The NFL What to Watch For in 2010 Debate… Guessing Game

September 13, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

The 2010 NFL season is officially underway, and today we are debating about which NFL storyline will be the most important to follow this year.

So, let me send this message loud and clear to the entire NFL organization: I don’t want to hear about contracts, collective bargaining, a player lockout, health care concerns, or any of that other garbage! I don’t want to hear players whining, and I don’t want to hear owners whining.

The NFL is in the business of entertainment, and I want to be entertained!

That is why the story to watch in the NFL for the 2010 season is the very reason that you watch the NFL EVERY season. It is the reason that the NFL reigns supreme as the sport of choice among spectators in America (despite the impending possibility of a lockout), and it is the reason that 2010 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting seasons that the NFL has ever seen..

Parity.

True, the term “parity” will likely not come up as a story line at all this season, but it will be the cause for almost all of them.

Last season the New Orleans Saints became the poster team for parity. Coming off of a 2008 season where the team finished dead last in the NFC South, only to turn around and win the Super Bowl one season later, demonstrates parity well.

Here is another interesting fact. In the last ten years, 14 different teams have played in the Super Bowl. Going back further, over the last 15 seasons, 19 different teams have played in the Super Bowl. That means that 60 percent of the teams in the league today have won at least one conference championship since 1995.

Admittedly, this is not a newly discovered phenomenon. Fans have known for many years now that the NFL is the one league where overnight success can be obtained. And if week one of the 2010 season is any indication, the excitement shows no indication of ending any time soon.

Here we are, only one week into the NFL season, and the league has already been tossed upside down:

  • The Indianapolis Colts sit in last place as the lone winless team in the AFC South.
  • The Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins both won impressive victories over the teams that were SUPPOSED to be division champions.
  • The supposed offensive juggernaut Cincinnati Bengals were EMBARRASSED by a New England Patriots team that entered the season with some of the lowest expectations in years.
  • The St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions both appear to be improved teams s both fell just one possession shy of starting the season off at 1-0.
  • Last, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are undefeated.
  •  

The aforementioned storylines make up only a fraction of the intrigue and excitement that surrounds the NFL every season. From week to week fans NEVER know what to expect, and that is why people flock – by the millions – to NFL games, nationwide.

Who would have thought that the Redskins, Bears, Buccaneers, Seahawks, Texans, and Jaguars would be sitting undefeated, while the Colts, Bengals, Eagles, 49ers, Cowboys, Falcons, and Vikings sat winless?

And before you start yelling, “The season is only one week old” and, “Teams like the Buccaneers should not get TOO excited”… consider that out of the 16 teams in 2009 that won in week one, TEN ended up reaching the playoffs. By default, only two of the week one losers (out of 16 total teams) started off the season at 0-1 and still went on to reach the playoffs (the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals).

Obviously, the playoffs are not decided by week one performance alone, but it most certainly helps to set the tone for what may be coming over the course of the season.

Adding to that element of parity is the fact that week 17 matchups this season are all intra-division games. With division matchups scheduled to close out the season, every single game played becomes a meaningful one, and the playoff races will run all the way down to the wire.

Surprises await around every corner in 2010.

You don’t know what to watch for, which makes the entire season worth watching. This season, more than any other, will be impossible to predict and sensational to watch. There will be teams that show amazing improvement, matched only by the shocking disappointment of other teams. Thanks to parity, each NFL season is a mystery. And each one is worth watching.

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The NFL What to Watch For in 2010 Debate… The Contract Crisis

September 13, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer.

The NFL is sick. There is an epidemic of infectious attitudes that sweeps the league, and if left unchecked, the results could be deadly. Deadly to the future of promising players, and perhaps even the popularity of the sport and the league.

I’m referring, of course, to all the holdouts and contract shenanigans which continue to plague the league.

More and more players are engaging in highly publicized squabbles with their teams about contracts they want, or contracts they want out of, and it could not come at a worse time. As most Americans wrestle with the worries of where the mortgage payment will come from in the worst economic recession in recent history, there isn’t a great deal of sympathy for men who get paid millions of dollars to play a game for a living. With a potential lockout looming right around the corner, the last thing the NFL can afford right now is to leave a memory of prima donna players flaunting their selfishness as the image the public has to remember the sport by during a hiatus that fans don’t support either.

While last year certainly wasn’t the beginning of all this craziness, it serves as a great starting point. With the tenth overall pick in the 2009 draft the San Francisco 49ers selected touted rookie receiving phenom Michael Crabtree. In theory, it seemed like a great match for both sides. Despite doubts about his durability, due to an injury prior to the draft, Crabtree had been taken with a very high draft pick and figured to receive a very lucrative deal, and the 49ers desperately needed another target to open up the passing game. Things became complex however when Crabtree decided to hold out for more money.

Crabtree wanted his contract to exceed that of fellow rookie wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who signed a five year $38.25M contract with the Oakland Raiders. The problem, however, was that Heyward-Bey was taken three spots higher with the seventh overall draft pick. This demand defied conventional logic and ultimately kept Crabtree off the field for months. In the end, the 49ers relented and handed Crabtree the monster deal he “deserved” – a six year $32M deal with incentives that could boost his salary up to $40M and allow him an early exit after year five. This is crazy considering he never took a single snap in the NFL, yet he was primed to make more money per year that the all time receiving leader, Jerry Rice, ever did… prompting many to call for intervention.

Fast forward to 2010, and similar problems abound in the NFL. But, not just from immature rookies like Crabtree. League veterans, like the Jets shutdown corner Darrell Revis and San Diego wideout Vincent Jackson, dominated much of the pre-season headlines as they held their respective teams hostage with contract demands. Revis just recently came to terms on a massive new deal with New York to the tune of four years and $46M, $32M of which is guaranteed… but it doesn’t necessarily mean the problem is fixed. Revis revealed to a NBC analyst that he could envision himself holding out again for bigger better deal in the future should he feel his ability exceeds the worth of his compensation.

Vincent Jackson has taken holdout drama to unbelievable heights this season as he and the Chargers stalemate continues to evolve. One might expect Jackson, who was set to start this season with a three game suspension following his second DUI conviction, would be happy to simply have a job still playing in the NFL. But obviously not. Jackson has held out seeking a five year $50M contract (with $32M in guaranteed pay), and has even threatened to sit out the entire 2010 season if his demands are not met. A trade has not materialized thus far, and it appears that the issue will go to arbitration. But the story still may have a messy ending yet.

With stars both rookie and veteran ignoring the validity of contracts, the NFL could be taking a terrible turn for the worse. When stars like Randy Moss take their contract disputes to the media it usually means that someone is going to lose – the team, the fans, the NFL, but, usually not the star. Something has to give. Whatever happened to a man’s word being his bond? It seems that the NFL has lost control and the inmates are running the asylum. This is certainly not the image the NFL wants to project during this pivotal time. The league must do something to take the power back, but with the player’s union holding the all important leverage with a work stoppage, who knows how this will play out. It will be a story worth following, but it probably won’t end with “and they all lived happily ever after.”

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The NFL What to Watch For in 2010 Debate… Blackouts Could Black Out NFL’s Popularity

September 13, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless.

The NFL got off to a spectacular start in week one with thrilling finishes in several games. Surely you saw some of them. What has people talking this morning is the play at the end of the Bears-Lions game where Lions’ receiver Calvin Johnson had a touchdown catch taken away after not holding on to the ball throughout the entire “process of the catch.”

But there are storylines building out there that could drown out any “on the field” stories that may build over the course of the season. Unfortunately, I’m talking about that “B” word that neither the league nor the teams even likes to mention. I’m talking about blackouts.

You may recall that The Sports Debates had a debate on the NFL blackout policy last September. Having a game “blacked out” locally means a game cannot be televised locally if the game isn’t sold out. It’s an NFL policy that’s been in place for thirty-seven years, and one that I don’t agree with at all. But they didn’t ask me. It ended being a real problem last season as 22 games were blacked out in local markets. The blackouts came courtesy of five teams (Jaguars, Lions, Chiefs, Raiders, and Rams), including a disturbing seven blackouts in Jacksonville. This season, blackouts are possible in those cities and also in markets featuring three 2009 playoff teams (Arizona, Cincinnati, and San Diego). It will be a miracle to have fewer blackouts this season that last.

Yesterday, the home opener – yes, THE HOME OPENER – at Tampa was blacked out because the game wasn’t sold out. It really wasn’t close to sold out as only 41,554 walked through the turnstiles at Raymond James Stadium. It’s never a good thing when that’s the attendance at the first game. What’s the attendance going to be like when the Bucs host the Detroit Lions on December 19th? If there was ever a regular season game flagged for a blackout, that would have to be it.

Blackouts are such an issue that even a United States Senator is voicing his opinion. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown recently wrote a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, asking for a change in the NFL’s blackout policy. He fights the good fights for his Ohio constituents, saying that “is deeply troubling that increasing blackouts could deprive families and friends the tradition of watching their beloved Cleveland Browns or Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoons.”

As the season goes on and blackouts continue, fans are the ones that will continue to lose. Many of you may not live in a “local” market, so the blackout rules don’t apply to you. But to those of you that do live in the local market of your team, you obviously have a huge interest in how ticket sales go. If you live just outside of Kansas City, there’s a good chance you won’t be watching the Chiefs host the 49ers in week three because the game could be blacked out locally. It’s an ongoing problem the league is facing. And I don’t see it going away.

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