Week 13 in the NFL told the story of the first team to lock in a playoff spot, the teams that dropped to wild card status, and those still trying to claw their way out of the hunt. But more so, Week 13 gave us further insight into which teams are most likely to represent their respective conferences in Super Bowl LIV. Now five teams stand at 10-2, three of which represent the NFC. Of these three NFC powerhouses, which ones have the best chance of making their way to the big dance?
3. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks struggled early in the regular season, barely sewing up a victory against the now 1-11 Cincinnati Bengals and losing at home to the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. However, since then Wilson and company have patched many of the team’s offensive and defensive holes. Jadaveon Clowney’s return from a knee injury sparked new life into the Hawks’ defense. In their on-the-road win against the 49ers, the defense came up big, forcing five sacks and three turnovers. On the offensive side, Seattle’s run game is explosive. In their Monday night win against the Minnesota Vikings, Rashad Penny and Chris Carson gashed the Vikings’ defensive, racking up a combined total of 176 rushing yards. Add in the fact that Russell Wilson is playing his best year yet, garnering hefty support for MVP, and Seattle is a prime Super Bowl candidate. If San Francisco loses to the Saints in Week 14, the odds of Seattle acquiring home-field advantage in the playoffs increases. A road through Century Link Field is one no other team wants to embark on.
2. New Orleans Saints
Prior to an astonishing loss to division rival Atlanta Falcons in Week 10, the Saints were plowing their way through opponents. They won six back-to-back games, three of which were on the road and five of which were under backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Now on the brink of having a fully healthy roster stocked full of offensive weapons including a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, top receiver Michael Thomas, and running back Alvin Kamara, combined with the league’s third-best rushing defense, the Saints are in a dominant position to make a run to the Super Bowl. Now having just secured the NFC South, New Orleans is officially bound for the playoffs. After last year’s missed call, they will be playing with a heavy chip on their shoulder.
1. San Francisco 49ers
Despite coming off a narrow 20-17 loss to the Ravens, the 49ers are still the team to beat. Perhaps more than anything else the 49ers-Ravens game was a prelude of the matchup to come in Super Bowl LIV. Between George Kittle and Emmanuel Sanders on the offensive side and Nick Bosa and Richard Sherman on the defensive side, the 49ers simply have too much talent and too many weapons to ignore. The question San Francisco will have to answer is if Jimmy Garoppolo can carry his offense when it matters most. The 49ers’ two losses were against superior teams, Seattle and Baltimore, both of which came down to breaking a tie where in the heat of the moment, Garoppolo scrambled, skidded, and ultimately faltered. The outcome of next week’s battle in New Orleans will speak volumes as to whether or not Garoppolo and company are truly ready to gut their way to the Super Bowl.