The 3-1 Atlanta Falcons take on the 3-1 Chicago Bears this Sunday night in a nationally televised game at the Georgia Dome. Fans of the NFL might be looking at two of the more powerful teams in the NFC, or they might be looking at a couple of teams who, for different reasons, aren’t quite ready to take their respective places as elite teams in that same NFC.
Right now both franchises are serving as understudies to two teams with better records and more media ballyhoo in their separate divisions. The Bears were beneficiaries or victims (depending upon how you look at it) of the early soap opera that was arrival of former Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler.
Of course that story quickly moved towards the back of the sports page as the seemingly never-ending saga of Brett Favre continued. Once Favre’s flirtation with the Minnesota Vikings turned into a serious romance and then became a marriage all other stories relating to teams in the NFC North became pedestrian. The Vikings so far perfect record of 5-0 combined with the Favre angle have for the moment made the Vikes the headline story.
The Falcons know all too well about off-the-field stories and how they can impact a franchise. That seemed to be in the rear view mirror after the Falcons surprised virtually everyone by posting an 11-5 record in ’08 and made the playoffs. A possible minor distraction could have occurred with the release of, and eventual reinstatement this past summer of former starting quarterback Michael Vick. The Falcons though seemed to say and do all of the right things to keep their franchise grounded and focused.
Presently the Falcons are in second place in the NFC South, trailing the division leading 4-0 New Orleans Saints. Fortunately for fans of both the Falcons and the Saints virtually all that’s being written about and commented on about both of these teams relates to the actual game of professional football.
There is a very interesting setup for the NFC this weekend. With the 5-0 New York Giants traveling to New Orleans to take on the undefeated Saints one of those teams will obviously have a loss on their record. The winner of the Falcons-Bears contest will be able to claim that they rightfully deserve to be mentioned among the elite teams of the NFC and quite possibly the entire NFL.