Bruce Arena Replaces Jurgen Klinsmann …

The US Men’s National soccer team (USMNT) has had two bad losses in international qualifying play in the past several weeks.  Naturally, the response to those losses (to Mexico and then to Costa Rica) was to fire the coach, Jurgen Klinsmann.  The soccer-adorers in the US would have their emotions somewhere between orgasmic and rapturous in the event that the US were to win something big like the World Cup or the Olympic Gold Medal in soccer.  Precisely because they can imagine such euphoria, they simultaneously imagine that such achievements are not just possible but are likely if only they could get the right guy to “coach ‘em up” properly.

The soccer-adorers are living in a delusional state; but when one is in such a state, reality and fantasy blur at the edges.  Moreover, they so fondly want the fantasy state to become the reality state that their mood is improved when the coach gets fired and a new victim/coach is put in charge.  Hope springs eternal … and all that stuff.

The new coach will be Bruce Arena.  He had the job once before and not surprisingly, he did not take the USMNT to the sorts of heights that the soccer-adorers envision for their national team heroes.  There was a time when the soccer-adorers were only happy to see Bruce Arena replaced at the helm for not getting the job done; today he is the maven that will kick down the barricades keeping the USMNT from its glory.

Let me be clear; I am not someone who roots against the USMNT.  I also admit that there are tons of people out there who recognize the subtleties of play in soccer games that totally escape my notice.  Having said all of that, here is something that is very clear to me when I watch international soccer games:

  • There is an obvious difference in the way the players on other teams play the game of soccer as compared to the way the players on the USMNT play the game of soccer.  The difference is qualitative and not quantitative; nonetheless, it is real and it is not hard to see – – unless one prefers not to see it from the get-go.

That qualitative difference is why the USMNT is on a different plane of existence in the world of international soccer from the plane occupied by teams from Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal and the rest of the usual suspects when it comes to top international competition.  I have a hypothesis – it is not even sufficiently established to call it a theory – as to why this is the case.

The US has 320 million residents; that is a large pool of potential soccer players from which to distill 20 or 25 guys who will represent the country in international competition.  By comparison, here are the rough populations of some countries that are far more accomplished in international soccer than the US:

  1. Argentina has a population of about 42 million
  2. Brazil has a population of about 200 million
  3. England has a population of about 53 million
  4. Germany has a population of about 60 million
  5. Italy has a population of about 60 million

Costa Rica – the team that just beat the USMNT by a score of 4-0 – has a population of less than 5 million people.  So why would it appear that the US is mining such “low-grade ore” when it comes to finding about 25 guys to play consistently at the top levels of international competition?  I reject the argument that there are not enough natural athletes in the population here in the US or that all the really good athletes go into baseball or football or basketball because that is where the money is.  There are plenty of minor sports where American athletes consistently competitive and soccer is on a higher potential income level than many of those other minor sports.  [Aside:  As soon as I write this, I am certain that someone will form a National Luge League and start offering six figure contracts to lugers everywhere…]

My hypothesis is that the youth sports culture in the US is the problem.  I have read in several places that “Soccer Academies” are commonplace in much of the rest of the world.  These “Soccer Academies” take children – some as young as 6 years old – and begin to give them the skills necessary to be a top-shelf player.  The key word in that last sentence is “skills”.  These academies stress fundamentals and techniques and learning the game through drills and repetition and practice.  Here in the US, we take kids and have them practice and then put them into “game situations”.  If the “most promising” players here were taught skills more than given the opportunity to play games and spend hours en route to games for travel teams, I think the USMNT would be in a better place 10 years down the road.

One of those “qualitative differences” that I see when watching the USMNT play against an English or Spanish team is this:

  • The foreign players seem to know what they are going to do with the ball as it is approaching them while the US players seem to be trying to control the ball first and then figure out what their next move shall be.

I think that particular “qualitative difference” can be explained by the constant repetition of skills exercises that foreign players undergo in their development; they do not need to do things sequentially and in finite quanta of play; they seem to know what to do – and how they are going to do it  – before they are in a position to do it.  Moreover, their teammates appear to be able to see what is happening and to recognize what the player about to receive the ball is going to do next even before he is in possession of the ball.

If I am even close to correct, the thing that is keeping the US from the pinnacle of international soccer competition is not the coach and it is not really the players themselves.  I think a large part of the “problem” is that we develop our young players in a less effective manner than the rest of the world does.  Players who grew up developing skills and anticipation will distill down to a better national team than players who grew up playing games whenever possible and letting the outcome of those games depend on superior natural athleticism.  In the US, our youth player system favors the offspring of young affluent parents; there are loads of kids who could not possibly afford to be part of a “travel team” and in the US, if you are not on that track, you are not likely to be recognized as a “high potential player” on school teams.  We have limited our pool of talent and we do not teach skills the way they do internationally.

Jurgen Klinsmann lost games because – and this is only a bit of an exaggeration – he took a knife to a gun fight.  That happened to Bruce Arena in the past prior to his firing as the coach of the USMNT and it is going to happen to him again sometime in the next 3-5 years.  Unless of course, Bruce Arena finds a lamp on a beach somewhere and rubs it and a genie appears and …

Finally, there was an “incident” involving a player on the South African National Soccer Team that drew commentary from two sportswriters:

“A player was kicked off South Africa’s national soccer team for passing gas in the direction of the coach.  You can’t help but feel the team chemistry may be slightly off.”  [Brad Dickson, Omaha World-Herald]

And …

“ reported that striker Tokelo Rantie got booted from South Africa’s national soccer team for passing gas in the direction of manager Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba.

“Somewhere, the late Margaret Mitchell is smiling.”  [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]

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



Coaches On A Hot Seat – Update

Back before the NFL season began, I did my annual exercise in embarrassing myself by predicting every team’s record for the 2016 season before the kickoff for the first game.  Part of that exposition is always my list of “Coaches on the Hot Seat” and with the NFL season now 75% finished, I thought I would go back to see at how those predictions look.  I had 8 coaches on the hot seat and here is what I said then and what I think now.

In early September, this is what I said:

Gus Bradley (Jags): I had him on this list last year but the Jags showed definite improvement in 2015. I think that the Jags are a team on the rise and that Bradley will in fact be back next year. However, if I am dead wrong on that and the Jags regress to something like a 3-13 record, he will be toast. So, I put him on the list for the sake of completeness.”

Today, I say the Jags have regressed significantly and Bradley is going to be toast in early January 2017.

In early September, this is what I said:

“Jim Caldwell (Lions): Last year, the team rallied to win 6 games in the second half of the season to finish 7-9. If you do the math there, that means the Lions were 1-7 in the first half of the season. Presumably, the Front Office saw the second half surge as a harbinger of good things for 2016. If that is the case and if the Lions do not build on that surge, I suspect that Jim Caldwell will be moving on at the end of the 2016 season.”

Today, I say that the Lions look as if they will make the playoffs and Jim Caldwell will not be moving on.

In early September, this is what I said:

“Jeff Fisher (Rams): The Rams underachieved last year and I thought that the Rams had not been “playoff relevant” for a while now, so I went and looked up Fisher’s record there. It is not pretty:

  • He has been with the Rams for 4 seasons. The combined record is 27-36-1 and there have been no playoff appearances for the Rams.
  • Moreover, his last winning season (with the Titans) was all the way back in 2008.

Fisher signed a 5-year contract in 2012; this is his “contract year”. The Rams now play in LA where teams that contend for titles draw plenty of attention and adulation and where bad/mediocre teams fade into obscurity very quickly. Fisher and the Rams had better win this year.”

Today, I say that despite rumors of a 3-year extension of Fisher’s contract about 2 months ago, the Rams have been disappointing at best this year and a good way to take the LA fans’ minds off that disappointment would be to hire a new coach.  I think he will be fired after the Rams finish out of the playoffs.

In early September, this is what I said:

“Jason Garrett (Cowboys): In no way, would he be responsible for a bad year by the Cowboys. In fact, you might argue that he enters the season in the situation where he has brought a knife to a gunfight. But expectations were really high for the Cowboys this year; Jerry Jones has been hyping the 2016 season ever since the 2015 season ended. So, if the Cowboys really tank this year, Jerry Jones may need to do something symbolic to show his fanbase that he is doing more about “winning” than talking about “winning”. So, put Garrett on a hot seat even if he does not deserve to be there.”

Today, I say that the Cowboys have certainly not tanked and Garrett is not on anything resembling a hot seat now.

In early September, this is what I said:

“Marvin Lewis (Bengals): I believe that Lewis is the coach – not named Belichick – with the longest tenure with his team in all of the NFL. Granted, he took over a dysfunctional team in a dysfunctional franchise and got everything headed in a positive direction. The Bengals owe him a lot for that.

  • Some perspective here. Lewis has had the Bengals in the playoffs 7 times in 13 seasons. Prior to his arrival in Cincy, the Bengals had been in the playoffs a total of 7 times in 37 seasons.
  • Before Lewis arrived, the team was not-so-affectionately known as “The Bungles” and they earned every morsel of that moniker.

Here is the problem; the Bengals have not won a playoff game in the 13 years that Marvin Lewis has been the coach there. The team is 0-7 in playoff games and have lost in the opening round in each of the last 5 seasons. Last year’s loss was due to a total loss of focus/control/discipline on the part of two defensive players. That sort of “loss” falls under the heading of “coaching”. I think Marvin Lewis needs a playoff win this year…”

Today, I say that the Bengals are not going to win a playoff game because they are not going to come close to making the playoffs.

In early September, this is what I said:

“Mike McCoy (Chargers): This is his 4th season in San Diego. In his first year, the team went 9-7 and made the playoffs (and won a playoff game too). In his second year, the team went 9-7 again but missed out on the playoffs. Last year – under a blizzard of injuries – the Chargers were 4-12. McCoy is on a hot seat if the team goes 4-12 again. He does not have to win his division – I do not think the Chargers can do that – but they have to be better than getting the overall #3 pick in the draft once again.”

Today, I say that the Chargers have indeed done better than last year but it looks as if the Chargers will be no better than 8-8 this year.  McCoy’s seat is hot but ownership in San Diego has to deal with bigger questions right now than coaching changes – – such as where might the Chargers call home in the future.

In early September, I this is what I said:

“Mike Mularkey (Titans): He took over in mid-season last year and went 2-7 in his 9 games then. Management gave him a shot to move things forward this year but his coaching record is not one that inspires a lot of confidence. He has been a head coach for 3.5 seasons. Back in 2004 (with the Bills) he had a 9-7 record. Since then, his cumulative record is 9-32. Add to that negativity the fact that the Titans’ roster is “talent-challenged”. I think this hot seat will be ”Habanero Hot” come January 2017.”

Today, I say that the Titans are challenging for first place in the AFC South and could well finish the season at 8-8.  That is not a great record but it is a huge step forward for a franchise that has exactly one winning season since 2009.  Mike Mularkey is sitting pretty about now…

In early September, this is what I said:

“Rex Ryan (Bills): Like Jason Garrett above, he may be looking at a season where a sterling record is highly improbable. Nonetheless, given the braggadocio and the setting of ultra-high expectations that is the hallmark of any Rex Ryan press conference, he might be out of a job come January if the team falls below .500. For the record, Ryan has an overall losing record as a head coach (54-58-0) and his last winning season was back in 2010.”

Today, I say that the Bills are still alive in the wild-card race in the AFC but they are indeed longshots there.  Looking at the schedule, finishing the season at 9-7 is an optimistic outlook from here to the end of the season.  I think Ryan’s seat is hot – but not en feugo – and that most of the heat comes from his continuing projection of his team as the best in the league, which they are not.

Teams doing badly this year who may have put their coaches in jeopardy include:


NY Jets:  Todd Bowles is not the reason the team is 3-8 but the fact is that the team is 3-8 and in NYC that is about as much fun as a splinter under your thumbnail.

Cleveland Browns:  Yes, they are 0-12 but with that roster, they would have needed incredible luck just to be 2-10.  In addition, owner Jimmy Haslem has hired and fired so many coaches and GMs in the past few years that he might not be able to get any top-shelf candidates even to take his phone calls come January.  Hue Jackson’s job is – and ought to be – safe.

Indy Colts:  Yes, Chuck Pagano got a contract extension last year.  However, someone should be responsible for that roster and the year-after-year demonstration of the same roster flaws.  Maybe he stays and the GM goes?  Maybe not…

Green Bay Packers:  If the Packers finish 6-10 …

Chicago Bears:  John Fox has shown that he can coach in the NFL but trying to win games with Matt Barkley at QB goes beyond the realm of “coaching  ‘em up”.   Probably, the best the team can achieve this year is 5-11 – and more likely 3-13 – so a coaching change in Chicago is certainly not out of the question.

Arizona Cardinals:  The Cards are 4-6-1 as of this morning and many folks thought they could be Super Bowl participants in February 2017.  If they finish 6-9-1, will the owners see this as a coaching failure or will they recognize that the team needs a roster overhaul – including an upgrade at QB?  Remember, the Bidwell’s own the Cardinals…


Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times regarding coaching in another sport in another country:

“Former Czech Republic hockey coach Vladimir Ruzicka, accused of taking $20,750 from a player’s father who said he paid to let his son play, has been convicted of fraud.

“In other words, this Czech didn’t clear.”

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



A Mish-Mash Monday …

A few days ago, I noted that the LA Rams had won two games this year without scoring a TD in either game.  I suggested that this sort of thing may have happened for frequently “in the 30s and 40s” but that I could not recall it happening recently.  Even though I should have, I did not expect an e-mail response from the reader in Houston who is the repository for sports history and stats.  Here is what he provided;

“In the 1920’s, there were 77 games in which a team won without scoring a TD. There were also a load of 0-0 and 3-3 ties and some 6-6 games that no TD was scored during that period. Please note that in the 20s, the average number of games per year was less than 80.

“In the 1930’s, there were 37 such games won without scoring a TD and there were still ties, but not as many as the previous decades. Please note that in the 30s, the average number of games per year was less than 55.

“In the 1940’s, there were only 4 such games and that includes both the NFL and the four years of the AAFC.

“More recently, there were no NFL games from 2013 to 2015 in which the winning team scored fewer than 10 points, but there have been two this season: the two mentioned above. LA is the first team since the 1997 Bills to win two games in one season in which it scored fewer than 10 points. Buffalo did that in Marv Levy’s final season as its head coach, with victories against Indy and Miami, each by a 9-6 score on all field goals.”

A tip of the hat in the compass direction aimed at Houston, TX for that information…

There was a minor tempest in a teacup a few weeks ago when Dallas Mavericks’ owner, Mark Cuban, pulled the press credentials from two ESPN reporters because ESPN made a decision he did not like.  Evidently, ESPN decided that one of the two reporters would not cover the Mavs exclusively this year but would also cover the NBA “in general”.  Cuban took exception and refused to give the reporters press credentials which kept them away from the team and the locker rooms.

Since Cuban owns the team, he has every right to hand out press credentials however he sees fit.  Some people immediately screamed that this was a “First Amendment issue” which it most certainly is not.  Later as it became advantageous for both Cuban and ESPN to modify their positions without appearing to give in to the other side, the basis for Cuban’s actions somehow became associated with “robot reporting” of sports stories as a new trend in that field.  Both sides here could agree that “robo-reporting” was “bad”; ESPN could wave the banner of “quality in journalism” while Cuban could stake out a position as a “defender of jobs for journalists”.  In any event, everyone kissed and made up…

However, when I look at the NBA standings this morning, I note that the Dallas Mavericks’ record is 3-13 and that record is the worst in the NBA at the moment.  Indeed, the Mavs are trailing both the Sixers and the Nets in the standings – albeit not by much – as of this morning.  Perhaps, the Mavericks would be treated more kindly by a “robo-reporter” than a “quality journalist” given the product on the floor.  Just a thought…

Last week, the NCAA announced that Notre Dame would have to vacate its football victories from 2012 and 2013 because a student-trainer did academic work for some of the players on those teams which is a violation of NCAA rules and thereby made those players ineligible.  Ergo …

That sounds pretty cut and dried but when you look just a bit closer, you begin to see frayed edges on the fabric of this decision.  Consider:

  1. Notre Dame discovered this on its own and suspended multiple players for academic violations on its own. The NCAA super-sleuths and the NCAA Committee on Infractions had no idea this was going on until Notre Dame informed them of the problem.
  2. The “punishment” is feckless to the Nth degree. In 2012, Notre Dame played Alabama in the BCS Championship Game.  Vacating all the wins prior to that game does not take them out of that game and put a different team in there to play Alabama.  Is anyone to believe that the 12 teams that lost to Notre Dame prior to the BCS Championship game actually won those games?
  3. More on the feckless punishment … From this point forward, Notre Dame will suffer exactly nothing for something that the Committee on Infractions thought was sufficiently heinous that it had to issue a punishment 4 years after the fact.  There is no loss of scholarships – nor should there be; there is no ban from post-season play – nor should there be.  The football program will proceed apace from here on save for the silliness of “vacated wins” in the past.
  4. Hold on, here comes “the hammer” from the NCAA mavens … In addition to vacating those wins, Notre Dame must pay a fine of $5K and the school had to take the public reprimand from the NCAA.  To which I say:


Finally, in the aftermath of Thanksgiving week, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding something we may not have realized we should be thankful for:

“Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks that none of the three NFL games featured the Cleveland Browns.”

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


Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/26/16


Last week’s NCAA Mythical Picks were pretty boring – continuing a trend of monotony for the last 3 weeks.  Last week the record was 6-6-0 – hardly very exciting.  Over the past 3 weeks, the record has been 20-20-0 – hardly very exciting.  For the entire season, the cumulative record is just a tad less boring standing at 97-85-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Iowa St. +3 against Texas Tech.  Iowa St won the game 66-10.
  • Michigan St. +22 against Ohio St.  Ohio St. won by 1 point.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Utah – 14 against Oregon.  Utah lost the game straight up.
  • Oklahoma St/TCU OVER 70.5.  Total Score was 37.

Despite the ennui that has set in over the past 3 weeks regarding these picks, I shall soldier on.  Let me take a moment, however, to remind anyone and everyone reading these picks that one would have to be extremely stupid to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money.  How stupid?

You might name your cell phone Titanic because it is always syncing.


General Comments:


The Linfield College Wildcats won their first-round game in the Division III national playoffs beating Hardin-Simmons 24-10 in Abilene, TX.  That makes the Linfield record for the season 9-1 and this week they get to avenge that single loss.  This week, the Wildcats go back to Texas – this time to Belton, TX – to take on Mary Hardin-Baylor.  When those teams met back on September 17th in that same stadium, Mary Hardin-Baylor prevailed comfortably by a score of 66-27.  Here is a perspective on that score:

  • Mary Hardin-Baylor scored 66 points in 60 minutes (1.1 points per minute).
  • In the other 9 games (540 minutes), Linfield allowed a total of 109 points (0.2 points per minute).

Go Wildcats!

The Eagles of Eastern Washington concluded their regular season at 10-1 with a win over Portland St. last weekend.  The Eagles have a BYE into the second round of the Division 1-AA playoffs as the second seed in the 24-team tournament.  Next week they will meet the winner of the Central Arkansas/Illinois St. game this week.

Eagles’ WR, Cooper Kupp had a mundane game as compared to some of his other performances.  He caught 6 passes for 67 Yards.  That’s it; no more and no less…  Go Eagles!

Western Michigan extended its record to 11-0 last week with a 38-0 beatdown of the Buffalo Bulls.  I am not trying to suggest that W. Michigan belongs in the CFP because I think they do not based on the strength of their schedule.  However, I doubt that any team in the middle echelon of one of the “power five” conferences would want to play them this week or next week for a winner-takes-all purse from the game…

The PAC-12 probably had the most interesting action last week.  Colorado beat Washington St putting Colorado in control in the PAC-12 South race.  The Buffaloes have only 1 conference loss; if they win this week against Utah, they will be the PAC-12 South representative in the PAC-12 championship game because USC has 2 conference losses.  Colorado is 9-2 for the year and its two losses are respectable:

  • They lost to Michigan in Ann Arbor but led in the game.
  • They lost to USC once the Trojans got themselves in a groove.

Most of the attention in the PAC-12 this year has been focused on Washington and USC; I think Colorado’s season has been underappreciated – particularly considering their 9 wins this year compared to their 10 wins in the past three seasons combined.  The CFP Selection Committee will not consider this stat, but there are lots of Colorado boosters and lots of football fans of the “Las Vegas variety” who are impressed by the fact that:

  • Colorado is 10-1 against the spread this year.

Arizona lost to Oregon St. last week 42-17 in a game that had no meaning whatsoever in terms of the PAC-12.  However, those fans of the “Las Vegas variety” took note of the score because Arizona is the mirror-image of Colorado in two ways:

  1. Arizona is at the bottom of the PAC-12 standings not at the top
  2. Arizona is 1-10 against the spread this year.

Utah lost in the final couple of seconds last week to Oregon is a huge upset.  The Utes were 14-point favorites and I took them in last week’s Mythical Picks thinking they would run a way and hide from Oregon.  That loss eliminates Utah from the possibility of playing for the PAC-12 championship and opens the door for USC – should Colorado lose this week.

USC handled UCLA 36-14.  The story of this game is contained in these two stats:

  1. USC total offense = 537 yards
  2. UCLA total offense = 266 yards

Down in SEC country, Florida beat LSU to win the SEC East and give itself a date to play Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.  Florida won by 6 points and had to put up a goal line stand in the final seconds to preserve the win.  LSU had 2 tries from the 1 yardline and could not get in at the end of the game.  LSU dominated the stat sheet:

  • LSU total offense = 423 yards
  • Florida total offense = 270 yards

However, LSU was inefficient in the Red Zone.  Twice they had the ball inside the Florida 10 yardline and came away totally dry; on a third visit, LSU had the ball first and goal at the 3 yardline and had to settle for a field goal.  Given the final score was 16-10, that Red Zone inefficiency lost the game for the Tigers in Baton Rouge.

In the Big 10, Ohio St. escaped an upset by Michigan St. by a score of 17-16.  Michigan St. tried and failed to convert a 2-point try with less than 5 minutes left in the game.  That would have provided the margin of victory for the Spartans but Ohio St. held.

Penn St. kept itself on track to be the Big 10 East representative in the Big 10 Championship Game beating Rutgers 39-0.  If Penn St. wins this week against Michigan St. and if Ohio St. beats Michigan, Penn St. goes to that playoff game because it beat Ohio St. head-to-head.  If that were to happen, it would give the CFP Selection Committee agita.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma St. beat TCU 31-6.  The upshot here is that the final regular season game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. in Norman, OK will be a big deal.  The championship of the Big 12 will be decided there.

Oklahoma put itself in that position by continuing to lead the Big 12 with an easy win over West Virginia 56-28.  Oklahoma led 28-0 in the first half and coasted home.  West Virginia turned the ball over so many times, it might appear that they put that sort of thing into their game plan:

  • They fumbled a punt away.
  • Twice they lost fumbles inside the Oklahoma 10 yardline in the 2nd quarter.
  • They threw a Pick Six.

K-State beat Baylor 42-21.  This makes 4 losses in a row for Baylor even though they led this game 14-7 at halftime.  Then the air went out of the Baylor balloon…

In the most surprising result of the week in Big 12 games, Iowa St. beat Texas Tech 66-10.  That is not a typo; that was really the score.  At halftime Iowa St. led 45-3.  Tech entered the game ranked third in the country in points per game (46) and had games where their passing offense was north of 500 yards.  Against Iowa St. – a team that was on the SHOE watchlist – the Tech total offense was only 306 yards and they were 4 for 14 on third down conversions.

This week Texas Tech and Baylor meet.  The ultimate question for that game is:


Which team is on the steeper downhill slope about now?


The Ponderosa Games:


Last week we had 10 Ponderosa Games and the record for favorites covering in those games was 4-6-0.  For the season, the record for favorites covering in Ponderosa games stands at 42-45-1.

BYU, Penn St., Western Michigan and Wisconsin covered.

Appalachian St., Boise St., Michigan, Texas, Texas A&M and Washington did not cover.

This week we have 8 Ponderosa Games:


(Fri Nite) Cincinnati at Tulsa – 24 (63):  There are about a dozen games on tap for the day after Thanksgiving.  Surely you can find a more interesting one than this…


Carolina at Clemson – 24 (50): A big rivalry game known as the Palmetto Bowl. Clemson is one of the best teams in the country – probably Top 5; South Carolina is a mediocre team – probably Top 75…


Syracuse at Pitt – 24.5 (67):  This game has the potential to be a high-scoring shootout.  Neither defense is memorable…


Kansas at Kansas St. – 26.5 (54):  If Kansas pulls another straight-up win as a Ponderosa underdog this week, someone needs to analyze their sideline Gatorade…


Troy – 27 at Texas St. (59):  Why is this game interesting?  It surely is not important but I cannot even find a reason to say it is interesting.  Oh, it is a Sun Belt Conference game.  Big deal…


W. Kentucky – 24 at Marshall (65): This is a C-USA game. Other than that, it is a “Who Cares Game”…


Rice at Stanford – 36 (54):  High SAT scores on the field and in the stands for this contest …


Kentucky at Louisville – 26.5 (75):  These schools are far more equally matched in basketball than they are in football…


The SHOE Teams:


Kansas has to come off the list for this week after winning as a Ponderosa underdog over Texas last week.  A blowout loss at Kansas St. this week might put them back on the list, but for a week they get a reprieve.

Here are by 8 SHOE Tournament candidates as of this week:


Bowling Green: 3-8 against MAC competition

Buffalo: 2-9 against MAC competition and they lost to Kent St. by 24 points

Fresno St.:  Record is 1-10.  Enough said…

Kent St.: 3-8 against MAC competition and they lost to Bowling Green by 35 last week

Rutgers: 2-9 record and 4 shutouts where they lost by a total of 224-0.

UMass: 2-9 record and 7 losses by double digits

UTEP:  3-8 and lost to Rice last week by 20 points.


Here are 6 teams that are still bad enough that I cannot be sure they will not sink to the level of a SHOE Tournament invitation:


  1. Arizona
  2. Kansas
  3. New Mexico St.
  4. Rice
  5. Texas St.
  6. Virginia


Games of Interest:


(Fri afternoon) Buffalo at Bowling Green – 13.5 (59):  Two SHOE Teams in a pillow-fight of a football game…


(Fri evening) Toledo at W. Michigan – 9 (69):  W. Michigan tries to extend its record to 12-0 for the season.  Toledo is 9-2.  The winner advances to the MAC Championship Game.  There should be lots of offense in this game; both teams score around 40 points per game on average.  Just for fun, I’ll take the game to go OVER.


(Fri afternoon) TCU at Texas – 3 (69):  Can a win for the Longhorns here save Charlie Strong’s job?  How big would that win have to be?  No pick in this game but it might have an interesting outcome.


(Fri afternoon) Boise St. – 9 at Air Force (64):  These teams bring a combined 18-4 record to this game.  Boise St. still hopes to be the “Non-Power Five” invitee to the Cotton Bowl game.  Air Force is also going to a bowl game but not that one.  Make this a venue call, I’ll take Air Force plus the points.


(Fri afternoon) Washington – 6 at Washington St (64.5):  This is the Apple Cup game; it is a major rivalry game in the great Northwest.  On top of the rivalry this year, the winner of this game will be the PAC-12 North champion and will play either Colorado or USC in the PAC-12 Championship game.  Washington’s loss for the year has been to a very good USC team.  Washington St. lost to a very good Colorado team and to Boise St.  I can deal with those…  The problem is that it lost to E. Washington – a very good Division 1-AA team but nonetheless a 1-AA team.  I like Washington to win and cover here.


(Fri evening) Texas Tech at Baylor – 5 (85):  Both teams probably cannot wait for this season to end.  This game is interesting only because it could represent a train wreck for one – or both – teams…


(Fri evening) Arizona St. – 3 at Arizona (68):  A big rivalry game between a mediocre Arizona St team and a bad Arizona team.  A blowout loss for Arizona could put them on the SHOE list…


Rutgers at Maryland – 13.5 (52):    Maryland needs a win to be bowl-eligible.  This game is at home against a SHOE Team.  If Maryland loses this game, the Big 10 should kick them out of the conference.  Of course, the Big 10 should kick Rutgers out no matter what the outcome here.


W Virginia – 7 at Iowa St. (57):  Is the Iowa St that clobbered Texas Tech last week the team that is going to show up here?  Can they catch lightening in a bottle again?  I don’t think so.  I like West Virginia to win and cover here.


Michigan St. at Penn St – 12.5 (54.5):  The question here is if Penn St. can keep its Big 10 Championship Game hopes alive.  If they win the Big 10 East, it will be fun and games for the CFP Selection Committee…


Minnesota at Wisconsin – 15 (44):  A Wisconsin win will assure that they will be in the big 10 Championship Game to take on whoever comes out of the East division.


Georgia Tech at Georgia – 4 (49):  A big rivalry game here…  These teams prefer to run the ball at one another meaning the clock should be running a lot.  I like this game to stay UNDER.


Virginia at Va Tech – 18 (54.5):  A big rivalry game here …  Even so, I am surprised that this line is so low.  Virginia is not a good team; they could be a SHOE Team.  Va Tech is not a great team but they are 8-3.  I like Va Tech to win and cover at home.


Auburn at Alabama – 17 (45.5):  A humongous rivalry game here …  Auburn lives and dies with its run game.  I don’t think they can do much business running the ball against Alabama.  I’ll take Alabama to win and cover at home.


Oregon – 3 at Oregon St. (71.5):  A big rivalry game here; they call it the Civil War.  I don’t think either team is any good so it is interesting only because of its rivalry status.


Utah at Colorado – 10 (54):  As noted above, a win for Colorado puts them in the PAC -12 championship Game against the winner of Washington/Washington St.  Utah took themselves out of contention for that slot with its loss to Oregon last week.  I think this will be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Florida at Florida St. – 7.5 (45.5):  A big rivalry game here…  Given the Florida St. defense and the lack of an offense by Florida, I can see the Gators putting 10-13 points on the scoreboard.  The Florida defense is very good so I do not see Florida St. running wild but they should be able to muster 20 points.  I’ll take Florida St. and lay the points.


Tennessee – 7.5 at Vandy (54):  A big rivalry game here …  Tennessee has been disappointing this year after conjuring up enough hype to have folks think they were a top 10 team early on and might just challenge Alabama for SEC dominance.  Yeah, right!  The Tennessee defense ranks 98th in the country giving up 446.7 yards per game.  Vandy gives up 401.3.  This is a rivalry game where the team at home has the better defense and the home field advantage AND it is getting more than a TD’s worth of points.  I like Vandy plus the points at home.


Michigan at Ohio St – 6.5 (45.5):  A humongous rivalry game here … Michigan will have to play spectacular defense here to win this game; their starting QB for most of the year will not suit up for the game.  I do not think they can do that for 60 minutes against Ohio St in Columbus.  I like Ohio St. to win and cover.


Notre Dame at USC – 17.5 (57):  A big rivalry game here …  Normally, the spread for this game does not get into “three possession territory”.  However, this Notre Dame team has been anything but dominant this year beating only the likes of Nevada, Syracuse, Army and Miami (FL).  Meanwhile, USC is playing top-shelf football at the end of this season; they lost 3 early games but have not lost since September.  Purely a hunch here; I’ll take Notre Dame plus the points.

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



Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/27/16


Last week was mythically profitable for the NFL Picks.  I made 14 selections and the record for the week was 9-4-1.  Since the start of the NFL season, the combined weekly results lead to a record of 91-55-4.

Two games last week were relegated to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin’s record was 1-0-1.  So far this season, the coin has been more successful that one should expect from a flipped coin; the cumulative record is 11-8-2.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Bucs +7.5 against Chiefs.  Bucs won straight up.
  • Steelers – 7.5 against Browns.  Steelers won by 15 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Bills/Bengals OVER 47.  Total score was only 28 points.
  • Cards over Vikes “pick ‘em”.  Vikes won by 6 points.

Notwithstanding last week’s mythical profitability, I must remind everyone that there is no inside information nor any unique insight contained in these Mythical Picks; they are not and should not be taken as authoritative.  No one should use anything written here as the basis for making a real wager on areal NFL game this weekend if the wager involves real money.  Here is how stupid you would have to be to do something like that:

If I told you that Christmas fell on Friday this year, you would hope it was not a Friday the 13th.


General Comments:


For reasons of Thanksgiving Holiday social commitments, these comments will be significantly curtailed this week.  Last week, the Cleveland Browns gave up 8 sacks in their loss to the Steelers.  As you might imagine, teams that give up 8 sacks in a game are highly likely to come out on the short end of the stick.  The Browns have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and Thanksgiving Day is not yet upon us.  That is something else that happens to teams that yield 8 sacks in a game…

That loss set the Browns record for the 2016 season at 0-11 meaning they must now be watched carefully in terms of becoming only the second team in the NFL ever to go winless in a 16-game season.  The Lions sank to those depths in 2008.

Let me project for a moment that the 2016 Browns will match that level of incompetence and fail to win a game this year.  If that is the case, you know that people will try to compare the two levels of ignominy to identify which team was more inept.  Let me offer some data here for your cogitation:

  1. In 2008, the Detroit Lions were 4-0 in the Exhibition Season and then lost every game in the regular season.  One could argue that this demonstrates the abject meaninglessness of the Exhibition Season games; or one could argue that this record demonstrated that the 2008 Lions had a small kernel of talent/competency at the core.
  2. In 2016, the Cleveland Browns were 0-4 in the Exhibition Season and – if my surmise here were to come to pass – they would then have lost every game in the regular season too.  They would have lost 20 games in the 2016 season when on the same field with professional competition.

Think about it for a while because come January 2017, I believe this will be a topic of discussion in sports commentaries…

With the Steelers win over the Browns last week and with the Ravens loss to the Cowboys, the Steelers and Ravens are tied atop the AFC North division.  The two teams have gotten there in opposite ways.  The Ravens win on defense and have prevailed in a lot of really close games; the Steelers go out and outscore opponents.  The Ravens’ defense did a good job in containing Ezekiel Elliott until a final long run from scrimmage added significantly to his yardage total for the game.  Not to worry though if you are a Cowboys’ fan; Dak Prescott stepped up and delivered 301 yards and 3 TD passes for the day to win the game comfortably.

For the past several seasons, the Bengals have joined the Steelers and Ravens in dominating the AFC North and finding ways to get more than one team from that division into the playoffs.  That is not looking to be likely this year.  As of this morning the Bengals record is 3-6-1 and the future looks grim.  In the Bengals’ loss last week to the Bills, the Bengals appear to have lost the services of AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard for the rest of the year.  That takes a big chunk out of a Bengals’ offense that has only produced 20 points per game this year.

I wonder if this downturn in success by the Bengals will put Marvin Lewis’ job in jeopardy.  Going into the season, Lewis had made the playoffs for 5 straight years and had lost in the first playoff game each time.  Some speculated that he would need to win a playoff game or wind up looking for a new gig.  At least one columnist in Cincy is turning up the heat already.  Stay tuned …

The Seahawks beat the Eagles by 11 points behind a very good game from Russell Wilson.  It was not a spectacular win but it was very workmanlike.  As of this morning, I think the Cowboys and the Seahawks are the two best teams in the NFC by a significant margin.  They do not meet in the regular season; I suspect they will meet in January 2017…

In the NFC North, the Lions and Vikes have the same 6-4 record.  The Lions own the tiebreaker here based on a win over the Vikes a couple of weeks ago.  The teams meet in the early game on Thanksgiving Day and I have to say that it has been a while since the “early game” on Thanksgiving Day had inherent significance for both participants.  Both of these teams won last week.

The Vikes cracked a 4-game losing streak with a 30-24 win over the Cards.  The Lions beat the Jags 26-19.  There was an eerie similarity in the way these two teams won:

  • Both teams had a Pick Six last week.  The Vikes was a 100-yard return.
  • The Lions returned a punt for a TD.
  • The Vikes returned a kickoff for a TD.

Could be an interesting time on Thursday afternoon …

In their loss to the Lions last week, the Jags gave up that punt return for a TD and that Pick Six and threw in yet another INT.  The Jags are 2-8 so far this year.  Are you surprised?

In the Cards’ loss to the Vikes – giving the Cards a 4-5-1 record for the year – it sure looked to me as if Carson Palmer’s career arc was on a steep downward slope.  We saw what happened last year when the team had to play backups at QB and it was not pretty.  Perhaps the Cards are in for a “tear-down/rebuild” project?

The Chiefs loss to the Bucs in KC was a surprise and it may be a loss that comes back to haunt the Chiefs somewhere down the road.  It was the Chiefs’ first loss at home this year.

The Rams led the dolphins 10-0 with 5 minutes to play in the game.  Up to then, the Rams’ defense had dominated the game; the Dolphins gained a total of 88 yards on offense in the first 55 minutes of the game.  Then the Rams gave up 2 TDs in the final 5 minutes to allow the Dolphins to win their 5th game in a row.  The first 11 possessions for the Dolphins ended as such:

  • 10 punts
  • 1 INT

Then came the deluge…  Jared Goff made his first start for the Rams; he was 17 for 31 for 134 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs.  Let me label that as “less than fully satisfactory” and leave it at that…


The Games:


All 32 teams are in action this week.  The final teams with BYE Weeks for the 2016 season will take them next week.


(Thurs Early Afternoon) Minnesota at Detroit – 2.5 (43): This game means a ton to the Lions.  If they win, they will be one game ahead of the Vikes in the NFC North standings on the basis of wins and losses and will be two games ahead in reality because they will have won both head-to-head games this season.  I know, by inversion, that means the game means a lot to the Vikes too.  I have a hunch that last week’s win – ugly as it was – over the Cards gave the Vikes a new lease on life in the NFC North and that they will carry that forward here.  I’ll take the Vikes plus the points.


(Thurs Late Afternoon) Washington at Dallas – 7 (51):  This is not the Game of the Week – – but it is indeed the Game of Thanksgiving Day.  Why the NFL scheduled the Skins to play on Sunday night last week and then had to go on the road to play on Thursday afternoon this week for their subsequent game is something known only to the folks on mahogany row in NFL HQs.  The Skins are playing very well and Kirk Cousins is playing to prove that his $20M salary this year is a baseline for this upcoming long-term contract negotiations.  Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are playing on rookie contracts that cannot see as high as $20M annually without a 100-inch telescope.  I said above that I think the Cowboys and the Seahawks are the class of the NFC; this is the time for class to show itself.  I’ll take the Cowboys and lay the points.


(Thurs Nite) Pittsburgh – 3 at Indy (54):  Short and sweet here…  I think the Steelers are the better team and I think that they are poised to make a late season run to assure themselves the AFC North title.  I like the Steelers to win and cover – even on the road.


San Diego at Houston – 2 (46.5):  The Texans hold a 1-game lead over the Colts and a 1.5 game lead over the Titans in the AFC South.  This game means a lot to them regarding the AFC playoffs.  The Chargers are not going to make even a slight noise – not even a whimper – in the AFC West but that is because the three teams above them are really good – – much better than the Texans.  I like the Chargers plus the points here because I think the Texans are nothing more than the best of a sorry lot – so far this year – in the AFC South.


Tennessee – 3 at Chicago (42.5):  I know that I took the Bears last week and that they covered last week.  Nonetheless, the Bears lost last week.  I think the Titans are the better team here and I think the Titans would love to take this opportunity to win a game on the road as a favorite just to get some of the “disbelieving media” to shut up.  I like the Titans to win and cover.


Jax at Buffalo – 7.5 (45.5):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  At 5-5, the Bills are not out of the wild-card race; they are not in good shape in that race, but they can still play to achieve that objective.  The Bills’ problem is that they are anything but consistent.  The Jags are an underachieving hot puddle of pig puke.  I am turning this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.


Cincy at Baltimore – 4 (40.5):  Both teams will know the outcome of the Steelers/Colts game from Thursday nite.  Both teams will see that outcome and recognize that a Steelers’ loss will give them a huge opportunity here and that a Steelers’ win will put the loser of this game in a disadvantageous position.  In fact, in the latter case, if the Steelers win and Bengals lose, the Bengals are probably toast.  I think the two injuries cited above (AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard) will doom the Bengals on the scoreboard.  My hesitation here is that the Ravens do not know how to put teams away; they always seem to find a way to make a game come down to the final two or three plays.  With trepidation, I’ll take the Ravens and lay the points.


Arizona at Atlanta – 4 (50):  Arizona needs this win if it is going to continue to consider the playoffs as anything more than a fairy tale.  As of this morning, the Cards trail the Seahawks in the NFC West by 3 full games; after this contest, there will be only 5 more games in the regular season.  The Falcons are still living off the huge cushion they created with their fast start to the regular season; the Falcons are a game ahead of the Bucs in the NFC South.  I think the Falcons will be able to throw the ball and score on the Cards’ defense despite the statistical advantage the Cards enjoy on defense in this game.  On the other hand, the Falcons’ secondary is nothing to write home about (28th in the NFL giving up 283 yards per game) and if the Cards cannot throw and score on it, then the Cards are finito.  I agree with the oddsmaker here; this game will be a shoot-out and will not be decided until the final few minutes of the game.  I will make this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Falcons to win and cover.


SF at Miami – 8 (45.5):  I am trying to think of some sort of “advantage” that the Niners might enjoy in this contest.  Given the venue, the distance they have to travel, the talent deficit they suffer and the motivation factor on the side of their opponents, it is hard to like anything about the Niners here.  I’ll take the Dolphins to win and cover at home giving them their 6th straight win.


LA at New Orleans – 7.5 (46):  Short and sweet here …  I was underwhelmed by Jared Goff’s opening act last week at home.  On the road in a raucous atmosphere like the Superdome, I think he will have difficulty – – even against the Saints defense (28th in the NFL in passing yards per game and 14th in the NFL in rushing yards per game).  I’ll take the Saints and lay the points.


Giants – 7 at Cleveland (44.5):  The Browns yielded 8 sacks last week; the Giants defense can rush the passer.  The Browns’ running game is meek (25th in the NFL).  I do not see the Browns lighting up the scoreboard here.  On the flip side, the Giants are primarily a passing team.  The Browns’ secondary has given up more TD passes than any other defense in the NFL – 25 so far this year.  I like the Giants to win and cover on the road.


Seattle – 6 at Tampa (45):  I do think the Seahawks are the better team here.  However, that transcontinental trip to the game does not make me anxious to lay 6 points.  I sense a defensive game here so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Carolina at Oakland – 3.5 (48):  Under normal circumstances, I would think that this is one of the less meaningful games on both team’s schedules.  It is not a division game; it is not even a conference game.  However, the Raiders are alone in first place in the AFC West and enjoy the same overall record as the Patriots.  They are motivated to hold their playoff positioning.  Meanwhile the Panthers are in last place in the NFC South but they are only 2 games out of first place there; they are actually in better shape to win their division at the moment than they are to be a wild card team.  They too are motivated for this game if they still harbor playoff dreams.  The Raiders prevailed last week over the Texans but gave up 243 yards to Brock Osweiler in the process; Cam Newton is better than that.  I like the Panthers plus the points here.


New England – 7.5 at Jets (46.5):  This spread opened at 9 points but quickly dropped to 8 points and is now at this level at most of the sportsbooks as of this morning.  I assume that the Jets will start Bryce Petty at QB again this week; I cannot see them going back to Ryan Fitzpatrick again this year absent a dire emergency circumstance and the fact that they put Petty out there instead of Christian Hackenberg tells me that they think Petty is the “more advanced student” at this time.  If I am right, then the Jets will enter the game with an over-matched QB who is not ready for the sorts of subtleties that the Pats’ defense can show him.  I think this could be a rout – even though the Jets’ defense is solid (11th in the NFL in total defense).  I’ll take the Pats and lay the points – even in the Big Apple.


(Sun Nite) KC at Denver – 3.5 (39):  This is the Game of the Week.  These teams are tied for second place – and for the two wild card slots in the AFC – each with a record of 7-3.  The loser here should find itself tied with the dolphins for the second wild card slot in the AFC while the winner would either be in the driver’s seat for the first slot or might be tied with the Raiders for the division lead.  This is a big game but it is not the only time these squads will see each other this year; they will meet again in KC on Christmas Night.  I think this will be a defense-dominated game where points will be at a premium.  In games like this, I like to take the points so I’ll take the Chiefs plus the points here.


(Mon Nite) Green Bay at Philly – 4 (47.5):  The Packers are 1-4 on the road; they have lost 4 games in a row; they have a ton of injuries; there is not much to recommend them here except that they have Aaron Rodgers at QB and even if this is indeed a down year for him compared to other seasons, he is still a great QB.  The Eagles are 4-0 at home; they lost last week to a better team but more importantly they lost 2 RBs in the game to injuries; Carson Wentz may indeed be their QB of the future, but he is not yet anything close to Aaron Rodgers.  I can make a case against both squads here so I’ll turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol.  The coin says to take the Packers plus the points.

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


Whither Tony Romo … ?

For about the last 6 or 8 weeks, one of the “go-to topics” for sports radio and/or studio analyst discussion on TV was this:

  • Should Dak Prescott keep the Cowboys’ QB job once Tony Romo is healthy?

The two sides of that “debate” never really varied from some tried and true lines of “reasoning”:

  1. A player should not lose his job due to an injury.
  2. A winner on the field should stay on the field – the Tom Brady/Drew Bledsoe outcome.

All that was at least marginally interesting for the first half-dozen times I had to listen to it but it did start to wear thin quickly and then it became rather annoying for the next 500 times I heard it.  Now that the “fundamental question” has been resolved by the Cowboys, I believe there is a very real “existential” question that should be considered – and was not considered in any of the “debates” I heard previously:

  • Given that the Cowboys will owe Tony Romo $14M as a base salary in 2017 and that his salary cap hit will be approximately $24-25M, can the Cowboys afford to pay that kind of money for a backup QB?

At first blush, the answer seems obvious; how can any team spend about 15% of its salary cap money on a backup player at any position?  Well, the Cowboys have enough young players that they were able to fit everyone in under this year’s cap with Tony Romo sucking down a similar percentage and what he has given the team so far is exactly what a backup QB would be expected to give to the team.  Rather than speculating on whether or how the capologists in Dallas will juggle the numbers, I prefer to ask a different question because it deals with football and not with bookkeeping:


If – I said IF – the Cowboys were to decide to release Tony Romo and suffer the consequences of the “dead money” that his release would engender, whither Tony Romo?


Obviously, he could choose to retire from the NFL.  I am not authoritative when it comes to unraveling the intricacies of NFL contracts and bonuses and cap hits and the like but my calculations say that Tony Romo will have earned somewhere in the neighborhood of $115M over the course of his career with the Cowboys at the end of the 2016 season.  Absent a terminal case of financial blockheadedness, that ought to mean that Tony Romo and his family should be financially secure for life; he should not be worrying a lot about how much his Social Security check will be about 30 years hence.

But suppose he wants to continue to play QB in the NFL and he is a free agent who can go wherever he wants.  I am now going to engage in mind-reading and as I have certified many times in the past, I have exactly no skills in that area.  In actuality, this is nothing more than a pro football version of omphaloskepsis.  I would not imagine that Tony Romo at age 36 would be interested in going to a team on the skids right now to be part of a 5-year program to rebuild a franchise.  Translation:  I do not see him in a Cleveland Browns’ uniform or a SF Niners’ uniform.  I also think you can strike a line through any team that has either a Pro Bowl QB as a starter now or a team that has committed to a young QB already.  Translation: I do not see him in a Detroit Lions’ uniform or an Atlanta Falcons’ uniform AND I do not see him in a Philadelphia Eagles’ uniform or an Oakland Raiders’ uniform.

I can imagine him playing for a team where as a starter he might represent an upgrade at QB for a team that has lots of strengths in areas of the game.  Who might those teams be?


Arizona Cardinals – I think Carson Palmer is going downhill rapidly.

Denver Broncos – Siemian is not the long-term answer.  Paxton Lynch is a question mark.

Houston Texans – might they have a giant case of buyer’s remorse already?

KC Chiefs – the longest shot of the teams on the board here

LA Rams – good defense, good running back, mediocre quarterbacks on the roster.

Minnesota Vikings – Bradford is signed only thru 2017

NY Jets – do not think I need explain any further here.


My point here is that if the Cowboys and Tony Romo decide to “go in different directions” come next Spring and if the Cowboys wish Tony Romo the “best of luck in his future endeavors”, there is about 20% of the NFL out there where he might fit in as a starting QB who could have a significantly positive impact on team fortunes.

Tony Romo lost his starting job in Dallas.  What might be next if he loses his clipboard holding job in Dallas?

Finally, here is a word from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“English golfer Ian Poulter, in fit of pique, took a club and whacked his bag a few times — shattering not only his cellphone, but his caddie’s, too.

“That was certainly uncalled for.”

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

Texas Football Takes A Hit…

In last week’s NCAA Mythical Picks, I said that if Texas lost to Kansas, I would not be surprised if Charlie Strong was fired on the spot and had to rent a car to make his way home to Texas.  Well, Texas indeed lost to Kansas in one of the more embarrassing performances of the 2016 season – – but Charlie Strong was not banned from the team transportation home.  However, if you believe the reports showing up via many of the very reputable sports media, Charlie Strong is not long for the job in Texas. says that prominent boosters (note the use of the plural noun there) are putting “extreme pressure” on the administrators in charge of UT-Austin to fire Charlie Strong.  Make no mistake, Texas was one of the college football bluebloods from bygone days. However it could only hold onto the fantasy that it is still one of the elite college football programs in the US if it avoided losing to a team like Kansas who brought the following recent résumé to last Saturday’s game:


When Kansas beat Division 1-AA Rhode Island early this year at home, the student body stormed the field.  Rest assured, no college football program that pretends to be “upper echelon” would have students who thought that was a good idea.

It had been two full years since Kansas had beaten a Division 1-A opponent.  For most of the years of its existence, the Texas football program feasted on opponents like that.

Texas did not avoid that odious loss…


Also, according to the ESPN report, those same “prominent boosters” want Texas to hire Houston coach, Tom Herman and have him move about 150 miles to the northwest to put Texas back in the football spotlight that boosters remember from happier times in the past.  Look, there is no doubt that Tom Herman has done a wonderful job at Houston turning an ordinary team in the American Athletic Conference into a team that has earned national attention.  I am perfectly willing to stipulate that Tom Herman is a superb college football coach.  I also wish to put on the record that Charlie Strong did an outstanding job at Louisville before the Texas boosters who want him fired now pressured the school to go out and hire Charlie Strong.

The problem with the pressure that the boosters are putatively applying to the Texas administration is that the pressure is born of unrealistic expectations.  Many of the boosters recall the times when Darrell Royal ran the wishbone offense better than anyone could stop the wishbone offense and dominated college football year after year.  Those days are gone and many of the boosters who view those days as some sort of a birthright need to stop bleeding orange and recognize that Texas is no longer the dominant football force that it once was.  Big time boosters of collegiate athletic programs are not very good at looking at the world through “reality spectacles” and much prefer to don the “rose colored glasses”

Imagine if I were to make these two assumptions:

On top of those two assumptions fraught with optimism for a rapid resurrection of the Texas football fortunes, the fact remains that at Texas the head coach has to compete with the likes of Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. and TCU and Baylor and Kansas St. every year and those programs are better programs than what coaches in the American Athletic Conference  face annually:

  1. Cincy
  2. Carolina
  3. Memphis
  4. Navy
  5. SMU
  6. Temple
  7. Tulane
  8. Tulsa
  9. UCF
  10. UConn
  11. USF

Texas can become bowl-eligible if they win this week against TCU.  If Texas is hell-bent to fire him and hire Tom Herman who will be a hot property in the coaching carousel this winter, it would not surprise me to see someone else coach the Longhorns in whatever bowl game they might participate.  I fully anticipate that the separation of Charlie Strong from the Texas football program will be a public and messy affair…

In the NFL, the Cowboys lost in Week 1 and the Niners won in Week  Since those balmy days of September, these two teams have headed in opposite directions.  This morning the Cowboys are 9-1 riding a 9-game win streak.  This morning the Niners are 1-9 bearing up under the strain of a 9-game losing streak.  However, the Niners’ plight is even worse than that:

  • The Niners’ loss to the Pats this weekend was the 7th time this year that they lost by double digits.  They are not losing “squeakers”; they are on the short end of significant losses.
  • In 8 of their 9 straight losses, the Niners’ defense has allowed an opposing running back to go north of 100 yards in the game.  Just to be clear, that is not good…
  • Fan support is rapidly eroding.  I only saw the game on replay but by the middle of the third quarter, if you added the number of people wearing Pats’ gear to the number of empty seats, I think you would have had at least 60% of the stadium capacity – and maybe 70%.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald reacting to LeBron James’ signing of a 3-year contract extension with the Cavaliers worth $100M:

“That will take him through the next six Cavaliers head coaches.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/19/16


Last week was a minor speedbump for Mythical Picks.  I made 13 selections and the record for the week was 6-7-0.  That leaves the cumulative season record standing at 91-79-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • USC +9 against Washington.  USC won straight up by 13 points.
  • Georgia +10.5 against Auburn.  Georgia won straight up by 6 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Va Tech -10 against Ga Tech.  Va Tech lost the game by 10 points.
  • Texas -2 against W. Virginia.  Texas lost straight up.

No one ought to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NCAA football game this weekend.  Looking at last week’s results should make the folly of doing anything like that plain and obvious.  However, should anyone need convincing on that point, here is how stupid you would need be to do something like that:

You think a Roman Numeral is a number that cannot stand still.


General Comments:


The Linfield College Wildcats finished their regular season last week with a 27-10 victory at home over Pacific Lutheran.  The Wildcats record for the year is 8-1; they won the Northwest Conference going undefeated in conference games; they are going to be participants in the Division III football playoffs.  This week the team travels to Abilene, TX to take on Hardin-Simmons.  Interestingly, Hardin-Simmons has only 1 loss this year too and both Linfield and Hardin-Simmons lost to the same team – Mary Hardin-Baylor.  Go Wildcats!

The Eastern Washington Eagles also won last week defeating Idaho State 48-17.  That gives the Eagles a 9-1 record for the season with one game remaining before the Division 1-AA playoffs begin.  This week, the team visits Portland State.  The Eagles are scoring an average of 45.9 points per game this year.

Eagles’ WR, Cooper Kupp had another “versatile day” last week:

  • He caught 7 passes for 70 yards.
  • He ran the ball twice for 3 yards and 1 TD.
  • He was 1 for 1 in passing for 21 yards.
  • He returned a punt for 76 yards and a TD.

Just another day at the office…

After the first week of the college football season this year, Houston had upset then #3 ranked Oklahoma.  I – and others – thought an undefeated Houston team might crash the CFP events after the season was over and looked ahead to last night when Houston met Louisville.  It appeared to be the game on the Houston schedule that could trip them up.  A loss to Navy and then an inexplicable loss to SMU took Houston out of the running for any sort of consideration for the CFP and last night’s game with Louisville lost a lot of its glamor.

Last night is an example of why God inspired someone to invent the DVR.  I was able to watch the Saints/Panthers game and record the Houston/Louisville game at the same time.  Then I was able to watch the college game without ads or replay stoppages after the NFL game.  Life is good…

Houston demolished Louisville 36-10 and the domination was the Houston defense shutting down the vaunted Louisville offense and forcing turnovers.  Louisville’s net offense for the game was 313 yards and Houston recorded 11 – that is ELEVEN – sacks in the game.  Louisville came out of this week’s CFP Selection Committee deliberations ranked #5.  With Michigan and Ohio State in the Top 4 slated to play one another down the line, Louisville was “next in line” for an invitation.  After watching the way Louisville was rolled last night, I do not see any way for Louisville to make the playoffs.  That game was supposed to have the potential to welcome Houston as an outsider into the playoffs; what happened was that the game dismissed Louisville from playoff consideration.

At the upper echelon of college football, the CFP Selection Committee had to deal with three of its previous 4 top ranked teams losing last week.  Washington dropped out of the Top 4 and Ohio State jumped into the Top 4.  As of this moment here are the rankings:

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Michigan
  4. Clemson

That order is highly unlikely to prevail to the end of the season since there is a game between Ohio State and Michigan still on the dance card.  Of course, one team could prevail by a point in a game that was tight from start to finish and that might leave things as they are – – but that is not likely.  So, some change is to be expected.  However, that is not the most interesting thing about these rankings from my point of view.

In previous years, the CFP Selection Committee has put a lot of weight on teams that win their conference championship; and to my mind, that is a good thing.  However, given the situation in hand, it is possible that neither Ohio State nor Michigan will make it to the Big 10 Championship Game let alone be the conference champion.  Let me explain:

  • If Penn State wins out (the final 2 games are against Rutgers and Michigan St. both of whom are at the bottom of the Big 10 standings), Penn State would finish the season with a conference record of 8-1 in the East Division.
  • If Ohio State beats Michigan St. this week and then beats Michigan, Ohio State will also have a conference record of 8-1 in the East Division.  However, Ohio State will not be in the conference championship game because its one loss was to Penn State.
  • If Ohio State beats Michigan, then Michigan will have 2 losses in conference and will not be in the conference championship discussion.

In that scenario, half of the current Top 4 will not win its division within its conference let alone the conference championship.  Holy conundrum, Batman!

A couple of weeks ago, I pointed out that a 3-way tie could happen in the Big-10 East Division but Michigan’s loss to Iowa last week makes that situation infinitesimally probable.  I mention it here not to go through how it might happen – or to suggest that I think it might happen.  Rather, a couple of weeks ago, I said that I did not know how the Big 10 would resolve such a 3-way tie and that I was too lazy to go and find that information.  Naturally, the reader from Houston who is the maven on sports stats and history provided me with the answer.  Let me take this opportunity to thank him for the information and to outline it here for everyone’s edification:


If the three teams are tied and are 1-1 against each other, then the following steps are used until a determination is made.  If only two teams remain tied after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams is the winner:

The records of the three tied teams will be compared within their division.

The records of the three teams will be compared against the next highest placed teams in their division in order of finish (4, 5, 6, and 7).

The records of the three teams will be compared against all common conference opponents.

The team with the best overall winning percentage [excluding FCS games] shall be the winner.

Finally, they draw straws to determine the winner.


If I were making the rules, I would modify this so that when you get to “Step 5” above, the school Athletic Directors would play Rock-Paper-Scissors in a round-robin format to determine the winner.  You could televise that on the Big 10 Network.

Enough about the CFP rankings and related matters; things will sort themselves out over the next couple of weeks.  In on-field results last week, Notre Dame beat Army convincingly 44-6; this was Notre Dame’s 15th consecutive win over Army.  The Irish have to win out (against Va Tech and then USC) to get to 6 wins for the year and eligibility for a minor bowl game.  I wonder if Notre Dame would “stoop to” accepting an invitation to play a “Sun Belt opponent” in a game with no tradition or import.  Given their schedule, I do not think Notre Dame will have to worry about such things.  Army still needs at least one more win to be bowl-eligible; if they get an invitation, they will take it.

Michigan beat Kent St. 37-21 in MAC action last week. This is interesting because W. Michigan and Alabama are the only two undefeated teams in Division 1-A football.  In this game, Kent St. took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but then W. Michigan put the clamps on.  The W. Michigan defense held Kent St to 293 yards’ offense for the game; meanwhile, the W. Michigan offense gained 329 yards running the ball.  I am not trying to suggest that W. Michigan belongs in the CFP Top 4 or that the two undefeated teams – Alabama and W. Michigan – should play one another.  However, W. Michigan is 10-0 and after beating Northwestern by a single point in Week 1, their smallest margin of victory since then has been 14 points.

Idaho beat Texas St. 47-14 last week.  Idaho won its 6th game of the year making it bowl-eligible and that is a tad ironic.  Idaho is being kicked out of the Sun Belt Conference this year – along with New Mexico State – and the speculation was that Idaho would drop down from Division 1-A football to Division 1-AA football.  Division 1-AA does not do bowl games; those events are solely the province of Division 1-A schools.  Therefore, the possibility exists for Idaho to play its final Division 1-A game as a bowl game before it drops to a level where bowl games do not exist.

In games from last week with SHOE Tournament implications:

  • FAU beat UTEP 35-31.  Both teams are now 3-7
  • Rice beat UNC-Charlotte 22-21.  Rice is 2-8 and it just beat a 4-win team. Hmmm…
  • La-Monroe beat Georgia St. 37-21.  Georgia St. is now 2-8.

Starting in the ACC this week, Miami (FL) beat Virginia 34-14 last week.  The game was about as lopsided as the score would lead you to believe.  Virginia’s record this year now stands at 2-8.  I am tempted to put Virginia on the SHOE watchlist but the two wins are over Duke and over C. Michigan – a team with 6 wins already this year.  Verry interesting …

Ga Tech beat Va Tech 30-20 last week.  Basically, Ga Tech just ran the ball and ran the ball and then ran the ball some more.  The Yellow Jackets gained 310 yards on 56 carries for the game; the Yellow Jackets’ passing game had this stat line:

  • 2 for 7 for 34 yards

Had Va Tech won, they would have guaranteed their slot in the ACC Championship Game but 4 turnovers and a missed chip shot field goal postponed that situation.

Duke beat UNC 28-27 last week.  The Blue Devils could still gain bowl-eligibility if they win out over the next two weeks.  UNC had a shot at repeating as ACC Coastal Division Champ this year but they needed to win out and have Va Tech lose a game.  Tech obliged but the Tar Heels did not keep up their end of the bargain.  UNC had an early 14-0 lead but could not seal the deal…

There were some shocking ACC results from last week but none was as big a surprise as Pitt beating Clemson 43-42.  Two weeks ago, I suggested some possible additions to the English language building on the relatively common jargon of “Clemsoning” which has come to mean Clemson losing a game to an inferior team for no good and discernable reason.  Here is a link to that commentary.

It is not as if Clemson just had a bad day here.  DeShaun Watson threw for 580 yards and 3 TDs.  He also threw 3 INTs and one of them came in the 4th quarter with Clemson leading 42-34.  Pitt got a TD from that turnover but missed on a 2-point conversion.  Pitt then had one more possession and turned into a field goal by Chris Blewitt with 6 seconds to play and a 43-42 win for the Panthers.  Let me point out two excellent performances by 2 Pitt offensive players:

  • RB, James Connor ran for 137 yards and 1 TD
  • QB, Nathan Peterman was 22 for 37 for 308 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs

In Big 12 games last week, Iowa St. beat Kansas 31-24.  Clearly, this was a SHOE Team Showdown.  They are both “on the list”.  Here is why it will take a miracle in the final games of 2016 for Kansas to come off the list:

  • Kansas has lost 23 consecutive games against Division 1-A opponents.

Here is why Iowa State is unlikely to come off the list:

  • The last time Kansas beat a Division 1-A opponent, it was Iowa St.
  • Iowa St. has a loss this year to a Division 1-AA team.

Oklahoma St. beat Texas Tech 45-44 last week.  With 1:39 left in the game, Tech had just scored a TD to make the score 45-44.  It looked as if this game was destined for OT that could go on for a while and send both teams’ scores into the 60s or maybe the 70s before there was a winner.  Then the Tech kicker missed the PAT; it wasn’t blocked; he just missed it.  Hi-ho!  There was a distinct lack of defense in the game; combined, the two teams gained 1155 yards for the game.

Oklahoma beat Baylor 45-24 sending the Bears down to defeat for the third game in a row.  Making thins much worse for Baylor is that they have lost QB Seth Russell for the rest of the year with a “severely dislocated ankle” that required him to be carried from the field last week.  Oklahoma QB, Baker Mayfield was 20 for 25 for 300 yards and 2 TDs in this game.

Oklahoma is leading the Big 12 at the moment with a 7-0 record in conference.  However, there are two teams with only 1 loss in conference games – West Virginia and Oklahoma St.  Oklahoma’s two remaining games are against West Virginia – this week – and Oklahoma St. after that.

West Virginia put itself into this contending position beating Texas last week 24-20.  West Virginia played good defense keeping Texas’ offensive aces RB D’Onta Foreman and QB Shane Buchelle from running wild.  Even though the West Virginia offense turned the ball over 4 times, the defense kept the Mountaineers in the game to the end.

This loss for Texas allowed the “Fire Charlie Strong Chorus” to get an encore performance in Austin.  Texas needs one more win to be bowl-eligible in 2016; the Longhorns were 5-7 last year and did not go to a bowl game.  This week, Texas travels to Kansas to play the Jayhawks.  If they lose that game, it would not shock me to see someone else coach Texas for the final game of the year against TCU.  The big-money boosters would probably view a loss to Kansas about as fondly as they would view the loss of an oil-field…

Moving on to Big 10 happenings, I mentioned above how Penn St. can be the East Division Champion this year.  They stayed on that track last week by beating Indiana 45-31.  Indiana led at the end of the 3rd quarter, 24-21 but Penn State scored 2 TDs and a field goal in the final 4 minutes of the game to salt it away.

Going into last Saturday’s game, Michigan St. and Rutgers were the only two teams who were winless in Big 10 conference games.  The outcome here – a 49-0 shellacking by Michigan St. – demonstrates that Rutgers is a Big 10 team in name only.  In seven Big 10 games this year, the cumulative score is:

Opponents: 290          Rutgers:  73

            The degree of dominance by the Spartans last week is shown by this one stat from the game; Michigan St. outgained Rutgers 440 yards to 149 yards.

Wisconsin leads the West Division in the Big 10 on the basis of holding a head-to-head tiebreaker with Nebraska; if the Badgers win out, they will be in the Big 10 Championship Game.  Last week they clobbered Illinois 48-3.  That score shows two things:

  • The Wisconsin defense is for real.
  • Illinois just stinks.

Ohio St. beat Maryland 62-3 last week.  Two weeks ago, Ohio St. beat Nebraska by the identical score.  The Maryland score for the day came in a situation where the Terps had the ball first and goal on the Ohio St. 3 yardline but managed to go nowhere on 3 downs.  So, they kicked a field goal.  Not that it mattered that they did not get a TD then…  Maryland began the year with 4 consecutive wins over Howard, FIU, UCF and Purdue; then some real opponents showed up for kickoff and the Terps are now 5-5.  To be bowl eligible, they need to win one of their last two games:

  • At Nebraska this week – – Maryland is a 2TD underdog
  • Vs Rutgers next week – – If they lose that one at home, shame on them.

Iowa beat Michigan 14-13; and frankly, that was the biggest shock of a shocking week of college football to me.  A 33-yard field goal with 3 seconds on the clock won the game for Iowa.  Two surprising stats from the game:

  • Michigan ran the ball 35 times and only gained 98 yards rushing.
  • Iowa QB, CJ Beathard, was 8 for 19 for 66 yards and Iowa won the game.

That is the fourth consecutive time Michigan has gone to Iowa and come home as a loser.  Compounding the agony, Michigan lost its QB, Wilton Speight, with a broken collarbone in this game.

The SEC produced some surprises and some interesting scores last week too.  Alabama did not succumb to the fate of the other 3 teams in the Top 4; instead of losing last week, Alabama smothered Mississippi St. 51-3.  It was one of the “early start” games on Saturday and I sat down thinking it would be a better game than I usually get to watch in that time slot.  I had to turn away; it was too lopsided to pay attention to.  Alabama gained 615 yards in this game and Mississippi St. gained 275; as I said it was too lopsided to watch.

Tennessee beat Kentucky 49-36.  Kentucky had a shot at the SEC East Division title but this was their 4th conference loss and that puts them out of the picture.  Tennessee, however, is squarely in the picture for that division title and a chance to go to the SEC Championship Game to play Alabama one more time this year.  Here is how Tennessee wins the SEC East:

  1. The Vols must win their final 2 games against Missouri and Vandy.  Hardly impossible…
  2. Florida must lose this week to LSU in Baton Rouge.  Hardly impossible…

Tennessee ran the ball for 376 yards last week averaging 9.2 yards per carry.  Normally, when a team does that, they have dominated the stat sheet with regard to rushing.  Not last week – – Kentucky ran the ball for 443 yards in that game; they averaged 8.1 yards per attempt.

Ole Miss beat Texas A&M 29-28; that is the 3rd loss in conference games for the Aggies.  Ole Miss had to use a redshirt freshman at QB, Shea Patterson, because starting QB, Chad Kelly, is out for the season with a knee injury.  Patterson turned in a performance that had to encourage the Ole Miss coaching staff; Patterson was 25 for 42 for 338 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT.  The Aggies led 21-6 as the 4th quarter began and found a way to lose the game.  Ole Miss is 5-5 and needs a win for bowl-eligibility; they will go looking for that status against Vandy this week.

LSU demolished Arkansas 38-10.  LSU ran the ball for 391 yards here; recall two weeks ago against Florida, the Arkansas defense allowed a total of 12 yards rushing in that game.  The dominant running back was not Leonard Fournette.  Yes, he gained 98 yards in the game and scored 3 TDs but the dominant running back was Derrius Guice who carried 21 times for 252 yards and 2 TDs.

Florida goes to Baton Rouge this week coming off a 20-7 win over S. Carolina.  Florida needs the win to assure the SEC East Division crown.  Last week against S. Carolina, the Florida defense controlled the game only giving up 256 yards.  Florida has injuries galore; potentially 9 of the team’s 22 starters might be inactive for the LSU game.  That compounds a problem the Gators had from the start of the season; the Florida offense no big deal even when they had all those starters on the field.

Georgia beat Auburn 13-7.  The Auburn defense did its job; the only Georgia TD came on a Pick Six.  The Auburn offense was AWOL; consider:

  • Passing offense was 8 for 22 for 37 yards – – and that Pick Six.
  • Zero first downs in the second half of the game
  • Total offense in second half of the game was 34 yards.
  • Total offense for the entire game was 164 yards.

TV analyst for SEC games, Gary Danielson, said that Auburn’s offense in the second half was “one of the worst” he had seen…

In the PAC-12, Stanford beat Oregon 52-27.  The loss drops Oregon to 3-7 for the season and they cannot get to bowl-eligible status this year with only 2 games left to play.  Stanford jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and led 52-13 after three quarters; two late TDs by Oregon made the score as minimally acceptable as it is.  AS you may imagine, Oregon coach, Mark Helfrich is on a very hot seat.  Brad Rock recognized that with this comment in the Deseret News:

“Oregon booster Phil Knight is rumored to be offering $10 million annually for a new football coach.

“At that price, they should hire Denzel Washington and really get something done.”

Washington St. beat Cal 56-21 and took the lead in the PAC-12 North Division race.  QB, Luke Falk was 36 for 50 for 373 yards with 5 TD passes (including 3 to WR, River Cracraft) and 1 INT.  The Cougars offense was not one-dimensional; they also ran the ball for 254 yards in the game.

The big shock in the PAC-12 was seeing Washington lose convincingly to USC by a score of 26-13.  Simply put, USC freshman QB, Sam Darnold had a better stat line than did Washington QB, Jake Browning:

  • Darnold:  23 for 33 for 287 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Browning: 17 for 36 for 259 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

USC lost 3 games early in the season and was left as roadkill then.  However, the Trojans are 6-2 in the PAC-12 South with one conference game left to play (against UCLA this week).  Colorado is 6-1 in conference play leading USC by a half-game.  The Buffaloes have to play Washington State (undefeated leader of the PAC-12 North) this week and then close out the regular season with a visit by Utah (the other PAC-12 South team with only 2 conference losses).  This could get very interesting but I do have to say that USC looked really good against Washington last week and will be a tough out down the road.


The Ponderosa Games:


Last week we had 7 Ponderosa Games.  The record for favorites covering in those Ponderosa games was 5-2-0 bringing the season record for favorites covering to 38-39-1.

Alabama, Ohio St., San Diego St., W. Kentucky and Wisconsin covered.

Houston and Louisville did not cover.

This week we have 10 Ponderosa Games:


(Fri Nite) UNLV at Boise St. – 28.5 (66):  UNLV beat Wyoming in triple OT last week; that means Boise St. has a shot at the Mountain West Championship which could also mean a shot at the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day.  The way for Boise St. to take advantage here is to turn around and beat the team that put them in this advantageous position.  Look for it to happen…


La-Monroe at Appalachian St. – 25.5 (53):  La-Monroe has won 2 in a row but still needs to win its last 2 games to be bowl-eligible.  Looks like that is not gonna happen…


Wisconsin – 28 at Purdue (48):  Looks like an easy win for Wisconsin …


Tex-San Antonio at Texas A&M – 27.5 (57.5):  Texas A&M has lost 2 SEC games this year and has LSU coming up next.  Consider this a scrimmage for the Aggies…


UMass at BYU – 28 (56):  There are not a lot of independents in college football.  This is a match between two of them…


Indiana at Michigan – 24 (51.5):  Michigan should be upset by the way it lost last week to Iowa but on the other hand, they have to play without their starting QB.


Arizona St. at Washington – 27 (65):  Washington should be upset by the way it lost last week to USC and Arizona St is not very good this year…


Buffalo at W. Michigan – 35 (58):  W. Michigan rolls on to 11-0 here – – unless of course this game is against the Buffalo Bills…


Texas – 24 at Kansas (63):  If Texas loses this game, I would not be surprised to read that Charlie Strong was fired in the locker room and had to rent a car to drive home to Texas.  If Texas wins but does not cover, the team will be happy and the students will be happy but the boosters will not…


Penn St. – 28 at Rutgers (57.5):  If Penn St. loses this game, they may need to rename Happy Valley permanently…


The SHOE Teams:


This week, I will give you my 8 SHOE Tournament participants and then a list of “Also getting votes” …

In alphabetical order, here are the 8 worst teams as of this week:


Bowling Green: 2-8 in the MAC

Fresno St: 1-9 and that win was over Sacramento St.

Kansas: 1-9 (see above)

New Mexico St.: 2-7 and getting kicked out of the Sun Belt conference

Rice:  2-8 but one of those wins was over Prairie View A&M.

Rutgers: 2-8 (see above)

Texas St. 2-8 and some of those losses have been huge ones

UMass 2-8 but the wins are over FIU and Wagner


The other teams under consideration this week in alphabetical order are:


Arizona 2-8

Georgia St. 2-8

Iowa St. 2-8

Virginia 2-8



Games of Interest:


UConn at BC – 9 (37):  This is not a betting game but it is interesting because of the numbers here.  The oddsmaker is telling us there will not be a lot of scoring here and yet if you want to back BC here you have to lay more than a TD.  No thank you …


UTEP at Rice – 1.5 (57.5):  Clearly a game of interest for the SHOE Tournament Selection Committee …


Texas Tech – 3 at Iowa St. (75):  Tech needs to win out to become bowl-eligible; Iowa St. has no such aspirations having already lost 8 games this year.  Iowa St. is on the SHOE list but they have the better scoring defense this year.

  • Iowa State allows 31.7 points per game (91st in the country)
  • Texas Tech allows 42.1 points per game (125th in the country)

The question here is this:  Can Iowa St. defend the pass well enough to keep Texas Tech from running up 50+ points?  The Cyclones’ pass defense ranks 60th in the country which is neither bad nor good.  Purely a hunch, I’ll take Iowa St. plus the points here as Iowa St.


Oklahoma – 3.5 at West Virginia (66):  Oklahoma has a potent offense indeed; West Virginia has – for the Big 12 – a very good defense.  Oklahoma leads the Big 12; West Virginia needs a win here to stay alive in the Big-12 championship race.  This game is about as important a game as any on the card this weekend.  Given the West Virginia motivation and the home-field venue, I’ll take West Virginia plus the points.


Va Tech at Notre Dame – 1 (54):  Notre Dame needs to win out to make it to a bowl game so there is plenty of motivation there.  Va Tech is going to go to the ACC Championship Game and probably get pounded by Clemson.  There is no history between these schools; they have never met on a football field before this weekend.  Again, a venue call; I’ll take Notre Dame to win and cover.


K-State – 1 at Baylor (59.5):  As mentioned above, Baylor will be without their starting QB, Seth Russell, for the rest of the season.  That is not a good twist for Baylor because the Baylor defense is not a unit that has shown it can carry the team very far; it gives up 412.7 yards per game.  I like K-State’s chances with its first string offensive players against Baylor’s chances with a backup QB.  I’ll take K-State and lay the point.


Texas St. at New Mexico St. – 9 (66):  Two SHOE Teams play each other…


Washington St. at Colorado – 6 (59):  Colorado is in first place in the PAC-12 South with 1 loss in conference games.  Washington St. is in first place in the PAC-12 North and is undefeated in conference games.  The line opened at 3.5 points and has climbed slowly all week long; the money is going to Colorado.  I like this game to go OVER.


Stanford – 11 at Cal (64):  This is a big rivalry game but it really has very little luster this year.  Stanford’s offense woke up last week and Stanford has the significantly better defense here.  I tend not to like to do this, but I’ll take Stanford and lay all those points – even on the road.


Ohio St. – 22 at Michigan St. (51):  Ohio St. has its sights set on Michigan – not Michigan St. – in the finale of Big 10 action.  Michigan St. is 1-6 in conference play – that win was last week over lowly Rutgers! – and it will play hard to find a way to salvage a smidgen of pride from this disastrous season.  This smells like a trap game to me and that is an awful lot of points.  So, I’ll take Michigan St. at home plus the points.


Clemson – 22.5 at Wake Forest (47):  No selection here but this game is of interest because a Clemson win puts them in the ACC Championship Game…


Missouri at Tennessee – 16.5 (67):  Tennessee is in a must-win situation to keep alive chances in the SEC East (see above).  Missouri just isn’t any good.  I think both teams will be able to move the ball on the opposing defense so I’ll take the game to go OVER.


USC – 13 at UCLA (52.5):  USC looked like world-beaters against Washington last week; UCLA has lost its starting QB and did not look all that great when they had him upright and playing.  Laying that many points in a bit rivalry game is not something I like to do (Stanford/Cal above notwithstanding) so I’ll pull for the two defenses to get the job done here and take the game to stay UNDER.


Oklahoma St. at TCU – 4.5 (70.5):  Oklahoma St. still has a chance to win the Big-12; it will take a lot of dominoes to fall in the right way, but they have a chance.  TCU needs one more win to become bowl-eligible.  TCU gives up 410 yards per game; Oklahoma St. gives up 451.2 yards per game.  I think two motivated offensive units will have their way in this game.  I’ll take the game to go OVER.


Oregon at Utah – 14 (70):  Short and simple here…  Utah is a good team that might be the PAC-12 South champion and/or the PAC-12 champion.  Oregon is 3-7 on the season but two of those wins were over Davis – (Division 1-AA) and UVa (on the SHOE watchlist).  I like Utah at home to win and cover.


Florida at LSU – 14.5 (37.5): Florida needs a win here to lock down the SEC East title and a date to play Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.  That is the importance focus for the game.  An interesting – but monumentally unimportant – aspect of the game is that the two starting QBs for these teams used to go to Purdue and both transferred out.  Hi-ho!  That total line is awfully low even for these stout defenses and prosaic offenses.  I like the game to go OVER.


Finally, earlier this week, Brad Rock had this comment regarding Tennessee football in the Deseret News.  I doubt that Messr. Rock will be very welcome in Knoxvillle, TN should anyone there read it:

“An Oceanside, California, man was elected city treasurer, despite having passed away Sept. 23.

“Isn’t that like voting for Tennessee in the top 25 after it lost three straight games?”

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


Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/20/16


Last week was a “cha-cha week” for Mythical Picks – – two steps forward and then two steps back.  I made 14 picks and the record was 7-7-0.  That makes the cumulative record for the season 82-51-3.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol was far more successful.  I flipped the coin twice and the record was 2-0-0.  For the season the coin is now in positive/mythically profitable territory at 10-8-0.

The Best Picks of the week were:

  • Cowboys +2.5 against Steelers.  Cowboys won straight up.
  • Titans +3 against Packers.  Titans won by 22 points.

The Worst Picks of the week were:

  • Bears “pick ‘em” against Bucs.  Bears lost by 26 points.
  • Jets -2 against Rams.  Jets lost despite not giving up a TD in the game.

Time for the weekly reminder…  No one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money.  Only a dumbass would do that and here is how dumb that dumbass would have to be:

He thinks Velcro is nothing but a rip off.


General Comments:


In last week’s Thursday Night Football offering, you kinda knew that the game was going to suck from the get-go.  On the first play of the game, the Browns kicked off to the Ravens and nothing of import happened there.  Then, before the Ravens could run the first play of the game from scrimmage, the Browns had to call timeout because someone on the sidelines counted 12 players on defense.  Only, there weren’t 12 players on the field; there were 11.  The game went downhill from there.  As has happened several times this year, the Browns got off to a lead and actually led at halftime 7-6.  Even though rookie QB, Cody Kessler led the Browns to the TD in the first half that gave them the lead there, the Browns pulled him in the 3rd quarter in favor of Josh McCown.  I have no explanation for that decision.

The Ravens’ defense held the Browns to 144 yards’ total offense on 48 offensive plays.  That is exactly 3 yards per play; Woody Hayes was looking down on this game and wondering where the cloud of dust had gone.  The Ravens collected 3 turnovers in the game and managed 4 QB sacks.  How all of that translated to a lead for the Browns at halftime is mysterious even though I watched it unfold.  The final score was 28-7; it was not that close.

The Ravens’ record is 5-4 – which is not particularly noteworthy except for the fact that they now lead the AFC North Division by a game over the Steelers.  This week, the Ravens take on the Cowboys and if they want to be certain to maintain that lead, they are going to have to play a lot better this week than they did last week.

The Steelers lost to those same Cowboys last week 35-30 in what was an immensely entertaining game.  Ezekiel Elliott had 114 yards rushing and another 95 yards receiving and he scored 3 TDs in the game.  Other than that, he was pretty much invisible…  Fellow-rookie Dak Prescott threw for 319 yards.  Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger had one of his 400+ yards passing days in a losing effort; he also managed 3 TD passes.  Perhaps Roethlisberger’s “fake-spike/TD pass to Antonio Brown” was the best play of the year so far?

Staying in the AFC North, the Bengals lost to the Giants 21-20 on MNF.  The Giants dominated the stat sheet but only eked out a win on the scoreboard. Consider:

  • Giants 23 first downs             Bengals 12 first downs
  • Giants 351 yards’ offense       Bengals 264 yards’ offense
  • Giants 2 penalties for 15 yards           Bengals 9 penalties for 60 yards
  • Giants recorded 3 sacks         Bengals recorded 1 sack.

The Giants are now 6-3 and are in a good spot with regard to the NFC Wild Card race.  The Bengals are now 3-5-1 and need to pass both the Steelers and Ravens to get to the top of the AFC North.  While that is not impossible, it is important for the Bengals – the other teams in the AFC North to keep in mind because the way the races are shaping up, it would appear as if only one team from that division is going to make the AFC playoffs this year.

The “legend” of Andy Dalton not being able to win “night games” got another piece of supporting evidence last week.  When the kickoff is at nighttime, Dalton’s record as a starting QB is 5-10.  Last week his passing stats were 16 for 29 for 204 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.  While those stats are by no means “Hall of Fame quality” numbers, they are actually inflated and make his performance look better than it was.  In the first quarter – coming from what Jon Gruden called a “goofy formation” – Dalton connected on a 71-yard pass and run to Tyler Eifert.  Therefore, for the rest of the game here is Dalton’s stat line:

  • 15 for 25 for 133 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT

Not good…

The Oakland Raiders had their BYE Week last week but their two main rivals in the AFC West were on the card and they both won.  The Chiefs trailed the Panthers 17-0 at halftime and trailed 17-3 in the 4th quarter.  The Panthers managed to invent ways to lose and the Chiefs found ways to take advantage of every Panthers’ blunder late in the game leading to the Chiefs winning 20-17.  Cam Newton threw a very poor ball that resulted in a Pick Six for the Chiefs and then in the final minute with the score tied, WR Kelvin Benjamin caught a pass and allowed a Chiefs’ defender to steal the ball from him to set up a Chiefs’ field goal that would win the game.  The Chiefs held the ball for less than 25 minutes in the game; the Chiefs were only 2 for 12 on third down conversions; the Chiefs lost the total offense stat by 87 yards; the Chiefs only averaged 4.3 yards per pass.  Nonetheless the Chiefs won.  That puts the Chiefs in first place in the AFC West with a 7-2 record (same as the Raiders) based on a tiebreaker situation.  The Panthers are looking up at the rest of the NFC South with a 3-6 record.  The Panthers are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but unless they find a magic lamp with a genie in it, they are pretty much cooked at this point in the season.

The other AFC West contender, the Broncos, also had a miracle comeback to win last week beating the Saints in New Orleans 25-23.  The margin of victory here was a blocked PAT with about a minute-and-a-half left in the game that was recovered by the defense and returned to the end zone earning 2 points for the Broncos.  This was an “inversion game” for the Saints; their defense played well sacking Broncos’ QB, Trevor Siemian, 6 times; meanwhile, the offense lost 2 fumbles in the 4th quarter giving the Broncos the opportunity to get to the point where that blocked PAT was a difference maker.  The Broncos are 7-3 in the AFC West; their BYE Week comes up this week.  Meanwhile, the Saints at 4-5 – and tied with the Bucs – have ground to make up on the Falcons in the AFC South.

The Falcons gave the other teams in the division a bit of a breather last week when the Falcons lost to the Eagles 24-15.  What happened here is that the Eagles’ defense totally constipated the Falcons offense and shut the system down.  When they kicked off this game, the Falcons had averaged 33.9 points per game as a team; they managed only 15 points last week.  In the previous 9 games, the lowest offensive output for the Falcons had been 363 yards; they managed only 303 yards last week.  The Falcons only ran the ball for 48 yards in the game and were only 2 for 11 on third down situations.  The Eagles held the ball for just over 38 minutes in the game running the ball almost at will for big chunks of yardage.  Led by Ryan Matthews 109 yards and 2 TDs, the Eagles gained 207 yards on 38 carries (5.4 yards per carry).  That Eagles’ victory did not do much for the team regarding the NFC East standings because every team in that division won last week; I mentioned the Cowboys and Giants above so …

The Skins beat the Vikes last week 26-20.  The Vikes got all 20 of their points in the second quarter; other than that, the Vikes’ offense was dormant.  In the second half of the game – if my reading of the Gametracker is correct – the Vikes had the ball for 4 possessions and gained a total of 94 yards on those 4 possessions.  Were it not for the fact that the Vikes’ offense has been pathetic for the entire season, I would call that a dominating defensive performance by the Skins.  The Vikes won their first 5 games of the year and now have lost the next 4.  I am sure that has been done at some point in NFL history but I am far too lazy to go and see when it happened and/or how many times it has happened.  My sense is that it does not happen often…  The Vikes and Lions have the same 5-4 record in the NFC North and the Lions lead the division for the moment thanks to a tiebreaker.


INTERLUDE:  Kirk Cousins stat line last week was 22 for 33 for 262 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs.  For the 2016 season, Cousins had completed 66.9% of his throws; he is averaging 302 yards per game; he has thrown 14 TDs and 7 INTs; he has led 3 fourth quarter comebacks for wins in 9 games.  I mention this because Cousins is playing this year on a franchise tag contract worth $20M in round numbers.  At the end of last year, the Skins did not make him a long-term offer that suited him and put the franchise tag on him.  Reports say the Skins were unwilling to make any offer that was higher than an average of $16M per season over the life of the deal.

  • Memo To Skins’ Braintrust:  Be prepared to go FAR north of those numbers this February.

The Skins have 3 realistic options with Cousins for the years to come.  Underlying all of those options is a simple fact.  Kirk Cousins is their single – and maybe only – best option as a franchise QB for the foreseeable future.  By putting him on the $20M deal for this season the Skins have accomplished the following:

If they franchise him again exclusively, they have to offer him another 1-year deal with a 20% raise.  That means they have to pay him $24M for next year – guaranteed and counting fully toward the Skins salary cap in 2017 – the minute the ink is dry on the contract.

If they offer him a non-exclusive franchise tag, they can let Cousins’ agent seek a long-term deal elsewhere but it would cost the signing team 2 first round picks in addition to what they pay for Cousins. Since that is not a likely scenario, I will ignore it for the moment.

They can reach a long term-deal with Cousins who had great leverage here for two reasons:

If there is no good long-term offer, he can always play next year for $24M.  That is well above the poverty line…

The Skins really do not have a better option to go out and get.  On their roster, they have Colt McCoy who is an excellent back-up/stopgap and Nate Sudfeld who is a rookie QB from Indiana that people speak highly of – but he has never taken a snap in anger in the NFL.  Who are the veteran QBs that will become available this year?  Ryan Fitzpatrick and Colin Kaepernick probably lead the list; there are always the McNown brothers; if a team wanted to trade for Jay Cutler, the Bears might be happy to make such a deal.  If the idea is to draft a franchise QB, then the Skins’ scouts must have uncovered someone that I have not seen in any of the college football games I have watched this year.

Kirk Cousins is the Skins’ best option and he – and his agent – will be using this year’s $20M figure and next year’s default value of $24M as the starting points in the negotiations.  END OF INTERLUDE.


The Green Bay Packers are a team in trouble.  Last week they lost to the Titans 47-25 and it was a real beatdown not a fluke.  The Packers threw the ball 51 times in the game and surrendered 5 sacks; they were penalized 12 times for 107 yards in the game; they converted only 4 of 15 third down attempts and they gave up 5 passing TDs in the game (1 by Titans’ RB, Demarco Murray).  This was a stone-cold bedwetting by the Packers.  At the start of the game, the Packers had the #2 rushing defense in the NFL; the Titans ran for 162 yards in the game.  I understand that the Packers have had significant injuries all over their roster, but in this game, they fell behind 21-0 – and later trailed 35-10 – and seemingly just tossed in the jockstrap early in the game.

The Titans are 5-5 for the year and trail the Texans in the AFC South by only 1.5 games.  At the start of the year, the Titans’ offense was a mirage; in their first 5 games, they managed to score only 79 points; that was 15.8 points per game.  In their last 3 games, the Titans have scored 118 points; that is 39.3 points per game.  Big difference there …

The Bucs beat the Bears 36-10 and the game was not as close as it looks; the Bears’ TD came on Hail Mary with time expiring in the first half.  Other than that, this game was dominated by the Bucs.  The Bears turned the ball over 4 times in this game; that is a bad situation but it was actually worse than that; the Bears committed all 4 of those turnovers in the first half.  When you add 4 sacks given up plus 9 penalties and 2 for 11 on third downs, you can see how the Bears took gas last week.

There is a wagering angle to this game that should be mentioned here.  When I made this Mythical Pick on Thursday morning last week, the line was “pick ‘em” everywhere but 1 sportsbook that had the Bears as a 1-point favorite.  According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, the spread at kickoff time was Bears – 3.  That means there was a lot of money that came in late in the week – lines do not move when people bet tens or hundreds of dollars – and the clear majority of the late money was on the Bears – hence the line movement to entice people to take the Bucs and sort of balance the book.  Given the outcome, the books probably cleaned up on that game last week; all of that “Bears’ money” quickly turned into “house money” …

The Rams beat the Jets 9-6.  This was the totally awaited QB showdown between Case Keenum and Bryce Petty.  Neither QB let the fans down; neither one managed to exceed the truly low expectations anyone had for them.  Here are the stat lines; please do not get your hopes up:

  • Case Keenum: 17 for 30 for 165 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs
  • Bryce Petty:  19 for 32 for 163 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.

Be still my heart …

This is the second time this year that the Rams have won a game without scoring a TD; in Week 2, they beat the Seahawks 9-3.  I am sure that teams would win games without scoring a TD more frequently in the 30s and 40s than they do these days but I cannot recall that sort of thing happening any time recently.  The Jets did score a TD; it came on a hook-and-lateral style play from inside the 10 yardline.  That was their only productive possession of the game; other than the TD drive, the Jets had the ball 9 other times; they punted 8 of those times and had the clock expire for halftime on the other possession.  The Rams have scored 2 TDs in their last 3 games; the Rams’ defense is what has kept those games close.  In those 3 games the total scoring by BOTH teams is 65 points.

The Dolphins beat the Chargers 31-24.  Ryan Tannehill threw for 240 yards and 2 TDs in this game; those are not spectacular numbers but they do show that the Dolphins won this game without having to rely on Jay Ajayi to run for 200 yards and dominate the offense.  The Dolphins have now won 4 in a row and are alone in second place in the AFC East.  However, even with the Pats’ loss last week (to be discussed next), the Dolphins remain 2 full game behind the Pats.

Philip Rivers is having a good season but he threw up on his shoes in the fourth quarter last week.  Rivers threw 4 INTs IN THE 4th QUARTER alone.  Nevertheless, the score was tied with a minute to play with the Chargers in possession on the Dolphins side of the field when Rivers threw a Pick Six to LB, Kiko Alonzo.  Ball game…  The Chargers record now stands at 4-6 and they are pretty much out of the playoff picture.  Interestingly, the Chargers have to pay a visit to Cleveland on the next-to-last week of the season (Christmas Eve).  By then the Chargers will be “playing for pride” and they will be in a very “un-San Diego” weather situation.  Might that be where the Browns can find a win for the 2016 season?

The Seahawks beat the Pats 31-24.  The Seahawks won this game in the same way that the Pats won their Super Bowl confrontation – with a goal line stand in the final minute of the game.  The Pats had 4 plays from the 2 yardline and did not score.  The Seahawks also intercepted a pass in the game which is news only because it was the first INT thrown by any Pats’ QB this year; it came in the 9th game of the Pats’ season.  Russell Wilson threw for 348 yards and 3 TDs in the game and rookie RB, CJ Prosise contributed 153 yards from scrimmage in the game.  The Pats still control the AFC East; the Seahawks control the NFC West.  If that game is any indicator, I would not mind seeing a re-match come February in the Super Bowl…

The Texans beat the Jags 24-21.  This is the third highest scoring total for the Texans this year so you might think that this was some kind of offensive breakout.  No, it was not…  The Texans got one TD on a Pick Six; the Texans total passing offense was 92 yards.  Once again, the Jags scored a late TD – just over 2 minutes to go in the game – and made a 2-point conversion to make the score appear as if the game was in doubt for much of the 4th quarter.  It was not…

The Cards beat the Niners 23-20.  Form a wagering perspective, this is the first time since Week 1 when the Niners shut out the Rams that the Niners have covered against the spread.  The Cards were 13-point favorites when I did Mythical Picks on Thursday; they were 14-point favorites in Las Vegas and 14.5-point favorites at Internet wagering sites at kickoff.  The Niners covering tells me that the books cleaned up on that game as they did on the Bears/Bucs game (see above).  The story of the game was that the Cards kept turning the ball over (Niners got 4 turnovers) and the Cards just could not score once they got in the Red Zone (Cards were in Red Zone 5 times and got 2 TDs, 2 field goals and lost a fumble on the 5th visit there).

Chip Kelly’s offense relies on being able to run the football more than a little bit.  Last week, the Niners’ run offense was anemic; featured RB, Carlos Hyde ran the ball 13 times for 14 yards.  That stat is best expressed as:


38.77 inches per carry


Before getting to this week’s games, consider these three stats:


  1. The highest scoring team in the AFC is the San Diego Chargers (293 points in 10 games).  The Chargers are in last place in the AFC West.
  2. The second highest scoring team in the AFC is the Tennessee Titans (264 points in 10 games).  At the start of the season they went 5 games until they scored more than 20 points in a single game.
  3. The Vikings’ offense is dead last in the NFL in terms of yards gained per game.  That’s right; they rank below the Rams, Niners and Browns all of whom are certifiably awful on offense.


The Games:


The Broncos have the week off and might just be considering how short a leash Trevor Siemian needs to have.  If Paxton Lynch is showing anything positive in practice …

The Chargers have the week off and players might begin speculating where the team will play next year to get a jump on the real estate market wherever…

The Falcons have the week off and they need to relocate their running game and to get the front 7 on defense back to tackling opposing running backs…

The Jets get an extra week to look at the film and wonder what the hell they were thinking when they drafted Bryce Petty in the 4th round back in 2015…


(Thurs Nite) New Orleans at Carolina – 3.5 (52):  This has happened before; the NFL offers up the Dog-Breath Game of the Week on Thursday Night and gets that stink out of the way before the main presentation on Sunday.  Both teams come to the kickoff with records below .500; no other game this week can make that claim.  To its credit, this is a division game and that might add a smidgen of spark to the contest, but finding lots of nice things to say here is like digging through a mountain of horsesh*t looking for a pony.  Both teams lost horrible heartbreakers last week (see above); perhaps it will be interesting to see which team cones back from that situation better?  I doubt it.  If the Panthers lose this one, their division record will be 0-4 meaning they will not do well in any tiebreaker situations further meaning they will have to win the division to make the playoffs. The Saints are in a similar – but slightly less dire – situation.  Make this purely a venue call; I’ll take the Panthers to win and cover.


Tennessee at Indy – 3 (53):  The Titans are on a roll; they are scoring points by the barrel (see above).  The Colts’ defense is 30th in the NFL in yards per game allowed (402.8) and they are 29th in the NFL in points allowed per game (28.4).  So, I have to stop and take a look at that spread and wonder what other factor(s) I must be ignoring.  Well, the Colts had their BYE Week last week to recuperate a bit and to have some extra time to plan for this matchup and the game is in Indy where the Colts are historically much better than they are on the road.  A win for the Colts would give them a sweep over the Titans assuring the Colts the head-to-head tiebreaker if needed in January 2017.  Oh, and Andrew Luck sliced and diced the Titans’ defense for 353 yards in that encounter a month ago.  I have not talked myself into taking the Titans here but I have talked myself into subjecting this game to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol; the coin says to take the Titans plus the points.  That brings everything full circle because that is what I thought I wanted to do in the first place…


Jax at Detroit – 6.5 (47):  How nice was last weekend to the Lions?  They got to sit home and rest and watch the Vikes, Packers and Bears all lose their games putting the idle Lions in first place in the NFC North.  This week, they get to stay home and welcome the Jags who bring their 2-7 record to the kickoff.  I’ll take the Lions and lay the points here.  However, let me also say that I will not be shocked to see the Jags score a meaningless TD in the final 2 minutes to cover here.  The Jags have been known to do that more than occasionally.


Tampa at KC – 7.5 (45):  The Chiefs are hot; they are in first place in the AFC West (thanks to a tiebreaker); they have won 5 in a row; they are undefeated at home.  The Bucs had a big win last week albeit over the decrepit Bears; the Bucs need this game to maintain relevance in their division; the Bucs are better on the road (3-1) than they are at home this year (1-4).  I think this will be a low scoring game and I am tempted to take the UNDER here.  However, in that kind of game, I will choose to take the Bucs plus the generous helping of points.


Chicago at Giants – 7.5 (45.5):  Before I go any further, the Bears stink; let me get that out of the way.  Here is the issue at hand with the line on this game.  The Giants are 6-3 on the season.  They beat the Rams by 7 points; that was the Giants’ largest margin of victory for the season.  The Giants do not score points; they only average 20.2 points per game.  Yes, I know, the Bears do not score either (15.7 points per game) but I find it hard to take the Giants (better team to be sure) and to lay more than a TD’s worth of points.  Purely a hunch, I’ll take the Bears plus the points on the road.  I said at the beginning that the Bears stink so I am holding my nose as I make this pick…


Arizona at Minnesota “pick ‘em” (41):  If you consider the expectations for these teams back in August, you would have to say they are both “grossly underachieving”.  Cards’ WR, Larry Fitzgerald missed practice on Wednesday following a knee injury last week that required an MRI after the game; the team says he is “day-to-day” as if that were not the case for everyone on the planet.  The oddsmaker wants me to pick a winner here so I will take the Cards to win the game because I think they are in a much better place as a team than the Vikes are as of today.


Buffalo at Cincy – 2.5 (47):  With a record of 3-5-1, you would expect that this was a do-or-die game for the Bengals but it really isn’t.  In the AFC North, the Ravens are in the lead at 5-4 and the Ravens face a tough game this week.  The Bills would never say this out loud, but they are out of the AFC East race with 5 losses on the books already.  The Bills represent an interesting public misconception that is based on image and reputation instead of reality.  Folks think of the Bills as a “defensive team”.  Even though the Bills have a sub-.500 record this year at 4-5, they have outscored opponents this year 237-202; in their 9 games, the Bills have scored only 4 fewer points than the Pats have scored – and everyone knows the Pats are an “offensive team”.  I like this game to go OVER.


Baltimore at Dallas – 7 (45):  I think this is the Game of the Week.  After all, it pits two teams that are in sole possession of first place in their divisions against one another.  The Cowboys rush for 161 yards per game – best in the NFL.  Ravens allow 71.3 yards per game rushing – best in the NFL.  In terms of points per game allowed, the Ravens are slightly better allowing 1.2 fewer points per game.  The teams are very similar in passing yards per game.  The big difference is in scoring offense.  The Cowboys are 4th in the NFL scoring 28.7 points per game while the Ravens are tied for 24th in the league scoring 20.2 points per game.  I like the Cowboys at home to win and cover here.


Pittsburgh – 7.5 at Cleveland (47.5):  This spread opened the week at 10 points; it dropped to 9 points almost immediately and has been inching downward for the balance of the week.  People like to talk about “stability” in various sports franchises.  Here is a stat related to “stability” you should keep in mind regarding these teams:

  • Since 1969, the Steelers have had 3 head coaches.
  • Since 2013, the Browns have had 3 head coaches.

When you think of teams with big losing streaks this year, the Browns and Niners leap to mind.  Check carefully, and you will see that the Steelers have lost 4 in a row as have the Vikes.  The difference between the Steelers’ situation and the Vikes’ situation is that the Steelers get to play the JV squad this week.  I think the Steelers will blow up the Browns here; I’ll take the Steelers and lay the points even on the road.


Miami – 1 at LA (40):  This spread opened with the Rams as a 1-point favorite but that did not last long at all.  You can still find this game as a “pick ‘em” game at 2 sportsbooks this morning, but the rest of the books have the game at this number.  The Dolphins are hot; they are in second place in the AFC East and if/when one of the top AFC West teams trips up, the Dolphins are the team in a position to get right in the middle of a race for a wild card slot.  They are not a great road team (1-3 this season) but they are playing the Rams who are not a great home team (1-3 this season).  In terms of scoring defense, the teams are similar; Rams allow 19.2 points per game and Dolphins allow 22.9 points per game.  On offense, however, the Dolphins score 22.7 points per game while the Rams score only 15.7 points per game – lowest in the NFL.  I like the Dolphins to win and cover here.


New England – 13 at SF (51):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  Here we have a very good team (Pats) coming off a last-minute home loss last week traveling across 3 time zones to play an absolutely horrid team (Niners) that has been outscored by just over 10 points per game this season.  On paper, this is a nightmare game for the Niners, but it is also a relatively inconsequential game for the Pats.  It is not a division game; it is not a conference game; it is a road game; the Pats have a comfortable lead in the AFC East.  I will make this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Niners plus the points.  YOWZA!


Philly at Seattle – 6 (44):  This is not the Game of the Week but it is certainly one of the most interesting games of the week.  The Eagles’ rookie QB gets to play against the stingy Seahawks’ defense in Seattle against the “12th man”.  When Carson Wentz played the against the Vikes’ defense in Philly, he played well and the Eagles won the game; this is a game against a similarly stingy defense but in a far less cozy environment.  This game has layers of interest beyond the final score.  The Seahawks are undefeated at home; the Eagles are 1-4 on the road.  I like the Seahawks to win and cover here.


(Sun Nite) Green Bay at Washington – 2.5 (50):  I mentioned above Andy Dalton’s “inability” to win night games.  Well, apply that criterion to this game and here is what you find:


In the past 6 weeks, the Packers are 2-0 playing at night and 0-4 playing in the daytime.  That makes them a “Count Dracula Team”, right?

The Skins are more like Andy Dalton and the Bengals here.  In their last 12 night games, the Skins’ record is 2-10.


I have no feel for this game at all.  I can see ways for either team to wax the other one and have no idea which team will show up ready to be efficient and effective.  It is not as if either team is “reliable”.  I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol, and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.


(Mon Nite) Houston vs. Oakland – 5.5 (46) [Game is in Mexico City]:  This game is the obverse of the traditional argument about the irresistible force versus the immovable object.  This game pairs the worst passing offense in the NFL so far in 2016 (Texans at 187 yards per game) against a very porous pass defense, 30th in the NFL, so far in 2016 (Raiders at 283.2 yards per game).  Which team’s level of “suckitude” will prevail in this confrontation?  I like the Raiders’ offense to take charge here.  I’ll take the Raiders and lay the points in what is actually a road game for both squads.


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

“And in the latest protest news, Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans took a knee during the national anthem Sunday, saying he’ll never stand as long as Donald Trump is president.  Monday, it was revealed he didn’t even vote, and Tuesday he said he’ll be back to standing again.

“In other words, this receiver didn’t go long.”

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

Progress …

At the beginning of the football season when Colin Kaepernick began his national anthem protest, I said that I defended his right to protest even though I would have chosen some other way to do so.  Even when other players in various sports chose to join him in those protests, I said that there needed to be some products of these protests over and above the act of taking a knee during the national anthem; symbolism and “awareness” are fine but they do not effect change by themselves.

Well, yesterday there was a report at saying that things have moved to the next level.  It seems that Lions’ WR, Anquan Boldin, has worked quietly behind the scenes to arrange for 5 NFL players (including Boldin of course) to go to Washington DC for meetings with members of Congress – possibly to include Speaker Paul Ryan – and perhaps members of the White House Staff.  All of this happened yesterday while news focus was elsewhere but ESPN reported that the topics of discussion were police/community relations and the level of mistrust that exists between the African-American community and the police in those communities.

I want to say congratulations to Anquan Boldin and to the folks mentioned in that report who helped arrange these meetings/discussions.  This is a logical next step in the protest landscape for this issue; there is more potential for constructive action to come from that sort of activity than there is for taking knee during the anthem.  Lawmakers at the national level are not going to resolve these issues; these are far more local problems than national ones.  Nevertheless, these national lawmakers have the stature and the ties to various local authorities and to various local community leaders to arrange for focused actions to ease tensions and anxieties on both sides.  What Anquan Boldin and these other 4 players accomplished was to take the protest and the issues beneath the protest from the sidelines of a football game and to put the issues before a set of folks who might – if they choose to act on the issues – begin to make things better.

Let me suggest here – and I admit this is easy for a commentator to do so long as the commentator does not have to do the dirty work – that another important step in the potential resolution of these issues will be to have people with community recognition and leadership to take these issues to the police departments in cities where there are significant tensions.  Ultimately, that is the venue for resolution of these tensions and anxieties but it is the existence of those tensions and anxieties that demands a diplomat/mediator to act to bring the parties together and to get a process of resolution started.  What happened yesterday is an important step even though it is not the final step.  Perhaps, yesterday was the time when people moved from “raising awareness” to “getting people with the power to do something to do something”.

Recently, there was a report in the Triangle Business Journal that said that the Hula Bowl will be relocating to Raleigh, NC starting in 2018.  I don’t know about you, but when I think of Raleigh, it takes me a while to fire enough synapses to get the image of “hula” in my brain.  Nevertheless…

The Hula Bowl is one of those college All-Star games that used to populate the calendar in December and January in the days when there were not about 2 dozen abjectly meaningless bowl games on the schedule.  The Hula Bowl has been dormant since 2008; it was nominally a casualty of the “Great Recession”; in actuality, the game had seen declining interest and attendance for several years prior to 2008.  To be sure, the financial woes in that year kicked the snowball over the cliff, but that snowball had been on the perch for a while by then.

The report linked above paints the picture of a rosy future for the Hula Bowl in Raleigh.  Time will tell if there is room enough for yet one more concocted college football game in the sports landscape.  Let me just say that I will not be considering investing my IRA funds in this venture…

I made a note that it was on 7 November 2015 when published its first column on “Bracketology” for the 2015/16 college basketball season.  Prior to the playing of even a minute of actual intercollegiate basketball for the season, this sort of exposition represents a projection of how the men’s basketball tournament brackets will set up in the second week of March 2017.  Were the Bard of Baltimore – H. L. Mencken – still alive today, I am sure he would label that sort of speculation as:

“Buncombe !!”

I am a staunch supporter of the First Amendment; nevertheless, I would support any law or any action that would ban that sort of nonsense from the Internet or the airwaves prior to March 1 of the college basketball season.  [Aside:  I would similarly support a law or action that would ban Mock Drafts from the Internet or the airwaves until 2 weeks before the NFL Draft is scheduled.]  Bracketology articles – and Mock Drafts too – are space fillers and nothing more.  If I were to venture out into the orbit of political commentary and I were to produce for you my list of the candidates in the Presidential primaries for the election in 2028, you would be in a position to – quite properly – tell me to remove my head from my ass and to do something productive with my time and effort.  Each time you see an article headlined as Bracketology, just substitute “Presidential primaries 12 years hence” and then decide how eager you are to read on.

Finally, after the Eagles cut WR. Josh Huff after Huff’s arrest on a variety of charges, Scott Ostler had some advice for Huff in the SF Chronicle:

“The Eagles cut wide receiver Josh Huff after he was stopped by New Jersey police, who say Huff was speeding, drunk, carrying marijuana, driving with illegally tinted windows and packing a handgun with no permit, loaded with illegal hollow-point bullets.

“But his tires were properly inflated.

“Huff faces a marketing challenge. He says, ‘I have to do what’s best to rebrand my image.’ Like, work on being a model prisoner?”

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