There are some major shakeups in the NFC power rankings this week after NFC teams lost six of eight matchups against AFC teams, indicating the conference may not be as deep as we thought. Let’s take a look at how the NFC stacks up heading into week 4.
1. Seattle – Yes, all they did was beat the lowly Jaguars, but there seems to be a growing distance between the Seahawks and everybody else in the NFC. Defensively, they are as tough as can be, and they’ll be almost impossible to beat at home this season. They could be challenged with road games against Houston and Indianapolis the next two weeks, but for now nobody is close to unseating them atop the NFC power rankings.
2. New Orleans – Sean Payton is making a strong case for coach of the year, as the Saints are a totally different team with him around this season. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan deserves a ton of credit as well, as the Saints have allowed a combined 38 points in three games this season, doing so against three teams with talented skill players capable of doing a lot of damage. The schedule really heats up the next three weeks, but New Orleans looks like a strong contender that’s getting the job down on both sides of the ball.
3. Chicago – I’m almost sold on the Bears, but not quite yet. They’re 3-0, but the teams they’ve beat have combined for two wins, and they needed to come from behind in the 4th quarter in two of those wins. That being said, Jay Cutler looks far more comfortable with Marc Trestman than he has with any head coach he’s had before, and he seems to have three or four skill players he’s comfortable throwing the ball to, and not just relying on Brandon Marshall. Going 3-0 is no fluke, but winning next week in Detroit will go a long way towards proving the Bears are for real.
4. Atlanta – There are three teams in the NFC that we thought would be towards the top all season that have instead started the season 1-2, and Atlanta has been the best of the three. The Falcons have their issues, like their running game and their secondary, but losing to New Orleans and Miami on the road by less than a touchdown is nothing to get worked up about. The pressure is on to beat New England next Monday, but as long as they win that game they’ll be fine, as it’s the first of three straight home games they can use to get back on track.
5. San Francisco – The 49ers get a pass for losing in Seattle, but there’s no excuse for losing by 20 points at home, it doesn’t matter how good the Colts may or may not be. It’s not the time to panic because the schedule has been tough, but they’re getting gashed on the ground defensively, and their quarterback doesn’t look all that confident. On top of that, they have the Aldon Smith situation hanging over their head and a short week before playing in St. Louis Thursday night, which means getting things back on the right track won’t be easy.
6. Green Bay – They’ve lost two close games, both on the road, but the Green Bay teams of the past would have found a way to win at least one of those games. Things are slowly falling apart for the Packers, as their offensive line is struggling, their running backs are dropping like flies, and there seems to be a rift between the head coach and the starting quarterback. Outside of Aaron Rodgers, there isn’t a lot that makes the Packers a good team right now, and unless he gets some help soon, there’s only so much Rodgers can do to keep the Packers towards the top of the NFC.
7. Dallas – Hats off to the Cowboys for a convincing win over the Rams this weekend, as they finally got their running game going, which made all the difference in the world. Usually a team that’s 2-1 and whose one loss game by a single point would be higher up, but the Cowboys haven’t beaten a quality opponent just yet and it’s still tough to put them ahead of the teams we thought were good heading into the season but played a tough schedule the first few weeks. Dallas still has plenty left to prove, but at this point they do look like the class of the NFC East, although that’s not saying much.
8. Detroit – Even without the services of Reggie Bush, the Lions managed to put in a good offensive effort this past week, albeit against a terrible Washington defense. Detroit has two wins against 0-3 teams, so let’s not overreact to a promising start, but the Lions look like they’ll be able to be competitive this season, and they’ll have a chance to prove themselves while making a statement within the division when they host the Bears this weekend.
9. Carolina – After what Seattle has done the past two weeks, Carolina’s five-point loss to the Seahawks in week 1 doesn’t look so bad, and the Panthers certainly looked real good against the Giants on Sunday. One convincing win and two close losses is enough to push them slightly ahead the middle of the pack in the NFC, but no one’s buying the Panthers just yet, as they’ll have to play three of their next four games on the road following their bye this week.
10. Blank – There really is no team in the NFC that deserves to round out the top 10 this week. St. Louis and Arizona simply did not show up on Sunday. Everybody’s re-thinking Philadelphia after their old coach completely shut down their high-flying offense. The Giants are terrible. Tampa Bay is a disaster. Washington and Minnesota may actually be the most competitive teams in the group, but neither has a win, so at least for now, the 10th spot stays empty in the NFC power rankings.