The Green Bay Packers are the current favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 47.
In fact, I don’t expect the Packers to lose again in the regular season.
Since the replacement referee debacle on Monday Night Football in Seattle in Week 3 and the loss to Indianapolis in Week 5 dropped their record to 2-3, the Packers have reeled off five consecutive wins.
In doing so, they’ve reminded me more of the 2010, 10-6, Super Bowl championship team, than the 2011 iteration that went 15-1 but lost in its first playoff game.
Much like in 2010, the Packers have been stung by critical injuries.
Star receiver Greg Jennings has barely played all season with a groin injury. Future Hall of Fame cornerback Charles Woodson remains out with a broken collarbone. Their best pass-rusher, Clay Matthews, missed the last game, against the Lions, with a hamstring, and could be out for longer.
None of this mattered in Sunday’s huge road victory at Detroit.
The Packers, like they seemingly always do in the Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers era, found a way to get the win. It wasn’t pretty, but Rodgers led a late touchdown drive to secure Green Bay’s fifth straight victory, and with Chicago’s loss on Monday night in San Francisco, the Packers and Bears are now tied atop the NFC North at 7-3.
Green Bay won’t be behind Chicago at any other point this year.
The Packers are going to win the NFC North, and are the best team in the NFC.
Let’s look at each of the NFC powerhouses, and determine why the Packers are the best of the bunch.
San Francisco 49ers, 7-2-1
The 49ers were impressive in Monday night’s 32-7 shellacking of the Chicago Bears at Candlestick Park.
This is also a San Francisco team that punched Green Bay in the mouth in the season-opener at Lambeau Field, physically dominating the Packers en route to a 30-22 win.
Doesn't that game seem like a lifetime ago?
Green Bay is a significantly tougher team now than they were earlier in the season. They’ve handled adversity and become a stronger unit as a result.
Also, it now appears that the 49ers have a quarterback controversy on their hands, as Colin Kaepernick has sparkled in relief of a concussed Alex Smith.
But, I don’t care how good he looked against the Bears. Is there any way that you would pick Kaepernick to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in a playoff game, whether at Candlestick or Lambeau?
And, if Smith happens to be the quarterback in that game, the revenge angle comes into play. As I’ve previously noted, there is perhaps no better quarterback than Aaron Rodgers at using slights, perceived or otherwise, to fuel his competitive desire.
The 49ers, Rodgers’ hometown team, took Smith over him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, precipitating Rodgers’ uncomfortable-to-watch drop down the first round, eventually ending when he was selected by the Packers. Then, Smith and the 49ers beat him in Week 1 of this year.
There is simply no way that Aaron Rodgers would allow his team to lose to San Francisco for a second time. For this reason, I believe the Packers are better than the 49ers.
Chicago Bears, 7-3
Sometimes, you throw everything out the window and just go by what you see.
When I look at the Chicago Bears, I see a team that cannot defeat the Green Bay Packers.
Since Aaron Rodgers took over as the Packers' starting quarterback in 2008, Green Bay is 8-2 against Chicago, including the 2010 NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field.
Rodgers and the Packers have won five consecutive games in the rivalry, the most recent being Week 2’s 23-10 triumph.
The Bears, with a healthy Jay Cutler, are a solid football team. Their defense is among the best in football, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the unit placed multiple players on the All-Pro team.
But, their offensive line can’t protect anyone, whether it’s Jay Cutler or Jason Campbell. That’s going to be a problem come January.
I’ve been saying all year that I thought the Packers would sweep the Bears, and nothing has happened to change my mind.
When the Packers roll into Soldier Field in Week 15 with a 10-3 record, they’ll exit at 11-3.
Give me Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers every day of the week, and twice on Sunday, against Lovie Smith, Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears.
New York Giants, 6-4
If there was one team that you could argue had the Packers' number, it’d be the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
It was the Giants who went into Lambeau last year and stunned the Packers, 37-20, in the divisional round of the postseason.
It was a crushing loss that ate away at the Packers throughout the entire offseason. When the SiriusXM Blitz visited Packers training camp in August, we could tell that the players were still stung by the result of that game.
When the Packers travel to MetLife Stadium this upcoming Sunday night for a rematch against the Giants, I expect the outcome to be much different.
The Giants are a wounded outfit, and are in the midst of their seemingly annual midseason slump. I don’t care that they’re coming off the bye week, with an extra week to prepare.
Aaron Rodgers, last year’s regular season MVP, had to watch as Eli Manning and the Giants stole their thunder. It was Manning, not Rodgers, who played in the Super Bowl. It was Manning, not Rodgers, who was able to claim his second Super Bowl title and MVP award.
You know what that means: On Sunday night, Aaron Rodgers is going to be dialed in.
Come January, it might be a different story. We all know how Eli and the Giants are capable of beating anyone in the tournament.
But, in November, this game means more to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers than it does for Eli Manning and the Giants.
The Packers will beat the Giants on Sunday night. Green Bay is better than New York and will finish with a better record.
Atlanta Falcons, 9-1
Out of all the teams on this list, I feel strongest about the Packers being able to beat the Atlanta Falcons, whether at Lambeau Field or at the Georgia Dome.
Over the past two weeks, Atlanta has had an opportunity to make a statement. In Week 10, if the Falcons were truly the best team in the NFC, they’d have stepped on the throat of their biggest rival, the New Orleans Saints, but the Saints beat them again, and are now alive in the NFC playoff race.
They should have bounced back in dominant fashion at home against an Arizona Cardinals team with the worst quarterback situation in the history of organized football, but barely squeaked out a win. Presumptive MVP candidate Matt Ryan was putrid, throwing five interceptions against no touchdowns. Atlanta couldn’t have been less impressive in victory.
At this point, you know the criticisms of the Falcons: They aren’t tough enough, and they can’t get the job done when it matters most.
What’s happened this year to make you think that the 2012 Atlanta Falcons are any different than in past seasons under Mike Smith and Matt Ryan?
Who would you rather have your team face in a must-win, January game: Matt Ryan, Mike Smith and the Falcons, or Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy and the Packers?
Atlanta might have the NFC’s best record at 9-1, but they aren’t the NFC’s best team. The Packers would knock them out of the postseason again, just like they did following the 2010 season.
The 2012 Green Bay Packers are rounding into form.
Just like in 2010, they’ve weathered the injury storm with aplomb, the result of general manager Ted Thompson’s brilliance. Players like rookie cornerback Casey Hayward and wide receiver Randall Cobb have stepped up in the absence of established starters.
Look at the Packers' remaining schedule: at New York Giants, Minnesota, Detroit, at Chicago, Tennessee, at Minnesota.
I believe Green Bay will beat the Giants this Sunday night. Even with Adrian Peterson performing at an MVP level, the Packers will sweep the Vikings. If you think Detroit is going into Lambeau and beating the Packers, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. Tennessee has no chance at Lambeau, and the Packers simply do not lose to the Chicago Bears.
That adds up to a 13-3 season, which should be good enough for a first-round bye, and would give Green Bay 11 consecutive wins entering the postseason.
So, forget the 49ers, Bears, Giants and Falcons.
The Green Bay Packers are the best team in the NFC.
Nick Kostos is the executive producer of the "SiriusXM Blitz," hosted by Rich Gannon and Adam Schein, on SiriusXM NFL Radio. You can follow Nick on Twitter: @TheKostos.