The current standing in the NFL look kind of odd. When I look at the AFC, it's all Broncos/Patriots. But looking at the AFC North, Cincinnati,at 7-3-1, leads over Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, who are all locked at 7-4. That's right: all four AFC North teams have winning records. When was the last time that happened this late in the season?
The AFC West is a close race, with the Broncos at 8-3, followed by Kansas City and San Diego both at 7-4. The Chiefs seem to be sputtering after a strong early schedule run, and the Chargers are battling key injuries. The Broncos aren't the team they were in 2013, but I don't see them missing out on anything lower than a number two seed in the playoffs.
The Patriots continue to have a monopoly on winning the AFC East, but both Buffalo and Miami are keeping it interesting. The Belichick/Brady-s will have an interesting next couple weeks, with Green Bay in Lambeau, and the Chargers in CA. the follow Sunday, before a stretch run in their division.
The AFC South is kind of "meh", with Indianapolis holding a two game lead over a mildly improved Houston team. The Texans still don't have a quarterback, but their defense - led by J.J. Watt - is keeping them in the hunt so far.
The NFC is a odd thing to look at, with past powerhouse divisions like the NFC East and South looking down right "if-y" at best. While the East is mired in their media driven cry-fest, the Eagles seem to have the edge. Led by the king of butt fumbles - Mark Sanchez - Philadelphia appears to control their own division future, to an extent. The Washington RGIII are a bad soap opera, and the Dallas Cowboys are edging toward a swoon once again. This will be the last year for Eli Manning in the Big Apple, and Tom Coughlin will follow the lesser of the two Mannings out of town.
The NFC South is down right embarrassing. It's entirely possible a 6-10 team could win the division and make the playoffs... Eeeew! Stinky, stinky... This division isn't without talent, but for some reason all four teams can't seem to put it together.
The NFC North looks like it's going to be all Green Bay, with the Detroit Lions making a push we all know will fall flat. Or will it? The Lions need all-world wide receiver Calvin Johnson to stay healthy. Their defense is making noise, but position depth could be an Achilles heal down the stretch. Chicago may very well be the most disappointing team in 2014. Before the season began, quite a few people - including myself - thought a 12-4 record for the Bears was a very real possibility. OK, my bad... The Bears have been horrible in all three phases of the game, and head coach Mark Tressman is going to find his way to the unemployment line at season's end. Minnesota has played hard, but they miss Adrian Peterson more than they should.
The NFC West is the division to watch. While their win/loss records aren't anywhere close to what NFL media gurus thought they'd be, no one can dispute just how tough the defenses in this division have been this season. San Francisco has turned into a kind of whiny circus, and their offense has failed to materialize. But their defense is still one to envy. The same can be said of the Seahawks, and the late awakening of their defense couldn't have come at a better time. The Arizona Cardinals lead the division, but their stretch run schedule is going to be beyond tough. They head to Atlanta for a possible trap game, then finish with Kansas City, the Rams at St. Louis (a place they've had a hard time staying healthy), then finish with Seattle, and San Francisco. Ouch!
The NFC West could very well finish the season with three 10-6 teams... OK, I don't really see Arizona swooning that bad down the stretch, but it's possible. But let's say Arizona finishes with an 11-5 record, it's entirely possible the 49ers and Seattle hold 10-6 records with their remaining schedules. True, it would mean San Francisco wins at Seattle. It would also mean the St. Louis Rams would need to win in the rainy northwest too. But given the other teams in the NFC, it's entirely plausible the NFC West could send two wildcard teams to the postseason. If that happens, the remaining games for NFC West teams could very well be spectacular to watch. Imagine this: The last game of the season for San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle could very well hold the key to what the post season picture looks like? St. Louis may be on the outside looking in, but their final game of the year against the Seahawks could be pivotal for Seattle's post season seeding. Arizona's contest in San Francisco could hold the keys to the 49ers future, as well as having home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
When this season began, I remember a writer saying the NFC West was going to "eat itself" due to the division's physical defenses. It very well may have been the most prescient observation of the 2014 season, because it looks like week 17 is shaping up to be a knock down, drag out fight in the NFC West...