1. Carolina Panthers– They had quite the scare in East Rutherford last Sunday. A 28 point lead was blown but as he has done all season, Cam Newton picked the team up and carried them on his shoulders. They now sit at 14-0 are currently in the middle of an 18 game winning streak. They clinched the division, a first-round bye in the playoffs and with the win today in Atlanta, they will clinch the one-seed in the NFC. It’s been a remarkable season for them. Now, many decisions on whether to start the regulars will loom over Ron Rivera. They have some injuries and going into the playoffs, you want everybody healthy.
2. Arizona Cardinals– They’ve won 12 games for the first time in franchise history and they’ve won the NFC West for the first time since 2009 and this was supposed to be a division dominated by the Seahawks. How many people can honestly sit here and say the Cardinals would be 12-2 entering week 16? Offensively, they are in good shape as the playoffs approach. It just seems as if Bruce Arians can plug just about anybody in that system and they’ll do well. Their defense will now be without the guy that sets the tone for them, Tyrann Mathieu. There’s a big game to be played against Green Bay and the winner will receive a first-round bye.
3. New England Patriots– When January rolls around, the Patriots will be off for a week once again after clinching a first-round bye and they are guaranteed of being at least the two in the AFC. The one thing that concerns me though is their injury list but the benefits of a bye are you can get those guys healthy for another run in the postseason. With Blount done for the season, the Patriots sighed Steven Jackson to fill in. Edelman is reportedly healthy again but I doubt we won’t see him playing for the rest of the season and that’s the smartest choice they can make.
4. Seattle Seahawks– With Lynch out, the Seahawks have put games in the hands of Russell Wilson and it’s worked. He’s showing everybody that he’s more than capable of throwing the football from the pocket and pushing the ball down the field. The defense is clicking and everything is right at the right time for them. I think people tend to forget that they are the defending NFC champions.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers– That was such an impressive win last week for them and now they are the sixth seed in the AFC. Antonio Brown needs to be in consideration for the MVP. He may not win it but he deserves that recognition and I could see him winning offensive player of the years hands down. This Steelers offense is very prolific. They can balance it out, they have a good offensive line, Ben can extend plays and this receiving core is stacked across the board.