Now that the calendar has changed to the month of January, the NFL playoffs are about to begin. The NFC bracket looks much deeper than their AFC counterpart.
It would not be overly surprising to see any of the six teams reach the big game. A few teams are more unlikely than others, but still have reasons to believe they can run the table.
Here are the power rankings for the NFC playoffs with the percent chance they win the conference and play in the Super Bowl at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Feb. 4.
#1 Minnesota Vikings (26 percent)
The Vikings would play four of the other five teams at home, which is a huge advantage for them alone, but also have beaten three of them. The only loss the Vikings suffered to one of the other NFC playoff teams was on the road in kind of a weird game that everything went against them. The Vikings have had a lot of things go right. They have been relatively healthy, but the injuries they have accrued haven’t unraveled the team. The “next man or men up” have kept everything rolling. They haven’t been to the game since Super Bowl XI in 1977. Things are looking right for them to snap that drought and have the opportunity to snap an 0-4 record in the big game.
#2 New Orleans Saints (23)
They have the best and most decorated quarterback in the NFC playoffs. Drew Brees has won a Super Bowl and has not had to carry the team this season. They needed him to throw for 400 yards every game just to have a chance to win it. Now, the defense is improved and the running back tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are matchup nightmares. Despite being the fourth seed, their path looks easier than the other four wild card weekend teams. The likely path is to the Super Bowl is to beat the Carolina Panthers at home, the Philadelphia Eagles on the road and the Vikings in the controlled environment of US Bank Stadium.
#3 Los Angeles Rams (20)
Sean McVay led one of the most surprising and biggest turnarounds in the NFL this season. He has done wonders with an offense that returned its two most important pieces, quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley. Gurley showed his superstar ability before McVay was hired, but, both he and Goff, really struggled under the previous coaching staff. Most of the Rams have little to no playoff experience, including the majority of the starters. The Rams have the highest scoring offense, but their defense allowed the fourth most points among the 12 playoff teams. No other NFC playoff team allowed more points per game than the Rams.
#4 Philadelphia Eagles (14)
The Eagles have home field advantage, but things have not been smooth over the last four weeks. While defeating the Rams in Los Angeles in Week 14, the Eagles may have lost their season. Starting quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz suffered a torn ACL. In the three games with Nick Foles starting at quarterback, the Eagles have struggled to get into an offensive groove. They had to eke out victories over non-playoff bound New York Giants and Oakland Raiders before losing to the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles only have to win two games, both of which would be at home, to reach the Super Bowl. Despite the struggling offense, they have the defense to get those wins.
#5 Atlanta Falcons (9)
The Falcons didn’t clinch their spot in the playoffs until after Week 17. The Falcons didn’t make many changes from the core of their team that was really close to winning the Super Bowl last season. They have the personnel, but things haven’t been quite right. The one biggest difference is the offensive coordinator. Kyle Shanahan left to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Steve Sarkisian was an offensive assistant for the University of Alabama last season. He was the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator for one game before joining the Falcons staff. The Falcons offense hasn’t quite gotten sync like they were last season. They seem to be a bit off and will have to win three games on the road to reach the Super Bowl.
#6 Carolina Panthers (8)
The Panthers are successful with defense and grinding it out on offense. However, neither are at a level that can cover up their deficiencies. Quarterback Cam Newton is a good runner, but not a good passer. His receivers are slightly above average at best. On the defensive side, their front seven is among the top five in the league, but the secondary is not good. The Panthers are still talented enough to make a run and win the conference, they won 11 games for a reason, but it is a long shot. Their likely path would have to go through the Saints, Eagles and Vikings or Rams, all on the road.
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