Seemingly every year, there's a team that has 10 or more wins that really isn't good, then crashes back down to earth the following season. That's the magic of the NFL and its 16-game season.
The 2009 Bengals went 10-6. The 2010 Bengals went 4-12.
The 2010 Buccaneers went 10-6. The 2011 Bucs went 4-12.
The 2011 Lions went 10-6. The 2012 Lions went 4-12.
The 2012 Vikings went 10-6. They may very well only win 4 games this year.
13) The Washington team (1-4)
Washington's defense stinks, but it actually played decent football Sunday night against a dangerous Dallas attack. It was their offense and special teams that let them down. On the eye test, Robert Griffin III looks absolutely nothing like the dynamic player he was in 2012, and the numbers support it.
Washington hosts the Bears at home and then has to go get spanked in Denver the following week. If they drop the home game to the Bears, we'll have 2 NFC East teams that are pretty much done-zo for the season.
12) Falcons (1-4)
The Falcons are tied for the fewest turnovers in the NFC, with 5, and they have the 2nd fewest penalties, with 27. They're not even making many mistakes, meaning that there's less to improve upon, and they're 1-4 anyway. That's not very encouraging for a team that thought they were Super Bowl contenders.
11) Rams (3-3)
Sam Bradford has thrown 13 TDs and 3 INTs, which is great and all, but he has a yards per attempt average of 6.17, which is 31st in the NFL. Taking care of the football is important, but he's beginning to remind me of another 1st overall pick who almost never connects for big plays down the field, Alex Smith.
10) Panthers (2-3)
The Panthers are a bit of a statistical oddity. They're 2-3, but they're 6th in the NFL in point differential, at +41. The reason why their point differential is a little skewed is because they blew out both teams we eulogized today, the Giants and Vikings.
Still, this is a team with a good defense, and a very talented QB. If Cam Newton can be more consistent, Carolina could compete for a wildcard spot.
Taking a quick peek at which teams are likely to be wildcard teams, you'd probably have to pencil in the Niners or Seahawks in the NFC West, and one of the Bears/Lions/Packers in the NFC North. The Panthers' next 2 opponents are the Rams at home, followed by the Bucs on the road. Carolina has a great opportunity to close the gap a bit.
9) Cardinals (3-3)
Carson Palmer has thrown 7 TDs, 11 INTs, and has a QB rating of 69.3. I know they have a good defense and all, but how is this team 3-3?
8) Eagles (3-3)
For the second consecutive week, the Eagles have the NFL's Offensive Player of the Week. Last week it was DeSean Jackson. This week it's Nick Foles. I think we all know what that means for Week 7. Clear off a space on your mantle, Allen Barbre. You're next.
7) Cowboys (3-3)
Who's the Cowboys' #2 receiver? Miles Austin, right?
Nope. "Hamstrings" Austin is fading into the distance, but the Cowboys look like they might have a new legit receiver on the rise. That would be rookie Terrance Williams. His numbers the last 3 games: 13 catches, 249 yards, 2 TD. If you'll recall the "Geno Smith game" last season against Baylor, it was basically Terrance Williams vs. West Virginia:
Williams can stretch the field, with Jason Witten and Dez Bryant working underneath.
6) Lions (4-2)
In 2011, the Lions had the highest pass:run ratio in the NFL, throwing on 67.06% of their plays. They also led the NFL in the same category in 2012, at 66.29%. This year they are more balanced, at 61.69% (11th in the NFL). As a result, they've only given up 9 sacks this season, which is tied for 2nd best in the NFL. It's amazing what a little balance will do.
5) Bears (4-2)
Last week the Bears finished off the Giants. This week, they can finish off Washington. Finish them!
4) 49ers (4-2)
Vernon Davis is one of the most gifted players in the NFL. There just aren't many people on this planet who weigh 250 pounds and can run a 4.4 40. And yet, for some reason, Davis' production is sporadic. When he's playing well, the 49ers are very difficult to handle, and Davis is beginning to play well. Over the last two games, Davis has 268 receiving yards and 3 TDs. That's right around half of his production in all of 2012, when he had 548 receiving yards and 6 TDs.
The Niners are on a 3-game win streak, albeit over weaker opponents. Still, they are beginning to get back on track after a few eyebrow-raising games against the Seahawks and Colts, in which they were bullied.
3) Packers (3-2)
The Packers have traditionally been superb in the red zone. This year, they're tied for dead last in the NFC in red zone efficiency with the Eagles, at 45%.
That seems kind of flukey. Aaron Rodgers is far too good for that number to remain that low. The Packers are 3-2, and are only going to get better. This might be the best team in the NFC.
2) Saints (5-1)
The Saints stopped the Patriots twice late, putting Drew Brees and Company in a position to bang out a first down or two to wrap it up. But the Saints offense gave Tom Brady three chances to score, which he eventually did, and the Saints are no longer undefeated. Plus, the Saints' loss gave us this glorious moment:
Frustrated Rob Ryan gifs are gifts from God.
1) Seahawks (5-1)
Heading into this season, I thought the NFC was a lot better than the AFC. I'm not so sure about that anymore. I'm certainly not in love with the Seahawks as the best team in the conference. They should have lost to the Texans, but were bailed out by the awfulness of Matt Schaub, then they lost to the Colts, and eeked out a very sloppy win over the Titans at home. Still, who else can you put here? I'll stick them at 1 by default. There are no elite teams at the moment in the NFC.