Tuesday, November 22, 2005

NFC Report: Week 12
By Zach

It seems like the NFC is starting to spread out a bit. The top six teams look pretty damn likely to make the playoffs, while only the Falcons seem to have a chance to break in. Everyone else is just deluding themselves.

The True Contender

Seattle Seahawks (8-2)

Outlook: Clearly, their win over the 49ers was far from impressive. They seemed to be content not to lose, which allowed San Francisco back into the game. Matt Hasselbeck had a tough time getting much of a rhythm, and while Shaun Alexander had a solid game from a statistical standpoint, his running was also inconsistant. The defense got torched by Brandon Lloyd, though he did have to make several spectacular catches. The positive was that the front four did an excellent job generating pressure without having to blitz, as Rocky Bernard continues his career (and contract) year. Still, Marcus Trufant's play was up-and-down, while Kelly Herndon continues to struggle. With all that having been said, they currently hold a one-game lead in the conference and have a favorable schedule down the stretch. I tend to think they'll be the top seed, and if the road to the Super Bowl goes through Seattle, I like our chances to go to Detroit.

Remaining schedule: NYG, @PHI, SF, @TEN, IND, @GB

Playoff-bound, but Questions Remain

Dallas Cowboys (7-3)

Outlook: They beat the Lions, which may not impress on its own, but hey, wins are wins. It seems like they've developed a nice running game with Julius Jones and Marion Barber III, and we all know their defense is good enough to keep them in games. Bledsoe at quarterback just begs for disappointment, and it's one of the reasons I can't list them as a true contender. Their schedule is utterly brutal, and I can't see them getting beyond 11 wins. Honestly, that looks like a bit of an optimistic view, 10-6 is probably the truth. But if they beat the Giants, they'll be in great shape to win the division and get a home playoff game...something that Dallas hasn't seen in a while.

Remaining schedule: DEN, @NYG, KC, @WAS, @CAR, STL

New York Giants (7-3)

Outlook: The team I love to hate. Part of it is because I know a few obnoxious Giants fans (well, one), and part because they have yet to win a game that truly impressed me. They've won just one road game, and that was over the 49ers. Like the Cowboys, they have a few tests left on the schedule, none bigger than their game in Seattle this weekend. Eli Manning is going to have to prove that he's more than just your typical second year quarterback if they've got a chance to win the division. Tiki, Plaxico, and Shockey are all weapons on offense, but their line is mediocre, as are the rest of their receivers. Brandon Jacobs is a bust as a short-yardage back, and defensively the Giants have some talent (Strahan, Umenyiora, Pierce) and some holes (defensive tackle, secondary). Yet another team we'll have to play wait and see with.

Remaining Schedule: @SEA, DAL, @PHI, KC, @WAS, @OAK

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)

Outlook: Somehow they've managed to win with Chris Simms at quarterback. Of course, he hasn't had to do much since the defense has come up with a number of big plays and Cadillac Williams appears to have gotten a bit healthier. Still, by going in to Atlanta and winning on a day when Vick threw the ball well shows that this team has more lasting power than I thought. They do have a number of tests left, but again, with seven wins in the bank and a win over the Falcons they've got some capital to spend.

Remaining Schedule: CHI, @NO, @CAR, @NE, ATL, NO

Maybe it's Time to Take Them Seriously

Chicago Bears (7-3)

Outlook: Common sense tells me this Bears team isn't that good. Of course, that's exactly what I said last week, and they just beat the Panthers in convincing fashion. Clearly, their defense remains a force to be reckoned with, but with limited options on offense and the exceedingly mediocre (at best) Kyle Orton under center, I just can't take this team seriously in any way. They've still got a pair of games against a weak Packers team, so they look like a fairly strong bet to win the North. Of course, Minnesota has appeared (if only slightly) in the rearview.

Remaining schedule: @TB, GB, @PIT, ATL, @GB, @MIN

Exposed This Weekend

Carolina Panthers (7-3)

Outlook: Wow, that was a terrible, terrible performance for a team that was being billed as the NFC frontrunner. While the Bears may be better than we thought, several warts on this team were exposed. They can't run the ball, and Jake Delhomme can make some terrible throws. Steve Smith is very good, but the rest of the receiving core isn't, and while their defense has tons of talent there's not much they can do when the offense is turning it over deep in their own zone. Their schedule has a few hurdles left, but I expect them to get back on track against the Bills on Sunday.

Remaining schedule: @BUF, ATL, TB, @NO, DAL, @ATL

Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

Outlook: It's a terrible sign for them when Vick throws well and they lose. On the other hand, even when he plays well Mike has a tendancy to make some brutal mistakes. This time, it was fumbling the ball late in the game to set Tampa Bay up with the winning field goal. Yes, I know that Warrick Dunn (his running back) forced that fumble, but still, he's gotta hang on to the ball when he drops back to pass...and when he scrambles...and, well...all the time. The Falcon wide receivers as a group are anonymous, and Defensively, they really can't generate the same pass rush they did last year, and their linebacking corps is average.

Remaining schedule: @DET, @CAR, NO, @CHI, @TB, CAR

Keeping Faint Hope Alive

Washington Redskins (5-5)

Outlook: They're not very good. One week they score 35 points against a good Tampa defense, and then the next they score 13 against a bad Raider defense. Brunell may not be as godawful as he was last year, but he still isn't enough to carry a team. While I absolutely love Clinton Portis and his multiple personality disorder, he hasn't produced in nearly two years in our nation's capital, and beyond Santana Moss they've got no playmakers at wide receiver. Lavar Arrington looks enthused on defense, but their secondary really misses Fred Smoot. They're better than last year, but not good enough.

Remaining schedule: SD, @STL, @ARI, DAL, NYG, @PHI

Minnesota Vikings (5-5)

Outlook: They beat the Packers. Hooray. They still suck.

Remaining schedule: CLE, @DET, STL, PIT, @BAL, CHI


Blogger The Armchair Quarterback said...

I think Hasselbeck is the key to the Seahawks making it to the Superbowl. If by some chance Alexander runs into a defense that stuffs him then Hasselbeck has to be the one that steps up and plays well. He can't have average days like he did against San Francisco. Same goes for Delhomme. Your right, the Panthers can't run to save their lives so it's all up to Jake and the defense.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Sports Litter said...

Seattle should cruise through the rest of the year and lock up home field advantage. What's amazing is they've been doing this all without their number 1 WR. DJax comes back in a week or two and that should provide a huge lift for the Seahawks.

I still don't think they can beat any of the top AFC teams though.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

Well first of all, if Seattle makes it to the Super Bowl, we can worry about them not beating any of the top AFC teams later. I know you think the Jags are much better because they beat the Seahawks in Week One, but the Seahawks are in many ways a much better team then they were then, and also remember this. That game was played after a 3,000 mile flight to the East Coast (always the toughest trip for football teams) and in 100 degree weather. If the Seahawks make it to the Super Bowl, they'll be flying a shorter distance to Detroit, they'll be getting there days earlier, and they'll be playing in a dome.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

I keep telling my friends that next week's Giants-Seahawks is a must win for the G-Men. They Have to win this thing because no one still believes in this team yet. To beat Seattle at Seattle will be HUGE for the Giants.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

I come back to the same thing every week when I talk about the Giants on my radio show. Until they beat someone of note on the road, they're not a threat to go to the Super Bowl. First, because they won't be that good and second because they won't have home field advantage. Right now, the Giants aren't there yet, at least until they prove it. Yes, they have a nice win over the Broncos at home, as well as a win over the Redskins. But right now they're 6-1 at Giants Stadium and 1-2 everywhere else, and until that changes they'll be lucky to get past the first round of the playoffs.

2:46 PM  

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