The 2017 NFL season has been full of injuries to star players like the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr., and the Texans’ Deshaun Watson, but these injuries have allowed unlikely players and teams to emerge as stars.
Teams like the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Philadelphia Eagles have exploded this season, which is a surprise to many.
Led by potential MVP candidate Carson Wentz at quarterback, the Eagles are off to a soaring 10-1 record, the best in the NFL. They also lead the NFL in averaging 32 points a game.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who along with Wentz is only a second-year player in the league, has led the Rams to an 8-3 record thus far, an incredible turnaround from a 4-12 record in 2016. With five weeks left in the regular season, if the playoffs stated today, here would be the current bracket:
*first two seeds get a first round bye
1 seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2)
2 seed: New England Patriots (9-2)
3 seed: Tennessee Titans (7-4) vs. 6 seed: Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
4 seed: Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) vs. 5 seed: Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4)
*first two seeds get a first round bye
1 seed: Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)
2 seed: Minnesota Vikings (9-2)
3 seed: Los Angeles Rams (8-3) vs. 6 seed: Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
4 seed: New Orleans Saints (8-3) vs. 5 seed: Carolina Panthers (8-3)
It may seem like the top teams are the ones most likely to go to the Super Bowl, however that is not always the case.
There have been six teams who have played in the Wild Card games the first weekend of the NFL playoffs who have gone on to win the Super Bowl: 1980 Oakland Raiders, 1997 Denver Broncos, 2000 Baltimore Ravens, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2007 New York Giants, and the 2010 Green Bay Packers. Keep in mind, the 2007 Giants beat what was an undefeated Patriots team going into that Super Bowl, so nothing is ever guaranteed based on seeding.
On the AFC side, the New England Patriots are consistently dominant and usually the team to beat, but they haven’t exactly been that same team this season.
The Steelers post what is most likely the biggest threat to the Patriots with their powerful offense. A Patriots vs. Steelers potential AFC Championship game would be a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game, with the Patriots defeating the Steelers 36-17, and then eventually going on to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. In the playoffs alone, however, the Patriots vs. Steelers series is tied 15-15, so both teams know how to play each other well.
On the NFC side, the Philadelphia Eagles seem like the team of destiny this year. The Vikings, Rams, and Saints all may have something to say about them though, with the Vikings only being one game behind the Eagles, and the Rams and Saints both two games behind.
The Eagles have shown strength on both sides of the ball with the potential to win it all, and sometimes it just works out that the hottest team at the time goes on to win the Super Bowl.
However, the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl in their franchise’s history, losing both prior appearances in 1981 to the Oakland Raiders and 2005 to the New England Patriots. Riding the wave of their quarterback, Wentz, a former second overall pick out of North Dakota State, who has the most passing touchdowns this season so far with 28, could help potentially become a part of history for his franchise.
It has been quite some time since some of the previously named teams have made the playoffs.
The Rams haven’t made the playoffs since 2004, the Jaguars since 2007, the Eagles and Saints both since 2013, the Titans since 2008, and the Ravens since 2014.
A lot can change over the next few weeks in the season, but consistency is the key in the NFL, and as long as these current teams keep doing what they’ve been doing all season, they all have great chances to move forward in the playoffs.