The quality of play in the NFL has gone down, but luckily it’s not totally boring.
As marquee quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers — and their respective teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers — collapse, the league is slowly being reshaped.
Even the genius of eventual Hall of Famer coach Bill Belichick was questioned early in the season when his New England Patriots lost three of their first four, but he’s quickly re-established himself as all-time all-time great with the Patriots winning five their last six.
Super teams in the NFL? There are none.
The Philadelphia Eagles have the best record at 9-1, but they’ve averaged nearly 120 rushing yards per game, which is why they recently signed 35-year-old defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Kansas City is 8-2, but six of their wins have come by four points or fewer. That’s great, but the Chiefs aren’t unbeatable, and they certainly aren’t great.
Your quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, could be. Some people hate size, but I like to see it work. I loved watching Larry Bird shoot 3-pointers and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook for the “Showtime” Lakers. Few quarterbacks could pull off a two-minute drill like legendary quarterbacks Johnny Unitas or Joe Montana.
Mahomes is in that shape. The way he breaks ankles with his cuts and throws arrows through small windows is amazing. Unless he gets injured or the Chiefs stumble, he looks like a runaway for the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
Nobody mentions Brady or Rodgers anymore, which is sad in a way but also refreshing. Before this season is over, Brady will do something remarkable again. It’s in his genes and he’s a fascinating study to play even at the age of 45.
Rodgers looks lost. With Brady, you could tell something wasn’t right. Rodgers has that nomadic look on his face, a human looking for his next mission in life.
Their departures from the spotlight have put other quarterbacks in the spotlight, like Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts, Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa and even Geno Smith, who resurrected his career in Seattle. They now join other young stars like Lamar Jackson of the Ravens and Josh Allen of Buffalo.
Miami was expected to do better this season, but not in first place in the AFC East. The Eagles found themselves in a similar situation, but Hurts’ play took them to a new level.
The entire NFC East has been reborn. Many expected this division to be the worst in the NFL after last season, but so far every team in the division has a track record.
It’s been an unpredictable season, but even that can’t fix Jacksonville (3-7), Houston (1-8) or Cleveland (3-7), perennial losers who implode every year.
Even when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger retired at the end of last season, I believed the Steelers would finish at or above .500 a game because coach Mike Tomlin is such an intense competitor.
After the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl last year, I figured both had enough to make another serious title run, or at least contend for their division titles. These teams are trending in opposite directions, with the Rams at 3-7 and the Bengals at 6-4 showing signs of life in recent weeks.
Who saw this coming in Denver? I assumed trading Russell Wilson would make the Broncos a playoff contender. Instead, he has performed poorly and is taking the rest of the offense down with him.
Who saw this coming in New York and Minnesota? The Jets are 6-4 and the Vikings are 8-2. Imagine that.
Few teams in the collegiate or pro ranks fire their head coaches during the season, but the Panthers fired Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start and the Colts became Frank Reich on Nov. 7 after a 3-5-1 Start los replaced him with former center and ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday, who had no previous NFL coaching experience.
All of that, and this season is just past halfway point. If you sit back and put things in perspective, Baltimore fans should feel comfortable with the Ravens.
They’re not always entertaining, but at least where it counts, they’re consistent – winning, or at least staying competitive and having a stable front office.
It could be worse. They could be the Browns or the Colts.
Glad they aren’t anymore.