Each week, the Rampant Discourse staff will offer their quick takes and rampant reactions to the NFL 2017 season.
Bad break for Packers: Obviously the loss of Aaron Rodgers, even if not for the whole season, is huge. Hard to think of a player on a potential Super Bowl contender more important than Rodgers. Even if he misses just a few games, that could be enough to put the division, and the playoffs, out of reach. Losing Rodgers and losing this game gives the Vikings, no stranger to losing starting quarterbacks, a big leg up on the NFC North.
Super Bowl Hangover: While both are above .500 and either leading their division or close to it, both the Patriots and Falcons have looked pretty average lately, losing games they should’ve won or winning games they should’ve lost. Both teams are still in good positions and there’s plenty of season left, but right now neither is playing well enough to be considered favorites for returning to the big game.
Steelers show they’re still a force to be reckoned with: It’s hard to remember, with all their recent struggles, that the Steelers still lead their division and are tied for the second best record in the AFC. While it’s true they still have some warts and aren’t playing great, they reaffirmed this weekend that they have a lot of talent and can compete with any team. Write them off at your peril.
Weekly brag session: The Rams won 4 games total last season and have already matched that through week 6 and are currently first in their division. The Eagles were last in their division last year and are currently first and one of only two teams in the NFL with 5 wins. Both teams had impressive wins on the road over teams that were in first place in their division. This is no longer an early season fluke, and it’s time to stop expecting both teams to fade.
Ravens rut: The Baltimore Ravens are just not good (apologies to fellow Discourser Miguel). Only a fluky special teams play kept the game within reach, while a pair of devastating interceptions by Flacco would have sealed the win for any team more competent than the Chicago Bears. Flacco, once the highest-paid player in NFL history (not once, but twice!), just isn’t the same player he was during that magical Super Bowl season. The Ravens’ only saving grace is the fact they’re still only a game out of first place in the AFC North and have a 2-1 divisional record so far, but it doesn’t look like the Steelers are going to relinquish their lead any time soon.
Super Steelers: The Steelers victory at Arrowhead brings the Kansas City Chiefs a little closer to the pack and makes the AFC a lot more interesting. The Chiefs were starting become the presumptive favorite, although I’m not on an Andy Reid and Alex Smith led team in the playoffs, never mind a Super Bowl. The New England Patriots could still round into form in the second half the season. But the Steelers, a powerhouse prior to the season with the return of Martavis Bryant to an already loaded offense, are somewhat sneakily getting quality wins. And this one on the road, no less, in one of the most difficult (traditionally) venues for visiting teams. Oh, and nice to Le’Veon Bell starting to make some noise more often than not now.
Hail to the Redskins: OK, so the Redskins barely pulled off a win at home against the hapless San Francisco 49ers. For the second straight week they built a decent lead then blew it. But, unlike the Ravens, the Redskins still managed to grab a victory. Chris Thompson continues to be electric. And Kirk Cousins continues to earn his franchise tag money, although he still has some glaring mistakes. And with the potential for Ezekiel Elliott to be finally be suspended (although who knows at this point), the NFC East might become a two horse race (assuming that New York Giants victory at Mile High was an aberration). Clearly the Redskins have to wrest control of the NFC East away from the Philadelphia Eagles.
Let the bodies hit the floor: As if week 5’s carnage wasn’t bad enough. The Green Bay Packers are likely done for the season with star quarterback Aaron Rodgers out for the remainder of the season with a broken collarbone (something Dallas fans should know a lot about); that opens the door for the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North. The Denver Broncos suffered a host of injuries, including their quarterback and both wide receivers, pretty much sealing the division for the Kansas City Chiefs. While the debate rages about the quality of NFL play in games, all the recent injuries aren’t helping matters. And with college football offering plenty of excitement, the pros might have to up their game.
Eagles soar: I’m not yet convinced that the Eagles are a good team, but there can be no denying the fact that they are leading the division by a significant margin. With the short season of the NFL, it becomes increasingly likely that the Eagles make the playoffs and the fastest route there remains winning the NFC East, as we can expect the Giants to go nowhere and the Cowboys to struggle as Zeke does his time. It kills me to say it, but Paul might have been right.
Player safety matters: I haven’t been by in a few weeks so I think I need to talk about this hit now.
Let’s first talk about Adams. He’s OK. He suffered a significant injury, as it is impossible to not call a concussion a significant injury. He also sustained some shorter-term damage to his neck. But a few weeks later he’s playing again. He scored last week against Dallas and played in the game this week with the Vikings. Adam’s took the hit, but he has bounced back, and we can all be grateful. For now, at least. The cumulative and long-term effect of those concussions is the problem.
In my season intro I talked about the gruesomeness of the injuries in the modern league, and how the hits we celebrated a decade ago are repulsive now. This is example A. And yet, my very first reaction upon seeing the play was, “they shouldn’t have flagged that.” It is ingrained in me that the defensive player needs to hit the receiver there to knock the ball loose, or at least try to. But the truth is that the offensive players these days are so big, so strong, and so well trained that the only way they will drop the ball is if they are knocked unconscious. And that’s what Trevathan did. That situation cannot be allowed to occur if we are going to truly protect our players, so perhaps the penalty and a fine are the only solution.
But they’re not. That play was over before the hit happened. Adams’ forward progress had been nullified. Refs are reluctant to blow the whistle for forward progress being stopped because as soon as they do the situation can change and the offense is penalized for a “blown call”. But when the defense is bearing the brunt of all of the rule changes to promote player safety, this is one where the offense can give a little. Blow the whistle, refs. Call Adams “down” when his forward progress is stopped. Then you don’t need to wait and see if Adams gets back up or not to decide if you need to throw a flag. A hit after the whistle will get a flag every time, and no one will even argue.
Attendance issues: I also noted that the player injury issue would be significant among other cultural items that helped to push the NFL out of the public eye and decrease viewership. I never predicted the response to the anthem/flag issue would be the larger factor. And I remain skeptical that this is a genuine counter-protest by viewers. Personally, I have watched very little NFL since the anthem/flag issue became a bigger deal. But it hasn’t been because I wanted to penalize football for the political stances of the players. I have simply been too busy, and football has meant too little to me. I think most of those who are now not watching might feel the same way. They may be more off-put by the actions than I was, but a decade ago this wouldn’t have mattered as much. Our love of the game would have overcome the annoyances. If anything, it might have spurred it on, as a heel does in a wrestling match. We’d cheer for every sack of Kaepernick all the more. Now the trance is broken and it’s just an extra excuse not to watch for a public already content to not watch.