By Anthony Cardone
We are now halfway through the NFL season and we are inching closer to the best time to be a football fan: the playoffs. It is still plenty early and a lot of football has yet to be played, but this season we are getting a hint of who is a clear cut to play beyond the regular season and who is already out of the race.
Starting in the AFC, there are three teams that stand out in this conference: the Patriots, who are always in the mix of things when talking about playoffs, the Steelers and the Chiefs. The AFC East has the Patriots at 7-2, the Bills 5-4, the Dolphins at 4-4 and the Jets at 4-6. It’s usually the same outcome with New England on top every year. Buffalo currently holds the second wild card spot.
The AFC North isn’t really even a contest at the moment. The Steelers hold a three-game lead with a 7-2 record, followed by the Ravens at 4-5, the Bengals at 3-6 and the Browns, who always seem to disappoint and are still NFL’s only winless team at 0-9. The Steelers should clinch sooner rather than later.
The AFC South has been close the last couple of years, and it’s close again this year. The Titans and Jaguars, two surprising teams, are tied on top of the division at 6-3, followed by an injury-prone team in the Texans at 3-6 and the Colts at 3-7. The Jaguars hold the top Wild Card spot. The most surprising team in the AFC is the Jaguars, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2007.
The West consists of the Chiefs in first at 6-3, the Raiders at a disappointing 4-5 and the Chargers and Broncos at 3-6.
In the NFC, the story is a little different and a lot closer. The NFC East has the best team in the NFL in first in the 8-1 Eagles. The Cowboys follow at 5-4, then Redskins at 4-5 and the most disappointing team of the year in the 1-8 Giants. It’s the Giants’ worst start since 1980.
The NFC North has the 7-2 Vikings now taking over with the injury to Aaron Rodgers sinking the Packers to 5-4 alongside the struggling Lions, with the Bears way behind at 3-6. The Vikings should wrap things up nicely in this division come playoff time.
The NFC South has its most surprising team in first in the 7-2 Saints, followed by the 6-3 Panthers, who hold the second wild card spot, the 5-4 Falcons and the struggling Buccaneers, who are at 3-6. This is the closest division in the NFC and could come down to a dog fight for the division.
In the NFC West, the 7-2 Rams are on top of the division standings, the biggest shock so far this season. Behind them are the Seahawks, who have the first Wild Card spot with a 6-3 record, then the Cardinals at 4-5 and the 49ers – who got their first win in Week 10 – at 1-9. The Rams have the best scoring offense averaging 33 points per game.
No team is officially out of the playoff hunt, but some teams are making a big push towards the postseason. No one has clinched, but as the season goes on, the games mean more and more for each team, as all 32 try to get to the biggest stage in February.