NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 3

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning takes a faceplant courtesy of Carolina's Charles Johnson. (Mike McCarn/AP)

The 2013 season is already weird in the NFC. The six NFC playoff teams of a year ago have a combined record of 6-12, and only one team (the Seahawks) has a winning record. Meanwhile, the once mighty NFC East is now a laughingstock, as the division has a combined record of 3-9, with two of those wins coming because two NFCE teams squared off against each other. For the second consecutive week, the Redskins are the low man on the totem pole, but the Giants are sliding fast.

16) Redskins

Congrats to the Redskins for at least being in a competitive game this week, and for avoiding being the joke of the NFC East for at least a few days (with that distinction going to the Giants). Still, they lost to the Lions at home, something they haven't done in more than 70 years.

Last year the Saints set the record for the most yards allowed in one season, with 7,042. The Redskins are on pace to give up 7,808 yards in 2013.

Weekly friendly Redskins reminder: The Redskins don't have a 1st round pick next offseason.

15) Vikings

The Browns were the (mostly negative) talk of the NFL this week. First they traded Trent Richardson to the Colts for a 1st round pick out of the clear blue sky, and then they benched starting QB Brandon Weeden for the legendary Brian Hoyer. There was talk that the Browns were tanking so that they'll be in a better position to draft a QB next offseason, which left them ripe for a bad Vikings team to pick up a rare W.

Nope. The Browns went into the Metrodome and beat the Vikes anyway.

The Vikings won 10 games last year on the power of a ridiculous season that was unlikely to be repeated by Adrian Peterson. Here is the difference between Peterson's 2012 and 2013 seasons so far:

Adrian Peterson Att/game Yards/game Yards/carry
2012 21.75 131.1 6
2013 23 93.7 4.07

The results have been predictable.

14) Buccaneers

Josh Freeman just isn't very good:

Josh FreemanCompAttYardsYPATDINTRating
Jets 15 31 210 6.77 1 1 67.9
Saints 9 22 125 5.68 1 1 56.1
Patriots 19 41 236 5.76 0 1 54.5
TOTAL 43 94 571 6.07 2 3 59.3

The Bucs were supposed to lose in New England this week, and they did. Next week they have the Cardinals at home. If they lose that one, we might have our first obituary of the season.

13) Giants

A few examples of the Giants' awfulness this season:

  • They're last in the league in points allowed, with 115. There aren't any other teams in triple digits.
  • The Giants have outscored just 5 teams (not including the Raiders, who currently have fewer points but haven't played yet in Week 3).
  • Eli Manning has thrown 2 times as many INTs than the Chiefs, Titans, Broncos, Chargers, Cowboys, Colts, and Bills combined.
  • The Giants have the 2nd worst point differential in the NFL, at -61. The only team that's worse is the Jaguars, at -64. The next closest team (the Niners, oddly enough) is -40.
  • LeSean McCoy is averaging 131.7 rushing yards per game. The Giants have 133 total rushing yards on the season.
  • The Giants' leading rusher the first 3 weeks had the following yardage totals: 23, 17, 39.
  • They have a turnover differential of -9.

Gross. Could the Giants be in for a season like the one the Eagles had in 2012?

12) Cardinals

It's going to be really hard to think of something to write about the Cardinals every week. Hopefully they just go away soon.

11) Eagles

From an Andy Reid piece by Ashley Fox of ESPN:

Reid came to Philadelphia and he outcoached his successor, who would be wise to study the way Reid comports himself and realize that he's not in Oregon anymore. Chip Kelly's offense has worked for all of two of 12 quarters.

Wait... what? Not to pick on Ashley, because there's a lot of this "Your nonsense isn't going to work in the NFL, college boy" stuff going around, but here are some of the Eagles' basic numbers on offense compared with 2012:

Chip vs Andy2013NFL Rank2012Rank
Yards per game 461.7 2 354.1 15
Yards per play 7 1 5.3 20
First downs 23 4 20.8 11
Rush yards/game 209 1 117.1 13
Runs of 20+ yards 6 2 14 7
Runs of 40+ yards 2 1 2 13
Pass yards/game 252.7 13 236.9 13
Pass plays of 20+ yards 17 1 51 14
Pass plays of 40+ yards 4 1 6 24
Points per game 26.3 8 17.5 29

Turnovers remain a major issue, obviously, but otherwise Chip Kelly's offense is chugging along just fine after 3 games... and it sure as hell hasn't just been "two quarters."

The Eagles are an odd team. They're probably going to be bad more often than they're good in 2013, but they're a little bit of a wildcard, in that you don't know what you're going to get.

They're going to lose to bad teams, but they might also beat some really good ones. You don't want to catch them when they're clicking.

10) Rams

Ugh... I've been pumping up the Rams here all season, and they go out put together a turd sandwich performance against the Cowboys. Bad Rams! 

On the bright side, the Rams may wind up with two high draft picks in a loaded class. (They have the Redskins' #1 pick).

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<tr class="tableizer-firstrow"><th>Adrian Peterson</th><th>Att/game</th><th>Yards/game</th><th>Yards per carry</th></tr>

9) Panthers

The big story from the Giants' drubbing on Sunday was how bad the Giants looked. Are we minimizing how good the Panthers looked? The Panthers sacked Eli Manning 6 times... in the first half. The Panthers have a pair of good defensive ends in Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. They also invested heavily on their interior DL in the draft. Star Lotutelei was a legitimate Top 10 prospect, and he somehow fell to the Panthers at 14. Then the Panthers took Kawann Short in the 2nd round. Both Lotulelei and Short look like they may be good picks.

On the offensive side of the ball, a lot of people (myself included) had written off DeAngelo Williams. While Williams did have an extremely costly fumble against the Seahawks Week 1, he's 3rd in the NFL in rushing, with 291 yards.

The Panthers have their BYE Week 4, and then face the Cardinals, Vikings Rams and Bucs. Over those next 4 games, we'll see if the Panthers can separate from those bottom feeders before they take on the more difficult portion of their schedule.

8) Lions

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz manages to look like an idiot even when he wins:

While the Lions' 2-1 record looks good, their opponents so far have a combined record of 1-8. They have some real teams (Bears, Packers) on their schedule the next two weeks. 

7) Cowboys

The Cowboys are clearly the best team in the NFC East right now.

6) 49ers

Aldon Smith has taken an indefinite leave of absence, Colin Kaepernick isn't playing well, the Niners weapons on offense aren't producing, and perhaps most alarmingly, the Niners are getting bullied.

Their -40 point differential is 3rd worst in the NFL. Who saw that happening?

5) Falcons

The Falcons are 1-2 after losing in Miami this week, and are now 2 games behind the NFC South leading Saints, with the Saints currently holding the head-to-head advantage.

The Falcons' two losses came on the road, where they are far less effective. Over the last 5 years (plus their one home game in 2013), the Falcons are 34-7 (.829). Over the next 4 weeks, the Falcons have 3 home games and a BYE. At worst, they should get back to 3-3 after that stretch. However, their Week 4 opponent is the Patriots, which will be an enormous early test for the Falcons. While I don't think a loss to New England would be grounds for mass panic, a 1-3 start would be very difficult to recover from.

4) Saints

The Saints are 3-0, but only really impressed me for the first time last Sunday. The next three weeks will determine if they are for real, when they face the surprisingly good Dolphins at home, followed by two road games against the Bears and Pats. For the last 2-3 years, I've been a huge critic of Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, whose name and bravado have been bigger attributes than his actual defensive production, but credit where credit is due... The Saints gave up more yards than any other team in NFL history last year, and this year they're ranked #5 in both yards and points allowed. 

3) Bears

The Bears continue to force turnovers, and now lead the NFL with 11 takeaways. I think a lot of people equate turnovers with luck. It's not luck when you're among the league leaders every year. This Bears team doesn't look great on paper, but they force mistakes, generally play good special teams, and Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and company make just enough plays on offense.

It's the kind of team that beats the weaker teams, but will likely struggle to make any real noise in the playoffs, should they get that far. While the forced turnovers are great for winning regular season games, eventually the Bears will run into a more talented team in the playoffs that doesn't make mistakes as readily.

In their 10 wins last season, the teams the Bears beat had a combined record of 64-95-1 (.400). However, in their 6 losses, the teams the Bears lost to had a combined record of 66-29 (.695).

If you look at the rest of the season, the Bears' schedule looks to be extraordinarily easy. That's due in large part because the NFC North plays the NFC East and the AFC North this year, which are clearly the two worst divisions in the NFL. In my opinion, there is only one "clearly good" team on their schedule the rest of the way (the Packers), who they play twice:

WeekOpponentGood team?
4 At Lions No
5 Saints Above average, not sure yet how good
6 Giants No
7 At Redskins No
8 BYE  
9 At Packers Yes
10 Lions No
11 Ravens Don't know, they've looked good, and bad
12 At Rams Not yet
13 At Vikings No
14 Cowboys Meh
15 At Browns No
16 At Eagles Dangerous, but likely more often not good
17 Packers Yes

2) Packers

The Packers are 1-2, and they're #2 in the hierarchy above the 3-0 Saints and Bears? Huh?

The Packers just kind of pass the "eye test" for me. They had two close road losses to the Niners and Bengals, and they walked all over the Redskins in a laugher.

They currently lead the NFL in points scored (although Denver is going to leapfrog them tonight). They're also 3rd in yards per game, 2nd in yards per play, and 1st in 1st downs per game.

And they still have the best player in the league at QB. 

1) Seahawks

The Seahawks' defense has not lost a beat with Gus Bradley leaving for a head coaching job in Jacksonville. Here is what the Seahawks' defense has done through 3 games:

  • 27 points allowed - Lowest in the NFL
  • 241.7 yards allowed per game - Lowest in the NFL
  • 4.3 yards per play allowed - Lowest in the NFC
  • 15.3 first downs allowed per game - Lowest in the NFC
  • 10 takeaways - Tied for second in the NFL

The Seahawks are the best team in the NFC.