2018 NFL Week 17
It might not sound like the best time to leave the country, but life doesn’t always make sense. With Week 17 looming and few precious playoffs, this is the time I’ve chosen to fly across the pond and spend a few days in Ireland.
Don’t worry, I’m looking at this as a fact-finding mission. You see, I’m still going to watch football (not futbol) while in Dublin and I’ve even scouted out a few locations that proudly show American footie on Sundays. So, when the Rams kick off at 9 p.m. local time for a 1 p.m. start in Los Angeles, Uncle Sid will be there wearing a beanie and getting after it with a pint or two of Guinness.
I’m going to observe how the Euros take in the games. Are they cheering at the right time? Will they feel that Dez caught the ball? Are they just overwhelmed by the bright lights and the moving images? In just a few days, I’ll know.
Anyway, forget about that. In the spirit of holiday cheer, I’d like to hand out a few cheers to:
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Yes, once upon a time they were 3-5 and your boy was ready to land a finishing move and get them out of the way. But America’s Team somehow didn’t quit, did enough to fix their predictable play-calling and rode their defense to a series of one-score wins en route to the NFC East title.
I’m going to start my 2019 doubting campaign right now. This team will be the one to take a big step back next season, but for right now, why not enjoy ourselves? Head coach Matt Nagy should nab coach of the year honors after taking a 5-11 team to an NFC North crown and possibly (if things go right) a first-round playoff bye. Wow.
He grabs his crotch, tongue-lashes his former head coaches and plays the game as though it stole something from him. I can’t get enough. People think they want interesting from their professional athletes until the second they say something you don’t agree with. Nobody fits into a perfect package. I’ll say it once again. This guy is box office. When he plays, I want to watch, and furthermore, I’m not watching to see him fail. I want to see him shred defenses and not be afraid to tell the world about it.
Defensive tackles aren’t supposed to have 20 sacks in a season. Yet, here we are. Say what you want about the Rams defense and you won’t get an argument to the contrary out of me. However, it’s becoming crystal clear that No. 99 has the makings of a future Hall of Famer.
He’s going to do it again, isn’t he? This would be even more amazing than last season. The Eagles were another team I was ready to throw dirt on just a few weeks ago, because with Carson Wentz dealing with more injuries, their playoff hopes seemed moribund, at best. Smash cut to this past Sunday and Foles set the franchise record with 471 passing yards in a season-saving win over the Texans. This man is going to get a starting job next season, guaranteed.
Andrew Luck’s lost 2017 season seems like half-a-lifetime ago. They managed to fix their porous offensive line and give birth to a promising defense in just one offseason. If they reach the playoffs (more on that later) I like their chances against anyone.
NFL’S TOP 10
1) Saints — Are they a complete team? Maybe not, but they’re close enough to wrap up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Kudos.
2) Rams — It was a relief to see their offense look more like their dominant selves, even if the competition left a lot to be desired. And while it’s easy to look at C.J. Anderson’s somewhat chunky frame and see why teams passed on him, you can’t argue with the results: 167 yards and a touchdown after being picked up off the waiver wire just days before.
3) Bears — Again, you heard it here first: This team will take a step back next season.
4) Chargers — The Chiefs have the tiebreaker, but it’s hard not to feel better about the Bolts than about Kansas City at the moment.
5) Chiefs — They are slumping at the worst time. If they choke against the Raiders on Sunday, that means that …
6) Patriots — … New England would just have to beat the Jets to force the Chiefs to play on wild-card weekend. Wow. When the Patriots slump, the AFC bends to meet them. Unreal.
7) Texans — That was a tough loss against Philly on the road, but I didn’t think any less of the Texans. Deshaun Watson did everything humanly possible to win this one. He’ll win an MVP one day.
8) Ravens — Baltimore is the anti-Chiefs. They’re playing their best football at just the right time. And I agree with Eric Weddle, the Ravens are the team nobody wants to play at the moment.
9) Cowboys — Another team nobody wants to play. They can control the clock and more important, keep your offense from getting big plays.
10) Seahawks — If it wasn’t for Matt Nagy, coach of the year would belong to Pete Carroll. Who knows, he still might win it anyway. You can’t say enough good things about how the Seahawks are taking care of business right now. You can bet they want a piece of the Rams in the postseason.
WHAT’S THE CHATTER?
Harbaugh to the Big Apple? Well, it’s coaching rumors season and the latest one has Gang Green planning to make a big offer to bring Jim Harbaugh back to the NFL. First off, never believe a rumor. Second, I believe this one. This team is one good offseason away from making a big leap and Harbaugh would fit in well.
The Big Hit: Deshaun Watson is just 69 (nice) yards from crossing the 4,000 plateau this season, but he’s also closing in on a dubious mark. He’s been sacked 56 times this season, and if he gets brought down four more times on Sunday, that would be the NFL’s first 60-sack season since 2006. Gross. The Texans need to fix that. Now.
Clinching scenarios: Twelve teams are in position to clinch something on Sunday. I went through the list and it made my eyes cross, so I’m not going to bother trying to break everything down for you here. Google it.
One big disappointment: Yes, the Steelers aren’t out of the playoff race yet, but they need all kinds of help. It’s pretty much over for the Black and Gold this season and while it pains me to see one of my Super Bowl picks fail to even make the dance, it’s always funny to see Pittsburgh fans miss the playoffs.
WHAT TO WATCH IN WEEK 17
Jets at Patriots: It bothers me that the Patriots would have a first-round bye if the season ended today. Sam Darnold could do me a huge solid by shredding New England. He probably won’t, but a man can dream.
Chargers at Broncos: Rivalry game, so nothing is taken for granted. However, the Chargers should handle their business and with some luck, could land a division title.
Raiders at Chiefs: Another AFC West game with implications. Keep an eye on this one. Kansas City’s running game is suspect now and its defense is cratering.
49ers at Rams: I’m nervous for this one as the Rams really need that playoff bye. I expect them to play with a sense of urgency.
Bears at Vikings: Chicago is playing for positioning while Minnesota is playing for its playoff life at home. I like the Vikings here.
Browns at Ravens: My new favorite quarterback vs. my favorite team down the stretch. Grab the popcorn.
Colts at Titans: One game, one playoff spot on the line. The loser goes home. God, this is what I live for.
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 - Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 - Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.