Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/4/13
The Saints are back.After posting a disappointing 7-9 record a year ago, New Orleans is off to a 4-0 start.With Drew Brees throwing for 4 touchdowns and over 400 yards last Monday Night against Miami, New Orleans is finally playing their best football.Their last two games have been blowouts, and it seems they have come a long way from the last second victory against Tampa Bay back in Week 2.The trio of Drew Brees Jimmy Graham, and Darren Sproles has to be considered one of the best in football. Through Week 4, Brees has a 103.8 QB rating with almost 1,500 yards, 10 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.Graham has been the beneficiary, with 27 receptions for 458 yards and 6 touchdowns. Sproles is on fire with a fine game last week, and has totaled almost 400 yards from scrimmage as well as a pair of touchdowns.He is the "X" factor in the Saints offense, as his versitility is what keeps defenses guessing. Graham is one of the toughest players to cover, as his size overpowers smaller defenders and his speed leaves slower ones in the dust.With that in mind, as well as the defense being a top ten unit, is it time to consider that the Saints are the team to beat in the NFC? Let's take a look at the rest of the NFC's top teams, and figure out if any of them should be considered the favorite instead.Chicago Bears - The improvements of Cutler are noticable, and Matt Forte is one heckuva back. But what about the defense? Thought to be a strong point, Chicago ranks in the bottom half of the league in points allowed (28) and total yards allowed (384).However, they have been opportunistic, tying for 6th in the league in interceptions with 6 on the year. Add that to their top 5 scoring offense, improved O-line play, and solid special teams, and the Bears may have a formula for success. My lack of trust with Cutler, however, has me ranking them just a notch below New Orleans.Detroit Lions - After a nice win over division rival Chicago, Detroit is riding high. Another trio to be considered as one of the best this year? Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, and Calvin Johnson. Credit the O-Line, as Stafford has been sacked just three times this year so far.We all know what Megatron can do, but how about Reggie Bush? He has always had exceptional talent, but his former teams failed to use him properly. I like the way the Lions are putting him in space, and making defenses pick their poison with him or Megatron.Don't forget their D-line, who has constantly disrupted quarterbacks and pestered runners in the backfield. While I think they have potential to be a premier NFC team, the injury concerns with Reggie Bush, the past inconsistencies with Stafford, and the play of the defensive backs are a cause for worry. Count the Lions as only slightly behind in the race for the NFC's top seed.Seattle Seahawks - The team that can make the biggest case to rival the Saints for NFC surpremecy has to be Seattle. After their thrilling overtime victory against Houston, the Seahawks also boast a 4-0 record. While impressive thus far, I see a lot of inconsistancies, particularly at the quarterback position.Russell Wilson will likely break his sophmore slump, but right now he has been struggling to produce. His 6-3 touchdown to interception ratio is solid, but with him at the helm Seattle has averaged slightly over 200 passing yards per game, 25th in the NFL.Last week was one of the worst games of his career, as he was only 12 for 23, 123 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. While he did have 77 yards rushing, he never seemed in rhythm and simply has not possessed the magic that he did last year.And, unlike most of his fellow second year quarterbacks, he has the benifit of an exceptional defense to carry him when he falters. Marshawn Lynch is playing good football right now, but still has averaged less than four yards per carry.I look for teams to watch tape on Wilson, see what the Texans and Panthers did to contain him, and exploit those struggles. Due to the growing pains of Wilson, I currently do not think that Seattle can match the Saint's abilities, therefore are not considered the favorites in the NFC.Conclusion: New Orleans has all of the necessary components to gain the top seed in the NFC. Their quarterback, Drew Brees, is the best in the conference. While the defense may tamper off a bit, Brees gives them a chance to win any game. Look for the Saints to reign surpreme in the NFC.
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