The NFC at the quarter pole has some serious talent at the top

Chris Graythen

We review the NFC through the first four games, and consider which teams might step up, and which might slip as the 2013 NFL season moves on. New to Niners Nation? Sign up here and join the discussion!

Through last night's Monday Night Football contest, the AFC now stands 15-7 against the NFC. The NFC was viewed by many as the stronger conference heading into the season, but the AFC has gotten off to a strong start. It is worth noting, the AFC has benefited from a fairly brutal NFC East, with the AFC holding a 7-1 record against that division.

Through four weeks, the 49ers sit at 2-2. They have an upcoming schedule that provides plenty of opportunities to rack up some wins, but they remain in a conference that will be quite the gauntlet in January. The AFC may have the better inter-conference record, but the NFC still has some serious talent at the top. The Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints are both 4-0, while the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears sit at 3-1.

Even with those teams at the top, you still have to think the 1-2 Green Bay Packers will have a chance to bounce back, particularly once Eddie Lacy returns to action. They host the Lions in Week 5, which could give us a better idea of whether or not the Lions are for real. The Packers then travel to the Baltimore Ravens, host the Cleveland Browns, and then play two key divisional matchups at the Minnesota Vikings and at home against the Bears.

The Atlanta Falcons are 1-3, and host the New York Jets this week before their bye. After the bye, they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and then travel to face the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers, before coming home to face the Seattle Seahawks. The Falcons could very well be back at 4-3 or 3-4 heading into that Seahawks game. Of course, given that the Saints are already 4-0, the Falcons could find themselves fighting strictly for the wild card.

The Saints do travel to the the Bears and New England Patriots the next two weeks before their bye, so this will tell us a lot more about where they stand. For now, the Saints and Seahawks are looking like the class of the conference at the quarter pole. Plenty can change between now and the end of the season, but I have a hunch both of them will be sticking around the top of the standings most of the season.

Here is a rundown of the NFC standings to date. It is too early to declare anybody the king of anything, as anything can happen over a team's remaining schedule. The Lions are off to a strong start, but can they keep it up the rest of the way? They are a talented team, but they have had talent before. I do think the Bears are legit, although now it is more because of their offense than their defense. The Bears and Lions hold a game-and-a-half edge on the Packers, so that will be something to watch.

Among the teams scuffling along in the NFC, I could see Carolina figuring some things out. Giving DeAngelo Williams the primary work with Jonathan Stewart out has provided a solid rushing attack. Cam Newton still has some things to figure out, but the talent is there. And that defense continues to impress. Their next four games are a big stretch for them. They travel to Arizona and Minnesota, come home to face St. Louis, and then head south to Tampa Bay. All four of those games present challenges, but they are all winnable. If the Panthers are going to make some noise, they need to take at least three of those four games, before welcoming Atlanta and then heading out west to visit our 49ers.

Do you see any sleepers coming out of the bottom of the pack, or strong records disintegrating?

National Football Conference
NFC EAST W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
Dallas 2 2 0 .500 2-0-0 0-2-0 1-0-0 2-0-0 104 85 +19 Lost 1
Philadelphia 1 3 0 .250 0-2-0 1-1-0 1-0-0 1-0-0 99 138 -39 Lost 3
Washington 1 3 0 .250 0-2-0 1-1-0 0-1-0 0-3-0 91 112 -21 Won 1
NY Giants 0 4 0 .000 0-1-0 0-3-0 0-1-0 0-2-0 61 146 -85 Lost 4
NFC NORTH W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
Detroit 3 1 0 .750 2-0-0 1-1-0 2-0-0 3-1-0 122 101 +21 Won 2
Chicago 3 1 0 .750 2-0-0 1-1-0 1-1-0 1-1-0 127 114 +13 Lost 1
Green Bay 1 2 0 .333 1-0-0 0-2-0 0-0-0 1-1-0 96 88 +8 Lost 1
Minnesota 1 3 0 .250 1-1-0 0-2-0 0-2-0 0-2-0 115 123 -8 Won 1
NFC SOUTH W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
New Orleans 4 0 0 1.000 3-0-0 1-0-0 2-0-0 3-0-0 108 55 +53 Won 4
Carolina 1 2 0 .333 1-1-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 1-1-0 68 36 +32 Won 1
Atlanta 1 3 0 .250 1-1-0 0-2-0 0-1-0 1-1-0 94 104 -10 Lost 2
Tampa Bay 0 4 0 .000 0-2-0 0-2-0 0-1-0 0-2-0 44 70 -26 Lost 4
NFC WEST W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
Seattle 4 0 0 1.000 2-0-0 2-0-0 1-0-0 2-0-0 109 47 +62 Won 4
San Francisco 2 2 0 .500 1-1-0 1-1-0 1-1-0 2-1-0 79 95 -16 Won 1
Arizona 2 2 0 .500 1-0-0 1-2-0 0-1-0 2-2-0 69 89 -20 Won 1
St. Louis 1 3 0 .250 1-1-0 0-2-0 1-1-0 1-3-0 69 121 -52 Lost 3
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