The NFL has reached its halfway point. Every team in the league has played at least half of its regular season slate. At this point, given the huge disparity of records so far, the post-season has already taken on a clearly foreseeable form. The cream of the league, Indianapolis, Minnesota and New Orleans, has risen to the top of the standings and media’s list of priorities. Meanwhile, the dregs, Cleveland, Detroit, Saint Louis and Tampa Bay, have eked out one win each and started research for the draft in April.
AFC East: New England is starting to re-assert itself as the perennial favorite to win the division in this decade. The Patriots have the opportunity to challenge seriously for a first round playoff bye with a game versus the Colts. Miami might seem to have fallen far behind the Patriots for the divisional title. However, the Dolphins 3-1 record within the division still gives them a chance to catch the Patriots.
AFC North: Surprising Cincinnati and reliable Pittsburgh are currently tied for first place. This is a bit deceptive since the Bengals have won the first four divisional games, including a victory over the Steelers. Meanwhile, the Steelers only have one win in the division. This week’s match-up between these two will go a long way toward deciding which one will earn the divisional title. The other one will likely be stuck taking the long and hard road through the wild card route.
AFC South: As the Colts are wont to due, they have bolted out of the starting gate to an undefeated tally so far. The rest of the division already has four or more losses each. One question is whether or not Indianapolis can defeat New England to challenge the Patriots’ 16-0 mark from two seasons ago. Another question is whether or not Indy wastes yet another outstanding start by falling short of the Super Bowl.
AFC West: Denver has cooled down a bit after starting 6-0. The Broncos still hold a one game lead over San Diego thanks to the Broncos’ victory over the Chargers in the sixth week of the season. The Chargers have a shot to even the score in two weeks. The Raiders and Chiefs will battle to avoid the basement of the division.
NFC East: With the Cowboys most recent victory at Philadelphia, they have nudged ahead of the Eagles. These two will face each other in the regular season finale to see which one secures the division title while the other settles for a wild card berth. The Giants have imploded after a 5-0 start. Washington’s management and fans are already debating over the replacement for head coach Jim Zorn.
NFC North: Minnesota is thoroughly plundering the NFC. The Vikings should sail easily through the rest of their schedule with a three game divisional lead which includes a sweep of Green Bay. The only possibility of running aground would be losing both games to the Bears later in the season in addition to dropping one more game. That would allow Chicago to tighten the race, assuming the Bears can start an eight game winning streak. Green Bay and Chicago will have to ratchet up their performances if they want to compete for playoff berths.
NFC South: New Orleans is sprinting away from the rest of the division like a thoroughbred versus a trio of mules. The Saints are on pace to wrap up the division by the end of November. Not only are they undefeated with a three game lead over the closest rival, but they also have a victory over Atlanta and over Carolina. The Saints are competing with Minnesota for the top playoff seed but the Saints control their own destiny for that goal.
NFC West: Arizona appears to have regained some of its momentum from last year’s post-season. San Francisco has crashed and burned in a four game losing streak. The Forty-Niners’ glimmer of hope is their 3-0 divisional record. Also, San Francisco only trails Arizona by two games with eight left to play.