NFL favourites starting to take shape
Heading towards December, the NFL regular season is starting to come towards the back-end of its schedule and the picture for the playoffs and the Super Bowl is starting to take shape.
32 teams will swiftly be whittled down to 12, with six teams in each division vying to be conference champions and thus earning their spot at Super Bowl LII, which will take place in Minnesota in February.
Things are extremely tight in the battle to reach the play-offs, particularly in the fight for the wildcard spots, but a number of sides are standing out amongst the favourites to go all the way this season after a fantastic record so far.
Each of those teams has their own arguments for going all the way but the game will change dramatically in the playoffs, as there is no room for mistakes and experience in these situations is vital. However, they’ll certainly be confident.
In the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots currently stand as the top-two seeds in the conference, with both sides boasting an 8-2 record and sitting top of their respective divisions.
The Patriots, defending Super Bowl champions, look set to continue their phenomenal record of 13 consecutive playoff appearances and stand in a solid position as they aim to win their third crown in just four years.
The Steelers, meanwhile, have had their own troubles since the turn of the decade. After winning Super Bowl XLIII against the Cardinals, they lost against the Packers two years later and then entered a period of two years without a playoff appearance. However, they’ve featured in the last three.
Both sides’ positions are not yet certain though as the Jacksonville Jaguars have a 7-3 record, and could pull level with their division rivals in the coming weeks, whilst the Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens look to be in a strong position, with the Buffalo Bills also still in the running.
In the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles currently stand as the side with the best record in the entire NFL this year as they’ve lost just once, boating a 9-1 record. They sit amongst the favourites to go all the way but the Vikings, aiming to win the Super Bowl on their own turf, also look strong with a 8-2 record.
The Eagles have virtually tied up the NFC East with their recent victory over the Dallas Cowboys and look certain to make their first playoff appearance since 2013 and will be happy to receive a bye into the divisional round, as they’ve lost their last three Wildcard games.
The Vikings are also looking to improve upon their recent history, with just two playoff appearances in the past seven seasons, and will hope to skip the Wildcard round- as they’ve not won a Wildcard game since 2004.
The Saints are right on their tail though, also boasting an 8-2 record, whilst the Panthers and Rams, with a 7-3 record, currently sit as the fourth and fifth seeds in the NFC- ahead of the Cardinals who, following the Falcons recent victory over the Seahawks, are one of three sides with a 6-4 record.
The Seahawks, with serial playoff appearances and vast successes over recent years, are currently ranked outside the bracket but have the pedigree to force their way in and the Detroit Lions also have a chance, with the Packers and Cowboys ready to take advantage of any potential slip.
Things are a lot more balanced in the playoffs and betting can therefore be a lot more difficult. With the Titans and Chiefs currently looking set to go head-to-head in the AFC, both with a 6-4 record, it shows how difficult the ties can be to call.
With their phenomenal season so far, the Eagles certainly shouldn’t be overlooked but their downfall could come in the form of the Vikings, who’d love to win their first ever Super Bowl and lift it on home soil.
The threat of the sides in the NFC wildcard round cannot be overlooked though and it could be a fierce competition, whilst in the AFC the expectation is that the conference decider will see the Steelers and the Patriots go toe-to-toe, in a rematch of the championship final from last year where the Patriots won to seal their ninth Super Bowl appearance.