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Well into the NFL season, the playoff picture is beginning to emerge. Some teams aren’t who we thought they were, but some are, and we are going to go ahead and crown their asses. Here are the top stories from a wild week 10.

1. The Tragic Touchdown of Marquise Goodwin

Marquise Goodwin and his wife Morgan were expecting parents heading into Sunday. In a heart-wrenching turn of events, their son was born prematurely early Sunday morning and passed away shortly after due to complications. Marquise chose to play, which as unimaginable as it may seem to those of us who are parents, who can blame the man for doing anything to keep his mind occupied?

Late in the first half, Goodwin streaked down the field for an 83-yard touchdown which proved to be a pivotal moment in the 49ers first win of the season. In front of an audience and a broadcast crew with no knowledge of his pain, Goodwin looked skyward before falling to his knees, overcome with emotion.

Sports mostly play a diversionary role in our society’s consciousness. Occasionally they offer a window into the souls of their participants, who sacrifice their bodies and minds for our passive entertainment and experience emotional highs and lows under the bright lights. We wish all the best for the Goodwin family as they grieve.

2. Eagles, Saints, and Rams are Dominating the NFC

I promise we’ll focus on football from here on out. The Eagles continue to make me look like a jerk for proposing that the hype was overblown. I maintain they are the Bengals of the NFC until they show us what they are made of in the playoffs. All of that withstanding, you cannot argue with the way Carson Wentz is playing.

The Rams and the Saints have started to crush their opponents like Conan the Barbarian. I am a big fan of the Rams defense led by Aaron Donald and the Saints offense is looking scary. Both of these teams are still in tight divisional races but are almost certainly playoff bound with the weak NFC East and North divisions not likely to send more than one participant each.

3. The Patriots Are Still and Have Been the Class of the AFC

Look around the room, who exactly is scaring the Patriots? Tom Brady may be a vampire at this point and whatever Bill Belichick is, it definitely ain’t natural. This team is the best in the AFC. They know they are the best team in the AFC. We know they are the best team in the AFC. Your ma and pa know they are the best team in the AFC. This should not be a story anymore.

The only hope of the collective AFC contenders like the Steelers, Chiefs, and Jaguars are if the Patriots fail to secure a bye and home-field advantage. They don’t have much competition in the East, so best case scenario for those other teams would be a 3 or 4 seed. And guess what? The Patriots have beaten the Steelers at Heinz Field twice and once at home.

4. Steelers Play Down to Colts After a Bye

In the most Steelers move in Steelers history, the black and gold needed a last minute field goal to beat one of the worst teams in the league. It can be argued that the Colts played their best game of the year, particularly the defense, but that should not matter. Great teams must take care of their business.

Midseason letdowns have been the M.O. for Mike Tomlin’s crew since he became the head honcho in 2007. We who have seen this movie before would do well to refrain from overreacting, however. Historically the team has played up to and down to the competition. The good news for supporters is that they have shown both this year and do not look to be intimidated by any opponents (do not read section 3 above).

5. Adrian Clayborn Makes History

Adrian Clayborn had two sacks for the Falcons going into Sunday’s game against the Cowboys. After the game, he led the team with six. That’s right, he had six sacks in one game, a feat only matched by three other players since sacks became an official stat in 1982.

Not only did Clayborn rack up an absurd statistical day, but he helped the Falcons defense in key situations which were a key piece of what became a comfortable victory for the dirty birds.

This also gives me an excuse to bring up the legend of Norman “Wild Man” Wiley who allegedly had 17 sacks in a single game against the Giants in 1952. The single-season sack record 22.5. Just saying.

6. NFL Touchdown Celebrations are as Exciting as Bingo with Grandma

When the word came down from Mt. Zion that Roger Goodell was going to allow his employees to celebrate touchdowns with a well-earned dance, players immediately began to plan their masterpieces. That was in May. This is November, and I’m not sure a single touchdown celebration has been inspired, or really even very funny.

Before you call me a curmudgeon, I was actually looking forward to seeing the players have fun without fear of pumping their pelvises one too many times. There really isn’t much to say here. Where is the inspiration? Where is Terrell Owens when you need him? Probably doing sit-ups on his driveway, that’s where.

7. Jaguars Are the Team to Beat in AFC South

All apologies to the Titans and Marcus Mariota, but the Jaguars defense is scary good. If they can keep the ball out of the hands of Blake Bortles in difficult situations, it’s hard to imagine them seizing the division title. For a team which has struggled for many years to put together a solid season, a 20-17, dirty, ugly, probably shouldn’t have won, win on Sunday is actually a really great sign. Bad teams lose bad games. Good teams win anyways.

The schedule for the Jags the remainder of the season is a joke. Their opponents have a combined record of 22-42 for the final seven games. The real test will come in week 17 against the Titans, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the division was already decided by then.

8. The AFC Stinks

The Saints beat the Bills 47-10.

The Rams beat the Texans 33-7.

The Panthers beat the Dolphins 45-21.

The Lions beat the Browns 38-24.

The Buccaneers beat the Jets 15-10.

That is five wins for the NFC and a goose egg for the AFC, and none of those results are flukes. Other than the very top of the league, the NFC is the vastly superior conference this year.

9. Eli Manning is Done

I love Eli Manning. He is a rare doofus in a league full of studs. There is just no coming back from a 1-15 season for a 36-year-old quarterback. The Giants lost to the 49ers on Sunday, which really sets the stage for my presumption that the team will not win again this year.

If we are talking about Ben Roethlisberger being done while he plays for one of the best teams in the league, where does that leave Manning? If his brother is any indication, the barrage of wounded ducks will not stop until he rides off into the sponsorship sunset. The only difference is that the youngest Manning brother doesn’t have Von Miller.

10. Injuries Abound

The Cowboys are missing Ezekiel Elliott without a doubt, but injuries to Sean Lee and Tyron Smith (the best players on the team but who’s asking) are taking the playoff chances of the cowboys from slim to very slim.

The Packers are in a similar situation after losing two running backs in rapid succession in Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones. Of course, they are already playing without all-everything quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Montgomery may play this week, but clearly, depth in the backfield is going to be an issue either way.

Devonta Freeman sustained a concussion during the Falcons route of the Cowboys, which may lead to extended missed time due to the severity of the concussion and that it is his second this season.

The Steelers strong secondary will be tested after leg injuries sidelined both Joe Haden and Mike Mitchell. Mitchell, in particular, has enjoyed a solid season and has playcalling and alignment responsibilities for the steel curtain.

11. Everyone Hates Thursdays

Thursday Night Football is the scourge of the NFL these days, and not just because of Cris Collinsworth. The injuries have piled up on Thursdays, including the latest injury to outspoken Seattle DB Richard Sherman, who went on record in 2016 with his disdain for the midweek classic. Ben Roethlisberger has also spoken out this week about Thursday games saying “it’s miserable, it’s terrible, they need to get rid of this game I think”.

It does not take a mental giant to understand that 3 days between games cannot give players the same amount of bodily recuperation as the full 6 they are normally afforded. Viewers have noticed the drop in game quality as well. These days it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t believe Thursday night games are the worst thing since vaping, waking up 2 minutes before your alarm goes off, and people who don’t pay attention to movies that you are watching together after promising they’d definitely pay attention this time and really wanted to watch it.

12. Teddy Bridgewater Returns

Teddy Bridgewater suffered a complete ACL tear and dislocated knee in training camp over a year ago. The injury was so gruesome some teammates became ill and practice was halted for up to 30 minutes. He may not have gotten on the field, but after reports came out last year that he may never play again, Bridgewater’s return to the Vikings sidelines is still a story. The Vikings QB was a Pro Bowler in 2015 before missing all of 2016 and 2017 until week 10. Bridgewater is a favorite of teammates and fans in ways that seems genuine. Hopefully, he can remain healthy and we can watch a young player get the chance to develop.

13. Coaching Carousel

While the NFL is not half as bad as NCAA football or men’s basketball, or 1/100th as bad as Bobby Petrino, there will be plenty of coaching changes between now and the start of the 2018 season.

Ben McAdoo is cooked. Playoffs to a one-win team aren’t going to cut it anywhere, let alone the Big Apple.

John Fox is simply not a good fit for the Bears. The Bears have a solid foundation and a young quarterback and Fox is not pushing the right buttons or putting Mitchell Trubisky in the right situations.

Chuck Pagano has never won more games than he did the previous season. His season win totals are 11, 11, 11, 8, 8, 8, and 3 in this incomplete season. The Colts will be lucky to tally 5 wins by the end of the year. Pagano is not a bad coach, but sometimes a change is necessary.

14. The Falcons Are Surging, But is it Too Late?

NFC South standings are currently:

New Orleans Saints (7-2)

Carolina Panthers (7-3)

Atlanta Falcons (5-4)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6)

The Falcons looked great this week, but I’m not sure I like the Falcons odds of making the playoffs with either the Rams and Seahawks in the west taking a wild-card spot. They will have to make the most of their divisional games to make sure they aren’t watching from home in January.

15. Roger Goodell Asked for a Raise

Roger Goodell is an alumnus of Washington and Jefferson College, same as me. We are not proud of him. He apparently asked for a raise, which would entitle him to FORTY-NINE MILLION AND FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS PER YEAR.

Jerry Jones and Goodell deserve each other. May they have many happy years of squabbling like school children to come. God bless America.

Charlie Cairone

Author Charlie Cairone

Charlie is a Pittsburgh native who has been watching, playing, eating, sleeping, regretting, cursing, and not shutting up about football for three decades.

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Sports Al Dente 2019

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