After five weeks of NFL action, we are starting to figure out how the league has changed. For the first time ever, the 1972 Dolphins are celebrating after just over a month after the season started. If the season ended today we would have one team from the NFC that made the playoffs in 2009. That team is the Arizona Cardinals, who were expected to do nothing special as they lost Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle. Not to mention this same team is starting undrafted rookie Max Hall at quarterback.
That leaves the question: who is the best team in the NFC?
Let's conduct a process of elimination.
San Francisco 49ers (0-5): Coming into the season, I thought they would be near the top of the NFC, as did most people. Alex Smith has thrown more interceptions than he has touchdowns and could be benched in favor of fellow draft bust David Carr. Mike Singletary seems to be losing his team. The defense has also been middle of the pack, which isn't enough to save the horrific offense. On the positive side, this team could still win the weak NFC West, but they must turn it around very soon.
Carolina Panthers (0-5): Neither Matt Moore nor Jimmy Clausen have been the answer at quarterback. The running game has struggled even with what many consider the NFL's best backfield duo in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The rushing defense has been awful as well, ranking 27th in the NFL. The only bright spot for this team is the pass defense, but not enough to pull them out of the NFC South cellar.
Detroit Lions (1-4): Though improving, this team still has a long way to go. When Matthew Stafford returns, they can finish the season at 500.
The Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams all have issues, here's why:
Arizona Cardinals (3-2): How is this a division leading team? They have an undrafted rookie at quarterback and a weak defense.
Seattle Seahawks (2-2): This team has been way too inconsistent. In Week 1, they beat San Francisco 31-6, but they followed that up with a 31-4 loss to the Broncos. They then recovered and beat the Chargers, only to get crushed by the Rams the following week.
St. Louis Rams (2-3): Much like the Lions, this team is improving. Sam Bradford has played well so far and has proved why he was the first pick in the draft. Steven Jackson is good, but suffers behind a very weak offensive line. The defense is middle of the pack.
Dallas Cowboys (1-3): Bad coaching. The offense needs more balance and must stop shooting itself in the foot with too many dumb mistakes and penalties.
Washington Redskins (3-2): They need more weapons. Santana Moss, Chris Cooley and some guy from the Intense Football League (Anthony Armstrong) just aren't cutting it.
Minnesota Vikings (1-2): Brett Favre is having chemistry problems with receivers he had time with, so how will he and Randy Moss automatically make a great duo? Favre could also very well be facing suspension.
Tampa Bay Bucs (3-1): Like the Lions and Rams, this team has a very bright future ahead of them, thanks to a good (and young) coach, quarterback and defense. They are just a bit too young this year.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-2): This is a good team. In both losses, Michael Vick missed part of the game. They have big playmakers on offense with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy. The weakness is the rushing defense, ranked 24th in the NFL.
Green Bay Packers (3-2): To sum everything up in three words: too many injuries.
New Orleans Saints (3-2): The offense has yet to breakout like they did last season, in part due to the injury of Reggie Bush. The defense also needs to make the plays they did a year ago, because those turnovers were critical.
Chicago Bears (4-1): My 4-12 prediction for this team was off. I thought Jay Cutler would be a turnover machine, not benefit from Mike Martz. I was wrong. Julius Peppers has made this defense elite again and the favorites in the NFC North.
New York Giants (3-2): This looks like the Giants team that won the Super Bowl a few years ago, with a good running game and a dominant pass rush. This is the second best team in the NFC.
I will get a lot of heat for this pick, considering I am a Falcons fan. Matt Ryan has led two game winning drives in five games. The backfield, led by Michael Turner and Jason Snelling, are ranked second in the NFL in rushing. Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez have also been spectacular. The offensive line is one of the best in the NFL.
On the other side, the defensive line has stuffed the run and brought pretty good pressure to the quarterback. The secondary is the biggest concern. Dunta Robinson has been burnt too much for a Falcons fan's comfort. The Giants have Atlanta beat in this area.
The reason I'm picking the Falcons is the performance of the Giants against the Colts and Titans, both blowout losses. In the Falcons' only loss, they went to overtime.
Be sure to let your opinion be known!