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NFC Offseason Overhaul: Current conference hierarchy

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There's no need to pretend that free agency rocked the NFC's power structure. Teams will rise and fall in 2017 because teams rise and fall every season, but the last two months have included few dramatic changes.

As we wrap up NFC Offseason Overhaul week, it struck me that few teams truly underwent an overhaul. "Offseason Minor Adjustments" doesn't have the same ring to it, but most teams lightly pruned their rosters rather than chopping them down. With salary cap space having exploded, there were fewer game changers changing addresses.

So how does the NFC stack up before 2017 NFL Draft begins on April 27? Not so different than it did at the end of last season.

Playoffs or bust

Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys.

A year ago at this time, I asked if the Panthers and Cardinals were ready to to join the ranks of teams that contend for a championship every season. They both finished with losing records.

The Seahawks and Packers -- the other half of my top tier a year ago -- each made the NFC's Final Four for a sixth time in the last seven seasons. That incredible stability starts at quarterback and extends to two front offices that deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Both teams have taken some hits this offseason. The Packers lost a number of contributors (Julius Peppers, T.J. Lang, Eddie Lacy, Micah Hyde) and the Seahawks' dangling of Richard Sherman is a sign that Seattle's defensive cohesion might be turning stale. Yet both teams deserve to be penciled in as playoff teams until proven otherwise, something no other NFC teams can claim.

The Cowboys and Falcons boast offensive firepower. Now they must prove they have staying power. The departure of Falcons coordinator Kyle Shanahan overshadows any additions like DT Dontari Poe, but an improving defense should keep the Falcons soaring. The Cowboys have to show they can handle success, a quality that has eluded them since the Barry Switzer era. The potential for a sophomore slump from Dak and Zeke -- along with a completely re-formed secondary -- makes the Cowboys the shakiest bet of this tier. Still, anything less than a playoff spot from any of these squads would qualify as a huge disappointment.

The fat middle

Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.

The difference between 6-10 and 10-6 in the NFL is overstated. All nine of the teams in this tier have the rosters to put together a playoff season or division title if everything breaks right, but even a .500 record is far from assured. No one can convince me there's much separating this group in early April, so why pretend there is some phony Power Rankings gap?

The Cardinals probably had the worst offseason of any team here because three defensive starters left, but they have more "blue chip" talent than most. Their window shouldn't be closed. The Eagles did a stealthy job upgrading their defense in addition to adding receiver threats. The Giants will have done well to keep their defensive line intact if Johnathan Hankins returns. The Panthers and Saints have the best quarterbacks of this tier, which should keep them in the mix. Carolina did a laudable job building pass-rushing depth, even if Cam Newton's surgery is a nagging worry.

Detroit and Minnesota spent the offseason trying to fix their offensive lines, with the Lions getting the better players. Tampa made two smart signings in DeSean Jackson and Chris Baker, but the roster is thinner than general manager Jason Licht would like. Fans of any of the teams above should believe they have a potential contender to root for.

Still rebuilding

Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers.

The NFL tries to sell hope in every city, but some teams enter the season just hoping to be competitive. Some "7-9 bulls---" would qualify as a victory for new Rams coach Sean McVay. This Rams season is about developing quarterback Jared Goff and hoping that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips can work his magic yet again.

The Bears carpet-bombed free agency with signings, but most of them (outside of starting quarterback Mike Glennon) were role players. Coach John Fox needs a quality draft class to help out this talent-poor roster, and even that might not be enough to save him.

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan has the luxury of time in San Francisco with a six-year contract. He doesn't have the luxury of a franchise quarterback like he had in Atlanta.

The NFL makes these offseason predictions look silly year after year, but it would be legitimately stunning to see any of these three teams make the playoffs.

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