NFL Week 17 Recap: 5 Things I Think
1- Sunday Night Football was missed, but the NFL did the right thing
In a season where it seemed that everything the NFL touched turned toxic, I think they got Week 17 right. Last week I wrote about the unprecedented nature of what the NFL did with its schedule for the final day of the season, but it’s worth reiterating that the NFL made the conscious decision to defy convention and do something in favor of competitive balance AND fan experience. It would have been easy for them to simply leave the Bengals-Ravens game in the SNF slot and let the chips fall where they may, but instead we got a wild finish on Sunday afternoon that saw the Bills make the playoffs for the first time since 1999 when the Ravens failed to protect a lead at home against Cincy just minutes after the Bills secured a road win in Miami.
2- Speaking of the those plucky Bengals playing the spoiler . . .
For the second week in a row Cincinnati played its heart out and defeated a team in desperate need of a win to keep its playoff hopes alive. Mired in a “lame duck” coaching situation and with little to play for, the Bengals just kept coming back on Sunday like some sort of horror movie monster. The Cincinnati offense averaged 18.1 points per game this season and had only topped 30 points in a game twice all year (both against Cleveland) before scoring 31 points in yesterday’s stunner at Baltimore. Tyler Boyd’s 49-yard touchdown reception on 4th & 12 will haunt the Ravens this offseason, but more galling is the fact that Baltimore entered the day with a 97% chance to make the playoffs and, more importantly, a clear path to securing a wild card berth: all they had to do was win. Instead it was Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals who, despite that pesky coaching situation, played the hero on Sunday prompting this tweet from the Bills:
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) January 1, 2018
3- Speaking of coaches, Black Monday started Sunday afternoon
At the end of every NFL season we see frustrated and disappointed owners firing coaches in hopes of landing the next hot candidate to right the ship and get their team into the discussion. Off season management of personnel and organizational decision-making begin the instant the season ends so it’s important to get the next coach in place.
So far we know of a handful of changes: 1- the Raiders have already fired Jack Del Rio in hopes of coaxing Jon Gruden out of the Monday Night Football booth and back onto the sideline (and NFL reporters are saying this deal is imminent); 2- the Colts fired Chuck Pagano; 3- the Lions fired Jim Cadwell; 4- the Bears sent John Fox packing; 5- reports indicate that Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians will retire; and 6- the Bengals allowed Marvin Lewis’ contract to expire. Counting the Giants’ mid-season release of Ben McAdoo, that’s 7 of 32 jobs that will be different in 2018. Oddly enough, not all of these jobs are horrible jobs. In fact, I think there are a lot coaches out there who would be thrilled to have Matt Stafford, Derek Carr, or Andrew Luck as a building block. It will be interesting to see how things look when the coaching carousel spins to a halt, but let’s shift our focus to on-field matters.
4- The Philadelphia Eagles with Nick Foles at the helm might be in huge trouble
The Eagles had nothing to play for on Sunday with the NFC’s top seed and home field advantage locked up, but they chose to roll with most of their starters in an effort to build some momentum. Sunday’s home game in Philly should probably have been something of a victory lap, but the hated Cowboys were all too happy to ugly things up. The two teams battled through three ugly, frigid, scoreless quarters before Dallas finally scored a touchdown a few minutes into the fourth to take the 6-0 lead that wound up winning the game.
So in three starts to close the season (all against teams eliminated from the playoffs), the high-flying Eagles offense went for 34 against the Giants, 19 against the Raiders, and a goose egg on Sunday; this represents a disturbing trend for sure. The good news is that the Eagles get a week off while their divisional round opponent has to go fight for it spot in the conference semifinal game. (Coming out of its last bye week, the Eagles hammered Dallas 37-9 in case you were curious). Yes, the offense has been putrid the last two weeks and is at fault for the only home loss of the year, but the defense has been sturdy and Philly won’t have to hit the road unless it makes the Super Bowl. Do the odds makers think Philly is done?
5- Super Bowl and Wild Card weekend odds
The Eagles have decent odds, but are considered 4th of the six NFC teams with the Vikings, Saints, and Rams all considered better bets to win the big game. Not surprisingly the Patriots are the wagering favorite with the wild card Titans and Bills the longest shots on the board. For Wild Card weekend, all of the home teams are favored by similar margins, but we’ll see how those lines fluctuate during the week. Check out the numbers below:
Odds to win the Super Bowl
Wild Card Weekend Odds
Saturday, 4:35pm EST: Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs; Line: Chiefs by 7.5
Saturday, 8:15pm EST: Atlanta Falcons @ Los Angeles Rams; Line: Rams by 6
Sunday, 1:05pm EST: Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars; Line: Jags by 7.5
Sunday, 4:40pm EST: Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints; Line: Saints by 6
Check back later in the week for the game picks from the SportsIntel editors!