Officiating’s not the only issue

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The NFL has a problem that continues to get worse. But the problem may not be exactly the one that is often mentioned.

Most criticism is directed at game officials for the increasing number of penalty flags being thrown. But blaming the officials may be incorrectly assigning the blame.

Officials are doing what they are paid to do — enforce the rules. Failure to adhere to the rule book could cost an official his job. Officials make the correct call the vast majority of the time. In most cases, replays support the call.

The problem is not with the officials but with the rules. The competition committee needs to address what’s become a major problem in recent seasons that has negatively impacted fans’ enjoyment of the games.

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The rules need to be liberalized to let the players play.

My solution is rather simple. Allow ‘incidental’ violation of the rules as they are currently written. For example, if an offensive lineman releases his hold on a defensive player within, say, a second or a second and a half, no flag is to be thrown. If receivers and defenders are jostling back and forth — as they do on virtually every play — then no flag is thrown for pass interference in the absence of a blatant attempt to interfere with a catch such as a push, shove or trip as the ball reaches its destination.

Clearly these ideas could be considered radical but could serve as a starting point to maintain the popularity and integrity of the game.

Here’s a look at this week’s games:

Sunday

Chargers +4 at Bears: Both are major disappointments after each won 12 games last season. Each has struggled on offense, scoring less than the NFL average of 22.5 points per game. All five Chargers losses have been by seven points or less with both road losses by a FG.

QB Philip Rivers rates the edge over Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky. It’s asking much for the Bears to lay more than a FG after they’ve allowed 24 and 36 points in their last two games, both losses. CHARGERS

Eagles +1.5 at Bills: Philly’s played the tougher schedule that includes a win at Green Bay. Buffalo’s lone loss was to unbeaten New England and they’ve yet to beat a team currently above .500. They have an outstanding defense that allows 1.0 yard per play less than Philly, including allowing 2.0 fewer yards per pass completion.

Before allowing 21 points to Miami, the Bills had not allowed more than 17 points in any game. The Eagles have held just one foe to under 24 and allowed 38 and 37 in losses the past two weeks at Minnesota and Dallas They now play a third straight road game. BILLS

Cardinals +9.5 at Saints: Both are “play on” teams with each 5-2 ATS. The Saints remain unbeaten with Teddy Bridgewater at QB. Arizona continues to improve under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie QB Kyler Murray. They’ve won three straight, including two on the road. Of New Orleans’ six wins, five have been by seven points or less.

These teams rank 1-2 in avoiding turnovers, losing an average of less than one per game. Saints RB Alvin Kamara and QB Drew Brees may return for this game. Still, the line seems too high. CARDINALS

Panthers +5.5 at 49ers: Carolina’s won and covered four straight with backup QB Kyle Allen. Both teams have strong running games and Top Five defenses that allow under 5.0 yards per play. However both offenses have been turnover prone. The 49ers have played a very weak schedule with their six wins against teams a combined 11-28.

San Francisco has fared better against their two common foes, the Rams and Tampa Bay. The Panthers won at Arizona and Houston plus a London win over Tampa. The Panthers are off their Bye. PANTHERS

Browns +12.5 at Patriots: Cleveland’s off its Bye and the Patriots are off an impressive 33-0 Monday night win at the Jets. In two wins over the Jets the Pats allowed a total of 259 net yards or 2.6 yards per play.

Under coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots have an outstanding record against young QBs. Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield is in that category as he faces the Pats for the first time as does new Browns coach Freddie Kitchens.

Cleveland has extra preparation time but faces challenges on both sides of the ball. New England has scored at least 30 points in six of its seven games, winning each by at least 16 points. Cleveland’s allowed over 30 points in three of four losses. PATRIOTS

Packers -4.5 at Chiefs: Prior to last Thursday’s game when Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes was injured the Westgate’s line had KC favored by 4 with the early money lowering the line to 3.5. Mahomes may be back in as few as three weeks but will miss this rematch of Super Bowl I.  KC has had extra time to work backup QB Matt Moore into the offense. Against Denver, the Chiefs allowed a season-low 71 rushing yards after allowing 180 or more the prior four games.

We’ve seen Carolina and New Orleans enjoy sustained success with backup QBs the past month. Why not here? CHIEFS

Last week: 2-4

Season: 20-22

 

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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