After 8 Weeks in the NFL, here are my grades for each team in the NFC. Enjoy and feel free to comment!
1. Dallas Cowboys (4-4) – C. The Cowboys have been average at best this season and the reason is because of their defense. They have the worst pass defense in the NFL and an average run defense (17th). Offensively, Tony Romo is doing well with the passing attack, but the running game is decimated by injuries and little production. The saving grace for Dallas is they are in the NFC East, arguably the worst division in the NFL.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) – C-. It was difficult to grade the Eagles because their offense has disappeared, but the defense has emerged. Vick is injured and out, Foles has concussion symptoms, and that leaves Matt Barkley as the current QB. Barkley is far from the QB you want running Chip Kelly’s offense. Still, the defense is starting to play well and the Eagles are only a game out of first in the NFC East. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to stop the slide in Philadelphia.
3. Washington Redskins (2-5) – D. We knew it would take time for Robert Griffin III to get used to playing, but the defense for the Redskins is what is truly ailing them. They rank 28th in pass defense and 29th in rush defense. In addition, they have given up at least 27 points in six of the seven games. A long way to go for the Redskins, but they are only a game and a half out of first.
4. New York Giants (2-6) – F. This season has been a disaster for the Giants. Eli Manning has turned the ball over constantly, the offensive line is not protecting him, and there is no running game. The defense has looked lost and gave up at least 27 points in the first six games. The last two games have been better as they Giants have won, but they were facing Minnesota and the Eagles. I am not sold on the Giants recent winning trend, but they are only two games out of first place.
1. Green Bay Packers (5-2) – B+. The Packers have shown a lot in the first half of the season. For starters, the Packers have found a running game that has been missing for the last several seasons. In addition, the Packers continue to click on offense and defense in the last two plus games without James Jones, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley, and Clay Matthews. Watch out for this team in the 2nd half.
2. Detroit Lions (5-3) – B. The Lions are becoming a dangerous team in the NFC. The last second win at home against Dallas coupled with two away wins shows that the Lions can win late and take their show on the road. My only concern is they have not beaten a really good team yet (losses at Green Bay and home to Cincinnati) and when Calvin Johnson is out, they are too predictable.
3. Chicago Bears (4-3) – C. In a reversal of the norm for Chicago, the Bears have been really good on offense and poor on defense. The loss of Jay Cutler will hurt the Bears on offense, but they have the pieces in place to help Josh McCown in Cutler’s absence. The main concern is the defense that ranks near the bottom of the NFL (27th in pass defense and 24th in rush defense). The next three games for the Bears will decide which way their season goes.
4. Minnesota Vikings (1-6) – F. For a team that made the playoffs in 2012, this kind of start is unacceptable. They have not won a game in the U.S. (their win against the Steelers was in London) and their defense is porous. Then there is the quarterback situation. Christian Ponder was not getting it done, so they threw Matt Cassel into the fire and he did not fare any better. Then the Vikings decide to pick up Josh Freeman who looked like a deer in the headlights on Monday Night Football against the Giants. How can a team with Adrian Peterson at running back look so inept on offense?
1. New Orleans Saints (6-1) – A. This Saints team looks different from previous Saints teams. Yes, Sean Payton is back and that cannot be underscored, but the difference is the Saints have a good defense. The defense is not giving up lots of yards and points and is actually tackling. The only chink in the armor is that game at New England when they gave up a TD in the final minute. Look out for them down the stretch.
2. Carolina Panthers (4-3) – C+. Is Carolina for real? I believe they are for real when you look at their games played. The have only played one awful game (at Arizona in Week 5), but played Seattle and Buffalo tough in the first two weeks of the season. Their last three games have been impressive, albeit against Minnesota, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay, but I see a team that is building confidence, especially on offense. I am not saying they will make the playoffs, but they will be close.
3. Atlanta Falcons (2-5) – D. Yes the Falcons have been decimated by injuries, but this team has looked horrendous on defense and where is the running game? Outside of Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez, this team does not look good at all. The losses of Julio Jones and Roddy White have led to predictability on offense which has hurt the Falcons. This season has been a disappointment after making the NFC Championship game last year.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7) – F. I am not sure where to start with the Buccaneers. Greg Schiano appears to have lost the team, got into a public spat with his former QB Josh Freeman, and the offense is nowhere to be found. Injuries to Doug Martin and Mike Williams have not helped, but the offense did not look good when they weren’t injured. They are slowly sliding into Jacksonville Jaguars territory with their ineptness. Which week does Greg Schiano get fired?
1. Seattle Seahawks (7-1) – A. We knew the Seahawks would be good, but what really makes them special is they have taken their game with them on the road. Seattle really struggled the past few seasons on the road. Even their lone loss at Indianapolis was still an impressive game. Another thing that impressed me was their ability to play well with the suspensions to their defensive secondary to start the year. Look out if they get homefield.
2. San Francisco 49ers (6-2) – B+. The 49ers struggled to start the year and Colin Kaepernick did not look comfortable. The 49ers went back to their bread and butter of the power run game and have won five in a row. With Crabtree coming back in a few weeks, this offense will get better. Yet another NFC team to watch out for.
3. Arizona Cardinals (4-4) – C. Arizona is a tough team for me to figure out. They are great at home (3-1) but struggle to take their game on the road (1-3, only win is at Tampa Bay). The defense is strong, but I feel the Cardinals need a little more on offense. Unfortunately for the Cardinals is they are in the tough NFC West.
4. St. Louis Rams (3-5) – C-. The Rams have been a bit disappointing this year after finishing 7-8-1 in 2012. Offensively, they have not had a running game and their top pick Tavon Austin has not shown the explosiveness that we saw in College. Now, Sam Bradford is out for the year and it looks like things will be getting worse on offense. The defense has been good at times this year, but they have not been consistent enough. Tough times ahead for the Rams.
Grade Letters Distribution
Below is the distribution of each letter grade given out to NFC teams.
A – 2 (New Orleans, Seattle)
B – 3 (Detroit, Green Bay, San Francisco)
C – 6 (Arizona, Carolina, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, St. Louis)
D – 2 (Atlanta, Washington)
F – 3 (Minnesota, New York Giants, Tampa Bay)