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Fixing The NFL

November 14, 2008 - John Whittaker

Editor's Note: Sorry for the lack of activity this week -- more pressing matters demanded my attention! Won't happen again, for a while, at least. Next week, look for a posting on the auto industry bailout, a Syracuse basketball preview and the regular picks post.

I'm scared for our NFL, my fellow football fans.
On Thursday, the Jets and Patriots met up for one of the most heated rivalries on the Eastern Seaboard, if not in all of professional sports.
I couldn't watch it.
Neither could Pat Fanelli, a Jets fan in our newsroom.
Think of how many thousands of Jets and Patriots fans couldn't see a game between two teams tied for first place in their division, with the whole Spygate/Ty Law/Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini relationship between them?
I watched Survivor and Family Guy because the NFL Network isn't available here. And so, while my beloved Patriots were battling the Jets for the division lead, I was watching the leader of the most powerful tribe on Gabon get voted off of Survivor and Peter Griffin's three-year-old antics on a Family Guy re-run.
I enjoyed myself, don't get me wrong. But, I would have rather enjoyed making some taco dip, cracking open a Pepsi or a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat and watching the Pats game. In the middle of Family Guy, it came to me - the NFL is in trouble, and the Whitless Wonder, the smartest guy I know, has the reasons why.
1. The league is over-extended. Remember when football was played on Sundays and Mondays, with a few Saturday afternoon games thrown in late in the season when the colleges were finished? Joe Football Fan would tune in to a one-hour pre-game show on ESPN or the football networks, get filled in on what was happening around the league, and then watch games all day Sunday. After Monday Night Football, there was quiet. Peaceful quiet. Now, there's NFL Live four times a day, six hours of pre-game shows, multiple highlight shows, breaking news on ESPN, the NFL Network and the Internet. Sometimes, less is more.
2. The game has gotten away from its roots. Remember Chuck Bednarik's hit on Frank Gifford in 1960? If you're my age, you didn't see it in person, but I'll almost guarantee you've seen pictures of Bednarik glowering over a lifeless, pre-Kathie Lee, Frank Gifford. Now, that hit would have netted Bednarik a $50,000 fine. How many fines would Lawrence Taylor have been hit with in his prime? Good Lord, Deacon Jones' headslap would have cost him an entire year's salary. Now, I'm ticked that Tom Brady is out for the season, but it was a football play. That's that. But, I see hits a lot more legal than the one that knocked Brady out for the season that have flags thrown or fines levied the day after the game. It's ridiculous. Football's violent, and that's why girls don't play the game. Enough with the fines. Enough with the sissification of football.
3. Uncomplicate the rules. I think I'm a knowledgeable football fan, but I can't tell you what the rules are for a catch to be a catch anymore. It used to be, if you caught the ball and the ball didn't touch the ground, it was a catch. Now, you have to have "complete control,' the ball can't move at all once it enters your hands until you reach the ground. Of course, if you're a running back, the ground can't cause a fumble. But, if you're a wide receiver making a diving catch, and you land on your back with the ball and it pops out when you hit, it's incomplete. What is and isn't holding? De-clarify the pass interference rules. Illegal contact is a joke. And, the next penalty I see for teams lined up without a receiver on the correct side of the line will probably make my head explode. It's football, for crying out loud, not investment banking.
4. Take some of the technology out of the game. Remember when Jim Kelly was all the rage because he called his own plays? Well, now, nobody except for Peyton Manning does that. Quarterbacks should call the plays, or they should have to run over and get them from the offensive coordinator. Why does a linebacker need to have a defensive coordinator giving him the defensive calls. Shouldn't the call be as simple as, cover the receivers and hit the running back so hard his girlfriend cries? Play the game between the lines.
5. Take football out of domes. No more domes. What are the iconic football images from the 1960s? I'll tell you what they are - Jim Brown slogging downfield in a rainstorm with mud up to his numbers and defenders hanging off of him, YA Tittle, slumped down after an interception, blood trickling from a cut on his face, knowing his career was over; that receiver who gets planted by a safety and gets up with grass planted in his facemask; steam rising from a player's head in the cold after he takes his helmet off; the fog game in 1988 between the Bears and Eagles in Chicago. That's football. Antiseptic football in a dome just doesn't feel right.
I'll get off my soap box now. On to the games:
Denver at Atlanta: The Falcons continue to ride the Matt Ryan Magical Mystery Tour to a win over the Broncos -- with a potential total of about 700 points scored. My only tip to gamblers, not that gambling is legal, is bet, if you were so inclined, the over.
Detroit at Carolina: Why did Detroit sign Daunte Culpepper and, in a game they were losing by about 300 points, let him throw the ball 10 times? If there is any one thing Culpepper does well, it's throw the ball deep. Don't you have as good a chance to win if you let him throw Hail Mary's for three straight downs for the whole game? I like Carolina to beat the Lionesses, probably by a lot.
Philadelphia at Cincinnati: For some reason, I keep thinking Philadelphia will win a wild card. To do so, they need to take care of business with Cincinnati this weekend. I respect Andy Reid a lot, but they should have won on Sunday night. How in the Wide Wide World of Sports do you off-tackle on fourth and 1 with 1:47 left, especially with Brian Westbrook, who does his best work outside the tackle box? The best runner on the team is Correll Buckhalter (not that he's very good). Philadelphia is a throwing team - the sooner they realize that, the better off they'll be. For Cincinnati, well, better luck in 2012.

Sir Cumference's Take:Philadelphia: This game has "ugly" written all over it, since I don't trust the Eagles to put bad teams away but I can't see the Bengals winning it.  20-14 with about 8 turnovers sounds right to me.
Chicago at Green Bay: I don't like Rex Grossman's chances at The Artist Formerly Known As Lambeau Field, so I think the Packers get back on the winning track this week. That story doesn't change if Kyle Orton comes back from his ankle injury. How is it, by the way, the AFC East gets all the "Tight Division Race' publicity when the NFC North has three teams within a game of each other. The Pack, at 4-5, is one game behind Minnesota and Chicago. Wait, I know why - all three teams have more flaws than Sarah Jessica Parker or your average Ashlee Simpson live concert appearance. Weak quarterbacking, so-so defenses, special teams meltdowns, coaching decisions that leave you scratching your head and waiting for the return of Jim Mora Sr. Ladies and gentlemen, your NFC North!
Houston at Indianapolis: I don't like Sage Rosenfels' chances of ending the Colts' run. I just don't. But, this isn't your father's Indianapolis team, this game will probably be close. A few years ago, you had the feeling if your team didn't score on every possession, they were getting killed by the Colts. Now, you have a good chance of winning if you score 21 points. I just don't like the Texans to score more than 10 this week - Sage Rosenfels is really terrible. On a side note, I don't know if I've seen anyone get old as fast as Marvin Harrison has. Wow - how's AARP treating you, Marv?
Tennessee at Jacksonville: I think the Jags do what the Bears and nine other teams couldn't - beat the Titans. It's gotta happen sometime, and I think Jacksonville, with their backs against the wall, will win a close one and put a dent in those Kerry Collins for MVP rumors.

Sir Cumference's Pick: Tennessee: Ugh.  I'm still not convinced that Jax is actually BAD, and they should play well in a divisional game at home.  Of course, I'm not exactly ready to throw any money against the Titans at the moment, either.  The Jags have struggled to run the ball recently, so I'm going to go with Tennessee, but I'm not entirely happy with that pick--this could easily be the week that the '72 Dolphins pop the champagne corks.
New Orleans at Kansas City: This game stinks more than me after eating a Western omelet. The giant flushing sound you hear Sunday will be coming from Arrowhead Stadium. What a load of crap this game is. The Saints win, but I implore you, don't watch this game. Having that much crap near your eyes could give you pinkeye.
Oakland at Miami: I'm drinking the Miami Kool-Aid against bad teams, which Oakland certainly qualifies as. I'll give Bill Parcells my Executive of the Year vote right now - Chad Pennington was a great pick-up for a team that had no quarterback, and they made the right call getting rid of Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor. But, if Bill wants a real challenge … Oakland awaits.
Baltimore at N.Y. Giants: I'm torn on this game, but I think the Giants win a close one. The Baltimore popsicles are good, but they're not THAT good. I'm not sure if Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense can handle Jim Spagnliolo's blitz packages, and I think the Giants will make enough plays to win this game.
Minnesota at Tampa Bay: Ugh. I guess Tampa Bay wins, but, ugh.

Sir Cumference's Take: Tampa Bay: I really hope this game is on TV here, it looks like the best of a pretty good Sunday slate and definitely the best of the late offerings.  By the way, I might be the only person on the planet desperately hoping the two Williamses get suspended, since I have a nice-looking play on Minny to finish second or third in the division, and they're looking somewhat capable of overtaking Chicago and holding off Green Bay right now.  Actually, Green Bay and Chicago fans are probably right with me on that one, so never mind.
St. Louis at San Francisco: Coming off last week, I think I like San Francisco in Crap Bowl II for this week. So much for Jim Haslett having his guys playing hard, huh? That lasted all of about two weeks. The 49ers have a little more talent, they're at home, and, frankly, I think Mike Singletary's head will explode if they lose another game like they did Monday night. For Mike's sake, I'm projecting a San Francisco win.
Arizona at Seattle: I think I like Arizona in a blow-out. The Cardinals left a lot of points on the field Monday night, and I don't see that happening two games in a row. How, though, is this team 7-2? Is this the most hollow 7-2 record in history? Could this be the worst team ever to have a top seed going into the playoffs? Will anyone be surprised when they lose in the playoffs? This paragraph has almost as many questions as the Cardinals' secondary, by the way.

Sir Cumference's Take: Seattle: Yes, they're terrible.  Yes, Arizona's pretty good.  But it looks like Hasselbeck is OK to play, and I think Seattle has a good chance of stealing this one--there's no way they're as bad as they've looked since he's been out, if only because Seneca Wallace & Charlie Frye make Bubby Brister wince when he watches them play.
San Diego at Pittsburgh: If you're Pittsburgh and Mike Tomlin, I think you hide Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle keys and keep him away from San Diego. You want him healthy for the playoffs, not getting beat up. Everybody's going to blitz the holy moly out of the Steelers now, knowing Roethlisberger isn't mobile and can't throw with much velocity. San Diego goes into the Ketchup Bottle By The River and knocks off the Steelers.
Dallas at Washington: I'm buying the triumphant return of Tony Romo on Sunday night being enough to right the Good Ship Jerry Jones. I can see a good quarterback opening up running lanes for Marion Barber, getting the ball to Terrell Owens and driving the Redskins crazy. Besides, what fun would it be if one team in the NFC East was out of the race this soon?
Cleveland at Buffalo: Buffalo absolutely has to win this game. If they lose, they're out of the division race. Sorry Bills fans, but I don't see it happening. I know my buddy Bussman will be rooting for the Bills, but he won't be too displeased to see Brady Quinn, another rival quarterback for whom he has a bit of a man crush, throw for three touchdowns and about 280 yards on his boys Monday night.

 

Whitless wonders

Finn

Sir Cumference

Teddy

Simon Teska

Season Record

197-90

202-95

201-96

198-91

171-104

Previous Week

22-8

22-8

25-5

23-7

21-9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denver at Atlanta

ATL

ATL

ATL

ATL

DEN

Detroit at Carolina

CAR

CAR

CAR

CAR

CAR

Philadelphia at Cincinnati

PHI

PHI

PHI

PHI

PHI

Chicago at Green Bay

GB

GB

GB

GB

GB

Houston at Indianapolis

IND

IND

INDY

INDY

INDY

Tennessee at Jacksonville

TEN

JAC

TENN

TENN

JAX

New Orleans at Kansas City

NO

NO

NO

KC

NO

Oakland at Miami

MIA

MIA

MIA

MIA

MIA

Baltimore at N.Y. Giants

NYG

NYG

NYG

NYG

NYG

Minnesota at Tampa Bay

TB

TB

TB

TB

MINN

St. Louis at San Francisco

SF

SF

SF

SF

SF

Arizona at Seattle

ARI

SEA

SEA

ARI

ARI

San Diego at Pittsburgh

SD

PIT

PITT

PITT

SD

Dallas at Washington

DAL

WAS

WASH

WASH

Dal

Cleveland at Buffalo

CLE

BUF

BUF

CLE

CLE

 

NCAA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama vs. Mississippi State

ALA

ALA

ALA

ALA

ALA

Florida vs. South Carolina

FLA

FLA

FLA

FLA

FLA

Texas at Kansas

TEX

TEX

TEX

TEX

TEX

Southern Cal at Stanford

USC

USC

USC

USC

STAN

Penn State vs. Indiana

PENN ST

PENN

PENN ST

PENN ST

PSU

Utah at San Diego State

UTAH

UTAH

UTAH

UTAH

UTAH

Boise State at Idaho

BOISE

BOISE

BOISE

BOISE

BOISE

Ohio State at Illinois

OHIO ST

OHIO

OHIO ST

OHIO ST

ILL

Oklahoma State at Colorado

OK ST.

OKL

OKLA ST

OKL ST

OKL ST

Missouri at Iowa State

MISS

MISS

MISS

MISS

MISS

Georgia at Auburn

UGA

UGA

UGA

UGA

UGA

BYU at Air Force

BYU

BYU

AI R FORCE

BYU

UFA

North Carolina at Maryland

UNC

UNC

MD

UNC

MD

LSU vs. Troy

LSU

LSU

LSU

LSU

LSU

Florida State vs. Boston College

FLA ST

BC

FLA ST

FLA ST

BC

Oregon State vs. California

CAL

CAL

ORE ST

ORE ST

ORE ST

Tulsa at Houston

TULSA

TUL

TULSA

TULSA

TULSA


 
 

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