The past week in the NFL has led to some pretty interesting stories around the NFL concerning the integrity of what is clearly becoming America's pastime. I say this not because of a personal bias towards baseball or a pessimistic distaste left at the end of every baseball season by my love, the Chicago Cubs, but merely because baseball is statistically declining.
Brett Favre has been distracting fans from what should be the real focus of Week 7:
Which team could turn around its season in Week 7?
And are two teams finished due to a plethora of injuries?
This MNF football picture even beat out Cliff Lee.
Baseball ended on August 7, 2007 at 11:51 ET.
Yes, this was the moment Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's home run record. This marks the end of the steroid era, the day when baseball began to lose all it's hype. I realize the game that received the highest ratings in MLB history was Game 7 of the ALCS the following year, but that's beside the point. Baseball has lost a lot since the end of the steroid era.
Baseball hit its peak when it was a slugfest. Now, people have lost interest because of all the publicity surrounding steroids and players who used them. It was a better time for baseball when people lived largely in ignorance and saw the ball fly out of the park. This was a time of excitement for baseball. I'm sure MLB wishes it had not made rule changes and had continued to make money off juiced-up power hitters.
Now, even a Monday Night Football game between the Titans and the Jaguars can outshine a MLB playoff game featuring the Yankees. Let me put into perspective just how low a point this is for baseball. A playoff game featuring one of the most popular sports teams in the nation could not out-rate a game featuring the Jacksonville Jaguars. THE JAGUARS!!! They don't have enough fans to fill their stadium.
Not to mention that the matchup was a blowout featuring two backup quarterbacks. Yet, a playoff game showcasing Cliff Lee's ongoing near perfect playoff performance, had far worse ratings than this pathetic game!!!!
Here are the statistics. The MNF game received a 7.2 rating against the MLB's 6.5. Football has replaced baseball as America's pastime.
The NFL is eliminating hard hits. Since Tom Brady was injured and missed the 2008 season it's become impossible to hit the quarterback. Special teams can no longer have more than a 2 man wedge, and now defensive players can't make a devastating blow. What's up with this?
I believe Brian Urlacher put it the best when he said, "It’s football. When you play football, you know what could happen to you. You know the potential of what could happen. If you don’t want to get hit, play defense. That’s just the way it is. As defenders, we try to separate the guy from the football. That’s what we’re taught to do from a young age...When you start second-guessing or thinking about a hit, that’s when you’re probably gonna miss a tackle or get hurt yourself."
Urlacher also referenced how the quarterback can't be touched, and defensive backs can't touch the receivers after five yards. He's right—this game is a lot less physical and is catering to the offense.
Defensive players should be upset by the rule changes because they are acting instinctively and this rule takes away instinct. It also makes the game a lot harder for the defense.
What gets fans to scream with reckless abandon? Big passes, big runs, big returns, interceptions, fumbles, and hard hits. 50 percent of these plays occur on defense. Hard hits also cause fumbles. So hard hits cause 33% of excitement in football. Let's face it, even if this is a bloated statistic, who doesn't go crazy the second they see a guy get completely decked? Not just in football, but in a fight, on the street, in your local cemetery, wherever. It gives people an adrenaline rush, because it's exciting.
The NFL should have taken a page out of the MLB book. Let's compare this rule change to that of baseball. They both take excitement away from the fans. The NFL should have learned from the MLB and not so drastically restricted the game. It should have lived in ignorance. I'm sure the MLB wishes it had left things alone and maintained high ratings. And perhaps someday the NFL will, if it continues to go down this path of ruining the game.
Granted, the NFL is protecting the safety of it's players and is in the middle of negotiations with the NFLPA, but the players are earning obscene amounts of money and if they aren't willing to risk getting injured, they should not be paid so highly. It's a part of the sport and they know that going in.
Think of great teams in NFL history. The 1970s Steelers, the 1985 Bears, the late 1990s-2000s Raiders. They played physical football, they made hard hits. They would be embarrassed by these new rules.
If the NFL continues to pacify the sport, we might as well start bringing vuvuzelas and cheer on punts, kickoffs, and field goals, because football will be just as big of a panzy sport as futbol.
Brett Favre has once again stolen the spotlight from the NFL. The focus of Week 7 should be Favre's return to Lambeau, but recent sexual harassment accusations against him have taken center stage. Favre will not be punishe simply because not enough evidence is coming forth and this is likely his last NFL season. But his return to Lambeau will be met with more jeers than it was last year.
The Bengals have an average offense and defense. While their pass offense is 7th in the league, it also generates too many turnovers from QB Carson Palmer. The run game and defense are distastefully average (mostly because Antwan Odom and Gibril Wilson are out for the season). Between the turnovers and a lack of firepower, I do not see this team turning itself around this season. Sorry Bengals fans, draft a QB in 2011.
I think the Cowboys are primed to reverse their season. But not this week, because they are playing a good, motivated Giants team. Each week, Dallas has been finding new ways to lose. But the team is fourth in the league with 305 passing yards per game. It totals 400 yards of offense per game, good for third in the league. The Cowboys also have the 4th best defense in the league, only giving up 281.4 yards per game. They rank number four in pass defense and number 10 in rush defense. The stats don't match the results. The Cowboys are bound to get some "W"s because of their vast talent.
Adrian Peterson celebrates a TD against Dallas
The stage is set for a Vikings turnaround. In each of the last two games Brett Favre has looked good, thanks to the addition of Randy Moss. He's the legitimate deep-play threat the Vikings have been missing since Sidney Rice was injured. Moss opens the field for speedy Percy Harvin and Greg Camarillo. He takes away the double coverage on Visanthe Shiancoe. This also provides an assist to the run game, which is always dangerous when the powerful Adrian Peterson is your back. Most importantly, the Vikings no longer have 3-and-outs, which has improved the defense by keeping them refreshed and off the field.
The Chargers have a great passing game and defense, but have merely been losing because of special teams and turnovers. They are in a weak division, and a season turnaround is most definitely feasible. This is a team that seems to start slow every season for the past 5 seasons, with the exception of 2009. They have the number one offense and defense. Need I say more?
They are getting Vincent Jackson back soon. Though disgruntled, he is still a great receiver. Malcolm Floyd and Legedu Naanee are injured, but they will be back soon enough. Their running game, featuring Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert, is good enough to keep defenses honest. The defense is only allowing 163.7 passing yards per game and the run D is 6th with only 91.5 yards per game. This team will make a comeback.
All these teams aside from the Bengals are able to do so.
Peyton Manning has been through tougher situations and he will be able to win games with a depleted receiving core and a defense lacking Melvin Bullitt and Bob Sanders. But Peyton Manning is getting older and it shows in the lack of big plays by the offense. It won't help that Dallas Clark is gone for the season and Austin Collie is gone for a few weeks. On top of that, a rushing game that was finally starting to look good is plagued by injuries to Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. The Colts will make the playoffs as always, but anything short of a Lombardi trophy is a failure for this team, and they will not be hoisting the trophy come season's end.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are banged up. Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley, two of Rodger's best weapons, are out for the season. Charles Woodson, A.J. Hawk, and Clay Matthews have all been on the injury report in the past couple weeks. Atari Bigby and Al Harris are on the PUP list, and Nick Barnett is out for the season. This week is a real test for the Packers defense. It would cement Rodgers as a star quarterback if he makes it out of his division and into the playoffs. But they will have to beat out the Bears and fend off the rebounding Vikings. Sunday's game will say a lot, but I doubt the Packers make the playoffs.
The NFL's SNF game between the Colts and the Redskins lacked pink gear entirely. You can be sure the NFL will not let this happen again.