As the midseason point of the 2013 NFL season arrives, we at fiftystatefootball.com felt it was time to take a look at all the runners and riders and assess how each team has performed so far. Check out John Wozniak’s AFC review to see how that Conference fares too! As always, feel free to get involved in the debate – either post a comment here on via Twitter: @50Statefootball, @gazbrown79, @madonsport
Dallas Cowboys 4-4; Inconsistency has plagued the Cowboys in what is a weak division – their .500 record still has them ahead of their divisional rivals. Tony Romo continues to divide opinion; sensational in the narrow defeat to Denver, he has still been criticised by some for his tendency to throw ‘poor’ interceptions. Defeats in Kansas City, San Diego and Detroit have characterised the start to their year. Still the favourites for the East title, but don’t expect much more progress into the postseason. Rookie wideout Terrance Williams have proved a bright spot, along with the play of linebacker Sean Lee.
Philadelphia Eagles 3-5; This was always going to be a season of transition in Philly, as Chip Kelly works to try and implement his high tempo offence. A bright start at the Redskins in week 1 served to be a false dawn as 3 successive defeats followed. Injuries to Michael Vick and back up Nick Foles have not helped; rookie Matt Barkley has struggled in the action that he has seen. Some initial signs of promise are now fading – and they will have to do something about their terrible home form moving forward.
Washington Redskins 2-5; The Redskins offence hinges on having a healthy RG3 at QB. When on form he offers them a different dimension and, although there have been signs of getting back to his best (before the injury at Denver), the continued presence of his knee brace must be a worry for Skins fans. 4 defeats in their first 5 games effectively scuppered their chance of a return to the playoffs; although if RG3 and the Morris/Helu jr combination at RB perform, they are capable of upsetting people on their day.
New York Giants 2-6; Back to back victories over franchises that are struggling for different reasons has put a bit of shine back into what has been a terrible season for the Big Blue. 0-6 for the first time since 1976, only the losses incurred by their divisional rivals gives them hope. Offensive woes have been their undoing – held scoreless in Carolina, the offensive line has struggled and QB Eli Manning has already thrown 15 interceptions. This is a poor Giants team that is need of severe surgery in the offseason.
Green Bay Packers 5-2; The Packers have overcome a raft of injuries to skill positions to top a (largely) competitive NFC North. Rodgers continues to excel at QB with limited weapons at his disposal and the emergence of Eddie Lacy gives them a genuine running threat. With a relatively soft schedule still to come, expect the Pack to top the North at the end of the season.
Detroit Lions 5-3; Any team that can call on the services of Calvin Johnson is always in with a shout of winning. His performances in the last two weeks against the Bengals and Cowboys have been stunning and left him mentioned in the same breath as Jerry Rice – high praise indeed. Matthew Stafford remains quietly effective and in Reggie Bush and rookie tight end Joseph Fauria he has the tools to push the Lions on. With games against Tampa Bay, the Giants, Eagles and Vikings to come Detroit has a real chance of claiming at least a Wild Card spot.
Chicago Bears 4-3; The Bears face a big struggle to stay competitive, with the news that starting QB Jay Cutler will miss several games through injury. New Head Coach Marc Trestman led the team to 3 straight wins at the start of the season, but that early promise has fallen away with 3 defeats in four; the only W coming in a close home win against the disappointing Giants. There is talent on the roster (Matt Forté, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey and Julius Peppers to name a few) but the challenge is to make sure that it is being used effectively. This has not been the case consistently.
Minnesota Vikings 1-6; After 3 close losses and a morale boosting victory at Wembley, the Vikings season has gone into free fall. Adding Josh Freeman to a confused QB situation has not helped and the inability to get the best out of talented players such Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph, Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson and Cordarelle Patterson has not made the coaching staff popular with Vikings fans. Expect major changes in the offseason, but write off the rest of 2013 as an unmitigated disaster.
New Orleans Saints 6-1; What a difference a year makes. This time last year the Saints were out of the playoff picture but 12 months on they sit pretty as comfortably the best team in their division. A vastly improved defence under Rob Ryan has taken the pressure off Drew Brees and allowed the Saints offence (and TE Jimmy Graham in particular) to flourish. The only blip so far came courtesy of a last minute Tom Brady TD toss in New England. A genuine contender this time around, but their games against the NFC West pair of the 49ers and Seahawks will prove the real test of their credentials.
Carolina Panthers 4-3; Will the real Panthers please stand up?! Crushing victories over the Giants, Vikings and Buccaneers stand alongside defeats to Buffalo and Arizona. Aside from an opening day loss to Seattle, the Panthers have had a relatively soft start to the season. If they are still over .500 in four games time then they have a shot at the postseason. Much depends on whether Cam Newton can lead his troops to wins against Atlanta, the 49ers, Patriots and Dolphins in their next 4 outings.
Atlanta Falcons 2-5; In 2012 the Falcons swept all before them en route to a tough defeat in the NFC Championship game. This time around, hampered by injuries and loss of form, they are already out of realistic contention for the postseason. With the Seahawks, Packers and 49ers still to play, life without Julio Jones, Steven Jackson and Roddy White is not getting any easier any time soon.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-7; Only the fact that the Jaguars have played a game more prevents the Buccaneers from ‘boasting’ the worst record in football. The very public spat between coach Greg Schiano and QB josh Freeman resulted in the latter’s departure and left the Bucs with untried Mike Glennon at the helm. Performances and results have not improved and with tough games still to come it appears the Jags have real competition for the first pick in the 2014 draft.
Seattle Seahawks 7-1; A combination of a tough and imposing defence, a solid set of players on skill positions and a seemingly unflappable QB in Russell Wilson has ensured the Seahawks remain the front runners in the NFC. Impressive against the much fancied 49ers, the Seahawks have found a way to grind out tough wins when not performing; the sign of a champion team? Their week 13 and 14 match ups with the Saints and then the 49ers at Candlestick loom large on the horizon and will help shape their postseason. Defeat in Indianapolis at the hands of Andrew Luck will give opponents a better idea of how to get that all important win. The introduction of Percy Harvin to their roster after injury could give them a big boost.
San Francisco 49ers 6-2; After a sensational opening day win over the Packers, things seemed to be going wrong in San Francisco. With Colin Kaepernick struggling, envious glances were being made by some at Alex Smith in Kansas City. But defeats against the impressive Seahawks and Colts aside, the 49ers continue to show every sign that they intend to go one better this time around. 5 consecutive wins, capped off with a trouncing of Jacksonville at Wembley, see them heading into their bye week on a roll. With Mario Manningham and, potentially, Michael Crabtree still to return the 49ers look strong. Games against the Seahawks and Saints will prove vital.
Arizona Cardinals 4-4; It is safe to say that the Cardinals have had an up and down season, as their .500 record suggests. 3 of their 4 defeats have come against the NFC power houses of the Saints, 49ers and Seahawks whilst they recorded an impressive win over the Lions in week 2. Turnovers continue to haunt Bruce Arians’ first season in Phoenix, with QB Carosn Plamer throwing for 14 picks in their first 8 games. With return games against the 49ers and Seahawks in the last two weeks of the year and the visit of the Colts to come too, a .500 finish could be seen as success.
St. Louis Rams 3-5; The Rams were dealt a tough blow with the news that QB Sam Bradford will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. With little depth in the QB position much will depend on whether or not Jeff Fisher wants (or is able) to add an experience veteran to his roster. Rumours of attempts to persuade Brett Favre out of retirement apparently fell of deaf ears. Aside from the week 16 game against the Bucs, the Rams schedule is tough. Even if they can improve at QB and get rookie WR Tavon Austin involved more frequently, don’t expect them to climb off the bottom of this division.