In just four weeks, the 2017 NFL regular season will be in our rearview mirror, never to trouble us again. It hasn’t been one for the ages. Stupid culture war skirmishes sparked by an unemployed quarterback made us all long for the days when “Raider Fan Stabs Charger Fan” was the usual pre-game news of note. Big-time household name-type players got knocked out early. No one who remained threatened any major yardage, touchdown, sack, or interception records. The last unbeaten team of the year proved equal to the task of losing. And the Cleveland Browns are preparing for yet another tour of duty as pallbearers. (Hopefully the deceased will be comforted, at the hour of his death, with news of Donald Trump’s impeachment)
But back in February, the Patriots proved it was possible to overcome a bad start and win. And for the next four weeks, there’s time enough to see something special. With not a single playoff spot yet clinched – though four divisions might be by Sunday night – anything is possible.
Oakland @ Kansas City – the losing skid ends here
NY Jets @ Denver – never go full Jets
Washington @ LA Chargers – the snowball rumbles down the hill
What’s the difference between mediocrity and parity? This division represents mediocrity; the NFC South represents parity. Here we have three teams at .500; the top three teams in the NFC South are playing .600+ football.
Who could have foreseen this? A year ago, the Chiefs and Broncos were formidable; the Raiders, a young team on the rise. Carolina was suffering Super Bowl hangover, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the next big thing in the NFC, the Saints had played three straight 7-9 seasons. The Chargers were coming off 4-12 and 5-11 campaigns. It’s safe to say that no team in either division (nor the divisions themselves) has met expectations. Yet by the end of the year, the power of hindsight will make it all seem as though it played out according to script.
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh – your 2017 AFC North champs
Chicago @ Cincinnati – *reviews match-up; vomits*
Green Bay @ Cleveland – please end this cartoon
I know the dreaded Browns are in the same division, but is there another team more worthy of a good blow-it-all-up-and-start-
Tennessee @ Arizona – the Cards are going to hang around the playoff picture until the end of the year
Seattle @ Jacksonville – Wilson’s escapability will negate that Jags pass rush
San Francisco @ Houston – Jimmy Garoppolo, meet Matt Cassel
Indianapolis @ Buffalo – the Bills will be in next year’s playoffs
Jacksonville and Tennessee have been wheel-to-wheel since the season began, and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case come December 31. On that day, the Jags and Titans will play in Nashville for the division title. Jacksonville is effectively a game behind since they lost the first matchup in week two. The loser of the division title will likely claim a wild card berth, so 2017 will see the end of two long playoff droughts (2008 for Tennessee, 2007 for Jacksonville). Congrats to you both, you boring-ass franchises with funky uniforms in small markets!
New England @ Miami – your 2017 AFC East champs
NY Jets @ Denver
Indianapolis @ Buffalo
In 2001, 2003, and 2004, the Patriots won the Super Bowl, becoming just the second franchise to win three Super Bowls in four seasons. (The Cowboys won in 1992, 1993, and 1995) If the Patriots win the Super Bowl this year, they’ll be the only franchise to pull it off twice and the second to win six Super Bowls.
Philadelphia @ LA Rams – should be a dogfight
Seattle @ Jacksonville
Tennessee @ Arizona
San Francisco @ Houston
Seattle still has a shot to win this division, but it’ll be the last one they’ll see for a while. Ditto Arizona and San Francisco. The Rams are going to own this thing for the next few years.
Minnesota @ Carolina – Carolina’s running game isn’t good enough, especially against these guys
Detroit @ Tampa Bay – in the event anyone cares
Green Bay @ Cleveland
Chicago @ Cincinnati
Rest assured that if Minnesota does make it to the Super Bowl, the “first team to play the Super Bowl at home” angle will be driven into the ground within 24 hours of the end of the NFC title game. It’s already getting old and it hasn’t happened yet.
New Orleans 17 @ Atlanta 20 (F – 12/7)
Minnesota @ Carolina
Detroit @ Tampa Bay
See AFC WEST comment.
Dallas @ NY Giants – see Detroit-Tampa Bay…or any other game for that matter
Philadelphia @ LA Rams
Washington @ LA Chargers
Why the Cowboys have fared so poorly compared to last year? Here’s what people say: Sean Lee is back to his old so-good-when-healthy-but-he’s-
How about Dez Bryant ain’t what he used to be? No one seems to be pointing that out.
Dez Bryant was a monster from 2012-14. 88, 92, and 93 catches. 1200, 1300 yards per season. Double-digit TDs, including a league-high 16 in 2014. Catch percentage above 60% every year of his career, except for 58.5% in 2013, for the first five seasons of his career. He was up in the stratosphere with the likes of Antonio Brown, AJ Green, Julio Jones, etc. Well, in the three seasons since that 16 TD season of 2014, Dez has caught 16 TDs total. His catch percentage has plummeted: 43.1% in 2015, 52.1% in 2016, and 53.5% this year. His yards per catch were very good a year ago at 15.9 – he’s down to 11 this year. Maybe Dak Prescott would have had fewer struggles this season given the Dez Bryant of old.
Bryant broke his foot in 2015, limiting him to nine games that year. It could well be that this very injury is leaving its mark on the rest of his career. It’ll be interesting to see if Odell Beckham Jr.’s broken ankle will prove detrimental to his own future.
Week 13: 12-3