Football Friday …

The calendar says it is Friday. That means this needs to be a Football Friday and as custom prevails here, I shall begin with college football.

  • In terms of the biggest game of the weekend in terms of the CFP selection folks, the most important game of the week has to be Wisconsin/Michigan.  I have been critical of the schedule Wisconsin has played to date this year, but I am a bit put off by Michigan folks who have been ridiculing that schedule this week.  Michigan is on a three-game win streak where all of the wins have been impressive – – until you realize that the opponent have been Rutgers, Minnesota and Maryland.  Those three opponents in succession qualify as Cupcake City…
  • Navy/Notre Dame looked to be a lot more interesting before Notre Dame got itself ass-kicked by Miami last weekend.  Now, the question is how badly will the Irish come out as a reaction to the game against Miami.  Will the Irish come out breathing fire after their national exposure de-pantsing by Miami or will they come out as cuddly bunnies waiting to be run over?  We should see early on…  If I were forced to make a pick on this game in order to save the life of my long-suffering wife I would play the Over.
  • Auburn/La-Monroe is a classic example of a “trap game”.  The only problem is that Auburn set the trap for itself.  Auburn is a 37.5-point favorite in this game and that is probably about right – – except for the fact that Auburn plays Alabama next week and Auburn destroyed Georgia just last week.
  • Speaking of trap games, undefeated UCF travels to Philly to play Temple this weekend.  Temple does not have the résumé that UCF has but the fact is that UCF will be looking ahead to their next opponent – – USF is coming to Orlando to play UCF.  The folks at UCF believe that they should be part of the CFP discussion, but the upcoming UCF/USF game has conference championship written all over it.
  • The UCLA/USC game is a huge rivalry contest; if one claims to be a “football fan” this game has to be interesting to you even if both top-shelf quarterbacks were taking the game off.
  • Cal/Stanford is a rivalry game equal to or bigger than the UCLA/USC game.  Folks here in the East might not recognize the import of this matchup but it is a HUGE deal.  Cal has lost the last 8 games in this rivalry, but this year’s Cal team is a lot more competitive than the ones over the past 2-3 years.  The spread here is 17.5 points; my suggestion is to watch this game and not put any money down on any of the proposed outcomes.

Three games on the card for this weekend have significant importance regarding the final CFP.  They do not look like nail-biters, but it is important for the favorites here to show well:

  • Virginia at Miami:  I fully expect Miami to win this game and continue its march to an ACC Championship game in early December.
  • Oklahoma at Kansas:  The Sooners are favored by 35 points.  Given the prolific Oklahoma offense and the porous Kansas defense, that may not be nearly enough for a Kansas cover.
  • Kentucky at Georgia:  After laying an egg last week against Auburn, Georgia can take out its frustrations on a much lesser opponent here.

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this comment about last week’s Minnesota/Nebraska game:

“There was a pretty good crowd at Minnesota — considering this is the beginning of ice fishing season.”

The four nfl teams on a BYE Week this week will not be sorely missed:

  1. Colts:  Currently last in the mediocre-at-best AFC South.
  2. Niners:  Riding a 1-game win streak throughout this BYE Week.  Hi-ho!
  3. Panthers:  Riding a 3-game winning streak and playing very well recently.
  4. Jets:  After some irrational exuberance over their strong start, the Jets have settled into last place in the AFC East.

The Steelers laid waste to the Titans last night.  The game was not particularly interesting in terms of worrying about who would be the winner, but it was a game that gave me some indications of how the NFL season might shake out.

  • The Titans had been riding a 4-game win streak and looked as if they might be the best of a sorry lot in the AFC South.  After last night, I am not so sure about that any more.  Looking back over that 4-game win streak, the opponents were the Colts, Browns Ravens and Bengals – – and the last 3 of those wins were by a total of 10 points.  I cannot imagine two teams from the AFC South making the playoffs so the better of the Titans and the Jags will be there while the other stays home.  It just might be the Jags.  On New Year’s Eve in the final regular season weekend, the Titans and the Jags will square off in Tennessee…
  • At the same time, the Steelers seem to be putting the pieces together and maybe they should begin to aspire to home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Given how much better they play at Heinz Field as compared to anywhere else, that might be a very worthy pursuit on their part.

The way the Steelers played last night convinces me that the AFC North divisional race is over, and the Steelers are the Division Champions.  Come to think of it, this weekend could very well see a couple other division races become foregone conclusions.

  • After a bit of early-season overreaction to a couple of losses, the Patriots are firmly in control of the AFC East – – as has become the custom over the last decade or so.  In addition to those two home losses in September, the Bills and the Dolphins began the season pretending to be good enough to mount a challenge to the Pats’ hegemony.  AS we approach Thanksgiving, I believe all of that was a mirage at best.
  • The Chiefs are firmly in control of the AFC West.  They lead the Raiders by 2 games in the loss column and the Chiefs have a VERY favorable schedule from here to the playoffs – – at Giants, vs. Bills, at Jets, vs. Raiders, vs. Chargers, vs. Dolphins, at Broncos.  Perhaps the Chiefs will not be favored in the final game of the year because it is on the road and perhaps they will have their berth in the playoffs nailed down before kickoff.
  • The Eagles control the NFC East and if they beat the Cowboys this weekend I believe you can consider that race to be over.

By my reckoning, half of the division races are over now.  In the other four, there are two-team races.

  1. Jags/Titans in the AFC South (see above)
  2. Rams/Seahawks in the NFC West.  Based on “pedigree” and experience, you would have to favor the Seahawks to outlast the upstart Rams at this point in the season.  The teams meet one more time in Seattle on December 17th.
  3. Vikes/Lions in the NFC North.  The Vikes have a 2-game lead at the moment but the Lions schedule from here to New Year’s Eve is soft once the Lions and Vikes play each other on Thanksgiving Day.  Other than the Vikes, the Lions have to contend with the Bears. Ravens, Bucs, Bears again and the Bengals.
  4. Panthers/Saints:  Probably the most interesting race because both teams are playing very well now.  These two teams meet on December 3rd in what will be a pivotal game for both sides.

Regarding games this weekend:

  • Lions/Bears:  This game means a lot more to the Lions than it does to the Bears, but the Lions have to avoid looking ahead to the visit by the Vikings on Thanksgiving Day.  The Lions are favored by 3 points; they ought to cover that.
  • Chiefs/Giants:  Andy Reid “always wins” after a BYE Week and the Giants are in disarray.  The spread is 10 points here – and even 10.5 points in a couple of places – and that is a big number…
  • Bucs Dolphins:  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Both teams fit the description, “all hat and no cattle” …
  • Ravens/Packers:  Not a riveting game by any stretch of the imagination, but if the Ravens still aspire to sneak into the AFC playoffs as a wild-card, they pretty much need to beat teams hampered by quarterback injuries.
  • Rams/Vikes:  This game means a lot to both teams in terms of their divisional races (see above).  It will be interesting to see if a very good Vikes’ defense can stymie a very good Rams’ offense.  The game is in Minnesota and the Vikes are 2.5-point favorites.  The Total Line is 45.5 and I like the OVER in that game.
  • Cards/Texans:  This was the runner-up in the Dog-Breath Game of the Week competition.  Tom Savage versus Drew Stanton …  I think I’ll be changing the channel.
  • Jags/Browns:  The Browns have to hope that Blake Bortles throws the game away – – as he has been known to do in the past.  Otherwise …  The Total Line for this game is 37; I think that reflects the perceived offensive ineptness by both teams and not the defensive prowess of both teams.
  • Skins/Saints:  Both teams need this game.  The Saints need it because they are in a close race with the Panthers in the NFC South.  The Skins need it because they might see their playoff chances disappear with a loss here.  The game is in New Orleans and the oddsmakers have the Saints as 7.5-point favorites.
  • Bills/Chargers:  The Bills have seemingly tossed it in; I am no Tyrod Taylor acolyte, but sitting Taylor in favor of Nathan Peterman…  Really?  On the other side, Philip Rivers is listed as “Probable” for the Chargers after going through concussion protocol all week.  If Rivers cannot play, add this game to the Dog-Breath Game of the Week category.
  • Bengals/Broncos:  Here are two teams on a downslope.  Whatever happened to the Broncos’ defense?  That unit has given up 121 points in its last 3 games.
  • Pats/Raiders (Mexico City):  The only reason to play this game in this venue is that there will probably be 20,000 more fans in the stadium than there would be if the game were played in Oakland.  I doubt that the Raiders’ defense is going to put the kibosh on the Pats’ offense here.  The oddsmaker thinks this will be a high scoring affair setting the Total Line at 55.5.
  • Eagles/Cowboys (Sunday Nite):  If Tyron Smith is still out, Dak Prescott will need eyes in the back of his head as a protective measure.  The Eagles are coming off a BYE Week and can all but wrap up the NFC East race with a win here.  The Eagles opened as a 3-point favorite but that spread has opened to 4.5 points as of this morning.
  • Falcons/Seahawks (Monday Nite):  Richard Sherman is out for the season; Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are both hurting.  This could be an interesting game and it is very important to both teams.  The Seahawks are favored by a field goal at home.

Finally, Bob Molinaro had this observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot this morning:

“Wunderkind: By turning around the Rams (a surprising 7-2) so quickly, Sean McVay has made life harder for head-coaching hires who hope to get two or three years to make an impact. McVay’s rookie success will result in more owners exhibiting less patience.”

He’s right, you know…

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