It’s playoff time in the NFL .
The second season was underway this weekend.
It’s a season when anything can happen, and usually does.
What all teams wanted to do was make it to the dance.
It doesn’t matter if you made it by the skin of your teeth, or earned home field advantage.
You have a shot. Let the games begin.
But before we do, a reflective look at the events that brought us here.
The most exciting moment of the season, in my view, came early.
Week 3 actually.
It happened in Cleveland, of all places. Where there Browns who had not won a game in 635 days, beat the New York Jets, ending a 19-game winless streak.
But it was more than that. Much more.
It was in the second quarter, the Browns were trailing 14-0. Tyrod Taylor, their starting quarterback was injured. In came rookie Baker Mayfield, the number one pick in the draft by the Browns, who hadn’t gotten anything right in years.
There were many who doubted that Mayfield was the pick of the litter of rookie quarterbacks who carried credentials necessary for becoming franchise signal-callers for the lucky teams who got them.
The minute Mayfield came onto the field, you could feel a resounding swell of delight and enthusiasm from the Cleveland crowd.
It was a true turning of the page, a new beginning.
But Mayfield had yet to accomplish anything. It was merely his presence.
But the rookie delivered. Big time.
He led four scoring drives and beat the Jets and their first-year QB Sam Darnold, who the Browns passed on.
Baker Mayfield and his upbeat, animated, and fun-loving style turned the downtrodden Browns franchise around, and now the Cleveland Browns are a team to watch in the coming years.
We’ve discussed the folly of drawing early conclusions to any NFL season.
Every year, the so-called experts are quick to judge. And they wind up the egg on their face.
Check out the facts. The Houston Texans began the year 0-3. They wound up jumping from last place in 2017, to a division title. On the subject of leaping from the outhouse to the penthouse, how about the Chicago Bears! After four consecutive last-place finishes, the Bears achieved their best record since 2006. This after an opening-game meltdown against the Packers after leading 20-0 in the third quarter.
The New Orleans Saints lost to Tampa Bay at home in the opening game. They only dropped one more game the rest of the year and earned the home field edge in the NFC playoffs. The Bucs, by the way, who beat the Saints, then the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles to go 2-0, finished last in the NFC South and lost twice as many as they won.
The Cowboys were 3-5 at mid season, but captured the NFC East crown.
Add the Seattle Seahawks who began 0-2 and became a playoff team.
You get the point. The NFL campaign may only be 16-games. But it still a marathon, not a sprint.
Remember the three teams who traded up in 2017 to draft quarterbacks?
The Bears jumped over the 49ers to grab Mitchell Trubisky.
The Chiefs leap-frogged over the Saints for Patrick Mahomes, and the Texans vaulted past the Cardinals to take DeShaun Watson.
All three of those teams captured division titles this season, led by those young quarterbacks. And Patrick Mahomes should garner MVP honors.
On the topic of honors, first-year head coach Matt Nagy of the Bears is a shoo-in for Coach-of-the-Year.
Mayfield, has to be Rookie-of-the-Year, by an eyelash over Saquon Barkley of the Giants. Aaron Donald of the Rams, is hands-down best Defensive Player.
Biggest disappointments? The Steelers lead the parade followed by the Jaguars, the Falcons, and the Packers.
What about the Patriots, you say.
True, they were hardly dominant in 2018. But look where they are. Winning a tenth consecutive division title. In the playoffs yet again. Never look past the Patriots.
There will be coaching changes. But remember this. Changes often lead to a lot of needed patience by the clubs and their fans. Some firings are in order, but not in every case.
No franchise has had more patience than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Since 1968, they have had only three head coaches and three general managers.
They’ve won six Super Bowls. I know. None since 2009. Then again, they went 26 years without a trophy from 1980 until 2006.
Stability pays off.
I like all six of the quarterbacks drafted in the first round last year.
Some have looked better than others. When Josh Allen gets more help around him, he’ll be effective. The Bills have a good future. The same for Josh Rosen in Arizona.
I’ve seen enough of Rosen to appreciate his upside, when the offensive line improves and he has added weapons to work with.
I’ve also seen Lamar Jackson revive the Baltimore Ravens. He has added a spark with his running ability and the pass-run option the offense now offers.
Jackson’s problem will be to avoid injury. Something other quarterbacks with his style and size had difficulty accomplishing.
Enough of a look-back.
It’s time to let the games begin.
Enjoy the action.