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May 26, 2021

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Post-draft edition

Eagles NFL
sipa_13070883.jpg Mark Hoffman/SIPA USA

Drew Brees retired, and Aaron Rodgers might soon depart the NFC as well.

For those of you who are new here, we do a "Hierarchy/Obituary" post every week during the season, in which we kill off teams that have reached the point where they have almost no chance to make the playoffs. We then write their obituary and never speak of them in the Hierarchy again. 

Anyway, it's my hackneyed sell-out spin on the more traditional "power rankings." Got it? Cool. Let's do a post-draft edition.


16) Lions (5-11 in 2020): The following is a chart of every point spread for the 2021 season, for all 32 teams. You'll either need to view it on a device in which you can expand it, or have bionic eyes to see this:

Within it, you'll see that the Lions are underdogs in every single game, except one — a pick'em game at home against the Eagles. They're at least touchdown underdogs in 11(!) games, and in a crappy division, at that.

Detroit has a truly awful roster, led by this guy (obligatory): 

Can we please stop putting them on TV on Thanksgiving?


15) Eagles (4-11-1 in 2020): The best thing that the Eagles have going for them is that they have a lot of picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. But this roster, as currently constructed, is going to be really hard to watch at times this season. That back seven is just... 😬.


14) Panthers (5-11 in 2020): Sam Darnold will go from one of the worst teams in the NFL in the Jets to a team with arguably the worst projected starting offensive line in the NFC. 


13) Falcons (4-12 in 2020): This felt orchestrated: 

But whatever. Whether Julio Jones knew or didn't know that he was going to be live on the air for that phone call, the fact remains that he said he's out of Atlanta, which is fine for the Falcons if they get a nice compensation package in return, but will obviously set them back in 2021.

More importantly, lol Cowboys.


12) Giants (6-10 in 2020): I understand that Joe Judge isn't the social media guy behind the Giants' Twitter account, but this does sort of seem to be the sentiment of this organization: 

The Giants face both teams that played in the Super Bowl last year, and they’re thinking about the team that went 4-11-1? Lol.

The Giants and Jets are tied for the worst record in the NFL since 2017. 


11) Packers (13-3 in 2020): The latest on the Aaron Rodgers saga: 

Over/under, Rodgers in Denver: August 10.


10) Bears (8-8 in 2020): In 2017, Ryan Pace signed Mike Glennon to a one-year deal worth $16 million, for reasons nobody will ever understand.

A month later, Pace traded third- and fourth-round picks in 2017, as well as a third-round pick in 2018 to move up one spot — from pick No. 3 to pick No. 2 — to take Mitchell Trubisky, leaving DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes to be taken by the Texans and Chiefs. 

In 2020, Pace traded a fourth-round pick for Nick Foles, and then gave him a three-year deal worth $24 million, $17 million of which was guaranteed.

Somehow, he kept his job and Bears ownership allowed him to trade the team's first round pick in 2022, along with a couple of other picks, to move up from pick No. 20 to pick No. 11 to take Justin Fields.

I like Fields, but the fact that the Bears do too makes me think I was wrong about him.


9) Saints (12-4 in 2020): A fact that has been noted endlessly about the Saints, dating back to last season, is that they are 8-1 without Drew Brees over the last two seasons. So, you know, the idea is that they'll be fine without him. That record lacks context, since they only beat one team that finished winning record during the season that they beat them. (That was the Seahawks, in 2019.)

In 2020, the Taysom Hill-led Saints went 3-1 against a foursome of teams with a combined record of 17-46-1. Their loss came against the Eagles, who were basically at rock bottom, after having benched Carson Wentz the prior week.

The Saints' defense is good, and will keep them competitive, but Hill is not a legitimate NFL quarterback, and I'm not sure Jameis Winston is either.

WASTEAM logo 2020.gif

8) Football Team (7-9 in 2020): The Football Team should compete for another NFC East banner, which is like winning best gas station hot dog. They have a good roster, but wake me up when they get a long-term answer at quarterback.


7) Cardinals (8-8 in 2020): The Cardinals signed J.J. Watt, A.J. Green, and Malcolm Butler this offseason, which would be awesome if it were 2015.


6) Vikings (7-9 in 2020): The Vikings' defense got wrecked by injuries in 2020. They'll presumably be back to full strength in 2021, and while I'm not exactly a huge fan of Kirk Cousins, their offense is loaded with weapons at the skill positions, with Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson.

If Rodgers leaves, the Vikings have to be considered favorites in the NFC North, right? And if that's the case, the NFC North is probably worse than the NFC East.


5) Cowboys (6-10 in 2020): Even if he is "only" a borderline top 10 quarterback, Dak Prescott is very clearly the best quarterback in the NFC East, and there's a big gap between him and whoever you might think is the second-best guy. And of course, he has a fantastic trio of wide receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb to throw to. 

On the downside:

  1. The offensive line is not the strength it once was.
  2. Zeke Elliott regressed badly in 2020.
  3. Their defense was hot burning trash in 2020, and while they drafted a bunch of defensive guys, their personnel, on paper anyway, doesn't appear to have improved much.

At some point, the Cowboys hype will pick up and people will start calling them Super Bowl contenders for the eleventy billionth straight season. I'm surprised that hasn't really happened yet. They're behind schedule.

UPDATE: No more than an hour after we published this, the floodgates opened.

All is right in the world again.


4) 49ers (6-10 in 2020): The 49ers landing at fourth in the hierarchy is merely a testament to how terrible the NFC is. Normally you'd have teams like the Packers and Saints in the top 5, but with Brees' retirement and Rodgers trying to force his way out of Green Bay, the Saints and Packers are out of the way (if indeed Rodgers gets traded). That leaves teams like the 49ers and Cowboys in the top 5, even though both of them have major warts. 

Back in February, we took a close look at Trey Lance, who is unquestionably gifted physically, but who is going to need time to iron out many of the kinks in his game, most notably his mechanics and his accuracy. He has the chance to be awesome, but it's more likely for that to happen over time, as opposed to immediately in 2021.

Jimmy Garoppolo stinks, and San Francisco knows it, or they wouldn't have traded what they did to get Lance. As such, the Niners could very well start Lance from Day 1, and they probably should, because why not? Let him sink or swim, and find out what you've got. But there will be growing pains, and it'll be difficult winning the only good division in the NFC.


3) Seahawks (12-4 in 2020): Like the Packers with Rodgers, the Seahawks have a seemingly unhappy star quarterback in Russell Wilson. Unlike Rodgers, Wilson isn't going anywhere, for now. Wilson had sort of a "down year" in 2020, if that's what you'd call 40 TDs vs. 13 INTs, and a 12-4 record.


2) Rams (10-6 in 2020): Yeah, so I guess the Rams are probably the No. 2 team in the conference. In 2020, their pass defense was perhaps the best in the NFL: 

Rams pass D Stat NFL Rank 
Opposing YPA 6.2 
Pass TDs allowed 17 
Opposing QB rating 80.4 
Passes of 20+ yards allowed 36 T-1 
 Passes of 40+ yards allowedT-1 

They did lose defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to the Chargers, so that's concerning, but they still have the personnel to have one of the best defenses in the league again in 2021.

The biggest thing holding the Rams up was Jared Goff, so they shipped him out and brought in Matthew Stafford, who will finally have a chance to play on a team with a complete roster.


1) Buccaneers (11-5 in 2020): Screw you, Tom Brady.

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