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The three biggest threats to the Falcons in the NFC

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The Packers, Seahawks, and Cowboys all figure to be relevant in the playoffs again.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-NFL Experience Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports

Trying to figure out which teams are going to be good in any given year is a little bit of a fool’s errand. There’s so much variance in play from year-to-year that you can really only point to the best rosters and most reliable performers and hope for the best.

So let’s acknowledge up front that predicting the three teams who are most likely to spar with the Falcons in the NFC, particularly the postseason, is an exercise that should be taken with a healthy dosage of sodium. It’s still a discussion worth having, because unfortunately the NFC South won’t be a cakewalk.

We’re looking outside the division here, because while the Buccaneers and Panthers pose a huge threat to the Falcons in the NFC South, I’m not sure they’re realistically Super Bowl teams in 2017. If the Falcons are going to bounce back the way we all hope and make another push for a Lombardi, these three teams are the likeliest to stand in their way.

Packers

The Green Bay Packers made it all the way to the NFC Conference Championship before they got annihilated by the Atlanta Falcons, and they did so chiefly on the strength of a strong front seven and the best quarterback in the NFL. They’ve done nothing in this offseason to convince me they’ll fall off.

First off, the Packers added running backs to address a pretty glaring weakness at the position, which should help them even if Ty Montgomery continues to be a force for good. They also addressed their weak secondary, which Matt Ryan picked apart so expertly in the NFCCG.

Ultimately, if the Falcons make it to the NFC Conference Championship Game again, I expect they’ll be facing the Packers. Aaron Rodgers can take a team a long way by himself, and this roster looks like it will be improved, however modestly.

Cowboys

This isn’t hard: The Cowboys didn’t have the most impressive offseason, but they really only need to stay status quo to remain relevant in the NFC playoff picture. The NFC East will be tough again, but they have a truly dominant offensive line, one of the best young quarterbacks in football, and a game-changing running back. Their defense can afford to be a little mediocre and still carry them deep into the postseason. The question is whether they can push further into the playoffs with another year of experience.

Seahawks

If the Rams or 49ers were further into their rebuilding process, I might be tempted to deep six Seattle. Their offensive line is pretty putrid, their pass catchers veer between good and uninspiring, and the defensive secondary isn’t the same force of nature it was. For all that, though, this remains one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL, never mind the NFC.

As long the team has a dangerous front seven and Russell Wilson, they’ll be relevant. Playing in one of the weakest divisions in football certainly helps.

Who would be your picks?