Written By: Dylan Moran
Welcome to the first edition of “Winners, Losers and The Steady” by Dylan Moran, host of the On and Off the Field podcast. These articles are dedicated to the NFC and my counterpart Clutch Sports Talk will be handling the AFC.
My goal here, every Monday, is to give you my professional opinion on whether the NFC team being discussed is trending up, down or staying steady, based off of what I have seen during the current week and all prior weeks! If you listen to the podcast, you know I am not a person to overreact to things. For example, everyone has written of the Bills. They will be 4-1 now after that loss to the Titans on Tuesday. Season over, might as well just go home boys. That is, of course, an overreaction.
Let me give you an example of what you can expect. An 0-5 Falcons team gets their first win of the season and are now 1-5 in a division with 3 very good teams. They will most likely be staying steady for me since winning that game doesn’t really benefit them draft pick wise, but it doesn’t hurt to get a win to make you feel good about yourself.
Now that you know what to expect, let’s dive in!
NFC Bye Weeks: Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints
Atlanta Falcons: 40-23 win vs. The Minnesota Vikings
Fooled you! The Falcons are definitely winners! Not just because they won this game, but they had a lead and kept it! Matt Ryan threw 4 TDs, Julio Jones (8 receptions, 137 yards, 2 TDs) is back and the defense collected 3 INTs. This is all just gravy because the meat is Dan Quinn is nowhere to be found! Is this really all it took? The Falcons would have been competitive for 4 quarters the past 2 years if Dan Quinn just would have been fired? Maybe not, but to finally cut off the cancer that contributed to that Super Bowl collapse must feel great!
I was shocked this offseason when the Falcons did not draft a QB. I thought this is the perfect time to do it. You can have him learn from Matt Ryan for a season, then kick Matty Ice to the curb and have a nice fresh face to restart the franchise. There is hope on the horizon though after Arthur Blank came out and said he is not committed to Matt Ryan as the QB of the future.
This franchise is finally finding it’s brain cells!
Chicago Bears: 23-16 win vs. The Carolina Panthers
The Bears are 5-1. Hold on. Before we continue, just soak that in. The Bears, that reside in Chicago, are 5-1. Okay, let’s move on.
The Panthers are a team that have won 3 straight and are playing very well, so we can’t brush this off as a win over a bad team. Nick Foles (23/39 for 198, 1 TD and 1 INT) did not play particularly well but you know who did? The defense. 2 INTs, 1 fumble recovery and only allowed 1 TD. This team is starting to give me Seattle Seahawks with the Legion of Boom vibes. Nick Foles is not Russell Wilson, but he can make enough plays on offense to get a win, while the defense carries most of the weight.
I know that is a CRAZY comparison, but just think about it. The offense lacks weapons with big names, but Allen Robinson and Doug Baldwin are playmakers. Kahlil Mack and Bobby Wagner are top tier LBs and will be in the Hall of Fame one day. Earl Thomas and Eddie Jackson can fly to the ball no matter where it is. This team keeps trending up and I have to start to accept it. My brain has, but my heart hasn’t.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 38-10 win vs. The Green Bay Packers
Gronk (5 receptions, 78 yards, 1 TD) caught a touchdown pass from TB12 (17/27 for 166 and 2 TDs)! How cool is that!? Okay, it’s not that cool but the point is it looks like the Bucs offense finally clicked for the first time this season. They had Godwin, Evans, Gronk, and Ronald Jones (23 carries, 113 yards and 2 TDs) on the field all at the same time. Injuries have stopped that from happening most of this early season. If TB12 can start getting consistent games where everyone is healthy, we can start seeing these connections get tighter and the Bucs get scarier.
Everyone always wants to talk about TB12 and the offense but the defense just shut down Aaron Rodgers and the “unstoppable” Packers offense. You have to acknowledge it! It all started with a bad pass on an out route to Adams that turned into a pick-6 and then a drop by Adams that turned into the 2nd pick. After that, Rodgers questioned everything he saw and did and the Bucs took advantage of it.
They brought all the pressure and made Aaron make uncomfortable throws into tight man coverage. 5 sacks and 13 QB hits will make any QB uneasy in the pocket. If anyone wants tape on how to beat the Packers, you can thank the Bucs because they just handed it to the other 30 teams on a silver platter. Look out NFC South!
San Francisco 49ers: 24-16 win vs. The LA Rams
The 49ers barely avoided the steady riders section of this post. Jimmy Garoppolo (23/33 for 268 with 3 TDs) had a good day in the first half. I was just waiting for the Rams to show up and take the lead and we would have a similar collapse that we saw in the Super Bowl. Fortunately for the 49ers, the defense was able to confuse the crap out of Goff. For a team that has had a billion injuries, they looked like a full team Sunday night.
I put them in the winners section strictly because I saw a glimpse of last year’s team. Raheem Mostert (17 carries, 65 yards) was not the dominant RB we are used to seeing, but his speed pulled up the Rams LBs and safeties to give Jimmy wide open receivers. This is where Jimmy G thrives though. Short throws and let the playmakers make plays. As long as he can deliver the pass, the 49ers can turn this season around.
Philadelphia Eagles: 30-28 loss to The Baltimore Ravens
“Aww, come on! They only lost by 2 points to an amazing Baltimore Ravens team!”. Save it. They could have won this game if it wasn’t for Doug Perdersen calling a terrible 2 point conversion play down 17-6 and following that up with another terrible play call for a 2 point conversion when down 30-28, trying to tie the game.That is why the Eagles are here this week. Even if the players have a pretty decent day and a chance to have a huge upset, the coaching staff will mess it up.
You can’t trust anyone in this Eagles organization to do anything right. Zach Ertz had 10 targets but only 4 receptions for 33 yards. Miles Sanders (9 rushes, 118 yards) was playing great until he went out with a knee injury, which continues the story of how no one can stay healthy on this team. The defense is a constant struggle and turnovers come in bunches (-7 turnover differential on the season).
In a division with the Cowboys, Giants and a Football Team, it still seems like the Eagles have zero chance of winning the NFC East. You might need a record of 7-9 to win the division! The Eagles could take it with 7-8-1! That extra half game could do it for them if they can manage to go on a run. From my perspective, it won’t happen.
New York Giants: 20-19 win vs. The Washington Football Team
I realize someone had to win this game, but with the Giants winning, it really hurts their chances of claiming Trevor Lawerence. I do not see the Jets winning a game this season (just look at their schedule) so just one win can take you out of the running.
Maybe they are fine with this! Maybe they still think Danny Dimes (12/19 for 112 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) is the future of the Giants organization. They don’t even WANT Trevor! That’s a crazy thought to me, but I digress. Just like I said with the Eagles, this division sucks. The Giants have shown they have some offense the past two weeks. Maybe if they string together a couple of wins against their NFC East rivals, they can put themselves into a position to win the division. Nothing is out of the question for the NFC East.
The Giants are in a scary place, very similar to the Jets. They don’t know who they are, they don’t know what to do and if they don’t figure it out before draft time, it could be another year of sub .500 mediocrity in 2021.
Minnesota Vikings: 40-23 loss to The Atlanta Falcons
We can no longer make fun of Kirk Cousins (24/36 for 343, 3 TDs and 3 INTs) for being terrible in prime time, because now he is just terrible all the time. The only thing the Vikings have to be excited about is Justin Jefferson (9 receptions, 166 yards, 2 TDs). He is popping off this season and him and Adam Thielen can be a great duo if they get a great QB.
The Vikings have to dump Cousins and start fresh at that position this offseason. He robbed this team for $66M guaranteed for the next 2 seasons. They have to eat that money, get a few draft picks and move on. This is not an overreaction. This is not a one game “wow, that’s bad, they should get rid of him”. The Vikings have seen the ceiling of Kirk and it is not a Super Bowl win. The Vikings have been on the receiving end of a couple of game-winning, lucky plays to bounce them out of the playoffs, but that’s as far as Kirk will get this team. End of story.
Oh, and Dalvin Cook? It’s a lot of fun when you pay your running back, extend him for a few years, and he can’t stay on the field. Why would they re-sign a guy with his injury history? I have no idea, that’s what the Vikings do. Bad contracts.
Green Bay Packers: 38-10 loss to The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Well, that was ugly. Aaron Rodgers (16/35 for 160 and 2 INTs) had one of the worst games of his career. He was benched for most of the 4th quarter as both teams acted like it was a preseason game and had backups playing. Aaron Jones (10 carries, 15 yards, 1 TD) and Jamaal Williams (4 carries, 34 yards) could not contribute in the run game and the WRs got no separation downfield. When a receiver did get open, Rodgers was facing pressure and missed them downfield.
This was hard to watch and the other game this season I can compare this to is the Bills getting curb stomped by the Titans last Tuesday. Nothing went right. It is going to be a long week of practice when they sit down and watch the tape and try to fix EVERYTHING.
Normally, I would put them as a steady team because I don’t want to overreact to one loss. However, let’s not forget that the Packers were a rough looking 13-3 team last season and proceeded to get steamrolled by the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. How did they get better on defense? They didn’t. It is concerning to say the least that the defense laid down again in a big time game and the offense stalled. In a Super Bowl or bust kind of season for Aaron, I would be sweating a little after that performance.
LA Rams: 24-16 loss to The San Francisco 49ers
There they are! The Rams that I predicted we would see. I have been blown away by what the Rams have been able to pull off thus far. Goff was a top 10 QB, the running back by committee strategy was working beautifully and Aaron Donald, well, he’s Aaron Donald! The Rams looked like they were going to compete for the NFC West crown and make a push to return to the Super Bowl!
Maybe I am being harsh. It’s all a game plan with Jared Goff (19/38 for 198, 2 TDs and 1 INT) and when you ask him to throw the ball 38 times without establishing a run game first, you are going to lose. He gets flustered, he misses wide open targets, he is thinking himself into a box and it all falls apart before it can begin. I am a Seahawks fan. I watch this team very closely and I know what makes Goff tic! When Todd Gurley was healthy and in his prime, that is why the Rams and Goff were successful. The threat of Gurley made that play action deadly! Gurley started to rack up the injuries and the offense fell apart.
I put a lot of the blame tonight on Sean McVay out coaching himself. He should know what makes his QB go, and Sunday night’s game plan was not it. Do better!
Washington Football Team: 20-19 loss to The New York Giants
I trust that Ron Rivera has a plan for this team. He has stuffed Dwayne Haskins in a locker and hopes to never see him again. He has a guy who almost died 2 years ago ahead of Haskins on the depth chart. That says a lot about what the head coach thinks of you! RiverBoat Ron knows this team is garbage and his only goal is to take out the trash and make sure no more comes in. So far, he is doing a good job.
No one in that organization wanted Haskins except Dan Snyder because his son went to school with him. That’s a pretty bad reason in case you didn’t know. Hopefully, Snyder and Haskins will be out of Washington before 2021 even begins. Ron will take this team where it needs to be, but it won’t be a quick fix. Staying steady as a bad team!
Carolina Panthers: 23-16 loss to The Chicago Bears
A loss to the Bears will not change my opinion of what I think of this team. The Panthers were supposed to be rebuilding, so the fact they have 3 wins already this season, probably beats some of the overs people set for total wins. After they started 0-2 and lost CMC, all hope seemed to be lost. It was going to be 2-14 at best and we can welcome in some WR from Alabama with a top 5 pick.
Not the case! Teddy Bridgewater and Matt Rhule have a magical connection to this CMC-less offense. No one thought DJ Moore (5 receptions, 93 yards) could be a #1 WR and everyone wrote off Robby Anderson (4 receptions, 77 yards) as a one trick pony who can run fast and straight. Mike Davis (18 carries, 52 yards, 1 TD) has come out of nowhere and become a consistent threat out of the backfield. He is not CMC, but no one is.
Similar to the Washington Football Team, Matt Rhule has a vision for this team and the fact they are already starting out this hot in his first 6 games as a head coach shows that you have to keep an eye on them.
Detroit Lions: 34-16 win vs. The Jacksonville Jaguars
D’Andre Swift (14 carries, 116 yards, 2 TDs) is alive! This is why I drafted him for my fantasy team. This kid can be so electric and give this Lions offense what it has desperately needed, a run game. Why are they not winners though? They played the Jaguars. The same Jaguars who have lost 3 straight games to teams without a win, now 4 in a row, speaking generally. Minshew is fun and the offense has some good players, but this is by no means a contender.
The Lions have been an enigma for a long time. A lot of talent but not a lot of wins. Matthew Stafford (19/31 for 223, 1 TD and 1 INT) is getting older and more broken. He cannot do this for much longer and that is why they have Swift, Johnson and now Adrian Peterson. They are trying to relieve Stafford of having to throw it 50 times a game just to lose by 3 or less points. So far, it is working.
The last question everyone has is for the coaching staff. There is plenty of talent on the field, but is Matt Patricia the answer? I have seen Darrell Bevell be an offensive coordinator in Seattle, it’s not pretty. Cory Undlin is not a bad defensive coach, but he has very little to work with.
I like this team for a lot of reasons, let’s see them keep it going next week against an actual opponent in the Falcons.
I hope you enjoyed my take on Sunday Football! I am no professional writer but I know football and have been in love with it for my entire life. I am so glad I have this opportunity with LK Sports Writing to showcase my knowledge and love of the game.
Be sure to come back Thursday for my Thursday Night Football preview and of course, Mondays, for Sundays Winners, Losers and The Steady!
For more of Dylan’s content, follow him on instagram here! https://www.instagram.com/onandoffthefield/