We at Tiebreaker.com would like to make a prediction: The Los Angeles Rams will head to the Super Bowl undefeated, just like the 2007 New England Patriots did. But once there, they will not play the New York Giants. All hail our top team in the NFC power rankings.
Los Angeles Rams
The Green Bay Packers put up a fight last week, taking an early lead, fighting back from a second-half deficit, scratching and clawing, making a nuisance of themselves with Aaron Rodgers at the wheel. But these are not the Rams of Kellen Clemens. Jared Goff threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns. Todd Gurley amassed nearly 200 yards of offense. And Aaron Donald now has 10 sacks. There is only one word left to say: Next.
New Orleans Saints
Next refers to the Saints, one of the few NFC teams capable of keeping pace with the Rams. They play in New Orleans, this week’s version of the biggest game of the year. The Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings by 10, but it never really felt like they were in control until their defense forced Adam Thielen to cough it up to end a drive that seemed destined to put the Vikings up 20-10. But you know what they say? A win is a win.
Cam Newton is never in the conversation when it comes to naming the best quarterbacks in the league. We can understand that. Breaking through the group that includes Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, etc., is not easy. But it might be time to deal a new hand. Newton ripped Baltimore’s stingy defense for 386 yards passing and three TDs and you have to think the Panthers are headed to the playoffs.
Tell us if this makes any sense: The Vikings first two drives against the Saints covered 90 and 81 yards. Their offense outgained the mighty Saints by 150 yards. The defense held Brees to 120 yards passing and forced his first interception of the season after 231 attempts. And they still lost?
It took a long time. A decade of meh is a lot to overcome. But we finally believe in the Redskins. In fact, we believe more in the Redskins than we do in the Philadelphia Eagles. They have a tough defense, a competent QB in Alex Smith, a rejuvenated halfback in Adrian Peterson and a new sack master in Matt Ioannidis. They also have the best Gruden.
We’re toning it down a little about the Bears. With the Vikings to contend with, we’re not even sure they can win the NFC South anymore. But they showed us something against the New York Jets we’ve been anxious to see, a ground game that gobbled up 179 yards and was consistent enough to pick up some big first downs. And Mitchell Trubisky looked great in his Halloween costume. He came to the game Sunday dressed like Mike Ditka.
They beat the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday in London, but the truth is they should have looked a lot better against an opponent in a death spiral. Carson Wentz looked good (21-of-30, 286 yards) and Josh Adams brought some life to a dormant running attack by averaging 6.8 yards per carry. But don’t you get the sense that something is missing here? The Eagles play five of their last eight against the NFC East. Let’s see if they can figure it out.
If not for the Rams, the Seahawks would be contending for the NFC West title after starting the season 0-2. Now they are in midst of the big group looking for a wildcard. But that’s no fault of Russell Wilson, who threw for another three TDs in Detroit with a passer rating of 158.3. Russ, who has 11 TD passes in his last five games, also got some help from Chris Carson, who gained 105 yards, and a defense that dumped Matthew Stafford three times.
Green Bay Packers
Imagine what it must have been like to be Ty Montgomery on Monday when he walked into the Packers locker room. You have teammates speculating you disobeyed direct orders from the coaching staff to take a touchback on a kickoff late in the fourth quarter because you were angry about being taken out of the game on an earlier drive. You have Rodgers screaming profanities as you begin running the ball out. And then you fumble, the Rams recover and run out the clock. Team spirit, let’s hear it!
The problem is, and likely will remain, a defense that is 30th in the league in yards allowed (419.4) and points allowed (30.3). But when they play the Redskins on Sunday, they will do so with an offensive line already revamped three times because their backs have averaged only 83.3 yards, which is also 30th in the league. You can bet Matt Ryan is going to be under a lot of pressure this week.
Aside from the acquisition of Snacks Harrison from the New York Giants, the reconstruction of the Lions defense under Matt Patricia will be most fascinating to watch. Harrison made his debut against the Seahawks with seven tackles, two for a loss, and a sack. That’s The Patriot Way, for sure, Matt. But the Lions rushed for only 34 yards and, frankly, Matthew Stafford isn’t good enough to compensate. He turned it over twice in the fourth quarter.
Jason Garrett seemed to be enjoying himself last weekend. Where was Waldo? He was sitting next to the Dodgers’ dugout Friday enjoying World Series Game 3, although we don’t know if he stayed for all 18 innings. Once he got back to work, he and Jerry Jones fired offensive line coach Paul Alexander, primarily because Dak Prescott has been dumped on his butt 23 times. Maybe Amari Cooper will help by actually getting open in time to help the QB.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The good news is Ryan Fitzpatrick will be back at QB when the Bucs play the Panthers. When there was hope for the season in Tampa it was because of the 36-year-old journeyman, soon to be a free agent, who threw for 1,550 yards and 13 TDs before being benched. The bad news is this likely means the Bucs are admitting drafting Jameis Winston No. 1 overall in 2015 was a big mistake. In his 48 games, Winston has thrown 50 interceptions and fumbled 21 times. He has thrown 10 INTs in three starts and his passer rating is 74.7. Team overboard!
New York Giants
Heading into their bye week, the Giants are a certifiable mess. They have no offensive line. Their only TD against the Redskins came with 17 seconds to play. Thank goodness it wasn’t to OBJ because there might have been an end zone celebration and that would have made owner John Mara’s brain explode – again. Coach Pat Shurmur told the New York media that Eli Manning likely would be his quarterback when the season resumes. Like, whatever dude, it’s your team.
This much we know: The Cards can beat the San Francisco 49ers. They have done so twice this season, their only two wins. They have done so eight straight times, tied for the second-longest active winning streak in the league against one opponent. Last week, the Cards surpassed 300 yards of offense for the first time and Josh Rosen threw for 252 yards and two TDs, both in the fourth quarter, and survived three sacks. Wake us up when it’s over.
San Francisco 49ers
We refer you back to all those things we just pointed out about the Cardinals. The 49ers are 1-7. That 7-17 since Kyle Shanahan became coach and John Lynch the GM. Despite this, the 49ers do not appear to be as hopeless as the Giants because eventually Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon will be back and outlook will change.