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NFC Playoff Projections thru Week 12

Five weeks remain in the regular season, and as one would expect, division titles and wild card spots are up for grabs. The NFC East, North, and South division crowns will go right down to the finish, and the wild card slots of the NFC have a handful of teams in the running.

Here are your division champions and wild card teams for the NFC at the end of the season. No need to watch the last five weeks, because these will be the six teams that will duke it out to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl – mark it down.

NFC West (1 seed): Seattle Seahawks – current record (10-1); projected record (14-2)

Pete Carroll has done wonders at Seattle ever since he left the college ranks, and he’s got a QB in Russell Wilson who just plain wins. Wilson’s job is never to throw the football 40 or 50 times to win a game. His highest output was 33 pass attempts way back in week 1 in a 12-7 win over Carolina. There is no need to throw the football when RB Marshawn Lynch is lined up six yards deep in the backfield. Once defenses stack the box, the Seahawks go play-action which allows Wilson to make plays with his arm or legs. Their defense isn’t too shabby either, allowing just 16.3 points per game. Seattle has built a comfortable three-game lead in their division and they’ll win four of their last five, making the playoffs as the NFC No. 1 seed.

NFC South (2 seed): New Orleans Saints – current record (9-2); projected record (12-4)

“Who Dat” nation will return to the playoffs after struggling last year without Head Coach Sean Payton at the helm. The Saints have lost just two games – a 30-27 loss at Foxboro vs. the Patriots and a 26-20 hiccup vs. the Jets. New Orleans lacks a consistent ground game, but with Drew Brees (317 yards/game, 28 TD) at QB, the team is fine living and dying through the air. They face Seattle this weekend with playoff home field advantage implications on the line and still have to face the resurgent Carolina Panthers twice who trail the Saints by just a game in the standings. Brees and Payton, however, always find a way. They’ll win three of their last five to take home the NFC South title.

NFC North (3 seed): Detroit Lions – current record (6-5); projected record (9-7)

The Lions get the three seed in the NFC due to an unbelievable last-second victory over Dallas in week 8, 31-30. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson is undoubtedly the best WR in the league. He has put up ridiculous numbers through 10 games (he sat out week 5 vs. Green Bay with an injury) as he’s accumulated 1,198 yards and 11 touchdowns on 66 receptions. Megatron is truly unstoppable. Another reason the Lions get the nod, despite having lost two consecutive games, is that they still have their starting QB under center in Matthew Stafford. The uncertainty of Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers’ health puts the Lions in the driver’s seat, where they’ll cruise to the playoffs after a one-year absence.

NFC East (4 seed): Dallas Cowboys – current record (6-5); projected record (9-7)

The Cowboys – who still claim to be America’s team – have been stuck in mediocrity for over a decade. This year is no different, despite a roster (offense especially) that is loaded with talent. Tony Romo, clutch-gene or not, has his team in a position to make the playoffs again despite a defense that is one of the worst in the NFL. The Cowboys currently sit in a tie for first with the Philadelphia Eagles and host the birds in a potential playoffs-or-bust game in week 17. Dallas has been in this position before, and more times than not, has failed. This year they’ll get it done, thanks to a relatively easy schedule down the stretch. After hosting Oakland on Thanksgiving, Dallas goes to Chicago to take on the Jay Cutler-less Bears and then return back home to host the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers. They’ll hit the road in week 16 for a matchup with a beleaguered Washington team, before coming back to AT&T Stadium for the aforementioned showdown with Philly.

NFC Wild Card (5 seed): Carolina Panthers – current record (8-3); projected record (11-5)

The Panthers are on a roll behind former Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. After a 1-3 start, the dual-threat QB has put his team on his back in reeling off seven straight wins. Newton, now in his third year, is finally showing the ability that made him the first overall pick in 2011. He’s a highlight reel waiting to happen, and has turned in some big time performances in the past couple of weeks, including clutch conversions vs. the Patriots in week 11. Carolina eeked out a 10-9 win over San Francisco in week 10, which gives them the nod over the 49ers for the first wild card spot. With that being said, your second wild card team of the NFC will be the…

NFC Wild Card (6 seed): San Francisco 49ers – current record (7-4); projected record (11-5)

The 49ers currently have the same record as the Arizona Cardinals, but they are a much better football team than the redbirds from Phoenix. When the weather gets cold, ground games and defenses become crucial. RB Frank Gore hasn’t put up huge numbers this season (70.8 yards/game), but the 49ers have been in this position before and succeeded. They also get WR Michael Crabtree back from injury, which bolsters their offense significantly by giving Kaepernick three legitimate targets (Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis the other two). Coach Harbaugh, Kaepernick, and their dominant defense get it done, winning four of their last five, including a week 17 win in Arizona.