Week 17 Recap - All of the Emotions

Sport brings out the best and worst in people. The ability for “a game” to produce enough emotion to reduce humans young and old to tears of ecstasy or despair is the beauty of the beast. This was never more clear than on the NFL Week 17 Sunday slate of 2020. Yesterday will surely go down as one of the most topsy turvy finale’s to a season in recent memory. I can think of no better way to analyse yesterday than through the emotions I’m feeling today.

The Nate Sudfeld Conspiracy

Credit: Associated Press

Firstly, I’m angry.

Philadelphia… What have you done? Doug Pederson… C’mon man. An absolute travesty took place on Sunday night in Philly. Look – I get it – Doug Pederson owes the New York Giants NOTHING. But… he owes a lot more to this sport and the NFL in general. A few years ago, when the Eagles called “Philly Philly” and beat the “evil Patriots Empire” in the SuperBowl, I would have defended him to the moon as a bold and exciting head coach, willing to roll the dice to win any game. I have no idea how that guy is the same man who made the decision to bench Jalen Hurts yesterday.

I feel awful for the Giants players who went out and beat a tough Cowboys team in an absolute battle to be given a chance to make the playoffs. And yet – secretly – the Eagles had NO intention of ever winning that game, meaning the Giants (or the Cowboys) never stood a chance. And that’s a damn shame. Jalen Hurts was giving it his all. Not his best night, but he was in position to have the ball, down 3, early 4th quarter, ready to drive down the field and potentially win the game. Nate Sudfeld was NOT your best chance of winning.

You wanna see playing to win? Look at Deshaun Watson in the Texans game. That was playing to win until the very end. Philadelphia made a mockery of that. Sure, having the number 6 draft pick is better than the number 9, but you MIGHT have ended up with that anyway. There was no guarantee Hurts was going to win that game against a fearsome Washington defense who were desperate to get the win and be in the playoffs. However, by pulling Hurts, inserting Sudfeld, waving the white flag… you lost all respect from me and most of the NFL. It’s a shambles. Giants fans, I’m truly sorry. You weren’t given a fair shot.

Let me quickly state for the record – I am ELATED for Head Coach Ron Rivera and (nailed-on Comeback Player of the Year) Alex Smith. Those two, I wish all the success in the world. The Washington franchise however has a looooooooong way to go to prove to me they deserve to be cheered for, following their past indiscretions. I never thought I’d say this, but dear Lord I’m going to be cheering fiercely for Tom Brady to win a playoff game next weekend. 

Miami All Out Of Miracles

Week 17 Review
Credit: Adrian Kraus (Associated Press)

Secondly, i’m sad.

I – for my sins – am a Miami Dolphins fan. Since 2008, we’ve made the playoffs just once, on the back of the Jay-Train, as Jay Ajayi somehow vaulted himself into the record books with multiple 200 yard games. That was the peak of my fandom – which led to getting annihilated by the Killer B’s of Pittsburgh the following weekend. Anyway, going into this year, I was hopeful we could MAYBE sneak to 8-8? We had a somewhat favourable schedule and a new and exciting rookie QB to complement FitzMagic. But.. this? To win 10 games… and NOT get in? To have the miracle in Vegas last weekend ultimately count for nothing? It’s absolutely gutting. And losing 56-26 wasn’t even the worst of it.

I didn’t want the false hope of the Jags coming back to 20-14 against the Colts… I didn’t need that. I may be a little bit emotionally invested in this situation, but I just have absolutely no love for this Colts team. Obviously football analysis is a game of opinions and personal preferences, and mine just so happen to be that if you can’t throw a pass accurately deeper than 10 yards down the field I’m not going to cheer for your team. Teams that rely on defense? Not for me. This is why the Bears, 49ers and Colts are semi-permanently on my “I don’t like you” list. After this… the Colts might be on there for life. I hope they get absolutely obliterated by the Bills next weekend. 

To be honest, it’s the Dolphins’ own fault. The catastrophic loss to the (awful) Denver Broncos in week 11 looks like the key domino that fell which ultimately denied the Fins a playoff berth. It’s a shame. Would Fitzpatrick have won this game if COVID hadn’t intervened? … maybe. It’s hard to be sure. Give credit where it’s due; the Bills are a wagon. It’s Bills vs Chiefs for me in the AFC Title game, and Josh Allen has truly vaulted himself into the elite QB discussion this year. I love this Bills team – as much as they killed my dreams yesterday – and I think they’re going to be very good for a very long while.

Cardinals' Agony Is Rams (And Bears) Ecstasy

Week 17 Review
Credit: Wally Skalij (Los Angeles Times)

Thirdly, I’m disappointed.

For the Cardinals, sadly, this season will be looked back on as a gross underachievement. Sure, they play in the hardest division in the NFC, but they blew it these last two weeks. Kyler was clearly hurt yesterday – missing most of the game – but losing to the 49ers last weekend was pretty unforgivable. And as a result, we now have to watch Mitch Trubisky in a playoff game, instead of Kyler and DeAndre Hopkins.

It’s a shame. Larry Fitzgerald deserved another shot at glory. Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid didn’t quite work out this year. Too many dropped passes, a down year from Kenyan Drake, and some notable holes that still need to be filled on defense, led Arizona to being a middle of the road team. I love Kyler, and I believe that he and D-Hop will lead this franchise to happier days moving forward. But – sadly – this wasn’t one of them.

Let’s give some credit to John Wolford. I hadn’t even heard of him until last Sunday night. And now?! He may never have to buy a drink in LA (Or St Louis?!) again. The Rams defense stepped up in a big way and made the game-winning play, taking a pick back the other way for 6. It looked like Cardinals backup Chris Streveler was convinced a flag for offside would be forthcoming, but none was thrown, and the Rams have progressed into the post-season, and simultaneously cause a huge eruption of cheers from Bears fans in Chicago.

Will Jared Goff return to face the Seahawks? I hope so for the competition that would provide. Aaron Donald said “that’s exactly what we wanted,” when told they would be travelling to Seattle, in his post game interview. All I can say is… be careful what you wish for. Russell and the Seahawks are not going down without a fight.

King Henry 2k

Week 17 Review
Credit: Eric Christian Smith (Associated Press)

Fourthly, I’m glad to have witnessed greatness. Derrick Henry, please rise as the Rushing King. Back to back seasons as the Rushing Champion, and – according to Twitter – he’s the first Running Back to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season at the high school, intercollegiate, and professional levels. Incredible. If it wasn’t for the mastery of Aaron Rodgers, Derrick Henry would be the NFL MVP. And if that wasn’t enough, that Titans vs Texans game was everything good about the NFL…

As we touched on earlier, Deshaun Watson refused to die and it needed Ryan Tannehill’s renaissance to continue and write another chapter in this exciting Titans season. AJ Brown… what a catch. And hey! KICKERS MATTER TOO. Congratulations to Sam Sloman for that (doinked) gamewinner. Feel bad for Bears fans that all doinks lead back to them… but this one was a joyous one for coach Vrabel and the Titans. They now have to deal with a vengeful Baltimore Ravens squad next week… That is a huuuuuuuuuge game. Tannehill vs Jackson. Henry vs Dobbins. AJ Brown against that Ravens secondary… with the storyline of last year too? Oh yes please.

I appreciate that the Texans have been a bit of a joke of a franchise for a while, especially due to the DeAndre Hopkins trade… BUT don’t sleep on their future. I love the partnership that Brandin Cooks and Deshaun Watson have struck up. Will Fuller’s suspension has forced Watson to look to Cooks more and it’s worked late in the season. David Johnson has improved that running game somewhat, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a vast improvement from Houston next year – depending on who they hire as head coach. Deshaun Watson will continue to be a success in this league. He’s too talented not to. I also feel really sorry for JJ Watt. What a guy he is. Credit to the Texans and the league. Hoping for Houston’s success for JJ & Deshaun as much as anybody.

Quick Hits

Credit: YouTube.com
  • I’m not going to go on about this… but if sitting on a loose ball is a fumble recovery… I’m totally lost. The Cowboys were absolutely shafted by that call. Did I also have money riding on the Cowboys? Maybe. Definitely. Was it still an awful call? Absolutely.
  • I am elated for the Cleveland Browns. They deserve this. Congrats Dawg Pound.
  • If the Broncos think that Drew Lock’s performance yesterday (including his 92 yard TD pass to Jerry Jeudy) is grounds to keep him as their quarterback, their franchise will continue to tread water for years to come. 
  • Sidenote – Jerry Jeudy – if they get a different QB and maybe a different OC in Denver… Jeudy will explode. He’s too talented to not be a success in this league long term.
  • I hope somebody gives Matt Stafford a starting job somewhere else in the league. He deserves it. He can still play at a top level.
  • I’m definitely not going to go on about this but if Dak doesn’t get hurt, the Cowboys would have WALKED their way to the NFC East crown this year.
  • Justin Herbert has broken so many records this season. What a rookie year for him. The Chargers have got a bright future with him. You just wonder if Anthony Lynn will be there to coach him… (turns out the answer to that is a resounding NO).
  • Speaking of talented rookies… Justin Jefferson. Superb. Congratulations on breaking Randy Moss’ record.
  • Goodbye Adam Gase. 
  • Goodbye Doug Marrone. That Jaguars job is a great opportunity. Laviska Shenault and James Robinson are two great young weapons for whichever QB they draft… (spoiler: it will be Big Trev)
  • I really hope the Saints RBs are all able to play next weekend. Alvin Kamara does not deserve to miss the playoffs because of COVID. None of them do.
  • Congratulations to Aaron Rodgers on winning the 2020 NFL MVP.

The Playoff Picture

Week 17 Review
Credit: Scott Galvin (USA Today Sports)

Let’s move forward… Lastly, I’m hopeful. And I’m excited. Playoffs baby!!

Let’s start with the headline. The #1 seeds look like obvious favourites. I’m sorry – I have to be boring and take the obvious pick – but I see no other SuperBowl right now than the Chiefs vs the Packers. Is that a cop out? Maybe. Is it also correct? I think so. But let’s leave that for now, and focus on these Wildcard matchups.

I’m hopeful that these playoffs could be very exciting… once we get to the divisional round. Not that there WON’T be good games this coming weekend, but for entertainment’s sake we need the Rams, Bears, Washington and Colts eliminated as quickly as possible. Regardless, Titans vs Ravens AND Browns vs Steelers should be electric.

Mike Tomlin just saw (presumably) the Browns best effort against his team and it was a 2pt conversion game… Was Stefanski holding anything back in case this happened? I hope so. I would LOVE a deep Browns playoff run. Sue me; I love Baker. I will not apologise for this. Whatever happens from here on out in his career, Baker will always be known for ending the Cleveland playoff drought. I really hope the Browns are able to sneak past the Steelers and into the Divisional round.

My official predictions? I was 16-6 in this article on Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday) Night Football so I’m gonna roll that respectable record over into the Playoffs… These are my WAY too early predictions:

Colts @ Bills – Bills

Rams @ Seahawks – Seahawks

Buccaneers @ Washington – Buccaneers

Ravens @ Titans – (I am tossing and turning on this one constantly) …Ravens?!

Bears @ Saints – Saints

Browns @ Steelers – (Fully disclosure, I’m picking with my heart, not my head here) Browns

Thank you all for choosing to read my ramblings this regular season. I’m gonna keep writing this through the playoffs, or until the lovely powers-that-be here at The Touchdown decide they’re done with me. As always, I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter and Instagram. Come chat and tell me why I’m wrong in criticising Doug Pederson for his absolute disgrace of a coaching decision. Stay safe and wear a mask. Cheers.

Callum Squires

NFL Analyst