Now that we’re in the home-stretch of the NFL regular season, it’s time to take a look at which teams are on the road toward a ring and those down the boulevard of broken dreams!
At the moment it looks like Tom Brady could be headed to his eighth Super Bowl. Wow! The only teams that can contend with the New England Patriots are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
The NFC is much more tricky.
While it appears that the Eagles are the runaway favorite, there are several teams with just one less win than Philadelphia and 10 out of 16 teams in the NFC are over .500 heading into Week 11.
Here’s a quick look at the contenders in the NFC and their chances of reaching the Super Bowl:
Eagles (8-1): They own the best record in the league and haven’t lost since Week 2 against the Chiefs. Philly has one of the best passing games in the NFL with an excellent offensive line. Now they’ve added what they hope to be an upgrade at running back with Jay Ajayi to make things even more difficult for opposing defenses. Speaking of defense, the Eagles have a solid unit from the line of scrimmage through to the secondary. They’re very well coached and extremely confident. I’m curious to see if they can keep the momentum going this Sunday after a bye last week. I said it when the season started – I believe the Eagles are the most complete team in the NFC and deserve to be favorites. Forecast: 26% Chance
Saints: (7-2) I didn’t see this coming. Sean Payton has gone old school in his days with Bill Parcells by running the football, controlling the clock and allowing the defense to create plays and make big stops. I’m absolutely impressed and somewhat shocked how well they’ve played since starting the season 0 – 2. They’ve won seven straight and show no signs of slowing down. Drew Brees can still toss the pigskin and thanks to the tough running of Mark Ingram and the elusiveness of rookie running back Alvin Kamara, Brees gets better looks down the field with more one-on-one coverage. If the defense keeps playing this way, the road to Minnesota may go through New Orleans. Forecast: 20% Chance
Vikings: (7-2) Speaking of Minnesota, the Vikings would love to host the big game in their own backyard. It doesn’t seem likely that a Case Keenum led team can reach the title match but crazier things have happened. Mike Zimmer is my coach of the year because he’s managed to keep control of the locker room and create an environment where all 53 of his players are one mind and body. This team gels together perfectly. Wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are the most underrated receiving duos in the game. But, the glue of this squad is their hard-hitting defense. Any play can be a turnover with guys like Harrison Smith, Everson Griffen, Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph, Eric Kendricks, and Xavier Rhodes to name a few. They could have five or six defensive players make the Pro Bowl! The Vikings are a sound team meaning they play virtually mistake-free football, control the pace of the game and are so well coached, they rarely commit penalties – ranking third in the league. They beat a tough Redskins team in Washington last week. Let’s see how they fare against the high powered Rams offense at home. Forecast: 12% Chance
Rams: (7-2) I mentioned the Rams have a high powered offense. Well, they also have a high powered defense allowing only 18 points per game, third-best in the NFL. Los Angeles has the top-ranked offense in the league, averaging almost 33 points a game. That’s a fantastic combination giving them one of the best point differentials this year as well. First-year Head Coach Sean McVay is proving to be an offensive mastermind as he uses every great player on the team in a variety of ways. He vindicated quarterback Jared Goff for being the No.1 pick in the 2016 draft. Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips has been in the NFL since the Bronze Age and he may be the best defensive coordinator money can buy. His players love playing for him and he gets the best out of each individual. The Rams have the stats, the potential and the confidence to ride this out as far as the football gods take them. Forecast: 18% Chance
Seahawks: (6-3) The Rams lead the NFC West which was the Seattle Seahawks title for the past four years or so. L.A. was on top of the division before defensive backs Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor went down for the season. Now that they’re out and safety Earl Thomas is dealing with multiple injuries, the Hawks secondary has become “The Legion of Doom” because this team is doomed without those ballhawks flying around the field. Offensively, quarterback Russell Wilson can only do so much. They still lack a running game and the offensive line can’t hold their blocks long enough for the play to develop. If Seattle wants to stay in contention then Pete Carroll better come up with a new scheme because the one they have now will not work. Losing Sherman and Chancellor is like losing your best receiver and running back. This is when head coaches show what they’re made of. Forecast: 5% Chance
Panthers: (7-3) I know it was against the Dolphins, but if you watched quarterback Cam Newton run the Panthers offense last Monday night than you saw a team that can make another run at the Super Bowl. Carolina already has the best statistical defense in the NFL and the offense could be right up there as long as Cam stays healthy and the coaches allow him to play the game the way he wants. I’ve seen Cam grow as a quarterback. His intelligence at the line, calling plays and choosing the correct audible based on the defense have all increased significantly. Tight end Greg Olsen may be returning soon which will help the offense even more. That will create more opportunities for rookie running back Christian McCaffrey and receiver Devin Funchess to take advantage of one-on-one coverage. The Panthers are peaking at the right time and becoming a well-rounded football team. Forecast: 19% Chance
The Falcons, Lions, and Cowboys are all (5-4) heading into Week 11 and find themselves in must-win situations from here on out. The Cowboys run to the Super Bowl ended when running back Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension finally kicked in. Without Zeke, I doubt Dallas can remain in contention until he returns.
We saw the Falcons beat up the Boys in Week 10 without their stud running back as a sign of things to come. But Atlanta lost their running back as well when Devonta Freeman left the game with a concussion and won’t play against Seattle Monday night. However, Freeman should return in a couple of weeks while running back Tevin Coleman is a viable backup who could start on many teams.
The Lions don’t really know what a running back is since they seem to throw the ball every down. Riddick and Abdullah aren’t getting the job done consistently for Detroit so Matthew Stafford has substituted the run game for the short passing game. Kind of sounds like the Patriots scheme. The Lions best chance at the postseason is by winning the NFC North division. They’re currently two games behind the Vikings. Detroit has already beaten the Vikes in Minnesota earlier this season and the two teams will square off again on Thanksgiving Day. That game defines the meaning of a must-win game!
So which teams do you think will make the postseason in the NFL this year?