Florida International Hires A New Coach

Reports yesterday said that Butch Davis will take over as head football coach at Florida International.  Previously, Davis had been the head coach at Miami for 6 years in the 90s where he was successful to the tune of a 51-20 overall record.  After that success, he took the job coaching the Cleveland Browns for 4 years and – let me just be polite here – he did not replicate the same level of success in Cleveland that he did in Miami. He did get the Browns in the playoffs one year with a 9-7 record, but overall his teams went 24-35.

After sitting out a couple of seasons, Davis became the head coach at UNC in 2007.  At the time of his arrival, the UNC program was in a bad way; the team had a winning record only once in the previous six seasons.  Davis turned that around; in his second season in Chapel Hill, UNC went to a bowl game.  Then came NCAA investigations.

In 2010, the NCAA began investigating the possibility that some UNC players had had improper contact with a sports agent in Miami and soon after that began, UNC started an internal investigation about some possible “academic fraud” issues involving one of the tutors in the team’s academic support mechanism.  Rather quickly, several players were suspended and a couple were permanently removed from the football program and one assistant coach resigned amid allegations that he was involved with things like improper benefits and contact with agents.  For a moment, it seemed as if the program had taken a hit but had righted itself and was ready to move on.

Channeling Lee Corso here for a moment:

“Not so fast, my friend …”

The NCAA conducted an investigation of its own and found that there were some improprieties but that the school had found them out on its own and had taken sufficient disciplinary action and sufficient action to avoid such problems in the future.  Just when things began to look as if everything was hunky-dory, the news broke about the phony courses and the guaranteed high grades in courses offered by the African American Studies Department.  The head of the department was implicated and had to step down from his position and the academic scandal spread like a pandemic.  The school actually hired a former governor of North Carolina to head up an investigation into that stink and what he found was not pretty.

All of this put Butch Davis on a hot seat and he was fired in 2011.  The entirety of the matter is still not resolved; the NCAA and UNC are at odds over several matters that came to light in the various investigations here.  Presumably, that will all sort itself out some day.

Getting back to yesterday’s reports, Florida International is several steps lower on the NCAA football ladder than either Miami or UNC.  FIU football history goes all the way back to 2002 when it was a Divison 1-AA program; it only became a Division 1-A program in 2005.  The school had early success going to bowl games in 2010 and 2011 but the team has regressed since then.  The team has not had a .500 season since 2011.

Coaching success in college begins with recruiting.  Butch Davis has shown that he can recruit good players – and coach them up competently – in the past.  The difference between his previous gigs and this one at FIU is stature.  Miami had a history as a football powerhouse in the 90’s; UNC is an easily recognized athletic program within the NCAA hierarchy; FIU is a johnny-come-lately football program that participates in C-USA which is a backwater of Division 1-A football.  I follow college football “overall” but I promise you that I could not name the teams that make up C-USA. All I do know off the top of my head is that this conference provides candidates for my fantastical SHOE Tournament every year; the presence of those teams on that list from year to year has taught me that Rice and UTEP and North Texas and – yes – FIU are members of C-USA.

This is an interesting hiring decision for the school.  Davis is 65 years old; so, actuarily, he is not someone that you think of when you are looking at a ten-year growth program that will lead FIU out of C-USA and into an expanded ACC or something like that.  At the same time, it is hard to argue that Davis’ record of success brings a lot of focus to the football program there.  Truth be told, I cannot name another head coach in C-USA at the schools I know are in that conference – and I doubt that if I went to the C-USA website to see all the other teams in the conference that I would be able to name more than one other head football coach.

I think this will be an interesting situation to watch…

The Canadian Football League is in the middle of its playoff structure.  This is a 9-team league where 6 of the teams make the playoffs; because it has an odd number of teams divided into an Eastern and Western Division, one of the Divisions is larger than the other.  In order to keep the season “competitive” and interesting as long as possible, the playoff structure for the league allows for a “crossover”.

If, for example the team that finished 4th in the 5-team West Division has a better record than the 3rd place team in the 4-team East Division, then that 4th place West team crosses over and participates in the tournament as if it were the 3rd place team in the East.  That happened this year due to a fundamental imbalance between the East Division and the West Division.

In the West, four teams finished above .500 for the season; the 4th place Edmonton Eskimos were 10-8-0.  In the East, things were not nearly so pretty; the East Division Champions were the Ottawa Redblacks who posted a season record of 8-9-1.  The fact that the East Division was won by a team with a sub-.500 record made it rather obvious that Edmonton would be the “crossover team” for the Grey Cup Playoffs this year.

This weekend will be the semi-finals for those playoffs.  Edmonton survived its first-round game and will play Ottawa this Sunday; in the West Division bracket, the BC Lions will visit the Calgary Stampeders.  The winners of those two games will play for the Grey Cup the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  Oddsmakers in Las Vegas favor Edmonton by 2.5 points and Calgary by 7.5 points in these games.

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald captured the essence of fans’ frustrations with game delays in this comment:

“The Cubs needed 108 years, seven games, a rain delay and extra innings to win a World Series. This whole thing felt like a replay review in football.”

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

Another Post-Election Result …


I got an email over the weekend with a great offer.  If I wanted to buy “genuine” NBA gear at 50% off – or more – all I had to do was to click on a link and go to some website that I will not reproduce here for reasons that will become obvious in a moment.  One of the jerseys pictured in the email was #24 from the LA Lakers.  The email sender identified it as the jersey of “Colby Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakes”.  At that point, I figured there were two explanations:

I chose #2 and deleted the email.  When you get one in your inbox, I suggest you do the same…

In addition to the country electing a President last week, the good folks of San Diego spoke clearly with regard to public financing for a new stadium for the Chargers.  I do not pretend to understand what provision of law in either California or San Diego – or both – required a ballot initiative prior to the city fathers striking a deal with the team owner.  Nevertheless, I think that is a great provision of law and that other jurisdictions would do well to replicate it in other jurisdictions.  The deal was supposedly going to be financed by a rise in the hotel tax allowing proponents to say that out-of-towners would be paying for the stadium.  The people did not buy that.

The new stadium financing proposal only got 43% of the vote.  In electoral politics, a vote of 52% – 48% is considered a “landslide win”; I do not know if there is a word that makes “landslide win” seem like a trivial matter; if there is such a word, I think it might apply to the stadium funding initiative in San Diego.

So, where does this leave the Chargers and the NFL?  Here are some possible pathways to the future:

  1. Stasis. The Chargers stay in San Diego and continue to play in Qualcomm Stadium even though ownership – and others – say it is outdated and sub-standard.  [Full disclosure:  I have never been to that stadium to see a game.  I have driven by it and seen it from the road.  That is the full extent of my personal expertise here.]  In such a circumstance, the Chargers would continue to make money year after year after year – albeit not as much as they might make in a new playpen.  For an NFL team actually to lose money these days, it would have to be operated by a lobotomized garden slug.
  2. The Chargers have an option – I believe it expires next February – to move to LA and be a “junior partner” in the new stadium complex that Stan Kroenke and others are building there. I have to imagine that Kroenke would prefer not to have such a “partner” and will drive a hard bargain in whatever partnership agreement would be forthcoming.  However, as I understand it, his approval to move the Rams to LA last year by the NFL had that contingency in the approval.  I think the Chargers would be destined to exist as “junior partners” in this arrangement for eternity – – with particular emphasis on the word “junior”.
  3. The Chargers might cast a loving glance in the direction of Las Vegas NV where the State money for a new stadium ($700M) has already been approved by the legislature and signed by the governor. [Aside:  Interestingly, Nevada will pay for the stadium bonds with an increased hotel tax levied in the city/county of Las Vegas.  No referendum was required.]  A team moving to Las Vegas will have to deal with Sheldon Adelson who is also putting up a reported $650M for the project; perhaps, the Chargers can get a better deal from Messr. Adelson than they can get from Messr. Kroenke?
  4. Recall that the Chargers and the Raiders had a “partnership proposal” in front of the NFL owners last year where they would build a stadium in Carson, CA and both teams would move there. Is there another deal to be made between those two clubs?  I doubt that the NFL would approve of 2 teams moving to Las Vegas…
  5. The NFL continues to say that they want a team in London…

I do not do a lot of commentary here on NHL happenings for the simple reason that I do not follow the NHL nearly as closely as I follow other sports – particularly in the regular season.  A friend who tracks the NHL much more closely told me to go and look at the following data and to think about an explanation.

  • The Montreal Canadiens have played 16 games so far this year and have won 13 of them.
  • At one point, they had an 8-game win streak going for them as they went to Columbus, OH to play the Columbus Blue Jackets.  As of this morning the Blue Jackets have won 7 of their 13 outings.
  • In that game in Columbus, the Canadiens lost by a score of 10-0.  In their 16 games so far this season, the Canadiens have only allowed 34 goals.  Other than this debacle of a game, the team gives up an average of 1.6 goals per game; in that game, they gave up 10 goals.

I have thought about this; I have no explanation…

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald demonstrated great insight with this comment on college football:

“In Thailand, a tortoise raced a hare. This is the Thai version of Michigan playing Rutgers in college football.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/12/16


‘Twas the most marginal of mythically profitable weeks last week with the NCAA Mythical Picks.  I made 15 selections and the record for the week was 8-7-0.  That brings the season record for NCAA Mythical Picks to 85-72-0.  Could be better … could be worse …

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Penn St. -7 against Iowa.  Penn St. won by 27 points.
  • Arkansas +4 against Florida.  Arkansas won outright by 21 points.
  • Air Force +1.5 against Army.  Air Force won outright by 19 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • K-State -3 against Oklahoma St.  K-State lost outright by 6 points.
  • Nebraska +17 against Ohio State.  Ohio State won the game 62-3.

Last week’s meager pickings ought not to entice anyone into thinking positively about the picks for this week.  Nonetheless, to be on the safe side, let me remind everyone that nothing herein is authoritative with regard to wagering on college football.  Therefore, no one should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on an actual college football game.  Anyone dumb enough to do that …

…thinks changing your mind is a procedure involving a brain transplant.

General Comments:


The Linfield College Wildcats extended their season record to 7-1 last week with a 33-7 victory over Puget Sound.  This week, the Wildcats will conclude their regular season – with the hope of participating in the Division III national playoff – by hosting Pacific Lutheran University.  The Lutes come to the game with a 2-game winning streak and an overall record of 5-3.  Go Wildcats!

Last week, the E. Washington Eagles beat Cal Poly 42-21.  WR, Cooper Kupp, had some unusual stats in this game:

  • Kupp caught 11 passes for 154 yards.
  • Kupp caught 1 TD pass.
  • Kupp threw 2 passes and completed both of them for TDs.
  • Kupp returned 1 punt for 28 yards.

This week, the Eagles host the Idaho St. Bengals in the next-to-last game of the regular season.  Go Eagles!

            Some big-name college football programs have fallen on hard times this season.  Here are 3 teams all of whom carry 3-6 records as of this morning:

  • Notre Dame
  • Oregon
  • UCLA

There is a bit of foreshadowing in that list because a program that has been prominent on the national stage for the last several years is going to make an appearance on the SHOE watchlist later in these comments…

Last week, Navy beat Notre Dame 28-27.  This was a big win for Navy in terms of whom they beat and because that was their 6th win of the season making them bowl-eligible.  To give you an example of the way Navy controlled this game, Notre Dame only had 2 possessions in the entire second half of the game.  Moreover, Navy did not punt at all in the game.

Meanwhile, Air Force beat Army last week 31-12.  Air Force dominated the game gaining 444 yards on offense while Army only gained 228.  That win makes Air Force bowl-eligible and leaves Army with only 5 wins for the year.  Normally, it takes six wins to achieve bowl-eligibility and once a team is eligible, the odds are staggeringly high that they will get an invitation because there are often more bowl slots than there are bowl-eligible teams.  The problem for Army is that it has no conference affiliation and many bowl games have contractual ties with conferences to send their 4th place team – – if eligible – – to that game.  Army will have to make itself enticing to one of the bowl games that can “freelance” with their invitations.  So, here is the rest of the Army schedule for the year.  I see one comfortable win there; it might be a lot better for Army’s bowl chances if they could squeeze out another win:

  1. Vs Notre Dame:  The Irish should be angry here; Army is a 14-point underdog.
  2. Vs Morgan St.:  Should be a win against a Division 1-AA opponent.
  3. Vs. Navy:  Hardly a walkover…

Old Dominion University does not have a decades-long tradition of going to bowl games but they will likely be going to one this year.  The Monarchs got their 6th win of the season last week beating Marshall 38-14.  ODU has 3 games left and it would not be shocking if they won the last 2 giving them a season record of 8-4.

Last week, Florida Atlantic (not a good team at all) beat Rice (not nearly a good team at all) by a score of 42-25.  Both teams had been on the SHOE watchlist; this win is not enough to get FAU off the list entirely; this loss is surely sufficient to make Rice a favorite to be one of the 8 teams in the “fantastical” SHOE Tournament.

Colorado St. beat Fresno St. 37-0.  Fresno St. was on the SHOE watchlist and you may be certain this result will keep them there.  Fresno St. is one of those schools that just had to fire its coach in mid-season.  Looking at this result against a 4-loss team, I think it might be appropriate to ask the movers and shakers in the Fresno St. Athletic Dept.:

So, how’d that work out for you?

In SEC country, Alabama beat LSU 10-0.  Back in 1958, LSU won the National Championship on the backs of an outstanding defense nicknamed the “Chinese Bandits”.  In 10 regular season games – and the Sugar Bowl game that year – the LSU defense held all but one opponent to single-digits on the scoreboard.  Duke scored 18 points in one game and other than that, no team scored more than 7 in a game.  I mention that because LSU has a long tradition of putting tough and effective defenses on the field.  They did it again this year; and in this game, the score was 0-0 at the end of the 3rd quarter.

The problem for LSU was that the Alabama defense is the current day version of the “Chinese Bandits”.  They held Leonard Fournette to 35 yards rushing on 19 carries.  Alabama won the game 10-0 and was in control for the entire time.

LSU also fired its coach in mid-season.  Les Miles was fired and the complaints about him were – in no particular order:

  • Can’t beat Alabama.  Well, neither did the new guy, Ed Orgeron.
  • Played the wrong QB.  Well the new guy went 11 for 24 for 92 yards and 1 INT.
  • Plays a plodding offense.  Well, the new one amasses all of 125 yards on 51 snaps.

Ed Orgeron may be a fine coach but let me just say that all the hype about him changing stuff at LSU in the past month or so seems pretty flimsy now.  Before the Alabama game, Orgeron coached against exactly 1 team with a winning record and that team was Southern Mississippi.  LSU won that game – but a top-shelf SEC team is supposed to beat Southern Mississippi.  As an example of what I mean here, UNC-Charlotte beat Southern Mississippi last week by 11 points and no one in the same zip code with sobriety would think of UNC-Charlotte as a top-shelf SEC team.  Once LSU and Orgeron went up against a real top team (Alabama) they got skunked.

By the way, the complaints about LSU’s plodding offense are not completely off target.  I read a report that said that LSU has yet to go OVER the Total Line in any game this year; in 8 games their record against the Total Line is 0-7-1.

Texas A&M had been ranked #4 by the CFP Selection Committee in its first rankings of the year; that had been slightly controversial given that the Aggies had lost a game and there were some undefeated teams out there such as Washington.  Well, that controversy was dismissed last week by Mississippi St. when the Bulldogs beat the Aggies 35-28.  I said in last week’s comments regarding Mythical Picks that this was not a game I wanted to bet on but was a game I wanted to pay attention to.  Mississippi St. won by only 7 points but they dominated the game.  Consider:

  • Total offense:  Bulldogs = 574 yards  Aggies = 388 yards
  • Miss. St. was 11 for 18 on 3rd down conversions
  • First downs:  Bulldogs = 29    Aggies = 15.

Next up for Mississippi St. this week is Alabama – at Alabama.  To put some perspective on the Mississippi St./Texas A&M game last week, Alabama is a Ponderosa favorite over Mississippi St. this week…

Going into last week’s slate of games, Kentucky had the opportunity to be right in the midst of whatever turmoil there would be in the SEC East; they had a path to the SEC Championship Game.  They still have that chance – but it is dimmer because Kentucky lost to Georgia last week 27-24.  Two weeks ago, Georgia could only produce 165 yards’ offense against Florida; last week, they put out 460 yards’ offense on Kentucky.  Georgia lost 3 fumbles in the game thereby keeping things in suspense.

Kentucky is now 4-3 in SEC games; that puts them in second place in the SEC East; they conclude their SEC schedule this week when they go to Knoxville to play Tennessee.  That is not a particularly welcoming venue for Kentucky; the last time they won there was in 1984.  Even with a win in that game, they will need Florida to stumble down the stretch.

Florida showed last week that they are perfectly capable of stumbling.  Against Arkansas, the Gators were dominated in losing 31-10.  Arkansas almost doubled Florida in offensive output; the Razorbacks gained 466 yards to Florida’s 241.  Florida’s netted only 12 yards rushing on 14 attempts.  Like LSU as discussed above, Florida is a team that relies on its defense to control the game and to set up the offense to score.  When the defense does not do that, the Gators are in deep yoghurt.

In Big 10 action, Nebraska paid a visit to Ohio State last week.  There in Columbus, the Cornhuskers received the football equivalent of a ritual disembowelment losing 62-3 and losing their starting QB, Tommy Armstrong, when his head slammed off the ground after he was knocked out of bounds in the first half of the game.  Armstrong left the field and the stadium in an ambulance but was back on the sidelines – in street clothes to be sure – late in the game.  Armstrong’s replacement, Ryker Fyfe, was not ready for the Ohio State defense; his final stats showed 5 for 18 for 52 yards.

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this comment about the Ohio St./Nebraska game before the fact:

“On Friday, Ohio State was a 17 ½-point favorite. I’m pretty sure it was the half-point that especially irked Husker players.

“For comparison sake, this weekend the Globetrotters were 16-point favorites over the Washington Generals.”

Nebraska is still in the Big 10 West race; however, the fact that they lost to Wisconsin 2 weeks ago means they do not have that tiebreaker in hand and will need help to get that title.  Also in the mix for the Big 10 West is Minnesota who – like Nebraska and Wisconsin – have 2 conference losses.  Ohio State has 1 loss in Big 10 play – to Penn St. – and still has the chance to create a 3-way tie in the Big 10 East.  It could happen that Ohio St. Penn St. and Michigan could all finish with 1 loss in Big 10 action at the end of the season with each team holding a 1-1 record against the other two.  Before anyone asks, I have no idea what the Big 10 tiebreaker rules are in such a situation.

Michigan stayed undefeated pummeling Maryland 58-3 last week.  Michigan had 5 possessions in the first half of the game; Michigan scored a TD on all five of those possessions.  The score was 45-0 at the end of three quarters.  Michigan ran 66 plays and gained 660 yards; no one needs a calculator to realize that is domination.

Penn St. stayed in step with Michigan and Ohio St. in the Big 10 East with a 41-10 win over Iowa.  Saquon Barkley gained 167 yards on 20 carries and the ran up 606 yards of offense leaving the outcome of this game in no doubt.

Wisconsin beat Northwestern 21-7.  Wisconsin’s defense is for real; Northwestern managed to gain only 39 yards on the ground in this game.

In bottom-feeder Big 10 action, Illinois beat Michigan St. 31-27.  Michigan St. was the Big 10 Champion last year and played Alabama in the first round of the CFP.  As of this morning their 2016 record stands at 2-7 which is bad on its fact but is even worse considering:

  • Michigan St. has lost 7 games in a row.
  • Four of those 7 losses have been by double-digits.
  • Michigan St. has lost to Indiana, Maryland and now Illinois this year.

How the mighty have fallen…

Moving to the ACC, Wake Forest beat Virginia 27-20.  Before anyone asks, this is an interesting result only because this is Wake’s 6th win of the year and it will send them to a bowl game somewhere.  That has not happened since 2011.  Otherwise, there was nothing interesting about this game.

UNC beat Georgia Tech 48-20 last week and it looked as if UNC might coast its way into the Coastal Division title and a place in the ACC Championship Game.  The Tar Heels dominated the game against Tech.  Then, UNC played Duke last night and Duke – previously winless in ACC games this year – beat UNC and put the Va Tech Hokies in charge of that division for the moment.

Miami beat Pitt handily by a score of 51-28.  Miami had lost 4 in a row going into this game.  Both teams are now 5-4 on the season.

Clemson manhandled Syracuse 54-0.  Clemson QB, Deshaun Watson, had to leave the game in the first half with a shoulder injury; that did not prevent this game from being an organized ass-kicking.  It would appear that Clemson is on a glide path to the Atlantic Division title in the ACC.  They have 2 conference games left – Pitt this week and Wake Forest next week.  The Tigers should be favored in both games and wins there would put them in the ACC Championship Game.

The Big 12 featured some high-scoring games last weekend but none that had a lot of national impact.  Oklahoma beat Iowa St. 34-24.  That outcome is not surprising but it is interesting because OU played without its top two RBs – one was injured and the other suspended for a game.  Demonstrating “depth at the running back position”, Dimitri Flowers ran for 115 yards and a TD in this game.

Oklahoma St. beat K-State 43-37.  K-State dominated the run game 345 yards to 180 yards.  Most of the time, that would produce a victory for K-State.  However, last week the passing game was even more lopsided.  Oklahoma St. threw for 457 yards (almost 12 yards per attempt) while K-state managed to gain a measly 87 yards through the air.

TCU clobbered Baylor 62-22.  This is the second loss in a row for Baylor and this one was a beatdown.  Going into the game, Baylor had been ranked in the Top 20 nationally and that ranking shows why “strength of schedule” is important.  Baylor’s schedule had been softer than a marshmallow.  Other than Oklahoma St. – a better than average team but not one that anyone thinks is “championship material” – here is the Baylor schedule prior to last week:

  • Northwestern St. – (Div 1-AA)
  • SMU – mediocre at best
  • Rice – clearly a SHOE team
  • Iowa St. – could be a SHOE team
  • Kansas – clearly a SHOE team
  • Texas – fans looking to fire the coach there

TCU running back, Kyle Hicks, had 192 yards rushing and scored 5 TDs.  I think that would fit into the category of a “good game” …

Texas teat Texas Tech 45-37.  Texas amassed 658 yards on offense; running back D’Onta Foreman contributed 341 of those yards and he scored 3 TDs too.  The Texas’ defense has been a weak link for much of this season and you might look at the stats for this game and think that they were not doing well.  Texas gave up 482 yards of offense but that is actually a good showing because Texas Tech was averaging 600.2 yards per game going into this game.

Out west in the PAC-12, Washington St. beat Arizona 69-7.  The simple and obvious conclusion from this game is that Arizona is not a good football team.  Period.

Colorado beat UCLA 20-10.  UCLA is not very good and Colorado is surprisingly good this year.  The interesting stat from this game is that Colorado committed 8 personal fouls in the game – and still won.  Perhaps they were channeling the Oakland Raiders of the 70s and 80s…?

USC beat Oregon 45-20.  Redshirt freshman QB, Sam Darnold, played very well here.  Yes, I know that the Oregon defense is pathetic; nevertheless, Darnold played well and threw very accurately in the game.  There are lots of “really good athletes” on the USC squad; that was most apparent against an over-matched Oregon team.  Perhaps USC is a team on the rise?

Washington remained undefeated with a dominating win over Cal 66-27.  WR, Joe Ross had 208 yards receiving and 3 TDs.

If I were going to go to the trouble of putting together my “All-Geography Football Team” for 2016, I would start with these folks:

  1. Taiwan Deal – RB, Wisconsin
  2. Bentley Spain – OL, North Carolina
  3. Dijon Paschal – WR, Arkansas St.
  4. Newton Salisbury – DE, Florida International and
  5. River Cracraft – WR, Washington St.


The Ponderosa Games:


Last week we had 9 Ponderosa Games and the record for favorites covering in those games was 3-6-0.

Clemson, Louisville and Michigan covered.

Appalachian St., Auburn, Boise St., Ole Miss, W. Kentucky and W. Virginia did not cover.

The season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games now stands at 33-37-1.

This week we have 7 Ponderosa Games:


Ohio St. – 29.5 at Maryland (57.5):  Last week, Maryland lost by 56 and Ohio St. won by 59.  Either of those outcomes could happen again here…


Wake Forest at Louisville – 34.5 (54.5):  Wake Forest became bowl-eligible last week.  Given this perception of Wake’s chances against Louisville, consider that they will be headed to a minor bowl game.


Mississippi St. at Alabama – 29 (55):  The Bulldogs knocked off the CFP #4 team last week.  Can they do the same to the CFP #1 team this week?  Unlikely…


North Texas at W. Kentucky – 28 (65):  Really?  Remind me to check the score of this game on Sunday because I will not be paying attention on Saturday.


Illinois at Wisconsin – 26 (39):  The oddsmakers think Wisconsin will win by 26 and the total score will be 39.  That does not leave a lot of points to be scored by Illinois…


Tulane at Houston – 25 (51):  Another ho-hum game…


San Diego St. – 24 at Nevada (51.5):  San Diego St. has a really good RB named Donnel Pumphrey.  He broke Marshall Faulk’s career rushing record at San Diego St.


The SHOE Teams:


I will list 12 teams that are the most serious contenders for the SHOIE Tournament this week and 4 more that are on a peripheral watchlist.  Making initial appearances this week are 3 teams that normally would be far distant from any such mention.  The reasons are explained here:

Arizona: They are 117th in the nation in total defense and 116th in the nation in scoring defense.  They give up just over 37 point per game.  They are also 115th in the country in scoring offense producing only 22.2 points per game.

Michigan St.:  They have lost 7 in a row; three of those losses have been to mediocre at best teams.  They score 23.2 points per game; they give up 30.3 points per game.

Missouri:  They have lost 5 in a row including home game losses to Middle Tennessee St. and Kentucky.  Their 2 wins this year are over E. Michigan and Delaware St.

The 12 teams on the serious SHOE watchlist in alphabetical order are:

  1. Arizona
  2. Bowling Green
  3. Florida Atlantic – they play UTEP this week
  4. Fresno St.
  5. Iowa St.
  6. Kansas
  7. Marshall
  8. New Mexico St.
  9. Rice
  10. Rutgers – they play Michigan St. this week
  11. Texas St.
  12. UMass

The 4 teams on the peripheral watchlist in alphabetical order are:

  1. Buffalo
  2. Michigan St.
  3. Missouri
  4. UTEP

Games of Interest:

Penn St. – 7 at Indiana (59):  As noted above, Penn St. is in the middle of the Big 10 East Division race.  Indiana needs another win for bowl-eligibility but I am not impressed with the teams they have beaten so far this year.  I like Penn St. to win and cover – even on the road.


Iowa St. – 10 at Kansas (56):  Two SHOE teams play each other and the road team is a double-digit favorite.  Please do not bet on this game; in fact, do not watch this game unless you have a blood relative participating in it.  The loser here will surely be on the “close watchlist” for the SHOE Tournament next week…


Tulsa at Navy – 2 (69):  The Total Line opened the week at 76 points and has been dropping all week.  I see lots of points on the board in this game.  I do not think either defense will hold the opposition in check. I think this line is moving in the wrong direction; I’ll take this game to go OVER.


Ga Tech at Va Tech – 10 (54):  Georgia Tech needs a win to become bowl-eligible; if Va Tech wins out, they will be the ACC Coastal Division champs and will play Clemson (probably) in the ACC Championship Game.  There is the motivation for the game.  The Hokies are 17th in the country in total defense giving up 327.4 yards per game.  Georgia Tech is 64th in the country in total defense giving up 405.4 yards per game.  That is where I think the difference lies.  I’ll take Va Tech to win and cover here.


Texas Tech at Oklahoma St. – 12.5 (89.5):  Believe it or not, that Total Line has dropped slightly during the week; it opened at 91 points.  Tech’s prolific offense is all throwing the ball; State’s pass defense is not very good but it is not miserable either.  Tech’s defense is 122nd in the country against the pass and 115th in the country against the run.  Overall, Techs’ defense is 126th in the country yielding 533.3 yards per game.  I like Oklahoma St. at home to win and cover here.


Ole Miss at Texas A&M – 10 (54):  The Total Line opened at 63 and dropped almost immediately to 57 and then has drifted down all week long.  Once again, I think the line is moving in the wrong direction.  I like this game to go OVER.


Auburn – 10.5 at Georgia (48.5):  Auburn runs the ball really well producing just under 300 yards per game on the ground.  Georgia and Ohio St. are tied for 19th in the country in rushing defense allowing only 118.2 yards per game.  I think the game comes down to how well Auburn can run the ball – or not.  Neither team is fearsome through the air.  Make this a venue call; I’ll take Georgia plus the double-digit helping of points.


Kentucky at Tennessee – 14 (60):  Kentucky has been surprisingly good this year winning 5 games already.  Tennessee has underperformed expectations this year.  The reason for those observations is that some folks had Tennessee winning the SEC East and challenging Alabama for SEC supremacy; no one thought Kentucky would have 5 wins at this point in the season – and maybe not as many as 5 wins at the end of the season.  Tennessee’ defense is a bit better but both teams give up around 400 yards per game.  Tennessee gives up 5 fewer points per game here.  I think the Total Line is low; I’ll take this game to go OVER.


South Carolina at Florida – 11 (37.5):  South Carolina is not very good and Florida’s offense is a mess.  The oddsmakers see this as a low-scoring game and I fully agree.  Therefore, I will take South Carolina with that generous helping of points.


LSU – 7 at Arkansas (46.5):  Short and sweet here…  I see this game playing out very differently than these lines suggest.  I’ll take Arkansas at home plus the points and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Army vs Notre Dame – 14 (51): [Game played in San Antonio, TX]:  If Notre Dame loses to Navy – as they did last week – and then to Army this week, I suspect that the Irish will be looking for a new coach starting in December.  Nevertheless, that line looks awfully fat to me.  I like Army plus the points here.


Cal at Washington St. – 15 (83):  These are two teams that have incredible swings in their performances from week to week.  This will probably be an entertaining game but neither team inspires enough confidence to make a selection.  Watch but don’t bet …


USC at Washington – 9 (62):  I asked above if perhaps USC was a team on the rise.  Well, if they are, they can demonstrate that with a solid game against a demonstrably good Washington team in Seattle.  Purely a hunch; I’ll take USC plus the points.


West Virginia at Texas – 2 (64):  Texas is much better at home than they are on the road; four of their 5 wins this year have come at home.  The Mountaineers are 7-1 but those 7 wins are not at the expense of any top-shelf opponents.

  • Missouri – on the SHOE peripheral watchlist
  • Youngstown St. – Div 1-AA
  • BYU – good not great
  • K-State – not the best K-State team of recent vintage
  • Texas Tech – cannot play defense at the high school level
  • TCU – good not great
  • Kansas – just plain awful.

Make this a venue call; I like Texas to win and cover at home.


Baylor at Oklahoma – 17.5 (79):  As noted above, Baylor’s sorta gaudy record comes at the expense of bad teams.  Oklahoma is hardly a great team, but this is a much better than usual opponent for Baylor so far this year – – and the game is in Norman, OK.  I do not want Baylor in this game nor do I want to lay that many points with an in-and-out Oklahoma team.  The game is interesting but not bettable …


Minnesota at Nebraska – 7 (48):  Both teams have 2 losses in conference this year and both can still win the Big 10 West Division.  Nebraska has lost 2 in a row to Wisconsin and Ohio St. and both games were road games for the Huskers.  Make no mistake, Minnesota is an easier opponent that either of those two teams.  Nebraska QB, Tommy Armstrong practiced yesterday but is still not cleared to play.  With that decision up in the air, this game cannot be a wagering proposition – – but it is a potentially important and therefore interesting game…


Michigan – 21.5 at Iowa (50.5):  Get ready for smashmouth football if you are tuning into this one…  Iowa lost handily to Penn St on the road last week; Michigan had no difficulty with Penn St. earlier this year.  The spread here is more than 3 TDs and it is tempting to take the underdog with those points – – but I will resist that temptation because every once in a while, Michigan goes into orbit and scores 50+ points.  Iowa will not come close to doing that against the Michigan defense.  I’ll pass…

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











Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/13/16


Last week was a bland week for Mythical Picking.  I made 13 selections and the record for the week was 6-6-1.  That is about as exciting as a tofu on white-bread sandwich.  The season record for NFL Mythical Picks now stands at 81-50-4.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol had a less-than-successful week.  There were 2 Coin Flip Games and the record was 0-1-1.  About halfway through the NFL season, the coins’ record stands at 8-8-1.  That is about what one ought to expect from flipping a coin…

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Lions +6 against Vikes.  Lions won straight up by 6 points.
  • Cowboys -7 against Browns.  Cowboys covered easily.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Packers – 7.5 against Colts.  Colts won the game outright.
  • Broncos “pick ’em” against Raiders.  Raiders won handily.

Notwithstanding the positive season record for NFL Mythical Picks, no one should think of using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NL game this weekend involving real money.  You would have to be this stupid to do something like that:

You think pasteurize means out of sight.

General Comments:

The Miami Dolphins look to be on a roll having won 3 games in a row.  Their record now stands at 4-4 which may not look like an outstanding record, but it is sufficient to put the Dolphins in second place in the AFC East a half-game ahead of the Buffalo Bills who have now lost 3 games in a row.  If the playoffs were to start today, they would be in the playoffs as the #2 wild-card team in the AFC; their win over the Steelers a couple of weeks ago would be the tiebreaker that put them there.

In case you did not know, the last time the Dolphins were in the playoffs was all the way back in 2008.  Last week, the Dolphins beat the Jets 27-23.  The Jets are now 3-6 for the season and I know that it is not de rigueur for an NFL team to toss in the towel in November, but it is pretty much over for the Jets as of this moment.  Yes, they might win out and wind up 10-6 and sneak into the playoffs; yes, they might also plant some magic beans that grow into a beanstalk and …  What the Jets need to do is to start one of their raw rookie QBs to find out if he can even pretend to be an NFL QB somewhere down the line.  The current offensive “system” for the Jets is not working; they got into the red zone 5 times last week and scored only 1 TD; note they lost by only 4 points …

Oh, one more thing about the Jets …  It may be time for them to think about moving Darelle Revis from CB to Safety.  “Revis Island” is no longer inaccessible; someone has built a four-lane causeway out to the island.

Last week, Jay Ajayi ran for 111 yards against the Jets’ defense.  If there is any good news for the Jets in that number, it is that the Jets’ defense held Ajayi under 200 yards – a mark he surpassed in his previous 2 games.

The Bills were the other AFC East team in action last week and they lost to the Seahawks 31-25.  There were some “controversial calls” by the officials in the game and there were some totally botched calls by the official in the game.  In several of Dan Jenkins’ novels about football and the NFL, he has as characters in the books NFL referees who have bet on the games on the side and use their calls to assure that they cash their bets.  That is fiction and I doubt that any NFL official does anything close to that.  But if you wanted to make a made-for-TV-movie with that sort of thing as a plot element, there is NFL game footage from this year that can be used in the made-for-TV-movie to lend full credibility to the plot element.

The Seahawks’ OL continues to “struggle” – to put it politely.  Against the Bills the Seahawks ran the ball 12 times for 33 yards.  Their leading “rusher” was WR, Tyler Lockett who ran for 13 yards on a reverse; the second leading rusher was Russell Wilson who gained 10 yards on 3 carries.  Notwithstanding this sort of OL play, the Seahawks lead the NFC West by 2 full games as of today.

In other NFC West action, the Panthers beat the Rams 13-10. Which of these two situations obtained in this game:

  • The Panthers ‘defense got back on track and played the way they did last year
  • This was the Rams’ offense showing that it is – well – offensive.

You make the call…

Like the Seahawks, the Panthers’ OL needs to step up its game significantly.  The Rams sacked Cam Newton 5 times in this game and most of those sacks came in situations where the Panthers’ OL was overrun.

The Rams’ fans were not happy with the performance of Case Keenum at QB; after all, the Rams were still scoreless at the end of the 3rd quarter.  The fans began chanting for rookie, Jared Goff, to come into the game; after those chants went unanswered some of the fans began chanting for Tim Tebow.


Memo for Rams’ Fans:  Just be aware that both Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin are not available to enter a game at QB because they are both – – dead.


By the way, the recipe for beating the Rams now seems pretty apparent.  If you can put the squeeze on RB, Todd Gurley, and make the Rams try to beat you through the air, you stand a good chance of winning the game.  The Panthers did just that and came away with the win – in the week after Cam Newton went to talk to the Commish about him not getting calls for roughing the passer.  Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this to say about that meeting:

Cam Newton going to the NFL commissioner to plead for more protection — isn’t that odd for a guy who claims to be Superman?”

The Saints beat the Niners 41-23.  So, just how bad is the Niners’ defense?  The Saints – a team known for its dominant passing attack – ran the ball for 248 yards (Mark Ingram had 158 of those yards by himself.).  Lest you think that running game put Drew Brees on ice for the week, it did not.  Brees threw for 323 yards and 3 TDs.

The Chargers beat the Titans 45-33. Titans’ QB, Marcus Mariota, handed the Chargers 2 TDs in the game losing a fumble that turned into a Scoop-and-Score and then throwing a Pick Six.  There you have 14 points for the Chargers and the margin of victory was 12 points.  The Chargers rode RB, Melvyn Gordon’s, big day; Gordon ran for 196 yards and a TD on 32 carries.

The Raiders beat the Broncos in a nationally televised game 30-20.  Latavius Murray was dominant in this game rushing for 114 yards and a TD.  It is not often that the Broncos allow an opponent running back to gain 100 yards in a game.  On the flip side, the Raiders’ defense came to play shutting down the Broncos’ run game.  The Broncos tried to run the ball 12 times and gained a total of 33 yards.  The Raiders had the ball for 41:28 in the game.  The Raiders are in first place in the AFC West by half-a-game over the KC Chiefs.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs beat the Jags 19-14 last week.  Chiefs’ TE, Travis Kelce, was ejected from the game after getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from the official for his objection to a non-call in the end zone.  That is no big deal; every pass receiver worth his salt in the league does something like that on a weekly basis.  Kelce’s protest was a bit more melodramatic than usual and he got a flag.  What he did next was pure meatheadedness:


He reached into the pocket of his pants and took out a towel that was there and threw it at the official.  At that point the official gave Kelce a foreign language lesson by bidding him Sayonara!


The Jags outgained the Chiefs in this game 449 yards to 231 yards and they gained more than 200 yards on the ground.  Normally, those stats result in a victory; not here.  The Jags also turned the ball over 4 times leading to 13 of the Chiefs’ 19 points.  In another statistical anomaly, the Chiefs were 1 for 13 on third down – – and still won the game.

The Falcons beat the Bucs 43-28 last Thursday night to get the week off to an interesting start.  This was an entertaining game – not something that you could say about most of the Thursday Night Games that have preceded it this year.  Matt Ryan threw for 344 yards and 4 TDs while Jameis Winston threw for 261 yards and 3 TDs.

The Cowboys beat the Browns 35-10.  The Dak Prescott/Ezekiel Elliott Show carried on.  Prescott was 21 for 27 for 247 yards and 3 TDs; Elliott averaged just over 5 yards per carry and scored 2 TDs.  The Browns trailed 21-10 at the half which means that the Browns were within hailing distance of the lead.  Then in the second half the Browns amassed a total of 28 yards offense.  YIKES!

With a record standing at 0-9, the Browns are now just a bit more than halfway to a winless season.  Here is the rest of their schedule:

At Ravens (tonight):  Browns are a double-digit underdog

Vs Steelers:  Browns will be a big underdog here

Vs Giants:  Giants will be in the middle of a playoff race

BYE Week:  Browns will not lose here…

Vs Bengals:  Bengals have won the last 4 meetings

At Bills:  Bills might be vulnerable this late in the season – but it is in Buffalo

Vs Chargers:  May be a meaningless game for the Chargers.

At Steelers:  Last win for Browns at Heinz Field was in October 2003.

The Ravens beat the Steelers 21-14 to take the lead in the AFC North after the Ravens had lost 4 games in a row.  Basically, the Ravens’ defense dominated the game; a meaningless score in “garbage time” makes the game look a lot closer than it was.  Consider:

  • Steelers did not score a point in the first 3 quarters of the game
  • Steelers had a total of 68 yards offense in the first half.
  • Steelers were penalized 70, yards in the first half.
  • Steelers’ RB, LeVeon Bell was held to 32 yards on 14 carries.

The AFC North looks as if it is going to be an interesting race down to the wire on Jan 1 2017…

The Giants beat the Eagles 28-23.  Note the difference here is 5 points and realize that the Eagles eschewed 2 very makeable field goals to go for it on 4th down – unsuccessfully both times – in the game.  Eli Manning threw for 257 yards and 4 TDS to win the game in the Meadowlands.  The Giants lost WR Victor Cruz and OG Justin Pugh to injuries in that game.  If both are out for an extended period of time, that could be problematic for the Giants.

The Colts beat the Packers 31-26.  Andrew Luck played like a $100M QB in this game; the Colts went into the red zone 4 times and got 3 TDs on those ventures.  The Colts also scored a TD on a kickoff return.  After the game, Aaron Rodgers called out teammates with regard to “insufficient effort”.  That is never a good sign…  The Packers are in third place in the NFC North a game behind the Vikes and half a game behind the Lions.

The Lions beat the Vikes last week 22-16 in OT.  That is the 3rd straight loss for the Vikes whose offense continues to “sputter” – to be polite about it.    Let me be clear about something here; the Vikes were never going to ride their offense into the playoffs; if they were to get there this year, it was going to be defense and special teams that carried the day.  Well the defense was good-but-not-great here; there were special teams’ hiccoughs and the offense stunk.

  • Since their BYE Week, the Vikes offense has averaged 292 yards per game.
  • Last week, the defense allowed the Lions to get in field goal position to force OT.
  • Then the defense allowed the Lions to drive 87 yards for a winning TD in OT.
  • Place kicker, Blair Walsh missed a PAT and had a field goal blocked in the game.

The NFC North race sees the Packers on the ropes and the Vikes stalled while the Lions are en fuego.  The Lions are 5-4 and in every win, they trailed in the final 2 minutes of regulation time.  Might the Lions be a “Team of Destiny” in 2016?


The Games:


There are 4 teams on their BYE Week this week:

  • Buffalo needs to regroup; they have lost 3 games in a row.
  • Detroit gets a week off to prepare for Jax next week and then the Vikes on Thanksgiving.
  • Indy gets a week off hoping for a Houston loss on Sunday.
  • Oakland gets a week off basking in the glory of first place in the AFC West.

One more thing before I get to the games and the lines for the week…  There are a couple of games that may be important in terms of the standings and the playoffs and that sort of thing this week.  However, there are no lines that jump out at me as luscious wagering options.  Sometimes, you get a week like that.  Hi-Ho!


(Thurs Nite) Cleveland at Baltimore – 10 (45):  This spread has wandered during the week.  It opened at 9.5 points; it went up to 10 points and stayed there for a day or so; then it came down to 9 points and is sitting at 8.5 points this morning with one sportsbook quoting8 points.  The Ravens beat the Browns by 5 points in Week 2 in Cleveland.  At this moment, the Ravens lead the AFC North and the Browns are winless.  I think this will be a low scoring game so I am torn between taking the Browns plus the points or taking the game to stay UNDER.  Decision made; I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Houston – 1.5 at Jax (42):  This game was a strong contender for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week even though the Texans are in first place in the AFC South.  The Texans have yet to win a game on the road this season but the Jags are hardly fearsome at home going 1-3 in their own playpen.  Both QBs in this game have shown a propensity to turn the ball over – usually at the worst possible times.  I am going to predict that Blake Bortles will be the more egregious turnover machine here.  I’ll take the Texans to win and cover even on the road.  Here is a meaningless trend that supports the pick I just made:

  • Road team is 7-2-1 ATS in the last 10 games between these teams.


KC at Carolina – 3 (44):  The Chiefs are on a roll – and they are on the road.  The Panthers have their backs to the wall in terms of making the playoffs this year – and they are at home.  Purely a venue call here, I like the Panthers to win and cover.


Denver at New Orleans – 2.5 (49):  That line is not a typo; Denver is a road underdog here.  Last week against the Raiders, the Broncos showed that their defensive backfield injuries leave that part of the defense vulnerable and the Broncos also showed that opponents can run on their D-Line this year.  [The loss of Derek Wolfe last week to a stress fracture of the elbow will not help with run defense at all.]  The Saints are not a running team – – but last week they ran the ball really well – albeit against the Niners – so this game could hinge on the ability of the Saints to run the ball a bit in order to make Drew Brees even more difficult to defend.  The Saints’ defense is not a good unit by any means, but the Broncos’ offense with injuries at RB and no long passing game to speak of will not test that unit much.  Hunch call here; I like the Saints to win and cover.


LA at Jets – 2 (40):  This game just missed out on the label “Dog-Breath Game of the Week”.  The Rams are not interesting nor are they any good; the Jets are not interesting nor are they any good.  Imagine the excitement leading up to kickoff for this showdown between Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick.  My body is breaking out in hives just thinking about that one.  Venue call here; I’ll take the Jets at home and lay the points.


Atlanta at Philly “pick ‘em”  (50):  Let me be concise; the Falcons are the better team here and they are 4-1 on the road.  I’ll take the Falcons to win the game here.


Minnesota at Washington – 2.5 (42):  The Skins will be without Pro Bowl LT, Trent Williams for 4 games starting here.  If the Vikes DL can exploit that absence and pummel Skins’ QB, Kirk Cousins, this could be a big win for the Vikes.  The problem is that the Vikes offense is the worst in the NFL by a decent margin.  If the Vikes’ defense does not score, turning the ball over and assuring good field position may not be sufficient.  I will call this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Skins to win and cover at home.  This call by the coin flies in the face of the following trend:

  • Vikes are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 road games.

Green Bay – 3 at Tennessee (49.5):  The Titans like to run the ball; the Packers only allow 75.8 yards per game running.  The Packers might be able to show some balance on offense if they had an actual RB on the roster who was healthy enough to play.  Maybe James Starks can return there?  I like the Titans’ defense in this game and I like the fact that they are at home.  I’ll take the Titans plus the points.


Chicago at Tampa “pick ‘em” (46): Here we have the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Bears are 0-4 on the road this year; meanwhile the Bucs are 0-4 at home this year.  The oddsmaker wants me to “pick” the winner.  Even though I’d rather pick my nose, I’ll take the Bears to win the game.


Miami at San Diego – 3.5 (48.5):  Are the Dolphins for real?  They are riding a 3-game win streak and the running of Jay Ajayi to second place in the AFC East.  The Chargers are 4-5 but in the AFC West, that is nowhere near what the team record needs to be to command “relevancy”.  The Chargers’ defense is strongest against the run so this game will be very interesting.  I am calling this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Dolphins plus the points.  This time, there is a meaningless trend that agrees with the coin’s selection:

  • Dolphins are 7-3 ATS in the last 10 games between these two teams.


SF at Arizona – 13 (48):  The Cards should be able to run the ball at will against the Niners’ defense.  In their last 3 games, the Niners have lost by 18 points, 17 points and 29 points.  I hate laying double-digit points in NFL games, but the Niners lose by those margins frequently.  I’ll take the Cards and lay the points – reluctantly.


Dallas at Pittsburgh – 2.5 (49.5):  This would have been the Game of the Week had not the Sunday Night matchup been on the card.  The way to beat the Cowboys is to stop the run and force Dak Prescott to beat you when he does not have that running game to collapse the defense inside.  I do not think that the Steelers have that sort of defense.  I think Dallas has a legitimate shot to win the game outright so I’ll take them plus the points here.


(Sun Nite) Seattle at New England – 7.5 (48.5):  Here we have the Game of the Week – – and it just might be a Super Bowl foreshadowing.  We do know that these two teams met in the Super Bowl recently in the famous game where Malcom Butler intercepted a pass on the 1 yardline to preserve a win for the Pats.  I think there will be plenty of scoring in this game so I’ll take the game to go OVER.


(Mon Nite) Cincy at Giants – 1.5 (47):  Neither team can afford a loss here but the odds are that one of them will wake up Tuesday morning with another game in the loss column; remember, it is possible for the game to end in a tie  The Bengals are 1-3 on the road this year; the Giants are 3-1 at home this year.  Venue call’ I’ll take the Giants to win and cover.


Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“NFL TV ratings are down. I pondered why on Thursday night as I switched from something like the 25th televised football game of the week to a rerun of ‘Hogan’s Heroes.’”

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



Oakland Raiders/Las Vegas Raiders Update

At the conclusion of the 2002 season, the Oakland Raiders lost the Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Bucs.  For the next 13 seasons – through 2015 – the Raiders have enjoyed little success.

  • There have been no winning seasons since 2002.
  • Only twice (2010 and 2011) did they have a .500 record.
  • In 10 of those 13 seasons, they have had double-digit losses.

The 2016 Raiders are 7-2 and they lead the AFC West Division by half a game over the Chiefs and by a full game over the Broncos.  We are only in early November and the Raiders are guaranteed to have a winning record on the road for the season; they are currently undefeated on the road with a 5-0 record.  And so, the first conclusion one might draw is that things are looking up for the fans in Oakland – particularly the ones who inhabit the Black Hole on Sundays.

Maybe so – and maybe not…

If you are a Raiders’ fan with nothing but nostalgic ties to the city of Oakland, you are thrilled with the on-field results to date.  If, however, you are a Raiders’ fan who lives in Oakland or who has some fundamental feelings about the OAKLAND Raiders, you may be feeling apprehensive about the team leaving town.  A move to Las Vegas has been going through the traditional kabuki theater that precedes such franchise moves:

  • Protracted negotiations with Oakland indicate no new stadium there.
  • A plan to move to LA thwarted by other NFL owners.
  • Negotiations with the city-fathers of Las Vegas.
  • State money approved by the Nevada legislature and signed by the Governor.

And then, recently, the caravan leading the Raiders to Las Vegas hit a speed bump…  Part of the financing for the new stadium in Las Vegas would come via $650M thrown into the pot by Sheldon Adelson – CEO of Las Vegas Sands, a hotel/casino company.  According to financial estimates by people who purport to know about such things, Mr. Adelson’s net worth is close by the neighborhood of $29B.  This $650M commitment is a little more than 2% of his net worth.

Nevertheless, one would have to believe in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy – and maybe in some sort of interspecies liaison between those two fantastical creatures – to expect that Mr. Adelson’s $650M is a gratis contribution to the movement of the team.  Obviously, he wants a part of the Raiders for himself in exchange for his backing and his cash.  And in recent reports, it would seem that Mr. Adelson is not satisfied with whatever Mark Davis is offering him.  In one report, Adelson supposedly responded to a Davis proposal with a take-it-or-leave-it offer of his own.

I am skeptical about that report because that is hardly a way to get to a negotiated settlement but the fact that such a report is out there means that Adelson is not fully on board yet.  For Oakland fans who tie the team to Oakland, that could be a good thing because without Adelson’s ante into the pot, there is not enough money to build the sort of stadium that has been touted all through this process.  Moreover, I suspect that Mr. Adelson is shrewd enough to recognize that his inexorable ties to gambling casinos will get in the way of NFL owners’ approval of a move until the owners have time to acclimate themselves to having any ties to casino owners at all.

I would not be surprised at all to learn that Mr. Adelson really wants to own the Las Vegas Raiders at some point nor would I be surprised to learn that Mark Davis does not want that to happen.  What this deal needs is “a broker” or a “diplomatic interlocutor” to keep the parties from painting themselves into separate corners.  Moreover, that “broker” needs to be someone who can “chat up” a bunch of the NFL owners to make them positively disposed to the deal.  That person is:


Jerry Jones


The Cowboys’ owner has expressed his support for this move and for the benefit that the Raiders would bring to the NFL in this new facility.  He is a mover and shaker in the NFL owners’ community and he has the credibility and the capability to be the guy that both Adelson and Davis can turn to for advice and counsel here.  It has not happened yet, but I would not be shocked at all to hear that it is ongoing sometime very soon.

There is another NFL owners’ component to all of this and that involves the relocation fee that the league will assess to the Raiders just for the privilege of pulling up stakes and heading somewhere else.  When the Rams moved to LA last year, the fee was $550M; Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke could comfortably write a check for that.  According to reports, Mark Davis does not have that kind of liquidity meaning he would need to pay the fee out over time.  In addition, there might be an owner or two who could view this vote as a way to settle some sort of old score with Mark Davis’ father, Al Davis.  Obviously, I have no inside information here, but it is not a huge stretch of my imagination to think that some NFL owners might be venal and petty individuals.

Meanwhile, a private group in Oakland is trying to pull together enough money to buy the Oakland Coliseum so as to build a new stadium on that site and keep the Raiders in Oakland.  That group does not have a Sheldon Adelson on board so let’s just say that they have a rather significant Kickstarter campaign on their hands.

There are lots of moving pieces here; the momentum is clearly in the direction of a move to Las Vegas but there is not yet a document spelling out the terms of the deal to which anyone can affix one’s signature.  However, Mark Davis says he will begin the formal NFL process to relocate in January 2017.  That means there are about 8-12 weeks for folks to tie up all these loose ends into a pretty package.

Happy Holidays, everyone…

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha-World Herald had this slant on the Las Vegas Raiders:

“There may soon be an NFL team called the Las Vegas Raiders. This is sort of like when Sodom annexed Gomorrah.”

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

Sports Additions To The English Language

I want to begin today with my quadrennial exhortation to go out and vote today.  Voting is a responsibility of citizenship.  When a significant fraction of the electorate does not vote, it is impossible to know if the outcome of an election truly represents the will of the majority.

I will not tell you for whom I am voting; that is none of your business.  I will not suggest to you for whom you should vote; that is none of my business.  But I do urge you to go and vote even if you – like many others according to polls – do not really like any of the available candidates.

Here is an item that Bob Molinaro had in his column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot all the way back on 4 March of this year regarding the Presidential campaigns as they all existed then.  It was prescient:

“In passing: My polling place is at the Norfolk Zoo. Considering this election year atmosphere, that seems fitting to me.”

And now, back to your regularly schedule rant …

There is word not to be found in a dictionary that expresses the condition where a highly ranked team inexplicably – and inexcusably – loses a game to an inferior opponent for no discernible reason.  That word is “Clemsoning” and its derivation is rather obvious.  There is a team that has tended to do that frequently enough that some have come to anticipate it at least once every other year.  As you may imagine, Clemson coach, Dabo Swinney, does not like to hear the word “Clemsoning” even a little bit.  He has “gone off” on folks who have asked him about it.

I have no reason to poke Dabo Swinney with a stick; I do not know the man; I have no ties with nor animus toward Clemson.  However, I do think there is linguistic gold to be mined from the concept underlying the word “Clemsoning”.  If we were to expand the concept to other folks or other teams or other entities, we would have a wonderful set of opportunities for linguistic shorthand that would accurately describe behaviors or situations.  Consider:


“Harbaughing”:  In honor of Jim Harbaugh and his sideline “demeanor”, this word could come to mean behaving in such a way as to send one’s blood pressure to 215/190.

“Goodelling”:  In honor of Roger Goodell, this word could come to mean botching a disciplinary decision or process.

“FIFAing”:  In honor of FIFA, this word could come to mean shamelessly taking bribery money.

“IOCing”:  In honor of the IOC, this word would be synonymous with “FIFAing”.

“Lochteing”:  In honor of Ryan Lochte, this word could come to mean just making up sh*t.

“Soloing”:  In honor of Hope Solo, this word could come to mean running off at the mouth in a most insulting manner.

Clippersing”:  In honor of the LA Clippers, this word could come to mean finding new ways to disappoint the few fans they still have.

“Kaepernicking”:  In honor of Colin Kaepernick, this word could come to mean drawing attention to oneself when one’s performance is insufficient to do so.

“NCAAing”:  In honor of the NCAA, this word could come to mean behaving in such a way as to make hypocrites everywhere blush.

“Peytoning”:  In honor of Peyton Manning this word could come to mean cashing in on EVERY endorsement opportunity in the Western World.  Cha-ching!!


See how much fun this is?  See the potential for expanding the vocabulary and bringing a richness of expression to the English language?  We could start a movement here.  Come to think of it, “Ex-Laxing” could come to mean starting a movement – and it might have particular symbolic meaning whenever a politician says that he or she is involved in one.

Last week, as the Cubs were moving toward winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years, an ESPN writer for ESPN who is obviously a massive Cubs’ fan postponed his open-heart surgery because he did not want to miss any of potentially historic series.  He had an aortic aneurysm; had it burst, he would have died.  He chose to postpone the surgery until 7 November.  Interestingly, he got the diagnosis of his aortic aneurysm from a cardiologist in a Cleveland hospital.  Here is a link to a report about this.

The latest story about Tiger Woods’ return to competitive golf is that he will play in something called the Hero World Challenge in December.  There have been so many “Tiger Rumors” recently, that there are now proposition bets on him and his golf game.


Will Woods withdraw from the Hero World Challenge before it starts?

Yes:  +275       No: minus-350

Will Woods win the Hero World Challenge?

Yes:  +250       No:  minus-300

Will Tiger Woods win another tournament before the end of his career?

Yes:  minus-120          No:  Even money

Will Tiger Woods win all four majors in 2017?

Yes:  +50,000              No:  minus-75,000


Finally, if Tiger Woods were to withdraw from the Hero World Challenge – as he did from the last tournament he said he would play in – how close would that bring him to “Kaepernicking”?  Just wondering…

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

The Start Of The MLB Off-Season

The MLB general managers are about to convene for the annual GM meetings.  While the off-season began for most teams a month or so ago, this annual convocation is the ceremonial beginning to the preparations for the 2017 season.  I saw a list of more than 130 free agents who are out there looking for another gig.  Not to worry, I am not going to go through that list here; however, there are some names on there that are sort of interesting.  There are “name players” who might be interesting additions to teams but who may not draw a lot of interest because of advancing age and/or high price.  I put many of these folks into 5 categories that I will present here:

On Sale/As Is/No Returns/All Sales Final:  Category descriptor is self-explanatory – –

  1. Tim Lincecum (been a while since he was effective)
  2. Koji Uehara (age 41)

Bargain Basement:  For a short-term deal at reasonable cost, look here – –

  1. Peter Bourjos (injury issues resolved?)
  2. Ross Detweiler
  3. Jeff Francouer (tempted to put him in the category above …)
  4. James Loney
  5. Colby Rasmus
  6. Jared Weaver (veteran 5th starter in a rotation?)

Take a Shot: These are players getting up in years who may want a long-term deal; that makes them a bit of a risk – –

  1. Jose Bautista (Age 36)
  2. Edwin Encarnacion (Age 33)
  3. Rich Hill (Age 36)
  4. Mike Napoli (Age 35)
  5. Matt Wieters (Age 30)
  6. CJ Wilson (Age 35)

Worth Pursuing:  This guy can give a roster plenty of flexibility – –

  1. Ian Desmond

Good for the Bullpen:  Relief pitching is very important – –

  1. Kenley Jansen
  2. Mark Melancon
  3. Drew Storen

The GM meetings often lay the groundwork for trades that culminate in December and all the discussions/evaluations regarding off-season trades must be put in the context of free agent availability and price tags.  There is no baseball action at the moment, but that does not mean there is no baseball activity at the moment…

There is one other baseball free agent that is interesting because of his reputation.  A. J. Pierzynski is on the market at age 39.  He has been in the major leagues for 19 years with 7 different teams.  Here is a comment attributed to Ozzie Guillen – not known for being “politically correct” at all times – regarding AJ Pierzynski:

“If you play against him, you hate him.  If you play with him, you hate him a little less.”

In the NFL, the trade deadline came and went with nothing of great importance happening.  There are “contending” teams with significant needs out there (the Eagles really need a WR; the Seahawks and the Vikes need offensive linemen) and there are teams going nowhere with a player who might fill one of those needs for a contender (Browns and Niners each have a good offensive lineman who could help a lot).  The fact that nothing happened says that the “sellers” were asking too high a price for the goods they were peddling.

The thing that I like about the NFL trade deadline is precisely what frustrates me about the MLB trade deadline.  When the NFL deadline passes, there are no more trades; the deadline means what it says.  In MLB, the “trade deadline” is 31 July but everyone knows that is nonsense since player movement happens after the “trade deadline”.  Here is the system that I would prefer for MLB:

  1. The trade deadline is hard and fast on June 30.
  2. As of 1 July every year, each team has its roster and its minor-league system.  That is the cadre that will take teams to the playoffs – or not.
  3. If a player is waived/cut/released, he still collects his guaranteed contract, but he cannot sign with another MLB team.  He can go and play in the minor leagues somewhere as an “unaffiliated player” and then sign on with anyone who wants him in the subsequent season.

That would be a simple system – and it would put a premium on building a team down through the minor leagues for depth from the beginning of the year.  It would discourage teams from throwing together a roster in April with a wait-and-see attitude regarding a position of buyer or seller at the end of July.

I will not be holding my breath until MLB adopts my approach here…

Finally, here is an item from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Cha-ching: The sale at an auction of one of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s bats for $583,500 illustrates how ridiculous some people can be with their money. Imagine how much somebody might be willing to pay for Joe’s shoes – if he had any.”

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



Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 11/5/16

Last week saw a rebound from the disastrously bad selections from two weeks ago. I made 15 picks last week and the record was 11-4-0 bringing the cumulative record for the year to 77-65-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

    Army +7 against Wake Forest. Army won straight up.
    Navy/USF OVER 64.5. Total score was 97.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

    W. Virginia – 3.5 against Oklahoma St. WVU lost by 17 points.
    Penn St./Purdue UNDER 57. Penn St. scored 62 by itself.

Despite the strong showing last week, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game this weekend involving real money. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do anything like that:

    You think spoiled milk cones from pampered cows.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats ran their season record to 6-1 last week with a convincing win over George Fox by the score of 50-14. Linfield is 5-0 in the Northwest Conference with 2 games left on the schedule. This week the Wildcats travel to Tacoma, WA to take on the Loggers of the University of Puget Sound. The Loggers are 3-4 overall for the 2016 season and only 1-4 in Northwest Conference play. Go Wildcats!

Meanwhile, the Eagles of Eastern Washington extended their season record to 7-1 (5-0 in Big Sky Conference games) with a win over the Montana Grizzlies 35-16. WR, Cooper Kupp, caught 8 passes for 169 yards and 3 TDs in the game. He also threw one pass and completed it for a 54-yard gain and he returned a punt for 13 yards. There is no mention in the Box Score if he also lined the field prior to the game…

This week E. Washington takes on Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. The Mustangs are on a 3-game win streak; their season record is 6-2 and they are 4-1 in Big Sky Conference play. Go Eagles!

The first CFP rankings came out this week and undefeated Washington did not make the Top 4. In their place, the one-loss Texas A&M Aggies grabbed the 4th spot and the basis for this is strength of schedule. Schools do not have much control over the strength or weakness of their conference opponents from year to year. However, schools have significant control over the teams they play out-of-conference and Washington scheduled three lowly opponents for this season:

    Portland State – Division 1-AA
    Idaho – getting booted from the Sun Belt this year- will go to Division 1-AA
    Rutgers – a dismal team; a Big 10 team in name only.

Clearly, Washington aspires to return to the upper echelons of college football but if they want that sort of recognition, they are going to have to do better with their out-of-conference scheduling. There needs to be at least one competitive game there. Wisconsin and LSU played each other this year; Ohio State and Oklahoma played each other this year; teams need not load up with Top Ten opponents every week, but at least one out-of-conference game should be something more than a walk-over.

There were 9 undefeated teams going into last week’s schedule. Two of the teams had the week off; of the other 7 unbeatens, 4 lost last week. Baylor, Boise St., Nebraska and West Virginia all lost. It was not a good week to try to stay unbeaten. With Baylor and West Virginia losing a game, I think that pretty much rules out a Big 12 team as a participant in the CFP this year.

The West Division of the Big 10 could get interesting. Nebraska lost to Wisconsin last week but still holds a 1-game lead in the West. However, this week, the Cornhuskers have to play Ohio State in Columbus, OH – hardly a trivial opponent. Nebraska is a 17-point underdog in the game. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa all sit one game behind Nebraska in the West Division. Minnesota plays Purdue this weekend; Wisconsin and Northwestern play each other so one of them is going to lose; Iowa takes on Penn State. Things can get very interesting here…

With regard to the possibility that all three of the Service Academies can be bowl-eligible this year:

    Army beat Wake Forest 21-13 last week for its 5th win of the year. They need one more victory …

    Air Force beat Fresno St. 31-21 last week for its 5th win of the year. They need one more victory…

    Navy lost to USF 52-45. Navy trailed 28-0 at the end of the first quarter; they rallied but could not come all the way back. Navy also has 5 wins for the season. They too need one more victory…

Boise St. lost its first game of the year last week to Wyoming by a score of 30-28. Indeed, the margin of victory was a safety recorded by Wyoming in the final 2 minutes of the game.

Texas A&M had a soft out-of-conference game last week and clobbered New Mexico St. 52-10. New Mexico St. is on the SHOE watchlist; this outcome was never in doubt. Here is an unusual stat from this game. Aggies’ WR, Christian Kirk scored 3 TDs in the game. He caught on pass for a TD and he returned 2 punts for TDs. It is not often that you see 2 punts returned for touchdowns in one game let alone 2 returned for touchdowns by the same guy…

W. Michigan did not play last weekend but did play a MAC opponent on Tuesday of this week. W. Michigan is now 9-0 for the year and the highest-ranking team in a conference other than the so-called Power 5 is guaranteed a slot in one of the major bowl games on New Year’s Day. It had appeared that Boise St. might be that team this year but with Boise’s loss last week and W. Michigan’s 9-0 record, there is the possibility that W. Michigan will be the one let in. W. Michigan’s next two games are against Kent St. and Buffalo; they should not be nail biters. Then W. Michigan closes the regular season at home against Toledo; that could be an interesting game…

Let me start in the SEC this week. I said last week that the Kentucky/Missouri game was interesting because Kentucky had the chance to win a big game on the road – which they have not done with regularity in a long time – and because Missouri had a chance to defend its home turf – the week after they took gas against Middle Tennessee State on Homecoming weekend. Well, Kentucky prevailed easily here by a score of 35-21. That win sets up the following situations for Kentucky:

    1. It means they will be bowl-eligible with one more victory this year. They have not done that since 2010.

    2. It puts Kentucky with a 4-2 SEC record in second place in the SEC East a game behind Florida.

    3. They have 2 SEC conference games left against Georgia and Tennessee – both of which have been unimpressive in recent weeks.

Florida beat Georgia 24-10. The Florida defense shut out the Bulldogs for the entire second half of the game and that win puts Florida in the driver’s seat in the SEC East for now. However, Florida has a much tougher lineup of conference games down the stretch than Kentucky does facing Arkansas and LSU in addition to South Carolina.

South Carolina beat Tennessee 24-21 last week sending the Vols into a tailspin. That is Tennessee’s third loss in a row and it comes only a couple of weeks after their coach was crowing on a national stage about how the Tennessee program was “back” and how other schools were looking to emulate the Tennessee model. Let me be clear, the first two losses in this streak were to Alabama and then to Texas A&M and there is no disgrace in either loss. However, a loss to South Carolina following those two losses is pretty miserable especially when the way the loss occurred was in the wake of 3 bad turnovers. Maybe the mood on old Rocky Top has degraded to Rocky Slop…

Auburn beat Ole Miss 40-29. Ole Miss led 29-27 as the 4th quarter got underway and then Auburn steamrollered them in the 4th quarter. On the stat sheet, Ole Miss came out ahead or even in most categories but not in the 4th quarter then the game was on the line.

In Big 10 action, Minnesota beat Illinois 40-17. I said this was a game of interest because neither team distinguished themselves in the process of beating Big 10 punching bag, Rutgers. Well, that score tells you about what you need to know about Illinois…

Michigan beat Michigan St. 32-23. The Wolverines were a Ponderosa favorite and did not come close to covering that number. This loss means that Michigan St. has lost 6 games for the 2016 season and their chances for a bowl invitation are razor thin. The Spartans would have to win out in their last 4 games to get to 6 wins and here is the lineup:

    At Illinois. Good chance for a win here.
    Vs. Rutgers. Losing this game at home would be humiliating indeed
    Vs. Ohio State. Clearly the underdog in this game
    At Penn St. Should be a slight underdog here.

Penn St. put a whooping on Purdue last week 62-24. Clearly the mid-season coaching change at Purdue was a positive move, right? This game was tied 17-17 at halftime and then Purdue folded like a lawn chair…

Wisconsin beat Nebraska 23-17 in OT. This was another game where an undefeated team lost last week. The stat sheet reflects the fact that this was a game that went to OT; these teams were evenly matched.

Ohio State beat Northwestern 24-10. Frankly, this was an unimpressive performance by Ohio State on the heels of a heartbreaking loss to Penn St. two weeks ago. Ohio State had 437 yards on offense but yielded 414 yards to Northwestern.

In the ACC, Louisville beat Virginia 32-25. Like Ohio State, Louisville was underwhelming here; they did not look like a team that needed to be considered seriously by the CFP Selection Committee based on this outing. Virginia actually led at the start of the 4th quarter here 17-14. Louisville had 225 more yards of offense here; they averaged 7.3 yards per play to only 4.8 for Virginia; the turnovers were equal; and still the game was on a knife edge in the 4th quarter…

BC Beat NC State 21-14. Both teams are now 4-4 on the season meaning that both teams could be playing in bowl games in December. How exciting is that? The big deal about this win for BC is that it snapped a 12-game losing streak in conference games. Other than that, …

Notre Dame beat Miami 30-27 handing the Hurricanes their 4th straight loss after starting the season with 4 straight wins. For a change, the Irish found a way to hold on at the end of a game to win it this year instead of losing in the 4th quarter. Actually, Notre Dame led by 20 points in the game and tried to give it away – – but didn’t.

Clemson beat Florida St. 37-34 in a great football game. Dalvin Cook and Demarcus Walker for Florida St were really impressive in this game despite being on the losing side. Walker is a senior DL who will clearly get drafted into the NFL next April and Cook is a junior RB who ought to take the opportunity to declare for the draft. Clemson won this game in no small measure by dominating the Seminoles’ OL. The Tigers recorded 6 sacks in the game and put more than a few other ferocious hits on Fla St. QB, Deondre Francois.

The Big 12 saw both of its previously undefeated teams take gas last week. West Virginia went to Oklahoma St. and lost 37-20. The Mountaineers amassed almost 100 more yards of offense in this game but 3 turnovers and 6 penalties did them in.

Meanwhile, Baylor also lost last week to Texas by a score of 35-34. Baylor ran 96 offensive plays and gained 655 yards on offense – – and lost the game. Ten penalties and an inability to ice the game and stop Texas in the 4th quarter decided the game in the Longhorns’ favor. Baylor led 34-26 with about 7 minutes to play in the game and coughed it up … These two losses pretty much assure that there will be no Big 12 teams in the discussion when it comes CFP time. Texas is not 4-4 on the season despite all the sturm und drang around Charlie Strong and his coaching status.

Texas Tech beat TCU 27-24 in OT. If you had told me that the score of that game was 27-24 at the end of the first quarter, I would have believed you. Tech gained 800+ yards and scored 59 points the week before; what happened here? Oh, and the Tech defense allowed 800+ yards and 65 points last week; what happened here?

K-State beat Iowa St. 31-26. The score was 31-10 at the start of the 4th quarter and K-State put it in cruise control for the 4th quarter making the game look closer than it was.

Oklahoma beat Kansas 56-3. In terms of net offense, Oklahoma prevailed 585 yards to 184 yards. Oklahoma gained 7.7 yards per play; Kansas gained 2.8 yards per play. This game could not have been even marginally exciting after some point in the second quarter. Oklahoma took its foot off the gas in the 4th quarter; neither team scored in that period.

Out west in the PAC-12, Washington beat Utah 31-24 in a really entertaining game to watch. Washington had bigger plays in the game but Utah kept grinding it out. At the end, Washington had 390 yards on offense and Utah had 385. Yes, the game was that close…

Oregon beat Arizona St 54-35. My question for myself is really simple:

    How did I miss taking this game to go OVER?

Washington St. beat Oregon St. 35-31 and needed a big comeback to do so. Oregon St. led 24-6 at halftime which is the point at which I tuned in. What happened in the 3rd quarter was that the wheels came off the Oregon St. wagon; at the end of the 3rd quarter, Washington St. had the lead 28-24.

Washington and Washington St. are both undefeated at 5-0 in conference play and will meet in the Apple Bowl game later this year. That game should decide the PAC-12 North champion.

Stanford beat Arizona 34-10. The Stanford offense finally woke up in this game – – or was that just ineptitude on the part of the Arizona defense. Perhaps a smidgen of both…

USC beat Cal 45-24. The PAC-12 South remains an interesting race:

    Colorado is 4-1 in conference and 6-2 overall
    Utah is 4-2 in conference and 7-2 overall
    USC is 4-2 in conference and 5-3 overall

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 6 Ponderosa Games and the record for favorites covering was 2-4-0. That brings the season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 30-31-1.

La Tech and Oklahoma covered.

Louisville, Michigan, Ohio St. and Texas A&M did not cover.

This week we have 9 Ponderosa Games

(Fri Nite) San Jose St. at Boise St. – 29 (57.5): San Jose St has 3 wins this year and 2 of them have been over Nevada and UNLV. San Jose St seems to dominate the State of Nevada. Too bad Boise is the capital of Idaho…

Texas St. at Appalachian St – 31.5 (54): Texas St. is clearly on the SHOE watchlist…

Louisville – 25.5 at BC (56): This is an ACC game with the road team as a Ponderosa favorite.

Syracuse at Clemson – 27 (67): This is an ACC game with the home team as a Ponderosa favorite. This total Line opened the week at 58 points and has been climbing all week to this level.

Kansas at West Virginia – 34 (54): Kansas is very squarely on the SHOE watchlist…

Maryland at Michigan – 31 (54): Maryland won their first 4 games playing absolutely no one. Now their record is 5-3 and after this week’s game at Michigan they get to host Ohio State and then visit Nebraska.

Vandy at Auburn – 26 (44.5): If this is really going to be such a low scoring game, that is an awful lot of points in that spread line…

Georgia Southern at Ole Miss – 27.5 (63): Ole Miss catches a breather here from SEC conference play.

Florida International at Western Kentucky – 31 (67): The best category for this game is “Who Knows/Who cares?”

The SHOE Teams:

Last week, I put San Jose St. on the watchlist at the suggestion of a reader and the team went out and won its 3rd game of the year. So, they come off the watch list for this week but there are some new additions. I will keep the watchlist at 16 teams for one more week and then start a winnowing process:

    Bowling Green (1-7): Lone win is over North Dakota – not North Dakota St.

    Florida Atlantic (1-7): No wins over Division 1-A teams

    Fresno St. (1-8): No wins over Division 1-A teams

    Illinois (2-6): Wins are over Murray St. (div 1-AA) and Rutgers.

    Iowa St. (1-7): Lost to Div 1-AA team and beat only San Jose St.

    Kansas (1-7): Win is over Rhode Island and students stormed the field.

    La-Monroe (2-6): Lost last two games by a combined score of 110-27.

    Marshall (2-6): Wins over Florida Atlantic Morgan St and

    Missouri (2-6): Wins over E. Michigan and Delaware St plus 2 BAD home losses

    New Mex. St.(2-6): One win is over New Mexico with 5 wins. Disqualifying?

    Oregon St. (2-6): One of those wins is over Idaho State

    Rice (1-7): Win is over Prairie View A&M; play FAU this week and UTEP later.

    Rutgers (2-6): Two losses here were by a combined score of 136 – 0

    Texas St. (2-5): Wins over Ohio and Incarnate Word.

    UMass (2-7): Wins over Florida Int’l and Wagner

    UTEP (2-6): Wins over New Mexico St and Texas-San Antonio.

Games of Interest:

Navy at Notre Dame – 7 (64.5): I think Notre Dame has enough athletes on offense to do plenty of damage to the Navy defense and I think the Notre Dame defense will have difficulty containing Navy’s run-first option offense. I see another scoring fest here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Air Force at Army – 1.5 (47.5): Neither team will surprise the other with regard to offensive philosophy or execution. The winner of this game will be bowl eligible and I think that Air Force has beaten a better set of opponents. It will be a long flight from Colorado Springs to West Point for the game but folks in the Air Force ought not to be bothered by flying. I’ll take Air Force plus the points on the road.

Florida State – 5.5 at NC State (58): The spread opened at 8 points and has been dropping steadily. Florida State lost a hard-fought game to Clemson last week and Deondre Francois took a pounding (see above). Meanwhile, NC State lost a winnable home game last week to BC meaning they still need to find 2 wins in order to play in a bowl game this year. The team that rebounds from last week’s loss should win this one. Make this a venue call. I’ll take NC State plus the points.

Oklahoma St. at K-State – 3 (57): Oklahoma St. handed an undefeated W. Virginia team its first loss of the season last week in Stillwater, OK. Before getting to excited about that result, recall that K-State lost to W. Virginia by only 1 point earlier this year and that game was in Morgantown WV. K-State is undefeated at home this year. I think they can stay that way so I’ll take K-State to win and cover in Manhattan, KS.

Pitt at Miami (FL) – 3 (57): Pitt scores plenty of points – 38.1 points per game. Pitt allows plenty of points too – 32.4 points per game. Miami’s defense is better than its offense but I think the ball will be moving up and down the field a lot here. I like this game to go OVER.

Georgia – 2.5 at Kentucky (51): Georgia is 4-4 on the year; after a Week 1 win over UNC, the other three wins are underwhelming:

    Nichols St at home 26-24
    At Missouri 28-27
    At South Carolina 28-14.

As noted above, Kentucky is a lot better than usual this year. They have lost 3 games but 2 of them were to Alabama and Florida. If you look at this purely on “football pedigree”, Georgia is the dominant program but the only thing that matters is the 2016 teams on the field. I think Kentucky will win the game so I’ll take them plus the points at home.

Florida – 4 at Arkansas (47): Florida brings the #2 team in Total Defense to the field here; they allow just under 240 yards per game. The Arkansas defensive unit is far more generous ranked 88th in the country allowing 428 yards per game. Here is the rub. Florida’s offense is 75th in the country (398.6 yards per game) clustered with teams not known as offensive juggernauts such as Michigan St., BYU, UNLV and UCLA. I think this will be a defense-dominated game so I’ll take Arkansas at home plus the points.

Washington – 17 at Cal (76.5): Undefeated Washington is the better team here; that spread of 3 scores is clearly justified. The Cal defense – such as it is – ranks 124th in the country and gives up 505 yards per game. The Washington defensive unit is much better, but it will have to deal with a Cal offense that gains 536.5 yards per game and ranks 8th in the country. Washington will make enough stops to win the game – and probably win it comfortably – but I am drawn to the Total Line. I like this game to go OVER.

Oregon at USC – 17 (79): Oregon has lost 5 games this year and when they lose it is because the Oregon defense does not show up. In only 1 of those five losses has the opponent been held to less than 41 points and in 3 of those losses, the defense has given up 51 or more points. USC is still in the running for the PAC-121 South Division championship and a slot in the PAC-12 Conference Championship Game so it has some motivation here. I like USC to win and cover a large spread here.

Texas – 3 at Texas Tech (81): Tech ranks #1 in the country in total offense gaining 603.4 yards per game; they average 500.6 yards per game passing. Texas has had “defensive issues” this year. Looking at this game through the other end of the telescope, Tech’s defense ranks 126th in the country – better only than Oregon and Rice – giving up 518.4 yards per game. I said that Texas has had “defensive issues’ this year; well, they rank a “lofty” 112th in the country. Make this a venue call; I’ll take Texas Tech plus the points at home.

Texas A&M – 13 at Mississippi St. (62): This game is an interesting one but not a betting one. So far this year, it is hard to tell which version of the Mississippi St. team will show up for the game. The Bulldogs have only won 3 games and the 3 vanquished opponents are unimpressive indeed – Samford, UMass and South Carolina. However, Mississippi St. went to Baton Rouge and only lost to LSU by a field goal. If the Bulldogs are going to pull an upset this year, this would be the game to do it – – but which Bulldog team will show up? By the way, next week, Mississippi St. get to go to Alabama for a game; this game here might provide a window for insight into next week’s game…

Iowa at Penn St. – 7 (53): Iowa lost to Wisconsin last week in OT; there is no shame in that. Their other two losses were “down the ladder” a bit to North Dakota St. and to Northwestern. Penn St. has a signature win over Ohio St. two weeks ago and its only bad loss was to Michigan in Ann Arbor; there is no shame in that loss. Purely a venue call here; I’ll take Penn St. to win and cover.

Arizona at Washington St. – 17 (65): Washington St. has won 6 in a row but their scoring output is down in the last three wins. Arizona has lost 5 games in a row and the last 4 have been by double-digits. I think the 108th ranked Arizona defense is just what the doctor ordered to get Washington St. rolling again on offense. I’ll take Washington St. at home to win and cover a big spread.

Alabama – 7.5 at LSU (44.5): This is the best game of the week. I do think Alabama is the best team in the country but watching Leonard Fournette run against the Alabama defense is worth the price of admission all by itself. The Total Line opened at 50 points and dropped quickly to 46 points and then has drifted down from there. I agree this will be a low scoring game and with Alabama on the field, the game could be decided by a turnover or a punt return for a TD. That line looks fat to me; I’ll take LSU at home plus the points.

Wisconsin – 7 at Northwestern (41): Both teams are in the Big 10 West and both teams have a 3-2 record in conference this year. They trail Nebraska by a game but Nebraska has to go to Ohio State this week (see below). The loser is pretty much done in terms of winning that division of the Big 10. Look for a low scoring game here; Northwestern ranks 89th in the country in points per game and Wisconsin ranks 95th. I’ll take Northwestern as the home team plus the points here.

Nebraska at Ohio State – 17 (52): Nebraska lost an OT game at Wisconsin last week and now has to go to Columbus OH to play an Ohio St. team that may or may not be CFP worthy. The Buckeyes’ loss to Penn St. may keep them out of the CFP and perhaps this Ohio St. team is a notch below some of the squads we have seen in recent years. Nonetheless, this is still a very good opponent for Nebraska. I do not expect Nebraska to win this game, but I do think they can keep it within 3 scores. I’ll take Nebraska plus the points.

Finally, Brad Rock had this item in the Deseret News recently regarding a comment from the Iowa St. Athletic Director:

“The athletics director at Iowa State says without Oklahoma and Texas, the Big 12 would become the Mountain West.

“He wishes.

“News flash: The MWC includes road trips to San Diego, Las Vegas and Hawaii. Stop with the silly comparisons.”

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/6/16

Last week was a mythically profitable week for NFL Mythical Picks. I made 13 selections and the record for the week was 7-5-1. The season record remains solidly in the mythically profitable zone at 75-44-3.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol did precisely what you would expect from a coin flip. There were two games delegated to the coin and the coin’s record was 1-1-0. For the year, the coin’s record stands at 8-7-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

    Saints +2.5 against Seahawks. Saints won straight up by 5 points.
    Pats – 6 against Bills. Pats won by 16; it wasn’t that close.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

    Vikes – 4.5 against Bears. Vikes lost straight up by 10 points.
    Lions/Texans OVER 45. Total score was only 33.

Here is an important reminder. No one should mistake anything written here as authoritative or insightful when it comes to wagering on NFL games this weekend or any other weekend. Notwithstanding successful results for the first 8 weeks of this NFL season, you would have to be very dumb to allow any information here be part of any decision you might make regarding any real wager on a real NFL game involving real money. Here is how dumb you would have to be:

    You probably think a waxing moon has something to do with hair removal.

General Comments:

I mentioned in a rant earlier this week that Terrell Owens declared himself “available” to the Philly Eagles as an answer to their shortcomings at the WR position. As if on cue, the Eagles’ WR corps took a hit about 36 hours after Owens’ declaration when Josh Huff was pulled over for speeding on the Walt Whitman Bridge heading to New Jersey. That traffic stop escalated quickly as officers arrested Huff on charges of:

    Driving with improperly tinted windows
    Marijuana possession
    Carrying an improperly registered handgun
    Carrying hollow point bullets – not permitted in NJ.

Huff is more of a returner for the Eagles than a WR but when pressed into action on offense that is where he plays. Earlier this year during the Eagles’ BYE Week a linebacker was arrested for carrying a loaded gun in Miami Airport causing defensive coordinator to say that if you do enough dumbass things people will label you a dumbass.

As I look at the list of charges above – and recognizing the presumption of innocence – I lean toward the conclusion that Josh Huff is a dumbass. He is not a sufficiently big dumbass nor a sufficiently important cog in the Eagles’ offensive machinery for them to consider “The T.O. Option” for even a millisecond. But I really suspect that Josh Huff is a dumbass…

In mid-week, Norv Turner resigned as the offensive coordinator of the Vikes. He said this was his decision alone; head coach Mike Zimmer said that he did not know about this until someone informed him of the move. The story is that Turner was not fired; my skepticism gene tells me that the story here does not ring true, but I will go along with it for now.

The Vikings’ offense has not been good all year long; the loss of starting QB, Teddy Bridgewater the week before the season started and the loss of RB Adrian Peterson meant that the offense was going to have some rough patches through the year. The inept play of the Vikes’ OL was probably not expected but it has been on display for much of the season to date. Let me say this clearly:

    None of those circumstances/shortcomings are the fault of Norv Turner or any other coach on the Vikes’ staff.

The offense was supposed to have Adrian Peterson as the centerpiece of an offense that would make defenses play the run thereby setting up a series of gambits in the passing game for the team to exploit. The plainly evident fact for the Vikes is that handing the ball off to a healthy Adrian Peterson is significantly different from handing the ball off to a healthy Matt Asiata. Defensive coaches on opposing teams get paid to notice that difference – and they have.

The Vikings’ running game – supposedly a foundation piece for the Vikings’ offense – has produced only 71.9 yards per game for the first 7 games. That is next-to-last in the NFL; only the Giants’ run game is less productive at 70.3 yards per game. With no serious run threat, teams have come after QB Sam Bradford. The OL – as mentioned above – has been sub-standard to be polite and Bradford is certainly not an escape artist at the QB position. That is why the Vikes have scored only 10 points in each of their last 2 games. Only defenses that are truly great – like the Steel Curtain defenses or the Ravens’ defenses in the early part of this millennium – can win games by holding opponents to single digits on a regular basis.

The Vikes’ fortunes for this year will be determined by the ability of the OL to elevate its performance level. Norv Turner was not holding the OL back nor was he in a position to make it better.

Last week, the Vikes lost on MNF to the Bears 20-10. As was the case the week before when the Vikes lost to the Eagles 21-10, a late and meaningless TD made the score look better than it really was. In this game, the lack of offensive production might cause folks to overlook the fact that the defense did not play all that well either. The Bears gained 402 yards on offense for the game including 158 yards rushing and a 50% conversion rate on third-down situations.

The Vikings have 5 wins so far. Looking at their schedule, there are plenty of winnable games ahead of them; they have a path to the playoffs if they can find a way to run the ball a bit so that they can protect Sam Bradford. That – and a solid defense – is the key to their future success.

Don’t look now but the best record in the NFC belongs to the Dallas Cowboys at 6-1. The Cowboys beat the Eagles in OT last Sunday night in a game that was worth staying up to watch. I watched the World Series game live and then went to see this game on DVR – sans commercial interruptions – until the wee hours of Monday morning. Before the game and to a small extent during the game, there mentions that Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz were establishing a rivalry that could potentially be the successor to the Tom Brady/Peyton Manning rivalry games. Let me say this about that:

    Pump the brakes just a little bit here.

    These two rookies are playing VERY well and both teams should be ecstatic about their performances. Nonetheless, we are only talking about half a season here. If such a rivalry develops, it will be very obvious. If such a rivalry is manufactured, that too will be very obvious.

The week began with a Thursday night game between the Titans and the Jags. The game was a blowout and it featured two teams that aspire to mediocrity. Some people went out of their way to criticize the NFL schedule mavens for putting this game on a national telecast and linked that “scheduling blunder” to the declining ratings for NFL games this year. Ignoring the obvious logical flaw that putting this game on national TV in Week 8 was related in any way to declining ratings in Weeks 1-7, please consider that the NFL scheduling mavens did a very smart thing putting this game where they did.

    Every team in the NFL must be on at least 1 “national telecast” every year. It is part of the league rules and the TV contracts.

    National telecasts include Thursday night, Sunday night, Monday night and late Sunday afternoon games.

    Even if the Jags and the Titans were good teams – which they are not – they would not command a large national following.

    Ergo, having the Titans/Jags play one another on a national telecast means that the TV scheduling obligation is satisfied in one game instead of two games where these teams will compete with two other opponents.

The Titans led this game 27-0 at halftime and that score reflected the state of play in the game. On his way to the locker room at halftime, Jags’ coach, Gus Bradley, said that the team needed to make adjustments and to correct mistakes. I am sure glad the sideline reporter got that information for me; I would never have guessed. In actuality, here is what the Jags needed to do at halftime:

    Find a wizard who could concoct a “Competency Potion” for everyone on the team to drink so that they could play like an actual NFL team in the second half.

    Or … would that violate the NFL’s restrictions on PEDs? Hmmm…

Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times about the Titans/Jags game being available only on NFL Network:

“This is an outrage, said absolutely nobody.”

The Bengals and the Skins played to a 27-27 tie in London last week. I said that the NFL owed the fans in the UK a decent game given the two stinkers that preceded this one for the 2016 season. The fans did get a good game here. Lots of folks in the US complained about the tie game and – since there was a tie game the week before last – some took that opportunity to cry for a change of the rules. There is a three-legged stool that needs to be adjusted here; for those who want the rule changed, I want to hear a proposal that does ALL THREE of these things while assuring a winner in every game:

    1. No extension of play. The players are exhausted after OT games and their late play shows that exhaustion. Player safety is a key issue; the NFLPA ought not to agree to anything that smacks of “play until there is a winner”. That is fine for playoff games and the Super Bowl but not for regular season games.

    2. Do not change the rules and determine a winner by something other than “football”. Soccer and hockey determine winners with penalty kicks/shots which are rare occurrences in real games. Do not turn an NFL game tied at the end of regulation time into a 50-yard field goal contest. That is the stuff of Punt, Pass and Kick not an NFL game. [Aside: That is a shortcoming of the college OT rules. In college, the kickoff and the punt are removed from the game in OT.]

    3. Be sure each team gets the ball at least once so that a coin toss does not have an inordinate weight in the outcome of the game.

I have yet to hear an idea that encompasses all three of those principles. I am sure there is such a proposal out there and when I hear it, I may then support it as a potential agenda item for the NFL Rules Committee. Until then, the current rules are just fine and tie games are not the end of Western Civilization as we know it.

I do have to comment about the final play in the Bengals/Skins game. The Skins had the ball with only a couple of seconds on the clock and only a Hail Mary pass would do anything for them; a winning field goal was out of the question unless there is a little-known provision in the rules that would have allowed a football-shooting cannon on the field. The Skins executed a sacrilegious Hail Mary pass; every Catholic praying the rosary at the time felt a twinge in the shoulder as that pass was in the air. It had two major deficiencies:

    1. It only reached the 15-yardline.

    2. It was 3 yards out of bounds when it got to the 15-yardline.

The Raiders beat the Bucs 30-24 in a third OT game last week. David Carr threw for 513 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs in the game. Looking at those stats one might wonder how the Raiders only managed to score 30 points and keep the game close. Here is the answer:

    The Raiders set an NFL record by having 23 penalties enforced against them in the game for a total of 200 yards.

    Actually, the Raiders committed 27 penalties in the game but three were declined and the fourth was an “offsetting penalties” situation.

Let me put that record of 23 penalties in perspective here. Three times in NFL history, a team has committed 22 penalties in a game. One was a Niners/Bills game in 1998. The other two games both took place in 1944 (Brooklyn/Green Bay in September 1944 and Chicago/Philly in October 1944). That record has been there for a LONG time.

Also, consider:

    Two teams in NFL history committed fewer than 23 penalties for an entire season.

    Granted, these were both “only” 12-game seasons but the 1937 Detroit Lions only committed 19 penalties in those 12 games and the 1935 Boston Skins only committed 21 penalties in 12 games.

The Panthers beat the Cards 30-20. On the Cards’ first possession, the officials ruled that Carson Palmer fumbled a ball that was picked up by the Panthers and returned for a TD. Looking at the replay, it sure looked to me as if that was an incomplete pass but the officials let the call stand. At that moment, the air went out of the Cards’ balloon; they trailed 24-0 in the second half; they tried to rally but it was way too little and way too late. Carson Palmer was sacked 8 times in the game.

The Saints beat the Seahawks 25-20. The Seahawks ran for only 74 yards in this game and the Saints had been giving up 117 yards per game at kick off time. The Seahawks share a “problem” with the Vikes as mentioned above. Both offensive lines are playing poorly and it shows. Like the Vikes’ the Seahawks have an excellent defense and rely on it to win games. Last week Drew Brees sliced and diced the Seahawks’ defense and the Saints scored on 6 consecutive possessions.

The Texans beat the Lions 20-13. The Lions held the Texans to only 269 yards on offense and that usually indicates that the Lions should win the game. However, last week, the Lions’ offense slept through the alarm and never got the hotel wake-up call. Brock Osweiler led the Texans to a win with a ho-hum stat line – – 20 for 29 for 186 yards and 1 TD. The Texans are 5-0 at home and 0-3 on the road so far this year.

The Chiefs beat the Colts 30-14. When Alex Smith had to leave the game with what may or may not have been a concussion, the Chiefs turned to Nick Foles. By the way, Chiefs’ RB, Spencer Ware, also left the game with a concussion. The Colts’ less-than-mediocre defense proved no problem for the backup QB; Foles threw for 223 yards and 2 TDs while completing 73% of his passes. Colts’ QB, Andrew Luck, was sacked 6 times in the game and spent a lot of time on other plays running for his life. Luck has been sacked 31 times in 8 games this year.

The Pats beat the Bills 41-25. Once again a late and meaningless TD made this game appear closer than it was. Tom Brady had a ho-hum game – – for Tom Brady that is. He threw for 315 yards and 4 TDs; just another day at the office. The Bills played without LeSean McCoy and that hampered their run game significantly. However, that problem does not explain the simple fact that the Bills’ DBs could not cover the Pats’ WRs all day long. In terms of offensive efficiency, consider this:

    The Pats have not thrown an INT for the year to date (7 games)

    I did not say Tom Brady has not thrown an INT; I said that the team – they have played 3 QBs this year – has not thrown an INT so far.

At one point in the game, a fan threw a dildo onto the field. The camera immediately focused elsewhere as the “offending member” was removed from view. LeGarrette Blount explained the removal process after the game:

“They got that thing kicked off the field quick. Nobody was touching that. You don’t know where that’s been.”

I have a question about this incident. The NFL has a search policy and requires fans to have things in clear plastic bags for a thorough inspection as fans enter the stadium. So, how did this “foreign object” get past the eagle-eyes on inspection watch? Perhaps LeGarrette Blount was correct in his assessment that you don’t know where it had been …

The Jets beat the Browns 31-28 and looking at the Browns’ schedule from here on out it may be time to consider that the Browns may not win a game this year. The Browns led in the second half but allowed the Jets to score on their first 3 possessions of the second half to seal the defeat. Compare these two halves of play for Ryan Fitzpatrick:

    1st half: 3 for 14 for 30 yards

    2nd half: 13 for 20 for 198 yards

I mentioned the Browns’ schedule for the rest of the year; here it is:

    Vs. Cowboys this week. Solid underdog at home
    At Ravens. Thurs Nite – the Browns’ turn on national TV. Best shot at a win.
    Vs. Steelers.
    Vs. Giants.
    BYE Week
    Vs. Bengals. Third home game in a row home for about a month.
    At Bills.
    Vs. Chargers.
    At Steelers.

The Browns will be underdogs in all of these games; if they win a game it will be an upset.

The Falcons beat the Packers 33-32. The Packers played without Clay Matthews on defense and without enough players on offense to play a basketball game. To give you an idea of the Packers’ offensive problems, Aaron Rodgers was the leading rusher for the team in this game. The fact that the Packers could score 32 points here is an indictment of the Falcons’ defense. Matt Ryan had a great day – 28 for 35 for 288 yards and 3 TDs.

The Broncos beat the Chargers 27-19. Melvyn Gordon had a solid game (111 yards on 23 carries) but in the 4th quarter when the Chargers had the ball on the Broncos’ 2-yardline trailing 27-19, the Chargers did not give him the ball even one time and turned the ball over on downs. I am sure there is a reason for that but I doubt it is a good reason. The stat sheet says that Philip Rivers threw 3 INTs; in fact, two of the three were tipped by Chargers receivers into the hands of a defender.

The Games:

There are six teams on a Bye Week:

    Arizona could fall behind LA if the Rams win this week.

    Chicago can bask in the glory of its win over Minnesota last week.

    Cincy can readjust it body clock to Eastern Time after a London visit.

    Houston will still lead the AFC South next week.

    New England can get some R&R with a comfortable lead in the AFC East

    Washington will figure out what to do without Trent Williams for 4 games.

(Thurs Nite) Atlanta – 3.5 at Tampa (51): In the game against the Packers last week, All-World WR, Julio Jones suffered an ankle injury. I understand the “next man up” mentality of NFL teams, but the Falcons do not have anyone who will stand up and even offer a reasonable facsimile of Julio Jones if he cannot play at anything close to his normal level. The Bucs are 0-3 at home this year and 3-1 on the road this year. I like the Falcons here to win and cover.

Jax at KC – 7 (44): I was ever so wrong about the Jags prospects coming into this season. I have seen parts of their games this year and then saw them stink out the joint against the Titans last week. That team is a mess and will have trouble against a solid KC defense. The Chiefs are undefeated at home this year. Here are a couple of trends that are headed in opposite directions:

    Jags are 9-1-1 to go OVER in their last 11 games in Week 9
    Chiefs are 8-2 to go UNDER in their last 10 games on grass.

    This is Week 9 and this game is on grass.

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

Detroit at Minnesota – 6 (41): The Lions have the 12th ranked defense in the NFC; it is not a great unit despite its showing last week (see above). However, the Vikes’ offense is sputtering for the reasons outlined above; in the NFC, only the Niners put up less total offense per game than the Vikes. Matthew Stafford and his Lions’ offensive buddies laid a giant egg last week and ought to do better this week even though they are up against a better defense here. The Vikes have shown that their new home field provides them a nice home-field advantage and the Lions are generally not a great road team. However, purely on a hunch, I’ll take the Lions with the points here.

Philly at Giants – 2.5 (43): Very simple here … I think this will be a low scoring game and I prefer to take points in low scoring games. Ergo, I’ll take the Eagles plus the points here.

Dallas – 7 at Cleveland (48.5): The Cowboys have the best record in the NFC and have won 6 games in a row – the longest extant win streak in the NFL. I do not believe the Browns can keep the Cowboys’ running game in check and that makes the Cowboys’ passing attack all the better. I like the Cowboys to win and cover even on the road. There are two trends that give me a warm feeling about that Mythical Pick:

    Cowboys are 12-2 against the spread (ATS) in their last 14 games on grass.
    Browns are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games on grass.

    This game is on grass.

Jets at Miami – 4 (44): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. If the Jets’ defense can keep Jay Ajayi from running wild this week, that will force the Dolphins to put the ball in Ryan Tannehill’s hands. That would be a successful outcome for the Jets’ defense. On the other side of the ball, the Jets had a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance on offense last week against the Browns. If the offense plays as poorly as it played for half the game last week, the Jets are toast; if the offense plays as efficiently as did for half the game last week, the Jets will be OK. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol game and the coin says to take the Jets plus the points. Why not? Remember, these are mythical picks …

Pittsburgh at Baltimore – 2.5 (43.5): The Ravens had last week off. Presumably they sent out a search party to try and find a running game. The Steelers also had last week off. What they need most to find is a way for Ben Roethlisberger’s knee to heal very quickly in order to minimize the number of games they have to play with Landry Jones at QB. The Ravens have lost 4 games in a row’ but with a win here, they will be tied for first in the AFC North. The Ravens and Steelers usually play close games; the Ravens have only played close games this season with every one being decided by a margin of a single score. I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Steelers plus the points.

New Orleans – 3.5 at SF (52): The Niners had last week off but somehow I doubt they were able to teach either Blaine Gabbert of Colin Kaepernick how to play QB in that period of time. The Saints have won 2 of their last 3 games against the Panthers, Chiefs and Seahawks. This is a much softer opponent. These are the two worst defensive units in the NFC. However, the main separation is on the offensive side of the ball. The Saints gain 415 yards per game; the Niners gain 290 yards per game. The Saints are not a good road team or a good outdoors team but they have the advantage here. I’ll take the Saints and lay the points. History is on my side here over the last decade or so:

    Saints are 9-4-1 ATS in their last 14 games on Week 9
    Niners are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games on Week 9.

Carolina – 3 at LA (45.5): I see this game as a defensive/field position game. The Panthers have not own on the road yet this year but the Rams are a meager 1-2 at home. I like this game to stay UNDER.

Indy at Green Bay – 7.5 (54): The Packers need a decent RB desperately. Two weeks ago, they traded to acquire Knile Davis from the Chiefs. After a week, the Packers cut Davis.

    [Aside: The Jets, who also need a RB, then signed Davis this week and reportedly cut him only hours after the signing. Strange business here …]

Somehow, the Packers scored 32 points last week with the offense resembling a M*A*S*H unit. If they do that again, they will win this game easily. I like the Packers to win and cover at home.

Tennessee at San Diego – 4 (47): This will be an interesting matchup. The Titans live to run the ball with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Meanwhile the Chargers defense only allows 86 yards per game rushing – one of only 4 teams in the AFC to allow fewer than 100 yards per game. Tennessee also has a stout run defense so this game will probably be decided in the passing game. That being the case, I have to side with Philip Rivers over Marcus Mariota. I’ll take the Chargers and lay the points.

(Sun Nite) Denver at Oakland “pick ‘em” (44): The spread opened the week with the Broncos as a 2.5-point favorite but has been at this level for the last couple of days. This is probably the Game of the Week; the winner will be in first place in the AFC West by a game and will hold – for now – the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Raiders spent 10 days in Florida choosing not to fly there on consecutive weeks to play the Jags and the Bucs. The Raiders are back home – – but that is where both of their losses for the year happened. I think the Broncos’ offense gets well against a not-good-at-all Raiders’ defense this week. I’ll take the Broncos to win this game.

(Mon Nite) Buffalo at Seattle – 7 (44): The schedule mavens did the Bills no favors here. Last week they had to fact the Pats in a “revenge game” for the Pats. This week, they take a long flight to Seattle to take on a Seahawks team that needs this game to maintain some distance atop the NFC West after a loss to the Saints last week. The Bills list LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee as “questionable” for this game; it neither can go, that leaves the running game up to Reggie Bush and Jonathan Williams. That won’t cut it against a Seahawks defense that ranks 6th in the NFL in yards allowed per game and has allowed on 109 points in 7 games this year. I’ll take the Seahawks at home and lay the points.

Finally, I know that it is early to do Christmas shopping but Dwight Perry ran across this item and wrote about it in the Seattle Times. Just in case you are looking for shopping ideas …

“Stumped to find a holiday gift for that hard-to-please football fanatic?

“Neiman Marcus is offering a one-day QB clinic for four with 49ers Hall of Famer Joe Montana. They’ll even throw in an autographed football and have your picture taken with him.

“And it’s all yours — for just $65,000.”

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

The Cubs Win The World Series

Yes, I know. Today is supposed to be NFL Mythical Picks Day. I’ll get right on that… This will be brief.

Last night, the Cubs won the World Series in a fantastic Game 7. I said yesterday that anyone who represented himself/herself as a baseball fan had to watch that game. Well, it certainly did not disappoint. Even the losing manager, Terry Francona, said that it was a great game and that it was a privilege for him to have participated in it. There were few if any “missing elements”.

We can now put aside all notions and mentions of billy goats and Steve Bartman. It is time to turn the page because – as the FOX announcing team told us more than a few times during the Series – the Cubs are built to be a really good baseball team for now and for the next several years. [Aside: Do not think that the Indians are going to dry up and blow away; they too have a solid corps of young talent.]

Focusing specifically on the winning Cubs for a moment:

    Kyle Schwarber: I think you could wake him up at 4:00AM after he had spent a night on the town, put a bat in his hand and a pitcher on a mound and he would hit line drives all over the place. If anyone were to suggest that Spring Training might be shortened, he would be the poster child for not needing a lot of time to “get his stroke”. He is 23 years old.

    Javier Baez: He is a magician in the field. When/if he learns to hit the ball where it is pitched and to lay off pitches that are at eye level, he will be the best second baseman in baseball. He is 23 years old.

    Addison Russell: He is already an excellent defensive shortstop and is developing as a hitter; he has a long future ahead of him. The Cubs got him from the A’s in a trade for Jeff Samardzjk. He is a youngster; he is only 22 years old.

    Wilson Contreras: He is the Cubs’ catcher-of-the-future and a pretty fine player in the present. He is 24 years old.

    Anthony Rizzo: He is solid in the field and at the plate. He is an elder statesman at age 27.

I left Kris Bryant off that list purposely because I think he belongs in a category of his own. There are a bunch of young players in MLB who have shown the makings of stardom in their brief time in the big leagues. If I focus on the guys who are 25 and below, the following names come to mind – without scanning every MLB roster to make sure I get everyone. There are the four Cubs’ youngsters noted above and then, in alphabetical order:

    Nolan Arenado
    Mookie Betts
    Xander Bogaerts
    Kris Bryant
    Bryce Harper
    Francisco Lindor
    Manny Machado
    Corey Seager
    Giancarlo Stanton
    Mike Trout

Those are 10 outstanding young players and there are the four Cubs listed above. Every team in MLB would be happy to have any/all of them on the roster. Having said that, I believe that two of this list of excellent players stand out from the crowd:

    Mike Trout and Kris Bryant

I think they are both destined to more than stardom; they are destined for greatness.

Congratulations to the Cubs and to the Indians. Thank you to both teams for great runs in the playoffs, for a great 7-game series and for a 7th game that was as good as the famous one in the 60s when Bill Mazeroski hit the walk-off grand slam to end it all.

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