Merry Christmas and thank you to everyone who is spending the last of their remaining brain power reading the column this week. I tried to make it easy as I know how hard it can be to grab anyone’s attention right now. Family time and streaming binges beckon the brain around this time of year. So, here’s a quick, fun Four Verts on teams we’d like to see play longer, a team that should quit right now and a team that is exceeding expectations with its play.
Teams that would be fun to see in the playoffs
With three weeks left in the regular season, teams are jostling for playoff positions as wild-card weekend approaches. A few teams like the Chiefs, Eagles and Cowboys have already clinched their playoff spots, but there are some teams that are still fighting to keep their spot or get into the playoffs that would be a blast to watch in the NFL’s winter tournament. As Yahoo Sports’ resident arbiter of fun, I’ve taken the time to put together a list of teams that would be electric to watch in the playoffs.
Miami Dolphins — This one is easy. The Dolphins currently sit in the seventh seed after a rough couple of weeks losing to the Bills and 49ers. Still, this has been one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL and their shaky defense only adds to their watchability. A shootout with the hottest offensive coach in the league and two superstar wide receivers? Yeah, here’s hoping the Dolphins get it together and close out a playoff spot.
Los Angeles Chargers — Justin Herbert, Justin Herbert, Justin Herbert.
This Chargers team still has a lot of deficiencies that will make it hard for them to win a Super Bowl, but this is about getting one of the best quarterbacks in the league into a high-stakes game. Herbert is one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL and gives Los Angeles a chance to win every game he starts. The Chargers currently sit in the sixth seed in the AFC, so they’re still in a good position.
Detroit Lions — The Lions have a chance to make the playoffs, but they’re currently the ninth seed in the NFC. Everyone should be rooting for this team to make the playoffs considering how explosive their offense is and really just how fun a Dan Campbell playoff game would be. This is the same head coach who was calling unconventional onside kicks in games that didn’t really matter last season. Imagine the shots he would call in a game that really mattered.
Seattle Seahawks — At this point, it would be disappointing if Geno Smith didn’t get to start a playoff game. Smith has been a good quarterback for the Seahawks this season and has allowed them to remain a big-play, competitive offense in the midst of a rebuild. Seattle wasn’t supposed to be in this position, but it has gotten here by being a strong team in its own right. The Seahawks currently have the eighth seed in the NFC playoffs so they would need help to get in.
No one is having a more pointless season than the Los Angeles Rams
Can the Rams hit the simulate button for the rest of the season? Would anyone really care?
Super Bowl hangover, injuries, no first-round draft pick. This Rams season has become the most inconsistent season in the NFL. They aren’t playing for anything anymore. Let’s allow them to save the time and effort and start their offseason now.
There are players like Baker Mayfield and others who are playing for their careers, but if only they could do that on other teams to pass the time until January. It’s hard to find a tangible way in which the 2022 season was even remotely beneficial for the Rams. Matthew Stafford and Aaron Donald suffered injuries, Jalen Ramsey had a down season for his standards, there was drama between the team and running back Cam Akers — nothing went right.
The Rams don’t even get to capitalize on their ineptitude. According to Tankathon, the Rams would be sending the fourth overall pick to the Lions if the draft was held today. Based on the current state of this LA team, that pick could get as high as second overall. That’s a selection that this Rams roster could really use as they start to rebuild from all the resources that it took to get to, and win, Super Bowl LVI.
The Rams don’t regret those moves, but at this point the 2022 season is a lost cause. These games do not matter outside of the contractual obligation to complete the games. Let’s move on, shall we? It’s the right thing to do.
Spare the Rams. A humane NFL is an NFL for all.
Lions are perfectly set up to grow their very own franchise quarterback
Let’s get to the team that actually owns the Rams’ future top-five selection, the Detroit Lions. Despite being a fringe playoff team, the Lions are going to have an opportunity to add a potential franchise quarterback at the top of the draft. The fact that they have a team that’s playoff-worthy right now should give any young quarterback a great chance of success as they step into a roster that’s kind of set up perfectly for inevitable growing pains.
Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams look like they can be one of the best young wide receiver duos in the league. The Lions also have a rock-solid offensive line and (for now) a bright play-caller in Ben Johnson. Jared Goff has done a good enough job to get the starting quarterback role for another season, but there have been times this season when Goff’s limitations have put a ceiling on what this offense can do. Even in their 20-17 win over the Jets, there were moments when Goff was a hindrance for a Lions offense that has been wildly explosive this season.
In a way, Goff’s presence makes this an even more ideal landing spot for a rookie quarterback. He has played well enough this season that he’ll be the incumbent starter in 2023 and a rookie quarterback wouldn’t be forced to see the field early. That would also help the Lions add value to Goff in the event that they’re able to trade him prior to the 2024 season when it would be really cheap to get his contract off the books. (Goff has a dead salary-cap hit of $5 million in 2024).
Who they draft and where they draft them is where the conversation really gets interesting. They don’t have to use the Rams’ pick on a quarterback like CJ Stroud or Bryce Young. They could try to get their hands on an elite defensive talent like Jalen Carter or Will Anderson to join Aidan Hutchinson along the line. They can still go after a quarterback with their original first-round draft pick, which will likely fall between picks 16 and 20.
There is a wild card at the quarterback position in the 2023 draft and it’s Florida’s Anthony Richardson. In terms of physical attributes, Richardson is as talented as it gets, but he has strides to take when it comes to consistent accuracy throwing the ball. His play might not always look like first-round material, but this is a guy that is physically straight out of Create-A-Player on “Madden.” A situation like the one the Lions have set up would be perfect for a player like Richardson. He could have the time to work on his quarterback skills while Goff continues to be a steady hand for the team.
The Lions are in a great spot to win big in the near future and their next quarterback will walk into a supreme situation for a young passer.
Can the 49ers win a playoff game with Brock Purdy at quarterback?
Over the past three weeks, Kyle Shanahan has ascended to a new plane. Brock Purdy, the last pick in the 2022 NFL draft, has been the 49ers’ primary quarterback and they’re 3-0 in that span. San Francisco scored 33 points on the Dolphins and 35 points against the Buccaneers before winning a close game against Seattle to continue its Purdy-impressive three-game winning streak (LOL!). The 49ers have been one of the top teams in the NFL this season and they’ve continued to look that way as the playoffs get closer.
Now, the question must be asked: Can the 49ers win a game with Brock Purdy as their starter?
The fact that they’re even in a position where this question can be asked is due to everything that exists around Purdy. The defense is still playing out of its mind and Shanahan has done a masterful job calling plays that make life easy. Purdy is certainly in an advantageous situation, but he does deserve a smidge of credit for being able to navigate the offense in this manner as a rookie who had essentially no expectations. Purdy’s been playing on easy mode, but he’s done what’s asked of him and has had a fairly clean stat sheet so far.
The real takeaway is that this offense really does appear to be quarterback-proof and the foundation that’s been built up looks like it can take on just about any team in the league. So far, Purdy being in the starting lineup has not really affected the scoring potential of this team. The offensive talent and system that the 49ers have is so in-sync that the literal last pick of the NFL draft could step in and be a productive starter right away.
That’s a team that can win a playoff game and if the defense continues to play at a high level, maybe even make it to the NFC Championship game. There’s still reason to be skeptical at the idea of a prospect like Purdy taking the 49ers on a deep playoff run, but it doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it did a few weeks ago. Shanahan has designed an offense that just needs the quarterback not to trip over his feet from week to week.
The 49ers have games against the Commanders, Raiders and Cardinals to close the season. There’s no reason to think they won’t be heavily favored in all of those games and couldn’t finish the season on a six-game winning streak with Brock Purdy as their quarterback. That’s a level of stability and success that’s difficult to come across in the NFL.