The Debrief: NFC playoff picture — Atlanta or Seattle at No. 6?

Posted on March 26, 2019March 26, 2019Categories NFLTags , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Zombie Seahawks are still standing. But they are diminished like the rest of the NFC’s power teams from 2016, struggling to get to this season’s finish line.

Seattle’s bizarre win in Dallas, where the Seahawks had more penalty yards (142) than actual yards (136), officially knocked out last year’s top seed. The No. 6 spot in the NFC comes down to the Seahawks and the reigning NFC champion Falcons, two teams that have stumbled while chasing expectations all season and could already be looking ahead to next year. The top five spots in the NFC, meanwhile, are all accounted for by teams that went .500 or worse in 2016.

Here’s how the NFC playoff picture looks after Christmas Eve, with a peek at what’s ahead for each team:

2017 SEASON: WEEK 16
  ▹ The Debrief: Everything at stake in Week 17
  ▹ Jimmy G. making 49ers football fun again
  ▹ Seahawks survive, ending Cowboys season1) Philadelphia Eagles Jerseys (12-2): A win on Christmas night would clinch the No. 1 seed for the Eagles and possibly tempt coach Doug Pederson to rest some starters in the Week 17 finale against Dallas. That’s a risky proposition with a new starting quarterback (Nick Foles Jerseys Jerseys Jerseys) who needs reps and an Eagles defense that wants to return to form after a few scratchy outings.

2) Minnesota Vikings Jerseys (12-3): Minnesota’s 16-0 victory over the Packers put the team one step closer to a first-round bye and a home Divisional Round game. A win over the Bears on Sunday clinches the bye, although the Vikings can also back into the bye if the Saints win or the Panthers lose or the Rams win. (So it’s happening.)

In an unpredictable league, the Vikings know exactly what team they are each week. The defense is so fundamentally sound, wearing opponents down and forcing them to complete mistake-free drives. It’s not like Aaron Rodgers Jerseys Jerseys’ presence should be required for Vikings fans to fully enjoy a dominant season sweep of the Packers, with “Skol” chants late on Christmas Eve Eve at frigid Lambeau Field. This Vikings squad can win its 13th game this week — that’d mark the second-most regular-season victories in the team’s 57-year franchise history. Vikings fans should savor a team with a chance to host a Super Bowl while they can because seasons like this don’t come around often.

3) Los Angeles Rams Jerseys (11-4): Sean McVay will be the youngest coach in NFL playoff history next month. A narrow victory in Tennessee clinched the Rams’ first NFC West title since the days of Marc Bulger and Mike Martz slinging the ball around St. Louis.

The Rams have little to play for this week. They will host a Wild Card Weekend game as the No. 3 or No. 4 seed, with no chance at a bye. That could mean McVay rests some starters against the 49ers, especially MVP candidate running back Todd Gurley Jerseys. This Rams squad, which finished 7-1 on the road, has the defense and special teams that can travel in the playoffs. I believe the Rams have the best overall team of any NFC squad, and it will be fascinating to see how their young players (and coach) handle this opportunity.

4) New Orleans Saints Jerseys (11-4): Sunday’s comprehensive takedown of the Falcons kept the Saints in control of the NFC South and clinched a playoff berth. A win over the Bucs on Sunday (or a loss by the Panthers) clinches the division for the Saints. New Orleans can’t earn a playoff bye.

The win over Atlanta was a reminder of how this playoff team is different than any Sean Payton has coached before. It’s complete. On a day when New Orleans’ running game was largely bottled up, Drew Brees Jerseys Jerseys hit a few key deep passes and the Saints’ defense throttled Atlanta’s running attack. This is Brees and Payton’s best chance at another Super Bowl run since 2011, a season that Saints fans weren’t sure this group Cheap NFL Jerseys online would ever get again.

5) Carolina Panthers Jerseys (11-4): Cam Newton Jerseys Jerseys’s game-winning touchdown after recovering his own fumble against Tampa was the Panthers’ season writ small — ugly, but ultimately effective. Style points aside, the Panthers have an 11-4 record with Newton leading the way.

Carolina’s late comeback against the Bucs clinched a playoff berth for the Panthers and sets up a compelling visit to Atlanta in Week 17. The Panthers could climb as high as the No. 2 seed with a win and (unlikely) losses by the Vikings, Saints and Rams. (Don’t ask why the Rams matter in this scenario, but they do.) The Panthers are more likely to be a wild-card team because a Saints win in Tampa clinches the NFC South for New Orleans. The Panthers’ recent formula of “just enough” has resulted in seven wins out of eight tries, but that will likely only get them a road game on Wild Card Weekend.

6) Atlanta Falcons Jerseys (9-6): How many times do I need to watch the Falcons not have it this season to realize they don’t have it? Atlanta’s desultory loss in New Orleans sets up a simple Week 17 scenario. Beat the Panthers at home and the Falcons are in as the NFC’s six seed. Lose the game and the Falcons still make the playoffs as the No. 6 seed — if the Seahawks stumble against the Cardinals.

While the Falcons will make the NFC playoff field spicier in theory, they continue to be a far more dangerous team on paper than in reality, routinely playing their biggest games in a mental fog.

7) Seattle Seahawks Jerseys (9-6): It’s a surprise they still have a chance. After the team’s 42-7 loss to the Rams, the Zombie Seahawks showed some championship fight in Dallas. Seattle needs to beat Arizona in Week 17 and watch the Falcons crumble at home to Carolina, two outcomes that sound too plausible to actually happen in this implausible, upside-down season.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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Rams clinch NFC West title after win over Titans

Posted on March 18, 2019March 18, 2019Categories NFLTags , , , , , , ,

After a long wait, the Los Angeles Rams Jerseys (11-4) are finally heading back to the playoffs. The Rams clinched the NFC West title Sunday with a 27-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans Jerseys (8-7). Here’s what we learned:

1. The Rams’ long playoff drought, which stretches back to St. Louis, Marc Bulger and Mike Martz, is finally over. Los Angeles clinched the NFC West in wunderkind coach Sean McVay’s first season with a win over Tennessee in a game that required all 60 minutes. A Titans team even more desperate for a win didn’t go down easy, scratching and clawing to multiple slim leads before Cheap NFL Jerseys online a touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp Jerseys gave the Rams a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. For the Rams, it’s a sweet T-shirt-and-hat week, Victory Monday on Christmas and the cap to an incredible one-year turnaround. For the Titans, it’s another frustrating loss in a season that’s suddenly slipping away.

2. We can officially get on the Todd Gurley Jerseys for League MVP train. Find me at the front car. Gurley again powered the Rams’ offense, toting 22 times for 118 yards and catching an eye-popping 10 passes for 158 yards and two scores, including an 80-yard screen pass that served as a great example of how Gurley seems to only be getting better as the season progresses. Every Gurley carry and reception is must-see TV, whether it’s for the game-breaking potential or the possibility of another defender hurdled. A back like Gurley changes a franchise and serves as the difference in close games such as the one we saw Sunday.

3. The Titans are, again, a maddening tease. Tennessee shows plenty of capability to move the football and produce points when it’s between the 20s, but once inside them, struggles mightily. It happened once early, and set the tone for an offense that finished the day 1 for 4 in the red zone. When equipped with a mobile quarterback like Marcus Mariota Jerseys (22 of 39, 275 yards, one interception, 67.8 passer rating), that’s simply unacceptable. For a team hoping to squeeze its way into the playoffs despite recent struggles, that’s not encouraging, to put it lightly.

4. Bonus point for a couple of deserved nods: Jared Goff Jerseys was excellent after rebounding from a fumble, which came as a result of right guard Jamon Brown Jerseys Jerseys stepping the wrong way on a zone stretch play and leaving Goff to get flattened by Jurrell Casey Jerseys, who is a very large man. Goff posted a 22-of-38 passing line for 301 yards and four touchdowns, including a scoring connection to Kupp, who made a fantastic catch after a huge drop earlier in the second half.

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Sam Ficken struggling in his Rams kicking debut

Posted on March 11, 2019March 11, 2019Categories NFLTags , ,

The Sam Ficken era is off to an inauspicious Cheap NFL Jerseys online start.

Ficken, signed by the Rams after NFL point leader Greg Zuerlein Jerseys was sent to injured reserve with a back injury this week, missed a field goal and an extra point attempt in the first half of Sunday’s matchup against the Titans in Nashville.

Rams coach Sean McVay wasn’t showing a ton of faith in Ficken even before he started missing kicks. On their first possession, the Rams opted to send punter Johnny Hekker Jerseys Jerseys on the field rather than attempt a 49-yard field goal. Los Angeles called a fake and Hekker heaved a deep pass on 4th-and-10 that fell incomplete.

Ficken’s first field field goal attempt struck the right upright from 36 yards out. He successfully converted a PAT after Todd Gurley Jerseys’s 80-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. You can assume the Rams will be conservative in their kicking game for the rest of the afternoon.

Ficken was working at a Connecticut brokerage firm when the Rams rang about their suddenly vacant place kicker gig. Let’s hope the firm didn’t give away his desk. The 10-4 Rams can clinch the NFC West with a win.

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Steelers believe Antonio Brown will be 100 percent

Posted on March 1, 2019March 1, 2019Categories NFLTags ,

After Antonio Brown Jerseys injured his calf, the working assumption had been that the Pittsburgh Steelers Jerseys needed to earn a bye to get their All-Pro receiver healthy for a playoff run.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday on GameDay Morning that the team is more optimistic about Brown’s calf strain.

“The Steelers expected him to be 100 percent by the time they take the field in the playoffs whether or not that is the first round or whether or not they get a bye,” Rapoport said. “This is an injury — it’s actually a calf strain despite being described as a partially torn calf muscle — really the same thing Mike Tomlin has called it — a calf bruise. This was described to me as a minor injury. One that actually has led Brown to tell people he could play in Week 17, if they needed him. They don’t; he won’t play. But that gives you an idea about how minor this is. They believe when he takes the field — whenever that is next — he’ll be back to himself.”

The Steelers face the Texans on Christmas afternoon and close out the season against the Browns. Ending the season with back-to-back wins to earn a bye would make the parsing of Brown’s timeline moot. But knowing the game’s best receiver will be full-go when Cheap NFL Jerseys online he does get back on the field is a sigh of relieve for the Steelers and their fans.

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