Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 12

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For Weeks 10-15, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it contradicts the above – and the page it comes from, for that matter):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 the first year of flexible scheduling, but are now protected after Week 5; however, they are back to Week 4 this year, probably for the same reason as that first year: NBC hosting a Christmas night game and the other games being moved to Saturday.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. At this writing, no team is completely tapped out at any measure; five teams have five primetime appearances each, but all of them have at least one game that can be flexed out. A list of all teams’ primetime appearances is in my first two posts for Weeks 4 and 5.
  • Last year’s selection of primetime games was weighted rather heavily towards Fox games. This year, the selection currently leans CBS 22, FOX 20 (though if I miscounted one game it may be even). My guess is that the balance will continue to lean towards the AFC. Weeks 10, 12, 13, and 15 are all CBS games, while Weeks 11 and 14 are FOX.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 10 (November 13):

  • Selected game: New England @ NY Jets.

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Selected game: Philadelphia @ NY Giants.

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Selected game: Pittsburgh @ Kansas City.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Selected game: Detroit @ New Orleans.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Selected game: NY Giants @ Dallas.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Baltimore @ San Diego
  • Prospects: At one point this game was the only one of NBC’s tentatives involving two teams above .500. Might the Chargers’ mid-season swoon be putting this one in flex jeopardy? There aren’t many alternatives, but…
  • Protected games: Jets-Eagles (CBS) and Redskins-Giants (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Lions-Raiders and Patriots-Broncos are the only remotely good options, unless you consider the unbeaten Packers beating up on the 4-7 Chiefs “remotely good”.
  • Analysis: However, we’ve seen an increasing polarization of the league to the extent that “remotely good” pretty much means “good” (there is only one team in the league at 5-6, the Bills). Lions-Raiders is 7-4 v. 7-4, but the real attraction may be Patriots-Broncos, at 8-3 v. 6-5 and the prospect of Tom Brady v. Tim Tebow. Compare that to Ravens-Chargers at 8-3 v. 4-7. None of the teams involved are close to maxing out, so a flex is a very real possibility. If the Broncos beat the Vikings – and why wouldn’t they? – there’s almost no reason not to put Patriots-Broncos on Sunday night, which would have been unthinkable a month and a half ago. Unless the Chargers can salvage something by beating the woebegone Jags Monday night…

Week 17 (January 1):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-6)
WEST
47-4
58-3
6-5
NORTH
38-3
67-4
8-3
EAST
28-3
6-5
6-5 6-5
SOUTH
18-3
6-5
6-5
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD ELIMINATED
FROM PLAYOFFS
EAST
47-4
57-4 2-9
6-5
SOUTH
38-3
67-4
7-4
WEST
29-2
7-4
4-7 6-5
NORTH
111-0
2 tied at 7-4
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Cowboys-Giants, Titans-Texans, Lions-Packers, Ravens-Bengals. Bills-Patriots is looking like a dark horse more than anything, and the AFC West and NFC South just don’t pair up right.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 14 Picks

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: NY Giants @ Dallas
  • Prospects: NFC East clash, with both teams moderately good and tied for the division lead entering Week 12. For a flex to have ever been in the realm of possibility, one or both teams would have had to completely collapse and the other game would have to sweep the NFL off its feet. Combine that with a paucity of NFC road games, and no wonder Fox left this week unprotected.
  • Protected games: Patriots-Redskins (CBS).
  • Other possible games mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Texans (8-3)-Bengals (7-4), Raiders (7-4)-Packers (11-0), Saints (7-3)-Titans (6-5), Broncos (6-5)-Bears (7-4).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: The Saints can improve their chances at the expense of one of the tentative teams.
  • Analysis: I said last week that both teams would have to lose for this game to be flexed out, and even then the chances would be extremely slim, and the Cowboys won. Texans-Bengals and Raiders-Packers would be better games even if the Giants won in terms of average record, though Saints-Titans and Broncos-Bears are only equivalent games at best, so they’re out. But Raiders-Packers is lopsided (and the undefeated factor is only likely to come into play Week 17), and even if Texans-Bengals finishes a full game ahead of Cowboys-Giants, they’re not nearly as TV-attractive. Regardless of whether the division lead actually ends up on the line, the tentative game bias wins again. (And keep an eye out there, because there’s a chance the division won’t be settled Week 17 and the return match at the Met winds up on NBC as well!)
  • Final prediction: New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys (no change).

2011 College Football Rankings – Week 12

After a weekend of upsets, it’s official: we’re going to have a one-loss team in the national championship game, and after a few years of relative lack of controversy the BCS mess is back with a vengeance. An LSU-Alabama rematch may be the least bad option at this point; no one, not even the people who put them there, thinks Arkansas is really the third-best team in the country (though they might prove it with an upset win over LSU), and Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, and Stanford are a rather uninspiring crop of one-loss teams. (By the way, who says the Golden Boot is a fake, manufactured rivalry?) If the two best teams happen to come from the same division of the same conference, is that really all that bad? (Okay, so their first meeting was unwatchable, but still!)

A note on the lineal titles: I’ve split the ’09 Boise State title, giving Oregon a continuing claim to the title because of the sanctions against USC.

How the C Ratings are tabulated: First, A Ratings are tabulated by multiplying the total score ratio, which is expressed by (points-opponents’ points)/points, by the winning percentage. Score ratio minimizes the effect of running up the score. Next, B Points for each game are tabulated by (margin of victory)/(opponent’s A rating)+/-1 for wins, and -(margin of loss)/(1-opponent’s A Rating)+/-1 for losses. The “+/-” is + for road games and – for home ones. The total number of B Points is multiplied by the A Rating to get the B Rating. Finally, the C Rating is tabulated by taking one-tenth the difference between the team’s B Rating and the average of his opponents’ B Ratings and taking the result off the B Rating. The three ratings go A, B, C across. Click here to see the complete ratings.

1 LSU SEC #1 ’06 Boise St.
11-0 LW: #3 A Rat: .834 B Rating: 53.397 C Rating: 46.352 AP: 1 BCS: 1
LSU avoided the epidemic of upsets against Ole Miss, but will their luck run out against Arkansas?
2 Alabama SEC #2 BCS Title
10-1 LW: #4 A Rat: .775 B Rating: 49.410 C Rating: 42.817 AP: 2 BCS: 2
Bama might as well have taken a week off against I-AA Georgia Southern, but now they’re in the catbird seat. But Auburn wants to recover something of their season.
3 Oklahoma State B12 #1 BCS Title
10-1 LW: #1 A Rat: .643 B Rating: 45.045 C Rating: 37.747 AP: 5 BCS: 4
The Cowboys will have a week to stew over the Iowa State loss – but Baylor loss aside, Oklahoma will be a far tougher test.
4 Boise State MWC #1 MWC Title
9-1 LW: #6 A Rat: .675 B Rating: 39.471 C Rating: 33.203 AP: 7 BCS: 7
Boise is looking like they picked a good time to lose, even if they need help from UNLV in two weeks to parlay it into a possible BCS bowl with a loss.
5 Oklahoma B12 #2 Big 12 Title
8-2 LW: #2 A Rat: .580 B Rating: 39.619 C Rating: 33.143 AP: 12 BCS: 9
Disappointing loss, and before facing Oklahoma State they have to take on the team that beat the Cowboys.
6 Oregon P12 #1 Bowl Position
9-2 LW: #5 A Rat: .590 B Rating: 30.983 C Rating: 25.742 AP: 9 BCS: 10
In one fell swoop, Oregon went from a potential national title contender to being a long shot for any BCS bowl. Nothing left to do but take care of their rivals.
7 Houston USA #1 BCS Bowl
11-0 LW: #9 A Rat: .781 B Rating: 33.570 C Rating: 24.027/strong> AP: 8 BCS: 8
Houston is looking like a mortal lock to become the 5th non-BCS team to play in a BCS game – but if they lose to Tulsa they won’t even be playing in the conference title game.
8 Wisconsin B10 #1 Big 10 Title
9-2 LW: #7 A Rat: .647 B Rating: 30.112 C Rating: 22.994 AP: 15 BCS: 16
A rather pedestrian win over Illinois leaves the Badgers open to a slip. Now they play Penn State with the winner headed to Indianapolis.
9 Michigan B10 #2 Bowl Position
9-2 LW: #10 A Rat: .589 B Rating: 23.256 C Rating: 19.192 AP: 17 BCS: 15
The Wolverines just embarassed Nebraska, and while they’re officially not going to the conference title game, they care a whole lot more about the golden opportunity to turn the tables on the Buckeyes.
10 Stanford P12 #2 BCS Title
10-1 LW: #8 A Rat: .681 B Rating: 22.342 C Rating: 16.184 AP: 4 BCS: 6
While no one seriously thinks the Cardinal are worse than V-Tech, you gotta do better than a field-goal victory over a team that struggled to get bowl-eligible, even if they are your rival. No matter, though: the title game awaits.
11 Arkansas SEC #3 SEC Title
9-1 LW: #17 A Rat: .631 B Rating: 17.674 C Rating: 12.505 AP: 3 BCS: 3
While #3 is ridiculous, the Razorbacks are at least trying to live up to it with blowout wins over the likes of Mississippi State. If they can beat LSU, they’d be pretty close to deserving a national title trip.
12 TCU MWC #2 MWC Title
9-2 LW: #16 A Rat: .579 B Rating: 14.502 C Rating: 9.335 AP: 19 BCS: 20
How incredible is it that people have started to whisper about TCU going to a BCS bowl, as a non-BCS conference team, with not one, but two losses?
13 Virginia Tech ACC #1 Prncton/Yale
10-1 LW: #13 A Rat: .604 B Rating: 11.887 C Rating: 8.469 AP: 6 BCS: 5
National title contenders don’t beat 6-5 North Carolina by three points at home, but the ACC has provided enough lack of parity that people are noticing V-Tech’s strong season – and this weekend’s big Commonwealth Cup.
14 Notre Dame   Bowl Position
8-3 LW: #12 A Rat: .462 B Rating: 11.082 C Rating: 7.845 AP: 22 BCS: 22
Pedestrian win over a pedestrian Boston College team, and now Stanford will represent the ultimate challenge for the Golden Domers.
15 Georgia SEC #4 SEC Title
9-2 LW: #14 A Rat: .573 B Rating: 11.539 C Rating: 7.785 AP: 13 BCS: 13
Georgia fans want you to be asking: What if we pulled the upset in the SEC title game? It’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility.
16 Southern Miss USA #2 C-USA Title
9-2 LW: #11 A Rat: .548 B Rating: 11.509 C Rating: 6.287
The Eagles will still make the conference title game with a win over Memphis or a Marshall loss, but can you imagine how huge it would’ve been if it was a ranked unbeaten against a ranked one-loss team?
17 USC P12 #3 ’09 Boise St.
9-2 LW: #20 A Rat: .525 B Rating: 8.106 C Rating: 4.680 AP: 10 SBNBlog: 13
Not only USC, but the Pac-12 is cursing themselves for the Trojans being bowl-ineligible. If USC beats UCLA and Utah and Arizona State lose as well, UCLA will go to the conference title game despite probably not bowling if they lose.
18 South Carolina SEC #5 Bowl Position
9-2 LW: #19 A Rat: .540 B Rating: 7.159 C Rating: 4.548 AP: 14 BCS: 12
When’s the last time the Palmetto State rivalry was this important? It would’ve been even more important had Clemson not just lost.
19 Penn State B10 #3 Big 10 Title
9-2 LW: #23 A Rat: .536 B Rating: 6.736 C Rating: 4.473 AP: 20 BCS: 19
Penn State bounces back and gets their first win without Joe Paterno. But the clash with Wisconsin is humongous.
20 Texas A&M B12 #3 Bowl Position
6-5 LW: #21 A Rat: .346 B Rating: 6.506 C Rating: 3.470
A&M just took another heartbreaking loss to a good team to close out their run in the Big 12 – and possibly, the Lone Star Showdown for good.
21 Toledo MAC #1 MAC Title
7-4 LW: #24 A Rat: .389 B Rating: 5.883 C Rating: 3.027
The Rockets just became the biggest Eastern Michigan fans in the country.
22 Rutgers BST #1 Big East Title
8-3 LW: #26 A Rat: .464 B Rating: 4.482 C Rating: 2.443
Hey, the alleged BCS conference Big East actually mustered a Top 25 team again! Now if South Florida can beat Louisville, we’ll get a Big East BCS representative that isn’t barely bowl-eligible and is actually pretty good!
23 Florida State ACC #2 Bowl Position
7-4 LW: #22 A Rat: .441 B Rating: 4.723 C Rating: 1.716
One-point loss against a team that could make the conference title game means only a one-spot drop. Now without Meyer or Tebow, the Seminoles have a chance to best rival Florida for once.
24 Nebraska B10 #4 Bowl Position
8-3 LW: #18 A Rat: .448 B Rating: 3.091 C Rating: 1.261 AP: 22 BCS: 21
Tim-ber! Catastrophic loss to Michigan sends the Huskers tumbling. Only bowl position matters now, and a potential new rivalry with Iowa could be pivotal in determining that.
25 Clemson ACC #2 ACC Title
9-2 LW: #15 A Rat: .496 B Rating: 2.525 C Rating: -.311 AP: 18 BCS: 17
Of course, Nebraska’s loss is nothing compared to Clemson getting blown out by an NC State team needing the win to become bowl-eligible. Might the Cocks see blood in the water?


2010 TCU Title: #46 Baylor (7-3), .387, -9.526, -10.106

Off Top 25: #27 Missouri (was #25)

Watch List: #26 Miami (FL)

Other Positive B Ratings: #28 Arizona State, #29 Utah State*, #30 Tulsa, #32 Iowa*, #33 Michigan State, #35 Ohio, #36 Georgia Tech*, #38 Northern Illinois, #39 Arkansas State* (*=Newly Positive)

No Longer Positive: #27 Missouri

Bottom 10: #111 Indiana, #112 UNLV, #113 UAB, #114 Colorado, #115 Kansas, #116 Florida Atlantic, #117 Memphis, #118 Tulane, #119 Akron, #120 New Mexico

Best game of week: Arkansas @ LSU, 11:30am PT, CBS

NFL Schedule: Week 12

We’re finally out of the byes, and this week we’re getting a Thanksgiving feast featuring two matchups between top-ten teams and… the Cowboys game?

What is the Median Expected Score?

Away MXS Home Time (ET) TV DTV Announcers NTR SIRIUS Notes
Away Home
#1(10-0) 31¼-24¾ #9(7-3) Thu 12:30 PM Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver WW1 92 86 They’re not undefeated, but whoda thought the Lions wouldn’t be putting people to sleep Thanksgiving…
#23(3-7) 18¾-25¾ #10(6-4) Thu 4:15 PM Jim Nantz, Phil Simms WW1 92 86 …or that their game would be more attractive than the Cowboys’ (or that the Lions might be better than the Cowboys)?
#2(9-1) 18¼-21¾ #5(7-3) Thu 8:20 PM Brad Nessler, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan WW1 92 86 And whoda thought the Harbaugh Bowl would include one of the two best teams in the league… and it’s not the Ravens?
#19(5-5) 16¾-25¼ #15(5-5) Sun 1:00 PM 705 Marv Albert, Rich Gannon CMP 134 86 Two teams trying to keep pace in the wild card and divisional races.
#T27(2-8) 17½-27 #11(6-4) Sun 1:00 PM 707 Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin USA 112 93 Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, and others put up the fantasy stats!
#30(2-8) 24-21 #32(0-10) Sun 1:00 PM 709 Chris Myers, Tim Ryan 91 104 The Colts need two wins to tie only three teams, so this is what passes for a Luck Sweepstakes clash: two teams who don’t need QBs.
#20(4-6) 20-23 #18(5-5) Sun 1:00 PM 710 Dick Stockton, John Lynch WW1 136 92 Two teams with distant playoff hopes slug it out.
#29(3-7) 18¾-21¾ #31(2-8) Sun 1:00 PM 708 Sam Rosen, Chad Pennington 117 138 Got Larry Fitzgerald or Steven Jackson in fantasy? This is the game for you!
#25(4-6) 15-22½ #13(6-4) Sun 1:00 PM 706 Bill Macatee, Steve Tasker 113 85 The Browns should be just what the doctor ordered for the Bengals to recover from the Ravens loss.
#7(7-3) 20½-17 #T27(3-7) Sun 1:00 PM 704 Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots 128 137 Matt Leinart starts his run at the helm against a Jags defense that’s become fantasy stars recently.
#26(3-7) 16½-20½ #22(4-6) Sun 4:05 PM 712 Ron Pitts, Jim Mora 94 139 The Hawks hope to continue gorging on iffy teams to climb back into playoff contention.
#8(7-3) 18½-23 #15(6-4) Sun 4:05 PM 711 Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa CMP 135 86 Caleb Hanie starts his run at the helm against a hungry Raiders defense.
#6(7-3) 26¾-23¾ #17(4-6) Sun 4:15 PM 713 Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf WW1 93 132 Could Vince Young bring the Eagles up to his own “dream team” rhetoric? Good luck against the Pats.
#16(5-5) 17¾-24¼ #21(4-6) Sun 4:15 PM 714 Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts USA 85 92 A month ago, whoda thunk the Broncos would be a better team, in the standings and the rankings, than the Chargers?
#3(7-3) 25¼-14¾ #24(4-6) Sun 8:20 PM Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya WW1 92 93 Welcome to Kansas City, Kyle Orton! Say hello to the Steelers defense.
#12(6-4) 22-29 #4(7-3) Mon 8:30 PM Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski, Suzy Kolber WW1 92 93 The best non-Thanksgiving game of the weekend has two of the league’s best quarterbacks fighting for playoff position.

Simulated Experts’ Fantasy League: Final 3 Weeks Schedule

Here are the numerical assignments for the final three weeks of the regular season:

  1. Swimsuit Issues
  2. Worldwide Leaders
  3. College Busters
  4. The SportsLine
  5. Commissioner’s Favorite
  6. Politically Incorrect
  7. Team Infograph
  8. Inside Information
  9. Indy Tea Party
  10. Ron Burgundy All-Stars
  11. Takedown Glaze
  12. Wisdom of Crowds

Cross-reference here for the exact schedule.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 11

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For Weeks 10-15, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it contradicts the above – and the page it comes from, for that matter):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 the first year of flexible scheduling, but are now protected after Week 5; however, they are back to Week 4 this year, probably for the same reason as that first year: NBC hosting a Christmas night game and the other games being moved to Saturday.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. At this writing, no team is completely tapped out at any measure; five teams have five primetime appearances each, but all of them have at least one game that can be flexed out. A list of all teams’ primetime appearances is in my first two posts for Weeks 4 and 5.
  • Last year’s selection of primetime games was weighted rather heavily towards Fox games. This year, the selection currently leans CBS 22, FOX 20 (though if I miscounted one game it may be even). My guess is that the balance will continue to lean towards the AFC. Weeks 10, 12, 13, and 15 are all CBS games, while Weeks 11 and 14 are FOX.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 10 (November 13):

  • Selected game: New England @ NY Jets.

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Selected game: Philadelphia @ NY Giants.

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Selected game: Pittsburgh @ Kansas City.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Selected game: Detroit @ New Orleans.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: NY Giants @ Dallas
  • Prospects: NFC East clash, with both teams moderately good and both teams tied for the division lead. For a flex to have ever been in the realm of possibility, one or both teams would have had to completely collapse and the other game would have to sweep the NFL off its feet. Combine that with a paucity of NFC road games, and no wonder Fox left this week unprotected.
  • Protected games: Patriots-Redskins (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Texans-Bengals and Raiders-Packers are the only games involving two teams over .500; Saints-Titans and Broncos-Bears are also in the mix. Games involving 4-6 teams (Bills-Chargers and Chiefs-Jets) aren’t worth considering.
  • Analysis: Probably the Giants and Cowboys would have to both lose to get this game flexed out, and even then it’d still be for the NFC East lead. But that would be an all-6-5 game, three of the other games I mentioned involve teams at 7-3 already, and the fourth is 6-4 v. 10-0. Although Texans-Bengals is potentially the best game overall, in terms of not being lopsided, Raiders-Packers may be the game most able to overcome the Cowboys’ and Giants’ TV-friendliness, and Broncos-Bears is up there is well because of the Bears and the Tebow factor. Given the tentative game bias, the TV-friendliness of the teams, and the stakes, I have a hard time seeing this game flexed out, but I can’t quite bring myself to pull the trigger early.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Baltimore @ San Diego
  • Prospects: At one point this game was the only one of NBC’s tentatives involving two teams above .500. Might the Chargers’ mid-season swoon be putting this one in flex jeopardy? Maybe not, given the alternatives.
  • Protected games: Jets-Eagles (CBS) and Redskins-Giants (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Lions-Raiders, Packers-Chiefs, and Patriots-Broncos are the only remotely good options, with Seahawks-Bears starting to emerge as a dark horse, and Lions-Raiders is the only one involving two teams over .500.

Week 17 (January 1):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-6)
WEST
46-4
57-3
5-5
NORTH
37-3
66-4
7-3
EAST
27-3
5-5
2 tied at 5-5 5-5
SOUTH
17-3
5-5
5-5 5-5
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD ALSO IN NFC EAST
CONTENTION
EAST
46-4
56-3 4-6
6-4
SOUTH
37-3
66-3
6-4
WEST
29-1
6-4
4-6 6-4
NORTH
110-0
2 tied at 7-3
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Cowboys-Giants, Titans-Texans, Lions-Packers, Ravens-Bengals, Bucs-Falcons, Bills-Patriots, Chargers-Raiders, Chiefs-Broncos.

Argh, is Elan being sensible when the plot calls for it again?

(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized race against time.)

After a year-and-a-half in the Empire of Blood, it’s looking like we’re finally starting to move back to the main plot.

Tarquin just took a single strip to drop most of the knowledge, for what it’s worth, on Girard that he’s promised during that time, and what it basically amounts to is a lead on the location of Girard’s Gate, but very little on Girard himself, other than that the notion that he might be dead by now is once again very plausible (or, perhaps, that he’s used aliases and illusions to keep himself young). That’s enough information, though, that Elan seems to be bringing the Empire of Blood interlude to a rather abrupt halt to chase after that lead – making me once again wonder if this interlude went on far longer than Rich intended.

On the other hand, while it originally looked like Tarquin’s “employment opportunity” for Roy and Belkar was going to be the pretense for putting them back together with the Order, that now looks like it might be rather hard to pull off – unless Tarquin takes a particularly keen interest in the Order’s journey. Adding credence to that, there’s a lot that doesn’t add up here: Elan decides that the Linear Guild pressed Tarquin’s ex-wife for information, then killed her, but Tarquin had previously indicated that he might have killed her himself… leaving open the possibility that Tarquin has his own knowledge of, and interest in, the Gates, one that doesn’t intersect with the Order’s in a friendly way.

Which is not to say it intersects with that of the Linear Guild in a friendly way either; I could easily see a scenario where Tarquin deduced that Penelope was helping Nale and killed her so she’d stop. In any case, it’s starting to look like the fight we just had between the Order and the Linear Guild may soon look like child’s play…

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 13 Picks

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: None. For the first time ever, the NFL has announced that it is pulling a game out of primetime before the two-week deadline – Colts-Pats has become that sucky. Notably, they haven’t announced a replacement yet, which suggests there are multiple candidates…
  • Protected games: Jets-Redskins (CBS) and Packers-Giants (FOX).
  • Other possible games mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Lions (7-3)-Saints (7-3), Bengals (6-4)-Steelers (7-3), Falcons (6-4)-Texans (7-3), Titans (5-5)-Bills (5-5), Chiefs (4-5)-Bears (7-3), Broncos (5-5)-Chargers (4-6).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: The Chiefs’ hard charge deserves to be respected, but at best, Chiefs-Bears (only a “dark horse” on last week’s Watch) would be 5-5 v. 7-3, more lopsided and with a worse pair of records than at least three other games.
  • Analysis: I felt that Lions-Saints was the heavy favorite and that Bengals-Steelers was the only game with a legitimate shot at passing them, and the Lions won and the Bengals lost. There is no shortage of good options, but the game that doesn’t involve a four-loss team is also probably the most TV-friendly game, which should make this obvious.
  • Final prediction: Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints.
  • Actual selection: Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints (matches prediction).

Why MLS may be making a huge mistake

The Seattle Sounders have become the envy of all of MLS, succeeding beyond anyone’s wildest dreams for an MLS team, with by far the best fanbase in the league. From the day it started, the Sounders have been a truly major-league franchise in Seattle, something pretty much every other MLS team can only dream of. It would seem logical that if the MLS wanted to become a major league, if it wanted to continue its trajectory of growth, that its strategy for growth would be to find out what the Sounders are doing right and replicate it for their other franchises.

But there is one aspect of the Sounders’ success that suggests one thing that MLS has been doing – something that has been the cornerstone of its strategy for the health and growth of the league – may ultimately hold it back.

One thing the Sounders have become known for perhaps above all else in league circles is the experience on game day, which is widely praised as something unlike any other team in the league. Sounders fans pack CenturyLink Field to numbers unheard of for virtually any other franchise and create an atmosphere even the Sounders themselves can have trouble dealing with. The experience of a Sounders home game has been compared to that of a Premier League game. Hearing this, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the Sounders have, by far, the largest attendance in the league, to the extent that the upper bowl of CenturyLink is covered up, not because the tickets there can’t be sold, but to keep the Sounders from having an even larger crowd advantage and create a more intimate atmosphere.

But that massive attendance hides a dirty little secret: there is only one other stadium in the entire league that could even hold as many people as the Sounders regularly fill CenturyLink with, DC United’s RFK Stadium. (Although the Houston Dynamo’s Robertson Stadium comes close at 32,000.)

Over the last decade, MLS has moved all but two of the remaining teams into “soccer-specific stadiums” with capacities around 20,000. The idea behind it seemed simple and innocuous enough: at the league’s founding, teams were struggling to fill cavernous NFL facilities that regularly topped 60,000. Soccer-specific stadiums would give teams a place of their own to call home, rather than piggybacking on the local NFL team, and NFL stadiums wouldn’t need to be contorted to fit a soccer pitch. And by reducing the capacity to something closer to, yet still greater than, what most if not all MLS teams were drawing at the time, it would create a more intimate environment that would draw fans closer to their teams.

But by setting the ideal size of a soccer-specific stadium at around 20,000, MLS was effectively accepting that the popularity of the league would never exceed that level – and that its fans would never reach the number, and the gameday experience would never achieve the quality, seen in Europe. 20,000 isn’t “normal” in the Premier League – that’s the size of its current smallest stadium, and there are only five MLS venues, one of them only barely, with larger capacities than that of Wigan’s home stadium, third-smallest in the EPL. The league’s top teams don’t seem to have a problem playing in stadiums with over 40,000 capacity. The Sounders’ success – at attendance levels that would be only mid-pack in the EPL – should have sent a message to the league that it didn’t have to accept 20,000 as its ceiling. Yet the league continues to build soccer-specific stadiums unabated; next year’s expansion Montreal Impact could never place higher than third or fourth in attendance this year, no matter what they did, thanks to the size of its stadium.

Besides the Sounders, four teams in the league are filling their stadiums to over 95% capacity: the Portland Timbers, the Philadelphia Union, Sporting Kansas City, and the San Jose Earthquakes. Throw out the Earthquakes, who are still the lowest-attendance team in the league despite their stadium-filling prowess thanks to a whopping 10,000-seat stopgap stadium, and the other three teams all have stadiums below 19,000 capacity, yet all place in the top half of the league’s attendance figures. None of the three have any plans to move into new stadiums or renovate their current ones, and in fact all three just moved into new facilities within the last two years. The Timbers and Union are fairly new franchises, but they seem to have strangled their capabilities to become Sounders-caliber franchises in the crib – especially galling in the case of the big-market Union.

Another two teams – the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC – are filling their stadiums to over 90% capacity. Yet despite having the third- and fourth-highest attendances in the league respectively, behind the Sounders and Los Angeles Galaxy, neither has any plans to move or renovate their stadiums either, though that’s not as outrageous as with the other teams. Toronto could conceivably expand BMO Field into the fourth-largest stadium in the league, but that’s nowhere near becoming a reality, and the Whitecaps are one of the three teams in the league that plays in a non-soccer-specific stadium but covers up seats, so expanding BC Place’s capacity, if warranted, would cost nothing.

More to the point, all these teams except Sporting Kansas City are fairly recent additions to the league, and their strategies reflect not only the lessons learned from what the Sounders did right, but what the early days of MLS did wrong. Most of the league’s early franchises still have not recovered from the catastrophic mistakes of MLS’ early days that alienated the existing soccer fanbase without attracting many casual fans. More recent franchises, founded in 2007 and later, have found more success, but will continue to be hamstrung by a stadium capacity limit set for the older, less successful franchises, during a less successful period for the league.

Of all the teams in the entire top half of the league in attendance, only three existed in their current markets prior to 2006: the Galaxy, Sporting KC, and the New York Red Bulls. Two of those teams renamed and, thus, rebranded their teams during that time, and two of those teams are in the top two markets in the country, making it relatively easy to attract a sizeable fanbase without being that major of a team.

Even more to the point, only three franchises founded in 2005 or later, all before 2007, aren’t filling their stadiums to 90% capacity: the Houston Dynamo, Chivas USA, and Real Salt Lake. I can’t stress this enough: every single expansion team since Toronto is filling their stadium to over 90% capacity. The Dynamo, as mentioned earlier, play in 32,000-seat Robertson Stadium, and are mid-pack in attendance (and will be moving to a soccer-specific stadium next year); Chivas plays in the fourth-largest stadium in the league, the Home Depot Center, where they play second-fiddle to the Galaxy; and Real Salt Lake is pretty close at 88%. The clincher? The four worst teams in the league in attendance not only existed prior to 2005, but were around for the league’s inaugural season in 1996.

Many of the league’s older franchises continue to struggle to fill their stadiums, even those in soccer-specific stadiums, but as Sporting KC is showing, that need not be the case forever, even though the Galaxy, despite their success on and off the pitch, are only filling 86% of the Home Depot Center. As the league continues to grow in popularity, their focus should be on continuing to grow all their franchises, including the established ones, to the levels of success the expansion franchises are seeing, to bring their entire league into the future. In this, their mantra should be: every team a Seattle. But if they continue pushing “soccer-specific stadiums”, it will only have the effect of keeping their new franchises in the past.

Also? I can’t believe post-Scratch Lalonde is every bit as much an alcoholic as Rose’s mom was. And she’s 15.

(From MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck. Click for full-sized uranium shortage.)

The post that went up on Monday night/Tuesday morning was actually pretty much done last Saturday. In the week since then, enough has happened, and enough questions have been raised, that I’m actually rather interested in this act, even if Hussie is likely to resolve quite a few of the mysteries raised in pretty short order, and even if his writing in this act hasn’t quite been up to snuff (even though the clunky writing is intentional, these kids seem even more alien than the trolls).

I’m interested in whether there’s any relationship between the post-Scratch Crockercorp, the pre-Scratch Betty Crocker, and (as seems very likely) the pre-Scratch Condesce. I’m interested in to what extent this universe is lighter than we’re used to, and to what extent it’s ultimately darker, and what its ultimate relationship is to the one we’re used to. I’m even a little interested in who’s targeting Jane and why. I’m certainly interested – and this is not quite so complimentary to Hussie – in just getting to the game, or at least back to the characters we’re already familiar with.

But perhaps most of all, I’m interested in the apparent confirmation and appearance of the long-rumored fan obsession, the “thirteenth troll”.

While ultimately rooted in the zodiac, and speculated on by fans even before our proper introduction to the trolls, the existence of a thirteenth troll became ultimately rather unlikely as time went on and we learned more about the trolls, and right now I’m not sure how it’s even possible. She claims that she herself played the game, but there’s no evidence that it is possible for there to be anything other than an even number of players, indicating that whoever she is, there’s another troll that she played with. That doesn’t even address the question of what session she comes from, or what it was like; it’s very unlikely it’s one that we’re familiar with. Somehow she knows how this session will go, yet claims to have “sync[ed] Up these conversations with yoU on the same day that i begin playing as well”, or in other words, she hasn’t even played herself yet. And then there’s her association with what appears to be an exile’s terminal at the start of the act…

Then there is what she says. She refers to “the legendary octet of mUtUal progenitoriety”, and refers to the titles of the kids we’re familiar with by name, indicating that this final session will consist of not only these four post-Scratch kids, but also the four kids who have already played the game to this point. And beyond that, she also foreshadows the ending of all of Homestuck, claiming that together they will “heal a great breach in paradox space”:

UU: and while the emerald eye of this storm is fixed in the abyss forever
UU: today yoU are poised to escape its scowl once and for all.
UU: by skaias gUiding light, yoU may leave behind its tUrning arms of bright coloUrs and mayhem, and secUre peace for yoUr cosmic progeny for all dUration.

In other words, while “uranianUmbra” is rather dense with the purple prose, the gist of what will happen is clear: this unified session will ultimately break the cycle of misfortune caused by the game and the enemy, and ensure that however many universes may follow, they won’t have to go through what everyone in Homestuck has gone through. It also suggests where she herself may come from: a future session, one after everything both groups of kids achieve in this one has made them legends in every subsequent universe. (Which in turn, suggests whatever everyone does, it won’t do away with the game entirely, and her remark about the “emerald eye” suggests the Green Sun won’t actually get destroyed either.)

I’m a bit surprised, not only that Hussie would include a thirteenth troll, but that he would allow her to drop, in her words, such “casual spoilers” about what is to come in this act. He let so much information slip here that it’s not even that hard to figure out what Act 7, Homestuck‘s epilogue, is likely to consist of. If I were a betting man, I’d bet that much about UU will remain a mystery throughout Act 6, and getting a proper introduction to her, however brief, will be the ultimate goal of Act 7.