Underperforming Playoff Teams
(graphic by Autumn Mariano)

With three weeks of the NFL season gone, the landscape is not what most people expected. Five of the six teams that made the playoffs in the NFC are under .500 on the season. Three of these teams were considered in the top six teams in the league at the start of the season. While it is too early to count anyone out of the playoffs, except for maybe the Jaguars, it is significant.

The San Francisco 49ers are perhaps the most surprising team under the .500 mark. The defending NFC champions looked good in their first game against the Green Bay Packers. Colin Kaepernick had over 400 yards passing. But the Packers stopped the bread and butter of the 49ers, their running game.

After Week 1, the 49ers faced additional playoff teams in Indianapolis and Seattle. Both teams shut down the passing attack of San Francisco and held their own against the running game, limiting ‘Niners to just 10 points combined after scoring 34 in the opener. We will have to see how head coach Jim Harbaugh handles being below .500 for the first time in his NFL career.

The Falcons, who came within five yards of making the Super Bowl, have had a rough stretch, losing to two playoff-caliber teams. The New Orleans Saints are on a tear, as they are once again under the watch of head coach Sean Payton. The Falcons also lost to a surprisingly improved Miami Dolphins team. Atlanta is in a win-now season. So far it isn’t going as planned. There is still time to turn it around.

The Packers shot themselves in the foot on Sunday, as their defense forced four consecutive turnovers that were converted into just 13 points, and only six points by the offense. Aaron Rodgers didn’t look in sync all day as he threw two interceptions and had three balls batted down in the last drive.

The Packers secondary is struggling without starting safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Casey Hayward. Green Bay faced a similar situation last year, starting the season 2-3 before bouncing back to end the season at 11-5. The Packers head into their bye week this week, hoping to get everyone healthy and on the same page. If both sides of the ball work through mistakes, this team is still primed to excel at any moment.

The Washington Redskins have been having troubles on both sides of the ball. Robert Griffin III is not looking like his former self, although he claims to be 100 percent recovered from his knee injury a season ago. He also looks rusty, as he had no preseason and limited practice time since the season started.

The Redskin defense is also struggling to stop anything that is thrown their way. Their opponents have averaged 33 points per game and nearly 500 yards per game. Washington’s defense has given up more yards in the first three games than any other team in history over a three-game stretch.

The team did rally last year after being just 3-6 as they went on a seven-game winning streak to make the playoffs. The hole is not too deep yet. I hope RGIII will regain his form and once again electrify the league.

Vikings fans look to be in for a rough season. Minnesota has already lost two divisional games, plus a last-second loss to the Cleveland Browns. Adrian Peterson, who came just nine yards short of breaking the single-season rushing record last season, is averaging under 100 yards a game. Right now it looks like his prediction of 2,500 yards will fall well short. But, as we learned last season, never bet against MV Peterson.

The National Football League is perhaps the hardest professional sport to predict. Each team has just 16 games on the schedule, and anything can happen in any given week. Surprise wins happen, such as the Jets in any of their games. It is what makes the league so fun to watch. But in the end, the best teams will be in the playoffs. Everything will work itself out. It will be fun to watch. Sit back and enjoy. And pull your hair out.

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