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The State of the NFC: Week 3

Earlier this week, we took a look at the state of the AFC after three weeks of football.  Today we do the same with the NFC, where two undefeated teams (the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals) have set the pace, followed closely by a slew of 2-1 squads.  Overall the NFC would appear slightly stronger than the AFC this season, though it is too early to be entirely sure.  Here’s how the divisions look so far.

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles: 3-0
  2. Dallas Cowboys: 2-1
  3. Washington Redskins: 1-2
  4. New York Giants: 1-2

Although Philadelphia is one of just three remaining undefeated teams in the NFL, and Dallas has been able to pull off a winning record, the NFC East has not impressed.  Both of those squads needed comeback efforts in order to win last Sunday, and the Eagles were forced to climb out of a deep hole to catch the lowly Jaguars in week 1.

Meanwhile, Washington has shown signs of life with Kirk Cousins at the helm, but not the kind that bring victories.  The Giants bested the Houston Texans in a surprisingly easy affair this last week, but have otherwise appeared entirely out of sorts.  While Philadelphia’s offense has played well and has excellent upside, on the whole the NFC East has not been impressive.

NFC North

  1. Detroit Lions: 2-1
  2. Chicago Bears: 2-1
  3. Minnesota Vikings: 1-2
  4. Green Bay Packers: 1-2

It has been an odd year so far in the NFC North.  The Vikings have a new-and-improved defense.  But they can’t score.  The Packers are actually playing defense.  But they can’t score.  The Lions are really, really playing defense, leading the lead in yards allowed, and tied for second in points allowed.  But they can’t score (on offense).  Meanwhile, the Bears are performing better on defense than expected, and have a potent offense.

Questions abound.  Are the Vikings a good team waiting for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to put them over the top?  Are the Packers actually bad for the first time in nearly a decade (yes, in 2008 the team had a poor record, but it was clearly a talented squad)?  Is this finally the year for Detroit?  Or should we trust the Bears, who have the most impressive win for the division (a thrilling comeback over San Francisco) and actually know how to put points on the board.  It is too early to call where this division is headed.  Stay tuned.

NFC South

  1. Carolina Panthers: 2-1
  2. Atlanta Falcons: 2-1
  3. New Orleans Saints: 1-2
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 0-3

Last year’s division winners, the Panthers, find themselves back on top of the NFC South after three weeks.  Their two wins were earned by great defensive performances, only to see the Panthers utterly dominated on the ground by the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.  Meanwhile, the Falcons have been putting up extremely impressive offensive numbers, leading the league in points scored and yards gained.  An early win over the Saints, an utter destruction of the Buccaneers, gives the Falcons a leg up in the division.

As for the Saints, after starting the year with two losses, they were able to comfortably, if not impressively, beat the Vikings at home and get a win in week three.  The offense has been good, but not quite the juggernaut of years’ past.  They will need Rob Ryan and the defense to build off a good performance against Minnesota to make a run in this tough division.

All anyone needs to know about the Buccaneers was known by halftime last Thursday night.

NFC West

  1. Arizona Cardinals: 3-0
  2. Seattle Seahawks: 2-1
  3. San Francisco 49ers: 1-2
  4. St. Louis Rams: 1-2

As everyone predicted, the NFC West has two of the best teams in football, by both record and the eye test.  Not-so-widely predicted: the team joining Seattle on top of the division – in fact, beating Seattle in the race – is the Arizona Cardinals, who have been extremely impressive, especially on defense, through three weeks.  Meanwhile, though Seattle lost to the San Diego Chargers in week 2 of the season, they bookended that loss with a beat-down of Green Bay, and an overtime win over the Denver Broncos.

The 49ers, on the other hand, have not looked great.  The lost each of their last two games, folding in the second half against the Bears at home, and being completely stymied by the Cardinals.  If they can take any solace, it’s the fact that both of the teams which have defeated the 49ers have winning records, as do the Cowboys, whom the 49ers beat.  Finally, the rams bring up the rear, predictably, and lost a large lead to the Cowboys in week three.  They seem destined to finish fourth in the division, and the only question is how high their 2015 draft pick will be.