Get your mouth guard, your cleats and put on your tightest pants, it’s football time
By Oliver Nacey
After covering the AFC last week it is time to look at the evermore scandalous, unpredictable and outright confusing NFC.
The Chicago Bears (7-3) lead the North after a 3-0 record in the division and wins in their last three games. The Bears have been great at winning tight games this season with solid defence from veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher and trade acquisition Julius Peppers. With consistent play from the offense to match that of the defence the Bears are solid playoff contenders.
The Green Bay Packers (7-3) are threatening Chicago for top spot in after winning four of six and only losing in overtime to Washington and Miami. Star quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been on fire, throwing for four TDs against division rivals Minnesota this week. With a great defence to match the Packers are seemingly locked for a playoff berth.
The Minnesota Vikings (3-7) have discovered what it’s like to rest a franchise’s playoff hopes on a veteran of 20 seasons at quarterback. Brett Favre has returned this season but has not been his usual Hall of Famer self throwing 17 interceptions and only 10 touchdown passes. It’s hard to see this team making the playoffs but they still have a lot of talent and experience.
The Detroit Lions (2-8) sit at the bottom of the division but have shown very positive signs after losing every game two seasons ago and only winning two last year. Sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford played well to start the season but was knocked out by injury after three games and who knows what the Lions’ record would have been with him at the helm all season.
The Philadelphia Eagles (7-3) have made coach Andy Reid look like a genius this season after he traded Donovan McNabb to the Redskins in the off season. It was a controversial move that sparked a massive quarterback debate in Philadelphia, but Michael Vick has stepped into McNabb’s shoes and subsequently disected opposing teams while raisng Superbowl hopes.
The New York Giants (6-4) have had an up and down season so far gaining a winning record while also suffering tough losses. After losing to the division rivals the Cowboys and the Eagles in consecutive weeks a great 6-2 record has turned into a rather unimpressive 6-4 one. Eli Manning has been great however and the Giants are still well in the running.
The Washington Redskins (5-5) have had a tough season after gaining Donovan McNabb from Philadelphia in the offseason. They have however struggled and suffered a humiliating 59-28 loss to McNabbs old team two weeks ago. They still have talent however as their record shows and could win against any team in the league.
The Dallas Cowboys (3-7) will be hosting the Superbowl this year and were picked by many to be playing in it as well, but after a horrible start to the season that idea has quickly and painfully become near impossible. Their 1-7 start led to the firing of head coach Wade Phillips and since offensive coordinator Jason Garrett took the reins the Cowboys have been 2-0.
The Atlanta Falcons (8-2) lead the South with a league best eight wins and 2-0 division record. Quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Roddy White have been arguably the leagues best passing partnership while Atlanta’s defence has held off some of the leagues best offences. The Falcons are serious playoff contenders and perhaps the leagues best team.
The reigning Superbowl champion New Orleans Saints (7-3) have lost as many game this year as they did all of last season, but are still considered one of the leagues best teams and have won three straight. Last years MVP Drew Brees has been his usual self throwing for 22 TDs and 2969 yards. They may not be as perfect as last year but the Saints are still won of the best all-round teams in the NFL.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) sit in third place in the division despite their great record. Quarterback Josh Freeman and running back Legarrette Blount have been some of the bigger surprises in the league and have lead the Buccaneers to impressive wins. They have however lost important division games which could affect their playoff hopes.
The Carolina Panthers (1-9) are firmly planted at the bottom of one of the leagues best divisions after multiple injuries to their young team have led to a dismal record. Running backs Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart as well as quarterback Jimmy Clausen have all been knocked out removing any hope of a winning season.
The Seattle Seahawks (5-5) sit atop what is considered by most to be the worst division in the NFL and not without good reason either. Seattle is the only team with a positive record and they only sit at 5-5. After losing veteran wide receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh to the Ravens in the offseason the Seahawks have not been consistent but in the NFC West they’re, quite oddly, a favourite to win the division.
The St. Louis Rams (4-6) have played well this year, winning three more games at this point than all of last season. Strong play from running back Steven Jackson and rookie quarterback Sam Bradford supported by a defence that has held its own has lead to what could be considered a successful season so far. Regardless of their losing record the Rams still have a shot at the playoffs.
The San Francisco 49ers (3-7) have been one of the bigger disappointments this season after being touted as a playoff and maybe be even Superbowl contender. Quarterback Alex Smith has struggled despite having a good receiving corps and has handed off a lot of the offensive play to running back Frank Gore. It will require something magical for the 49ers to make the playoffs this year, but in the NFC West anything is possible.
After their star quarterback Kurt Warner retired after last season the Arizona Cardinals (3-7) have struggled to find consistency on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Pro bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has had a tough season due to the Cardinals’ QB problems and has not been supported by a struggling defence. Many are considering this season a rebuilding stage for Arizona and a chance to find a franchise quarterback at next years draft.
At this point it is hard to know who will take the playoff spots but to wrap up here’s how I see the postseason shaping up:
After week 11 of the season the race for the playoffs is still up in the air and with the numerous trades, injuries and surprises this season has been an exciting one so far and it’s hard to see that changing over the second half.