Sports and storylines go hand in hand, but in the NFL, where games span about three hours of a single afternoon and then there's an entire week to preview and dissect the next one, everything is magnified.
A cross-country flight for a road contest can be talked up like it's a brutal cross-country walk. If there's a key injury, the backup's chances of filling in are examined like fruit at the grocery store. Wait, there could be bad weather come kickoff? HOW WILL THAT IMPACT THE PLAYERS?
Now, this weekend's clash between Washington and Carolina features a narrative that's just as, if not more, attractive than the list above: A coach facing his former franchise.
One year after the Panthers fired Ron Rivera, Ron Rivera will try to beat the Panthers this Sunday at FedEx Field. There's your prime angle for the Week 16 meeting, right?
Not if you ask Rivera himself.
"The only time I’m going to address it is in this press conference with you guys and then the press conference with them," he said on Monday. "The emotion of this game for me is this organization. This organization right now is more important than my personal situation. I mean that because we have 53 guys downstairs and a group of coaches that we want to get into the playoffs, they want to get into the playoffs, and we want to do it for them and for us."
Rivera admitted that if this reunion had occurred earlier on in the schedule — he even thought it would be slotted in as Washington's opener — there would be stronger feelings heading into it.
However, he's about to wrap up his first regular season with the Burgundy and Gold. It doesn't feel like he's a Carolina guy trying to get comfortable in Washington anymore. Instead, he's merely a Washington guy.
"This game, to me, the consequence of this game is really the team, the organization, trying to be relevant, trying to take a step forward," Rivera said. "I want to see us focus on the reasons why we want to win the game as a team as opposed to a personal reason.”
It doesn't require a skilled investigator to discern why Rivera's club would like to triumph over the Panthers, and while a highly-competitive person like Rivera would surely enjoy taking out his former employer, beating the opponent is clearly his priority as opposed to whom the opponent is.
So, make the Rivera-Carolina connection all you'd like. Just don't expect Rivera to contribute at all to the discussion.