16. Arizona Cardinals: 2-6; Predicted finish 3-13
What's gone right: Running back Beanie Wells was Arizona's biggest early-season bright spot, racking up seven touchdowns and 506 yards on 113 carries (4.48 average) in the first seven games before knee and stinger injuries caught up to him in Week 9. Though rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson has been a liability in pass coverage, he's sparked the Cardinals' special teams with three punt return touchdowns, including last week's 99-yard game-winner against the Rams.
Norm Hall / Getty Images
Even a talent like Larry Fitzgerald can't keep the Cardinals from being among the NFC's worst teams.
What's gone wrong: Arizona's defense is easy to move the ball against because it can't stop the pass. Safety Kerry Rhodes, the team's best defensive back in coverage, fractured his left foot on Oct. 9 and remains out indefinitely. No NFC team has allowed more completions of 20-plus yards. Offensively, quarterback Kevin Kolb has been a bust. Now injured, the $65 million summer addition has more turnovers than touchdowns and arguably the worst pocket presence in football.
What's next: Unless Kolb overcomes his fear of the pass rush, this team is headed nowhere fast. The defense lacks edge-rusher talent to cover up secondary deficiencies, and Wells has admitted that his knee won't be healthy the rest of the season. Unlike St. Louis, Arizona has already played the easy half of its schedule. Three wins from here on out would be an accomplishment.
15. Seattle Seahawks: 2-6; Predicted finish 3-13
Julio Cortez / AP
Seattle coach Pete Carroll gets his team to play hard, but it's tough with middling talent.
What's gone right: The Seahawks play tough run defense, or at least they had been until Cowboys rookie DeMarco Murray burned them last week. And that's about it. While coach Pete Carroll usually gets his team to play hard on Sundays, his roster is too talent-poor to be competitive. At 2-6, Seattle is second in the brutal NFC West, but five games behind first-place San Francisco.
What's gone wrong: The quarterback and offensive line play have been among the NFL's poorest, and wildly inconsistent week to week. The front five is the biggest culprit, surrendering the league's second most sacks and opening enough holes to generate only the third-fewest rushing yards. Defensively, Seattle is 30th in sacks and has lost top corner Marcus Trufant for the season.
What's next: The Seahawks are the NFL's least talented team. They're almost certainly looking at a top-five pick in the 2012 draft, which figures to be used on a quarterback. Carroll and G.M. John Schneider didn't take the position seriously when they signed Tarvaris Jackson in July. They also need a running back, line help, and a difference-making pass rusher. It's a long road ahead.
14. St. Louis Rams: 1-7; Predicted finish 4-12
Christian Petersen / Getty Images
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is finally healthy.
What's gone right: Since the Week 5 bye, tailback Steven Jackson is averaging over five yards a carry and 133 total yards per game. Jackson was in and out of the lineup for the first month with a quadriceps injury, but he's been St. Louis' most consistent offensive playmaker after preseason concerns that he'd lost a step. Trade-deadline acquisition Brandon Lloyd has given the Rams a receiver capable of separating from defensive backs. On defense, steady middle linebacker James Laurinaitis leads the team in tackles (61) and end Chris Long has a club-high seven sacks.
What's gone wrong: St. Louis played its first seven games against teams that have a combined 36-21 record, losing six straight to open the season before a stunning win over New Orleans. The Rams failed to build on the upset by falling 19-13 to the Cardinals in Week 9. St. Louis lost its top three cornerbacks to year-ending injuries and quarterback Sam Bradford to a high ankle sprain. But injuries aren't a viable excuse. This is a roster short on talent and still in a rebuilding phase.
What's next: Whereas their first seven opponents are 36-21, the Rams play their next five games against teams with a 16-24 record. St. Louis can make up some ground in the NFC West with five division games left. With Bradford healthy, a fast finish isn't out of the question. But coach Steve Spagnuolo will need to worry about his job security if the Rams keep losing to teams such as the Cardinals.
13. Minnesota Vikings: 2-6; Predicted finish 5-11
What's gone right: Tailback Adrian Peterson leads the NFC in rushing yards and defensive end Jared Allen leads the league in sacks, but those individual stats don't translate to wins when you can't pass the ball or defend it in a passing league. The lone other bright spot has been Minnesota's run defense, which ranks fifth in the NFL and allows just 3.81 yards per carry.
What's gone wrong: The Vikings' offseason trade for Donovan McNabb was a disaster, and they were forced to bench him for rookie Christian Ponder after six starts. Minnesota surrounded McNabb with the worst combination of offensive line play and outside receivers in the league, but the 34-year-old's nonexistent mobility and accuracy were his undoing. On defense, top cornerback Antoine Winfield has missed four games with a neck injury and promising No. 2 corner Chris Cook was suspended indefinitely by the team after a felony domestic assault charge.
What's next: Ponder has moved the chains far more efficiently than McNabb through two starts, and the Vikings will continue to lean on Peterson and slot receiver Percy Harvin to buoy the offense. Although Minnesota scored 24 points in just 1 of 6 games with McNabb under center, they've done so in both of Ponder’s starts. A tough second-half schedule probablky will merit the Vikings a top-10 pick in 2012, but they should at least be more competitive in the final eight games.
ProFootballTalk: Patriots QB Tom Brady addressed Wes Welker’s decision to head West to Denver. Brady says he isn’t surprised by anything after being in the league for so long and hopes that Welker has a great season with the Broncos.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
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