Well, shit. You don’t want to play them. Aaron Rodgers has shown no ill-effects of dating bonafide sex fiend Sloan Sabbith (careful). Hell, she’s played such an important role in all of this that she’s cracked his Google related searches:
As if his 28 touchdowns, three interceptions, 120.1 quarterback rating, boyish good looks, approachable everyman demeanor and deadpan acting skills weren’t enough to make you hate that you can’t hate him, just take a look at the adorable images of him and Munn on Google– they love each other!
I wanted so bad to disdain him on Sunday, but I just couldn’t do it. He seems to have the same effect on those around him as a warm summer’s day visit to a waterpark, and he could disarm a Muslim radical simply by showing up in his sideline beanie and smiling:
Beyond that, the Packers have two outstanding wide receivers, a monster of a running back, and a defense that I guess is pretty good?* They’re beatable on the road, but if the road to the Super Bowl goes through Green Bay, forget about it.
*It’s hard to tell since the Packers have outscored opponents 188-61 at home this season, allowing the defense to go into an Internal Prevent— which needs to be the name of Clay Matthews’ memoirs.
As much as I immediately feel safe upon the sight of Rodgers, I want to rage-kick small zoo animals every time I see Bruce Arians, his really stupid glasses and hipster press conference hat. It’s like he can’t make up his mind between being a football coach and an ornithologist. I’m just waiting for him to point out all the scientific inaccuracies of his team’s logo during an impromptu media scrum. THE NORTHERN CARDINAL HAS INSET EYES AND A TAPERED BEAK! WHAT THE FUCK WITH THIS SCOWL?!?! But beyond that oddity and the fact that Carson Palmer is done for the season, it’s hard to argue with 9-1 and wins over the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys and Lions.
That said, things get even tougher for the Cardinals from here on out: Seahawks (twice), Chiefs, and 49ers again. They’re going to lose at least two of those games, and they have to play in St. Louis, where the inconsistent (but dangerous!) Rams have beaten both the Seahawks and Broncos. As of now the Cardinals deserve a top-two spot, but they are shaping up to be 2014’s Chiefs— peaking (beaking?!) too early. The early bird might not get this worm.
Other than the Packers, I don’t see a team in the NFC that is clearly better than the Eagles. If you watch enough RedZone, you know that there is a lot of shit in the NFL, and particularly in the NFC. Every team has holes. The Eagles, though not perfect, have no more than anyone else. The losses to the 49ers and Cardinals were coin flips. They win those games handily at home. Even with a terrible offensive effort in San Fran, they came within three yards and a decent play call of winning the game. Everyone wants to write off the special teams play as an unreliable fluke, but how many punts do they have to block or return before people start realizing that you can basically count on one game-changing play per game from the unit?
The Eagles’ biggest problem at the moment is that they lose the literal coin flips to the Packers, 49ers and Cardinals when it comes to seeding. But, assuming the Cowboys are about to hit a wall (I think so), the Eagles have a fairly easy remaining schedule: Titans, Cowboys (twice), Seahawks, Redskins and Giants. Anything less than 4-2 (which would leave them with an 11-5 record) would be a huge disappointment.
It feels like every year the Lions are supposed to be good, supposed to be contenders. But this is how they’ve finished the last two seasons, stretches that they’ve entered at 6-3 and 4-4, respectively:
By my count, that’s a 1-14 record in their final 15 games over the last two seasons combined. And right on cue this year, Week 11, they managed a measly six points against the Cardinals. That sound you hear is Lions fans conversing with Ned Ryerson:
They’re not the same team. Their defense is still very good, but their offense is often a complete mess. Broken plays force Russell Wilson into scrambling for first downs and therefore his life. He leads the league in quarterback rush attempts and yards by a wide and concerning margin:
Total enigma. They might be the best team to not make the playoffs. The still have to play NFC West opponent Seahawks (twice) and Cardinals, having already lost to Arians Avians once. They may also be suffering through burnout thanks to Jim Harbaugh, who’s internal pressure at the moment is not be helped at all by the seam of those khakis being wedged firmly in his junk. Good, experienced and slightly dangerous team, but I still think that even if they get in, Kaepernick has a boneheaded, season-costing bad throw in him.
The Saints: the darlings of the NFC South. As it stands today, none of the teams in the NFC Abortion deserve to make the playoffs, but the Saints do deserve yet another punishment for being stupid enough to let Darren Sproles and Malcolm Jenkins go to another NFC contender. And can I tell you how much I hate supposed defensive mastermind Rob Ryan? No, I can’t? That’s cool. I’ll let Wikipedia do the talking for me:
He was officially named the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator on January 19, 2011. The Cowboys missed the playoffs again in 2011 and were ranked 14th in yards allowed per game and 16th in points allowed per game. Dallas missed the playoffs yet again in 2012. In 2012 Dallas was ranked 14th in yards allowed per game and 23rd in points allowed per game while only ranking 16th in QB sacks. On January 8, 2013, the Cowboys ended Ryan’s employment with the franchise.
In January 2013, Ryan agreed to become the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, but resigned less than five days later. In February 2013, Ryan was hired as the New Orleans defensive coordinator, implementing a 3–4 defense to the team and scrapping their previous 4–3 defensive scheme.  Ryan’s defense finished well statistically in 2013 but New Orleans played over half of their games against teams with losing records. New Orleans is near the bottom of the league in all defensive categories in 2014.
It turns out, resembling a viking only gets you so far as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. You can only pump so many fists and yell angrily so many times before you just start to look like nepotistic asshole.
The Saints are totally going to beat the Eagles in the playoffs again, aren’t they?
Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News tells you all you need to know about the Cowboys, a team that has finished either 3-3 or 2-4 in eight of its last 10 seasons:
Starting Sunday, the Cowboys will play three games in 12 days. I’m curious how they handle QB Tony Romo during this stretch. Romo has been off Wednesdays during the season to help manage his back injuries. And certainly the rest during the bye week should help him for the stretch run. But the Cowboys certainly don’t want to overextend Romo during practices with three games in 12 days. Will that mean Romo will get more than one off day during a week? The Cowboys have back-to-back Thursday games after playing at the Giants on Sunday night. How Romo gets through this three-game stretch will dictate how much he has left for the final three regular-season games.
’Tis the season… for the Tony Romo plays himself into injury or hilarious finish narrative. And that’s before we get to the Jerry Jones has gone full-on Al Davis narrative. How do they finish this year? 2-4 sounds about right.
And now we get into the also-rans. Congratulations to the Rams— the best of the bunch! I mean that only half facetiously. I enjoy watching them play. Jeff Fisher is a good coach who’s managed to beat both the Seahawks and Broncos at home this season. Bonus points for his BALLS-OUT fake punt at the end of the Seahawks game.
The Rams are a flawed team, but they give good teams fits (even nearly came back from a 27-point deficit against the Eagles) and are easily my favorite bad team to watch this season. I wouldn’t be shocked if they beat the Cardinals at home in Week 15.
The Bears have lost three of their last four, five of their last seven, got beat 55-14 by the Packers last week, and ran a quarterback sweep with Jay Cutler on 4th and goal up 14-10 in the third quarter at home against the Vikings on Sunday. I rest my case.
I’m sure the Adrian Peterson thing won’t continue to be a distraction. But hey, they did stop that QB sweep en route to a 21-13 loss.
Cam Newton’s expression on the sideline can best be described as dentist waiting room. And if Ron Riviera isn’t careful, his star quarterback will soon be in a doctor’s waiting room.
“We were playing good team ball. It takes 11 men. It doesn’t take one guy, and that’s proven. If you want to look at the good teams in this league and the great quarterbacks, the Peytons and the Aaron Rodgers, those guys don’t play well if their guys don’t play well. They don’t. We need everybody. I need every one of those guys in that locker room, and I know they’re looking at me saying the same thing.”
“Robert had some fundamental flaws. His footwork was below average. He took three-step drops when he should have taken five. He took a one-step drop when he should have taken three, on a couple occasions, and that can’t happen. He stepped up when he didn’t have to step up and stepped into pressure. He read the wrong side of the field a couple times. So from his basic performance just critiquing Robert, it was not even close to being good enough to what we expect from the quarterback position.
“Just take your drops the right way and throw the five-yard stick route when you’re supposed to and do the best you can. Sometimes he worries a little bit too much. We’ve just got to try to get him better. His frame of mind is in the right place. It just doesn’t come out the right way sometimes, but he wants to get better. He knows he has a long way to go to get better. If he stays on the right track as far as work ethic and listening and preparing, then he’ll get better.
“It’s his job to worry about his position, his footwork, his fundamentals, his reads, his progressions, his job at the quarterback position. It’s my job to worry about everybody else. And, yes, everybody else needs to improve. There’s no question about it. But it’s not his place. His place is to talk about himself, and he knows that. He just elaborated a little bit too much.”