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.

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

After the Astros' offseason of shame and blame and firings and hirings, finally some actual baseball games! Okay, games with meaningless outcomes, but one way to move past almost Astros related conversation revolving around their cheating ways. Things could have been wild this weekend had the Washington Nationals not stormed Minute Maid Park to win the World Series four months ago. The Astros and Nats open the spring training game schedule Saturday and Sunday with a pair at the complex the two share in West Palm Beach.

Counting a couple of days with split squad games, the Astros play 31 practice games in Florida. With the more relaxed atmosphere of fun in the sun and the games not counting, you'd think opposing team fan heckling of the Astros shouldn't be too bad. The Astros' Grapefruit League schedule does not include the Yankees or Dodgers. The Yankees are on the other side of Florida, the Dodgers are in Arizona.

On the field the Astros have fewer concerns than most teams. Behind Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke the starting rotation is all question marks, but the candidate pool is deep enough to yield at least halfway decent answers. At least given all the run support that is likely.

The everyday lineup is essentially set, and still loaded. The only notable spring storyline is whether long heralded prospect Kyle Tucker wins the primary right field job. Tucker turned 23 years old last month. An overwhelmingly high percentage of great hitters in Major League history are established in the bigs no older than 23. Tucker isn't handed the job, because the Astros could not dump the final year and 13 million dollars of Josh Reddick's contract. They would literally have given him away had there been a taker. No taker. Reddick turned 33 on Wednesday. He was a bad player last season, so unless he has a salary drive bounce back of a season, Tucker is a huge disappointment if the primary right field job doesn't wind up his.

Don't be an Astropologist. The Astros blatantly, brazenly, and arrogantly cheated. It impacted games. How often and how substantially, open to debate. But it impacted games. If it had no impact on games, then the Astros and those complicit were the biggest band of morons in baseball history for going on with the scheme as long as they did. Besides, ineffectual cheating is still cheating.

All those whining about NY and LA and national media piling on. Stop. That just makes the whiners, and Houston, look provincially small. As if had the Yankees and/or Dodgers been nailed for cheating at the Astros' expense the same people now saying "Leave the Astros alone!" or "A bunch of other teams were doing it too!" wouldn't be screaming holy hell that "The Astros were robbed!" "Hang the Yankees in the town square!"

If you don't want the time, don't do the crime. The Astros did the crime. It's still their time to deal with the fallout. They and Astros fans, don't enforceably get to say, make it stop! If you're thinking, ok, ok, you're right but enough already! Understood. The furor will subside. But if your kid screws up he or she doesn't get to decide when he or she is no longer grounded.

It's still a fresh story. There have been no games to talk about yet, no player performances to criticize, no manager's decisions to second guess. That time is coming. As will be a bunch of wins for the 2020 Astros.

Huge game for the Rockets Saturday night at Utah. The Rockets running fifth in the Western Conference, behind the fourth place Jazz by two in the loss column. The season series rides on Saturday's outcome. It would be a massive win for the Rockets. With a loss, it's not a stretch to say they'd be unlikely to have home court advantage for even the first round of the playoffs.

Rockets add DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Green

Again this season the Rockets shopped the buyout bargain bin to fill out their roster for the stretch run. Last season they added Iman Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, two guys who gave them next to nothing in the playoffs. This year's contestants are 33 year old DeMarre Carroll and 33 year old Jeff Green. Carroll had fallen out of the rotation of a bad Spurs team, the Jazz released Green before Christmas. The Lakers and Clippers are not quivering.

Buzzer Beaters: 1. Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the USA "Miracle on Ice" win over the USSR at the Lake Placid Olympics. No sporting event can ever plausibly spark American patriotic fervor the way that game and subsequent winning of the gold medal did. 2. $80 plus taxes and "fees" to watch Fury-Wilder II Saturday night? No thanks. Could be a heckuva fight though. 3. Most memorable fights I watched live: Bronze-Tyson/Holyfield II, the ear bite fight. Silver-Alexis Arguello/Aaron Pryor 1982 Gold-Marvelous Marvin Hagler/Tommy Hearns 1985. If never seen, absolutely watch on YouTube. Eight plus minutes of Oh My Goodness!

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome