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NFL: NFC contenders and pretenders

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When it comes to the playoffs in the NFL, it is an ever-changing world. One week a team will be in the hunt and then the next they could be fighting for their playoff life. Now that we hit the halfway mark of the 2016 season, playoff talk can begin. We are going to take a look at the current NFC division leaders after eight weeks and play contender or pretender with each.

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have one of the best defenses in recent memory. They not only boast a strong run defense but their pass rush and corners are exceptional as well. The downfall of this team is going to end up being their offense. Sam Bradford has not been one for longevity in the NFL. He has his moments of playing well and then he goes into gaps of QB illusion and begins to have mishaps.

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There also could be a lack of disrespect for their running game from opponents. If the Viking would like to stay in contention, even just in the division, they will have to hope that Bradford and the run game can become consistent entities. I would like to think that the defense could maintain consistency and keep them in ball games.

However, we all know that a bad offense can many times kill a great defense. I am not saying that the Vikings offense is bad, yet. There is time, and they only have one loss. Right now I would put the Vikings in the contender category.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have one of the most explosive offenses in the league. The problem is their defense. It is just as explosive, for the opposition. There have been many games in which they have been involved in shootouts. Their offense is more than capable of winning these games. Can the defense make that one stop needed for the win? The pass rush should be the least of the worries. Vic Beasley is quietly becoming a solid pass rusher in only his second season.

His four-sack performance against the Denver Broncos should be proof of this. It is thus the secondary that is the issue. They have problems keeping offenses out of the end zone. I would surely expect this to come and bite them in the butt later in the season. This is why I am placing the Atlanta Falcons as pretenders after eight weeks.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks are doing the opposite of what many people thought they would. Since the retirement of RB Marshawn Lynch, many thought that this team would struggle. They have lost many players on defense and along the offensive line as well. But that has not stopped the Seahawks from returning to dominating the NFC West.

Putting the ball in the hand of QB Russell Wilson seems to be a legit thing to do. He is smart when it comes to the passing game and he knows when to use his feet. The defense is coming together and the LOB (Legion of Boom) may have lost a step but is not showing it thus far. To make a deep playoff run, however, this team will need to get more from its run game.

If that happens then look out! A complete team in Seattle would be very dangerous. I place them as a contender after 8 weeks. You never know what can happen.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are one of the surprise teams in 2016. The offense is playing at a very high level; even with a rookie RB and QB. Ezekiel Elliot leads the NFL in rushing, and Dak Prescott is playing above the expectations of a 4th round rookie. With that being said, there is a $100 million dollar man on the bench in Tony Romo. It would be a mistake going back to him at this point. Prescott is younger and more mobile. Defenses have to respect his ability to run.

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With Romo in the pocket, however, he now becomes a sitting target back there. If Dallas goes back to Romo, without injury to Prescott, they would be doing a disservice to themselves and their defense. The Dallas defense has been playing well, and with the offense being balanced and not turning it over, they are staying fresh and able to make plays because of it. I would have to place the Cowboys, with Romo, pretenders and without Romo, contenders.

These are the top four division leaders in the NFC. Is any of them your favorite? Do you feel different about another team? The NFC is wide open, and it’s anybody’s race.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com