5. The Chicago Bears
Comp Pct 61.0
Passer Rating 84.6
Comp Pct 66.0
Passer Rating 92.8
If Cutler is going to be your quarterback and you are going to stand behind his style of play, the defense has to be able to stay on the field and produce. Cutler can't be forced into shootouts because, as evidenced by their last few losses, they will lose if that's what the game comes down to. That's why this season is a blatant schematic failure by the coaching staff and personnel. The disarray in the Bears locker room along with their sinking record is a reflection of an organization that has dropped the ball categorically; in spite of having the necessary pieces in plce.
4. Vernon Davis
Davis was one of the best tight ends in the NFL last year. Going into Week 11 of 2013, he had 30 receptions for 520 yards and 7 TDs. This year he has 17 receptions for 169 yards and 2 TDs, which is disappointing when you consider that he caught 11 passes for 180 yards and 2 TDs in just Week 6 last year against the Arizona Cardinals. Obviously the addition of Stevie Johnson to an already formidable 49ers' wide receiving core has impacted Davis' targets. Johnson has caught 31 of 40 passes thrown his way this season, translating into a 78% chance he will make the catch when he's targeted. It's tough to argue with that type of efficiency, except for the fact that it's currently not enough to help propel them ahead of some stiff divisional competition.
Perhaps his decreased production is due to Jim Harbaugh and the coaching staff limiting the use of the tight end position as a receiver. If that's the case, they should consider going back to more of what they did last year, as they have lost two of their last three games and have only twice scored more than 27 points in a game this season. At 5-4 and sitting at third place in the NFC West, their decision to limit their offensive versatility by reducing tight end sets this year may comeback to haunt them.
3. The NFC South
New Orleans Saints 4-5
Carolina Panthers 3-6-1
Atlanta Falcons 3-6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-8
How is this possible? Just 10 months ago the Saints and Panthers were playoff teams with 12-4 an 11-5 regular season records respectively. It's no surprise that the Falcons and Bucs are bad, considering the state of their franchises recently. But for two of the NFC's best teams to drop off so dramatically is disappointing to say the least. Carolina's situation is the less troubling of the two, for a few reasons. Cam Newton is still vastly unproven as a consistent passer, and doesn't have the luxury of continuing to figure it out this year as he is the second leading rusher on his team behind a meager 299 yards rushing from Jonathan Stewart. Plus, their last four games (all losses) have been against the Packers, Seahawks, Saints and Eagles. That's a rough stretch. Still, there is never an excuse to lose four games in row. Plus, they couldn't even win a game that the Bengals tried to give away. That's where that ugly tie came from. Ain't nobody got time for ties.
The real travesty here though is the Saints. Their legendary turnaround defensively last year helped lead them back to the NFC Divisional game against the Seahawks in the playoffs. Injuries to their rushing core including Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson have stifled their run game, but with Drew Brees throwing the ball to reliable targets in Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and breakout rookie Brandin Cooks (who also has six rushes for 68 yards and a TD), it is perplexing that they have been unable to find a rhythm. It's been an odd few years for Sean Payton; maybe it's time for his tenure in New Orleans to come to a close.
2. Nick FOles
Cut to 2014-era Nick Foles who is a full on hot mess. It's hard to believe that such success across an NFL season by a QB could be a fluke, but that's looking more and more like the case. He's thrown at least one interception in every game he's started this season for a total of ten. Not only have his stats dropped to underwhelming levels, but he just looks uncomfortable on the field. He's constantly scrambling around, unable to read the defense or get the ball off quick enough. That scrambling and panicking has lead to four fumbles so far this season; three of which were turnovers. It's so bad that Philly fans are actually trying to get themselves on board with the idea that Mark Sanchez could be their new starter. The Mark Sanchez that wasn't even good enough to start for the Jets...
At 7-2 and leading the NFC East it's obvious that the Eagles are making it work so far. But going from 2013-era Nick Foles to Butt Fumble McGee in less than a year cannot feel good.
1. Roger Goodell
In his 45-minute press conference addressing the details surrounding Rice's suspension and the league's plans to overhaul their treatment of the issue of domestic violence within the NFL, Goodell was avoidant, dismissive and condescending. Rather than seizing the opportunity to express humility and offer an honest dialogue regarding the complex issue of enacting and enforcing NFL rules and regulations in conjunction with the law, he plead ignorance.
Goodell was reminded by a reporter in that press conference that his explanation for suspending Sean Payton from the NFL for a full year after the Saints BountyGate scandal in 2012 was that "ignorance is not an excuse." That reporter asked Goodell why ignorance was a good enough explanation for his behavior in light of the precedent he set when sanctioning Payton. He had no answer. When Goodell failed to answer that question with any level of honesty or integrity, he lost what was left of his credibility. It's hard to say how long he will try to fight his descent into the bowels of the public opinion, but as long as he does, he will continue to be the NFL's biggest active disappointment.