Ranking the Teams of the NFC By Walking Dead Characters
(WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS COLUMN UNLESS YOU ARE FULLY CAUGHT ON THE WALKING DEAD)
You know what people like? The Walking Dead.
You know what else people like, but maybe as not as much as they used to? NFL football.
Let's combined those two Sunday pastimes in one great place, ranking the teams of the National Football Conference via divisions named for characters, representing where each team is at this point of their season. Each team is ranked by how confident I am they'll make the playoffs.
So break out the giant tins of pudding, here we go....
They rule now. Much like Negan rules Alexandria, and Ezekiel has The Kingdom, these teams have taken control of the conference. They sure can be overthrown, but for now, these teams rule the wasteland.
Dallas-Anyone hoping that the Cowboys would be derailed by a quarterback controversy goes home disappointed, as Tony Romo classily bid a de facto farewell, at least for the time being. What a difference a year makes, as least year Cowboys fans were begging for a backup QB. Now, they have the hottest rookie QB and a former MVP candidate backing him up, with a King Ezekiel of their own...Elliott...helping things out.
Seattle-I had no interest in putting the Seahawks here a few weeks ago. Russell Wilson looked shaky and they were getting by thanks to inept opponent and controversial calls. But they did something that is kinda, sorta, good....they beat New England. There would be no throw from inside the Patriots' 5-yard line this time, as Seattle took down the Pats, the fully operational Tom Brady version.
NY Giants-Winners of four in a row, the Giants are the lone team to take down the Cowboys this season, the NFL's lone one-loss team. The Giants are many things, but one thing you can't call them is boring. The Giants' six wins this season have come by a combined 21 points. But you know who else kept winning close games as they went? The 2007 and 2011...New York Giants. The NY/NJ faithful less excitement is in store for the next two weeks, as the Giants square off against Chicago and Cleveland, who are a combined 2-17.
At some points, Rick looks like a competent strong leader. Other times, you're think "Hmm what if The Punisher was around to handle this?" These teams are a lot like that. They've had some brilliant moments this year, but there have been too many mishaps to call them true contenders.
Atlanta-Every time I'm ready to declare the Falcons are ready to go on some sort of run, a high-scoring, electrifying run dominated by eye-popping Matt Ryan to Julio Jones passes, a run that will destroy scoreboards...they pull off a "how did they blow that" loss, which has become a common theme of the Ryan era. The Falcons should probably take the NFC South, but they'd be a lot more comfortable if they could wrestle a bye away from the Cowboys or Seahawks
Washington-Reports of Washington's NFC East title run being a fluke turned out to be greatly exaggerated, as they've rattled off wins in five of their past seven after an 0-2 start. The wins have been over some sold competition too, including the Giants, Eagles and Vikings (not to mention a tie with the Bengals). But the next quartet of the schedule will be a major test for the Redskins. They'll have a rare Sunday night honor, hosting the Packers this week before embarking on a three-game road that will take them to Dallas (on Thanksgiving), Arizona and Philadelphia. If they can get through, they'll provide much needed relief to the woebegone Washington DC sports scene.
Detroit-The Lions didn't have to move a paw to move into an improbable first place spot in the NFC North, with all of their competition falling. Detroit has been a heart attack on a football field this season, trailing in each of their fourth quarters this season. Shockingly, they've come away victorious in five of them, and can add to that (and not fall behind in the fourth) in a tilt with Jacksonville this week. They can also deal a vicious blow to Minnesota next Thursday. Wait...competitive football on Thanksgiving is not a myth?!?!?
Philadelphia-How much did that early bye kill the Eagles? They were rolling around at 3-0, including a blowout victory over the Steelers...which never happens...before a rare early October bye, and they've lost four of their past six. They move up to this division thanks to a key win over Atlanta, but could very well fall from here if they don't improve on that 0-3 mark in the uber-competitive NFC East.
Much like Eugene, they're hanging on. Haven't really done anything too impressive, but they're surviving. Whereas Eugene keeps hope up via his comic relief, which could be keeping him alive despite his lack of survival skills, these teams could very well be dead, but certain factors are keeping them alive.
Minnesota-The Vikings' fall is almost resembling The Governor at this point. They began the season as lords of the NFC North, were taken down by the Teddy Bridgewater injury, returned to power, but have now lost their past four games, losing the NFC North lead to Detroit. A crucial quest awaits the Vikings, as they'll take on equally desperate Arizona on Sunday, followed by a holiday match with Detroit on Thursday before a visit from Dallas a week later.
Arizona-An NFC favorite in the early going (I personally had them losing the Super Bowl), the Cardinals picked up right where they left off from last year...right from that brutal NFC Championship Game. They began 1-3, gained some sort of momentum after easy wins over the 49ers and Jets, before going through a trio of frustrating games by tying Seattle and losing an NFC title game rematch to Carolina before needing a last second field goal to top the awful Niners last week. Arizona has the weapons necessary to make a run, so I'm not burying them entirely, but they need to wake up.
Green Bay-The Packers do look completely lifeless at time, as they're definitely not your older brother's Packers. Years of having a suspect defense are finally coming back to haunt Green Bay, as the shocking ineptness on offense has sunk the team. Again, there's no way I'm counting out a team with Aaron Rodgers at QB, but his play has been nothing compared to what we've seen and what we know he and the Pack are capable of.
New Orleans-I'll give the Saints a lot of credit. After an 0-3 start, they reinserted themselves back into the playoff conversation if by nothing more than Drew Brees keeping the franchise relevant single-handedly (again). I would've moved them up further had it not been for that wild loss against Denver on Sunday, but the fact remains that as long as Brees is around, the Saints cannot be counted out.
Tampa Bay-If you looked up "year or two away" in the dictionary, the team photo for the 2016 Tampa Bay Buccaneers would show up. They have the weapons that not only shock and amaze, but also score points...namely Jameis Winston and Mike Evans...but they're still a few pieces away from truly solving the puzzle that is a playoff drought that will hit double-digits soon. They'll remain competitive in games and can easily steal a few, but the NFC is simply too full of talented teams that are ready for now for them to do anything noteworthy.
Carolina-I'm keeping the Panthers in the still alive list for the sole reason that I saw too much of them last year (before the Super Bowl anyway) to count them out. The best way for Cam Newton to stick it to his critics would be some sort of magical comeback run. Unlikely? Yes. Fun to think about? Even more certain.
Los Angeles-I'll be the first to admit I didn't see the hype over the Rams not only taking Jared Goff with the top pick of the draft, but also trading up to get him. But sometimes quarterback changes tend to jolt and energize teams. I'll let Goff at least have a chance to prove me wrong before I label him a bust.
Yeahhhhhhhh you know what that means.
Chicago-Pernell McPhee has declared the Bears are going to "tears the Giants' (butt) up" during their tilt on Sunday. Pardon me, but don't you need to have a better 2-7 record for that sort of pull?
San Francisco-LB Aaron Lynch has called the now 1-8 Niners "possibly one of the best teams in football". Time to renovate concussion protocol apparently.
Coming Saturday: The AFC
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490
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