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The NFL: What We Learned in 2020

Mill Woods

Posted on January 5, 2021 20:45

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Because the NFL did a good job of managing the pandemic, we fans got 17 weeks of excellent football. We got to see the Chiefs make a strong case for a repeat. Tom Brady stunned us in a new uniform. The Saints set new records behind Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara. And we witnessed the single best play of the season (or any season?), delivered by the amazing Dolphins and "Fitz-Magic". In short, we learned again why the NFL is tops in sports.

Before we tackle the playoffs, here are seven lessons learned from the 2020 regular season.

 1. The NFL succeeded in controlling the virus.

Imposing strict rules and employing diligent testing and contact tracing, the world’s heaviest-contact sport minimized disruptions due to virus transmission. The few NFL games that had to be rescheduled allowed the league to schedule a game on every day of the week — for the first time ever. A lesson in teamwork.
 
2.  Most teams don’t need screaming crowds in order to win.

Trust me — we won’t hear a single organization admit this, ok? Empty stadiums might have been less fun, but they made no difference in the outcomes; teams (both good and bad) performed like they have in the past.

3. Foolish GMs ditch their best players.

Does anyone doubt that the Vikings and Texans were better with Stephon Diggs and Deandre Hopkins? (The Cardinals and Bills would gladly answer that.)
 
4. Tom Brady is a better QB than Bill Belichick is a GM.

I’ll admit: I did not know how this was going to work out. Belichick still ranks as the best of all time. But Brady took to that receiver-rich Bucs team like a fish to water. Tampa is the most dangerous wild card in the playoffs.
 
 5. Good teams can lose just by bad coaching.  

The Falcons played in the 2017 Super Bowl. But in 2020, with almost the same roster, they lost 12 close games. Defensive play-calling was far too conservative. After Dan Quinn was fired and Jeff Ulbrich took over as DC, the defense instantly improved. As for that excellent Falcon offense, Dirk Koetter and company never developed the kind of run blocking that the offense showed it needed three years ago (in the Super Bowl).

To be fair to both coaches and players, it's true: the 2020 Falcons did play nine games against playoff teams.

The Eagles won a Super Bowl in 2019, but, to this day, I still think that had little to do with HC Doug Pederson. Lately, the Eagles struggled on both offense and defense, so they can’t even win in the league’s weakest division.

Here are more teams I think would be better off with better coaches (alphabetically): Bears, Broncos, Cardinals, Cowboys, Giants, Lions, Raiders. The Jaguars, Texans and Chargers have already dropped the ax.

6. Turnarounds don’t have to take forever.

Dolphins HC Brian Flores deserves the title: "Coach of the Year". Accolades also must go to the Bucs and Browns for their quick turnarounds.

7. Even in the ‘National Parity League’, there can be weak divisions.

We also won’t hear the NFL admit: right now, some old and beloved teams are mediocre at best. They should not be featured in prime time slots like Sunday Night Football. And, if an entire division is weak, then the division champ should not automatically make the playoffs. 

Even the NFL can be improved.

Next time, I'll give you my picks for Wild Card Weekend.

 

Mill Woods

Posted on January 5, 2021 20:45

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