The off-season is long and dark and full of horrors. There’s a long, long wait between the time Mr. Irrelevant hears his name called and the preseason’s first kickoff, and if you didn’t care about the World Cup, it could be a long summer. It’s never too early to start predicting who will be the class of each conference, in this piece, we tackle the NFC’s top five contenders, starting with a team that missed the playoffs altogether in 2017.
Ranking the Top 5 NFC Super Bowl Contenders
Green Bay Packers
As long as Aaron Rodgers can stay healthy, the Green Bay Packers will have a chance to compete in the NFC. When healthy, he’s the second best quarterback in football, and his offenses can put up a ton of points in a hurry. Green Bay’s defense is very questionable at best, and it’ll be interesting to see how the offense looks without wide receiver, Jordy Nelson. It’s easy to say that Nelson’s success was just a product of Rodgers’ brilliance, but for what it’s worth, in 2015, the season Nelson tore his ACL in August, Rodgers had the worst season (where he played most of the year) since 2010. Coincidence,
Los Angeles Rams
Those Los Angeles teams have just been making waves this off-season, haven’t they? The Lakers landed LeBron James, the Clippers have been linked to Kawhi Leonard, and the Rams went out and acquired just about every troubled defender they could find. On paper, this makes them absolutely lethal. This defense boasts two different deadly duos as the corner tandem of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters will love looking towards the front seven at the team of Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald terrorizing quarterbacks.
Meanwhile, Jared Goff has a new toy in speedster, Brandin Cooks, and Todd Gurley is looking to build of a 2017 season that saw him win Offensive Player of the Year. On paper, the NFL’s Doogie Howser, Sean McVay has quite a talented squad with these Rams, and it’ll be interesting to see how they hold up should they face some adversity late in the season.
Heading into the NFC Championship, the Minnesota Vikings were three point favorites against the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, but something went horribly wrong. Case Keenum reverted to the mediocre back-up he’d been most of his career, they couldn’t generate anything offensively on the ground, and the Eagles offense absolutely went off. Star safety Harrison Smith looked completely lost and Nick Foles gave the NFL world a preview of the kind of performance he’d be putting on two weeks later against the Patriots.
Maybe the stigma about dome teams being soft is true, and they just couldn’t handle the cold, rambunctious Eagles crowd. Maybe the Eagles figured out how to disrupt a previously unflappable Keenum. Or maybe the Eagles defense was just really good and really motivated. Regardless, it was a beatdown and the Vikings lost, 38-7.
In 2018, the Vikings should return to form. They still boast one of the NFL’s best defenses, and they’ve kept most of their stars on that side of the ball under contract. Running back Dalvin Cook will be healthy, forming a deadly one-two punch with Latavius Murray, and Kirk Cousins is an instant upgrade over Keenum.
The Philadelphia Eagles looked at last year’s defensive success and thought, “you know what we really need? More defensive linemen.”
This team boasts too many talented defensive linemen. Seriously, this team has Derek Barnett, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Michael Bennett, Tim Jernigan, and even Haloti Ngata. The Eagles can rotate defensive linemen all day long without anyone getting too tired. No quarterback is safe.
As for the offense, it’s unsure when Carson Wentz will be ready to go, but Nick Foles has proved that he can step up and lead the team when he needs to. It’ll be interesting to see how defensive coordinators that have had time to watch film of Foles and the RPO coach against the Eagles this year.
New Orleans Saints
In my opinion, the New Orleans Saints are the obvious favorites for the NFC. They’re about a complete a roster as there is in all of football, with experience and youth in all the right places. On offense, they have an elite quarterback in Drew Brees, a killer tailback duo in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, and a receiving group including Michael Thomas, Cameron Meredith, and Ted Ginn Jr. Defensively, there’s young talent scattered all over the place, from Marcus Williams and Marshon Lattimore in the secondary to Sheldon Rankins to Marcus Davenport on the defensive line.
Think about it, this squad was one blown defensive play away from going to Philadelphia instead of Minnesota, and it’s only to have gotten better with experience. It’s crazy to think that it wasn’t that long ago that Sean Payton‘s job was potentially on the hot seat.
If you enjoyed this article, or you haven’t gotten your football fix, there’s also an AFC version of this article on the site!