E Point Perfect

Why Does the NFC Suddenly Feel So Winnable?


Why Does the NFC Suddenly Feel So Winnable?
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings have a 9-2 record through Thanksgiving with 6.5 to 1 odds to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LVII.

That probability is the fourth-highest in the conference behind the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys. Sure, the Vikings are holstering the fancy 9-2 record, implying through sheer wins and losses that they’re a good football team.

But there’s more to it. This is why the NFC suddenly feels so winnable.

1. Rams Lost the Hunger

Sep 12, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay talks with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports.

The Los Angeles Rams won Super Bowl LVI by a whisker over the Cincinnati Bengals 9.5 months ago, an absolute apex and vindication of the Matthew Stafford trade, plus “trade all draft picks” strategy.

Well, they lost the hunger thereafter. Head coach Sean McVay and best-in-the-world defender Aaron Donald contemplated retirement but ultimately returned for a 3-8 season through 12 weeks.

The Rams simply are no good, and Stafford is injured. But Los Angeles was playing poorly with Stafford, so the media’s golden boy (Stafford) really has no excuse this time. He’ll get a pass, though, because Stafford can do wrong.

Los Angeles has a 3% chance of reaching the postseason. It eliminated itself from the playoffs a few weeks ago, ixnaying the reigning champs from the NFC’s pecking order.

2. No Brees, Payton

Jan 2, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports.

Drew Brees retired after the 2020 campaign, and Sean Payton followed him — at least for one year — a year later.

Now, the Saints are paying the piper, in bed with an Andy Dalton + Jameis Winston sandwich that is moldy. New Orleans was supposed to maintain a hellfire defense, per pundits, no matter what, but the hellfire defense ranks 14th in the NFL per EPA/Play through 12 weeks. The defense is decent but not good enough to deodorize the Saints underwhelming offense.

Brees and Payton really, really mattered. Whoodathunkit?

3. The Packers Blues

Aaron Rodgers Lauds Viking as 'Best Player in Game'
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Green Bay, too, was proclaimed to have the “best defense of Aaron Rodgers’ career” before the start of the regular season, but that was false. The Packers defense is the 10th-worst in the league per EPA/Play. Moreover, Rodgers no longer has his favorite target Davante Adams, who is encountering his woes on a trashy Raiders team. The trade between Green Bay and Las Vegas somehow paralyzed two franchises, at least for now.

The Packers are 4-8, and no “run the table and get in the dance” prophecy will be fulfilled. They’re done. Rodgers is now injured, paving the way for a possible extended glimpse at Jordan Love.

Normally in a regular season, Green Bay is cruising toward its customary 13-4 record at this juncture. But in 2022, it’s rolling toward 6-11 or so.

4. Good Version of Russell Wilson Gone

Aug 27, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports.

You’ll never believe this — Russell Wilson’s Seahawks used to give the Vikings nightmares.

Fast forward to 2022, and Wilson is giving his own team and fans terrible dreams — that are realities. Wilson has stunk with his new Colorado friends and even seems to be an irritant along the way.

However, when Wilson ran Seattle, the squad was habitually formidable, generally a frontrunner to at least reach the NFC Championship. The Seahawks now employ Geno Smith — who has performed wonderfully — but their September-to-November Cinderella tale is running out.

The Seahawks will likely reach the playoffs as a lower seed — and perhaps even play the Vikings in Round 1 — but they will not uproot the genuine contenders in the NFC.

5. The Buccaneers Are 5-6

Oct 9, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports.

The Buccaneers will eventually host a home playoff game with a 9-8 record or so. It’s bizarre.

Tom Brady still leads the charge in Tampa Bay, but his offensive line is a shell of its 2020 Super Bowl-winning form, and that’s a big deal for a 45-year-old immobile quarterback.

While the demise of the Rams, Saints, and Packers are big deals, the Buccaneers remain relevant only because Brady is the slinger of the football. His team is not as efficient as the past two seasons, and it shows — to the tune of six losses in 12 weeks.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).


Source link

Related posts

Explained: Ways Kevin O’Connell Can Improve the Vikings

Vikings Players with Most to Prove in 2022

Week 18 NFL Picks: The Regular Season Finale

10 Bold Predictions for Vikings Offseason

Irv Smith Jr. Is, Indeed, Injured

The Red Rifle Rides Again vs. Vikings