Thursday, November 10, 2011

2011 NFC Midseason Recap

Good morning.  On Wednesday we looked at the AFC, and now we will look at the NFC at the halfway point of the season.  In the NFC, there are no ties for first place in any division, and the playoff picture is a lot more clear than in the AFC (the New Orleans Saints are the only team who has not had their bye week in the NFC, so keep that in mind for this breakdown)...  If the season were to end today, the NFC division winners would be the New York Giants, the Green Bay Packers, the Saints, and the San Francisco 49ers.  The Wild Card teams would be the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears (the Bears and the Atlanta Falcons both have 5-3 records, but the Bears beat the Falcons in the season-opener, giving them the head-to-head tiebreaker). 

In the NFC East, the Giants have a two-game lead on the Dallas Cowboys, and a three-game lead on both the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles.  This is impressive by the 6-2 Giants, considering that they lost their opener to the Redskins, and that they have to deal with a depleted secondary and recent injuries to Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw.  The Cowboys have been in most every game they have played and could easily be 7-1.  As a friend of mine might point out, the Cowboys could be 1-7 by the same token (this is the same Cowboys supporter who was singing in the shower at halftime during the Cowboys/Lions game)...  The Redskins started the season at 3-1, but currently hold the longest losing-streak in the NFC at 4 games.  The Philadelphia Eagles are a huge mystery, especially with their 1-3 record at home.  The Eagles lone home victory was a decisive decision over the Cowboys, the only game that Dallas hasn't been in to date.

The Packers are 8-0 in the NFC North and have outscored their opponents by almost 100 points.  This is a far cry from the team that entered the playoffs last year as the #6 seed in the NFC before getting hot and winning the Lombardi Trophy.  The thing that would concern me as a Packers fan is the lack of a dominant running game and the bad weather that they will face in the second half of the season.  If the playing conditions are too nasty to throw, I will be very interested in seeing how this offense performs.  The Lions are behind the Pack at 6-2, and they still play Green Bay twice.  The Lions have been the Bills of the NFC, exceeding most people's expectations.  I thought that Detroit would be good this year, but even I didn't expect them to be this good.  I think that they will need to get Jahvid Best back in the lineup if they hope to have a chance at repeating their performance in the first half of the season, but with a healthy Matthew Stafford they have been impressive.  The Bears have been a tough team to read, falling by 10 or more points in all of their losses (Saints, Packers, Lions), but they defeated the Falcons and the under-achieving Eagles.  The Minnesota Vikings are 2-6, and after it soon became evident that Donovan McNabb was not going to be their savior, they have kept themselves in the hunt for the first overall pick in next year's draft.

The Saints are leading the NFC South with a 6-3 record, and they will have their bye in Week 11 (I am mystified that no teams have a bye this week, but that the final four NFL teams to have byes get them next week - I'm sure that there is a good reason???).  The Saints have been led by Drew Brees, who is on a record-setting pace for passing yards in a season, and Darren Sproles seems to have been one of the best pickups of the offseason (Brees, Sproles...  can the San Diego Chargers find some more talented players to send to New Orleans???).  The Saints hold a half-game lead over the Falcons, who stumbled out of the gate, losing 2 of their first 3 games before having to mount a 2-point comeback victory over the Seattle Seahawks to avoid a 1-3 start.  Since that start, the Falcons only defeat is to the Packers.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 4-4, impressive considering that they have allowed almost 50 more points than they have scored.  The Carolina Panthers are 2-6, led by quarterback Cam Newton, who has surprised me by being a much more effective player than I thought possible in his rookie year.

The 7-1 NFC West leaders, the 49ers, could be argued as being the most surprising team in the NFC this year, but due to their weak divison and my belief that they were going to win the division all the way up until the end last year, when the Seahawks finally took it at 7-9, I would vote the Lions just ahead of them.  I have always liked Jim Harbaugh, and he is close to having his team in the playoffs already, holding a FIVE-GAME lead in the West after eight games in a very weak group.  The Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals both have 2-6 records, and the St. Louis Rams are sitting in the cellar with a 1-7 mark.

Well, that's the end of your midseason recap, and I will be back tomorrow with my usual assortment of Friday football predictions.  I hope that you have a great day and I will see you then.

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