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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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BETWEEN THE LINES - OCT. 3

By Joe Nelson
Posted 10/04/2011 at 06:17 PM

If you play a lot of home favorites in college football you likely had a brutal weekend as home teams went 15-37-2 last weekend and just 9-30-1 as home favorites. For the year the numbers have been near break even in most categories but road underdogs dominated last week in college football. Underdogs have had the edge in the NFL through four weeks but favorites actually had their first winning Sunday last week, albeit by a slim margin. The ‘over’ train in the NFL was back at it again last week an remains strong for the season even with significant adjustments being made in the total odds.

 

Sunday left fans with a lot of questions about officiating with a couple of unusual rulings. The tuck rule was evoked in the Buffalo/Cincinnati game to void a touchdown but not in the New York/Baltimore game on what looked like a very similar play. Houston had three touchdowns called back with penalties as there were several big plays on Sunday that were wiped out. None of the calls generated as much disagreement as the highly questionable ruling in the Arizona/New York game with receiver Victor Cruz being ruled ‘giving himself up’ despite falling, not sliding or intentionally going down. We were on Arizona so you won’t get an unbiased point of view from us but when a rule allows officials to make judgments on a player’s intentions you are setting up trouble. Widely respected former official Mike Pereira felt it was the wrong call and it was a shame to see a game deciding play left to such a grey area with an official’s judgment call, bringing up a rule that is almost never used on a non-QB, as the play also fell under the umbrella of being unreviewable. Many contend that officials got the call right as Cruz appeared to give himself up, but had he rolled forward a few more yards instead of dropping the ball that rule certainly would not have been pulled out and he would have been given the yardage. The new system of reviewing is all scoring plays is also causing problems as Chiefs coach Todd Haley was not allowed to challenge a Minnesota touchdown that was incorrect. The officials did not review the play despite the new rules as they assumed it was not close enough to warrant a review. Lines need to be drawn somewhere but it seems bizarre that a challenge can not be used in any situation regardless if the point is to get the plays right. Why not allow reviews on judgment calls like pass interference calls, they are huge game changing plays and an official can evaluate the play better on a replay than in live action if the situation warrants a challenge from a coach.

 

Through only four weeks there are no longer any undefeated teams in the AFC and the two 4-0 NFC teams will be on a collision course in the same division. The Packers certainly remain the team to beat but the issues on defense are not dissimilar to what many said about New England before they were defeated against Buffalo. Green Bay will certainly be a threat to make another Super Bowl run but last year’s team was far better statistically even if this year’s team is 4-0 and last year Green Bay started 3-3. There are some tough luck teams lurking with losing records that could make a run as Arizona is 1-3 despite being just -1 in point-differential. Philadelphia is in the same boat at 1-3 with an even point-differential. There are also a few phony teams that could fall off the map in the coming weeks. San Diego and Washington are both 3-1 but they rate as having played the two easiest schedules in the league through four weeks. The Browns, Giants, and 49ers are also towards the top of the schedule ratings with the easiest slates so the encouraging starts could be washed away. At the other end of the spectrum are teams like Oakland, Dallas, Chicago, and the New York Jets as all still could be playoff teams despite some degree on panic through four weeks.

 

The college rankings continue to shuffle at the top and both Oklahoma and LSU will face challenging games this week. Wisconsin got a big boost in its national stature with a blowout win last week but the Badgers and any other Big Ten, Pac-12, or ACC team that hopes to be undefeated is going to need help as an undefeated Big XII team and an undefeated SEC team would be locks to meet in the BCS championship. Boise State and Houston will need far more help. Best of Luck, on to this week’s slate…

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