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Why every NFC playoff team is scary (or not)

Sorting out the postseason hopefuls from a Philadelphia perspective

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

It’s beginning to look a lot like ...


That’s right. The holiday season is upon is, but so, too, is the postseason. (Soon enough.)

This Christmas, as an alternative to worrying whether or not your name landed on the Nice List, let’s run through all the teams that qualify as potential NFC playoff contenders from a Philadelphia Eagles perspective: Why should the Birds be weary of every team they could ultimately face in January, and why shouldn’t they?

Minnesota Vikings (11-3)

Be scared because ... they have a pool of guys (Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, Stefon Diggs) who will carve you up with volume catches and a defense that makes up for a middling turnover rate with a killer knack for stopping third-down plays.

Don’t be scared because ... even amid his gritty, overachieving 2017, Case Keenum has to be one of the most favorable playoff quarterback matchups, especially considering his lack of postseason experience.

Los Angeles Rams (10-4)

Be scared because ... Todd Gurley went off when the Rams last played the Eagles, and he isn’t slowing down — a sure sign that L.A. has the firepower to do what it did against Philly in Week 14, when Carson Wentz was still active, and drop 35 points.

Don’t be scared because ... Jared Goff looked rather sheepish when the Eagles finally applied pressure late in Week 14, and only if Jim Schwartz’s defense continues to erode should the Rams have as many opportunities for clean-pocket throws and open-space scores.

New Orleans Saints (10-4)

Be scared because ... Alvin Kamara is a walking highlight reel out of the backfield, Cameron Jordan is a sneakily dangerous threat off the edge and Drew Brees is, you know, Drew Brees — the guy who ended the Eagles’ last trip to the playoffs.

Don’t be scared because ... they have very much been hit or miss, coughing up 31 points (and almost a game) to the Washington Redskins, blowing a crucial divisional bout with Atlanta and stumbling through a win over the New York Jets in their last five weeks alone.

Carolina Panthers (10-4)

Be scared because ... they’re finally letting Cam Newton loose on the ground, Luke Kuechly and Co. are fully healthy on defense and they’re getting hot at the right time with six wins in their last seven games.

Don’t be scared because ... Cam is prone to doing lots of questionable things when you put pressure in his face as the Eagles did in Week 6, and wins have hidden the fact that they’ve allowed an average of 26.5 points per game over the last four weeks.

Atlanta Falcons (9-5)

Be scared because ... they employ maybe the most imposing wide receiver in the game in Julio Jones, they’re only a year removed from a run to the Super Bowl and they’re quietly on their best stretch of the season at 6-2 in their last eight.

Don’t be scared because ... they’ve struggled to look like themselves all year, battling untimely penalties, a negative turnover differential and a late-blooming run game to the tune of 10 different games that were decided by six points or less.

Detroit Lions (8-6)

Be scared because ... they know how to air it out (fourth in the NFL in passing offense), and if any team qualifies as the underdog spoiler, it’s them, considering they’re fresh off a 2-2 stretch that includes a 44-20 loss to the offense-less Baltimore Ravens.

Don’t be scared because ... they are a self-admitted one-dimensional attack that surrenders more points than all but seven teams, and they’ve made beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears look ugly in consecutive weeks.

Seattle Seahawks (8-6)

Be scared because ... Russell Wilson.

Don’t be scared because ... their dependence on Wilson’s legs wouldn’t allow for a repeat of their Week 13 win over the Eagles, or at least in that fashion, and their defense is essentially the same feisty, undisciplined group that won playoff games — except older, way more banged up and now downtrodden by the Jaguars (!) and Rams.

Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

Be scared because ... they’re better than when they last played the Eagles, Dak Prescott has picked up his game and Ezekiel Elliott should hit the ground running as the returning centerpiece of the Dallas offense.

Don’t be scared because ... they’ve been no stranger to long stretches of offensive ineptitude, their defense was an extra Derek Carr arm length away from putting a nail in the season coffin and their path to the playoffs is just as daunting.

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