There are no great teams. There aren’t any great teams. There are some pretty good teams. There are a few awful teams. Mostly, there are just mediocre teams. That’s the NFL! Welcome, have a seat, and let’s all dig in to these vegan chicken tenders, marinated in the tears of Roger Goodell. Somebody get that overinflated elf a hanky. With the amazing tornado of suspense that was the 2017 MLB playoffs, and the effortless grace of the superstar-laden NBA, it’s a wonder that America is still obsessed with football. It really makes me wonder. But hell, I’m part of it. Maybe we should all take a long, hard look in the mirror, and remind ourselves that we ALL have deep within us the potential, the power, the turgid fury to be GRUDEN GRINDERS ourselves. If only we believe. Just believe, y’all.
I’ll make one plea to you here – if you only have 60 seconds remaining in your attention-span-o-meter, please scroll to the bottom and read my Ode to the Browns. It will make you weep. If it doesn’t, send me a Venmo request for $1.
Biggest Winner – Los Angeles Rams
If anyone in the research department wants to get off their lazy ass and check, it would be cool to know how many times I’ve labeled the Rams as the Biggest Winners in this column. Because it sure feels like they’re here a lot. And really, good for them. It’s a franchise that’s been kicked and given figurative swirlies for years, so whatever fans have jumped back on the bandwagon after bitterly severing their trailer hitch when the Rams moved are quite happy now. Screw their owner, but then, most pro sports owners are trash-filled teddy bears in $1,100 sunglasses. I’m happy for Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald though, those guys are just swell. Wait, he did what? Never mind, I’m just going to never be a fan of any famous men, ever again. Good policy, right?
Biggest Loser – Pittsburgh Steelers
Okay, so… what happened in that game, exactly? It’s amazing, because for as lame as the call against Jesse James (by the coward Robert Ford) was, it’s almost criminal of me not to put Oakland in this spot thanks to the litany of putrid calls they endured. But Pittsburgh had the most to lose, and lose it they did. Now they have to go through Foxboro in January, missing a huge opportunity to secure home field advantage. And it was all right there. They also lost Antonio Brown for a few weeks, which I address below. Though they’ll get him back, there’s no telling if the injury or the layoff could affect his readiness for showtime. Either way, we all had to endure super slo-mo replays of Tom Brady screaming himself to orgasm; so really, we’re all losers here.
Rookie Watch – Keelan Cole, Jacksonville Jaguars
Who? I know right, that’s what I said. Cole is actually quietly putting together a pretty nice year for the surprising Jags – he just crossed the 600-yard threshold on Sunday. Getting 186 of those yards all in one game certainly helps, but let’s not take anything away from the youngster out of Kentucky Wesleyan. The kid is averaging a superlative 19 yards per reception, which means that four consecutive completions to him automatically result in a touchdown. Check my math on that. He is certainly helping Blake Bortles convincingly appear to be a human quarterback this season, which is no small task. You werk, Keelan. You werk.
Sleeper Awakens – Eli Manning, New York Giants
Say what now? Not that Eli Manning? He’s a sleeper? He’s been sleeping? Or just looking sleepy? For like 10 years now. Yeah, that’s the guy. Well he got benched, which we all heard about. And then his stupid, bristle-lipped coach got fired, so now he’s ba-a-ack. What a rollercoaster for the young, ancient, mediocre, winning quarterback. He promptly jumped back into the fray and face-blasted the Eagles defense for 434 yards and three touchdowns on a whopping 57 pass attempts. He also tied his career-low interception total, with just one! Good for you, Eli! Start him in the fantasy finals if you dare.
Dominating Performance – Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Well this was about the most obvious choice of all time. For those of you who were lucky enough to enjoy Gurley’s day in your fantasy playoffs, congratulations. Gurley honestly looked like he was back in his college days at Georgia (or better yet, back at Tarboro High School), as he sliced through a simpering Seahawks defense like the Champion Sword Doombringer. In total: 170 yards and FOUR – count ‘em – FOUR freakin’ touchdowns. He makes it look so easy.
Most Devastating Injury – Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Brown partially tore his calf muscle during Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. For all the Steeler faithful out there – it could have been worse. He appears on track to return for the postseason, which is hugely important, necessary even, for Pittsburgh. The Steelers can secure a first-round bye with two more wins – one on the road against the Texans, and one at home against the Browns. That should be their goal, in order to get Brown as much rest as possible before the playoffs. Still, this injury was tough, as it likely contributed to Sunday’s defeat, which likely cost Pittsburgh a shot at the #1 Seed. Also devastated – fantasy owners who have been riding Brown all year long.
Oh, sweet Browns. You majestic symphony of suffering. You shining river of pickled rat poison. You withered Winn-Dixie bag full of old man farts. The Browns are like dropping your ice cream cone in a pile of fire ants before you’ve taken your first lick. They’re your prom date, high on mescaline and Swedish Fish, hooking up with your uncle Karl. They’re a hotrod full of hillbillies careening toward the homemade ramp that they are certain will launch them clean over the creek. They are a rancid trashcan that even the lowest-ranked garbage man wouldn’t be forced to touch as part of a hazing ritual. They are the molding bits of Burger King bun stuck between Trump’s fat rolls. The Browns suck.
Image Sources: Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports, Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports, Philip G. Pavely/USA TODAY Sports, Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports, Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports, Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports, Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports, Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports