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The NFC has been wide open in terms of the postseason play, with five different representatives in the Super Bowl in each of the last five seasons. In 2018, we saw Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers miss the postseason for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins spent first-round picks on quarterbacks in the 2019 NFL Draft.
After naming three franchises that could either sneak in or fall out of the postseason race in 2019 for the AFC, it seems fitting that we do the same for the NFC.
Make: Green Bay Packers (6-9-1)
After missing the postseason in each of the last two seasons, the Green Bay Packers replaced head coach Mike McCarthy with Matt LaFleur. Although QB Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the business, his 25 TD in 2018 was a career-low among qualified seasons.
Still, the front office addressed most of their needs on the defensive side of the ball through free agency and the NFL Draft. In fact, the Packers added names such as EDGE Za’Darius Smith and S Adrian Amos in free agency, and selected both DE Rashan Gary and DB Darnell Savage in the first round of the draft.
If Rodgers plays a full season, it’s hard to count out Green Bay. The Chicago Bears have the superior defense, but Rodgers is 16-5 with a 105.9 QBR against them. With a bit of luck and execution, the Packers will be competing for the NFC North title in 2019.
Miss: Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
Clinching a Wild Card spot in 2018, the Philadelphia Eagles won in Chicago but proceeded to fall to the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional round. With Carson Wentz missing time for the second consecutive season, the Eagles no longer can rely on Nick Foles as their backup solution.
In free agency, Philadelphia lost key pieces in WR Golden Tate and LB Jordan Hicks, only proving vulnerability for the 2017 NFC East Champions. Instead of focusing on their secondary, which ranked 30th in passing yards allowed per game last season, the front office elected not to spend a single draft pick on a defensive back.
With a weaker team in comparison to the year prior, the Eagles are in a position to decline. Unless Wentz returns to his 2017 self (the healthy version), then Philadelphia may foresee a rocky path in 2019.
Make: Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
Say what you want about QB Matt Ryan, but he can play. In 2018, Ryan ranked within the top 10 when it came to passing yards (3rd), TD (T3), INT (T5), and QBR (9th). With a healthy RB Devonta Freeman, the Falcons could pose a bigger threat than most perceive.
Atlanta also managed to bulk up their offensive line via free agency, adding both G Jamon Brown and G James Carpenter. Through the draft, the front office continued to focus on the offensive front, drafting both OL Chris Lindstrom and OT Kaleb McGary in the first round.
A sturdy offensive line is a key factor of success in today’s game, and the Atlanta Falcons are vastly underrated at this point. Although the New Orleans Saints are the heavy favorites in the NFC South, the Falcons are a strong contender for the Wild Card.
Miss: Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
Although QB Dak Prescott has a starting record of 32-16 in the regular season, the Dallas Cowboys have been a circus throughout the offseason. With looming contracts among their top players on both sides of the ball, it’s easy to see why this could become a barrier.
Both free agency and the NFL Draft were relatively quiet for Dallas, with the largest addition being the return of TE Jason Witten. Even then, the Cowboys play five different 2018 postseason teams in the 2019 campaign.
The division will either be handed to the Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys in 2019, leaving the lesser team to fight for a Wild Card spot. In a conference where the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, and Carolina Panthers missing the postseason in 2018, it’s realistic to predict for Dallas to miss out in 2019 if they don’t win the NFC East.
Make: Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1)
This may be a stretch, considering QB Kirk Cousins has been less than stellar at this point in his career, but the Minnesota Vikings have a chance to slide into the postseason in 2019. Although it was a quiet offseason, retaining LB Anthony Barr was a huge relief.
With a tougher schedule on the horizon (ranked 9th based on 2018 winning percentages), this could be viewed as an opportunity for the Vikings to knock off the more elite franchises around the league.
The most overlooked aspect in Minnesota happens to be their defense, which ranked 9th in points allowed, 4th in yards allowed, and 3rd against the pass last season. If they can hold their own, and Dalvin Cook can prove to be a lead back, the Vikings are an interesting team to pay attention to this season.
Miss: Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
Even with Russell Wilson’s contract situation resolved, the Seattle Seahawks may be in hot water this season. Based on their losses alone, the roster lost one of their top receivers in Doug Baldwin, as well as leaders on the defensive side of the ball in S Kam Chancellor and S Earl Thomas.
Although this was an offense ranked #1 in the run game, it’s unreasonable to expect for RB Chris Carson to produce another 1,100+ yards and 9 TD. In addition, remember that RB Mike Davis is now a member of the Chicago Bears after producing 514 rushing yards and 4 TD in 2018 for Seattle.
Wilson has the ability to be successful, even with virtually no offensive line or supporting cast, but the NFC competition is at an all-time high. Without a division title in 2019, it’s a toss-up in regards to whether they sneak their way into the Wild Card.
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