July 07, 2018
The NFC is loaded. The AFC is not. That is an unfortunate reality for a Philadelphia Eagles team that has the best roster in the NFL, and is looking to pile up Lombardi trophies rather than being one-and-done like other recent Philly champions, like the 2008 Phillies and the 1983 Sixers.
How dominant is it, Jimmy? Well, the NFC went 41-23 (.641) vs. the AFC last season. That was a win differential of +18 in favor of the NFC.
By my count, the NFC had a point differential of +265 in those games.
Only the 2004 (+24 in favor of the AFC) and 1979 (+20 in favor of the AFC) seasons had more lopsided inter-conference win differentials than 2017. Interestingly, the Eagles went to the Super Bowl in the weakest NFC season in NFL history (2004), as well as the most dominant one* (2017). There's an interactive website by the name of ryansleeper.com, where you can play around with NFC vs. AFC history.
Last season, the Eagles had to navigate one of the tougher six-packs of playoff teams in NFC history. On the whole, the NFC playoff teams combined for 69 wins, which was the fifth-highest total since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990.
Unquestionably, the Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, and to a lesser degree the Carolina Panthers all have compelling reasons for why they will be Super Bowl contenders in 2018. However, it's the strength of the rest of the conference that makes the NFC extra formidable. A look at each of the NFC teams that did not make the playoffs in 2017:
• Dallas Cowboys (9-7): While the Cowboys have their share of warts, they also won 13 games the previous season on the strength of a strong rushing attack.
• Seattle Seahawks (9-7): The defense won't be the same with the losses of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett, but they still have arguably a top five quarterback in Russell Wilson, who can win games on his own.
• Detroit Lions (9-7): The OL was a mess in 2017, and Matthew Stafford still found a way to win nine games. The line should be better in 2018, and Stafford remains, in my view, one of the most underrated players in the NFL.
• Arizona Cardinals (8-8): Their run of being a good team is over with very little to show for it. Next.
• Green Bay Packers (7-9): The Packers stunk last year without Aaron Rodgers. With him, they won playoff games in each of the prior three seasons.
• Washington Redskins (7-9): To my surprise when writing up their dumpster fire piece, I found that the Redskins had the fewest holes on their roster in the NFC East (Eagles aside), and it really wasn't even that close.
• San Francisco 49ers (6-10): The Niners will be a trendy pick to make the playoffs by some this year. I'm not buying all that just yet, but they did win five straight games with Jimmy Garoppolo to close the season last year. At a minimum, they'll be way better than the team that started 1-10 with C.J. Beathard and Brian Hoyer.
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11): The Jameis Winston suspension will put a damper on the start of the Bucs' season in 2018. They're a team that has looked decent on paper but like crap on the field.
• Chicago Bears (5-11): John Fox's reign of terror is over, and Mitchell Trubisky should improve on his 'meh' rookie season.
• New York Giants (3-13): The Giants' front office is stuck in 1965, but they'll be better with Odell Beckham returning from injury and the addition of Saquon Barkley, even if drafting Barkley over a position of far higher importance was a bad idea.
In other words, we went a long way to say that the already stacked NFC will probably be even better in 2018.
*Most dominant in terms of win differential, not necessarily winning percentage.
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