Now that we’re entering the thick of the playoff push, each game between winning squads seems ever more crucial. This week, there are three mouthwatering matchups that could very well decide the final playoff landscape: San Francisco vs. New Orleans, Kansas City vs. Denver, and Carolina vs. New England. All six of these teams boast elite status in their respective conferences, and all are in our Top 15 here – in fact, all are in the top 10. Any one of these titanic clashes would be the marquee battle for another week – this week, they’re just one of three. You can be assured that there will be a big shake-up between this week’s and next week’s posts, just by the necessity that that three elite teams will have lost a game this upcoming weekend. Looking back to last weekend: some teams firmly entrenched themselves among the top groups in football, while others faltered, throwing the league’s established heirarchy into disarray. As we do every week, we tried to make sense of what we saw on Sunday and give you an idea of where the best teams stand. This week, the job of putting the list together fell to these interns:
Tim Yingling – Producers Department
Jacob Snyder – Producers Department, NFL Replay
Kyle Toot – Producers Department, NFL Turning Point
Kevin Joyce – Producers Department, Inside the NFL
1. Seahawks – This defense is playing it’s best football of the year, and that’s saying something. When you’re 9-1 and winning by an average score of 27-16, you deserve to be #1.
2. Chiefs – This team has won all it’s games up to this point, and that’s all you could have asked from them. Now comes the real test – can this top-ranked scoring defense match up against the historically prolific Broncos attack?
3. Broncos – The Broncos survived a tough test on the road against a good Chargers team. Now comes that aforementioned matchup of division rivals, one that reminds me of the 2010 Week 13 matchup of the Jets and Patriots, where both teams were 9-2 and vying for the #1 seed in the conference. Could this game decide that top playoff positioning as well?
4. Saints – An extremely convincing win over the Cowboys put the Saints right back on track as one of the NFC’s best.
5. Panthers – Where did this team come from? Five straight victories later, the Panthers are sitting pretty at 6-3, coming off an emotional and potentially season-defining victory over the 49ers.
6. Patriots – They had a bye week to prepare, and the Patriots offense has recently maintained their record-setting pace of old (34.7 ppg their last four games), but will that be enough against one of the stingiest defenses in the game today?
7. Colts – A surprising and tough loss to a good team does not panic-button-pushing-situation make, and if any squad has the resilience to bounce back from such a defeat, it’s these Colts.
8. 49ers – You know Jim Harbaugh’s bunch will be raring to go after a razor-thin slip-up against the rising Panthers. NFL fans around the country are licking their chops looking at this match against the Saints.
9. Lions – Things seem to be falling into the place for this team. With six wins and a schedule that looks like it was put together by the Detroit fanbase, the Lions should now be considered the favorites in the North.
10. Bengals – Despite two straight losses, the Bengals maintain a two-game lead in the division, and still look to be on pace to have a home playoff game come January.
11. Bears – This team is still very much in contention for a playoff spot. Now that Jay Cutler is back in the starting lineup, they have as good a chance as any at securing a Wild Card position.
12. Jets – Coming off a bye week, this team, considered by many to be the worst in the AFC East at the dawn of the season, has a chance to secure a playoff spot with a manageable schedule.
13. Cowboys – There’s no way around it – that was a difficult loss in the Big Easy for Big D. Regardless, they retain the lead in the NFC East, and are still favored to come out of that division with a championship . . .
14. Eagles – . . . However, though the Cowboys are favored, they’re certainly not a lock. The Eagles are only out of first place because of their tie-breaking loss to Dallas earlier in the season, something they can avenge in the last game of the season.
15. Packers – The rest of the NFC North, and the NFC for that matter, had better hope that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t make a speedy recovery from his collarbone injury. If he does, watch out.
Top 15 Poll of the Week
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let us know by leaving a comment in the section below!