NFC playoff outlook: Big tests coming for 49ers, Eagles and surging Lions

49ers and Philly prove they aren’t invincible and Detroit looks for real

We’ll learn a lot about the three NFC teams that have broken away from the pack in their quest to represent the conference in Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.

The 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles appeared destined to cruise into their Dec. 3 matchup in South Philly as the conference’s top two teams. Instead, both teams were defeated unexpectedly, with Cleveland defeating the 49ers 19-17 and the Eagles falling to the New York Jets 20-14.

Meanwhile, Detroit easily defeated Tampa Bay 20-6, and it’s beginning to appear that the Lions’ first playoff appearance since 2016 was overstated. Detroit could even win their first postseason game since 1991, having lost eight wild card games between that season and 2016.

Here’s how the NFC ranks in terms of playoff seeding heading into Week 7:

  1. 49ERS (5-1): As the 49ers rolled to a 5-0 record, you knew their luck with injuries was too good to be true. Deebo Samuel (shoulder) and Christian McCaffrey (oblique/rib) were unable to finish in their road loss to Cleveland, while Trent Williams (ankle) finished on one leg. Unless this is a ruse, all three appear to be eligible to play against Minnesota.

Next three weeks: Minnesota (2-4), Cincinnati (3-3), and a bye.

  1. EAGLES (5-1): The Eagles host the Miami Dolphins in a classic power vs. speed matchup, and quarterback Jalen Hurts will need to shine. Hurts has been solid, but not the MVP candidate many expected. He has seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions and is on pace for 179 rushes, a career high. He should be running less rather than more.

The next three weeks include games against Miami (5-1), Washington (3-3), and Dallas (4-2).

  1. LIONS (5-1): Don’t look now, but Jared Goff (Marin Catholic, Calif.) has 4,473 yards, 29 touchdowns, and four interceptions in his last 17 games (an entire season) dating back to last year. However, the schedule has been relatively easy, and it concludes Sunday with a trip to Baltimore to face the Ravens. Detroit last won a playoff game in 1983, defeating Dallas 38-6.

The next three weeks include games against Baltimore (4-2), Las Vegas (3-3), and a bye.

  1. BUCCANEERS (3-2): The Buccaneers are currently the most likely team above.500 to plummet, and they looked the part in their loss to the Lions. Tampa Bay has victories over Minnesota, Chicago, and New Orleans, so Baker Mayfield and his teammates still have a lot to prove. They could be forgotten by the time they play the 49ers on November 19.

The next three weeks include games against Atlanta (3-3), Buffalo (4-2), and Houston (3-3).

  1. COWBOYS (4-2): The Cowboys beat the Chargers after suffering a national embarrassment against the 49ers. And, despite the fact that they couldn’t seem to avoid putting 12 men on defense or playing with the clock, quarterback Dak Prescott outperformed his opponent, the more lauded Justin Herbert. Can take a break before two difficult post-bye tests.

Next three weeks: bye, at Los Angeles Rams (3-3), and at Philadelphia (5-1).

  1. SEAHAWKS (3-2): Their only signature win came against the Lions in Week 2, when the Seahawks allowed 31 points. However, the rushing defense has been very good, making the games against the 49ers on Nov. 23 and (in Seattle) and Dec. 10 (in Santa Clara) very interesting.

The next three weeks include games against Arizona (1-5), Cleveland (3-3), and Baltimore (4-2).

  1. RAMS (3-3): The loss of running back Kyren Williams for a number of games is a major setback. However, after six games, the Rams appear to be a legitimate playoff contender. I wouldn’t have said that before Week 1. Given the post-Super Bowl roster devastation, Sean McVay is at least in the running for Coach of the Year if this happens.

The next three weeks include games against Pittsburgh (3-2), Dallas (4-2), and Green Bay (2-3).


  1. Quarterback Sam Howell has been sacked 34 times for the Commanders (3-3). That puts him on pace for 96 sacks in 17 games, much of which is his fault for not getting rid of the ball.

The next three weeks include games against the New York Giants (1-5), Philadelphia (4-2), and New England (1-5).

  1. FALCONS (3-3): If Christian McCaffrey (733 yards per game) is out for more than a game, rookie Bijan Robinson (590 yards per game) could pass him.

The next three weeks include games against Tampa Bay (3-2), Tennessee (2-4), and Miami (4-2).

  1. SAINTS (3-3): Derek Carr can take a beating and keep going. It appears that he is still struggling in the red zone. Raiders fans are well aware of the situation.

The next three weeks include games against Jacksonville (4-2), Indianapolis (3-3), and Chicago (1-5).


Postseason seeding as of now

As a result, quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Tua Tagovailoa, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen lead the top four seeds. That sounds about right. Joe Burrow will need to be accommodated.

  1. Kansas City (5-1), 2. Miami (5-1), 3. Baltimore (4-2), 4. Jacksonville (4-2), 5. Buffalo (4-2), 6. Pittsburgh (3-2), 7. Cleveland (3-3).

The remaining.500 teams are: 8, Indianapolis (3-3), 9, Houston (3-3), 10, New York Jets (3-3), 11, Las Vegas (3-3), and Cincinnati (3-3).

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