a shame if they fell to the wildcard because the heart of the team went down.
- Denver Broncos 10-3- (4)- It was only a matter of time before Brock Osweiler lost and as soon as he did, the question of when Peyton Manning could return began to pop up. The Raiders fought hard to get into the playoff contention but dropped a few too many in the third quarter of the season to stay competitive. The Broncos are now the third seed but with Andy Dalton down for the Bengals, it is hard not to think the Broncos have the better more seasoned backup quarterback. Which in turn gives them a better advantage to win the second seed in the AFC. It may be a race of who can get healthy first, and that will decide the final standings for the AFC.
- Seattle Seahawks 8-5 (6)- The defending NFC champions continue to roll over competition and may be the hottest team going into the post season. Just a month ago, Seattle had a losing record. They now sit two games ahead of multiple 6-7 teams who are struggling to get about .500. With their strong momentum, I think they could easily take on anyone in the top ten list and come away with a decisive victory.
- Green Bay Packers 9-4 (8)-The Packers got an easy win over the Dallas Cowboys which proved to be huge after the Vikings fell to the Cardinals. With their final games coming up against the Raiders, Cardinals and Vikings, they are going to need every easy win they can get if they want to keep the top spot in the NFC North.
- Minnesota Vikings 8-5 (7)- Putting up 20 points and coming within 3 is Teddy Bridgewater nothing to scoff at. The Vikings played the Cardinals tough and Teddy Bridgewater had his best game of the season. Unfortunately this puts the Packers a game ahead and since Green Bay already holds the tie breaker, they are going to need to tie for first place going into the last week of the season if they want a shot at division champions.
- Pittsburgh Steelers 8-5 (10)- Pittsburgh continues to make a late season push and by keeping up their winning ways, they may have a couple of different ways to make the playoffs. If the Bengals continue to slide (and they may with Dalton) the Steelers are poised to make a strong run at the division championship. Two weeks ago it seemed absurd to think they might over take the Bengals but if everything was easy to predict, we wouldn’t enjoy this game nearly as much now would we?
- Kansas City Chiefs 8-5 (9)- The Chiefs have arguably the best shot at the wildcard in the AFC. Their last few games give them the easiest strength of schedule to close out the season. Two of those teams aren’t even using a starting quarterback and the last game against the Raiders is at home. This team is the epitome of it doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish that counts.
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