These are the teams that are going to be tough to beat going into the 2018 season. On paper, all of these teams have made major additions to their teams after a strong 2017.
Philadelphia Eagles – Like it or not, the Eagles are the 2017 Super Bowl champions. They were able to finish the job after Carson Wentz went down late in the season. They have strengthened an already stout defensive line by adding Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata. It still remains to be seen if Wentz will be ready by Week 1, but the NFC will go through Philadelphia.
Los Angeles Rams – The Los Angeles Rams made tremendous strides in 2017. They went 11-5, but lost their only playoff game 26-13 against the Atlanta Falcons. That loss didn’t sit well with them as they were very busy this offseason. They went and added Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh on their defense. After losing Sammy Watkins in free agency, they went and added Brandin Cooks. They still have 2017 MVP candidate Todd Gurley as well.
Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings made quite an effort to become the first team to host a Super Bowl in their home stadium. They made it to the NFC championship game after completing the “Minnesota Miracle” against the New Orleans Saints. They added Quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason to pair him with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Dalvin Cook will also be making his comeback after tearing his ACL in his first NFL season. Cousins will have to prove he can win big games.
Tier 2 NFC Teams
These are the teams that aren’t quite elite in the NFC, but teams that it would not surprise you if they represented the NFC in the Super Bowl.
New Orleans Saints – As we referenced with the Vikings, the Saints had a heartbreaking loss that ended their 2017 season. They did win their division going 11-5 in 2017 and won a home playoff game against the Carolina Panthers. Coming into 2018, they will be without Mark Ingram, one of their star running backs for the first four weeks of the season. They were able to re-sign Drew Brees this offseason and the defense will only improve as star cornerback Marshon Lattimore grows. They also added safety Kurt Coleman.
Green Bay Packers – The Packers missed the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since 2008. That 2008 season was Aaron Rodgers’ first year as the starting quarterback. In 2017, he missed nine games with a collarbone injury. The packers said goodbye to Jordy Nelson and welcomed in Jimmy Graham. There have been whispers out of Wisconsin that Rodgers hasn’t been happy with some of the moves made this offseason. But as long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy and starting, they have a chance.
Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons had one of the all time collapses in the 2016 Super Bowl. They went 10-6 in 2017 and lost in the divisional round of the playoffs. They haven’t made many moves this offseason. One move they did make is extending Matt Ryan to an NFL record deal. That deal will pay Ryan $30 million per year and $100 million guaranteed.
Tier 3 NFC Teams
Tier three are teams that if everything goes right could sneak into the playoffs.
Carolina Panthers – The Carolina Panthers are in tier 3 because of the division they play in. The NFC South is the best division in the NFC. The Panthers lost Andrew Norwell, who was their best offensive lineman. They have added a couple of new weapons for Cam Newton in veteran receiver Torrey Smith and they added rookie receiver D.J. Moore in the draft.
Dallas Cowboys – Now, your Dallas Cowboys. It would not surprise me for the Cowboys to return to the playoffs. However, it would also not surprise me if they went 7-9 between the coaching staff and the unknowns in the receiver room. The Cowboys will face plenty of loaded boxes in 2018 and it will be up to Dak and the receivers to make defenses pay.
San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers went 6-10 in 2017, but won their last five games once Jimmy Garoppolo took over at quarterback. They added cornerback Richard Sherman and running back Jerick Mckinnon this offseason to try to sure up two positions of need. While they still have holes on both sides of the ball, they could sneak into a wild card spot if Jimmy continues to play at a high level.
Seattle Seahawks – The 2018 Seattle Seahawks are a fascinating team full of unknowns. They have spent most of the offseason trying to clean up their locker room. They traded Michael Bennett to Philadelphia and cut Richard Sherman. Let Jimmy Graham go. Two things we know at this point, Earl Thomas remains on the team and their offensive line remains a huge question mark.
Tier 4 NFC Teams
These are the teams that are in a rebuild and/or not expected to contend in 2018.
Detroit Lions – The Lions went in 9-7 and missed the playoffs in 2017. That was enough to get Head Coach Jim Caldwell fired. Matthew Stafford will have a lot on his plate this upcoming season and he hasn’t shown in previous seasons that he is up for the task.
Chicago Bears – The Chicago Bears are in full rebuild mode. They have what they hope to be their franchise quarterback In Mitchell Trubisky. They added offensive guys Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton during the offseason. They are still behind the Vikings and Packers, but are making strides to return to contention soon.
Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals are going to be a very different team when they head to training camp. The biggest storyline for their 2018 season will be how quickly Josh Rosen takes over at quarterback.
New York Giants – The Giants are ready to turn the page on what was a terrible 2017 season. Odell Beckham is still there as he is still looking for his next contract. New head coach Pat Shumur is bringing a lot of excitement to New York, especially on the offensive side of the ball. However, Giants likely have too many holes to contend in 2018.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Buccaneers are in a tough place as a franchise. They are stuck behind three very good teams and while they have talent it is going to be tough for them to get over the hunt in 2018. Jameis Winston is entering his fourth NFL season in 2018. He has shown flashes of greatness but far too many times he tries to do too much that leads to turnovers.
Washington Redskins – After a 7-9 2017 season, don’t expect much better in 2018. They decided to finally part ways with Kirk Cousins after giving him the franchise tag three years in a row. They brought in Alex Smith via trade before free agency started to replace Cousins. That was a move that left people all over football scratching their heads because they traded Kendall Fuller to get him. Fuller is one of the best young corners in the NFL.
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