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Your 2017 NFL cheat sheet to get through Thanksgiving conversation

This NFL season has been eventful, to say the very least. Get caught up with all the major storylines so far.

Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Maybe the NFL hasn’t had your full attention this season. We get it, you’re busy. But now it’s Thanksgiving, and you don’t want to feel left out of the NFL conversation.

That’s where we come in. Let us help you get you all caught up, RedZone style, so can impress everyone at Thanksgiving dinner with your football knowledge — or at least fake your way through it.

Here’s what’s been happening during a, let’s say chaotic, season in the NFL:

Injuries. So many injuries. The league may not look quite like you’d expect it to these days. So many popular players are out for the season with injuries.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is out with a broken collarbone. Rookie phenom Deshaun Watson is out for the season after his great start with the Texans was derailed by a torn ACL. The Texans are also missing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus on defense, which makes it a lot harder for them to get by with Tom Savage under center.

The Giants lost the heart of their receiving corps, Odell Beckham Jr. They’re missing Brandon Marshall, too. DeShone Kizer’s rookie season in Cleveland is a lot tougher without left tackle Joe Thomas. Seattle’s Legion of Boom is more like the Legion of Whom without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. The Cardinals are without Carson Palmer and David Johnson, and the list goes on. It’s been a brutal season.

It’s not JUST the same old teams in the playoff race. Yes, the Patriots and Steelers will be there, as always. But the postseason is taking shape around some surprising teams this year.

The Eagles are good. Like, legitimately good. They’re 9-1, which is the best record in the NFL. The Saints are on top of the NFC South again after three straight seasons of 7-9 finishes. The Jaguars’ defense is such a force that they’re able to carry the team despite Blake Bortles. The Titans missed the playoffs last year, but they’re in the mix now. Same thing for the Rams. They’re on top of the NFC West after winning just four games last season.

Who are the award frontrunners? Here are the top possibilities for each of the league’s major awards for this season.

  • MVP: Carson Wentz, Tom Brady, Jared Goff (really)
  • Offensive Player of the Year: Carson Wentz, Tom Brady, Jared Goff, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Calais Campbell, Demarcus Lawrence, Joey Bosa
  • Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette, Alvin Kamara
  • Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marshon Lattimore, T.J. Watt, Tre’Davious White
  • Coach of the Year: Doug Pederson, Sean McVay
  • Comeback Player of the Year: Before the season, we would have said Rob Gronkowski or J.J. Watt. But injuries are slowing Gronk down again this year, and Watt’s out for the season with a torn ACL. He missed some time with a hamstring injury, but we’re going to go with Earl Thomas for this one.

Who’s winning the Super Bowl? Well if we knew, we’d be grossly rich like Biff Tannen in the alternate 1985. BUT, here’s who has the best odds, if you’re curious:

  1. Patriots - 11/5
  2. Steelers - 7/2
  3. Eagles - 4/1
  4. Vikings - 10/1
  5. Saints - 10/1
  6. Chiefs - 16/1
  7. Rams - 16/1
  8. Falcons - 18/1

Have the Browns won a game? Lol nope.

Have the Browns found a starting quarterback yet? Haha, no. Adhering to tradition, three players have thrown at least 20 passes for the Browns this fall. Right now, DeShone Kizer (poor guy) is still the starter, despite 14 interceptions and six fumbles in nine games. But surely the Browns will try again next season.

No coaches have been fired ... yet. Ben McAdoo looked like the most likely candidate for a midseason axing after losing both his locker room and a buttload of games, but last week’s win over the Chiefs may have bought him enough time to finish the year. Dirk Koetter has followed up on Tampa Bay’s nine-win 2016 campaign by sinking to the bottom of the NFC South like cement. At an even 13-13 for his head coaching career, he could be headed toward the chopping block depending in how the Bucs finish the year.

Vance Joseph has lost six straight games in Denver and has John Elway calling his players “soft,” which is certainly not a good sign. Chuck Pagano currently oversees the league’s least watchable team in Indianapolis. Hue Jackson is 1-25 as an NFL head coach and apparently just part of some weird sadness experiment in Cleveland. The firings haven’t started yet, but the Monday after Week 17 is going to be messy.

The NFL is at the center of a culture war. Last season Colin Kaepernick started protesting police brutality and oppression that people of color in the United States. It continued into this year, when Michael Bennett and Marshawn Lynch both sat during the national anthem in the preseason.

But then it took an unexpected turn, when President Donald Trump decided to go after players who either sat or took a knee during the national anthem, calling them “sons of bitches.” It led to a wave of demonstrations that were ignited by Trump’s comments. When it appeared it had stopped, Vice President Mike Pence pulled a political stunt, walking out of a Colts game after 49ers players had knelt during the anthem.

It continued into Week 11, as Marshawn Lynch sat during the U.S. anthem, and stood during the Mexico anthem, and Trump retaliated with more tweets.

What’s the latest with Colin Kaepernick? Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job, and likely won’t. Instead, we get compelling (not) quarterback matchups like Blaine Gabbert vs. Tom Savage one week, or Blaine Gabbert vs. Blake Bortles the next.

Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL and its owners for collusion last month. Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, and Bob McNair, and other owners will give depositions and submit phone and email records as evidence in the case.

The power struggle between Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell. As if Trump’s antics weren’t enough, the NFL also gets to deal with a feud between its most powerful owner and its commissioner. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who won’t follow through with his threat to sue the league, is fighting other NFL owners over Roger Goodell’s contract extension.

Jones says it’s because he wants all 32 owners, not just the six-owner compensation committee, to approve the final contract. But the impetus of Jones’ rage seems to be that Goodell reportedly promised him that Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott would not be suspended. And then Goodell suspended Elliott, for six games. After a few months and many court battles over the fairness of the NFL’s disciplinary process, Elliott’s suspension finally began in Week 10.

So what happens next? Well, Goodell is close to getting that extension, which shouldn’t be a surprise: He’s made the owners a lot of money. But don’t count out Jones getting something he wants, too.

Celebrations. OK, enough with the downer stuff. Let’s talk touchdown celebrations. They’re back!

And the wave of players who have joined is greater, because group celebrations are now legal. Teams got off to a slow start with their celebrations, but over the course of the season, everyone’s bringing it. We’ve seen re-enactments of Soul Train, games of leapfrog, hide and seek, baseball games, the Temptations, a taco stand, a solid bench press, and more.

It’s been one of the purest joys of the whole season — and one that we needed.


Things we're thankful for this NFL season