The NFL this week postponed for a year a decision on expanding the playoffs by one wild card team in each conference. Here, in no particular order, are the five teams in the NFC that decision could hurt the most in 2015 and their futures odds.
True, the Cowboys won the NFC East by two games last year, but I think that was somewhat fluky and largely on the back of running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL rushing leader. Murray led the league in touches by far, with 392 carries and 57 receptions (that doesn't include any plays wiped out by penalties or the playoffs). So perhaps you can see why the Cowboys weren't 100 percent gung-ho in re-signing him because running backs traditionally are never the same after a workload like that. Thus I'm listing Dallas as the potential NFC East Wild Card team here as I think the Eagles, with the additions of Murray, fellow running back Ryan Mathews and quarterback Sam Bradford (assuming he doesn't tear an ACL again), will win the division. My mind could be changed if Dallas somehow got Adrian Peterson. It also depends on how many games Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy will be suspended. Many believe it will be at least six for the former Carolina Panther. The Giants and Redskins of the NFC East don't look like playoff contenders in my mind.
NFC title odds: +800.
There's no doubt that Green Bay will be the heavy favorite to win the NFC North for a fifth straight season, especially after being able to re-sign receiver Randall Cobb and top offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga. The Lions were a Wild Card team last season and probably should have won in Dallas if not for a couple of very questionable calls that went the Cowboys' way. No way Detroit can be considered as good for 2015 after losing the NFL's best defensive lineman, maybe the second-best defensive player overall, in Ndamukong Suh in free agency to Miami. Detroit also said goodbye to very good fellow tackle Nick Fairley and running back Reggie Bush. It did add Haloti Ngata. The Bears and Vikings as Wild Card teams from the division? Doubtful.
NFC title odds: +2000.
Seattle was going to win the NFC West again in 2015 barring an injury to quarterback Russell Wilson, but the Seahawks will be even bigger favorites to do so in the NFL odds now after acquiring Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham in a trade from New Orleans in the stunner of the NFL offseason thus far. Graham fills the biggest need on the Seahawks: a red-zone target for Wilson (ahem, second-and-goal at Super Bowl). Wilson's imminent massive contract extension will hamstring the Seahawks soon, but it won't be this season. Thus the Cardinals are going to have to get to the playoff via the wild card again as they did last year. The key for them is clearly keeping Carson Palmer upright after the disaster under center to close last season. Arizona also has been mentioned as a destination for the Vikings' Peterson.
NFC title odds: +1500.
St. Louis Rams
Like the Cardinals, the Rams are blocked from reaching the playoffs by winning the NFC West due to Seattle. St. Louis already has a playoff-caliber defense and has added the Lions' Fairley. Now that front four is scary. What this team needed this offseason was a quarterback and an upgrade at receiver. The former problem was solved with the trade of the injury-prone Bradford to Philadelphia for Nick Foles. Say what you want about Foles, but he's better than Austin Davis and Shaun Hill, the two QBs St. Louis used last season. As for a receiver, expect that to be a priority in the draft. Will this be the final season for the Rams in St. Louis before a move to L.A.? That's very possible. I didn't include the 49ers among the NFC West clubs because they look much worse on paper for your NFL picks.
NFC title odds: +1900.
NFC South runner-up
Carolina is the defending NFC South champion, winning the division with a 7-8-1 record. The Panthers beat the Cardinals in the wild card game before losing in Seattle. I doubt the South winner again finishes below .500 in 2015, but as of right now I have no clue who wins it. Carolina could but has done little in free agency. Atlanta has a new coach in Dan Quinn and great offensive weapons, but the defense is in shambles. Maybe Quinn fixes that. The Saints seem like they are rebuilding a bit after trading Graham and receiver Kenny Stills, although they did add a good running back in C.J. Spiller to form a nice tandem with Mark Ingram. Tampa Bay is likely to finish last again as it breaks in rookie QB Jameis Winston. Your guess is as good as mine as to which team finishes second and potentially is in the wild card mix.
NFC title odds: Falcons have shortest at +2000.