NFL Stock Watch: NFC East as NFL's SEC? More like the MAC
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Back in August Washington Redskins GM Bruce Allen commented that the NFC East was the "SEC of the NFL." His point was the NFC East, perhaps the most popular division in football, was also the best division in football, "the big leagues." My goodness he couldn't be more wrong.
The reality is the NFC East is pretty bad and the prospects might not be that much better. They're not the Sun Belt of the NFL (hello AFC South!) but they're not the SEC either. In fact, the best possible comparison for the division formerly known as the "Beast" is the MAC.
Please note: this is not an insult to the MAC. It is the most entertaining football conference in all the land. But it's not a good comp if you're the NFC East.
Like the MAC, 2013's NFC East laughs at the notion of defense. Your father's NFC East -- or even your older brother's NFC East -- might've been filled with terrifying defensive teams. This year it's laughable. Chip Kelly's coronary-inducing offensive tempo should result in the Philadelphia Eagles having over-unders set at 60-plus points. (This week's 51.5 against the Kansas City Chiefs looks a little low for my tastes, even if KC has a stout defense.) There's no stopping Kelly from scoring points but he won't be stopping you either.
Unless you're the Redskins, one of the four or five most disappointing teams in the NFL through two weeks. Washington's winless, Robert Griffin III is a rust-covered shell of the guy who won the 2012 Rookie of the Year award and the secondary is an insult to swiss cheese at this point.
If you were looking for an offensive comparable there, how about the New York Giants running game? Two weeks into the season, Andre Brown has more fantasy points than David Wilson . This wouldn't be an issue except Brown is on Injured Reserve. Thankfully they signed Brandon Jacobs . (That was the joke.)
Pick one 0-2 team in the NFL to make a run and it's the Giants. Eli Manning will figure things out (he currently leads the NFL in interceptions) and he's got a talented crew of recivers -- Hakeem Nicks , Victor Cruz and Reuben Randle will put up some numbers -- to catch the ball, but the defense is almost as big a red flag as the running game.
Getting lit up by Peyton Manning is one thing, but getting torched that badly a week after Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys smoked the Giants secondary? It's downright embarrassing. And it's also why Romo and Dallas are probably the front-runners for this division (although Football Outsiders gives the Eagles a 65 percent chance of making the playoffs two weeks in). Think about scary that is, even if you believe in Monte Kiffin's new defense and Tony Romo keeping it together for a lengthy stretch of time.
There's nothing wrong with not being a great division, of course.
Peyton and the Indianapolis Colts reaped the benefits of that for years in the AFC South and he's digging it with the Denver Broncos now. But this isn't a top-heavy division. After going 0-4 in Week 2 it's 2-6 overall through the first two weeks of the season and both of those wins were divisional victory!
It's a group of teams that have some pretty good offensive weapons and can't stop anyone on defense. Every week -- look at Giants-Cowboys, Week 1 for a great example -- they manage to put together an ugly-but-entertaining trainwreck of a game.
Usually we get one to two absolutely boneheaded mistakes from the division, with unbridled insanity occurring immediately thereafter. Every team's capable of crashing the BCS party but betting on a big win total or solid, fundamental football would leave you broke.
That might not sound pretty and even if it's entertaining as all get out, the East's stock as a whole is down two weeks into the season.
Dontari Poe , DT, Chiefs -- During last week's stock watch I mentioned Poe as guy who was doing work to justify his draft stock. He's still doing that and more, sitting second in the NFL in sacks through two games with 3.5. That's particularly impressive since he produced just five sacks during his entire college career. But he's thriving in the Chiefs defense this year and his two sacks against the Cowboys are a prime example of why he intrigued as a prospect. Poe flashed a nasty combo of strength and speed (My good friend Doug Farrar has a superb breakdown of his day at SI.com here) and because the Chiefs also have Justin Houston and Tamba Hali he should keep making life difficult for the interior offensive he squares off against.
DeAndre Hopkins , WR, Houston Texans -- In his first two weeks Hopkins has flashed his strengths -- a nose for the football, smart route running and superb hands -- numerous times. But there wasn't a bigger spot than in overtime against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
First Hopkins converted a monster third down with a catch that features just insane ball-hawking skills. Watch his eyes as he tracks the ball and watch how he skillfully works the defender. You could argue that someone could flag him for it but it's not a push, per se, just smart football as he goes for a 50-50 ball.
Hopkins wasn't done though, because he wanted to make sure the Texans didn't need to sweat a field goal to win. Again, watch his eyes as he sneaks a peak towards Matt Schaub , makes a very casual move on Jason McCourty and then skies for a touchdown to seal the game.
"Nuk Da Bomb" has an incredible ceiling as a receiver in the league -- props to NFLDraftScout.com's Dane Brugler for having him as the top wideout coming into the draft last year -- but what makes him such a scary talent is that his floor is already pretty high to begin with. The Texans are going to be dangerous in the passing game this year with Hopkins and Andre Johnson .
Philip Rivers , QB, San Diego Chargers -- If you predicted that Rivers would have the best start to 2013 out of all the quarterbacks in the 2004 draft class ... you're a liar. Eli's leading the NFL in picks and Ben Roethlisberger is one more Felix Jones draw away from choke-slamming Todd Haley on the sideline. Meanwhile Phil Rivers is back to being Phil Rivers. He might actually be better -- Rivers is on pace for 4,912 yards, which would be his best season ever yardage-wise. That probably won't last and neither will his 3.5 passing touchdowns a game. But he's completing a high number of his passes (65.8 percent) he's not generating turnovers (just one pick) and he's doing it with no one -- Eddie Royal is his No. 1 wideout! -- really helping him out. It's good seeing Rivers rejuvenated. Even if Fletcher Cox might disagree.
Mike Wallace , WR, Miami Dolphins -- My colleague Pete Prisco was spot on about the Dolphins, even if I don't agree with him completely on whether Wallace is worth the price of admission for Miami. But the Dolphins wouldn't be doing what they're doing were it not for Wallace being on the roster. In Week 1 Wallace played decoy and the Dolphins won anyway. There was a little controversy surrounding that. In Week 2? Not so much. Wallace shook off any concerns about his role and helped light up the Colts secondary by catching nine passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. I still think Wallace got too much coin from Jeff Ireland but if the Fins keep winning it can justify the check they cut.
Giovani Bernard , RB, Cincinnati Bengals -- My guy. Gio, my pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year, burst on the scene in prime time and saved the day for the Bengals. Seriously: if Andy Dalton doesn't throw that checkdown to Bernard, I think the Pittsburgh Steelers end up winning the game. Instead Cincy escaped MNF with a win and a leg up in the AFC North. My only concern here is that Cincy keeps giving too many runs to BenJarvus Green-Ellis . Not trying to knock the "Law Firm" but today's game is about having a dynamic back who presents a home run threat. That's Gio and he's not some "third-down back" either. Dude can tote the rock and the Bengals need to give him a chance.
Ron Rivera, HC, Carolina Panthers -- How did no one jump on Rivera as the first coach fired in the 2013 season? Rivera's a good coach and a nice guy and he genuinely wants to turn around Carolina. But it's not happening. He's got starts -- so far -- of 1-5, 1-6 and 0-2. He nearly got canned by Jerry Richardson. Dave Gettleman has a shot to pick his own coach. Rivera is 2-14 in one-score games. The Panthers have given up ten (10!) fourth-quarter leads under his watch. The latest debacle was his decision not to go for fourth-and-one to close out the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. This has happened before and it's unacceptable when the Panthers, as Grantland's Bill Barnwell astutely pointed out, convert 81.4 percent of their third- and fourth-down, short-yard plays under Rivera. The Panthers have short time for a quick turnaround otherwise Rivera might be facing the end of his run in Carolina.
Colin Kaepernick , QB, San Francisco 49ers -- Sunday night was a tough spot for Kap. He was up against a top-tier defense he had his worst game as a pro and he lost an eyebrow:
OK maybe you didn't notice but Kaepernick didn't actually shave his eyebrow. (Well, either that or he's the greatest shaver of eyebrows in the history of mankind.) He did have his worst game as a starter though. And he did it against his arch-rival, the Seattle Seahawks .
Kaepernick will be fine. He's quite good. But here's the concern: if Vernon Davis isn't 100 percent, the opposition has a cornerback -- like Richard Sherman -- who can take away Anquan Boldin and Frank Gore is running poorly, Kap might struggle. Unfortunately for him no one runs that blueprint better than the Seahawks.
David Amerson , CB, Redskins -- Amerson Island was a brief blip on the radar of N.C. State fans. Then 2012 happened. 2013 should be a better year for Amerson overall but the results haven't been perfect thus far. Amerson was actually a dumpster fire covered in lighter fluid in Week 2, as was part of a Washington secondary that got torched left and right. The rook finished with Pro Football Focus' lowest cornerback rating of anyone in the league. He's a quality man cover guy. He will, in my opinion, eventually develop into a possible No. 1 corner for Washington. (Medium case is he's an above-average No. 2. Worst case a quality safety.) But Sunday was a no-good, burn-the-tape day for Amerson as Jordy Nelson and an assortment of Green Bay Packers wideouts wrecked his game all day long.
Greg Schiano, HC, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- It's been a pretty bad week for Schiano, so I don't want to pile on here. But with the rumors of Darrelle Revis being unhappy coupled with the Josh Freeman trade stuff coupled with the 0-2 record coupled with the questionable choices at the end of the New Orleans Saints game, well, I'm sorry, Coach. This cannot be the start Tampa Bay expected in 2012, especially after the Revis trade. The Bucs were supposed to contend for this division and while they might just be two field goals off of being undefeated, they could be the worst team in the division and on the verge of unraveling.
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