By Ron Johnson
There are fans, writers and critics that have this thing about beating an NFL team down into the ground so they can make their teams seem far more superior. Anyone who has ever met a Cowboys, Eagles, Niners or Bills fan knows this painfully. However, these same critics have little to no explanation of why those teams they bashed have a better actual outcome than they expected.
We don’t either, but unlike them, we are going to give those NFL teams what they deserve: Respect.
Actual: 11-6, Clinch Playoff Berth
No one can understand what some of these critics were determined to state when talking about the Cleveland Browns. It was stated that the Browns will only go as far as Deshaun Watson will take them. It was also stated that if Watson doesn’t step up, the Browns would be nothing more than a stepover team. Watson went down in the first stretch of the season, which led to the arrival of former XFL standout PJ Walker, Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco (yes, that Joe Flacco).
But the Browns did not fall as hard as they expected them to. In fact, with those three musketeers under center, the team not only finished with a better record, but they also clinched themselves a NFL playoff berth. While their trip to the postseason did not provide a better outcome, the fact that the Browns did not become that middling, stepover team they expected should provide high hopes for the Dawg Pound going forward.
Projected: 11-6, NFC North Champs
Actual: 12-5, NFC North Champs
“The club will have the opportunity to start the season (following the Chiefs contest) hot out of the gates.” When a writer says this, not only does it boggle my mind, but it is also disrespectful to the Lions. While they were not too far off on the projected outcome of the NFL season, they did feel that this Lions team would be still trying to get it together when they took on the defending champs. By the way, writers, they took down the defending champs on opening night in their backyard on Banner Night. No, the buzz of Detroit never cooled down after last season.
In fact, it simmered until it was time to become a full-on inferno. Last weekend, that inferno was ignited in masses thanks to the arrival of Barry Sanders, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and hip-hop artists Big Sean and Eminem. The ending has not come yet as the Lions held on to defeat another team on this list, the Rams, to pick up their first playoff win in 30 years and will host their second playoff game at Ford Field since its inception. No, Detroit was hot out of the gates from the beginning. The writers just didn’t know about it yet.
Green Bay Packers
Actual: 9-8, Clinch Playoff Berth
One cannot be too hard on the writers when they get it right. While all of us predicted the Lions to run the North for the bulk of the season, the question was more of where the Packers would end up now that they remove the cancer cells known as Aaron Rodgers. It appears that everyone got the record right, but it was what was said during all this talk that got people wanting to give these writers the finger: “They get off to a hot start and everyone starts believing Green Bay has yet another Hall of Famer under center, before the Packers come back down to earth toward the back half of the NFL season.”
The Packers ended the season on a high note, punching their ticket to the postseason with a win over the Bears. They then went into hostile territory, aka Dallas, and proceeded to dissect the Cowboys from start to finish leading 27-7 at halftime and finishing them off by the end. The Packers season ended in the divisional with a gut-wrenching loss to the Niners, but they should not be disappointed. Almost every writer had these guys not only NOT making the playoffs but also NOT beating the Cowboys in Big D.
Actual: 10-7, AFC South Champs
If any team should feel disrespected by the writers, it’s Houston. The writers felt that with a rookie coach and rookie quarterback, they wouldn’t do much to anyone this year. I have never had much faith in Ohio State quarterbacks, but CJ Stroud made a believer out of me. It was so monumental watching the meteoric rise of this team as they put everyone on notice all the way to the season finale when they punched their ticket to the NFL postseason. And thanks to the Jaguars’ choke job against the Titans, they also got the division crown placed on their heads.
They went on to defeat the Browns during Super Wild Card Weekend but lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs. Despite the loss, the Texans are another team that they claimed was not even supposed to be there. The job that DeMeco Ryans and Stroud did for this franchise erases any of the negativity that surrounded them during the final stretch of the Watson Era. Rest assured that when this team gets healthy and gets everything firing on all cylinders, they will be back in the postseason very soon.
Los Angeles Rams
Actual: 10-7, Clinch Playoff Berth
Rebuild Mode. Rebuild Mode. Rebuild Mode. We have heard it all in reference to the Rams. Two years ago, this team won a Super Bowl before collapsing the following year. While the writers tried to build up the Sean McVay, they made the mistake of insulting his team as a whole. Everyone has a little bad taste in their mouths because like the Texans, the Rams were not even supposed to be in playoffs conversation. After getting called out in the middle of the season by a few writers (including this one), they stepped their game up, went on an impressive winning streak and even did just enough to clinch themselves an appearance in the NFL postseason.
Puka Nacua proved to be a massive X-Factor for the Rams, and the rookies on defense showed that the tutelage of Aaron Donald is going to pay dividends for a very long time. IF this was their rebuilding season, what do they think next season is going to bring? The writers may not want to admit it, but there were games this season that were taken from the Rams, and they made sure to make other teams pay for the ref’s mistakes. If only they can do that to some of these writers…oh yeah. They can. The way they do it is run it back and give an encore performance next season in an effort to silence these clown writers for keeps.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Actual: 9-8, NFC South Champs
“To finish with as many wins as they did with Tom Brady would be a relative success.” Here is a news flash for those writers still reaching for that clout from Brady: Brady is gone. He is retired. And while the Patriots are still trying to figure it out, the Bucs and Wolverines have moved on from the many accolades he delivered. Despite some setbacks, Baker Mayfield has resurrected his career in bunches with the Bucs. In fact, this team clinched the NFC South with a winning record (which is something not even Brady can say he did in his final stint) and took down the defending NFC Champions on Monday Night Wild Card.
Yeah, it may look bleak for some, but for Baker and Co., it’s an opportunity to show that they are more than just Tom Brady’s last team. They finished with as many wins necessary to clinch a NFL playoff spot, so to hell with finishing as many wins as they did with Brady. Brady is yesterday’s news in the eyes of the new look Tampa Bay Buccaneers.