Five things that this past regular season gave us and we will remember. For better or for worse....
1. The real value of an actual franchise Quarterback
This is no new gimmick. The most important position in all team sports always had value. But this season increased that value turning mediocrities to stars, poor to rich, afterthoughts to must-starts. Why though...? Well, first of all, we are closing the book of the golden age QB era. Payton left, Brady’s 40, Brees 39, Eli Ben and Rivers are also all on the wrong side of 30. Romo and Cutler retired (well, Jay practically not yet but have you watched him this year?), Palmer just retired and Kaepernick didn't get signed. Lots of jobs are up for the taking. Plus, a lot of hopeful young guns are seriously questioned. Tannehill, Bortles, RG3 is already out, Luck's health is an issue. So teams that seem to be set on the position are envied. The Raiders, Lions, Falcons, even the Titans and Cowboys of this world. We live in the era where Kirk Cousins might be the highest paid football player by April and Jimmy G led 49ers are already considered favorites to make the playoffs next year. Teams trade up in the draft again, looking for young QB gurus to lead the rookies. This transitional age is damn interesting.
2. What is a catch nowadays?
Jesse James' name is now more relevant to a football controversy than to the wild West. Receivers may have the ball for a good amount of time and still get an "incomplete" call. Terms like "football move" or "survive the ground" are now household catchphrases. The league has to figure this out soon. Blurred lines in the rulebook are always an inconvenience for any sport.
3. Is the NFL in the midst of a major marketing crisis?
Ratings and ticket sales are declining. Fantasy football, on the other hand, is getting bigger and bigger and by using its platform the NFL keeps expanding in new territories. I have a feeling though, that this age of NFL football looks more like the early 80s, when traditional dynasties were slowly moving out of the picture, new stars were on the rise (but not yet established) and the landscape was unclear. But in this day and age, can you afford to wait? Marketing mistakes could be lethal for the League going forward.
4. Injuries were 2017’s dark tale…
Superstars like Aaron Rodgers, Odell Beckham Jr, David Johnson, JJ Watt were out for the year early. MVP Candidates (vote here) like Carson Wentz and Antonio Brown were hobbled by injuries later in the season and were unable to help their teams when it mattered most. Rookie sensations like Deshaun Watson and Dalvin Cook managed to tease us with their immense talent before ultimately getting knocked out too. How can a show be apealing with the understudies on stage while the stars are sidelined? Furthermore, there were a couple of scary moments (Shazier, Miller) and a bunch of concussions that raised safety issues more than ever. We all know it’s a violent sport, but the 2017 season was anything but kind to NFL players…
5. Change of the guard in the NFC
While the AFC was looking like a game of two when the playoffs kicked off (NE and Pitt were the clear favourites by all accounts), the NFC was a -once again- new ball game. Not taking anything away from the other side (three new playoff teams and Jacksonville on the Championship game), but 5 outta 6 new playoff teams is a big deal! Minnesota and Philly led the way, the Saints turnaround was damn impressive too. Make no mistake, the Rams are here to stay. Plus, Cam's Panthers finally rebounded from their Super Bowl 50 hangover. It will be even more interesting with the 49ers and Cowboys back on the rise next season. So brace yourself for another exciting National Football Conference race in 2018!
In a season where the LA teams overshadowed their New York counterparts, social media became more relevant than ever, turning rumours into news, offensive lines where rare and penalties often, we still watched some good football. And it ain't over yet!!
Will we watch the Eagles hoist their first Lombardi trophy or will the blue bloods from Boston add it to their daunting collection?