Where Things Stand: 2021 NFL Edition Part 3

“What the hell?”

That is my reaction to the last four weeks of the NFL while writing up WTS: 2021 NFL Edition Part 3.

Nothing makes sense. There isn’t necessarily a clear-cut №1 team. Only pure chaos is how I would describe this NFL season.

We have the interns back as we head into the holidays, and we are so close to finishing the time machine! We unfortunately have had to move locations so certain parties can’t get their hands on it.

I’ve also come to the realization that I’ve been very bitter lately. While that’s sometimes a decent recipe for the snark level, I want to do something different. Let’s try to be nice (keyword, try) to some of these teams. We still have a few boneheads that need shredded this edition who I won’t give much mercy to.

While you’re here, go refresh yourself on 2021 Part 1 and Part 2.

Now then, I’m gonna need some Kool-Aid to get through the AFC East. Oh boy!

*Note: All team page hyperlinks are to ESPN.

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AFC East

Patriots: 1–3 | Part 2: 5–4 | Part 3: 9–4

Buffalo: 3–1 | Part 2: 5–3 | Part 3: 7–5

Miami: 1–3 | Part 2: 2–7 | Part 3: 6–7

NY Jets: 1–3 | Part 2: 2–6 | Part 3: 3–9

State of the AFC East

New England: “The big question surrounding New England right now is if the dynasty is over, and if these Patriots are my Mulligan Team?

I’m erring on the side of caution and saying maybe not and here’s why.

The defense. The Patriots were in cap hell before what amounted to their entire starting defense from 2019 opting out and also got them out of cap hell. I’m still suspicious of that.

Plus, Belichick’s team was still well coached. Imagine having guys like Patrick Chung and others back in 2021, or even having them this year. New England may have at least two more wins otherwise.

The quarterback question will persist this offseason but even for missing the playoffs, I’m inclined to believe it COULD BE a one year fluke.

If I’m right, we’re all doomed.”

No. No!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!! You were supposed to be dead! That was supposed to be a damn jinx!! THERE WAS NO NEW ENGLAND INVITATIONAL DIVISION ON THE AGENDA!!!

They’ve won seven in a row and leapfrogged Buffalo for the division lead. Bad Patriots!!

Sigh… I guess they’re good again. I should’ve mulliganed them when I had the chance.

*Lightbulb*

Or I still could!!

Buffalo: Bills Mafia! Get your act together!! Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, AND Jonathan Taylor?!

You were supposed to keep New England from becoming the Evil Empire again. You let them beat you by throwing three goddamn passes!!

Get your crap together, take the division, and I’ll sing your praises all day long.

Consider this a mercy. I will be even hotter under the collar if they keep winning.

Miami: Wow! I am seriously going to have to retire the LOLphins moniker after the last four weeks!

You also beat the Ravens, which helps your case.

The LOLphins are dead. Long live the Dolphins… for now.

As for the main discourse in south beach, *Ahem*, now the defense shows up after that 2–7 start to the year!!

What the hell happened? I’m sending intern Mindy on an investigation to find out if Brian Flores used some sort of voodoo magic or other means to right the ship.

There’s been some improvement from Tua Tagovailoa, though not to franchise caliber level yet, like I jumped the gun on last year and proclaimed him The Next Big Thing.

Maybe handing out the LOLphins moniker was a blessing in disguise this time. We’ll see. I have the blowtorch on standby.

There is one more thing I forgot to mention…

Give the dude his Big Man TD!! SCREW THE RULES!!

New York: Sorry Jets, the advent of Mike White was a feel-good aberration. I have said this before and will say it again, I trust Robert Saleh.

While there have been a few big blowouts, this team has a different vibe to it…

Okay! Maybe it’s not that different, but it’s a start!!

AFC North

Baltimore: 3–1 | Part 2: 6–2 | Part 3: 8–4

Cincinnati: 3–1 | Part 2: 5–4 | Part 3: 7–5

Pittsburgh: 1–3 | Part 2: 5–3 | Part 3: 6–5–1

Cleveland: 3–1 | Part 2: 5–4 | Part 3: 6–6

State of the AFC North:

Baltimore: The Dolphins’ upset surprised me. As did Justin Tucker missing a field goal. I’m serious when I say he’s going to wind up in Canton when he’s done. If he doesn’t get in, then the Hall of Fame voters need an eye exam.

In the meantime, they finally have lost a few of those close games they’ve had a knack for winning this year. It’s infuriating how quote-unquote “lucky” they’ve been at times.

Still, this defense is exploitable, the injuries are still mounting (aka, Marlon Humphrey) and if you can contain Lamar, you stand a chance of winning.

Cincinnati: This Bengals squad is an enigma. I don’t know what to write other than make protecting Joe Burrow a priority. He’s getting way too banged up, and you’ll turn him into Tim Couch!

Don’t screw this up again!

Pittsburgh: Enough with the ties every damn year!! It’s become a formatting hazard for this article series, and I’ve had enough of it. End of rant.

Reports have come out that this is Big Ben’s final few games with the Steelers.

Good! Let this franchise suffer for a bit! It’s honestly hilarious to see former Steelers (i.e. Ryan Clark) address the current outfit on the field and how it looks vastly different to teams past.

Even Mike Tomlin seems to agree. That’s a bombshell that in my eyes, said this: We need a damn fix, and we know it.

The problem? Where do you start? How do you replace Ben and is there even a “Steeler Way” to return to in the year 2021? I don’t have the answers, and I’m glad I won’t have to provide them either.

Cleveland: At this point, trying to ask, “Why do you keep doing this to me?” is akin to asking, “Why do I keep getting drunk?” and not realizing it’s a problem with alcoholism.

This offense has been putrid for weeks outside of the Week 9 Bengals contest! Every time there’s hope that this franchise has finally found a path out of the desert and to the oasis, it somehow feels more and more like a mirage. In reality, we’re still in the desert and dying of heat exhaustion.

That’s how frustrating the relationship with the Browns has become. Kevin Stefanski isn’t the main issue, and he’s young for a head coach. He’ll learn from these mistakes you figured he would have made last year. Stefanski will be here for a while.

But with all due respect, it’s time to shut Baker Mayfield down if you don’t beat Baltimore AT HOME on Sunday with a convincing offensive performance. I really don’t see how an injured Baker Mayfield before the bye was a better option than Case Keenum. He’s going to ruin his long-term future if he keeps idolizing Brett Favre’s toughness.

Get the surgery now, and you still have a guaranteed fifth year option to prove you can be the long-term answer under center. I’m not saying this to throw in the towel, but sometimes you have to know the body’s limits. I can’t claim to know Mayfield’s limits, but he sure doesn’t look healthy to me.

And if Baker somehow reads this, please understand I’m not belittling you. I am concerned, as are a number of other fans out there. Like them, I haven’t given up on you as Cleveland’s future, but sometimes, you gotta swallow the pride. I know what that feels like, and it isn’t fun.

AFC South

Tennessee: 2–2 | Part 2: 7–2 | Part 3: 8–4

Indianapolis: 1–3 | Part 2: 4–5 | Part 3: 7–6

Houston: 1–3 | Part 2: 1–8 | Part 3: 2–10

Jacksonville: 0–4 | Part 2: 2–6 | Part 3: 2–10

State of the AFC South:

Tennessee: Yeah, I don’t know how to judge the Titans now. The entire AFC doesn’t have a clear cut favorite, and I can’t get a read on you people.

That, and you’re injured to all hell. The injury mountain has slowly approached “Curse of MetLife” levels.

Indianapolis: Now the Colts! I can get a read on you guys! A wildcard team that will use bully ball to make their opponents cry.

Jonathan Taylor became more of a monster than I could have ever predicted. He’s right there with Derrick Henry. I’d even say he’s an MVP favorite if the voters decided to not award the trophy to a quarterback again.

Unfortunately, it appears that the conditional first round pick will be conveyed to Philly in the Carson Wentz deal. Still, well done with climbing back into the race.

Houston: The Texans somehow are eliminated from playoff contention before Jacksonville and Detroit, despite being ahead of the Jags in the division.

I hope you love the ruins of what’s left post Hack O’Brien and likely post Deshaun Watson. It’s going to be a rough ride back to relevance for you, Texans.

Hey, someone had to take the fall for the Houston Baseball Team’s cheating scandal.

Jacksonville: A couple of words: Fire Urban Meyer and bring in someone who can better develop Trevor Lawrence and properly utilize James Robinson.

That’s it.

AFC West

Kansas City: 2–2 | Part 2: 5–4 | Part 3: 8–4

LA Chargers: 3–1 | Part 2: 5–3 | Part 3: 7–5

Las Vegas: 3–1 | Part 2: 5–3 | Part 3: 6–6

Denver: 3–1 | Part 2: 5–4 | Part 3: 6–6

State of the AFC West:

Kansas City: Do I dare say that the Kansas City Chiefs are getting back on track? …

Yeah, I’ll bite the bullet. They’re back.

And they’ll get knocked out before the Super Bowl according to the crystal ball. Yes, I got it working, and that’s what I was shown.

You’re welcome, betting public!

DISCLAIMER: The above finish for the Chiefs is a prediction and not set in stone! The crystal ball cannot foresee injuries or other odd happenings due to Covid! Do not take it as insider betting advice.

LA Chargers: Same thing as the Titans. We’ll revisit you in Part 4.

Las Vegas: “And we’re going to lead off Part 3 with Damon Arnette! Yep, nuke the franchise.”

I wasn’t forgetting about this. And while “nuke the franchise” is a bit extreme, this team has allowed itself to have numerous gaffes this year with dumbass personnel. Arnette getting in trouble with guns is the latest part of this mess, along with his release from the team.

Also, why did Darren Waller have to get hurt? He’s one of the people I said to exclude from this mess!!

On a lighter note, how about that Thanksgiving refball fest?! Intern Randy, grab the clip of the overtime field goal incident!!

(Medium and the NFL don’t like when I post YouTube links of game footage, so click this hyperlink here to watch)

Denver: Obvious frauds. I told you so. Likely shredding coming in Part 4. This is me trying to be nice. End of Denver Narrative.

__________________

I said I needed Kool-Aid for the AFC East. I’ll need some more of that brew to get through the NFC East and then some!

__________________

NFC East

Dallas: 3–1 | Part 2: 6–2 | Part 3: 8–4

Washington: 2–2 | Part 2: 2–6 | Part 3: 6–6

Philly: 1–3 | Part 2: 3–6 | Part 3: 6–7

NY Giants: 1–3 | Part 2: 3–6 | Part 3: 4–8

State of the NFC East:

Dallas: Jerry Jones, I present to you once again 160 million reasons why paying Dak Prescott was the right move. Without him, you’d be mediocre at best.

Also, start giving the ball more to Tony Pollard. The dude is better than expected, and Zeke needs a breather right now.

Washington: “Honestly, what exactly have you guys done? There hasn’t really been a memorable game or even a big… okay, scandal, yes. But on the field? Not necessarily.

Life without Dan Snyder is something I can accept. It would be even better if he sold the franchise by 2024.”

This is why we call this series “Where Things Stand”, past Fitzy. Winning four in a row is what they’ve done, and also potentially saved their season with Riverboat Ron at the helm.

I’m just waiting for Taylor Heinicke to turn back into a pumpkin. Though if you keep Antonio Gibson somewhat healthy, that may mask a few flaws on the offense.

Also, why did the football gods have to take out Chase Young? He’s one of the only few without sin around here! C’mon!!!

Philadelphia: Somehow, someway, the Fleagles are actually playing decent football.

No, the Fleagles aren’t dead. That’s not happening yet. Make the playoffs, and I can consider it.

Remember, I’m trying here. I’m really trying for our resident Philly fan and editor Brandon Lewis.

Oh wait, I forgot something. MINSHEW MANIA FOR THE WIN AGAINST THE JETS BABY!!

Break out the mustache!!

NY Giants: So we get Freddie Kitchens as the play caller again after Jason Garrett got canned? Yes please!

And right now, that doesn’t matter as you hear every Giants fan pound their heads against a wall in New Jersey because Daniel Jones is going to miss some time. Also because Dave Gettleman has yet to be fired.

If he’s not gone by the time Part 4 goes live, there will be consequences!

NFC North

Green Bay: 3–1 | Part 2: 7–2 | Part 3: 9–3

Minnesota: 1–3 | Part 2: 3–5 | Part 3: 5–7

Chicago: 2–2 | Part 2: 3–6 | Part 3: 4–8

Detroit: 0–4 | Part 2: 0–8 | Part 3: 1–10–1

State of the NFC North:

Green Bay: I don’t need to continue extolling praise upon the Packers on-field product. The only thing you need to know is that they are screwed when they have to trade Aaron Rodgers next year.

Prove me wrong, Jordan Love!

Minnesota: Black Squirrel Radio’s Quentin Griffin is a salt mine right now, and I back his campaign to #FireMikeZimmer.

The Vikings should be way better than this sack of potatoes. It’s laughable. Then again, when the majority of your offense is one of Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen and you lose two of them to injury, this stuff happens.

Who am I kidding? It’s Zimmer being incompetent.

Chicago: I promised to try, but when you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it.

Prepare for evisceration in Part 4. Especially Matt Nagy, who got to keep his job following false reports of a mid-season firing.

Detroit: Intern Paul, get the Dan Campbell being happy and getting a hug footage. Nothing else matters in this world now.

(Watch the clip here)

I’m so happy right now for the guy. Dan Campbell won an NFL game as the head coach of the Detroit Lions!!

No, I’m not crying! You’re crying!!

I guess the sayings are true. If the Kansas Jayhawks can win a football game against Texas, then the Lions can beat the Minnesota Vikings.

NFC South

Tampa Bay: 3–1 | Part 2: 6–2 | Part 3: 9–3

New Orleans: 2–2 | Part 2: 5–3 | Part 3: 5–7

Atlanta: 1–3 | Part 2: 4–4 | Part 3: 5–7

Carolina: 3–1 | Part 2: 4–5 | Part 3: 5–7

State of the NFC South:

Tampa Bay: Antonio Brown, you diva, you. A fake Covid vaccine card resulting in a three game ban and probably… maybe… possibly putting the kibosh on your playing days?

Ah, who am I kidding. The GOAT is on his way to his fourth MVP and a likely trip to the NFC Title game, with or without AB.

Note the wording. If you catch my drift, then tweet #wtsigetit to me on Twitter.

Editor Brandon Lewis doesn’t count because he already knows.

New Orleans: One of three 5–7 teams in this damned division. What is there to write about with you guys? Alvin Kamara has been out for a while, and your quarterbacks keep going down with injuries or underperformance.

Welcome to the rest of the NFL, Sean Payton. Let us know if you need a therapy group to get through this new experience.

Atlanta: Okay, we’re bringing back the Fall Down Cons. Last time was a mercy for the Braves pimp slapping Houston’s MLB franchise. Going 1–3 since then is a slap back to reality.

Just, please get to 7–10 at the bare minimum. Don’t ask why. Just do it.

Carolina: “Who knew Matt Rhule could fix Sam Darnold?”

I somehow have found yet another mulligan candidate, and this time, it’s to the team I previously apologized to two years ago.

Does Christian McCaffrey seriously need to mask every flaw of this team? Dear god, help the Panthers!

Look, Cam Newton being back is fun and all, but geez!! Something needs to…

And they fired OC Joe Brady. I guess something did change!

NFC West

Arizona: 4–0 | Part 2: 8–1 | Part 3: 10–2

LA Rams: 3–1 | Part 2: 7–2 | Part 3: 8–4

San Fran: 2–2 | Part 2: 3–5 | Part 3: 6–6

Seattle: 2–2 | Part 2: 3–5 | Part 3: 4–8

State of the NFC West:

Arizona: Rumors of another one of J.J. Watt’s miracle returns has started churning and now we have an Arizona team that looks like it might earn a №1 seed.

Not too long ago, they had the №1 pick. Thank god for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals bucking conventional wisdom and dumping Josh Rosen.

LA Rams: “And now the Rams have OBJ.

Let’s see if this is a match made in heaven or another trainwreck in a few weeks.”

Well, perhaps it was neither and just fortuitous timing after Robert Woods tore his ACL on Week 10 Friday during practice (which he somehow finished, my god what a beast).

Losing Woods hurts in so many areas (like one of my three fantasy football squads), but as I write this, Beckham has yet to take a single snap as a Ram. The next paragraph will detail the early results.

Okay, one explosive TD and another short yard score. And Cooper Kupp continues to save my butt in fantasy football.

Still, the jury is out on OBJ and what kind of impact he’s able to truly have.

Also, someone please give Matthew Stafford a medal for clinching me a spot in one of my fantasy football playoff leagues this past weekend!

San Francisco: “Umm… What even are the 49ers at this point? They’re like Washington and while they aren’t necessarily irrelevant… What have they really done?

Oh! George Kittle is back to help one of my fantasy teams! And also to continue terrorizing the league’s defenders.

Let’s see how horribly this narrative backfires in Part 3.”

It aged very badly. Like sour milk.

I’ll give the 49ers credit for rebounding here. Just wait for them to crash over the final five weeks. It feels like destiny.

Seattle: “To put it simply, you are F*CKED!

No playoffs, no nothing. Now my mind speculates on if Wilson will actually ask out of Seattle this offseason.”

Nothing more needs to be said other than I told you so.

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I’m going to level with you all: The new job has sucked up a lot of my time I used to be able to dedicate towards this series. Still, I need to earn money, and I don’t currently earn money from WTS.

However, it’s still one of my favorite passion projects, and Part 4 is going to be a maelstrom of destruction for several teams that I didn’t unleash in the last two editions now.

Also, I’d like to see if we could possibly get 900 followers on my Twitter by the end of December. If you can get me to 1,018 followers before 11:59 p.m. on Dec 31, 2021, I’ll write up a Where Things Stand: 2021–22 NBA Edition. It’s something I swore I’d never subject myself too, but reaching that goal would make it worth it!

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Sean Fitzgerald is an award-winning sports journalist, writer, news reporter, voice talent and co-host of The Weekenders Podcast with Mitch Spinell. Follow him on Twitter @fitzonsportsbsr for insights, articles and occasional livestreams, as well as here on medium.com.

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Sean Fitzgerald

Sean Fitzgerald

Award-winning journalist, sports broadcaster, writer and voice talent.

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