The Philadelphia Eagles are 8-0 and have (in my view) been the best team in the NFL through the first half of the season, regardless of what feeble excuses people try to make about their schedule. They are unquestionably a Super Bowl contender this season, especially in a weak NFC, but are they a shoo-in to win the NFC Championship? Let’s go through each team in the NFC and determine whether they are a serious, minor, or nonexistent threat towards the Eagles and their Super Bowl aspirations.
Dallas Cowboys – Serious Threat
I can not succumb to the levels of stubborn Cowboys fans by refusing to give credit to their stiffest competition. Dallas is really good, in my opinion the second best team in the NFC. They have a great defense, an explosive runner in Tony Pollard, a good young receiver duo in CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, and a talented albeit polarizing quarterback in Dak Prescott. The Eagles win against them was legitimate despite what others may say, but they are going to be a tough out in the playoffs, which makes winning the division absolutely imperative this year. The Eagles can not take their foot off of the gas.
New York Giants – Minor Threat
In September, I would not have been surprised if you told me the Giants failed to win six games the entire season, and yet here they are at 6-2 with home games against the Texans and Lions up next. The Giants are going to make the playoffs, but even in their wins it is tough to watch them play and believe that they will be able to hang with much more talented rosters in playoff games. Brian Daboll and the element of division rivalry make them more than a nonexistent threat, though.
Washington Commanders – No Threat
Taylor Heinicke is the best quarterback on the team, and their offensive line is a mess. The defensive line is good, but if they even make the playoffs at all (a longshot), the two seed is going to send them home with ease.
Arizona Cardinals – No Threat
Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury seem to not be getting along too well, and it is very clearly affecting the teams performance. This team is not making the playoffs.
Los Angeles Rams – No Threat
I don’t care that they won the Super Bowl last year. This team is garbage. Cooper Kupp is the only good offensive player on the roster. Matthew Stafford is cooked and the offensive line is a disaster. Even if they somehow made the playoffs, they are not going anywhere.
San Francisco 49ers – Serious Threat
This team is the X-factor of the NFC. They are only 4-4 and yet feel like a lock for the playoffs due to how weak their conference and division are. I think their trade for Christian McCaffery was a massive overpay, but there is no question that it gives them an extremely dangerous group of skill position players in McCaffery, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and even Brandon Aiyuk. They also have an elite defense, especially in the front seven. I do not think Jimmy Garoppolo is anything special in the slightest, but he has shown he can at least manage an effective offense with talent around him. If everyone plays to their full potential, this team could present a unique and fascinating challenge to the Eagles in January. This would be a really fun NFC Championship.
Seattle Seahawks – Minor Threat
I thought the Seahawks were going to be the worst team in the league this year. Oops. Geno Smith has exceeded everyone’s reasonable expectations, and they seemingly hit on every draft pick they made. Given their 6-3 record, they are definitely in play to win the NFC West and have done enough to at least earn some respect, but I have a hard time saying I would not welcome an inexperienced and Geno-led team to Lincoln Financial Field for a playoff game
Chicago Bears – No Threat
Justin Fields is finally coming along and is super fun to watch, but this team has made it very clear with their recent trades that they are rebuilding and looking towards next year. They are not a playoff team.
Detroit Lions – No Threat
The Lions are 2-6 and have one of the worst defenses in NFL history. Zero threat.
Green Bay Packers – No Threat
Aaron Rodgers has spent the season stinking it up on the field and complaining about how bad his receivers are off the field. This team is an abject disaster that probably needs to completely start over, which I never thought I would say about a Rodgers-led team.
Minnesota Vikings – Minor Threat
I know the Vikings are 7-1, but they have not really shown the ability to get on a team quickly and put them away early, as all six of their games during their win streak have been won by eight points or less against a collection of bad opponents. Certainly, they are a good team who just added another great pass catcher in T.J. Hockenson, but I would take Dallas and San Francisco over them as a collective unit.
Atlanta Falcons – No Threat
The Falcons play hard and could very well be a quarterback away, but even if they somehow back their way into a division title, Marcus Mariota is not going into Philadelphia and winning a playoff game.
Carolina Panthers – No Threat
The Panthers fired their coach, traded away their star running back, and are 2-7. There is nothing to see here.
New Orleans Saints – No Threat
The Saints were delusional about how good of a team they had and it is biting them in their metaphorical rear ends. This is of course to the delight of the Eagles, who own their 2023 first-round pick that would be sixth overall if the season ended today. The Saints have no quarterback, their receiving corps is decimated with injuries, and Alvin Kamara is having the worst season of his career (and could be facing a suspension next year). They also sent C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who leads the league in interceptions, to Philadelphia for practically nothing because they didn’t want to pay him. The Saints’ incompetence has been a huge reason for the fantastic spot the Eagles are in right now.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Minor Threat
This Buccaneers offense is not good, but Tom Brady showed at the end of the game against the Rams last week that he can still give you a great drive in a pinch if needed. The NFC South is terrible, so they can very well still make the playoffs. Despite how bad they have looked, I just can not bring myself to say that Tom Brady with a great group of pass catchers would be a guaranteed win in a playoff game.
Photo: Sacramento Bee