All you need to know about what is wrong with the NFL could be found this past weekend just by what took place in the NCAA. Each week a drama unfolds for college teams desperately trying to run the table for an undefeated season just so they can be considered for one of just four playoff spots. One loss, especially at this time of year, can kill a team’s dream. Their opponents can relish in playing their hearts out while ending their rival’s chances, which results in some incredible games.
With the second, third, and fourth ranked teams losing this week, the NCAA has a difficult task in deciding who might move on in January. There’s even hope for a two loss team moving on to the playoffs for the first time.
Meanwhile, in the NFL, life does not get interesting until about this time of year. After two months of working out the kinks and finding their rhythm — coach-speak for going through the motions — teams begin to play with a little more urgency. Even players on losing teams start to step up knowing they may be auditioning for a job next year.
And what will it result in? Unfortunately, because of the nature of how the NFL playoffs are set up, we will see good teams going home after the regular season ends and bad teams in the playoffs.
The NFL would like to have us believe this is due to parity. They want us to believe most of the teams are equally good and capable of making it to the playoffs when in truth, there are just three teams, New England, Seattle, and Dallas, who can be viewed as very good and maybe four or five others who may end up deserving of being a playoff team.
The NFL has to address this or face a further drop in their ratings. They have to find ways to make bad teams realize they have to play inspired football or they risk more than just missing out on the playoffs. There needs to be fewer, not more teams in the post season.
Maybe something more radical needs to be done. How about after eight weeks, the top 16 teams move on to a separate super division and play for eight playoff spots? The bottom 16 would then be left to play one another with the top four also moving on as wild card teams. One thing for sure, what the NFL is doing now is no longer as enjoyable for the fans to follow as the NCAA regular season is.And I say all of this after the NFL had one of its better weeks of games.
Baltimore 28 – Cleveland 7
I am out of jokes for the Browns. Simply put, they have no business playing in the NFL, which is a shame because there might not be an NFL had it not been for this team’s founder and namesake, Paul Brown. Bad drafting, bad injuries, bad coaching, and bad management will get you this.
Meanwhile, Baltimore is an example of how too many NFL teams are allowed to take their time and find themselves in the regular season because of too many games and too many playoff spots. Fortunately, this game came on a night the rest of the nation was still in shock over the election results. The only thing that could be more shocking is if Cleveland had won.
Los Angeles 9 – New York Jest 6
In a game about nothing, the fans got nothing … but maybe drunk.
Washington 26 – Minnesota 20
Four losses in a row should be just enough to write off the Vikings. Unfortunately, it isn’t because they play in the NFC North where just about everyone else is capable of losing four or five in a row. Still, this team is going nowhere and not only do their opponents sense it, but the Vikings know it. They’ve lost their confidence, something that keeps growing inside the Redskin locker room.
Kansas City 20 – Carolina 17
There comes a point in the season where teams look back for that defining game, the one that makes or breaks their season. This game will prove to be just that for both of these teams. For the Chiefs, it shows everyone they have what the Panthers lack — heart. Coming from behind to beat the defending NFC champs, in a game had the Panthers won would have found them believing they could still win their division. Now, they can start planning their holiday vacations.
Houston 24 – Jacksonville 21
Sure, Houston is in first place, but no one sees this team as being very good. Good teams take care of business. They destroy a team like the Jaguars and bask knowing they did so while being able to get plenty of rest. For their players Instead, the Texans were pushed to the end against a team that is horrible.
Philadelphia 24 – Atlanta 15
Will the real Eagles and Falcons please stand up? Just when we all thought Philadelphia was in over their heads with a rookie quarterback and the Falcons were ready to join the league’s elite, they switch roles and play more like their opponent. As a result, Philadelphia is back in the thick of playoff talk while the Falcons have to be looked at as no better than a Jekyll and Hyde team. Who knows what they will be next week?
Denver 25 – New Orleans 23
Some teams always seem to figure a way to win while others find a way to lose. This was the case when Denver ran back a blocked PAT for a 2-point win over the cursed Saints. People can argue all they want about whether or not the play should have been whistled dead for running out of bounds, but you can bet the league will pass a rule ASAP that requires all players to wear black shoes. White shoes and a white sideline is a bit much for NFL refs and replay.
Tennessee 47 – Green Bay 25
This was another game that will likely be the turning or breaking point for these two teams. With a victory, Green Bay could have moved even with Minnesota and have everything to look forward to in the final weeks of the season. However, after the first eight weeks of inconsistent play and squabbling, this game marked the week the Packers called it a season.
This game was not close because the Packers have decided it is not worth the effort to push for a playoff spot that will only yield an early exit. Vacation sounds better to them. However, the Titans decided they do not care how bad others see them, they want to make the effort to win and push for the post season. I’m betting we will see more guys with that attitude playing in Green Bay next year.
Tampa Bay 36 – Chicago 10
Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, we can start the clock on how old our grand children will be when the Bears win another Super Bowl. At this rate, I am guessing they will be very old which is what all the losing has become for their fans. Meanwhile, the Bucs are still in the thick of things thanks mostly to playing Chicago and because Atlanta refuses to run away with the NFC South.
Miami 31 – San Diego 24
This game will be about as close to a playoff game as San Diego has this year because with the loss, they are pretty much dead in the water and can start thinking about next year. However, the surprising Dolphins keep winning and can now begin believing they have found the right formula to win in the NFL. It’s a pretty simple formula: just show up to play every week and know your opponents won’t half the time. This assures you eight wins out of the gate. Win half of the eight in which your opponent shows up and you are suddenly a 12 win team. How difficult is this to master?
Arizona 23 – San Francisco 20
Arizona wins for the fourth time this year which means little because they failed to do what just about everyone else does and that is run up 40 or more points on a horrible defense. As for San Francisco, all I can say is they just didn’’t suck as much this week as they usually do. This means some of them are starting to realize they are playing for a job in the league next year. Somehow I have to believe there will be a lot of guys on this squad looking for new work very soon.
Dallas 35 – Pittsburgh 30
On paper, Dallas did not need this win as bad as Pittsburgh did, but in reality, they did. Not only are they playing for home field advantage, they were looking to put to rest whether or not they can beat a well coached team with tons of playoff experience, with a rookie leading them. Unless Dak Prescott falls apart, this is now his team and Tony Romo can carry a clipboard and start thinking about where he wants to play next year. Let’s see, Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, …
Seattle 31 – New England 24
Could New England be second-guessing themselves for trading Jamie Collins? To lose to Seattle is no shame, but to give up 31 points at home to a team you may end up facing again on a neutral field in the Super Bowl might concern Patriot fans. In the end, this game was more important to the Seahawks if they want to keep pace with Dallas and run away with their division. Count on both of these teams to be major players in January and who knows, we may get another game for the ages from them the first weekend in February.
Another game that pretty much no one but guys in need of a gambling fix can get excited about. Can you imagine how Howard Cosell would react to having to fake interest in another festering pile of dung like this affair? He and Dandy Don would be smashed before halftime and Frank Gifford would be stuck trying to navigate his way over their intoxicating commentary and musical ramblings. God, I miss that gang which is what I think I will do with tonight’s game.
Prediction: Cincinnati 26 – New York Giants 26
This game has no point so it’s only fitting it has no end.
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Editor’s Note: The Giants beat the Bengals, 21-20. That was a very close prediction.
Photos by Claudia Gestro unless otherwise noted
Top photo: Ravens head coach John Harbaugh — his team is now 5-4.
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.