The Beginning of a Strong Finish for the NFL

zeke-vikings

Ezekiel Elliott will have certainly have a major impact on how this season ends. (Credit: Jon Krawczynski/Associated Press)

– Jim Bearor

We’re in Week 13, and the Seattle Seahawks are the only team that I think has locked up their division. They haven’t looked super inspiring doing it, but they’re three games up on the disappointing Cardinals and have the largest divisional lead in the league. The Cowboys are up two and a half games on the Giants, and they play each other in a week. New England is two games up on Miami and three on the Bills, and while they will almost certainly win the division, the loss of Gronk and the fact that Brady is banged up might make a difference before the playoffs. The Raiders are only a game up on the Chiefs and two over the defending champs. The Falcons are up one on the Bucs. The NFC North is a mess. This is awesome.

So far, this has been a season with plenty of not-so-fun stuff. The unsettling Luke Kuechly concussion video, Cam Newton being scared about his safety, Josh Brown, and the Rams all leave a bad taste in your mouth. Throw in Kaepernick, the election, the viewership decline conversation, and the “mediocre football” narrative, and you’ve got a lot of shit that’s not conducive to hype.

I think a large number football fans who approach the league like I do are about to shed a lot of this unnecessary baggage, because there is a lot that has to be hashed out over the course of the next five weeks. The way I see it, this NFL season is about to turn a corner here, barring some historic derailment. There is a lot to discuss and be excited about between the playoff hunt, fantasy playoffs, and the MVP race. Belichick has always said “the real season starts after thanksgiving,” and those words are about to ring extra true.

We’re in Act II of the 2016 NFL season. The backstories have been laid out and the stakes have been raised. We’ve figured out which teams deserve the most attention and which ones aren’t worth our time at this point. There are just enough games left for the improbable run or the heart-breaking collapse, and plenty of intra-division business to be sorted out along the way. Goodell and friends are going to have to try real hard if they want to screw up the back end of this season, or “the big bang” has to happen. Controversy and unrest have become the norm, and I think the only thing that could move the needle enough at this point to throw this season off the rails would be a horrific injury to a superstar (please God no). Anything else, even a scandal on the level of Michael Vick’s wouldn’t ruin everything even though it would blow up all over social media and news outlets, and would probably lead to a continued drop in viewership per Nielsen.

On the other hand, I’m sure many football fans like myself would hear the news, maybe text a friend “Holy shit!” or something of the like, then compartmentalize it and tuck it away because there is football to be played and that’s more important to us than all the tangential stuff. Brushing off these “real-life” issues and personal stories as unessential may seem callous and jaded, but really we just want to watch football. I think a lot of people do, and I think it’s about to become apparent as a large number of fans like myself start to ween off topics that aren’t central to the sport. Instead, we will be watching intently each week, because the real season has started and believe it or not, this is what we came for.


 

– Jim Bearor (@JimBearor)jimbearor

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