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November 26, 2019

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 13 edition, Panthers are dead

Week 12 of the 2019 NFL regular season is in the books, and we're beginning to experience something of a backlog of teams to kill off. This week, we have our seventh obituary of the season. That would be the Carolina Panthers.



Panthers (5-6): The Carolina Panthers' offense in 2019 has basically consisted of running it with Christian McCaffrey, and when they aren't doing that, they're throwing it to Christian McCaffrey. Through 11 games, McCaffrey has 289 total touches, which puts him on pace for 420 touches this season.

McCaffrey is perhaps a top 5 MVP candidate, as he is the player most responsible for the five wins that the Panthers do have. Unfortunately, his over-usage by the Panthers was dumb, as any slim Super Bowl hopes the Panthers might have had went out the window once Cam Newton got hurt. 

The following is a list of running backs since 2000 who had 400-plus touches in a season, and what happened to their yards per carry numbers from that heavy-usage season to the next season:

 YearPlayer (age)Touches YPC the year they had 400+ touches YPC the year AFTER they had 400+ touches 
 2006 Larry Johnson (27)457 4.3 3.5 
 2000Eddie George (27) 453 3.7 3.0 
 2002LaDainian Tomlinson (23) 451 4.5 5.3 
 2000Edgerrin James (22) 450 4.4 4.4 
 2014DeMarco Murray (26) 449 4.7 3.6 
 2003Ricky Williams (26) 442 3.5 Retired 
 2006Steven Jackson (23) 436 4.4 4.2 
 2002Ricky Williams (25)430 4.8 3.5 
 2003Deuce McAllister (25) 420 4.7 4.0 
 2003LaDainian Tomlinson (24) 413 5.3 3.9 
 2003Jamal Lewis (24) 413 5.3 4.3 
 2004Curtis Martin (31) 412 4.6 3.3 
 2005Tiki Barber (30) 411 5.2 5.1 
 2009Chris Johnson (24) 408 5.6 4.3 
 2017LeVeon Bell (25) 406 4.0 Held out entire season 
 2003Ahman Green (26) 405 5.3 4.5 
 2006LaDainian Tomlinson (27) 404 5.2 4.7 
 2005Edgerrin James (27) 404 4.2 3.4 

The only player in the list above who saw their yards per carry increase from their 400-plus touch season to their next season was LaDainian Tomlinson, who still had very fresh legs at the age of 23. Remarkably, he went from 4.5 YPC in 2002 to 5.3 YPC in 2003, when he also had 400-plus touches (2003). Of course, in 2004, his yards per carry dipped to 3.9.

Anyway, I guess what I'm getting at here is that the Panthers just put a ton of mileage on their best player in a season in which they didn't realistically have a chance of competing for a Super Bowl. 

They should shut McCaffrey down right now, but they won't because Ron Rivera is trying to save his job.





9) Bears (5-6): We could have killed the Bears off two weeks ago, and we should have killed them off last week, and now that they've won a game, even if they barely squeaked by the atrocious Giants, it feels less fun to kill them off this week. So let's wait yet again until next week.

Last week: 10


8) Rams (6-5): If you think the Eagles' offense is bad, imagine being a Rams fan and watching their slop offense, which at least has healthy skill position players. Over the last three games, the Rams' offense has scored 35 total points. Conversely, they scored at least 30 points in 12 of their 16 games last season. It really does appear that the league has Sean McVay figured out, and McVay has yet to show a strong counter punch.

By the way, here are the last four NFL Head Coaches of the Year:

  1. 2018: Matt Nagy
  2. 2017: Sean McVay
  3. 2016: Jason Garrett
  4. 2015: Ron Rivera

McVay isn't boy wonder anymore, while Nagy, Garrett, and Rivera are all firmly on the hot seat.

Last week: 8


8) Eagles (5-6): The Eagles probably have to win their five remaining games to close the season, get the 4 seed, somehow beat either the Vikings, Packers, Seahawks, or 49ers in the wildcard round of the playoffs, at which point DeSean Jackson will be eligible to come off of injured reserve, rejoin the join, and maybe play more than 10 snaps before he gets hurt again. Oh, and they also need to not lose any more major pieces of their team to injury.

If all of the above happens, maybe the Eagles' offense will look something close to what we all thought it might be when the season began, in which case I'll then give them -- ohhhhh, let's be generous since it's a holiday season -- a 10 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.

Last week: 7


6) Cowboys (6-5): In previous seasons, Dak Prescott has not always been super impressive overall, but he had a lot of "4th quarter comebacks." This season has been the reverse. He's generally been very good, but is 0-for-4 in those game-winning situations.

• Cowboys vs. Saints: The Cowboys had three offensive possessions in the fourth quarter trailing 12-10, resulting in 2 punts and an INT.

• Cowboys at Jets: Down 8, Prescott led one of the weirdest, defensive penalty-filled TD drives I’ve ever seen. On the two-point conversion for the tie, he threw an off-target pass, and the Cowboys lost.

• Cowboys vs. Vikings: Down 4 with 4:34 to play, Prescott led an 11-play drive that ended (with the help of some questionable end-of-drive playcalling) short of the end zone. Cowboys lost.

• Cowboys at Patriots: Down 4 with 2:38 to go, the Cowboys’ drive stalls after 5 plays, when Amari Cooper can’t haul in a pass that would have been a first down. (The Cowboys were also victimized by a phantom tripping penalty that negated a first down.) The Pats killed (almost) the rest of the clock, and the Cowboys lost.

My takeaway: "Fourth quarter comebacks" is a dumb stat.

Last week: 6


5) Vikings (8-3): It was a big bye week for the Vikings, as the Packers fell to 8-3, thus giving Minny a share of the NFC North lead. The Vikings are still behind on multiple tie-breakers, however, since they already lost to the Packers and have a 1-2 record in the division, while the Packers are 3-0 in the division. They're probably going to have to just have the better record overall to win the division.

Last week: 5


4) Packers (8-3): In their two trips to California this season, the Packers scored 19 points and gained a total of 382 yards. Thankfully for them, their schedule is incredibly easy the rest of the way. You know how you see that side-by-side schedule comparison for the Eagles and Cowboys every week? Well, let's do that for the Packers and Vikings:

 Packers (8-3)Vikings (8-3) 
 At Giants (2-9)At Seahawks (9-2) 
 Washington (2-9) Lions (3-7-1)
 Bears (5-6) At Chargers (4-7)
 At Vikings (8-3) Packers (8-3)
 At Lions (3-7-1) Bears (5-6)
 TOTAL (20-34-1) TOTAL (29-25-1)

I think the Vikings are a better team right now, but it's hard to see how the Packers mess this up.

Last week: 2


3) Saints (9-2): Sean Payton is crying again about pass interference reviews.


This time he's mad that a very clear defensive pass interference call that wasn't called on the field got changed to defensive pass interference on review. As you can see here, this is very clearly defensive pass interference:


Of course, Payton infamously whined his way into the monstrosity that is the current review system for pass interference. Now he is now calling for a three-man team to review challenges. 

Just shut up. Shut. Up.

Last week: 4


2) Seahawks (9-2): The Seahawks didn't look super impressive on Sunday against the Eagles, and that's sort their M.O., but if I were a team with a first round bye, this is the last team I would want to have to play in the divisional round of the playoffs. 

I enjoyed watching the Seahawks' swagger on Sunday. They taunt the opposing crowd, and almost seem to embrace playing on the road, where oh by the way, they're 6-0.

Last week: 1


1) 49ers (10-1): I've been saying repeatedly here that I think the Niners will be one-and-done in the playoffs because I don't trust Jimmy Garoppolo. But after the beatdown their defense administered to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, it may be time to start re-thinking my stubborn stance on them.

By the way, the Niners are basically the NFL's version of The Process. Here's how they built their defensive line:

• 2015: They selected DT Arik Armstead with the 17th overall pick.

• 2016: They selected DT DeForest Buckner with the 7th overall pick.

• 2017: They selected DE Solomon Thomas with the 3rd overall pick.

• 2019: The 49ers traded a second-round pick for DE Dee Ford, and then gave him a five-year deal worth $87.5 million.

• 2019: They selected DE Joey Bosa with the 2nd overall pick.

If you're terrible long enough and dump enough premium resources into your defensive line, OF COURSE you're going to be able to get to the quarterback.

Last week: 3

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