NFC Playoff Race Preview

After 10 weeks in the regular season the playoff race is still just as unclear as it was after 3 weeks. There are only 6 teams in the with winning records. Though many of these teams may have a hard time continuing their momentum over the entire season, some are even starting to falter now. The 6 NFC teams with a 4-5 record are going to leave very little margin for error for the teams with winning records as the races for almost all of the playoff spots should go down to the wire.

NFC East

Dallas 7-2 Dallas is probably the most surprising team that's leading its division at this point. Bill Parcells has instilled a confidence that hasn't been seen in Dallas since Aikman, Emmit, and Irvin were all on board. Parcells has benefitted from great play from his secondary that has allowed the Dallas coaching staff to blitz their fast linebackers more and keep their opponents off balance offensively. Dallas has also benefitted from a weak schedule that has allowed Parcells to run up this record while playing only 1 team with a winning record (Philadelphia in week 6.) Over the next 4 weeks, however, Dallas will play at New England and Philly and host Carolina and Miami. Anything over 0-4 will be a good stretch for the Cowboys. They should finish 9-7.

Philadelphia 6-3 The Eagles started out slow but lately their offensive players around McNabb have begun to make some plays and take on more of the offensive burden. Their injuries have really taken a toll but now their backups have been in the games for some time and should be used to the speed of the games. Had they not been hosted by Dallas in week 6 they would likely have each others record and Philly would be in the drivers seat. Philly has the Giants, Saints, Panthers, Cowboys, Dolphins 49ers and Cowboys remaining. Probably the toughest schedule of all the contenders. A 4-3 record will likely clinch the division for them. Look for that to happen.

New York Giants 4-5 With Jeremy Shockey missing the rest of the season things aren't looking good for the Giants. Amani Toomer hasn't been making plays all year and Tiki Barber has had too many costly fumbles. They should drop their next two games to Philly and Tampa which would leave them needing a 5 game win streak to finish the season if they want to make the playoffs. I'm just not convinced they can do that against the Saints, Redskins, Cowboys, Bills, and Panthers. 8-8 at best.

Washington Redskins 4-5 They started out hot, then cooled down, now Spurrier benches himself as play caller and their hot again? Lets give it another week or two and see how they fare against Carolina and Miami on the road. My guess is they are a 7-9 team.

NFC North

Minnesota 6-3 Randy Moss is getting the job done. So are the Vikings stable of backs and their defense. A favorable schedule favors them heavily. They should be challenged by the Chiefs, Rams, and Seahawks, but even if they lose all 3, and they likely will, they shouldn't be challenged the rest of the way. 10-6 and division champs.

Green Bay 4-5 Something is just not clicking in Green Bay. Their once opportunistic defense is now questionable and their WR's while talented seem unable to make plays consistently. If not for Ahman Green the Packers would likely be a 2-7 team. The good news for Green Bay is that they only play 1 team with winning records over the next 7 weeks (Denver week 17). Assuming San Francisco and Tampa Bay also challenge them, which is questionable, the Packers need to win against San Diego, Chicago, Detroit, and Oakland to even have a shot. I think they'll do it and finish up at 10-6 with a wildcard birth.

Chicago and Detroit are not playoff contenders.

NFC South

Carolina 7-2 Carolina keeps finding ways to win even without their best player RB Stephen Davis. Carolina has what should be 3 easy games against Detroit, Arizona and Atlanta. If they win those games, and they will. Then a 1-3 record against the NFC East will clinch them a division and likely a first round bye. Carolina will finish 11-5 and division champs.

New Orleans 4-5 The Saints decided to start this year off shaky instead of ending it up shaky. Now they have to finish strong to have a shot at making the playoffs. 2 easy wins versus Atlanta and Jacksonville are the only gimme's they have. They'll need to go 4-1 against Washington, Philly, Tampa Bay, Dallas, and the Giants to make the playoffs. I think they'll be at least 2 games shy of that. Saints finish 8-8.

Tampa Bay 4-5 Tampa should be much better than their record, but isn't that usually the case with Tampa in recent years. 3 games, Houston, Jacksonville, and Atlanta should be wins. After that Tampa will need to get some much better defensive play to win 3 of 4 against the Packers, Titans, Saints, and Giants. They'll come up a game shy at 9-7.

Atlanta is not a playoff contender.

NFC West

St. Louis 6-3 The Rams have finally made Bulger the man and he has responded well. With the injuries to their running backs they have still found ways to win. Still their lack of a good rushing attack is problematic and their defense still has question marks. San Francisco may have exposed them in week 9. Still games against Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Arizona should be enough to propel the Rams to an 11-5 record and a first round bye.

Seattle 6-3 The Seahawks are fortunate to be at 6-3. They started off hot but have recently faltered. Their defense is not making the same number of plays they once were and their offense is haunted by receivers dropping passes. The Seahawks should beat Detroit, Cleveland, and Arizona but are unlikely to beat any of the other teams they face. They'll finish 9-7.

San Francisco 4-5 The 49ers really should be much closer to 8-1 with Minnesota being the only team that had them beat. Fumbles from Garrison Hearst cost them two divisional games and poor offensive management cost them against Cleveland. Even so the 49ers are a difficult team to get a handle on. They should win against the Steelers, Cardinals, and Bengals. But can they go3-1 against Seattle, Green Bay, Baltimore, and the Eagles. Philly, Baltimore, and Green Bay are all on the road that's probably a bit too much for the 49ers to do, though it's not impossible. I think they'll finish up at 9-7 and miss out on the playoffs.

Arizona is not a playoff contender.

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