More chalk than a classroom in the NFL Playoffs

The good, bad and ugly from NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

Tom Brady did it again. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

There wasn't much drama in the Divisional round of the playoffs. The underdogs didn't put up too much of a fight against the Chiefs, Rams, and Patriots. Here's how I saw the first three games this weekend:

The Good

-Tom Brady is still the GOAT, especially in the playoffs. He led the Patriots to a 41-28 beatdown of the Chargers. The Chargers came into this game with a better record than the Pats, but couldn't overcome Brady and his playoff mojo. At 41, Brady added to his league record with his 14th 300-plus yard passing performance in a playoff game.

-The Rams defense finally showed the flashes of brilliance people expected after their offseason acquisitions. They held the Cowboys to 308 total yards, with only 50 of those yards coming on the ground. 93 of those yards came on three pass plays. If this defense plays like this next week, they could be Super Bowl bound.

-The Chiefs opened their game against the Colts scoring with relative ease. After the first quarter, the score was 14-0 and they outgained the Colts 185-12. They ended the first half up 24-7 and seemed to go on cruise control after that. Some may say they fell flat, but credit their defense for stepping up as well because…

The Bad

-…the Colts first three possessions ended in three and outs. On their third possession, they had a 3rd and 2, but decided to pass. It fell incomplete and they punted. Sure the Chiefs defense deserved some credit, but this Colts offensive line has been lauded all season. How come they couldn't protect Andrew Luck or open lanes for their triumvirate of running backs?

-Dak Prescott's inaccuracy will continue to hold the Cowboys back. He did finish 20 of 32, but there were several throws he missed that he should've easily made. One that comes to mind was him missing Michael Gallup on a 3rd & short by throwing the ball behind him when he was wide open. Itbringsmethisclose to feeling sorry for Cowboys fans.

-For as good as the Chargers pass rush has been and can be, they did nothing to bother Brady. They didn't register a sack against him after getting to Lamar Jackson seven times last week. It goes to show you that no matter how mobile a quarterback can be, pocket awareness and a quick release can beat a good pass rush.

The Ugly

-Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri missed his first ever field goal from 25 yards or closer in the playoffs when he missed from 23 yards out just before halftime. He also missed his first ever extra point in the playoffs in the fourth quarter. Those four missed points could have put them down by seven instead of 11 with about five minutes left. Talk about a bad time for a couple firsts.

-The "in the grasp" called sack on Prescott was complete BS! The Rams had a couple guys that were in the vicinity, but neither grabbed hold of him enough to say they were going to bring him down. His own teammate La'el Collins picked him up and moved him away from the pass rush. This knocked them out of field goal range and forced a punt when they were attempting to make the game interesting.

-Philip Rivers is a Hall of Famer in my opinion. However, the Patriots made him look like member of the Hall of Pretty Unimpressive. He was held to 25/51 for 331 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Although he was only sacked twice, they pressured and knocked him down enough to make a difference.

Next weekend is setting up to be a battle of quarterbacks. There will be either a young gunslinger or a grizzled vet/future Hall of Famer on every team and I'm looking forward to it. This weekend and next are two of my favorite football weekends in the NFL. Let's enjoy it while we still have it!

Cheating, Bigotry & Scandals - The NFL

Who Killed the NFL?

NFL.COM

"Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered" - Mark Cuban

When the Dallas Mavericks owner uttered those words in reference to the NFL owners' greed back in 2014, I mocked him as a jealous man, along with the masses. It's become commonplace in sports as is life to follow the masses with similar viewpoints and never consider validity of a counterpoint.

If I would have took a moment and looked deeper than the surface of Cuban's point that ran contrarian to mine, I would have seen that he was correct in calling for the death of the NFL.

In this era of sports coverage, I realize that the previous paragraph will get lost in hyperbole. It shouldn't. The NFL is dying and there are numerous causes of death, none more chiefly than that of the quartet of Roger Goodell, Robert Kraft, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Years from now, the autopsy will show many reasons for the league's passing, but the consensus will be that what these men did to America's pasttime for two decades led to a loss of trust and lack of integrity in what was once the greatest sports league in our country.

  • Roger Goodell destroys tape and slaps wrist of Pats
  • Tom Brady / Bill Belichick and Patriots tied to multiple scandals
  • Pats become 3rd most valuable sports franchise in America
  • MLB treats Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens & Mark McGwire as cheaters while NFL celebrates Patriots "dynasty"
  • Character Concerns
  • Colin Kaepernick blackballed
  • Limited black head coaches and zero owners
  • 70% of NFL players are black
  • Domestic Violence / Murder
  • Concussions / CTE
  • Non-Guaranteed Contracts / Devalued positions
  • Rules
  • Millennial consumption / Fantasy football / Offensive Crave
  • NBA Super Teams / Trade Deadline
  • Lacks international appeal
  • 2021 Lockout / Strike?

The Commissioner of the NFL destroys the tapes from Spygate

Before Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Spygate, the Patriots value hung around league average as they had never won a Super Bowl. They've since to go on to average appearing in the Super Bowl every other year and winning the Super Bowl every third year over the last 18 NFL seasons.

In the midst of the sports world complaining about "super teams" in the NBA, the Patriots were allowed to cheat their way to the top and rob NFL fans of opposing teams fair opportunities ever since the turn of the millennium.

Through the reports of Roger Goodell, Arlen Specter and Matt Welsh, there were tapes turned in of the Patriots videotaping opposing team signals from the beginning of Belichick's reign as Head Coach in 2000, to the moment he was busted against the Jets in 2007.

The Patriots won their first three Super Bowls in team history during this time. Goodell allegedly sent personnel to the Patriots facilities to destroy the tapes after New England didn't want them to leave the facility. That's normal right?

Despite the Patriots franchise value skyrocketing on the back of their cheating, they weren't set back as a franchise due to their punishment. Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, which was the most he was allowed to be fined by NFL rule. The Patriots received another $250,000 fine and they lost their original first round draft pick in the coming up 2008 NFL Draft, which would have been 31st overall. The Patriots had the #7 overall pick in the first round from a previous trade and ended up moving back to 10th overall to select Jerod Mayo.

That was the completion of their punishment. After being busted for Spygate, the Patriots went four years before another Super Bowl appearance (a second loss to the Giants) and seven years before their next Super Bowl win. They have gone to four of the last five Super Bowls, winning three of those. It's reminiscent of their run at the beginning of the Spygate era when they went to and won three of their first four Super Bowls.

Scandals Galore in New England

Add Spygate to Deflategate, false injury reports, along with Headsets routinely going out and playbooks going missing.

There's been at least five different teams over the years that have mentioned issues with headsets and player-to-coach communications going out at pivotal times. It was even mentioned in one report how the headset would go out and when NFL officials would check on it, it would work fine. Immediately upon the NFL officials leaving, it would go out again.

An Outside The Line report had former Patriots players and coaches say that during the Spygate reign, that wasn't even their best method of cheating. They said that they would steal playsheets, playbooks, scouting reports, etc. They even admitted to entering opposing teams hotel rooms and locker rooms to steal the intel.

Aqib Talib and Brandon Spikes have spoken on record about the Patriots giving them false injury reports on the NFL official designations.

3rd Most Valuable Sports Franchise in America (Forbes 2018)

  1. Dallas Cowboys - $4.8 billion
  2. New York Yankees - $4 billion
  3. New England Patriots - $3.7 billion

It doesn't pay to cheat? In the NFL it does.

MLB Punishes Cheaters

Long before Mark McGwire was blasting 70 and 65 homers in back-to-back seasons, he knocked 49 as a 23-year old rookie. The talent was always there. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds also showed their rare talent before the "steroid era." It doesn't help them remove the scarlet letter branded across their chest as cheaters.

There's always talk of asterisks and not being worthy of the Hall of Fame attached to these giants of their sports that had long resumes before their scandals.

In the NFL, talk of asterisks have been snuffed out with talk of Julian Edelman's Hall of Fame worthiness...during the same season he was suspended for the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Patriots PED (Performance Enhancing Drugs) Suspensions:

Julian Edelman - 2018

Rob Ninkovich - 2016

Jermaine Cunningham - 2012

Brandon Bolden - 2012

Brandon Spikes - 2010

Rodney Harrison - 2007

Aqib Talib - The Patriots traded for Talib while he was in the midst of a four game suspension for...PEDs.

Brandon Browner - He was suspended by the NFL in 2013 for the next season. Patriots signed him and allowed him to serve his four game suspension with them for the 2014 season.

While the previously mentioned baseball players still fight for Hall of Fame consideration years later, NFL media-types clamor for Edelman to have a Hall of Fame bust, the same season that he was busted for PEDs.

Character No Concern

Years ago, Roger Goodell threatened to crack down on teams that consistently went after players with huge character flaws. Goodell said he wanted to protect the image of the NFL shield. His threats rang hollow in New England as they've made a dynasty out of targeting players that had major off-field issues.

Aaron Hernandez - Bill Belichick knew from his good friend, Urban Meyer, exactly who he was getting in Hernandez as a person.

Alfonzo Dennard - Assaulted a police officer the week before the NFL Draft. New England still went on to draft him. Dennard was found guilty the following year.

Donte Stallworth - Killed Mario Reyes while operating a vehicle impaired.

Aqib Talib - He's been accused of firing a gun at his sister's boyfriend, assaulting a cab driver, fighting at the rookie symposium with his fellow-rookie teammate at the time, Cory Boyd, and swinging a helmet in a scuffle with Donald Penn that hit another teammate in the face, causing a laceration.

Corey Dillon - Arrested for domestic violence in 2000.

Albert Haynesworth - Multiple road-rage incidents, including assaulting a man. He's also severely injured an individual in a wreck while driving over 100 mph. Haynesworth has also faced charges of fondling a waitress during his career. That's just some of the off-the-field issues the Patriots were comfortable with. On the field, Haynesworth had just flopped after signing a $100 million contract and was known for dirty plays like the time he stepped on Andre Gurode's face while Gurode was on the ground with his helmet off.

Willie Andrews - The Patriots drafted him despite the fact he was arrested at 18 years old and charged with gun possession. Andrews was already on probation at the time of the arrest. While with the Patriots he faced charges of selling marijuana and pointing a handgun at the head of his girlfriend.

Bow on Pats

As we move on to the other conditions in the causes of death that face the NFL, I'll put a bow on Brady, Belichick and the Patriots.

In a beautiful game of inches, the New England organization has spent the last two decades cheating in every conceivable way. Roger Goodell allowed this franchise to become the third most wealthiest sports franchise in the U.S. while hijacking the country's favorite pastime.

Brady and Belichick are the G.O.A.T.(s)....of cheating. Usually, you'll hear "everybody does/did it" when talking to those who take no issues with two decades of cheating. These same people will quickly tell you why Bonds and Clemens don't belong in the baseball Hall. There were estimates at the time that 75-80% of baseball was juicing. Yet, the Patriots go-to excuse of "everybody cheats" doesn't play as well to the media and fans in baseball as it does for the annual felons of Foxborough.

Colin Kaepernick

As you delve into other areas that helped place the NFL on deck for the upper room, you may want to start at the disgrace that was the handling of Kaepernick. A player of color that kneels in protest, who was a play or two away from winning a Super Bowl, couldn't find a roster spot in a league constantly looking for capable signal-callers. The same league just welcomed back Kareem Hunt, who "deserved a second chance."

Kaepernick was coming back from injuries in 2016, what would unknowingly become his last season in the NFL. The previous season in 2015, Kaepernick was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. On top of the surgery to repair the shoulder, he also had another one on his knee and yet another on the thumb on his throwing hand.

Kaepernick started his vegan diet and was also unable to workout while recovering from surgeries. He didn't have the same body-type that we had become accustomed to seeing him suit up with on Sundays. As he worked in-season to regain mass it became obvious that he was getting back to his old ways.

In his last season, Kaepernick put up a 4-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio with 16 touchdown passes to only four interceptions. He also ran in two touchdowns with 468 yards in only 10 full games.

His receivers that year?

Torrey Smith, Jeremy Kerley, Keshawn Martin, Rod Streater, Quinton Patton, Aaron Burbridge, Chris Harper & DeAndre Smelter.

Whether you love or hate Colin Kaepernick is not the point. The point is that the NFL black-balled a qualified starting NFL quarterback from their league. As you dive deeper into the makeup of the league, you'll see how this is far from a dead issue.

NFL Personnel Breakdown

The league that black-balled Colin Kaepernick has 32 teams. 30 of those 32 owners are white. The two owners of color in the NFL are Shahid Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kim Pegula of the Buffalo Bills.

What makes this troubling from a league standpoint is that it's been reported that over 70% of the NFL are people of color.

In complete contrast of the majority of black athletes in the NFL locker room is the lack of black coaches leading them.

Out of the 32 teams there are currently three black head coaches in the NFL: (all in AFC)

Brian Flores - Miami Dolphins

Mike Tomlin - Pittsburgh Steelers

Anthony Lynn - Los Angeles Chargers

Athletes are becoming more socially aware. NFL players know what the owners did to Kaepernick. While you may not like Kaepernick or believe in how or why he protests, your opinion will not change the opinions of those who commend Kaepernick for sacrificing his career to be a voice. Others will continue to follow suit and it will be increasingly harder for a league to survive with multi-sport athletes choosing to not put their future in the hands of men who will take their career from them over differing political views and affiliations.

Domestic Violence / Murder

The NFL turned a blind-eye to domestic violence in their sport for years. When the pressure became too much, they made some fluff P.R. hires and said they would take it serious.

Ray Rice brought NFL fans into the digital age of athlete screw ups. The Orwellian NFL domestic violence era has been eye-opening. Seeing the attacks on video by Ray Rice and Joe Mixon allowed us all to see how heinous these acts were, as if the words and scars of the attacks weren't enough.

As the majority of the public became sickened by the scenes that unfolded before them on their screens, we found out that the NFL had just slapped the wrist of Rice, despite the visual evidence. We found out that what Tyreek Hill, Frank Clark and Greg Hardy did to females, wasn't viewed as poorly in the eyes of the NFL and their owners as a man taking a knee for change.

Concussions / CTE

Another piece of the NFL's pie of talent is dwindling down due to health risks and concerns over quality of life after playing.

It's become blatantly obvious that the league has covered up their concussions research and knowledge of injuries for some time. It's just another in a long line of instances where the NFL has cost themselves the trust of their fans.

"Would you let your kid play in the NFL?" This has become a routine question. It's not a question plaguing other leagues like MLB and the NBA.

Non-Guaranteed Contracts / Devalued Positions

As the NFL cuts down their consumers one piece of the pie at a time, maybe the most troubling aspect for the future of the NFL is that of the talent that's growing up.

Even if they aren't a minority and don't care about the race issues in the NFL, even if they aren't female and don't care about the domestic violence patterns and even if they aren't concerned with the health risks that the game brings, the future talent of tomorrow's NFL has to come to terms with their bosses greed.

The NFL is the most violent sport, yet, they don't give fully guaranteed contracts to their players. If a player signs a four-year contract in the NFL, he usually has around two years of guaranteed money on that so-called four year deal.

That's if you can even get a fair deal. There's hyperbole in NFL talk that "you can get a running back anywhere." Despite the fact that the NFL has seen Todd Gurley, Zeke Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Saquon Barkley all go in the top 10 picks of their respective drafts, this statement is still widely viewed as correct. They'll point to a Phillip Lindsay as the rule and not the exception.

Due to this fact, the NFL will allow one of their best players in Le'Veon Bell to sit out an entire year. Bell turns 27 years old next week and people will scream that he should have played this year or taken some reported offer, without giving a thought to the fact that he played under his rookie contract as a second round pick for his first four seasons, before finally receiving a franchise tag as a 25 year old. After playing out that franchise tag, he was tagged again.

Bell became one of the best in the world at what he's trained most of his life to do as a professional. The NFL undervalued his position. Now, due to their undervaluing of a position, they expect this professional to play year-to-year and if he signs a long-term deal, the guarantee is not fully guaranteed as in other sports.

Rules

The game that was so exhilarating is now a game of controversy. As a fan / consumer, if you make it past everything else to this point, you still have to watch and enjoy the game.

It's become more difficult with each passing year. Quarterbacks are so protected, sacks turn into game winning drives based on roughing penalties. A league that is based on running, passing and catching has 33% of their base product so convoluted that even their officials don't know what a catch is. Just when you think you do know what a catch is, they change what a catch is again.

It's a reactionary league that completely altered the outcome of the participants in the Super Bowl without a valid explanation from the commissioner of the league.

  • Blown pass interference call in Saints game - Sends Rams to the Super Bowl
  • Coin toss in the Chiefs game prevents the MVP of the season from even seeing the ball in a 31-31 game in overtime - Sends Patriots to the Super Bowl

Millennial Market

Millennials consume sports differently and as they become the chief demographic in ratings, NFL games will dip. Fantasy football, whether daily or seasonal, has become more important than the NFL games themselves, it would appear.

The Red Zone channel fills our appetite as fans as we only want to see scores for our fantasy teams and instant gratification in this social media era of constant news and content.

A game lasting almost four hours seems tedious at times when compared to the constant flow of an NBA game over in two.

NBA Super Teams / Trades

The NFL boasted for years their no off-season mantra. It feels that the wind behind the NFL has shifted to the NBA sails.

While watching the Super Bowl, I caught myself constantly checking for NBA rumors and updates heading towards the deadline.

Even the NBA All-Star break with their international game, three point shootout, slam dunk contest, skills challenge and main game, seems like a mega event. While the Pro Bowl has been unwatchable for years.

The super teams that were rumored to kill the NBA have ignited it to a point that shows no deceleration. I can't decide between the Toronto Raptors with Kawhi and Marc Gasol with a developing Pascal Siakam or the Philadelphia 76ers who have seemed to build a starting five that could almost rival that of the Golden State Warriors.

Days of running to Madden to toy with free agency has been replaced by 2K lineup adjustments with the New York Knicks selecting Zion Williamson with the first pick in the NBA Draft and signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency.

International Appeal

While the NFL continues an effort to force American football on England and Mexico, the NBA has long been an international game. The influx of talent domestically along with internationally lends itself to unfathomable depth for the NBA for the foreseeable future.

The NBA will pass up the NFL in popularity in the next few years and won't look back.

2021 - Lockout / Strike?

This will be the straw that broke the camel's back. I believe the players and the owners will struggle to find trust and fair ground. I expect that after the 2020 season ends, that it could be some time before the NFL doors open again.

For all of the reasons I mentioned above, the players and owners have never been more divided. While the line will be drawn in the sand between billionaires and millionaires over who's owed more of the consumer's dollar, the consumer will find another way to spend their time and money.

As the league and players come back, finally united as one and look to win back the consumer as a team, they'll notice crumbs where their pie used to be.

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