With the NFL nearing its half-way point, let’s look at where the teams stand.
AFC EAST CHAMPION: New England Patriots (No. 1)
The Bills are making this division a bit more interesting. However, I don’t see the Patriots going anywhere. Until the reign of Brady is over, you’re going to have trouble convincing me that the Bills or Jets will have enough to top them, especially when they have Fitzpatrick and Sanchez leading their teams, respectively.
AFC NORTH CHAMPION: Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 2)
After their performances over the last few weeks, and a downturn for the Ravens, I unfortunately have to keep the Steelers as the kings of their division. Throughout the last few years, the Steelers have been one of those teams that play their best football going into the postseason. With the Ravens showing some vulnerability lately, it doesn’t look like they will have enough to get over their rivals to snatch the division title, and I’m really not that worried about the Bengals even though their current record is impressive.
AFC SOUTH CHAMPION: Houston Texans (No. 3)
This division has only one team I would consider good at this point – the Texans. This is especially true considering how the Colts are now not only not playoff bound, but still winless. The Texans have become a much more balanced team this year, getting much more involved in their run game and defense, and have found several ways to win. Couple that with the fact that one of the biggest weapons, Andre Johnson, should be returning soon, and you have a team poised for the postseason.
AFC WEST CHAMPION: Oakland Raiders (No. 4)
This was probably the most difficult division winner to choose in the AFC. The Chiefs recently beat my two favorites for their division, the Raiders and Chargers, but I don’t think they are going to be a deciding factor. The Raiders recently acquired T.J. Houshmandzadeh to help build some chemistry with Carson Palmer and continue to push their postseason hopes. Consider the fact that their schedule seems easier than that of the Chargers moving forward, and I give them the edge to win the division.
WILD CARD: Baltimore Ravens (No. 5)
It seems as though the No. 5 seed is a place the Ravens have become very used to. They are a great team, but they never seem to have enough to top their rivals, the Steelers. I place the blame on average Joe Flacco personally, but the entire team has to take some fault for the poor play as of late. Still, maybe this year will be the year the Ravens finally top the Steelers and get themselves into a Super Bowl. A head-to-head matchup coming up will show where they stand.
WILD CARD: Buffalo Bills (No. 6)
This choice came down to the Jets and the Bills. From what I’ve seen in the season thus far, the Bills are the more complete team, and because of that, I think they will get this spot. There will be two games between these two teams to basically determine the last wild card position and I don’t see the Bengals going very far even if their record so far is impressive. So the Bills, one of the biggest surprises of the season, are the team I believe will be getting this spot, led by Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
NFC NORTH CHAMPION: Green Bay Packers (No. 1)
This team is head and shoulders above any other in the league right now. They have a star player at every position and, considering their schedule, I feel that they may very well go perfect in the regular season. Honestly, this could be the long awaited team that goes 19-0.
NFC WEST CHAMPION: San Francisco 49ers (No. 2)
The 49ers are a surprisingly impressive team. Frank Gore has continued to carry the ball hard and Alex Smith has done his part to move his team down the field without turning the ball over. The defense has become much more difficult to score on and has produced a good amount of turnovers and sacks this year. I know many people may question placing them as the No. 2 Seed, but they have a very easy and welcoming schedule moving forward, and could easily acheive a record as good as 13-3. To be honest, they could definitely chalk up wins in the postseason as well.
NFC SOUTH CHAMPION: New Orleans Saints (No. 3)
Although they suffered a very odd loss to the St. Louis Rams this weekend, I still have great confidence in Brees and this team to pull through with the division title again. The Saints have a very dynamic offense that is very hard to match up against, and is close to unstoppable when it is firing on all cylinders. Their bend-but-don’t-break defense is enough to get them to their division title.
NFC EAST CHAMPION: Philadelphia Eagles (No. 4)
There is simply one real reason I think the Eagles will win the East, and that is because the Giants schedule is about to get ridiculously harsh. It seems to me after seeing them perform against the Cowboys that the Eagles have begun to figure things out a bit, and are working more closely together. The Eagles are looking like the best team in this division right now, especially with the Giants’s struggles against the winless Dolphins. Plus, they’re only two games. As much as I hate to admit it, the Eagles have this division.
WILD CARD: Atlanta Falcons (No. 5)
The Falcons have been a very “hot ‘n’ cold” team thus far. It seems as though in any given week, they can win or lose to any team, but for the most part the talent is there. They have great players on both sides of the field and are good at finding ways to win important games. They also seem to have a decent schedule ahead of them to keep themselves very much in the hunt for the division title.
WILD CARD: Chicago Bears (No. 6)
This prediction really came down to which contending team had the easiest schedule for the remainder of the season. As much as I would love to see the Lions in the playoffs, I don’t know if they can keep up their pace with some of the games left on their schedule. For example, they have to play the Packers twice. As for the Giants, their schedule is a nightmare as I previously stated. Then there are the Bears, who manage to find themselves in the postseason more often than people realize. They are a team who may not win in the most traditional manner, but they find ways to score and win close games regardless. Having a special teamer like Devin Hester helps, of course.
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