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Ten Thoughts on the NFL: Screaming From the Void

The 2022 regular season ends this week

Damar Hamlin celebrates tackle against the Minnesota Vikings. Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle
Hamlin celebrates a tackle against the Vikings. Best wishes to the entire Hamlin extended family.


Nothing makes any of this other stuff feel less important than the events of Monday Night Football. As of this writing, the most recent update from the team is that Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field, had his heartbeat restored, and is in critical condition. Anyone who saw the initial aftermath knows how scary it was, and you could feel the emotion of the players on the field. Credit to the emergency response crew on the field, and to the coaching staffs for taking care of the players and staffs on both sides.

Hamlin, by most accounts, is a young man who understood how fortunate he was and wanted to use that to give back. The NFL community has rallied together to show respect through donations to this GoFundMe to support his toy drive, having driven millions of dollars of donations since last night’s game.

Our thoughts go out to the loved ones, the family and friends of Damar Hamlin, hoping he can see all the love he has received soon.

And now for some nonsense.

The difference is points

Since 2019, there has been at least one team with 10+ wins and a negative point differential.

2019: Texans - won wildcard game, lost division game

2020: Browns - won wildcard game, lost division game

2021: Raiders - lost wildcard game

Thanks to being peak Vikings during the Packers game in week 17, the Vikings are now -19. Presuming they don’t beat the Chicago Bears by 19 (I’m not sure how they can’t beat the Bears by that much), that’s how they’ll finish the season. Let’s hope the trend for those teams continues.

Injury problems

There are 53 players on an active roster. There are 32 active rosters. That’s 1,696 active players. There are well over 300 people on injured reserve. That seems bad, right? Most are injuries below the knee.

Rivera Regrets

Ron Rivera says he doesn’t have any regrets starting Carson Wentz over Taylor Heinecke in their loss to the Browns, effectively putting a nail in the coffin for his team yet again. His head coaching record is buoyed by 3 very dominant seasons in Carolina; otherwise he’s floating on the wrong side of .500 for his career. His days as a head coach may be numbered, but I can think of a team that could use him as a defensive coordinator as they rebuild.

Touchdown Tom

After being able to count him out most of the 2022 season, Brady dropped a classic comeback game against the Panthers with 432 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also should probably buy Mike Evans a really nice watch or something, as 207 yards and 3 touchdowns is a monster game. I hope this is his last trip to the playoffs, but it feels fitting that he’d sneak back in there, given how truly dreadful the NFC South is.

Flexing Schedules

It’s been decided that the last regular season game we should watch is the Lions and Packers. From a “get people to watch the actual broadcast right now” perspective, it makes a lot of sense. The Packers are a TV draw in a way that other teams are not. And yes, there are some postseason implications on the line. One of the great quarterbacks, maybe his last hurrah, giving it his all to will his team to the postseason. The problem is that the Lions will know if the game matters to them by the time it starts.

The Lions can only make the playoffs if the Seahawks lose AND they beat the Packers. If the Seahawks win, the Lions only have spoilers to play. If the Packers win, they’re in no matter what. I’ve seen this enough to know what’s probably going to happen.

On the other hand, in the AFC South, your first-round pick quarterback from 2021 has a win-and-in-game, where nothing else matters. So from a “get people to watch,” yeah, show the Packers. If you want to grow the next generation of your storylines, you move the Jaguars. (That felt weird to write.)

Close the Divisions

Each year I grow closer and closer to the idea that we need to close the divisions and seed the playoffs based on record. Double-digit win teams having to go on the road to play a team solely because they were the least bad of a group of four is nonsensical in this day and age. You’re still going to get your 8-9 goober team in there every once in a while, but their road should be exactly as tough as they’ve made it on themselves.

On tanking

If, for some reason, you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know that I am a proponent of the concept of winning football games in the present at the sacrifice of the future state. This seems to put me in a small group, which is fine. My general philosophy is this: even if you’re not a great football team, every season should be about making the playoffs. Once the playoffs are not possible, I do not care. Lose as many games as you feel like. Go nuts.

People seem to think that it’s absolutely inevitable that the Bears will be able to go nuts trading back, gaining themselves 2,3,4,5+ additional picks in the draft. Could that happen? Absolutely, sure. It requires trading partners though, and I’m not so confident that there are a bunch of teams tripping over themselves to lose extra picks to get any of the current candidates.

There’s something that comes with being a Bears fan (or generally a Chicago fan) that seems built in. It’s this mythical future that’s going to come when all the pieces align. We’re familiar with it because we have watched the Bears be that team. The Bears traded the picks to get “the guy” twice in the last 15 years and both times it ultimately backfired. I’d argue with Jay, it backfired because they thought all they needed to do was get the guy - not have strong offensive systems, stability, or talent. I’d argue with Mitch it’s just because he’s not very good at playing quarterback - they fell in love with the person, who sounds great, and ignored that there were strong-armed, more athletic people. (This is, of course, not to mention the picks for Mack, who was a very fun player to watch and also ultimately hurt the draft future everyone seems to love so much.)

Bears coaches - Year 1

I haven’t been overly impressed by Matt Eberflus, Luke Getsy, and the others this season, but there’s not a lot of things that I think are particularly egregious, either. It’s like if I gave a carpenter a bunch of warped boards and asked them to make a bookshelf. Could it still stand? Absolutely, but I’m probably not going to get a lot of utility out of it. Remember - there were several games this season where they looked lost, only to come out in the second half and look like a markedly better team. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Let’s restock the roster and give them another year before we go to the mattresses.

And what do they need? Well, in my estimation:

  • 4 offensive linemen
  • 4 defensive linemen
  • At least 1 linebacker
  • Another corner/nickel
  • 2 wide receivers

They have the cap space to buy a few of those and should be able to do some in the draft. This team *could* look much, much better in 2023 without making some overly splashy moves.

Which brings us to...

The Future of Fields

Should Justin Fields play on Sunday? No, probably not. Especially if you believe that all of the coaches and all of the players are fully committed to getting a high draft pick. (Never mind that most of these players won’t be here and will want to play their asses off to find a new landing spot.)

I don’t disagree with Eberflus entirely. I think Fields absolutely needs more experience. The problem is this team isn’t going to give it to him. We’re still not entirely sure he can be a high-caliber NFL passer. This season has proven to me that he can definitely play. He just hasn’t had many opportunities to get experience as a passer.

The plan for this season was never great, but I got it. We all knew it’d be a season that competing would be tough, which makes it all the more frustrating to see them lose a bunch of close games or compete for forty-five minutes or more. If that’s what they can do with third-stringers, what happens if they get some people?

And with that, I have successfully settled back in to the delusion that plagues all Bears fans. Huzzah!