Nine weeks of the NFL are now complete, and we have a strong idea of which teams are legitimate playoff threats. This list accounts for team's schedules as well as their divisions, unlike standard Power Rankings. So, here are my projections for the NFL Playoffs after nine weeks.
The Patriots look like the best team in the NFL. The offense has been great and Tom Brady is torching every defense he faces. It's Super Bowl or bust again for the Patriots.
The AFC North is tough, but the Bengals have looked great so far. Andy Dalton has been wonderful and the Bengals seem set for another playoff run. The Bengals might be the most complete team in the NFL.
Denver's defense is worthy of a No. 1 seed, but the offense looks like a non-playoff contender's. Following up a win over the Packers with a loss to the Colts is disappointing, but the Broncos appear set for Top 3 seed.
The Colts are 4-5, and while I have plenty of concerns, they still play in the AFC South. Someone has to win, and it should be the Colts. Getting to play the Jaguars, Titans and Texans twice each year is a huge boost for their record. Plus, a win over Denver does wonders for the Colts' confidence and playoff hopes.
Losing Ben Roethlisberger for a few weeks with a foot injury hurts. However, a win over the Raiders is a big boost for the Steelers. Plus, the Steelers have the Browns and then their bye on the schedule. That might be enough time for Big Ben to recover.
With the Raiders losing to the Steelers and the Jets beating the Jaguars (barely), the Jets are back in the No. 6 seed. The Raiders are still in the race, as the Buffalo Bills and few other teams with three wins. The Jets play the Bills Thursday Night and don't be surprised if the winner of that game takes over this spot next week.
The 8-0 Panthers are now the NFC South favorite. Both the Falcons and Panthers have favorable schedules, and they are both NFC contenders. Cam Newton is doing a ton for this team, as is the defense. Ending with 13 wins is a serious possibility for Carolina.
The Packers drop because of their loss to the Panthers. They're still in great shape for a bye.
The Cardinals picked up where they left off last season before Carson Palmer was injured. The Cardinals have struggled at times, but their massive point differential is something I can't overlook.
This No. 4 seed is wide-open. The NFC East is going down to the wire again, and I've got the Giants as slight favorites. They get the nod for now, but don't be surprised if this changes a few times down the stretch.
The Vikings are 6-2 and I feel much better about them after a narrow win over the Rams. They've won four straight and look like a true playoff team. However, their next fives games are hard and we'll see just how good they are.
The Falcons have now lost three of their last four. All three were games Atlanta should have won. However, their easy schedule still sets up well for a playoff berth, assuming they get things turned around. The Rams, Seahawks and even the Saints still have a chance to make a push.
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