Today, we bid farewell to 20 teams for eight months and change. We also bid farewell to one occasionally imploding dome. By the time we see those 20 teams play meaningful football again, 2014 will be two-thirds over. By then, the sheer devastating length of the off-season will have allowed us to forget just how bad they were. Toss in a draft class and a few free agent signings, and these non-playoff teams will have convinced themselves of being downright hopeful come next September. A few of them will be right to think this way, as there are inevitable a couple dramatic turnarounds in fortune each NFL season, but most of them won’t.
It’s the busiest day of the NFL season, with all 16 games of the week played on Sunday. Despite Week 17’s reputation for being mostly pointless, only three of the games today can’t potentially affect playoff seeds or placement in some way. So cheers to Redskins-Giants, Lions-Vikings and Texans-Titans for beating the odds and achieving super irrelevance. ‘Skins-Giants, however, should be entertaining just to see if Eli Manning can get to 30 interceptions and what Mike Shanahan will do in his last chance to force his firing on the field.
The Bengals wrapped up the AFC North last week, but reportedly will still play starters throughout against the Ravens in hopes that a win plus an unlikely Patriots loss to Buffalo at home will propel the Bengals to a first-round bye. The Falcons have a chance at ruining a lot of Carolina’s playoffs fortunes by knocking them from a division title and a bye, but as we saw last Monday, Atlanta doesn’t really seem to savor their role as potential spoilers.
Your early game slate, as rated by KSK’s not-at-all subjective, rigorously scientificated five-star system:
Carolina at Atlanta **
Baltimore at Cincinnati ***
Jacksonville at Indianapolis **
New York Jets at Miami ***
Detroit at Minnesota *
Washington at New York Giants *
Cleveland at Pittsburgh **
Houston at Tennessee *