With three weeks in the books, you can start to get a feel for what a number of these teams really are. I’m still unsure on a few (Saints, Eagles, Cowboys, Cardinals, etc), but I feel like I have a nice handle on others. Four teams were sent to life support.
It’s a slightly abbreviated Hierarchy this week. I’m down from the typical 2500 or so words to about 1500 this week. Apologies. Let’s just get right to it.
• Obituaries this week:
• The Graveyard:
Nobody in the graveyard yet.
• Life Support:
16) Last week I noted that the Rams may currently have the worst LT-LG combo in the NFL in Wayne Hunter and Quinn Ojinnaka. Last week the Bears’ Stephen Paea and Julius Peppers pressured Sam Bradford from that side all day. It doesn’t get any easier against Seattle, who sacked Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half in the “Fail Mary” game. The Rams suddenly find themselves in a division that is absolutely stacked with teams that have great defenses. I almost killed them off today, but we’ll give them one more week.
Last week: 16
15) The Bucs’ offensive game plan last Sunday: Run, false start, run, illegal shift, incomplete pass, punt, repeat. I will say though that one of their players is now squarely on my radar. That would be DE Michael Bennett, who absolutely dominated Doug Free and occasionally Jason Witten on Sunday. The Cowboys actually got an enormous break go their way in this game. Bennett crushed Tony Romo, who fumbled:
Eric Wright scooped:
…but the replacement refs had blown the whistle.
Last week: 14
14) The Panthers can’t tackle. They missed at least 15-20 tackles against the Saints, and just as many, if not more against the Giants last week. Giants receivers were catching passes with defenders nowhere near them. The DL gets no pressure against the pass and they were gashed in the run game by a team that hasn’t been able to run the ball in years. They’re just a mess on defense on every level.
Last week: 12
13) My Super Bowl pick is the one and only team in the NFC that does not yet have a win. Per ESPN NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas:
According to ESPN Stats & Information, since the NFL went to its current playoff format in 1990, 113 teams have started the season 0-3.
Of those 113 teams, only three have recovered to make the playoffs.
Now obviously, the overwhelming majority of those 113 teams that started 0-3 had nowhere near the level of talent that the Saints do, but 0-3 is a gargantuan hole to climb out of and the Saints have to travel to Green Bay to face a pissed off Packers team. They could be staring 0-4 in the face after this week. Just FYI, the Packers are 7.5 favorites.
Last week: 6
12) Robert Griffin III, in my opinion, is already better than one of the other NFC East starters, and really, RG3′s progression is what this season is all about. But for this season, that secondary isn’t going to stop many teams. The Skins are giving up 337.3 passing yards per game.
Last week: 13
11) After my Week 1 hierarchy I admitted I didn’t watch the Vikings-Jags game… at all. After Week 2, I admitted once again that I skipped out on Vikes-Colts, and offered up no little tidbit on them whatsoever. I was hoping I didn’t have to pay any attention to the Vikes, since they only play one NFCE team this season (the Redskins in Week 6), but they’ve ruined that plan. After they beat the 49ers this week, and with Christian Ponder seemingly playing really well, it’s time to start paying attention. I’ll be watching Vikes-Niners this week, and promise to be more prepared next week.
Last week: 15
10) Speaking of the Vikings, the Lions get them this week. Wrong time for the Lions to have to face them. The Vikings will be coming into Detroit with confidence, and the Lions have to be drained after dropping a wild one to the Titans, a team that many people were calling the worst in the NFL.
And now Matthew Stafford is injured. From a previous entry:
Quick: Name me the NFL QB that will miss at least 4 games this season. Let me guess who you picked… Michael Vick? That’s fair. However, I think there’s a candidate out there that is just as likely, if not more. That would be Matthew Stafford, for the following reasons circled below:
Also, the Lions no have running game (the trend of having to pass a lot will continue) and they have the 2nd oldest offensive line in the NFL, behind only the aforementioned Ravens. The difference is that the Lions’ OL isn’t as talented and aside from 1st round pick Riley Reiff, has nothing in the way of depth. Stafford has one healthy season in 2011 and people completely forget that he has missed 19 games in his 3 year career. Some people think that predicting injuries is dumb. I agree, but I’m going to do it anyway. My 5 most likely QBs to miss at least 4 games (of the QBs that matter) in the NFL:
- 5. Matt Schaub
- 4. Tony Romo
- 3. Robert Griffin III
- 2. Michael Vick
- 1. Matthew Stafford
The Lions are keeping quiet about Stafford’s injury, but the thinking is that it’s a hammy.
Last week: 10
Last week: 11
8) A few quick notes on the Bears D:
- They lead the league in sacks, with 14.
- 6th overall in yards.
- 6th vs the pass.
- 6th vs the rush.
- 2nd in forcing turnovers.
- 2nd in INTs.
- 3rd in fumble recoveries.
- 5th in passes defensed.
- 0 plays of 40+ yards.
Last week: 9
7) Last year the Cowboys offense was generally good, and their defense was generally bad. This year it’s the reverse. In each of the last two games the Cowboys have failed to gain 300 total yards. The defense bailed them out last week against the Bucs, and the Boys are sitting comfortably (in the standings at least) at 2-1. The OL remains a huge issue. They couldn’t block the Bucs last week, and if you include Lawrence Vickers and Jason Witten, the OL committed 9 penalties. It’s tough to win that way. They need to clean it up.
Last week: 8
6) The Eagles are the #5 offense in the NFL in yardage. They’re tied for dead last with the Cowboys in points.
Last week: 3
5) In my various Eagles-Cardinals previews, whether that be writing here, talking on my podcast or on the radio, or wherever, I couldn’t stop talking about DE Calais Campbell. After re-watching Cards-Eagles, I was blown away by how good LB Daryl Washington is. That’s assuming there aren’t two of him, in which case I’m only slightly less impressed.
Last week: 7
4) The Falcons have looked very good so far, and in a weird scheduling quirk, they have faced 3 AFC West teams so far. They’re tied with the Texans for the best point differential in the league, at +46. They’re also one of just 3 remaining undefeated teams, alongside the Cardinals and Texans. Still… I just don’t see them as being on the same levels as the Giants, Packers or Niners. The one thing that gives me pause with Atlanta is their turnover differential:
That is not sustainable. In terms of yardage, the Falcons are 19th in the league on offense, 13th in defense. When the turnovers dry up, will the Falcons continue to win?
Last week: 5
3) The Giants have gotten progressively better as the season has progressed. Is there a better passing game in the NFL right now? In my opinion, no.
Last week: 4
2) I know the Packers are 1-2 (sort of), but I’ve actually been encouraged by what I’ve seen from them this season. The Packers’ defense was non-existent last season. They were dead last in the NFL in yards allowed (411.6), but they were very good at forcing turnovers. In the playoffs they were -3, and the Giants scorched them. So far this season the defense has been great (261 yards allowed per game). However, the offense hasn’t looked anything remotely close to the dominant force they were in 2011 in route to a 15-1 regular season. I think they’ll figure it out eventually, and I think they’ll be a more complete team than they were a year ago.
Last week: 2
1) In Week 2 the Patriots lost at home to the Cardinals. Last week, the Niners lost to the Vikings. If you’re in a suicide pool and were able to navigate through that mess, my hat’s off to you. This is still the best defense in the league with a nice complimenting offense to go along with it. No need to panic after one loss. The Niners are still going to win a lot of games this season.
Last week: 1