Admin Note

The writing schedule for the next week and a half will be sporadic and possibly non-existent. Visits by friends from out of town and two family events in the next 10 days will dominate the schedule here in Curmudgeon Central.

Please check back periodically. I will definitely be back to a more regular schedule starting Monday 8 december.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone…

Stay well.

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/30/14

First, a review of last week:

    I liked Chiefs -7 over Raiders. Chiefs lost the game. No!

    I liked Browns +3 against Falcons. Browns won the game. Yes!

    I liked Titans +11 against Eagles. Not enough points. No!

    I liked Lions/Pats OVER 47. Total score was 43. No!

    I liked Pats -7 over Lions. Pats won by 25. Yes!

    I liked Packers -9 over Vikes. Packers won by only 3. No!

    I liked Jags +14.5 against Colts. Colts won by 20. No!

    I liked Bengals +1.5 against Texans. Bengals won the game. Yes!

    I liked Jets +4 against Bills. Bills won by 35. No!

    I liked Bucs +5.5 against Bears. Not enough points. No!

    I liked Seahawks -6.5 over Cards. Seahawks won by 16. Yes!

    I liked Rams +4 against Chargers. Rams lost by only 3. Yes!

    I liked Dolphins +7 against Broncos. Dolphins lost by only 3. Yes!

    I liked Dolphins/Broncos UNDER 49. The game went OVER. No!

    I liked Niners -9 over Skins. Niners won by only 4. No!

    I liked Cowboys -3 over Giants. The game was a “PUSH”.

    I liked Ravens/Saints UNDER 50. The game went OVER. No!

That was another disgusting week of Mythical Picking at 6-10-1. The season record now stands at a putrid 82-108-3. Disgusting…

There were 3 Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games last week and the coin had a bad week too. The coin went 1-2-0 making the coin 10-17-0 for the season. It seems as if the laws of probability are being stretched here in Curmudgeon Central this season.

Obviously, no person with the intellect of an algae bloom would look at those results and think it was a good idea to use information here as the basis for making real wagers involving real money on actual NFL games this week. For anyone even leaning in that direction, here is what I have to say to you:

    If what you don’t know can’t hurt you, then I would estimate that you are invulnerable.

General Comments:

Staying with the brevity theme established in NCAA Mythical Picks for this week, let me give you a few milestones in the history of NFL football on Thanksgiving Day:

    The 1934 Thanksgiving Day game between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears was the first NFL game broadcast nationally on radio.

    The 1956 Thanksgiving Day game between the Lions and the Packers was the first time the game was televised.

    In the 1962 Thanksgiving Day game, the Lions sacked Packers’ QB, Bart Starr, 11 times (total loss was 110 yards). The Lions won the game 26-14 and that was the only loss that year for the Packers who finished the season 13-1 and won the NFL Championship Game.

I want to channel Charles Dickens here and paraphrase his opening words from A Tale of Two Cities:

    These were the best of teams and the worst of teams

Consider these Seahawks/Cards game stats for a moment:

    Cards 12 first downs Seahawks 16 first down
    Cards offense = 204 yards Seahawks offense = 293 yards

In that game, you had 10 punts and only 1 turnover. What you had here were two good teams playing good defense against one another.

Now consider these Niners/Skins game stats for a moment:

    Skins 12 first downs Niners 16 first downs
    Skins offense = 213 yards Niners offense = 312 yards

In that game, you had 14 punts and 5 turnovers. Other than the turnovers, the stats of those two games look comparable – except the Niners/Skins game was an exhibition of two brutally ineffective offenses trying desperately to get out of their own ways.

There is a lot of heat being generated nationally about the poor play by RG3 as the Skins’ QB. You have to live here in the DC area, however, to hear how people who already had Griffin booked for induction to the Hall of Fame only a couple of years ago and who were convinced that Jay Gruden as a famed “Quarterback-whisperer” would mold Griffin’s prodigious talents into epic greatness are now calling Griffin an epic waste of organic molecules.

Having watched Griffin for some of his college career and his entire professional career, I have a hypothesis about why he is struggling.

    RG3 is an exceptional athlete. He is very fast; he is quick and he is agile.

    Playing in a spread offense in college, his athletic skills allowed him to do just about whatever he needed to do to succeed. He could use his athleticism to create time for him and for his teammates to make big plays. There was never the need to dissect an opposing defense down to the semi-colons…

    I assume – yes, I know the danger there – that he was similarly a far superior athlete to anyone he played against in high school too.

    In the NFL, however, there are lots of really good athletes on defense and RG3 never had to deal with anything like that before. In the NFL he needs to have a playbook and he needs to play in the context of the details of the game because if he just tries to “wing it” against NFL defenses, he will not succeed. And RG3 has never had to do that in his life…

As soon as he was drafted, RG3 started to establish his “brand”. He was making commercials for bunches of companies before he ever set foot on a practice field. It appears to me that he spends more time refining his brand than he does refining his ability to pick apart an opposing defense. The bad news about that is that if he leaves the NFL, his “brand” is going to take a fatal blow.

Can he adjust to/learn about playing QB in the NFL? Of course he can; he is an intelligent person. Will he adjust to/learn about playing QB in the NFL? Aye, there’s the rub… [Channeling Willy Shakespeare today too…]

The Bucs invented a way to lose a game last week. They led the Bears 10-0 at the half and they held the Bears to 112 yards passing on the day. That sounds as if the Bucs should have come away with the win but 3 turnovers in the 3rd quarter did them in. The Bears rallied to win 21-13.

Losing to the Pats in Foxboro is not something the Lions should be ashamed of; it happens to lots of teams. What the Lions need to worry about is their offensive output. The Lions are 7-3 but they have not scored more than 24 points in any game this year. In the last two games, they have not scored a TD (5 field goals) against two good defenses (Cards and Pats). I know that “defense wins championships” – but you have to score just a bit too…

The Lions have scored 197 points this year. Here are the only teams – and the records of those teams – that have scored fewer points:

    Jags – 161 points – 1 win and 10 losses
    Raiders – 176 points – 1 wins and 10 losses
    Titans – 192 points – 2 wins and 9 losses

If you watched the Ravens/Saints game last night, I think it is time to call bulls[p]it on the “great Saints fans”. As soon as the Saints were down in the score, that building – hyped as being a tough place to play – got deadly quiet. It sounded almost like FedEx Field in Washington on a typical Sunday.

The Raiders won their first game of the year beating the Chiefs 24-20 in a downpour in Oakland. The Chiefs had the lead 20-17 with 9 minutes to play in the game and the Raiders had the ball at their own 20. The chiefs’ defense ranks 8th in the NFL but the defense came up very small at that particular time. The Raiders put together a 17-play drive that consumed 7:21 on the clock and ended in a go-ahead TD. The Chiefs could not come back; the Raiders are off the schneid… The 2008 Detroit Lions popped champagne to celebrate their status as the only team to go winless in a 16-game season. The 1972 Dolphins call them copycats.

Texans QB, Ryan Mallett, will miss the rest of the season with an injury to his right pectoral muscle. That means the Texans will go back to Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting QB. I wonder if they would consider signing Ryan Leaf as a back up…? Or maybe they should show the team the move, Saving Private Ryan.

The Games:

(Thurs) Chicago at Detroit – 7 (47.5): I have exactly no idea which Bears’ team will show up here and no idea at all if the Lions offense will produce or take a slide in this game. The Bucs hurried and hit Jay Cutler all day last week; the Lions’ pass rush is better than the Bucs’. The week’s picks begins with a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.

(Thurs) Philly at Dallas – 3 (54.5): If you take a bathroom break and the game has not gone to a commercial, you could easily miss 60 yards of offense. The Eagles produce 411.8 yards of offense per game; that is 4th in the NFL. The Cowboys produce 387.3 yards per game; that is 6th in the NFL. It is pretty clear that one of these teams will win the NFC East; if the Eagles win here, they will have a big hammer because the second meeting between these teams will be in Philly. The Eagles lead the NFL in a category they do not want to lead the league in. They have turned the ball over 27 times this year leading to a turnover differential of minus-8. Teams with differentials I that range are generally not anywhere near 8-3 after 11 games. I see this game going up and down the field like a college basketball game goes up and down the court. I like the game to go OVER.

(Thurs) Seattle at SF – 1 (40.5): I hope you like defensive football here. Most folks will be highly dosed with l-tryptophan from the turkey when this game comes on; so if you need an offensive explosion to keep you from nodding off, this may not scratch your itch. The Seahawks give up 296.8 yards per game; that is first in the NFL. The Niners give up 300.1 yards per game; that is second in the NFL. Considering that these teams rank 13th and 19th in the NFL on offense, you have to expect a low score. These teams will play hard because the odds are against both of them making the playoffs unless the Cardinals go completely in the tank for the final 5 games of the year. Oh, and it has to be fun to anticipate Michael Crabtree going against Richard Sherman once again. I like the game to stay UNDER. In fact, I would not be surprised to see the final score something like 13-9. Obviously, I have no inkling which team would have the 13 points in my example here or I would be playing the spread.

Washington at Indy – 10 (51): The Skins are not a good football team; the Colts are a good football team. Nevertheless, I hate laying double-digits in NFL games so I will turn this game over to Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to go OVER. Why not?

Tennessee at Houston – 7 (43): The Titans deserve every bit of their 2-9 record; the Texans at 5-6 can still pretend to be a playoff team. However, the Texans will have to go back to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB and Arian Foster is listed as “Questionable” as of this morning. Already I have to go to the Curmudgeon Coin Flip Protocol for the third time this week and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.

Cleveland at Buffalo – 2.5 (41.5): If all that snow in Buffalo melts late in the week, the stadium could be a soggy mess. That may be the best reason to watch because neither team is exciting. The Browns are still “playoff relevant”; the Bills seem to be “giving ground” in the playoff race. I like Cleveland to win the game outright, so I’ll take them here plus the points.

San Diego at Baltimore – 5 (45.5): The Chargers are 1 game behind the Broncos in the AFC West and at 7-4 they are right in the middle of the wild card race. The Ravens are also 7-4, which puts them in a three-way tie for second place – or last place depending on how you look at it – in the AFC North. Historically, the Chargers do not play well when traveling “transcontinentally” and the Ravens are a tough team at home. I’ll take the Ravens to win and cover.

Giants – 3 at Jax (44): This is the “Air Wick Game of the Week” because the stench should be unbearable. What is there to like about this matchup? The Jags are ranked 30th in the NFL in defense; the Giants are ranked 31st. Maybe you would like to see how each squad will invent ways not to stop the other guys? This is yet another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Jags’ plus the points.

Cincy – 3.5 at Tampa (44): The Bengals lead the AFC North thanks to their tie-game against the Panthers. Tampa is 2-9 and only 2 games out of first place in the NFC South. The Bengals are a much better team but have to avoid looking beyond a meager foe here at a bunch of division games coming up – plus a game against the Broncos. I’ll take the Bengals and lay the points.

Oakland at St. Louis – 7 (42.5): The Raiders won last week and they beat a respectable team. So maybe they aren’t so bad after all? Wrong. The Raiders stink and there is no way I want to take them on the road. The Rams play hard and they had the Chargers on the ropes last week. I like the Rams to win and cover.

New Orleans at Pittsburgh – 3 (53): The Saints are much better at home than on the road. Nonetheless, the Saints just finished a stretch of 3 straight home games and they lost all of them. The Steelers is a much better team at home than on the road. The interesting twist here is that the Steelers at 7-4 do not lead their division but the Saints at 4-7 are tied for the lead in their division. I like the Steelers to win and cover here.

Carolina at Minnesota – 3 (42): Running a close second for the honor of “Air Wick Game of the Week”, this loses out because the Panthers are actually still a viable contender in the NFC South. Neither team is any good; the only consistent thing about both teams is that they are not any good. Offensively, the Vikes are only better than the Raiders and the Jags; yes, they rank behind the Jets. However, the Vikes enjoy a decided defensive advantage here. This is the fifth Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Panthers plus the points.

Arizona – 2.5 at Atlanta (44): Indeed, this is a meeting of two division-leading teams. Having said that, this game is nothing but a mystery.

    Can Larry Fitzgerald play?
    Can he play well?
    Can the Cards play well traveling that far East?
    How awful will the Falcons be?

I am getting finger blisters flipping coins here but this is the 6th Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game this week and the coin says to take the Cards and lay the points.

New England at Green Bay – 3 (58): Please do not be shocked; this is clearly the “Game of the Week” even though these teams are in different conferences and both look like shoo-ins for the playoffs. It might – I said MIGHT – be a Super Bowl preview. I think Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will put on a show here and each will be trying to one-up the other QB in addition to merely winning the game. I like this game to go OVER – despite the fact that 58 is a HUGE Total Line for an NFL game. I will not be shocked if the losing team here scores 30+ points.

(Sun Nite) Denver – 1 at KC (49.5): The Chiefs safety, Eric Berry, has lymphoma. Berry is an excellent football player and by all accounts is a “good guy”. How will that affect the emotions of the Chiefs in a game they really need to win if they want to contend for the AFC West title? The Chiefs’ loss last week to the Raiders had to be disheartening (see above); then came the news on Berry… I like this game to go OVER because I think the Broncos need to get themselves back in their offensive groove and because the Broncos’ defense is vulnerable. I also like the Broncos to win and cover.

(Mon Nite) Miami – 6.5 at Jets (41.5): The Jets are indeed as bad as their 2-9 record indicates. They have given up 126 more points than they have scored in 11 games; they are losing by an average of 11 points per game. Having said that, the Dolphins are banged up and they traditionally do not play well in northern cities late in the season. Rex Ryan was noncommittal regarding who would play QB for the Jets this week; frankly, it does not matter all that much because neither option is a plus. I think this will be a low scoring game and so I’ll take the Jets plus the points.

Finally, after the NFL fined Seahawks’ RB, Marshawn Lynch, $100K for repeatedly refusing to speak to the media as required by league rules – and by the CBA as so I am told – Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times:

“To the surprise of absolutely no one, Lynch had no comment.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 11/29/14

First, let us see what happened to last week’s Mythical Picks:

    I liked Baylor/Ok. St. OVER 67.5. Total score was 71. Yea!

    I liked Virginia +6 against Miami. Virginia won outright. Yea!

    I liked Tennessee -3.5 over Mizzou. Tennessee lost the game. Boo!

    I liked Mich. St. -22 over Rutgers. State won by 42. Yea!

    I liked Minn/Nebraska UNDER 56.5. Total was 52. Yea!

    I liked Minn +10.5 against Nebraska. Minn won the game. Double Yea!

    I liked Maryland/Michigan UNDER 42.5. Total was 39. Yea!

    I liked Fla St. -17 over BC. Fla St won by only 3. Boo!

    I liked Tex Tech/Iowa St OVER 69.5. Total was 65. Boo!

    I liked Ole Miss/Arkansas UNDER 45. Total was 30. Yea!

    I liked Arkansas +3.5 against Ole Miss. Arkansas won. Double Yea!

    I liked Arizona/Utah UNDER 54. Total was 52. Yea!

    I liked USC +4 against UCLA. Not nearly enough points. Boo!

So last week was a strong showing and a mythically profitable week at 9-4-0. That brings the season cumulative record to 100-95-1, which is still not in the mythically profitable zone.

Notwithstanding last week’s success, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NCAA football game this weekend or any other weekend. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do something like that:

    You would rely on your old dog to teach you new tricks.

General Comments:

This will be an abbreviated form of NCAA Mythical Picks. We have out of town guests arriving on Tuesday for Thanksgiving; we have a family event on Saturday; we have another out of town guest arriving on Sunday and staying through Wednesday of next week. The writing schedule will be sporadic and any Mythical Picks for this week and next week will have to be short.

The Linfield College Wildcats advanced to the “Sweet 16” in the Division III football playoff tournament last week beating Chapman University 55-24. Next week, Linfield will travel about 1700 miles to Belton, TX to take on Mary Hardin-Baylor in the next round. Go Wildcats!

By the way, MIT also advanced to the “Sweet 16” of the Division III football playoff tournament last week…

In terms of a review of last week’s games, I would like to quote a passage from last week’s Mythical Picks:

Va Tech – 15 at Wake Forest (39): The only thing that would make this game less watchable than it already is would be a driving rainstorm. This is a game of interest for SHOE Tournament consideration only. Do not watch it; do not bet on it.”

At the end of regulation time, the score was 0-0. In double OT, Wake Forest won 6-3. Here are some stats from the game:

    There were 18 punts in the game;.
    Tech had 254 yards offense; Wake had 234 yards offense.
    Wake ran the ball 42 times for a total of 74 yards (1.8 yards per carry)
    That is higher than Wake’s season average rushing yards per carry.
    Tech averaged 2.8 yards per pass attempt.

Aren’t you glad you missed that game…?

SMU was never in danger of ruining its perfect season last week losing to UCF 53-7.

    SMU recorded 4 first downs in the game
    SMU’s total offense was 116 yards on 42 plays (2.8 yards per play)
    SMU fumbled 3 times and lost the ball each time

Nebraska led Minnesota 21-7 at the half but the Gophers rallied in the second half to win 28-24. Nebraska may get a “more prestigious” bowl bid than Minnesota because Nebraska fans have the reputation of “traveling well”.

Army beat Fordham 42-31. The interesting thing about this game is that each team scored 21 points in the fourth quarter.

Oklahoma demolished Kansas 44-7 on a soggy field. The story of this game has nothing to do with the score; the story is that freshman RB, Samaje Perrine, rushed for 427 yards in the game. That broke the record set by Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin all of one week ago. OU has had some pretty decent running backs in its history; until last Saturday, the school record was 294 yards set by Greg Pruitt 43 years ago. Perrine broke that school record by 133 yards.

Maryland beat Michigan 23-16. Michigan led 16-9 at the end of the 3rd quarter and then came from ahead to lose the game.

It took a field goal at the very end of the game for Florida State to beat BC by 3 points.

Arkansas beat Ole Miss 30-0. That makes two shut outs in a row for the Razorbacks. That completely eliminates Ole Miss from the college football playoff brackets.

Wisconsin beat Iowa 26-24 last week. In response to a comment by a reader last week who pointed out that this game should have been a “Game of Interest”, I said that Wisconsin was favored by 10 points and that line looked fat to me. Nevertheless, I am not counting that as a “successful Mythical Pick.”

UVa beat Miami 30-13. Virginia needs to beat Va Tech in the last game of the year to achieve bowl-eligibility. I wonder if this upset win will be enough to save Coach Mike London’s job…

Missouri stayed in control of its situation beating Tennessee by a score of 29-21. They face the suddenly tough defensive Arkansas team this week. A win there and Mizzou will be in the SEC Championship Game; a loss would send Georgia to that game.

Kansas State beat West Virginia in Morgantown – where it is difficult to win – keeping the Wildcats in a tie with Baylor and TCU for the top spot in the Big 12. All three teams have conference records of 6-1.

    Baylor hosts K-State on 6 December meaning one of them will lose.
    K-State hosts Kansas this week before traveling to Baylor.
    TCU is at Texas this week and hosts Iowa St. on 6 December.

Speaking of TCU – sort of – they have a junior OT on the roster who is a copy editor’s nightmare:

    Halapoulivaati Vaitai (pronounced HAL-uh-POO-lih-VAH-tee VIE-tie)

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week, there were 8 Ponderosa Spread Games. The favorites covered in 5 of those 8 games.

Mississippi St., Oklahoma, Oregon, S. Carolina and UCF covered.

Baylor, Clemson and Ohio St. did not cover.

That brings the season record for favorites covering Ponderosa Spreads to 38-33-1.

This week we have only 2 Ponderosa Spread Games:

Baylor – 25 at Texas Tech (79): Baylor can score points by the bushel; Texas Tech allows points by the bushel…

Kansas at K-State – 28.5 (51.5): K-State can still win the Big-12; Kansas might win the Kansas High School Football Championship.

The SHOE Tournament Teams

Here are the eight teams I would have in the SHOE Tournament if I had to make my picks today:

    SMU: Just a bad football team
    E. Michigan: Lost to Ball St. by 2 TDs last week
    Ga State: Another bad football team
    Idaho: Not good at all
    Kent St. A second MAC team for the SHOE Tournament
    N. Mex St.: The adjective you are looking for is “bad”
    Tulsa: Golden Hurricane is merely a gentle breeze
    Wake Forest: See the stats above for last week’s game…

Still with a chance to stink their way into the SHOE Tournament field are:

    Miami (Oh): A third MAC team for the SHOE Tournament?
    UNLV
    UConn

Games of Interest:

There are tons of huge rivalry games this week. If you are a fan of college football in general, this is the week you have been looking for…

Note that these lines are from very early in the week and there are no lines available for several games at this point. Nevertheless, I shall soldier on…

(Thurs) TCU – 6 at Texas (56.5): TCU is on the fringe of the football playoffs; if that does not motivate them for this game, I have no idea what might. Both teams play good defense. TCU’s offense is more reliable. I like TCU on the road to win and cover here.

(Thurs) LSU – 3 at Texas A&M (49.5): LSU lost at home to Alabama in OT and then got shut out by Arkansas. Question:

    Is this team angry and ready to destroy an Aggies’ team that is good but not great – or has LSU come apart at the seams?

I think it is the former. I’ll take LSU to win and cover on the road.

(Fri) Virginia at Va Tech “pick ‘em” (40.5): Virginia can still be bowl-eligible with a win here. Need I say more about how there are too many bowl games and too many mediocre-at-best teams playing in bowl games? Va Tech is about as efficient on offense as your run of the mill West African government. I think that the Virginia players will play to save Mike London’s job so I’ll take Virginia to win the game.

(Fri) Nebraska at Iowa “pick ‘em” (57): I have had enough picking road teams here; I like Iowa at home to win this game.

(Fri) E. Carolina – 16.5 at Tulsa (66): This game is interesting only because the spread opened the week at 22 points and dropped to this level like an anvil in a swimming pool. No, I do not know why…

(Fri) Navy – 9.5 at S. Alabama (54.5): A Navy win makes them bowl-eligible. South Alabama looks like easy pickings for a Navy team that can score points. I like Navy – on the road – to win and cover.

(Fri) Arkansas at Missouri (no lines): A win by Missouri sets them up to play the SEC West Champion. I do not think Missouri is that good. The Arkansas defense has come to life recently with two consecutive shutouts. I foresee a low scoring game and an Arkansas win here – but I cannot make a pick when the game is off-the-board.

(Fri) Stanford at UCLA – 5.5 (50): UCLA is the PAC-12 South champion if they win this game. I see a defensive battle here. I like the game to stay UNDER.

(Fri) Arizona St. at Arizona (no lines): If UCLA loses, these teams are still alive in the PAC-12 South Division. I cannot pick without lines but I do think Arizona State is the better team here.

(Fri) Colorado State – 7 at Air Force (61): Colorado State is 10-1 this year and looking for a bid to a bowl game you have actually heard of before. Air Force is a good team but I do not think they can keep up with Colorado State. I like CSU to win and cover – on the road.

Michigan at Ohio St. – 20.5 (52.5): A win here saves Brady Hoke’s job. I think Michigan’s chance at winning this game in Columbus is about as likely as seeing a herd of yetis sitting up in Section 525 at kickoff time. I’ll take Ohio State to win and cover at home.

Old Dominion at Florida Atlantic – 3.5 (67): If Old Dominion wins here, it will be their 6th win for the season and they could play in a bowl game for the first time. I like that as an incentive here so I’ll take Old Dominion on the road plus the points.

Minnesota at Wisconsin – 13.5 (51.5): I do believe the winner here is the Big 10 West Champ. It has been a while since Minnesota has had a sniff of anything nearly that prestigious when it comes to football. Both teams like to run the ball meaning the clock will run and keep the score down. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Illinois at Northwestern – 8.5 (52): Both teams are 5-6 so this is a play-in game for bowl-eligibility. Wow, maybe one of these teams can play Virginia in a bowl game. Wouldn’t that be special? [/Church Lady]. Do not watch this game; do not wager on this game.

Washington – 3 at Washington St. (65): This is the Apple Bowl game; it is a huge rivalry out in the Northwest. Washington is the better team so I’ll take them to win and cover on the road.

Ga Tech at Georgia – 13 (66): The only thing on the line here is the rivalry. The Missouri/Arkansas game on Friday lets Georgia know if they play in the SEC Championship Game or if they just prep for a bowl game. Tech knows it will play in the ACC Championship Game despite the outcome here. Georgia is the better team and they are at home. I’ll take the Dawgs to win and cover.

Oregon – 20 at Oregon St. (67): They call this game the “Civil War”. A win for Oregon State makes them bowl-eligible. Oregon needs to win if they want to hang onto a slot in the football playoff bracket. Make this a venue call; I like Oregon State plus the points.

Auburn at Alabama – 9.5 (53.5): Remember last year’s game? Remember that look on Nick Saban’s face? Do you think he remembers? There is no way I want to take Auburn on the road here when Alabama has revenge on its mind AND would love to be the #1 seed in the College Football Playoff bracket. I like Alabama to win and cover here.

Florida at Florida State – 7 (52.5): How cool would it be for Wil Muschamp to beat undefeated Florida State in Tallahassee in his last game at Florida? I like Florida plus the points here even on the road. I will resist the temptation to take Florida on the money line at +250, however.

S. Carolina at Clemson – 4.5 (no Total Line): I seem to like the vast majority of the road teams this week and this game is no exception. I like S. Carolina plus the points here.

Mississippi State – 1.5 at Ole Miss (49.5): State needs a win in the Egg Bowl in order to hold onto that #4 slot in the Selection Committee rankings. Ole Miss has no real shot at getting back into the discussion with regard to the seeding there. Once again, I like the road team in a big rivalry game; I like Mississippi State to win and cover.

Notre Dame at USC – 7 (62.5): Here is another rivalry game but I really do not trust either team enough to play the spread here. On the other hand, I do trust that both defenses will give up points. I like this game to go OVER.

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

Tiger Woods Is Not A Happy Camper

The latest tempest in a spittoon involves Tiger Woods getting his knickers in a knot because Dan Jenkins wrote a satirical piece in Golf Digest about Woods. It purports to be an interview with Tiger Woods but readers may have gotten a clue from the headline that this was not a transcript of a real interview. Here is the headline:

    My (Fake) Interview With Tiger*

    *Or how it plays out in my mind

You can read the whole thing here; trust me, it is not a flattering portrayal of Tiger Woods. Of course, no one who pays attention would have expected it to be flattering. Dan Jenkins has told the story that early in Woods’ career, Jenkins asked for an interview but Woods’ handlers told him they had nothing to gain from doing such an interview so Jenkins could take a hike. Later, when the handlers were trying to rehabilitate Woods’ image after his unfortunate interaction with a fire hydrant and his former wife taking a nine-iron to the window of his vehicle, the handlers contacted Jenkins and asked if he wanted an interview to do a “rehab piece” for Woods. Jenkins no only declined but stated publicly that if Woods thought he had nothing to gain years ago, Woods was not going to use Jenkins now to Woods’ advantage.

With that as the backstory, Tiger Woods took to Derek Jeter’s new website, The Players Tribune, to respond. If you ever witnessed Woods giving a post-round interview with all of his seriousness and dour demeanor, you can recall those times reading what he said. Here is the whole piece; here are a couple of samples:

‘Jenkins faked an interview, which fails as parody, and is really more like a grudge-fueled piece of character assassination.

“Journalistically and ethically, can you sink any lower?”

    Point #1: Since when would Tiger Woods be my go to guy on what consists of proper journalistic behavior?

    Point #2: Should Tiger Woods be the guy wondering if anyone could sink any lower on an ethical scale?

“My representatives and I asked Golf Digest for an explanation, some reason for what I think is journalistically wrong and a pretty cheap shot. Digest responded by saying it was Dan’s humor, and they didn’t think it was unfair or they wouldn’t have run it. Those aren’t great answers.”

    Point #3: Those may or may not be great answers; what Woods is saying here is that those are not the answers he wanted to hear.

    Point #4: Why do Woods and his representatives think they deserve an explanation for a satirical piece? Entitlement much…?

Memo to Tiger Woods: If you are even thinking about carrying on some kind of feud with Dan Jenkins and/or Golf Digest, you might want to heed the advice of Mark Twain:

“Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel had a very interesting take on this nascent squabble:

“Did you see where Tiger Woods got angry about quotes attributed to him in a satirical, parody interview written by sportswriting legend Dan Jenkins? That’s right, Tiger claims he was misquoted in a FAKE interview: This is even worse than Charles Barkley saying he was misquoted in his own autobiography.”

The NFL has 7 new head coaches this season; four of them had been coordinators; three are getting a second shot at being a head coach. If I had to grade their level of success so far, here is how I would do it:

    Coordinators moving up a notch:

      Mike Pettine: Browns are competitive this year to a level that they have not been for a long time. Grade A

      Bill O’Brien: Texans are 5-5 (one game behind the Colts) and they have done it with merely adequate quarterbacking. Grade B+

      Mike Zimmer: Vikes – without Adrian Peterson and with a rookie QB – have won 4 games; last year they only won 5. Grade: B-

      Jay Gruden: Skins are only marginally better now than they were as a totally dysfunctional squad last year. Grade D

    Second-time head coaches:

      Jim Caldwell: Lions are playing better – and smarter – than in the past. Grade A

      Ken Whisenhunt: Titans lack sufficient on-field talent; no one could get that squad to a .500 record. Grade C –

      Lovie Smith: Bucs lack sufficient on-field talent. Grade C -.

Finally, here is another observation from Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel regarding the Bills/Jets game that had to be moved due to the “Snowmageddon” in Western NY:

“Because the City of Buffalo has been incapacitated by a blizzard, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets will have to play their game in Detroit on Monday night. Question: How do you know when the city you live in is too cold? Answer: When you have to go to Detroit to thaw out.”

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

A Soccer Match For The Ages?

A little more than a year ago, the San Marino international soccer team scored its first goal in international competition in more than a 5-year span. Notwithstanding that feat, San Marino failed to win the game; in fact, San Marino has never won an international soccer game. The international team has been in business since 1990 and its record stands at 0-61-1. That tie game happened about a week ago when San Marino and Estonia met in something called “European qualifying” and the game ended at “Nil-Nil”.

Question:

    Given the performance of San Marino over the last quarter of a century, what might they be qualifying for?

For the record, there are 208 international teams recognized by FIFA. San Marino and Bhutan are tied for last place in the FIFA World Rankings. Can you imagine how low on the pecking order at FIFA one would have to be such that one were assigned to go and watch San Marino play Estonia to see if – possibly – there might be a way to put San Marino ahead of or behind Bhutan in the rankings? How much coffee would one need to stay awake during that struggle?

On many occasions, I have demonstrated here my less-than-glowing competence in the field of advertising/promotion/marketing. Nevertheless, I understand the concept that a “promotion” is intended to associate a product with an event (e.g. a movie or a sporting event) in a way that gets patrons of the event to try the product/buy the product. In that sense, the product has to be relatively accessible to the patrons. It is that “accessibility” that was a problem in Philly…

Papa John’s pizza had a promotional deal with the Philadelphia 76ers such that when the Sixers won a game, people could enter some kind of promo code online and get discounted pizzas. It will not take any basketball fan more than about 10 minutes watching the Sixers to realize that they are just not going to win very many games this year; that made the product inaccessible to the patrons. So, Papa John modified the terms of the deal in mid-stream. Now, Sixers fans can get the discounted pizza whenever the Sixers score 90 points in a game. [Aside: If you watch the Sixers for even a single game, you will quickly realize that if they score only 90 points, they are not going to win many games because they play bad defense.]

Frankly, I think Papa John’s should have left the promotional terms alone and just let the whole thing go quietly into the night. Now, people can make the following association in their minds:

    BAD Sixers team – – – Bad pizza

Even I know that kind of association is not what Papa John was aiming for…

The Marlins’ new contract with Giancarlo Stanton (13 years for $325M) was shocking. Marlins’ owner, Jeffrey Loria, normally throws money around the same way he throws grand pianos around. [Recall that the Marlins were rebuked by MLB for pocketing their revenue-sharing dollars and not “reinvesting them” to improve the on-field product.] The Marlins also have a history of letting young players go to other teams as soon as their free agent eligibility kicks in. After getting over the original shock, I started to think about this contract and it raises a few questions in my mind. Let me preface those questions by saying that Giancarlo Stanton is a young player who has the potential to be a superstar for the next decade or so. This is not a guy in his early 30s who is close to the point in his career when the vector heading is turning south. Nonetheless:

    The Marlins drew an average of 21,386 fans per game last year. That put them 27th in MLB. In 2013, the Marlins were 28th in MLB in attendance. I neither year did they come close to drawing 2 million fans. Question:

      Miami fans found ways to do something other than go out to see the team with Giancarlo Stanton playing for the past two years; what is going to convince lots more of them to go to games this year and next year to see the Marlins with Giancarlo Stanton?

    According to reports, the Marlins’ local TV/radio revenue is about 6% of what the top teams – such as the Dodgers and the Yankees – get from that source. Question:

      Is it likely that local radio and TV companies are going to fork over 10 times more money in the next couple of years to show the Marlins? Remember, they did not add players; they are merely paying one of their current players a whole lot more money.

    Now, those two revenue related issues leads me to wonder about this very fundamental question:

      Absent significantly increased revenues, how will the Marlins field a team around Stanton?

I am not saying that the situation in Miami cannot work; I do think that there are other things that have to happen to make it work smoothly and it is not obvious how the team is going to change the “revenue situation” in Miami.

Finally, the college basketball season has begun and we are in the phase of the season where horrible mismatches dominate the scene. Here is an observation from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald to that point:

“Creighton opens its regular season Friday night vs. Central Arkansas, a team that was 8-21 last year and has only one player back and a new coach. In college basketball, this is what’s known as ‘the perfect opening opponent.’”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/22/14

Let me begin by revisiting last week’s Mythical Picks:

    I liked Pitt/UNC UNDER 67.5. Total score was 75. Boo!

    I liked Wake Forest +17 against NC State. Not enough points. Boo!

    I liked Ohio St. -14 over Minnesota. State won by only 7. Boo!

    I liked Nebraska/Wisconsin UNDER 57. Total was 83. Boo!

    I liked Clemson/Ga Tech UNDER 61. Total was 34. Yea!

    I liked Duke -4.5 over Va Tech. Duke lost the game. Boo!

    I liked Utah +8 against Stanford. Utah won in Double OT. Yea!

    I liked LSU +1.5 against Arkansas. LSU lost by 17. Boo!

    I liked LSU/Arkansas UNDER 48.5. Total was 17. Yea!

    I liked Georgia -2 over Auburn. Georgia won by 27. Yea!

    I liked S. Carolina/Florida OVER 57.5. Total was 43. Boo!

    I liked Fla St/Miami OVER 61.5. Total was 56. Boo!

    I liked Missouri +4.5 against Texas A&M. Mizou won the game. Yea!

    I liked Arizona St. -9 over Oregon St. ASU lost the game by 8. Boo!

    I liked Miss St./Alabama UNDER 52. Total was 45. Yea!

    I liked Miss St. +9 against Alabama. Bama won by only 5. Double Yea!

    I liked Texas -2.5 over Ok St. Texas won by 21. Yea!

    I liked Mich. St. -11 over Maryland. State won by 22. Yea!

Last week was a bland week in a plain vanilla season of NCAA Mythical Picking. Last week the picks were 9-9-0. The cumulative record for the year stands at 91-91-1. About the only thing to say about those numbers is

    Whoop-dee-damned-doo!

Noting that the season record would be mythically in the red due to the vig on each wager, no one should be tempted to read further and take any wagering advice here seriously. For those who might find it hard to resist temptation, let me spell it out.

    Anyone dumb enough to take wagering advice from anything written here is also dumb enough to think that holding an ice cream cone in either hand gives you a balanced diet.

General comments:

Last week, the Linfield College Wildcats won the Northwest Conference championship with a 59-0 win over Pacific University. As conference champions, Linfield will participate in the Division III football championship tournament starting this weekend. The Wildcats will host Chapman University – winners of the Southern California Collegiate Athletic Conference. Chapman brings the same 8-1 season record to the field that Linfield brings. Go Wildcats!

Earlier this week, there was a report of a shooting on the Florida State University campus. It is unlikely that any football players were involved in any way with the incident given that it occurred at the university library.

Brady Hoke has had some difficult times as the head coach at Michigan and more than a few folks believe the school will wish him well in all of his future endeavors rather soon. Nevertheless, I have to give Hoke major props for the way he handled an incident this week.

    Frank Clark was a starting defensive end for Michigan and one of its more productive defensive linemen. Hoke dismissed Clark from the team after Clark was arrested on domestic violence charges. Hoke did not wait for the judicial processes to meander to a solution; he looked at the arrest and the statements of eye witnesses and issued the dismissal. Here is his statement:

    “Frank Clark has been dismissed for violating team rules from the Michigan football program. This is a tragic situation. Our student-athletes will be held accountable when their actions fail to meet the standard we have at Michigan. There is a legal process that will occur and we respect that process.”

    Good on Brady Hoke. Clark has his right to his day in court; Clark does not have the right to be involved in college football up until the time of his day in court. That participation is a privilege and said privilege is granted by the school – and by extension the coach.

Michigan is 5-5 with 2 games still to play. The best they can hope for is a minor bowl game and that may be insufficient for the folks in Ann Arbor to keep Hoke in his job. However, if he does lose the job, he still gets “character points” from me for this action.

Florida dropped the first shoe in the Major College Coaching Game of Musical Chairs for the winter. Florida announced that Will Muschamp will not be back in Gainesville next year. Here are some of the major schools that may be looking for new football leadership at the end of the year.

    Florida – definitely
    Michigan – probably
    Illinois – almost assuredly
    Kansas – probably
    Virginia – 50/50
    SMU – definitely but is this a major program any more?

Last week, things got interesting in the ACC Coastal Division. Georgia Tech dominated Clemson 28-6. It ended its conference season with 2 losses; Tech’s only remaining game is against Georgia the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, Duke lost to Va Tech last week 17-16. That was Duke’s second ACC loss but that did not end their conference schedule and it added interest to last night’s Duke/UNC game, which Duke lost 45-20. I believe that cements Georgia Tech as the Coastal Division Champion and the team that will take on Florida State in the ACC Championship Game in December.

NC State beat Wake Forest last week 42-13 making the Wolfpack eligible for a minor bowl game. Last week, I had Wake Forest on my “watch list” for the SHOE Tournament. I received two e-mails from folks who thought that was too harsh. Let me present some stats here because – here is something called foreshadowing – Wake is on the list again this week…

    Wake Forest as a team has amassed a total of 341 yards rushing in 10 games this year. [Aside: More than 200 individual players have rushed for more yards than that.]
    .
    Wake’s passing offense is 112th in the country.

    Wake ranks 126th (out of 128 teams) in total points scored. They only beat out E. Michigan and SMU both of whom are shoo-ins for the SHOE Tournament.

Combine those numbers with the fact that one of their two wins this year came at the expense of Gardner-Webb and you have a team that clearly is in contention for seeding in the SHOE Tournament.

Florida State remained undefeated coming from behind to beat Miami 30-26. As has been the case more than occasionally this year, Florida State played lethargically at first and then rallied late to win the game. Miami led at halftime 23-10.

The only other undefeated team in the country, Marshall, ran its record to 10-0 last week with a comfortable 41-14 win over Rice.

Ohio State beat Minnesota 31-24. The game was not that close; Ohio State was clearly the better team on the field. The game was played in the snow and Ohio State turned the ball over 3 times leading to all the Minnesota TDs. The fact that it was snowing in Minneapolis in November is not a shock. What is shocking is that the Minnesota Vikings actually considered for a while building a new stadium without a roof. Do those folks ever look out the window…?

Wisconsin pummeled Nebraska 59-24. Wisconsin is always tough at home but that does not explain a 5 TD margin here. Wisconsin RB, Melvin Gordon had a record-setting day; he rushed for 408 yards on 25 carries (16.3 yards per attempt) and broke the NCAA record for most rushing yards in a game previously held by LaDanian Tomlinson. Gordon sat out the entire 4th quarter; Wisconsin amassed a total of 581 yards rushing for the day.

They say that timing is everything. Western Kentucky RB, Leon Allen, had a pretty good day last week running the ball too. He gained 345 yards in a win over Army. Given Melvin Gordon’s performance, Leon Allen’s day hardly got a mention…

Penn State beat Temple 30-13 but only led 6-3 at the half. That win makes Penn State bowl eligible. Temple needs to find one more win to “go bowling”. The Owls have this week off and then play Cincy and Tulane after Thanksgiving.

Northwestern beat Notre dame 43-40 in OT. Obviously, there was not a lot of tackling in that game but it was also not an artistic game either. Both teams turned the ball over 4 times in the game.

Cincy beat E. Carolina last week 54-46. Obvioulsy not a lot of tackling in this game either…

Arkansas shut out LSU 17-0 last week. That was the first SEC win for Bret Bielema in 13 tries as head coach there. Arkansas’ last SEC win was back in October 2012 when John L. Smith was the coach. This was a dominating win for the Razorbacks; they held LSU to 124 yards total offense.

Missouri beat Texas A&M 34-27. Mizzou has the SEC East title – and a ticket to the SEC Championship Game – on its racket. All it has to do is beat Tennessee on the road this week and then beat Arkansas at home the day after Thanksgiving.

Georgia hopes Mizzou loses one of those remaining games because Georgia is a game behind Missouri in the SEC East race but holds the tiebreaker over the Tigers. Georgia’s conference schedule is completed. They finished up SEC play last week with a 34-7 win over Auburn. Question:

    Where has that version of the Georgia defense been all season?

Alabama beat Mississippi State 25-20 in a great defensive game by both teams. It was a great game to watch having nothing to do with the fact that the outcome gave me two wins in the Mythical Picks for last week. This game marked the fifth time that a Nick Saban coached team beat the team that was ranked #1 in the country at the kickoff. Mississippi State had the #1 ranked offense in the SEC coming into the game; they are indeed a good football team. Nevertheless, here is how six consecutive possessions for the Bulldogs went:

    Safety, Interception, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt

    Alabama can play some “D”…

TCU beat Kansas 34-30 after trailing at halftime. A win is a win … but there are zero style points for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee to consider here.

Elsewhere in the Big 12, Texas achieved bowl eligibility with a handy win over Oklahoma State by a score of 28-7. The Texas defense continues to show well; they recorded 7 sacks in that game.

Navy beat Georgia Southern 52-19; Ga Southern was 8-2 coming into that game. Navy needs one more win for bowl eligibility. They have two more chances to get that 6th win against S. Alabama the day after Thanksgiving or against Army on 13 December.

Fact: Colorado State is 9-1 as of today with a game this week against New Mexico.

Fact: Air Force is 8-2 as of today with a game this week at San Diego State.

Fact: Colorado State and Air Force play each other on the day after Thanksgiving.

Fact: Air Force and Colorado State are both in Colorado Springs.

Question:

    Who knew back in August that Colorado Springs was to become an epicenter of college football for 2014?

In Ivy League action last week, Cornell beat Columbia 30-27. Neither team had won a game prior to this one; Cornell managed to get off the schneid. 5,734 hardy souls witnessed this struggle in NYC.

Out west, Utah beat Stanford 20-17. Utah is 7-3 against a difficult schedule. They have had 3 OT games this year and 6 of their games have been decided by 6 points or less. Utah deserves a nice bowl game for this season.

Oregon St. beat Arizona St 35-27. Arizona State had been ranked highly after beating Notre Dame a couple of weeks ago but with the Irish’s loss to Northwestern this week and the ASU loss here, their chances for a berth in the playoff bracket are about as good as slipping a pork chop past a hungry dog. But there may be some good news in this loss for Arizona state from a larger perspective:

    PAC-12 South just got very interesting. Four teams – USC, UCL A, Arizona and Arizona St. – are all bunched together at the top of that division.

    USC and UCLA play each other; Arizona and Arizona St. play each other.

    Big rivalry games with stakes bigger than just the rivalry should make for interesting football.

And in some bottom-of-the-barrel acton:

    W. Michigan 51 E. Michigan 7: It was 48-0 at the half.

    Troy 34 Idaho 17: Idaho was at home for this; they are now 1-9.

    USF 14 SMU 13: SMU is now 0-9 and almost ruined their perfect season here. SMU led 13-0 in the 4th quarter but found a way to give up two 4th quarter TDs – the last one with less than a minute to play – to come from ahead and lose the game.

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week we had 3 Ponderosa Spread Games. The favorites covered in only 1 of the 3 games.

W. Michigan covered.

BYU and TCU did not cover.

That brings the season cumulative record for favorites covering Ponderosa Spreads to 33-30-1.

This week, we have 8 Ponderosa Spread Games:

S. Alabama at S. Carolina – 24.5 (56): Tuning up for Clemson…

Vandy at Mississippi St – 30.5 (53): Hey, it is a conference game not a scheduling abomination.

Indiana at Ohio St. – 34.5 (65.5): Another conference game…

Kansas at Oklahoma – 25 (53): Another conference game…

Oklahoma St. at Baylor – 28.5 (67.5): I do not usually make Mythical Picks in Ponderosa Spread Games. However, Baylor needs “style points” for the Selection Committee and Ok. St.’s defense is not geared to stop Baylor. Ok State is 117th in the country in pass defense; Baylor is 3rd in the country in passing offense. I like this game to go OVER.

Colorado at Oregon – 32.5 (72.5): Yet another conference game…

Georgia State at Clemson – 41 (57): Why bother? Who scheduled this one? Tuning up for S. Carolina… If you think Ga State can win, you can get +32,500 on the money line.

SMU at UCF – 28.5 (47): This too is a conference game…

The SHOE Tournament Teams:

This week I will focus on 10 teams for the 8 slots in the final SHOE Tournament to determine the single worst team in Division 1-A college football for the year. I will once again list them alphabetically – but I will mark the two teams that would not make the field if this were my final vote.

    E. Michigan 2-8
    Georgia State 1-9
    Kent St. 1-9
    Idaho 1-9
    Miami (Oh) 2-9
    SMU 0-9
    Troy 3-8 * not in the SHOE Tournament for now
    Tulsa 2-8
    UNLV 2-9 * not in the SHOE Tournament for now
    Wake Forest 2-8

In putrid game action this weekend:

    E. Michigan is a 17-point underdog at Ball State and to be clear, Ball State is not a good team.

    Wake Forest is a 15-point underdog to Va Tech.

    Tulsa is a 21-point underdog at Houston.

    Georgia State is a 41-point underdog at Clemson (see above).

    SMU is a 28.5-point underdog to UCF (see above).

Games of Interest:

Va Tech – 15 at Wake Forest (39): The only thing that would make this game less watchable than it already is would be a driving rainstorm. This is a game of interest for SHOE Tournament consideration only. Do not watch it; do not bet on it.

Miami – 6 at Virginia (48): I smell a let-down for Miami after Florida State came from way back to beat them last week. I’ll take Virginia at home plus the points.

Missouri at Tennessee – 3.5 (49): Missouri is 8-2 while Tennessee is 5-5. However, statistically, these teams are not that far apart. Tennessee is the better passing team; Missouri is the better running team. Make this a venue call; I’ll take Tennessee to win and cover. Lots of folks in Athens, GA hope I am right on this one…

Rutgers at Michigan St. – 22 (57): When Rutgers plays against the upper echelon of the Big 10, they get hammered. Michigan St. is an upper echelon team. Hence… Moreover, the game is in East Lansing. I’ll take Michigan St. and lay the points.

Minnesota at Nebraska – 10.5 (56.5): Will Nebraska simply roll over and play dead after what Wisconsin did to them last week (see above) or will Nebraska come out breathing fire? Frankly, I think it will be somewhere in the middle of that range and I think that Minnesota will do what it always tries to do and that is run the ball straight at the Nebraska defense. The clock will run; this will be a quick game. I like the game to stay UNDER and I like Minnesota plus the points.

Maryland at Michigan – 5 (42.5): If Michigan wants to go to a bowl game, they need this win. If it does not come here, the only other chance is against Ohio State and that looks mighty unlikely. I know the bet I want and so I went looking for justification and found these trends:

    Michigan is 4-1 to go UNDER in its last 5 home games
    Maryland is 4-1 to go UNDER in its last 5 road games.

I like the game to stay UNDER.

BC at Florida State – 17 (56.5): Interesting statistical matchups here:

    BC rushes for 264 yards per game (12th best in the country)
    Fla St. allows 139.7 yards per game (36th best in the country.

    Fla St. throws for 318 yards per game (11th best in the country)
    BC allows 226.9 yards per game (66th best in the country.

I think Florida State is the better team by far and it seems as if Florida State is better equipped to stop what BC does best as compared to BC stopping what Florida State does best. I like Florida State at home to win and cover.

Texas Tech at Iowa St. – 1.5 (69.5): These are Big 12 bottom-feeders and neither one plays much defense at all. Iowa St. ranks 117th in the country in points allowed giving up 37.8 points per game. However, Texas Tech can “top” that ranking 126th in the country in points allowed giving up 41.6 points per game. I like the game to go OVER.

Ole Miss – 3.5 at Arkansas (45): Short and simple… This will be a low-scoring game. I like the game to stay UNDER and I like Arkansas at home plus the points.

Arizona at Utah – 4 (54.5): Another one that is short and simple… This will be a low-scoring game. I like the game to stay UNDER. I am tempted by Arizona plus the points but will not pull the trigger there.

USC at UCLA – 4 (61): This is an important PAC-12 South Division game in addition to being a long-standing intense rivalry. I do not know why UCLA is the better team here so I’ll take USC plus the points in what I would have expected to be a “pick ‘em” game.

Finally, here is a closing thought courtesy of Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding a “side wager” on last week’s Nebraska/Wisconsin game:

“If Nebraska beats Wisconsin, Rep. Paul Ryan owes Senator-elect Ben Sasse some smoked Gouda cheese. If Wisconsin wins, Sasse has to give Ryan some Lucky Brand beef jerky. There’s a group opposed to this wager; I believe they’re called ‘nutritionists.’ “

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/23/14

First, let me check out how last week’s Mythical Picks turned out:

    I liked Dolphins -5.5 over Bills. Dolphins won by 13. Yes!

    I liked Browns -3 over Texans. Browns lost the game. No!

    I liked Vikes +3 against Bears. Not enough points. No!

    I liked Packers -6 over Eagles. Packers won by 33. Yes!

    I liked Chiefs -1 over Seahawks. Chiefs won by 4. Yes!

    I liked Falcons/Panthers UNDER 46.5. Total score was 36. Yes!

    I liked Bengals +7.5 against Saints. Bengals won straight up. Yes!

    I liked Bengals/Saints OVER 50.5. Total was 37. No!

    I liked Skins -7 over Bucs. Bucs won the game. No!

    I liked Rams +9.5 against Broncos. Rams won the game. Yes!

    I liked the Rams/Broncos OVER 51. Total was 29. No!

    I liked Niners -4 over giants. Niners won by 6. Yes!

    I liked Niners/Giants OVER 44. Total was 26. No!

    I liked Raiders +11 against Chargers. Chargers won by only 7. Yes!

    I liked Cards -1.5 over Lions. Cards won by 8. Yes!

    I liked Colts -3 over Pats. Colts lost by 22. No!

    I liked Colts/Pats OVER 57.5. Total was 62. Yes!

    I liked Steelers -5.5 over Titans. Steelers won by 3. No!

So, last week was a mythically profitable week of selections with a record of 10-8-0. That winning week, however, only begins to eat into the monstrously large deficit that has accumulated since the beginning of September. The season record now stands at 76-98-2.

There were 2 Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games last week and the coin had a good week also. The coin was 2-0-0 bringing the coin’s season record to 9-15-0.

I hope all readers here are smart enough to realize that nothing here is authoritative when it comes to making selections on NFL games. No one should use even a syllable of information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend or any other weekend. Here is how dumb you are if you ignore that warning:

    If someone told you that you suffered from kleptomania, you would probably just take something for it.

General Comments:

Last week was a bad week to be a quarterback named “Manning”. Both the Giants and the Broncos lost and here is what the brothers did combined:

    Total of 17 points scored
    Total of 7 INTs thrown

    That is more like what you would expect from Geno Smith and his brother – on any given Sunday…

Rex Ryan’s bank account is significantly lighter than it was a couple of weeks ago. The NFL fined Ryan $100K for “foul language”. There is a video of Ryan saying “F**K you!” to someone off the screen. There is no audio, but there is also no doubt about what he said. Allegedly, the person off-screen who was the recipient of this sentiment was a game official and the league did not take kindly to that. Interestingly, the comment came after a Jets’ win – the one over the Steelers. Maybe that occurrence is so rare that Ryan forgot he was supposed to be happy at that point of history…

I read somewhere that since taking the Jets’ job, the league has fined Ryan to the tune of $225K – proving that some speech is not exactly “free”.

How bad is the NFC South? When teams in that division have to play teams outside that division, the combined record is 6-20-1. Moreover, one of those victories came over the Skins who are bad enough to be also-rans in that sorry-assed division. Now you know how bad the division is…

What odds would you need to make these wagers?

    NFC South division winner will have a record over .500. Would you take that bet for 5-1? How about 6-1? I might take it for 10-1.

    NFC South division winner will have a record of .500. Would you take that bet for 5-2? How about 3-1? I would take it at 4-1.

    Notwithstanding the records, one of those teams is going to be the host for a first round playoff game in January…

A couple of years ago when the NFC West was similarly sorry-assed, I made this suggestion and I still think it is the way to go:

    Put the four division winners plus two wild card teams into the playoffs as the NFL does now.

    However, seed the teams 1 through 6 in each conference based on their season records.

    A division winner with a 7-9 record should not host a wildcard game against an opponent with a 10-6 record.

The Bills lost to the Dolphins last Thursday night and Buffalo fans were complaining very loudly about bad calls that cost the Bills a chance to win that game. When the complaining stops, those Bills’ fans need to deal with some numerical realities from that game:

    Leading rusher for the Bills had 35 yards.
    Passing attack did not gain 200 yards.

Those numerical realities lead to some interesting questions for Bills’ coach Doug Marrone:

    Do you think at age 32 that Kyle Orton is the QB of the future for your team?
    If so, why?
    If not, why continue to play him now?

The Bears beat the Vikes 21-13. “Good Jay” Cutler and “Bad Jay” Cutler both made appearances in this game. “Good Jay” threw for 330 yards and 3 TDs; “Bad Jay” threw 2 INTs and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for excessive jawing at the officials. What really won the game for the Bears was that the Bears’ defense finally played a decent game from start to finish. They held Teddy Bridgewater to 18 – 28 for 158 yards in the game.

The Falcons beat the Panthers 19-17 taking the lead in the sorry-assed NFC South with a 4-6 record; they lead the Saints with the same record on the basis of tiebreakers. I think I did all of the projections correctly to come to this possible end state for the division:

    The Carolina Panthers could win the division and end up with a record of 5-10-1.

    After you let that travesty soak into your consciousness, go back to my suggestion above about seeding/reseeding playoff teams according to record…

The Bengals beat the Saints 27-10. The Saints’ offense was uncharacteristically inefficient in this game. With the game still in doubt, the Saints had the ball first-and-goal at the 2-yardline. Four plays later – with no penalties involved – the ball was still at the 2-yardline. Bengals’ WR, AJ Green, had 6 catches for 127 yards; it looked to me as if he could have had an even dozen if he had been targeted more often. Meanwhile, Bengals’ RB, Jeremy Hill, ran the ball for 152 yards in the game. That is ominous for the Saints considering that the Ravens are coming to town this week and the Ravens also like the power running game.

The dregs of the NFC South, the Tampa Bay Bucs, went to Washington and beat the Skins handily. RG3 threw 2 INTs – one of which was a Pick Six. The Bucs sacked him 6 times for the game mainly because the Skins’ OL was a no-show for the game. Josh McCown threw for 288 yards on the day, which is not outlandish; however, rookie WR, Mike Evans, accounted for 209 of those yards. Wait a minute, I think he just caught another pass… The Skins’ defensive backfield cannot cover a corpse with a king-sized bed sheet.

The Texans beat the Browns 23-7. The Browns seem not to know how to handle prosperity. Earlier this year, they came off a big win over the Steelers and lost to the Jags – the only win for the Jags all year long. Two weeks ago, the Browns beat the Bengals in Cincy and took the division lead. Last week, they lost to the Texans. What is up with that…? Brian Hoyer threw for 330 yards in this game and it only produced 7 points! Ryan Mallett started his first NFL game ever and his stat line was 20-30 for 211 yards; that is acceptable but not much more. However, the Texans ran for 213 yards in the game and Arian Foster did not play; Alfred Blue ran the ball 36 times for 156 yards. Does Alfred have a dog named Blue?

The Texans’ win here puts their record at 5-5 and they are on the periphery of the AFC wildcard race. A lot of things have to fall right for them to make it, but they are not out of the race either. JJ Watt had another “decent game”. He caught a TD pass; he recovered a fumble; he had 4 tackles for losses.

The Niners beat the Giants 16-10. Eli Manning threw 5 INTs in the game. There was not much else to say about this stinker.

In another lackluster game, the Chargers beat the Raiders 13-6. The Chargers scored a TD in the first minute of the game off a short field as a result of a turnover. After that, it was nothing but punting and field goals. Ho-hum… Two points bear mention:

    The Raiders have now gone more than a calendar year without winning a game. Their last win was 17 Nov 2013 in Houston beating the Texans 28-23. The Texans’ record last year was 2-14.

    Chargers’ QB, Philip Rivers suffered a “very severe rib injury” in this game.

The Chiefs beat the Seahawks 24-20. Even facing “Beast Mode”, the Chiefs still have not yielded a rushing TD all season. On one possession, the Seahawks had the ball first-and-goal inside the 5-yardline and could not pound it in. In the 4th quarter of the game, the Seahawks went for it on 4th down 3 different times. They failed each time. The Seahawks’ center, Max Unger, had to leave the game with a foot injury and he left the stadium on crutches. That is very bad news for the Seahawks; Unger is an excellent player.

Jamaal Charles is fun to watch. Sunday against the Seahawks, he carried the ball 20 times for 159 yards and accounted for a total of 178 yards of offense. The Chiefs’ total offense for the day was only 298 yards so Charles produced 59.7% of the total.

Back in August, I thought that the Chiefs would not be able to repeat their 11-5 record from last year; I was not alone in that assessment; the Las Vegas OVER/UNDER number for Chiefs’ wins this year was 7.5. As of today, the Chiefs are 7-3; here is their schedule for the rest of this year:

    At Raiders
    Vs Broncos
    At Cardinals
    Vs Raiders
    At Steelers
    Vs Chargers

Looking at that schedule from the perspective of a current record of 7-3, a final record of 11-5 is not impossible at all.

The Rams beat the Broncos 22-7. I mentioned Brian Hoyer above only getting 7 points out of 330 yards passing; well, Peyton Manning also got only 7 points and he threw for 389 yards. That is the lowest scoring game for the Broncos in the “Peyton Manning Era”. The Broncos lost 3 important offensive players to injury last week:

    RB, Montee Ball, left with a groin injury
    WR, Emmanuel Sanders left with a concussion
    TE, Julius Thomas left with an ankle injury.

No indication as of this morning if any or all of them might play this week…

Shaun Hill took over at QB for the Rams last week in place of Austin Davis and was 20-29 for 220 yards, which is pretty much the same stat line that Ryan Mallett had for the Texans in their win last week. Rams, WR, Kenny Britt had a big day with 4 catches for 128 yards and a TD.

The Packers stomped the Eagles 53-20 and it might not have been that close. Adding to the misfortune, the Eagles turned the ball over 4 times in the game; they cannot beat the Packers doing that. I have to say that Packers WR, Jordy Nelson, has inserted himself into the conversation with regard to the top WRs in the NFL for now. He came to the Packers in the 2008 draft in the second round – no WRs were taken in the first round that year. Here are the WRs taken in the second round in 2008:

    Donnie Avery (Rams)
    Devin Thomas (Skins)
    Jordy Nelson (Packers)
    James Hardy (Bills)
    Eddie Royal (Broncos)
    Jerome Simpson (Bengals)
    DeSean Jackson (Eagles)
    Malcom Kelly (Skins)
    Limas Sweed (Steelers)
    Dexter Jackson (Bucs)

Jordy Nelson and DeSean Jackson are clearly the class of that list…

The Cards beat the Lions 14-6. As has been their custom this year, the Lions fell behind early. However, the Cards’ defense just never let them back in the game; there was no miracle finish for the Lions last week. Drew Stanton took over for the injured Carson Palmer here and threw for 306 yards and 2 TDs. He outplayed Matthew Stafford who totaled only 183 yards for the day. Oh, by the way, neither team scored in the second half.

On Sunday night, the score was Pats 42 and Colts 20. That score is an accurate reflection of the domination in the game. The Pats OL had their way; Tom Brady always had plenty of time and space to throw; Jonas Gray carried the ball 38 times for 199 yards. I had no idea who Jonas Gray was until last Sunday night; in fact, my first thought was that he was one of the Jonas Brothers who decided to leave the band… The Pats’ defense turned the Colts’ offense into a one-trick pony. [See what I just did there…?] Total rushing offense for the Colts for the night was 19 yards!!

More bad news for the Colts:

    RB Ahmad Bradshaw has a broken ankle and is out for the year. That puts Trent Richardson front and center for the Colts in terms of RB. Up to this point, Richardson has been less than impressive; and in terms of having been the 3rd overall pick in the draft he has been a huge underachiever.

On Monday night, the Steelers beat the Titans 27-24. Frankly, the Steelers were sleepwalking through the game until about mid-way into the 3rd quarter. At that point, they were losing by 11 points and did not appear to give a rat’s patootie about the game one way or the other. Then they woke up, took charge of the game, and won it. To some extent, that worked because the Titans are not a particularly good team…

The Lions and the Packers are tied atop the NFC North with 7-3 records. Circle Sunday December 28 on your calendar. That is the final Sunday of the NFL regular season and the Lions will pay a visit to “the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field”. [Hat Tip to John Facenda]

    Both the Lions and the Packers have to play the Patriots between now and then.

    Nonetheless, that game should be for the NFC North championship and it ought to be a good one.

The Games:

Here are the teams with Bye Weeks. Oh by the by, this is the end of the Bye Weeks. Are you buying that? Goodbye…

    The Panthers will ready themselves for a cold-weather trip to Minny
    The Steelers will prep to host the Saints next week.

(Thurs Nite) KC – 7 at Oakland (42.5): The Chiefs are the better team; even the ghost of Al Davis knows that. We have not made it to Thanksgiving yet, but I do believe the Raiders are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention already. They can give thanks that they will be available for any and all New Year’s Eve party opportunities this year. However, there are two cautionary notes for the Chiefs here:

    1. This is a “short-week game” and the Chiefs have to travel 1500 miles to take the field. As a combination, those are not advantageous circumstances for the Chiefs.

    2. This is a “sandwich game” for the Chiefs. They had to play a tough Seahawks team last week and look ahead to a tough Broncos squad next week. And here in the middle are the lowly Raiders. Many a team has overlooked its opponent in such “sandwich situations”.

Frankly, I think both of those cautions are reflected in the spread; I would not have been surprised to see this in double-digits. The Chiefs have the better running game; an anemic passing game that is the equal of the Raiders’ passing game, a better run defense and the #1 pass defense in the NFL. Assuming that Andy Reid has the team focused on winning this game before hosting the Broncos next week, I like the Chiefs to win and cover.

Cleveland at Atlanta – 3 (47): At 6-4, the Browns are in last place in the AFC North; at 4-6, the Falcons are in first place in the sorry-assed NFC South. Will Josh Gordon return to the Browns’ lineup this week after serving his 10-game suspension? Can he be an impact player right out of the gate? Let me say this clearly:

    If Gordon plays at 90% of his capability, I think the Browns will have the significantly better team on the field here.

Since I do not know Gordon’s conditioning or his familiarity with the Browns’ offense, I will not take the Browns on the money line. However, I do like the Browns plus the points here.

Tennessee at Philly – 11 (48.5): The Eagles have a date with the Cowboys next Thursday afternoon on national TV and it ought to be for the NFC East lead. Is this a trap game for the Eagles? It sure looks that way. I’ll take the Titans plus the double-digit helping of points.

Detroit at New England – 7 (47.5): This is the best game of the weekend; the Pats lead the AFC East; the Lions are tied for the lead in the NFC North; combined, the two teams are 15-5. This game is the second in a tough four-game schedule stretch for the Pats that began last week in Indy. Here are the other three games in that stretch:

    Host the Lions (this week)
    Visit the Packers
    Visit the Chargers

The Pats have won 6 in a row and are undefeated at home; the Lions are not nearly as good on the road as they are at home in their dome. I see a plethora of points here. I like the game to go OVER and I like the Pats to win and cover.

Green Bay – 9 at Minnesota (48.5): The Vikes in their outdoor venue have an advantage in terms of cold weather against visitors from sunny/warm climates at this time of the year. Green Bay, WI is neither sunny nor warm; the Packers have played in that kind of weather before. Aaron Rodgers has thrown 28 TDs this year and only 3 INTs. Terry Bridgewater’s stats are not anywhere near that level. I like the Packers to win and cover here.

Jax at Indy – 14.5 (50.5): Often, I tell you to shop a line because of the variance from sportsbook to sportsbook. The spread here needs shopping… It opened the week at 13.5 points; you can still find it at that number at one sportsbook that I check. You can also find it as high as 15 points at one sportsbook and you can find it at every stop between those two numbers. The spread I used here is the one at more sportsbooks than any other spread. Interestingly, with all the variability in the spread, you have no variability in the Total Line; it started the week at 50 and moved up to the current number and that is the same at every sportsbook. Having filled you in on the numbers here, I think Colts are the significantly better team. The Colts’ offense is 123 yards per game better than the Jags’ offense; the Colts’ defense is 13 yards per game better than the Jags’ defense; the Colts are 136 yards per game better – and that is a lot. However, it is also important to note that in the last three games, the Colts’ defense has surrendered 100 points; that is a lot too. The spread here is “three scores” and two of the “three scores” have to be TDs. The Jags are +800 on the money line to win the game; that is twice as high as the next highest number on the money lines for the week. I have no sense that the Jags can go to Indy and win the game but that spread is awfully big. I’ll take the Jags plus the points.

Cincy at Houston – 1.5 (43.5): The Bengals are half a game out of the AFC North lead; the Texans are a game out of the AFC South lead. This should be a really good game but without the cachet of the Lions/Pats game. Is Ryan Mallett the real deal at QB for the Texans? Is Arian Foster going to be able to play this week? The Bengals were in New Orleans last week; so, why didn’t they just stay in the area for this game in Houston? It is “just down the road”. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Bengals plus the points.

Jets at Buffalo – 4 (39): Here is what weather.com is saying at the moment when you enter “Orchard Park, NY, USA”:

    “Two day snow now over 50 inches”

OK, but the game is not until Sunday – and there seems not to be any buzz that the game might be postponed or moved to some other venue. So what is the deal in the interim:

    Thurs Nov 20: Heavy wind and more snow 12+ inches. High 27 degrees
    Fri Nov 21: Morning snow, another 1-3 inches. High 26 degrees
    Sat Nov 22: Afternoon rain. High 39 degrees
    Sun Nov 23: Sunny. High 46 degrees.

Of course, some Bills’ fans might be hampered in their attempts to get to the game due to the fact that some of the areas surrounding Buffalo are expected to get 5 FEET of snow this week. And while the officials in Western NY figure what to do with 5 feet of snow in mid-November, how can this be a positive factor in the Bills’ training/preparation for the game this weekend?

So, the field conditions at Ralph Wilson Stadium will probably be the best Earth surface conditions in Erie County, NY on Sunday. That does not mean it will be conducive to great football. I think this will be a low scoring game – as is expected by the oddsmakers with a Total Line of 39. In a low scoring game where weather might be a factor, I much prefer taking the points. I like the Jets plus the points here.

Tampa at Chicago – 5.5 (46): The Total Line opened the week at 48 and dropped almost immediately to this level where it has stayed. The Bears won their first home game of the year last week; the Bucs went on the road and beat the Skins last week meaning that both of their wins this year have come on the road. [Aside: How does it feel to pay for season tix to the Bucs in Tampa and watch them stink out the joint in their first 5 home games? No wonder they are having “sell-out problems…] There will be a lot of whoop-dee-doo about Lovie Smith returning to the scene of the crime in Chicago. I suspect that will be a lot more about sound and not heat. This is the “Dog-Breath Game of the Week”; neither team is any good. This is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Bucs plus the points. Why not?

Arizona at Seattle – 6.5 (41.5): Even though the Seahawks are 3 games behind the Cards in the NFC West, this game rivals the Lions/Pats game as the best game of the week because it is critical to the Seahawks. A loss here puts them 4 games back with only 5 to play and that is a steep mountain to climb. The question here is the Seahawks’ defense. Last week, a really good Lions’ defense held the Cards to 14 points in Arizona; can the Seahawks’ defense play as it did for much of last year and do something similar this week in Seattle. I know that the Seahawks’ offense had been quiescent this year – and I think it continues to be hampered by the lack of top shelf WRs on the roster. Nevertheless, I think this is a combination of a wake-up call for the Seahawks and a venue call for the Seattle 12th man. I’ll take the Seahawks to win and cover.

St. Louis at San Diego – 4.5 (43.5): How many unknowns do you like in your equations? If you like a ton of them, then this is the game for you. Philip Rivers will start if he can walk to the sidelines; how well can/will he play with is “severe rib injury”? Who will play QB and who will run the ball for the Rams? Taking a guess at how the game will unfold, I think it will be low scoring and so I’ll take the Rams plus the points.

Miami at Denver – 7 (49): According to the Weather Channel, it will be in the low-40s or the high-30s at kick off time in Denver. Meanwhile, in Miami, the Weather Channel says it will be 82 degrees on Sunday with scattered thunderstorms. This is Broncos’ weather and this is Broncos’ altitude. Denver is a mile above sea level; Miami is very much at sea level. The elements favor the Broncos but the injury bug does not. As of this morning, Montee Ball is out for the game; Emmanuel Sanders is listed as questionable but he has to get over the hurdle of the NFL concussion protocol to play; Ryan Clady is questionable and Julius Thomas is questionable. Reports say that neither Thomas nor Sanders practiced on Wednesday. The Dolphins defense is very good and does not get the attention it deserves; it ranks 1st in total defense in the AFC. Interestingly, the Broncos’ defense ranks 2nd in total defense in the AFC. I’ll take the Dolphins plus the points because I think this game will be low scoring and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Washington at SF – 9 (44): Because the Niners are still active in the playoff mix this is not a contender for the “Dog Breath Game of the Week”. Nonetheless, be glad if you are in any part of the country where this is not the game the NFL will cram down your maw in the late Sunday afternoon time slot. Trust me; you DO have better options. Two years ago, RG3 and Colin Kaepernick were media darlings who were in the process of redefining how folks would play QB in the NFL in the future. I am not hearing much of that nonsense these days. The Niners are getting healthy and Aldon Smith returned last week from his latest run-in with the NFL personal conduct policy. The Niners could be a sleeper team about now because of the folks they are getting back from injury to play with the guys who have kept the Niners relevant to this point in the season. The Skins are totally irrelevant – except as fodder for NFL gossip columns. I think the Niners need a statement win about now to convince themselves – and to announce to the rest of the league – that they are where they are and they are going to be players in whatever happens from this point forward. I think this is the time for them to beat down a team that is significantly below them in the NFL pecking order. I like the Niners to win and cover at home. I will not be surprised to see the Niners win by 21+ points.

(Sun Nite) Dallas – 3 at Giants (47.5): I promise you that when the suits at NBC learned that they had this game for Sunday Night Football back when the schedule came out, there was a lot of high-fiving and back-slapping on Mahogany Row. Now, the Giants just stink and the Cowboys’ record may or may not indicate how good the team really is.

    Giants’ DB, Antrel Rolle, says that there is no doubt in his mind that the Giants can “win out” and finish the season at 9-7.

    I think there is no doubt in my mind that he may have had some high-quality hallucinogens coursing through his veins at the moment of that pronouncement.

I think the key to this game is the Giants’ miserable defense (15th in the NFC) – and particularly their meek rushing defense. I see the Cowboys controlling the game from the outset. I like the Cowboys to win and cover even on the road. By the way, the Cowboys have won 3 of the last 4 games against the Giants in New Jersey.

(Mon Nite) Baltimore at New Orleans – 3 (50): Talk about a game that means a lot to both teams… By Monday night, the Ravens will know the landscape of the AFC North; no matter what happens, they need a win to be in a good place in the division. By Monday night, the Saints will know if the Falcons – and even the Bucs – will have won on Sunday and therefore what a win will mean for them. It is not the best game of the weekend, but it is indeed an important game where there are no mysteries. The Ravens are not a dominating road team; the Saints are traditionally a dominating home team but this year that “domination” means a 3-2 record where 2 of the 3 wins have come at the expense of the Vikes and the Bucs; no one will confuse either of those opponents with “quality”.

    Question: Will the Ravens’ defensive game play involve double-teaming Jimmy Graham or triple-teaming him?

I worry about the Saints’ ability to stop the Ravens from running the ball down the Saints’ throat. Maybe Rob Ryan will blitz only 30% of the time and focus on run defense a bit more this week? This is a Curmudgeon Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER. Why not?

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

Adrian Peterson/Ray Rice/How Will It All End

The NFL has suspended Adrian Peterson for the rest of this season. The NFLPA will appeal that decision. Claims and counterclaims are flying around from unnamed sources about this matter. I do not pretend to know all of what happened at the time that Adrian Peterson disciplined his young son but I want to go on record with this statement:

    If the pictures I saw on the Internet are indeed of Peterson’s son after his “disciplinary event” and if they have not been “photoshopped”, I think what Adrian Peterson did is reprehensible.

The appeal by the NFLPA and attorneys for Ray Rice to reinstate Rice to the NFL continues. I do not pretend to know the antecedents to what happened in that elevator in Atlantic City or actions subsequent to those events; but on the assumption that the videos from inside the elevator and outside the elevator are not computer generated in any way, I want to go on record with this statement:

    What Ray Rice did in that elevator is reprehensible.

The US judicial system has decided that neither man will pay much of a price for what they did. I think I understand the concept of “prosecutorial discretion” to some degree but I also think that I am free to say that I disagree with the discretion those folks chose to exhibit. Having said that, these men are both at a point where they are free to get on with their lives.

Now comes the sticky part of the mess from my point of view. Should the NFL – or any team in the NFL – be compelled to have any continued association with either man? There is a spectrum of what should be expected here:

    At one end of the spectrum, neither Rice nor Peterson can be denied any of their “inalienable rights”. They have the right to vote, to freedom of assembly, free expression and all of those rights. No one – nor any organization – should tamper with any of them.

    At the other end of the spectrum – exaggerating for effect here – I am not compelled as a person to invite either Rice or Peterson to my birthday party even if I hold it in a public place.

Playing in the NFL is not an “inalienable right” nor is it something that infringes on the personal privacy of others. Where it falls on that spectrum is germane with regard to the importance one places on the reinstatement of either player. I would hope that the resolution of these matters would address that kind of question and that the resulting action(s) would turn on those kinds of considerations. I certainly hope that the resolution does not revolve around some minor procedural glitch such as timely filing of a notice or anything of that sort. We shall see…

While those storm clouds rise overhead in the football cosmos, the NFL season is getting down to the critical parts. Lots of folks are looking at playoff scenarios and which team might be in a position to [fill in the blank here] if they can win [fill in the critical game here]. That kind of analysis and thinking can get one to focus attention on about half the teams in the league.

Here in Curmudgeon Central, I like to take this juncture of the NFL season to look at teams who have no relevance to playoff scenarios – the teams that have demonstrated unusual ineptitude to this point in the season. For example, any team with two or fewer wins at this point in the season is irrelevant – even the Bucs who are only 2 games out of the NFC South lead because every team in that division stinks. So, let me dismiss the Raiders, Jags, Bucs, Titans and Jets. Thank you for playing; pick up your season’s parting gifts on the way out…

With 3 wins on the record we have the Panthers, Giants and Skins. None of these teams are playoff relevant but they are in that state for different reasons.

    The Panthers were 12-4 last year outscoring opponents by 125 points; only the Seahawks allowed fewer points in the NFL last year. This year, in only 11 games, the Panthers have allowed 59 more points than they gave up in 16 games last year. Cam Newton has not played particularly well this year; nevertheless, that is not the reason the Panthers have cratered. However, they are in the NFC South so you never know what might happen there…

    The Giants were 7-9 last year; their opponents outscored them by 89 points. This year in 11 games, the Giants are already at “minus-58” points in scoring differential and it is not the fault of the offense. Even though Eli Manning has had some brutally bad games, the Giants are scoring 20.5 points per game this year; last year they averaged only 18.4 points per game. It is the Giants’ defense that bears the larger share of the blame.

    The Skins stunk last year and they stink again this year. Fans in Washington have become experts in conjugating the verb “to stink” and can recite the principal parts – stink, stank, stunk – without effort. Close your eyes and point a finger anywhere at the roster or the team organization and you will find yourself pointing to a sub-standard aspect of an NFL team. The Skins lead their opponents this year in first downs rushing, first downs passing and first downs via penalty. Leading in all three of those categories and also having a 3-7 record is not easy – but the “Stink Stank Stunk Skins” have found a way to do just that. This team has too little talent and too many prima donnas in its locker room. The team and the organization is far closer to the Oakland Raiders level in the league than it is to the above average teams.

Those eight teams – 25% of the NFL for those of you scoring at home – have entered the zone where they are:

    Playing for pride
    Playing for a contract
    Playing to avoid injury
    Playing to continue to collect a paycheck.

You are not likely to hear any of the talking heads on ESPN or FOXSports 1 or NFL Network talk about this quartile of the league in candid terms. But that is what we do here…

Finally, Herman Edwards, former NFL defensive back and coach of the Chiefs and the Jets who is now one of the more candid voices on ESPN offered this Q&A:

“If a head coach doesn’t have a good quarterback, you know what he becomes?

An analyst.”

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

The DEA Meets The NFL…

Last Sunday, agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency conducted some “surprise inspections” of NFL visiting teams looking for any irregularities with regard to the dispensing of controlled substances particularly painkillers. Several reports said that the inspections had their origins in allegations made in the “concussion lawsuit” regarding improprieties with these substances under the Controlled Substances Act. The Niners, Seahawks and Bucs confirmed that they underwent some kind of inspection; this report in the Washington Post indicates that the focus is not merely on those teams.

I think this is a very complicated issue. Obviously, there is an important social need for certain substances to be controlled and dispensed only by people certified as knowledgeable enough to do so properly. Highly addictive painkillers fall into that category and no one – not football fans, law enforcement officials or legislators – ought to be surprised to learn that professional football players suffer painful injuries in the course of their professional activities. The potential problem here is that a law and the regulations that flow from that law which was written with hospitals and pharmacies in mind will almost certainly have areas of recordkeeping and physical storage that are treated loosely by the physicians traveling with NFL teams.

A little cynical voice in the back of my head says that this is merely a grandstanding play by the Feds so that as the concussion lawsuits proceed their activities can be seen in a positive light. I want to be wrong about that but I cannot quiet that little voice completely.

With regard to the entire issue of players taking potent painkillers in order to “get back in the game” situations, I think an important distinction needs to be made with regard to three kinds of scenarios:

    Scenario 1: Player is injured; he does not know the extent of the injury but it does hurt a lot. Team physician – or other doctor involved somehow – says he does not think it is a debilitating injury and a painkiller will alleviate the suffering. He and the player agree that is a course of action; the player takes the pill(s) and can return to action.

    Scenario 2: Player is injured; extent of injury is not known; doctor suspects it is not debilitating and just gives the player a pill to take without the player knowing what the pill is or what the injury is all about.

    Scenario 3: Player is injured; he does not know the extent of the injury but the doctor does. There is a chance that continued play can make it worse but the doctor does not tell the player of those potential consequences as he gives the witting or unwitting player a painkiller to get him back in the game.

Would I be surprised to learn that at some time in the past and the present, each of these three scenarios has played itself out? Absolutely not… Importantly, I believe the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act have very different intersection with these kinds of scenarios. This is a complex issue; I hope this is not a grandstand play by the Feds; I hope the teams, the doctors and the players are all acting responsibly here…

Earlier this week, the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals threw some kerosene into the hot stove league. The Braves sent Jason Heyward and a pitcher to the Cards for Shelby Miller and another pitcher. Heyward and Miller are young players who have significant accomplishments already in their major league careers and still plenty of “upside”. The ideal trade is one that can help both teams; this one might fit into that category.

    The Cards need an outfielder to replace Oscar Taveras who was killed in a car accident recently. Heyward gives them that outfielder.

    The Braves need pitching. Miller is someone who could become a “top of the rotation” guy.

Two things surprised me just a bit about the trade. The Cards starting rotation has question marks. Adam Wainright has an elbow “issue”; Michael Wacha has a shoulder “issue”. The Cardinals traditionally rely on solid starting pitching as a foundation of team; so, trading a 24-year old starter with a career ERA of 3.33 is not something I thought they would be willing to do. Also, the Braves had “offensive problems” last year. I do not want to make Jason Heyward out to be a nascent Ted Williams or anything like that, but he was one of their better offensive players. I am surprised the Braves were willing to deal him.

When we bought our new car, we got a free 3-month subscription to SiriusXM Radio. At first, I liked the idea of all the different sports channels but soon came to realize that all of them struggled to fill 168 hours per week with any kind of programming let alone quality programming. I found myself turning off the radio far too often to make any consideration of extending that subscription for even a day. I mention this only to set the stage for the next “announcement” I ran across:

    John Daly – the sometimes golfer and full-time celebrity/personality – has signed on with SiriusXM Radio to do a show starting in December.

This event will be on the SiriusXM channel dedicated to PGATOUR Radio and the initial run for the program will be 6 shows. The program will be called Hit It Hard with John Daly and here is the brief description of what it will be about that supposedly would make me want to tune in:

“Daly will take calls from listeners around the country, talk about his experiences in and out of the sport, offer his thoughts on today’s game and players, share his love of music, and more.”

Maybe – I said MAYBE – I would listen to that at gunpoint…

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times summed up the situation regarding FIFA’s investigation into alleged shenanigans related to awarding the 2022 World Cup Tournament to Qatar:

“FIFA (wink, wink) found no irregularities in the way World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar, but bid-committee members weren’t available for comment.

“They’d just left on their surprise vacation junkets to Barbados.”

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

A Record For Futility…

Last week in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Kobe Bryant set an all-time NBA record. Until last week, John Havlicek held the record for the most missed field goal attempts in a career at 13,417. In that game last week, Kobe missed attempt 13,418 and he continues to add to the record.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had a perfect perspective on that record as it relates to Kobe and the Lakers:

“Kobe Bryant broke an unwelcome NBA career record with his 13,418th missed shot.

“Or as he prefers to call them, rebounding opportunities for teammates.”

The Lakers’ roster as of today is not a good one. Kobe Bryant is a bona fide star and a Hall of Fame player; beyond him the roster consists of role players and guys “with potential” which means they have not yet definitively shown if they are competent or incompetent. On that squad, Kobe Bryant is the guy who is going to have to take the most shots; and indeed, over the first ten games of the season, Bryant leads the NBA in field goal attempts with 244 shots fired up. Other teams in the league know already that Bryant is the only dangerous scorer on the Lakers and he draws sufficient defensive attention that his shooting percentage so far this year is .377, which is significantly down from previous years. In fact, for a full season the lowest field goal percentage in Bryant’s career since coming into the league in 1996 has been .417 in that rookie season.

At the current pace, Bryant will attempt 2000 shots this year and at the current rate of misfiring, he will miss a total of 1246 of them. I think this record is safe for a while just as John Havlicek’s record stood from 1978 until this year.

One player who hoped to join Kobe Bryant on the floor in a Lakers’ uniform this year is Steve Nash but a bad back has him out for the year – and has likely ended Nash’s career. Bob Molinaro had this item in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot a while back:

“Next chapter: It was reported as news that Steve Nash is injured. When did that become news? Now that the 40-year-old former two-time MVP has been ruled out for the season with a bad back, it’s time to find him a chair at ESPN or TNT. Preferably, one with excellent lumbar support.”

Whenever I have heard Steve Nash interviewed, I have come away from the experience thinking that this is a guy who has a future in broadcasting. He comes across as intelligent, articulate and analytical about the game of basketball. ESPN and/or TNT should indeed work with him to get him on the air. Lord knows, both networks have former basketball players under contract who are “less than wonderful” on the air.

Frank Fitzpatrick of the Philadelphia Inquirer had this comment several months ago:

Baseball’s instant replay is the worst baseball idea since John Felske.

I mention that not because I want to complain about baseball’s instant replay. John Felske is an example of a manager/coach who helped his teams underachieve; he was part of the problem. All too often, coaches/managers are fired after poor on-field results when they are no more to blame for those poor results than they are to blame for world hunger. A case in point right now would be the Oakland Raiders.

I was never one who thought Dennis Allen was a great hire in Oakland or that he was a nascent Hall of Fame coach about to burst onto the football landscape. Having said that, he was not responsible for the Raiders’ unmitigated suckitude over the past couple of years; no coach ever could have made that compilation of players into anything other than a losing team.

Back in late September when the Raiders were 0-4 and looking at their Bye Week, they fired Dennis Allen and replaced him with Tony Sparano whose first coaching act seems to have been the ceremonial burying of an NFL football to symbolize the death of that first quarter of the season and the start of something new. And what has changed…? Here we are in the middle of November and the Raiders’ record stands at 0-10 meaning they have continued to lose games since changing coaches.

I would like to see some kind of empirical evidence that changing the identity of the head coach in Oakland had any material on-field effect. By the way, that does not mean that the Raiders win a game that the oddsmakers thought they would lose; I mean that the team on the field actually shows that they are better than someone else more than “on any given Sunday…” Not only are the Raiders losing, they are always behind; the team has not been leading at halftime in any game this year.

Here are some reality checks for Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie who are the folks responsible for assembling this cast of characters that a head coach is supposed to lead to victory.

    1. Your offensive line is awful. Some people cannot get out of their own way; in the case of the Raiders’ OL, what they need to figure out how to do is how to get in the way of opposing defenders as those defenders are making their way to the guy with the ball. Until you find 5 guys capable of that; you are doomed. In only 3 games this year have the Raiders had more than 200 yards passing; they have yet to have any RB go for more than 80 yards in a game.

    2. The 2014 Raiders are worse than the 2013 Raiders and/or the 2012 Raiders. That is important because both of those earlier iterations of the team stunk. Your job has been to make it work out there in Oakland and over the last three seasons, a bad team has been made into something significantly worse. This is on one or both of the two of you and not on any head coach, coordinator, assistant coach or trainer.

I will not be surprised in the least if the Raiders Tony Sparano at the end of this season. Raiders’ fans can look at the rest of the schedule and see the possibility of two wins in that mix. Somehow, I doubt that a 2-14 record will get Tony Sparano a contract extension. Moreover, just as it was futile and impotent for the Raiders to fire Dennis Allen, the same will be true when they fire Tony Sparano. He is not the problem; there are probably 30 players on the 53-man roster who do not belong there and that is the fault of either Mark Davis or Reggie McKenzie – or both.

Finally, one more item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times. He suggested this as a prop bet; I am not sure which way one should play it:

“The first to win a game will be the:

    a) 0-9 Oakland Raiders
    b) 0-7 Philadelphia 76ers
    c) 2015 Arizona Diamondbacks”

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