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NFC power rankings: 49ers firepower gets them back on top

George Kittle

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Every week during the NFL season, will present our conference power rankings. The AFC will be on Tuesday, the NFC on Wednesday.

This week in the NFC, the 49ers couldn’t stop the Saints from marching in – the end zone. But it didn’t end up as bad as it could have been.

1). San Francisco 49ers

Little did the 49ers know their shootout in New Orleans would result in 981 combined yards, 53 first downs and the most points (94) in a regular-season meeting of 10-win teams in NFL history. So you take the good with the bad. Their offense was supersonic, their defense uncharacteristically underwhelming. Thank goodness for George Kittle and Robbie Gould.

2). Green Bay Packers

The Packers have sleep-walked through two straight wins versus pathetic NFC East opponents, the Giants and the Redskins. Their 20-17 win over Washington on Sunday wasn’t much to brag about, although the running game amassed 175 yards behind Aaron Jones (134 yards) and his friends up front. The defense chipped in with four sacks of Dwayne Haskins. But doesn’t everyone do that?

3). New Orleans Saints

The Saints thought they were beyond all this. There was a time when their defense was their Achilles heel, their bend – then break – shortcoming. But it hadn’t been that way this season until Jimmy Garoppolo torched them for four touchdown passes. Let’s put it this way: Drew Brees threw for 349 yards and accounted for five TDs and they still lost.

4). Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks offense looked unusually anemic during their 28-12 loss to the Rams. The game was their first since 2017 without at least one offensive touchdown and it was just the sixth double-digit loss since Russell Wilson slipped on their jersey. Seriously, what else could they have expected after getting Wilson sacked five times?

5). Minnesota Vikings

The big story in purple this season has been the offense led by Kirk Cousins. But not against the Lions on Sunday. The defense held Detroit to under 100 net yards until the fourth quarter rolled around. And when you’re talking Vikings defense, we suspect you mean Danielle Hunter, who is now the youngest player in league history to reach 50 sacks. The defense end has three against the Lions.

6). Los Angeles Rams

The win over the Seahawks improves the Rams record to 8-5, but since they don’t play in the NFC East, that might not be good enough to get them into the postseason. They have two must wins coming up at Dallas and San Francisco before the season ends with the Cardinals. Do the defending NFC champs have it in them?

7). Chicago Bears

The renaissance of Mitch Trubisky continues. He threw for three more touchdowns against the Cowboys last Thursday night, two to Allen Robinson, who might be one of the best receivers the Bears have ever had. Trubisky also rushed for 63 yards – and one 23-yard score. Chicago has now won four of five, but the road without leading tackler Roquan Smith, out for the season, might be hard.

Jerry Jones

(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

8). Dallas Cowboys

Man, do the Cowboys suck! What the heck has happened to this team. Every week, Jerry Jones says the same thing: “We need a win, we have to win.” And all the Cowboys do is lose. That’s three straight, dropping them to 6-7. So what did they do? They cut their kicker and denied the organization has contacted Urban Meyer about their coaching job. We understand the first thing, don’t believe the second.

9). Philadelphia Eagles

Man, do the Eagles suck! Can you imagine what the mood would have been like in Philadelphia had they not wiped out that halftime deficit and lost to the freaking Giants? Things are so bad with their injured receiving corps that backup QB Josh McCown was ready to step in if needed on Monday. The Eagles are so lucky they have Zach Ertz, one of the NFL’s best tight ends. Tied with the Cowboys for first in the NFC East. We know, incredible.

10). Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sorry to sound like a broken record, but we just don’t know what to make of Jameis Winston. Is he the guy who threw for 456 yards and four TD passes against the Colts or is he the one with 23 interceptions? Evidence of each presents itself every week. All we know is now he has a small thumb fracture and his favorite target, Mike Evans, is done for the season. We’ll be sure to check back in next week.

Olamide Zaccheaus

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

11). Atlanta Falcons

When you’ve had a season like the Falcons have, you’re always on the lookout for highlights to doll up the season-in-review video. The Falcons finally have one. Last week, Matt Ryan hooked up with rookie Olamide Zaccheaus (OZ to his friends) for a 93-yard TD pass. Not only was it the longest of Ryan’s career, it was the first catch of OZ’s career. That will warm any cynic’s heart.

12). Carolina Panthers

Remember that thing we were saying two months ago, the thing about how Kyle Allen was playing so well the Panthers could forget about bringing Cam Newton back? Hey, anybody can make a miscalculation. The Panthers have lost five straight. Allen threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the 40-20 loss to the Falcons last week. Heaven help their next coach.

13). Detroit Lions

The fans can get a little harsh when you’ve lost six straight to drop to 3-9-1. Lions cornerback Darius Slay said this week he’s had to block about 1,000 followers on Twitter because the heat was just too intense. We know Matthew Stafford hasn’t been able to play since early November, but can the Lions, just once, avoid being fed to the Lions.

14). Arizona Cardinals

If you were watching Red Zone last week, you likely saw this play: The Cardinals were sitting fourth-and-2 on the Steelers 6, down 10 points in the fourth quarter. The Steelers fans who overtook Arizona’s stadium were screaming. And Kyler Murray throws an interception. Look, we know the kid isn’t Johnny Manziel. Murray will be fine eventually. But that one had to hurt.

15). Washington Redskins

Even the contentious congressmen in this town can agree the Redskins are a long way from respectability. Their best player might be their ancient halfback, Adrian Peterson, who just surpassed 14,000 rushing yards in his stellar career. Let’s put it this way: the faith they’ve invested in rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins must be repaid or they have as much chance of winning in 2020 as a third-party candidate.

16). New York Giants

In the 1970s, before Bill Parcells and Lawrence Taylor arrived to straighten things out, Giants games were one long laugh track. The 1976 team opened the season 0-9. Well, on Monday in Philadelphia, the Giants lost their ninth straight after netting just 29 yards in the second half with two first downs and zero drives with more than four plays among their seven possessions. Just awful.