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The NFL Top Ten – Playoff Pretenders and Contenders

Tom Brady and the Patriots look to be a lock for the top AFC seedOf all seasons, the 2010 NFL football season is by far the most difficult to handicap or rank in years. There is almost no separation between the top ten and quite honestly, any one of the NFL teams lucky enough to make the playoffs this season can win Super Bowl XLV.

We are now thirteen weeks into the NFL season and I think we all have a fairly good idea of who the contenders and the pretenders are. Granted injuries can change the landscape of the league at a moment’s notice, but most teams are who we think they are. That is why I wanted to cut through the hype and look at who I think are the top 10 teams as after 13 games and what they will like in the postseason.

New England Patriots – At 10-3 the Patriots would have the number one AFC seed if the playoffs started today. The Patriots have topped most NFL power rankings for the last few weeks and it is really hard to argue. But are they for real? Over the last few weeks they have destroyed the arguable number two seeds in the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets. However, the Pats defense is ranked #31 against the pass for a reason. This is a team that has been shredded throughout the season. Lucky for them, most of the high powered NFL offenses are in the NFC this year. Two tough games in the next two weeks against the Bears and Packers will really tell us how real the Pats are going into the post season.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Hype or reality? I see the Steelers top the power rankings at 1 or 2 every week and I don’t get it. Yes, they beat the Baltimore Ravens this past Sunday but they were dominated for 59:00 of play. They have struggled against just about EVERYONE not from Oakland this season. One romp over the Raiders doesn’t convince me of anything. Big Ben’s injured foot is really going to hurt this offense. Other than the Bengals, the Steelers don’t see any other high powered offenses this season and should be able to hang tight in low scoring games. I think this defense is questionable against the pass and I don’t think they’d have much of a chance in January at Foxboro.

Philadelphia Eagles – Yes, I firmly believe that as of today the Philadelphia Eagles are the best in the NFC. Take a look at every team here and tell me what the difference is between the Eagles and the rest? I will tell you. The Eagles are the only contending team that hasn’t played down to their competition. The Browns upset the Pats, the Steelers struggled with the Bills, and the Falcons struggled against the 49ers and lost to the Eagles. The Eagles have not only beaten the Falcons, their only loss with Michael Vick playing a full game came against a very good Chicago Bears team. Now hear this, if Asante Samuel or Michael Vick can’t stay healthy, this team is done. If not, I think the Eagles ride the Super Bowl train to Dallas.

Atlanta Falcons – What is it about the Falcons that I am missing? At 10-3 they are the first seed in the NFC if the playoffs started today. Oh yeah I know what it is, Matt Ryan struggles in road games. He is undefeated at home which makes them almost a lock if they can sustain home field advantage. The Falcons give up a lot of passing yards and can stall at times on offense. The NFL schedule makers were very kind to them giving them two games against the Panthers in the last four weeks. Looking at their schedule they should hold onto the top seed and home field advantage. However, a showdown is looming with the Saints and if they drop that game and the Eagles can run the table (much tougher schedule), than the Eagles would get the home game here and freeze Matty Ice out of the Super Bowl.

Baltimore Ravens – I love this team and on paper I think they should be the overall top seed. That loss on Sunday night was simply crushing. A win would have sealed the division and a probable bye week in January. This team has it all on all sides of the ball. Unfortunately Joe Flacco seems to get flustered in big games and make mistakes. The Ravens have struggled this season with their running game which is a bit troublesome going into the post season. However, acquiring Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Dante Stallworth in the offseason makes this team the most potent AFC offense on paper. That’s right, on paper. Even with those weapons, they have trouble scoring TDs. They have a pretty fair schedule coming up with two cupcake games and two super clashes. They are probably looking at a wild card spot right now, but they are a wild card team capable of beating anyone and anywhere.

New Orleans Saints So much for that Madden Curse. The Saints struggled early which will likely send them on the road in January rather than hosting games in the crazy Super Dome. However, the Saints are getting hot, getting players back from injury, and starting to click at the right time. They remind me a lot of the New York Giants a few years back who got hot at the right time and rode the wave all the way to a Super Bowl win. At 9-3 they are still in the hunt for a top seed but they desperately need to beat Atlanta in two weeks. Of all the top ten teams, the Saints have the toughest schedule remaining with three of four games against playoff teams and one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are no slouches. Without a bye week and a tough slew of games coming up, something has to give come playoff time and my hunch is that the Saints run out of gas early into the postseason.

New York Jets – What is up with the New York Jets? They continually play down to opponents and didn’t even show up for the most anticipated Monday Night Football game in years. I am not ready to write off the Jets after one thrashing, but I can’t remember many Super Bowl winners getting thrashed that late in the regular season. Thanks to Rex Ryan’s big mouth teams are getting up for games against the Jets like it is the Super Bowl. With Miami, Pittsburgh, and Chicago on tap the next three weeks it is not inconceivable to think that the Jets miss the post season entirely.

New York Giants – The Giants just won’t go away. It doesn’t matter whether their head coach is on the hot seat, half of the roster is missing games, or whether they have a running back controversy, the Giants just keep on winning games. Eli Manning has done a terrific job of putting the offense on his shoulders while his top receivers are hurt. The back-to-back division losses a few weeks back against the Cowboys and Eagles could come back to haunt them. Yet as of today they are still alive. They have two more opportunities at division wins which could shoot them all the way to the second seed if New Orleans drops some games and they beat the Eagles. Eli has already shown he can do it in the post season. Like the Ravens, the Giants are a wild card team capable of beating anyone in the NFC.

Chicago Bears – I know what their record is, I know they beat the Philadelphia Eagles, but I just think this team is a bit of a fraud. I don’t think you can suddenly change your offensive mindset mid-season and all of the sudden turn it around. This defense is awesome, but that offensive line is a real question mark week to week. The Chicago Bears aren’t losing games due to Jay Cutler’s mistakes this season, but they aren’t necessarily winning games thanks to Cutler. The offense as a whole is ranked number 29 in the NFL. That is just not going to get it done against high powered teams like the Eagles, Falcons, and Giants in the playoffs. Three division games and New England in the final weeks is a real rough way to end the season. The Bears are in today, but my guess is that Green Bay knocks them out of it before all is said and done.

Early Super Bowl XLV Prediction:
Baltimore Ravens vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl XLV winner: Philadelphia Eagles

If you’d like to hear anything else from me on topics or ideas I can be reached at [email protected]

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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