Criticism of football has come from many places this year, so much so that ’17 may be remembered as the NFL’s Sideways Season. So much of this autumn has been one the league will want to forget. Ratings erosion, political polarity, and injuries to massive stars have all chipped away at the league’s normal invincibility.
But the biggest concern isn’t any of those issues, because those things may be products of bad luck or poor timing. The most pressing question should surround the quality of games. I’ve documented the reasons for this earlier. That’s something that could have permanence and why a sluggish season needs a fun, unpredictable, wild postseason to save it.
While there are a few favorites that look strong once again, namely the Patriots, Steelers and Falcons, ’17 has been defined by the upstarts. You want a really cool picture drawn about how off-the-map some of this season’s power teams were in September? These graphs visually show Super Bowl 52 odds as they’ve changed weekly for each team.
The NFC is littered with fresh faces hoping to crash Minneapolis. The Rams were as high as +15000 earlier in the spring but now have dropped all the way to +1700. The Eagles were +5,000 in the spring and now have the best odds in the NFC at +360. Philly is the team Vegas predicts has the best chance to get to the Super Bowl behind the defending champion Patriots.
The Vikings are looking to become the first team ever to play the Super Bowl on its home turf, and went from +3700 when Sam Bradford was injured to +1200 on the back of strong play from Case Keenum (that’s a weird sentence). The Saints zoomed all the way from +8900 to +810 because of a strong running game and improving defense to compliment Drew Brees.
In the AFC, the Jaguars have been a laughingstock for years but their odds have plummeted based on how they’ve overachieved (+8700 when the year began to +2400 now).
The guys in the desert usually have a good feel on these things, and the NFL needs January to bring excitement and unexpectedness to the season. The worst thing that can happen for the league is the favorites romping through the playoffs without much drama. If the Pats and Eagles cruise into the Twin Cities the public will most likely yawn and complain about the season overall.
The Falcons could be an incredibly scary Wild Card team. The Ravens can play vicious defense and have gone toe-to-toe with the Pats and Steelers before. Could the high-flying Rams crash January with a young quarterback and head coach? Can the Seahawks muster their old Super Bowl DNA despite being a MASH unit?
The potential savior to disgruntled fans is the games, and the best way to forget about the controversies that swirl Monday through Saturday. If we have a crazy, fun, unpredictable postseason with comebacks and upsets and great finishes, all will be forgiven. We know how this works. Just give us good games, we’ll ignore everything else.
D.A. hosts 9am-12 pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.