There are plenty of exciting NFL games to watch in Week 8. The Indianapolis Colts will try to exact some revenge on the Houston Texans. Randy Moss leads his new team, the Minnesota Vikings (who may possibly play without Brett Favre), against his old team, the New England Patriots.
However there are two teams to watch closely this week, and one of them is on a bye.
I'm talking about the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. These are two of the most physical, brutal, and violent football teams in the National Football League. It's not a coincidence that these are also two of the teams consistently competing for a championship. They prove that football and violence go hand-in-hand.
Yet last week there was a travesty in the NFL. There was a league wide scare when new punishments were implemented for helmet to helmet hits.
This resulted in higher scoring games because the defenses were afraid to do their job. In case no one knew, the NFL averaged 52.6 points per game last week.
That's good for the highest total in the last 20 years. Congratulations fantasy owners.
But for those of you who care about the actual game that's played on the field, I'm sure you were disappointed in the product you saw. As a sports management major I can tell you that the new punishments are strictly money related.
As it's called in Sports Marketing, "The Escalator Concept" is what is being used in this instance. The concept is simple, you have different levels of fans, from casual at the bottom to avid at the top. By scoring more points and having more high-flying action, the NFL wants to get the "casual" fans to the top of the escalator. This is a bad thing because you will lose more avid fans than you will gain casual ones.
Let's take a look at two teams and their games from last week. First, the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Miami Dolphins. The Steelers are notorious for hitting someone in the mouth. Last week was different though.
There were several instances where the defense let up instead of putting a hit on the ball carrier. They just threw their arms at him and missed the tackle. In one instance, this cost Pittsburgh a touchdown when sure-tackling Ryan Clark completely whiffed on Davone Bess. He looked like he was playing two hand touch.
There were other plays where James Harrison admittedly let up. When asked about his least productive game of the season, he had this to say.....
"That was my least productive game this year," Harrison told Josina Anderson on Inside the NFL, "We can still play the game, but it's not the same."
Inside the NFL showed multiple plays from the Steelers-Dolphins game when Harrison appeared to slow down and avoid contact, rather than accelerate and explode into a Dolphins player. Harrison said he was thinking about a suspension on those plays.
"If I shot in there I would have probably hit helmet to helmet, and I've already got one offense," Harrison said, "So I could probably be looking at a possible suspension."
After the game, Ray Anderson of the NFL applauded Harrison for letting up on the plays. Mike Tomlin responded:
"It would be tough for me to care less about their opinion, to be honest with you."
The other game was the Baltimore Ravens versus the Buffalo Bills. Now I will admit, as a Steelers fan, I enjoyed watching the score of this game and seeing Buffalo winning. That was until I saw the highlights.
Throughout the game, Buffalo was making plays that were only possible because Baltimore was letting up on defense. The game should not have been close. If the Ravens played "Raven Football", they would have controlled the entire game. Instead they looked to be playing softer than usual.
As much as I would love to see the Ravens lose, I want it to be the RAVENS that lose. Not some byproduct the NFL has created by taking away their biggest asset, fear.
By taking fear away from certain teams such as the Ravens and Steelers, you are taking away their bread and butter, their gameplan. That would be like telling the Colts they aren't allowed to pass, or the Dolphins they can't run the wildcat.
Both teams were very upset after the week, so watch them closely. The Steelers are taking on the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome. Without Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, the rest of the defense will have to play like they are accustomed to and punish the Saints offense if they want to win.
The Ravens are on a bye, but it will still be interesting to play close attention to their practices this week. I expect Ray Lewis to give one of his famous passionate speeches to rally his team. He wants to play the game of football the way its supposed to be played and is sure to let his team know that you need to hit someone.
So from a Steelers fan talking to the Steelers and Ravens, play the game the way you have the last decade or so. What I saw last week was a travesty. It ruined the game and the competition. Besides, if both teams play hard, what is Roger Goodell going to do, suspend all of their players?