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Snarking Around the NFL: Week 16

We just finished the NFL regular season’s penultimate week. Since it coincided with the Christmas holiday, let’s just go ahead and get the bad joke out of the way now: this week, we are Snarking Around the Christmas Tree. Okay, now that we have that out of the way...

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans
Believe it or not, this game was played in Houston, not Pittsburgh.
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

We have now completed all but one week of the NFL’s regular season, and the playoff field is mostly set. Week 16 had just 25 percent of its games decided by one score, but that’s to be expected when we get into the final few weeks, and teams like the Cleveland Browns have long since lost all hope. The good news is that it makes the snarking pretty easy.

Countdown List of the Week: Ways the NFL Could Make Week 17 More Interesting

3) Make the Patriots start James Harrison at center and long snapper.

The last time he played there in the NFL, his play was out of this world — meaning he put the ball into orbit around Neptune.

2) The Texans vs. Colts game should be changed to an MMA-style, cage-match free-for-all.

It’s not like this game is going to contain actual football content, anyway, so they should switch it to something that would be a legitimate ratings draw, instead.

1) The Browns should get a twelfth player on both sides of the ball.

He is not, however, allowed to make a tackle, throw or catch a pass, run the ball, or perform any other standard football act. His sole role on each play is to try to forestall bad decisions by seeing what is about to transpire, and kicking that player in the cajones before the player can screw up. This should at least keep the game from being out of hand by the first commercial break.

Meme Tweets of the Week

Actually, I thought people who were this bad got coal from Santa.

For context: this is a team that went 1-3 against the NFC East, with their only victory coming against the hapless Giants. If you can’t beat the Giants, then you are...well...the Cleveland Browns.

This is the kind of accidental-evil-genius thing that makes us despise the Patriots.

Well, this, and also all the cheating and officiating favoritism. Speaking of...

Seems about right.

Sorry, Pats fans, but when you have officials overturning calls in favor of New England with nothing that is even close to irrefutable evidence, this is going to be the perception everywhere outside of Boston.

Winless Team Watch

I’m not sure what is worse: that the Browns’ offense was nearly a statistical clone of the Bears, or that they lost to those same Bears by 17 points. Hue Jackson may not have lost the locker room — and I seriously hope he hasn’t, because he truly could be the guy who turns things around for the Browns if given three to five seasons to do it — but his players have certainly lost hope of winning this season. The bad news is they will play a Steelers team in week 17 that still has a chance to earn the AFC’s top seed, so it’s not likely they will get a break from Pittsburgh’s starters until/unless the Patriots have pulled sufficiently ahead of the Jets to make it exceedingly unlikely for a comeback by a team led by stallwart quarterback Bryce Petty. In other words, the Browns will play the Steelers’ starters for about three series.

And they will probably be down by 21 or more points by that time.

But, if you want to see just how far the Browns have fallen, there is this: they can’t even win at losing. If they end the season 0-16, they will not have the distinction of being the worst team in football history. They got beat to that by the 2008 Detroit Lions, of course, making the late to the Epic Suckage party. When you are so bad that you can’t even be the best at being the worst, you are truly awful.

Stat of the Week

After not scoring 30 or more points in the first nine weeks of the season the Steelers have now scored at least 31 points in four of the last six games. And, if we are being honest, that would be five of six if the NFL had not incorrectly overturned what was likely the game-winning touchdown versus the Patriots on clearly refutable evidence. The Steelers’ offense is clicking at just the right time, and the return of Joe Haden appears to have energized the defense, too.

Random Thoughts

  • I’m not too keen on playing the Ravens in the playoffs, simply because it’s the Ravens, and they always play the Steelers hard. However, if Pittsburgh has to play them, at least we know it will be in Heinz Field. And I also know this: they are 1-4 this year against teams with winning records, including 0-2 against the Steelers. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is 6-2 against teams with winning records.
  • The NFL actually made an awesome decision this week: they are canceling Sunday Night Football for week 17 to ensure all games with playoff implications take place at the same time, to prevent top teams with something to play for from sitting starters. From a marketing perspective, it makes sense on two fronts: 1) it makes the afternoon games much more intriguing, and 2) ratings for SNF have been bad this year anyway. I am honestly shocked that the NFL did something intelligent, but that’s a discussion for a different day.
  • For anyone still wishing the Steelers had a shot at drafting Eli Apple in the 2016 NFL Draft, keep in mind that Apple’s own New York Giants teammate, Landon Collins, called him ‘a cancer’ on live radio this week. Artie Burns has had some sophomore-year struggles in 2017, but he has also made a lot of key plays. And no one is accusing him of killing the locker room, either.

And, Finally...

Three times the season, the Patriots have been the beneficiaries of their opponents’ touchdowns being overturned when the video evidence clearly was not irrefutable. Once this season, the Patriots were awarded a touchdown despite the reviewed video showing the receiver did not “survive the ground”. It’s time owners of the other 31 teams start calling out the NFL’s clear favoritism toward New England.

Go ahead and yell all you want about the Tom Brady “Deflategate” incident, and how the NFL attempted to crack down on the Patriots for it. Go ahead and point out that the league punished the Patriots for “Spygate” (while we are at it, let’s all agree to stop adding “gate” to the end of a descriptive word to name a conspiracy, and let’s definitely stop thinking we are clever for doing it). Pointing out how the league has punished the team and/or its players for violations of league policy does not change the fact that the Patriots continue to benefit from monumentally bad decisions by officials during games. And that’s to say nothing of the obvious non-calls for infractions that occur while video clearly shows officials are watching the action unfold.

Fortunately, enough owners are now upset about the review process and the definition of a catch that both are likely to be altered by the competition committee this off-season. Unfortunately, none of that will address what is becoming more and more a clear officiating bias toward the Patriots.