We did the AFC quarter pole review and now it's time for a status on how things are in the NFC, who for the most part, are looking like the conference that's clearly the better one. So far, they're 10-4 against the AFC and the main reason you'd say they are better is that the NFC has a better group of QB's, yet they aren't necessarily weak on defense. Let's see how this conference stacks up.
I'd like to call this division the NFC Enigmas. Each of these teams have such Jerkyll and Hyde personalities, it's not even funny. The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-1, yet have a -17 point differential. Their wins were by a combined 4 points and lead the NFC with 12 giveaways (second in the league to only Kansas City). Dallas is third on this list, with 11 giveaways, though Monday night against the Bears has a lot to do with that. The shine from the opening night win over the Giants is fading as they were throughly outplayed by the Seahawks and played way too sloppy against an opportunistic Bears defense. And yet their 2-2, like their other NFC East brethren. The defending champion Giants had the best performance among any of the East teams in their win against the Panthers and showed what happens when a complete game was played. Yet, they played lethargic against the Cowboys, needed to win a shootout with Tampa and struggled against the Eagles again. Meanwhile, the Redskins are also 2-2, but the case can be made that 4-0 could have happened. Even still, with rookie QB Robert Griffin III, I'd be happy if I'm a Washington fan, since they will be competitive this year. All this tells me that no one knows how this division will play out as the year progresses.
We figured that the NFC North would have three strong teams this year. I don't think anyone thought the Minnesota Vikings would be one of them. Now, they've won a couple of close ones, but they when they beat the 49ers, it makes you take notice that perhaps Christian Ponder could be a solution at QB. It always helps when Adrian Peterson is running the ball again and the Vikings defense has become stout again. The Bears were a team to watch as Jay Cutler came back from injury and the acquisition of Brandon Marshall gave them a threat at WR that they haven't had since....ever? Add that the Bears are ball-hawking as much as ever and an offensive line that for the most part isn't getting Cutler killed and 3-1 is a fine start. The one time the O-Line didn't protect Cutler was when he went to Green Bay. The Packers should be 3-1 as well, but the awful call at the end of the game in Seattle might still haunt this team. They're 2-2, looked bad against the 49ers, lucky to beat the Saints, but dominated the Bears. I don't know what to think of them, only the late they get their act together, the more likely that Seahawks game will play a role in their destiny. Another team needed to get its act together is the Lions. Detroit hasn't looked good in any of its four games, including their win over the Rams which Matthew Stafford threw four INT's. The defense seems worse and the lack of a running game is too much of a crutch for this team (as well as a consistent number two WR opposite of Calvin Johnson).
Just like the AFC version, the NFC South has one really good team and three mediocre at best ones. The Falcons are 4-0 and have two thumping wins over the Chiefs and Chargers as reasons why, along with two tight home wins against Denver and Carolina. I'm not sure if I'm ready to buy this team to win in January, but they have 13 weeks to prepare for that. Some people thought the Panthers were ready to contend for the playoffs, however their offense has stagnated and their defense (clearly if you watched the end of last week's game) hasn't shown signs of improvement. Meanwhile, Cam Newton has "sophomore slump" written all over him. The Bucs after Week 1 looked like a sleeper team in the league and through almost three quarters in Week 2, maintained that look. Since then, they've lost to three NFC East teams, had the controversy (not really a controversy, but I digress) of hitting Eli Manning and are now 1-3, looking at another lackluster year. It was going to be tough for the Saints to win a lot of football games without Sean Payton. I didn't care that Drew Brees is back and playing great. The defense looked awful to start (I'm sure Steve Spagnuolo will find improvement), but close games need good coaching to win (please don't bring up Andy Reid) and they won't have it again until next year.
Last, but the best is the NFC West. Where it's the Cardinals, not the 49ers in first with a 4-0 mark. Mostly defense by Arizona is why they're unbeaten, with careful offensive play by Kevin Kolb and the always outstanding Larry Fitzgerald as a safety blanket. This was the formula that the Niners had last year; this year, the defense is the same but they are arguably more dynamic on the ground and Alex Smith is playing the best football in his career. The 34-0 pasting of the Jets showcase all that is good about Jim Harbaugh's team, including their special teams. Seattle and St. Louis are behind at 2-2 after the Rams win over the Seahawks. Last year, the Rams were killed with a tough schedule at the start and never recovered; this year, they're more competitive against a slightly weaker one but there are improvements until Jeff Fisher (especially on defense). Pete Carroll has his team at 2-2, which is a little lucky after the Monday night game debacle. It's too early to tell if they are good, but they have shown signs of this and they are still extremely tough to beat at home. Win a couple on the road and the playoffs are likely.