COMMENTARY: NFL NFC Playoff Preview: The most competitive and unpredictable NFC postseason ever

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COMMENTARY: NFL NFC Playoff Preview: The most competitive and unpredictable NFC postseason ever

By original: Mike Morbeck derivative: Diddykong1130 (Aaron Rodgers) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By original: Mike Morbeck derivative: Diddykong1130 (Aaron Rodgers) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By original: Mike Morbeck derivative: Diddykong1130 (Aaron Rodgers) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By original: Mike Morbeck derivative: Diddykong1130 (Aaron Rodgers) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

John Ferraro, Sports Editor

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Two rookies leading the Dallas Cowboys to the best record in the NFC. Matt Ryan lighting up defenses. Seattle Seahawks defense imploding? Eli Manning back in the playoffs. I cannot wait for postseason football in the NFC.

HOW THEY RANK:
1. Dallas Cowboys 
2. Atlanta Falcons 
3. Seattle Seahawks 
4. Green Bay Packers 
5. New York Giants 
6. Detroit Lions 

HOW THEY LOOK:

Dallas Cowboys

Behind the best unit in football, that starting Cowboy offensive line, a rookie quarterback and running back have had sensational MVP-worthy seasons. Dallas’ fourth-round draft pick, QB Dak Prescott, took advantage of Tony Romo’s injury and played very well, leading the team to 11-straight wins at one point while finishing the regular season with a 104.9 quarterback rating. First-round rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott has been feasting on defenses by leading the NFL in rushing yards. He’s arguably had the greatest season for the rookie running back in NFL history. But, the “X Factor” for the Cowboys heading into the postseason is going to be that offensive line. It’s worked like a well-oiled machine and been a joy to watch even from this avid Philadelphia Eagles fan. With the road to Super Bowl LI going through Dallas, it could be a very productive postseason for “America’s Team” and owner Jerry Jones.

Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons have been a regular season or postseason disappointment in recent years. This season has felt a little different for the club. Matt Ryan, who threw 38 TDs to only 7 INTs with a 117 quarterback rating, has been playing consistently at an MVP level, leading his team to a double-digit win total. The offensive firepower is not only led by the man they call “Matty Ice,” but strong wide receiver play from Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and former Cleveland Brown Taylor Gabriel. The second ranked offense in the NFL helps mask the deficiencies they have on the defensive side of the ball. However, being a “dome team” just like the Cowboys gives Atlanta a great chance of winning on the road in AT&T Stadium, if they need to. Matt Ryan needs to be as dynamic as he’s been all season and the team must force opponents into a shootout in order to advance.

Seattle Seahawks

The once famed Super Bowl champion “Legion of Boom” lost a bit of its impact over the past few seasons. After losing in stunning fashion to the New England Patriots followed by not making the Super Bowl last season, the Seahawks have taken a few steps back. This season, Pro-Bowler Earl Thomas’ season ended with a broken left leg, which has hurt the effectiveness of Seattle’s secondary. Seattle is slumping a bit, losing to the struggling Arizona Cardinals at home two weeks ago. Cornerback Richard Sherman has been a headcase recently on the sidelines and with the media, but with QB Russell Wilson leading the offense, you can never count Seattle out. They are going to have to control the ball, so their running game needs to improve from its 25th ranking. I can see Seattle winning one game against Detroit at home, but they are going to have a harder road to another championship than previous seasons.

Green Bay Packers

When Aaron Rodgers said the Packers were going to win out (which they needed to in order to make the playoffs), I didn’t believe him. Well, the Packers did just that and now find themselves with a home game in the postseason. Rodgers slumped a bit early in the season looking like a shell of his Super Bowl-winning self. But, the former NFL MVP has been dazzling during the six-game winning streak throwing for 1,667 yards, 15 TDs, zero INTs and posted a 121 quarterback rating. Hosting the red hot G-Men on Wild Card weekend might be a challenge, but the Packers can do it. If I were a team in the NFC, I would not want to go up against an Aaron Rodgers-led team right now.

New York Giants

The Dallas Cowboys might be one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, but the team has two legitimate blemishes on its regular season record. You can call it a fluke. You can call it lucky. You can analyze the “why” or “how” the Cowboys lost, but the Giants seem to be Dallas’ kryptonite this season. With a win opening weekend in Dallas and then beating them in New York by three points, the Giants might be in the Cowboys’ heads. Another stat that should scare some Cowboy fans and fans of any team opposing the Giants in the playoffs, when Eli Manning makes the playoffs, he’s clutch. In two out of his five trips to the postseason, Eli won the Super Bowl. This year’s Giants team has been led mostly by their defense ranking 10th overall in the NFL and second in points allowed. They are going to have to rely on that defense and Eli’s playoff clutch arm to win some games.

Detroit Lions

The regular season rollercoaster ride for the Detroit Lions came to an end on Sunday night when they lost to division foe Green Bay, 31-24. But QB Matthew Stafford has almost looked better without star WR Calvin Johnson in the 2016 regular season. Stafford threw for over 4,300 yards with 24 TDs and 10 INTs. He has been able to open up his options without “Megatron” on the football field. On top of that, Stafford has led eight fourth quarter game-winning drives this season. He’s going to have to do that with a team that ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing yards this season. Stafford will need to pull off some magic as Detroit needs to win three road games to get to the Super Bowl.

PREDICTION:
Wild Card Weekend:
#4 Green Bay Packers: 28 vs. #5 New York Giants: 27
#3 Seattle Seahawks: 24 vs. #6 Detroit Lions: 14

Divisional Round:
#2 Atlanta Falcons: 28 vs. #3 Seattle Seahawks: 21
#4 Green Bay Packers: 21 vs. #1 Dallas Cowboys: 20

NFC Championship:
#4 Green Bay Packers: 31 vs. #2 Atlanta Falcons: 28

Check back Super Bowl weekend for a full breakdown of the biggest game of the year.

Contact the writer: [email protected]
Twitter: @JohnFerraro21

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