The offseason is officially among us in the NFL. It’s time for a check-in with each fanbase to really dissect where the organizations and the fans are in terms of happiness. There are different, complex emotions when it comes to fandom and the up or down arrow in the projections going forward. It’s a league where you can go from someone with Super Bowl aspirations to missing the playoffs entirely, or, on the other end, talking yourself into being the next Houston Texans with a preseason win total of 5.5 to winning a postseason game.

It’s time to distinctly categorize and tier the outlooks of the NFC fanbases going forward as a 2023 postmortem.

The “It’s Now or Never” Tier- San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles

All three franchises have been the class of the conference for the better part of the last 5 years, and all have fallen short in some way relative to their expectations. It’s gotten to the point where regular season success will no longer matter in the eyes of the crazed fan unless a leap is made, meaning that some variable will have to change to avoid the definition of insanity of doing the same thing over and over again.

The 49ers are coming off of two blown double-digit Super Bowl leads in four years; this one was a roster where the roster likely will never be as ideally set up financially and sustained health throughout the majority of the regular season. The Shanahan haters will get extra loud, deserving or not, without a ring. The Cowboys have had Mike McCarthy pre-fired essentially his entire tenure, and now that there are no more coordinators to scapegoat amidst the playoff decision blunders, Jerry Jones isn’t getting any younger. The same could be said for Dak Prescott who is going to demand a payday despite a 2-5 playoff record immediately after being down 27-0 to a 7th-seeded Green Bay Packers team in their eventual playoff drubbing. Meanwhile, the Eagles were the most miserable 10-1 team in history this year before finishing 11-6 to lose the division a year after falling short in the Super Bowl. Sirianni fired and hired a suicide squad of coordinators, the defense was as checked out as possible, allowing scamperers to waltz into the endzone with the second-worst pass defense in the league. Another early playoff exit and Nick Siranni, who does himself no favors with his sound bytes, has an incredibly short leash.

The “Scored a Date With Someone Out of My League” Tier- Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

These are teams that are flying high because they outperformed what was expected of them this year, they had a fun ride and reasons to be optimistic, and it was a blast relative to the 31 teams that didn’t win a title! The Detroit Lions, the lovable losers of all sports, won two home playoff games, made the NFC Championship, and retained their highly-sought after offensive coordinator Ben Johnson because there was unfinished business! The Rams had a preseason

Photo: Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports

win total of 6.5, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp were labeled injured corps with a roster of 36 ROOKIES, and Sean McVay was pondering retirement to take a hiatus. They hit home runs in their rookie class, Matthew Stafford remained healthy by slinging the ball all over the field, Kyren Williams might be the future runningback of the league, and Sean McVay proved he can develop any kind of roster by leading them to a wildcard berth. Even though Stafford’s years are waning, you now trust the rebuild. The Packers have the youngest roster of the league, destroyed the Cowboys and nearly beat the Niners in the postseason, and in the first year without Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love looks like the future; they’re a new DC away from being the NFC darkhorse. Meanwhile, the Bucs threw a “prove-it” bag to Baker Mayfield as a stop-gap quarterback, and they won a playoff game and took the NFC South! Baker wants to run it back!

The New Beginnings Tier- Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals

These are the teams with such a significant change or reason to look to the future and ignore the past that the turmoil of the past year is already in the rearview mirror. The Seahawks have officially ended the Pete Carroll era and hired former Ravens’ DC Mike MacDonald; he’ll be the youngest coach in the NFL at age 36, and with a roster that made the postseason with Geno Smith just two years ago with the amount of young weapons on the team, a creative scheme and a build going forward with MacDonald is going to be a fun new transition. The Bears are going full rebuild with the #1 and #9 overall pick this year and even have a valuable asset in Justin Fields to trade should they likely take Caleb Williams, a prospect some are comparing to Patrick Mahomes. The resources to entirely change the team and get young are here, and they’re here now. Meanwhile, the Cardinals look like they’re sticking with Kyler Murray as the guy; they’ll have a full year of Kyler after he was sidelined with injuries, two first round picks, and the second year of the Jonathon Gannon era that looked like it overperformed on paper due to the moribund roster. The formula of Kyler, Gannon, and building out the depth is something you can talk yourself into going forward.

The Howie Mandel Deal or No Deal Tier- New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings

The Giants and the Vikings both have a dramatic “deal, or no deal” type of decision to make here. After making the postseason once, Daniel Jones was given his 4-year extension but went 1-6 before his season-ending injury and the rest of the Giants appear to be in disarray with Wink Martindale resigning and the rumor mill swirling around the Brian Daboll camp; Jones and Daboll are both going to need to impress before a possible overhaul, and let’s not forget that Saquon Barkley may be on the way out.

The Vikings have so much reason to be hopeful with Kevin O’Connell looking like the guy in his first two seasons on the job, Justin Jefferson being a generational wide receiver, and remained in playoff contention throughout the year despite their roster injuries and deficits, but Kirk Cousins has been their stable identity for the last half-decade now and he suffered a season-ending injury in his contract year. It was reported that last year they tried and failed to move up for Anthony Richardson, and with a wide receiver talent as incredible as Jefferson, the time might be now to try and capitalize on a young, explosive supporting quarterback that fits his timeline.

The “Diet Starts Tomorrow” Tier- Washington Commanders, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons

We’ll believe that positive change will come when we see it with these teams. The Commanders may have the second overall pick and have escaped the stench and wrath of Dan Snyder, but right as you think a positive change is coming, they use their new head coaching hire on Dan Quinn who allowed the Packers to run up 6 touchdowns on him in his Cowboys DC finale. The Saints have gone 16-18 with Dennis Allen at head coach with one of the most boring offenses possible with Derek Carr checking the ball down the field for the entirety of the first three quarters, yet the GM Mickey Loomis’s defense was “well, Belichick and Tom Landry struggled at first, too!” and are running it back with him and the worst salary cap in the NFL. The Falcons may have moved on from Arthur Smith, also known as the fantasy football killer where he decides against using skill players like Kyle Pitts, Bijan Robinson, or Drake London, but it remains to be seen if first year head coach Raheem Morris can unlock them until a quarterback more promising than Desmond Ridder or Taylor Heinicke can unlock them. There are trust issues in this tier.

The “David Tepper Poured a Beverage on Me” Tier- Carolina Panthers

All you have to do is look up any David Tepper related story over the past 3 years to get a glimpse of the state of the Carolina Panthers.

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