The Fantasy Impacts Of The NFC and AFC At The Midpoint Of The 2021 Season

When looking at the current state of play in the NFL in 2021, there are echoes of last season. Except in a few minor cases, top teams and individual performers are the same, while the bottom teams in the league are still in the basement. 

Of course, every couple of years, there is a worst-to-first surprise team, but this season, even those like the LA Chargers who are outplaying the rest of their AFC West counterparts had the hallmarks and foundations last year that made their 4-2 record not too surprising. 

While teams like Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Baltimore, and Green Bay are holding serve as some of the top teams in their respective conferences, in the NFC East, an apparent new champion is about to happen with the resurgence of the Dallas Cowboys. 

Much like the aforementioned LA Chargers, the pillars for success were already in place before the season. The Cowboys had the running backs and wide receiver corps that would be formidable. They just needed the return of their quarterback Dak Prescott. 

In the first four weeks of the 2020 season, Dallas was one of the top offensive units in all the NFL. That was before Dak Prescott broke his ankle in a gruesome manner, and the 2020 Cowboys sank to irrelevance. 

To start the 2021 season, Dak is back, and so too is the vaunted Dallas offense, the 5th ranked total offensive unit in the league. 

The discussion of the NFC top teams must include returning Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay, the always potent Green Bay Packers, the currently undefeated Arizona Cardinals, and the reinvigorated LA Rams led by the motivated Mathew Stafford. 

What To Know About The NFC

In the NFC, you have the Arizona Cardinals as the class of the conference. While it’s not surprising they would be good, it’s the level of dominance that they’ve shown thus far in the season with otherworldly performance coming from quarterback Kyler Murray, who leads one of the top 3 scoring offenses as the first third of the season comes to fruition. 

The Dallas Cowboys have the highest-scoring offense in the NFC, led by the return of Dak Prescott at quarterback. However, the pressure that a high-scoring offense puts on the other team can’t be overstated, as Trevon Diggs has more interceptions returned for touchdowns than over half of the wide receivers in the NFL.

The LA Rams have shown they can win games through the air with rejuvenated Mathew Stafford hitting Cooper Kupp or by grinding it out in the run game with Darrel Henderson and a top-notch defense with All-Pro Jalen Ramsey at cornerback and All-World Aaron Donald, arguably one of the top players in the NFL.

All that said, the returning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers return an unheard of 22 starters from their championship team. With another year to gel and learn Head Coach Bruce Arian’s offense, it would be wise to keep an eye on the steady, veteran professionalism of the Bucs led by the G.O.A.T., Tom Brady.

What To Know About The AFC  

In the AFC, the discussion of top teams squarely sits on the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills as the top contenders in the conference, with the LA Chargers and KC Chiefs nipping at their heels. 

What’s not surprising is the maturation and development of the Buffalo Bills under the guise of Sean McDermott. The philosophy of Sean McDermott is to improve a little bit week-by-week and that strategy has reaped rewards as the second-best record in the entire AFC, tied with Baltimore as of week 7. 

If there’s any surprise to the Buffalo Bills, they have been winning despite not putting up amazing, jaw-dropping offensive numbers. However, their defense has been stepping up this season. In fact, the defensive unit has had three turnovers a game for three games and held two opponents scoreless in the first third of the inaugural 17-game season. 

The Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson have shown the ability to grind out close games even with the one constant on their team, injuries. For NFL fantasy purposes, what Lamar Jackson is doing has been legendary.

As for the LA Chargers, Austin Ekeler has been a top-4 fantasy running back, especially in PPR formats, as has receiver Mike Williams. 

About Marcelo Villa

Marcelo is an associate editor at The Sports Daily, and has covered the San Diego Chargers for Bleacher Report. He also writes for Sportsdirect Inc.