Through the first six weeks of the 2021 NFL season, it’s apparent that the NFC is extremely deep. There are five teams with records of 5-1 or better in the NFC, including the only remaining undefeated team in the Arizona Cardinals, who are 6-0. Furthermore, the NFC has six teams with winning records and nine teams with records of .500 or better.
Due to the success the conference has had, everyone has had differing opinions on who could emerge to represent the conference in the Super Bowl this season. Do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defend their title as NFC champions in 2021? Could the Cardinals continue their dominance for an entire season?
With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the five contenders in the NFC and give a brief explanation as to how each of them could win the NFC.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady has defeated Father Time and he refuses to have his performance on the field decline. The 44-year-old quarterback is an NFL MVP candidate with 2,064 yards, 17 touchdowns, and three interceptions in the first six weeks.
While the pass defense of the Buccaneers has been putrid thus far, injuries are a large reason why. Tampa Bay still has an elite front seven that gives them one of the league’s best run defenses. If the Buccaneers can get healthy in the secondary, they have a high-octane offense led by Brady that is littered with weapons like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette, and Rob Gronkowski.
Until another team unseats them, the Buccaneers are the reigning Super Bowl champs.
The Cardinals are the only team in the NFL that is still undefeated in the first six weeks of the season. Arizona’s latest win was over the Cleveland Browns, defeating them 37-14 on the road. The improvements of Kyler Murray and the offense, along with a much-improved defense, has led the Cardinals to be a true contender in the NFC.
It’s not like Arizona is only beating struggling teams as they’ve blown out the Browns and the Los Angeles Rams. Besides having a quarterback that is approaching elite status, the defense has been a positive development for the Cardinals this season.
It doesn’t hurt to have a slew of weapons like DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, Chase Edmonds, and James Conner at Murray’s disposal either.
Los Angeles Rams
It’s crazy what making a change at the quarterback position can do for a team, huh? When the Rams acquired Matthew Stafford via trade, some questioned whether or not he would be much of an upgrade over Jared Goff. However, the offense of the Rams looks as explosive as ever and Los Angeles is positioned well with a 5-1 record, which includes an impressive win over the Buccaneers.
While the Rams don’t have the No. 1 ranked defense they had a season ago, they still have an above-average group led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. The offense is loaded with weapons like Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson, Tyler Higbee, and Darrell Henderson Jr.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the NFC West shakes out with the Rams and the Cardinals vying for the top spot.
Yes, I know the jokes about the Dallas Cowboys not being a relevant team since the 1990s. However, they have an elite quarterback in Dak Prescott that continues to play efficient football. Also, the two-headed rushing attack of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard continues to cause headaches for defenses.
But what makes the Cowboys a legitimate contender is the emergence of their defense. Besides Trevon Diggs having a whooping league-high seven interceptions through six weeks, Dallas is creating pressure on quarterbacks without DeMarcus Lawrence right now. Micah Parsons has been a bright spot on the defense in his rookie season and once Michael Gallup returns, the Cowboys have one of the best receiving corps with CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Gallup. Dalton Schultz has also proven to be a go-to target for Prescott at the tight end position.
If Dallas can continue to play well on both sides of the ball, they can win the NFC when it’s all said and done.
Green Bay Packers
As long as Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, they’ll be a team that can advance to a Super Bowl. Following a dismal showing in Week 1, the Packers have won five consecutive games this season. What makes me skeptical of Green Bay is the lack of weapons outside of Aaron Jones, Davante Adams, and AJ Dillon.
Randall Cobb is a shell of what he used to be, Robert Tonyan hasn’t done much in 2021, and the combo of Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling has remained inconsistent. The defense could also be a concern if Jaire Alexander is unable to return this season. Of the 5-1 teams in the NFC, the Packers feel like the worst of the bunch if there is such a thing.
Once again, as long as No. 12 is under center in Green Bay, it’s hard to completely rule them out of contention.