Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 9/24/16

Last week was not a good week of Mythical Picking for college football. The record for the week was 7-9-0 bringing the cumulative record for the season down to 26-21-0.

The Best Picks of the Week were:

    Army – 4 against UTEP. Army won the game 66-14
    Michigan St. +7 against Notre Dame. Michigan State won outright.

The Worst Picks of the Week were:

    Florida St. – 1 against Louisville. Louisville won the game 63-20
    BC + 6 against Va Tech. BC lost by 49 points.

Nothing above should tempt anyone to think of these Mythical Picks as authoritative or in possession of some precious inside information. Lest that message not be sufficiently clear, let me be more direct. No one should even think of using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money. Anyone dumb enough to do that …

    … is also dumb enough to think that a semi-colon is what a person has after intestinal surgery.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats took a long trip to Texas to play Mary Hardin-Baylor and Linfield came up very short in the game. The score at halftime saw Linfield trailing 24-20 which is not an insurmountable obstacle; however, the second half was disastrous for the Wildcats as Mary Hardin-Baylor won the second half 42-7 making the final score 66-27. That gives Linfield a 1-1 record so far this year as they commence conference play against Northwest Conference opponents.

This week is Homecoming Week for Linfield and they will host the Lewis and Clark Pioneers. Lewis and Clark bring an 0-2 record to the game and have been outscored 56-20 in those two contests. Go Wildcats!

In last week’s commentary on college football here, I made a passing mention of Texas Tech’s rather miserable defensive record last year. I said that I was too lazy to go and look up the stats, but that I would be shocked to learn if more than 5 teams in the nation (out of the 128 Division 1-A teams) last year had given up more points per game than did Texas Tech. As usual in circumstances such as these, I got a rapid response in an email from the reader in Houston who is a Sports Stat Guru. Let me give you the details; he refers to these teams that allow loads of points as “The Usual Suspects”:

    128th Kansas 46.5
    127th SMU 45.5
    126th N Mex St.45.0
    125th Tex Tech 43.6
    124th Idaho 42.5

My intuition was correct; there were not 5 teams that gave up more points per game than Texas Tech last year but now that I look at that list of 5 teams something else comes to mind:

    Two of the teams (Kansas and Texas Tech) are in the Big 12 – one of the Power 5 conferences.

    Two of the teams (New Mexico St and Idaho) are teams that have been asked to leave the Sun Belt Conference at the end of this season. Before anyone asks, I am not sure what would be a “step down” in prestige from the Sun Belt Conference in Division 1-A football.

Before the games last week, I probably would have said that the best team in the Big 12 in terms of College Football Playoff potential was Texas given that it had a showcase win over Notre Dame and Oklahoma had a loss to Houston on the record. Well, last week Texas lost to Cal, Notre Dame lost again and Oklahoma lost its second game of the year – convincingly. So I don’t know who the Big 12 contender might be this year.

    Oklahoma St has that loss to C. Michigan to deal with. Yes, I know that the loss was due to an officiating error; however, in order for C. Michigan to win on a miracle last play of the game, that means Oklahoma St. wasn’t that much better than C. Michigan on that day. That is not something the Selection Committee is likely to look upon with favor.

    TCU already has a loss on the books. Losing to Arkansas is not nearly as bad as losing to C. Michigan but it was still a home game for TCU.

    K-State has already lost to Stanford in Week 1.

    Baylor is 3-0 to date but has not played any team of consequence yet – – as is the custom in Waco prior to the onset of conference play.

The scheduling in college football for last week provided an unusual circumstance. The Top 3 teams in the rankings all played other ranked teams and all of the Top 3 were on the road. Here is how all that turned out:

    Top ranked Alabama fell behind Ole Miss 24-3 and then stormed back to win 48-43. Actually, that game was not as close as it might look. Ole Miss got two late scores (a TD followed by an onside kick) to make it look like a nailbiter. Actually there was a stretch in the middle of the game where Alabama prevailed by 45-6.

    Third ranked Ohio State pummeled Oklahoma 45-24. People had been “worried” about the lack of experience on the Ohio State team; from what I saw last weekend, these “inexperienced players” can play the game. This makes two losses at home for Oklahoma and I think you can write them off completely in terms of the CFP.

    Second ranked Florida State did not fare so well in their visit to Louisville. The Cardinals beat the Seminoles badly by a score of 63-20; this was an old-fashioned ass-kicking. I had everything wrong about that game. I did not think that the Louisville offense and Lamar Jackson would be able to dominate the Florida State defense. Here is what actually happened:

      Louisville had 521 yards on offense
      Louisville averaged 6.8 yards per carry on 46 rushing attempts
      Louisville’s 63 points came on 9 TDs
      Lamar Jackson ran for 146 yards and 4 TDs
      Lamar Jackson threw for 216 yards and 1 TD

Please welcome Lamar Jackson to any discussion involving the Heisman Trophy for 2016…

With regard to Louisville, circle two dates on your calendar:

    1 October: Louisville plays Clemson at Clemson

    17 November: Louisville plays Houston at Houston

I said last week that I was not sure how the Oklahoma State team would respond to getting screwed over by the officials the week before that. Well, they responded quite well, thank you. Oklahoma St. beat Pitt 45-38 and Cowboys’ QB, Mason Rudolph set a school record throwing for 540 yards in the game. Pitt should have gotten the message that Oklahoma St was ready to play because on the first play from scrimmage, Rudolph completed a 91-yard pass for a TD.

Cal beat Texas 50-43 and the Texas defense gave up 568 yards. That is not a good showing at all for Texas…

Up in the Big 10 part of the country, there was a mixed bag of results.

    Michigan came back from a 21-7 deficit in the first half to beat Colorado 45-28. Not bad…

    Michigan State beat Notre Dame 36-28 and dominated the Irish defense rushing for 260 yards. Notre Dame is now out of consideration for the CFP. Not bad …

    Nebraska beat Oregon 35-32. There is a quirkiness to this win. Oregon tried 5 2-point conversions in the game and failed on 4 of them and lost the game by only 3 points. Not bad …

    Ohio State dominated Oklahoma. Not bad at all…

    Wisconsin beat Georgia St by only 23-17. With 12 minutes to play, Georgia St led the game 17-13. I know a win is a win, but Wisconsin was a 35-point favorite here. Not so good …

    Iowa lost to North Dakota State (Division 1-AA) at home by a score of 23-21. The game was close but the win for N. Dakota St was not a fluke. They beat Iowa the way Iowa usually beats other teams. They held Iowa to 34 yards rushing (1.4 yards per carry) while amassing 239 yards rushing (4.9 yards per carry) for themselves. Bad, bad loss…

      [Aside: It would appear as if N. Dakota St. is still pretty good despite the departure of Carson Wentz for the NFL…]

In some SEC action:

    Tennessee beat Ohio 28-19. Considering that the Vols were 27-point favorites, this was not such a good showing.

    LSU beat Mississippi State 23-20 despite getting shut out for the entire second half. The next meeting of the “Hang Les Miles From The Sour Apple Tree Society” had to be postponed.

    Florida squashed North Texas 32-0. Here is what I mean by “squashed”:

      Florida held North Texas to 66 yards passing. That was the good news…
      Florida held North Texas to minus-13 yards rushing.

Miami beat Appalachian St. 45-10 and may have found themselves a QB in the process. Brad Kaaya threw for 368 yards and 3 TDs in 3 quarters of action.

Va Tech crushed BC 49-0. The BC offense was virtually non-existent gaining a total of 124 yards and amassing the grand total of 6 first downs in this game. Please note that BC had 6 first downs and Va Tech had 7 touchdowns in this game. Adding insult to injury, BC had 124 yards on offense and they were penalized 93 yards in the game. Here is a stat I ran across:

    The last time BC scored more than 17 points in a conference game was in November 2014.

The three Service Academies are off to a cumulative start of 8-0. Air Force had last week off but the other two Academies did well:

    Army ran their record to 3-0 stomping on UTEP 66-14. Army ran the ball 69 times for 419 yards and added 174 yards passing on top of that. Army’s start might make you start thinking about Army in a Bowl Game in December. Army last went to a Bowl Game in 2010. Since then, Army’s cumulative record has been 14-46. This is a significantly different start to a season for the Cadets.

    Navy beat Tulane 21-14 and their record is also 3-0 so far this year. Looking at the game stats it would appear that this game was closer on the scoreboard than it was on the field. For example, Navy converted 9 of 14 third down attempts while Tulane only converted 2 of 12.

Upcoming this week we will see ranked teams playing other ranked teams and ranked teams hosting credible opponents. Here are some of the game that look interesting:

    No. 19 Florida at No. 14 Tennessee.

    No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 8 Michigan State.

    No. 7 Stanford at UCLA.

    No. 17 Arkansas at No. 10 Texas A&M.

    Oklahoma State at No. 16 Baylor.

    No. 12 Georgia at No. 23 Ole Miss.

    Penn State at No. 4 Michigan.

    No. 18 LSU at Auburn.

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week, we had 11 Ponderosa games on the schedule and the record for favorites covering was 5-6-0. That brings the season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 19-16-0.

Arkansas, Florida, Kansas St., NC State and Washington St. covered.

Arizona, Baylor, Georgia Southern, TCU, Tennessee and Wisconsin did not cover.

This week we have only 4 Ponderosa Games and in 2 of those games, the favorite is on the road:

UNC-Charlotte at Temple – 27 (53.5): There are 128 schools playing Division 1-A football and meaningless as it is, I doubt most folks would think that Temple was in the Top 50 or maybe even the Top 75. That spread tells me that UNC-Charlotte is a bad team indeed…

Louisville – 25 at Marshall (74.5): Marshall has to hope that Louisville spent this week reading its press clippings – and believing them – instead of practicing hard for this game. Otherwise this might be an epic blowout. Marshall’s defense gave up 524 yards – and 65 points – to Akron.

Kent St. at Alabama – 44 (50): For the oddsmaker to be on target with both the spread and the Total Line here, Alabama would have to win 47-3. Could happen… Kent St. lost to North Carolina A&T earlier this year; is there anyone on the planet that thinks they can win this game? The odds on the money line stand at +58,500 for Kent St. and at – 135,000 for Alabama.

Houston – 34.5 at Texas St. (65): Houston needs to win big to keep its name in front of the folks who will be on the Selection Committee. Winning this game 10-7 would be almost as bad as a loss for the Cougars…

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) TCU – 21 at SMU (65): According to Google Maps, these schools are about 41 miles apart on Interstate 30. It is a rivalry game. Having said that, these two teams play on different levels of college football. I like TCU to win and cover on the road and I like this game to go OVER.

(Fri Nite) Wyoming – 3 at E. Michigan (63): The game is interesting to me because it could have a bearing on the SHOE Tournament later this year. Other than that …

(Fri Nite) USC at Utah – 3 (46.5): I watched the USC/Alabama game and was unimpressed with USC. I also saw some of the USC/Stanford game and was unimpressed again with USC. I ran across a stat that shocked me:

    USC ranks 107th in the nation in rushing offense.

    Remember the days of “student-body right”?

It appears to me as if the team just cannot get out of its own way; maybe that is a coaching deficiency? No way I will take USC on the road here so I’ll take Utah and lay the points.

Army – 14 at Buffalo (50.5): Army has been bad for the last decade or so on the gridiron so it is good to see them on the upswing (see above). Buffalo is not exactly a powerhouse and Army runs an offense that Buffalo has probably not spent a lot of time practicing against. I like Army to win and cover here and I like the game to go OVER.

E. Carolina at Va Tech – 11.5 (56): Short and sweet … That line looks fat perhaps because of the drubbing Va Tech laid on BC last week. I’ll take E. Carolina plus the points here.

Penn St. at Michigan – 19 (58): Penn St. RB, Saquon Barkley, is really good and getting 19 points with him on your side is tempting indeed. However, I will pass on that pick and take this game to go OVER.

Iowa – 12.5 at Rutgers (56): I suspect that Iowa will come out breathing fire after having to hear about losing to a Division 1-AA school all this week (see above). I think they are going to pound the ball down Rutgers’ throat here. Even on the road, I’ll take Iowa and lay the points.

BYU vs. W. Virginia – 7 (51) [Game to be played at FedEx Field in DC area]: I am sure there is a good reason why this game is being played at this venue – but that good reason surely escapes me. I think this will be a defensive game; I like the game to stay UNDER.

Pitt at UNC – 7 (67.5): Both teams have shown they can score; neither team has shown any proclivity for stopping opponents from scoring. Ergo, I like this game to go OVER.

Oklahoma St. at Baylor – 7.5 (76): This should be a track meet – – with about the same amount of defense as a track meet. I like this game to go OVER.

Wisconsin at Michigan St. – 5 (42.5): This is the football equivalent of a heavyweight boxing match on the undercard of a major promotion. These big guys will stand there and pummel one another from start to finish. Like USC, Wisconsin’s “brand” is a powerful run game; so far this year, Wisconsin is 83rd in the nation in rushing. I like this game to go OVER.

Arkansas at Texas A&M – 6 (49): I do not understand this Total Line at all. The Aggies can score but not defend. Arkansas can score and sorta defends. I think there will be plenty of points to go around here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Georgia at Ole Miss – 7 (62): Mississippi has blown two BIG leads this year forging come-from-ahead losses. The first one was against Florida State; the second one was against Alabama. If Mississippi gets that sort of lead here, Georgia may mount a comeback but Georgia is not nearly as good as either Alabama or Florida State. Venue call here; I’ll take Ole Miss and lay the points.

Florida at Tennessee – 7 (43): Florida has won the last 11 meetings between these squads going back to the 2005 season (the Ron Zook Era in Gainesville FL). The wins have generally been convincing too; the average margin of victory has been 12.7 points. This will be a low-scoring game with Florida’s defense keeping the score down and Florida’s offense doing the same. In a low-scoring game, I like to take the points so I’ll take Florida here.

LSU – 3.5 at Auburn (36): You have two coaches on hot seats facing each other here. Auburn coach, Gus Malzahn is 2-12 in his last 14 SEC games; his Auburn teams have lost 6 straight home games to conference foes; that is not a way to keep a job at an SEC school. As you know, Les Miles has one foot out the door and the other on a banana peel. Maybe this game should be played at Dysfunction Junction? Venue call here; I’ll take Auburn at home plus the points.

Cal at Arizona St. – 4 (81): I thought that Ariz. St/Texas Tech couldn’t possibly go over 80 a couple weeks ago. The total then was 123 points. Cal can score; they put 50 on the board last week against Texas. Cal does not defend well however. I think this could be a re-enactment of the Ariz St./Texas Tech game so I’ll take it to go OVER.

Stanford – 3 at UCLA (46.5): Yes, UCLA is the home team and yes, UCLA can play defense. Does not matter to me because I think Stanford is the better team. I’ll take Stanford to win and cover on the road.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 9/25/16

Last week’s Mythical Picks were not good and they were not bad. It was a week of “Meh!” I made 16 selections and the record for the week was 8-8-0. That makes the record for the season 21-12-0. There was one Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin was correct so its record was 1-0-0 bringing its season record to 2-0-0.

The Best Picks last week were:

    Rams +3.5 against Seahawks. Rams won outright
    Vikes +3 against Packers. Vikes won outright.

The Worst Picks last week were:

    Jax +3 against Chargers. Jags got smoked by 24 points
    Jets/Bills UNDER 41. Total was 68; game went OVER in 3rd quarter.

Paraphrasing what Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon say at the end of Pardon the Interruption, I’ll try and do better the next time.

Despite my intention to do better this week, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL football game this weekend should that wager involve real money – or anything else of value. You would have to be this dumb to do such a thing:

    You think crestfallen means that the toothpaste fell onto the floor.

General Comments:

After the Bills lost to the Jets 37-31 last Thursday night, the casualty from that game was Bills’ offensive coordinator, Greg Roman. The Bills fired their offensive coordinator despite scoring 31 points and losing. Can anyone spell “scapegoat”? The Bills’ defensive unit got lit up by Ryan Bleeping Fitzpatrick to the tune of:

    24 for 34 for 374 yards and 1 TD with 0 INTs

Bills’ DBs Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby were beaten like drums for most of the night. Give me a moment here until I try to show that the Bills’ offense was not very good either, but the REAL blame belongs with the defense. Now, if you are going to fire a coach whose players did not play well, you ought to look at the defensive side of the ball – – – except the defensive coordinator happens to be the twin brother of the head coach. This is why nepotism is a bad idea.

Now to look at the Bills’ offense. It was good-but-not-great. The Bills had 307 yards passing and total offense of 393 yards which looks good. Looking a bit deeper in the stats you will see that only amounted to 16 first downs and the offensive numbers included two long TD passes that accounted for 158 yards of that total offense. I do not mean to imply that Greg Roman is some sort of martyr here; he is not. But he was not the reason the Bills lost that game.

One more thing … Do not feel too sorry about Greg Roman’s lack of employment. I read one report that said the Bills owe him $3M until the end of the 2017 NFL season. He and his family will not be dining in soup kitchens during the Holidays this year.

The Steelers beat the Bengals 24-16 and the good news is that there were no fights or outbreaks of juvenile behaviors during the game. A lot has been made about a questionable call at the end of the game that went against the Bengals and some have attributed the loss to that call. I think there might be another issue to consider here:

    The game was played in the rain. The Bengals called 54 pass plays for Andy Dalton in the rain. Even if you count the 2 rushing attempts by Dalton as “called running plays” the Bengals only ran the ball 18 times. On 75% of their offensive snaps, the Bengals threw a wet football.

    I am not sure that is a good offensive game plan or good offensive play calling.

The Cowboys beat the Skins 27-23. That means the Skins have lost their opening two games for the season and both of them were home games. The Skins are the only team in the NFL starting out that way. Dez Bryant had 7 catches for 102 yards in this game and the Skins did spend some of the time having Josh Norman cover Bryant so that was a plus for the Skins’ defensive braintrust. There are reports of some malaise within the Skins’ locker room surrounding the play and the aura around QB Kirk Cousins – he of the franchise tag and the $20M salary for this year. With the Skins leading 23-20, the Skins had the ball on the Cowboys 6-yardline with about 10 minutes to play. On 3rd down, Cousins threw into TRIPLE coverage and the Cowboys got an INT in the end zone to keep their deficit at 3 points. The ensuing 80-yard drive give the Cowboys a TD and the win.

Rookie RB, Ezekiel Elliott had a better day here than he did in Week 1. Against the Skins he carried 21 times for 83 yards; if he did that every game, he would be over 1300 yards by the end of the season and the Cowboys will be happy with that. The downside here is that Elliott fumbled twice in this game. If he did that in every game, he would fumble the ball 32 times and the Cowboys would be unhappy with that…

The Texans beat the Chiefs 19-12 last week. Frankly, it did not seem as if either team was all that keen on winning this one. Consider these stats:

    Chiefs gave up 4 sacks.
    Chiefs were 3 for 14 on 3rd down
    Chiefs were penalized 9 times for 77 yards
    Chiefs lost 3 fumbles

And with all that, the Texans only got 19 points – – because – –

    Texans only gained 268 yards passing
    Texans threw 2 INTs – one deep in the red zone
    Texans gave up 268 yards in returns for the game

The Giants beat the Saints 16-13. How did that happen? The last couple of times these teams met, the scores for both teams needed to be recorded in scientific notation. Here is the really bad news from this game; the Saints – for the first time in a while – got a very positive and very effective game from its defensive unit and on the same day, their normally potent offense decided to take a slide. The Saints’ offense produced 288 yards on offense; more than once in a while, Drew Brees has 288 yards passing at the end of the 3rd quarter. The Saints defense did not give up a TD all day long; the Giants’ TD came on a blocked field goal and a return.

So here is the question from that Saints/Giants game:

    The Giants handed out contracts to defensive players in the offseason that had a total face value of more than $160M. Have they really fixed their horrible defensive woes from last year in doing that?

In my pre-season analysis, I said that I did not think they had done so, but if it was the Giants defense that throttled the Saints’ offense, I was probably very wrong in that assessment. For the first two games, the Giants have only allowed 32 points. This bears watching for the next few games…

The Ravens beat the Browns 25-20 after spotting the Browns a 20-0 lead in the first quarter of the game. At the end of the first quarter, the score was Browns 20 and Ravens 2; but that was not a safety recorded by the Ravens. Those points came from a blocked extra point that was returned for a TD by the Ravens. That came with 4:34 to play in the first quarter and the Browns never scored again. As happened in the first game, the Browns had their QB suffer a shoulder injury. Josh McCown is not going to play this week; the Browns are down to their 3rd string QB, Cody Kessler, for this week’s contest against the Dolphins in Miami. Both teams threw 2 INTs in the game; neither defense distinguished itself on 3rd down the two teams combined to convert 18 of 31 3rd down situations.

There is another team who will be starting a 3rd string QB this week; that would be the New England Patriots who still have two weeks to wait until Tom Brady is allowed to come out to play and they lost Jimmy Garoppolo to a shoulder injury last week against the Dolphins. Until he had to leave the game, Garoppolo was lighting up the Dolphins’ defense. When he left the game in the second quarter, he was 18 for 27 for 234 yards and 3 TDs with 0 INTs. Not bad for a substitute QB, right?

Rookie Jacoby Brisset (out of NC State) took over last week and will start this week. The Pats emphasized the run more in the second half and held on to win 31-24. Brisset was 6 for 9 for 92 yards in a little more than half the game; he committed no turnovers; he ran the ball 4 times for 12 yards. For his first appearance – and without a week of fulltime prep with the first unit – that is an acceptable showing. This week – on a short week of preparation – he will take the field against the Houston Texans, a team that emphasizes defense as demonstrated by the comments above. At least he does not have to deal with adverse crowd noise as he would if the Pats were on the road this week.

The Titans beat the Lions last week 16-15. Titans’ coach Mike Mularkey characterized the Titans’ offense back in the exhibition season as “exotic smashmouth football”. The Titans do have a pair of big and powerful RBs in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry and they utilized both of them last week to the tune of 21 carries for 129 yards. The game was about as even as the score would imply:

    Time of Possession: Titans 30:51 Lions 29:09
    Total Offense: Titans 363 yards Lions 375 yards
    Yards Rushing: Titans 139 yards Lions 137 yards
    Yards Passing: Titans 224 yards Lions 238 yards

The biggest statistical discrepancy I could find was this one:

    Penalties: Titans 12 for 83 yards Lions 17 for 138 yards

The Rams and Seahawks played another low-scoring game last week with the Rams winning 9-3 in their first game back in Los Angeles. If you are a Seahawks’ fan, you have to be happy that the team is not peaking so early in the season. This game was ugly; the score was not suppressed because teams found ways to turn the ball over; the score was low because neither team played very well. Consider:

    There was 1 fumble lost in the game and 0 INTs.
    There were 19 penalties in the game for 192 yards
    There were 13 punts in the game
    There were only 35 return yards in the game
    Neither team could average 3 yards per rush attempt.

The Rams seem to play a whole lot better against the Seahawks than they do against everyone else in the league – – or maybe it is the opposite. Going back to the 2014 season, the Seahawks are 1-4 against the Rams and they are 22-6 against the rest of the NFL. As strange as those stats may seem, here are two more stats to think about:

    In 2016, the LA Rams have played 120 minutes of football and have yet to score a TD. In this offense-emphasis era, that is unusual.

    In fact, the last time the LA Rams scored a TD was on December 24, 1994 just before they bolted to St Louis. It was a 36-yard TD pass from Chris Miller to Jermaine Ross with the PAT by Tony Zendejas.

BTW, the Rams lost that game 24-21 to the Skins. It was a game of no importance whatsoever; the Rams wound up 4-12 and the skins wound up 3-13 in that season. That had to be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

The Cardinals manhandled the Bucs 40-7 last week. Yes, the beatdown was as bad as the score indicates. I think there is an important takeaway from this game however. You should recall that in Week 1, the Pats and first-time starter Jimmy Garoppolo went to Arizona and pretty much controlled the game against the same Cards’ defense that just put the kibosh on the Bucs here. Remember that the Pats converted 10 of 16 first down attempts in Week 1. This week, the Cards recorded 3 sacks and 4 INTs (including a Pick Six) against Jameis Winston.

The Panthers beat the Niners 46-27. This was a game of ebb and flow. The Panthers rolled out to a 31-10 lead at the end of the 3rd quarter. Then the Niners closed the gap to 34-27 with about 8 minutes to play in the game. Then the Panthers put it back in gear and scored a TD and 2 field goals in the final 4 minutes. Looking at the stats you would never have thought that this would have been a 1 score game in the middle of the 4th quarter. Consider:

    Total Offense: Panthers 529 yards Niners 302 yards
    Third Down Conversions: Panthers 7 for 15 Niners 4 for 14
    Return Yards: Panthers 175 yards Niners 66 yards
    Time of Possession: Panthers 35:56 Niners 24:04

The Broncos beat the Colts 34-20. Two defensive TDs by the Broncos provided the margin of victory here; the defense also sacked Andrew Luck 5 times in the game. The OL and the DL for the Colts continue to be sub-standard. The defense gave the Broncos an average of 4.5 yards per carry.

The Falcons beat the Raiders 35-28 and Matt Ryan had an excellent day producing this stat line:

    26 for 34 for 396 yards and 3 TDs with 1 INT

Julio Jones also had a nice day catching 5 passes – on 5 targets no less – for 106 yards and 1 TD. The Falcons amassed 528 yards on offense and a bit over 8 yards per offensive play. Like the Bills above, the Raiders need to look at their defense – and perhaps at their defensive coaches – for the reason they lost this game. The Raiders offense scored 28 points and moved the ball for 454 yards here; this is the second week in a row that the defense has allowed opponents to “north of 30 points” and that is not a winning recipe in NFL football.

The Chargers beat the Jags 38-14 last week. In last week’s Mythical Picks, I took the Jags +3 in the game and said that I expected the Jags to win outright. OK, now that everyone has stopped giggling, I will proceed. The game was not as close as the score indicates.

    After a scoreless 1st half, Jags punted on first 3 possessions of 2nd half.
    At the end of the 3rd quarter, the score was 35-0.
    The second Jags’ TD came with a minute left in the game.
    Jags converted 2 of 11 third down tries
    Jags penalized 14 times for 93 yards

In my pre-season analysis, I put Gus Bradley on the coaching hot seat because I had put him there the year before. I fully expected – and said so at the time – that he would not be in trouble because I thought the Jags would win the AFC South. They have stunk it up badly in their first two games. The Jags’ ownership has been extremely tolerant in Bradley’s tenure there. Consider:

    Gus Bradley’s record as the head coach in Jax now stands at 12-38.

Here is some perspective on that record:

    Only 1 coach in NFL history had a worse record after his first 50 games.

That “other coach” was Bert Bell who was the owner of the Eagles in the 30s and 40s. The Eagles were a doormat team then; Bell used that doormat status to plead with the other owners to adopt the NFL Draft so that the bad teams could be competitive; with great foresight, the other owners went along. Bell and the Eagles had the first pick ever in any NFL draft and the guy they picked refused to play for them because they stunk. They traded his rights to another team for someone who never played for them and then had the first pick in the next draft. You guessed it, they didn’t sign that guy either.

From 1936-1940, Bert Bell coached the team he owned and ran up a record of 10-44-2. After a complicated series of puts and takes between Bell and Art Rooney of the Steelers, Bell then coached the Steelers for 2 games in 1941. You guessed it; the Steelers lost both of those games so Bell’s total coaching record is 10-46-2.

Gus Bradley’s record is not that bad – but it is close. If the Jags’ players like him and want him to stay around, they had better start winning some games…

The Vikes introduced the world to their new stadium on Sunday night last week and did so in grand fashion beating the Packers 17-14. The Vikings rode their defense to the playoffs last year and the unit is clicking again this year. Last week, the Vikes held the Packers to 263 yards of offense and they forced Aaron Rodgers to fumble 3 times. On offense the Vikes had some good news and some bad news:

    Good news: Sam Bradford played very well
    Bad news: Adrian Peterson hurt his knee and was carried off in the 3rd quarter

The Eagles beat the Bears on MNF 29-14. The Carson Wentz Bandwagon is starting to get awfully crowded; he played well on Monday night but no one should be carried away here. Looking at the stats for the game, the Eagles won handily on the scoreboard but the stats actually look as if the Bears were the better team except for two stats:

    Total offense: Eagles 280 yards Bears 284 yards
    Yards per play: Eagles 4.1 Bears 5.7
    Yards per pass: Eagles 5.0 Bears 6.9
    Return Yards: Eagles 85 Bears 155 (and 1 TD)

The two stats that indicate how and why the Eagles won the game have little to do with Carson Wentz:

    Turnovers: Eagles 0 Bears 3
    Time of Possession: Eagles 36:05 Bears 23:55

I do not want anyone here to think I am “throwing shade” on Carson Wentz; his first two games in the NFL have been very good; and, frankly, they have been about everything that the coaching staff could have asked for from a rookie starter. But the ESPN post-game analysts were about to strew rose petals in front of him should he have come out to their set on the field. He was good – – but not that good.

Before getting to this week’s games, I want to channel Paul Harvey here and tell you The Rest Of The Story…

Recall in Week 1, some guy ran onto the field in the Niners/Rams game and took off his shirt and then outran the security guys for a while until they finally tackled him. Naturally, I – and many others – assumed that he had over-indulged in adult beverages prior to making his run. Not so. It turns out that he is a 16-year old boy and he did it because someone dared him to do it. His brain was not addled with alcohol; it was addled with testosterone. Because he is a minor, he did not serve time in jail but he has been banned from Levi’s Stadium for one full year. There is no word what came to the guy who dared this kid to do what the kid did…

The Games:

(Thurs Nite): Houston – 1.5 at New England (40.5): I am surprised by the spread here; I would have thought that it would be about 2 points higher in favor of the Texans. Given the Texans defense, I would have thought the public would be averse to backing the Pats here – – but clearly, I was over-estimating that sentiment. However, perhaps people are paying attention to this trend I ran across:

    In the last 8 games where the Pats have been underdogs, the Pats are 7-1 straight up and 7-1 against the spread.

I agree with the oddsmakers that this game will be low scoring given that Jacoby Brisset is almost assuredly going to be the Pats’ QB for the entire game. Nevertheless, I am not ready to declare that the Pats ore dead meat in this matchup. I am declaring this as a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game. The coin is out and the coin says to take the Texans and lay the points. Who am I to argue with “the coin” when “the coin” is perfect so far this season?

Denver at Cincy – 3 (41): Trevor Siemian will experience a road game against a good team for the first time in his NFL career. Last year when he watched from the sidelines in road games against good teams, he had to absorb the elements/atmosphere of those games; this year, the Broncos’ game against a top-shelf team (Panthers) was at home; now Siemian gets to see what it is like under center and on the road against a quality roster. Meanwhile, the Bengals have to regroup after a division loss last week. The matchup of AJ Green and Aquib Talib will be exciting to watch. I really have no idea how the teams will come out to play this game nor how they will structure game plans against one another. Ergo, this is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Broncos plus the points. Why not?

Oakland at Tennessee – 2 (47): This spread demonstrates that the oddsmakers have little faith in Raiders’ Nation to show up at the betting windows to play for the Raiders side of the deal. So far, the Raiders’ defense has been a no-show in 2016 (see above). In the first two games, the Raiders have given up an average of 517.5 yards per game. To put that in perspective, the next worst defense in the NFL is the Saints and they “only” give up 451.5 yards per game. By the same token, the Titans’ offense has not spread fear amongst the defensive coordinators around the NFL. I think there is a litmus test here for the Raiders’ defense:

    They have to hold the Titans under 30 points lest they look forward to allowing more than 500 points for the 2016 season.

I am going to go with the Raiders here because I think they will indeed keep the Titans’ offense in check. I’ll take the Raiders plus the points.

Arizona – 4 at Buffalo (47): Now that the Bills have fired Greg Roman (see above) all should be well in Western New York, right? After losing to the Pats, the Cardinals came right back and simply dominated the Bucs last week. I know this is a long trip for the Cards; but the simple fact is that they have more talent on the field than do the Bills. I expect the Bills to come out and play hard this week after what happened to them in a national game last week but I still prefer going with talent over emotion. Here are a couple of interesting trends:

    Cards are 19-7 against the spread against teams with losing records.
    Bills are 6-13 against the spread in Week 3.
    This is Week 3 and the Bills have a losing record.

I like the Cards to win and cover – even on this long road trip.

Baltimore at Jax “pick ‘em” (47): The Jags were competitive in Week 1 against the Packers but they did nothing constructive at all against the Chargers in Week 2. The Ravens are 2-0 having beaten two of the bottom-feeders of the league (Bills then Browns). It is difficult to call a game in Week 3 a “must-win game” but for the Jags, this one approaches that status. I cannot turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol because there is no provision in the protocol for a “pick ‘em game”. Therefore, I will make this purely a venue pick and take the Jags to win the game.

There is a trend that supports that pick – if you like trends. In the last time these teams have played, the home team is 5-2-1 against the spread. Since there is no spread here, the way for the home team to extend the trend would be to win outright.

Cleveland at Miami – 10.5 (42): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. One of these teams will get their first win of the season here only because the odds against a tie in the NFL are incredibly high. The drama level for this game is about the same as the drama level for watching bread dough rise; you know it is going to happen and all you care about is the end result. In addition to the fact that the Browns have started a jillion QBs since returning to the NFL in 1999, here are the starting QBs in their last four games plus the guy who will start this week

    Johnny Manziel – Week 16 2015
    Austin Davis – Week 17 2015
    RG3 – Week 1 2016
    Josh McCown – Week 2 2016
    Cody Kessler – Week 3 2017

That represents a level of stability approximately that of a walrus riding a unicycle. Meanwhile, the Dolphins rallied to get within a TD of the Pats last week – but that was only after Jimmy Garoppolo left the game in the 2nd quarter. I hate laying double-digits in the NFL but if I were to do it, I would want the underdog to be awful – which it is here. I hate laying double-digits in the NFL and when I think about doing it, I want the favorite to be one of the better teams – which is not the case here. Only because I said I would make a pick in every game and because these are Mythical Picks not real ones, I will take the Browns plus the points.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to go and wash my hands after typing those words…

Washington at Giants – 4.5 (46.5): This is a desperation game for the Skins. A loss here would put them at 0-3 but in addition it would be their second loss in the NFC East. The narrative in DC for the time in training camp was that the Skins had put the franchise’s typical drama scenarios behind them; this was a squad that was focused on doing its business and getting wins. Well, the team is 0-2 and there are reports of dissention in the locker room (see above). Meanwhile the Giants are playing solid if unspectacular football. Their record is 2-0; they have scored only 36 points in those 2 wins but they have only allowed 32 points in those 2 games. Even if Josh Norman can make good on his pronouncements that he can dominate Odell Beckham, Jr., that does not mean that Eli Manning will be without receivers to catch the ball for him. Here are two interesting trends:

    Skins/Giants have gone UNDER in 13 of the last 16 games in NY
    Skins/Giants have gone UNDER in 7 of their last 9 games anywhere.

I like the Giants at home to win and cover here.

Detroit at Green Bay – 7.5 (47.5): Aaron Rodgers played a very “un-Rodgers-like” game last week against a Vikings’ defense that may indeed be one of the best in the league. He will not face such a challenge this week. The Lions rallied in the second half of last season and saved Jim Caldwell’s job; then they came out in Week 1 and scored 39 points; then they laid an egg last week against the Titans. After 2 games, the Lions’ offense is averaging 411.5 yards per game; after 2 games the Lions’ defense is allowing an average of 406.5 yards per game. I smell a shoot-out here; I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Minnesota at Carolina – 7 (43): Here are two good defensive teams each having a week to prepare for the other. Here are two trends for the game; one of them will see a reversal this week:

    Vikes are 10-1 against the spread in their last 11 road games.
    Panthers are 8-2 against the spread in their last 10 games on grass.
    This game is on grass and the Vikes are on the road.

With the announcement that Adrian Peterson needs surgery and will be out for much of the rest of the season, the Vikings will need to rely more heavily on Sam Bradford and their passing attack. That may be a positive thing somewhere down the road, but it may take time for it to develop. I like the Panthers to win and cover at home.

SF at Seattle – 9 (40): Channeling Bud Collyer from the old TV game show, To Tell the Truth:

Will the real Seattle Seahawks please stand up…?

When Chip Kelly arrived in SF, the idea was that the Niners’ offense which had been moribund under Jim Tomsula would take a great leap forward while the Niners’ defense would suffer from over-exposure. Well, after 2 weeks, the Niners’ offense has been nothing to write home about averaging a mediocre 311 yards per game. The Niners’ defense has not cratered from overwork – yet – but the lack of offensive fireworks should be a bit disturbing for Niners’ fans. Lack of offense is the hallmark of the Seahawks’ season to date. They have scored 15 points (1 TD) in their 2 games. They have to wake up one of these weeks, no? I think this is the week so I’ll take the Seahawks at home and lay the points.

LA at Tampa Bay – 5 (42): How bad is the Rams’ offense? They are averaging only 234 yards per game total offense. That is dead last in the NFL by more than 35 yards per game. The Bucs’ defense has given up 395 yards per game over the first two contests. Is that sufficient to get the Rams out of their stupor? I might believe that were it not for the fact that the Rams will be making a 3 time zone trip to play this game. I’ll take the Bucs at home to win and cover.

Pittsburgh – 3.5 at Philly (46.5): Is this the best game of the week? It matches two teams that are 2-0; by the time they kick off here, one of the undefeated teams in the Texans/Pats game will not enjoy that status. The Eagles have scored 29 points in each of their first two games this year; I do not think they can score that much against the Steelers. The Eagles have allowed an average of only 12 points per game to their opponents in the first two games this year; I do not think they can hold the Steelers to anything near that number. I think Pittsburgh is one of the top teams in the AFC; the Eagles are not one of the top teams in the NFC. I know this is an old rivalry game and I know it is in Philly. Nonetheless, I’ll take the Steelers and lay the points.

Jets at KC – 3 (43): Short and sweet here… The Chiefs had trouble scoring against a tough Texans defense last week. The Jets’ defense is also tough. I’ll take the Jets on the road plus the points.

San Diego at Indy – 2.5 (52): I cannot believe the dominance shown by the Chargers last week; this is not a dominating team. I cannot believe how bad the Colts line play has been so far this year on both offense and defense; it actually takes more than a really good QB to be a winning team in the NFL. Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Colts at home to win and cover.

(Sun Nite) Chicago at Dallas – 7 (44.5): Given what I saw of the Bears on Monday night last week, this team needs to regroup very quickly. I am not ready to proclaim that the Eagles have a dominant NFL defense but they definitely dominated the Bears last Monday. If the Bears’ offense is going to play like that for the rest of the year, Chicago fans need to be prepared for double-digit losses sometime proximal to Thanksgiving. The only team in the NFL producing less offense than the Bears is the Rams; that does not say much for the Bears chances to score. Can Jay Cutler play this week with his injured thumb? If not the Bears’ offense will not get any better. Cutler may not be the most popular player in the NFL, but he is the starting QB in Chicago for the simple reason he is the best option on the roster. I do not love the Cowboys this year but I think they are the better team here. I’ll take the Cowboys at home and lay the points.

(Mon Nite) Atlanta at New Orleans – 3 (53): I know this is a division game and a rivalry game. However, let me say to the movers and shakers at ESPN and at the NFL:

    I have not cared about match-ups between these teams for at least the last 5 years and will probably not care much for the next 5 years.

These teams rank #29 and #31 on defense so far this year; so people tuning into the game are likely to see fireworks. I ‘ll just go along with that sort of thinking here and take the game to go OVER. Why not? These are only Mythical Picks.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

College Football Observations

I have pointed out here in the past that college football is not nearly as big a deal here in the Northeast US as it is in other parts of the country. A recent report in the New York Business Journal underscores the situation here.

Maryland and Rutgers – the two schools most recently added to the Big 10 in order for the conference to have a footprint in the heavily populated megalopolis of the Northeast US – will play each other in football this year. That game will take place on 4 November and it will be in Yankee Stadium in NYC. Yankee Stadium will seat 54,000 people and if you have tuned in to see any Rutgers’ football games on TV recently, you can convince yourself easily from the crowd shots that they tend not to draw that many fans to the stadium.

Not to worry, someone in the “marketing division” involved with this game came up with a way to goose attendance.

“The two schools announced the ‘Big Ten Battle in the Bronx’ on Tuesday, hosted by Rutgers University. That day [November 4], the Terps and Scarlett Knights will face off in a wrestling match, the first to be held in the 54,000-seat stadium, followed by a football game later that afternoon.”

Think about this for a moment.

    Most college wrestling matches take place indoors with a few hundred fans – or possible a couple thousand fans – in attendance. The seats are close to the action.

    Imagine for a moment watching a college wrestling match in a baseball stadium – any baseball stadium. Now that you have that picture in your head does it surprise you that this will be “the first to be held in the 54,000 seat stadium?”

    One more point … It might be cold outdoors in the morning in NYC in early November. Think for a moment how Yankee fans might be dressed if there were a baseball game there on the evening of 3 November. College wrestlers normally do not wear parkas while limbering up or while competing.

I am not someone who is averse to change; I spent a major portion of my career in jobs that required and rewarded “thinking outside the box”. When one does that over a period of time, one comes to realize that every new idea is not necessarily a good idea. We had a saying in the office that thinking outside the box was something to be encouraged – – unless of course you were talking to your cat.

Since I mentioned the college football game between Maryland and Rutgers above, let me segue here into another issue that involves college football. The games are getting longer and longer – – and longer still. I read a report that the Florida State/Ole Miss game from Week 1 took 4 hours and 4 minutes to play. [Aside: That datum comes from a report; I did not time he game.] That is too long; remember the running clock for the game is only 1 hour and at least some of that time involves no action as the clock runs while players line up and figure out what to do on the next snap.

Also, consider that this negative reaction to the length of some college football games comes from someone who really likes college football. I pay a lot more attention to college football than the vast majority of sports fans who live in the Northeast US and I think the games should not take 4 hours to play.

I believe the major culprit in stretching out the game times is the college rule that the clock will stop on every first down until the ball is set and the chains are set and the officials signal the ball to be alive again. Consider that Florida State/Ole Miss game from above. In that game, there were 53 first downs made by the two teams. That probably stretched the game out by 10 minutes as the clock was stopped for everything to happen prior to the next snap.

Wondering if that game was an anomaly, I checked a few games from that same week between competitive teams:

    Notre Dame/Texas had 48 first downs
    Oklahoma/Houston had 42 first downs
    UCLA/Texas A&M had 51 first downs

That is not an exhaustive survey by any stretch of the imagination but I think it does indicate that one could shorten some college games a bit if the NFL rule on clock running applied to the college game.

There are other factors to consider here and let me point out one of them that cannot be cured by any sort of rule change.

    College football is a higher scoring sport than NFL football.

There are plenty of reasons for that and the fact that it is higher scoring is part of its appeal. Every time there is a TD or a field goal, the game stops for a series of TV commercials. That happens more frequently in a college game than in a pro game and I do not think one should try to tinker with that aspect of college football. However, one could consider doing one or both of these things:

    1. Why is halftime 20 minutes long? It was not always that long. Does it really have to be that long?

    2. Put a hard and fast time limit on the review of plays by the folks doing the reviewing. Honestly, some of them seem to take 4 or 5 minutes all by themselves.

These are merely constructive suggestions because I do enjoy watching college football…

Finally, since everything today related somehow to college football, let me close with a comment from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot right after Wisconsin beat LSU to start this college football season:

“Nonsense ahead: With Louisiana State’s loss to Wisconsin, Tigers coach Les Miles is on the hot seat one game into the season. If worse comes to worse, Miles can always find a cooler coaching seat in Canada, but first, he’d have to change his name to Fewer Kilometers.”

But don’t get me wrong I love sports………

Carolina Blue Or Carolina Blues?

About 60 years ago, Judy Garland sang:

“Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina … in the morning.”

The song goes on to extol the natural beauty of Carolina – not specifying North or South and so by implication it can be both or either – and how wonderful life is there when you are with loved ones. That is all probably true and it all probably still exists today – – unless you are a sports fan in North Carolina.

The NCAA came down hard on the State of North Carolina moving all of its championship tournament activities out of the state due to the “Bathroom Bill” that is extant there. The ACC followed suit last week and announced that 8 Conference Championship events over the next year will be relocated. Here is the list, in case you did not see it and where each event was supposed to happen:

    Women’s soccer – – Cary NC
    Football – – Charlotte NC
    Men’s and women’s swimming/diving – – Greensboro NC
    Women’s basketball – – Greensboro NC
    Men’s and women’s tennis – – Cary NC
    Women’s golf – – Greensboro NC
    Men’s golf – – New London NC
    Baseball – – Durham NC

Perched atop all of these sanctions and all of the acrimony associated with the sanctions, the NCAA is still dealing with the decades-long academic scandal at UNC. The NCAA is in an uncomfortable and contorted position here – and frankly, I hope they stay there for a while until it hurts. I do not want to get down in the weeds here so here is the overview of the NCAA’s conundrum:

    What UNC did by sending athletes to sham courses and having them take Swahili as their foreign language – not particularly useful in terms of employment here in the US – strikes at the heart of why the NCAA exists.

      The glorified “student-athlete” at UNC was not really a student. The “student-athlete” was taking courses that did not exist or which had minimal academic content/value.

    The “amateurism ideal” requires that the “student-athlete” provide service to the university in exchange for the costs of his/her education. Well, if they were not being educated, then their “free tuition and board” must have been something other than what supports “amateurism”.

The NCAA overseers did not find out about any of this for about 20 years which might cause some folks to ask what those overseers do for a living. And that would be a fair course of inquiry – one with more intellectual content than some of the sham courses provided for UNC athletes. Even more maliciously, one might ask if the overseers “kinda sorta knew” about this but turned a blind eye because UNC is a major presence in several NCAA sports – – including the two that produce 99% of the revenue. Before you call that inquiry overly cynical please recall:

    The only difference between a cynic and a realist is whether or not you agree with him.

The NCAA position in all of this is sort of a hodgepodge of wreckage surrounded by a jumble of debris. To a large extent, it is a problem of their own making and the only way for them to get out of it will be to pay lots of money to a bunch of people in exchange for a confidentiality agreement so that all of the clutter does not come to light. Meanwhile, pardon me for enjoying their discomfort…

Speaking of problems of one’s own making – sometimes referred to as shooting oneself in the foot – the Indianapolis Star had a report last week about a man who overreacted just a bit to losing out on a job opportunity. It seems as if this man aspired to be a 4th grade teacher and a basketball coach in Indiana but the school district involved picked someone else to do those jobs. Obviously, anyone would be disappointed if he/she were among the applicants not selected for the position but I do not think I would ever be in such a state to do what this guy is alleged to have done.

    He began harassing the man who got the jobs – – and the man’s fiancée.

    He mailed packages containing dead animals (4 skunks and a raccoon) to the man and his fiancée.

      The package with the dead raccoon included a note telling the man to “Resign, it will not stop.”

    He mailed letters to the employer claiming that the man had a sexual relationship with an underage student.

    He informed Child Protective Services that the man was abusing his fiancée’s daughter.

    He spray-painted threats on the personal vehicles of the man and his fiancée.

If only half of these allegations are indeed correct, I think I can say with confidence that this person is not someone that I would want to be part of the elementary education system in my county. Lest you think I am making this up, here is the link to the story in the Indianapolis Star:

Finally, since I began this rant with a reference to an old song, let me close with this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“From the Sometimes You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up file comes word that fibbing swimmer Ryan Lochte’s choice of music for his ‘Dancing with the Stars’ debut was ‘Call Me Irresponsible.’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

One Step Closer To “Las Vegas Raiders”…

Mark Davis clearly wants to move the Oakland Raiders to a place with a new stadium because he is – rightly – convinced that Oakland is not going to build one for him. For the moment, it appears that Las Vegas is his preferred landing spot. Last week, the process of getting approval and funding for such a venture cleared a hurdle. The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously to recommend that $750M be approved for a stadium in Las Vegas and that the money would be raised by an increase in the Las Vegas hotel tax.

This recommendation – unanimous or not – is not nearly the end of the road here. The state legislature has to be convinced that all of this is a good idea and it would then need to pass legislation to make it all happen. Nonetheless, this is a positive step because most folks reporting on this matter have thought that a negative recommendation from this committee would be the end of the line for such an idea.

The broad outline of the financing for a new stadium in Las Vegas breaks down like this:

    $750M from the increased hotel room tax
    $650M from Sheldon Adelson – CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp
    $500M from the Raiders/NFL

This “step forward” in Nevada is interesting because in about 7 weeks, voters in San Diego will be asked to approve or deny a proposal there to raise the hotel tax in the city by 4% in order to provide funding for a stadium there that will keep the Chargers in that city. One of the major differences between the situation in these two cities is that San Diego does not currently have a local mogul who is willing to pony up $650M for the stadium. I have not seen any polling data from San Diego with regard to this referendum issue but given the fact that the Chargers and the city have been at loggerheads over a variety of new stadium proposals for about 15 years now, I think it is safe to say that there is significant resistance to the idea of public funding for a new stadium there.

Another wild-card in all of this is the NFL owners’ meeting that is scheduled for January 2017. Last year, the owners gave the Chargers an out; if they do not get approval for a new stadium in San Diego, they have league approval to move to LA and be tenants in the new stadium complex that is being built there by the Rams. However, the Chargers’ option to do that expires sometime in February of next year so there is not much time for “regrouping” in San Diego – or in Las Vegas for that matter – if the government processes go down to defeat. Moreover, the NFL owners have to approve the movement of any team to a new city and such approvals are not always slam-dunks.

Last year, the Chargers and Raiders had a proposal to the owners that the two of them would “go halfsies” on a new stadium in Carson CA and that the teams would be partners in that venture. The owners told them to forget that idea because they put the Rams in LA, gave the Chargers a one-year option to go and join the Rams there and told the Raiders to go pound sand. The NFL owners are a group of 32 very rich folks who are quite accustomed to getting their own way and who really dislike being told what to do. The only reason I would believe that their approval would be forthcoming here is that any team that moves has to pay a “relocation fee” to the league which is then distributed to the other owners.

Last year the Rams paid $500M as a relocation fee; presumably, that would be the price for a team that moves this year. So, it would seemingly behoove the “other owners” to let the Raiders move to Las Vegas and then to let the Chargers opt to join the Rams in LA. That lets the “other owners split a cool $1B amongst themselves without having to lift a finger.

However, there are other ways for the owners to “find money” in these proceedings. If the Nevada folks get legislation approved to raise the funding here, the league does not have to put the Raiders in Las Vegas. Suppose they decide to let the Chargers move there; suppose they decide to let the Jax Jags move there. The “other owners” still collect money for doing nothing but the Raiders would still be stranded in Oakland.

    [Aside: Remember, the Jags still have tarps over stadium seats in Jax because they cannot sell out the full stadium and even with the tarps in place, they still do not sell out the smaller stadium. Why do you think they love to play games in London? They sell lots more tix there at higher prices than they do in Jax.]

I am sure that there are folks out there who would look at that sort of outcome as a way for the league and the owners to flip the bird in the cosmic direction of Al Davis whose previous movements of the Raiders caused the league such heartburn. That sort of conclusion is a bit of a stretch in my opinion. Al Davis’ defiance of the league in moving his team happened a long time ago and it involved a markedly different set of owners. Some of the most influential owners today – Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, Woody Johnson – were not part of that old NFL. Will they take a “vengeful stance” here; I think not.

While on the subject of the NFL, there has been a bit of a furor in the last few days about the list of people eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame next year. There are about 100 people on the list and one of them is Darren Sharper. In case you lost interest in Sharper’s story, he pleaded guilty to drugging and then raping multiple women and was recently sentenced to 18 years in prison. If you want an update on all of this, you can find it here.

The furor over his appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot is misplaced. The Pro Football Hall of Fame does not have any “morals criteria” associated with membership. As I understand it, anyone may nominate any person associated with pro football for consideration by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee. It appears that the ONLY hard and fast rule is that if the nominee is a player or a coach, that nominee has to have been retired for 5 full years before he is eligible for selection. Darren Sharper meets that criterion. That does not mean he deserves to be voted in – I’d bet dollars to donut-holes he will not make the first cut on the list as it exists for now – but he belongs on the list.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross:

“Stephen Ross held a business seminar for five Fins players interested in post-football careers. His advice to them: Become a billionaire. Makes everything so much easier!”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 9/17/16

Last week’s Mythical Picks were mythically profitable once again. Last week I made 14 picks and the record was 9-5-0. That brings the cumulative record for Mythical Picks this season to 19-12-0.

The Best Pick from last week was the UNC/Illinois game:

    I liked UNC – 7.5 and Carolina won by 25 points
    I liked UNC/Illinois OVER 58 and the total score was 71

The Worst Pick from last week was:

    I liked Duke – 4.5 over Wake Forest and Duke lost by 10 points

I shall set out to maintain the level of performance demonstrated in the first two weeks of the college football season – – but history here says that such a continuation is unlikely. Therefore, no one should use anything contained herein as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money this weekend. Anyone stupid enough to do so also thinks this is true:

    You think “satisfactory” is a place to manufacture satis.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats began the 2016 season with a comfortable 48-14 victory over Chapman University. Since Division III schools play a 9 game regular season schedule, that win moves Linfield 20% of the way toward a winning season – and a winning season would be their 61st consecutive one.

This week, the Wildcats travel to Belton, TX – a town located between Waco and Austin – to play the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders. The Crusaders have played twice already this year and are 2-0 having scored 56 points in both games. This could be a “light up the scoreboard game”. Go Wildcats!

Before I review some of the things from last week’s games, let me comment on last night’s Houston/Cincinnati game. It is not a secret that I am rooting for Houston to go undefeated this year to see how the CFP Selection Committee treats them in early December. The Cougars ran their record to 3-0 last night beating Cincy 40-16 – – but the game was not nearly that close. I recorded this game while the Thursday Night Football game was on and then watch the recording until about 1:00 AM. Cincy led 16-12 early in the 4th quarter and Houston’s offense did not show up until the 4th quarter. It was the Houston defense that enabled this win.

Cincy is not a bottom-feeder team by any stretch of the imagination. At the same time, no one – not even the coaching staff there – believes in their hearts that the Bearcats are going to be part of the discussion when it comes to the College Football Playoff. As good as Houston looked beating Oklahoma two weeks ago, this performance dulls their résumé slightly. There may be no such things as moral victories, but this win was not a big win.

Let me start with the Tennessee/Va Tech game which was more of a gala than a football game at the Bristol Motor Speedway in front of about 150,000 fans. Tennessee won 45-24; Va Tech fumbled away the ball 5 times giving the Vols a short field most of the time. Tennessee accepted that largesse and waltzed to an easy win. I do wonder how many of the fans in the nosebleed seats at the track were able to see the ball on the ground for all of those fumbles – or even to see the number of the player who recovered one of them. Here is a comment from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot on this game:

“Football folderol: Relatively few fans – even with the use of high-powered binoculars – will be able to follow the action between Virginia Tech and Tennessee at the 150,000-seat Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night. But that’s not the point, is it? As with outdoor NHL games and Final Fours played in indoor football stadiums, what attracts people to a gimmick like this is the chance to tell their friends they were there.”

Pitt beat Penn State 42-39 last week renewing a rivalry that had been dormant for about 15 years. I remember when games between these schools would end 17-13; times have changed. Pitt used turnovers to run out to a 28-7 lead and then Penn State mounted a comeback. Penn State has a running back you should keep an eye out for; Saquon Barkley can play football and will get paid to do so one of these days. It took an interception by Pitt in their end-zone to seal this win.

Penn State and Pitt have three more games scheduled meaning that this rivalry may just take hold again. I think that would be a good thing because a game like this is far more interesting to fans than seeing either team beat up on Fugue State.

Central Michigan “beat” Oklahoma State 30-27 last week but the reason for the “win” is that the officials misinterpreted the rulebook and gave C. Michigan a final play they should not have had. That led to a TD and to an Oklahoma State “loss”. By NCAA rules, once the referee declares the game to be over, there is no going back to correct anything at all. So, Oklahoma State is the “loser” here.

This week, Oklahoma State hosts Pitt. It will be an interesting coaching challenge for the staff in Stillwater. Will the team come out flat or will they come out ready to smack anything in front of them that moves? It will be a game to watch…

Northwestern lost to Illinois State (Division 1-AA) 9-7. This looks like it will be a “cover your eyes season” for Northwestern alums. In week 1, they lost to W. Michigan but this loss is even worse. The Wildcats only scored 7 points against a Division 1-AA team. Here are some stats that will explain Northwestern’s lack of scoring and will provide bad omens for Northwestern fans:

    Total yards of offense against a Division 1-AA opponent = 278 yards
    Passing stats were 17 for 41 for 191 yards
    Rushing stats were 31 carries for 87 yards

Speaking of teams that may be looking ahead to long and disastrous seasons, consider:

    Kent State lost in Week 1 to Penn State by 20 points. That is not such a bad loss until you realize the Kent State lost in Week 2 to North Carolina A&T (Division 1-AA) by a score of 39-36 in 4 OTs.

    Savannah State (Division 1-AA) lost to Georgia Southern in Week 1 by a score of 54-0. Last week, Savanna St. lost to So. Mississippi 56-0. I sure hope those folks got two nice paychecks from those Division 1-A schools to act as a punching bag…

    Ohio beat Kansas 37-21. Remember Kansas students stormed the field after the team beat a Division 1-AA opponent at home in Week 1. Well, Ohio University is not exactly a national powerhouse and they too went to Kansas for a game and came out with a dominant win. The Big 12 season has not begun for the Jayhawks…

    Duke lost to Wake Forest 24-14. Wake is not a good offensive football team so this is not a good showing by the Duke defense. Bad omen …

    Kentucky lost to Florida 45-7. That is not unexpected except for the magnitude of the loss and the fact that the Kentucky TD came in the 4th quarter when it did not matter at all. Recall in Week 1 that Kentucky lost the second half of its game to So. Miss 27-0 to seal a come-from-ahead defeat.

Michigan beat UCF 51-14. Last week, I said that if UCF really wants to be considered seriously by the Big 12, they could not lose this game by 50 points. Well, they succeeded in avoiding that ignominy; they only lost by 37. Michigan blocked 2 punts and 2 field goal tries in the game. Perhaps some special teams blocking drills would be in order in Orlando this week?

BC beat UMass 26-7. If BC cannot get to 30 points against UMass, I wonder if they will get to 30 points against anyone this year.

Nebraska beat Wyoming 52-17 which is not all that unexpected. Here is what was a tad surprising; at the start of the 4th quarter Nebraska only led 24-17.

Clemson was a 36.5-point Ponderosa favorite over Troy last week. Clemson won the game 30-24 which is not spectacular for a team that was considered as the #2 team in the country in the pre-season rankings. Oh, and it is not as if Troy scored late to make it look closer than it really was. At the start of the 4th quarter, Clemson led 13-10.

Notre Dame beat Nevada 39-10 – just covering a 28-point Ponderosa spread.

Alabama beat W. Kentucky 38-10 – just missing a cover on a 28.5-point Ponderosa spread.

Ohio State beat Tulsa 48-3. When the 1st quarter ended, the score was 3-3; then came the deluge. Ohio State pays a visit to Oklahoma this week …

Oklahoma manhandled La-Monroe 59-17 after losing in Week 1 to Houston. The score at halftime was 42-0.

There were some other “squash games” last week:

    Texas beat UTEP 41-7. I said that if Texas lost, Charlie Strong might need to hire a food taster in Austin. Texas took care of business.

    Washington beat Idaho 59-14. As I said last week, at least Idaho did not have to travel very far to get its ass kicked.

    Iowa beat Iowa St. 42-3. I can’t wait for that Big 12 Conference showdown between Iowa St. and Kansas.

Georgia scheduled Nicholls St (Division 1-AA) as a breather for Week 2 but was surprised at hard the win was. The Bulldogs only won 26-24. Just so you know, Nicholls St is not one of those Division 1-AA powerhouses that you might expect to sneak up on a big time school. Since 2010 the overall record for Nicholls St is 13-55…

Mississippi St beat S. Carolina 27-14 last week. This was a nice recovery for the Bulldogs after losing to S. Alabama in Week 1.

The LSU football cauldron came to a simmer last week. In the opening week loss to Wisconsin, the LSU offensive woes were obvious to most observers. This week, LSU hosted Jacksonville St (Division 1-AA) and once again they did not move the ball. Finally, the coaching staff removed starting QB, Brandon Harris and replaced him with Danny Etling who transferred to LSU from Purdue. Under Etling, LSU was able to move the ball against this Division 1-AA defense and ultimately won the game 34-13. I know that there are no “bad wins” in football, but LSU fans tend to expect more against Division 1-AA opponents.

Missouri beat E. Michigan 61-21. What surprised me here was that Missouri could score 61 points on anyone other than Comatose State. Is E. Michigan really that bad?

Utah beat BYU 20-19 in the renewal of The Holy War rivalry. BYU scored a late TD to get within a point and chose to go for 2 instead of going for a tie. The try failed and Utah won the game.

Boise St. beat Washington St. 31-28. The Cougars have dug themselves into an 0-2 hole before PAC-12 conference play begins. Not a good situation there …

San Diego St. beat Cal 45-40. The important outcome of this game was that Aztec running back, Donnell Pumphrey, broke Marshall Faulk’s school rushing record. Pumphrey rushed for 281 yards and 3 TDs against Cal and now has 4,651 yards rushing for his career at San Diego St.

Last week, I took the Texas Tech/Arizona St. game to stay UNDER 80 because I thought it was too early in the season for both offenses to be ready for that kind of output. Here is how wrong I was:

    Final score was Arizona St. 68 and Texas Tech 55
    Tech QB, Pat Mahomes, threw for 540 yards and 5 TDs – – and lost.
    Ariz St. RB, Kalen Balladge, scored 8 TDs (7 rushing and 1 receiving)

Texas Tech was a terrible defensive team last year and it would surely appear as if that is the case again this year. Twice last year, Texas Tech scored more than 50 points in a game and lost that game; they did it again last week. In 13 games last year, Tech surrendered a total of 567 points (43.6 points per game). There are 128 schools that play Division 1-A football; I am too lazy to look it up, but I would be shocked if there were 5 schools that allowed more points per game last year.

Army won again last week and has started the 2016 season at 2-0. It has been 20 years since that happened at West Point and looking at the schedule, it just might be that Army can get to 6 wins and be bowl eligible; there are some games there against weak programs. If you are a fan of the Cadets and you believe in omens, the last time Army started a season at 2-0, it went on to a record of 10-2…

Louisville beat Syracuse 62-28 last week and the Cardinals’ QB, Lamar Jackson, accounted for 610 yards of offense and 5 TDs by himself. Louisville has a big game coming up this weekend against Florida State in Louisville.

There are several other good games on the calendar for this weekend:

    Ohio State/Oklahoma: Surprisingly, this will be only the third time these schools have ever played one another.

    Alabama/Ole Miss: Alabama has lost the last two games against the Rebels; I suspect Nick Saban has reminded the team of that once or twice this week.

    Notre Dame/Michigan St.: Why did these schools stop scheduling one another in the first place?

    USC/Stanford: PAC-12 conference play starts with a key game.

    Oregon/Nebraska: This has the makings of a shoot-out.

You know that I like to find players with unusual names in sports. Today, let me introduce you to Equanimeous Tristan Imhotep J. St. Brown. He is a sophomore WR from Anaheim CA at Notre Dame. I wonder what it is like for him to fit his full name into the fixed boxes on a school application form…

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week there were 15 Ponderosa games. The record for favorites covering in those games was 9-6-0.

Miami, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio St., Texas, Washington and Wisconsin covered.

Alabama, Baylor, Clemson, Oklahoma, Oregon and UCLA did not cover.

That brings the season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa games to 14-10-0.

This week we have 11 Ponderosa Games:

(Fri Nite) Baylor – 31.5 at Rice (66): Another fine example of Baylor’s out-of-conference scheduling…

Iowa St at TCU – 24.5 (61.5): The oddsmaker must not like TCU’s offense here…

Georgia St. at Wisconsin – 35 (51): This game should cease to be interesting in the second quarter.

Florida Atlantic at K-State – 25.5 (48.5): More mediocrity in out-of-conference scheduling…

N. Texas at Florida – 36 (51.5): Oh please…

Texas St. at Arkansas – 30.5 (61): A glorified scrimmage?

Ohio at Tennessee – 27 (58): Ohio beat Kansas by 2 TDs last week; here is an idea of how good Ohio is.

La-Monroe at Georgia Southern – 26 (58): Put this game on TV and I wonder if it would draw an audience of a thousand viewers.

Old Dominion at NC State – 24 (59): One more tune-up for State before conference games begin.

Hawaii at Arizona – 24 (64): Hawaii has given up 150 points in 3 games so far this year.

Idaho at Washington St – 26.5 (68.5): These schools are about 10 miles apart. That is the only thing interesting about this game.

Games of Interest:

E. Michigan – 2.5 at UNC-Charlotte (66.5): I asked above if E. Michigan could be as bad as they looked giving up 61 points to Missouri. Well, Charlotte is definitely not very good and E. Michigan is only a 2.5-point favorite here. Ergo

Florida St. – 1 at Louisville (67): Louisville has averaged 66 points per game in its first two games this year; they are not going to do that against the Florida State defense. This game has CFP implications all over it – for these two schools and for Houston who has to face Louisville down the road apiece. Just a hunch, but I’ll take Florida State to win and cover on the road here.

Temple at Penn State – 8.5 (51.5): Penn State lost soundly to Temple last year; it was the first time that had happened to the Nittany Lions since Steamboat Willie introduced the world to Mickey Mouse. Temple this year seems to be a tad less than it was last year losing in Week 1 to Army; Penn State so far seems to be a better than average team. I like Penn State at home to win and cover.

Colorado at Michigan – 19 (55): Colorado must be improving because when I saw this game on the card, I expected Michigan to be about a 30-point favorite. I will have to pay more attention to Colorado…

New Mexico at Rutgers – 6.5 (57): This game is interesting because New Mexico lost to New Mexico St last week and Mew Mexico St is a bad football team. Here New Mexico has to travel about 2000 miles to play a “Big 10 team” and they are less than a full TD underdog. Cue Arte Johnson here:

    Verrrry interesting …

Florida International – 1 at UMass (47): This game has “SHOE Tournament” written all over it…

Army – 4 at UTEP (46.5): This is one of the Army opponents I referenced above that is not so fearsome. I’ll take Army to win and cover here and to get off to a 3-0 start for the season. Get on the Army bowl-eligibility bandwagon…

BC at Va Tech – 6 (41): It will be a low-scoring game so I will take BC plus the points here.

La Tech at Texas Tech – 10.5 (80): I am 100% certain that Tech will cover here.

New Mexico St. at Kentucky – 21 (67): Kentucky has been embarrassed twice already this year but the Aggies are not nearly as good as either So. Mississippi or Florida. Nonetheless, Kentucky cannot lose at home to this caliber of competition without risking banishment from the SEC. I like the game to stay UNDER because I do not think much of either team’s offense.

Oregon at Nebraska – 3 (74.5): I said above that this game has the makings of a shoot-out; the Total Line here says the oddsmakers agree with me. I’ll take the game to go OVER.

UCLA – 3 at BYU (49.5): In terms of emotion and intensity, this game has to be a come-down for BYU after playing Utah last week. However, that close loss and the way they lost (see above) might get the team fired up. I think this will be a defensive game so I’ll take it to say UNDER.

Miami (Fl) – 4 at Appalachian St (51.5): The Total Line here opened at 55 and dropped to this level almost immediately. Do not be shocked by the low spread here; App St. lost to Tennessee in Week 1 but the game went to OT. App St. is not a football blueblood but this team is pretty good. Miami rarely leaves the state to play an out-of-conference game like this one. Purely a hunch, but I’ll take Appalachian St plus the points at home.

Pitt at Oklahoma St. – 4.5 (61): I do think that the Cowboys will be ready to play here and will have put their “unfair loss” last week behind them. At the same time, I think Pitt will ready to play too after its big win over rival Penn State last week. I like this game to go OVER.

Michigan St. at Notre Dame – 7 (50): Michigan State took last week off; I suspect that they have been pointing to this game for a long time now. Notre Dame looks good on offense but the defense leaves something to be desired. I like Michigan St. plus the points here.

Duke at Northwestern – 3.5 (44.5): One – and possibly both – of these teams is going to have a bad year in 2016. Watch this game the way you would watch a hit-and-run accident…

Ohio St. – 1 at Oklahoma (63): If Florida St./Louisville is not the best game of the weekend, then this one is. If Oklahoma loses here, they are out of the CFP picture absent extraordinary circumstances. Ohio State has tuned up for this game against significantly inferior opponents; they will be challenged here very differently. I like Urban Meyer in this situation more than Bob Stoops; there is no other way to say that. I’ll take Ohio State here and lay the point and I like the game to go OVER.

Alabama – 11 at Ole Miss (55): This spread opened at 9 points and has crept up all week long. I think Alabama will run the ball down the Rebels’ throat here and I think the Alabama defense will make Ole Miss one-dimensional – they are not going to run on that defense. Yes, Ole Miss has beaten Alabama in each of the last two seasons, but I do not think that will come close to happening here. I like Alabama to win and cover here.

Mississippi State at LSU – 14 (45): I agree with the oddsmakers here; this is going to be a low-scoring game and that means this line is fat, Fat, FAT. I’ll take Mississippi St. plus the points here.

USC at Stanford – 9 (52): Short and sweet here, I like this game to go OVER.

Texas – 7 at Cal (81.5): Neither team will win because of its defense but the Cal defense is the one that bothers me more. I’ll take Texas here and lay the points.

Finally, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel recalled the words of former Florida State coach, Bobby Bowden, discussing one of his “student-athletes”:

“That boy don’t know the meaning of the word fear. In fact, I just saw his grades, and that boy don’t know the meaning of a lot of words.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 9/18/16

The opening week of the 2016 Mythical Picks for NFL games was a roaring success. I made 17 picks and the record for the week was 13-4-0. That record was aided by the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol; the coin was asked to make 1 pick and its record was 1-0-0. If I were smart, I would stop here and come back next August claiming a documented 76.5% success rate for the 2016 season. No one ever figured that I would be smart…

The Best Pick from last week was:

    Eagles – 4 over Browns. Eagles won by 19; game was never in doubt.

The Worst Pick from last week was:

    Cards – 6 over Pats. Cards lost outright.

No one should be tempted to use any info here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game this weekend involving real money. Nothing here is authoritative; there is not inside information here. You would have to be really stupid to do anything like this. In fact, you would be dumb enough …

    … to design a shirt with a back pocket on it.

General Comments:

The Texans beat the Bears last weekend and there was plenty of focus on the play of Brock Osweiler and Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney has been a “disappointment” since being the overall #1 pick in the draft in 2014 but the disappointment centers around his inability to avoid injuries. They have a saying in the NFL that the most important “ability” is “availability”; Clowney has not been “available” all that much of the time. The focus on Osweiler is different; he is the $72M QB who does not have a huge body of work to demonstrate that he is a quality starter in the NFL.

I think that the yardstick by which people will determine if Brock Osweiler is a “success” or a “failure” in Houston is clouded to a large degree by that contract. For example, he could have an average year and people could complain that he underperformed his contract. However, even if that were to happen consider this:

    1. That contract is the doing of the Front Office. I believe that Osweiler made $800K last year; the Texans’ Front Office put an offer in front of him with a total value of $72M; that kind of a raise is the stuff of dreams; what was he supposed to do? Not take it …?

    2. Brock Osweiler is replacing Brian Hoyer as the starting QB for the Texans. The first comparisons ought to be Osweiler vis a vis Hoyer because that is the position the Texans sought to upgrade. Secondarily, one can then assess if the Front Office made a proper decision with regard to acquiring a new QB.

The NFL season is young and the new NFL Pre-Game crew on ESPN made a splash right out of the gate. Charles Woodson said that he thinks Terrelle Pryor will have 1800 yards receiving this year. Let me give you the list of NFL receivers who have achieved that mark:

    Jerry Rice – – 1995 – – 1848 yards.

That’s it; that’s the list.

This prediction by Woodson is bold indeed. Pryor will need to average 112.5 yards per game to hit that mark. In Week 1 against the Eagles, he caught 3 passes for 68 yards. Wow…

The Kansas City Business Journal had a report recently indicating that NFL teams may be looking to emulate MLB teams at the concession stands in their stadia. In Arrowhead Stadium this year, Chiefs’ fans can avail themselves of:

    Chocolate Bacon Blitz Pizza.

This concoction features peanut butter, chocolate fudge, Reeses peanut butter cups and bacon. What more is there to say?

The Panthers lost to the Broncos in Denver last week and the storyline after the game was the head-hunting done by the Broncos’ defenders against Cam Newton. Last Friday, more than one writer and commentator on radio/TV said that the NFL had failed to protect Newton and that the concussion protocol – newly enhanced if you believe the pronouncements from the NFL and the NFLPA – had not been followed properly. The second half of that argument is probably correct; after one particularly bad hit late in the game, Newton was clearly wobbly but no one came onto the field to chick him out nor did he go to the sidelines for an “examination” but the unaffiliated neurological guru assigned to the game. Obviously, I cannot tell if he had been concussed on the previous play; I can also tell you that his condition reminded me of the one that obtained when Case Keenum was slammed on his head last year and was allowed to stay in the game. That was the incident that nominally led to the consideration of and the changes made to “enhance the concussion protocols”.

If that is “enhancement”, I am surely glad they did not relax the criteria for examinations…

I do not agree, however, that the league let Cam Newton down. I believe the fault here lies with the officials who just did not do what is supposed to be done when a defender launches himself and leads with his helmet for a head-shot. There is no policy or pronouncement from the NFL that can assure that officials call penalties for those sorts of hits. It is fun to blame Roger Goodell for him ham-handedness on lots of issues but this is not one of them. If you feel compelled to say that someone or someones let Cam Newton down last week, assign that onus to Gene Steratore’s officiating crew.

Lost in the furor created by that controversy is the fact that Trevor Siemian played well – and was very poised – against a very good and a highly motivated Panthers’ defense. It would be a huge over-reaction to take that one game and project from it that Trevor Siemian is a fully competent NFL QB. It was a very promising start to his career; nonetheless, his body of work needs expansion.

In another game last week featuring a QB starting his first NFL game, Jimmy Garoppolo played excellently. The Pats were more than 2000 miles from home; they did not have either Brady or Gronkowski available for the game; they were missing both starting offensive tackles. And, they won the game. Give credit to the coaching staff; also give credit to Garoppolo for executing efficiently and effectively. His stat line for his first game as a starter was 24-33 for 264 yards and 1 TD. Lest anyone misinterpret anything here let me say clearly:

    When Tom Brady is available to play, Jimmy Garoppolo will – and should – go to the bench.

In yet another game last week featuring a QB starting his first NFL game, Carson Wentz made the leap from Division 1-AA football to the NFL in Game 1 of his rookie year. Wentz was clearly the better QB on the field last week; he simply outplayed RG3. The Eagles won 29-10 and it was about as lopsided as the score looks. Wentz threw 2 TD passes and amassed 278 yards in the air. Not bad for a guy from North Dakota State who locked himself in a public restroom this summer…

One other QB started his first game ever last week. That would be Dak Prescott in Dallas and he did not win that game. I am not sure it was all his fault, however. The Cowboys chose not to stretch the field more than once or twice for the whole game. That allowed the Giants’ defense to stack the line of scrimmage and shut down Ezekiel Elliott late in the game; Prescott had far too many 2nd and long/3rd and long situations in his face. Elliott wound up the day with 51 yards on 20 carries; that is not impressive for someone considered the leader in the clubhouse for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Even so, it all came down to the final play where a Cowboys’ receiver should have gone out of bounds to give the Cowboys’ kicker a shot at a LONG field goal to win the game. That did not happen and time expired…

    By the way, Dez Bryant played the whole game and had 1 catch for all of 8 yards. That did not help Prescott to succeed.

The winning TD in the Giants/Cowboys game was a short pass pulled in by Victor Cruz who was playing in his first game in 23 months. If he is back to his old form, the Giants will have a potent passing game with Odell Beckham, Jr. on one side and Cruz on the other.

As mentioned above, the Texans beat the Bears 23-14. From the outside, it would seem that the Texans strategy in the off-season was to get themselves a QB (Brock Osweiler), a new running back (Lamarr Miller) and a speed receiver (draftee Wil Fuller). They focused on upgrading the offense because they figured that with Jadeveon Clowney on the mend and on the assumption that JJ Watt would play at his normal level of effectiveness, they could roll into the playoffs from the AFC South. Well, the offense looked better than it did last year. More importantly, even with JJ Watt not playing, the defense looked very good and Clowney looked very good.

The Bears have to be worried about one stat in particular from last week’s game. Jay Cutler was sacked 5 times in the game. The Bears’ offense is not going to be able to cope with that sort of thing every week. The protection has to get better.

The Bengals beat the Jets 23-22. There were two unusual things that came from this game:

    1. The Jets recorded 7 sacks in the game and still lost. Let me just say that does not happen often…

    2. AJ Green roasted and toasted Darrelle Revis. Green caught 12 passes for 180 yards and 1 TD. Perhaps someone has built a causeway to get from the mainland to Revis Island?

The Ravens beat the Bills 13-7. That looks as if the game was a titanic defensive struggle. The Ravens defense did hold the Bills to 160 yards of offense and a measly 4.2 yards per pass but the Ravens offense just did not score points. At least the game was close…

In another low scoring contest, the Seahawks needed a very late TD to come from behind and beat the Dolphins 12-10. I saw some of the replay of this game on NFL Network and the OL for the Seahawks looked very bad. The Seattle running game only averaged 3.5 yards per attempt and Russell Wilson threw the ball 43 times in the game – very un-Seattle-like. Wilson was sacked 3 times and hurried much of the day; on the final drive for the winning score, he had to convert two 4th down situations to keep things alive. There is work to do in the Great Northwest…

Meanwhile the Dolphins were supposed to be invigorated on offense with the arrival of Adam Gaze – the certified QB Whisperer – who was to energize Ryan Tannehill. Yes, it is only Week 1, but consider:

    Dolphins’ total offense was 222 yards
    Dolphins had 11 first downs
    Dolphins passing game was less than 5 yards per attempt
    Dolphins OL surrendered 4 sacks.

There is also work to do in the Great Southeast…

The Bucs beat the Falcons 31-24 and Jameis Winston had a big day. Let me be clear; the Falcons defense is not good; they do not tackle in the open field and they surely do not put the fear of God in QBs with their pass rush. Nevertheless, Winston threw 4 TDs – and 1 INT in the game. The Falcons’ running attack was rather anemic also averaging less than 2.5 yards per rush.

The Lions beat the Colts 39-36 and the score indicates the major storylines for the game:

    1. Andrew Luck is back; here is his stat line:

      31 for 47 with 4 TDs and 0 INTs.

    The Colts converted 9 of 16 third-down attempts and amassed 450 yards of offense; but still, they lost.

    2. The Colts’ defense still stinks. That ought not be a huge surprise since there were no major upgrades made to that unit in the offseason – – and it surely stunk last year. The Lions amassed 448 yards on offense, completed 79.5% of their pass attempts, and averaged 4.8 yards per rush. By the way, the Lions’ final drive that set up the winning field goal in the final seconds of the game covered 50 yards in 25 seconds.

The Vikes rallied from behind to beat the Titans 25-16. Shaun Hill’s stats were not grizzly but the Vikes scored precisely zero TDs on offense. The Vikes’ 2 TDs came on a 77-yard Pick Six and on a 24-yard Scoop and Score. The Titans actually gained 15 yards more offense for the day than did the Vikes. Look, the Vikes’ defense is very good but there is no way they are good enough to get through a season if the offense does not score TDs.

There is one other potential issue for the Vikings coming out of this game:

    Recall that kicker Blair Walsh missed that chip shot field goal at the end of the playoff game against Seattle last year. That would have won the game for the Vikings and had them advance to the next round of the playoffs.

    In this game, he missed 2 FGs and 1 PAT. Indeed, he did make 4 FGs and 1 PAT, but the question of some sort of “hangover” from last year’s final kick is out there…

The Raiders beat the Saints 35-34. Two years ago, Panthers’ coach, Ron Rivera, acquired the nickname, “Riverboat Ron”, for some of the risky calls he made in game situations. It might appear as if Raiders’ coach, Jack Del Rio, has been studying at the “Riverboat Ron School of Risk Taking.” On a late drive in the 4th quarter, the Raiders scored to make the score 34-33; instead of “playing for the tie on the road”, Del Rio called for a 2-point conversion that was successful and the Raiders won the game. Call him “BlackJack Del Rio”?

Other than the unusual ending, this game followed a normal script for the Saints. They scored 34 points; they had 507 yards of offense; they only punted twice in the game – – and still, they lost. The Raiders were rather typical too being penalized 14 times for 141 yards in the game.

The Packers beat the Jags 27-23. Let me be brief here:

    The Packers are for real.
    The Jags are for real too.

The Chiefs beat the Chargers 33-27 in OT. The Chargers led the game 21-3 but the Chiefs came back to dominate the second half of the game sending it to OT tied at 27-27. The Chargers lost WR, Keenan Allen, for the year and they do not have a comparable replacement for him. After he left the game, the Chargers pass offense totaled 60 yards; while he was there, he caught 63 yards of passes all by himself.

The MNF double-header produced two of the least interesting games of the weekend. The Steelers went to Washington and brought seemingly 15-20% of the audience with them from Pittsburgh. There were lots of Terrible Towels in every section of the stadium. The Steelers also dominated the Skins winning 38-16. Last week, I wrote that it would be interesting to watch Josh Norman (he of the $75M free agent contract) go up against Antonio Brown (possibly the best WR in the NFL at the moment). Well, that happened only rarely…

Norman lined up as the CB on the right side of the Steelers formation on every play; when the Steelers put Brown on the left side he matched up with Bashaud Breeland who – to be polite about it – was totally overmatched. After the game, the explanation for this was that this was the defensive game plan the coaches came up with and it would have been too complex to flip Norman around to go wherever Brown went. Let me assume for a moment that is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It is time for a new defensive game plan because:

    This week the Skins play the Cowboys and Breeland will be overmatched against Dez Bryant if he has to cover him for an entire game.

    Next week, the Skins play the Giants and Breeland will be overmatched against Odell Beckham, Jr. if he has to cover him for an entire game.

In the late MNF game, the Niners beat the Rams 28-0 and the Rams looked even worse than the Browns looked against the Eagles. The Rams did not run the ball well; their passing game plan was to throw 5-yard passes on just about every dropback; the defense did not dominate. Jared Goff was on the sidelines in street clothes for the game. The speculation was that the Rams did not want to have him deal with all the hoopla of a MNF opening game. That had better be the case because:

    If indeed, the coaching staff now recognizes that Goff cannot perform better on the field than Case Keenum – – and Sean Mannion behind Keenum – – then the resources they squandered to trade up to take Goff will cripple the franchise for the next 5 years.

    Goff cannot be THAT bad, can he?

Before I get to the games themselves, let me pose a rhetorical question here:

    If you watched the Rams soil themselves last Monday night, did you wonder about those fans in St. Louis that actually wanted to keep this team in that city?

The Games:

(Thurs Nite) Jets at Buffalo “pick ‘em” (41): Neither team looked good last week on offense but both defenses played well. Rather than pick the winner here in a game that will likely depend a lot on the emotional state of the winning squad, I prefer to believe that both defenses will continue to throttle the opposing offenses and so I will take the game to stay UNDER.

Tennessee at Detroit – 5.5 (47.5): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. It puts one of the worst teams in the league (Titans) on the road in a non-conference game against a team (Lions) who aspire to mediocrity. The Titans have not been all that good on the field recently and in case you did not know it, they have been bad against the spread too:

    Titans are 15-36-4 against the spread in their last 55 games.

I’ll take the Lions at home and lay the points.

KC at Houston – 3 (43.5): The spread opened at 1 point and has been expanding slowly all week. I think the Chiefs are the better team here so I’ll take them plus the points even on the road.

Miami at New England – 6.5 (41.5): The rest of Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension finds the Pats playing in Foxboro. Did the Dolphins’ defense make the Seahawks OL look bad last week (see above) or is it that the Seahawks’ OL simply needs work? We should learn more about that this week. One other thing we will learn later this week is if Rob Gronkowski can play this week or if his leg needs some more time to heal. Here is an interesting trend involving games where these two teams play one another:

    The home team is 8-0 against the spread the last 8 times these teams met.

    This game is in New England.

Having nothing to do with that trend cited above, I like the Pats to win and cover here.

Baltimore – 6.5 at Cleveland (42.5): The AFC North is playing each other this week; this is the first of the two games. Based on what I saw last week, I am not sure that the Browns are a worse team with backup QB, Josh McCown, under center than with RG3 there. The Browns’ offense consists of marginal running, a mediocre short passing game and occasional heaves down the field on a wing and a prayer. Terrelle Pryor caught one long pass last week in triple coverage! The Ravens’ offense was dormant last week as well, but Joe Flacco should be able to do some business against a secondary that has Joe Haden and a bunch of other guys. I like the Ravens to win and cover.

Cincy at Pittsburgh – 3.5 (48.5): This is the more interesting NFC North divisional game this week. The Steelers will face a much better defense – particularly a better run defense – this week than they did last week in Washington. Antonio Brown will give the Bengals’ secondary fits; AJ Green will give the Steelers’ secondary fits. I think the Bengals would love to avenge their playoff loss last year to the Steelers particularly because that loss was completely a self-inflicted wound. I’ll take the Bengals plus the points here.

Dallas at Washington – 2.5 (45): The Cowboys are playing their second division game in a row to start the season. They hung in against the Giants last week and had a chance to win at the end (see above). Nevertheless, their offensive output was only 328 yards mostly because they never threw the ball downfield. The Skins on the other hand were overmatched by the Steelers last week. Here are the variables:

    How will the Skins defend Dez Bryant?
    How will the Skins’ DL play against a superior OL?
    Will the Cowboys open the offense up a little?
    How badly will the Skins’ receivers make the Cowboys’ secondary look?
    Can/will the Skins run the ball more than a dozen times?

On the assumption that the Cowboys will play something more than their vanilla-flavored offense, I think this game will produce points. I like the game to go OVER.

New Orleans at Giants – 4.5 (52): Both teams played “1-point games” last week; the Giants won and the Saints lost by a point. The Giants won last week scoring 20 points. That output will not get it done this week against the Saints. By the same token, the Saints are unlikely to hold the Giants down to 20 points this week because I am not sure that the Saints can hold any NFL team to 20 points unless the game is played outdoors in a monsoon. I like this game to go OVER.

SF at Carolina – 13 (45): The line opened at 11.5 points and jumped to this level very quickly. I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games. I also hate what the NFL schedule mavens did here. The Niners played on Monday night; the Panthers played last Thursday night. On the short work week, the Niners now get to fly about 2500 miles to play a team with far superior talent. Oh, and that team with the superior talent also lost last week and wants to get things going in a positive direction here. The Panthers saw the Chip Kelly offense in Philly last year; it should not be a mystery to them. I will do something here that I do not like to do and take the Panthers and lay that bushel-basket full of points.

Tampa Bay at Arizona – 7 (50): Let me cut to the chase here. I was impressed by the way Jameis Winston played last week. Yes, those were the Falcons and these are the Cardinals. Nevertheless, I think Tampa has a real shot to win this game straight up – and wouldn’t that make the AFC West race interesting – so I’ll take the Bucs plus the points.

Seattle – 3.5 at LA (no Total Line): There are only a few of the sportsbooks that have spreads posted for this game but no one has a Total Line up as of this morning. The reason is – probably – because it is not certain if Russell Wilson can play nor is it certain who will be the QB for the Rams. The Seahawks need to worry that their weak unit (OL) has to go directly up against the best part of the Rams’ team (DL). The Rams need to worry that their anemic offense that could do no business against the Niners last week now has to contend with a far better Seahawks unit. I think this will be a low scoring affair absent turnovers, Pick Sixes and punt returns for TDs. In low scoring games, I like to take the points; I will do that here and take the Rams and the points.

Indy at Denver – 6 (46): The Colts ran up 450 yards on offense and scored 36 points last week; they are not going to do that to the Broncos’ defense. The Broncos’ offense gained only 307 yards and scored 21 points last week; they should eclipse both of those marks against the Colts’ defense here. I like the Broncos to win and cover at home.

Atlanta at Oakland – 5 (50): Based on last week’s performances, I do not think either defense is going to impede the opposing offense to any great degree. I like the game to go OVER.

Jax at San Diego – 3 (47): Here is another short and sweet one. I think the Jags are going to win this game outright. Therefore, I will be happy to take them plus a field-goal’s worth of points.

(Sun Nite) Green Bay – 3 at Minnesota (43.5): The Vikings open their new playpen here against a division rival they need to beat if they want to win the NFC North. Here are conflicting trends for this game:

    Packers are 8-3 to go OVER in their last 11 Week 2 games
    Vikings are 14-2 to go UNDER in their last 16 Week 2 games.
    This is Week 2 …

I think this will be a low scoring game because the Vikes have a really good defense and because the Vikes are going to play Shaun Hill at QB on offense. Therefore, I will take the Vikings plus the points.

(Mon Nite) Philly at Chicago – 3 (43): The Bears led the Texans 14-10 at halftime last week and then were shut out in the second half. The Eagles dominated a bad Browns’ team for 4 quarters last week. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Eagles plus the points. Ok, then …

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times earlier this week regarding the outcome of the Packers/Jags game last week:

“At SportsPickle.com: ‘Jags fall to Packers, 27-23, earn franchise’s 100th moral victory.’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Dead Money In The NFL

Headlines this morning at several sports websites say something like this:

    Saints cut CJ Spiller
    Saints carrying $40M of dead money

Perhaps a short tutorial on “dead money” as it pertains to the NFL Salary Cap would be in order. Let me say from the outset, that I am not a “capologist” but I think I understand this one sufficiently to explain it.

Suppose a team signs a player – the ever-present Joe Flabeetz – to a deal that is announced as a 5-year contract worth $30M. That would be simple if indeed that contract called for the player to get $6M every year – – but none of them do that. To make my example simple, let us say that this contract breaks down this way:

    5 years of annual salary at $4M each year = $20M
    1 signing bonus paid immediately = $10M

To calculate the salary cap impact for Joe Flabeetz, the signing bonus is pro-rated over the life of the contract meaning he costs the team only $6M in the first year ($4m in annual salary + $2M in prorated signing bonus money) even though the team has shelled out $14M in that first year. Not to worry, in the final year of the contract, the team will shell out only $4M in salary, but the “cap hit” will still be $6M ($4M in annual salary + $2M in prorated signing bonus money). Not very complicated, right?

Well, what happens if the team cuts good old Joe Flabeetz just after the second year of the contract.

    Flabeetz keeps the $10M signing bonus and the $8M he earned for the first two seasons ($18M)

    The team does not owe him anything once he is cut because the contract is not guaranteed.

However, all of that prorated bonus money in Years 3,4 and 5 need to be accounted for. Those pro-rated bonus numbers total $6M and that “cost” all goes against the team’s salary cap for Year 3. Therefore, the team has cap money on their books in Year 3 but they will get no benefit from that money because Joe Flabeetz is not on the squad. Hence the term “dead money”.

CJ Spiller looked like a potential star coming out of college at Clemson; in his third year with the Bills, he gained over 1200 yards rushing. However, an injury in 2014 seems to have had a major impact on his performance. The Saints owe him a total of $9M beyond what he has been paid plus they just paid him a “roster bonus” of $1M which gets pro-rated over the life of his contract. By cutting him, all that money is counted against the Saints’ cap for 2016 and when you add Spiller’s “dead money” to other “dead money” the Saints have on their books, the total comes to $40M.

If you wonder why the Saints did not sign any top-shelf defensive free agents during the off-season, this could well be the explanation. It is not clear how the team got into this mess, but it surely seems as if someone has been asleep at the switch. Or perhaps there has been confusing oversight from a financial standpoint given the legal entanglements between factions within the family of Saints’ owner, Tom Benson. In any case, it is a mess…

Here is an item I ran across in Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times:

“Sales of Colin Kaepernick No. 7 jerseys have skyrocketed since the 49ers QB started sitting in protest during the national anthem.

“In an odd twist, suppliers complain they’re getting inundated with standing orders.”

I mention that here because I think Kaepernick’s protest has hit a plateau. Let me restate my position on the protest for clarity purposes:

    I have no problem at all with the issue that he has identified as problematic to him.

    I acknowledge and defend his right to do what he is doing.

    On a personal level, I would have preferred that he choose a different method to manifest his protest; but that is my opinion and he is the one doing the protesting, not I.

The story started out as a big deal. It was the talk of sports radio and TV punditry in the world of sports and politics. Heck, even President Obama commented on his protest. Then a few other athletes joined in symbolic support of his protest. And that seems to be where things have stalled. Colin Kaepernick started something that is important to him – and certainly to other folks in the US. I think his challenge now is to find some way to move the discussion forward to something beyond “Which teammate and/or other athlete will join in his protest this week?” The answers to that question are interesting but not germane to resolving the core issue that Kaepernick raised in the first place.

I am not going to presume to tell Colin Kaepernick what to do next or how to take the next step in this protest. However, I do think that it has come to the point where he needs to take a next step in a positive direction.

Finally, let me go back to the Dwight Perry well one more time here:

“The hamlet of Endwell NY is all agog after its band of 12-year olds delivered the U.S. its first Little League World Series championship since 2011 with a 2-1 win over South Korea on Sunday.

“In other words, all’s well in … nah, too easy.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Moon Big Papi?

The late Sunday afternoon game in my viewing area last weekend was the Giants at the Cowboys; since Joe Buck and Troy Aikman had the call, I presume that many of you also saw that game. Late in the game, the sun came through the glass wall of the Jerry-Dome such that a patch of the field was in the bright sun. Players running pass routes sometimes had to go from indoor lighting/shade into the “sun patch” and look back into the sun to try to find the ball. Under normal circumstances, if a pass hits Jason Witten in the hands, he catches it; Sunday, he looked like his hands were coated with WD-40 on a play where he found the sun patch just as the ball arrived.

You know the sun patch was an unusual feature of the game because it drew commentary from both Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. One of them wondered if it was worse for the QB to have the sun in his eyes as he threw the ball or for the receiver to have the sun in his eyes as he tried to locate/catch the ball. I wonder if Jerry Jones will contemplate buying a set of curtains for his playpen somewhere down the line.

If you saw the Browns/Eagles game as the “early game” on Sunday, you saw RG3 take a big hit on a scramble at the end of the game. He suffered a sprained shoulder from that hit and the Browns have put him on IR meaning that he will be out until Week 10 in November. So much for the “career reboot” he was going to have in Cleveland this year under Hue Jackson…

The Red Sox last game in Yankee Stadium this year will be on 29 September – barring circumstances that put a playoff game between the two teams there later in October. That will be David Ortiz’ final appearance in NYC; you can be sure that the Yankees will give him some sort of memorabilia to celebrate his career and his retirement. That has become standard fare for players who have announced their retirement at the end of a given season. However, the fans may have some other ideas…

Recall that Red Sox fans paid through the nose to see A-Rod play his final game(s) in Fenway Park just so they could boo him one more time. Well, Yankee fans do not have their hearts filled with love for Red Sox stars such as David Ortiz. And so, a website has been registered and is alive with the URL:

    www.MoonBigPapi.com

As you may imagine, the authors of this website are encouraging fans in attendance that night to pay their respects to David Ortiz with a display of buttocks. Their goal is to have “50,000 moons” as their farewell salute to Big Papi.

According to the website, fans who participate in this salute should hold their moons for “five to ten seconds signifying the span of time it takes Big Papi to run to first base.” The motivation call to Yankee fans says that all they need is “your fanny and five seconds.”

Do I believe that there will be 50,000 participants in such a demonstration? No. However, some fans will indeed indulge the website creators’ call for a faux salute of this type. And here is what ESPN producers hope happens:

    Enough “Mooners” – the name “Moonies” has already been assigned elsewhere – participate that it is caught on camera such that ESPN has to pixilate the video to show it on SportsCenter.

    Then, the next day, they will have “debate-fodder” for every ESPN Radio and TV program to reflect, dissect and analyze in excruciating detail.

I am already bored by that thought and the game is not for two more weeks…

The NCAA has decided to remove championship tournament events from the State of North Carolina due to the “Bathroom Bill” that is the law in that state. As usual, I am not going to get into the political, legal or societal ramifications of this law or the efforts to overturn it. Those actions belong to the residents of North Carolina and I am not one of them. The NCAA chose to take sides in the matter – as have the NFL and the NBA. With regard to pro sports, the impacts tend to be economic only; the site of the NBA All-Star Game does not really affect any of the playoff races in the league in any meaningful way. However, in college sports, the impact is both economic and possibly competitive too.

When the NCAA changes the venue for men’s basketball tournament from “somewhere in North Carolina” to “somewhere else”, two of the major NCAA basketball programs are affected. Duke and UNC are almost always in the tournament and are often prominently seeded in that event. Normally, one or the other gets to play early round games proximal to their campus which is an advantage for them. [Aside: I have suggested several times in the past that the NCAA not schedule any team to play in an arena closer than 150 miles from campus but of course that suggestion has not been considered.] So, you may ask what the schools think of the recent NCAA decision.

Almost immediately after the NCAA made its announcement, the ADs at both Duke and UNC issued statements saying that they supported the NCAA decision in full. On the heels of those statements by the Athletic Directors, John Swofford – Commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference – said that there would be discussions among the presidents of the institutions this week regarding ACC Championship events.

Finally, here is the analysis of a baseball trade from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

“The Oakland A’s traded pitcher Mike Rzepczynski, explaining, ‘We got tired of trying to spell and pronounce his name.’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Palermo = Soccer Instability

One of the teams in Serie A – the top soccer league in Italy – is Palermo. Last year, it escaped the relegation zone on the final day of the season but it has been a “team of turmoil” for a while now. The owner of the team is Maurizio Zamparini; in terms of patience and tranquility, he is sort of like George Steinbrenner, James Dolan and Danny Boy Snyder wrapped in one. Zamparini bought the team in 2002; since 2003, the team has had 34 head coaches; since January 2016, the team has had 7 head coaches. Now, there are reports that Zamparini is looking to sell the team.

Fans of Palermo might look at that news in a positive – even an encouraging – light. After all, the odds that any new owner might be as “unusual” as Zamparini has been would have to be rather long, right? Well, according to reports, the potential buyer is a gentleman named Frank Cascio who was a former friend, manager and confidante of Michael Jackson. Yes, that Michael Jackson…

The 2016 season for Serie A has just begun. Palermo has played 3 games; they have lost 2 of them and played to a draw. That record has them in the relegation zone in 18th place in the 20-team league. It looks like another year of stormy seas for fans of the team. If Zamparini keeps the team, it could easily have 5 new head coaches by Valentine’s Day 2017; if he sells the team …

The turmoil in Palermo has been going on for so long that fans there are probably used to it by now. There is something else ongoing in the world of international soccer that fans are starting to become used to:

    Investigations of FIFA officials for “improprieties”.

The FIFA Ethics Committee [Aside: I admit that I chuckle to myself every time I type those words in that sequence.] has within it something called the investigative chamber. The deputy chairman of that chamber, Djimbaraye Bourngar, announced that the chamber has begun a formal inquiry into actions taken by:

    Sepp Blatter – former President/head honcho of FIFA
    Marcus Kattner – former Director of Finance and Corporate Services of FIFA
    Jerome Valcke – former Secretary General of FIFA

Before anyone asks, no, I do not understand the hierarchy of FIFA sufficiently to explain the different authorities of FIFA’s President and FIFA’s Secretary General. However, the titles indicate that these gentlemen were people of influence within the governing body of international soccer. The just announced investigation involves possible violations of the FIFA bylaws that relate to things such as:

    Bribery/corruption
    Acceptance of gifts and other benefits
    General rules of conduct.

I realize that one might be tempted to think that an organization such as FIFA would expect its senior officers to exhibit “general rules of conduct” wherein they would always be “accepting gifts and other benefits” in the form of “bribery”. I suspect, however, that the investigative chamber of the Ethics Committee will be interpreting the bylaws in a different manner. Do I expect any bombshell revelations to come from this investigation? Not really. But I do think that it will be difficult for the Ethics Committee to find that all has been well with regard to whatever the FIFA Bylaws are intended to mean.

By the way, do not expect breaking news here any time soon. The Committee said that in order to preserve the presumption of innocence for all parties and to maintain confidentiality until the conclusion of the investigation, there would be no further announcements or acknowledgement of this investigation. I take that to mean that we will hear the outcome of all this sometime in 2020.

Last week we had reports that Tiger Woods wants to/plans to play in three PGA tournaments between now and Christmas. The important events on the PGA calendar are finished for the year; the top players tend to ignore any tournaments between now and Christmas; often, this is referred to as “The Silly Season” in golf. As you may imagine, the tournaments at this time of the year do not do well on TV having to go up against college football, NFL football and MLB playoffs/World Series. The tournaments get ratings that are better than infomercials – – but not a whole lot better.

The fact that this might be the start of a “comeback” for Tiger Woods and a return to the PGA Tour as a regular competitor in tour events makes any of these “Silly Season Tournaments” interesting if indeed Woods enters them. One of these tournaments is sponsored by Safeway supermarkets; if Tiger Woods enters their tournament, they will get a humongous bargain for the promotional dollars they put out for those sponsorship rights. If he does not enter, you can go yet one more year neglecting to notice that Safeway sponsors a PGA Tour event.

With football season in full swing, there is an upswing in the time-on-the-air for sideline reporters. As you know, I do not like sideline reporting because most of it is pabulum at best. Here is my fantasy sideline interview:

    An athlete in an individual sport – – say the jockey on the winner of the Kentucky Derby as an example – – meets up with the trackside interviewer. Here is the exchange I want to hear:

      Talking hair-do: Tell us what was going through your mind at the moment that you knew you had just won the Kentucky Derby.

      Athlete: Honestly, I was hoping that you would have a much more intelligent question to ask me after this big achievement in my life.

I am not holding my breath until I do hear anything like that …

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times that is tangentially related to the Tiger Woods reports above:

“And in fight memorabilia news, the boxing gloves worn by Muhammed Ali against Joe Frazier in the 1971 ‘Fight of the Century’ sold at auction for $606,375.

“Which makes one wonder what Elin Nordegren’s infamous nine-iron would have fetched.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………