It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for Tiebreaker.com’s favorite NFC team. They are marching down Bourbon Street, beaded necklaces tossed down to them by adoring fans. And we get the sense the party is just beginning.
New Orleans Saints
You know you’re blessed when receivers named Dan Arnold, Austin Carr and Keith Kirkwood suddenly drop from the heavens to add another dimension to an offense that has averaged 41 points in his last five games. And just wait until Brandon Marshall is ready to play. You’ll need a summons to stop Drew Brees.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams will clinch the NFC West this week at Detroit. The next Star Wars movie will gross $500 million worldwide. We like to go out on limbs here at Tiebreaker.com. We can only hope there will be one more Rams-Saints game in our future.
Did you know that Bears coach Matt Nagy was Kansas City’s quarterback coach when Chase Daniel made his last NFL start (in 2014) before last week? These guys speak the same language, which made Daniel’s 27-of-37 (230 yards, 2 touchdowns) debut last week against the Lions understandable and comforting in case Mitchell Trubisky needs more rest. And we think it’s time Akiem Hicks and Eddie Jackson gets some love on defense.
The Vikings are 6-4-1 after their win against Green Bay last Sunday. That puts them into position to at least qualify for a Wild Card if they can’t catch the Bears. Then again, they have games coming up against at New England (on Sunday) and at Seattle (Dec. 10). Tough and tougher. But no matter what happens, please do not blame Kirk Cousins just because his contract is beautiful. He’s having a brilliant season, as are Adam Thielen (93 catches) and Stefon Diggs (79).
Their 6-5 record isn’t as bad as Jacksonville’s, but we’re beginning to believe there might not be a more disappointing team in the league. They have lost three straight, turning their playoff steamroller into a caboose. And they still haven’t played the Saints. That reality catches up twice in the last three weeks. We do love Christian McCaffrey, however. He could wind up as only the third back in league history to have 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving in the same season.
How about them Cowboys! They are now 6-5 and in first place of the NFC East after winning three games in 11 days. Here is one of the most insightful ways to look at why this might have happened: Before the acquisition of Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders, the Cowboys were almost last in the league in third-down conversions. But in November, they cashed in on 26 of their 54 chances and are now third in that category. Doesn’t matter. They ain’t beating the Rams or Saints.
There really isn’t much left to say. Colt McCoy’s debut in Dallas had its moments (268 yards), but his three interceptions turned out to be monumental. The Redskins have no choice but hope his assimilation eventually leads to better things with division games against the Eagles and Giants coming the next two weeks. But the Cowboys also put a whooping on the Redskins defense. So there is enough blame to pass the buck, a Washington tradition.
The Seahawks (6-5) have won two straight and are having fun, best illustrated by receiver Tyler Lockett’s homage to former NBA star Allen Iverson after scoring his eighth TD on Sunday at Carolina. Lockett feigned making a hoop, then did the infamous Iverson stepover from the 2001 NBA Finals when the Sixers star literally stepped over the prone body of Lakers defender Tyronn Lue. Then you had halfback Chris Carson doing a flip over Carolina safety Eric Reid and landing on his feet. What will they pull out of the top hat Sunday against San Francisco?
The defending Super Bowl champions kept the light glimmering by coming back from a 19-3 deficit to beat the New York Giants. At 5-6, they have the world at their fingertips with NFC East games against the Redskins and Cowboys over the next two weeks. We suggest they take advantage of this because the Rams and Houston Texans are next. And that might not be pretty.
Green Bay Packers
We wish we could say things were getting better for the Packers, but that would be terribly irresponsible. They have lost four of their last five and are 0-6 on the road. That only lessens the possibility that Mike McCarthy will be back as their coach. But Green Bay plays Arizona on Sunday – always an effective antidote for what’s ails you. Still, the Pack has been crushed by injuries all season. It is what it is.
The Lions have won one playoff game since winning the NFL Championship in 1957. That came in 1991. They have not won a divisional title since 1993, which may be the last time Matt Patricia shaved. On Thanksgiving against the Bears, with the score tied 16-16 and six minutes left to play, Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions, the first of which was turned into a pick six by Eddie Jackson. So who will take the fall? The money is on offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who Patricia inherited from Jim Caldwell’s staff.
Can you remember another time and another team featuring a QB leading the league in passing yards that has had as much trouble winning as the Falcons? We can’t. Matt Ryan’s spectacular season has been drowned out by injuries and a running attack that is 31st in the league. The Falcons managed only 26 yards rushing against the Saints on Thanksgiving. The defense has allowed 307 points, second to Tampa Bay in the NFC. And that’s why 4-7 seems about right.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are back in love with Jameis Winston after last week’s 27-9 win over San Francisco, but this has been one tumultuous love affair. The Bucs ended a four-game losing streak against arguably the NFC’s worst team. Winston threw for 312 yards and two TDs without a turnover. In his four seasons, there was only one other time when he threw for more than 300 yards and multiple TDs without at least one interception. Again, this was against the 49ers, not the 1985 Bears. Perspective, perspective.
New York Giants
At this point, we trust nothing Odell Beckham, Jr. does or says. We can only conclude his momentary absence during Sunday’s game in Philadelphia to get fluids (on a comfortable 50-degree day) was not precipitated by a medical condition as much as his desire to land a Gatorade sponsorship. Diva. Total diva. With the exception of Saquon Barkley, we’ve had enough of these guys. They rammed the ball down the Eagles throat in the first half, then took the air of it in the second. Bring back Fran Tarkenton.
The Cardinals hired Steve Wilks, the defensive coordinator the Panthers, as their new coach. Then they used their first draft pick on rookie QB Josh Rosen and put offensive coordinator Mike McCoy in charge of his development. That didn’t work out. McCoy was fired in mid-October and replaced by Byron Leftwich. Bottom line: Arizona’s only two wins are against San Francisco. They have scored only 155 points. You don’t hire a defensive-minded coach anymore in the NFL. Offense is where it’s at.
San Francisco 49ers
While they aren’t Thielen and Diggs, the 49ers have depended on Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin to at least lend their hands in support to their accomplished tight end, George Kittle, who leads the team with 56 receptions. But Garcon and Goodwin are hurt, neither likely to play Sunday at Seattle. This can’t do a lot for QB Nick Mullen’s confidence. Of course, how confident can a 2-9 team that’s beaten only Detroit and Oakland really be?