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September 28, 2021

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 4

Week 3 of the NFL season is in the books, and we're beginning to learn that there are a bunch of really bad teams in the NFC. There are no obituaries yet, so let's just get right to the hierarchy. 


16) Giants (0-3): The side-by-side combatant pictures of frowny-faced John Mara and a couple of trash cans that Mara allegedly kicked over is Pulitzer worthy.

The Giants are now 0-3 against a trio of teams that had a combined record of 16-32 last season, and the upcoming schedule looks like this:

• Week 4: At Saints
• Week 5: At Cowboys
• Week 6: Rams
• Week 7: Panthers
• Week 8: At Chiefs
• Week 9: Raiders
• Week 10: BYE
• Week 11: At Buccaneers

They could realistically go 0-10, and Joe Judge might get fired before he even gets a chance at his revenge game against the Eagles.

Last week: 15


15) Lions (0-3): Can we get a freaking buzzer to go off when the play clock hits 0, instead of this nonsense explanation from the NFL that it takes an extra undetermined amount of time for the back judge to refocus his eyes from the play clock when it hits 0 to the center to see if he snapped the ball?

On Sunday, the Ravens very clearly should have been called for a delay of game penalty, when the play clock ran down to zero, and remained there for 1.6 seconds before the center snapped the ball.

And then as you saw, Justin Tucker hit a 66-yard field goal. It shouldn't have ever happened, and the Lions should be 1-2.

Last week: 14


14) Falcons (1-2): If the Falcons had lost to the Giants on Sunday, we probably would have killed them off. Instead, they make a power move to 14, so congrats to them.

Last week: 16

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13) Football Team (1-2): The Football Team were believed to have one of the best defenses in the NFL heading into the season. Back in June, Chase Young went as far as to say via the Washington Post, “I feel like if you look on paper, we could be the top defense in the league.”

As it turns out, not so much. They're allowing 432 yards per game, which is second-worst in the NFL, and 30.7 points per game, with is fourth-worst.

Last week: 11


12) Bears (1-2): Fans and media (self included) have been ripping on Matt Nagy and the Bears for months for stubbornly sticking with freaking Andy Dalton instead of going with rookie first-round pick Justin Fields as their starter.

Welp, I guess Nagy knew something, because with Dalton out on Sunday, the Bears had 47 yards of offense on Sunday. 47! They had 1 passing yard, lol, as Fields passed for 68 yards but took nine sacks resulting in a loss of 67 yards.

This is tough to watch:

Last week: 12


11) Eagles (1-2): The Cowboys' were missing six(!) defensive linemen, a starting linebacker, and a starting safety. Along their defensive line, Dallas wasn't just injury-depleted. They were also extremely light, just in terms of weight. The weights of the starting defensive linemen were as follows:

Player Weight 
Micah Parsons 245 
Brent Urban 295 
 Osa Odighizuwa280 
Randy Gregory 255 
 Average weight268.8 

Meanwhile, in their rushing attack, the Eagles have a good run-blocking offensive line, a running quarterback, and an explosive running back. In their passing attack, they have an inaccurate passer, a collection of young receivers trying to find their way in the NFL, and a backup LT who struggled in pass protection all throughout training camp.

So what did Nick Sirianni dial up on Monday night? Three rushes with the running backs! THREE! Why? 

"We wanted to make sure we could keep up with them," Sirianni said. "We knew they were an explosive offense. We wanted to be able to push the ball down the field and hit some of the underneath zones that we saw, while obviously mixing in the run game in there and the screen game. Again, you fall behind a little bit, you have to get off that game plan a little bit, but we knew we had to score with this team because we knew they were able to score and score quickly." 

In other words, Sirianni wanted to get into a shootout with an opponent who is well-equipped to win a shootout, instead of formulating a game plan around the strengths of his players and the logical weaknesses of the opposing defense.

So OK, fine, it was bad game plan. Whatever. The part of the game plan that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever is that if Sirianni felt like he was forced to match points with such a high octane offense, then why did he opt to punt twice on 4th and 5 on the Cowboys' side of the field?

I'm picturing Eagles fans at a bar somewhere, chanting this:

By the way, how are there five teams worse than the Eagles in the NFC?

Last week: 10

MORE: Final observations: Cowboys 41, Eagles 21 | John McMullen: Accountability is great but accomplishment needed by Jalen Hurts


10) Vikings (1-2): Unvaxxed nerd Kirk Cousins is completing 73.9 percent of his passes, with eight TDs and no INTs, and he has the second-highest QBR in the NFL behind only Matthew Stafford.

This is a talented team, and yet, pretty easy to dismiss.

Last week: 13


9) Seahawks (1-2): Seattle's Week 2 second-half collapse is looking really costly about now, after they got handled by the Vikings Week 3. The Seahawks have a pair of NFC West matchups upcoming, as they'll be in San Francisco Week 4, and then home against the Rams Week 5. They have to win at least one of those games, or they're probably done in that loaded division.

Last week: 5


8) Saints (2-1): In his first three games as the Saints' starter, Jameis Winston has thrown for 148, 111, and 128 yards. Sean Payton is a coach who knows how to create a game plan to accentuate his players' strengths and hide their weaknesses. 

Last week: 9


7) Panthers (3-0): The Panthers are off to a 3-0 start (good for them!), but they're there after beating Jameis Winston and a pair of quarterbacks making their first ever career starts in Zach Wilson and Davis Mills. 

Going forward, the Panthers are going to have to try to win games against better teams, and they'll have to do it without Christian McCaffrey. In 2019, McCaffrey got 403 touches. As we've noted in the past, players that have over 400 touches in a single season typically experience a sharp dropoff in efficiency — and tend to be prone to injuries — the following season. Sure enough, in 2020, he missed 13 games with varying injuries, and averaged just 3.8 yards per carry.

Surely the Panthers would learn their lesson in overusing their best player, right? Nope. In the first two games, McCaffrey got 59 touches, a usage rate that would put him on pace for over 500 touches on the season. In Week 3, he unsurprisingly pulled a hamstring, and should be out a few weeks. 

Last week: 8


6) 49ers (2-1): I believe that the sooner Trey Lance becomes the starter, the sooner the Niners can give him the opportunity to grow as a player and be in the best position possible to compete for a Super Bowl by the end of the season. Because, let's be honest — Jimmy Garoppolo isn't it.

Not only did the Niners lose a heartbreaking game late against he Packers Sunday night, but Garoppolo led a lead-grabbing drive near the end of regulation that probably extended his stay as the starting quarterback for a while.

Last week: 3


5) Cowboys (2-1): The Eagles stink, Washington stinks, and the Giants ultra stink. At a minimum, the Cowboys don't stink. There's a good chance the NFC East will wrapped up by Dallas in early December.

Last week: 7

MORE: Good, bad and ugly from the first half of Eagles-Cowboys


4) Packers (2-1): 37 seconds left, no timeouts, down 1, no problem.

Last week: 6


3) Cardinals (3-0): The Cardinals have put up at least 30 points in all three of their games so far, but they did so against a trio of teams that ranked 18th, 29th, and 31st in defensive DVOA a season ago.

Their first major test of the season will be in Los Angeles against the Rams Week 4. 

Last week: 4


2) Buccaneers (2-1): There was talk throughout the offseason and into the regular season that the Buccaneers might go undefeated in 2021. This Bucs team is obviously one of the best in the NFL, but they were never even remotely close to being capable of going 17-0. Be thankful that nonsense got shut down so early in the season. 

Last week: 1


1) Rams (3-0): Matthew Stafford was awesome on Sunday, completing 27 of 38 passes for 343 yards, 4 TDs, and 0 INTs. On the season, he's completing 70.2 percent of his passes on 10.0 yards per attempt, with nine TDs, an interception, and only three sacks.

The Rams have a legit QB, a good OL, great wide receivers, and the No. 1 defense from a season ago, including the best lineman in the NFL and the best CB. I think they're the Super Bowl favorites in the NFC.

Last week: 2

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