A Sports Potpourri & Midway Point in the National Football League
Major league baseball is synonymous with the American summer. For many months, it’s the only game in town. Unfortunately, the biggest stage occurs when football is in full gear, when hockey is a couple weeks in, and the beginning of the NBA season (ESPN’s obsession with this league is borderline scary). In case you were one of the 40 million that gathered around their TV sets to witness game 7, I figured I’d offer some reaction.
I was behind every move Joe Maddon made other than the 3-2 squeeze with Baez. Another subtle issue I had was the lack of breaking balls Chapman threw to Guyer and Davis. Other than that, he managed a solid game. Twitter is great, but the platform it provides for first and second guessing people who do these things for a living is extremely tilting to me. The American League appears as wide open as ever going into the offseason, and should make for some interesting mergers and acquisitions.
As a side note, I was fortunate enough to attend a game at Wrigley Field last season. Walking out of the ballpark, I was 100% certain that a World Series was in their near future. For a change, I was right. Congrats Cubbies!
THE GOOD OLE DAYS SYNDROME?
The NFL no longer captures my heart and imagination the way it once did. Why? Is it because I no longer have an allegiance to a particular franchise (we’ll get into that some other time)? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was dead set on coaching as a lifelong profession and was unfortunately derailed? Maybe it has something to do with the scars that a decade plus of gambling has left behind? These all probably contribute to my personal reduction of interest in the NFL. But many of my peers feel the same way as I do without these common background denominators. I’ve decided the main reason I enjoyed the game more in the good ole days is that greed has infiltrated the sport.
Roger Goodell’s sole job is to grow NFL revenue. He has done so exponentially. The problem is his methods were shortsighted and greedy.
The first way his greed has manifested itself is the Thursday night games and London package. In the age of on-demand and Netflix, networks yearn for live television, and sports is the ultimate reality show. This is why Thursday night and London were spawned. The product is guaranteed to be worse when teams have half the time to prepare. The London games tend to be competitive but the before and after effect of such a trip can’t be good for the rhythm of a team. Aside from the NFL being a better product when it’s Sunday at 1, the plethora of game slots has watered down interest. I can honestly say I’ve watched very few Thursday night/London games. It’s just too much football.
The overabundance of time slots is a factor for sure, but the way they have tinkered with the game itself has really been what’s ruined it for me. Offense sells. 95% of all rule changes since 2003 have been to aid the offense. Fantasy football is 99% driven by offense. The game has been skewed immeasurably.
Finding myself more entertained by the college product, I did some research. Aside from pass interference being a spot foul in the NFL and only a 15-yard penalty in college, there is a much more important difference. The number one rules contrast between the college and pro game is the lack of illegal contact in NCAA football. In college, you are allowed to be physical on receivers and collision routes down the field as long as the ball is not in the air. In the NFL, you cannot touch a WR beyond 5 yards unless the quarterback is scrambling. I remember where I was when the game was played that caused this rule to be changed. In a 2004 AFC playoff game between the Colts and the Pats, New England completely shut down the vaunted passing attack of the Colts by absolutely beating the piss (pardon my French) out of the receivers. Bill Polian, the Colts General Manager at the time, served on the NFL competition committee. The next year, illegal contact was implemented as a 5-yard penalty and an automatic first down. The game has never been the same.
I did a study using data from footballoutsiders.com comparing college football to the NFL. My findings were very interesting. Without throwing out all the numbers, the results showed that prior to a plethora of rule changes, defensive and offensive rankings were equally indicative of what teams made the playoffs and won championships. Currently, the top offenses in the NFL are 18 games above .500, and the top defenses a mediocre 4 games above .500. Switching to college, the top defenses are as follows: Alabama, Wisconsin, LSU, Florida, Colorado, Michigan, Clemson, Ohio State, Auburn, Washington, Louisville, and Boise State. These teams are 74 and 11. These are pretty much the best teams in the country. There is a smattering of top offenses as well, but defense is far more indicative. This is the game I recognize. This is the game I love. This is the game that no longer exists in the NFL. What a shame. GFY commish and all you fantasy nerds too! Thanks for nothin’
NOW WITH THAT OFF MY CHEST, LETS HAVE A LOOK AT WEEK 9
Thursday night was yet again unwatchable. I watched a drive where Julio Jones ran a 12-yard dig 3 plays in a row, and caught all 3, virtually uncontested. Go ahead, try to stop that route without getting hands on or being able to earhole him upon making the catch. Arena football. Makes me sick. I’ll stop now.
Some nice rivalry games on the slate this weekend. The Jets head to South Beach to take on the fighting Jay Ajai’s. These aren’t great football teams, but there’s no love lost in this matchup. Should be a physical game for a change. The loser is virtually eliminated. The winner is likely to also soon be virtually eliminated. May the lesser loser win.
Can the Giants get on track vs the Eagles? They are yet to fire on all cylinders but certainly have plenty of weapons making them an excellent arena league team (sorry, can’t help myself). In all fairness, I believe that if the Giants can form some semblance of a running game, they will have every chance to make a run in 2016. I like them this week.
Detroit squares off against Minnesota in the old black and blue division. Hope everything is ok with Norv Turner. Very off that an NFL lifer would flat-out quit in week 8. This game will put some of my new theories to the test as Detroit is sporting the 11th most efficient offense in the NFL to Minnesota’s 24th. I’ll take the lions to pull off the upset on the road.
The Steelers Ravens is essentially a fist fight. Baltimore just can’t score and I think the terrible towels will go home happy on Sunday with or without Big Ben.
The last rivalry is Broncos Raiders. These teams hate each other. I hate the Raiders. Go Denver.
Enjoy (or at least try to) Week 9 in the league where they play….. for pay.
AN NCAAF MAGICIAN NEVER REVEALS HIS TRICKS
If you are actually reading this, you probably know enough about me to draw your own conclusions on how I made these picks. Let’s stay hot and good luck all!