A look at the NFC’s top contenders

The Green Bay Packers sit comfortably atop the NFC North with a 3-0 divisional record and a 6-1 overall record. Three of these games have been without star wideout Davante Adams. Offensively, the run game is in full force, and Aaron Rodgers is playing incredible football. Defensively, the team is making turnovers and providing big stops when they need to.

Despite this ideal start to Matt LaFleur’s first season, the Packers are currently the three seed in the NFC, missing out on a first-round bye behind the 6-0 San Francisco 49ers and the 6-1 New Orleans Saints (who have the edge over Green Bay thanks to strength of victory). The NFC is as competitive as ever, and the Packers need to keep pressing on the gas to stay in the race. Here’s how the top teams in the NFC are currently faring.

San Francisco 49ers
LaFleur’s friend and mentor Kyle Shanahan is having a phenomenal year on the West Coast. They remain just one of two undefeated teams in the NFL and the only one in the NFC. 2nd overall pick Nick Bosa has had a strong start and is a DROY candidate. Despite a dearth of receivers, SF’s powerful run game and a top-tier tight end in the form of George Kittle have kept the offense moving, and the team just added Emmanuel Sanders this week.

Despite this, few of the 9ers wins are against top-flight opponents, with wins over a hapless Washington team, three struggling AFC North teams, and Tampa Bay. While a win is a win in the NFL and SF did beat the Rams in LA, they have a brutal second-half schedule, facing Seattle twice, and the Rams, Packers, Saints, Ravens, and Panthers. Outside of Arizona, the rest of the NFC West is highly competitive. Green Bay has the pleasure of facing this team after their bye, so Packers fans will get a good look at what this team is really made of.

New Orleans Saints
When Drew Brees went down, the situation for the Saints looked grim. Fortunately for them, Teddy Bridgewater proved his worth as the highest-paid backup QB in the league. Despite the loss against the Rams when Brees went down, Teddy has led the team to victory every week since.

New Orleans is blessed with fantastic skill position players. Michael Thomas hasn’t lost a step without Brees. Alvin Kamara is one of the best running backs in the league as both a rusher and receiver, and Latavius Murray is a reliable number two. Despite the defense being average in points allowed per game, they are tied at 6th for least yards per game.

Brees could return this week and has a very winnable schedule, including two games against the abysmal Falcons defense. The NFC playoffs could very well run through New Orleans this winter.

Dallas Cowboys
Just below the Packers in the NFC standings, the Cowboys sit atop an unfortunate NFC East. The Giants and Washington team are awful, leaving a banged-up Eagles team as the only real threat in the division. As Packers fans got to see Aaron Jones mow down the Cowboys a few weeks ago, there isn’t much more to be said.

Seattle Seahawks
Much more threatening are the 5th ranked Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson is playing MVP-level football and carrying the team almost single-handedly. I’m sure this concept doesn’t sound too alien to any Packers fan.

Like San Francisco, the Seahawks have also benefited from playing against the AFC North, and while having a close win over the Rams, they’ve lost to the Saints and Ravens. Even with losses to two really good teams, Seattle is a true wild card right now, with plenty of experience in the postseason. With Wilson playing the way he has, the team cannot be counted out as a top NFC team.

Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings remain a mystery, and much of that is due to the 84 Million Dollar Man. Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, and Irv Smith Jr. are a hell of a supporting cast, but Kirk hasn’t been the best at utilizing them. Cousins was abysmal against Green Bay and Chicago, the Vikings only two losses. Against Atlanta. He attempted only ten passes. Dalvin Cook has literally carried the offense for a good portion of the season, fitting Zimmer’s vision for the offense.

Yet the last two weeks, Cousins has played fantastic football. Even if he’s played less than spectacular defenses, he’s laid down an absolute hurting. His performance against the Eagles was so good he got Zach Brown fired. The defense still has plenty of playmaking ability as well.

Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.
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