In many ways, the 2017 NFL season has been the league’s most trying for some years. Protests, falling ratings and sponsors complaining about the league have all occurred this year; but hopefully things are about to change. The big game Playoffs will kick-off on January 6, and many of the problems endured by America’s most popular sports league will be forgotten. At least the problems will be forgotten for a short time.

The New England Patriots were expected to run the table in the big game. However, the team fell on hard times in its opening four games. Tom Brady hauled the team back from a poor start to one in which the team is favorites to win the Super Bowl. The five-times winners would be no where this season without quarterback Brady. The man considered by big game insiders as the greatest quarterback in the league’s history has carried his side through the regular season.

New England scored the third most points during the season. Brady’s offense averaged 28.8 points per game, which put them behind the free-scoring offenses of the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles. Brady is the leader in the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award race. He has thrown for 4,387 yards this season. He just missed the 5,000-yard mark, which is a feat he accomplished once previously. Add in Brady’s incredible 30 passing touchdowns this season, and it is hard to believe he won’t win the MVP award. It is even harder to believe the Patriots won’t make it to the big game.

Making Brady’s performances during the regular season even more remarkable is the fact he hasn’t had a running game worth noting. Sure, Dion Lewis has accumulated more than 800 yards on the ground, but teams such as the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers have benefited more from having equal parts run game and passing attacking.

The Rams have been the surprise team this season. Jared Goff is only in his second year, but he threw for more than 3,800 yards and 28 touchdowns. In only his second season, his play helped turn around the Rams, who are only in their second season of playing back in Los Angeles. But Goff has been blessed to have a strong running game that features Todd Gurley. With more than 1,300 yards on the ground and 19 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns, Gurley has taken the heat off of his quarterback. The Rams have a real shot at making it to the Big Game with their high-octane offense. However, the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles will be stiff challengers for the Rams in the NFC.

Philadelphia was flying high, no pun intended, until quarterback Carson Wentz suffered an ACL injury. Wentz is out until next season. With Nick Foles under center, the Eagles chances of winning Super Bowl LII took a major hit. Foles has shown he is capable. However, his inconsistencies have been a worry for Eagles fans.

Minnesota only averaged 23.9 points per game in 2017. But quarterback Case Keenum was incredibly efficient. He tossed 21 touchdowns and threw for over 3,350 yards this season. If the Vikings can make it to the big game, they will be the first team to play the big game in their home stadium. There is a lot of football to play before that happens, however.

If there is a dark horse in the Playoffs it might very well be the Kansas City Chiefs. Andy Reid’s team won the AFC West for the second straight season. It was the first time the Chiefs accomplished the feat in their history. Kansas City started the season in brilliant fashion beating the Patriots in Foxborough. Kansas City then beat Philadelphia in week 2.

At 5-0, the Chiefs suffered their first loss at the hands of the Steelers. The loss to Pittsburgh ushered in a dip in the team’s form, and Kansas City lost six of seven games in the middle of the season. Luckily, Reid got his team back on track just in time, and the Chiefs finished strongly. Going into the Playoffs, Kansas City will be a difficult team to beat. But it really depends on which team shows up to play: The strong team from the beginning of the season or the team that looked awful in the middle of the year.

The Playoffs will see 12 of the league’s 32 teams fighting for a place in the big game. It is fair to say the Playoffs will feature the 12 most deserving teams in the league, and as it does every year, the Super Bowl will see the league’s two best teams competing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

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