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Microsoft's new NFL ads for Xbox are very funny

"Very funny" and "NFL" haven't really gone together lately. Microsoft tries to change that.

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Why is Marshawn Lynch stroking a raccoon? This is just one of the joys of Microsoft's new Xbox ads. Microsoft/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

You might have watched the NFL lately with just a tinge of distaste playing around your innards. Microsoft, however, has pumped an alleged $400 million into the NFL, so it must show a fine face on the matter. This isn't easy when the sport's own announcers refer to the Surface as the iPad.

Redmond is rarely a hotdog, but is often dogged. I'm delighted, therefore, that the company's new ads for NFL on Xbox are very funny.

Here we have various NFL players confronted with their fantasy realities.

No, these are not the fantasy realities where they all cease to throw hundred-dollar bills around in nightclubs. These are the realities of what it is to be a mere pawn -- or, in the case of some players, a bishop or a queen -- in America's fantasy teams.

Here we have the Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch, the Eagles LeSean McCoy, the Broncos' Demaryius Thomas and the Saints' Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham all at the mercy of Xbox fantasy NFL players. (Yes, so keen is Microsoft to show the NFL's good side that there are two Saints.)

Why is Lynch stroking a raccoon? Why does Brees insist that he's a "people person"? Why are there three Thomases who all doubt the ability of fantasy managers?

Microsoft has often struggled with presenting its own brand image. But with Xbox, it has largely done an excellent job of understanding how to make its audience feel.

This is something that, say, the NFL might learn from.