As with most things Tom Brady, he is the best 45-year-old quarterback the NFL has ever seen, and he’s better than any version that we could imagine. This isn’t a commentary on him or his place in the NFL.
Matthew Stafford is still the Rams quarterback who won a Super Bowl eight months ago and once threw for 5,000 yards on an average Detroit Lions team. This isn’t a commentary on Stafford or Stafford’s elbow, no matter how healthy it might be.
After four weeks we can stop thinking about what teams were, and what they might be. At this point in the season we can look at what teams are. And the last two NFC representatives in the Super Bowl are not making it back this season.
No Repeat for the Rams
On paper the Rams look like a better version of the team that lifted the latest Lombardi Trophy. Another year for Stafford in this offense, another year for him to get an even better connection with Cooper Kupp (if that’s possible), and a now healthy backfield that has two quality running backs in Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson.
But we just saw their offensive line get dominated by the 49ers, giving up seven sacks. In Week 1 against the Bills they also gave up seven sacks. And if you look at Cold, Hard Football Facts statistical rankings, the Rams are 19th on the Offensive Hog Index.
And a note on that index. Ties are listed as ties. There are five teams ranked 14th in the index. So 19th at the moment is the same as last. There is no 20th ranked team. The Los Angeles offensive line, now without Andrew Whitworth and Austin Corbett from last year’s team, is sinking this team.
Allen Robinson may figure out a way to get involved. Cam Akers may return to his rookie form. Maybe Odell Beckham, Jr. returns to L.A. at some point this season. None of that will matter. They cannot go to the Super Bowl with this offensive line.
Tom Brady Will Not End on Top
After the Bucs made history by becoming the first team to win the Super Bowl in their home stadium, Tom Brady could have walked away on a high-note. Even after pulling off the near playoff comeback last season, the stage was set from a glorious retirement from the sport he has redefined. But now he is going to retire a bruised and battered quarterback on a non-Super Bowl team.
Like the Rams, the Buccaneers rank 19th in Cold, Hard Football Facts’ Offensive Hog Index, and they are handcuffed by two things. They rank 28th in yards per rush, and their third down success rate is just 35%. That’s worse than the Jets, Steelers, Falcons, and Lions.
If you saw Sunday’s game you saw the Chiefs, who aren’t known to have a great pass rush, get nine pressures, four hits, and a critical sack on Brady that forced a lost fumble.
This team can’t run, they can’t protect Brady adequately, they can’t convert on third down, and they will not win the NFC.