NFL Roundtable: Giving thanks for Bills vs. Saints
Each week we sit down with TwinSpires columnists Ashley Anderson, James Scully, and Scott Shapiro to discuss the latest news from around the NFL. Today they weigh in on the NFL's biggest turkey, the most intriguing Thanksgiving Day game, and the NFL star they're most thankful for.
Who has been the NFL’s biggest turkey this season?
Ashley: Aaron Rodgers. While his Packers are positioned for a Super Bowl run, the controversial quarterback has managed to stir up adverse headlines for close to a year now, from his highly public feud with Green Bay’s front office to his last-second decision to return to play for the 2021 season, and his recent COVID "immunization" fiasco. While I admire personalities who march to the beat of their own drum, Rodgers has negatively impacted his legacy at Green Bay, left Packers fans — and NFL fans, in general — divided on the quarterback’s behavior, and has created an unnecessary distraction for a team capable of pushing for the Lombardi Trophy this season.
James: Referees. Subpar officiating has impacted the outcome of too many games this season. The new taunting rule created confusion among officials, leading to inconsistent and ridiculous enforcement at key moments, and bad/missed calls have become toxic for the product. Improved officiating should be a priority for the league during the offseason.
Scott: Despite the events occurring several years ago, the emails that came out from Jon Gruden this season make him the biggest turkey. Using sexist, homophobic, and transphobic language is completely uncalled for, especially when you are in the positions of power that Gruden has been in over the last decade or so. Sadly, this led to him resigning as head coach of the Raiders and likely will be the end of what has otherwise been a great career as part of the National Football League.
Which Thanksgiving game are you most excited about?
Ashley: The Bills-Saints primetime showdown is the most exciting matchup of the three-game Thanksgiving slate, as both teams are in the midst of a slump and have slid to the seventh seed in their respective conferences. The Bills just got pummeled at home by a red-hot Colts team, while the Saints are struggling to survive without Jameis Winston. This should be a hard-fought battle in a hostile environment, and if the Saints can pull off a win, it will signal major trouble for the Bills, who were a hot pick to win the Super Bowl entering this season.
Fri, November 26 2021, 1:20 AM
James: Buffalo at New Orleans. After appearing playoff-bound earlier in the season, both teams need a win Thursday to stop the bleeding. Buffalo was sitting pretty at 4-1 in mid-October, but they’ve lost three of the last five games to fall behind New England in the AFC East standings. New Orleans, which opened 5-2, is now teetering on the playoff cusp after dropping three straight.
Scott: I am most excited for Bills at Saints. Both teams are coming off of terrible performances, especially on defense. New Orleans was shredded by Jalen Hurts and the Eagles running game, while Jonathan Taylor made a mockery of Buffalo’s No. 1 ranked unit in the league. I expect both teams to play with tremendous emotion on short rest in what should be a hard-hitting affair to conclude the holiday three-game slate.
Which NFL player are you most thankful for?
Ashley: Is there anyone else I could name besides Tom Brady? While many still hate on the seven-time Super Bowl winner, to me, he’s the exemplar of dedication, exceptional work ethic, mental toughness, and leadership — all qualities that set apart the good from the great. I know some people are probably rolling their eyes, but at this point, if you’re denying Brady’s excellence, you’re lying to yourself. To NFL fans, he’s either a hero or the "final boss" your team hopes to slay to move on in the playoffs (where he's nearly impossible to beat). Without a figure like that at the forefront of the league, the landscape of the NFL would be far less exciting.
James: As a fan of the Bengals, I’m most thankful for Joe Burrow’s return to top form after a scary knee injury last fall. Receiver Ja’Marr Chase, the fourth choice in the 2021 Draft, turning out to be the real deal received serious consideration, and Cincinnati’s improved defense completes the trifecta. Who Dey!
Scott: I am most thankful for the aforementioned Jonathan Taylor. The former Wisconsin Badger star has a unique combination of speed, patience, and power that has been on full display in his second season as a professional. If he remains healthy, he is on a path directly to Canton and the Hall of Fame. I look forward to watching him again this Sunday when the Colts take on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.