With the 2017 NFL season kicking off tonight, here are some things to keep an eye on this year.
Rule changes; the ‘No Fun League’ wouldn’t be the same without some rule changes. This year though, most make sense.
- Referees will no longer go under the hood and watch videos of replays to determine the outcome of a play in question. They will now communicate through headsets to a central office in New York and assist the officials there to hopefully make the correct call. This is very similar to how Major League Baseball does it, and it seems to work fairly well.
- It will now be a 15 yard, unsportsmanlike conduct penalty if a team tries to unfairly control the game clock through penalties. One example of how this rule came about was a game where the 49ers committed defensive holding on every Saints receiver. This is a play on type of an infraction so when all of the receivers were held up, there was nobody to throw to, and valuable time ticked off of the clock. This year, that’s 15 yards and they will restore the game clock.
- In an attempt to block an extra point or field goal, players are no longer allowed to leap over the line. This rule was put in place as a safety measure because of fear that the player would get undercut or upended and subsequently get injured when they land.
- Overtime periods are now reduced to 10 minutes as well. Maybe this will help us see more beloved ties! Lord knows we all love ties…right? Why they don’t go with a similar format to how the NCAA does it, I’ll never know.
Here is a link to all changes. http://operations.nfl.com/the-rules/2017-nfl-rulebook/
Some of the most elite quarterbacks in the league are getting old by NFL standards. Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Drew Brees are all in their mid to late 30’s, or in Brady’s case, 40. These guys have all been perennial playoff and super bowl champion quarterbacks throughout their careers, and all continue playing at a very high level. But the NFL is not an easy gig for players as they age. Between injuries and some diminished skills, and concerns of life after football, there’s no telling how much time these guys have left in the league. I think we need to watch them closely because the QB position is a thin pool when comes to this level of talent, and the position is evolving a lot in the younger generations. These guys may be a dying breed.
And of course we have the often confusing personal conduct policy. We will see this in action almost immediately with Ezekiel Elliot missing six games (starting week 2) due to his suspension under this very clouded policy. This policy has never really been instituted in a very consistent manner and we’ve seen a variety of punishments for a variety of different infractions. (Follow the link to view the policy (http://static.nfl.com/static/content/public/photo/2017/08/11/0ap3000000828506.pdf). It seems that every year we have at least a few issues with the policy and no clear precedent really set. So if and when an incident arises, it’s always interesting to see how the league will respond, to what degree they respond and how it will effect the team(s) involved.
As is the case with most NFL seasons, there are few teams we can pencil into the playoffs right off the bat. We will most likely see the Patriots, Steelers, and Packers at least making a wild card birth, if not win their division titles. There are also some teams we can eliminate before the season starts as well. The Jets, 49ers and my beloved Browns may see some progress this year, but let’s face it, they aren’t playoff caliber teams. This should be a fun year though, and there should be a lot to keep our interest.