• Dylan Fadden

Pretenders and Contenders: NFC Edition

While there are 14 playoff teams, only a handful prove to be good enough to compete for a Super Bowl. As we head into Week 17, I decipher between teams that will legitimately have a chance at hoisting the Lombardi and teams that are simply posing as such. Week 17 also has plenty of implications for teams hoping to make the playoffs, seeding/matchups, and home-field advantage in the NFC.

NFC Pretenders:

10. Dallas Cowboys

  • Record: 6-9

  • Week 17 Matchup @ Giants

  • Clinches NFC East title with: WIN + Washington LOSS

I know this may come as a shock to some people, but yesthe Cowboys can still make the playoffs. Despite the many injuries, including the loss of QB Dak Prescott for the season, they have managed to quietly put themselves in a position to win the NFC East title in Week 17. Sadly, I'm afraid whoever is representing this division will likely face the fate of a first-round exit; the Cowboys, especially, are no real threat to sending another team home.

9. New York Giants

  • Record: 5-10

  • Week 17 Matchup vs Cowboys

  • Clinches NFC East title with: WIN + Washington LOSS

Another potential NFC East title winnerthe New York Giants. Much like the Cowboys, if they manage to sneak into the playoffs, they prove to be no real threat. Even with their much improved, stingy defense, they just don't have enough firepower on offense to seriously compete with the top seeds. With the loss of RB Saquon Barkley early in the year, the Giants' offense has struggled and will prove to be their downfall.

8. Washington Football Team

  • Record: 6-9

  • Week 17 Matchup @ Eagles

  • Clinches NFC East title with: WIN

As the current NFC East leader, the Washington Football Team could surprise some people come playoff time. With the three-some of experienced Head Coach Ron Rivera, veteran QB Alex Smith, and one of the best front sevens in all of football, Washington has the making to provide a first-round upset. They're another team with a lot of promise, but I wouldn't expect much more than a potential upset—they're another team that is a year or two too early.

7. Arizona Cardinals

  • Record: 8-7

  • Week 17 Matchup: @ Rams

  • Clinches playoff berth with: WIN

The Cardinals are an incredibly young team that has a bright future. With Kingsbury and Kyler Murray as the face of this team for the foreseeable future, you can only be left to assume they will be a frequent playoff team in the coming years. However, that will not be the case this year. The Cardinals are just a couple of years away from seriously being dangerous; they just aren't quite there yet. If they end up making the playoffs, don't expect them to make much noise.

6. Chicago Bears

  • Record: 8-7

  • Week 17 Matchup:

  • Clinches playoff berth with: WIN OR Cardinals LOSS

The Bears' season can best be defined as a rollercoaster. After a 5-1 start, the Bears followed it up by losing six straight and then managed to rattle off three consecutive victories with a chance to make the playoffs. While their offense has been hot, their defense has been as cold as an icebox. If the Bears want to make any noise in the playoffs, they will have to start playing much better on the defensive side of the ball and will have to hope their offense continues to perform against top-tier defenses. If they can do this, they may be able to stun a few opponents or at least make it out of the opening round; however, this doesn't seem likely.

5. Los Angeles Rams

  • Record: 9-6

  • Week 17 Matchup: vs Cardinals

  • Clinches playoff berth with: WIN OR Bears LOSS