Best and Worst Case Scenarios of Every NFC Playoff Team

Nick SouthCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 27:  Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints rolls out during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on December 27, 2009 at Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The NFL's second season is about to begin, and the playoff picture could be described as muddled at best.

The No.1 seeds are a combined 1-5 over the last three weeks of the season.

The Patriots and Cardinals suffered injuries to key players in the final weeks.

The Jets and Cowboys, who looked like they were falling apart in early December, are suddenly hot topics.

Which teams can win the Super Bowl? Which ones are destined to be one and done? Let's take a look at each team and their best and worst case scenarios heading into the postseason.

This is Part One, looking at the NFC.

No. 6 seed: Philadelphia Eagles

Before their meltdown against the Cowboys in the season finale, the Eagles had won six straight games and looked to be one of the league's better teams. That makes their Dallas debacle even stranger.

There's no doubt the Eagles are one of those teams that can get hot on offense. Donovan McNabb has a wealth of talent to distribute the ball to, and while their defense isn't as formidable as it usually is, it's still a solid unit.

Worst Case Scenario: The third time isn't the charm as the Cowboys continue to flummox the Eagles. McNabb and company leave Dallas with more questions than answers as the Cowboys repeat last week's blowout win.

Best Case Scenario: The Eagles repeat last year's run to the NFC Championship, ruining Dallas' resurgence and upsetting the falling Saints before finally losing to the Vikings. Team rides the postseason wave and becomes the divisional favorites next season.

No. 5 seed: Green Bay Packers

The Packers have lost only once since November 8, and that was on a last second play against the Steelers. In any other year, Aaron Rodgers would be an MVP candidate. His TD to INT ratio is over 4:1, better than any Favre-led Packer team.

On defense, the Packers have allowed no more than 14 points in five of the last six games. Charles Woodson may be having his best year after snatching a career high nine interceptions.

Worst Case Scenario: Rodgers and Kurt Warner stage an epic shootout with Warner getting the last drive and the win. The Packers go home too early.

Best Case Scenario: Both the Packers and Eagles earn upsets in the first round. The Packers travel to Minnesota and win one for Packer Nation. The upstarts fall in the NFC Championship game to New Orleans, but ride the postseason run to contender status in 2010.

No.4 seed: Arizona Cardinals

Haven't we seen this movie before? Just like the 2008 Cardinals, the 2009 version goes into the post season with more questions than answers.

They've been blown out by San Francisco and Green Bay. They had an impressive win over Minnesota. Arizona has looked brilliant and bad all in the last month of the season.

Which team will show up in the playoffs? No one knows, probably not even the Cardinals.

Worst Case Scenario: Warner comes out absolutely flat. The defense has no answer for Rodgers and the Packers. Last year's Cinderella goes out with merely a whimper this year in a disappointing blowout in front of the home crowd.

Best Case Scenario: Cinderella gets to wear her glass slipper. After disposing of the Packers, the Cardinals' offense outshines New Orleans and Minnesota on the way to a second consecutive Super Bowl. They luckily avoid the Colts, the one team that matches up with the Cardinals very well offensively, and instead face the Chargers. The Cardinals finish the game and Warner retires a Super Bowl champion.

No. 3 seed: Dallas Cowboys

Three straight wins to end the season may not be an overly impressive streak, but the Cowboys are still one of the hottest teams at the start of the playoffs. Why? Because of the statement win they had against the Saints three weeks ago.

Sure, the Saints have since faced many issues, but at the time the Saints were the measuring stick to see what type of team the Cowboys had. Since that game, the Cowboys have yet to allow a point after dismantling divisional foes Washington and Philadelphia. 

The Cowboys have always had talent on both sides of the ball, but now they seem to finally be playing like it.

Worst Case Scenario: Tony Romo struggles to get on track as the playoff savvy Eagles stage an upset. Wade Phillips is fired the next day and Cowboy fans are left to wonder if this team will ever live up to expectations.

Best Case Scenario: The Cowboys drill the Eagles and then pressure Brett Favre into throwing away the divisional round game. Jerry Jones gets to host the NFC Championship game, and the Cowboys beat the Cardinals before a record-setting crowd. At the Super Bowl, America's Team regains its crown, beating the Colts for the title.

No. 2 seed: Minnesota Vikings

There's nothing like playing a reeling Giants team to cure what ails you. Did the victory over New York fix the problems that appeared during the 1-3 run the Vikings had in the previous weeks? Or did it mask the issues that could come back an haunt this team?

On paper, this team has everything you need to win a Super Bowl. Imposing defense. Solid rushing attack. Veteran quarterback. It remains to be seen if Minnesota can put it all together and look like the team that started the season 10-1.

Worst Case Scenario: The defense can't pressure the quarterback. Adrian Peterson's fumble problems continue, and Favre throws a costly interception late. And it's all against the Packers. Favre announces his retirement within weeks of the loss, and all the fans have left of this season is Brad Childress.

Best Case Scenario: The Vikings beat the Cowboys while the Saints are upset in their home opener. In an emotional game in front of the home crowd, Favre and the Minnesota offense beat the Packers for the third time this season. Then, the Vikings win twice in Miami, once with a Super Bowl victory, and again when Favre announces he'll return in 2010 to defend the title.

No. 1 seed: New Orleans Saints

After their commanding victory over the Patriots in prime time, you would have found it hard to find anyone that didn't believe they were the best team in football. But that was way back on November 30.

Since then, the Saints have lost three straight. They've shown flashes of life at times in those losses, but it's hard to ignore that the Saints' offense isn't as potent as it was earlier in the season.

Still, they hold the top seed and they'll be a tough outing for anyone that has to travel to the Superdome.

Worst Case Scenario: The Saints' inconsistencies continue in their opening playoff game. The Cardinals are the ones to show off their offensive prowess. A miracle season ends in disaster. With the Panthers looking good at the end of the season, even the divisional title defense has question marks.

Best Case Scenario: The team that drilled the Patriots does the same to the playoff field. Drew Brees proves his name belongs with the greats as he beats Warner, Favre, and Peyton Manning as the Saints give the greatest gift to the city of New Orleans, a Super Bowl championship.

Part Two: The AFC tomorrow.


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