Statistically and probability wise, the top three teams in the NFC are the Atlanta Falcons, the New York Giants, and the San Francisco 49ers. The evidence supporting their ranking in the top echelon is very extensive. However, there are still quite a few teams in the NFC that would beg to differ, and offer themselves as the squads to beat. And they are very just in doing so, each of the teams in this article provide a very strong argument as to their prowess on the football field.
Chicago Bears: At 6-1 on the year, many think ranking them in the top three is a no brainer. And any other year, they would be. It’s basically a coin flip between the Bears and 49ers for which team gets the number three spot. The Bears make a very compelling case for being one of the top three teams in the league, at this point. They play in arguably the toughest division in the league, with only one team in it with a losing record. And that’s the high powered Detroit Lions. Four of their six wins have been complete blowouts. And they operate as if they expect to score on every down. Right now they are playing as if they have a new lease on life after their disappointing 2011 campaign. There is not a doubt that they belong up there, the only thing separating the Bears and 49ers for the third spot is the strength of schedule outside of their own division. The Bears only have three teams outside of their division with a current winning record on their schedule, while the 49ers have five. That’s it, that’s all that separates the two teams.
Once again, as has been the case in many years past, the Bears are carried by their defensive dominance. This year the Bears have been blessed with having a full defense remain healthy. And their intensity attributed to their ongoing health has showed. Once again they are relentless in their controlled chaos. They rank in the top ten in nearly every defensive statistical category to this point. Barring injuries, they just might send four or five of their defensive players to the Pro Bowl this season.
Even their offense has found life again. Granted it has a lot to do with running back Matt Forte being healthy and the acquisition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall. But even if Forte misses games, they still have another stud running back in Michael Bush that would allow them to not miss a single beat. And with quarterback Jay Cutler playing with his confidence level at an all time high, this team just may have the components to win it all.
The only draw back to predicting them into the Super Bowl is their remaining schedule. Seven of their next nine games are against playoff caliber teams, each with a top tiered defense. It is not out of the question to see them lose three straight consecutive games starting in week ten. The Bears probably look to finish out the season 5-4 or 6-3. That should put them into the playoffs, and if healthy, they could push right to the Super Bowl.
Green Bay Packers: The perennial playoff team and Super Bowl threat has had a very up and down year thus far. At 5-3 on the season so far, their success is well below their own expectations. They have been diligent in employing the talents of each of their positions, and they are still putting up the same scoring numbers as previous years. Their defense is playing champion caliber football, and they obviously have the experience to pull through difficult times. It’s a tough pill to swallow for Packers fans, they are a great football team, but they are coming up short this year. Most certainly they can right the ship and make a dedicated push to the Super Bowl, but they have a lot to overcome.
Probably their greatest downfall to their season is their strength of schedule. It could be said that at least 11 or maybe even 12 teams that they play or have played this year are playoff caliber teams. The Packers have arguably the toughest schedule in the entire league. Let alone the division they play in with the Bears, Vikings and Lions. Unfortunately, as is the case with most top tiered teams, they play top tiered opponents. They play games that keep the fans on the edge of their seats. It’s a rule of thumb in the NFL, good teams play other good teams and bad teams play other bad teams. It’s a ratings cash crop.
Their other downfall, and not that it matters a ton, because they are so talented in the passing and receiving game, is their lack of a running attack. Not to say that they don’t run the ball enough, they are very conscience of maintaining a rushing operation. It just does not produce a lot for them. Granted, injuries have taken a toll on the ground game. But even when they have had starter in the backfield, the production was very lack luster. The Packers rank near the bottom of the league in rushing yards per game and yards per carry. Unfortunately for the Packers, many teams are becoming hip to the fact that the rush is not a threat.
As stated before, the remaining games for the Packers will not be easy. They still have to play the Arizona Cardinals, the Detroit Lions twice, the Giants, the Vikings twice, and the Bears. They are absolutely a threat to make it to the playoffs and win another Super Bowl, but they will have to make some definitive adjustments this ear to do so. To make a prediction without the Packers in the playoffs would be absurd, they will be there again. But again this year a Super Bowl will probably elude them.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings mark the third team in the NFC north to rank in the top six of the NFC overall power rankings. That should say something about how tough that division is. And the Vikings have most certainly proven their worth. At 5-3, they just may be the scariest team in the NFL. Their strength of schedule isn’t the strongest in the league, and they have only played one divisional game so far, but they have been making a case to rank them high enough to make the playoffs. With their superstar coming off a career threatening injury, a second year quarterback returning from an abysmal rookie campaign, and only one wide receiver that surpassed 40 receptions in 2011, no logical football fan would have ever guessed they would be doing so well.
First and foremost, their success is largely attributed to their running back Adrian Peterson. After tearing his Anterior Cruciate Ligament late in 2011, he has stormed back into the spotlight. Peterson leads the league in yards per game with almost 100. That is a ridiculous number, he’s on pace to rush for over 1,500 yards. All after sustaining an injury that could have ended his career. His health is vital to the success of the Vikings; they go as he goes. If he does, Vikings fans cross your fingers, sustain an injury to end his season, then it would be highly unlikely to see the Vikings win another game after that.
Defensively they have been at the top of their game. They were a good defensive team last year, this year they have matured into a downright scary bunch. No team in the NFL looks forward to playing the Vikings anymore. This defense hits like a freight train and swarms to the ball. They are tied for second in the league in sacks and they are fourth in the league in total tackles. They have the talent to carry a team in this league, just so happens that they don’t have to, with Peterson on the other side of the ball.
With the good news comes the bad news, it does look like the Vikings will end up being short of making it to the playoffs. Their remaining schedule is a murderers row of quality teams and divisional rivals that want to squash all of the Vikings hopes. They still have to take on the Bears twice, the Packers twice, the Lions, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Houston Texans. They have eight total games left, it would be surprising to see them split the rest of the contests, but more than likely they will only garner three more wins. They will ultimately have to wait until next year to make their playoff run.
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