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National reign: NFC teams dominate halfway through season

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Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) tries to get past Dallas Cowboys safety Danny McCray (40) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Rich Addicks)

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FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2012, file photo, Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings (26) celebrates with teammates Brandon Marshall (15) and Earl Bennett (80) after he returned and interception for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Chicago. The Bears has seven interception returns for touchdowns and eight scores on defense this season. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Halfway through the season, something's missing -- mostly -- on a list of the league's elite teams.

The AFC.

It's difficult to make a case for including any team from the conference other than Houston among the league's best, while unbeaten Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, Green Bay and the New York Giants could be considered in that category from the NFC.

Coming off three straight Super Bowl wins and four out of the last five, the NFC is playing some dominant football on both sides of the line.

In interconference play, it's up 23-13 on the AFC, led by the Falcons sweeping the AFC West, and the Bears going 3-0 against the AFC South -- with Chicago meeting the Texans on Sunday in the biggest matchup of the season so far. The Bears are slight favorites in the showdown of 7-1 teams.

That's not too much of a surprise, really. Chicago is home and only Pittsburgh, 3-0 against the suddenly vulnerable NFC East, has showed strength among AFC teams when crossing over.

The NFC has outscored the AFC 1,012-767 in head-to-head matchups, and has a plus-30 turnover margin in those games.

"The quarterbacks as a group are deeper in the NFC," says former NFL executive Pat Kirwan, who has looked extensively at the differences in the conferences. "The bottom teams in the NFL are all in the AFC: Jacksonville, Kansas City and Cleveland."

Just as pronounced are the statistical rankings, with six of the top eight defensive teams coming from the NFC. In a league where just about everyone can play offense -- sorry Jacksonville, your 117 points wouldn't cut it in the ACC -- the efficient defenses tend to swing the pendulum of power.