Going into the final week of the NFL regular season, the playoff picture is almost completely set. Their are only three spots available, one in the AFC and two in the NFC, which will be determined this Sunday. The Patriots have locked up home field advantage in the AFC and Atlanta is all but guaranteed home field advantage in the NFC. Some teams have backed into the playoffs (Eagles & Jets) and some teams will enter the playoffs on a roll. With how crazy this NFL season has been I would expect some surprises in the playoffs. Here are the top 5 teams entering week 17...
1. New England Patriots (13-2) - The Patriots have won 7 games in a row and haven't scored less than 31 points since November 7th. I would venture to say that this offense is rolling right now. New England is not known for resting their starters much, even in games where nothing is on the line so I believe we will see the Patriots roll out to an early lead on Miami at home this week and then coast through the second half and enter the playoffs on an 8 game win streak. It is tough to envision a Superbowl in February that won't include the Patriots.
2. Atlanta Falcons (12-3) - The Falcons finally lost at home and showed they aren't unbeatable in the Georgia Dome. Matt Ryan only lost for the second time at home in his career. With that said the Falcons face the lowly Panthers this week at home and a win gives them the number one seed in the NFC and forces the road to the Superbowl to go through Atlanta. I like Atlanta to win this week and force teams to beat them on their own turf but we now see that is not an impossible task.
3. Baltimore Ravens (11-4) - The Ravens are quietly on a 3 game win streak. Three of their four losses this year came against the Patriots, the Falcons and the Steelers, all playoff teams. Their fourth loss was at the Cincinnati Bengals who they face at home this week with a chance to avenge their earlier loss and perhaps sneak into the two seed in the AFC. If the Ravens continue to pound the ball down their opponents throat and can find a way to capture their defense of years past they could be the team to give the Patriots some trouble come late January.
4. Chicago Bears (11-4) - The Bears just continue to impress, taking down the Jets last week at home after falling behind 21-10. I have doubted this team all year, waiting for Jay Cutler to become the turnover machine we are all accustomed to seeing. That hasn't happened and now with the Vikings upsetting the Eagles last night, the Bears have clinched a first round bye in the NFC. They face the Packers this week in Lambeau with nothing to play for whereas the Packers need a win to make the playoffs. More than likely, the Bears will rest most of their starts and the Packers will cruise into the playoffs.
5. New Orleans Saints (11-4) - What an impressive win in Atlanta last week. As I alluded to earlier, the Falcons had not lost at home all season and yet the Saints managed to go into the Georgia Dome and take down the best team in the NFC. This keeps the Saints slim hopes alive of winning their division and securing the number one seed in the NFC. This scenario is highly unlikely with the Falcons facing the worst team in the NFL and the Saints welcoming in the upstart Buccaneers who believe they still have a chance to make the playoffs. But that is why they play the games, you never know!
Honorable Mentions: Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles
There is the top 5 teams in the NFL after week 16. Thoughts or opinions? Feel free to leave a comment! Also don't forget to visit my site, www.moleandmeares.com, to watch our weekly picks video and submit your week 17 NFL picks for a chance to win a weekly prize.