Turmoil In The Sports World

Recent events endanger my status as “the sports curmudgeon”; I can foresee lots of perfectly normal folks adopting that attitude if things keep breaking as they have. How can one be merely a fan – or even just an open-minded observer – of the sports world given the bizarre events of the last week or so? Consider…

The NFL made such a mess of their disciplinary action in the Ray Rice case that normally logical and rational voices in the national media have called for Roger Goodell to step down. Keith Olbermann – never to be part of any middle-of-the-road thinking – said that Goodell should be fired because Goodell had forfeited his privilege of resigning. Five months ago – before Ray and Janay Rice stepped into that elevator in Atlantic City – few if any folks thought that Roger Goodell was a liability to the league.

In an attempt to find a somewhat protected harbor in the maelstrom, the NFL announced that an independent investigator would find the underlying cause of all this and that the investigator would be the former FBI Director, Robert Mueller. For those who may have forgotten, Mueller’s stepping into the middle of the NFL mess should be child’s play for him. This man took over the job as FBI Director seven days before the attack on the World Trade towers in NYC orchestrated by Osama bin Laden. He served under President Bush and under President Obama indicating to me that he had to have been very competent in his position to merit the trust of two men who probably agree on very little. Now, if that were the end of the story, it would seem as if the ship of the NFL had made it to port and the storm had cleared. Except…

For those who have worked in government positions, the following concept is almost mundane. One must avoid any “conflict of interest” and, simultaneously, one must also avoid any “appearance of a conflict of interest” even in circumstances where an actual conflict does not exist. Why is that an issue here?

    Robert Muller is a partner in a law firm. That firm represented the NFL in its recent negotiations with Direct TV – provider of the NFL Season Ticket. That contract brought a nice chunk of change to the NFL and also provided the law firm with substantial fees. Conflict of interest? Probably not. Appearance of a conflict of interest…

    That same law firm represents one of the team executives for the Baltimore Ravens. Anyone who follows the NFL for more than an hour a month ought to recognize the connection between the Ravens and the NFL and Ray Rice. Conflict of interest? Probably not. Appearance of a conflict of interest…

I am more than willing to ignore the cries of “conflict of interest” that are out there until some of the “criers” produce evidence comparable to the evidence we saw in the infamous elevator incident indicating a real conflict of interest. I have three reservations about the investigation before it begins that have nothing to do with conflict of interest or with the competence of the folks who do the investigation. These three concerns are endemic to these kinds of independent investigations; that does not mean the investigations cannot uncover truth; it means the investigations have to be subject to critical reading and critical thinking. The final report here is not likely to be accurately summed up in a simple sound bite.

    Concern #1: The investigators do not have subpoena power. They cannot demand evidence and have it delivered under the auspices of a court order. The NFL says they will have access to “everything”. In fact, they will have access to what NFL employees give them and to what they have enough insight to ask for.

    Concern #2: None of the folks to whom the investigators speak will be under oath.

    Concern #3: None of the folks to whom the investigators speak will undergo a cross-examination. If anyone on the “interview list” has an axe to grind, that person might slant his/her interviews to hone that axe edge. Without hearing responses of a thoughtful and prepared cross-examination, the possibility exists for less than full evidence in the hands of the investigators.

Lest you think Concern #3 is a trivial matter, consider the role of cross-examination in a trial. Hell, without cross-examination, Perry Mason would never have won a case…

My concerns are out there for folks to examine. When the final investigative report is out, I will read it in the original form – to the extent that it is released to the public – and draw my conclusions there. I would suggest everyone else do the same.

In a related matter, there have been several members of the US Congress who had expressed their concerns about the NFL’s behavior in this matter and have called upon the NFL for transparency in this investigation and in future matters of discipline. When the US Congress calls for “transparency” in anything, that represents the ultimate level of chutzpah in the known universe. Please note that when the US Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act back in the 1970s, it specifically exempted the Congress from each and every provision of that act.

    The Congress wants transparency from the NFL? Pot, meet the kettle…

NFL owners have expressed their support for Roger Goodell, as I would have expected. However, Danny Boy Snyder announced that he and the Redskins’ organization “strongly endorse” Roger Goodell as the NFL Commish. I can only imagine this thought-bubble over Goodell’s head when he read about that:

“At least Jeffrey Dahmer is not around to ‘strongly endorse’ me…”

On top of that mess, the NFL had to deal with Adrian Peterson’s indictment in a case that involves alleged child abuse in the way he disciplined his son. Pictures allegedly of Peterson’s son bearing disturbing bruises/welts appeared on the Internet. Obviously, this matter is not yet resolved; but for the moment, I cannot see how it might end in a positive place for Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings and/or the NFL.

The NBA has its own discombobulation going. After the owner of the Atlanta Hawks complained that too many Black fans and too much hip-hop “atmosphere” kept White fans away from Hawks’ games. After admitting he said that, he said that he would sell the team. Despite the eccentricity of that comment, this has been my reaction to this matter since the story broke:

    1. This guy is really a junior varsity version of Donald Sterling when it comes to saying improper stuff.

    2. He seems a bit too eager to sell the team if that statement is what pushed him over the top.

After that matter had percolated/festered for a week or so, we learned that Hawks’ GM, Danny Ferry, made some equally eccentric remarks about Luol Deng in a conference call that was recorded. More than a few folks label those remarks as “racist”. Absent context, they do indeed sound racist – but in fact the full context is absent at this moment. Here is something that does not fit well in this picture:

    Danny Ferry played in the NBA for more than a decade with and against rosters that were predominantly Black. For that entire career, no one noticed that he was a “racist”?

    Danny Ferry has held front office/management positions with at least two teams in the NBA for more than a decade. In all of that time, no one noticed that he was a “racist”?

In light of all of the above, is there any “good news” out there? Believe it or not, the good news comes from the NCAA and good news from the NCAA is about as rare as the following statement:

    I am going to play hooky from school so I can watch a WNBA game.

The NCAA quietly in the midst of all these adrenaline producing stories lifted the bowl ban on Penn State and gave the school back its football scholarships a couple of years early. In making that move at this time, the NCAA avoided lots of questioning about the basis for its original sanctions. I argued at the time and continue to believe that the horrific events of child molestation that happened at Penn State had nothing whatsoever to do with NCAA rules and that the NCAA had no reason to do anything other than deplore what happened. However, that is water over the bridge and the football program of today is not suffering based on the actions of someone not associated with the program for about 15 years.

In addition, the NCAA also rid itself of an ongoing legal action; given their recent batterings in legal system, that was probably a smart move. Recall that the NCAA “fined” Penn State $60M and that the NCAA was going to target that money to child abuse prevention programs. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania sued the NCAA over that fine and won a preliminary round in the matter. As an add-on to lifting Penn State’s bowl ban, the NCAA also told the Commonwealth that it would give the $60M back to Pennsylvania for them to oversee.

Hey, at least something seems to be going right out there in the sports world…

Finally, perhaps these words attributed to Vince Lombardi have a particular value and meaning for the folks mentioned above:

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.”

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

Administrative Note

My long-suffering wife and I will be hosting out-of-state visitors are our “vacation house” all next week. That will reduce the time I have to “do research” and write the daily rants. Posting will be sporadic at best next week.

My priority is to gather the info needed to do the two Mythical Picks for next weekend. If there is time over and above whatever I get to do for those offerings, I will post something else.

Please check the website occasionally next week.

Stay well, all…

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 9/13/14

Let us see how last week’s picks turned out:

    I liked San Jose St/Auburn OVER 66. Total was 72. Yea!

    I liked Wash St/Nevada OVER 66.5. Total was only 37. Boo!

    I liked K-State -12 over Iowa St. K-State won by 4. Boo!

    I liked N. Illinois +7 against N’western. N. Illinois won outright. Yea!

    I liked Navy -3.5 over Temple. Navy covered. Yea!

    I liked USC/Stanford UNDER 54.5. Total was 23. Yea!

    I liked Mich St +12 against Oregon. Not enough points. Boo!

    I liked E.Car/South Car O 63.5. Total was 56. Boo!

    I liked Mich/Notre Dame UNDER 57. Total was 31. Yea!

    I liked BYU/Texas UNDER 46. Total was 48. Boo!

    I liked Oreg St -10.5 over Hawaii. Oreg St won by 8. Boo!

The picks for last week went 5-6-0 bringing the cumulative record for the season to an uninteresting 11-12-0.

That track record ought not to entice anyone to believe that there is great wisdom buttressing these selections. Nonetheless, in case anyone is tempted to do so, let me say unequivocally that no one should take anything herein as even a small part of the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money this weekend. Anyone stupid enough to think that way probably also thinks like this:

    You think Dan Druff is the name of a bad hairdresser.

General Comments:

Linfield College opens its football season this Saturday with a visit to Chapman University in Orange CA. Last year, Chapman was 8-1 and they averaged 500 yards of offense per game. Their only loss came against Redlands and Linfield will travel to play Redlands next week. You cannot accuse the Linfield coaches/athletic director of padding their out of conference schedule with patsies. The Wildcats begin the season seeking their 59th consecutive winning season in football. Go Wildcats!

Linfield competes in football as a Division III team. Last week in other Division III action:

    Texas A&M-Commerce beat East Baptist College 98-20. Tyrik Rollesin, QB for A&M-Commerce threw for 562 yards and 6 TDs.

    Tusculum beat College of Faith 71-0. That is not the story of the game however; Tusculum set defensive records in that game.

      Tusculum held College of Faith to minus-124 yards rushing in the game
      Tusculum held College of Faith to minus-100 yards offense in the game.
      Tusculum scored 3 safeties in the game.

    Faith or no faith, the College of Faith never had a prayer…

Here is what Brad Rock of the Deseret News had to say about the College of Faith football program:

“Isn’t this the part where they forget about faith and hire an offensive coordinator?”

Last week, I mentioned that a friend told me that Indiana would play all of its games on artificial surfaces and asked if any other team would do the same. I said that I would not go to the trouble of checking out the other 127 teams that play Division 1-A football to see what the surface was in all of their away games. I wanted to leave it at that…

My sports data addict friend in Houston sent along an e-mail posthaste saying:

    78 Div 1-A schools play on artificial turf and 50 play on natural grass.

I responded saying that I truly hoped he had that data compiled somewhere and that I was not the reason he went to the trouble to gather it all. Indeed – and to my relief –, he had the data already available. I thought that ended the conversation.

Then, I got a note from him saying that he had started alphabetically through the Div 1-A schools to see if any other team played all of its games on artificial surfaces. He said that he got to Ball State, found that they played all their games on artificial grass and stopped there.

I thank my Houston-based sports data addict friend. I now want this topic to rest in peace.

This is not a great weekend for college football in terms of compelling game matchups. Georgia/South Carolina probably heads the list even though South Carolina already has a loss and its win over E. Carolina last week was uninspiring. There is the Texas/UCLA game involving a Texas team that was embarrassed at home last week and a UCLA team that has underperformed expectations in both of its games this year. Or perhaps you might like the Tennessee/Oklahoma game…? After those three, meh!

If you look at the schedules, you can imagine Georgia being 7-0 when they prepare to play Florida in early November at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. If they win this week against S. Carolina, the schedule looks pretty soft until the Florida game. Georgia does not have to play Alabama or LSU this year; it might be a big run for the Dawgs.

You can also look at the schedule and see the possibility that Pitt could be 6-0 by mid-October when they tangle with VA Tech at home. Their next four games are:

    At Florida International
    Vs Iowa
    Vs Akron
    At UVa

The Pitt schedule also looks pretty soft this year and the Panthers might have a very gaudy record when the regular season comes to a close.

June Jones resigned as the head coach at SMU early this week after two opening losses that were not competitive games. The cumulative score in those losses was 88-6 with SMU on the very short end of that stick. Oh, by the way, they still have Texas A&M on their dance card for 2014…

Back in 2008, Jones came to SMU by way of Hawaii where his program had plenty of success; he had his team in the Sugar Bowl one year. However, at SMU his cumulative record was 36-43, which is not horrible but is also not laudatory. And then, there are those first two games of the 2014 season to ruminate upon…

SMU competes with TCU for local college football attention in the Dallas/Fort Worth area; and for the last decade or so, TCU has dominated that competition. The master plan was that Jones would reverse that misfortune with his wide-open Run ‘N Shoot offense. Let me just say that things did not quite like the master plan would have had them go.

    Memo to June Jones’ Permanent Replacement: It is going to take a huge recruiting effort to restore SMU to competitive status even within the AAC (American Athletic Conference). If you are not up to that task, this is not a job you should have taken.

Many folks have pointed out that last weekend was a bad one for the Big 10. I would like to take that just a bit further and say that last week sealed the fate of the Big 10 when it comes to selecting the 4 teams for the College Football Playoff. Here is why:

    The Big 10 has 5 good teams – no great teams it would appear but 5 good ones. Other than long-term reputation, here is how those 5 teams will look at the end of the season:

      Ohio State: Weak schedule and a loss to an ACC team

      Michigan State: Lost to Oregon by 3 TDs

      Michigan: Not only a loss to but shut out by Notre Dame.

      Wisconsin: Blew a big lead to LSU and last week played mighty W. Illinois…

      Penn State: Not likely to win the 11 or 12 games needed here.

    Moreover, most of the other Big 10 teams did poorly enough last week that they will be a detriment to the “good teams” when it comes to claiming a strong schedule:

      Purdue lost to C. Michigan (a MAC team) by 3 TDs

      Illinois needed 21 points in the 4th quarter to beat Western Kentucky by 8 points.

      Northwestern lost to N. Illinois (a MAC team); Northwestern is 1-9 in its last 10 games.

      Nebraska beat McNeese St. in the final seconds.

      Iowa “edged out” Ball St. (a MAC team).

Looking a bit more closely, Oregon ran up 491 yards of offense on Michigan State’s defense – traditionally the strength of the squad upon which rests team success. Michigan was shut out for the first time since 1984 and they gave the ball away 4 times last week. VA Tech sacked Ohio St. QB, JT Barrett 7 times last week. It was indeed an ugly week for the Big 10…

I managed to see part of the Michigan/Notre Dame game and I have this comment:

    Everett Golson may not have a “rifle arm” but his accuracy is outstanding. He fit the ball into tight coverage about a half-dozen times in the part of the game that I saw. I do not know if he can play “at the next level”, but he is an excellent college QB.

Speaking of teams who played embarrassingly bad last weekend:

    Vandy lost to Ole Miss 41-3. It is going to be a LONG season in Nashville. New head coach, Derek Mason, has begun his run there by losing to Temple and then losing by more than 5 TDs to Ole Miss. The Rebels had 547 yards of offense in the game; Vandy only managed 167 yards of offense. Vandy kicked a field goal in the 4th quarter of this game – likely to avoid being shut out. Vandy is back to being Vandy…

    Texas hosted BYU in a “revenge game” from last year. Texas lost 41-7. It was close at halftime with BYU leading 6-0; then given all the adjustments Texas made at halftime, BYU hung 28 points on the Longhorns in the 3rd quarter. Yikes! Keep this in mind because UCLA is next for Texas…

    Washington State lost to Nevada. That puts them at 0-2 for the year with the losses coming to Rutgers and Nevada. A PAC-12 schedule looks to provide the Cougars with a series of overmatches. Not to worry though; they do have Portland State on the schedule this week.

    UConn beat Stony Brook last week. Why is that embarrassingly bad? Well the score was only 19-16 and no one has ever accused Stony Brook of being a “football factory”.

I mentioned above that SMU’s cumulative score in two losses was 88-6 and that got June Jones to resign. Well, Florida Atlantic University is now 0-2 and it has been outscored 96-7. That may appear to be even worse than the case at SMU except for the fact that Florida Atlantic’s two games have been at Nebraska and at Alabama…

There were two embarrassing blow-outs last week where the winners ought to be ashamed:

    Arkansas 73 Nichols St. 7 The score at halftime was 56-0.

    Ga Southern 83 Savannah St. 9. The score at the end of 3 quarters was 69-0

Earlier this year, some folks thought UCLA might be the class of the PAC-12 and might be in the College Football Playoff. That could still happen but the Bruins will need to be a bit more “efficient” on the field. In Week 1, they needed 3 defensive TDs to beat a mediocre UVa team; last week the Bruins beat Memphis by a TD. I hope no one is going to confuse Memphis with even the run-of-the-mill PAC-12 teams…

This week, UCLA takes on Texas. Both teams have struggled in the early part of this season but UCLA had better get its act together very soon because conference play begins two weeks from Saturday with Arizona St., Oregon, Washington, USC and Stanford on the schedule. That is a different caliber of opponent than either UVa or Memphis.

Another PAC-12 team folks expected to be good was Washington and the Huskies have also struggled in their first two games. In Week 1, they beat Hawaii by one point; OK, that game was in Hawaii and it was the opener under a new coach/system. So how did things go in Week 2? Well Washington won again; this time over Eastern Washington by a score of 59-52. That was E. Washington running up 52 points last week not Oregon…

Speaking of the PAC-12, USC’s win over Stanford last week was important in the PAC-12 South standings because USC’s schedule this year does not include Oregon. The Trojans can probably see their path to the PAC-12 in Levi’s Stadium in December. Despite winning the game against Stanford, USC had to deal with a measure of embarrassment when Athletic Director, Pat Haden, appeared on the sideline during the game and got into a loud and gesticulating argument with the game officials. He was fined for his actions; he apologized and said he was embarrassed – as well he should be. The only good news surrounding his behavior last weekend is this:

    At least he did not “drop trou” on TV to demonstrate to the officials what he thought of their calling of the game…

For all of the SEC acolytes out there, the SEC schedule of games last weekend would politely fit under the description “meager”. Without going through the list of patsies the SEC played last week, consider this:

    On the SEC Network last week, the “big game” they assigned Brent Mussberger to call was – drum roll please:

      LSU 56 Sam Houston St. 0.

    There is no truth to the rumor that Sam Houston State was a late substitution for Catatonic State on the LSU schedule.

Iowa State lost their opener to Div 1-AA North Dakota and hosted Kansas St. last weekend. Iowa State actually led 28-20 after 3 quarters but then reverted to form and lost the game.

Southern Mississippi actually won a football game last week; they did not do that all last year. They beat Alcorn St. 26-20. A win is a win, but before anyone gets carried away and starts talking about a football renaissance in Hattiesburg, consider that Alcorn St. – a Division 1-AA team – ran the ball here for 295 yards and averaged 9.2 yards per carry. Hmmm…

Colorado beat UMass 41-38. Perhaps the takeaway from this game is very simple. Perhaps, neither team is any good…

I wonder if the coaching staffs for Army and Buffalo got together before the game and agreed not to tackle anyone during the game. That might explain the following:

    Army won 47-39.

    Army had 466 yards offense on 61 plays and was 7-7 passing the ball.

    Buffalo had 549 yards offense on 79 plays and was 34-50 passing with 3 INTs

I mentioned Everett Golson above. I also want to mention Christian Hackenberg (the Penn State QB) this week. In the first two games this year, he has thrown for 773 yards and is averaging 9.3 yards per attempt. He is a “true sophomore: – as opposed to a “sham sophomore” I guess – and I think this kid can play at this level and at the NFL level sometime soon.

Eastern Michigan has a defensive lineman named Lion King. He was born Lion King Conaway and has changed his name legally to Lion King. I wonder if any coach at Eastern Michigan have thought of changing his name to Rafiki?

Hakuna matata…

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week we had 7 Ponderosa Spread Games. The favorites covered in 5 of those games.

Alabama, Arizona St, Auburn, Florida and Oklahoma covered.

Mississippi St. and UCLA did not cover.

That brings the season total for favorites covering to 11-5-0. Not bad so far…

This week we have 11 Ponderosa Spread Games:

Baylor – 35 at Buffalo (70): Buffalo is +11,400 on the money line. That means if you bet $100 on Buffalo to win the game outright and they do win, you will collect $11,400 plus you will get your $100 wager back. Tempting? Not I… By the way, notice that this game is in Buffalo. Imagine what the spread would be if the game were in Waco, TX.

Miami (Oh) at Michigan – 33.5 (51.5): Miami is +8,725 on the money line. Imagine how bad folks must think Miami is. Michigan was shut out last week and is a huge favorite here.

Kent St. at Ohio St. – 32.5 (48): Kent State is +7,350 on the money line.

Pitt – 26 at Florida International (47): Fla Int’l is +2,012 on the money line

Oregon – 43 at Wyoming (64): Wyoming is +46,900 on the money line. Tempted? Again, note that this game is in Laramie, WY. Imagine what the spread would be if the game were in Eugene, OR.

La-Laf at Ole Miss – 27 (58.5): La-Laf is +2,300 on the money line.

Army at Stanford – 28 (53): Army is +3,600 on the money line.

So Mississippi at Alabama – 48 (56): So Miss is + 130,000 on the money line. Just so you get the idea, Alabama is – 300,000 on the money line. That means if you want to bet on Alabama to win the game, you need to put up $300,000 and if they win – more like when they win – you will collect $100 from the sportsbook plus get your $300K back. But if they lose, you are out $300K.

La-Monroe at LSU – 31 (49.5): La-Monroe is +6,125 on the money line

Purdue at Notre Dame – 27.5 (57): Purdue is +3,600 on the money line.

Rice at Texas A&M – 32 (71.5): Rice is +7,350 on the money line.

Games of Interest:

In an English Literature class, this is called “foreshadowing”:

    There are not a lot of interesting games this weekend!

Syracuse – 6 at C. Michigan (53.5): This game is interesting because Syracuse needed OT to beat Division 1-AA Villanova by a single point earlier this year while C. Michigan is coming off a road win at Purdue last week. Normally a “power conference team” would expect to have a larger spread over a MAC team than this. Moreover, Syracuse opened with a 7-point spread and the number has gone down over the week. Just for giggles, I’ll take C. Michigan plus the points at home.

Boise St. – 16.5 at UConn (49): This is clearly a down year for UConn – perhaps as far down as a slot in the SHOE Tournament at the end of the year? It also looks like a down year for Boise St. but consider the high level of achievement Boise St has had for the last several years when you think about their “decline”. My only worry here is the very long distance Boise St. has to traverse to play the game starting at noon EDT. I hope that they will be wide-awake at kickoff because I like Boise St. to win and cover here.

UMass at Vandy – 16 (46): Vandy has been “gawd-awful” so far this year losing to Temple and then to Ole Miss by more than 4 TDs in each case. And then, there is UMass, which would love to see their team characterized merely as “gawd-awful” for the past couple of seasons. This game is interesting to me because I suspect that one or both of these teams will be in the SHOE Tournament. Do not bet on this game; if you do, you need immediate help…

Louisville – 6 at UVa (49): The Total Line opened this week at 53 points and has plunged 4 points in the past couple of days. If I had any “inside info” behind these picks, I might offer an explanation for that; however, I have no such “inside info”. Here is what I conclude about these squads from previous games:

    Neither team is an offensive juggernaut.

I like this game to stay UNDER.

Georgia – 6.5 at S. Carolina (59.5): An early-season SEC game that really means something, S. Carolina would be in a deep hole if they post a second conference loss by mid-September. Georgia has a comfy schedule and needs to take care of business so that it can participate in the SEC Championship Game down the road. Here are some irrelevant – and contradictory – trends related to this game:

    Georgia is 8-4 straight up in its last 12 games against S. Carolina but they are only 1-5-1 against the spread in their last 7 games against S. Carolina.

    S. Carolina is 22-1 straight up in their last 23 home games but are 2-4 straight up at home in their last 6 games against Georgia.

I think Georgia is the better team here – and they certainly have the best running back on the field in Todd Gurley – but S. Carolina is a quality team at home with a fat line. I like S. Carolina plus the points.

Arkansas at Texas Tech – 1 (66.5): Arkansas likes to run the ball down the opponent’s throat (208 yards per game on the ground); Texas Tech wants to throw the ball all over the field every play (393 yards per game in the air). The style contrast makes the game interesting – but not nearly interesting enough to wager upon…

Illinois at Washington – 13.5 (65): As noted above, Washington has been mighty disappointing this season despite a 2-0 record. Illinois is also 2-0 but those wins came over Youngstown St. and W. Kentucky neither of which would be mistaken for good football teams. Last week, Washington gave up 52 points to Eastern Washington. Assuming that half the defense was not on Quaaludes for that game, you have to think that Illinois is going to score a bit this week since the Washington defense ranks 54th in the country against the run and 55th in the country against the pass. Here are two contradictory trends you should feel free to ignore:

    The Total has gone OVER in 4 of the last 6 Illinois games.

    The Total has gone UNDER in 4 of the last 6 Washington home games.

I’ll take Illinois (not because I think they are a good team) plus the points here.

UCLA – 7 at Texas (52): Just how realistic were those lofty expectations for UCLA when the season began? Just how big a rebuilding job did Charlie Strong and his staff undertake at Texas? We will not have complete answers to those questions this weekend, but we will have strong indicators. The Total Line for this game opened the week at 54 and has been edging its way down all week long. I think the betting public is onto something here; I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Tennessee at Oklahoma – 21 (56.5): Tennessee has looked good in its first two games this year but neither opponent was of the caliber of Oklahoma. In addition, this game is in Norman, OK and both of the Vols wins came at home. I think both teams can score here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 9/14/14

Even before looking, I know that last week’s Mythical Picks stunk out the joint. Nevertheless, there is a need to do a review – embarrassing as it may be:

    I liked Seattle/Green Bay OVER 46.5. The game went over. Yes!

    I liked Seattle – 5.5 over Green Bay. Seattle covered easily. Double Yes!

    I liked N.O . -3 over Atlanta. Atlanta won outright. No!

    I liked Minny/St. Louis UNDER 44. Total was 40. Yes!

    I liked Cleve/Pitts UNDER 41.5. Total was 57. No!

    I liked Jax/Philly UNDER 53. Total was 51. Yes!

    I liked Oakland/Jets OVER 39.5. Total was 33. No!

    I liked Cincy +1.5 against Balt. Cincy won outright. Yes!

    I liked Buffalo +7.5 against Chicago. Buffalo won outright. Yes!

    I liked Wash +3 against Houston. Not enough points. No!

    I liked KC -3.5 over Tennessee. Tenn. won outright. No!

    I liked NE – 5 over Miami. Miami won outright. No!

    I liked Tampa -1.5 over Carolina. Carolina won outright. No!

    I liked SF -4.5 over Dallas. SF covered. Yes!

    I liked SF/Dallas OVER 51. Total was 45. No!

    I liked Denver -7.5 over Indy. Denver won by only 7. No!

    I liked Denver/Indy Over 55.5. Total was 55. Double No!

    I liked Giants +5.5 against Detroit. Giants lost by 21. No!

    I liked Arizona -3 over San Diego. Arizona won by 1. No!

    I liked Ariz/San Diego Over 45. Total was 35. Double No!

So, the disastrous result of Week 1 was a record of 7-13 which is not even close to mythically profitable. I have decided to keep a running sub-total within these picks this year just because I feel like it. I am going to keep my record on games where I flipped a coin to make the pick. Last week the Coin Flip Games were 1-2.

Undaunted – and immune to shame – I shall press on this week in a chase to get back to .500 before trying to climb the mountain of mythical profitability against the “Vegas vig”. Naturally, no one should even begin to think about using anything written here as the basis for choosing a side to back in a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend.

    Anyone who would do that would have a 20/20 IQ – – only because he/she took the test twice.

General Comments:

I know that one week does not a season make. Nonetheless, some of the teams I thought might be good this year played sufficiently badly in Week 1 that I am considering an early re-evaluation of those teams.

    Tampa Bay could not handle Carolina in Tampa and with Cam Newton on the sidelines in street clothes. Derek Anderson piloted the Panthers to a win and no one should ever confuse Derek Anderson with a star QB. Meanwhile, Josh McCown pretty much showed why he has been a career backup in the NFL for the first 11 years of his career.

      If Josh McCown is the answer, then the question has to be why doesn’t your team have a QB?

    Chicago lost at home to Buffalo. That was the first time ever that the Bills had won in Chicago – and the Bills manhandled the Bears’ defense. Last year, the Bears could not stop the run; it would appear as if that affliction continues to obtain. The Bills ran for 193 yards on 33 carries. Just to be clear, that is miserable defense…

    KC lost at home to Tennessee by 16 points. If you are looking for bad omens for the Chiefs, you can find a whole bunch of them.

      Jake Locker – not to be confused with John Unitas – shredded the Chiefs’ defense;
      The Titans held Jamal Charles in check;
      LB Derrick Johnson is out for the year with a torn Achilles;
      Alex Smith threw 3 INTs.

    Other than that, it was a fine game for KC…

    The New Orleans defense was toasted, eaten up and spit out by Atlanta. I thought the Saints were in the running for the top seed in the NFC playoffs; that will not happen if the defense plays anything close to that in future games. How bad was it?

      Falcons had 568 yards of offense.
      Matt Ryan threw for 448 yards

    Last year, the Saints defense never gave up as many as 440 yards in a game; last week, they gave up more than that in the air. Despite all of those Falcons’ fireworks, the hero of the game has to be kicker, Matt Bryant, who hit a 50+ yard field goal with time running out to send the game to OT and then hit another 50+ yard field goal to win the game in OT.

    Baltimore devised an offensive game plan that had Joe Flacco throwing the ball 62 times. Offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak, is going to have to come to his senses in devising future game plans because that is not a winning strategy for the Ravens.

    I thought the Giants would be somewhere around a “.500 team”. If they play the way they did against the Lions on Monday night, they will be fortunate to win 6 games. The Giants’ OL got pushed around and the Giants’ pass rush was more of a rumor than a fact.

    I thought Arizona’s defense would suffer with their losses to injury and free agency. Based on a sample of 1 game on Monday night, that may not be the case. The Cards’ defense looked very good against a good offensive team.

In other games, Jax raced out to a 17-0 lead at the half in Philly on the strength of converting a bunch of Eagles’ turnovers early in the game. Then the worm turned. The Eagles scored 34 points in the second half to win 34-17. I will bet that there were a huge number of folks in survival pools around the country who suffered from “extreme pucker factor” at halftime of that game…

    [Aside: That 17-point lead by Jax is larger than any lead the Jags held at any time in the entire 2013 season. Their biggest lead last year was 13 points.]

When the Broncos led the Colts 24-7 at the half, it looked as if that game would be a blowout; the Broncos really dominated play in the first half. However, in the second half it was the other way around. It seemed as if the Broncos offense and their defense decided they could put it on cruise control and win the game. Well, they did win; but it was a lot closer than I thought it was going to be when the teams went to the half.

    [Aside: With the win over the Colts, Peyton Manning joins Brett Favre as the only NFL QBs in history to have wins over all 32 NFL franchises.]

The Raiders made a game of it in NY against the Jets. Demonstrating that the Jets are not going to pin their season hopes on Geno Smith carrying the team on his shoulders, the Jets ran the ball for 212 yards in this game. By comparison, the Raiders amassed only a total of 158 yards rushing plus passing in the game. One minor bright spot for the Raiders is that they were called for only 4 penalties in the game; normally, they have that number early in the second quarter of a game.

Washington just plain stunk. They lost two fumbles in the red zone, had a punt blocked for a TD and had an extra point blocked. Houston brought the longest losing streak in the NFL to the game (14 games) and broke that streak; now the longest losing streak belongs to Washington at 9 games. The problem in Washington is pretty basic:

    The OL was miserable last year.
    80% of that same OL is back this year.
    Guess how well the OL played in Week 1…

What might be a good idea in Washington would be for the team to hold open tryouts for anyone who can show that they currently have a job as a piano mover. I am not sure adding one of them to this OL would make it worse…

Oh, some folks might tell you that the Washington defense played well on Sunday. Actually, they played to form. Trailing by 8 in the 4th quarter and having the Texans pinned back in their own end of the field, the defense needed a turnover or a three-and-out to give them a chance to win. What they ‘produced” was a six-and-a-half minute drive by the Texans leading to a short field goal that put the game on ice. That is the defense people have come to hate in Washington…

New England lost to Miami and as the only AFC East team to lose in Week 1, the Pats are alone in the basement of the AFC East. Do not panic just yet, Beantowners. There is still time to right this ship. Meanwhile, people in Miami have probably put notes on their refrigerators to check to see if the Dolphins win their next three games because if they do, many of those folks will buy a ticket for one of the remaining home games.

Minnesota beat St. Louis 34-6. The St. Louis defense can just do so much; they need at least a tad of help from the offense. The St. Louis offense is not likely to deliver much help this year; it is going to be a LONG season in St. Louis; Austin Davis and/or Shaun Hill will not lead this team to many victories. Behind those two, stands Case Keenum whose NFL record reads like this:

    Games Started: 8
    Games Lost: 8


Seattle simply dominated the Packers last Thursday night. The Seahawks’ 20-point margin of victory does not reveal how lopsided this game was. Like the Bears, the Packers cannot stop the run.

Pittsburgh got themselves a comfy lead over Cleveland at 27-3 but the Browns rallied to tie the game and it took a field goal with time expiring for the Steelers to win the game. The Browns defense was not nearly as good as I thought it might be; the Steelers defense was not nearly as good as I thought it might be. Here is a defensive concern for the Steelers:

    The Browns ran the ball for 183 yards on 31 carries (5.9 yards per carry). Moreover, the Browns did that without forcing the Steelers to game plan against a potentially lethal passing attack.

Cleveland’s loss was their 10th consecutive loss on opening day. That is an NFL record the franchise is not likely to highlight in its Press Guide next year. The previous record of 9 straight losses on opening day was held by the Eagles back in the late 60s through the mid-70s.

Dallas stunk as badly as any team in the league in Week 1. It was no surprise to see the Cowboys’ defense stinking; it was a bit of a surprise to see the Cowboys’ offense stinking as well. Given what I saw in Week 1, I will make the following pronouncements:

    1. Anyone who blames the Cowboys poor defensive play this year on any of the members of the coaching staff is a moron.

    2. The team is talent deficient on defense.

    3. By the way, if Michael Sam cannot play his way onto the defense here from the practice squad, maybe he really does not belong in the NFL…

The Games:

(Thurs Nite) Pittsburgh at Baltimore – 3 (44.5): I only got to watch part of the Ravens’ game last week against the Bengals and the Ravens looked awful on offense. Given the way the Browns ran the ball on the Steelers last week, I have to think that the Ravens will not try to throw the ball 62 times again this week. And so, the question here is how well the Steelers defense can contain whatever running attack the Ravens execute. I think the Steelers have a legitimate shot to win this game and that is an important thing to recognize when taking an underdog with only a few points. I’ll take the Steelers on the road plus the points.

Detroit at Carolina – 3 (43): Supposedly, Cam Newton will be playing this week. Notwithstanding Derek Anderson’s hot hand last week against the Bucs, Newton’s presence gives the Panthers a significantly better chance to win this game as opposed to his absence. I will need to be convinced that the Lions can play well on the road; that is certainly not their history. These teams have played 5 times in the last dozen years; in those games:

    The Lions are 1-4 straight up
    The Lions are 4-1 ATS
    The game has gone OVER 4 of the 5 games

On the assumption that Newton plays, I’ll take this game will go OVER.

Miami – 1.5 at Buffalo (43): Here is why this game does not excite me:

    The last time the Dolphins and the Bills met in a situation where both teams had winning records at kickoff time was in December 2000.

    The world was a better place then; there was no such thing as Twitter.

Both teams showed good defense in their victories last week and both teams ran the ball for 5+ yards per carry last week. Purely a venue call, I’ll take the Bills plus the points at home.

Jax at Washington – 6 (43.5): Last week, Washington drew Houston as the opponent; the Texans were 2-14 last year. That was the Turd in the Punchbowl Game of the Week. This week, Washington hosts Jax; the Jags were 4-12 last year. The Washington early schedule is what they call a soft opening in the restaurant business. This game is the Craptacular Contest of the Week. These teams have only met 5 times and the only Jags’ win came in 2002 when Steve Spurrier was on the Washington sideline. What a goat rodeo that was… Washington ran the ball well in Houston last week and Jax gave up 145 yards rushing to the Eagles. If Washington can run the ball well, it can dominate this game – even with the clueless Bacarri Rambo playing safety. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game; the coin says to take the Jags plus the points. [shudder…]

Dallas at Tennessee – 3 (49.5): Tony Romo tossed 3 INTs last week against the Niners; the Titans intercepted Alex Smith 3 times last week. If those performances repeat this week, the Titans will win in a walk. The Dallas defense was as bad as expected in Week 1; the Tennessee offense was better than expected in Week 1. The Titans must avoid looking past the Cowboys to their next two games against the Bengals and the Colts. I think they can do that so I’ll take the Titans to win and cover at home.

Arizona – 2 at Giants (43.5): These lines moved a lot since they opened. The spread originally had the Giants as a 2-point favorite and the Total Line was 46. I know this is what a friend in Houston calls an NBC-game – a Negative Body Clock game; the Cards have to fly 2100 miles and cross 2 time zones (remember, Phoenix is on Mountain Time) to play an early afternoon game. Nevertheless, I will apply the “Eyeball Test” to this game. I saw the Giants stink out the joint against the Lions last week and I saw the Cardinals play good defense but pathetic offense and still beat the Chargers. Given the Giants OL performance, I cannot see how they plan to run the ball at all here; given the Giants pass rush, I cannot see how Carson Palmer will break a sweat in this game. I like the Cards to win and cover on the road. The Cards held the Chargers to 17 points last week; I would not be surprised if the Giants were unable to match that total.

New England – 3 at Minnesota (48.5): Was that Father Time paying a call on the Patriots last week announcing that it was time for them to relinquish their stranglehold on the AFC East? Some folks have said that is the case; I do not agree. What did surprise me from last week was the Vikings putting 34 points on the scoreboard against the Rams. I smell a shootout here. I’ll take the game to go OVER.

New Orleans – 6.5 at Cleveland (47.5): Both of these teams lost heart breakers by a field goal last week. The Browns lost as time expired; the Saints gave up a tying field goal at the end of regulation and then another field goal in OT to take the loss. The Saints are on the road for the second game in a row but this one is an outdoor game on a grass field; that is the antithesis of their home dome with artificial turf. Matt Ryan and the Falcons torched the Saints’ defense for 568 yards last week; the Browns are not going to do that. Meanwhile, the Browns’ defense was not exactly channeling the ‘85 Bears last week; the Browns surrendered 490 yards to the Steelers. The Saints are not likely to replicate that result but the Saints are more likely to have a big offensive day than are the Browns. I like this game to go OVER.

Atlanta at Cincy – 5 (48.5): The Bengals pass rush will be more intense than the Saints pass rush was last week against Matt Ryan. Andy Dalton was “Mr. Efficiency” last week; if he can do that again here and let the defense do its job with lots of acreage behind it, the Bengals will be in good shape. I like the Bengals at home, outdoors to win and cover here.

St. Louis at Tampa Bay – 6 (37): The Washington/Jax game is a bad game; this one is only marginally better. The Rams do not have a QB; that status may seem to give the Bucs an insurmountable advantage until you realize that the Bucs have Josh McCown as their QB and he is only slightly better than no one at the position. The Bucs produced a grand total of 264 yards of offense last week. This should be a low-scoring game and in such cases I prefer to take points. I’ll take the Rams plus the points here. By the way, there is one Internet sportsbook that has the spread at 7 points as of this morning…

Seattle – 5.5 at San Diego (44.5): The Chargers cannot be happy to view the tape from last week’s game against the Cards; they made plenty of what tennis commentators call “unforced errors”. [Aside: Can you give me an example of a “forced error”?] One bit of good news for the Chargers is that the game is somewhere other than Century Link Field in Seattle. One bit of bad news for the Chargers is that they gave up 109 yards rushing last week and this week they will face a much better and a much tougher running attack. I like the Seahawks to win and cover here.

Houston – 3 at Oakland (40): This game opened the week as a “pick ‘em” game and the line jumped to this level almost immediately. I think the Raiders’ OL is overmatched here. On the other side of the coin, the Texans’ offense is not something that will strike fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators around the league. I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Jets at Green Bay – 8 (46): The Jets have a good defense, but it ought to seem like the junior varsity to the Packers after facing the Seahawks last week. After the game, Aaron Rodgers supposedly told Richard Sherman that they purposely avoided throwing the ball at him for the whole game; if true, that means the Packers were playing the game with only half the field available to them on offense. It is a wonder they scored any points at all… The Jets will run the ball until the Packers prove they can stop the run – and the Packers gave up 207 yards on the ground last week. Unless they find a way to improve that performance immediately, they will start the season 0-2 because the Jets will win outright. On the other hand, if the Jets have to throw the ball, that will put them in an offensive contest against Aaron Rodgers tossing the ball against a suspect Jets’ secondary. Here is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Toss Game. The coin says to take the Packers to win and cover.

KC at Denver – 12 (51.5): The Broncos did not look good in the second half against the Colts last week but they hung on to win. The Chiefs sort of stunk it up from start to finish last week losing to the Titans by 16 points. As mentioned above, the Chiefs looked bad enough that I may have to admit a serious miscalculation of their prospects for this year; having to play at Denver this week is not a good way to “turn things around”. Jake Locker threw for 243 yards against the Chiefs last week; this week it will be Peyton Manning doing the throwing. If Denver gets the lead and Alex Smith has to play “catch-up”, I doubt he will mount a recovery similar to the one Andrew Luck did last week – and even Luck fell short by a TD. I hate laying double-digit points in NFL games but I think this game will be a rout. I like the Broncos to win and cover.

(Sun Nite) Chicago at SF – 7 (48.5): This is the first real game at Levi’s stadium; surely, the fans want to see the facility inaugurated in a “proper fashion” with a Niners’ win. The early injury report this week for the Bears has one offensive lineman listed as “Doubtful” and another offensive lineman listed as “Out”. That is not a good thing considering that Jay Cutler has been known to toss it up for grabs when under pressure. Moreover, the Niners can exploit a weak Bears’ rush defense with Frank Gore and rookie Carlos Hyde. I like the Niners to win and cover at home.

(Mon Nite) Philly at Indy – 3 (53.5): These are two good teams and this is probably the Game of the Week. The Eagles’ defense only gave up 306 yards on offense last week and pitched a shut-out in the second half. However, that was against the Jags and Chad Henne; these are the Colts and Andrew Luck. The Eagles’ loss of OG, Evan Mathis, means that they will play two subs on the left side of the OL as OT, Lane Johnson sits out the second game of a 4-game suspension. This will be a fun game to watch. As a venue call, I’ll take the Colts and lay the points.

Finally, what NFL fan does not appreciate the attitude expressed by former Bears’ LB Mike Singleterry here:

“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”

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

The Disciplinarian

More than a few folks have written – and sports talk radio is all over this idea – that Roger Goodell has to be fired in the wake of the goat rodeo involving Ray Rice and his fiancée/wife. I do not think that is necessary or justified and I believe that those who are calling for his dismissal are missing the point about what a Commissioner for a major sport is supposed to do. The problem is history.

The first sports Comish in the US was Kennesaw Mountain Landis; he got the job to be the capo di tutti capi in MLB after the Black Sox scandal in 1919. He was supposed to rule with an iron fist and make sure everyone in the game toed the line. Most people think he did that; I happen to think that Landis was a lot more bluster than tough guy but I am probably in the minority there. People have come to think that Job Duty #1 for a sports commissioner is to be a disciplinarian. Not so…

The job of the commissioner is to grow the league and the measures of league growth are things like revenue, attendance, public awareness, TV ratings etc. All of those are intertwined but when you take them as a package and add to them the responsibility to deal constructively with the players’ union, you have the modern set of responsibilities for a league commissioner. Unfortunately, they also seem to carry the burden of history with them and they are also expected to be “The Disciplinarian”. That role does not mesh well with “grow the league” and “deal constructively with the union”.

Flip this issue on its head for a moment as a gedanken experiment. Imagine that Roger Goodell was not “The Disciplinarian” and we gave that job to DeMaurice Smith with the same level of authority and acceptance bestowed on Roger Goodell. Regardless of Smith’s good will and positive intentions, his main job – to represent the players on labor issues – would be in conflict with this new role as “The Disciplinarian”. My point is that neither Goodell nor Smith has a position that allows them to blend in any meaningful way their “main job” with the job of disciplinarian.

I think the best solution to the angst and anger that exists at the moment over the Ray Rice matter is to look for ways to evolve the system to a point where “The Disciplinarian” is a job separate and distinct from the NFL front office and from the NFLPA. Like the US, these folks need a “third branch of governance”.

There will be a bazillion details in the creation of the position of “The Disciplinarian” and each of them will represent a hurdle to be crossed. I will not even begin to try to flesh out all those details here except for the sine qua non in this idea:

    “The Disciplinarian” and whatever staff he/she needs will cost money. Everyone in every position is beholden to whoever pays his/her salary. Therefore, the costs for “The Disciplinarian” and his/her staff need to be borne by the NFL and the NFLPA in equal measure.

If there were indeed a person who was “The Disciplinarian”, no one would be thinking that Roger Goodell should be fired about now because he is doing his main job (grow the league) quite well.

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Johnny Manziel – through his company, JMan2 Enterprises LLC – has applied for trademark rights to a bunch of names including:

    Johnny Football
    Johnny Cleveland

Why stop there?

    The first time he leads a team to a last second win on a TD pass, he could call himself “Johnny on the Spot”.

    When he gets in the news for partying hard in Vegas he could call himself “Johnny Be Bad”.

    If he wins a game on a quarterback sneak, he could be “John Doe”.

    If he finishes second in the MVP voting, he could claim to be “John Adams”.

    If he ended all his press conferences by saying, “I have to go to the john,” he could try to trademark that phrase too.

The name on Manziel’s list – not my frivolous list – that I find most interesting is “JMan”. I really wonder if in the sporting cosmos of the Cleveland area Johnny Manziel’s name would be associated with “JMan”. After all, there is this other guy playing in Cleveland who might also be their JMan – LeBron James…

    [Aside: I wonder if Don Imus ever tried to trademark the name “I-Man”?]

Manziel’s publicity grabs speak to the possibility of an ego run amok. That is not exactly a newsworthy item in the world of sports as evidenced by this terse – yet accurate – summation by Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot of another sporting situation involving ego:

“Idle thought: Tiger Woods fired his swing coach because the golfer couldn’t fire himself.”

Finally, in the wake of the furor over the video tape of Ray Rice in that elevator, here is an item from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald on the blessing of a missing video tape:

“ESPN apologized for airing a report that discussed the locker room showering habits of openly gay NFL player Michael Sam. On the bright side, the report did not include video.”

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

The Ray Rice Affair

When a coach resigns or a player takes time off from his career, one of the standard “explanations” is that he wants to spend more time with his family. I do not know who might be the PR person or the publicist advising Ray Rice about now but I would suggest that meme be absent from his initial public statement. In the wake of yesterday’s events where the Ravens terminated Rice’s contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely, there should be no mention of his family because it was his abuse of family that caused this craptastic situation.

I prefer to focus on things other than Ray Rice and his monstrous behavior on that day in the elevator at the Atlantic City casino. Condemning what he did is far too easy. I want to ask a few questions that would surely make folks squirm if they had to answer them truthfully and on camera.

    1. To the District Attorney or whatever they call that office in Atlantic City NJ: if you saw that tape, how could you not prosecute Ray Rice? In most domestic violence cases, there is no video tape making the prosecution difficult; here, you had “indisputable visual evidence” – to borrow the NFL’s phraseology for a moment – of a serious crime and you let him plea bargain it down to something involving “counseling”. Seriously…?

    2. I mentioned back in July of this year that those Ravens’ fans who attended the team training camp and who gave Ray Rice a standing ovation when he showed up on the field were tone-deaf. After seeing yesterday’s video from inside that elevator, can any of those “standing ovation fans” feel good about themselves when they look in the mirror? How much soap will it take to wash off all that slime?

    3. Will all of the NFL toadies who went public on behalf of the league and their “tough stance” on domestic violence in the days after the 2-game suspension all stand up and tell us what they think now? Forget it. You are about as likely to see Adolpho Birch in a press conference as you are to see a yeti riding a unicorn.

    4. For DeMaurice Smith, why have you suddenly decided to do a Harpo Marx imitation? Where do you and the NFLPA stand on this contract termination and indefinite suspension? There is not a whole lot more for you to “look into”; the data is on the table so to speak.

The official stance of the NFL is that yesterday’s video tape was new information for them. That is a statement which has to be either true or false. So, let me take either outcome and see where it leads…

    If the statement is true and no one in a decision making position in the NFL ever saw that tape, the folks involved in the “NFL investigation” of the incident should be fired for incompetence by noon today. Alternatively, maybe the NFL needs to fire the entire Security Department and hire TMZ to do the job. The only way that statement can be true and simultaneously the NFL Security department can be competent is if the investigators had the tape but middle managers “buried the information” either on their own or with a wink and a nod from above. If the statement is true, there are no pretty outcomes for the NFL.

    If the statement is false, then the folks who work at 345 Park Avenue in NYC nudge up to a status where they might be complicit in covering up criminal activity. Again, there are no pretty outcomes for the NFL…

One of the questions that sports radio yakkers pondered yesterday afternoon involved whether or not Rice would ever play in the NFL again. Obviously, no one knows the answer to that but let me put two data points on the graph here:

    Donte Stallworth – driving under the influence – hit a pedestrian and that pedestrian died. Stallworth served his time and returned to the NFL.

    Ray Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in an incident that involved the stabbing deaths of two men. Lewis returned to the NFL, will be in the Hall of Fame soon and has a statue erected outside the Ravens’ stadium in Baltimore.

Please do not tell me that it is “impossible” for Ray Rice ever to play in the NFL again.

The actions of the NFL in this whole matter drag that organization down to the level of the NCAA in terms of forthrightness and logical behavior. Moreover, because of the high level of boneheadedness shown by the NFL, a small NCAA matter got only a brief mention last week. That NCAA matter is no big deal and that is precisely why the NCAA should never have been involved – – but of course they were.

During the Little League World Series, Mo’ne Davis became a national figure as the star pitcher for one of the teams in the Little League tournament. She was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 12; this fall, she will enter the eighth grade. When interviewed at some point in the tournament, she said that what she really wanted to do with her athletic career was to start as the point guard on the UConn women’s basketball team and to play for Geno Auriemma. She said that publicly; I heard her say it.

Subsequently, Geno Auriemma called Mo’ne Davis to congratulate her on her accomplishments in the Little League tournament – and someone turned him in for a “recruiting violation”. Now if anyone at the NCAA had the common sense given to a garden slug, the NCAA would have very quietly told the violation reporter to remove his head from his rectum so he might see what he is doing. But no, the NCAA found there was no violation because their rules – their precious rules – define a recruiting violation as improper contact with a potential player after they have begun the ninth grade.

Folks, the rule misses the point. Mo’ne Davis is the one who started all of this, not Geno Auriemma. It is not possible for a prospective student-athlete to commit a recruiting violation with regard to herself. That is all the NCAA needed to do and it needed to say nothing. But, no…

Finally, the NFL and the NCAA both should heed these words from former UNC coach, Dean Smith:

What to do with a mistake: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.”

Except they should not “forget it”; they should “remember it” so they do not make the same mistake(s) again.

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

Welcome Back To My TV…

After welcoming the NFL back to my television set over the weekend – a lengthy weekend indeed, since it started on Thursday night – I realized something about the “national games”. On Thursday night, Sunday night and Monday night the NFL puts on games where there are no other pro football options available to the viewer; these are the “national games”. So, when I sit down to watch a “national game”, here are eight teams – 25% of the league – that I do not want to see:

    Buffalo Bills: Unless it is December and it is snowing at about 2 inches per hour, the Bills are not interesting enough to make me want to see them. That was not the case in the Marv Levy/Jim Kelly/Andre Reed days, but it has been the case for the last 15 years.

    Cleveland Browns: The only reason to watch them this year is to see when Johnny Manziel will hit the field for the first time and what he might do once there. Other than that, the Browns have been uninteresting since their return to the NFL in 1999.

    Jax Jaguars: Even the fans in Jax do not care about this team. The new owner willingly offers to play as many games in London as the league will give him because the crowds in London are better than they are “at home”. If they do not care, why the hell should I?

    Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are like the Bills – except it never snows in Miami.

    Minnesota Vikings: Yes, Adrian Peterson might have a great game. Other than that… Oh, now that the Vikes will be playing outdoors for a few years whilst they build a new playpen, they might have a few “fun weather events” in Minnesota in December…

    Oakland Raiders: They were great to watch from 1970 until 1990 and had one brief run of competence about a dozen years ago. However, for the last 25 years, they have mostly been putrid.

    Tampa Bay Bucs: They were interesting for a fleeting few moments in the early part of this century but not much before or after that.

    Tennessee Titans: Quick, name four players on the team… Quick, name two defenders… The prosecution rests, Your Honor.

Notice on the list above, I have included all of the NFL teams in Florida. That was not by design; it just happens to be the case. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel – a newspaper in Florida by the way – had this item in a recent column:

“Had to laugh when I saw this headline – ‘Bucs will be best NFL team in Florida’ – at OrlandoSentinel.com on Friday. Isn’t being the best NFL team in Florida sort of like being the best surfer in Kansas?”

By now you have probably seen – or at least heard descriptions of – the “Ray Rice video” from within the elevator at the casino in Atlantic City. If you have not, consider these simple adjectives as a label for what happened in that elevator:


People have said that this “proves” that Rice ought to have gotten more than a 2-game suspension – as if dragging his virtually unconscious fiancée out of that elevator was insufficient to warrant a longer suspension. Here is what I find outrageous:

    The NFL said – before the suspension and then after the suspension – that they conducted their own investigation of the incident.

    Today, the NFL said that they had never seen this video before.

If both of those statements are true, then every person in NFL Security and in the management structure of the NFL who had even a peripheral responsibility for that investigation should be fired on the spot. The folks who did the investigation for the NFL make Inspector Clouseau look like Sherlock Holmes.

The Washington Post reported that the managing partner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, Bruce Levenson, will sell the team because of a ”racially insensitive e-mail” he sent in 2012 to the team GM and to other members of the ownership group. In this communique, he was evidently discussing the difficulties that the Hawks had in building a fanbase. He said in part:

“My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base…”

[Noting that the majority of attendees at Hawks’ games were Black he said] “There are few fathers and sons at the game.”

Those remarks are deep in stereotyping commentary and Levenson was abjectly stupid to put those comments into any e-mail communication with any other hominid on the planet. Having said that, I must also add that these comments do not nearly sink to the level of racist slime that caused Donald Sterling to have to sell the Clippers.

It will be interesting to see what price the Hawks can bring. The Clippers – in Los Angeles and with an exciting team – drew an unbelievable $2B offer. Atlanta is not a great sports town in terms of supporting teams through thick and thin and Atlanta is not Los Angeles on any level of comparison. Forbes once had the Hawks valued at about the same level as the Clippers yet I doubt that the Hawks will draw any bids anywhere hear $2B.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“An SUV overturned on a West Virginia interstate early Friday, littering the highway with chickens, an AK-47 assault rifle, marijuana, fireworks and an NFL player.

“OK — just kidding on that last one.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 9/6/14

Let us see how last week’s picks worked out:

    I liked Marshall – 24 over Miami (Oh). Marshall won by 15. Boo!

    I liked Tex A&M/S. Carolina UNDERF 58.5. Total was 80. Boo!

    I liked Ole Miss -10 over Boise St. Ole Miss won by 22. Yea!

    I liked La-Monroe +2.5 against Wake Forest. La-Monroe won outright. Yea!

    I liked UConn +17 against BYU. Not enough points. Boo!

    I liked Ohio St. -13.5 over Navy. Ohio St. covered. Yea!

    I liked Notre Dame -21 over Rice. Notre Dame covered. Yea!

    I liked Clemson/Georgia UNDER 58. Total was 67. Boo!

    I liked OK St. +17.5 against Fla St. OK St. covered. Yea!

    I liked Wisconsin +4.5 against LSU. LSU won by only 4. Yea!

    I liked Utah St. +6 against Tennessee. Not even close. Boo!

    I liked Utah St. on the money line against Tennessee. Not even close. Boo!

So, the first week came out at 6-6-0. I guess I should take solace in the fact that it could have been worse, right?

In any event, those results from last week should not be enticing to anyone with regard to using any of this week’s information as part of a decision as to which side to take in a real wager involving real money on a real college football game. Anyone who thinks like that is dumb enough to think that Taco Bell is a Mexican telecommunications company.

General Comments:

I clearly misread how the Utah St./Tennessee game would play out. Either Chuckie Keeton is not as good as I thought he was when I saw him last year or Tennessee is back to being able to play big-boy football once again. Or, perhaps, both…

A friend sent me an e-mail with this tidbit:

“Indiana will play every game this year on artificial turf. Do you think any other school can make that claim?”

Obviously, only a team with an artificial turf as its home field could possibly make that claim. Having said that, I am not about to go through the 128 schools now playing Division 1-A football to check on the “grassiness” of their home field and the fields of their opponents. That is a lot more work than it is worth. In fact, it is more trouble than it is worth to go and check to see if all of Indiana’s road opponents have artificial turf on their fields. So, until someone else goes and does the work to prove me wrong, my answer is that Indiana is the only school to have that distinction in 2014.

Texas A&M blew the doors off S. Carolina last week. They were faster and more aggressive than the Gamecocks. Kenny Hill took over the QB job for the Aggies and proceeded to pass for more yards in a game than anyone in school history – including Johnny Football. If A&M played defense with the same degree of competency as offense, they would definitely be part of the College Football Playoff picture.

The Aggies 24-point victory margin means that a local furniture store in College Station, TX lost a bit of money. Ashley Furniture offered a promotion to folks in the area. If the Aggies beat S. Carolina by at least 10 points, the store said it would refund the purchase price for furniture bought between 16 and 27 August. Reports say that the store will now be refunding in excess of $1M to buyers. I sure hope they thought to take out insurance on that promotion…

Maybe – just maybe – Chris Petersen knew what he was doing last winter when he jumped ship at Boise St. and took the open job at Washington after Steve Sarkisian left to go to USC. Boise State was only 8-5 last year; lots of schools would think 8-5 is a decent year but the recent run at Boise State made that look like an aberration on the downside. Last week’s game against Mississippi made it look as if Boise St. is no longer “David with his slingshot” but is merely a good “mid-major team” that can dominate teams in a conference like the Mountain West but not threaten any of the “big guys” any more.

One other comment about the Ole Miss/Boise St. game… I know they played it in Atlanta, which is a good schlep from Boise; that explains why there were not tens of thousands of Bronco fans there. That venue does not explain, however, why so few Ole Miss fans showed up. The crowd for that game rattled around in the Georgia Dome; it looked like a Tampa Bay Rays baseball crowd.

Florida International lost to Bethune Cookman – for the second year in a row by the way – but that is not why they deserve any mention here or anywhere else. FIU made news when they refused to grant a press credential to the beat reporter from the Miami Herald. What the paper did was simply to announce that they would not cover the game at all. It is not as if anyone truly cares about FIU sports. This week, the school changed course and has certified David Neal so that he can cover the team. It turns out he is the only reporter from any major paper who even applied for a press credential. So, you may see this as a situation that came to the correct conclusion in a roundabout way.

I would disagree with that assessment. With press credential in hand, David Neal now has no excuse; he has to go and cover that wretched program. As of late last week, he had the journalistic equivalent of a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card; now the poor guy has no way out.

Florida Atlantic had a less-than-stellar opening to its season last week too. They went to Nebraska for reasons that can only be denominated in dollars and took a 55-7 shellacking there. Nebraska ran the ball for 449 yards in the game.

Florida had its game against Idaho postponed until 2017. A severe thunderstorm forced them to cancel play at the scheduled time.

Miami went to Louisville and lost 31-13. The Hurricanes were close in the third quarter trailing 14-13 and then the wheels came off…

UCF lost to Penn State in the final moments in their game in Dublin 26-24. Penn State’s sophomore QB, Christian Hackenberg, threw for 454 yards in the game. That is the first time in school history where a Penn State QB threw for more than 400 yards in a single game.

The only bright spots for football in Florida last week were:

    USF beat Western Carolina 36-31. A win is universally better than a loss, but let no one mistake Western Carolina with Alabama.

    Florida State beat Oklahoma State 37-31. A win is universally better than a loss, but this was a lot closer than most people thought it was going to be. Recall that the spread on the game was 17.5-points.

Rutgers beat Washington St. in Pullman, WA last week 41-38. This was a surprise and not a surprise at the same time:

    Surprise: Rutgers could score 41 points in a single game.
    No surprise: Wash St. cannot play defense.

Temple went to Vanderbilt and beat Vanderbilt by 30 points. Raise your hand if you saw that coming; on second thought, do not identify yourself because whatever hallucinogens you were taking at the time have to be illegal. Vanderbilt has to face an SEC schedule and they had the stuffing knocked out of them at home by Temple. This is the first game of the “Derek Mason Era” and if things do not turn around significantly and immediately, that “Era” will be a very brief one.

The other “significant event” from that game was that Vandy had its team slogan on its jerseys instead of the player names on the back. Evidently, this is not kosher with the NCAA – or then again, maybe it is under some other provision somewhere in the 6500-page book of rules and regulations that organization perpetrates on schools and athletes. In any event, here is what Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had to say about that kerfuffle:

“Vanderbilt had its team slogan, ‘Anchor Down,’ on its jerseys instead of player names until the NCAA said no. Dumb slogan anyway. Doesn’t anchor down signify going nowhere?”

Michigan stomped on Appalachian State beating them by 38 points. It surely looked as if this was a “payback game” for the time App State went to Michigan on opening day and beat the Wolverines. That was the beginning of the end of the Lloyd Carr Era in Ann Arbor. The problem with that thinking is that the upset win then was in 2007. None of the players or any of the Michigan coaches was there for that debacle. In any event, last week’s game was exactly the kind of mismatch that folks expected in 2007. At the half, the score was 35-0.

Syracuse beat Villanova last week. That was to be expected no matter the venue but just for good measure, the game was in Syracuse. What was indeed unexpected was that the score was 27-26 and it took Double OT for Syracuse to win the game. Either Villanova is awfully good and should dominate its Division 1-AA opponents or Syracuse is going to stink this year…

Iowa State hosted Division 1- AA North Dakota State last week and ND State put on a show. Iowa State led 14-0 in the second quarter. From that point, ND State ran off 34 points in a row to win in a walk. Here are a few stats to demonstrate that this win was no fluke:

    ND State converted 9 out of 15 third down situations.
    ND State outgained Iowa State 503 yards to 253 yards.
    ND State rushed for 299 yards gaining 6.7 yards per carry.

This is the second year in a row that Iowa State has lost to a Division 1-AA school. Last year Northern Iowa beat them – but not as badly as North Dakota State did this year.

BC beat UMass handily last week. UMass was awful last year; is this a portent of another miserable season for the Minutemen?

UCLA traveled about 2200 miles to Charlottesville last week to play UVa. A few folks had UCLA penciled in as the PAC-12 champion and as a participant in the College Football Playoff in January; a lot of folks had UVa stinking out the joint this year to the point where coach Mike London would be “pursuing future endeavors” starting in December. One game does not make a season but perhaps everyone needs to take a deep breath and just watch these two teams over the next several weeks to see what is actually going on:

    UCLA won 28-20. This was not the butt-kicking most folks expected.

    Three of the UCLA TDs came on turnovers – two Pick Sixes and a fumble return for 76 yards.

    Will the real UCLA please stand up?

    Will the real UVa please stand up?

Ohio State beat Navy 34-17 last week but before you conclude that this was a glorified scrimmage for the Buckeyes, consider that Navy led at halftime 7-6 and that Navy ran the ball for 370 yards averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

Notre Dame ignored those “dreaded distractions” and beat Rice by 31 points. On one hand, you can say that it was “only Rice” they beat; on the other hand, Rice is the defending C-USA champion. Stay tuned…

Auburn beat Arkansas 45-21. The game was tied 21-21 at the half.

Georgia beat Clemson 45-21. The game was tied 21-21 at the half. [Is there an echo in here?]

Georgia RB, Todd Gurley ran the ball 15 times for 198 yards and 3 TDs. You could say he had a “decent outing” against Clemson. One other stat demonstrating Georgia’s dominance is that Clemson went “three-and-out” 9 times in the game.

Mississippi State beat Southern Mississippi 49-0. It is only a sample of one game, but it would appear as if So Miss is going to stink in spades once again this year.

Out west, USC handled Fresno St. easily. Forget the score and the fact that USC had 704 yards of offense, here is the more interesting stat from the game:

    USC ran 104 offensive plays in the game. That is a Pac-12 record. Not even Chip Kelly’s hypersonic offense at Oregon ever did that.

Speaking of Oregon, the Ducks beat S. Dakota 62-13 last week. The stat that stood out for me was that Oregon did this and only had the ball for just under 21 minutes in the game. Basically, they scored three points per minute of possession.

Washington eked out a 17-16 win over Hawaii. Yes, the game was in Hawaii and island officiating against mainland “big-boys” is notoriously bad. Nonetheless, lots of folks had Washington pegged as a Top 25 team; no one had Hawaii anywhere near that level of competence.

Cal beat Northwestern in one of the season’s first “SAT Bowl Games”. The benchmark to come from this game is that Cal has now matched its win total from all of 2013…

This week is an important week for the Big 10 Conference. Wisconsin lost to LSU last week after holding a 17-point lead in the third quarter over the Tigers. Ohio State won but was not dominant against Navy. Michigan St won in a rout last week and this week faces Oregon. It will not make the Big 10 look good if another of its “better teams” loses to an out-of-conference foe from one of the conferences that will vie for slots in the College Football Championship.

Meanwhile Ohio State plays Va Tech this week – which is a step up from Navy but hardly a dominant opponent while Wisconsin takes a breather playing Western Illinois. In fact, if you look at the Wisconsin schedule, you will see a whole lot of “breathers”. They do not play Michigan St. or Ohio St. or Penn St. in conference. The team that might be their toughest test looks like Nebraska on Nov 15. When the Badgers have a gaudy record, remember the three words:

    Strength … of … schedule.

Michigan takes on Notre Dame this week. If they beat the Irish to start out 2-0, their schedule has 4 winnable games in a row coming up next. That could put the wolverines at 6-0 before playing Penn St and Michigan St in back-to-back games.

Louisville has a freshman defensive lineman on the roster named Finesse Middleton. Presumably, the guys who line up on either side of him are named “Hammer” and “Anvil” to provide balance.

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week there were 10 Ponderosa Spread Games. The favorites covered in 6 of the games; the underdogs covered in 3 of the games and the Florida/Idaho game was postponed due to severe weather.

Arizona, Baylor, Michigan, Miss St, Nebraska and Texas covered.

Alabama, Marshall and Oklahoma did not cover.

So, the record for favorites covering so far this year stands at 6-3.

This week we have 7 Ponderosa Spread games.

Fla Atlantic at Alabama – 40 (50.5): Last week, Fla Atlantic went to Nebraska; this week they travel to Alabama. Who is making up the schedule there, the Marquis de Sade?

UAB at Miss St – 27.5 (58): It is not often when playing UAB represents a step up in terms of the quality of your opponent. That is the case for Miss St this week…

E. Michigan at Florida – 38 (54): E. Mich fans need to root for a major electrical storm this weekend…

Ariz St – 25 at New Mexico (67): New Mexico lost at home last week to UTEP; that does not provide a warm fuzzy feeling for what will happen to them this week…

San Jose St at Auburn – 32 (66): This game could light up the scoreboard. I’ll take this game to go OVER.

Oklahoma – 24.5 at Tulsa (57.5): Last week, OU was favored by 38; this week by 24.5 points. This schedule is soft as a pillow.

Memphis at UCLA – 24 (53.5): No one expects Memphis to be any good this year – sort of how folks thought about UVa last week… Memphis beat a Division 1-AA opponent 62-0 last week and that was the first shutout by a Memphis team in a decade.

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Wash St – 4 at Nevada (66.5): Neither team plays defense and both like to throw the football. I like this game to go OVER.

Kansas St – 12 at Iowa St (54.5): Iowa St was bludgeoned at home last week by North Dakota St (see above). This may not be the best K-State team ever, but that spread looks lean to me. I’ll take K-State to win and cover even on the road.

N. Illinois at Northwestern – 7 (57.5): Based on the loss against Cal last week, Northwestern does not look like a tough squad this year. Purely a hunch, I like N. Illinois plus the points.

Navy – 3.5 at Temple (56): Both teams were positive surprises last week. Temple played an inferior opponent as compared to Navy and the fact that Navy ran the ball efficiently and effectively against Ohio State tells me that Navy ought to do the same against Temple’s defense. I like Navy to win and cover here.

Arkansas St. at Tennessee – 17 (52.5): Above I wondered if Tennessee was indeed ready to start playing “big boy football” once again. This game might provide a clue to the answer there.

Colorado – 17 at UMass (50): Last week, Colorado was a 3-point favorite and lost by 14. If that happens again, this contest will be a tie, which cannot happen. UMass appears severely over-matched here but there is no way I would bet on a team as bad as Colorado when they are a three-score road favorite. Watch and see how bad one or both of these teams will be…

USC at Stanford – 2.5 (54.5): This is probably the second best game of the weekend. You can shop the Total Line here because it varies from 53.5 to 55.5 at various Internet sportsbooks this morning. USC put on an offensive clinic last week (see above) but Stanford looks to play a lot tougher defense than Fresno St and Stanford should be able to possess the ball more reliably than did Fresno St. This will be an interesting game – and an important one – in the PAC-12. I think it will be low scoring so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Ole Miss – 19.5 at Vandy (49.5): Vandy’s loss to Temple last week (see above) was either a wake-up call for the coaches and the team or it was an indication that something is very wrong in Nashville. I will watch this game for indications of future events…

Michigan St. at Oregon – 12 (56): Surely, this is the best game of the weekend. This is an important game for both sides; each can rightfully hope to be part of the inaugural College Football Playoff in January. Oregon has had trouble with physical and disciplined defenses over the last several years and that is the kind of defense that Michigan St. will put on the field here. Oregon will be the faster team; Michigan St. will be the stronger team. Oregon is 34-2 at home since 2009 so that is a big advantage for them. However, I think the line is fat. I’ll take Michigan St. plus the points.

E. Carolina at S. Carolina – 16.5 (63.5): What I saw last week was a S. Carolina defense that is not very fast and not very good. E. Carolina can score points. However, E. Carolina’s defense is not likely to be equivalent to any of the defenses in the SEC, so the Gamecocks will score points too. I like this game to OVER.

Michigan at Notre Dame – 3.5 (57): An important game for both teams, this is one of the best games of the weekend. I think defenses dominate here; neither offensive unit saw a defense like these last week. I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

BYU – 1 at Texas (46): These lines opened with Texas as a 4.5-point favorite and with the Total Line at 51. Holy Line Movement, Batman! Texas QB, David Ash, will have to miss this game due to the aftermath of a concussion. Three of the Texas OL will miss this game – one because of injury and two because of suspension. BYU scored a lot on UConn last week but I have trouble believing that the Texas defense and the UConn defense have anything in common other than the name of the unit. The Texas players should have a “revenge” factor going for it here after what BYU did to them last year; the Texas coaching staff should look at BYU as a big part of the reason they have their jobs at Texas this year. Purely a hunch, I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Va Tech at Ohio St. – 11 (47): I really do not like Va Tech on the road playing a top-tier team – especially on the road. History says they are going to go meekly into the night… By the same token, Ohio St. QB, JT Barrett, has exactly one game of college experience and the Hokies’ defense is a lot better than the one he saw last week. That spread is awfully big; however, there are too many variables for me in this game. I will not make a pick here but will be watching for clues as to future wagering opportunities…

Oregon St. – 10.5 at Hawaii (59): Washington escaped with a 1-point win over Hawaii last week and once again, one will have to take into account “island-officiating”. However, that result ought to be a wake-up call for Oregon St. to take the game seriously and not just an excuse to enjoy the Hawaiian weather. I do not think Hawaii is very good so a focused Oregon St. team ought to handle them easily. I’ll take Oregon St. to win and cover – even in Hawaii.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Someone stole the cow head from a Chick-fil-A in Bellevue, Neb.

“Insiders suspect Lee Corso needed a Texas Longhorns prop for ‘College GameDay.’ “

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 9/7/14

College Mythical Picks debuted last week; this is the other flavor that is available here. That’s right; they are both on sale here for the unbelievably low price of:

    Two for nothing.

Moreover, since the picks are free, you know immediately what they are worth.

For new readers, what I will do here is to make a wagering selection for “every” NFL game. I put “every” in quotation marks because that will not literally be the case. For example:

    On weeks when I do not have the chance to write this stuff until Friday morning, I will not be making any “predictions” on the Thursday night game that happened the night before.

    I have my annual Fall pilgrimage to Las Vegas booked. Sometimes I do not have time to make picks that week prior to departure and I do not take anything that resembles a computer with me on that trip.

    Potentially, I might spend some time in Ireland this Fall/Winter visiting #1 son, daughter-in-law and grandson. I will not make picks that week if indeed that visit materializes.

    In our retirement years, my long-suffering wife and I consider that we “travel for a living”. Therefore, there could be trips that intervene in such a way that there is no time to make picks and write one of these things. There is nothing “on the books” at the moment, but that does not mean something will not materialize on short notice.

Other than events of that type, my plan is to take the week’s slate of games, present the spread and the totals line and make some kind of wagering prediction for every game every week. Having said that, I must now say this:

    It is foolhardy for anyone to try to beat the spread by betting on every game every week. That is one of the money management “strategies” that will send you to the poorhouse more often than not. Please, do not do this with real money!

Each week will begin with a rundown of the previous week’s picks keeping a running total for the year. Last year’s result was a humiliating and disastrous 114-159-8. That was my worst year ever; it followed on the heels of two other surprisingly good seasons where for 2011 and 2012 I not only came out above .500 but also would have shown a profit against the “Vegas vig.” Such mythical profitability has only happened 3 times in the 14 years I have been doing this, so I surely do not expect it to happen this year. I do expect to do better than last year’s level of suckitude…

I want to make something crystal clear at the outset. There is no inside information involved in any of these selections; I do not have access to coaches, players or staff for any NFL teams; I do not have a network of “spies’ and “informers” that have their fingers on the pulses of the various teams and who send me coded “intell reports” via carrier pigeon so that I can make these selections. I do this because I enjoy doing it and for no other purpose; I do not make real wagers on all the games that I talk about here. Ergo:

    Please do not use anything written in any of these pieces as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game.

    Anyone doing that would be dumb enough to think that a thesaurus is a well-spoken dinosaur.

General Comments:

Since this week marks the opening games of the 2014 NFL season, allow me to recount for you the exploits of an NFL Hall of Fame QB in the opening game of the 1951 NFL season. The Los Angeles Rams played the New York Yankees on that day; Norm Van Brocklin was the Rams’ QB on that day. All Van Brocklin did in the opening game of the 1951 season was to pass for 554 yards and 5 TDs.

Those 554 yards still stand as the single-game passing record for the NFL despite decades of rule changes designed to increase the offense – and specifically the passing offense – throughout the league. It has been a rather durable record.

One of those 5 TD passes went to a guy with one of the great names in NFL history, Vitamin Smith. Vitamin was what they used to call a “scatback”; he was listed at 5’ 8” and 179 lbs – and he played halfback. He also ran back kicks and punts. You just know that if he played today, he would have an endorsement deal with a company like GNC or One-A-Day…

In my NFL predictions earlier this week, I did not see 2014 as a banner year for the Buffalo Bills. A friend, who is a relocated Buffalonian, asked me why I always had to “put the Bills down”. I said that I had no intention to do so but that I also had no reason to believe that they were going to be any good this year. My friend said that “their coach will find a way to make them a playoff contender”. So, that sent me to the stats…

Doug Marrone in the Bills’ coach; he has worked his way up the coaching ranks starting in 1992 from position coach to offensive coordinator to college head coach to this gig where he is in his second year with the Bills. His head coaching record comes down to this:

    Syracuse University: 4 years with a cumulative record of 25-25. Pardon me, but that record is not exactly what I would call “The Wow Factor! ” Moreover, playing in the less-than-awesome Big East Conference for those 4 years, his in-conference record was a meager 11-17. The majority of his wins came against out-of-conference cupcakes.

    Buffalo Bills: Last year the Bills finished 6-10 putting them in last place in the AFC East, which is where they have finished for each of the last 6 seasons. In four of those 6 seasons in the basement of the AFC East, the Bills finished 6-10.

    I do not intend to “put Doug Marrone down”. Nevertheless, until the Bills achieve something better than 6-10 and finishing last in the AFC East, I am not ready to accept as an article of faith that he will “find a way” to make the Bills into a playoff contender.

While speaking of teams mired in sub-mediocrity, let me talk for a moment about the Cleveland Browns. Since coming back into the league as an expansion franchise in 1999, the Browns have been over .500 exactly twice – in 2002 and again in 2007. Their cumulative record since returning to the NFL is 77-163. Moreover, the Browns as a franchise have an overall losing record against the Jax Jaguars; think about that…

While you are thinking about the Jaguars, the bottom line is that they are not very good. In the last 3 seasons, the Jags combined record was 11-37. It is no wonder that they have those tarps covering up the seats in Jax that the team cannot give away.

Why are teams becoming more focused on the position of “back-up quarterback”? Consider the 2013 season. Thirteen teams (40% of the league) had two QBs who started three games or more; back-up QBs see the field a lot more now than they did 30 years ago. Of those 13 teams who had to use two guys for at least 3 games last year, only 2 of those teams were playoff teams (Eagles and Packers) and the Packers squeezed into the playoffs with a most un-Lombardi-like record of 8-7-1. Keeping the starter on the field for more than 13 games is not a given in the league and unless you have a back-up that can keep you in the playoff chase, that can ruin a season.

They say it can take up to 5 years to evaluate a draft in the NFL and that is particularly true for the quarterback position. So, I went back to the 2009 draft and unless I missed a QB somewhere in the draft, here is the “Success Story” of that draft:

    Matthew Stafford

Here is the “Survivor”:

    Mark Sanchez

Here are the ones in hot pursuit of “Future Endeavors”:

    Rhett Bomar
    Tom Brandstater
    Nate Davis (Lone Star Football League – an Indoor League)
    Josh Freeman
    Stephen McGee (CFL)
    Keith Null
    Curtis Painter
    Pat White (CFL)

I guess you would have to say that the 2009 NFL Draft was low-grade ore with regard to the QB position…

The Games:

(Thurs) Green Bay at Seattle – 5.5 (46.5): This is the opening game of the weekend and the Best Game of the Weekend. Over the last 20 seasons, the Super Bowl champion is 18-2 straight up in the opening game of the next season. The last time these two teams met, it was in 2012 in the infamous “Fail Mary Game” where the replacement refs blew the final call of the game so badly that the league and the referees’ union had to find a way to resolve the work stoppage to preserve the image of the league itself. The “real refs” will be on hand this week so the chances of such a monumental gaffe are significantly reduced – but not eliminated. I do not know that the Packers’ defense has been improved sufficiently to buck that winning trend for Super bowl champions on opening day. Having said that, any team with a healthy Aaron Rodgers playing QB is a dangerous opponent. I think there will be plenty of scoring in the game. I like the game to go OVER and I’ll take the Seahawks to win and cover at home.

New Orleans – 3 at Atlanta (52): This game opened with the Falcons favored by 1.5 points and flipped very quickly to this level. I think the Saints are the better team on offense – despite the return of Julio Jones to the Falcons line-up – and I think the Saints are the better team on defense. I cannot understand why this line might have opened with the Falcons as the favorite other than the fact that last year the Saints were only 1-7 as a road team ATS (against the spread). I am not much of a trend bettor so I’ll go with my assessment of the “better team” and take the Saints to win and cover.

Minnesota at St. Louis – 4 (44): I do not think either team is going to throw the ball effectively in this game. The Vikes’ passing game will be thwarted by a heavy and relentless pass rush; the Rams’ passing game will be delivered by Shaun Hill and received by Joe Flabeetz & Co. I think this is going to be an old-school game with lots of running back participation. George Halas and Vince Lombardi will be watching and nodding approvingly. I would not wager on this game with your money but I said I would make a pick in every game and so I shall use the standard Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol here:

    Flip #1: Heads = Bet the Spread; Tails = Bet the Total Line

    Flip #2: Heads = Take the favorite or the Over; Tails = figure it out…

The magic coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh – 6.5 (41.5): In the last 28 times these teams have met, the Steelers have won 25 times. If you want to check out an obscure trend, consider this:

    In the last 15 games where the Steelers were favored at home, the game has stayed UNDER in 13 of those games.

As I said, I am not a trend bettor, but I do think this will be a low-scoring game because the Browns’ offense should be meager and the Browns defense should be strong. In fact, the last time these teams played and the total went OVER 41 was in January 2011. I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Jax at Philly – 10 (53): I mentioned above that the Jags are not a good team and have not been a good team for a while. However, bettors tend to overestimate how bad they are in season openers because in the last 15 years, the Jags are 12-3 ATS in opening games – and they have not been dominant favorites in those games. They find themselves in the same situation here. The Jags were equal opportunity stinkers last year; they had the 16th rated offense in the AFC and they had the 16th rated defense in the AFC. The Eagles play “breakneck speed offense”. Even though I am not enamored with the Eagles’ defense even a little bit, I find it difficult to see where 54 points will come from in this game. I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Oakland at Jets – 5.5 (39.5): Derek Carr will start at QB for the Raiders; he played well against scrubs in the exhibition games; here he will face the “varsity” in terms of a pass rush and linebackers. However, the Jets’ secondary might well be a prodigious pile of puke back there. So, how might Derek Carr fare in this game? And on that point turns the outcome of the game and the outcome of any wagering propositions – unless of course Jets’ QB, Geno Smith, demonstrates his ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and throw a bunch of INTs. Here comes another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip… I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Cincy at Baltimore – 1.5 (43): This game opened with the Ravens favored by 3 points and the line has dropped steadily to this level. Based on last year’s stats, the Bengals are the better team on offense and on defense, in the air and on the ground. However, last year the Ravens were 6-2 at home while the Bengals were only 3-5 on the road. But this is this year and not last year… The Ravens will be without Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, had a concussion and is listed as “Probable” which likely means that he can tell lightening from thunder. I like the Bengals plus the points here.

Buffalo at Chicago – 7.5 (47): I told you above what I think about the Bills so I cannot turn around here and take them to win outright on the road against a team that can legitimately consider itself a playoff squad. However, that hook on top of a full touchdown’s worth of points makes the Bills attractive. I’ll take the Bills plus the points.

Washington at Houston – 3 (45.5): This line opened with the Texans favored by only 1.5 points and it has crept up to this level as the week moved on. What a hot mess this game looks to be. Last year, the Texans cruised in with a 2-14 record to stink just ever so much more than the Skins with their 3-13 record. Both teams have new coaches – no surprise there – and both should improve over last year’s performance. Nevertheless, this game is the Turd in the Punchbowl Game of the Week. I know how I want to play this game so I went looking for some trends that would “justify my pick”. Here they are:

    Skins are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games versus the AFC South.
    Texans are 1-7 ATS in their last 8 games at home.
    Texans are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 games as a favorite.

With no conviction at all, I’ll take the Skins plus the points. By the way, I will have no choice in the matter; I will have to watch this steaming pile of offal on TV on Sunday here in the DC area. Those of you in other parts of the world can enjoy another – better – game.

Tennessee at KC – 3.5 (43.5): Here is another game where the line has moved; it opened with the Chiefs favored by 6 points. I would love to see the number drop to an even “3 points” but I would also love to see a winning Powerball lottery ticket in my hands. Simple and straightforward here; I think the Chiefs are the better team. I’ll take the Chiefs at home and lay the points.

New England – 5 at Miami (47): The Pats have won 10 consecutive opening day games. They have new parts to incorporate into their game – like two new CBs – but that is nothing compared to what Miami has to patch together in terms of an OL and a defensive secondary. I like the Pats to win and cover – even on the road.

Carolina at Tampa Bay – 1.5 (39.5): This line opened with the Panthers as 2.5-point favorites and has flipped to put the Bucs in the role of the favorite. I think the Bucs will be much improved this year over last; I think the Panthers will have a hard time to duplicate their good fortune – and their good record – from last year. Cam Newton has a hairline fracture on a rib; he says he will play. The Bucs feature two WRs who are 6’ 5” tall and that will challenge the Panthers’ secondary. Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Bucs at home to win and cover.

SF – 4.5 at Dallas (51): The Niners opened as a 3-point favorite and the spread has grown as the week went on. The Niners have injuries, suspensions and distractions to deal with; the Cowboys merely have to deal with a lack of talent on defense. I prefer the Niners’ talent edge here. I’ll take the Niners to win and cover and I’ll take the game to go OVER as both defensive units yield points here.

(Sun Nite) Indy at Denver – 7.5 (55.5): This game is a very good one and it has the best QB-matchup on the card this week. The Broncos have Wes Welker on the “suspended list” and the Colts have Robert Mathis on the “suspended list”. Point and counterpoint… I see lots of offense and loads of points in this game. I’ll take the Broncos to win and cover and I’ll take the game to go OVER.

(Mon Nite Early) Giants at Detroit – 5.5 (47): Which team will be less able to get out its own way? I think that is the key to the outcome here; the team that makes the final blunder will lose. This game could end up 17-13 if the offenses stink it up here; or, this game could end up 38-35 if the defenses stink it up here. I have exactly no idea what is going to happen here. The Lions have a new coach and a new system; the Giants have their old coach and a new system. The Curmudgeon Coin Flip protocol is in effect and the coin says to take the Giants plus the points.

(Mon Nite Late) San Diego at Arizona – 3 (45): These may not be the two best teams in the league, but this ought to be a very good game. I think the Chargers can score points here but I am not confident that the Chargers’ secondary can deal with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn. Brew a pot of coffee to stay up for the late finish here because this should be a game that goes down to the wire. I like the Cards to win and cover and I like the game to go OVER.

Finally, it is never a good idea to look at a “losing streak” as something that is “due to end”. Each wager is an independent action; when on a “losing streak”, try to examine your methodology for making selections instead of raising the stakes to “get even”. Here is an item from a previous column by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times about trying to “get even”:

“Actor Mickey Rooney, who died this week at age 93, on the perils of gambling on the horses: ‘I lost a $2 bet 65 years ago and have spent about $3 million trying to get it back.’ ”

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

Keth Olbermann On Pete Rose Banned From Baseball

On Monday night, I tuned in to see Keith Olbermann’s program “celebrating” the 25th anniversary of Pete Rose’s banishment from baseball. I enjoyed the program and it made me think again about the issue of Pete Rose’s continued estrangement from the game. I am on record saying that he should be reinstated and that he belongs in the Hall of Fame; I doubt that I am going to change my mind on those issues. I do not suspect that I will change the mind of anyone reading here who thinks that Pete Rose’s banishment for life was a proper outcome for actions that Pete Rose himself took voluntarily. Moreover, I acknowledge that his 15-year campaign of fabrication on the issue does not buttress my case at all.

In one of the discussions last night, Olbermann and – I believe – Bob Ley were discussing why it would not be any harm to reinstate Pete Rose to baseball. Part of that discussion was that there was no major league team that would hire him for anything and that as a minor league manager he would not harm baseball very much. I have to disagree with the first part of that conclusion:

    If I owned a major league baseball team – I checked my IRA and I am only about $700M short – I would hire Pete Rose in an instant as a roving minor league hitting instructor.

    Put your moral outrage aside for a moment; the guy played all or part of 24 seasons and collected 4256 hits. He came to the plate in MLB 15,890 times. Might he help a kid in the Florida State League or the South Atlantic League or the NY-Penn League?

    No one ever accused Rose of “dogging it” in a game. The name “Charlie Hustle” was not bestowed on him because Mickey Mantle admired Rose; Mantle thought Rose was a hot-dog and a show-off. Nonetheless, if I owned a team, I would love to have a few players who put the same energy into every game that Rose did.

In any event, last night’s program reminded me that Keith Olbermann has been doing his five-nights-a-week program on ESPN for about a year now. I have certainly not watched every episode; I probably tune in two nights a week on average. ESPN puts on some mindless programming that drives me nuts; First Take and the late but never lamented Cold Pizza are but two examples. Have you noticed how conveniently ESPN studio analysts almost always disagree with one another when discussing an upcoming game or a recent event? You do not think that is contrived in any way, do you?

However, Olbermann is a program that makes ESPN safe viewing for people who live under the right end of the bell curve. When Keith Olbermann was doing his political commentaries on MSNBC, he would often make me want to throw a shoe at the TV; doing sports makes him entertaining and informative. There was some mention a while ago that his program would be moving to an earlier time slot. If that makes it more convenient for you and you have not seen him yet, let me suggest that you give it a try.

The arrest of Niners’ DE, Ray McDonald, over the weekend is an example of horrendous timing. The ink was barely dry on all the reports of the NFL’s new “get tough policy” issued last Thursday with regard to domestic violence incidents when police arrested McDonald on Sunday and held him in jail “pending filing of felony domestic violence charges”. One of the TV stations in the Bay Area reported that the woman involved in the alleged incident is pregnant. That is bad news for two reasons:

    1. There is no prenatal care regimen that I ever heard of which says that a fetus/developing child derives any benefit from its mother being beaten/abused.

    2. In that new “get tough policy”, there is specific language that would up the ante on the 6-game suspension for a first time offense. Here is part of that policy:

    “Among the circumstances that would merit a more severe penalty would be a prior incident before joining the NFL, or violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child.”

Remember, these remain allegations at this point; McDonald’s first court hearing is set for 15 September. It is hard to see how all of this will end well for everyone involved in the matter. Stay tuned…

Last week, I got an e-mail from a reader that made me stop and think before I got the point:

“Suspect you saw that the Dodgers traded two players to be named for Roberto Hernandez. Expected one of the columnists you quote to point out that they may be the first team to trade two players to be named later for a player who already was named later.”

Yes, it took me a moment too… He is referring to the Phillies trading Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers and Hernandez spent the first six years of his major league career toiling under the assumed name, Fausto Carmona.

Finally, Greg Cote noted in the Miami Herald the limitation of confidentiality agreements:

“Sometimes reality is its own punch line. Guests attending Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union’s wedding Saturday had to sign a confidentiality agreement assuring nothing gets in the media. And how do we know? Somebody leaked the confidentiality agreement to TMZ!”

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