We are at that point of the NFL season that reality has arrived. Each team has played at least 10 games and after this much time and this much football, each organization realizes they are either refining, retooling or rebuilding.
1. Refining - You're in the hunt for the playoffs and from week to week just trying to improve a little bit to make a big difference.
2. Re-tooling - You're a good team but not great. You still have problems and aspirations but to conquer the problem and reach the aspirations, a specific change still has to happen.
3. Rebuilding - You're not a playoff team and the talent level is the reason why. Just not good enough.
AFC East - At 7-3, New England is going to win the division. Truth is, they should be 8-2 as Luke Kuechly interfered in the end zone. To me, Buffalo and the Jets are refining. Both depend on continued progressive improvement of their quarterbacks, EJ Manuel in Buffalo and Geno Smith in New York. Miami is rebuilding. At 5-5, they are tied with the Jets for second but must look at themselves inside and out before they will be a championship team.
AFC North - The Bengals are on their way. At 7-4, they should win the division and being undefeated at home, all games have meaning for the rest of the season. At 4-6, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and even Baltimore are rebuilding. To become a wild card team, each of the three must win their six remaining games to get at least 10 wins. Very unlikely.
AFC South - The Colts are going to win the division and nobody in the AFC South is going to catch them. Tennessee has four wins and no Jake Locker. Houston has two wins and no quarterback consistency. And with one win, Jacksonville just doesn't want to be relocated to Los Angles or London. All three are rebuilding for 2014.
AFC West - This is a very interesting division as the 4-6 Chargers could be one team to end up 10-6 and in the playoffs. Kansas City and Denver are on their way, especially the 9-1 Broncos are close to being at Sports Authority Field (Mile High Stadium) through out the playoffs. There are two competitive obstacles and hurdles in the next two weeks (at New England and at Kansas City). Oakland is an unknown, rebuilding team but by the end of this year, their salary cap problems should be behind them and that is significant.
NFC East - I would not be surprised at all if the Eagles won the division with the Giants a close second. Philadelphia has found a quarterback in Nick Foles and this week is their bye week. With five games to go, the Eagles control their football destiny. The Giants have very quietly won four in a row and if they can beat Dallas this week, they can catch up significantly in head-to-head division games. Dallas is running out of healthy players on defence. Of the 11 penciled in as starters during training camp, the Cowboys may have only four left depending on linebacker Sean Lee. Washington is 3-7 with San Francisco up next. If they win the next six games, that means a 9-7 record and no playoffs. All four teams in the NFC East are rebuilding but someone has to win the division!
NFC North - The only team that is rebuilding in this division is the Vikings. At 2-8, they are looking at a quarterback in the draft and how to keep Adrian Peterson effective for a few more years. In Green Bay, the question is how fast can Aaron Rodgers recover from a broken Collerbone? Problem is, that if he does not make it back soon, the 5-5 Packers could be close to out of the playoffs. Detriot and Chicago are the unknowns. Both are just refining from week to week and when you compare schedules, both are relatively easy. With the unknown of Rodgers' health, this division is an unknown, but I lean to the Lions to win it all.
NFC South - It's a two-team race between the Saints and Panthers. The two key dates are the head-to-head matchups December 8 at New Orleans and December 22 at Carolina. The Panthers are only one game behind the Saints and have won two close games over the 49ers and Patriots. Both are playoff teams that may be playing their best right now. Atlanta will be back when they get all their starters back. Next year will be a bounce back season but this season is done at 2-8. Tampa Bay is improving and as crazy as it may sound to some, I would not fire head coach Greg Schiano. He has his quarterback in Mike Glennon and will have his top running back Doug Martin and top guard Carl Nicks back next year. And Darrelle Revis will have a second recovery year under his knee. Stay the course if you're the Bucs.
NFC West - The only team that is rebuilding in this division is St. Louis and outside of quarterback not even that much. With Percy Harvin back and only one close loss in Indianapolis, Seattle is close to rapping up the division soon. The Seahawks at home for two playoff games is lethal. They still have three tough games left(at New 0rleans, the 49ers and an improving Arizona team), but the Seahawks are looking good in December. The 49ers are up and down and the Cardinals have to win on defence. All of the top three teams are refining and improving. What was a poor division when the Seahawks made the playoffs at 7-9 is now one of the strongest.