Strange Stuff Today …

This week’s tempest in a spittoon deals with Anthony Davis publicly “demanding” a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.  Davis had dinner with LeBron James about a week ago and Davis and James have the same agent; connect those dots if it not too difficult.  The Pelicans want the NBA to investigate “tampering” which is laughable given the short form of the situation provided above.  The problem is that a player (LeBron James) and an agent (Rich Paul) are not barred from “tampering” by the CBA; owners and league officials are barred.

Anyhow, the NBA did fine Anthony Davis $50K because a player is not allowed to ask for a trade publicly.  Putting that in perspective, Anthony Davis’ salary this year is $25,434,263 he was fined 0.2% of this year’s salary; he will make more next year.  That fine is not a deterrent or a punishment; it is merely for show.

Michael Wilbon made an interesting point on PTI yesterday.  The working assumption here is that Davis wants to go to the Lakers to play with LeBron  Wilbon wondered what was going on with the NBA players of today.  He pointed out that when Michael Jordan was dominating the NBA, the other superstars did not try to go and “join him”; those superstars tried to beat him.  It seems today that players would rather “collude” to form “super-teams” and win championships that way.  I had not thought of it that way, but Wilbon is onto something there.

This is not good news for the Pelicans as a franchise.  In recent memory, they have had three top-shelf players and once Davis is gone – and he will likely be gone before the start of next season – all those top-shelf players will have gone away.

  1. Chris Paul to the Clippers;
  2. Boogie Cousins to the Warriors;
  3. Anthony Davis to the ???

There is another bizarre NBA-related story out there.  According to an report by Brian Windhorst, the NBA set up a “Twitter platform” that allowed fans to watch an NBA game on TV and simultaneously to interact via Twitter NBA referees to discuss what everyone saw.  Supposedly, they are going to do this with other games this year including playoff games.

Obviously, I am not the target audience for this “innovation”, but I do wonder what the benefit to the NBA might be.  I can imagine some problems arising from such a set-up and I can imagine “mission-creep” as users want more intimate interactions via social media during games.  But I don’t see the benefits to the league; so, I wonder why that are doing it to start with.

And since I mentioned Twitter and Tweeting just above, please buckle your seat belts for the next Twitter Twaddle.  Just so you are fully prepared for these two Tweets, let me be sure you are aware that the author is the one and only José Canseco:

“Aliens have been trying to teach us how to time travel but first we have to change our body composition which we are not willing to do we have tried with animals and it has failed”

And 3 minutes later …

“Time travel puts 42,651 pounds of pressure on a human skeletal structure…. can you detach the brain from the body and equalize the pressure it could be done”

Socrates, Aristotle and Plato just did a three-way face-palm.  If time travel worked, we’d all be able to go and witness them doing that.  One question that leaps to mind – but I would not ask because Señor Canseco might try to answer it and that would not be remotely interesting – is this:

  • If the aliens are trying to teach us time travel and they/we know that our body composition stands in the way, why don’t the aliens teach us how to alter our body composition?  After all, if they have mastered time travel, they too must have devised ways to arrive at the proper body composition.

Whilst one is pondering the above question, please do not let anyone associated with PETA find out that we have been doing this experimentation on animals without success.  Pamela Anderson would not be pleased…

As a person trained in science, I am most impressed that we know the pressure exerted on the human system to 5 significant figures.  It is most difficult to know merely the weight of a human being to that level of accuracy.

And – – I will refrain from any comment about “detaching one’s brain from one’s body” and how that sort of a condition might be related to the content of these two Tweets.  Remember, this is the same man who volunteered to be the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and who said he would be willing to be the President’s Chief of Staff.  The next time someone tells you that “things can’t get worse”, remind them of that pair of possibilities.

The American Gaming Association estimates that legal betting on the Super Bowl this year will dramatically increase now that eight States can offer legal betting opportunities.  Based on a survey, 22.7 million Americans will have some sort of wager on the game.  The total wagering – legal, illegal and Internet wagering – is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $6B.  That’s a lot of cheese…

Finally, given the impact of the polar vortex on weather conditions in the Midwest and Eastern part of the US this week, a recent Tweet by Brad Dickson seems appropriate:

“Nebraska football has landed a four-star cornerback out of Hawaii.  I’m going to guess he doesn’t watch the Weather Channel.”

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



Revising And Amending My Remarks…

Two days ago, I said that perhaps MLB GMs were leery of handing out huge long-term contracts to free agents because some of the contracts of that nature in the past had not turned out so well for the clubs.  I gave three examples off the top of my head – – Albert Pujols, A-Rod and Jayson Werth.  Yesterday, I got an email from the reader in Houston whose encyclopedic memory for sports history is amazing.  He suggested 18 other examples of large long-term baseball contracts that did not work out well.  I am not going to go through all of them but consider these five examples:

  1. Homer Bailey:  Reds signed him to a 6-year deal worth $105M in 2014.  He has been anything but an “ace” since then; he was traded to the Dodgers this winter.
  2. Robinson Cano:  Signed to a 10-year deal worth $240M.  He will make $24M per year from now through the end of the 2023 season.  Mariners traded him to the Mets this winter.
  3. Chris Davis:  Orioles signed him to a 7-year deal worth $161M in 2016; they have him through 2022.  Last year, he hit .168 and struck out 192 times.
  4. Jacoby Ellsbury:  Yankees signed him to a 7-year contract worth $153M in 2014; they still owe him $42M.  He is a .265 hitter with limited power.
  5. Pablo Sandoval:  Red Sox signed him to a 5-year contract worth $90M in 2015.  He was released by the Sox in 2017.  He went back to the Giants on a mandatory minimum salary in 2018.

There are about a dozen other names from the list I got via email; these are the cautionary tales that MLB GMs may have in mind as they avoid offering free agents like Bryce Harper or many Machado 10 years and a total of $350M…

While on the subject of burdensome contracts, let me switch sports for just a moment here and give you the salary profile for John Wall of the Washington Wizards.  The team gave him an extension to his contract last year and here is how it goes:

  • 2018/19:  $19M
  • 2019/20:  $38M
  • 2020/21:  $41M
  • 2021/22:  $44M
  • 2022/23:  $47M

John Wall is out for the rest of this season with surgery on his foot.  However, when you tune into an NBA game and happen to see the Wizards next year, recall that salary profile and ask yourself if you consider his performance as a good value.  He will make about $463K per game next year…

Speaking of the NBA, the ratings on Turner Network TV are down about 20% this year as compared to last year and ESPN’s ratings are down about 5%.  I read one analysis that blamed some of the decline on LeBron James’ move from Cleveland to LA.  The reasoning goes like this:

  • When LeBron was in Cleveland, it made lots of Clevelanders watch NBA basketball because the Cavs were relevant.
  • People in LA watch the Lakers when they are good and when they are mediocre in similar numbers.
  • Therefore, “losing” a significant portion of the Cleveland audience hurts ratings.
  • Moreover, fewer people get to see LeBron play and he is a draw.  Because he is in LA now, he plays a large fraction of his games when folks in the Eastern Time Zone are asleep.  Ergo audiences in markets like NYC, Philly and Boston are down too.

If they gave out awards for looking at the world through rose colored glasses, I think this would be a strong contender for first prize in that category.  I think the ratings drop has more to do with an endemic problem for meaningless NBA regular season games:

  • The games are not fun to watch.  Many of them look like the 3-point shooting contest during the All-Star break.
  • When the games are not merely jump shooting contests, they devolve into a series of one-on-one games.  This makes for some great highlights on SportsCenter; it does not come close to holding my interest over the 2-hours it takes to watch a full game.

The Golden State Warriors – to pick a 3-point shooting team as an example – have attempted 1660 of those shots so far this year in 50 games – – about 33 per game or about one every 90 seconds of playing time.  The Warriors rank 10th in the NBA in 3-point shots attempted per game.  The leading team in that category is the Houston Rockets averaging 44.5 3-point attempts per game – almost one per minute of play.  More than half of the field goal tries by the Rockets come from behind the 3-point line.  Sigh

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times boiled down the MLB free agency embolism this winter to its essence with this comment:

“Pitcher Adam Ottavino will become the first player in Yankee history to wear jersey number 0.

“Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, not to be outdone, are holding out for the symbol $.”

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



National Corn Chip Day

Today is National Corn Chip Day.  Do you think the moguls who run the corn chip industry chose this date intentionally to get you thinking about what you are going to use to dip into the guacamole that will be on the menu for Sunday’s Super Bowl celebration?  I do…

Last week, USA Today had this headline:

RIP to the Super Bowl halftime show, no longer a cultural institution

Since I have never watched a halftime show from start to finish, I never thought of it as a “cultural institution”; but I was interested to read what had caused its demise.  Evidently, lots of top-shelf performers have turned down the gig this year even though they would be playing to an audience of almost 100 million people.  The reason for the difficulty in securing someone to take the gig is that angry fans have offered up petitions and social media jihads against it because the NFL has not behaved itself properly in the fans’ minds regarding social justice.  Once again, the Colin Kaepernick protest – and subsequent “blackballing” – is at the heart of much of this protest.

This year’s performance will feature Maroon 5 as the headliner.  In the event that Maroon 5 were to pull out of the performance at the last minute and be replaced by Chartreuse 7.5, I would not know the difference.  Evidently, someone named Travis Scott will join the performance and one of the things he put in his deal with the NFL for this show is that the NFL donated $500K to an organization that works on social justice issues.

About 5 years ago, I suggested it would make the Super Bowl halftime show much more interesting to me AND it would mitigate much of the protest that is evidently ongoing regarding the performers here.  Let me make the suggestion again:

  • Instead of rock stars, they should clear the field at halftime and present a “Battle of the Bands” featuring 3 marching bands from HBCUs such as Grambling, Southern, Florida A&M, Alcorn…
  • Pay each of the schools $500K for the band and another $500K for the school’s general fund.
  • Make the show a “competition” with a bunch of judges who pick a winner.  The winning band gets to designate a charity of its choice to receive another $500K donation from the NFL in the name of that band.

Total cost to the NFL would be $3.5M – – which is less than an advertiser will pay for a 30-second ad during the game.  In general, HBCUs are not institutions with humongous endowment funds so the contribution to the school would be very useful.  The band would get to perform on the biggest stage it will ever see, and each band can use the process of choosing its favored charity as a way to debate issues and reach a consensus.

I do not know if USA Today is correct in pronouncing the passing of the Super Bowl halftime show as a cultural institution.  What I do know is that I would be much more interested in watching a “Battle of the Bands” this Sunday than I will be to watch Maroon 5 – or even Macaroon 5.

The current NFL season is not quite over, but the NFL has already made some announcements about the schedule for the 2019 season.  The “overseas games” have been announced.

  • The NFL will return to Mexico City – despite having to pull out of that game at the last minute this year due to unplayable conditions on the field.  Next year, it will be a Chiefs at the Chargers encounter in Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.  [Aside:  It makes plenty of sense to have this be a Chargers’ home game since they play in a band-box and attendance in Mexico City will probably be more than double what they might draw in Carson, CA.]
  • There will be 4 London Games.  Two of these games will be in Wembley Stadium and the other two will be in the new stadium under construction to house the Tottenham Hotspurs of the English Premier League.
  • The four matchups will be Panthers at Bucs, Bears at Raiders, Bengals at Rams and Texans at Jags.  What has not yet been announced is which games will be played in which stadium in London and in what order.

Back in the high school football season, there was a game between two teams in Iowa with a total score of 180 points.  Council Bluffs Jefferson beat Sioux City North by a score of 99-81.  When I commented on that game, I wondered if the basketball games between the two schools would produce that many points.  Well the teams met twice this year and here are the results:

  1. Jan 8, 2019:  Sioux City North 89  Council Bluffs Jefferson 74.  Total score: 163 points.
  2. Jan 19, 2019:  Sioux City North 71  Council Bluffs Jefferson 53.  Total score 124 points.

Finally, here is a real estate opportunity I ran across in Dwight Perry’s column in the Seattle Times a couple of weeks ago:

“Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson has put his Paradise Valley, Ariz., mansion on the auction block. No, not all the doors are sliders, but it does include:

  • 25,000-square-foot main home
  • 2,000-square-foot guest house
  • 11½ bathrooms
  • 7 bedrooms
  • 5 acres of land

“In other words, a Big Unit.”

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



Some Things I Am Tired Of …

I must tell you that I have had more than enough of the formulaic stories perpetrated by baseball writers on two topics this winter:

  1. Rumors about where Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will sign.
  2. The lack of movement in free agent signings and the dearth of long-term deals.

Regarding all the rumors, if someone went back and stitched all of them together, you would probably find that Harper and Machado have been linked to every possible venue including teams in the Martian League.  If you allow me to offer up 30 variants here without calling bullshit on me, I will be certain to have gotten it right once either or both sign whatever deals they are going to sign.  The fact that established baseball writers have had to resort to multiple “rumor-mongering expositions” tells me that they are not nearly the “insiders” that they portray themselves to be.

Regarding the second set of reports/columns that has been done to death this winter, it takes two sides to make a deal.  The presumption in 99% of the reports I have read is that the owners are sitting on massively fat wallets and not offering contracts that the players/agents think represents market value.  The reports often allude to possible collusion to drive down wages – – but so far no one has offered a shred of evidence to support that other than lots of clubs seem to be making lower offers than were expected so – – ipso facto – – there has to be collusion.  That is the essence of conspiracy theory thinking; the absence of real evidence becomes evidence of the conspiracy.

It takes two sides to make a deal – and even to enter into negotiations to see if there is a deal to be made.  Are we certain that the agents for all these players have been making offers to the clubs as a way to start negotiations – – or are they sitting back waiting for clubs to come to them?  I don’t know the answer to that, but I would expect that the “baseball insiders” might be able to ferret that out.

Regarding “long-term deals”, my sense is that many of them have not gone all that well for the teams that offered them up:

  • The Angels will pay Albert Pujols a total of $87M for the 2019 – 2021 seasons.  Let’s call that a cautionary tale.
  • Do you think anyone in the Yankees’ organization holds up the Alex Rodriguez 10-year deal as a model the team should follow in the future?
  • Jayson Werth signed a 7-year deal with the Nats and his final two years on that deal were almost embarrassing.

I am too lazy to find other examples of long-term deals that went off the rails but maybe these are the reasons that GMs are not falling all over themselves to sign Machado and/or Harper up for the next 10 years…

Having enumerated my lack of continued interest in these stories, let me offer up a couple of other stories that I think are about to “break” and will be way over-exposed:

  1. Will the Mets call up Tim Tebow to the parent club sometime in 2019?
  2. Where will LeVeon Bell play football next year?
  3. Where will Antonio Brown play football next year?
  4. Will the Cleveland Browns “shock the world” next year – – or better yet, are the Cleveland Browns emerging as the next great NFL dynasty?
  5. Who will coach the Lakers once LeBron James gets Luke Walton fired?
  6. Will Tom Brady retire – – or alternatively – – will Father Time finally catch up to Tom Brady?  [Substitute Gronk’s name here too…]

Greg Cote had two items in the Miami Herald yesterday that summarize two sporting events to the degree that we need to know about them:

“Tiger opens season at Torrey Pines: Justin Rose carries a three-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the Farmers Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Tiger Woods, in his first event of the new season, made the cut but is 13 off the lead. Except on the attention leaderboard, where he remains on top.”

And …

“The Senior Bowl was Saturday, because apparently an entire season is insufficient for scouts to know about players.”

Ticket resellers say that the average price of a ticket to this year’s Super Bowl is down almost $1000 as compared to last year; a pair of “good seats” in Mercedes Benz Stadium next weekend will set you back somewhere between $7000 and $7500 a piece so do not shed too many crocodile tears for the people doing the selling.  I saw one report where a ticket broker attributed this price-drop to “Patriots fatigue”.  Here is the gist of that argument:

  • This is the ninth time the Pats have been to the Super Bowl.  It costs a pretty penny to book a flight, rent a hotel and pay those kinds of ticket prices so most of the Pats’ fans who have the means to take in this “once in a lifetime experience” have already taken it in.

I can buy that to some degree, but I think there is a parallel factor here that is as plausible as “Patriot fatigue”.  Let me call it “Ram apathy”:

  • LA fans are not – as a class – nearly as rabid about their teams as fans in various other cities are e.g. Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Philly, Seattle, Dallas, KC …  Possibly, there are not nearly as many LA fans chomping at the bit to head to Atlanta to see their beloved Rams in this game as there would be with some other opponent for the Pats.  It’s a thought…

Finally, here is an item from a recent edition of Sideline Chatter by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“A Manhattan science teacher piloting a small plane with engine trouble made an emergency landing on the Paramus (NJ) golf course.

“It was a textbook up-and-down, witnesses say but style points deducted for not replacing his divot.”

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



It’s Not A Football Friday…

For the first time since last August, I am in the process of composing a daily rant on a Friday – – and it’s not a Football Friday.  There will be one more of that genre produced next week; but as far as I am concerned, there is no football this weekend. However, there are a couple of football-related things out there…

I believe that too much has been made about the fact that 8 NFL coaches lost their jobs this year and 5 of them were Black.  While I have no doubt at all that racism is alive and well in America in 2019, I think we need to tread lightly if we want to use that label in this case.  If one wants to use the jarring numbers here – 5 out of 8 fired coaches are Black and there were only 7 Black head coaches to begin with – you need to peel away that layer of the issue and look just one layer below:

  • In the 2018 NFL regular season, those 5 coaches who were fired produced a combined record of 21-50-1.  [Note: Hue Jackson was fired after 8 games, so these totals reflect 4.5 season records.]
  • If you look at the total record of these 5 coaches in their tenure with the teams that just fired them, the combined record is 172-242-3.
  • That overall combined record is the equivalent of a team going about 7-9 over the course of 26 seasons.

I am virtually certain that none of these numbers entered into the thinking that led to the firing decisions during and after the 2019 season.  I am equally certain that the idea of “getting rid of the incumbent simply because he is Black” did not enter into the thinking that led to the firing decisions during and after the 2019 season.  So, I want to look at these 5 deposed head coaches and their records.  In alphabetical order:

  1. Todd Bowles (Jets):  On several occasions here, I have said that I do not believe he should have been fired; the roster was not built to win in 2019; even when the team was eliminated from the playoffs, the team played hard on the field.  Nevertheless, the Jets were 4-12 this year; they will draft third this April; Bowles’ overall record with Jets was 24-40-0.
  2. Hue Jackson (Browns):  For the last 5 years or so, the entirety of the Browns’ franchise has been located in Dysfunction Junction.  Jackson was no more responsible for that than the handful of head coaches preceding him were responsible.  Nevertheless, the Browns were 2-5-1 when he was fired in mid-season and his overall record with the Browns was an astonishingly bad 3-36-1.
  3. Vance Joseph (Broncos):  He was dealt a bad hand; he did not have even an average QB on the roster during his two-year time at the helm.  I guess he deserves some “blame” for not elevating one of his QBs to the level of “average”, but I think more of the “blame” belongs on John Elway’s report card for that messy situation.  In 2 seasons with the Broncos, Joseph was 11-21-0.
  4. Marvin Lewis (Bengals):  He had overseen the Bengals since 2003.  He took over an organization in disarray and put in on track to make the playoffs 7 times in his tenure there.  The last 3 seasons have not been successful; but overall, he had a combined record in Cincy of 131-122-3.  I find it difficult to understand any racial overtone in this firing decision given that he was in the job for 16 years; if race were the dominant issue there, I think it might have kicked in 10 years ago after the Bengals went through another 3-year period with a lack of success.
  5. Steve Wilks (Cardinals):  The Cards had the worst record in the NFL this year at 3-13.  They were as bad as that record indicates.  Nevertheless, he got only one year on the job to show what he can – – or cannot – – do as an NFL head coach; it is difficult to understand how he could have been so impressive in the interview process just a year ago to get the job and then to be deemed incapable of doing the job only a year later.  The hiring decision here and the firing decision here remain as mysterious to me as the whereabouts of Judge Crater.

Looking at these cases as dispassionately as I can, I think the firings of Hue Jackson and Marvin Lewis were justified.  I think Vance Joseph is taking the fall for some bad roster decisions made by John Elway.  I think Steve Wilks lost his job prematurely.  I think Todd Bowles was fired because the NYC tabloids had been using him for a punching bag over the past 18-24 months.  If someone wants to put a racial overlay on all of that, be my guest; I think the racial component of these decisions is not a big deal.

Recall a few years ago the strange – and distasteful – saga of Jonathan Martin being bullied by his teammates with the Miami Dolphins.  If you need to refresh your memory about this sordid mess, here is a link to a report from 2014 about the investigative findings commissioned by the NFL on the matter.

I bring this up today because the sordid mess from 2013/14 may have taken a turn for the worse.  Jonathan Martin – one of the victims 5 years ago – is going to stand trial for “making criminal threats” based on a posting to his Instagram account in February 2018.  I know nothing about Instagram so if I use an improper term here, I apologize in advance.  According to reports, Martin posted a picture on his account of a shotgun with ammunition.  The posted picture had a caption that said:

“When you’re a bully victim & a coward, your options are suicide, or revenge.”

If that is insufficiently creepy for you, the posted picture was tagged to (I presume this means addressed to):

  • Richie Incognito – one of the bullies cited in the investigative report
  • Mike Pouncey – one of the bullies cited in the investigative report
  • Miami Dolphins – the team where the bullying took place
  • Harvard-Westlake – Jonathan Martin’s high school in Southern California.

That Instagram posting happened proximal to the Parkland school shooting in Florida.  Here is a link to a report from the NY Daily News from about a week ago.  What was a sorry-assed situation 5 years ago seems to have gotten seriously worse that it was.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times recently:

“United Van Lines says New Jersey ranked first in terms of residents leaving the state — 66.8 percent — compared to those moving there in 2018.

“Coincidence? That’s where the Giants and the Jets play.”

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



A New NFL Overtime Rule

All this week, there has been a lot of commentary about the need for the NFL to “do something” to minimize the likelihood that something akin to the infamous no-call at the end of the Rams/Saints NFC Championship Game does not happen again without some sort of logical recourse.  It will be on the agenda of the Competition Committee and already there is reporting that there is a difference of opinion among members of that Committee about what can be done and what should be done – – if anything.  I will not pretend to have a suitable answer to that conundrum.

To a much lesser extent, there has been debate/consternation about the NFL’s overtime rule which was on display in both Conference Championship Games.  The short form of the consternation goes like this:

  • The Chiefs – and their dynamic young QB – never got on the field.
  • The coin flip determined the game’s outcome.

The first item is inarguably true.  I think the second one is NOT true; but because so many people seem to think it is true, I tried to come up with a modified OT Rule that would alleviate those concerns.  Before I reveal my idea, let me state a principle that guided my thinking:

  • Baseball and basketball have the best “overtime rules”.  When a game is tied at the end of regulation time, the teams continue to play the same game they played in order to reach that tie-score situation.  I want any new NFL OT Rule to produce as much “normal NFL football” as possible.

[Aside:  Since the introduction of the current OT rule in the NFL in 2010, the team winning the coin flip is the game winner 52% of the time; so, the advantage to winning the coin flip is hardly overwhelming.]

Ideally, I would have the two teams take a 3- or 4-minute break to gather themselves physically and mentally and then flip a coin to see how the OT will begin and then play a 15-minute “fifth quarter” and see what the score is at the end of the “fifth quarter”.  If it is still tied, then play a “sixth quarter” and so on…  Notice I started this paragraph with the word “Ideally”.  Here is why that is not going to happen:

  • With the league’s focus on player safety, they are not going to require teams to play on in 15-minute segments.  While it could in fact take that long before a game ended – as happened in the famous “kick to the clock game” (Google is your friend) – I seriously doubt that the league would set it up that every OT game would require that much extra wear and tear on the players.

The college OT rule necessitates that both teams play offense and defense to determine the final score.  That is a plus; but giving the offense the ball at the opponent’s 25-yardline as a starting point seems like far too much of a concession to the offense.  However, I will use the college OT rule as the starting point for my suggestion.

I want the game to be decided by football plays to the greatest extent possible and so I will insert one deviation from the rules that got the teams to the overtime situation:

  • There will be no kicking of the football in the OT.
  • There will be no punts (you will see why none are necessary) and there will be no field goals nor PATs.
  • I know; special teams are an important part of the game.  Nonetheless, those guys can use their energies to exhort their teammates to “win it all”.

There would be no need to flip a coin; the visiting team will get the ball first.  That means that in the Super Bowl game, the visiting team will be the NFC team in even numbered years and the AFC team in odd numbered years.  Before the game starts, teams have to know if they are the home team or the visitors; that does not seem to be overly burdensome.  Then:

  • Visitors get the ball at the 50 yardline first down and 10 to go.
  • Whenever any set of downs begins with the ball outside the defenders’ 30 yardline, the offense has 3 downs to make a first down.  That simulates the “normal” course of the game where the fourth down would be a punt or a field goal try most of the time.  If they do not make a first down on those three plays, the ball goes over.
  • Whenever any set of downs begins at or inside the 30 yardline, the offense has 4 downs to make a first down.
  • If the defense holds, the ball goes over.
  • If the offense scores a TD, they MUST attempt a 2-point conversion.  If the defense runs back the 2-point conversion try for a TD the other way, the defense scores 2 points for its side.
  • Then the home team gets the ball at the 50 yardline and proceeds with its attempt to score a TD followed by a mandatory 2-point conversion.
  • At the end of a pair of possessions – one for each team – you examine the score.  Either there is a winner and the game is over, or the score is still tied, and the teams begin a second pair of possessions – this time at their own 40 yardline.
  • Any future pairs of possessions beyond the second set will also begin at the same 40 yardline.

I concede from the outset that removing the kicking from the game – particularly because the game is called “football” – violates my ideal condition of just playing the game in OT the same way you played the game in the first quarter.  However, in my defense, the current OT rule dramatically changes the strategy of NFL overtime games:

  • If the team with the first possession kicks a field goal and then kicks off to the other team and the kickoff goes out of the end-zone, the trailing team gets the ball at the 25 yardline.
  • If on that first series of downs, the trailing team faces a 4th and 16 situation at their own 19 yardline, they are going to go for it.  Punting the ball would concede defeat. However, “going for it” would never happen in the first quarter of an NFL game.
  • Elimination of kickoffs in my suggested OT Rule nods in the direction of “player safety” in the sense that kickoffs produce more injuries than “normal” football plays – or so the NFL folks would have us believe.

I do not expect a call from the Commish thanking me for resolving this issue for the league nor do I expect to become a consultant to the Competition Committee.  All I tried to do here is to come up with a relatively detailed description of how to conduct an overtime game keeping as close as possible to the normal rules, making sure that both teams get the ball, and trying to avoid playing another quarter or half or more of normal football.

Finally, the furor over the completely botched call by the officials in the Rams/Saints game last weekend seems to have died down to the level of an uproar.  Brad Dickson had this Tweet that starts to put that disaster into perspective:

“The Oscar nominations are out. Best Actor nominees include the refs in the NFC and AFC Championship games for acting like they know what they’re doing.”

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



Nothing About The NFL Today …

The National Baseball Hall of Fame will welcome four new members next summer.  Well-deserved congratulations go to:

  • Roy Halladay
  • Edgar Martinez
  • Mike Mussina
  • Mariano Rivera

I have no objections whatsoever to any of these four honorees; I have been an Edgar Martinez advocate for most of the last decade.  Over and above that, I think the voters – members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) – demonstrated a shift in thinking here when it comes to evaluating Hall of Fame nominees.  If I am correct in thinking that a change is coming, I approve of that change.

Fifteen to twenty years ago, players who spent the entirety of their careers as relief pitchers had a difficult time getting the necessary votes for Hall of Fame induction.  Back then, a player like Edgar Martinez who spent 11 of his 18 years in MLB as a designated hitter would not have gotten into the Hall.

Let me be clear:

  • I do not like the DH rule; were it my decision alone, I would remove it from baseball in a nanosecond.
  • Nonetheless, there are players in MLB who are playing by the rules and playing as designated hitters and some of them are doing it so well that they belong in the Hall of Fame.
  • I hope the BBWAA takes this vote as “precedent” and continues to recognize the truly top-shelf players who are DHs.  [Hint: David Ortiz will be eligible in a few years…]

I am also glad to see that someone finally got a unanimous vote to get into the Hall of Fame.  Putting the nonsensical “maintenance of tradition” by having someone vote against a player obviously worthy of induction is a tradition best consigned to history’s trashbin.

In other baseball news unrelated to games on the field, Marty Brennaman said that he will retire as the Cincy Reds’ play-by-play announcer at the end of the 2019 season.  Brennaman is already in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and in the Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame; he has been the voice of Reds’ baseball since 1974.  I had to travel to the Cincy area more than a couple of times in the late 1970s and I would tune in to hear Reds’ games when I was there.  Marty Brennaman was excellent behind the mic then, and by all reports, he got even better as the years went by.

            Bonne chance, Marty Brennaman…

[Aside:  When Brennaman took over the Reds’ play-by-play duties, he replaced a guy you may have heard of – – Al Michaels.]

Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald last week; it tells me all I want to know about this subject:

“Manny Pacquiao won his first match since turning 40 Saturday night in Las Vegas, beating Adrien Broner unanimously, and now is seeking a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Fight fans around the world responded by saying, ‘NOOOOO!’”

Regular readers here know that I like to have fun with players’ names.  As I have begun to watch more college basketball games now that the conference schedules have kicked in, I have run across a few interesting ones:

  • Tacko Fall (UCF):  He is 7’6” tall; he has a long way to fall…
  • Luke Major (Oklahoma St.):  If he went to UTEP, Major would be a Miner.
  • Remy Martin (Arizona St.):  Clearly a top-shelf player.
  • Unique McLean (UMass):  What would they call his clone?
  • Immanuel Quickley (Kentucky):  His mom was in labor for only 15 minutes?
  • Fatts Russell (Rhode Island):  No Jenny Craig endorsement opportunities here.
  • Admiral Schofield (Tennessee):  Why is he not playing for Navy?

Soon after UCLA fired coach Steve Alford, Bill Walton opined that Alford’s replacement should be – hold your breath here – Barack Obama.  Someone must have felt compelled to find a logical basis for that opinion and pointed out that President Obama’s brother-in-law was the coach at Oregon St. and is now with the Knicks in the NBA.  While that is 100% accurate, it is also irrelevant; that sort of logic would lead one to conclude that Yoko Ono was a Beatle.  She was not.

Bill Walton is a colorful and likeable character who frequently says things that are noteworthy because they are just a tad off-center.  I suspect that Brad Rock of the Deseret News also sees Walton as a source of interesting commentary as shown by these two entries in Professor Rock’s column:

“Bill Walton claims the obvious replacement for Steve Alford at UCLA should be Barack Obama.

What, Gene Hackman was busy?”

And …

“During the ESPN broadcast of the Maui Classic, Bill Walton delivered a classic of his own.

‘When everybody thinks alike,’ he said, ‘nobody thinks.’

“Good point but isn’t thinking alike the same as ‘being on the same page?’”

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



Take A Deep Breath …

I am almost to the point where I think the average NFL fan needs to take up Zen Buddhism and engage in meditation to clear his/her mind.  The outrage over the two Conference Championship games in Sunday does not seem to have diminished much let alone have gone away and we are 36 hours removed from the causes of that outrage.  In yesterday’s rant, I said that “solutions” to the problems that seemingly caused the two Sunday games to be controversial needed to be done calmly and rationally at some point in the future.  Here is what I said then:

“What happened yesterday [Sunday] is almost certain to result in a rule change.  I do not know what that change will be – – but the Competition Committee needs to tread carefully.  Normally, the committee meets in late March; that is a good thing; if the committee meeting were this Thursday, the chances for a wild over-reaction would be at least 80%.  The NFL and the fans all need some time to decompress here.”

Today, in the Washington Post, columnist Jerry Brewer is on the same track.  Here is a link to his column; I recommend that you read it in its entirety.  The headline for the column is an “inconvenient truth” [/Al Gore] many NFL fans do not want to confront today:

“The blown call in Saints-Rams reminded us sports are messy.  More replay won’t fix that.”

Let me go over a couple of things that have happened since the “call that was never made” last Sunday:

  1. There have been calls for the two officials whose responsibility was to monitor that side of the field on that play to be fired.  Everyone can agree they were abjectly wrong in their decision not to throw a penalty flag on the play.  However, if every official were held to the standard that they must never miss what turns out to be an obvious call, there would be precious few officials left on the NFL payroll.  Moreover, like it or not, without those officials out there doing their jobs imperfectly for the first 58 minutes of the game, there would not have been those first 58 minutes leading up to this “critical moment”.
  2. Peter King reported that he has heard that Alberto Riveron – the head of NFL officiating – may not survive this “crisis”.  You are drawing a long bow indeed if you are trying to assign blame to Riveron for what happened on Sunday.
  3. Darren Rovell reported that folks who bet on the game and lost “because of the non-call” are contemplating a class action lawsuit.  I am no legal scholar; I never spent a day of my life in law school; nonetheless, I have a gut feeling that their claims for damages here are not firmly rooted in reality.

Not surprisingly, the Saints’ owner, Gayle Benson, is unhappy with the results from Sunday.  She issued a blistering statement on Monday directed at the league itself.  Here is part of her statement:

“I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday’s events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again.  It is a disservice to our coaches, players, employees and, most importantly, the fans who make our game possible.”

I sincerely hope that venting made Ms. Benson feel better.  Even more sincerely, I hope she will come to recognize that the unspecified changes she wants the NFL to pursue aggressively do not exist.  Nothing will “ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again.”  The egregiously incorrect happening last Sunday was the result of human error.  So long as humans are involved in the game and in officiating the game, there is no way to eradicate human error.

  • [Aside:  In the aftermath of NFL officials’ blunders, one of the old chestnuts that is normally dragged into the town square and held up as a way to prevent such blunders is the call for “full-time officials”.  Please do not call for that as a result of what happened on Sunday; “full-time officials” can make mistakes in the heat of a game just as can “part-time officials”.]

Let me be clear.  I am NOT saying that the NFL is perfect the way it is and that nothing can be done here to mitigate future problems of this type.  There will be lots of things for the Competition Committee to think about and to wrestle with.  And I hope that they do come up with recommended changes that reduce the risk of something like this happening again.  However, those deliberations and recommendations need to be made in a circumstance where the adrenaline levels in the bloodstreams of the committee members is minimized.  I do not think I am on thin ice to suggest that we are not yet to the stage where our collective adrenal glands have gone quiescent.

This collective national outrage over officiating mistakes is not new; this has happened before and will happen again.  Ten years ago, Ed Hochuli made a huge error with less than two minutes left in a game between the Chargers and the Broncos.  Like what happened two days ago, it had a serious and material effect on the outcome of the game.  Hochuli issued a public apology saying that he “failed miserably” in that action.  For that apology, he was rewarded with death threats from fans.  Really…  It happened before and it is going to happen again.  The inevitability of these recurring mistakes is concisely summarized by a definition in The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Baggage Carousel:  A whirring contraption on which you keep seeing the same suitcase, which looks like yours but is actually someone else’s, go by thirty times and yet every single time it comes around again, you still think it’s yours for a second or two.  This is a phenomenon brought about by the insane hope that the airline has not lost your luggage.”

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



Rams Vs. Pats Two Weeks From Now…

Well, the Super Bowl teams are set.  The two Championship Weekend games taken as a pair were as exciting as they have ever been; both games went to OT and the way the two overtimes unfolded could not have been more different.  Notwithstanding the nail-biting nature of the games, there is a cloud that hangs over all of this.  There is an inescapable horror here:

  • A completely botched call by the officials in the Saints/Rams game most likely determined the outcome of the game.

I am not going to bang on the officials for that horrendous call; it was an example of human error and until all the officials are replaced by AI robots, we will have to accept the fact of human error.  Having said that, my experiences as an official in my younger days remind me that THE worst thing that can happen to an official is to realize he has blown a call and that blown call determined the outcome of the game.  There must be several members of that officiating crew who are not happy with themselves this morning.

There is a bigger problem here than the mistake that was made and the bad feelings of some of the officials from yesterday.  The problem is this:

  • Instant replay was added to the game of NFL football to make sure that egregious errors such as the one from yesterday did not stand.  Instant replay was NOT introduced to look at a million slow-motion replays to determine if the “ball moved” in the process of completing the act of catching a pass.
  • The problem here is not instant replay or the technology; the problem here is the rule written by the Competition Committee to govern the “intrusion” of instant replay onto the game.  Since this was a penalty call – or non-call – and was a matter of judgment, there is no provision whereby someone or something sounds an alarm and tells the officials on the field that they have just screwed the pooch – to steal a line from The Right Stuff.
  • And, when the Competition Committee meets this Spring to consider rule changes/tweaks and finds this situation on its agenda, they must be very judicious to avoid over-reaction to yesterday’s horror show.  The games would be made into travesties if every pass play had to be scrutinized for the presence of pass interference (offensive or defensive and called or not-called).

What happened yesterday is almost certain to result in a rule change.  I do not know what that change will be – – but the Competition Committee needs to tread carefully.  Normally, the committee meets in late March; that is a good thing; if the committee meeting were this Thursday, the chances for a wild over-reaction would be at least 80%.  The NFL and the fans all need some time to decompress here.

I said that the two overtimes unfolded differently yesterday.  The Saints won the toss for OT and took the ball.  The Rams’ defense intercepted a pass and set up a long field goal for the winning score.  In the other game, the Pats won the toss and took the ball.  They then proceeded to take the ball down the field converting three third-down situations along the way to score a TD and win the game without giving Patrick Mahomes a chance to step onto the field.  The fundamental difference exhibited here demonstrates the underpinning of the NFL’s OT rule.  People on sports radio late last night were arguing that the rule is unfair because the Chiefs never got the ball in OT.  While I do not think the OT rule is perfect by any means – and it is not the one I would write if I were Dictator of the Universe – those complaints are nonsense.  There are 3 reasons why the Chiefs did not get a chance to put their offensive unit on the field:

  1. The Chiefs’ defense did not create a turnover.
  2. The Chiefs’ defense did not force a punt.
  3. The Chiefs’ defense did not hold the Pats to a field goal.

From those 3 reasons please note 2 important things:

  1. It was the Chiefs’ defense – part of the Chiefs’ team to be sure – that did not perform in a way such as to get the offense off the bench and into the game.
  2. Defense is part of the game of football.

The fact here is that the Chiefs lost the game because the Chiefs’ defense was not up to the task of doing what defenses are designed to do at the most crucial time in the game.  This is not a “rules problem”; this is a “performance problem”.

With the opponents for the Super Bowl now set, we will enter into two weeks of hyper-frenetic bloviating about the upcoming game.  We have a bunch of story lines:

  • The “old QB” – arguably the GOAT – taking on the “upstart/young buck QB”.
  • The QB taken as the #1 pick in the draft against the QB taken as the 199th pick in the draft.
  • The sure-to-be Hall of Fame coach versus the wunderkind coach.
  • Brandin Cooks with the Pats in the Super Bowl last year and with the Rams in the Super Bowl this year.
  • Where was Todd Gurley for most of the NFC Championship Game?  Is he hurt?

I will try to refrain from engaging in any of those sorts of discussions over the next two weeks and I most certainly will not pay even a shred of attention to the Pro Bowl Game next weekend.  My focus on the upcoming Super Bowl will have to do with four things:

  1. How do the teams match up on the field?
  2. Are there any interesting/curious trends related to the game?
  3. Are there any interesting prop bets for the game?
  4. Am I still invited to the traditional Super Bowl party thrown by the person who arranges the logistics for our annual Las Vegas excursion?

Finally, Brad Dickson Tweeted out this great idea:

My idea: show war criminals episodes of “The Masked Singer” in lieu of waterboarding.

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



Football Friday 1/18/19

For those of you who have not yet encountered the latitude offered by retirement, let me say that Friday has arrived, and you can now – hopefully – forget and ignore all the nonsense you put up with all week long.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, today is merely the penultimate Football Friday.   There really is nothing to merit comment regarding college football over the past week; so, let me dive directly into pro ranks.

NFL Commentary:

Here is a manifestation of how dominant the NFL is with regard to our football focus here in the US:

  • Three weeks from now, a new football league – the AAF – will take the stage.  The AAF has a national TV contract and 8 teams in training camp preparing for the first weekend of games on Feb 9 and Feb 10.
  • When I look at the national sports websites, there is not a mention of the AAF.  There is news; the local media in the cities with teams are covering that news – to varying degrees – but there is no overall buzz around this new sporting enterprise.
  • So long as the NFL has playoff games and then enters its two-week media saturation leading up to the Super Bowl, the AAF is an afterthought.  Perhaps, next season, they might want to move their starting date deeper into February to get some attention to their league before starting their regular season.
  • Just a thought…

The Steelers fired their running backs coach, James Saxon.  To set the record straight here, I do not know James Saxon from a saxophone but here is what I know:

  • The Steelers played the 2018 season without LeVeon Bell at running back and it is highly unlikely that James Saxon played much of a role in the contract impasse that made Bell’s absence a reality.
  • In Bell’s absence, James Connor assumed the lead back role and played 13 games.  In those games, Connor ran for 975 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and 12 TDs.  Connor also helped in the passing game adding 497 yards receiving (9 yards per catch).
  • So, how is it that the running backs coach was found to be lacking to a degree sufficient that the Steelers let him go?

While I am on the vector heading of player performance and coaching overlap with that performance, maybe someone can offer an explanation for this – other than a different coaching capability or utilization:

  • How come Eli Apple was a bust with the Giants – and a “problem” in the locker room reportedly – but quickly emerged as a better than average cornerback once he was shipped off to the Saints?

All four teams that had BYE weeks two weeks ago won their games last week.  That week of rest and rehabilitation is a big deal.  Since 2011, those teams with the BYE week are 25-7 straight up in the divisional round.

One other “trendy” item from last week is that the higher scoring team for the season on average won every game.  In fact, the NFL’s “Final Four” this year is composed of the 4 highest scoring teams over the course of the regular season:

  1. Chiefs scored 565 points
  2. Rams scored 527 points
  3. Saints scored 504 points
  4. Pats scored 436 points

Remember, defense wins championships…

And … congratulations to the KC Chiefs.  With their win last week over the Colts, the Chiefs snapped the NFL’s longest home playoff losing streak ever – – 6 games.  The last time the Chiefs won a playoff game in Arrowhead Stadium was in 1993 and their QB on that day was Joe Montana.

I believe the Eagles/Saints game last week turned on the fake punt that resulted in a Saints’ first down in the second quarter.  Up to that point, the Eagles had the momentum; after that play, the momentum was balanced and turned slowly in favor of the Saints for most of the rest of the game.  I really thought that Nick Foles was going to lead the Eagles to another magical win in the final two minutes.  If you had told me that the Saints would be the winner on a turnover, the last Eagles’ player that I would have thought to be involved would have been Alshon Jeffrey.  But that is how it all went down…  Saints survive and advance.

Patrick Mahomes started one game for the Chiefs last year; the 2018 season is the moral equivalent of his rookie year as a starting QB.  Yes, the rules of the NFL have changed to favor passing offenses; nonetheless, his stats of 50 TD passes and 5000+ yards passing in his “rookie season” is amazing.  The only other two QBs in NFL history to reach those two milestones in a single season are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.  Neither Brady nor Manning is in the Hall of Fame just yet, but can there be any doubt they will be there when they are eligible for induction?

Having offered what I think is well-deserved praise for Patrick Mahomes, I have a question arising from last week’s Colts/Chiefs game:

  • Who were those guys playing defense for the Chiefs and where were they all season long?

The Colts led the NFL in converting third-down situations for the regular season; they converted 49% of the time.  Last week, the Chiefs defense did not allow a third-down conversion; the Colts went 0 for 9 in that circumstance.  Even more importantly, the Chiefs’ defense forced four consecutive three-and-outs on the Colts’ first four possessions of the game.

The Rams/Cowboys game turned on a complete reversal of form for the two teams.  The Rams’ run defense was the worst in the NFL in the regular season in terms of yards allowed per run play.  Last week, they stuffed Ezekiel Elliott holding him to 47 yards for the game and rendering him a non-factor for the Cowboys’ offense.

  • [Aside:  When the Rams stuffed Elliott on 4th and short in the 4th quarter to ice the game, I was glad to see that the Rams’ defenders did not get themselves a taunting penalty for showing Elliott his “feed me more” gesture.  I half expected that gesture to be prominently on display at that point.]

Meanwhile, the Rams – known for their high-powered pass attack ran the ball down the Cowboys’ throats all game long.  The Rams had 2 RBs each gain over 100 yards in the game – remember that Elliott had 47 yards in the game.  The Rams gained 5.7 yards per rush attempt against a Cowboys’ defense that many folks thought was a dominant unit.

The first half of the Pats/Chargers game was an organized butt-stomping.  The Pats’ defense had not been the best part of the team all season long, but in the first half of that game they looked as if they could have carried the team to the playoffs no matter what else had happened to the team.  Regarding the Pats’ team, there has been a lot of talk/speculation that his might be the end of Gronk’s career.  He was not targeted even one time in the first half, so you might conclude that his ability to get open has diminished.  However, when I watched replays, I saw Gronk blocking from his TE position as if he were an additional offensive lineman on the field.  I have no insight into his injury status or his individual career plans, but the way he blocked in the game against the Chargers makes me think he still has NFL caliber skills.

The Chargers’ cornerback and punt returner, Desmond King, had a particularly bad time of it in the first half of the game.  King gave up a TD pass on a blown coverage; he was called for a holding penalty on a third-and-long play that would have gotten the Chargers’ defense off the field; he fumbled away a punt.  If you had not seen the Chargers play before that game, you might have concluded that King is a stumblebum – – and you would have been dead wrong.  Desmond King was named to the Pro Bowl this year; he just had a disastrously bad half of football in a nationally televised game.

NFL Games:

Before I get to the games themselves, the Pats are underdogs this week.  The last time the Pats were an underdog was – according to a friend who keeps a database on this sort of thing – on September 20, 2015 when the Pats were 2-point underdogs on the road against the Bills.  [Aside: The Pats won that game straight up.]

That same friend did some “data mining” on and provided me with this fact:

  • The last time the Pats won a road playoff game was in 2006.  That sounds dire – – until you realize that the Pats have been playing most of their playoff games in Foxboro for most of the time in the intervening years.

(Sun. 3:05 PM EST) Rams at New Orleans – 3.5 (56.5):  Drew Brees is 6-0 in playoff games in the Superdome.  That fact also came to me from my “data miner” although that is not something so obscure that I could not have found it myself.  When these teams met in the regular season (in November) the score was 45-35; the two defensive units seemingly took the day off and the two offenses ran up a total of 970 yards in the game.  I expect both defensive units to play better in this game – although I have concerns about the Saints’ run defense given the Achilles’ tendon injury to Sheldon Rankins last week.  Here are two important factors in my pick for the game:

  1. Jared Goff – despite his obvious skills – has very good games and not-so-good games.  This year, he has had a game where he threw 5 TDs; this year, he also had a game where he threw 4 INTs.  It is almost as if his performance and stats can be “bipolar”.  If there is a pattern that predicts which type of game he is about to have, I have not been able to discern it.
  2. The Rams ran the ball well last week – and if they can do that again here, they will likely win the game.  However, the Rams stopped the Cowboys running game by focusing their front seven on the run almost to the exclusion of anything else except for obvious passing downs.  They dared Dak Prescott to beat them and he could not.  If the Rams try something like that against the Saints, Drew Brees is perfectly capable of taking control of the game and winning it for the Saints.

I like the Saints to win and cover here.  I also like the game to go OVER.

Two trends support the game going OVER:

  • Saints are 10-4-1 to go OVER in their last 15 playoff games.
  • Saints/Rams games are 9-4 to go OVER in the last 13 head-to head matchups.

If you are convinced that the Rams will win the game straight up, you can get odds of +145 on the Money Line this morning but there is another way to play that.  If the Rams indeed win here, they will be in the Super Bowl and you can get a futures prop bet on the Rams to “win it all” at odds of 18-5.  If the Rams indeed win here, the odds on them winning the Super bBowl will drop dramatically about 2 minutes after this week’s game is over.  So, if you are a Rams’ believer…

(Sun 6:40 PM EST) New England at KC – 3 (55.5):  Let me offer up a few more stats/trends that relate to this game:

  • Tom Brady has been the starting QB in 28 playoff games that the Pats have won.  Not surprisingly, that is an NFL record…
  • Since Andy Reid came to KC, the Chiefs are 2-1 against the Pats.  None of those three previous meetings were playoff games.
  • Andy Reid’s Chiefs lost to the Pats earlier this season in Foxboro 43-30 in mid-October.  The Chiefs were undefeated going into that game.
  • Andy Reid and Bill Belichick have coached against one another 8 times.  In 7 of those 8 games, the game went OVER.  (Thanks again to my data-mining friend.)

Both teams played very well last week – particularly on the defensive side of the ball; the Pats held the Chargers to 19 yards rushing on 10 attempts.  Yes, the Pats took a dominant early lead and made the Chargers have to throw the ball, but when they tried to run, they had no success.  I do not expect either defense to shut down the opposing offense here.  If that is going to happen it will be at the behest of Mother Nature and not anyone’s defensive schemes.  Having said that, I believe that the defense that plays better will be the one on the winning team.  On the assumption that the weather will be tolerable (high-20s) and that the wind will not be of the gale force variety (as per, I like this game to go OVER.  With less conviction, I like the Pats plus the points here too – – to some extent because it is such a novelty wager.

Here are a two opposing trends related to this game:

  • Chiefs are 2-9 against the spread in their last 11 playoff games.
  • Chiefs are 13-5 against the spread in their last 18 games against AFC opponents.

Finally, as you watch the games this weekend and listen to the commentary by the announcers, keep this observation in mind from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Sarcasm ahead: How did TV audiences ever comprehend that a football team was closing in on the goal line in the days before announcers began caterwauling about the red zone?”

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