November 30, 2015

SHATZMAN | Coming up in the NFL

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This week is a crucial point in the NFL season. With five weeks remaining and the majority of teams still in the playoff hunt, the next few Sundays will feature do-or-die games across the league. Below I will examine the position of all 32 teams through 12 weeks.

Panthers (11-0): Through 12 weeks, Cam Newton is the frontrunner for MVP. Even with the weakest receiving corps in the league, I like Carolina’s chances of finishing 16-0.

Patriots (10-1): Minus Edelman, Amendola and Dion Lewis, the Pats nearly beat a great Denver team on the road in the snow. Both Edelman and Amendola should be healthy come playoff time. A seventh Super Bowl appearance may be on the way for ­­­Touchdown Tom.

Cardinals (9-2): Carson Palmer is playing elite football, making the Seahawks look bad in Seattle last week. They still have to play them again in what is a difficult final five game stretch.

Bengals (9-2): 2015 will be remembered as the year “Andy Dalton” and “MVP candidate” were phrases that occurred in the same sentence. He’s played in four playoff games in four seasons and has lost all four.

Broncos (9-2): We’ve seen bad Manning and decent Manning this season. Brock Osweiler is much better than bad Manning. Osweiler will start for the next few weeks, but what about in January?

Vikings (8-3): Teddy Bridgewater does what he must to win ballgames. Call him a game-manager or call him a winner. Either way, the Vikings record is no fluke.

Steelers (6-5): They’ve been banged up, but they’ve done enough to hang around. The Steelers play the Colts on Sunday night, then the Bengals.

Packers (7-4): Aaron Rodgers has looked human over the last month. The Packers have lost four of their last five after starting 7-0. It must be Jordy Nelson’s absence, because Rodgers’ targets aren’t getting the separation that they usually do.

Seahawks (6-5): The two-time defending NFC champs started the year slow, but grabbed a huge victory versus Pittsburgh on Sunday. They will be tested in Minneapolis next week against the scorching Vikings.

Chiefs (6-5): The Chiefs early-season woes were more the result of a tough schedule than anything else. Their defense is among the better in the AFC.

Texans (6-5): Houston bounced back from its post-Hard Knocks hangover and has tallied six straight wins. With 13.5 sacks through 11 games, J.J. Watt is in line for his third DPOY award.

Colts (6-5): It seemed like Chuck Pagano’s run in Indy was over until 40-year-old Matt Hasslebeck stepped in and started winning football games. The Colts have a great chance to win the not-as-bad-as-the-NFC-East-but-close AFC South.

Giants (5-6): Four tight losses have made the difference in the standings, but the Giants defensive unit hasn’t done its part. Still, the G-men are tied for first in the NFC East.

Bears (5-6): They upset the Packers on Thanksgiving at Lambeau and have a light last five games. 10-6 or 9-7 is a possibility for this banged-up Chicago team that started the season 0-3.

Jets (6-5): The Jets finish the season at home versus the Pats and on the road at Buffalo. Those matchups should have major playoff implications.

Falcons (6-5): Atlanta’s schedule is really soft. The Falcons need to knock off the Panthers in at least one of their two meetings to prove themselves as anything more than average.

Lions (4-7): Detroit is 3-0 since Jim Bob Cooter took over as offensive coordinator. The Lions must beat Green Bay on Thursday to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Buccaneers (5-6): The Bucs have had a nice bounce-back year after their 2-14 2014 campaign. Tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins has been sidelined for most of the season. When he returns, he will open up the field more for Jameis Winston, who will have three major targets at his disposal.

Raiders (5-6): Derek Carr is the quarterback of the future in Oakland, which he has proven this season spreading the ball around to his talented young weapons. The Raiders will need to play mistake-free in their next three games to have a shot at the postseason.

Bills (5-6): Rex Ryan promised to bring elite defense to Buffalo. Middle of the pack won’t cut it. Ryan had his best seasons in his first two years with the Jets. Maybe it will be the opposite now in Buffalo.

Dolphins (4-7): The Fins seemed to have life after Joe Philbin was fired, but it was short-lived. Miami is up there with Philly and St. Louis as one of the most disappointing teams.

Jaguars (4-7): Since 2008, the Jags are 38-55. They are getting better, but better isn’t good enough, even in the AFC South. Gus Bradley is a coach to root for.

Eagles (4-7): No receivers. No O-line. No defense. Chip Kelly’s failure to adjust to his current team has been mind-boggling. I was totally wrong about the Birds.

Rams (4-7): I love the Rams, but they flat out stink. They have an owner who cares little about his city, an overrated coach and an offense you have to see to believe. Rams’ fans are used to this.

Chargers (3-8): This season can’t end soon enough for Philip Rivers. His offensive line has been awful, and the Chargers’ defense that was top-ten last year ranks 25th this season. Mike McCoy’s seat is sizzling.

Browns (2-8): Josh Gordon has shown that he can be an elite receiver at the pro level. He’s suspended for the entire year but should be back next season. He can make big a difference for an offense with few playmakers.

Ravens (3-7): The margin of victory in the Ravens’ seven losses were all slim, showing that record is not always indicative of how a team is playing. With Joe Flacco on the shelf for the rest of the season, the Ravens will look ahead to next season and try to convince Steve Smith Sr. to return.

Saints (4-6): In Rob Ryan’s 11 seasons as defensive coordinator, his teams have finished outside of the top 20 in yards allowed eight times. The Saints are a far cry from their Super Bowl win in 2009.

49ers (3-8): I like Jim Tomsula. He once lived in a car for a year and “kept a black lab and a cat as roommates.” Jed York is the source of the Niners’ problems. He isn’t qualified to lead a sports franchise.
Titans (2-9): A Dick LeBeau-coached defense is a good defense. The Titans’ problems are on offense. Marcus Mariota will be dangerous when surrounded with more weapons.

Cowboys (3-8): Had Tony Romo been healthy all season, the Cowboys would have cruised to an NFC East title. Matt Cassel nearly pulled out three wins, but ultimately showed why he is a career backup.