Wed Dec 18 07:13pm EST
Your browser does not support iframes.
Every week, there's a new officiating controversy in the NFL.
The latest comes from Detroit. On Monday night against the Ravens, Lions receiver Kris Durham had his arm held on a pass to the end zone, and the officials missed the pass interference call. Instead of having the ball on the 1-yard line, the Lions settled for a field goal. They lost 18-16 on a Ravens field goal in the final minute. The difference between winning and losing, which might have flipped had the officials not missed the pass interference call, might be the difference between the Lions hosting a playoff game as division champions or Detroit missing the playoffs.
NBC Sports Network's Shaun King argued that NFL officiating is at its all-time low.
"This has been by far the worst officiated National Football League season in the history of the National Football League," King said on NBC Sports Network's "SportsDash" show. "I really think the replacement refs were doing a better job some time."
I disagree with that (which isn't new for Shaun and I). The current officials might miss some calls, but the replacement refs were incompetent. They couldn't tell the difference between an interception and a touchdown. Their mistakes might have fundamentally changed the outcome of the entire 2012-13 NFL season.
The current officials haven't gotten to that point.
But King's follow-up comment did make sense.
"I don't think the officials are capable of handling the speed of the game and consistently making accurate, correct calls," King said. "We have technology that is in place we didn't have available before – they should utilize it."
If you've ever been on the sideline of a NFL game, you know what he means.
An NFL game moves incredibly fast. It's hard to follow the action and it's almost impossible to ask even the best officials in the world (and it's hard to argue they're not the best ... if you disagree, remember, we saw the alternative just last year) to keep up with everything. There's no real reason why coaches shouldn't be allowed to challenge anything.
Moving the replay review to a centralized location, like the NHL does for its reviews, would make the process much more efficient. That would allow the league to give the coaches one more challenge but not lengthen the game.
It would also help get more calls right, and isn't that the point?
The increased criticism of the officiating (don't we deal with this every season? Seems that way) might cause the NFL to act. There are legitimate issues and easy fixes in place. It might be too late for teams like the 2013 Lions, but some changes might help prevent other teams from feeling like they got games taken from them on bad calls.
- - - - - - -
Wed Dec 18 05:54pm EST
Every week, we try to project what the playoff bracket will look like in January. To sift through who is for real and will make a postseason push, and who will fade out of the playoff picture down the stretch. It's important to note this is our ever-changing prediction of how we think things will play out and not necessarily a current plugging-in of teams with the corresponding records.
Think of it as "bracketology" for the pigskin set.
Still New Orleans to win the South? So you think they win at Carolina on Sunday?
Yes, but for full disclosure, I picked New Orleans to win the Super Bowl prior to this season, so pride is definitely kicking in. Carolina’s rise from the ashes has been incredible, but this is similar to a playoff game for the Panthers. This team has not been forced to win meaningful games late in the season since 2009. Carolina’s last playoff appearance occurred during the 2008 season. I am sticking with the Saints – for now.
In the AFC, who has the most to lose in the Patriots at Ravens game this weekend?
Baltimore has the most to lose. Even if New England is defeated, the Patriots’ final game this season is against Buffalo. Unless EJ Manuel or Thad Lewis can somehow turn into Jim Kelly, New England should win that game. Baltimore’s final two games are against New England and Cincinnati, which makes the Ravens’ task very tough. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker was a stud against the Detroit Lions on Monday, but quarterback Joe Flacco must lead his team to touchdowns, not field goals, against New England.
Any way the Broncos lose either of their last two, or is the No. 1 seed locked up at this point?
Only if Broncos coach John Fox wants to rest Peyton Manning in Week 17. Giving Manning’s ankle two weeks of rest might help him succeed during the playoffs. Denver needs Kansas City to lose on Sunday to clinch the AFC West title. If the Broncos win, the Chiefs lose and the Patriots lose or tie in Week 16, Denver clinches the No. 1 seed. And if the Broncos haven't clinched everything by the regular-season finale, they'll take care of business against Oakland.
How do you see the Bears winning the NFC North, by winning out, or the Lions and Packers losing down the stretch?
Chicago can win the NFC North this week with a win against Dallas and losses by Detroit and Green Bay, which is feasible. My conspiracy theory is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is not healthy enough to play again this season, and everyone within the organization knows it. However, instead of shutting him down, they're allowing opposing teams to believe he might play to alter their preparation. I have no proof, just a hunch. Detroit will likely lose against New York or Minnesota (cannot trust the Lions). And I will take Bears quarterback Jay Cutler over Matt Flynn.
Who can clinch a playoff spot or a division title this week?
Click here to read Yahoo’s breakdown of every playoff scenario.
- - - - - - -
Wed Dec 18 05:05pm EST
Terence Garvin is a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His salary is the rookie minimum of $405,000 a year, a little less than $24,000 per week over the 17-week regular season.
Garvin was fined $25,000, more than one of his game checks, for his block on Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber, which broke his jaw and cracked a vertabrae.
Garvin thought he was just blocking a player looking to make a tackle on a long punt return – which the Steelers scored on by the way. But punters and kickers are ruled defenseless through a play, even if they're trying to make a tackle. Garvin used his helmet to hit Huber above the shoulders, and that's illegal on a defenseless player.
And is he ever going to pay for it.
Steelers Depot points out that the collective-bargaining agreement allows a player to appeal if the fine is excessive compared to the player's earnings. A fine may be reduced if it is at least 25 percent of a player's weekly salary for a first offense and 50 percent for a second offense. Garvin should win that appeal and should get the fine reduced.
But it's still going to end up being a large amount for something that intuitively doesn't seem that egregious. Huber's injuries are awful, but that's going to happen in a violent sport sometimes. Huber appeared in the Bengals locker room on Wednesday in a huge neck brace, a reminder of how rough the NFL can be.
Kevin Huber in the locker room pic.twitter.com/nGIgBS2AnZ
— Joe Reedy (@joereedy) December 18, 2013
But Huber, even if he didn't totally absolve Garvin, didn't take the chance to rip him on Wednesday.
"There’s not really much I can do about it now," Huber said, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Me getting mad and stressed about it is only going to make it harder to get through. It is what it is. It’s part of the game, I know, big hits. Unfortunately I got one of the big hits and I got hurt and I have to deal with it. I’ll be fine. I’ll be back next year."
Garvin just seemed confused by what he did wrong, when he talked to Pittsburgh media on Wednesday.
“I saw a color and I saw AB (Steelers returner Antonio Brown) coming towards me," Garvin said, according to the Enquirer. "I said I have to try to help him break on this play. I was just trying to do what I could to help him break the play. They’re (punters) part of the team, they’re on the field, they can make plays the same way everybody else can make plays.”
- - - - - - -
Wed Dec 18 04:13pm EST
The NFL has made it impossible for local fans to watch their football team unless that game is sold out. For years this system has penalized cities, such as Tampa Bay and San Diego, for not selling out games. There is also little regard for local fans who want to watch their team at home, but cannot afford a ticket.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing eliminating sports blackout rules, which prohibits distributors from showing live sporting events that are not available on local television. If the FCC is successful, it would be a huge blow to leagues, like the NFL, that punish fans for the lack of ticket sales.
Here is the FCC’s explanation:
"We propose to eliminate the sports blackout rules. With respect to professional football, the sport most affected by the sports blackout rules, it appears from the existing record that television revenues have replaced gate receipts as the most significant source of revenue for NFL clubs in the 40 years since the rules were first adopted. Moreover, the record received thus far indicates no direct link between blackouts and increased attendance at NFL games. The record also suggests that the sports blackout rules have little relevance for sports other than professional football, because the distribution rights for most of the games in these sports are sold by individual teams, rather than the leagues. Finally, it appears that the sports blackout rules are unnecessary because sports leagues can pursue local blackout protection through private contractual negotiations. Thus, it appears that the sports blackout rules have become obsolete. Accordingly, if the record in this proceeding, as updated and supplemented by commenters, confirms that the sports blackout rules are no longer necessary to ensure the overall availability to the public of sports telecasts, we propose to repeal these rules."
This is the not the first time the FCC has addressed sports blackouts.
FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn questioned the relevancy of blackout rules last month.
"Changes in the marketplace have raised questions about whether these rules are still in the public interest, particularly at a time when high ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games," Clyburn said in a statement.
Obviously, nothing is cut and dry when it comes to politics and the legal system. The NFL, and other leagues, will fight to maintain their blackout rule. Even if the FCC is successful, leagues could attempt to find a loophole to continue enforcing blackouts.
However, it will be interesting to see if the FCC can eventually blackout the NFL current rules.
- - - - - - -
Wed Dec 18 04:06pm EST
Travelle Gaines runs his own performance facility, Athletic Gaines, in Los Angeles. Athletic Gaines is one of the top NFL combine training programs in the country, and one of the most notable NFL offseason training programs as well. Gaines has worked with hundreds of athletes and celebrities including Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, rapper Sean Combs and TV star Kendra Wilkinson.
In this video, the elite trainer brings in Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston to show you how to work your full body with just a kettlebell.
This is a simple exercise that can be done at home and requires minimal equipment. All you need is a kettlebell.
This exercise works your hamstrings, core and your entire upper body. This is an amazing workout to do when you have limited time at home.
Make sure you follow the correct form: stand with your feet shoulder width apart, toes straight, knees straight, and swing the kettlebell back and forth, squatting and exploding up. Do 10-20 reps for five sets with a 3-15 kilo kettlebell.
Wed Dec 18 03:48pm EST
When the Carolina Panthers met the New Orleans Saints a couple weeks ago, nothing went right for the Panthers.
The Saints dismantled them in a 31-13 win. Carolina's chances of winning the NFC South seemed to slip away that night. Then the Rams blew out the Saints last week, and the Panthers were right back in the hunt.
They'll need to beat the Saints to keep their hopes of winning the division alive. A Saints win clinches the title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
So what can the Panthers do to flip that result from the first meeting? Well, the first step is waking up in Charlotte instead of New Orleans on Sunday.
The Saints' home-road splits are amazing. They are 7-0 at home, just about unbeatable with their crowd bothering the opposing offense and letting Drew Brees change plays at the line of scrimmage. On the road, New Orleans is 3-4 with losses to losing teams like the Jets and Rams.
Carolina is 6-1 at home, the only loss coming in Week 1 against the Seahawks, unquestionably the best team in the NFL this season. The Panthers lost that game 12-7 after DeAngelo Williams fumbled inside the 10-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
Carolina won't win by simply showing up on their home turf. They did not match up well against the Saints' passing game in the first meeting, allowing Drew Brees to throw for 313 yards and four touchdowns. Carolina's secondary is the weakest part of its defense, and Marques Colston was able to beat it for nine catches and 125 yards. If the Saints can pass the ball like that again, it won't matter where the game is held.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton needs to be better, too. The Panthers didn't have a pass play of longer than 17 yards at New Orleans. Newton had just 160 yards on 34 attempts. That won't beat the Saints.
The Panthers take control of the South with a win. If they win Sunday, a Panthers win at Atlanta in Week 17 or a Saints loss against Tampa Bay wraps up the division crown and a first-round bye. To put themselves in that position, they'll have to play the Saints much tougher than they did two weeks ago. Not having to play in the Superdome gives them a chance to do that.
Here are the other NFL games this week, from best to worst (all times Eastern, all games Sunday unless noted otherwise):
2. New England at Baltimore, 4:25 p.m.: There is a lot on the line here. The Patriots are in danger of falling to the No. 3 seed with a loss. The Ravens likely need a win to stay alive for the AFC North title, and perhaps for their playoff lives considering how well the Dolphins are playing.
3. Arizona at Seattle, 4:05 p.m.: This will be a tough game. For the Cardinals, it's a playoff game. They'll throw everything they have at Seattle, who still has a two-game lead over everyone in the NFC.
4. Indianapolis at Kansas City, 1 p.m.: This is a likely playoff preview, though a rematch would take place in Indianapolis. The Chiefs' offense has come alive the past few weeks. The Colts need to maintain some momentum from last week's win over Houston.
5. Chicago at Philadelphia, 8:30 p.m.: This is an interesting game, but a great subplot comes about if the Cowboys win in an early game. That would mean the Eagles have nothing to play for and probably should rest starters for a Week 17 game at Dallas that would decide the NFC East title. The Lions, who need Chicago to lose one of their final two, would be thrilled if the Bears faced Philly's backups.
6. Pittsburgh at Green Bay, 4:25 p.m.: Like last week, this game goes way up the list if Aaron Rodgers returns. As it is, the story of the Packers trying to stay alive while Rodgers is out with a broken collarbone has been pretty interesting.
7. Miami at Buffalo, 1 p.m.: The Dolphins have been in a lot of stressful games lately. And this isn't the easiest road trip to make. And Bills quarterback Thad Lewis getting the start for Buffalo isn't necessarily a good thing for the Dolphins, who lost 23-21 to the Bills when Lewis started earlier this year.
8. Minnesota at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.: The Bengals can clinch the division title with a win and a Ravens loss. They desperately need to bounce back from last week's loss to Pittsburgh.
9. Atlanta at San Francisco, 8:40 p.m. (Monday): The game itself isn't that interesting, because the Falcons are not good. But it's the last game at Candlestick Park, one of the truly historic venues in the NFL.
10. N.Y. Giants at Detroit, 4:05 p.m.: It seems unlikely that the Lions will lose to a truly terrible Giants team at home. But you wouldn't be surprised if it happened.
11. Dallas at Washington, 1 p.m.: Kirk Cousins and the Redskins might see the quarterback's trade value explode after an afternoon against that awful Cowboys secondary.
12. Denver at Houston, 1 p.m.: The Texans did give the Patriots a good game a few weeks ago. So anything is possible.
13. Cleveland at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.: Worth turning on just to see if the Josh Gordon train can keep rolling.
14. Oakland at San Diego, 4:25 p.m.: The Chargers aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoff race, and they're looking to avenge a loss at Oakland earlier this season.
15. Tampa Bay at St. Louis, 1 p.m.: Come on, at this point the Rams have to notice that the team has been a lot more competitive with Kellen Clemens than it was for the last few years with Sam Bradford.
16. Tennessee at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.: A Jaguars win here, and Jacksonville is in danger of falling out of the draft's top 10 picks. Who would have thought that at midseason?
- - - - - - -
Wed Dec 18 03:37pm EST
Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel has never been injury prone. That's what is making his rookie season so frustrating.
Last week, Manuel suffered his third knee injury of the season. He will not start on Sunday against the Dolphins as a result, the Bills announced. Thad Lewis will get the nod.
He injured himself last week at Jacksonville. The team decided he couldn't move well enough to protect himself against the pass rush and didn't want to risk further injury.
Wed Dec 18 03:24pm EST
Dr. Patrick McKenzie has to be feeling a lot of pressure.
McKenzie has been the Green Bay Packers' team doctor since the early 1990s. He has many people hoping he clears quarterback Aaron Rodgers for action.
The Packers need Rodgers back. They will win the NFC North if they win their final two games, and are a much better team with the former MVP under center. Rodgers has expressed many times he wants to return from a broken clavicle. There's no more football-mad state than Wisconsin is for the Packers. Bears fans and Lions fans have a significant interest in Rodgers' playing status. If Rodgers is cleared to return, the entire NFL playoff picture changes.
But McKenzie isn't ready to take that step.
After practice on Wednesday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said that Rodgers still hasn't been cleared for action. Green Bay, which is a half game behind Chicago in the NFC North, plays Pittsburgh on Sunday.
“Aaron Rodgers update. He’s doing better. He’s still not been cleared by the medical staff. He threw the ball extremely well. He looked sharp. He’s getting better,” McCarthy said after practice, according to Packers.com.
McCarthy has made it very clear this is a medical decision on Rodgers. That it's up to the doctors, and more specifically, McKenzie. Give McKenzie credit for not clearing Rodgers before he is absolutely ready, although he certainly has to understand the football ramifications of keeping Rodgers out.
But players generally don't heal quickly from broken collarbones. Rodgers has taken limited snaps in practice the past few weeks, but that doesn't mean he is totally healed and ready to take hits in a game. So the Packers and Rodgers wait.
There's still a chance that Rodgers gets cleared this week. McCarthy said that it will be a similar process to last week, so the final word will probably come down on Friday. A lot of people are interested in that news.
- - - - - - -
Wed Dec 18 02:47pm EST
The Washington Redskins' season is two games away from being over.
So is the career of Redskins linebacker London Fletcher.
He announced his retirement during a press conference on Wednesday.
“I’m about 99 percent certain that this will be my last season in the National Football League,” Fletcher said. “I got to leave at least one percent, just in case I change my mind. But it’s really just about having another conversation with my wife, but just thought with this being the final home game, this being Dallas Cowboy week, an opportunity to go out with a bang and get the fans riled up and say thank you to them and beat the Cowboys. What better way to end it?”
With a win against New York Giants in the season finale on December 29?
Cousins on @LFletcher59: "We would love to have him walk off that field for the last time--if it will be his last time--with a victory."
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) December 18, 2013
Fletcher, 38, said he contemplated retiring after the 2012 season, but did not believe his work was done. He returned to help groom Redskins linebacker Perry Riley, help the franchise, and establish his legacy.
“It’s more about a legacy,” Fletcher said. “Nothing about anything more I could accomplish because I’ve played in two Super Bowls (with the Rams), and had the fortune of winning one, then losing one. Been to the Pro Bowls. I just wanted to continue to help with the legacy.”
Fletcher did not need Perry to solidify his legacy.
He is the league’s active Iron Man and has played in 254 consecutive games. He is one of only four players in NFL history to play in 250 consecutive games. Fletcher owns the league record for consecutive starts by a linebacker with 214.
Fletcher, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 1998, spent the first four years of his career with the St. Louis Rams, then spent five with the Buffalo Bills before and the last seven with the Redskins. He is a also a four-time Pro Bowler.
And his career is coming to an end.
- - - - - - -
Wed Dec 18 12:35pm EST
The Washington Redskins, Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III haven't won many games this season, but they've been incredibly productive in leaking stories to the media about each other.
The latest comes from Jason Cole at Bleacher Report. In this episode of the NFL's most melodramatic soap opera, multiple team sources want the world to know that Griffin is stubborn and his father is meddling.
The most startling revelation in the story is that Griffin's father has been telling owner Daniel Snyder to hire Baylor coach Art Briles. Griffin, the Redskins' quarterback, played for Briles in college.
"In recent weeks, according to two sources close to the situation, the elder Griffin has politicked Snyder to hire Baylor coach Art Briles, who coached the younger Griffin to a Heisman Trophy, to replace Shanahan," according to the Bleacher Report story.
Stories like this are harmful in a few ways, but that's probably the point.
It paints Griffin's father in a bad light. It makes the Redskins biggest superstar look bad, a complete turn from the glowing stories of 2012 when he was offensive rookie of the year. It also means that even if Briles was the best man to take over for Shanahan (assuming the coach will be fired, which seems like a foregone conclusion), hiring him would make it look like Snyder is giving in to Griffin's father's whims, and thereby letting his franchise quarterback call the shots in the organization. There are great reasons to hire Briles, a dynamic offensive coach who obviously knows how to get the most out of Griffin's talents. But now he would come to the Redskins with baggage.
The report brought about a round of denials because the spin with the Redskins never ends. Redskins sources flatly denied to the Washington Post that the Bleacher Report story was true.
— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) December 18, 2013
What a mess.
There have also been stories about the Griffin family not being happy with Kyle Shanahan's play-calling in the playoff game against Seattle last year, when Griffin was gimpy and eventually blew out his knee. Griffin's father also got some headlines when he showed up in the Redskins' locker room following a game against the San Francisco 49ers in which his son got hit often.
The story also paints Griffin as not listening to coaches on things like poor footwork on throws this season. A source told Cole that Griffin "is not a bad kid," but that he "doesn’t listen right now."
The Redskins are a bad football team, that's clear. The constant anonymous bickering in the press makes it look like the worst organization in sports, too.
- - - - - - -
Posted Jul 2 2012
Posted Jul 3 2012
Posted Jun 21 2012