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NFL News: The league’s best team, Richard Sherman calling out his QB, and OTA drama

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In this week’s State of the NFL, we discuss the Patriots’ NBA parallel, the importance (or lack thereof) of organized team activities, and BEEF.

NFL: AFC Championship-Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s begin with a confession: mid-May through, like, the end of July is a torturous abyss of nothingness for sportswriters. This is exactly why the NFL.com homepage currently features nine “rankings” stories, three stories about rookies and undrafted free agents “primed to make an impact” and, I kid you not, a link to a video in which Charles Barkley ridicules LaVar Ball. It’s complete chaos.

But this is ordinary. I can tell you from experience that scraping together ideas sucks, and I guarantee that the dudes and ladies at ESPN, the NFL Network and this very website are not particularly passionate about doing 1,200-word write-ups on past draft classes or producing videos in which they rank the top 10 Heisman-winning quarterbacks drafted since 2000 (Johnny Manziel was, amazingly, ranked 10 on that list; he will come into play later on).

With that said, take a gander at this article, which ranks the NFL’s 10 “most talented” teams. Care to guess which team claimed that top spot?

Gil Brandt’s list is, by definition, subjective. Objectively speaking, though, the New England Patriots are the best team in the NFL. This is not a groundbreaking development. The Patriots have won their division in 13 of the past 14 seasons (including eight straight) are always favored to win the Super Bowl (which they done five times since 2002). What seems different this season, however, is the fact that another Super Bowl victory seems almost inevitable for New England.

THIS IS VERY STRANGE. In my lifetime (at least for as long as I’ve been cognizant of general NFL happenings), I can’t recall the on-paper talent gap between the consensus best team and the near-consensus second-best team being so wide. For the sake of argument, let’s use Brandt’s list. He thinks Pittsburgh has the second-most talented roster in the entire NFL, which could very well prove to be accurate. The Steelers have the best trio of offensive players in the NFL, one of the league’s top three or five (ish) offensive lines and a young, upstart defense that looked stronger as the 2016 season dragged on. The Steelers were easily the second-best team in the AFC last season. AND NEW ENGLAND BENT THEM OVER. TWICE.

This isn’t necessarily to say that parity doesn’t exist in the NFL. New England seems destined to succeed, but I wouldn’t say that they are a surefire, 100 percent lock to win the title like, say, the Golden State Warriors. In fact, to draw an NBA parallel, the Patriots are a weird, Frankensteinian version of the San Antonio Spurs with some aspects of Cleveland mixed in. Much like Gregg Popovich, Bill Belichick has crafted his team into a perfect model of sustainability, and much like LeBron James, Tom Brady is his conference’s daddy until further notice.

Winning back-to-back championships is extremely difficult because winners tend to experience significant roster turnover in the offseason following their title. Generally, this has a deleterious impact on said team’s chances of repeating. Since generalities do not apply to the Patriots, New England has somehow managed to make a series of upgrades on both sides of the ball. It’s like Belichick threw out bunch of old ground beef and restocked his fridge with filet.

Altogether, the Patriots have claimed their paper championship and are overwhelming favored to win the real one, too. Good luck to everyone else.

OTA Drama!

Giants All-Pro receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has not reported to nor participated in New York’s Organized Team Activities. In lieu of OTAs, Beckham has reportedly spent time hanging out with Manziel (told you) and rapper Iggy Azalea, the latter of whom he is rumored to be dating. Sad!

Naturally, this is not a good look for Beckham, who was probably already on thin ice after he traveled to Miami to hang out on Trey Songz’s boat during the NFC playoffs. Then again, OTAs are completely voluntary so maybe we should all count to 10 on this one.

And the whole “voluntary” aspect is totally true, by the way. The coaches obviously want everyone to report to OTAs (and some teams, in fact, give players workout bonuses for reporting), but there are literally no tangible consequences for skipping out. Absent players don’t even have to explicitly state why the didn’t report.

Odell Beckham Jr. is BY FAR the best player on the New York Giants, so it isn’t like he needs these extra 10 days to compete for a roster spot, impress the coaching staff or establish a report with Eli Manning. And even if he did, IT’S STILL ONLY MAY. Players still have a three-day mini camp (Beckham has said he will report to New York’s minicamp) and three weeks of training camp to figure everything out.

Lots of superstars do participate in OTAs (Antonio Brown, for instance, did). Lots of superstars do not (Aaron Donald, Fletcher Fox and Marcus Peters all missed OTAs). It does not matter. These dudes are all professionals, and all of them—with the notable exception of Kelvin Benjamin, who looks like he’s been eating nothing but ham since December—are working out on their own time.

Beefs!

BAH GAWD we have appear to have several ongoing beefs! Please consult the following list for details concerning said beefs:

- Richard Sherman vs the Seattle Seahawks

To summarize: There are apparently some pretty prominent philosophical differences between the Seahawks (most notably, Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson) and Sherman. Sherman is STILL peeved about Carroll failing to run the ball in Super Bowl XLIX. He also thinks Carroll exhibits favoritism toward Wilson and the offense, while remaining outwardly critical of the defense. “Sources” also claim that Sherman has questioned Wilson’s capacity to serve as an effective leader. Sherman has of course disputed this story.

Legitimacy of the beef: Seems pretty legit. Carroll has never apologized for forgetting that Marshawn Lynch exists and making arguably the worst call in NFL history. Also, Wilson does seem like the kind of dude who would say something along the lines of “good effort, gang, we really looked sharp!” after scoring 10 points on 137 yards of total offense against San Francisco. The potential legitimacy of this beef is further compounded by the fact that Seattle publicly dangled Sherman as trade bait this offseason.

Beefiness factor: 8/10

-Brandon Marshall vs Sheldon Richardson

To summarize: Richardson said the New York Jets locker room is in a better spot than it was last season. Pretty benign comment. He followed by telling reporters that he had “15 reasons” that explain this newfound boost in morale. This was, as Richardson intended, interpreted as a slight against former teammate Brandon Marshall, who wears no. 15. Marshall downplayed Richardson’s comment by saying that the Jets “had high hopes” that they failed to realize last season, which led to animosity within the locker room.

Legitimacy of beef: On the surface, this is a very legit beef, as Richardson and Marshall have had prior disagreements. Interesting, too, is the fact that Marshall signed with the Giants, so he is still very much in close proximity to Richardson. However, Marshall now plays for a Super Bowl contender while Richardson is set to cash in during free agency next spring. They’ll both be fine.

Beefiness factor: 4/10

-Josh Norman vs every receiver in the NFC East

To summarize: Norman hates the NFC East. “There’s going to be a lot of fines and maybe some suspensions,” Norman told Bleacher Report, in reference to facing the likes of Beckham and Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant.

Legitimacy of beef: Easily a more legit beef than either of the aforementioned beefs. Understand this: Josh Norman is a crazy person. If he gets food poisoning the night before the Giants game, he will eat a banana, strap on a diaper and find a way to contribute. Therefore, if Norman says blood will spill, then blood will spill.

Beefiness factor: 10/10

James Harrison lifting stuff

Here is a video of Steelers linebacker James Harrison moving around almost 700 pounds of weight. Please clap:

@maurkicepouncey video credit @a_chickillo wt the cameo hold the bench #teamwork

A post shared by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on