1. Seattle Seahawks (11-2, home-field advantage, bye)
Beyond having a powerful home-field advantage with a one-game lead for the top seed, the numbers reveal that both sides of the ball are playing at an elite level. Seattle scores the most points each week of any team in the NFC, ranking second to Denver throughout the NFL. Defensively they hold opponents to around the 15-point range, again placing second in the entire league. An interesting stat that could be crucial in the playoffs, their 95 penalties are also the second most committed.
2. New Orleans Saints (10-3, bye, divisional round home game, NFC South hunt, Wild Card hunt)
It is also apparent that nobody will march into New Orleans without the fight of their lives, who are chasing Seattle for the first seed while holding off Carolina from the division crown. The explosive offense returned to form when head coach Sean Payton rejoined the team, the ground game excels in key situations that seal victories. The team gets a boost from a defense allocating the most sacks in football so far, stingy against the pass and they don’t allow many runs to move the chains.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (8-5, wildcard round home game, NFC East hunt, Wild Card hunt)
Awaiting the results of the Cowboys/Bears game on Monday Night Football, they will at least have a share of the best record in the NFC East while remaining in the wildcard picture. The third best offense in the league is riding Offensive Player of the Year candidate LeSean McCoy, finding a their quarterback that secures the ball and makes plays downfield. Here is a defense that bends a lot, but they don’t break too much ranking 8th in the redzone, they have defended the most passes, and held their last nine opponents under 22 points.
4. Detroit Lions (7-6, Wild Card round home game, NFC South hunt, Wild Card hunt)
Leading a battered NFC North but barely hanging by a moment, the Lions continue to shoot themselves in the foot with their rivals breathing down their backs. The offense stands out with playmakers rankings second in the enitre NFL, scoring the fourth most points too. The third-best run defense has to rebound after allowing the Eagles to run wild, they generally don’t give first downs and touchdowns on the ground.
5. Carolina Panthers (9-4, Wild Card)
Carolina currently leads the wildcard hunt, however winning the division can still be accomplished if they return the favor to New Orleans and win out. The Panthers’ second-ranked defense only allows 13 points per game, that is the lowest in football and teams don’t even think about running against them. The offensive formula has been the perfect compliment, having the most time of possession in the NFL while converting the best third down percentage to keep drives alive.
6. San Francisco 49ers (9-4, Wild Card)
Virtually locked into a wildcard spot, San Francisco getting healthy at the right time gives the offense a much-needed boost with speed. The 49ers rely on running and stopping opponents, Frank Gore did rip off a 51-yard run that set up the game-winning field goal last week. This physical defense ranks 5th and holds teams to the thirds fewest points, and they do a great job of forcing you to pass because they stuff the run with the best of them.
On the Bubble
Arizona Cardinals (8-5, Wild Card hunt)
A formidable team that could give any team a run for their money, they have a couple elements piecing together on both sides of the ball going down the stretch. The quarterback whisperer, head coach Bruce Arians, is getting the most out of the aerial attack and just might have something brewing with a running back tandem. The stout defense ranks 7th and is paving the way in the playoff hunt, limiting teams to 20 points per contest by taking away the option to run, with the 4th best run defense.
Dallas Cowboys (7-5, NFC East hunt, Wild Card hunt)
Tonight’s game in Chicago on Monday Night Football has huge implications for the NFC East, NFC North, and the wildcard hunt. America’s Team has changed their tune in attempt to slow the game down by featuring the run and limiting turnovers, so well that they have committed the fewest in the league. There might not be a “D” in Dallas because the unit is dead last, but they do gamble for turnovers which has them defending their division crown to the finish.
Chicago Bears (6-6, NFC North hunt)
It’s been forever that Chicago was known for their defense, a new year brings an explosive offense that lights up the scoreboard. Despite missing starting quarterback Jay Cutler, they still are in the top five in points scored with nightmare mismatches for any defense. The Bears still force the most fumbles despite key injuries with Lance Briggs on the brink of returning, but they give up the 5th most points and it’s different to see them play in a lot of shootouts.
Green Bay Packers (6-6-1, NFC North hunt)
The feeling is that Green Bay will bring quarterback Aaron Rodgers back from injury, that is if the team gets a win this week to keep playoff hopes alive. If they wind up with the same amount of wins as the Lions or Bears, they can thank themselves for tying with the Vikings a few weeks back, instead of losing the game. The offense looks complete when their leader is on the field as they are prepared to play in any type of game, and the defense wasn’t too shabby against the run when Rodgers orchestrated the offense.