NFC Divisional Dark Horses Through Week 3
By Jared Peterman
The typical 8-8 Dallas Cowboys find themselves as the dark horse to win the NFC East after three weeks due to the change in the offensive philosophy and their defense actually being respectable, so far. Yes, the pressure has been taken off Tony Romo to lead the Cowboys’ offense due to the legs of DeMarco Murray (75 attempts, 385 yards, 3TDs), but in order for the Cowboys to steal the divisional title, Romo must make the right decisions and limit the turnovers. Dallas had one of the worst defenses in football history last season and it only got worse on paper this offseason, but through three weeks, it hasn’t been terrible. In a terrible defensive division, the Cowboys can rise to the top behind playmakers, Murray and WR Dez Bryant.
The Detroit Lions made their statement as a real contender to win the NFC North when they took down the Green Bay Packers in Week 3 and rising to the top of the division. It was only the second time Matthew Stafford defeated the Packers with Aaron Rodgers at QB in his career, but he wasn’t the headline of the statement victory, instead it was the defense. Detroit’s defense has been a focal point throughout the three weeks of the season as they held the Packers to seven points and have allowed 45 points on the season, tied for second best in the NFL. The offense has been shaky the past two weeks, but I have no problem believing in Stafford throwing the Lions to the NFC North crown with the hands of Calvin Johnson and company.
Everyone’s favorite to win the NFC South resided in New Orleans or Carolina coming into the season, while Atlanta flew under the radar after an injury plagued season. Through three weeks, Atlanta sits at 2-1, defeating divisional foes, New Orleans and Tampa Bay. Week 1 proved why the Falcons can win the NFC South, and they proved that with pure offense from the arm of Matt Ryan, into the hands of WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White. The Falcons have scored a league leading 103 points through Week 3 and look to build on that to win a divisional title. Atlanta’s play down the stretch will determine their standing in the NFC South as they’re faced with a grueling final five games.
The San Francisco 49ers are currently 1-2 and third in the juggernaut NFC West, but they’re my dark horse to rise atop the division. With a banged up defense, I’m putting my trust in QB Colin Kaepernick to lead the 49ers to a divisional title with his arm and his legs. The offense is loaded with weapons at the disposal for Kaepernick to become a superstar, but he’s been limited to shorter passing routes in the scheme. If the weapons around Kaepernick, especially TE Vernon Davis and WR Michael Crabtree can stay healthy all season, the 49ers have the offense to score points on Arizona and Seattle’s stout defenses, as well as shutting their offensives down with a still above-average defense. This formula puts San Francisco in a prime position to catch the NFC West title.