The 2017 NFL season has been full of surprises. Teams that we all expected to be garbage have pulled off some astounding wins, while teams that we expected to roll over most of their opponents have faltered in losses to much weaker opponents. Pick’em pools have been torn to shreds, and some survivor leagues have already crowned their winner.
Each week, I’ll post my picks and my reasoning behind them, and on Tuesdays, I’ll do a quick rundown on where I went wrong, and what I got right. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my predictions, so feel free to drop a comment on the post, or @ me on Twitter.
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is one of five team captains that make up what Coach Sean McDermott calls his“Leadership Council.” Alexander, along with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, kicker Stephen Hauschka, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, and center Eric Wood, are the players that McDermott says he depends on to be a “sounding board … in terms of what’s going on, how the team’s reacting to things.”
This sounding board was particularly valuable when the team was sorting out its response to the anthem protests going on around the league. Prior to the Bills-Broncos game in Week 3, a long meeting was held in which McDermott, all the Bills players, general manager Brandon Beane, and team owners Kim and Terry Pegula were able to respectfully discuss their viewpoints and work out a mutually agreeable solution. On Game Day, Alexander was one of 12 Bills players who knelt during the anthem, while McDermott and the remaining players linked arms along the sidelines in a display of solidarity.
Alexander commented on his reasons for taking a knee that day. “We have great privileges here but as … a U.S. citizen I [wanted] to call or bring attention to things that need change. With that, today I kneeled but I won’t continue to kneel. [Today] I kneeled to show those guys …that I am with them.”
The Patriots went into the Meadowlands Sunday with a record identical to their opponents’, something no one could have predicted at the start of the season. The media had been talking about an 0-16 season for the Jets, but coach Todd Bowles, quarterback Josh McCown and the rest of the team have proved the media wrong. Whoever came out on top in this game would lead the AFC East, but this didn’t look like 2 good teams fighting it out for the division.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first – the defense, especially in passing, looked awful. I would have never predicted that the Super Bowl Champions would return and deliver the 32nd ranked defense in the National Football League, but here we are. They have given up an average, an AVERAGE of 440 yards of offense per game. Most of that, of course, through the air.
My love of the NFL game started when I was a teenager, playing a board game called Strat-O-Matic Football with one of my brothers. Basically, it is the old school version of a Madden NFL video game. We spent many fun hours coaching our teams. The game came down to strategy, both offense and defense, and a simple roll of the dice.
I have had a soft spot for the Miami Dolphins since the ‘80s. It was during their dominant years with quarterback Dan Marino that I really became hooked. I attended my first live NFL game November 18, 2010 at SunLife Stadium in Miami. What a milestone.
Thursday Night Football has historically not provided us with entertaining games. Two teams, both usually on a short week, duke it out on the nationally televised stage. After a heartbreaking loss at home to the Carolina Panthers last week, mainly credited to the poor performance of the offensive line and communication issues on the defense, the New England Patriots headed to Tampa Bay to take on Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers.
The Patriots emerged the victors, and there were definitely some good elements to the game, but there is still a lot of work to do to make this team better. The Patriots, who are used to being at the top looking down in the AFC East division standings, are in a 3 way tie for first place with the Buffalo Bills, who have been playing good football, and the New York Jets. Some thoughts from the Patriots’ win over the Buccaneers:
Yes, you read that correctly. No, this isn’t an article from 2016… or 2015…. or 2014…. or, well, you get the drift. After making a landmark trade to acquire quarterback Brock Osweiler in the offseason, drafting Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer in the 2nd round, waiving Osweiler, watching Kevin Hogan come into preseason games and move the ball effectively, and sending Cody Kessler off to oblivion, the Cleveland Browns decide to start Kizer.
Fans were happy. Rebuilding was starting. The franchise quarterback was here. And then the season happened.
The Week 5 match-up versus the New York Jets started off on a high note; the Browns won their first coin toss of the season! I know you think this is not really something worth noting, yet as the losers of the toss for the first four weeks, opponents have deferred. This forced a shaky young offense to take the field first, ending in 3-and-outs or blocked punts and eventually the depressing fact that they were the only team in the entire NFL to have never had a lead at any point in a game. Never.
A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.
A journey into a wondrous land of imagination…”
It began after the final second elapsed on the Bills 23-17 win over the (formerly) undefeated Atlanta Falcons. All around Western New York, a low murmur of voices were expressing wonderment. Disbelief. Excitement. Almost every caller to the local radio post-game shows began their comments with, “I know there’s a lot of the season left, but do you think…?” Or, “I know I shouldn’t be getting my hopes up yet, but…” Or, “The team wasn’t supposed to be any good this year. How do you explain…?”
It does feel as if we’ve entered the Twilight Zone. Staring at the AFC East standings, seeing the Buffalo Bills, 3-1, all alone at the top of the heap, is nothing if not surreal. The previous week’s win over the Denver Broncos was a terrific accomplishment for coach Sean McDermott’s team. But getting a win on the road, against last year’s NFC Champions is something else altogether.
There was a time when a victory at Gillette Stadium for quarterback Tom Brady was almost guaranteed. That time has passed. Brady’s record at home before this season for regular season games was 101-16. So far this season, the Patriots have played at home 3 times – and lost twice. They lost their second home game of the season to quarterback Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers doing what Brady normally does: running out the clock and putting his time in a position to win the game in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
After a disappointing, dismal appearance in a week three loss to the New Orlean Saints, the Carolina Panthers seemed to get it together against the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots in week four.
Film study, stout defense, and a patient offense proved to be a difference maker on Sunday. The Patriots entered the game as the worst defense in the league and likely remained the same. Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula showed balance with his play calling, 29 rushing attempts and 29 passing plays.
Quarterback Cam Newton dissected a struggling Patriot defense going 22 of 29 passing, for 316 yards, four touchdowns touchdowns (including one rushing), and one interception. Running backs Jonathan Stewart, and Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Damiere Byrd along with Newton himself added another 140 yards on the ground.
Since taking over the leadership of the Bills, General Manager Brandon Beane and Head Coach Sean McDermott have begged both players and the fan base to “Trust the process.” Trust them during the NFL draft, when they swapped their No. 10 spot with Kansas City and dropped 16 places in exchange for the Chief’s 2018 first-round pick. Trust them when they traded starting cornerback Ronald Darby to the Eagles for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick. Trust them when they absolutely stunned both the fans and even the Bills players by trading wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams for cornerback E. J. Gaines and a 2018 second-round draft pick.
Beane assured Bills fans that their plan was to do everything necessary to get to the playoffs this year. But, at the same time, they traded away established players for future draft picks. Confused? Just trust us, they say.
The first two games of the 2017 season were a shaky win over a “tanking” Jets team, and an abysmal offensive showing in a loss to Carolina. These did little to inspire confidence in the new regime. Fans were quickly resigned to the idea that the 17-year playoff drought would eventually turn 18.