x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

NFL weekend: One extreme to another

How easy it was to become riveted by the NFL's two extremists, the 13-0 Packers and the 0-13 Colts, who validated the league slogan: "On any given Sunday".

Donald Brown, No 31, the Indianapolis Colts running back, runs from Tennessee Titans players during their 27-13 win. It was the Colts’ first victory of the season and one that could potentially cost them a draft pick.
Donald Brown, No 31, the Indianapolis Colts running back, runs from Tennessee Titans players during their 27-13 win. It was the Colts’ first victory of the season and one that could potentially cost them a draft pick.

On the third-to-last weekend of the regular NFL season, the lone winless team won and the lone unbeaten team was beaten.

Those two games had few implications for the play-offs, unlike many others, yet none were more engrossing. Well, aside from the Tim Te-Bowl between Denver and New England.

However, their outcomes carried significant future impact in the post-season and the college draft.

Taking them, as any coach worth his whistle would say, one at a time:

Chiefs 19, Packers 14. Green Bay seemed likely to go to 14-0 merely by showing up in Kansas City, and the wise guys already were wondering if Mike McCarthy, the Packers coach, would go pedal-to-the-metal for a 16-0 season or rest his regulars after clinching home field in the play-offs.

Wonder no more. The Packers got whacked by an opponent with a temporary coach. Now they are asking: Romeo, oh Romeo (Crennel), wherefore has thy team been all this time?

Had Green Bay won, McCarthy would have been justified to sit any banged-up starters - and there are a bunch - or even some without a scratch on them.

He would have needed a flak jacket to deflect the hail of criticism for not tapping all resources to pursue a perfect season, last achieved by the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

More denunciation would have been aimed his way from a different direction, in part related to a new NFL schedule policy.

To boost the potential importance of games on the final Sunday and deter coaches from enclosing their key players in bubble wrap, teams are paired with rivals from the same division. Plus, it is no coincidence that 10 of 16 games this weekend also are intra-division.

The Packers close out against Chicago and Detroit, not just NFC North brethren but also in the play-offs mix. Ripples from Green Bay's outcomes against the Bears this week and the Lions next could be felt in Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Seattle, Arizona and Philadelphia, all precincts where the team has one foot — or a toe, in the Eagles' case — in the post-season.

While the matter is moot, McCarthy suggested that the prospects of 16-0 would not have compelled him to deploy any ailing player. "I personally always viewed the undefeated season as, really, just gravy," he said.

The meat and potatoes is a No 1 seed, which the Packers can secure against the aimless Bears on Sunday. Then, McCarthy can hold out the regulars against Detroit in good conscience.

Colts 27, Titans 13. As last weekend illustrated, you win some, you lose some. Sometimes, you win and lose simultaneously.

Indianapolis grabbed their first victory of the season even as their grip loosened on the top prize in the draft, Andrew Luck, the Stanford quarterback.

At 1-13, the Colts are now just one game ahead of Minnesota and St Louis in the upside-down standings in the Luck Sweepstakes.

The Rams face a finishing gauntlet of Pittsburgh and San Francisco and probably will stay stuck on two wins. The Vikings could botch their prospects in the Luck derby by defeating Washington or Chicago, and neither of those two are daunting.

Because St Louis (Sam Bradford) and Minnesota (Christian Ponder) have gifted, young quarterbacks in the fold, the football gods should play matchmaker with Luck and the Colts, especially in light of Peyton Manning's off-again, on-again season that was offed for good last week.

Manning's surgically repaired neck might be on the mend, but his uncertain future is afflicting the Colts management with uncertainty. The team must decide whether to renew his contract by March at a breathtaking cost of US$28 million (Dh102.8m), then, should Manning be retained, if he and Luck could coexist at neighbouring lockers.

Indy might not find out, with a schedule that concludes at home against the offence-starved Oilers and at Jacksonville against the eminently beatable Jaguars.

Two wins, even one, could leave them Luck-less.

Jim Caldwell, the Colts coach, couldn't care less about the draft, seeing as how he likely will not be around to reap its benefits, anyway. "I'm sure there a lot of things out there that are being said on a number of different topics," he said, "but we try and stay focused and get ourselves prepared for the next game."

You would not wish an 0-for-the-season on your worst enemy. The Colts got their win. They should keep playing hard. And hope for the worst.

How easy it was to become riveted by the NFL's two extremists, the 13-0 Packers and the 0-13 Colts, who validated the league slogan: "On any given Sunday".

By the way, did anybody catch the outcome of the Tim Te-Bowl?

sports@thenational.ae