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December 26, 2022

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 17 edition

How does the NFC stack up after the Eagles recent loss?

Eagles NFL
122622DakPrescott Jerome Miron/usa

This pass was probably complete.

Week 16 of the NFL season is in the books, and while the Hierarchy mostly remains in place, there is at least an argument to move the top dog down a peg. (We didn't.)

There are no new obituaries, so let's get right to the Hierarchy.





8) Seahawks (7-8): After a 6-3 start, the Seahawks have lost five of six, and now find themselves on the outside of the wildcard race looking in. Honestly, who cares about the Seahawks at this point? Let's show a snapshot of the NFC playoff picture here.

The divisional races in the NFC are pretty easy:

• NFC East: Eagles, as long as they win one more game.
NFC North: Vikings
NFC South: Buccaneers or Panthers, and the Saints are a longshot.
NFC West: 49ers

Aaaaand the wildcard race, with each teams' chances of making the playoffs, according to

Wildcard Record Conf record FiveThirtyEight 
Cowboys (5 seed) 11-4 8-2 100% 
Giants (6 seed) 8-6-1 4-6-1 89% 
Commanders (7 seed) 7-7-1 4-6-1 29% 
Lions 7-8 5-5 24% 
Packers 7-8 5-5 27% 
Seahawks 7-8 5-6 29% 

So basically, the Cowboys are in, the Giants would have to completely crap the bed not to get in, and then there are four teams competing for that final wildcard spot.

Interestingly, the Giants and Commanders should be rooting hard for the Eagles to beat the Saints this week. Why? Well, if the Eagles beat the Saints, they will lock up the NFC East (and 1 seed), and will then rest their starters. The Giants could benefit from that if they need to beat the Eagles Week 18. The Cowboys would be locked into the 5 seed at that point, and they too would then likely rest their starters, which would benefit their Week 18 opponent, the Commanders.

Last week: 7


7) Commanders (7-7-1): Oh baby, we have good old fashioned quarterback controversy. 

After committing two turnovers on three plays, Taylor Heinicke got yanked on Sunday in favor of Carson Wentz. Heinicke wasn't having an awful game otherwise, as he had completed 13 of 18 passes for 166 yards, 2 TDs, and an INT (114.6 QB rating).

The Commanders are expected to choose between Heinicke and Wentz soon. Obviously, Wentz is the far more talented player. He's just a stubborn know-it-all who is going to play the way he wants to play, and screw you if you don't like it. Heinicke is the less gifted scrapper that the team seems to rally around.

It feels like it'll be Wentz, and I kinda get it. The Commanders have zero chance with Heinicke. If they choose Wentz to start going forward, he at least has an NFL arm. Maybe he will embrace the Commanders' recent run-heavy approach, manage the game with smart decisions, and make an occasional bigtime throw down the field when it's there? I mean, lol, that'll never happen, but I can see why a team that spent a couple of picks and around $30 million on the guy would talk themselves into it.

Last week: 6


6) Buccaneers (7-8): In Week 9, Tom Brady led a 6-play, 60-yard game-winning TD drive against the Rams. Final score: 16-13.

In Week 13, he led an 11-play, 63-yard game-winning TD drive against the Saints. Final score: 17-16.

And on Christmas night, he led the Bucs from down 10 in the fourth quarter to an overtime win with a walk-off field goal drive against the Cardinals. Final score: 19-16.

He's been the GOAT this season at playing like crap for most of the game against bad teams, but then waking up at the end.

Last week: 8


5) Giants (8-6-1): In 2017, we all remember Jake Elliott beating the Giants with a 61-yard field goal.

In 2018, Graham Gano beat them from 63.

And on Christmas Eve, Greg Joseph beat them from 61.

Meh. The Lions, Commanders, and Seahawks all lost Week 16, so the Giants' playoff chances weren't hurt much. They can still clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Colts Week 17.

Last week: 5


4) Vikings (12-3): As shown above, the Vikings won on a 61-yard field goal to beat the Giants. That finish was tame compared to some of their others (vs. Buffalo and Indy, for example). The Vikings' point differential is now up to +5. 🍾

In checking on the Vikings' point differential, I noticed that only four teams in the NFC have positive point differentials.

Team Point differential Team Point differential 
49ers +145 Panthers -24 
Eagles +137 Giants -28 
Cowboys +131 Commanders -28 
Vikings +5 Falcons -35 
Lions -9 Buccaneers -38 
Seahawks -14 Rams -53 
Packers -21 Cardinals -83 
Saints -22 Bears -90 

That's partly amazing, partly pathetic.

Last week: 3


3) Cowboys (11-4): I've seen most Cowboys games this season (Disclaimer: I did not see their 40-3 win over the Vikings), and I thought they looked better against the Eagles than in any other game I have seen them play this season. It was certainly the best I've seen Dak Prescott look, by a mile. 

In Philadelphia, fans are rightfully confused and upset at defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon's insistence on playing zone coverage, even though Prescott was 24 for 24 for 300 yards and 3 TDs against against zone on the day.

But also, credit Prescott for carving up the Eagles' defense, and their receivers for making plays all over the field. 

I've seen some sentiment that the Eagles lost because they beat themselves, and sure, there's some truth to that in that they committed four turnovers, a couple of which were unforced. But also, be real — the Cowboys played well and earned that win.

Last week: 4


2) 49ers (11-4): The 49ers are probably the hottest team in the league. During their current eight-game winning streak, six of their eight wins were by two scores or more, and one of their one-score wins was by eight points over Seattle in which the Seahawks scored a late TD in garbage-ish time. 

They probably won't be tested the rest of the regular season, either, as they face the Raiders and Cardinals to close out the season. There's a good chance this team will be riding a double-digit winning steak heading into the postseason.

Last week: 2


1) Eagles (13-2): Heading into their matchup with the Cowboys, the Eagles needed to win one of their three final games to clinch the 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

• At Cowboys ❌
• Saints
• Giants

On the surface, the Eagles' loss in Dallas could be hand-waived away as a not so meaningful game, but if you're an Eagles fan looking for reasons to worry, there are plenty, notably:

  1. Was Saturday night what Jonathan Gannon's scheme still looks like against quarterbacks who are playing well?
  2. When will the list of injuries stop piling up, and how many more might they suffer going forward because they couldn't get the job done in Dallas?
  3. Will Jalen Hurts' throwing ability be affected by his shoulder injury whenever he returns?

If the Eagles win on New Years Day over the Saints, they can breathe a sigh of relief, lick their wounds, and begin prepping for the divisional round. If not... 😬. 

Last week: 1

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