Weaker NFC isn't fighting for headlines

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

The NFC is always struggling to regain its former power as the top conference in the NFL.

The good news -- NFC teams are currently receiving a lot of media face-time. The bad news -- very little of it involves the discussion of games themselves.

Terrell Owens' ongoing disputes and semantics in Philadelphia are deemed worthy of media coverage several times per week. In San Francisco, the 49ers will likely have their cash-heavy rookie quarterback Alex Smith sitting on the sidelines, and are still reeling from the sudden death of offensive linesman Thomas Herrion.

Meanwhile in New Orleans, the question isn't if they will be at .500 by December, but rather if they will have a permanent home by that time.

So many NFC teams are ready to concentrate on the games, especially with the regular-season opening on Thursday. But unless you're a fan of a team in the NFC or have a bet down, do you really pay attention? Does a matchup of the Rams and Cardinals really get a fan's blood pumping? Doubtful.

In spite of all the Michael Vicks, Brett Favres and Daunte Culpeppers, the NFC remains the weaker and often less supported of the two conferences, for some rather unfortunate reasons:

- The statistics speak for themselves. In the 2004 regular season, four of the five teams with the highest average of points per game were from the AFC. Indianapolis topped the list with 32.6, while Green Bay finished at 26.5 points for fifth place. An NFC team didn't make it into the top five in field-goal percentages -- Philadelphia was the top team, placing sixth at 84.4%. And during inter-conference play, AFC teams won a total of 44 games. NFC teams were victorious in only 20. Looking for one shining spot in NFC stats? They dominate in receiving yards - Carolina, New Orleans, Green Bay and St. Louis (Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce) rounded out the top five.

- They are impossible to bet on. Inter-conference play is usually an easy pick, but choosing a winner among the NFC teams can be a logistical nightmare -- mostly because a number of them regularly hover around the .500 mark. You cough up the money, only to get screwed week after week. Who's running these teams? Heidi Fleiss?

- The possibility of a 9-7 or 8-8 team making it into the playoffs seems unfair. And waiting for the top team to emerge from the conference, particularly during the first round, can be agonizing. In the AFC, to gain a wild-card spot calls for at least a 10-6 season, and often nothing is certain until the very last minute.

They say that parity still reigns in the NFL, but that statement is only true if both conferences are balanced. Some use the Super Bowl as the ultimate measure of strength.

Perhaps a better tool would be the Pro Bowl ... if it ever meant anything.

NO MOMEN-TERRY ICON: It was 25 years ago this past Thursday when Terry Fox was forced to end his ground-breaking Marathon of Hope just outside of Thunder Bay. In spite of the media available on one of Canada's greatest heroes, sometimes it can be difficult for younger generations to grasp the enormity of his accomplishment. Growing up in the city that is so closely associated with the run prevented this from occurring for me. But creative tools such as Douglas Coupland's book Terry, and replicas of Fox' running shoes being sold to benefit cancer research can hopefully inspire others to learn about Terry as the years pass.

SIDE LINES: How relieved do you think Renegades president Lonie Glieberman is right now? Canceling the Mardi Gras promotion before the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was the epitome of excellent timing ... AmIAnnoying.com (a self-explanatory website based purely on voting) had Warren Sapp and Vladimir Guerrero in the Top 10 as of early last Friday. All relevant criteria are pushed aside when you see that Pauly Shore is sitting at No. 50 ... Bob Knight threw a paddle at a cameraman during a celebrity fishing show, after being ribbed for allowing a catch to get away. Anyone familiar with the mercurial coach knows that anything from a paddle to a pickerel could classify as a weapon in his hands.

erinnicks@yahoo.ca


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