Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Super Bowl XLV: Jets v Falcons?

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NFL/The NFL’s website really is a model in what a modern sports league should offer its fans and among the many handy features is a playoff picture that shows exactly what the situation would be if the season ended now.

As it stands, the top team in the AFC is the 9-2 New York Jets while in the NFC, the Atlanta Falcons are in control with 9-2. Both teams are almost assured a place in the playoffs but have they got what it takes to go all the way to Dallas?

What tends to indicate they have an opportunity is that in a season full of surprises, the Jets and the Falcons each have one elusive ingredient which is absolutely essential to reaching the Super Bowl.

For the Jets, whose last four games have included two overtime wins on the road and a late, late game-winning touchdown at home to Houston, it is their uncanny ability to come out winners when staring defeat in the face that makes them a team that is so hard to bet against.

We can see you sneaking out….

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NFL/I have to wonder about American sports fans sometimes. On Sunday, the New York Jets blew a 16-point lead to trail 27-23 with less than a minute to go and their fans flooded out of the stadium. It was a remarkable lack of faith in a team which had shown in the previous two weeks that it can win late, with victories in overtime.

The fans heading out of the Meadowlands to beat the traffic, missed quarterback Mark Sanchez lead a remarkable drive to victory. Sanchez connected with Braylon Edwards with a great 42-yard pass that brought the Jets to the Houston Texans’ six yard line with 16 seconds on the clock and he then found Santonio Holmes in the left corner of the end zone on the next play to win the game.

Football’s striking north-south divide

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NCAA-FOOTBALL/One of the things you quickly learn about American football is that there are a multitude of differences between the college game and the pro game — different rules, different traditions and a different atmosphere.

There is also one glaring difference that you hear very little reference made to. While college football is dominated by teams from the southern states, the NFL is traditionally won by teams from the industrial North.

Despite Transatlantic flirting, NFL has failed to globalise

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FNFL/licking through the television channels in Budapest, Hungary, last week, it took just five clicks before I stumbled across live coverage of the Minnesota Vikings playing the New England Patriots.

It was somewhat unexpected that a game which has very little following in Eastern Europe would be live on television but I should have known better. That day, the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers had been playing in London and now that ESPN has a channel in the region, it is surely only natural they beam in live coverage of ‘America’s Game’.

Replays don’t always give the answer

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NFL/Sunday’s controversial video review decision in the Steelers-Dolphins game should be a reminder to those who support replays that cameras can’t see everything.

The incident and an explanation can be watched in this video here (or you can read about the controversy here )

Violence and helmets

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NFL/After a rash of brutal hits at the weekend,  including a couple of very nasty helmet-to-helmet clashes, there is plenty of talk about how to eliminate the use of the helmet as a weapon in the game.

Here is an idea – eliminate the helmet.

When I mentioned that suggestion yesterday, a friend remarked that I sounded like one of those NFL fans who watches a soccer game and says that the goal should be made bigger. I take the point (even though I actually I do think the goals in soccer should be made bigger) but there remains an inescapable logic to getting rid of those hard helmets with face guards that offer players enough protection for them to feel ready to fly head first into tackles.

A passing league? No, thanks

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NFL-CHARGERS/I keep hearing the same phrase over and over again when it comes to the NFL. From pundits both paid and voluntary, the same mantra is repeated: “The NFL is a passing league”. In other words, the key to success in the league is having an elite quarterback and a top quality receiver corps, who can rack up the yardage. “Establishing the run” still gets trotted out on a Sunday morning as a key tactic but week after week, the numbers show record-breaking pass yardage.

And those numbers are pretty persuasive. Those diligent chaps at the NFL stat department provided a few after Week five’s action and it is pretty clear we are on course for a record breaking season:

Early NFL results make fools out of pundits

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NFL/If there is one thing that can be said with any certainty after the first quarter of the NFL regular season, it is that nothing is certain in this league, this season.

After four weeks of action, the unfancied Kansas City Chiefs are the only team with a 100 percent record and the results and performances across the league are making fools out of most pundits.

Time to end the NFL’s blackouts?

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A bar in Tampa, Florida is facing possible action from the NFL after reports that it broke the league imposed television ‘blackout’ for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers by broadcasting an internet feed of the match on screens.

The case highlights the increasingly antiquated blackout regulations which have been in place since 1973. The rules ensure that a home game will not be televised locally if it is not sold out 72 hours before kick-off.

Can European soccer learn from NFL on team parity?

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The NFL prides itself on ‘parity’, on the competitive balance between different clubs being close, ensuring that games are tightly-fought contests and that as many teams as possible start the season with some sort of chance of making the Super Bowl.

Looking at the start to this season, with surprise results and with unfancied teams such as Houston and Tampa making bright starts, the balance is very healthy.

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