One of the great characteristics of the NFL from year-to-year is the parody. A team could have a record of 2-14 one year and be a playoff team the next. It's hard to identify the top team until they're holding the Lombardi Trophy in February. 2012 is no different. There is no clear-cut runaway team in either conference.
The last two Super Bowl winners barely made the playoffs. They got hot at the right time and surged their way to championships.
So what's the criteria of an elite team?
Balance and consistency on both sides of the ball and overcoming a tough schedule is my definition of a contender. My top team has shown these traits up to this point in the season.
With that said, who is the best team in the NFC?
|5. Chicago Bears (8-3)
||Chicago knows one apparent truth: They are contenders when Jay Cutler is on the field and not so much when he cannot play. He's that good and the Bears' backup QBs are that bad, which makes it all the more important for his offensive line to keep him upright. With an 8-3 record, Chicago tops the toughest division in the NFC, but how good is this team really? Of their 8 wins only 2 teams had winning records (Colts, Vikings). The other 6 teams have a combined record of 22-43-1. The 3 teams they lost to have more combined wins than those 6.
|4. Green Bay Packers (7-4)
||The Packers were thrashed on the road last week against the Giants. Their four losses have come against playoff contending teams. They thoroughly handed the Texans their only loss of the year and have only one loss to a sub .500 team(Seattle). Green Bay's offensive line and entire defense have been inconsistently bad, but trying to gauge what kind of team they have is near impossible with so many key players out due to injuries.
|3. San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1)
||Playing in the weakest division in the NFC doesn't help their case for top team. As a result, their strength of schedule leaves a lot to be desired. However, they did win in Green Bay early in the season and legitimately dominated the Bears at home. Having a new QB that can at least threaten opposing defenses will help if Kaepernick can show consistent efficiency against NFL defenses. The 49ers mainstay has been their great defense, which is good against the run and even better against the pass, holding opposing teams to just 187.3 Yds/Gm.
|2. New York Giants (7-4)
||Getting smoked by the Bengals right before their bye week was a bit disconcerting, but they've run the gauntlet this season thus far. They have arguably one of the hardest schedules in the NFL and division play is never easy. Winning in Dallas and absolutely crushing San Francisco and Green Bay makes them my number 2 team.
|1. Atlanta Falcons (10-1)
||Close games or not, this team just keeps on winning. Their only loss came at the hands' of a red hot Saints team in New Orleans. They are near the bottom when it comes to running the ball, but their aerial attack is good for 2nd best in the NFL. Atlanta's defense isn't great, but it's good enough. This is the most consistent team in the NFC week-in-and-week-out.
Let us know what you think. Who are your top teams in the NFC so far?
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