The injury bug has derailed the seasons of multiple playoff contenders and is shaping the playoff picture in both conferences. The loss of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay effectively ends their chance at a Super Bowl, while injuries to Arizona’s David Johnson and Houston’s J.J. Watt could prove devastating.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (5-1, last week 1)
Even with the Chiefs’ surprising home loss to Pittsburgh, their performance thus far in the season has been phenomenal. The offense looks dynamic, the roster is loaded, and the Chiefs are a game ahead of their AFC competition for the top seed in the playoffs.
2. New England Patriots (4-2, last week 2)
If I had to choose between the Chiefs and Patriots today for the AFC crown, I’d strongly consider the Patriots despite their disappointing start. Once New England gets rolling in November and December, they’ll take the top spot back.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (5-1, last week 10)
The NFC is totally up for grabs, so the five-win Eagles, currently the leaders of the conference, take the top spot for their conference by default. But Philly has definitely impressed, losing only to Kansas City and showcasing top-ten units on both sides of the ball.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2, last week 3)
A road win over Kansas City after last weeks debacle versus Jacksonville boosts the Steelers up a couple spots. The Steelers have the pieces in place to make a deep playoff run, but a lot depends on the battle between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Father Time.
5. Seattle Seahawks (3-2, last week FFO)
Picking the second-best team in the NFC is a difficult task, but I’ll go with a proven champion up North in Seattle. The defense is still dominant, Russell Wilson is an elite quarterback, and their two losses were against playoff-worthy competition in the Packers and Titans.
6. Houston Texans (3-3, last week 9)
Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is posting one of the best seasons by a rookie ever, with 15 touchdowns in six games. The Texans almost topped the two AFC powers, the Chiefs and Patriots, and will be competitive in January.
7. Atlanta Falcons (3-2, last week 5)
The Super Bowl hangover seemed inevitable for the Falcons, but home losses to the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins are eye-popping. Atlanta doesn’t have the rushing attack of last year and seems to be a weaker team, but I’m going with potential over performance in this ranking.
8. Dallas Cowboys (2-3, last week 7)
Yes, the Cowboys have a losing record. Yes, running back Ezekiel Elliott could be out for an extended amount of time in the regular season. But if Dallas can sneak into the playoffs as a wild card, they will be a team that nobody wants to face.
9. Carolina Panthers (3-2, last week FFO)
The offense behind quarterback Cam Newton is basic and the rushing attack is abysmal. However, the Panthers have control of the NFC South and still have one of the best rosters in the NFL.
10. Denver Broncos (3-2, last week 4)
Denver has beaten some talented teams, but they’ve suffered a couple head-scratchers, including Sunday’s loss to the previously winless Giants. Denver’s defense is top-notch, however, and keeps them in the top ten of this ranking.
First Five Out: Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals