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September 03, 2019

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 1 edition

Eagles NFL
090319CarsonWentz Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles and Saints are the two best teams in the NFC, in my opinion.

In case you're unfamiliar with our Hierarchy/Obituary series, it's our version of the thousands of power rankings that are out there, with a few differences. To begin, we only cover the NFC, because really, as it pertains to the Eagles, who cares about the AFC? But also, I don't know the AFC anywhere near as well as the NFC, so my already questionable opinions of the teams I do know are all the more worthless in an entire additional conference that I don't get to see much of.

We also just stop including teams that no longer have a reasonable chance of contending for the playoffs. When they are all but eliminated, we write their obituary and stop including them in the hierarchy. Got it? Good.

Obituaries

One of these years I'm going to write off some team before the season even begins, but that won't be this year.

Hierarchy

090418Redskins

16) Washington: Hmmm, let's see. Where should I begin? 

  1. The starting quarterback is Case Keenum. Hang on, let me take a look at every other team in the league. (Taking a look at every other team in the league)... Yep, I would take literally every other starting quarterback in the league over Keenum.
  2. Trent Williams, the best player on the team, says he's never playing for Washington again, and he means it. Somehow, rather than dealing him to Chip Kelly Bill O'Brien and the Texans, who have been getting destroyed in trades all weekend long, they've just decided, "Nah, we're just going to pass on getting valuable assets in return for this super-unhappy player while he wastes away in limbo for the foreseeable future."
  3. The wide receiving corps are the worst in the NFL, and it's not even close.
  4. The only decent pass-catcher on the roster, Jordan Reed, just suffered his seventh concussion in a meaningless preseason game.
  5. Ereck Flowers is a starter!

It's going to be hilarious in 5 months when Washington finishes 4-12 and Bruce Allen gets to keep his job.

090818CardinalsLogo

15) Cardinals: In 2018, Steve Keim signed Sam Bradford to a one-year deal worth $20 million. A week later, he signed Mike Glennon to a two-year deal worth $8 million. In the 2018 NFL Draft, he traded Arizona's first-, third-, and fifth-round selections (15th, 79th, and 152nd) to the Raiders to take Josh Rosen at 10th overall. And finally, two months after the draft, he plead guilty to an "extreme DUI," which in hindsight, probably explains the Bradford signing. Bradford, Glennon, and Rosen are all gone, and the Cardinals' point differential was 107 points worse than the next closest team in the NFC a year ago. 

Somehow, Keim kept his job, and was trusted to make the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft. Also, the press release announcing that Kliff Kingsbury would be the new coach included a selling point in it that he's friends with the golden boy coach of a division rival. What an awful organization.

One positive is that I will say that it'll be fun watching Kyler Murray this season.

090618BuccaneersLogo

14) Buccaneers: Since Jameis Winston entered the NFL in 2015, only Ben Roethlisberger has thrown more interceptions (59) than Winston (58). Of course, Winston would own the distinction of most INTs over that span if Roethlisberger didn't have almost 300 more pass attempts than him.

The Bucs came out of the gate red hot in 2018, beating a pair of eventual playoff teams in the Saints and Eagles, and then... (fart noise).

Like the Cardinals and the Washington team above, the Bucs are another horrendously run franchise. GM Jason Licht drafted a kicker in the second round. And traded up for him! And he stunk! Meanwhile, Winston has been a disastrous No. 1 overall pick, and Licht is entering into his sixth year as GM after compiling a 27-53 record, while finishing dead last in the NFC South in four of his five years. And how did the Bucs repay Licht for his objectively awful tenure so far? They gave him a five-year contract extension in August! Lol.

09061849ersLogo

13) 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo had a horrific day in training camp and a bad preseason game. Is that enough for me to write off the Niners this season? Yes. Yes it is.

090618GiantsLogo

12) Giants: While I disagree with almost everything Dave Gettleman has done since he became the general manager of the Giants, I do think they'll be a better team in 2019 than they were in 2018, based mostly on the improvements made along the offensive line. The quintet of LT Nate Solder, LG Will Hernandez, C Jon Halapio, RG Kevin Zeitler, and RT Mike Remmers is at least a professional offensive line, which is something the Giants haven't had in years.

Of course, by the time the Giants can build a roster that will be able to complete for anything, Solder, Zeitler, and Remmers will be over the hill. In the meantime, they could actually eke out 7 wins this year!

090618LionsLogo

11) Lions: It's going to be a weekly chore coming up with something to write about this boring ass team.


MORE: What they're saying: Eagles season predictions, roster reactions and more


090518PanthersLogo

10) Panthers: I have admired Cam Newton's game since he entered the league, but he is now 30 years old, and eight years of barreling into opposing defenses with reckless abandon has taken a toll on his body.

Newton couldn't finish the 2018 season, and he enters 2019 with a throwing shoulder that probably isn't 100 percent healthy, and now a gimpy ankle as well.

In the three years since the Panthers lost in the Super Bowl, they have a 24-24 record, with a point differential of -3. They are one made field goal away from perfect mediocrity.

090318Falcons

9) Falcons: The Falcons suffered a number of key injuries early in the season last year, namely to star linebacker Deion Jones and both of their starting safeties. Boo hoo. That shouldn't have derailed them to the extent that it did, given their fire power on offense. Unlike the 2017 and 2018 Eagles, for example, Atlanta was unable to weather a few losses.

They started 4-9, and then won three meaningless games to close the season.

090418PackersLogo

8) Packers: Green Bay had a healthy Aaron Rodgers last year, and they still went 6-9-1. Most blame former head coach Mike McCarthy for the Pack's embarrassing 2018 season, and for good reason, but it should also be pointed out that Rodgers and few others aside, this roster stinks.

090418Vikings

7) Vikings: Who likes empty stats? In the entire history of the NFL, only nine quarterbacks have at least 2000 pass attempts and a QB rating of at least 95.0. Kirk Cousins is one of them! 

Unfortunately, Cousins is now 4-25 against teams with a winning record, after he folded faster than Superman on laundry day in a win-and-in game against the Bears Week 17 last season.

Cousins' cap numbers the next two seasons are $29,000,000 in 2019 and $31,000,000 in 2020, and as you already know, it's fully guaranteed. Minnesota isn't getting out of that. They're stuck with a mediocre quarterback making elite money, while their offensive line still stinks, and their good-not-great defense isn't dominant enough on a consistent basis.

090418Cowboys

6) Cowboys: The 2019 Cowboys will be fascinating to watch. After overachieving in 2018 (they went 10-6 on a meager point differential of +15), they have a boatload of players with their hands out looking for major pay days, while legitimate questions persist over whether this team is actually good or not.

In all likelihood, the Cowboys will pay (maybe overpay?) a bunch of their most important players before they really know for sure.


MORE: Eagles CB Cre'Von LeBlanc signs one-year contract extension, but will head to IR | A look at the Eagles' initial 2019 practice squad, and waiver claims


090418Seahawks

5) Seahawks: I was ready to write off the Seahawks a year ago, and, well, they were pretty good again. I don't love their roster this year either, but Russell Wilson has made a career of hiding his team's offensive deficiencies.

090618BearsLogo

4) Bears: It's hilarious to me that Matt Nagy is putting so much blame on a missed kick ending his team's season, when in reality, if you look at the disproportionate number of injuries between the Eagles and Bears in that game, it shouldn't have even been close. 

Looking forward, while Mitchell Trubisky should be better in Year 3, the Bears defense will have to prove they can remain dominant with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio becoming the Broncos' new head coach. They will also not likely enjoy the same injury luck they had in 2018.

090418RamsLogo

3) Rams: The last time Todd Gurley got at least 20 carries in one game was in Week 13. In the seven games the Rams played from there on out, including the playoffs, Gurley only got 53 carries, or 7.6 carries per game.

If we're using the Week 14 as the line of demarcation of when Gurley was no longer the same player that he was earlier in the season, there's a pretty drastic difference in the Rams' offensive output.

• Weeks 1-13: The Rams scored 34.9 points per game

• Weeks 14 through the Super Bowl: The Rams scored 23.9 points per game.

And well, on the eye test, they just didn't look the same. Can Jared Goff carry this team if Gurley isn't the same player he once was? We'll see.

090418EaglesLogo

2) Eagles: On the one hand, Carson Wentz has been injured a lot over the last four years: 

  1. Oct 2015 (NDSU): He broke a bone in his right wrist that required surgery.
  2. Aug 2016 (Eagles): He fractured ribs in the preseason against the Buccaneers. This injury caused him to only miss a few preseason games, though he would have also likely missed some "real" time had it occurred during the regular season.
  3. Dec 2017 (Eagles): He tore his ACL and LCL. He did not return until Week 3 of the 2018 season.
  4. Oct (?) 2018 (Eagles): He played with a fractured bone in his back until he was replaced by Nick Foles with three games remaining in the regular season. He never returned, obviously. The exact date of Wentz's back injury is unknown, but he first appeared on the injury list with back issues in October last season.

On the other hand, if he can stay healthy, he's a top five quarterback, playing behind an elite offensive line, and throwing to a very talented set of receivers, including the best 1-2 TE combination in the NFL. 

If Wentz starts and finishes all 16 games, the Eagles have as good a shot as any team in the NFL of landing a 1 seed.

090418Saints

1) Saints: The Saints, in my opinion, were the best team in the NFC last year, even if they choked in the NFC Championship Game, and continue to cry about it to this day. 

One near-certainty of the 2019 season is that the Saints' offense will be awesome, as it is every year. Their sustained offensive success has been incredibly impressive during the Sean Payton era:

 Saints offensive rankingsYards Points 
 2006
 200712 
 2008
 2009
 201011 
 2011
 2012 (Payton suspended in 2012 for giving extra money to his players for purposely injuring players on the other team)
 201310 
 2014
 2015
 2016
 2017
 2018


They have never finished out of the top 10 in yards gained. They finished first in yards six times, second twice, and in the top five 10 times.
 They have also finished first in points twice, second twice, and in the top five seven times. They have never finished out of the top 12 in points. That is ridiculous. 

If their defense can just be average, they'll likely win their division for the third straight year, and will be in position once again to make a deep playoff run.


MORE: Analysis of the Eagles' very old roster | Ranking NFL teams by age after 53-man cutdowns: 2019 edition


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