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Not even a playoff game with Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees, who play in the largest market in the nation, could top the NFL in ratings.
Photo by Jeff Lewis
By Jason LewisSentinel Sports Editor
"Football’s the sport of kings… better than diamond rings”LL Cool J sung those words in the 1986 movie Wildcats. Football may not be better than diamond rings, but it is certainly better than baseball. The American public made that loud and clear on Sunday night.Game 2 of the National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies, that went head up against the Indianapolis Colts vs. Washington Redskins Sunday night football game, drew a 6.5 television rating.The football game was pretty much a random NFL game because the Colts and Redskins are not rivals, and at mid season, this game is not deciding any playoffs seeds.Even with those factors working against the NFL game, the Colts vs. Redskins game still doubled the rating of the baseball playoff game. The football game, which aired on NBC, had a 13.1 television rating.Baseball’s big draw is the New York Yankees, but even they could not beat the NFL.The Monday Night Football game between the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, who play in two of the smallest markets in the NFL, and whose game featured two backup quarterbacks for most of the 30-3 blowout victory for the Titans, drew a 7.2 rating on ESPN, while the Yankees' American League Championship Series game against the Texas Rangers only drew a 6.5 rating. New York is the largest market and Dallas has the fourth largest market, but that playoff game still could not beat a meaningless NFL game.Imagine if it was a big NFL game, like a Patriots/Colts match up, or Steelers/Ravens. The NFL would have more than doubled the baseball rating.NFL looks to crack down on illegal hitsDefensive players are not allowed to hit a defenseless receiver in the helmet with their helmet. A defenseless receiver is defined as a receiver who has left his feet and is in the process of catching a pass. Up until this point the penalty has been a fine for the most part, which the NFL feels does not deter the helmet-to-helmet hits.Former All Pro safety Rodney Harrison, who was known by some as a dirty player during his career for his hard hits, said that a fine did not stop him from playing aggressive because he would put money to the side before the season started to pay the fines.The NFL is considering taking the penalty a step further by suspending players who violate the rule.The problem with this rule is that there is a lot of grey area. When does a receiver go from being defenseless to being fair game? Are league officials going to factor in intent? A lot of these helmet-to-helmet hits can be considered inadvertent. Defenders can lead with their shoulder pad, which is how they are taught, and the helmets can just connect because they are large bulky objects. It is nearly impossible to totally avoid that.There are also plays where the defender launches himself at the receiver’s midsection, but the receiver is falling downwards, so the helmets connect. Is that the defender’s fault? Probably not, but he is still fined for it, and he could face a suspension.Now there are hits where the defender totally led with his helmet, and went right into the receiver’s helmet. If it is obvious that the defender is pretty much head butting a defenseless receiver in the head, then go ahead a fine and/or suspend the player.At this point it does not appear that the helmet-to-helmet penalties will extend to runners. Meaning running backs, quarterbacks who pull the ball down and run, and receivers who are no longer defenseless, can be hit with helmet-to-helmet hits. If the NFL tries to remove those hits than it is time to start playing flag football.One more point. If league officials are so worried about massive injuries, then why are they trying to extend the season two more games?"D” in Dallas isn’t for “Defense,” it’s for “Done.”Remember all that talk out of Dallas before the season started? About the Cowboys being the first team to play in the Super Bowl in their own stadium? Well that’s pretty much a joke right about now. A 1-4 start will do that.The Cowboys faced the 1-3 Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday in a game where the winner would somewhat keep their season alive, and the loser should have had a pink slip ready for their head coach.One other “D” that is not in Dallas is “discipline.” Against the Vikings, the Cowboys committed 11 penalties. The week before, in a tight loss against the Tennessee Titans, the Cowboys committed 12 penalties.It is surprising that an owner like Jerry Jones, who seems to want to win at all costs, has stuck with head coach Wade Phillips for so many years. It is unusual for a head coach to be fired midseason, but this may be the exception.Maybe a home loss to the division rival New York Giants will be enough for Jones to pull the plug on Phillips.Raiders must be the cure all.The San Francisco 49ers were in bad need of a win. They started the season as a team primed to make a playoff run, but they fell on their face week after week with a 0-5 start.49ers, meet the Oakland Raiders, and thank the schedule makers for your first win.The Raiders must be looking to save every team in the league, because they sent out the word that every player on their roster is available for trade.Talk about pulling the plug on your season.It is telling that the Raiders do not see any player on their roster as untouchable. They did bring all these players in through the draft and free agency, so the Raiders front office is the only one to blame for the disaster that is happening up in Oakland. Outside of three seasons from ’99-’01, the Raiders have been horrible since moving back to Oakland.Los Angeles football fans should be thankful that they left.The Patriots prove that they are still eliteThe New England Patriots seemed to have been a forgotten team in terms of a legit contender. After the New York Jets ran them out of the building in the second game of the season, the Patriots were not in the discussion of possible Super Bowl teams.The NFL season is long, so one game should not be used as a measuring stick. Outside of that one loss to the Jets, the Patriots have looked like one of the best teams in the league, and they proved it this past Saturday when the beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime.The Ravens were viewed as possibly the best team in the league, but the Patriots were coming off of a bye week, where they are 9-0 under head coach Bill Belichick.As usual, the Patriots do not have the best talent, especially after they traded away star wide receiver Randy Moss, but they are just smarter than the rest of the league. Unlike the Cowboys, in close games the Patriots get the job done. They end up on the winning side of close games. Think about it, all three of their Super Bowl wins were by a field goal.The Patriots do not shoot themselves in the foot with penalties or turnovers, which is why they have been able to consistently defeat teams who are supposed to have more talent then them.The AFC East race will be a good one because the Jets are getting it done as well. In the NFL, teams are so evenly matched that blowouts are hard to come by. The Jets are much better than the Denver Broncos, but they just got by in Denver this past Sunday.In the NFL, win convincingly at home, and just get by on the road. That’s pretty much what the Jets did. It was a game that they were out played in, they should have lost, but because they are one of the best teams in the league, they found a way to win the game. That way was partly by a pass interference call that put them at the 2-yard line late in the game, but hey, they got down the field and got the score that they needed.Good teams find ways to win games that they should have lost, while bad teams find ways to lose games that they should have won.That’s why teams like the Jets and Patriots will be in the playoffs, while the Cowboys will get an early jump on the offseason.