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September 06, 2018

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 1 edition

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.

For Week 1, because of the shortened week with the Eagles playing on a Thursday, we won't have as in-depth of a hierarchy as usual, but since my OCD won't allow me not to write one of these and have it on the record just prior to the start of the season, we'll do a shortened version.


None, duh.



16) Buccaneers: This team is a mess, and they're led by a crab leg-stealing, woman-harassing, W-eating quarterback who is suspended for the first three games of the season. In Jameis Winston's absence, the Bucs have to face a trio of teams in the Saints, Eagles, and Steelers that had a combined record of 37-11 last season. Good luck with all that.


15) Giants: The Giants have a few shiny things like Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley, which is great. It's certainly a nice advantage to have some playmakers on offense. 

Unfortunately, (takes deep breath) they have a garbage offensive line that has no continuity whatsoever, a GM who is stuck in 1965, an uninspiring head coach, a quarterback who was never really that good in the first place but is now clearly done, the 31st ranked defense of a season ago that can't get to the quarterback and is undergoing a total scheme change, and the 32nd ranked special teams units in the league last year. (Exhales).


14) Cardinals: This offseason, the Cardinals signed Sam Bradford to an absolutely laughable one-year deal worth $20 million. Assuming Bradford pockets the $20 million in full, he will have earned $134,084,404 over his career, despite having only 34 career wins since he entered the league in 2010, and never winning more than 7 games in a season.

And the crazy part is that Bradford's last contract was the one he signed with the Eagles, a two-year deal worth $36 million, or $18 million per season. In 2017, Bradford played in just two games because he was sidelined with some mysterious knee injury, which is concerning enough for any player with an otherwise normal injury history, but a red neon flag for a walking ACL tear like Bradford. And the Cardinals somehow thought is was a good idea to pay him MORE MONEY PER YEAR THAN HIS PREVIOUS CONTRACT.

And then they signed Glennon to a two-year, $8 million contract, because, um, they needed insurance for their mediocre-even-when-healthy starter?

And then they traded up for Josh Rosen, who many considered to be the most pro ready quarterback in a loaded draft, which was their first good idea at the quarterback position, but he's now sitting on the bench in favor of Bradford, because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.


13) Lions: I really like Matthew Stafford. It's just too bad that he plays behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. That's a big problem playing in a division that has the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and an improved Chicago Bears defense.


12) Seahawks: The Seahawks' 2017 starting defense at the beginning of the season vs. the Seahawks' starting defense to begin the 2018 season (via Ourlads):

 Seahawks D2017 2018 
 DEMichael Bennett Quinton Jefferson 
 DTJarran Reed  Jarran Reed
 DTSheldon Richardson  Tom Johnson
 DECliff Avril  Frank Clark
 OLBKJ Wright  Barkevious Mingo
 MLBBobby Wagner  Bobby Wagner
 OLBTerence Garvin  Shaquem Griffin
 CBRichard Sherman  Shaquill Griffin
 SEarl Thomas  Bradley McDougald
 SKam Chancellor  Tedric Thompson
 CBJeremy Lane  Dontae Johnson

Their run is over.


11) Cowboys: The Cowboys' offense is in big trouble. They have Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, and Zack Martin, and then... What?

The Cowboys are going to waste a lot of Elliott's tread, giving him 350 touches in a 7-9 season that goes nowhere. Honestly, the worst case scenario is if the Cowboys win 9 or 10 games and Jerry Jones talks himself into another season of Jason Garrett.


10) Bears: The Bears were a fun team on the rise to kind of monitor in 2018, but now they really have everyone's attention with their trade for Khalil Mack. In my view, they are still a few pieces away from contending with the big boys in the conference, but they may be right there in 2019.


9) 49ers: Along with the Bears, the Niners are a team that many believe will make a big jump forward this season. Jimmy Garoppolo is more seasoned than Mitchell Trubisky, so I think the Niners will have more success in 2018, but I like the Bears long-term staying power more because of their intriguing defense.


8) Redskins: The Redskins have some concern areas at their offensive skill positions, but in my view, they're the second-best team in the NFC East because they're strong in the trenches on both sides of the ball, which is what matters more. 

Dumping a lot of resources into Alex Smith for a team that isn't a legitimate Super Bowl contender was a bad idea, but he's an upgrade over Kirk Cousins in the short-term.


7) Panthers: The Panthers just kind of remain what they've been. They're a physical football team with a good defense, and an offense that tries to win with their running backs and tight end. In the AFC, they'd be a contender, but they're a step behind the pack in a loaded NFC.


6) Vikings: The Vikings appear to be a complete team, with their "No. 1 ranked defense" (I use quotes there purposely), as well as an offense with some nice skill players and an upgrade at quarterback.

They're not.

The Vikings' offensive line remains among the league's worst, and they're really going struggle against teams that can get after the quarterback, as they have over the last few years. The OL still isn't fixed, and the Vikings aren't going to make any real postseason noise until it is.


5) Packers: Their roster kinda sucks, but, you know, they have the best football player on the planet. Without Aaron Rodgers in 2017, the Packers were a borderline bottom five team. With Rodgers, the Packers won at least one playoff game in each of the three previous seasons.


4) Rams: The additions of the many talented-but-troubled players to the Rams' roster this offseason will be fascinating study in its aftermath, no matter how it goes. Even if the Rams don't turn out to be a dominant team in 2018, they play in a division where two teams (the Seahawks and Cardinals) are in decline, and the other (the Niners) still have a ways to go.


3) Saints: The Saints' finishes in total yards since the start of the Drew Brees era in New Orleans:

 YearOffensive Rank 

They're going to be top five again in 2018, except now they also have a competent defense. Scary team.


2) Falcons: The Falcons are of course known for having 2016 MVP Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and the RB duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. What is perhaps very underrated about them is a defense that includes a quick front four that creates disruption, speedy linebackers that play sideline-to-sideline, and a pair of very good corners. They also have a solid offensive line to protect Ryan and create space for the backs.

Unlike, say, the Vikings above, this is a complete team that is primed to compete for a Super Bowl this season.


1) Eagles: They won a Super Bowl without their MVP QB, their Hall of Fame LT, their starting RB, their young emerging MLB, their kicker, their special teams captain, and others. 

They've faced severe adversity, and won anyway. For any other team to be in this spot before the start of the season would be absolutely asinine.  

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