The current season of the National Football League (NFL) has been a doozy. From feelings of triumph to heartbreak, the past couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster for even the most casual of football fans. After an offseason of many huge changes, it’s expected that predictions for this current season would be off as players are transitioning and getting used to new environments and teams, but I don’t think anyone thought it would be this wild.
Let’s start with the NFC (National Football Conference) standings. Currently, the top three teams consist of the Philidelphia Eagles, the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks, teams with records of 6–0, 5–1 and 4–3 respectively.
If anyone had told me back in the offseason that the Eagles, who went 9–8 in the 2021–22 season, would be undefeated and leading the NFC by week eight, I would have laughed. The biggest question entering the season is whether or not quarterback Jalen Hurts would be able to elevate his game and turn the Eagles into legitimate league contenders. So far, it looks like he’s doing a pretty good job.
The Seahawks, who lost Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson in the offseason, is another team where another relatively unknown quarterback Geno Smith is turning things around for the team. After being drafted by the New York Jets in 2013, Smith’s career didn’t soar to the heights that he expected. Now he’s not just an NFL Comeback Player of the Year candidate; he’s also in talks for most valuable player.
Personally, I think it’s a long shot, but the stats don’t lie. Only Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen have a higher passer rating, 109.5 and 109.1 respectively. Smith is currently sitting pretty at 107.7. Additionally Smith’s 73.5% completion percentage is currently the highest in the league.
If you thought the status of these teams is surprising, just wait. Similarly teams that many thought were playoff contenders are not faring so well. These include the Green Bay Packers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the San Francisco 49ers and the most recent Super Bowl winners the Los Angeles Rams.
The record of the Green Bay Packers is surprising. The Packers have never had the best defense, but the struggles of the offense are worrisome. Having lost Davante Adams, the offense won’t be as explosive or efficient, but with the skill and talent of other offensive players like Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones, they should be doing much better than their 3–4 record indicates. After losing to historically bad teams such as the New York Jets, the Washington Commanders and the New York Giants, the Packers don’t seem like a Super Bowl-contending team but should still make the playoffs.
Finally, we have to talk about the trade that shook the league. Seemingly out of nowhere, the 49ers traded away multiple draft picks to acquire star running back Christian McCaffrey, bringing the former Stanford football player back to the Bay. The Carolina Panthers, the organization that drafted McCaffrey 8th overall in 2017, originally sought out a first-round draft pick. However, the price was too high for the 49ers and the Rams, two teams that were frontrunners for the trade. The 49ers eventually won out, acquiring McCaffrey for second, third and fourth-round picks in 2023 and a fifth-round selection in 2024. But at what cost?
The 49ers already sent their 2023 first-round pick to the Miami Dolphins when trading up to take quarterback Trey Lance in the 2021 draft. After trading for McCaffrey, the franchise is left with three third-round compensatory picks that were granted after the 49ers lost current Commanders general manager Martin Mayhew, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel and Jets head coach Robert Saleh.
At the start of this season, Lance suffered a season-ending injury and the 49ers had to return to starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who had previously led them to a Super Bowl appearance and last year’s NFC Championships. Currently, the 49ers are 3–4, after losing to the Chiefs in a Super Bowl LIV rematch. While being mostly healthy thus far in the season, McCaffrey has shown some concerns, playing only 10 games in the 2020 and 2021 seasons combined — both seasons were cut short due to injury.
Many saw this trade as an act of desperation, partially in reaction to the Rams’ Super Bowl push last year which did indeed win them a ring. I personally believe that the 49ers are in; all or nothing. If they don’t make it to the top this year, it will be very difficult to try again in the future because they’ve sacrificed too many future assets. It remains to be seen whether or not the 49ers made the right choice, but hopefully the acquisition of McCaffrey could be the push that the team needs.