Week 12 of the NFL season is in the books. We have no new obituaries to write this week, but things are starting to get very interesting in the NFC playoff race.
10) Packers (5-5-1)
The NFC North isn't good. The Packers, Lions, and Bears were heading into Week 12 playing 3 teams with a combined record of 9-23. None of them won.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy categorized Aaron Rodgers' chances of playing on Thanksgiving as "slim to none."
It's crazy how bad this team has become without Aaron Rodgers. They were 5-2 with him, 0-3-1 and terrible on the eye test without him. In baseball, there's a statistic called "WAR," or "wins over replacement." From Fangraphs.com:
WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” This value is expressed in a wins format, so we could say that Player X is worth +6.3 wins to their team while Player Y is only worth +3.5 wins.
According to Fangraphs.com, the Angels' Mike Trout led the majors with a WAR of +10.2 in 2013. What would Aaron Rodgers' WAR be if the NFL played 162 games like in baseball? 80?
9) Bears (6-5)
Remember when the Bears' defense was good? It's not anymore. They're dead last in the NFL with 145.2 rushing yards allowed per game. Even worse, they've played 7 teams that are ranked 20th or worse in rushing offense:
The Eagles are the #1 rushing offense in the NFL. They may just match up well against the Bears Week 16 this season, for a change.
8) Lions (6-5)
The 2012 Lions led the NFL in percentage of plays that were passes, at 66.29%. That team went 4-12. Throughout the 2013 season, the Lions had done a much better job of being balanced, but they reverted back to their old ways the last two weeks. Matthew Stafford attempted 46 passes in each of the Lions' last two games. If you omit Stafford scrambles, they ran just 22 times in each game. That's a pass % of 67.6%, and it wasn't as if the Lions had deficits in those games that would require them to throw a lot to catch up quickly.
The NFL is a "passing league," but you need balance. I respect Matthew Stafford as a good NFL QB, but if you're throwing 46 passes per game and you're not named Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, or Tom Brady, etc., bad things are going to happen. And bad things did happen. Stafford was picked 5 times and Lions lost both games to bad teams.
7) Cowboys (6-5)
By now, you've probably all seen Cowboys DT Jason Hatcher mocking Jason Pierre-Paul's "there will be blood" trash talk prior to the Cowboys-Giants game last week. In case you haven't, you can see it proudly displayed on the Cowboys' website.
What's funny is that the blood thing was pre-meditated by Hatcher:
Spurred on by Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul saying New York would “put it on” the Cowboys and “there’s going to be a lot of blood spilled out there,” Hatcher brought a bottle of fake blood with him to the stadium for a little post-Halloween fun.
When the media rushed into the Cowboys locker room after Dallas’ last-second win, Hatcher had smeared the fake blood all over his face.
That's great and all, I guess, if you can get yourself to overlook that the Giants' 25th ranked rushing attack gained over 200 yards on ground, and that the Cowboys have given up more than 475 yards 5 times this year, as well as 600+ yards twice.
6) Eagles (6-5)
Like Andy Reid for so many years in Philly, Chip Kelly is undefeated in the NFL after the bye week.
5) Cardinals (7-4)
Only 5 teams have turned the ball over more than the Cardinals. It's hard to imagine how this team is 7-4 despite that fact. However, only 3 teams have forced more turnovers than the Cardinals defense, which helps explain it.
Cardinals games are wild, in terms of turnovers. With the exception of the careless Giants, the Cards have been involved with more total turnovers in the NFL than any team in the NFL:
4) 49ers (7-4)
The Niners completely shut down the Redskins Monday night in what was an impressive win. However, the Niners have major issues with their offense, which has been in a funk since they came back from their bye week. If you look at the yards the Niners have gained in their last 3 games and compare it to the number of yards those 3 opponents have given up on average this season, there is a huge difference:
The Niners have to figure out how to move the ball more efficiently if they have any hopes of a playoff run, if they even make the playoffs... at all.
3) Panthers (8-3)
I've been on the Panthers' bandwagon for quite some time, as their defense is absolutely tremendous. However, when you get to 8-3, that's when people will start to poke holes in your team. For me, the most alarming statistic about the Panthers is just how impotent their offense is in terms of big play ability. The Panthers have 6 fewer gains of 20+ yards than any other team in the NFL:
Note who #1 on that list is.
2) Saints (9-2)
The Saints are rolling. They smashed the Cowboys Week 10, beat the Niners Week 11, and took care of the Falcons in a sneaky-tough divisional game. They head into Seattle Monday night in a huuuuuuuuge game. Nobody wants to have to play in Seattle or New Orleans, and this game could ultimately determine which team earns home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Saints' potent passing attack will be catching the Seahawks in a vulnerable state.
1) Seahawks (10-1)
The Seahawks are reportedly losing CB Walter Thurmond for 4 games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and CB Brandon Browner for a year for a second violation of the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs. Ouch.
This has been a huge problem in Seattle since Pete Carroll took over as the head coach in 2010. Since 2010, if you include Thurmond, the Seahawks have lost players to suspension 9 times for violating the NFL's drug policies. Nine times? Nine times.
Here they are. Note that they've had at least 2 every season:
• 2010: LenDale White, Leroy Hill
• 2011: John Moffitt, Vai Tuau
• 2012: Allen Barbre, Winston Guy, Brandon Browner
• 2013: Bruce Irvin, Walter Thurmond, Brandon Browner (pending)