Why the NFC Is Closing the Gap on the AFC

Yoni JanisContributor ISeptember 6, 2009

HOUSTON - AUGUST 31:  Running back Adrian Peterson #28 scores on a 75 yard run as strong safety Dominique Barber #34 of the Houston Texans makes a diving attempt to make the tackle at Reliant Stadium on August 31, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

From 1985 to 1997, the NFC won every Super Bowl, but ever since the conference has won only three of the last 12 titles.

The AFC has been the dominant conference in the new millennium, with stronger teams and bigger stars.

But the "tide" is about to change. The NFC is closing the gap, and in the next season or two it will grab superiority once again.

Besides the Steelers, every elite side in the AFC has big question marks.

Will Tom Brady play at the same level he did before the injury?

The Colts' defense is really bad and they can't run the ball. And, by the way, Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez don't quite seem to be a combination of the likes of Wayne and Marvin Harrison.

Although Darren Sproles had some great games down the stretch last season, you have to wonder if the San Diego back could play at that level for an entire season. LaDainian Tomlinson also seems to be running "out of gas," barely passing the 1,000-yard mark last season despite starting every game. I can see the Chargers having issues, and they need to be a lot more consistent.

I could go on and on with Ravens and Titans fans claiming to be elite, but the Ravens need to show me they can play some better offense because that defense is mighty scary and the Titans defense suffered a huge loss when Albert Haynesworth took the big check from the Capitol.

The Cardinals lost last year's Super Bowl in the last minute, and most people wouldn't consider them an elite NFC team.

You look at the NFC East and you know you've got the best division in football; you have the Giants, who "seem to be in the quarterback's face when he gets the snap on almost every play" and Osi Umenyiora is back this season. The Giants are living proof that football is won on the offensive and defensive lines.

The Redskins, who ranked fourth in total defense in 2008 almost without a pass rush, will have one this year with the signing of Haynesworth. If Jason Campbell plays like he did in the first half of 2008 for the entire season, expect the Redskins to be really good. But the Redskins do seem to underachieve usually.

The Eagles are a great team and are very different from the Redskins because they always seem to overachieve, in my opinion.

The Cowboys are the worst team in the division this year, mainly because I don't think Wade Phillips is the type of coach to control crisis scenarios, and, believe me, there will be some down in Texas. But they win the award for "best worst team in a division" by a mile.

The NFC North should become a great division. For me, the Vikings are favorites to win the NFC. Brett Favre won't have to throw the ball a lot with the running game the Vikings have, and the defense is great.

The Packers finished 6-10 last season, with their defense having an off-year, but they should be closer in 2009 to their 2007 form, when they finished 11th in total defense in comparison to 20th in 2008. They proved they made the right decision in letting Favre leave because Aaron Rodgers is the real deal. Despite the bad record, the Packers were not that bad—seven of their 10 losses were by five points or fewer.

Oh, the Bears finally have a quarterback! They should be pretty good.

The NFC South is another good division, with the Falcons looking even better with Tony Gonzalez being added to Matt Ryan's weapons.

The Panthers and Saints could go either way.

The NFC West is still the weak link in the NFC, but they still have the conference's defending champions, and the Seahawks should be a lot better.

I still think that the AFC is slightly better, but the NFC is younger and very close to closing the gap. I really think that, in the next season or two, the NFC will become the better conference.