The Season That Was 2019 - NFC Edition
Well, obviously, after The Season That Was 2019 - AFC Edition
it's only fair to do na NFC one, especially as this conference produced our 2019 GZL Champion. Whoops, spoiler alert!
At the Week 10 mark of the season, the NFC North was a fight between the 7-2 Detroit Lions and 7-2 Green Bay Packers. The question is who would blink first. In this case, it was the Packers who slumped to a 2-5 record for the final 7 weeks of the season while the Lions went 6-1 to give them their best ever regular season record and retiring GM Tom Riddell his first ever divisional title and the team's first since 2013 when Tom took over in the off-season. But all was not lost for the Packers who managed to secure on of the Wildcard spots.
The NFC North were represented well in the playoffs. The Packers defeated the high flying Rams in St. Louis in their Wildcard game before once again succumbing to the Detroit Lions in the divisional week. For the season, the Lions went 3-0 over the Packers and their victory in the Divisional playoff saw them reach the NFC Conference Championship where they would eventually lose to the team that would go on to win the Super Bowl.
So while the NFC North didn't produce any fantastic season finishes, like usual, they brought contenders to the playoffs. And my hat goes off to the Detroit GM Tom Riddell, who this writer will openly admit questioned his management skillset and was proved wrong. It's sad to see a dedicated manager retire from the league but we wish him all the best.
The NFC East, home of the 2019 GZL Champions. While the Philadelphia Eagles had every chance to win the division in the final weeks of the season, their Week 15 loss at home to the Washington Redskins was the deciding factor that saw the Eagles lose their final three games of the and slip out of contention for the division. Instead, the Washington Redskins won their fourth NFC East title and would go on to become the eventual Super Bowl champions, continuing a growing curse against #1 power ranked teams in GZL. The last time the top ranked team in the power rankings achieved Super Bowl glory were the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers. Since that season, the 2018 #2 ranked St. Louis Rams were the highest ranked winners.
On their way to winning the Super Bowl, the 11-5 Redskins accounted for the 12-4 San Francisco 49ers, the 12-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 13-3 Detroit Lions to win the NFC before defeating the 10-6 Bengals in the Super Bowl. An impressive playoff run to say the least as the Washington franchise joins the elite in GZL history.
The NFC South produced a very familiar result for 2019: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning their seventh divisional title and making their 10th straight playoff appearance. The unfortunate thing for the Saints, Panthers and Falcons were that they fell into catch-up position quite early in the season and the NFC South was always going to be the Buccaneers. But it's not all sparkling trophies and banners for the Buccaneers. While over the AFC South the Tennessee Titans have the dubious honour of an 0-4 record in AFC Championship games, the Buccaneers fans have suffered even more. Ten straight seasons of playoff appearances have resulted in only two NFC Championship appearances and a single Super Bowl loss. With a franchise that has only won less than 10 games in a season once (and still won the division that year), this playoff record is one that GM Anthony Fernandez is not happy with. While the Buccs can say they lost to the eventual Super Bowl winner this season, a one-and-done situation for the #1 power ranked team is not one to leave anybody happy with the final result.
I'll be honest, when I started writing this article for the NFC, I was hoping to find some interesting statistical tidbits for end-of-season tie breakers or first-off achievements but it's been a pretty predestrian, by-the-numbers season...until now! So, I'm actually going to dedicate a bit to each team here. For the Seattle Seahawks, the Super Bowl hangover from 2016 has now extended into it's 3rd season with the team slumping to a dismal 4-12 record. It's a situation we can't see continuing with Nic St. Marie at the helm. The Arizona Cardinals 6-10 record was not a pretty one, but could have gone a lot worse when they started the season with a 1-8 record. In the final seven weeks of the season, the team appeared to find some balance in their gameplay and posted a 5-2 record to finish more confidently than they started. And then there was the San Francisco 49ers. The perennial #1 draft pick holder. Where the hell did this team come from?!? After seven consective losing seasons, they post a 12-4 season (their best on record) after going 2-14 in 2018. Not only that, but they got so far into tie-breaker territory with the St. Louis Rams they almost won the division. The result saw them make their first playoff appearance in eight seasons where they unfortunately lost to eventual Super Bowl winners the Redskins in their wildcard game.
And that leaves us with the St. Louis Rams. The defending champions showed no signs of a Super Bowl hangover, posting a 12-4 record and successfully defending their NFC West title by the barest of tie-break margins. This marks the Rams' fourth divisional title but the end result for the season would not make GM Tyler Richardson happy as the team fell to the Green Bay Packers at home in the Wildcard round, effectively ending their title defense in a one-and-done playoff result. So while the NFC West produced some outstanding regular season results, as a division, they fell short of expectations in the playoffs. But with the resurgence of the 49ers, the consistency of the Rams, the skills of the Seahawks and the steady improvement of the Cardinals, the NFC West will remain one of the toughest divisions to win from in the GZL
Well, there we have it. The NFC in a brief nutshell. As I stated in the NFC West, I was hoping for some more singular examples of highlights like the AFC, but thankfully the NFC West's season provided some spectacular reading. Hope you enjoyed this (brief) review!