NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 11

Redskins Vikings Football
Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon, right, is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway (52). (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Week 10 of the NFL season is in the books. There are no new obituaries to write this week, but the playoff picture is beginning to take shape. Let's get right to the hierarchy:


11) The Washington team (3-6)

Washington's defense is bad.

  • They give up the 2nd most points/game in the NFL.
  • They allow the 6th most yards.
  • They tied for allowing the 3rd most yards per play.

But they're also the worst kind of bad -- They're old.

Six of their current starters on defense will be 30 years of age or older by Week 1 next season:

  • London Fletcher
  • DeAngelo Hall
  • Barry Cofield
  • Stephen Bowen
  • Brandon Meriweather
  • Reed Doughty

They also have 3 reserves (Kedric Golston, Darryl Tapp, and Nick Barnett) and one guy currently on IR (Adam Carriker) who will be 30+ years old next year.

A lot of those guys won't be back next season for a multitude of reasons. Some will be free agents, some just suck, and London Fletcher will be turning 75 years old.

Even worse, Washington has very little in the way of promising young players on their defense. In fact, according to Ourlads' depth charts, Washington and Indy are the only two teams in the league with no defensive starters under the age of 25. Washington, of course, also doesn't have a first round pick to address their old, crappy D.

On a side note, neither does Indy, as noted by the great Justin Stranzl:



10) Cardinals (5-4)

The Cardinals head to Jacksonville this Sunday with an outstanding opportunity to go to 6-4. It's mind blowing that a team with the 24th ranked rushing attack and a QB who has thrown 12 TDs and 15 INTs can be right in the thick of the playoff hunt.

9) Cowboys (5-5)

The 2012 Saints gave up 7042 yards. That's the worst total in NFL history. The 2013 Cowboys are on pace to give up 7037 yards. 

The Saints did whatever they wanted to the Cowboys Sunday night, in what was one of the most lopsided thrashings of the season. The Saints had 40 first downs against the Cowboys, an absurd total, and a new NFL record. By comparison, the Cowboys ran 43 plays. That's complete and total domination.

The Cowboys defense already wasn't good when they had their best players. With Jason Hatcher out, DeMarcus Ware gimpy, and Sean Lee now hurting, it's downright awful.

Sean Lee is a tremendous player, but he's the Michael Vick equivalent of a defensive player. It's not a matter of "if" he'll get hurt. It's only a matter of "when." Early reports are that Lee will be out 3-4 weeks with a hamstring injury. This will mark the 6th consecutive season he has missed time with an injury, going back to his time at Penn State:

Penn State:

  • 2008 - Torn ACL.  Missed the entire season.
  • 2009 - Sprained knee.  Missed 3 games.


  • 2010 - Strained hamstring.  Missed 2 games.
  • 2011 - Dislocated wrist.  Missed 1 game.
  • 2012 - Toe. IR. Missed 10 games.
  • 2013 - Hamstring - TBD, but again, early reports are that he'll miss 3-4 weeks.

The Cowboys are top heavy, with no depth. That's how they've been constructed for years, and when the inevitable injuries occur, they are ill-equipped to weather the storm. We saw that pattern repeat itself against the Saints.

8) Eagles (5-5)

I do a weekly chat here at, where readers can ask me questions. I'll almost always get questions about the 2014 draft class both in those chats and on Twitter. For the first 8 weeks, I got questions about who the best QB prospects are, and which ones I like the most. Over the last week and a half, that question has shifted over to who the best pass rushers are. People just don't seem to be as worried about the QB position anymore.

Nick Foles wasn't nearly as good in Green Bay as he was in Oakland, but he still put together a nice day, and looks like he just might be "the guy." There are six games to go, and Nick still has some things to prove, but it would be an enormous advantage to the Eagles' front office if they can shift their offseason priority list from QB to so many other areas on the team that need help.

7) Bears (5-4)

Bears writers are absolutely killing first year head coach Marc Trestman for leaving Jay Cutler in too long against the Lions, despite Cutler clearly being injured and ineffective. Does that sound familiar?

6) Packers (5-4)

James Jones' and Jordy Nelson's per game numbers when Aaron Rodgers is the QB:

  • Jordy Nelson: 5.6 catches, 92.7 yards, 1 TD
  • *James Jones: 4.8 catches, 84.8 yards, 0.5 TD

James Jones' And Jordy Nelson's per game numbers when Aaron Rodgers is NOT the QB:

  • Jordy Nelson: 4.5 catches, 48 yards, 0 TD 
  • James Jones: 2.5 catches, 30.5 yards, 0 TD

*Does not include Ravens game when Jones was injured with 11 minutes left in the 1st Q

In other words, are the Packers' weapons in the passing game really good because they're really good, or because Aaron Rodgers makes them better than they really are?

5) Lions (6-3)

Here's what I wrote about the Lions' offensive line in July, in a comprehensive review of offensive lines around the NFL:

In 2012, the Lions opened the season with the 2nd oldest starting offensive line in the NFL. Despite that, the Lions OL has stayed remarkably healthy. For two straight years, all five of their aging starters logged at least 1000 snaps, which is remarkable, and perhaps a little lucky.

In March, the Lions lost both of their starting offensive tackles. LT Jeff Backus retired and RT Gosder Cherilus signed with the Colts as a free agent. Riley Reiff was drafted in the first round last year (23rd overall), and he will be taking over as the starting LT. There is a gaping hole at RT, and a slow-footed rookie in Larry Warford at RG.

I've seen a number of articles saying the Lions are the most likely team to go from worst to first. I'm far less bullish on the Lions, and a huge reason why is because this offensive line is going through a major change in continuity, and probably isn't going to be very good.

Welp... the Lions have attempted the 2nd most passes in the NFL (383), and have allowed the fewest sacks (10). 

4) 49ers (6-3)

Colin Kaepernick has had a nice handful of very "Bleh" performances this season:

To be fair, the Seahawks, Texans, and Panthers are the top 3 defenses in the NFL, in terms of yards allowed. Still, for a player with the kind of physical ability that Kaepernick possesses, those numbers are alarming, no matter who you're playing.

3) Panthers (6-3)

The Panthers held Colin Kaepernick to 11 of 22 passing for 91 yards, 0 TD, and 1 INT, as noted above. They also sacked him 6 times for a total loss of 45 yards, and otherwise pressured him all day long.

When we think of the best defenses in the NFC, we think of the 49ers and the Seahawks, but the Panthers are just as good. Luke Keuchly is going to be a fixture in Honolulu for the next 10 years, and the Panthers have two very good pass rushers at the DE position in Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson. They also used significant resources in the draft to bolster their interior defensive line, snagging Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short in the first two rounds. Both are making positive contributions.

The Panthers are 2nd in the NFC in pass D, 1st in run D, and 1st overall. They're not going away. 

2) Saints (7-2)

After the Saints' 49-17 drubbing of the Cowboys, in which the Saints racked up 625 yards and an NFL record 40 first downs, Jerry Jones admitted that the Cowboys may have erred in firing Rob Ryan in favor of Monte Kiffin.

How did Ryan celebrate his old team's misfortune? The same way we all do... with some guy wearing a generic "New Orleans" hat chanting "DE-FENSE":

ESPN polled its readers, asking if the Cowboys should fire Kiffin "Juan Castillo style" before the Cowboys' next game. Evidently, the entire country is in agreement that they should:

I know this is the Saints section, and we kind of got away from them to do some more Cowboys bashing, but Jerry Jones, please live to be 150.

1) Seahawks (9-1)

The Hawks now have a 2.5 game lead on the Niners, with a head-to-head advantage on them. They are coasting toward a first round bye, and possibly home field advantage throughout. If the Seahawks secure the #1 seed, they are going to be extraordinarily difficult to beat.