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Max Charness

Splitting the Uprights 11: Defence wins championships?

The style of play in the NFL has distinctly shifted over the last few years. Major rule changes have been implemented to limit the amount of contact that defensive players can have on receivers before the ball is thrown. After a particularly touchy-feely (in terms of coverage, not content) AFC Championship in 2004 in which the Patriots defense flustered all of Peyton Manning’s wide outs, outcry from the league’s competition committee - ironically headed up by Bill Polian, Indy’s owner- forced the changes. So we are now living in an NFL universe where 3 quarterbacks are on track to break Dan Marino’s single-season passing yardage record, a longstanding mark that has already withstood pressure from some transcendent quarterback seasons.Of course, a league that favours the offense is beneficial to casual fans of the sport of football, as they are more captivated by the scoring plays that bring along with them skyrocketing scoreboard readings. Offenses league wide have been prolific thus far, even if they have slowed a bit in recent weeks. The lockout had the unfortunate effect of cutting down on the time available to teams in the offseason to gather and learn defensive concepts, and practice the communication and execution needed to be successful. As the first weeks of the season passed, and 500-yard games were the norm and not the exception, it looked like a season where every conceivable offensive record would fall.But that doesn’t look to be the case anymore. As production has tallied off in most cases (even if Drew Brees desperately tries to circumnavigate the globe with his tosses), it looks like defenses are executing on a more consistent basis. The repetitions elite teams are getting in now are at full strength and full speed, and if the old cliché “defense wins championships” rings true,… Read More

Splitting the Uprights 9: The Laws of Football

Football is the perfect backdrop for any social gathering. It’s one of those games with enough intensity that it matters not whether everyone knows the rulebook cover-to-cover. A bone-jarring tackle is self-explanatory, and people love watching superior athletes battle in a modern day Clash of the Titans. But as is the case with most rules, at the end of the day, they only exist so that they can be broken. The NFL rulebook is an intimidating tome. The 2011-12 edition runs 244 pages, and is probably one of the workout tools AJ Hawk employs to get his biceps to look so thick. There are clarifications galore, and so many convoluted explanations that I’m sure all the writers worked in the Bush White House. Available on the league’s website, its really a great way to pass a few hours. I got to see high-definition images of all the potential motions an official has to make during game play (pages 116-121), and learned more then I ever could have imagined about the pre-game coin toss (page 103). Honestly, a lot of the disputes that have led to the age of the Coach’s Challenge are silly ones. I have eyes and a brain; that’s usually more then enough to determine whether or not receiver caught the ball, even if he spikes it, or uses the ground to get up. There are back judges, line judges, officials, referees, and booth officials, but the most important man in stripes may not need stripes at all. Bring in a “common-sense consultant” to watch every game and make rulings on plays in doubt. It may sound silly, but c’mon man, do we really need to debate a quarterback’s arm motion when the ball ends up behind him? That’s a fumble; all the rules explaining it are just… Read More

Power Rankings Week 8

 Green Bay Packers (7-0) (Last week: 2)– The Packers come off their bye on a 13-game win streak including the postseason. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) (Last week: 7)– A huge win for this team, which ended with one of the smartest football plays I have ever seen. Tom Brady fumbled the football deep in his territory, and Troy Polamalu sprinted for it.  Instead of risking picking it up, he punched the ball into the Pats' end zone, forcing either a safety or a touchdown. Plays like that show why he is among the best defensive players in the league.Detroit Lions (6-2) (Last week: 6)– Detroit enters their bye week on a high note, but they then trek over to Chicago to take on the Bears.  Last time they went there they got robbed of a late touchdown on a poor call.  Expect them to be angry.San Francisco 49ers (6-1) (Last week: 4)– While his numbers haven't been jaw dropping, Alex Smith has only thrown two picks so far this year.  He might not be the most skilled physically, but he seems to be among the top of the league mentally.New England Patriots (5-2) (Last week: 1)– In the first game all season where the Patriots were simply outplayed, Wes Welker only reeled in 39 yards.  That's not a coincidence.Buffalo Bills (5-2) (Last week: 5)– Buffalo registered nine sacks against the Redskins this week, and they enter next week holding first place in the AFC East due to a head-to-head victory over New England.New York Jets (4-3) (Last week: 8)– The Jets have two very important games coming up when they go to Buffalo and then come home to face New England.  These are the games the Jets must come through on if they expect to fulfill Coach Ryan's guarantee of winning the… Read More

Splitting the Uprights 8: A rough week for football

As much as football is a part of sporting life, this week has been a tough one for even the staunchest proponents of the game. After a weekend which included a #1-#2 matchup in the NCAA, and several fourth quarter comebacks in the NFL, the world has been rocked by a scandal at Penn State University.  Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in college football history, was implicated for not taking action when he found out that sexual abuse was happening under his nose. Since his best friend and former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, was at the center of the controversy, the question this week as the allegations have come to light is, what could Joe have done to stop this? The details are still hazy, but the transgressions are severe and disgusting - involving minors as young as eight. The whole affair has sickened me as a football fan, a college student and a human being. Paterno lost his job after 61 years as the coach at Penn State, and though this signals an unsavory end for a coaching legend, to say the school had no choice is still a gross understatement. My thoughts go out to the victims of the neglect, broken trust and terrible physical crimes, as well as their families who will forever be affected by this terrible tragedy. The lack of accountability shown by one of the game’s most respected leaders of men is enough to sour my desire for football, and there isn’t anything in my mind that can put this situation in any sort of positive light. Remember the Veterans today, and think of them as you enjoy the slate of games this weekend. God Bless. M-S-C Guar-en-tee:Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Since it’s clear I can’t pick football games with any consistency,… Read More