We have made it to the end of the 2018 NFL regular season, meaning all our questions about playoff positioning — and draft order — have been answered. There will be a lot of movement on the coaching market with vacancies coming up. For now, we have to sift through who came up big when it counted and who ended up having their heart broken.
Here are the 15 biggest disappointments of NFL Week 17.
The Vikings had a very simple task — win at home against the Chicago Bears and they were in the playoffs. Not only did they fail to do so, but they didn’t even come particularly close. The Bears won 24-10, with the Minnesota offense a constant disaster area and players not on the same page. The defense was unable to get off the field, particularly on third down. This was a mess and will require a lot of soul-searching after a team expected to contend for a Super Bowl didn’t even make it to the postseason.
JuJu Smith-Schuster was on the receiving end of some complimentary remarks from Bill Belichick following Sunday’s game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers improved to 8-5-1 thanks to a 17-10 victory over the New England Patriots. During the game, Smith-Schuster hauled in four passes for 40 yards. Afterward, Belichick had pretty high praise for the Steelers wide receiver.
Crazy to have Coach Belichick, a legendary coach I’ve watched my whole life, come up to me after the game and tell me he respects my game and how I play!!!
— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) December 17, 2018
The remarks by Belichick are certainly great. So is the use of emojis by Smith-Schuster to emphasize his emotions in the moment.
In his second season in the NFL, Smith-Schuster has blossomed into a dangerous threat opposite Antonio Brown. Smith-Schuster entered Sunday’s game with 91 catches for 1,234 yards and six touchdowns. Belichick likely isn’t the only head coach in the league to take note of what the 22-year old Pittsburgh player has been doing this season.
The coolest trick-or-treating effort from the sports world came from Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster.
Some people in Pittsburgh saw a man dressed in a full Steelers uniform, wearing a jersey that had Smith-Schuster’s name and number on it. The man was actually Smith-Schuster, who went trick-or-treating as himself … in pads and everything.
Take a look at these photos shared by CBS Sports radio host Andrew Fillipponi:
I recognize this trick-or-treater in the middle. Juju is the man. pic.twitter.com/kz3zLySCvu
— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) November 1, 2018
Juju trick or treating in full uniform. pic.twitter.com/XdK1qq4wfW
— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) November 1, 2018
Smith-Schuster even gave out candy to some drivers in the street. Imagine realizing you were getting candy from a real Steelers star.
Happy Halloween!!!! I got best costume for sure!!! pic.twitter.com/gi605di2c3
— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) November 1, 2018
Smith-Schuster is earning his fans one Halloween home at a time. Between this and his recent lottery effort, it’s no wonder why he’s so well-liked.
Week 8 marks the halfway point of the season for many NFL teams, and we’re very close to moving into the second half and the subsequent playoff run. That means that things are starting to get real in many of the divisional races, and teams are going to have to start considering the implications of each win and loss even more than they were before.
Several other teams find themselves at a crossroads. There are quarterback decisions to be made and maybe even some coaches whose seats are getting progressively hotter. The scrutiny is getting more intense every week, and Week 8 was no exception.
Here are 15 of the biggest disappointments from the week’s NFL action.
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers
It’s looking like the Buccaneers are clearly nearing the end of the line with Winston, who may have finally exhausted their patience on Sunday. He threw four interceptions, including a pick-six, none of which were the result of bad luck. He was careless and reckless with the ball and was rightly benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who nearly led them to a comeback. It remains to be seen whether he sticks as the starter, but the odds seem to be long.
JuJu Smith-Schuster may be on a contract that’s paying him just over $4 million, but even he caught the lottery craze.
The Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver bought over 100 tickets to try and win the record $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot this week. He joked with the media that he tried to win to get Le’Veon Bell back.
JuJu Smith-Schuster bought 100-plus Mega Millions tickets this week. As his interview concluded, he said, "I tried to win it so we could get Le'Veon back. It didn't work."
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 24, 2018
— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) October 24, 2018
Bell is in a contract standoff with the Steelers and has yet to report to the team. Though Pittsburgh reportedly offered him a big contract during the offseason, Bell turned it down feeling he was worth more. Smith-Schuster wanted to help try and get Bell his big payday.
At least this settles one matter: Though some Steelers had issues with Bell, at least one player still wants him back.
Vontaze Burfict was once again accused of throwing cheap shots during Sunday’s game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, and Ben Roethlisberger says his antics on the field went beyond what is typical for a competitive, physical football game.
Burfict was fortunate to avoid a flag for a hit to the head and neck area of Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who briefly left the field with an injury. Immediately after that play, Roethlisberger says Burfict threatened Pittsburgh receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster by pointing to him and saying “you’re next.”
“He hits A.B., then, literally, as I am under center for the next play, he points at JuJu and says, ‘You’re next,’” Roethlisberger said Monday, per Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “How do you allow that stuff?”
Video of the play Roethlisberger was referring to shows Burfict pointing in Smith-Schuster’s direction before the ball was snapped.
This is the play Ben Roethlisberger claims Vontaze Burfict yelled “You’re next!” at Juju Smith-Schuster. You can see Burfict point at Smith-Schuster twice here. pic.twitter.com/WVLXCwtlPw
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) October 16, 2018
Burfict is not expected to be suspended for his hit on Brown, but the NFL is looking at that play and several others from Sunday’s game to potentially fine the linebacker. There is a long history of bad blood between Burfict and the Steelers, and you may recall when Smith-Schuster destroyed Burfict with a blindside block during a game last season.
JuJu Smith-Schuster wasn’t put off by the cornerback in front of him when making an enormous catch against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Steelers receiver managed to reach around Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard and make a ridiculous catch to bring his team to the brink of the goal line.
— NFL (@NFL) October 14, 2018
It even looked like Dennard had the interception for a moment, but it was not to be. The only bad news for Smith-Schuster was the fact that he was ruled down at the one-yard line due to his helmet touching the ground just short of the end zone. Steelers running back James Conner immediately punched it in on the very next play.
Maybe, after a catch like that, Smith-Schuster will have something else to say about his Madden rating.