Week 17 is in the books folks. That means we have our road to the Super Bowl set.
But it’s not all about those that have made it, with plenty of teams already vacating the positions of their Head Coaches or GMs.
Plenty of action, talking points and debate to be had with the dust settling on 18 teams’ seasons.
But what were the main takeaways from the week?
Top of the slops
The theory that Doug Pederson yanked Jalen Hurts in favour of the inept Nate Sudfeld to give the Philadelphia Eagles a three place boost in the draft is all nonsense.
The real reason the Eagles tanked a game they stood a legitimate chance to win was due to a call from Roger Goodell to Eagles top brass to say the NFL could not allow a 6-10 team to win a division, and thus go into a wormhole that will be deeper than a Sarlacc Pit.
Well that’s what one writer here thinks.
With the Washington v Philly game deciding if it was burgundy and gold or Big Apple blue to lift the NFC (L)East the dawning realisation that a six win team could punch a ticket in the post-season was simply too much to bear.
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Washington now host the ‘Tom’pa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday, looking to become the third successive 7 win team to win their first round playoff clash. The repercussions of giving up in a game will linger long into the non-playing season, and leave an acidic taste in the mouthes of grizzled Eagles veterans such as Jason Kelce (Travis’s big brother) and Zack Ertz (who likely played his last home game in Balboa Town.
For Washington fans their team lives to fight another day. Its highly likely that all they have done with the win in Week 17 is to slip down the draft, but where there is 60 minutes to play then it is Any Given Saturday.
Lamar loses MVP belt but is arguably in a better place
Not a soul has talked about Lamar Jackson in glowing terms this season, after all it was predictable that he would not eclipse his 2019 season in terms of wins (13) and total touchdowns (43). With a 6-5 record and 5 games behind undefeated division rivals the Steelers, even getting to 10 wins was going to be a tall order.
Instead, with odds stacked against him, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens impressive defense have reeled off 5 consecutive wins, and enter the playoffs with the #5 seed secured after they humiliated the Bengals by rushing for over 400 yards as a team. The likes of Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen have outperformed Jackson in 2020, yet for Mahomes and Allen you can bet they would rather face Pittsburgh or Cleveland in a divisional playoff round game.
LJax has been one and done in two consecutive seasons of post-season play, losing to the Titans last year. 12 months later and the Ravens travel to Tennessee to attempt to exact some revenge on Ryan Tannehill and King (Derek) Henry. With more eyes and more burden on the higher seeded Chiefs and Bills, can the Ravens maintain their form and win their first playoff game in the Lamar era.
In a game that will see more runs than an England v Vatican City cricket test, whoever pounds the rock the best will emerge victorious.
C2K? More like D2K!
Derrick Henry became the 8th player in NFL history to record 2,000 rushing yards. He joins greats Adrian Peterson, Jamal Lewis, Terrell Davis, Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, OJ Simpson and of course former Titan Chris Johnson.
With his 250 yards on the ground vs the Texans, King Henry finished up with 2,027 yards, 21 more than his fellow Titan and ends up 5th on the all time rushing leaderboard in a season.
The Titans Running Back justifying his team giving him a 4 year extension worth $50m over the next 4 years, it remains to be seen if he can keep up his current production and trajectory.
Selected to his second straight Pro Bowl, Henry has improved on previous total rush yards for the past two years by roughly 500 yards, plotting an extraordinary trend line.
2,500 rush yards next year anyone?
You’re my Number 1
Talking of King Henry he finds himself with quite a few accolades this season.
I’ll spare any S Club 7 or N-Dubz references here, but at the start of each season, each skill position player (and defensive players too!) want to be number one in the metrics that help them get paid; Touchdowns, yardage, sacks, interceptions, etc.
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But only 1 player can atop each of those mountains (usually).
So here are your 2021 season leaders in the main categories
- Passing Touchdowns: Aaron Rodgers (48)
- Rushing Touchdowns: Derrick Henry (17)
- Rushing Yards: Derrick Henry (2027)
- Receiving Touchdowns: Davante Adams (18)
- Receiving Yards: Stefon Diggs (1535)
- Total Touchdowns: Alvin Kamara (21)
- Total Scrimmage Yards: Derrick Henry (2141)
- Sacks: TJ Watt (15)
- Interceptions: Xavien Howard (10)
- Fumbles Forced: Marlon Humphrey (8)
- Total Solo Tackles: Zach Cunningham (106)
- Total Tackles for loss: TJ Watt (23)
- Most Field Goals Made: Y.Koo (37)
- Most Accurate FG kicker: M.Crosby & J.Myers (100%)
Heads start to roll
Barely minutes after the end of the regular season, teams started to press the ejector seat button on their respective Head Coaches.
First up, Adam Gase’s time as the New York Jets reached its inevitable conclusion after a two-year tenure. In the worst-kept secret in football, he was relieved of his duties after a 28-14 loss to the Patriots, drawing a line under a 2-14 season. Gase, whose contract ran until 2022, went 9-23 overall in his time at the Meadowlands.
Instead of turning around a franchise that hasn’t reached the playoffs for a decade, he leaves the Jets with five-straight losing seasons and the 32nd-ranked offence for the second year in a row. He was expected to oversee the development of franchise quarterback Sam Darnold but it seems he has taken a few steps backwards too, with career lows in several categories including passing YPG (184.0) and a 9 TD-to-11 INT ratio. The young QB has gone on record saying that he wants to be a Jet for life (poor lad) but with the team picking second in the 2021 NFL Draft, a new HC could well bring in another signal-caller to compete with, or simply replace, him.
It’s not been a lot of fun under Gase. There was the trade of star safety Jamal Adams to the Seahawks, the release of expensive RB flop Le’Veon Bell and the nine double-digit defeats. In a post-game (under)statement, chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson said: “It’s clear the best decision … is to move in a different direction. It is obvious we have not been good enough.” You’re not kidding, mate.
Talking of different directions, it’s all change in Jacksonville, following Doug Marrone’s dismissal after four-and-a-bit years. Already searching for a new General Manager and with the No. 1 draft pick (to be used on Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, one assumes) in their back pocket, their 27-20 loss to the Colts on Sunday put the final nail in a 1-15 season. Now owner Shad Khan is looking for a new HC, with Marrone’s dismissal the full stop that punctuates his 23-43 record in Florida.
Marrone took over as an interim coach for the final two games of 2016 and unexpectedly led them to the AFC Championship Game in 2017. Since then, however, it’s been much like the Jets: wins increasingly rare, star players leaving – Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue among them – and the failure to find a franchise QB. Marrone’s revolving cast under centre has included Blake Bortles, Nick Foles, Cody Kessler, Gardner Minshew, Mike Glennon and Jake Luton – eek, no wonder they have only made the play-offs once since the 2007 season. But whoever comes in will inherit the best cap space of the teams currently with vacancies (around $81m) and a shedload of draft picks, including two each in Rounds 1 and 2, so it could be quite an attractive option for someone.
Not to be outdone, the Los Angeles Chargers jettisoned Anthony Lynn on Monday after a second consecutive sub-.500 season. Lynn actually has a decent overall record (33-31) with the franchise, and has two winning seasons and a trip to the Divisional Round in 2018 to his name. But 5-11 and 7-9 campaigns have followed, so Lynn was shown the door.
Based purely on the numbers, it sounds like he’s unlucky to be let go (especially with the likes of Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor staying put despite a 6-25-1 record). But looking at the bigger picture, the writing was probably on the wall by the time LA lost by 45 points to the Patriots and slipped to 3-8. He oversaw four close ‘garbage time’ wins after dropping out of the play-off race but that was too little too late, leaving the Chargers watching post-season football on TV for the ninth time in 11 years.
Like Gase and Marrone, injuries – to Tyrod Taylor, Derwin James, Mike Pouncey, Austin Ekeler, Melvin Ingram and Bryan Bulaga – contributed to Lynn’s fate but they weren’t the only factor. Lynn made some very odd game and clock management decisions over the year and oversaw the league’s worst special teams unit, who missed kicks and had punts blocked with alarming regularity. The QB position seems in safe hands with Justin Herbert, but a new Bolts HC will get to oversee his development.
These three franchises join Detroit, Atlanta and Houston in the Head Coach Sweepstake, after they fired their own coaches mid-season. Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, Colts DC Matt Eberflus, Ravens DC Don Martindale, 49ers DC Robert Saleh and former Bengals HC Marvin Lewis are among the bigger names interviewing for the six* vacancies.
*Watch this space – it’s a fast-moving situation…
Let’s “Just” wait and see
There seems to be two standout candidates for Offensive Rookie of the year in 2020.
This is an award previously won by Adrian Peterson, Matt Ryan, Odell Beckham Jr and…Eddie Lacy.
OK, maybe winning this award isn’t a first class ticket to the Hall of Fame but you only get one shot at winning this award and is seen as a path towards greater things.
LA Chargers QB Justin Herbert has had a stellar first season in the NFL. The #6 overall pick in the 2020 draft broke Baker Mayfield’s passing Touchdown record, which now stands at 36 and became the youngest QB to throw for at least 30 TDs in the NFL.
Here are just some of the other accolades:
- Most completions in a season by a rookie quarterback (396)
- Most games with at least 300 passing yards for a rookie quarterback (8)
- Most games with multiple passing touchdowns for a rookie quarterback (10)
If it wasn’t for Anthony Lynn’s incompetency, he could have also had Andrew Luck’s record of rookie passing yards which stood at 4,374. Herbert was a mere 38 yards away.
Whilst Herbert is the likely favourite for the award, a special mention goes to Justin Jefferson, who did manage to snag the most receiving yards in a rookie season (in the Super Bowl era) with a nice round 1,400 receiving yards for the Vikings in 2020. That’s 23 yards more than Anquan Boldin’s effort back in 2003. He also breaks a Vikings rookie receptions record by 14 with 83 in his first year, surpassing the great Randy Moss’s effort in 1998. (69).
Whilst the Vikings didn’t have too much pleasure this season, Justin Jefferson has taken to the NFL like a duck to water and is a sign of perhaps great things to come, even if it was just for the celebrations.
Many feel that Jefferson is the worthy winner of the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but we’ll just have to wait and find out on “Honors Night”. In his favour was the fact it was only he and Chase Young that were selected to the Pro Bowl out of all of the rookies, so perhaps it’s not a done deal “Just” yet.
John pulled the Wol over the Cardinals’ eyes
The Rams and Cardinals faced off in Week 17 and it ended up with both teams having to play backup Quarterbacks for the majority of the game.
We knew we were getting a full dose of former AAF Arizona Hotshots QB John Wolford for the Rams after Goff was ruled out with a broken thumb.
However, on the first Arizona Cardinals series, hearts were in mouths as Kyler Murray limped off on to the sideline with an ankle injury and missed the majority of the game until late. The offence totaled 240 yards in the end for the whole game, that’s not going to see you to the playoffs. Murray played through the pain, returning to the game to try and give a last gasp effort to snatch victory that would have seen them make the post season due to the Bears’ loss, but it wasn’t to be.
Cardinals backup, Chris Streveler ended up with stats of 11/16 for 105 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT but the Rams defence smelt the blood and went in for the kill, suffocating him and the Rams offence.
Wolford’s first NFL pass was a deep bomb which was intercepted and the Cardinals turned that into their only points of the game. He recovered throughout the rest of the game and made some decent throws and was working without Cooper Kupp, who is on the Covid list. He also showed off some wheels, not something Rams QBs have ever had associated with them, with his 56 yards a high watermark for quite some time.
We are unsure as of yet whether Goff will be ok to play in the playoffs when they travel to face the Seahawks but you have to feel either way whomever lines up under center, the Rams will need to lean heavily on that defence to bail them out again. Some fans though may point to Nick Foles as a recent understudy to take their team and win the Super Bowl.
Surely can’t happen here?
The Road to the Super Bowl starts now!
14 teams remain, only one lifts the Lombardi. But who do you think will win it all in Tampa in 5 weeks time?
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