There are still 10 teams mathematically alive in the NFC playoff race. If the season ended today, the Green Bay Packers would not make the playoffs. But that does not stop me from putting them No. 3 in my latest NFC power rankings.
Here’s how the playoff picture looks at the moment:
1. Atlanta Falcons (10-2)
2. Chicago Bears (9-3)
3. Philadelphia Eagles (8-4)
4. St. Louis Rams (6-6)
5. New Orleans Saints (9-3)
6. New York Giants (8-4)
7. Green Bay Packers (8-4)
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
9. Seattle Seahawks (6-6)
10. Minnesota Vikings (5-7)
Here’s how I would rank the remaining playoff eligible teams in the NFC.
1. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are kind of the anti-Packers. They’ve trailed or have been tied in the fourth quarter six times this season, and they’ve won every game. The Falcons are good because they win those close games.
However, I had to force myself to put the Falcons in the top spot. The Falcons deserve to be No. 1, but if you gave me a choice of playing the Eagles or the Falcons right now, I’m not sure who I would choose.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
LeSean McCoy is turning into the second coming of Brian Westbrook. McCoy has 1,357 yards from scrimmage, including over 120 in each of the last two games. You would think McCoy will see his role expand in the final month as Michael Vick continues to take hits and battle nagging injuries.
The Eagles are never out of a game. They are capable of exploding for three touchdowns in 10 minutes at any given time. That’s why they scare me and that’s why I considered putting them over the Falcons.
3. Green Bay Packers
Ask yourself: If Aaron Rodgers continues playing like he is (11 touchdowns, no interceptions in his last five games) is there a team in the NFL that is clearly better than the Packers? I don’t think so.
4. New Orleans Saints
The Saints are 9-3 and have won five straight, but I get the sense they haven’t played their best football yet. Running back Pierre Thomas should return soon to bolster a running game that has held up surprisingly well despite injuries. And Drew Brees is quietly having another great season.
The Saints have been squandering big leads, and if the Packers end up playing them, it could look a lot like the Arizona game last season.
5. Chicago Bears
Even though the Bears are 9-3, there are a lot of people that still don’t think they’re that good. I think they are good, but not 9-3 good. They should have lost twice to the Lions for crying out loud!
They have beaten two of the teams ranked in front of them, but I don’t care. They are fifth in my rankings, and they should be happy they are that high.
(And they need to fix their field. Seriously. If you can’t maintain a decent field, then you should have to play all of your games on the road.)
6. New York Giants
Is it time for another December collapse from the Giants? I’ve always thought Eli Manning’s arm was a bit too noodly to win late-season games outside where wind plays a factor. The Giants final three games are outside in stadiums where the cold winds of December have been known to blow.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are kind of a poor man’s version of the Packers. They have a promising young quarterback, but can’t pull out wins in close games against good teams. Their overall talent level is nowhere near the Packers, but it might be in a couple years if they continue to develop.
(However, firing cannons after first downs has to stop. Cannons, and any sort of weapon for that matter, should only be fired after a touchdown.)
8. St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford only has four games with a quarterback rating under 80 (one of those games was a 78.1). He’s a good one, and playing the Rams in the first round of the playoffs will not be a pushover win.
9. Minnesota Vikings
Get those old Favre jerseys out of storage, dip them in some purple paint and learn how to cheer for No. 4 again. Favre can do the Packers a couple more favors before he retreats to Mississippi to ponder playing again next season.
The Vikings play the Giants, Bears and Eagles the next three games. The Packers need the Vikings to sweep all three. After that, Favre can get a proper sendoff by losing to the Lions in the season finale.
10. Seattle Seahawks
I don’t think I could name three players on the Seahawks. They need to go away.