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Predicting the 2018 NFL playoff picture

ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
123   //    09 Sep 2018, 16:21 IST

NFC Championship - Minnesota Vikings v Philadelphia Eagles

After making my forecast for the top three candidates to win all the major NFL awards, it's time to look at the teams, who will end up making the playoffs in 2018. To do so, I went through all the games week by week, considering days of rest, home-field advantages, specific matchups and all kinds of different factors.

Then I looked at the resulting matchups for each round of the postseason all the way up to Super Bowl LIII. You can find an Excel document of the filled-out schedule at the end of this slideshow.


Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons

NFC

1. Atlanta Falcons (12-4)

2. Los Angeles Rams (11-5)

3. Green Bay Packers (11-5)

4. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

5. New Orleans Saints (11-5)

6. Minnesota Vikings (9-7)

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In the hunt: Bears (9-7), Panthers (9-7)

The NFC is stacked. There is just no other way to say it. When I had my wins and losses handed out and I wrote down the records next to each team, I was shocked that teams like the Bears and Panthers didn’t make the playoffs, but there are just too many really good teams in this conference.

I have the Falcons as my number one seed in the NFC. Like I already said, I think Matty Ice will be an MVP candidate throughout the year with all the weapons surrounding him. I love the defense and you saw what they are capable of last year’s postseason versus the Rams and pretty much the eventual Super Bowl champions as well.

Right behind them, I have those Rams I just mentioned. This team has been the Super Bowl favorite for a lot of people because of the additions they have made with Brandin Cooks, Ndamokung Suh, Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters. While I would be cautious to crown them already before seeing them actually do it out there on the field, they should definitely be contenders.

I have the Packers regaining supremacy in the NFC North. The Vikings were outstanding last year and I love what the Bears have put together, but if you have that man wearing the number 12 jersey you can cover up a lot of deficiencies. Green Bay has questions at linebacker and edge rusher, but I think they will be much-improved on the back-end and this offense will be something to watch.

As far as division-winners go, the Eagles are the only one among them making the cut with single-digit wins. I know Philly looks better on paper than they did when winning a championship, but I think the NFC East will beat up on each other and to be frank, I have to see Carson Wentz be healthy to put them any higher. Nick Foles has looked horrible in preseason and the coaching staff doesn’t have the same amount of time to game-plan like they did in the playoffs.

I know there have been a lot of excellent wild-card contenders and teams like the Giants have been smoking hot once they joined the party, but this Saints squad might be the best we’ve seen in a while to not win their division. They are absolutely loaded on both sides of the ball and they are all in on these next few years to win another Lombardi with Drew Brees at the helm.

As much as I would love to see the Bears make it this year and live up to my high expectations for them, the tie-breakers just didn’t match up. Having won the NFC North last season, the Vikings have matchups against the Saints and Eagles, which gives them the nod as the team with the tougher strength of schedule.

Minnesota will once again feature a suffocating defense, Kirk Cousins is taking over to go with an outstanding receiving corp and I think Dalvin Cook will have a monster year.

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