Ranking NFC teams in battle for wildcard spots: Panthers continue to slide after promising start


The 2021 playoff image is starting to take shape with 12 weeks of NFL games on the books. And the NFC, in particular, is expected to host a circus of a wild-card race, with nearly a dozen teams potentially vying for three playoff spots. As Week 13 approaches, which teams look the most formidable in the race? We take stock of the entire pool of them.

Find the current leaders of the NFC division below, along with our rankings of current wild card contenders:

Current leaders of the NFC division

These can obviously change by the end of the season, but for now they’re stuck:

  1. Cardinals (9-2)
  2. Packers (9-3)
  3. Buccaneers (8-3)
  4. cowboys (7-4)

NFC Wildcard Candidates, Ranked

This is how we would sort the obvious candidates, but just keep in mind Three of them can actually make the playoffs:

1. Rams (7-4)

Remaining time: vs. Jaguars, vs. Cardinals, vs. Seahawks, vs. Vikings, vs. Ravens, vs. 49ers

It’s officially normal for them to be worried, especially under center, where Matthew Stafford has now repeatedly reminded everyone of the shortcomings that plagued him in Detroit. But the talent is still too apparent here to write them off. These are the Wild Card contenders, remember, not the No.1 seed contenders. And Sean McVay’s team can still be tough in January.

2.49ers (6-5)

Remaining time: Seahawks, Bengals, Falcons, Titans, Texans, Rams

Left for dead after their four-game pre-Halloween slide, they quickly turned the tide with Kyle Shanahan relying more on creative ground play and less on Jimmy Garoppolo’s arm. Deebo Samuel and Fred Warner’s downfall could limit their cap over the next few weeks, but Jimmy G has at least been here before. They’re feeling pretty messed up right now.

3. Vikings (5-6)

Remaining time: To the Lions, to the Steelers, to the Bears, to the Rams, to the Packers, to the Bears

Yes, Mike Zimmer’s defense is still in trouble, and now Dalvin Cook would be out for at least two games. But they’ll be in the mix as long as Kirk Cousins ​​continues to pitch at Justin Jefferson. Seriously. Their attack, when healthy, is far more explosive than you might think. That alone should keep them spirited until the finish line.

4. Washington (5-6)

Remaining time: Raiders, Cowboys, Eagles, Cowboys, Eagles, Giants

Taylor Heinicke outscored Russell Wilson in prime time to cap Week 12, and just as importantly, Ron Rivera’s defense was important most of the night. It should tell you something, however, that Washington dominated “Monday Night Football” and still – on several occasions – came so close to losing control of the game in times of crisis.

5. Eagles (5-7)

Remaining time: at Jets, BYE WEEK, against WFT, against Giants, at WFT, against Cowboys

Jalen Hurts folded in real time as he tried to show his arm against the Giants, with assists from Jalen Reagor and a coaching staff waiting too long to look into the race. But if they stick with what works, they can still manage a relatively straightforward schedule. Hurts may or may not be the QB1 in the long run, but he’s proven he can win games if the ground game comes first.

6. Saints (5-6)

Remaining time: vs. Cowboys, vs. Jets, vs. Buccaneers, vs. Dolphins, vs. Panthers, vs. Falcons

Now that Taysom Hill appears to be taking over, they have a legitimate chance to be competitive again. It helps, of course, that Alvin Kamara and Ryan Ramczyk are returning to the pitch as well. They looked dead in the water on Thanksgiving against the Bills, but the minute you pull Sean Payton aside, the minute he steals the show.

7. Falcons (5-6)

Remaining time: against Buccaneers, at Panthers, at 49ers, against Lions, at Bills, against Saints

Cordarrelle Patterson for MVP, are you interested? We don’t want them to run away, but they’ve certainly played spoiler a few times.

8. Panthers (5-7)

Remaining time: BYE WEEK, against Falcons, at Bills, against Buccaneers, at Saints, at Buccaneers

So, it turns out that when you use Cam Newton much more than a runner designed these days, things aren’t always perfect. Their defense still has the pieces to make noise, but they have to be a ground team, and now Christian McCaffrey is done.

Not good enough

These teams aren’t technically out of the pack, but they have a terribly difficult climb like the playoffs:

  • giants (4-7): Good for them to hang on against the Eagles, but they made a big effort to give up the “W”.
  • Bear (4-7): Don’t count on Matt Nagy and that roster to right the ship when they’re not playing against the Lions.
  • Seahawks (3-8): Too little, too late from Russell Wilson, who is clearly mentally or physically disabled.


Just what he says. These guys are already looking towards 2022:

  • the Lions (0-10-1): Dan Campbell, at least your team is consistent.

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