This season has truly been a whirlwind and has proven that you never can really know how good or bad a team is going to be going into the season. Teams like the Giants, Steelers, Falcons, and Texans are struggling to find their identities, while the Browns, Jets, and Chiefs are opening eyes of people who thought that they were still a few years away from being competitive. With about one-third of the season one, teams still have times to turn things around, but with each passing week, the opportunities are becoming scarcer and scarcer.
There are real problems in ATL
Atlanta was the #1 seed in the NFC last year, and were one game, and in reality, one play away from the Super Bowl, and returned most of their team from last year. However, five weeks into the season, Atlanta is sitting at 1-4 heading into their bye week, and is sitting third in the NFC South. If that wasn’t bad enough, offseason acquisition Steven Jackson has been fighting injuries and hasn’t played since Week 1, Roddy White has been limited with a high ankle sprain and now a hamstring injury, and now it looks like Julio Jones will be done for the year. The problems for Atlanta start up front with their offensive and defensive lines, which were patched together after losing key members during the offseason. The biggest losses for Atlanta came at the edges, after letting both left tackle Tyson Clabo, and defensive end John Abraham leave. Clabo protected Matt Ryan’s blind side, and was a leader on the line, but without Clabo, the running game has been ineffective, and Ryan is having his timing thrown off because of pressure from around the end. Abraham was the heart and soul of the defense, and even though he was growing older, he was still an effective three down lineman who could rush the passer and constantly needed a second blocker to spy him. Atlanta will get a reprieve in their schedule, with only four games left against teams with winning records, but those four include Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Green Bay. If the Falcons want to win the division, it is likely that they will need to win out since the Saints are still undefeated. If Atlanta fails to make the playoffs this year, Mike Smith could be on a very, very hot seat next year because he has made some extremely bad coaching decisions this year that have cost his team wins.
The 2014 NFL Draft could start the same way the 1999 Draft did
In 1999, five quarterbacks were drafted in the first 12 picks, including Tim Couch, Akili Smith Donovan McNabb, Dante Culpepper, and Cade McNown. There are at least six first-round caliber quarterback prospects this year, and there are plenty of teams that will be looking to upgrade their quarterback situation. The obvious teams are Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay, but the real intrigue will come from teams who may draft a quarterback high to either upgrade their current situation, or groom a quarterback for the coming years. Teams like the Eagles, Cardinals, Raiders, Rams, Texans, and Cowboys all could be looking to make a big change by drafting a young quarterback that has a ton of upside. The Eagles are the most intriguing of all because Oregon Ducks QB Marcus Mariota will likely enter this year’s draft and with Michael Vick’s contract ending this year, the Eagles will have a question mark at quarterback going into the offseason. Mariota obviously ran Chip Kelly’s offense to perfection when he played in Oregon, but it is unknown how his skills will translate to the NFL, especially when it comes to reading defenses. I know that it seems far-fetched that Dallas or Houston could be looking for quarterbacks, but if Matt Schaub continues to throw touchdowns to the other team, the Texans will look to draft a QB in the first round for the first time since David Carr. The Cowboys just gave Romo a huge contract extension, but we all know that Jerry Jones is a man of the headlines now, and might be willing to take a risk on a certain Texas quarterback to keep the headlines on his team.
The NFC East Stinks
There really isn’t much else to say about how bad the NFC East is, but I will try to elaborate. The entire division is a combined 5-14, with three of those five wins coming within the division, and the other two wins coming against the Raiders and Rams, not exactly premier teams. To breakdown everything that is wrong with the Giants would be impossible, but what it really comes down to is the fact that the Giants are getting owned in the trenches. The Giants offensive line is without three starters, and it shows, because the Giants can’t open up holes in the running game, and are letting defenses tee off against Eli Manning. On the defensive side of the ball, the once-feared front four of the Giants looks simply pedestrian, and it seems that the Giants will need to change their defensive philosophy of no blitzing if they ever want to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Redskins are sitting at 1-3, and have Matt Flynn to thank for that one win. The defense, up to that point, had been historically bad in points and yards against the Eagles, Packers, and Lions. RGIII has not looked like last year’s RGIII, but the same can be said for the entire offense. The Redskins are a team to watch, coming off their early bye week because of their turnaround last year. However, until RGIII gets up to game speed with his knee, and can plant to throw the ball, the Redskins will be playing catch up in the division. The Eagles were supposed to revolutionize the NFL with Chip Kelly’s new offense, but their defense has been horrible, and the pace of the offense doesn’t help. Every quick three-and-out forces the defense on the field without resting enough to get ready for their next drive. The pace also directly led to their loss against the Chargers, because instead of running a 4-minute drill, draining clock while moving the ball to score the last points, the Eagles scored quickly, and gave Phillip Rivers enough time to lead a scoring drive of his own to win the game. The most impressive team has been the Cowboys, and that was in their most recent loss to Denver. Tony Romo has solidified himself as a Top 10 quarterback, but still makes those mistakes at crucial times that drive people crazy. Monte Kiffin has made the defense worse than they were last year, forcing two of their recent first round picks to the bench because of their inability to play within the system. If Dallas can build off the game against Denver, and Romo can continue to play as he did, while limiting those crucial mistakes, they should be able to hold off this mediocre division, but 8-8 looks like it will be enough to win this division.