There hasn’t been a year like this in the NFL in a long, long time.
That is, with just three weeks to go, there really is no clear-cut, bonafide runaway favorite for the Super Bowl.
A look at the AFC suggests that other than the East, it will be a dog fight to the end to determine the West, North and South champions.
In the North, Pittsburgh holds a slim one-game lead on Baltimore, with the two locking horns on Christmas Day in the Steel City. In the South, Houston and Tennessee are deadlocked at 7-6, with Indianapolis one game back at 6-7. Anyone’s ball game there, though the Titans are winners of two straight.
In the NFC, parity also reigns, with only Seattle looking near home and cooled West champs (they are 8-4-1 and second place Arizona is 5-7-1).
In the East, Dallas has some tough sledding with a two-game lead on the Giants, who just beat them last weekend. Detroit, winners of five straight, are two games clear in the North but hit the road for tough tilts in Dallas and New York. The NFC South is up for grabs, with both Atlanta and Tampa Bay knotted up at 8-5.
So, flip a coin on many division winners. However, there are 10 teams we think have a real shot at being Super Bowl champions, ranked in order.
Matt Ryan is on a heck of a roll heading into the final three weeks of the season. He is second only to New Orleans’ Drew Brees in passing yards with 4,050 this season and has tossed 30 TDs against just seven interceptions. The oft-sacked Ryan will continue his aerial assault against the woeful San Francisco 49ers this Sunday in Atlanta, however, the list of available targets has shrunk considerably. Wide receivers Julio Jones (toe) and Mohamed Sanu (groin), who are 1-2 in receiving, are questionable for Sunday’s tilt. Taylor Gabriel (504 yards, 5 TDs), will be a busy if those two sit out, as will the running corps. It’s a good thing the Falcons are entertaining the 1-12 Niners, since their home record is a mediocre 3-3 (they are 5-2 on the road). They finish out with a visit to Carolina on Christmas Eve (they are 5-2 on the road) and a home date with division rival New Orleans, which promises to be a real aerial battle. We say the Falcons are a long shot at this point.