Philadelphia: This is a different team when Michael Vick is on the field, as his explosive outing on Monday night in Washington showed. The Eagles are basically an average team--the running game is mediocre and the defense is okay. But they are well-coached with Andy Reid, and Vick running and hitting Jeremy Maclin and that's going to have them in the playoff hunt the rest of the way.
NY Giants: They have a higher upside than Philadelphia, but are also less consistent. They can be a machine when Eli Manning is hitting Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham down the field, running the ball with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs and rushing the passer with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. But Eli's interceptions are a big problem.
Washington: Three weeks ago the Redskins led the Lions in the fourth quarter and were in position to go 5-3. They lost the lead, benched Donovan McNabb and then took two weeks off--one for a bye, the other on the field against Philadelphia. At this point, Nancy Pelosi is the only in Washington who's had a worse November than Mike Shanahan. And in the latter case, there's looming dread of a season about to go completely off the rail.
Dallas: At 2-7, they salvaged some pride when they won at New York on Sunday. Even without Tony Romo they have the talent to finish strong. Win four of their next seven, which would complete a winning second half would be a nice finish to an otherwise lost season, and secure Jason Garrett the coaching job on a permanent basis.
NY Jets: They don't look dominant, but they've become a team that does what good ones do--which is just find a way to keep winning consistently. The tandem of LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Green gives them a good running game, Darrelle Revis is getting healthy and into form at corner and Mark Sanchez is making just enough plays to win.
New England: Another yeoman's coaching effort by Bill Belichick and another masterful job by Tom Brady of orchestrating an offense that lacks weapons. Other than Wes Welker, who's a short-yardage receiver, is there any one at the Patriot skill spots who scares you? Yet Brady keeps putting up points and while the defense isn't as consistent as Belichick would like, the coach finds a way to fix problems on the fly.
Miami: Last night's home loss to Chicago realistically ends their playoff hopes. At 5-5, I suppose they could win five of six and get in, but they're down to their third-string quarterback, they can't win their home games and still have trips to New York and New England.
Buffalo: They finally got their first win last week against Detroit and I think they could pick up 2-3 more down the stretch. Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing very well at quarterback and if the defense can find the potential many of us felt it had at the start of the year, the Bills could be a team that delivers a late-season upset that rattles the playoff picture.
Image from allphiladelphiasports.com
Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.