NFC Overview: Week 4

After three weeks of football, I think it is finally appropriate to analyze each team’s progress and future path with three performances to critique.  The NFC is shaking out to be a very competitive conference with many teams sitting at 2-1 or better.  Read below to find out how I see each division playing out, as well as a preview for Week 4. Finally, in the end, I will provide a power ranking for each team in the conference.

NFC NORTH

I think it is only fitting, to begin with the NFC North because of its combined record of 9-2-1.  Every team looks like it could make a run for the playoffs.  Although some teams may have executed and performed better in some games, I think we can get a true sense of each team’s identity heading into Week 4.

1. Green Bay Packers (3-0)

Heading into the season, Green Bay was holding its breath as new coach Matt LaFleur was beginning his tenure as the leader of one of the NFL’s most coveted franchises.  Of course, there has been some drama regarding Aaron Rodgers in the past few seasons on his coachability, but thus far that doesn’t seem to be an issue. After three games, the Packers are undefeated and their defense is leading the way.  The offense has had some forgettable moments (The ugly win in Week 1 at Chicago) but it seems to be trending in the right direction.  Being 2-0 in the division is certainly an added bonus to this unbeaten start, and they will look to improve to 4-0 on Thursday Night Football as the Packers will host the Eagles who have gotten off to a rocky start themselves.  I predict the Packers to win against a beat-up Eagles squad who is having difficulty on the defensive side of the ball.  Look for the Packers to get an early lead and coast.

2. Detroit Lions (2-0-1)

WOW! What a start for the Lions.  Coming into the year I don’t think many people expected much from this team, but they have proven everyone wrong. At times, they have looked sloppy (4th Quarter against the Cardinals Week 1, and Most of the game against the Chargers) but at the end of the day, they have beaten two playoff teams from a year ago, and have been able to withstand late-game pressures. Matthew Stafford looks solid again this year, and the team is playing well in the early parts of the game, which was often a problem in recent seasons.  This week the Lions host the Chiefs.  Although it seems like a daunting task, I think the Lions are a pesky team that could hang around for a little in this game.  In the end, I expect the Chiefs to remain undefeated and the Lions to fall to 2-1-1, which is by no means a failure considering their early-season opponents.

3. Minnesota Vikings (2-1)

The Vikings look like a playoff team. They have dominated the Falcons and Raiders at home, but in between, they fell to the Packers at Lambeau.  Although they need to improve their ability to play on the road, the Vikings defense is once again looking dangerous, and Dalvin Cook has returned to his rookie form.  Kirk Cousins, however, still leaves questions about his ability to be a reliable quarterback each week in the NFL. Upcoming, the Vikings travel to Chicago where a very important road divisional game awaits.  As good as the Vikings may seem, if they fail to win road games, especially in the division, they could be a team that misses out on a playoff spot with a seemingly worthy record.  All that said, I don’t think the Vikings will be able to pull out a victory against the Bears this week.  The game being at 3:25 pm will only add more pressure to Kirk Cousins who can simply look overwhelmed when he faces pressure, and I expect the Bears to be very hungry to win at home after their Week 1 letdown.

4. Chicago Bears (2-1)

The Bears came into this season with Super Bowl aspirations. After adding pieces to an already stellar defense (HaHa Clinton-Dix) the Bears seemed like they might be on their way to just that.  Although being 2-1 isn’t bad, the Bears have certainly left room for improvement on the offensive side of the ball.  Third-year quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky showed some signs of development and growth last season but hasn’t been able to put together a complete performance.  His play on Monday Night Football against the Redskins was the best it has been, but he still threw a poor interception in the endzone and missed some rather simple throws.  I like the Bears to win this week against the Vikings, but the only way for them to accomplish that is with a good performance from Trubisky. 

NFC WEST

The NFC West is another strong division with a combined record of 8-3-1.  The Rams look like they are definitely capable of returning to the Super bowl. The Seahawks and 49ers have good records but haven’t beaten any team with a winning record yet. Although the Cardinals have a poor record, they have shown positive signs with a rookie quarterback.

1. Los Angeles Rams (3-0)

The Rams are coming off a solid win in Cleveland on Sunday night.  The most promising part of the Ram’s performances up to this point is the fact that Todd Gurley hasn’t gotten going.  He still has much more to offer in this fire-powered offense, which is benefitting immensely from the return of Cooper Kupp.  The defense looks solid yet again, and I expect them to handle the Buccaneers rather easily this Sunday before a tough Thursday Night Football matchup with the Seahawks in Seattle. A return to the Super Bowl certainly seems possible if things continue this way.

2. San Francisco 49ers (3-0)

The 49ers look like the team everyone expected last season before Jimmy Garoppolo got injured. The offense is producing very well even with injuries and uncertainty in who the top receiver is. The biggest concern at this point is the quality of the opponents they have faced. Combined, the Buccaneers, Bengals, and Steelers are 1-8. This Monday the 49ers host the Browns who are still trying to find themselves as well. Nonetheless, a Monday night win at home to improve to 4-0 will surely boost their stock and put them into serious playoff talks.

3. Seattle Seahawks (2-1)

The Seahawks hosted the New Orleans Saints last Sunday who were without Drew Brees. Even so, the Saints dominated that game. Although the final score was 33-27, the game was over halfway through the third quarter. With their two wins coming against winless opponents, (By slim margins) I still cannot tell if the seahawks will be true playoff contenders. They have a divisional game at Arizona this Sunday which they most likely will win, but I think the Seahawks’ true colors will show next Thursday against the Rams.

4. Arizona Cardinals (0-2-1)

The Cardinals will not make the playoffs this year. The focus is all on developing Kyler Murray and preparing him for important games in November and December for seasons to come. Coach Kliff Kingsbury was criticized for not exploring enough with Murray in the first few weeks. In week three Murray looked overwhelmed at times in the second half against the Panthers, and turnovers killed any chance of pulling out the victory at home. As disappointing as it may be for a Cardinals fan, every young quarterback needs games where they perform poorly because it motivates them for weeks to come. I am excited for this team’s future with Murray at the helm.

NFC EAST

1.Dallas Cowboys (3-0)

The Cowboys look unbeatable right now. Dak Prescott has shown up this season. The move for Amari Cooper gets better with each game he plays, and Zeke is…being Zeke. The defense is strong, and the Cowboys have cruised to every win easily. The strong start is nice, but this Sunday night they will travel to play the Saints in New Orleans. This is the most intriguing matchup this week, but I am leaning slightly towards the Saints at home. Even still, the Cowboys look to be on their way to winning the NFC East again.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)

The Eagles are in a tough spot. after three games they are 1-2 and have a difficult road game in Green Bay on Thursday. Starting out 1-3 was not on the agenda for anyone in Philadelphia, but maybe this game could turn everything around. They haven’t looked particularly sharp in any game. The offense is banged up and the defense can’t keep teams out of the endzone. If a 1-3 start is the case, the panic meter will be tapped out.

3. New York Giants (1-2)

The Giants have entered the Daniel Jones era. Week 3 marked Jones’s first start in a Giants uniform and boy did he show up. Although a missed field goal from the Bucs ultimately decided the game, it would be hard to imagine the Giants in that position with Eli Manning under center. No disrespect to Eli, I believe he will be in the hall of fame someday. For now, he should either find a team who needs another quarterback or just retire. This week I think they will easily handle the redskins and be 2-2. As for the Giants season, I don’t expect them to make the playoffs but they should be much more fun to watch and be competitive each week.

4. Washington Redskins (0-3)

Jay Gruden should be sweating after Monday night. The Redksins did not show up at all, Case Keenum turned the ball over 5 times, and the “boos” were out early and often. Dwayne Haskins should be ready at any moment because at this point they have nothing to lose. The lone bright spot has been rookie receiver Terry McLaurin. He has made an instant impact and scored a touchdown in each game. Things only get worse as the ‘Skins travel to New York to face Daniel Jones in his first home game.

NFC SOUTH

1.New Orleans Saints (2-1)

The Saints got robbed last year in the NFC Championship. With most of the team returning, reaching the Super Bowl is almost the expectation in New Orleans. Everything was on course until Drew Brees broke his thumb and needed surgery which sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. The game against the Rams wasn’t pretty and losing Brees just added insult to injury. The bounceback against the Seahawks was impressive, but another tough test against the Cowboys awaits this Sunday. Although Brees is crucial to the Saints’ success, I think they will stay afloat and then capture the division after his return.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)

The Bucs do look improved under Bruce Aryans. Jameis Winston looks more like himself and although they had a tough loss to the Giants Sunday, I wouldn’t be surprised if they won 7 or 8 games this season. The winning, however, might have to wait a few weeks as road games against the Rams and Saints are up next.

3. Atlanta Falcons (1-2)

The Falcons are a tough team to figure out. After a poor performance week 1 against the Vikings, they responded with a hard-fought, dramatic victory against the Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Week 3 however, they could not secure a road victory against the Colts on the road and are now at 1-2. This week they travel to Houston to play a tough Texans’ defense and Deshaun Watson and Deandre Hopkins. I truly think the Falcons are better than their record, but that doesn’t mean much in this league. Each week is a crapshoot and you have to execute to earn victories.

4. Carolina Panthers (1-2)

I have lost all faith in Cam Newton. Even before his injury in week 2 he looked awful. Kyle Allen, on the other hand, seized his opportunity, and after an impressive win in Arizona, some people are saying there could be a quarterback competition in Carolina. I know it seems impossible that a former MVP could have his job at stake, but this is an unforgiving league and winning is the most important. If that isn’t being done, then changes will be made. Carolina hosts the Jaguars this Sunday and has a good chance to get back to .500.

NFC POWER RANKINGS

  1. Los Angeles Rams
  2. Green Bay Packers
  3. Dallas Cowboys
  4. New Orleans Saints
  5. Minnesota Vikings
  6. Detroit Lions
  7. Seattle Seahawks
  8. San Francisco 49ers
  9. Chicago Bears
  10. Atlanta Falcons
  11. Philadelphia Eagles
  12. New York Giants
  13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  14. Carolina Panthers
  15. Arizona Cardinals
  16. Washington Redskins

 

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