NFC Playoff Picture

Byron Hetzler-US PRESSWIRE

After a few teams in the NFC started out hot, the conference standings have gotten more congested and will likely get even more interesting as a lot of NFC matchups play out over the next couple of weeks.

The lone team atop the NFC is the Atlanta Falcons, the only one in the league through Week 8 that has not lost a game. After the Falcons, however, there isn't a clear cut playoff spot holder. With week 9 ahead of us, let's take a look at the current playoff picture and the next three weeks for each team.

Division Leaders

1. Atlanta Falcons (7-0)

The Atlanta Falcons are having their best season in franchise history. Much of the team's success is coming from Matt Ryan's MVP-like numbers (2,018 yards for 17 touchdowns with a 68.7% completion percentage). It also doesn't hurt that the team has a +10 turnover ratio. I hate to say it, but the Falcons look like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Dirty Birds next three games are:

vs Cowboys

@ Saints

vs Cardinals

2. Chicago Bears (6-1)

The other team that would have home-field advantage if the season ended today is the Chicago Bears. With 23 takeaways, their defense is leading this team to victory. In Week 8, the Bears kicked a game-winning field goal in the final seconds to sneak away with a 23-22 win over the Panthers. The next three games for the Bears are:

@Titans

vs Texans

@ 49ers

3. New York Giants (6-2)

Along with the Atlanta Falcons, the Giants have been called a "complete team" by the media. Their fourth overall ranked offense and 24 takeaways on defense support that. Eli Manning leads this offense with 2,301 yards and 12 touchdown passes. Ahmad Bradshaw completes this one-two punch with 126 carries for 570 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. The next three weeks for Big Blue will be:

vs Steelers

@ Bengals

Bye

4. San Francisco 49ers (6-2)

The 49ers are trying to make noise in the NFC, but are they who we thought they were? Both of their losses, against the Vikings and the Giants, came when they played extremely sloppy games. Nevertheless, they still will be playoff contenders with a first ranked, dominant defense. Out of their past five opponents, the Giants are the only team that has scored a touchdown on them. Their next three games weeks are:

Bye

vs Rams

vs Bears

Wild Card

5. Minnesota Vikings (5-3)

One of the surprise teams this year is the Minnesota Vikings. They don't necessarily have as much of a potent offense as the other teams, but they do have a seventh ranked rushing attack that's led by Adrian Peterson. Percy Harvin is also as much of a threat in the return game as he is in the receiving game. He has scored five total touchdowns. The Vikings next three weeks are:

@ Seahawks

vs Lions

Bye

6. Green Bay Packers (5-3)

The Green Bay Packers are the third team from the NFC North currently in the playoff picture. Although they are having a worse season than expected, they are capable of going on a winning streak at any time. Their powerful offense is led by reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers, who has 2,165 yards, 21 touchdowns, and a 107.9 passer rating. Their defense is also tied for first in the league for sacks, with 26. The next three weeks for the Packers are:

vs Cardinals

Bye

@ Lions

In the Hunt

7. Arizona Cardinals (4-4)

After starting 4-0 and looking like a strong playoff contender, the Cardinals have lost four straight. Their offense is looking for their true starting quarterback with Kevin Kolb injured. Without their sixth ranked defense, this team probably would not have a win. The Cardinals next three weeks are:

@ Packers

Bye

@ Falcons

8. Seattle Seahawks (4-4)

The Seahawks seem to be the strongest "In the Hunt" team, as they have wins over the Packers and the Patriots. Their fifth ranked defense is definitely keeping them afloat. They have an offense that is good enough to keep them in the win column, managed by Russell Wilson but statistically led by Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks next three weeks are:

vs Vikings

vs Jets

Bye

9. Detroit Lions (3-4)

With a top three offense and a top ten defense, it is a mystery how the Lions do not have a winning record. Matthew Stafford is on track to rack up lots of yardage at the end of the season, but he hasn't thrown many touchdowns. The next three weeks for the Lions are:

@ Jaguars

@ Vikings

vs Packers

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)

After losing to the Saints in Week 7, the Bucs rebounded with a big win over the Vikings. There's nothing special about this Tampa team as they have a mediocre offense and a bad defense, but they are getting the job done. The Bucs next three weeks are:

@ Raiders

vs Chargers

@ Panthers.

The Homer

15. New Orleans Saints (2-5)

That's right. Our New Orleans Saints are currently the second to last team in the NFC standings. Even though their passing game led by Drew Brees, who is on pace to have another 5,000 yard season, is first in the league, it can't hold up their league worst running game and their historically worst defense. A lot is going to have to happen to put our boys in the playoffs. The next three weeks for the Saints are killer and important:

vs Eagles

vs Falcons

@ Raiders

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