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The Whole Show’s A Rabbit Hole 2.0

Hot Takedown is ending the year with three different Rabbit Holes.

We start with Geoff, who is in the bargaining stage of grief over the New York Jets’ sudden winning streak. He takes a look back at NFL draft grades for the past four quarterback classes and finds that both the grades and the level of excitement over draft prospects are more situational than we might expect. If, through some “Freaky Friday”-style swap, Patrick Mahomes ended up directly on the firing line for the Jets and Sam Darnold got to sit on the bench and learn the Chiefs’ offense from Andy Reid, our understanding of those two quarterbacks might be quite different. Trevor Lawrence is still probably the generational talent the scouts claim that he is, but Jets fans can take solace — at least for now — in the fact that people who try to predict the success of football players often get it very, very wrong.

Next, Neil looks back at how, even though the pandemic upended every aspect of life this year, 2020 has been one of the chalkiest in recent memory. Favorites won championships in all the major sports leagues — at least so far; the NFL still has the chance to give us an upset. While the paths that the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers, Seattle Storm and Tampa Bay Lightning all took to winning titles were not by any means assured from the start, the fact that all these Nos. 1 came out on top does a lot to undo any idea about 2020 having an asterisk attached to it because of disruption to the seasons or changes in format. That idea of an asterisk is a little silly to begin with, of course, and it might have been nice to have a bit more chaos in our sports. But Neil, at least, is grateful for this small sign of chalky stability in an otherwise uncertain year.

Finally, Sara closes us out by talking about football games played on odd days of the week. A series of happenstances and a surprising federal law have contributed to the paucity of NFL games played on Friday, for instance. There have only been 11 in NFL history — and of course the Minnesota Vikings have played in three of them. The Dallas Cowboys have already completed their “day of the week Bingo card” because of COVID-19-related rescheduling, and the Vikings and the Tennessee Titans only need a Wednesday game to tick off games played on all seven days. The NFL would play on as many days as it could, obviously, if it was allowed. But the rarity of these odd-day games has helped make them special — especially when they also coincide with Sara beating her husband at fantasy football.

What we’re looking at this week:

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.