Sweet baby Jesus.
We're already at the NFL Playoffs, and even before the conclusion of the regular season, we saw a couple of head coaches get the pink slip, and while some of them weren't exactly deserved, they definitely shook up the league. We also saw a lot of injuries and a ton of new faces shake up the face of the NFL, and that, in my humble opinion, is always a pleasant thing to see. Plus, we might be getting a U-Haul soon as one of three possible teams could be making their way toward Los Angeles.
On the other side, we had to hear about Johnny Manziel's escapades again and again, and the film "Concussion" has been the talk of the town [I hope to write about it once I muster up the courage to ask myself out on a date again.], but those things are blips compared to the hard hits and surprises that we're about to look into.
There's one last question I need to ask you. Are you ready?
You know what? I'll let Triple H finish this one off for you.
[It's long and drawn out, but he gets there eventually.]
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
East Division - New England Patriots (12-4) - You know, I could possibly have cut and paste this whole thing, and you probably wouldn't have even noticed, but no, seriously, that's not kosher. The main thing that has kept this team from a nearly perfect season has been the costly injuries sustained by Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman within the last six weeks. While Tom Brady has more surprises in his bag of tricks, it's time for other receivers (and even runners) to step up to the occasion.
(Next Stop: A Jacuuuuuuziiiiii - First Round Bye)
North Division - Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) - For a little while, it looked like the Bengals burned themselves out in the second half, considering injuries to Andy Dalton and many defensive players were starting to pile up. However, a lot of these guys were in this position last year, and there is no way they're going to let injuries and mental blocks keep them from the prize.
(Next Stop: Pittsburgh Steelers, Saturday 8:15PM EST)
South Division - Houston Texans (9-7) - Good gravy. I'm not even kidding when I say that this team looked like absolute crap in the beginning of the season, and the inconsistency of the offensive line and not capitalizing on opportunity was tough to watch at times. On the other hand, the one consistent thing the Texans have going is their defense, and as long as they're healthy and in the correct mindset, we're going to see some great competition.
(Next Stop: Kansas City Chiefs, Saturday 4:35PM EST)
West Division - Denver Broncos (12-4) - Just like the Patriots above, I could easily cut and pa--NOT. You wanna know what makes this team so much more different? Peyton Manning wasn't the big factor in the pocket in the last third of the season. Brock Osweiler made a name for himself, and analysts went bananas on this kid. But wait, there's more! When you're facing one of the best defenses in the league, you're going to hear even more screaming fangirls. As usual, this team is a threat and should definitely be seen as such.
(Next Stop: On the couch playing Madden 16 - First Round Bye and Home-Field Advantage)
AFC Wild Card
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) - Just because these guys are only in the Wild Card spot doesn't mean they're not the scariest team and could play the spoiler. They can easily screw you over and turn over the ball, and that isn't even where the terror begins on the defensive side, if you can believe that. Plus, with a strong running game (Hello, Jamaal Charles.) you're bound to see some "Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes" business. The Chiefs should not be taken lightly. No sir.
(Next Stop: Houston Texans, Saturday 4:35PM EST)
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) - While the defense isn't "The Iron Curtain" anymore, it can be agreed upon that the offense hasn't looked this good in a long time. Each receiver is going catch-crazy (thanks to 'ole Big Ben, of course) and Le'Veon Bell is molding himself into a tiny Bus. With a consistent offensive force (and one that's moderately healthy), things should be interesting.
(Next Stop: Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday 8:15PM EST)
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
East Division - Washington Redskins (9-7) - Ehhhhhh, this team gets points for effort, especially since they really stepped it up in the second half, but there have been a lot of points where they made some really, REALLY stupid decisions. It's going to be a big thing to not be outplayed or outmanaged at this point. With a defense leaving much to be desired, the next game (or any future ones for that matter) has to be played like a chess match.
(Next Stop: Green Bay Packers, Sunday 4:40PM EST)
North Division - Minnesota Vikings (11-5) - Don't get me wrong, the "Teddy" chants are adorable, and Mr. Bridgewater knows how to rally, but it's not a surprise that Adrian Peterson, the real game changer, is in top form and delivering when need be. The only issue here is the possibility of injury and jitters, as we have a younger and fresher team that hasn't been in this kind of territory yet. However, with enough veteran support, especially from Head Coach Mike Zimmer (he's been here before, you guys, he knows the pressure), the jitters should burn off within the first few minutes.
(Next Stop: Seattle Seahawks, Sunday 1:05PM EST)
South Division - Carolina Panthers (15-1) - Last year, these guys were infamous for being the first NFL playoff team to be under .500, and now, these guys are nearly perfect coming into the playoffs. To be perfectly honest, they totally deserve all of the praise and attention. Their defense is tight, and their offense is the perfect mix of run and pass. Ron Rivera's squad is undoubtedly the team to fear this month.
(Next Stop: The Pool - First Round Bye and Home-Field Advantage)
West Division - Arizona Cardinals (13-3) - Excuse me while I hop back onto the Carson Palmer bandwagon again, as he was arguably one of the most underrated quarterbacks of the past five seasons, and he's finally getting his time to shine. With a great line to aid him, and with a scary defense to keep the opposition at bay, we're looking at a surprising threat that will give problems to any favorites facing them.
(Next Stop: The Movie Theater to Finally See Star Wars: The Force Awakens - First Round Bye)
NFC Wild Card
Green Bay Packers (10-6) - Not to say that the team took a nosedive, but there was a point in which I almost doubted Aaron Rodgers and his overall ability. Dead serious. Sure, there were a bunch of injuries and miscues throughout the second half of the season, and thankfully they came out alive, but this crap can't happen from here on out. It's go time, and it's not their first time at the rodeo.
(Next Stop: Washington Redskins, Sunday 4:40PM EST)
Seattle Seahawks (10-6) - This is the first time in a while where they don't come in as Division champs, but don't let that fool you. Don't let the record fool you, either. This was a team that was a slow burn and they've reached their peak. While there's a big question mark surrounding Marshawn Lynch at this point, the team has fared really well offensively, and the Legion of Boom is looking angrier than ever. Expect to see a lot of spiritual 12th Men out there.
(Next Stop: Minnesota Vikings, Sunday 1:05PM EST)
Truth be told, the season exhausted me, and it wasn't because of the number of controversies and news stories surrounding the league. It was, in fact, the games themselves, the REALLY STUPID PLAYS, the poor referee jobs, the--wait. Okay, some of it was rather frustrating, but there were some great endings to games, like this ridiculous ending and this thing of beauty.
Hard to believe there were a bunch of things that have happened in the past five months, eh? No. It isn't. That's what the NFL provides year in and year out.
And we're only bound to get more of that this month.
See you at the end, my friends. Behold, the mighty 2016.