November 15th, 2013
The NFL season has been nothing short of extraordinary so far. We have seen a team with just two wins last year come back and become a playoff contender, several almost record setting performances, and huge upsets. In just a blink of an eye, ten weeks of the season have passed! The playoffs aren't even close to being set, though. So, which teams will make it into playoffs?
The NFC East:
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have come so far since last season defensively and offensively. The defense has made a huge leap this year. Jason Hatcher has seven sacks so far and Sean Lee is third in the league with 93 tackles. On the other side of the ball, Tony Romo has been amazing. His 2,681 passing yards rank third in the NFC, and his 21 touchdown passes ranks third in the league. Wide receiver Dez Bryant has also been great. He is currently seventh in receiving yards and is a part of a great Cowboys receiving corps. If the Cowboys can continue playing at the rate that they are at right now, they will easily win the East.
The NFC South:
New Orleans Saints: The Saints have the best passing game in the NFC and don't look to slow down any time soon. Lead by Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham, this team has been amazing. Brees ranks second in passing yards only to Peyton Manning in the league and has the most passing yards in the NFC. Jimmy Graham has transformed the tight end position. He leads the league with ten touchdowns and is fifth in terms of receiving yards. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has been a huge pick-up for the Saints. The defense was pretty good before Ryan, but not this good. The Saints have been playing at an extremely high level. Let's see if they can keep it up in the final seven games of the season!
The NFC West:
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have been the favorite for this division since the start of the season. They have continued to play as they were expected to play before the season and even better. The defense, lead by Richard Sherman, has been amazing. Sherman is tied for third in the league with four interceptions and has a pick-six to his credit. Marshawn Lynch has been playing at a very high level. Lynch's 871 rushing yards rank second in the league, and his seven touchdowns rank third. If the Seahawks can keep this up, they could represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The NFC North:
Detroit Lions: The Lions have continued to be one of the most fun teams to watch in football. The offense is incredibly strong with Matthew Stafford throwing rockets to Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush exploding for huge runs. Stafford has thrown 19 touchdowns this year, almost half of those to Johnson, and ranks second in the NFC in passing yards with 2,836. Bush has been incredible! He is ninth in the league with 623 rushing yards and has four rushes for over 20 yards (even though he missed a game due to injury). If the Lions D can step it up over the home stretch, the Lions could be in the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
NFC Wild Card 1:
Carolina Panthers: Thanks to Luke Kuechly and the Panthers defense, the Panthers are in playoff contention. Kuechly has been phenomenal. His stats include 75 tackles and three interceptions. He should definitely be in consideration for defensive player of the year. Cam Newton has been amazing. He ranks sixth in qb rushing yards and has almost amassed 2,000 passing yards. If the Panthers can pull out both wins against the Patriots and one against the Saints, they could be in contention for a division title.
NFC Wild Card 2:
Arizona Cardinals: The Cards, after a terrible season, have bounced right back up. The Cardinals had some huge off-season changes, including the signings of coach Bruce Arians and player John Abraham. The young talent they already had is beginning to shine. Young receivers Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd along with veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald have been enjoying catching passes from veteran Carson Palmer. The Cardinals have a rather tough schedule, but if they can win five out of the next seven games, a playoff berth could be in their future.
New England Patriots: The Patriots have been great this season. After losing several key pieces, it was unsure if the Patriots could come back and play at the level that they were at prior. The answer: yes. Tom Brady has turned his new, young receivers into stars. Brady has passed for 2,256 yards and 13 tds. The Patriots defense has been solid this year. Aquib Talib is third in the league with four interceptions. The Patriots have been a surprising team to me. Can they keep it up?
Indianapolis Colts: With the King of the Comebacks on your side, it's hard to lose. Second-year QB Andrew Luck has been nothing short of a first overall pick. He has more passing yards than Joe Flacco or Tom Brady with 2,430. If the Colts want to win this division, the run game needs to step up. Acquired in September, Trent Richardson has majorly underperformed in every game the Colts have played. The defense, however, has been playing outstandingly. The defense held the 49ers to just 7 points in a win in San Francisco. If Trent Richardson starts playing better, the Colts could go deep into the playoffs.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos have been playing amazingly. Peyton Manning's 33 td passes are first in the league. How good is he? The closest to that mark is Drew Brees with 25 TD passes. Peyton also leads the league in passing yards with 3,249. The receiving corps have been phenomenal. As mentioned before, they have caught Peyton's passes for touchdowns 33 times! However, the defense needs to be making more big plays. With Von Miller's return, it shouldn't be long until we see that. The Broncos are in an extremely tough division with the Chiefs and the Chargers, but with Peyton Manning throwing passes, it shouldn't be to hard to take home the division crown.
Cincinnati Bengals: AJ Green, the leagues leading receiver, has lead the Bengals to a great season. Young QB Andy Dalton, "The Red Rocket," has exceeded expectations this year. His 2,861 passing yards rank third in the league. AJ Green is the leagues leading receiver in terms of receiving yards, with 1,013(Calvin Johnson has 904). The D has majorly stepped up. Vontaze Burfict leads the league with 103 tackles. If AJ Green and Andy Dalton continue at this rate, a playoff run could be in store.
AFC Wild Card 1:
Kansas City Chiefs: It is hard to believe that this team was 2-14 last season. They have been playing extraordinary. This thanks to a huge offseason where the Chiefs signed coach Andy Reid and traded for Alex Smith. The pass rush on the defense has been the best I have ever seen. Justin Houston is third in the league with 11.0 sacks, and Tamba Hali is fifth with 9.0. Running back Jamaal Charles has been explosive. His 725 rushing yards are more than Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy, or Chris Johnson! I knew that the Chiefs would play good this year, but I didn't expect anything like this!
AFC Wild Card 2:
San Diego Chargers: Good news Charger fans, the old Phillip Rivers is back! Rivers is playing at the level he was playing before he fell into a slump last year. Rivers ranks third in the AFC with 2,691 passing yards and ranks second in the AFC in tds. The defense has been decent this year, in one game holding the Colts to just nine points. The run game has been solid. Ryan Matthews is fifth in the AFC with 539 rushing yards and receiving running back Danny Woodhead is a great running back on third down. If the defense can continue to get the ball in Phillip Rivers' hands, they could be the surprise team in the playoffs.