I enjoyed Week 17 with the exception of a few terrible penalty calls and the endless reviews during the Browns’ final drive. I understand you want to get the calls right with so much at stake, but people don’t have all day (or in my case all night) to wait around for the lawyers and accountants to sign off on each play. And while the refs did get the two catch calls correct in my opinion on the final drive, they still botched the fumble return on Lamar Jackson’s too-short push at the goal line by blowing the whistle too soon and also called a phantom hold negating a legitimate long Jackson TD run earlier in the game. Why insist on making everyone wait for perfect precision on one class of plays when so many of the others are both flat wrong and unreviewable?
The solution in my opinion is to give coaches five challenges per game, make all calls, including penalties reviewable, but have incorrect challenges carry some additional penalty beyond one time out (maybe a $50K fine) for wasting everyone’s time. But all successful challenges should come with a penalty for the refs who made the bad call in the first place, necessitating the waste of time. And the league during the week should review all challenge rulings, and if any of those are wrong, there should be significant penalties for the booth and a reward for the coach/team. The NFL is often a game of arbitrary bounces, but the refs simply deciding games on a whim is too much.
• The Colts should have won by 30, but Andrew Luck gifted Tennessee a pick-six for no reason. What an odd play. Otherwise he looked very sharp. The Colts are only 2.5-point dogs against the Texans.
• Marcus Mariota is too fragile to be a franchise QB, and Blaine Gabbert’s Titans had no business being in a play-in game.
• I bet the Ravens at 18:1 to win the AFC two weeks ago, but the home game against Baker Mayfield scared me. He’s a killer, and the Ravens were lucky to escape after not putting the game away on their last drive. Given what he did with virtually no weapons at receiver, it’s a close call whether I’d take Patrick Mahomes or Mayfield if I were starting a franchise from scratch.
• Jackson’s fumble at the goal line notwithstanding, he also played well and makes the Ravens a dangerous team in the playoffs. His running ability makes the backs better, and when he looks to throw there’s almost always someone open given the resources teams are forced to devote to the run. The Ravens will bludgeon teams, keep their defenses on the field and give opposing offenses little margin for error during shortened games. Jackson’s delivery is a little deliberate, but he’s able to buy so much time and space, it usually doesn’t matter.
• I’m happy to see Nick Foles get another shot at a playoff run. He gives the Eagles a puncher’s chance, assuming his rib injury isn’t serious. They’re now six-point dogs in Chicago.
• The Seahawks went all out to beat the Cardinals in a meaningless game, but struggled for some odd reason. Still they’re only 2.5-point road dogs in Dallas and are another dangerous team. They’re not as good defensively as the Ravens, but they also run the ball well and have Russell Wilson to extend passing plays.
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• It’s a good thing the Giants didn’t trade down in the draft and take Josh Rosen.
• The Steelers showed they didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs anyway.
• I know the Bears have a tough defense, but Kirk Cousins got 4.0 YPA against them in a must-win home game. Jordan Howard finally looked like the player you drafted in the second round. Cody Parker is a concern for the Bears in the playoffs – if you play defense and keep the totals low, the kicker can’t be shanking PATs.
• If like me you blew your entire FAAB budget on Alfred Morris, you were simply ahead of your time. Or if (like me) you thought C.J. Anderson might make a fantasy impact this year.
• George Kittle broke Travis Kelce’s 10 minute-old TE receiving yards record. Kittle had only six TDs, but 1,377 yards is more than Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez or Kellen Winslow ever had in any season. And Kittle did it on only 88 catches (15.6 YPC, 10.1 YPT). Contrast this with Zach Ertz, who set the record for TE receptions (116) this year, but had only 1,163 yards (10.0 YPC, 7.5 YPT.)
• The Rams are not deep at receiver. Josh Reynolds is their No. 3, and I’m not sure who the the No. 4 is (maybe KhaDarel Hodge?)
• Mahomes got his 50 and 5,000 but his pace slowed a good deal from mid-season. Still, he’s the last MVP candidate standing after Drew Brees’ and Philip Rivers’ even more pedestrian finishes. Aaron Donald would probably be the top non-QB, but the Rams defense wasn’t especially good.
• If Spencer Ware is healthy (and he practiced all week), it’s not clear whether he or Damien Williams would get the bulk of the work in the playoffs, though Williams did just sign a two-year contract extension with the Chiefs.
• It’s too bad the Chargers draw the Ravens in the first round. Both teams are better than the Texans and Colts, and now only one will get a chance to knock off the Chiefs or Pats.
• The Jaguars and Redskins’ offenses these last couple weeks are two of the worst this millennium.
• Julio Jones scored another TD and had the quietest 113-1,677-8 year imaginable. Jones’ yardage total is the 12th most all time.
• If the Bucs let Jameis Winston (7.9 YPA) walk, I’d be more than happy for the Giants to give him a shot. Mike Evans had an awfully quiet 86-1,524-8 season too.
• I laid the 6.5 with the Giants because I didn’t think Dak Prescott would play the whole game with the No. 4 seed locked up. You can mock Jason Garrett for this, but Bill Belichick (see below) is an even worse offender.
• In a league with Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Pat Mahomes, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson, your QB better be able to buy time with his legs and scramble for first downs or be a master in the pocket like Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Philip Rivers. If he can do neither, find another QB. As such, I’d bet even money the Giants let Eli Manning go and save $17 million in cap room next year.
• Saquon Barkley narrowly edged out Christian McCaffrey as the RB1 in PPR:
Saquon Barkley will finish the 2018 season the highest-scoring running back in terms of PPR fantasy points, but he didn’t do it by much: his 385.8 points barely beat out Christian McCaffrey’s 385.5.
— Tristan H. Cockcroft (@SultanofStat) December 30, 2018
• Evan Engram showed his supreme athleticism on his TD catch Sunday. The Giants are a competent QB away from being a top-five offense. Interestingly, Cody Latimer (6-4-72-1), including two great catches, is a former second-round pick, Odell Beckham and Corey Coleman first rounders and Engram and Barkley also first rounders.
• I made the Panthers-Saints game a pick ’em before seeing the line was nine. I had forgotten Teddy Bridgewater was the backup, but knew he was worth nowhere near that much over a random replacement. For some reason, I still didn’t use the Panthers in the Supercontest.
• The Patriots, up 31-3, had Tom Brady throw a TD to Julian Edelman with 3:26 left in the fourth quarter to make it 38-3. On the one hand, it was a risk leaving those two key guys in with the game in hand. On the other, they stuck it to the Jets that much more.
• If Gronkowski isn’t himself for the playoffs, the Pats are awfully thin in the passing game after Julian Edelman. Chris Hogan, James White, Rex Burkhead, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson are pretty much it. It’s hard to see them winning another Super Bowl with that crew.
• I realize Rodgers got concussed, but what an embarrassing no-show for the home finale in Lambeau.
• Josh Allen had another 224 passing yards and 95 rushing yards, three passing TDs and two rushing scores. You could make the case he’s a top-10 fantasy QB for 2019 in one-QB (cheap replacement value) leagues.