Aaaaaaand we’re back! It’s been a solid month since my last article, and instead of finding football clarity over that time, fans have watched the NFL head straight into utter madness. The good kind of madness, but madness nonetheless. Blake Bortles is running like Michael Vick in Madden 04, and has carried the Jaguars right into a date with the Patriots. The Eagles are trying to set the record for least points scored by a winning team in the playoffs, and if someone can let me know what happened with ten seconds left in last week’s Vikings game, that would be great. I think I blacked out from excitement.
Before we get to the lines for the penultimate week of the season, let’s look at some things we learned this 2017-18 season.
We learned… Always bet against the Browns. The reason for the spreads is to put the game on an even playing field. Vegas wants the public to bet evenly on both sides, which is why the Browns were often underdogs by a touchdown or more. Even with that cushion, they still only covered the spread four times this season, which was the last in the league. The team simply wasn’t even competitive in most of their games. With one win over their past two seasons, it is easy to pile on the Browns, but it would have been a lot easier to make some money by betting against them.
We learned… Aaron Rodgers is important to his team. Yes, I realize that nobody is feeling sorry for the most hated man in Minnesota, but it is hard to argue against the fact that the injury to Rodgers made the path for the NFC North champion Vikings much easier. The drop off to backup Brett Hundley was cataclysmic, and it exposed the numerous holes in the rest of the Packer team.
We learned… The next generation of quarterbacks will be just fine. As Tom Brady and Drew Brees enter the twilights of their careers, the NFL is searching for the next great group of QBs. Last year, teams were worried, as top picks in the draft Carson Wentz and Jared Goff were shaky in their rookie years, and other former first rounders were not progressing as fast as expected. All I can say after this year is that we are just fine. Both Goff and Wentz surpassed their respective expectations. Former Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo is saving football in San Francisco, and Deshaun Watson was sensational in his limited starts. So even though it was a rough year for rookies Mitch Trubisky and Deshone Kizer, I cannot give up on them.
We learned… Blake Bortles is not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need. To be frank, I was completely out on Bortles going into the season. But sometimes, as fans of the NFL, we just need to sit back and enjoy what we are handed. Bortles might be a below-average passer, but for some inexplicable reason, he is currently a Cam Newton-lite with his running ability. He ran for more yards than he passed for against the Bills (!!!!!). For that, we salute you, Sir Bortles.
We learned… Don’t bet against the Patriots. In regards to everything I just said about our Lord and Savior Blake Bortles: There is no way they are beating the Pats. They are not even covering the spread. The Patriots are the complete opposite of what I said about the Browns. The Patriots went 11-5 against the spread, which is even more ridiculous, considering they covered four double-digit spreads, and four more of a touchdown or more. Being a nine-point favorite in the conference title game is very rare, but this is a case where it is very reasonable.
We learned… Miracles do happen. Hello, Vikings fans. How are you doing? Have you recovered from the near heart attack you had last Sunday night? Yeah, me neither. Isn’t it crazy that it has only been a few days since Diggs’ miracle touchdown, and it’s probably already the greatest sports-related moment of my life? (Second place: Minnesota Twins winning game 163 in 2008. Third place: The Timberwolves trading for Jimmy Butler. No, I am not joking.) But let’s all settle down and remember a couple things. This was not the Super Bowl. It wasn’t even the NFC Championship game. The Vikings head into Philadelphia this week riding high, but there is still business to be done. The Vikings can in no way look past the Eagles, even though they have looked shaky in the weeks following Carson Wentz’s devastating knee injury. The Philly defense is no joke, as evidenced by their throttling of Atlanta’s potent passing game. That being said, Nick Foles better wear some extra padding, because he is going to be harrassed all game by Everson Griffen and company.
At the end of the day, the most important thing for fans to remember is to relax. The most talented Vikings team in many years is one game away from a home Super Bowl, and I expect to see them there. At least Blair Walsh isn’t our kicker, right?
Minnesota (-3) over Philadelphia
New England (-9) over Jacksonville