A dozen things to like about the NFL:
1. Sensational quarterback play from ageless veterans. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have wowed us for years, and continued to do so. May they all play for another decade, even though it will end sooner than that.
2. Quality young quarterbacks in the pipeline. This has become a passing league, and it looks like there is a good supply of excellent young quarterbacks to keep the excitement going. We’re particularly interested to see Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen will only add to the mix in the years ahead, even if it may take Mayfield and Allen a bit longer to see the field.
3. The best playoff system in pro sports. The NFL is the least predictable of any of the major pro sports, which is a good thing. It’s easier to go from worst to first in this league, which gives hope to just about every team out there.
4. That the Rams had the guts to take a chance on Sean McVay. There aren’t many teams that would hire a 30-year-old to be head coach, but the Rams were rewarded with that risk by a spectacular rookie season from McVay. This team is now positioned for a Super Bowl run.
5. The Doug Pederson story. Once reviled by Eagles fans because he stood in the way of rookie Donovan McNabb as Andy Reid’s initial starter, Pederson went from dodging batteries thrown at him in Veterans Stadium to the Eagles’ first Super Bowl championship coach. Amazing run.
6. The smell of autumn means football. Fresh-cut grass. A chill in the air. The leaves changing colors. Football weather. There is nothing like it.
7. The class of 2004 is still going strong. That we’re 15 years into the quarterback class of Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers and that all three have a good shot at a playoff berth is fantastic.
8. Larry Fitzgerald. A class act on and off the field whose athletic brilliance continues. We may be seeing the last of a one-of-a-kind player.
9. Tailgating never gets old. It is a rite of passage at an NFL game (or any other football game, for that matter) to fire up the grill, throw on some burgers and dogs, and taste the essence of a football Sunday.
10. The stretch run to the playoffs. With parity comes the inevitable early-season whining about mediocrity. But there is no complaining about meaningful playoff races in December, and the late-season matchups are almost always worth it.
11. The divisional round of the playoffs. The best eight teams are left, giving us four competitive matchups. It’s the best weekend in sports.
12. Bill Belichick. That he has lasted this long and is still this good is one of the most incredible feats of coaching in any sport.