BRINGING THE NFL TO ITS KNEES


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

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."