What we are witnessing is a weekly smorgasbord of “Twilight Zone” episodes, with all the suspense and thrills and unexpected twists of fate.
Welcome to the NFL, 2021 style.
A brilliant maze of disorder and intrigue.
Pete Rozelle is the late commissioner whose smile would be wide right about now. He has most everything he desired.
Rozelle always thought the best league was a slew of 8-8 teams where several had the potential to win a championship. No one all that much better than the next.
I’m guessing he never had an issue with Little League participation trophies.
A Thanksgiving win
But this is what we have, no real monster standing and howling above the rest.
Arizona has the league’s best record at 9-2. Does anyone really believe the Cardinals are some insurmountable juggernaut?
Think about it — 26 of 32 teams have at least four losses as Week 12 arrives. Playoff hopefuls run 12 deep in the AFC and another 10 or so in the NFC.
The Raiders are among the former, now 6-5 following a 36-33 overtime win against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day in Arlington, Texas.
“It’s a competitive league, which is the way it’s supposed to be,” said Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson, whose 29-yard field goal won it Thursday. “Close games. Back and forth all the time. I think it speaks a lot to our character on a short week and the kind of adversity we have faced the last few months to play a game like this and win.”
It is the perfect outcome by which to judge this wacky season. The Raiders had lost three straight coming in and were all but left for dead by most.
(That’s me, raising a hand).
Theirs was viewed as just another midseason slump. No chance at the playoffs. Same ol’, same ol’. More off-field controversy than on-field execution.
But somewhere between proving that correct and arriving at AT&T Stadium, the Raiders discovered a serious conviction to be better. To disregard such dire predictions and climb back into a postseason chase.
“I’ve been doing this so long,” said eight-year starting quarterback Derek Carr. “Even when we were 0-10 (in 2014), we ended up beating playoff-caliber teams at the end of that year. The NFL is designed for everyone to be kind of even.
“There are superstar players. But any given Sunday, anyone can win a game. We don’t feel like we are some terrible team. We feel like we are a good football team.”
Lots of yellow
Listen. The only thing given on Sundays this year is that more than a few final scores will produce raised eyebrows and some serious head-scratching.
It was a wild game against the Cowboys, for sure. The teams combined for 28 penalties covering 276 yards. Lots and lots of yellow. There were a total of 946 yards gained and 51 first downs achieved.
The Raiders showed a grit and competitive nature not seen in weeks as losses to the Giants and Chiefs and Bengals piled on top of each other.
It’s pretty simple: When Carr throws for more than 300 yards —he was 24-for-39 for 373 and a touchdown Thursday — the Raiders are 6-0 this season and score 30-plus points. He’s that instrumental to the team’s success or failure.
“I’m not going to live by judging men by wins and losses all the time,” said Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia shortly after his team’s dramatic win. “I understand the ramifications of performance. But it’s a week-to-week league. And this week, due to our effort to some degree, it turned out to be us.”
Week-to-week and all sorts of brilliant disorder and intrigue.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.