Vikings Cheerleader Squad in LondonMinnesota Vikings Cheer Squad in London for International Game
It is no secret that the National Football League has been trying to expand into the international market for quite some time. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has a large fan base all around the world and the NFL sees no reason why American Football can't be just as popular outside the US.

There are many hurdles for the NFL to overcome before it can reach a global appeal. For one, most international sports fans consider football to be a game played kicking a round ball into a goal. The whole concept is relatively foreign and probably confusing for these fans.

The other major hurdle is that NFL athletes have voiced considerable objections to playing in the International Market. An NFL franchise in say London would have a very difficult time signing top players to their roster and would probably need to pay a premium. 

Regardless of these hurdles, the NFL is still full speed ahead in their quest to become a globally recognized trademark. This Sunday of Week 4, the Minnesota Vikings will cross the Atlantic to battle the Pittsburgh Steelers in London Town. They even got Gene Simmons on board to sing the National Anthem. The American National Anthem that is!

I have a few questions to ask about this booking: 
    1. Why would the new owner of an Arena Football Franchise (LA Kiss) agree to promote a rival Football League? 

    2. Why in the world would anyone think Gene Simmons has the singing ability to pull off the national anthem? 

    3. How much alcohol is going to be served to the Brits to make all of this entertaining? 

Would love to hear some of your answers in the comments below.  

San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams (+3, 41.5)

Less than eight months removed from a Super Bowl appearance, the San Francisco 49ers are immersed in controversy on and off the field heading into Thursday night's matchup at the St. Louis Rams. San Francisco has dropped two straight, including a stunning 27-7 defeat at home to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. No team played the 49ers tougher last season than the AFC West rival Rams, who battled to a 24-24 tie in San Francisco and beat them in overtime in St. Louis.

The 49ers' issues go beyond back-to-back inept performances - the team is under siege for allowing sack specialist Aldon Smith to play in Sunday's game only two days after he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Smith, who has a history of off-field issues, will enter a rehab facility to receive treatment and will miss Thursday's game. St. Louis is seeking a bounce-back effort after it was demolished by the Dallas Cowboys 31-7.

TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network.

LINE: The 49ers opened as a 3.5-point road favorites and have been bet down to -3. The total opened as high as 43.5 and has been moved down to 41.5.


49ers (-2.5) + Rams (+5.0) + home field (-3.0) = St. Louis +4.5

ABOUT THE 49ERS (1-2, 1-2 ATS): Losing in Seattle in Week 2 wasn't a surprise for San Francisco, but getting bulldozed by the Colts on both sides of the ball sent shock waves through the league. Colin Kaepernick turned in a breathtaking performance by throwing for 412 yards in the season opener but has tossed four interceptions and been limited to a combined 277 yards while leading the 49ers to only 10 points in the past two weeks. The absence of tight end Vernon Davis (hamstring) hurt versus the Colts, while the normally stout defense saw All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis exit Sunday's game with a groin injury.

ABOUT THE RAMS (1-2, 0-3 ATS):
St. Louis posted a gritty comeback victory over Arizona in its season opener but has fallen behind by at least 21 points in back-to-back road losses to Atlanta and Dallas. Quarterback Sam Bradford threw for a season-low 240 yards and was sacked six times against the Cowboys while receiving little help from a ground game that saw starting running back Daryl Richardson play only one snap due to a foot injury. Rookie wideout Tavon Austin, the team's first-round draft pick, has six receptions in each of the first three games but is averaging only 6.6 yards per catch.


* Home team is 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings.
* Under is 5-2 in the last seven meetings in St. Louis..
* 49ers are 1-5 ATS in their last six meetings.
* Rams are 7-1 ATS in their last eight vs. NFC West.


1. Kaepernick made his third career start at St. Louis last season and had a safety and lost a fumble that was returned for a TD.

2. The Rams tied for the lead league with 52 sacks last season, but have only seven through the first three games.

3. LB Smith was second in the league with 19.5 sacks in 2012 and has registered 37 in 35 games.
Sandy Orellana 49ers Body Paint
Breaking Bad Sunday Night Football

The Final season of Breaking Bad has been so popular that many NFL fans are choosing to watch it live and tape their favorite games. This phenomenon is causing the NFL to lose valuable primetime advertising revenue because you can skip the commercials while watching the game in pre-recorded mode. What will you be watching tonight? Breaking Bad or Sunday Night Football?

When NBC launched its Football Night in America package in 2006, it avoided the last Sopranos season but overlapped with Season 4 of The Wire for 13 solid weeks. Back then, most people couldn't record two shows at the same time, and you didn't have to worry about an unexpected moment being spoiled on Twitter — you know, like OMAR AND BROTHER MOUZONE KILLING STRINGER.1 So you simply recorded The Wire and watched the game live. And that became the habit on Sunday nights, at least for me — record the good Sunday-night show (Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Dexter, whatever), avoid it until the football game finished, then throw that episode down like television dessert. It's always more fun to watch sports live, right?

Or so we thought.

Because this final season of Breaking Bad changed the rules. (Don't worry, I won't spoil anything if you aren't caught up yet.) It's the greatest final season of any television show. At least so far. Two different times this season (including last week), the show ended in such an electric way that I didn't even know what to do with myself. After last Sunday's episode, I somehow ended up in my backyard — I don't even know how I got there. And there are three episodes left! I know we'll see other gripping television seasons, but will we ever see one that painstakingly laid out the finish line over the course of a few years, then hit the final turn and broke into a Usain Bolt–like sprint?

An even better sports analogy: It's the one show that may have figured out how to hit a walk-off grand slam. Whether that happens or not, it has already made history: For the first time, I find myself choosing an already-filmed, can-watch-it-whenever-I-want television show over live football. Last week, I watched the first quarter of Cowboys-Giants, then jumped into my DVR library at 6:17 p.m. (Pacific Time) and cranked up the still-recording episode of Breaking Bad. At this point, my kids could have said, "Hey, Dad, we're gonna go outside and play in traffic," and I probably would have grunted, "OK, sounds good."

I spent the next 45 minutes inhaling the show, ripping through commercials and finishing in real time at 7:01. Sixty seconds later, I was standing outside and wondering how I got there. I regained a grip by 7:05, restarted the Cowboys game from my jumping-off point, zipped through the commercials (and there were a million of them) and caught up a little after halftime ended. So, really, I missed ONE live quarter.

Now here's where you say, "I thought you were one of those ADD sports fan weirdos who built an office with multiple TVs so you could watch four games every Sunday. Why wouldn't you watch Breaking Bad while monitoring the Sunday-night game?" Simple answer: I don't want any distractions during these last few episodes. I don't want to look at e-mails or glance at texts, much less divide my attention between a great TV show and a football game. Not happening. You'd do that with forgettable shows like Ray Donovan and MTV's The Challenge, not the walk-off grand slam season of Breaking Bad. Actually, who am I kidding? I wouldn't do that with The Challenge, either.

OK, so what about this Sunday? Why would any self-respecting NFL fan want to miss one live second of a Niners-Seahawks game in 2013? Especially when …

• It's the best rivalry in football right now. (Hold on, I'm pouring out a belated 40 for Colts-Patriots and Ravens-Steelers, our last two joint holders of the Rivalry Championship Belt. At least Colts-Patriots transferred its feudal energy to Broncos-Patriots. That Ravens-Steelers rivalry fell apart faster than the Freebirds vs. the Von Erichs.) Beyond the NFC West title stakes and the added animosity from playing twice (and this season, maybe even three times), consider that these are the league's two most physical teams — especially because the Seahawks take tons of PEDs. (I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Only a FEW of the Seahawks take PEDs.)2

• It's early, and I'm sure this will change 10 million times over the next 16 weeks, but the Niners and Seahawks are two of the NFL's three best teams at this moment. The other: New England. (Just kidding, it's Denver. I just wanted to pretend one last time that the Patriots are still good.)

• They're playing the game in Seattle, which matters because Seattle and Green Bay are the two best NFL stadiums for television viewers (and probably in that order). I love the crazy Seahawks fans. I love seeing the sea of dark green. I love when the cameras vibrate because it's so deafeningly loud. I even love when they incessantly show that goofy noise instrument that tells us how loud it's getting, even though I have no concept of what 112 decibels really means. Oh, it's almost as loud as a Boeing 747 jet? Um … sure! What Seattle's home-field advantage accomplished in that 2011 playoff game against New Orleans — when they won outright as double-digit underdogs and murdered thousands of three-team teasers — was really one for the ages. I love all big football games in Seattle if they have even a half-decent team. But THIS team? And against THIS Niners team?

• If that's not enough, Seahawks fans have decided that they're going to break the Guinness world record for "loudest crowd" on Sunday night, which is currently held by …

(Hold on, I'll give you a couple of seconds to guess.)

(And … )


Did you guess that it happened in the Ali Sami Yen Sport Complex Turk Telekom Arena two years ago, by fans of Turkey's Galatasaray S.K. soccer team? You did? That's amazing! Apparently, they reached 131.76 decibels — which is probably the sound a Boeing 747 makes if it's flying over a football stadium filled with shrieking teenage girls at a One Direction concert. But given that David Stern let the Sonics bolt from Seattle five years ago for a much smaller market that restricts their revenue and forces them to make decisions like trading the NBA's best 2-guard for two bench players and a six-pack of diet soda, if it's all right with you, I'm going to root for these embattled Seattle fans to break this obscure decibel record.

• Colin Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson … a.k.a. Brady vs. Manning for the Twitter Generation. And it still has that new-car smell to it. Just 11 months ago, Kaep was fetching Perrier for Alex Smith and Wilson looked 15.2 percent overmatched as Seattle's unexpected starter. Today, Kaepernick has turned into Randall Cunningham 2.0, while Wilson has evolved into a possible hybrid of Young Brady, Young Montana and Young Brees (only if that hybrid could scramble for a first down whenever he wants).

In general, it's almost stupefying how entertaining Kaepernick, Wilson, Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck are on a play-to-play basis in a suddenly safety-conscious league. It's flag football with pads and they're the big winners. (Well, them and Peyton Manning, who's on pace to throw 112 touchdowns this season.) Only one downer for the Kaepernick-Wilson rivalry: By rule, all quarterbacks like each other and feel bonded by such a frighteningly complex position. There's no chance for a Kaep-Wilson beef. This week, a rumor even circulated that they made a friendly "Sunday's loser has to shave his eyebrows" wager. It turned out to be false, which made me wish the fake bet had been more ridiculous — something like, "Loser has to pretend publicly for two weeks that he thinks Aaron Hernandez was framed and would absolutely 'take Hernandez as a teammate.'" Maybe there's still time.

• Pete Carroll vs. Jim Harbaugh … a.k.a. the feud that started when they were college coaches and keeps on going and going. Last spring, Harbaugh even called out Seattle's multiple PED suspensions and quoted Bo Schembechler by saying, "If you cheat to win, then you've already lost." I thought that was a low blow — not bringing up the PED stuff, but quoting Bo Schembechler. If we could wager on any pair of coaches to trade punches during a postgame handshake, Harbaugh and Carroll would be the overwhelming favorite.

• The fan bases can't stand each other, either. Did you know that Seahawks fans on Reddit were conspiring to buy sponsored bricks for San Francisco's soon-to-be-done Levi's Stadium and put "GO HAWKS!" on them, causing the Niners to announce that they were exercising veto power on the wording for any purchased brick? Did you know they apparently had to ask for additional moderators to help police SB Nation's Seahawks and 49ers pages because it was getting so ugly on their message boards?

Let's just hope WE never have to choose between them, because I love both cities … but if I ever have to choose, I'm siding with fresh coffee, grunge music, Singles, Citizen Dick, legalized marijuana, Xavier McDaniel posters, Stephen and Irene, Junior Griffey, Safeco, Steve Largent, the '87 All-Star Game, Microsoft Windows, serial-killer movies, Gus and DJ, Kemp and GP, Mr. Russell's House, Rip City beefs, and fresh coffee a second time over Alcatraz, Steph Curry, Pac Bell, trolleys, Twitter, Montana and Rice, Puck and Pedro, the great Warriors crowds, Chinatown, 48 Hrs., Reggie Hammond and Jack Cates … wait a second, I need to think about this more.

• With apologies to Ndamukong Suh and Clay Matthews, Seattle has the NFL's best villain: Richard Sherman, the talented cornerback who became semi-infamous last season for trash-talking Tom Brady, drawing a four-game PED suspension (and then somehow getting it overturned), then making an intentionally heated, willfully loathsome First Take cameo that inadvertently got me suspended from Twitter by ESPN. Now he's trying to reinvent himself as a weekly columnist for Peter King's new football site. I don't want to jinx it, but he's on pace to pass Bill Laimbeer and Kareem as my least favorite athlete of all time.

I mention this because San Francisco now has Anquan Boldin, a proud veteran with a ring who doesn't take shit from anyone and once broke his face going over the middle for a touchdown catch. Again, HE BROKE HIS FACE. And came back a few weeks later! He's going to like it when Richard Sherman starts barking at him? I'm already nominating this as the NFL's best player-versus-player feud and it hasn't even officially started yet. Prediction: This Sunday night, either Walt and Jesse or Sherman and Boldin fight to the death.

• Even in Week 2, it's a must-win for the Seahawks because they can't win the NFC West (and, potentially, go for a no. 1 seed and home-field advantage) without beating the Niners at least once. After Kaepernick played so spectacularly last weekend, Vegas got freaked out and made Seattle just 2.5-point favorites. If they win by a field goal, you cover. Maybe five lines per season leave me totally perplexed — this is one of them. (Only possible explanation: Seattle's offensive line looked uncharacteristically wobbly against Carolina's excellent front seven last Sunday.) I think the crowd carries the Seahawks on Sunday night, and that anything less than a field goal with these guys at home makes me feel like I'm in a Christmas commercial in which someone is surprising me with a brand-new Lexus covered in a big red ribbon. I'm laying the points.

The bigger question: What's the TV game plan for Sunday night? I'm watching a quarter, flipping over to Breaking Bad at 6:17, banging it out, then catching up on the DVR'ed second quarter and watching the second half live. It's a foolproof plan. And it's going to work next week for the Pittsburgh-Chicago game too. And forget about Week 4 — I don't care who's playing, the final episode of Breaking Bad gets priority unless the Patriots are involved.

Article By: Bill Simmons


The power outage that stopped Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, 2013 had a huge impact on the momentum of the game and the final spread for sports bettors. Ray Lewis who played in the game for the Ravens says it was no accident. Can you imagine Lewis singing along to "sabotage" by Beastie Boys?

Ray-Lewis-SabotageRavens' Retired Linebacker Ray Lewis
Remember when the lights went out during Super Bowl XLVII? Retired Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis says that was no accident.

"I'm not gonna accuse nobody of nothing — because I don't know facts," Lewis says on an upcoming installment of NFL Films’ "America’s Game" series. "But you're a zillion-dollar company, and your lights go out? No. (Laughs) No way".

"Now listen, if you grew up like I grew up — and you grew up in a household like I grew up — then sometimes your lights might go out, because times get hard. I understand that. But you cannot tell me somebody wasn't sitting there and when they say, 'The Ravens (are) about to blow them out. Man, we better do something.' . . . That's a huge shift in any game, in all seriousness. And as you see how huge it was because it let them right back in the game."

As with all conspiracy theories, the attendant circumstances did seem to fall
into a convenient narrative. At the time of the blackout, the Ravens were
beating the San Francisco 49ers by 22 points. Somebody or something needed to
stop the Ravens’ momentum or the big game was going to be a big dud. So then,
boom, the lights go out and guess what? The 49ers got back in it. All the way

Baltimore ended up winning 34-31, and Lewis got his second Super Bowl ring.

Enjoy the vintage 90's "Sabotage" music video by the legendary Beastie Boys and 
comment if you think Ray Lewis is right about his sabotage theory below.


Total viewership of the first round of the draft on ESPN and NFL Network totaled a combined 20 million viewers, according to The Nielsen Company, making it the most-watched cable show of the night. The combined average for ESPN and NFL Network was 7.7 million, almost doubling the History Channel's "Swamp People" (4 million viewers), the next-most watched cable program on that Thursday. Read more on the NFL's Media Blitz

2013 NFL DraftHow the 2013 NFL Draft made it to Primetime
The legend goes that when a fledgling ESPN asked NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to televise the 1980 NFL Draft, even the PR-savvy Mr. Rozelle doubted anybody would tune in.   

Fast-forward 33 years and John Brody, senior VP-sponsorship and sales  for the NFL, expected 50 million viewers to watch the three-day event  across ESPN, NFL Network and NFL Mobile last Thursday through Saturday  nights.

Among league sponsors and advertisers, the NFL Draft is now viewed as a 
"tentpole event" where they can directly connect their brands to the  country's
most-popular sports league, Mr. Brody said. A confirmed 19  sponsors activated
around this year's event at Radio City Music Hall vs. 16 in 2012. Among them:
Anheuser-Busch; Nike; Verizon; Pepsi; GMC; Visa; EA Sports; Under Armour;
Gatorade; and Castrol.   

Despite the recession, ad support is growing for the NFL Draft, which  now
competes with entertainment and reality shows in the heart of prime  time.
Advertisers spent roughly $15 million across ESPN and NFL Network  in 2012 vs.
$11.9 million in 2011, according to Kantar Media.   

Current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell moved Round 1 to Thursday nights  in
2010 from its longtime perch on Saturdays. The gamble paid off:  ESPN's Round 1
coverage last year averaged 6.7 million viewers and a 4.4 rating vs. 5.1 million
viewers and a 3.4 rating in 2009.  

"To the credit of the NFL, it's the most robust league," said Ernest 
, founder of branding consultancy Ernest Industries
"They announced the [2013 regular season] schedule and people went  crazy.
It was as if they let us know they were bringing the McRib  sandwich back."  

"Our sponsors crave more access and more connection to the game the same way
the fans do," according to Mr. Brody. "Our partners are enablers:  They're the
ones who connect the sport to the fans."  

Here's how sponsors such as Verizon, A-B and Nike integrated their brands
into the festivities:   
  • Verizon was the presenting sponsor of Round 3. The company hosted
    a "Draft Eve" party Wednesday, where its executives and customers
    mingled  with top draft picks and NFL starts. 
  • Bud Light signed on to sponsor Round 2 Friday night as well as sponsor 
    ESPN's coverage. Bud Light's promotion offered to fly 32 NFL fans to  New York
    (one representing each team's fan base) and give them a VIP  experience that
    included a dinner reception with 32 NFL alumni, along  with green-room access at
    Radio City.  
  • Nike, which took over as the NFL's official outfitter last season from
    Reebok, provided top prospects with No. 1 Nike jerseys. Similarly, the  league's
    official cap, New Era, handed out special "Draft Caps" to  prospects onstage.
    That's prime product placement when prospects  ascended the stage for the
    traditional handshake and hug with Mr.   Goodell.  

By:   Michael McCarthy