The Preseason

The NFL decided paying its referees wasn't worth the price and willfully went into the 2012 season with less-than-prepared officials. What will that mean? Probably a ton of missed and/or bad calls coupled with copious amounts of official replays and coaches' challenges.

It also may offer the league a better way to manipulate their own games, but that remains to be seen.

And any concern for player safety, you know, by having qualified officials to monitor the action on the field? Well, who needs that in light of some 1,500+ former players suing the league due to "concussion related health issues."

And while the league states it's all for player safety, they decided to add a regularly scheduled Thursday night game, so players on two teams can get all of four days rest between smashing carelessly into one another. Hooray, NFL!


  Week 1

The replacement officials are driving the National Football League straight into the ground. Calls have been missed, the rules are ignored and/or forgotten, and players are being put in harm's way. Deadspin has a nice recap with video of all the botched calls.

But the NFL does not care. It is already prepared to last five weeks with these replacement officials, assuming the "real" refs don't cave (which isn't very likely as these guys have jobs outside of the NFL, unlike the weak-willed players

Then there's the immediate success of Subway & Gatorade's rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. Forgive me, but wasn't Andrew Luck the number one overall draft pick? Where's his mega-endorsement deal(s)?

Who wins in Week 1? RGIII. Who loses? Luck. How convenient.

Is it too coincidental to bring up the fact that RGIII's win came at the expense of the bounty-scandal plagued New Orleans Saints? Or that Peyton Manning's triumphant return was sealed by an interception of Ben Roethlisberger at the hands of Tracy Porter, the DB responsible for picking off Manning and winning the Super Bowl for the Saints?

What goes around, comes around.

Week 2

At least boxer Floyd Mayweather is happy. He cashed the ticket pictured to the right this past Sunday and posted it on Twitter.

As for the rest of NFL fandom, they have to continue to live with the replacement referees. Referees who (a) had ties to the Seattle Seahawks yet still officiated their Week 1 game vs. the Cardinals, (b) were known as a New Orleans Saints fan, and would've worked their Week 2 contest vs. the Panthers if not for a few ill-timed Facebook posts, and (c) play fantasy football, enough to tell Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy to step it up as the ref had him on his "team."

Will the NFL cave into their "real" refs? Nope. Why? Because this is a business, and even with the substitutes the NFL is making money. Anyone you know stop watching because of it?

Lastly, because it can't be helped, did you know the NFL has a dedicated Tim Tebow page on its website? Think he's going to play back-up to Mark Sanchez all year? Think again.


 Go figure. The NFL yanked this video.
 Week 3

Oh my.

The debacle that was the ending of the Green Bay Packers v. Seattle Seahawks game on Monday Night may have been the best ending to a football game I've ever seen. Why? Because the greedy NFL got EXACTLY what it deserved. Not that I believe the officials should receive all they are demanding, but because the league blathers on and on about its desire to preserve the "integrity" of the game. Well guess what? That's completely out the window now.

Perhaps even worse, what happened Monday night will allow many to forget what happened on Sunday Night between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens. This game was perhaps even more rigged than Monday Night's affair. First, the NFL plays up the death of Torrey Smith's younger brother and gifted the Ravens WR a pair of TDs. Then it gifted the entire Ravens team a win via bad calls and a game-ending field goal which may or may not have been good. Who could tell? One would guess the referees, but after all that's happened, can anyone be so sure?

And what will fans do? Stop watching? Will the players and coaches strike until the "real" refs return (and miss a paycheck)? The NFL owns this game, and until people understand this, these sorts of results are what they will continue to get - no matter who is calling these games.

 Week 4

The "real" refs were back, and immediately returned to their usual antics. They threw just one flag on both the Houston Texans and the New England Patriots during each team's respective victories.

But eyeball that New Orleans Saints vs. Green Bay Packers game a bit more closely. Here, the real referees managed to look a lot like their replacement brethren. Missed calls--no, make that bad calls--abounded in this game.

Yet they still managed to do two things right: they gave the Packers their win back from Monday Night's fiasco while ensuring the Saints remained punished for their sins (and by that I don't mean the nonsensical Bounty-gate. No, the Saints have the misfortune of hosting this year's Super Bowl, and no host team has ever played in that game - a 46-year long coincidence). How'd they do this? By flagging the Saints for holding on their go-ahead field goal late in the 4th quarter. The extra 10 yards (five of which the Packers bungled back to them when they couldn't stay onsides) apparently threw the Saints kicker enough to shank the re-attempted kick. Packers win, Saints cover. All is well in the NFL again.

Oh yeah, and an ESPN Monday Night Football poll already has fans clamouring for Tim Tebow to start for the Jets when they play on MNF in Week 5.


  Week 5

Did you really think the NFL would allow two excellent "feel good" stories go completely to waste by having the wrong team win?

First, the Colts had to defeat the Packers to honor of their leukemia-stricken head coach Chuck Pagano. I mean, this is (breast) cancer awareness month in the NFL. How would it look for the Packers to simply trounce a team led by a rookie quarterback, starting three backup defensive backs, and missing its head coach? Besides realistic, that is?

Then the poor Bounty-gate decimated 0-4 Saints (who were somehow favored over the 3-1 Chargers) were "allowed" to have their suspended head coach Sean Payton in the Superdome to witness Drew Brees break Johnny Unitas' TD-passing streak record. This might be the Saints' lone bright spot in the season, and the refs couldn't/wouldn't allow the Chargers to tie the game, much less win it and spoil all the adulation.

Oh yeah, and for some reason, the refs weren't about to allow the Chiefs to beat the Ravens. Why? Good question. But as bad as the calls were against the Chargers, they were just as bad - if not worse - against the Chiefs.

Week 6

I'll be honest, fans. I didn't watch a lick of football this weekend. The Fix Is In was on vacation. Well, first he had some business to attend to: his appearance on a panel discussing sports corruption and game fixing at the Florida State University Sports Management's 14th Annual Conference. You can watch the 2-hour presentation by clicking here.

Otherwise, I don't know...the Atlanta Falcons continue to win in the same fashion as the Green Bay Packers last year - by not getting flagged no matter which set of officials is calling the game (the Falcons have had 2 penalties called against them in 5 of their 6 games this season, Oh, and will football pundits quit referring to Matt Ryan as "Matty Ice?" He's 0-3 in the playoffs with more INTs that TDs.). And speaking of the Packers, they bounced right back while the Indianapolis Colts fell to earth making last week's meltdown look all the more suspicious.


  Week 7

So in the Thursday Night Football game between the Seahawks and the 49ers, a funny thing happened: Seahawks offensive lineman Paul McQuistan was flagged for an illegal chop block while in the endzone with :43 seconds left in the game. San Francisco's head coach Jim Harbaugh declined the penalty, which would have resulted in a safety and awarded 2 points to the 49ers while forcing the Seahawks to kick the ball as well. Harbaugh's decision to decline the foul gave the 49ers the ball anyway, and after a kneel down, the game was over.

49ers 13 - Seahawks 6.

But Harbaugh not taking the points meant the 49ers did not cover the point spread causing all sorts of speculation regarding his decision (though no one questioned the ref who threw the flag, giving the 49ers the cover in the first place). Supposedly, this changed the fate of some $75 million (which was a bit of an arbitrary number if you ask me) in favor of the sports books  - that's the legal books, and not the vast, worldwide illegal sports books which profited maybe 10 times more from Harbaugh's call. Was this a manipulation meant to save "Vegas" money? Some seem to think so...

To bookend this week, despite ample opportunities, the Bears could not put away the Lions on Monday Night. This kept a could've-been blowout interesting 'til the end (especially for bettors, as a last minute TD allowed the Lions to cover...and give Vegas yet another win).

 Week 8

Maybe it's just me, but this is shaping up to be one of the most boring NFL seasons in recent memory. What are the stories? The Falcons being undefeated? Yawn. RGIII and Luck not being complete first round busts? Yawn. Peyton Manning's return (and the Broncos likely return to the playoffs)? Yawn.

Where's Tim Tebow when you need him?

He's lurking. As expected, the Jets are faltering in the first part of the season as their fans grow restless for success - which they believe Tebow will bring. And as the trade deadline looms, talk again turns to Tebow heading back to Florida to take over in Jacksonville.
Something's gotta give on this front, otherwise this season's going to be a serious bore.

  Week 9

I know I'm going to sound cynical, and it's not that I wish any sort of ill will against Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano, but with the Colts win this week - which was followed by Pagano's emotional speech to the team afterwards - they are now in serious playoff contention. Should a team lacking their head coach and led by rookie QB (albeit #1 overall draft pick and rising star Andrew Luck) be in such a position? And if the season ended right here and now, guess who the Colts would match up with in the first round? That's right, the Denver Broncos and their QB Peyton Manning. How much would the NFL and CBS enjoy that?

Meanwhile, the Falcons remain undefeated. They also have had only two penalties called against them in six of their eight games with a total of 26 flags, 12 of which were procedural fouls like false starts which must be called. The other 14 were judgement calls, and half of those were assessed during the reign of the replacement refs. Discipline is one thing, this I would say is clear favoritism. Could it have anything to do with the team's desire to acquire a new stadium?

 Week 10

Andrew Luck & the Colts
are now officially a "thing" I guess. What I find curious is that their success - as in, true playoff contention - comes on the heels of the loss of their head coach (whom they are "fighting" for) Chuck Pagano. Maybe Pagano wasn't that important of a hire, huh?

More importantly comes this direct from the NFL's own "Communication" website (and I'm a week behind in posting this which was dated Nov. 7th): "At the halfway point of the 2012 NFL season, more than 172 million fans have tuned in to NFL games for good reason…they have been captivated by the fantastic finishes. Nearly one quarter of NFL games (31 of 132) have had the winning score in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or in overtime – the highest rate ever through Week 9 since at least 1970.

"NFL games account for the 14 most-watched programs on television since the NFL season kicked off on Sept. 5. Through Week 9, NBC’s Sunday Night Football is the most-watched show in primetime and ESPN’s Monday Night Football is the most-watched program on cable."

Adding on to this is the fact that SNF wasn't decided until the final minute of the game and MNF went into OT as did the strange SF-STL tie. All just "luck."


 Week 11

Coincidence, the reality of NFL football, or something else?

The playoff picture right now has the following teams in:

Texans, Ravens, Patriots, Broncos, Colts and Steelers. NFC: Falcons, 49ers, Packers, Giants, Bears, and Seahawks.

This puts the following QBs in the playoffs:
Matt Schaub, Joe Flacco, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, and Russell Wilson.

Now I ask, given that the NFL and the TV networks admitted in this New York Times article that "quarterbacks drive ratings," is it odd that not a single "big name" QB isn't on this potential playoff list? Who's missing? Perhaps only Drew Brees, Tony Romo, and rookie sensation RGIII, but all three of which have a chance to unseat the unpopular Cutler and unproven Wilson from the NFC picture.

It's easy to argue that you need a great QB to have a great team, but there are teams in very recent memory to win the Super Bowl without a great starting QB like the Buccaneers with Brad Johnson and the Ravens with Trent Dilfer. Would the NFL ever allow something like that to happen again? My money would be on "no," and not just because the league is turning into the old AFC (which was mocked by hard-core NFL fans in the 1960s for its reliance on the passing game).It's because, as the article points out, quarterbacks drive ratings.


Think the NFL isn't in Houston's corner this season? Somehow, Texans RB Justin Forsett was not ruled down by contact on this play. Of course, since it was a scoring play, by rule, it needed to be reviewed in the booth. Yet because Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was so dismayed at Forsett not being called down, he immediately - while the play was still ongoing - threw his challenge flag. Well, that apparently is a penalty, and by this obscure NFL rule, an automatically reviewed play isn't automatically reviewed IF a penalty is called delaying that review. Huh?

Well, this is how  these NFL (non-replacement) referees seem to be calling games of late: they flag the questionable calls, but leave the blatant ones alone.


  Week 12

Ray Rice's "miracle" 4th and 29 pass reception/run clearly showed how incompetent the San Diego Chargers are, right? In reviewing the play, perhaps the incompetence really falls to the referees who screwed up this call. Because as this video (freeze it at :20 to see the knee down) and the pictures below (the second of which was altered to remove the Chargers player by SB Nation) clearly show, Ray Rice was short of the first down.

As a fan, James, pointed out to me, with the 5'8" Rice having a knee down at the 35, there's no way he can reach the 33 1/2 yard line with the ball against his chest. Also, by the time Chargers coach Norv Turner asked for a review, the refs had already moved the chains, making it impossible to get a true measurement. I don't recall any football pundit pointing these truths out because these aren't the replacement refs, these are the real, infallible union approved refs and all is well.


 Week 13

I don't want to get into the whole controversy over what Bob Costas said (by quoting Jason Whitlock) on Sunday Night Football in regards to the tragedy surrounding Kansas City Chiefs LB Jovan Belcher this week. But don't for a second think the NFL did not know what Costas was going to say. Those weekly "rants" of his are not off-the-cuff by any means.

Meanwhile the ensuing game - which in my opinion should not have been played - between the 1-10 Chiefs and the visiting 3-8
Carolina Panthers was likely rigged by the NFL (1 penalty called against the Chiefs - a delay of game) to turn this situation into as much of a positive story as possible. As Rahm Emanuel once said, "Don't let a crisis go to waste..."

As this story gains attention, it's conveniently overlooked that the New England Patriots this week signed WR Donte Stallworth - a man who served time for killing a pedestrian while driving under the influence - without anyone raising an eyebrow or making bold public statements against the move.

Otherwise, the Giants were jobbed by the refs on Monday Night Football to keep the playoff hopes of Robert Griffin III alive. This may lead the NFL to having three highly touted rookie QBs - RGIII, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson - playoff bound.


  Week 14

Another senseless death in the NFL, another "emotional" win for the afflicted team.

I see little reason to pontificate on the arrest of Dallas Cowboys Josh Brent for second-degree felony intoxication manslaughter charge in the death of his friend and teammate Jerry Brown. If Bob Costas chickened out in saying anything about it, and instead deferred to Tony Dungy on the heels of being lambasted over his foolish comments the week before in the murder-suicide involving the Chiefs Jovan Belcher, why should I say anything?

The NFL knows full well many players have issues with alcohol. They do little about it. At the same time, just eyeball my Rap Sheet page and count how many NFL players have been arrested for DUI recently (and I'm sure I've missed a few in that rundown).
The NFL does not and has not suspended/fined players for this behavior. Should anyone be surprised what it's led to?

 Week 15

Apparently the Redskins have two rookies QBs worth their weight as Kirk Cousins heroics last week coupled with a win over the Browns vaulted the team right into the heart of the playoff race. Could it have anything to do with the fact that injured QB Robert Griffin III's jersey has sold the most copies in a single season in NFL history?

On another front, the Cowboys also remain in the hunt thanks to the NY Giants implosion versus the Falcons and the fact that despite the Steelers getting ZERO penalties called against them, they still couldn't pull out a win in OT. Could that have had anything to do with the Steelers coaching decisions that kept Roethlisberger from throwing the ball to Heath Miller (among other questionable play calling) in the second half after tearing the Cowboys up in the first?

And lastly, we have the Monday Night debacle. And by that I don't mean the play of Mark Sanchez. I mean the gift touchdown given to Chris Johnson who happened to be wearing shoes with the names of the children murdered in Newtown CT. His run of 94 yards can be seen below, but consider that had Johnson not broken off that run, he would've had 28 yards on 20 carries for the game. Where was the Jets defense on this play? They had eight men on the line of scrimmage with one safety back (who runs away from Johnson at the start of the play). But especially watch Jets #30 & #57 on the side CJ runs - they do nothing on the play. Compare this run to Adrian Peterson's 80+ yard TD run versus the Rams also seen below. Note how AP actually has to avoid tacklers to score whereas CJ's run is clear sailing.

  Week 16

Remember when being a rookie QB insured that your team was in its "rebuilding stage" and was years away from any real success? Well, that was before the NFL turned more and more into the NBA and began relying on this new blood to add excitement to its sport. In all likelihood, the three rookie of the year candidates RGIII, Luck and Wilson are playoff bound.

Of course, this comes on the heels of former rookie sensations Ben Roethlisberger's and Eli Manning's demise this season as both players and their respective teams have tanked the last few games to make these stories plausible.

The stage is also set for a couple of prime playoff match-ups/storylines: A rematch of the controversial MNF game between the Packers and Seahawks (featuring Wisconsin's former starting college QB in Wilson) and Peyton Manning vs. his former franchise the Colts with Luck. What else could the NFL want?

 Week 17

Well, that couldn't have worked out much better for the NFL than it did, could it?

First, the Lifetime movie known as the Colts came to a fitting conclusion with the return of leukemia-stricken head coach Chuck Pagano in an upset win over the #1 seed in the AFC the Houston Texans. This win dropped the Texans to #3, allowing for everyone's favorite Manning to move into the #1 slot and Brady to become the #2, setting up an epic battle between the two in the AFC Championship Game.

Meanwhile in the NFC, both the Giants and Bears won their games, forcing those fans to pay attention to the Packers-Vikings game until the very end. When the Vikings won (did it help that they "won" a new stadium deal this year as well?), it set up an instant playoff rematch between them and the Pack.

That left the final playoff spot to whichever team won the Sunday night game between the Cowboys and Redskins. Would the NFL allow the #1 selling jersey (Robert Griffin III) to lose such an important game? Tony Romo
sure wouldn't. His three horrid interceptions ensured the Redskins their first home playoff game since 1999.

  Wildcard Weekend

Wow. The Drudge Report is on the Seahawks bandwagon? I guess when wunderkind RGIII "lies" about his injury, something he's "he's been trained to do in situations like this" (as Yahoo! Sports "expert" Dan Wetzel wrote), what else can you go with?

Meanwhile, another injury - that being Christian Ponder's sudden absence come game time - made the Packers-Vikings game a complete non-issue.

Otherwise, the biggest, most hyped story seemed to be the Baltimore Ravens Ray Lewis (see ya next year, "ChuckStrong" Colts). You know Ray. He's the nice, friendly guy in the Madden '13 commercials with Paul Rudd. He's the guy already signed to an ESPN contract to become one of their talking-heads on game day. He's also the guy directly tied to a murder at a post Super Bowl party. Oh, forgot about that, did we? I bet the victims' - there were two that night - families haven't. But let's celebrate Ray and his last game at home in Baltimore.

 Divisional Playoffs

There's a lot to contemplate about these four games. Well, not too much in regards to the Patriots beating the Texans. The Patriots are like the Yankees, love 'em or hate 'em, you're going to watch them. And the Texans? Meh.

The Falcons almost blew it (again), but then still beat the Seahawks with a last second field goal. Why should the Falcons win? Owner Arthur Blank wants a new $1 billion stadium because the 21-year old Georgia Dome can't be upgraded; it must be replaced. But hey, good news! Only 30% of the stadium's funding would be raised via taxes

Call me crazy, but I think Colin Kaepernick is Tim Tebow 2.0. He runs, he throws (unlike Tebow), and if his tattoos are correct, he's quite religious (just not in the media's face with it). Plus, both Sports Illustrated and the Vegas sports books want to see a 49ers-Patriots Super Bowl.

Then there's the Broncos loss to the Ravens. Despite his willingness to take a knee while having two time outs and 30 seconds to play rather than, oh, I don't know, do exactly what the Falcons did to win their game and try to push the ball down field for a field goal attempt, Peyton Manning waited 30 minutes after losing the game to congratulate former murder suspect Ray Lewis. Glad we have this picture to prove this unscripted moment happened. Is this going to be the NFL's Super Bowl storyline? Ray Lewis's retirement and a Harbaugh Bros. match-up?


  AFC & NFC Championships

Seriously, Ray? Crying both before and after the game?

Are the Patriots still paying the NFL back for Spygate? Brady and Belichick tanked their game vs. the Ravens all in favor of the Ray Lewis retirement party that's been the prime story these past three weeks in the AFC. Sad display.

Sadder yet was the Falcons second collapse in as many weeks, only this time they couldn't pull out another last second miracle (why, by the way, did they not call one of their two remaining time outs after Matt Ryan was injured and they had a fourth down inside the 49ers' 10?).

So the Super Bowl is about to be played between the only two teams featured in Visa commercials (starring Ray Lewis and Jim Harbaugh). Of course, there's the Bud Light "lucky seat on the couch" commercial discussing the last 49ers Super Bowl as well (the only Bud Light "superstition" NFL ad to feature a single team). Coincidence? Perhaps. As, I suppose, the fact that two of the 32 NFL coaches in the world are brothers who will be squaring off against each other in the Super Bowl starring out-of-nowhere superstar Colin Kaepernick and suspected murderer Ray Lewis with, I'm sure, a nod to the recently deceased owner of the Ravens, bookmaker Art Modell.

Enjoy the two weeks of unending pregame hype, America!

 The Superduper Bowl

Where to begin?

The NFL began the year with replacement referees, and it apparently wanted to end the season the same way. Why was Jerome Boger named to be the head referee? And did he know that he and his cohorts could actually throw penalty flags? Never mind
the Ravens Cary Williams shoving the head linesman should have led to an immediate ejection; there were only seven flags in the whole game. Just one pass interference (strangely enough on the 49ers DB Chris Culliver, he of the anti-gay remarks), and not one holding penalty. Not one. None on Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return for a TD, none on the "safety" by the Ravens punter, none during the 49ers fourth down pass play, none anywhere...except, you know, if you actually saw any of these plays.
Like Jim Harbaugh, who publicly complained about the officiating, but has not been fined for these comments.

Then there was the blackout. Somehow the extended halftime didn't derail the Ravens momentum, but a record-tying kickoff return for a TD (to make the score 28-6) and a 35-minute power delay did. The game changed on a dime the moment the lights went out in New Orleans. No one knows why this happened, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apparently didn't care it was going on. But there's no way the NFL could've orchestrated this themselves. Just so you know.

And while the 49ers play calling could (and should) be called into question - especially when inside the Ravens' 10-yard line with less than two minutes to play - perhaps the team's preparations should be questioned as well. See the video here? Where the team's top stars are heading to the strip club, just to "relax?" Yeah, maybe that wasn't the best pre-game ritual. 

And lastly. Apparently the NFL wants fans to think of Ray Lewis as a perfect spokesman for the league. The guy who admittedly was involved in an unsolved, double-homicide - but who has since found God, but not enough God to relieve the anguish of the victims' families by apologizing or saying anything more about that night - and who uses PEDs. And cries. A lot. As if he might have some sort of emotional problem from repetitive head injuries.

Lights out. Zero panic.


Did the Ravens let the "fat" cheerleader go to the game? Um, no.

See you in Sept. 2013