NFC playoff field at a glance

BY foxsports • January 2, 2009




Overall record: 12-4

W-L vs. playoff teams: 5-2

Best wins: Week 8 at PIT (21-14), Week 10 at PHI (36-31), Week 11 vs. BAL (30-10), Week 16 vs. CAR (34-28, OT)

Worst losses: Week 6 at CLE (35-14)

WILL win Super Bowl because ... The defending champs still have the most physical defensive front in football, powered by a peerless pass rush run by blitz-happy defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Combined with what should be a rested "Earth, Wind & Fire" backfield that features two 1,000-yard rushers, the Giants will have the trench advantage heading into every playoff matchup.

WILL NOT win Super Bowl because ... Since Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg, QB Eli Manning lost his top receiving target -- especially in the red zone, where tight playoff games are won and lost. If Burress sub Domenik Hixon cannot separate, good cover teams could go eight-in-the-box to shut down the Giants' offense.


Overall record: 12-4

W-L vs. playoff teams: 3-3

Best wins: Week 1 at SD (26-24 without Steve Smith), Week 4 vs. ATL (24-9), Week 7 vs. NO (30-7), Week 14 vs. TB (38-23)

Worst losses: Week 6 at TB (27-3)

WILL win Super Bowl because ... They have the hottest running back on the planet in unheralded DeAngelo Williams. While other RBs get more publicity, Williams has blossomed into a scoring sensation down South with an NFL-high 20 touchdowns -- including 15 in the last eight games. Williams and backfield mate Jonathan Stewart give opposing defenses plenty to ponder on play-action passes.

WILL NOT win Super Bowl because ... Despite the talented Mr. Peppers on the defensive line, Carolina's defense can be scored upon. Even with all the rest thanks to the effective running game, the Panthers have been gutted at times lately -- giving up 29 points per game over their final six, including 30-plus in four of those games.


Overall record: 10-6

W-L vs. playoff teams: 3-3

Best wins: Week 3 vs. CAR (20-10), Week 13 vs. CHI (34-14), Week 17 vs. NYG (20-19)

Worst losses: Week 2 vs. IND (18-15, blew 15-0 lead), Week 7 at CHI (48-41)

WILL win Super Bowl because ... No team has been better the past two seasons at stopping the run than Minnesota. One half of the Williams defensive tackle combination is injured (Pat Williams, broken scapula), but the Vikings still have Pro Bowl DT Kevin Williams and a stout line that gave up an NFL-low 76.9 rushing yards/game this season. Combine that defense with NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson and the Vikings have the playoff formula down: Run the ball. Stop the run.

WILL NOT win Super Bowl because ... Tarvaris Jackson may not be ready for the big stage. Since taking back the starting QB job three weeks ago he has seven TD passes against just one pick, with back-to-back 200-yard games showing improved play during a pressure-packed playoff run. But until Jackson goes out and proves himself on the playoff stage, the inexperienced label will follow both him and coach Brad Childress, who drafted him in 2006.


Overall record: 9-7

W-L vs. playoff teams: 1-4

Best wins: Week 2 vs. MIA (31-10), Week 5 vs. BUF (41-17), Week 6 vs. DAL (30-24, OT)

Worst losses: Week 4 at NYJ (56-35), Week 13 at PHI (48-20), Week 15 vs. MIN (35-14), Week 16 at NE (47-7)

WILL win Super Bowl because ... They can outscore teams behind former MVP Kurt Warner and one of the league's best passing attacks. Arizona is tied with the Giants as the highest-scoring teams left in the NFC, powered by a Warner's arm and the NFL's best trio of receivers — Pro Bowlers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, plus up-and-coming talent Steve Breaston. The Cards scored 29 points or more in seven of their eight home games in '08, and if they start hot against Atlanta next week they could catch fire all the way to the Super Bowl.

WILL NOT win Super Bowl because ... Let's be frank: This is one of the worst division champions in NFL history. They own one win against a playoff team (Miami back in Week 2 before they caught fire), went 0-5 against tougher teams on the East Coast and finished 3-7 outside the atrocious AFC West. Oh, and they have no running game and a suspect defense. Other than that, this team is going all the way.


Overall record: 11-5

W-L vs. playoff teams: 3-2

Best wins: Week 6 vs. CHI (22-20, won in final seconds), Week 10 vs. NO (34-20), Week 12 vs. CAR (45-28), Week 13 at SD (22-16)

Worst losses: Week 2 at TB (24-9), Week 4 at CAR (24-9), Week 11 vs. DEN (24-20)

WILL win Super Bowl because ... Atlanta just may be the most balanced team in the conference, for real. On offense, the Falcons have brewing a young version of their very own Triplets with QB Matt Ryan (we won't demean him by calling him a rookie) plus Pro Bowlers RB Michael Turner and WR Roddy White. This team may be even better than their record indicates: If White did not drop a sure TD pass late against Denver, the Falcons would be NFC North champs and the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

WILL NOT win Super Bowl because ... While they are a wonderful turnaround story, the Falcons may not have enough defense to win the big one this season. Other than Pro Bowl defensive end John Abraham, the Falcons are a bend-or-break defense that might prove too leaky for a long playoff run. While they finished eighth in scoring defense, only the Chargers gave up more yardage among playoff teams than Atlanta's 24th-ranked defense.


Overall record: 9-6-1

W-L vs. playoff teams: 4-2

Best wins: Week 3 vs. PIT (15-6, including 9 sacks), Week 8 vs. ATL (27-14), Week 14 at NYG (20-14), Week 17 vs. DAL (44-6)

Worst losses: Week 11 at CIN (13-13 tie), Week 12 at BAL (36-7), Week 16 at WSH (10-3)

WILL win Super Bowl because ... When healthy, Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook are dynamite. Westbrook is capable of 100 yards rushing and/or receiving in every game with multiple touchdowns, and when McNabb is playing loose there may be no better improvisational passer in football. Combined with the third-ranked defense in the NFL, a blitzing turnover-machine waiting to happen, the Eagles are a legitimate threat in a one-and-done playoff format.

WILL NOT win Super Bowl because ... Aside from the obvious if either Westbrook or McNabb get hurt, which Philly team will show up? The passionate and desperate group that clawed its way back into the playoffs, or the cruise-control Eagles that coasted through the season's first half and scored a measly field goal in Week 16 with their playoff destiny in their full control? It's always the little things in Philly that keep them down: Red-zone issues, poor clock management and an offense too addicted to the pass.