By Steve Silverman
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Parity is the NFL’s watchword.
Pete Rozelle used to promote it in the 1970s and the league has long followed that tenet.
Some call it mediocrity.
It’s a good thing for Tom Coughlin’s team. The Giants have been playing unimpressive football, losing three of the last four games.
They have come back to the pack in the NFC East, as they have a one-game lead over the Redskins and Cowboys with four games to go.
But if Coughlin looks around the rest of the NFC, he does not have to worry about anyone else but his own team and getting it back up to speed. The other so-called contenders have significant weaknesses of their own.
There are no super teams in the NFC and if the Giants play their best game — and get back to the playoffs — they can still beat anyone in the conference and get back to the Super Bowl.
That includes the 11-1 Atlanta Falcons. Head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan have been driven men this season. They’re embarrassed by their postseason resume. Smith and Ryan have never even picked up one victory in the playoffs and last year’s 24-2 wild card loss to the Giants was particularly galling. It was like the Falcons didn’t show up and imposters wore their uniforms.
So the Falcons have plenty of desire and a reason to show the football world that they can play with emotion and win a playoff game.
While Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones have plenty of talent and are more than good enough to go a long way in the postseason, the Falcons can be taken down. They have a weakness on the offensive line and a team with an explosive front seven can overwhelm them. Defensively, they have plenty of speed and playmaking ability, but a power team may be able to push them around.
The 49ers have been the glamor team this season and they have had many weeks where they looked like they could become a dominant team, but they regularly have stepped backwards. The Niners have had a loss and a tie against the Rams and they got punished by the Giants in a game they desperately wanted earlier in the year.
Give head coach Jim Harbaugh credit for going with his gut and inserting backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick into the lineup over Alex (70 percent completions) Smith, but it just may be the wrong move. Kaepernick certainly has excellent tools to work with, but he is not a finished product and those kind of quarterbacks rarely lead their team to the Super Bowl.
The Packers are still dangerous because they have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, but they have no running game and the defense is not effective when Clay Matthews (hamstring) is not in the lineup. Matthews has already missed three games. The Giants have already handled the Packers once with ease and they could most likely do it again.
Earlier in the year, the Chicago Bears looked like a Super Bowl-worthy team. The combination of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall actually gave the Bears a passing game and Matt Forte appeared to be one of the better running backs in the league.
The defense was not only dominating, it was scoring multiple touchdowns on a regular basis. However, the Bears’ offense has fallen apart and they have the 31st-ranked passing game in the league. Brian Urlacher (hamstring) won’t play the rest of the regular season and the defense has quite a bit of age.
The Bears are good enough to beat one-dimensional teams, but they are in over their heads against the Giants, 49ers and perhaps the Falcons.
The one team that really should scare the Giants is the Redskins. They are young, surging and dangerous. The Giants learned just how good they were in the 17-16 loss Monday night.
If they make the playoffs, the Redskins could cause problems. That’s still a major question.
Coughlin needs to get his team on track. If he can do that, his team should not have to worry about the competition.
Giants fans: Which team worries you most? Are you stressing about even making the playoffs? Be heard in the comments below…