The NFC is loaded with talented teams, but at the moment, it's hard to identify one true world-beater. While the 8-1 Arizona Cardinals boast the best record in the conference (and the NFL, for that matter), they just lost their starting quarterback for the rest of the season. And the Cards will be tested immediately, with a game against the 7-2 Detroit Lions on Sunday. This isn't the only clash of NFC titans in Week 11, either, as the Green Bay Packers (6-3) are hosting the Philadelphia Eagles (7-2).
All of this begs a simple question: Which is the best team in the NFC?
If the playoffs started today, Aaron Rodgers & Co. would be watching them on TV. As it happens, though, the playoffs are NOT starting today. By the time they do, I expect the road to the Super Bowl to run through Lambeau. The offense is otherworldly and the defense is sound (... and occasionally even dynamic, like Clay Matthews showed on Sunday night).
Cynics will point to Green Bay's three losses, but take a closer look at those games. NO ONE was going into C-Link for the Seahawks' season-opening coronation and coming out with a win. Another loss came in the NFL's second-toughest road environment, NOLA, and that one comes with the asterisk of "What would've happened had Rodgers not pulled a hammy?" The surprisingly rugged Lions held court in Detroit, but the Pack will return the favor over the holidays. Then they'll dispatch the next two teams who pay them a visit in January before heading to Glendale, Arizona, for a Feb. 1 appointment.
If the Lions can keep Matthew Stafford healthy and upright in the pocket, Detroit could be the home of the NFC's Super Bowl representative.
Since Week 4, they've gone 5-1 and ripped the Vikings by 32, sunk the Panthers by 21 and thrashed the Bears by 21 and 41 points. Aaron Rodgers is operating at an MVP level. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson have combined for more receiving scores (18) than any WR duo in the NFL this season. The defense, meanwhile, is beginning to tighten the vice.
Green Bay was wacked by Seattle in the opener, but that was months ago. Barring disaster, the Packers are headed for Super Bowl XLIX.
Looking at the other conference powers ... Even with the injury to Carson Palmer, Arizona will still be tough. The defense is stout, and Drew Stanton will do a solid job at QB -- but the lack of a consistent run game will eventually hurt the Cards. The Seahawks might be getting into a groove with their running game -- and they still have two games apiece against the Cardinals and 49ers, which could allow Seattle to re-establish itself as a true juggernaut. The 49ers will be tough because of their steady play on defense, but they still have no consistency on offense. Detroit's defense is excellent, but the Lions' offense continues to leave something to be desired.
Meanwhile, Philly and Green Bay have been fairly consistent on offense all year. I'd put the Eagles' defense slightly ahead of Green Bay's unit. Thus, today, I believe Philadelphia is the best team in the NFC. Next week? Who knows.
The answer here is the Green Bay Packers. This is a complete, well-coached team led by the greatest quarterback on the planet. The NFC will go through Lambeau.