At this point in the National Football League season, every team has played at least half of its regular season slate. Only one team remains undefeated; no team is still winless. The races for divisional championship are clarifying themselves. This is an appropriate time time to review each divisional race.
AFC East: New England and Miami have separated themselves as true contenders for the division. The Patriots have both divisional games so far. The Dolphins have split their two intra-divisional games and trail the Patriots by one game. However, Miami has not played New England yet so the Dolphins still control their own post-season fate.
AFC North: At first glance, Baltimore appears to be in the driver’s seat. The Ravens hold a one-game lead and 3-0 record within the division. However, they have two games with Pittsburgh remaining. The teams in Ohio would needs miraculous runs just to finish with winning records.
AFC South: Houston is leading the division but not able to coast just yet. The Texans have won both divisional games but neither occurred over Indianapolis. The Colts trail by two games but can overcome that by sweeping Houston. Jacksonville is a serious contender for the first pick in next year’s draft.
AFC West: Denver’s lead is more secure than its one-game lead over second-place San Diego and two-game lead over Oakland indicates. The Broncos have already defeated both of those once. Also, half of Denver’s remaining contests will be easily winnable in facing the dregs of the NFL. These include the home and away contests versus Kansas City plus single games against Cleveland and Carolina.
NFC East: The Giants hold at least three game lead over the rest of the division. Nevertheless, New York cannot relax due to two of it losses coming at the hands of the Cowboys and Eagles. If either one of those can complete the sweep of the Giants while on a winning streak, the Giants will experience a very tense race the win the divisional crown. If the Giants hold on to their lead, the other three will likely fail to qualify for the post-season as a wildcard.
NFC North: Chicago sits in first place but not comfortably. By only one game does it lead Green Bay to whom the Bears suffered their sole loss so far. Also, Minnesota sits just two and half games behind first place and has yet to face either team ahead of the Vikings. It seems guaranteed that at least one of the NFC’s wildcards will come from this division.
NFC South: The Falcons have left the rest of the division miles behind them. They lead the other three by at least four games. Atlanta only needs to sweep both contests versus Tampa Bay plus win two of the six other remaining games to clinch the division. It seems impossible for anyone else in the division to grab a playoff spot given their non-winning records.
NFC West: San Francisco is beginning to pull away from the rest of the division. The Forty-Niners, despite holding a mere one and a half lead over Seattle, are in a more comfortable position. The Forty-Niners have won both divisional games so far, including one against the Seahawks. In contrast, Seattle has lost all three divisional games to this point. The Forty-Niners’ three game lead over Arizona is also bolstered by a win versus the Cardinals.
COPYRIGHT BY CHARLES KASTRIOT NOVEMBER 2012