Refs don't win games and refs don't lose games.
It's one of the first sports lessons taught to me by my father many years ago, a mantra I've often repeated for nearly three decades whenever talking with fellow fans about referees impacting an event. I don't think dad envisioned the debacle that took place at the end of Monday's Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks game when he passed along such wisdom. Chances are that all reading this have already seen multiple replays of the interception-turned-touchdown involving Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings and Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate. There's really nothing revolutionary or groundbreaking that I can say about that moment or the replacement referees that have been nothing short of awful during the first few weeks of the 2012 NFL season.
I'm a selfish sports fan, and thus I began thinking about how the Green Bay at Seattle game will affect my beloved New York Giants. All reasonable and unbiased football fans I've spoken with about the final play of last night's game, fans of a variety of NFL teams, believe that the result of that play should have been a Green Bay interception and not a Seattle touchdown. With that said, the Packers should be 2-1 and the Seahawks should be 1-2.
That won't be the case unless the league steps in and changes the outcome of Monday's game (not holding my breath on that one). Assuming that Monday's final score will remain as is, the current NFC standings will look like this heading into Week 4: The Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle are all 2-1. The Packers and Detroit Lions, both thought to be legitimate playoff contenders, are 1-2. The Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals are 3-0.
Those who would say that it's far too early to look toward any playoff races need only remember the end of the 2011 NFL regular season, when the Giants hosted the Cowboys in what was essentially a playoff game, a contest in which the winners were crowned the division champs and the losers saw their season come to an end. A one-game swing that occurs at any point during the fall absolutely changes any NFL season. Such a hypothetical swing that could have negatively affected Big Blue last September could, in theory, have meant the difference between Tom Coughlin winning a second title in four years and his being fired last January.
The Packers are undeniably a very good team, but they're certainly not a lock to win the division at this point of the season. They'll host a hungry New Orleans team looking for its first win this Sunday, and they still have road games at Houston, Minnesota (who beat the 49ers two days ago), Chicago (will be looking to avenge the Week 2 loss to Green Bay) and Detroit. If Green Bay isn't able to win the division, something I still don't see happening despite Monday's game, that would leave the Packers, two teams out of the NFC East, potentially two teams out of the NFC North and two teams out of the NFC West all fighting for Wild Card berths.
Looking ahead at the rest of Seattle's schedule, it's not crazy to suggest that the Seahawks could finish the season at 9-7. That could be good enough to snatch a playoff spot from a team such as the Giants depending on tiebreakers and other factors. Commissioner Roger Goodell along with others responsible for running the NFL must do whatever possible to, at the very least, get the real refs back on the field ASAP to bring some much-needed stability back to league contests. Every game matters during the NFL regular season.
We'll see just how much Monday night's game matters on December 31.