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November 02, 2021

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 9

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110221JustinFields Quinn Harris/USA TODAY Sports

Justin Fields' best game as a pro so far came without Matt Nagy.

Week 8 of the NFL season is in the books, and we have one new obituary. That would be the 3-5 Chicago Bears, who are technically only one game out of the wildcard race, but stink out loud.

Obituary: Bears (3-5)


When Justin Fields was at Ohio State, he played behind an offensive line that produced a pair of 2021 Day 2 picks (RG Wyatt Davis and C Josh Meyers), and will very likely boast a 2022 first-round pick (RT Nicholas Petit-Frere) as well as a projected 2022 Day 2 pick (LT Thayer Munford).

He got to throw to a pair of receivers likely to be first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, as well as a likely Day 2 pick in 2022 in TE Jeremy Ruckert, and a 2021 fifth-round pick in TE Luke Farrell. He got to hand off to a Day 2 back in Trey Sermon. 

In Chicago, Fields' offensive supporting cast sucks. He has made some highlight reel plays, like here:

And here:

But he's probably finding life difficult transitioning from playing with a professional offense in college against teams like Rutgers, to playing with an overmatched offense in the NFL. As a result, he has 3 TDs vs. 7 INTs, and a 65.7 QB rating. On Sunday, in a two-score loss to the 49ers, Fields completed 19 of 27 passes for 175 yards (6.5 YPA), 1 TD, and 1 INT, and people were calling it his best game of the season (he did also run for 103 yards). It's kind of interesting that he had his best game on a day in which Matt Nagy wasn't present due to COVID.

MORE: The Indianapolis media is already calling for the Colts to bench Carson Wentz | NFL trade rumors: Will Eagles' win change Howie Roseman's approach to the deadline?

Fields can become a good quarterback. If I were the Bears though, I would find a head coach better equipped to make use of his talents, and a new general manager to surround him with some real NFL talent.

In 2019 and 2020, the Bears were a model of mediocrity, going 8-8 each season with a point differential of -18 in 2019, and +2 in 2020. In 2021, at 3-5, the Bears are technically only one game out of the wildcard in the NFC, but they also have the second-worst point differential (-72) in the conference, ahead of only the Lions (-110). They have taken a significant step backwards.

It's kind of incredible to me that Nagy and GM Ryan Pace survived the 2021 offseason. This offseason they'll try to sell the idea that they had to get a rookie quarterback up to speed, and it'll be hilarious if that pitch works.





12) Falcons (3-4): I knew I wanted to kill off at least one team team this week. I picked the Bears, but the Falcons are on standby. So far this season, they have lost to the Eagles, Football Team, and the Christian MacCaffrey-less Panthers. We'll save the vitriol for next week.

Last week: 13


11) Eagles (3-5): Because they have two blowout wins, the Eagles actually have a plus point differential at +12, a statistical oddity that puts them ahead of good teams like the Browns (+3), Chargers (-5), and Chiefs (-12). I can almost hear Howie Roseman pointing the team's point differential after a 6-11 season.

Last week: 12


10) Panthers (4-4): If the season ended today, this trash team would be in the playoffs. The NFL felt that they didn't quite make enough money, so they expanded the playoffs to seven teams per conference. The result is that teams like this — or like the Bears a year ago — can get in. 

Last week: 11


9) Vikings (3-4): Kirk Cousins is bad in primetime:

Cousins is also bad against good teams. Heading into this season, he was 7-35 against teams that finished the season with a winning record. He's 0-3 this season against teams currently with a winning record.

Last week: 7


8) 49ers (3-4): Jimmy Garoppolo had an efficient 17-for-28 day on Sunday, throwing for 322 yards (11.5 YPA), and he rushed for 2 TDs. It's gotta be really frustrating for 49ers fans who are no doubt happy with the win but realize that because Garoppolo looked competent for a day, Kyle Shanahan is going to continue to stick with him instead of playing Trey Lance.

Last week: 8

MORE: McMullen: Eagles' rout of Lions was successful but hardly revealing | Fantasy football: What should you do about the Eagles running backs?


7) Seahawks (3-5): After an easy win over the Jaguars on Sunday, the Seahawks will have their bye, and then Russell Wilson could be back for the Seahawks' Week 10 game in Green Bay:

That almost feels like a shot at Geno Smith, but "win" does rhyme with "pin," so what else was Russ supposed to do?

Last week: 10


6) Saints (5-2): The Saints now have a couple of really impressive wins over the Packers and Buccaneers. They're not Super Bowl contenders by any stretch, whether they still had Jameis Winston (torn ACL) or not, but they're a team that is now highly likely to at least make the playoffs, and they won't be a "gimme" for whoever has to face them in the wildcard round. They have one of the best defenses in the NFL. 

Last week: 6


5) Buccaneers (6-2): I love that Tom Brady has been shamed into shaking hands after losses.

Last week: 3


4) Cowboys (6-1): The obvious story from the Dak Prescott-less Cowboys' Sunday night win was that Cooper Rush was able to lead a late drive for the score and a win.

I think that one of the biggest surprises of this season has been Dallas' defense, which on paper looked like complete garbage heading into this season, and was further hurt by an injury to its best player, DeMarcus Lawrence.

It was the Cowboys' defense that won that game Sunday night. They allowed just 278 yards and 17 first downs to a Vikings offense with some really talented pieces. If they can just be average the rest of the way, and if Prescott can return from this calf injury and stay healthy, the Cowboys are going to be very hard to beat.

That said, after recovering all offseason from his devastating leg injury in 2020, and being hampered by shoulder and calf injuries already this season, Prescott's ability to stay healthy the rest of this season has to be a major concern for this team.

Last week: 5


3) Cardinals (7-1): There's no shame in losing to Aaron Rodgers, but the Cardinals' loss at home to Green Bay felt like a pretty significant letdown, seeing as the Packers were without their top two receivers in Davante Adams and Allen Lazard. 

Over the last two seasons, the Cardinals have had losses sort of snowball. For example, in 2019, they started 0-3-1. Then they won three straight games, before losing six in a row.

In 2020, they had three different losing streaks:

  1. They lost Weeks 3 and 4 to a couple of bad teams in the Lions and Panthers.
  2. They lost three straight Weeks 11-13 to the Seahawks, Patriots, and Rams.
  3. They lost Weeks 16 and 17 to the 49ers and Rams. Those losses cost them a playoff berth.

It'll be interesting to see if they can transition from a streaky team to one that can rebound from losses and quickly get back in the win column. 

Last week: 1


2) Packers (7-1): Sul!

Last week: 4


1) Rams (7-1): In a "screw it, we want to win a Super Bowl right now" move, the Rams traded away their second- and third-round picks to the Broncos for star edge rusher Von Miller. 

The Rams have become a team that is willing to deal high picks for veteran players. In 2019 they traded a pair of first-round picks (and more) for CB Jalen Ramsey, and this past offseason they dealt a pair of first-round picks (and more) for Matthew Stafford.

I love it.

They have a top 10-ish quarterback, a really nice trio of wide receivers, a good offensive line, one of the best secondaries in the NFL, and now an elite pass rush that includes Miller, an emerging Leonard Floyd (10.5 sacks in 2020, 6.5 so far in 2021), and uh, you know, the best defensive player in the NFL in Aaron Donald.

This was already a Super Bowl roster that just got even better.

Last week: 2

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