The Blog Of Football Guesses is a weekly homage to a former Clear Channel iHeartMedia Director of Digital who once informed me, in all seriousness, that "football picks drive web traffic, especially if you toss in a picture of a cheerleader."
There was a time in my life when I was like one of those football fans they depict in beer commercials, the kind of consumer the NFL has long taken for granted, the guy who gives the league his rapt, undivided attention, the fan who'd slop up whatever garbage the NFL put in front of it.
I'm not that person anymore.
I'm still easily one of the NFL's most ardent consumers - subscribing to season tickets, purchasing its pay-TV product, playing fantasy, gambling, and revolving large chunks of my time around professional football.
But I'm more discerning now, and less willing to eat slop if slop is what the NFL is giving us.
And the NFL, in 2017, is giving us slop.
The product is bad, and you don't need to do a deep internet dive to find pieces lamenting as much, explaining why, or even offering arguments that the NFL's on-field problems aren't as bad as you think.
The product is as bad as I think, which I'm comfortable saying because I've watched this sport for most of my life and because I trust my eyes enough to know if what I'm watching is or isn't good.
What I'm watching isn't good. And honestly, hasn't been for a while.
I've watched other sports and decried their lack of watchability. Those of us that love college basketball went through this four years ago. Those of us that love the NBA did the same in the mid 90s, then again about 12 years ago. In those sports, a poor product is a cyclical thing that can be remedied by some rule tweaks, or stars ascending, or an infusion of young talent.
The problem is that with the NFL, I'm not sure that the current issue with its on-field product is cyclical, and I'm skeptical that it can be fixed. The things that have contributed to the decline of the NFL - the restrictions of practice and prep in the current CBA, impatient owners and fans that cycle through coaches and quarterbacks, the conservative, risk-averse nature of coaches and quarterbacks, college football's shift away from systems that best prepare players for the pros, a well of future talent that isn't quite as full as it once was, Roger Goodell - aren't going to change anytime soon.
Which means that what we're watching isn't going away any time soon.
It's not just the quality of play that's a problem. The NFL's structure annually gives us ten to 15 teams that are nearly indistinguishable from one another. Even as the league has let its hair down in allowing for more elaborate touchdown celebrations, the homogenization of the league has sucked the sport of much of its personality and sport's built-in culture that rewards boring means that few players - especially among its quarterbacks - actually stand out.
The league's insistence of shoving itself in our faces 12 months out of the year has affected interest - at least mine - too. The NFL would be well served to go away for a little while when the games aren't happening, just to make my heart grow fonder in its absence. After months of endless offseason hype, I'm exhausted by the time the actual games get here. And then the games aren't that good.
And so, I'm watching a little less.
There are other things. College football - its personalities, its traditions, and its overall vibe - is a bigger deal to me than ever before. There's marginally interesting wild card races and playoff positioning happening in baseball. The NBA is approaching with an earlier opening to the season, coming off arguably its most compelling offseason ever. The local pro soccer team is making a playoff push. College hoops looms.
The NFL, meanwhile, is offering up Rams/49ers tonight. There was a time in my life when I'd have made it a point to watch, even while having no rooting interest. Football was football, and even bad football was still football.
I'm not that way anymore.
Taking a 17-14 record into week three....
LA Rams (-3) over San Francisco.