NFL Week 17

NFL Week 17: Good, bad & ugly

Photo via Kansas City Chiefs/Facebook

The last week in the regular season is in the books and it was a good one. We had tons of games with playoff implications. Some were for playoff spots, while others were strictly for seeding purposes. Here are my observations:

The Good

-The Ravens set an NFL record with 3,296 yards rushing this season. The record was originally set by the 1978 Patriots who had 3,165. By averaging 206 yards per game on the ground, the Ravens bullied teams all season. It helps when you have two 1,000-yard rushers. It's extra specail when one of them is your quarterback who was number six in the league with 1,206 yards and didn't play in the final game.

-Panthers' running back Christian McCaffrey became the third running back in history to total 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. Roger Craig was first in 1985, followed by Marshall Faulk in 1999. He also posted the fifth most yards from scrimmage in a season with 2,366. He should end up second behind Lamar Jackson in league MVP voting despite his team's 5-11 record.

-Chiefs rookie wide receiver Mecole Hardman scored the longest touchdown in the league this season with a 104-yard kickoff return in the 3rd quarter. The return put the Chiefs ahead for good as they secured the AFC's #2 seed with their win coupled with a Patriot's loss. This Chiefs team is hitting their stride at the right time. The big play element is back in their offense. Their defense is also picking it up after being considered a major weakness all season.

The Bad

-Buc's quarterback is the inaugural member of the 30/30 club. He finished the season with 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. He also threw for the eighth most passing yards in a season with 5,109. He's the new Brett Favre, the epitome of the term gunslinger.

-Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have well over an 80% winning percentage at home. If you look at home games vs the Dolphins, I imagine that number is just as good if not higher. With a win and a chance at a bye in the playoffs, the Patriots pissed themselves at home and lost to the Dolphins 27-24. The Dolphins gutted their team and only had four wins coming into this game. Very uncharacteristic loss by the Patriots that may prove costly.

-The Cowboys started the year 3-0 and some thought they were a real threat. Fast-forward to the end of the season, and they ended the year 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Head coach Jason Garrett is most likely on his way out because he doesn't have a contract past this season and owner/general manager Jerry Jones has hinted that a change is coming. The salt in the wound here: they still haven't resigned Amari Cooper or Dak Prescott.

The Ugly

-The Browns fired head coach Freddie Kitchens after one year on the job. Kitchens was the offensive coordinator last year when Baker Mayfield had a productive season. He was given the head job after interim coach Gregg Williams wasn't retained. With the offseason Super Bowl title secured, the Browns expected the real one to soon follow. Overmatched to begin with, Kitchens failed miserably and was let go.

-Cardinals' rookie quarterback Kyler Murray injured his right hamstring in last week's win over the Seahawks. When it came to playing the last game of the season against the Rams, Murray said he had to be convinced to play because he was more concerned about injuring it more, but played because he's a competitor?!? Are you freakin serious?!? No competitor has to be convinced to play! A real competitor isn't worried about furthering an injury. They have that competitive spirit and want to rip their opponent's hearts out no matter what the circumstances are! Saying you had to be convinced, but you're a competitor is the biggest hypocrisy I've heard all week!

-The Seahawks played a tough game, but lost to the 49ers 26-21. The loss denied them the NFC West crown and dropped them to the #5 seed. Late in the game, they converted a 4th&10 inside the 2-yard line, but got a delay of game penalty after spiking the ball. Two plays later, the refs failed to call an obvious pass interference. They ended up inches short on a 4th&Goal when Jacob Hollister couldn't get the ball to break the plane of the goal line. That's the definition of what the saying means that football is a game of inches. Shame on the refs for not calling the PI or the booth/New York not ordering a review!

The playoff picture is set. So is the draft order, outside of some tiebreakers or coin flips here and there. Props to the NFL for scheduling divisional games in week 17. Over the last few years since they started this trend, it has made the regular season finale for each team count. We, as football fans, were treated to some great football in the last week of regular season football. Tons of games with meaning left to be played which limited the amount of players sitting and kept things interesting. The flex schedule even allowed for games/teams directly effecting each other to be played at the same time to keep the integrity of the way the games were played intact. While I'm sad that we only have a few weeks of football left now, I'm happy that it should prove to be the most exciting few weeks of football this season given that we have several true Super Bowl contenders in each conference.

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This time next week Jim Crane will have hired or be closing in on hiring the Astros' new manager. Who is it going to be? Considering Crane himself doesn't know yet, how the heck should I know? The candidate pool is deep in quality, four former big league skippers (none of whom have won a World Series) and at least three others who have never managed in Major League Baseball.

Dusty Baker. 70 years old. Over 22 seasons he steered four different franchises to the postseason. Tremendous people skills. I always felt his teams took on his upbeat but intense personality. Not a tactical wizard and a questionable resume re: handling of several pitchers. That's not a dealbreaker If Brent Strom is still the pitching coach.

Buck Showalter. Organized and prepared as all get out. Taken three different teams to the playoffs. More coincidence than anything else, the Yankees and Diamondbacks won the World Series...the season immediately after they fired Showalter.

John Gibbons. Low key personality. Two American League Championship Series trips with the Blue Jays.

Jeff Banister. LaMarque high school grad, played at UH. Back-to-Back AL West titles with the Rangers before their roster fell apart and the Astros took over the division. Also a lifetime big league batting average of 1.000. One at bat, he singled.

Any of those four would be a highly credible hire.

Those seeking experience by getting experience: Raul Ibanez, Will Venable, and Eduardo Perez. Where the Astros are, I would lean away from them. Incumbent bench coach Joe Espada is a more credentialed candidate than those three, but Espada was on A.J. Hinch's staff when the Astros are confirmed as cheaters, so can't see Crane going with him.

The experienced big league managers would command more money. That should play zero role in the choice, even though if the Astros stay largely healthy and avoid precipitous performance declines, you or I could manage their roster to 90 wins. Who is best equipped to navigate the S.S. Astros through some stormy seas bound to hit? Because, A. that's baseball, and B. they'll face some unusual stuff in their role as the lying, cheating villains of MLB. Can't know the answer to that.

Rockets fading from the spotlight

The Texans disintegrated on the field in Kansas City, the Astros' integrity turns out to have in part either disintegrated or been non-existent, leaving the Rockets among the big three to uplift the city's sports spirits over the next couple of months. Problem, relatively few seem to care. Glaring numbers of empty seats (even though sold) at Toyota Center, lower TV ratings, and a palpable lack of buzz to them. No shame in a 27-16 record, but that's not close to special and things just seem a bit stale. Dog days of midseason or larger problems?

The Rockets enter the weekend closer to the Draft Lottery than to the Western Conference leading Lakers. The Rockets are at best b-list contenders, waaaay more likely to get bounced from the playoffs in the first round than to win the West. They may be in serious trouble relative to this season's aspirations, and going forward.

Recent deep shooting slump aside, James Harden is a phenomenal offensive force, and Russell Westbrook is a force of nature. But a Harden/Westbrook backcourt headlines a non-championship caliber defense. And there just aren't good enough players around them. Harden is 30 years old, Westbrook is 31. Eric Gordon and his balky knee and erratic jumper, also 31. Over the next three seasons the Rockets are on the hook for those three guys at an average of about 106 million dollars per season.

For two straight off-seasons, the Rockets have been cheap with construction of the bench. Whatever the extent he's been following owner Tilman Fertitta's marching orders, among teams that fancy themselves contenders General Manager Daryl Morey has produced the worst bench in the NBA.

There are a bunch of teams with better overall talent, there are lottery teams with better young talent. It all adds up to the best guess being Head Coach Mike D'Antoni parts ways with the Rockets after the season. How good a job will the Rockets job be for the next coach? The answer might be, not very, in terms of pursuing an NBA championship.

While not being a big deal, it won't look good on the Rockets side if/when Chris Paul makes the All Star Game and Russell Westbrook doesn't.

Buzzer Beaters

1. If you were Kelvin Sampson would you leave UH for the Rockets? 2. The Pro Bowl is Sunday! 3. Things on TV I'd watch before the Pro Bowl: Bronze-Real Housewives of Anywhere Silver-A full XFL game Gold-Three hours of test pattern

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