We’re now four weeks into the NFL season, and the picture in the NFC is still a bit muddy, as there’s several teams that we’re just not sure about. Nevertheless, at the quarter point of the season, here’s how the entire NFC stacks up:
1. Seattle – Sunday wasn’t the first time the Seahawks looked sluggish on offense; in fact, they’ve been slow to get going offensively against everybody except Jacksonville this year. However, they can run the ball, they have a quarterback that can make plays in key moments, and they have one heck of a defense. Right now, that’s enough to keep them atop the NFC power rankings.
2. New Orleans – The Saints have been awfully good in September, and truth be told, they’re awfully close to taking over the top spot in the NFC away from the Seahawks. New Orleans made it look easy on Monday night, as they moved the ball up and down the field effortlessly in their blowout of the previously undefeated Dolphins. The Saints have had the luxury of playing three of their first four games at home, and now they have challenging road games against the Bears and Patriots the next two weeks, but it’s going to take an extraordinary effort to slow this team down.
3. Detroit – When Reggie Bush is healthy and playing well, Detroit’s offense reaches a completely different level, and they showed that over the weekend against the Bears. The Lion’s defense leaves something to be desired, but they have a good amount of talent on that side of the ball, especially up front, and so far this year it’s been enough to win games when their offense gets going. We should learn a lot about the Lions this week when they travel to Green Bay, but coming off their win against the Bears they look awfully impressive.
4. Chicago – The Bear’s performance on Sunday showed why I was reluctant to buy into their success too soon, as Jay Cutler was back to being turnover prone with three interceptions, although he once again performed great in the 4th quarter. Chicago has been good, and a lot more impressive than many of the teams we thought would be good, but they’ve yet to prove they’re one of the NFC’s elite teams, but a home game against the Saints this week is a great opportunity to show that belong at the top.
5. San Francisco – The 49ers got back on the winning track Thursday night, but the Rams look like one of the worst teams in the NFC, so it’s nothing to get too excited about. They know they can pound the ball with Frank Gore, but they’re going to need a whole lot more out of Colin Kaepernick, as they’re barely averaging 200 yards passing per game. San Francisco will get a test this week with a home game in primetime against the Houston Texans, who will challenge them both offensively and defensively.
6. Green Bay – The Packers had week 4 off, but now they face what is essentially a must win game against Detroit this weekend. If the Packers lose, they’d be more than two games behind the Lions in the division, putting them in a hole early in the season, which is something they didn’t expect to have happen this season.
7. Atlanta – The Falcons are in rough shape after their home loss to the Patriots Sunday night. They still can’t run the ball, their two elite wide receivers are under performing, and their defense couldn’t even slow down New England’s skill players. They’re better than most 1-3 teams, and the schedule eases up a bit over the next few weeks, but they shouldn’t be too proud about the way they’ve played this year.
8. Dallas – Just when you think they’re getting somewhere, the Cowboys take a step backwards. Both of their losses have come on the road, which is understandable, but they had a big halftime lead against the Chargers over the weekend, and they should have been close out the game and didn’t, which is a concern. Things don’t get any easier for Dallas, as they have to host the Broncos next week, and if they lose that game, they will have wasted an opportunity to take a commanding lead early in the season in a mediocre NFC East division.
9. Carolina – The Panthers had this past week off, and now they’ll hit the road for three of their next four games. Carolina will have a chance to win all four games, but they need to find a way to win close games, which is something they failed to do the first two weeks of the season in close losses before blowing out the Giants in week 3, which right now is the only thing they can hang their hat on.
10. Minnesota – The Vikings aren’t all that bad for a team that’s 1-3. The three teams they’ve lost to have a combined eight wins, and their three losses were only by 15 points combined, so they’re not far from being 2-2 or even 3-1. Minnesota gets a week off after returning from London, and then they have a slew of winnable games in front of them to help them get back on track.
11. Philadelphia – The jury is still out on the Eagles, but two of their losses have come against 4-0 teams, and it would have been asking a lot to think their defense could slow down Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver. They can move the ball and score points when they don’t turn the ball over, and they’re one of the top rushing teams in the NFL, and that’s enough to keep them within shouting distance of the top 10 in the NFC, at least for now.
12. Washington – The Redskins start to creep out of the basement after getting their first win, but they still have a lot of work ahead of them. Once again, Washington’s offense was slow to get going, forcing them to climb out of a 14-0 hole. They’ll have to work out that problem and plenty of others during their bye week before an important divisional matchup against Dallas the following week.
13. Arizona – Carson Palmer isn’t having the kind of season we thought he might have after the skill players around him improved so much when he moved from Oakland to Arizona. Although they’ve played against two quality defenses, the Cardinals have just 20 points over the past two weeks, and that’s not going to cut it in an offense-oriented league.
14. Tampa Bay – For all the Bucs problems, three of their losses have come by three points or less, so they’ve been competitive. However, there’s no getting around the fact that they don’t have any wins, and that they’ve already made a quarterback switch and a relying on a rookie.
15. St. Louis – Yes, the Rams fall even below the winless Bucs. A season-opening win against Arizona seems like a distant memory after getting blown out the past two weeks. St. Louis can’t run the ball and they can’t stop other teams from running the ball, which is why they’ve been steamrolled the past two weeks. Luckily, they have the Jaguars this week, but if they keep playing the way they have the past two weeks, winning that game may not be such a guarantee.
16. New York Giants – The Giants just aren’t even close to winning, as they’ve scored seven points over the past two weeks, while allowing 69 points. In their defense, they’ve played three of their first four games on the road, and their only home game was against the Broncos, but that’s not an excuse for getting blown out and not looking competitive in games.