With just one week left in the NFL regular season, the playoff picture has taken shape, with the contenders separating themselves from the pretenders.
After Week 17, here are my thoughts on the top 10 teams in the league.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)
Andy Reid’s team has seemingly been put in the weeds as football’s top contender, but a Bills loss could give the Chiefs the top seed and home field advantage in the playoffs. Given Patrick Mahomes’ dominance on this year’s team, the rest of the league certainly doesn’t want to see the road to the Super Bowl go through Arrowhead Stadium.
2. San Francisco 49ers (12-4)
The Brock Purdy-led 49ers are the hottest team in football, with a nine-game winning streak that has fueled their rise to the top of the charts. Kyle Shanahan has used his QB3 skills as a point passer to add an effective passing game to a rushing attack that can pound opponents, with Christian McCaffrey running like crazy between the tackles.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
Back-to-back losses have put the Eagles in position to lose their No. 1 seed after dominating the league for most of the season. While the return of Jalen Hurts could solve the team’s offensive woes, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon must figure out how to get his playmaking defense to step up a notch to handle the dynamic offenses that will litter the playoff field.
4. Buffalo Bills (12-3)
Josh Allen is the league’s most dangerous offensive playmaker as an electric dual-threat quarterback with rare skills as a runner and passer. The Bills have complemented him with an explosive collection of pass catchers and an emerging group of running backs that could allow Sean McDermott’s team to win using an offensive approach. With a Monday Night Football game against the Bengals on the horizon, the football world will soon find out if the Bills are worthy of carrying the top seed heading into the playoffs.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)
The Monday Night Football game against the Bills will give the Bengals a chance to show the football world that they are ready to make it back as AFC Champions. Joe Burrow and Co. they’re hitting their stride down the stretch, and few opponents can match their personnel on the perimeter.
6. Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
It’s not all glitz and glamor with the Cowboys under Mike McCarthy. The star-studded team has found ways to win, using a variety of styles to get the job done. From shootouts to nail-biters, the Cowboys are equipped to win behind a talented offense and a playmaking defense that boasts enough firepower to take down any heavyweight in the league.
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7. Los Angeles Chargers (10-6)
The Bolts are peaking heading into the playoffs, with some of their star power returning to the lineup. The offense, in particular, looks like masterful potential, with Justin Herbert teaming with Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Gerald Everett and Austin Eckler to torment opponents with an aerial circus. As the defense adds Joey Bosa to a front line that begins to generate consistent pressure at the point of scrimmage, the Chargers could emerge as the AFC’s sleeping giant.
8. Minnesota Vikings (12-4)
Despite 12 wins on their resume, the Vikings look like a potential one-and-done unit heading into the tournament. While Kevin O’Connell’s outstanding play has helped the Vikings navigate a questionable defense and inconsistent quarterback play, the team’s fatal flaws could lead to a quick playoff exit if the player intel · smart is not on his game.
9. New York Giants (9-6)
Brian Daboll should win plenty of accolades and postseason hardware to transform the Giants into a playoff team. The G-Men have mastered the art of winning games by avoiding the self-inflicted mistakes — turnovers, penalties, big plays and kicking errors — that have plagued the team in the past. With Daniel Jones and Co. putting up enough points to complement an ultra-aggressive defense that confuses and confuses quarterbacks and punters, the Giants could be a tough matchup in the tournament.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)
Doug Pederson has taught the young Jaguars how to win down the stretch. The Super Bowl-winning head coach has engineered an offense with the potential to light up the scoreboards behind an emerging star quarterback and a collection of unheralded players with “takeover” potential. As the Jaguars’ confidence grows with each win, the rest of the league is taking notice of the AFC South leaders.
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Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He appears regularly on “Speak For Yourself” and also breaks down the game for NFL Network and co-hosts the “Moving the Sticks” podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.
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