Before we throw another shovel of dirt on the NFL as a dying league with no good teams, no quarterbacks and no future beyond the next Thursday Night Massacre, let’s examine the teams that currently occupy the top four seeds in the NFC.
In order, the Eagles, Vikings, Saints and Rams are a combined 29-7. Altogether, they’ve won 23 straight games.
The Saints have ageless future Hall of Famer Drew Brees at quarterback. The Eagles and Rams have Carson Wentz, 24, and Jared Goff, 23, as MVP candidates and key figures in the long-term star power of the position.
And your poor Minnesota Vikings have this terrible, awful, hideous problem: They just can’t stop winning long enough to make a tidy transition from journeyman Case Keenum to healthy, 25-year-old franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Somewhere in Cleveland, they don’t feel your pain.
Week 11 will feature four games between teams with winning records. That includes the Rams (7-2) and Vikings (7-2) playing at U.S. Bank Stadium with offenses and defenses that all rank in the top 10 in scoring.
If one isn’t careful, he or she might have a good time Sunday while temporarily forgetting that the 97-year-old league almost certainly will expire by the time disgruntled former USFL owner Donald Trump circles back to it on Twitter.
I used the NFC’s top four teams to illustrate that the league isn’t quite 32 piles of smoldering rubble. The AFC fellas in Pittsburgh, New England, Kansas City and suddenly-No. 4 Tennessee are a combined 26-10 themselves.
In Philadelphia, where the Eagles have won seven straight, Wentz is an even better-than-expected superstar in Year 2. And he has a top-four rushing attack at his side.
In Minnesota, where the Vikings have won five straight, fans actually had to start complaining about Mike Zimmer’s defense when Pat Shurmur’s offense opened Sunday’s game by going touchdown, punt, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown.
In New Orleans, where the Saints have won seven straight, Brees is in danger of actually not having to throw for 5,000 yards this year. Already the owner of five of the nine 5,000-yard seasons in league history, Brees is on pace for a mere 4,263 after the Saints’ third-ranked running attack rushed for 298 yards and a franchise-record six touchdowns during a 47-10 rout of the Bills in Week 4 of the post-Adrian Peterson era.
In Los Angeles, where the Rams have won four straight, a 31-year-old offensive-minded head coach (Sean McVay) and his 70-year-old defensive wizard (Wade Phillips) are one of the oddest couples to overwhelm the league in Year 1 together. Lost in McVay’s top-ranked scoring offense (32.9) is Phillips molding a defense that has allowed just 41 points the past four games.
The Eagles have a league-best 8-1 record, a three-game division lead and excellent timing. They’re coming off a bye and heading to Dallas to play a Cowboys team that was lifeless without suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott and injured left tackle Tyron Smith.
Elliott won’t play and Smith might not either. The latter might be more troubling for Dallas after Smith’s backups, Chaz Green and Byron Bell, contributed to Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn’s franchise-record six sacks Sunday.
Overall, Dak Prescott was sacked eight times on just 30 pass attempts. Meanwhile, Keenum has thrown the ball 262 times all season and been sacked five times.
Think about that the next time you find yourself overdosing on QUARTERBACKS!! while overlooking all those big, boring linemen.
Right now, the Eagles and Vikings are in line for a first-round bye in the playoffs. The NFC wild-card games would feature Seattle at New Orleans and Carolina at Los Angeles.
Back in March, Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf was asked if he knew that no team has played the Super Bowl in its home stadium in 51 attempts.
“We know the history,” he said. “We want to be the first.”
The race to the top has a long way to go. But things are getting interesting. It is permissible to put the shovel down and watch the game.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL