The Check-down Check-up (2020): Week Fifteen

NFC North

Green Bay Packers

Green Bay got some major help in securing the NFC’s No. 1 seed this weekend. Wisconsin was full of one-week Chiefs fans for this one, and they got their wish in Kansas City taking down the Saints. Unless the Packers totally and completely bungle the final two weeks of the season, they have the NFC’s bye all but secured. With a win over Tennessee this week, FiveThirtyEight predicts that the Pack will have an 88% chance to take the bye. If the Saints and Seahawks both lose, Green Bay locks it up and can rest for the final week of the season.

Verdict: 9.5/10, Check Up

Chicago Bears

The Bears have a slim playoff chance right now, but they definitely helped themselves by beating the Vikings this weekend. On a game that came down to a Kirk Cousins Hail Mary, Chicago was able to stave off heartbreak in order to, essentially, end Minnesota’s season. Now, they stand as one of the last bastions between the Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence. Should they be able to take down Jacksonville for their eighth win of the season, the Jags would have the top pick all but locked up.

Verdict: 5/10, Check Back Next Week

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions, again, show a lot of fight against a good team. Although the final score might not show it, the Lions battled with the Titans until the very end of this one. Detroit’s biggest problem is just the fact that they don’t have a ton of talent on either side of the ball. They’re not terrible but in their current state, they will never be good enough to hang with the NFL’s upper tier of teams. Maybe they could deal off Matt Stafford to jump-start their rebuild and start over? Just food for thought.

Verdict: 3.75/10, Check Down

Minnesota Vikings

Because they didn’t beat Tampa Bay last week, the Vikings really needed this one. Unfortunately, Kirk Cousins’ last-ditch effort to lift his team over the Bears was not successful, and the Vikings now fall to 6-8, essentially out of the playoff race in the NFC. If nothing else, I have to give them credit. The Vikes hung tough in the Wild Card for quite a while, after it looked like they’d be in the Justin Fields sweepstakes following the first few games. It’s not much, but props to you, Minnesota.

Verdict: 5/10, Check Back Next Week

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are making that final push to get into the postseason as the NFC East winners, but their playoff hopes are all but a pipe dream with only two weeks to go. The East will (almost certainly) go to either Washington or New York, but the ‘Boys aren’t going down without a fight. After taking down the 49ers this week, Dallas is only one game back of the division lead. Could Andy Dalton really pull it off, and deliver this team back from the depths? Probably not.

Verdict: 3.5/10, Check Down

Philadelphia Eagles

Oh my god, Jalen Hurts is so much more fun to watch as the quarterback of this team. With a gutsy showing against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, Hurts was fantastic, even in a loss. The Eagles simply must figure out a way to get Carson Wentz out of there because right now, Hurts looks like the answer. At the very least, he seems to be far more in sync with head coach Doug Pederson than Wentz ever was this year.

Verdict: 2.5/10, Check Down

Washington Football Team

It might be a popularity contest, but Chase Young making the Pro Bowl as a rookie shows you just how good he’s been in his first year. As the current division leaders, Young and the Football Team look playoff-ready, even if they will almost certainly be the league’s worst playoff team maybe ever. The beauty of the NFC East is that Washington can have a late-season loss to Seattle and still be up in the division by a game by the time the week is over.

Verdict: 6/10, Check Back Next Week

New York Giants

As I mentioned in the Cleveland section of this week’s column, this game never really felt in doubt after halftime. The Giants did their best to stop the Browns, and to their credit, did a nice job bottling up Chubb and Hunt, but could not get any offense rolling on Sunday night. Joe Judge wasted a timeout by grasping at straws in the game’s final minutes, and interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens made one bone-headed call on a fourth down play. Outside of that, this game was just a Sunday Night Snoozer.

Verdict: 3.25/10, Check Down

NFC South

New Orleans Saints

The Saints have watched the NFC’s top seed slip through their fingers. Drew Brees could have really used that playoff bye week, as his ribs are almost certainly not 100%, and he did not look like himself on Sunday against the Chiefs. Brees and the Saints will likely be playing on Wild Card weekend, not a great sign for an aging quarterback who could use a rest before his possibly final playoff push. But on the other hand, maybe this close loss against a top team is what New Orleans needed.

Verdict: 7/10, Check Up

Atlanta Falcons

There is something deeply and completely wrong with this franchise. How does this keep happening?

Verdict: 3/10, Check Down

Carolina Panthers

At time of writing, Carolina will have the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft behind Jacksonville, the Jets, and Cincinnati. At the very least, they are guaranteed a top-three quarterback prospect. Whether they land Justin Fields or Zach Wilson, it’s hard to believe the Panthers wouldn’t go quarterback in such an ideal draft situation. As for their remaining schedule, I don’t see the Panthers winning either game. He might not show it in public, but Matt Rhule has to be excited about these prospects.

Verdict: 2/10, Check Down

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers looked dead in the water in the first half. As is customary for the Falcons, though, they completely collapsed, not only allowing the Buccaneers back into the game, but allowing them to feel at least somewhat comfortable while doing it. My only worry for the Bucs is that they let the Falcons get up on them at all. They have two very winnable games coming up, and seeing them drop either Detroit or Atlanta would surprise me greatly.

Verdict: 7.75/10, Check Up

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have a tiny chance of locking up the NFC’s bye, but with Green Bay’s remaining schedule, I wouldn’t hold my breath over it. What’s more important to Seattle right now is that the door to winning the NFC West is, thanks to the New York Jets of all teams, wide open. A win over the Rams would allow them to walk into the playoffs and rest for the final week of the regular season. This upcoming game is massive, for both sides.

Verdict: 7.5/10, Check Back Next Week

Los Angeles Rams

You guys lost to the Jets. What am I supposed to say here?

Just for this week, my confidence index is punishing you, Los Angeles.

Verdict: 0/10, Check Down

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers, like the Texans, make me incredibly sad. This team has such potential, and even went to the Super Bowl last year. But because of the pandemic and a slew of injuries, they’ve been reduced to giving up 41 points to a Dak-less Cowboys team. At least they should get the rights to a nice draft pick this season. Maybe they could look at a quarterback like Trey Lance who could sit a year behind Jimmy Garoppolo.

Verdict: 1.25/10, Check Down

Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray and Deandre Hopkins are going to drag this Cardinals team to the playoffs kicking and screaming, even if it kills them. These two have a genuine chemistry and connection between them, which is so nice to see after the early career of Hopkins was wasted by the Texans. Murray threw for over 400 yards against the Eagles this week, and with the 49ers coming up, he could very well replicate that performance. It seems as though Arizona’s season will come down to week seventeen, when they host the Rams in a divisional showdown.

Verdict: 7/10, Check Up

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