BY: SAMMY SCHUCHMAN AND PAUL FINE
10. Seattle Seahawks (8-4) – A recent loss against the injury-stricken Giants has bumped the Seawhawks out of first place in the hardest division in football. While the team has had some bad losses, and demonstrated some more than sub-par defense throughout the whole season, quarterback Russel Wilson and his dynamic offense still have four more games to get to the top of the NFC.
9. Indianapolis Colts (8-4) – The Colts continue to surprise people as they are emerging as a true threat in the AFC. The timeless wonder that is veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers passed for a formidable 285 yards and 2 touchdowns, in a ridiculously accurate 27/35 passing attempts in their last game against the Texans, accentuating a season-long trend of very solid QB play for Rivers. Not only do the Colts have a strong veteran presence behind Rivers and star receiver T.Y. Hilton (8 catches for 110 yards against the Texans), but it appears that they’ve drafted a pair of dynamic offensive rookies in receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) – Even though the Bucs have the most losses of any team on this list, it is important to note the very tough schedule they’ve been unfortunate to have. The amount of talent is not the problem, as the Bucs have the most explosive offense in the league composed of Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, deadly receiver trio of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown, and the explosive running back duo of Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette. The oftentimes overlooked Bucs defense is also loaded with talent, including dynamic linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David, not to mention veterans Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndomukong Suh up front. The million dollar question is if the Bucs be able to get all of their kinks worked out come playoff time.
7. Los Angeles Rams (9-4) – The Rams have quietly risen to the top of the NFC West, and are one of the most well-rounded teams in the league. Decorated coach Sean McVay has orchestrated a high-powered offense behind fifth-year quarterback Jared Goff, utilizing the ever-potent Rams receiver-corps, this year including Cooper Cupp and Robert Woods. On defense, the Rams benefit from the consistent dominance week in and week out from the best defensive player in the league, defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald already has 11 sacks, and is on pace to beat his 12.5 from last year.
6. Buffalo Bills (9-3) – Phenom Quarterback Josh Allen has led the Bills to an impressive 9-3 record this season despite the lack of star power on offense; this season is set to be their best season in decades. On defense, they are towards the top of the league with 19 takeaways. Their skilled secondary, including Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, and Tre’davious White, are locking down NFL receivers on a weekly basis.
5. Cleveland Browns (9-3) – The Browns have been on a tear of late, winning their last four games in a row, capped off by an exclamation mark victory of the very good Tennessee Titans. In his last game, quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for an impressive 334 yards and 4 touchdowns, against a very talented Tennessee secondary. Not only were they able to get it done in the air, but the two-headed monster running back machine that is Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 32 carries and 123 yards, echoing the Brown’s dominance in the trenches this season. They were also able to hold opposing star running back Derrick Henry to only 60 yards, a testament to their burgeoning defense led by superstar Myles Garret.
4. Green Bay Packers (9-3) – Despite his age, Aaron Rodgers continues to contribute in an impressive fashion. Rodgers is in a tight race with Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes for NFL’s Most Valuable Player. All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams has been a vital part of the Packers’ pass-heavy offensive game plan, with over 1,000 receiving yards and a league leading 13 touchdowns. Alongside Adams is touchdown machine Aaron Jones who is top 10 in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns this year.
3. New Orleans Saints (10-2) – The Saints’ dynamic offense and shut-down run defense have led them to a strong 10-2 record this season. However, with an injured Drew Brees, there are some questions on offense for the Saints. Versatile running back Alvin Kamara is putting on another MVP-like campaign this season, netting over 1300 all purpose yards and 13 touchdowns. Despite a weak secondary and several question marks with injuries, the Saints should be comfortable with their current position.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1) – With the best record in the league, the only thing separating the Steelers and the number 1 ranking is their strength of schedule. It can be argued that their continuous success is in part because of this. With one of the best receiving cores in the NFL, including JuJu Smith Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington, and arguably the top defense in the NFL, the Steelers look to continue their success down the road. Their impeccable performance this season was ended by no other than the Washington Football Team.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-1) – The ever so dominant Chiefs, led by Patrick Mahomes and a star-studded offensive cast, have yet to show any signs of weakness this season. Although they came up eight points short against the Raiders in their only loss of the season, they went on to beat the Raiders five weeks later. Their unguardable, lightning-quick wide receiver, Tyreek Hill, has raked in over 1,000 yards and 13 TDs in just 12 games. Along with having arguably the top receiver in the league, the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce leads all Tight Ends in yards, receptions, and touchdowns as of week 13. These two devastating weapons paired with Patrick Mahomes’ rocket for an arm is a lethal combination. Their loaded offense compensates for their average defensive line and somewhat weak secondary.