- This is the first time three teams from the NFC South have made the playoffs in the same year. I initially expected a single division sending three teams to the playoffs to be extremely uncommon, but it happened as recently as 2014-15 when the AFC North did it (for a second time). Still it’s an impressive turnaround for a division that sent the Panthers to the playoffs in 2014 with a 7-8-1 record and now has a decent chance to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl for the third year in a row.
- Good offensive line play is confusing. It was frustrating to see how well the Vikings offensive line played in the Bears’ finale last week, and it strikes me just how impressive the transition of that unit has been. Last year, it was one of the worst in the league and ultimately the downfall of the team’s season. This year, with a couple low-profile free agents, a couple mid-round draft picks, the unit is playing well despite injuries to both starting tackles and their promising rookie center.
- Speaking of which, why is the NFL so insistent on measurable for the offensive tackle position? The other team who surprised me with their offensive line play last weekend was the Cincinnati Bengals, who, after a season of dismal tackle play, have improved significantly after injuries forced them to play guard Clint Boling at tackle. Boling, who played both tackle and guard in college, was never considered an NFL tackle because of his size. He’s considerably outplayed both the Bengals’ larger starting tackles and the entire line is notably improved. Size is an asset, but maybe it should be measured against other valuable qualities like perhaps skill and technique?
- Can people stop getting released and signed by the Patriots? This trend is annoying. The Patriots have Brady and Belichik and more than their share of jewelry. Do they really need to scoop up every bratty free agent who gets dumped by their team? I don’t know how much of an impact Martellus Bennett and Kenny Britt will make in the postseason, but James Harrison coming in to shore up their weakest position group is super obnoxious. Also, not a good look for Harrison who will almost definitely be playing against his old team in the most meaningful game of their season.
- The centralized replay review system has been a failure. The goal, presumably was to have more consistency and less outrage at ridiculous rulings. The result has been frequent reversals of at-beast equivocal calls, often citing tedious details of the NFL rule book and the ever-whimsical catch rule. The Zach Miller touchdown was the most egregious example of this, but it seems to happen every week.
- Speaking of ridiculous officiating, the dumbest rule in the NFL rule book needs to go. I can think of at least 4 examples of dumbest-rule enforcement this season that all had significant impact on their respective games. The dumbest rule, of course, is that when a player fumbles the ball out bounds in the end zone, it is a touchback for the other team. When a player fumbles the ball out of bounds anywhere else, their team gets the ball at the spot of the fumble. In the end zone, possession flips teams and the ball goes to the 20 yard line. It’s not intuitive or particularly fair, and there’s no real explanation for it available. Presumably, it was meant to punish people for trying too hard to get a touchdown.
- The Charger’s should be in the playoffs. They’ve been one of the most exciting teams to watch and have been rolling toward the playoffs with great momentum. They destroyed their week 17 opponent, and were let down by the Jaguars and Ravens who failed to deliver against inferior teams. This series of events just makes me more pessimistic about the AFC playoff race.
- On second thought, this might be good for the Bears. The Titans making the playoffs helps guarantee that Mike Mularkey keeps his job at least for the time being. The Bears are already competing with 5 other teams for head coach candidates, and an offensive minded coach looking to develop a young quarterback doesn’t need any shiny Marcus Mariotas distracting them from the ultimate landing spot in Chicago.
- The Packers are looking for a new GM. Apparently, Ted Thompson is moving on to a “different role.” This whole Aaron Rodgers injury is really backfiring. We get one season without the Packers in the playoffs, and I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but the mediocrity of the Packers roster has been revealed and the Packers are already taking steps to fix it. This is worrisome. I much preferred when Rodgers covered the holes and everyone believed the Packers had a good roster.
- Could people hurry up with their lists of top free agents? It’s almost as if the rest of the league believes there’s still relevant football to be played. It’s all about free agency and the draft now, and I want a ready-made shopping list.
Check out my Thoughts on the NFL this week and make sure you leave a few thoughts of your own in the comment section.