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 week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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