With just three weeks remaining in the 2018 NFL season, the race for the postseason is getting hotter by the minute. In both the AFC and NFC, one team has separated itself as a near lock to nail down the first wild-card spot. Both conferences also have a logjam of teams in the mix for their respective second wild-cards, the final tickets into the playoffs. Here is a look at how the NFC wild-card contenders stack up based on recent developments, remaining schedules, and more.
*Percentage playoff chances according to The Action Network’s Bet Labs Simulator*
2018 NFC Wild Card Predictions Going Into Week 15
Minnesota Vikings: 6-6-1
Chance to Make Playoffs: 46.9%
Remaining Games: vs. Dolphins, at Lions, vs. Bears
The fact that the Vikings are in the conversation surrounding the NFC’s final playoff spot is surprising, but not necessarily in a good way. Many experts had this team pegged to be a Super Bowl contender, not a fringe playoff team. The struggles of Kirk Cousins and the offence led to the firing of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo following an embarrassing Monday night showing in Seattle. Minnesota remains in the driver’s seat, but they need to figure things out fast.
The Vikings remaining schedule doesn’t look too daunting on paper, but it is no cake walk in reality. This week’s home game against the Miami Dolphins will impact the wild-card races in both conferences as the Dolphins attempt to remain alive in the AFC. The Detriot Lions aren’t mathematically eliminated just yet either, and the Bears defence will cause problems for anyone in its path. Minnesota clearly has some issues to work out, but they have the talent on both sides of the ball to do so. Even if the Vikings did struggle down the stretch, is there an NFC team you would trust to pass them?
Prediction: 8-7-1; MAKE Playoffs as Wild Card
Carolina Panthers: 6-7
Chance to Make Playoffs: 15.6%
Remaining Games: vs. Saints, vs. Falcons, at Saints
The Panthers were at one point this season 6-2 and nipping at the heels of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South race. Five straight losses later and Carolina finds itself in dire straights and in need of wins just to get into the postseason as a wild-card team. The losing streak has been characterized by sloppy play as the Panthers have lost to the likes of the Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Cleveland Browns, none of whom are serious playoff contenders.
Now, those same Saints that the Panthers were keeping pace with are on the schedule in two of the season’s final three weeks. New Orleans may have already locked up the division, but they are in a wild race with the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC’s number-one seed meaning they have plenty to play for. A home game in between those two against the Atlanta Falcons looks inviting. Carolina needs to beat the Saints at least once to have a chance.
Prediction: 7-9; MISS Playoffs
Philadelphia Eagles: 6-7
Chance to Make Playoffs: 20.5%
Remaining Games: at Rams, vs. Texans, at Redskins
Last year’s champs are playing more like chumps in 2018. They have lost control of the NFC East race by dropping both of their matchups against the Dallas Cowboys. The wild-card spot is clearly their easiest path to the postseason if they want a shot at defending their title. The big news surrounding the team currently is that QB Carson Wentz is doubtful for this week’s game against the Rams. Nick Foles was Philadelphia’s hero last year. Can he pull off an even greater miracle this season?
The Eagles chances of winning against Los Angeles this week look slim to none. That leaves a home game against the playoff-bound Houston Texans and a road tilt against the Washington Redskins as must-wins. Houston will be tough but having the game at home gives the Eagles a chance.
Prediction: 8-8; MISS Playoffs
Washington Redskins: 6-7
Chance to Make Playoffs: 7.9%
Remaining Games: at Jaguars, at Titans, vs. Eagles
The Redskins are in this article of playoff contenders only for their position in the standings, not for their actual chances of contending. The 7.9% chance afforded them of actually getting in seems absurdly high given the rash of injuries on the offensive line and that Josh Johnson will be the team’s starting quarterback until further notice.
It is not inconceivable to see Washington knocking off the Jacksonville Jaguars this week, given that the Jags are another team in a great deal of turmoil. However, games against other playoff contenders in the Tennessee Titans and Eagles to close the season will be steep climbs. At least the Redskins’ early-season play with a healthy roster is a positive takeaway from the season.
Prediction: 6-10; MISS Playoffs
Green Bay Packers: 5-7-1
Chance to Make Playoffs: N/A
Remaining Games: at Bears, at Jets, vs. Lions
Aaron Rodgers has proven time and time again not to count him out until the math says it is impossible. With Mike McCarthy gone, the Packers certainly looked rejuvenated in last week’s resounding win over the Falcons. While a tie can oftentimes hurt teams in the standings, the half-game difference could actually benefit Green Bay as they try to play catch-up in the sea of NFC mediocrity.
The Packers must win out to have a true chance at the playoffs, but they do have arguably the easiest schedule down the stretch of any team in the NFC wild-card race. Green Bay should be able to close out the year with wins over the New York Jets and Detroit Lions. That leaves the game against the division-rival Chicago Bears this week as the biggest challenge. If anyone can put up points on the lethal Chicago defence, it has to be Rodgers.
Prediction: 8-7-1; MISS Playoffs
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