Ain't that a Kick in the Head...or a Football to the Face

The 2013 NFL Season

 


Next time your friend(s) argue with you over the notion of the NFL fixing their own games for "entertainment purposes," higher ratings, more profit, etc. drop this little nugget on them: The NFL earns approximately $6 billion a year (more than 60% of its revenue which is enough to pay every players' and coaches' salary in the league) from its TV broadcast partners - ABC/ESPN/Disney, NBC, CBS/DirectTV, and FOX. Only Time Warner isn't directly involved with the NFL, though they do own Sports Illustrated and HBO - which aired Inside the NFL for 31 years. NO OTHER BUSINESS IN THE UNITED STATES IS DIRECTLY AFFILIATED WITH OR FUNDED BY THESE MAJOR MEDIA CONGLOMERATES EXCEPT THE NFL. Think about the implications of that.

Also, due to the release of Larceny Games and all that goes along with that, I will not be running my penalty watch this season.

  The Preseason

Despite all of the other nonsense you read - "information" like who to draft for your fantasy league, how crazy Rex Ryan is (and how bad the Jets may be), the continuing saga of Tim Tebow - the only story of note was the NFL pressuring ESPN into backing off from their participation in PBS's Frontline documentary about concussions.

However, something I feel is completely overlooked in regards to this subject matter is the impact of steroids on these repetitive brain injuries. I think we can all admit that NFL players today are nearly superhuman, especially considering the size, speed and strength they all possess.  A player like Cam Newton (6'5", 245 lbs) would've been a monstrous defensive lineman 20 years ago. Today he is a quarterback. Despite the NFL's supposed crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs of many types (not all), there is little doubt that many, many players are not naturally this large, fast and strong. This means the impacts they create amongst themselves are more violent than they should be. Undoubtedly, this leads to more injuries and most likely, more brain injuries like concussions. Are the NFL owners really to blame for that aspect of this issue? No. It's the players and their union who continually protect the "cheaters" who are in many ways only damaging themselves. But, hey, no reason to rush HGH testing, right?

 Week 1

Ah, nothing like an entire off-season to get all the kinks worked out of the NFL's rules, right? And nothing like witnessing two prominent games get outright altered by incorrect calls. First there was the Packers-49ers game as seen in the video here which it seems was messed up in several ways and led to the harshest discipline the NFL can hand out to a referee, by downgrading Bill Leavy. Then, in the second game of the Monday Night Football doubleheader, the referees wrongly gave the Texans an extra set of downs which led to a touchdown and helped propel them to a win over the Chargers.

Two screw jobs, and yet NFL ratings were through the freakin' roof. Oh yes, the Packers-49ers game was the highest rated TV since the Academy Awards back in February, and Monday night's Eagles-Redskins game was the highest ever rated opener for ESPN. Apparently fans just don't care if games can be and/or are manipulated....they just want their football.

Oh, yeah. And somehow, someway the Jets won.
 


 Week 2

There's only one stat you need to know thus far into the 2013 NFL Season. Well, maybe two. The first, less important statistic is that Week 1 saw the most passing yards for a single week in all of NFL history...until this week. What do great passing games bring? High scores, exciting games, and superstar quarterbacks for the NFL to promote. The league used to mock the high flying' style of the 1960s AFL - now it's become what it once laughed at.

The more important stat is this: 32 games played thus far, and 22 ended with a margin of victory of 7 points or less. Close games keep people watching to the bitter end, something the NFL and its broadcasting/advertising partners love.

But it's all just a coincidence, right?



 Week 3

Who was paying any attention to the Browns vs. Vikings game this week? My guess? Hardly anyone, but that's the best time to sneak one by NFL fans.

Both teams stink, but the Browns were in an arguably bigger tailspin. Sure, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf just lost a $84.5 million dollar judgement against him (where he was accused of acting "mob-like"), but the team's stadium deal is in place.

However the Browns had some 'splainin' to do to their fans after trading away the former #3 overall draft pick and "building block" Trent Richardson to the Colts. On top of that seemingly strange move, the team benched starting QB Brandon Weeden in favor of Brian Hoyer. All of this caused bettors to pile on the home favored Vikings in the game. But guess what happened?

The Browns won.

Why? Besides the betting aspect of it all, perhaps they won because the Browns have three straight home games, one of which is a prime time Thursday night game against Buffalo. This win, this glimmer of hope will fill seats and make both fans and the still-under-investigation-by-the-FBI owner Jimmy Haslam happy...for a while, at least. And best of all, no one seemed to notice.
 


 Week 4

It's a tale of two Mannings. To begin with, the first family of football was officially sainted with the broadcast premiere of ESPN's The Book of Manning. Ick.

But on the field, the brothers' paths have officially diverged. Peyton is doing his part to set the NFL record books on fire while football pundits everywhere are drooling over the Broncos, already setting their places at the Super Bowl table (to rematch Drew Brees and the Saints, perhaps?).

Meanwhile, Eli and the Giants are falling off the proverbial cliff. Their 0-4 start, though, shouldn't be a surprise to anyone due to the "curse" which has prevented any host city from seeing their team play in the Super Bowl. The NFL has been an amazing 0-47 when it comes to seeing a team play a "home" Super Bowl. With the Giants tanking while the anemic Jets somehow sit at 2-2, it doesn't appear as if this bizarre streak is going to end this year.


 Week 5

How 'bout them Cowboys, huh? More like, how about that 4th highest scoring game in NFL history between the Broncos and Cowboys? You like that game, NFL purists? Because let me tell you right now, this game is a vision of the future of the NFL.

Did you catch the PBS Frontline documentary League of Denial about brain injuries in the NFL? If not, watch it here. Then realize because of this, and the resultant class-action lawsuit filed by affected players, the NFL you know and love is going to cease to exist in the matter of a decade. What it will be replaced by will resemble Sunday's duel between Manning and Romo. Wide open, high scoring, and not a lot of punishment (plus, close games to the bitter end). If you don't like it, get out now because it won't get better.

Also, how many chances were the refs going to give the falling Falcons on Monday Night? Sheesh. Two fourth-and-goal fails saved by penalties on the Jets? And the Jets still won. Figure that out.

 


  Week 6

Boston Strong, anyone?

Talk about a boon for Fox Sports. The network first broadcasts the featured 4 pm NFL game - Saints vs. Patriots. So what happens? Led by all-everything-that's-not-Peyton-Manning, Tom Brady, the Patsies are gifted not one, but two, late 4th quarter chances to win the game. The Saints could've put away the game twice, but instead settled for a field goal to go up 4 points, then have to punt to the Patriots. Brady takes this second chance, marches 70 yards in less than 90 seconds without a time-out at his disposal, and wins the game with a touchdown pass on which no one on the Saints plays defense.
In other words - the Saints handed them a win.

This is immediately followed by Game 2 of the Red Sox vs. Tigers ALCS. The Tigers led 5-1 going into the bottom of the 8th, then began another inexplicable Boston comeback. With two outs in the inning and two men on, Boston loads the bases and David Oritz hits a game-tying grand slam. Ok, fine. Then comes the bottom of the 9th. Johnny Gomes singles, reaches second on a wild throw, gets to third on a wild pitch, and scores the winning run on a single.

Suspect? One comeback, maybe not. Two, involving the same city on the same network in the same night...?


 Week 7

From Boston Strong to Boston Weak. This time around, the Red Sox lose Game 3 of the World Series on the "walkoff obstruction" call, and a few days earlier, the Patriots lose on the new rule instituted this season against pushing lineman into the offensive formation during a kick. There was much confusion - some called conspiracy because of a late change to the NFL's website regarding the rule - but apparently this was correctly enforced. Well, this time. Thanks to the Jets alerting the officials prior to the game. (it's Spygate all over again). There are other examples of this infraction not being called at all...which is why the NFL is so open to manipulation. Subjective calls like this are not made on a consistent basis. Sometimes a team lives by the sword, and sometimes they die by it.

Meanwhile, in the Peyton Manning homecoming event, it was Andrew Luck rising to the top. All those pundits claiming Peyton was going to make Colts owner Jim Irsay pay for his negative comments (albeit true comments) were wrong. Of course, the Manning on display Sunday night looked nothing like the Manning we've seen in the first six weeks of the season. Was he tanking it to satisfy the fans in the "Dome Manning Built?"
 

 Week 8

The Fix Is In was on vacation and attempted to avoid all things electronic as well as all things sports. Boy, was it nice.

I did hear that the ending of the Patriots vs. Dolphins game was a bit suspect. The odd "illegal swatting of the ball" penalty on a fumble recovery cost the Dolphins a late TD and allowed the Patriots to cover the spread. The Packers allowed the Vikings to stick around a little too long in their Sunday Night game, perhaps to battle the World Series in ratings. Other than that...who knows? Who cares?

I didn't.



 Week 9

This photo is not what the NFL wants to see. Two star quarterbacks injured and unable to play. However, this is becoming a rather disturbing trend in the league as quarterbacks are dropping like flies each and every week. So far this season, 13 teams have been forced to start more than one quarterback due to injury. If the NFL is going to promote its star QBs, they need them to be on the field. To correct this, expect fewer holding penalties, more "personal fouls" for late hits on QBs, and further refinements within the game to make it less and less violent.

Elsewhere, we saw two big-time teams make late game comebacks. First, the Buccaneers (with a back-up QB) blew a 21-point lead over the Super Bowl contending Seahawks and lost in OT. Then in the Sunday night game, the Texans (with their back-up QB and back-up head coach) also let a 21-3 halftime lead vanish and lost 27-24 to the Colts. Oh yeah, and the Jets won again. WTF?
 

 Week 10

The Fix Is In was working Las Vegas this week, and didn't really watch any of the games. I know, I know, two weeks in this list have been lost due to vacation. But if it's any consolation, here's my Super Bowl pick:

The Lions to win it all. And you can see, I put my money where my mouth is.

Of course, part of this bet had to do with the odds (35/1). I still believe Peyton & Co are the best pick, but if I'm going to lay out some cash, I might as well get the best bang for the buck.


 Week 11

Two games, two subjective calls, two altered outcomes. Of course, the NFL backs its referees on both decisions. What else could/would they do? Admit their officials turned wins into losses (or vice versa)? The fact of the matter is, referees do this each and every week - it's just not always this obvious.

In the SF-NO game, as you can see in the slo-mo replay, Drew Brees (who should forever forward have the nickname of "turtle neck") was NOT hit in the throat. As he fell, yes, he was wrapped up around the neck, but so what? As Adrian Peterson has pointed out, the new NFL rules are designed to "baby" their QBs. Why? Because these are the league's money-makers. The league wants exciting, hi-scoring games and only great QBs can provide that. So Brees and NO are given a 15-yard bonus which leads to victory.

In the Monday night affair between CAR-NE, for once Brady & Co wasn't given the benefit of the doubt. How a clear pass interference is ruled an uncatchable ball is beyond me. It was uncatchable because Gronk was being held/interfered with! But so be it...the Panthers covered thanks to the call.
 




"Parity" is a wonderful thing for the NFL...to hide behind. They want fans to believe that "any given Sunday" any team can beat their opponent. Of course, if you drill that mindset into fans, then they won't question any "unusual" victories they happen to see. This allows the NFL plenty of leeway to manipulate outcomes because, hey, any given Sunday...

 Week 12

The marquee match-up of the week was certainly Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning. Thanks to turnovers, the Broncos jumped out to a 24-0 lead....then promptly blew it, rallied to tie, then lost in OT. Could this game have gone any other way? Many like-minded fans smelled a rat here. A future Hall of Famer in Manning couldn't hold a 24-point lead? Not when TV ratings are threatened he can't.

But the tide may be turning just a little bit. First, Sporting News actually ran a piece on how the "bad calls" have changed the playoff picture of many teams (that's right, one call can alter the outcome of a game). Then Pro Football Talk (of all places) published an article which discusses all the inconsistencies in recent referees' calls.

But games can't be fixed...naw.



 Week 13

Honestly, this stuff almost writes itself. I don't think you really need me to point out this nonsense. It's self explanatory now.

What do I need to say? The only really shocking thing this week was the Saints inability to keep up with the Seahawks on Monday night. Considering it was the first real prime match-up on Monday Night Football in some time, I thought the game would be a force-fed nail-biter, not a laugher. Otherwise, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin tried to cheat by pulling a Jason Kidd, but denied it. The Raiders kept people interested in Turkey Day football by sticking around longer than many would believe against the Cowboys. New England again faltered in the first half, only to again come back and win against the lowly Texans. And Sunday night, the Giants finished off the RGIII myth-building experiment thanks to a questionable ending.

It's just another typical NFL week.

 
Ha! The Baltimore news network that posted the best angle on Tomlin's "trip" had their video yanked...by the NFL I would presume

 Week 14

Remember last year when fans were calling for the heads of the replacement referees whose calls were altering the outcomes of games?

Well, buried beneath the snow on Week 14 were (at least) two horrible calls--both of which went the home teams' way and altered the outcomes of the games.

The most egregious of them was the pass interference call at the end of the Browns-Patriots game. This wasn't pass interference, yet the call basically gave the Pats yet another come-from-behind win (shades of Spygate continue to linger).

Then there were the calls in the wild Vikings-Ravens game. They were so one sided, Adrian Peterson called the refs out after the game. The clinching call against Minnesota negated a game-sealing interception, and set up Flacco & Co up for the winning score. This game was so poorly officiated, the NFL--unsolicited--called Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier to discuss it.


I'm sure you could add a call or two yourself to this list (like the non-TD that the referees gave to Bengals RB Green-Ellis "upon further review"). But are any pundits calling for a change in the way things are done in the NFL? Nope. All is well...

 Week 15

Ho boy. Wondering how/why the Packers came back and won; the Lions dropped yet another winnable game; the Broncos, Patriots, and Saints lost; the Steelers wiped the floor with the Bengals; and the Vikings rolled the Eagles?

The answer is obvious: to set up several Week 17 "grand finales."


If all holds up, Week 17 will feature three pre-playoffs playoff games: Bears v. Packers, Bengals v. Ravens, and Eagles v. Cowboys. As it's certain one of these games is "flexed" to Sunday night, it'll probably give FOX, CBS, and NBC each one of these "can't-miss" match-ups.

Week 17 may also feature very meaningful games with Jets v. Dolphins, Chiefs v. Chargers, and 49ers v. Cardinals.

This is exactly what the NFL wants and needs to survive: Increased interest, plenty for pundits to talk about/hype, and the season coming down to the final week.

So why is Dez crying?
 

   Week 16

The tweet on the left is what I posted prior to the 1 pm kickoffs on Sunday. It was, as history has shown, 100% correct. The Cowboys won, the Packers lost, and thus the Eagles beat the Bears. Of course, each of these three games were interesting for other reasons.
First, Tony Romo led the Cowboys to a last second win, then had to undergo season ending back surgery. The Packers lost, but perhaps only because the referees interfered with the very end of the game (and people think I make this stuff up). Finally, the Bears had every reason to win Sunday night as it would've made their Week 17 match-up with the Packers meaningless. But the NFL couldn't have that. Thus, the Eagles--who were playing for nothing as their Week 17 game vs. the Cowboys was the only one which mattered--crushed the Bears.

There were other questionable instances in other games as well (the entire SEA-AZ game comes to mind). But what all of this does is set the table for a bountiful NFL Week 17. In fact, out of the 16 games to be played, by my count 13 of them have playoff implications whether it be who's in/out or home field advantage.

Funny how that worked out, isn't it?

 Week 17

Packers-Bears. Chiefs-Chargers. Eagles-Cowboys.

I think the video explains it all.
..Well, it did until YouTube yanked it, posting: "This video contains content from NFL, The Harry Fox Agency, Inc. (HFA), ATO Records and Warner Chappell, one or more of whom have blocked it on copyright grounds." But the email notice I received said, "Your video, "The Fix Is In Presents: The NFL & Its Referees Rigging the 2013 Season ("Bad" Calls)" may have content that is owned or licensed by NFL. As a result, the video has been blocked on YouTube."

So to be certain, I reposted the video without the musical background. Now if it's pulled, I'll know the NFL was behind it. Then I'll fight it until the bitter end. Posted here is the revised, non-musical version with the exact same visual content.
 


Wild Card Weekend

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (from the video linked in the photo posted to the left): "...It's one of the great things about the NFL, besides the fact that it's unscripted..." Why would he need to make such a comment without provocation?

That aside, the NFL is going to expand the playoffs (also discussed in that video), so Week 17 (soon to be Week 19 or 20 when the league moves to 18 games) can be more meaningful to more teams. Who cares about quality when you can have quantity? And with the success of recent Wild Card teams who have won the Super Bowl (like last year's Ravens), the fans are already
conditioned to buy into this.

So when the Chargers gets 18,000,000 breaks to reach the playoffs, then knocks off the Bengals when Andy Dalton gives them the game (repeatedly), everyone will simply cheer. Or when the Chiefs put up a 38-10 halftime lead and the home town Colts storm back to win, everyone can celebrate the abundance of offense the league has bless us with. And when the referees decide it's too cold to throw any legitimate flags against either the 49ers or the Packers, everyone can be happy the refs are "letting them play."

Enjoy your expanded playoffs...



Divisional Playoffs

Um....Marques...what?

I can't point to any single play or moment in any of these four games that would make me say, "This was fixed for Team X." But consider this: it was just as possible for the Conference Finals to be Saints v. Panthers and Colts v. Chargers. Would the hype and storylines be just as compelling to pundits and fans alike had this been the case?
Is Newton-Brees the same as Wilson-Kaepernick? Maybe. But Luck-Rivers is not Brady-Manning by any stretch. Food for thought.

What is also interesting is just a month ago, CBS Sports posted this article about certain NFL referees being downgraded after poor performances on Thanksgiving. This would likely cost them playoff assignments. Sounded good, but the two refs under fire - Blakeman and Triplette - have worked playoff games. Blakeman oversaw the SD-DEN game, and Triplette was unleashed in the SD-CIN contest. Did they heed the NFL's mandate to call more penalties, and more importantly, call them the right way?

So here's my tweet from Dec. 30th. Not exactly a perfect prediction, but more right than wrong....

 

Conference Finals

The NFL's media front asked it's fans what Super Bowl it wanted, and then the league delivered. A #1 seed vs. a #1 seed in America's biggest game held in America's biggest media market. How unlikely, right?

Honestly, I received 50+ emails from fans and every single one said that they thought the NFL was giving Manning the Super Bowl. I did not have one person say they thought some other team would win it all for some other reason. Has it become that transparent?

In the NE-DEN game, to me, it felt like Brady, Belichick and Co. knew it was in the bag for Manning. Brady missed several throws he almost always makes, the "genius" Belichick couldn't get his defense to touch Manning in the pocket, and had the Broncos not screwed up themselves, this game wouldn't have been as close as it seemed.


As for the SF-SEA game, when that clear fumble on the goal line was upheld by replay, then SEA fumbled it away anyway, yet Kaepernick threw an INT directly into a SEA DB's hands, I knew this game was over. While I can't stand Harbaugh's constant screaming on the sidelines, he had many legitimate gripes against that "All-Star Officiating Crew" assembled for the game. It was a bit lopsided in SEA's favor.

Oh, and Richard Sherman's post game "interview" was straight out of the WWE's playbook. As if the lines weren't blurred enou
gh.

 

Super Bowl 48

(I never rewrite these posts. It's an integrity thing I guess. But I did change this one about 24 hours after I posted my original thoughts on Super Bowl Sunday itself. A fan named Richard pushed me, for the proper reasons. I think I was just in the wrong state of mind during the first take.)

If a boxer is going to tank a match, he doesn't go 10 or 12 rounds then take the dive. He goes down early because he doesn't want to take the unnecessary punishment. Well, that is exactly what the Broncos did here: they went down on the first offensive play of the game (leading to a score at the highly coincidental time of :12 seconds a la the Seahawks' "12th Man." And this happened again at the start of the 2nd half. Can I see some odds on that?)

Granted, the previous top seven scoring teams in NFL history never won a Super Bowl. But none of them were so decimated as the Broncos were, scoring a mere 8 points in the biggest game of the freakin' year (against a Seahawks defense that really feasted on many, many bad offenses during the regular season). You can argue that a great defense always beats a great offense, but seriously, was that anywhere near the Broncos record-setting offense we've seen all year? Down 20+ points and running? Punting? Wide receivers running 2 or 3 yard routes when they needed 5 yards, catching the ball, then running backwards as opposed forward for a first down? And Manning - five-time MVP Peyton Manning of all QBs - missing WRs, taking quick checkdowns, and not making smart decisions? What happened to that reputation for relentless practice? What happened to "Omaha?" A little crowd noise and a bit of pressure (no sacks, mind you) were enough to derail this freight train? No. This wasn't a choke job. It was something else.

As a lead up to this game, Vegas was taking all the Denver money they could get. It moved the line from being SEA -2 to DEN -2.5. The public was taken. As the "smart" money poured in late in the week on Seattle, the line didn't budge back the other way. Vegas knew. They saw this coming. And they made a freakin' bundle.

And the NFL along with FOX? Well, we all knew the ratings would be huge. A #1 faced a #1. People were stoked for this game. And despite what they were witnessing, I believe many, many fans continued to watch because they knew a Manning comeback was brewing. Heck, we've seen unbelieveable comebacks all NFL season long. Why wouldn't one happen here? Well, it ain't coming if the team is laying down. But until even Troy Aikman said, "This game is over" at the start of the 4th quarter, I don't think many people believed it.

Well, it's over all right. Long over.


See ya next year!