Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, things look pretty much like they usually do across the NFL landscape. There are a few teams that have pulled away from the pack and are resting comfortable with postseason play clinched. There are second tier teams that control their own destiny, but have to be a little nervous about these scrappy third tier teams that won’t give up while any tiny mathematically possible situation is alive for them. Finally, there are the teams that math can’t help, just playing out the string.
The difference is, this season, it’s much harder to tell these teams apart on Sundays.
Take the two goose egg teams, Green Bay and Indianapolis. The Packers seemingly let it be known in Week 14 that they would be taking their shot at history….before mustering all of 14 points against the 5-8 Chiefs with an interim coach and a new quarterback. The winless Colts meanwhile play host to a Titans team with Wild Card aspirations, and spank them, putting Tennessee in the desperately clinging to mathematical possibilities category.
Then you’ve got Baltimore, who are apparently completely disinterested in any game versus a sub .500 team (to the point you almost have to question if they know those games count). A sweep of Pittsburgh, a Harbaugh Bowl victory, wins over the Texans and Jets. Then losses to Tennessee, Seattle, and San Diego, and a near home loss to Arizona…..all fringe teams that aren’t going to make the cut this season. Which group do these Baltimore Ravens really belong to?
This is beyond the usual ‘any given Sunday’ rhetoric, and more than simple parity at work.
This. Is. Bad. Football.
Just look at the story du jour of this season, Tim Tebow. He’s the biggest and most polarizing topic in the league right now, because he wins despite playing poorly for 58 minutes a game. I don’t care if he just wins, I care about the 58 minutes of poor play I’m subjected to.
If all I cared about was the result I wouldn’t take time out of my life to watch NFL football, I would simply look up the scores on Monday mornings- but Tebow help me, I actually care about the process.
I care that the two teams currently favored to meet in the Super Bowl, Green Bay and New England, can’t play a lick of defense between them (ranked 31 and 32, dead last, as per nfl.com).
I care that we might see double digit teams post double digit losses.
I care that two of the brighter future stars at quarterback, Sam Bradford and Josh Freeman, have regressed horribly and it’s going to get two good coaches fired.
I care that the supposedly mighty NFC East is in fact so weak that a division champion might be decided by a three-way tiebreaker of 8-8 teams.
I care that Chicago can go from the NFC Championship game to out of the playoffs due to one injury, that the Colts can almost go winless in the same situation, and I care that a totally pedestrian Falcons team can look at this NFL landscape and think they’re a #2 wide receiver away from being a Super Bowl contender.
I cared about Green Bay taking that first loss, even though I couldn’t care less about the Packers really, because their chase of perfection was all this season had left to care about.
I care about football- and I’m sorry, but I’m just not seeing any in 2011.