BRINGING THE NFL TO ITS KNEES


Or: The 2018 NFL Season, The Fix Is (STILL) In Style

SUPER BOWL LIII(e)

"I got it"

"Got what?"

"The Super Bowl. I got what we give the fans this year."

"What's that?"

"What wouldn't they expect?"

"Enough with the 20 questions. What's your idea?"

"Defense. We give 'em an old fashioned defensive struggle. After this season full of crazy high scoring games, we give 'em a low scoring, defensive affair."

"Seriously? Defense? That's your idea?"

"Yeah. People will eat it up!"

"People want scoring. They want action."

"This will be action-packed! Sacks! Turnovers! Power! Strength! It'll be anybody's game! A tight, back-and-forth battle right up to the end! It'll keep people glued to their seats! They'll be ready to explode by the end! It's a can't-miss!"

"You know what? What the hell. Let's go with it...."

At least, that's possibly what was discussed behind closed doors prior to this year's Super Bowl. It's about the only thing that makes sense about the game. The only problem was, the genius who came up with the idea to have it be a 13-3 affair probably lost his job as fast as the NFL and CBS lost viewers as this was the lowest rated Super Bowl in 10 years.

It was a snooze fest with the very real possibility that a punter could've -- maybe should've -- been named MVP (especially over Julian Edelman who, some forgot, was suspended for the first four games of this season for violating the NFL's performance enhancing drug policy).

Was it fixed for the Patriots? I'm sure some of you want me to say, "most definitely, yes." But to me at least, it didn't feel as if it was a total set-up like some other games have. Pre-game, I thought if the fix really was going to be in, it would've been for the Rams to win. Why? Because it appeared as if that franchise needed it more. But a near-miss might have been better for LA than the win. Like the Golden Knights in the NHL last year, a win might've actually hurt the fanbase. What would fans have had to look forward to next year or in 2020 when the new LA stadium is ready if the Rams won it all? A repeat? The first time is always the best. And given that LA fans don't really seem to want an NFL franchise (must less two) as it is, the loss keeps fans wanting more, hopefully building for the future.

Because, let's be honest, it really appeared as if the Rams tanked the game. Rams HC Sean McVay claimed RB Todd Gurley was "100%" going into the game. 100% of what, who knows? Because he disappeared from the game about as quickly as Malcolm Butler disappeared from the Patriots roster in last year's Super Bowl (which still hasn't been fully explained). QB Jared Goff looked shaky, and their tag-team of WRs -- Bradin Cooks and Robert Woods -- were MIA.

The theory behind the Rams utter failure on offensive is, of course, the genius of Bill Belichick and his defensive coordinator Brian Flores. I don't buy it. The Patriots defense was mediocre at best all season, especially outside of Foxboro where the Pats posted a sub .500 road record. The were not a great team this season either on defense or offense, and if it weren't for winning a weak division, the Pats should've been a wildcard team and never allowed to play a home playoff game. But the "masterminds" that never were this season managed to out-coach the "savant" McVay who can recall plays his team ran years ago. RIiiiiight.

While the refs did put in their two cents during the course of the game, really only two to three calls seemed "bad" which isn't surprising given the uproar still lasting from the Saints-Rams Championship game. But the bad calls weren't earth-shattering, merely slightly helpful to the Patriots cause (the bizarre "personal foul" on the immediate tackle on the screen pass in the first quarter, the holding call on the Rams which stalled a late game drive, and the non-call of pass interference on what could've been the game tying TD of a Goff pass to Cooks). Even though it did all lean the Patriots' way, the refs weren't giving the game away to New England. The Rams already had.

So we're now left with the Michael Jordan-esque "GOAT" Tom Brady. Whatever. His play was about as excellent as Peyton Manning's in Super Bowl 50, which is to say, not at all. But hey, this is all about mythbuilding, and though Brady's legacy didn't need more, what the hell? Throw another one on the pile. It'll give the pundits something to drool over for a while.

So there you have it. The NFL's 2018 season. Enjoy it? Were you not entertained? Coming back to watch more in 2019? If so, then it's "mission accomplished" for Roger Goodell and company. Because that's all that matters: you watch.

See you next season! (And go buy my new book The Fix Is Still In so I can keep doing this. It's the only support I ask for!) Peace.

NFC & AFC CHAMPIONSHIPS

Look, I don't think I really need to break either of these games down for anyone visiting this website. If you watched either the Rams v. Saints game or the Patriots v, Chiefs game, you know what you saw. And you know it wasn't just "bad calls" that manipulated their outcomes.

Bad calls happen. The speed of the game will, at times, confound even the keenest of eye. Little things can be missed with no ill-intent behind the action or in-action, depending upon the case.

But then there's things like....

This WASN'T ruled pass interference:


This WAS ruled roughing the passer:


What more evidence does a fan need to conclude that officials exist on the field to literally control NFL games?

More and more people are coming around to this idea, such as:


And:


And perhaps best of all, this thread (which should be read backwards, and starts from about the time of the non-pass interference call):




These guys openly doubted the legitimacy of the NFL, yet I'm the one called the "sports conspiracist?" I'm certain there are hundreds of others who Tweeted or Facebooked or Instagrammed something calling both of these games (which, let's not forget, managed to not be decided in regulation time but required overtime) into question. And rightfully so.

If these games weren't pre-determined -- and though I don't believe every NFL game is, I do know that some most certainly are -- how can Tony Romo's omniscient announcing be explained away?


I get that he's a former QB. I get he played a long time. I get he's intelligent. But if he can see all of this, why couldn't the Chiefs? Why can't other former QBs turned announcers like Troy Aikman and Rich Gannon call plays out with such certainity? What really goes on in those "production meetings" between teams, players and broadcasters? Is it just that Romo's the only one willing to open his mouth to how obvious NFL plays can be read by those in the know? And, again, if so, why was the Chiefs defense caught so off guard by it? They should certainly be "in the know" because we're told time and again how much game film preparation goes into each and every game by coaches and players. Plus, they have coaches in the booth high above the field like where Romo was perched. Couldn't they relay such info to the MLB who has a radio in his helmet, same as every QB does?

Not if it was never intended for the Chiefs to win.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft holds a lot of sway in the league. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is basically his lap dog which is why he seems to attend every "important" Patriots game played. And remember, folks, the NFL is OWNED BY THE OWNERS. It's their league. They merely sell tickets for people to come watch the show they put on. And that's what your ticket amounts to: the right to see billionaires play make-believe with their million dollar toys. If you don't believe this, go and read my webpage The Proof.

So, the NFL allowed the Rams owner Stan Kroenke to rip the team out of St Louis ("But we care about our fans!") and move to LA (where the team was originally taken from -- not counting Cleveland, its real, original home), regardless of the bad blood in created in the city (and it created a lot -- including a few unmentioned lawsuits which the Rams settled out of court). Ownership then decided to build a new multi-billion dollar LA stadium which would be not just the home of the Rams, but lease out space so that the Chargers could call LA its home as well. Now if $500 million could buy a Stanley Cup berth for the Las Vegas Golden Knights -- and I believe it did -- what should $5 billion get a guy like Kroenke? A loss in the NFC Championship Game? Or a gift of at minimum a Super Bowl berth, if not an outright championship?

You tell me because now, 17 years to the day that the Patriots, led by an unknown QB named Tom Brady, won their first ever Super Bowl over the "Greatest Show on Turf" known as the Rams (in a game which was horribly officiated and, yes, pre-determined), NFL fans will be treated to a rematch of that fateful game. Enjoy the puppet show!

Oh, and two bits of news: One, my wife had surgery this week and is recovering well. Thank you for all the thoughts & prayers. And two, only three entries into my Super Bowl contest had the Rams playing the Patriots. Good luck to those last few standing!

DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

Let's take this week on game-by-game.

Colts v. Chiefs: Although a couple of people tweeted me saying the pre-game talk was all about praising the Colts and Andrew Luck's comeback, in-game, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth just lavished praise on Chiefs QB sensation Patrick Mahomes. I'm not saying Mahomes isn't talented -- he is, and he's exactly the sort of influx of talent the NFL desperately needs -- but while watching the it didn't sound like the Chiefs were playing another actual team. No mention was really made of the Colts, it was all Chiefs, Mahomes, Chiefs, Andy Reid, Chiefs, Mahomes, etc. To me, this sounded like scripted myth-building at its finest. Of course, since the Chiefs non-existent defense suddenly decided to show up and play, the Chiefs had no problem beating comeback-kid Luck (who's team, the rarely mentioned Colts, appeared listless and not really committed to playing). But did anyone really think given the season -- and attention -- Mahomes has had that the NFL would prefer Luck to advance over him? C'mon.

Cowboys v. Rams: So the Rams apparently knew the Cowboys defense "90 percent of the time." It's little wonder then that the Rams managed to have two RBs rush for over 100 yards each in that game. Of course, this little factoid has already been blow over, but wait. Are we to believe that only the Rams brilliant coaches were able to figure out the Cowboys' defensive tells? No one else in the league noticed? Only the Rams, and only the week they happened to play Jerry Jones' boys? Hmm. Seems a bit too convenient, doesn't it? The officiating did the 'Boys no favors either, including the questionable "in the grasp" call that the NFL itself has had a hard time explaining away. But the fact is, ever since Jones cut ties (to an extent) from the NFL's revenue sharing program, his team isn't getting the calls like they use to. Fact is, while the Cowboys are good for the NFL in terms of ratings (and all that goes with that), Jones greed doesn't rub off too well on his fellow owners. Methinks the league decided, "we'll let the Cowboys succeed...to a point, only because it's good for business, but otherwise, screw Jerry." Hence, now the Cowboys are a perennial bridesmaid, rather than the bride.

Chargers v. Patriots: Alright, this one's a bit mindblowing and I cannot take credit for it. A fan named Chris sent this to me, and by all accounts, it checks out. So maybe you heard (or even saw, as I did) Tom Brady bro-hugging referee Ron Torbert prior to Sunday's game. Though it didn't have that good of an appearance on the surface, maybe it was really just a courtesy thing. A mutual respect. Now, it just so happens that Torbert officiated the Titans v. Patriots Divisional playoff game last season (which NE won 35-14). So what, right? Well, off the field, Torbert is a lawyer with the law firm Barton Malow. The same Barton Malow that was the project manager on Robert Kraft's Gillette Stadium where the Patriots call home. Hmm. Isn't that a coincidence. No conflict of interest there, right? With that in mind, go back and watch the officiating in this game, and see how out-of-whack Philip Rivers gets as the game progresses because the Chargers never once got a break in the game. Granted, the Patriots were assessed more penalties and yardage that the Chargers (the majority of which was assessed after the Patriots ran up a big lead), but as can be the case, the non-calls -- including clear cases of roughing the passer against Rivers -- were a difference maker. Just munch on that for a while.

Eagles v. Saints: Um, what little I saw of this game made me feel as if the NFL wanted the Eagles to win, not the Saints. Several calls cost the Saints yardage and points, and had Alshon Jeffery not let an easy catch go through his hands into the waiting arms of a Saints DB with less than two minutes left in the game, that very well may have been the case. You'd think the NFL wanted Drew Brees and Co moving onward because, hey, he's Drew Brees, national spokesman and the Eagles (once again) were relying on Nick Foles, but it felt to me (again, from what little I saw) that this was supposed to end another way.

Irregardless, the NFL is now left with four teams it can easily hype for the Super Bowl no matter who wins/loses. Personally, I like the youth movement (and fan-base building) matchup of LA v KC, but could easily see the opposite of NO v. NE where two QBs with over 70,000 career passing yards would face off. Whatever combos comes to be, the script can easily be written and/or changed to make it interesting for fans and non-fans alike. We'll see.

Oh, and for those of you who entered my Super Bowl Contest, only 44% of entries remain alive! Good luck!

WILDCARD WEEKEND

I almost forgot to make the post this week. My wife's health issues continue and have really messed with our lives. Plus, the four games played this weekend were rife with the usual nonsense; which is to say, they were horribly officiated. The Ravens v. Chargers game appeared the worst to me (I wasn't able to see the Seahawks v. Cowboys game because my cable company, Spectrum, is at war with the Tribune Co. which owns FOX, so the local FOX affiliate was blacked out for me). There were two (maybe three) goal-line calls officials in this game screwed up. Interestingly, one member of the Chargers called the league out on this: OT Russell Okung. His opinion is that the NFL doesn't want the Chargers to play a home playoff game due to the fact that they play in what's basically a small soccer stadium. I don't think he's wrong. And I love hearing pro athletes further the "conspiracy theory" by stating what appears to be obvious to everyone who's not affiliated with the NFL or who is member of the sports media.

Elsewhere, there was the bizarre call in the Eagles v. Bears game on the "completed" pass at the end of the first half which would've given the Bears 1st and goal, but instead was ruled an incomplete pass because the "completed" pass was fumbled and no one besides the referee bothered to recover the ball. That make any sense to you? It didn't to Al Michaels who wondered out loud if the NFL was making up its rules on the fly. Michaels also wondered (jokingly, of course) if there were magnets in the balls as to make Bears kicker Cody Parkey routinely hit the uprights. Sound familiar?

The two "upsets" where the Colts upended the Texans and the aforementioned Eagles tipped the Bears weren't much of a shock as both kept a couple of storylines -- the "comeback of the year" in Andrew Luck and the return of Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles -- alive and well...at least for another week. Since both were #6 seeds it's highly likely both are doomed to lose to the Chiefs and Saints respectively. Why not push the Bears over the Eagles? Well, if not for a stray finger, Cody Parkey likely would've had the Bears rematching the Rams while the Cowboys would get stuffed by the Saints, but either way, we are all likely to be treated to a Rams v. Saints NFC Title Game as it is.

All that remains to be determined is if Tom Brady, the Patriots and the refs will live up the Russell Okung's theory, or if Philip Rivers' magic lives on to keep building that LA fanbase.

As for those of you who entered The Fix Is In's contest, here's some stats for you:


WEEK 17

I think the only reasons games were played in Week 17 is because they were mandated. And while the NFL and its broadcast partners attempted to make them as interesting as possible by switching the times of games in order to make them more important, really this week amounted to a hill of beans. The only "drama" was in the Browns v'. former Browns (read: Ravens) game which wrapped up just after the Steelers limped into a victory over the Bengals to keep their dim playoff hopes alive. Despite the tension in the final two minutes, the new Browns still managed to lose to the old Browns and the Steelers were put away for the season. Otherwise, every other result was quite predictable -- even the Eagles, led by BDN Foles (Google that if you don't know what I'm talking about...wait, don't use Google, use a better, less invasive search engine), seemed destined to get back into the playoffs given that the Vikings (who never resembled a playoff team all season) had to beat the Bears to avoid being KO'd.

So, as I mentioned last week, the playoffs are all about the young QBs which now include the youngest-ever playoff starting QB in Lamar Jackson for the aforementioned Ravens. Who's going to the Super Bowl? Well, my soon-to-be-proven-wrong predictions would be as follows:

In the AFC, it won't be the Patriots. How they managed to secure the #2 seed is beyond me. I would lean towards either the Chiefs or the Chargers (my preseason pick) who will probably match up in the Divisional Round. Whichever team wins that game is your AFC representative. The Texans could sneak in as a reward to their recently deceased owner Bob McNair, but I don't think that holds much water in the NFL's grand plan (but note that both McNair's Texans and also-recently deceased Paul Allen's Seahawks are both playoff teams).

In the NFC, I would lean heavily on the Rams what with their new city/stadium/fanbase to build up, but the Saints do pose a problem given that Drew Brees is suddenly a story again this season. If the Chargers are in, then the Rams will be out because as desperate as the NFL can be at times (remember the "Harbowl?"), forcing two LA teams into the Super Bowl seems a bit much even for this league. The other four NFC teams are filler, although the Bears could be a team of the near-future if Mitchell Trubisky ups his game a bit.

So I like two options: Rams v. Chiefs (remember the fireworks in that Monday Night Football game?) or the Drew Brees' bowl of Chargers v. Saints.

CONTEST ALERT! Email me your Super Bowl pick with final score at brian2e@thefixisin.net and whomever is closest will win a signed copy of each of my three sports books: The Fix Is In, Larceny Games, and A Season in the Abyss. You MUST pick both teams with the final score of the Super Bowl (as a tie breaker) to win! Picks must be emailed to me by January 5th (Saturday) by 3 pm EST to be eligible!

WEEK 16

The most important news to come out of this week is that my next book The Fix Is Still In is 99.9% complete and ready to go into printing. Here's the (likely) cover art:



The second most important news is that I won my 20+ year old fantasy football league for the second straight year.

As for the third most important news item....eh, some other stuff happened in the NFL as usual. Like there was this completely unnecessary run back for a touchdown by the Titans Malcolm Butler that only mattered for Vegas:


Then there was the ridiculous officiating that brought the Saints a home win in their game against the Steelers. A similar scenario took place in the Seahawks home win over the Chiefs on Sunday night. In both games, it was clear who the officials wanted to win, and it wasn't the Steelers or Chiefs.

Both of these outcomes added to the intrigue in the final week of the regular season. In Week 17, there will be a full 10 out of 16 games that have some sort of playoff implications, even though 10 of the 12 playoff teams are already locked in place. Most of what's up for grabs is either a bye or home field advantage, but the Ravens, Steelers, Colts, and Titans are playing to snag one of those two open playoff slots, with the Sunday Night Titans v. Colts game essentially being the NFL's first playoff game of the 2018 season as it's "Win and get in; loser goes home."

What's interesting to note is which quarterbacks are in the playoffs. Granted, old timers like Brady and Brees are in, as is the oft-ignored Philip Rivers, but the rest are up-and-comers: Mitchell Trubisky, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson. What will be noteworthy is will the NFL put in the old guard of PIT's Roethlisberger or the rising star of BAL's rookie Lamar Jackson? And in the Colts v. Titans game, will the comeback story of Andrew Luck continue, or will the NFL roll the dice on the health of Marcus Mariota?

For all intents and purposes, it really seems as if this year marks a changing of the guard for the NFL and its QBs. And that's what the league needs: fresh blood. Brady and the Pats aren't going anyway this year, and while Rivers and Brees have the hype machine behind them this season, but both are pushing 40. If it ain't this year for either/both of them, they won't have many more chances moving forward. But the rest of the bunch still remaining have years to play and fanbases to build. If the NFL plans on staying relevant, then this new crop of QBs are going to get more than their fair share of calls/breaks to insure their legends grow because that's what this soap opera needs to stay alive.

WEEK 15

Let's revisit my "rant" from last week about NFL officiating. This week, I'm not the only one talking about it. Let's go in order of occurance:

Thursday night, the Chargers pulled off an incredible comeback against the Chiefs which -- of course -- was aided by the referees. Actually, the officiating in this game was horrid. So much so, an argument could almost be made that the refs were pulling for the Chiefs given some of the flags, but when you see that the Chargers won 29-28 (thanks to a terrible KC defense which allowed the most non-contested 2-point conversion attempt in NFL history), you realize the refs were LA fans on Thursday. But the officiating was so bad, Rotoworld of all places cited it in their review of Patrick Mahomes' night. (Thanks to Thomas for the tip).

On Friday, the Athletic posted an article on how screwed the Redskins have been this season thanks to officiating. Seeing as how the Cowboys appeared to be anointed by the NFL -- up until being shut out by the Colts this week -- it's not surprising to see the NFL hold back Dallas's competition. But the key take away from this article is this: "Here’s the real killer: the holding calls have stalled an NFL-leading 15 drives, while the false starts have stalled a league-high 17 drives. For a team that’s got a dental floss-thin margin between winning and losing-not to mention an offense that’s producing the fifth fewest points on average-that must change for them to have any chance of making a late-season postseason push." (Thanks to James for the tip)

Then on Sunday, the Steelers stuffed the Patriots 17-10...thanks in large part to the uncharacteristic 14 penalties for 104 yards called against New England (versus 4 for 40 on PIT). Tom Brady offered some explanation for the calls, basically saying the refs were calling holding "tighter" than usual. Or, in other words, an NFL QB admitted that there's "holding on every play," but that refs subjectively enforce the rule. When and where that takes place, of course, can be game altering. (Thanks to Christopher for the tip)

And then on Monday, Seahawks CB Shaquill Griffin claimed the "terrible call" of pass interference against him cost the Seahawks the game in OT versus the 49ers. In the game, the Seahawks set a franchise record with 14 penalties for 148 yards (against 8 for 66 yards for the 49ers). Maybe it was the penalties, or maybe it was the effort of teammate Sebastian Janikowski who did next to nothing to stop a kickoff return for a touchdown in the game.

I know, I know SeaBass is old and I should leave him alone. But c'mon, is this really the effort fans will allow from a professional athlete in the midst of a play? I don't care if he is the kicker. TRY. (thanks to Phillip for the tip).

Lastly, some people ask me how I know when or if a game is going to be fixed. Well, if you tuned into Sunday Night Football and heard the constant reference to backup QB Nick Foles leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl last year and how the SNF game versus the Rams "eerily felt" like the beginng of the Eagles run last year, then you should've seen what was coming in that game. Foles WAS the story of that game, and it was harped on over and over and over again. Of course, following the script, the Eagles won 30-23 (despite Vegas having the Rams a -13 favorite). That's how the media and the NFL work together to bring fans stories they'll eat up like the junk food it is.

WEEK 14

Apparently this was the week in which the NFL decided to "make things interesting" in terms of playoff races. The Browns beat the Panthers, the Dolphins beat the Patriots, the Colts beat the Texans, the Raiders -- the RAIDERS!!! -- beat the Steelers, the Packers won, the Rams lost, the Cowboys beat the Eagles, the Chiefs narrowly beat the Ravens: All of these results upset the status quo in the playoff race. As a result, now more games in the final three weeks of the season take on an added significance which, of course, is good for the NFL and its broadcast partners. Funny how these things work out, isn't it?

Of course, the NFL's handymen -- the referees -- had a part in all of this. In the case of the suddenly christened Cowboys, two plays (if not more) clearly bent Dallas's way:

and

Not to be outdone, on Monday Night Football, the Vikings (who weren't looking too good all game) were robbed of a chance to make the game close when the referees decided to pick up a flag thrown on the Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner for "leverage" on a blocked field goal -- which was correctly thrown. Because of the reversal, it went from first-and-ten from the Seahawks' 14 for the Vikings to Seahawks' ball, a huge change in the game needless to say. No explanation was given for the improper change in the on-the-field ruling.

Here's the thing -- and its something you can use if/when arguing about this sort of thing with friends, family, or NFL fans in general: IF the NFL truly wanted to get these calls correct (and not "right" -- the "right" call more often than not is the one that favors the team the NFL favors), they could. The league could undoubtedly make all of these calls correctly with little to no added effort on their part.

No one gives a flying you-know-what about the "tradition" of the referees on the field making calls. In this modern day and age of technological advances, it would be incredibly easy to have multiple officials in the booth at the stadium watching the game live or via television and have them be able to signal to an on-the-field official to throw a flag and make the call as seen from above. The NFL does not need replays reviewed from NYC and the home office. It was and can be done at the stadium (how often do you really need to see a replay to tell if the ball was caught or fumbled? One extra look often does the trick). Microchips and sensors can be placed inside the ball, on the goal lines, and all over the field to mark where the ball should be spotted. Do we really need two old men holding a pair of sticks with a 10-yard long chain between them to determine a first down in the year 2018? If I can see a TV ad spouting about "next gen" stats which (supposedly) tell me the probability of a catch being made, then that same technology can tell me whether or not the ball broke the plain of the end zone.

As I've said before in interviews, the most compelling thing on TV could be listening in to the on-the-field referee discussing rules with NFL HQ in NYC during replays. But we don't get to hear that. Why? Now, instead, replays are often determined during commercials and left to the TV broadcasters to explain away. Not everything can be reviewed. Why? If holding can be called on every play and pass interference can be call on every third or fourth pass attempt, why are these subjective calls only made a handful of times per game? If the rules are constantly being broken and going unenforced, what makes this or that play so special to deserve the flag?

The answer to all of this as plain as the nose on your face: control. If all these "high tech" changes were made -- and they could be made in the course of one offseason -- the league would lose its best way to control the outcome of games. They couldn't shade things as much as they are currently able to do because the tech wouldn't allow it (well, unless they added certain backdoor hacks into their own technology which wouldn't surprise me either). But they won't do it because they would sacrifice too much to implement such "radical" changes. So you get the status quo. You get entertainment, You don't get actual sport. End of story.

WEEK 13

So this week got off with a BANG! when the Cowboys upset the seemingly "unbeatable" Saints on Thursday Night Football in perhaps one of the worst officiated games I've seen in a while. I mean this was ruled a first down:

But this is far from the only horrible call made. Another was a clear helmet-to-helmet hit on the Saints RB Alvin Kamara which wasn't called despite, you know, being a "point of emphasis" for the league. All in all, there were bad calls against each team, but considering the Cowboys were at home (and the Rams seem to be the NFC's "blessed" team), the Saints weren't leaving Dallas with a W.

Then the Kareem Hunt bomb dropped. (If you don't know, back in Feburary, Hunt assaulted a women in a Cleveland hotel. No charges were pressed at the time, and despite an "investigation" by both the Chiefs and the NFL, nothing was uncovered. Then, this past week, TMZ released the security camera footage of the incident. Subsequently, the NFL reacted and put Hunt on the Commissioner's exempt list, and the Chiefs then cut Hunt. He's currently out of football).

This goes to show two things about NFL Security (which is the department in charge of league investigations): 1) NFL Security is inept. They didn't interview either Hunt or the woman involved, and yet declared the matter solved. But at the same time 2) NFL Security managed to keep this under wraps for 10 months. So, perhaps #1 isn't the right assumption because maybe NFL Security's purpose isn't what everyone assumes it is. In fact, as I've written about before, NFL Security's job is to keep things quiet and out of the media, which in the Hunt case, worked well...but not perfectly because even these two yahoos understand something smells in this case (thanks to Rodney for the tip on the video).


The loss of Hunt didn't derail the Chiefs. Of course, they were playing the Raiders, so...you know. But moving forward, the loss of Hunt -- a premier NFL running back -- could cost the Chiefs this season which would be good for LA's #2 team, the Chargers.

Perhaps the only thing you needed to know about Sunday Night's Chargers v. Steelers game is this play:

It's funny that the NFL's own Twitter account highlighted this play because if you watch closely, the Chargers committed a false start that wasn't flagged. Oops. A few weeks back, a similar thing happened in the Chargers v. Browns game (in the Browns' favor) and the offending official was fired. Not so with the guy who missed this one (so far, but another ref was put on "administrative leave" for reportedly calling a player a "bitch.") Of course, this wasn't all that favored LA -- the SNF crew of Michaels and Collinsworth couldn't heap enough praise on Phil Rivers who, on cue, lead the Chargers on a remarkable second half comeback, leading to the Steelers losing for the first time in over 200 games when leading by 14+ points at home. Perhaps my "Chargers to the Super Bowl" prediction isn't quite dead yet.

My other team, however, the Vikings are on life support after a loss to the ever-present Patriots. In fact, the entire NFC North lost: LA's #1 team, the Rams, beat the Lions and clinched the NFC West title, the Bears lost in OT to the Giants despite Odell Beckham Jr pulling a Super Bowl Cam Newton move by not attempting to field a live ball (in this instance, the Bears onside kick which they recovered -- thanks to John for the tip), and the Packers dropped a homer to the Cardinals (of all teams) which led to the dismissal of their head coach Mike McCarthy. Once again, I would say the Aaron Rodgers tanked this game in order to get McCarthy fired. Rodgers was literally smirking after missing open receivers with passes. But, since Rodgers is GB's current golden boy and can do no wrong, most fans here in WI are happy to see McCarthy gone. And just FYI, the news was SO BIG in WI, it required its own news special -- and on more than one local network.

I'm sure I missed something else this week, but I'm still dealing with personal things here; however, it does appear to be improving. Fingers crossed!

WEEK 12

I'll be honest with you, The Fix Is In fans. I spent time with my family on Thanksgiving, and on the weekend had to take my wife to the ER (she's okay now, sorta). I didn't really watch any football, and what I did see on Sunday, I watched through a haze of anxiety and stress, so none of it connected. So I really don't know what to say about this week's action outside of two things:

One, there was no way the Texans were going to lose at home on Monday Night against the Titans, not after their owner Bob McNair died this past week. If I had an opportunity to bet (on the money line, screw the spread), I would've bet the house on this outcome which, of course, came to be when Houston won 34-17.

Two, and I only mention this because I did kinda-sorta see the Packers v. Vikings game on Sunday Night, something ain't right with Aaron Rodgers. It's one of three things: (A) he's more hurt from that Week 1 knee injury than anyone has let on to; (B) his skills are eroding from injury and age, given that he's taken way more punishment over the years than his contemporaries like Brees, Brady, etc. and his skills are actually on the decline; or (C) he's tanking this season to get rid of head coach Mike McCarthy. I'm guessing it's a little bit of A and a lot of C.

I don't know Rodgers from a hole in the ground, but as an outsider watching him, he comes off like a total prick. He always seems to be blaming his teammates (in game -- he says the right things afterwards) for the Packers offensive woes. Given the distance between him and his family, something that has been again amplified by his brother over Aaron's response to the California wildfires, the guy may just be a Grade A jerk and has had enough of McCarthy's ways. So, to get rid of him, Rodgers is literally throwing games in hopes that McCarthy takes the fall for his poor play. One of the best QBs in football is repeatedly failing on third downs and is throwing deep instead of hitting the open receiver standing at the first down marker? Something's up here that's going unrecognized.

But that's all I got for you. There's more to life than football, and this week -- for me, at least -- has proven that in more ways than one. Next week, we should be back to normal. Hopefully.

WEEK 11

Wow. Just wow. I'm not sure where to begin this week.

Let's start with one you probably missed because who really cared what happened in the Raiders v. Cardinals game? A friend of mine from the Vegas area told me that because the Raiders have been so bad this year, the local TV affiliate in Vegas was going to stop broadcasting Raiders games. The team is moving to the city in two years, and the TV station there isn't going to show the game featuring the "home town" team? Well, someone -- the NFL perhaps? -- stepped in and changed the TV station's mind. But guess what happened in this week's Raiders game?

With the Cardinals winning 21-20, they get the ball back on the Raiders 44-yard line iwth less than three minutes remaining in the game. On their 2nd play in the drive, there's a "unnecessary roughness" call against AZ, giving the Cardinals a 3rd-at up the clock, and lo-and-behold, David Johnson finds room and goes 57 yards for the game-winning touchdown! But, oops! Offensive holding! The Cardinals are forced to punt, the Raiders cobble together a 2-minute drill, and kick the game-winning field goal for a 23-21 win. The Raiders stay on TV in Vegas!

Elsewhere, the Panthers mount their own 2-minute drill to score the game-tying TD against the lowly Lions, but wait. Instead of actually tying the game with the PAT, they "boldly" go for the win and attempt a 2-point conversion. Cam Newton's pass didn't connect, and the Panthers walk away with the L. The Cowboys beat the Falcons despite doing everything possible to lose, something even the writers at Yahoo admit (thanks to Jessy for the tip). Big Ben pulls off another "miracle" and brings the Steelers back for the win in Jacksonville, thanks to another did-he-or-didn't-he touchdown catch by TE Vance McDonald. The Packers lost in Seattle on Thursday Night thanks to a couple of other did-he-or-didn't-he catches that the refs ruled in favor of the home-town Seahawks.

Then I had to go and mention my early preseason Super Bowl pick last year. Both the Chargers and Vikings lost this week. The Chargers lost on a last second field goal despite being gifted a "really?" offensive pass interference call against the Broncos. And the Vikings were manhandled in Chicago, even though they, too, were gifted a pair of nonsense penalties that allowed the Vikings to score and cut the Bears lead to a less than a touchdown.

Then came the Tweet:

9/11. Hurricane Katrina. #BostonStrong. #HoustonStrong. #VegasStrong. And now this.

Well, before #LATogether, the NFL yanked the Monday Night Rams v. Chiefs slugfest out of Mexico at the last minute due to "concerns for the field conditions" and instead made it a home game for LA -- where, you know, there's a ongoing warning about the air quality. Nothing like putting 80,000+ people in harms way by having them go to an outdoor arena to watch a football game. And then came this news:

Why would the NFL do this? No explanation. What did the replaced officials have to say about getting yanked from this game for no good reason? No idea. What did this "all star" group of officials do in the game? Help LA a touch, perhaps? Considering the Chiefs racked up nine penalties before the refs flagged the Rams once, and I think you get the idea. The final tally doesn't seem that bad -- KC 13 for 135 yards, LA 8 for 60 -- wait, I take that back. Add to it that Andy Reid had to challenge a clearly tipped pass to save his team from one penalty (which would've given LA a first and goal situation over a FG), and then had to watch a clear Patrick Mahomes pass get ruled a fumble and return for a LA touchdown get thankfully overruled by instant replay, and you should realize this game was only going in one direction.

People did notice this was happening:

But who wants to spoil the narrative. Because, of course, the Rams crazy 54-51 win led to the expected nonsense such as this:

I'm sure all those people who lost loved ones in the nightclub shooting or had their homes and belongings reduced to ashes really are comforted by that Rams win. But this is now the official party line. And damn you for questioning it, even when ESPN blatantly lied to its viewers during the game:

Bread and circuses, people. Bread and circuses.

Even the first two minutes of these nonsense speakers seem to recognize what's happening in the NFL these days.

(Thanks to Rodney for the tip on the video).

WEEK 10

So did you know that the NFL only partially reviews plays that its claims to review? The league does this to determine if a full-blown review is necessary. Does this make you say, "Huh?" It should. But this is the play from Thursday night's Steelers v. Panthers that brought this fact to light:


This was determined to be a catch...thanks to a partial review. How do I know it was only sort-of looked at? Because the NFL itself told us so which is related in this article. I find this rather strange given that NFL HQ is in charge of all replays now and what else do they have to do but review plays?! Why don't all plays in need of review get full reviews? No explanation is given on that, so you decide why that is.

Meanwhile....


Boing! Boing! Boing! Boing! Bears kicker Cody Parkey hits the upright four times in one game? (Oddly enough, it was in a game versus the Lions which was also the team that the Packers were playing when their kicker Mason Crosby completely flamed out). A NFL goalpost is six inches wide. Parkey nailed it four times. He couldn't hit it that often, that solidly if he tried. Yet here it is for all to see. Still wondering about that idea of magnetized balls/uprights?

So far, my one and only NFL prediction for the 2018 season is hanging in there. Sure, the Rams, Saints, and Chiefs all look awesome now, but there's still story lines to be made (and injuries to happen). And one question that some people have asked me about is if the Rams (and/or Chargers) will become #LAStrong in the wake of these wildfires (and/or the already forgotten nightclub shooting)? If either/both teams do pick up that hashtag and run with it -- look out! It might very well lead to a Super Bowl and championship. It did for the likes of the Saints, Red Sox, Astros, and last year's Vegas Golden Knights (who are currently cellar dwellers in the NHL -- as I predicted). Not that either LA team needs a hashtag given that their success(es) seem to correlate to the new stadium opening in LA next year, but if that is added to the mix, whichever team backs the #strong movement will be hard to stop.

WEEK 9

I'm a bit at a loss as to what to write about this week because it was a whole lotta meh. I mean, I could talk about how the Vegas sports books took it on the chin this week as most of the favorites easily covered the point spread, but so what? In two weeks (give or take), Vegas will make that "lost" money back...with interest. It's pretty easy to pick games like the Browns v. Chiefs or the Lions v. Vikings or the Bears v. Bills or Panthers v. Buccaneers -- very good teams against bad teams. The only trick is the spread. And given that the good have been very good and the bad very bad (like the Raiders who are now basically tanking away the rest of this season), Vegas is going to have to adjust its numbers moving forward.

Or I could circle around back to field goal and PAT attempts, and the possibility of their manipulation:

What caught my interest with the subject this week is when Sunday Night Football repeatedly showed kickoffs from the angle of their overhead "spider" camera. The kickoffs were always straight and true, no dip, dives, sharp turns, etc. Why is that? The tee? Does it make that much of a difference? Or is there something technique-wise on FGs that's radically different than on kickoffs? Or is it in fact something more sinister?

Of course, there's always bad/questionable plays:

People think offensive lineman can't affect games/outcomes. Granted, it's the Cowboys tight end (#89) in the example above who completely fails at his job -- purposefully, in my opinion, because why not block the incoming LB in favor of diving on a man already basically blocked/down? But seriously, control a member of the O-line, and you can rig just about any game. And who's looking for such play?

But I think you fine readers already understand all of this. And this week was just more of the same from the NFL. Soon, very soon I'm guessing, the playoff hype will ramp up with the true storylines emerging. Then it will get interesting to see who the media -- and in turn, the league -- is really backing and how far guys like Patrick Mahomes will go this season. So consider this the proverbial calm before the storm.

WEEK 8.5

It totally slipped my mind when posting my Week 8 review, but two tragedies led to two wins. First, Seahawks owner Paul Allen passed away this week, and even though it was a road game for the 'Hawks, they trounced the Lions 28-14 after added a commemerative patch to their jersey. Then after the horrific mass shooting in Pittsburgh and a moment of silence, the home town Steelers wiped the floor with the Browns 33-18. Neither win was completely unexpected, yet in light of the circumstances surrounding this games/teams, it was as if both wins were "needed."

WEEK 8

So the NFL made the unusual move of firing one of its officials in the middle of the season. Hugo Cruz, the referee blamed for missing the false start which resulted in a Chargers touchdown earlier this year, became the first NFL referee to lose his job like this in the Super Bowl era. Cruz supposedly missed several key calls and had to go. I think there's more to this story than has been made public.

I find this funny because NFL referees miss calls all the time. Key calls. Crucial calls. Yet Hugo gets the axe? Just two weeks ago, the Packers v. 49ers game was changed due to an illegal contact penalty on the 49ers Richard Sherman. This week in the Packers v. Rams game, FOX showed three occasions where the Packers DB clearly held the Rams WR without a flag being thrown. That's just what was shown on replay, so who knows how often it really occurred. What happened to illegal contact being a point of emphasis? What happened to the refs who missed those calls? Hmmm....

Speaking of that Packers v. Rams game, what was Packers KR Ty Montgomery thinking when he attempted to return a kickoff out of the endzone with under 3 minutes remaining in the game and the Packers down by 2 points? During his return attempt, Montgomery fumbled, the Rams recovered, and another potential Aaron Rodgers comeback was thwarted. Subsequently, Montgomery was traded off the Packers to the Ravens on Tuesday for a box of socks. Some claimed Montgomery intentionally defied the coach's order to take a knee/touchback on the play because (a) he was upset at being pulled from the game the drive before or (b) according to Montgomery, he made a split second decision which he thought he had to bring it out because it was too close to the goalline not to do so.


But what if Montgomery attempted to return the kick and fumbled intentionally because there are deeper seated reasons no one outside the team realizes? Is that possible? Could Montgomery have in fact been angry at the team for seeing his playing time diminish? Could there be friction between him and Rodgers, McCarthy, or someone else? And could that have come to a head in this game with Montgomery in the heat of the moment deciding, "F--- you all?" I've heard of similar type of reactions within sports because, let's face it, the "family" idea of a team isn't always the truth.

In that same game, right after the Rams recovered the fumble, Rams RB Todd Gurley had a chance to score a TD, putting the Rams up by 8 (9 with the extra point) with about 20 second left in the game. Instead, Gurley stopped short and was tackled, still ensuring a Rams victory. This was the smart play, however, it was costly to many football fans in America. See, he cost fantasy football players a touchdown, but more importantly with the point spread on the game anywhere from the Rams -9.5 to -7, it cost bettors a cover. Shockly, Gurley tweeted about this.

Again, I'm not saying his play was foolish, but the fact that he acknowledged the betting post-game is somewhat troubling. Did he know the spread before/during the game? Was he cognizant what stopping short meant to bettors? Could this be viewed as "fixing," even if not 100% intentional? The trouble with expanded sports gambling is that these sorts of things should be looked at closer because not all are just fun and games.

Elsewhere, four members of the Jaguars were (briefly) arrested over a $50,000+ bar bill the night before the team took on the Eagles in London. Not surprisingly, the Jaguars lost the game 24-18.

Then there was the Monday Night game with the Patriots playing the Bills in Buffalo (which was the first time the Bills hosted a MNF game in over a decade). The Pats were -13.5 favorites, and no one thought it would be close. But at halftime the score was 9-3 Patriots, and at the end of the third quarter it was 12-6. To me, it appeared as if Tom Brady and Co. were tanking it to keep the Bills in the game for the sake of ESPN because the game wasn't out of reach for the Bills until 6 minutes remained when a Derek Anderson pick-6 sealed their fate. Pats won (and covered) 25-6.

WEEK 7

It's Week 7 and there seems to be only a handful of teams that matter. In the NFC, there's the Rams, Saints and Vikings. In the AFC, there's the Chiefs, Chargers and as always, Patriots. A few teams -- Texans, Packers, Redskins, Cowboys, Steelers, Ravens, Panthers -- are "in the hunt" but for the most part, I really think it'll come down to those first six teams I rattled off when all is said and done. And there's still more than half the season to go!

So instead of discussing this bad call or that one (or the fact that in the game against the Bears, the Patriots offensive line once again went without a holding call against them in protecting Tom Brady), let's look at the "kick heard 'round the world": Justin Tucker's first ever missed PAT which should have sent the Ravens v. Saints game into OT, but instead gave the Saints the win.

The NFL blocked my original posting of this video (do they do that to everyone who shares one of their YouTube posts, or just to me?), so here's another version of it:


Alright, the second time I posted a video for this play, it was yanked. Here's a pair of tweets that cover the kick and Tucker's reaction. Let's see if these get yanked.


If you watched the video and saw Tucker's reaction to his miss, his is the face of a man who's not sure of what he just witnessed. The ball moved twice to his right (the viewer's left) mid-flight. Granted, the guy was 222-222 for PATs and every kicker is bound to miss sooner or later, but Tucker's expression is beyond disappointment. It's shock. It's almost as if he just saw a UFO.

And maybe he did.

Is it possible that the NFL can now control kicks via magnetic fields between the goal posts and the ball itself? Yeah, I know. This sounds like an outlandish conspiracy theory. But hell, I'm the "King of the Sports Conspiracies" so let's consider it for a moment.

For starters, back in 2014 it was announced that "new technology" was using magnetic fields to "track" the football's position on the field. This was inserted into regulation NFL balls, didn't affect their weight or behavior (allegedly), and was designed in conjunction with Disney Research (and yes Disney Research is the same Disney that owns Mickey Mouse and ESPN). How far of a stretch would it be to use that magnetic field for other purposes especially when you have a giant piece of metal known as the goal posts on either end of the field? Remember, too, the NFL has special "kicking" balls (K-balls) which are put into play ONLY for kicking plays, meaning if these balls had this magnetic field technology in them, they would only be in play for things such as field goals and extra points.

Has this technology been used elsewhere? Such as in the NHL? Consider these two plays for starters:

Same idea. A metal area (the goal) where (in this case) a puck with magnetic technology installed will not go through. Recall, the NHL did have a microchip in the puck at one point when they tried the "glowing puck" for TV broadcasts.

Now go back and watch Tucker's kick. Does the ball seem to make not one, but two jerks toward the right goal posts which it sails past? Natural movement, or something else?

I was told a few years ago by a NBA Ball Boy that the NBA used magnets in its balls and rims to "re-set the shot clock" every time a basket was made. What if that technology was used instead to repel and/or attract the ball through the metal rim? It's not impossible. Neither is it in NHL with the goal, or even in the NFL with kicks aimed at the goal posts. Think of how many missed kicks there have been this season, how many have hit the uprights, and how many seem to curve this way and that before going through. Has the NFL taken manipulation to a whole new level?

WEEK 6

I watched (well, sorta watched while doing other things like cleaning the house, reading a book, etc.) three games this weekend, and I swear, all three were manipulated in some way. Once you understand that this occurs, you can't help but see how, when, and where games are manipulated. It's a curse, like taking the Red Pill in The Maxtrix: you can't go back to simply watching and enjoying a game.

The first game I witnessed was the Bears v. Dolphins game. The Bears defense which is touted as one of the best in the game laid a total egg. Not only did they not sack Dolphins back-up QB Brock Osweiler, they didn't even knock him down once in the game, despite the fact that two of the 'Fins o-linemen were also back-ups. Of course, when you see the effort given on the following play, you can understand that the Bears weren't destined to win:

Interestingly, in the Bears v. Dolphins game, the Bears lost a TD - which turned in a turnover on the next play - because of a "pick" play run by the Bears TE. Had the TD stood, the game might - coulda, woulda, shoulda - have gone the Bears way. But a similar pick play run by the Steelers in their game against the Bengals wasn't flagged, and as a result, the Steelers won. Of course, the NFL offered an official explanation why this wasn't a penalty, but the "pick" play which is run week after week is one of those subjective calls that can/can't be flagged at an official's discretion.

Game 2 I watched was the Sunday nighter of the Chiefs v. the Patriots. Two takeaways from this game: one, the Patriots (at home, of course where they never lose - which  is something no one ever questions) had zero penalties in this game. They were flagged twice, but one was declined and the second was an offsetting foul. Zero penalties? Not one of the Pats' o-lineman held a defender to protect ol' Tom? C'mon. Does anyone really believe they played a completely clean game? Number two, is Chiefs LB Breeland Speaks deciding not to tackle Tom Brady in what resulted in a TD run by the QB because of his fear of being flagged for unnecessary roughness due to the NFL's crackdown on roughing the passer calls. See how one thing can morph into another in this league? Due to a couple of ridiculous penalties, now defensive players won't tackle the QB out of fear, and that possibly changed the outcome of this game.

Game 3 was the Monday night affair between the 49ers and the Packers. I know, I know. I complain about the Packers a lot, but when Aaron Rodgers again leads the Packers to a come-from-behind-victory after his opponents completely fall apart despite dominating all game (see Sunday Night Week 1 v. the Bears) which leads to the broadcasters saying it was a "Hollywood scripted ending," you have to wonder. Of course, the refs had a hand in this outcome when on a 3rd-and-15 sack of Rodgers late in the 4th quarter was negated when 49ers DB Richard Sherman was flagged for illegal contact. To his credit, Sherman took blame for the foul, but still, what he did is not flagged 9 out of 10 times. And even though "illegal contact" is a point of emphasis now in the NFL with its enforcement up 3x from last season, it's still enforced if/when the refs deem it a penalty - which if you go back to the Patriots v Chiefs game and the zero calls on NE - isn't really all that often.

WEEK 5

I said in the midst of my illness last week that Monday Night Football this week between the Redskins and Saints would be a Drew Brees love-fest because he was on the cusp of becoming the NFL's all-time leading passer in yardage. I was not wrong. The funny part (at least to me) was how it happened and the immediate reaction it received. 

In the second quarter with the game already in hand for the Saints (at home, of course), Brees and the Saints were set for their next drive. ESPN announced that he was 35 yards shy of the record and showed a shot of Brees family on the sidelines, having apparently made their way down to the field from their box seats. At that exact moment, this happened:

Nice timing, Mrs. Brees. As Barstool Sports pointed out in their tweet, seemed a little too easy for Brees to complete that record breaking pass. And wasn't it nice that it went for a TD to boot? As many celebrities began sending out congrats to Brees (why? He couldn't read them mid-game), former NFL player Joe Thomas tweeted this:

It was quickly followed by another former NFL player, Dashon Goldson, tweeted this:

So that was two former NFL players - that I was aware of - who thought the play was suspect. This is interesting on many levels which I'm sure you can understand. What else do they find "questionable?" Do they know other plays and/or players who made questionable plays? How often? Which games? Playoffs? Super Bowl? I think you get the picture. Of course, even some pundits raised an eyebrow at it:

That's not the first Skip Bayless tweet to make it on this site. How much does he know about this sort of behavior on the field? What else is suspect that he doesn't tweet about?

I could write about other games and incidents from this Week 5 - like what's up with all the kickers missing all their field goal/extra point attempts? Are the NFL's goal posts magnetized like NBA rims supposedly are? - but this one event in one game sums up everything I write about. Even if MNF was outright rigged for the Saints to win, but a message was sent to the Redskins to let Brees have this "record breaking moment" and they did, well, credibility and integrity are totally out the window in the NFL. Nothing else needs to be said.

WEEK 4

I'm a little slow in posting this week because (a) I was out of town all weekend at my nephew's wedding and watched football through my closed eyelids on the couch afterwards and (b) currently have the cold/flu which is going around. So, in essence, I'm posting because I feel obligated even though I really don't care.

Much like the NFL doesn't really care about protecting its athletes. If they did, explain the whole Earl Thomas injury situation outside of the league being a "business" (which only comes into play when they want it to be a business - much like the famous North Dallas Forty quote) or explain how this - or seemingly any "lowering the helmet" incident didn't draw a flag:

That came from the Monday Night Chiefs v. Broncos game which seemed to exist merely to showcase Patrick Mahomes as the "Next Big Thing" in the NFL. (In fact, it seems more and more as if the prime time NFL games are meant to push certain storylines/players. Next Monday is Drew Brees celebration night. Really think he and Saints will lose that game to the Redskins?) Also in this game, which was a Chiefs win thanks to Mahomes talent and perhaps this non-call on the play clock which the referees apparently acknowledged (thanks to Phillip for the tip). Oh, well. Can't take it back now, can you?

The refs also apparently tell players that some calls they make depend on time and place and game situation as NY Giants MLB Alec Ogletree learned Sunday when a ref told him that they, "wouldn't make that call in the Super Bowl." We all knew NFL rules were subjectively enforced despite a rule book for all to follow, but this quote is just further proof that it's really all up for grabs on Sunday (thanks to John for this tip).

Oh yeah, and the Browns were cast to the curb after (Dilly, Dilly) their Thursday Night "Open the Fridges!" Bud Light sponsored win when a horrible spot - which was reviewed - cost them a game clinching first down. Instead, the home team Raiders took the game in OT and won for John Gruden's first win in his second stint as Oakland's head coach.

There's probably more that happened, but I need to lay down.

WEEK 3

All right, let me just run this past y'all: what if the new "protect the quarterback" rule that's causing all sorts of controversy is meant to just that? Why, you ask, would the NFL court such problems? Because do you notice anyone talking about player protests around the National Anthem? Hmm... It was just a few weeks ago that every pundit seemed to be on edge about the "lowering the helmet" rule that disrupted more than one preseason game. Now? Anyone see a flag for lowering the helmet? I haven't. But I've seen controversial sacks ad naseum. But no mention of anthem protests and/or lowering the helmet. Perhaps the NFL ain't so dumb.

While we saw a few upsets this week (namely the Vikings dropping an "easy" victory at home against the Bills, and the Lions stuffing the Patriots on Sunday night), there were only two real games of note this week. One, was the Monday night game between the surging Buccaneers against the reeling Steelers. The story was two-fold, the internal strife within the Steelers due to Le'veon Bell's holdout and Antonio Brown's whining, and the appearance of "FitzMagic" in Tampa. It was interesting to watch the game because as it worn on, the Monday Night announcing crew talked about these stories so much, they seemed to almost ignore the action on the field. And the talk was basically, "Bell should be playing for the Steelers already," "Brown will be fine," and "FitzMagic is going to wear out, and do so quickly, perhaps as soon as that night because suspended Jameis Winston is coming back to the team." Guess what happened? FitzMagic threw three early interceptions which set the Bucs back enough to basically cost them the game. Granted, a little FitzMagic brought them within a score (which is the standard practice in prime time games now), but in the end, Big Ben and the Steelers prevailed. Of course, stuff like this, on perhaps one of the most important downs late in the game, didn't hurt their cause:

Then there was the Thursday Night game between the lowly Jets and lowlier Browns.How do you sell this stinkfest of a game to a national audience? Well, consider this: The Browns haven't won since 2016. The coulda/shoulda beat the Steelers in Week 1 had their NCAA record-holding rookie kicker not choked. Then they coulda/shoulda beat the Saints had that same NCAA record-holding kicker not choked a second time (leading to him being cut). Despite this repeated failure, this happens:

What's more curious is that local Cleveland bars had "victory fridges" installed in the offseason. These were chained and padlocked refridgerators filled with Bud Light meant to be opened if/when the Browns finally win, so there'd be free Bud Light to all to celebrate with (Dilly, Dilly). Now isn't it odd that the main sponsor for Thursday Night Football is...wait for it...Bud Light. Wouldn't it be the coincidence of coincidences if the victory fridges filled with Bud Light were opened after Bud Light brought Cleveland fans Thursday Night Football? Amazingly, that is exactly what happened. Much like the Week 1 Bears v. Packers game where the Bears blitzed Aaron Rodgers into injury then forgot how to play defense, the Jets knocked Browns starting QB Tyrod Taylor out of the game (or so we were told), and in stepped rookie No. 1 draft pick Baker Mayfield for the Browns. Suddenly, the Jets couldn't play defense. Mayfield brought the Browns back from a 14-point deficit and Bud Light for all! Was this really a football game or just one giant product placement?

Oh, and by the way, I'm not alone (and neither are you) in thinking this league isn't legit (thanks, Norman, for the tip!):


WEEK 2

I'm still at work on wrapping up my next book (The Fix Is Still In), so this week's rundown will be haphazardly quick and to the point.

While I hate to dwell on the Packers, there are a few takeaways from this week's Packers v. Vikings game that are worth mentioning. #1 - Aaron Rodgers is not that injured. I think he is hurt, sure, but the media circus around is knee is more showbiz than medical, and everyone's willing to play along for the show. #2 - The Packers probably should've won the game, and would have, had Clay Matthews not been flagged for a roughing the passer penalty on what appeared to be a completely legal and routine NFL play. Worse yet, the NFL on Tuesday not only said the penalty was correctly assessed, but that the league was going to use the video of it to show how the "grab and pull" technique Matthews used to drop Kirk Cousins is illegal.

#3 - The Packers (and the NFL) brought this controversy on themselves due to the "late hit" that broke Rodgers' collarbone last season. Had they not whined about it, it's likely no new rule would've been discussed/put into effect this season. #4 - Prior to that Matthews flag, the refs seemed to be completely in the Packers' corner. Here's two examples:

#5 - I really think more than anything the flag on Matthews wasn't meant to propel the Vikings to a win (or the tie they wound up with). I think that just like a similar call in the Packers v. Bears Sunday Night game, the flag was meant to keep the game alive, close, and fans watching.

The NFL's concussion protocol is nonsense. And the worse part of it is, the players - who's health is on the line - don't seemingly care. Former players are suing the league over not getting enough compensation for their past injuries and potential brain damage caused by playing the sport, meanwhile current players, like Cam Newton after this hit, didn't miss a snap after taking a clearly severe blow to the head. Who's really to blame here? The medical staff for whitewashing possible injuries? Or players who want to be "tough" and play through the pain?

Otherwise, there was a lot of "home cooking" this Sunday which brought unlikely wins (given each game's early circumstances) to the Saints, Broncos, Buccaneers, and Titans. "Home cooking" also almost brought the Steelers back from the brink of utter destruction in a game in which they should've been down 28-0 (instead of merely 21-0). Instead, a few helping flags had them tied at 21-21 versus the Chiefs, only to ultimately lose 42-37 thanks to budding star Patrick Mahomes. If Mahomes keeps up what's he's been doing thus far, the Chiefs may start getting the sort of "help" that propels teams to the Super Bowl.

WEEK 1

It’s only Week 1, and the NFL is up to its usual tricks as if last season never ended. I know there’s only so many ways to spin a football game, but already we’ve been treated to:

On Opening Night, Super Bowl champs the Eagles hosted the previous season’s NFC champs the Falcons who the Eagles knocked out of the playoffs en route to their title. How did that playoff game end last season? With a “heroic” goal-line stand by the Eagles. How’d Game 1 of the 2018 season end? Exactly the same way. It was as if the NFL pressed “repeat” on their stereo.

It was also a horribly boring game to watch with 20+ penalties called during the course of the game. But since it was Opening Night, it couldn’t be a lopsided affair. No, the NFL made sure it came down to the final play – one which the referees made sure happened twice with a ticky-tack “illegal contact” penalty to keep the Falcons’ dying hopes alive for a few more seconds. Amazingly, poor play calling (much like what doomed the Falcons in their ill-fated Super Bowl LI(e) appearance) stopped the Falcons from scoring from the goal-line in their first possession of the game and in their last. These are supposedly professionals failing at an unprecedented level. An 8th grader playing Madden at home could’ve been more successful.

Of course, it could’ve been like Monday Night’s Lions v. Jets game wherein the Jets reportedly knew what plays the Lions were going to run prior to them actually running them. No shock then that Lions QB Matt Stafford threw 4 interceptions in the Jets 48-17 blowout win. Supposedly, the Jets got that information from good film study. Yeah, ok. I guess that’s a better excuse than the NFL’s “Oops, we got that wrong” line that Browns fans have to live with. In the Cleveland v. Pittsburgh game, the refs apparently made the wrong call on a Browns’ 3rd-down sack. Instead settling for a field goal attempt to potentially go up 3-0, the Steelers got new life, and scored a TD. That 4-point differential may not seem like much, but in a game that ended in a 21-21 tie, it was the difference maker. Sorry, Cleveland!

This should be a rhetorical question, but anyone who watches sports regularly knows the answer: Do star players get preferential treatment? Of course they do which is why anyone claiming games aren’t at the very least manipulated because of this fact can go jump in the nearest lake. What isn’t really known is to what level or how far this treatment can extend.

With Colts QB Andrew Luck’s return after a two-year absence, his rival QB, the Bengals Andy Dalton thought it was enough to make mention of it. Dalton basically complained that Luck got better treatment/protection from the refs in the Colts v. Bengals game than he did. Was Dalton correct? Probably. Would it really surprise you? Luck was an apparent NFL Golden Child until his shoulder fell to pieces. They need to protect him more than Dalton, and Dalton recognized this fact.

But perhaps the biggest amount of NFL-backed protection came in the Bears v. Packers game on Sunday night. Aaron Rodgers, the star of two national ad campaigns (State Farm and Izod) with his star “girlfriend” Danica Patrick in attendance on the opening night of the Packers 100th season, injured his knee to the point of needing to being carted off the field. Usually, that spells the end of any players’ game, if not the season (even career). Not Rodgers. Pumped up with more drugs than we can imagine (did anyone from the NFL drug test him post-game?), Rodgers re-emerged from the locker room for the second half and led the Packers to one of the franchise’s most legendary come-from-behind wins in team history.

How was this possible? My honest guess: someone called the Bears at half-time with an official NFL “stand down” order. It’s the only thing that can really explain how the Bears blew a 20-0 lead to a QB that only had one functioning leg. Somehow after halftime the Packers O-line learned how to block while the Bears forgot how to rush a passer. The Bears newest, richest defensive star Khalil Mack shined in the first half with a sack, fumble and recovery, and an interception returned for a touchdown. In the second half? Crickets. According to Chicago newspapers (which merely took an “aw, shucks” stance on this historic loss), the Bears rushed Rodgers with more than four players only three times in the second half. Rodgers couldn’t move. Why would you not blitz him constantly, if nothing more than to knock him around to the point of having to come out for safeties sake? Nope, not the Bears.

Nor would the Bears continue to rush the ball on offense with Jordan Howard who was averaging nearly five yards a carry. Considering this sort of play from Mitchell Trubisky, it might have been a wise decision:


But no more Howard. Even when it was third and one. Even when a first down with less than three minutes remaining would’ve won the game. Or even when losing 24-23 with under two minutes remaining and two timeouts and needing 20 yards to get into field goal position. Instead, the Bears did this:


While one could almost – almost – forgive the Falcons for blowing Super Bowl LI(e) due to poor play calling in that final drive, what the Bears did was inexcusable. It lasted an entire half. You want to blame first year head coach Matt Nagy (or highly sought-after defensive coordinator Vic Fangio) for that? Good, then fire him/them now because once again, an 8th grader playing Madden wouldn’t have been that moronic. Yet, look at the result. Completely nonsensical, but NFL fans are eating it up, a ladle full at a time.

PRESEASON

Welcome back for yet another (perhaps the last for me) season of NFL style football. I half-thought of doing a weekly video recap for this season, but then I realized I had better things to do with my life and figured at some point I'd be Alex Jones'd off of YouTube, and I don't need that right now. So you get stuck having to actually read stuff.

I'm rather amazed that going into the 2018 season, the NFL still doesn't have it's shit seemingly together. They can't get a grip on the players kneeling controversy, "concussions" remain a league-wide concern, and the ratings for their broadcasts continue to fall. It may be why the Wall Street Journal suggested NFL owners start selling their teams -- because things aren't getting better.

Especially now that there's this:

As I myself tweeted in response to this play/penalty which enforces the NFL's new "lowering the helmet to make contact" rule, what were football plays last season can now be interpreted as penalties this year. So, when someone like Tom Brady gets sacked to possibly end a Patriots' drive, the NFL can now flag the play (at the refs' discression), and keep the drive alive. This WILL happen. This WILL alter the outcome of games. This WILL help determine which teams make and/or miss the playoffs. And, my guess is, this is exactly why this rule now exists. It makes life much more difficult on the defensive players while easing up on the offense in order to create higher scoring, more "exciting" games which can be manipulated on the spot by penalties (whether real or imagined).

So, sit back, enjoy the show, and don't take any of it too seriously. Because, remember, it's all a "presentation of the National Football League."