There are only 2 weeks left in the NFL regular season and the playoff picture is beginning to fill out. So far this season has been full of great story lines that generate lots of excitement for some and loads of disappointment for others.
On the historical side of things the Green Bay Packers started off the season 13-0 on their way to possibly being the first repeat champion since the Patriots ('04, '05). Unfortunately the team hit an unexpected road block this past Sunday on their way to perfection. Their first loss of the season came to the 5-8 Kansas City Chiefs who were just coming off a week where they fired their head coach Todd Haley. Go figure. Although the season is far from over, the 2011 Packers loose out on football immortality by coming up short in their quest for 19-0. Either way the goal for any NFL is to win the Super Bowl. If you go undefeated while doing so its a bonus, but no one cares what their record is after the Super Bowl champion has been crowned.
Outside of the Packers quest for back-to-back Super Bowls, there have been several teams who have also made a strong case to be champion in February. The New Orleans Saints have put together another solid campaign in 2011. Drew Brees is once again on pace to break Dan Marino's single season passing yards record. With just 2 games remaining Brees only need 305 yards to break the record. Given the fact he averages 341 yards per game, I think it is a safe bet that he will become the new single season passing yards record holder. Offense has been the least of the worries for the New Orleans Saints for the last 5 years and once again their playoff results will depend greatly on the performance of the defense. If the defense plays decent to good then the Saints are as tough as any team to beat.
The San Francisco 49'ers are also looking good late and unlike the Saints, San Fran will need to win games primarily through the defense. The success of the 49'ers offense is fueled by the execution of their ridiculously good defense. Coupled with a good running game led by Frank Gore, the 49'ers find themselves in a position similar to that of the Baltimore Ravens. Both teams have very talented running backs in Gore (SF) and Ray Rice (BAL). They also both have serviceable quarterbacks behind center that can certainly produce in the NFL. These two teams are mirror images of each other and might be the 2 teams most equipped in all facets of the game.
Other contenders feature names like the perennial Super Bowl favorite New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Dallas Cowboys/New York Giants. Here is a quick look at the playoffs if they were to start today. New England has problems on defense but you can never count out Belichick and Brady. Steelers look great on all sides of the ball but with Big Ben's health in question they will face an uphill battle to Indianapolis in February. Looking at the NFC East, both the Cowboys and Giants have very talented football teams but seem to have even more talent when it comes to shooting themselves in the foot.
The Broncos, Falcons, and Lions are also in line for the playoffs but I tend to dismiss these teams as real contenders. The Broncos are a good football team but Tim Tebow and his team will be dominated by any of the other playoff teams. The Falcons are a good team but its just to hard to decipher where this team is on the big scale. They have played well lately but started off terrible. The Lions deserve a lot of credit for all they have accomplished this season with their first playoff berth since a loss to the Redskins in 1999. However, these are still the Lions of this generation and that organization just isn't quite prepared for winning Super Bowls yet.
As the season comes to a close only 12 teams will end up with the right to challenge for a Super Bowl championship. If you want to see any of those 12 teams in the playoffs then look no further than your best resource for sports travel. At Sports Traveler we will have game tickets and custom travel packages to all NFL playoff games including both NFC & AFC Championship games. Trying to get Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI? We also have a great selection of Super Bowl travel packages and tickets! The NFL is gearing up for the playoffs. Are you ready?
Written by: Craig Kibler