Saturday, November 24, 2007

NFL 2007 - Week 12, Part II

SAINTS @ Panthers +3

So, are the Saints bad again? Because they haven't looked particularly good the last two weeks, losing twice after that four-game winning streak of theirs. The Panthers, meanwhile, started 4-2 and looked like a playoff contender, but have lost four in a row while sticking with a starting quarterback who at one point shared the planet with President Kennedy over a guy who once shared a planet with Jor-El.

[you've missed the "David Carr Looks Exactly Like Superman" stuff, haven't you. Admit it]

Anyway, I'm not positive that I can count on the Saints, but, I'd rather do that than count on the Panthers.

Titans @ BENGALS +1.5

Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth has emerged as a dominant player, but he's been out of action since getting banged up in Tennessee's November 4 win over Carolina. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Titans have lost their last two games (and they haven't been particularly close). Haynesworth might play on Sunday, but he's unlikely to be 100%.

Tennessee needs to win this one to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt, while the Bengals are going nowhere; it seems like an obvious Titans pick, but, I don't like it for some reason. I think the Bengals take it.

Make no mistake: the Bengals are bad. But, they can score points in bunches, while the Titans offense can't always be counted on.

Texans @ BROWNS -3

The Browns won a big one in Baltimore last week, but the story of the game was Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson's crazy field goal that forced overtime. What most of us learned while watching the game is that, for reasons that defy logic, field goals are not reviewable under the NFL's instant replay policy.

As a long-standing proponent not only of instant replay in sports in general (there's simply no good argument against it, and if you think there is you're wrong) but of the NFL's instant replay policy in particular (which are largely intuitive and sensible, or at least that's what I'd thought), I was taken aback by this. What possible reason could there be? I heard some talk about field goals that sail directly over one of the uprights; fine. I can understand that one in theory, although it seems daft not to look at a replay just to see if a camera somewhere had a better angle than an official if there's any doubt.

But Dawson's field goal doinked off an upright, hit the goalpost support behind the crossbar (thus making it, by rule, a successful field goal attempt), and then bounced back over the crossbar and landed in the end zone. One official standing under the goalpost called the kick no good, and one official declined to signal. Replays clearly showed that the field goal was good, and, although they deny it, officials on the field obviously communicated with people who had seen the definitive replay evidence before reversing the call on the field and giving the Browns the field goal that was rightfully theirs.

So, NFL folks: here you've got a situation in which replay evidence showed with 100% certainty that a field goal was good, yet the officials at the game technically weren't allowed to use replays to determine this fact. Care to explain that? Well, this column by ESPN's Mike Sando tells us that certain league officials assert the following, arguing against amending replay rules to include field goal attempts:

There simply aren't enough cameras to provide irrefutable video evidence for all field goal tries, and even if there were, different angles might produce different interpretations, league executives said.

These league executives were speaking on condition of anonymity, undoubtedly because they were too stupid to remember their own names. The NFL should fire these people immediately. In fact, since they spoke anonymously, the NFL should fire everyone who works for it, just to be sure they get these idiots.

Honestly. I've heard a lot of stupid stuff as pertains to sports, but, this might be the stupidest. The argument of these "league officials" is mind-blowingly dumb, given that a) there was irrefutable video evidence for this particular field goal try, and b) all angles produced the same interpretation.

What possible reason could there be not to allow the use of replay in field goals provided irrefutable video evidence exists, as it did on Dawson's kick? No possible reason, that's what.

Also, I've been watching football for the better part of three decades now, and, do you know how many major disputes I can remember about whether a field goal was good? One. This one we're discussing, in fact. I don't recall any other controversy regarding a made/missed field goal call by an official (though Sando's article mentions one from 42 years ago, presumably the only other such dispute in NFL history). This entire argument is largely academic, in fact, because whether or not the league lets officials use replay on field goals, a dispute like this is unlikely ever to come up again.

Still, if the NFL doesn't allow replay to be used for field goals starting next year (I don't believe they can change rules like this during the season, which makes sense), it will be the stupidest decision in the history of sports.

Yeah, you heard me. The stupidest decision in the history of sports.

And the Browns will cover the spread against Houston.

Bills @ JAGUARS -8

Who knows with the Jaguars, huh? You've got to figure they're back on track with David Garrard back at QB, but eight points? The Bills had a nice little winning streak going up until last week, when they, you know, lost by 46 points. Jacksonville's looking to stay hot, and who knows? With the Colts banged up, they might even make a run at the division title.

Eight points, though? Oh, all right.

Raiders @ CHIEFS -5.5

Not much going on here; neither of these teams is going anywhere. You hate to have to pick either of them. But, that's why they pay me the big bucks.

Vikings @ GIANTS -7

Ah, the memories. Vikings at Giants. One can't help but think of that miracle fourth-quarter comeback that wouldn't have occurred if instant replay had been in effect because Jake Reed's second foot was clearly out of bounds in the back of the end zone, a game that probably saved Vikings coach Dennis Green's job (and to think: we were actually excited that the Vikings won that one. How young and foolish we were).

Of course, that led, three years later, to the memorable "41-donut" game, where Green's Vikings showed as little heart as has ever been seen in the NFL playoffs.

(Green would respond, of course, by going out the next year and losing to an eventual 1-15 team, losing to an eventual 2-14 team, and quitting before the season was even over)

And speaking of quitting on your coach and showing no heart whatsoever: ladies and gentlemen, the Tom Coughlin-era New York Giants! Sure, they beat the Lions in Detroit last week, but, only by the score of 16-10. Can't the argument be made that the Lions' long-standing tradition of being horrible simply overcame the Giants' recent penchant for folding like a well-made tent (people often say "fold like a cheap tent;" I'm forced to point out that tents are generally intended to fold, so one that folds and folds well probably wouldn't be cheap)?

I'm picking the Giants, if only because the Vikings haven't strung together two good games in quite a while. I'll close with a joke I thought of a few months back, which I maintain would have been absolutely hilarious if I'd come up with it ten years ago:

"Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green recently published his autobiography, No Room For Crybabies. According to Green's publisher this was a truncated version of the book's original title, No Room For Crybabies... But Plenty of Room For Dessert."

SEAHAWKS @ Rams +3

The Seahawks don't quite have me convinced yet, and I wish the Rams were still really, really, really bad instead of just bad, because then this would be an easier pick. But Seattle's the smart choice here, I think. I hope.

Redskins @ BUCCANEERS -3

If it's possible for a .500 team with an outside shot at a playoff berth to be playing out the string, I think that's what the Redskins are doing. They were nice enough to beat the spread for me in Dallas last week, but I don't expect too much from them in Tampa.

49ERS @ Cardinals -10.5

What a strange and disturbing world this is, where the Arizona Cardinals can be favored by 10.5 points over anyone, under any circumstances.

Last week I said that if the 49ers lost bad, I would never pick them again. Luckily for me they only lost by four, or in future years I might have regretted not qualifying that statement should they re-emerge as a powerhouse. And the 49ers did beat the Cardinals in Week 1, back when everyone thought the 49ers might be good. We know now they're not. But can they manage to lose by less than 11? Let's hope.

BRONCOS @ Bears -1.5

The Broncos are hot all of a sudden. How did that happen? Just two months ago I called them "bad," and then the went out and lost by 18 and by 39 (at home!). Now they're tied for first place and coming off two straight big wins over good teams.

The Bears are going the other way; they haven't looked good all year and one hears of discord on the team. It's pretty much do-or-die this week, and there's not a lot to suggest that the '07 Bears have the stomach for that.

Ravens @ CHARGERS -9

I'm not sure where San Diego's points are supposed to come from, but then again Baltimore really doesn't have anything to play for anymore this season. Still, the Ravens defense is full of proud competitors who won't let up even if the team isn't going anywhere. Of course, San Diego is loaded with talent like LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates on offense, and QB Philip Rivers has shown that he's capable of putting a really good game together. Although he hasn't put one together in a while.

I'm just going to pick the Chargers and move on, before I find myself in some sort of swirling, Wallace-Shawn-battle-of-wits logic morass.

EAGLES @ Patriots -24

24? Come on.

Dolphins @ STEELERS -16

16? Okay.

The five I feel good (or, if not good, better than the others) about:

Texans @ BROWNS -3
Vikings @ GIANTS -7
Redskins @ BUCCANEERS -3
BRONCOS @ Bears -1.5
EAGLES @ Patriots -24

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