Table of Contents
What the hell is happening, people?
Scoring is down across the league from a season ago, overall passing is down, and Justin Herbert just broke a 26-game streak where he passed for at least one touchdown. The Jets and Giants have the same record as the Chiefs and Bills, respectively. What one pundit calls parity, others see… differently:
“I watch a lot of bad football. Poor quality of football. That’s what I see.”Tom Brady
It’s a double-edged sword and one we’re all familiar with: no matter how terrible the performance, how lacking in star power, or how dreadful the officiating, any NFL game will still draw more eyeballs than anything else in our current cultural landscape. What motivation exists to improve the product will be offset by this inevitability, so change is glacial at best.
That said, one of this week’s most absurd narratives explores a possible root cause of what we’ll call “The Bad Football Problem.” The others, well, we’ll get to that.
First of all, I have to relish in this because as a Rams fan I suffered through a decade of Russell Wilson:
The Broncos have TWO MORE primetime/only-game-on-TV appearances, y’all.
Broncos Country, let’s ride… to a top-5 pick!
The GOATs are Out to Pasture
Yadda yadda Tom Brady yadda old. Aaron Rodgers yadda yadda ayahuasca yadda yadda. We know, we get it. Both teams are 3-3 after losing to the Jets and Steelers, teams considered so lackluster they’d struggle to win an Emmy with Shonda Rhimes’ coaching.
How soon is too soon to declare them done, though? Is losing to Mitch Trubisky off the bench truly how we’ll remember Brady’s (hopefully, praise be to the Lord) final season? Will Rodgers finally snap and punch Matt LaFleur’s smug face in a post-game presser? Neither quarterback is playing well, without question. Looking at overall QBR, Brady (15) and Rodgers (24) are underperforming expectations, but even Jordan couldn’t make the Wizards better.
For the Buccaneers, injuries have decimated the offensive line and receivers group; for the Packers, a total lack of downfield targets brought Rodgers to a place where he’d like to “simplify the offense,” whatever that means:
All that, however, doesn’t alter each team’s record: 3-3 in a resoundingly weak NFC. The Bucs could legitimately win the NFC South with 9 wins, and the Packers might just need 10 once the Vikings remember they don’t deserve nice things like a playoff spot. When, not if, both these teams enter the postseason, will be the time to prognosticate over their ultimate fate. Spooky season, ironically, is not the time to label them as the walking dead.
Mid-October Records are Important
“You are what your record says you are.”
Think what you will about Bill Parcells, and I’m going on record as saying I think he’s a poor man’s Rex Ryan with worse hair, that quote certainly provides ammunition for bulletin boards across all levels of football. Good teams win games, bad teams lose them. My first-grader understands this, but he also understands the duality of team sports: no statistic, no record, and no ranking exist in a vacuum.
As I’m fond to say, “they ain’t played nobody” is a justifiable and time-honored way to look at something like a team’s overall record. Take the 5-1 Vikings (17th) and the overall DVOA of the teams they’ve beaten so far: Green Bay (21st), Detroit (25th), New Orleans (26th), Bears (31st), and Dolphins (16th). Their one loss was to the Eagles, currently 2nd.
Looking at DVOA, then, their record is essentially a coin flip, outside of the Bears. A couple of pass deflections, a gust of wind, Kirk Cousins accidentally giving himself a hernia brushing his teeth, and this team could be 2-4 or 1-5. I’ll believe the Vikings are legit if they put up a fight and lose by less than 20 to the Bills in a few weeks.
The other 5-1 NFC “powerhouse,” the Giants, are tethered to the same issue. Only one of their wins came against a team with an overall DVOA higher than 19th overall, and that was this week against the Ravens. Even with that admittedly gutsy win over Lamar “I’ll Do it My Damn Self” Jackson, the Giants could be significantly worse than their record indicates.
Perhaps, like the oft-misunderstood “blood is thicker than water” axiom, there’s an additional part of the quote folks leave out to suit their own needs:
“You are what your record says you are, with regard to the quality of the teams you’ve played.”
“The Bad Football Problem”
Usually, I enjoy waking up and seeing what Deadspin’s Sam Fels has to say in his “The Mourning After” pieces. Today, I legitimately spit out my coffee.
Take a second to read the full piece and come back. I’m curious to see if you followed the same logic thread I did, and arrived at the same incredibly messed-up ugly Christmas sweater:
The NFL is currently bad because parents concerned about traumatic brain injuries for their children aren’t letting them play football, and that makes me angry because the NFL suffers talent-wise.
I don’t want to dig into Fels’ personal life to find out whether or not he has kids, because basic human empathy shouldn’t require procreation. As a parent with a kid who’s almost as obsessed with football as I am, we’ve already established it’s flag football or nothing. He was watching Tua Tagovailoa’s unconscionable re-entrance into the Bills game. He was watching when the quarterback started the game against the Bengals the very next week and asked me “why is he playing, Dad? He couldn’t walk last week!”
It might make me softer than a down comforter, but if NFL scoring goes down a few points because fewer kids grow up to be Herschel Walker, you won’t hear any complaints from me.