NFL

Potential NFC Playoff Scenarios After Week Four in the NFL

Oct 4, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) huddles with teammates before a game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

After four weeks in the NFL, you could say they’re going strong, with only two games postponed so far. Some teams have looked more potent than others, and some have surprised the league with their success. With 13 weeks left, some teams look to be more playoff-worthy than others.

With the new playoff format, it allows for another team to join in. The AFC and NFC both get that extra team, adding more excitement to playoff football.

It is argued that the NFC has three strong divisions and then the NFC East. The first-place Eagles in the NFC East currently have a record of 1-2-1. The extra team’s addition does allow a team not to get robbed due to the NFC East’s lack of talent.

*All stats from pro-football-reference.com*

1st Seed – Seattle Seahawks (13-3)

The Seahawks are appearing to be the current front runners with an NFC leading 4-0 record. Russell Wilson is looking better than ever. Currently, he is averaging 321.3 yards per game and four touchdowns per game. His trust in his main three targets (DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and David Moore) has increased. Also, his reliability with the run game helps him out whenever he needs it.

On the defensive side of the ball, their defense has let up 27.25 points per game. They may not be looking as good, but the offense is always there to bail them out. As the season goes on, they will be able to adjust and work more as a unit.

The Seahawks are looking like the team to beat right now in the NFC, but it doesn’t look like many teams can stop them with their upcoming schedule. If they carry the momentum they have right now, there is no doubt they secure the number one seed into the later parts of the season.

2nd Seed – Green Bay Packers (12-4)

The Green Bay Packers always rely on one man, Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is currently playing out of his mind and doesn’t care what father time has to say. His 303.5 yards per game may be impressive, but that’s forgetting the fact that star receiver Davante Adams only played in two of those games. The other Aaron on offense, Aaron Jones, continues to prove that he is one of the top running backs in the NFL. His elusiveness as a running back and ability to get yards after the catch helps the offense out so much. Not to forget their offensive line, which has only allowed three sacks this year.

Like the Seahawks, their defense has been bailed out a couple of times by stellar play on the offensive side of the ball. Despite the number of points they’ve given up, they’ve picked off two passes and forced three fumbles.

A strong Green Bay team, who doesn’t have the most difficult opponents, the rest of the season should glide into the playoffs. If Rodgers stays healthy, they will have a spot locked early on.

3rd Seed – New Orleans Saints (11-5)

The Saints are off to a rocky start, but also haven’t played the most manageable teams. The Green Bay Packers and Las Vegas Raiders, who both look to have a run at the playoffs, beat the Saints, both by 10 points or less. An early loss of Michael Thomas has taken a toll on their offense. Despite losing Thomas, Alvin Kamara made sure there isn’t a hole left behind. He leads the team in rushing yards and receiving yards this season, the ultimate dual-threat. Once Thomas is back, Brees will have his primary target, which hugely changes the Saints offense.

The Saints’ defense, like the Packers and Seahawks, is where their team struggles. They’ve allowed over 20 points in every game this season, even 29 points to the 1-3 Detroit Lions. Their defense needs to hold opponents to stops, giving the offense momentum to go out and dominate.

An NFC South this year loaded with Brady, and Brees looks to be a fun one.

4th Seed – Dallas Cowboys (7-9)

The NFC East division winner, Dallas Cowboys, only finish with a 7-9 record. Indeed, the fifth seed team they face in the playoffs is salivating at the chance to play the Cowboys. It may be easier to move on in the playoffs as a 5th seed, playing the Cowboys than a 3rd seed playing the Rams or Buccaneers.

The offense is not the problem; it’s the defense. Dak continues to feed Zeke and has put up 400+ passing yards in his last three games. The Cowboys defense is what is holding them back—they letup 49 points to Baker Mayfield’s Browns, which can’t happen. The league is becoming more offense-based, and defenses aren’t shutting teams out like they used to. Three games where they allow over 30 points won’t give them a winning record.

The Cowboys are very fortunate the Falcons chose not to dive on the ball, and got a win that’ll help them out later on. What will be a painful NFC East race to watch ultimately comes down to whose defense can perform better.

5th Seed – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)

The Buccaneers, led by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, are looking good going into the rest of the season. They don’t have the most challenging schedule and have plenty of games left that they can win. Brady’s loaded offense, including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette, and Rob Gronkowski, hasn’t disappointed.

On the other side of the ball, a slept on Buccaneers defense has impressed the league. A total of eight fumbles recovered and passes picked off puts them tied for second in the league for most turnovers. The defense has allowed the offense to get back on the field quickly, make games two-score games, or put the game out of reach.

The Buccaneers may not end up as the division winners, but the opportunity to play the Cowboys in Dallas is pretty lucky. Brady and Gronk both have some of the best knowledge of playoff football in the league and can help out the younger guys. A team that may excite a little bit in the regular season will excite a lot more in the playoffs.

6th Seed – Los Angeles Rams (10-6)

The Rams may not be the same team that went to the Super Bowl in 2019, but they have similar team players. An offense which continues to dominate at the helm of former number one pick Jared Goff isn’t letting up easily. After the first few games, they have found their running back in Darrell Henderson Jr after Cam Akers seemed to be the guy. The passing attack with Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Tyler Higbee shouldn’t be slept on.

The All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald leads this Rams defense to shut down any offense that comes their way. With Donald rushing the QB and Jalen Ramsey covering their WR1, there isn’t much weakness for opponents to get at.

A Rams team who knows what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl may surprise their opponents. Look for them to make a run deep in the playoffs and do what the Titans did last year.

7th Seed – Arizona Cardinals (9-7)

An underdog Cardinals team is going to be one of the surprising teams that make the playoffs. Kyler Murray’s new weapon, DeAndre Hopkins, is already showing off his talents in his new uniform. A team that can be so great does face a rougher part of their schedule later on. Though, they do have the knack to win some of the deciding games leading up to the playoffs. On the offensive side of the ball, Murray needs to use all of his options. He does have Hopkins and Kenyan Drake but also has Christian Kirk, another guy with potential. Distributing the ball to all his receivers will make Murray so much more dominant in the season.

The Cardinals defense hasn’t put up the most significant numbers but has shown that they can win games through their offense. If the offense can continue what they’re doing and the defense picks it up a little bit, the seven seed is likely for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals’ addition gives the NFC West three teams in the playoffs, more than any other in the NFC.

In the NFL, the five, six, seven seeds aren’t any less competitive than the two, three four seeds. An upset is highly likely to happen.

A competitive final 13 weeks will offer a close playoff race between all 16 NFL teams.

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