A few weeks ago, I took a look at the crazy and extremely mediocre AFC, projecting Miami to get the last wildcard spot. Now, it’s time to look at the NFC, now that the NFC West has come back a little, and we have eight teams with between 3 and 4 wins in the conference. Who is in the best shape for a playoff spot?
After looking at the remaining schedules and estimating future wins, here are my projections based on current wins plus projected future wins.
- Atlanta Falcons (13.0 wins)
- San Francisco 49ers (11.6 wins)
- New York Giants (10.9 wins)
- Chicago Bears (10.9 wins)
- Green Bay Packers (10.3 wins)
- Seattle Seahawks (8.4 wins)
- Dallas Cowboys (8.3 wins)
- Minnesota Vikings (8.1 wins)
- Detroit Lions (7.3 wins)
- Washington Redskins (7.0 wins)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6.9 wins)
- Arizona Cardinals (6.9 wins)
- Philadelphia Eagles (6.9 wins)
- New Orleans Saints (6.4 wins)
- St. Louis Rams (5.9 wins)
- Carolina Panthers (4.8 wins)
Atlanta would appear to have a comfortable situation, and we may be heading for 2010 all over again, where the Falcons got to 13-3 and the #1 seed, but were set to face teams that rated just as highly if not higher on a neutral field. Atlanta would have to lose some unexpected games in order to bring the other top teams into #1 seed contention.
The next interesting race is in the NFC North, where I have the Bears with the current higher win projection. That’s based on a 50/50 game in Chicago later this year. The winner of that is likely the NFC North, as a Green Bay win would provide the sweep and tiebreaker, while the Bears already have a 1.5 game lead and a win over the Packers would mean a larger hurdle.
Finally, the wildcards. The Chicago/Green Bay loser for the division still projects comfortably for the #5 seed. The other spot has a lot of intrigue this week. Minnesota may be in that spot with a 5-3 record, but their remaining schedule is brutal. They play Chicago and Green Bay in half their remaining games, and also have Houston. The Detroit home game may be the only one they are favored in, unless they are a slight favorite at the Rams late in the year. As a result, I have them projected with only 3.1 remaining wins despite having them rated as a slightly above average team.
The Seattle/Minnesota game is huge. The winner would be my favorite to get the last wildcard spot, and would own a huge tiebreaker over the other competitor. Dallas, meanwhile, is lurking right there also in my projections. If they can pull an upset at Atlanta this week, they would be looking good for a playoff push as well. The problem for Dallas is that Seattle already owns the tiebreaker there. Seattle could claim the tiebreaker over both of the most likely challengers with a win this week.
The NFC doesn’t really have a bottom class this year, as all teams can be competitive. That’s why five different teams have roughly a 7 win projection. One of those teams would need to get hot and win more than their share of the toss up type games on their schedule to make a run.
[photo via US Presswire]