The League

David Larimer
Two-time defending Gameday pick-em champion

David Larimer

An assistant NFL editor at the The Washington Post

I Come to Not Yet Bury

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Heading into this season, there was by general consensus only one team in the NFC that looked good enough to contend with the AFC's best: Dallas. The injuries to Brady and Merriman and a poor opener by the Colts don't change that on their own.

There's no denying that these are huge losses, but this is a team game, and the Patriots and Chargers will win or lose based on their ability or inability to adjust. Matt Cassel doesn't have to have a TD-to-INT-ratio of 50 to 8; more like 18 to 12 could end up fine (that's the ratio Brady himself had in 2001 after he took over for Drew Bledsoe and ended up as the Super Bowl MVP).

As for Merriman, you could argue the Chargers haven't truly played "Lights Out" since last Dec. 9, when he hurt the knee. He's had just two sacks in six games since, but that didn't stop the Chargers from shedding their label as chokers and getting to the AFC title game. And when they lost there, it had a lot more to do with an accumulation of injuries (Merriman's knee, Tomlinson's knee, Rivers's knee, Gates's foot) than just one. Plus, as you might recall, the Pats were a pretty tough team to beat last year.

If the best teams were decided by a poll, like in college, this week we'd have to rank the Panthers and Bears above the Chargers and Colts, and say, "You know, the balance has tilted toward the NFC." But it's not. The Pats, Chargers and Colts have the time to prove otherwise and the track records to suggest they might.

By David Larimer  |  September 9, 2008; 9:27 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Two-letter Answer: N.O. | Next: Power Shifts to NFC

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