NFC Updated Standing Predictions

Posted: 11/05/2014 by levcohen in Football

Before the year, I predicted what record every team would end up with. With the regular season roughly halfway done, I’m going to give updated record predictions, starting today with the NFC.

NFC East:

1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5): Preseason prediction: 10-6… The Eagles’ season has gone basically as I thought it would. Mostly through the easy part of their schedule, they are 6-2 and in first by a half-game over the Cowboys. They’ve done it without stellar quarterback play, and now they’re going to have to do it with a new quarterback: with Nick Foles out with a broken collarbone, it’s up to Mark Sanchez to lead this team to the playoffs. That might sound ominous, but it’s really not that bad, as Sanchez at worst won’t be much worse than Foles was this season. Apart from the question mark at quarterback, the rest of the team looks pretty good. Jeremy Maclin is having an insane year, as he’s matched DeSean Jackson’s numbers from last year and then some. Aside from Todd Herremans, who while serviceable is the worst member of the offensive line, the offensive line is returning to health, with Jason Kelce back last week and Evan Mathis set to return this week. It’s shocking how poor the run game has been, but it’s bound to get better. Meanwhile, the defense has actually been pretty good, or at least better than expected. The pass defense still needs help, but the run defense is very solid. Meanwhile, the special teams has been a true difference maker; led by newcomers Darren Sproles (the punt returner) and Cody Parkey (the kicker), it has been arguably the best special teams in football. This looks like a playoff team, albeit one with a few tough games remaining (two against Dallas, one at Green Bay, one against Seattle).

2. Dallas Cowboys (9-7): Preseason prediction: 5-11… I’ll admit that I was wrong about the Cowboys, who I had finishing 5-11 before the season started. But I still don’t think they are going to make the playoffs. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I have them finishing the season with just three wins in their last nine games after starting the season 6-1. There are a few reasons I think the Cowboys will miss out, with the largest being Tony Romo’s back. I’ve always thought that Tony Romo is among the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s been given a label that he just can’t shake, even as he wins comeback game after comeback game. Without him, the offense isn’t good enough to carry a below-average defense, especially since five of their final seven games are on the road. After Jacksonville this week, there isn’t an easy game left on Dallas’s schedule.

3. New York Giants (7-9): Preseason prediction: 7-9… This is basically the team I thought the Giants would be. It’s a team with talent, but it’s also among the more inconsistent teams in the NFL. The offense has generally been good, but got shutout by the Eagles and have averaged just 14.6 points per game in five losses compared to 35 points per game in three wins. The defense has been atrocious, as it’s one of the five worst in the NFL in yards allowed per game. This doesn’t look like a playoff team.

4. Washington Redskins (6-10): Preseason prediction: 8-8… At 3-6, Washington’s playoffs hopes are gone, and there has been more Robert Griffin and Dan Snyder controversy. This isn’t a team I want to talk about, especially since they just lost a game to Minnesota they really should have won.

NFC North:

1. Green Bay Packers (11-5): Preseason prediction: 11-5… After a 1-2 start, the 5-3 Packers look like the team we all thought they would be. They have a tremendous quarterback and great receiving options paired with an oft-disappearing run game (maybe that wasn’t expected) and a defense that is serviceable. They are a game behind the Lions right now, but I think they should still be favored to take the division. With five home games in their final eight, the Packers, who have won their three home games by an average of 20 points, look set to go on a nice run after a blowout loss in New Orleans before the BYE.

2. Detroit Lions (10-6): Preseason prediction: 6-10… Another team I was wrong about before the season. In particular, I was wrong about the Lions’ defense. While the offense has been about what I thought it would be- inconsistent and Calvin Johnson-reliant- but the defense has been miles better than I thought. In fact, it’s been the best in football so far this year, thanks to a ferocious pass rush and a pass defense that’s giving up only 216 yards per game along with their league-best run defense. I think they’ll go 10-6 and make the playoffs, but a week 17 loss to Green Bay will keep them from winning the division.

3. Minnesota Vikings (8-8): Preseason prediction: 7-9… This is going to end up as a pretty good season for the Vikings, who probably aren’t going to end worse than 7-9. Off the field, of course, is a different story, with the Adrian Peterson fiasco casting a large shadow over this Minnesota team. But at 4-5 and coming off consecutive wins, this team looks like they have a foundation they can build on. Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t been great, but he has potential at quarterback. Jerick McKinnon looks like a keeper at running back, Cordarrelle Patterson has shown flashes, and the defense has been surprisingly solid. They’ve beaten the teams they were supposed to beat (St. Louis, Atlanta, Tampa, Washington) and lost to the teams they have no business beating (New England, New Orleans, Green Bay, Detroit, Buffalo). The good news is that four of their last seven games fall into the first category, which is why I think they end at 8-8.

4. Chicago Bears (6-10): Preseason prediction: 10-6… The Bears are a mess. Their offense, which has all the pieces to succeed, hasn’t exceeded 28 points all season and is averaging 22.5, while the defense just gave up 51 points to the Patriots. They are going to need to make changes after the season, because this nucleus of players hasn’t worked.

NFC South:
Just know that I’m intentionally not writing much about this division. It’s really bad.

1. New Orleans Saints (10-6): Preseason prediction: 12-4… It hasn’t been pretty, but the 4-4 Saints are pretty much NFC South champions. Already. Five of their final eight games are at home, and 9-7 would likely win the division. I think they go 10-6 and win comfortably.

2. Carolina Panthers (6-9-1): Preseason prediction: 7-9… The Panthers are bad, but with a very easy schedule, I could see them ending up at 7-8-1. This isn’t a playoff team, though.

3. Atlanta Falcons (5-11): Preseason prediction: 7-9… The Falcons are kind of like the Panthers. They are bad, but their remaining schedule is extremely easy. That’s not a coincidence, as Carolina and Atlanta play each other twice in the final eight weeks.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13): Preseason prediction: 8-8… They were a popular pick to win a wildcard before the season. That isn’t looking very good right now, as this team is 1-7 and has just reinstalled Josh McCown as their starting quarterback. To me, this is the worst team in football.

NFC West:

1. Arizona Cardinals (12-4): Preseason prediction: 9-7… They won’t end the season 15-1, but the only remaining one-loss team in football is a legitimately good team. They’ve somehow managed to maintain their defensive identity despite a multitude of injuries, as they are the best blitzing and among the best run defending teams in football, which has helped negate poor cornerback play from Patrick Peterson and Co. so far. They still have five division games left, and I have a feeling they’ll lose two or three of those, but I still think they end up as the NFC’s #1 seed and have a good shot at going to the Superbowl, which happens to be in Arizona this year. The offense has been big-play reliant, but it has gotten those big plays pretty consistently. They could end up being underdogs in their first playoff game, but at least there will be a playoff game for last season’s unluckiest team.

2. Seattle Seahawks (10-6): Preseason prediction: 12-4… This Seattle team has been really, really disappointing. Since their bye week, they’ve won by 10 against Washington, lost (at home) by seven against Dallas, lost by two in St. Louis, defeated Carolina by four, and won by just six at home against the winless Raiders. I still think they’ll make the playoffs, thanks mostly to the fact that the 49ers have also struggled. With Percy Harvin gone and Marshawn Lynch stuggling, though, the offense looks flat while the defense, while still good, is nowhere near their 2013 level. Whereas before the season it felt as if they’d cruise to a first round BYE, they now have a real fight on their hands. It will be interesting to see how they respond.

3. San Francisco 49ers (8-8): Preseason prediction: 9-7… I consider this among my best preseason calls. I was very low on the 49ers heading into the year, and it appears as though I should have been even lower on a team that has made three straight NFC Championship games. The injuries have been bad, but let’s not let the healthy players off the hook. For the most part, the offense has been pretty healthy, and it’s been really disappointing. They scored just 10 points in last week’s home loss against the Rams, and Colin Kaepernick has regressed rather than building off last season as the 27-year-old was supposed to. Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, this team’s BEST weapons in the passing game, have disappeared for some reason. This feels more like the dysfunctional Cowboys than the 49ers, which makes 8-8 that much more believable.

4. St. Louis Rams (6-10): Preseason prediction: 7-9… Poor Rams. After coming off an exhilarating win over the 49ers, the Rams now get to look forward to games against… Arizona, Denver, and San Diego. So instead of looking ahead to some easy games, they are staring at 3-8. I really don’t think this is a terrible team, but poor quarterback play and a really bad offense puts a damper on last week’s defensive breakout.

Updated playoff seeds:
1. Arizona Cardinals
2. Green Bay Packers
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Detroit Lions
6. Seattle Seahawks

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Comments
  1. dpcathena says:

    Proving that it is easier to forecast half a season than one game, I guess

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