By Max Harper
Don’t look now but the torch has been passed in the NFC.
The best teams in 2021 have fallen off the cliff through this season’s first half.
The Eagles (8-0) and Dallas Cowboys (6-2) are the only NFC playoff teams from last season with a winning record.
The Green Bay Packers (3-6) have lost five straight games for the first time since Rodgers was a first-year starter in 2008. Rodgers tied a career-high with three picks, including two in the end zone on the first two possessions, in a 15-9 loss at Detroit.
Rodgers isn’t playing like a two-time reigning NFL MVP, but he doesn’t regret returning to play after contemplating retirement.
The Packers have eight games left to turn things around, but it won’t be easy. Their next three opponents — Dallas, Tennessee and Philadelphia — are 19-5 combined.
Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemed headed toward a fourth straight loss before the seven-time Super Bowl champion engineered a vintage game-winning drive in the final minute against the Rams (3-5). Brady drove the Buccaneers 60 yards on six plays in 35 seconds with no time-outs, tossing a 1-yard TD pass to rookie Cade Otton for a 16-13 victory over the defending Super Bowl champs.
“We needed it,” Brady said. “We needed it, and we got it, we fought until the end.”
Despite a 4-5 record, the Bucs are still favorites in the weak NFC South. They already beat Atlanta (4-5) and New Orleans (3-5), which plays against Baltimore on Monday.
“You don’t get satisfaction unless you make the playoffs and go to the Super Bowl,” Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles said.
The Buccaneers could win the division with a losing record and still make some noise with Brady in January.
The Rams have lost four of five, and their once-dynamic offense has scored more than 20 points just one time this season. The latest lackluster performance left coach Sean McVay considering changes.
The Arizona Cardinals (3-6) fell to last place in the NFC West with a 31-21 loss to Seattle. The Cardinals are 4-11, including a wild-card loss, since a 10-2 start last season.
Meanwhile, the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings (7-1) and the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks (6-3) are already one win away from matching their total number of victories from 2021.