The Most Useless Poll Is So Overrated

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Welcome back to the Pregame Flyover, the only NFL column that comes with its own sniffing salts. 

Before we get to this week’s slate of games – and tell you which games will Probably be worth watching, which games will be of Doubtful worth, which games will be of Questionable worth, and which game will be of no worth – let’s talk about the stupidity of “most overrated” polls.

Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez are not overrated

According to the dictionary, overrated means (wait for it) “rated too highly.” Now I don’t know about you, but I haven’t encountered a single NFL observer this season who gives respectable ratings to Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. In fact, most people think that Sanchez rates higher than Ryan Leaf and lower than every starter currently plying their trade in the NFL. And yet according to a player poll in Sports Illustrated, Sanchez is the second-most overrated player in the NFL, behind his teammate, Tim Tebow. 

Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow: When will people stop bringing them up in MVP discussions, right? 

Meanwhile, their coach, Rex Ryan, was voted the most overrated coach in the NFL by a player poll in The Sporting News. Yeah, Rex Ryan is overrated. Maybe in his own mind. And maybe on But he’s not exactly in the discussion for coach of the year. He’s not overrated and neither are his quarterbacks. What’s genuinely overrated is the ability of lazy, crap-stirring polls like these to reflect something meaningful and true.

Do you know what Sanchez, Tebow and Ryan share? A zip code – they’re all based in New York City, the media capital of the world. Consequently, they’re overexposed, at least relative to their successes. In turn, NFL players resent them. But instead of conducting a poll that reflects equally on the respondent – “What NFL player or coach do you resent the most?” – publications like Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News will chicken out by asking who is the most overrated. 

“As always in our midseason poll, players were not allowed to name their teammates or head coach for any of their answers,” says The Sporting News

Yeah, we certainly wouldn’t want players to have any first-hand knowledge about any questions they might respond to. Better to have them speculate from afar.

Can’t wait for The Sporting News poll that asks, “Which active NFL player is the most likely to come out of the closet?”

Because, yeah, it basically is of a piece.

We interrupt this broadcast …

By now you’ve probably seen the Chevy Volt commercial in which owners of this hybrid discuss its benefits; in particular, its remarkable gas mileage. The commercial ends with one woman gushing, “I go to the gas station such a small amount, that I forget how to put gas in my car!” This stops me short every time. Chevy Volt: The preferred car of the conscientious and the moronic? Very confusing.

The Weekly Best

Best team in the AFC: Steelers.

Best team in the NFC: Niners.

Best organizations that have never faced off in a Super Bowl: Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

Best reasons you’d elevate them over Houston, Chicago and Atlanta: Pittsburgh’s quarterback and San Francisco’s defense.

Best record in football: But Jason Lisk cogently explains why Atlanta is the worst 8-0 of all time.

Best statistical promotion: “Stats are for losers” (Bill Belichick) has now been replaced by “Stats are for girls” (Hakeem Nicks).

Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out

Just as the NFL puts out an injury report on the likelihood that certain players will suit up each week (Probable, Questionable, Doubtful or Out), we rate the NFL schedule on the likelihood that games will be worth watching. Because let's face it, you can't watch them all.

Probable Game of the Week: Texans at Bears.

Let’s face it, this is not a good week of NFL matchups. Houston vs. Chicago is the only game in which both teams are above .500. Given that, matchups between .500-huggers like San Diego and Tampa Bay will take on added intrigue. Does Greg Schiano still think that crashing a kneel down has a chance of working? If so, this is definitely the week to try it, as Norv Turner and Philip Rivers have not yet added “lost during kneel down” to their impressive oeuvre.

If Houston can go on the road and beat Chicago, many people will be tempted to forget that Houston laid a gigantic egg at home against the Packers earlier in the season. If Houston gets thumped by the Bears, many people will be tempted to write off the Texans as a Super Bowl contender. If Jay Cutler throws a teammate under the bus in his postgame press conference, I win my bet and $100.

(Other game receiving votes: Falcons at Saints.)


Questionable Game of the Week: Cowboys at Eagles.

If you’re a depressed NFL fan and you’re in need of some rose-colored glasses, swing by the, where Bucky Brooks has written a column that attempts to outline why 17 NFL teams are still legitimate Super Bowl contenders – including the Bucs, Chargers, and Cowboys.

Yup, you fans of the 3-5 Cowboys can come back off the ledge. Your team has what it takes to walk off the dais with the Lombardi Trophy in February, Brooks says. 

Let’s consider the what-ifs in his America’s Team write-up. (Emphasis is mine.)

“Why they're legitimate contenders: The Cowboys are in the midst of a disappointing start, BUT they can still make a serious run at the NFC East crown. ALTHOUGH the offense has failed to play at a high level in recent weeks, the eventual return of DeMarco Murray SHOULD instantly reignite the Cowboys' sagging running game, alleviating some of the pressure on Tony Romo in the pocket. IF coach Jason Garrett can further relieve some of the burden on Romo by managing the game better and implementing a more diverse game plan, the Cowboys' offense MIGHT catch fire, sparking a run down the stretch.”

Ah, yes, the burden on Tony Romo. Perhaps if the Cowboys had some sentient creatures at tight end and wide receiver, Romo could lay down his cross for a while. Alas, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are like a bloodless incarnation of the Jets’ skill position players. Soldier on, Romo. 

The Eagles, Saints, Jets, Raiders, Rams and Bengals are also 3-5, but according to Brooks they are not legitimate Super Bowl contenders like Dallas. Know who else is not legitimate in his estimation? The 5-4 Vikings. 

So, yeah, fans of the Chargers, Bucs and Cowboys, you have “legitimate” Super Bowl hopes. But Minnesota fans? Your hopes are illegitimate and pathetic.

Come on, Brooks is blatantly stretching the definition of “legitimate” to conveniently include a popular team like Dallas. If they have legitimate Super Bowl hopes, I shudder to think how many legitimate children Antonio Cromartie has.

(Other games receiving votes: Chargers at Buccaneers; Lions at Vikings; Jets at Seahawks; Rams at Niners.)


Doubtful Game of the Week: Bills at Patriots.

I don’t envy NFL beat reporters, who have to consistently come up with material for articles and columns even when the wellspring of ideas has run dry. Such was obviously the case when Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England asked Tom Brady about his clothes this week. Instead of asking the Patriots quarterback for advice on how to spruce up his own wardrobe – or to ask Brady for an Uggs gift certificate – Curran got testy about Brady’s sartorial selections and said, “Sometimes you dress kind of weird. What’s going on there? Who does that? Is that the whole self … Do you lay that out? Does someone lay that out for you?” 

Now, if he’d been putting a similar question to Brady’s head coach – “Sometimes you dress like a homeless person. What’s going on there? Who purposely cuts off the sleeves to a perfectly good sweatshirt? Did Richard Simmons lay that out for you?” – then we might glean some fresh insights. 

But Tom Brady is married to a supermodel, and we already know why he dresses like he does: Because she makes more money than he does and, yes, of course she lays out his clothes out for him. If she didn’t, he’d go out of the house looking like this.

(Other games receiving votes: Broncos at Panthers; Titans at Dolphins; Raiders at Ravens; Giants at Bengals.)


Out Game of the Week: Chiefs at Steelers.

We have now reached that point in the season where primetime games will feature teams who have lost their will to live. The 2012 Kansas City Chiefs are such a team. This squad is so punch-drunk that head coach Romeo Crennel recently fired himself as defensive coordinator.

Thanks to the schedule, this is the second straight week we’re treated to the Chiefs on national television. Last week on Thursday Night Football they hung tough during the coin flip before losing to the Chargers 31-13. Now we get to watch the Steelers disembowel them on Monday Night Football.

It really is a disservice to NFL fans that the Thursday and Monday night games are set in stone, while the Sunday night games can be flexed out starting next week. There are seven MNF games remaining, and three of them are full-on awful: Chiefs-Steelers, Panthers-Eagles (Nov. 26); and Jets-Titans (Dec. 17). 

The Thursday night schedule isn’t any better. Beyond the Colts-Jaguars game that was watched by 1,300 people in Jacksonville on Thursday night, the four remaining games are Dolphins-Bills (next Thursday); Saints-Falcons (Nov. 29); Broncos-Raiders (Dec. 6); and Bengals-Eagles (Dec. 13). 

The Saints-Falcons game might be intriguing, especially if Atlanta is still undefeated at that point. Otherwise every remaining Thursday night game looks to contain at least one (and perhaps two) teams that will not be making the playoffs.

Meanwhile NBC is sitting on its Sunday night throne, with a slate of games that includes Texans-Bears; Ravens-Steelers; Packers-Giants; and Niners-Patriots. And the dogs on the remaining schedule – most notably, Chargers at Jets on Dec. 23 – can be swapped out for an afternoon game.

And what do we get? We get to watch the Chiefs on Monday Night Football, where the key storyline is whether Kansas City (1-7) will ever hold a lead during the 2012 season. The team’s lone win came against the Saints, in overtime, so they’ve never technically “held” a lead. They’ve never turned it over in their hands; felt its weight; gave it a good massage. Here’s hoping they can coo in the ear of a lead this week. 

Cameron Martin has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic,, Yahoo! Sports, and CBS Sports. Send your ideas to

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