NFL Nation: 2013 NFL Midseason Report NFC

Midseason Report: New Orleans Saints

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

If you're only as good as your last performance, the New Orleans Saints (6-2) are in trouble. They had their sloppiest game of the season in a 26-20 road loss to the New York Jets this past Sunday, with breakdowns on offense, defense and special teams.

Overall, however, there were many more positives than negatives during the first half of the season for New Orleans, which still leads the NFC South by a game over the Carolina Panthers.

If the Saints have any hopes of returning to New York for the Super Bowl in February, they need to prove that their first trip was an anomaly. But the schedule doesn't get any easier in the second half of the season -- including two more outdoor games, at Seattle and Carolina in December.

Midseason Report: St. Louis Rams

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- At 3-6 and without starting quarterback Sam Bradford, a 2013 season the St. Louis Rams hoped would be another step in a positive direction has left them stuck in the mud.

The Rams have always viewed 2014 as the year they make the leap back into legitimate contenders, but they probably didn't think this year would come without more definitive progress.

Midseason Report: Atlanta Falcons

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith has talked about his team's lack of consistency the entire season. Many would say the 2-6 Falcons have been consistently bad.

After last year's 13-3 finish and trip to the NFC Championship Game, most expected the Falcons to coast to a No. 1 seed and possibly contend for the Super Bowl this year. Unfortunately, things haven't gone according to plan for Smith, quarterback Matt Ryan and the rest of the crew.

Injuries, of course, have left the Falcons thin at several key positions. Smith, however, refuses to use that as a crutch.

"There are injuries all across the league," Smith said. "There are teams that have more guys on IR than others, and they've been successful. That's why, from the very beginning, you can't use injuries as an excuse. … There are no excuses. We've got to go out and play every week."

The Falcons simply have to play better in the second half. Here is a midseason review of the Falcons, grading the team, position by position:

Midseason Report: Green Bay Packers

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

How many other NFL teams could survive for any length of time without three of their top four targets in the passing game and minus their best defensive player?

Probably not many.

But the Green Bay Packers managed -- even after injuries to receivers Randall Cobb (fractured fibula), James Jones (knee) and tight end Jermichael Finley (neck) on offense and to outside linebacker Clay Matthews (broken thumb) on defense.

That was until they lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone in Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears.

When Rodgers went down, so did their four-game winning streak.

Before Rodgers’ injury, the Packers looked every bit like one of the top teams in the NFC thanks to stellar play, as usual, from the quarterback and a rejuvenated running game with rookie Eddie Lacy.

Now, even at 5-3 and in a three-way tie with the Bears and Detroit Lions atop the NFC, the Packers’ prospects for the second half are in jeopardy.

Midseason Report: Detroit Lions

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

The Detroit Lions are in a good position after the first half of the season, having already won more games this season (five) than last (four) and have seen improved play from a lot of their units.

So, for the most part, the Lions had a fairly even grading process. If they don’t make the playoffs, though, they could end up with a harsher final 2013 evaluation.

Midseason Report: Chicago Bears

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

Interestingly, it took years for the Chicago Bears to finally put together what appears to be a prolific offense, only to have the team’s perennially strong defense start to show signs of decline, in part because of injuries and a lack of depth.

So, while the offense finally checks in with high grades because of better protection, a bevy of weapons and a reinvented quarterback in Jay Cutler, Chicago’s loss of two starters for the season on the defensive line and one at linebacker, as well as nagging injuries that have forced other starters to miss time, have sucked the life out of what has traditionally been one of the league’s better defenses. What is concerning is the Bears haven’t shown any indication that things will improve on defense.

In fact, it appears the Bears will have to wait until free agency and the draft to address a suddenly porous defense.

Midseason Report: Minnesota Vikings

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

Coming off a 10-6 season and a playoff berth, the Vikings didn't expect to be one of the three worst teams in the NFL at the halfway point. They certainly didn't expect to arrive here this way, with three different starting quarterbacks, three last-minute defensive collapses and exactly one win, which came when the team faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in London. With injuries rampant on defense, uncertainty at the quarterback position and an embattled coaching staff, the Vikings simply need to get their house in order in the second half of the season.

Midseason Report: New York Giants

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

If you're the sort of New York Giants fan who likes to think only positive thoughts about the team and believe things are better than they seem to be ... well, you may want to read this post sitting down. The Giants went 2-6 in the first half of their season, losing the first six and then winning the last two against Vikings and Eagles teams that were effectively playing without quarterbacks. It has been grim, to say the least.

What's worse is that there hasn't been just one problem to which the Giants can point. Their failure is systemwide -- offense, defense and special teams -- with nearly every position group contributing in a significant way to the disappointing start. They have been outscored by an average of 10.25 points per game -- a higher figure than any team in the league but the historically dreadful Jaguars.

So as we go through, position by position, and assign grades based on 2013 performance to date, the best thing you can say is that there's plenty of room for improvement. For pretty much everybody.

Midseason Report: Carolina Panthers

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Few teams in the NFL are hotter than the Carolina Panthers, who closed out the first half of the season with four straight wins and five in six games.

But you can't dismiss the 1-3 start and a combined 8-33 record by their opponents. You also can't dismiss that the Panthers (5-3) have soundly defeated these opponents by an average score of 33.6 to 9.6, and that, if the regular season ended today, they would be in the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.

So, despite the current streak, the overall record is a B-minus. Here are the midseason grades by position:


TAMPA, Fla. -- When the season started, there was some talk that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could contend for a playoff spot.

After all, they added all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis and Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson in the offseason. The Bucs were the first ones to point to the fact they had eight guys on their roster who have been to Pro Bowls.

But, as it turns out, none of that’s mattered. The Bucs are 0-8 and their midseason grades are as dismal as their record:

Midseason Report: Washington Redskins

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

When you enter the season anticipating a playoff run but reach the midway point just hoping to remain alive for playoff contention, then things haven’t gone as planned. That about sums up the Washington Redskins’ first half.

You can blame the rustiness of Robert Griffin III from his offseason knee surgery for some of the issues. That doesn’t explain everything. Turnovers have killed Washington, much like the lack of them helped a year ago. And the defense has settled down after a rough start, though it’s not a shutdown unit by any means.

There have been some strong individual efforts. Just remember, though, these grades are for a group, not a person.

Midseason Report: Dallas Cowboys

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

IRVING, Texas -- After nine games, the Dallas Cowboys have issues.

The defense can't stop a topflight quarterback. The offense can't -- or won't -- run the ball. Injuries have affected the offensive line, defensive line and secondary.

Yet with seven games to play, the Cowboys lead the NFC East with a 5-4 record. Can they join the conference elite?

Before that question can be answered, here's a look at how the Cowboys have graded out so far:

Midseason Report: Arizona Cardinals

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

When you win four and lose four, everything seems to just about balance out. But the Cardinals haven’t found that balance yet. Midway through the season, there are some glaring issues but there are also some extremely good facets.

There’s no denying how bad the offense struggled in the first half before finally finding a rhythm in Week 8 against Atlanta behind rookie running back Andre Ellington. For as bad as the offense has looked at times, it’s had moments when it's looked equally as good. But the bad times have far outweighed the good, so the offensive grades aren't dean’s list worthy.

The defensive grades are, however. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ version of the 3-4 clicked with this defense and it all starts up front. From there, it’s been a winning game of dominoes as the line sets up the linebackers, which set up the secondary. And for that, they’ve all played and graded well.

Midseason Report: Philadelphia Eagles

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- The curiosity factor about Chip Kelly and the Eagles was off the charts. Would the innovative Oregon coach take the NFL by storm? Would he be another Steve Spurrier or Bobby Petrino, crashing hard at the next level? Somewhere in the middle?

We can safely rule out the first possibility. Kelly has plenty of time to be a successful NFL coach, but you only get one chance to storm the beaches, and Kelly’s moment has passed. After one heart-pounding half on "Monday Night Football" at Washington, the Eagles have been good, bad and mediocre. But a 4-5 record (0-4 at home) is, by definition, not taking the league by storm.

Forgetting the expectations and the hype, and remembering that this was a 4-12 team last year with a muddied quarterback situation, here are the midterm grades for Kelly and his Eagles.


SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers made the honor roll.

It is difficult not to look like an easy grader with this team. The 49ers have won five consecutive games to right themselves after a 1-2 start. San Francisco has been dominant in every phase of the game during the streak. Its tightest game in that stretch was a 12-point victory.

The trouble spots on this team are rare and there is exceptional work being done by the majority of the roster:

SPONSORED HEADLINES