1. Carolina Panthers
This matchup presents a chance for Cam Newton to truly legitimize himself among the elite in the NFL at the quarterback position in a huge spot. While this matchup is not what Carolina might’ve wanted a statement can be made.
2. Arizona Cardinals
The most complete team in the postseason left. They demolished Green Bay only a few short weeks ago and wouldn’t be surprise if they go deja vu a second time.
3. Seattle Seahawks
Even after squeaking out a 10-9 win in Minnesota, the Seahawks remain the most dangerous of the eight remaining teams left. A huge positive is that their recent playoff experience gives them a huge edge over most. The negative is they have to accomplish this away from the comfy confines of Century Link.
4. New England Patriots
To me it’s simple. If the Pats are even relatively healthy, I expect them to win the AFC. So long as Brady and Belichick are breathing, everything will be fine. Also the return of Julian Edelman should revive a struggling passing game that’s lost four of it’s last six contests.
5. Denver Broncos
I said last week that I wasn’t a big fan of the move to insert Peyton Manning back as the starting quarterback but it will be much easier mentally to go back to Brock Osweiler if Peyton struggles out the gate. The only question remains how much of a leash does Manning actually have this week.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
Still the hottest team in the league with a win streak thats now hit 11 games. How far can Andy Reid and Alex Smith take this is a question mark but a win in Foxboro this weekend will have alot of talking heads paying more attention and much more respect.
7. Green Bay Packers
Originally had the Pack at #8 but because they have Aaron Rodgers you cannot completely ignore them just yet. However unless a balanced running attack of Eddy Lacy and James Starks comes to life, I expect them to get thrashed in ‘Zona this weekend. It’s a bad matchup and the loss in Arizona a few weeks back was not an anomaly.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
Had them ranked much higher than this a few days ago but the countless injuries added coming out of Wildcard Weekend with a list which includes QB Ben Rothlisberger and WR Antonio Brown, it really looks like it’s going to take a miracle to escape with a win out of Denver. Who knows — maybe the Steelers encounter a bad Peyton on Sunday.