By NATHAN MARKLE
Week 10 is in the books, and we now have a better sense of who is for real and who is not. The 2013-2014 season is past the halfway point, and we are now at that mark where every week becomes a must win for playoff hopefuls.
Most of the divisions are still up for grabs with two or more contenders battling for the division title. It also seems that the race for Wild Card slots is going to be one of the more memorable ones in recent years. Let’s take a look at which teams I project will earn the coveted spots in the postseason.
NFC East Division Champs
The Philadelphia Eagles look like the best option to represent the abysmal East. The Iggles have found their man in Nick Foles.
Foles seems much more capable of engineering Chip Kelly’s offense than Michael Vick. He has a remarkable 132.5 quarterback rating and has yet to throw an interception. An improving defense and easy remaining schedule make these birds my favorite for the division.
NFC North Division Champs
A manuscript of the Detroit Lions’ past few decades reads like a world history book opened up to Mount Vesuvius: just tragic. But the monsters of Motown are legitimately ferocious this season. Detroit currently sits atop the division, and I do not foresee them giving it up. The opponents left on their schedule have a combined winning percentage of only 36 percent.
NFC South Division Champs
After Carolina’s victory over the 49ers Sunday, I honestly call this one a toss up. The Saints are explosive and unstoppable at home, but not so much on the road. The Panthers can be slowed on offense, but their defense gives up less than 12 points per game. With one game separating them in the standings, I will opt to go with history. It is never smart to bet against Drew Brees. The Saints will beat Carolina late in the season and secure the division crown.
NFC West Division Champs
After a tough decision between the Saints and Panthers, I am thankful for this one. It is easy: the Seattle Seahawks. They are 9-1 and sit three games above the 49ers. They are that good without superstar receiver Percy Harvin, who debuts this week.
NFC Wild Cards
The Panthers and 49ers will fill out the NFC playoff bracket. Cam Newton plays his best ball late in the year, and both teams benefit from a stellar defense.
AFC East Division Champs
No shocker here, it is the New England Patriots. The Pats seem predetermined to take the division every year, and with a two game lead in the standings and all their weapons back, this year seems aimed for another New England division title.
AFC North Division Champs
Long gone are the days of the Steelers’ supremacy. The Ravens are suffering one heck of a Super Bowl hangover, and their superstar Ray Rice is MIA. Put those things together and you have a division that belongs to the Cincinnati Bengals, no matter how many interceptions Andy Dalton throws.
AFC South Division Champs
This is definitely the easiest division to predict. The Texans have gone down in flames, and the Titans lost Jake Locker for the season. Andrew Luck joins Russell Wilson with the Indianapolis Colts in taking his team to the postseason each of his first two seasons in the league.
AFC West Division Champs
If only I had a coin to flip for this one. The Chiefs and Broncos are NFL standouts. The fans finally get to watch the clash of these two titans on Sunday. We will know much more after week 13, as these two play twice in the next three weeks. For now, I am proclaiming the Chiefs the eventual champions of the AFC West. They have the better record and the better defense. Manning was fragile in recent weeks, and people like to point out his shortcomings in big games. I predict Andy Reid, who should win coach of the year, gets his team rallied up enough to win at least one of the match-ups with Denver and they finish 15-1.
NFC Wild Cards
Obviously one spot is reserved for the Denver Broncos. The other may surprise you. The New York Jets are 5-4. The rest of their schedule is very generous. Gang Green can afford losses at Baltimore and Carolina and still complete the regular season with 10 wins. Even if they drop one of the other five match-ups, they may still get in with nine wins.