We’re at the halfway point of the season, and we’re smack-dab in the middle of a thicket of storylines that no sane human being could have predicted: America (or at least a very loud segment of it) turning on the NFL. The president of the United States treating the league like Ndamukong Suh treats quarterbacks. The game’s most electric new running back pinballing back and forth from courtroom to field. A former Super Bowl quarterback claiming the league colluded to keep him unemployed. An entire Pro Bowl team’s worth of injuries. A pizza maker blaming the league for his declining sales.
And now, the most powerful owner in the sport is feuding with the commissioner over incentives in the commissioner’s new contract … in a league, lest we forget, that loves nothing more than to give its players non-guaranteed, cut-you-at-any-moment contracts.
Who do you root for in the sudden new Jerry Jones-vs.-Roger Goodell debacle? In football terms, Goodell has spent the last three years meeting every crisis like a tentative running back just waiting for a hole to open, jittering from side to side until getting buried in the backfield. Jones, meanwhile, is sending six receivers deep on every play, slinging it long and seeing what happens; even Jones’ failures are spectacular, and you can’t ever breathe easy when he’s around.
Anyway, when this deeply weird NFL season winds to a close, it’s likely that none of the top five stories will involve a single snap of football. Till then, though, let’s see what we can do to focus on some actual teams playing actual football … or, at least, a remarkably football-like product.
Welcome to the Sorry Six.
Remember, Cleveland and the Giants have won exemptions from this list until further notice. You don’t need to jump in icy water to know it’s cold, you know what I mean? And speaking of cold …
At number 1, the Denver Broncos. How much longer is Denver’s defense going to put up with an incompetent offense? Von Miller doesn’t need to be putting up with this quarterback-of-the-hour garbage. In fact, Von Miller might be a better quarterback than anyone the Broncos can trot out at this point. That Super Bowl victory seems much farther away than two years ago.
Second, the Broncos’ onetime Super Bowl foes, the Atlanta Falcons. Given a chance to keep pace in the NFC South, the Falcons quite literally dropped the ball against the Panthers. Not to worry you, but Julio Jones dropping easy touchdowns is one of the biblical signs of the apocalypse. The Falcons can insist they’re not worried all they want. We know better.
We’ll stay in the NFC South for No. 3, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs hit a new low this week, inciting fights and cheapshotting the Saints. We don’t know what they’re eating in Tampa, but it’s not Ws. And Jameis Winston inciting fights while allegedly injured on the sideline shows that you can take the QB out of Tallahassee, but you can’t take the Tallahassee out of the QB.
At No. 4, the Cincinnati Bengals. Look, laugh at AJ Green all you want for punching Jalen Ramsey’s helmet. But Green won that fight by punch count, and wins of any kind are hard to come by in Cincinnnati these days.
Next up, the Kansas City Chiefs. I didn’t think anything was faster than Tyreek Hill, but the speed with which KC squandered its 5-0 start is truly something to behold. The Chiefs will probably be fine for the playoffs, largely because the Broncos and Raiders are in the midst of pulling out their own spleens with wooden spoons, but they’re not making the Patriots or Steelers nervous in a way they were back in October.
And finally, the Green Bay Packers. I want you to look down at your clothes right now. It’s entirely possible that you are wearing a Green Bay jersey, and that means you’re the Packers’ new quarterback. Don’t panic. Simply take snaps and throw them into the stands. The fans will understand; they’ve seen plenty of that already.
Yeesh. That’s some pain right there. But we’re not done yet. Let’s push onward.
Sorry Play of the Week
Kirk sacrificed Rob Kelley to the football gods pic.twitter.com/It59NVW1eW
— Danny (@recordsANDradio) November 5, 2017
Kirk Cousins managed to lead Washington to a miraculous, well-executed win over the Seattle Seahawks—I know, I can’t believe it either—but don’t let that distract you from the fact that Cousins let his running back Rob Kelley take the fall for him on a botched play. Oh sure, Cousins can say that Kelley offered up his own body as a perfect sacrifice, but it’s much more fun to imagine Cousins acting like every single one of us would in that terrifying situation.
Sorry Six Tailgate of the Week
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 2, 2017
Technically, this belongs in the Sorry Six Tailgate Of The Week for 2043, but we love it so much we’re offering it up here a few decades early. Look at that cool, collected form as that newborn busts right through that table! I’m not even sure the little one is conscious, which—along with “diapered”—is really the preferred state of mind for anyone who’s ever attended a #BillsMafia tailgate.
Sorry Six Fan of the Week
Poor sad Banjo Man, keeping the faith for the 49ers long after pretty much everyone else has ditched the team to go leap on the Warriors’ bandwagon. You know this fella began pickin’ and grinnin’ back during the days of Montana and Young and Rice and Walsh, and he thought the good times were gonna go on foreeeeever. Credit to him, then, for sticking with the bit right on through the woeful winless times of today. Of course, as empty as Levi’s Stadium is, you can probably hear him picking “Turkey In The Straw” from any seat in the house, which is surely a delight.
Sorry Matchup of Week 10
You’d think that Jets-at-Bucs—the Fitzbowl!—would be the worst of this week, but you’d be wrong. No, the worst matchup of this coming weekend comes in the marquee spot, Sunday night: Patriots vs. Broncos. It wasn’t so long ago that this would be a game you’d be salivating over like it was dry-aged beef. Now? The Broncos are a sham, as noted above, and the Patriots, while nowhere near the peak of their powers, are still going to roast them, which will lead to more Boston-area self-satisfaction and more frothing columns about how THE PATS ARE BACK, none of which we need. Come on, Denver. Rise above expectations.
That’ll do it for this week. Hit me up with your thoughts, questions, rages, and manifestos, and remember: never be sorry.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.