Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Number of Primetime Appearances Per Team for the 2020 Season

I didn’t post this when the schedule came out because it wasn’t clear the season would start on time or would play out the way the schedule had it, but with Week 1 of the NFL season in the books, here are each team’s current number of appearances across the league’s three primetime packages on NBC, ESPN, and Fox/NFL Network for the season, useful for determining what games can be flexed into or out of Sunday night for my Flex Schedule Watch. Recall the appearance limits are six primetime games for three teams, five for everyone else, and four NBC appearances. In the “Flexible” column, a plus sign indicates SNF games in the Week 5-10 early flex period. Note that two games will move to Saturday in each of Weeks 15 and 16, chosen from five pre-selected options each week, increasing the counts for the teams involved; options in Week 15 are BUF/DEN, CAR/GB, HOU/IND, NYJ/LAR, and DET/TEN, while in Week 16 the options are SF/ARI, TB/DET, DEN/LAC, MIA/LV, and CLE/NYJ.

Read moreSunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Number of Primetime Appearances Per Team for the 2020 Season

Handicapping the Thursday Night Football race (again)

Last week, John Ourand reported in SportsBusiness Journal about the state of the NFL’s ongoing contract renegotiations with networks. The league had hoped to have new deals in place before the start of the upcoming season, but the coronavirus pandemic has placed that on hold; however, things seem to be shaping up to mostly continue the status quo. CBS wants to keep its Sunday afternoon package, NBC wants to keep Sunday Night Football, Fox wants to keep its own package and specifically stating it wants to “keep an NFC-focused package”, presumably in contrast to the idea the league has floated in the past of decoupling the Sunday afternoon packages from the conferences. Ourand described ESPN as the wild card, as they have long groused about paying nearly twice as much as the broadcast networks for games but getting a weak package; ESPN argues that retransmission consent has leveled the playing field between broadcast and cable, and if they’re going to spend so much money they should be getting better games, though in contrast to what was reported in 2017, ESPN seems to be focusing more on upgrading its current package than dropping out or even reducing the amount it pays relative to the other networks. As has been previously reported, ESPN also wants to return the NFL to ABC and rejoin the Super Bowl rotation.

However, Ourand also noted that Fox said little about Thursday Night Football and characterized that as the likeliest package to change hands, and that became the biggest headline in other places‘ reporting on Ourand’s article.

Read moreHandicapping the Thursday Night Football race (again)

Monthly check-in time once again!

Unless the NFL season gets completely wiped out, this should be the last monthly check-in post until next year. Even then I do have posts I want to get in before the election, and possibly after. That isn’t even to speak of the poll averages, where as promised, I made some substantial changes to the main landing page, though I’m no longer sure how measuring how prognosticators see each race is going to work. Right now, however, Steven Universe is the furthest thing from my mind, and under the circumstances I’m no longer sure if I’ll ever get back to it again. It hasn’t helped that I’ve gotten caught up in more pointless personal projects that won’t mean anything…

Time for our monthly check-in!

Even by my own recent low standards, I’m shocked by how little has changed since last month. I’m still working on the same project I’ve been working on the past two months, and none of the changes to the Poll Averages spreadsheet I hinted at last month came to fruition. I’d blame coronavirus but the reality is my lifestyle hasn’t changed much; indeed the bigger changes over the last month have been in the wider world, as the Black Lives Matter protests have faded from the news.

Beyond that, the major changes have been in what my plans are for future posts; at this point I’m likely to focus on how to fix what’s wrong with the country before ever getting back to Steven Universe, and I have an idea for a related post I might start working on this month but might not post until closer to the conventions, but who knows if I have the discipline for the amount of work that’s likely to require. I’ve added tabs for state-by-state presidential polls to the poll average spreadsheet and am likely to make significant changes to the main “landing” tab sometime in the next month to month-and-a-half as the general election season really gets going.

Watching from the Sidelines…

As I type this, I’ve just completed the second straight day where I ended up only being able to have one meal due to stores and restaurants being closed for curfew or even just as a precautionary measure, though in today’s case it didn’t help that there was a long line just to get into the local grocery store and I was trying to get there and back in the time it took laundry to finish. We had to stitch together whatever food we had on hand for me to have something resembling dinner.

To think, earlier this year I thought it would be the coronavirus forcing us to stock up on food.

I’ve spent the past month spending most of my free time on what I think is the same personal project I mentioned last month, which I knew going in was ambitious enough it could take an insanely long time to finish but am still plugging away at it. If the current situation continues to escalate, though, I may shift gears to look at what needs to be done to heal the country going forward. Otherwise it’s the same situation I described in last month’s post, and we’ll see how it evolves going forward.

I did make a few changes to the poll averages a while back, incorporating FiveThirtyEight’s updated pollster grades and introducing the Bias-Corrected Average, adjusting each poll by their FiveThirtyEight-measured mean-reverted bias before weighting and averaging them – this measure only applies to general election races between Democrats and Republicans. This provides an added dimension to my general-election presidential average and to other general-election averages going forward. Sometime this month I may also introduce a measure of how competitive the various prognosticators like Cook Political Report expect each race and presidential state to be, to add context to each race I end up having a page for, though I’m not likely to introduce averages for them until after the conventions.

Time for our monthly What I Didn’t Do This Month post!

You know, with the coronavirus pandemic threatening the NFL season, these could extend well into the fall this year?

Seems like what I have to say is something that’s been said a lot too: I had several ideas for posts percolating late in the month – maybe something about Justin Amash running a third party campaign, and I’d have liked to go back to Steven Universe last weekend, a month after it fully ended and a month before the launch of HBO Max – but I’ve been distracted by a complex personal project and obsession that’s not likely to lead to anything. Either of these ideas or more could come to fruition later in May, though, depending on how things develop.

As always, I’m considerably more active on Twitter, where I don’t have to sit down and face the pressure that comes with writing a full-fledged blog post. I also continue to update the poll averages (or, at this point, poll average) I introduced a while back.

Really? This again?

I had a couple of different post ideas I was juggling and if I had stuck to one or the other I might have gotten either one in this month. It didn’t help that I got distracted after completing a key piece of one of those posts earlier tonight, or that the other one is that with the show ending this weekend I’m thinking of getting back to Steven Universe (again) but I’m kind of dreading it for a multitude of reasons. You should definitely expect either or both over the next week, but the whole freakout over coronavirus is starting to dash my hopes for my more lofty goals for the year.

For the record, the poll I launched last year seems to be fairly evenly split but “if you feel the need to” has the current plurality of votes, so I’m going to try to maintain my post-a-month record for the time being.

Introducing Wick’s Weighted Poll Averages

The nerds have taken over the political space over the last decade-plus as the tools that started to revolutionize sports over the previous decade have been brought to bear on politics with wild success. Every major election sees a mind-numbing amount of numerical and mathematical analysis focused on it, and poll averages, forecasts, and other numerical analysis tools abound. For many, poring over polls has become as much if not more of a pastime than following what the candidates themselves are doing.

Perhaps surprisingly, there is no one single “poll average”, and indeed there seem to be as many different poll averages as there are outlets collating the polls. The two most prominent, widely cited poll averages are the ones from RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight, and as the race for the Democratic presidential nomination has progressed I find that neither of them quite fit what I want from them. RealClearPolitics publishes a straight average of whatever polls they record and deem worthy, usually from the most prominent outlets, over whatever period they choose to average them over. The only quality control, if any, is in what polls are included; among the polls included, there is no attempt to control for sample size, methodology, or overall quality, and polls simply age out of the average once they get too old (however “too old” is defined) or the next poll from that pollster comes along.

FiveThirtyEight, on the other hand, weights its poll average based on those factors, but the details of their methodology aren’t public, and it also includes their own model’s assumptions about how the race should develop, meaning in the days immediately after a contest the “average” tries to predict how much of a “bump” candidates will get based on their performance, and states with little recent polling will have their “average” extrapolated from larger national trends. Such extrapolations don’t always incorporate mitigating factors or common sense; for example, the current FiveThirtyEight “average” of South Carolina has Mike Bloomberg in fourth place at 9.5%, despite him not actually being on the ballot there. The copious polling conducted in South Carolina that doesn’t include Bloomberg is merely interpreted as failing to catch whatever bump Bloomberg might have received. The result is so complex with so many mitigating factors that it’s hard to accurately call it a “poll average” at all; it’s more an attempt to capture the state of the race based on local and national trends and past history, and FiveThirtyEight themselves readily admit that it’s not really intended to be much more than the backbone of their election forecasts. It’s useful in its own way, but not really the best way of capturing what the polls are actually saying right now like what RealClearPolitics and most other media outlets try to do. But is there a middle ground between a straight average of the topline numbers and FiveThirtyEight’s complex model?

Read moreIntroducing Wick’s Weighted Poll Averages

An Open Letter to All Concerned Moderates

Last week saw two momentous developments in the history of American democracy. First, there was the widely expected official acquittal of Donald Trump in the ongoing impeachment trial, ensuring that November’s general election will likely be the only chance for Trump to be held to account for everything he’s done. What was not quite widely expected was what happened after the acquittal, which might have given some Republicans pause about it: Trump firing two of the people who testified against him in the House. It put into stark relief how the vote effectively sent the message that Trump can act with impunity, that no matter what terrible things he does – including the numerous things he’d already done, in public, but not been impeached for – the Republican Party will never hold him to account, even when his own defense counsel argues that the President can do anything in his power to get re-elected.

But what else were the Republicans going to do? Anyone voting to even hear witnesses and documents, a mainstay of any previous impeachment trial in American history, let alone to outright convict him, would be tarred as a Republican In Name Only and effectively blackballed from the party establishment; had the Republicans moved in larger numbers to shun and convict him, his supporters would have revolted, declaring that the GOP was doing the bidding of the “deep state” and demanding every last Republican who voted to convict be thrown out and replaced with a true believer actually willing to make America great again. The Trump movement, after all, put Republicans back in control of the White House and helped them retain the Senate in 2016, against the expectations of literally everyone in Washington (arguably even Trump himself) and despite the efforts of those within the party itself to avert it. As much distaste as those in power may have for it, the GOP owes its relevance and power to the Trump movement, and arguably need Trump and his supporters more than Trump needs the rest of the GOP. To attempt to cut their ties with Trump would more likely spell the end of the GOP than of the Trump movement.

All this happened against the backdrop of the Iowa caucuses, and while the mess of the vote count dominated the headlines, what seems clear at the moment is the presence of a virtual dead heat between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg for the lead in the traditional state delegate count. While Buttigieg is becoming the favorite of the moderate wing of the party, able to tout his success in most of the counties that swung Iowa for Trump in 2016, and now seems likely to finish a strong second in today’s New Hampshire primary if not upset Sanders for the win, he still doesn’t quite have the level of across-the-board support to unify it, especially given his weakness with minorities, and the likes of Joe Biden and even Michael Bloomberg remain more popular nationally and have plenty of reason to stay in the race and try to battle him down the stretch; indeed Biden is probably still in better position than Buttigieg, even with the prospect of another disappointing finish in New Hampshire ahead (Bloomberg is weakened by his decision not to contest the early primaries and caucuses and effectively start his run on Super Tuesday, meaning he’s mostly pinning his hopes on a contested convention).

Realistically, Sanders is the only candidate that can truly be called the front-runner at the moment; FiveThirtyEight gives him a better than 50/50 shot at winning a majority of pledged delegates, and none of the other candidates even has a better chance of doing the same than that no one wins a majority of pledged delegates, likely leading to a contested convention that would fracture the Democratic Party and potentially doom the Democrats’ chances against Trump in November. It’s quite possible, nay likely, that Sanders takes New Hampshire and Nevada, winning two or even three of the four early contests, and finishes a strong second in South Carolina to Biden, which could give his campaign an air of inevitability – especially if Sen. Elizabeth Warren finishes no better than third in any of those states, trailing Sanders by significant margins in all of them and badly trailing him, Biden, and maybe even Buttigieg in the delegate count, decides she won’t be able to sufficiently rebound on Super Tuesday, and drops out and endorses Sanders, unifying the “progressive” wing of the party while the moderate camp remains very much fractured, much as Trump took advantage of a fractured Republican establishment in 2016. Even with Democratic primaries all allocating delegates proportionally without the winner-take-all contests Trump took advantage of on the Republican side, Democratic moderates are looking at the very real possibility that the best case for the party is that it nominates a self-proclaimed socialist who isn’t even normally a Democrat outside of his presidential campaigns, alienating the unaffiliated moderate voters that Democrats need to win and all but giving the election to Trump in its own way.

You know, like how Sanders would have tipped the 2016 election to Trump and Democrats needed to run the safe, moderate candidate in Hillary Clinton, and how Trump’s policies and rhetoric would alienate moderates, discredit the Republican Party, and allow Hillary to coast to victory.

Read moreAn Open Letter to All Concerned Moderates

Predicting the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team

Back in September, I created a post sizing up players’ chances to make the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 2010s and what it might mean for their Hall of Fame chances. With the last regular season of the decade in the books and the Super Bowl matchup set, I would expect the team to be named sometime in the next couple of weeks (assuming they’re doing it at all in the face of all the 100th Anniversary celebrations and not saving it for later in the summer and fall for the actual 100th Anniversary; last decade’s team was announced at the Pro Bowl), so it’s a good time to take one last look at the class and make final predictions for who’s likely to make the team in light of my previous post, and who might muscle their way in that I might not expect. Semicolons separate the first team from the second team, and names in italics are considered locks to me.

Read morePredicting the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team