This is not me bragging or me (gasp) humble-bragging but plainly put: While the predictions above have proved relatively accurate so far, matters will and do change dramatically between early October and late December.
These picks are not drastically different or wildly alternative yet don’t take the boring route of basically trotting out last year’s playoff entrants. That involves minimal critical thinking, perhaps of a fear of looking foolish, and there’s typically a turnover of about half the teams anyways.
Five weeks provide just enough a sample to dramatically change opinions on the success of an NFL squad without running the very real danger of #OVERREACTIONTHEATRE. I would not lower my opinion on a team like Seattle after their Week 1 loss to Arizona but will after five weeks of painfully clear limitations shown by Russell Wilson.
As you can see above, I had Seattle as an underdog to win the NFC West, which takes a leap of faith with San Francisco playing the Vegas Super Bowl favorite. I would not at this point put my money on Seattle winning the division, and if I were coerced into placing any sort of NFC West bet it would now fall on the 49ers.
The Seahawks currently sit but one game behind San Fran in the division and I still like Seattle for the wild-card, and still like Seattle’s chances of winning the home side of the 49ers-‘Hawks battles this season. If Wilson showed the ability to open up the offense half as much as Andy Dalton did with Cincy last year than I might stand behind by the Seattle call. But for crying out loud Wilson’s 29th in yards, yards per pass and quarterback rating, and the Seahawks fellow skill position players certainly aren’t the league’s worst.
Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Coach Pete Carroll obviously are asking Wilson to stay conservative, but it’s clearly a chicken-egg situation; and not conservative-effective in a Christian Ponder or even Ryan Tannehill manner. It’s too an extreme detriment.
I’ve written and tweeted (@thomasemerick No. 3 in Forbes’ Underrated Follow 500) my love for Seattle’s elite defense all summer and that was a major force behind my taking them in the West (obviously that was a joke Forbes earlier please don’t sue) but San Francisco’s defensive unit remains at the very least a match. Alex Smith has significantly grown as a passer while Wilson has looked more like a third-round rookie than a hidden gem. And that’s mostly the difference.
(Not saying Alex Smith has moved into the Top 5 QBs, or even Top 8 really….in the NFC. But pleasantly surprised with his improvement, and he’s certainly superior to Wilson at this point.)
There’s little reason to rearrange my outlook on the rest of the NFC, with Green Bay’s regression and Atlanta’s ascension accounted for, and Chicago remaining an enigma that piles up wins long as a Jay Cutler is quarterback.
It’s incredibly difficult to draw any confident conclusions from the NFC East per usual, though I have to admit Washington is not the basement-lock I expected.
New Orleans, Carolina and Tampa Bay all possess just one win. However, Cam Newton’s three terrible performances implore me to switch the cats from second to last while bumping up both the Saints and Bucs.
Many wondered if Newton’s freakish combination of size, speed and arm strength combined with his record-setting rookie season put him above the sophomore slump’s suffered by Matt Ryan and others. While there is plenty of football to be played and change fortunes, the 2012 season now has a sufficient amount of snaps under its belt to answer “no.”