The AFC is already wrapped up under your Christmas tree. I’ll wear Packers underwear for a week if any team other than the Chiefs, Steelers, or Patriots play in the AFC title game. I’ll go the extra step here too and just put the Steelers and Patriots in the game, see ‘Prophecy’. Truth is, the winner of the AFC South isn’t going to do anything, and the freaking Jets are questionably wild card contenders. The AFC has always been ruled by the Steel City and the Northeast, 2018 will be no different.
Ah, but that NFC. That NFC is frisky, as well as unpredictable. The three best teams in the conference, say it with me, are the 7-1 Eagles, 6-2 Saints, and the 6-2 Rams. None of those teams made the playoffs last season. Even the Vikings are 6-2 despite the fact that Case Keenum has been their starting quarter back. Oh yeah, they missed the playoffs last season too.
The 6 teams that made the playoffs from the NFC last year, the Lions, Giants, Packers, Seahawks, Cowboys, and Falcons have a combined record of 23-24. The Giants are completely wiped out from playoff consideration, and the 4-4 sans-Rodgers Pack. The Falcons look like they could also be done facing a difficult NFC South. Steve Sarkisian doesn’t know how to call a game once he runs out of his first fifteen.
A quick piece on the Rams here. Sean McVay is coach of the year. They also have a four game stretch where they play the Saints, Eagles, and Seahawks. If they can go 2-1 in these 3 games they have a really good shot at a playoff bye, as well as a deep January run. I have them going 5-3 the rest of the way.
The Redskins are also in contention, and the Cardinals are on life support. Arizona plays Seattle on Thursday and those games can get weird, and I trust Arians to at least have his team play it close. My NFC Playoff Picture looks like this:
- Eagles, 13-3
- Saints, 12-4
- LA Rams, 11-5
- Detroit Lions, 11-5
- Carolina Panthers, 10-6
- Seattle Seahawks, 10-6
The odd men out are the #1 and #2 seeds from last year. I think the Cowboys schedule is too hard the rest of the way, and Thursday’s hearing on Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension could spell the end of their season. The Falcons have a rough schedule too, and their just not that good. The Redskins have a chance too, but being 0-3 in the division with 2 of those losses being at home does not give me much hope in them. That being said, their game winning drive against the Seahawks showed a tremendous amount of resiliency.
The Vikings have a chance purely because of their defense. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have progressed mightily, but when it comes down to it this is a QB driven league, and I don’t trust Case Keenum or possibly Teddy ‘almost had his leg amputated and hasn’t played football in a year and a half’ Bridgewater to get it done. For this reason I have left them out.
I don’t think it’s that crazy to think each team I have in my playoff picture could end up playing in the Super Bowl. My ‘Playoff Picture Teams’ Chances to Make the Super Bowl’ ranking looks like this:
The Saints have Drew Brees, who has the most experience by far. I feel like they’d be the least likely team to put up a stinker in a playoff game, whereas I could conceivably see the Eagles, and more likely the Rams wilting in a big spot. The Panthers have done this before too. The only reason I have them as the 6 seed is strength of schedule. The Seahawks are a curious team, and don’t rule out a second half collapse, but I think they manage to find a way to play some January football.
The Lions have Matthew Stafford and will be getting their left tackle back in the next two weeks. They only play one team with a winning record the rest of the way (Vikings, Thanksgiving), so I like their chances to win the NFC North a lot. They’re far from a complete team, but if the line keeps protecting Stafford like they have in the last two games anything can happen.
We’re only halfway through the season, but things seem to be clearing up. There’s a general consensus on who can be competitive, and who may already be looking to the Draft. The NFC is spicy, and it’s going to be a entertaining race to week 17.