Week 15 of the 2017 NFL season gave us: a first-down measured with a piece of paper, a Matt Ryan F-bomb on live television, Cam Newton scoring on the Packers immediately after talking trash at the line of scrimmage to Green Bay’s Clay Matthews and further proof that the Seattle Seahawks’ revered-and-feared defense is merely a figment of our imaginations now.
Oh, and it also gave us an AFC Pro-Bowl kicker not named Justin Tucker.
Countdown List of the Week: Top three Pro Bowl snubs
3) DeShone Kizer,
Quarterback Defensive Back, Cleveland Browns
No one should have received more votes than Kizer — with 19 interceptions and only 9 touchdowns, no one plays defense better.
2) JuJu Smith-Schuster, Choreographer, Pittsburgh Steelers
Sure, he’s now the Steelers’ No. 1 receiver with Antonio Brown missing an indeterminate period with either a deep contusion or a torn calf muscle and, given a full season in that role, he might put up Pro Bowl-worthy numbers. But in a game that doesn’t count for anything, Smith-Schuster’s touchdown celebrations almost seem to be required. Of course, I’m hopeful he’ll be unavailable for the game, anyway, due to a more pressing football engagement.
1) Anyone who can kidnap the person responsible for Cam Newton’s wardrobe
Meme Tweets of the Week
When Tim Couch is the best thing to happen to your team in decades...
The best personalized jersey pic.twitter.com/ypDnnVuv5P— The Fake ESPN (@TheFakeESPN) December 17, 2017
We’ll get to the Browns later, since they’ve been a regular fixture here since the Chiefs suffered their first loss of 2017, bringing to an end the Undefeated Teams Watch segment. But you have to admire Cleveland fans for having a pretty good sense of humor toward their team. They’ve won three fewer games in the last two years than the Rams have won since Thanksgiving, yet the Browns still put more butts in seats than two likely playoff teams in Los Angeles. Football is, at its root, entertainment. Once you get over the shock of somehow losing more games than you’ve actually played, you have to admit that watching what amounts to a live version of the 1980s’ old Football Follies compilations has got to be pretty entertaining.
Catching a neutron with tweezers is an easier feat.
As currently written, the text of the rule defining what is and is not a completed catch is 660 words long. If you want to know how absurd it truly is, you just have to read it. I miss the days when I didn’t need to have a degree in physics, a license to practice law and at least a graduate-level understanding of metaphysics to figure out what a completed catch is in the NFL.
Nice going, NFL. You broke our brains.
Sometimes, the snark just writes itself.
Winless Teams Watch
A week after going to overtime against the Packers, the Browns decided to leave no doubt in Week 15, losing decisively to the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore is clinging to slim-but-widening hopes of making the playoffs, and they’ve honestly been one of the AFC’s top-six teams since about the midpoint of the season.
How bad was Cleveland? By the Browns’ eighth offensive play, running back Isaiah Crowell had three catches — for minus-12 yards. At that moment, he was the Browns’ leading receiver. Quarterback Deshone Kizer would not achieve any positive passing yards until 17:05 into the game.
Stat of the Week
The Steelers led the Patriots for 31 minutes, 30 seconds, and lost.
- Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis announced he will not return to the team following the end of the 2017 season. There’s little reason to believe this was anything more than an NFL team allowing its longtime coach to save face by publicly resigning while being privately fired — except that the Bengals are less a football team than they are a fictional, comical production created by a joint venture of Vince McMahon’s WWE and Saddam Hussein’s old Information Minister, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf. In a year when “fake news” was the most prominent phrase, the biggest example of “fake news” was the idea that the Bengals would contend for the AFC North title before the season began.
- Steelers fans will likely point to Tony Corrente as the referee whose crew did the worst job in Week 15, and they’d have a valid argument. But let’s not overlook Gene Steratore, whose use of a folded piece of paper to determine a critical first down for the Cowboys helped swing the game in favor of Dallas. Now the Cowboys probably had that first down. But, in trying to give the appearance of being careful and exact in his call, Steratore just made himself look less like a zebra and more like its cousin — a jackass.
- The Eagles’ offense did just fine with Nick Foles taking over for Carson Wentz, whose season ended on the Reserve/Injured list after Week 14. They may not have missed a beat. But, when you give up 29 points to a Giants team that mailed in their 2017 season weeks ago, you’re not long for the playoffs.
The catch rule is bad, and I’ve hashed over that one a thousand times since Sunday night. I’m done with it for now, because barking about it isn’t going to get anything changed any faster. Fortunately, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin — a member of the NFL’s competition committee — has said he feels they have a lot of work to do to redefine that rule this winter.
However, there’s another rule that is egregiously bad, and which may have cost the Raiders a win on Sunday night against the Cowboys: fumbling through the end zone. You can drive the ball 99 yards and, if it goes out of bounds in the field of play, you get the ball where it went out (or where you fumbled, if inside the final two minutes of a half). But if the ball goes out anywhere inside the end zone to which you are attempting to score, it’s a touchback for the other team. So, if it goes out at the one-inch line, it’s still your ball. If it goes out one inch beyond the goal line, then sorry ‘bout yer luck.
It’s almost as absurd as the catch rule, and both need to be redefined from the ground up. No pun intended.
Bonus Item 1:
You know it was a screwed-up week in the NFL when I didn’t even get around to commenting in depth about Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis, who initially got a longer suspension for a hit that happened during the course of a play than Rob Gronkowski got for intentionally and maliciously attempting to injure a player with an elbow to the back of his head after the whistle had blown.
Bonus Item 2:
Congrats are in order for the Steelers, despite losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Patriots, for putting a league-leading eight players into the Pro Bowl. All of the Killer Bs are there: Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger, and even Chris Boswell, the guy who knocked Tucker out of the lineup. Four game-winning kicks in a 5-game stretch will do that. Also in are offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Alejandro Villanueva, as well as linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Bonus Item 3:
Speaking of Shazier: no moment of Week 15 was better than seeing the linebacker, less than two weeks removed from a devastating injury that required spinal stabilization surgery, sitting in a suite at Heinz Field and waving a Terrible Towel, smiling like a kid who was attending his first football game ever. We #SHALIEVE.