This is the time of year that college football analysts start to closely examine which teams are most deserving of the coveted College Football Playoff spots. With college basketball tipping off, bracketologists across the country are already at work deciding which teams merit top seeds at which fit in the bubble. Professional sports behave differently in a number of ways, but the most glaring is that playoff teams are determined entirely by objective metrics. Wins and tiebreak procedures give us an NFL playoff instead of a committee of sports minds.
Debating over which teams are worthy is one of the most enjoyable parts of college sports so why not take that to the pros? This article will present each team in the NFC playoff picture by resume. Blind resumes aren’t super useful here because seeding is so dry and overall record would be dead giveaways. However, the stats and ranks are meant to be compared head-to-head so use this as ammunition for future arguments.
In addition to a short blurb for each section, the following metrics will be used to assess each team:
Records: Overall (OVR), Against .500 or Above Teams (TOP), Against below .500 teams (BOT), Offensive Yards Per Game rank (OYPG), Defensive Yards Per Game rank (DYPG), Offensive Points Per Game rank (OPPG), Defensive Points Per Game rank (DPPG), Strength of Schedule of Games Played rank (SoS)
Fighting for a First-Round Bye
Green Bay Packers
New Orleans Saints
Los Angeles Rams
This top group is comprised of elite offenses. Three teams have top ten OYPG and three teams have top ten OPPG. Aside from Seattle, the defenses are pretty good too with the Rams and Saints boasting elite defensive numbers and Green Bay above average. The Rams, surprisingly are the only team with a winning record against winning teams. The most coveted seeds seem to be first, second, and fifth based on potential matchups. The Packers are the likely number one seed but the Rams may be the team built for the tough tests.
Somewhere in the Middle
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Washington Football Team
The middle of the NFC playoff race has two very different teams. The Bucs were preseason darlings with a new Tom Brady and big offensive potential. Washington was supposed to be riding Dwayne Haskins as a starter but now Alex Smith has the reins in a pathetic division. Washington is one of two teams vying for playoffs that has a below average offense. They also have a particularly weak record given their easy schedule. The Buccaneers, conversely, have lost to strong teams and have a well-rounded group with few injuries. They may not be viewed as a major title threat but Tampa Bay is definitely a tough out.
Battle for the Last Spot
One of these three teams will likely be the seventh seed. The Cardinals are the most likely to earn the shot with a full game lead on both NFC North squads. However, since Chicago and Minnesota face off in Week 14, the winner of that matchup is much worse than a coin flip to get the final playoff spot. The Cardinals have more wins against winning teams than all NFC teams not based in Los Angeles. The Vikings have magnificent offensive skill position players but not much defense to back it up. The Bears have made many wins feel like climactic but ultimately don’t have many quality victories. Arizona seems like the team from this group best equipped to advance to the Divisional Round.
Featured Image courtesy of Quinn Harris / Getty Images
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