2 winners and 5 losers from Week 18 in the NFL

The NFL regular season is over and I’m left with a profound sense of ennui. The last two years have pushed by capacity for forgiveness and not wishing ill on others to the absolute limit, but I’ve been stretched too thin. I will never, ever be able to forgive the Raiders and Chargers.

Stars aligned in such perfect concert Sunday afternoon that it felt destined that we would be graced with the Kneel Down Bowl. A football abnormality that would have seen the Chargers and Raiders both make the playoffs at the expense of the Pittsburgh Steelers, if they only had the courage to kneel on every play of Sunday Night Football and take a bye week on the field.

This only became possible because of the Colts losing to the Jaguars and the Steelers beating Baltimore — a tough scenario to imagine happening. So, all the focus was now on the AFC West to see if the Chargers and Raiders had the courage to soar into history. They didn’t.

The biggest reason I wanted to see this was hilarity. Having a nationally televised, prime-time gamer reduced to farce would have been incredible. Dead air needing to be filled by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, who would have nothing to say other than share old anecdotes and comment on what an affront the display is to the NFL. The shield is so profoundly starched that any semblance of fun is actively stamped out, and in the end these two teams decided to fall into lock step, rather than have a chance to make history.

Aside from the weirdness, there was plenty of logic to making this happen as well. I’ve seen it suggested that Las Vegas’ motivation to win was dodging the Chiefs, with a tie sending them to Buffalo instead — but that reeks to me. If my team is used to playing in Vegas, with the worst weather they regularly see being in Denver, and my team is known for an explosive offense. Well, I’d damn sure rather have a shootout with the Chiefs than travel to BUFFALO IN JANUARY and test the Bills’ defense.

Moreover, getting a bye week in January is normally reserved for the best teams in the league. Why not attack the Wild Card round as healthy and well rested as you could possibly be, than present an opportunity to get tired and banged up.

Finally, if I’m looking at the AFC Playoffs then I have a lot more faith in the Chargers to take out an elite team than the Steelers. So if you’re trying to make a run, it behooves you to bring a team with you think you can beat, but also who can shock the world in the process.

So, not only did the world get robbed of the funniest event in NFL history, but the Chargers lost out a playoff spot so we can hear bloviating about Ben Roethlisberger for another week, and to cap it all off, it made no analytic sense. For a league that claims to pride itself on strategy and intelligence, it’s remarkable how many dumb decisions are made, and paid handsomely for every single week.

I know a lot of people are mad at the Raiders for preventing the tie, but both teams decided on this dance. Brandon Staley all week professed how he wasn’t going to let this end in a draw, now his ass is at home with the rest of his team.

Sorry, I’m still bitter we didn’t get the Kneel Down Bowl. Sue me.

Loser: Brandon Staley

Congrats dude, you played yourself. We all do dumb stuff when we’re young, but the dude’s 39 years old and should have known better. All week he got on his football high horse about being too good to take the tie, then he thumbed his nose at it during overtime when he took an unnecessary time out that broke a pseudo-truce between the teams.

There’s debate lingering whether the Raiders were going to try and win no matter what, but the players themselves are saying the decision changed their approach. Either way, it was a monumentally bad coaching decision that, at best, just gave Vegas a little more fire in their bellies.

Winner: Lions

Haters are gonna say this is no big deal because the Packers were already a playoff lock, so they didn’t have anything to play for — but that’s a cop out. This is a continuation of something we’ve seen all season long, and that’s the Lions being the best terrible team in the NFL.

That’s cold comfort for Detroit fans, but it’s absolutely a compliment. There are so many teams in the NFL, all spending way more on their roster, and don’t have half of the heart the Lions do. I’ve been saying it’s going to be their time soon, and beating the Packers is a hell of a building block.

Loser: Panthers fans

It’s been a bad, bad week if you’re a fan of the Carolina Panthers hoping Matt Rhule would be shown the door.

Ah yes, nothing like a man who thinks Cam Newton and Sam Darnold are basically the same guy at the goal line to inspire some confidence.

Winner: Clowns

Jaguars fans should dress like clowns every week IMO.

Loser: Colts

This has to be one of the most heartbreaking ends to a season in Colts history. This team was riding a wave to the playoffs. It seemed like nothing could stop them with an all-world running back, and Carson Wentz finding his footing. For a while it didn’t look like the Colts would simply make the playoffs, but be a legitimate threat in the process with the power to shock some teams.

Sunday was the culmination of a disastrous three week stretch that finished with Indianapolis losing to Jacksonville, then watching the Steelers beat the Ravens to solidify there being no way they could make the playoffs.

Now Indy will move forward with a brutal finish to the year, and don’t have their first round pick either — which now goes to Philadelphia.

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