Sports Column – NFL Breakdown

Travis Noe and Travis Noe

Tom Brady is back on the field in a Patriots uniform, Adrian Peterson is running all over defenses like a man possessed, and Peyton Manning is continuing to show why he’s the best quarterback of our decade. I wake up every Sunday morning with a smile on my face, as the action in today’s NFL is better than I’ve ever seen it.

The first five weeks of the 2009 NFL season have been action packed to say the least. With 13 weeks to go, there’s still a lot of football to be played, but there’s a good indicator at this point which teams came to make a playoff run, and those who will be settling for a 2010 draft pick. If you’re unfamiliar who these teams are, let me enlighten you.

Let’s start with the National Football Conference (NFC). New York Giants, the 2007 Super Bowl champions, are the most complete team in football this season.

With the most intimidating defense in the NFL, lead by defensive lineman Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, the Giants have allowed just over 14 points per game.

On the other side of the ball, quarterback Eli Manning is starting to look a lot like his older brother Peyton in the pocket, and with Brandon Jacobs rushing the ball, the Giants look to have one of the scariest offenses in the league. They’ve started out 5-0 in the difficult NFC East.

If the Giants can finish the season with the best record in the NFC, they’re my vote for the favorite team heading into the playoffs.

And next best in the NFC? Easily, the Minnesota Vikings.

The men in purple made a huge off-season acquisition picking up someone you might have heard about: Brett Favre.

Many people, including myself, were skeptical about signing the 40-year old veteran in the off-season. Five weeks into the season, nobody is skeptical anymore.

The Vikes have started out undefeated, riding the shoulders of running back Adrian Peterson. Have you ever seen Peterson play? It’s like watching a man among boys on the field.

He literally looks like a horse galloping on the field – he’s bigger, faster, and stronger than anyone I’ve ever seen play football.

With his dominant presence in the running game, its opened up big play opportunities for Favre and rookie wide receiver Percey Harvin, who’s had a huge impact thus far. With one of the best defensive lines in football, and a balanced passing and rushing attack, I’m sure we will be seeing Minnesota play in late December come playoff time.

Other teams to note in the NFC: the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers.

The Saints’ passing attack makes defensive coordinators sweat each week. Drew Brees continues to throw the ball well, and the Saints are always putting points up on the board.

On the other hand, the 49ers have been surprising critics left and right with their defensive play. In a weak conference like the NFC West, the Niners look like a lock for the 2009 playoffs-I never thought I would say that.

Although the NFC looks like a really solid conference, I think all the question marks lay in the American Football Conference (AFC). The story line in the AFC and the biggest surprise of the season this far has to be the Denver Broncos.

After giving up franchise quarterback Jay Cutler in the off-season, the mile-high club looked hopeless heading into the season. Five weeks later, they’re with out a loss and have allowed the least points on defense of any team in the NFL.

After adding Brian Dawkins to the defense, and coming to terms with wide receiver Brandon Marshall, the Broncos look like a completely new team from last season: great.

Rookie running back out of Georgia, Knowshon Marino, has given Denver a lift in the running game, and they look like they’re going to shock everybody by being the best team in the AFC West.

At the start of the year, I thought the 2008 Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers were going to be the best team this season. After losing Troy Polamalu on defense, the “Steel Curtain” has lost two games, trailing Cincinnati in the AFC North.

Pittsburgh behind Cincinnati? Who would’ve thought?

The Cincinnati Bengals have won as many games in the first five weeks of the season as they did all last year. Carson Palmer is healthy at quarterback, and their defense is young and fast.

At 4-1, the Bengals look like they’re going to have to battle it out against tough division opponents Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but they look like a huge surprise team that will make things interesting in the AFC.

The Indianapolis Colts seem like they win the AFC South every year. It doesn’t hurt when Peyton Manning is your quarterback. The nine-time pro-bowler looks in his prime in his twelfth season.

The Colts offense has been virtually unstoppable to start the season, and if their defense can carry the slack, the Colts are always a dangerous team come post-season.

It has been a wild and crazy start to the season, with big hits, exciting touchdowns, a ton of injuries, and a few surprises. The 2009 season has yet to disappoint.

It’s a long year, and as things progress we could see some big changes. But at this point, keep an eye out for the New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, and Indianapolis Colts to contend for the 2009 Super Bowl.