Worst Playoff Matchups For NFC Contenders


Through 12 weeks of the NFL season we have a pretty good idea of who is a legitimate contender, even if we don’t know the seeding.  We’ve already examined the AFC contenders and now we’re going to look at each of the NFC contenders and determine who they’d like to avoid in their quest for Super Bowl 50.

Carolina Panthers

Worst matchup:  Arizona Cardinals

Arizona has the best set of offensive weapons in the NFC, and a very aggressive defense that can take away a potentially one-dimensional team.  Patrick Peterson can take away half of a football field and the Cardinals are supremely well coached.  Even with an injured Chris Johnson, they have the most balanced offense in the NFC.

Two other teams to avoid:  Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants

As bad as Seattle has looked at times this year, they are still the two-time defending conference champs and they won’t go down easily, even if their potential playoff run is on the road.  The Panthers had to come back from a huge deficit to beat the Seahawks earlier this year and they’d rather not see them at all.

The Giants aren’t a particularly good team, but they have that “puncher’s chance” with Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin.  Outside of Odell Beckham, there’s nothing special about this team, but they tend to play up or down to their opponents and they play their best games in the biggest spots.

Arizona Cardinals

Worst matchup:  Seattle Seahawks

Arizona climbed one hurdle earlier this year when they beat the Seahawks in Seattle, but to fully exorcise those demons they’ll need to do it in the playoffs, or maybe later in the season to keep them out of the playoffs.  Arizona has a great passing attack and the Seahawks have perhaps the best secondary in football.

Two other teams to avoid:  Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers

The Packers have Aaron Rodgers and although he hasn’t been great in the postseason of late, he’s still the most talented quarterback in the NFL and he’s won a Super Bowl.  With Rodgers all things are possible, even if Green Bay has looked really ordinary after their 6-0 start.

I know it seems like a contradiction after we said the Cards were the Panthers worst matchup, but there really isn’t another team in the NFC that the Cardinals will have trouble with in the postseason.  Cam Newton is my league MVP and he’s proven that he can win a game nearly by himself.

Green Bay Packers

Worst matchup:  Carolina Panthers

Carolina can outmuscle the Packers on both lines of scrimmage and they have the secondary to shut down what looks like a pretty mediocre set of weapons on the outside.  And there’s that Cam Newton guy that nobody seems to have an answer for these days.

Two other teams to avoid:  Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants

The Seahawks needed a miracle to beat the Packers in the postseason last year, but they did indeed beat them.  Richard Sherman can shut down Randall Cobb and the rest of the Seahawks secondary can take care of any other Green Bay weapons.

The Giants beat the Packers pretty thoroughly the last time these two teams met in the postseason.  Eli Manning plays well in big spots and Green Bay doesn’t have a secondary that can really match up with Odell Beckham and company.

New York Giants

Worst matchup:  Arizona Cardinals

Anything the G-men can do the Cardinals can do better.  Sure, Carson Palmer hasn’t won a Super Bowl (yet), but nobody can tell me that they’d take Eli over Carson right now.  Arizona has the secondary to match up with Beckham, and they will score at will on New York.

Two other teams to avoid:  Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons

The Giants tend to struggle against mobile quarterbacks and the Panthers have the most mobile of them all.  Carolina can match up with Beckham and still run the ball on the New York defensive line.  It’s not the worst matchup the Giants can have, but who wants to play the team that will be the No. 1 seed that wins every week?

New York might not have to worry about matching up with Atlanta (because neither may qualify for the postseason), but the Falcons have matchup advantages all over the field against the Giants.  Julio Jones is an impossible cover and Desmond Trufant could slow down Beckham just enough to get a win, like what happened in Week 2.

Seattle Seahawks

Worst matchup:  Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have turned into a better version of the Seahawks.  They run the football, have a better, more mobile quarterback and their defense is just as good.  Seattle is a different team on the road and they would have a tough time winning in Charlotte.

Two other teams to avoid:  Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers

The Cardinals can expose the Seattle defense with their deep and intermediate passing game, and since they face each other twice a year, they are well aware of the Seahawks tendencies.  Arizona looks like the better roster and they beat the ‘Hawks in Seattle a few weeks ago.

The Packers have Aaron Rodgers and that makes them a tough matchup.  I believe everyone can agree that Seattle isn’t as good as they were a year ago and the Packers beat them earlier this year, and should have beaten them in the playoffs last year.

Fringe Contenders:

Minnesota Vikings

Worst matchup:  Any playoff team except Atlanta

The Vikings aren’t quite there yet and they’ve feasted on a lot of teams with bad records.  They don’t have the downfield passing game to beat one of the other division champs or even Green Bay.

Atlanta Falcons

Worst matchup:  Any probable playoff team

The Falcons don’t really have the defense to compete with the best teams in the NFC.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.