Taking a look back at the NFL’s Week 6

Five observations on the sixth weekend of the 2017 NFL season:

1. The broken collarbone that sidelined Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers last Sunday in the loss to the Minnesota Vikings was not only a shattering blow for the Packers, but for the NFL.

After losing J.J. Watt and Odell Beckham Jr., the NFL can’t afford to lose more stars, especially since TV ratings are declining. The NFL has to do more to protect quarterbacks.

Anthony Barr took a step before hitting Rodgers after he released the ball. The NFL should make it illegal for defenders to hit quarterbacks after they release the ball.

In a quarterback league, the NFL can’t let defenders have free shots at them.

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Trump’s racist anthem ploy and lies aren’t hurting the NFL

Donald Trump’s attacks on the NFL don’t seem to be affecting the league’s bottom line, but that isn’t stopping him from making an issue of players kneeling to protest racial injustice.

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Monday that he hadn’t looked at Sunday’s attendance figures, but last week showed that there has been no impact.

Lockhart said the figures are “right within range.’’

Then Trump had a press conference Monday afternoon and said his comments are having an impact.

“The people of our country are very angry at the NFL,’’ he said. “All you have to do is look at the ratings, look at the stadiums. You see empty seats where you never saw them before.’’

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Inept NFL office needs to stop blaming others for its anthem mistakes

To quote the famous line from the movie “Cool Hand Luke”: What we have here is a failure to communicate.

At least the NFL apparently didn’t communicate what it meant in the infamous memo from Roger Goodell last Tuesday that gave everyone the impression he had a plan to ask the owners to vote Tuesday, Oct. 17, to mandate the players stand for the national anthem.

The Huffington Post summarized the impression the memo gave with a headline, “NFL kneels to Trump.’’

The impression was that the NFL was caving to Donald Trump, who has called the players to be fired for kneeling during the anthem.

The NFL started to backtrack last Wednesday, when Goodell reached out to NFLPA head De Smith and they issued a joint statement saying Smith and some of the player leaders would also attend the meeting.

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Five things to watch: NFL Week 6

Five things I’ll be looking at in the sixth week of the 2017 NFL season:

1. Can the Steelers get their act together?

The Kansas City Chiefs, the league’s only unbeaten team, will be trying to boost their record to 6-0 against the Steelers. But all the chatter is about the Pittsburgh Steelers and how will they recover from the last two weeks.

First, Antonio Brown had his Gatorade bucket meltdown two weeks ago. So it appeared the Steelers tried to compensate last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They featured Ben Roethlisberger’s passing against the league’s best pass defense and he threw two Pick Sixes to give the Jaguars the win.

Meanwhile, Le’Veon Bell had just 15 carries against the league’s worst run defense. Roethlisberger said after the game that he didn’t know if he had it anymore. But mid-week, he was saying he has his confidence back and questioned the reporters, saying he’s been playing longer than many reporters have been covering the team.

And coach Mike Tomlin defended their game plan. The Steelers did knock the Chiefs out of the playoffs last year, but appear dysfunctional now. Can the Steelers get their heads back into the game against a good Chiefs’ team? We’ll see.

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Trump is crowing, but NFL players still have upper hand in anthem flap

The NFL’s debate over players kneeling for the national anthem in protest of racial inequality has taken a surprising turn.

Believe it or not, the players may have the upper hand now that the NFL seems desperate to end the kneeling. The league apparently feels it is hurting or may start hurting their bottom line.

The NFL has a long history of winning its battles with the players, notably locking them out in 2011 to get a deal that favored the owners and kept commissioner Roger Goodell’s power intact.

But the NFL hasn’t seemed to know how to deal with the protests and made things worse Tuesday when Goodell sent a memo to the owners about next week’s meeting and then published the memo to make it public.

The memo was confusing, but the sentence that caught everyone’s attention was, “We believe everyone should stand for the National Anthem.’’

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Taking a look back at the NFL’s Week 5

Five observations on the fifth weekend of the 2017 NFL season:

1. It was a weekend of close games as 10 of the 14 contests were decided by six points or less, the highest percentage of close games in 25 years.

But close games alone aren’t the answer to the NFL’s TV ratings problems.

Although the New England Patriots-Tampa Bay Bucs got a good rating Thursday night – a 26 percent hike over last year’s San Francisco 49ers-Arizona Cardinals games in Week 5 — the increases didn’t carry over for the rest of the weekend.

The Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys game was the highest rating game of the weekend, but the Sunday night Kansas City Chiefs-Houston Texans game and Monday night’s Minnesota Vikings-Chicago Bears contest were the lowest-rated games of the season in those slots.

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Sadly, Watt’s greatness is being lost to injuries

We may now be left only with the memories of what J.J. Watt once was.

And another reminder that NFL players are always just one play away from losing the skills that made them what they were.

We may remember Watt as a defensive Gale Sayers or Terrell Davis, two Hall of Famers who were like meteors in their careers. They flashed so brightly and then were struck down cruelly by devastating injuries.

For five years, Watt was in a league of his own. Three Defensive MVP awards. Two 20-sack seasons. The Houston Texans star was so versatile he caught three touchdown passes in 2014.

And he became an icon in Houston and across the nation, the kind of star the NFL desperately needs as it copes with declining TV ratings.

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