Darkness is covering the spread faster now that Winter is steadily approaching. Curfews are being curtailed, a 24-hour day feels falsely advertised and nights aren’t long anymore–they’re elongated. 

And what separates the men from the boys is how the latter handles their flashlights in a pitched-black room.The Texans and the Falcons have been prolific for a little less than the first three quarters of the season, with eight games folded neatly in their “W” basket. Therefore, their future is bright. They are less than a handful of games away from clinching playoff berths, but before I time travel too far into our futures, let’s talk about the now, and who made my list today.

1) Denver Broncos (6-3)
Manning and Co. won’t have too much on their hands this weekend hosting a deflated Chargers team. What fixed my heart on Denver, is that both sides of the ball have meshed really well  as the season progressed, and not only that, is continuing to improve. Their defense is ranked #6 overall and their offense is ranked #3, right behind an irrelevant Lions team.

2) Seattle Seahawks (6-4)
After the bye week, this team lead by a rookie quarterback sensation has the potential to clock out at 10-6, if they predictably lose to the Chicago Bears and get swept by the 49ers. What sticks out most about the Seahawks is that they’ve beaten the Packers (simultaneous catch game), the Patriots, and the Vikings. They’ll definitely redeem themselves against the Cardinals and the Rams with the assist of their 12th man at CenturyLink Field to close out the season.

3) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)
Possibly the games that will determine the fate of their season will be against the Ravens. They have a chance to sweep Baltimore twice in the next sixteen days. With Big Ben out, they’ll need to heavily rely on their running game. The Steelers, receiver-wise, have all the tools necessary to be successful. Similar to the Seahawks, the black-and-yellow have had their fair share of winning “Statement Games,” which is why I chose them to receive the Bronze. Oh, if defense wins championships, the Steelers are sitting on top at #1 overall.

4) Houston Texans (8-1)
After being “Shhh’ed” by Aaron Rodgers in front of their own fans, the Texans have quietly been on a 3-game winning streak. In ten weeks they’ve caught some  good game: lassoed up a team of broncos, shot down a flock of ravens, and hunted a group of grizzly bears in Chicago. If you’re not a believer still, I don’t blame you. They still have to play the Colts twice, visit the Patriots and host the Vikings in week 16. Remember, their ranked #2 overall in Defense without Brian Cushing.

5/6) T-Indianapolis Colts (6-3) and the New England Patriots (6-3)
The Colts fly to Foxboro which is why I stuck them together at #5/6. The first, with a win could fortify their placement in the race for the wildcard selection, and the other, with a victory, could start shopping for the 1st-place divisional crown in the AFC East. Could a protege upend his or her professor? The Patriots secondary is suspect, but we know that Coach Belichick is addressing these obvious issues. The Colts still haven’t found a running game, nor I can’t tell if they’re searching for it any longer. A win for both teams would be great, but a loss for the Colts could be pivotal, in a detrimental way. When teams win the games they know they’re supposed to win, they do exactly what they know. Execute. Capitalize. All that jazz. The Patriots under Coach Belichick, have drastically improved from their rocky 1-2 start. Age is nothing but a number, and Tom Brady can still make the throw.

7) Chicago Bears (7-2)
The Bears without Jay Cutler will be like the Bears with Jay Cutler. Jason Campbell will fill in his shoes just fine, and what better way is there, to build the confidence in his fresh legs, and wait, there’s more–quarterbacking in the warm, California weather?  And wait, the 49ers won’t be perfect themselves, as Alex Smith will sit this match out and pave way for Colin Kaepernick for his first taste of NFL grass. If Matt Forte stays healthy and their defense doesn’t run out of battery life, I see the Bears going as far as an NFC Championship game.

8/9) T-Atlanta Falcons (8-1) and the New Orleans Saints (4-5)
Raise you right hand and solemnly swear. Did you see a Falcons loss against the Saints? I did. Both offenses are dynamic, explosive. The Saints have a plausible excuse to try to win out the rest of their games and reach the playoffs, and as does Atlanta. They’ll tango again in the last weekend of November, and if the Georgia Dome loses a step, that’ll be a life-changing event for the Saints.

10) New York Giants (6-4)
Ranking 10th in total offense, and 21st in total defense. Their ballhawks have picked off quarterbacks 17 times, trailing right behind the Bears who lead the pack with 19. They’re having health issues as a team, but if they could win out while some of their starters rest for the playoffs, I, well, we all know that the Giants are the most lethal team in the postseason.

The Packers, 49ers and Ravens are still knocking at the door and gritting their teeth in anguish to hopefully make this list before the season ends. They will, we’ll see.


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