Parity makes real refs even more important
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With the NFL and the referees' union reaching an agreement late last night, the regular refs will be back to work on Sunday. But for most fans, and now the general public, they should have been back a heckuva lot sooner because the need to get calls right has never been stronger.
In case you haven't noticed (I sure did with my win-loss record), the landscape of the NFL is finally where former commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the owners of the league wanted it to be when they implemented free agency and the salary cap 20 years ago. There are no pushovers in the league anymore. Every team has a shot at winning, giving credence to the phrase "Any Given Sunday." It also means very close finishes in almost every game.
Last week alone there were three overtime games; 10 of the 16 games were decided by a touchdown or less, and four games were decided by game-winning field goals. When you also keep in mind that two Hail Mary's were also completed (or only one if you're a Packers fan), then you can understand how one bad call - one missed pass interference call or a bad holding call that puts a team in a long yardage situation - can flat out decide the outcome of a game.
Let's give them credit - the replacements made the majority of their calls right. But it's not the blatant calls that they missed; it was the little things.
Overall, the speed of the game seemed too fast for them and everything was just a blur. They were missing the little tricks that linemen get away with at the line of scrimmage and the grabs that defensive backs try to use to stop the passing game. Those tactics are generallyused by mismatched players to even the playing field, and with players getting away with them, they were having the desired effect.
As for that bad call on the Hail Mary play at the end of the Monday night game, it's not surprising to see the NFL actually defend the refs by saying they got the call right. Over the years, the league has shown an un-wavering support of its referees' calls no matter how bad the mistake was; just look up the "Tuck Rule" and the Bottlegate games from a decade ago as examples. But it was good to see the NFL finally own up to its own miscue and get the regular refs, and the game that we know and love, back on the field.
Cleveland at Baltimore, 8:20 p.m., NFL Network
While both of these defenses are capable of playing well, only the Ravens' offense has proven to be a force so far this season.
Sunday's games Minnesota at Detroit, 1 p.m., FOX
Matthew Stafford got hurt last week, and the Lions' defense hasn't stopped anyone so far this season.
Seattle at St. Louis, 1 p.m., FOX
Neither of these teams will light up the scoreboard, but the Seahawks' defense should be able to stymie the Rams long enough for their offense to make the game-winning play.
San Francisco at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m., FOX
The 49ers have an edge at wide receiver going up against a Jets secondary that won't have Darrelle Revis for the rest of the season.
San Diego at Kansas City, 1 p.m., CBS
Look for the Chargers defense to get back on track after getting stomped by the Falcons last week. The Chiefs obviously need great performances from their offense to win and it's doubtful the Chargers will let that happen.
Tennessee at Houston, 1 p.m., CBS
After facing the Lions' swiss cheese defense last week, the Titans face the Texans' stout defense on Sunday, and I expect Houston to remain undefeated.
Carolina at Atlanta, 1 p.m., FOX
Atlanta's defense should be able to handle any challenge Cam Newton and the Panthers' passing game will provide.
New England at Buffalo, 1 p.m., CBS
Don't look for the Pats to lose three in a row, especially since the Bills offense will be without both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
Cincinnati at Jacksonville, 4:05 p.m., CBS
Maurice Jones-Drew could prove to be a problem for the Bengals' horrible run defense, but the Bengals are on a roll now on offense and should have no problem with the Jaguars defense.
Miami at Arizona, 4:05 p.m., CBS
The Cardinals have been playing dominant defense since the midway point of last season. Look for that to continue against a Dolphins team that is feisty, but still has a rookie starting QB.
Oakland at Denver, 4:05 p.m., CBS
The Raiders' defense ranks near the bottom of the league in pass defense. That's not good going up against Peyton Manning, who I don't expect to have many back-to-back home losses at Mile High.
Washington at Tampa Bay, 4:25 p.m., FOX
Robert Griffin III and the Redskins rely on their running game to power their offense. Going up against a Bucs defense that is giving up less than 50 yards per game on the ground doesn't spell victory for them.
New Orleans at Green Bay, 4:25 p.m., FOX
Okay, someone's gotta win this one. The Saints can't play defense and the Packers are struggling on offense, but I expect the Packers to right the ship at home more than I expect the Saints to somehow get themselves better on the road in Green Bay.
N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Michael Vick is struggling and on the verge of losing his starting job. However, the Giants still have a vey susceptible secondary and the Eagles defense is a lot better than what Eli Manning and company faced in Carolina last week.
Monday night's game Chicago at Dallas, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Considering the Bears' problems picking up the blitz and the improved secondary play of the Cowboys, it should be a long night for Jay Cutler and Chicago.
Open date: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh
- Last Week: 3-13; Overall record: 20-28
- Kemp Callwood is The V.I. Daily News sports editor. His column appears weekly throughout the NFL season.