By Tony Dunst
We’re officially two weeks into the National Football League season, which is just enough time to jump to conclusions off a small sample of games. We’ve seen a series of wildly entertaining primetime games so far, and even Monday night’s Packers vs. Lions blowout wasn’t truly decided until the fourth quarter. So let’s go over some takeaways from the still young season:
1. The talent at quarterback has never been deeper. I don’t have any data to back this up, but it sure feels that way. Literally every team in the AFC has either an established veteran or promising young quarterback (save the Colts), and there’s only a few teams in the NFC that are likely to change signal-callers in the offseason (most likely the Giants, along with the Lions and WFT). Growing up, it seemed like half the league was looking for a quarterback, whereas now even castaways like Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater can be quality starters in the right situation.
2. Nobody gives a damn about taunting – except the league apparently. Everyone on Twitter is furious over the rule change that’s led to flags flying over harmless jawing. I don’t know why they needed to enhance the established ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’ rule – which already covered any egregious on-field behavior – but it has only caused more stoppages of play for seemingly arbitrary penalties. The NFL made real progress at shredding their No Fun League reputation by allowing celebrations last year, so it’s disappointing to see them move backwards with these foolish taunting flags.
3. TV viewership is up. Ratings are way up across the board for the NFL, but have been especially strong for prime time games thanks to well marketed and exciting match-ups (the Monday Night Football opener between the Ravens and Raiders was one of the craziest shootouts I’ve ever seen). Turns out reports of the leagues demise due to politically-active players were greatly exaggerated, and with fans back in the stands enthusiasm for football is running high.
4. Gambling is everywhere now. We’ve gone from a league ostensibly terrified of gambling’s “corruptive influence” to one where nearly every team and stadium has a gambling sponsor at lightning speed. It’s refreshing to see America’s pastime drop the puritan BS, even if it means consuming multiple casino and fantasy sports ads every commercial-break. And besides, nothing makes a blowout more watchable than the point spread.