The NFC Wild Card Picture

Since I decided to write about how I think the AFC wild card teams will turn out I decided to follow it up with my NFC predictions. This list is not how I think will make it to the playoffs, but who has the best chances of not winning their division but still earning a wild card birth.

1) Detroit Lions

I think the Lions are the clear cut favorite to earn at minimum the 6th seed


The Lions easily have the best defensive line in the NFL led by Donkey Kong (Ndamukong) Suh with Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams, and the now healthy rookie Nick Fairley. When you have the best D-line in the game you set yourself to have a great defense. Even though the Lions back seven is pretty shaky, their line pressure more than makes up for it. In fact, the Lions are second in the NFC in terms of points per game allowed (first is San Fran).

Not only can the Lions stop teams from scoring but their offense is electric with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson scoring points left and right.

Listen, the Lions are a good football team and no matter what, if you're a good football team you're going to win games and thus earn a playoff birth.


The Lions can be beat

Detroit has some great strength (i.e. their passing game and their D-line) but they do have weaknesses which teams like the 49ers have exploited.

The Lions have a great passing D (6th in the NFL in yards allowed) but a terrible run defense (third to last in rushing yards allowed) and despite how good that front line is, they can be beat by quick passes. They have Aaron Rodgers (twice), Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, and even Jay Cutler left on their schedule which all have the ability to find holes in their defense. Plus running backs like Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Darren Sproles, and DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart to rush all over the Lions. I'm not saying the Lions aren't good enough to adjust their defense to neutralize all these offenses, they absolutely are (except for maybe Green Bay's) but those offenses aren't a walk in the park either.

The Lions are also extremely one dimensional on offense. It's Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson and that's it. And if you shut down Calvin Johnson then you shut down down the entire Lions offense. Again, no easy feat, but something that can very easily be accomplished.

The 49ers and Falcons showed the league a blueprint on how to beat the Lions- something I'm not sure teams had when the Lions started off 5-0.

Lastly, their schedule is not the easiest. They still have to face Green Bay twice, the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome, and get the San Diego Chargers at home. None of those games are slam dunks to me and three are division games.

2) Philadelphia Eagles

While Eagles certainly have a chance to win their division I think they dug themselves in too much of a whole to win it.


The Eagles have a top five offense. Right now they are 9th in the NFL (5th in the NFC) in terms of points scored and now that Michael Vick has stopped turning the ball over so much, the Eagles are using RB LeSean McCoy more (and better) and Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant are stepping their game up, this offense looks great. Even though DeSean Jackson has essentially been a no-show all season, this offense can both run on you and pass on you.

The Eagles also have history on their side. Say what you want about Andy Reid but he just wins down the stretch. Remember a few years ago when Donovan McNabb went out and Jeff Garcia won like eight straight games in a row? The Eagles are one of the few teams that I trust to go undefeated the rest of the year.


I think last week was the first week in which Michael Vick finished a game healthy. I like Vince Young and Mike Kafka as back ups to start a game or two but it gets hard to force these guys into crunch time week after week.

The Eagles also have a tough schedule on their plate. They still have the face the Bears (4-3), Patriots (6-2), Jets (4-3), Giants (5-2), and the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington.

Lastly, while the Eagles have really good defensive players on their team, their defensive coordinator is terrible and does not utilize his players effectively. That's what you get when you hire your former offensive line coach to be your defensive coordinator and have nobody showing him tapes on Nnamdi in Oakland on how to use him correctly.

3) Chicago Bears

Call it bias, but be honest, you can not name another team in the NFC that I haven't already named or will win the division.


Matt Forte. 'Nuff said.

The Bears are actually running a more efficient offense since their debacle in Week Two against the Saints where the blitz friendly Saints D destroyed Cutler. Since then Mike Martz has introduced a heavy dose of Matt Forte in both the passing and rushing game and Cutler has not thrown an interception in three weeks.

The other thing the Bears have on their side is an easy schedule. They still haven't played anyone from the weak AFC West yet, they get the Chargers and Chiefs at home (the former I still believe as a good team and the latter who has one of the best home field advantages- Arrowhead), the Denver Broncos who will probably be led by Brady Quinn, the Oakland Raiders (who will be led by Carson Palmer and watch how terrible Palmer will be the rest of the year), the Lions and Packers at home and Seattle and Minnesota. The only game that scares me is the Packers and the Bears play the Packers very well at Soldier- even against Aaron Rodgers.


It's still turnover prone Jay Cutler. While he's been good of late he still has the potential for 4-5 turnovers every week.

Plus, I don't think the Bears are as good of a team as either the Packers, Lions, Giants, or Eagles which puts them in a disadvantage to try and earn a wild card spot. I think the Lions are guaranteed to get a wild card spot and if I'm picking the Eagles versus the Bears, I'll pick Philly. Especially considering I think the Eagles defeat the Bears this upcoming Monday at Lincoln Field. The Bears are not in the driver's seat to control their own destiny (even though the Bears are currently the 6th seed in the NFC as of the writing of this post).

Neither their offense or defense has been amazing and I don't think either have top five potential. They have not been *that* good at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks or stopping the run and if any team shuts down Matt Forte then their offense is done.

4) Atlanta Falcons

If the playoffs started today, Atlanta would finish 8th (Tampa Bay would be 7th because they defeated the Falcons once this year)


Atlanta's offense still consists of Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez. If I'm an opposing defense there's not a single player that I want to say "OK, you try and beat me" like a Kerry Collins led Tennessee Titans with (good) Chris Johnson. The team also has a pass rush (soon to come) of John Abraham and Ray Edwards. The team just came off of a win of the Lions in Detroit and they look like a team finally putting it together.


First losing to Tampa Bay and the Bears, the teams directly ahead of them in the playoffs standings doesn't help them. Secondly, while they have a boatload of talent, they're just jot utilizing it properly. Their offense ranks 17th in points scored per game and 20th in points allowed per game.

Even when this team was clicking (like it was last year when they went 13-3 and earned the first seed in the NFC) I didn't trust them. Matt Ryan for his career has a low YPA (this year, even with Julio Jones, Ryan ranks 26th of all active quarterback behind the greats like Curtis Painter, Joe Flacco, Tarvaris Jackson) and no one on their defense truly scares me either. Clay Matthews scares me. Donkey Kong Suh scares me. Julius Peppers scares me. No one on Atlanta's defense scares me and I said that last year.

5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Defeating division rivals New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons always helps with both winning a division and playoff births but this team just looks terrible. Last year, the Bucs won nine games because of the emergence of Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, and LaGarette Blount. All three of those guys have taken a step back this year. Blount had been injured, Williams looks terrible and looks like the third best receiver on his team, and Freeman looks like he reverted back to his rookie season rather than improving on his sophomore season.

Tampa just had their bye so we'll see if they fixed their problems but until they show me that they can play like they did last year, then I believe their chances of earning a wild card spot is low.

6) Dallas Cowboys


Well, they dooooo have the same record as the Philadelphia Eagles, so theoretically it's possible


They have Tony Romo starting at quarterback and they're currently not in first place.

7) St. Louis Rams

OK, here me out. I know they have the worst record in the NFC and only have one win, but if they win their next 9 games they can go 10-6!

There's no amount of money or odds you can give me that I would bet on about the Rams making the playoffs, but coming into the season you could see how front loaded their schedule is (although he all thought San Fran would be just as terrible at the rest of the NFC West).

To me, the Rams are the best worst team and they still get to play Seattle and Arizona twice and the Cleveland Browns. That's five games right there that's winnable and if the Rams do win all those game then they're 6-6 and potentially in the hunt.

Unfortunately they do have to play San Francisco (twice), the Cincinnati Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steelers which would put the Rams back at 7-9 again, but hey, a boy can dream can't he?