Author: Nick Bruesewitz
MADISON- As the NFL season is reaching the home-stretch, the playoff picture is coming to fruition. There are teams that are legitimate title contenders and there as some that are well, not. Here are where I rank the teams that currently lead their divisions:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-1) – The Chiefs are just clicking on all cylinders at this point in the season and look like the best team in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes is an MVP front runner with his 30 touchdown throws and two interceptions. Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy have the offense looking fantastic once again with two of the leading receivers in the league in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The Chiefs have proven that it will take a team’s best performance on offense to be able to hang with Mahomes and his men. The defense has some significant playmakers with Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu. They have the AFC West locked up and look like the best team in the NFL.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-0) – The Steelers have found a way to win even in difficult circumstances. They have had two of their games delayed and rescheduled. They have not won in a dominant fashion that often, but the defense is legit and T.J. Watt is a DPOY front-runner. Injuries to middle linebacker Devin Bush and edge-rusher Bud Dupree have weakened the team’s front seven, but they are still a top defense in the league. Big Ben is getting rid of the ball quicker than any other quarterback in the league with the offensive trio of fantastic young receivers in Smith-Schuster, Claypool, and Johnson. With a dominant pass-rush and an offense that Roethlisberger isn’t getting hit in, the Steelers look very strong. They will win AFC North and they will go into the playoffs as a top-two seed.
3. New Orleans Saints (9-2) – New Orleans is currently operating without their starting quarterback and unquestioned team captain Drew Brees. Taysom Hill has filled in as the starter and has proven he knows how to run an NFL offense. Weapons like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas provide Hill with two strong safety blankets when in trouble. The defense has been improving as the season has gone on, including a dominant performance in the Saints’ 38-3 victory over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brees is going to return soon and provide the team with its stable leader. New Orleans the NFC South in their hands with a two-game lead over the Bucs and the tiebreaker over them. This may be the Saints’ year.
4. Green Bay Packers (8-3) – Aaron Rodgers is having yet another MVP quality season and has his men in the green and gold looking like a title contender once again. The trio of Rodgers, Aaron Jones and Davante Adams is the best in the NFL and the offense is performing each and every week. Inconsistency amongst the rest of the Packers offense has proven to be something that can hold them down. The defense has shown potential on occasion but overall has been rather weak. If the Packers are going to capture the Lombardi trophy, they will need the offense to carry them, but I feel Rodgers is up to the challenge. The Packers own the NFL North and will be playing at least one home game in the playoffs.
5. Buffalo Bills (8-3) – The Buffalo Bills are one of the most exciting teams in the league. Their offense has been really explosive and the duo of quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs have had one of the top connections in the league with Diggs having 945 receiving yards. Allen has been very active in the air and on the ground and has made significant improvements to his game in this third year. The Bills are one hail mary away from being 9-2. The defense needs to improve down the stretch and if they do, the Bills look like a serious contender. The team is currently holding off the 7-4 Miami Dolphins, but in all likelihood, they will hold on and win the AFC East.
6. Seattle Seahawks (8-3) – Russell Wilson is playing at a career high level and the Seahawks offense is as strong as it’s ever been. Wide-receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett might be the top duo in the league at that position and Wilson is connecting with both guys many times a week. The defense started the season rather slowly but they have started to show improvement in recent weeks. Recent addition Carlos Dunlap has provided the team with great leadership and some strong performances. The key to the success of this team will be running back Chris Carson on offense because the Seahawks will look to keep their defense off the field as much as possible. The NFC West is not in the bag for Seattle, but I’m confident they will hold off the 7-4 Rams and 6-5 Cardinals for the division.
7. Tennessee Titans (8-3) – Mike Vrabel and the Titans have stuck to their guns and have remained dedicated to shoving the ball down their opponents’ throats. Star running back Derrick Henry has been carrying the team while carrying the ball more than any other runner in the league. Ryan Tannehill has continued to be really successful in the Titans’ offense when they ask him to throw the ball. Tennessee’s defense has been mediocre and will continue to be for the remainder of the season. I’m a strong doubter of the Titans as serious title contenders here in 2020 as their offense seems so one-dimensional. They could prove me wrong and make a run to the title game. I fully expect them to hold off the 7-4 Indianapolis Colts and win the AFC South.
8. New York Giants (4-7) – Yikes, this division is ridiculously bad. The Giants have made strides as a young team and are currently leading their division. A loss of Saquon Barkley in the second game of the season seemed to have ended their playoff chances, but I guess not. Second-year quarterback Daniel Jones has improved as a protector of the football and has significantly reduced his turnovers in recent weeks. First-year head coach Joe Judge has done a great job and the Giants look to be a contender in their division for years to come. In reality, the Giants are greatly inexperienced and don’t have a legitimate chance at a championship. I feel that the 4-7 Washington Football Team will ultimately take the NFC East but the Giants have proven themselves this year and will look to build upon this season when they get their star Barkley back next season