5 Lessons Learned – NFL Week 18

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The NFL’s first 17 game regular season reached its conclusion this weekend and now just 14 teams remain in contention for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

We needed a little bit longer than expected to decide that 14th team after the Raiders and Chargers engaged in the most epic season finale since Season 1 of 24.

With all 16 games finally completed, we have our five biggest takeaways from the action in the National Football League.

1 – Week 18 Gave Us All-Time Drama

Whether it was called Week 17, Week 18 or even Week 14, the final day of the NFL regular season is must watch TV.

Barstool Sports summed it up best.

The biggest headline of the early window was Indianapolis’s all time choke job in Jacksonville, which opened the door for the winner of Baltimore-Pittsburgh to sneak in.

Ben Roethlisberger decided he wasn’t quite ready to retire just yet and drove the Steelers to an overtime victory over their biggest rival.

It started out like this…

And ended with this.

Didn’t the Steelers love it.

Then came the late afternoon window which had six games on at the same time, all of which had some bearing on the playoff races in both conferences.

New Orleans took care of business in Atlanta but did not get the required 49ers loss in LA, which saw the Rams drop to the fourth seed in the NFC and the Buccaneers and Cowboys jump to second and third respectively.

In the AFC Buffalo’s win at home over the Jets rendered New England’s loss in Miami moot as the Bills won the division for the second straight year.

Then it all came down to Game 272 in Las Vegas with a winner-take-all scenario and the Raiders got the job done in wildly entertaining fashion.

It now just begs the question, how on earth will the playoffs match what we saw today?

2 – Denver Is A Great Job Opening

As it stands, there are three head coach openings in the NFL with Las Vegas, Jacksonville and Denver all heading to the market for a fresh start.

Denver made their decision to move on from Vic Fangio official after their season ending loss to Kansas City.

In the coming days (possibly by the time you are reading this) there will be other teams likely opting to move on from their coach as well including the Giants, Chicago and perhaps another surprise firing such as Pete Carrol in Seattle.

Each job will present its own challenges (hence why they are looking for new coaches) but the Broncos will be a sneaky good gig to land.

As it stands the roster has plenty of good talent and some players that may even become great at their position with the right mentorship.

On offence they have a plethora of skill position players including Javonte Williams, Jerry Judy, Cortland Sutton and Noah Fant.

Defensively they are well positioned for a new era built around the likes of Pat Surtain Jr and Bradley Chubb as long as they can continue to add to that group of players.

There is the one big issue surrounding the quarterback position but the next coach will be in position to get their guy.

Denver is not a city that is used to the Broncos current run of mediocrity, they have not made the playoffs since winning Super Bowl 50 in February 2016.

If they get the right coach, they won’t have to watch Kansas City in the playoffs next season and might even find themselves playing them.

3 – Indianapolis Needs To Ask Some Tough Questions

It’s not so much that the Colts lost to cost themselves a spot in the NFL playoffs, it’s that they lost to one of the worst teams in recent memory and barely threw a punch in anger.

Faced with an overly simple “win and in” scenario, it was all set up for the Colts to show up, get off to a fast start and start preparing for their Wild Card game next weekend.

Instead they let Trevor Lawrence dissect them on the opening drive to start in a hole.

Just for reference, the Jaguars were down 28-3 at halftime in New England last week, this time they lead Indianapolis 13-3.

Surely there would be some sort of halftime pep talk… or not.

And most of the issues boil down to the quarterback they went all in on in the offseason.

Indianapolis just was not ready to play and it showed.

By the time they got into the end zone it was too little, too late.

With no first round pick thanks to the Wentz trade, the Colts are tied to him for another season and the evidence suggests he might not be the guy.

So where to now for the Colts?

4 – New England Is Destined For a First Round Exit

A month ago, some were touting New England as a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but based on their recent run of results, it is tough to see them winning one playoff game, let alone four.

Their loss in Miami made it three defeats from their last four with the only win coming against a Jaguars team that had no interest in playing that day.

Mac Jones has been the best rookie quarterback all season but his limitations were on full display in an ugly first quarter.

After the Dolphins had their way with the Patriots defence on their first possession, the Alabama product got his day off to a dreadful start with this pick-six.

But the issues go well beyond an inexperienced signal caller, and they were on full display in Week 18.

Miami had no problems moving the ball on the supposed strength of this team and when the game was on the line, the defence could not come up with the big stop.

Even though they found a way to get back and at least make the game competitive, it will provide little comfort as the roster’s deficiencies were there for all to see.

5 – Matthew Stafford Will Stop The Rams Winning The Super Bowl

It’s a good thing for the Rams that Arizona lost at home against Seattle, otherwise Stafford’s ill advised overtime interception would have cost the team a division title.

The former Lions signal caller started off with a bang but has allowed turnovers to creep into his game and it has really hurt the Rams.

Over their final nine games, the Rams have gone 5-4 while Stafford has thrown 13 interceptions and you have to be at least a little bit concerned about how he is going to handle a playoff game.

It is not helped by the fact that when he has no thrown interceptions, there have been far too many throws that have you wondering what he was thinking.

Best case scenario, Stafford is able to get support from the some of the most talented defensive players in the league and he will only have to make a couple of big time throws.

Worst case, Stafford finds himself in quicksand after an early mistake, tries to fight his way out of it and just cannot get out of his own way.

But with this team all in on Super Bowl LVI (despite their insistence they are not), you do wonder if they have the quarterback to get the job done.