The NFL is rounding out the back stretch, where teams decide who will make or miss the playoffs. November and December are ruthless season killers, but there are teams that will make it above the rest. Here are Knockout’s top 5 NFL teams for week 12:

1. Dallas Cowboys (9-1)

How ‘bout them Cowboys! With the second best offensive line in the league and prolific rookies in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot, the Cowboys are on fire. Tony Romo has officially lost his job and the fine folks of Dallas cannot be happier. The only concern the Cowboys have is the mental fortitude of their rookie stars. Dak and Zeke have shown their resolve when facing a deficit late in games, but that’s nothing compared to the pressures of the playoffs. But for right now, the Cowboys are the hottest team in football.

2. Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1)

Seattle’s defense, much like the Broncos, keeps them in games even if the offense isn’t clicking. After the tie with the Arizona Cardinals, everyone was ready to write off the Seahawks, but that’s their M.O.: they only start playing their brand of football in the second half of the season. That’s exactly what happened when they beat the Patriots in Foxborough, so expect Seattle to kick ass for the rest of the year.

3. New England Patriots (8-2)

Tom Brady is having an excellent season, despite the late start, and is primed to make a deep playoff run this year. The Pats have all the pieces on offense at the ready, but can they make it far without a decent defense? The defense has been abysmal so far, but not nearly as bad as it was in 2005. However, just like Seattle, New England gets more and more disciplined, despite the early signs. Look for defensive coordinator, Mike Patricia, to make some key adjustments to the defense before the playoffs arrive.

4. Oakland Raiders (8-2)

Simply put, the Raiders are in the toughest division in football with the Broncos and Chiefs nipping at their heels in the AFC west. However, there can only be one team to win the division. The Chiefs got very lucky with two improbable comebacks in the 4th quarter and Trevor Simian is not the franchise quarterback for the Broncos. On the other hand, the Raiders have the best offensive line in the NFL and we all know offensive lines win football games. With competition from both the Chiefs and Broncos, the Raiders must be more than lucky if they have any hope down the stretch. But having found their franchise quarterback in Derrick Carr, this high flying offense always has a puncher’s chance.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5)

How can a .500 team be so high on the list, especially after a recent a 4-game losing streak? Blame the losing streak on injuries to Big Ben, as it seems to happen every year. Other than that, the Steelers and the Raiders are incredibly similar, rebounding from injuries. They both are very physical franchises with weak defenses and an obsession for going for the 2-point conversion. Mike Tomlin, consistently makes poor coaching decisions, which have cost the Steelers too many playoff runs. However, Big Ben and Antonio Brown give the team a chance to win games, as long as the Steelers’ defense doesn’t crumble under the pressure. If they just manage to squeak into the playoffs, you wouldn’t want your team to be playing them.

Regardless of how the season plays out, we are seeing a massive insurgence from franchises living up to their former glory. Historic teams like the Cowboys and Raiders are finally playoff contenders again after suffering for so many 8-8 years. The NFL is finally thriving again!

Knockout Mag

Knockout Mag