After (un)lucky Week 13 in the NFL, the 2015 playoff picture is really taking shape. As it stands now, here is what we have:
3. New England
5. Kansas City
6. New York Jets
3. Green Bay
Looking at those standings, there are some teams that I see that are a legitimate threat, and others that are just there for the experience, with little or no chance of winning it all. In fact, I see six teams with a real good shot at winning, with one wildcard that’s not even listed there. First, the pretenders:
1. Washington – It’s been great, but they’re the best of the NFL’s worst division. That’s like calling the Quarter Pounder with Cheese the healthiest sandwich at McDonald’s.
2. Indianapolis – They were everyone’s pre-season pick (including mine until I took the field to be different), but injuries, inconsistent play and a suspect defense leave them out.
3. Kansas City – I’m surprised that I’m writing this, because their run from 1-5 to 7-5 has been nothing short of incredible, considering that Jamaal Charles has been out, but I can’t see Alex Smith leading a team to a win.
4. Minnesota – For a team that has won twice as many as they lost, I really believe that their loss to Seattle will deflate any and all momentum they had.
5. Green Bay – Their defense has been lightweight all year, and Aaron Rodgers desperately misses Jordy Nelson. They won’t be at home in the playoffs, thus, they will probably lose.
6. New York Jets – A feel good story, no doubt, but every year, Fitzpatrick blows up near the end of the season…..it hasn’t yet happened.
And now that leaves us with the contenders. These are the teams that I think have a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl. In no particular order:
1. Cincinnati – Andy Dalton is playing out of his mind this year and being incredibly efficient. Anytime you have AJ Green to throw to, it obviously helps, but the quality of play by Eiffert in the red zone has been remarkable. They have a great 1-2 punch at running back. The defense can be lights out as well. They just need to get over their typical post season funk and can make it to the big dance.
2. Denver – The defense has been so good this year that they’ve made opposing quarterbacks look like college freshmen. much like Cincinnati, they have great depth at running back and extremely talented wide receivers. It all comes down to quarterback, as Brock Osweiller as taken over for Peyton manning. Can Brock continue this, or will the ball (and off field pressure) get Manning back on the field, and if so, how good will he ne in the cold weather?
3. New England – We all know how good Brady and co. can and will be. This all depends on the health around him. This past week, he played without Gronkowski, Edelman, Lewis and a depleted offensive line. When healthy, there’s no doubt that they are the greatest team in the NFL, but they definitely look mortal when not. As of now, they would not have a first round bye and would play road games to get to the big dance.
4. Carolina – Here’s a team that can win both defensive slobberknockers and offensive shootouts, as evidenced by their recent win at New Orlenas. Cam Newton has been an MVP candidate this season, making gods out of pure mortals around him. For a team that was lauded in the offseason for not replacing Kelvin Benjamin, they are definitely laughing in all of our faces. Defensively, they are shutting down the best of the best. Will this continue?
5. Arizona – Offensively, they are better than almost anyone, and aren’t afraid to take chances. For the first time in a long time, they have consistent production from their running game and protection for their quarterback. Defensively, they are quite opportunistic and aren’t afraid to blitz any and all ways. They have a tough schedule to finish the season which could determine how many games they play in the playoffs and how many are at home. That will ultimately be their downfall or upgrade in the post season.
6. Seattle – Just like last season, they’re turning it on when they need to. They are playing with a ton of momentum right now, which is good for Seahwaks fans and bad for fans of other teams. Their defense has been better as of late, but not necessarily the shut down unit of years past. Their fate ultimately lies in the hands of Russell Wilson, who has been unbelievable the past two weeks. He’s made Doug Baldwin and Thomas Rawls look like Steve Largent and Shaun Alexander, all the while being without Jimmy Graham and Marshawn Lynch.
The one outlier of this is the fact that, throughout all of these potential playoff matches, I don’t see the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their defense, while suspect at times, is easily carried by their offense, that can score at will. The duo of Martavius Bryant and Antonio Bryant is by far the NFL’s best, and DeAngelo WIlliams has seamlessly stepped in as the replacement for LeVeon bell. I wouldn’t want to play them come playoff time.
Anyways, if I had to pick a Super Bowl, it would be a tough feat. The AFC looks stacked with too many questions, while the NFC has so many teams that could surprisingly compete. However, I’ll throw this out and see if it follows me home:
Carolina 20 Denver 17
And there you have it.