With 15 weeks of NFL games on the books, the image of the 2021 NFL playoffs is really starting to take shape. And the NFC, in particular, hosts a circus of a wild card race, with at least eight teams competing for three playoff spots. With the kick off of week 16, which teams look the most formidable in the race? We take stock of the entire pool of them.
Find the current leaders of the NFC division below, along with our rankings of current wild card contenders:
Current leaders of the NFC division
These can obviously change by the end of the season, but for now these favorites are stuck:
- Packers (11-3)
- cowboys (10-4)
- Buccaneers (10-4)
- Cardinals (10-4)
NFC Wildcard Candidates, Ranked
This is how we would sort the candidates, but just keep in mind Three of them can actually make the playoffs:
1. Rams (10-4)
Remaining time: at Vikings, at Ravens, against 49ers
The Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection is bordering on unstoppable when the offense clicks. And now Aaron Donald and Von Miller could work in tandem? Their talent alone should scare off potential playoff opponents.
Remaining time: to the Titans, to the Texans, to the Rams
Any team that knows how to handle the ball consistently deserves a serious look this time of year, and Kyle Shanahan got the job done with anyone and everyone in his backfield. Nick Bosa also remains an extraordinary force.
3. Vikings (7-7)
Remaining time: against Rams, at Packers, against Bears
They have a tough job facing the Rams and Packers in back-to-back games ahead, but as long as Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson are healthy, they stand a chance. Their “D” really flashed (albeit against the Bears) in Week 15 as well.
4. Eagles (7-7)
Remaining time: against the Giants, in Washington, against the Cowboys
Their passing game has limits, but Nick Sirianni has wisely engineered his staff, and few teams handle the ball with a better combination of speed and power when they’re on time. They showed real resilience in a key division game on Tuesday.
5. Saints (7-7)
Remaining time: against dolphins, against panthers, against hawks
They don’t beat anybody in the playoffs with Taysom Hill pitching like he’s been doing lately, but man, Dennis Allen’s defense is fiery. Let them face the Bucs three more times, and we would bet on their entry.
6. Falcons (6-8)
Remaining time: against the Lions, at Bills, against the Saints
It’s not a playoff team. But if they actually clean up the red zone run and start feeding Cordarrelle Patterson again, they have a way to ruin someone else’s stretch run.
7. Washington (6-8)
Remaining time: at the Cowboys, against the Eagles, at the Giants
They’re not really giving up under Ron Rivera, and they’ve kept things close to the Eagles despite a rash of COVID-related holes, but the lineup is still far too ravaged by depth issues to make up for lost ground.
Not good enough
These teams aren’t technically out of the pack, but they have a terribly difficult climb like the playoffs:
- Seahawks (5-9): Russell Wilson is still not quite right, as evidenced by his score of 10 points on Tuesday.
- Panthers (5-9): They’ve gone 0-4 since Cam Newton came back, and their passing game hasn’t improved at all.
- giants (4-10): We are now at the point where Jake Fromm can start on Mike Glennon in QB. That says it all.
- Bear (4-10): Matt Nagy should be thankful for his defense, that’s the only reason they kept him close to Week 15.
Just what he says. These guys are already looking towards 2022:
- the Lions (2-11-1): Officially eliminated, but they could play spoiler like they did against the Cardinals.
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