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Will the NFL force the Bengals out of the playoffs?

Since becoming the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell has overseen an effort to play NFL games in China (albeit pre-season) and one regular season game internationally. No, I don't support moving games outside the United States -- even if it is just one game. I don't believe the NFL requires the growth they believe they need. I understand the NFL is a business and the goal of business is to maximize profit. But as some leading theoretical physicist say, the universe can only expand so much before collapsing on itself.

Since becoming the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell has shook consistency like a pitcher wanting "#1" throwing down the gantlet on rule-breakers and image shatterers. Odell Thurman was given two suspensions that didn't reflect the other. First, he was given a four-game suspension for failing a drug test. Then he was given a 12-game suspension for a DUI? It's not like Thurman had a history of arrests while working in the NFL. Sure, it's about substance abuse policies. But at the same time, you mean to tell me if Shawn Merriman were busted for a DUI, he'd be suspended for the season? The NFL is transitioning into a league full of inconsistencies and punishment based on the media's perception of a certain player's moral clarity.

Which brings me to Curly R, who questions the perception that NFL players are thugs, enacted by the media, for NFL players. Curly makes the comparison that non-NFL people are twice as likely to get arrested.

There are 32 NFL teams, and each team is allowed 53 players during the regular season. This works out to 1,696 players. 35 arrests out of the total player universe works out to just 2% of the league.

Curly goes on to explain that there was an "estimated 14,094,186 arrests" (that's a pretty specific estimation) in the United States... last year. "This works out to a rate of 4,761.6 arrests per 100,000 inhabitants, or 4.7% of the population"

This brings me to a New York Times article (provided by Edward from Washington D.C.), that puts the Bengals to task. Reader Edward chimes in and asks an interesting question. Is the NFL and Roger Goodell so fearful of a potential Bengals championship with arrested players that he'd do "everything" he could to ensure their exit?

The article reads like a prosecutor's final summation to a jury.  And it is, in the court of public opinion.  The article gives Lewis's explanations, and does so in a way that makes them look weak and self-serving.  Think how embarrassing it would be, after all this, for Commissioner Goodell to be pictured at his first Super Bowl, handing the Lombardi Trophy to Mike Brown of the Mean Machine.  Imagine the press coverage if the Bengals got to the Super Bowl, two weeks of stories about the various Bengals arrests.  Story after story on it.  Story after story on Chris Henry.  The NFL would not like that to happen.

How can the NFL prevent it?  Refs could make that happen.  Refs read the papers, they watch TV, they know the commissioner is unhappy with the Bengals.  The Bengals have a hard remaining schedule, and some of the games likely will be close.  All the Refs need do is not give the Bengals the benefit of the doubt in any penalty situation or play reviews.  Penalties not called in previous games now would be.  For example, in the game at Pittsburgh in week three, there was a play where Ike Taylor tackled Chris Henry hard out of bounds, and Henry came up jawing at Taylor.  No flag was thrown then; now, I think, after Goodell's phone call, it's 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Or when Henry scored the touchdown, he threw the ball hard towards the stands; no flag then; taunting penalty now.  Already this year, the Bengals lost a close game on an iffy penalty call, that "roughing the QB" during Tampa's winning TD drive.  Coincidentally, that call came in the game immediately after Thurman was suspended for the year.  That was a coincidence, wasn't it?

Do I think Roger Goodell would do something like this? Well, yea, I do. At the same time, I have a hard time believing, with a generation of instant analysis and vast television coverage, that they could do this under everyone's nose. The NFL's image would be severely junked. On the other hand, the Goodell era is already headed that way.