Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 11/2/12
With the San Francisco 49ers on their bye week, there is no better opportunity to take a glimpse into where they stack up against the rest of the NFC teams. While 49ers101 has continued to offer weekly power rankings for the NFC west, we have yet to compare them to peers outside of their division. The halfway point of the season for most teams is coming up in week nine, and there is now a better understanding as to how the rest of the season will progress. Only one team from the NFC will make the Super Bowl, and only a handful of these teams will even make the playoffs. Who will be the representatives this year? Atlanta Falcons: As the only unbeaten team left in the league, they will obviously be ranked at the top of the food chain. But even with an unblemished record, there is lingering uncertainty regarding how good this team really is. There are statistical pros and cons with the Falcons that create room for speculation. Pros: The Falcons are fifth in points per game at almost 29 per contest. They have not scored less than 23 points in a single game all season. That’s a tough number for any defense to overcome. They also have the third highest rated quarterback in the league in Matt Ryan. They have one of the best running backs in the league in Michael Turner. Tight end Tony Gonzalez and wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones are all in the top 30 in receiving yards. And their defense ranks in the top ten in nearly every important statistical category, including yards per game allowed, touchdowns allowed, passing and receiving yards allowed, interceptions, sacks, and forced fumbles. Cons: Up to this point in the season, the halfway point, they have only beaten one team with a current winning record, the Denver Broncos. And their remaining schedule is more of the same; they only have to play one more team that has a winning record as of week eight, the New York Giants. As a matter of fact, they have only been tested twice thus far in 2012, against two mediocre teams in the Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers. Lastly, they do tend to give up a lot of rushing yards per game, one of the worst in the league. The Falcons stand a good chance to finish out the regular season undefeated, especially if they get past the Giants in week 15. There is no question that the Falcons will make the playoffs this year. But unfortunately, that is where the fairy tale will most likely end. There is a host of battle tested and playoff experienced teams awaiting them there. Good enough to make the playoffs but will not see a Super Bowl birth. New York Giants: Here’s one thing the entire world knows now, you can never count out Eli Manning, in any game at any time. He has proven himself to be one of the most remarkable quarterbacks in the league today, and he just might have already punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame. His talents are what has the Giants ranked so high halfway through the season. Not to say he doesn’t have an outstanding cast around him, his wide receiver and tight end crew is arguably the most talented in the league, and he has a rugged running back tandem that tears up the field as well. Throw in their power house defensive line, and you have the makings of a Super Bowl champion. The formula has not changed for the Giants in years, yet no one has figured out how to consistently stop them. They are not fooling anyone with their offensive or defensive schemes, opponents know what to expect, and still the Giants persevere through what ever is in their way. The one thing that will throw them from their horse is injuries. Yeah, that can be said for any team, but the Giants seem to have big time players hampered by injuries year in and year out. As a matter of fact, going into week nine they have or have had a number of important people injured or nursing injuries. Not to say many of their players are injury prone, but every year a lot of the same people miss an extended amount of games due to nagging injuries. If they remain healthy, they just might be the favorites again. However, there are a lot of tough teams that will have a lot to say about that during the second half of the season. The remainder of the season will not be an easy road to travel for the Giants, seven out of their remaining eight games are against high quality opponents. Including the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Green Bay Packers, the Baltimore Ravens, the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints, another divisional game against the Washington Redskins, and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants will make the playoffs one way or another, but their health will not allow them to advance to a Super Bowl again. They will have to wait until next season. San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers absolutely have the skill set to be champion of the league this season. They have one of the more efficient offenses in the league when used correctly, and they have arguably the best defense in the league patrolling the field. They are playoff tested and have a bitter taste still in their mouth left over from the way their season ended last year. Ultimately, that is the reason they take the number three spot in the NFC power rankings. Even with the Chicago Bears having a better record. Currently the 49ers have the number one rushing attack in the entire league, totaling 1,349 yards on the year. Their two headed approach has allowed them to be one of only two teams in the league to have two running backs in the top 30 in rushing yards. Frank Gore and back up Kendall Hunter run the ball with determination and purpose nearly every time they get carries. They open up the offense, allowing the passing and receiving game to operate at a very high level. So effective is this approach it has allowed a once ostracized Alex Smith to become the fourth highest rated passer in the league. The only obstacle standing between the 49ers and a championship ring, is themselves. For reasons unknown, the 49ers sometimes get away from the success formula that carries them to wins. For instance, in their two losses on the year they utilized Gore very minimal, only drawing up 20 rushing plays for him. That’s a two game total, 12 in the first loss and eight in the second. The 49ers have a tendency to trip over their own foot from time to time when they try and get too creative with the offense. Not to take anything away from their opponents that beat them, but the 49ers did make it a lot easier by not sticking to their guns. Their remaining eight games will not be easy by any means either. They have four divisional games left, which is always a dogfight to the end. And they have games against the Bears, Saints, Patriots, and Dolphins. If the 49ers stick to what works they should be able to enter the playoffs winning the majority of the games on their remaining schedule. They probably won’t go the rest of the way undefeated, but they stand a decent chance of finishing the regular season 12-4 or even 13-3. The 49ers will make the playoffs again, and by year’s end, they should be the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.Top ten NFC t  Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101. var switchTo5x=true; stLight.options({publisher:''});
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