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Ten Thoughts on the NFL

Give our Ten Thoughts a peek this week, and drop some thoughts of your own in the comment section.

NFL: New York Jets at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

1) The Buffalo Bills’ big 48-19 win on Saturday against the Denver Broncos snagged them their first AFC East crown since 1995. That was still the Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, and Steve Tasker era for the Bills, to give you an idea of how long ago that was.

Buffalo QB Josh Allen has improved his passing stats across the board every year he’s been in the league, and that’s a big reason why his offensive coordinator, Brian Dabol, is going to be the hottest name for teams in their head coaching search this year.

Interestingly enough, there are three assistant coaches on that staff with ties to the Chicago Bears. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was a fantastic corner with the Bears from 1981 to 1985, linebacker coach Bob Babich coached in Chicago from 2004 to 2012 on Lovie Smith’s staff, and tight ends coach Rob Boras was with the Bears from 2004 to 2009.

2) Buffalo now has 2 division titles in that span of 26 years, while the New England Patriots had 19 in that same time frame.

This year the Pats won’t make the AFC playoffs for just the fourth time in the 21 years Bill Belichick has coached the franchise. HIs former quarterback, Tom Brady, is closing in on his 18th career postseason appearance since being a 6th-round pick of the Patriots back in 2000.

Considering he didn’t take over as a starter until year 2, and that he missed all but 1 game to injury in 2008, Brady will have missed the playoffs only once while the primary starter if he can pull the Buccaneers — 9-5 and currently the 6th seed — into the postseason.

The Bucs just need one more win to punch their playoff ticket.

2a) Believe it or not, there’s still a scenario where the Bears can snag the 5th seed.

3) The Dallas Cowboys were the only NFC East team to win this weekend, and at 5-9 they’re still fighting for the division title. Washington (6-8) swept them this year, so Dallas would need to finish a game ahead of them to make the playoffs.

The third place New York Giants (5-9) and last place Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1) are also still in the running for the NFC East in the most exciting race between 4 losing teams ever.

The Giants swept Washington, so they would just need to pull even to take the division, while the Eagles are hanging on by a thread thanks to that tie.

4) At 11-3 the Pittsburgh Steelers have already clinched a playoff spot, but as losers of three straight, they aren’t looking very good. The Cincinnati Bengals beat them last night to pick up their third win this year in a game where Ryan Finley only completed 7 passes and outdueled Ben Roethlisberger.

5) The 10-4 Browns are still alive to win the AFC North, which makes their week 17 match-up against Pittsburgh a potential divisional championship. The Steelers have the Colts this week and Cleveland has the Jets.

6) Speaking of the Jets, they pulled off the upset of the year by beating the Los Angeles Rams 23 to 20, and in doing so completely messed up their chances to ensure the number one overall draft pick and the right to select Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.

That open Jacksonville general manager job just became very enticing to prospective executives.

7) And speaking of GM openings, the Carolina Panthers fired Marty Hurney yesterday, and that takes the number of teams looking for a new general manager up to 5.

These 5 franchises all have an extra head start on getting their guy to run things in 2021.

8) Calling a fake punt without consulting the head coach seems like a dumb idea.

After the game Lions interim head coach Darrell Bevell didn’t let on that the fake was called without the staff’s knowledge, but at Monday press conference he said Brayden Coombs acted on his own.

I just can’t imagine the audacity it takes to do something like that, especially at this level and with a coaching staff that is essentially auditioning for their jobs.

9) With no actual Pro Bowl game to be held this season, the 2020 Pro Bowl team will actually mean something from a historical stand point.

There will be no 2nd, 3rd or 4th alternates getting in to pick up a cheap accolade for their resume. Sure the fans still have a say so in the voting, but they only get a third. NFL players and coaches make up the other two-thirds, so if by some crazy reason the fans vote someone in that’s not worthy, the other votes will cancel that out.

But even though the vote is split, that doesn’t mean they always get it right.

Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but Roquan Smith has played great all year long for the Bears. I hope he takes this snub personally and runs wild on the Jags and Packers the next two weeks.

10) With the Bears down two starters in their secondary, I was expecting the Vikings’ game plan to be a bit more pass heavy than usual, especially with how good Adam Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson has been this year. Thielan was only targeted 3 times by Kirk Cousins, but Jefferson was targeted 11.

Jefferson has been outstanding all year, and he’ll be a problem for the Bears for the next decade.

Minnesota rookie wide receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON recorded eight receptions for 104 yards on Sunday against Chicago, his sixth game with at least 100 receiving yards this season.

Jefferson is the fifth rookie with at least six games of 100-or-more receiving yards in history, joining BILL GROMAN (nine games in 1960), ODELL BECKHAM JR. (seven games in 2014), HARLON HILL (seven games in 1954) and BILLY HOWTON (six games in 1952).

10a) And speaking of former Bears great Harlon Hill...