Super Bowl 50 is less than two months away. As teams separate themselves to earn playoff spots, some are also separating themselves as title contenders. For every week leading up to the Big Game, I’ll rank the top teams in line for a Super Bowl berth.
- Arizona Cardinals (11-2, Clinched Playoffs)- Arizona is the most complete team in the National Football League. Carson Palmer is one of the top three quarterbacks in the NFL and the defense is stingy. What puts the Cardinals over the top is their matchups against the other elite teams. Arizona has beaten the Vikings, Bengals, and Seahawks in close games that have come down to the final minute. If they stay healthy, they’re the favorite to go to San Francisco.
- Carolina Panthers (12-0, Clinched Playoffs)- The undefeated record speaks for itself. The Panthers just win, and by winning I mean 16 straight regular season games. Like Arizona, the Panthers have been fueled by a resurgence from their quarterback, Cam Newton. Carolina’s defense is better than the Cardinals and a January matchup in the NFC title game would be epic.
- New England Patriots (10-2)- After winning ten straight, the Patriots have dropped their last two while dealing with injuries. When receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski return, New England will be in strong position to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl again.
- Denver Broncos (10-2)- The move from Peyton Manning to Brock Osweiler may be a positive one and could spark a Super Bowl run. With Osweiler running Gary Kubiak’s system, the offense is improving and the defense is the best in the NFL.
- Seattle Seahawks (7-5)- Seattle just reached the .500 mark a few weeks ago, but since then, they’ve looked like the Seahawks teams that reached the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson is firing on all cylinders and their last two games, a thriller against Pittsburgh and a rout against the Vikings, were impressive victories.
- Cincinnati Bengals (10-2)- Cincinnati looks like a title contender, but with a lot of competition for the Big Game, they just don’t look like a Super Bowl team. The Bengals must beat the Steelers and Broncos to earn the bye week in the playoffs and solidify themselves as a legit Super Bowl team.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)- With a healthy Ben Roethlisberger and the scary receiving trio of Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, and Martavis Bryant, the Steelers are a force to be reckoned with in the AFC. The matchup against Cincinnati will go a long way in determining whether Pittsburgh can make a run.
- Green Bay Packers (8-4)- The Packers are disappointing, but Aaron Rodgers and an improved defense give reason for a turnaround. The Packers can take the NFC North and put themselves back in the conversation, but for now they’re on the outside looking in.
In the Mix: Kansas City Chiefs (7-5), Minnesota Vikings (8-5)