Usatsi_7575888_crop_north
USA Today

There is an old saying in American sports that, "winning isn't everything…it's the only thing." Well, it's not! Not in the NFL, at least. 

There was a tie in the NFL this week. A tie. The Packers and Vikings fought for 75 game minutes—and nearly four real-life hours—in frigid temperatures for what? To kiss their sisters.

There were almost two ties, if not for an accidental touching of the ball on a punt late in overtime of the Broncos-Patriots game that gave the ball back to the Patriots for a game-winning field goal. As strange of an ending as it was in New England, at least there was a proper/real result on the scoreboard. 

Tying is still a potential NFL outcome, and while the recently adopted overtime rules have curtailed teams from winning with a short drive to set up a long field goal, thus ending the contest without giving the other team a chance to even have the ball, at least those games finished the way NFL games are supposed to finish: with a winner and a loser.

Sergioramos_crop_north
Getty Images

Some countries just have too much talent.

With World Cup qualifying at a close, 32 fortunate countries will start the six-month task of selecting their rosters for Brazil next summer. It's a daunting task for managers and directors where invariably someone worthy of inclusion will be left off the team. 

But what if an entire team worthy of inclusion is left off the squad? What if some participating nations have so much talent, they could field two entire rosters that could qualify for the World Cup?

Maybe FIFA should let them do it.

German Depth

Andre Schurrle got himself in a bit of hot water this week when he told reporters in advance of Germany's friendly with England that "[Wayne] Rooney is a great player, but we have good quality, too, in every position, and maybe twice, so I don’t know if he would play."

Screenshot2013-11-18at12
Getty Images

For fans of playoff clarity, Sunday was not your favorite day. For fans of NFL parity, however, Sunday was a gift from the football gods.

With just six weeks left in the regular season, Sunday's results created a whole lot of playoff intrigue. "If the playoffs started today" is a term we in the industry like to use to give readers a sense of order. If the playoffs actually did start today, order would be thrown out the damn window.

 

Little AFC Clarity

The AFC is particularly muddled, especially with the AFC West all but assured of taking up two playoff spots with Denver and Kansas City jockeying for the division title in the season's final six weeks.

187692657_crop_north
Getty Images

The NFL has a complicated relationship with its fans.

Every issue in the NFL is not just news, but big news. National news. There is no such thing as a small locker room scrape without the 24-hour news cycle grinding it up and exhausting every angle the story has to offer, upside-down and inside-out.

With so much interest in the sport, there is bound to be a difference of opinion. Heck, even issues of racism in the NFL have people taking different sides. The NFL has gotten too big, with a fanbase too diverse and too invested in the product to let anything slip by unnoticed or ignored.

How can the NFL be all things to all people? How can the NFL cater to such an enormous fanbase, while still staying true to its loyal core?

187313112_original_crop_north
Getty Images

Can you imagine how incredible a 68-team college football playoff would be? 

Sure, people may balk at the watering down of the product and the regular season becoming marginalized to mean almost nothing, but watching four of the Top Five teams in the country—Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke and Kansas—battle in an early season hardwood classic on Tuesday had to make fans wonder what college football would be like if teams scheduled games like they weren't so damn afraid to lose.

With 11 minutes left in an epic matchup between Kansas and Duke that saw the Jayhawks pull away in the final minutes, ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale put the early season action in perspective.

"This is November 12th. Are you serious? This is November 12th."

Grimes_original_crop_north
Getty Images

Finally a man named Blackmon made headlines in Jacksonville for the right reason this season.

Will Blackmon—yes, the other Blackmon, who is actually still on the field for the Jaguars—literally stole the ball out of the hands of Titans backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for a "strip-six" that put Jacksonville too far ahead for a late Tennessee comeback on Sunday. That gave Gus Bradley this first win of his head coaching career and, finally, something to celebrate.

The real difference in the 29-27 score? A safety on a holding call in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter.

Whatever works, Jags. Whatever works.

Usatsi_7535978_crop_north

The NFL routinely, and somewhat inadvertently, challenges our collective system of values.

Week after week, game after game, we resoundingly cheer on aggression and power. We laud our favorite team when it exudes physical, mental and organizational supremacy. We boo it when it tries but fails.

Off the field, it's not that simple. We treat NFL players like warriors and gladiators when in the game, but as soon as the final whistle blows, we expect—no, demand—they assimilate back to our traditional social constructs.

See that field with painted boundaries? Go over there and be a savage. Put on this armor and do whatever you can to thwart the invaders from another city. You have three hours, and maybe a little extra time if a winner of that battle has yet to be determined.

Screenshot2013-11-04at11

There have been 44 different quarterbacks to begin an NFL game this season—45 after Josh McCown officially gets the nod for the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.

Through nine weeks of the NFL season, nearly one-third of the league doesn't even know who is going to start at quarterback each week. Nobody has any clue who is going to star.

Nick Foles had the game of his short career against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, throwing for 406 yards and seven touchdowns in a laugher for Philadelphia. Last week, Foles was out with a concussion he suffered against Dallas in a game where he looked like a college freshman playing against an NFL defense.

The week before that? Foles had another game of his career against Tampa Bay.

Black_crop_north

The NFL will not be beaten by demons.

Justin Blackmon is a talented wide receiver who is watching his career slip down the drain, unable to control issues in his private life that have negatively impacted his ability to catch footballs for a living.

Demons. Blackmon has demons. That's the term we've been authorized to use in this profession when we watch a player with immense talent waste it by grabbing a bottle, a pipe, a vial or whatever vice one might choose to unravel an otherwise positive trajectory in the sport and, by proxy, in life.

Blackmon's demise should be a cautionary tale for other players in the NFL. His situation should be a warning for those players struggling with their own issues to get help before it's too late—to not let the demons win. But it won't be. It never is.

10 Rules That Are Haunting the NFL

By on October 31, 2013

48,627 reads

147Icon_comment

186159210_crop_north

In 2013, Halloween officially marks the start of the second half of the NFL season—a nine-week journey to separate the league's superheroes from the living dead.

(True story: One year for Halloween, a friend and I dressed up like the guys from Bosom Buddies, but at the last minute he got cold feet and changed costumes to trick or treat as a football player. He was Tom Rathman, eye black and all. I stayed in my dress. Half the houses thought I was just a girl who forgot to wear a costume.)

With that horrifying skeleton out of the closet, let's ring the bell back to the here and now. The NFL is more popular than ever—even more popular than a time when boys dressed up like blocking fullbacks in exchange for candy—but the league is far from perfect.

There are a lot of rules in today's NFL, and while most attempt to make the game better, some have no rhyme or reason for existing, while others actually serve to make the game worse.