HomeTrade RumorsWho Is Going to Secure the No. 1 Seed in the NFC?

Who Is Going to Secure the No. 1 Seed in the NFC?

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Given the NFL’s recent switch to a seven-team playoff format, claiming the No. 1 seed in each conference (and with it the lone bye in the wild-card round) carries particular significance. In the case of the NFC, a shortlist of teams will compete for the top spot over the final four weeks of the season. Three of them – the 49ers, Cowboys and Eagles – sit at 10-3 on the year, though one member of the latter pair will be saddled with the No. 5 seed after finishing as the runner-up in the NFC East. The Lions, meanwhile, improved to 10-4 after their impressive showing on Saturday. Detroit will have work to do to overtake the conference’s other three heavyweights, but changes atop the standings could take place over the following month. San Francisco currently leads the way, and owning the head-to-head tiebreaker against both Philadelphia and Dallas (by virtue of blowout victories) will help down the stretch. The 49ers’ commitment to Brock Purdy under center has proven to be sound, as last year’s Mr. Irrelevant has improved on his rookie output. Purdy leads the NFL not only in completion percentage (70.2%) but also yards per attempt (9.9) and passer rating (116.9) while playing with arguably the league’s top skill-position group. The 49ers’ offense (led by Purdy and fellow MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey) has shown itself to be an elite unit, as expected, this season. The team’s defense has also recovered from a downturn during their three-game losing streak. The trade deadline acquisition of Chase Young added to San Francisco’s front seven, but injuries in the secondary have left the 49ers in need of other in-season additions. A reunion with Jason Verrett and the signing of Logan Ryan has given San Francisco a pair of veteran defensive backs to at least serve as depth on the backend. Only the 49ers’ Christmas Day game against the Ravens will see them face an opponent currently over .500 the rest of the way. The Cowboys split the season series with the Eagles, allowing them to own the tiebreaker for the time being. A more daunting path awaits Dallas to close out the campaign, however, with road games against the Bills and Dolphins followed by a crucial matchup against the Lions. The Cowboys’ offense especially has proven to be one of the league’s best units this season, however, led by Dak Prescott. In line for an extension this offseason, the 30-year-old leads the NFL with 28 touchdown passes, and his passer rating sits at a career-high 107.5. While those figure have Prescott in the MVP conversation and in line for a raise on his next pact, judgement of the Cowboys will of course depend on their postseason showing. The fate of head coach Mike McCarthy has been a talking point for some time now, owing in large part to the team’s inability to break through in the playoffs during his tenure. He could be in store for a new contract, however, especially if 2023 were to produce a deep run toward a Super Bowl. Given Dallas’ impressive home winning streak, securing the top seed could be imperative in that effort. The Eagles enjoyed a strong start to the campaign, but consecutive losses have led to questions on the defensive side of the ball in particular (and now prompted a signficant change on the sidelines, with Matt Patricia assuming play-calling duties). That unit was affected more than the offense in the offseason exodus of talent following Philadelphia’s run to the Super Bowl, and the inside linebacker spot has drawn attention recently. The Eagles won out the competition to add Shaquille Leonard after his sudden Colts departure, giving them a former All-Pro in the second level.   Leonard played sparingly in his Philadelphia debut (which fittingly came in Dallas after the Cowboys finished as the runners-up in the pursuit to sign him). Regardless of the role he plays down the stretch, Philadelphia could be in line for a rebound from the team’s recent showing. The Eagles play the Giants twice in the season’s final three weeks, and despite New York’s current winning streak, Philadelphia’s upcoming Monday night game against the 6-7 Seahawks will likely prove to be the strongest remaining challenge. After a strong late-season run to close out the 2022 campaign, the Lions entered this season with the team’s highest expectations in years. For the most part, Detroit has lived up to the hype so far. Impressive performances from a number of contributors (including rookies Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta) on offense has confirmed OC Ben Johnson’ status as one of the hottest head coach candidates for the upcoming hiring cycle. The 37-year-old drew interest last year before committing to a second campaign in the Motor City, but he has already been linked to multiple current vacancies. Of course, the Lions’ offensive success has the chance of complicating quarterback Jared Goff’s future with the team. The former No. 1 pick has one year (and no guaranteed salary) remaining on his deal and Detroit drafted a potential successor this April in the form of Hendon Hooker. Goff leads the league in passing yards (3,727) entering Sunday’s action, however, and he could be playing his way into a new contract. The Lions, like the Eagles, will likely need to rely on their offense to overcome defensive shortcomings down the stretch. Games against the division-rival Vikings await the NFC North leaders with the aforementioned Cowboys contest in between. One notable free agent who could help tip the scales is Zach Ertz. The veteran tight end asked for and was granted his Cardinals release, leaving him free to join a contender. Several teams could stand to add the three-time Pro Bowler, and the 49ers are believed to be interested in making him part of an already deep pass-catching corps. To no surprise, a reunion with the Eagles could also be in store. Both San Francisco and Philadelphia will have competition (from each conference) to land Ertz, however. With the 49ers, Cowboys and Eagles set to play their respective Week 15 matchups today and tomorrow, how do you see the race to the No. 1 seed playing out? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and leave your thoughts in the comments section below:

Please fill out a quick poll about the NFL No. 1 seed race!