By Cal Braid
Westwind Weekly News
It’s November, and now the games really count. Not that they were entirely meaningless in September and October, but teams can gel and develop a lot over the course of 17 weeks. With a truncated preseason and the move towards low-contact training camps, the season can take a little longer to take shape. While a bad September/October can kill a team with high hopes (see Raiders, Colts, Broncos, Packers), a merely average first nine weeks doesn’t always spell doom (see Chargers, and maybe the Buccaneers).
Let’s jump back and review what this column got right and wrong heading into the season. We thought the Vikings and Eagles could go above and beyond, and they have. We got that right. We got wrong the Colts, Saints, Chargers, Chiefs, Raiders, and Broncos; basically, the entire AFC west plus a couple of stragglers, all teams we thought could be very good.
A lot of our expectations came from the One-Man theory, which is our theory that the addition or subtraction of one or two key players can make all the difference. For example, the Chiefs lost Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu, both big losses that triggered us into thinking that the Chiefs would regress into what the Packers have devolved into this year. We knew that the Chiefs made a couple of very notable additions at wide receiver but assumed that those guys could not replace the explosive element that Hill was. Well, they’re not as explosive, but credit the coaching staff with designing a new offence that can still make a ton of mid-range gains, often marching up and down the field at will. The Dolphins, on the other hand, gained Hill, and he’s made a huge impact, as expected. The Packers lost Davante Adams and that, along with poor offensive line play, has turned them into a lesser offence. The Raiders gained Adams, and it doesn’t seem to have made a lick of difference. They’re worse this year. Then there are the Chargers, who looked to have assembled a well-balanced potential ‘super team,’ and the results have been average. The Eagles also assembled a high-quality roster around an iffy QB, and they’ve been great. The team gelled and elevated the QB. The NBA is a league of ‘super teams’ where two big stars can completely swing the balance of power—think Shaq/Kobe era Lakers, the Lebron/Bosh era Heat, or the Durant/Curry Warriors. The NFL doesn’t work that way. The rosters are bigger, the injuries more bone-crushing, and the system and scheme that a coaching staff employ must be just right.
The trade deadline made a splash, but will any team’s singular acquisition from a big trade pay off the right way? Bradley Chubb in Miami may very well help push the Dolphins deeper into the playoffs in January. T.J. Hockenson in Minnesota might help the Vikings get over the hump. Some teams, like the Rams and Packers, were strangely silent on trade day.
The game we had circled on the Week 10 slate was Vikings-Bills, and that one certainly paid off in entertainment value, ending 33-30 in the Viking’s favour, but the Bills still have that elite feel. When they’re at their best, it seems like they can still beat anybody. The Cowboys-Packers was another overtime gem with Pack edging the ‘Boys 31-28. And finally, quietly hanging around is a team we’ll talk more about next time: the 49ers. Week 10 was a ton of fun, and there’s more to come.