Two NFL Teams to Watch down the Stretch


Every NFL season really takes shape around weeks 13 through 15 with certain teams emerging as contenders. There are a few teams that missed the playoffs the previous season but now make a surprise run to the postseason. Last season, the Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings landed in the playoffs after not qualifying in 2014.

The Ravens are in first place in the AFC North and currently own a seed in the playoffs. After an impressive win at home against a hot Miami team, Baltimore is a watch team. Can they make a further impression against the Patriots on Monday night. The Ravens enter this game as a team winning two straight. With a 32-point victory over the Dolphins and the league’s top defense, expect Baltimore to give New England and Brady trouble moving the ball. The Ravens are still a little underrated but Monday night is usually a showcase for teams to reveal their true identity.


Baltimore is allowing an AFC-best 35 percent completion percentage, with only 9.2 yards per attempt and league-high 10 INTs, on throws 15-plus yards downfield. Those numbers are their best numbers in last 7 years with Ed Reed.

The Patriots are very good. New England has a three-game lead in the AFC East over the Dolphins. After getting Tom Brady back from a four-game suspension, the Patriots have gone 7-1, with their only loss coming in a tough defeat at home against Seattle.

The Ravens and Patriots have played 12 times. The Patriots have won the regular season series (7-1), but the two teams are even in the playoffs 2 wins and 2 losses each.

Another watch team that is surging to a playoff spot is the Tampa Bay Bucs.  An average team earlier in the season now on the rise during the last month to a playoff berth. How do you win three in a row against the top teams in the league. A win at KC (19-17) which killed a lot of teasers, a win at home against Seattle as a 6 point underdog (14-5) and then on the road against a good Sad Diego team (28-21). Probably the best 3 game winning streak this year.

The defensive front usually gets the credit for winning streaks, but with Tampa Bay it starts with the back seven. Several of their sacks came on Seattle when Wilson had to hold the ball too long due to great coverage.

The main points of zone coverage is providing collective group work, hiding defenders’ individual flaws. The Bucs as a group have lately been outstanding. Will other teams figure out this Bucs defense to stop their playoff run.

The matchups down the stretch run are the key for teams in the hunt to win their division for an automatic seed or capture that elusive wild card entry. Either way, if they get to the playoffs anything can happen. Some home teams have a big advantage playing at home in the playoffs but wild card teams on the road have done their damage over the years. Striving for that playoff position from your won loss record is a big factor in the playoff hunt. That first round can be your last game.