This will need to be an abbreviated Football Friday because I have not had nearly enough time to do the research/check the stats on a wide variety of games. Also, there will be no “Six-Pack” of picks this week because those would be nothing but guesses. So, without further ado, here is what I have for today…
Linfield College evened their season record at 1-1 while I was gone defeating Redlands University 13-0. This week the Wildcats travel to Spokane, WA to take on the Whitworth Pirates. Whitworth is 2-0 on the season and this is the first conference game for both teams. Go Wildcats!
Let me ask a very general question here:
- Is there a really good team in the ACC other than Clemson?
The reason I ask is that VA Tech looked to be a quality opponent for Clemson after the Hokies throttled Florida St. Early in the season. However, Tech coughed up a real hairball losing to Old Dominion and surrendering 49 points to a team that lost to Liberty in Week 1. If the Tech defense can be torched like that, maybe the correct conclusion is that Florida St. is not that good…
After laying a giant rotten egg in Week 1 losing to Maryland at home, the Texas Longhorns have won 3 in a row. The win over Tulsa was not anything to get excited about; however, beating USC and TCU in back to back weeks is enough to make you think that the team has atoned for that season-opening loss. Are the Longhorns for real? Well, they go on the road to play Kansas St. this week…
Cal is undefeated so far this year at 3-0. Who saw that coming? Are the Bears for real? This week Oregon comes calling…
Texas Tech averages 52 points per game this year and they are not undefeated. How does that happen?
UConn gives up an average of 54 points per game and they are not winless. How does that happen?
Rutgers lost to Buffalo by 29 points. That is the Buffalo Bulls not the Buffalo Bills.
As the teams were set to take the field in Ann Arbor for the Nebraska/Michigan game, Brad Dickson tweeted this:
“106,000 people in attendance. It looks like the last time I went to the DMV on a Saturday.”
What is the bigger game this weekend? Ohio St at Penn St. or Stanford at Notre Dame. Even though Ohio St. and Penn St. are both in the Top Ten as of this week, I think the bigger game is Stanford/Notre Dame. Here is my reasoning:
- If Stanford loses they would need to win out to get a sniff at the CFP. They do not have a ton of top-shelf teams on their schedule down the line; a loss here could end their CFP hopes prematurely.
- If Notre Dame loses, they still might get into the CFP based on name recognition. However, they have played the toughest part of their schedule already, so a loss here might not be forgotten easily.
If either Ohio St. or Penn St. loses here, they will be in trouble in the Big-10 East race, but the Big-10 offers the loser here a better opportunity to win the East Division and play in the Championship Game.
Both Ohio St. and Penn St. are undefeated, but Penn St. has yet to face top-shelf competition. If Appalachian St. is not the best team the Nittany Lions have faced this year, then Pitt is. Ohio St. sports a win over TCU two weeks ago and TCU is clearly the best opponent either team has faced in 2018. Ohio St. is a 3.5-point favorite on the road in this game.
TCU takes on Iowa St. this week; the Horned Frogs have lost two games in a row – to Ohio St. and Texas. Let’s just say that Iowa St. is not on a par with those squads…
NCAA Games of Interest This Week:
VA Tech is at Duke and Duke is the ranked team. Oh, and Duke is favored by 5 points…
Cal is a 3-point favorite at home against Oregon – – even though Oregon is the higher rated team in the polls.
UCLA is a 10-point underdog to Colorado. You may look at the records and say that makes sense since UCLA is 0-3 while Colorado is 3-0. Slow down for a moment Charlie Brown and look a bit closer.
- UCLA lost to Cincinnati, Fresno St. and Oklahoma whose combined record is 10-1
- Colorado beat Colorado St., Nebraska and New Hampshire (Division 1-AA). The combined record for those three foes is 1-9.
Alabama is a 49.5-point favorite over La- Lafayette. Why is this game on the schedule at all? For a money line quote, I can only find one Internet sports book that offers the bet. If you like La-Lafayette to pull the upset, you can get odds of +97,500. If you want to take a huge financial risk for a small financial return, the money line odds for Alabama are – 202,500.
Syracuse is undefeated and is scoring 51.5 points per game. Not to worry, they are 25.5-point underdogs against Clemson this week.
Washington St. opened as a 2-point favorite at home against Utah, but that line has flipped as the week went on. Utah is now a 1.5-point favorite in the game.
BYU is a 17-point underdog to Washington this week. The Huskies have zero room for error here; they already have a loss on their record.
Georgia is a 30-point favorite over Tennessee. The more things change in Knoxville, TN, the more they stay the same…
West Virginia is a 4-point favorite on the road against Texas Tech. The oddsmaker must believe in the Mountaineers defense being able to hold the Red Raiders’ offense in check.
Florida is at Mississippi St. this week. It is the first time Dan Mullen returns to Starkville since leaving there to take the job at Florida.
Moving on to the NFL, this is the week that begins the BYE Week rotation for the league. The Panthers and the Skins have off this week; if I were an NFL coach, I doubt that I would want my BYE Week this early.
Last night’s game between the Rams and the Vikes (Rams won 38-31) may well be the best game of the weekend. If not, then the best game is not until Monday night when the Chiefs and Broncos play in a division match. The games on Sunday are pretty thin gruel.
The Vikings’ loss last night was their second in a row; losing to the Rams is not shameful; losing last week to the Bills by 3 TDs is plenty shameful. When I saw that score on my phone in Bologna, Italy, I restarted my phone and my app because I thought that had to be a download error.
- [Aside: The Vikes were 17-point favorites over the Bills last week and lost outright. Jimmy the Greek once declared the Vikes to be 17-point favorites over the Chiefs in an early Super Bowl and the Vikes had their lunch handed to them. Perhaps, 17 is an unlucky number in Norse?]
The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that someone placed a “six figure bet” on the Vikes last week on the money line enough to have won $10K. Well, that guy is now out “six figures…
Meanwhile, the Bills travel to Green Bay this week to try to wreak havoc on another NFC North team. The oddsmakers are not buying into that proposition; they have installed the Packers as 9.5-point favorites in the game.
The Bills were not the only upset winners last week. The Lions beat the Patriots the same way the lions used to beat the Christians in the Roman Coliseum. Before panic sets in all over New England, recall that it is still early in the season and the Pats have started slowly before and still won the AFC East. This week the undefeated Dolphins come to Foxboro and with a win they will take a 3-game lead over the Pats. The oddsmakers are not buying into that proposition either; the Pats are 7-point favorites at home. Presumably, Josh Gordon has learned the plays and stayed sufficiently sober to be eligible for the game.
I am not trying to throw shade on the Dolphins 3-0 start to the season, but those wins have come at the expense of:
- Titans: A good team but not a great team
- Jets: Still rebuilding; not a juggernaut
- Raiders: Not a good football team here.
I think the opposition for the Dolphins this week is a step up on the ladder of NFL competencies…
- [Meaningless Stat: The Dolphins are 0-14 in Foxboro when Tom Brady is the starting QB.]
Jimmy G will not be leading the Niners to glory this year; he is on IR with a torn ACL and his out for the year. Basically, that means the Niners’ season is kaput. CJ Beathard takes over the starting QB role for the rest of 2018 – – unless of course the Niners pull off a trade or make a stunning signing from the ranks of unemployed QBs. There is not a lot out there.
Here is the list of possible candidates I came up with for the Niners if Beathard stumbles:
- Kellen Clemens
- Landry Jones
- EJ Manuel
- Tom Savage
I said above that the games this Sunday are pretty thin gruel. Well the QBs currently unemployed who might sign on with a team that harbors playoff dreams are pretty thin gruel too. If there is a “sleeper” on my list here, he should probably be nicknamed Rip Van Winkle.
Scott Ostler had an interesting analysis of the Niners potential search for a free agent QB to add to the roster in the wake of Jimmy G’s injury. Here is a link to his column. To give you a flavor of the column, here is his assessment of the Niners’ fans’ expectations for CJ Beathard for 2018:
“The team is rallying behind Beathard, whom most fans — no offense to the earnest and hard-working young man — were hoping would function mostly as a potted plant this season.”
The Cleveland Browns won a real NFL game a week ago Thursday beating the Jets 21-17. Greg Cote summarized the happening very well in the Miami Herald:
“Lots going on in King Sport. Le’Veon Bell’s continued holdout. The Pats trading for Josh Gordon. But nothing made news this week more than the Cleveland Browns winning a game after going 635 consecutive days without. And now, a few words from Cleveland Mayor Baker Mayfield.”
Speaking of the Browns, they will travel to Oakland this week to take on the Raiders – a team that had great aspirations in August and need a win here to avoid ending September with an 0-4 record. The Raiders have led at halftime of all three of their games; then they have lost all three of their games by about `10 points. Let me be clear; that is NOT a good thing.
The line for the Browns/Raiders game is all over the map. It opened as a “pick ‘em” game; that was probably sufficiently embarrassing to the folks in Vegas where the Raiders will make their home that money flooded in to the point where you can find the game today with the Browns as the underdogs by anywhere from 1 to 3 points. This is a game where one team needs a win very badly – – and it is not the Browns.
A major weakness for the Raiders has been the total lack of a pass rush. Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times on that subject:
“Raiders coach Jon Gruden, to reporters, on why his team has only two sacks in two games after trading away Khalil Mack: ‘It’s hard to find a great pass-rusher’.”
The Cowboys are 1-2 and are scoring at a less-than-torrid pace of 13.7 points per game. Dak Prescott is averaging less than 150 yards passing per game; and now, Sean Lee is out with a tweak in his hamstring. The Cowboys host the Lions this week as a field-goal favorite. It is going to be tough to beat a team by more than 3 points if you don’t score more than 14 points. However, the Cowboys do have Ezekiel Elliott and the Lions have the worst run defense in the league to date giving up almost 5.5 yards per rush attempt. This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.
The Lions are hardly models of consistency this year but they did beat the Pats handily last week. If they do the same to the Cowboys in the “Jerry-dome” this week, I suspect you will be able to see the blood vessels in Jerry Jones’ head throb during the post-game interviews.
The Seahawks visit the Cards this week in a division game between two flawed teams. The Seahawks do not run the ball well nor do they protect Russell Wilson well. Add to that evil exacta the fact that the team and their best defensive player – Earl Thomas – appear to be existing in a Hatfield/McCoy relationship. Oh, and the Seahawks are not a good road team historically.
That sounds pretty bad until you realize that they are taking on the Cardinals who are simply awful and who will turn over the reins to rookie QB Josh Rosen this week. Sam Bradford has been Sam Dreadful so far this year and the other guy on the depth chart is Mike Glennon. Rosen needs to show – starting this week – that he really is the “most NFL-ready” of the rookie QBs from last Spring’s draft. The Cards are 3-point underdogs at home. I have to tell you that this game was a very strong contender for the label of Dog-Breath Game of the Week.
The Jets go south this week to take on the Jags in Jax. The game is brought to you by the letter “J”. [/Sesame Street] Last week, Bad Blake Bortles made an appearance for the Jags and the team lost to the Titans 9-6. Presumably he took a purgative sometime this week… Meanwhile the Jets have not looked like the juggernaut that they did in the opening game having lost to the Browns and Dolphins since then. Sam Darnold will get his first test against a top-shelf NFL defense here and I think he will be overmatched. However, there is always the Bad Blake Bortles factor to consider…
The Texans are 0-3 but all the losses have been one-score games even though the Texans’ O-line has Deshaun Watson running for his life on at least half the snaps. That has to change at some point. The Colts have a win over the Skins as the only positive sign on their ledger. The Colts are 14-2 straight up against the Texans in Indy; shouldn’t that change at some point too? The Colts are 2-point favorites at home, but I think there is a real chance for the Texans to hit the win column here.
The Bengals and the Falcons will tango in Atlanta this week. The Total Line for this game opened at 48 but it has climbed through the week to the point where it can be had at 53 or 54 points depending on the sportsbook offering the line. A 6-point move in the total Line for an NFL game is unusual. Neither team has been a model of consistency this year and I surely do not understand why the Falcons are 5-point favorites here.
The Bucs are at the Bears this Sunday. The Bears’ defense has been very good this year and if the Ryan Fitzmagic Season is going to hit a speedbump, this could well be the game. The Bears are 3-point favorites at home. Count this as one of the better games on Sunday…
Another potentially good Sunday game is the Sunday Night Football game between the Ravens and the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Ravens’ offense has shown measurable vital signs this year and the Steelers’ defense has been an embarrassment to any and all of the old Steel Curtain guys who have paid attention. This is always a black-and-blue contest and I am not referring to the uniform colors. The Steelers are 3-point favorites at home.
The Saints are on the road to take on the Giants this week in a showdown of veteran QBs; Eli Manning and Drew Brees have been around forever. Drew Brees is like Ol’ Man River; he just keeps rolling along. The Saints would love to find the secret elixir that made their defense competent last year because this year’s defensive unit has been impotent. The Saints are 3.5-point favorites on the road. What surprises me is that the total Line is only 50 points; I don’t think either defense is going to force a lot of three-and-outs here…
The Niners visit the Chargers this week as underdogs anywhere from 9.5 to 11.5 points. The Chargers are 1-2 and find themselves in 3rd place in the AFC West; you cannot call a game in Week 4 a “critical game” but this is an important one for the Chargers. The Niners season is all but done given the Jimmy G injury.
The best of the Sunday games should be the Eagles on the road against the Titans. Both teams have formidable defensive units and both teams have young QBs with not-totally-resolved injury issues. The Eagles are favored here by 3 to 4 points. The Total Line reflects the defensive nature of the game; it opened the week at 42 points and seems to have settled in at 41 points at most of the sportsbooks as of this morning.
The NFL schedule for the week is bookended by two good games. After last night’s 38-31 win by the Rams over the Vikes, the week will end on Monday Night Football with the Chiefs and the Broncos. This will be the first national appearance for Patrick Mahomes and he will be tested by a very solid Broncos’ defense. The Chiefs’ defense has not been an equal partner with the offense in terms of the Chiefs’ 3-0 start to the season; the Chiefs’ have given up 92 points in 3 games this year and have won them all. The Total Line for this game is a stratospheric 55.5.
Finally, here is another comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times regarding a non-football issue involving the NFL:
“A group of Pro Football Hall of Famers say they want health insurance coverage and their own slice of NFL revenues, or else they will:
- “a) Boycott future HOF induction ceremonies
- “b) Attend future HOF ceremonies — and bring Terrell Owens with them.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………