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NFL Unfiltered Week 6: Is Fantasy Football saving the NFL?

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If it weren’t for bragging rights among your friends and the chance to become rich in an instant, the National Football League couldn’t keep the nation’s attention.

How could it?  

We are more than a third of the way through the 2015 season, and there are five undefeated teams. However, each of those squads is decidedly flawed, and two of the five are barely watchable. Meanwhile, the other 27 collectively, are playing some of the worst professional football we’ve seen since the now-defunct XFL.   Photo: Michael Perez/Associated Press

Yet, most fans don’t mind, and fantasy football is one reason.

Turnovers, penalties, dropped passes …and that’s only the Eagles, who actually beat the New York Giants, 27-7, because as hard as the Birds tried to turn a win into a loss, the Giants simply couldn’t accept.  

Yes, football has an advantage in that its teams usually play one game each week, but the fact is, the game isn’t very good right now.   

But even in a game like Eagles/Giants, which had as much excitement as a three-hour lecture on mortgage refinancing, someone has to score.  And when he does, tens of millions either rejoice or suffer because of the impact on his or her fantasy teams.  

The NFL likely knows this, which is another reason they may have smartly made rules changes under the guise of player safety.  Can you imagine what games would look like if defenses played as aggressively as they did five years ago?  Scoring would undoubtedly suffer, and so too would the sport’s popularity.  

Still, in spite of an obviously weakened product, we watch. We watch because Antonio Brown’s yards and touchdown catches matter.  His head coach’s startlingly bad clock management doesn’t.  We tune in because Sam Bradford’s 280 yards passing and lone touchdown pass to wide receiver Riley Cooper means a chance at qualifying for your league playoffs. His three interceptions and seemingly purposeful attempt to give the game to the Giants, is mostly meaningless.

Thanks in large measure to the false premise we own, release, acquire and trade players, pro football is our national pastime.  While Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano is frittering away one of the league’s most attractive jobs, we hardly notice because Andrew Luck threw for 312 and 3 touchdowns in a loss to New England.  

This is not to suggest we all stop watching pro football. Especially, since even in its current state, it is better than cleaning out the gutters, or insulating the attic. Furthermore, Champions League soccer, which actually might be a better sporting alternative, doesn’t contain enough scoring for our attention spans.    

But our football game is in trouble, and as this era’s best quarterbacks move closer to the end of their careers, it is only going to get worse.  

And that is no fantasy.     

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THINGS THE PUNDITS CAN’T OR WON’T SAY: Week 6

-After another shaky outing (in terms of reality), have we seen enough of Bradford to say he isn’t the answer?  Or, does he still need time in Chip Kelly’s system to get comfortable?  For those at home keeping score, that’s approximately 10 weeks of practice and game action for a guy who has taken snaps in the NFL off and on since 2010.  

-Let me guess, wide receiver Jordan Matthews went back into Monday night’s game after a jarring hit by safety Brandon Meriweather because he knew how many fingers were held up and what day it was, right?  Not because the Eagles’ wide receiver group is average when everyone is healthy.      

-I realize ego is part of the reason many rise to the level of head coach. But I’ve often wondered if these guys have mentors, and if they do, how often do they actually listen and apply the advice they receive?  You have to think someone who knows Pagano and has his trust, implored him to sign the contract extension the Colts offered him in the spring.  Ego prevented Pagano from signing it. Now, he might lose his job by Thanksgiving.  

Speaking of Pagano, what happened to all the humility he expressed while fighting cancer? The CHUCKSTRONG narrative feels like it happened 20 years ago.

-If Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton isn’t in the top 5 Most Valuable Player voting at years end, someone ought to investigate.

-Funny thing about Seattle’s Jimmy Graham, if you have a top-tier quarterback, a head coach who isn’t in the way, good receivers and a tailback, he is a real difference maker.  Without all those things, he’s just a guy.  Of course, his stats make you think he impacts winning and losing only because you drafted him in the second round of your 16-team fantasy league.  

-For various reasons including rust and injury, there isn’t one single player in the Seahawks’ defensive backfield playing as well as they did two years ago. And judging by the lost looks on their faces after Newton embarrassed them in the 4th quarter, they know it.  

-Teams are so desperate to get production out of their quarterbacks that they simplify things to a predictable level. Case in point: Tennessee head coach Ken Whisenhunt’s play calling for Marcus Mariota.  

-The more you watch the Buffalo Bills, the more you have to appreciate Eagles backup quarterback Mark Sanchez.  Apparently, it isn’t as easy to hand the ball off to running backs, make a couple of important throws and take care of the football, as we think.  

-Interim Miami head coach Dan Campbell certainly sounds the part, but if he thinks his quarterback shall lead them, he won’t last.

 

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area. He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention. His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@hotmail.com

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Photo: Michael Perez/Associated Press