Throughout the season, we’ll be updating this, and adding the “obituary” section as well for those teams whose seasons are pretty much over. I thought it would be fun to get the first installment on record, pre free agency, and look back on it later as the season progresses. We’ll do one again after free agency shakes out, and once after every week of the season. So without further ado, the first installment of “Obituaries, and the hierarchy of the NFC.”
Panthers – Starting over
New head coach, new QB, and its two best offensive players (DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith) may be leaving town. If Cam Newton somehow finds a way to win 5 games, he could be the Rookie of the Year.
Redskins – (Hopefully) Blowing it up
This time last year, the Redskins were the oldest team in the NFC East in 10 of 13 categories that I identified. That would have been fine if they had a roster capable of competing for a title, but obviously, they didn’t. They opted to go all in last offseason, continuing the ugly pattern of trading away draft picks for aging, declining vets, which backfired, as usual.
I praised their draft this year and think they’re moving in the right direction. As free agency approaches, it’ll be interesting to see if they continue to overpay for players that aren’t going to get them over the hump (with the hump being miles away), or if they are committed to patiently building a winner.
The entire NFC West – Junk
Last year the NFC West sent a team to the playoffs that was totally undeserving. They even got a home game. The same thing is going to happen this year. The Rams are getting better and the Cardinals would be instant favorites in my eyes if they trade for Kevin Kolb, but I don’t really want to give this division any more attention than it deserves.
Lions – Tap the breaks
Much like the Texans and 49ers of recent years, the Lions are THAT TEAM this year that everyone is overrating. I get it. They sucked so famously for so long that it’s almost kind of fun to root for them. And now they have some legitimate star players. Calvin Johnson is a star. Ndamukong Suh is already a star after just one year. Coach Jim Schwartz has given his defensive line a nickname. They finished the season with 4 straight wins. They had a fantastic draft. I get all that. But let’s not get crazy. This team still has holes galore, particularly along their OL, and is still at least a year, maybe 2 away from legitimately competing for anything close to a SB run.
Vikings – Darkhorse
Nobody’s talking about the Vikings, but let’s not forget that they still have no shortage of impact players on a really good defense, and a running attack that still features one of the best 2-3 RB’s in the game. Back in the day, that’s all it took sometimes to win the SB. It’s different now, obviously, but if they can sign a QB like Matt Hasselbeck or Donovan McNabb while Christian Ponder sits and watches for a year, I see no reason this team can’t make some noise in the NFC North this season. On a side note, on a recent trip to Vegas I bought the Vikes at 9/1 to win the NFC North.
Cowboys – Better than their 6-10 record of a year ago, but by how much?
It looks like I’ve found my annoying theme that I’ll harp on for a while with the Cowboys this offseason – Not franchising Doug Free was insanely stupid. Free was the ONE free agent that the Cowboys absolutely, positively could not afford to lose, and by not tagging him, Jerry Jones stands to lose either his only good young offensive lineman, or they’re going to have to give him a monster deal. The OL, even with Free, remains a major point of concern for the Cowboys in ’11, a unit that couldn’t give the Cowboys’ QB’s enough time to throw the ball down field or open up holes in the run game. They also have major holes in the secondary and defensive line, and will have trouble finding ways to pay even “band-aid” type players that can help, due to the cap hell they created.
Stephen Jones is going to have to work some major miracles on the payroll.
Buccaneers – Tap the breaks, Part 2
Golf clap to the Bucs for going 10-6 last year. What a great job Raheem Morris did with that group last year, coming out of nowhere to win 10 games in 2010. This is a nice young team with what looks to be a legitimate NFL QB in Josh Freeman, and from the admittedly limited chances to see these guys play last season, I was impressed. Still though, I just look at this roster and can’t help but feel like they too are a year or two away.
Giants – “Shorting”
From Wikipedia: Short (finance)
In finance, short selling (also known as shorting or going short) is the practice of selling assets, usually securities, that have been borrowed from a third party (usually a broker) with the intention of buying identical assets back at a later date to return to the lender. It is a form of reverse trading. Mathematically, it is equivalent to buying a “negative” amount of the assets. The short seller hopes to profit from a decline in the price of the assets between the sale and the repurchase, as the seller will pay less to buy the assets than the seller received on selling them. Conversely, the short seller will incur a loss if the price of the assets rises. Other costs of shorting may include a fee for borrowing the assets and payment of any dividends paid on the borrowed assets. “Shorting” and “going short” also refer to entering into any derivative or other contract under which the investor profits from a fall in the value of an asset.
Going short can be contrasted with the more conventional practice of “going long”, whereby an investor profits from any increase in the price of the asset.
If the Giants (as a football team within this hierarchy) were a stock on the open market, I’d be shorting the S*** out of them. For me, it begins and ends with their old and declining OL. Throw in the fact that the Giants are strapped for cap space, have a boatload of their own key free agents to re-sign, and I don’t see how they can improve in free agency. This is a team that is on the decline. This time next year, we may be talking about them as a team in the bottom half of the NFC.
Bears – Solid offense, solid defense, but nothing special
Fix your field, a-holes.
Falcons – Not as good as they think they are
How many receivers currently playing in the NFL are worthy of (2) first round picks, a second round pick, and (2) fourth round picks? I could probably be convinced to give up that kind of bounty for an Andre Johnson, but I think that might be it. The Falcons clearly think they’re just one player away from winning it all, because that’s what they gave up to select Alabama WR Julio Jones. Did they already forget what Aaron Rodgers did to their defense in the playoffs? The Falcons are more than just a player away.
Eagles and Saints – A notch below the Packers
Scary-good offenses, holes on D. The Saints grabbed two players in this draft that should contribute immediately in Mark Ingram and Cameron Jordan. Both teams should be looking to add pieces to the D in free agency, particularly the Eagles.
Packers – The champs
Best team in the NFL.