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This Week in Football: Week 17, Santa Stafford, Coaching Carousel

OUR TOP STORY

There was no better way to wrap up the NFL season, let alone the 100th season celebration, than with this year’s Week 17 slate.

We saw history and drama across the board in a week that was expected to be somewhat unremarkable heading into Sunday. It’s why there’s no drama better than live sports.

The highlight of the weekend was the ongoing saga involving the Chiefs-Chargers game and the Dolphins-Patriots game. New England was a heavy favorite in that contest, more specifically it was a 17-point favorite at home over Miami. If the Patriots had won, they would have clinched a first-round bye and the Chiefs would have played next weekend regardless of their result.

Then Fitzmagic broke out.

One of the league’s most beloved players led a late game-winning drive to knock off the evil empire, forcing New England to play on wild card weekend for the first time since 2009.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, the Chiefs took care of business by beating the Chargers. They found out right before their game went final that New England was losing, while the fans at home were treated to another gem from Kevin Harlan, describing the action from both games on CBS.

That was just a taste of what we got to experience on Sunday in Week 17. Over in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers played one of the games of the year in the Sunday Night Football finale, with the Niners earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win.

It was a gripping game throughout. The final few minutes were pure chaos, though. A questionable personal foul, a fantastic fourth-down conversion, a moronic penalty, a blown pass interference call and a tackle mere inches from the goal line.

In the NFC North, the Detroit Lions nearly pulled off a massive upset over the Green Bay Packers, which would have dropped the Packers out of the two seed and had massive ramifications for the NFC West and the New Orleans Saints. Instead, though, the Packers bounced back and surged late to pick up the win (completing an emotional redemption arc for kicker Mason Crosby in the process), locking up a bye in one of the most surprising close games of the weekend.

Look around the league and you’ll find tons of examples of beautiful, thrilling drama this week. Jameis Winston made history in the most Jameis way possible (more on that later). Andy Dalton may have played his final game as a Bengal, and he picked up a win for his troubles. A.J. Brown continued his ascent to stardom and Derrick Henry clinched the rushing title as the Titans wrapped up a playoff spot. The Cowboys scored 47 points and missed out on the playoffs thanks to the Eagles struggling but eventually beating the Giants.

The 100th season of NFL football was an exciting one. It had its fair share of blemishes, of course, but in terms of storylines and quality of game play, it was one to remember. Week 17 was the perfect encapsulation of the regular season and the only way the decade could rightfully end.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

*Matthew Stafford and his family are never too busy to give back. The Staffords have been through monumental hardship this year. He, of course, was placed on injured reserve at the end of the year due to a back injury which could jeopardize his future. His wife, Kelly, has spent most of this year recovering from a brain tumor. Nobody would blame the Staffords for staying private during the holidays, taking time to just be with each other and their kids. Instead, they went above and beyond.

They went to the home of two brothers who lost their father this year. As you can see, the kids are overjoyed. This is an incredibly special moment that these two boys will never forget, all thanks to the selflessness of Matthew and Kelly Stafford. This goes beyond a quarterback and his wife, this goes beyond football. Everyone should applaud what these two did for those kids.

*For the love of God, stop wasting time on Antonio Brown. This goes for NFL teams, for television and radio stations, and even for this column. We, as a football consuming and producing society, need to stop. The Saints brought him in for a workout this week, which was a complete disaster. That was followed by Brown taking an uncalled for shot on Twitter at former teammate and generally adored Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster.

At least he’s employed.

It’s time to stop. He needs to be stopped and teams need to stop enabling him. Due diligence or not, that’s what the Saints did this week by giving him a workout.

*Joe Burrow will be the next quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals. That’s been a foregone conclusion for weeks now, but the LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner was almost inexplicably good on Saturday, making history in a win over Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff. There aren’t any doubts that Burrow is the top quarterback in this year’s draft class, something the Bengals certainly covet. The Dalton era is over and the Burrow era is next, something that was made even more obvious this weekend.

JAMEIS WINSTON DID WHAT THIS WEEK?

Jameis Winston made history this week.

To throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in one season is utterly incredible. Add on the fact that he also threw the most pick-sixes in a single season in history and you’ve got an unbelievable season for almost all the wrong reasons.

We’ve said it before in this column and we’ll say it again now, this is the peak of football comedy. Jameis Winston belongs in the hall of fame just because of how entertaining he makes every single game without even trying. He’s reportedly looking for $30 million per year in his next contract, and if you’re Tampa Bay you need to seriously consider giving it to him. Whatever his future holds, though, there was no better quarterback to become the first 30-30 man in NFL history.

STAT OF THE WEEK

This week’s stat reeks of disappointment for one of the league’s supposedly premiere franchises. The Dallas Cowboys had fewer playoff wins in the 2010s than the New York Jets.

Consider this for a moment. The Cowboys are “America’s Team,” the organization that is on primetime constantly and dominates the headlines. They’re always considered a contender no matter how much dysfunction they’re clearly going through. The Jets, meanwhile, are one of the NFL’s laughing stocks. They haven’t won a title in over half a century and, to be frank, the franchise rarely gets anything right. Even during their winning stretch this decade they were constantly teased for running out Mark Sanchez at quarterback.

Four wins to three isn’t a huge difference, and in a way it means even less since neither team won a title over the past 10 years. But it gives you some perspective on just how inconsequential the Cowboys have been for a whole decade.

(h/t NFL reddit)

FOOTBALL FOLLIES

The Dolphins were the talk of the league all weekend, and no one was more appreciative of what they did than Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

 

The Chiefs may not technically need the bye with how well they’re playing; they’d be a heavy favorite against any wild card team. Still, getting that extra week off increases your odds of reaching a Super Bowl by a ton. Reid went on to joke about sending Ryan Fitzpatrick ribs and the Chiefs Kingdom has started a petition to get him to Arrowhead Stadium for Kansas City’s first playoff game.

There’s nothing like postseason football.

WEEKLY TOP 5: BEST HEAD COACHING OPENINGS

Black Monday is a tough day around the NFL as numerous coaches lose their jobs every year. Most will land on their feet somehow, but it’s a day that signals major changes around the league. There are the five open jobs (or jobs we presume will be open soon), and we have them ranked in order of desirability for potential coaches.

  1. Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys have problems with their roster, most notably the fact that three key players (Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones) are all free agents while a ton of cash is tied up in a running back. Still, job security is obviously a positive given how long Jason Garrett has held on, and it’s still a very talented roster that nearly made the playoffs this year.
  2. Cleveland Browns – Many people around the league have been burned by hyping the Browns in recent memory, but there’s still real potential with this franchise. The quarterback is in place, there are quality weapons and there’s a middle class in the AFC that can be taken over. This job will require a total culture change, however.
  3. New York Giants – The Giants have been bad for years at this point, but the future quarterback and a superstar skill player are already on the roster. If there’s an offensive-minded coach (or a former assistant) who thinks they can develop Daniel Jones, this is an enticing landing spot.
  4. Carolina Panthers – On one hand, Carolina has a former MVP at quarterback. On the other hand, that former MVP may never be the same after suffering a rash of injuries and missing most of this season. Christian McCaffrey and a strong defense are appealing, but the quarterback uncertainty is a big concern.
  5. Washington Redskins – Don’t overthink this: The biggest problem with coaching in Washington is that you have to work for Dan Snyder. He fired Bruce Allen, a major issue in his own right, which is a positive step. Still, it’s Snyder. It sounds like the ‘Skins already have their guy in Ron Rivera, a respectable coach who’s won before and can command a room. If anyone can handle that job, it’s him, but that’s a tall task for anyone.

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