Should I just climb Mount Springfield?
February 7, 2010 12:34 PM   Subscribe

The NFL season ends today! What can I do, and where can I go on-line, to keep up with the sport until next fall?

I've been an NFL fan for a number of years, but I was going through a pretty rough period last fall, and the week in, week out routine of following the football season was a comforting distraction. I'm doing better now, but I've become a fully-entrenched fan, and was wondering how I could best pass the next seven months before the new season begins.

I know that there are some big off-season events coming up (the draft, free agent season, etc.), but where are the best websites to keep track of what's going on? I usually rely on MSM stuff (ESPN, MSNBC), and I'm really ignorant as to what are the best non-MSM sites to keep track of trades, signing, news, rumours, etc. I'm looking for sites with lots of good insider news, not message boards where people hurl homophobic insults in all-caps at one another.

Book recommendations are also welcome. I already have Boys Will Be Boys on my list. Also, is the HBO Hard Knocks series worth checking out? I've heard good things.

My team is the Bears, if there are any Bears-specific suggestions you might have.

NFL fans, please hope me get through hockey, basketball, baseball, and golf season!
posted by hiteleven to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite football blog is Advanced NFL Stats. I'm sure they'll have plenty of food for thought to chew over during the off-season.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:42 PM on February 7, 2010

Well, I read Pro Football Talk, which gets kind of sensationalist but is fun, it's for news and rumors (and take the rumors with a grain of salt), half the commenters seem to hate the guy who runs the site. I like Smart Football.

There's Football Outsiders who have their own methods of doing statistics, which I don't care about, but hey, can't hurt to read all kinds of analysis.
posted by citron at 12:43 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

2 sites come to mind as the very best:

Pro Football Talk (PFT):
- The #1 NFL news site/blog in the world. They are usually the first to break stories. In the past, the MSM has stolen stories from them -- but the site's grown so much that this doesn't happen too much anymore.

Football Outsiders

- Hardcore analysis for people who really want to be students of the game. Includes deep film analysis, thorough game charting (means, trying to archive exactly what happened with each player on each play -- for example, they'll look at incompletions by a QB and record the reason why), and hardcore statistical work. Much of their statistical work takes into account what typical stats don't -- that is, they look at things like opponent (Ravens defense =/= St Louis Rams defense) and down + distance (with typical yardage stats, a RB plowing 1.2 yds on 3rd and 1 actually lowers his YPC, but he's actually succeeded. Same idea --but vice -- with a 10 yard throw by a QB on 3rd and 15.)
posted by demagogue at 12:48 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

*tip of the cap to citron, who types faster than me. He mentioned Smart Football which is indeed another great football site but is more college-oriented. (And now you know that you should be reading PFT and FO!
posted by demagogue at 12:51 PM on February 7, 2010

Another comment -- I should note that FO has a very substantial amount of quality content that isn't statistics oriented. I enjoy the deep analysis and humour, myself. FO has done a lot to progress modern football thought.

For example, read some of FO's seminal work and you'll discover why football announcer BS like "whenever Joe Runningback runs for 100 yds, the Fireballers win -- so the Fireballers have GOT to feed Joe the ball!" is fallacious reasoning.
posted by demagogue at 12:55 PM on February 7, 2010

National Football Post is a great site.
posted by gnutron at 1:45 PM on February 7, 2010

You've already gotten great links for sites, so I'll just reply to your question about Hard Knocks. I missed the first few season, but I started watching with the Chiefs. I loved their season and the Bengals series, but the Cowboys (2008) series seemed really staged (and I don't think that's my NFC East opponent bias talking).

The HBO crew has a lot of access. I thought it was amazing how the camera was in the office for the conversations where a player was released. I'm not sure how much you learn about football, per se, but you get a much better sense of what's happening in training camp, how coaches are shaping their teams.

For books, I'd recommend John Feinstein's Next Man Up.
posted by gladly at 1:50 PM on February 7, 2010

Here's another vote for Football Outsiders, which will make you a smarter fan. Also, Yahoo's Shutdown Corner is a blog I find to be pretty amusing and is updated a lot in the offseason.
posted by mreleganza at 2:33 PM on February 7, 2010

I'm not a football fan, but I love baseball and can appreciate the feelings of loss you describe at the end of the season. CubsCast, a Chicago Cubs podcast has helped me get through the off-season. CubsCast is part of a network of Chicago sports teams podcasts, and there is a Bearscast. Not being a football fan, I haven't listened to BearsCast, but I will say that if it's anything like CubsCast, I bet you enjoy it! You can check out their website here.
posted by terilou at 4:16 PM on February 7, 2010

I like Cold, Hard Football Facts They compile stats in a way that just might surprise you.
posted by lobstah at 4:41 PM on February 7, 2010

Not directly a website to follow, but I'm excited as a video production dork to see TruTV's show NFL Full Contact, which goes behind the scenes of airing an NFL game. Starts Monday February 8th.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:54 PM on February 7, 2010

Seconding the National Football Post recommendation.

Keep up with fellow Bears fans at the Chicago Bears Official Message Board.

Start researching the upcoming draft by reading about the upcoming Combine and reading various mock drafts online. It's fascinating to see where all the new players fall.

Be patient. The gulf between the draft and the preseason feels like an eternity.

Get your fix like I do: play Tecmo Super Bowl online in a competitive circuit.
posted by meadowlark lime at 7:34 PM on February 7, 2010

Much love demagogue but I'm a she! lots of women watch the NFL but the advertisers in tonight's game sure didn't seem to know it.. :) Sports Blog nation also has a Chicago Bears specific blog, and in addition, I'd see who the regular beat writers are for the Tribune and other Chicago papers, the local coverage can be quite good.

I've also heard good things about ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series, you might want to look for the football episodes and watch those.
posted by citron at 7:56 PM on February 7, 2010

Well, I'm somewhat surprised that nobody's mentioned this, but for somewhat of an irreverent op-ed take on all the offseason's news, you could check out Kissing Suzy Kolber, which is like the NFL's "The Onion." Totally not for you if you're a die-hard fan of 1. Peter King, 2. Brett Favre, 3. Bill Simmons, though.

As for books, I'll tout the same ones I usually tout:
- The Blind Side, Michael Lewis. Sandwiched in between the made-for-Hollywood genuine feel good story of Michael Oher is Lewis' typically good economic approach to the evolution of NFL offenses, defenses, and salaries, with particular attention to the pass rush.
- Bringing the Heat, Mark Bowden. The usual journalist-with-team-for-season approach, but surpasses the benchmark for the material because of 1. Mark Bowden, who's a good nonfiction writer, and 2. it's about the Eagles! (Blah blah blah Philly fans, but this season is particularly captivating because of a number of reasons: aloof legendary QB Ran-doll Cunningham, Rex Ryan's dad Buddy Ryan, the death of all-star Jerome Brown in the offseason. Like most teams, the Eagles were a bizarre combination of personalities, and Bowden does it supreme justice. It's also does a good job exploring 1. the culture of pro-sports polygamy and 2. the extreme, humbling poverty and dire circumstances that many of these athletes grow up in.)

Also, a tip regarding Hard Knocks: as a non-HBO subscriber, I was thrilled to discover last week that it was available on Hulu. BUT... it's only thru the Cowboys' season (S5?), and the Bengals ones are not accessible there.
posted by the NATURAL at 9:32 PM on February 7, 2010

Hello, fellow Bears fan! : )

I like Deadspin, for the more irreverent, gossipy side of sports. It covers all sports, not just football, but you can search for the football content.

For information, it is hard to beat It's a fantasy football site, so a lot of the information has analysis on the impact on fantasy teams, but the site is updated year-round. One note - from July 15 through the Super Bowl you need a subscription to read the premium content, but there's a ton of free content including the news blog, the links page (and there are tons of those), the podcasts, and, yes, the message boards. (The Shark Pool message board has quite a bit of useful information and discussions)

For books, I thought The Dark Side Of The Game, by Tim Green, was fascinating.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:31 PM on February 7, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the great suggestions, everyone. I could flag every post as best answer, though I'll keep the screen green instead, if you don't mind.

Great game yesterday, unless you were a Colts fan, I suppose.
posted by hiteleven at 6:55 AM on February 8, 2010

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