We are at the halfway point of the 2011 NFL Season and it is report card day. We have had plenty of team to see who the pretenders and the serious contenders. In a season of more parity than usual, it is time to see if your NFC team is who you thought they’d be.
I based my grades on more than just records. I looked at play on all three sides of the ball, preseason expectations, and consistency of performance. Injuries were taken into consideration, but nobody got a pass just because their star player got hurt.
Green Bay Packers – The Packers are 7-0 and would be worthy of Dean’s List if not for their defense. Personally, I think this is a mirage. They are in serious trouble the first time they play a real defense. On offense, this team is the best in the NFL. On defense, they are waiting to be had.
New Orleans Saints – The Saints were a tough call. They are 5-2, which should earn them a B. However, their offense has just been nothing short of spectacular on most weeks. The additions of Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram have given a renewed spark to the running game. I like this team a lot more than their record, although they are more on the A- side than they are the A+.
New York Giants – One thing you’ll notice about most of these teams is the inconsistency and it all starts with the Giants. It is hard to blame them and to me, I actually think they have been overachieving. That is why a loss to the Seattle Seahawks and a tight one against the Buffalo Bills isn’t too surprising. Their defense is one of the worst this team has had in years, yet their offense continues to put up the points. The win against division rival Philadelphia in Philadelphia bumped them up from C to B.
Detroit Lions – What the f*ck happened? This team looked like they were on their way to a dream season going back to the preseason when they pushed around the New England Patriots like they were some CFL team. Well, I’ll tell you what happened. Teams aren’t sleeping on them anymore, their defense was exposed, and Matthew Stafford is more erratic by the week. This is a team on a dangerous downward spiral that is about two losses away from losing all of the goodwill they had during those opening weeks. They are 5-2 and if we are grading them on their entire first half of the year, it is hard to give them anything under a B.
Chicago Bears – This was a tough one because you watch the Bears some weeks and they look like the best team in the NFC and other weeks they look like they couldn’t beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. The defense is not what it used to be, but when you have Matt Forte to put up the points, who needs defense? They can’t beat the good teams, but they look like world beaters against the scrap heap. I struggled to give them a C, so let’s just say they are more C+ than C.
Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons are a team that have a much better record than you’d think if you spent five minutes watching one of their games. Matt Ryan and the entire offense have underperformed, while the defense has been incredibly inconsistent. Yet when all is said and done, the team is 4-3. Don’t get me wrong, 4-3 isn’t anything real impressive, however if you watch them play, you’d expect their record to be 3-4 or worse. They need to play more consistent ball on both sides of the ball to grab a B grade at the end of the season.
Dallas Cowboys – At 3-3 a C grade is about right where they should be. As far as expectations go, I think it is fair to say that they are underachieving on offense and overachieving on defense. Their run defense has been tremendous. But Tony Romo has done more to help them lose games than win. The shame of it is that those two early losses to the Jets and 49ers should have went the other way and they’d be cruising to a division win. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and here this team sits 3-3 and in big trouble if they lose their next game.
Washington Redskins – I originally gave them a D but under reconsideration I placed them at a C. I don’t think they are underachieving or overachieving, I think they are exactly where they are expected to be at 3-3. Their defense started the year playing at a high level but have come back down to earth in recent weeks. John Beck could give this team a spark for a few weeks, but I can’t imagine Beck sustaining any serious momentum. I don’t want to tell you I was right about Mike Shanahan, but…
Philadelphia Eagles – I am an Eagles fan so excuse me if I seem a bit excessive here but this team just flat out sucks this year. For a team that spent like drunken sailors during free agency and finished a drive away from eliminating the Super Bowl champions in the playoffs, this team has come up small, real small this year. I’d go as far as to say that they are the biggest underachievers in the NFL. What does that mean? That means their head coach is lost and has more problems here with this team than you could imagine. They have a must-win coming up against the Cowboys. Reid is undefeated off bye weeks. That could change this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Talk about a team underachieving. What the heck happened to these guys? They are probably the biggest frauds at 4-3 that you’ll ever see in the NFL. Josh Freeman has regressed to a point that you seriously have to consider drafting Andrew Luck if the Bucs pick first next year. The defense is slow and out of sync. They continue to show flashes of last year’s team from time to time, yet they haven’t been able to do that on a week to week basis.
Carolina Panthers – Here is another real overachieving team here, specifically their quarterback. I flirted with giving this team a C but their record just doesn’t justify it. I can’t recall a quarterback looking so bad in the preseason and suddenly turning it around. Even more impressive, is that he continues to improve every week. The Panthers have a lot of talented players on defense and are real close to pulling off some big wins. Unfortunately their lack of running game is killing them, and until they can get that going, they will continue losing the big games. However, there is a nucleus here that can do some real damage if that changes by season’s end.
Seattle Seahawks – Ugh, the division winners. I hate the Seahawks. I hate their uniform, I hate their coach, I hate their running back. I hate their quarterbacks. I hate their receivers. I just hate everything about this team. They are seriously underachieving (or right on pace if you didn’t believe last year’s mirage) and are right in line to win the services of Andrew Luck at this rate.
Minnesota Vikings – Wasn’t it just two years ago that this team was one overtime win away from going to the Super Bowl? After a disastrous experiment with Donovan McNabb at QB, the Vikings may have finally seen some new life with rookie QB Christian Ponder. The biggest problem that this team has had all season is closing games, which is amazing when their running back is Adrian Peterson right? I think this is more of an average team than anything on the level of the Jaguars or Colts, but their record speaks for itself.
Arizona Cardinals – Sorry Cardinals fans but I could have warned you that you were buying fool’s gold with Kevin Kolb. Kolb has turned out to be everything that most in Philadelphia thought he’d be, an overrated quarterback who cashed in on a few good spots backing up a good team. Even with a rejuvenated Beanie Wells and Larry Fitzgerald, he has been abysmal. It doesn’t get much better on defense. I don’t think they are as bad as any of the other teams on this list, which is probably worse of an indictment of their F grade.