Week 17 in the NFL didn’t look like much going in.
Resting stars, chilly temperatures, plenty of teams with nothing on the line. Much of the focus already had turned to what came after — coach firings and hirings. Yeah, as of a couple of days ago, you wouldn’t have expected much for a post-Week 17 column about what we learned.
But then, in the waning hours of 2017, the Cincinnati Bengals ripped out the Baltimore Ravens’ hearts and handed a late holiday gift to the long-suffering football fans of the Buffalo Bills.
Entering the day, ESPN’s Football Power Index rated the Ravens’ chances of making the playoffs at 97 percent. All they had to do was beat the Bengals at home, and even if they didn’t do that, all they needed was for the Titans to lose to the Jaguars or the Bills to lose in Miami. Ravens fans slipped into their old Ray Lewis jerseys Sunday morning with a high degree of confidence. I mean, 97 percent, right?
And here’s the final AFC wild card plot, from after the Bills’ win was complete, of an insane late afternoon window.
Thomas made his debut the night before against Portland and scored 17 points off the bench in just 18 minutes of action. He’s still finding his rhythm and he’s still testing out his hip, but the old familiar confidence was on display early and often against the Blazers.
Thomas is slated to rejoin the starting lineup against Orlando Saturday and then the team will go from there. It will be an adjustment, but it’s one they’ve been waiting to make.
He’s somebody you have to trap and you got to gameplan for, and that can help us with energy and movement, Kyle Korver said. I think we’re going to have to change how we play a little bit, which will be an adjustment in the beginning, but in the long run will be really good. We’re all excited for it. Tonight’s a bit of a bummer, but it’s just one game. This team is going to keep evolving.
That, as much as anything, is the real story of this conference this season. These teams are obviously much different than the ones that met in conference finals last season and they both recognize that where they end up will be drastically different than where they are now. That doesn’t make for compelling January basketball, but maybe we’ll all be in for something special this spring.