Saturday, December 27, 2014

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 1

Philly.com's Jimmy Kempski looks at the worst performances from across the opening weekend for NFC teams.

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 1

Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III. (Alex Brandon/AP)

The time in between Week 1 and Week 2 is typically a period that produces the most movement in these kinds of rankings articles. We learn that some teams are better than we thought, and some are worse. At the same time, there's only one game to work off of, as opposed to a larger body of work, so we tend to overreact to one performance, good or bad. Here's the way I see it after one week of action. As a reminder, since I try not to pretend I know the AFC teams as well as I know the NFC, we limit this to just the NFC.

16) Vikings

The Vikings had three possessions in the 4th quarter this week against the Lions:

First possession: Christian Ponder trips over his RG, and a fumble exchange between he and Adrian Peterson is botched:

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Second possession: 3 incompletions, all three are poor passes. 3 and out.

Third possession: Ponder throws 9 passes, 7 of which are less than 5 yards down the field. On the 2 passes he throws downfield, one is incomplete, and the other is picked.

The bottom line is this: Adrian Peterson might be the most talented player in the league, and if this were the 1950's, the Vikings might be a great team. But if you don't have a QB, you have no chance. And the Vikings don't have a legitimate NFL QB who can throw downfield.

15) Buccaneers

You've probably already seen Lavonte David's incredibly stupid late hit out of bounds on Geno Smith that cost the Buccaneers a Week 1 win against the lowly Jets, but if you saw that game in its entirety, you saw how bad Josh Freeman looked.

Freeman is in his 5th year. His 2nd year in the pros (2010) was promising. He threw for 25 TDs and 6 INTs, with a 95.9 QB rating. But the last two years have been uninspiring, and he's off to a terrible start after Week 1. Freeman had two delay of game penalties, he held onto the ball too long, he wasn't ready for a snap near his own goal line that resulted in a safety, he took a sack when he could have easily thrown the ball away, and was generally inaccurate. He just doesn't look like a 5th year QB.

There's no excuse. The Bucs have a good OL, with one of the best LT-LG combos in football in Donald Penn and Carl Nicks (although Nicks did not play Week 1). They have a good, young RB in Doug Martin. They have a tremendous WR in Vincent Jackson and good complimentary #2 WR in Mike Williams.

The Bucs have weapons, and Freeman flashes good ability on occasion, but it's few and far between. Freeman should be good by now, but isn't.

And now the Bucs have to play the Saints and Pats in Weeks 2 and 3. This season could potentially spiral out of control quickly for Tampa.

14) Cardinals

Last week, I had the Cardinals dead last at 16, but in watching them this week, I was reminded that at least they do have talent on defense. Calais Campbell and Dan Williams are a good duo up front, with Karlos Dansby in the middle behind them, Patrick Peterson on the outside, and a promising Tyrann Mathieu on the back end. In Week 5, the Cards will also get Daryl Washington back from suspension.

But wow is LT Levi Brown bad. Here are a few of his worst moments from last Sunday. They all look the same, but these are three different plays:

The Cardinals' offensive line is going to remain an issue all season long, like it was in 2012.

On a side note, can anyone explain to me why their kicker needs receiver gloves?

13) Panthers

So many games in the NFL come down to one play, and that's what may have happened in Carolina on Sunday. With the Panthers driving with about 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter, DeAngelo Williams got into the clear and looked like he might score:

But Earl Thomas (AKA "Not Brandon Graham") got his hat on the ball:

And Ohhhhh Noooooooo! Turnover.

The Panthers had a chance to knock off a NFC powerhouse, despite being outplayed for most of the day. Instead, on the ensuing drive, the Seahawks picked up four 1st downs, bled the clock, and yada yada yada, the Panthers are 0-1.

12) Redskins

The Eagles put it on the Skins in the first half Monday, and they're getting a lot of credit for that, as they should. But for as good as the Eagles were, the Redskins were stunningly awful. RG3 was missing passes, their defense couldn't tackle, and their RT is just flat out bad. The final score (33-27) was in no way indicative of the way that game was played, as the Skins were gifted a TD on the Eagles' first drive.

Going back to that play for a moment, the overhead look shows the best vantage point, in my opinion. Vick releases the ball a smidge behind the 9 yard line:

And Kerrigan bats it at the 9:

That is not a lateral.

There are going to be bad calls in any sport. It's part of the game. But can we do away with the "Must be conclusive to overturn" nonsense?

I think Adam Carolla has it right. The NFL should put a refereee in an isolated booth, and not allow him to watch the game. When he's needed for a review, he is shown the necessary replays, and makes a decision on the play, not knowing the call on the field. That way the call is not weighted toward whatever call was made on the field, which is a stupid premise. Just get the call right, or as close to right as possible. It shouldn't matter what the call is on the field.

Adam Corolla also believes that the referee in the isolated booth should be the gimp from Pulp Fiction which I can get on board with. This is a must listen:

Adam Carolla on the gimp referee

11) Giants

Tom Coughlin and "The Count" count the Giants turnovers:

1 turnover... Ah ah ahhhh...

2 turnovers... Ah ah ahhhh...

3 turnovers... Ah ah ahhhh...

4 turnovers... Ah ah ahhhh...

5 turnovers... Ah ah ahhhh...

6 turnovers... Ah ah ahhhh...

6!!!!! 6 turnovers!!! AH AH AHHHHHHHHHHH!

10) Cowboys

And even though the Giants had 6 turnovers, many of which were gifts, the Cowboys still almost lost.

9) Lions

The Lions beat up on a bad team, and Reggie Bush looks like he might thrive in Detroit. Still, is Jim Schwartz ever going to get this team under control? Ndamukong Suh is facing a $100K fine for an insanely idiotic low block on a play that negated a defensive TD, and Louis Delmas was flagged for taunting. The Lions had 11 accepted penalties against them which was 2nd only to the Buccaneers last week. 

Detroit is talented, but I just have no faith in the Lions' coaching staff.

8) Eagles

I think this about sums up the Eagles' Week 1 win in DC on Monday:

Concerns on the defensive side of the ball remain, but what a start to the season, as the Eagles are the talk of the NFL.

7) Rams

Since I have a whole new audience here at Philly.com, I feel that it's my duty to spread awareness of the Edward Jones Dome's "Ram Rules." Just to note, this is real: 

Ram Rules

And then there's a video the Rams players made it the 80's. The Bears made their Super Bowl Shuffle, which prompted the Eagles to make "Buddy's Watching You" and several other equally terrible football rap songs. The Rams' version is my favorite, by far. Definitely worth your time:

Ram It

My favorite lyric:

"I learned long ago that if you ram it just right, you can ram it all day and ram it all night."

While they didn't look particularly impressive against a bad Cardinals team, the Rams picked up their 1st Week 1 win since 2006.

6) Bears

Under Lovie Smith, the Bears won games because they piled up takeaways. Here is where the Bears ranked compared to the rest of the NFL during the Lovie Smith era in Chicago.

For at least the first week of the Mark Trestman era, the Bears continued on with their thievery, as they turned the Bengals over 3 times. That's probably going to continue as long as they have Peanut Tillman in their secondary. Tillman had 2 INTs this week, and he is 9 forced fumbles away from being the all-time NFL leader in that category... as a freaking cornerback. Amazing.

There is a big gap from here to the top 5.

5) Falcons

I'll drop the Falcons back behind the Saints, because, well, they lost to them. But I'm not convinced this isn't still the best team in the NFC South. 

4) Saints

There was a very interesting moment during the Saints-Falcons game in the 4th quarter. The Saints had the ball at the Falcons' 4 yard line, and faced a 4th and 2 with a little more than 3 minutes to go. They were up by 3. Here were their options:

- If they score a TD, they go up 10, and that's pretty much ballgame.

- If they don't get in, the Falcons only need 3 to tie and send it to OT.

- If they kick the FG, they're up 6, but the Falcons get the ball back with plenty of time to go back down the field the other way and score a TD.

To simplify it, the Saints had to choose between putting the game in the hands of Drew Brees... or Rob Ryan and a defense that was historically bad in 2012. They chose Rob Ryan by kicking the FG. Whaaaaaaat?!?!?

The Falcons proceeded to drive right on down with ease, and Steven Jackson had a chance to score on 3rd and goal. He was open and had a chance to make a clean catch (sorry for the blurriness):

Drop. D'oh!

The Saints then tightened up on 4th down, and that was that. Disaster averted.

3) Seahawks

That Seahawks defense is still really good. In fact, after one week, they're second in the NFL behind that legendary Tennessee Titans D:

Seattle only scored 12 points, although I wouldn't get overly concerned about that just yet. Russell Wilson looked good, and he moved the ball well, throwing for 320 yards. Plus, they played in a weird game in which they only had 8 drives:

The D is still good, and the O should be just fine.

2) Packers

The 49ers pulled away late, but here is the scoring summary from the Niners Packers game, up until the middle of the 4th quarter. Look at the back and forth nature of this game. Niners-Packers-Niners-Packers-Niners-Packers-Niners-Packers:

What a great, intense Week 1 showdown. In my opinion, the Packers are better than the Seahawks at this point, although the Seahawks-Niners Week 2 game on Sunday night could change my mind.

1) 49ers

It was fun watching our old friend Nnamdi Asomugha last week. There was a play in the 2nd quarter in which the Packers were facing a 3rd and 15. Jordy Nelson caught a little 7 yard hitch, which is what the Niners were more than happy to give up. All Asomugha has to do, at the very least, is slow Nelson down and wait for the cavalry:

But that's not our Nnamdi. He dives at Nelson with his head down, and Nelson easily side-steps him. This wasn't any kind of great move by Nelson here. He merely took a step to his left:

Nnamdi flies on by and Nelson picks up the first down:

But OK, Nnamdi aside, Colin Kaepernick is a stud, and this is the best team in the NFL.

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