Yesterday we took a look at the AFC teams that will almost certainly be in the playoffs following the 2012 regular season. Today, it's time to look at their NFC counterparts. Let's get right to it.
Green Bay Packers
I recently questioned whether the Packers would continue to dominate the NFC North as the Detroit Lions continue to rise, and I haven't abandoned those questions. I do know that the Packers have a quarterback that doesn't falter in big game situations. The Packers may not pull out the NFC North, but if they don't win their division, I don't see a scenario where they don't snag a wildcard spot instead. The Lions aren't on this list for the same reason the Packers made the list. The Lions don't have a quarterback that's proven he can pull out wins late in the year when everything is on the line.
The Falcons are in a very strange position. I'm not sure whether they're the favorite to win their division or not. The Panthers will likely be very competitive this year, and the Saints shouldn't be the same dominant team they've been over the past several years as they cope with the loss of players and coaches due to bountygate suspensions. My rationale, much like my reasoning for putting Green Bay on this list, is that the Falcons will either win their division or get in via a wildcard birth. Like the Packers, I just can't imagine them missing out on the playoffs altogether.
San Francisco 49ers
While I do believe the two above teams are locks, this pick is virtually bulletproof. The 49ers play in one of the lease competitive divisions in the NFL, and they're a Super Bowl caliber team. They could probably win their division with 8 or 9 wins, but I fully expect them to compete for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This team is still on the rise. I'm comfortable saying whoever the NFC sends to the Super Bowl will have to go through the 49ers to get their in early 2013.
A Note on the NFC East's Omission
The NFC East has a lot of solid teams, but there's no stand out champion. Robert Griffin III should make the Redskins very competitive, keeping them in the playoff talk late in the year. The Cowboys are still trying to find their identity in the post Wade Phillips era. The Eagles should be a lock to make the playoffs, but they choked in epic fashion last season. Even the Super Bowl champion Giants can't be expected to make the playoffs with no doubts. Last season they had to beat the Cowboys in week 17 to win their division and a trip to the playoffs. In short, there's no sure picks here.
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