It's all over but the shouting.
What a year. The National Football League, as we know it, isn't our grandfather's or our father's NFL.
The game has changed. The league, despite some horrible franchises (that happens in every league), is as equal as it's ever been.
The difference between winning and losing isn't as big as it used to be. Showing up, as the New England Patriots did against a 16.5 point underdog, the Miami Dolphins, ensures nothing.
Personally, this is going to take some getting used to, with every year bringing us a new great team -- see the Baltimore Ravens -- out of nowhere. I honestly believe it will be happening every other year now, a decent team ascends to the top when nobody was paying attention.
We are two decades-plus into this contest and 2019 was the most popular of them all with nearly 12,000 entries over 17 weeks either going on-line to fill out their entry blank or cutting it out of the newspaper and walking to the nearest mail box to send it out.
Wild week to end it
If you happen to run into Larry Corcoran of West Newbury, Charlie Bellanti of Salem, N.H., Frank Poirier of Vietnam, Al Somes of Beverly and Stephanie Subocz of Chattanooga, Tenn. give them a pat on the back. They were the only five entries, out of 650, that picked Miami to beat the Patriots.
I had nine winners this week, which was well above average. The one issue this week was the first tie-breaker (Patriots point total). Most people thought the Patriots would score 30-plus points against the Dolphins, me included. We were all wrong.
All of the Week 17 winners had at least 11 correct selections and within three points of the Patriots point total.
As I've said before, this is fun. Picking games keeps me on my toes and there are few of you out there (you know who you are), that have figured this out pretty good.
Happy New Year.
Week 17 winners
Jack Palazola of Gloucester
Jack Maxner of Newburyport
Katherine Sweeney of Newburyport
Linda Hamilton of Methuen
Lyn Ann Riopelle of Methuen
James Michael O'Neill of Beverly
Eugene Barratt of Gloucester
Bill Griffith of Newburyport
Kenny Small of Beverly
Joe McBrien of Beverly