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NFC playoff contenders

A look at out-of-division teams competing with the Eagles for playoff spots.

Packers running back Eddie Lacy. (Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)
Packers running back Eddie Lacy. (Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)Read more

HERE IS a look at the out-of-division competition the 9-3 Eagles face in the NFC playoff race. First-round byes go to the two division winners with the best records. The other two division winners will host wild-card teams in the first round of the playoffs. The prediction is that the Eagles will be the No. 2 seed.


Record: 9-3

Position: 1st place in NFC North

Best win: Week 13, vs. Patriots, 26-21

Worst loss: Week 8 at Saints, 44-23

Season highlight: Is it even possible to defeat Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field anymore? He hasn't lost a regular-season home game since November 2013. His 8.8 yards per pass attempt and passer rating of 118.6 have been matched only three times: Nick Foles in 2013, Peyton Manning in 2004 and Rodgers himself in his MVP-winning 2011 season. Another MVP trophy might not be the only trophy Rodgers is holding after the season.

Biggest surprise: Defensive coordinator Dom Capers' unit has improved its ball-hawking skills since last season. After ranking only 19th in 2013 in turnover rate - the percentage of opposing teams' drives ending in a turnover - the Pack has jumped to second this year, forcing a turnover on 16.9 percent of opponent drives. Is it even fair to cut Rodgers those breaks?

Remaining schedule: Falcons (5-7), at Bills (7-5), at Buccaneers (2-10), Lions (8-4)

About the remaining schedule: The somehow-NFC South-leading Falcons should be an easy matchup for Green Bay anywhere, let alone at home. The same goes for the Pack's road game against Tampa Bay in Week 16. Next week's road game against the surprising Bills might present the Pack's toughest challenge to securing homefield advantage in the NFC, as Buffalo leads the league in sacks and has the ability to put Rodgers under duress.

Prediction: 13-3, NFC North champions, 1st seed


Record: 8-4

Position: 2nd place in NFC North

Best win: Week 3, vs. Packers, 19-7

Worst loss: Week 12 at Patriots, 34-9

Season highlight: Matthew Stafford has been more efficient in the pocket this season, completing 60.4 percent of his passes, his highest mark since 2011. Not surprising, that's the last season Detroit made the playoffs. Combine that with a career-low interception rate for Stafford in a full season and the Lions are in a good position over the last quarter of the year.

Biggest surprise: Golden Tate, who came to Detroit after being on Seattle's Super Bowl-winning squad in 2013. He has picked up the slack for Stafford after Calvin Johnson missed three games with an injury, leading the Lions in both receptions (80) and receiving yards (1,136).

Remaining schedule: Buccaneers (2-10), Vikings (5-7), at Bears (5-7), at Packers (9-3)

About the remaining schedule: This could've been a division-winning Detroit team in a different year, such as 2013 when Rodgers missed seven games and Green Bay limped to the division title with an 8-7-1 record. Regardless, the Lions should finish a strong 11-5, assuming they lose in Week 17 to the Packers. They have the ability to pull an upset on the road as a wild-card team.

Prediction: 11-5, NFC North runner-up, 5th seed


Record: 9-3

Position: 1st place in NFC West

Best win: Week 8 vs. Eagles, 24-20

Worst loss: Week 13 at Falcons, 29-18

Season highlight: Antonio Cromartie, who is coming off two consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with the Jets, signed only a 1-year deal with Arizona and is in line for an even bigger payday on his next deal. Among cornerbacks who have played at least 75 percent of their team's snaps according to Pro Football Focus, Cromartie is allowing the sixth-lowest passer rating (66.6).

Biggest surprise: John Brown has been a steal with the 91st overall pick in the 2014 draft. He has been a much- needed deep threat, with 569 receiving yards and five touchdowns. In an unprecedented class of rookie receiver talent, the 5-10 Brown stands tall as one of the most productive.

Remaining schedule: Chiefs (7-5), at Rams (5-7), Seahawks (8-4), at 49ers (7-5)

About the remaining schedule: Depleted offensively with the loss of quarterback Carson Palmer, Arizona's four remaining games look even tougher, with three against winning clubs and one against a Rams team that already beat Seattle and Denver at home this season. If the Cardinals are able to split their remaining games, even going 1-2 in their divisional contests, that might be enough to keep the Cardinals in the playoffs with the lead they established earlier in the season and the tiebreaker they would hold over the 49ers.

Prediction: 10-6, NFC West runners-up, 6th seed


Record: 8-4

Position: 2nd place in NFC West

Best win: Week 1 vs. Packers, 36-16

Worst loss: Week 7 at Rams, 28-26

Season highlight: The rushing defense is holding runners to only 3.5 yards per carry, the third-best rate in the NFL. Seattle has continued its excellent defensive play that brought it a Lombardi Trophy in February. A formidable front seven, together with the Legion of Boom secondary, has Seattle primed to unseat the Cardinals in the NFC West.

Biggest surprise: Marshawn Lynch turned 28 in April, hitting the age at which many top running backs begin to fall off after years of physical wear. Lynch, however, has staved off Father Time for at least another year, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

Remaining schedule: at Eagles (9-3), 49ers (7-5), at Cardinals (9-3), Rams (5-7)

About the remaining schedule: A gantlet of a schedule remains, as Seattle is facing three potential playoff teams and a Rams squad that upset them in Week 7. Beating Arizona in Week 16 and capturing the division title would give Seattle at least one home playoff game.

Prediction: 11-5, NFC West champions, 3rd seed