Are we in the midst of a shift in the balance of power in the NFL? Watching the previously believed to be woeful Bears, written off by most, defeat the Colts tonight I couldn’t help but wonder if the Giants win in the Super Bowl last year may have signaled the beginning of the end for the recent Colts, New England, AFC dominated league.
Prior to the Giants shocking the world the previous four winners were the Colts, Steelers and Patriots twice. It is also widely believed as it should be that this is an AFC dominated league over recent years. Taking a look at week one performances for the cream of the crop, the Patriots and Colts looked largely vulnerable and the Patriots certainly took a major blow with the apparent loss of Brady. Beyond those teams the Chargers are often tossed around as a team in the mix, but they too seemed outmatched at times yesterday and I believe the term paper tiger has been used around these parts. Another sexy pick in the offseason was the Jaguars. Unfortunately when you manage to only muster 189 yards of offense and allow a pedestrian Vince Young to beat you, that hardly qualifies you the team to beat in the AFC. The Steelers did look like a team that could be very good but beyond that the usual suspects in the AFC left a disappointing taste in the mouths of many.
Whether age, injuries or false premise the power looks as though it could be shifting, where to is the question? In the NFC the Giants are defending Super Bowl champs and Eli Manning’s acting skills continue to improve, and maybe this under appreciated Super Bowl champ can continue to impress. The Eagles appear ready to contend again after recovering from the T.O. experiment, and the Cowboys seem to have avoided the pitfalls of the same experiment and be a top team again in the NFC. The two teams left to play in the NFC have very much been in the offseason discussion but judgment on the Packers and Vikings have to wait for another day as they have yet to play.
In the AFC the candidates are a little more elusive. In all likelihood the Patriots and Colts will continue to be good as well as the aformentioned Steelers and Jaguars, but there are a couple of new teams that warrant discussion. The Bills looked impressive on Sunday against a Seahawks team that many were high on going into the season. They are young and have been improving over the last few years, are they a possible emerging team? Or do they still need some consistency at the quarterback position. Houston has had moments but struggled against Pittsburgh, although there is no shame in that. Can Cleveland keep things going after a surprising 2007? Maybe, they certainly have some talent but lack any track record of success in recent years and looked like the Browns of old against the Cowboys. An obvious choice the hometown Broncos seem most poised for a meteoric rise, maybe this year and maybe not but they have positioned themselves to be ready when a changing of the guard does occur.
This is clearly a jump to a conclusion based on a very small sample (one week), but it could be that David Tyree’s miracle catch may have ushered in a new era in the NFL. The dominance of the AFC may shift to the NFC, and the dominance of the Colts and Patriots may skip right over teams like the Chargers and Jaguars and end up jumping to up and coming teams like the Bills, Cleveland, Houston and in all likelihood the Broncos. Sure this might be premature and everything will return to order next week. We also know Manning and Brady still have some years to play, but in the NFL all the pieces have to fit to make it work and the window to success can sometimes open only slightly (see: Chicago Bears 2006). Personally I welcome it, I’m ready for new stars, new players and teams to emerge and here’s to a Bronco’s vs. Vikings/Packers/Giants/Cowboys/insert NFC team here Super Bowl in 2009…or maybe 2010.