Is this the worst-ever season for Monday Night Football? Our MNF Index says yes

Even though Roger Goodell has insisted on watering down the league’s overall product, Monday Night Football still carries a special cachet. It’s been a rough run for MNF this year, though, with some real stinkers for what’s supposed to be the NFL’s special weekly feature. In fact, according to ALDLAND’s proprietary MNF Index, this has been the worst slate of Monday-night games in NFL history.

Unlike Monday Night Football’s ascendant sibling, Sunday Night Football, or its soon-to-be-terminated cousin, SEC on CBS, all MNF matchups must be chosen well before the season starts. This means that the NFL and its media partners have to make significant, long-range predictions based on minimal data when they are setting all of the pairings for their premier weekly showcase. How well do they do this?

To answer this question, the MNF Index evaluates the quality of Monday Night Football games immediately prior to kickoff to present a quality score illustrating the schedule-makers’ degree of success at presenting enticing games likely to live up to the expectations of a nationally televised, Monday-night event. The MNF Index therefore does not consider any in-game performance data.

The results, shown below through the current week, unambiguously support a clear conclusion: Monday Night Football never has been less worthy of its billing than in 2022. While a look into the deep numbers also reveals that the decline began in 2021, MNF’s quality has fallen off a cliff this season.

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The ALDLAND podcast finally gets around to some non-college football topics. MLB playoffs and NFL are both on the menu this week, as we make our picks for the World Series and recap the first quarter of the NFL season. But don’t worry if college football is your thing, since we obviously can’t go a week without discussing that either.


Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker

tail3ALDLAND’s weekly football review returns after an infamous fall wedding weekend. Bear with us as we attempt to piece together the happenings of the last few days.

College Football


  • After the Game of the Century of the Season of the Week last week in College Station, everybody predicted a scheduling letdown this week. Sports predictions have become (always were?) completely useless and devoid of meaning, but once in a while, the wisdom of the crowd gets it right. Throwing out expired food? No, actually. A soft slate of week-four matchups? For the most part, yes.

The games — That 70s Show:

  • Clemson opened the week of play by getting punchy on Thursday night in a closer-than-it-should-have-been win over North Carolina State. So far as I can tell, the Tigers have played only fellow Carolinians to this point in the season. A check of their schedule confirms this, and the trend will continue this weekend. (EDIT: Except for that little game against UGA in week one.) Clemson 26, North Carolina State 14.
  • A number of teams posted gaudy scores and spreads. Since they already had their fun, they’re all getting grouped in this one paragraph. Ohio State 76, FAMU 0. Louisville 72, FIU 0. Miami 77, Savannah State 7. Washington 56, Idaho State 0. Baylor 70, Louisiana-Monroe 7 (that one’s actually a little surprising). Florida State 54, Bethune-Cook 6. Wisconsin 41, Purdue 10. UCLA 59, New Mexico State 13. Texas A&M 42, SMU 13. And others.

Not Every Team Needs Cheerleaders (via WSJ)

If the Dallas Cowboys don’t win the Super Bowl this year, owner Jerry Jones should turn his ire to the sidelines. No, not head coach Jason Garrett—the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.

Based on recent history, having cheerleaders on the sidelines may be the ultimate championship killer. There are six teams in the NFL that don’t have cheerleaders: the Bears, Browns, Giants, Lions, Packers and Steelers. Those franchises have won four of the last six Super Bowls and have made up half of the Super Bowl participants during that span.

Last year, Green Bay beat Pittsburgh in the first-ever Super Bowl that did not include cheerleaders from either squad. The Steelers won Super Bowls XLIII (2009) and XL (2006), while the Giants stunned the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII (2008). The Bears played in Super Bowl XLI (2007), but not having cheerleaders wasn’t enough to overcome the Indianapolis Colts.

This season is no exception. The Packers and Steelers are once again among the best teams in their respective conferences, while the Lions have clinched a wild-card spot and the Giants remain in playoff contention. (The Browns are in last place, but some teams are simply beyond help.)

Of course, at least one of the six teams that doesn’t have cheerleaders may be wishing it still did. The Bears disbanded their cheerleading squad, the Honey Bears, right after the 1985 season—the last time they won the Super Bowl.

(via WSJ)

Should NCAA sanctions against Jim Tressel affect his ability to work in the NFL?

FOX Sports reports:

The NCAA hit Ohio State with a one-year bowl ban and additional penalties Tuesday for violations that started with eight players taking a total of $14,000 in cash and tattoos in exchange for jerseys, rings and other Buckeyes memorabilia.

Tressel was tipped to the violations in April 2010 but didn’t tell anyone — even after the athletes got caught last December but were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas if they served suspensions to start the 2011 season. Among those in the group: starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor and leading rusher Daniel ”Boom” Herron.

Tressel, who guided Ohio State to its first national championship in 34 years after the 2002 season, was pressured to resign after 10 years with the Buckeyes. The NCAA hit him with a five-year ”show-cause” order which all but prevents him from being a college coach during that time.

”Of great concern to the committee was the fact that the former head coach became aware of these violations and decided not to report the violations,” the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions wrote in its report.

Under a show-cause order, any school that hired Tressel would have to present its case for why it needed to employ him, and would risk severe penalties if he were to commit any further infractions after that.

The NCAA also issued a public reprimand and censure, put the Buckeyes on probation through Dec. 19, 2014, and reduced football scholarships from 85 to 82 through the 2014-15 academic year.

The full article is here.

This fall, Tressel, recently hired as the Indianapolis Colts’ in-game video replay consultant, delayed his first day on the job, apparently to comport with the suspensions Ohio State players were facing.

A five-year show-cause sanction is a different animal, though, and Tressel’s multi-week, self-imposed suspension of sorts is not as apt a comparison as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s suspension of Terrelle Pryor. Back in August, I wrote about the Goodell Doctrine and the Pryor Precedent (and the potential Benson Exception), which apparently reflect NFL policy in the context of the relationship between the NFL and the NCAA and situations in which those facing NCAA sanctions seek to avoid them by fleeing to the NFL.

At this point, I haven’t formed any opinion on how Tressel’s five-year show-cause sanction compares with Bruce Pearl’s three-year show-cause sanction except that there’s a two-year difference between the two and the men coach different sports. Right now, my only question in the Tressel matter is for Goodell: Will the NFL impose a five-year requirement on the Colts and all other teams that they must meet the show-cause burden before hiring Tressel for any job starting in the 2012-2013 season?

Busy Monday

It was a busy weekend, really, and mostly because it was twice as long as most ordinary weekends. Plenty of football, including another Lions Thanksgiving day defeat at the hands of the Packers, injuries, and Ndamukong Suh (more on him later), a dominant performance by LSU over then-number 3 Arkansas that left Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino less than happy with the Tigers’ Les Miles (Clay Travis (who else?) has the video here), Michigan State rolling over Northwestern in a classic trap game, Michigan beating Ohio State for the first time since 2003 (more on that exciting game later), and Vanderbilt destroying Wake Forest to finish the regular season with a bowl-eligible 6-6 record, tripling their win total from last year and besting their win total of the last two seasons combined. In an era when a new coach routinely gets three or four years to “get his guys in” before he has to show success, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin turned a 2-10 team into a 6-6 team in one year, playing in the toughest conference in America, and he’s mad because they were a couple plays away from being 9-3. The Commodores’ loss to UT still stings, but the Vols’ defeat at the hands of lifeless Kentucky will keep the Big Orange out of a bowl this year, and that definitely is a silver lining for Vandy fans.

In Sunday NFL action, I have to mention Tim Tebow, who continued his improbable winning ways, and the Indianapolis Colts, who continued their extremely probable losing ways.

Two pieces of basketball news sure to be disappointing to large segments of the population: first, throwback UNLV took down top-ranked UNC in decisive fashion at the Las Vegas Invitational on Saturday, and the NBA is back, games to start piously on Christmas Day (link to the entirety of pending) (UPDATE: here it is.). (More seriously, the situation in Syracuse seems to have entered a new phase.)

In hockey, the Red Wings took down the pesky Predators and the Capitals fired their coach 22 games into the season.

Oh, and despite their loss in Ann Arbor, Buckeye hearts are aflutter with news of the hiring of Urban Meyer as OSU’s next head football coach. (More on that later, too.)

Midseason Monday

In what was to be the best game of the college football season, LSU marched into Tuscaloosa on Saturday night and beat Alabama on an overtime field goal by Drew Alleman for a 9-6 win. Alabama missed four field goals, including all three they tried in the first quarter, and failed to convert in their first and only overtime possession. Neither team made it into the end zone in this meeting of two of the best defenses in the country. Alabama’s Trent Richardson found some running success, and I thought Alabama played slightly better overall, but it wasn’t enough, as they failed to take advantage of numerous opportunities, including two interceptions of Jarrett Lee. Following Lee’s interceptions, Jordan Jefferson largely took over the quarterback position, possibly raising questions about the starting position going forward. The loss dropped the Tide to third in the BCS rankings, making way for Oklahoma State to take the number two position. Unbeatens Stanford and Boise State round out the top five.

On the pro side, a twist in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, as Miami beat K.C. for their first win of the season, leaving Indianapolis as they only totally defeated team at 0-9. As I’ve said from day one, this Colts team has what it takes to go 0-16. It won’t be easy, of course– their remaining schedule includes two games against Jacksonville and one each against unpredictables Carolina and Tennessee. Despite these hurdles, I’m unwavering in my prediction. Of note on the winning side of things, the 49ers and Bengals each are on minor tears, and the Lions defeated the Bye Week by an unrecorded margin.

At Churchill Downs in Louisville, this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic turned in a very exciting race:

Big Monday

Today really isn’t a big day, and most of the weekend’s football games were duds, but there were a couple notable exceptions.

Saturday day was pretty slow around the college football world, but things picked up Saturday night, when two unbeaten teams, Wisconsin and Oklahoma, put their perfect records to the test and failed to preserve them. In East Lansing, Michigan State made it two in a row against the Badgers. Wisconsin dominated early, but the Spartans seized the momentum and the lead, which they held for most of the game. In typical MSU fashion, though, their attention lapsed and Wisconsin was able to tie the game at 31. With no time on the clock, QB Kirk Cousins threw a Hail Mary (or “Rocket” pass in Dantonio terminology– we always seem to learn the names of his game-winning plays) to the endzone that bounced off B.J. Cunningham’s face and into the waiting hands of Keith Nichol, who muscled it across the goal line for the walk-off score:

That game finished in time to watch Texas Tech complete its victory over Oklahoma, a game the Red Raiders mostly dominated, although the Sooners threatened to make it interesting late, after most of their fans had left. (Vanderbilt wrapped up a homecoming win against Army before both of these games.)

All of which caused me to miss a dominant performance by Albert Pujols in Game 3 of the World Series.

On Sunday, the Lions dropped their second straight game and looked a lot like their old selves. Speaking of which, I saw former Lion QB Dan Orlovsky on the sidelines in Indianapolis during their loss in New Orleans, which made me think that, of the three defeated NFL teams– Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Miami– the Colts may actually be trying to lose all their games. Orlovsky has to be a better option than Curtis Painter. He certainly was a serviceable player for the Lions last year, and Painter is not that. The Rams are suffering from critical injuries at QB and RB, and the Dolphins, who need Andrew Luck most of these three, really just are that bad. But Jim Caldwell’s decision to go with Painter over Orlovsky supports the notion that Indy is tanking this, although they really are pretty bad all on their own too. On the topic of rookie quarterbacks, Cam Newton turned his record-breaking stat parade into a win for Carolina, and Tim Tebow did what Tim Tebow now does, apparently, in his first start for Denver, coming from behind to beat the aforementioned and still hapless Dolphins in Miami.

In hockey, the Washington Capitals dealt the Detroit Red Wings their first loss of the year in a 7-1 Capitals home win.

Monday Monday

Dan Wheldon, a two-time Daytona 500 champion and one-time overall IndyCar champion, died yesterday in a 15-car, 230 mph crash in the early laps of a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He had agreed to start the race from the back of the pack as part of a $5 million contest that would award half the prize to him and half to a fan if he won the race. He was 33 years old.

In the world of college football, ALDLAND’s rivalry games both were exciting, as Michigan State held off late pushes by Michigan to make it four straight over the Wolverines, and Georgia avoided three game-winning opportunities for Vanderbilt, escaping Nashville with a five-point win. (More on the latter game later.) Elsewhere in the top 25, Clemson came from behind to beat Maryland 56-45, and Virginia upset Georgia Tech. And the first set of BCS rankings are out: 1) LSU; 2) Alabama; 3) Oklahoma; 4) Oklahoma State; 5) Boise State.

On Sunday, one streak ended (the 49ers handed the Lions their first loss), while another continues (the Colts fell to 0-6).

The Word Series matchup is set as of last night, and it will start in St. Louis, where the late-surging Cardinals host the Texas Rangers, who finished off the ailing Tigers in a blowout on Saturday night. Although I was hoping for a different ALCS outcome, I knew Detroit likely was outmatched after watching the first game of the series, and when the injuries to starters continued to mount, it seemed only a matter of time before the Tigers ran out of gas, which they did in spectacular fashion on Saturday. Still, they made competitive a series I did not think would be, and they pushed Texas to extra innings in many of the games and otherwise played them close. It leaves to the imagination and the off season what that team could have accomplished had it been healthier.

Big Monday, big week

Weekend rain in formerly drought-ridden Arlington, TX sets up a big Monday for Motor City sports fans, with game two between the Rangers and the seemingly outmatched Tigers preceeding the Lions’ first Monday Night Football appearance in a decade. The way the ALCS has started, it probably is a good thing Detroit fans will have options tonight.

Indianapolis stayed perfect yesterday, losing to the happless Chiefs, and the Jets and Eagles look as bad as ever.

Saturday didn’t feature many close games either, as the Top 25 largely rolled. Northwestern kept Michigan close early in Evanston, but it wasn’t to be for the Mildcats. (More on that game later.) Florida never was in it against LSU, although Tiger fans were prepared for…whatever. Similarly, the Red River Rivalry looked anything like a rivalry, as Oklahoma dominated Texas, and Clemson continues to look anything like Clemson.

In the works this week: a new writer joins the site and weighs in on Michigan/Northwestern; a new music series; and ALDLAND returns in force to SEC country. Thanks for reading.