We are two weeks into the 2013-2014 NFL season and the Browns have already sold out, the Seahawks have staked their claim as the best team in the league and the NFL has what they thrive to achieve; parity. This week on Point/Counterpoint Brandon C. Williams and Chris Mitchell will debate which is the better Conference, the AFC or the NFC. Lets get after it:
Point – Brandon C. Williams
Winners of four of the last six Super Bowls, residence of the two best offensive players in the NFL along with having two of the best teams in the league in its locale, there is little debate as to why the National Football Conference is superior to its brothers in the AFC.
If the first three reasons aren’t enough to sway you, try this one for size: the NFC has a far superior edge when it comes to quarterbacks. All apologies to Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco and Andrew Luck; the AFC’s Four Horsemen pale in comparison to the depth of the NFC, which is not only loaded with some of the game’s best field generals today, but also deep when it comes to the future.
Eli Manning (Giants) has two Super Bowl rings, Aaron Rodgers (Packers) and Drew Brees (Saints) have one each, and the 49ers Colin Kaepernick came within a couple of plays of hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
Folks, that’s just the tip of the sword.
Matt Ryan (Falcons) and Michael Vick (Eagles) have taken teams to the NFC title game. Jay Cutler (Bears), Tony Romo (Cowboys) and Matthew Stafford (Lions) are gunslingers who have taken their respective franchises into the postseason, and the future is blindingly bright when discussing the likes of Robert Griffin III \(Redskins), Russell Wilson (Seahawks) and Cam Newton (Panthers). Hell, Christian Ponder (Vikings) advanced to the postseason last season and both Sam Bradford (Rams) and Josh Freeman (Buccaneers) have reached the brink of the playoffs.
Now, ask yourself if the future at QB in the NFC isn’t better than the AFC, where Brady and Manning are on the back nine of their Hall of Fame careers? Ask yourself where the state of the quarterback in the AFC will be when those two hang it up.
Sure, you’ll still have Roethlisberger (provided his offensive line doesn’t get him battered to submission), Flacco and Luck, but you’ll also still have the mediocre likes of Andy Dalton (Bengals), Matt Schaub (Texans), Philip Rivers (Chargers) and Alex Smith (Chiefs). Perhaps Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins) emerges as an above-average player, but it wouldn’t be enough to counter the dominance on the other side of the fence.
If the AFC has any hope of carving into the balance of power possessed by the NFC, it means putting your cards on the table with the belief that E.J. Manuel (Bills) and Geno Smith (Jets) rapidly mature. It also means that the Browns will have a better alternative than Brandon Weeden, and that Jake Locker (Titans) and Terrelle Pryor (Raiders) unlock their athletic potential and show more than flashes of brilliance.
Ladies and gentlemen of the court, I feel there’s precious little more I can say to state my case. While the AFC can dwell on its’ past glories under center, the state of the NFC quarterback is filled with present success and will only be bolstered by the enormous wave of the future, when one can envision Kaepernick, Wilson, RGIII and Newton taking the mantle from the Brees/Manning/Rodgers trio, who still have multiple trips to the Super Bowl left in their arms.
In the words of Sean Connery in the classic movie, The Untouchables, “here endeth the lesson.”
Counterpoint – Chris Mitchell
When comparing the two conferences, you see one with offensive gimmicks, high-flying passers and Swiss cheese defenses, and in the other you find proven champions at quarterback with strong defenses behind them. In one conference, you have two isolated teams, Seattle and San Francisco, that can defend against the best, but who lack the necessary experience at quarterback to win the prized Lombardi trophy. In the other, you have two elite quarterbacks with Super Bowl rings and the defenses to do it again in New England and Denver. The NFC’s side of parity looks talented but thin, while the AFC’s looks reliable, elite and stout against the run and pass.
The elite quarterbacks in the NFC, Brees, Rodgers, Vick and Matt Ryan look out at their own defenses and ask, “Damn, why can’t I play against THIS defense every week?” The defenses in San Francisco and Seattle can’t help but be excited by their signal callers, but in the back of their minds, when the chips are down and they need a crucial first down, they wish they had any one among Manning, Brady, Rodgers or Brees. Eleven of the top fifteen defenses after the first two games reside in the AFC. The Patriots rank sixth, the Bengals are eighth and Denver 21st even without Champ Bailey and Von Miller. Does anyone think this Denver defense won’t get better when Bailey and Miller are on the field?
Let’s look at the teams that have any kind of shot in the NFC – Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Green Bay, New Orleans, Dallas, Atlanta, Arizona, Giants, and Bears, oh my! Looking at this long list, the first thing you think is that they can’t win the Super Bowl; they are NOT serious contenders for the Lombardi trophy, and the reason is defense. It doesn’t matter how good the quarterback is if your defense can’t stop people; just ask Dan Marino. I am not a person who believes 100 percent that defense wins championships, but it certainly contributes a fair share and these defenses are not going to get it done.
The teams that have the defenses – Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and potentially Arizona (if 2013 was any indicator) all have unproven or inconsistent quarterbacks. I think you would agree that we can wipe Arizona and Chicago off this list. Carson Palmer has lost too much and Cutler is much too inconsistent. That leaves Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle and San Francisco. I left the Packers and Saints off the list at the top because Brees and Rodgers are elite winners and have both won titles before. But do you honestly believe that either defense could stop the New York Country Day freshman football team, let alone Brady’s Pats or Manning’s Broncos?
That leaves Seattle and San Francisco. Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are two very talented QB’s but they are inexperienced and have already shown that they still have a lot of learning to do before they are ready to lead a team to the Promised Land.
In the AFC, you see fewer teams with elite talent at quarterback but as a conference there are more Super Bowl caliber defenses. The contenders are Denver, New England, Cincinnati and Houston. For the first half of 2012, Houston was the best team in football. Cincinnati is a team with a much-improved defensive line and the explosive combination of Andy Dalton to AJ Green, as well as a solid two-back rushing attack. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have both won Super Bowls and are still playing at elite levels.
All four teams are likely playing their worst football right now. The Broncos and Patriots both need to get healthy, get in sync on offense, and in the case of the Patriots, gain experience at wideout. Does anyone believe this Patriots offense won’t be Super Bowl-caliber in the weeks ahead, when Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen are back and both Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson have learned the complicated Patriots offense? Both the Broncos offense and defense could be the NFL’s best when they play games that matter late in the season. None of these teams are slam dunk favorites for the ring, but all of them have a strong case to be made.
There is no NFC team with the requisite combination of both a strong defense and a proven winner at quarterback, and that is why the AFC is both deeper and better. I will freely admit that in 2015-2016 and beyond, San Francisco and Seattle have the most potential to be the best of the best on both sides of the ball. But right now they are still too inexperienced at the crucial quarterback position. In the NFL, you win with a strong defense, veteran leadership and experienced high level quarterback play. There are teams in the AFC that have them both and there isn’t a team in the NFC that does.
Once again, it was a noble effort on Brandon C Williams’ part but not unlike the Harlem Globetrotters, the outcome is the same, as we knew it would be from the very beginning. Don’t feel bad Brandon, the Washington Generals are a good team, they just aren’t the team that wins.