Least Influential People?

Drew Magary writes feature items for GQ Magazine. While GQ is not one of my normal “go to sources” for material for these rants, Messr. Magary did a feature a couple of months ago about the “least influential people in the world”. I would not presume to know enough about the “celebrity world” or the “arts world” in sufficient detail to weave into a narrative of this kind the “least influential” folks in those orbs and I certainly could not create a composite list. However, Messr. Magary included several folks from the sports world onto his list and I do feel marginally competent to comment on those entries.

Let me say from the outset that if one were looking at “influential” in a strict sense of the word, someone like the Chairman of the Federal Reserve would have to be high on the list. One word from the person in that position and interest rates for a few hundred million people change whether or not the people in debt or seeking to become new debtors want it to be so. The list does not appear to take such a level of power/influence into account and that is why some folks from the sports world can possibly make the list. Here are some of the sports world figures on the list in alphabetical order:

    Roger Goodell: I think I could agree that Goodell had a very bad year in 2014 but to say he is not influential is rather naïve. The extant CBA between the NFL and the NFLPA grants wide-ranging powers and authorities to the Commissioner – and Roger Goodell is indeed the Commish as of this writing. Simply looking at the world of pro football, the Commissioner of the NFL has far more influence than multiple hundreds of players, coaches, scouts, GMs and whatever. You may or may not like the way Roger Goodell has handled his position in the past year and you may wish for him to lose his job, but until he does lose his job, he is not one of the least influential people in the world. Unless of course you believe that anything having to do with sports is inconsequential ab initio

    Derek Jeter: Unless or until Jeter makes a comeback in MLB or he becomes a manager or a team owner or the next Commissioner of MLB, this nomination is literally correct. Jeter is a retired shortstop who – if the gossip columns are to be believed – has used whatever “influence” he ever had to bed a sequence of hot celebrity personalities. In his retirement days, he will have no sports accomplishments to keep him in the limelight and that may or may not alter the frequency with which he can change his hot bed partners. In the future, he is likely to have little influence beyond his bedstead. Nonetheless, he had a significant influence in 2014:

      He convinced me that I had seen enough of season-long farewell tours for players no matter how good they may have been or how well known they may have been in their careers. Hopefully, MLB learned something from the incessant silliness of Jeter’s last year in the majors to the point that we will not have to see/experience another of them again until at least 2024.

    Stephen A. Smith: Oh, come now… Stephen A. Smith was a very good columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer whose coverage of the NBA stood out from the crowd. ESPN hired him to do his shtick on radio and TV; in his choosing to do that shtick to the point where the shtick became the reality of his public persona, he ceased to be a reporter/journalist, columnist and became the modern-day version of a clown. As a “clown”, he has little influence for the simple reason that clowns never have much if any influence at all. Should the day come when Stephen A. Smith chooses to return to the ink-stained world of column writing, he will cease to be a clown and his opinions/observations within his writing will again have influence.

    Donald Sterling: For a brief moment, he was highly influential as the owner of a major sports franchise in the US who had weathered about a half-dozen publicly known scandalous situations. Then he became embroiled with V. Stiviano while he was in the midst of what would become a “juicy divorce” and he happened to do all of that while there was a new sheriff in town – Adam Silver. Sterling’s “influence” was all in a negative direction/sense and whatever “influence” he may have had is now gone as surely as the need for the Pony Express is gone. If everyone is entitled to 15 minutes of fame (hat tip to Andy Warhol), Sterling probably used 13 of his minutes in 2014 and is now out of minutes.

Should you want to see the entirety of Magary’s list in GQ, here is the link.

When I was a Boy Scout – no, we did not have to worry about attacks by tyrannosaurus rex on our camping trips – we learned that we always had to be prepared. After all, it was not possible to know when or if one would have good fortune or ill fortune. We learned that we had to learn to take the bitter with the sweet because that was the way of the world.

    [Aside: For the record, I hated camping as a Boy Scout and I took a solemn oath on the day I ceased to be a Boy Scout that I would never again sleep on the dirt. That vow happened in 1958 or 1959 and I have never slept on the dirt since then. I realize that at some point, I will take a long nap UNDER the dirt, but that is different; it is not ON the dirt.]

I mention the lessons learned as a Boy Scout here only to set the stage for my reaction to breaking news in the sports world this week. ESPN has extended Jon Gruden’s contract to work MNF games through the 2021 NFL season. Anyone who has read these rants for more than a few moments knows that I would prefer to listen to fingernails scraping on a blackboard or the rhythmic stylings of a teenage drummer than to listen to Jon Gruden do the color on MNF. I need to take the bitter with the sweet … I need to take the bitter with the sweet…

I guess that this would be the wrong time for me to suggest that every time the folks on MNF talk about “The Gruden Grinder”, my wish is for them to re-enact the scene from the movie Fargo where one of the characters is fed through a wood chipper. I doubt that I need to fill in the blank here as to which corpse within the MNF family ought to be the one spewing out of the wood chipper and onto the snow.

Finally, here is a cogent observation from Gregg Drinnan form a recent iteration of his blog, Keeping Score:

“The Los Angeles Dodgers, who are undergoing almost a complete makeover, may have one of those rare management groups that chose to keep the manager and fire the players.”

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

NFL Coaches Back Next Year?

Just as it makes no sense to put out pre-season rankings for college football and basketball teams in advance of any live action, it always seems to me to be premature to think about which coaches in the NFL might not be back with their teams the next year until about now. For about half the teams in the NFL, the die is cast; those are the ones that will definitely not be in the playoffs. There are still a few teams clinging to playoff hopes by their collective fingernails. The playoff coaches are most likely to be returning. Therefore, I want to take a quick tour around the league and ponder the potential employment status for the 2014 NFL coaches with regard to 2015.

Let me start with the AFC West. The Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs seem set with regard to their coaching situations. However, the Raiders have an interim coach in Tony Sparano. He took over a dysfunctional team with an 0-4 record earlier this year; since then the Raiders have gone 2-8. On one hand, that is an improvement; on the other hand, I see no way that the Raiders’ organization keeps him on in a permanent capacity unless no other football coach above the Division I-AA level in college would take the job.

In the AFC North, all of the coaches look secure in their positions.

In the AFC South, the Colts and the Texans seem to be in a good spot with regard to their coaches. The other two teams are struggling – to be polite about it. However, both the Titans and the Jags, have relatively new head coaches. I am not a huge Ken Whisenhunt fan, but it is not his fault that Jake Locker keeps getting hurt or that Zach Mettenberger is still a raw rookie. Gus Bradley has the Jags playing hard even in light of their miserable record so he must be connecting with whatever talent he has on that team. Fans who expect their head coaches to be miracle workers may call for the heads of either of these coaches on a plate, but I think both will and should be back next year.

In the AFC East, we should agree that the Pats are set with regard to their head coach until the day that Bill Belichick decides that he wants to leave Foxboro. He is about as close to a “Coach for Life” as anyone in the NFL since the days of George Halas. [Aside: Remember, Halas had a “special relationship” with the owner of the Bears’ franchise back then…] The other three teams present different situations:

    Doug Marrone has the Bills playing .500 football; and while that may not seem like much, he is doing that without a good QB and with a set of RBs that spent as much time in rehab as in the huddle. I would keep Marrone around because I think the Bills have a much bigger question to answer. They have to decide if EJ Manuel has any hope of becoming a real NFL QB; because, if not, they need to find a new QB far more than they need to find a new coach.

    Joe Philbin has the Dolphins playing .500 football; that may not be sufficient. Dolphins’ owner, Steven Ross, seems always on the lookout for a “glamor-hire” or a “celebrity tie-in”. My guess – notice I said, “guess” – here is that Ross is an owner who might over-value the talent on his team and so he may consider that Philbin is an underachiever. Surely, with regard to glamor and celebrity status, Philbin does not measure up; he is the polar opposite personality to a coach like Steve Spurrier.

    Then there is Rex Ryan with the Jets. The only question I have is this:

      Will the Jets wait until the Monday morning after the final game to fire him or will they do it as soon as the team clears the locker room after the final game?

In the NFC West, The Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks seem set with regard to their coaching situation. The folks who run and own the Niners have gotten cross-wise with Jim Harbaugh to a degree that is irreconcilable even if only half the reports out there are true. Harbaugh has one more year to go on his contract so the Niners could trade him although they have given up a lot of leverage in that area by allowing so many negative reports to hit the streets. Maybe Harbaugh is the “glamor-hire” that Steven Ross covets? In any event, I count Jim Harbaugh as “Gone” from the Niners in 2015.

In the NFC North, the Lions, Packers and Vikings have stable coaching situations. The Chicago Bears on the other hand have gone from a team that looked as if it was “on the rise” to a team that is not quite as bad as a tire fire over the last couple of weeks. I think there is plenty of blame to heap on the GM/Front Office in Chicago with regard to their miserable defensive showing this year. However, that does not exonerate Marc Trestman because there is plenty of talent on offense and that unit seems not to be playing anywhere near potential or expectation. Trestman has not been in Chicago very long, but I think he has just passed his “use by date”.

In the NFC South, I could be convinced that every coach in the division could be gone next year because of how bad every team there has played. However, the Bucs just hired Lovie Smith last year; they are not likely to fire him despite the current 2-12 record. The Panthers played the entire year without Greg Hardy – their best or second best defensive player – and without a healthy Cam Newton. There was talk that the Panthers might fire Ron Rivera last year but the team made the playoffs and won 12 games. Yes, the Panthers have regressed but I think some of the regression is injury-related and not coaching-related. The Saints have had too much success under Sean Payton to fire him after one disastrously bad season – particularly since the Saints would be a playoff team despite their 6-8 record if the playoffs started this weekend. I think the only really vulnerable coach in the AFC South – despite how badly all of the teams have played this year – is Mike Smith with the Falcons. I think it is a toss-up with regard to his tenure in Atlanta for next year.

In the NFC East, the Cowboys and Eagles are set at the coaching position. Tom Coughlin has another year on his contract in NY and despite two very disappointing seasons in a row, Coughlin has two Super Bowl wins for that franchise. I suspect that the Giants will not fire him but I do hold out the possibility that Coughlin might decide that he has had enough of the coaching racket and that it is time for him to hang up the whistle. I think he will be back. Then there is the Washington Soap Opera involving Danny Boy Snyder, Bruce Allen and first year coach Jay Gruden. Here are the factors:

    Gruden has a 5-year guaranteed contract. There is a lot of time and money left in that deal.

    Danny Boy Snyder has his own well-documented special relationship with RG3 and it is clear that Gruden wants no part of RG3 as his QB.

    If you were making a movie about the Washington franchise, GM Bruce Allen would be played by Claude Rains. Either he is lying low to stay out of the almost inevitable crossfire between Gruden and Snyder or he has no clue what to do next so he is hiding under his desk hoping for a miracle.

I think Snyder would love to fire Gruden – but even Danny Boy might be starting to get the message that the only reason any good coach would come to Washington is for the paycheck. Even Saint Joseph of Gibbs bailed out on him before Gibbs’ contract was up. At the same time, I think Gruden would love to get the axe from Snyder so that he can collect the rest of that contract without all of the non-football dramatic nonsense that constantly surrounds the Skins’ franchise. If I am correct about Gruden’s inner desires here, it will be interesting to see how “rebellious” he is with regard to the next two games in terms of how he deals with RG3 during and after the games. This is a Mexican Standoff Situation…

Finally, I assume you do know about the new cocktail offering at many bars created by a world-renowned mixologist. It too is called the Mexican Standoff and consists of equal parts of prune juice, kaopectate and tequila.

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

Just Drifting Around Today…

John Daly won a professional golf tournament about a week ago. The last time he did that, he won the Buick Open back in 2004. The tournament he won recently is just a tad less widely known than the Buick Open. Daly won the Beko Classic.

The Beko Classic is a tournament held at the Gloria Golf Club in Belek,, Turkey. For those of you who did not major in geography, Belek is a city on the south coast of Turkey about 500 miles southeast of Istanbul. The tournament was a 54-hole event and Daly’s first prize purse came to $8,000.

In 2004, the prize money for the Buick Open was $4.5M. Using the rule of thumb that the winner of a PGA event gets about 20% of the total prize money, Daly collected about $900K for that win. How the mighty have fallen…

CBSSports.com had an article last week explaining that Aaron Rodgers and his main squeeze, Olivia Munn, refrain from having sex on Packers’ game days. I do not expect you to believe that just because I say it, so here is the link to prove it was there. Now, I wonder if your reaction to this “news” is anything close to mine:

    Who cares?

I am interested in what Aaron Rodgers does on the field on Packers’ game days. I am blithely uninterested in what he does on any other day of the year – so long as it does not involve some kind or sociopathic behavior. Moreover, I do not care what Olivia Munn does or does not do at any point in time. Seriously now, do you feel better informed and elevated in your comprehension of the cosmos because that article appeared on that website?

In the college football game where coaches play musical chairs with open jobs, Mike Riley left Oregon State to take the job as Nebraska. He went from the mid-pack of the PAC-12 to the mid-pack of the Big-10. In not much more time than it took Riley to clean out his office and catch a flight to Lincoln, NE, Gary Andersen took the Oregon State job and left his position at Wisconsin. He went from a higher place on the Big-10 food chain than Nebraska to the same PAC-112 status that Riley left.

There has been a ton of speculation about why he left and all of it sounds good and logical – but much of it relies on “unnamed sources” and “stuff everyone knows”. That is why I call it speculation… One interpretation might be the following – acknowledging from the outset that the basis for this is mind reading, which is something I admittedly cannot do:

    Riley was tired of being second fiddle in the State of Oregon and tired of finishing in the middle to the bottom of the standings in the PAC-12 North. In 12 years at Oregon St., the kinds of bowl games he has gone to include the Las Vegas Bowl, the Sun Bowl and the Alamo Bowl. Maybe he would like a shot at something “bigger”.

    Andersen was tired of having to get by Ohio State – or occasionally Michigan State – to get to a bowl game other than the Outback Bowl. Perhaps he realized that for now, the PAC-12 is a better conference than the Big-10 and going to Oregon State and doing well there would be a nice entry on his résumé.

Perhaps, it is just as simple as that…

What has happened to the Michigan basketball team? They lost two consecutive games to New Jersey Institute of Technology and three days later to Eastern Michigan; compounding the felony, both losses were at home. In the loss to Eastern Michigan, the Wolverines scored all of 42 points. This does not bode well for the folks in Ann Arbor. They already fired Brady Hoke and they cannot go back in time and fire Lloyd Carr yet again. What are they to do…?

While I am at it, what has happened to four of the ‘pillar franchises” of the NBA? I am talking about the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Knickerbockers and the Philadelphia 76ers. As of last weekend, the combined record for those four teams stood at 21-70. People who busy themselves with myriad forms of conspiracy theories will have plenty of material to work with if any of these four teams makes it to the playoffs – let alone to the NBA Finals.

The Sixers are the only team in the NBA not to win a home game yet. Both of their wins happened on the road. So much for home court advantage…

Here is Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle with an observation about the rancid Knicks:

“I don’t know if Steve Kerr is religious, but if he is, he’s on his knees every day giving thanks he didn’t take the Knicks’ job. That team makes the 49ers’ franchise look functional.”

Here is an item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Hawaii play-by-play broadcaster Robert Kekaula has apologized for signing off from a telecast at Fresno State with the words ‘Good night from the armpit of America.’

“Coincidence? His player of the game was the right guard.”

I have traveled extensively in the US; one of the jobs I had early in my career had me “on the road” more than 100 days per year for 5 years. I have been to all 50 of the States. I have been to Fresno – the last time was 6 months ago – and it is certainly not one of my favorite spots in the country; there is exactly zero chance that I will be taking the writing of these rants to Fresno at any time in the future.

Having said all of that:

    Memo to Robert Kekaula: You need to travel far more extensively on the mainland before you identify the “armpit of America”. There are many other venues that will make you want to take a 4-week vacation in Fresno.

Finally, here is one more item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“And, just when you thought the world had reached its hall-of-fame limit …

“Hanzo, a 6-year-old boxer, and two other legendary board-riding canines had their paw prints embedded in concrete as the inaugural inductees into the International Surf Dog Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, Calif.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 12/13/14

Bye the bye, before we review last week’s Mythical Picks, notice the date in the headline here – 12/13/14. This is the last day in this millennium where the month/day/year numbers will be sequential. That will not happen again until January 2, 3003. Armed with that important information, go forth and accomplish big things today…

Now for a look at last week’s picks:

    I liked E. Carolina-6.5 over UCF. E. Carolina lost the game. Boo!

    I liked Arizona +14.5 against Oregon. Oregon won by 38. Boo!

    I liked Cincy – 6.5 over Houston. Cincy won by 7. Yea!

    I liked Ok. St. +20 against Oklahoma. State won outright. Yea!

    I liked Marshall -12.5 over LaTech. Marshall won by only 3. Boo!

    I liked Alabama -14.5 over Missouri. Bama won by 29. Yea!

    I liked Fla St -4 over Ga Tech. State won by only 2. Boo!

    I liked Ohio St. +4.5 against Wisconsin. State won 59-0. Yea!

    I liked Fresno St. +21 against Boise St. Fresno lost by only 14. Yea!

It was close; but last week was “mythically profitable” at 5-4-0. The season record for NCAA Mythical Picks stands at 113-109-1. That record is above .500 (barely) but would not be “profitable” if you consider the vig.

There is only one game this week. I will make a pick here. Do not use my preference here to influence you in any way if you are thinking about putting down real money on the Army/Navy game. You would have to be dumber than a parsnip to do that.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats beat previously undefeated Widener University 45-7 last weekend to advance to the semi-finals of the Division III football tournament. This week, the Wildcats take on Wisconsin-Whitewater. The other semi-final game matches Mount Union and Wesley. Go Wildcats!

We now know the four teams that will be in the first College Football Playoff and I want to make a few comments here about the new playoff system:

    1. Far too many folks claimed that a playoff would ruin the college football regular season. That was nonsense; the regular season this year was at least as good – if not better – than last year or the year before that.

    2. The complaining from the schools that were close to making the playoff but did not is annoying. Look, we bitch and moan about the teams that get snubbed in March Madness and in that case we are complaining about the team left out of a field of 68 “qualifiers”. Naturally, folks do not like being snubbed but it is the logical consequence of leaving someone off the list. Face it, the committee here was the “Selection Committee” and not the “All-Inclusive Committee”.

      [Aside: In March, the complaining lasts only about 36 hours because then the focus of attention turns to “Bracket Selections” and “Final Four Picks” and “12-5 Upsets”. In football, the playoffs do not start for almost a month. Maybe the biggest downside to the playoff system is the time available for the complainers?]

    3. I have always preferred the idea of an 8-team playoff instead of a 4-team playoff and I continue to do so. However, people who advocate expanding the current playoffs – even before the first one starts – and try to justify it by saying it will minimize the complaining are wrong. With an 8-team playoff, the teams considered to be #9 and #10 will be the ones doing the complaining and not the ones considered to be #5 and #6.

    4. Lots of folks said a playoff would “ruin” the bowl system. Would that it were so. There are 38 bowl games this year – more than there were last year. The system is not ruined; it is flourishing. They will even play a game on Christmas Eve this year in the Bahamas. Everyone knows that the Bahamas has been a hotbed of college football interest and activity for decades…

Since I mentioned the bowl games, let me take a look at the lineup here because I promise that I am not going to pay attention to more than a handful of the games as they are played. Far too many of these games are nonsensical. By the way, since I am not going to “review” all 38 games, that means I will leave some out and that does not mean that I “approve of them” simply because they are omitted here. Think of me as the “Selection Committee”…

    The New Mexico Bowl 20 Dec: This matches Utah St and UTEP. The best thing I can say about this game is that neither fanbase will need to travel very far to get to the stadium.

    The Cameilla Bowl 20 Dec: This matches South Alabama and Bowling Green. If you only have time to watch one game on 20 Dec, do you watch this one or the New Mexico Bowl? Or do you decide to sit in a dark room and contemplate what the world would be like if it were run by the Visigoths.

    The Poinsettia Bowl 23 Dec: This matches Navy and San Diego St. The game is in San Diego; it is essentially a road game for Navy.

    The Hawaii Bowl 24 Dec: This matches Fresno St and Rice. Fresno St. is 6-7 entering this game. What more do you need to know?

    The Bahamas Bowl 24 Dec: This matches Central Michigan and Western Kentucky. Nothing says “Christmas Eve” to me like two “directional schools” playing a football game.

    The Military Bowl 27 Dec: This matches Va Tech and Cincy. The game is not to be confused with the Armed Forces Bowl (see below). Consider that Va Tech was shut out by Wake Forest in regulation time and lost in double OT 6-3. And now you expect me to watch them play another game?

    The Pinstripe Bowl 27 Dec: This matches Penn St. and BC. Talk about two boring/plodding teams. You will need plenty of strong coffee to make it through this one.

    The Armed Forces Bowl 2 Jan: This matches Houston and Pitt. The game is so important that the Pitt coach just took another job (at Wisconsin) and will miss this titanic struggle.

    The TaxSlayer Bowl 2 Jan: This matches Tennessee and Iowa. If you watch this game, you will probably want to rename it the Ho-Hum Bowl.

Other than providing programming for sports channels that have to put something on the air 168 hours a week, these 9 bowl games serve no constructive purpose and cannot possibly be rationalized as being part of the central core mission of the universities involved.

There are two matchups that could be interesting games:

    The Orange Bowl 31 Dec: This matches Georgia Tech and Mississippi St. Both teams run the ball a lot but in very different ways. It should be an interesting game.

    The Cotton Bowl 1 Jan: This matches Baylor and Michigan St. Big time offense meets big time defense. This will be worth watching.

And of course there are the playoff games too and they will be worth watching…

Here is something I found in a recent Sideline Chatter column by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Stat of the Week:

“Washington State football coach Mike Leach — 12-25 with the Cougars — would need to go 54-2 over the next five seasons to match the 66-27 mark that got Bo Pelini fired at Nebraska.”

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week there was 1 Ponderosa Spread Game.

The favorite, TCU, covered.

The season record for favorites covering Ponderosa Spread Games is 40-34-1. That makes two years in a row that Ponderosa Spread favorites would have been profitable against the vig. Before anyone draws the wrong conclusion, betting those favorites would have shown a loss in each of the two years prior to the last two years.

The SHOE Tournament:

The field is set. There was a major upset last week when SMU went on the road and beat UConn. What that did was to take SMU out of the Top Seed and it put UConn into the field.

Here is the final seeding. The idea here would be to stage a playoff where the loser of any game has to continue playing; the winner gets to go home and stop embarrassing itself. In the end, there will be an ultimate loser. I call that the SHOE Team – the Steaming Heap Of Excrement Team.

    #1 Seed: Georgia State
    #2 Seed: SMU
    #3 Seed: Idaho
    #4 Seed: Eastern Michigan
    #5 Seed: New Mexico State
    #6 Seed: Tulsa
    #7 Seed: Miami (OH)
    #8 Seed: UConn

Rather than cheering, a round of the raspberries seems appropriate here.

The Game:

Army vs. Navy – 15 (57.5) (Baltimore MD): There is no mystery that Navy is the better team here. Army has 4 wins this year; one came against Division 1-AA Fordham and another came against UConn whose faceplant last week against SMU got them into the SHOE Tournament. Both of these teams want to run the football. If forced to throw, Navy has more firepower. The game will be interesting because the players will play hard to the whistle on every play. I think Army is overmatched here. I’ll take Navy and lay the points.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 12/14/14

First, we need to review last week’s Mythical Picks:

    I liked Cowboys -3.5 over Bears. Cowboys won by 13. Yes!

    I liked Ravens +3 against Dolphins. Ravens won the game. Yes!

    I liked Ravens/Dolphins OVER 45. Total score was 41. No!

    I liked Steelers +3 against Bengals. Steelers won handily. Yes!

    I liked Colts/Browns OVER 49. The game was a PUSH.

    I liked Jags +5 against Texans. Not nearly enough points. No!

    I liked Giants/Titans OVER 46. Total was 43. No!

    I liked Saints -10 over Panthers. Saints lost by 31. No!

    I liked Saints/Panthers OVER 49.5. Total was 51. Yes!

    I liked Bucs +10.5 against Lions. Bucs lost by 17. No!

    I liked Skins +2.5 against Rams. Not even close. No!

    I liked Jets +5.5 against Vikes. Jets lost by 6. No!

    I liked Broncos – 9.5 over Bills. Broncos won by only 7. No!

    I liked Cards over Chiefs “pick ‘em”. Cards won the game. Yes!

    I liked Raiders +8 against Niners. Raiders won outright. Yes!

    I liked Seahawks/Eagles OVER 48.5. Total was 38. No!

    I liked Chargers +3.5 against Pats. Not enough points. No!

    I liked Packers -12.5 over Falcons. Packers won by only 6. No!

Well, you have to admire my consistency. Last week’s Mythical Picks were about as bad as most of the Mythical Picks this year. The final tally was 6-11-1, which brings the cumulative record to 94-130-4. I think the adjective you should apply here is “pathetic”.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games had a good week going 2-0-1. Nevertheless, the coin still has a long way to go to make it to its expected .500 record. The season record for the coin is 14-21-1.

Undaunted, I shall press on… However, I would assume that nothing in the performance to date would even tempt anyone to use any information here as the basis for a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money. Just to be sure, let me state unequivocally that anyone stupid enough to do that is also stupid enough to think that Sherlock Holmes is a retirement community.

General Comments:

Here is another measure of how bad the NFC South is this year:

    None of the four teams there has a winning record at home. The Falcons are the best of the lot with a 3-3 record at home.

Now let me give you an idea of the level of self-immolation the Saints engaged in last week as they lost to the Panthers:

    Thanks to two early turnovers, the score was 17-0 in the first quarter and the Saints had run exactly 3 offensive plays.

    The Saints’ defense – if you can call it that – gave up 155 yards rushing to Jonathan Stewart. Stewart’s total rushing yardage for the previous 3 games was 145 yards.

The Saints were not alone in terms of statistical nightmares last week:

    The Seahawks shut down the Eagles’ offense. Total offense for the Eagles in the first half was 67 yards.

    The Skins were shut out by the Rams – and made to look like a bad JV team in the process. I happened to see that game live and in person; I felt embarrassed for the team.

      Skins ran the ball 18 times for 27 yards. A major reason for that lack of production was that the Skins’ tight ends seemingly were “on strike” on every running play. If one of them had a solid and sustained block on any of those attempts, I missed it.

      Rams had 7 sacks in the game costing the Skins a total of 53 yards. When a team loses twice as many yards in sacks as it gains on running plays, it is clearly in for a bad day.

      The Skins had 7 consecutive “drives” of 5 plays or less.

      On special teams, the Skins returned only 2 punts for the day totaling 3 yards. Meanwhile, the Rams returned 4 punts for a total of 78 yards and a TD.

    The Niners’ passing attack against the Raiders was more like passing gas. Total yardage was 151 yards on 33 pass attempts. Oh, and the Niners threw two interceptions to boot…

    The Jags’ passing offense was equally bad. Total yardage was 188 yards on 40 pass attempts. Oh, and the Jags threw an interception into the mix too.

    The Bucs threw the ball 39 times and gained 207 yards in the air while throwing 2 interceptions at the same time. By comparison, Calvin Johnson alone gained 156 yards on pass receptions in the game for the Lions.

    Meanwhile, the Titans failed to throw the ball efficiently too. Total yardage was 146 yards on 35 attempts plus 2 interceptions.

The Bills did not allow Peyton Manning to throw a TD pass; that broke Manning’s streak of 51 consecutive games doing so. The Bills total offense was 109 yards more than the Broncos’ total offense. The Bills’ passing yardage was almost double the Broncos’ passing yardage. The Bills had a 7-minute advantage in time of possession. The “turnover battle” was a push. Nonetheless, the Bills lost the game and one reason had to be the Bills’ 11 penalties for a total of 98 yards.

Just to reset here, I have never been a huge fan of Jay Cutler as an elite QB going all the way back to his days at Vandy. I stipulate that he has a great arm and that he does not just “mail it in” on random Sundays. However, were I an NFL GM, I would hope to have someone else as my franchise QB. Having said that, there are “stories” in Chicago coming from unnamed sources that say the Bears were toying with the idea of benching Cutler prior to the Bucs game in Week 12. [Aside: The Bears won that game 21-13.] Let me assume for just a moment that those “stories” are dead solid perfect in terms of accuracy:

    Can you imagine the “salary cap mess” such a move would have precipitated? Earlier this year, the Bears signed Cutler to a 7-year contract worth $126M and $54M of that contract is guaranteed money.

    Moreover, if Cutler were on the sidelines holding a clipboard and wearing a baseball cap, that means the Bears would have Jimmy Claussen under center.

    At that point in the season, the Bears were 5-6 and still had a ray of hope with regard to making the playoffs. Such a move at that point would have been worse than waving a white flag.

    I am sure you have read/heard about the QB strife here in DC with regard to RG3, Jay Gruden and others involved with the Skins. It is not a pretty picture; the ongoing narrative is not pleasant or comforting. Had the Bears done what those “stories” say they were considering, it would have been a lot worse in Chicago…

Speaking of QBs whose play is out of sorts, I wish I knew what was wrong with Colin Kaepernick. There are tons of opinions out there but what I see is a guy who is not playing with the same degree of “instinct” that he did in the past. He seems tentative and mechanical.

    Maybe he has “fat-wallet syndrome”? He did sign a new contract earlier this year.

    Maybe he is being “over-coached”?

    Maybe he is a one-trick pony and defensive coordinators have figured out the trick?

    I wish I knew…

The Games:

(Thurs Nite) Arizona at St. Louis – 4 (40.5): The Rams have shut out two opponents in a row. Granted, they shut down offensively challenged teams (Raiders and Skins); however, with the NFL rules firmly in favor of offense, two shutouts in a row is a big deal. The Rams started the season disastrously at 1-5; since then they are 5-3 and they have beaten the Seahawks, Niners and Broncos. The Cards lead the NFC West by a game over the Seahawks and those two teams meet next week; the Cards must not look ahead to that encounter. I think this will be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Oakland at KC – 10.5 (41.5): The spread opened the week at 12 points and has steadily dropped to this level; in fact, you can find it as low as 10 points at one sportsbook. The Raiders have won 2 of their last 3 games; the Chiefs have lost all of their last 3 games and the first of those three losses came at the hands of the Raiders out in Oakland. This is a must-win game for the Chiefs if they have any hopes of post-season participation but the fact that Jamaal Charles had limited practice time earlier this week is not a good omen. I think that line is fat; I’ll take the Raiders plus the points.

Jax at Baltimore – 14 (45.5): Like the Chiefs above, the Ravens see this as a must-win game. The Ravens’ secondary is a patchwork unit due to injuries so their pass defense is predicated on the pass rush. The loss of Haloti Ngata to a PED suspension will not help the Ravens’ defense. Last week, the Jags surrendered 4 sacks; the Ravens should get more than that. Because I think the Jags might have difficulty getting to double-digits in points, I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.

Pittsburgh – 2 at Atlanta (45): The Steelers have already managed to lose to two NFC South teams this year (Saints and Bucs both at Heinz Field no less) and those two inexplicable losses put the Steelers in the playoff predicament they find themselves now. A third loss to an NFC South team could well leave them out of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the sorry-assed Falcons lead the uber-dorky NFC South on the basis of tiebreakers with a less-than-gaudy record of 5-8. Sad as it may be, this is an important game for both teams. The Steelers secondary is not very good; if Julio Jones is fully recovered from his hip injury last week, he might go for 200+ yards against the Steelers here. If Jones cannot play … This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Houston at Indy – 6.5 (49.5): The Colts hold a 2-game lead over the Texans in the AFC South but the Colts have hardly looked like a good team in recent endeavors. They needed late-game heroics to beat the Browns last week and the Browns were so unhappy with their performance last week that they chose to bench their QB and go with a rookie this week. This is make-or-break for the Texans. Purely a hunch, I’ll take the Texans on the road plus the points.

Cincy at Cleveland – 1 (43.5): This spread opened the week with the Bengals as 2-point favorites on the road. After the Browns announced that Johnny Manziel would start, the line has moved steadily toward the Browns. What will the headline be the morning after this game?

    Johnny Football Sparks Browns Victory

    Andy Dalton Comes Up Small In Big Game Again

    Bengals Run Ball Down Browns’ Throats En Route To Victory

    Browns Playoff Aspirations Get A Boost

This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Bengals on the road plus the points.

Miami at New England – 7.5 (47.5): The Pats have a 3-game lead over the Dolphins in the AFC East with 3 games to play; therefore, to the surprise of very few folks, the Pats are going to win the division championship. The incentive for the Pats is that they do indeed want to have the first seed in the AFC playoffs so that every opponent needs to come to Foxboro if they want to get to the Super Bowl. The Dolphins have been vulnerable to the run recently and the Pats have big backs and fast backs to test the defensive front seven. I think this game will be a rout; I’ll take the Pats and lay the points.

Tampa at Carolina – 3 (41): Here are two bad teams – and one of them has its franchise QB out with two fractures of transverse processes in his spine due to a car accident last Tuesday. Normally, this game would be in contention for the AYFKM Game of the Week. [AYFKM = Are You F*****g Kidding Me] However, I cannot do that because the Panthers are still in the hunt for the NFC South title with their 4-8-1 record. The QB duel here will be Derek Anderson versus Josh McCown. No way can I guess the way this one will go and so I shall turn the pick over to Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin says to take the Panthers and lay the points. Why not?

Washington at Giants – 6.5 (46): Here we have a 3-10 team – and one by the way that puts the “dis” in “dysfunctional” – going on the road to play a game against a 4-9 team that beat the pants off the 3-10 team when the 3-10 team was at home. Notwithstanding all that muck and mire, this too is not the AYFKM Game of the Week. Here is something I said last week:

“I am going to assume that the Skins’ defensive secondary has had their heads surgically removed from their asses this week and that they will play to a level of merely ‘less-than-fully-competent’ here instead of ‘are-you-effing-kidding-me awful’.”

I was wrong; their heads remained firmly implanted up their butts and this week they get to try to cover Odell Beckham Jr. Good luck with that. Please understand; I am fully cognizant of the Giants’ ability to look like an Ivy League football team on occasion. Nevertheless, there is no way I can take the Skins on the road here. I’ll take the Giants to win and cover.

Green Bay – 4.5 at Buffalo (50): The Packers lead the NFC North by a game and currently have the same record as the Cardinals. The Packers would love to have home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs; they play REALLY well at home. Buffalo is mathematically alive in the AFC East – but not much more than that. The issue here is that the Packers are not nearly as good on the road as they are at home and Buffalo lives on the strength of their defense. I like the Bills plus the points here.

Minnesota at Detroit – 7 (42.5): The Lions trail the Packers by a game and they have a date with those Packers on the final weekend of the regular season. They do not want to lose this game – and they are at home. The Vikes have not won a division game yet this year. The Vikes should have trouble scoring on the Lions’ defense but I do not think the Lions will have any parallel difficulties. I like the Lions to win and cover and I like the game to go OVER.

Jets – 2.5 at Titans (42): This spread opened the week with the Titans as 1-point favorites. I mention that only because the line movement is a big one and that is something positive to say about this game. After all, this IS the AYFKM Game of the Week. Both teams bring 2-11 records to the field; the main consequence of the game is that the winner is going to drop down in the draft order for next spring. Bad news for the Jets is that Percy Harvin is out; bad news for the Titans is that Jake Locker is in. This is the fourth Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game this week and the coin says to take the Jets and lay the points. Excuse me, but I have to go and wash my hands after typing those words…

Denver – 4 at San Diego (50.5): Finally, we have a really good game to discuss. The Broncos need a win to stay with the Pats in a race for top-seed in the AFC playoffs and a win here would assure them of the AFC West title. Even with a win here, the Chargers are nothing more than a longshot to win the division title, but they need a win to hold position in the AFC wildcard race with all the teams in the AFC North. The Chargers defense has to wonder what the schedule makers have against them; they played the Pats and Tom Brady last week and not get the Broncos and Peyton Manning. I like the Broncos to win and cover.

SF at Seattle – 10 (37.5): The opening spread in this game was 8.5 points but jumped to this level almost immediately. These teams are headed in opposite directions; the Seahawks have won 3 in a row; the Niners have lost 2 in a row. A loss for the Niners here not only eliminates them mathematically from the NFC West division race, it probably eliminates any real chance they have for making the playoffs. The problem the Niners face here is simple:

    Their running attack has been very ordinary for the last month – and –

    Their passing attack has been less than anemic for the last 2 months – and –

    The Seahawks’ defense is playing very well for the last 3 weeks.

The only way this game stays close is if Pete Carroll calls off the dogs. Now what are the chances he will do that with Jim Harbaugh on the opposite sideline? I’ll take the Seahawks and lay the double-digit points.

(Sun Nite) Dallas at Philly – 3 (55): This is the Game of the Week because it matches two teams with 9-4 records and it could decide the NFC East title. The Eagles ran away from the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving; their offense looked a full step faster than the Cowboys’ defense. This is a big game that matters a lot to both teams. I like the Eagles at home to win and cover.

(Mon Nite) New Orleans – 3 at Chicago (54): Let me give you the only good reason to watch this game:

    It is on Monday Night Football and there are no other games to watch.

Last week, both teams rolled over and played dead. The Saints lost by 31 points as s a 10-point favorite. If I said that performance “sucked” I would be sugarcoating it. The Bears seem to have been mailing it in for a while now. Having said all that, the Saints might just see themselves in the driver’s seat in the NFC South at kickoff time should the Falcons swallow an avocado pit against the Steelers on Sunday. This game features two porous defenses and two QBs who can – when they are on – light up very good defenses. Since I do not care to root for either team here – that would be like picking my favorite Menendez brother – I’ll just take the game to go OVER and root for both defensive units to continue to stink out the joint.

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

Pretending To Be A Senator…

When a US Senator gets up to speak, he/she usually begins by asking for unanimous consent to revise and extend his/her remarks after the fact. Setting aside for the moment the idea that Senators would be accountable for their words simply because they are among the first people to scream for “accountability” for everyone else when something goes awry, this just means they can go back and make it seem that they made no errors when they spoke. If I could have done that, I would have gotten a perfect score on my SAT exams…

Well, today I am going to “extend” one of my remarks from yesterday. The reason for that is that I just plain forgot to include this commentary when I was talking about the NHL probing the depth of interest in NHL hockey in Las Vegas. It should have been in yesterday’s rant but I biffed on that one.

    Comment #1: Is Las Vegas a place for ice hockey in the first place or is this another “Sun Belt Team” that will struggle to create and maintain a fan base? I do not know how many kids in Clark County, Nevada grow up playing ice hockey. Do the high schools in Clark County even play interscholastic ice hockey?

    Comment #2: One report that I read said that the Maloof brothers were minority partners in the group that wants to own the expansion franchise. Let me just say that the overall caliber of the Maloofs’ ownership of the Sacramento Kings was not very high.

In NBA happenings – and at this point in the season there are precious few NBA happenings that are of any real significance -, the Philadelphia 76ers won a game. They beat the Minnesota Timberwolves coming from behind; the Wolves led 34-32 at the half. You read that correctly; two NBA teams played for 24 minutes and the score was 34-32 at the half. Forget for a moment that fans could have nodded off between baskets in that first half because you have to consider the importance of the outcome of the game:

    The Sixers will NOT go 0-82 for the season.

Now, the fact that I could even consider making such a snarky comment brings up a serious issue regarding the NBA. The Sixers are tanking another season; the management of the team makes no bones about the fact that they are adhering to some kind of “long-term plan” they have in mind and at least one key element in that plan is to play so poorly for a few years that they always get one of the top picks in the draft. They are not trying to win games; they would prefer to lose games to get better a position in the draft lottery.

    [Aside: I am not saying that the players are throwing games or that the players are not trying. I am saying, however, that the people who are assembling the roster for the Sixers are intentionally creating a team on the floor that is not capable of winning very many games. Those are two very different conditions.]

The problem here is that what the Sixers’ “roster assemblers” have done – and continue to do – assaults the “integrity of the game”. A fundamental precept of a professional sport is that every team in every league strives to win. Obviously, in every season, there are some that fail to do so; that is a natural mathematical consequence of keeping score and publishing the standings in the sport. However, when a team – or worse yet a handful of teams – in a league simply go “paws to the sky” on purpose, it diminishes the stature of the league and casts a shadow of doubt on the integrity of the games it puts on for public consumption.

I think there needs to be greater attention paid to this situation by the folks who pay the bills for the NBA – namely the TV networks carrying the games. Adam Silver and the owners need to find a way to put an end to this kind of team management; it does not enhance the NBA brand even a little bit.

Oh, and with regard to the issue of “integrity”, here is an important thing for NBA moguls to remember:

    Integrity is like virginity; you only get to lose it once.

Brad Rock of the Deseret News had this more upbeat observation about NBA doings recently:

“Dwyane Wade recently played a one-on-one game with a 90-year-old grandmother/Miami Heat fan.

“After which Tim Duncan allegedly shouted, ‘I got next!’ “

In addition, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald made this observation about the moment when Kobe Bryant set the NBA career record for missed field goal attempts:

“Kobe Bryant set a new record for career missed field goals at 13,418. Shaq asked, ‘Can I present him his award?’ “

I hope you see the point here. It is a lot better for the league to have folks making snarky comments about the NBA and its players that are clearly made in good spirit than it is to muse about teams intentionally trying to lose NBA games.

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle demonstrates with this comment that one can make a humorous observation about the NBA even in the circumstance when you have to refer to one of the NBA’s darker moments:

“Draymond Green says he has been working on his jumper with the help of a coach who once worked with Dennis Rodman. Isn’t that like going to Donald Sterling for advice on achieving marital bliss?”

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

Stadium And Arena Venue Issues Today

Today would seem to be stadium/arena venue day. I must have missed the memo and I never saw any Hallmark cards commemorating the day. The reasons for today’s “celebration” come from cities around the country where stadium/arena venues have percolated to the surface at about the same time…

Let me start with news from St. Petersburg, FL where news reports say that the Tampa Bay Rays and the city of St. Petersburg have reached an agreement that would allow the Rays to look for a new stadium site in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The Ray’s lease on their current home – Tropicana Field – runs through the end of the 2027 baseball season but the recent agreement says that they can “buy their way out” of that lease on the following schedule:

    If the Rays move before December 2018, they would owe the city of St. Petersburg $4M per year for each year left on the lease.

    If the Rays move between January 2019 and December 2022, they would owe the city of St. Petersburg $3M per year for each year left on the lease.

    If the Rays move between January 2023 and December 2026, they would owe the city of St. Petersburg $2M per year for each year left on the lease.

The location of Tropicana Field has been an issue with regard to the meager fan support for the Rays. According to reports, the team believes that if it can find a new place for a stadium “on the other side of Tampa Bay” it will make home games more accessible – and therefore more attractive – to local fans. Of course, then will come the discussions about who will pay to construct a new stadium in a new location …

The NHL is considering expansion. I suspect the motive behind this thinking is that the league believes it can sell expansion franchises and current owners would like to take a sip of that revenue cascade. Some of the cities “under consideration” make sense.

    Quebec has had an NHL franchise in the past and hockey is a large part of the local sporting scene in Quebec.

    Seattle has a team in the WHL and it could establish a rivalry with nearby Vancouver pretty naturally.

Las Vegas is also a “strong contender” for joining the NHL to the point that the league has given the prospective owner of the putative expansion franchise permission to stage a season ticket sales drive to probe the depth of fan interest. According to one report I read, if the fan interest is there, the league would then “explore the next step”. When I read that, I wondered what the “next step” would be other than to award the guy with the money a franchise and call the scheduling folks to tell them they had to work to do. Then I read another report that said the league is concerned about where the team would play. That second report said there is no NHL-satisfactory arena in Las Vegas at the moment. Hence, another part of the country with ongoing stadium/arena venue issues…

Here in the DC area, there are actually two such stories playing themselves out on completely different levels. The DC government is about to agree to build a small soccer-only venue for DC United of MLS. I tend to oppose stadiums built solely with taxpayer money; in the case of this proposed facility, my opposition is much less strenuous. DC United has not threatened the city with leaving town; rather, DC United has made the case that it has been a positive corporate citizen and that it has been a positive social force in the area for almost 20 years. Those are not empty PR words; those mirror reality.

Adding to the reasons that I am less concerned by tax expenditures here than usual is where DC United has played its home games since coming into existence in 1995. RFK Stadium is a dilapidated and miserable venue for just about any kind of event. The best thing one could bring to RFK Stadium would be a wrecking ball. The new stadium under consideration would seat about 25,000 fans; that is much smaller than RFK Stadium, but it would be sufficient for DC United’s needs.

Simultaneously here in the DC area, there is another movement ongoing that would have to involve stadium/arena venues. Washington DC is one of the US cities that hopes to be the US city put forth by the US Olympic Committee to the IOC as the host city for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. My sentiments about cities/countries volunteering to host the Olympics are well established here; in summary:

    Unless a city has hosted the games sufficiently recently that most of the venues are already in place and in use, it is a bad idea to seek to host the Olympics.

Clearly, I would oppose a Washington DC bid for the games – but no one is going to ask me so my opposition is not very important. I also have to make sure everyone here realizes that I do not move in circles that allow me access to the thinking and the motivations of folks who are involved in such grand schemes. Those folks are not “my kind of people”. However, my deductive reasoning abilities suggest to me a sub-plot in the whole “Olympics to Washington” business. Follow along…

    If the Olympics were to come to DC, there would definitely need to be a new stadium for the Opening Ceremony/Closing Ceremony and probably the track and field events. RFK Stadium is far too small even if it were gussied up to look presentable.

    Track and field stadiums are – naturally – large ovals.

    Football fields are also large ovals.

    FedEx Field was never a glorious venue; it is basically cinder block and concrete construction with paint to make it “pretty”.

    Hmmm… I wonder to what use the DC government folks might put that large oval stadium once the Olympics are over and done with…?

I will not be shocked when – not really if – this kind of plan comes to light. The USOC is supposed to pick the city that will be the US standard-bearer to the IOC sometime early in 2015. The contenders are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Washington. Stay tuned…

Finally, some words of wisdom from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Snow job: What if they had to cancel an Olympics because of lack of interest – in hosting? For the 2022 Winter Games, it has come close to that, with only two countries – China and Kazakhstan – bidding for the opportunity to throw away billions on facilities that will be abandoned soon after the Games are closed. This may be a setback for the Olympic movement, but for the rest of humanity, it’s a sign of progress.”

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

Bad Pro Football Teams 2014…

Sometimes a team with a bad record is one that has a string of bad fortune and the bad fortune caused the bad record. More commonly, teams with bad records deserve each and every morsel of the humble pie they are forced to eat; they earned their bad record; they truly are what their record says they are. Let me give you two examples from NFL action yesterday regarding teams with dismal records that deserve those records:

    The NY Jets: Even nomadic yak herders living in yurts on the high plains of Kyrgyzstan know that the Jets have “QB issues” – which is to say the team does not have a fully competent NFL QB on the roster. A week ago, the Jets implemented a game plan against the Dolphins that had as its major theme:

      Under no circumstances will we allow Geno Smith to throw the football lest he lose the game for us with his arm.

      That game plan worked for a while but came up short in the end.

    Yesterday, the Jets must have thought that the Vikings’ defense would be primed to stop the run thereby ignoring to a degree the pass. So, on the first play from scrimmage, the Jets dropped Geno Smith back and had him throw a simple 8-yard slant over the middle. Naturally, a linebacker picked it off and returned it for a TD.

    The Washington Redskins: Forget for a moment all of the melodrama regarding the owner and the coach and the not-so-favorite-son QB and forget for a moment that the team’s “special teams” are really “teams with special needs”. With the exception of only a few players, this team is not out there playing as a team; each player seems to be playing for himself.

      In the first half of that game with the score still only 6-0 in favor of the Rams, Skins’ LB, Ryan Kerrigan sacked Rams’ QB, Shaun Hill and forced a fumble. The ball was just sitting there on the ground while Skins’ DL, Chris Baker, danced around with his arms in the air celebrating a sack he had nothing to do with. Of course, the Rams recovered the loose ball to keep possession…

As of this morning, the Jets are in a five-way tie for the worst record in the NFL at 2-11. Next week, the Jets go on the road to play the Titans – one of those other teams sitting at 2-11. The week after that, the Titans and Jags (both with 2-11 records as of this morning) play a “national game” on Thursday night; NFL Network execs probably wish they could televise the National Knitting Championships instead, but they cannot. With the Oakland Raiders inexplicably winning two of their last three games, the race to the bottom of the NFL has become interesting…

With the Jets’ record as bad as it is, you might not blame a few of the Jets’ fans who are old enough to remember the details for harkening back to the days of Richie Kotite as the on-field leader of the franchise. The year was 1996; the Jets came out of the gate losing their first 8 games; then they won a game in Arizona against the Cardinals and entered their “Bye Week”. Sorry, there is no heroic twist to the rest of the story here; when the Jets came back from their extra week of preparation, they proceeded to lose their last 7 games of the season and to finish with a 1-15 record. Richie Kotite announced his resignation as the head coach a couple of days before the last game of the year; notwithstanding that uplifting announcement, the team went out and lost the last game of the year at home to the Miami Dolphins.

Interestingly, the Jets’ final game this year is also against the Miami Dolphins – only this year the last game will take place in Miami. I doubt Rex Ryan will resign just prior to that game; resignation/surrender is just not in his DNA; however, the team might announce just prior to that game that Ryan will not be back in 2015 meaning he will be on the sidelines in the role of “Dead Coach Walking”. There might be some interest in in that final game of the year after all.

The “Big News” for college football is the announcement of the 4 teams in the college football playoff. While I would have wished for Ohio State to be left out and for the Selection Committee to say explicitly that the reason was their pathetic non-conference scheduling, I have to acknowledge that Ohio State’s 59-0 win over Wisconsin shows that they belong in the playoff. As to the fact that there are no Big 12 teams in the mix:

    1. With 5 “power conferences” and 4 playoff slots, it is a mathematical certainty that at least one of the “power conferences” would be left out.

    2. TCU’s out of conference schedule was not exactly “difficult” and Baylor’s out of conference schedule was easier than either Ohio State or TCU.

    3. Baylor coach Art Briles’ opinion that there were not enough “southerners” on the Selection Committee demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about what the Committee was there to do. They were not there to get 4 really good football teams from all the regions of the US; they were there to try to get the 4 BEST football teams into the bracket.

      Memo to Art Briles: Those “non-southerners’ on the Selection Committee had no difficulty in recognizing Alabama as “playoff-worthy”. Last time I checked, Alabama was in the South AND Alabama is significantly better than Baylor as a football team in 2014.

Finally, Brad Rock of the Deseret News ran across two Tweets from José Canseco soon after the Rosetta spacecraft made its landing on a comet. I tell you, Canseco is the gift that keeps on giving:

“If Earth can control the comet transportation system, we will run the Milkyway [sic],” he wrote. “Think about that.”

“Galactic Beings have used comets as star taxis for eons.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA Weekend Of 12/6/14

I shall begin with a review of last week’s Mythical Picks:

    I liked TCU -8 over Texas. TCU won by 38. Yea!

    I liked LSU -3 over Texas A&M. LSU won by 6. Yea!

    I liked UVa “pick ‘em” over Va Tech. Did not happen. Boo!

    I liked Iowa “pick ‘em” over Nebraska. Iowa lost. Boo!

    I liked Navy -9.5 over S. Alabama. Navy won by 2. Boo!

    I liked Stanford/UCLA UNDER 50. Total score was 41. Yea!

    I liked Colo St -7 over Air Force. State lost the game. Boo!

    I liked Ohio St. -20.5 over Michigan. State won by only 14. Boo!

    I liked Old Dom +3.5 against Fla Atl. ODU won the game. Yea!

    I liked Minn/Wisconsin UNDER 51.5. Total was 58. Boo!

    I liked Washington -3 over Wash St. Washington won by 18. Yea!

    I liked Georgia -13 over Ga Tech. Georgia lost the game. Boo!

    I liked Oregon St. +20 against Oregon. State lost by 28. Boo!

    I liked Alabama -9.5 over Auburn. Bama won by 11. Yea!

    I liked Florida +7 against Fla St. Florida lost by only 5. Yea!

    I liked S. Carolina +4.5 against Clemson. Not nearly enough points. Boo!

    I liked Miss St -1.5 over Ole Miss. State lost the game. Boo!

    I liked Notre Dame/USC OVER 62.5. Total was 63. Yea!

The tally for last week was a not-so-good 8-10-0 bringing the cumulative season record to 108-105-1. I will need a spectacular week this week to make the season total “mythically profitable”.

No one should take the season results to date as any reason to rely on information here as any part of a decision process regarding which side to back in an NCAA football game this weekend where a real bet might involve actual coin of the realm. Anyone dumb enough to do that probably thinks that an Eskimo Pie is the ratio of the circumference of an igloo to its diameter.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats went on the road for their “Round of 16” Division III playoff game against Mary Hardin-Baylor and came home with a 31-28 win. That runs the Wildcats record for the year to 10-1. Last week’s trip was 1700 miles; this week the Wildcats will go even farther from home to play Widener University in Chester, PA. That trip will be 2400 miles. Widener is undefeated this year (12-0) and plays in the Middle Atlantic Conference – not to be confused with Division 1-A’s MAC. Go Wildcats!

MIT failed to advance in those Division III football playoffs losing handily to Wesley College (Dover, DE) by the score of 59-0.

I mentioned the MAC in passing above. Northern Illinois will play Bowling Green this weekend for the MAC Championship. Many college football fans care more about details in the life cycle of the fresh water liver fluke than care about the outcome of that game.

Marshall did not endear itself to college football writers who have a quota of columns to write this week and next. Marshall lost to Western Kentucky 67-66 in OT when Western Kentucky went for a 2-point conversion and made it. (W. Ky led at halftime 49-42; things actually calmed down a bit in the second half…) Now, those writers will not have the opportunity to write about the undefeated team who was never considered part of the “big boy football club” this year. Too bad for those writers…

Nebraska finished the season with an OT win over Iowa to finish with a 9-3 record. That result led the school to fire coach Bo Pellini. In 7 years at Nebraska, Pellini was 67-27 (a winning percentage of .712) and his conference record was 39-17 (a winning percentage of .696). Never in that tenure did Nebraska fail to win 9 games in a season. Notwithstanding that record, the school deemed it unsatisfactory. Well, OK then…

Michigan fired Brady Hoke not to anyone’s great surprise after Michigan went 5-7 for the season Hoke completed 4 years at Michigan with a bad trend. In his first year, the team went 11-2; after that, Michigan won 8 games, 7 games and now 5 games.

Coaches getting fired causes trauma for a person or a family. When a school cancels its football program altogether, trauma is far more widespread and UAB has eliminated its football program. What is the widespread trauma?

    The 2014 UAB roster – per the UAB website – had 106 players listed. As a rough estimate, about 75 of those players probably have eligibility left. Many of them will be scrambling to find another school where they might play.

    There are 16 coaches, recruiters and other assorted staff members who will be hitting the bricks looking for new jobs.

    UAB played 12 games this year meaning that it had 12 opponents on the schedule for next year. Those 12 schools now have to scramble around trying to find opponents to slip into their schedules. Look for a lot of Div 1-AA mismatch games to come from this mad scramble.

The UAB Athletic Department reported that it lost $17.5M in 2012-1013. UAB has overseers in the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees and that Board has not taken kindly to the fact that a lot of state money has been needed to keep the UAB program afloat. Many UAB alums and folks contend that this is merely an excuse to shut down the UAB program to provide less competition for Alabama in terms of recruiting and state funding; the fact that Bear Bryant’s son is on that oversight board does not diminish the cries of “Conspiracy!

However, the loss posted by UAB in 2012/13 is not nearly the largest one reported to the NCAA for the same year. According to CBSSports.com, here is the red ink shown by a few other athletic departments in that same year:

    UNLV $35.3M
    Houston $26.8M
    Air Force $26.0M
    ODU $25.7M (Building up to Division 1-A football then)
    UMass $25.0M

You can see a list of 25 schools from the so-called “Group of Five” conferences with their reported deficits here.

The last school to drop division 1-A football was College of the Pacific back in the 90s. Football can be a big revenue sport but it also brings big costs with it. Therefore, if a school is not “major” in terms of its revenue streams from football, the sport can be taxing on the school coffers.

Hawaii is another school with financial troubles in the athletic department. For 2012/13, Hawaii reported a loss of $18.2M and part of its problem is its geography. It costs Hawaii a lot to fly its football teams to the mainland to play games – and because of the conference they are in, not all of the games are on the West Coast. Sometimes Hawaii has to go as far as Iowa and Texas to compete. By the same token, mainland schools are not always thrilled about spending what it costs to get their teams to Hawaii for games. When Hawaii went to join the Mountain West Conference in 2010 – they would be lost if they were independent – the conference extracted terms by which Hawaii would pay schools in the conference between $150K and $175K to come and play them in Aloha Stadium. Hawaii had no real option here; they had been in the WAC and the WAC disappeared out from under them.

Hawaii had a glorious season in 2007 going undefeated and playing Georgia in the Sugar Bowl – where Georgia threw them around like a rag doll. The school had great fan support then but winning has not come easily since then and – not too surprisingly – fan support has eroded. Hawaii’s problem is that it has eroded a whole lot. Attendance is down almost 40% from that undefeated season. Just to try to build revenue, Hawaii has scheduled away games at Ohio State and Wisconsin next year; those two games will put $2.1M in the Hawaii bank account even though they will not provide much rooting incentive for fans back home.

College football has always been a game of “Haves” and “Have-Nots”. When people hear about the big money TV deals in and around college football, they may have the idea that all schools are living high on the hog. Such is not the case…

Let me pose a rhetorical question here:

    If Missouri beats Alabama this week and is the SEC Champion with 2 losses (neither of which are pretty by any means), is Mizzou a lock to make it to the College Football Playoff bracket?

Obviously, the answer to that has to depend on what happens to other teams currently ranked in and around the Top Four but it is those two losses on the Missouri dance card that are disturbing:

    Indiana 31 Missouri 27. This game was at Missouri and Indiana showed rather convincingly that it is a mediocre team at best.

    Georgia 34 Missouri 0. This game was also at Missouri and it would seem to be a reach for a playoff participant to have been shut out at home by any score let alone by 34-0.

Kansas University could play a tandem of safeties with interesting names:

    Cassius Sendish is a senior from Waldorf MD
    Fish Smithson is a sophomore from Baltimore MD.

    By the way, Fish Smithson is the brother of Shaky Smithson who played in the CFL as a WR and KR.

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week there were 2 Ponderosa Spread Games and the favorite covered in 1 of them.

Kansas St. covered.

Baylor did not cover.

The record last week was 1-1-0 bringing the cumulative record for favorites covering Ponderosa Spreads to 39-34-1 for the season.

This week we have only 1 Ponderosa Spread Game:

Iowa State at TCU – 33.5 (68.5): TCU is ranked 3rd this week in the CFP bracket and surely wants to stay there. I suspect they will keep their foot on the gas all game long to accumulate some style points for this win. To show how confident the sportsbooks are of a TCU win, the money line odds for TCU are -20,000. To refresh memories for folks who do not look at money lines often, that means you would risk $20K on TCU to win the game – no spread involved at all – and if they win, your profit is $100.

The SHOE Tournament Teams:

SMU is in action this week. SMU will definitely be in the SHOE Tournament but its final seeding might depend on what happens this week. Outsiders, UConn and Tulane are also in action this week.

Here is my tentative seeding as of now:

    #1 Seed: SMU
    #2 Seed: Georgia State
    #3 Seed: Idaho
    #4 Seed: E Michigan
    #5 Seed: New Mexico State
    #6 Seed: Tulsa
    #7 Seed: Miami (OH)
    #8 Seed: UNLV

UConn could drop into a slot here if they lose to SMU this week. It would take a shellacking of great proportion by Temple to put Tulane into the SHOE Tournament, but it could happen. Stay tuned; next week will be the final list…

Games of Interest:

There are only 14 games on the card for this week; so, all of the games are somewhat interesting. I will list all of them here – except for the Iowa State/TCU game noted above – even though I will not be making a selection for all of them.

(Thurs Nite) UCF at E. Carolina – 6.5 (54.5): I am not trying to make E. Carolina into some kind of a super team here, but this is a major step up in class for UCF as compared to the teams it has played since it played Temple on October 25. The games for UCF since then are not much more than scrimmages:

    At UConn (UCF actually lost this game and UConn could be a SHOE team)
    Vs Tulsa (a SHOE team as of this week)
    Vs SMU (the #1 Seed as a SHOE team this week)
    At USF (better than the three teams above but still…)

E. Carolina put 70 points on the board earlier this year against UNC; and in one of the losses this year, they scored 46 points. I like E. Carolina to win and cover.

(Fri Nite) N. Illinois – 6.5 vs Bowling Green (61) (Detroit, MI): This is the MAC Championship Game. Ford Field holds 65,000 folks. Maybe there will be 20,000 in the house to watch this tussle. Bowling Green won the East Division; their conference record is 5-3; their overall record is 7-5. They are the ONLY team in the MAC East playing above .500 for the year. The bottom 3 teams in that division (UMass, Miami (OH) and Kent St.) combined to post a 7-28 record this season. N. Illinois is 10-2 for the year and has won its last 6 games. Do not bet on this game. If you have nothing better to do than to watch it on TV, spend your time counting the house during crowd shots…

(Fri Nite) Arizona vs Oregon – 14.5 (73) (Santa Clara, CA): This is the PAC-12 Championship Game. Oregon comes to the game with an 11-1 record and that loss was to Arizona in a home game for Oregon. Arizona is 10-2 and its losses were to USC and UCLA. Oregon’s offense produces 539.5 yards per game and they score an average of 45.9 points per game (4th best in the country). Oregon gives up 23.5 points per game (32nd best in the country). Arizona’s offense produces 481.2 yards per game and they score an average of 36.7 points per game (20th best in the country). Arizona gives up 25.5 points per game (57th best in the country). I like to watch Marcus Mariotta play QB for Oregon and I like the Ducks despite their outrageous uniforms but that line is too fat for me. I’ll take Arizona plus the points.

SMU at UConn – 12.5 (45.5): Seriously, the weather forecast for Saturday in Storrs, CT is for rain (90% chance) and temps in the low 40s. Forget betting on this game, consider betting on the OVER/UNDER for people who show up and stay until the final whistle. That number might not be “four-digits”…

Temple – 3.5 at Tulane (44): Tulane is bad; they lost to Tulsa back in late August. Temple is not very good but with a win here, they could become bowl eligible. The folks who run bowl games do not want that to happen because Temple cannot draw fans to its home games in appreciable numbers; that fanbase does not travel at all – let alone “travel well”. You have to have better things to do than to spend time watching these two models of mediocrity “slug it out”. Go and catalog your lint collection.

Houston at Cincy – 6.5 (56.5): While this game is hardly pivotal – or even meaningful –, you can pay attention simply because both teams are above .500. I think Cincy is the better of the two teams and if Cincy’s offense gets on a roll, it can put up 40 points in a game (They have done that 4 times this year.). I like Cincy to win and cover.

K-State at Baylor (no lines): The reason for “no lines” is that Baylor QB, Bryce Petty suffered the dreaded “concussion-like symptoms” (perish the thought he might actually have suffered a concussion) in last week’s game against Texas Tech. Petty says he will play in the game; but oddsmakers clearly want to know about that more definitively than some statement attributed to him. If Petty cannot play, K-State should win this game. If Petty is under center, Baylor will win a close game.

Ok. State at Oklahoma – 20 (59.5): In mid-October, Oklahoma State was 5-1 and the loss came at the hands of Florida State. Things looked good in Stillwater… Since then, Oklahoma St has lost 5 games in a row and the closest of those losses were by 3 TDs to Texas and to Baylor. What happened was that Oklahoma St beat up on the soft spots in the schedule and then took on the better teams and demonstrated that the Cowboys are just not very good. This is a big rivalry game; Oklahoma State can become bowl-eligible with a win (highly unlikely); Oklahoma can get a better bowl invitation if they pound the bejeepers out of their in-state rival. I think this game will be closer than 3 TDs so I’ll take Ok. St plus the points.

La Tech at Marshall – 12.5 (68.5): The winner here is the C-USA champion. If you think that is important outside the realm of C-USA football, please name quickly the last two conference champions – and no Googling allowed. Why think about taking La Tech in this game when they are 8-4 as compared to Marshall’s 11-1 when Marshall is at home?

    La Tech can score. They have been over 40 points 6 times this year. Last week against defending C-USA champion, Rice, La Tech scored 76 points.

Why is thinking about taking La Tech foolish?

    Five of their six games over 40 points were at home and this game is on the road.

    Marshall ranks 2nd in the nation in scoring (46.7 points per game) and the La Tech defense is only average allowing 25.2 points per game (54th in the country).

I think Marshall will take out its anger/frustration here and dominate the game on the ground. I like Marshall to win and cover here.

Missouri vs Alabama – 14.5 (48.5) (Atlanta, GA): The winner is the SEC Champion. I have not been a believer in Missouri since they lost at home to Indiana. Short and sweet here, I like Alabama to win and cover here and then to go on to be in the first ever College Football Playoff.

Florida St. – 4 vs Georgia Tech (60.5) (Charlotte, NC): The winner here is the ACC Champion. If you love chaos, you have to be rooting for a Georgia Tech win here because that will put the focus on the Selection Committee even more than it is now. The script for a Tech win would be for it to control the clock with its run-dominated offense where it shortens the game and gets some kind of score on most if not all of its drives. In an offensive shoot-out, Tech is at a severe disadvantage. Can they pull off the “run the ball and shorten the game” stratagem? I don’t think so; I’ll take Florida State and lay the points.

Wisconsin – 4.5 vs Ohio State (52.5) (Indy): The winner here is the Big 10 Champion. Much has been made about how Ohio State will have to start a new QB due to the injury to JT Barrett last week. I think the “new kid” has figured out what the deal is. Cardale Jones made a name for himself a while back saying something akin to (this is a paraphrase):

    What’s the big deal about going to class? I’m here to play football not to play school.

This is a student-athlete that already has the system figured out. I like Ohio State plus the points here in a low scoring game.

Fresno State at Boise State – 21 (68.5): At the end of this game, you can say hello to the Mountain West Conference Champion. This game is a reprise of an earlier game this year when Fresno St traveled to Boise St. and lost a conference game there by 10 points. Fresno St won the weaker of the two divisions in the conference; the Bulldogs are 6-6 overall for the season and 5-3 in conference games. You can forgive 3 of the losses early in the year to the likes of USC, Utah and Nebraska but it is hard to forgive losses later in the season to UNLV (in the SHOE Tournament as of this week) and to a 4-8 Wyoming team by 4 TDs. I cannot see Fresno St pulling an upset here (they are +995 on the money line this morning) but 3 TDs is a nice pad. I’ll take Fresno St. plus the points here.

NCAA Mythical Picks next week will be brief. It will review the results from this week; consider the Army/Navy game; look to see if there are more than a handful of the minor bowl games that deserve anything more than a sneer and then fade quietly into the night.

However, before closing, I do want to say to all of the pundits and shriekers who declared without any conditions that a football playoff would ruin the beauty of college football’s season:

    Will all of you please shut the hell up right now!

Even before the Selection Committee assigns the seeding to the Top 4 teams, this college football season was not ruined and was not anti-climactic. Period. Exclamation point!

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 12/7/14

First, a review of last week’s Mythical Picks:

    I liked Bears/Lions UNDER 47.5. Total score was 51. No!

    I liked Eagles/Cowboys OVER 54.5. Total score was 43. No!

    I liked Seahawks/Niners UNDER 40.5. Total was 22. Yes!

    I liked Skins/Colts OVER 51. Total was 76. Yes!

    I liked Titans/Texans UNDER 43. Total was 67. No!

    I liked Browns +2.5 against Bills. Browns lost by 16. No!

    I liked Ravens -5 over Chargers. Ravens lost the game. No!

    I liked Jags +3 against Giants. Jags won the game outright. Yes!

    I liked Bengals -3.5 over Bucs. Bengals won by only 1. No!

    I liked Rams -7 over Raiders. Rams won 52-0. Yes!

    I liked Steelers -3 over Saints. Steelers lost the game. No!

    I liked Panthers +3 against Vikes. Panthers lost by 18. No!

    I liked Cards -2.5 over Falcons. Cardinals lost the game. No!

    I liked Pats/Packers OVER 58. Total was 47. No!

    I liked Broncos/Chiefs OVER 49.5. Total was 45. No!

    I liked Broncos -1 over Chiefs. Broncos won by 13. Yes!

    I liked Jets +6.5 against Dolphins. Jets lost by only 6. Yes!

That was a revolting mess of Mythical Picks. Last week’s record was 6-11-0 bringing the season record to 88-119-3. Those numbers stink like six-week-old gym socks.

If I had to find a bright spot in last week’s miasma, it would be that my picks did better than the Curmudgeon Coin Flip Games did. Theoretically, a coin flip game should be correct 50% of the time – or relatively close to 50%. Well, last week the coin was 2-4-0, which is ever so slightly worse than 6-11-0, and the season record for the Coin Flip Games now stands at 12-21-0. That is a good distance below .500.

Clearly, no one should think there is any insight contained in any of these picks and no one should think of using information here as the basis for a real wager on an actual NFL game involving real money. Anyo0ne stupid enough to do that might also consider this a good idea:

    Conduct a drive-by shooting while riding a unicycle.

General Comments:

The new owner of the Bills, Terry Pegula, has terminated the Bills’ “experiment” to play some of their home games in Toronto. The idea of playing a home game there – and an exhibition game once in a while too – started in 2008. The idea got a 5-year extension in 2012 but the Bills announced a “postponement” of the effort earlier this year. The word now is that the Bills will stay in Buffalo and play all of their games there.

The Packers used to play one of their games each year in Milwaukee so there is precedent for a team having a “shared home field” in the modern NFL. The Packers called a halt to that in 1994. Now that the Bills have ceased to play some games in Toronto, the only shared home field situation exists with whatever teams donate one of its home games to London each year.

Back in my NFL Pre-Season predictions, I said that the Steelers’ secondary would be a problem for them and I wondered if going into the season counting on Ike Taylor to be “the guy” in the defensive backfield would work. Well, Taylor has been injured and the rest of the secondary is coming apart like a Wal-Mart sweater. Last week, the Steelers gave up 5 TD passes to the Saints and lost 35-32. Things are not looking up in Pittsburgh.

Having said that, the Steelers’ secondary looks as if it has at least 3 Hall of Fame caliber defenders back there when you compare it to the Skins’ secondary. Forget stats for a moment; there were 4 plays in the Skins/Colts game last week where the Colts had a receiver open by a minimum of 10 yards – and in one case, it was probably closer to 25 yards. If one were to describe the Skins’ performance in pass defense last week as “inept” and “amateurish” and “bumbling” and “downright incompetent”, one might begin to convey an image of how bad it really was.

The Bucs lost by a point last week. Late in the game, they had completed a pass that would have set up a chip shot field goal that would have won the game. The problem is that they had 12 men on the field for the play and the refs did not catch it until the replay. [Aside: You might think that with an extra man on offense, the Bucs might have found someone open for a TD; but that is nit picking.] What happened here is that the Bucs invented a new way to lose a game. That is a big part of why the Bucs are 2-10 with 4 games to play.

The Jets “moved on” again – although truth be told, going back to playing Geno Smith as the starting QB seems more like “returning to the scene of the crime” than it does to “moving on”. Of course, the explanation here is that the coaches determined that Geno Smith gave the Jets the best chance to win. Well, the game plan and the play calling would seem to put the lie to that blatheration. All Geno Smith did for 90% of the night was to hand the ball off to a running back or a wide receiver on a misdirection play. They could have had Joe Namath out there on Monday night and he could have executed the offensive game plan the Jets exhibited.

    Memo to Jets’ owner, Woody Johnson:

      1. If you or your GM “ordered” the coaches to play Smith and that is the game plan they executed, they are telling you loudly and clearly that Geno Smith is not competent to play QB in the NFL. If you do not get that message and keep interfering, they may need to resort to mooning you during a game to make their point.

      2. If the coaches decided on their own to play Geno Smith and give it a go with an unorthodox game plan, give them a tad of credit because it almost worked.

      3. No coaches in the history of the NFL – or any other level of football – could get this roster to the playoffs. Either your scouts cannot construct a menu of competent players to draft or your personnel people cannot tell the difference between a player and a poser. Your losing record reflects incompetence in lots of places – including possibly in the owner’s suite at the stadium.

The Broncos beat the Chiefs by running the ball last week. It is not often that a team with Peyton Manning at QB wins by running the ball but that is what happened. CJ Anderson ran 32 times for 168 yards and the Broncos held the ball for almost 39 minutes to win in KC. The Broncos now lead the Chargers by 1 game and the Chiefs by 2 games in the AFC West.

The Chargers beat the Ravens in Baltimore 34-33 with a short TD pass in the final minute of the game. The Ravens are 7-5 – as are the Browns and the Steelers – in the AFC North and are looking up at the Bengals at 8-3-1 with 4 games left. Philip Rivers was 34-45 for 383 yards and 3 TDs in the game.

The Browns threw in a stinker last week losing to the Bills. The Browns led at the half 3-0 but they managed to trail the Bills 26-3 in the fourth quarter when Johnny Football got his first real NFL action. He scored a TD but it was way too little and way too late. And thus, a quarterback controversy comes to Cleveland…

Unless you are an inveterate Pats’ fan, you had to enjoy watching the Packers/Pats game last week. The game was devoid of coaching gaffes, goofball game plans or abjectly ineptitude on the field. If these two teams were to meet again in the Super Bowl, I would not complain even a little bit.

At the other end of the NFL spectrum last week:

    The Jags beat the Giants 25-24. The Giants led 21-0 in the second quarter and 21-3 at halftime. The Giants outgained the Jags by 71 yards for the game and sacked Blake Bortles 7 times. And they still lost…! The Jags had two defensive TDs in the second half along with a game winning field goal with 38 seconds to play.

    The Raiders – building on their victory over the Chiefs the previous week – went to St. Louis and lost 52-0. In Raider history, the only loss more ignominious than that happened in 1961 – back about the time when the Raiders were invented. The Raiders had the ball for almost 37 minutes in this game. How did they lose? Well 5 turnovers (including a Pick Six) played some part in the loss…

The Games:

(Thurs Nite) Dallas – 3.5 at Chicago (51): Here are two unpredictable teams. The Cowboys’ defense looked as if it would be dominant early in the year but it has looked “vulnerable” for the past couple of weeks and then looked bloody awful against the Eagles last week. The Bears at 5-7 have seen their season go from “promising” in August to the outhouse by the end of November. Here are the questions for the game:

    Will “Good Tony Romo” or “Bad Tony Romo” show up?
    Will “Good Jay Cutler” or “Bad Jay Cutler” show up?
    Will the Bears even try to run the football once in a while?
    Which defense – if any – will stop the other guys?
    Will the Cowboys start their annual “December swoon”?

What the hay…? I will turn this selection over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Cowboys and lay the points. Obviously, the coin knows nothing about the Cowboys tendencies in December…

Baltimore at Miami – 3 (45): The Dolphins beat the Jets last week even though the Jets ran the ball down the Dolphins’ throats for much of the game. The only way the Dolphins put a stop to that nonsense was to put 8 men in the box – and sometimes 9 – and to dare the Jets to throw the ball. If they even think of resorting to that this week, Joe Flacco, Steve Smith and Torrey Smith should torch the defense. The Ravens’ secondary is not a standout unit so there will be opportunities for Miami to show its stuff in the passing game. I like the Ravens plus the points here and I like the game to go OVER.

Pittsburgh at Cincy – 3 (47): This is a must-win game for the Steelers if they harbor any thoughts of winning the AFC North. Neither team distinguished itself last week even though the Bengals got a win over the Bucs. I think this will be a low scoring game so I will take the Steelers plus the points here.

Indy – 3.5 at Cleveland (49): The Colts have a 2-game cushion over the Texans in the AFC South with 4 games to play; the Browns – like the Steelers – need to win this game to stay in contention for the AFC North crown. I do not care whom the Browns decide to play at QB, the Colts will have the best QB on the field. The uncertainty in this game is that the Colts are not nearly as dominant a team on the road as they are in their home dome. This is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Houston – 5 at Jax (42.5): The Texans have to have this game to stay near the Colts because at 6-6 their only realistic playoff hope is to win the AFC South. The fact that the Texans travel to Indy next week for a showdown with the Colts could give them incentive to win here to set up that game or it could provide a distraction since the Jags look eminently beatable with their 2-10 record. I have little faith in either team to dominate the other on offense. [Aside: Maybe the Texans should consider starting JJ Watt at QB. He seems to do about everything else for the team…] Statistically, the big difference in this game favors the Houston offense (by 54 yards per game); defensively, the teams are almost dead even. I think this will be a low scoring game so I will take the Jags plus the points.

Giants at Tennessee “pick ‘em” (46): This is the “B.O. Plenty Game of the Week”. The Giants bring a 3-9 record to the game having lost their last 7 games and losing last week to the less-than-formidable Jaguars. The Titans welcome the Giants with a 2-10 record and a 6-game losing streak. Allow me to channel – for the purpose of paraphrasing – the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning from her anthology Sonnets from the Portuguese to express my feelings about these teams:

    How do I disparage thee, let me count the ways…

The Giants lose by an average of 5.1 points per game; the Titans lose by an average of 10.5 points per game. The Giants lose games they tend to keep close; the Titans lose some games by big margins. I will not predict which team will find a way to lose this game but I will count on both defenses to continue to stink. (Giants are 14th in the NFC and Titans are 16th in the AFC) I’ll take the game to go OVER. You should take whatever opportunity you have to change the channel if this game tries to infect your television set…

Carolina at New Orleans – 10 (49.5): Here we have a head-to-head game between two of the miserable teams in the NFC South. The Panthers are 3-8-1 and can still win the division title. The Saints have a huge opportunity here; they are tied with the Falcons atop the division at 5-7 and the Falcons have to go to Green Bay on Monday night where visiting teams have not fared well this year. Normally, I would simply take the Saints as the home team here because historically the Saints are dominant at home. However, the Saints have lost their last 3 games in the Superdome. At the same time, the Panthers are not any better on the road than they are at home this year with a 1-4-1 road record. Here is the contrast in the game:

    Panthers are 11th in the NFC in total offense.
    Saints are 1st in the NFC in total offense.

    Panthers are 8th in total defense in the NFC.
    Saints are 15th in total defense in the NFC.

I hate laying double-digit spreads. Nonetheless, I smell a shoot-out and a blow-out here. I’ll take the Saints and lay the points and I like the game to go OVER.

Tampa at Detroit – 10.5 (41.5): The only thing about this game that I might find interesting is this:

    How will the woebegone Bucs lose this time?

I would need a crystal ball connected to a Ouija Board operated by a communicator with the spirit world to answer that one. Therefore, I’ll just consider this a low scoring game where I want to take a generous helping of points. I’ll take the Bucs plus the points and hold my nose in the process.

St Louis – 2.5 at Washington (44.5): I am going to assume that the Skins’ defensive secondary has had their heads surgically removed from their asses this week and that they will play to a level of merely “less-than-fully-competent” here instead of “are-you-effing-kidding-me awful”. I also suspect that the Rams might just read too much into last week’s 52-0 domination of the Raiders. I see a low scoring game and so I’ll take the Skins plus the points.

Jets at Minnesota – 5.5 (40.5): Statistically, the Jets’ offense is better than the Vikes’ offense by 11 yards per game and the Jets’ defense is better than the Vikes; defense by 21 yards per game. Geno Smith might actually play better in front of a hostile road fanbase than he would in front of his hostile home fanbase. I like the Jets plus the points here.

Buffalo at Denver – 9.5 (47.5): The Bills can pressure the QB. So what? Peyton Manning has seen pressure before and picked it apart. I like the Broncos here to win and cover.

KC at Arizona “pick ‘em” (40): The oddsmakers want me to pick ‘em. OK, I’ll take the Cards at home to win the game. I think they are the better team.

SF – 8 at Oakland (41): Here is the central question regarding this game:

    Will the inept Raiders’ offense (16th in the AFC) outperform the bumbling Niners’ offense (12th in the NFC)?

These geographical neighbors do not play often; since 2002, they have met only 3 times and the Niners have won each time. In 5 of their last 6 games, the Niners have failed to score 20 points; in 6 of their last 7 games, the Raiders have failed to score more than 20 points. This is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Raiders plus the points.

Seattle at Philly – 1.5 (48.5): This is the Game of the Week. These two good teams need a win here for different reasons.

    The Seahawks lead the Niners by a game in the NFC West and they are currently the first wildcard team in the NFC. They play the Niners again next week in Seattle; it would be nice to have that 1-game cushion going into that game because after that the Seahawks have to go on the road to Arizona.

    The Eagles lead the NFC East by a game but they have another game with the Cowboys next week in Philly. They would prefer to have a 1-game cushion for that encounter because the Eagles are on the road for their final two games.

The Eagles are 55 yards per game better than the Seahawks on offense; the Seahawks are 81 yards per game better than the Eagles on defense. I like this game to go OVER.

(Sun Nite) New England – 3.5 at San Diego (50.5): This is the only other game on the schedule this week that deserves consideration as the Game of the Week. The Chargers need this game a whole lot more than the Pats do; the Chargers are at home where they are 5-1 this season; the Pats are on the road – for the second week in a row – where they are 3-3 this season. The signs point to the Chargers and there is that half-point hook on the field goal in the spread. I’ll take the Chargers plus the points at home.

(Mon Nite) Atlanta at Green Bay – 12.5 (55): I may hate myself for this, but I cannot see the Falcons defense throttling the Packers offense for more than a series. I’ll take the Packers and lay that huge spread; I think this game will be a romp.

Finally, here are some inspirational words from Pats’ QB, Tom Brady:

“You never get over losses. I’ve never gotten over one loss I’ve had in my career. They always stick with me.”

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