Twelve weeks of the NFL season are in the books, and now comes the crucial mad-dash portion of the schedule.
The front-runners have begun to take shape, but both conferences remain crowded with contenders. As the playoff race plays out over the next six weeks, some teams will continue to lead the pack, while the second-tier squads will jockey for position. Some will gain momentum entering the postseason, while others will limp across the finish line and hope for good fortune in January.
Here’s a breakdown of where things stand with some top teams from each division.
Four teams deserve votes of confidence based on what they’ve accomplished thus far. Things appear rather worrisome for four other teams. And things could go one of two ways for two more clubs.
Let’s take a dive, shall we?
Who earns votes of confidence
Philadelphia Eagles (10-1): Owners of the best record in football, the Eagles rank among the most versatile teams as well. They have proven they can beat teams using a run-heavy attack, or they can rely on Jalen Hurts’ arm and his game-changing wideouts A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. Throw in a defense that has a recently bolstered line and leads the league with 23 takeaways while ranking third with 36 sacks, and this team seems primed for a strong finish to the season even though divisional foe Dallas also looks quite formidable.
Kansas City Chiefs (9-2): Ever since that loss to Buffalo, a motivated Chiefs team has been on a roll, averaging 29.4 points a game while holding foes to 18.8. It hasn’t mattered which pass-catchers Patrick Mahomes has had available, he’s still averaging 325.9 passing yards a game while imposing his will on the defense.
San Francisco 49ers (7-4): Another versatile team, the 49ers have proven they can win with a potent offensive attack, or in a grind-it-out defensive battle. They have found a way to weather injury-related adversity and now have themselves positioned atop the NFC West. Losing Elijah Mitchell hurts the backfield, but rookie Jordan Mason brings a physical running style that should help Kyle Shanahan avoid overtaxing Christian McCaffrey.
Minnesota Vikings (9-2): With a five-game lead in an NFC North that has no other teams with a winning record, the Vikings are in great shape. And with a homestretch schedule that features just two teams with winning records (the Jets and Giants, both 7-4), they should wrap things up with one of the best records in the league. That 40-3 loss to Dallas, and Kirk Cousins’ struggles under pressure, does give pause. But as far as concluding the regular season on a strong note after leading their division from start to finish, the Vikings check the boxes.