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Push for the postseason

Pro Football Weekly takes an analytical look at the nfl's playoff contenders.

Updated: December 2, 2003, 3:58 PM ET
Pro Football Weekly
Three-quarters of the way through the 2003 season, the AFC looks to be stronger than the NFC, with the Chiefs, Titans, Patriots and Colts appearing to be the class of the league. In the NFC, the picture is much more muddled. Who do you like? The Eagles? Cowboys? Rams? Seahawks? Panthers? Vikings? Although we may not know the division winners or even all of the playoff combatants, this much is certain: The NFL's second season starts in only five weeks. With that in mind, we are turning the spotlight on teams still in the postseason race. Through Week 13, there are 16 teams sitting at .500 or better. Here's a closer look at each of them.

AFC EAST
New England Patriots
Record: 10-2
What's working: With the Patriots, it sounds like a broken record, but the defense has been fantastic in spite of injuries up and down the roster. The offense can brag about surviving the injury bug as well, although its performance hasn't been as impressive as that of the defense. The offensive line has been a pleasant surprise, led by rookie C Daniel Koppen and new starting ORT Tom Ashworth, who have stepped in and performed well. Also QB Tom Brady has been on his game lately, limiting turnovers and running the offense quite well.

What needs to be fixed: Although RB Kevin Faulk has been a playmaker at times and a big bonus in the passing game, he has not been consistent, and neither has any other running back on the roster. The Patriots need the running game to take some pressure off Brady and the passing game and provide more balance. Also, the team will have to figure out what to do when injured WR Troy Brown returns to action. The Patriots will have seven receivers once that occurs, which means at least one current pass catcher could be cut.

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