I was in Porto, Portugal for New Year’s Eve, and I honestly didn’t watch a single snap of the action. So consider these more my reactions to the results than actual “observations.” However, I did follow along on my phone from a pizza place while convincing people to buy bitcoin over large carafes of white wine.
• I’m as surprised as anyone the Ravens missed the playoffs. Not that they would have done much, but their offense had emerged as league average, and their defense was probably top five. I don’t care much that two scrub teams – Bills and Titans – got in, though. The Ravens only needed to win a home game against the Bengals, and they couldn’t do it.
• Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard could be a poor man’s Alvin Kamara/Mark Ingram next year if Cincy invests in its offensive line. Considering how important the running game has been to the Saints, Vikings, Patriots, Chiefs and Rams this year, there’s a strong case for doing it. The Bengals – and the Seahawks – both suffered from neglecting that aspect of the game this season.
• Jameis Winston and the Bucs picked it up down the stretch. Chris Godwin looks like a player next to Mike Evans too, and O.J. Howard will be in Year 2.
• The Saints lucked into the No. 4 seed, meaning if the favorites win, they head to Philly rather than Minnesota next week.
• It’s amazing the Seahawks stuck with Blair Walsh as long as they did. Good thing for them the Falcons won anyway.
• Amari Cooper is still good. He was sluggish early and got hurt. He’ll be a nice buy-low in 2018. Marshawn Lynch still has it, but I wouldn’t bet on a repeat next year, assuming he even returns.
• The Chargers had their chance in Kansas City a few weeks ago and didn’t show up. They were a good team with the talent to go deep in the playoffs had they made it, but too little too late.
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• Don’t sleep on the Chiefs players in playoff pools. They have a home game against the Titans and likely a road game against a merely decent Patriots defense. Two games from an offense-heavy team would be valuable, and they did beat the Patriots in Week 1.
• The Falcons are another interesting playoff team. They’re only 4.5-point dogs to the Rams, and should they win, they’d travel to the Carson Wentz-less Eagles. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Falcons play the winner of the Saints-Vikings in the NFC title game.
• I’d love to see Josh Gordon on a real team next year, whether it’s the Browns with a real QB, or elsewhere.
• It’s surprising how mediocre Dak Prescott was in the season’s second half. I get that Tyron Smith missed much of it, and the offensive coaching in Dallas is shockingly bad, but I expected much more.
• Eli Manning went out with a win, but it wasn’t thanks to his 4.7 YPA performance. I hope Dave Gettleman and whoever he hires to coach realize keeping Manning is not a “win now” move.
• Dion Lewis was a monster in the fantasy playoffs and grades out as one of the league’s best backs in real life. It’s unclear what’ll happen if Rex Burkhead and James White get healthy, but Lewis is a top-three RB for fantasy playoff leagues.
• Tom Brady quietly had a good year – 32 TDs, eight picks, 7.9 YPA, played all 16 games, led the Patriots to a No. 1 seed. It was short of his previous MVP seasons, but I think he wins again, ahead of Todd Gurley who powered the No. 3-seeded Rams.
• The Vikings were a spread-covering machine this year. Latavius Murray had all eight of his TDs from Weeks 7-16.
• Frank Gore has to retire this offseason, right? He’s been arguably the most durable player in league history, given his age and position, but he hasn’t hit 4.0 YPC since 2014, and he turns 35 in May.
• Kenny Golladay will be another interesting Year 2 wideout.
• Jimmy Garoppolo will be drafted as a top-10 QB next year, especially if the 49ers upgrade his weapons. I expect he’ll go ahead of Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford and Dak Prescott.
• Watch out for the Jaguars in the playoffs. The Patriots are always smart and disciplined, but this isn’t their best team, and if Antonio Brown is less than 100 percent, the Steelers aren’t entirely themselves, either. And once an elite defense makes it to the Super Bowl, they almost always win it.