Yes, unpredictable; because frankly half the stuff that is going on in the league is unforeseen for the least bit. While a lot of things have caught all of us by surprise, some things we probably should have saw coming. But these are our key observations from this wild season to date.
We Totally Got Our Predictions Wrong
Volatility is nothing new in the NFL when it comes to predicting where each team will finish. It is not unusual for a team to go from worst to first, or vice versa. So in our 2017 NFL Predictions article we felt pretty confident that we would be able to give a fairly accurate forecast of what to expect to happen this season.
Well, that didn’t work out so well. Especially when it comes to certain teams we thought would be division winners.
The most conspicuous gaffe was our pick of the New York Giants winning the NFC East. Sitting at an abysmal 1-6 at the halfway point, it is puzzling that this team was seen as a Super Bowl contender. But in hindsight maybe it was not wise to even consider them that being that they did absolutely nothing to address their atrocious offensive line this offseason. Bad offensive line, no running game, a non-mobile quarterback, and a much harder schedule; yeah, 1-6 doesn’t sound that far-fetched when you think about it.
We had high preseason praises for the Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, and Green Bay Packers; but they also have looked extremely suspect to this point. The Packers have a valid excuse for their troubles as Aaron Rodgers may have been lost for the season due to a broken collarbone. He is so important to their success that they are essentially a single digit win team without him.
The Falcons simply look like they are the latest sufferers of the Super Bowl hangover, not having anywhere near the offensive flair they displayed last season. Same can be said for the Oakland Raiders as they are in severe danger of not making the playoffs altogether if they don’t get it together soon.
We expected the New England Patriots to be close to invincible this season. Adding impressive talent to a roster that hoisted the Lombardi trophy in February, we figured they would have a cake walk as they position themselves for a Super Bowl repeat. Let’s just say they look far from being invincible. Injuries and a surprisingly bad defense have made the Patriots look pretty vulnerable to this point. With that said they still sit atop of the AFC East with a 6-2 record, but it is no longer a forgone conclusion that they’ll be representing the AFC in Super Bowl LII.
An Abundance of Surprise Teams
Raise your hand if you had the Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, and Los Angeles Rams either leading or tied for the lead of their respective divisions at this point of the season. I think it’s safe to say no one would have thought this would be the case. Add the fact that all but one team are over .500 in a surprisingly competitive AFC East division.
It still remains to be told how the rest of the season will play out and which teams will finish where, but it has been quite surprising to see the teams that have thrown themselves in the playoff conversation. The Philadelphia Eagles look to have a very comfortable lead in the NFC East and flaunt the best record in the league behind the exceptional play of second year quarterback Carson Wentz.
Another second year quarterback has positioned his team to unexpectedly contend for a playoff spot. Jarrod Goff, who not too long ago was in the “draft bust” conversation, has spearheaded the resurgence of the Los Angeles Rams franchise. Under first year Head Coach Sean McVay, the Rams have sky rocketed to being the second highest scoring offense in the league.
It will be interesting to see how these surprise teams close out the season, but they all have shown that they could possibly be serious threats come playoff time.
Rookies Taking the League by Storm
The league felt the impact of this year’s rookie class from right out the gate, literally. A third round selection of the Kansas City Chiefs, running back Kareem Hunt exploded on the national stage by carving up the defending champion Patriots with an unprecedented 148 rushing yard/98 receiving yard/3 touchdown virtuoso performance in the season’s very first game.
The talented rookie leads the league in rushing at the midway point, and has turned the historically conservative Chief’s offense into one of the most explosive offensive units in the NFL.
But the rookie who has made the biggest impression is Houston Texans rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson. The 12th pick in this year’s draft has set the league on fire with his historic play and has shockingly lead the Texans to be the highest scoring offense in the league, in addition to being tied for the league lead in touchdown passes.
Watson’s play has been so fascinating that he is an early candidate for the league MVP. And with an exceptional cast of offensive weapons at the skill positions, Watson can very well rewrite the record books once he’s done with his rookie campaign.
Lack of Dominating Teams
Parity is a normal thing in the NFL, which is part of what makes the league so appealing. At the start of each season, fans can have realistic hope that their team has a shot to win it all (unless you’re a Cleveland Browns fan). But what generally happens each season is that a certain team simply dominates its competition and becomes a clear cut favorite in comparison with the rest of the field. This year however, no such team exists.
Early on the Kansas City Chiefs looked to be that team, but have stumbled a bit recently. The Philadelphia Eagles are an impressive 7-1; but have had a fairly easy schedule so far and haven’t necessarily dominated the teams they’ve played.
It is clearly the type of season where on any given Sunday any team can be beat. Every team has some noticeable flaws, but it may come down to who gets hot at the end of season and carry that momentum throughout the playoffs.
The National Anthem Protest
One thing is for sure when it comes to the NFL, they do a piss poor job of handling controversial matters. And this is on full display when it comes to Colin Kaepernick and the player’s National Anthem protest.
Starting with the first blunder the NFL committed, is the handling of free agent Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick made headlines last year as he peacefully protested social injustices caused to minority communities by the hands of some in law enforcement. His stance to sit or kneel during the playing of the National Anthem before games expectantly didn’t sit well with some in the country, but he peacefully exercised his first amendment rights with no interruption to the game.
Kaepernick had a fairly efficient 2016 season on a terrible San Francisco 49ers team, and headed into the 2017 offseason as one of the best free agent quarterbacks on the market. Much to the surprise of many from a talent standpoint, he was passed over multiple times by teams in the league for clearly less talented players. Once the offseason came to a conclusion, it became very obvious that there was an unspoken/unwritten agreement amongst all teams in the league to not sign him. The rumblings of “blackballing” were surfacing.
What the NFL hoped to have “swept under the rug” by not signing Kaepernick, led to even more animosity from not only fans, but the players as well. And as a result, the NFL has essentially spilled hot coffee on its lap.
Week after week, the National Anthem protest has been joined by more and more players and has led to the NFL being in the news once again for things not related to what goes on in the field of play. Add what many feel as offensive comments from Donald Trump, Jerry Jones, and Houston Texans owner Robert McNair; and you have the perfect recipe for continued hostility between the players and the owners.
There’s no telling if and when the end will be in sight for the NFL’s most recent mishandling of a controversial topic.