After week 5 of the NFL season, it is clear there are a lot of teams that want to go to the playoffs in the AFC. Indeed, the Steelers and Jaguars are the only teams that really seem like they do not want to go. However, the Texans might be losing interest as well. Other than them, the other thirteen AFC teams are fighting for six spots. The AFC playoff race is going to be fun to watch this season.
The NFC is an entirely different story. None of the NFC East teams appear to be interested in the playoffs this season and most of the NFC South wants to go fishing in January. The Saints, Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals (???), and maybe an NFC North team (I just cannot figure out which one) is interested in a playoff spot. Since the NFC has the better group of quarterbacks overall, I thought that the NFC was substantially better than the AFC coming into the season. WRONG. There may be a better overall group of quarterbacks in the NFC, but they are not playing that great collectively and defense is still important
D is the Word
While teams are furiously piling up yardage and points, defense is still very important. Of the five worst defenses in terms of points allowed, four are NFC teams (Denver is 27th…by the way). Only ONE NFC team is in the top ten in sacks: the New Orleans Saints. So far, the Saints and Seahawks are playing championship defense. All other NFC teams are barely competent.
Paying the price…just a few seasons later
This is a cautionary tale for the Indianapolis Colts. As you recall, the Colts traded a number one pick for Trent Richardson recently and spent wildly in free agency this offseason. So far those moves have paid off (although I still have my doubts about Richardson). Trading a number one pick and signing free agents are “Super Bowl or Bust” moves. The Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears offer some scary examples for the Colts.
The Bears pushed in their chips ($42 million guaranteed) to get Julius Pepper s in early 2010. The first three seasons were worth it as Peppers played well. This season is sure different. At 33, Peppers has one sack through five games and appears to be a 10 million dollar albatross the Bears should consider getting rid of. Big investments like this tend to make a team ignore the position for a while. Now the Bears are 30th in sacks, 28th in points allowed and opposing quarterbacks are completing almost 70% of their passes.
The Atlanta Falcons watched the Green Bay Packers come into the Georgia Dome in January 2011 and steam roll them in the playoffs. The Falcons correctly diagnosed that they needed another wide receiver to help out Roddy White, but forgot that their best pass rusher was 32, running back was almost 29, and an offensive lineman or two would need replacing soon. The Falcons pushed in their chips (five draft picks) in April 2011 to get Julio Jones. Now they sit at 1-4 with only 12 sacks while allowing 27 points a game, ignoring the running game, and scoring a middle of the pack 25 points a game. Now comes word that Julio Jones might be done for the season. Think those five draft picks given up to get Julio Jones might have helped with some other weaknesses of the Falcons? The Giants and Packers prove all the time that very good to great wide receivers can be found anywhere in the draft (or in college free agency) without such ridiculous sacrifice of draft picks.
In the long run the Indianapolis Colts may be right in all their moves, but unless the Colts get to a Super Bowl and win it in the next three seasons, they should have kept their picks, money, and built through the draft.
Injuries do matter
Early on the morning of September 24, 2013, the Detroit Lions were poised to finally end their horrendous losing streak on Wisconsin soil and perhaps deliver a fatal blow to Green Bay’s 2013 playoff hopes. The Lions had the high powered offense to torch that shaky Green Bay defense. Their defense seemed to have the front four to harass Aaron Rodgers. Everything was all set up. And then veteran receiver Nate Burleson decided to reach for a pizza on his way home from a party and all hell broke loose after that. Calvin Johnson’s sore knee would not hold up enough to allow him to play against Green Bay and that was that. With Detroit’s offensive weapons reduced to Reggie Bush, the losing streak on Wisconsin soil would go on.
Speaking of injuries…Clay Matthews, III’s thumb injury means the Green Bay Packers pass rush is going on hiatus for an extended period of time. Joe Flacco should have a career day on Sunday. Pick out any Redskins or Cowboys players you want for Sunday night and thank me on Monday morning. Neither team is playing much defense these days. I like the Browns and Panthers defenses to do well this weekend.
Another 2-2 week means continued mediocrity for the season. I know it’s important not to give up but this is ridiculous. This week my dog will be picking for me. He likes the Patriots, Seahawks, Browns, and Ravens to win this week.