NFC rankings: Falcons down, Stafford up, Mora still nuts

It hasn't been an easy (or pain-free) season for Matthew Stafford.

It hasn't been an easy (or pain-free) season for Matthew Stafford.

Matthew Stafford is 1-6 as a starter this season, recently threw five interceptions in a game at Seattle and has one of the lowest quarterback efficiency ratings in the NFL at 59.5.

But guess what? It’s not all bad.

Stafford is earning points with the Detroit Lions for his toughness. He has been playing through a knee injury in Detroit that caused him to miss two games (plus the bye week). According to the Detroit Free Press, “Stafford still doesn’t put weight on his right knee when he gets up off the turf, but he makes a point of getting up quickly.”

He also avoided throwing any interceptions against Minnesota despite being constantly harassed and/or sacked.

I know. The natural reaction is: For a $78 million contract, that’s what he’s supposed to do. Fair enough. But we tend to find out about quarterbacks when they get body-slammed every week. So it counts for something.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz said he didn’t want to “give any gold stars for somebody playing tough.”

But he added, “It’s a tough business, and you have to be physically and mentally tough to play quarterback in this league. There’s a lot of attention at the position, and the physical nature of the position is demanding. … And it’s not just on the field, what you see on Sunday. It’s practice and getting through things like that and going out and practicing on a Wednesday and a Thursday after an experience like this.  … I think he’s shown a lot of signs that he can deal with this.”

Meanwhile, here are this week’s NFC rankings. The Lions still stink.

1. (1.) NEW ORLEANS (9-0): The Saints have shifted into auto pilot. They barely beat the 1-8 Rams last week (28-23) and Drew Brees threw two more interceptions. He can throw four against Tampa Bay Sunday and I’m not sure it would make a difference. Their next challenge: Monday against New England.

2. (2.) MINNESOTA (8-1): While we’re waiting on Saints-Patriots, think about this: the Vikings may not lose another game. Seriously. The rest of their schedule: Seahawks, Bears, Cardinals, Bengals, Panthers, Bears (again), Giants. FIU already was booked for a Florida game.

Some folks compared Brenda Warner's 'doo to "Alice" from "The Brady Bunch."

Some compared Brenda Warner's 'doo to "Alice" from "The Brady Bunch."

3. (7.) GREEN BAY (5-4): Yes, I jumped the Packers from seventh over Dallas just for one win. Don’t like it? Get your own rankings. I’m convinced they’ve shaken their post-Favre funk, and look how the schedule sets up the next four weeks: 49ers, Lions, Ravens, Bears. Sweep the four and we’ve got a nice national TV game Dec. 20: Packers at Steelers.

4. (3.) DALLAS (6-3): Cowboys fans, despite last week’s loss to Green Bay, you may continue to throw parades for Tony Romo and Wade Phillips for two more weeks. But after facing the Redskins and Raiders, Dallas has consecutive games at New York, against San Diego and at New Orleans. That’s when they start to blow up. There. I said it.

5. (5.) ARIZONA (6-3): The Cardinals go back to their previous home in St. Louis, before Bill Bidwell hijacked the team. More importantly, Kurt Warner goes back to the place where most of us were first introduced to his wife Brenda and her really bad haircut.

6. (4.) PHILADELPHIA (5-4): Brian Westbrook got two concussions three weeks apart and he might be toast, which means the Eagles might be toast. Donovan McNabb now sits in the middle of a kiddie corps on offense: receiver DeSean Jackson (second year), receiver Jeremy Maclin (rookie), tight end Brent Celek (first year as a starter) and running back LeSean McCoy (rookie). Sunday’s game at Chicago will be telling.

The wrong bodies are falling around Matt Ryan.

The wrong bodies are falling around Matt Ryan.

7. (6.) FALCONS (5-4): It’s not over but it’s not pleasant. Even putting aside the recent struggles of Matt Ryan for a minute: Michael Turner is out, Jerious Norwood is iffy, Roddy White has a bad knee, Michael Jenkins is mediocre and Tony Gonzalez was beat up last week by Carolina. This teams goes as the offense goes. Not a great backdrop for Sunday’s game against an angry and rested Giants team. Speaking of whom …

8. (8.) N.Y. GIANTS (5-4): They’re coming off a bye, and they needed it after four straight losses. Nobody can quite figure out what’s happened to a defense that has allowed 133 points in the last four games but I sense focus won’t be an issue this week. Here’s something else that won’t comfort you: For the first time all season, all 53 players practiced Thursday.

9. (9.) SAN FRANCISCO (4-5): The 49ers’ win over Chicago last Thursday was the first time quarterback Alex Smith won a start since the second game of the 2007 season. He might want to hold onto that memory for a while. This week’s game against Green Bay comes against a defense that had five sacks and three turnovers against Dallas.

10. (10.) CAROLINA (4-6): I wasn’t buying the Panthers’ resurgence based on last week’s win over the error-prone Falcons, and last night we saw why: a loss to the Dolphins. Jake Delhomme morphed from passing threat back to 19-for-42.

Recognize this look, Falcons fans?

Recognize this look, Falcons fans?

11. (11.) SEATTLE (3-6): You know what Jim Mora’s problem is? OK, loaded question. But here’s one thing: He obsesses over too many things instead of just coaching. Exhibit A: He sent a list of 17 grievances to the league office about officiating in last week’s game against Arizona. It’s a good thing nobody asked Seahawks fans for their list of grievances.

12. (12.) CHICAGO (4-5): Somebody figured out that Jay Cutler is 0-3 in televised night games this season, which doesn’t bode well for the Bears’ Sunday night game against Philadelphia. Then again, is there anybody who believes he wouldn’t still be a tool if they played games on Tuesday afternoons?

13. (14.) WASHINGTON (3-6): One interesting subplot to the Dallas game. The Skins’ Albert Haynesworth going against the Cowboys’ Andre Gurode. Three years ago, Haynesworth was playing for Tennessee when he stomped on Gurode on the field, leading to wounds that required 30 stitches to close. Haynesworth was ejected from the game and suspended. Gurode will be wearing armor Sunday.

sadsack

14. (13.) ST. LOUIS (1-8): The Rams keep requesting extensions with the league in hopes of selling out home games and avoiding blackouts. At this point, you would think they WOULDN’T want to advertise their product.

15. (15.) TAMPA BAY (1-8): Quarterback Josh Freeman looks like he might be pretty good. But even if the Bucs win their final seven games, they still won’t finish with as good a record as last season (9-7). I know. I’m such a kill joy.

16. (16.) DETROIT (1-8): This is a rare week for Lions fans. They can look at the other sideline during the Cleveland game and think, “Yeesh, I’m glad we don’t have to root for those guys.”

25 comments Add your comment

Herschel Talker

November 20th, 2009
11:35 am

Schultzie – you the man!

Leon "Pooch-Kick" Trotsky

November 20th, 2009
11:38 am

Good stuff Jeff as always, love the Sad Sack cover!

Off the subject but is JaMarcus Russell the biggest bust in NFL history?

DCbravosfan

November 20th, 2009
11:40 am

birds have gotten jobbed by the league . . . fourth game against a team coming off a bye week . . . pretty tough sked for a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2009
11:40 am

Leon — Thanks. Russell a bust? Yes. Biggest ever? No way. Off top of my head, Ryan Leaf is bigger.

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2009
11:41 am

Herschel Talker — You the talker!

Sonny Clusters

November 20th, 2009
11:45 am

Jeff, will you be endorsing a candidate for Mayor now that the paper doesn’t do it anymore? We was wondering.

UGA amazing 2009 season

November 20th, 2009
11:45 am

UGA amazing 2009 season

November 20th, 2009
11:46 am

hahaha I mean 7th. Awesome

Mora Jr.

November 20th, 2009
11:54 am

Duh…..Which way do we go?Duh…Which way do we go?

Mora Sr.

November 20th, 2009
11:57 am

Play…offs…..Play..offs……Son you can’t even win one game!The Browns could probably beat you guys now!

Jamaaliver

November 20th, 2009
11:59 am

Jeff,

You’re unwavering disgust of J Cutler & B Favre is….befuddling.

Is Cutler really a tool? Is Favre really a traitor? I can think of a few individuals more deserving of your contempt.

Delbert D.

November 20th, 2009
12:00 pm

I hope Andre Gurode borrows an idea from Freddie Blassie and hides a harmful implement in his waistband to take care of Haynesworth.

Sonny Clusters

November 20th, 2009
12:03 pm

Jeff, have you ever been to a dog funeral and what are they like? Will you be attending?

F-105 Thunderchief

November 20th, 2009
12:26 pm

Ryan Leaf a bigger bust? Maybe. Biggest of all: Aundray Bruce. All-world at Auburn, cannot play at lick in the NFL. None. Not at all. Zip. Zero.

Ohio State fan

November 20th, 2009
12:30 pm

Stafford is going to be a bust. The guy wasn’t very good at Georgia, other than the fact that he could throw a ball through a brick wall. And now we’re supposed to believe that because he gets up quick after getting hit that somehow that’s progress? Please.

F-105 Thunderchief

November 20th, 2009
12:31 pm

Just checked the Leaf/Russell stats. Leaf leads in cruddiness, but Russell is fast catching him, particularly, in this, his worst ( and third) season.

washedup

November 20th, 2009
12:39 pm

Nobody seems to give the Falcons a chance on Sunday. I think they’ll win this one. I would love to see John Abraham bust loose. He really hasn’t had a monster game since the first one against Miami.

EW

November 20th, 2009
12:45 pm

Had to reread your post on Cutler JS..hahaha “TOOL” is about the ONLY word I can think of that encompasses Cutler.

PTC DAWG

November 20th, 2009
12:55 pm

LOL at your comment about the Packers….

Najeh Davenpoop

November 20th, 2009
1:05 pm

Stafford looked very promising before the injury, and once he recovers fully (which may not be until next season) he will be fine. An injury like the one he had can seriously set back the development of his passing mechanics, which of course will make him more ineffective in the short term.

Dawg Days

November 20th, 2009
3:42 pm

Okay Ohio State – I have to root for your team (way behind Georgia, of course) since my husband went there. However, there is no reason to dis Matthew Stafford. He does have an arm like a rocket, but he was a damn good QB at Georgia. Wish we still had him. And Knowshon. He is a leader which I think was the point. I don’t think he was ready to go to the NFL, but I guess you go where the money is. Hell, for $78 million…

bali smith

November 20th, 2009
5:18 pm

wooof woooof woooooof wooof oof wooof………………. an ode to adead bulldog

Shamus Thacker

November 20th, 2009
9:59 pm

Aundray Bruce was quite a bust…

Shamus Thacker

November 20th, 2009
10:01 pm

Anybody remember Gerald Tinker? lol

Shamus Thacker

November 20th, 2009
10:17 pm

Antonio Pierce is OUT for the Giants~!