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NFC power rankings: Saints remain on top, but still lack a passing grade

Jimmy Garoppolo

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

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

This week in the NFC, the Saints stay in first place after their bye, but they do have a small problem.

1). New Orleans Saints

The Saints were off last week and we don’t penalize teams for taking time to put their feet up. But there’s something we’re concerned about long term: The Saints really don’t have a multi-dimensional vertical passing game, which is strange when you remember who their quarterback is. Michael Thomas has 73 receptions and that’s almost double anyone else’s output. Just something to keep your eye on.

2). San Francisco 49ers

We’re tired of hearing Jimmy Garoppolo is nothing more than a game manager, as if he was Trent Dilfer or someone like that. The guy threw for four touchdowns and 317 yards last week against the Cardinals. That doesn’t sound like a system quarterback to us. And he’s led the 49ers to their first 8-0 mark since 1990 when they won their first 10 games. Get off his back.

3). Seattle Seahawks

Ok, Ok, so their defense doesn’t generate a lot of pressure. And what pressure its able to exert has resulted in only 15 sacks. We get it. But the Seahawks have something no one else does – Russell Wilson. The guy has thrown 22 touchdown passes with just one interception and now he has Josh Gordon to join Tyler Lockett on the receiving corps. Let’s see how they do against the 49ers.

4). Green Bay Packers

Every team is entitled to a bad day and that’s what the Packers had in Los Angeles. It was surprising considering how their fans managed to gobble up most of the tickets and basically turn it into a cheese head home game. Nevertheless, Aaron Rodgers was held to 161 yards passing and his offense generated only 50 yards in the first half, something that hadn’t happened to the Pack in a decade. This too shall pass.

5). Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings finally slowed down in Kansas City, a place many NFL teams go to die. Still, they would have won if not for a last-second field goal. Kurt Cousins threw for only 220 yards, but had three touchdowns. Only one of those completions was to Stefon Diggs (four yards). What troubles us more in Adam Thielen’s continued hamstring issues. He needs to be out there.

6). Dallas Cowboys

It took the Cowboys a little time – and a black cat – to get them going Monday night against the Giants. But they eventually pulled away and that’s all that really matters. Zeke Elliott gained 100 (139) yards for the third straight game and the Cowboys defense clamped down in the second half with four sacks and nine quarterback hits. We still say Jason Garrett is done if Dallas doesn’t make it at least to the NFC Championship Game.

Christian McCaffrey

(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

7). Carolina Panthers

Big news this week about Cam Newton. He’s been placed on injured reserve because of his foot injury and will not play again this season. In fact, he likely will never play another game for the Panthers because the can save like $17 million by cutting him next season. So it’s Kyle Allen’s team to run and Christian McCaffrey’s team to lead.

8). Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles beat the Bears, but the Bad News Bears could beat the Bears right now. Still, they head to the bye with consecutive wins after losses to the Vikings and Cowboys tested their faith. If this team has a problem its at wide receiver. DeSean Jackson is having abdominal issues and the receiving corps has dropped 15 passes this season. That’s got to change.

9). Los Angeles Rams

The Rams aren’t running the ball very well and that means their offense continues to take another big step backwards from last season. But don’t blame Cooper Kupp. The guys has 58 receptions for 792 yards and only Thomas and Mike Evans of the Buccaneers have more catches this season. Even with all of Brandin Cook’s concussion problems, the Rams’ Kupp still runneth over.

10). Detroit Lions

When you realize the Lions have given up 424.1 yards per game this season it might be hard to remember that head coach Matt Patricia was once New England’s defensive coordinator. It doesn’t make sense. The only reason they still had a chance to beat the Raiders on the game’s last play was quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns. The Lions have lost four of their last five.

11). Chicago Bears

The Bears generated only nine offensive yards in the first half against the Eagles and that hadn’t happened in an NFL game in 40 years. They didn’t even have a first down until there was only 48 seconds to play in the first half. Why? Well, there’s this: Mitchell Trubisky is on pace to throw for less than 2,500 yards and fewer than double-digit touchdowns. You want a number? Try 34.8 – his current quarterback rating.

12). Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals got a nice boost against the 49ers last week from Kenyan Drake, who made his debut at halfback with 110 rushing yards and 52 receiving yards. His first play from scrimmage was a 36-yard run. But that can’t mask this team’s inability to close the deal. It has scored only 18 touchdowns in nine games, although that 88-yarder from Kyler Murray to Andy Isabella in the fourth quarter was a sight to see.

13). Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Consider this: The Bucs led the Seahawks in Seattle 21-13 at the end of the first half before submitting 40-34. By doing so, they became the first team in the NFL this season to score at least 21 points in the first half and lose. The first 16 teams to do so all won. What a waste of 335 passing yards and two touchdowns from Jameis Winston.

New York Giants

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

14). New York Giants

Remember that black cat we mentioned talking about the Cowboys, the one that darted onto the field at MetLife Stadium in the first half? The Giants sure do. They were leading 9-3 when the cat showed up and were outscored 34-9 after he scampered to safety. Bad luck? Nope. Bad team. Saquon Barkley had only 28 yards on 14 carries. He did have a 65-yard reception. But his other five catches netted just two yards.

15). Washington Redskins

After giving him his first NFL start last week against Buffalo, the Redskins came to a conclusion about rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins – he’s not ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Haskins was 15-of-22 for 144 yards. Washington may have a big problem. By the way, the Nationals, Capitals and WNBA’s Mystics have all won championships in the last two years, not that we’re keeping score or anything.

16). Atlanta Falcons

Head coach Dan Quinn promised changes during the bye week and he delivered by reassigning three assistant coaches to different duties. Somehow, we don’t think that will be enough to change the course of this 1-7 start. The defense sucks. It puts no pressure on the quarterback and has allowed opponents to convert on 53 percent of third down opportunities. Enjoy the basement.