Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 12/18/16


Last week was not a successful one for mythical picking.  I made 15 selections – you will recall there were no lines for the Titans/Broncos game at the time I made my picks – and the record for the week was 7-8-0.  The season record now stands at 119-73-4.

There were 2 Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games last week and the coin went 1-1-0.  For the season the coin is performing slightly better than one might expect from a coin flip; overall the coin is now 15-11-2.

There weren’t any really good picks from last week but the “Best Picks” from last week’s sorry lot were:

  • Cards/Dolphins OVER 43.5.  Total score was 49.
  • Bengals -5 over Browns.  Bengals won by 13.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Saints/Bucs OVER 51.  Total score was only 27.
  • Cowboys -3 against Giants.  Cowboys lost straight up.
  • Colts -6 against Texans.  Colts lost straight up.

Naturally, no one should even think about using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money; these are – after all – Mythical Picks.  Only a dummy would do anything like that; in fact, that dummy would probably also try to kill a mockingbird by throwing it off a cliff.


General Comments:


The NFL’s TV ratings have gone back up; last Sunday night’s game was the highest rated game this year and was the highest rated program on TV in the last 3 weeks according to the folks who do TV ratings.  Two months ago, there were analyses and prognostications that blamed the decline in ratings on concern over concussions and too much “league parity”; other folks thought that the Presidential campaigns had brought on a degree of “TV fatigue” for viewers.  Given the rebound in NFL ratings after the election, my guess is that the “TV fatigue factor” was more important than the concern over concussions or quality of play.  Not that it really matters which was more correct …

Last week, the Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13.  The Raiders were the top team in the AFC when the game kicked off; they had the same record as the Pats but would have a better tie-breaker than the Pats had it come down to those two teams angling for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  This loss takes the Raiders out of the lead in the AFC West and puts them in the position as the lead dog in the race for the AFC wild card slots.  That is a big drop for a single loss.

Tyreek Hill had a punt return for a TD and a 36-yard TD reception in the span of a couple of minutes in the second quarter to give the Chiefs a 21-10 lead at halftime.  The second half was a defensive game all the way; the Chiefs made life miserable for Derek Carr (117 yards passing for the game); that was the worst game I have seen him play.  On the flip side of the coin for Raiders’ fans, that was the best performance I have seen from the Raiders D-line in several years; they held the Chiefs to only 65 yards on the ground.

The Chiefs are on top of the AFC West as of this morning but they did lose LB, Derrick Johnson to an Achilles’ tendon injury in the game.  That could be a significant loss for the Chiefs over the rest of this regular season and into the playoffs.

The Titans beat the Broncos 13-10 in a game that had significance in the AFC South and the AFC West races.  The Titans win puts them above .500 at 7-6 which is the same record that the Texans have.  For now, the Texans lead the division based on tie-breakers but the two teams will meet head-to-head in the final week of the season (Jan 1, 2017).  The Titans won this game despite a dreary performance by QB Marcus Mariota against the Broncos’ defense; here is his stat line:

  • 6 for 20 for 88 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs

Remember, that was the WINNING QB’s stat line…

The Broncos’ OL continued to be a weak link allowing the run game to amass the grand total of 18 yards on 9 carries.  That is why the team called 51 pass attempts by Trevor Siemian; that sort of offensive imbalance with that sort of offensive firepower is not a successful strategy.

This loss puts the Broncos in a bad situation.  They trail both the Raiders and the Chiefs by 2 games in the AFC West with only 3 games left to play.  That is a bad situation all by itself, but if you check the schedule, the Broncos have the most difficult schedule over the final 3 games of any team in the NFL:

  • This week:  Vs. Pats who are 11-2 at the moment
  • Next week:  At Chiefs who are 10-3 at the moment
  • Final week:  Vs. Raiders who are 10-3 at the moment

Combined record for the final 3 opponents is 31-8.  OUCH!

The Texans beat the Colts last week by a score of 22-17.  This puts the Texans on top of the AFC South and leaves the Colts a game behind the Texans and the Titans in that divisional race.  The keys for the Texans victory here were Lamar Miller running for 107 yards and the defense forcing 3 turnovers in the game.  Once again, the Texans won despite an uninspiring performance by Brock Osweiler (14 for 24 for 147 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT).

The AFC South is not a good division; there are surely no “great teams” there and it would be generous to say that the teams at or near the top are anything better than “decent” but the AFC South does have something going for it.  The Texans, Titans and Colts are within a game of each other and only one of the three teams is likely to make the playoffs.  That means the games involving those teams should be interesting because they matter.

The Steelers beat the Bills 27-20.  The game was not really as close as the score might indicate; the Bills got two late TDs when it really did not matter.  LeVeon Bell ran for 236 yards on the Bills’ defense; that is not something one might expect from a defense under the tutelage of the Ryan brothers.  Bell’s dominance overcame a bad game from Ben Roethlisberger who – uncharacteristically – threw 3 INTs in that game.  The Steelers’ defense pitched in too sacking Tyrod Taylor 5 times.

Even before the game began, there were reports based on rumors that Rex Ryan would be fired in Buffalo.  I have no inside info on any of that but I do know that he is still the coach of the Bills as of this morning.  However, since these rumors were put out there, let me give you an overview of some of the realities that underpin Ryan’s position:

  1. He is in the second year of a 5-year contract worth $27M.  If he is fired at the end of the 2016 season, the Bills will still owe him about $16M.  His record so far in Buffalo has been 14-15.
  2. As noted above, the defense is not what you would expect from a Rex Ryan team.  The Bills rank 18th in total defense; 17th in points allowed and 28th in rushing yards allowed.
  3. The Bills’ offense is not good enough to do much better than “break even” with those sorts of defensive stats.  Tyrod Taylor is not a franchise QB; the team needs an upgrade at QB more than it needs an upgrade at head coach.
  4. The other 2 QBs on the Bills’ depth chart this morning are EJ Manuel and Cardale Jones.  Both look like a downgrade compared to Tyrod Taylor to me…

The Bengals beat the Browns 23-10.  RG3 was the starting QB for the Browns and various game reports said that the Browns were trying to run a “high school offense” dominated by “gadget plays” in the game.  Well, if that was the case, it surely did not work.  Here is RG3’s stat line:

  • 12 for 28 for 104 yards with) TDs and 1 INT

At halftime, the Bengals led 20-0 and RG3’s stats were 2 for 10 for 20 yards and 1 INT.  I know; he has not played since the first game of the season; it would be unreasonable to expect him to “light it up” in his first game back.  Nevertheless, what he did was stink out the joint on a team that has specialized in stinking out every joint they have played in all year long.

The Browns are 3-31 since the end of the 2014 season; they have 3 games left to avoid an 0-16 season in 2016.  Here are those games:

  • This week: At Buffalo.  If the Bills lose, Rex Ryan may need a flak jacket.
  • Next week: Vs. San Diego.  Chargers’ coach is in trouble already …
  • Final Week: At Pitts.  It would be a “Hollywood ending” if the Browns win here.

Before the Bengal/Browns game, Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot.  He may be on to something here:

“Begin countdown: Now that Robert Griffin III has recovered from his shoulder injury and will start Sunday for the Browns against the Bengals, what’s the over-under on how many games he’ll play before getting banged up again? Or are we wagering by the quarter now?”

The Pats beat the Ravens 30-23 last week.  The win puts the Pats in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the loss drops the Ravens a game behind the Steelers in the AFC North race.  Joe Flacco threw for 324 yards and 2 TDs in this game and was overshadowed significantly by Tom Brady’s performance of 406 yards and 3 TDs.  The Ravens trailed 23-3 about half way through the 3rd quarter and it looked as if the Pats would coast home until …

  1. The Pats had a punt hit the returner’s leg and it was recovered inside the Pats’ 5 yardline.  The Ravens got a quick TD here.
  2. On the ensuing kickoff, the returner fumbled the ball and the Ravens recovered in the red zone.  That produced another quick TD and closed the scoring gap to 23-17.

The Ravens’ defense ranked 1st in the NFL in yards allowed per game (296.1 yards per game) at kickoff.  The Pats’ offense last week was a whopping 496 yards against a very good defense …

The Lions beat the Bears 20-17.  The Lions “returned to form this week”; they won after trailing in the 4th quarter of the game; that is their 8th comeback in the 4th quarter in their 9 wins this year.  The Bears got the lead with a Pick Six on Lions’ QB, Matthew Stafford but they could not hold that lead.  The Bears are now 3-9 and will be drafting early next April.

The Vikes beat the Jags 25-16.  Sam Bradford was 24 for 34 for 292 yards and 1 TD in the game.  The score could have been a whole lot worse:

  • Vikes had the ball at the Jags’ 1 yardline but could not get a TD and turned the ball over on downs.
  • Vikes had the ball at the Jags’ 1 yardline once again but turned the ball over on a fumble.

The Jags are now 0-6 at home this year.  In this game, they led 16-12 at the start of the 4th quarter but managed to invent ways to lose another home game…

The Packers beat the Seahawks 38-10.  Yes, it was that much of a shellacking; the Packers intercepted 5 passes in the game.  Aaron Rodgers played with a limp for the game with a “calf injury” but it sure did not affect his throwing arm or his accuracy.  He threw for 3 TDs and 246 yards in the game.  I could not tell if Rodgers’ passing effectiveness was due to the absence of Earl Thomas in the secondary or not; if it was, the Seahawks are in big trouble unless they “coach-up” a substitute very quickly.  Here is an interesting stat:

  • Aaron Rodgers has won his last 15 games at home in the month of December.

The Lions have a 2-game lead on both the Vikes and the Packers in the NFC North this morning.  The remaining schedule for those teams is interesting:

  • The Lions have to play the Giants and the Cowboys before meeting the Packers head-to-head in the final game of the season.
  • The Packers and Vikes play each other next week.
  • The Vikes play a desperate Colts’ team this week.

The Bucs beat the Saints 16-11.  I thought this game would be a shoot-out; that was not even close to correct.  Two weeks ago, Drew Brees threw 3 INTs in a game and did not throw a TD pass.  Last week in Mythical Picks, I said directly that would not happen again.  Well, in the game against the Bucs, Brees threw 3 INTs and 0 TDs.  Once again, I was abjectly incorrect…

The Dolphins beat the Cards 26-23.  The Cards managed to find a way to throw this game away:

  • The Cards missed a field goal.
  • The Cards missed 2 PAT attempts.
  • One of the missed PATs was returned for 2 points on the Dolphins’ ledger.
  • The Cards threw 2 INTs
  • The Cards lost a fumble.

Dolphins’ QB, Ryan Tannehill had to leave the game with an injured knee.  It turns out not to be as bad as it looked; he did not tear any ligaments in his knee; he only suffered a “bad sprain”; no timetable for his return is out there but reports are that he will not play this week.

The Panthers beat the Chargers 28-16.  The Chargers turned the ball over 5 times in the game and allowed Philip rivers to be sacked 5 times in the game.  Melvyn Gordon and Joey Bosa both had to leave the game for the Chargers.  It is amazing the score was this close…

The Skins beat the Eagles 27-22.  On the stat sheet, Carson Wentz got the better of Kirk Cousins throwing for 314 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.  However, that INT came with the ball on the Skins’ 3 yardline and if the Eagles score a TD there, the complexion of the game would have changed significantly.  The win keeps the Skins in the wild card race in the NFC, but things are complicated there.

The Giants beat the Cowboys 10-7.  As the score indicates, this game was dominated by defense from start to finish.  Back in my pre-season analysis, I said that I was unimpressed with the way the Giants had spent lots of money to shore up its defense in free agency.  Well those free agents have been playing really well recently and they were outstanding against the Cowboys here.  The Giants’ defense held the Cowboys to 1 for 15 on third down conversions.  The Giants’ defense was good enough to overcome a poor performance from Eli Manning who threw 2 INTs and lost a fumble in the game.

The Giants’ defense also shut down Dez Bryant.  He did not catch a pass until very late in the 4th quarter and then he promptly fumbled that ball and lost it to the Giants.  That allowed the Giants to run the clock out and preserve a 3-point win.

The Cowboys have secured a slot in the NFC playoffs; the Giants lead the NFC wild card race as of this morning.  These teams might see each other for a 3rd time this season sometime in January…

The Falcons beat the Rams 42-14.  The Falcons led 42-0 at the start of the 4th quarter and pumped the brakes for the final 15 minutes.  The game had an inauspicious start for the Rams.  On the opening kickoff, the ball hit the returner in the facemask and the Falcons recovered the ball at the Rams’ 3 yardline.  With only 10 seconds expired in the game, the team kicking off had a 7-0 lead.  Then things got worse…

  • Over the course of the game, the Rams turned the ball over 5 times – one of which was a Pick Six and another of which was a Scoop and Score.

In the stinker of the week, the Jets rallied to beat the Niners 23-17 in OT.  Making fans sit through OT in this game comes close to being a human rights violation.  The Niners led the game 14-0 after 1 quarter and held a 17-3 lead with 5 minutes left in the game.  Then they invented a way to forge a tie with the Jets at the end of regulation play and a way to lose in OT.  The Niners recorded 6 sacks on Bryce Petty and still managed to lose the game.

Petty started at QB for the Jets and was OK.  He threw for 265 yards and only 1 INT.  Colin Kaepernick was the Niners’ QB and he was awful (15 for 26 for 116 yards).  The Niners entered the game with the worst run defense in the NFL; the Jets ran the ball 40 times for 188 yards.  If I were a conspiracy theorist – which I am not – I would wonder about this:

  • Are the Niners actually trying to be the worst team in the NFL just in case the Browns accidently win a game?
  • This is the 3rd game this year that the Niners have led by 14 points and then coughed it up.


The Games:


(Thurs Nite) LA at Seattle – 15.5 (39):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  Somehow, the Rams have beaten the Seahawks the last 3 times these teams have met including a 9-3 win back in September of this year.  I do not see the Rams doing much on offense in this game; if they are going to keep it close, it will be the play of the Rams’ DL (team’s best unit) dominating the Seahawks’ OL (team’s worst unit).  Only because I said would make a pick in every game, I’ll take the Seahawks to win and cover at home.  Looking for some solace in that pick, here are some meaningless trends that support my choice:

  • Rams are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games against teams win a winning record
  • Rams are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games in Seattle.

So there…


(Sat Nite) Miami – 2.5 at Jets (37.5):  Even if the starting QBs were Ryan Tannehill and Ryan Fitzpatrick, this game would not be at the top of my list of interesting contests.  Neither Ryan will start here; this will be a “showdown” between Matt Moore and Bryce Petty.  I will try to maintain composure…  Since neither QB projects to be dominant here, it behooves me to look at the run defenses because both teams will probably try to run the ball until the defense forces them to do something else:

  • Jets are 17th in the NFL giving up 102.5 yards per game
  • Dolphins are 28th in the NFL giving up 133.8 yards per game.

Neither team is a scoring machine; the Dolphins score 21.6 points per game which does not sound like much until you realize that the Jets score 17.6 points per game. says it will rain on Saturday with perhaps 1-3 inches of snow.  That is not “Miami weather”.  I’ll take the Jets plus the points at home.


(Sun Nite) Tampa at Dallas – 7 (47):  The Cowboys are on a nationally televised game again; Jerry Jones loves it.  This is a big game for the Bucs; right now, they are tied with the Falcons for the NFC South lead.  The Bucs are riding a 5-game win streak and it has been their defense that has made that happen.  Over the last 5 games, the Bucs have allowed only 64 points.  Conversely, this game is less important to the Cowboys who hold a 2-game lead over the Giants in the NFC East and own the best record in the conference.  Moreover, the Cowboys’ high performance offense has sputtered in its last two games scoring a total of only 24 points.  Is this because defensive coordinators have gotten more data on Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott?  If so, the Tampa defensive braintrust probably has access to and a sound analysis of that same data…  Purely a hunch; I think the Bucs will keep this game close so I’ll take them plus the points here.


Detroit at Giants – 4 (41):  This game was a contender for the Game of the Week because this game is important to both sides.  The Giants will not guarantee themselves a playoff slot with a win here but it would put them in a very comfortable position.  The same thing goes for the Lions regarding their NFC North division championship.  I expect both teams to put it on the line here.  Matthew Stafford injured a finger on his throwing hand in last week’s win over the Bears and the weather in New Jersey on Sunday will be a carryover from the messy weather the Jets will play in on Saturday night.  I think this will be a low scoring affair so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Philly at Baltimore – 5.5 (41):  I really do not like the Eagles’ offense against the Ravens’ defense; I think that is a mismatch.  I’ll take the Ravens to win and cover.


Green Bay – 5.5 at Chicago (39):  The spread opened at 6.5 points and settled in here pretty quickly.  The Total Line opened at 44 and has been dropping all week; check the weather forecast at the end of this selection.  Even though he limped through the game last week, Aaron Rodgers will be the better QB on the field in this game.  The Packers need to win out to have a good chance at the playoffs and I just do not see them coughing up this game against a 3-9 Bears team that just isn’t very good.  I’ll take the Packers to win and cover.   Oh, by the way, says that it will be sunny on Sunday in Chicago with a high temperature of zero followed by minus-15 degrees over Sunday night with 15 mph winds.  Can you spell frostbite…?


Indy at Minnesota – 4 (45.5):  Here is another game where both teams need a win badly.  Neither offense here is scary; the Colts OL is mediocre on its best days and should be dominated by the Vikes’ front-7; the Vikes’ offense ranks 31st in the NFL – ahead of only the LA Rams.  I see a low scoring game here and I like to take points in those situations.  Therefore, I’ll take the Colts plus the points on the road.  There are two “disturbing trends” at work in opposition to my selection here:

  • Vikes are 8-1 ATS in their last 9 games against teams with a losing record.
  • Vikes are 21-6 ATS in their last 27 games at home.


Cleveland at Buffalo – 10 (41.5):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games and I do believe that this is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The game is pretty much meaningless for both teams – unless you think the question of actually winning a game this year is meaningful for the Browns.  The weather is going to be awful. says it will snow and rain from Thursday through Saturday in Buffalo and then be cloudy with temps in the 20s and winds at 20 mph around game time.  Such a joy …  I shall turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Bills and lay the points.  Oy vey!


Tennessee at KC – 5.5 (42):  Yet again, both teams need this game.  The Titans are tied atop the AFC South; the Chiefs are tied atop the AFC West.   Absent major turnovers leading to scores by either or both sides, this will be a low scoring game.  I’ll take the Titans plus the points in that scenario.


Jax at Houston – 6 (39): The Texans need to win this game; the Jags would get the #3 overall pick in the draft were it to be held tonight.  This too looks to be a low-scoring/defense dominated game but I cannot bring myself to do what I prefer to do in those situations.  I just do not like the Jags on the road when the Texans are 5-1 at home and undefeated in the division.   I’ll take the Texans to win and cover here.  Please note that I took the home team and the favorite here; now take note of two ominous trends:

  • Road team is 8-2-1 ATS in the last 11 games between these two teams
  • Underdog is 6-2 ATS in the last 8 games between these two teams.


New Orleans at Arizona – 2.5 (50.5):  The Saints have the #1 offense in the NFL at 418.3 yards per game and the Saints’ record is 5-8.  The Cards offense has sputtered this year as compared to last year; it ranks 10th in the NFL at 363.8 yards per game and the Cards’ record is 5-7-1.  Despite the two losing records here, both teams have outscored their opponents for the season.  That tells me something about the defenses here…  Drew Brees has been in a 2-game funk throwing 6 INT and 0 TDs in those games.  Carson Palmer has been underwhelming all year long.  Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Cards at home where they are 4-2-1 for the season and lay the points.


SF at Atlanta – 14 (51.5):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  Atlanta needs a win here and they are going to get one.  The Falcons lead the NFL in scoring at 32.9 points per game.  The Niners have never scored more than 28 points in any game and the only time they got that high was on opening day when they shut out the Rams for their only win of the year.  Compounding the agony here, the Niners give up the most points of any team in the NFL at 30.9 points per game.  I think this game sets up as a rout.  I’ll take the Falcons and lay the points.


New England – 3 at Denver (44):  This is the Game of the Week.  The Pats hold home-field advantage in the playoffs today; they surely want to keep it that way.  The Broncos are not a cinch even to make the playoffs given their record and their remaining opponents (see above).  This is a top-shelf defense against a top-shelf offense when the Pats have the ball.  This is a good defense against a marginal offense when the Broncos have the ball.  The bugaboo here is that the Pats rarely play well at Denver.  In fact, in the last 10 games between these teams – going back to 2008 – the home team has won 9 of the 10 times.  I am going to go with the desperation factor here and take the Broncos at home plus the points.  However, I realize that if the Pats get off to a good start and get a 10-point lead on the Broncos, it might be all over at that point…


Oakland – 3 at San Diego (49):  Before I make my selection for this game, I should tell you about something I do not ever recall seeing on a game like this.  Virtually every sportsbook has this game at 3 points or at 3.5 points.  However, one Internet sportsbook has it listed as a “pick ‘em game” but you have to lay minus-145 with your pick.  [That means you need to wager 145 dollars to win 100 dollars.]  An interesting proposition to draw attention – and possibly action – to one sportsbook…  Regarding the more mundane way to make a pick for this game, I think this will be a scoring-fest and so I’ll take the game to go OVER.  Here are 2 contradictory trends – if you are into that sort of thing:

  • Chargers are 5-14 ATS in their last 19 home games
  • Underdog is 14-2 ATS in the last 16 games between these two teams


Pittsburgh – 3 at Cincy (44):  The Steelers lead the AC North; the Bengals are not mathematically eliminated from that race – but in fact they are not going to win the division.  The Steelers are 4-3 on the road this year and the Bengals are only 3-2-1 at home.  I think this will be a low-scoring game – – as most of the games between these teams are – – so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


(Mon Nite) Carolina at Washington – 6.5 (51):  The spread opened at 4.5 and has climbed steadily all week long.  Frankly, this game is a total mystery to me.  I can see either team winning handily and I have no idea what factors will prevail.  Obviously, the betting public is putting their money on the Skins; that is what has driven the spread up 2 points in the past several days.  I am turning this over the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Panthers plus the points.

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

“In September, a TV meteorologist in Cleveland vowed not to shave again until the Browns win a game. For residents of Cleveland, it looks like the ZZ Top bassist is doing the weather.”

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



The Gift That Keeps On Giving

In the past, I have referred to José Canseco as “the gift that keeps on giving”.  I realize that someone else has applied that label to genital herpes but my reference here has a completely different meaning and intent.  I can count on Canseco to do or say something at least once a year that will provide material for one of these rants.  He is like an ATM that never runs out of twenty-dollar bills.

On Monday, one of my news aggregators had a headline from that made me stop and do a double-take.  Here is that headline:

“Jose Canseco Has Some Big-League Advice For Trump When It Come to the Federal Reserve”

Here is the link to that item.

The report says that Canseco should become the Chairman of the Federal Reserve in place of Janet Yellen.  Should that happen, Canseco assures the President-elect that the Dow Jones Industrial Average would be at “40K in 4 years”.  For the record, the Dow is currently at 20K. is a reliable news source; but this report seemed sufficiently outrageous, that I went looking to see if anyone else had a similar report.  It turns out that lots of news outlets had the same thing.  Fortune had an article that reproduced Tweets from Canseco to the President-elect saying that he would be open to being Ambassador to Cuba or to be the Fed Chair. had the story as did the SF Chronicle and the Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair.  In this era of so-called “fake news” – such a contradiction in terms – one needs to be careful when taking in something that is out of the ordinary.

Canseco ended some his tweets with “#Yeswecanseco”.  I gotta give him high marks for creativity on that one.  And once again I have to acknowledge José Canseco as “the gift that keeps on giving” …

I also read yesterday that the NFL will play 4 “London Games” next year:

  1. Saints/Dolphins
  2. Ravens/Jags
  3. Vikes/Browns and
  4. Cards/Rams.

In addition, the Pats and Raiders will play in Mexico City next year.  That will be two years in a row for the Raiders in Mexico City; could that be a signal that the NFL might want to put the Raiders there instead of in Las Vegas?  I am not a tea-leaf reader but I am sure someone will find a way to build a logical bridge between the facts of the games and the prospects of a new home for the Raiders.

However, since the beginning of this rant ventured every so slightly into the realm of politics, that announcement by the NFL seems as if it might draw the attention of the President-elect.  After all, one of the cornerstones of the message from the President-elect throughout the campaign was that he wanted to keep American jobs in America.  There are lots of people who work on an “as employed basis” at NFL games as parking attendants and as concession vendors and as security personnel.  Those folks will be missing out on “five work days” and their jobs will surely be out-sourced to the UK and to Mexico.

Before anyone takes the political argument here seriously, let me say that my hidden agenda here is to put a lid on “London Games” specifically and on foreign games – outside of places such as Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver etc.  The Pats have to travel 2300 miles to get to Mexico City for a one-off game; is that really necessary?  Does that make a significant difference to the NFL?

The NFL has been experimenting with putting an 8th official on the field for the past several Exhibition Seasons.  Division 1 college games often had 8 officials on the field and in 2015 the “eight-man crew” became standard.  Some folks now say that the NFL is poised to do the same and expand its officiating crews.  There is a yin and a yang to that expansion – if indeed it is being seriously contemplated:

Yin:  More officials on the field will mean more eyes on close plays with more officials having a good view of what happened; that ought to mean “getting more calls right”; it is hard to contend that this would be anything but beneficial.

Yang:  More officials on the field will almost assuredly mean more penalty flags; it is hard to contend that this would be anything but detrimental.

Finally, here is an item from Brad Rock’s column Rock On in the Deseret News yesterday regarding the upcoming bowl game between Boise St. and Baylor in Phoenix:

“The smaller bowl in Phoenix this year is the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.

“Nobody’s saying it will be lightly attended, but when the motto is ‘We’ll leave the light on for you …’”

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



The NFL Coaching Merry-Go-Round Starts Rotating

The 2016/2017 NFL coaching merry-go-round is now in gear and in motion.  Jeff Fisher became the first coaching casualty of the season opening the first slot for aspiring coaches or folks hoping for another bite of the apple.  The Rams’ special teams coordinator, John Fassel, will be the interim coach for the final 3 games of the 2016 season.  If by some predestined forces the Rams were to win all 3 of those games, it will not be due to some nascent genius in the drawing up of “x’s and o’s”; it will be coincidental.

I am rarely in favor of firing coaches in mid-season.  Normally, what it shows is not much more than the frustration of the “higher-ups” with the results on the field combined in equal measure with their impotence in effecting change that manifests itself in different results on the field.  I do not expect the LA Rams to become world-beaters in the final weeks of December – but in this particular case, I do understand why Stan Kroenke thought he had to do something drastic.

The Rams have just returned home after a couple of decades of dalliance in St. Louis.  There is something you need to understand bout the sports market in LA; it is potentially very large but the fanbase is fickle and shallow.  Los Angeles is not a great sports town; Los Angeles is a great town for winning franchises.  Had the Chicago Cubs franchise been the LA Cubs, they would never have survived 108 years of losing; the Cubs would have been either outta town or outta business.

Stan Kroenke is building a new stadium complex and he is going to want to sell PSLs and season tix in a couple of years.  Look at the product on the field now and ask if this resembles in any way what a front-running fanbase demands:

  • Overall record is 4-9
  • Lowest scoring team in the NFL – even below the Browns
  • Lost the last 3 games by a combined score of 117-45

I did not see the Falcons/Rams game last Sunday; that was not the game in the late afternoon slot in the DC area and I have not had a chance to look for a replay on NFL Network.  However, there have been multiple reports that the crowd at the game was “disappointing”.  Evidently, there were plenty of empty seats at the kickoff (one report characterized the stadium as “half-empty” at the start); with the score 21-0 at halftime, reports say that some people did not come back for the second half kickoff; by the end of the 3rd quarter, the score was 42-0 and reports say that the stadium “emptied out”.  Forget the embarrassment factor and the competitive factor; the important thing here is the economic factor.  All of those folks who chose to do something else last Sunday instead of attending the Falcons/Rams game and/or who abandoned the stadium in mid-game are less motivated now to buy those PSLs and or season tix down the road.

Something had to be done and there are no realistic “player options” with regard to wholesale and splashy changes to be made.  The NFL waiver wire and unsigned free agent list in December is not fertile ground.  So, Stan Kroenke did just about the only thing he could do in this situation; it was really the only playable card in his hand.

Now comes the real challenge…  The next coach has to rebuild the program.  The defense has players; the offense has exactly 1 proven top-shelf NFL player (Todd Gurley).  There is another dimension to the challenge in LA.  The fickle/shallow fanbase would really prefer to have a recognizable coach – a “celebrity coach” if you will.  After all, the beautiful people deserve that – – right?

Immediately, rumors have surfaced with regard to Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban from the college ranks.  Toss in names like Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Sean Payton and the ghost of Vince Lombardi to create sweet smelling stew simmering on the stove.  According to Forbes, Stan Kroenke has a net worth of $7.5B.  That means he can make a financial offer to any of the folks named above – including the ghost of Vince Lombardi – that would assure their agent would “take the call”.  I have no idea if any of them would be the “right call” from a football perspective but any/all of them would appeal to the need for a “recognizable coach” for the Rams.

Obviously, I have a preference for the new Rams’ coach.  If I could make it so, Jon Gruden would be their new coach not because of anything he might do positively or negatively for the franchise.  My preference here is that when he becomes the coach of an NFL team – any NFL team – he ceases to be on MNF.  To my mind, that would be a great leap forward…

The Washington Post had a story recently that makes you stop and wonder about the thought processes of some of our elected officials.  Evidently, several legislators in the State of Washington think that it should be legal for licensed gun owners to be able to bring their weapons with them into stadiums where baseball and football games are played – – such as Safeco Field and Century Link Field in Seattle.  I know; you think I am making this up; well here is the link to show you that I am not.

The NFL and MLB do not allow firearms in the stadiums; when they do the bag searches and the metal detector screenings, one of the things they want to keep out of the stadium is your random loaded gun. I feel confident that both organizations would oppose this sort of legislation.

There are sufficient incidents of fights and violence at sporting events – baseball and football games – that sometimes result in serious injuries and even death.  Wouldn’t it be great if the combatants were armed so that they might have the opportunity to injure some innocent bystanders in addition to the immediate objects of their dissatisfaction?  The “tailgating culture” particularly at football games is such that half of the people who enter the stadium for the opening kickoff would probably fail a breathalyzer test if they were driving a motor vehicle.  Clearly, this is the demographic that you want to be “packing” …

On the other hand, many fans have been very upset and very critical of bad officiating at NFL events for the past several years.  If the crowd included folks who were armed, you might see the quality of officiating improve.  Hey, I am trying to find any little nugget here that might make this idea something better than the dumbest thing I have heard so far this year.

Finally, since I mentioned – tangentially – the Chicago Cubs above, here is an item from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald about the Cubbies:

“The Chicago Cubs will pay $388,000 to repair damage to a park during their World Series victory celebration. No big deal. They’ve been saving up for 108 years.”

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



Monday Musings …

Last week, there were two things side-by-side at the top of the Sports Section of the Washington Post.  The first was a report by Rick Maese and Matt Bonesteel regarding the findings in a new report on the Russian doping conspiracy.  You can find that report here; I commend it to your reading.

The report summarizes the findings of a Canadian lawyer, Richard McLaren, after an investigation done at the behest of WADA – the World Anti-Doping Agency.  This statement from Mr. McLaren will give you an idea of the tone and the conclusions drawn in the report.

“It is impossible to know how deep and how far back the conspiracy goes.  For years, international sports competition has been unknowingly hijacked by the Russians. Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field. Sports fans and spectators have been deceived. It’s time that this stops.”

I have not taken the time to find and read the original report but I am willing to believe that McLaren – on behalf of WADA – has developed evidence to support the conclusion that this whole thing was an institutional matter directed by someone or someones far beyond the level of an individual athlete or a team trainer.  It appears that urine samples were “swapped out” and the “testing establishment” was duped.  It should be no surprise that there are calls to ban the Russians from the Olympic Games in Korea in 2018 and for other severe sanctions.

Right next to this reporting on McLaren’s findings and report was a column by Sally Jenkins that took a different tack on this matter.  She points out that the report is “more embarrassing for WADA than for Vladimir Putin’s empire.”  You can find her column here; I commend it to your reading.

Sally Jenkins calls for the dismantling of WADA and replacing it with something that is independent of the IOC.  [Aside:  Indeed, it is difficult to put blind faith in any person or entity attached to the IOC.]

I do not know if WADA needs to be dismantled and replaced; I do know that they have been “less than fully successful” in catching athletes who may have “cheated” in various athletic competitions.  In this case, the doping practices go back at least as far as 2011 and they continued to obtain through – at least – the Winter Games in 2014.  McLaren’s findings here in late 2016 does not inspire great confidence in anything WADA has said or done in the last 5 years – at least – when it comes to “providing a level playing field for international athletes” …

While at least tangentially on the subject of the Olympics, I want to be sure that you know about two new sports that have been granted “provisional recognition” by the IOC.  These sports will be in this provisional status for 3 years and then can apply for inclusion in the Olympic Games.  These two sports are:

  1. Muay Thai – – and – –
  2. Cheerleading

Muay Thai is a martial art which – not surprisingly – originated in Thailand.  Cheerleading is team gymnastics set to music.  Muay Thai maintains the original Olympic focus on events that were related to war and combat.  Cheerleading is not a sport.

In addition to sports that seek IOC “blessing” as something that may become Olympic events, each host city is permitted to include sports in their games that in a one-off status.  The 2020 Games are scheduled in Tokyo and here are five of the one-off sports that will be included in those Games:

  1. Baseball/softball
  2. Karate
  3. Skateboarding
  4. Sport climbing
  5. Surfing

A while back, I commented on a win by the LA Rams where the team had not scored a TD in that win.  What made that unusual in today’s NFL is that it was the second win for the Rams this season where the Rams did not score a TD.  I said that I could not recall that sort of thing happening recently although it was probably prevalent in the NFL in the 30s and 40s. You should not be surprised to learn that I received an e-mail from the sports stats maven in Houston on the subject.  Let me share his information with you.

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

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

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

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

Finally, here is some potential good news – at least it is for me – from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Lifting weights can lead to better brain function, according to a study at the University of Sydney.

“So maybe getting called a dumbbell isn’t such a bad thing after all.”

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




An Order Of Greed With A Side Of Hypocrisy

You want to know why some people just cannot stop themselves from beating a dead horse?  Because it is so easy…  Indulge me for a moment today; I am going to flog a dead carcass that is tainting the sporting landscape.  Naturally, I speak of the over-abundance of college football bowl games.  These meaningless events serve only 2 purposes and neither is noble:

  1. They provide ESPN and other sports networks with programming which provides a revenue stream to schools/conferences.
  2. They provide a “tourism attraction” to host cities thereby bringing revenue from outside that city to that city.

That’s it; that’s the list.

Once we recognize that 40 college bowl games are nothing more than a bald-faced money-grab, we can point out what it is and try to ignore the games that mean nothing.  Believe me; that is what I try to do – until hypocrisy gets heaped on top of the money-grab and then I am drawn back to the thinking about the whole mess.  If I allege that there is hypocrisy associated with the college bowl games, it should not take a Stephen Hawking-level intellect to figure out from where said hypocrisy might emanate.  Indeed, you are correct; it comes from the NCAA.

We have had to tolerate the NCAA’s unfounded assertion that college athletes are amateurs; they are student-athletes.  Moreover, to protect college athletes from corrupting influences, the NCAA writes and enforces a ton of rules; one of the foundation pieces of that entire rule book is this principle:

  • Student-athletes should not have any access to any privilege or any stature or any element of college life that is not also available to the student body at large.

Forget about the obvious violations of that principle like athletic dorms and the like.  The topic here is how does this apply to bowl games?  Here is a link to a table published at  Let me quote the heading for the table:

“Welcome to SportsBusiness Journal’s 11th annual rundown of the gift packages provided by college football’s bowl game organizing committees. Click here to read more about the stories behind some of the gifts and gift suites — private shopping events for game participants — and here to learn how much money in gifts the CFP champion could take home.”

These “gift packages” are approved and sanctioned by the NCAA as the overseeing body for college athletics.  Please note that these “gift packages” are not available to the student bodies at the participating schools.  But these “tokens of appreciation” from the organizers of the bowl games – that generate revenue streams – are perfectly all right because the NCAA says so.

I do not mean to imply in any way that the players should not receive their “gift packages”.  I hope they all enjoy whatever they get from the organizing committees.  And along with that wish, I hope that at least someone who writes or enforces the NCAA rules develops a case of agita bad enough that he/she cannot sleep for a week.

Moving on …  Yesterday (December 8th), there was an article at with this headline:

Top 10 NCAA Tournament Résumés

The picture associated with this article made it clear that the “NCAA Tournament” involved here was the men’s basketball tournament in March.  This is “bracketology” under a different name and changing the name does not make it smell any less fetid.  At this point in the college basketball season, a large fraction of the 350-or-so Division 1 basketball schools have yet to play a meaningful game let alone an important one.

Fifty years ago, The Byrds sang:

“To everything – Turn! Turn! Turn

There is a season – Turn! Turn! Turn! …”

Let me take a deep breath and say this slowly and calmly:

  • Early December is not the “season” to be examining college basketball résumés.  There are not enough useful entries there yet.

Examining a basketball résumé about now is sort of like reading a memoir written by a teenager.  My guess is that if you were given such an oeuvre, you would not pay a whole lot of attention to it for very long.  There is a simple reason for that; it is highly unlikely that a typical teenager’s memoir would contain anything worth serious consideration.  That is the state of affairs for college basketball teams as of this morning…

A couple of weeks ago, Bob Molinaro had this item in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot.  It happens to speak to women’s college basketball but it also is relevant to the current “state of play” in the men’s game in early December:

“Coachspeak: What would you call a women’s exhibition basketball game between highly ranked Maryland and Division II Bluefield State College which ended 146-17 after Maryland outscored their victims 72-0 in the second half? Maryland coach Brenda Frese called it a “good tune-up.” Not the first words that leap to my mind.”

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Rock of the Deseret News earlier this week:

“Big Mac creator Jim Delligatti died at 98, last week.

“Here’s to the man who provided countless lunches to countless teams on countless bus trips.

“He deserves a break today.”

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



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


Last week was another mythically profitable weekend for the NFL picks.  I made 15 selections and the record for the week was a tidy 10-5-0.  The record for the season now stands at 112-65-4.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol made 2 selections last week and did exactly what one would expect from a coin flip.  The week’ record was 1-1-0; that makes the coin’s season record 14-10-2.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Lions +6 against Saints.  Lions won outright by 15 points.
  • Seahawks -7 against Panthers.  Seahawks won by 33 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Jets “pick’em” against Colts.  Colts won 41-10
  • Dolphins +3 against Ravens.  Ravens won by 32 points.
  • Niners +1 against Bears.  Bears won by 20 points.

Lest anyone take the wrong message from the success of Mythical Picks last week or from the record for the season, there is nothing authoritative or insightful that goes into these selections.  Only a very stupid person would use anything here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend or any other weekend for that matter.  Here is how dumb you would have to be to do something like that:


You think Baba Ghanoush is some guy who cuts hair in Boston.


General Comments:


I am a planner; my long-suffering wife has come to think that I would plan for Armageddon if given the opportunity; I recognize that it is not an endearing quality, but as Popeye the Sailor often said:

“I yam what I yam.”

Given my bent for planning ahead, I am pleased tip my hat to a devoted Cleveland Browns’ fan for his efforts to organize a parade for the Browns’ team to celebrate the team going 0-16 for the NFL season.  According to a report in USA Today, a Browns’ fan named Chris McNeil has sent a letter to the city fathers in Cleveland to hold a “peaceful parade” on Jan 7 2017 that “will be a celebration of our Cleveland Browns’ historic 0-16 season.”

You can find all the info you need about this event – should you want to venture off to Cleveland next month to participate in this celebratory affair – at this link.

With all the BYE Weeks in the rear-view mirror, the NFL season heads into the final quarter of the season.  Four of the 8 divisions would appear to have interesting races to see who will be the division winner and automatically get to the playoffs.  A fifth division could get interesting; the other three divisions are pretty much decided.

Here are the “decided divisions”:


AFC East:  Pats have a 3-game lead over the Dolphins with 4 games left.

NFC East:  Cowboys have a 3-game lead over the Giants with 4 games left.

NFC West:  Seahawks have a 3-game lead over the Cards with 4 games left.


Here are the divisions with “interesting races”:


AFC North:  The Steelers and the Ravens have the same record (7-5) and both are playing good football lately.  The Ravens have a tougher schedule ahead with 3 of their 4 remaining games on the road but there is a head-to-head showdown between these teams in Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve.

AFC South:  The Texans, Colts and Titans all have a 6-6 record this morning.  The Texans have 3 division games left to play in their 4 remaining games; the Colts and Titans each have 2 division games on tap.

AFC West:  The Raiders hold a 1-game lead on the Chiefs and those two teams play tonite; the Broncos are 2 games out of the lead but are not out of the race because they still have head-to-head games with both the Raiders and the Chiefs on the schedule.

NFC South:  The Falcons and Bucs are tied atop the division at 7-5 and the Bucs have won 4 games in a row.  The Falcons’ schedule is a bit easier given that the Bucs have to play a game on the road against the Cowboys.


Here is division where the race “might get interesting”:


NFC North:  The Lions lead the Vikes and the Packers by 2 games with 4 left to play.  The Lions are hot; they have won 4 in a row.  On the other hand, if you look at historical precedent; these are the Lions after all and they have often found ways to go south at the least advantageous moment…

Last week, the Cowboys beat the Vikes 17-15 on Thursday night.  The Vikes’ defense kept the Cowboys’ offense in check for most of the game but the Vikes’ offense was too limited to take advantage of that strong defensive effort.  Yes, the Vikes were hosed on the final 2-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game; there is no question about that.  Replay showed clearly that the officials missed 2 calls on the same play:

  1. First, there was a false start by the Vikes’ offensive right tackle which should have blown the play dead before it started and the Vikes should have been forced to try the conversion attempt once again but from the 12 yardline and not the 7 yardline.
  2. Second, if the officials did not blow the play dead as they should have, then there was a clear penalty on the Cowboys for a “blow to the head” of the QB which was also a shot to his facemask.

It is not correct to say that those officiating blunders “cost” the Vikes the game; even a successful 2-point conversion – not a certainty to be sure – would only have created an overtime situation where the Vikes may or may not have prevailed.  However, it is correct to say that once again the officials botched an important play in a game.

Here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald about the officiating in the Cowboys/Vikings game:

“To give you an idea how many calls referees supposedly missed during Thursday Night Football, the opening coin toss that the refs said was heads was actually tails.”

The Pats beat the Rams 26-10.  Tom Brady got his 201st win as a starting QB in this game; it was never in doubt that would be the outcome.  Jeff Fisher got a 2-year contract extension late last week and then the Rams went out and dropped a stinkbomb on the field in Foxboro.  At halftime, the Rams had amassed a total of 25 yards on offense and made exactly 1 first down.  It got better in the second half but not all that much better.  The Rams managed only 162 yards’ offense for the entire game.

Here is what I do not understand.  The Rams are competent when it comes to signing/drafting/developing defensive players.  On offense, the opposite is true.  Forget coaching; the players on the offensive units for the Rams in recent years have been mediocre players and the Rams have gotten mediocre offensive results.  How can that situation continue to obtain?

The Chiefs beat the Falcons 29-28.  Talk about inventing a way to lose a game…  Eric Berry had a Pick Six to put the Chiefs in position to make this a game to go down to the wire.  Then the Falcons get a TD to go up 28-27 and Berry gets a “Pick Two” intercepting the 2-point conversion and taking it back 100 yards for a 2-point score by the Chiefs.  The only way Berry would not be named Defensive Player of the Week would be if Godzilla were playing defensive line for some team last Sunday.  In addition, the normally buttoned-up Andy Reid ran a fake punt that went for a TD in the second half of this game.

There was an interesting coaching decision by the Falcons in the third quarter that impacted the way the game ended.  The Falcons trailed by 11 points with about 8 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter and had a 4th and 1 at the Chiefs’ 10 yardline.  The Falcons went for it and failed; instead of possibly trailing by 8 points, they still trailed by 11.  Ergo, when the Falcons scored a TD in the 4th quarter to bring the score to 27-22, they had to go for a 2-point PAT which failed.  Ergo, when the Falcons scored again to take the lead 28-27 with about 4 minutes left in the game, they again had to go for a 2-point PAT to try to extend the lead to 3 points.  That was the point at which Eric Berry executed the “Pick Two” …

The Bengals beat the Eagles 32-14.  That may look like a shellacking to you but you need to realize that the score was 29-0 at one point.  The final score represents a “rally” from the Eagles…  For reasons known only to the offensive braintrust of the Eagles, they had Carson Wentz throw the ball 60 times in this game.  When rookie QBs throw that often, good things tend to happen for the other team.

The Steelers beat the Giants 24-14.  The Steelers’ defense has not been the dominant unit this year but they throttled the Giants on Sunday holding the Giants to less than 100 yards’ offense in the first half.  The Steelers cruised to a win.  LeVeon Bell ran for 118 yards in the game to control the clock and field position.  Steelers had to sign a new kicker on Friday when Chris Boswell suffered an abdominal injury; Randy Bullock was 3-for-3 on field goal tries here and 1 for 1 on PATs in this game.

The Cards beat the Skins 31-21.  Carson Palmer drank from the Fountain of Youth last week.  He threw for 300 yards and 3 TDs (30 for 46) and 0 INTs.  The Cards converted on 10 of 16 third down attempts.  The Skins had a chance to tie in the final 2 minutes down 8 points with the ball on the Cards’ 29 yardline.  An untimely INT put an end to that comeback.  This loss puts Skins at 6-5-1 and looking up at 2 wildcard teams in the NFC (Giants and Bucs).  Cards are 5-6-1 and probably need to win the NFC West to get to the playoffs.  With the Seahawks sitting at 8-3-1 with 4 games left, that looks like a real longshot.

The Bucs beat the Chargers 28-21.  The Bucs are now the #2 wildcard team in the NFC.  They intercepted Philip Rivers twice in the second half to overcome a 14-10 deficit at halftime.  The Bucs have won 4 in a row and the last 3 have come over the Chiefs, Seahawks and Chargers – three good teams.

The Raiders beat the Bills 38-24.  The Bills led the game 24-9 at one point and then their world turned upside down.  Tyrod Taylor turned the ball over twice in the 4th quarter and the Raiders came from behind to win the game convincingly.

The Lions beat the Saints 28-13.  For the first time this season, the Lions won without having to come from behind in the 4th quarter.  Drew Brees did not throw a TD pass in a home game and it has been a while since that happened (61 games ago since 2009).  Brees did throw 3 INTs though.  The Lions lead the NFC North but have a difficult schedule ahead of them (versus the Bears, then at Giants, at Cowboys, versus the Packers).  The Saints are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs; but in reality, the Saints are gonzo.

The Packers beat the Texans 21-13.  This loss drops the Texans into a tie with the Titans who had the week off.; it is the third loss in a row for the Texans.  The win puts the Packers back in the wildcard race in the NFC.  The game was not really this close; the Texans scored a TD with less than 2 minutes to play in the game.

The Broncos beat the Jags 20-10.  Paxton Lynch played QB for the Broncos in this game; the coaches must have figured that if the Denver defense could not hold the Jags down to a manageable number, that defense must be a mirage.  Lynch was – to be polite – awful (12 for 24 for 102 yards) and the team generated only 206 yards’ offense.  The fundamental question about this game is this:

  • Did the Denver defense dominate Blake Bortles to win this game or did Bortles just stink out the joint has he has done at multiple venues in the past?

Bortles was 19 of 42 for 182 yards and 2 INTs.  That is only a 45% completion rate…  Oh, and he lost a fumble too.  Oh, and one of his INTs was a Pick Six…

You should have noticed by now that there were more than a few games from last week that were decided by more than one score.  However, I have saved the three biggest mismatches from last week for now…

The Seahawks beat the Panthers 40-7.  Watching the game, it looked like a 40-7 game; it felt like a 40-7 game.  The Panthers appeared to be going through the motions and not much else.  They only managed to throw for 182 yards despite being well behind for much of the game and needing to catch up.  The Seahawks lost safety Earl Thomas in the game to a broken bone in his leg.  That is a big loss.  The Seahawks offense came to life – against a not-so-inspired Panthers’ defense to the tune of 534 yards’ total offense.

The Colts beat the Jets 41-10.  A late Jets’ TD narrowed the margin of victory here.  Like the Panthers, the Jets did not seem to be giving maximum effort for much of the game particularly on defense.  The Jets went with Bryce Petty at QB in 2nd half; reports say Petty will start in the last 4 games this year.   Here is my assessment of Bryce Petty based on watching him for half of this game:

  • Oh my; he does indeed have a lot to learn if “NFL QB” is the career path he has chosen for himself.

And what does that say about Christian Hackenberg who has not shown enough in practice to be considered a “development project” to the point where it is time to expose him to “the real thing”…?  But it is OK to throw Bryce Petty out there to see what he can do?  The Jets are not in a good place…

The Bears beat the Niners 24-6.  That score may not seem as lopsided as some others but the Niners’ performance was laughable.  Two weeks ago, Colin Kaepernick looked like he might be a good fit in an evolving Chip Kelly offense in SF.  Last week, Kaepernick got benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert – who pretty much has shown that he is not going to be a good fit in an evolving Chip Kelly offense in SF.  Total passing offense for Niners was this:

  • 5 for 15 for 39 yards.  That is the gross passing yardage.  When you account for yards lost on six sacks, the net passing yardage for the Niners was 6 yards.

The Niners’ total offense for the day was 147 yards.

All reports are that the new stadium for the Niners in Santa Clara is heartily disliked by fans; I don’t know all the ins and outs as to why that is the case, but there are sufficient reports to believe it is so.  So, if the fans hate the stadium and the Niners are the team that will play there 8 times next year, what would make the Niners’ Front Office think they are going to keep up whatever season ticket base they now have?    Here is a link to excellent column by Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle regarding the Niners’ ownership and GM:


The Games:


(Thurs Nite) Oakland at KC – 3.5 (46):  This is the Game of the Week and it is on Thursday Night Football.  Let me just say that those two things tend not to go together – sort of like mustard and vanilla ice cream.  The Chiefs need this game to tie the Raiders in the AFC West race; a win for the Raiders would put them up 2 games on the Chiefs with only 3 game left to play.  It is a “revenge game” for the Raiders since one of their losses this year was to the Chiefs with the game in Oakland.  I think the Raiders will get their revenge here so I will take the Raiders plus the points.


Denver at Tennessee (no lines):  I guess folks are waiting to see which Denver QB will start this game.  I do not know of any other significant variable related to the game.  Since I have nothing to say about this game, let me provide you with a meaningless trend:

  • Titans are 12-37-3 against the spread in their last 52 games.


San Diego at Carolina – 1.5 (48):  Short and sweet here …  After watching the Panthers not give a damn last week, I wonder if they can summon up any emotion here.  Last week, they were taking on a top-shelf opponent and they were flatter than Kansas.  Here they take on a team from the other conference that is sub-.500 just like the Panthers are.  I sense another sleepwalking effort so I’ll take the Chargers plus the point-and-a-half.


Houston at Indy – 6 (46.5):  The winner here will – at worst – be tied for the lead in the AFC South.  There are some conflicting trends at work here:

  • Texans are 7-0-1 against the spread in their last 8 against the AFC South
  • Colts are 19-6-2 against the spread in their last 27 against the AFC South

The Colts are at home and the Colts have the significantly better QB under center.  The Colts’ defense looked very good last week – – but calm down here; that showing was against a listless and uninterested Jets’ team (see above).  The Texans are 1-5 on the road this year and I just do not trust them in this situation.  I’ll take the Colts to win and cover.


Cincy – 5 at Cleveland (43):  About the only good news with regard to the Browns in this spot would be:

  • They had last week off to game plan and recuperate.
  • The Bengals have lost AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard to injury.

The Bengals are highly disappointing this year – despite last week’s spanking of the Eagles (see above) – but they are simply a better team than the Browns.  Unless the Bengals play with no emotion at all, they should cruise here.  I like the Bengals on the road to win and cover.


Pittsburgh – 2 at Buffalo (46.5):  This game means a lot to the Steelers; the Bills are pretty much out of the playoff chase and so this game is about “pride” and “heart” and all that stuff for them.  Call this a “Pedigree Pick”.  The Steelers are habitually in the playoffs and the Bills are not.  The Steelers’ coach has won a Super bowl; the Bills’ coach swears his team will win one every year.  The Steelers’ QB has been the MVP in the Super Bowl; the Bills’ QB is a ham-and-egger.  I like the Steelers to win and cover here.


Arizona at Miami – 1 (43.5):  The Dolphins saw their 6-game win streak go down the drain last week while the Cards surprised me and beat the Skins.  (I liked the Skins straight up to win the game.)  Neither team excites me at all; both QBs are up one week and down the next; both teams have – and rely on – an excellent running back; neither defense is great; neither defense is atrocious.  This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol Game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.


Chicago at Detroit – 7.5 (43.5):  The spread opened the week at 9.5 points and has settled down at this level for the past 36 hours.  The Bears scored 26 points last week; that was their highest point production of the season.  The last time these teams met – October 2 – the Bears won 17-14; since then the Bears are 2-6; since then the Lions are 7-1.  Here are countervailing trends for these teams:

  • Bears are 4-9 against the spread in their last 13 against the Lions
  • Lions are 4-9 against the spread in their last 13 against the NFC North.

So, there …  That line looks fat to me; I’ll take the Bears plus the points.


Minnesota – 3 at Jax (39.5):  The Vikes’ defense is for real; the Jags’ offense led by Blake Bortles is a turnover machine.  Only Santa Claus will be handing out more gifts in December than Bortles.  The Vikes also need this game to stay in the playoff picture.  I’ll take the Vikes and lay the points.


New Orleans at Tampa – 2.5 (51):  The Bucs are hot; they have won 4 in a row.  The Saints are lukewarm; they won last week but sport a 5-7 record for the season.  Drew Brees is not going to be held without a TD pass for the second week in a row and he is not likely to throw 3 INTs either.  I smell a shootout coming.  I like the game to go OVER.


Washington at Philly “pick ‘em” (46.5):  OK, I’ll “pick ‘em”…  I like the Skins to win this game notwithstanding the Eagles’ 4-1 record at home.


Jets at SF – 2.5 (44):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week – and it is the kind of dog-breath that exists just after the dog has discovered and sampled the rotting carcass of a now-unidentifiable mammal in the back yard.  Please see above for what both of these teams did to leave gigantic road apples on the field last week.  The Jets played on Monday night and get to fly about 3000 miles to this game; the Niners gained 6 yards (net) passing for an entire game last week.  Bryce Petty versus either Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert defines once and for all the phrase:

  • Must Miss TV

Only because I said I would make a pick in every possible game, will I make a pick here.  Actually, I will turn it over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol so that I can stand back from the stench.  The coin says to take the Niners and lay the points.  Remember, the coin said that; I did not say that!


Seattle – 3 at Green Bay (46.5):  This is a big game for the Packers and the fact of the matter is that the Seahawks are much better at home than they are on the road. says the temperature will be in the mid-20s around kickoff and this “late afternoon game” will start about 15 minutes after sunset.  I think this will be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Atlanta – 6.5 at LA (45):  The Falcons can score points; they lead the NFL in scoring; in fact, the Falcons have scored 41 more points than the second-highest scoring team in the league (Raiders).  The Falcons’ defense is very generous; the Falcons have allowed 331 points so far this year; that is 20 points more than any other team (the Colts) that is at or near the top of their division this week.  The question here is simple:

  • Can the Rams’ rudimentary offense find ways to score on a very porous Falcons’ defense?

I do not think soErgo, I will take the game to stay UNDER because I think the Rams’ defense can keep the Falcons from running amok.


(Sun Nite) Dallas – 3 at Giants (47):  This is the best game on Sunday.  I am convinced that the Cowboys are for real; their OL dominates games.  The Giants’ DL took a hit with the news that Jason Pierre-Paul will not play here.  I think the Cowboys will expose and exploit the Giants; I like the Cowboys to win and cover – even on the road.


(Mon NIte) Baltimore at New England – 7.5 (45):  This game was the runner up as the Game of the Week; it matches two division leaders who are both playing top-shelf football.  The spread opened the week at 8 points; this morning you can find it as low as 7 points at two Internet sportsbooks.  I think this game will be decided one way of the other by a field goal or less so I’ll take the Ravens plus the points here.

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



Bad College Bowl Games

It should be no secret around these parts that I do not like the excessive number of college football bowl games.  I really like college football but more is not better in this circumstance.  Good college football involves rivalry games and/or games that have meaning with regard to conference standings or poll placement and/or an intersectional game with two good teams.  Note the emphasis on the word “good” in that last sentence.

This year, there will be 40 bowl games; 80 teams – from a field of 128 Division 1-A teams – will play in bowl games.  Five out of every eight college teams will be in a bowl game.  Those numbers do not add up to “interesting” or “important” or “attractive”.  Most of the games are meaningless wastes of time and energy.  Their role in the grand scheme of things is that they will contribute ever so minutely to the entropy death of the universe.

I have surveyed the field of 40 bowl games.  There are about a half-dozen that meet my criterion of “intersectional game with two good teams” and those games may attract my attention even though they really do not mean a blessed thing.  Penn State versus USC in the Rose Bowl is an example of such a game.  However, there are a bunch of bowl games that just make me shake my head in disbelief such as:


Heart of Dallas Bowl:  Army versus North Texas.  OK, it is good to see Army in a bowl game again; it has been a while since that happened.  However, this game is a repeat; these teams already played once in October.  No one – and I mean NO ONE – was clamoring to see an encore when the final whistle blew.  Nonetheless …

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl:  Idaho versus Colorado State.  Here is the only interesting fact related to this game.  Idaho is going to a bowl game for the third time in school history – – and all three of those bowl games have been played in Boise.  Lots of teams get invitations to bowl games that are far from campus in places where the weather is balmy in December.  Idaho gets invited to take a bus ride about 200 miles north to play in Idaho in the winter…

New Mexico Bowl:  New Mexico versus Texas-San Antonio.  New Mexico is playing a home game; the bowl game is played on their home field.  These guys don’t even get to take a 200-mile bus ride to go to this “special event” …  [For the record, this is the third time New Mexico has played a “home game” in the New Mexico Bowl which only came into existence in 2006.]

Quick Lane Bowl:  Maryland versus BC.  [Aside: I dare you to name the venue for this game without peeking.]  Both teams are 6-6; neither team is even marginally interesting to watch.  The organizers of this game could not have a full stadium if they gave out free tickets along with a voucher that the fan could turn in for a $100 bill at stadium concession stands after the final whistle…

St. Petersburg Bowl:  Miami (OH) versus Mississippi St.  Miami is 6-6 and Mississippi St. is 5-7; they needed more teams to fill bowl slots than there were teams with 6 wins this year.  The upshot of this is to root for Mississippi St. in this game so that after this bowl game, both teams will end the season with losing records.  Such fun …


There are 3 games that might be interesting enough to go and check out the scores and stats because of the teams involved but I doubt that I will watch more than a couple of minutes of any of them:


Military Bowl:  Temple versus Wake Forest.  Wake Forest does not score a lot; their 6-6 record was built on giving up only about 20 points per game.  Temple’s defense has allowed a total of 33 points in its last 5 games and two of those games were shutouts (against UConn and Tulane).  Lots of punting here…

Outback Bowl:  Florida versus Iowa.  If you do not like defense, do not watch this game or pay any attention to it at all.  It would not be a shock to see the final score be 10-9 with the TD coming on a fumble recovery in the end zone…

Holiday Bowl:  Minnesota versus Washington St.  The interest here comes from the diametrically opposite ways these teams approach offensive football.  Minnesota throws the ball only under duress; they have only recorded 8 TD passes in the entire season.  Washington St. on the other hand threw the ball more than 50 times per game on average this year.  It is the “air force” versus the “infantry” here…


I will try to watch the Cotton Bowl to see W. Michigan play Wisconsin.  It will be interesting to see how a 13-0 MAC Champion who beat two Big 10 teams this year fares against one of the top teams in the Big 10.  I will watch the Orange Bowl to see Michigan and Florida State slug it out with one another; and as I said above, I will watch Penn St. and USC in the Rose Bowl.

Obviously, I look forward to the two CFP semi-final games on Dec 31.  However, one or both may need to be seen after-the-fact depending on social arrangements made by my long-suffering wife for New Year’s Eve.  That is one of the main reasons that I gave thanks about 2 weeks ago, for the invention of the DVR.

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



Golf And The Winter Olympics Today …

Over the weekend, Tiger Woods played in the Hero World Challenge golf tournament in the Bahamas.  There was plenty of good news that came from that tournament and because much of it involved Tiger Woods, the media were all over it.  Let me highlight some of the many pieces of good news:

  1. Tiger Woods finished all four rounds of the tournament without having to withdraw and without limping from hole to hole.  He has not done that for a while now; his physical condition seems much improved.
  2. If you are a TV exec and your network carries golf, you have to be thrilled at what happened last weekend and by Woods’ statement that he plans to play again next year.
  3. If you are a PGA Tour exec, you have to be thrilled because your TV revenues are tied to ratings and TV ratings for golf have plummeted since Tiger Woods has been on the shelf.
  4. If you are a golf writer or broadcaster, you have a meal ticket again – someone who can assure that there is never a “slow news day” on your beat.

With all that good news and a sense of euphoria, one wonders why anyone has to take it over the top.  Kyle Porter writes about golf on; naturally, what he was writing about over the weekend and into Monday all centered around Tiger Woods.  Let me be clear; I do not know Kyle Porter from Cole Porter from Cole Hamels from Dorothy Hamill from Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  I have no reason to like or dislike him or his work.  So why did he have to lead one of his reports with this:

“Tiger Woods’ first tournament back at the Hero World Challenge was a raving success by any feasible metric. Woods led the field in birdies, looked genuinely interested in the event and did not grimace after hitting a single shot.”

Let me address the phrase “…a raving success by any feasible metric.”  I will start by saying “Bulls*it!”  Now let me provide a couple of “feasible metrics”:

  1. There were 17 golfers in the tournament field.  Tiger Woods finished 15th.
  2. In addition to leading the field in birdies, he led the field in double bogeys too.
  3. Woods’ 76 on the final round was the worst round shot by anyone in the field.
  4. The two guys Tiger Woods beat out were Russell Knox and Emiliano Grillo.  I am not sure that even the PGA Tour Commish could pick those two guys out of a lineup with the Smurfs.

There was plenty of good news from the Hero World Challenge.  However, this sort of phony praise and looking at the world through rose colored glasses does not add to the good news; what it does is to diminish it.  Moreover, it diminishes any sense one might have regarding the objectivity of the journalism that under-girds the reporting.

Moving on …  The 2018 Winter Olympics will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea; and as is customary with the way NBC televises Olympic competitions here in the US, there will be saturation.  I do not just mean there will be saturation in the winter of 2018; the saturation starts now.

Last month, NBC began televising some of the test-events leading up to the games on various outlets under the NBC umbrella.  In case you did not know, they have already covered the “big air event” associated with the FIS Snowboard World Cup.  I used quotation marks there because I am not a snowboarding aficionado and could not tell you what the rules are regarding the “big air event”.  To be candid, the phrase “big air event” conjures up in my mind the aftermath of a chow-down at Taco Bell…

But do not worry if you missed the first telecast of these events.  There are eleven more to follow between now and March 2017.  As a public service, let me alert you to the ways you might avail yourselves of this coverage:

“ and the NBC Sports app – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs – will stream coverage. The NBC Sports app will stream coverage via ‘TV Everywhere,’ giving consumers additional value to their subscription service, and making high-quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.”

Consider yourselves alerted and forewarned; I seriously doubt that I will have much more to say about any of the dozen or so events that will air here – – unless of course a serious confrontation between competing teams involving live ammunition comes to a head in the IBU Biathlon World Cup…

Finally, I began today with commentary on the Hero World Challenge golf tournament so let me close with an item from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald about another non-major golf tournament:

“There is a golf tournament in northern Oregon exclusively for marijuana smokers and growers. It’s the second athletic competition of its type. The other, of course, is called the NBA season.”

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



A New CBA for MLB …

Late last week – at about the eleventh hour – MLB and the MLBPA reached an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).  There were only about 24 hours left on the old agreement when the bargaining concluded and now it needs to be ratified by the owners and by the players as a whole.  The term of the new CBA would be 5 years which would mean that there would be no threats or danger of strikes, work stoppages, lockouts and the like through 2021.  The last time there was a work stoppage in baseball was in 1995 so when this agreement is ratified, there will be a 26-year period of “labor peace”.

In 2016, the estimated revenue for all of MLB was $9B.  An off-handed interpretation of the new agreement would be that the folks representing the billionaire owners and the folks representing the millionaire players found a way to continue to bathe in the flow of $9B annually.  I am sure there was more to it than that; but when I read about the things that baseball writers and commentators consider noteworthy in the new agreement, I am not so sure that the off-handed interpretation is so wrong.  Let me dispense with a couple of terms in the new CBA that seem self-evident to me:


  1. The use of chewing tobacco and other forms of smokeless tobacco is banned in MLB.  Current players who use these products are grandfathered but new players will not be users.  I hope it did not take long for both sides to agree that this was a good idea.
  2. The All-Star Game will no longer determine the home-field advantage for the World Series.  The fact that it ever did was abjectly stupid from the moment it was first uttered aloud.  Home field advantage will now go to the team with the better regular season record which is as it should have been for about a century now.  This issue does not put or take a single penny in or out of either side’s pockets; I hope it did not take long for both sides to reach agreement here.  In algebra class in high school, we all learned that removing a negative number is a positive; therefore, I choose to call this CBA provision the World Series Algebraic Clause.

Missing from the new CBA is a provision to put a pitch clock in MLB games.  Too bad…  They use a pitch clock in minor league games and it seems to work just fine.

There are changes in the rules governing Qualifying Offers for potential free agents.  Briefly, under the old CBA, if a player turned down a Qualifying Offer and then signed with another team as a free agent, the signing team lost a draft pick and the money associated with that pick in the signing bonus pool and took a reduction in the amount it could spend on intentional players.  Now, the “costs” associated with signing such a free agent are scaled.  Teams who are over the luxury tax threshold will lose a second round and a fifth-round draft pick – plus associated money in signing pools – while teams under the luxury tax limit will only lose a third-round pick.  That is the abbreviated version of the changes; if you are interested in the “wherefores” and the “moreovers”, Google is your friend…

Since I mentioned the luxury tax threshold above, that number is going up over the 5 years of this agreement.  In 2016, it was $189M in total payroll per club.  Here is how it changes in the new agreement:

  •             2017: $195M
  •             2018: $197M
  •             2019: $206M
  •             2020: $209M
  •             2021: $210M

Penalties for teams that exceed these new thresholds increase too.  First time “offenders will pay a 20% luxury tax; second time “offenders will pay a 30% tax and third time offenders will pay a 50% tax.  Moreover, there is a new “luxury surtax” for teams that are way over the threshold.

  •             Over by $20M to 40M = 12% surtax
  •             Over by $40M the first time = 40% surtax
  •             Over by $40M the second time = 42.5% surtax.

Th last thing in the new CBA that I find interesting is that “Moneyball” is about to undergo a significant change.  The Oakland A’s have been recipients of the MLB version of revenue sharing based on their low attendance and revenue status.  That is going to change; the A’s are in a large metropolitan area and should not be considered a “small-market team” like Milwaukee or Tampa.  Some reports said that there are owners in MLB who do not think that the A’s have taken the revenue sharing money and plowed it back into “team improvement initiatives” and that those voices prevailed on the MLB side of the bargaining table.  Obviously, I do not know if that is the case or how all of this came about in the new CBA.  However, if those reports are correct, the Oakland A’s are a troubled franchise.

The A’s are clearly the “junior partner” in the Bay Area market.  The Giants drew 3.37M fans in 2016; the A’s drew 1.52M fans in 2016 – second lowest in MLB.  The A’s play in a stadium that would be paid a compliment if one were to call it an upholstered toilet.  They are going to be phased out of the revenue sharing money meaning they will likely be fielding teams for the foreseeable future comprised of young players who are auditioning to go to other teams.

Finally, I used to watch Sesame Street with my kids when they were of an appropriate age for that program.  Every day, the program would be “brought to you” by a letter of the alphabet – and a number – and they would feature words that began with that letter.  Well if you are a Sesame Street alum and an NFL fan, you might conclude that the 2016 season is not being brought to you by the letter “C”.  Four teams in the league are from cities that begin with “C” and here are their records:

  •                         Carolina: 4-8-0
  •                         Chicago: 3-9-0
  •                         Cincy: 4-7-1
  •                         Cleveland: 0-12-0
  •                         TOTAL:  11-36-1

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




Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 12/3/16


Last week was very profitable – mythically of course – for the NCAA selections.  I made 12 picks and the record for the week was 9-3-0.  Since the start of the 2016 season, the record for NCAA Mythical Picks is 106-88-0.

The Best Picks from last week were;

  • Air Force +9 against Boise St.  Air Force won straight up by 7 points.
  • Washington -6 against Washington St.  Washington won by 28 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Georgia/Georgia Tech UNDER 49.  Total Score was 55.
  • Ohio St. -6.5 against Michigan.  Ohio St. won by only 3 in 2 OTs.

As we enter the final week of the college football season, I want to be sure that no one looks at the season record for picks and mistakenly believes that there is any great insight offered here.  Only a dumbass would use any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real college football game this weekend.  How dumb would one need to be?


If an idea were to pop up into such a person’s mind it would be a very lonely idea indeed…


General Comments:


The Linfield College Wildcats’ football season ended last weekend with a loss to Mary Hardin-Baylor in the second round of the Division III football playoffs by a score of 27-10.  For the season, Linfield was 10-2 with both losses were to Mary Hardin-Baylor.  Nevertheless, congratulations to the Linfield team for extending the school record of consecutive winning seasons in football that started back in 1956.

The Eastern Washington Eagles play the Central Arkansas Bears in the Division 1-AA playoffs this week.  E. Washington had a BYE in the first round of the tournament; Central Arkansas is here thanks to a win over Illinois St. last week by a score of 31-24.  I have been following the statistical accomplishments of Cooper Kupp at E. Washington at the suggestion of Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times.  Since there are no stats from last week to report, let me review his career stats at E. Washington.  Remember, he is a wide receiver first and foremost:


Passing stats:  7 for 9 for 180 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs

Rushing stats:  15 carries for 71 yards and 1 TD.

Punt returns:  25 returns for 426 yards and 3 TDs

Kick returns:  4 returns for 71 yards

Receiving stats:  402 catches for 6061 yards and 68 TDs


The hiring of Tom Herman by Texas to be their next head football coach has created a bit of news.  I am not talking about the whining that came from someone on the University of Houston Board of Regents; that has all of the gravitas of a leaf blowing in the winter wind.  More interesting to me are the economics involved here.

If the reporting is correct, Texas still owes Charlie Strong $11M despite the fact that he will not be coaching at Texas next year or the year after that or …  If all of the assistant coaches are also terminated – probably a good “football move” if not a good “economic move” – the university would be on the hook for another $7M.  So, the cost of “cleaning house” is $18M which indicates to me that the folks who rushed out to hire Charlie Strong a few years ago when he was the hot young-and-upcoming coach out there might have dabbled in what Alan Greenspan labeled “irrational exuberance”.  Oh, but the economic revelations from this story are not over with that…

Reports say that Tom Herman will make a base salary of $6M a year under the contract that he got from Texas.  Let me be clear; I have no idea if that number is accurate; I have no access to the contract or to anyone who was involved in negotiating that contract.  However, I want to assume for now that he will indeed make $6M per year simply because I want to put that number in context.

On 27 October 2016, USA Today published a list of the “Pay for FBS Coaches” and that listing showed for every school the base pay and the total compensation for all 128 coaches in what I continue to call Division 1-A football.  The listing broke out the compensation as “School Pay” (obvious what that means), “Other Pay” (from other athletic related activities) and “Total Pay”.  The listing also reports the maximum bonus that each coach might earn; I would like to ignore those bonuses because there is no way to know how they are structured in all of the 128 deals here.  I want to focus simply on “Total Pay” – the sum of “School Pay” and “Other Pay”.

Tom Herman will reportedly make $6M per year in “Total Pay”.  I want to assume that is what he will take down next year to coach the Texas Longhorns to put that number in perspective.  Where might $6M in “Total Pay” rank among the 128 coaches on the USA Today list?

  1. Jim Harbaugh – Michigan – $9,004,000
  2. Nick Saban – Alabama – $6,939,395
  3. Urban Meyer – Ohio St. – $6,094,800
  4. Tom Herman – Texas – $6,000,000

That is way up there where the air is rare for a coach who has had exactly 2 years of head coaching experience in a “non-Power 5 conference.”  Indeed, he made Houston into a much better team than it had been previously; his record there was 22-4 and Houston won the AAC Championship in 2015 – Herman’s first year on the job.

I think that sort of pay scale for football coaches says two things:

  1. There is a lot of money pouring into schools and conferences from successful college football teams justifying – to some degree – the sorts of salaries that top-shelf coaches can demand and can get.  When you juxtapose the recognition of the magnitude of those revenue streams, it becomes a bit annoying to recognize also that the US Tax Code allows schools and conferences to be categorized as “non-profits”.
  2. Many people like to worship at the altar of “pay for performance”.  In the situation at Texas – now and with Charlie Strong a couple of years ago – the primary issue certainly appears to be “pay for potential performance” as opposed to “pay for actual performance”.

Good luck to Tom Herman in his Texas endeavors.  I have no reason to root for or against him in those endeavors.  I would note however, that if the big-money boosters there are willing to eat $18M to “clean house” this year, they may just be willing to do it again in a couple of years if the results are not up to the “potential performance” that they think they are buying with this deal.

In other coaching news, LSU hired Ed Orgeron on a permanent basis.  But that raises a question.  When Mike MacIntyre took over at Colorado, the team was bordering on a laughingstock and was completely outclassed in the PAC-12.  This year, Colorado is the PAC-12 South Division champ and will play Washington this weekend for the PAC-12 championship.  In the past 3 years, Colorado won a total of 10 games; this year they are 10-2 with the 2 losses coming on the road at Michigan and at USC.  So, why is Mike MacIntyre not one of the “hot coaching prospects” this year but Tom Herman and Ed Orgeron and Jeff Tedford are?

About 50 years ago, Simon and Garfunkel sang:

“Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?

Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you …”

Based on last week’s college football results, they might think about updating those lyrics to something along these lines:

“Where have you gone football defenses?

Have you done any tackling drills this year …?”

I want to review a few game scores and present some of the stats from those games to provide some reason for Simon and Garfunkel to think about new lyrics.

Navy beat SMU 75-31.  SMU led 24-21 late in the first half; then, Navy scored 47 unanswered points.  Total offense for both teams was 1051 yards; Navy ran the ball for 496 yards.

Middle Tennessee St. beat Florida Atlantic 77-56.  Total offense combined in this game was 1346 yards; the combined rushing yardage was 794 yards; the teams combined to make 63 first downs in the game.

New Mexico beat Wyoming 53-35.  Total offense combined in this game was 1139 yards; New Mexico ran the ball 46 times for 568 yards (a mere 12.3 yards per carry); the teams combined to be 14 for 22 on third down conversions.

Memphis beat Houston 48-44 in what was not a great send-off for Tom Herman.  Total offense in this game was 1243 yards; the defenses allowed 31 points combined in the 4th quarter of this close game.

Texas Tech beat Baylor 54-35.  Total offense combined in this game was 1310 yards; the two starting QBs threw for 9 TDs with only 1 INT in the game.

Arizona beat Arizona St 56-35.  Arizona ran the ball for 511 yards on only 46 carries (a mere 11.1 yards per carry).

LSU beat Texas A&M 54-39.  Total combined offense in this game was 1109 yards; the defenses combined to allow 42 points in the fourth quarter of the game.

Considering all of those games, they pale in comparison to the ACC game between Pitt and Syracuse.  Pitt won this monument to defensive ineptitude – or defensive apathy if that makes you feel better – by a score of 76-61.  There were 20 touchdowns scored in this game; that is an average of 1 TD every 3 minutes of playing time.  The total score (137 points) is the most ever scored in a Division 1-A football game; it is more than will be scored in more than a few Division 1-A basketball games this winter.  Pitt only had the ball for 24 minutes and 18 seconds in this game; that means they scored at a rate of 1 point every 19.2 seconds.  The teams saved plenty of fireworks for the end of the game; in the fourth quarter, the teams scored a combined 47 points.

There is a great irony in the Pitt/Syracuse result.  Pitt’s coach, Pat Narduzzi, got the job at Pitt based on his consistent success as a coordinator at Michigan State.  Narduzzi was the defensive coordinator there…

There was one game last week that was a bastion of defensive football.  Ohio beat Akron 9-3 giving Ohio an entry into the MAC Championship game against undefeated W. Michigan.  In the Ohio/Akron game last week, the two teams combined for 563 yards total offense.  [Note that is less yardage than New Mexico rushed for in the New Mexico/Wyoming game.]  Akron was held to 95 yards rushing on 32 attempts.  All the scoring in the game came on field goals.

With Boise St. losing to Air Force last week, that probably eliminates Boise St. from getting the reserved slot in a New Year’s Day bowl game for the “highest ranked conference champion from a non-Power 5 conference”.  Boise St. is now 10-2 and it appears that the competition for that slot comes down to:

  1. Navy: The Middies are 9-2 and will play Temple for the AAC Championship this week and then will play Army next week.  The Middies have scored 60+ points in each of the last 2 weeks and there could be an edge for them that is not reflected by on-the-field play.  Navy is a team with a wide-following and it “travels well”.  The bowl organizers want a “good team” on the field but more importantly, they want a team that will bring lots of fans to the game and to the host city for a day or so before and after the game.  Navy can and will do that…
  2. W. Michigan: The Broncos are 12-0 and will play Ohio in the MAC Championship Game tonight. As of this morning, W. Michigan is ranked 2 notches above Navy.  Rankings are purely subjective and there can certainly be “non-football influences” placed on the anonymous voters.  It will be interesting to see what happens if W. Michigan wins tonight and Navy wins out … By the way, when W. Michigan hired PJ Fleck, his first team went 1-11; that was 3 years ago and now they are 12-0.  According to USA today, PJ Fleck’s “Total Pay” is $820,360.


The Ponderosa Games:


Last week, there were 8 Ponderosa Games.  The record for favorites covering in those 8 games was 3-5-0.  For the season to date, the record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games is 45-50-1.

Clemson, Troy and W. Kentucky covered.

Louisville, K-State, Pitt, Stanford and Tulsa did not cover.  Louisville lost straight up as a 26.5-point favorite.

Normally, there are no Ponderosa Games in the final week of the college football regular season because the final week schedule is dominated by Conference Championship Games.  That is not the case this year.


Alabama – 24 vs. Florida (41):  The SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Florida is a Ponderosa Game.  I never recall that happening since the origin of the SEC Championship Game.  The spread opened the week at 21.5 points and has climbed to this level steadily.  I do not normally make selections in Ponderosa Games but since this is the SEC Championship Game, I want to make a pick.  The Florida offense is over-matched going against the Alabama defense.  Without forcing a few turnovers or scoring in the return game, I would not be surprised to see Florida struggle to score 6 points.  Meanwhile, the Florida defense is solid; yes, they gave up points to Florida St. last week, but the defense has carried the Gators this far.  I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Arkansas St. – 24 at Texas St. (54): When Texas St. loses – as it has done 9 times already this season – it tends to lose by wide margins.  That is a major reason why Texas St. is in the SHOE Tournament for 2016 (see below).


The SHOE Teams:


Here is the final seeding of the 8 worst teams in the country.  Remember, the idea behind the SHOE Tournament is to determine on-the-field which team is the worst team of the year.  The acronym, SHOE, stands for Steaming Heap Of Excrement.  The teams would nominally play each other in standard seeding format but the loser has to play on and to continue to abide its own stench; victors can go home and pretend this season never happened.  After 3 rounds, the loser of the final game would be the SHOE Team for 2016.


#1 Seed:  Fresno St.  1-11 and that win was over a Division 1-AA school

#2 Seed:  Texas St.  2-9 with a game to play.  8 losses to date are by 20+ points.

#3 Seed:  UMass 2-10 Since 1 Oct they have lost 7 games and gave up 30+ points each time.

#4 Seed:  Rutgers 2-10  Lost 4 shutouts by a combined score of 224-0.

#5 Seed:  Buffalo  2-10  One of those losses was to a Division 1-AA school (Albany)

#6 Seed:  UConn 3-9  They lost their last 4 games by a combined 136-16.

#7 Seed:  Rice 3-9  None of the wins is even marginally impressive

#8 Seed:  Virginia 2-10 Twas a bleak first season for coach Bronco Mendenhall at UVa.


Games of Interest:


(Fri Nite) Ohio vs. W. Michigan – 17 (59) [Game is in Detroit]:  The spread opened at 19 points and has been dropping slowly all week long.  This game is for the MAC Championship.  Yes, Ohio held Akron to 3 points last week (see above) and did so because the Ohio defense is a good one at the level of MAC competition.  W. Michigan has dominated MAC opponents this year; only one conference game was as close as 14 points.  I like W. Michigan to win and cover here.


(Fri Nite) Colorado vs. Washington – 8.5 (57.5) [Game is in Santa Clara, CA]:  This is for the PAC-12 Championship.  The Total Line opened at 60 points and has been dropping slowly all week.  I think this is going to be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Baylor at W. Virginia – 16.5 (68):  Baylor has lost 5 games in a row and W. Virginia is ranked #14 this week in the AP poll.  I think this is a giant mismatch and I do not think Baylor is going to show up and play with any vigor.  Their 6-0 start to the season is a dim memory.  I like W. Virginia to win and cover.


Oklahoma St. at Oklahoma – 11 (77):  This will decide the Big 12 Champion for 2016 which means something in terms of what bowl game these teams will play in.  Neither one is going to be in the CFP.  Both teams bring offensive weapons to this game but I don’t think this will be a shoot-out because this is an intense rivalry and because this game determines the conference champion.  I like this game to stay UNDER.


Temple at Navy – 2.5 (61):  This is for the AAC Championship.  Navy has scored more than 60 points by itself in each of its last two games but the Temple defense looks to be good enough to prevent that sort of outburst.  The game is in Annapolis and that is a good home field advantage for Navy.  I like Navy to win and cover.  It is worth noting that Temple is 11-1 against the spread this year so I am definitely bucking a trend here…


Va Tech vs. Clemson – 10 (58) [Game is in Orlando, FL]:  Clemson is a Top 10 team to be sure and perhaps a CFP participant.  I can’t get past the fact that Va Tech is in this game because other teams in their Division found ways to crash and burn at points during this season – – eyes staring in the direction of Chapel Hill for example.  I’ll take Clemson to win and cover here.


Penn State vs Wisconsin – 3 (47) [Game is in Indy]:  The winner here is the Big 10 Champion.  Note that both Ohio St. and Michigan are sitting home watching football on TV this weekend.  This is purely a hunch.  Saquon Barkley – RB, Penn State – is a very under-appreciated player and I think he is probably the best skill-position player on the field.  I think he can be the difference here so I’ll take Penn State plus the points.


Finally, just for what it is worth…  I know what the CFP polls say and I have heard the various arguments about who should be in the Top 4 and who should be out.  Here is the way I would rank teams on the basis of who looks to be the strongest teams at this point in the season:


#1 Seed:  Alabama

#2 Seed:  Michigan – they outplayed Ohio St. and lost to the zebras

#3 Seed:  USC

#4 Seed:  Clemson or Washington – flip a coin between these two.


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