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Ten Thoughts on the NFL and Beyond

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It’s the slow season for NFL news, so let’s have a little fun but we’re still talking football.

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons
The best player in the NFL?
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

This is the worst part of the NFL offseason for football fans. Some are a fan of another sport but if the NFL is No. 1, as is the case for me, it’s difficult not to start daydreaming about tackling and touchdowns.

1. The NFL Network unveiled its final spots in their annual Top 100 Players list. Aaron Rodgers finished sixth and the top five were Kahlil Mack, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Von Miller and Tom Brady.

The thing is, everyone always complains about the “player voted” listed and how much of a sham it is. JJ Watt was upset when he was voted the 35th best player in the league after missing 13 games. While in one regard he’s right, one the other hand, if being injured isn’t an object then I think everyone would say he is one of the 40 best players in the league.

The list gets a lot of things wrong and I feel like it is weighted too much on one season; last year Josh Norman was No. 11, this year No. 59; Derek Carr was 100th last year and was 11th this year. Matt Ryan went from unranked to No. 10.

Any of those players could be way back down the list even further with a bumpy 2017. It should just be NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of Last Season.”

Either way, it gets clicks, views and ratings so it will keep filling the May-June portion of the offseason for a long time to come. If you have issues with the list though, just remember how the players vote when you wonder why journalists vote for the Hall of Fame and All-Pro lists.

2. There were no Chicago Bears on the list. That shouldn’t really surprise anyone considering how bad they were last year and how many injuries they had. With any kind of significant improvement this fall, they could land a player or two on the list next year. Which players are most likely? I’d say Jordan Howard, Leonard Floyd and Cody Whitehair. I am leaving off Kyle Long because there are some questions about his health right now.

Which Bears players do you think would be most likely to land on next year’s NFLN list?

3. It’s still too early for any real predictions for the 2017 season because there is still so much to be figured out: jobs to be won, depth charts to be set and, unfortunately, injuries to be had and also to be healed.

Injuries in August or players rehabbing often have the biggest impact on how teams will fare. Where will JJ Watt be come week one? What about Cam Newton? As I mentioned in my last note, there’s a lot of question around Kyle Long and where he is at in his rehab.

Long had serious injuries to his ankle and shoulder last year. He has put off surgery to his shoulder but even as he rehabs his ankle, he’s a candidate to begin camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

4. With that being said, there should be some teams that regress in 2017 and others that might impress.

Each season is full of some surprise teams and some that have large expectations attached to them and for whatever reason disappoint.

One team that I might expect to regress is the Atlanta Falcons. Super Bowl losers, for whatever reason, always seem to take a slight step back the next year. Another candidate for a regress, to me, is the Dallas Cowboys. A sophomore slump for Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott would throw a major wrench into the team’s defense of the NFC East title. Plus, the NFC East is often wild.

5. Some teams that could be set for some surprising surges in their record this year are the Tennessee Titans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Is picking two nine-win teams from a season ago to win more games really a “surge?” Well not exactly, but they have a lot of young talent, added some more in the draft and each is in a division that is not stacked with a ton of good teams.

The Titans could easily win two or three more games and the Bucs could win a couple more as well and be right in the playoffs.

Both should be models for what the Bears want to be in 2018 and beyond.

6. The writers here at WCG are an interesting bunch. Of course we all share a love of the Chicago Bears that really binds us together but we also all have plenty of other sports interests outside of the Bears and this blog.

For example, Robert is a passionate Blackhawks fan and wrote for our sister blog Second City Hockey.

Jack is a diehard Cubs and Bulls fan and writes extensively about the NBA and chimes in regularly on the GOAT conversation on his Twitter page.

Schweickert is also a diehard Cubs fan, Lester follows professional wrestling and the Detroit Tigers and Andrew Link is a White Sox fan.

We all have our teams and sports to pass the offseason. As for me, I enjoy the Cubs mainly and the Blackhawks and Bulls too but the other sport I follow with a similar fervor to football is Formula 1.

This season is very exciting so far. With eight races in the books, championship leader Sebastian Vettel is ahead of Lewis Hamilton by just 14 points. At the last round in Azerbaijan, the two collided under a safety car period while running 1-2 and Vettel received a penalty for his reaction, when he served into the race-leading Hamilton. The two finished the race fourth (Vettel) and fifth (Hamilton) but the championship is going to be far more dramatic from here on out.

Anyway, I know it’s a niche sport in this country, but it’s a fun sport and one I will passionately talk about with others, if anyone is ever interested. Motor racing is a general interest of mine and F1 in particular is the one I follow closest.

What other sports do you follow when the NFL is off?

7. My wife Ashley and I bought our first house back in March.

Being a young couple without kids, I have been able to turn the basement into my “man cave.” It isn’t quite finished yet, but I do have some nice theater seating I received secondhand, a 55” TV, some recliners and a mini-fridge.

I’ve painted two walls navy and the other two walls will be painted orange, for obvious reasons. I’m calling it my “Bears den” and I plan on watching every Bears game I can from it this fall.

Just last week I bought the latest piece of wall art for it (of which there are many): an original Black & Blues Brothers offensive line poster. I’ve always wanted one of those and it will look great in my den!

I’ve found that old posters like that are a fun collector’s item that don’t have a ton of expense to them. They’re less expensive than autographed items and easier to display and store. The next poster I’ll be on the lookout for is the Junk Yard Dogs. Any leads on one?

Once I get my basement further along I’ll post some photos of it and encourage you all to share yours.

For now though, what old school posters did you have? Any Costacos brothers or other promotional posters from the ‘80s or ‘90s?

8. I hope that readers of this blog have enjoyed the 30 Day Challenge as much as the writers have. They’re all a good chance to go out and get to know each other a little better. Hopefully, with a little more common ground and sharing the little squabbles and arguments that do pop up will be less likely to become the shouting matches and personal attacks that are too common everywhere on the internet, including here.

I know I haven’t commented on as many of the challenges as I’d have liked but I have been reading them. Here is a link to the entire set.

9. A shade over two years ago I posed the question on this blog if the Chicago Bears were the worst run professional Big Four team in Chicago and a whopping 51 percent said yes.

At that time the Bulls had just fired Tom Thibodeau, the Cubs were just starting to show their potential, the Blackhawks had just clinched their third Stanley Cup since 2010 and the White Sox were middling around.

The Bears were coming out of the Emery/Trestman regime and picking up the pieces. In many ways they still are. I wonder how that same poll would go today?

The Cubs just won the World Series but are floating around .500, the White Sox are deep into a rebuild of their own, 10 games below .500 but with an exciting group of prospects in the minors. The Blackhawks are re-tooling and reloading to fit under the salary cap and remain in contention. The Bulls just traded away their best player for an injured player and drafted a questionable player in the top 10.

I imagine the Bears would still win the poll. They still haven’t sniffed the playoffs and have actually gotten worse, record-wise in the last two years.

Maybe it’s a poll worth revisiting ahead of training camp. Do you think they’re still the worst run team in Chicago?

10. As the calendar turns to July I’ll start to get pumped for another fall of Chicago Bears football, even if expectations are relatively low. There’s a lot of intrigue surrounding the young team. Setting aside Mitch Trubisky, which player are you most excited about on each side of the ball?

Since I can’t pick just one player, I decided to go easy and make it one from each side. For offense I am excited to see what Cam Meredith can do. I’m not sold on him as a sure-fire 1,000-yards every year type receiver, but I think he can be a more-than-solid WR that can nail down a starting position for the foreseeable future.

On defense, I am really excited about seeing what Leonard Floyd can do in his second season. Hopefully he can put the concussion issues behind him and improve his form and just get better and better. Hopefully 2017 is a breakout season for the first-round pick a year ago.

10b. Have safe and fun Fourth of July next week! Enjoy the freedoms we have in this country and if you participate in blowing up fireworks, just be sure to use caution and safety. Have a happy Independence Day WCG!!