This is the month that it all comes to fruition. When the contenders separate from the pretenders in the NFL and make the move towards the playoffs. At this time last year, Carolina was 3-8-1 and then caught fire to win a weak NFC South and they haven't lost a regular season game since. Dallas was considered toast after a Thanksgiving beat down by Philadelphia but then ran the table in December in dominant fashion to win the NFC East and now hope to duplicate what the Panthers did last year by rising from the ashes. Here's my take division by division.
AFC East - New England is feeling the effects of injuries taking their toll but their 10-0 start was plenty enough. The real surprise is the NY Jets. Todd Bowles is having an impact as the first year head coach and getting a better than average quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick has them currently as the 6th seed.
AFC North - Cincinnati is having an incredible year. Will they finally be able to win a playoff game. I think this is the year. Pittsburgh is in the playoff hunt at 7-5. If they keep Ben Rothleisberger upright, I think they will be the team no one wants to play if they get in.
AFC South - It comes down to Indianapolis and Houston for the division with both at 6-6. The team that comes in 2nd will be on the bubble. I think Houston comes out on top in this race.
AFC West - Denver leads the division at 10-2. Brock Osweiler has reset the Broncos with Peyton Manning hurt. They should keep riding him. Kansas City started 1-5. Season over, right? Not so fast. After 6 wins in a row they are the 5th seed currently and will be another tough draw in the playoff.
NFC East - Who wants to win this division? Anybody? Anybody? Will someone raise their hand? Doesn't matter. Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington and the NY Giants would have zero impact in the playoffs after taking the division.
NFC North - Green Bay and Minnesota are both 8-4 and currently in the playoff picture. I think they both stay in.
NFC South - Carolina will be the number one seed in the NFC and they have a defense they can ride all the way to the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay is on the rise and Atlanta on the decline at 6-6. I don't either have enough to make a run to get in the playoffs.
NFC West - Another championship caliber defense resides with Arizona. It would be a pretty epic NFC Championship if they play Carolina. Seattle has their legs back under them and will make the playoffs.
I bet if you looked back at power rankings and playoff predictions from late September and early October, it would look like a pile of horse crap. Very little is clear at the quarter pole.
Jeff Allen worked in Sportstalk radio in Orlando from 1983 to 1996. most notably as the Program and Sports Director at WGTO in the early 90's, anchoring morning sports reports and various sportstalk shows. Now, Jeff shares unique yet common sense sports opinions with his weekly podcast. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffallen_88 and with his podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher and TuneIn. Jeff also hosts The AAC Report on The Knightline Sports Network