Breaking Down The Current NFC Playoff Picture
By Adam Hayes
Special to Pro Football Guru
It's down the stretch time in NFL 2016. Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, it's time to take a closer look at the playoff picture in the NFC. While still muddled to a large degree, there are some inferences that can be made based on what we know right now. Let's take a look at which teams are contenders, which teams are pretenders and which teams could surprise if they are still playing after Jan. 1.
Two True Contenders
Despite losing 14-5 to Tampa Bay on Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks are still among the best teams in the NFC along with the Dallas Cowboys. At 7-3-1, Seattle has a solid lead in their division and still have a win against New England in Foxborough to bolster their championship credentials. At 10-1, the Dallas Cowboys could clinch the top spot in the NFC with just one or two more victories. However, they will need to worry about the 8-3 New York Giants, who may push themselves into contender status if they keep winning.
The Minnesota Vikings could be the NFC's biggest pretender right now having dropped to 6-5 after a 5-0 start. Sam Bradford looks dreadful and unlikely to be resigned to a long-term deal even if Teddy Bridgewater can't return next season. The Lions and Falcons also look like pretenders who have been feasting on mediocre competition both within their respective divisions.
Who to Avoid?
No one is going to want to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round of the playoffs. At 6-5, they are only a single game behind Atlanta for a division title. With wins against the Chiefs on the road and the Seahawks at home, they are starting to look like a legitimate playoff team who could beat anyone put in front of them.
Another team to watch out for maybe the Washington Redskins. Kirk Cousins seems to thrive in games that he isn't supposed to win or in situations when he has been written off. For Cousins, running the table and going deep into the playoffs could result in a big contract, which means he has a lot to play for and extra motivation to win right now.
The NFC playoff race is going to be exciting over the next five weeks as teams on the fringe do whatever it takes to claw and scratch their way into that six-team tournament in January. Regardless of whether a team gets in through a division title or as a wild card, each squad that makes it has an equal chance of representing the conference in Houston this February.