We are approaching the sharp end of the NFL season and several strong teams are battling to secure a place in the playoffs. Others have crashed and burned in spectacular fashion, forcing fans to despair as they watch on from the comfort of their couches. These are the key stories that have developed over the course of the season so far:
Steelers Chase Perfection
The Steelers boast a perfect 10-0 record after breezing by the Jaguars at EverBank Field on Sunday. The return of Ben Roethlisberger galvanized the franchise, offensive newcomers Chase Claypool and Eric Ebron have exceeded expectations and the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Alejandro Villanueva have been on fire. A defense led by T.J. Watt, Bud Dupreee, Joe Haden, Cam Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick has been sensational, and even kicker Chris Boswell is killing it. They could follow in the footsteps of the 1972 Dolphins and the 2007 Patriots by finishing the regular season unbeaten if they can get past the Ravens, Washington, the Bills, the Bengals, the Colts and the Browns.
Jets Risk Winless Season
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the Jets, who have slumped to an 0-10 record. The franchise has never previously suffered the ignominy of a winless season. It went 1-15 in 1996, but it looks capable of breaking that miserable record in 2020. The 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns are the only teams to go winless in the modern era, but the Jets could join them at this rate. They are +100 (2.00) in the Unikrn NFL odds to go winless this year.
Chiefs Remain Super Bowl Favorites
The Chiefs remain the favorites to win a second consecutive Super Bowl in February. Patrick Mahomes leads the league once again for passing yards, and the Chiefs are looking comfortable at the top of the AFC West, with a 9-1 record. They could be in line for a thrilling championship game against Pittsburgh, but they would be favorites to prevail.
Seahawks Let Russ Cook
“Let Russ Cook!” has been the mantra for many Seahawks fans over the past few years. Pete Carroll has seemingly heard their pleas, and responded by giving Russell Wilson a lot more of the ball. Wilson has responded in emphatic fashion. He is narrowly second to Mahomes for passing yards, and they look like engaging in a head-to-head battle for the NFL MVP award.
The Bucs Do Not Have a Dream Team
Talk of a Tampa Bay dream team abounded after they snapped up Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette in the offseason. However, things have not quite worked out for the franchise. They have seen flashes of brilliance from Brady, but he looked lost in a 27-24 defeat to the Rams in Week 11. It left the Bucs 7-4, and they could be 7-5 after playing the Chiefs, so their chances of securing a wildcard spot are teetering on a knife-edge.
Saints Sweat on Brees Injury
The 8-2 Saints have soared to the top of the NFC South. They extended their winning streak to seven games with a routine victory over the Falcons on Sunday. It was all the more impressive when you consider that QB Drew Brees was ruled out for several weeks with rib and lung injuries. Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill stepped up in his absence, but the Saints need Brees back and healthy if they are to justify their status as favorites to win the NFC.
The NFC East is a Mess
Does anyone want to win the NFC East? The Eagles are top of the division, but their record is a dismal 3-6-1 after losing back-to-back games. The Giants, Washington and the Cowboys are all 3-7, making it easily the weakest division in the league. Everyone expected Washington to struggle, while the Giants have performed a little below expectations, but this is embarrassing for the Cowboys.
NFC North Looks Intriguing
The NFC North is also delicately balanced, but for the right reasons. The banged-up 49ers are out of contention, but the 7-3 Rams, 7-3 Seahawks and 6-4 Cardinals are all fighting tooth and nail to reach the postseason. It will be fascinating to see how that division develops in the weeks ahead.
Patricia’s Tenure is on Thin Ice
Matt Patricia could be the first NFL coach to face the axe this season. Three double-digit losses in four games is woeful, and they only scraped past struggling Washington after blowing a 21-point lead. Doug Marrone and Adam Gase are also in the running to be the first head coach to leave, but right now Patricia leads the way.
Zach Cunningham Continues to Thrive
The Houston Texans linebacker became the first player to go past the 100-tackle mark this season when he had had nine tackles and one quarterback hit in a 27-20 win over the New England Patriots. He collected 14 tackles during the Texans’ previous game, and he is certainly justifying his four-year, $58 million contract.
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