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NFL Panic Meter: Week 12

A change in the top five and turnover in the wildcard race.

Turkey day games and week 12 surprises, with only five weeks left in the regular season playoff seeding is beginning to shake up and teams are desperately trying to work there way into playing one more game.

Top Five:

1. New Orleans Saints: 10-1

The Saints continued their domination, beating the Atlanta Falcons 31-17 effortlessly to move to 10-1 on the season. With their foot on the throttle, they signed Brandon Marshall to add to their playmakers on offense after Dez Bryant went down with an injury. Drew Brees continues to defy Father Time, putting up numbers that indicate he could play for 10 more years. The Saints are the team to beat, with only the Rams even close.

2. L.A. Rams: 10-1 

The Rams proved they are still number two in the league with their 54-51 showtime showdown win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football. The game was everything the NFL could’ve wanted it to be, high powered offense with little defensive intrusion. The Rams have responded since losing to the Saints, leaving every fan anticipating a Saints vs. Rams offensive explosion in a rematch for the NFC Championship.

3. Kansas City Chiefs: 9-2

Kansas City may have fell short of the mark against the Rams, but add another quarter to that game and who knows who would’ve won. The Chiefs continue to prove they are on the right side of the NFL scoring curve, eclipsing fifty points for the first time this season. Tyreek Hill has exploded onto the scene this year, averaging 17 yards per reception. But they are 1-2 against division leaders this year, meaning they may have to play on the road in the postseason.

4. New England Patriots: 8-3

New England haven’t played like their old selves, as they lack dominating wins this season. But, they keep on winning, they will clinch the AFC East, they’ll likely have a first round bye, and if they manage to secure home field advantage, everyone is in serious trouble. The Chiefs hold a game on the Pats for the top AFC seed, but with tiebreakers over Kansas City and Houston the Patriots are primed for their usual December success.

5. L.A. Chargers: 8-3

The forgotten team in the talented AFC, the Chargers sit one game behind the Chiefs in their division. The Chargers three losses have come to two teams on this list, and the Denver Broncos — who are on a roll after knocking Pittsburgh out of the top five. The emergence of Melvin Gordon on the ground has shot new life into Phillip Rivers and his shaky group of receivers. They still have a chance at the division title, but a fifth seed wildcard spot looks almost locked up.

AFC Wildcard: 

L.A. Chargers: Even though they are a top five team, they are still behind the Chiefs in the AFC West, and with one division loss against them, taking the lead is a tall order. It’s likely the Chiefs will win the division, forcing a talented Chargers team to go on the road and potentially upset a weaker division leader like Houston or Pittsburgh.

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are currently outside the playoff standings with Baltimore slated in the sixth seed. But the Ravens have quarterback issues, placing pressure on rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson to carry them into the postseason. The Colts have Andrew Luck, who’s been there before and done well. When it comes to crunch time, Luck could help his team become an unlikely playoff contender.

NFC Wildcard:

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings defeated Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last week, virtually ending their season and launching Minnesota into the fifth seed. The Vikings have relied heavily on their defense to keep them in games, while Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen chip their way into the end zone. The Vikings still have a schedule ahead, which will prove whether they really deserve a playoff spot.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers have dropped two games in a row and no longer control their own destiny, as they fall out of the top six in the NFC. Now they will have to win out and hope for a Seahawks loss in order to sneak into the postseason, where competition will only get tougher. Cam Newton and Christian McCaffery have been great this season, but perhaps not bright enough to make any teams afraid to play them in the wildcard round.

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