Week 17 of the NFL season is upon us. While the AFC appears to be a two-team contest between the New England Patriots and , the NFC playoffs are poised to be full of surprises. At the moment five of the six NFC playoff teams have been confirmed. The last spot will be a toss up between the Falcons and the Seahawks. If Atlanta manages to beat the Panthers, or if Seattle loses, then the defending NFC champions will claim the sixth and final spot. If the Falcons lose and the Seahawks beat the Cardinals, then Seattle will get the 6th seed.
The other five teams will be the Eagles, Vikings, Saints, Panthers, and Rams. Philadelphia and Minnesota are locked into the #1 and #2 seeds, respectively. Slots 3-5 will be determined by the outcomes of Week 17. Both the Saints and Panthers are in the running for the NFC South title. If the Saints beat the Bucs, then New Orleans will claim the #3 seed. If the Saints lose and the Panthers beat the Falcons, then Carolina will be the NFC South champions. If both teams lose, then New Orleans will take the divison by default. However, in doing so, they will gift the NFC’s #3 seed to the Rams and fall to the #4 slot. Currently, the only way for the Rams to escape the #4 seed would be for both New Orleans and Carolina to lose.
So with all the logistics out of the way, which team from the NFC will make their way to Super Bowl LII in Minnesota? Many for example can show you the odds for each team, but here are my opinions. Let’s start by removing Atlanta and Seattle from the equation. Regardless of which team makes the post-season, neither have demonstrated that they are capable of winning three straight games on the road. I would also cross the Philadelphia Eagles off the list. Even as the #1 seed, the Eagles are in the dangerous position of having lost their quarterback. Without Carson Wentz, I have severe doubts that the Eagles will win both of the games required to win the conference title.
New Orleans is an interesting pick. If they wrap up their division, they could theoretically play all of their games in a dome. First, they would host either Atlanta or Seattle at home, then go indoors to Minnesota the following week. If the Eagles fall in their first playoff game, then the Saints would return to New Orleans for the NFC Championship before returing to Minnesota once more for the Super Bowl.
Carolina is another interesting possibility. If they can grab the #3 seed, you have to like their chances. None of the other NFC contenders has any real playoff experience. However, Carolina has been to the Super Bowl just two years ago. Cam Newton may be able to capitalize on this and win the tough games on the road that the Panthers will need to return to the big game.
Finally, we have the Vikings, who are my pick to represent the NFC. It’s possible that they may play three straight games in US Bank Stadium, hosting the divisional round game, the NFC Championship if Philadelphia stumbles, and then the Super Bowl. If the Vikings win the NFC, they will have the distinction of being the first team to play at home in the Super Bowl. Perhaps this is the boost they need to right their 0-4 record in the Super Bowl and claim their first title.