NFL MIdseason Report: Is the NFC East the Best Division?

Jonathan SchneiderContributor INovember 3, 2008

Going into the NFL season, did anyone slate the way this season has went as what it is?

Halfway through the season, we as NFL observers are observing something none of us expected. A complete reversal in conference power.

It was last year, and has been rather for the past five or six years, a league run by the AFC. Teams like the Patriots, Colts, Chargers, and others always dominated the league, while watching NFC teams squeak into the playoffs with eight or nine-win seasons.

This year is different. Maybe the Giants' improbable Super Bowl victory is what did it.

This season, I watch as, besides the Titans, the next four to five best teams look to be teams from the NFC, especially the NFC East.

Right now, the Giants are the close second to the undefeated Tennessee team. If not for a bad loss to a bad Cleveland team, they would be undefeated as well.

It's not only the Giants that are showing they can play in the NFC East. Watch out for the Redskins, Eagles, and dare I say it? Yes, even  the Cowboys.

Everyone wants to jump off the Cowboys' bandwagon right now, while it's the hip and cool thing to do. I am not going to be one of those people.

Do not get me wrong. I am not a Cowboys fan, nor do I even like them. However, one cannot immediately throw this team out of the playoff race. Remember, Tony Romo was out for the past three weeks. He is a BIG part of this team.

Just because Kerry Collins can come in and be a good 40-year-old quarterback does not mean Brad Johnson can. You put Brad Johnson in for Eli Manning or Donovan McNabb and tell me that those teams would have not struggled as well.

The good news for the Cowboys is he will be back in their next game. After a bye, Romo will be ready to go; and so will the rest of the team.

And what about the Redskins?

This team has the MVP of the league right now in Clinton Portis and an extremely efficient quarterback handing him the ball. Jason Campbell has only thrown two interceptions all year!

The 'Skins have an efficient defense that does nothing short of keep them in games and an offense that punishes teams with their running game. They will truly be tested tonight, as will the NFC, when two of the better teams from their respective conferences face off.

This game tonight between the Redskins and Pittsburgh is a statement game for the conferences of the National Football League. With a Washington win tonight, we can be looking at a complete reversal of conference power in the NFL.

It started with the first place New York Giants stealing the Super Bowl. The Giants are leading by example, and the rest of their division is following.

The question still remains, however: Is the NFC East the best division in football?

As of now, argument can only be made for two other divisions. The NFC South and the AFC East.

NFC South

The only reason the south is in this conversation right now is because of team named the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta, which is featuring a rookie quarterback and a rookie head coach, and a running back getting his first shot at being a starter, is thriving and overwhelming over succeeding.

If I told you they would be 5-3 halfway through the season, you would have slapped me in the face and said you do not deserve to write about sports. The fact of the matter is, this team is a lot better than we expected. One guy they could thank is John Abraham.

Abraham is playing like the best defensive end in football right now, and might I say the best defensive player. He leads the league in sacks, and when he is not sacking the quarterback, he's breathing down his neck. Abraham is a game changer on defense.

The rest of the division is real solid, sporting the first place Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the ailing New Orleans Saints. You know your division is good when any team can beat any other team, and this is the case here with the NFC south.

Perhaps, using this theory then, the NFC South is better. I mean, yesterday, no one could say that the Cowboys had a chance to beat the Giants in East Rutherford. Whereas, if I'm watching a Falcons-Bucs game, I'm banking on it being a pretty close one.

The Bucs are playing good football right now, showing a lot of resilience in yesterday's game to the Chiefs. Obviously, a team that we are to consider good should not be in a close game like that to a team like the Chiefs; however, a good team gets themselves out of bad situations. The Bucs did that.

Carolina is playing some great football right now. In fact, I am predicting them be in the Super Bowl (Yeah, I just said the Carolina Panthers are going to make the Super Bowl).

WE always know that John Fox will keep his team strong on the defensive side, and with Jake Delhomme back and healthy, their offense looks like the one that went to the Super Bowl a few years back.

Oh yeah, and they also got this other guy back named Steve Smith. He's pretty good, too. Combo these two leaders with the maturation of DeAngelo Williams and the rookie play of Jonathan Stewart, and you have a solid offensive squad.

New Orleans, although in last place, is by no means out of this race. They have the best quarterback in football right now in Drew Brees and are getting Reggie Bush back in a week or two. Although the defense is quite weak, to say the least, they should have enough offensive firepower to keep them in games and ultimately compete for a wild-card spot come December.

AFC East

So, the Patriots lost their best player and arguably "The" best player in Tom Brady tore his ACL, yet they still sit in first in what is being conversed as one of the best divisions in football.

When we talk about the best division, it means from top to bottom. This means that every week, all teams in that division are almost as likely to win as they are to lose.

Right now, the standings sit as a three way tie for first with the Patriots, Jets, and Bills and a .500 ball club in the Miami Dolphins close behind in second. The only reason we can say this is not the best division is because there is not one stand out, dominant team right now.

However, what if Brady did not get hurt. The Bills have not played the Patriots yet, so we cannot say they would be any worse, and the Pats beat the Jets anyways.

Most likely, what would have happened would be that the Patriots would have beat the Dolphins, and rather easily, most likely would have beat what are a disappointing Charger team, and definitely would have beaten the Colts last night.

Most likely, the Patriots would be undefeated, the Dolphins would have one less win, and this conversation would have a little more brevity.

Regardless of Brady's injury, the AFC East sits as maybe not the best division but possibly the most competitive. As crazy as it sounds, the Dolphins have a legitimate shot at sneaking up on this division, given a hot run and some lucky breaks.

To what do we owe this resurgence of Miami anyways? Is it Chad Pennington? Is it the new coaching and the Big Tuna? I personally think its the outstanding play of Joey Porter.

Porter is leading all linebackers in sacks and is wreaking havoc all over the defensive side of the ball. It is  not only his on-the-field traits that are helping, however. Porter is a leader and is inspiring this team to play better football.

The Jets and the Bills are both very interesting teams. We all thought that the Bills were going to bounce back from the bad loss in Miami and take care of business in Orchard Park.

Instead, the bumbling New York Jets come into town and pretty much outplayed the Bills in most facets of the game.

Now we are in a pickle.

Now, we have three teams tied for first place and it is really hard to say which team is the best. Right now, I guess the slight edge goes to the Patriots; however, what are we to say if Buffalo goes in and takes care of business with them this weekend. It could happen.

We also know that it is no guarantee win when facing the Dolphins either. Both the Pats and Bills have lost to the last-place team, and the Jets beat them rather unconvincingly.

When it's all said in done, I still have to give the edge to to NFC East...At least for now. It remains to be seen, however, whether or not it stays that way.


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