1. Arizona Cardinals: 11-2

Despite being the number two seed in the NFC, the Cardinals, in my opinion, are by far the best team in the NFL. They are one of the deepest teams in the NFL and the only team to rank in the top five in total offense and total defense.

Their three starting receivers, John Brown, Michael Floyd, and Larry Fitzgerald, are arguably talented enough to be the best receiver on a handful of other NFL teams. Rookie running back David Johnson has finally gotten his chance to be the team’s starting running back and he hasn’t looked back. Over the last two weeks Johnson ranks in the top ten in total yards and yards per play. Carson Palmer is playing the best football of his career. On Thursday he threw for his 31st touchdown of the season, which broke Kurt Warner’s single season Cardinals’ touchdown record.

At 11-2 the Cardinals are my favorite to win Super Bowl 50.

 

  1. New England Patriots: 11-2

After two consecutive losses, the Patriots got back on track Sunday with a 27-6 win over the Houston Texans. As we head into week 15 the Patriots are in prime position to finish with the number one seed in the AFC, and the biggest reason why is Rob Gronkowski.

It’s night and day on the offensive side of the football with Rob Gronkowski on the field. His mere presence just makes the offense a much better system. As a whole, the offense looks more comfortable and in sync with Gronkwoski on the field. He is the most valuable non-quarterback in the NFL. With a healthy Gronkowski, I don’t see any AFC team stopping this offense.

 

  1. Carolina Panthers: 13-0

The Panthers are rolling. They lead the NFL average points per game (31.6), plays of 20 yards or more, and have won 17 straight regular season games dating back to last season.

Cam Newton is the MVP of the NFL through 13 games. He is the catalyst of the offense and without him this team would be a 3 to 5 win team. What he does at the quarterback position is unprecedented. He is one of the most accurate deep ball throwers in the league, and he is one of the best running quarterbacks. On Sunday, Newton made two beautiful throws (74 yards and 46 yards) to Ted Gin JR. He made it look effortless.

 

  1. Seattle Seahawks: 8-5

After starting the season 4-5 the Seahawks have won four straight and are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, and all of it falls on the shoulders of Russell Wilson.

On Sunday Wilson became the first quarterback in NFL history to compile four straight games of at least three touchdowns with zero interceptions while completing over 70 percent of his passes. Wilson is playing the best football of his career and it couldn’t come at a better time.

Even with the loss of Thomas Rawls for the rest of the season, the Seahawks are going to be fine. With three games remaining (Home to Cleveland, Home to St. Louis, and @ Arizona) the Seahawks control their own destiny for one of the two wild card spots in the NFC. All they have to do is win two of those three to get in, and once they’re in, Marshawn Lynch will be back. I know he’s been terrible this year, but here me out. He will finally be healthy, and he will be re-energized. He’s been hearing for weeks about how Rawls is a better fit for the offense. With Rawls gone, Lynch has a chip on his shoulder and will be playing to prove his doubters wrong.

 

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-5

If the playoffs started today the Steelers would be on the outside looking in. Despite this, they still find themselves in the top five of my power rankings.

Of all the AFC teams the Steelers’ offense is one that could go blow for blow with the Patriots’ offense. Ben Roethlisberger is playing better than he ever has. Every time he throws in the direction of Antonio Brown or Martavis Bryant I expect it to be caught. Their receiving core is arguably the best in the NFL and I don’t think any defense in the NFL could stop them.

 

  1. Cincinnati Bengals: 10-3

I’ve been high on the Bengals all season long, and now for the first time since week two they find themselves outside the top five. This of course, is largely in part to Andy Dalton being out until at least week 17.

On paper the Bengals have clearly the best team in the AFC North for the past few seasons. This season all the cards seemed to be falling in place. Andy Dalton was playing outstanding, the offense was healthy, and the defense was among the best in the NFL, and now all that talk of Super Bowl hopes is gone. On Sunday the Bengals lost Dalton, Tyler Eifer, and Vontaze Burfict, essentially killing their Super Bowl dreams.

They seemed to be almost a lock for a bye in the AFC playoffs, and now, with AJ McCaron at quarterback, the AFC North title could be at stake.

 

  1. Denver Broncos: 10-3

After the Bengals lost, it seemed like almost a lock that the Broncos would receive a first round bye, but after a terrible home loss to the Raiders, the Broncos are in serious trouble.

Over their last two games the Broncos have scored one offensive touchdown. Yes, you read that correctly, only one offensive touchdown. It’s not like they were matched up against super strong defenses; they played the atrocious Raiders’ defense and the Chargers, one of the worst teams in the league.

With a game against the Steelers this week, the Broncos could find themselves with a mere one game lead over the Chiefs for the AFC West title.

 

  1. Green Bay Packers: 9-4

After escaping on a miraculous last second touchdown in week 13 the Packers handled business on Sunday defeating the Cowboys 28-7. After losing three straight games, the Packers have won three of their last four and outside of the Lions game in which Eddie Lacy was benched; the running game has been fantastic.

In their past four games in which Lacy has gotten a full work load, Lacy has rushed for an average of 110 yards per game.

With a consistent running game opposing defenses cannot drop eight men into coverage, which allows the Packers’ receivers, who have struggled all season long, to have man coverage. With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, I’ll never count out the Packers from contending for a Super Bowl. This team is heating up at the right time and could make some serious noise come January.

 

  1. Kansas City Chiefs: 8-5

It seems like all they do is win. Since starting off 1-5, the Chiefs have won seven straight games. Despite losing Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs’ offense has clicked on all cylinders. It’s almost as if they are better without him.

Without Charles, it seems like Andy Reid has given Alex Smith more rope, and the results have shown. This past Sunday, Smith threw his first interception since week three, which was the longest span of any quarterback with over 100 passing attempts.

The Chiefs are rolling, and if the Broncos aren’t careful, the Chiefs could very well end up with the AFC West division crown.

 

  1. New York Jets: 8-5

Since an embarrassing loss to the Texans on November 22, the Jets have won three straight, and their quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, has been terrific.

He’s thrown for nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. He has been the difference maker for this football team.

The defense is coming back into form. After having an atrocious month of November, the defense has come back to the top, allowing a mere 17 points per game.

 

 

Sean Mason

Spark Sports NFL Analyst

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