The AFC is relatively easy to predict. The Steelers and Patriots are almost always sure-shot favorites to make it to the playoffs. The NFC is a different story. Every year a dark horse team emerges. Last year it was the Falcons and the Cowboys, and in 2015 it was the Panthers that shocked the football world. While nothing in the NFC is easily predicted, I looked at statistics, previous records, and used a whole lot of gut feeling to select my favorites to make the playoffs next year in the NFC.
East: Dallas Cowboys
Last year was huge for the Cowboys. The young stud quarterback Dak Prescott is developing into one of the league’s top-tier players. He is a dual-threat QB who has proven he can carry a team to success. He demonstrated this in college at Mississippi State and once again in 2016-17 with Dallas. The Cowboys do face a tough schedule next season, which could severely impact their playoff chances. The ‘Boys face the Giants in weeks 1 and 14, the Falcons in week 10 and the Seahawks in week 14. If they can win three of these games it will boost their confidence and catapult them into the playoffs.
West: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have undoubtedly been one of the NFL’s top teams for the past few years. Ridiculous defensive talent in cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas, and defensive end Michael Bennett has been critical to the team’s success. But all of these players are aging. Seattle has been publicly discussing offers for Sherman, and Bennett suffered through injuries last season. Offensively, the team needs a make-over. They recently signed Eddie Lacy, but a mediocre running back won’t be enough to secure a playoff spot. To earn the top-spot in the NFC-West Seattle must work on revamping its offensive line.
North: Green Bay Packers
Green Bay struggled early on in 2016, but the Packers found a way to make it to the NFC Championship anyway. It all comes down to one man: Aaron Rodgers. His deadly accuracy can pick through any defensive secondary. Green Bay went out this off-season and picked up TE Martellus Bennett. He will just add to Rodger’s arsenal of dynamic receivers. Defensively, this squad is mediocre, but offencive efficiency makes up for that. The Packers may not go 16-0 next season, but I see no team posing as a threat in the North.
South: Atlanta Falcons
This is the toughest division to predict in all of football. The NFC South is made up of purely offensively minded teams. Therefore, every divisional matchup is practically a shootout that any squad could win. The Saints went out this offseason and added Adrian Peterson to their already prolific offense. Tampa Bay has a young dynamic duo in Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. Carolina has the most athletic quarterback in the NFL. Despite all of the great playmakers in this division, there is no duo better than Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Jones is hands down the best receiver in the NFL, and Ryan is significantly underrated. When you consider Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman at the running back position it is easy to see that this Falcons offense will outmatch the rest of the conference.
Wild Card: New York Giants
I expect the Giants to give Dallas a strong fight for the division title. A receiving core consisting of Brandon Marshall, Odell Beckham jr. and Sterling Shepard is the best Eli Manning has ever had. Expect Manning to have one of the best years of his long career. The defense is mediocre, but if they use the bend don’t break strategy the offense can carry the Giants deep into the playoffs.
Wild Card: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Two teams from the NFC South will make the playoffs. The second best team in that division is Tampa Bay. The Bucs have improved every year Winston has been in charge. I expect nothing less next season. This offseason Tampa Bay added wide receiver DeSean Jackson, defensive end Chris Baker and safety J.J. Wilcox. Jackson adds yet another threat to this arsenal of receivers. Look for the Bucs to make a late run for a playoff spot.