Mike Preston: With the fall of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, rising stars lead the unpredictable NFL | COMMENT



The quality of the game in the NFL has declined, but thankfully, it’s not totally boring.

With standout quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, and their respective teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers, going down, the league is having a slow makeover.

Even the genius of eventual Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick came into question early in the season when his New England Patriots lost three of their first four, but he quickly re-established himself as the best of any season with the Patriots winning five. of his last six.

Super teams in the NFL? There are none.

The Philadelphia Eagles have the best record at 9-1, but have allowed an average of nearly 120 rushing yards per game, which is why they recently signed 35-year-old defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Kansas City is 8-2, but six of its wins have come by four points or less. That’s great, but the Chiefs aren’t unbeatable, and they certainly aren’t super.

Their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, could be. Some people hate bigness, but I like to see how it works. I loved watching Larry Bird shoot 3-pointers and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook for the “Showtime” Lakers. Few quarterbacks could master a two-minute drill like legendary quarterbacks Johnny Unitas or Joe Montana.

Mahomes is in that mold. The way he breaks ankles with his slashes and throws darts through little windows is amazing. Unless he gets hurt or the Chiefs stumble, he appears to be a runaway for the league’s MVP award.

No one mentions Brady or Rodgers anymore, which is sad in a way but also refreshing. Before he finishes this season, Brady will do something extraordinary again. He’s in his genes, and it’s a fascinating study even to play at 45.

Rodgers seems lost. With Brady, you could tell something was wrong. Rodgers has that nomadic look on his face, a person looking for his next mission in life.

His departures from the spotlight have propelled other quarterbacks, including Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts, Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa and even Geno Smith, who has resurrected his career in Seattle. Now they join other young stars like the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson and Buffalo’s Josh Allen.

Miami was expected to be better this season but was not in first place in the AFC East. The Eagles were in a similar situation, but Hurts’ play has taken them to a new level.

The entire NFC East has been born again. Many expected this division to be the worst in the NFL after last season, but so far every team in the division has a winning record.

It’s been a hit-and-run season, but even that can’t fix Jacksonville (3-7), Houston (1-8) or Cleveland (3-7), perennial losers who implode every year.

Even with the retirement of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the end of last season, I believed the Steelers would finish at or one game over .500 because coach Mike Tomlin is such an intense competitor.

After the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl last year, I thought they both had enough to make another serious title run or at least challenge for their division titles. Those teams are trending in opposite directions, with the Rams going 3-7 and the Bengals showing signs of life in recent weeks going 6-4.

Who saw this coming in Denver? I figured trading for Russell Wilson would make the Broncos playoff contenders. Instead, he’s been underperforming and is taking the rest of the offense with him.

Who saw this coming in New York and Minnesota? The Jets are 6-4 and the Vikings are 8-2. Go figure.

Few teams, whether college or professional, fire their head coaches during the season, but the Panthers fired Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start, and the Colts dumped Frank Reich on Nov. 7 after starting 3-5-1 and replaced him with former center and ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday, who had no previous NFL coaching experience.

All of that, and this season is barely halfway there. When you sit down and put it all in perspective, Baltimore fans should feel good about the Ravens.

They’re not always entertaining, but at least they’re consistent where it matters: winning, or at least staying in contention and having a stable front office.

It could be worse. It could be the Browns or the Colts.

Luckily they are no longer.

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