The NFL regular season is two thirds of the way over, which means it's that time where true super bowl contenders start to emerge and mediocre teams start to sink. With just a handful of games left on each team’s schedule it’s now or never for many decent teams to take the step towards the postseason, or fall out of the playoff picture all together. Below are my predictions for which teams will be in the hunt for the Lombardi trophy come late December.
NFC North Champion: Green Bay Packers
Why they will win: The Packers offense has been nothing short of incredible. They have the best quarterback in the NFL (Aaron Rodgers) and arguably two top 10 wide receivers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. They can also run the ball at ease with an upgraded o-line and backs like John Kuhn and Eddie Lacy. Barring Injury, The Pack could easily return the Lombardi Trophy to Green Bay.
NFC East Champion: Philadelphia Eagles:
Why they will win: You know your offensive system works when you can plug in your backup quarterback and he throws for 322 yards and 2 tds, and that’s exactly what Chip Kelly’s low risk high reward offense is. That, along with a much improved defense and outstanding special teams play should put the Eagles right into the postseason.
NFC West Champion: Arizona Cardinals
Why they will win: So what Carson Palmer is done for the season, they got Drew Stanton! Many forget the backup qb won 2 tough games for the Cardinals this year, one in New York and one at home against division rival San Francisco. Palmer’s loss in not nearly as big as many people make it to be. A stout defense along with a big play offense should carry the 8-1 Cards to the playoffs.
NFC South Champion: New Orleans Saints
Why they will win: This division is flat out terrible. The Bucs are terrible, The Falcons suck, and The Panthers offense can’t do anything right now. The Saints are a 4-5 team with a mediocre defense that just lost Keenan Lewis, but they have guys like Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, and Marc Ingram on the other side of the ball so they win this division by default.
NFC Wildcards: Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys
Why they will win: I know what you're all thinking “Where are the Seahawks?”. Well they are not the dominant force they were last year and these two teams are simply better. The Lions have an insanely good defensive line along with a high powered passing attack with Megatron and Golden Tate. The Cowboys on the other hand have an insanely good offensive line along with one of the best backs in the league, Demarco Murray. Their defensive is iffy but they should win at least 10 games.
AFC North Champion: Cleveland Browns
Why they will win: The Browns have a solid defense along with a strong running game and the reinstatement of Josh Gordon will provide huge support to one of the worst passing attacks in the league. I really like how Cleveland is playing and they have a serious shot of making the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
AFC East Champion: New England Patriots
Why they will win: Tom Brady’s offense is on a tear as of late. The ability to run the ball for 5 yards a pop coupled with the pinpoint accuracy on passes from Brady is a dangerous combination. That along with one of the best secondaries in the league allows the Pats to win this division easily.
AFC West Champion: Denver Broncos
Why they will win: Peyton Manning doesn't miss the playoffs. The Broncos offense is too good to miss the postseason.
AFC South Champion: Indianapolis Colts
Why they will win: The Colts are a very good team in an extremely weak division. Andrew Luck should have no problem navigating his team into the playoffs.
AFC Wildcards: Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs:Why they will win:The Dolphins have had a very good season so far. The play of Ryan Tannehill has been outstanding and he has the offense playing extremely well. The defense is not half bad either, being the 6th best run defense in the AFC. The Chiefs are almost an exact replica of the Dolphins except with an upgrade at running back. A solid defense combined with the big play ability of Jamaal Charles should lead this team to the postseason.