If you’ve been watching the NFL for the first couple weeks of this season, I am sorry. I’m sure many of you who bother to read this have, in fact, been keeping up with the action and I assure you, you aren’t alone in being confused. This might be the most difficult to understand season of professional football I have ever seen with a severe lack of good teams combining with a disconnect between players and owners leading to a mess of a sport.
One of my biggest gripes with the NFL in its fifty-third season is the remarkably dull play. Over the past couple of years, football fans have been gifted with some of the most memorable seasons in the history of the game featuring dramatic playoffs and leading to spectacular Super Bowls with exciting regular season storylines sprinkled in. For instance, last year fans around the country rejoiced as the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs for the first time in seventeen years. The postseason brought massive amounts of drama leading to some of the best games in history including the Minnesota Miracle (which made yours truly a fair amount of money), and one of the most memorable finales in recent history (which lost yours truly an awful lot of money).
This year feels different. This year feels uninspired. It feels like football accidentally neutered itself, much like the mascot in the video below. I can’t quite figure out why – it certainly might be because my team is badly losing games in the regular season, something I’ve never quite seen – but I think it’s because the league lacks good teams. Many would consider that a non-issue, which makes sense. More evenly matched teams leads to more competitive games and thus better football. But it’s not working that way because while all teams are at the same level, that level is terrible. It seems like one team randomly beats up on another or two bad teams just find creative ways to avoid winning.
Another reason football appears to be in a comatose is actually just the same as the first. With no good teams, there aren’t any underdogs, which has always made for some of the most exciting storylines. Take the Cleveland Browns for instance. It really is, and I mean it, fun to watch this team play, despite my hatred for Baker Mayfield (who just shows such poise when on the field). It would be a hell of a lot more fun to watch if they were actual underdogs instead of a team that looks set to make the playoffs and is favored to win games. I am very happy Cleveland has suddenly turned it around, but it feels as if they took a small step forward and everyone else took a big step back.
Other examples include the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. I am genuinely disappointed in both teams after strong starts to their seasons, which would make for an exciting storyline as they entered the playoffs. Strangely, both teams completely fell flat on their face in the third week. Jacksonville seemed to be playing like blind men after a dominant victory against the New England Patriots, only putting six points up on the board against the Tennessee Titans. Minnesota’s loss can’t even be explained. The entire team was playing hot potato on Sunday while what was assumed to be the worst team in the league, the Buffalo Bulls, ran them into the ground.
Last week many experts around the NFL called Week 3 “Upset Sunday,” but it wasn’t, there were only a few genuine upsets, just a lack of strong favorites. On paper, it seemed like there were more, but watching the games didn’t invoke any sort of Cinderella-type magic because it seemed like the better teams a) weren’t better and b) didn’t actually care. It felt more like an extended preseason.
By my count, there is only one good team, the Los Angeles Rams, and the fans don’t even care about them. They really don’t, making it sad that the Rams are the stand-out franchise this season. Ask anyone from the area, as soon as Lakers basketball starts, the Rams could go undefeated and no one could care because they will be preoccupied with LeBron James, rightfully so.
It has also been revealed that basically every owner in the NFL is a horrible, horrible person with nearly all of them openly coming out in support of Trump with the worst of the bunch being exposed for sexual harassment (Richardson) and believing the players are prisoners (McNair). While there is a much longer article to be written about how a majority white ownership treats the majority black players like disposable chess pieces, at a basic level it isn’t fun to support a league where the majority of the funds go into the pockets of these obviously terrible people and it makes the sport, rightfully so, much less appealing.
The way this season is headed, I can only assume nothing memorable will come of it and the fans will be stuck watching a repeat of Super Bowl 48, which I am sure most of my readers will have to look up, my point exactly.
Super Bowl Prediction – New England Patriots over Los Angeles Rams?
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press