Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Musician's Sports Guide: NFL 2012-13 Week Three

Welcome back to another week of wacky NFL football thoughts from a musician who cares about such things. After a couple weeks of avoiding the topic, the league's replacement refs have, as of this morning, officially made themselves the top story, so we have no choice other than to address this debacle. First, let's walk through this week's set of games.

Last week, I mentioned that the then-undefeated Eagles (2-1) didn't seem as good as their record indicated. If that's not true, then the Arizona Cardinals (who beat them 27-6) must really be one of the best teams in football, and I refuse to accept that. The top spot in the division is currently held by the Cowboys (2-1), who host the Bears next Monday night. However, I'd still say the team to watch here is the Giants (2-1) who have looked pretty decisive in recent victories. They're at Philadelphia in a very important game next weekend. Washington (2-1), who looked so promising at the start, got beaten by a surprisingly scrappy Bengals team last weekend. They're still facing injury problems, but should have an easier time against Tampa Bay in week four.

We might as well get this out of the way now: while I predicted last week that Seattle would upset the Packers (1-2), no one could have imagined the way it happened. Before we go off on a rant about how the end of the game was so blatantly an interception for Green Bay (and offensive pass interference on the Seahawks), let's also give some credit to a Seattle team that got to Aaron Rodgers 39 times and sacked him eight times. But the outcome of the game was wrongly decided by refs, which is something you never, ever want to see in any sport. Why are we forced to use replacement officials? The fact is that NFL refs have always received the short end of the stick when you look at the amount of compensation they get versus their responsibilities. Sure, officials in other sports have longer seasons, but c'mon NFL: you're the highest grossing sport in America. Pay the goddamn refs a little more and provide the fair games that your sponsors and fans (who pay you millions and millions of dollars each year) expect and deserve.

In the spirit of the famous Magritte surrealist painting, this is a touchdown. Photo via Getty Images.

Seriously, if you need one reminder of why it's worthwhile to pay qualified people to officiate a game, here it is. Photo via AP.

Enough on that. Elsewhere in the NFC North, the Bears (2-1) look pretty good against teams like the Rams, but next week in Dallas will be a test of their toughness. We have to give a hats-off to Minnesota (2-1) for a victory I never would have predicted against the Niners. Finally, in another shocking outcome and an offensive juggernaut, the Lions (1-2) lost to the lowly Titans in a game that accumulated 85 total points.

There are two undefeated teams in the NFC: the "how the hell is this possible" Cardinals and the much more acceptable Falcons (3-0). They held San Diego to just three points in annihilating them on Sunday, and should keep rolling next week against Carolina (1-2). Matt Ryan is currently leading the NFL in passer rating. Based on the performance of the Saints (0-3) so far, Atlanta should be thought of as a favorite to take this division and possibly have a good playoff run as well, but that's months away and many things can happen between now and then. Tampa Bay (1-2) is... Tampa Bay. Enough said.

The madness continues: the NFC West is still the best division in football, with surprising wins by both Arizona (3-0) and Seattle (2-1). How did the Cardinals get back-to-back wins over New England and Philadelphia? Same way as the Seahawks' recent success; both teams are using aggressive defenses to shock and awe their opponents' quarterbacks. Meanwhile, the surprising loss of San Francisco (2-1) to the Vikings last week cost plenty of money for gamblers around the world. The Rams (1-2) got murdered by Chicago last week, and will host the hot Seahawks in week four.

Tenacious D will almost always win games. Photo via Getty Images.

It's always strange to look at the AFC East standings and not see the Patriots (1-2) on top. But they're having difficulties that are hard to define, and their last-second loss (again with suspect refereeing) to Baltimore had to hurt. They take on the Bills (2-1) next weekend in what will be an important game for both teams. Meanwhile, I'm having trouble figuring out the Jets (2-1)... one moment they look great, and the next they're awful. The host the Niners next Sunday, and that should be a tough game on both sides of the field. Miami (1-2) is a better team than their record indicates, and they face the suddenly-good Cards next weekend.

For no reason: Tim Tebow chewing on a towel. Photo via AP.

The Ravens (2-1) got past New England with a last-second field goal that may or may not have crossed within the uprights. They play against their hapless division mates the Browns (0-3) next weekend. Meanwhile, Cincinnati (2-1) is starting to look pretty viable after a win against Washington, and they should handle Jacksonville well on Sunday. Everyone (including me) assumed Pittsburgh (1-2) would have an easy time beating up the Raiders in week three, but that turned out to be another whirlwind game with a crazy last-second finale. I think they'll do better against the Eagles on Sunday.

There one real team here: the Texans (3-0), and they show no signs of slowing. They held on to beat Denver last week, and host the Titans next week. Their schedule starts getting a little tough after that. Jacksonville (1-2) and Tennessee (1-2) both got their first wins of the season last weekend; don't anticipate more victories next week. The Colts (1-2) will be in rebuilding mode for some time, though rookie QB Andrew Luck looks good and keeps getting better. However, they'll go up against a pissed-off Packers squad next week.

Jake Locker: he doesn't suck. Photo via Getty Images.

As I prognosticated last week, the Chargers (2-1) lost to the Falcons at home, and aren't as good as their division-leading status would appear. They should be able to beat the Chiefs (1-2) next week, though. Meanwhile, the Broncos (1-2) have lost two in a row, and people are starting to question how much zip Peyton Manning really has on those passes. However, those losses were against tough teams, and they host the Raiders (1-2) next week at Mile High. I am happy for the Silver-and-Black in their surprising victory over the Steelers last weekend, but I'd be pretty shocked if they get a back-to-back win over their division rival while on the road.

When all else fails: Janikowski! Photo via AP.

That's All, Folks!
Join us back here every Tuesday morning throughout the season, and feel free to leave your thoughts in comments, or wherever. I'll read them no matter what!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Yes, we have now definitive proof (as if it was absent before) that the 'replacement refs' are... well, let's just say waaaay outta their depth.

(Fox13 Seattle reported this morning that several of the refs during last nights' game were "cut" as "incompetent" from - get this - the Lingerie Football League. That's right... they weren't even good enough for THAT.)

It's understandable, given the chaos, and immediate result (W/L outcome) of the last call, and how obvious, that it becomes the sole focus of the game - but that's regrettable, since the entire game, hell the entire SEASON, has been plagued with such calls. This was just obvious, blatant, and emotional.

But in context - reverse the call (interception, game over) - but ALSO reverse the blown pass interference call that gave GB a 1st down, kept the drive alive, and ultimately led to a Packer's TD, and the net result is the same, SEA 7 / GB 6.

Any argument that the refs "gave" the win to SEA must acknowledge that if you scrub ALL the bad calls, it's a much closer game; Hawks dominating 1st half with defense, Packers rallying offensively in the 2nd, and sans bad calls - who knows the outcome?

And that's WHY the NFL needs to pull it's collective head out of its ugly bum and acknowledge the even uglier truth:

We, as a country, a nation, and even football fans, expect, and want the best. From our teams, and our players. Our coaches. (okay, we want it from the owners, too, but good luck with that).

NFL teams spend $ Millions on scouting, canny draft picks, player development - working ostensibly to put the best team on the field.

Owners, and the NFL commissioner, have sullied that by fielding a team of officiants who, apparently, aren't even qualified to judge whether models in naughty nighties have engaged in "illegal use of the hands," and it dilutes and weakens the efforts of everyone involved.

Here's a thought: A class-action lawsuit, brought by NFL fans against the league and the owners, for fraudulent and deceptive business practices, by knowingly offering a product that is defective and subpar, as the legitimate and authentic article for which the fans have paid money in good faith.

In any case - it seems likely that, in the midst of poor officiating, lax coaching and discipline, and a host of other issues, a single, iconic image (the BJ and SJ simultaneously signaling two different outcomes to the play), the chaos and emotion that followed, and the asterisked "W" for the Hawks, has the potential in this age of instant and inflammatory communication via social media and news sources, to change the game of Professional Football, at least as we have known it, forever.