If you missed my article about the AFC, let me quickly fill you in. We’re talking about playoffs, and now it’s time to look at who I believe will be the NFC playoff teams. Please remember, these are bold predictions, not safe assumptions. Obviously these predictions will cause controversy, that’s the whole point.
Wild Card Teams:
6. Detroit Lions, NFC North
A lot of people consider the Lions and the Falcons to be interchangeable, as both teams have a great offense but a less than stellar defense. However, I think Detroit will edge out Atlanta for the last playoff spot due to the fact that they have a better defense than the Falcons. Say what you want about the secondary, but the pass rush is fierce. Let’s also not forget about the aforementioned offense. It’s scary to think that Calvin Johnson could potentially be even better in 2014. Now that he has a wide receiver to help him out, Megatron and the offense should be a force to be reckoned with. However, Matthew Stafford is no Tom Brady, and his production later in the season in the cold weather might nearly cost Detroit a playoff berth.
5. Chicago Bears, NFC North
The Bears will make the playoffs and Jay Cutler will have a great year. There, I said it. For the past three years the Bears have been my dark horse team, and for the past three years the Bears have disappointed me beyond belief.
This year will be different. I predict Jay Cutler will play all 16 games, and he will be the ring leader for one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are the best wide receiver duo in the league, and the addition of a healthy Santonio Holmes makes the offense more deadly. The offense also has the NFC’s best kept secret, a guy by the name of Matt Forte. Forte is criminally underrated and he’s one of the best all-around backs in the league. The pass rush should also return in the Windy City, as Jared Allen and Lamar Houston are now on the defensive line. I think this is the year (finally) that Jay Cutler establishes himself as a premiere passer in this league. He has all the talent around him to do so, and that talent will help lead the Bears to the post season.
4. Philadelphia Eagles, NFC East
Chip Kelly’s offense won’t take any major steps back in 2014, but I also don’t think the offense will be enough to earn the Eagles anything more than the fourth seed. The loss of DeSean Jackson will hurt the offense, as he had forced defenses to constantly commit a safety to following him. Philly still has the amazing Shady McCoy, and Darren Sproles will most likely get utilized a lot. The offense gets Jeremy Maclin back, but right now I have a wait and see attitude about Maclin. The Eagles defense looked a lot better in the pre season, but it’s still not a unit to get confused with the ’85 Bears. Philly benefits from playing in what’s projected to be a very weak division. The Eagles should be able to make the playoffs again and win the feeble NFC East.
3. Green Bay Packers, NFC North
With a healthy Aaron Rodgers, a dynamic run game and a better defense, the Packers will be the most complete team in the NFC North. Eddie Lacy’s emergence has given the Packers a legitimate running back for the first time since 2007. Along with Rodgers, Randall Cobb is healthy too, which gives the offense their most dynamic receiver back. The loss of B.J. Raji on defense will only slightly hurt the defense, but it won’t be too detrimental. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix was added at safety, and the Packers get Clay Matthews back and fully healthy. The NFC North will be a tough, tough division, but Rodgers and the offense is good enough to reign supreme for a fourth consecutive year.
2. New Orleans Saints, NFC South
After missing the post season in 2012, the Saints were back last year, and they’ll be back in 2014 too. The defense added Jairus Byrd in free agency, and the duo of Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro should prove to be great. Drew Brees will be as good as ever, but we’ve come to expect that from the old Boiler Maker. The Brees to Jimmy Graham connection will be lethal in 2014, as it’s been in the years past. Although the offense lost Darren Sproles, the addition of Brandin Cooks is a significant upgrade. Cooks is younger, faster and will play a more intricate role in the offense. The run game will be better for the Saints too, as Mark Ingram has looked exceptional in the preseason. Behind Ingram is Khiry Robinson, who is poised to be a big part of the Saints’ committee style of running backs. The Saints have the most talent and are the most balanced team in the entire NFC South. Having a home playoff game could very well contribute to them advancing to the Conference Championship.
1. Seattle Seahawks, NFC West
No surprise here. The Seahawks will remain as the NFC’s super power in 2014, as they still have an amazing defense, as well as the best home field advantage in the entire NFL. I don’t think I need to waste your time by talking about the how good the defense is, so I won’t. Instead, I’ll talk about how the Seahawks are the NFC’s most complete team. They have a great leader throwing the ball, a beast of a running back and a talented, albeit under the radar group of wide receivers. The big X factor for this team is Percy Harvin. If Harvin can stay healthy for at least 12 games, the Seahawks should dominate the NFC West. And even if Harvin isn’t healthy, they should still win the West handily, as the Cardinals and the 49ers are set to decline, and the Rams are no longer a serious threat. The Niners defense is reeling and the unit has no secondary to speak of, and the losses of Darnell Dockett and Daryl Washington will prove to be too much for Arizona to overcome. The NFC West is Seattle’s to lose and the Seahawks will be back in the post season to make another run at the Super Bowl.