Heirarchy of the NFC – Week 0

Throughout the season, we’ll be updating this, and adding the “obituary” section as well for those teams whose seasons are pretty much over.  We got the first installment on record back in June, pre free agency.  We’ll do one every week of the season, but since all the 3rd preseason games (the dress rehearsals) are in the books, I figured we’d update prior to the start of the actual season.  Here we go:

Panthers – NKOTB.

They kept their best free agents (DeAngelo Williams, Charles Johnson, and Ryan Kalil), and hung onto Steve Smith.  It looks like Cam Newton is the starter from Day 1, as he should be.  Let the kid take his lumps.  And you know what?  He’s going to make a lot of plays.  This team won’t be anywhere close to as bad as they were in 2010, but they still won’t be good.

Can anybody name a major strength on this team?

I can’t.  It looked like the Seahawks were going to be able to create mismatches with their size in the passing game:

– Sidney Rice – 6’4, 202

– Mike Williams – 6’6, 235

– Zach Miller – 6’5, 255

– John Carlson – 6’5, 251

Unfortunately, they lost John Carlson for the season with a torn labrum.  Even more unfortunately, their QB this season is Tarvaris Jackson.  Don’t get me wrong – I like Tarvaris Jackson.  I just like him as a backup.  When in doubt, throw it high, Tarvaris.

By the way, the NFC West has 3 weeks to produce a winning record.  If they’re all 1-2 or worse after Week 3, I’m not even going to waste my time (or yours) with them – They’ll all be lumped together.

Redskins – Defense will be waaaay better.

I count 5 upgrades, 6 if you factor in that Brian Orakpo keeps getting better.  I’m kinda bullish on the Skins lately.

2010 2011
LDE Adam Carriker Adam Carriker
DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu Barry Cofield
RDE Kedric Golston Stephen Bowen
LOLB Lorenzo Alexander Ryan Kerrigan
LILB London Fletcher London Fletcher
RILB Rocky McIntosh Rocky McIntosh
ROLB Brian Orakpo Brian Orakpo
LCB DeAngelo Hall DeAngelo Hall
SS LaRon Landry LaRon Landry
FS Kareem Moore OJ Atogwe
RCB Carlos Rogers Josh Wilson

But still… John Beck.

Rams – The blind love for Sam Bradford is already getting annoying.

Sam Bradford’s rookie season can be broken up into 3 different stretches – Early struggles, excellent progression, and disappointing finish.  Here’s what I mean:

Sam Bradford Comp Att Yards TD INT Rating
Games 1-5 115 203 1159 6 8 66.51
Games 6-11 135 210 1307 11 1 97.06
Games 12-16 104 177 1046 1 6 63.43

It’s been so long since there’s been a great rookie QB that legitimately played really well for a full season, and I think some people go a little overboard in proclaiming a guy “the next great QB” as so many have done with Sam Bradford.  Bradford is no doubt on the right track.  I like his arm, I like his intangibles, he seems to be a good kid, yada yada yada.  Most importantly, he’s shown unmistakable flashes of great QB play… But is it premature to have him earmarked as a sure-fire Top 5 QB someday?  Very.  Matt Ryan already has an completely (and comically) undeserved nickname that he didn’t bring upon himself, but is now scoffed for.  Don’t do the same to Sam Bradford – Let the kid play and see how he pans out before creating ridiculous expectations.

Niners – After limping through 6 terrible seasons with (and without) Alex Smith , the only sensible thing to do was to bring him back for a 7th… obviously.

Yeah, yeah, I know… Colin Kaepernick.  We’ll see.

Turf Show Times put out a list of the top 10 players in the NFC West.  Aubreyo Franklin left via free agency, so we won’t count him, but 4 of the remaining 9 were Niners.  And the list somehow didn’t even include Frank Gore.  Two things here:

1 – That’s fine and good that the Niners have some nice talent, but again… for me, it comes down to one thing – QB.  And they don’t have a competent one right now.  OK, so I guess Alex Smith could be considered “competent.”  Hmmm… So what’s a better word?  I don’t know, I guess I’m just not good with… you know… words.  But Alex Smith is just not… you know… good.

2 – It’s kinda funny.  If you look at that list above, and you put those guys in the NFC East, only two of them (Larry Fitz and Pat Willis) would be in the top 10.  The same could probably be said for the NFC South and NFC North.  Maybe Justin Smith sneaks in one of the divisions?  Not sure, but holy cow, what a mess that division is.

Cards – Kevin Kolb!

If you’ve read my work for the past year or so here or at Bleeding Green Nation, you know that I’m as big a Kolb believer as anyone on the planet… probably too big of a believer.  I have the Cards at 40-1 to the win the NFC this year.

Bears – Underachiever spending spree

Can anyone explain to me what the Bears were thinking when they watched game film of Roy Williams and Marion Barber?  Did they even bother watching the film?  What in the hell did they see?  Seriously.  Please email me at jimmy@bloggingthebeast.com if you can formulate a reasonable explanation with what they could have seen in those two players, who appear to be a big part of their offensive plans this season.  Meanwhile they’re demoting Johnnie Knox, a far better player than RW, and they’re shipping Greg Olsen away for peanuts.  Cutler, Forte, RW, Hester, and Kellen Davis (Is that their starting TE? Seriously… Do I have that correct? I really don’t know)… behind that bad OL.   How is this team going to score?

Not so out-on-a-limb prediction: The Bears won’t be the 2 seed again this season.

Cowboys – Taking a step back (rightfully)

I think Dallas Morning News reporter Rich Gosselin said it perfectly:

On the decision to rely on youth this season:

You have no choice. If you stay with Davis and Columbo (sic) and Gurode and Brooking and Newman, you’re looking at 7-9 or 8-8 again this year, and then you’re pushing two years further down the road. By starting it now, at least they see the back end of Romo’s window has a shot at winning a Super Bowl and being a Super Bowl contender. If you try to tread water with the older guys this season, you’re just getting older and you’re getting worse. So whenever you start rebuilding, add two years, and I think that’s where Tony Romo sits. And at 33 or 34, they think he can still win for them.

Gosselin is of course talking partly about the fact that the Cowboys are going to begin the season with 3 OL starters that have played a combined 109 snaps in the NFL.  They still have a very talented core – the “core 7 .5,” if you will – you know the names.  But with no depth at almost every position on the roster and below average starters surrounding the talented core, this team is simply not built to contend for a Super Bowl as currently constructed.

Lions – OMG! Matthew Stafford is coming back!

A funny thing happens with traditionally good teams and traditionally bad teams.  People try to poke holes in the goods teams’ rosters and try to make arguments why they won’t be good, ignoring their strenghts.  Conversely, they try to point out the strengths of the bad teams and try to make an argument why they’ll be good, while ignoring the mountain of weaknesses.  The Lions are Exhibit A.  Peter King has them going 10-6.  Really?  10-6?  A few points:

– Complete lack of a running game in 2010 that didn’t get any better.

– The QB has missed 19 games the past two seasons, and has a career passer rating of 67.1.  Let’s not pretend that he’s suddenly going to be a major upgrade to Shaun Hill.  Obviously, Stafford is the long term answer and hopefully becomes the face of the franchise, but Hill-to-Stafford is probably a downgrade in the short term, at least early in the season.

– Major holes in the secondary.

– Major holes along the OL.

– Despite that really good DL, they still couldn’t stop the run last season (24th in the league).

So go ahead and waste your 7th round pick in your fantasy league on Stafford, or go ahead and predict they’re going to go 10-6.  It’s fun, I get it.  And I should note here that I reeeeaaaally like what the Lions are doing and have 100% faith in Jim Schwartz.  But you’re wasting your time.  Maybe in 2012.

***I should also note that I think the Cowboys are better than the Lions, but have the Lions higher because of the opposite directions each team is headed.

Vikings – Better than people are giving them credit for.

You know, this team isn’t really that far removed from the team that was one “Favre being Favre” INT away from going to the Super Bowl in ’09.  There’s been some turnover, but a lot of what made that team great is still in place.  Bought them at 9-1 to win the NFC North – Steal.

Giants – M*A*S*H unit

Just go here.

Buccaneers – Missed opportunity

The Bucs were an emerging team that had like… a kagillion dollars under the cap, and did nothing in free agency.  Nothing.  What a major disappointment.

Falcons – Not as good as they think they are

Here’s what I wrote last time about the Falcons:

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.

OK, so with that caveat in place, I expected them to add some pieces in free agency.  They signed Ray Edwards, which was a nice addition.  Alright, one down… Who else did ya get?  Oh.  Just Edwards?  So that was your entire offseason?  Julio Jones and Ray Edwards?  No re-signing Harvey Dahl?  No OL help… at all?  Nothing for the back end on D?

Alright, so it’s not all bad in Atlanta.  It’s actually very good.  They do still have one of the most skilled sets of offensive players in the NFL with Matt Ryan, Roddy White (just an awesome player), the legendary (although fading) Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner, and of course the aforementioned Julio Jones.  But this team is not on the level of the big 3.

Eagles – Expect a very rocky beginning, but a strong finish

That OL scares the hell out of me with the two rookies right next to each other at C and RG.  I still don’t quite understand the decision to start Jason Kelce over Jamaal Jackson.  Give me the 20-year-old babysitter that leaves a mess in the kitchen and talks on the phone all night over the 11-year-old kid that lives down the street, seems like she genuinely likes (and will pay attention to) your kid, but also has the much higher risk of leaving the hair dryer a little too close to the bath tub.

Otherwise (and feel free to nitpick the LBs and rookie K/P tandem if you’d like), this team is loaded from top to bottom.  It might take some time to gel, but with all that talent, I just find it far too hard to believe this team is going lose too many games.  They’ll need to win/survive the games they should win early in the season, but again… that OL… (pulls on collar for some air).

Saints – Might be better than their Super Bowl team of 2009

It’s basically the same team, with a few changes:

Super Bowl year (2009) 2011
RB2 Mike Bell Mark Ingram
Utility RB Reggie Bush Darren Sproles
TE Jeremy Shockey Jimmy Graham
C Jonathan Goodwin Olin Kreutz
SLB Scott Fujita Will Herring
FS Darren Sharper Malcolm Jenkins
DT Remi Ayodele Shaun Rogers
LDE Charles Grant Turk McBride

Give me the guys on the right side, please.

Packers – The champs

Best team in the NFL.

6 Comments

  1. […] the last installment (Week 0 hierarchy), I noted that the Redskins upgraded 5 positions on the starting defense, and it showed […]

  2. packimop says:

    Nice work Jimmy. Thought the 49ers should be lower than the Rams. That’s about it.

  3. Gary says:

    “A funny thing happens with traditionally good teams and traditionally bad teams. People try to poke holes in the goods teams’ rosters and try to make arguments why they won’t be good, ignoring their strenghts. Conversely, they try to point out the strengths of the bad teams and try to make an argument why they’ll be good, while ignoring the mountain of weaknesses.”

    This is so unbelievably true.

  4. Euler says:

    Bucks should be lower and Dallas should be higher. I agree other than that.

  5. PE says:

    Thanks for being reasonable with the Lions. I know that they’re improved, but some people seem to think they have a legitimate shot of winning the NFC North. How!? GB is still amazing, and even if Rodgers got hurt, Flynn seems like a nice backup QB to have. Then you have the Vikings, who I think are at least decent, and the Bears don’t suck either. Lions can only make the playoffs with a WC spot AT BEST.

    1. Euler says:

      I think they have the talent to be a wildcard team. However, they’re kind of stuck in a really hard division. Calling them to win it is just delusional though.

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