Five weeks into the season, and it is not getting any prettier for the NFC. The Packers, Rams, and Bucs all look pedestrian. And pedestrian may be too kind for the Rams. But who does look good? The NFC East. The East was pegged as the worst division in the NFC, and maybe the NFL. But so far they have only 6 combined losses. 3 of those losses are within the division. Take out the Commanders, who actually are bad, and there are only 2 losses and only one outside the East. The three top teams in the NFC East are a combined 13-2.
The Eagles are undefeated, the Cowboys are 4-1, with 4 straight wins, and the Giants only loss is to the Cowboys. All of them have at least one win against one of the top teams in the NFC, with the Eagles beating the Vikings, the Giants beating the Packers, and the Cowboys beating the Rams. Five weeks in, and the NFC East is easily the best division in Football.
But where do the NFC East teams fall among the rest of the NFC teams? Are the Giants and Cowboys for real? Are the Eagles still at the top of the NFC despite a slightly ugly week? They have ruled the roost since week 2, but did they hold on to their spot after week 5? Here is the state of the NFC after week 5.
16) Carolina Panthers (1-4) (Last Week- 15)
As predicted, Matt Rhule lost his job. I can’t say how much of the Panthers’ disaster was his fault, but it was a disaster. He never found the right QB. He tried PJ Walker, Sam Darnold, Cam Newtown, Teddy Bridgewater, and now Baker Mayfield. And none of them worked. Rhule coached them to 11 wins in 38 games. The team was not improving. When a coach takes over an awful team there is a grace period. But when you see zero improvement from year to year, it is a bad sign for the coach. The good news for them is they are currently in line for the top pick, and landing CJ Stroud would fix their QB problems.
15) Chicago Bears (2-3) (Last Week- 16)
This week may have been the most impressive they have looked all year. The fact it was a loss says a lot about how bad this team is. But you saw a flash with Justin Fields. And that is literally all the Bears have to hope for this year. There is no hope of being competitive. The only thing they have to look forward to is whether or not Field is the guy. He was by no means great on Sunday. But he looked better than he had in the prior 4 games. It is just a shame the Bears gave him nothing to work with.
15) Washington Commanders (1-4) (Last Week- 14)
You got every version of Carson Wentz possible in Sunday’s games. He made some truly impressive throws against the Titans. And he also made some awful mistakes. He fumbled the ball 3 times, although all 3 were recovered. And he also threw a pick in the red zone in the waning moments of the game. There are moments of brilliance. But those will always be outshined by the mistakes. The Commanders are 1-4, and despite his talent, this may be the last time he is ever the starting Qb for a team. Few people get more than 3 chances, and he is blowing this third chance.
14) Detroit Lions (1-4) (Last Week- 11)
Those good vibes despite the losses are starting to go away. What I imagine helped Lions fans deal with the bad record was that the offense looked legit. But it did not look so on Sunday. They got shut out in New England. And the defense still looked as bad as it had every other week. One week may just be an aberration. But it is easier to stomach that when your team is winning. When you lose on your good weeks anyway, it is hard to give the benefit of the doubt on a bad week.
13) Seattle Seahawks (2-3) (Last Week- 13)
The Seahawks meanwhile are still clicking on all cylinders, on offense. The defense meanwhile is a disaster. It is so bad, they let Taysom Hill single-handedly beat them. But with that said, Geno Smith continues his comeback tour. This is the best he has looked since he was at West Virginia. I supposed it helps that he has DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to sling it to. But still, Smith deserves credit for how well he has played.
12) Atlanta Falcons (2-3) (Last Week- 12)
The Falcons remain undefeated against the spread. The bad news is covering the spread means very little unless you are a gambler. But still, it is a sign that they are not pushovers. They won’t win a lot of games, but they will make themes earn the wins. It is not a particularly talented roster. Which leads me to believe they are well-coached. Arthur Smith was a trendy name last year and landed with the Falcons. He has done a decent job to start by turning the team’s culture around. But he will eventually need to coach them to wins if he wants to stay in Atlanta.
11) New Orleans Saints (2-3) (Last Week- 15)
They managed to pull out a win this week. Thanks in no small part to Taysom Hill. He had over 112 rushing yards, 3 rushing Tds, and even threw for 1 TD. He is not going to play like that every week. It was a great game, but by this point, we know who Hill is, and it is not that. He exploited a bad defense to carry his team to a win. But to win more games the rest of the offense is going to have to step up. And we have not seen enough signs of life from any of them to say that is likely.
10) Arizona Cardinals (2-3) (Last Week- 9)
Kliff Kingsbury could be the next coach to follow in Matt Rhule’s footsteps. The team is a mess. They continue to find them in situations where they have to claw their way back into the game on the back of Kyler Murray’s inconsistent talent. And while Murray will get a lot of blame for the spike on 3rd down at the end of the game, Kingsbury deserved more of it. He was saying in Murray’s ear to spike it. A young Qb making that mistake is one thing. A head coach making it is unacceptable. Kliff Was in over his head coaching at Texas Tech. In the NFL, he is drowning.
As with the past few weeks, I am leaving one spot empty to separate the good teams from the bad ones. Though the good teams grew a bit this week.
8) Los Angeles Rams (2-3) (Last Week- 6)
Okay, it may be time to panic. Losing to the Bills in week 1 can be chalked up to early-season rust. The 49ers’ loss can be called a bad week. Losing to the Cowboys is a pattern. Any decent team they have played beat them. They barely beat a bad Falcons team and then beat a mediocre Cardinals. This is officially a Super Bowl slump. They are still a talented team on paper. But without the magic of last year, that talent seems a bit thinner.
7) New York Giants (4-1) (Last Week- 10)
Brian Daboll can coach. And this defense is something to build on. There are several young players that are very promising. The offense, I still have serious doubts about. It is based almost entirely on Saquon Barkley. And he is a VERY good RB. But offenses built around RBs rarely stay successful for long. It is why the Eagles invested in bringing AJ Brown in to get back to being a passing offense. It is why the Eagles last year, and the Ravens and Titans every year, struggle in the playoffs. You don’t win as a run-first team anymore. But this team is clearly going in the right direction. I am just not convinced this is the year for them yet. Still, incredibly impressive win over the Packers. The culture has been set right, they just need more talent.
6) Green Bay Packers (3-2) (Last Week- 2)
The panic meter here is not as full as it is with the Rams. But it is still flickering. It does not look like Aaron Rodgers will get the 3-peat when it comes to the MVP award. He has turned average WRs into stars before, but he is struggling to find chemistry with any of his weapons this year. He is still Aaron Rodgers, but perhaps a more mortal version of himself. And a mortal Aaron Rodgers, with this roster, is not going to be enough to get it done.
5) San Francisco 49ers (3-2) (Last Week- 5)
At this point, we know who the 49ers are with Garropolo at QB. They can be competitive, and win games. But there is a good reason they gave up so much to take a chance on Trey Lance. Garropolo is not good enough. He is a fine QB. Most of the time, fine QBs don’t win when it matters. Put an above-average Qb, with this roster, and they would be elite. But the ceiling will always be limited with Jimmy G at QB.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2) (Last Week- 3)
Eeking out a win over Atlanta is not going to do anything to quell concerns about the Bucs. They have gone from being a great team last year, to merely a good one. There is nothing wrong with being a good team. But this is Tom Brady’s final year, at least I assume so. He risked a lot to come back. I very much doubt he is fine with just being good. Brady has not looked quite right. Maybe it is age catching up to him, or maybe it is his personal life being a distraction. But either way, the Tampa offense seems off.
3) Dallas Cowboys (4-1) (Last Week- 7)
I have to hand it to the Cowboys, winning 4 games with Cooper Rush is impressive. Their defense is legit. Micah Parsons is among the best players in the entire NFL. And the rest of the defense around him is nothing to sneeze at either. On offense, the O line is holding up far better than anyone would predict without Tyron Smith. I was not too impressed by them beating the Giants, Bengals, or Commanders. But the win over the Rams caught my attention. I still don’t buy them as a top offense. But the defense is good enough they don’t need to be. The NFC East may not be as easy as we once thought.
2) Minnesota Vikings (4-1) (Last Week- 4)
The Vikings are not a great team. But at this point, it feels like they are still better than most of the NFC. Their only loss is to the undisputed best team in the NFC thus far. Apart from that, they have wins over the Packers, Saints, Lions, and Bears. None of those are too impressive apart from the Packers. And they let some bad teams stick too close to them. But the talent on the team is clear. They have an elite WR group. I don’t believe in Kirk Cousins, and in a normal year, they’d be only good enough to be a borderline playoff team. But the NFC is bad now. So here they are at number 2 in the NFC.
1) Philadelphia Eagles (5-0) (Last Week- 1)
The first road bump. But to hit a road bump, and still win, is a promising thing. It was a bad week on both sides of the ball, and they stayed undefeated anyway. Very few teams in NFL history have had 0 bad games. The Eagles Super Bowl team had an awful game vs the Seahawks. In fact, there are now zero teams remaining to have zero bad games this year. But no other team has survived their bad game. The Eagles did. This is still an elite team. Don’t let the down week cloud your judgment.