NOW THAT WE’RE three quarters of the way through the NFL season, a picture is beginning to emerge of who will be celebrating Super Bowl success in MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014.
While there are some surprise teams in the hunt, the Panthers and Lions for example, the usual suspects like Seattle, Denver, New Orleans and New England are all very much to the fore.
While the old adage remains true that, on any given Sunday, any team can beat any other, I think I’ve seen enough now to make a decent stab at predicting how the rest of the year will go, who will fall by the wayside and who will go on to win Super Bowl XLVIII.
With the Jets sliding further and further towards mediocrity, the Dolphins still struggling to recover from the bullying scandal and the Bills losing four of their last five, the Patriots will win the East at a canter. They do however, still have the number one overall seed in the conference to play for.
The Bengals are perfect in Paul Brown Stadium this year and three of their final four games are at home. The Ravens currently hold the final Wild Card spot in the AFC and, if they win out, can’t be caught though a favourable home schedule means the Steelers shouldn’t be ignored. While mathematically still alive, the Browns are done.
The Colts are the hardest team to assess this year such is their inconsistency but home games against the Texans and Jags will be enough to see them comfortably top the South. The Titans probably have to win out to make the playoffs but with the Broncos up next, that’s difficult to see. The Texans will probably win Super Bowl XLIX .
The Broncos could well finish with just the two blemishes on their CV and that will be enough to see them take the number one seed in the AFC. The Chiefs, despite losing three straight and having only one home game remaining, should finish as fifth seeds. San Diego and Oakland will continue rebuilding.
2. New England
The Bengals and Colts will emerge victorious in their Wild Card games. Denver will just beat Indy this time around while the Patriots will squeeze by the Bengals in New England. Tom Brady will record his second win over Manning this season to win the AFC.
Image: Ted S. Warren/AP/Press Association Images
The Cowboys will eventually emerge as winners of the division nobody seems to want to take by the scruff of the neck. The Eagles’ poor home record will eventually be their undoing while the Giants will finish comfortably ahead of Washington.
As the only team with a winning record in divisional games, the Lions should kick on and take the North with two wins from their final four games. The Bears have been too poor in too many games to pose a credible threat while the Packers and Vikings are probably already thinking about next year.
The Panthers are the hottest team in the NFL right now with eight straight wins but they’ll fall just short in the division as New Orleans should win three of the next five. The Buccaneers and Falcons will battle it out for last place.
Seattle could well go undefeated for the rest of the season though three wins will be enough to see them take the division and probably the number one seed in the conference. The 49ers are well placed to take the sixth playoff spot while the Rams and Cardinals must be cursing the fact they play in the league’s best division.
2. New Orleans
6. San Francisco
The Panthers and Lions will make it a good weekend for big cats in the Wild Card round but both will lose in the divisional games to the top seeds. The Seahawks will take full advantage of the 12th man in Seattle to set up a date with New England.
Super Bowl XLVII
Both are well used to playing outdoors in harsh conditions but Tom Brady and company have more experience at this stage and will emerge on top in a relatively low-scoring battle.
So that’s how I see the rest of the season playing out but it would be great to hear your opinions. Let me know in the comments below.