With 15 weeks of NFL games in the books, the 2021 NFL playoff picture is really starting to take shape. And the NFC, in particular, is playing host to a circus of a wild card race, with at least eight teams fighting over three postseason berths. With Week 16 kicking, which teams look the most formidable in the race? We're taking stock of the entire pool of them.
Find current NFC division leaders below, as well as our rankings of the current wild card contenders:
Current NFC division leaders
These can obviously change from now until the end of the season, but at the moment, these front-runners are locked in:
NFC wild card contenders, ranked
This is how we'd sort the candidates, but keep in mind only three of these can actually make the playoffs:
1. Rams (10-4)
Remaining schedule: at Vikings, at Ravens, vs. 49ers
The Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection is borderline unstoppable when the offense is clicking. And now Aaron Donald and Von Miller might be working in tandem? Their talent alone should scare potential playoff opponents.
2. 49ers (8-7)
Remaining schedule: vs. Texans, at Rams
The 49ers took a step back in their quest for a postseason berth with a disappointing 20-17 loss to the Titans on Thursday night. The 49ers remain in a good position to earn a wild card spot but have opened the door a crack for the Vikings, Eagles and Saints.
3. Vikings (7-7)
Remaining schedule: vs. Rams, at Packers, vs. Bears
They've got a tall task facing the Rams and Packers in back-to-back games coming up, but as long as Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson are healthy, they have a shot. Their "D" really flashed (albeit against the Bears) in Week 15, too.
4. Eagles (7-7)
Remaining schedule: vs. Giants, at Washington, vs. Cowboys
Their passing game has limits, but Nick Sirianni has wisely schemed around his personnel, and few teams run the ball with a better combo of speed and power when they're on schedule. They showed true resiliency in a key divisional game Tuesday.
5. Saints (7-7)
They aren't beating anybody in the playoffs with Taysom Hill throwing the way he has lately, but man, Dennis Allen's defense is feisty. Let them rematch the Bucs another three times, and we'd bet on them getting in.
6. Falcons (6-8)
Remaining schedule: vs. Lions, at Bills, vs. Saints
They're not a playoff team. But if they actually clean up the red-zone execution and get back to feeding Cordarrelle Patterson, they have the wherewithal to spoil someone else's stretch run.
7. Washington (6-8)
Remaining schedule: at Cowboys, vs. Eagles, at Giants
They don't really quit under Ron Rivera, and they kept things close with the Eagles despite a rash of COVID-related holes, but the lineup is still far too ravaged by depth concerns to make up for lost ground.
Not good enough
These teams aren't technically out of the mix, but they have an awfully uphill climb to the postseason picture:
- Seahawks (5-9): Russell Wilson is still not fully right, as evidenced by their 10-point showing Tuesday.
- Panthers (5-9): They've gone 0-4 since Cam Newton's return, and their passing game hasn't improved at all.
- Giants (4-10): We're now at the point where Jake Fromm may start over Mike Glennon at QB. That says it all.
- Bears (4-10): Matt Nagy should be thankful for their defense, which is the only reason they kept it close in Week 15.
Just what it says. These guys are already looking ahead to 2022:
- Lions (2-11-1): Officially eliminated, but they could play spoiler as they did against the Cardinals.
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