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October 03, 2023

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 5 edition

Heading into Week 5, Jimmy Kempski takes stock of the NFC.

Eagles NFL
100323BryceYoung Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

Panthers rookie QB Bryce Young

Week 4 of the NFL season is in the books, and we have our second obituary of the season. That would be the impotent Carolina Panthers. Let's get right to it.

Obituary: Panthers (0-4)


At the 2022 trade deadline, the Rams reportedly offered two first-round picks (in 2024 and 2025) to the Panthers for DE Brian Burns. It was an insane offer by the Rams and even more insane that the Panthers turned it down, seeing as they were nowhere remotely close to contending. Burns is now playing on his fifth-year option in 2023, and with the explosion of edge rusher money (Nick Bosa's $34 million/year deal, for example), Burns will be hitting the free agent market at a pretty good time. (The Panthers obviously have the franchise tag at their disposal as well.)

The Panthers could have had two first-round players on rookie contracts for the next half decade, and instead they chose to keep an albeit very good player, but one who is going to be extremely expensive who will have five years of NFL wear and tear on his body. That was a pretty big missed opportunity.

Fast forward to the leadup to the 2023 draft, when the Panthers made a major trade, acquiring the first overall pick from the Chicago Bears. Here was the cost: 

 Panthers got:Bears got 
 No. 1 overall pick, 2023 (QB Bryce Young)No. 9 overall pick, 2023 
 Second-round pick (61st overall), 2023 
  First-round pick, 2024
  Second-round pick, 2025
 WR D.J. Moore 

If the season ended today (it doesn't), that first-round pick in 2024 would be the No. 1 overall pick.

Bryce Young doesn't have a lot to work with. His offensive line sucks and he's throwing to a group of receivers headlined by 33-year-old Adam Thielen. As such, he is struggling to find his NFL sea legs through his first four games, averaging a paltry 4.9 yards per pass attempt. Still, two quarterbacks taken after Young — the Texans' C.J. Stroud and the Colts' Anthony Richardson — have shown more promise. 

Young may eventually become a good NFL quarterback, but I would bet that the Panthers would take a mulligan on that trade — or select Stroud instead — if a magic genie gave them that opportunity.

There's a reason that NFL franchises tend to stay bad, and in the Panthers' case they have made two pretty big blunders in the last calendar year. Maybe they don't know what they're doing?

Anyway, at 0-4 and three-game deficit in the NFC South, the Panthers are done.





14) Cardinals (1-3): Remember when Jonathan Gannon defenses gave up over 80 percent passing to five quarterbacks during the 2021 season? Well, that tradition is alive and well in Arizona.


Here were the 49ers' drives on Sunday against the Cardinals:

  1. 8 plays, 62 yards, TD
  2. 9 plays, 75 yards, TD
  3. 5 plays, 75 yards, TD
  4. 1 play kneeldown at the end of the first half
  5. 7 plays, 41 yards, punt
  6. 8 plays, 75 yards, TD
  7. 14 plays, 77 yards, TD
  8. 1 play kneeldown to end the game

So basically, the 49ers had six legit possessions, and they methodically drove the field for TDs on five of them. 30 first downs, 1 punt.

I know we make fun of 49ers fans for saying they would have beaten the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game if Brock Purdy hadn't gotten hurt, but mayyyyybe there's an alternate universe in which Kyle Shanahan didn't try to block Haason Reddick with a tight end and just let Gannon be Gannon.

Last week: 14


13) Giants (1-3): Last week in the Hierarchy we showed the Giants' atrocious tackling.

According to the NFL's NextGen stats, "The 49ers gained 215 of their 310 passing yards after the catch (69.4%) in their 30-12 victory over the Giants."

Did their tackling improve in Week 5 against the Seahawks? It did not.

That is just pathetic effort from Bobby Okereke (58) and Adoree Jackson (22). Okereke signed a 4-year, $40 million deal this offseason. Jackson signed a three-year, $39 million contract a few years ago and has a cap number of $19,076,568 in 2023.

Offensively, they're even worse. The offensive line is awful, the receivers scare nobody, and their only real weapon (Saquon Barkley) can't stay on the field. It doesn't help that Daniel Jones isn't any good either.

After the Giants' embarrassing Monday night loss to Seattle, ESPN showed a graphic that said that Jones is now 1-11 in primetime games. That record isn't surprising. What is surprising is that the Giants have played in that many primetime games when they've been a bottom five team during the Jones era.

Last week: 13


12) Vikings (1-3): On the Vikings' opening possession Kirk Cousins threw a 99-yard pick-six. Watch No. 29 below on the Panthers.

That dude is a menace. He killed Cousins and then took out K.J. Osborn for no good reason. I love that guy. (His name is D'Shawn Jamison, for the record.)

Anyway, for a while there it looked like the Vikings were going to start off their season at 0-4, but they eventually regrouped and fended off the graveyard for another week.

Last week: 12


11) Commanders (2-2): The Commanders got waaaayyyy more than their share of breaks in their loss to the Eagles (as noted in our 10 awards post):

  1. A holding call on "52" on the Eagles (Zach Cunningham) extended a Commanders drive that resulted in a TD, when it otherwise would have been a FG attempt. That penalty was perhaps on someone else on the defense, because "52" sure as hell didn't hold anyone. That was a four-point penalty. 
  2. Terrell Edmunds dropped an INT in the end zone. The Commanders would later score a TD on that drive. That was a 7-point drop.
  3. The Eagles forced a fumble at the goal line, which was recovered by the Commanders in the end zone for a touchdown.
  4. On a 4th and 1, Landon Dickerson was called for offsides, which, well, he was. However, so were like three Commanders players, most notably Daron Payne, who was literally touching the football with his hand, and his head was hovering over the ball. The Eagles converted the "tush push," but were penalized five yards and subsequently punted. That penalty was the equivalent of a turnover. 
  5. Darius Slay was called for an asinine pass interference penalty.
  6. Terrell Edmunds was called for an even more asinine late hit "out of bounds" on Sam Howell, who would have gotten the first down if Edmunds didn't hit him.

And their fans are complaining about this, lol: 

G. T. F. O. H. 

I mean, if we’re going to get technical here, Dickerson moving early should have resulted in a neutral zone infraction since several Commanders are offsides.

But beyond that, if you have a chance to go for two at the end of a game and beat a superior team on one play, you should do that. Don't go to overtime on the road against a better team with an elite kicker.

Last week: 11


10) Saints (2-2): Lol:


Derek Carr wasn't any better. 127 yards on 37 pass attempts (3.4 YPA). 

Last week: 8


9) Falcons (2-2): Desmond Ridder threw a pick-six in London.

And on the first play of the next possession he threw another pick:

Arthur Smith is already answering questions about whether or not Ridder will remain the starting quarterback. (He will.)

It's never a good thing when Taylor Heinicke pretty clearly gives a team a better chance of winning games. But Taylor Heinicke gives the Falcons a better chance of winning games.

Last week: 7


8) Packers (2-2): It's looking like David Bakhtiari's career might soon be over. He missed 16 games in 2021, six games in 2022, and three games so far in 2023. The team placed him on injured reserve last Thursday after he had a fourth surgery on his knee in the last three years.

Last week: 6


7) Rams (2-2): The Rams are sneaky dangerous. Matthew Stafford can still play a little bit, they're getting Cooper Kupp back soon, and Puka Nacua is more than just an oddball fun player who is having a good start to his career. He has staying power.

Nacua has 39 catches for 501 yards already.

Last week: 10


6) Buccaneers (3-1): Baker Mayfield didn't look great against the Eagles Week 3, but I've otherwise been impressed by his toughness this season. 

Before the season, it felt like Derek Carr was the best quarterback in the NFC South, with Bryce Young maybe having a chance to become that. Nope. It's pretty clearly Mayfield.

NFCS QBs Comp-Att (Comp %) Yards (YPA) TD-INT Rating 
Baker Mayfield, TB 87-125 (69.6%)882 (7.1) 7-2 101.5 
Derek Carr, NO  80-124 (64.5%) 763 (6.2) 2-2 80.1 
 Desmond Ridder, ATL 74-119 (62.2%) 744 (6.3) 3-3 77.9 
 Bryce Young, CAR 67-103 (65.0%) 503 (4.9) 2-2 75.0 

Last week: 9


5) Seahawks (3-1): In case you didn't see the Seahawks take the Giants to the woodshed on Monday night, you missed the Devon Witherspoon show. 

Here's the pick-six.

We wondered recently how many teams in the top 10 of the 2023 draft would regret passing on Jalen Carter. The Seahawks can probably feel pretty good about Witherspoon, who went fifth overall.

Last week: 5


4) Lions (3-1): The Lions are taking over the NFC North. They swept the Packers and Bears a season ago, they won their most recent game against the Vikings in 2022, and they have an emphatic win this season over the Packers. It feels like they're just going to cruise to a division title.

Last week: 4


3) Cowboys (3-1): The Cowboys had a rough four day stretch when they lost star CB Trevon Diggs for the season to a torn ACL, followed by a loss to the dreadful Cardinals. But give them credit. They bounced back in a big way, demolishing the Patriots (it was the most lopsided loss of Bill Belichick's career), with Diggs' replacement, Daron Bland, making two INTs, including a pick-six.

Last week: 3


2) Eagles (4-0): The Eagles' Week 4 win over the Commanders was their closest game so far this season, and yet it was probably the one in which the offense looked the most like the explosive 2022 version. Jalen Hurts made some bigtime throws in this game:

And yet, there is still plenty of room for improvement. 

Last week: 2


1) 49ers (4-0): The 49ers have scored at least 30 points in every game so far, and have only really been challenged by one opponent this season. 


Week 5 will be their first game against a good team (Dallas).

Last week: 1

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