Championship Sunday Runners Up
The Conference Championship games went to the Iggles and Pats bringing a lose-lose situation to neutral football fans: a northeast only Super Bowl with the most insufferable fan bases this side of Dallas. We have plenty of time to live in dread of the February 4th matchup, so let’s turn our attention to the two squads who started their offseason on Sunday.
For the 12 teams that make the playoffs, 11 of them end their season with a loss so when I say that the Jags’ season was a smashing success, it obviously comes with that caveat. Jacksonville won three games last year and by the end of this year had many of us convinced that they had enough to go all the way. That’s absolutely remarkable so I meant it when I said they should hold their heads high. They caught lightning in a bottle with some key free agency acquisitions, a terrific draft, and a down year in the AFC, but more importantly they didn’t let years of being a mocked franchise hold them back when the opportunity for a terrific season presented itself.
Unfortunately the positivity surrounding the 2017 campaign will be dampened by the reality check the offseason is going to bring. Problems at quarterback remain as Bortles never really showed the consistency needed to be “the guy,” and, assuming Watson and Luck come back from injury, the Jags will be right back to the bottom of the division at the position. The defense was phenomenal to the point that it drew some of the highest comparisons possible, but they did give up 40+ in two of their final five games as teams finally discovered ways to exploit some weaknesses. When you have a season where people are invoking the ’00 Ravens and ’85 Bears, is there anywhere to go but down? Offensive line and secondary help will be priorities in the offseason.
Playoffs Next Year?
I don’t think so.
Using the term “failure” to characterize a 13-3 season that included the biggest moment in the last 40 years of franchise history may be overly harsh, but the way they crashed out so close to playing a home Super Bowl is simply soul-crushing. Having said that, the Vikes were resilient in the face of some tough injuries and benefited from some bad football in the division. On offense, Thielen made the jump from solid receiver to star, the team learned that it was sitting on a wealth of QB talent, and the overall success made it easy to forget about Adrian Peterson. Defensively, the Purple People Eaters were stellar in the regular season only allowing 20+ points four times and leading the league in yards per game allowed.
If you’re a Viking fan living in Minneapolis you might want to leave town for a little bit because the Philly fans are coming and they’re not gonna hesitate to remind you about 38-7. The team will need to address the defensive secondary in the offseason, but the storyline that will grab all the headlines is the situation at quarterback. I’ve read that Zimmer—a defensive coach— never really got behind Keenum, but health concerns with Bridgewater and Bradford loom large so it will be interesting to see how the organization treats the position in the offseason especially with OCPat Shurmur leaving for the head job with the New York Giants.
Playoffs Next Year?
The NFC is gonna be tough, but they should be in the mix.