This is the Most Wide Open NFL in Years

Usually when you look at a week of the NFL, over half the games seem to be locks. They might be closer than you expect, but you can usually figure out who will win. But this year is different. This year, there seems to be multiple surprises every week. We’ve had the Lions beat the Patriots and the Bills beat the Vikings. A Bears’ defense that looked red hot got smoked by Brock Osweiler after the Dolphins’ offense score 7 against a below average Patriots’ defense. The Jaguars started off red hot but have now lost three straight to the Titans, Chiefs, and Cowboys (and have looked bad doing it). The Jets have put up 48, 34, and 42 points in their three wins but have looked like the most inept offense in football in there three losses.

Every week and every game is an adventure and honestly, it makes the NFL much more enjoyable to watch. When anyone can beat anyone, football is fun to watch. Last year, we saw 8 teams in the 2017 playoffs that didn’t make the 2016 playoffs. We can see another huge turnover like that again. That type of turnover keeps teams relevant each year and thus, keeps fans interested. But why are we seeing this weird trend in football? Why don’t any teams (with the exception of the Rams) feel truly dominant?

There are two big reasons that I think the NFL is seeing so much parity this year: Good drafting and bad coaching. It seems that now more than ever, rookies are able to step up and lead their teams soon. This is especially true of QBs. And teams are taking advantage of this. If their rookies are performing, teams are able to spend money on other big name players to put around the young QBs, resulting in a winning team (i.e. The LA Rams). Look at the 2016 NFL draft. The first five picks were Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliot, and Jalen Ramsey. Goff and Wentz were able to lead their teams to the playoffs in just their second season. Zeke was crucial in leading the Cowboys to the playoffs in his rookie year and is the focal point of the offense in his third year. Bosa is part of the premiere pass rushing duo in football. Ramsey is arguably the best player on a great defense that went to the AFC Championship game. Plus, all five have already been pro bowlers, despite only playing 2 full seasons so far. But despite how good these players are, they are only part of the equation. The other piece of winning and losing is the coaching.

Coaching this year seems to be as poor as I’ve ever seen it. There has been poor decision making, poor clock management, and poor personnel decisions. I’d say over half of the NFL coaches are replaceable and replacing them would result in very little negative change in their team’s win/loss record. Good coaching wins games. Let’s look at the Patriots. They knew going into the game last week that the Chiefs would be very hard to stop offensively. They just have too many weapons to slow down. So what did they do? They grinded out each possession. They ran the ball and kept the clock moving. As a result, the Patriots won time of possession 36 minutes to 24 minutes. Had the Patriots taken less time to move the ball, the Chiefs would’ve had more possessions and probably outpaced the Patriots in the end. But the Patriots had a plan and executed it and that’s why they’ve made 8 straight AFC Championships. Now let’s look at some bad coaching: Matt Nagy. The Bears’ offense has looked reinvigorated under Nagy. However, in crunch time, he makes very poor coaching decisions. In week 1, he had 3rd and 1 deep in Packers territory. He had three great runners between Trubisky, Howard, and Cohen. But he opted to throw the ball with Trubisky. The Bears kicked a field goal and then Rodgers marched down and beat them by 1. Everyone in the stadium knew that if the Bears kicked a field goal, they would lose. Nagy basically needed to just run the ball twice and get the one yard that he needed. Flash forward to this past week. The Bears catch a huge break after Kenyon Drake fumbles on the 1 yard line in overtime. The Bears then get to the very edge of field goal range. Instead of trying to get one more first down, Nagy runs the ball three times and settles for a 50+ yard field goal. Not only did he run the ball, his run calls were very vanilla. Those two decisions are the difference between 5-0 and 3-2 for the Bears.

Although it can be frustrating when your favorite team loses games they should win, in the long run, it’s good for football. Whether you’re a casual fan or an NFL die-hard, football is always better with some parity. Hopefully we see this trend continue throughout the season and into the playoffs.

-Stephen Brown III (@sbtrey23)

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