Things can change quickly in the NFL. A team could be among the worst in the league one season and in the playoffs the next.
49ers fans know that well. After the second-worst record in the league in 2018, San Francisco took a number of steps to improve the roster, reaching the Super Bowl the following season.
After the early part of the free agency and drafting is done, and the teams have entered the off-season OTA phase, I would rank the teams in the NFC as follows.
16. Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have a rookie head coach and quarterback depth map made up of Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, and Jamie Newman. You are lucky enough to win more than four games.
15. Detroit Lions: The Lions only hope they don’t end up at the end of NFC again by following the marching orders of their head coach Dan Campbell and removing some kneecaps from their opponent. Matthew Stafford’s move to Jared Goff is a senior position downgrade
14. Carolina Panthers: Carolina traded for Sam Darnold, who has a couple of highlight role-playing games while walking around. That should come in handy considering how bad the Panthers’ offensive line is.
13. New York Giants: The Giants have been the worst team in the NFC for the past four seasons. Saquon Barkley has only played 15 games in the last two seasons and Daniel Jones can’t help but flip the ball.
12. Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers said he no longer wants to play for the Packers and has stayed away so far this off-season.
11. New Orleans Saints: With Drew Brees retiring, the quarterback position will be a big question mark here. While New Orleans has played 8-1 without brees for the past couple of seasons, only one of those wins came against a team with a record win.
10. Atlanta Falcons: Atlanta could not hold on to the top last season, which is why the team hired Arthur Smith as their new head coach. An increased focus on the running game could quickly change their fate.
9. Chicago Bears: The Bears made it through to last season’s playoffs on the back of their defense. That off-season they brought in Andy Dalton, who made the playoffs in his first five seasons in the league, and put their first pick at Justin Fields.
8. Cardinals of Arizona: The Cardinals were able to reach the playoffs last year before losing their last two games of the season. AJ Green was hired to replace Larry Fitzgerald, and the Cardinals also added JJ Watt and Malcolm Butler. Even so, Arizona will still be one place ahead of the playoffs.
7. Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott is returning after missing out on most of 2020 with a broken leg. Dan Quinn replaces Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator, a move that could pay off with a trip to the playoffs.
6. Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings’ defenses should see major improvements in 2020 after a string of injuries. The offensive skill positions give Kirk Cousins a range of weapons. With Aaron Rodgers unlikely to be returning to Green Bay, Minnesota should be the favorite to win the NFC North.
5. Washington Football Team: The soccer team was dominant in defense a season ago. If they can maintain that level of play and Ryan Fitzpatrick can consistently upgrade quarterback, a return to the playoffs is likely.
4. Los Angeles Rams: The Rams made the playoffs three out of four seasons under Sean McVay and upgraded the quarterback when they moved Jared Goff to Detroit on behalf of Matthew Stafford.
3. San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers took a bold move to trade for Trey Lance. That move aside, they were pretty conservative, bringing back most of their own free agents, though many had problems with injuries that helped them finish under .500 for the third time in four seasons under Kyle Shanahan. If they can stay healthy, the 49ers can end up among the top teams in NFC, especially if Green Bay and New Orleans fall behind.
2. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks are expected to stall every year, but when the dust settles they are in the battle for the championship in NFC West. Even if Russell Wilson had a “bad year”, Seattle was able to set a 12-4 record in 2020. Akhello Witherspoon and Kerry Hyder’s new signings should make up for the losses defensively, and Gerald Everett is a very talented bottleneck found success under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady.