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The NFL regular season has ended. Teams are starting their annual fire sales on coaches and coordinators. Some of the early casualties include Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick, Chargers' head coach Brandon Staley, Washington Commanders' head coach Ron Rivera, Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, and others. That's on top of mid-season firings of Raiders' head coach Josh McDaniels and Carolina Panthers' head coach Frank Reich. During the second half of the season, speculation about which coaches would get fired was accompanied by fans arguing over whether these bad teams were "tanking" the season (or should tank the season) to improve their draft picks. The Bears were one of the most talked-about teams in this regard.

I don't pretend to know what goes on behind closed doors in NFL front offices, and no NFL front office has ever (to my knowledge) actually come out and said "we're deliberately tanking this season", so whether or not a team might be tanking is pure speculation. But if you ask me, no professional sports team should ever deliberately tank a season! And this goes double for any team that is operating with a 1st or 2nd year coaching staff or general manager, as is the case for the 2022 and 2023 Chicago Bears.

Many fans speculated (and even wanted) that the Bears would tank in 2022. And after a 1-5 start to the 2023 season, some fans even began to think the Bears were tanking this season too. Reddit was awash with posts insisting that the Bears' should tank in order to get the top 2 picks in the 2024 NFL draft (the Bears own the Panther's first round pick, in addition to their own pick). This would allow the Bears to cut Justin Fields and draft Caleb Williams, as well as get some other top-tier elite talent.

Caleb Williams
Photo credit: John McGillen, Photography LLC.
Many fans expect the Bears to cut or trade Justin Fields in order to draft Caleb Williams.

Personally, I am willing to go on the record as saying that I do not agree with this popular consensus that the Bears should draft Caleb Williams. I am still on the fence about Justin Fields' potential, and would like to see him stay with the team. I would prefer that the Bears trade down to get more draft capital, and focus on taking an elite receiver (Marvin Harrison Jr.), offensive lineman, pass rusher, and/or cornerback. But my feelings on the Bears' specific 2024 strategy is neither here nor there. The main point is that regardless of the Bears' plans with Justin Fields (or any teams' plans with any roster), no team should ever deliberately tank a season.

The thing about tanking is that "tanking" is practically indistinguishable from actually sucking.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2023 10:00 AM

Should NFL refs "let the players play", or not?

in Sports by MegaBearsFan

Philadelphia Eagles fans are apparently upset that the officials in SuperBowl XVII "decided the game" by calling a defensive holding on James Bradberry (Eagles DB) in the final minute of the game. The Chiefs were already well inside field goal range, so there was little question that they would score to break the tie. But this penalty on a 3rd down gave the Chiefs an automatic first down, and which allowed the Chiefs to run out the clock before kicking that game-winning field goal, thus, preventing the Eagles from having an opportunity to respond with their own scoring drive.

Yeah, sure, it always sucks when a penalty makes or breaks a game, but this was a reasonable penalty to call. We can debate all day whether the tug of the jersey was enough to impede the receiver's ability to run his route and get to the ball, or if the ball was even catchable to begin with. Either way, the tug of the jersey was obvious. By letter of the rule, it is a penalty. Case closed.

This slight tug of the jersey gave the Chiefs an automatic first down, to run out the clock on SuperBowl XVII.

While Eagles fans are upset by this one call, I'm more upset with the inconsistent rulings of the NFL officials throughout the entire 2022-2023 playoffs -- specifically where pass interference and defensive holding are concerned.

Earlier in the playoffs, the refs were apparently letting defenders get away with almost anything, supposedly on the grounds of "letting the players play". The refs were letting slide defensive actions that, in the regular season, would have been called as penalties. Even the commentators were talking about how the officiating tends to be a bit more lax in the playoffs because they don't want a penalty deciding the outcome of a playoff game. Even earlier in the SuperBowl, defenders on both sides got away with more flagrant fouls than the one that eventually decided the outcome of the championship. Heck, I don't think there is a single playoff team that doesn't have a grievance against the officiating in the playoffs -- whether they won the game or not.

So here's my question. (Or questions, I guess.) Are defensive holding and pass interference supposed to be penalties or not?!

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Here we go again. The NFL is modifying its overtime rules. Now, both teams will have an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime. Even if the winner of the coin toss scores a touchdown on the opening drive of overtime, they will still have to kick off to the other team, who will now have an opportunity to match with a touchdown of their own, or potentially win the game if they convert a 2-point conversion.

The rule change is in response to the Chiefs' victory over the Bills in last season's AFC Divisional Playoff. If you recall, the 4th quarter of that game was a shootout with 5 lead-changes. The Bills scored what should have been the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left in regulation. The Chiefs then gained 44 yards in 2 plays and kicked a game-tying 49-yard field goal to trigger overtime. The Chiefs received the opening kickoff, drove down the field, and scored a game-winning touchdown against the exhausted Bills' defense. The Bills never got to possess the ball in overtime because, according to the old rule, if the opening drive results in a touchdown, the game ends.

Chiefs beat Bills in overtime Photo Credit: William Purnell/Icon Sportswire
The Chiefs beat the Bills in overtime of the 2022 AFC Divisional Playoff.

Fans have complained about NFL overtime rules for a very long time. The common complaint is that the winner of the game often comes down to a coin toss. But this is only partially true. In fact, in the regular season, the winning percentage of the team receiving the overtime kickoff is only barely more than 50% (86-67-10). This percentage changes to over 90% (10-1) in the playoffs (since the current hybrid sudden death rule went into effect). The disparity probably results from playoff teams being generally better and having better offenses.

So what else can be done to change the rules? I've already expressed my distaste for proposals to implement college overtime rules. I'm not going to rehash that here, since that isn't what the NFL is doing. Other proposals include making overtime an extension of the 4th quarter, which just gives an overwhelming advantage to the team who possesses the ball at the end of the 4th quarter, and removes any pressure for that team to execute in the final minute or so. Or maybe overtime should just be decided by a field goal shootout? Just take the offenses and defenses out of the equation entirely, and let the kickers decide the winner!

Really though, the NFL's new rule still doesn't solve the underlying problem: which is the coin flip. Now, if both offenses score, the game still goes into sudden death, and the team that gets the tie-breaking 3rd possession was still determined by the coin toss. In that Chiefs vs Bills Divisional Playoff game, even if the Bills had scored a TD to match the Chiefs in overtime, the Chiefs would still get the ball next, and it would be sudden death. The Chiefs would probably still win against a tired Bills defense that was completely incapable of stopping them. The game would just go on longer, the defenses would be even more tired, and the risk of injury would be greater. So here's my proposal:

I propose the NFL get rid of coin tosses.

Get rid of the coin toss

I think the NFL should go back to having sudden death overtime, and should get rid of the coin toss entirely. Instead of having a coin toss, the visiting team should just be able to chose whether it wants to receive the opening kickoff, and the home team should be able to chose whether they want to receive the overtime kickoff. This might sound unfair, but the idea here is to remove a coin toss from the equation, and make the opening possession of overtime become a part of a team's home-field advantage.

In regular season games, teams play half their games at home -- or at least they do over a 2-year average, since the NFL added a 17th game to the schedule. This means each team will have a 50/50 change of getting the opening possession in regular season overtimes, so it's fair. In the post-season, the home team is determined by playoff seeding, which is a function of the teams' regular season records. The team with the better regular season record gets homefield in a playoff matchup. This means that getting the opening kickoff in a playoff overtime will be a privilege that the home team will have earned by having the better record (or the seeding tie-breaker).

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Friday, January 7, 2022 05:30 PM

Should the NFL allow teams to force a tie?

in Sports by MegaBearsFan
NFL

This weekend could see an interesting possibility occur in the NFL. It's the final week of the regular season, and the schedule has been set in a way in which the best outcome for both teams playing in the Sunday night game could be to just not play and force a tie. I'm not sure if this has ever happened in NFL history before, or if the NFL has any plans in place to prevent this from happening.

The Colts, Chargers, and Raiders all currently have 9 wins on the season, and are all competing for the last 2 AFC wildcard slots. The Steelers and Ravens sit on the fringe of eligibility with 8 wins each, and the Steelers already have a tie in their record. The schedule is such that the Colts play their game against the Jaguars in the early game, and the Ravens and Steelers also play each other in the early game (10 am for us on the west coast). The Chargers and Raiders game is then scheduled as the Sunday night game, which means that the outcome of both the Colts / Jaguars game and the Steelers / Ravens game will be known to the Chargers and the Raiders before their game kicks off.

Here's the crazy thing: in the unlikely event that the Colts lose their game, and the Ravens beat the Steelers, then the Colts, Ravens, Chargers, and Raiders will all have 9 wins prior to the Chargers and the Raiders playing their game. In that event, the Chargers and Raiders could effectively not play their Sunday night matchup, take the tie, and both would have 9 wins, 7 losses, 1 tie, while the Colts and Ravens would both have 9 wins, and 8 losses. The Chargers and Raiders would both have the same number of wins as the Colts and Ravens, but 1 fewer loss owing to the tie, and both would have better records than the Colts and Ravens. In that scenario, the Chargers and Raiders would both get those last 2 playoff spots, and the Colts and Ravens would be eliminated.

Could we see an NFL game in which both teams kneel the whole game to run out the clock?

If the Steelers win, they would also have the same record as the Chargers and Raiders (9-8-1), and I'm not sure who would win the tie-breakers in that case. It would come down to head-to-head matchups, division record, conference record, and then I think points for and against.

If the Colts and Steelers lose, the Chargers and Raiders could both agree to send out reserve players to simply kneel down every play and punt in order to run out the clock and take a 0-0 tie, and both have a guaranteed playoff berth. If they actually play the game, then the losing team will be eliminated from the playoffs due to tie-breakers, and the Colts or Ravens would get the final spot. We could potentially see a game in which both offenses simply kneel on the ball on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd downs, then punt to a returner who fair catches the punt. That could be the entire game.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020 11:20 AM

Is Chicago's Nick Foles experiment over?

in Sports | Chicago Bears by MegaBearsFan
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When I wrote earlier this year about the Bears benching Mitch Trubisky in favor of Nick Foles, I said that I was surprised that Trubisky had been named the pre-season starter, that I expected Foles would eventually have the starting job, and that I was still surprised that Trubisky was suddenly benched in the middle of the week 3 game against the Falcons. It all seemed so indecisive. Trubisky had supposedly earned the job in training camp, was playing well, had lead a comeback victory in week 1 against the Lions, but was benched after a single mistake.

From my position as an un-informed spectator, the whole thing made no sense.

Then Foles came in and didn't exactly light up the scoreboard either. Foles lead the team to 2 victories, and it almost looked like the decision to change quarterbacks wouldn't hurt the team. Then the Bears' offense started playing far worse with Foles as starting quarterback, dropping the next six games straight. Granted, most of those 6 losses were against solid good offenses, such as the Saints, Packers, and Titans, and the Bears struggled to keep up. But Foles just wasn't looking good, and he wasn't helped by a stagnant run game while Tarik Cohen has been sidelined with injury. By the time of the week 10 matchup against the Vikings, I was starting to expect that a switch back to Trubisky probably should happen.

Mitch Trubisky has re-taken the starting job from Nick Foles. But was it too late to save the season?

That switch waited a few more weeks until the week 12 game against the Lions. The Bears still lost that game with Trubisky playing, but the offense did put up 30 points. The offense has also gone on to score more than 30 points in the Bears' 2 wins since, including a victory over the Vikings this past weekend that moved the Bears up to the top slot for playoff runner-up. The Bears are now 1 game behind the 7-seed Cardinals with 2 games left to play. They're also 2 games behind the Buccaneers and Rams, but only have a tie-breaker with the Buccaneers. Their victory against the Vikings puts them 1 game ahead of the Vikings (who are the only remaining team eligible for a wildcard berth). The Bears basically need to win both their remaining games (including a week 17 rematch against a Packers team that embarassed the Bears at the end of November), and then also hope that the Buccaneers, and/or Cardinals lose their last 2 games.

The most likely path to a playoff birth is if the Cardinals lose both their remaining games, and the Bears win both. That would give the Bears a 1-game lead over the Cardinals. The Cardinals' remaining games are a home matchup against the 49ers (coming off an upset loss to the Cowboys) and a road game against the Rams. Both are tough matchups for the cardinals, but very winnable ones. The 49ers also have nothing left to play for except pride and the satisfaction of maybe playing spoiler to a division rival.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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