Analyst such as myself work hard in the NFL Offseason. Though it may not look like it, dart boards are actually not the primary tool used to do the gig. We actually pour over reams of stats data, pay attention to offseason workouts, injuries, signings, trades, draft choices, coach hirings and team competency to asses how clubs are likely to perform in the coming season. Fresh off a tryptophan high and looking at where we are at this juncture of the 2016 NFL season I’m thinking the viability of the dart board method needs to be looked at closely again.
There are things one learns to rely on in life. The sun comes up in the east, the Dallas Cowboys are a .500 team and the NFC North is one of the toughest divisions in football. We know these things. We cling to them as constants in a world where little can make sense. It’s reassuring to know when you get up in the morning those things will “be.” Ahhh, life is good. Life is peaceful. Life is consistent. Until it’s not.
The NFC North is a combined 15- 29-1. Let that sink in for a moment. For those who don’t want to do the math that’s .300 football being played by one of the toughest, nastiest divisions in the history of the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers sit atop the division tied at 6-5. Then the Cincinnati Bengals at 3-7 and the Cleveland Browns at 0-12 flesh out the bottom. The best the division has to offer are barely above .500. The Bengals were (again) supposed to be tearing up the league and the Browns … well, ok. You got me there. They are the Browns.
The Green Bay Packers are at 4-6 with the 2-9 Chicago Bears looking like the better team. Putting Jay Cutler on the IR will do that for a club. Green Bay has to wonder if it’s Aaron Rodgers family life, drinking or perhaps he’s lost his zest for the game? Regardless something needs to change in Wisconson. That usually begins with the coaching staff.
No one saw this coming. The NFC North really has no explanation for the Detroit Lions QB Mathew Stafford having a career year or the club being on top of the division. Enjoy the ride if you’re a Lions fan. You’ve earned it.
The NFC South is watching the Atlanta Falcons playing football in November like they normally do in September and they look good doing it. Completing the flipping of the script last years Super Bowl also-rans show no signs of getting over one of the biggest post-bowl-hangovers of all time with the Carolina Panthers sitting at the bottom of the division at 4-7. Cam Newton looks fragile and the once ferocious defense is more kitten than big cat on the prowl.
Least East has every team at .500 or better with the Dallas Cowboys leading the entire league at 10-1. The New York Giants are at 8-3 and the Washington Redskins are victims of their own division self-abuse holding down the fort at 6-4-1 and eyeing a wild card berth. Even Philly with a rookie QB and no WR’ers is at 5-5. No team in the NFL wants to play the NFC East in December. Most of all each other.
Right Side Up
The San Diego Chargers are at 5-6 and a team nobody in playoff contention wants to meet in December. The club is talented, poorly coached, wracked with injuries, has a shyster for an owner and has found ways to lose games they have to coin new terms for. Yep. The Chargers are doing their annual WTF??? slide into mediocrity. There really is no scientific answer for it other than it starts at the top. I will let that statement sit and marinate for a bit.
In the 2016 preseason the Jacksonville Jaguars had former number one picks coming back from injury, an incredible draft haul (on paper) and a new lease on AFC South life. That was then, this is now and the Jags look like … well, the Jags.
The New England Patriots are at 9-2 sitting atop the AFC East. Ok, that’s the norm, why is this strange? After starting the season with All-World Tom Brady on the bench for the first four games versus the Cardinals, Dolphins, Texans and Bills the team was forced to start inexperienced QB’s, rookie QB’s and WR QB’s to take three out of four to start the season. Brady comes back, puts on his QB pants and picks up right where he left off, dominating the league. A club isn’t supposed to be able to do that in today’s parity driven NFL. They just aren’t. Did I mention Bill Belichik is the coach? Just checking.
The Seattle Seahawks are (again) a tough, physical, well-coached football team sitting atop the NFC West at 7-3-1. Hard-nosed defense, inspired QB play, nasty RB corps and a rejuvenated Jimmy Smith at TE. What’s not to like? A 5-14 loss to the Tamp Bay Buccaneers in Week 16 is added to a list of puzzling performances for the season. Which team is going to show up on game day? The confident, dominant Seahawks or the team that looks like it’s been infected by a virus from the San Diego Chargers game day gremlin? The entire NFC West division is a head scratcher actually. I get the Los Angeles Rams and San Franciso 49ers being on the bottom but the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals were both supposed to be powerhouse clubs. Blind-date performances are not what was expected.
The Los Angeles Rams are back! Football in LA is GREAT! However they look a whole lot like the sub .500 St. Louis Rams to me. Yes, Jeff Fisher has not had a winning season with the club BUT I am damn sure going to get him to negotiate my next contract. How does he keep his job? Pixie dust?
So now in Week 12 of the 2016 NFL season things look a bit topsy-turvey. That’s ok however. Because the one constant that matters the most is still there for everyone. NFL game day rocks.
What say you Sports Nation? Another
Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over