With only six weeks left to play of the NFL’s regular season, we’re beginning to see which teams are separating themselves from the rest of the competition. Never forget the 2007-08 New York Giants who finished 10-6 (2nd in division) and went on to win the Super Bowl over an undefeated Patriots team. It’s all about who gets hot at the right time and has a little bit of luck on their side.
So who’s hot right now? Who looks poised to make a deep run to Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX?
New England Patriots (8-2)
That Chiefs blowout in Week 4 that had fans and media proclaiming the end of Tom Brady seems laughable at this point. The Pats have now won six in a row and have — in large part — been an entirely different team with the return of Rob Gronkowski. But that’s not all.
The Pats have absolutely whipped the Broncos and Colts in back-to-back games and now have unleashed a secret weapon in Jonas Gray, a practice squad player out of Notre Dame who unexpectedly exploded for 199 yards rushing and four touchdowns Sunday night. How unpredictable was the performance? It set an all-time Patriots record for rushing TDs in a game.
The Pats may not boast a star receiver, but if Gronk can stay on the field, their defense might carry them through. They held the Colts to just 4 yards rushing.
Arizona Cardinals (9-1)
Who saw the Cardinals as the premier team — not only in the NFC West — but in all of football?
The team with the best record in the NFL have knocked off the Niners, Cowboys and Eagles and have a better record at home (12-2) than Seattle since 2013. The bad news? Their schedule gets brutal. The final stretch of 2014 gives the Cards a bad hand: Seattle (twice), Kansas City, St. Louis (who just beat Denver) and San Francisco (again).
Some think the Cards won’t survive that schedule without a better pass defense, but Arizona hasn’t given up 200 yards passing in its last three games, only allowing two TDs — impressive for the pass heavy NFL of today.
The biggest question is whether Drew Stanton can lead them to a Super Bowl title. The backup QB who is trying to fill the shoes of an injured Carson Palmer is certainly no Tom Brady, Kurt Warner, Roger Staubach or Terry Bradshaw. However, the Michigan State product does have something in common with all of those all-time greats — they all won Super Bowls in a season in which they started as the backup QB.
It should also be noted that Trent Dilfer also fits that category.
Green Bay Packers (7-3)
With another 50-point spectacle this Sunday against the Eagles following their 55-14 blowout of the Bears last week, the Packers are currently the hottest team in the NFL.
First, let’s start with Mr. ‘discount double check’ Aaron Rodgers. The dude is putting up all-time numbers: 29 TDs and 322 straight pass attempts at home without an interception — that’s the best in NFL history. He already has 28 TDs on just 3 INTs for the season.
Remember when the Packers lost two of their first three games, prompting a panic and a defensive Rodgers telling the media to “relax.” That word has been engraved into a wood carving inside the equipment room, becoming the team’s living mantra. Since that time, the Packers are 6-1.
If there is any team I trust that has a great quarterback with previous SB experience, it’s Rodgers and the Pack.
Kansas City Chiefs (7-3)
This is a team who’s won five straight while boasting the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL (201 YPG) with the 8th best defense overall (326 YPG).
Sure, they lost to Tennessee in Week 1, but that’s a mulligan considering their throttling of the Pats in Week 4 and a big win over the Seahawks this past week.
What about Alex Smith? He can’t lead them to a championship, especially without a star wide receiver, right?!
Well, they’re doing just fine so far. In fact, Smith has a better passing rating (92.5) than Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford.
Travis Kelce also continues to make waves as a dominant up-and-coming tight end while Jamaal Charles continues to put up All-Pro numbers. Smith has his weapons, and his biggest asset is the fact that he never turns the ball over.
The Chiefs have won five in a row and have the NFL sacks leader (12) in Justin Houston. To make things even better, they have the fifth easiest remaining schedule in the AFC based on opponents’ winning percentage (47%).
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