A lot of the fellas that came into The Shop Monday were complaining about their teams and how their expectations have been tempered because they weren’t as dominant as they had hoped they would be.
Join the crowd. It’s happened to a lot of us – including the NFL’s 32 teams.
In the first time in a long time, parity is alive and well. From one week to the next, teams move up and down in the rankings. Ones that look invincible at one point (see Kansas City and Carolina), suddenly look mortal.
Typically, the last unbeaten team goes down after six or seven games. This year, it was in five – and that team isn’t the No. 1 seed in their conference.
Last year in the AFC, it took 10 wins to make the playoffs as a wildcard and the conference had a 14-win team (New England), two 12-win teams (Kansas City and Oakland) and an 11-win team (Pittsburgh). The NFC had five double-digit winning teams, including the 13-3 Cowboys, the 11-5 Falcons and the 11-5 Giants.
What a difference a year makes.
As things currently stand, of the six teams that made the playoffs last season, four of them would make a return (Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Miami and New England). The other two spots would be filled by Tennessee and Buffalo.
In the NFC, however, things have been turned on their heads. Of the six teams that made the playoffs a year ago, only one (Seattle) would be returning and the Seahawks would be a wild card.
The division champions would be Philadelphia, Minnesota, Los Angeles and New Orleans – none of whom had a record above .500 last season.
The best part about the parity for fantasy owners is that many more teams are going to remain in the playoff chase than you typically see. At this point, only San Francisco, Cleveland and the Giants are more than two games out of a playoff spot. The other 29 teams are still involved.
The longer more teams stay involved, the more likely everyone is going to keep in the running – making every team looking to put its best foot forward, not resting players and not scrapping the season and looking toward the future.
As long as parity exists, it’s good for fantasy owners. Keep it comin’, boys. Fantasy owners may be complaining now, but the more of their players who are fighting for playoff spots, the better the competition will be in fantasy leagues.
- Want to send out some mad respect to Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas. The future Hall of Famer suffered a triceps injury A jewel in the 2007 draft class that included future Hall of Famers Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson, Thomas had not only never missed a game in 10½ years, he had never missed a snap – a total of 10,363 over his career. His torn triceps has ended that streak, but it is one that may never be touched again, much left by a left tackle
- The Pittsburgh Steelers showed a lot of patience with Martavis Bryant during his suspensions, which included missing the entire 2016 season. Now, due to not getting enough passes thrown his way, Bryant is demanding a trade. One can only imagine given his suspension history, there won’t be a robust market looking for his services.
- After starting 0-2, a lot of people were leaving the Saints for dead. But, they won four straight games and the defense has been the main reason why – allowing just 17 points a game with 10 takeaways. The Saints currently have one of the best two-way teams in the league and can’t be written off.
- Buffalo was supposed to be a team that everyone could roll over, but, with a 4-2 record, if the season ended today, they would be in the playoffs – along with division mates New England and Miami. A lot of people could have guessed three teams from one division would be in the playoffs, but would anyone have guessed that division would be the AFC East?
The razor’s edge
- Keep Your Hands to Yourself – With the Oakland Raiders looking to save their season, Marshawn Lynch came running off the bench to get into a dust-up with the Chiefs and, as the officials tried to separate them, Lynch decided to put his hands on the referee. Lynch has done some stupid things in the past, but even Oaktown faithful can’t endorse what Lynch did Thursday night. He deserved the ejection. He deserved the suspension he received. He deserved the fine he received. At a time when the Raiders are looking to keep from drowning in the postseason chase, he put much more of a hurtin’ on his own team than he did the Chiefs of the officials.
- Unlucky Seven – It would appear the first pick of the 2018 draft is down to two teams – the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns. Both teams are 0-7 and have reached this point for different reasons. The Browns have played hot potato with the quarterback position – benching and ascending quarterbacks almost on a weekly basis. The 49ers were losing every game by three points or less until they got gutted like a fish by Dallas over the weekend. The good news for both of them is that their pain is halfway finished and the April draft can’t come soon enough.
- Fail to the Chiefs – Kansas City had the world by the tail when they got off to a 5-0 start that included a win over New England that made it look as though, if the Pats were going to get back to the Super Bowl, it was likely going to entail a trip through Arrowhead Stadium to get there. In the last two weeks, the Chiefs have lost at home (again) to the Steelers and allowed the Raiders to keep their season alive. In the span of five days, the Chiefs went from controlling their own destiny to the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a loss in hand to Pittsburgh.
- The Sun Sets in the West – A week after the Arizona Cardinals appeared to be back on track with their Wheeze Kids – Carson Palmer, Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald – it all went up in smoke against the Rams. With a chance to pull into a tie with the Rams at 4-3, Palmer was likely lost for the season – if not his career – with a broken throwing arm, Peterson looked like an old man rushing 11 times for 21 yards (Saints style numbers) and Fitzgerald had a brutal game (3-29-0). As high as hopes got when Peterson made his debut a week earlier, the Cardinals appear to be dead in the water…which is saying something in the desert.
- You Got Flacco’ed – The Baltimore Ravens looked like the real deal when they shot out of the gate with two divisional wins to start the season, but have lost four of the last five and quarterback Joe Flacco continues to be one of the worst quarterbacks – fantasy and reality – in the league. Through seven games, he has thrown for just 1,189 yards (just 170 yards a game) with five touchdowns, eight interceptions and a passer rating of 70.0. With humbling losses to the Steelers and Vikings, Baltimore is in no man’s land right now and needs to get things right quickly or they will drop out of sight in the playoff picture.
- Bucs Stopping Here – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were expected by many to be not just a playoff contender, but a favorite to win the NFC South. But, thanks to a third straight road loss in which they’ve allowed 30 or more points, the Bucs are in sole possession of last place at 2-4. It’s one thing to be in last place in your division, but the Bucs had a chance to make a move upward given the struggles of other divisional teams (see below), Tampa Bay is no 0-3 on the road and looking to be falling fast.
- Birds Migrating South – The Falcons started the 2017 season with a 3-0 record, running roughshod of the NFC North with wins over Chicago, Green Bay and Detroit. Next up came a three-game run with the AFC East, which hasn’t gone nearly as well. With games against Buffalo and Miami at home and at New England, Atlanta has managed just 41 points in three straight losses. Fortunately for them, AFC losses don’t count against them in any tie-breaker scenario, but what started out as such a strong season has been swirling down the drain since Oct. 1.
- You Brett Your Life – The first game of the Brett Hundley era in Green Bay was an unmitigated disaster. You knew there was something up when the Pack was a 5-point underdog at home to the Saints, but it proved not to be enough, as the Saints beat the Packers 26-17. Hundley completed just 12 of 25 passes for 87 yards with no touchdown passes, one interception and a passer rating of 39.9. To make matters worse, their Big Three receivers all saw their stock plummet – Jordy Nelson caught one pass for 13 yards, Davante Adams caught two passes for 12 yards and Randall Cobb caught two passes for 15 yards. Aaron Rodgers is likely done for the year and the Packers look like their chances of surviving in the event he can come back in mid-December (the best-case scenario) may render any comeback moot if this sort of brutal offensive showing continues.
- Rocky Mountain Low – In their first two games of the season, the Denver Broncos looked like a team to beat in the AFC. They rolled over the Chargers and Cowboy by a total score 66-38. In their last four games – three of them losses – they haven’t scored more than 16 points in any of them and, in their last two, have lost to the previously winless Giants 23-10 and got shut out Sunday by the Chargers in their rematch. Trevor Simien looked strong coming out of the gate but has since crashed and burned. The Broncos can win with defense – they’ve proved that – but they may have to start hoping for shutouts of their own if the offense doesn’t turn around in a hurry.
- Dressed to Ill – When Cam Newton dresses like a cartoon character after his team has won a game, he seems like he’s celebrating a win in style. When he loses, however, and he looks like he got his wardrobe from Rollo on “Sanford and Son,” it just looks sad. Newton was in full regalia following the 17-3 loss to the Bears in which he was responsible for both touchdowns – a lost fumble returned 75 yards and a Pick-6 returned 76 yards. Two weeks ago as they hosted Philadelphia for the No. 1 seed in the NFC at stake, the Panthers lost 28-23. A week later with the lowly Bears on the schedule, Chicago passed just seven times and somehow not only won but won by 14 points. Carolina had the chance to take control of the conference. Now they’re barely hanging on as a playoff contender.