Conversely, the Atlanta Falcons are raising eyebrows by jumping out to 4-0. Led by a much-matured Matt Ryan, the Falcons have a very simple recipe for success: maintain a balanced offense and play good defense. If Atlanta continues firing on all cylinders, they could again find themselves as a No. 1 seed.
Add in Tampa Bay’s inability to win close games and Cam Newton’s sophomore slump, and the NFC South looks to be the Falcons’ for the taking.
Up north, the Green Bay Packers certainly look to have come back to planet earth after last year’s 15-2 season. The defense is much improved, but Aaron Rodgers and the offense look to have taken a step back. Luckily for the Packers, their offense is still potent enough to win them a ton of games.
The Lions’ special teams have been so bad that it’s costing them games, and the Bears recently made a big statement in their Monday night drubbing of Dallas. Don’t blink now, but Minnesota’s standing atop the division at 3-1, and Adrian Peterson looks like he hasn’t lost a step. Every single team in the NFC North has the capacity to make the playoffs, so following these teams should make for a fun ride.
Who says you need an elite quarterback to win in this league? Arizona and Kevin Kolb quietly ended 2011 winning seven of their last nine, and have turned heads this year by opening up at 4-0. Led by a scary good defense, the Cardinals have been closing out tight games, including handing the Patriots a rare loss in Foxboro.
Arizona’s tightest competition for the division title will certainly be San Francisco, who is proving last year wasn’t a fluke. The Niners’ old-school philosophy of tough defense and a running game has brought them to 3-1.
Seattle and St. Louis both will also be better than they were last year, so it will likely be crowded atop the west come January.
It’s not a coincidence that ten different NFC teams have made it to the Super Bowl out of the last 11 years. The NFC is truly anyone’s for the taking every year, and it doesn’t look to be any different this year.