NFC Playoff Preview
The NFL’s first ever Week 18 was a rollercoaster ride that finalized the league’s newly formatted playoff field. Now the first “Super” Wild Card Weekend is looming and the three matchups in the NFC are vastly intriguing.
Philadelphia Eagles (7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2)
With Antonio Brown leaving the team mid-game and Chris Godwin going down for the season with an injury, many believe Tampa Bay is too short handed to successfully defend its title.
While that remains to be seen, the pressing question is whether Tampa Bay can get by Philadelphia with their healthy players which will include the return of Leonard Fournette, Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul.
The Buccaneers defeated the Eagles earlier in the season by a score of 28-22 in week 6 but a lot has changed since then. The Eagles have become the number one rushing offense in the NFL and have remained mostly healthy as a squad.
However, Tampa Bay still has one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game on their side and home field advantage. The Eagles will have to play to their strength of the run game and keep the ball away from Brady if they want to have a chance of upsetting the defending champs.
San Francisco 49ers (6) at Dallas Cowboys (3)
As always, the Dallas Cowboys have been a tough team to evaluate over the last few weeks. With the national spotlight always looming, there tends to be over reactions.
For a team that scored 50 plus points in two of their last four games, it is hard to believe the Cowboy offense is struggling.
However, it looked rather questionable in Week 17 against the Cardinals. The Cowboys were only able to muster offensive production when trying to mount a late game comeback against Arizona.
On the other hand, the 49ers have bursted into the playoffs off an inspiring overtime victory against the Los Angeles Rams. Jimmy Garoppolo looked poised and the defense sealed the hard fought victory and playoff berth.
While San Francisco possesses a well balanced football team, Dallas is simply more talented. Ultimately it is the Cowboys’ game to lose, but with the pressure of winning results in Dallas, it would not be too surprising to see the 49ers pull off the upset.
Arizona Cardinals (5) at Los Angeles Rams (4)
Probably the closest NFC playoff battle in terms of talent will close out “Super” Wild Card Weekend on Monday night.
There was a time this season where the Cardinals were cruising to the number one seed and Rams’ quarterback Matthew Stafford looked like a legitimate MVP candidate.
Those days are long gone and left these two NFC West sides to try and prove their doubters wrong.
The Rams have gone all-in this season, forgoing draft picks left and right to build up their superstar roster. A defense featuring Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller is one that can contend for a Super Bowl.
For Arizona, the coach-quarterback combination of Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray has been a fun one to watch develop, and this is their biggest test yet.
The Rams and Cardinals split their regular season series with the road team prevailing in both contests. Los Angeles features many veterans who can be major contributors in a playoff atmosphere, but Arizona has the hunger of a young team in its first playoff appearance as a unit.
After the NFL’s first 18 week regular season, the pandemonium has never been higher in the NFC playoffs. All seven playoff squads have a legitimate chance to go on a run and become conference champions.
The only sure thing to come out of this weekend in the NFC is that the field will be cut from seven teams down to four.
Maclain Young is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.