Even though they’ve survived to tell the story of their win over the Kansas City Chiefs in this year’s “greatest game ever played in the history of the NFL,” the Los Angeles Rams can’t convince us they are even the best team in the NFC. Once again, Tiebreaker.com genuflects to New Orleans Saints.
New Orleans Saints
In a wacky world where the Rams and Chiefs score at will, we admit the Saints might be better than both of them. Watching their offense operate is joyful, particularly if you regularly bet the “over.” Drew Brees has 25 touchdown passes, just one interception and is completing 76.9 percent of his throws. But what makes the Saints potentially impossible to beat is a defense than actually can stop people.
Los Angeles Rams
We’re still breathless after Monday Night’s masterpiece. If only you could make a mold out of Rams coach Sean McVay and mass produce him. Imagine the market for someone so young and so offensively innovative. We know Jacksonville would buy one. Still, the best player on the team is defensive tackle Aaron Donald. What a monster. The Rams got a bargain at $135 million.
If you subscribe to the theory a great defense can stop a prolific offense, you probably believe the Bears have a chance to win the NFC Championship. We advise against thinking that way. It very rarely happens. But we would admit these new Monsters of the Midway, who held the Vikings to 268 yards on Sunday Night, could at least impede the forward motion of the Saints and Rams long enough for Mitchell Trubisky to make things interesting.
Ok, let’s get this out of the way first: Ron Rivera’s decision to go for the game-winning two-point conversion on Sunday would have been hailed to the high heavens had Cam Newton not uncorked perhaps the worst pass of the season. That was just inexcusable. That’s not the problem with the Panthers. The problem is they can’t win on the road. So they’re not beating the Saints, Rams or Bears, even if they win the NFC South. And that’s all that matters.
What’s the sense paying Kirk Cousins $90 million if you aren’t capable of providing a running attack to complement the best receiving tandem in the league. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have a chance to become first pair of teammates with at least 1,000 receiving yards in the same season since the Vikings’ Cris Carter and Randy Moss in 2000. So what? The Vikings had 17 yards rushing in Chicago on Sunday.
There’s this idea floating about that the Redskins won’t be hurt as much by the loss of Alex Smith as most of us believe. The reasoning is Washington’s offense is systematic and any competent QB can run it. We beg to differ. Colt McCoy hasn’t thrown an NFL pass since 2015. He does not have the experience or mobility to create instinctively, as Smith did. What will McCoy do if the Dallas Cowboys shut down Adrian Peterson on Thanksgiving in their NFC East showdown? And god help them if Mark Sanchez has to play with just four days of tutoring.
Well, well, well, the Cowboys have won two straight and are now one game behind the Redskins in the division. You probably would like to know why. Two theories: The acquisition of Amari Cooper, at least conceptually, requires defenses to at least acknowledge Dak Prescott’s option to throw. That means Zeke Elliott becomes more of weapon and he has two consecutive 100-yard games. And on defense, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch (there is no greater name in pro sports) have more than compensated for Sean Lee’s latest injury (hamstring).
Back in the days when Bill Parcells coached the New York Giants and Joe Gibbs led the Redskins, an offense like Seattle’s would be respected for its old school mentality and production. The Seahawks not only love to run the ball, they do maybe better than anyone in the league, averaging 154 yards. But can that be enough to get through upcoming games against the Panthers, Vikings and Chiefs and contend for a wildcard? We’ll take a pass.
Every Falcons movie has a sad ending. No team has taken it on the chin so late, so often in games this season. Despite another great season from Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, one of the best pitch-catch combinations in the league, this team just doesn’t have the sustainable assets to survive 60 minutes. It’s like watching Titanic every week.
Green Bay Packers
It’s interesting to note that a few pundits are already speculating where Mike McCarthy will coach next. Cincinnati? New York Jets? Baltimore, perhaps? It does seem apparent McCarthy’s slipping on frozen tundra now that the chemistry he and Aaron Rodgers have shared for so long seems to have fizzled. Every coach has an expiration date and being 0-5 on the road means McCarthy’s likely on his way to the recycling bin.
The defending Super Bowl champions went to New Orleans and had the saints beaten out of them in one the most lopsided games of the season. The Eagles allowed 546 yards to Brees & Co. But how could you blame them? One more secondary injury on Sunday would have pressed the equipment manager into emergency service at cornerback. It’s like we’ve been saying all season; it’s almost impossible for everything to go perfectly two years in a row. This season hasn’t been a slump, it’s been a submersion.
Let’s begin by saying we loved the Lions fashion sense last week. In these days of color-coordinated tops and bottoms, Detroit’s all-gray was a fashion hit, much easier on the eyes than the banana republic look the Rams sported on Monday. Perhaps it was no coincidence that Matthew Stafford even looked better, especially when getting the ball to Kenny Golladay. Kerryon (My Wayward Son) Johnson is also one of the league’s underrated halfbacks. Now, if they could only figure out a way to survive the black and blue the Bears are going to put on them on Thursday, especially with Johnson already ruled out.
New York Giants
The Giants beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers! The Giants beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers! Again, Giants fans, calm down. A two-game winning streak against the 49ers and Bucs isn’t going to erase what preceded it. Remember, Alabama beat The Citadel. Whales eat guppies every day. But we’ll admit, we do love Saquon Barkley. The kid has 361 yards rushing after first contact this season. He’s a pinball wizard.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s incredible that the Bucs lead the league in total offense and average passing yards. It defies explanation that a team can move the ball so effortlessly and sit 3-7. Then an explanation appears: The Bucs have allowed more points (329) than any team in the league, 62 more than they have scored. By comparison, the 9-1 Saints have scored 139 more than they’ve allowed. Back and forth they go between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston when the truth is what this team really needs is Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber and Lee Roy Selmon.
Until Byron Leftwich became offensive coordinator, you wouldn’t have known David Johnson was still on the team. Now Johnson has three straight 100-yard games. And that’s something to write home about during this miserable season. Of course, the Cardinals lost to the Oakland Raiders last week even though Jon Gruden and Derek Carr were sniping at each other like an angry married couple. And that’s really bad.
San Francisco 49ers
So what do you think the 49ers will do with QB Nick Mullens during the offseason? Will they trade him? Will they promote him over C.J. Beathard? Or will they just shock the world and trade Jimmy Garoppolo to the Giants and give the Brett Favre protégé the job? Just stirring the pot soon to be on the hot stove because what else is there to talk about with this team?