2018 NFC Outlook

1. Green Bay Packers– What a difference a year will make. For just the second time since Aaron Rodgers became a starter, the Packers were eliminated from playoff contention in 2017. This year with a healthy number 12 under center, I look for them to win the NFC North once again and clinch the top seed in the NFC. The Packers decided not to bring back Jordy Nelson, but they did sign Jimmy Graham who will be catching passes from another Super Bowl-winning quarterback. I see Jimmy returning to the form he was back in New Orleans and I see him being used the right way once again. The Packers offense will put up big numbers and Aaron will return to playing at that MVP level as always. Once again, what will we see from their defense? They can’t depend on Rodgers to bail them every single time so they will have to step it up and handle their business.

Projected Record: 12-4, first in NFC North.

Key Games: Week two vs Minnesota, week five at Detroit, week seven vs San Francisco, week eight at LA Rams, week nine at New England, week 11 at Seattle, week 12 at Minnesota, week 14 vs Atlanta.

2. Philadelphia Eagles– Although they lost a few pieces from last season’s championship team, I expect them to still compete and let everybody know that to get far in the conference, you still have to beat the Philadelphia Eagles. With a healthy Carson Wentz, I expect the Eagles offense to pick up where they left off with Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Nelson Agholor along with Jay Ajayi, the guy that many called the piece to put the Eagles over everyone in the NFC. I don’t see the defense missing a beat at all despite the release of a few players. If everyone plays well and knows their role, it could be another fun time in South Philadelphia once again. They’ve embraced the underdog role and if that label is thrown at them once again, they’ve embraced as they did last season and look how things panned out.

Projected Record: 12-4, First in NFC East

Key Games: Week one vs Atlanta, week five vs Minnesota, Week seven vs Carolina, Week 11 at New Orleans, Week 14 at Dallas.

3. New Orleans Saints– If they can play how they did last season, this is the one team that can challenge the Philadelphia Eagles in the conference and I say that because of Drew Brees of course and they are built to play football in any type of environment whether it’s the dome or on the road with the elements because they run the ball and play defense. With Ingram sidelined for the first four games, the running game will be in the hands of offensive rookie of the year, Alvin Kamara. The Saints will always be a contender as long as Drew is under center for them.

Projected Record: 11-5, first in NFC South

Key Games: Week three at Atlanta, week seven at Baltimore, week eight at Minnesota, week nine vs LA Rams, week 11 vs Philadelphia, week 12 vs Atlanta, week 13 at Dallas, week 15 at Carolina, week 16 vs Pittsburgh.

4. Los Angeles Rams– This one may surprise some people, but as of now, I have them here as my projected fourth seed in the NFC. All the moves they made this year have definitely been worth talking about, but just because you have a ton of big names doesn’t mean you’ll become the best team in your conference. Despite that, they will win the NFC West for the second consecutive season and I look for Jared Goff to have another big year under Sean McVay once again. The defense will remain one of the best under Wade Phillips. You have reigning defensive MVP Aaron Donald returning, Ndamukong Suh was signed during the off-season, Marcus Peters was acquired by Kansas City and Talib is also a Ram. It could be another fun year for the Rams.

Projected Record: 11-5, first in NFC West

Key Games: Week four vs LA Chargers, week five vs Minnesota, week seven at San Francisco, week vs Green Bay, week nine at New Orleans, week 11 vs Kansas City, week 15 vs Philadelphia.

Wild Cards

5. Carolina Panthers– They got back to the playoffs last season for the first time since they made the Super Bowl and I think they can get back there again. It will be key for the skill players of the Panthers to step their game up and not put everything on Cam Newton to shoulder the load. With the team acquiring Torrey Smith from the Eagles, he gives them a true number one option on the outside for Cam and let’s not forget the Panthers also signed veteran running back C.J. Anderson to a free-agent contract. Defensively, they will be back and with Kuechly patrolling the middle, they’ll always be an elite defense.

Projected Record: 10-6, second in NFC South.

Key Games: Week one vs Dallas, week two at Atlanta, week seven at Philadelphia, week 10 at Pittsburgh, week 11 at Detroit, week 12 vs Seattle, week 15 vs New Orleans, week 17 at New Orleans.

6. San Francisco 49ers– The last time they were in the playoffs, it was the NFC Championship game in Seattle and Richard Sherman swatted a pass away that eliminated them. All these years later, Richard is now a member of the once-rival San Francisco 49ers. We will really know more about Jimmy Garoppolo as he gets set to become a full-time starter for the first time in his career and we can finally see what he’s learned after sitting behind a legend for a few years in Massachusetts. The tandem of Jimmy and coach Kyle Shanahan is one that was meant to happen. We saw what Kyle did with Matt Ryan in 2016 and he won an MVP, what makes you think he can’t make Jimmy G a successful quarterback? I’m pretty excited for this team in 2018 and whenever a legendary organization is relevant again, the league is at an all-time high.

Projected Record: 10-6, second in NFC West

Key Games: Week one at Minnesota, week two vs Detroit, week three at Kansas City, week four at LA Chargers, week six at Green Bay, week seven vs LA Rams, week 13 at Seattle, week 17 at LA Rams.

Wild Card Round

(3) Saints defeat (6) 49ers

(4) Rams defeat (5) Panthers

Divisional Round

(1) Packers defeat (4) Rams

(2) Eagles defeat (3) Saints

NFC Championship: A trip to Atlanta, Georgia will come down to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC title game. Two of the best quarterbacks in the game will be featured in this one and who wouldn’t enjoy seeing playoff football on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. This will be one of the best defensive lines that Aaron Rodgers will see. The Eagles do so much when it comes to pressuring the quarterback and they truly take after their defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz. This will be quite the challenge taking on such a prolific offense for the Eagles. I predict this to be a close game all the way throughout with Green Bay prevailing to win the NFC and advance to Super Bowl 53.