The NFL Keeps Getting Bigger

A year ago, the NFL was in the midst of a PR crisis with players and ownership at odds over kneeling during the National Anthem.  Fans responded negatively to the political debate and based on the ratings, the NFL suffered as a result. In 2018, the kneeling issue has been essentially put to rest and the product on the field is once again capturing the attention of the nation.  Viewership is up and more footbal fans are wagering on sportsbook NFL lines than ever before.  Here are some highlights from the week, which prove that the NFL has never been bigger and the drama has never been better.

Packers/Seahawks was a Huge Success on Thursday Night

Thursday Night Football doesn’t usually feature the top-notch product we’re used to seeing on Sundays, as well as Monday nights, for reasons that are quite clear.

It’s brutal for both teams, having to play a game on Sunday and then turn around and play again on Thursday. Road teams traditionally wrap up practices on Tuesday, then hop on a plane on Wednesday, with them only being able to get in another walkthrough (often in their hotel) before the game. Preparation is limited, and players often go into the games banged up.

But Thursday’s Packers-Seahawks game was one of, if not the, best midweek contests this season. Both teams were essentially in must-win spots, and they played that way. In the end, the Seahawks emerged with a 27-24 victory, even though the Packers led during the majority of the game.

The TV ratings reflected how good the game was, as it was the most-viewed Thursday night game in roughly two years.

Steelers Players Raid Le’Veon Bell’s Locker

The Steelers made it quite clear that they’re moving on from running back Le’Veon Bell on Wednesday.

Bell failed to sign his franchise tender by Tuesday’s deadline, and he did not report to the team, which makes him ineligible to play this season.

As such, the Steelers players wasted no time in dismantling Bell’s locker, as they removed his nameplate from it on Wednesday. Not only that, they also went through the majority of the items that were in his locker, to see what they might be interested in taking. It worked out pretty well for linebacker Bud Dupree, as he got himself a pair of Jordan brand cleats.

The Steelers have clearly sent a message about Bell, as Maurkice Pouncey also stated that he only wants to talk about players that are in the locker room. They’re moving on from Bell, and they don’t even want to talk about him anymore, which is probably in the team’s best interest. As for Dupree, he seemed to be pretty excited about the sweet cleats he commandeered.

Jerry Jones Downplays Coaching Rumors

It’s been said that Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is on the hot seat, but he and his team did a great job to silence those rumors with their best performance of the season on Sunday night.

The Cowboys took it to the Eagles, jumped out to an early lead and never trailed in the NFC East matchup at Lincoln Financial Field, eventually emerging with a 27-20 victory. It saw new stars such as Amari Cooper and Leighton Vander Esch break out, which projects well for the team on both sides of the ball. The Cowboys played a complete game, and were better than the Eagles in all three phases, which appeared to help improve Garrett’s job security.

But the questions from the media and fans about who will be coaching the team next season remain — for some reason.

Team owner Jerry Jones was asked about the team’s rumored interest in Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley during a radio appearance on 105.3 The FAN on Tuesday, and he shot it down with confidence.

“That’s pulled out of thin air. I think that Coach (Lincoln) Riley is outstanding. It doesn’t surprise me because of proximity and his success but it’s total speculation,” Jones said, via Jeff Cavanaugh of 105.3 The FAN.

Jones also addressed the rumors of the team mulling parting ways with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan over the bye week.

It’s fair to question where some of these “reports” are coming from. Linehan has done a tremendous job calling plays since taking over for Garrett, and the team has benefited. As for Garrett, his job is safe — for now, as long as the team continues to play like it did in Sunday’s must-win game.