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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 13

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.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Selected game: Indianapolis @ Baltimore.

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Selected game: Washington @ NY Giants.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: Very problematic, even with the Bucs' success, which just makes it look lopsided. Tell me NBC and the NFL won't settle for 8-4 v. 3-9.
  • 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 is probably out, at 6-6 v. 4-8, and as the Bills fall back to reality Giants-Bills, at 6-6 v. 8-4, is in trouble as well. Ravens-Seahawks? At 4-8 v. 8-4? Please. Skins-Vikings (5-7 v. 6-6 but likely to finish higher) might be the favorite now, and likely has an edge over Eagles-Saints (5-7 v. 5-7) for a number of reasons. At this point even Browns-Bengals has an outside shot at 7-5 v. 4-8.
  • Prediction: A lot depends on the lopsidedness factor and how much it comes into play. If it doesn't look for Giants-Bills to get in with a Buffalo win. If the NFL cared avout the competitiveness of the game Skins-Vikings might have a better shot. But while there are weak matchups here there are better ones than what NBC might think it had to settle for. For Giants-Bills to be beaten, a few things needs to happen; a Bills loss woyld be a start. Skins-Vikings needs a Skins win, but that combined with a Vikings win and Bills loss might make it safe. This one could be wide open in many ways. Hard to read; this will be telling about the NFL's, and NBC's, priorities.

Week 17 (December 30):

  • Tentative game: Kansas City @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: Awful. This has the best chance of losing its spot.
  • Other possible games/Playoff Positioning Watch:
    • AFC East: Patriots clinched.
    • AFC North: Two-horse race. 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 (likely) and the Ravens are in contention for a wild card (unlikely).
    • AFC South: The Colts are now two ahead of the Jaguars and three ahead of the Titans. Titans-Colts can still excite (see below) but is now vulnerable to an NFC game.
    • AFC West: Chargers two ahead of the Broncos and three ahead of the Chiefs and Raiders. The Chargers are playing the Raiders; the Broncos, the Vikings. Not looking likely.
    • AFC Wild Card: The Jags and either the Browns or Titans would get the nod if the season ended today, with the Bills a game back, playing the Eagles. The Texans and Broncos are two back. Note the Jags-Texans matchup, probably the only serious competitor to Titans-Colts in the AFC. As the Ravens fade, Steelers-Ravens is probably out. Dolphins cannot make the playoffs and the Jets would come down to a tiebreaker.
    • NFC East: Cowboys opening a big lead on the Giants. The Giants are on NFL Network and Dallas has too many primetime appearances. Philly and Washington are both out.
    • NFC North: The Pack have opened up a lead large enough to put the Lions and Vikings down to tiebreakers. The Vikings lose that but the Lions still have one to play against the Packers - guess what week that is?
    • NFC South: Bucs up three on Saints and Panthers. The Saints play the Bears, and Bucs-Panthers is fading. Falcons out.
    • NFC West: Seahawks have opened up a two-game lead over the Cardinals. The former plays the Falcons while the latter plays the Rams. Niners and Rams out.
    • NFC Wild Card: Giants and either the Lions, Vikings, or Cardinals would get the nod if the season ended today. Wild-card implications could lend enough credence to Packers-Lions for the Favre factor to take over from there and make it the favorite. Vikings-Broncos becomes a minor dark horse. Redskins, Eagles, Bears, Panthers, and Saints are all a game back at 5-7, which means all but three teams in the NFC are within a game of the playoffs (!), lending a little credence to Bills-Eagles, Saints-Bears, Vikings-Broncos, and Bucs-Panthers. All three of the other teams are at 3-9 but still mathematically in it.

New rankings and other errata

You know what I just realized? The 2004 Auburn and Utah titles are going to be unified at the Sugar Bowl. Meanwhile, the BCS Title Game won't involve an undefeated team and neither team holds any lineal title. Arkansas will defend its Princeton Title at the Cotton Bowl ("Just a few days ago, Missouri was playing for a spot in the BCS Championship game. While unsuccessful in that match, they did manage to get into another National Championship Game," writes, and Illinois will defend the 2007 Boise State title in the Rose Bowl. I'm not sure if I should create a new lineal title or not. Heaven knows that both the Princeton and 2004 Auburn titles managed to stay in the SEC all year without being unified, so if Ohio State and Illinois both win their conferences, there's no guarantee any imaginary "2007 BCS Championship" title would be instantly unified with 2007 Boise State. If LSU wins, and the two SEC titleholders win their bowls, it's a lot less likely that LSU will completely escape winning a lineal title, or at least its lineage escaping being unified with one.

On the other hand, they may be being forced into going 12 rounds, but nothing's stopping the Patriots and its run with the NFL Lineal Title, as shown by the latest logo to be X'ed out. But there are definitely concerns. This is now two straight weeks the Pats have been taken to the wire... by a mediocre team. The Steelers are no mediocre team. The Pats' struggles have shown their defense to be porous against the run, and the Steelers have Willie Parker. And the New Steel Curtain just might be up to the task of stopping Tom Brady.

So the Steelers have no chance.

Maybe I've been watching too much wrestling, but New England is going to basically crush the Steelers - and I had been thinking about picking the Steelers just to stop the winning at some point. The point spread, I've heard, is -10 New England; I am guaranteeing that the Pats are going to cover and win by at least that much, or I don't know what I'll do. Maybe you could suggest something.

Other news and notes:
  • WHY do people keep hyping the fall of the Lions as some sort of "return to reality"? ALL FOUR TEAMS THEY'VE LOST TO IN THIS STREAK ARE LEGIT PLAYOFF CONTENDERS, EVEN THE CARDINALS! No wonder the college football polls don't take strength of schedule into account (unless it helps them hose a non-BCS team), because no one else in any sport does either! Granted, you can say the same thing about the remaining four opponents, but I still believe in the 10-win guarantee, I'm sticking with it to the end, and win or lose I'm still picking the Lions over the Chargers and Chiefs.
  • It's Chicago's turn to win this week. And I'm picking the Redskins to lose for the rest of the season. Exactly what line has the Redskins as a favorite? The Redskins do have the SuperPower Ranking edge, but only barely, so no Upset Special.
  • Picking Houston over Tampa Bay at home as the Upset Special, as the Bucs may be the creation of a weak schedule. A second upset special has the Cardinals beating the Seahawks, as I'm taking that stat from last time and picking the Cards over all >.500 teams (and likely making that the, or at least an, Upset Special) and against them when facing a <.500 team. I might - might - make an exception for the Pats or Dolphins.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


The SuperPower Rankings and the SNF picks are going to be VERY late tonight. I wouldn't expect them before 10 PST at the earliest.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

2007 Golden Bowl Tournament Selection Show

Welcome to the first annual Selection Show for the simulated Golden Bowl Tournament - your chance to see what a playoff would be like. If you want a playoff in college football, it'll probably take the form here. Here are the parameters of the tournament:
  • 11 teams are selected from the Conference Champions of all teams
  • 5 more teams are selected from an at-large pool consisting of all other teams
  • First round games on campus sites; subsequent rounds at bowl sites based on traditional affiliations and regional interest
Soon after I announce each octofinal pairing, the polls will open so you can vote to determine who moves on. The conference champions with auto bids are Virginia Tech, LSU, Ohio State, West Virginia, Oklahoma, BYU, USC, Hawaii, Central Florida, Central Michigan, and Florida Atlantic. Missouri, Georgia, Florida, Boston College, and Kansas have been selected as at-large teams.

Due to delays (damn you, Washington-Hawaii!) I'm not exactly done with all the seeding and pairing, so this will be a fairly slow process. But all in all, good luck to all our teams, especially our Number 1 seed, Virginia Tech.

Octofinal matchups:

#16 Central Michigan (MAC champion) v. #1 Virginia Tech (ACC champion)
I mentioned in an earlier post that the reason including ALL champions is actually a strength of my system is that it encourages the top teams to keep fighting for the tippy-top seeds. But both the 1 and 2 seeds (#2 will face the Sun Belt champ) are going to face tough opponents. Central Michigan's only loss in-conference came to Eastern Michigan, and the Chippewas managed to knock off what was probably a better Ball State team. The Hokies' two main advantages are home field and a superb defense.

#15 Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt champion) v. #2 Georgia (at-large)
Florida Atlantic, only a couple years removed from entering I-A, defeated a solid, 3-loss Troy team, one that managed to knock off Oklahoma State earlier in the year, on the road to win the Sun Belt title. Don't count out their chances to mount a similar upset against a team so many people think is on fire. Look for a big marquee match-up between the Owls' hot passing attack and the Bulldogs' stouch defense in this battle of Southern teams.

#14 Central Florida (Conference USA champion) v. #3 Kansas (at-large)
The question here is simple: Can Kevin Smith, the nation's leading running back whose lack of accolades UCF fans have been decrying, crack Kansas' #6 rushing defense and prove he deserves every accolade denied him? Already the storylines are writing themselves!

#13 BYU (Mountain West champion) v. #4 Florida (at-large)
Yes, Tigers fans, I know you beat Florida, but at home. Fortunately, the bracket lays out for the two of you to decide it on a neutral site as soon as the quarterfinals. And while LSU gets a significant challenge in Round 1, rest assured that Florida will get a battle from BYU, the #7 rushing and #10 overall yardage defense in the country, as well. Since Florida lacks a rushing attack beyond Tim Tebow, expect this to be a pass-happy game. With Florida itself being #10 in rushing defense, BYU will probably do the same, and they are #13 in passing offense. Trust me, this could be fun to watch, and BYU has a legit chance to pull one out in the Swamp.

Quarterfinal sites: 1/16/8/9 to Cotton Bowl; 2/15/7/10 to Capital One Bowl; 3/14/6/11 to Fiesta Bowl; 4/13/5/12 to Orange Bowl.

#12 Hawaii (WAC champion) v. #5 LSU (SEC champion)
Congratulations, Hawaii, on your undefeated season! Your reward: A date, in the very first round, with one of the teams in the real-life national championship game. Before you pout, mid-major fans, know that I could have very easily rated Hawaii ahead of USC, but didn't mainly to maintain the Big 10-Pac-10 champions' matchup occuring in the semifinal, which I would assign to the Rose Bowl. LSU's got a good defense, but it could have its hands full with the up-and-down, high-scoring offense of Colt Brennan and Hawaii. LSU will have to rely on its own powerful offense to crack the Warriors' armor.

#11 USC (Pac-10 champion) v. #6 Boston College (at-large)
Sorry, Trojans, try beating some good teams other than Arizona State and not losing to Stanford. This is another game that will come down to the passing attack: Boston College has the top rushing defense in the country (a possible challenge for USC rushing prodigy Joe McKnight) and USC is #4. That means it comes down to which QB can outplay the other: Matt Ryan or John David Booty. Quick warning to Ryan: SC is good on defense no matter what you do. It'll be interesting to see if USC can still beat teams the way they're used to when their playing in the cold, frigid Northeast.

This means that the #2 seed's half of the bracket will play in the Rose Bowl, and #1's half will play in the Sugar Bowl, for the semifinals.

#10 Missouri (at-large) v. #7 Ohio State (Big 10 champion)
Can Chase Daniel beat Ohio State's top-ranked passing defense and 4th-ranked rushing defense in the Horseshoe? If anyone can, it's the #6 passing offense of the Tigers. Also, this is one of the shorter gaps between two teams in the octofinals in terms of geographic distance, so don't be surprised to find some Missouri gold littering the stands. You want to tell me you wouldn't love to see this in a playoff format?

#9 West Virginia (Big East champion) v. #8 Oklahoma (Big 12 champion)
Okay, so this is the same as the real-life Fiesta Bowl. The difference is that the Mountaineers will have to go to Oklahoma to play the game. Oklahoma will still have an edge in the real-life game because that'll be even further from Morgantown. The #11 Sooner rushing defense will try to contain the #4 rushing offense keyed by Pat White and Steve Slaton. Meanwhile, the #4 defense by overall yardage will try to contain the #3 offense by points put up. Will the Big East prove it deserves to be considered a top-caliber conference when its champion knocks off the champion of the Big 12? (Oh, how important it is to keep winning. West Virginia likely would have not only hosted a game, but landed a seed as high as fourth, if they had just taken care of Pittsburgh.)

All polls close next Sunday at 5 PM PST. Track the bracket here.

Who SHOULD Be Going to Which Bowls?

Based on my understanding of the bowl tie-ins and the College Football Rankings, while respecting the bowl eligibility rules. Teams on the left of an "OR" assume the BCS selects partly based on its standings; those on the right of one, if it selects purely based off my rankings.
  • Poinsettia: Utah v. Navy
  • New Orleans: Florida Atlantic v. Houston
  • Rutgers? OR Louisville? v. Southern Miss
  • New Mexico: Air Force v. Nevada OR Fresno State
  • Las Vegas: California OR UCLA v. BYU
  • Hawaii: Fresno State OR Hawaii v. East Carolina
  • Motor City: Ball State v. Purdue
  • Holiday: Oregon v. Texas
  • Texas: Troy v. Memphis
  • Champs Sports: Virginia OR Wake Forest v. Wisconsin
  • Emerald: Florida State OR Maryland v. Oregon State OR California
  • Meineke Car Care: Georgia Tech (or Wake Forest) OR Florida State v. Cincinnati OR Connecticut
  • Liberty: Central Florida v. Kentucky
  • Alamo: Michigan State v. Texas Tech
  • Independence: Colorado v. Alabama
  • Armed Forces: UCLA OR Indiana v. TCU
  • Humanitarian: Boise State v. Maryland OR New Mexico
  • Sun: Arizona State OR Oregon State v. Texas A&M
  • Music City: Mississippi State v. Wake Forest OR Georgia Tech
  • Chick-fil-A: Arkansas v. Clemson OR Boston College
  • Insight: Michigan v. Oklahoma State
  • Outback: Illinois v. Tennessee
  • Cotton: Missouri v. Auburn
  • Gator: Boston College OR Virginia v. South Florida OR Cincinnati
  • Capital One: Penn State v. Florida OR Georgia
  • GMAC: Tulsa v. Central Michigan
  • International: Connecticut? OR Rutgers? v. Bowling Green
  • Rose: Ohio State v. USC
  • Sugar: Kansas OR Florida v. Arizona State OR Clemson
  • Fiesta: Oklahoma v. Georgia OR South Florida
  • Orange: Virginia Tech v. Hawaii OR Kansas
  • BCS Title Game: LSU v. West Virginia (Ohio State? They're 4th)