Monday, December 22, 2014

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 2

With another week in the books, the overall picture in the NFC is starting to become more clear. Let's just get right to the hierarchy, with a familiar Eagles rival now manning the low spot on the totem pole.

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 2

Washington coach Mike Shanahan watches his team get blown out by Green Bay. (Tom Lynn/AP)
Washington coach Mike Shanahan watches his team get blown out by Green Bay. (Tom Lynn/AP)

With another week in the books, the overall picture in the NFC is starting to become more clear. Let's just get right to the hierarchy, with a familiar Eagles rival now manning the low spot on the totem pole. 

16) Redskins

If you take away the Redskins' garbage gift fumble return TD Week 1, the Redskins have been outscored 50-0 in the first half this season. In fairness, the Skins are awesome at putting meaningless points on the board in the second half, making final scores not look as bad as their actual play. At least RG3 hasn't re-torn his ACL yet... so there's that.

Here's the Skins defense summed up in one play. Aaron Rodgers dumps off a little nothing pass to TE Jermichael Finley:

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Reed Doughty goes ankle diving, misses the tackle:

Then Josh Wilson goes ankle diving, misses the tackle:

Then Bacarri Rambo tries something that vaguely resembles a tackle attempt, but whatever it was, he misses the tackle:

And Finley is finally brought down 25 yards from where the original tackle should have been made:

Cut. Print. Awful.

15) Vikings

The Vikings were the beneficiaries of four Bears turnovers, one of which was a fumble they returned for a TD. They were also staked to an immediate 7-0 lead after a Cordarrelle Patterson TD on the opening kickoff. And they still lost to an average-ish team. Not good.

14) Buccaneers

The Buccaneers lead the league in penalties:

Penalties happen, but it's the nature of the Buccaneers' penalties that are troubling. They've committed a staggering 9 personal foul / unsportsmanlike penalties. That's a complete lack of discipline. Greg Schiano may not be long for the NFL.

13) Panthers

The Panthers' secondary is in shambles. They lost starting safety Charles Godfrey for the season with a torn Achilles, and four other members of their secondary have yet to practice this week. They are Josh Thomas (concussion), Josh Norman (sprained MCL), Quintin Mikell (ankle) and DJ Moore (knee).

There's a perception that the Panthers are playing good defense because they've only allowed 36 points on the season. However, they're 26th in yards. The Panthers' Week 1 game against Seattle in which they held the Seahawks to 12 points was a little flukey, as the Seahawks only had 8 drives (scoring on 3 of them).

But this is not a good defense, and it's further weakened by their injuries in the secondary.

12) Lions

Take a look at the Lions' starting field position last Sunday in Arizona:

Their average start was at the 14.7 yard line, and their best starting field position was the 21 yard line. The Lions were outplayed on special teams, as they were all last season. It's tough to win games that way.

11) Cardinals

Carson Palmer has actually looked very good at times for the Cardinals. At other times, he has looked like this. Still, Palmer is an upgrade over what the Cards were rolling with last year in Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley.

Their offensive line is also functional, which is an enormous step up from the horrid mess they were in 2012. The Cardinals aren't going to be able to hang with opposing offenses who can light up the scoreboard, but they won't exactly be an easy out either, as the Lions found out last Sunday.

10) Giants

What are yards per point?  Put simply, it’s a team’s offensive yardage (or defensive yardage allowed) divided by the number of points scored (or given up).  The lower the number of “yards per point” on offense the more efficient that team is as far as maximizing their offensive production. The higher the number of yards per point on defense, the more the defense is making the offense work for whatever they get. It's a statistic I like to look at as a barometer of how efficient teams are in some of the less obvious areas of the game.

There are many factors that go into having a low “yards per point” total, like red zone efficiency, special teams play, penalties, etc.  But by far and away, the biggest difference maker is turnover differential.

In 2013, the Giants are dead last in the NFL in turnover differential, at -8. In 2012, they were +14.

In 2013, their "yards per point" allowed are the lowest in the NFL, at 9.7. In 2012, their "yards per point" allowed was 17.8, which was the 5th highest in the NFL.

In other words, the Giants' extraordinarily high rate of turnovers is leading to easy scores for opposing offenses. The bad news is that they're 0-2. The good news, however, is that they're only one game behind the co-leaders in the weak NFC East. If they can clean up the turnovers and stop allowing gift points, they could still be in a decent position to win the division.

9) Cowboys

When the Cowboys drafted Travis Frederick with a 1st round pick, it was a terrible use of resources. However, at the very least, Frederick was going to be an immediate upgrade over former starting center Phil Costa. Costa could not anchor, as DTs were often able to push him right back into Tony Romo. With Frederick, the Cowboys have themselves a center who will be able to anchor far better than Costa ever could, which would give Tony Romo the pocket integrity he so desperately needed.

Welp... turns out that instead of pushing him back into Romo's lap, DTs like 346 pound Dontari Poe are instead running around him:

Soooo... yeah... same old Cowboys OL.

8) Eagles

Turn back the clock 2 weeks. If I were to tell you that the Eagles' defense would be bad, possibly as bad as some people expected, but the Eagles had...

 

  • The NFL's leading rusher
  • The NFL's leading receiver
  • The #2 offense in the NFL
  • The 3rd most points scored in the NFL
  • The 2nd most yards per play
  • A +3 turnover differential
  • A 1-0 record in the NFC East
  • A division in which the combined record of the other 3 teams is 1-5

 

You'd probably sign up for that, right?

7) Rams

The Rams were behind 24-3 to the Falcons at the half last Sunday. That would have meant game over for the Rams of the last decade, as they simply didn't have any legitimate firepower on offense to make a run. This Rams team is different. They've invested heavily in offensive skill position players over the last 4 drafts, and are now flush with very intriguing young talent. Here are the ages of all the Rams offensive skill position players with at least 30 snaps this season:

The Rams scored 21 second half points and at least made it interesting. This is a group that can grow together, build chemistry, and be really good in a few years. Not to mention... the Rams have 2 first round picks in 2014 from the RG3 trade, and that pick from the Redskins might be a high one.

6) Bears

Last week I mentioned the Bears' propensity for creating turnovers on defense, and singled out Peanut Tillman:

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.

The Bears forced 3 more turnovers against the Vikings on Sunday, and their "other CB" is pretty good at making things happen too.

Tim Jennings led the NFL in INTs with 9 last season. He already has 2 FFs and a pick 6 in 2013.

5) Falcons

The Falcons jumped out to a fortunate 24-3 lead at halftime, and they still passed on 72.9% of their plays on the afternoon. Why? Because they can't run it. Take away a 50 yard run by Steven Jackson Week 1 against the Saints, and the Falcons averaging 2.55 yards per carry. That's not good enough for a team that thinks it's a Super Bowl contender. They are going to need more balance.

4) Saints

The Saints were out of timeouts and at the mercy of Buccaneers kicker Ryan Lindell, who was lining up for a 47-yard FG, which would have put the Bucs up by 4, and likely would have required the Saints to drive the length of the field in less than a minute and score a TD to win it. Lindell missed, and then expreesed his anger:

The Saints then proceeded to drive down into FG range and kick the game winner. The Saints are 2-0 with 2 wins within the NFC South, but their near loss to a really bad Bucs teams is alarming, even on the road, at least for a team that a lot of people think could be a force in the NFC this season.

3) Packers

In 2011 Jordy Nelson had 68 catches for 1263 yards and 15 TDs. It was a breakout season for him in a year the Packers went 15-1. Nelson was hampered by injuries in 2012 and only put up 49-745-7.

Nelson is back. Through two games he has 10 grabs for 196 yards and 3 TDs. Meanwhile, Randall Cobb has 16 catches for 236 and 2, and James Jones has 11 catches for 178.

Those 3 WRs are on pace for the following numbers:

Again, "on pace for..." statements are completely unrealistic projections, or they wouldn't be made in the first place. Still, when that trio of WRs is clicking, they're going to be extraordinarily difficult to stop.

2) 49ers

In the first half against the Seahawks, the Niners had 7 drives, which yielded 48 yards and -2 points. That looks bad in paper (or the Internet, or whatever), but in watching the game, the Niners looked like they were being bullied by the Seahawks D. That was very surprising to see.

1) Seahawks

The Seahawks have given up 10 points this season. 28 teams have given up at least 10 points in one quarter this season. And now they face the woeful Jaguars. After emphatically handling the 49ers Sunday night, the Seahawks are clearly in the driver's seat in the NFC.

And they have perhaps the most entertaining trash talker in the NFL:

I'm one of those "ignorant idiots" who picked the Niners, but in my defense, I did go 13-3 last week, Richard.

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