17 Intriguing Matchups on the 2009 NFL Schedule

The NFL released the 2009 NFL Schedule today, so I’ll do what the 4,000 other websites do and list some of the more juicier matchups of the year. (Although in the sake of being at least a little creative, I’ll list one interesting matchup for each of the 17 weeks on the schedule.)

Before we get to the matchups though, let me state for the record that it’s a complete farce that the Cowboys get six nationally televised games next year despite not making the playoffs last season. I guess “America’s Team” opening a brand new stadium is worth major national exposure…six times a year.

Week 1: Bears at Packers, 8:20PM ET
Jay Cutler’s first game in a Bears uniform will be at Lambeau against the rival Packers on Sunday Night Football. How much will John Madden overplay the, “The Bears finally have a quarterback” angle after every pass Cutler completes?

Week 2: Giants at Cowboys, 8:20PM ET
One of the ‘Boys six nationally televised games, Dallas will open up their new stadium against division rival New York on Sunday Night Football. How much will John Madden overplay the, “Tony Romo and Wade Phillips must win now because Jerry Jones built this brand new stadium and he wants a contender” angle?

Week 3: Falcons at Patriots, 1:00PM ET
The over/under on the number of times Matt Ryan is compared to Tom Brady in this game has officially been set at 800,994,990.

Week 4: Chargers at Steelers, 8:20PM ET
AFC Divisional Round rematch in Pittsburgh – let’s see if the Chargers can hold onto the ball for more than 17 seconds in the third quarter unlike the last time these two teams met.

Week 5: Patriots at Broncos, 4:15PM ET
If Bill Belichick shakes Josh McDaniels’ hand at midfield after this game, I’m calling shenanigans on the behalf of Eric Mangini.

Week 6: Bears at Falcons, 8:20PM ET
Here’s hoping the Bears’ secondary figured out that they have to cover the out pattern when that’s the only route Matt Ryan can look for when there’s 11 seconds on the clock and he needs to get his team into field goal range.

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Hochuli blown call could alter replay rule next season

Thanks to Ed Hochuli’s blown call during a Chargers-Broncos game last season, the NFL is considering implementing a change in the replay system that would allow an official to determine whether or not a fumble or incomplete pass occurred on a given play.

Ed HochuliThe competition committee will propose that when the ball comes loose when a quarterback is throwing, replay can be used to determine if it is a fumble or an incomplete pass. Such a change would resemble the rules alteration made for down-by-contact plays two years ago.

In the final minute of a game at Denver in Week 2, Hochuli ruled a ball that slipped from Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler’s grasp was an incomplete pass instead of a fumble. The ball was recovered by the Chargers and Hochuli later acknowledged his decision was wrong.

It would be a great change to the rule, although I’m sure Ed Hochuli is saying, “WTF? If the NFL had this rule in place last year, then I wouldn’t have been showered with an enormous amount of hate mail…so thanks NFL.”

Did the officials cost the Titans a win?

From Ed Hochuli’s blown call in the Chargers-Broncos game to the conclusion of the San Diego-Pittsburgh contest, officials have made some huge blunders this season in the NFL.

Did they blow yet another call Saturday to aid the Ravens in their victory over the Titans?

Titans-RavensAnother game, another officiating error in the NFL. On a key 3rd and 2 with 2:52 remaining in today’s divisional playoff game between the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans, the play clock clearly expired well before Joe Flacco received the snap, but no delay of game call came from the officials.

The Ravens converted the first down on a long pass to Todd Heap, and ended up kicking the game winning field goal later in the drive.

It’s not uncommon for officials to miss the play clock hitting zero, but when they do the ball is snapped nearly immediately afterwards. On this play, the ball was snapped 1.35 seconds after the play clock expired (yes, I timed it). That might sound trivial, but it’s really, really not. It’s a long time. Watch the replay, it’s preposterous how long the back judge had to make the call.

This doesn’t excuse the Titans for giving up the first down on the 3rd and 2. Nor is it intended to suggest that the Ravens couldn’t have converted on 3rd and 7 after the penalty. The point is, they should have had to.

The game clock on the TV broadcast is not official, but it did look like the Ravens got away with one. Still, the Titans blew the game with their three turnovers, 12 penalties and inability to find the end zone without Chris Johnson. One play/call doesn’t make or break a game for a team.

The race for the AFC West is a filthy mess of a situation

Mike ShanahanThat sound you just heard was the Denver Broncos’ season flushing down the toilet.

Following their embarrassing 30-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills at home on Sunday, the Broncos are now one loss away from losing their grip on the AFC West and sending the San Diego Chargers to the playoffs.

All the Broncos had to do was beat a struggling Bills team at home and they would win the AFC West. All they had to do was beat a quarterback in Trent Edwards that hadn’t played in three weeks and score more points on a team that was ready to get the season over weeks ago. And yet the Broncos couldn’t do it.

I guess a win for the Chargers next week would be justice served. The Ed Hochuli game sent San Diego into a massive tailspin and gave Denver momentum for what should have been a season in which they won the AFC West. But a win for the Chargers would be sweet revenge and with the way things have gone this year in the NFL, would anyone be surprised if San Diego beat Denver and went to the playoffs with an 8-8 record? It would be pathetic but so what? Maybe if Hochuli gets the call right in the first meeting between these two teams, the Chargers wouldn’t have collapsed.

The Chargers have all the momentum now, will be playing at home and have a bad taste in their mouths from their loss to Denver in Week 2. Personally, I think San Diego is a lock to win next week.

Five worst officiating calls of 2008

Ed HochuliYeah, officials have blown a lot this year. But here are just five incidents in 2008 when they blew big time:

1. Washington vs. BYU, Sept. 6: Granted, Washington lost every game this season, but they clearly had a shot to beat BYU in September. The Huskies’ quarterback Jake Locker scored a touchdown with two seconds left to bring his team within one. After diving into the end zone, Locker threw his hands — and the ball — into the air in, what appeared to be, a natural reaction of pure excitement. The ref, however, ruled the ball-flipping and jumping up and down to be “excessive celebration.” As a result, kicker Ryan Perkins was placed an extra 15 yards back, his game-tying extra point was blocked and the Huskies lost.

2. 2008 World Series, Game 3: An error by the first base umpire in Game 3 of the Fall Classic nearly gave the Tampa Bay Rays a series-turning win over the Phillies. It was the top of seventh, Rays at bat. Carl Crawford led off and tapped a well-placed bunt up the first-base line. The Phillies near-46-year-old Jamie Moyer dashed down the line, dove to field the ball and, in one graceful motion, tossed it to Ryan Howard at first, who snatched out of the air bare-handed with his foot on the bag. It looked as though Howard — with ball in hand — stood on the base awaiting Crawford’s arrival. The umpire thought otherwise. Safe! The Rays scored two subsequent runs to come back within one, but the Phillies managed to hang on to their lead for the win and, well, you know the rest.

3. Georgetown vs. Villanova, Feb. 11: Like Holmes’ catch, this one was all about the line. With the score tied at 53 apiece and only a second left on the clock, Georgetown’s Jonathan Wallace sped up the floor, dodging Villanova defenders. Still 70-something feet from the basket, Wallace heard the ref blow the whistle and, thinking there was no way a foul would be called in such a tight situation, Wallace assumed he stepped out of bounds. And when you assume you … I won’t go there. In short, the ref did the unthinkable and called a foul on ‘Nova’s Corey Stokes, gave Wallace two freebies at the line and handed Georgetown a 55-53 win.

4. Heat vs. Clippers, Nov. 29: Sometimes a bad call is any call. With Miami trailing 97-96 and the clock reading 7.6 seconds, Los Angeles’ Baron Davis inbounded the ball after a Miami score. With none of his teammates open, he heaved the ball down court, hoping a Clipper would miraculously take control. Dwayne Wade got it instead. As he grabbed the ball out of mid-air and was falling onto the scorers’ table, Wade threw the ball toward the three lone Heat players near the basket. The ref thought Wade had stepped out of bounds but, after reviewing the play, the steal was upheld. Unfortunately, the breakaway play was cut off, and the Heat was forced to inbounds, which resulted in the Clippers fouling and, ultimately, the Heat losing.

5. Broncos vs. Chargers, Sept. 14: Here you go, Ravens fans. If you thought your call was bad, think about how the Chargers felt on this one. With less than two minutes remaining, the Broncos lined up on the Chargers 1-yard line with the chance to tie the game. As Jay Cutler dropped back, the ball slipped out of his hands and into those of San Diego linebacker Tim Dobbins. As soon as the ball touched the ground, referee Ed Hochuli quickly — too quickly — blew his whistle. Hochuli ruled an incomplete pass, though the replay clearly showed it was a fumble. So, Denver regrouped, scored a touchdown, followed with a two-point conversion and won 39-38. Hochuli later apologized for his error.

You’ll never get a Charger fan to say this but I still feel bad for Hochuli. That guy has been a great ref throughout his career but he’ll always be remembered for this one mistake. Albeit it was a massive mistake, but still…

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