And yet, it all seems so futile, doesn’t it? If you watched the Saints curb-stomp the Patriots last night, it’s hard not to feel like winning the NFC East all but a moot point. In the NFC, there are the Saints and the Vikings, and then there is everyone else. The Saints, in particular, are insanely good. They played last night as if the Patriots weren’t even there (and, in the case of Devery Henderson’s TD reception, that indeed was the case). They could easily go 16-0. And the Vikings, with just a banged-up Cards team and the Bengals left as their remaining winning opponents, could easily go 15-1. This has never happened before in the NFL, with one conference sporting both a 16-game winner and a 15-game winner. If both those teams end up clinching the top two spots in the conference, guaranteeing the road to the Super Bowl goes through their comfy domes, uh … That would be bad.
The Cowboys aren’t supposed to look ahead to certain matchups, but we fans can do it all we like. And Dec. 19 against New Orleans is beginning to look like a massacre in waiting. The Cowboys are certainly talented enough to beat the Saints or Vikings on a good day. But holy smokes, does that task look harder and harder as the weeks go by. We live in an age of parity, where a team like Arizona can have a rotten regular season and still get it together in time to plow a road to the big game.
But there weren’t two teams in the NFC last year like these Saints and Vikings. They’re numbers one and two in both points scored and point differential. Both are unbeaten at home. Both sport quarterbacks playing flawless football. Both can rush the passer with just four men. Both have any number of productive receiving targets.
This is the NFL, so things can turn on a dime in a second. Drew Brees could be hurt next week (perhaps from a surprise tire iron attack, not that I’m suggesting any such thing). You never know. But more and more, it appears that the NFC East race is merely a race for a bronze medal.