The NFL sells parity. Any given Sunday and any given season still exists, but the NFC noticeably has had continuity at the top over the last few years.
The Seattle Seahawks remain in the middle of a dominant four-year run as the NFC's best team. Last year's wild-card season was a step back, but they were still title contenders by January. The Packers have been the other constant playoff presence this decade. While they haven't been back to the Super Bowl since the 2010 season, coach Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have made it to at least the Divisional Round in five of the last six years.
The Packers and Seahawks have been the NFC constants, and they are now being joined by the Cardinals and Panthers as the conference's power teams. Carolina made the Divisional Round in 2013 and 2014, won the NFC in 2015, and have the reigning league MVP. Coach Ron Rivera's defense boasts young stars who should have staying power. Arizona has been one of the top-five teams in the NFL over the past two years whenever Carson Palmer is on the field. They remain a roster loaded with talent on both sides of the ball.
As we wrap up Roster Reset for 2016, there's no doubt that there is a Fearsome Foursome atop the NFC. It's up to the rest of the conference to knock them off. Below we've ranked the NFC in tiers by roster strength.
The Power Four
The Seahawks remain our favorites in the conference because of their track record and their young core of players. Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Jimmy Graham, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are all signed through at least 2017. ... The Panthers have to deal with the disappointment of losing in the Super Bowl. Like the Seahawks, they are mostly a young roster that should remain hungry. General manager Dave Gettleman's rebuilding plan is just starting to bear fruit; he's ahead of schedule.
Chandler Jones gives the aggressive Cardinals defense what they previously lacked: A proven pass rusher. Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell, David Johnson, and a deep receiver group help make Arizona one of the most talented teams in football. ... The Packers' lack of movement this offseason should not be a surprise. Perhaps their roster doesn't quite match up top to bottom with the rest of this tier, but Aaron Rodgers remains the game's most talented quarterback. He still has as many weapons as he's ever enjoyed in Green Bay.
The Vikings could make a strong case for joining the group above, but they have to follow up their breakout season in 2015. Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, Xavier Rhodes, Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen is a sweet defensive core to build on. They have Teddy Bridgewater and a post-controversy Adrian Peterson moving into a new stadium. They couldn't have timed this better and anything less than a playoff appearance will be a disappointment. ... The Rams' No. 1 overall pick will be in position to succeed with Todd Gurley and a strong defense backing him up.
Has a QB, Has a chance
The Saints defense can't get any worse. Can it? As long as Drew Brees is still playing like a top eight quarterback, New Orleans will have a chance to make a run to double digit wins. ... The Redskins benefitted from a favorable schedule last year and new general manager Scot McCloughan still has a lot of work left to improve the Washington defense. The potential for Kirk Cousins to backslide is large.
This entire tier has major roster questions, whether it's offensive depth or the lack of pass rushing. But every team in this tier has a legitimate starting quarterback, including the Cowboys. Tony Romo is now an X-factor. He's a top 10 quarterback if healthy and able to play at his previous level, yet that feels like a huge if at this point. Dallas shouldn't expect to pick up where Romo left off in 2014 because the defense has big questions.
Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford are coming off disappointing years, but they both have the potential to bounce back if they get enough support. ... We put the Giants below the rest of the NFC East because of general manager Jerry Reese's struggles building a complete roster. The defensive line is undeniably better, but there remain questions about the back seven, and the weapons for Eli Manning outside of Odell Beckham.
The Bears managed to overachieve last year just to win six games. Their defense is further along after a few free agent signings, but this roster doesn't have enough "wow" players. ... The 49ers are an example of how fast things can change in the NFL. Their roster was as loaded as any in 2013. But it was older and many of the young players took a step back or had injury troubles. Now Chip Kelly has a full rebuild with general manager Trent Baalke.