(Image credit Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)
Written by: Nicholas Mullick
Like I said in my last article I always once the Thanksgiving week for the NFL ends start to look at the playoff picture. So until the playoffs hit I will continue to update the current playoff picture for both the AFC and NFC Conferences. For this article, I will dive into the NFC conference.
Division Winners (Seed 1-4)
1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2)
The most surprising team of the entire year. I would have never thought Arizona would be this good and have the most wins in the entire league. Especially as some of these wins are without QB Kyler Murray, WR DeAndre Hopkins, and DE/EDGE Rusher JJ Watt. I had my doubts about Arizona but they have impressed me. This is a true test for head coach Kingsbury if he can bring this team to a deep playoff push.
2. Green Bay Packers (9-3)
This could be the NFL version of the Last Dance as this is the Packers last shot to bring a Lombardi trophy to Green Bay. Especially as Aaron Rodgers will be leaving at the end of the 2021 NFL season. So far the Packers have been impressive and when David Bakhtiari and Jaire Alexander come back from their injuries they will be a better and complete team.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3)
The Buccaneers to me are the most complete team in the NFL. Well excluding at cornerback the defense has little to no holes and the Offense is performing a lot better. Once Antonio Brown returns from his injury the Buccaneers will get another piece on this offense. The Buccaneers are again on track for another playoff appearance. Unless the Buccaneers collapse and finish the season poorly the NFC South is all but there at this point.
4. Dallas Cowboys (7-4)
A few weeks ago I would absolutely say the NFC East division is all but Dallas at this point. But then the Covid outbreak hit where many players were placed on the Covid list. Including head coach Mike McCarthy. Honestly, McCarthey not being a part of this team as the head coach could benefit the Cowboys as coaching has held this team back. Then again the interim coach is Dan Quinn who has a reputation for choking winnable games cough* cough* Superbowl 51 (28-3) cough* cough*. I am not too sure if the Thursday night game against the Saints will happen due to the outbreak. Plus Washington and Philadelphia are on a hot streak and could battle Dallas for the NFC East.
Wildcard Teams (Seed 5-7)
5. Los Angeles Rams (7-4)
The Rams may have a ton of wins right now but these injuries are very concerning. Especially with QB Matthew Stafford as he is dealing with an elbow/back injury. Back injuries are no joke at all and the Rams should be very careful when handling Stafford the rest of the season. If he gets injured they will have to rely on John Wolford as their backup. The defense is still excellent as well and Von Miller is starting to understand this defense. Luckily they face the Jacksonville Jaguars this week but the Rams injuries are something to keep an eye on.
6. San Francisco 49ers (6-5)
San Francisco has done a fantastic job competing and dealing with injuries that they have faced this season. Jimmy G’s long-term future may not look good but I think for now he is the better choice to start at QB than Trey Lance is. Lance is not ready as the starting quarterback. It would hurt his development if they put him in too early. The 49ers defense is beaten up however and their secondary is a mess but San Francisco has an opportunity to make the playoffs.
7. Washington Football Team (5-6)
I thought that Washington’s defense would carry this team to the playoffs again this season. It turns out that the Offense was a lot better than what I thought it was. Taylor Heinicke may not be the long-term answer at QB but he has been excellent for a guy, not even a year or two ago was a 4th string quarterback. Terry McLaurin is a fantastic player as well and Washington's offense has held this team together. The Defense has absolutely regressed especially with the secondary. More bad news is their best player Chase Young Tore his ACL and is out for the season which is a big loss for this defense. I am not ruling Washington out but they have to finish strong in order to make it for the playoffs.
In the hunt
8. Minnesota Vikings (5-6)
I don’t even know what to think of the Minnesota Vikings anymore. They should be a way better team than their record shows. What also stinks is Dalvin Cook’s injury and who knows when he will return. I am not ruling them out yet as they have an easy schedule as they face the Bears twice, the cursed Lions, the incompetent Steelers, the injured Rams team, and the Green Bay Packers. They have a shot of making the playoffs and saving Mike Zimmer’s job if they play a lot more consistent
9. Atlanta Falcons (5-6)
I am still surprised that Atlanta has this many wins so far. This was supposed to be the first year of their rebuild and they could potentially sneak into the playoffs. The MVP for the season goes to Cordarrelle Patterson as he has been excellent in the role the Falcons are giving him. The Falcons do have a bunch of divisional opponents they have to face Carolina, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans one more time this season. But they are a team to watch as they could sneak into the playoffs. My advice to Atlanta is to finish strong.
10. New Orleans Saints (5-6)
The Saints are another team that I do not know what to think about. The Saints are a solid team but are missing a big piece at quarterback. Man, I wish Drew Brees was still the quarterback on this team. There is no long-term option here at QB for the Saints. Jameis is inconsistent and dealing with injuries, Taysom Hill cant be the QB full time, and Trevor Siemen while solid is also not the long-term answer at QB. If the Saints offense can get healthier including Alvin Kamara then they should have a shot at making the playoffs.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
I got, to be honest, I did not expect the Eagles to have as many wins as they do this season. They have been a team that I thought was going to be a lot worse but this season showed me that they are on the right track on their rebuild. With the whole covid situation with the Cowboys, the Eagles benefit as well and they face easy opponents at the end of the year including Washington twice, Jets, Giants, and Dallas. Excluding Dallas, the Eagles can beat the other teams. They have a shot to make it and I view these games as a test to Jalen Hurts. I am a pro-Jalen Hurts guy but these upcoming games are a test to prove himself. If not, the Eagles will build around him with three first-round picks.
12. Carolina Panthers (5-7)
Well, when I started this article news came out that Christian McCaffery’s injury is season-ending. Welp, the Panthers season to me is pretty much over now. This offense lives and dies through Christian McCaffery and they struggle when he is not on the field. I like rookie Chuba Hubbard but the offense just is not the same without him on the field. Cam Newton is back but this is not the 2015 version of him as the 2021 version can’t carry a team that well. Look at Carolina’s schedule now as they got to face Tampa Bay twice, New Orleans, Buffalo, and Atlanta. Those are not easy opponents to face at all. It's not looking good for Carolina to make the playoffs.
13. New York Giants (4-7)
The Giants are a team that is a complete mess right now. They just fired their offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. With the disappointing additions that were made this season could have GM Dave Gettelemen out of a job with the New York Giants. This season has been a mess and I doubt the Giants will make the playoffs as Daniel Jones is now injured and could be out for a few weeks. That stinks because I have no idea what they will do with the QB position during the offseason. The Giants need to focus on who belongs now and who doesn't because I doubt they make the playoffs this season. At least they have two first-round picks this season.
14. Chicago Bears (4-7)
The Bears may have one last week against the Detroit Lions but they were trying to gift wrap the Detroit Lions their first win that week. I have never seen a team that would quit in the head coach but they win the game thanks to the Lions being a cursed team. It is clear that the Bears players don’t like Matt Nagy as they voiced frustration via social media and I doubt they will make the playoffs this season due to how competitive the NFC Conference is. I will end with a question for the Chicago Bears, Why is Matt Nagy still here?
15. Seattle Seahawks (3-8)
I am writing this moments after the Seattle Seahawks just lost to the Washington Football Team. I knew their season was over last week but this just solidified it. Their season is pretty much done and I wonder what they do during the offseason if the Seahawks blow it up and start their rebuild or don’t. I won't be shocked if the Seahawks move on from both head coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider. At least they have their first-round pick this year that will most likely be a top 10 pick. Oh wait they can’t, their first-round pick is New York Jets property due to the Jamal Adams trade.
Somehow Not Eliminated Mathematically
16. Detroit Lions (0-10-1)
How are the Detroit Lions still mathematically not eliminated from the playoffs yet? I just don’t understand it, first off the Lions are now at double-digit losses right now. Plus the second-worst team in the entire conference has three more wins than they do. The Lions season is over and I don't see any way how the Lions will make the playoffs this season. They should keep on track with their tank and lose more games to secure the 1st overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to help them on their rebuild.