Jumping to conclusions about the NFC through five weeks of the season

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It's probably too early to start talking playoffs, but let's look at which teams the Detroit Lions could be competing with for a spot in the postseason.

Considering it's only Week 6, it's still really too early to even worry about the playoffs. There's obviously a lot of football left to be played, and the standings could look much different than they do now in a few weeks.

With that disclaimer out of the way, the first five weeks of the NFL season have provided a pretty good picture of what the rest of the season may look like. At the very least, we've learned a lot about certain teams that already look to be playoff bound or bound for a high draft pick, and I think you can really divide up the NFC into four different categories. So let's jump to conclusions about the NFC based on the first five weeks of the season.

Elite teams

New Orleans Saints (5-0)
Seattle Seahawks (4-1)

These two teams are the very best in the NFC, and they are a good bet to end up with the top two spots in the conference when all is said and done. Given how weak the NFC South is, the Saints could have their division wrapped up sooner rather than later, and the Seahawks' ridiculous amount of talent means they should end up finishing with one of the best records in the conference.

Playoff contenders

San Francisco 49ers (3-2)
Arizona Cardinals (3-2)
Detroit Lions (3-2)
Chicago Bears (3-2)
Green Bay Packers (2-2)

Both the NFC West and NFC North are poised to send multiple teams to the playoffs this year. The 49ers seem like a much safer bet to sustain their winning ways than the Cardinals, but both teams are currently 3-2, and Arizona does have a pretty great defense. And in the NFC North, the Lions and Bears are both 3-2 and the Packers are just behind at 2-2. It really looks like these five teams could be competing for three playoff spots (NFC North champion and two wild cards).

Somebody has to win the NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)
Washington Redskins (1-3)
New York Giants (0-5)

Considering not a single team in this division is currently over .500, and considering the 0-5 Giants are only a couple games back of the division lead, I think it's safe to say the NFC East is only going to end up with one playoff team this year. So this division gets its own category. Everybody is somehow still in the mix for the NFC East title, and one of these four teams will actually end up hosting a playoff game because the NFL places more importance on winning your division than overall record.

Better luck next year

St. Louis Rams (2-3)
Carolina Panthers (1-3)
Minnesota Vikings (1-3)
Atlanta Falcons (1-4)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4)

Is it possible one of these five teams could shock the world and make a run to the playoffs? Sure. Just last year, the Redskins turned a 3-6 start into a 10-6 finish to make the playoffs. However, the writing is really on the wall:

  • The Rams are 29th in rushing and 28th against the run, and their pass offense and pass defense are both middle of the road. It's tough to see this team emerging out of the tough NFC West.

  • The Panthers are already planning for a coaching search. I think that says it all.

  • If your quarterback situation is so bad that adding Josh Freeman mid-season is viewed as an upgrade, you're in some trouble. Sorry, Vikings.

  • The Falcons are 1-4 and may be without Julio Jones for the rest of the season. Good luck with that.

  • I'll be shocked if Greg Schiano makes it through the season as head coach of the Buccaneers, so no, a turnaround led by Mike Glennon doesn't seem likely.

Again, I'm flat out jumping to conclusions here for the sake of discussion, but the NFC looks a lot better now for the Lions than it did on paper before the season. The playoffs certainly are within reach, and if the Lions can string together a few wins here before their bye week, they will be extremely well-positioned to make the postseason. Even if they aren't able to do that, the Lions will still be right in the mix for a spot in the playoffs given the overall lack of great teams in the NFC this year.

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