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A new hope: Playoff chances for struggling NFC contenders

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McFarland says Packers need to be better on defense (1:48)

Booger McFarland says that despite winning, the Packers need to improve on defense and describes how they can use the bye week to improve overall. (1:48)

Back in the preseason, one of the biggest storylines in the NFL was the imbalance between the two conferences. The NFC was filled with playoff contenders: not just the six teams that made last season's playoffs, but teams that had made the postseason just a year before, such as Green Bay, Dallas and Seattle. In the AFC, like in most recent years, the primary debate was New England vs. Pittsburgh. Some experts liked the upstart Jaguars, and the Chargers and Chiefs had their fans as well. But among the football commentariat, the dominance of the NFC over the AFC was decided by near-acclamation.

At Football Outsiders, our preseason forecast was no different. The NFC had eight of the top 12 teams in our preseason projections. But look now at our DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) ratings for the 2018 season so far. We have the AFC with six of the top 10 teams. With the exception of Chicago, most of the surprise teams this season are in the AFC. After all, did you expect Miami and Cincinnati to be 4-2, or the Jets 3-3?

Six of the teams in our preseason NFC top eight are currently sitting at 3-2-1 or worse. Which of these teams has the best chance to turn things around and make it to the postseason? We've taken a look at all six below, ranked in order by their chances of making the playoffs according to the latest Football Outsiders playoff odds simulation, explained fully here. (For those curious, the other two teams in our preseason NFC top eight were the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints.)