If you were to compare the NFL season to a 1-mile horse race, the teams have just run three quarters of a mile and are setting for the stretch run. Of course, as in about any horse race, there are contenders and laggards at this point. What I want to do now is to ignore the laggards and look at the contenders through this lens:
- How good – or how bad – are the remaining opponents for the contenders?
After all, it would have to be easier to close out the season against 4 fuzzy bunnies than it would be to run a murderous gauntlet. I’ll start with the AFC and go in alphabetical order:
- Baltimore Ravens: Current record is 10-2. Remaining opponents are 25-23
- Buffalo Bills: Current record is 9-3. Remaining opponents are 27-21.
- Houston Texans: Current record is 8-4. Remaining opponents are 23-25.
- Indy Colts: Current record is 6-6. Remaining opponents are 24-24.
- KC Chiefs: Current record is 8-4. Remaining opponents are 24-24.
- New England Patriots: Current record is 10-2. Remaining opponents are 21-27.
- Oakland Raiders: Current record is 6-6. Remaining opponents are 19-29.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Current record is 7-5. Remaining opponents are 26-21-1.
- Tennessee Titans: Current record is 7-5. Remaining opponents are 32-16.
Clearly, the Titans, Steelers and Bills have the more difficult schedules ahead of them while the Raiders and Pats have easier paths to the playoff ahead. The Colts record and the records of their remaining opponents are in perfect balance. The Colts are at .500 and their opponents cumulatively are also at .500.
Over in the NFC:
- Chicago Bears: Current record is 6-6. Remaining opponents are 31-17.
- Dallas Cowboys: Current record is 6-6. Remaining opponents are 21-27.
- Green Bay Packers: Current record is 9-3. Remaining opponents are 20-27-1.
- LA Rams: Current record is 7-5. Remaining opponents are 28-19-1.
- Minnesota Vikings: Current record is 8-3. Remaining opponents are 31-27-1.
- New Orleans Saints: Current record is 10-2. Remaining opponents are 25-22-1.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Current record is 5-7. Remaining opponents are 13-35.
- Seattle Seahawks: Current record is 9-2. Remaining opponents are 33-25-1.
- SF Niners: Current record is 10-2. Remaining opponents are 29-18.
The Vikings and Seahawks play tonight; that is why their records and the records of their opponents are different from the other entries here. In addition, even though the Eagles have the worst record of any “contender” in either conference, the Eagles have a guaranteed entry into the playoffs if they win out. That would make them the NFC East champions and looking at their remaining opponents, one might think it would be an easy road for the Eagles. Then again, they just got through losing to the Dolphins last weekend…
While the NFL continues to rake in revenues hand over fist, the Arena Football League has declared bankruptcy and ceased operations last week. Arena football has been around for more than 30 years, but it has always been a niche sport. At the height of its popularity, Arena Football games drew about 13,000 fans per game; the league could sustain itself with that sort of fan support but in recent years teams folded – – there were only 6 left standing as of last week – – and attendance last season was less than 7,000 per game. As if that were not bad enough, the six teams were owned by only 3 entities; one operated three teams in Albany, Atlantic City and Philly and a second operated the teams in Baltimore and DC.
The financial viability of the league depended on obtaining a revenue generating media rights contract and by finding ways to exploit newly legalized gambling to provide added revenues. In the past, the Arena Football league had to play CBS Sports Network to put Arena football games on the air; the league was paying to cover production costs while the Network got to keep whatever ad revenue came in. Clearly, that model cannot work for long.
Obviously, the declaration of Chapter 7 bankruptcy and cessation of all operations by the Arena League makes it clear that a satisfactory media rights contract was not in the cards and that any plans to exploit legalized gambling to provide added revenues were insufficient to keep the league afloat.
Rest in peace, Arena Football League.
Finally, Dwight Perry had this cogent observation about the NFL in 2019 in the Seattle Times recently:
“Whoever said ‘Justice is blind’ obviously had the NFL’s new pass-interference review system in mind.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………