Giants and Packers are New NFC Favorites

Heading into the 2010-2011 NFL season the media had already predetermined which teams would be running the table in the NFC. You couldn’t turn on the television without hearing about the Cowboys being the first team to win a Super Bowl in their own stadium. Every newspaper you flipped through had pictures of Grandpa Favre coming back in order to win a Super Bowl ring in Minnesota. Now, the Cowboys are sitting at the bottom of the NFC East with an abysmal 1-7 record and Favre might as well have stayed home and played backyard football with the Wrangler boys instead of witnessing the Vikings crumble to a 3-5 record.

Although the 6-3 New Orleans Saints are proving that they’re just as good as last year, several other teams have emerged as top contenders for the NFC title this year. The red-hot New York Giants and Green Bay Packers are my top picks to take the NFC this year and prove that, despite little depth, the NFC is capable of playing some outstanding football. The Giants emerged from the dungeons of the NFC East to boast a 6-2 record despite some sportswriters predicting a last place finish in lieu of Washington’s acquisition of Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick’s resurgence in Philadelphia and the development of a phenomenal receiving corps in Dallas. The Packers battled back from devastating injuries to star running back Ryan Grant and wide receiver Donald Driver to sit atop the NFC North with a 6-3 record. Although it isn’t certain which team will be heading to Dallas this February, it’s quite clear that the road will either pass through the New

Meadowlands or Lambeau Field.

After starting off the season 1-3 the New York Giants had to address a plethora of questions from the media as the Jets jumped out to a 3-1 start. Would the Giants defense be able to recover from an abhorrent season last year? Was the tandem of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs effective anymore after the Giants running game was stopped in its tracks? The Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans defeated the Giants by an aggregate of 43 points in consecutive games. Brandon Jacobs was furious at his new role of being the second-string running back and went as far as launching his helmet ten rows into the stands during the Indianapolis game. However, after the defeat at the hands of the Titans, the Giants caught fire. The defense roared to life against the Chicago Bears as the defensive line racked up ten sacks en route to a 17-3 victory. Over the course of the next three games, the superhuman Giants defense knocked five quarterbacks out of games. The most notable of the bone-crunching hits occurred during a 41-35 victory over the Dallas Cowboys when quarterback Tony Romo was pasted into the turf by linebacker Michael Boley.

Although the Giants are historically known as defensive stalwarts and running specialists, the emergence of a talented group of core receivers has accounted for much of the Giants success. The deceptively fast Steve Smith nicely complements physical receivers Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. The Giants possess a multi-faceted offense and impregnable defense that

should catapult the G-Men to the NFC

Championship game.

While the Giants were getting blown out against the Colts and Titans, the Packers were losing nail-biters week after week. The Packers stumbled to a 1-3 record losing the combined three games by a total of 9 points while two of the games were decided in overtime. The success of the Packers can be attributed to two talented players who both have been objects of criticism over the course of their athletic careers. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was drafted as the heir to the throne during the Brett Favre years and after enduring criticism over his athletic capabilities to step in for the future hall-of-famer, Rodgers has thrown for 4000 yards in his two seasons as a starter. Rodgers has figured out how to distribute the ball effectively in the absence of running back Ryan Grant.

On the other side of the ball is a defensive wrecking ball by the name of Clay Matthews. Coming from a lineage of NFL players, Clay walked onto the USC football team as a freshman weighing in at a measly 166 lbs. He then became a part of one of the best linebacking corps in college history during his senior season as he played alongside Brian Cushing (Houston Texans) and Rey Maualuga (Bengals). Through nine games, Matthews has racked up 9.5 sacks and alongside linebacker teammate A.J. Hawk the Packers have emerged as one of the most terrifying defenses in the NFL. The unassailable Packers defense is largely the reason that the Packers possess the greatest point differential in the NFL with a

victory margin of +78 points.

Football is a prime example of a sport where nothing truly is what it seems. All it takes is a one season-ending injury of a star player for a team’s championship aspirations to be dashed to pieces. Although the NFC East has proven itself again as one of the preeminent conferences in NFL football, the New York Giants possess the rare combination of a solid ground attack and robust defense that willed them to a Super Bowl victory in 2007. The matured receiving corps provides Eli Manning with three venerable players who are as well acquainted with the Giants offensive schemes as he is. In order for the Green Bay Packers to make a run at an NFC title, Aaron Rodgers will have to keep up his solid play and spread defenses apart in order for his mediocre backfield to contribute to the Packers offense. The Packers defense, which largely relies on the pressure generated by its front seven, will benefit from corner Charles Woodson and safety Nick Collins returning to full health. Clearly, the football gods favor cohesive and disciplined teams, not flashy and capricious ones.