"Seriosuly?!? We all need to root against the sheer evil that is the Heat". This is the text I received from my friend Matt after I told him I was boycotting the NBA Finals. I couldn't take it anymore... another frustrating year of bogus calls, inconsistent reffing, and watching my teams getting systematically dismantled and eliminated. Normally I would be in Matt's boat by this point however, cheering for the lesser of two evils in a Finals that would still keep me on the edge of my seat and bring me out every night to watch. What had changed this year? Why did I just not care? Well, I guess it was just because too many other people did.
These past playoffs have been the most watched in cable history. Games are averaging 5.5 million viewers, an increase of 29% over last year's numbers and a sign that the NBA is moving in the right direction. But this is my issue, I don't think it is. Now that we have reached the Finals the numbers are slowing down. Game One saw just a 3% increase in ratings over last year and Game Two, when Miami was ahead by one game, saw just a 1% increase over last year's game two matchup between Boston and LA. Although this still represents an increase in viewership, the numbers are not as drastic as they were throughout the rest of the playoffs. Why? Cause people like myself and thousands of other fans have decided one thing: we would rather not watch the Finals than to watch Miami win.
I must admit, I contributed to the higher ratings throughout the playoffs. I watched several series and was intrigued by runs from teams such as Memphis and OKC. But as the playoffs moved along I found myself faced with an odd decision. I was no longer choosing my favorite team in each round's matchups, but was instead choosing which team I disliked more. And when it really came down to it, the team I liked the least was the Heat. I was watching games just to root against them. The reason viewership is still up: everyone is still hoping to watch Miami lose, like my friend Matt.
The problem with this whole situation, and why I am boycotting the Finals, is that these higher ratings are something the league looks at as a sign of progress. Stern looks at the offseason hoopla surrounding "The Big 3" and believes these numbers represent what people want, that fans are watching because of them. Unfortunately, most people are watching not to root for Lebron and company, but to hope against them. Lebron's popularity has dropped substantially, from over 9% at the end of the playoffs last year, to 50% lower, 4.5%, at the end of the regular season this year. And while it's always good to have the bad boys in the league, a la the Oakland Raiders or Detroit Pistons of the past, it turns the game into more of a spectacle than a sport. How long can the league ride on the coattails of a disliked team? I have already stopped watching.
For now the NBA is safe. ratings are up, everyone's watching, and Stern and his minions are happy. People in Miami and the remaining Lebron fans who still recognize him as the most talented player in the league and can overlook the storm surrounding him, are enjoying themselves. The rest of us are rooting against the Heat and hoping they lose. But what if they win? Well, people watch because they have favorite players and favorite teams that they enjoy seeing win. The ratings during the Jordan era were great because he was a player whose fan base was massive and even if you were hoping for the opposing team, his personality still made it OK if he beat you. In the case of Miami and Lebron, the same rules do not apply. If Miami wins there will be fans who will be quite simply outraged, much like myself. I won't watch next year, and I believe many other won't as well. We wanted to watch them lose, not win.
Back to the boycott. I am not watching to not inflate ratings. I don't want this to be the direction the NBA moves, towards "The Big 3". I don't want eight competitive teams with superstar players playing the same games every year. I want thirty teams fighting for playoff spots, fighting their way through a grueling couple months of playoffs, and I want parity. I know I'm just one person, but I do not want my rating to count. I want Stern to realize that this may only be temporary. That if Miami wins, the ratings may, and probably will, go down next year, much like they did after Jordan retired and people lost interest in the game. Fans are still watching right now because we want what's right to happen. We want Miami to lose because, as my friend Matt put it, they are "the sheer evil that is the Heat". I want Stern to realize this; I want him to realize it now before the next Big 3 comes around, and then the next, and then the next...
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
I've been trying to avoid all this lockout talk. I just don't like listening to it and have pushed the thought of a canceled or postponed 2011 season far back to the nether regions of my brain. Instead, I have decided to start working on a 2011-12 preview for the upcoming season WHICH WILL BEGIN ON TIME. Please try not to tell me different, I simply won't listen.
Anyway, one thing I noticed in my prep work was that I was missing a printable season schedule, which is usually my tool in examining the upcoming season and figuring out who is going to win how many games. Therefore, without further delay, exactly that: a printable schedule for the NFL 2011 - 2012 season. You're welcome.
NFL Printable 2011 Schedule
Friday, September 17, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
It could be a year of change in the AFC West. On the way out are two perennial playoff contenders and rising is a team who has been at the bottom the past few years. One thing is for sure, the west is not the place to be a football fan right now. Both the NFC and the AFC West are arguably the two weakest divisions in football. Wait a minute... no argument. So how is the AFC West gonna turn out, well maybe a little like this.
1. San Diego Chargers 10-6
2. Kansas City Chiefs 7-9
3. Denver Broncos 5-11
4. Oakland Raiders 3-13
The Chargers may be able to keep themselves above water a little while longer before they start losing their grip. LT is out and a new running back has a lot on his shoulders. The Chargers drafted Ryan Mathews out of Fresno State to replace Tomlinson and they better hope he succeeds, especially for the first few games. Dealing with a suspension to Vincent Jackson, Philip Rivers is at a loss for his prime receiver. Floyd will hopefully step up and catch some balls, but there is definitely gonna be a need for some decent runs. After all, by beefing up their offense in the draft they forgot to address their blaring problem at defense. I still see the Chargers making the playoffs in a weak West division.
I don't like Peyton Manning. I have respect for his ability, both on the field and as an actor in commercials, but both him and his brother have cause the New England Patriots some hard times as of late. I don't mind Flacco and the Ravens for some reason, even though they knocked the Pats out last year... it's just that smug little look on Peyton's face. Ask Bill Simmons, he knows what I'm talking about. However, despite this dislike, I do believe the Colts and Manning are one of the most talented teams out there. Peyton lead the Colts to a fantastic season in the first year in a while without Tony Dungy on the sidelines. Jim Caldwell seemed to fill in quite nicely and I see big things for the future of the Colts even without Dungy. So... here is how I see the AFC South shaping up.
1. Indianapolis Colts 15-1
2. Houston Texans 9-7
3. Tennessee Titans 8-8
4. Jacksonville Jaguars 6-10
Sure it's boring saying that Indy is going to have another near-perfect season, only losing a couple of games, but hasn't Manning proved yet that that's highly possible year in and year out. He's still got Reggie Wayne to catch the ball, an aging Addai might be replaced by the young Donald Brown to keep the ball moving, and the defense puts up stops when it needs to, which is not even a worry really since Peyton can get the ball and perform a two-minute drill at any point in the game. Just look at their game against the Dolphins last year in which they won 27-23. The Colts had possession of the ball for just 14:58 (compared to Miami's 45:07), but still managed to win the game, achieving an offensive DVOA (if you read Football Outsiders) of 98%! An incredible number. The Colts are simply one of those teams that has what it takes to win.
So it all starts tomorrow and after this I only have two divisions left, including one which I believe will have a Super Bowl XLV champ, and the other a pinnacle of mediocrity and disappointment. But until then I have the AFC North, which has two teams which I believe are capable of making a push for the Lombardi trophy. One of those teams made it to the AFC Championship last year, the other one the Super Bowl the previous year. Both are poised to make moves and this is how I see the AFC North ending up.
1. Baltimore Ravens 11-5
2. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6
3. Cincinnati Bengals 8-8
4. Cleveland Browns 4-12
The Ravens had a hell of a year last year, both offensively and defensively. They won games when it counted, but also managed to lose them too. They won by huge margins, and lost close games on bad mistakes, including several errors to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship. Everyone gets bounces and Baltimore was on the wrong end of a lot of them in 2009. They lacked consistency, the ability to get big points in the red zone, and a higher tier wide receiver for Flacco to throw at. Well, now Flacco is a year more experienced and the Ravens have picked up both Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmandzadeh. Will this solve a few problems? I think so; and if it does look for the Ravens to be back in the postseason again this season.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I like my Pats' chances this year. Brady is healthy again, and I doubt their defense is going to have as sloppy a year as 2009. For Belichick, the defense was not as expected. Hopefully it was one of those transitional years and New England will be back on top of the AFC East, at least hopefully for me. They will have some tough competition though and everyone is definitely wondering what Mark Sanchez will do in his sophomore year. I drafted him in my fantasy football pool last year with my last pick overall and was pleasantly rewarded with a decent backup QB near the end of the seaosn. More importantly though is how the Jets' defense will compare to last year's stellar effort. We shall see, and I see the AFC East ending up something like this:
1. New England Patriots 13-3
2. NY Jets 9-7
3. Miami Dolphins 8-8
4. Buffalo Bills 4-12
Like I said, I really think New England will have their shit together on defense this year. Not only that but I believe the offensive linemen may have taken a year to mature and will also improve in 2010. Belichick always has an ability to find talent in the draft at all spots and that's why this Patriots team has been somehwat of a dynasty over the past decade. They should continue on this season, getting right back on track after an embarrassing loss to the Ravens in the playoffs last year. The only problem is, they might have problems with Baltimore again in the playoffs, and I think they're going to have an even bigger problem facing the Colts and Peyton again, which I'm sure will be a highly possible postseason scenario. For now though, look for the Pats' offense to remain one of the best in the league and have your fingers crossed that the defense can improve.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
I just couldn't help but post a pic of Glen Coffee, who after a lengthy career with the 49ers totaling 14 games, has retired from football at the old age of 23. So long Coffee, it was a wonderful time. The loss shouldn't be too burdening for the 49ers however, who's schedule this season is the 25th hardest in the league, and who are poised to win the NFC West now that the Cardinals have lost Warner and will be relying on Derek Anderson to throw the ball to Fitzgerald and co. By how much will they win the division? Here's my look at the NFC West.
1. San Francisco 49ers 11-5
2. Arizona Cardinals 7-9
3. Seattle Seahawks 5-11
4. St. Louis Rams 2-14
So maybe the 49ers don't win 11 games, highly possible, I could be overshooting that number by a win or two, but the point is that the 49ers have one of those schedules that might allow them to do it. Now that the Cardinals' offense has taken a huge hit, two extra wins against Arizona are highly possible. San Fran could in fact easily sweep their divisional games, going 6-0 in the NFC West, regardless of matches against other teams. Their defense improved massively last year, one of the top 3 in the NFL, and their offense kept getting better as 2009 moved along. I mean, it still all comes down to whether Alex Smith is ready to become the franchise QB or not, but this is definitely the season for San Fran to make moves. They have to do it now before the Rams start getting better.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Matt Ryan. That's right, Matt Ryan. It seems like only yesterday a hell-bent New Orleans team took over the reigns as NFC South champs, led by Drew Brees and his all-over-the-field, mutli-receiver attack. Well it should be a short lived life at the top for Brees and company. This young Atlanta team is ready to make moves and has the playoffs in sight this season, even if it is only wildcard weekend this year. Here's what I see in the NFC South:
1. New Orleans Saints 11-5
2. Atlanta Falcons 11-5
3. Carolina Panthers 6-10
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-13
The Saints put up amazing numbers last year, scoring 510 points over the course of the season, best in the league and 40 points ahead of second place Minnesota, but the big difference last year was their defense. They managed to score 5 touchdowns and accumulate 652 yards off interceptions alone. This statistic alone should raise some eyebrows as something like this is quite difficult to repeat. I still see them winning a bunch of games based on the strength of Drew Brees and his receiving core, but they will have a tough battle for the NFC South title with Atlanta getting better each year. At 11-5 I can still see them making the playoffs, ousting a Dallas team that is declining at a much faster rate, but to repeat as Super Bowl champs? Unlikely.
While Favre Watch 2010 managed to steal some of the spotlight away from the NBA/WWE free agency extravaganza and its eventual hatred (kinda like when Richard won Survivor), a lot of people were asking the same question: 'what will happen to the NFC North without Brett?' Well, we won't have to answer that question this year as Favre returns to the Vikings for another two games against his beloved Packers. At least for Green Bay fans this may turn out to be sweet revenge as Aaron Rodgers is poised to be this year's top quarterback (yep, over Drew Brees) and the Pack seem bound for the playoffs yet again and, dare I say, Super Bowl XLV. Here's how I see the NFC North finishing up in a Favrian world.
1. Green Bay Packers 13-3
2. Minnesota Vikings 10-6
3. Chicago Bears 6-10
4. Detroit Lions 2-14
I really think Aaron Rodgers has the tools to lead Green Bay to a great season this year. Greg Jennings had a bit of an off year last year, where aged veteran Donald Driver seemed to pick up the slack when necessary, but don't expect his numbers to be that low again. Jennings came up big several times in 2009, including catching for 130 yards in the highest scoring postseason game of all time. I also see young tight end Jarmichael Finley, a third round draft pick from 2008, becoming a key target for Rodgers. The main issue will be keeping some of its defensive momentum from 2009. I don't see a repeat of the numbers they put up last year, but if they maintain near those levels, the offense should provide the balance that delivers a thirteen win team.