The 10-1 Philadelphia Eagles look downright powerful and are the clear favorite to represent the NFC in this year’s Super Bowl.
However, the conference is stocked with talented teams, all capable of taking down the juggernaut on their best day.
Here’s how each NFC contender stacks up against Philadelphia:
Los Angeles Rams
If your game plan is to try and run it down the Eagles’ throat, think again. Philadelphia owns the top-ranked run defense, allowing 65.1 yards per game. The pass defense, however, is nowhere near as strong, allowing a 17th-ranked 226.5 yards per contest.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, nearly all NFC contenders boast an impressive passing game, starting with the Rams and Sean McVay.
Jared Goff showed what he’s capable of when playing an elite team in Week 12, tearing the New Orleans Saints apart for 354 yards and two touchdowns.
But, Goff is still just a cog in McVay’s near-perfect machine. The head coach’s creative play-calling and the game-breaking ability of Todd Gurley and Robert Woods means the Rams are one of the few teams capable of taking down Philadelphia in a shootout.
It might not come to that if Wade Phillips and his resurgent defense have anything to do with it. Phillips’ unit stonewalled the Saints for most of their Week 12 matchup; only a 74-yard touchdown run from Alvin Kamara stained the Rams’ tremendous performance.
Like the Saints, the Eagles rely on a strong running game to open up big plays through the air, so the Rams may have found a blueprint for stopping them.
How in the world do you stop Adam Thielen? That’s the question facing the Vikings’ opponents, and one few thought would need to be asked prior to Thielen’s spectacular 2017.
Again, Minnesota’s best hope of beating Philadelphia is with their surprisingly strong passing game, led by Thielen and Case Keenum.
Keenum has displayed ridiculous accuracy over the past three weeks, completing 70 percent or more of his passes in each game. The quarterback has done so while remaining aggressive, taking downfield shots – a must against the high-scoring, efficient Eagles offense.
But, the Vikings are still first and foremost a defensive team. Only the Eagles allow fewer rushing yards, meaning Minnesota will force the game onto Carson Wentz. That doesn’t sound like the best plan considering his MVP-type play, but the Vikings have players on every level to make his life hell.
Everson Griffen can take advantage of Jason Peters’ absence, Xavier Rhodes can shut down Alshon Jeffery, and Anthony Barr’s strong coverage skills could negate Zach Ertz’s dominant work over the middle.
A fully-healthy Seahawks squad would likely have been the biggest threat to the Eagles, but the football Gods had other plans, robbing Seattle of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor.
The defense isn’t exactly left starless, though, as Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas are capable of taking over games by themselves. Wagner, in particular, is key to stopping the Eagles’ passing game due to his elite ability in coverage.
The Eagles’ top-tier rushing defense suits the Seahawks just fine. Seattle has been awful on the ground. They’ve averaged a 19th-ranked 102.9 yards per game, but Russell Wilson is responsible for over 36 yards of that. Taking away his production would make Seattle by far the league’s worst rushing unit.
The Seahawks know they need to air it out to win, and that forced game plan might actually be the best way to attack the Eagles.
Additionally, Wilson’s scrambling skills could be the perfect counter to the Eagles’ strong but aggressive defensive front. Philadelphia allowed 71 rushing yards to Cam Newton in a close Week 6 loss, and Wilson is capable of inflicting just as much damage on the ground.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have morphed into a run-first team over the course of the season, riding Mark Ingram and breakout rookie Kamara to eight wins in their last nine games.
But, of course, any team with Drew Brees under center is capable of lighting it up through the air. Still, despite the Eagles’ strong run defense, the Saints’ best chance is to rely on their two-headed monster in the backfield.
Kamara is a threat to make a game-breaking play on every touch with his agility and talent after the catch. Mychal Kendricks is the Eagles’ best coverage linebacker, but beyond him, the unit will have trouble consistently containing Kamara.
Controlling the clock with Ingram and Kamara is the best way for the Saints to limit Philadelphia’s offense. New Orleans looks rejuvenated on defense, but injuries to cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley highlighted how fragile its improvement has been.
Beyond that, the Saints have to hope their run-first approach has given Brees the rest he needs for the Hall of Famer to work his magic in the playoffs.
The Falcons have fought their way back into contention with three straight wins, and the offense looks close to its dominant 2016 form.
Like the Eagles, Atlanta’s main strength on offense is its versatility and depth of weapons, as well as the experience and composure of Matt Ryan.
Ryan has the fewest turnover-worthy throws, according to, but is struggling to make the downfield plays that drove Atlanta’s run to last year’s Super Bowl. This will need to change in order to challenge Philadelphia, and it appears things are trending upward for the Falcons in this department after Julio Jones averaged over 21 yards per catch in a 253-yard performance in Week 12.
On the other side of the ball, the Falcons match up well with the Eagles. Atlanta’s zone scheme and speed on defense should allow them to limit big plays and force Wentz to be consistently accurate – the one thing he’s struggled with this year.
Carolina is an entirely different monster on defense with Luke Kuechly in the lineup, and, without their captain in Week 6, the Panthers still gave Wentz one of his tougher nights.
The Panthers and Newton will still need to go point for point with the Eagles to stand a chance, and that means Newton will have to protect the football. The quarterback threw three interceptions in Week 6, but he kept Carolina in it by rushing for 71 yards and a score.
Newton has swung from great to abysmal almost every week this campaign. It’s simple and obvious, but little else matters in this matchup unless the 2015 MVP is locked in.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)
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