- Saints (13-0)-Biggest remaining obstacle tonight vs 'Boys
- Colts (14-0)- 2 wins in 5 days has them 2 from perfect
- Vikings (11-2)-Rebound with dominating win over Bengals
- Chargers (10-3)- 8th straight win, could run the table
- Packers (9-4)-They're for real, but face desperate Steelers
- Eagles (9-4)-Win shoot out in Jersey to take 1st place
- Bengals (9-4)- Crushed by Vikes, now face Bolts
- Cardinals (8-5)-Same old story of up and down play
- Broncos (8-5)-Still looking like a 10 win team
- Cowboys(8-5)-So far another December to forget
- Patriots (8-5)-Remain perfect at home, but have issues
- Giants (7-6)-Media can't hype them to 1st place in NFC East
- Dolphins (7-6)- Hanging in race despite losing QB and top RB
- Ravens (7-6)-Have potential, but can't find any consistency
- Titans (6-7)-Remember the Titans, they could still sneak in
- Jacksonville (7-7)-Two tough losses could put them out of race
Saturday, December 19, 2009
As the NFL heads into the final weeks of the regular season, teams are starting to separate themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. There are two clear powers in each conference led by the two remaining undefeated teams. The Vikings still have the best overall talent and balance throughout their team, but are ranked 3rd because they have not been able to translate that into victory each and every week. Right behind those three teams are the hard charging Lightning Bolts, who registered their 8th consecutive win and could run the table in their remaining regular season games.
The Colts had a productive 5 days winning twice to preserve their perfect season. The extra rest and remaining schedule would favor a 16-0 finish, but it will likely depend on how much first year coach Jim Caldwell plays his regulars now that they have clinched home field advantage.
In the NFC, the Saints face their biggest challenge to regular season perfection this evening when they host the Dallas Cowboys. Although they have dropped the past two games to fall into second place in the NFC East, they head to New Orleans with both a feeling of desperation and a belief they can win. Conversely, the Saints have less urgency to win, but they still feel the push from Minnesota. The 'Boys also have the extra motivation of proving critics wrong about their tendency to fold late in the season over the past dozen seasons.
The next three teams in the rankings would appear to be the only true remaining Super Bowl contenders, but still appear to have some holes. The Packers, Eagles and possibly the Bengals could potentially make some noise in the post season and are capable of knocking off the favorites. Green Bay has come together defensively, led by the spectacular play of Charles Woodson and a strong linebacker corps. Additionally, Aaron Rodgers continues to mature into a top flight quarterback.
The Eagles went to the Meadowlands last Sunday Night for a rematch with the Giants and the NFC East lead on the line. Although the NBC pundits all predictably predicted that the Giants would prevail, the Eagles seized control early and scored at will to win a shoot out. The Donovan McNabb led offense keeps getting better, but the key to the team's hopes will be whether they can pull the inconsistent defense up to a similar level of play. No team will want to face the Eagles prolific offense and attacking defense in the playoffs.
The Vikings easily handled the upstart Bengals last Sunday, whose offense is struggling a bit. After a hot start, Carson Palmer's spotty play over the past several weeks has observers wondering if he is injured. The defense was torched for 30 points by the Vikes, but they have been strength most of the year.
The Cardinals, Broncos and Cowboys all lost in Week 14 and continue to hang on the fringes. They are playoff caliber teams, but appear too bi-polar to make a run for the Super Bowl. Of course, Arizona looked that way a year ago and then came within one last minute spectacular catch of winning it all. They can be scary on both sides of the ball, but catching lightning in a bottle two years in row is probably too much to ask, though.
The remaining teams in the Top 15 are hanging on by a whisker and might need to win out. Based on their schedules, the Ravens and Giants appear to have the best shot at landing the final Wild Card spot in their respective conference. With Eli Manning and Brandon Jacobs playing better, and the Giants last game coming against a Vikings team that will likely be meaningless for them, a 10-6 record appears probable.