With the Vikings and Falcons currently holding onto the NFC’s two wild card spots, the chasing pack is closing in. Tampa Bay and Seattle are their nearest challengers, while the Redskins and Rams are on the fringes of the wild card hunt. But who will emerge as the NFC’s two wild cards?
5th seed: Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have a tight grip on the NFC’s fifth seed thanks to a strong defense and an offense carried by Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson and Stefon Diggs. But a tough remaining schedule that sees the Vikings face five fellow playoff contenders could jeopardise their chances of returning to the post-season.
6th seed: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are 1-4 since Week 5 after starting 5-0 and are barely hanging onto the final wild card spot. Atlanta can have a potent offense when Devonta Freeman is healthy, but the defense hasn’t progressed as Dan Quinn had hoped. The Falcons must still play the Vikings, Buccaneers and Jaguars as well as two games against the so-far unbeaten Carolina Panthers. The Falcons don’t look like a convincing playoff team, and those faults will be exposed in the race for the wild card.
7th seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have a potent offense with Jameis Winston improving weekly and Doug Martin running wild. An underrated defense makes this team a challenging opponent down the stretch, but they still have several roster holes. However, a relatively easy remaining schedule could see the Bucs make the playoffs for the first time since 2007. They face the Hasselbeck-led Colts this week, and their remaining challenges are limited to games against the Rams and Panthers.
8th seed: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks look like they may have begun their late season surge. The defense is still one of the league’s best and rookie playmakers like Tyler Lockett and Thomas Rawls are stepping up on offense. The Seahawks have a mixed remaining schedule. They have easy games against Baltimore, Cleveland and St. Louis, but also face three playoff contenders in Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Arizona. As good as the Seahawks are, finishing 8-8 or 9-7 may not be enough to make the playoffs.
9th seed: Washington Redskins
The Redskins have virtually no chance of making the playoffs unless they win the NFC East. Kirk Cousins and the offense are playing well against similar opponents, but the defense will struggle against playoff calibre teams. The Redskins have four divisional games left as well as clashes with Chicago and Buffalo. With the Cowboys surging in the East, Washington could struggle to even make the playoffs as winner of the weak NFC East.
10th seed: St. Louis Rams
Despite slumping over the last few weeks, the Rams are still on the fringes of the wild card race. They have a deadly weapon in Todd Gurley, and just need to utilise him more. Trouble is, neither Nick Foles nor Case Keenum can dig the Rams out of holes when they need to throw the ball. Five of St. Louis’ last six games come against surging teams. They travel to the Bengals, then host Arizona, Detroit and Tampa Bay before travelling to Seattle and finishing by hosting the 49ers. With such a tough schedule, the Rams will be lucky to reach their usual 7-9 finish.