Who Am I?

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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

NFL OWNERS MEETING



The NFL Owner's Meeting is going on right now in Orlando, FL. One of the items that are going to be discussed is the changing of the overtime rules for the playoffs. The competition committee approved to send the recommendation to the owners. In order for the measure to pass, it needs approval from three-fourths (24 out of 32) of the owners. 
 



HISTORY OF NFL OVERTIME 

The NFL adopted overtime for the playoffs starting in 1941. This pre-emptive measure led to the first instance of a game going to overtime in the 1958 NFL Championship Game (AKA: "The Greatest Game Ever Played") between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants at Yankee Stadium. 

The Colts had secured their spot in the title game by winning the Western Division outright by one game over the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Rams. Meanwhile, the Giants had to beat the Cleveland Browns led by NFL MVP running back Jim Brown not only in the regular season finale, BUT in the Eastern Division playoff (had the current NFL tie breaking rules been in place, the Giants would have won their division by sweeping the Browns).

It appeared the Giants were fatigued due to playing back-to-back games against the physical Browns as the Colts stormed to a 14-3 halftime lead behind the unstoppable quarterback-receiver combination of Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry. However, the Giants came back with two touchdowns and had a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter. With the Giants attempting to ice the game on a key third and four late in the game (7:47 mark of the video), halfback Frank Gifford was stopped short on the play. There was some belief that Gifford was incorrectly marked short by the referees. The Giants punted the ball to the Colts.

On the Colts final drive, Johnny Unitas lead his team in two-minute drill to a tying field goal from the Giants 20-yard line at the end of regulation. With the score tied at 17 at the end of the fourth quarter, Giants kicker Pat Summerall asked a teammate on the bench, "What's next?" 

"I think we gotta play some more." 

The Giants won the toss, and their offense went three-and-out. The Giants punted and never touched the ball again for the remainder of the game. Unitas again engineered another drive that led to one of the most iconic images of the NFL. Colts running back Alan Ameche lunged over the middle for the game winning one-yard score. 

Colts 23, Giants 17 Final-OT 

Many of the players and coaches involved in the game went on to Hall of Fame and assisted in the rapid growth of the NFL in future years. This is the only NFL Championship Game, including Super Bowls, to go to overtime… so far. 

The NFL expanded overtime to the regular season in 1974 to reduce the number of ties. Ironically, the first regular season overtime game, between the Steelers and Broncos, ended in a 35-35 tie after an extra 15 minutes was played. The first game to feature a game winning score in overtime was not until November 10, 1974.

RESPONSE AND SOLUTIONS

The reason why the NFL is contemplating changing the overtime rules for the playoffs is because of what took place during the recent NFC Championship game during the 2009 Playoffs. With the score tied at 28 with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Vikings in possession of the ball facing a third and 18 from the Saints 38, quarterback Brett Favre rolled to his right and threw an interception. The game went to overtime where the Saints won the coin toss and drove down the field for a game winning 40 yard field goal. 

Since 1994, I have observed my fair share of football games that have ended rather anticlimactic in overtime with a field goal. Since overtime is sudden death, meaning the game is over when a team scores the following: 

1. The Most Common, a field goal 
2. A touchdown 
3. On rare occasions, a safety 
4. Or if no one scores at the end of the overtime period in a regular season game, then it ends in a tie. In the post-season, they will continue to play until someone scores. 

If one of those four events happens in overtime then the game is over. Instead of driving down the field for a touchdown as the objective is in regulation time, all the offensive team has to do is drive to the target line of their opponent's 25-yard line (conservative estimate for a decent makeable field goal) to win a game. Instead of playing with 100 yards, you have 50 yards to operate with so therefore the playing field is reduced by 50%. 

I am aware that a field goal from the opponents 25-yard line is not a guarantee (kick sails wide of the goal post, the kick is blocked, missed field goal returned for TD, botched hold, etc.), BUT how many times have we seen a team win the coin flip, drive to the superimposed target line that is generated on TV, do a couple of runs up the middle, and then try a field goal on third down after the opposing coach calls the "Ice the kicker" timeout. True, the object of the game is to the win the game by any means and I see the argument of that football is comprised of three elements: offense, defense, and special teams. However (comma) as a fan of the game, I feel that there is much more emphasis on the special teams aspect and getting the coin flip right, than the other aspects of the game.

My proposal, you ask? I am not a fan of the college overtime system to where the emphasis is put on the offense and a game could theoretically go on FOREVER. There has to be an ending point. 

Besides, The Simpsons come on after football. You cannot interrupt with that. 

Here is my plan. It is somewhat similar to what the NFL Europe and the Arena League had in place for overtime. 

1. Rules: Both teams would get a chance to score with possession of the ball. The format for overtime would be the same in the playoffs as in the regular season. A maximum of two overtime periods would be played for the regular season in order to best prevent a tie. In the playoffs, play would continue until a winner is determined. Each team would get 3 timeouts that can be carried over to each overtime period. Challenges would be handled by the replay official upstairs in the booth. Timing for overtime would be 15 minute quarters with fourth quarter timing rules. 

2. Example: Cowboys and Eagles go to overtime tied at 17. The Eagles win the coin toss and elect to go on offense first. If the Eagles score a field goal, the game would continue and go to sudden death if the Cowboys match the score. If the Cowboys score a touchdown, the game is over with a Cowboys win. If the Cowboys fail to score, then the Eagles win. 

3. Example: Redskins and Giants go to overtime tied at 7. Neither team scores on their first possession. After the first exchange of possessions, then the game goes to sudden death. If neither team scores at the end of the overtime, the game ends in a tie. 

4. Example: Broncos and Chargers go to overtime tied at 31. Chargers score a touchdown, 38-31. The Broncos score a touchdown, 38-37 Chargers. The Broncos have a choice: They can either kick the extra point and continue the game in sudden death OR go for the two-point conversion and the win. 

5. Example: Packers and Cardinals go to overtime tied at 45. In the extra period, the Packers fumble the ball. The Cardinals pick up the ball and score a touchdown. The game is over, because each team had their chance to score. The Packers failed to score on their offensive try, while the Cardinals gained possession of the ball on defense. 

6. Example: Rams and Vikings go to overtime tied at 21. The Vikings score a safety, win 23-21. The game is over. Same scenario in example 5.  

7. Example: Jets and Bills go to overtime tied at 31. The Jets return the overtime opening kickoff for a touchdown. The Bills would get a chance to match that score. If they do so, then the game would go to sudden death. If they fail, then the game is over.

I am open to any other examples.
 

PREDICTIONS

I do not see the NFL revising the overtime rules based on what I am reading, but it is something to consider and could happen down the road if more overtime games are decided by the coin toss instead of on the field of play. Leading up to this past Super Bowl, there was a concern that the game could go to overtime with either the key players on the Saints' or Colts' offenses not touching the ball in the extra period of play and ending in less than dramatic fashion with a makeable field goal.

I will offer some more predictions. During this owners meeting, we will find out who the New Orleans Saints will host on September 9 and possibly some key week 1 games. 

One other game has already been announced: the London game. Denver vs. San Francisco, Noon, CBS (shown regionally), October 31. Thus, the week before the game, expect the Broncos and 49ers to play in the eastern half of the country to make the trip to London as easy as possible (SF at either ATL or CAR, DEN at either BAL or JAX). After the London game, the teams will the next week off. 

The nominees to play the Saints on opening night are (based on the Saints 2010 Home Opponents): 

Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns

OK. St. Louis and Cleveland are out because they are…. Well, terrible. Even though Tampa and Carolina are in NFC South, Tampa is bad. Carolina is feisty, but lost two of their key players in free agency. Seattle may be heading towards rebuilding.

So, that leaves three candidates: 

Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns 

I would expect the Steelers and Saints to play in a prime time game, just not in Week 1. Pittsburgh's president, Art Rooney II, also expressed that the league schedules the Steelers at home for Week 1 citing traffic concerns due to the Pirates playing home games on September 19 and 26 and the league does not like to schedule teams for three consecutive road games. So, expect the Steelers to play in the Noon slot on CBS in Week 1 (Fox has the double header in Week 1 due to CBS's coverage of the US Open tennis tournament). 

So, that leaves two candidates: Atlanta and Minnesota. My pick for the game: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans 

Why? I am sure an NFC Championship game rematch would be enticing, BUT we do not know if Brett Favre is coming back. He's going to play the-I'm-retiring-no-I'm-not game again. Atlanta is a good team that is coming off posting its first back-to-back over .500 seasons in team history. They have a good team with quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner. The sensible bet is Atlanta. Minnesota is a high risk, high reward scenario. If the Vikings are in the opening game and Favre is under center, you can spin and play the whole redemption storyline. If Favre is not at QB….. It's still the opening game, but meh.

OTHER WEEK 1 GAMES AND THANKSGIVING

Note: All opponents have been announced for the 2010 season. The full schedule will be released in April sometime around the draft. 

The league announced that the Giants and Jets will each open the new Meadowlands Stadium in Week 1. The Giants will play Sunday afternoon, while the Jets will play Monday Night. Some people wondered why the Giants and Jets aren't playing each other in the regular season opener.

Here's why: the NFL schedule rotation. 14 of the 16 games are set in stone every single year. The remaining two are based on division standings. Here is a full explanation of the schedule. For 2010 inter-conference match ups, the Giants will play teams from the AFC South; the Jets will play teams from the NFC North. The Giants (NFC East) and Jets (AFC East) aren't scheduled to play each other until 2011. The Jets will be the home team for that game.

Easy pick for the Giants: Dallas. Revenge. The Cowboys will have to play on the road in Week 1 because the Rangers will be at home. Expect the Cowboys home opener to be in Week 2 in prime time. If Dallas is not chosen to play the Giants in Week 1, then any NFC East team will suffice. Expect the Giants home opener to be the lone Fox 3PM game on the first NFL Sunday of 2010. 

Sunday Night Week 1 matchup: I am going to pick teams from the NFL's Final Four (Colts, Jets, Saints, Vikings) Jets and Saints are already scheduled for specific Week 1 games, so they are gone. That leaves the Colts and Vikings. Once again, Brett Favre, so I am going to eliminate the Vikings. I am predicting: Chargers at Colts. The match up did not happen last year either in the regular season or the playoffs. This has been an entertaining game in recent years. 

For the Jets on Monday Night: Miami. History. 1986 and 2000 (Part 1, Part 2). 

The second Monday Night game: It has to be a west coast team (San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland, Seattle). Seattle is the likely candidate, BUT once again the Major League Baseball schedule plays a factor. The Mariners have a home game against the Red Sox at nearby Safeco Field. That leaves the Raiders (they share the same field as the Athletics), 49ers, and Chargers. Hmmm….. Wait a minute; the AFC West plays the NFC West this year. Bay Area Bowl: Oakland at San Francisco. 

Now, to the meat: Thanksgiving. The two teams that have hosted the Thanksgiving game every year since 1978: Detroit in the early slot and Dallas in the afternoon slot. 

The league is considering changing who gets to host the Thanksgiving Day games, in part due to the Lions being beyond abysmal. It is hard to believe that 15, 20 years ago they were good. Hell, even I can't believe they once had a championship caliber team. (They had two key comebacks in the 1957 season: vs. the Colts and in the playoffs, the 49ers. They completely dominated in NFL Title Game against the Team of the 50s: the Browns. Film of that game: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Today, both these teams suck. Though, they played an entertaining game last year, despite both teams coming into the game with a combined record of 2-16.) 

The current set up is in even numbered years, the Lions host an AFC opponent, while the Cowboys host an NFC opponent. The Lions AFC Home Opponents for 2010 are the Patriots and the Jets. I would have said the Jets, BUT they have accepted the NFL's bid to host the prime time Thanksgiving Game. So… that means the Patriots will play the Lions (Thanksgiving, 11:30AM, CBS). 

Now who will go to Dallas for Thanksgiving? Dallas's 2010 NFC Opponents are:  
New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints 

Detroit is out because as mentioned above, they are hosting their own game. I would expect the Cowboys to play the Saints in either a 3PM Sunday game or a prime time game. So that leaves four possible candidates: 

New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints 

Since one New York team is playing on Thanksgiving, I would not schedule the Giants and they played last year in Denver (and complained about it.). There is history with the Redskins, but if the Cowboys and Redskins are to play in a marquee game, I would expect the game to be in DC early in the season in a 3PM or prime time slot in order to promote new Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. The Bears? Maybe, they have strengthened their case to play in Dallas with the acquisition of defensive end Julius Peppers. The Eagles are a good candidate, but they last played on Thanksgiving Day in 2008. Before that, it was in 1989. So, the pick: Eagles at Cowboys (Thanksgiving, 3PM, Fox). 

Finally, the Thanksgiving prime time game. Who will play the Jets? The Jets' 2010 Home Opponents are: 
New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings 

The Brett Favre Factor is enticing, but the league is considering scheduling an AFC North team to play in this game. The last time a team from the AFC North played on Thanksgiving: Steelers in 1998 at Detroit. I think most of us remember how that game turned out. Neither Baltimore nor Cincinnati has ever played on Thanksgiving. My pick: Jets head coach Rex Ryan was the former defensive coordinator of the Ravens, so Ravens at Jets. 

RECAP

WEEK 1 (Teams already scheduled in bold. Note: These are predictions.) 
Kickoff: Atlanta at New Orleans  
Sunday 3PM: Dallas at New York Giants  
Sunday Night: San Diego at Indianapolis 
Monday Night: Miami at New York Jets/ Oakland at San Francisco 

THANKSGIVING (WEEK 12) 
New England at Detroit 
Philadelphia at Dallas 
Baltimore at New York Jets 

As we get closer to the NFL Schedule being released in April, I will make my predictions on how the Cowboys 2010 schedule will look. 

Sigh, is it obvious? I miss football. 

At least there is tomorrow....

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