The A.F.C.’s strength lies in large part with its exciting young quarterbacks: Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, the rapidly rising Lawrence and others.
The N.F.C. is home to Brady and Aaron Rodgers, future Hall of Famers grouchily fortifying their positions among the league’s all-time pantheon, followed by a crowd of familiar veterans with well-established limitations. Jalen Hurts of the Eagles is the only young N.F.C. quarterback playing well right now, though Kyler Murray of the Cardinals keeps things interesting.
Most A.F.C. teams also aggressively improved themselves in the off-season: playoff hopefuls like the Dolphins and Broncos through daring trades, weaklings like the Jaguars, Jets and Houston Texans through multiple first-round draft picks. As a result, the A.F.C. boasts a deep, intriguing pool of second-tier contenders and upstarts. The N.F.C. is downright feudal by comparison.
Look past the Buccaneers, Packers, Rams and Eagles and you’ll find:
The 2-1 Dallas Cowboys, whose familiar foibles make them impossible to take seriously;
The 2-1 Minnesota Vikings, the pre-owned late-model sedan of N.F.L. teams;
The 1-2 San Francisco 49ers, whose best offensive player so far this season has been punter Mitch Wishnowsky;
The 1-2 Arizona Cardinals, a parking-lot pickup team with a playbook of stapled-together cocktail napkins;
The 2-1 Chicago Bears, whose games look like colorized footage from the Great Depression;
The 1-2 Atlanta Falcons, whose salary-cap situation is a ghost story told by accountants around the campfire;