This year’s N.F.L. season has been awful. The N.F.L. has always been praised for its parity (undeservedly) and finally, this year, we are seeing what actual parity looks like and it’s not pretty. Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers lost to the Chicago Bears with Bears’ Q.B. Mitch Trubisky completing four passes. FOUR. The Denver Broncos, whose defense looked as good as it ever has during the first four weeks, have dropped four straight games including losses to the pathetic Giants and forgotten Chargers.
Injuries have played a large part in evening the playing field (or decreasing the quality of the league-wide product, depending on your perspective). The Packers lost Aaron Rodgers, dooming their season and the 4:15 time slot on FOX. The poor, poor Giants lost their top three receivers, including the most exciting player in the league, Odell Beckham Jr. One of the lone bright spots of the season, Deshaun Watson, tore his ACL from a non-contact injury during practice. Andrew Luck continues to cheerfully stroll the sidelines for the Indianapolis Colts with an arm in a sling and a beard he refuses to shave. These injuries, among others, have sapped the life and competition of the league. Sunday highlight packages are now starring Case Keenum and Tyrod Taylor.
Consequently, the door has been opened for bunch of historically mediocre-to-bad teams to make the playoffs. The Rams are winning, with Jared Goff somehow going from all-time bad bust to the second coming of Kurt Warner in one season. The Jaguars (?!) have a great defense and a legitimate shot to win the A.F.C. South, despite the play of their Q.B. Blake Bortles, whose name sounds like the real name of a Marvel superhero who has the powers of a super-turtle. The Buffalo Bills are solidly in the playoff hunt, riding the back of their defense. It’s exciting to see these typically bad teams make strides — everyone loves an underdog story — but it’d be even more exciting if these improvements felt earned against top competition.
There is one team whose success is equally surprising and earned — the Philadelphia Eagles. Talented but inconsistent a year ago, the Eagles have found a balanced winning formula. Their front seven is stout and they consistently stuff the run. On the offensive side of the ball, they can really run the ball behind bruising back Legarrette Blount. Carson Wentz is a top candidate for M.V.P., leading the N.F.L. in touchdown passes and scrambling around like a healthy Aaron Rodgers. The Eagles are fun to watch.
The second half of the season is underway and it seems likely that things will settle down. The bad teams will stop trying to win as they position themselves for the upcoming N.F.L. draft (I’m looking at you, New York Jets). Good teams will solidify their systems and rotations, trying to gain momentum heading into the postseason. It’d be lame if we spent this whole season just waiting for it to be over, so here’s hoping that despite its strangeness, this N.F.L. season still has something great to offer.