The first eight weeks of the 2017 NFL season are now complete and the true playoff contenders are beginning to emerge. It's still too early to declare any team the Super Bowl favorite, but the playoff threats have emerged. Plenty can, and probably will change, but we have an idea of which teams will be in the postseason mix and which teams aren't playoff-bound this season.
This list should change a bit each week and while it's not quite the same as power rankings, it should look somewhat similar. This accounts for team's schedules as well as their divisions, so it's not based solely on record. So, here are my projections for the NFL Playoffs after eight weeks.
1. New England Patriots (6-2)
Tom Brady, despite being 40 years old, continues to play some of the best football of his career. However, there are worries for this Patriots team. The team has been hit hard with injuries and the defense is among the worst in the NFL. But Bill Belichick and the Patriots keep winning games. It'll be a hard-fought battle for the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
The Steelers have been a bit inconsistent this year, all while dealing with an unhappy Martavis Bryant and some odd comments from Ben Roethlisberger. They've rattled off three solid wins and a home game against the Packers no longer looks that bad. The top of the AFC will likely be decided on Dec. 17th, when the Patriots visit the Steelers.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (6-2)
The Chiefs hit a rough patch recently, but with the Broncos and Raiders underachieving, they remain the favorites. The offense, led by Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt and an impressive Alex Smith, has carried the team. Believe it or not, the defense has serious problems with no Eric Berry in the secondary. At the start of the year, Oakland would have been my choice for the AFC West winner.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3)
Sacksonville only got more deadly for opposing QBs with the arrival of Marcell Dareus. Blake Bortles has had to do very little heavy lifting, which is exactly what the Jags want. I'm not confident about the AFC South at all, with the Titans, Jags and Texans are serious threats. The Jags get the nod because of their schedule, which features games against the Colts, Cardinals, Browns and 49ers still.
5. Buffalo Bills (5-2)
As everyone saw coming, a Bills team that traded away a bunch of key pieces is 5-2 and in great position for a wild card spot. I doubt they catch the Patriots, but the AFC lacks the same number of playoff threats the NFC has. The addition of Kelvin Benjamin is a boost for their WR corps. It's not something I expected at the start of the year, but the Bills have defeated some good teams this year and have earned this projection.
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6. Tennessee Titans (4-3)
Take your pick of several teams for the sixth AFC playoff spot. The Texans are a real threat, but their defense has been hit hard by injuries. The Ravens entire team has that issue, but they can earn this spot next week by beating the Titans on the road this week. The Bengals' coaching staff is awful, the Dolphins are frauds and the Jets are Jets. I'd love to put the Broncos, Raiders or Chargers here (and I thought for sure one would get this spot at the start of the year), but they've had real issues. So, for now, the Titans have this spot. But don't be surprised if it changes several times.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (7-1)
This Eagles team is legit. Carson Wentz has weapons around him and he's taken a great step forward. The defensive front seven has played great and the team with the best record in the NFL has earned this spot. However, there is some room for concern. The Eagles lost OT Jason Peters and LB Jordan Hicks, two massive blows. A string of three straight road games in December could be rough as well.
2. Seattle Seahawks (5-2)
Is Duane Brown on the decline? Probably. Is Brown a massive improvement over the other options Seattle had at OT? Without a doubt. Getting Brown helps fix the Seahawks' biggest problem and it boosts their Super Bowl chances. As long as Russell Wilson is healthy, the Seahawks will be a Super Bowl threat. Especially if that defense bounces back.
3. Minnesota Vikings (5-2)
This Vikings defense is one of the best in the NFL and with Aaron Rodgers hurt, they've got a clear path to playoffs. The Lions are several games back and I'll be surprised if the Vikings collapse like they did last year. Of course, that assumes they don't get hit by the same injury bug that killed them last year. Case Keenum hasn't sucked, but Sam Bradford needs to comeback for the Vikings to get to the Super Bowl.
4. New Orleans Saints (5-2)
The Saints offense has always been deadly. But the defense is what always turned them from a double-digit win team into a 7-win squad in recent years. But that's not the case this year, as the defense has taken a huge step forward. I'm all aboard the Drew Brees MVP train (he deserves one in his NFL career) and I like the Saints to win the NFC South and push hard for a bye.
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5. Los Angeles Rams (5-2)
I'm not really sure I'm ready to buy this Rams team. The Cowboys win was great (and huge for a potential tiebreaker), but the Rams could come back down to earth. The schedule isn't that easy the rest of the way, so don't be surprised if the Rams drop a few more games. Still, with five wins already, the Rams are in a really good spot. Had it not been for the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, this spot would have gone to the Dallas Cowboys.
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-3)
I love the NFC, because there are numerous teams that could take this spot. The Lions are better than their 3-4 record, the Redskins will finish around .500 and that puts them in the mix, the Cowboys are a threat if they survive without Elliott and the Panthers hurt themselves by trading away Kelvin Benjamin. I'm torn between three teams for now: Dallas, Carolina and Atlanta. And the next two weeks will have a massive impact on which team gets this spot. The Falcons visit the Panthers this weekend and host the Cowboys after that. If the Falcons win both, they're in great shape.
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