Friends, it’s football time, and where there's football, there are predictions. Scads of predictions, falling from the sky like rain. But unlike most predictions, which doom your team to a six-win fate, we offer you hope. Hope that maybe, just maybe, if everything goes right ... your team will reach .500.
What follows is our breakdown of best- and worst-case scenarios for each NFC team. We did the AFC on Friday; if you happened to miss that one, we've got it for you right here. For a much fuller breakdown of each team, check out our Frank Schwab's team-by-team analysis right here. Start now, and you might be done reading that by Week 1.
As with last week, these predictions do not factor in injuries or other freak occurrences. But this'll give you a touch of hope heading into the year. Ready? Let's begin.
Best case: Super Bowl champions. No doubt. It's very much in the cards for Big D, and if Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper live up to their own numbers, this is a team that'll be tough to beat.
Worst case: Elliott's holdout affects the regular season, a couple tough or ugly losses break against Dallas, Prescott starts getting exposed, and everybody runs when Jerry Jones gets near. Absolute worst-case, no playoffs, and wholesale turnover in February.
Best case: Either Eli Manning or Daniel Jones comes through at quarterback for New York, giving the team some measure of competence as they transition out of one era and into another. That's still not enough to get them to the playoffs. Seven wins are your ceiling here.
Worst case: How tough is your stomach? If Manning struggles, and then Jones struggles after that, this is going to be one of the nastiest seasons in recent Giants history. Not even Saquon Barkley churning through lines like they were crème brûlée could make up for an entirely possible QB meltdown.
Best case: A second Super Bowl championship in three years. The Eagles remain vital and loaded, and a healthy Carson Wentz keeps this team lethal. We see too many NFC East games in prime time every year, but for once, the Cowboys-Eagles tilts are going to be worth it.
Worst case: This team is stacked across the board, earning top marks by virtually every metric on both sides of the ball. The problem comes in if Wentz can't deliver the way that he could and should. If Wentz struggles, this still ought to be a wild card team, but not much more than that.
Best case: If Dwayne Haskins comes through for Washington the way that two of his predecessors did, if Derrius Guice comes back from injury strong, this team has an outside shot at a wild-card berth. Way outside. Like, outside-the-beltway outside.
Worst case: There's little reason to hope that Washington will get its act together. (No, that's not a political subtweet.) Head coach Jay Gruden has run out of string here, and if Washington can't get anything going yet again, Gruden's going to be out of work and Haskins is going to struggle to save his career from the clutches of FedEx Field.
Best case: As long as the Bears can get themselves a kicker, this might just be a Super Bowl-caliber team. Correction: it's already a Super Bowl-caliber team, but a kicker will keep them in the mix in those inside-three-points games. And that might be good enough to make them a Super Bowl champion.
Worst case: The Bears had a huge improvement in 2018, and if it turns out that improvement was but a mirage -- unlikely but not impossible -- this is going to be a cranky fall and winter in Chicago. Mitchell Trubisky may well be the answer, but if not, this team will struggle to get past the opening weekend of the playoffs.
Best case: The Lions suddenly start buying into what Matt Patricia's selling, Matthew Stafford suddenly starts looking like the second coming of Steve Young, and Detroit makes it all the way to ... one playoff win. Maybe.
Worst case: Patricia joins the long list of ex-Patriot coaches who learn that you can't just up and rebuild the Patriot Way in another location, and the Lions struggle to get to .500. No one outside Detroit notices.
Green Bay Packers
Best case: As long as you've got Aaron Rodgers on your roster, a Super Bowl championship is your best-case scenario. That's the case with Green Bay this year, too, regardless of who's pretending to coach while Rodgers runs the show. Wait, did I say that out loud?
Worst case: If Rodgers' relationship with new coach Matt LaFleur doesn't properly flower, well, this is going to be a backbiting few months in Green Bay. Rodgers will get the benefit of the doubt, but the benefit of the doubt and nine wins still might not get Green Bay to the playoffs.
Best case: It seems like Minnesota's window opened and slammed shut already, and even in the best-case scenario this doesn't feel like a championship team, or even a division winner. Kirk Cousins could snare a wild-card berth, but the Vikings aren't going to get any further than that.
Worst case: The Vikings are the official team of What Could Have Been, and if this year pinwheels south, the Vikings, with very little cap flexibility going forward, could be in a dark hole for a long time.
Best case: The Falcons have very little time left with Matt Ryan at the height of his abilities and Julio Jones still one of the best players in the game. If the newly well-paid defense steps up, this is a team that could make a bit of noise in the playoffs.
Worst case: If Atlanta once again underperforms and misses the playoffs, which isn't all that unlikely an event, it'll be time to clean house. And like Minnesota, Atlanta will have to wonder what could have been.
Best case: Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly are two of the league's best, and when they're both on, the Panthers are unstoppable. But both haven't been on together in quite some time, and that means this is a wild-card team at best.
Worst case: The Panthers are the NFC's equivalent of the Texans, a team absolutely loaded with recognizable stars and yet unable to mount a sustained run through a season. Newton and Kuechly aren't quite in AARP territory, but they've worn a lot of tread off their tires. Another year without the playoffs, which is a distinct possibility, is another year of prime talent wasted.
New Orleans Saints
Best case: Super Bowl Champions. No doubt. Drew Brees is as tough as ever, Alvin Kamara and the Saints receiving corps are invaluable assets, and top-to-bottom this is one of the four best teams in the league.
Worst case: It would take a catastrophe beyond reasonable speculation to keep the Saints out of the playoffs. Maybe the Falcons or Panthers catch a hot streak and snag the division, but the Saints can book postseason plans already.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Best case: Jameis Winston only partially detonates the Bucs' season, and new head coach Bruce Arians jams a new life into the team. Still, a wild-card berth is out of reach for this team for anything but the most optimistic Bucs fans.
Worst case: Winston's in a make-or-break year, and the odds of Winston missing the mark are good. Winston's not a sure bet for a long-term extension, and with something like a four-win horror show, the Bucs might finally decide they're done with him. Maybe.
Best case: The Cardinals are the longest-odds bet in the league right now, with an undersized QB and an unproven head coach running the show. If Arizona can manage to win half its games, it'll be an impressive achievement, albeit an unlikely one.
Worst case: Kliff Kingsbury might just be overmatched, Kyler Murray might just be overwhelmed, and the Cardinals might not end up winnig a game. This is the reality of life in the NFL.
Los Angeles Rams
Best case: Super Bowl champions. If you believe that a champion has to lose before they can win, well, the Rams learned an awful lot from losing last year in the Super Bowl. If Sean McVay can build on last year, this is a team that's got all the makings of a champion.
Worst case: What if Todd Gurley is already cashed? It could happen. And if Jared Goff regresses, this is a team that will struggle. They're deep enough to reach the playoffs under any reasonable circumstance, but they can't bluff their way past New Orleans.
San Francisco 49ers
Best case: If Jimmy Garoppolo delivers on the promise he showed back in New England, this could be a team that ... still probably won't reach the playoffs. But the fact that SF has a potential franchise QB in uniform bodes well for the future, just not for this year.
Worst case: If, like everything else, Garoppolo goes sour now that he's out of New England, this could be another low-single-digit-win year in San Francisco. At least they'll have Arizona to (possibly) beat up on twice a year.
Best case: You can't ever count out a team with a reliable coach-QB combo like the Seahawks have, and Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson ought to put the Seahawks in position for another playoff run. They won't get past Los Angeles for the division, but they could be a nightmare matchup on wild-card weekend.
Worst case: Seattle does love the run. (Yes, yes, save your 'except for...' jokes.) And if, for whatever reason, the run isn't there for the Seahawks, if Wilson isn't able to connect with a young receiving corps, this team could end up around .500, not nearly enough to reach the postseason.
And there you go, scenarios for all 32 NFL teams. But between you and me, we both know your team's going to win it all.
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