When the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 is announced, Ray Lewis and Randy Moss have a chance to join a relatively exclusive club: first-ballot inductees. Over the past 10 classes, there have been 16 first-ballot modern-era inductees, or less than two per year. And that’s fitting, because to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer — to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame without waiting more than the minimum five years after retirement — means, to me, having a seminal impact on the game.
But then Blandino abruptly left the NFL to become a rules analyst for Fox, and the league promoted Al Riveron to replace him. The hope was that the transition would be seamless, given that Riveron had been by Blandino’s side assisting him on replay rulings and other key tasks.
The transition has not been seamless. A number of replay rulings this season have raised eyebrows in and around the league, most recently the decision to overturn a touchdown catch last weekend by the Buffalo Bills’ Kelvin Benjamin. Bills owner Terry Pegula went public this week with his dissatisfaction, saying that the NFL must fix its replay system.
Ben Roethlisberger had the benefit of better wideouts overall — plus running back Le’Veon Bell — to make spectacular catches in tough coverage and traffic. The Jaguars still won with Brown and Bell going off, and they’ll expect to be fine in the bigger picture even if Lewis and Gronk do some damage.
TE Dwayne Allen: He has not been a big part of the Patriots’ passing game, but he has been a great fit for their blocking, delivering on the level of Gronk in that capacity. It won’t take more than, say, three catches for 30 yards for Allen to have considerable contributions to a few scoring drives.
You talk about a guy who has overcome adversity — Watt turned himself from a walk-on at Wisconsin into the premier defensive player of his time. To see his true impact, look beyond sacks: Opponents try to double- and triple-team him, but Watt is a disruptive force who turns the ball over and is the most dominant player in the league when healthy.