Division races in NFC taking shape

Published On:
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Printer-friendly version

Like some unhappy contenders in the political arena, the NFL is experiencing quite the power shift this season. No longer is the AFC the unquestioned dominant force in professional football. Marked by injuries to men named Merriman and Brady, with teams like New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and San Diego already struggling, it’s easy to call the NFC the toughest conference in professional football.

That’s not to say the AFC is pure recreation.

Tennessee is one of the best teams in the conference despite the absence of quarterback Vince Young. His replacement, veteran Kerry Collins, gets the receivers involved more than Young did and is on track to have one of the best seasons in his career. Pittsburgh looks to emerge as one of the Titans’ biggest competitors, as it seems poised to return to the Super Bowl.

That’s not to say the NFC is totally stacked either.

The West has pushovers. Don’t discredit the Cardinals or Seahawks, but also don’t expect them to be a threat when the playoffs come around. The West is the NFL’s Pac-10 Conference in that it too has a guaranteed playoff spot that should be awarded elsewhere. But unlike the Pac-10, the division does not have a playoff-worthy team like USC.

Green Bay is becoming the dominant force in the Central despite losing last week.

The division is far from decided, though, as Chicago has let two of its three games slip through its hands. Minnesota is still looking to collect the pieces and perform to their expectations after starting out 0-2.

The NFC South intrigues many as three teams sit atop the standings. Everyone knew Tampa Bay and New Orleans would fight for the division. What nobody anticipated was the rise of Hot-lanta. The Falcons will have trouble with rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, but have running backs Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood, who together average more than 180 yards per game.

It’s too bad the NFC East can’t get four teams into the playoffs. At this rate, that would seem fair.

It’s hands down the league’s best division. The East has always sported the league’s most competitive rivalries and now it features the best three teams in the league. It also has another playoff contender in Washington.

It seems impossible to argue against the Dallas’ supremacy. After just three games, the Cowboys played two possible NFC Championship contenders, beating both. In last week’s game against Green Bay, they exemplified their dominance as Marion Barber and Felix Jones combined to put all opposing teams on watch. While it’s still too early to say, the Cowboys’ Monday night game against Philadelphia will rank as one of the better games in the NFL all season, as it showed the offensive and defensive skills of both teams.

The Eagles’ defense held Pittsburgh to six points last week. With an offense that’s averaging over 300 yards per game, they might just be the second best team in the NFL. After all, the team boasts running back Brian Westbrook, who averages a touchdown per game.

The New York Giants would like to jump into the fray too. The Manning-to-Burress connection is as hot as ever, and don’t forget they are the defending champions.

And then you have Washington Redskins. It’s fair to say that Jason Campbell is one of the more under-recognized quarterbacks in the league. He threw for 2,700 yards last season and is on pace to eclipse that mark this year. The Redskins’ only loss this season was to the Giants, though Washington did beat the Cardinals Sunday.

So, with as strong as the East is, the focus could be on a Cardinals team that is 2-1 and primed for a playoffpush.

Reach the reporter at joshua.spivack@asu.edu.