I had the occasion to look at the NFL standings last evening. In the AFC, I can convince myself that most of the playoff teams have shown themselves. Barring catastrophic injuries, the Titans and Bills are going to participate. The AFC North teams will beat each other up such that it will produce one of the wild card teams along with a Division winner – – my guess is the Ravens win the Division and the Bengals get a wildcard slot. The Patriots will also be in the playoffs from the AFC East.
That accounts for 5 of the 7 teams in the playoffs. One team will win the AFC West and will be the 6th playoff contestant. So, in my crystal ball, the real focus for the AFC late in the season is:
- Colts as wildcard team in the AFC South – – or – –
- Second place team in the AFC West as a wildcard team.
The NFC, however, is not nearly so neat. The Cowboys and Packers are going to win their Divisions and be in the playoffs. Even if I project the Rams and the Cards into the playoffs – and the Rams have lost 2 games in a row and played poorly in both – that leaves 3 slots to fill. In the NFC this morning there are 9 teams with either 5 losses or 6 losses. The only NFC team I would be willing to write off is the Lions; if you twisted my arm even a little bit, I would also put the Bears on the “not-gonna-make-the-playoffs list”. But everyone else has a shot and projecting teams in the NFC gets very complicated very fast. For example, in the NFC East:
- The Eagles are 4-6 while the Football Team and the Giants are 3-6.
- The Eagles and Giants play each other twice.
- The Football Team has 5 Division games to play in the final 8 games.
Last year, the Football Team edged themselves into the playoffs on the final weekend after being written off as roadkill at mid-season simply because the rest of the division played poorly. I doubt that the Eagles, Giants or Football Team can catch the Cowboys in 2021, but if one of them puts together a winning streak, they could easily become wildcard contenders. I will not be shocked to see an NFC playoff team with an 8-9 record this year.
Also, it would be easy to write off the Seahawks this morning with their 3-6 record and coming off a shutout loss to the Packers last week. But looking at their schedule, they have 8 games to play. Four games are Division games; two against the Cards and one each against the Rams and Niners. Here are the other four opponents:
- Football Team
If the Seahawks win those four games and win one of the Division games, they will be 8-9 and “in the mix”. If they win those four games and split the Division games, they will be 9-8 and in the playoffs.
Moving on … Last season, the Football Team benched and then released Dwayne Haskins who had been the team’s first round pick as their “QB of the future”. The reports surrounding that decision said the coaches were unhappy with his work ethic and his focus on things like the game plan. In one instance, he was celebrating with fans and taking selfies with them before the game was over.
Haskins signed on with the Steelers for this year and found himself as the third QB on the Steelers’ depth chart. Last week, Ben Roethlisberger had to sit out due to a positive COVID-19 test and Mason Rudolph got the start. Rudolph did not play well; the Steelers could only manage a tie game with the woeful Lions; here is Rudolph’s stat line:
- 30 of 50 for 242 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.
Someone must have asked the coaches if they had considered inserting Haskins in the game and supposedly the response was that Haskins had “thrown lousy passes” in warmups and had been “checking his phone” in the middle of those warmups.
Let me assume for a moment that all the reporting about Haskins’ work ethic and attitude are correct. In that case, here is something Haskins’ agent needs to think about:
- Dwayne Haskins has played for three coaches and has not endeared himself to any of the three.
- The last two – Ron Rivera and Mike Tomlin – are no-nonsense guys. Haskins was released by Rivera and is clearly not held in high esteem by Tomlin.
- If Haskins is going to have any sort of a career in the NFL, the agent has to find him a place on a team where the coach is less demanding.
Finally, I mentioned last week that a moose had wandered onto the field where South Dakota State was scheduled to play North Dakota State. Here is how Dwight Perry assessed that happening in his column in the Seattle Times over the weekend:
“Police and stadium personnel finally chased out the 800-pounder out, averting the first game being called on account of game.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………