The 2013 NFC West was truly the NFC Best in the NFL but before the Best was the NFC bEast. We may need a remainder because of recent and unkind years but BtB wrote an excellent piece a couple years ago of how dominant the NFC East was. The peak of this dominance would probably be 2007 where no team (including the Redskins!) was below .500. Their overall record was 40-24 which is only two off from the 2013 NFC West with their 42-22 record. The peak of both these divisions are probably the top two best in recent years. Now if both divisions combined players, who would win?
PFF already got the 2013 NFC West roster here. Let's try and determine who would make the 2007 bEast team.
Head Coach: Tom Coughlin
Easy. He won the Super Bowl, he gets placement. In this exercise Coughlin is also the most perfect choice. He gives his coordinators the right amount of power to keep the team running smoothly. Andy Reid has a lot of power as an NFL coach and if we match him with Jason Garrett or someone there's a good chance they'll conflict because they are two powerful coaches. No issues there with Coughlin.
Offensive Coordinator: Jason Garrett
2007 was the first year as coordinator for Garrett and he rewarded the Cowboys with the best offense in the NFC. He was only second to the monstrous Patriots offense. He had a balanced offense with Marion Barber as a capable lead back and a great passing offense with Witten and TO. Garrett has always been a solid offensive coach and he's the best option to lead the NFC East. No complicated ESP schemes here.
Quarterback: Eli Manning
I was very, very tempted to choose Tony Romo and if you're a Cowboys fan I'll explain it to you. One, we have Kevin Gilbride. His chuck and duck offense might not have killed the Giants in 2007 as we were a running team but it doesn't mean these over-complicated schemes weren't in place. Eli's numbers are worse than Romo's but Romo played in a more efficient and "easier" offense. Romo also had two hall of fame targets to boot. Giants' fans don't want to admit it but Eli and Romo are really neck and neck. But for this exercise the edge goes to the Super Bowl MVP.
T.O. actually had his third highest year in receiving yards with 1350 in the Cowboys offense which also tops anything in both the 2007 East and in the 2013 West. He's a diva yes but he's the best WR on either team.
He posted a decent 1025 yards in 2007 but he's Eli's favorite target and a matchup problem even for the those in the menacing secondary in the NFC West.
He's got playmaking speed and would be an excellent fit as the slot receiver. This may or may not jsut be a bone to throw to the Redskins.
Before LeSean McCoy gave us fits, headaches and heartaches it was Brian Westbrook. in 2007, Westbrook had the 3rd most rushing yards in the league good for almost a 5 YPC. And this was in a Reid pass happy offense too. So not only did he post insane rushing numbers he was basically a 3rd receiver for the Eagles too with a monster 90 receptions and 700 receiving yards making him a 2000 yard offensive weapon. For comparisons sake Ray Rice is a known as one of the best receiving running backs and his highest reception total was 78.
2007 marked the rise of Brandon Jacobs as it was his first year starting with a solid 1000 yards to boot in only 11 games). Westbrook can do it all but Jacobs would be the perfect compliment. Short yardage would be automatic, especially with a division combined offensive line.
Tight End: Jason Witten
Don't need to explain.
Honestly I don't know who to put here and I don't think any of us distinctly remembers the play of any of these guys specifically in 2007. However it is interesting and pretty cool to note that everyone on the line (sans Snee) made the Pro Bowl in 2007. Adams and Gurode both made 2nd team All Pro in 2007. Dallas actually had a 3rd OL in the Pro Bowl that year (Leonard Davis) but I threw Snee in there so we can have one rep in there.
So now that we've gotten the talent assembled let's see how they stack against the NFC Best's offense. Winner of the two are in bold.
QB: Eli Manning vs Russell Wilson
Before I explain why I chose Eli it's pretty neat to mention that the NFC West also have a big QB battle with Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. And in that battle both QBs met in the playoffs to face against their hated rivals. Kaepernick, in the final minutes of the game orchestrated a potential game winning drive...only to end in an interception in the endzone. Rewind to 2007 where two QBs met in the playoffs to face against their hated rivals. Romo, in the finals minutes of the game orchestrated a potential game winning drive....only to end in an interception in the endzone. The QBs sitting down during this drive enjoyed a Super Bowl win in the same season.
Anyways the NFC West is all about running the ball. Most of their offensive talent is in their lines and running backs rather than their QBs and WRs. Eli (and Romo for that matter) are asked to do a lot more than Wilson for their teams. Not that Wilson can't necessarily handle it but in this point in their respective careers I'm choosing Eli. His stats again aren't otherwordly but again there's Killdrive. Watching Eli under 2 minutes is a thing of beauty. Case in point, watch the last 30ish seconds of the first half in the playoffs against the Cowboys.
RB: Westbrook/Jacobs vs Marshawn Lynch/Andre Ellington
PFF chose Andre Ellington over an older (but still good) Frank Gore. They claim it to be his playmaking ability which led him to a beastly 5.5 YPC though it was in limited carries. Still that's impressive in Arizona's porous offensive line. Beast mode needs no introduction. This is a tough battle. Westbrook and Jacobs have superior numbers in total yardage and YPC. On the other hand Lynch and Ellington play with crap lines while the NFC bEast is raining with pro bowlers. It's very close but I'll give an edge to the NFC East. Westbrook is a complete and proven offensive weapon and Jacobs at his peak can match the physicality of beast mode. Ellington is too new here and even though PFF didn't include Frank gore, I don't see what he can bring that differs from Lynch.
WR: Owens/Plax/Moss vs Floyd/Fitzgerald/Boldin
PFF only chose two receivers so I took the liberty of including Fitzgerald. I think the NFC East wins this one decisively. TO is a hall of fame talent and in most circles is at least top 10 WR of all time. He certainly has the stats to back it up and had his 3rd best season in 2007. Had Larry been in his peak this would be a much closer battle but in 2013 he "only" put up 950 yards. Matched up with TO is Plax whose 6'6'' frame is a nightmare to cover. Moss is average and Boldin is certainly a beast but you can't match TO here even with an upcoming star in Michael Floyd.
TE: Jason Witten vs Vernon Davis
2007 was Jason's finest year at 1100 yards. Thanks to Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski it doesn't seem otherworldly but in 2007 it certainly was. Especially considering that Witten isn't a WR like Graham; he blocks too and by most measures he's pretty damn good at it. Vernon Davis is also considered a balanced tight end who can do it all. His athleticism is well known to be insane, even insane compared to his freakish peers at his position but has yet to post a year with 1000 yards. Witten wins this one.
OL: The NFC East vs The 2013 Niners
PFF chose 4 Niners and Rodger Saffold as the best offensive line combination. It is led by two pro bowlers in Joe Staley and Mike Iupati. Staley was also named to the 2013 All Pro team. This line is essentially the Niners line and has been a top unit in recent years. But the combination of the talent in the NFC East is simply outstanding. There are FOUR pro bowlers of that year on that squad with a couple of them being on the all pro team. Yes, yes the pro bowl doesn't necessarily mean much which is why I'll try to bring in some advanced stats to back up the fans decision. As I quote from Cold Hard Football Stats, "the Offensive Hog Index is our effort to quantify which team has the best offensive line in football. This isn't rocket science, folks. The Offensive Hog Index simply looks at each team in three major, easy-to-understand categories and ranks them by average in these categories. The top offensive line is that which posts the highest average rating across the board."
Using their formula, in 2007 there were two offensive lines tied for 6th best in the NFL. The Cowboys and the Giants. The Eagles were not far behind at number 9. The Redskins were exactly average being ranked 16.
In 2013 the SF offensive line was ranked 18th in the league.
NFC East wins this one again.
The problem of choosing a "winner" in each category is that this makes it seem like the East wins by a landslide when several aspects are actually pretty close. QB, HB and TE can go either way while the advantage held by the WRs and OL is pretty marginal. I'm trying to give the NFC West one category here but the only one that I wouldn't feel guilty giving is QB. The NFC West isn't known for pouring on the points though so when we assess the defense they'll make up for it. But for part one the NFC East handily beats "one of the best divisions ever."