1 – Chaos in the AFC
How is it possible that the #1 seed in the AFC may be the least interesting team in the field? The Tennessee Titans are a team that has lurked in the postseason the last couple years under Mike Vrabel and own wins against the Bills, Chiefs, and Rams yet carry longer odds to win it all than all of three of those teams. I do think it makes some sense as everything is bunched up in the AFC and the Titans point differential is outside the top 10 in the NFL. With explosive offenses like Kansas City, Buffalo and even Cincinnati and LA coming to town, they could be outmatched, but I’m not about to bet against them from slugging out some ugly postseason wins.
As for the rest of the field, Wildcard Weekend could be a ton of fun in the AFC with every game holding promise of an instant classic. Next week could deliver divisional rematches of Chargers-Chiefs and Bills-Patriots, plus a Bengals-Colts match. Yes, please.
2 – Calm in the NFC
Where there’s been movement in the AFC seedings for weeks, there’s been a clearer stratification of teams in the NFC. Unfortunately, the Packers will sit at home once again with the top seed while the Cowboys, Bucs, and either the Rams or Cardinals will host wildcard games. Despite losing to the Cardinals last week, I still think the Cowboys could make an interesting run at knocking out the Packers.
Just one spot is up for grabs on the final weekend and it will come down to the 49ers or the Saints. No question the 49ers make for a better playoff weekend with the Saints suffering from a lack of stability at the quarterback position. The 49ers and Eagles make for interesting wildcard teams – the former underperforming expectations but with a chance to put it together in the postseason with the latter wildly outperforming expectations coming into the year. Regardless of the final matchups, I’m in on all of these games.
3 – Exit, Stage Right
No one should be surprised about Antonio Brown removing his jersey and running off the field during the game because, well, Antonio Brown probably needs some serious help. He’s had many, many incidents in his career and is the poster child for the sliding scale of consequences and talent. He’s avoided some major repercussions in his career because he is so talented, but he’s also flushed millions of dollars away because he isn’t in total control of his actions. This is a guy that even with the last few years of instability has likely done enough to be in the Hall of Fame.
The Bucs can’t act surprised that this happened, but I hope they find a way to get him the help he needs. The Bears had a receiver who was outspoken about his struggles with mental health, and he’s been an ambassador of mental health in the game today. Let’s hope the two WRs can connect.
4 – Bye Big Ben
I thought it was absolutely bizarre that Ben Roethlisberger would choose to come back for another season in Pittsburgh this year given how shot his arm looked at the end of 2020. There were actual humans, not robots, that tried to make the case that Big Ben was going to bounce back in a big way in 2021 and that his arm strength would return.
Yeah, that doesn’t really happen unless you’re Benjamin Buttoning it like Tommy down in Tampa. Still, the Steelers were a remarkable watch all season because they kept winning games they had no business winning because their defense would just take over. Ben’s final game at home was an astounding 24/46 for 123 yards. That’s 2.7 yards per attempt and for those of you that maybe don’t look at QB stats a lot, that’s disgustingly bad.
But he won the game so chalk one up for QB Winz, I guess. Big Ben will almost certainly go into the Hall of Fame as well, and wouldn’t it be interesting if he gets into Canton in the same class as Antonio Brown?
5 – It would be entertaining…
I don’t know if Jim Harbaugh wants back into the NFL or if he’s interested in leveraging the idea into a better contract with the University of Michigan. I don’t know if he does want back in if he’d have a strong preference for the Bears job over, say, the Raiders, nor do I know if the Bears would be interested in bringing someone in with his hardline reputation.
However… it sure would be entertaining. To be completely clear, Jim Harbaugh would not be my first choice for the next Head Coach of the Chicago Bears. He might not even crack my top five or even ten if you made me construct a list. But, the former Bears quarterback, who played for Mike Ditka, who played for George Halas, connecting all the way back to an Ohio car dealership in 1920 and the birth of pro football? Yeah, we can work with that.
6 – Hurts so Good
Jalen Hurts has his Eagles in the playoffs after coming into the season with incredibly low expectations. Many, myself included, wondered if the Eagles might just take Justin Fields at pick 10 but instead grabbed a promising young WR in DeVonta Smith while getting Miami’s 2022 1st rounder to slide back a few spots. The overachieving Eagles now get to taste the postseason with a young QB at the helm and a strong organization reloading.
What may not have been ideal was Hurts almost getting crushed by a group of fans falling from the stands into the tunnel as the railing failed. Seriously Washington, get your act together.
7 – What’s in a name?
The Washington Football Team is set to announce their new name and logo next month after playing under the WFT placeholder. Something so simple that clearly never meant to be a long-term answer might just be the best bet to stick. It’s grown on me since the adoption, and they can just use a big, stylized W on the side of the helmet. They don’t have to even change their colors if they don’t want to.
If they do go another direction, I do hope they do something with the hog theme. It’s a great nod to their fans and their history and of course, pork barrel spending in Washington. Anything other than hogs or Washington Football Team will be a loss.
8 – Bears get a Return on Investment
Ryan Pace handed out a big contract to Mike Glennon, the Ginger Giraffe, before drafting Mitchell Trubisky in 2017. Some might call it the dumbest and most expensive smoke screen ever and others might just call it the dumbest signing ever, but I think we can all agree it was dumb. The Bears got zero value out of that deal so imagine my surprise when Mike Glennon got another start in Soldier Field, this time with Big Blue. Glennon was so bad that the Giants seemed to willingly avoid throwing the ball despite the face that they trailed by two or more scores for the vast majority of the game. In fact, the Giants finished with -10 yards in the passing game with 4 Glennon turnovers. Turning the ball over 4 times on only 11 attempts is a remarkable feat of ineptitude.
Good to see the Bears finally recoup some of that money.
9 – Vikings up Next
The Bears play the Vikings to close out the year and they were predictably eliminated from the postseason by the Packers last week. Kirk Cousins was out because he tested positive for COVID and Mike Zimmer opted to play veteran backup Sean Mannion instead of the rookie Kellen Mond. After the game, Zimmer was asked if there was any interest in getting Mond a look in the finale against the Bears. Zimmer wasn’t interested…
Does Mike Zimmer want to see Kellen Mond next week in the season finale?— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) January 3, 2022
“I see him everyday.”
10 – The New Sack King
Congratulations to Robert Quinn who set a new franchise record for sacks in a single season with 18, breaking Richard Dent’s record. In a year with not a lot to cheer for, it’s been great to see Quinn show out after a disappointing first season in Chicago. I think he’s done more than enough to win the hearts and minds of Bears fans with his record setting year on a bad football team. If the Bears can get a bump in performance next year from a rebuilt offense, maybe he can stack up another 15+ sacks as he’ll get more opportunities late in games. Let’s enjoy a master craftsman at work while we have the opportunity.
What are your thoughts on the NFL this week? Sound off below in the comments and be sure to find me on Twitter @gridironborn.