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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 11

NBC's Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

Last year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. CBS and Fox were able to protect one game every week each but had to leave one week each unprotected and had to submit their protections after only four weeks.

Now, NBC lists the game it "tentatively" schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site:

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in "flex" weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Two other rules were established earlier: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and can't protect any games Week 17 this year.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five; the Pats and Cowboys already have six) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC.
Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 18):

  • Selected game: New England @ Buffalo.

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Selected game: Philadelphia @ New England.

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Selected game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh. Minor surprise that this game would be picked over Titans-Texans. The NFL and NBC don't care about the lopsided nature of Bengals-Steelers, only about the Steelers. Wonder if the Titans' loss turned them off.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: Might be vulnerable with Baltimore struggling at 4-6 and the Colts suddenly struggling as well at 8-2.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: Steelers-Patriots (CBS) and Giants-Eagles (Fox)
  • Other possible games: Ignore Cowboys-Lions because of the primetime appearances. Chargers (5-5)-Titans (6-4) is the leading candidate, while Jags (7-3)-Panthers (4-6) is slipping along with the QB situation in Carolina. Chiefs (4-6)-Broncos (5-5) may be opening things up for other dark horses: Bucs (6-4)-Texans (5-5) and Cardinals (5-5)-Seahawks (6-4).
  • Prediction: Colts-Ravens might be safe with a Ravens win, given what I found out this week about just how tied to the tentative picks the NFL is. Should the Ravens lose it would be to the Chargers, so Chiefs-Broncos is probably out and the Texans and Cardinals need to win to save their respective games. Jags-Panthers is counting on the Colts losing again and the Jags and Panthers both winning. The Texans and Cardinals may be critical to their respective games' chances, but the 6-4 teams may be even more critical, or Colts-Ravens could keep their spot anyway.

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Tentative game: Washington @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: Might have the best chance to keep its spot. Being in the same division as the Cowboys hurts, but these are two teams on fire (especially the G-Men) and the thrilling finish of their last meeting will help write the storyline.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: Jags-Steelers (CBS). Protected Fox game according to Awful Announcing: Lions-Chargers.
  • Other possible games: Seahawks-Panthers still has a chance but needs both teams to become more consistent. Titans-Chiefs had a setback this week. Browns-Bills might be emerging as the favorite, recent Bills loss to the Pats notwithstanding, but it's hard to see any of these teams beating a game with potential playoff implications.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: Very problematic, even with the Bucs' success, which just makes it look lopsided.
  • Protected games according to AA: Texans-Colts (CBS) and Packers-Bears (FOX).
  • Other possible games: There aren't a lot of attractive matchups this week. Lions-Chiefs might be becoming the favorite if the Chiefs keep winning and the Lions get back on track, while Giants-Bills is a legit dark horse. And don't count out Ravens-Seahawks yet, either, or even Skins-Vikings.

Week 17 (December 30):

  • Tentative game: Kansas City @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: Awful. The Jets probably aren't climbing into playoff contention, recent win aside.
  • Other possible games/Playoff Positioning Watch:
    • AFC East: The Bills would need the Pats to lose all their remaining games and the Bills to win all their remaining games because the Pats have locked up the tiebreaker. Yes, the Pats can lock up the division in Week 12.
    • AFC North: Every team is theoretically in it. The Steelers are leading but the Browns are just a game back. The Browns can push Steelers-Ravens to primetime if they keep it close - but it depends a lot more on what the ex-Browns do. Right now, this game isn't looking great.
    • AFC South: The Colts are now just a game ahead of the Jaguars and two ahead of the Titans. If that keeps up, Titans-Colts could be the favorite. The Texans are mathematically still in it.
    • AFC West: Chargers and Broncos are tied for the lead with KC a game back. The Chargers are playing the Raiders; the Broncos, the Vikings. Not looking likely. But the Raiders are mathematically still in it.
    • AFC Wild Card: The Jags would get the nod if the season ended today, with the Browns and Titans tied for the second spot. The Bills, Texans, and the loser of Chargers-Broncos are a game back, adding some luster to Bills-Eagles, but the Eagles need to hold up their end of the bargain. Note the Jags-Texans matchup, probably the only serious competitor to Titans-Colts in the AFC. The Ravens and Chiefs wait in the wings, so Steelers-Ravens could be a dark horse in the AFC.
    • NFC East: Cowboys two games up on the Giants. The Giants are on NFL Network and Dallas has too many primetime appearances. Philly and Washington still mathematically in it.
    • NFC North: Packers-Lions the NFC and possibly overall favorite, but the Lions, back three, need to win this one on Thanksgiving. Vikings and Bears a game away from needing tiebreakers, which in the Vikings' case means elimination.
    • NFC South: Bucs goes up to a two-game lead over the Panthers and Saints. The Saints play the Bears, but Bucs-Panthers remains a dark horse. Falcons still mathematically in it.
    • NFC West: Seahawks with one-game lead over the Cardinals. The former plays the Falcons while the latter plays the Rams. Niners and Rams still mathematically in it.
    • NFC Wild Card: Giants and Lions would get the nod if the season ended today; even if the Lions lose, wild-card implications could lend enough credence to Packers-Lions for the Favre factor to take over from there. Redskins, Eagles, Cardinals a game back, lending a little credence to Bills-Eagles, but not enough to pass better games. Vikings, Bears, Panthers, and Saints all waiting in the wings at 4-5, making Saints-Bears an extremely dark horse and lending some credence to Vikings-Broncos, though it needs a lot more.

Patriots Run to 19-0

Regardless of what you may think of the Patriots' quest for 19-0, you can't deny their juggernaut status, rolling over all the other teams in the league like they just don't care.

Check out and see their quest for 19-0. It helps if you look at it like the Patriot's head is barreling through like a ram.

(Note: Team logos ripped off ESPN web site without permission.)

Week 11 SuperPower Rankings (and a bonus!)

The full SuperPower Rankings are in the same place they always are.

I'm also picking certain trends to continue the rest of the season, and partly as a result I have a rare triple Upset Special. The streaks I'm picking, until they're broken, are for the Rams to win out, the Saints to complete a four-game losing streak and win out, and the Bears to continue alternating wins and losses. One of my upset specials, thus, is the Rams defeating the Seahawks - within the realm of possibility given the Seahawks' inconsistency.

The second Upset Special - the Texans over the Browns - isn't too surprising when you consider the Texans finally have Andre Johnson back. The third, though, is the biggie: the Lions over the Packers. It may seem farfetched, especially given the Lions' loss to the Giants, but I've looked at the schedule and for the Lions to get to ten wins they have to win at least one of three games against the Cowboys or Packers. I consider the Packers to be the more overrated of the two, and there's no better time to beat them than when the Lions are at home. Wouldn't it be fitting for the Lions to win on Thanksgiving when it actually will have some effect on their season?

Or am I just crazy?

Monday, November 19, 2007

College Football Rankings after Week 12

Because of my busy schedule and my emphasis on the SuperPower Rankings, I haven't really said much about the College Football Rankings. The last two weeks have been dominated by the laptop situation, and the two weeks before by my antsiness about the Arizona State-Oregon game getting on TV. Before that, I often had overly short remarks; "The college football rankings from Week 6 are finally up here" was the entire text of my Week 6 update. I did have that long rant about a playoff system, and the simulated playoff is fast approaching, but that's been the exception, not the rule.

Here, though, are some remarks:
  • People keep talking about how there's so much parity in college football we desperately need a playoff. But this year could turn out to be a situation in which a plus-one system, or pseudo-four-team playoff, would work just fine. In my view, any plus-one system has to protect the traditional Big Ten-Pac-10 Rose Bowl matchup, but can ruin any other bowls for maximum clarity. Because I want to protect the sanctity of the Rose Bowl, it wouldn't have helped a lot in 2000-01, where the most obvious solution was to have Florida State and Miami play again, in the not-impartial-at-all Orange Bowl, and Washington would not be able to play Oklahoma in the other plus-one play-in. A similar problem would have occured the following year, with Oregon relegated to the Rose Bowl. However, it would have solved the 2003-04 (same Rose Bowl and - possibly moved to another bowl - Sugar Bowl we got, as was proposed at the time), 2004-05 (USC v. Penn State in Rose Bowl, Oklahoma v. Auburn in another bowl), and 2006-07 (Ohio State-USC in Rose Bowl, Florida-Michigan in another bowl) controversies. As you can see, however, what it would not do is mollify the concerns of non-BCS conferences.
  • In what I think is a first since starting keeping track of the Top 25 in my system in 2005, I have no "watchlist" of teams with positive B Ratings but outside my Top 25. I have Tulsa way down there at #35, depressed by a bad conference.
  • LSU I think we can agree on at #1.
  • #2 Ohio State: Pollsters always overreact to losses, especially at the top. The most flukey loss imaginable will still send a team plummeting down the polls. Illinois is still a good team and you can't dismiss a season of excellence with one loss.
  • #3 Kansas: Need to prove their worth. Ohio State will take a couple weeks of idle hands so Kansas can easily move up to #2, but it might take two wins.
  • #4 West Virginia: Let's see, the Big East has four teams - or half of the entire conference - taken up with world-class teams (West Virginia, Cincinnati, UConn, and South Florida), plus two dangerous teams (Louisville and Rutgers) that aren't bad either - that's three fourths of the entire conference - and a team (Pittsburgh) that isn't as bad as their record because of the strength of all the others, and you still want to denigrate the Big East? To dare to say the f'in Big 12 is better in a year where that conference is "three teams and everyone else? To brush off South Florida's losing streak without considering the quality of team they did it against? To say that West Virginia, a team that has so far escaped that schedule with only one loss, should be left out of the national title conversation - at least if Kansas loses - "because it's the Big East"? And West Virginia is probably going to face a random sacrificial lamb from the ACC in the Orange Bowl. Shameful.
  • #5 Florida: Overreacting to losses, redux. Some people think the polls are basically a way to reflect winning percentage in college sports where that's meaningless. It's hard to disagree. (Yes, I know they lost to Georgia, another two-loss team. Florida also lost to LSU. Meanwhile, Georgia lost to South Carolina and Tennessee, while eking out a ten-point victory over Troy - a team from the effing Sun Belt Conference. Good team, though.)
  • #6 Missouri: Yeah, they beat Texas Tech, something Oklahoma couldn't do. And their one loss is to Oklahoma. But they also never played Oklahoma State, their best nonconference game was a six-point nailbiter over Illinois, and they and Kansas have been it all year in the Big 12 North.
  • #7 Oklahoma: Simultaneously overreacting to a loss and not looking at the schedule redux. Your best nonconference opponent is either Miami (FL) or Tulsa... you win a nailbiter over Texas and another one over freaking Iowa State... very concerning.
  • #8 Oregon: Overreacting to a loss, once again. Actually Oregon is only one spot lower than here in the polls, but below Arizona State.
  • #9 South Florida: Reappears in the BCS this week. Beat WV, which #10 Cincinnatti didn't do.
  • Where is the love for Penn State? Loss puts Michigan negative.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 13 picks

Week 13 (December 2, analysis of actual pick to come on Wednesday):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: Very much in trouble. The Steelers (7-3) look great but the Bungles (3-7) are anything but. Also a factor: the Steelers' high number of primetime games. NBC will want to flex this out for a better Steelers game later.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: Jaguars-Colts (CBS) and Giants-Bears (Fox)
  • Other possible games mentioned on Wednesday's Watch and their records: Chargers (5-5) v. Chiefs (4-6), Lions (6-4) v. Vikings (4-6), Titans (6-3) v. Texans (5-5).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: The Titans play tonight but may have already locked up its supremacy. Its only vulnerability is its lopsided nature compared to Chargers-Chiefs, but not by much. A Titans loss, however, could bring the no-change option back, but that game is so lopsided compared to a potential divisional showdown and the appeal of Vince Young.
  • Analysis: On Wednesday, I wrote: "At the moment, Titans-Texans is likeliest (but very dependent on the Texans), followed by Chargers-Chiefs (but very dependent on the Chiefs), followed by Lions-Vikings (but very dependent on the Vikings). If the Texans, Chiefs, and Vikings all lose? Then a Cincinnati win over the Cardinals brings the no-change option back into the fold, and I believe NBC and the NFL will lean towards no-change when possible." Well, the Bengals lost, and Lions-Vikings held up its end of the bargain while Chargers-Chiefs didn't. Unfortunately, the Lions lost, and more importantly, Titans-Texans got what it needed as well. Strangely, I still wouldn't be surprised to see no change.
  • Final prediction: Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans.