Last year the Eagles reclaimed their rightful place as the best team in the NFC East. A distinction they've held for 5 of the past 6 years. They did with a stunning December run and without their franchise QB.
You could certainly say they won a bad division, and while I'd agree that there was no other real threat to win the NFC in our division, it still sent 3 teams to the playoffs and was clearly the best division in the conference. So how do things look going into this year? Who are the real contenders in the NFC? Will anyone challenge the Eagles for the NFC East or are they a shoe-in for their 6th division title in 7 years?
I think there are a handful of teams that have to be favorites to win their division and then there's a second tier.
The top 4 teams are in no particular order(actually they're in alphabetical order), because in all honesty I don't see one as that much better than the other. Still, there are some advantages each team will have.
Chicago Bears - They won the NFC last year and don't appear to have a real threat in their own division. They have issues at QB, and the Lance Briggs situation but even without Briggs or with Brian Griese starting I still think they are a playoff team. Still, I don't think the Bears were head and shoulders better than the NFC last year and the gap is likely even smaller now.
New Orleans Saints - I personally think the Saints still have to prove they weren't a fluke. They were absolutely manhandled by the Bears and struggled defensively all year. Their offense was good enough to overcome that, but it's hard to sustain success like that. Plus, I think they're in a division where any of the 4 teams can win. I don't really think the Falcons, Panthers, & Bucs are all that good, but I think they all have the potential to be 9-7 teams and sneak into the playoffs or win the division if NO falters. That said, they're a good team and are going to be difficult to play next year.
Philadelphia Eagles - The Eagles have owned the NFC East under Andy Reid and he didn't even need his franchise QB to win the division last year. They beat up their own division winning 5 of 6 games and a playoff game against NFC East opponents. With the Giants(who were only 8-8 last year) looking like they're taking a step back this year with the loss of their best player, Tiki Barber, and Dallas with a new coach and question marks at QB, offense line, and all over the defense, plus the Redskins just being the Redskins... the Eagles are the favorites to win the division. However the revamped defense has to show it on the field and there still is the hump of NO to get over.
Seattle Seahawks - This is probably the team most in jeopardy of losing their division among the top 4. There are 2 other teams in the division that are young teams that could be on the rise and the Rams certainly have the talent be a 9-7 if not 10-6 team. Still, the Seahawks won the NFC 2 years ago and shook off the superbowl losers' curse by winning a playoff game last year. They still have a good coach, a solid foundation, and are more tested than any other team in that division.
There's a second tier of teams that one or two contenders could emerge from. It's also entirely possible that many of these teams end up under .500. IMO, these teams are the Rams, Niners, Packers, Bucs, Falcons, Panthers, & Cowboys.
Am I wrong in calling the Eagles a top 4 team in the conference? Am I wrong by saying they are level with these other teams, are they better? Is there a top team I missed?