1. Arizona Cardinals– Nine wins and counting. They now have the longest winning streak in the NFL as we speak including a beat down of the Green Bay Packers. You’d think the defense would be affected after Tyrann Mathieu’s ACL tear and they didn’t miss a beat. Nine sacks of Aaron Rodgers and they held Green Bay to eight points. They’ve won the division, they’ve clinched a first-round bye and with a win over Seattle today and a Panthers loss against Tampa Bay, the Cardinals would be the NFC’s number one seed in the playoffs. There’s still something to play for today and another win would simply cap off a remarkable season.
2. Carolina Panthers– They didn’t drop too much after their first loss of the season. Despite the loss, the Panthers still have the best record in the NFL at 14-1. I personally feel the loss is a good thing for them heading into the playoffs because the pressure would continue to grow if a zero had stayed in the loss column come playoff time and if they were to lose, they wouldn’t have the next week to look back at their mistakes because they’d have to wait until September. This is actually a blessing in disguise. Everything is clinched for them just about. We just don’t know what seed they will be in the playoffs.
3. New England Patriots– Is there a cause for concern for the defending champs heading into the playoffs? I don’t think so at all. The injuries have piled on top of one another, but key guys are coming back for another run which is good news. They’ve lost three of their last five games including a heartbreaker against the Jets in week 16. that game also ended with questions about Bill Belichick electing to kick the ball in overtime which I disagreed with. They still sit at 12-3 and with a win over the Dolphins or a Broncos loss, they will be the one seed in the AFC once again.
4. Kansas City Chiefs– After a 1-5 start, I simply threw the towel in on them and I know for a fact I wasn’t the only one. They’ve won nine games in a row and will be in the playoffs. What’s more impressive is they’ve done this without Jamaal Charles. They’ve simply had to change things up. Alex Smith is being aggressive and taking shots down the field, Jeremy Maclin finally looks comfortable, West has been solid at running back and the defense is handling its business. They will be an interesting team to watch come playoff time.
5. New York Jets– For the first time since the 2010 season, they have won 10 games and they are closing in on a playoff berth. For years, they’ve struggled to gain an identity on offense and the defense was a strong point. This is now a different team under Todd Bowles than it was with Rex Ryan and now the Jets do have a scary offense and that’s something I never thought I would say. They have two good running backs that can pound the ball in between the tackles and get those tough yards in Ivory and Powell and we can’t forget the tandem of Decker and Marshall. They win today, they are in.