Culliver is in the final year of his contract and the 49ers would save $1.4 million by cutting him loose. It may be popular from a public perception standpoint to cut Culliver loose but it sets up legitimate depth problems for the team. San Francisco did sign Chris Cook away from the Vikings during the free agency period. Cook is a skilled player who wore out his welcome in Minnesota, which included a felony assault trial. The 49ers ability to develop players could do wonders for Cook, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll turn into an elite player immediately. If Culliver is cut they could conceivably turn to Carlos Rogers, or a veteran like Champ Bailey, if he has anything left in the tank. Either way a position that was once an area of massive strength for the organization is in serious doubt, putting pressure on the remaining players to step up and perform and giving the team a small margin for error when the inevitable injuries occur.Will Culliver’s issues and the loss of Brown, Rogers and Whitner set the 49ers back in their effort to win a Super Bowl under Jim Harbaugh? Windows off opportunity are small in the NFL and like every team that compiles a large amount of talent the 49ers are suffering free agent defections. The combination of Reid and Whitner was a solid combo at safety last season, but will Bethea and Reid be as strong? Bethea is a talented cover safety but not the physical presence that Whitner was. With or without Culliver the 49ers overall depth at cornerback is not as strong as last season. Toss in a potential career threatening injury to Navorro Bowman and San Francisco could see their defense fall back a peg. Will that impact their ability to compete with Seattle? Time will tell. Chris Michaels.
Up next for Denver: Based on the wild card games the Broncos would likely prefer to face anyone but the Colts who beat them behind in Indianapolis two months ago. The Broncos swept the Chiefs this season, and split with the Chargers. If the Bengals win the Broncos cannot face Cincinnati since they are the third seed in the playoffs. The interesting matchup for Denver could be San Diego. The Broncos lost at home to the Chargers two weeks ago behind a big defensive performance for the Chargers. San Diego did the best job of slowing down the Broncos offense of any team Denver faced this season. If San Diego can manage to defeat the Bengals they’ll travel to Denver. If Cincinnati beats the Chargers the Broncos are guaranteed to play either the Colts or Chiefs. By: Chris Cabrera
Recently the NFL added a third London game to the regular season schedule. The three teams that will host home games at Wembley Stadium in London next year are the Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders. Some experts have pointed out that all three of these organizations are not happy with their current stadium situations. This may or may not be the reason they will be playing games across the pond. It is interesting to note that most season ticket holders are not going to be able to attend a “home” game in another country. Personal seat license (PSL) ticket holders are not going to be happy as this is one of the games of the eight regular season home games in which they will be unable to attend. After shelling over tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a few years it is not a good thing to find out that a home game is going to be played thousands of miles away.
Will Fans Travel?
NFL fans are an interesting bunch. Some teams that have decades of tradition (Steelers, Packers and Bears) have fans that are willing to travel all over the United States to watch their team play. The last time I went to a San Diego Chargers game they played the Green Bay Packers. This was coming off the Super Bowl year so Packers fans were willing to do anything to watch their team play. When we got to the Chargers stadium over 70% of the crowd was pulling for the Packers. This was the first time I attended a professional football game that was so lopsided as it related to the opposing team’s fans. Green Bay fans were willing to fly from Wisconsin to San Diego but I can assure you that San Diego fans would not be willing to fly to Wisconsin.
The Jaguars and Falcons do not have a history of traveling well. Raiders fans are willing to travel but they are on the west coast so their flight to London will be even longer. I think it is safe to say that most season ticket holders are not going to be willing to take a weekend to fly overseas to watch their “home” team play. Even if this was a playoff game, or a very important game, I still do not think fans would make the trip. The economy has improved and attendance has increased in many sports but this does not mean fans are going to shell out $5,000 to make a trip to London to see the boys play.
The only way Americans will be willing to travel overseas for a game is to go to a better climate. If the NFL held games in the Caribbean or a beach tourist destination it would give fans a reason to take a fall or winter vacation. There is a reason the NFL Pro Bowl has been in Hawaii for so many years. That said, London is not going to have moderate temperatures during the fall and winter months. In fact, the temperatures in and around London could be worse than the Northeast. This is something fans will strongly consider before booking their plane tickets and making the game ticket purchases for Wembley Stadium.
How Will PSL Ticket Holders Feel?
A personal seat license ticket holder has worked very hard to get seats in their home stadium. Some of these individuals have spent over $100,000 during the course of the last few decades trying to improve their seats for home games. Having spent a significant amount of time and money to get the ideal seats these fans cannot be happy that they are going to lose one of eight home games. If I were a PSL ticket holder at the home of my favorite stadium and I missed out on a Sunday of fun I would be livid. When I was in college we worked our tails off to make certain we had the seats we wanted on Saturday afternoon. If I worked all offseason to obtain these seats and I lost one of my games that year it would not sit easy with me.
NFL fans continue to come back no matter what. It is interesting to see just how popular the NFL has remained over the last several decades. I am of the age that it is hard to remember a time when the NFL did not own the sports industry. The NFL is so popular that the draft is the biggest event of the spring besides March Madness. Some would argue that major cities that have NFL teams actually gear up for the NFL Draft more than they get ready for March Madness. When looking at the number of searches for NFL related topics it is very obvious that the NFL is the biggest player in town when it comes to professional and semi professional sports.
Although I am an avid college football fan I fully recognize that the NFL is where the big money is. There is a darn good reason companies will pay $3 to $5 million for a 30 second TV commercial during the Super Bowl. Every single year the Super Bowl is the most watched event on TV. On any given Sunday the TV ratings for the best NFL game are through the roof. This means there are huge advertising dollars that go into the TV broadcast and at the stadiums. This brings up another very important point when it comes to teams playing in London. The home stadium will lose a large amount of advertising impressions by not hosting that game. Also, the TV ratings will likely drop because the time difference is so drastic.
The Time Difference for NFL Games
Last week the San Diego Chargers played the Oakland Raiders in a game that started at 11:30 pm est. This was 8:30 on the west coast but I do not live on the west coast. I am a Chargers fan so I stayed up for the first half, which was quite disappointing. I would imagine the ratings for this game were terrible. First of all, it was way too late for anyone that had to work on Monday morning. It was also available only on the NFL Network. To compound the problems the game was terrible from the very beginning. Before I knew it the score was 17-0 Raiders and I had no desire to watch. If this game started at 1:00 or 4:00 my time there is a good chance I would have left it on in the background while I did some work. By the time it was 17-0 it was close to 1:00 am and I had to get to bed to get up Monday morning.
As if this time difference isn’t bad enough, the time difference in London is even worse. The NFL tries to time it out where the game isn’t in the middle of the night but it is very difficult from a logistical standpoint. The NFL wants fans in Wembley Stadium so they cannot make this game kick off in the middle of the night or early in the morning. That would be the prime time in the United States. In all reality, the NFL has to walk a tight rope to figure out when they can air these games to please fans in London and please the TV companies that are making money on ad dollars.
I have always said I would love to live in Hawaii because of the time difference. The great thing about Hawaii is you can wake up on a Saturday or Sunday at 10 and it is around dinner time on the east coast. If you an early riser you can watch all of the college football and still be able to go out to dinner and a movie and not miss anything when it comes to the games. That said, Hawaiians struggle to enjoy lots of football because the best games are on very early in the morning and they are either just rising or still sleeping. This is what is going to happen to fans living in the eastern time zone if the NFL continues to play more games in London. Fans will either have to get up very early to watch the game live or attempt to avoid all score updates because they DVR’d the game while sleeping. This is not an easy thing to do in the age of smartphones and updates all the time. Definitely avoid Twitter if you are looking to avoid finding out the score before you watch the taped version of the game.
Ultimately, most fans are not going to travel to London to watch their team play. I would also imagine diehard fans are not going to be excited to lose one of their eight home games in the fall. These eight weekends are some of the most important weekends of the year for many sports fans so they will be brokenhearted when they know they will have to watch a home game on TV even though they have PSLs.
Norv Turner and the San Diego Chargers head in to week 5 sitting atop the AFC West with a three and one record. The Chargers head to New Orleans to take on the Saints in a game that has a lot more on the line for the Saints then the Chargers. So the Chargers will need to play a balanced game while looking for a big game out of Philip Rivers.
The Chargers have gotten off to a great start with two of the three wins coming against division rivals the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs. In order for a team to win the division they have to take care of the teams in that division. That is exactly what the Chargers has done this season. In week 1 Philip Rivers threw for 231and 1 touchdown while Nate Kaeding added 5 field goals to beat the Raiders 22-14. After taking care of the Tennessee Titans in week 2 38-10 the Chargers would find themselves in a tough match-up against the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons would be to much and the Chargers would fall 27-3. The team would rebound in week 4 defeating the Chiefs as Rivers threw for 209 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception while the running game added 104 yards and a touchdown. The Chargers would benefit from 3 interceptions from Matt Cassel and 3 loss fumbles in the running game. The Chargers beat the Chiefs 37-20 to move to 3-1 on the season.
Now next up is the Saints where Drew Brees has a chance to pass Johnny Unitas in the all-time consecutive games throwing a touchdown record and they also look for the first win of the season. This match-up will be difficult as the NFL has allowed suspended head coach Sean Payton the chance to attend the game due to the record. This will give the Saints some inspiration and will come out ready to play.
In week 6 Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will come to town in a divisional match-up. This game will be an intense game as both teams have goals on winning the division. This is only the first of two between the two teams as they also square off in week 11 as well. The Chargers will need to find a running game down the stretch if they want to win the division while the Broncos look for Peyton to lead them to the post-season.
After week 6 the Chargers get a bye before getting three games against teams they should beat the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These three games will be key as the next four games comes against the Broncos, Ravens, Bengals and Steelers. All four should be tough down to the wire games with the Chargers needing at least 2 wins in those 4. The match-ups against all four of the AFC North teams will be defensive battles with the team winning making the fewer mistakes. The Chargers finish up taking on the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets and the Raiders. This gives them a chance to win the last three games and lock up the division.
The Chargers will need to continue to stop the run and play good defense while Rivers needs to throw touchdowns and not turn the ball over. This is a big season for the Chargers and Turner with high expectations on the line.
The Oakland Raiders will be a different organization beginning with the 2012 NFL season. With the passing of legendary Raider icon Al Davis, the unwavering face of the Oakland franchise since 1963, the 2012 Raiders must now fashion a new identity beyond what Al Davis had formed. The first step of that new identity began when the Raiders traded for quarterback Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals during the middle of the season last year. The Raiders ended up with a record of 8-8, resulting in a three way tie for first place among the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers, barely missing the playoffs due to tie breakers. With a tragic and tumultuous season behind them, what will the brand new Raiders look like in 2012 and beyond?
With a new beginning supporting them, the Oakland Raiders hired new general manager Reggie McKenzie during this past offseason and in return, McKenzie hired on Dennis Allen to fill the head coaching void left over by Hue Jackson. Also, new offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp has begun to implement a new offense to help supplement both Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden.
Carson Palmer was in an intense deadlock between himself and the Cincinnati Bengals around this same time last year with Palmer demanding to be traded or else he was going to “retire” from football. About half way through the season, Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell went down with a season ending injury and the Raiders made the trade for Palmer. With an entire offseason and a new offensive coordinator, Palmer looks to regain his prolific passing and playmaking ability. Palmer will have some promising young wide outs in Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford. Both these wide receivers will look to take over the passing game in the wake of departed Louis Murphy and Kevin Boss. Darren McFadden was on pace to lead the league in rushing until he was injured and sidelined for the remainder of the season. Both McFadden and Palmer essentially have not played a regular NFL game together. With the mix of both McFadden and Palmer healthy and on the same page, the 2012 Raiders offense should be leaps and bounds better than last year.
Oakland’s defense on the other hand is something that needs to be improved. The Raiders lost defensive players Kamerion Wimbley, Lito Sheppard, Stanford Routt, Jarvis Moss, Trevor Scott, John Henderson, Quentin Groves, and Darryl Blackstock this offseason. In response to this mass exodus of defensive players, the Raiders used four of its six draft picks selecting defensive players, none of them looking like an immediate impact player. Oakland did lock up All Pro safety Tyvon Branch to a multi-year deal securing the safety position for awhile. However, the remaining secondary looks to be a prime target for opposing offensive air attacks. Linebacker, Rolando McClain looks to take over the defense but off the field issues could ruin that notion. The one bright spot on the Raiders defense is its defensive line, anchored by defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly.
The Raiders have gone through a transformation moving from a solid organization knowing exactly who they are and where they come from however a new chapter has begun with the passing of legendary icon Al Davis. With so many changes to the franchise and roster, it is hard to tell where the Raiders will end up when the 2012 season concludes. They play in the AFC’s weakest division but the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos have also made significant improvements this offseason however they have done it with fewer turnovers within their respective organizations. The Kansas City Chiefs have a solid team but were plagued with injuries last season. With so many variables and changes to the Raiders, the outlook for this season may not be as bright as the other three teams in its division when all is said and done.