Remaining Strength of Schedule for NFC Playoff Contenders

13 teams are fighting for seven NFC playoff spots, including a logjam of 6-7 and 5-8 teams. Strength of schedule provides a little insight but remember, the NFL is a parity-based league. If you do not think that, look no further than the impact Montez Sweat has made for the Bears’ defense. The unit has gone from middling to elite since Chicago acquired him from the Commanders mid-season.

With that in mind, let’s look at the NFC contenders and pretenders in what will be a wild finish to the regular season.

  1. 49ers (10-3) – They hold the tiebreaker over the Cowboys and will clinch the No. 1 seed with any combination of three wins and three Dallas losses. Remaining Opponents: Ravens, Cardinals, Commanders, and Rams. Strength of Schedule with NFL Rank: .558 (25).
  2. Cowboys (10-3) – They hold the tiebreaker over the Eagles based on head-to-head matchups. Remaining Opponents: Dolphins, Lions, Bills, and Commanders. Strength of Schedule with NFL Rank: .558 (12).
  3. Lions (9-4) – The Lions will clinch their first playoff berth since 2017 if they beat the Broncos on Sunday and the Rams and Seahawks lose. Remaining Opponents: Cowboys, Vikings (twice), and Broncos. Strength of Schedule with NFL Rank: .596 (7)
  4. Buccaneers (6-7) – The Buccaneers have a virtual lock on the No. 4 seed thanks to playing in the league’s most mediocre division, which also gives them a favorable four-week schedule. Tampa Bay holds tiebreakers over the Falcons and Saints. Remaining Opponents: Jaguars, Panthers, Packers, and Saints. Strength of Schedule with NFL Rank: .404 (28)
  5. Eagles (10-3) – Philadelphia is the first team in NFL history to have 10+ wins and no more than one loss and then proceed to lose back-to-back games by 20+ points each. They’ve dropped behind the Cowboys during their two-game skid, and no longer control their own NFC East destiny. Remaining Opponents: Cardinals, Giants (twice), and Seahawks. Strength of Schedule with NFL Rank: .365 (32).
  6. Vikings (7-6) – They’re down to their third-string QB and still have two games remaining with first-place Detroit. Things could turn ugly quickly, though Justin Jefferson returns from injury today. Remaining Opponents: Lions (twice), Packers, and Bengals (today). Strength of Schedule with NFL Rank: .596 (6).
  7. Packers (6-7) – Sunday night’s loss to the Giants put a severe hurt on Green Bay’s playoff chances, but they still control their destiny and have a favorable schedule. Jordan Love needs to be more consistent to keep them in the playoff hunt. Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, and Christian Watson are all dealing with injuries. Remaining Schedule: Vikings, Panthers, Bears, and Buccaneers. Strength of Schedule with NFL Rank: .365 (31).
  8. Rams (6-7) – Los Angeles is in a good position despite its sub-.500 record because it holds tiebreakers over every team with a similar record except the Packers. The Rams’ schedule is a lot tougher than records indicate, however. Remaining Schedule: 49ers, Commanders, Giants, and Saints. Strength of Schedule and NFL Rank: .481 (19).
  9. Seahawks (6-7) – They play the Eagles on Monday night and Philadelphia is in a punishing mode. the Seahawks do hold tiebreakers over the Falcons and Saints so a loss to Philadelphia won’t be that devastating. Remaining Opponents: Eagles, Steelers, Cardinals, and Titans. Strength of Schedule with NFL Rank: .481 (18).
  10. Falcons (6-7) – Atlanta also holds a tiebreaker over the Saints and has a relatively easy schedule to close out the regular season. Remaining Opponents: Colts, Panthers, Bears, and Saints. Strength of Schedule with NFL Rank: .365 (30).
  11. Saints (6-7) – New Orleans has the toughest road to the postseason among five teams with similar records. They don’t hold any tiebreakers but they do have a decent chance to run the table. That’s good because another loss could all but eliminate them. Remaining Schedule: Giants, Buccaneers, Rams, and Falcons. Strength of Schedule and NFL Rank: .442 (24).
  12. Giants (5-8) – They’re coming off a huge win over the Packers and are one of two last-place teams still in the playoff hunt. New York holds a tiebreaker over Chicago but has a brutal four-week schedule. Remaining Opponents: Eagles (twice), Rams, and Saints. Strength of Schedule with NFL Rank: .615 (2).
  13. Bears (5-8) – They’ll play their first statement game in the Matt Eberflus era against the Browns on Sunday. Justin Fields has been a very good quarterback over his last 17 games and Chicago’s defense is playing at an elite level since acquiring Sweat from Washington. Jaquan Brisker leads that unit and has become one of the best safeties in the NFL. Remaining Schedule: Browns, Cardinals, Falcons, and Packers. Strength of Schedule and NFL Rank: .442 (23).

I’ll update this after this weekend’s games.

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