The NFL Becoming a Players League Debate

December 12, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

It’s quite obvious that the NBA is a player’s league. It’s the one major sport where one person can literally take over the game by himself. The players also seemingly have a lot of control behind the scenes with players demanding trades and forcing coaching changes. Quite frankly, it has the reputation among many of being a “Me-First” league.

The NFL, which is easily the United States’ most popular sport, may possibly be headed down that same direction. For years, the impression was created that discipline existed in the league and that coaches were in charge. But have you watched the NFL any in the past month? Look at what has happened in Dallas and Minnesota. Both teams are playing noticeably better since coaching changes were made. The Cowboys very easily could be 4-0 under interim coach Jason Garrett and I think it’s safe to that Brad Childress didn’t have many friends on the Vikings’ 53-man roster. All they’ve done since the move was made is go 2-0 under Leslie Frazier.

So that begs the question: Is the NFL becoming a player’s league?

Babe Ruthless believes recent actions have convinced him that the league is becoming a player’s league. Meanwhile, Bleacher Fan believes that despite recent headlines the NFL is nowhere near becoming a player’s league.

We all love the NFL. It’s up to these two to determine if it really is changing.

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The NFL Becoming a Players League Debate… For Love of the Blame

December 12, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

The NFL is being ruined right in front of our very eyes, and the players are to blame.

While I am normally the first one to suggest that a player or team with even a miniscule amount of leverage should exploit it to the fullest for their personal gain, even I can see that there is a limit. Clearly the NFL has reached its tipping point. Players have gone mad with power and the league presently teeters atop the precipice of a very steep and slippery slope. The empowerment of the modern era NFL player has come at a steep cost – the sanctity of contracts and the authority of the coaches – and sadly the game as a whole may soon suffer for it. For a very long time.

This, however, is not a new story, and the current state of affairs in the NFL did not just happen overnight. The writing has been on the wall for a very long time. Think back to the 2004 draft when Eli Manning was able to force his way to the New York Giants, rather than stay with the team which drafted him out right – the San Diego Chargers. Since then players have been able to threaten, pout, and generally blackmail their way on to the teams of their choosing with virtually no recourse.

The league could have – and more importantly, should have – stopped moves like this as they occurred. Instead, the league stood idly by while their authority was diminished in front of a league of hundreds of players just beginning to realize the leverage and power the NFL was allowing them to control. Now it is common to see players like Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall publically clashing with their coach and team management in hopes of agitating their way to a new team. Many times the players are successful, and sometimes they are not – like Albert Haynesworth this off-season (Editor’s Note: And, regular season too?). But, the point remains that players are very much aware of their newfound leverage in controlling the future.

The drama that unfolded between the Redskins and super star defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth highlights the fact that the NFL is a player dominated league. Even though Haynesworth failed to force the Redskins to trade him or to rearrange their defensive scheme to suit him, he has clearly held the front office hostage throughout the season. His recent suspension demonstrates that the ‘Skins never gained control of the situation, and this “punishment” certainly does not serve as a deterrent to Haynesworth, who didn’t want to play for Washington this season anyways. It is no deterrent for any other player wanting to diva their way into a more preferable scenario.

This behavior is not limited to individuals, either. Through the sandbagging actions of NFL teams it can be ascertained that there is a much bigger problem on the horizon. Over the course of the 2010 season, both the Cowboys and Vikings seem to have made their lack of support for their head coach known through underachieving play. While it can’t be proven that players were throwing games, it seems fairly evident that they weren’t trying their all, and a large reason for this seems to be their lack of confidence in their head coach. Whatever the reason, both teams’ head coaches were fired and it certainly looks like the players masterminded the situations. This past off-season the players won’t just be screwing over one team with their actions, but rather the whole league when they force a work stoppage in 2011.

Like it or not, it has become a matter of fact that NFL players call all of the shots these days. There is a certain sad irony about a league which prides itself on parity would have such a disproportionate balance of power between players and the rest of the league.

Players are starting to wield some very real power in the league. They are forcing trades, demanding their own playing schemes, and even getting any employee who stands in their way fired. Perhaps the NFL should be renamed the NFPL – the National Football Players League.

While it’s not a very appealing name, and I seriously doubt that it will catch on anytime soon, it would be a far more fitting name because it would recognize those with all the real power and authority in the league – the players!

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The NFL Becoming a Players League Debate… Maintaining a Delicate Balance

December 12, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless

I have not been impressed with the actions of many players around the NFL recently.

For example, the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings quit on their coaches, Wade Phillips and Brad Childress. They weren’t happy with the way things were going early in the season, and so these so-called professionals allowed locker room politics to affect their play on the field. As a fan, I am furious that these professional athletes were allowed to get away with anything less than their very best.

Once their respective coaches were fired, though, they magically became successful teams on the field again. Hardly a coincidence.

There were several marquis holdouts this year. Darrelle Revis, Vincent Jackson, and Logan Mankins are but a few names you will find on the list of those players who sat out some portion of the season.

In Denver, Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler both managed to orchestrate their own trades from the Broncos, and Brett Favre has danced around retirement for three years, now, stringing several different franchises along while he waffled in his decisions.

Yes, players have been commanding a lot of attention in the NFL. And with the new CBA upcoming, the NFLPA is actively working to secure new rights for the players of the league.

But to declare that the NFL is following the NBA in becoming a league controlled by the players is a gross overstatement.

Players will always test the boundaries of a league. I do not blame them at all. The system in the NFL is structured in such a way that the players in the NFL are allowed to hold out on their contracts and demand trades. I may not agree with the system, but I cannot blame the players for taking advantage of the system as it exists today.

There is a difference between players maximizing the system as it exists today, and players taking over control of the league.

Sure, Darrelle Revis was able to hold out in his contract, and ended up getting himself a better deal from the New York Jets. But for every Darrelle Revis, there is an Albert Haynesworth.

Haynesworth, owner of the most lucrative defensive contract in the history of the NFL, was just suspended for the remainder of the season for conduct detrimental to his team. What was that conduct, you ask? He did the exact same thing that Darrelle Revis did – he did not abide by the terms of his contract.

In a player’s league, Haynesworth’s actions would have been accommodated, his demands met, and his new coach silenced. He is (or was) one of the premier players in the league, is a major difference maker when he is on the field, and a franchise in a player’s league would never dream of upsetting an athlete of his caliber, especially after investing the amount of money that the Redskins did in acquiring him.

Or how about Vincent Jackson? After a Pro Bowl season a year ago, Jackson felt that he deserved a much more lucrative contract, but the San Diego Chargers disagreed. This situation became very nasty as the weeks passed by, and Jackson was very public in his criticism of the Chargers’ organization. Tensions grew to such a heated point that many assumed Jackson would never wear a Chargers uniform again.

Well, the Chargers called his bluff, and guess who suited up for San Diego against the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago.

These are just the most recent examples where player egos and demands are being held in check. Unlike the NBA, where players like LeBron James have completely hijacked the league, the NFL has an established system which allows players room to negotiate, but still retains enough control to ensure that the players’ demands would never endanger the overall stability of the league.

It is the give and take of those player/owner negotiations which create a balanced system to the benefit of everyone involved.

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The 2010 Michael Vick for MVP Debate Verdict

November 30, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

the micha

How ironic that I am writing about one of the best quarterbacks in football as I watch a Monday Night Football matchup that features two of the worst quarterbacks in football.

The Cardinals and 49ers this season have been a revolving door at the quarterback position, as guys like Matt Leinart, David Carr, Alex Smith, Max Hall, Troy Smith, and Derek Anderson have all at one time or another been tagged as the “starter” for these two franchises. Although it is unlikely that we will hear the names Derek Anderson or Troy Smith brought up in MVP conversations anytime soon, when this season kicked off they probably would have been considered HEAVY favorites over a guy like Michael Vick.

But here we are, week 12 is now in the books, and Michael Vick is performing as one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

There is no denying the impact he has had on the field for the Philadelphia Eagles this season. His performance has almost assuredly earned him many accolades already – team MVP, Pro Bowl, and as Loyal Homer suggested, Comeback Player of the Year. But league MVP?

Babe Ruthless, despite an obvious dislike for Michael Vick the man, feels that his successes on the field simply cannot be ignored when discussing the players who are worthy of being named the most valuable. Considering some direct comparisons between Vick and his counterpart, Kevin Kolb, it is nearly impossible to deny just how valuable Vick has been to his team.

Both quarterbacks got an opportunity to face the Washington Redskins this season. For his part, Kolb was 22 of 35 for 201 yards, one TD and one pick, while Vick, just six weeks later, went 20 of 28 for 333 yards, four TDs, no INTs, and added another two rushing TDs just for good measure.

Clearly, Vick is a difference-maker on the field.

But the Washington Redskins’ defense is not the barometer by which MVPs are measured, and even as well as Vick has played in each of his appearances this season, Loyal Homer does not want MVP voters to forget that Vick has essentially been a part-time quarterback.

To Loyal Homer’s point, it is hard to overlook the fact that Vick has finished less than 60 percent of the Eagles’ games so far this season. Vick has been outstanding, but guys like Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Arian Foster have been equally outstanding (although maybe not as flashy), and have sustained it over a longer period of time than has Vick.

Philip Rivers, for example, is on pace not only for a career best in passing yards for a season, but realistically could put up an all-time NFL best total for the category, having already thrown for 3,362 yards in only 11 games this season. Vick, meanwhile, comes in more than 1,000 yards fewer than that total at 1,941. There are also four quarterbacks in the NFL currently tied for the league lead with 23 TD passes (Rivers, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees). Vick has just slightly more than half of that total with 13.

I’m not one to put a lot of stock in statistics, normally, but differences like that are very difficult to disregard when we are discussing the top performers of an entire season, and so I am awarding this verdict to Loyal Homer.

I just do not feel that Vick deserves consideration for the MVP award in 2010. His value to the Eagles may be immense, but he simply did not have to sustain his performance over a long enough time to truly be compared with Rivers, Brady, etc.

In baseball this season Kansas City Royals pitcher Bruce Chen posted a batting average of 1.000. In fact, Chen has been carried that 1.000 since 2006. He only had one at bat in 2010, and has a total of only three at bats in the last four years, but over that time his average has been perfect. Does that make him better than Josh Hamilton, who sustained a .359 average over more than 500 at bats?

I do not in any way mean to diminish Vick’s performance, but who is to say that he would have remained at the top of the QB ratings leaderboard (or any statistical leaderboard) if he played the additional games against the Redskins, 49ers, Falcons, and Titans? Who is to say that Vick would not have failed epically between weeks four and seven? We will never know.

When recognizing the league’s most valuable player, there can be no room for speculation. The winner has to have been DEFINITIVELY the best over the entire season, and Michael Vick simply cannot state a definitive case.

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The 2010 Michael Vick for MVP Debate

November 28, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

Since taking over for an injured Kevin Kolb during week one of the season, Michael Vick has stormed back into the spotlight as one of the league’s premier quarterbacks. Entering into yesterday’s matchup against the Chicago Bears, he carried the league’s best quarterback rating at 108.7, and still had not thrown for a single interception all season.

Despite throwing his first interception of the season in a loss against the Bears yesterday, his individual performance over the course of the game remained on par with the rest of his season.

There is little doubt that Vick will be named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl squad at the end of the season and, assuming he remains healthy, is very likely to lead the Eagles into the post-season as one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

But, does he deserve consideration for the league’s MVP award?

While it is true that Vick has been exceptional when on the field, it is important to note that he has not been on the field all that long. He was not the season’s starter for the Eagles, and after leaving the game early in week four with an injury, he did not return to the field until five weeks later.

So, the question for today’s debate is: To this point in the season, does Michael Vick’s performance earn him consideration for the NFL MVP award?

At this point in the season, I think it is safe to assume that the Philadelphia Eagles may have been a good team WITHOUT Michael Vick at starting quarterback, but WITH him they are one of the best teams in the NFL. And, as Babe Ruthless will argue, his presence makes such an impact on the field that he absolutely MUST be considered for the award, regardless of the fact that he missed a couple games due to an injury.

Meanwhile, Loyal Homer will argue that Vick’s performance, albeit outstanding, must be taken in context. Even if he finishes the season healthy he STILL would have missed a full 25 percent of his team’s games this season when players like Philip Rivers, Arian Foster, and Tom Brady have been equally vital to their teams’ success, and they will have played the ENTIRE season to this point.

Can you be the league’s most valuable player when you did not even play the entire season? We are about to find out.

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The 2010 Michael Vick for MVP Debate… Vick for MVP

November 28, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Michael Vick is a disgusting human being.

He is an epic failure as both an ambassador of his sport and as a role model for the millions of young fans who idolize NFL stars. His life choices rank him somewhere in my book between Saddam Hussein and Charlie Sheen. He has squandered virtually every chance that commissioner Goodell and the league have given him to get his personal life under control. In short, much of his life can be summed up in just two words – vile disappointment.

But, he is also one more thing I forgot to mention. Michael Vick is one heck of a good football player.

He is the single most important player, in respect to determining the overall success of his team, in all of the NFL. Since his days as a starter in Atlanta, Vick’s athletic skills were unquestioned. Although somewhat one dimensional – running his unique version of a one man option play – the fact that he was a freakish athlete was undeniable. But now since his ascendency to the role of starting quarterback in Philly, he has taken his game to a whole other level. He has proven himself as the consummate pocket passer as well as threat to role out and stretch the field on any given play. He is now among the greatest players in the NFL and deserves to be considered for league MVP.

While it is true that Michael Vick did not start the season as Philadelphia’s starter, and he has missed some games due to injury, these facts are really not a detriment to his case. The fact that Vick surpassed Kevin Kolb as the starter in Philly is impressive. The Eagles had enough faith in Kolb to release former six time Pro Bowl QB and face of the franchise Donovan McNabb, and that’s the guy that Vick beat out for the job as starting signal caller.

Since taking the reigns of the team, Vick has led the Eagles to first place in the ultracompetitive NFC East and remained undefeated as a starter until yesterday’s close loss to the Chicago Bears. It is no coincidence, however, that Philadelphia’s previous three losses have seen Vick missing for the majority of the game. That is a pretty obvious indicator of his value to the team.

Just comparing the Kolb led Eagles’ week four performance against the Washington Redskins and Vick’s record setting performance against the same team just six weeks later on Monday Night Football proved that Vick is the difference maker. Kolb struggled mightily against McNabb and company laeding the anemic offense to a total of 12 points. The week ten rematch proved to be an entirely different story. Vick amassed a ridiculous 333 passing yards with four touchdowns and threw in an additional 80 rushing yards and two scores on the ground to boot. Yet, again Vick was the difference. While he can’t post career numbers like these every week, this performance is hard evidence that Michael Vick is definitely one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and should be considered in the same elite company as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Arian Foster for MVP.

Michael Vick is more than just a one hit wonder. Through the first 11 weeks of the season he sits atop the leader board with a crazy 108.7 QB rating. Similarly, he was flawless over that same spell throwing 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Yes, that’s right – ZERO interceptions. He may not have had the same platform as a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning, but he certainly has done enough to get noticed. He has also caused others to include him in the MVP talk, not to mention the blogosphere buzzing in his favor.

While I may still loath his very being and refuse to buy his reformed animal lover act, I can see that he is one of, if not the best, QB on the field this season. That should be one of the main considerations in the MVP talk.

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The 2010 Sport You’re Most Thankful For Debate… Hope Springs Eternal in the NFL

November 24, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Babe Ruthless.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is without a doubt my favorite holiday (and that is only PARTLY because of the feasting)! Personally, I have been very blessed over the past year, and have much to be thankful for. The list of those things I am thankful for includes all the staples – family, friends, health, and the like… as well as some unique privileges that I am very grateful for, such as sharing this space each day with a group of people who are not only great writers, but who have also become great friends.

What can I say? Things are nice at Casa del Bleacher Fan!

So as I tuck in to a little lot of deep fried turkey (yes, it really is THAT good) with all the fixin’s, let me tell you why I am thankful for the NFL…

First, from a personal standpoint as a fan of Cleveland sports, this was a tough year for basketball and baseball. The Indians decided after about only 15 games that they were going to just mail in the 2010 seasons. And as for basketball, well, I’d rather not talk about it (although I must admit that there is something cathartic in the knowledge that LeBron James isn’t having any fun). But then the Cleveland Browns season started, and it became a wonderful distraction from all the other garbage.

It is not a distraction because the Browns are successful on the field. In fact, they are only 3-7 right now. The reason why the Browns are able to provide a distraction to Cleveland fans is the very same reason why fans across the country should be thankful for the NFL.

Unlike baseball or basketball, where seasons can essentially be scripted before the first actual play ever unfolds, the NFL is the one sport where “Worst-to-First” is not only possible, but it is actually PROBABLE. You see, every season in the NFL is a fresh start for every team. It doesn’t matter that your team only won four or five games last season because, in the NFL, last season is ancient history. THIS season, your team is just as good as last year’s Super Bowl champion.

Take a look at the NFL standings. Of the eight division leaders, four finished last season with losing records (Kansas City, Jacksonville, Seattle, and Chicago), and NONE of those teams that won the division last season are currently sitting atop the leader board.

Likewise, two of the pre-season favorites to contend for a Super Bowl bid, the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, share a combined six wins, while last season’s worst team, the St. Louis Rams, are only one game out of first place.

Now, compare that parity to the NFL’s college counterpart. In the NCAA ranks, a team must not only win games to be successful, it has to also convince voters. So a team like Boise State, which has not been beaten since December of 2008, could still miss out not only on the national championship game, but may not even get a BCS invitation if TCU also continues to win games.

Or compare it to a sport like Major League Baseball, or the NBA, where championships can be bought and sold like commodities on the free agency market.

But as the countdown to the 2010 NFL season continued over the summer, who could have guessed that Michael Vick would be the most exciting quarterback in the league, that the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks would be leading divisions, or that the head coaches for two different pre-season Super Bowl contenders would be unemployed before Thanksgiving?

The NFL system provides a proving ground where all 32 teams enter the fray on truly equal ground. With each season comes the mystery of the unknown. As each season plays out we are treated to a rollercoaster of surprises, excitement, and drama that is unparalleled in the fan experience for any other sport. Every fan can enter a fresh season with legitimate hope that, “This will be the year.” There is no subjectivity, and wins are the only currency that can buy a team a shot at the championship.

So, from a jaded, beaten, and broken down Cleveland sports fan, I say “THANK YOU” to the NFL! With each new game and each new season you give every fan, regardless of the team they follow, a reason to tune in and watch. That is an accomplishment no other sport can duplicate.

Thank you, NFL, for giving me hope!

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Iggles Must Bear Down

November 23, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek.

It should come as no big surprise to the TSD faithful that Babe Ruthless is not the biggest fan of college football. While NCAA football may be the tantalizing main course for other writers here at The Sports Debates, college football is usually just lumpy mashed potatoes to me.

So while this holiday weekend provides a virtual cornucopia of mouth watering college matchups – such as the intense border battles between schools like Michigan and Ohio state and the deep-seated state rivalries between schools like Auburn and Alabama, Clemson and South Carolina, Florida and Florida State, and Georgia and Georgia Tech – the amateur action leaves me wanting for seconds on my fill of football.

But, I have no fear. The NFL delivers its own smorgasbord of marquee matchups and dramatic storylines to fill the awkward silent moments while you await the departure of your house guests. Storylines such as the well timed return of Vincent Jackson to an underachieving San Diego Charger offense, and the highly publicized war of words between T.O. and Darrelle Revis. It’s enough for any with gridiron glutton.

But far and away the game that packs the most punch this Thanksgiving weekend is the NFC showdown between the NFC East leading Eagles (7-3) and the NFC North leading Bears (7-3).

This matchup figures to be a classic case of the unstoppable force colliding with the immovable object. Philadelphia is playing ridiculously well with Michael Vick under center, but the team faces, quite possibly, its biggest challenge against one of the league’s best defenses in Chicago.

By all appearances the Eagles offense seems to be unstoppable. The Eagles have posted the second most points in the NFL this season with 284 points, just five points fewer than the league leader New England’s 289. But, if Vick had been starting the entire season, it is possible the Eagles would be at the top. Keep in mind the short-lived Kevin Kolb era had Vick pulling down sideline duty with a clipboard in hand. But now Philly has found its groove with a dynamic offense that has been running wild with #7 as the full time signal caller. Many certainly doubted the legitimacy of Vick’s ability to bounce back after his time away from the game – myself included. But he has bounced back… in a big way. Look no further than the absolute humiliation of the man who brought Vick to the Eagles, Donovan McNabb, when the Redskins were drubbed 59-28. Make no second guesses about Vick’s Eagles, they are a force.

Still if any team figures to slow down these juggernauts it’s the Daaaaaaaaa Bears (I always wanted to write that). Chicago has earned its reputation once again as the dominant defensive powerhouse in the league. This season the Bears have held opponents to a measly 146 points, tied for best in the NFL with division rival Green Bay. Even more amazing is the fact that the Bears have secured the top spot in the competitive NFC North, to say nothing of posting the same win-loss record as Philly, all while ranking among the bottom third of the league in average points per game as well as rushing and passing. I do not intend to celebrate offensive ineptitude. I mean to call attention to just how awesome the defense truly is, and the scary thing is it seems to be getting better. Since adding phenom defensive end Julius Peppers this off-season the Bears have become much more dangerous on defense. The most recent shutout performance against the Dolphins indicates that Peppers and company are heating up at the right time.

This is certain to be a brutal clash of epic proportions. One that should make even the worst Thanksgiving experiences a distant memory even if just for a few hours.

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The Lions Playing on Thanksgiving Debate… Turkey Without the Side of Losing Football, Please

November 22, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.

There are many things in this great nation for which I’m thankful. But, the Detroit Lions? Not one of them.

The Lions are a loathsome and virtually unwatchable team. With the exception of perhaps Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford, the Lions are a ragtag team of roster fillers. The team is in a constant state of rebuilding and new management and owns one of the most dubious losing streaks not just in football, but all of professional sports. Even while markedly improved from years past, the team is still not on par with the rest of the league and hasn’t been for quite some time, making them undeserving of the attention they receive each and every November. I don’t care what their purported legacy is or what their ticket sales look like. The Lions have been so bad for so long (having failed to post a winning season since 2000) that they should be banned from Thanksgiving football.

Thanksgiving is a special time that the NFL should use to highlight the very best it has to offer. As families throughout the nation converge for a large Thanksgiving meal, millions of Americans will choose to digest in front of their televisions, and millions of those televisions will be tuned to NFL football. This is a crucial opportunity for the league that should not be overlooked. Whole families – young and old, male and female, sports fan and non-sports fan alike – will be watching the NFL. This presents the NFL with an incredible opportunity not just to acquire new fans but to become a permanent tradition infused into the culture of families throughout the country. By providing heart pounding, nail-biting action the NFL can ensure families will tune in each year and carry the tradition on for generations to come.

Instead, however, Detroit maintains its stranglehold on the Lion’s share of the market (pun intended, thank you very much) and both the fans and the league suffer. For some unknown reason, America is forced to continue to suffer by watching the poor play of a team that is perennially out of contention for the playoffs flounder on a national stage. It is enough to make one mad enough that a guy would go all Dancing with the Stars and take a 12 gauge to their flat screen. The action is so bad at times that it simply does not warrant watching, not even for fantasy football purposes – because really, if you drafted several Detroit Lions players you probably don’t have a reason to keep up with your team anymore.

Despite my passion for the NFL, I cannot recall a Lions game that kept my attention in recent years. Instead I remember games that are so boring that I am forced to watch reruns of movies like a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving for the 22nd time because it is simply more painless than watching Detroit.

The only defense I can see for maintaining this pointless tradition is tradition itself. That is a poor defense to say the least, because as the old saying goes, “Traditions were meant to be broken.”

Roger Goodell should instead create a new tradition, a tradition of exciting and winning football. It is not as if America would not accept another team on Thanksgiving, and there are plenty of teams with a national following to choose from. The Patriots, Giants, Colts, and Saints immediately come to mind. Each of these teams has extended beyond a simple regional following and certainly has a potent offense capable of wowing dedicated NFL followers and potential fans alike. Honestly, who wouldn’t rather watch Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Drew Brees carve up an opposing defense like a delicious turkey, rather than choke down what feels like the stale leftovers of Lion’s play? It could even go with the first Thanksgiving theme by capitalizing on New England’s colonial and patriotic imagery. Even though the Patriots will be playing this Turkey Day, they shouldn’t be sharing the spotlight with Detroit.

It seems that the NFL think tank has really missed the boat on this one. Perhaps the NFL feels comfortable with the status quo because the league is currently riding a wave of high popularity, but with a work stoppage lurking in the wings the NFL needs all of the good attention it can get right now. For that to happen, the Lions must not get the Thanksgiving Day spotlight. Anything else is a tale of opportunity missed.

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The 2010 NFL Mid-Season Playoff Push Debate… Texans Still Hunting

November 11, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Loyal Homer.

The Houston Texans kicked off the 2010 NFL season in remarkable fashion when they shocked the Indianapolis Colts.

That start did not surprise many people, though, as many picked the Texans to continue with the progress they have made in recent years en route to their first ever playoff appearance.

After turning in the first winning record in franchise history last season the Texans entered into 2010 with high hopes. They brought back the league’s most promising aerial combination in quarterback Matt Schaub (who led the NFL in passing yards in 2009) and wide receiver Andre Johnson (who racked up over 200 more receiving yards than anyone else in the entire league last season). The team is now poised to challenge the Indianapolis Colts’ stranglehold over the AFC South.

More recently, however, after jumping out to an early 3-1 record, the Texans have experienced a bit of a reversal in fortune by losing three of the last four games. They currently find themselves a game behind both the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South standings, and considering their recent struggles, look like more like the Texans of previous seasons than the team we saw during the early weeks of 2010.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking this is the same old Houston Texans team that has blown its chances at the playoffs.

The primary reason the Texans will continue on in the postseason hunt is the astonishing performance of running back Arian Foster. In a season where everyone expected Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson to run away with the rushing title, Foster has come out of nowhere to dominate on the ground. Halfway through the season he leads the NFL both in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He has single-handedly carried the Texans to this point in the season.

Although Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson have not been able to find a rhythm yet that matches pre-season expectations, it is only a matter of time before they start to light it up in the air. Once that happens, the rest of the NFL better watch out, because an offense that features the league’s top run game, and complements it with what could be the top passing game, becomes the best offense in the league.

Obviously the Texans have an uphill climb ahead of them. Once more, they find themselves chasing Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in their division. Their defense has not done them any favors, either, as it allows more yards than any other team in the league. But unlike any other season since the Texans joined the league, there is no team that has dominated the AFC South. All four teams have shown flashes of brilliance, and all four have also turned in very forgettable performances.

In a toss-up division, with the potential of developing into the league’s most potent offense, there will be more than enough to keep the Texans in the hunt late into December.

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