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The 2014 NFL Season...The Fix Is In Style
New this year: I will make 5 picks against the point spread each week, following the rules of the famed SuperContest in Las Vegas. I will also use their posted point spreads each week even though these may not be the spreads when each game kicks off. These picks will be used in an in-the-works book about gambling and the NFL.
If I were you, I'd put no stock into them being accurate and/or correct.
| The Preseason|
Have you been watching the NFL preseason? Gosh, I hope not. But if you really have been that bored/addicted to NFL football to tune in, I bet you noticed the increased amount of penalties. It's up an average of almost 9 per game, from 14 to 23.
Why? Because the NFL has decided its officials should be focusing on certain plays -- all of which are subjective calls. If you watch this official NFL video supplied to the media to explain these new emphasized penalties, you'll see what I mean.
The funny part is, the NFL doesn't really plan on following through with this new emphasis. Their own VP of Officiating even said so. And the final week of the preseason proved that "prediction" to be true. But this is yet another weapon in the league's arsenal with which to control outcomes of games. Outcomes which are remaining in doubt unlike ever before.
The NFL states that 68% of its games in 2013 were within one score in the 4th quarter. Because of that, 48% of games (123 of 256) were decided by 7 points or less.
So now more than ever, one well-timed subjective call made by a single referee can alter the outcome of a vast majority of NFL game. Keep that in mind as the flags fly (or remained tucked in that back pocket) in the waning moments of each game this season.
| Picks Week 1|
| Reasoning |
I think in the season opener, the Packers will be within one score of the Seahawks when the final gun sounds, so I like getting 6 points here. The Falcons are at home and healthy while I think the Saints are overrated, so again I like getting the points. The Rams were left for dead with Bradford's injury, but the Vikings are worse and on the road. The Colts may lose because of Irsay's "suspension" while the Broncos will win one for their former owner Pat Bowlen. Lastly, I really like the Lions this year to go to the Super Bowl, and why not start that drive in Week 1 against a bad Giants team?
George Orwell wrote in his classic novel 1984, "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." Today, the boot is the NFL and the face is that of football fans everywhere. The problem is most fans don't seem to mind that spiked heel digging into their mug if it means they get a Sunday (and Thursday night and Monday night) full of football. Is it a sign that I received about 5 or 6 emails on Sunday from new fans of this site, all stating a variation on the theme of "You might be on to something here..."
The NFL was full of the usual nonsense: Multiple games coming down to the final two minutes along with 2 OT contests, improbable comebacks (and a couple of near ones - including the Colts-Broncos game which saw a second half filled with calls/plays that allowed the Colts to crawl back into a certain blowout), bad calls on the refs' part who all seemed to make plenty of use of the new "focus" on highly subjective pass interference/holding/illegal contact penalties...the list goes on.
And then there was Ray Rice. I only have this to say about it: if you didn't think he did exactly what that TMZ video showed when you saw the original video months ago of him dragging his fiancee out of that elevator, you are incredibly naive. Despite the NFL's lies ("We couldn't get that video..."), I fully expect Rice to suit up for another NFL team come 2015.
| Picks Week 2|
| Reasoning |
I like the Lions all season long, especially getting points against an unpredictable Cam Newton. The Cowboys are pathetic, as are the Giants, so the Titans (at home) and the Cardinals seem like no brainers. The Raiders seem inept as always, too, and even a mediocre Texans team should brush them aside. (That said, I should probably take the Cowboys, Giants and Raiders). As for the 49ers, they're opening their new ultra-modern stadium on Sunday Night against a damaged Bears team. I'd be surprised to see the Bears keep it within 7.
Look, if you can't get this call "correct" with the aid of mandatory instant replay, your league has problems. It's becoming almost too easy to hammer the NFL officials week-in and week-out, and the networks having their "in-house specialists" (former refs themselves) contradicting the on-the-field officials (and even themselves on occasion) isn't helping. Fans of this site will know that these can't just be mistakes being made, not if we're to believe that these officials are the best in the country. People could argue that since each NFL game is put under a microscope, you're bound to find problems if you look hard enough. But as the picture above shows, you don't have to look too hard...and the NFL, as usual, admits their "error" 48 hours too late.
Take the Monday night game between the Colts and Eagles. The refs blew two calls - a pass interference which resulted in an interception and a (non) horse collar tackle - both of which benefited the Eagles, kept them in the game (and kept the game close for fans watching at home), and ultimately allowed Philly to win outright. Go back 24 hours, and you have a similar scenario played out in San Francisco where the 49ers seemed to get flagged on every other play - including the first-of-its-kind "offensive language" foul charged to Colin Kaepernick - and lo and behold, the Bears comeback and win.
Despite this nonsense coupled with the scandal-filled week for the NFL, ratings haven't been damaged. Part of this is because NFL fans simply don't care felons play the sport for their entertainment. The other part is that every bar, restaurant, and flat-screen sales display shows NFL games, even if no one is watching. But this spate of scandals does have the NFL's advertising partners concerned. And that threatens what the NFL really loves: money. Whether it will spur the league to make more nonsensical knee-jerk reactions to the behavior of their players remains to be seen, but if the NFL has a player get paralyzed, or God-forbid, killed on the field in the next week or so, this juggernaut may have some real issues on its hands.
| Picks Week 3|
| Reasoning |
OK, The Fix Is In isn't messing around this week. I'm off to Vegas to put real money on the line and see how the big timers roll. Because of this, I can't really post my picks because I can't (read: won't) update the site from the road, so you'll just have to trust me on who I take. In the meantime, if you want an idea of which teams I may choose, check the top plays for the SuperContest this week. These guys supposedly know what they are doing, unlike me who ferrets out corruption and doesn't bet for a living...because I enjoy eating.
(Yeah, video of Ray Lewis's quote was pulled by YouTube by Week 6)
"Some things you can cover up, and some things up can't." Yes, Ray Lewis - RAY FREAKING LEWIS - said that, on air on ESPN, about the NFL, the Ravens, and Ray Rice, all part of his "family." Of all the absurdity to come out of Roger Goodell and Steve Bisciotti's mouths over the weekend, Lewis's quote is so over the top as to be mindblowing.
Speaking of Goodell (I'm not going to bother to get into the "he said, she said" of ESPN v. Bisciotti...though I will say I for once take ESPN's side on this. Why? Because there's no way ESPN runs this story against its bedfellow the NFL if it wasn't very, very close to the truth), I loved how he finally "faced the press": by announcing a press conference 6 hours prior to its start, then by showing up 20 minutes late, only to give an "apology" of how he "failed" and announce his new panel to investigate how this happened (as the TMZ Reporter there stated, they made one phone call to obtain the inside-the-elevator video. Does the NFL really need to "investigate" that failure when it's Security Division is filled with ex-FBI agents? None of them could figure how a phone works?) and another panel to create new policy related to domestic violence...which will reach a conclusion by the Super Bowl. It apparently takes a few months to determine how good/bad domestic violence is in relation to the NFL and its athletes.
Now because of this, the NFL was feeling a little blue. Luckily, here came the prime match-up of the week: Denver vs. Seattle in a Super Bowl rematch. Amazing that the most hyped game featured a classic Peyton Manning last-second come back, forcing the game into overtime which kept fans glued to their TVs and got the media talking about something other than the NFL's mounting scandals. As Russell Wilson said, "The NFL needed this game." Hmm....
| Picks Week 4|
| Reasoning |
We're going competely contrarian this Sunday. As the public loads up one way, The Fix Is In decided to go the other. Why are the Falcons only a 3-point favorite over the Bridgewater-starting Vikings? The Bucs, who were victims of the Falcons' Thursday night onslaught, are in Pittsburgh who themselves laid waste to the Panthers last week? The Rams were up by 21 on the Cowboys, and now the Saints take on Romo and only have to give 3? The Colts have been lighting up the scoreboard and now, at home, take on a weakling like the Titans? These games all seem to be easy pickin's: ATL, PIT, NO, and IND...which is why the books will likely clean up today.
I think within every year of doing these weekly recaps, I have to write a post similar to this one. Parity. The NFL designed it, implimented it, and now football fans have to live with it. While the pundits scratch their heads and wonder how the Buccaneers can beat the Steelers a week after getting downright embarrassed on national TV by the Falcons (who themselves couldn't beat the Vikings despite that team requiring the services of their 3rd string quarterback), the answer is obvious. Deep down, the league wants every team to be 8-8. They want every fan to believe that any team can beat any other team no matter the week, weather, stadium, quarterback, coach, etc. This should not be the case, but if the NFL manipulates games in the fashion I believe them to, then parity is the perfect screen to hide behind. It's really that simple.
I could say more, but I really spent most of this week getting my foot in the door at Vice Sports. Luckily, that effort paid off as they welcomed me into the fold and published my first piece for them: The Twisted History of a Mobster and the PGA Tour.
| Picks Week 5|
Despite going 8-2 over the past two weeks, I'm not making this week's picks. Why? Because as I wrote above, these picks are for a book I'm writing which I hope to have published soon after the Super Bowl. All of this week's picks are "free" picks given out by "professional handicappers"...most of whom are trying to lure people into paying for their services. So the Titans are courtesy of Smokin' Dave Cokin, the Jets from "the Bookie Priest" (aka Mike North, former Chicago sports radio host), the Steelers from Don Best's Joe D'Amico, the Eagles from Pregame's Andy Iskoe, and the Falcons from the Linemaker's Brian Blessing. Let's see what the pros can do.
(Good job, pros)
First, Aaron Rodgers told Packers fans to "R-E-L-A-X." Then Tom Brady sent a similar message to Patriots fans. Amazingly, both top tier QBs then led their teams to victories. Granted, the Packers only had to get through the Bears (in Week 4) and Vikings (starting their 3rd string QB in a shortened Week 5), but Brady and the Patriots demolished the seemingly strong Bengals. How was this possible?
If you ask me - and you are reading this so in a sense you did ask - it was because in Week 5, both the Vikings and Bengals laid down. Now the Vikes seemed completely disinterested in playing for Christian Ponder (and perhaps you can't blame them), but what made the Bengals suddenly incapable of playing coherent football? Hard to say, but from what I saw Sunday night, someone told them "it's not your night" and the team simply shrugged off the game.
Look, Brady - despite his history of cheating via Spygate - and likely Rodgers are Hall of Fame bound. The NFL relies on these guys to sell games, and the league is not about to let these QBs post sub .500 records (even if the Packers have zero defense and Brady's "weapons" are nonexistent). These guys will win because the NFL DEMANDS they win.
Speaking of demands, apparently the NFL is tied of seeing primetime games (like the past couple of Thursday nighters) turn into uninteresting blowouts. So the league, through their lap-dog referees, kept Monday night's game between the Seahawks and Redskins as close as possible. As Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said, "I think it is Monday Night Football, you know, the fans are watching and everybody wants to see a good game, so they are going to try and make it as close as possible. It’s a business." Earl gets it. Of course, he also had a sideline view of referees calling back not one, not two, but three Percy Harvin touchdowns due to Seahawk penalties. The most ridiculous call-back came courtesy of an "unnecessary roughness" call on a block. Seriously. A block. And people pay - and bet - good money on this sport...
| Picks Week 6|
The pros did so well last week, let's give them a second chance. So we have The Prediction Machine taking the Dolphins, Smokin' Dave Cokin taking the Dolphins, and Sleepy J on Pregame taking the Dolphins. Teddy "Covers" Sevransky on Pregame took the Cardinals, Ben Burns at Covers took the Panthers, "The Bookie Priest" at Philly Godfather took the Bears, and Sports Book Review took the Titans (they also disagreed with Teddy Covers and selected the Redskins).
I agree with Jay Cutler. It's a bit of a headscratching season thus far, isn't it? Perhaps one of the most curious developments is the sudden rise of "America's Team" (well, America's 4th team), the Dallas Cowboys. Even Bob Costas jumped on their bandwagon Sunday night, to the dismay of some (me included). How is this team, led by Tony Romo - he of the slippery choke fingers - sitting on a 5-1 record? Has Jerry Jones begun to call in a few favors? How else can you explain this team beating the 12th Man and all in Seattle?
The Packers-Dolphins game was an interesting one with the Dolphins calling the most ill-advised defensive time out I've seen in some time while the Packers were struggling to set up for a crucial 4th down play. Of course, they would convert, then Aaron Rodgers would pull out the infamous Dan Marino fake spike play (in Miami, no less) on his way to a last second victory.
Elsewhere, the Browns (sans Johnny Football) and Lions are above .500 and in the thick of things. Interesting given that neither have ever played in a Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the "Super Bowl curse" hasn't caught a hold of the Cardinals...yet.
Last but not least is the soon-to-be-broke touchdown passing record once held by Brett Favre, Some say Peyton Manning could've easily topped #509 versus the Jets this past Sunday, but held back because the NFL wants the celebration to come on Sunday Night Football. I might have argued that until I watched Sunday Night Football where the promos all but guaranteed Manning would set the record...against the 49ers...at home in Denver. Can't wait for that must-see-TV moment in primetime.
| Picks Week 7|
With each passing week (pun intended), I see Andrew Luck becoming the next mega-star QB. The Bengals won't stop that freight train. The Packers are on a roll which means either they'll win by 20 or by 3 (because ARog is still an NFL golden boy). I'm thinking the Panthers will keep it close since Green Bay's D isn't all that even with Matthews & Peppers lurking. Everyone's on the resurgent Cowboys which is why the Giants win likely win that game in Big D outright. The Super Bowl curse has yet to catch up to the Cardinals, and the horrible Raiders are due to be thrown a bone (especially at home). Cardinals begin to deconstruct here and now. Lastly, I could see the Broncos winning in dramatic fashion with yet another last second Manning comeback (perhaps throwing the TD to break the record in the process) but then not covering. Or else the Manning love-fest allows the Broncos to blow 'em out. Either way, this Sunday Night should be the Manning Show. We'll see...
What? Peyton Manning broke Brett Farve's record on Sunday Night Football? No. Who woulda thunk it...
The real debate of the week was whether the refs assisted the Patriots in avoiding a penalty which might've helped the Jets make a game-winning field goal on Thursday Night. Despite the press's spin on the subject, the answer clearly was "YES." When did officials get the go-ahead to prevent penalties, Minority Report-style? I really don't care if the refs did it before, in other games, or whatever other excuse people want to trot out regarding this. Five extra yards from the penalty might've altered the outcome of the game...had the ref thrown a flag rather than saved the Pats' collective necks.
But this wasn't the only BS call to alter an outcome this week. Remember when everyone loved the Saints? Yeah, apparently that's over and done with as the Lions got a win based off a few (really) bad calls. And now it seems the Seahawks are no longer the love of the NFL after the refs refused take a second look at a Rams' fumble which would've given the Seahawks a last shot at winning. This a fumble?
Naaahh. Instead, let's just discuss the fake-out punt return coupled with the fake punt all week, not the highway robbery that took place moments later. Anyone still think the Seahawks can repeat?
| Picks Week 8|
| Reasoning |
In all honesty, everyone of these games scare me. Logic (is there really logic in betting NFL football?) would seem to say "How can IND only be -3, CIN -1, NYJ -3, HOU -2, and DET -3.5?" But being a contrarian would have me take PIT, BAL, BUF, TEN, and ATL [which, in hindsight, would've had me go 3-2]. That seems insane. So what does one do in said situation? A wise gambler would either bet small or just step aside and let this week pass. A complusive, degenerate gambler would go full bore because this is what betting folk do - they bet. So I'm making my 5 picks because I have to, but keeping my money safely in my pocket.
There's nothing as horrible as living with a bad back. It really zaps the life out of a person. I don't wish it on Tony Romo or anyone. But there was something supreme satisfying about ESPN interviewing Jerry Jones from the owner's box during Monday Night Football (when does MNF ever interview an owner?), hearing him say he watches every play "as if it were his last," and then seeing his franchise QB lay on the turf for a solid 2 minutes. Then the Cowboys outright lost to the Redskins in OT - despite all nine of ESPN's talking heads taking the Cowboys to win. What punishment do these goofs earn for consistently being wrong? Bigger contracts? More murder suspects on their panel?
Speaking of injuries, what was with putting Romo back in the game? And why did the Packers decide an immobilized Aaron Rodgers was a better option than Matt Flynn? Seems as if the Pack gave up against the Saints as soon as the Golden Boy pulled up lame.
The Packers loss gave the Detroit Lions an opening to take the division - something the NFL seems keen on handing to them. In the London-played game versus the Falcons - which was broadcast nationally in the morning (something I'm surprised the NFL hasn't attempted on a more regular basis) - the Lions were given multiple opportunities to comeback and win after being down 21-0 at halftime. The exclamation point in their comeback was the delay of game on the final play which gave former drunken Denver Broncos kicker (now a member of the Lions) Matt Prater a second chance at winning the game after missing from 43 yards. When does the kicking team get a delay of game called against them? Not very often, but the extra 5 yards added to the kick made all the difference as Prater hit the game winner. Now let's see if the Lions implode as they did last year.
| Picks Week 9|
I'll make this short and sweet. The old adage in sports gambling calls for you to bet against the public. So that's what I'm doing. When I checked Pregame (careful with these fellas) and their "Sports book spy" to see the percentages of bets on each NFL team (not the money - that they don't know - it's just the number of tickets sold for each team) these 5 teams were the least played. So that's who I'm taking. No thought involved.
"Everything is awesome! Everything is great when you're part of a team...."
The only real marquee matchup of the weekend was the ever popular Brady v. Manning game that seems to come every year and ends up making fans feel as empty as eating a tub of movie popcorn for dinner. But what else was there to hype? Foles v. Fitzpatrick? Hoyer v. Glennon? Luck v. the bad Manning? This was a bad, uninteresting week of NFL football. Oh, sure, Ben Roethlisberger threw another 6 TDs, but it was much more interesting to watch Nik Wallenda do his high-wire act over Chicago (and really, I should be Wallenda's manager. He needed to stop and take that selfie. These stunts have to look much more dangerous to the audience, and not like a stoll in the park. A couple of "near" misses and this guy builds a bigger and bigger audience with every wiggle. People didn't tune in to Evel Knievel to make the jump - they tuned in to see him crash. Wallenda needs more drama.)
Oh yeah, football. The 49ers got their stadium, so now they implode and their coach checks out mid-season. The Seahawks win their Super Bowl, and "internal strife" seems to be ripping them apart. The Redskins get RGIII back but can't beat the Vikings (who might get AP back, hooray!).
Meanwhile, the Colts and Cardinals appear to be wrecking balls. Funny, but wasn't Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians the interm head coach for the Colts during the "Chuck Strong" season two years ago? The NFL couldn't force that into a Super Bowl storyline could they? And kill the "Super Bowl curse" at the same time? Nah...
| Picks Week 10|
| Reasoning |
I catch some crap from a few dedicated followers here for not making my own picks all the time. This week, however, I'm relying on pros (or seeming pros) to do the dirty work for me. My picks are based off the majority picks of the top 7 players in the SuperContest. Combined, they have a record of 229-86. All seven of these cats had the Jets (this may be because 80% of the public is on the Steelers. Understandable given how bad the Jets have been and how solid Big Ben has played the last two weeks. Five points seems like a joke). Five had the Falcons, four had the Eagles, three had each the Lions and Rams (three also had the Cowboys, but I thought the Rams made less sense).
And there's your Super Bowl curse in action. Think Drew Stanton is the next Tom Brady? He'll have to be if the Super Bowl-hosting Cardinals are going to go that far. Methinks that's a bit of a stretch.
Another stretch of the imagination came in the form of the woeful NY Jets (led by convicted felon Michael Vick) beating the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is the exact sort of game that should make ever NFL fan stop and think, "How is this possible?" Does "parity" really allow for such a result? Not in the real world. This is the sort of outcome that fills my inbox with questions of "How close does the NFL work with Las Vegas and the bookies?" It's also why taking a contrarian stance betting-wise is more profitable than following the "squares."
Speaking of the NFL, did you know that it's on a pace to break the record for the most 10+ point comebacks in a single season? Does that hurt TV ratings? Of course not, as the NFL trumpets under its headline "NFL Games 26 of 30 most-watched shows this fall": "At the halfway point of the 2014 NFL season, fans are tuning into NFL games in record numbers for good reason…they have been captivated by the fantastic contests and come-from-behind victories. Three teams have overcome deficits of 21 or more points to win games, on pace to break the single-season record. The record for the most such wins in one season is four, which has happened three times (1999, 2011 and 2013)."
Unfortunately, not everything is so hunky-dory for the NFL. The league along with NBC is having a bit of a problem selling out Super Bowl commerical time. I was thinking of buying a 30-second spot this year to promote my books, but when I read that the asking price went up $500,000 to $4.5 million, I realized my advertising budget would've been completely blown by February 1st.
Oh, yeah, and if you didn't see this Deadspin piece about the "investigation" into the 49ers' Ray McDonald and his domestic abuse charges, you should. Guilty or not, it's another great example of how NFL Security really operates.
| Picks Week 11|
| Reasoning |
I like the idea of picking "dumb," that is to say what's seems against the grain. So that's what I'm doing here. The Bears were trounced two weeks in a row so I see them giving 3 to a weak Vikings team and love it. The Bengals were embarrassed against the Browns, so Cincy getting 7 is a no brainer while the Browns will likely drop an "easy" one to the Texans. Tampa's just terrible, but I don't think the Redskins are anything either, so getting more than a TD here is nice. And I still dig the Lions, no matter where or who they play.
Some things just ain't right. Sure, the Packers rolled the Eagles (with Mark Sanchez at the helm. Is that really something to celebrate?) and the Patriots walked all over the Colts (by using an unknown, backup RB again and again and again. Can't a pro football team stop the run when they know it's coming?), but what's up with the Rams not just outright beating the Broncos, but holding Peyton Manning and that offense to just seven points?
Continuing on that theme, we saw the Cleveland Browns travel across the state and whoop the Cincinnati Bengals 24-3 at home. So it only makes sense that the same Bengals teams headed south to New Orleans and beat the Saints 27-10 while the same Browns welcomed the Texans to Cleveland and lost to a rookie QB in his first start 23-7? This is just the NFL's beloved "parity" in action, right?
Odd results like these aside, could the NFL be losing its grip on America's television watchers? For the third week in a row, the Walking Dead beat Sunday Night Football in ratings (if you trust the numbers which can be a bit sketchy). Of course, the NFL will blame the recent run of blowouts for the shortcoming (and my detractors would say the blowouts prove it's not fixed), but perhaps it's a sign that fans are wearing thin of the league's shenanigans what with Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, the DEA investigation of the league, the concussion lawsuits, etc. still ongoing. Can the NFL weather this storm?
| Picks Week 12|
According to popular thinking, although my season record has been 63% thus far (60% if I count the two weeks I used the "free" picks from touts), I'm due for a regression because over the long haul no one is supposed to hit over 60%. So considering my picks are supposed to go in the toilet, let's see how bad I can really do by taking some serious underdogs this week. Four are +7 or better (worse?) and one's the Giants. By all accounts I should probably go 0-5. Let's see if that's what happens.
And here are your 1st place Atlanta Falcons...with a 4-7 record. Funny how certain media darlings fall. Look at that entire dire NFC South. The Saints? Gone since Bountygate. Cam Newton (and the Panthers)? Old news. The Bucs? Who? Even in other divisions you have the failure that is RGIII, the Peterson-less Vikings, the woeful Jets, and the unpromotable Jaguars and Raiders.
Given all that, who's the surprising team(s) this season? The Cardinals certainly are, but how long can Drew Stanton really keep that team contending? Otherwise, it's what? The Browns? The Dolphins? Are either going to really make it to the playoffs over and above the tradition powerhouses that the NFL loves to promote.
Who out there didn't think the Packers (Aaron Rodgers), the Patriots (Tom Brady), the Broncos (Peyton Manning), the Colts (Andrew Luck), and the Cowboys (Tony Romo) wouldn't be right where they are...despite some unsure footing at the season's start? Quarterbacks drive ratings. They are something the league and its broadcast partners can hang their hats on, and seem to do it year in, year out. Oh, sure the Lions (Matthew Stafford), the Bengals (Andy Dalton), and the Eagles (Mark Sanchez???) show glimmers of hope, but like the second tier talent these QBs are, so goes each team's fortunes. Is it really the QB play that drives winning teams, or is it that the NFL wants good QBs to constantly promote? It's a true chicken and the egg scenario.
But I'm really, really interested to see how the NFL spins a 4-7 first place team. What if the NFC South champ enters the playoffs at 6-10? Or even 5-11? It's possible. Then we'll start hearing about how the playoffs need to be revamped and how the league thinks that since it's going to change its seeding process, why not add a team or two into the mix? And how about that 18 game season...?
| Picks Week 13|
| Reasoning |
Since last week I took all underdogs - and managed to keep my 60% average alive - I figured this week I'd do the opposite and take all favorites (be they at home or on the road). I like the Bills because they are returning home to a disaster area, so the people there could use a boost. Though the Bengals and Dolphins are unpredictable, the Bucs and Jets are going nowhere fast. The Steelers may still take their division, so another win keeps them in the mix. And though I think the Pats & Belichick have the goods to beat the Packers (if he's really that "genius" of a coach), I'll go with the Packers at home...I guess, I don't know. I'm doing this Thanksgiviing morning and have my mind more on food than football.
My week felt a lot like the way Tom Brady looks like here - a car accident, a mild concussion (not from the car accident or football for that matter), a parent in the hospital...it hasn't been good. So forgive me if this post is a bit weak.
That aside, I'll say it right now - neither the Packers nor the Patriots reach the Super Bowl this year. Yeah, I know I normally don't make predictions because they often backfire on me, but seeing this game hyped as it was as potential "Super Bowl preview" just made me realize that the NFL rarely gives us such a game (here's another reason - ESPN's FiveThirtyEight called a GB-NE Super Bowl "Inevitable"). Even the Week 17 match-up a few years back between the then-undefeated Patriots and the NY Giants - which actually was a Super Bowl preview - wasn't hyped as such. So I have a feeling that this is a misdirection at work.
Speaking of that game, what was with the pre-snap 12-men on the field penalty against the Patriots that was then determined not to have been a penalty because the Patriots had just 11 players out there? And what was with the 12-men on the field - against the offense - that cost the Buccaneers the game vs. the Bengals? I'll admit, there hasn't been as many game-altering penalties that have stuck out this year as there were last year, but some calls really don't make much sense.
One last thing. While I normally post suspensions on my Rap Sheet page, I saw that the Ravens' Haloti Ngata was suspended for four games for using Adderall which has become a "hot" drug of late amongst athletes. What's sorely lacking, however, is a single suspension for HGH. Remember when it was reported that the NFL was going to begin testing players for HGH? It was a while ago - way back in the beginning of October - so maybe it slipped your mind. But so far, not a single positive test has been made public. Look at the size of these players. Don't you think there's a few out there using this stuff? So how come there haven't been any positive results as of yet? Hmm...
| Picks Week 14|
| Reasoning |
I've not had the best of weeks in my life outside of this website, so my personal mojo has me feeling that I'll go 0-5 no matter who I pick or why. But since football never sleeps, I'll soldier onward: Everyone loves the Colts while the Browns have faultered, ergo the Browns and that tiny line are the pick. I think the Chiefs beat the floundering Cardinals to keep the both the NFC and AFC West interesting. The Bills with Kyle Orton have no right to be as good as they have been, so why won't that train at least keep it close vs. Manning & Co? Philly needs to keep pace with the Cowboys (who I'm starting to believe is the NFL's team of choice this year) while Seattle's old news. And could the Patriots lose two in a row? My thoughts? Yeah, why not?
Was this just an innocent acknowledgement of a job well done by two referees? Of course, an NFL spokesman was quick to say, "It was an acknowledgment of good mechanics between the two officials involved in making the call." Interesting that no mention is made of the NFL actually speaking to the two refs in question to reach such a conclusion, but once it's spoken, it's done, right?
No excuse for my performance but can't win playing 16 vs 11 thought I seen it all Smh https://t.co/CrfVO2YxA6— Aaron Williams (@ajwilliams23) December 8, 2014
Here's the thing. I've been watching football for 30+ years. I've never seen such a public acknowledgement made between officials on the field before. What's next? High-fiving for a false start? Headbutting post-personal foul calls?
Aren't officials supposed to be professional and impartial? I doubt this call cost the Bills the game versus the Broncos, but what if it had? Like, say, the calls Jamaal Charles believes cost the contending Chiefs a win versus the Cardinals? Or the calls that seemed to favor the Seahawks all afternoon which were driving the Eagles' Chip Kelly nuts? Or the one that may have cost the Browns an upset win over the Colts?
Speaking of the Browns, here comes Johnny Football. With the AFC North still up for grabs, what're the chances Manziel pulls a Tim Tebow and delivers the Browns to the playoffs? Think the NFL might like that story? I'd say so, but is Manziel the same drawing power Tebow did? We'll see...
| Picks Week 15|
| Reasoning |
After two straight losing weeks (brought on, I feel, my troubles in my life), it's time to get back to business. Everyone's anoited the Packers as the "next big thing" yet they are only favored by 4.5, hence, go Buffalo. For once (well, since that crazy Steelers game), the Jets actually seem like a wise choice playing a very bad Titans team. Though I still like the Lions to do something (sooner or later), I'm putting my money against them and taking the Vikes +8. The 49ers have been written off as dead, but they have more life than the media assumes. They might win this game vs. the Seahawks outright. I'm also buying that the Cowboys are making a run - perhaps to the Super Bowl - so the NFL won't let them lose this Turkey Day rematch.
This what it looks like when you get used to the NFL assisting your team, and then the league suddenly yanks its support. The Packers were actually penalized against the Bills while Rodgers & Co. played subpar football, leading to flared tempers and disgust. Could it actually be the Lions time to rise? Or is this just part of the set-up for a pre-playoff "playoff" game in Week 17 between the Lions and Packers with the winner moving on and the loser going home?
The NFL seemed to be hand picking a few other NFC teams for the playoffs as both the Seahawks and Cowboys were beneficiaries of some questionable officiating. Why are the Cowboys getting such love? Is it just that "America's Team" moniker? Or could it be that even though Jerry Jones screwed his fellow owners out of some cash when he built that $1 billion stadium, he's stood firm behind Commissioner Goodell during the league's recent "rough patch" (which helped deflect any Jones-related sex scandal from the limelight)? Their combination of Romo, Bryant, and Murray are already being compared to the "legend" of Aikman, Irvin, and Smith...is a Super Bowl going to cement such legacy for both team and league?
Meanwhile in the AFC, the stage is already set for the Conference's Big 3 QBs: Luck, Manning, and Brady. It's just a matter of who plays who and when in the playoffs, and which of this combo is Super Bowl bound. Who else could represent the AFC? Seriously. Who else is in the conversation? The Bengals? The Steelers? The Bills? The Chiefs?
Oh, and that notion of Manziel being the next Tebow? Don't think that's happening...
| Picks Week 16|
| Reasoning |
Wow. I'm really on the ball. Looking over this week's schedule, I was going to be all over the Redskins getting 7.5 vs. the Eagles because the 'Skins winning would help the Cowboys. Didn't realize the game - or any NFL football - was on yesterday. Oops.
Moving on, the Bears are so out of sorts, how can Detroit lose this game (well, they did make the playoffs thanks to the aforementioned game)? Johnny Football was so unimpressive, I think the still-alive for the playoffs Panthers keep the dream going. This might be the Cowboys' year, and even if DeMarco Murray is limited with the broken hand, the 'Boys might just upset the playoff-locked Colts. The Giants are bad, the Rams not as bad, so I'll take 'em at home. And lastly, with a week full of 2nd and 3rd string QBs taking the field, why not pick the one startings for the Cardinals to beat a strong Seahawks D? Nonsense picks like that often work.
This looks like what the NFL does to unsuspecting fans.
It's funny how things always go the league's way when they need it. The Eagles lose to the Redskins to give both the Cowboys (who beat the Colts) and the Packers (who beat the Buccaneers) a trip to the playoffs. Of course, because the Lions beat the Bears, the DET-GB game in Week 17 still has huge "playoff implications" for the all-important "home field advantage." Meanwhile, the Panthers beat the Browns while the Falcons upset(?) the Saints to make the Week 17 CAR-ATL game have huge "playoff implications" as the winner moves on while the loser is out.
Anyone noticing a pattern here?
But wait, there's more! The much-in-need-of-a-new-stadium Chargers rally to beat the 49ers, giving them a legit playoff hope, yet because the Texans (with a 3rd string QB) beat the Ravens and the Steelers beat the Chiefs, the Week 17 games of SD-KC, CLE-BAL, and JAX-HOU have "playoff implications." Oh, and that Steelers victory coupled with the upset (?) on MNF of the Bengals over the Broncos makes the PIT-CIN game - flexed into the Sunday Night slot - a game with huge "playoff implications."
So the NFL has three AFC games (on CBS) with playoff implications in the 1 pm slot, two NFC games (on FOX) with playoff implications in the 4 pm slot, and Sunday Night Football (on NBC) has the all-important PIT-CIN clash on in prime time.
Geez. All just happened by pure coincidence. Wasn't the NFL and its three broadcast partners really lucky this weekend?
| Picks Week 17 |
| Reasoning |
A couple of things first. One, I'm not sure I'll continue making these picks against the spread during the playoffs. For my book project, this is where my record keeping will end. Hope you enjoyed following along. Two, had I actually entered the SuperContest, my record of 46-32-2 (including the "free" picks I used from touts for two weeks) would have me in 18th place in line to win about $21,000 for my $1,500 entry fee. Not bad for a non-gambler.
This week, I'm limiting myself to only making my picks from games with "playoff implications" (and amazingly, there's more than 5 to choose from). Against my better judgement, I'm sticking with my Lions. They might not win in Green Bay, but I don't think they'll lose by more than a field goal. The Chargers will keep that #6 playoff seed because they "need" a stadium, and KC starting their #2 QB is helping them out. I like the Panthers to upset (?) the Falcons even though they are traveling to Atlanta. I'm not sure why I do, I just do. The Ravens can't go to the playoffs on the heels of the Ray Rice debacle, so they might just outright lose to the Browns who were good early in the season without Johnny Football and the oft-suspended Josh Gordon. And lastly, I like the Steelers at home, though had the Bengals lost last week and needed to win this week, I'd flip flop this pick.
Oh, and if I really were in 18th place in the SuperContest, I'd have been sweating this picks out much more than I just did.
Final Season Total
Total with "free" picks in Weeks 5 & 6
The NFL set up the Lions-Packers Week 17 "for all the marbles" game, then gave the Packers the game. From the missed clipping call on Hyde's TD-punt return to the TD awarded on Rodgers' sneak which fell short on instant replay to the Lions inability to figure out the Packers' limited offense post-calf injury, this game was a set-up. Now the league further punished the Lions by suspending Suh for the above shown "stomp" which will likely keep him from playing in the Wildcard game vs. the Cowboys. Of course, since I now believe the Cowboys are heading to the Super Bowl, this just eases the path for that to occur (as will a gimpy ARog come the DAL-GB match up in Round 2).
I was mistaken on thinking the Chargers were headed to the playoffs. I now realize - and should've considered this sooner - that the Ravens needed the playoffs in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal. The franchise was punished enough for their former RB's antics. They needed this playoff berth more than the Chargers because Goodell already announced no team was moving to LA in 2015. The Chargers have another season to make a new San Diego stadium to happen.
As for the Panthers crushing the Falcons, I'm not sure what to say. The Falcons have a new stadium on the horizon - one that's amazingly not being fully funded by the city, but rather by owner Arthur Blank - so they didn't need the win. They apparently needed an entire regime change to go along with that stadium.
So the NFL is giving us a couple more weeks of Romo, Rodgers, Wilson, Brady, Manning, Luck, Roethlisberger, Stafford, Newton, Dalton, Flacco, and whomever going to play QB for the one-and-done "Super Bowl curse" Cardinals. Which major QB didn't make the playoffs? Brees? Rivers? Cutler? No, I'd say the NFL got its major stars right where they want/need them. Just a lucky break, right?
PLAYOFFS - WILDCARD
Remember when NJ Governor Chris Christie was the NFL's public enemy #1 for trying to legalize sports gambling in his state? Why's he jumping around with Jerry Jones after the Cowboys' highly controversial win over the Lions?
Also, remember when it was a big deal that the NFL's Head of Officiating Dean Blandino was filmed getting off Jerry Jones' son's party bus back in the summer and the NFL told everyone it was no big deal because there certainly wouldn't be any conflict of interest (even though every review is now run through the NFL's home office in NYC while being overseen by Blandino)?
Then came Sunday's grand finale of Wildcard Weekend. So here's the series of events that gave the Cowboys the game: On 3rd-and-1, Stafford's pass to Pettigrew resulted in a pass interference call against the Cowboys which is not only announced, but the marked off on the field. About 45 seconds later, that call was reversed - without an explanation. During this fiasco, Dez Bryant charged out on the field to argue the call which also should've resulted in a flag against the Cowboys. This was ignored. So even if referee Pete Morelli was correct in picking up the flag on the pass interference call (which he explained away to an unnamed "pool reporter" as being too minimal of contact to warrant a flag - even though former Head of Officiating turned FOX broadcaster Mike Pereira stated on air & on twitter that the call was incorrectly reversed), the Lions should've had a drive-extending first down thanks to Bryant's antics.
I love, by the way, how ESPN (one of the NFL's biggest broadcast partners) added this nugget of information to one of its articles on this penalty, "This sequence of events will push this game into the echelon of NFL history -- the "Phantom Flag Game" was an initial start on social media -- and the ensuing confusion was a bad look for the NFL. Is it the primary reason the Cowboys won and the Lions lost? No. The decision reduced the Lions' win probability at that point from 78 percent to a still-healthy 66 percent."
True or not, I wonder what that percentage dropped to after the Lions faked going for it on 4th-and-1, and then kicked a 10-yard punt to give the Cowboys the ball back on their own 41? Or I wonder what those percentages became when the Lions were called for not one, but two defensive holding penalties--the first
on 2nd-and-10 at the Lions' 21, the second on 3rd-and-7 on the 13--which kept the Cowboys' game-winning drive alive?
Of course, it's only "conspiracy theorists" like myself (and dozens of people who emailed or tweeted me about this game) who think that this was done purposefully. You know, because the first Cowboys-Packers playoff game to be played in Lambeau Field since the famed "Ice Bowl" won't draw in a massive audience as opposed to that Panthers-Packers rematch to which we should've been treated. And becase, you know, there's no way a league as powerful as the $10-billion-a-year-and-rising NFL -- when backed by those same broadcast partners set to benefit from such a TV-made matchup -- could orchestrate such an outcome (despite all the facts as pointed out on this website and elsewhere saying it's really easy and legal to do). No, there's no reason for "reputable" sports outlets like ESPN, FOX, or CBS to actually question what occurred on the field because only "loons" think there might have been an ulterior motive behind all of this.
I mean, was anyone up in arms over Carolina beating the Cardinals? Or the Colts advancing to play the Broncos (so we can hear about how Peyton Manning once led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory and now Andrew Luck is breaking all his records in Indy)? Or that despite giving up 6 TDs to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers just a few weeks back, the mighty Ravens D held them to a mere 17 points so they can put that "hard-hitting" crew up against Tom Brady?
Can't we all just enjoy the Presentations of the National Football League as brought to us by monopolistic broadcast entities without all this negativity?
A RARE UPDATE: Here's Dean-o himself, playing a little Monday Morning QB in regards to his own officials. Of course, Blandino would have "preferred" that the PI call against the Cowboys remained in place, then added that he would have "supported" a flag on Dez Bryant for his coming onto the field to argue said call.
Speaking of Monday Morning Quarterbacks, Peter King had this interesting quote buried in his weekly article (even though he manages to get the assumption wrong): “We all know the matchup the NFL wants to see,” said Terrell Suggs, a Tom Brady nemesis, on Saturday night after eliminating Pittsburgh. New England-Seattle, presumably [No, I'd say it's New England v. Denver, at least at first]. “We’ll see if we can disrupt some people’s plans.” Interesting that Suggs indicates that the NFL has plans to make certain games/results happen, isn't it? Especially after Suggs' own Ravens were the benefit of a massive penalty yardage difference in their win over the Steelers. How bad was it? The Ravens were flagged for 14 yards in the game, the Steelers 114 yards - and this game was in Pittsburgh no less! (Thanks to Mike and Adam for the tips!)
PLAYOFFS - DIVISIONAL
Before we get to the steak, let's quickly address the appetizer. The Ravens lost to the Patriots because the Patriots cheated again. Or so says Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Harbaugh was quoted as saying, "They're an illegal type of a thing and I'm sure that [the NFL will] make some adjustments and things like that." He added, "That was clearly deception." To me, it sounded like someone (i.e. Belichick) wasn't following the agreed upon script.
Then came Sunday's "Ice Bowl II" (which was called that simply for marketing purposes). The one play shown above has be already beaten into mashed potatoes in the media, but I'll still add my take for what it's worth.
One: Dez Bryant caught that ball. That is undeniable. It was in his hand(s) and not being bobbled. He had control. The problem lies in the NFL's rule on what actually is a "catch" (note: what is a catch to most people is not what the NFL defines one as being).
Two: The obfuscation of NFL rules is intentional. The official who initially determined this was a catch was standing not six feet away from the play. I'm certain he knows and understands the rules. He called it a catch, but because the league has created an enormous gray area when it comes to its rules, it could be overturned...if the league so desired.
Three: Why does anyone know the name Dean Blandino? Hasn't it always been the notion that good officiating remains anonymous? An unseen entity on the field? This is no longer the case, especially when it comes to the new micro-managed NFL. Every replay, including pivotal ones like this, has the on-the-field official in direct communication with the NFL home office in New York City. Sitting at that control panel is Dean Blandino (the same guy who now has a face in the media explaining why his officials always make the right call - be it on the field or in reviews - without much question coming from our watchdog media). Why can't fans watching at home hear the conversation between these two entities? What's so secret? They should be merely discussing the rule book. Why isn't it part of the broadcast? Then it would all be above the board and beyond reproach.
Four: If we could hear the field-to-NYC discussion, we wouldn't need a guy like Mike Pereira telling us the wrong thing. That's right. The former VP of Officiating (the pre-Dean Blandino), Pereira was actually involved in creating this "in the process" rule. A rule he failed to explain correctly to a clearly pissed off Howie Long on the FOX postgame show. Could it be that Pereira took the officials side of things this week in order to calm a brewing storm after helping stir the pot after the Cowboys benefited from poor officiating in the Wildcard round?
Five: Let's face it. If the Cowboys won the game in part because this was ruled a completed pass, the NFL "conspiracy theorists" (that is, people like me) would be popping out of their holes like groundhogs on February 2nd screaming "Fix!" So was this non-catch call purposefully made to quiet this growing disenfranchised crowd? Was it made because of "home field advantage?" Was it a little of both? Because if one reads the actual NFL rules on this, it's hard not to call the play anything but a catch.
Six: I have to say I kinda like Boomer Esiason, and not just because he had me on his radio show to promote my book (he also admitted during that interview fixing could occur today). Don't just listen to what he says in this clip. Look at his body language. As a former player, I'm certain he loves the game. And as having served the league both on the field and now off it, he understands how it really operates. This play, this ruling, has him beaten. He knows it was a catch, and he says so. Sure, he backs the NFL's letter of the law as he talks (they still employ him via CBS), but he doesn't believe in it. His hands are tied in the matter, and frankly, I think it bothers him.
The bottom line is when the NFL has to immediately go into damage control, you know something's not right. When Alex Jones calls my house less than 20 minutes after the final gun sounds to ask me to return to his program, something's not right. When Andrew Luck and the Colts beat Peyton "I'm suddenly playing with a torn quad which by rule should've been listed in the injury report but never was" Manning, something's...well, sooner or later the new guard has to take over if the NFL is going to continue to thrive on its QBs. Plus, the NFL couldn't have all four home teams win, could they?
PLAYOFFS - CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
Many businesses and even cities around the world have outlawed hoodies because the people wearing them are suspected of being criminals...
I was on the Tony Basilio Show in TN this past week, and I asked him a question I'll pose to all readers who come here: after all we've seen from the NFL in the past season or so, everything from Ray Rice to Adrian Peterson to steroids (still not a single positive HGH test in the NFL, btw) to concussions and onward, do you trust the NFL, its owners, and its PR figurehead Roger Goodell? Because if you don't believe the league is telling its fans the truth when it comes to all of these subjects, how in the world do you trust that it's not lying to you about what it attempts to sell to you, that is, its product: the games?
Despite its best efforts, the Patriots, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady should never be allowed to escape the dirty legacy of Spygate. All profited immensely from it. Former and once again current offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was even busted for trying to ressurrect it during his brief stint as the Broncos head coach. And now comes Deflategate, the allegations that the Patriots purposefully under-inflated its game balls to make them easier to throw and catch (and harder to fumble) in the bad weather versus the Colts. Brady has said, "I don't even respond to stuff like this." Why should he? No one's really going to press him on it. Might as well laugh it off.
If the Patriots are guilty (and UPDATE: apparently 11 of the Patriots' 12 balls were 2 lbs. less than they should have been), if it really helped them win, what's the NFL going to do about it? Would they dare strip one of its Super Bowl teams of a victory? Please. The rumors are they'll be fined and perhaps lose a draft pick a la Spygate. Ouch. I bet a stoned (or even sober) Jim Irsay would take that right now.
This story is a ruse. It makes "conspiracy theorists" backing this seem wacko. All it does is add to the talk surrounding the Super Bowl which is what all the NFL and its partners care about.
The question I was asked the most since Sunday is, "did the Packers lay down for the Seahawks?" Morgan Burnett sure did. As he was quoted as saying, "I got the 'no mas' signal, which means 'no more, no return, get down' and secure possession of the ball, give our offense the ball."
There's a lot of questions swirling around the Packers' play in the final 5 minutes of Sunday's game. Some blame head coach Mike McCarthy. It might be justified, but in watching replays of the game, I saw a lot of Packers defenders not exactly doing their job and not trying all that hard. On offense, the lack of aggression Aaron Rodgers complained about was as much as his fault as McCarthy's. Prior to the game, Rodgers told Terry Bradshaw in a FOX Sports interview that he goes to the line with both a run play and pass play option and makes a final call based on the defense lined up against him. Why didn't he option to the pass more (even early on when the Pack only scored 6 points off of 3 turnovers)? Why didn't he pass at the clearly injured Richard Sherman late in the game? Why was he suddenly limping late in the 4th quarter when he appeared fine most of the game? And another why - not of Rodgers' doing - is why did the man now labeled the Steve Bartman of the Packers world, TE Brandon Bostick, completely ignore his blocking assignment to go after that onside kick?
Was this all orchestrated by the NFL? If it was, then this league has better arranging skills than the Bolshoi Ballet. And note, Marshawn Lynch was happily dancing despite being down 12 points with less than 5 minutes to go.
Notice that officiating played zero role in either game (well, if you ignore the under inflated footballs). Amazing that offensive holding didn't occur once in either game. There was one defensive pass interference call in the GB-SEA game against the Seahawks which cost them five yards (GB punted on that drive), and a single defensive holding call against the Patriots during the Colts one and only scoring drive. Otherwise, subjective, game changing calls like the ones that stirred the pot in both Cowboys' playoff games were nonexistent. The officials "let them play," rule book be damned.
Here's another question to ask yourself: how happy would the NFL have been with a Packers-Colts Super Bowl? It could've easily happened, but of course, it didn't. Would the league have as much to hype as they now do with this game between the two number one seeds (for a second year in a row)? The story lines for this year's game are plentiful, and you'll likely hear them ad naseum. Funny how that all worked out to the NFL's benefit, isn't it?
The Super Bowl
Well, now. How about that Super Bowl? Went from being a snoozer to a nail biter, and just as quickly as a Seahawks' comeback put them in the Super Bowl, a Patriots' comeback knocked them out of one. That's some all-American entertainment right there...with, you know, an exception for that minor brawl that broke out with :18 second left in the game (though fans of goon hockey and NASCAR crashes probably thought that was some of the best hittin' of the night).
So what to make of that final Seahawks drive. Let me just say this: twice on that drive, Russell Wilson heaved up a prayer. One was knocked down, the second - which was into double coverage - was batted around and miraculously landed in the hands of Seahawks' WR Jermaine Kearse. The catch left everyone speechless. Could that be because he wasn't meant to catch it? Could it be that Wilson was trying to throw the ball away to give the Patriots the game?
Because on second and goal, instead of running Marshawn Lynch in full "Beast Mode," Pete Carroll called for a pass which was intercepted by rookie DB Malcolm Butler. Twitter was up in arms as many a pundit labled the pass "the dumbest play in Super Bowl history."
But the drama wasn't over. With :20 seconds left, the Patriots had the ball on the 1/2 yard line with no room to kneel down...until Seahawks lineman Michael Bennett was called for "encroachment." Five yards of extra room and game over.
Is this the result the NFL wanted? Now, two of my three predictions came true: I said it'd be a one score game decided in the 4th quarter and that the refs wouldn't be a factor. I got the team wrong (mainly because you fans wouldn't leave me alone with not picking a side), but prior to choosing the Seahawks, I did write that if the Patriots won, the NFL could erase the history of Spygate and Deflategate. Sure enough, Al Michaels and the rest of the NBC Sports staff were already downplaying that history. When asked about it on air, Robert Kraft basically laughed it off, saying they beat the Colts 45-7 and now the Seahawks 28-21, so you can take your deflated balls and shove 'em.
Worse still, a report coming out just after the game ended has it from "sources inside the investigation" that only one ball was "grossly underinflated," not 11 as was originally claimed. Oh, how those PR wheels of the NFL turn.
Shortly after the game, a fan, Iasalle, sent me an email with an interesting take which I now see was repeated by Dave Zirin: the "conspiracy theory" that the "worst play call in NFL history" was done for a very specific purpose - to make Wilson the hero and not Lynch. If Lynch scored from the 1-yard line, he would've had 2 TDs and 100+ yards. He would've had to have been named MVP. How much would the NFL have enjoyed that? Especially after the numerous times they tried to fine Lynch for his anti-media stance? But Wilson is clearly an up-and-comer that the league can hitch its wagon to. Why not let Wilson be the catalyst for the "gimme" TD, and name him MVP? How'd that turn out? Especially when the rookie DB for the Patriots knew the play was coming?
If you enjoyed this season served up The Fix Is In style, keep an eye out for my new book due out Labor Day 2014 titled A Season in the Abyss: Sports Gambling vs. the NFL's Integrity.