The NFL season has reached the halfway stage with champions Kansas City well placed to repeat last season's success. Charlie Mullan reviews the campaign so far...
"Victory over the Raiders will keep the Chiefs on course for a successful defence of their title and they can be backed at 4.84/1 to win the Super Bowl and keep the Vince Lombardi trophy at Arrowhead."
Bills living up to their pre-season hype
The AFC East was one of the most talked about divisions in the NFL simply because of Tom Brady's trade from the Patriots to the Buccaneers. Would it weaken New England, or did they win their six Super Bowls because of the brilliance of head coach Bill Belichick?
The experiment to replace Brady with Cam Newton is a work in progress and Monday's much-needed win at the Jets halted a slide of four straight losses. The Patriots opened the season as 19/1 Super Bowl outsiders but their odds of gate-crashing the big party in Tampa Bay are lengthening and they can be backed at 19.018/1 to win their 12th successive AFC East title.
However, with Belichick in charge, it would be foolish to completely write off the Patriots. With the possibility of eight teams making the playoffs from each conference, the Patriots will be a team to avoid in the post season. Buffalo was tipped to capitalise if New England were to slip out of contention and the Bills have lived up to their billing with assured performances from quarterback Josh Allen who has Buffalo moving in the right direction.
The Bills' last division title came in 1995 and after beating an impressive Seattle team on Sunday, Buffalo can be backed at 11.010/1 to win the AFC Conference and make it to February's Super Bowl LV.
One of the hottest teams in the league right now is the Miami Dolphins who beat the Cardinals to win their fourth straight game and the Dolphins can be backed at 4.94/1 to win the AFC East.
Undefeated Pittsburgh in pole position for AFC's top seed
The good news for the Steelers is that they are the only undefeated team left in the NFL. The bad news for Pittsburgh is that the last undefeated team has failed to go on and win the Super Bowl in the previous 13 seasons since the 2006 Colts managed to do it with Peyton Manning under center.
Head coach Mike Tomlin, who has yet to have a losing season in his 14 years as Steelers head coach, has assembled a roster of players that can shine on both sides of the ball that makes them genuine contenders to win their seventh Vince Lombardi trophy. Quarterback Ben Rothlisberger is playing as well as he has throughout his 17-year career although he is not being mentioned much when it comes to the league's MVP award for which he can be backed at 30.029/1.
The Steelers, who can be backed at 7.613/2 to win the Super Bowl, have a two-game advantage over their division rivals Ravens who they have already beaten this season in Baltimore.
Their second meeting on Thanksgiving Thursday is a chance for the Ravens and last season's MVP Lamar Jackson to split the series and stay in the hunt. Jackson has been acclaimed for his skill but his inability to lead Baltimore to victory in big games is the narrative surrounding the 23-year-old who is 60/1 to be named MVP again this season.
Cleveland are three games behind the Steelers and they need a near faultless second half of the season from quarterback Baker Mayfield and others if they are to make the postseason. The AFC North has the most wins of any division in the NFL with 21 and just 10 losses.
Titans have the edge in the South
Tennessee Titans have a slight advantage in the AFC South after beating the Bears by seven points on Sunday. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has rediscovered his best form and he has plenty of talent around them that should see them make another run for the playoffs.
Running back Derrick Henry is very difficult to stop when he is allowed to build up a head of steam. Henry has rushed for over 100 yards in four of his eight games this season and he ran for 212 yards against Houston in Week 6.
The Colts are just one game behind them and Indianapolis has the third best defense in the league. On offense, veteran quarterback Philip Rivers is doing a better job than others thought he would in his first season as a Colt. The order at the top of the division could change within the next three weeks as the Colts and Titans meet twice starting with their match-up in Tennessee on Thursday followed by the reverse fixture in Indianapolis at the end of November.
Right now, the Titans can be backed at 1.4740/85 to win the AFC South while the Colts can be backed at 3.1511/5 to land their first division title since 2014.
Champions Chiefs aren't giving up their title easily
When the Kansas City Chiefs ended their 50-year wait to win their second Super Bowl, they immediately set their sights on becoming the first team since the 2004 Patriots to repeat their success and build a dynasty.
Their front office were able to retain the majority of their championship winning roster and they drafted well adding running-back Clyde Edwards-Helaire who brings a new dimension to their offense. They have also added Le'Veon Bell who could see more of the ball in the second half of the season. In
Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have a quarterback who enjoys playing the game and loves winning even more. Mahomes is the face of the league and he can be backed at 2.942/1 to win this season's MVP award.
Mahomes' performances this season with the pressure of defending a title makes the game look easy. Their one loss this year came against the Raiders who they face in Las Vegas this week. Victory over the Raiders will keep the Chiefs on course for a successful defence of their title and they can be backed at 4.84/1 to win the Super Bowl and keep the Vince Lombardi trophy at Arrowhead.
If Jon Gruden's Raiders can beat the Chiefs for the second time this season, they will not only close the gap on their rivals to a single game, but they will also hold the head-to-head advantage if the two franchises end the season with the same record. In their first season in Las Vegas, the Raiders can be backed at 9.417/2 to win the AFC West for the first time since 2002.
Eagles don't have to fly high to win division
Every season there has to be a worst division and the NFC East is by far the worst this year. The four teams have managed nine wins between them - just one more than Pittsburgh has. None of the four teams has a winning record but somebody has to win this division and right now, it's Philadelphia's to lose.
The Eagles remain a game and a half ahead of the Washington Football Team and the Eagles can be backed at 70.069/1 to win their second Super Bowl in four years. Injuries have deprived Philadelphia of some of their biggest assets on offense and when those players start to return, the Eagles could be a surprise package in the playoffs.
Dallas began the season 13/1 to end their 25-year wait to win their sixth Super Bowl, but a serious knee injury to starting quarterback Dak Prescott has seen their odds drift to 150/1. America's Team can be backed at 11.010/1 to win the NFC East .
There is a chance the winner of this division could have a losing record. If injuries continue to wreak havoc with these four teams, the division winners may not last long in the playoffs.
Green Bay still pack a punch in NFC North
As the NFL ushers in a new era of young quarterbacks, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is rewinding the clock to remind his younger peers that the older generation of playmakers can still be contenders.
Rodgers and the Packers are top of their division with a one-game lead despite not adding weapons to their offense in the off-season. As long as Rodgers is fit, Green Bay will be challenging. The Packers' odds have been cut from 25/1 before the season started to 10/1 to bring the Vince Lombardi trophy back to Titletown where the esteemed head coach guided the Packers to success in the first two Super Bowls.
Chicago started the season winning five of their first six games, but three successive losses has the Bears moving in the wrong direction. The Monsters of the Midway can be backed at 6.25/1 to finish the season strong and take the NFC North from the Packers who can be backed at 4.47/2 to win the NFC Conference.
Minnesota have won their last two games with running-back Dalvin Cook lighting up the league with 478 total scrimmage yards and six touchdowns, but they may have left it too late to challenge for the division. The Vikings can be backed at 23.022/1 to win their second NFC North title in four seasons.
Saints shine as Brady's Bucs stumble
Tom Brady's trade from New England to Tampa Bay in the off-season filled a lot of column inches in newspapers and while the 43-year-old quarterback has not had things his own way, he has made the Buccaneers contenders to win Super Bowl LV.
The Buccaneers can be backed at 14.5 to give Brady his seventh ring. Standing in their way is New Orleans who sealed a series sweep over the Buccaneers with a 38-3 win on Sunday night. That win could come in very useful for the Saints if they and Tampa Bay finish the regular season with identical records.
New Orleans have their own veteran leader under center in Drew Brees. Brees overtook Brady as the NFL's all-time leading touchdown passer with four in Tampa Bay on Sunday. The Saints can be backed at 8.07/1 to win the Super Bowl, which just happens to be in Tampa Bay.
Both Brady and Brees are capable of leading their respective teams to glory this season and both can be backed at 29.028/1 to be named the league's MVP. Brees improved his record over Brady to 5-2, but the Saints star is five rings short of the G.O.A.T.
Wilson cooks as Seahawks soar in the west
Before this season, Seattle's quarterback Russell Wilson had never received an MVP vote in his nine-year career which includes a Super Bowl win. The 31-year-old has done enough already this season to correct that, but it's a second Super Bowl win Wilson wants to add to his resume.
In the most competitive division, the Seahawks leads the way with a 6-2 record after losing in Buffalo on Sunday which should just be a blip. They will hope it's just a blip with the Cardinals and the Rams breathing down their neck one game behind Seattle. The good news for Seattle is that none of their rivals made ground on them last weekend. Wilson leads the MVP market and can be backed at 2.111/10 while the Seahawks can be backed at 13.012/1 to win Super Bowl LV.
Arizona are putting together a good season with second year quarterback Kyler Murray playing like a veteran. The Cardinals can not be counted out in the race for the playoffs and Arizona can be backed at 5.79/2 to clinch their first NFC West title in five years.
The Rams are not out of the mix either and victory at home to the Seahawks this weekend following their bye week will see the two teams end week 10 with 6-3 records. Jared Goff's Rams can be backed at 4.57/2 to win their third division title in four seasons.
Last season, the 49ers were NFC champions and were 8/1 to go one better this year. However, their hopes have been derailed following a 34-17 loss at home to the Packers when they had $81m worth of their salary cap space sidelined by injury including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end Jimmy Kittle and top defender Nick Bosa. San Francisco are within two games of the Seahawks and can be backed at 29.028/1 to win their division.