With 13 weeks down in the 2023 NFL season, the playoffs are fast approaching. A lot can happen between now and the end of the regular season, of course, but already the postseason picture is beginning to take shape.
As we approach Week 14, how do the teams fighting for one of the conference's three wild-card spots stack up? Here's how we'd rank all 11 of them behind the current division leaders.
All of a sudden there isn't a consensus on which of the heavyweights -- Falcons excluded -- will end up with the NFC's No. 1 seed. The Eagles were embarrassed by the 49ers in Week 13 but have the fortitude to recenter, not to mention the talent in the trenches. San Francisco clearly has the physicality on both sides of the ball to make another NFC title bid. The Lions are the wild card, mirroring Dan Campbell's aggressive persona but struggling to field a consistently playoff-caliber defense.
- Panthers (1-11)
Wild card contenders
11. Commanders (4-9)
They changed defensive coordinators after allowing 45 points on Thanksgiving, then allowed another 45 to the Dolphins in Week 13. The head coach is all but destined to be replaced. Sam Howell slings it, but on this team, it's often into trouble.
10. Cardinals (3-10)
They kept it on the ground to surprise the Steelers in Week 13, but stifling Pittsburgh's offense was a low bar to clear. If Kyler Murray isn't asked to shoulder the load, they can be competitive. But they're not built to replicate Sunday's results.
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9. Giants (4-8)
They've outscored opponents 41-26 with Tommy DeVito under center in a 2-0 stretch. But that was against the Commanders and Patriots. DeVito is a fun character, but how long will his rookie magic take a club otherwise bound for a high draft pick?
8. Bears (4-8)
There are two big reasons to like them as a spoiler: Justin Fields' talent hasn't gone anywhere, and Matt Eberflus' defense has brought an edge recently. Even so, their penchant for giveaways at the most critical times looms large.
7. Saints (5-7)
Derek Carr is hurt again, throwing yet another wrench into his rocky New Orleans debut. But could Jameis Winston and/or Taysom Hill actually give them more life? They've got weapons on both sides of the ball; the coaching remains suspect.
6. Buccaneers (5-7)
Not so unlike their rival Saints, the Bucs make almost everything more difficult than it needs to be, and yet they've got the play-makers (see: Mike Evans) to hang around. Only one loss in their last seven games came by more than one score.
5. Seahawks (6-6)
They've lost three straight, and all three losses were very different. In all of them, Geno Smith and Co. fought until the better end. They can certainly air it out when they're clicking. But Pete Carroll's defense has been a weekly liability.
4. Vikings (6-6)
Who's playing QB here, after Josh Dobbs' Cinderella run came to a screeching halt before their bye? That's a massive question, but Brian Flores' defense remains ultra-aggressive, and Justin Jefferson is finally returning to the field out wide.
3. Packers (6-6)
Written off early in the year thanks to Jordan Love's accuracy issues, they've turned a real corner with back-to-back wins over the Lions and Chiefs, even with key starters battling injuries. Christian Watson's health could be an X-factor down the stretch, but Matt LaFleur is maximizing the young speed at his disposal, and they've got the backfield to run when it gets cold.
2. Rams (6-6)
So much for a rebuilding year. Matthew Stafford's health and ball security will never not be lingering concerns. But even with a shuffling supporting cast, Sean McVay has rediscovered an offensive spark. Dropping 30+ points in consecutive games isn't anything to sneeze at, especially considering their latest win came against Jim Schwartz's stingy Browns "D."
1. Cowboys (9-3)
The NFC feels like a four-team race between the Eagles, 49ers, Lions and Cowboys. In fact, if there could be a "bonus" division winner, it'd be Dallas. Dak Prescott is still on an MVP pace, operating with authority as he feeds CeeDee Lamb while spreading the ball around. And while the secondary was more boom or bust against Seattle in Week 13, the boom is game-changing, with DaRon Bland, Micah Parsons and others capable of scoring on their own. They profile as a tough out regardless of how they finish.