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Blackouts and Rational People Behaving Rationally
Category: Daily Blog 2.0
Tags: NFL Playoffs packers eagles colts chiefs

 Three of the four playoff games had to be bailed out of a local-area blackout because they hadn’t sold out: Almost unthinkable.  The last time a playoff game was blacked out was 2002 when Miami hosted the Ravens on Wild Card weekend. 

Which gets me wondering, why would this happen?  Well, it could be weather – it’s pretty cold in Green Bay – but that wouldn’t account for Indianapolis’ difficulty in getting to the threshold.  It could be the potential prospects for advancing – this could explain Cincinnati’s problem given their recent history – but neither of these seem to explain it.  The short window between qualification and the game could, I suppose, but Philadelphia met the threshold without apparent difficulty and they qualified in the last game of the NFL season.   Certainly not lack of fan passion – Green Bay is about as rabid a fan base as can be found in the league.

I’ve seen all kinds of excuses – people watching their money so close to Christmas (the playoffs happen same time every year and there’s not the blackout issue every year), sour economy (evidence suggests the economy is actually accelerating). 

Seems to me it’s the prices which are set more or less uniformly by the league and an improving but still sluggish economy.  Check it.  Per Capita income in the US as of 2012 was $42,693.  Indiana’s was $36,902, Wisconsin $40, 537 and Ohio’s $39, 289.  Pennsylvania’s was $43,616 – the only one in the group over the national average.  This years’ average ticket prices for two of the four home teams were among the lowest in the league – Cincinnati’s was $139 and Indianapolis’ $180 (Philadelphia was $215 and Green Bay was among the highest at $254).  According to Forbes, this holds true in the playoffs as well – Philly and Green Bay had the most expensive tickets with both playoff premiums about 45% higher, where Cincinnati was 18% and Indy 31%.  So the one team that actually sold out by fans buying tickets was in the one market where the per capita income exceeds the national average and supports the team with some of the highest ticket prices.  Philly fans perhaps have some extra coin in their pockets.  Packers fans all have season tickets, plan for, and budget for them, but perhaps the family resources just aren’t there to support another ticket with such a steep price. 

Simply put, the tickets are too expensive.   As the cutoff approached, Green Bay had 8500 seats, the Bengals needed to sell 8000 tickets, and Indianapolis had 5500 to sell.  Add parking and ancillaries, it’s an expensive day.  Obviously, all four games were locally broadcast because the tickets eventually sold with some assistance, but the fact this even hit the news has to worry the NFL.  Spin it however you want – but clearly the fans don’t place the value on the wild card round that the NFL does.  If there’s value, people pay.  Fundamental to economics.  Very rarely do people willingly for the perceived value they receive. 

Who got the best value for their dollar?  Well, those that “ponied” up for those Colts tickets.  89 points scored, with the home team coming back from a ridiculous 28-point deficit to win by 1.  It was like watching a Madden game being played out.  The least value was clearly the debacle in Cincinnati – pretty much justifying why fans stayed away.  When you get your ass kicked that badly by a team that only made the playoffs because the officials missed calling them for a too many men on the field penalty when Ryan Succop shanked his field goal attempt, you’ve got some issues.  Blame Marvin Lews, Blame Andy Dalton, whomever.  The Bengals really screwed the pooch.  Personally, Andy Dalton can get you to the playoffs, but he’s not the guy you want if you have to actually win one of those playoff games.  When you have Boomer Esiason analyzing the game as the last Bengals QB to actually win a playoff game (1990) and he hasn’t played in 16-years you’ve got some issues.  EVERY other team in the NFL has won at least 1 playoff game since the Bengals last did: The Lions and Chiefs aren’t that far behind.

Speaking of the Chiefs and their meltdown, I had to giggle a bit – Both the Chiefs and Eagles failed this weekend, but the Chiefs had a better season for sure.  So, Philadelphia was no better off for Reid to have been shipped off.

My predictions for next week: New England over Indianapolis, Denver over San Diego; Seattle over New Orleans, and Carolina over San Francisco.  I know.  Shockers.

Wild Card Weekend Weather Madness
Category: Daily Blog 2.0
Tags: NFL Playoffs

The NFL has opted for TV contracts and obligations over the welfare of both the players and fans by scheduling the Wild Card games as they have done.  Not only could the game in Green Bay been played on Saturday when it is 20 degrees warmer, even if you don't want to play on Saturday, you could at least schedule the game to start at 1:00.   Weather has always been a key factor in influencing the style and outcome of games, so that is nothing new.  When you play football outdoors in January in the northern states, it is expected.   It just seems decidedly unfair to the 49ers to have to play in one of the coldest games of all time after a 12-4 season, but that's another story.

So for the games this weekend, here is what my crystal ball is telling me:  Go with the best QB in each of the games as the guide.   In the modern NFL, the quarterback is the defining position of the team.  So let's see what we have.

Kansas City at Indianapolis...an indoor game so no weather issue here.

This is Alex Smith versus Andrew Luck.  A rejuvenated Chiefs organization led by Andy Reid.  The Chiefs have played the tougher opponents and arrived at the same 11-5 record, but it is hard for me to pick against Andrew Luck.  The kid is the real deal and playing at home, I see a Colts win.

New Orleans at Philadelphia...cold night at the Lincoln

Going back to my preseason picks, the Saints were my Team of Destiny and I have to stick with them until somebody proves otherwise.  Drew Brees and Peyton Manning had sensational seasons and OK Foles was excellent, but this is the playoffs and Brees has a Super Bowl Ring.  I sticking with the Saints.

San Diego at Cincinnati...not great weather, but tolerable compared to Green Bay

San Diego is one of those teams I love to root for but they just can get over the hump.  For years it was sorry sot Norv Turner who always shot his team in the foot.  Now Phillip Rivers has his chance to make a statement on his resume.  I don't know how to gauge the Bengals - they are the mystery team for me.  I think Cincy should win, but I would not be surprised to see Rivers deliver a big performance.

San Francisco at Green Bay...Ice Bowl 2014

How healthy is Aaron Rodgers?  That is the big factor for me - how will that collar bone react to hitting the concrete turf of Lambeau Field?  All things being equal, Rodgers is a huge plus over Colin K., but all things are not equal in this game.  I think you have to consider the ability of Kaepernick to run the ball in this game where yards will be precious.    There is the curse of the Super Bowl factor to consider...if the 49ers win, they will be the first team in a long time to get to the second round after a Super Bowl loss the previous year.  I think they are too good a team to lose - so I am going with San Fran.

 

I hope everyone had a great New Year's - for me personally, it was followed by some outstanding health news.  I go into 2014 feeling good (and looking good ;)   I hope everyone's year gets off to a great start, too!  Enjoy the games!

 

Q-o-t-D 1/4/14 Tags: NFL Playoffs Wildcard Weekend
Who are your Wildcard Weekend winners?

HAL B.’s FANTASTIC FRIDAY SPORTS SPECTACULAR - 01/03/2014
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NFL Football Playoffs NCAA Bowl Games

Happy Friday from the “Hit Hard by Hercules” Northeast.  I’m posting a bit early as the snowflakes are piling up outside the window.

 

Looking forward to my surprise guest next door ------>.  

 

The kids have no school today or tomorrow as that was all canceled last night.  Other towns nearby have school and my work is open--fortunately, I had already put in for the day and had it off back in October. Wow...the swami power exists inside me! Must mean I need to make picks and predictions for the weekend football!

 

NFL WILD CARD ROUND:

 

Kansas City 23 at Indianapolis 17

Remember when Kansas City was undefeated and looked like the best team in the league? Yeah, that seems like it was a long time ago. Of course, the Chiefs are able to play their second-stringers and keep up with the Chargers last week. For Kansas City to win, they do best at home with the crowd behind them and the fans whipped into a frenzy.  Now, as a Wild Card team they are on the road in Indianapolis.

 

The Colts are a strange team.  Andrew Luck is a damned good quarterback. The Colts beat Kansas City in week 16 and have won three in a row and found a running game.  If Kansas City can get the ball to Jamaal Charles in space, they are fine on offense.  The Colts are still without Reggie Wayne on offense, and that will hurt them in the playoffs.  Hard to pick the Colts here even at home.

 

New Orleans 23 at Philadelphia 25

Saturday night sees a very good New Orleans Saints team face off against an exciting Philadelphia Eagles team led by first year coach Chip Kelly. Philadelphia has a huge advantage playing at home, as the Saints are just not the same team on the road. The Eagles have LeSean McCoy who has carried their team all season long regardless of quarterback.

 

The Eagles defense is not very impressive overall, but then again neither is the Saints defense. Yes, the Saints defense added coordinator Rob Ryan who has improved the defense by leaps and bounds, but the Saints defense was historically bad last season.  The X-Factor in the game is Saints quarterback Drew Brees.  Brees, when on, is an unstoppable force. The problem is that he is usually on at home. I expect the Eagles to continue to run the ball and play keep-away from the Saints offense.

 

San Diego 31 at Cincinnati 30

Cincinnati SHOULD beat San Diego. That out of the way, I have no faith that Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton are the kind of duo that does anything other than snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Sure, the Bengals are undefeated at home this year, but that seems like it is putting a whammy on them.  Gio Bernard is an explosive running back, but he cannot beat out BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Andy Dalton threw 33 touchdown passes….and 20 interceptions. For the Bengals, they need Marvin Jones to have a big game opposite AJ Green or else the team is in trouble.

 

The Chargers are charging hard. Ryan Matthews finally broke out at running back. Young wide receiver Keenan Allen had a breakout season. Former New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead is a first down machine. I have never like Philip Rivers, but I give him credit for his toughness and desire to win.  I don’t trust the Chargers defense, but Andy Dalton will figure out a way to choke.

 

San Francisco 34 at Green Bay 27

Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers.  Otherwise, this team is sub-.500 as they proved all season long without Rodgers. That said the 49ers have Anquan Boldin (thanks, Ravens!) and a healthy Michael Crabtree.  Crabtree makes the offense click, and with tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore to complement young quarterback Colin Kaepernick is enough to get enough points to outscore Green Bay against the 49ers strong defense.

 

Yes, Randall Cobb makes the offense better in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.  But the defense is not good enough and the 49ers defense is improved enough from their hiccups earlier in the year.  Expect the 49ers, a good road team, to defeat the flawed Packers.

 

NCAA BOWLS:

Sugar Bowl: Alabama 24 - Oklahoma 18

This game will be over by the time the blog posts, but I’m doing it early so I can make the pick. Personally, I’d rather watch Alabama go up against Auburn again--that’d be great to see. Of course, undefeated Florida State has earned their place in the title game (since there is no playoff until next year).  Alabama would be a favorite if in the title game (‘bama fans are already not acknowledging the end of the Auburn game) since coach Nick Saban rebuffed the Longhorns and is actually staying. Alabama should finish strong against a squad that still has not settled on a quarterback. Of course, as long as they throw out a running quarterback against Alabama, they have a chance to score on the strong defense. It would be easy to expect Alabama not to be up for the game, but I expect T.J. Yeldon to make the difference Thursday night and lead the Tide to victory.

 

Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma State 45  - Missouri 48

It’s Big 12 versus the SEC...so Missouri in a cakewalk, right?  Both squads got to the Cotton Bowl due to failing down the stretch. Missouri should have beaten Auburn but the defense disappeared.  Oklahoma State was ahead of Oklahoma with less than two minutes to play and managed to lose in spectacular fashion.  It should still be a shootout and entertaining. If you gamble, take the over. Neither team is a superb defense, but with Missouri stud pass rusher Michael Sam giving them the chance of a big play, I will go with Mizz.

 

Orange Bowl: Clemson 38 - Ohio State 27

Ohio State feels they belong in the BCS Championship (as does Alabama), but they get Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Of course, Alabama lost on a fluke, while Ohio State just plain laid an egg and lost to Michigan State to end up here. Playing Clemson, who lost to South Carolina and Florida State, is hardly a marquee matchup. However, Tajh Boyd at quarterback for Clemson is excitement all on its own. Add in Ohio State missing top quarterback crusher Noah Spence (suspended for violating “undisclosed” rule) and Clemson should pull ahead and win.

 

Compass Bowl: Vanderbilt - Houston

GoDaddy Bowl: Arkansas State - Ball State

Wait, what? These aren’t real bowls...these don’t belong at the end of the bowl season.  These belong in mid-December with the rest of the crappy bowls.  I refuse to pick these games.

 

National Championship Game: Florida State 38 - Auburn 24

Auburn has two miraculous victories (tipped pass on 4th and 18 against Georgia and missed field goal return for a touchdown against ‘bama in the Iron Bowl) and are calling themselves a “Team of Destiny”.  Jameis Winston is the Heisman Trophy winner and leads an undefeated Seminoles squad who has won every game handily.  The only squad to score more than 17 points was Boston College back in September (34 points).  There have been some duds on the schedule (Pitt, Nevada, Bethune-Cookman, Syracuse, Idaho) and even the ranked squads--outside of Clemson--are hardly world-beaters (Maryland, Duke, Miami). Not sure it is always a good formula to have teams with such a layoff, but Auburn is good not great. Florida State should pull it out.

 
OK, all. Stay toasty! Have a great first weekend of 2014. 
NFL Finale Weekend - Are You Ready for Some Football?!!
Category: Daily Blog 2.0
Tags: NFL Playoffs Ravens Redskins Cowboys Lions

The NFL enters week 17 with lots of great story lines...this is a good weekend to fire up that wing recipe or better yet, The Beez's Championship Chili.  Let's take a look at a few of these juicy games on the Sunday calendar...

1.  The Redskins wrap up their miserable season against the Giants at 1:00.  At 4:30, every sportswriter in town expects Mike Shanahan to be taking his iPad and leaving his office for the last time.  I don't think Shanny got a very fair deal this year and I, unlike the vultures circling over Mike's office, would not mind seeing him come back.  For one thing, it would give him - FINALLY - a chance to build his team unfettered by the owner, the salary cap penalty and RGIII's petulance.  I guess we shall see where this goes - one can only hope that whoever coaches the team next year that the process includes a real GM.

2. Early game #2 of interest - Cincinnati can put the defending champs out of their misery.  The Ravens played as bad as they can possibly play last week and do not deserve the 6th seed...yet Champions always seem to know when they have to deliver.   The Bengals are solid and I have no doubt that they would take no greater pleasure than to put the Ravens out to pasture...and fullfill another year of the Super Bowl Curse.

3. Early game #3 of interest - at least here...is the end of the Schwartz era for the Lions.  Enoromous talent unfullfilled in the Motor City this year.  Really, how hard is to get it to the best receiver in football?  The guy is unstoppable.   I feel for Lion fans...never a Super Bowl...50 years without a championship.  As they say in Chicago for Cubs, there's always next year.

And for the Late Games...

1.  Late Game Combo #1:  Denver - Oakland & New England - Buffalo.   The NFL potentially did me a big favor by moving the NE game to 4:15, which keeps Peyton Manning on the field at least until halftime.  As one with Manning as my fantasy QB in my championship game, a NE loss at 1:00 would have meant no QB to play  for me, so thank you commisioner's office.  A NE win / Denver loss means that Mannings worst nightmare would potentially come true...another AFC title game in New England.

2.  Late Game Combo #2:  San Fran - Arizona & Seattle - St. Louis  (+ NO - TB).  First of all, the slightly slumping Seahawks could easily see their whole season unravel with a bad game against St. Louis.  A Seattle loss and a SF win gives the 49ers the NFC title and seizes home field advantage away from Seattle...and let's face it, the Seahawks are a very different team away from their home field.  Now if Arizona wins and NO loses, my Team of Destiny is out.  If NO and Arizona both win, an 11 win team is OUT of the playoffs!

3.  Late Game #3:  Green Bay & Bears.   There are a lot of interesting angles to this game...Rodgers is in risking his collar bone situation.  Jay Cutler has really not looked that great since coming back and the Bears were cruising with McCown.  It has big ramifications to the Bear's future since Cutler is in line for a contract next year...is he the guy for the Bears?  Eddie Lacy has been huge for the Pack this year (& for me fantasy wise) so I am hoping for a big day from him.  This game is going to be great!.

4.  Late Game #4:  Cowboys & Eagles.  What a nice finale for the regular season even if the NFC East stinks.  No Romo so Dallas will not be able to blame another end of game meltdown on their long running QB.  As for the Eagles, they have really surprised this year running an offense that has been hard for some teams to manage.  They could make some noise in the playoffs.   Oddly enough, I think the edge goes to the Cowboys for this game...Orton could do enough not to lose.  Dallas should be running the ball more anyway.

So, thank goodness for the Red Zone, because there is no other way to manage the football for the day.  I am stocking up on beer, ordering a couple of pizza's and firing up the chili pot.  It is going to be a fun day of football!

 

                       Enjoy your weekend & Happy New Year!

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