2012 NFL: We’re All Just Spokes In The NFL’s Wheel + My Week 3 Picks

“Welcome to the machine.”

-David Gilmore

Whether or not we realize it, our constant obsession with professional football has in fact made the product a bulletproof commodity. Everyone involved in the league, from the players, to the media, to the fans themselves can blame the commissioner and the board of executives’ inflexible stance against the group of people that they desperately need back, but those three major groups are the reason why we may not see the regular officials back this season.

There’s a better chance that I get a phone call from Sports Illustrated (or Grantland) tomorrow to start working for them than it would be for the players to take a hard stance against these replacement officials and refuse to suit up on Thursdays, Sundays, or Mondays.

Hell every defensive back in the league has to be rooting for refgate to last the entire season. Due to the replacements lack of experience, illegal contact has become legal. Taking head shots at a quarterback sliding down feet first are now apparently part of the game. Now it’s perfectly legal to constantly jostle with a receiver until they eventually crack and either throw a punch or throw the ball at you. They’ll get the penalty because after all even the substitute teacher only sees the person that retaliates, but don’t worry because no one will get sent home.

The subject can’t be avoided as the media has made the replacement officials the most talked about NFL topic in recent history and it’s coming from sources that have always been silent.

Look you know it’s bad when Mike Tirico, a man who takes pride in being a straight lined play-by-play commentator, a man who is thrilled to just enhance the action, not make himself part of it says this during a broadcast:

“Honestly it’s embarrassing, the command and control of this game is gone.”

To hear someone on ESPN (well any network that broadcasts professional sporting events) blast a league like that during a broadcast is rarer than hearing a criticism from Jon Gruden. These networks are so deep in bed with the NFL that they can’t pull their head out from underneath the covers, so to hear a straight laced commentator like Tirico say something negative shows you how bad this situation has gotten.

Both Tirico and Gruden felt the need to comment on the matter because instead of calling a normal three hour Monday night game, they had to sit through almost four hours of uncontrolled madness. There was however, one positive that came from those 220+ minutes of real time; Steve Young boiled over like a forgotten tea kettle and let out his steam during the postgame:

Young struck a chord that so many people didn’t even know they had. His comments gave me the idea to write this column because it made me realize that it doesn’t matter what we, the media, or even the players have to say. Nothing is going to change unless a team loses a game directly due to a mistake by one of these replacements.

The key word that Mr. Young used in his criticism was inelastic. Its definition:

An economic term used to describe the situation in which the supply and demand for a good are unaffected when the price of that good or service changes.

Our thirst for professional football on Sundays is now reaching dangerous levels. We want more information about every story because we now have an unlimited amount of access to every team in the league. We can now find injury updates on our fantasy football players at any time of any day. I was supremely pissed off when I found out that Hakeem Nicks was going to miss Thursday’s game against the Panthers because of a foot/ankle injury. Without even realizing it I have fallen into the trap that the NFL wants all of us to fall into.

They want us to tune into the NFL Network every day and listen to a bunch of talking heads debate topics on every single team in the league. The league wants us to put down the clicker and mindlessly watch their propaganda because, why should we flip over to a channel that is going to not only talk about the NFL, but also talk about other sports? Even though that other channel does a poor job at covering the vast amount of stories that exist in the world of sports.

As the NFL Network evolved into a must have channel on every cable service (besides Time Warner Inc who refuses to pay the fees to carry the channel), the massive machine that is the NFL has brought in beat writers from across the country to fill their media cog. Those former beat writers can be seen all over the NFL’s vertical integration.

You can read them online.

You can follow them on twitter.

You can find them on NFLAM, Across The League, Gameday, or any other news show that is on the network.

Most importantly is the unprecedented access that they get to the players. Ian Rapaport did a fantastic job interviewing Michael Vick after the Eagles beat the Ravens in week two, but the interview was set up by the league.

That’s more traffic to NFL.com. That’s more eyeballs on the machine’s website. That’s more ad revenue generated every time a new person clicks on the site.

The NFL has become the Apple of sports, but Goodell and his board of directors have to be very careful now. When keep putting your flag higher and higher on the mountain, the slope down can be so steep that you don’t slide down, you fall down.

The league isn’t going to stop climbing that proverbial mountain anytime soon because the fans are peddling the wheel even if they don’t realize that they are just the spokes on the inside.

The television numbers show that interest in the league hasn’t dipped through two weeks of this season even though the product has become an out of control sandlot game, with referees that were hired because the other guys couldn’t make it due to other obligations.

Now obviously the referees’ situation is much more complicated than that. The NFL wants to take away the officials old pension system and switch to a 401k model. The referees want the old pension system to stay, so the NFL offered an annual increase of $1 million annually over seven years. The officials countered with a reduction of their overall compensation of $1 million over five years, if the league would discuss and ultimately change back the pension system.

The talks broke down after that. (Information taken from an LA Times report.)

Wednesday on The Dan Patrick Show, Peter King said that he believed the number separating the officials from coming back to work was $3 million dollars.

$3 million dollars is separating us, the fans, from having the best product in sports. Instead we have a money making machine that is spitting out a watered down product to the people that make the wheel spin and spin and spin.

The fans ARE THE REASON why every player’s game check has gotten fatter from new television deals.

The fans ARE THE REASON why advertisers are falling head over heels to try and buy as many television spots during the hours of 1-11 on Sundays.

The fans ARE THE REASON why media members are making six to seven figure contracts every year.

The fans CAN CHANGE this situation if they decided to go elsewhere with their eyes and wallets.

But that’s not going to happen. The NFL has all of us right where they want us and there is nothing that we can do about it.

Sports are the one television show that is DVR proof. It’s the only business model that has been able to not only survive in the information era, but thrive in it. Through fantasy sports, the never ending sources of information, the ability to watch every game either on TV, online, or even on a cell phone, sports are reaching unprecedented territories and the NFL is climbing to heights never before reached.

We have the power to stop watching and caring and some might if these referees continue to lose control of these games (if that’s possible). At what point will it become unwatchable? If last Monday night wasn’t the tipping point, I’m scared to think about what the NFL views the tipping point as.

Is it a star player being carted off of the field due to an illegal hit? Is the tipping point a game ending in controversy due to the ineptitude of these replacements?

Let’s hope that it doesn’t get to that point, but with its track record I find it hard to believe that the NFL will cave in anytime soon.

I’ll leave you with this quote from NFL VP Ray Anderson:

“You’ve never paid for an NFL ticket to watch someone officiate a game.”

Onto my week 3 picks:

New York Giants 27 (1-1) @ Carolina 21 (1-1)

I think that the Giants’ secondary will struggle while trying to cover Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell this week. Cam Newton has the ability to cancel out the pass rush of the Giants dangerous front four and I thought the Giants secondary had serious trouble trying to stop Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams last week. So when, not if, Newton escapes the pocket he’s going to be able to find either one of those two options.

I can’t bet against Eli though, who will be without Hakeem Nicks. Andre Brown was impressive last week and will get a full share of carries with Ahmad Bradshaw out. Victor Cruz will have another monster game and Eli will lead the Giants on another game winning drive.

Tampa Bay 17 (1-1) @ Dallas 14 (1-1)

I thought Tampa Bay was going to march out of Metlife stadium as the 7th NFL team with a 2-0 start, but Eli has become a fourth quarter monster that eats hopes and dreams as the time ticks away. It was another impressive showing for Greg Schiano’s defense and if put in the same situation I’m not sure if Tony Romo could lead that type of comeback.

Romo won’t have that big of a deficit facing him in the fourth quarter, but the pressure will be squarely on him to bring his team to victory and we know how that usually turns out. I like the Bucs to pull off an upset while shutting down Demarco Murray and I think Dallas Clark will have a good day depending on the status of ‘Boys safety Gerald Sensabaugh.

Jacksonville 10 (1-1) @ Indianapolis 21 (1-1)

The first meeting between Blane Gabbert and Andrew Luck will go to the number one overall pick from last year. I’m desperately trying to get Reggie Wayne on my fantasy team.

Buffalo 24 (1-1) @ Cleveland 17 (0-2)

When Jim Brown is in the same sentence as your name, you’re in elite territory. CJ Spiller has been more than the Bills could have asked for as he’s added a totally different dimension to their offense. Spiller and the Chiefs made Ryan Fitzpatrick’s job really easy last week and Cleveland should provide a similar challenge this week. If there is one game that will give Buffalo’s defense confidence it’s this one.

New York Jets 20 (1-1) @ Miami 14 (1-1)

Which number is higher: The amount of passes from Tim Tebow in this game or Reggie Bush touchdowns?

If Vinnie Chase’s cousin struggles in this one expect the calls for Timmy to gain some momentum as the week progresses.

Kansas City 10 (0-2) @ New Orleans 30 (0-2)

If the Saints could have picked any team to face in week three would there have been anyone better to pick besides the Chiefs? The Browns are another acceptable answer, but the Saints desperately need to have a dominant performance in this game. Watching Dre w Brees struggle is really weird to me. It’s right up there with watching Tom Brady struggle. What the hell has happened to the quarterbacks this year? Everything is sdrawkcab.

Cincinnati 24 (1-1) @ Washington 21 (1-1)

What once looked like a middle of the road game with little intrigue when the schedules were released is now a game that features what could be fringe playoff teams in both conferences. I hate to jump on the bandwagon in the second week of the season, but Robert Griffin the 3rd looks like he could be the greatest rookie ever.

What does that mean now though that Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker are out for the season? Sure London Fletcher can now prove to everyone that he’s the most underrated defensive player in the league, but this team looked like a legitimate sleeper in the NFC, now I’ll just be watching to see what Griffin does every week. I never thought I would be bummed out when thinking about the Redskins.

I think the law-firm and AJ Green have big days, but keep an eye on Bengals receiver Andrew Hawkins. He’s number 16, but it might be hard to actually see his number when he runs due to how fast he is. He could be a valuable piece to this season as he is a perfect complement to Green and gives Cincinnati another gear offensively.

St.Louis 21 (1-1) @ Chicago 17 (1-1)

Ahh yes!! The resurrection of Sam Bradford is upon us! It’s happening! Last year was just an anomaly Bradford as he was a product of the injury laden Rams. Bill Barnwell from Grantland stated that in 2010 and 2011 the Rams had the least healthy offense in the entire league. So what happens this year? Center Scott Wells suffers a fractured foot and was put on IR, left guard Rokevious Watkins didn’t play last week due to an ankle injury, and worst of all left tackle Rodger Saffold sprained his MCL against the Redskins and will be out a couple weeks.

Still with a depleted offensive line I think the Rams are going to pull off a stunner this week. My NFC representative in the Super Bowl (Bears) are teetering on the edge of disaster and its only week two. Jay Cutler has some serious mending to do in the locker room, but it appears that he doesn’t really give a fuck about that, so why would his players give a fuck about playing for him. It’s a volatile situation that is going to escalate.

San Fransisco 27 (2-0) @ Minnesota 7 (1-1)

Randy Moss scoring a touchdown will be the only highlight that’s shown on replay packages of this game. The Niners are the best team in football. Period.

Detroit 35 (1-1) @ Tennessee 10 (0-2)

The Titans are the worst team in football. Period.

If you would have told me during the summer that I would have traded Chris Johnson (one of my keepers) for Brandon LaFell and Cedric Benson and thought I won the trade, I would have thought you were Brandon LaFell’s brother.

What the hell happened to Chris Johnson?

Atlanta 17 (2-0) @ San Diego 24 (2-0)

Quietly San Diego has been very impressive. Defensive coordinator John Pagano has made the defense a blood thirsty unit when someone tries to run the ball on them. I don’t care how many drinks Michael Turner will have in his system come Sunday at 4:05, he’s not going anywhere against this unit.

I want to see how the Falcons secondary handles a quarterback that can actually throw the ball 30 yards in the air. I think Philip Rivers leads the Bolts to a 3-0 start and begins the Norv Turner for coach of the year campaign.

Philadelphia 27 (2-0) @ Arizona 21 (2-0)

Kevin Kolb vs. Michael Vick, FINALLY!

I was stripped of this game last season due to a Kolb injury and instead had to watch as John “Red” Skelton led the Cardinals back to victory in the worst loss of the Eagles 2011 nightmare. I think this game will be close purely due to the Eagles inability to not turn the ball over. It’s not a problem that can be solved overnight, but if the Eagles turn the ball over more than twice in this game they could be stunned by Arizona yet again.

As Lee Corso would say, it’s going to be closer than the experts think.

Pittsburgh 24 (1-1) @ Oakland 7 (0-2)

What comes first: Hue Jackson admitting the Carson Palmer trade was a mistake, or Hue Jackson admitting the Carson Palmer trade was a mistake on the set of ESPN after he’s canned?

Houston 21 (2-0) @ Denver 13 (1-1)

The best game of the afternoon session of games as there are plenty of storylines here:

  1. Is Houston ready to prove that they’re in the upper tier of the NFL hierarchy?
  2. Will Peyton rebound after listening to nonstop talk about his inability to throw the ball more than 20 yards?
  3. Will the refs hold the game up to try and get Peyton’s autograph?
  4. Can J.J Watt continue his run of dominance?
  5. Will John Fox get tossed or handed a box of tissues?
  6. Who will crack first Denver’s front seven or Houston’s?

I think the Texans are right there with the Niners in terms of complete teams. Think about it, they have a top five defense, they can run the ball down your throats with two backs and a fantastic offensive line, their quarterback is way better than average, and they have one of the league premiere receivers. What’s not to like here?

New England 14 (1-1) @ Baltimore 24 (1-1)

Revenge will taste sweet for Joe Flacco as he will lead the Ravens to victory over Tom Brady and the Patriots on Sunday night. The Eagles brought out the ugly Flacco that we all thought was gone after his week one performance against the Bengals on Monday Night Football, but the pass interference call on Jacoby Jones in the fourth quarter in Philly should have actually been illegal contact on Nnamdi Asomugha. It wasn’t, because these officials don’t know what illegal contact is even as a player is pulling on their uniform.

As I stated with Drew Brees, I find it weird to see Tom Brady play the quarterback position like a mortal. It’s just odd. Without Aaron Hernandez and the Wes Welker soap opera about to hit General Hospital status I’m not sure what to make of the Patriots right now.

I’m expecting a healthy dose of Ray Rice and Dennis Pitta and how about a big night from Brandon Lloyd, c’mon Bellichek my fantasy team is 0-2 and in desperate need of a win.

Green Bay 20 (1-1) @ Seattle 17 (1-1)

Besides the Niners the team I was most impressed with in week two was the Seattle Seahawks. They’re such a different animal when playing in front of the 12th man. It’s like that crowd is NOS for their engine, everyone moves a little bit faster, they damn sure hit harder:

Can someone please put that hit to this audio:

Why did Golden Tate get fined for that hit? Sure it was only $21,000, but that was a good hard clean hit. Anyway it’s that type of high speed emotion that makes Seattle so hard to play at home even if you have a high powered offense.

Even with the 12th man constantly expressing their distaste for the yellow and green Aaron Rodgers will lead the Packers to victory, even though apparently he isn’t a leader. C’mon Blake Baratz, there’s no reason to make any kind of noise about this less than a month into the season. You don’t win a championship by accident and Aaron Rodgers was the heart and soul of that Super Bowl team. Mr.Finley will be looking for a job elsewhere next season.

I hope you enjoyed the read as always you can reach out to me on twitter @scottdargis and email me: scottdargis18@gmail.com.

WATCH FOOTBALL!!

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