Only 3 Teams More Than One Game Over .500
New York Giants, (6-2)
Despite some early inconsistent play, New York is exactly where they want to be -- two games up in what initially was a very competitive division. The loss of Amani Toomer for the rest of the season is going to sting, especially in the playoffs (if New York holds on to make them), and they have a lot of other injuries. The advance retirement announcement from Tiki Barber has affected neither his play nor the team's chemistry. New York had a pretty tough first half schedule with Indy, Philly, a heathly Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas and a streaking Tampa Bay; but it gets no easier. New York starts the second half with Chicago and Jacksonville and later has Dallas, Carolina, Philly and New Orleans. Tom Coughlin is a fantastic coach, and if he can get New York to play consistently every week, this will be a dangerous team.
Dallas Cowboys, (4-4)
Early season hopes and promise appear dashed. Distractions by Terrell Owens are par for the course, but they cause real damage, and the effects were obvious. Drew Bledsoe was having a "typical" Bledsoe year (i.e. - Not a "once-in-a-blue moon far-above-average" year), and he's been relegated to the sideline in favor of the trendy, quick-footed whippersnapper. Dallas' fate rests in Tony Romo's fortunes, because at 4-4 two games back in the standings, you need to do a lot of winning if you want to make the playoffs. The first half was tough, as it was for most NFC East teams, with Jacksonville, Philadelphia, New York (all losses) and Carolina. Losing the first-half closer to Washington take a big toll. Romo and the boys have to get rolling at Arizona, because that's followed by Indy, New York, New Orleans, Atlanta and Philly, with just Tampa Bay (appropriately on Thanksgiving) in the middle to break it up.
Philadelphia Eagles, (4-4)
Here's a team with no one to blame but themselves. Talk about inconsistent. Forget parity; this team has simply underperformed. Looking like they shook off the loss of Owens like they just dropped a 1,000-pound lead weight, they streaked out to a 4-1 start with just a close loss to New York keeping them imperfect. Then three straight losses to New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville to close the first half have them looking merely human. Philly at least is healthy, and they're coming off a bye to start the second half. You couldn't ask for more. They should get off to a running start with a pair of home games against Washington and Tennessee, but (if they win both) can they maintain the momentum they lost in the first half when the travel to Indy, then face Carolina at home, then take three straight road trips to Washington, New York and Dallas before finishing at home against Atlanta?
Washington Redskins, (3-5)
Only a game out because of Dallas' and Philly's floundering, Washington is more than likely a danger only unto themselves. Wins over Jacksonville and Dallas appear to be more flukes than convincers, and a loss that put Tennessee in the win column won no votes of confidence. Years of overpaying for big name "talent" has, predictably, reduced Washington to a has-been with not a lot of hope of a big comeback for years. The acquisition of a couple more big names (Clinton Portis) hasn't helped, and it appears that the days of Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells are fading to twilight. Great as they are (were), they can't save mediocre teams anymore. The second-half road is just too tough for Washington to be a player.
Chicago Bears, (7-1)
After playing a typical Indianapolis Colts schedule, Chicago is sitting pretty. The one game that was expected to be competitive ended up being against an oft injured Seattle. Otherwise: Green Bay, Detroit, Minnesota, Buffalo, Arizona, San Francisco and Miami? And they lost to Miami. Chicago starts the second half with three straight on the road, all to the Northeast with back-to-back trips to the Meadowlands and then one to Foxboro. After that, it's back to the weaklings: Minnesota, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Green Bay. Boy that Lovie Smith, he really knows how to beat lousy teams (except Miami). Expect another quick out in the playoffs for a team that should be 12-4 at worst come January.
Minnesota Vikings, (4-4)
An alleged contender until crushed by New England on Monday Night, Minnesota followed up that disappointing performance with a loss to San Francisco, once again shining a light on New England ruining the seasons of alleged contenders. Maybe it's just a coincidence. Minnesota didn't really beat anyone impressive in the first half, and they have a similar cakewalk in the second: Green Bay (twice), Miami, Arizona, Detroit. They'll probably end up just short of a wild card. It may not seem like much, but it's still better than the Mike Tice - Daunte Culpepper days.
Green Bay Packers, (3-5)
Brett Favre, for the love of everything you hold dear: Retire! Please. This team simply doesn't have the horses. They were built on more than Favre's arm, but many concluded incorrectly that they'd be able to survive on it. It just isn't so. Fading once-great quarterback, great running backs and good receivers just can't do it when the offensive line is overmatched. And the defense doesn't (can't) help because with all the offensive turnovers, they can't stay off the field or they're trying to hold a short one. On top of that, Green Bay probably has a tougher schedule than Chicago or Minnesota. Go figure that out.
Detroit Lions, (2-6)
The only surprise here is that they actually won a couple games. They might actually win a couple more. This division has some of the easiest schedules I've ever seen. But they still have Matt Millen running the show and Mike Martz on the sideline ready to step into sacrificial lamb Rod Marinelli's shoes. Until everyone but the players are fired, this team will continue to waste that nice new stadium. But at least they have Wrestlemania next year. Kind of appropos, eh?
New Orleans Saints, (6-2)
New Orleans came out of the bayou like a bat out of hell to start the season, and if not for a little trip-up at Carolina, they'd be 7-1. As I've said before, this could end up being one of the greatest one-season turnaournds in sports history, but the road isn't paved with rose petals. Road games at faltering Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Dallas and New York could all be challenges; but home games against Cincinnati, San Fran, Washington and Carolina are definitely winnable. Rookie wide receiver Marques Colston has been a godsend, and Reggie Bush has been good enough. Drew Brees is playing better than most expected, and other offensive stalwarts have been performing well. The defense is top 10. Sean Peyton for Coach of the Year? The Big Easy is going to have one heck of a party some day. By the way, I picked them to finish last in the division pre-season.
Atlanta Falcons, (5-3)
Wow! Michael Vick is a legitimate quarterback! Oh, wait. Sorry about that. If Indy can never win The Big Game in January or February, what chance does Atlanta have? At least their losses have been to legitimate teams ... well, except Detroit. I wonder how good Atlanta would be with someone like Brees? After meeting Cleveland this week, Atlanta has a tough road: at Baltimore, home vs. New Orleans, and later home vs. Dallas and Carolina and finally a trip to Philly. How well Atlanta does down the stretch may depend how deep in the playoff chase those teams are.
Carolina Panthers, (4-4)
The good news is: Like 4-4 Philly, Carolina is healthy, and they're coming off their bye. They also have some winnable games to get on a roll before the schedule really toughens up in the final weeks of the season. The bad news is: This team has simply been underperforming, making excuses for when things went wrong instead of buckling down and sucking it up (ugh, what awful cliches). Two losses, four wins, two losses. They've beat a couple lousy teams and a couple good one. Their losses are all to good or slightly less than good teams. It's tough enough to make the playoffs finishing second in your division. It's almost impossible finishing third. Carolina definitely has it's work cut out if they plan to make a run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (2-6)
Remember when Jon Gruden left Oakland because he thought he was so great, and then he won a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy's architected team? Nice job, Chuckie. Tampa is not like the 2001 Patriots where just a change at quarterback is going to send them to the playoffs. After a couple unlikely wins over Cincy and Philly, they're back to earth with uncontested losses to New York and New Orleans. The Next Tom Brady is starting to look like The Next Overhyped Pretender. Five of Tampa's last eight are on the road, and with most of those eight in the playoff hunt, I expect Tampa to finish out 4-12 or 3-13.
Seattle Seahawks, (5-3)
It's almost a miracle Seattle is still leading this division. There used to be all this talk about "the injury bug" until the last couple years in New England, when it's been more like "the injury horde-of-locusts." The horde swarmed all over Seattle this season, but they persevere in hopes that their stars can return with a boost in the latter part of the season. Still think Mike Holmgren is overrated? Seattle has just two really tough games left on the schedule: at Denver to start December and home vs. San Diego on Christmas Eve. And besides the rematch against St. Louis this week, the remaining five games puts Seattle in a great position to win the division and maybe even push for one of the top two seeds in the conference. It's a longshot, but it's not impossible.
St. Louis Rams, (4-4)
After all the whining following the first Seattle game and how they were ripped off and blah, blah, blah. What have they done to prove they're really a contender? A lucky Week 1 win against Denver is their only decent showing against a good team. I'll just blame Mike Martz for leaving this team in a shambles. It's much easier. St. Louis has a pretty easy schedule, too, with a few exceptions, so they could conceivably make a run for a wild card or even the division if Seattle can't recover. But then it's likely off to an embarrassing road loss in the playoffs to a good team.
San Francisco 49ers, (3-5)
Here's a team that's exactly what we all thought they were, maybe (maybe) a little better. They have at least four really tough games and four games against creampuffs, so they could end up with a respectable record if they win the easy ones and maybe steal a tough one. Otherwise, no one really cares.
Arizona Cardinals, (1-7)
Quite honestly, however this sounds the fact is that Dennis Green isn't making any great strides for minority coaches. Beyond his team, which has enough talent to make a lot of people think they should have been challenging for the division, he's made some awful, horrible, terrible decisions and not just the in-game kind. As I've mentioned several times, scapegoating his offensive coordinator after they score 23 points against one of the league's best defenses can't even be justified. Even Washington, which is just as bad with Gibbs as it was with Steve Spurrier, can be laid at the feet of owner Daniel Snyder. Not here. It's all Green, and Arizona needs to part ways with him as soon as possible.
Who will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl?
This poll is closed
Chicago Bears (7-1)
St. Louis Rams (4-4)
Carolina Panthers (4-4)
Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)
Dallas Cowboys (4-4)
Atlanta Falcons (5-3)
Seattle Seahawks (5-3)
New Orleans Saints (6-2)
New York Giants (6-2)