Each week, Falcons vice president of football communications Reggie Roberts will sit down with an expert and talk about the Falcons, as well as what's going on in the rest of the league. This week's expert is The Sporting News NFL writer Dennis Dillon
Reggie Roberts: What do you make of the NFL this season? There are no seemingly dominant teams, but the races in both conferences look as if they will decided during the final weeks of the regular season which is good for the overall drama of the NFL. What's your take?
Dennis Dillon: This has been a season filled with surprise developments. Teams that were supposed to be powers, such as the Cowboys, Vikings, Chargers and Bengals, have underachieved and been disappointing. At the other end of the spectrum are the Rams, Chiefs and Bucs, teams that have struggled in recent years but look like they might be contenders this season. Several of the division races look like they could go down to the final week of the regular season. This could be the most dramatic finish to a regular season we've seen in years.
RR: Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris pronounced his team the best in the NFC two weeks ago. Who do you think the best three teams are in the NFC and tell us why you think so?
DD: Right now, the three best NFC teams are the Giants, Packers and Falcons (with the Eagles being a close fourth). It seems like everyone was calling for Giants coach Tom Coughlin's head a few weeks ago, but his team has won five games in a row and has one of the most disruptive defensive lines in the league. The Packers have been hit by a bunch of injuries, but they have persevered. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best QBs in the league, and OLB Clay Matthews looks like the defensive player of the year. The Falcons have developed a dangerous passing tandem — Matt Ryan to Roddy White — to go with their solid rushing attack.
RR: Let's switch back to the always competitive NFC South. Are the Falcons in the driver's seat to win the division or do you view the defending Super Bowl Saints gaining ground to overtake them?
DD: With eight weeks left, you can't say any team is in the driver's seat. The Falcons face some challenging teams in the second half of the season, beginning Thursday night when they host the Ravens. The Saints looked like they were going to be another defending champion to suffer the dreaded Super Bowl hangover but they are starting to play better and they look like they will make a run at defending their division title. It likely will come down to the Dec. 27 showdown between the two teams in Atlanta.
RR: Who are the best three teams in the AFC right now and why?
DD: The best three AFC teams are the Steelers, Patriots and Jets (with the Titans a close fourth). The Steelers survived the Ben Roethlisberger suspension better than most of us thought (going 3-1). Roethlisberger now has found his groove and the Steelers' defense is as dominating as always, especially against the run. Don't put too much stock into the Patriots' loss in Cleveland. As long as they have Tom Brady, they are going to be one of the best teams. The Jets are living up to coach Rex Ryan's preseason expectations but they need more consistent play from quarterback Mark Sanchez if they're going to get to the Super Bowl.
RR: The Green Bay Packers are suddenly on a winning streak and take a solid 6-3 record into their bye week. Are they good enough to emerge as NFC champions?
DD: Yes. They'll face a handful of difficult games in the second half of the season — at Atlanta, at New England, vs. the Giants — but they could win all three. If they can avoid suffering any more key injuries, they can continue their run. The Packers are the best team in their division, and they could wind up with home-field advantage in the playoffs. And no team looks forward to coming into Lambeau Field in January.