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NFC playoff picture by the numbers

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Seeing as there is no Eagles game this week, I thought I would do a little stats preview of every team in the NFC! At the end of the article, I will have a little fun and just rank each team based on the offense and defense stats. As always, stats do not tell everything, but they do mean something! I’ll rank each team based on seeding, starting with the Eagles.

#1 Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles' numbers have been consistently excellent all year. The defense has had some problems against the run, but ranking 1st in multiple categories says it all. They are about 2.5% higher than the team in 2nd in terms of sack rate (Cowboys) which is a pretty ridiculous statistic. Everything about these stats tells you that the Eagles are an elite team.

#2 San Francisco 49ers

Speaking of elite teams... the 49ers are no joke. The offense is legit, ranking top 13 in every stat and top 5 in most of the important ones. How on earth do they have the 4th highest EPA per pass attempt when using a 7th round rookie for a good part of the season? Kyle Shanahan is a genius. The defense might be scarier than the offense though. 1st in points per game AND 1st in EPA per play is about as good as it gets. They can be susceptible to the pass, but they basically give up nothing on the ground. This is an outstanding unit.

#3 Minnesota Vikings

This team is not elite. Not even close. Some of the numbers here have you wondering how on earth they have the 3rd seed. The defense is flat-out bad. 30th in yards per play and 28th in points allowed. Yikes. The offense is good, but not great, and they really cannot run the ball well despite having Dalvin Cook. This feels like a team that runs through one elite player in Justin Jefferson, and if you don’t let him dominate the game, you have a good chance of winning. The Giants could absolutely win this weekend.

#4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Speaking of not-good teams. The Bucs are not good either. This team would have never made the playoffs in a good division. The passing numbers are decent on offense, but the running game is absolutely awful. The rushing EPA has to be up there with the worst offenses ever. The defense is better, but it’s just an above-average unit and will not carry this team far into the playoffs. This team is relying on Brady and he could be good enough to beat the Cowboys.

#5 Dallas Cowboys

This team is strange. The numbers are really good, but they don’t feel like a really good team. They rank 4th in points per game but when you look at the other numbers, that feels a bit flukey. The defense on the other hand is just really good. 1st in takeaways, 2nd in sack rate, and 2nd in EPA per play is really, really good. If this team gets a good postseason from Dak Prescott and the offense, then they can compete with anyone. They just don’t look like a good offense to me whenever I watch them (except when they played us, sadly).

#6 New York Giants

Brian Daboll did a fantastic job getting this team into the playoffs. But this is also not a very good team. It’s pretty clear the AFC is superior to the NFC this year. The Giants rank below average in most categories except running the ball. This team's strategy on offense is simple but effective. Run the ball well and don’t turn it over. On defense, they just are not very good in any category. You can pass or run on them and they don’t get turnovers. This team may beat the Vikings, but I can’t see them going any further.

#7 Seattle Seahawks

I was rooting hard for the Lions to get into the playoffs because they feel like a more fun team than the Seahawks. But the Seahawks’ offense numbers are way better than I expected them to be. 7th in yards per play and 9th in points per game suggests this is a pretty good offense. However, they haven't played well recently on offense and they are going up against an outstanding 49ers defense. I do not see this defense stopping the 49ers either. It would be a huge upset if the Seahawks were to beat the 49ers, but it would be fantastic for the Eagles.


Based on the data above, here is how I would rank the teams based on offense and defense. These are just based on the stats and there is absolutely no scientific basis for this. It’s just my opinion all about the stats!

Offensive Rankings

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. San Francisco 49ers
  3. Dallas Cowboys
  4. Seattle Seahawks
  5. Minnesota Vikings
  6. New York Giants
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Defensive Rankings

  1. San Francisco 49ers
  2. Philadelphia Eagles
  3. Dallas Cowboys
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  5. Seattle Seahawks
  6. New York Giants
  7. Minnesota Vikings

Overall, I think it’s clear the Eagles and 49ers are the two elite teams in the conference. The Cowboys are right behind, but they do not feel as dominant as the top 2. After that, I think you can rank the teams through 4-7 similarly and none of them scare me as an Eagles fan. If the Eagles do face the 49ers in the conference game, I think it could be an unbelievable game. I’ll be rooting for the Seahawks this weekend though!

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