NFL season needs boost of excitement in final stretch
By AUBREY KRAGEN
College Contributor Network
In the first season of the new playoff system, college football has descended into madness. It would be more appropriate, probably, to say it's "ascended" into madness. It's definitely been the most exciting season in recent memory. Mississippi State's meteoric rise, record-breaking performances by Melvin Gordon and Connor Halliday, and the saga of Todd Gurley have captivated audiences across the country this year. At least one unfathomable upset has occurred almost every week, and America just can't get enough.
While there's an effervescent buzz surrounding college football this year, the NFL seems to have lost a bit of its sparkle. A dark shadow was cast over the league following the legal troubles of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Ray McDonald, Greg Hardy, and more, and nobody knew quite how the NFL's mishandling of those issues would affect the popularity of the league.
Eleven weeks in, it doesn't seem like those issues have ruined the NFL season. Rather, a sheer lack of star power and exciting team play has rendered the season incredibly -- dare I say it? -- boring.
The Arizona Cardinals, mimicking the low-key San Antonio Spurs, have the best record in the league. Though the Bird Gang features a few interesting characters, including Antonio Cromartie and Darnell Dockett, the team culture and the nature of its wins haven't been terribly interesting, so people aren't really jumping onboard that bandwagon or believing in their Cinderella story.
But wait, you'll never guess who has the best record in the AFC!
Oh, nevermind, it's the Patriots, and nobody cares. Tom Brady is putting together what could be his third MVP season by taking care of the ball, and, smartly, by throwing it to Gronk a lot. But Rob Gronkowski is about the only entertaining part of the dreary New England squad, other than the breakout performance of Jonas Gray in the Sunday night matchup against Indianapolis.
Gray exemplifies a trend plaguing the NFL this season: every week there seems to be a flash in the pan -- some undrafted rookie has an explosive game and falls out of the spotlight the following week. Early on, new guys like Allen Hurns and Branden Oliver sparked excitement, but have had relatively quiet seasons since then.
While rookies have created some sizzle, the NFL's veterans have been underwhelming so far. Save JJ Watt, who is having a monster season, the league is missing its biggest stars. Calvin Johnson missed four games earlier this season, allowing two Broncos to populate the top five receiving slots, along with Antonio "The Punter Slayer" Brown, Jordy Nelson and T.Y. Hilton.
Meanwhile, DeMarco Murray leads the league in rushing yards -- with 100 or more in nine of 10 games so far. Though this is certainly impressive, most people probably couldn't pick Murray out of a lineup, and his star power is seriously lacking.
No new superstar has emerged. No position player has looked quite as dynamic as Adrian Peterson or Josh Gordon used to. No feel-good storyline has caught on.
The NFL is in serious need of a revamp, or it might start losing some of its audience. On some Sundays, ESPN broadcasts Canadian Football League games. Anybody want to give it a shot?
Aubrey Kragen is a senior at USC majoring in Communication. She was born in San Diego and is a fan of the Chargers, the Padres and the Spurs (because she needs at least one good team to root for). Follow her on Twitter: @aubreykragen