December 14, 2021
Week 14 of the NFL season is in the books, and for the better part of the day, we sat through a lot of blowouts, some of which became competitive late. For Eagles fans, it was a stress-free weekend of football with the Birds on their bye.
We have one new obituary this week, the Carolina Panthers.
Remember when the Panthers got out to a 3-0 start and Sam Darnold was all the rage? Looking back, my favorite hot take at the time came via ESPN's Rob Ninkovich, who said Darnold "could be an MVP player in the future." Lol.
After that 3-0 start, Darnold proceeded to complete 54.8 percent of his passes at 5.5 yards per attempt, 4 TDs, 10 INTs, 16 sacks, and a QB rating of 56.5 over his next six games, before injuring his shoulder and landing on IR.
In case you forgot, the Panthers traded away the following to get Darnold:
Oh, and because the Panthers exercised Darnold's fifth-year option this offseason after making that trade, he still has a fully guaranteed $18,585,000 coming to him from the Panthers in 2022.
Imagine being Matt Rhule (who has final say on roster decisions) and looking at this crap roster and thinking, "We're just a sub-mediocre quarterback away from really making some noise. Let's trade three picks for Sam Darnold and guarantee him a boatload of money." Was there a worse offseason acquisition in the NFL?
Beyond the insane decision to trade for Darnold, the Panthers also traded picks for cornerbacks C.J. Henderson and Stephon Gilmore, followed by the signing of Cam Newton for their stretch run. As a result, they don't have second- or third-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. This is why you don't give head coaches final say, by the way. (See: Chip Kelly's drunken 2015 spending spree.)
Carolina is also paying for past mistakes during former regimes. For years they overworked their best player, Christian McCaffrey, during seasons when it was clear that they weren't anything remotely close to Super Bowl contenders. The Panthers allowed McCaffrey to rack up 729 touches from 2018-2019, with 403 touches in 2019 during a 5-11 season, aaaaand, yada yada yada, when the 2021 season concludes, McCaffrey will have missed 22 of 32 games over the last two seasons. Oh, and he's the highest paid running back in the NFL, with an average annual value of over $16 million.
Through their first 13 games, the Panthers have only played three teams with winning records, and 10 teams with losing records. They lost six of those games against teams with losing records. The only "good" team they beat was the Cardinals, who were without Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins.
The Panthers fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady, a guy who had gotten head coaching interviews during the 2021 coaching cycle, and Rhule is now maybe planning on running a two-QB offense with Cam Newton and P.J. Walker the rest of the season.
This franchise has no idea what it's doing.
10) Falcons (6-7): If the Falcons lose in San Francisco Week 15, we'll kill them off, so I'll save my best vitriol for them until next week.
Last week: 11
9) Saints (6-7): Taysom Hill isn't a legit NFL quarterback, but if he's still available in your fantasy league just ahead of your league's playoffs, go pick him up.
Last week: 9
8) Vikings (6-7): Week 14 was full of games in which teams almost lost games that they had seemingly wrapped up.
They all escaped with wins.
Last week: 8
7) Eagles (6-7): The Washington Football Team lost four starters — QB Taylor Heinicke (knee), WR Terry McLaurin (concussion), LT Charles Leno (back), and C Tyler Larsen (Achilles) — to injuries against the Cowboys. None of them returned to the game. Heinicke is reportedly expected to play on Sunday, but he may not be 100 percent.
The Football Team also has nine players on the COVID list, including Montez Sweat and Jonathan Allen, in addition to a slew of important players on injured reserve, such as Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chase Young, Logan Thomas, and Chase Roullier (starting center).
In their Week 16 game down the road, they'll likely get to face a Giants team starting Mike freaking Glennon.
Not only have the Eagles themselves had good injury luck this season, they've also played more than their share of teams missing a bunch of key players.
Last week: 7
6) 49ers (7-6): The 49ers scored 10 points off of a pair of Cincinnati muffed punts that they recovered in scoring position. During one of those ensuing drives, they were also helped by this entirely absurd taunting call on Vonn Bell, that turned a would be 46-yard field goal attempt into a first down, and eventual touchdown.
Subjective taunting rule continues to be a disaster that significantly impacts games.— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) December 13, 2021
Vonn Bell flagged for this in Bengals-49ers. Third down. SF would've had to attempt a 45-yard FG. Instead, scored TD after penalty.
This was an OT game with huge playoff implications. pic.twitter.com/bX2Wsu7LoG
The Eagles may ultimately be impacted heavily by the result of that game (a) for their own playoff hopes, as the Niners are currently ahead of them in the wildcard race, and (b) because the Bengals are competing with the Colts for a playoff berth.
Last week: 6
5) Rams (9-4): There may not be a player in the NFL that has made me literally laugh out loud more than Aaron Donald. The latest example was when he sacked Kyler Murray Monday night by throwing the Cardinals' RG into him.
Aaron Donald runs through a blocker, draws a hold and sacks Kyler Murray on the opening play. Normal stuff right here. pic.twitter.com/An0Y6lPSoy— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 14, 2021
Even with their win over the Cardinals, the Rams remain very likely to be the 5 seed in the NFC. The Rams are way better than any other team that's going to make the playoffs as a wildcard in the NFC, making the 4 seed (the team that will host the 5 seed) an undesirable playoff spot.
If you're an Eagles fan hoping for the Cowboys to be one and done in the first round of the playoffs, you should be rooting for the Cardinals, Packers, and Buccaneers to stay ahead of them the rest of the regular season.
Last week: 5
4) Cowboys (9-4): This was some play by Randy Gregory:
Cowboys DC Dan Quinn starts his time meeting with reporters today talking about how important this Randy Gregory play was for setting the tone yesterday. “The interception was bad-ass, there’s no doubt about it.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 13, 2021
(Video: @NFL) pic.twitter.com/vivTwDGujF
If Dak Prescott can figure things out by the time the playoffs come around, Dallas might have the most talented team in the NFC. Right now, though, Prescott is really struggling.
Last week: 4
3) Cardinals (10-3): In their last three games at home, the Cardinals are 0-3 with 7 turnovers. They're undefeated on the road. Maybe blowing home field advantage throughout the playoffs was a good idea. #NotReallyAnalysis.
Last week: 1
2) Packers (10-3): Rasul Douglas now has pick-sixes in two straight games.
Rasul was a terrible fit in a Jim Schwartz defense that too often used single-high looks, and exposed his lack of speed. However, in the Eagles' mostly two-deep defense under Jonathan Gannon, I think he would have actually been a nice fit.
Last week: 3
1) Buccaneers (10-3): As noted above, the Bucs escaped with a an overtime win over the Bills after squandering a 21-point lead at halftime. The Bills were the last hard opponent left on Tampa's schedule. The following slop remains:
TOTAL: 19-33 (0.365). It's the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL.
Last week: 2
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