Archive for October, 2016

NFL standings: Updating the playoff picture during Week 8

Posted by    |    October 31st, 2016 at 11:10 pm

The Eagles had an opportunity to knock the Cowboys down a peg in the standings this week and blew it.

This week is the unofficial halfway point of the NFL season. From here on out, games take on an increased significance as the year winds down and the playoffs loom. Nobody is out of it, technically, but already some games matter more than others.

This week’s games still have us wondering which team, if any, can legitimately challenge the Patriots for the AFC. There might not be an answer to that question. Hell, it’s hard enough trying to figure out which team is second-best in the AFC.

Right now, the Broncos have a hold on the No. 2 spot in the playoff standings thanks to their win this week over the Chargers. The Raiders also have six wins, but they’re in the wild card spot. Speaking of, the AFC West is bonkers right now. Three teams from that division could make the playoffs. The Chiefs currently have the second wild card spot.

The most important game this week was Sunday’s primetime tilt between the Eagles and Cowboys. An Eagles win would have put them in first place in the NFC East, but they let the Cowboys rally to tie late in the fourth quarter. The game headed to overtime, where the Cowboys won and stayed atop the NFC. The loss punted the Eagles from the playoff standings this week.

Remember, this is all still very preliminary. Standings are sorted in part based on win percentage, and that’s skewed because some teams have played an extra game thanks to bye weeks.

We’ll update this throughout the day on Sunday and into Monday night.

Washington 27, Bengals 27

Oh great, another tie to gum up the standings!

Chiefs 30, Colts 14

Kansas City’s fate right now depends on what the Broncos do. If Denver loses, the Chiefs will be in second place in the division.

Raiders 30, Buccaneers 24

The Raiders stay in first place in the division. And they still have the second seed in the AFC for now.

Saints 25, Seahawks 20

Seattle stays on top of the NFC West standings despite the loss. Arizona lost, too, which helps them by leaving the division standings in stasis for now.

Texans 20, Lions 13

The Texans hang on to first place in the AFC South!

Jets 31, Browns 28

Lol.

Patriots 41, Bills 25

The Patriots created even more separation between them and the rest of the AFC.

Panthers 30, Cardinals 20

That’s only the second win of the season for the Panthers. They’re still at the bottom of the NFC South, but with the way things are going, you never know!

Broncos 27, Chargers 19

Denver holds on to a wild card spot and remains in the lead in the AFC West at 6-2.

Falcons 33, Packers 32

The Falcons hang on to first place in the division.

Cowboys 29, Eagles 23

Dallas solidifies its lead in the division and hangs on to the top spot in the NFC, even with a Vikings win, thanks to having a better conference record.

Bears 20, Vikings 10

Moral victory for the Bears, while the Vikings still hold the top spot in the division.

On a bye this week: Dolphins, Giants, Rams, Ravens, Steelers, 49ers

Here’s what the standings look like with one game left to play this week:

AFC

  1. Patriots (7-1, AFC East)
  2. Broncos (6-2, AFC West)
  3. Texans (5-3, AFC South)
  4. Steelers (4-3, AFC North)
  5. Raiders (6-2, Wild card)
  6. Chiefs (5-2, Wild card)

NFC

  1. Cowboys (6-1, NFC East)
  2. Vikings (5-2, NFC North)
  3. Seahawks (4-2-1, NFC West)
  4. Falcons (5-3, NFC South)
  5. Packers (4-3, Wild card)
  6. Giants (4-3, Wild card)

Vikings vs. Bears live scores, highlights, and updates from ‘Monday Night Football’

Posted by    |    October 31st, 2016 at 9:06 pm

We’ve got an NFC North showdown in primetime.

Score update

Halftime: Bears 13, Vikings 3

First quarter: Bears 3, Vikings 0

Bears/Vikings highlights

Matt Hasselbeck is rocking an uncanny Brian Urlacher costume at Soldier Field.

Alshon Jeffery got hit right in the head with a pass from Jay Cutler.

The Bears made a bunch of spooooky photos to celebrate Halloween.

Before the game

The Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears are facing off on Monday Night Football, and the showdown features two distinctly different teams coming into Week 8.

The Vikings come in with a 5-1 record, having just lost their first game last week on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles. A win Monday night would mean the Vikings remain on par with the Dallas Cowboys for the best record in the NFC.

The Bears, on the other hand, have had a much bumpier ride this season. They lost their first three games, and lost Jay Cutler to injury in Week 2. Brian Hoyer replaced him, and was playing better than Cutler was. But Hoyer broke his arm in Week 7, and now Cutler’s back to starting for the 1-6 Bears.

In what is usually a classic NFC North matchup, we have two teams at the opposite ends of the division. But in primetime, and in a rivalry, you never know how these matchups might end.

Pregame reading

A look at the Bears-Vikings rivalry.

Three Bears who need to step up to pull off the upset.

NFL scores 2016: Vikings, Bears face off on Halloween edition of ‘Monday Night Football’

Posted by    |    October 31st, 2016 at 7:20 pm

The NFC North rivalry on will put a bow on Week 8.

We’re reaching the halfway point of the NFL season and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. The final game of the week is a Monday Night Football matchup between two NFC North rivals. The Chicago Bears host the Minnesota Vikings on Halloween night.

Sunday started off early, with an overtime game in London between Washington and the Cincinnati Bengals that ended with a 27-27 tie. For the first time since 1997, we got to see back-to-back ties in the NFL.

There was almost another tie, but Derek Carr was able to lead the Raiders to a walkoff win with 1:36 left in overtime against the Bucs. The Raiders still won despite an NFL-record 23 penalties in a single game.

The 1 p.m. ET slate was headlined by a rematch between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. The game was decidedly one-sided with Tom Brady and the gang rolling up, over and around the Bills for a 41-25 victory.

The Seattle Seahawks came within inches of a last-second win over the New Orleans Saints, but they couldn’t overcome another bad performance by the offense. The Seahawks dropped to 4-2-1 and the Saints are now 3-4.

The Cleveland Browns started off hot, but the New York Jets came out strong in the second half. It was the most heartbreaking loss for the 0-8 Browns yet, and that’s saying something.

The San Diego Chargers were finally getting the breaks their way after some awful luck earlier in the season, but they couldn’t pull off a second win over the Denver Broncos this season.

In the NFC game, the Atlanta Falcons were once again in a game that came down to the wire, but this time they came out on top against the Green Bay Packers. Matt Ryan found Mohamed Sanu for a touchdown with 32 seconds left, and the Falcons remain on top of the NFC South.

Last week’s Sunday Night Football game was a dud, with the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks limping to a 6-6 tie. There was far more excitement this week with the Dallas Cowboys hosting the Philadelphia Eagles. The hated divisional rivals also went to overtime, though with several more points on the board this week, and Dak Prescott finding Jason Witten for a touchdown in the extra period ended the night in the Cowboys’ favor. Dallas improved to 6-1.

Follow along below for all the scores, highlights, injury news, and odds and ends.

Complete Week 8 scores and schedule (all times Eastern)

Tennessee Titans 36, Jacksonville Jaguars 22 (Thursday)

Washington 27, Cincinnati Bengals 27 (OT, London)

New England Patriots 41, Buffalo Bills 25

Carolina Panthers 30, Arizona Cardinals 20

New York Jets 31, Cleveland Browns 28

Houston Texans 20, Detroit Lions 13

Kansas City Chiefs 30, Indianapolis Colts 14

New Orleans Saints 25, Seattle Seahawks 20

Oakland Raiders 30, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 (OT)

Denver Broncos 27, San Diego Chargers 19

Atlanta Falcons 33, Green Bay Packers 32

Dallas Cowboys 29, Philadelphia Eagles 23 (OT)

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears, Monday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Highlights

Not even a blatant hold from Josh Norman could stop A.J. Green from making a spectacular catch.

He was probably (hopefully!) being sarcastic, but Jay Gruden said he didn’t know games could end in a tie.

Josh Norman wants the refs reprimanded after he was flagged five times against the Bengals.

Earl Thomas was penalized for hugging a ref. Hugs, not flags!

DeAndre Hopkins is lifting Brock Osweiler’s spirits with a sweet one-handed catch.

Gronk scored the 69th touchdown of his career. If only there was a word to describe the occasion …

Browns fans messed up their sign, so say goodbye to the Dawg Pound and say hello to #GPODAWUND.

Raiders OT Donald Penn scored a FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN agains the team that once cut him.

Bill O’Brien got REAL MAD at his special teams coordinator.

Pete Carroll got REAL MAD at the refs.

Quincy Enunwa might have saved Ryan Fitzpatrick’s job all by himself.

Never tweet, Joe Namath.

Yep, someone threw a dildo on the field during the Bills-Patriots game.

We have a solution to the NFL’s declining ratings: frisbee dog!

Sunday was not a very kicker-friendly day.

Washington’s PR guy shoved a German reporter who tried to interview kicker Dustin Hopkins.

Cam Newton said he “doesn’t feel protected” by NFL officials and plans to talk to Roger Goodell about it.

Richard Sherman was on the wrong end of a no call this week, and he didn’t like it one bit.

Travis Benjamin’s touchdown catch was so mesmerizing it should be an award-winning film.

The Chargers coached themselves to a loss.

The Cowboys’ best play against the Eagles was a fake punt.

Did Dez catch it? (Yes, he did.)

The Bears put together some spooky, scary photos for Halloween.

Major Injuries

Washington safety Duke Ihenacho left in overtime with a concussion.

Sean Smith did not return for the Raiders due to a shoulder injury.

Alex Smith left to undergo a concussion test early against the Colts and was later cleared and returned. However, after his head was slammed to the ground in the third quarter, Smith exited the game again and was ruled out, though the Chiefs say he did not suffer a concussion. Nick Foles took over under center both times and might have played better than Smith.

Spencer Ware was also ruled out of the game for the Chiefs with a concussion.

Bryce Petty made his regular season debut after Ryan Fitzpatrick exited to get evaluated for a concussion. Fitzpatrick came back in soon after.

Vontae Davis was evaluated for a concussion.

Shaq Thompson did not return for the Panthers after suffering a knee sprain.

Vince Wilfork left the game against the Lions with a groin injury.

Devontae Booker left with a shoulder injury but later returned. The Broncos, who placed C.J. Anderson on IR earlier in the week, can’t really afford any other running back injuries.

In a scary moment, Broncos DC Wade Phillips was carted off the field after Melvin Gordon collided with him. Phillips was taken to the hospital but was alert and moving all his extremities. He was later released and is expected back to work Monday.

Cowboys safety Barry Church was ruled out with an arm injury.

Tyrann Mathieu is out 3-6 weeks with a shoulder injury.

The World Series had much better ratings than ‘Sunday Night Football,’ but it’s not that big of a deal

Posted by    |    October 31st, 2016 at 5:11 pm

There are many reasons why the NFL’s ratings have dropped, but it’s still far too early to sound the alarms.

Football has routinely crushed baseball for years when it comes to ratings, even if it’s an important postseason game in the MLB pitted against an inconsequential regular season game in the NFL. So it opened eyes when Game 5 of the World Series crushed Sunday Night Football in viewership.

According to Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily, the 3-2 win for the Chicago Cubs over the Cleveland Indians drew a 15.3 rating, easily beating the 11.6 ratings for the Dallas Cowboys’ overtime win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Even for the World Series that’s noteworthy, as the last time a game from the Fall Classic outdrew a competing NFL game was 2013. And the blowout for the MLB came against the Cowboys, a gigantic draw playing against a divisional rival in a game between two exciting young teams with rookie quarterbacks.

It’s part of a larger downward trend for the NFL, which has experienced declining ratings all season for reasons that everyone has their own opinion about.

But Sunday was actually a good day for the NFL. It was one of the better weeks of action and CBS said its slate of regional games during the day did 8 percent better than its coverage of Week 8 in 2015.

Before you take out your bugle and start playing “Taps” as a ‘So long farewell’ to the NFL, take a deep breath. There are a few reasons why the World Series would get better ratings than the Cowboys and Eagles.

Nielsen ratings are weird

The ratings that have become standard for determining what is and isn’t being watched by an American audience may not be the most accurate determination. It’s a box that goes in about 20,000 homes for about 50,000 viewers who supposedly represent an accurate reflection of the viewing habits of the United States, as a whole.

Even if it is a good representation of American viewers, Nielsen has had difficulty measuring viewership during the streaming era with services like Netflix or even DVR possibly skewing data.

Ratings drops aren’t exclusive to football

Many are focusing on the decline of football ratings, but the English Premier League has seen a significant drop too. Did everyone in America just get sick of sports all at the same time? Unlikely.

But viewers have had the tendency to come and go depending on how exciting things are in the sport. Some experts also believe fans might be watching less because of the presidential election. The 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore had a similar effect on football ratings.

Streaming has pulled viewers away from TV sets

Television ratings might be down, but streaming services couldn’t be more elated with the way Americans are watching football. Just ask Sling TV, a live streaming service that negotiated the rights to show some NFL games.

“Our Monday Night Football viewership numbers are breaking all our own records, increasing week over week. I think there is so much pent up demand for streaming live sports, and people want an alternative to pay television,” Sling TV chief product officer Ben Weinberger told ExStreamist.com.

If NFL fans are increasingly turning to services like Sling TV and even Twitter to watch games, it will keep pulling down ratings.

RedZone is sucking the life out of football games

For years, more and more fans have turned to NFL RedZone to watch football on Sundays. Instead of watching one game — complete with several commercial breaks, stoppages of plays, replay reviews, injury timeouts and other boring things that turn away viewers — fans instead get zipped around several games for whatever is the most exciting thing happening.

Then the primetime game rolls around and fans are dropped back in to the trudge of a three-hour game. CBS CEO Les Moonves talked at Goldman Sach’s Communacopia conference about how the channel is undermining their coverage by cutting through commercials.

The NFL keeps putting bad games on national TV

One day after the World Series smoked Sunday Night Football, the NFL doesn’t have to worry about its Monday Night Football game competing with baseball. But it should take note of the fact that it’s the fourth time the 1-6 Chicago Bears are in primetime in the first eight weeks.

The Cowboys and Eagles are exciting, but the NFL has sandwiched its good matchups in with games like the Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans, and suffered the consequences.

There was a whole lot of sports on

In addition to the World Series, there were 11 NFL games, seven NBA games and eight NHL games. It’s only the 16th time that all four major American professional sports leagues had games on the schedule on the same day and only the sixth time since 1985.

There are plenty of fans who only watch one, but there are much more who enjoy multiple sports and juggle them based on importance and significance. An elimination game in the World Series can win over fans who care about both baseball and football, and hockey and basketball can pull away more fans who would’ve tuned in for Sunday Night Football, otherwise.

It was a really big baseball game

The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948. The Cubs haven’t even been to a World Series since 1945 and haven’t won since 1908. It’s a historically significant series and people really care about seeing how things turn out for the Cubs.

It’s not an entirely unique phenomenon. The 2014 World Series was crushed by the NFL, except for Game 7 that averaged 23.9 million viewers.

Heading into that Game 5, Cleveland had a 3-1 lead and a chance to end it all. The game was close throughout, with neither team jumping out to anything more than a two-run lead. In the final innings the hardest-throwing pitcher in baseball, Aroldis Chapman, was tasked with finishing the game, keeping fans on the edge of their seats til the final out.

For many sports fans, that was a level of drama that the NFL couldn’t compete with, regardless of the bubbling Dak Prescott vs. Tony Romo storyline. The Cowboys and Eagles also got out to a slow and somewhat boring start before Dallas finally staged an exciting comeback to force overtime.

* * *

There are many reasons why the NFL’s ratings have dropped, but it’s still far too early to sound the death knell for the league. The NFL is well aware and has been analyzing why fans seem less engaged in 2016.

But it’s still doing just fine and even poor ratings for a game competing with the World Series isn’t a bad thing at all, considering the circumstances.

Shaka Smart media availability 10.31.16

Posted by    |    October 31st, 2016 at 4:02 pm

Boo!