NFL Power Rankings Week 12: Building a Case for AFC or NFC as Best Conference

Ryan PhillipsContributor IIINovember 22, 2011

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 20:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers carriesn the ball in the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 20,2011 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Through 11 weeks of the 2011 NFL season, I can say with certainty that the NFC is the better of the league's two conferences. While teams like the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens certainly help the AFC's cause, three NFC teams help separate it from its rival conference.

The Green Bay Packers are clearly the NFL's best team. At 10-0, Green Bay has blazed a path through some of the top teams in the league and left everyone dazed in their wake. The Packers offense has looked utterly unstoppable and it all starts at quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers may be having the best season for a passer in NFL history. Rodgers leads an offense that ranks fourth in the NFL in total yards (averaging 406.5 yards per game) and leads the league in points per game (35.5). Individually the 27-year-old has been simply incredible. He has completed 238 of 329 passes for 3,168 yards, with an NFL-best 31 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Rodgers currently leads the NFL in touchdowns, completion percentage (72.3), yards per attempt (9.63) and quarterback rating (128.8). In fact, his passer rating is actually 26.3 points higher than second place (Tom Brady, 102.5). Until someone figures out how to stop Rodgers and his offense, the Packers will remain the NFL's most dominant team.

Green Bay is the NFL's best team right now, but the San Francisco 49ers are not far behind. The 49ers have jumped out to a 9-1 record and really should be undefeated. Their only loss came at home in Week 2, when they let a 24-14 lead over the Dallas Cowboys disintegrate into a 27-24 overtime loss. 

The 49ers have won thanks to the toughness instilled by rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh. They lead the NFL in rushing defense (73.9 yards per game) and are sixth in rushing offense (134.2 yards per game). On top of that, the 49ers are allowing a league-low 14.5 points per game.

San Francisco can also thank Harbaugh for finally figuring out how to best utilize former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith. The Utah product is having his best season so far, and his 93.9 quarterback rating has come as a result of not having to do too much or force anything. Right now the 49ers are a squad no other team in the league wants to face.

The final top NFC team that helps separate the conference is the New Orleans Saints. Like the Packers, everything with the Saints starts at quarterback.

Drew Brees leads the NFL's top offense, which is averaging 436.9 yards per game. The Saints are also second in points per game at 31.3. Brees is having another outstanding season as he has completed 299 of 422 passes for 3,326 yards, with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

The 32-year-old veteran leads the NFL in completions, attempts and yards, while he's second in completion percentage (70.9) and third in quarterback rating (101.3). With Brees having another Pro Bowl season and the weapons around him clicking, the Saints will be very difficult to beat in the postseason.

The Packers, 49ers and Saints make the NFC a very top-heavy conference, and each team is a legitimate threat to win the Super Bowl.

NFL Power Rankings, Week 12

1. Green Bay Packers (10-0)
2. San Francisco 49ers (9-1)
3. Houston Texans (7-3)
4. New Orleans Saints (7-3)
5. Baltimore Ravens (7-3)
6. New England Patriots (7-3)
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3)
8. Chicago Bears (7-3)
9. Dallas Cowboys (6-4)
10. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)
11. Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
12. Detroit Lions (7-3)
13. Oakland Raiders (6-4)
14. New York Giants (6-4)
15. New York Jets (5-5)
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6)
17. Miami Dolphins (3-7)
18. Seattle Seahawks (4-6)
19. Buffalo Bills (5-5)
20. Denver Broncos (5-5)
21. San Diego Chargers (4-6)
22. Tennessee Titans (5-5)
23. Kansas City Chiefs (4-6)
24. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7)
25. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)
26. Arizona Cardinals (3-7)
27. Cleveland Browns (4-6)
28. Minnesota Vikings (2-8)
29. Washington Redskins (3-7)
30. Carolina Panthers (2-8)
31. St. Louis Rams (2-8)
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-10)