I reseeded the NFC playoffs without the express written consent of the National Football League.
I did so while wearing a T-shirt unauthorized by NFL “commissioner” Roger Goodell, and shoes designed to raise awareness for charity. See you in 5-10 years, maybe less with good behavior.
While the AFC waits to see exactly how the Patriots will outthink the competition so they can bring hoodies, hidden cameras and suspiciously soft pigskins to U.S. Bank Stadium, the NFC playoffs look as deep as a Radiohead lyric.
Philadelphia earned the NFC’s No. 1 seed but without quarterback Carson Wentz, the Eagles are a relay team without a baton. Here are the true, current power rankings for the six teams in the NFC bracket:
6. Philadelphia Eagles
This isn’t fair, but then football is not about fairness. Before Wentz’s season-ending knee injury, the Eagles looked like the NFC favorite because of their balance and Wentz’s ability to make big plays. He might have won the MVP award.
Without him, the Eagles have tried Nick Foles, one of those players who piques your interest until you see him in person.
In 2013, Foles replaced injured Michael Vick as the Eagles starter. He won seven of his first eight starts under coach Chip Kelly while throwing 20 touchdowns and one interception. Watching highlights and viewing stats, he looked like the next Dan Marino.
Foles and the Eagles played in the Metrodome on Dec. 15 that year. The Vikings would finish the season ranked 31st in overall defense and 31st against the pass, performances that would get coach Leslie Frazier fired.
Foles passed for 428 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 41 yards, but if you watched from the stands or press box, you could see just how inaccurate he was, and how often he overlooked open receivers. The Vikings won that game 48-30.
Last week, the Dallas Cowboys shut out the Eagles in Philadelphia, and coach Doug Pederson admitted he’d consider replacing Foles during a playoff game. The drop-off from Wentz to Foles makes the Eagles the weakest playoff team in the NFC playoffs.
5. Carolina Panthers
The only team to beat the Vikings since Oct. 1 features a coach and quarterback who have taken this team to the Super Bowl, a dynamic rookie running back and a physical defensive front. So why the No. 5 seeding?
Cam Newton has passed for 200 yards once in the past six games. He has led the team in rushing the past two games, which is an impressive accomplishment for him that hints at a lack of options for his offense.
Top receiver Devin Funchess has a shoulder injury and there is little talent behind him. In a 22-10 loss at Atlanta last week, Newton and favorite receiver Greg Olsen looked as if they had never met.
The Panthers might have peaked with their victory over the Vikings.
4. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons should have won last year’s Super Bowl, but losing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and dealing with the hangover from blowing a 28-3 lead to New England has left them looking lethargic. This team’s tremendous offensive talent hasn’t scored more than 24 points in a game since Nov. 26.
3. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams represent the great mystery of this bracket. Rookie coach. Second-year quarterback. A franchise that hadn’t won more than seven games since 2009 or made the playoffs since 2008.
But they’re scary. Late in the season they scored 35 points against Philadelphia and 42 at Seattle. Todd Gurley can dominate a game running or receiving. Wade Phillips might be the league’s greatest living defensive coordinator.
The Vikings beat them 24-7, but wide receiver Cooper Kupp fumbled on the Vikings 1-yard line and late in the game dropped a pass that could have led to a touchdown. This team is built to win big. The question is whether it is built to win big this year.
2. New Orleans Saints
What do you like in a contender? A coach who has won it all before? An all-time great quarterback? A productive power back and an historically good speed back? A big-play receiver? A defense that has improved dramatically?
If the Saints have a flaw, it’s that they lost their last three road games and will have to win at Philadelphia or Minnesota to advance.
1. Minnesota Vikings
Oddsmakers give the Vikings about a 30 percent chance of making it to the Super Bowl. That’s a rational assessment. They are not prohibitive favorites against the field, but Wentz’s injury makes them the strongest, most balanced team in the NFC.
Their defense should give them an advantage over any foe now that Foles is the only quarterback they would have to face in a road stadium.
The Vikings should be favored to emerge from the NFC, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of my top three seeds playing at U.S. Bank Stadium in February.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org