WITH just four weeks of the regular season left we asked NFL nut Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) to give us his thoughts on how he sees the road to the Super Bowl panning out.
Road To The Super Bowl 50 | 8th December
One of the reasons we NFL fans are so passionate is we wait seven months from Super Bowl to Week 1 and then everything is over before you know it. So the lovely chaps at WLB thought it was the right time for a recap of the season so far, playoff prospects and maybe even find this years champion.
Hopefully there are one or two ‘newbies' reading this, so a quick look at how the post season works. Eight divisional winners are joined by the two best records in each conference. Three weeks later, we will have winners of the AFC and NFC who meet in Super Bowl 50.
As of this moment, just one team has secured a spot and that is the so far unbeaten Carolina Panthers. New England, Cincinnati, Denver and Arizona should also have their own divisions locked up but in the NFL four games are a lifetime and almost anything could happen from this point on.
That really leaves just three divisions that are still realistically up for grabs and they are all extremely close contests. I will look at those first and where they may be decided.
This looks the closest contest around as it almost always is. These four sides really cannot stand each other and only the NFC North comes close in that respect. This year, rather than a quartet of huge organizations fighting the good fight, this lot are battling to not be worst of at best a very average bunch.
Dallas who have won just four games all season but mathematically are actually not out of it. Even still I think its fairly safe to write them off. As for New York Giants with yet more awful play calling from Coach Coughlin last week I'm going to say its safe to leave them out of calculations.
I think this division comes down to Philly and Washington. Philly have taken some absolute batterings in the last couple of weeks but then walked in and handed New England a beating themselves last week.
Washington can be very strong at home, but with Kirk Cousins under centre they are not for me. Their last four games are @Chicago, Buffalo, @Philly and finishing off with a third road trip in four when they visit Dallas.
The Eagles stay at home for the visits of Buffalo, Arizona (will have won NFC West by then), Washington on Boxing Day and finally meet the Giants in New York. I tipped Philadelphia at the start and by default I expect them to see this out. Just. This is not a division to risk money, reputation or sanity in though.
Well, this didn't go as it was expected to. Green Bay were supposed to have this locked by now. Instead if the Packers hadn't produced that 61 yard Hail Mary in Detroit last Thursday (still not over it) we would have another four way contest. Instead, we are realistically down to two. yes Green Bay lead but only just.
The Packers are in a contest because firstly the Vikings are mounting their biggest challenge in many years but the main reason is they keep dropping the damn ball.
Aaron Rodgers is as good a quarterback as you will ever see but losing Jordy Nelson before the season started was a huge blow. Since their emphatic Week 1 victory over my Bears they haven't not really dominated anyone.
Eddie Lacy kind of disappeared for a bit, came back for a week and is gone again. The defence is having trouble stopping the pass and the run, getting to the QB, avoiding penalties.
Green Bay's next three games are Dallas, @Oakland, @Arizona and then the big season finale where they will be at home to…the Minnesota Vikings. Who also have an 8-4 record after a home loss to the Packers in Week 12.
Yes, these Vikes are having a fine season really. Adrian Peterson has come back from his ‘sabatical' without missing a beat. Teddy Bridgewater is developing into a better than average quarterback, they have decent tight ends and a couple of very good rookie receivers.
Minnesota go to Arizona, then should win as they host Chicago and the Giants before what could still be the season definer at Green Bay. If it gets that far and I think it will, you have to go with Aaron Rodgers at home. Don't you?
Ok, so I think this is going to be the closest contest of all and it is the one where I went against the pre-season favourite Indianapolis Colts. My choice was the Houston Texans and they really have not let me down despite the huge loss of star running back, Arian Foster.
My biggest pre-season pick was DeAndre Hopkins at 33/1 in the top receiver market and he is going to go very very close. I really like Houston and hope they can finish the job.
Sitting at 6-6 alongside Indy, the Texans host New England next week (if ever there was a time to play them its now), then trips to Indy and Tennessee (one win in 12 home games) and finish at home to the Jaguars. JJ Watt is once again going to be a contender for Defensive MVP of the year and Brian Hoyer is doing a more than acceptable job under centre.
Now, Indy. What to make of their season? Two serious injuries to Andrew Luck and all of a sudden the 40 plus Matt Hasselbeck is throwing footballs again.
The Colts have been incredibly up and down. Frank Gore has never really got the rushing game to any great level. The great Andre Johnson has come in from Houston and done almost nothing.
I wasnt a fan before the season started and nothing has changed. Indy must travel to Jacksonville next week after Blake Bortles threw five TDs last week, host Houston in Week 15 and finish off @ Miami and then at home to the Titans who put 42 points on the board this weekend. Yes, I'm sticking with Houston.
These are my 12 picks for January and beyond. It will be amazing if I got all 12, so take them with a pinch of salt!
New England Patriots
Green Bay Packers
Kansas City Chiefs
Where do we head from that point? I have been saying for a couple of weeks that I expect someone to emerge from the pack late on and win it all this year. I firmly expect that to be Seattle.
Russel Wilson has found that out of nowhere he has three or four top receivers and Thomas Rawls is doing a fine job covering at running back. The Seattle defence is getting back to its level and I see no reason for them not to go all the way.
I cannot have the Panthers despite sitting at 12-0 right now. Cam Newton is not quite good enough for me against good defences and the old saying is defence wins Championships.
Seattle all the way or hopefully a little bit of Arizona for those who took the plunge at 28/1 back in August. 66/1 for Seattle to meet Pittsburgh just keeps catching my eye and there is also value in the 33/1 Arizona/Pittsburgh price.
Super Bowl 50 – Seattle Seahawks to win (10/1 Paddy Power)
Super Bowl 50 – Seattle/Pittsburgh (66/1 Ladbrokes)
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