Angry. Hungry. Urgent. Excited.
I will attempt to use each of the words listed above as an adjective to describe the Vikings, Eagles, Saints and Rams respectively and why it means they’re the top four teams in the NFC.
Angry – Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings started the 2016 NFL season roaring out of the gates with a 5-0 record only to see their fortunes change as they finished with an 8-8 record. The season started under a dark cloud as they lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a gruesome knee injury from which he has recovered well enough to be activated but not yet get on the field and play. Bridgewater’s injury and the subsequent flameout left a bitter taste in the Vikings mouths which helped them come into the 2017 season rather angry.
Their defense is playing at an elite level, led by defensive end Everson Griffen with his 12 sacks, along with safety Harrison Smith, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, fellow defensive lineman Danielle Hunter. These Vikings are playing with “house money” as starting quarterback Sam Bradford (whom the team traded for prior to the start of the 2016 season upon losing Bridgewater) has only played six quarters due to knee injury. Nevertheless, Case Keenum has played lights out football at the quarterback position while leading the team and not missing a beat. Perhaps their 9-2 record (going into Week 13) can continue to improve and they can make some legitimate noise in the playoffs thus putting the bitterness of the 2016 season further in their collective rear view mirror.
Hungry – Philadelphia Eagles
Second-year quarterback Carson Wentz is playing at an MVP level. The defense is playing out of its mind. Special teams are executing effectively and efficiently. The running game has multiple contributors in Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood. The wide receivers have produced such that Alshon Jeffery has already been rewarded with an extension after signing a one-year prove it deal. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, the coaches aren’t doing too shabby a job either. All of these elements leads one to see the Eagles salivating at the opportunity to prove their success isn’t limited to the regular season only. Philadelphians are starving for a winner. After watching the 76ers “process” take years to come to fruition (while enduring multiple losing seasons), the Phillies not giving baseball fans much to smile about, the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup has been their only claim to fame of late. The Eagles are playing as if they want to add their names to the list of champion. Soon. Only time will tell.
Urgent – New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees is 38 years old going on 25. He’s not doing much other than passing the ball as if he’s going to eclipse 5,000 passing yards. Again. Which would be the fifth time he has done so if he accomplishes the feat. He’s well on his way to eclipsing 70,000 career passing yards. Has anyone told him and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady that they shouldn’t be performing at the levels that they are? Guess not. After starting off the season with two losses, they ran off eight consecutive wins before enduring loss number three to the Los Angeles Rams (more on them later).
Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram lead a two-headed monster attack out of the Saints backfield and allowed them to move on from free agent signee/future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson. Kamara very well may be Rookie of the Year and Ingram is producing stellar numbers in his own right. Not surprisingly, the offense is performing at a high level under the guidance of Drew Brees.
On the other side of the field, the defense has uncharacteristically performed at a level on-par with the offense. Defensive end Cameron Jordan is leading the charge with his stellar play, and the defensive backfield with Marshon Lattimore, Kenny Vaccaro and company shutting down opposing receivers. If the Saints have anything to say about it, they will capitalize before the proverbial “window” closes and go deep into the playoffs, perhaps to be capped off with a second Superbowl win for Drew Brees.
Excited – Los Angeles Rams
Rookie head coach Sean McVay has led the renaissance in L.A. The Rams returned to the City of Angels last year, only to see former head coach Jeff Fisher get fired and first overall draft pick Jared Goff look like a bust. The excitement of having a team back in the fold wore off quickly. Perhaps it was the addition of a fellow team coming to town in the form of the now Los Angeles Chargers that triggered the turnaround.
Whatever the cause, Rams fans are happy. McVay has proven to be more than up to the job of head coach despite his youth. Jared Goff is proving the Rams hierarchy was right for making him last year’s number one pick. Todd Gurley is playing like, well, Todd Gurley (the 2015 edition). All around, the Rams are playing an exciting brand of football as they light up the scoreboard each week. Their excitement has transferred back and forth between the team and its fan base, as they are filling the Coliseum to cheer them on each week, with results of which they can be proud. With youth on its side from leadership, to the team at large, things are looking up for the Los Angeles Rams which leads to a lot of excitement in La-La Land.
These four teams all have fortunes that look promising. Capitalizing on them is up to each respective organization, but, for now, they look to be the toast of their respective towns and the new cream of the crop in the National Football Conference.