The League

Zach Leibowitz
Sideline Reporter

Zach Leibowitz

A former sideline reporter for ESPN

NFL Rises East, Sets West


The margin is shrinking, but after 10 weeks of a grueling football the NFC East is still the beast. Led by the defending Super Bowl champions, who appear more legitimate than last year, the division should still be the most feared in the league. That's not to say there aren't close competitors. The NFC South is tremendous this year. Carolina continues to pressure New York for the conference's top spot and Atlanta without question remains the story of the NFC. For those who argue the South rises over the East, just look at the head-to-head records so far this season: Washington over New Orleans, Dallas over Tampa Bay, Philadelphia over Atlanta. Interesting that the only two teams who haven't faced off are the Giants and Panthers. They will, on December 21st in Week 16, possibly with home-field advantage at stake throughout the playoffs. Maybe then we'll have a better grasp of the better division.

With inclusion for all, let's take a look at all eight divisions and rank them from top to bottom.

1) NFC East: The Giants' supreme running game and Eli Manning's leadership trumps the embarrassing fact that the Redskins and Cowboys lost to St. Louis in back-to-back weeks. But the division has the best last place team, the 5-4 Eagles, who lost to all three divisional opponents by a combined 15 points. Of course, two of those games have been at home. The Birds have work to do.

2) NFC South: If Reggie Bush didn't go down with a knee injury, the Saints might very well be 6-3 themselves instead of a cellar-dwelling 4-5. Tampa Bay continues to play solid football and holds a significant 5-2 conference record -- tied for second best in the NFC. The Falcons have two more home games coming up against Denver and Carolina. It will be quite a story brewing if Matt Ryan's bunch wins those games.

3) AFC East: Brett Favre's Jets are tied for first-place and travel to Foxboro next weekend. The Pats deserve credit for their 6-3 record under Tom Brady-less circumstances. Just when you think Buffalo might actually make the playoffs, they begin to free-fall. They had better turn it around fast. And good for Miami. The Dolphins should play the Falcons in the Super Bowl. Now, that would be something.

4) AFC South: It's fun rooting for Jeff Fisher's squad. Now begins the 16-0 chatter and that's when the pressure rises. The Titans are a very solid football team all-around, apparently a better team without Vince Young. Looking at their schedule, if the Titans can survive at Jacksonville next weekend, they've got a clear shot at 14-0 before finishing up vs. Pittsburgh and at Indianapolis.

5) NFC North: Detroit is miserable. Otherwise, the Bears, Packers and Vikings remain both competitive and flawed. As revealed in Sunday's final seconds in Minnesota, the division is up in the air.

6) AFC North: Baltimore is the team that has people talking. A rookie head coach and rookie QB lead a Ravens squad currently tied with Pittsburgh for first place. The disappointment known as Ohio football is evident in the standings. This division could be so much better.

7) AFC West: Football in the west is far from golden. Denver and San Diego are complete toss-ups. They're succeeded one week, surviving the next. Oakland and Kansas City could merge their best players and still go 6-10. It's not pretty.

8) NFC West: Speaking of which, how horrible is this division? The perennially awful Arizona Cardinals could have the NFC West clinched by Thanksgiving time. St. Louis is a joke this season despite their wins over Washington and Dallas. Their performance Sunday was truly laughable and without Steven Jackson the franchise has no hope. Seattle and San Francisco are stuck in the mud.

Let's take the top six divisions as playoff teams and eliminate the NFC West and AFC West - here's how I see it playing out:

#6 AFC North upsets #3 AFC East.
#4 AFC South beats #5 NFC North

#1 NFC East beats #6 AFC North
#2 NFC South beats #3 AFC East

#2 NFC South upsets #1 NFC East to win the championship.

As is always the case on a week-to-week basis in the NFL - you just never know.

By Zach Leibowitz  |  November 10, 2008; 11:03 AM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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