6 winners and 2 losers from Week 17 in the NFL

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Kudos to the Philadelphia Eagles, and by extension the Washington Football Team for taking hatin’-ass-football to the next level, on a primetime stage. It was beautiful, pitiful, it had an entire fanbase in the division screaming foul. When in comes to the NFL, the Eagles were Annie Lennox and sweet dreams were made of this.

It wasn’t that the Eagles tanked. That’s burying the story here. It’s how brazenly, how obvious, how unabashedly they tanked with the entire country watching that’s worthy of praise here. The exquisite joy of fulfilling numerous desires at once is kismet we rarely see in the NFL, and here we are, on a Monday morning, with Giants fans screaming that the system is rigged like ahem, well, yeah …

Let’s set the scene, shall we? The Eagles are down by three points to start the third quarter. Jalen Hurts has been effective on the ground, but kind of mediocre through the air. This is a game that has next to no bearing for the Philadelphia Eagles. At this point they’re playing for draft position, and nothing more. Meanwhile, WFT is in need of a win to make the playoffs. All conventional logic tells you that you don’t make any change. Sure, you’re losing, but Hurts is the only reason you have a chance at all, thanks to his two touchdowns on the ground.

Then the coach makes a decision. The world is stunned. He’s pulling the quarterback, the guy he’s supposedly building to take over the franchise, who has proven himself for the last few weeks.

If there’s a rookie who needs reps then maybe, just maybe you understand the decision. But Nate Sudfeld is not a rookie. He’s been in the league for four years. He was selected in the sixth round. Sudfeld is not good, nobody expects him to be good — especially Washington, who cut him after his rookie year.

So now, the only player making an offensive impact at all is riding the pine while a guy the world knows shouldn’t be playing is. Sudfeld attempted 12 passes. He gained 32 yards. He threw an interception. It was perfect.

Doug Pederson can try to convince the world he believed this quarterback change would amount to a win, but if that’s true he should be fired today on principle, Super Bowl be damned. No. Pederson knew damn well that 27-year-old Nate Sudfeld didn’t give his team the best chance to win, and he should own it — because it’s glorious.

My God, am I sick of people clutching pearls over the sanctity of the NFL over this decision. I get it, you’re really, really bitter, Giants fans — but if winning football’s worst division, in a pandemic-riddled season, when the best team on your doorstep (Dallas) was stricken with injuries is a “win,” then perhaps it’s time to recalibrate your expectations.

Perhaps if you wanted New York to win the NFL East they should have won more than six games. Maybe sticking with a football dinosaur in Dave Gettleman and his mediocre “gut-feeling” quarterback Daniel Jones isn’t the answer. You shouldn’t be mad at Philadelphia, you should be thanking them. You should be bringing Eagles fans bundt cakes of questionable quality they won’t eat, and instead accept gleefully before throwing them in the trash can, because the Eagles just saved your ass.

Instead of drafting in the 20s, you now get to pick at No. 11 — high enough you can find a really good player. This also gives your team the ammunition to finally jettison Dave Gettleman, perhaps find a quarterback of the future, and start a new, brighter chapter that can actually turn your franchise around. If New York makes the playoffs the status quo continues, this gives you hope — and hope is a beautiful thing.

Meanwhile the Eagles get a higher draft pick too, and Washington makes the playoffs for the first time since 2015, without getting to use their racist nickname to do it. It’s all so poignant and beautiful. This is the perfect end to the NFL’s dumbest division, and we should celebrate that.

Winner: Browns.

I planned to write most of this about the Browns until the Eagles decided that tanking was beautiful. I am truly, unironically, and with no sarcasm, overjoyed for Cleveland fans. I’ve been writing about football for a long time. It wasn’t that long ago that I was getting PR emails from Budweiser telling me about automated refrigerators that would unlock when the Browns won a game. Now here they are making the playoffs.

It’s funny that in the wake of the Eagles tanking the Giants out of the playoffs, nobody is taking about how the Steelers rested Ben Roethlisberger, effectively taking the Dolphins out of the playoffs.

But, this isn’t about who rested who, it’s about the Browns dammit, and their fans who deserve every measure of happiness in the world for this moment. I can’t promise you it will last forever, and sure, perhaps your team gets bounced when you meet the Steelers with Roethlisberger under center, but dammit a man can dream.

With all my heart and soul I’m rooting for a Browns vs. WFT Super Bowl, because it would be the perfect farewell to the trash can that was 2020.

Loser: Cardinals.

I don’t really know what to say. This seems to be Arizona’s lot in life when it comes to the NFL. Fleeting greatness, followed by soul-crushing sadness, expectation marred by reality. An 8-8 record isn’t good enough to make the playoffs as a third team in a division, unless you’re in the NFC East, in which case you win the whole thing.

The only thing that potentially makes this so much sadder is if we’ve really seen the last dance of Larry Fitzgerald. A wide receiver who belongs in Canton, but might not get there because of the hall’s bizarre bias against wide receivers.

Rest assured though, this team is good, young, and has a ton of potential. Just got to put more together next season.

Winner: Derrick Henry.

If you’ve been reading this column a lot this season I have three statements to make:

  1. Thank you.
  2. Why?
  3. You know I love Derrick Henry.

On Sunday Henry joined the 2,000 yard club of running backs, which feels more preposterous considering the league’s propensity towards passing. Here’s a guy playing old-school football, in a way we’re told doesn’t work, and still thriving doing it. There’s a beautiful lesson to be learned here, but I’m not smart enough to work it out.

Loser: Dolphins.

Victims of the Bills still having a chip on their shoulder, Miami was made an example of in Week 17. Make no mistake: I still think this is a vastly talented team we’ll be talking about for a while, the issue is that they’re going through the same growing pains Buffalo did, just two years later.

The Bills absolutely destroyed the Dolphins. No other way to put it. It didn’t really earn them anything, but embarrassing a division opponent probably felt good. Sometimes that’s enough.

Winner: Cam Newton.

A symphony took place in the early games that was easy to overlook. Just as kickoff became between the Patriots and Jets there news that New England planned to move on from Cam Newton. It’s understandable given his up-and-down performance this season, but almost as if he read the tweets, Cam went ham.

21/30, 242 yds, 3 TD, 0 INT. 11 carries, 79 yds. 1 reception, 19 yds, 1 TD.

Blah, blah, blah “It’s the Jets!” I get it, but this team beat some pretty solid opponents the last two weeks. Then Newton tore them apart. At the very least he sent a message to the entire NFL that said “hey, I’m still here … and I can still play.” We’ll need to wait to see if anyone responds on this one.

Winner: Alex Smith.

Because this is all awesome.

Yes, that’s the brace that held his leg together, now molded to look like the Lombardi Trophy. Super badass.



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