We like to believe we possess many admirable personality traits here at Tiebreaker.com. But we tend to hold grudges when it comes to constructing our weekly NFL power rankings. It’s a what-have-you-done-for-us-lately mindset which directs us. Here’s a hint about this week’s NFC lineup: Rams tough love.
New Orleans Saints
If you watched the first half of the Tampa Bay game, recoiling in horror at the site of their 14-3 deficit, you might have thought you were experiencing a nightmare – Cinderella left the ball looking like Roseanne Barr. And then you (actually the Saints) woke up, right around the time Taysom Hill blocked that punt in the third quarter. The Saints (11-2) are again in control of homefield in the NFC.
Sorry, Rams fans. The Bears earned the promotion by making your offense look offensive on Sunday Night. In this year of the touchdown, seeing how Vic Fangio’s defense unraveled one of the league’s most fearsome units was entertaining and instructive. We have just one question: Can the Bears defense win the NFC championship, particularly if Mitch Trubisky has another 110-yard, three-interception blowup in the playoffs? We now know it’s at least possible.
Los Angeles Rams
Six points on two field goals. A total of 214 yards. Four interceptions from Jared Goff. Only 14 first downs. Todd Gurley: 28 yards rushing. We never thought this day would come. So disappointing. Then again, hungry Bears in the wild are quite capable of turning Rams into stew. They turned NBC into the National Geographic Channel. It was grisly, wasn’t it?
From 3-4 to 8-5 in the blink on an eye, the Cowboys have filed away Jason Garrett’s termination notice and are preparing to sell playoff tickets. We have been quite hard on Jerry Jones, often comparing his management skills to those who destroyed Enron, that other Texas-based conglomerate. But we now praise his acquisition of Amari Cooper. He has turned Dak Prescott into Troy Aikman. How ‘bout them Cowboys!
As they showed on Monday Night against the Minnesota Vikings, the Seahawks have mastered the art of combining efficient ball-control with suffocating defense. And they soon will have an NFC West title to show for it. They gained 214 yards rushing and threw only 22 passes to beat the Vikings. The new “Legion of Doom” defense was on display as they won their fourth straight game. If they promise to give the ball to Chris Carson at the goal line and not try a pass, we might even let them play in another Super Bowl.
This is one very strange team, although we understand it has had its share of injuries. Their offense stunk against the Seahawks. It converted only two of 10 third downs. It gained only 276 yards. It was unable to get the ball to Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen, which was necessary because they have no rushing game. We don’t believe in paying MLB starting pitchers or giving NFL quarterbacks a guaranteed $84 million. Kirk Cousins is one lucky dude.
Well, we told you so back in September. The Eagles would not defend their Super Bowl championship. And they will not, becoming the fourth champion in the last seven years to fail to make the playoffs in the next season. But we didn’t think it would be as bad as 6-7 with games against the Houston Texans and Rams still to play. Frank Reich, last year’s offensive coordinator and now Indianapolis Colts head coach, must be a miracle worker.
New York Giants
We were wrong, so very wrong to blast the Giants for not taking Sam Darnold with the No. 2 pick and using it on Saquon Barkley. We figured running backs were interchangeable and franchise QBs generational. We know better now. We understand if Barkley can manage 460 yards on offense over the last three weeks, he will break Eric Dickerson’s league record for rookies (2,212) set in 1983. We bow to the kid, one fabulous player. And with Eli Manning still ticking, the Giants have won four of five. Live and learn.
The Panthers are as weak as Cam Newton’s throwing shoulder. They haven’t been able to go long this season. It’s a dink-and-dunk team. They have lost five straight, last week to the Cleveland Browns, a team with a more exciting future. Where would this team be without Christian McCaffrey? And we don’t think it’s about to get any better. They play the Saints twice over the last three weeks.
Green Bay Packers
How rude of the Packers to finally play an inspired game one week after their head coach, Mike McCarthy, was fired. They thumped the Atlanta Falcons 34-14. Aaron Rodgers threw a pair of TD passes and broke Tom Brady’s league record for consecutive passes without an interception (358). The mark now stands at 368. Bashaud Breland stoked the defense with a pick-six. Remarkably at 5-7-1 they are still in the Wild Card race. If they fail, Paul McCartney plays Lambeau Field on June 8.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Big props to the Bucs for winning one-half of Sunday’s game against the Saints. That couldn’t have been easy, the Bucs being the Bucs. Still, they are playing somewhat better, now that the pressure of actually needing to win is done. They’ve won two of three, are getting better play from Jameis Winston and their secondary, the last line of their brutal defense, has seven picks.
The second hardest job to fill in Washington, right behind White House chief of staff, is Redskins QB. That position has been jinxed this season. From Alex Smith to Colt McCoy to Mark Sanchez to Josh Johnson it’s been a roller coaster of bad fortune, bad breaks (as in legs) and bad play. The Redskins have lost four straight. They trailed the Giants 40-0 – at home – in the third quarter last week. Bring us your tired and weary. They might need another QB soon.
We don’t like lima beans, but we continue to love the Lions, which we know can also be hard to swallow. This team will eventually be built on defense, sort of like the Bears were. And frankly, it better be because Matthew Stafford is about to become the first QB in league history with 40,000 passing yards and zero postseason wins. Stafford had just 101 yards passing in Sunday’s win over the Arizona Cardinals, his worst game in eight seasons.
We found something nice to say about the Falcons, who have now lost five straight. Julio Jones has 66 catches for first downs this season, the most in the league. In the third quarter of the loss to the Packers, he reached 1,400 receiving yards for the fifth straight season, the first in league history to do so. Never say we don’t try to look at the bright side.
What troubles us about Sunday’s loss to the Lions is it came in the warmth of home just one week after they beat the Packers in the cold of Green Bay. We’d say they were a hot-and-cold team, but it’s a very dry heat in Arizona, as you already know. You can hardly feel it. But what’s even more concerning is Josh Rosen led the offense to only one visit to the red zone. Geez, Nathan Peterman could have done that for about $17 million less.
San Francisco 49ers
They have tight end named George Kittle, who is actually a pretty fantastic player, who caught seven passes for 210 yards in just the first half of Sunday’s highlight win over the Denver Broncos. One was a sparking 85-yard catch-and-run for a TD in the second quarter. He might end up as prominent as Ted Kwalick, Russ Francis, Brent Jones and Vernon Davis were to this franchise. But for some strange reason, they could not get the ball once to Kittle in the second half. Just a random observation about a 3-10 team