We’re into the final quarter of the season now. The grind that everyone talks about must have kicked in, and you can see why the routines of players can become so important, or at least as someone who writes about the league I can.
One of the podcasts I follow announced that they were stopping this week, and whilst their pick competition continues, all the work that goes into prepping, recording, editing, and finally publishing can stop.
We at the Wrong Football had our own bye week for the podcast caused by work, and it is coming to that time of year where the holidays interrupt our routines. There’s been a birth in my family, and things going on that disrupt my routine, and once more I have failed to find the time to watch coaching tape. It’s one of those things for those of us who cover a sport alongside our day job.
I don’t think you would find many of those who work in the NFL, whose life is focused the other way round, who would complain about it but it must be hard. They have been working solidly with very little time off for a long time now, and whilst they are heading into the final stretch of the season, they will be having very different feelings.
Those teams way out of the playoff hunt will be playing for pride and to keep their careers. Everyone on the Browns will be straining to get a win, desperate not to be the second team ever to lose every game, but I am beginning to wonder if they can get that precious win.
The teams in the playoff hunt will be trying to convince themselves they still stand a chance, but if you need to win the rest of your games to make it, then it is doubtful that you will. It’s not impossible, but whilst as a fan I recognise the train of thought, it will be an unlikely thing to pull off.
However, for these teams, and the rest, I’m sure the coaches will be stressing one game at a time. This reflects the way I feel you have to approach large tasks. In my other writing world, I write novels. Of differing lengths, but they are all long term endeavours that require a degree of planning, but the thing I want to focus on is the grind.
You don’t write a novel in a day. In my experience you don’t write one in the short bursts of intensive activity as sometimes portrayed in films. In fact, I stay well clear of the November novel writing month as I don’t have the time to write that many words a day. I have daily word targets, achievable ones that I focus on and keep doing until suddenly I have a book. And then I have to start editing and fixing, using the same quantities of time to go through multiple drafts and edits, polishing until I am happy the book is as good as I can make it.
I mention this as it reminds me of when coaches talk about focusing on one game at a time. You can’t focus on the big picture too much as you are not present for what you are doing right now. And when the margins between winning and losing are so close, you need the players to be focused in the moment. There are still plenty of teams that will be talking about winning the Super Bowl, even if some have more realistic chances than others, but they are steps you have to take along the way. Win this week. Get into the playoffs. Keep winning. Only one team gets to do that, and whilst we have already ruled some teams, we are not very far away from having the final twelve teams to make the playoffs. That’s only 37.5% of the league. Only a little above a third of the league.
We will soon have a clearer idea of who those teams will be, in the next few weeks the maths will ensure more teams fall out of the playoffs definitively, fan attention turning to the off-season already. However, there’s not that much football played during the year, so I’ll be focused on the best games I can find and the playoffs. Even though the Bengals have fallen short this year, and I’ll be wondering about coaching changes and off-season moves. I’ll have to focus on one week at a time. Something I’m not unused to, and whilst there is a word of physical and other talent differences between myself and any NFL player, it’s never a bad idea to remember they are fellow human beings. There are parallels between them and the fan. It makes what they do all the more remarkable.