Hey, NFL: Just cut to the chase and ban the Patriots

Hey, NFL: Just cut to the chase and ban the Patriots

Remember when you were young and a situation in the neighborhood would arise in which somebody would be too good to play with? 

Like an older brother, for instance. You needed him for even teams. You didn’t need him taking the snap and walking down the middle of the field with the football, stiff-arming 8-year-olds into the Earth’s crust because he happened to be 12. 

Eventually, an announcement would be made. 

“OK, from now on, quarterback can’t run or stiff-arm into the Earth’s crust!” 

New legislation passed by fiat, play would resume and everyone would feel better about their chances for success on a newly-leveled playing field. 


And then he’d do something else nobody else could do and you’d have to outlaw that. 

The NFL is the neighborhood. The Patriots are the big brother. 

Earlier this week, Jerry Jones’ offspring, Stephen, promised an “extensive going over” after “what we saw here” referring to the Patriots winning the AFC Championship Game on the first possession of overtime. 

(Separately, his Dad whined about Julian Edelman’s muffed punt being overturned.)

“What we saw here.” Like the country had just been subjected to something abhorrent that would prompt painful soul-searching. 


Pearl-clutching over the allegedly broken rule has nothing to do with the rule. It has everything to do with the Patriots. 

Since 2012, the team that wins the OT coin toss wins the game 52.7 percent of the time. Pretty good indication the rule is working. 

In the playoffs, there have been eight OT games since the rule change and five of them ended with first-possession touchdowns. Sixty percent of the time? Sounds like a lot. Yes, until you consider the sample size.

In other words, if the Chiefs stopped the Patriots on any of their three third-and-10s the other day, the numbers would be right at 50 percent. In other words, the rule would be working like a charm. 

So why the hubbub? Because in two of the past three overtime games in the postseason, the Patriots were the team that did what the rule demanded. 


There may have been times in the past two decades when the Patriots took a liberal interpretation of the rules and benefited. This time? How can you even allege it without being embarrassed?

Had the Chiefs won the toss and won the game, would football-watching America give a damn Tom Brady didn’t touch the ball? Nnnnnnnooooo. Brady and the Patriots already benefited from the rule when they finished off the Falcons in Super Bowl 52. What comes around goes around. 

If the coin toss is the issue, then do away with it. Let some in-game stat like total yards or turnover differential determine who gets the ball first. Let the kickers attempt 50-yard field goals until one misses. Have the fattest guys on the team race to the 40. 

But it isn’t the coin toss. It’s the Patriots. 

The NFL quietly tweaked their interpretation of the catch rule prior to last year’s Super Bowl. Why? Because, in large part, the Steelers lost to the Patriots during the regular season when the rule was correctly applied. Under the revised standard, a would-be Eagles incompletion was ruled a touchdown


The Patriots undressed the Ravens coaching staff in the 2014 playoffs with basic eligible/ineligible formationing. The Ravens cried and dropped a dime to the Colts about the Patriots and watching out for football chicanery. The NFL happily took up that cause, cost itself millions, made Tom Brady a martyr, got everyone in the league a look at Jimmy Garoppolo  and still wound up giving Brady the Lombardi. The NFL responded with a formation-based rules change.

Not success.

Bill Polian arm-twisted the Competition Committee to allow touching receivers to be conflated to holding receivers after the Colts lost to the Patriots in the 2003 AFC Championship Game. The Patriots beat the Colts in the 2004 AFC Divisional Round as well. 

Not success. 


From the Tuck Rule  to vaulting the snapper on field goals to empowering officials to stop games and remove players if they perceive a concussive hit happened to adding defensive headsets after Spygate to saber-rattling about illegal line shifts, the rest of the teams are always looking for a chance to say, “From now on . . . ! ”

And they aren’t even embarrassed about it. They actually expect the league to step in and help them beat the Patriots. 

That, to me, was what Kansas City head coach Andy Reid was saying Monday when he wondered why officials didn’t warn Dee Ford that he was offsides.. 

It’s the team’s 22nd game of the season, Ford’s been in the league since 2014, he’s a first-round pick, it’s third-and-10 with 61 seconds left in a game deciding who goes to the Super Bowl and Reid thinks the officials should have intervened and told Ford that his goddamn torso was offsides?

Your Pro Bowl player can’t even get in his stance in the most important game for the franchise in 25 years and the officials hung you out to dry?

And this is from a head coach who is actually one of the good guys. You know that his head-coaching brethren, the GMs and owners all nodded sympathetically and wondered, “Where’s the warning?”

I’m just stunned nobody’s yet mobilized to get “pre-snap warnings” moved from occasional courtesy into a rule. 

Give it time. 

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AFC playoff picture: Here's how Patriots' competition fared in Week 7

AFC playoff picture: Here's how Patriots' competition fared in Week 7

The AFC playoff picture was shook up Sunday despite the New England Patriots not playing their Week 7 game until Monday night.

The Baltimore Ravens earned an impressive road win over the 5-1 Seattle Seahawks to move up to the No. 3 seed in the conference. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for 116 yards and a touchdown in the victory. Baltimore has a Week 8 bye before hosting the Patriots in Week 9 on "Sunday Night Football."

The Indianapolis Colts took over first place in the AFC South with a 30-23 win against the Houston Texans. Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw for 326 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Indy's next four games are against teams with losing records. The Texans dropped from the No. 3 seed to the No. 6 seed as a result of this loss.

The Bills beat the winless Miami Dolphins to keep pressure on the Patriots in the AFC East. Buffalo is 7-2 in its last nine games dating back to last season, and both defeats came against the Patriots. 

The Kansas City Chiefs benefited from the Oakland Raiders losing to the Green Bay Packers. Kansas City's lead in the AFC West is now 1.5 games, but the Chiefs reportedly will be without star quarterback Patrick Mahomes for three to five weeks following the injury he suffered in Thursday night's win versus the Denver Broncos. 

The Chiefs remain the No. 2 seed in the AFC as a result of their Week 3 win over the Ravens. Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker for teams with identical records.

The Los Angeles Chargers' chances of reaching the playoffs took another hit with a 23-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans. Chargers running back Melvin Gordon fumbled at the goal line in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

Here's a look at the updated playoff picture in the AFC after Sunday's Week 7 games.

1. New England Patriots, 6-0 (AFC East leader)
2. Kansas City Chiefs, 5-2 (AFC West leader)
3. Baltimore Ravens, 5-2 (AFC North leader)
4. Indianapolis Colts, 4-2 (AFC South leader)
5. Buffalo Bills, 5-1 (First Wild Card)
6. Houston Texans, 4-3 (Second Wild Card)

In the Hunt
Oakland Raiders, 3-3
Jacksonville Jaguars, 3-4
Tennessee Titans 3-4

Tom E. Curran's Patriots vs. Jets preview>>>

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NFL odds Week 8: Opening spread for Patriots vs. Browns, all other games

NFL odds Week 8: Opening spread for Patriots vs. Browns, all other games

The New England Patriots will host the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium in Week 8 as double-digit betting favorites.

The Patriots have a 19-game home win streak (including the playoffs), and oddsmakers like the defending Super Bowl champions' chances of extending that impressive run.

The early spread for this matchup has the Patriots favored by 10 points. New England is 4-2 against the spread this season.

Here are the opening lines for every Week 8 game, per the Westgate SuperBook:

The Patriots wrap up Week 7 with a matchup against the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football." They entered the weekend as one of two unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL and the only one in the AFC. The Browns are 2-4 and have fallen way short of expectations after entering the 2019 campaign with enormous hype. 

Cleveland will be well rested for this game in New England after having a Week 7 bye. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield suffered a hip injury in his team's Week 6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, but Cleveland head coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters last week that there's "no doubt" the Oklahoma product will play against the Patriots.

Mayfield and the Browns offense will face their toughest test of the season against a Patriots defense that has allowed the fewest points in the league. New England's defense also leads the league in interceptions and takeaways, and it ranks second in sacks.

Report: Broncos 'likely' to trade Emmanuel Sanders>>>

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