The Contenders NFC
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
MVP Caliber High-Level Starting QB's
Like the top 4 AFC teams listed above, we have four teams on the NFC side who boast NFL MVP caliber talent at QB, starting with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, Dak Prescott in Dallas, Matthew Stafford for the Rams, and Kyler Murray for Arizona.
The odd team out, and yes, I am being subjective, is the Green Bay Packers, who could very well be in the conversation down the stretch as the best team in the NFC. Their QB is none other than Aaron Rodgers. (Yes, the Packers are now in a position to replace the Rams as my 4th best NFC team, wrote this before the Monday Night game between the Rams and 49ers).
Offensive Line Rankings According To PFF
The Cowboys OL
According to PFF, the Cowboys have the NFL's top OL. They boast the best run block grade and 4th highest pass block grade. You add in all of the other surrounding variables, and you have a legit Super Bowl contending offense.
The Bucs OL
The Buccaneers have the 3rd best OL according to PFF through the first half of the season. They carry the 3rd highest pass-blocking grade, along with the 13th best run block grade.
The Rams OL
The Rams have seemingly always had a good to great OL in recent years, but this year's version is superb. They are 5th according to PFF, with the top pass-blocking grade and the 11th highest run-blocking grade.
The Cardinals OL
The Cardinals have the 10th rated OL; they grade 11th in pass-blocking grade and a not-so-awesome 27th in run blocking grade. If the Cardinals were healthy at the skill positions, they would probably still be unbeaten.
Running The Ball Down The Stretch
Cowboys Run Offense
All four contenders I have listed can run the football, and they have the offensive line play to back that up. As explosive as the Cowboy's passing game is, they run the football consistently to the tune of 140 yards per game, ranking 4th in the NFL.
In the last three games, the Cowboys have not run the ball at a high level as compared to their season average, with average yards per game dropping to 90 yards, but they have a strong tandem in Pollard and Elliott that they can lean on at any time.
Rams Run Offense
The Rams currently run the ball 25 times per game, averaging 103 yards, vs. 2020 when they ran it 30 times per contest averaging 127 yards. The difference is a better balance with Matthew Stafford, who is less reliant on play-action and moving the launch point.
When the Rams struggled a few weeks back against the Titans, McVay showed he can always revert to the play-action and or the rollout game, which adds to this team's versatility.
All in all, the Rams are in a great position as long as Henderson stays healthy. The Combo of Henderson and Michel will be vital down the stretch.
Bucs and Cardinals Run Offenses
The Bucs have a solid run game with a revitalized Leonard Fournette leading the way and Ronald Jones to back him up.
The Cardinals use a lot of different people to carry the ball at any given moment, and the short pass game is an extension of their run game. With Edmonds out, the Cardinals are in good hands with James Conner, a scoring machine this season, especially in the red zone. He is also a good receiver out of the backfield.
If I were to rank backfields among my listed contenders, I would go Cowboys, Rams, Bucs, and Cardinals. The NFC has a massive advantage among Super Bowl Contending teams in the run game.
The NFC Contender Defenses
The Rams top the PFF grades for the top defense. They are one of the more stingy defenses allowing the league's 5th lowest yards per play total.
The Rams have the 2nd best run grade, the 10th best pass cover grade, 2nd in pass-rush grade, and the 2nd highest tackling grade. They are a true championship-caliber defense (Minus what the 49ers just did to them on Monday night).
The Cardinal's defense is tied with the Rams in yards per play defense, but they rank 20th in PFF defensive grade. The lower grade is primarily driven by their lower graded run defense, which allows the same yards per rush attempt as the Chargers, who are last in overall run defense in the NFL.
Their LB play has been inconsistent at best. The Cardinals are one of the league's worst at tackling. These are areas that need to improve for the Cardinals to become genuine contenders. They do have a top 10 pass-rush grade and are ranked 3rd in the NFL in takeaways.
The Cowboys defense grades out at 21st according to PFF, but don't let the grade fool you; this defense has improved mightily year over year. They graded 28th a season ago; they were near the bottom of the NFL in pass coverage grades and run defense.
Their 2021 grades show that the Cowboys are similar in run defense grade year over year but improved in pass coverage, ranking 13th. Ironically they grade worse in tackling year over year. Their pass rush is top 10 and is helping them create turnovers where they are tied for 5th in the league. Like the Cardinals, consistent improvement down the stretch will be vital.
The NFC Darkhorse
I don't have an NFC darkhorse contender. If one of the top four I have listed falters, the next team-up is the Green Bay Packers.