NFL Week 16 Tiers: Every Team Summarized in One Sentence; Refs Are Ruining the League

Here we go:

Again, no team, in my view, deserves to be elevated up to that Death Star tier, even the 13-1 Eagles. It’s not because they went on the road to Chicago and got caught up in a dog-fight with a 3-11 team. I understand stuff like that can happen when it’s late in the season, a team has already clinched a playoff berth, it’s cold-ass weather–you just lose focus and don’t play your best game. It’s also not because Jalen Hurts now has a shoulder injury (RIP my fantasy football playoff dreams), which should be fine come playoff time.

It’s because the Eagles are unproven in the playoffs. That’s it. That’s why I won’t put them up in the Death Star tier. I think they are an insanely good team: they have an elite offensive line, an elite running game, elite pass-catchers (and they’re now getting Goedert back), a really good defense including a star-studded secondary. And of course, last but not least, their MVP-caliber quarterback Jalen Hurts. The only real downside I see for them is at edge rusher, but even then, what they have is plenty. They are so good on both offensive and defensive line, just like they were when they won the Super Bowl in 2017.

I think at this point in the season, with 14 games down, there is no Death Star team in 2022. I guess you could say it’s a good thing because there are quite a few teams with the potential to win the Super Bowl. There’s a lot of parity right now. Certainly I think the Chiefs have to be considered the favorites because of Mahomes and because of their experience, but they are by no means significant favorites, nor would I be surprised at all if they lose in the playoffs.

But here’s the thing: it feels like this season is missing that one team that defines the season, you know? Like that one team that becomes the main storyline. It was the Bills at first, but then they lost a few games and no longer feel like a Death Star.

It should be the Eagles because they’re 13-1, but they might be the least-respected 13-1 team ever–even less-respected than the 2015 Panthers, who nobody really believed in. If the Chiefs or the Bills were 13-1 right now, people would be talking about how they’re one of the greatest teams in NFL history. But because it’s the Eagles, people are kind of indifferent to their success. People still aren’t sold on Jalen Hurts (and in fairness, he still has some throws and some plays here and there where you kind of scratch your head), they think the Eagles have played a weak-ass schedule and have had some close calls with bad teams. I get it–I understand why people are still skeptical of the Eagles.

So there really is no “villain” of this NFL season. Another big part of it is that the Rams are so terrible–usually the team that wins the Super Bowl becomes the villain because people don’t want to see them win again. But this Rams team might be the worst defending Super Bowl champion ever.

The 2013 Ravens went 8-8 after winning the Super Bowl, but this Rams squad is 4-10. The 2012 Giants went 9-7 and missed the playoffs, the 2016 Broncos went 9-7 and missed the playoffs, the 2009 Steelers went 9-7 and missed the playoffs, the 2006 Steelers went 8-8 and missed the playoffs, the 2002 Patriots went 9-7 and missed the playoffs. The most recent Super Bowl champion to finish with a losing record the next season is the 2003 Buccaneers, who went 7-9.

The 1999 Broncos went 6-10 after winning the Super Bowl in 1998, but the excuse for them was that John Elway retired after they won the Super Bowl.

This Rams squad is definitely worse than the 1999 Broncos. I only went back to 1990 when looking at past Super Bowl champions and how they fared the following season, and the 2022 Rams are hands down the worst. I think this is the worst attempt by a team at defending their Super Bowl crown in NFL history. I still have to double check that statement by going through all the pre-1990s teams, and I’ll probably do that next week.

The original topic was that there isn’t a real villain this year, and I think the Rams being so bad is a big part of that. We have parity this year, which is something we always say we want, but in truth parity is less exciting because it feels like there’s less at stake. If anyone can win the Super Bowl, it kind of waters down the drama in a way. It lowers the stakes a bit.

Well-known teams–typically they take on the villain role after being dominant for a long time–make things more compelling. They just do. This season not having a villain team has kind of made it feel a bit less compelling than past years, I have to admit.

But I also think a big part of that is that the league is really going through a changing of the guard. Look at all those great teams and how young their quarterbacks are: Josh Allen is 26, Jalen Hurts is 24, Mahomes is 27, Joe Burrow is 26. And the 49ers are a team that feels young–their QB right now, Brock Purdy, is a rookie.

The league is so young and brand new nowadays, if you really think about it. Guys like AB, Adrian Peterson, Julio Jones, AJ Green, Philip Rivers, Big Ben, Eli Manning–so many of the old familiar faces are now either retired or washed up. The only old guys still left are Brady, Rodgers and Matt Ryan, and they’re all on bad teams this year. These were the guys that, at least for me personally, defined the NFL for most of my teenage and adult life.

The NFL really is going through a changing of the guard moment right now. I might just be speaking for myself here, but I feel a bit less emotionally invested in this season because so many of the familiar names and personalities are either retired or non-factors in the Super Bowl hunt. I just think there’s so many young and new faces in the league that I haven’t really gotten to know super well, it feels a bit… different. Unfamiliar is not the right word, but it definitely feels like a new chapter in NFL history–a new generation. It will just take some time for these young guys to really take the torch and become the faces of the league.

For example, for me, personally, the year after Peyton Manning retired I felt like there was something missing in the NFL. It felt like the league was incomplete without him. I can’t really say that any specific player replaced him directly (because he was pretty much irreplaceable as both a player and a personality) but it did take some time to get used to the fact that he’s not playing anymore. The NBA felt different for a while after guys like Tim Duncan, Kobe, Paul Pierce, KG and Dirk retired. Like, what, the Spurs aren’t the best team in the league anymore…? College football is going to feel strange when Nick Saban retires. And the NBA is going to feel very weird when LeBron, KD and Steph retire.

That’s what I’m talking about here. The old giving way to the new.

I think the league is heading in a great direction, I want to make that clear. The amount of talent right now is utterly ridiculous; it’s so awesome to see.

It’s just going to take some time to get used to the fact that this is a new NFL now. The guys who dominated the league for the past 10-15 years are either retired or nearing retirement, and a new generation is taking their place.

If you’re like me and you find yourself a bit less emotionally invested in the league this year than in years past, this is probably what it is. These young guys who are taking over, none of them have really been around long enough to establish their character “archetypes,” or their “roles” in the character drama of the league, yet–the villain, the guy who can never win the big one, the guy who always gets the short end of the stick, etc. But it will happen in time. I think the NFL is in great hands, and the future is so bright with all these young stars.

Chiefs: On the road, late in the season, playoffs all but assured–I’ll give them a pass for not really showing up against the Texans, and they still won the game anyway.

Bills: MASSIVE win over Miami cements them as the overwhelming favorite in the AFC East and gives them the inside track to secure the #1 seed in the AFC.

Bengals: The Bengals are one game behind the Bills for the #1 seed in the AFC; they’re 10-4 while Buffalo and Kansas City are 11-3–however, the Bengals have already beaten KC head-to-head, and they host the Bills on January 2nd in a matchup that will probably decide home field advantage in the AFC.

49ers: These boys have won 7 in a row and now stand at 10-4, arguably the hottest team in the league; huge game upcoming against the Commanders on Saturday.

Vikings: Just completed the biggest comeback in NFL history after being down 33-0 to the Colts; look, everyone thinks the Vikings are fraudulent, but you can’t deny they’re a fun-ass team.

Cowboys: As it stands now they would be playing the Bucs on the road in the opening weekend of the playoffs, and although Tampa has had the Cowboys’ number in the Brady era, this is a matchup the Cowboys have to be licking their chops over.

Dolphins: The AFC East has now been decided in Buffalo’s favor, and the Dolphins have dropped down to the 7 seed at 8-6; however, they deserve a ton of credit for battling like they did up in Buffalo in that weather.

Chargers: They’re 8-6 and up to the 6th seed in the AFC, but I can’t help but feel this team is underachieving.

Ravens: Ravens are still the 5th seed in the AFC but man do they stink without Lamar.

Lions: The other hottest team in football, don’t look now but the Lions are a half game out of the playoffs; they are officially America’s team right now.

Jaguars: The Lions of the AFC, how can you not root for these guys?

Browns: They have to win out, simple as that; next three games vs. New Orleans, at Washington and at Pittsburgh.

Jets: Still alive in the playoff hunt at 7-7, but they’re really not going anywhere.

Panthers: They’ve got an interim head coach, but 5-9 they are only one game behind the Bucs in the NFC South–lol.

Giants: Big win on the road over Washington on Sunday night, even if they didn’t deserve it–barring a massive collapse, it looks like the Giants will be in the playoffs.

Patriots: The one question I have about that Raiders game is this: what upside did Jakobi Meyers see in lateraling the ball back to Mac Jones, of all people?

Commanders: Can’t help but think the NFL was trying to send a message to Dan Snyder by having the refs blatantly screw the Commanders over in that game against the Giants; sucks that the players have to be the ones to bear the brunt of it.

Seahawks: Fading fast, and next up is a road trip to Kansas City.

Bucs: Tampa is just not a good football team, even though they had a 17-0 lead on Cincinnati.

Packers: They’re not dead yet…

Titans: Not much juice here with this Titans squad.

Raiders: They have a lot of offensive talent, for sure, but the sum appears to be less than the parts with this bunch.

Falcons: Still somehow alive at 5-9 in that terrible division.

Steelers: They can win out and go 9-8 and Mike Tomlin’s streak of no losing seasons will continue.

Bears: Will Anderson or Jalen Carter?

Cardinals: Hey, at least they’ll have a high draft pick next spring.

Saints: The Eagles have their draft pick, which is 9th overall as of right now–but like all the other teams in the NFC South, the Saints are actually still alive for the playoffs despite the 5-9 record.

Colts: I have a feeling Irsay is going to make Jim Harbaugh an offer he can’t refuse in about three weeks time here.

Broncos: Brett Rypien > Russell Wilson?

Rams: That game against the Raiders was their Super Bowl.

Texans: It’s now two consecutive weeks where the Texans have pushed a very good team to the brink; say what you will, but this team is still playing hard for Lovie Smith.

This was a crazy week of NFL football. You can say that after pretty much every week in the NFL, but this week was especially crazy… unfortunately, not always for the better.

There are a lot of serious issues with the NFL right now and most of them have to do with officiating and how the rules are applied during the games.

Quite frankly, bullshit is deciding games right now. Several examples:

The Raiders Patriots game that ended on that ridiculous interception TD by Chandler Jones, after Jakobi Meyers inexplicably tried to throw the ball backwards to Mac Jones with zeros on the clock with the game tied? That game shouldn’t have even been tied. Keelan Cole, who caught the pass in the endzone when Las Vegas was down 24-17, was clearly out of bounds. He didn’t get both feet down in bounds:

It’s close but his second foot was on the line.

The Commanders-Giants game that ended when Washington’s Taylor Heinicke failed to connect with Curtis Samuel on a pass in the endzone? That was pass interference on the defender. He was basically piggy-backing on Samuel. But since PI is not reviewable, that was the ballgame.

This is PI. I know the refs are hesitant to call stuff in critical moments late in games but when it’s a violation of the rules you have to call it. This is not what “letting them play” looks like. This is what allowing a defender to break the rules looks like. You are not allowed to do that.

Letting ‘em play is when guys are both jockeying for position and going right up to the proverbial line and maybe toeing it. When one player blatantly crosses the line, not throwing a flag is just poor officiating, not “letting them play.” Ironically on this play in particular, the Giants defender is literally not letting Curtis Samuel play, because he’s jumping on him.

There has to be some way to appeal a PI call or no-call. It’s absurd that there isn’t a way to do this. They implemented the rule in 2019 but then got rid of it because the refs themselves sabotaged the review process and never overturned the call on the field. Because the refs reviewing it didn’t want to make the refs in the game look bad; they’ve all got each other’s backs. That’s what’s important I guess; making the correct call is unimportant.

I don’t care if the refs look bad when a replay official determines they missed a PI call, or overrules a PI call a ref made. The last thing on my mind is how it reflects on the ref. I just want them to get the calls correct. I understand these refs have to make judgement calls in a split second, I can forgive them if they make the wrong call—IF there’s a way to go back and correct the call after the fact.

And the illegal formation call that took a Washington TD off the board a play earlier was also bullshit.

There’s video of it:

These refs are either completely clueless or they’re rigging games. I really don’t know how else to explain that.

Now in fairness here, you can see McLaurin point to the ref in this video but I’m not sure the ref actually gives him a thumbs up. You can’t definitively see that on the video.

Terry and his teammates are saying the ref told him he was good, but we don’t know that for certain ourselves.

But here’s the thing, did the ref really have to throw a flag on this play? Did Washington only score a touchdown on this play because Terry was lined up a half yard back? It was a power run play, McLaurin wasn’t even involved at all.

Everyone knows that there’s holding on every play, but that it’s only called when it directly impacts what happened on the play–if it springs the ball carrier, if it gives the QB the extra time he needs to get a pass off, etc.

Where Terry McLaurin lined up on that play had no impact on what happened, and for a ref to throw a flag on McLaurin there is just unconscionable. These refs are determined to be the center of the show, and it feels like they’re drunk with power.

But I also feel like there’s another angle here that’s kind of flying a bit under the radar: the Dan Snyder situation. Clearly the league is trying to force him out, and it seems as if he will eventually have to sell the team. I wouldn’t be shocked, though, if the NFL and the refs have it out for him and are sending him a message to compel him to sell ASAP. The worst thing that could happen for the league is for Washington to make the playoffs and go on a run here. The league wants to stick it to Dan Snyder in any way they can, and unfortunately that means the players on the Commanders are collateral damage.

I really think that’s a part of what we’re seeing here: the league is trying to force Dan Snyder to sell, and so it’s using the refs to send him a message that he is not going to win jack shit on their watch.

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