NFL Predictions: Projecting How the NFC Playoffs Will Play out

Scott SewellCorrespondent IOctober 24, 2011

NFL Predictions: Projecting How the NFC Playoffs Will Play out

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    Last week I wrote this article detailing the playoff hopes for each AFC team. Saying people disagreed with my projections would be an understatement. "The Raiders will not lose to the Chiefs!" was a familiar refrain.

    Well, I'm 4-0 after Sunday's games and thought—given my NostraScottus like powers—that I'd let the NFC fans know what to expect as well.

    As, likened to that article, we're also going to need to make some basic assumptions first:

    1. Green Bay will win the NFC North
    2. New Orleans will win the NFC South
    3. San Francisco will win the NFC West
    4. Washington will not make the playoffs
    5. Minnesota will not make the playoffs
    6. Carolina will not make the playoffs
    7. Seattle will not make the playoffs
    8. Arizona will not make the playoffs
    9. St. Louis will not make the playoffs

    That leaves seven teams competing for three spots and that makes it even more congested than the AFC picture.

    Those seven teams are:

    New York Giants (4-2)
    Dallas Cowboys (3-3)
    Philadelphia Eagles (2-4
    Detroit Lions (5-2)
    Chicago Bears (4-3)
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3)
    Atlanta Falcons (4-3)

    Let's look at the remaining schedules and do some projections for each team.

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New York Giants

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    The New York Giants are currently 4-2

    Remaining Schedule with Predictions

    vs Miami (WIN) 5-2
    @ New England (LOSS) 5-3
    @ San Francisco (WIN) 6-3
    vs Philadelphia (LOSS) 6-4
    @ New Orleans (LOSS) 6-5
    vs Green Bay (LOSS) 6-6
    @Dallas (WIN) 7-6
    vs Washington (WIN) 8-6
    @ New York Jets (LOSS) (8-7)
    vs Dallas (WIN) (9-7) 

    Predicted Record

    9-7

    Key Swing Games

    vs Philadelphia, vs Green Bay

    Analysis

    The Giants are a solid team, but they aren't great at any facet of the game. Their running game is mediocre, their passing game is slightly above average and their defense is average or slightly above. I think they will beat the teams they are supposed to, but then lose to the teams they are supposed to.

    If they can upset Philadelphia or Green Bay at home, then the G-men could position themselves for a possible playoff berth.

Dallas Cowboys

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    The Cowboys are currently 3-3

    Remaining Schedule with Predictions

    @Philadelphia (LOSS) 3-4
    vs Seattle (WIN) 4-4
    vs Buffalo (WIN) 5-4
    @ Washington (WIN) 6-4
    vs Miami (WIN) 7-4
    @ Arizona (LOSS) 7-5
    vs NY Giants (LOSS) 7-6
    @ Tampa Bay (LOSS) 7-7
    vs Philadelphia (LOSS) 7-8
    @ NY Giants (LOSS) 7-9

    Predicted Record

    7-9

    Key Swing Games

    NY Giants x2, Philadelphia

    Analysis

    The NFC East is filled with so many teams that are good on paper, but just aren't playing that well right now.  The Cowboys had a big win against a weak St. Louis team Sunday and I expect that momentum to continue until the back end of their schedule.

    I think the trip out to Arizona is going to start a downward spiral that won't end until 2012.

    If the Cowboys can split the Giants series and upset Philadelphia, then they could get back in the discussion. However, I don't see it happening.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Eagles are currently 2-4

    Remaining Schedule with Predictions

    vs Dallas (WIN) 3-4
    vs Chicago (WIN) 4-4
    vs Arizona (WIN) 5-4
    @ New York Giants (WIN) 6-4
    vs New England (LOSS) 6-5
    @ Seattle (WIN) 7-5
    @ Miami (WIN) 8-5
    vs New York Jets (WIN) 9-5
    @ Dallas (WIN) 10-5
    vs Washington (WIN) 11-5

    Predicted Record

    11-5

    Swing Games

    vs Chicago, vs Dallas, vs NY Jets, @ Dallas

    Analysis

    The Eagles' schedule offers plenty of chances for them to falter and eventually fall to a 7-9 or 8-8 record. However, I think we're going to see the same thing that we saw with the Miami Heat super team in the NBA, who stumbled out of the gate but eventually made it to the NBA Finals.

    I'm expecting the Eagles to rebound from their early struggles and begin dominating teams the way we expected them to before the season started.

    You could really list every game on their schedule as a swing game, but the Chicago and Dallas games are especially important since those losses will give wins to teams potentially competing for a playoff spot.

Detroit Lions

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    The Lions' record is currently 5-2

    Remaining Schedule with Predictions

    @ Denver (WIN) 6-2
    @ Chicago (LOSS) 6-3
    vs Carolina (WIN) 7-3
    vs Green Bay (LOSS) 7-4
    @ New Orleans (LOSS) 7-5
    vs Minnesota (WIN) 8-5
    @ Oakland (LOSS) 8-6
    vs San Diego (LOSS) 8-7
    @ Green Bay (LOSS) 8-8

    Predicted Record

    8-8

    Key Swing Games

    @ Chicago, @ New Orleans

    Analysis

    The Lions have been the talk of the NFL with their amazing start to the season. Unfortunatley, I suspect they'll be the talk of the NFL for an entirely different reason by the end of the season.

    Jim Schwartz's bunch have a very difficult schedule the rest of the way and they'll struggle to win games after they beat Minnesota at home.

    Beating Chicago could potentially swing the sixth spot to their advantage, but I suspect the Bears will take care of business at home.

Chicago Bears

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    The Bears are currently 4-3

    Remaining Schedule with Predictions

    @ Philadelphia (LOSS) 4-4
    vs Detroit (WIN) 5-4 
    vs San Diego (LOSS) 5-5
    @ Oakland (WIN) 6-5
    vs Kansas City (WIN) 7-5
    @ Denver (WIN) 8-5
    vs Seattle (WIN) 9-5
    @ Green Bay (LOSS) 9-6
    @ Minnesota (WIN) 10-6

    Predicted Record

    10-6

    Key Swing Games

    vs San Diego, @Philadelphia

    Analysis

    The Bears are lucky to be getting the AFC West on their schedule this year. I have them beating all of those teams except San Diego. While they have some tough divisional games, their early season success has them in good position to take a few losses, but still come out with sixth seed. 

    Their win against the Falcons in Week 1 will give the Bears the edge if both teams have the same record, as projected.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Buccaneers are currently 4-3

    @ New Orleans (LOSS) 4-4
    vs Houston (LOSS) 4-5
    @ Green Bay (LOSS) 4-6
    @ Tennessee (WIN) 5-6
    vs Carolina (WIN) 6-6
    @ Jacksonville (WIN) 7-6
    vs Dallas (WIN) 8-6
    @ Carolina (LOSS) 8-7
    @ Atlanta (LOSS) 8-8

    Predicted Record

    8-8

    Swing Games

    @ Carolina, @ Atlanta, vs Dallas

    Analysis

    The Bucs might be the worst team on this list, and the rest of their schedule includes some tough opponents sandwiched in between a few easy games against Tennessee, Carolina (at home) and Jacksonville.

    I don't think they are good enough to make the playoffs in what is shaping up to be a very top-heavy NFC. Furthermore, I wouldn't be surprised if they finished with as few as six wins and would be surprised if they had more than nine wins.

Atlanta Falcons

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    The Falcons are currently 4-3

    Remaining Schedule with Predictions

    @ Indianapolis (WIN) 5-3
    vs New Orleans (LOSS) 5-4
    vs Tennessee (WIN) 6-4
    vs Minnesota (WIN) 7-4
    @ Houston (LOSS) 7-5
    @ Carolina (WIN) 8-5
    vs Jacksonville (WIN) 9-5
    @ New Orleans (LOSS) 9-6
    vs Tampa Bay (WIN) 10-6

    Predicted Record

    10-6

    Swing Games

    @ Houston, vs New Orleans, vs Tampa Bay

    Analysis

    The Falcons really just need one win against the Saints and I think they cement a playoff spot for themselves. The Saints are firing on all cylinders and their two contests should be slugfests.  Right now, I see the Falcons falling short of that feat, but still grabbing the number six seed.

    That Tampa Bay game in Week 17 could become very important if the Falcons lose to a team like Minnesota or Jacksonville.

2011 NFC Playoff Brackett

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    1. Green Bay (bye)
    2. New Orleans (bye)

    4.San Francisco
    5.Atlanta

    3. Philadelphia
    6. Chicago

    Analysis

    I'd love to see Atlanta drop into sixth spot somehow so that we could get a Vick vs. Atlanta first-round battle. I also think Chicago and San Francisco would be an amazing game to watch, so let's hope those two somehow reverse.

    My favorite possible second round matchup is New Orleans vs Atlanta. Two division rivals, with explosive offenses, battling for a chance to go to the NFC Championship would be exciting to watch.