NFC Review & The Race to the Postseason

NFC Review & The Race to the Postseason
Wed 28th October 2020

Following from our review of the AFC, we examine the NFC and see which teams have emerged as contenders and how the race for the wild-card slots is panning out. 

The AFC has the three favourites to win the Super Bowl, Kansas City Chiefs (+400), Baltimore Ravens (+550) and Pittsburgh Steelers (+800), however the NFC is home to the next five. The NFC is much more evenly spread than the AFC with the NFC West being the best division in football from top to bottom. 

Check out the current standings and odds for the NFC Championship below:

TeamRecordNFC Champions Odds
Seattle Seahawks5-1+400
Green Bay Packers5-1+450
Tampa Bay Buccaneers5-2+350
Philadelphia Eagles2-4-1+2500
Chicago Bears5-2+2200
Arizona Cardinals5-2+1000
Los Angeles Rams5-2+800
New Orleans Saints4-2+600
San Francisco 49ers4-3+1200
Detroit Lions3-3+4000

The race for top place in the NFC is getting more and more intense as the weeks go on. Seattle, Green Bay and Tampa all have claims as the best team in the conference and all three teams have no better than a one game lead in their division. 

Check out our NFL expert predictions for how the rest of the season will pan out and what the playoff picture might look like. 

NFC North

The Green Bay Packers (5-1) remain one of the NFL’s best teams behind MVP-like play from Aaron Rodgers, however sit just half a game ahead of the Chicago Bears (5-2). Chicago’s defense is what has won them games including against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

The Lions (3-3) are 1.5 games back from the last playoff spot in the NFL and are lucky to be in the position they are, while the Minnesota Vikings (1-5) have been extremely disappointing after making it to the divisional playoffs last season. 

Aaron Rodgers has returned to his old self and his connection with Davante Adams has been unstoppable. The week six loss to the Buccaneers was the first time that Rodgers had felt serious pressure all year and may be seen as the blueprint to knocking off this Packers lineup. The schedule doesn’t help Green Bay with seven of their last ten games coming against teams that are currently in the playoff picture, however two of those are against Detroit and Philadelphia.

Chicago has surprised everybody, emerging as a leader in the NFC and doing all this despite changing starting quarterbacks after four games. Their 5-2 record has been boosted by games against the Giants and Falcons, however their narrow victory over the Buccaneers can’t be discarded.

Their recent performance on Monday Night Football might be more of a true indication of how this team really matches up against the elite teams, being dominated by the Rams. Five of their last nine games come against teams in the playoff picture, including at Tennessee and at Green Bay. 

The Lions are lucky to be 3-3 given they have played the lowly Jaguars and had a shock last second win over Atlanta in which the Falcons did everything they could to lose the game. Their remaining games are split 5-5 in terms of teams in and out of the playoff picture but I’d expect the Vikings to steal one of their games while a trip to Carolina isn’t as easy as it seems. 

The Packers will win the division and be in a tough race with Seattle for second in the NFC, behind Tampa Bay. Chicago is likely to hold on to a wild-card slot, the NFC West teams being at a disadvantage due to having to play each other. 

NFC South

Tom Brady has come to Tampa Bay and thrust the Buccaneers (5-2) to the top of the division and the top of the NFC Championship odds. The Bucs hold a half game lead over the New Orleans Saints (4-2) who have been playing without 2019 Offensive Player of the Year, Michael Thomas, since week one. The Carolina Panthers (3-4) have done well to stay near .500 through seven games given Christian McCaffrey hasn’t played since week two and the Atlanta Falcons (1-6) can’t put a consistent four quarter effort in on both sides of the ball. 

After dominant victories over the Packers and Raiders in the last two weeks, the Bucs have gained favouritism to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Coming into a season with a new quarterback and no practice time due to COVID-19 was always going to be tough, but this team has weapons on both sides of the ball that give them every chance to win. Tampa has the Saints, Rams and Chiefs in the next five weeks but play all three at home and should take care of business with their other matchups. 

New Orleans hasn’t looked like their normal selves but have been plagued by injury, including the previously mentioned Thomas. Alvin Kamara has had to stand up for this unit with the loss of Thomas and while his play has resulted in favouritism for Offensive Player of the Year, Drew Brees has struggled without his first option receiver. The next three weeks are season defining, coming up against the Bears and 49ers, their direct competitors for one of the last NFC wild-card slots. 

Tampa Bay has an easier remaining schedule than New Orleans and will hold on for top of the division, but will have some jostling with Seattle and Green Bay for the top three spots in the conference. Tampa Bay will end up on top of the NFC and get the week one bye, while New Orleans will welcome back Thomas soon and he will be the lift this side needs to sneak into a wild-card slot. 

NFC East

The worst division in football. There is no easy way of putting it. The entire division combined has just one more win than the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have had a bye. The Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1) lead the division purely because they have lost one less game than the Washington Football Team (2-5) and the Dallas Cowboys (2-5). The New York Giants (1-6) were never going to amount to anything this season, but the loss of Sequon Barkley definitely didn’t help. 

Washington has the easiest schedule remaining of the three NFC East teams on two wins, with just four games remaining against teams currently in the playoff picture, one of which being Philly.

We think the Eagles will still hold on in the division despite playing one more game against a playoff destined opponent, two more if you don’t include Washington’s game against the Eagles. This is a team that won the Super Bowl three seasons ago and Carson Wentz is supposed to be one of the best young QBs in the league. 

Dallas can be discarded after the loss of Dak Prescott and with Andy Dalton unable to gel with the offense through his two starts. 

It is unfortunate that one of these teams automatically gets fourth place in the conference meaning that only three of the Bears, Cardinals, Rams, Saints or 49ers will make the playoffs rather than four, as all five are far more deserving. Philadelphia will hang on to the division. 

NFC West

From the worst division in football to the best. All four teams could easily make the postseason and have impact once in. The Seattle Seahawks (5-1) have started the season on fire behind MVP front-runner Russell Wilson. They hold just a half game lead over the Arizona Cardinals (5-2) and Los Angeles Rams (5-2).

Arizona plays with an offensive flare behind the exciting Kyler Murray while the Rams knuckle down on defence, led by Aaron Donald. San Francisco (4-3) have suffered through injuries to key starters all season and will make a push for a wild-card slot as the troops get back on the field. 

While Wilson has been incredible through their first six games, he has had to be for Seattle to be in the position they are. There is no help on offense and the defense is deplorable, with five of their six games being within seven points, including their overtime loss to the Cardinals on Sunday. The fixture doesn’t help with just three of their last ten games coming against teams that aren’t currently in the playoff picture and five divisional games remaining. 

Arizona has been the surprise of the division and Murray’s pairing with offseason acquisition, DeAndra Hopkins, makes an explosive offense. What is important for the Cardinals is that they are 2-0 in divisional matchups with victories over the 49ers and Seahawks. That is an important factor when tiebreakers come into play, given how tight the NFC playoff race is. Arizona has just four divisional games left and plays just one non-divisional game against a team with a record better than 0.500, giving them the easiest remaining schedule in the NFC West. 

Los Angeles has the tools on both offense and defense to make any team worry, but they haven’t quite been able to put it all together. Jared Goff hasn’t progressed as many expected and hoped for, with the Rams’ 5-2 record boosted by wins against all four teams in the lowly NFC East. Losses to the Bills and 49ers might be a true indication of where this team is, with five divisional matchups and a trip to Tampa going to reveal the true Rams outfit. 

The 49ers have been on the wrong end of injuries, caused by back to back games at the heavily criticised Metlife Stadium. Jimmy Garappolo has returned and helped San Francisco to an important victory over the Rams and a thumping of the Patriots. Losses to the Eagles and Dolphins should be worrying even with the injuries and with their next five games coming up against teams with records better than 0.500, the 49ers season is on the line. 

It is almost impossible to predict what will happen given the strength of this division. Seattle (0-1 divisional record) should hold on to top spot purely due to the fact that they have Russell Wilson and three of their remaining five divisional games are at home.

Arizona (2-0) has the easiest remaining schedule of all four teams and has the edge in tiebreakers already and will hold on for a wild-card slot. The 49ers (1-1) have a much needed divisional victory under their belt but have a much tougher schedule than the Bears and the Saints, while the Rams (0-1) record is better than they actually are. The Rams have three relatively easy games compared to the 49ers two, however both could be the victim of a tough division. 

NFC Predictions

Tampa Bay has the easiest remaining schedule of the NFC playoff hopefuls and will claim top spot and the week one bye. Seattle and Green Bay will use their star QBs to keep their heads above water in their divisions, with an easier schedule for the Packers resulting in them getting second place. The Eagles hang on for the NFC East crown and then the wild-card race gets even trickier. 

Given that all five of the teams in the hunt are within a game of each other, the easier schedules and divisions will be important. This could mean that despite being the best division, the NFC West’s strength could be to its teams’ detriment. The Bears and the Saints have much easier remaining schedules, while the Cardinals 2-0 divisional record will allow those three to claim the wildcard slots. 

Check out our NFL expert NFC Standings predictions for playoff teams below:

TeamRecordNFC Champions Odds
Tampa Bay Buccaneers13-3+350
Green Bay Packers13-3+450
Seattle Seahawks13-3+400
Philadelphia Eagles6-9-1+2500
Chicago Bears11-5+2200
New Orleans Saints10-6+600
Arizona Cardinals10-6+1000

*Odds correct at time of publication.

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Image by: Elvis Kennedy

Tim is a keen follower of all American sports, in particular the NBA and NFL. He has followed both sports for over a decade and would happily sit down and watch every game, regardless of who is playing! No matter the sport, whether it be NFL and NBA or even MLB, NHL, UFC and all sports, Tim covers it from every angle, staying in the loop to bring you the most up-to-date information and the best picks and predictions on the market.