1. GIANTS (EAST)
This is a no-frills team, balanced and built for the long haul. Coach Tom Coughlin has found his voice, DE Justin Tuck his groove and QB Eli Manning his comfort zone. New York could chant its We get no respect mantra all the way to Tampa.
2. PANTHERS (SOUTH)
After the training-camp fight between WR Steve Smith and CB Ken Lucas, this team has come together. Though not as deep as the conference champs of 2003, the Panthers are similar in two respects, especially: They're tough and unpredictable.
3. PACKERS (NORTH)
Green Bay has the weapons to beat anybody—the Pack nearly took out the Titans—but has trouble closing out games. QB Aaron Rodgers will be judged by wins and losses in December, and he'll do enough to get the Pack to the postseason.
4. CARDINALS (WEST)
If QB Kurt Warner was a borderline candidate for the Hall of Fame before the season, he has a much stronger case now. The Cardinals can score from anywhere, and their defense is respectable. It won't be a deep playoff run, but it'll be fun while it lasts.
5. REDSKINS (WILD CARD)
With coach Jim Zorn channeling Joe Gibbs and RB Clinton Portis chewing up yards like John Riggins, Washington does a superb job moving the chains and milking the clock. Other than the odd gadget play, the Skins thrive on the conventional: run the ball, stop the run, win the game.
6. EAGLES (WILD CARD)
With images of Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard dancing in their heads, the Eagles will ride the good vibes of the champion Phillies and give the NFC East its third playoff entry—provided RB Brian Westbrook stays upright.
Eagles over Packers, Redskins over Cardinals
Giants over Eagles, Panthers over Redskins
Giants over Panthers