Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NFL Season Enters it's Final Week

As the NFL regular season winds down, most of the playoff teams are set.  In the NFC it's the Saints, Eagles, Vikings, Cardinals, Packers and Cowboys.  In the AFC it's the Colts, Chargers, Patriots, Bengals and two wild card that are going to lose in the first round.  The AFC wild card conundrum seems to come up every couple of years.  There are five 8-7 teams eligible for the final two spots (Ravens, Jets, Broncos, Steelers and Texans).  The Ravens and Jets have the inside edge to clinch- win and in- and the others need some help.

But does any of this really matter?  American sports are so playoff driven that the final few weeks of the regular season are useless to many teams.  The drama and the aura of football goes through phases in the regular season.  The first weeks of the season are like reuniting with an old friend.  You catch up as if a day hasn't past since your last reunion.  But after you spend months and months together, you start to notice that this friend isn't so great.  The relationship is strained by penalties and yellow flags.  You begin to question who is actually controlling the relationship; you and your friend or the refs.  What I'm getting at with this analogy is that when the NFL is supposed to get good; cold weather, playoff positioning, fantasy football playoffs; the people that seem to be the biggest deciders for the outcome of the game are the refs.  Follow me here... They say that players adjust to the refereeing as the season goes on.  If you can't touch a receiver beyond 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, then the defense will adjust to that interpretation of the rule.  But it seems like as the season moves on and on, the ticky-tack penalties are called more often.  I can see a couple explanations for this. (1) Players (especially defenders who make tackles- more susceptible to injury) get more and more worn down as the season wears on, so they try to clutch and grab to keep up with the speedy receivers.  In this case, the refs may be calling the games the same, yet it is the players who change their playing style due to injury.  Expanding on the injury issue, there are a number of practice squad players who replace injured players.  There's a good reason the replacements are practice squad players; they're not that good.  They can't keep up with the speed of the game.  The other theory I have is that (2) the league office is all up in the referee's business about what fouls to look for.  Roger Goodell's empire feels like it can make the NFL perfect.  It is a far from perfect game, however. The game has evolved tremendously since its invention.  The problem is that the game can't evolve during the season.  I'm going to go ahead and say that option 1 seems more likely, but anything is possible with Goodell at the helm.

Last week's picks: 5-11 (ouch); overall: 49-30

Stuff to come later:  Playoff preview podcast; Avatar Synopsis in podcast form; the Dark Age (span between end of football season and beginning of baseball season)

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