No Hall calls in 2021

Rich Fyle column

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

The NFL season reaches its midpoint this week, and the power in the AFC East Division has clearly shifted.

After Sunday’s 24-21 victory over 11-time defending division champion New England, which had threatened to win the game late if it wasn’t for a Cam Newton fumble, Buffalo is in control to take its first flag in 25 seasons. The Bills (6-2) lead the improving Dolphins (4-3) by 1 1/2 games and the decimated Patriots (2-5) by 3 1/2 games in the standings.

Buffalo, however, must pick up its play in the coming weeks since bursting out to a 4-0 start by early October.

If the Bills do win the division, they would host a wild-card playoff game in January, unless they capture the AFC’s top seed but that probably seems unlikely. The NFL could also institute a pandemic bubble for the postseason.

n Channel surfing: The Dodgers’ first crown since 1988 was the least-watched World Series in history, according to Nielsen Media Research figures. The six games on Fox averaged a 5.2 rating and 9.8 million viewers, down 32 percent from the previous low of 2012 when the Giants-Tigers matchup drew 7.6, and 12.7, respectively.

Also, this year’s Series “featured” a total of 38 more strikeouts than hits combined by both teams. The shortest game in time was 3 hours, 15 minutes and the longest at 4:10, and all games started at 8:10 EDT.

Because of the pandemic that began in March and with so many viewing choices, including streaming that reduces network and cable TV audiences, it’s understandable why ratings are down.

This month’s Sports Illustrated broke down 2020’s off-ratings for most major sporting events from 2019:

Stanley Cup Finals, down 61.9%; U.S. Open Golf Final Round, down 56.1%; worst-ever-watched NBA Finals, down 50.8%; Kentucky Derby, down 49.1%; U.S. Open Tennis Women’s and Men’s Final, down 46.3% and 46.2%, respectively; Indy 500, down 31.5%; MLB NLCS Game 1, 31.3%; and NFL season opener, down 12.3%. The only increase from last year was the WNBA Finals, up 15.4%.

n Shopping is underway in MLB’s free-agent market and certainly there are a few gold-star players who could help any team, including George Springer, J.T. Realmuto and DJ LeMahieu. Among the other top available free agents are Marcell Ozuna, Michael Brantley, Masahiro Tanaka, Trevor Bauer, Marcus Semien, Justin Turner, Liam Hendricks, Kolten Wong, Nelson Cruz, Charlie Morton, James McCann, Brad Hand, Didi Gregorius and Taijuan Walker.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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