Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NFL Homage: Week 12

Peter King, long-time Sports Illustrated writer, has a column titled Monday Morning Quarterback or MMQB. This is speculative hearsay as I have never read it. But that is the rumor. Similarly, Gregg Easterbrook, short-time ESPN.com author, has a column titled Tuesday Morning Quarterback or TMQ. This is factual, as I have seen the links to it, but have never read it. Supposedly TMQ is an homage to MMQB where, in both, the author summarizes the goings-on of the previous NFL week of games. Well, in the Sports Pinata, each week I will be writing a post about the previous slab of games, call it an homage to an homage as I am copying the idea, but as I have never read either man's work, don't know if I will be copying ideas. Let's hope not. On to week twelve.

What is Roger Goodell doing?

Goodell went from the up-and-comer, making moves and taking sides, to a man who has lost his mind. It started with the crack down on off-the-field incidents. Players were going to pay for making bad choices off the field. Good. I liked it. Suspend Vick. Suspend Vincent Jackson, Roethlisberger, fine. Whether it was failing a substance test, or doing something illegal, Goodell was all about harsh penalties.

Then something happened. Roger got a little power hungry I assume. Rather than go through the proper channels to institute penalties, he just decided to become NFL dictator. During this season, he, almost randomly, decided to institute penalties and fines for rules he just made up. To put it over the top, the dictator then went back and penalized players for the rules he created after they had already played games without them. This would be like a cop pulling a driver over for being left-handed. He suddenly determined it is slightly more dangerous to be a south paw driver since the gear shift is only accessible with a driver's right hand. So the cop pulls a driver over, tells him he just made up this new law and is going to arrest him for it. That's Roger Goodell.

So now we have a power hungry commissioner who suspends harshly and creates rules and punishments before players even know the new rules are in place. He is potentially out of control. So what happens? In Week 12, two players battle Fight Club style on the field, ripping off each others' helmets. Andre Johnson literally pummels Cortland Finnegan in the face repeatedly. And it wasn't like some NBA fights where every punch thrown misses; Johnson was beating him on the ground. What will Roger Goodell do with this baby?

Umm, almost nothing. He fines both players $25,000. Neither was suspended. Wait, whaaa? First of all, the fine was less than players were receiving for hits in-game while play was going on. James Harrison got fined more for a legal hit a few weeks ago. If that wasn't ridiculous enough, neither player was suspended for a single game.

Now, Cortland Finnegan did not deserve a suspension. I agree with that part. He is annoying; he's a dirty player and a pest. But that isn't grounds for a suspension. He ripped off Johnson's helmet, so he was ejected and fined accordingly. The penalty fits the crime. He is an agitator and that was pretty much it.

What about Johnson though? He deserved to be ejected and fined for the same reasons as Finnegan. The difference is the boxing display he put on after the helmets were discarded. He popped Cortland directly in the face at least twice, once while on top of him on the ground. His actions were far worse than any helmet to helmet hit from any point prior in the season. But why was he given no suspension?

Because he is a nice guy.

Okay, now Roger Goodell has me confused. Which is it? Are you a dictator laying down the law, making examples of people, or are you a softy who lowers penalties for the nice guys in the league even if their actions were far worse than allowed? Perhaps Andre Johnson was egged on. Well, in fact, I'm almost sure of it. Perhaps it was all Cortland Finnegan's fault. But, really, that doesn't matter. Andre Johnson should have been suspended for the remainder of the season. If that is too far for a "good guy", then he has to be suspended at least a game minimum. And remember, Johnson has been fined for fighting before, so he isn't a first-time offender in these instances.

The real quagmire in this is the change of heart from Goodell. Just a few weeks ago, he instituted new rules and harsh fines for questionable hits. He then fined players for the rule after they already played games before the rule existed. He claims to support player safety, yet wants a league with two more regular season games each season even though concussions are already piling up at record pace in the 16 game schedule.

Dictator Goodell has me confused. That's for sure. The bottom line is he messed up his most recent royal decree. Andre Johnson should not be taking the field this Thursday. I don't care how nice he is.

Okay, I'll step down from my soapbox now. There is too much else to cover.

Week 12 was host to a flurry of close games and compelling endings, including the Falcons win, Giants comeback, Steelers and Browns victories, and failed rallies by the Eagles and Broncos. But the most exciting finish happened in a 20 point blowout. The Texans-Titans game was the scene of the aforementioned on-field fight, yet the final score was a huge story in and of itself. You see, the Texans shutout the Titans, 20-0.

The Texans, perhaps the worst defense in league history, shutout an opponent. The Texans hadn't allowed fewer than 24 points in ANY game this season! If I had to guess, I'd say Houston's defense was owned in zero fantasy leagues. There is no possible explanation for why an owner would have started Houston unless they play in a 25 team league. None. And yet, they scored 17 fantasy points. Isn't fantasy football great?

For the other side of the fantasy spectrum, here's this week's lineup of 'stars who sucked.'

Quarterback - Philip Rivers. Rivers had a bad statistical game. He threw for just 185 yards and no touchdowns. It was his first and only bad game of the season. No, seriously. Rivers has scored at least 13 fantasy points in every week this season, before week 12, and scored 20+ five times. I hear fantasy MVP nominee in Philip's future.

Running Back - Chris Johnson. Chris Johnson was so bad he doesn't even get to share the limelight with another back. He doesn't deserve it. You can throw Frank Gore or Steven Jackson on here for aesthetics (neither gained even 70 total yards), yet Johnson would only get half the criticism that way. Here was CJ's stat line from Sunday's game, and keep in mind, Tennessee's opponent was the historically bad Houston Texans: 7 carries, 5 rushing yards, 2 receiving yards, no touchdowns. The number one overall fantasy player for 2010 drafts gained 7 total yards from scrimmage and ended with less than 1 fantasy point. I don't even have perspective to put that in it's so bad.

Wide Receiver - Roddy White and Reggie Wayne. Both these men have the initials R.W. Both are on teams who are vying for a playoff spot. Both White and Wayne have a talented QB throwing them the ball, and each had a tough week 12 opponent. Both White and Wayne had pressure to perform being their team's number one threat. Neither stepped up. Roddy and Reggie gained 49 and 42 yards respectively. The only difference: White's team won in a nail-biter, and Wayne's team got blown out. Go figure.

Tight End - Antonio Gates. He's back! Antonio Gates is back! Well, sort of. He played at least. He didn't look back. He didn't even look 50%. Running on two bad feet, he puttered through the game, finishing with a pedestrian 4 fantasy points. Let's hope this is just a stepping stone to getting the real Gates back in fantasy circles because not a single tight end in the entire league gained 100 yards this past weekend.

D/ST - Packers. Green Bay was having a great fantasy season. They had scored in double digits a number of times already, and had the opportunity to come up big against a potential future NFC Championship opponent. Instead, they were just plain ordinary, allowing 20 points, recording 2 sacks and nothing else. As the paragraph about the Texans defense proves, you might as well flip a coin for your fantasy defense heading into the playoffs.

Speaking of playoffs, there are some great NFL match-ups next week, a week which is indeed fantasy playoff territory for some leagues. The good crop of games is headlined by the three latest starting games: Falcons-Bucs, Steelers-Ravens, and Jets-Patriots. And with Michael Vick facing the suddenly stout Houston defense on Thursday night, there is no where to turn anymore for easy points. Not in today's NFL.

This has been week twelve's NFL homage to an homage.

(Same image used as previous NFL Homage posts)

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