by Tuesday Morning Tailback
As the 2014 regular season ends and we look forward to the 11 exciting games of the playoffs, Tuesday Morning Tailback presents a list of our highlights from the past season. We did a similar season-ending assessment last year with our 13 Things about 2013, and a few of those items persisted through this year.
1. A Running Game Really Does Matter. Strong running games played a huge role in propelling the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, and Pittsburgh Steelers to the top of their divisions and into the playoffs. Even in Denver, the running game stepped in to save some games where Peyton Manning struggled later in the season. On the flip side, weaker running games may have tripped up the chances for the Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, and New York Giants, all of whom find themselves on the outside looking in.
2. Aaron Rodgers Is a Really Good Quarterback. After a sluggish 1-2 start in September, Aaron Rodgers simply told his critics and fans to “relax”. Since then, Rodgers has been on an absolute tear and the Packers have won 11 of 13 games to finish as NFC North Champions with Rodgers likely to be voted league MVP. The division championship is the fourth in a row for Green Bay. The last time they failed to win the division (in 2010) the team entered as a Wildcard and went on to win the Super Bowl.
3. The Pittsburgh Steelers Wacky Road to the Top. The Steelers went 11-5 and won the toughest division in football, the AFC North. Their eleven wins included five against fellow playoff teams. However, four of their five losses were against teams who ended the season with a losing record, including a bizarre home loss to the 2-14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers along with a very near miss against Tennessee, the other 2-14 team at the bottom of the league.
4. J.J. Watt is the Real Thing. 2014 put to rest any doubts about J.J. Watt’s phenomenal skills as a defensive player. This season, Watt became the first player ever to have two 20+ sack seasons, and it’s only his fourth year in the NFL. Watt also set the franchise record for fumble recoveries this season, had a pick-six, a safety, and several touchdowns when lining up as an extra tight end on offense.
5. NFL Red Zone Really Rocks. We hardly had to touch the remote control on Sundays this season, thanks to NFL Red Zone and the frantic action on that league-owned premium channel. Better scheduling with less top-heavy 1:00 games, can make this experience even better in the future.
6. The ‘Stick’ Was Truly Missed. This year the 49ers relented as one of the last holdouts with legendary, ancient stadiums and moved into the state-of-the-art Levi’s Stadium in the Silicon Valley town of Santa Clara. While their new digs were no doubt comfortable, the team itself floundered, missed the playoffs for the first time in several years, and ultimately saw the departure of head coach Jim Harbaugh.
7. Changes Aren’t Permanent, But Change Is. Like the afore-mentioned 49ers, a few more teams ended up being disappointments in 2014, especially the Falcons and Saints in the weak NFC South. Still, there wasn’t as much radical change this season as there is in most.
8. Bill Belichick Really Does Know How to Coach. 2014 marked a record-tying sixth consecutive division championship for the New England Patriots. Since arriving in New England at the turn of the century, the Patriots have won twice as many division championships as they had in their previous 40 seasons of existence prior to that point – not to mention, the franchise’s only three Super Bowl victories.
9. Peyton Manning Still Has Life. After his phenomenal 2013 campaign, Peyton Manning “only” threw for over 4700 yards and 39 TD passes in 2014. Manning and the Broncos still have a good chance to win it all this year and he will return for a (presumably) final season in 2015.
10. The Browns Really, Really Know How to Lose Down the Stretch. There have been several seasons in recent years when the Cleveland Browns looked halfway decent midway through, only to collapse down the stretch. 2014 was the most pronounced, as the Browns were 6-3 following a huge victory in Cincinnati on November 6th, only to lose six of their final seven games and manufacture a Quarterback controversy to boot.
11. Odell Beckham Jr. is the Rookie of the Year. A few weeks back, we tongue-in-cheekly explored the Giants to Trade Odell Beckham because the rookie’s stock will never be higher than it was after the fantastic primetime TD reception against Dallas. Truth is, if the Coughlin-Eli version of Big Blue wants to try for a third championship, Beckham will need to be there.
12. With a Stable Quarterback, the Rams Can Win It All. This may seem like an absurd statement to make about a team just finished 6-10 and hasn’t had a winning season in over a decade. But the Rams defeated both of last year’s Super Bowl teams and went tot-to-toe all year with everyone else, all while their franchise quarterback was lost for the entire season.
13. There has Got to Be More Clarification on “Legal” Hits. While the NFL is looking to protect players, some of the flags thrown this year for “unnecessary roughness” on otherwise legal hits, have been a serious blow to the league’s competition integrity.
14. The Eagle Still Haven’t Won a Super Bowl. Just a little jab at our fine-feathered friends from Phiily. The Eagles looked like one of the top teams in the league at the end of November, but lost just enough crucial games down the stretch to assure that they will be 0-for-49 in the Super Bowl era. this was a phenomenon we addressed in our very first Tuesday Morning Tailback four years ago. ——
Now onward to 2014’s second season. Enjoy the NFL playoffs everyone!
Tuesday Morning Tailback is a weekly article during football season which take a critical look at the NFL. We do this from the base belief that NFL football is the greatest game in the history of mankind, but some recent policies and the overall direction of the league has chipped away at this greatness. Our primary goal is to spark debate on these subjects, so please leave your own opinion on this article in the comment box below.