The League

Mark Maske
Staff Writer

Mark Maske

Writes the NFL News Feed blog

Cowboys (Yes, Cowboys)

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The AFC, to me, remains wide open. I know the Titans are unbeaten and because of that, you have to call them the favorite in the conference. But to me, they're not a dominant team in the way that last season's Patriots were a dominant team and there's a good chance that they'll be upset in the postseason.

Who could beat them? I'd say that group includes the Jets, Patriots, Steelers and Colts.

Having Brett Favre gives the Jets a puncher's chance against anyone. The Patriots, even with the loss to the Jets having knocked them out of first place, remain a dangerous postseason team because of Bill Belichick and because, increasingly, it looks like Matt Cassel will be a more than competent quarterback come playoff time. The Steelers can match the Titans defense for defense, and they're balanced on offense when they have both Ben Roethlisberger and Willie Parker in the lineup and healthy enough to be productive. The Colts seem to be getting back to being the Colts again, something that it appeared at one point this season they wouldn't be able to manage.

If I had to narrow it down to a single AFC challenger, I guess I'd say the Steelers.

My NFC pick as the team that the Giants should fret about is riskier. I'm going with the Cowboys. I was among those who said that getting back Tony Romo might not be the cure-all that the Cowboys were thinking it would be. I also was among those who thought they were playing for their season Sunday night at FedEx Field and they probably wouldn't beat the Redskins if Clinton Portis played. Wrong. They beat the Redskins even with Portis playing and, with Romo back, they looked like a threat again. This is an enormously talented team on offense with Marion Barber and Felix Jones to run the ball and Terrell Owens, Roy Williams and Jason Witten to catch it. There is plenty of talent on defense, too, and maybe, just maybe the Cowboys have been steeled by this season's struggles.

I do think the Giants are the best team in the league, better even than the undefeated Titans, and I do think the Giants will coast to the NFC East title from here, barring a season-changing injury. I'm not sold on Carolina or Arizona or Tampa or anyone else from another division in the NFC being good enough to beat the Giants in the playoffs. But I do think whichever other NFC East team or teams get into the playoffs will be a threat. The Cowboys and Redskins know what the Giants do, and they're not afraid of the Giants. To me, if the Giants lose in the playoffs, it will be to a fellow NFC East team.

By Mark Maske  |  November 18, 2008; 1:47 PM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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