The NFL regular season is motoring right along and as American Thanksgiving is just around the corner it’s time to start looking deeper into the prospective NFL playoff picture. As is normally the case every year, the surprises are endless and key injuries are critical to handicapping each teams’ chances of making it to the Super bowl.
The Green Bay Packers for instance were among the top teams in the NFC however were dealt the most devastating blow a couple of weeks back when franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers was lost for the season with a broken clavicle. The Packers were in the thick of a division race however losing a player of that magnitude is virtually impossible to overcome.
Similar to the Packers on the AFC side are the Houston Texans who were favourites to win the division and had been in the driver’s seat in the AFC South when defensive league MVP JJ Watt went down for the season with a broken leg in his bone. Then shortly after that future face of the franchise in quarterback Deshaun Watson tore his ACL in practice last Thursday, effectively squashing the team’s hopes of contending in the postseason.
Let’s take a look at some of the favourites to win this year’s Super bowl heading into Week 11 of the regular season, according to Bet365 Canada
New England Patriots (3.50) 10-2 Some things never change, and for the New England Patriots they seem to be right at the center of all conversations involving favourites to win a Super bowl year after year. The Pats are alone in first place in the AFC East and head coach Bill Belichick continues to have his team prepared week in and week out. Tom Brady continues to do his thing under center and is still one of the best passers in the league right now. The addition of wideout Brandin Cooks has paid dividends for the Pats through the midpoint of the season and helped insulate the loss of Julian Edelman on offense. The biggest question mark continues to be whether or not the defense can turn it around after being exposed in the first few weeks to start the season. Something tells us that this team will be just fine come January.
Philadelphia Eagles (6.50) 10-2 The Eagles are perhaps the biggest surprise of the season thus far as they have just one loss and have won eight straight games. Granted the emergence of quarterback Carson Wentz shouldn’t be a surprise considering how the rookie performed a season ago in his first season. The former 2nd overall pick has shown an increased ability to run a pro style offense with such efficiency that the playmakers around him are all thriving. The running game which was already solid got a massive boost last week when news broke that the team had just acquired Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi from the Miami Dolphins to join the backfield of DeMarco Murray and LeGarrette Blount.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6.00) 10-2 The Steelers come in as the second ranked team in the AFC trailing only the New England Patriots. Oddly enough this may be the last kick at the can for the black and yellow as franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has hinted at retirement on more than one occasion this offseason, and his play reflects that same sentiment to a certain degree. Offensively the Steelers have the best RB/WR duo in the league with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown and they continue to be the class of the NFL at their respective positions. The emergence of 20-year old wide out JuJu Smith-Schuster has sent Martavis Bryant down the depth chart and this offensive unit is just down right scary. Winners of four straight games and seven games overall, the Steelers should be primed for another division title and possibly a first round bye. This team will turn some heads if they can avoid injuries to their studs.
New Orleans Saints (12.00) 9-3 This is probably the biggest value pick on the board and this team appears to have completely transformed its identity after two shaky outings to start the year. The Saints started the season 0-2 and have since won their next seven games, many of those wins have come at the hands of strong defensive play. Drew Brees also has the luxury of a dominant rushing attack as well which has certainly helped relieve some of the predictability on that side of the ball. Mark Ingram has been a steady influence for the rushing attack and the emergence of rookie Alvin Kamara has provided a great change of pace and speed option out of the backfield. Interesting note, only two times in history has a team started 0-2 only to win the next six games. The 1993 Dallas Cowboys and 2007 New York Giants, both of which went on to win the Super bowl that year.
Kansas City Chiefs (36.00) 6-6 The Kansas City Chiefs are atop the AFC West and looking to continue their climb after a much deserved bye week in week 10. The Chiefs have sputtered of late having lost three of its last four games so the bye week came at the right time to take a step back and regroup, especially after their last outing, a 27-18 defeat to the hands of the Cowboys. The schedule does get increasingly easier for Kansas City as they have games against the Giants, Jets, Bills and Dolphins on the docket. Alex Smith continues to be steady and reliable and Kareem Hunt is quickly becoming the biggest find of the draft. Tyreek Hill is reminding Chiefs fans of Dante Hall back in the day with his ability to return kicks/punts. This team could be scary down the stretch.
Seattle Seahawks (15.00) 8-4 Much like the Saints, the Seattle Seahawks come in as a value play in the NFC playoff picture on the simple fact that they’ve been there before. The Seahawks are 6-3 and are still in contention for the NFC West crown, something that is currently being held down by the Los Angeles Rams. Seattle do have a difficult few remaining games on the schedule with Atlanta, Philadelphia, Jacksonville and those very Rams making up four of the next six games to round out the year. Perhaps the bigger cause for concern is the fact that all-pro cornerback Richard Sherman has been lost for the season with a torn achilles.