NFL Playoffs: Are There Actually Real Super Bowl Contenders in the NFC?

Baily DeeterSenior Writer IIIDecember 16, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 7:  Running back Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers gets tackled by cornerback Stephon Gilmore #27 of the Buffalo Bills on October 7, 2012 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.  The 49ers won 45-3.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

In January, I wrote an article about why the NFC will be stronger than the AFC in 2012.

Boy, was I wrong.

Sure, the Falcons are 12-2. Sure, the 49ers, Packers and Giants are all playing good football, while the Redskins, Seahawks and Bears look like Wild Card threats. But do any of these teams look perfect, like some of the teams in the AFC?

Most definitely not.

Atlanta is squeaking out wins against teams like Oakland, Arizona and Carolina (which they also lost to,) while teams like Denver and New England are beating Houston, Pittsburgh, and, well, Denver. Denver is riding a nine-game winning streak, while New England has rattled off seven straight convincing wins.

Oh, and they also routed the Texans—previously 11-1—42-14 on Monday Night Football.

The NFC has decent teams, but nothing like that.

Alright, so the last three Super Bowls have been won by NFC teams. But the Saints, winners of Super Bowl 44, have a 6-8 record. Green Bay looks good, but they are 10-4 and squeaking out wins over Detroit and Jacksonville.

And the Giants? Well, they are pretty good. But they have lost six games, and they are an on-and-off team coming off of a 34-point loss to the Falcons.

Out of all the NFC's playoff teams, the only real ones to me are the Falcons, Seahawks and 49ers. Aldon and Justin Smith are both great pass-rushers, and they lead a spectacular defense for San Francisco. Atlanta sometimes plays like a great team, while Seattle has a great defense and top-notch running back.

There are a lot of people that will laugh at me for calling Seattle a real contender. And if they are one of the three teams I consider a real contender, that means the NFC is a pretty weak conference.

In the AFC, I consider Houston, New England, Denver and Baltimore contenders. Sure, the Ravens look weak, but they're going to have Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs healthy, and they are an experienced team.

Houston needs to patch up some defensive issues, but they are one of the most complete teams in the league.

How about New England and Denver? They just have superior pass rushes, great rushing attacks and two of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.

When you look at how solid the AFC's three best teams are and compare that to San Francisco, Atlanta and Green Bay, it's easy to laugh. Those three teams are so flawed, and so are the Giants and Seahawks. Eli Manning has been inconsistent for New York, and Seattle is manned by a rookie quarterback.

Obviously, one of these NFC teams will break through, win two or three games and head to the Super Bowl, where they will face the best of the AFC. But will it be a good game?

Unless one of the NFC teams starts to shape up, I'm not exactly sure.