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Burke: Let's have a talk about tanking in the NFL

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

December 19, 2021 10:31 AM
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The lone Saturday game in the NFL had a lot of playoff implications for both teams. There are only a handful of games like that on Sunday, as there are quite a few games where playoff hopefuls line up against teams that may be looking to improve their draft positions.

Tanking is a buzzworthy topic across all sports. It creates content and can lead to heated discussions, which most major media platforms will welcome with open arms. Personally, I think the notion that teams are tanking is overblown. Some teams are just downright bad. They don’t have quality personnel and are at a disadvantage every time the ball is snapped. That isn’t tanking.

These are professional athletes that are looking for their next contracts and every play can go under the microscope. There is no incentive on an individual player level to tank. An organization may make some suspect decisions or a coach may surrender and punt the ball away, but the players themselves are usually not going to be blatantly giving up.

I think it is scary to assume that a team just won’t show up. If a player doesn’t play with a high level of focus in the NFL, he’s going to be at greater risk of getting himself or a teammate hurt. Bad apples are still going to be out there, but there are 11 guys on the field and one guy here or there may not be enough to dictate the outcome of the game.

It is my belief that the only time we see outright tanking is when a team quits on a coach. In the current landscape of the NFL, now that Urban Meyer has been fired, I don’t see that happening. Handicap the games for what they are. Don’t just assume a team won’t show up because of an ugly record or a big spread. Teams with nothing to lose can sometimes be the most dangerous, especially in the face of inflated lines or additional pressure on the favorite.

Tanking could be more of a factor in the other sports where games aren’t played once a week and there are more chances to not show up, but even then, a lot of it simply has to do with a team not having the talent to compete night in and night out. As far as the NFL goes, I wouldn’t use it as justification for a wager.

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