Reevaluating Each NFC Team After Five Weeks

Posted: 10/10/2013 by levcohen in Football

Five weeks is quite a large sample size, as teams have played between 25% (the six teams who have already had a BYE) and 31% of their seasons. With that in mind, it’s time to look back at the record projections I gave to each NFC team before the season and revise them.

NFC East:

1. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): The Cowboys are a 2-3 football team right now, which is probably what they should be. Tony Romo is a very good quarterback, but there will always be questions about him late in the game. Their schedule is really easy though, as they still have five games against the division to go along with home games against Minnesota and Oakland. Their only really tough games are against Detroit, New Orleans, Green Bay, and Chicago, and even if they lose all four (two are at home), they can easily go 8-8 and win the division.
Preseason Projection (7-9)– third in division

2. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9): Football Outsiders has the Eagles as the fifth best offense in football but in the bottom five in both defense and special teams. That’s no surprise in the slightest, and neither is the fact that FO has them as the team with the second highest variance in the NFL behind only the 49ers. The Eagles, at 2-3, haven’t really proven much, and I don’t think they will make the playoffs (they really needed to win at home against the Chargers).
Preseason Projection (7-9)– fourth in division

3. Washington Redskins (5-11): The Redskins are 1-3, and that looks even worse given that their schedule has actually been pretty easy to this point, with home losses against the Eagles and Lions and a road win against the Raiders. They’re about to enter the make or break part of their schedule, with trips to Dallas and Denver and a home tilt against Chicago. They could easily lose all three of those games and be looking at a 1-6 record.
Preseason Projection (9-7)– first in division

4. New York Giants (3-13): Three wins for the Giants? Yep. It seems to me like their team has totally given up on them, and you can only say “I can’t imagine the Giants at 0-whatever” for so long. This is a dysfunctional team and you’d better believe it.
Preseason Projection (8-8)– second in division

NFC North:

1. Green Bay Packers (11-5): The Packers are 2-2, but they look just as good as I thought they would be before the season. Football Outsiders has them as the sixth best team in football, slightly ahead of the division rival Bears. Aaron Rodgers and that receiving core alone should be worth double digit wins, and although the defense has been pretty shaky so far this season, they showed huge signs of improvement against the Lions normally explosive offense, holding the Calvin Johnson-less team to nine points.
Preseason Projection (10-6)– first in division

2. Detroit Lions (10-6): The Lions are actually very solid, and much better than I thought they would be, especially at home. They’ve played very well at home, and I think they can go at least 6-2 at home, in which case they only need to steal two more wins on the road (they already have a win in Washington) to have a good shot at a wildcard bid. And they’ll have plenty of chances, with road games in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh. In fact, they only have one tough road game left; at Chicago.
Preseason Projection (7-9)– third in division

3. Chicago Bears (9-7): The Bears started the season with three wins, but they’ve crashed back to earth with back to back losses. I think this is the type of team they are. If they can force turnovers, they are a really tough team to beat, but if they can’t, it’s easy to expose their glaring flaws (like the defensive line and lack of pass rush) and handle them. Which is what the Saints did last week. Another issue is that the defense doesn’t look the same as last year’s defense, which was the best in the NFL. They gave up a boatload of points to struggling QB’s like Christian Ponder and Ben Roethlisberger, which is really not good.
Preseason Projection (9-7)– second in division

4. Minnesota Vikings (5-11): My six wins for the Vikings prediction in the preseason doesn’t look so bad now, does it? The Vikings have played four games and just have a win over the terrible Pittsburgh Steelers to hang their hats on. And it doesn’t get any easier. They still need to play the Packers twice, as well as a sure loss in Seattle, a likely loss in Cincinnati, and a game in Baltimore, which is a really tough place to play. They have a brutal schedule.
Preseason Projection (6-10)– fourth in division

NFC South:

1. New Orleans Saints (12-4): And the Saints might top 12-4. They are 5-0 right now, and while teams always have to be terrified of Drew Brees and the offense, the defense should also really scare teams now. The Saints haven’t given up more than 18 points in a game this year, thanks to new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan (it really pains me to say that) and players like defensive end Cameron Jordan and a DROY candidate in safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Preseason Projection (10-6)– first in division

2. Carolina Panthers (8-8): I know, I know. I said I wouldn’t get sucked back in by the Panthers, and I’m really not. They are 1-3 right now, and I don’t think they are very good. But the rest of the division is just so bad, with the Falcons minus Julio Jones and the Buccaneers minus any real offense. The Saints are running away with this division.
Preseason Projection (8-8)– fourth in division

3. Atlanta Falcons (6-10): The Falcons have gotten really unlucky, with a lot of close losses and injuries. They are really close to being 5-0, which is pretty hard to believe and accept given that they are 1-4, but each of their losses came down to one play. I actually wanted to give them more wins, but the schedule is really tough, and I think that five or six wins is the most likely scenario. In any case, I’m happy I wasn’t too high on them in the preseason. It turns out I was right on that, which is surprising.
Preseason Projection (9-7)– second in division

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): They are 0-4, and have a pretty tough schedule. They have a rookie, and not a very good one at that, at starting quarterback. The defense is solid, and they do have a couple of nice offensive weapons, but overall, this team has been very, very disappointing, and I think they will continue to be.
Preseason Projection (8-8)– third in division

NFC West:

1. Seattle Seahawks (13-3): They are 4-1 right now, and are just as good as we thought they would be, with just a six point loss against the Colts as a blemish. And their schedule for the rest of the season might be the easiest in the NFL. Their toughest games are at San Francisco and home against New Orleans, and if they go even 1-1 in those games, 13-3 should be easily attainable.
Preseason Projection (11-5)– second in division

2. San Francisco 49ers (11-5): The 49ers have actually not been great so far this year, as they have been very consistent and they haven’t game planned around Colin Kaepernick, which they really need to do. Kaepernick isn’t Alex Smith, people. He is much, much more explosive and can do so much more than just run a boring offense, which is what they are running so far. I expect Jim Harbaugh to finally figure that out. And they’ve already gotten tough games (at Seattle and against Indy) out of the way, so they have an easier schedule ahead.
Preseason Projection (11-5)– first in division

3. Arizona Cardinals (8-8): How about the Cardinals! They’ve already played three road games and are 2-0 at home, so this team isn’t fading any time soon. Plus, while the schedule looked really difficult at the beginning of the year, home games against Atlanta, Houston, and St. Louis now look really winnable. This team could well be .500 at the end of the year and playing meaningful games in weeks 16 and 17. And while they play the 49ers in week 17, the Niners might already have clinched the first Wildcard spot and may be resting their starters, which could give the Cardinals an unexpected win.
Preseason Projection (6-10)– fourth in division

4. St. Louis Rams (6-10): Unfortunately for the Rams, they might have the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL. They still have all three road games against their tough division left, as well as @Houston, Indianapolis, and pesky Carolina, who has one of the top three defensive teams in the NFL. And their home games out of division include against Chicago and New Orleans. This looks like the worst team in the West.
Preseason Projection (8-8)– third in divisionWildcards:
49ers (11-5)
Lions (10-6)In the Hunt:
Bears (9-7)
Cardinals (8-8)
Panthers (8-8)Eliminate Them Already!
Giants (3-13)
Vikings (5-11)
Buccaneers (4-12)
Rams (6-10)

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