1) New England Patriots (Last week: 1 = E)
This feels like a lot of other Patriots teams – They didn’t play close to their best football and still beat the Bills by 20 points. Tom Brady continues to look like an MVP candidate and now their running game is starting to get going…watch out NFL. Oh, and their defense hasn’t allowed a team to score 20 or more points on them since week four against the Panthers. Even though most of those games come against week opponents, it is a defense that is building confidence.
Other than a week 15 matchup against the Steelers, the Patriots have no challenges left ahead: at Dolphins, vs Bills, vs Jets. They are going to cruise to another 12-13 win season and might even be able to rest their starters for a game. Never mind the fact that their path through the AFC looks like an old abandoned road.
2) Los Angeles Rams (Last week: 3 = +1)
After losing to Vikings three weeks ago, the Rams have responded by beating the impressive Saints team and now the Cardinals. You know a team is good when they don’t really get it going till the second half as a team and still win by 16 points. Sounds a lot like the Patriots, huh? Now of course they aren’t the Patriots and this team is still probably a year away from a legit Super Bowl run, but if you take out the inexperience, this looks like a championship team. And I will say it one more time: Sean McVay is going to be a great coach in the this league for a really long time.
3) Seattle Seahawks (Last week: 9 = -6)
I said this almost a month ago now (November 7th) and people thought I was crazy at the time:
Sure enough, four weeks later and the Seahawks should be one of, if not the, favorites to come out of the NFC. Russell Wilson is having an MVP season (second in my books right now to Tom Brady) and he finally has a deep roster at wide receiver – Dough Baldwin, Paul Richardson, Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett. Plus, they made an unbeatable Eagles team look very beatable.
Now, I do still have my question marks about the defense that continues to perform as a top 10 defense despite injuries and the offensive line that guarantees Wilson will get his workout in every game. However, I have said it all year long experience in the postseason matters and the Seahawks have way more than the inexperienced Eagles, Rams, and Vikings in their conference.
4) Philadelphia Eagles (Last week: 2 = -2)
I had said week in and week out – be wary of the Eagles. We all know they are a very good regular season team, but how do they perform in the playoffs and against quality teams. The answer? So far not good. The Eagles have gone 2-2 against teams .500 and better and the rest of the teams they have beaten combine for just 25 wins.
Their strength of schedule is a concern, their defense, coaching and all of a sudden their offensive line is as well.
To be clear, I am not hitting the panic button on Philadelphia…yet. They are still going to be a 12+ win team in all likelihood, but do have another big test next week against the Rams. The question now is, was this a blimp on the radar against a bad team, or did the Seahawks layout a blueprint of how to beat the Eagles? Time will tell.
5) Minnesota Vikings (Last week: 5 = E)
Week in and week out I continue to doubt the Vikings, but at this point what am I suppose to do? They are 10-2 and just beat a really good Falcons team. Now, do I believe that the real Case Keenum will comeback once they find him? Yes. However, at this point their defense is for real in case you haven’t noticed already.
We all know about their impressive front seven (Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith, Linval Joseph, etc.) but their secondary has been even more impressive this year. Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo combine to be one of, if not the, best secondary duos in the league while Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes do the same at cornerback. Not only do they shutdown top receiver (like Julio Jones this week who had just 24 yards) but they are all over the field with much of their secondary ranking high in tackles – Smith (2nd), Sendejo (4th), Waynes (5th) and Rhodes (6th).
Look, at the end of the day I still believe it is bound to collapse inwards, but at this point it’s hard not to buy in.
The rest of my top 10:
6) Pittsburgh Steelers (Last week: 4 = -2)
7) New Orleans Saints (Last week: 6 = -1)
8) Atlanta Falcons (Last week: 8 = E)
9) Tennesse Titans (Last week: 10 = +1)
10) Carolina Panthers (Last week: 7 = -3)
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