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Week 17 Reactions and Takeaways

As the regular season winds down, Week 17 has passed by. TRO is here to break down all that transpired, cover news that spilled into this week, talk playoff scenarios, and hand out its weekly superlatives:

via Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports

Another stretch of games gone, another wild mixture of games. TRO is launching its rapid reactions following the conclusion of the games from the Week prior. With Week 17 in the books, it's time to fire off TRO's immediate reactions following all of the action. We're here, again, to elaborate on the biggest headlines that stuck with us and to hand out weekly superlatives. Look for TRO to award the Game of the Week to the most exciting matchup, and the Surprise Performance of the Week to the most deserving team that exceeded our expectations, in addition to individual player superlatives. Players whose team won their game will be eligible to be selected in the following categories: Passer of the Week, Pass Catcher of the Week, Tailback of the Week, Defensive Lineman of the Week, Linebacker of the Week, Defensive Back of the Week, and Special Teamer of the Week. We will also be catching up on superlatives from Weeks uncovered (Week 14 - Week 16).


via Andrew Mills / NJ Advance Media

What was All of That ABout?

As everyone is undoubtedly aware, Antonio Brown stripped off his gear, did jumping jacks in the end zone and waved to the fans while the Buccaneers and Jets both had their personnel on the field nearly ready to snap the ball. Brown then jogged into the tunnel, was confused for a streaker by stadium security, and eventually waited outside of the arena where he was picked up by a driver. No, seriously:

As wild and unprecedented as this event has been, it's important to get to the bottom of the full story, hearing everyone's account, including AB's. While the memes have been fun, and this incident certainly has been captivating, there have been some concerns about Brown's mental health given how long and physically he has played football, the history of some of the head shots his taken over his Hall of Fame career, and the more recent unpredictable nature of his behavior. He's seemed to have lost his "filter" with the passage of time. If he needs additional compassion and assistance, then we certainly hope that he gets it above all else.

In any event, it was extra confusing to see Brown storm off of the field in the middle of a game when he was just 1 touchdown away from a $333,333 bonus; 8 catches away from an additional $333,333 bonus, and 55 receiving yards away from a $333,333 bonus. With plenty of time left to play in Week 17's game, and another game to play against the Panthers, who he torched for 10 catches and over 100 yards 2 weeks ago, it was a no brainer that he had $1,000,000 in incentives locked up. Instead, he let it all go, and well, went home.

Head Coach Bruce Arians said that Brown refused to enter the game when he was asked to, so Arians told him that he could not be there, which prompted Brown to rip off his gear (despite efforts by Mike Evans to calm him down) and leave. According to Brown, he informed coaches that he was too injured to re-enter the game (he missed time, including Thursday and Friday's practices with an ankle injury), and the coaching staff essentially didn't care. Arians denies knowing that Brown was "too hurt," and honestly, we'll likely never get the 100% full story.

The fiasco didn't end Sunday. The Bucs couldn't officially release Brown (despite Arians' comments Sunday afternoon), until Monday. Strangely enough, they did not do so until earlier today (Thursday). This move was following a barrage of Twitter and Instagram posts by Brown which featured a formal statement, text messages between him and Arians, text messages between him and Tom Brady's trainer, his bank account information [briefly], and a "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" poster with his face over Macauly Culkin's, and Brady and Arians's faces over Marv and Harry's. Brown later clarified that this had nothing to do with Brady or his teammates, claiming that he wanted to be out on the field with them, and was thankful for the opportunity from the Bucs, but they allegedly mishandled his injury situation and cut him from the team because of it.

Arians fired back by addressing the media today, which he never does on Thursdays, stating that Brown never raised the issue of his ankle on Sunday. Arians said Brown never sought the doctors or trainers, he was visibly upset at halftime about not receiving first half targets and had to be calmed down by his teammates. His discontent started again in the second half, then when his personnel was called to take the field, he refused and for signaled assistant coaches to go away. Arians said he then asked Brown "what's going on," and Brown responded by stating "I ain't getting the ball." Arians finally told him to get the "F out of here" and Brown did.

It's likely the truth lies somewhere in the middle, heavily favoring Arians' account of the events. Check out the text messages Brown Tweeted out in an effort to support his case:

via Twitter / @AB84 - Antonio Brown

First of all, we do not believe these were fabricated by Brown. There's nothing unusual about a 69 year old man identifying himself in a text message to someone who already has his number and wishing to discuss lengthier conversations via phone calls (classic "boomer behavior").

Secondly, there's really nothing here other than what seems like a coach informing a player that they will not be resting starters going into the playoffs, and the team will be treating this game as a full-stakes, regular season game. Arians wanted to talk with Brown about his injury and his availability. We're not doubting AB's ankle injury. He's dealt with it for most of the season, it kept him out of practice all week, and he will have surgery to address it. Players play through injuries all the time, and delay having surgery until after the season. There's no indication that Arians was forcing Brown to make any decision he wasn't comfortable with, he even stated "in case you're ready." It's highly unlikely that an experienced head coach such as Arians would throw Brown out of a game if he indicated that his ankle was keeping him from playing, and if you go back and watch the incident, Brown never appears to seek any medical help from trainers or doctors. He doesn't appear to give any attention to his ankle while on the sideline.

We believe that Brown may have been frustrated with the flow of Sunday's game, quite possibly could have said he wasn't going back in, either loosely alluding to his ankle (or not offering a reason at all), causing Arians to tell him to leave. Since Brown has been released [finally], this matter honestly has reached its conclusion. There's nothing else Brown can do. A franchise may release any player at any point in the season for any reason (as long as they honor any guaranteed portions of their contract). We think that all of Brown's social media activity today was to try to save some ground from Sunday's incident in case any future team comes knocking at his door.

Either way, it is likely Brown's career is over, unless a team gets very desperate and is interested in Brown's elite receiving abilities. If this is the end for AB, it is truly a shame for such an outstanding receiver with a Hall of Fame resume and plenty left in the tank to offer a contending team to have it all end in this manner.

Kyler's World

Do not bet against Kyler Murray in AT&T Stadium (aka Jerry's World). He has never lost a game in that arena across any level of play. Murray, a Texas native, is 9-0 (8 career starts) in this arena. He has won all 5 of his high school games, both of his college games, and now both of his NFL games in that arena. Murray continued this hometown magic as he pulled out a huge win to keep the Cardinals' season alive. Going into this game, Arizona had been on a 3 game skid (including a 30-12 loss to the LIONS), and they were 6.5 point underdogs to a Dallas team riding high on a 4 game win streak.

There's no place like home.

What the Football Team?

On February 2nd, the Football Team is unveiling its new team name, logo, and uniforms. See the official teaser below:

What the Team REALLY needs is a new stadium. From the seats that have views of concrete columns, to the bursting "rainwater" (possibly sewage) pipes pouring mysterious liquids onto fans, and general outdatedness of this monstrosity, you would think that this would be a priority. If losing to Philadelphia at home, allowing their division rival to clinch the playoffs wasn't bad enough, a small portion of their stadium collapsed taking out fans, camera crew members, and nearly Jalen Hurts.

Hurts played it cool, helped everyone up that he could, and even exchanged hugs with some of his fans. Tuesday, he followed up, writing an open letter to the Washington organization essentially demanding that they rectify the situation as the organization unnecessarily put fans and players at risk. Hurts has every right to be upset about the incident, considering it honestly got awkwardly close to taking out one of his knees, and could have seriously hurt some Philadelphia faithfuls and stadium workers. His letter was a slam dunk as he continued to own the WFT organization days after playing them.

Big Ben's Farewell

18 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, 2 Super Bowls, an Offensive Rookie of the Year, 6 Pro Bowls, 2 Passing Yard Titles, several NFL and franchise records, and a carrer win/loss record of 164-82-1, Ben Roethlisberger took Heinz Field for what will likely be the last time. It was an emotional evening for Big Ben, his teammates, and the fans. The atmosphere was absolutely electric and reminded us how awesome football is. The Pittsburgh fans, stayed in their seats before Ben ran out of the tunnel, and remained until the final whistle. This game had a poetic finish, as when it seemed like the Steelers wouldn't take the field again, their defense generated a turnover, allowing Ben to take the field in the victory formation one last time. He then stayed around, taking a lap around the entire stadium, high-fiving every fan that he could. It was a storybook finish for such a monumental career.

It was only fitting that Ben's final home game came against the Browns, a franchise that Big Ben has dominated for his career. Until last year, he had the most wins by ANY quarterback in League history in the Browns' current stadium, a place he only played in once a year (including every quarterback to play for the Browns!) [record now held by Baker Mayfield].

Updated NFC Playoff Positioning

Clinched: the Packers (number 1 seed), the Cowboys, the Buccaneers, the Cardinals, the Rams, and the Eagles have all clinched playoff spots. Outside of the Packers, the seeding positioning of the remaining named teams will depend on Week 18's games.

While they have not clinched, the 49ers control their own destiny. If they win, they are in, but if they lose and the Saints win, then New Orleans will claim a playoff spot. Everyone else in the NFC has been mathematically removed from the playoff picture.

Updated AFC Playoff Positioning

Clinched: the Bengals, the Chiefs, the Titans, the Bills, and the Patriots are all going dancing. The number 1 overall seed is currently held by Tennessee, but it is completely still up for grabs going into the season's final Week.

This is where things get interesting, the Chargers, control their own destiny as they will clinch a playoff spot if they win or tie their final game in Las Vegas. The Raiders can get into the playoffs if they win in Los Angeles, or if the Colts manage to lose in Jacksonville (a place where Indianapolis has lost its last 8 straight). If the Raiders put themselves in a position to rely on the Jaguars, then they at least will need a tie to get in. The Steelers can still get into the playoffs, but they need a little bit of help. Pittsburgh will need an Indianapolis loss and for the Los Angeles - Las Vegas game to NOT end in a tie to squeak into the playoffs.

2) GAME OF THE WEEK: Kansas City Chiefs @ Cincinnati Bengals

via Journal News

What a game this turned out to be. Two of the most prolific offenses squared off, but it was the Bengals that stole the show. Kansas City started this game with a 14-0 lead, and held a 21-7 lead going in to the second quarter. Then Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase and this Bengals offense went absolutely nuclear, hanging points all over the field, pulling out a 34-31 victory (more on their statistical performances later). It was exciting to watch two top tier AFC teams battle it out, put up some serious points, and display highlight play after highlight play. Burrow's nameplate even got ripped clean off his jersey, so he finished the game as an in an unusual manner, solely displaying the number 9 on his back.

via YouTube


via Steve Roberts / USA Today Sports / Reuters

This was a matchup between 2 teams pulling in 2 different directions. The Titans looked to be barely holding on to their playoff positioning, having a difficult time on the offensive side of the ball while Derrick Henry remains sidelined, plotting his return. On the other side, the Dolphins were the hottest team in football, boasting a 7 game win streak. Tua Tagovailoa was playing good football, and their defense was wrecking havoc. It seemed like a matchup poised to propel the Dolphins above .500 and into the playoffs, but Tennessee rose to the occasion. Their defense has come to life as of late, and they stonewalled the Dolphins offense, holding them to only 3 points. D'Onta Foreman did his best King Henry impression and ran wild. Just like that, after this blowout victory, the Titans have returned to the number one overall seed in the AFC.


PASSER OF THE WEEK: Joe Burrow - Cincinnati Bengals

via the Athletic

Joe Burrow has put the entire League on notice this year. The last 2 games combined, he has been playing out of his mind. In Week 17, he out-dueled Mahomes, completing 30 of 39 pass attempts for 446 yards and 4 touchdowns, leading his team back from a 2 score deficit.

PASS CATCHER OF THE WEEK: Ja'Marr Chase - Cincinnati Bengals

via Yahoo Sports

There's some things you don't do in the NFL because they have consequences. For instance, opposing players that have tried to mock Aaron Rodgers's double-check belt celebration usually pay dearly. In 2012, there was a similar fate for opposing players who tried to mock Colin Kaepernick's bicep kiss. The same occurred for the 2015 Cam Newton dab. Ja'Marr Chase, the absolute lock for Offensive Rookie of the Year, let everyone know, do not mock his Griddy, because on the next play he will Randy Moss you for a touchdown. Chase caught 11 balls for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns. He had more receiving yards than the Chiefs had passing yards!

TAILBACK OF THE WEEK: Rashaad Penny - Seattle Seahawks

via John Froschauer / AP Photo

The Seahawks finally have re-established their identity, one that they can build off of going into next year. Rahaad Penny showed glimpses of Beast Mode out there, turning 25 carries into 170 yards (6.8 yards per carry) and scoring 2 touchdowns.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN OF THE WEEK: T.J. Watt - Pittsburgh Steelers

via Pittsburgh Steelers

Once again, T.J. Watt is back on our list. He had some stiff competition this week, but a 4 sack performance placing him 1.5 sacks from breaking Michael Strahan's single-season record with one more game to play, easily makes him most worthy of this honor. Watt also picked up 5 tackles as the Pittsburgh defense ensured that Big Ben had a proper farewell party.

LINEBACKER OF THE WEEK: Marcell Harris - San Francisco 49ers

via Houston Chronicle

Marcell Harris had an impressive game that really popped on the film. He flew around the field for 10 tackles and picked up 1 interception as the 49ers handled the Texans to keep their playoff pursuit going strong.

DEFENSIVE BACK OF THE WEEK: D.J. Reed - Seattle Seahawks

via Steph Chambers / Getty Images

Seattle's secondary hasn't been anything to write home about most all year, but D.J. Reed played himself one heck of a game Sunday. He piled on 8 tackles and nabbed 2 interceptions.

SPECIAL TEAMER OF THE WEEK: Matt Prater - Arizona Cardinals

via Ron Jenkins / AP Photo

Matt Prater was impressive on the road, hitting all 4 of his field goals, including 1 from 53 yards, and nailing his only extra point. His consistency and dependability allowed Arizona to leave Dallas with a much needed win.


Week 14

Passer of the Week: Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers

Pass Catcher of the Week: Davante Adams - Green Bay Packers

Tailback of the Week: Dalvin Cook - Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Lineman of the Week: Aaron Donald - Los Angeles Rams

Linebacker of the Week: Micah Parsons - Dallas Cowboys

Defensive Back of the Week: Mike Hughes - Kansas City Chiefs

Special Teamer of the Week: Matt Gay - Los Angeles Rams

Week 15

Passer of the Week: Patrick Mahomes - Kansas City Chiefs

Pass Catcher of the Week: Travis Kelce - Kansas City Chiefs

Tailback of the Week: Jonathan Taylor - Indianapolis Colts

Defensive Lineman of the Week: D.J. Wonnum - Minnesota Vikings

Linebacker of the Week: Darius Leonard - Indianapolis Colts

Defensive Back of the Week: Minkah Fitzpatrick - Pittsburgh Steelers

Special Teamer of the Week: Ka'imi Fairbairn - Houston Texans

Week 16

Passer of the Week: Joe Burrow - Cincinnati Bengals

Pass Catcher of the Week: Tee Higgins - Cincinnati Bengals

Tailback of the Week: Rex Burkhead - Houston Texans

Defensive Lineman of the Week: Demarcus Lawrence - Dallas Cowboys

Linebacker of the Week: Foyesade Oluokun - Atlanta Falcons

Defensive Back of the Week: Micah Hyde - Buffalo Bills

Special Teamer of the Week: Ryan Succop - Tampa Bay Buccaneers


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