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After Saints’ Stumble, Rams Back Atop NFC Power Rankings

The New Orleans Saints had their chance to rule our NFC roost for the remainder of the regular season. They had earned the right, entertaining the nation with an offense that would make Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Mike Martz proud.

And then the Saints lost to the Dallas Cowboys. Sorry guys, we can’t overlook that. So, welcomes the Los Angeles Rams back to the mountain top.

Los Angeles Rams

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Los Angeles Rams

Their 30-16 win over the Detroit Lions wasn’t as stimulating as their memorable touchdown festival over the Kansas City Chiefs. Our neck still hurts after swiveling it back and forth as the ball moved east to west, west to east. Oh well, they all can’t be Spielbergs, you know. But it clinched the AFC West for the 11-1 Rams, their second straight title. This is big news. The Rams haven’t won consecutive division titles since the 1970s.

New Orleans Saints

In golf, they call it a mulligan. What else can you say about their loss in Dallas? The Saints (10-2) scored 10 points, gained only 176 yards (their fewest since 2001 when Aaron Brooks was the quarterback). Worse yet, Drew Brees started the game with four incompletions for the first time in his career and threw for only 127 yards. The only problem with it is they now trail the Rams by one game for home field in the NFC playoffs.

Chicago Bears

Well, we guess Chase Daniel isn’t the long-term solution at QB. He didn’t play well against the New York Giants defense, which is actually hard to do. Still, the Bears are in great shape in the NFC North since the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers can’t stop tripping over their own spikes. One thing seems certain: When the Bears play the Rams on Sunday Night, it would be nice to Mitchell Trubisky back.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have won four straight and did it without Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin or Roger Staubach. Amazing, we know. In retrospect, shutting down the Saints the way they did will probably be remembered as one of the great accomplishments, league-wide, of the 2018 season. This just goes to show you what can happen when an offense and defense play in synch. This Sunday, the Cowboys host the Eagles with a chance to pretty much lock up the NFC East.

Pete Carroll

Otto Greule Jr / Getty

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle has won three straight and Russell Wilson has eight TD passes and no interceptions in those games. This is Seahawks football – power rushing, ball control, no turnovers. They’ve also been extraordinarily tough in December and January since Pete Carroll became coach in 2010. They’ve won 22 of 30 games. This week, linebacker Mychal Kendricks returns after an eight-game league suspension for inside trading. He played in the first three games and had two sacks. Every little thing helps, right?

Minnesota Vikings

Things are beginning to break down for the Norsemen. They scored only 10 points at New England on Sunday. They continue to have no running game, attributable, some say, to an underachieving offensive line. According to reports, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer says he’ll continue to be patient with rookie offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, who was the QB coach Philadelphia Eagles last year when they won the Super Bowl. But here’s something the Washington Redskins probably know: Kirk Cousins is only 32-35-1 as a starter.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Birds are still in flight thanks to their win over the Washington Redskins on Monday night. If was the first time this season they’ve won consecutive games. If they beat the Cowboys, they will move into a tie for the NFC East. Of course, they still look like one of their wings is injured because so many of their players are. It’s been a very tough season on the training staff and depth chart. One highlight, however, is tight end Zach Ertz. He has 93 receptions, just 17 shy of Jason Witten’s league record for the position.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have lost four straight, so we’re absolutely certain they are the frauds of the NFC. From 6-2 to 6-6, from potential division champion to Wild Card wannabee, they’ve progressively deteriorated. Cam Newton tossed four interceptions in Sunday’s loss to Tampa and the organization fired their defensive line and cornerback coach. After Cleveland this weekend, two of their last three games are against New Orleans. Good luck.

Washington Redskins

Colt McCoy joined Alex Smith in the cast on Monday Night. It’s a medical show with a very sad ending. McCoy broke his leg, just like Smith did on Nov. 19. And now the Redskins (6-6), losers of three straight, are down to Mark Sanchez, who was signed immediately after Smith’s injury. How crazy was the loss to the Eagles on Monday? Adrian Peterson scored on a 90-yard run, the longest in his career, the first 33-year-old in league history to score from that distance. He ended the game with 98 yards on nine carries. Go in peace, Redskins.

New York Giants

Who would have thought, after all this time, that Odell Beckham, Jr., might be the best QB on the team. He tossed his second TD of the season Sunday in the win over the Bears. Beckham is now 2-for-2 for 106 yards with a passer rating of 158.3. The dude throws a tight spiral. As for his teammates, who blew a 16-point lead to the Eagles last week, they lost a 10-point lead in final two minutes before winning on a field goal in overtime.

Green Bay Packers

The franchise is experiencing a sad state of affairs. First, Brett Favre gets duped into making anti-Semitic remarks on a Cameo video by a white supremist group. Very bad. Then on Sunday, the team lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals leading to the firing of coach Mike McCarthy, who was there 13 years. Very bad. Green Bay is headed to a Top 10 draft pick for the first time since 2009. Very embarrassing.

Detroit Lions

It’s official: The Lions will not win a division title for the 25th consecutive year. We suggest an exorcism. It might help Matt Patricia’s rebuild. The team has done very little offensively, scoring an average of 16.2 points over their last six games. Matthew Stafford is looking very ordinary. Not Sam Bradford ordinary, but more like Milt Plum than Johnny Unitas. And please Matt, shave that ugly beard. You look like a lumberjack.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Just a few weeks ago, Jameis Winston was benched again in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick. The not-so-subtle message was the team had finally given up on the first overall pick of the 2015 draft. He was looking like Ryan Leaf and you don’t want to look like Ryan Leaf. But now Winston is back and playing with poise. He hasn’t given the ball up in two weeks and threw for 259 yards and two TDs against the Panthers.

Atlanta Falcons

Imagine Matt Ryan being limited to 131 yards passing, even by a defense as staunch as the Baltimore Ravens. It’s been that type of season. Atlanta has lost four straight. The Falcons have gained only 60 yards rushing in the last two games. Owner Arthur Blank, the Home Depot guy, felt compelled last weekend to reinforce his trust in coach Dan Quinn and the front office. That’s usually the first sign of trouble. At 4-8, they are at bottom of the NFC South. Last person out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium please turn off the Jumbotron.

Arizona Cardinals

Even if you have an autographed picture of Jim Bakken on your wall, you figured the Birds had no chance winning in Green Bay. You know, the whole climate change issue, out of the oven, into the freezer. But life is full of surprises and a team that had only beaten the San Francisco 49ers, went to Lambeau Field and won. We think Josh Rosen is going to be OK someday.

San Francisco 49ers

The Niners have lost their last two games by a combined 45 points. They are down to their third QB and fourth halfback. The secondary and run defense are a mess. They are in contention for the first overall pick in the 2018 draft and have to play the Denver Broncos, Seahawks, Bears and Rams before the season can mercifully end. There is no gold in them there hills!