I know that football’s hatred of ties is cultural. One of the things that confuses Americans most about test cricket is the prospect that you could play a game of five days and not get a result. However, despite what many of them might claim, life is not all about winners and losers, it is more nuanced than that and so perhaps football can learn a thing or two from sports that do end in a tie.
Sunday’s game between Washgington and the Cincinnati Bengals was not an easy one to watch as a nervous Bengals fan going through a tough season where things are not quite coming together and surrounded by Washington fans. I don’t want to speak to for others, but I find it is hard to chant lustily about who is going to beat dem Bengals when the team has a losing record. Perhaps that says more about how I look at sport, but I really want to get to a game in the States one day as I’d love to experience the real home game atmosphere. We all know that the London games offers a different fan experience as the stadium is full of general NFL fans, with every team being represented so it is not unknown for the nominated away to team to have more fans or win the neutrals over more than the hosting team. However, the game was tense to the end, with some calling it the best of the London games.
The result doesn’t really help either team in the hunt for a playoff berth, but at least they are spared playing next week with both teams on byes. The Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks were not so lucky and both lost this week having played a full fifteen minutes of overtime to come to their own draw in week seven. This did not surprise me as I watched the same happen to the Bengals and Carolina Panthers when they had the last tie back in 2014. In an age where player safety is supposed to be paramount, I’m not sure that forcing players to play up to another 25% of football is really justified, given the effect that it has on the teams in the following week and the risks to tired players. There has been grumbling about the overtime rules for a number of years, so why not simply do away with overtime until the playoffs.
Sometimes a drawer can feel like a win. Michael Atherton’s famous innings where he batted for 643 minutes across two days was career defining and is still talked about as he managed to lead his England team to an unlikely draw against South Africa. Life is complex and so is a sport like American Football. Do we really want to further tinker with rules and watch more games failed to be decided by the boots of kickers? Sometimes a draw can feel slightly lucky, and despite Mike Nugent’s missed extra point that could have won the Bengals’ the game, things could have easily gone the other way as Washington seemed to have the momentum for large stretches of the game and missed their own field goal in extra time.
However, in the regular season there is no real reason to force a result for every game. The NFL schedule is already constructed in such a way to account for the fact that you cannot play a league format where every team plays each other home and away. The separation by wins and losses does not get broken by introducing tied games; it is not so much harder to say three, four, and one instead of three and four, so why not save overtime for the playoffs?
Be it the penalty shootouts of football or hockey, or field goal at the end of overtime, none of these feel that satisfactory so let us have a draw. Neither team were able to force a result, they get punished for not getting the win without quite getting the loss either. Meanwhile, they don’t face an unfair disadvantage the following week, and we learn that sport like life can be complicated and end without a clear winner. It’s time to get on with the next game.
Falcons @ Buccaneers (+3.5)
My plan is to pick home teams for the Thursday night game unless there’s a compelling reason not to based on the points or a much better team being on the road. In this case, the Falcons are coming off a close win against the Green Bay Packers to stand atop the NFC South at 5-3, whilst the Bucs lost in overtime to the Raiders. The fact that this is a divisional game may throw a spanner in the works, but with the topped ranked offence in the league by DVOA and a defence that is showing some progress I’m backing the Falcons to cover in this game against a team that are ranked twenty-one place lower by overall DVOA.
Gee’s Pick: Falcons
Dan’s Pick: Falcons