NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 14
Week 13 of the NFL season is in the books. We have no new obituaries to write this week, but the Packers are on life support, which is actually a bad thing for the Eagles.
10) Packers (5-6-1)
The Packers are 0-4-1 since Aaron Rodgers got hurt, and their awfulness in Rodgers' absence was at its peak on Thanksgiving. Here's what the Lions did to the Packers last Thursday:
And here's something that's pretty telling. Look at the point spreads posted on ESPN:
Obviously, BOVADA and Fantasy911.com thought Aaron Rodgers was playing this week (it doesn't appear that he will), and his presence alone (even returning from injury) can swing the spread by a full TD.
There's a thinking that the Packers could just put Rodgers on the shelf if they're no longer in the playoff hunt. Next week the Packers play the Cowboys, and it would help the Eagles enormously if Rodgers played. The Eagles can do their part in keeping the Packers relevant by beating the NFC North leading Lions.
9) Bears (6-6)
The Bears' defense is terrible. Chicago is only alive because the Lions squandered opportunities to run away with the division, and because Aaron Rodgers got hurt. The Bears have given up an absurd number of rushing yards over the last 6 games:
That's 205.2 rushing yards allowed per game. Disgusting.
8) Cardinals (7-5)
I never took Bruce Arians for a whambulance driver, but apparently that's what he is. Here's what Arians had to say about the officiating during the Eagles-Cardinals game, via the great Tim McManus of Birds 24/7:
"There were obviously problems in the ballgame," said head coach Bruce Arians. "There are protocol to follow. We followed the protocol. We sent the tapes into the league office. [Vice President of Officiating] Dean Blandino does a great job as far as being honest on the calls, and we'll follow up more…on what will be done and can be done later, but that's all I'll say about the officiating in that ballgame. The proper channels have been followed, and there were obviously very many problems."
Here are some plays Arians probably won't be sending to the league office:
1) The absurd unnecessary roughness call on Bradley Fletcher, in which he... you know... made a tackle and the ball carrier's legs happened to go in the air.
2) The pass interference no-call on Riley Cooper in which the defender was clearly pulling Riley's arm down:
3) The obvious no-call hold on Mychal Kendricks by TE Jim Dray on Larry Fitzgerald's TD.
It's easy to pick up a blitz and burn the defense on the back end if you have the blitzing linebacker in a bear hug.
4) Andre Roberts' non-catch that was called incomplete on the field, but was overturned on replay.
Roberts initially bobbled the ball, and was helped when the ball hit the ground. To be fair, I'll admit that I no longer have the slightest clue what a catch is anymore (who does?), so I'm not sure I definitively criticize this call.
5) The weird holding call on DeSean Jackson's punt return.
Here's DeSean fielding the punt, circled in yellow. The FOX broadcast team singled out Kurt Coleman for the hold, circled in blue, but the officials never noted who the infraction was on. Coleman actually did sort of hold, particularly when you watch it in slow mo. It doesn't look anywhere near as bad when you watch it at normal speed. A holding call on him would have been somewhat ticky tack. The official who threw the flag is not circled, because he's not on the screen. He's a minimum of 45 yards away from Coleman:
The flag comes out when DeSean is already 20 yards up the field from where he fielded the punt. Here you see the official throwing the flag, but not in the direction of Coleman:
That flag could not have been called on Coleman, in my opinion. I watched this play 7 or 8 times, trying to find who else could have been called for holding. The only thing remotely close to a hold could have been Roc Carmichael, who most certainly did not hold.
The referee either threw a flag on a play he was 50 yards away from, or a phantom hold elsewhere.
Anyway, the moral of the story here is... Shut up, Arians.
7) Cowboys (7-5)
This shot of Tony Romo looking like he was peeking up at CBS' score graphic could have been such a great Thanksgiving Day image:
But alas, it was not meant to be. (Wipes away tear).
6) Eagles (7-5)
There was one statistic I forgot to mention in my Donnie Jones post, so I'll note it here.
Last season, the Eagles' opponents' starting field position was 31.86 yard line. That was worst in the NFL. This year, opposing offenses are starting at the 25.34 yard line. That's 5th best in the NFL. A difference of 6.52 yards per drive might not sound like a lot, but it is. Consider that the average number of drives per team last year was 181. 181 drives * 6.52 yards of difference in starting field position = 1180 hidden yards over the course of an entire seasons. Crazy.
5) Lions (7-5)
The rest of the NFC North has tried to gift-wrap the NFC North for the Lions, but aside from their performance against the Packers on Thanksgiving, they've refused to take it.
This team looks so good one week, so stupid and sloppy the next.
4) 49ers (8-4)
This is actually another team for Eagles fans to keep an eye on in the NFC. If the 49ers lose next week and the Eagles win, the Eagles will actually be ahead of the Niners in the Wildcard race... and the Niners face Seattle.
3) Saints (9-3)
Drew Brees has only been sacked 24 times this season, which is good for 5th best in the NFL. Looking at that stat in a vacuum, you might think the Saints offensive line is really good. However, it's misleading.
In two of their losses, first against the Jets Week 9 and then later against the Seahawks Monday night, the Saints' pass protection was terrible. The Jets and Seahawks' pass rush made life miserable for Drew Brees, and yet, he was only sacked 3 times in those 2 games combined.
Over the next 3 games, the Saints will face the Panthers twice. The Panthers are 2nd in the NFL with 39 sacks. Like the Seahawks, the Panthers are getting pressure from a lot of different people and a lot of different places. That Saints OL must play better if they want to win the division.
2) Panthers (9-3)
People recognize that the Panthers defense is having a tremendous year. However, to put it in context, over the last 10 years, only 2 teams have allowed fewer points per game than the 2013 Panthers. Here are all the teams that allowed fewer than 15 points per game over the last 10 years:
1) Seahawks (11-1)
Here's what I wrote in my Week 13 picks column:
The Seahawks almost lost to the Bucs and were out-sloppy'd by the Titans in two of their home games this year. They're 5-0 in Seattle, but I just don't buy that that Hawks are indestructible there.