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Who will be the surprise team in the NFC?

Not everybody who makes the playoffs will have been expected to make the playoffs

Los Angeles Rams v Washington Football Team Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Can a team be a “surprise” if you think that they might be a “surprise”? Technically, no. If you’re picking a team as a sleeper, then by definition they almost cancel themselves out of contention.

That being said, there are teams that we expect to do well, teams that we expect to do poorly, and a few franchises that most of us don’t know what to do with. Take the Dallas Cowboys as an example.

The Cowboys are coming off of a 6-10 season, but they also lost quarterback Dak Prescott in Week 5. Dallas gets Prescott back under center, and he’ll be surrounded by elite talent at running back, wide receiver, and at multiple positions along the offensive line, but that same formula only got the Cowboys to an 8-8 record in 2019.

But two seasons before that, Prescott’s first under center after he was unexpectedly thrust into the role following a preseason injury to Tony Romo, Dallas went 13-3 with a top-five offense and a top-five defense. The Cowboys also enjoy the luxury of playing in the NFC East, a division that was won by a 7-9 team that doesn’t even have an official mascot, let alone an official quarterback entering the 2021 season.

Dallas clearly has the best quarterback in the division, and the best supporting cast in the division, and they are more talented on defense than most will let on right now. But there are also doubts about head coach Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys have been the most consistent “disappointment” in the league over the last two decades.

So Dallas might make sense on paper, which is exactly what we’ve been saying about them since the mid-90s, which is also the last time they were playoff relevant; the Cowboys haven’t won a divisional round playoff game since 1995.

Will they be a surprise in 2021? Better yet: Do the Cowboys even qualify as a “surprise” given that so many expect them to win the division?

On Wednesday, I found this tweet by Sam Acho interesting, as he promotes the fact that he believes that the team without a mascot or a starting quarterback will be the one that shocks the NFL in 2021. Though no team has won the NFC East in back-to-back seasons since the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004, Acho appears to be picking the Washington Football Team to win the division — and probably with a better mark than 7-9.

Which leads me to today’s poll question: Who do you think will be the surprise team in the NFC this season? Not just the “surprise” team like the Cowboys, but more specifically, let’s choose a team that would ACTUALLY be shocking if it turns out that they are true Super Bowl contenders.

First we’ll need to decide on who the Super Bowl contenders really are.

I’ll scratch out the LA Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Green Bay Packers (with Aaron Rodgers) for obvious reasons. I’ll also say that picking the Cowboys bores me, so I won’t include them, but I will not say that the New Orleans Saints are Super Bowl contenders. Not with Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston under quarterback.

I’ll be shocked if a team with Hill or Winston starting at quarterback challenges for the Super Bowl — yet I don’t want to include them because people still associate “Saints” with “success” because of Sean Payton. And similar to Dallas, I get no thrills by including the San Francisco 49ers, a team that went to the Super Bowl only two years ago and that many expect to return to form in 2021.

Let’s break this up into two polls, then extrapolate your arguments in the comments section below.


Which surprise team do you think could go 14-3 or better?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    (82 votes)
  • 8%
    (21 votes)
  • 4%
    (12 votes)
  • 8%
    (22 votes)
  • 4%
    (10 votes)
  • 7%
    (18 votes)
  • 33%
    (84 votes)
249 votes total Vote Now


Which of these teams do you think could shock fans and make the playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    (41 votes)
  • 10%
    (27 votes)
  • 22%
    (56 votes)
  • 12%
    (31 votes)
  • 37%
    (93 votes)
248 votes total Vote Now