What do these NFC teams have in common: Bears, Buccaneers, Giants, Panthers, Redskins and Cowboys?
Well, one answer is that 5 of those teams will be in the playoffs.
Another answer is that none of those teams were in the playoffs last year.
And so goes the NFC. The only NFC playoff team that was there last year is the 13-2 Seattle Seahawks....and they haven't won a playoff game in, like, two decades.
Quite amazing. Last year's NFC Champion, the Philadelphia Eagles, were knocked out several weeks ago and had a season worth forgetting. The team the Eagles beat in the NFC title game, the Atlanta Falcons, were knocked out last week. The NFC North saw the Packers and Vikings [playoff teams a year ago] get off to miserable starts....and in the Packers case, an even worse finish. The St. Louis Rams haven't been relevant since before Halloween.
Think about this. The starting quarterbacks in the NFC playoffs could be Matt Hasselbeck, Rex Grossman, Eli Manning, Chris Simms, Jake Delhomme and Mark Brunell. If Dallas gets in, they bring Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe and Delhomme have a Super Bowl start to their credit and Hasselbeck has been a starter in Seattle for a while. But Grossman, Simms and Manning have had only a handful of starts entering this season. Brunell, who used to be something special, had about as bad of a season as you could possibly have in 2004. The AFC QBs are Peyton Manning, Jake Plummer, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, Byron Leftwich [maybe] and Ben Roethlisberger [probably]. Quite a raise in talent.
But, one thing the NFC does have is some good coaching. Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden, Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells have 7 Super Bowl championships [and 10 total appearances] between them. John Fox has also been to a Super Bowl. Lovie Smith was a defensive coordinator for the Rams in a Super Bowl [note, the AFC head coaches have a combined 5 Super Bowl titles in 6 appearances]. And when you think of the Redskins, Giants, Cowboys and Bears battling in the playoffs...it makes you think that we are just a 49ers team away from looking like the run in the 1980s and 1990s [especially when you see the AFC with the Steelers, Bengals and Broncos in the playoffs].
So is this the weakening of the NFC....or the strengthening? Will the Redskins, Cowboys, Bears, Bucs and Giants stay strong?? And at the same time, will the Eagles, Rams, Vikings and Falcons get back up there?? At the same time, some of the worst NFL teams are in the conference [Saints, Niners, Packers]...but the AFC has their share as well [Jets, Texans, Titans, Raiders].
Another amazing thing is that while the NFL's top quarterbacks reside in the AFC....most of the top statistical WRs are in the NFC. Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith, Torry Holt. Joey Galloway, Anquan Boldin, Santana Moss, Terrell Owens [NFC for now], Darrell Jackson, Donald Driver and Javon Walker. And as far as running backs go...the conferences are pretty much even. Sure, LT, Rudi Johnson and Larry Johnson rule the AFC....but Shaun Alexander, Clinton Portis, Tiki Barber, Warrick Dunn, Thomas Jones and Cadillac Williams had great NFC seasons as well.
Does this mean the NFC, the conference with the bigger markets, is starting an upswing back? Can they take back the NFL as they did from 1984-1996?? Or is this just a sign of NFC parody being AFC mediocrity.