Though the Super Bowl is still months away, the NFL playoffs are fast approaching, and we continue to get a clearer grasp of which teams are set to reach those playoffs and contend for the ultimate title in football. Here is a ranking of the top 10 NFL teams likely to withstand the late season tests and truly make a run at this year’s championship:
10.) Detroit Lions - Though they sit well perched atop the NFC North, there’s a general feeling that the Lions will stutter down the stretch and collapse based on their pathetic history of doing just that. While I generally agree with that assessment, the Lions are a bit different this year in that they house a terrific defense. If defense truly “wins championships”, Detroit could be ripe for a tremendous and surprising playoff run.
9.) Philadelphia Eagles – Chip Kelly’s offense is great when it works, but tragic when it doesn’t. While they usually look good and win the games they should, they usually struggle against the league’s best. I think an early exit to the playoffs will end their season again, especially since the questionable Mark Sanchez is now the starting quarterback.
8.) Pittsburgh Steelers – Despite having a tough schedule ahead, the Steelers are usually late-season bloomers and their history of recent titles suggests they are certainly capable. If Troy Polamalu gets healthy and Ben Roethlisberger keeps doing his thing, the Steelers could make a daring run at the Super Bowl.
7.) Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck is a megastar and that is essential to title contenders. The Colts’ passing attack is tops in the league, but until the defense gets fixed Indianapolis won’t win. Nevertheless, anything is possible with a top QB and the Colts could just win it all if things go their way.
6.) Seattle Seahawks – Struggling at 6-4, it’s easy to overlook how dominant the Seahawks were at the end of last year. All the championship pieces are in place but the team needs to step up their game a notch in order to repeat. I doubt they will, but considering their success last year, who can really doubt Seattle?
5.) Denver Broncos – Peyton Manning is very good, and the Broncos’ defense is good too. The team certainly has a point to prove following their depressing Super Bowl loss last year, and they could win it this time around. But after a woeful loss to the St. Louis Rams this week and suffering a couple key injuries, who knows if there’ll be enough in the tank to repeat as AFC Champions.
4.) Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid’s team is on fire, and their defense is great. They’ve beaten the Patriots and the Seahawks this season, showing up in big games. Knile Davis and Jamaal Charles are a strong running back duo, and Alex Smith is playing smart and avoiding mistakes. With the team starting to come together, the Chiefs might just get Reid his first title!
3.) Arizona Cardinals – While they have the league’s best record (9-1) and a tremendous defense, their starting quarterback Carson Palmer went down for the season. Palmer was never elite and backup Drew Stanton is playing well. However, their defense will dictate how far they go in the playoffs. They have a tough schedule coming up and if they can come through as NFC West champs, they’ll have earned their chance to make a run.
2.) Green Bay Packers – No one is playing as good as Aaron Rodgers these days, and with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers making plays on defense, the spirit of the 2010 Super Bowl is alive and well in Wisconsin. But as we saw in a bad loss to the New Orleans Saints just a month ago, when the offense is slowed the Packers can be beat. However, any team in this league is beatable, and the way Green Bay is playing right now bodes well for a championship.
1.) New England Patriots – Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are the NFL’s strongest head coach/quarterback duo and they’ve routinely dominated the league for a decade. However, now 10 years removed from their last of 3 titles, time is running out and there’s an element of desperation in their play. This could help the team rise up and claim a final Super Bowl title of this incredible dynasty! They are the team to beat right now.
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