NFC Playoffs Preview
The NFC playoff bracket begins on Saturday night when Detroit goes to Seattle (8:15 PM ET, NBC) and it has the feel of being one where anyone could win it—or at least five of the six teams have a credible shot according to the Vegas market. Below are some initial thoughts on each playoff contender, with their odds of winning the NFC title and Super Bowl in parentheses.
Dallas (3-2, 15-4)
How much do you trust a rookie quarterback to lead a favorite through the playoffs? That’s the single biggest issue NFL bettors have to decide when assessing the Dallas Cowboys. The question of Dak Prescott’s playoff readiness is going to get plenty of media coverage over the next couple weeks, but don’t overlook properly evaluating the Cowboy run defense, which can be a little soft on the interior. Or, on the flip side, the ability of their offensive line to make life a lot easier for any quarterback, rookie or vet.
Atlanta (7-2, 9-1)
Green Bay (7-2, 9-1)
The Packers might be the 4-seed, while the Falcons are the 2-seed and enjoying a first-round bye, but the difference in market regard for Rodgers and Matt Ryan is manifest in these numbers, with Green Bay seen as equivalent to Atlanta. If the Packers beat the Giants on Sunday, look for their price to fall further.
Green Bay has the hot team and hot quarterback, but we also have to decide if their problems at cornerback are serious enough to wipe that out. You never want to overreact to injuries at one position, but when the road to the Super Bowl starts with Odell Beckham, and potentially goes through Dez Bryant and Julio Jones after that, it’s hard to not be at least a tad concerned with the way Packer corners keep dropping like flies.
Seattle (11-2, 14-1)
Pete Carroll is a proven winner on the sidelines. Russell Wilson is a proven winner at quarterback. The Legion of Boom defense might not inspire the same kind of fear they did three years ago ,but it’s still one of the better defenses in the leagues. And the price is generous.
That all sounds attractive and it is. There’s also the problem of the offensive line being nothing short of abominable and the recent form of his team being almost as bad. Ignoring those problems is the price you pay for taking the value of those 11-2 and 14-1 numbers .
NY Giants (9-1, 14-1)
We’ve heard a lot about the echoes of 2007 and 2011 and that’s understandable. The defense is great again. Eli Manning’s postseason pedigree is a matter of record. So is his basic incompetence this season. Which part of that record you emphasize decides how you feel about the Giants.
Detroit (45-1, 90-1)
These numbers are a little ridiculous. Even if you lack confidence in the Lions, there’s no reason to consider them five times worse than the rest of the NFC field. For handicappers the decision here is whether this obvious value is a purely intellectual exercise. In the end, after all, the only value is in a ticket that wins, whatever the price.