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Some more major shuffling occurred this week in the NFL and for the first time ever, two teams tied for a top ten spot.
- Carolina Panthers 11-0 (2)- Well this is an unexpected twist. Nobody expected the Panthers to ever be number one in the league but here they are. The Panthers have now gone a full calendar year without losing and trying to wash away the doubters. Another big win over Dallas goes a long way in proving their dominance. In their last five games, the Panthers won’t face a team with a winning record, but four of those are against teams within the division which always proves tricky.
- New England Patriots 10-1 (1)- If the Patriots and Panthers played today, I would still pick the Patriots to win. But when it comes down to it, one team is undefeated, the other has a loss. I would have no qualms about putting the Patriots in the top spot, but it’s not like the Panthers are playing awful and winning sloppy anymore. The Patriots are going to have to fight through injuries just like the rest of the league, but under Bill Belichick that is not difficult. The guy has a proven track record with young players.
- Arizona Cardinals 9-2 (3)- The only thing keeping the Cardinals over the Bengals this week is their head to head record. You would expect the Cardinals to destroy a team like the 49ers, but instead they won by a single score. I do take into account they were playing an away game, but I still expected more points on the board.
- Cincinnati Bengals 9-2 (4)- The Bengals took care of the Rams in predictable fashion to bounce back from a two game losing streak. Everything about the Bengals looked good and fluid and dare I say, championship caliber. Sure it was an easy win, but as the Cardinals proved against the 49ers, just because it should be easy, doesn’t mean it will be. With the Steelers falling to the Seahawks, the Bengals should waltz into a division win.
- Denver Broncos 9-2 (6)- It’s hard to imagine an eight win team being the underdogs at this point in the season, but not a whole lot of people picked the Broncos to hand the Patriots their first loss. Brock Osweiler stepped up and didn’t collapse under pressure while the Broncos D kept the Patriots offense at bay exploiting the injuries to key weapons. It is not outside the realm of possibility that the Broncos leap back towards the top of the power rankings. But to make a true Super Bowl run, I think it is going to take Peyton Manning returning to true form for that to become a reality.
- Minnesota Vikings 8-3 (7)- After winning five straight before losing to Green Bay, I was wondering how Minnesota would be able to bounce back. The Falcons proved to be no real threat seemingly making no attempt to stop Adrian Peterson from running all over them. You can’t deny the Falcons have the talent to play good football but don’t seem to be able to game plan for it. On the other hand Mike Zimmer has executed his game plan perfectly, even changing up the strategy when necessary. The last five weeks of the season are going to be very difficult for the Vikings but Zimmer has a good track record this season of playing tough teams. If there’s anyone who can do it, its him.
- Green Bay Packers 7-4 (5)- There were hot for so long, and then they cooled off fast. After knocking off the Vikings I thought the Packers would be able to get back to form but the Bears had other plans. It has been going unnoticed the last couple of months but the Bears are not playing like their record shows. The defense is solid and the offense has decent chemistry, they are just getting out played. The Packers need to make some more quick changes if they want to try to take over the Vikings.
- Seattle Seahawks 6-5 (9)- It was only a matter of time before the Seahawks got over .500 again and the Steelers became the latest causality. With Marshawn Lynch out Thomas Rawls picked up where Lynch left off giving the Seahawks some much needed depth at offense keeping the defenders on their toes. It’s impossible to tell who truly is getting the ball. The unfortunate thing for Seattle is it’s a bit too late to make up any ground on Arizona who has been playing some of the best ball all season. But with Atlanta falling apart every game, the last wildcard spot should be theirs to take.
- Kansas City Chiefs 6-5 (10)- The Chiefs toughest test after getting to .500 was the Bills who they were able to topple in a thrilling game. Going forward the Chiefs have one of the easiest schedule to close out the season, if they can’t secure the last playoff spot, they don’t deserve it.
- Indianapolis Colts/Houston Texans 6-5 (N/A)- If there was any time to extend my power rankings, now would be the time. It is dang near impossible to decide which one of these rebounding AFC South teams is going to win the division. Both have such similar play style and hardships to fight through it is hard to understand how they have avoided a losing record. The real test is going to come in three weeks when they have to play each other. Until then, pay attention to these two. They are really fun to watch and could easily spoil any teams playoff hopes, including each others.
Knocked out of the top ten-Pittsburgh Steelers