Here’s a little peek behind the curtain at Defector: Every so often, editor-in-chief Tom Ley reminds the staff writers and editors that we need to sign up for Sunday shifts during the NFL season. Though I have watched more football this season than in recent years—blame fantasy football and the Macpill—I still do not particularly care about what particular games are being played on a particular Sunday when I sign up to work, as I did for today. Even if I did, though, that barely would have mattered for Week 15, as three of the more impactful games on the slate got pushed to Monday and Tuesday, thanks to COVID-19 running wild throughout the league.
What that left me with today was a series of games that sucked major butt. For God’s sake, the best game in the 1 p.m. time slot was probably the crap-fest between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers, a game that the latter team won only because of a wonderful Joe Haden tackle that just barely countered a horrible referee spot:
If a bad game between two ostensibly good teams didn’t do it for you, there was the Dolphins and Jets. They had a relatively entertaining game between a previously terrible team-turned-late playoff contender and, well, the Jets, who are just terrible but who also decided to be very fun in the process of losing 31-24:
Elsewhere, the Bills did what a team of their caliber should do and took down the Panthers comfortably. The Cowboys pounded the Giants in New Jersey, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened in that game. The Texans and Jaguars played a game, and it was about as good as any game between two-win teams can be. At least Brandin Cooks did a cool thing:
Honestly, the only exciting result in the early games came from a blowout of a different kind. If you knew that the Cardinals were playing the Lions, you probably would assume that the top team in the NFC West would defeat the worst team in football—sorry to Lauren and Maitreyi here—quite easily. Not when Papi is around, though; the Lions jumped out to a big early lead that stretched up to 24-3 in the third quarter, and they hung on so thoroughly that Arizona even took out Kyler Murray for Colt McCoy in garbage time. There’s no ignominy worse than that in the NFL.
The late games didn’t go much better. Cincinnati and Denver played the field-position battle in a game that also had a scary Teddy Bridgewater injury:
Elsewhere, Atlanta held somewhat close to San Francisco for a half, but the Niners eventually pulled away to win 31-13. San Francisco might be really good, or at least better than their record of 8-6, but Sunday didn’t tell us too much about their chances in the playoffs. After all, Atlanta is now 6-8 but they feel worse than that, both by the eye test and statistically.
The only saving grace on Sunday came courtesy of the Ravens, who fell behind to the Packers by just enough to make their eventual near-comeback exciting as hell. Tyler Huntley, subbing in for the still-injured Lamar Jackson, led two scoring drives in the last five minutes of the game, bringing a 31-17 game to 31-30 with 42 seconds left. Props to Baltimore for going for the win on the ensuing two-point conversion, though less props to them for the play call that gave Green Bay the win:
I’m not sure why it took until this specific Sunday for the fatigue of the NFL season to kick in. Maybe it was just as simple as having already clinched a playoff spot in my main fantasy league. Maybe it was the COVID-19 of it all that made the games that did go forward seem less important by comparison. Or maybe the games just sucked! That’s fine to say, even this late in the season and with playoff positions still up in the air. Aside from the Cardinals shitting the bed, the favorites to win mostly did so on Sunday and did so in boring fashion, which is good for them but not for me.