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12/26/2006 12:34:00 PM

Handicapping NFC's chances to win a Super Bowl

Bears quarterback Rex Grossman has floundered against three of the four AFC teams he's faced this season. It's hard to imagine Chicago's shaky quarterback winning a Super Bowl.
Al Tielemans/SI

I have an idea for how the NFL can deal with the obvious imbalance between the two conferences and the potential for a mediocre Super Bowl matchup. The league should extend flexible scheduling into the playoffs. Simply move two or three teams from the AFC into the NFC to even out the field.

I would say five AFC teams -- New England, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and San Diego -- would be prohibitive favorites to capture the NFC if they could compete in the lesser of the two playoff pools. The Bengals would have breezed through the NFC and they can't even reach the postseason in the AFC.

Somebody has to come out of the NFC, but it's hard to imagine it has a good shot at winning it all. Let's handicap each of the conference's playoff contenders' shot at not just reaching the Super Bowl, but winning it.

Bears -- 10/1: The Bears are the best the NFC has to offer and they would be middle of the pack or worse in the AFC. Their 13-2 record has a lot to do with the collection of woeful NFC teams they've faced, and quarterback Rex Grossman was no match for three of the four AFC defenses he faced this season.

Saints -- 15/1: I've said all season that the Saints are overrated. And they've made me look like an idiot for most of the year. Too late to go back now. New Orleans is 1-3 against the AFC and will be severely outmanned if it reaches the Big Game.

Eagles -- 20/1: It's not pretty to imagine how the NFL's 26th-ranked rushing defense would hold up against an AFC powerhouse.

Seahawks -- 30-1: Seattle has broken the Super Bowl-loser jinx by reaching the postseason, but that's a mere technicality. The 'Hawks don't belong in a serious playoff discussion.

Cowboys -- 40/1: Finally, we can trust Bill Parcells when he tells us Tony Romo isn't that good. Parcells also should have mentioned Terrell Owens can't catch the ball.

Giants -- 100/1: For pure comedy purposes, this is the team everyone has to be rooting for. Hey, the Cardinals overcame a late slump to win the World Series. Maybe the Giants can come out of their nosedive if they make the postseason.

Packers -- 250/1: Brett Favre riding off into the sunset with his second Super Bowl ring. Ah, if only this was a movie.

The Field (Falcons, Panthers, Rams) -- 10,000/1: The Panthers blew it. This could have been their year ... if they were actually good.

If you disagree or think I was overly generous, let me know.

posted by sidotcom | View comments |  


Posted: 12:50 PM   by Anonymous
This whole concept is just as popular now as the "American league is so much better than the National league" argument that was thrown all over the place during the baseball season...and we know how that turned out.

It's all about matchups...and anything can happen on any given Sunday. To pretend that no NFC team has a chance against ANY AFC team is absolutely absurd...
Posted: 12:52 PM   by Anonymous
Why don't we just call it a season now and hand the trophy to the AFC Champion? That's exactly what most media folks (like yourself) were saying after the Tigers won the American League Championship and were facing the supposedly woeful National League. Remind me how that one turned out again - oh you did in your article - guess reporters have short memories. Probably a good thing because most predictions aren't worth the paper their printed on.
Posted: 12:55 PM   by Anonymous
I've been saying all year that the Bears would be a 10-6 or 9-7 team if they played in the AFC. I've also been saying how great those four straight Colts-Pats Super Bowls would have been if one played in the NFC. Oh well, can't win 'em all.
Posted: 1:04 PM   by Anonymous
All you analysts need to shut up about the NFC's chances to win the Super Bowl and just let the games play out. It wasn't that long ago that the NFC was the dominant conference and the AFC was a laughingstock, yet, if I remember correctly, an AFC won the Super Bowl in a few of those years. So just shut up and let the games play out.
Posted: 1:09 PM   by Anonymous
Interestingly enough your description of the NFC teams is farily accurate, however, I disagree about a few of the NFC teams odds. The Giants are hopeless, the Seahawks are a shell of leat year. I normally would go with teams that are "clicking" better at the end of the season going into the playoffs. This said, I believe teams like Green Bay who is playing better defense has as just a better shot than say, Dallas or New Orleans. Granted like most of the other NFC playoff teams, their record against the AFC is lackluster but they are coming together a bit better than other teams are right now (i.e the Giants). I m with you though that if Green Bay wa sin the SB, it would be a make for TV story for Favre.
Posted: 1:28 PM   by Anonymous
What world do you people live in. Green Bay has a better shot than New Orleans. The Saints are the only team in the NFC that CAN play with the AFC.
Posted: 1:29 PM   by Anonymous
I'm a Seahawks fan so this is completely subjective, but I was at the San Diego game this weekend and the 'Hawks defense looked as good as it has all year.

Lofa played like a man possessed. And the offense is tracking to have 5 very good WR's back for the playoffs. Alexander ran for 140 against a very good defense that is fast and mean. Look for Seattle to be the Pittsburgh of last year, sneak in and take down Dallas, Chicago and Philly to get to 41.

But please Andrew, keep underestimating us and we'll just fly under the radar until we beat the Bears in Chicago.
Posted: 1:30 PM   by EaglesFan
Maybe the Eagles run D is ranked 26th for the entire season, but that means very little. They are the hottest team in the NFC right now, and have to be every bit the favorite to go to the Big Game this year as any other team. They only lost to the Saints by a last second field goal, and the beat the Cowboys twice. I agree the AFC is much stronger, but your comments on the Eagles are just a cop out. They've been playing great lately, when it really matters.
Posted: 1:33 PM   by Anonymous
GO BEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted: 1:36 PM   by Anonymous
I don't think youre giving the eagles d enough credit. theymay be ranked 26 but the way a team plays at any time but right now has little bearing. the philadelphia d has been fantastic for the past two weeks and stopped the run just fine. the offense is deadly efficient the last quarter of the season as well. they may not win the bowl but I think they have what it takes to at least get there.
Posted: 1:37 PM   by Anonymous
Normally I would agree. However, if this season has taught us anything, it is that on any given day one team can beat another. Just this week, for example, the Texans beat the Colts. Or the Titans beating 2 Mannings in a span of 2 weeks. This NFL season does not make any sense. Aside from MAYBE the Chargers and Ravens-can you pick another team that is strong enough that you would virtually guarantee a victory against anyone else?
Posted: 1:39 PM   by Anonymous
The Bears beat the Jets at home, should have beat the Patriots too. The Saints have a better offense than half the AFC teams and their defense is better than people think. Eagles are hot, Giants have talent, Cowboys aren't a pushover and Seattle was there last year. Yes the AFC looks better, but are you more confident that the AFC wins this year, or that the Rams were going to beat the Patriots?
Rex Grossman was no match for three of the four AFC defenses he faced this season.

I would say that he was no match against Miami.

I would say he beat the Jets and Buffalo.

And I would say that Grossman played a very beatable Patriots team.

The Bears have alot to prove.
But they have been the most consistent team in football.
They have won in all 3 phases of the game.
Special Teams.

That usually gets you into the Super Bowl.
Posted: 1:43 PM   by Anonymous
Bull. If Grossman had played like he had in the first half of the season and the last 3 games, the Bears would've beat the Pats in Foxboro. Just as the Bears struggled against the lowly Lions, so did the might Pats. And let's see, The Cowboys beat the Colts too. So let the AFC's jocks go. You're holding them to hard-no circulation.
Posted: 1:46 PM   by Anonymous
While I agree with your point on the surface, I seem to recall the Rams being 12 point favorites over the Patriots. Elway's Broncos were underdogs against the Packers (they were a Wildcard team). The Steelers won a the "6 seed" in the AFC. My point is that they still are gonna play the game. I fumbled kickoff here and tipped pass there....the Texans did just upset the Colts....Anything can and often does happen.
Posted: 1:46 PM   by Anonymous
10-1 for the bears, huh? To begin with, that figure is ridiculous...i don't know if there has ever been an NFL game so mis-matched as to justify 10-1 odds. second, it doesn't really matter much how bad 'rex struggles' in any given game, because that D can shut down any O out their in either conference and score points with a strong running game, forced turnovers, and Devin Hester. The ONLY AFC teams who might reasonably be favored over Chicago are Baltimore and San Diego.
Posted: 1:46 PM   by Anonymous
As one of the readers put it, anything can happen on a given day. SO its stupid to claim that the no one from the NFC can win it. There ARE no guarantees in the NFL or for that matter in any sport.
Posted: 1:48 PM   by Anonymous
I do give you credit...the AFC do have the better teams..But at any given sunday, any team can win. AFC or NFC..That why it's NFL league..Show me any AFC team that is perfect..Didn't you see what happen to the Colts. Got beat by the lonely Texans. Your chargers didn't look good against Seattle..So your talk about the better league is soooooo absurd..it's funny... Good Bears!!!!
Posted: 1:51 PM   by Anonymous
Are you really that confident in the AFC? Are you as confident as you were picking the St. Louis Rams over the New England Patriots? How about the LA Lakers over the Detroit Pistons? I'm sure you are just as confident picking Conneticut over George Mason, right? Indy (who many thought was the best team for half the season), just lost to the Texans (who most people think are the bottom five). The Chargers almost lost to the Raiders. Sports Writers sound the dumbest when they make blanketed statements like this article.
Posted: 1:54 PM   by Paul in New Orleans
I think that you are underestimating what the Saints are doing. My opinion is that defense wins championships, but when an offense can stay on the field, dominate time of possession as the Saints did against Philly and the Giants; keep a defense rested for four quarters then you have a new formula for winning.

I'll give you that New Orleans lost to 3 AFC teams, but the Ravens didn't exactly stop New Orleans' offense; even with the myriad turnovers the game was still in reach for all four quarters.

Who is any defense going to key on: Brees, Colston, Bush, McCallister, Horn, Karney? Pick your poison. And believe that Brees will have something in the tank for San Diego. Marty in a shoot out against Sean? I'm taking the aggressor vs. Capt. Conservative/
Posted: 1:56 PM   by Anonymous
So, when one of the NFC teams wins the Super Bowl, what excuse will you make for the AFC entry then?
Posted: 1:57 PM   by Brandon
The fact of the matter is that the Bears are 13-3 and 2-2 against the AFC's best conference. The funny thing is everybody forgets that they have to play the games in the nfl. You and everyone else can say what you want, but when playoff time comes we can all decide that. The Bears gave away two games to the AFC, and one to one of the best and still had a chance to win with a young first year QB. I wonder if two years down the road you will be saying the same thing. Oh by the way, those dominating San Diego Chargers sure did struggle against the vaunted Seahawks who the Bears destroyed. Funny!
Posted: 2:00 PM   by Anonymous
'70s? Steelers. '80s? 49ers. '90s? Cowboys. '00s? Patriots (so far). During the last 4 decades, 2 AFC teams and their conferences have dominated a decade and 2 NFC teams and their conferences have dominated a decade, in terms of Super Bowl wins. Maybe this will turn out to be the decade of the AFC (Baltimore and Pittsburg have also won in the '00s, giving the AFC 5 of 7 SBs at this point), but the point is that power will always shift between conferences in the NFL. So the AFC seems stronger this year. So what? Do you really want to change the playoff system because of a short-term and cyclical trend? I don't think so.
Posted: 2:08 PM   by Anonymous
You're crazy andrew, I guess you called Matthew McConaughey and got these lousy odds. I guess an overrated team goes 10-5, wins a division that everyone picks them fourth in and has a first round bye. You must have all the Peyton Manning commercials recorded on TiVo.
Posted: 2:13 PM   by Anonymous
OK, the AFC has more good teams, but lets remember back to the long stretch that the NFC won ever superbowl. I think it was 13 or 14 straight, so why did the AFC even show up? Well, if you remember we had a few good games mixed in with the Bill and Broncos getting killed. So this would tell us that the NFC has a great shot in a one game superbowl. What if LT gets hurt, who can they beat then? What about McNair, if he goes down, what happens to the Ravens? Ok, then lets look at the Pats, who in the NFC would be the same, or worse since they aren't in the best Division themselves, and the colts, who can still get a first round bye, with the worst Defense in football. Your idea really holds up now.
Posted: 2:19 PM   by seed
Flex-divisional playoff match-ups is an interesting idea, but at this point it is merely a convenient answer to a temporary circumstance. The NFL would have to abandon the divisional/conference organization that is used by every other national professional sport.

After an entire division-based schedule has been played, the notion to adopt this flexibility at the end of a season is quite absurd. Any attempt to do so would cause the NFL to more closely reflect the BCS paradigm. That would be regrettable.

Going forward, if this suggestion were to come to fruition, the small market, conference-based rivalries, competitions that fuel the fan base of the sport, would be removed entirely. It would also severly alter the heirarchy of the season's competition: focus on divisional opponents first, then conference, finish with the league.

With that said, as previously stated by another commenter, parity has shifted from coast to coast, conference to conference throughout the history of the league. Any attempt to apply a band-aid to a perceived problem is ill advised.
Posted: 2:25 PM   by Anonymous
Any given Sunday...the Eagles have been defying odds and reason- getting hot when it matters-do you really want to quote stats to undermine them after yesterday?
Posted: 2:30 PM   by Anonymous
To Anonymous that posted at 1:04 - you don't recall correctly. The NFC won 14 straight Super Bowls from 1984-1997. Before that the AFC had a pretty good run with the Dolphins, Steelers, and Raiders winning the bulk of the '70s Super Bowls. Now, it's the AFC again, winning 7 of the last 9 (Broncos 2, Pats 3, Ravens 1, Steelers 1).
Posted: 2:37 PM   by Anonymous
After the way the Seahawks played against the Chargers, I think that anything could happen in the super bowl. Some teams have had major injuries during the season and is a major reason they have the record they have but in the playoffs all regular season stats are out the door. All of the teams in the AFC have a weakness or two and are not invincable. Before you crown the AFC, let the teams play and hope there are no referee's influencing the outcome this year!
Posted: 2:43 PM   by Anonymous
The NFC has won (21) and AFC (19)

When the Bears win in 2007 it will be NFC (22) and AFC (19).

So I do not know where the AFC is a better conference.
I this goes in cycles and it seems like the cycles are in the favor of he NFC.
Posted: 2:45 PM   by Anonymous
If you had written this before last weekend's games, I probably would have to agree. But, all of the analysts have been saying for the past few weeks that the Chargers were the best team in football, yet anybody who watched them play the Seahawks last weekend realizes that if it were not for one horrible play by Boulware, the Seahawks would have won that game. So I think it's a little unfair to say nobody in the NFC has a chance to beat the AFC when the fourth seed in the NFC should have beatin the first seed in the AFC this weekend. Just my opinion...
Posted: 2:47 PM   by Anonymous
I can't believe the crap you're getting; I think your analysis is very fair.

You stated very clearly that you were handicapping the NFC teams to win their conference, and then to win the Super Bowl against the AFC champ. The only thing worth arguing about is whether or not your odds or accurate, because your philosophy and method is beyond reproach.

I think the Bears are strong favorites to win the NFC, which realistically means 1 to 1 odds, or even money. Then, considering the Bears versus the Pats/Bolts/Ravens (my three big favorites for the AFC champ), I think they are 'dogs, but I would place them at no worse than 3 or 4 to 1 to win the game straight up. Multiply these odds through, and the Bears are between 8 and 10 to 1 underdogs. Good job, I agree.
Posted: 2:49 PM   by Anonymous
The mistake you all make each week, is it is not how well you play, but who wins. You put way to much stock into a team that wins by twenty and not a team that wins by three. Sometimes a win is better if it is a close game than a blowout. The test of a good team is not measured by stats, but by the win loss column. The Bears may have not always looked great, or beaten the best teams, but they find a way to manufacture a win, be it on special teams or defense. The greatest dynasties in sports are measured by rings, nothing else.
Posted: 2:54 PM   by Anonymous
I remember hearing the same stuff in the 1997-98 season, that the AFC Champions had no shot against the NFC Champions, but for some strange reason, instead of just granting the Super Bowl title to Green Bay, they made the very bizaar decision to actually play the game. But a funny thing happen; Denver beat Green Bay. Didn't the Broncos know they had no shot against Green Bay? How dare they not only play, but win? Don't they know all the football experts said they had no shot. That should have been the end of it. Just like the Eagles were suppose to roll over and die before three road division games, or how the Saints were suppose to be a dog team this season, or how Tony Romo is the second coming of Johnny Unitas?
Posted: 2:57 PM   by Anonymous
Its gonna be Da BEARS!!!!! Ditka 35-AFC 0.
Posted: 2:57 PM   by Anonymous
Possibilities, schmossibilities. I just want to see some good football games. After watching the comedy of errors that is the Giants...please, just some good football!
Posted: 2:59 PM   by Anonymous
If a NFC team had to play in the AFC playoffs then they may not have a chance at a super bowl victory, but the way it stands the Bears only have to beat 1 AFC team to win the super bowl, and there is not a AFC team that scares me to death for 1 Game, San Diego looking pretty beatable these days.
Posted: 3:02 PM   by gmenirish
This is a week to week league. Cliche, Trite, whatever but on any given Sunday the Dolphins can dismantle the Bears. The Raiders can beat the defending Super Bowl champs.

As a Giant fan I should be absolutely furious with my team. But in reality, the six seed in the NFC isn't such a bad gig. If they can beat the Skins on Saturday, they have a wild card game probably in Philly (where they already won this year). A potential second round matchup with New Orleans, and a potential NFC championship game in Chicago.

Giants fans are never surprised by any outcome of any game. The Giants are one of those teams that can beat anybody or lose to anybody, and they have been for quite some time now.
anonymous@2:30- I was waiting for someone to point that out. These things go in cycles. I fully expect the Super Bowl to be a much better game than all these so called experts are predicting and believe that depending the matchup the "weaker conference" may walk away with a victory.
Posted: 3:14 PM   by Jeff In Ak
I can see it now. Brett gives the pack the old "gipper speech" and the pack runs the table to the super bowl, beating the chargers by a last second hail mary pass! Ok..I can dream can't I?
Posted: 3:21 PM   by Anonymous
The first three months of the season don't mean a whole lot right now. No team is invincible; San Diego, Baltimore, Chicago...they have all struggled at some point. What matters is right now, and right now Philly, New England, Baltimore and New Orleans look like contenders. Oddly enough, they all have veteran QBs at the helm...coincidence?
Posted: 4:01 PM   by Anonymous
I'd Like for you to take a look at the Charger's Scedule. Now find 1 elite team that they beat.
Posted: 4:13 PM   by Zach
Hey, remember how no NL team had a chance to beat the Tigers? That was a surprising turn of events. Why do people pay you guys to write about sports again? Only in reporting on politics and sports can someone be so wrong so often and still have a job.
Posted: 4:15 PM   by Anonymous
Forget Reason....Forget Records....Forget Talent......Think Destiny.....Saints will win it all and be the feel good story of our Era.
Posted: 7:38 PM   by Anonymous
I think New Orleans has the best shot at being the NFC team to be in the Super Bowl, and if they play Baltimore or San Diego, they will be in trouble.
Posted: 10:30 PM   by Anonymous
All I know is that everyone better watch out if the Panthers back into the playoffs. We all know they have not played very well all year, so they are due. If they make it in they can beat anybody, sooooo LOOK OUT!!!!!
Posted: 11:36 PM   by Anonymous
To all those who talked bad about the chargers game against the seahawks, let's remember that they won period. Real teams know how to win regardless of injuries or a bad qb day. Which we had both thank you! Wait and watch a full strength AFC Charger team roll over the NFC Whoever.
Posted: 12:30 AM   by Anonymous
too bad last years afc #6 the steelers beat the nfc #1 in the super bowl last year. get over it. the chiefs went 4-0 against the nfc, beating seattle, winning by 2 tds at st louis, and beating SF 41-0. but they dont have a shot in hell at the playoffs, even at 9-7, because the afc is so damn tough. the nfc sucks, get over it.
Posted: 1:38 AM   by Anonymous
The fact of the matter is it doesnt matter which conference appears stronger at this point it is all about who plays better on that given night. All this analysis on both sides either favoring or handicapping the NFC/AFC question doesnt mean jack in the end.

Posted: 2:33 AM   by Anonymous
What kind of crack are you smoking? The Eagles at 20 to 1 odds? How can you overlook the fact that they are the hottest team in the NFC right now and that they are vying for their 5th division win in 6 years. This is a team that is well-coached, hungry, and knows how to win. You and all of the other blithering talking heads keep dissing the Birds and they'll keep rising to the occasion. See you in Chicago!
Posted: 7:30 AM   by Dan Va. Beach
Over the years I have watched teams struggle through the season, get hot in the last few games and ignite in the playoffs. Two excellent examples - Last seasons Steeler's and the `80 Raiders. Neither team was the best in football. I woulkd argue the `80 Raider's were not one of the five best teams in football - But, they got hot and won when it mattered. I am a dyed in the wool Eagles fan... I like our chances and look forward to the playoffs. You know, that is the great thing about football, especially playoff football - You can calculate and analyze till the cows come home - But in the end they still gotta play the game.
Posted: 8:47 AM   by Anonymous
The Browns and Raiders could make the playoffs in the NFC...
Posted: 9:08 AM   by Anonymous
Go Saints! for making you look like an idiot. HA! :)
Posted: 9:12 AM   by Anonymous
Are these Bears fans insane? Have they been watching their team all year? They'll be lucky to reach the Superbowl, let alone compete when they get there. These guys are delusional.
Posted: 2:27 PM   by Anonymous
NFC should won the SB last year if it wasn't for bunch of Zebras.
Posted: 3:21 PM   by Anonymous
I'm tired of hearing how bad the NFC is. None of those writers or old NFL former sportscasters could make any of the NFC teams in the first place - how easy it is to criticize the NFC. Nobody mentions facts - add up the offensive line weight in the NFC and then add up the offensive line weight in the AFC - (do the same thing with your defensive line) - there's your answer why it seems the AFC is better than the NFC. My theory is the AFC has bigger, stronger, and faster players. But PLEASE PEOPLE - Mention some facts instead of saying how bad the NFC teams are playing.
Does anyone have the courage to talk about how bad the AFC is? Does anyone have the balls to say the NFC is better than the AFC? SURE NOT POPULAR OPINION - but I rather hear that than the same old story.

Why the AFC is worse? Colts can't stop Houston which can't pick out the draft correctly. Raiders are the worst team in football. New England gives away all its players - they are not exactly unstoppable. Denver has Jay Cutler - he's a rookie quarterback- no way he is going to bring the Broncos to the big dance. Cinncinati loses the big game and has legal issues. Only one solid is Baltimore and once Steve McNair gets hurt their season is all over. San Diego's QB is not playing good as of late. Vince Young is playing teams that don't know how to stop a running QB - it ends this Sunday.

Why do sportswriters play the same story over and over? Do something different from the crowd - pull out some facts that would state the NFC is better than the AFC. PLEASE -are there any takers out there?
Posted: 9:07 PM   by Anonymous
You play your schedule. Luck of the draw. What happens on one Sat,Sun,or Monday has nothing to do with the next week, everybody has a good or bad day. The worse team can beat the best, if the cards fall their way. What's impressive about the Saints is not just their win's, but THE BIG DIFFERENCE IN THEIR ATTITUDE, and finally some DISCIPLINE, and playing with heart. If they stay together, they can only get better. FINALLY we have a COCH, & a QTR BK, & overall a REAL DECENT TEAM THAT WANT'S TO WIN.
Posted: 1:34 PM   by Anonymous
Well I glad the Saints finally has what the Eagles have had for the past 6 years. People tend to forget that this Eagle's team is only 2 yeas removed from the Superbowl. Every year they say the Eagles don't have a shot and every year their right in the thick of things. I don't remember New England winning the Superbowl by a lot of points. So where do people keep saying that the Superbowl is between two AFC teams. The Eagles have the Biggest OL in the League and since Donovan went down the offense has featured the run, which we all can see they do well. Now mix in the passing attack and it all good. The Eagles problem is that the Defense can't get off the field in crucial times....With that said...If the defense can step up their game then it's a positive situation in Philadelphia.
Posted: 1:58 PM   by Anonymous
Heh, explain to me why the top AFC team just lost at home to a "mediocre" Patriots team, that nobody has talked about all year.

This concept is just ridiculous.

The Steelers was not the best AFC team last year either.
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