Scott Cordischi On Sports: NFL Rules The Roost
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
The New England Patriots have exactly one week of training camp under their belt and it has been amazing to see the crowds that have turned out to watch the team practice in Foxboro.
Through the first week of camp, an average of more than 12,000 fans per day have matriculated to Gillette Stadium to see the Pats practice. In the words of former NBA great Allen Iverson, "we talkin' about practice! Not a game, not a game. We talkin' about practice!"
The fact that Pats fans are showing up in droves to see the team practice is just further confirmation that the franchise is now #1 in the hearts of New England sports fans surpassing the Boston Red Sox for the top spot. The fact that the Red Sox have become a team that is no longer easy to root for is irrelevant because this passing of the torch in New England happened long before the Sox' September collapse last year.
The NFL is now king throughout the United States. Why is that the case? Good question.
Start with the fact that the NFL has just 16 regular season games as opposed to 162. The games are played once a week and are viewed as big events.
With baseball, if you miss a game, there's no concern. You can catch a game the following night.
The NFL game also seems to be made for TV even more so than any of the other major professional sports. And let's also not forget about the gambling aspect that comes into play. Whether it's betting on the games of playing fantasy football, the sport seems to lend itself to gambling much more than the others.
But the NFL also deserves credit for having a level playing field for all of its teams. There is a maximum and minumum salary cap for all teams to abide by which, in theory, gives any of the 32 teams in the league a chance to build a championship caliber team.
The Patriots franchise has been around for 52 years and now practices in front of more fans than the amount that used to show up to some of their games many years ago.
-Speaking of the Pats, barring an injury to Tom Brady or something disasterous, it seems hard to imagine the team not winning the AFC East again this season.
-Speaking of the AFC East, I have to laugh at what the New York Jets are trying to do as they prepare for the upcoming season. We are told that the team will use both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow at quarterback this year which, to me, is a mistake. I have always maintained that teams which claim to have two quarterbacks really don't have one! For if they did have a great quarterback like a Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rogers, they would never consider splitting the snaps with another signal-caller. So the newly slimmed down Rex Ryan can spin it whichever way he wants, but I'm not buying the two-headed quarterback thing they're selling in New York.
-Staying in the division, many people are predicting that the Buffalo Bills are a team to look out for in 2012. Much like the Jets QB situation, I'm not buying it. First of all, this is a quarterback's league and, in all due respect to Ryan Fitzpatrick, I believe that his ceiling is a lot lower than some of the elite signal-callers in the game. Secondly, the reason that the Bills look better to some is as much about the demise of the Dolphins and Jets as it is their own improvement. Miami has now replaced the Bills as the doormat of the AFC East and the Jets took a significant step backward last season leaving many to doubt what 2012 will hold for that franchise. Buffalo got off to a hot start last season but collapsed like a folding chair late in the year. At best, they appear to be a team that will battle to be 8-8 or 9-7 in 2012.
-And let us not forget those Miami Dolphins. Isn't it amazing how the times have changed? Just 20 years ago, Miami was the class of the division while the Patriots were the laughing stock of the league. Now, like Dan Akaroyd and Eddie Murphy, the two franchises have traded places. New England is now the model franchise of the league while the Dolphins just can't seem to get out of their own way. Sadly, for fans in Miami, that doesn't look like it is going to change anytime soon.
-The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants are an interesting case study. For a team that has won two Super Bowls in the past five years and certainly has the Patriots number, they cannot seem to sustain a level of greatness. In fact, if you look at their two Super Bowl titles in 2007 and 2011, the Giants were a team that struggled but got hot at the right time and strung together enough wins to win two titles. However, unlike the Patriots, Colts, Saints or Packers, they have been unable to put together any dominant reular season record of (14-2) or (13-3). For that reason, you have to have questions about their ability to defend their title this season. Add to the fact that they play in the very competetive NFC East and it should be interesting to see what Tom Coughlin's team does in 2012.
-Down in Tampa, word is that first-year head coach Greg Schiano is giving it the "old college try" to turn around the Bucanneers. The former Rutgers coach is cracking the whip at Bucs camp and telling his players to "toe the line" and run sprints when they don't appear to be focused. Some wonder if that type of coaching will work for him in the NFL where, unlike in college, players are getting paid millions of dollars. There have been some coaches, like San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh, who have been able to make that successful transition from college to the pros in recent years. But there have been others like Steve Spurrier which have failed to do so. It will be interesting to track Schiano's progress.
-While the New England Patriots appear to be the prohibitive favorites to win the AFC East, so too are the Houston Texans in the AFC South. Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee are all down programs with the Titans being the only team that may have a shot to challenge them in the division. Keeping Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson healthy will be key for the Texans who should be a playoff team in 2012.
-In the NFC West, San Francisco is also the prohibitive favorite to win the division. The Niners biggest issue will be the play of quarterback Alex Smith who does have some new weapons to throw two. One of those new weapons is former Patriots' receiver Randy Moss who appears to be a happy camper out in San Fran at the moment. The other is former Giants' wide receiver Mario Manningham. Like last season, San Fran's defense should be stout again in 2012.
-There is little doubt that the Denver Broncos will be a much more dangerous team with a healthy Peyton Manning at the helm this fall. By all accounts, Manning has looked sharp in camp thus far and, as you might expect, very much in control of the offense. However, Denver has one of the most difficult schedules in the NFL including a season-opener against the very physical Pittsburgh Steelers. Keeping Manning upright will be the top priority in Denver because Manning could be another good hit away from re-injuring that kneck and possibly hanging it up.
-You've gotta love Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who, as usual, speaks before he thinks. While addressing Cowboy fans at training camp, he said, "y'all should come to that stadium and watch us beat the Giants' ass!" Maybe someone needs to remind Jerry that the Giants are the defending World Champs while his Cowgirls failed to make the playoffs last year? Nah! That wouldn't be interesting.
-Another example of how loose of a ship Rex Ryan runs in New York as opposed to the tight ship run by Bill Belichick here in New England was on display this week. That's when Jets' WR Santonio Holmes went on ESPN Radio in New York to say that he was the "scapegoat" for the team's failure in 2011. He complained about having only 2 passes thrown his way in the season finale against Miami before being benched. He also told the media covering Jets camp in Cortland, NY that when he was in Pittsburgh, they were "family guys that stuck together." Can you imagine any Patriots player saying such things publicly? Not a chance! We may criticize Belichick and the Patriots for being vanilla when it comes to dealing with the media, but itheir style prevents the turmoil that can result from a player like Holmes' comments.
-If you thought that the crowds were big at Pats camp last week, they could be even larger next week! That'e because the New Orleans Saints will be in town for a couple of days of "joint practices" with the Patriots. New Orleans will fly from Ohio where they play in this weekend's Hall of Fame game to Boston for the joint workouts prior to Thursday night's preseason opener at Gillette Stadium. Pats fans will be treated to two of the best quarterbacks and two of the most potent offenses in the league.
-Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had a rediculously good rookie season last year and was a star in many fantasy football leagues. Newton passed for 4051 yards and 21 TD's and rushed for 706 yards and 14 TD's. Can he duplicate that success in 2012 or will there be a sophomore slump? One thing's for sure, he will likely be a very high draft pick in many fantasy football leagues come September. Myself, I still look at Brady, Brees and Rogers as the elite fantasy quarterbacks with Newton in a class right behind them. Others in that second tier include Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Michael Vick, Tony Romo and Phillip Rivers.