College Football Power Rankings: Rivalry Week

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The insanity of Rivalry Week is over, but the CFP committee has more questions to answer as Alabama and Miami lost. The SEC and ACC Championships are play-ins, and Oklahoma and Wisconsin are win-and-in. What’s at stake for Championship Week? Read on.

1. Oklahoma

Capturing the top spot for the first time this year, Oklahoma will make the Playoff of the Sooners defeat TCU in the Big 12 Championship. A loss would send Oklahoma to a New Year’s Six bowl.

2. Clemson

The Tigers face a play-in game against Miami. The winner of the ACC Championship will make the Playoff, while the loser is relegated to the Orange Bowl.

3. Auburn

A wild win in the Iron Bowl ensured the Tigers of a chance to play what is essentially a Playoff quarterfinal against Georgia. Defeating Alabama by 12 is no small feat, and Auburn vaults to #3.

4. Wisconsin

The Badgers enter the Playoff picture because of Alabama and Miami’s losses. A shutout in Minneapolis won’t earn Wisconsin anything, as P.J. Fleck couldn’t make anything out of Minnesota’s weakest roster in years.

5. Georgia

The Bulldogs blew out Georgia Tech 38-7 to ensure the SEC of at least one team in the Playoff. The winner of Auburn vs. Georgia will make the Committee’s top four.

6. Alabama

The Crimson Tide need some help after losing a pivotal Iron Bowl to Auburn. Either Oklahoma or Wisconsin needs to lose to TCU or Ohio State. After that, Alabama will need the committee to pick the Tide over a two-loss conference champion.

7. Ohio State

The Buckeyes must beat Wisconsin to have a chance at the Playoff, and even then the committee might choose 11-1 Alabama. Escaping Michigan gave Ohio State another quality win, but quarterback J.T. Barrett is questionable for the Big 10 Championship.

8. Miami

Pittsburgh has done it again. The 4-7 Panthers knocked off a top four opponent for the second year in a row, meaning Miami will have to beat Clemson to earn a spot in the Playoff.

9. TCU

The Horned Frogs blew out ten-loss Baylor as expected, but have little hope of a Playoff appearance. A win over Oklahoma would be a massive boost to the program, and would earn TCU a trip to the New Year’s Six.

10. USC

The Trojans had an extra week to prepare for Stanford, and will need a win in the Pac-12 Championship to clinch a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.

11. UCF

What the Golden Knights have done this year is incredible. Rolling through the nation’s sixth best conference is a underestimated feat. UCF won’t make the Playoff, but the Knights could make their second New Year’s Six bowl in the Playoff era with a win over Memphis.

12. Washington 

Unlike many, I ranked the Huskies ahead of Washington State. That decision is justified after Washington’s 41-14 win in the Apple Cup, although Washington won’t go to the Pac-12 Championship. That honor goes to Stanford, who just knocked off Notre Dame.

13. Penn State

The Lions put up 66 on Maryland, pushing Penn Statebup three spots due to receiving some help. Saquon Barkley will need more to further his Heisman case in the New Year’s Six.

14. Stanford

The Cardinal were predicted to be destroyed against Notre Dame, but responded by winning by 18. Stanford will play for a New Year’s Six spot in the Pac-12 Championship against USC.

15. Memphis

For the second week in a row, the American Athletic has two teams in the top 15. Enough said for a New Year’s Six play-in game against UCF.

16. Notre Dame

The Irish eliminated themselves from a New Year’s Six bowl by virtue of losing by 18 to Stanford. Notre Dame’s lack of conference affiliation hurts as well.

17. Michigan State

The Spartans stay put after a 40-7 win over eight-loss Rutgers, and won’t move much after finishing second in the Big 10 East.

18. LSU

A blowout win over Texas A&M helps LSU’s case for a higher-quality bowl, and cost Kevin Sumlin his job. The Tigers move up, but won’t make a New Year’s Six bowl.

19. Oklahoma State

Kansas is not a difficult opponent, and the Pokes only move up one spot in relief of Washington State.

20. Northwestern

The Wildcats have a 30-70 shot at the Citrus Bowl, and will need a Michigan State opponent to trip up. A Wisconsin win would be particularly devastating for MSU.

21. Washington State

A chance to go to the Pac-12 Championship was squandered Saturday night, as a 41-14 blowout loss to rival Washington sends Stanford to play USC. Wazzou might be relegated to the Sun Bowl, televised by CBS against an ACC team.

22. Virginia Tech

VT is the last Power 5 team ranked this week, as Virginia Tech’s 9-3 record makes them the ACC’s third ranked team.

23. Fresno State

The Bulldogs enter the rankings after their upset of former #25 Boise State. Fresno State will have another shot at the Broncos in the Mountain West title game.

24. Toledo

The Rockets put the MAC’s only two-loss record on the line in the Mid-American title game. Surprise division winners Akron are heavy underdogs, but Toledo can’t afford to slip up.

25. Florida Atlantic

Lane Kiffin has turned this program around—from winless to unbeaten. FAU has a shot at a conference championship against North Texas.

 

New Year’s Six bowl projections

Playoff semifinal: Clemson vs. Ohio State

Playoff semifinal: Oklahoma vs. Auburn

Orange: Miami vs. Alabama

Fiesta: USC vs. Wisconsin

Cotton: TCU vs. Ohio State

Peach: UCF vs. Georgia

Next best team: Washington

Cast as underdogs, Auburn’s scenarios are set

via Daily Prompt: Underdog

Written off after a loss to LSU, the Auburn Tigers are back. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham and Co. have paths to every high-quality bowl game. After the Whistle breaks down where coach Gus Malzahn’s team could play in postseason.

If Auburn wins out. . .

The Tigers would have wins over Alabama and Georgia, and would be the CFP’s first two-loss Playoff team. QB Jarrett Stidham has a chance to lead Auburn to their first-ever Playoff.

With ATW’s projections for this scenario, the playoff is:

1. Clemson

2. Oklahoma

3. Auburn

4. Ohio State

If Auburn wins the Iron Bowl, but loses to Georgia. . .

The Tigers would almost certainly make a New Year’s Six bowl with a win over Alabama. After the Whistle projects Auburn to finish ranked #8 under this scenario, which would send the Tigers to a New Year’s Six bowl. Pending Big Ten Championship, that bowl will either be the Orange Bowl against the ACC Championshop loser. . .  or the Peach Bowl against the American Athletic winner.

With ATW’s current projections for this scenario, the Playoff is:

1. Clemson

2. Oklahoma

3. Georgia

4. Ohio State

If Auburn loses to Alabama. . .

The Tigers likely drop to the 10-13 range, and fall another spot after the American Athletic Championship. Every Power 5 conference champion is guaranteed a NY6 bowl, so any Pac-12 winner besides USC drops Auburn out of the New Year’s Six and into the Citrus Bowl, probably against Michigan State.

With ATW’s projections for this scenario, the Playoff is:

1. Alabama

2. Clemson

3. Oklahoma

4. Ohio State

Projections for Power 5 conference champions (besides the SEC) are Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and USC.

College Basketball Power Rankings: Arizona and Purdue Fall

Welcome to the conclusion of college basketball’s second week. Remain calm.

What just happened!?

Former #2 Arizona lost twice in a row to formerly unranked opposition. Former #21 Purdue is gone after losing to now-ranked Tennessee and unranked Western Kentucky. This same Tennessee team was leading Villanova at the half by twelve. . . and lost. Chaos.

1. Duke (5-0)

First half struggles against Portland State hurt the Blue Devils, but the lack of other #1 contenders keeps Duke in the top spot.

2. Kansas (4-0)

Don’t underrate the Jayhawks blowout of South Dakota State. Jackrabbits star Mike Daum was neutralized despite a “weak” frontcourt, and Devonte’ Graham went off. Kansas might not have the nation’s most difficult schedule, but the Jayhawks have picked up some quality wins.

3. Villanova (5-0)

Villanova took on their first test of the season and defeated a good Tennessee team. Tennessee was leading at the half, (46-34!) but Jalen Brunson went off for 25 points as the nation’s new #3 advanced to the final of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Excuse me, the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis. Companies these days.

4. Michigan State (3-1)

A blowout win over DePaul doesn’t imply anything about Michigan State, but the Spartans might coast until Big 10 play tips off.

5. Notre Dame (6-0)

The Irish won Mike Brey a preseason tournament. Blowouts of Chaminade and LSU led to a made-for-TV final against Wichita State, one Notre Dame led twice. . . 4-2 and 67-66. That’s it.

6. Miami (4-0)

Bruce Brown and JaQuan Newton have played well during Lonnie Walker’s slump, but La Salle and Florida A&M weren’t expected to challenge a top 10 team anyways.

7. USC (4-0) 

The Trojans needed overtime to defeat Vanderbilt 93-89, although the Commodores seem Tournament-caliber. USC’s frontcourt is going to be a problem for the rest of the Pac-12.

8. Minnesota (5-0)

The Golden Gophers won eight games two years ago. Now they’re ranked number eight. Richard Pitino has done wonders for this program, and recruiting has surged. Isaiah Washington has played a key role as the sixth man, leading Minnesota to blowout victory after blowout victory. They will be tested tomorrow against Alabama and against Miami on the 29th. Win those and Minnesota could catapult into the top five.

9. Wichita State (4-1)

A loss to Notre Dame hurts the Shockers, but dominating wins over California and Marquette indicate Wichita State’s solid grip on a top three seed. The Maui Invitational showed Notre Dame is much better than we thought. Stop with the “overrated” chants. Don’t forget top scorer Markis McDuffie is still out. Wichita State will be a force in March. . . and all it takes is one game for Landry Shamet to go off, and ruin the year for the rest of the American Athletic.

10. Kentucky (5-1)

The Wildcats have struggled against one of the easiest schedules in the nation, needing second half surges to beat ETSU and Troy. Preseason projections remain a force in these rankings, which is why Kentucky is in the top 20, let alone top ten. Jarred Vanderbilt can’t get healthy soon enough for the SEC frontrunner.

11. North Carolina (4-0)

Stanford put up 72 against UNC and 87 against Florida. . . and lost both games. Luke Maye has become a force in the paint, while Joel Berry’s accelerated recovery doesn’t hurt. In other news, I expect some Tar Heel fans to complain about #1 Duke, #5 Notre Dame, and #6 Miami. The ACC is stacked again.

12. Texas A&M (4-0)

Two weeks in, the Aggies boast a fantastic non-conference resume with wins over West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Penn State. Keep in mind the first two were without potential NBA lottery pick Robert Williams.

13. Arizona (3-2)

The Wildcats don’t like preseason projections. Not only did Arizona lose to NC State, but the Wildcats lost to SMU as well. Who would’ve thought the seventh place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis—excuse me, the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis for sponsorship reasons—would be Arizona vs. Purdue? This crazy sport.

14. Cincinnati (5-0)

The Bearcats fall three spots not because of losses, but because of scheduling. Wyoming is decent, but Richmond and Coppin State are not. Cincinnati will have a chance to shoot right back up the rankings December 2nd at Xavier.

15. Xavier (5-0)

Speaking of the Musketeers, Xavier dominated Wisconsin in the Gavitt Games, then blew out Hampton and George Washington. The winner of the Cincinnati-Xavier game could rise into the top 10.

16. Saint Mary’s (5-0)

An 18 point victory over Harvard vaults the Gaels up two spots

17. NC State (5-1)

#2 Arizona sauntered into Imperial Arena and lost to the upstart Wolfpack. Braxton Beverley lit up for 20 points in 27 minutes as NC State finds themselves ranked.

18. Florida (4-0)

The Gators can’t afford to give up 87 points to any team if they want to go far in March. Gonzaga is the next opponent for, in my opinion, the nation’s most overrated team.

19. Louisville (3-0)

Brian Bowen will officially not play for the Cardinals, amplifying Quin Snider’s turnover struggles. Louisville has played an easy schedule, and despite the undefeated record, doesn’t appear ready for ACC play.

20. Baylor (5-0)

The Bears enjoyed one of the better weeks of any team in the nation, knocking off Wisconsin and Creighton. Baylor appears the best-suited to challenge Kansas in the Big 12.

21. Seton Hall (4-1)

Losing to Rhode Island at the buzzer hurts, and knocks the Pirates down a few spots. Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington are producing, but Seton Hall needs Desi Rodriguez to be more consistent if the Pirates want to challenge Villanova.

22. Tennessee (3-1)

This Tennessee team is better than anyone expected. The Vols upset Purdue in the Battle 4 Atlantis—sorry, the B—ah, forget it. Then coach Rick Barnes led Tennessee into a massive game against Villanova. Predicted by most important people to lose by twenty, at the half the Vols were beating the #6 team in the country by twelve! Despite a massive Villanova rally to fuel a Wildcat victory, Tennessee has proved to the nation how good this Vols team can be.

23. Creighton (4-1)

Creighton crushed UCLA, pushed Baylor to the brink, and find themselves in this week’s power rankings. That win against the Bruins could prove crucial come March, because after UCLA gets their three freshmen back, the Bruins will win games. And Creighton? They get Gonzaga December 1st. Somebody scheduled well.

24. Alabama

Collin Sexton is playing and stuffing the box score. Alabama only played against UT-Arlington and Alabama A&M though, and will receive a sterner test against #8 Minnesota. Two years ago, even I would never believe those words, and I’m a Minnesota fan!

25. SMU

The first time a vaunted team loses, rank the team they lost to. The second time they lose, rank the upstarts #23 or below, as it indicates an uncharacteristic skid.

On a more important note, what the Mustangs did was amazing. Defeating the former #2 is nothing to scoff at. Point guard Shake Milton has been terrific for SMU, buoying them to success.

Next five (in order): West Virginia, Temple, Virginia, Gonzaga, Rhode Island

 

Baron’s Playoff Push Picks Week 12

I needed the one week break to get it together. Out of second place by six points, I need to start climbing in the standings. I unfortunately picked the Cowboys along with the Redskins and Vikings, and the After the Whistle team would confirm that if asked.

In the interest of entertaining the reader, I will only monologue—I mean explain the picks on which I differ from my After the Whistle competitor. On to the picks for Sunday!

Browns over Bengals (upset)

Cleveland will pick up a win eventually, and I think it will be here, off the back of a season-saving win over Denver. DeShone Kizer will figure it out eventually, and the Bengals will fall.

Panthers over Jets

Titans over Colts

Patriots over Dolphins (lock)

Bucs over Falcons

Ryan Fitzpatrick has to get a win sometime, with Mike Evans and Cam Brate to throw to. Plus, Tampa loves beating Atlanta.

Eagles over Bears

Chiefs over Bills

Seahawks over 49ers

Raiders over Broncos

Rams over Saints (marquee matchup)

Jared Goff and the Rams will get back on track against a Saints team feasting on mediocre opposition, a team whose running game won’t succeed against Aaron Donald and the Rams defense.

Jaguars over Cardinals

Steelers over Packers

Ravens over Texans

This week is going to be really boring.

Playoff Push Picks Week 12

The Playoff Push Prediction League returns after a one week hiatus, with new standings. Find those here:

Owen Riley, After the Whistle—40

Joel Deering, Fourth Quarter Sports—34

Baron Carter, After the Whistle—31

On to the picks!

Vikings over Lions (lock)

Adam Thielen is probably going to be the first Vikings receiver over 1000 yards in a season since Sidney Rice. The Minnesota State alum highlights a star-studded receiving corps for MVP candidate Case Keenum(!) to shred the Lions with.

Chargers over Cowboys (upset)

Two fringe playoff teams meet, and Joey Bosa is primed for a breakout. The Defensive Player of the Year candidate will get after Dak Prescott, and star left tackle Tyron Smith is hobbled up. Give this one to LA.

Redskins over Giants

The McAdoo supporters won traction in New York’s surprising upset win over Kansas City last week. It won’t continue, as Kirk Cousins has been the NFC’s third-best quarterback of late. D.J. Swearinger has emerged as a terrific corner opposite Josh Norman.

Bengals over Browns

Are we debating this?

Panthers over Jets

As much as I would love to see Carolina fall out of first round bye contention, the Panthers are just stacked across the board in comparison to Josh McCown, Bilal Powell, and Robby Anderson.

Titans over Colts

Falcons over Bucs

Patriots over Dolphins

Eagles over Bears

Seahawks over 49ers

Cool! Free points!

Chiefs over Bills

Buffalo’s quarterback situation is. . . unfortunate, to say the least. Tyrod Taylor was benched for rookie Nathan Peterman, who then threw five interceptions in the first half. Anybody have the Chiefs defense in fantasy?

Raiders over Broncos

Neither of these teams is trying to win the wide-open AFC West, but Oakland is slightly less dysfunctional than their elevated counterparts.

Saints over Rams (marquee matchup)

New Orleans’ run offense and passing defense are the keys to defeating a rattled Rams team. Alvin Kamara’s contributions to the air attack will prove key for the Saints.

Jaguars over Cardinals 

Blaine Gabbert will not put up many points on the #1 scoring defense in the league. It won’t happen.

Steelers over Packers

Brett Hundley’s inexperience is evident, as the Packers have lost four of five including last week’s 23-0 shutout against the Ravens. The 8-2 Steelers should be more concerned with a looming matchup in New England.

Ravens over Texans

Baltimore will expand its playoff hopes with an easy win over the Tom Savage-led Texans, a unit appearing lifeless since Deshaun Watson went down.

 

That’s all for this week! Be sure to leave a like and let me know where I picked wrong in the comments below.

College Football Power Rankings Week 12

Thanksgiving is nearly here, and with it comes Rivalry Week. This week’s rankings provide a blueprint for what every team needs to happen in matchups such as Auburn-Alabama, USF-UCF, and Notre Dame-Stanford. High-powered matchups that could change the Playoff picture. New Year’s Six hopes on the line. This is Rivalry Week.

1. Alabama

The top seven are unchanged in a drama-less week of blowouts. Alabama faces a crucial game in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. If the Tide win, they’re probably in even if Alabama loses to Georgia. And a loss? That forces the committee to think, and we can’t have that.

2. Miami

The Hurricanes won’t face a quality opponent until the ACC Championship against Clemson. Even if Miami loses to Pittsburgh, the ‘Canes would get into the top four with an ACC Championship Game victory. On the other hand, if Miami beats Pitt and loses to Clemson, would they get in ahead of Ohio State, Wisconsin, or a second SEC team?

3. Oklahoma

The Sooners will face West Virginia with a Big 12 Championship spot already locked up. Oklahoma will probably face TCU, and can’t afford to lose.

4. Clemson

A tricky game against now-ranked South Carolina affords Clemson no room for error looking ahead to the ACC Championship against Miami.

5. Auburn

The Tigers will have a chance to win the SEC West for the first time since the Kick Six  against #1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Nick Marshall and Cam Newton are the last two quarterbacks to beat Alabama. Can Jarrett Stidham add his name to the list?

6. Wisconsin

The Badgers are looking ahead to a must-win Big Ten Championship against Ohio State, but Minnesota is always tricky for Wisconsin to deal with. The Badgers still need to win out.

7. Georgia

The Bulldogs will be in the top four if they win out. Georgia will have beaten Alabama or Auburn, Clemson or Miami will have lost, and either Alabama will have lost the Iron Bowl or Auburn would have three losses. However, Georgia Tech and its  triple-option offense has won two of the last three against Georgia.

8. Ohio State

That Team Up North comes down to attempt to ruin the Buckeyes’ Playoff hopes. Ohio State must win out and receive some help to make it in as the two-loss B1G champion.

9. Notre Dame

An underwhelming performance against Navy causes Notre Dame to fall a spot, but the Irish can assure themselves of a New Year’s Six Bowl with a win over Stanford. Pending chaos, Clemson could meet Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. What a matchup that would be!

10. TCU

An easy matchup against 10-loss(!) Baylor should pose no problems for the Horned Frogs. TCU is win-and-in to the Big 12 Championship vs. Oklahoma.

11. UCF

The Golden Knights won’t make the Playoff unless historic chaos ensues, but UCF has the chance to cement a NY6 bowl and a top 10 ranking if they beat USF and Memphis to win the American Athletic.

12. USC

In their infinite wisdom, the Trojans waited until this week to schedule their bye. USC won’t know who they face in the Pac-12 Championship until after the Apple Cup. Excellent use of your bye.

13. Washington

With Stanford’s win, the Huskies can’t win the Pac-12 North, but Washington could lock up a NY6 spot with a win in the Apple Cup.

14. Memphis

After a blowout of a solid SMU team, Memphis awaits the winner of USF-UCF in the AAC title game. The third Tigers in the rankings will need to beat three-win East Carolina first, though.

15. Washington State

If the Cougars win the Apple Cup, Wazzou will head to the Pac-12 Championship against USC to play for a crack at a New Year’s Six bowl. If the Cougars lose, Stanford wins the North.

16. Penn State

The Lions are tenth in the CFP committee’s rankings, meaning Penn State is win-and-in for a New Year’s Six bowl. Just beat Maryland!

17. Michigan State

Head-to-head is only used as a tiebreaker if two or more teams’ resumes are comparable. MSU lacks quality wins outside of Penn State and now-unranked Michigan, and is a long shot for a New Year’s Six bowl. If the Spartans beat Rutgers, Michigan State is headed to the Citrus Bowl.

18. Stanford

The Cardinal are playing #9 Notre Dame, but Stanford’s focus is the Apple Cup. A Washington win sends Stanford to the Pac-12 Championship, but a Wazzou win eliminates Stanford.

19. Mississippi State

All three of the Bulldogs’ losses are to top 10 teams. Ole Miss will attempt to change that in the Thanksgiving Egg Bowl, but MSU needs a win.

20. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys’ slim hopes of a Big 12 Championship appearance vanished with a shootout loss to Kansas State. Even if TCU loses to ten-loss Baylor, Oklahoma State would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker. If Iowa State and/or Texas and/or West Virginia wins in that scenario, the Cowboys would lose out due to losing to the next-best team, Kansas State. Iowa State has the head-to-head tiebreaker over TCU.

21. LSU

What feels like the tenth Tigers in these rankings, LSU will attempt to further their cause for a decent quality bowl game in Ed Orgeron’s first full season. Texas A&M is always an issue on Rivalry Week, so it’s not a given.

22. Northwestern

Someone needs to get a Northwestern vs. Harvard rivalry established, because that would be funny. It would be a good game—in basketball.

23. USF

The third of four Group of 5 teams in the rankings, USF has to beat UCF and Memphis to earn a New Year’s Six spot. On the other hand, Boise State might be picked ahead of the Bulls even if this unlikely scenario takes place.

24. South Carolina

Facing a game against Clemson, South Carolina might be in the rankings for this week, but don’t expect them to be in next week’s top 25.

25. Boise State

A three-point loss to Washington State is nothing to scoff at, but a blowout loss to Virginia has kept the Broncos out of the rankings until now. Running the table in the Mountain West buoys them.

 

New Year’s Six Projections

  • Based on my picks for important games, here is who I think will be in the top six bowls come New Year’s.
  • This blueprint will change drastically after Rivalry Week.
  • Please note that every Power 5 champion and the highest ranked Group of 5 champion are guaranteed NY6 spots.
  • The last three are decided based on geographical location while avoiding rematches.
  • The predicted higher-ranked team is listed first.

CFP semifinal: Miami vs. Alabama

CFP semifinal: Oklahoma vs. Auburn

Orange: Clemson vs. Ohio State

Cotton: Notre Dame vs. TCU

Fiesta: USC vs. Wisconsin

Peach: UCF vs. Georgia

Projecting the Race for the NFL Playoffs

The Browns are not in this post.

Week 11 of the NFL has concluded, and it’s time to look ahead to the race for the playoffs. Some teams are enjoying terrific seasons with Super Bowl aspirations, but some have fallen out of the race. For the Browns and Giants, look away. For The Eagles and Vikings, here goes.

AFC

1. New England Patriots (13-3)

The Patriots will play the Steelers on December 17th with home field advantage at stake. New England’s defense will be good enough to allow the high-powered offense to go to work and claim the #1 seed.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4)

Remember Week 5, when the Jags dismantled the Steelers 30-9? The head-to-head is crucial, as I project both Jacksonville and Pittsburgh to finish 12-4.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

The runaway AFC North champions may be #1 right now, but Pittsburgh can’t stay with New England, and the Jaguars’ easy schedule makes it difficult for the Steelers to earn a first round bye.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

Recall when KC was 5-0. Then the Chiefs lost four of five to arrive at 6-4. Their division-heavy last six will produce some slip-ups, but Kansas City will get to 10-6 and another division title.

5. Tennessee Titans (10-6)

Tennessee faces an easy schedule up until a brutal two games to end the season, against the Rams and Jaguars. The Titans’ current momentum will carry them to ten wins in a season devoid of AFC contenders.

6. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

Sitting at .500, the Ravens will face a division-heavy schedule down the stretch in the AFC North. Games against the Lions and Steelers will be tough, but Baltimore will win everything else.

NFC

1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

The Eagles sit at 9-1, the sole blemish against the Chiefs, when the Chiefs were on top of the league. The NFC is loaded this year, and now Philadelphia sits at the top.

2. Minnesota Vikings (12-4)

The Vikings and Rams played a crucial game with first round bye implications, and Minnesota dominated. Case Keenum is an MVP candidate, and the Vikings have won six straight. The upcoming stretch against the Lions, Panthers, and Falcons will define Minnesota’s season.

3. New Orleans Saints (12-4) 

The Saints’ rushing attack is suddenly incredible behind Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. The defense is a top ten unit with rookie Marshon Lattimore. New Orleans faces a critical test against the Rams that will decide the third seed.

4. Los Angeles Rams (10-6)

If the Rams beat the Saints on Sunday, each team’s projection changes to 11-5. Jared Goff is a decent NFL quarterback, and a Todd Gurley leads a good offense. Of course D-tackle Aaron Donald gets a mention as a DPOY candidate.

5. Carolina Panthers (11-5)

Cam Newton’s formidable offense and Luke Kuechly’s impregnable defense combine to form an incredible Panthers team. A division-heavy remaining schedule will be difficult in the NFC South, but Carolina will push New Orleans all year long.

6. Atlanta Falcons (10-6) 

That controversial win over the Lions pays dividends now, doesn’t it. I project both teams to finish 10-6, but Atlanta’s head-to-head win puts the Falcons in the playoffs.