By Kevin Gillikin @KevinGillikin And The Skipper
As we continue our discussion on 2013 NFL trends, we now move over to the superior (IMHO) NFC, where the rich get richer, some marginal teams get better and even weak teams like Arizona and Detroit are not really getting any worse.
Ah, but there are some exceptions, so here we go.
NFL Down-Trending Teams for 2013
#1 - Philadelphia Eagles
Easy, easy call. For any of you long-time Denver sports fans (I'm talking very early 1990's), I'm going to drop a name in a moment. But first a warning: Get yourself near a toilet, grab a barf bag, or otherwise prepare your stomach. OK, ready?
Mad scientist. Revolutionary. And in the final analysis, idiot.
Westhead brought a "revolutionary" form of run-and-gun basketball to the Denver Nuggets (no "D") for the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons (gosh, it seemed longer!), which included taking a shot every seven seconds, a full-game full-court press and effectively giving opposing teams uncontested baskets to speed the pace.
Needless to say, opposing point guards broke down the scheme pretty quickly and the Westhead Nuggets ended those two seasons a sorry 44-120 record, surrendering over 130 points per game and 107 in one half to the Phoenix Suns, a record that still stands today.
So, how does this apply to the Philadelphia Eagles? I know I'm still trying to figure out new Eagles' Head Coach Chip Kelly. From what I gather, he may or may not try to revolutionize the NFL with the fast-break offense he implemented successfully at the University of Oregon. But if he tries, he'll have....
1) An aging Mike Vick at quarterback.
2) Season-ending injuries to WR's Jeremy Macline and Arrelious Ben.
3) An embarrassing offensive line.
4) And an offensive unit that scored all of 280 points last year.
You make the call, readers: Is Chip Kelly the next Bill Walsh, a true revolutionary, or the NFL's version of Paul Westhead? Or maybe he just comes in and tries to run an offense like everyone else's. I don't think we know yet, honestly. But why would Eagles' ownership bring in Chip Kelly to run a standard NFL offense? Makes no sense.
I'm calling Philadelphia down-trending because, well...they suck. Last year's horrendous 4-12 record is a "high" bar to hurdle in a down-trending sense, but this team may be capable.
Or maybe I'm just mad at them for firing a great coach in Andy Reid and bringing in a gimmick-meister.
The Eagles have somewhat of a quarterback controversy between Vick, who's arguably the best rushing QB in NFL history, but also 33 years old and often injured, and second-year man Nick Foles, who moves about as well as a hog on roller skates.
I don't get it. Are they running the fast-break offense or not? At least Paul Westhead went all-in with his train-wreck of an experiment and never wavered in ruining the Nuggets. I hated that as a Nuggets' fan, but I respected the conviction.
As best as I can tell, Kelly is wavering, although with this Eagles' offense, the Oregon Fast Break offense may not get a fair trial.
Philly's talent on offense pretty much consists of DeSean Jackson and RB LeSean McCoy. Yup.
On defense (the atrocious "Dream Team" defense of 2012 that gave up 444 points), the Eagles lost Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie to free agency. The only real defensive player they added was LB Connor Barwin, who isn't great. With a new offense (maybe), new coaches, several severe injuries and no clue who the QB will be this team is headed down, down, down, doobie doobie do down, down.
Prediction: 4-12 (again), worst record in the NFC
#2 - Carolina Panthers
This one I'm not REAL sold on. I expect I could probably be talked down off the ledge. After finishing last year at 7-9 on the heals of a meaningless four-game winning streak to end the season, though, I do see plenty of downside for Cam and company.
Carolina was thought to be the up and coming team over the last two years but as we have seen that just hasn't happened.
This will be another year that people will say that QB Cam Newton has made that next step to being a reliable or even a great quarterback and it's another year I think they'll be wrong.
Sure he has the talent, the arm, the legs and even some of the stats but he just doesn't seem to have what it takes as a leader. He has continually pouted during losses and thrown his teammates under the bus after losses when oftentimes the loss was his fault for over-trusting his arm and throwing into impossible spots.
The team was middle of the pack in almost every major category and just refused to be anything but mediocre. In the offseason they added WR Dominik Hixon and drafted RB Kenjon Barner but I don't see those two making a huge impact on this team.
Interesting little aside, by the way - with the Hixon signing, there are 5 players from the Denver Broncos' outstanding 2006 draft class who will start for their respective teams in 2013. None with the Broncos.
The defense has two standouts in young MLB Luke Kuechly and pass rusher Charles Johnson, but aside from those two, that side of the team is constructed mostly of washups or young players who have yet to prove themselves. Carolina may not be awful but they're certainly overrated and I don't see them exceeding last year's seven wins.
Prediction: 5-11, last place in the NFC South
#3 - Dallas Cowboys
Since the passing of Al Davis, Jerry Jones has taken up the mantle as the most-meddlesome, least football-savvy, worst-delegating owner in the NFL. It may not seem like much, but over time, it wears on the psyche of an organization.
In addition to bad ownership, "America's Team" (can we cease with that crap already?!?!) has a coach on the hot seat in Jason Garrett and one of the most unclutch players in NFL history in QB Tony Romo.
This is a team with a ton of big names and no winning chemistry. They put up stats in meaningless games and always seem to find a way to choke away games they should win.
On defense, they have Brandon Carr and second-year guy Morris Claiborne at corner as well as big men Sean Lee and DeMarcus Ware, but that's most of the talent I see on that side of the ball. They haven't really upgraded their 19th overall ranked defense and they will likely again try to put all their chips on recently re-signed Tony Romo.
Again, as we have seen in the past, Romo, Garrett and Jones can't handle the pressure it takes to win in this league and as they're in a competitive NFC East (the Eagles suck, but the Giants and Redskins are both solid) and the crazy-good NFC in general.
Prediction: 6-10, 3rd place in the NFC East
#4 - Nobody
Seriously, if you've been following this series, you know now that I have no issues with Writer's Cramp. Never a loss for words.
But I just can't find another team in the NFC that, in my mind, is truly down-trending.
The Lions pretty well stink, but they're not 4-12 bad like last year.
The Vikings? They may have topped out at 10-6, but I don't see them genuinely down-trending. Their schedule is decently soft and they could do 10-6 again. Probably more like 8-8 or 9-7. And mark my words, Adrian Peterson gets injured this year in his quest for the NFL single-season rushing record.
The Cardinals? I actually like the Cardinals and would see them as almost a .500 team in the AFC. In that brutal NFC West (where they could very easily go 0-6), they're probably destined for 5-11 again, but they're not down-trending.
The Buccaneers? Meh. Whatever. They lost me when they lined up in that stupid vanilla defensive set last year against Peyton Manning and didn't adjust at halftime. Dead to me, talk to the hand. Probably 7-9 again.
Next: NFC Up-Trending teams. The moment we've all been waiting for. The problem, truly, is limiting the list to four...