With a quarter of the NFL season done and over with, we would like to think we have a good sample size and perspective on what to expect the remainder of the season. When it comes to the NFC, this is not the case what so ever. The NFC North has the makings of a four team slaughter fest to find the last one standing. With a combined record of (10-5-1) through the first four weeks of the season. Even the Lions seemed to have gotten it together to an extent. The New Orleans Saints lost Drew Brees and still haven't missed a step, while the Buccaneers are coming out of no where seemingly as the only other competition in the NFC South. The 49ers are undefeated, and Daniel Jones has jolted a breath of fresh air into a Giants team that will be getting wide receiver Golden Tate back from suspension this week, while running back Saquan Barkley returns from injury in the coming weeks. Needless to say the NFC is as competitive as ever and murkier than its ever been. Now, bare with me while we try and navigate the murky waters that is the NFC playoff race.
1. New Orleans Saints
If the season ended today the Saints are the best team in the NFC, regardless of the 49ers record. The Saints have not missed a single step after losing quarterback Drew Brees to a hand injury early in the season. Back-up Teddy Bridgewater has seemingly returned to a form of his earlier days as a Minnesota Viking before his brutal knee injury that would put him out for two seasons and then traded to the Saints. The real story though is the Saints ability to play defense, a hindrance that has haunted them for years. The Saints held the potent Dallas Cowboys offense with all those weapons to only 10 points in week three as well as beating the Seahawks in Seattle and the Texans in a week 1 nail biter. Their only blemish is in Week two against the Rams when they lost Drew Brees to that injury and the referees may have botched a call, again. With some of their toughest opponents behind them now that Saints actually have a pretty favorable schedule the rest of the way out with their toughest match-ups look to be the Bears, Jaguars, and possibly the 49ers dependent on where they are come week 14. The Saints will need Brees come playoff time however I can seem them finishing around 12-4 with or without Drew Brees. This defense has shown they don't need Brees to keep them in games anymore, as well as weapons galore on offense for Bridgewater to take advantage of. The sky is the limit for this team especially when they get their veteran signal caller back under center.
2. (A) Green Bay Packers
Now for the second seed in the NFC playoffs at the moment I had to split it into two, between the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams. There is still a lot of time left in the NFL season and a lot can happen in that time. The Packers most recently lost in a close game Thursday night to the Philadelphia Eagles where a simple hand-off in four downs to Aaron Jones may have changed that result, or if wide receiver Marques Valdes Scantling makes a catch on the last play on the goal line. Either way the Packers are clearly the best team in a very competitive NFC North or at least with the most complete roster. Now bolstering a more than formidable defense that strikes fear into opposing offenses, forcing turnovers and giving Aaron Rodgers more opportunities with the football and as long as that's the case the Packers are in good shape. Injuries would be my largest concern with the Pack. Wide receiver Devante Adams suffered a ankle injury against the Eagles that will have him out more than likely against the Cowboys in week five. Complimentary back Jammal Williams suffered injuries as well in a late hit on Thursday night that may have him out some time. The games within the division may be the toughest for the Packers (currently 2-0 in the division), the Packers face the Chiefs and Chargers on the road in back to back weeks as well as the Cowboys in week five. Other than those games, the rest of the season are very winnable games even if the defense has to keep them in it. When the end of the season comes and they need to lean on their quarterback, there is no better to lean on than the bad man Aaron Rodgers. With all that being said I can see the Packers finishing around 12-4 or 11-5, barring they can get Adams back in promptly and stay relatively healthy the rest of the way through the regular season.
2. (B) Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have the talent and coaching to be the best team in the NFC and possibly the NFL, however its clearer than ever that something is missing. Are they still sulking from a Super Bowl hang over disappointment? Is quarterback Jarred Goff truly not what some have made him out to be and is actually more reliant on Todd Gurley in the backfield? Only time will tell, however they have the makings of a Super Bowl contender with a defense that was pretty good stuffing things through the air before a disaster in Tampa Bay this last week where they gave up 55 points and a loss to the Buccaneers. On offense it does seem clear they can score, but to get any rhythm and help their defense they need to run it more efficiently with Todd Gurley. The best thing the Rams have going for them is scheduling, they could snooze and win most the games they have left. They play Seattle twice, who is no joke and will beat the Rams in week five, waking the Rams up truly for the rest of the season. Then a home game with the Chicago Bears in week 11 as well as a home game against the Ravens in week 12, the rest is so winnable its ridiculous. It's mandatory the Rams get Todd Gurley on track for long term success but with the games left and what we've seen so far, the Rams could finish the same as the Packers around 12-4 or 11-5. Deciding who finishes where in the top of the NFC playoffs.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
Hear me out, the Eagles are back. They may have fallen a bit off the rails a year ago but this team is back on track now. Doug Peterson is utilizing Carson Wentz excellently and now also utilizing running back Jordan Howard much better like he was against the Packers. I expect him to explode in the coming weeks, currently with 186 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season. The NFC East truly comes down to the Cowboys and Eagles, the Giants will have their time in the sun but that is more than likely not to come in 2019. They will have some great match-ups, but the Eagles will come out on top in both! Yes, you read that right the Eagles will sweep the Cowboys and Redskins. Then only losing in the division for the first time to the Giants in week 17. By then the Eagles will have secured the NFC East and slide in as the fourth seed in the playoffs with a record of 10-6. The Eagles have a better defense than previous years and will have a pretty good blueprint for the Cowboys come those match-ups. Wentz will win the battle with Dak Prescott and Dallas may explode. The Eagles a sneaky good this year and worth keeping a very good eye on.
5. Seattle Seahawks
- Offensive line is still a concern
- Defense is questionable in the secondary however great up front
- Russell Wilson playing at the very top of his game
- Running game is excellent and not reliant on one guy keeping fresh legs
6. Dallas Cowboys
- Too reliant on Elliot making big plays
- Dak Prescott forces passes and lacks big play threat
- Defense is Top 5 in the NFL
- When Ezekiel Elliot gets going this team is very different
In The Hunt:
- Chicago Bears (9-7)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)
- San Francisco 49ers (7-9)
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