LOS ANGELES: Last Sunday a bunch of football players played football, as they do every Sunday during football season. Last Sunday a bunch of Hollywood celebrities had an awards ceremony, as they do during awards season. Both the NFL and Hollywood have injected politics into their programming. The NFL games are being watched. The ratings for the Emmys crashed to an all-time low. Ratings for NFL games seem to be surviving their self-inflicted wounds.
Even many people boycotting the games will tune in to the Super Bowl. For the last several years, both the NFL and Hollywood have angered some fans by being political. So why are NFL regular-season games being watched while Hollywood awards shows are being ignored?
The NFL has one advantage that Hollywood will never match.
Football is real. Hollywood is fake.
This is not to denigrate Hollywood. It’s just definitional. What celebrities do is called acting. It is make-believe. It is not real. Everything is rehearsed. People are told what to say, and they say it.
Football is unscripted. The players practice their plays in what is called practice. When a Hollywood celebrity fumbles a line, the scene is cut and redone. People only see polished perfection, which is not reality. When a running back fumbles the ball, nobody knows who will recover it.
The awards shows are the fakest of the fakes.
Even worse, they violate the quintessentially American concept of merit. Awards shows are popularity contests. Football games are all based on merit. The action is decided on the field in front of the world to see. The winners win because they are better on that day of competition.
Football players who behave badly are often forgiven because football is a fantastic product. Awards shows are people behaving badly while pushing a bad product. The NFL is obsessed with the integrity of the game. At all costs, the game has to be seen as honest. The awards show may push diversity, but their bigger problem is a perceived lack of integrity in the entire process. Who chooses the winners? What is the criteria?
Were voters bribed, coerced or blackmailed? Did they even watch the shows they voted on? Nobody knows.
This is not to say that the NFL should continue antagonizing a large chunk of its fan base. It is just a reminder that the NFL has been blessed with the rare gift of survival. When the NFL returns to focusing only on football, the fan base will return because fans love football. Very few other entities have a product so powerful that enjoying it is an essential part of life. Hollywood certainly cannot claim itself as essential.
The awards shows are dying, and they may be beyond repair. People can read about the winners on the internet, and even then not believe the results.
So let us celebrate football for the great game it is. Here is the NFL 2020 Week 2 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads by DraftKings Sportsbook and all times Eastern.
Thursday, September 24, 8:20 p.m.
Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars (-2)
— Ryan Fitzpatrick’s beard takes on Gardner Minshew’s mustache. The Jaguars seem to have more fight in them. Jaguars cover.
Sunday, September 27, 1:00 p.m.
San Francisco 49ers (-4) at New York Giants
— One week after losing a bunch of players to injury at Metlife Stadium, the 49ers play another game at Metlife Stadium. Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas are out for the season with torn ACLs. Saquon Barkley also tore his ACL and is out for the season. The 49ers still have other talented players. The Giants do not. 49ers cover.
Washington Deficits at Cleveland Browns (-6)
— The No-Name-Non-Redskin-Riveras were blown out last week, while Cleveland won a game against a worse team. The spread is too high to start trusting the Browns, who always seem to lose just when it looks like they are turning a corner. Upset special, Redskins win outright.
Cincinnati Bengals at Philadelphia Eagles (-6)
— Both of these teams are winless, but going in different directions. Joe Burrow is the real deal. Carson Wentz is regressing. Yet at home, give the Eagles the benefit of the doubt based on experience. Eagles win but fail to cover.
Las Vegas Raiders at New England Patriots (-6.5)
— Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri are gone, but Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick are still here. Nearly two decades later, Gruden is still haunted by the Tuck Rule. The Raiders have the better offense, but neither team is anything to brag about on defense. The Raiders still have an awful secondary. Despite their emotional win over New Orleans, the Raiders are not ready for an angry Bill Belichick coming off of a loss. Patriots win but fail to cover.
Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons (-3)
— The Bears are the worst 2-0 team in some time while the Falcons are finding new horrendous ways to lose. This is the week where the Bears luck runs out and the Falcons decide they would rather win than have Arthur Blank blow up the entire team. Falcons cover.
Los Angeles Rams at Buffalo Bills (-3)
— Buffalo beat a sad Miami team while the Rams went into Philadelphia and beat them up. Jared Goff is playing well and the Rams seem to have their swagger back on defense. Aaron Donald is a wrecking ball. Josh Allen has grown and the Bills have a good defense as well. Buffalo in September is not Buffalo in December. The Rams have more talent. Upset special, Rams win outright.
Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6)
— Houston lost to perhaps the two best teams in the league while the Steelers beat up two winless teams including perhaps the worst team in the league. While record can me misleading, the Steelers find ways to win ugly. Deshaun Watson is not going to be on the losing end of another blowout, but give Ben Roethlisberger the nod at home. Steelers win but fail to cover.
Tennessee Titans at Minnesota Vikings (-2)
— The Vikings are a head-scratching 0-2 team. Mike Zimmer teams run the ball and play defense, but not this year. Kirk Cousins is not playing well. Derrick Henry will run wild if Minnesota does not get back to their defense in reason seasons. Upset special, Titans win outright.
Sunday, September 27, 4:00 p.m.
Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5)
— The Chargers find way to lose. Justin Herbert was pressed into starting his very first game and responded well in a using effort. With Christian McCaffrey out several weeks with an injured ankle, the Panthers will be in a heap of trouble. The Chargers never win easy, and Teddy Bridgewater can play. Chargers win but fail to cover.
New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts (-9)
— The Jets are a dumpster fire. Philip Rivers has not been spectacular, but this is the type of game that will pad his career stats. The Colts are superior in every phase. The spread is high, but the Jets are awful. Colts cover.
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks (-4.5)
— The Cowboys should be 0-2 but were gift-wrapped a victory last week. The Seahawks showed a ton of character in stopping New England one yard from the end zone. Both teams have talent on offense, but Seattle has the much better defense. Russell Wilson is playing like an MVP. Seahawks cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6) at Denver Broncos
— Tom Brady finally got clicking last week, while Drew Lock went down for several weeks with a shoulder injury. Jeff Driskel did not play badly, but it is too much to ask Denver to compete without their top stars on offense and defense. Bruce Arians knows the offense and Vic Fangio knows defense. Denver gave Pittsburgh a valiant fight. Buccaneers win but fail to cover.
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals (-5.5)
— The Lions are awful. The Cardinals are awesome. Kyler Murray is for real. Matthew Stafford is not getting help. After watching what the Cardinals did to Washington, it is ok to jump on the bandwagon. Cardinals cover.
Sunday, September 27, 8:30 p.m.
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
— This is why we watch football. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees meet for perhaps the final time in the regular season. This is already a potential NFC Title Game matchup. The Saints are at home and angry after coming off of a loss in Las Vegas. The Saints have the better defense. Las Vegas gashed them, and Aaron Jones is running well. Indoors in the dome, go with the Pinball Wizard over the Hail Mary King. Saints win but fail to cover.
Monday, September 28, 8:20 p.m.
Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens (-3)
— This is also why we watch football. Last year fans were cheated out this matchup as the AFC Title Game when the Ravens were stunned at home in the divisional round. Despite going 14-2 last year, the Ravens might be better this year. Lamar Jackson is. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are better. Patrick Mahomes is still superhuman, but the Chiefs now have a serious running back in Clyde Edwards-Helaire who actually runs the ball. When Andy Reid is running the ball, you know he has a complete team. Give the edge to the Ravens on defense.
Both quarterbacks, coaches and kickers are phenomenal. COVID pretty much eliminates home-field advantage. The Chiefs are coming off an emotional overtime win, so give the slightest of edges to Baltimore. Ravens cover.