Normally we’d be around halfway through the season after Week 8 wrapped up (the NFL moved to an odd number of games as an annoying trampoline to 18 games all while ignoring how badly it would wreck league-wide and team season records for a league that prides itself on a deep and rich history, but I digress) but we still have teams who have only played 40-ish percent of their games for the season.
It’s still far enough along to make judgments about various teams and to actually assess the playoff race in both of the conferences. It’s funny, because the opposite of what we expected happened: the AFC looked very predictable heading into the year but a down year from the Chiefs clouds things tremendously. We may also actually be finally realizing the importance of Brady’s departure in opening up the conference playoff race. A pandemic year with a 43-year-old QB raising his seventh trophy on a new team in Tampa Bay at the team’s home stadium in his first year there just feels like a fever dream. Some things take time to settle in.
We could dive into both conferences and take a bigger picture view of how the playoff race is starting to shape up, but last week’s No. 1 team in the AFC (the Bengals) just lost to the Jets, paving the way for the Titans (the Jets’ only other win) to grab the top spot. The AFC is pandemonium. Even more so with the news of Derrick Henry’s injury. But the NFC playoff race almost feels three quarters full a quarter and a half into the season.
The Saints’ win over the reigning Super Bowl champs at home was and should be the biggest story of the week. They took down the Buccaneers despite 1) Tom Brady posting some huge numbers and 2) Jameis Winston tearing his ACL. New Orleans is 5-2 and Sean Payton needs a ton of credit here — he’s won a lot of games with Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill, Winston and Trevor Siemian the last three years because of multi-week and mid-game…