The National Football Conference is much more balanced than it’s’ counterpart the AFC. There are certainly favorites at the top but I think you’ll see more teams involved in the final push for the playoffs in the NFC as the top teams take aim at each other. Check out a few predictions for the second half of the season.
NFC EAST – Trying to figure out who will emerge from this division may be like trying to solve the great mysteries of the world. Dallas sits atop at 4-4 but can’t get out of their own way when it comes to getting wins in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys have blown leads in their last two games. Philadelphia is 3-5 but has a revolving door at quarterback due to injuries. If Nick Foles can stay healthy, don’t count them out.
The Redskins and Giants are 2-5 and 2-6 respectively. I look for the G-Men to actually finish ahead of Washington because New York is playing defense again and that is something that the ‘Skins are sorely lacking. Look for either Dallas or Philly to emerge but this is clearly a one-playoff team division.
NFC NORTH – This division could and should go right down to the wire. We can go ahead and put a fork in Minnesota because at 1-6 they are going nowhere especially with an unsettled QB situation. That leaves Green Bay (5-2), Detroit (5-3) and Chicago (4-3). All three of these teams will tangle with each other down the stretch.
The question is who emerges? I have to go with the Packers because they have the best balance on offense and defensively, they’ll get Clay Matthews back as well. The Lions rely too much on their front seven defensively and on the arm of Matthew Stafford on offense. Chicago will push but I don’t see them lasting long with issues on defense and a less than 100% Jay Cutler. Look for Green Bay to take the division and the Lions to grab a wild-card.
NFC SOUTH – The Saints have a firm grasp on the division as of right now but there are challenges ahead. The only competition New Orleans faces is from Carolina who is two games back. Atlanta and Tampa Bay are already looking ahead to 2014. The Panthers and Saints will hook twice in a three week span in December. I look for those two games to decide who wins the division.
November offers a tough stretch for New Orleans as they’ll travel to Seattle and host San Francisco. The December slate has the two games with Carolina but also dates with St. Louis and Tampa Bay. For Carolina, they have San Francisco and New England the next two weeks but then the schedule gets easier save for the two dates with the Saints.
I like New Orleans to win the South but I’m not totally sold on the Panthers making the playoffs. Their wins have come against some of the weaker teams in the league and I’m just not convinced they’ll hang with the big boys.
NFC WEST – The West is likely to come down to a matter of three dates remaining on the schedule. On December eighth, the Seahawks (7-1) will travel to San Francisco (6-2) to play the Niners. Seattle already defeated San Francisco back in week two. There are two other dates that may come into play however and those are the final two of the season.
Arizona (4-4) plays week 16 at Seattle and then hosts San Francisco in week 17. The division title could very well be settled by then especially if Seattle wins at San Francisco but I have a feeling the Cardinals are not going to go quietly.
My gut feeling tells me that the 49ers and Seahawks will tie for the division title with one obviously taking the wild-card. Arizona will threaten but will fall just short of a playoff spot.