Washington Nationals Are World Series Champions

Congratulations to the Washington Nationals.  They are the World Series Champions for 2019.  If the baseball gods were indeed scripting this event, they did so with an interesting twist.  For the entirety of the 2019 season, the Nats’ bullpen betrayed the team giving up leads and causing losses.  In Game 7, on the road, in the World Series, it was the Astros’ bullpen that imploded while the Nats’ bullpen held the line.

MLB enters that portion of the calendar year when its news is generated by off-field activities with a first-time champion.  The Nats – born as the Expos – had never won a world Series until yesterday.  As far as Washington is concerned, its last experience as World champion of baseball came when Walter Johnson was still pitching…

As college basketball teams aim toward the start of their regular season schedules, it is not possible for me to comment on all the 353 teams that will compete in Division 1 college basketball this season.  Nonetheless, I think there are a few coaches in some of the more “visible” schools who may be on a hot seat for the season.  Let me mention two of them here:

  • Danny Manning – Wake Forest:  Manning has been the head coach at Wake Forest since 2014; he has had time on the vine to make the Demon Deacons into an ACC contending team.  In fact, Wake has finished 10th or worse in each of the last 4 seasons.  I suspect the string may play itself out without significant improvement this season.
  • Josh Pastner – Georgia Tech:  The Yellow Jackets will not be allowed into a post-season tournament this year due to NCAA probation for things that happened on Pastner’s watch.  Couple that fact with the reality that Tech was below .500 in each of the last 2 seasons; that showing over the past 2 seasons tarnishes the fact that Pastner was ACC Coach of the Year in 2017.

And of course, there must be some degree of heat on the seats of the so-called “Felonious Four” – the head coaches involved to various extents in the actions that have led to the FBI/DoJ probe and prosecution of people involved in improper college basketball recruiting.  None of these gentlemen are going to be fired simply based on allegations made by DoJ prosecutors – – but if their teams falter badly, all bets are off.  Here they are listed alphabetically:

  1. Sean Miller – Arizona
  2. Bruce Pearl – Auburn [Aside:  Pearl has “history” with the NCAA from his days at Tennessee.  If the heat turns up here, it might behoove the school to remove Pearl as an “irritant” to the NCAA poohbahs.]
  3. Bill Self – Kansas [Aside:  The NCAA has already notified the school that it considers happenstances there to be significant violations of NCAA rules…]
  4. Will Wade – LSU

I need to acknowledge my ignorance here.  Until this week, I had not realized that CBSSports.com had been assigning power rankings to NFL Practice Squads on a weekly basis.  Now that I know that this happens regularly and that it is not a gigantic spoof on things like “power rankings” in any form, I feel that we may be witnessing a sure sign of the apocalypse.

Trent Williams has reported to the Skins – but did not practice due to “discomfort” with his helmet.  Recall that Williams’ holdout has to do with the Skins’ medical staff and a growth that had to be removed from his skull.  He has reported such that he gets credit for honoring his contract for 2019 leaving him only one year left on his deal.

The Skins’ failure to trade him before the deadline probably dropped his trade value.  A week ago, a trading partner could view Williams as an OT who could play 8 games or so in 2019 plus give that trading partner a year to see if there was an extended deal that made sense for both parties.  Now, Williams will be entering his contract year before any swap can happen; there was more value before the trade deadline than there is now.  Please do not be surprised that the Skins’ Front Office has made a mockery of what could have been a merely messy situation.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this question in the Seattle Times a few weeks ago:

“Michigan’s football team fumbled the ball away in its first three opening drives this season.

“So what’s next — bringing in Lucy to hold for extra points?”

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



Random Thoughts …

Well, there shall indeed be a Game 7 in this year’s World Series; the Nats won again on the road to force the deciding game. I will not be able to see it live since it will not begin until midnight or so here in Ireland; however,  #2 son has the MLB game package – or whatever it is called – so that I will be able to see the game in its entirety.

The problem with this World Series is that neither team deserves to lose it; both teams have played very well over the first 6 games.  Tomorrow will be a festive Halloween for one of these clubs and a nightmarish time for the other…

The US Women’s National Soccer Team has a new coach.  Vlatko Andonovsky takes over for Jill Ellis who merely won two consecutive Women’s World Cups for the team.  A native of Macedonia, Andonovsky formerly coached in the National Women’s Soccer League for 8 seasons being Coach of the Year twice.  He has large shoes to fill…

Glancing at the upcoming NFL schedule for this week, it is hard to ignore the Jets/Dolphins game on the card.  The two teams bring a combined record of 1-13 to the kickoff and the two teams have been outscored by 268 points in those games.  It might have been interesting for commentators to try to spin a storyline here about Adam Gase returning to Miami with his new team and blah, blah, blah.  Given how bad these teams have shown to be on the field, there is nothing cute that can possibly stand up to the brutal reality here…

At the other end of the NFL spectrum, the Niners and the Pats are the only remaining undefeated teams.  The Niners’ offense is for real.  Missing both starting tackles and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, [The man really does need to buy a vowel or two from Vanna White.] the Niners managed to score a middling 51 points on the Panthers last week.  Meanwhile, the defense has also blossomed into a much better than average unit putting the Niners in this exalted state in late October…

The Pats have been here before – – but this year it is their defense that is carrying the team.  The “decline” of the Pats’ on offense is directly related to two things:

  1. No Gronk – – and no replacement for Gronk who comes even close – – and
  2. A paucity of talent at WR.  Josh Gordon is on IR and will not play any more this year; Philip Dorsett was the top-shelf threat on the outside for the Pats until Mohammad Sunu showed up last week and N’Keal Harry is now eligible to return from IR.

It does not matter who the QB is if he does not have quality people to run the pass routes and then catch the balls thrown directly at them.  Some naysayers believe the Pats’ schedule has not been all that stringent so far this year, but it does get a bit tougher down the line with these entries:

  • Ravens (Week 9)
  • Eagles (Week 11)
  • Cowboys (Week 12)
  • Texans (Week 13)
  • Chiefs (Week 14).

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle was dealing with power outages in Northern California when he rediscovered this important social resource:

“No power at home, but I found this really cool place to set up shop. It has coffee, internet and tables. It’s like a huge Starbucks, but with all kinds of books! Sign says ‘Library,’ but don’t ask me how to pronounce it. I think it’s a chain.”

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



Short Stuff Today …

I got an email from a neighbor in Northern Virginia asking what happened to the Nats in the World Series going from a 2-0 lead to a 3-2 deficit.  Being in Dublin, I have not had the chance to watch every game that the Astros won; so, I am not qualified to give him – nor anyone else – any sort of detailed analysis there.  However, here is the substance of my response to him:

“In the 27 innings of the 3 games they lost to the Astros in DC, the Nats scored a total of 2 runs.  If my count is correct, they left 21 runners on base in those three games.

“Those are the stats for losing teams not winning teams…”

Only twice before has the visiting team won the first 5 games of a World Series.  (1906 Chicago White Sox vs. Chicago Cubs and 1996 Yankees vs. Braves.)  In both of those cases, the home team won the 6th game ending the Series at that point.  Therefore, history can be made in multiple ways in this Series:

  1. If the Nats win tonight, it will be the first World Series to see the visitor win the first six games.
  2. If that happens, then any outcome in Game 7 would be a “first”.

I did have the opportunity to see the condensed version of the Saints/Cards game from last Sunday.  I wanted to see that one because:

  • I had read that Drew Brees played well and I wanted to see that for myself.
  • I wanted to see the Cards new-fangled offense now that it has had several weeks to evolve and settle in.

Brees was indeed outstanding throwing 3 TDs and about 375 yards in the game.  If he had any “difficulties” with residual effects on his thumb surgery, they were not evident to me.

The Cards new and revolutionary offense looked ordinary to me.  I know that it was only one game and that I am not the most sophisticated film diagnostician the NFL has ever seen.  Nevertheless, other than having a very mobile QB who can run around and throw the ball from different locations and field angles, I did not see much from the Cards’ offense that would keep a defensive coordinator up late at night with anxiety attacks.

When I was a kid, I read Joel Chandler Harris’ compilation of Negro American folk stories called the Uncle Remus Tales.  That collection of stories is so blatantly politically incorrect in 2019 that I doubt you can find the book in most public libraries in the US.  One of the recurring characters in the tales is Brer Rabbit who is a trickster (at best) and a con man (at worst) who appears in many of the tales.  Once Brer Rabbit was caught by Brer Fox who was planning to eat Brer Rabbit.

The trickster/con man told Brer Fox that he could do anything he wanted – including boiling Brer Rabbit in a pot to make stew, but whatever Brer Fox did, he should not throw Brer Rabbit into the briar patch.  After several pleadings of this type, Brer Fox fools himself and throws Brer Rabbit into the briar patch whereupon Brer Rabbit gets away scot-free.  I mention this folk take because we have just witnessed a 2019 incarnation of Brer Rabbit.

The Chinese government did not allow any of the NBA Exhibition Games to be televised across China.  The result of that edict was that the Chinese people were spared watching the nonsense that is the NBA Exhibition Season.  The Chinese Government just threw the Chinese people into the briar patch; they were saved from Brer Fox masquerading as the NBA Exhibition telecasts.

Now the threat is that the TV ban will extend to early regular season NBA games.  Oh, the horror of that…

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Caesar, Julius:  Dictator of ancient Rome.  His nearly fifteen years of conquest, which resulted in the formation of the entire Roman Empire, now reduced to a salad.”

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



World Series Update…

Briefly today from Dublin, Ireland…  The World Series took a U-Turn in Washington.  The Nats came home from Houston with a 2-0 lead having beaten Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander on the road.  As I left town, fans there were talking about a sweep.  Well, the Astros repaid the favor and swept the games in DC to take the Series lead 3-2.  The only way for the Nats to win now would be to sweep the Astros in Houston once again meaning that the World Series would be won by having the visiting team win all 7 games.  For the record, I did not see that as even a remote possibility…

Last Saturday, Rutgers played a home football game against Liberty University.  Let me assure you that Liberty is not a football blueblood; it is not nearly the “Protestant analog to Notre Dame”.  Here is the embarrassing part:

  • Oddsmakers installed Liberty – on the road – as a 7.5-point favorite.

That line is a blight on the Big 10 Conference; other teams in the Big 10 think of Liberty as one of the tune-up opponents they get to come in for a game in early September; it is a step up from an intra-squad scrimmage.  Rutgers did save what little there is of its football cred by winning the game outright.  But still…

Just maybe there is a glimmer of hope for Pimlico racecourse.  A previous study indicated it would take $424M to upgrade the track and to do some development in the area such that the Preakness Stakes could stay at Pimlico.  No one stepped forward to foot that bill.  However, here is the latest development in a nutshell:

“A multi-party agreement dependent on legislative change has been reached to keep the Preakness, middle jewel of American racing’s Triple Crown, at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore for at least 30 years.”

Here is a link to a report with the details of this agreement.  Of course, the four words here that provide plenty of uncertainty are “dependent on legislative change”.  Here is the translation:

  • There is a deal in place – – but the deals have not yet been made with the State legislators who will necessarily want to get something in return for their support of necessary “legislative change”.
  • Can the deal survive negotiations with the legislators?

Finally, here is an observation from syndicated columnist, Norman Chad:

“If it’s all about launch angle, I suspect Albert Einstein would’ve been an incredible baseball GM and sports bettor.”

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



Poor Baby…

I saw a report on ESPN saying that NBA players are sleep-deprived because the 82-game schedule has them in transit for so much of the time.  On the surface, one could read that statement and think something along the lines of “Poor baby…” and move on.  The problem is that there are too many questions one must consider before getting to that thought and moving on:

  • The NBA has played an 82-game schedule since the 1960s; someone just determined that today’s players are sleep-deprived.  Did that ever happen to any previous players?
  • The current NBA schedule covers more of the 12-month calendar than before; I would think that if this is a real problem now, it would have been a bigger problem in the past.
  • Transit today from city to city for NBA teams is faster and more comfortable than it has been in the past.  That sounds like more sleeping opportunities to me.
  • Perhaps – just perhaps – players could reduce their sleep deficit if they went to sleep after games instead of going out to clubs.

Now I can say to myself, “Poor baby…” and move on.

Since I mentioned the dreaded 82-game NBA regular season schedule, let me suggest that the length of the NBA season contributes to its meager TV ratings during that regular season.  The issue here is that there are at most a dozen “appointment viewing games” in and amongst the 1230 regular season offerings.  As a viewer, that means I am mining low-grade ore.

The NBA seems to believe that “more is always better” when it comes to televising its games.  Compare for instance the NBA Playoffs with 16 teams in the mix to the NCAA Tournament once you get to the Sweet Sixteen.  For college hoops, every game in the tournament is akin to a 7th game in the NBA playoffs.  One team advances and one team goes home.  However, in the NBA Playoffs there are lots of games lacking anything close to that kind of urgency.

Harvard University has a new policy in place regarding the captains of its intercollegiate teams.  Starting with the class of 2021, no one can be the captain of a Harvard team if that person chooses to belong to a “single-gender organization”.  This is ever so politically correct…

The Athletic Department at Harvard says it will basically use an honor system to enforce this new policy by asking players who choose to be part of “single-gender organizations” to remove themselves from consideration as a team captain.  I was once a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout when those were “single-gender organizations”; I guess that would disqualify me from being a Harvard team captain.

Think of the value inherent in a Harvard athlete who is gender-fluid.  (S)he is the antidote to any single-gender organization because her/his membership there immediately makes the organization a multiple-gender one.

One other point here…  As soon as this policy is used to deny or remove a Harvard athlete as a team captain – it could be a person of any gender or all genders – the university is in the role of depriving that athlete the opportunity of team captaincy on the basis of gender.  That is ever so politically incorrect…

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the first AARP-sponsored fitness park opened in St. Petersburg, FL this summer.  According to the report, AARP plans to open several dozen of these facilities around the country.  I am a bit surprised that AARP did not elect to have Boca Raton be the site of their inaugural facility; my guess is that the fraction of residents in Boca Raton who are eligible to be AARP members is about one-half.

Finally, Mike Bianchi had this tidbit in the Orlando Sentinel recently:

“Kevin Durant told the Wall Street Journal that sometimes ‘he hates’ the business of the NBA. I don’t know about you, but I would love every aspect of any business that is going to pay me $40 million next season not to work.”

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



Angles On Games…

Even though there will be no Football Friday this week, I had some time to browse around some of the football sites that I normally use to collect information for those sorts of things.  I ran across some interesting – not nearly important – betting trends for some NFL games this weekend.

The Saints host the Cardinals on Sunday:

  • In their last 16 games in October, the Saints have covered the spread in all 16 of them.
  • In their last 21 games in October, the Saints record against the spread is 20-1.
  • It will still be October when the game kicks off on Sunday.

The Steelers host the Dolphins on Monday Night Football this week.  Despite having a losing record for the season and a losing record at home, the Steelers are a 15-point favorite to beat the Dolphins in this game.

  • Since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach of the Steelers in 2007, the Steelers have played on Monday Night Football 6 times.  The Steelers record in those games is 6-0.  Good luck to the Dolphins…

The Pats host the Browns this Sunday.  Since 2009, 62 teams from the AFC have come to Foxboro to play a game.

  • In those 62 games, the Patriots’ record straight up is 59-3.
  • In those 62 games, the Patriots’ record against the spread is 39-20-3.

The Vikings host the Skins on Thursday Night Football this week.

  • In their last 56 home games, the Vikes record against the spread is 39-16-1.

Wagering on sporting events is an expanding industry these days; state legislatures seem to be tripping over themselves to enact legislation that will bring some of that action to their states and some of the tax revenue generated by it to their coffers.  The NCAA of course steadfastly opposes such venal behaviors and sees gambling on college sporting events as an exploitation of the student-athletes.  [Aside:  There is a delicate irony in that position, but let’s just ignore that for the moment.]

At least two of the NCAA member schools have banned betting on games involving the school by players, students, faculty and staff at those schools.  St Joseph’s was the first to do so; about two weeks ago, Purdue followed suit.  Purdue’s President, Mitch Daniels said that the new edict intends to “protect student-athletes from people on campus looking for inside information.”

It is hard to argue with that intention.  However, I do have a couple of questions for President Daniels:

  1. A Google search says that the student population at Purdue is 41,573.  How is the university going to enforce this ban on wagering on Purdue games within such a large population?
  2. Wikipedia says that the faculty at Purdue consists of 3,055 people.  How will the university monitor the behaviors of these folks to assure that the new policy is followed?
  3. What is the scope of the new policy?  If Purdue makes the NCAA basketball tournament in the Spring, would a member of the Purdue family violate the policy by filling out a bracket for an online contest where he/she could win money?

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald reacted to the news that Eliud Kipchoge had broken the 2-hour barrier in a marathon:

“Kenyan superstar runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2-hour marathon barrier in 1:59.40.2 Saturday, a once unfathomable feat. I once covered 26.2 miles even quicker, but didn’t get credit because I was in a car.”

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



Baseball Business…

As baseball fans prepare to feast on the World Series that begins tonight, there is another baseball story ongoing in the background.  The MLB owners are looking to reduce the number of minor league baseball teams from 160 to 120 by the end of next season.  The move is purely economic; so, it pays to check out some of the costs involved here.

Other than a few independent minor leagues, all the teams in minor-league baseball are funded by MLB.  Every player who signs a “minor league contract” gets paid by the major league team that negotiated that contract with that player.  When you go to see a minor league game in Altoona, PA, the players there are part of the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system and their salaries and expenses are paid for by the Pirates.  The same goes for the managers and coaches for minor league teams; they are paid by the MLB club that is affiliated with the minor league team in question.

Even acknowledging that minor league salaries – for players, coaches and managers – are very low, eliminating an affiliated minor league team from a major league club will result in a cost savings.  Obviously, reducing costs puts more money in the major league club’s owner’s pocket; so, why hasn’t this contraction happened sooner?

I think there is a tripwire in here that the MLB owners need to avoid.  Right now, there are 160 cities and towns with minor league baseball clubs that are affiliated with major league teams.  If that number is contracted as suggested to 120 cities and towns, that means 40 areas will lose their teams – – and every one of those “losing areas” has a Congressthing.  MLB enjoys an anti-trust exemption based on a Supreme Court decision from almost 100 years ago.  When Curt Flood sued MLB in the 70s, the Supreme Court upheld the previous ruling but said explicitly that Congress could act to change the status quo.

Over the last 50 years or so, the Congress has chosen not to act.  MLB would like to retain that exemption; and so, it pays for them not to have 40 Congressthings get irate calls from constituents about losing the local minor league team.  This is a time for diplomacy and negotiation to be the order of the day; this is not the time for MLB owners to try to “Bigfoot the situation”.

From a fan’s standpoint, I do not see how contraction of minor league affiliations turns out to be a good thing.  Absent a few players who are ready and able to handle the rigors of being a major-league player at age 20 or 21, “prospects” need to be taught how to play the game.  That learning process includes on-field instruction and off-field instruction; the vast majority of players has a significant need for those lessons.  How, reducing the number of “minor league classrooms” will produce more “polished players” is certainly not obvious.

Stay tuned; this story will develop over the next year or so…

Errol Spence is the World Boxing Council and the International Boxing Federation welterweight champion.  He was also a member of the US Olympic boxing team in 2012 and is undefeated in 26 pro fights.  After winning a title unification bout, Spencer was involved in a spectacular auto accident from which he escaped essentially unhurt.  In fact, probably the worst part of the accident for him is that he was charged with DWI as a result of that accident.  Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this description of the situation that tells you what you need to know about it and puts it in perspective regarding boxing history:

“Welterweight boxing champ Errol Spence spectacularly flipped his Ferrari, but he apparently got off easy with fairly minor injuries. Spence, unbelted, was ejected from his chariot. Flash back decades. A flight attendant asks then-heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali to fasten his seatbelt. Ali: ‘Superman don’t need no seat belt.’ Flight attendant: ‘Superman don’t need no airplane.’”

I read a report of a press event where Roger Goodell was asked about the new NFL pass interference rule that allows coaches to challenge calls and non-calls for both offensive and defensive pass interference.  Supposedly, Goodell said that the rule was working “as expected”.

The efficiency and the effectiveness of the new rule is almost non-existent.  Perhaps in this year’s playoffs, the rule will allow a challenge that would negate the totally blown call from last year’s Saints/Rams playoff game.  Perhaps, if the rule is invoked to assure that the “right team” makes it from the Conference Championship Game to the Super Bowl, you could say that the rule is working “as expected”.  However, the rule’s effect to date has been as follows:

  • It slows the game down by allowing coaches to challenge more things within a game.  Every challenge produces a game delay.
  • It demonstrates that there is contact more than 5 yards down the field initiated by both the offensive and the defensive player on every play that is reviewed.

Pass interference is a judgment call in all but the most egregious circumstances.  Allowing judgment calls to be challenged is not a good idea.  Imagine a basketball game where blocking/charging calls could be challenged…

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had this observation regarding an occurrence in the NLCS:

“Ronald Acuna Jr. drew the ire of his Braves teammates when he lost a surefire double off the wall because he slowed to admire his “home run” in a 7-6 loss to the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS.

“On the plus side, though, Acuna’s got a Kraft Singles endorsement in the bag.”

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



Upcoming Writing and Posting…

The writing schedule for the next couple of weeks will be on an “as time allows” basis.   I have some family obligations to discharge over the next several days; then my long-suffering wife and I are heading to Dublin for a visit of about 10 days.

Things should return to some state of normalcy in the week of 4 November – – until some more travel that will lead right up to Thanksgiving time.

Here is what I know:

  1.  There will be no Football Friday this week (10/25/19).
  2.  If there is a Football Friday next week (11/1/19), it will be an abbreviated version.
  3.  Standard daily rants will also likely be abbreviated versions.

Hope to be back to normal on 4 November – for a while…

Stay well, everyone…



Return of The Fog…

Several months ago, I attended my first live rugby game with my grandson in Dublin.  You may recall that I dubbed him The Fog – standing for my First and Only Grandson – and that he would sporadically be my rugby correspondent since he knows a lot more about the sport than I do.  The Rugby World Cup is ongoing, and I got this email from The Fog over the weekend telling me what happened in the match between New Zealand and Ireland.  The Fog is 12 years old; here is his report:

“On the 19th of October, Ireland faced off against New Zealand in the quarter final of the Rugby World Cup 2019. Some sports writers called it the ‘Titanic Tussle’. Ireland was second in the world before the game and New Zealand was first. This made Ireland the heavy under dogs.

“The first half started off brutally for Ireland with three early tries for New Zealand. Aaron Smith, the New Zealand scrum half had an amazing first period, in which he scored two tries. He also assisted Boden Barret over the try line. Richie Mo’unga, the New Zealand fly half, also had a stunning first forty minutes. He scored 7 points for his team. The first half ended with New Zealand winning 22-0 over Ireland. In the second half, things went from bad to worse, for Ireland. They were constantly on defence against a strong, New Zealand, front row. Ireland didn’t go quietly though. They scored two tries in the second half and they converted on both of them. It was too little too late though and the final score was 46-14. New Zealand advance to face England in the semi-final.”

Moving on to MLB in anticipation of the Nats/Astros World Series, I have two simple questions to pose:

  1. How does someone as small as José Altuve hit a baseball as hard and as far as he does?
  2. If his 9th inning home run on Saturday night had been hit in an outdoors stadium, might it have landed in Cuba?

I always find it interesting to see very good hitters facing very good pitchers; this World Series should provide plenty of such opportunities.  Both teams have 3 very good starting pitchers; both teams have more than a handful of good hitters; the mix-and-match possibilities look very good to me.  On paper, the Astros have a significant advantage with regard to the bullpen – – but games are played in the stadium and not on paper.  I think this will be an interesting World Series.

The oddsmakers in Las Vegas do not see the Series as being nearly as interesting as I do.  The Astros are minus-235 to win the Series with the Nats at +195.  Those are the shortest odds for a team to win the Series before the first game had been played since 2007.  Back then, the Red Sox were even heavier favorites to beat the Rockies – – which the Sox did.  Las Vegas may have the Astros as heavy favorites, but they do not seem to envision either team sweeping the series.  Here are those current odds:

  • Astros sweep the Nats is 7.5 to 1
  • Nats sweep the Astros is 25 to 1.

The NBA regular season will begin this week.  The NY Knickerbockers will play their first home game in Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.  I wonder if in the pre-game festivities they will arrange for owner James Dolan to throw out the first fan of the season and revoke his season tickets.  Just a thought…

Also, I would like to pose a rhetorical question to the players on the team that wins the NBA Championship next June.  I am sure that many – if not most – of those players would choose not to accept an invitation to go to the White House as part of their championship celebration – and I have no problem with that at all.  Here is my question

  • If President Xi Jinping of China invites the NBA champions to come to his office for an honorary visit, would you go, or would you stiff the President of the PRC?
  • Oh, while I am at it, let me ask Commissioner Silver what his position might be in this circumstance?

Last week, I mentioned that Landry Jones had been assigned to the Dallas franchise in the XFL.  Because I did not remember, I went looking to see where Jones had been drafted by the Steelers when he came out of college.  In that search, I concluded that the 2013 NFL Draft was a low water mark for NFL QB prospects.  Most fans remember the 1983 draft which had John Elway, and Jim Kelly and Dan Marino up for grabs in addition to a couple of other guys who played positively in the league for a while.  Not so in 2013; here is the list of QBs taken then:

  1. E.J. Manuel – Round 1 – Bills
  2. Geno Smith – Round 2 – Jets
  3. Mike Glennon – Round 3 – Bucs
  4. Matt Barkley – Round 4 – Eagles
  5. Ryan Nassib – Round 4 – Giants
  6. Tyler Wilson – Round 4 – Raiders
  7. Landry Jones – Round 4 – Steelers
  8. Brad Sorenson – Round 7 – Chargers
  9. Zac Dysart – Round 7 – Broncos
  10. B.J. Daniels – Round 7 – Niners
  11. Sean Renfree – Round 7 – Falcons

That list would qualify as a Rogues’ Gallery …

Finally, Brad Dickson had this comment regarding the recently passed Columbus Day holiday:

“Happy Columbus Day. During his voyage Columbus actually veered about 1200 miles off course. This was the first ever documented use of Mapquest.”

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



Football Friday 10/18/19

I don’t like tacos enough to celebrate Taco Tuesday except by accident.  However, I do like football enough to celebrate Football Friday whenever my schedule will permit.

Last week, the Six-Pack broke even at 3-3.  Cumulatively for the season:

  • Six-Pack is 20-10
  • College games are 9-3
  • NFL games are 11-7


College Football Comments:


The Linfield College Wildcats treated their Homecoming crowd to a blowout win over Puget Sound last week to the tune of 77-22.  Linfield ran out to a 35-0 lead and never looked back.  That brings the Wildcats record to 3-1 for the season; since their Division III regular season schedule only has 9 games, that puts Linfield just 2 wins short of yet one more winning season in football.  This week the Willamette Bearcats visit McMinnville OR in another Northwest Conference game.  Willamette brings a 2-3 record to the game; there is one common opponent for the two teams:

  • Linfield beat Pacific 52-14
  • Willamette lost to Pacific 59-14
  • Go Wildcats!

College football has always been a regional sport.  In the beginnings, it was an east coast sport played by Ivy League schools and others in that part of the world.  The game migrated south and west; for years now, the “center of gravity” for college football has been from the Carolinas west to Texas and down to the southern border of the US.  For a while, West Coast football was sort of relevant; USC was a dominant team for a while; UCLA was relevant more often than not; more recently Washington and Oregon made noise on a national level.  Such does not look to be the case in 2019.

When Oklahoma defeated Texas last week, it pretty well rendered college football west of Norman OK interesting – – but unimportant.  Maybe the focus of “Western Football” this year is Boise St. who is undefeated as of this morning with a schedule in front of it that makes you think they could remain in that condition.  No one thinks that the Mountain West Conference is equivalent to the PAC-12 out west – – but most college football observers think the PAC-12 is nothing more than interesting – – but unimportant.

With the college season about half over, there are 4 teams that have underachieved the hype and expectations for those teams back in August.  Please note, three of these four teams have a winning record; those teams are not abject failures; I just think they have fallen short of what was expected from them.

  • Michigan Wolverines:  Yes, they are 5-1 having just beaten Illinois.  However, this was supposed to be the year that Michigan won the Big 10 and crashed the CFP party.  So far this year, the Wolverines have not made me sit up and take notice that they are a powerhouse; it is not clear that they are favorites to win the Big 10 East – – let alone the Conference Championship.  Michigan struggled to beat Army (certainly not a CFP candidate) and later beat Iowa (not a CFP candidate either) by the rousing score of 10-3.  Moreover, that loss on their record is not just a blot; it was a total beatdown by Wisconsin.
  • Tennessee Volunteers:  The Vols won last week to raise their record to 2-4.  No one outside Knoxville – other than those folks who sings Rocky Top as a lullaby to put their kids to sleep – thought that Tennessee would beat out the real big dogs in the SEC for the SEC Championship in 2019.  But no one expected the Vols to be this bad – – especially not coach Jeremy Pruitt who has seen his team lose to Georgia State and then lose to BYU after leading by what should have been a comfortable margin in the 4th quarter.  The next two weeks pit the Vols against serious competition; this week at Alabama and next week at home against South Carolina.   After that, the schedule softens significantly but by then, the Vols may need to win-out to be bowl eligible.
  • UCF Golden Knights:  UCF is 4-2 on the season having lost two of its last 3 games.  We heard so much over the past 2 years about how UCF was the shadow national champion and the idea was they would roll though 2019 undefeated again and maybe – – just MAYBE – – get the big guys in college football to give then a shot at the real national championship.  As they would often say to losing contestants on TV game shows:

“What lovely parting gifts do we have for the Golden Knights, Bob?”

  • Washington Huskies:  The Huskies are 5-2; the losses are to Cal and Stanford which are good but not great teams; of the five wins, probably the best opponent was USC whose record stands today at 3-3.  There was talk during the summer that this was the year that the PAC-12 would not be shut out of the CFP festivities and that Washington would be the PAC-12 rep in the tournament.  That is not going to happen with those two losses already on the books.

Looking at remaining schedules, two teams are interesting now.  Auburn is 5-1 with 6 game remaining.  Here are 3 of those 6 opponents:

  • At LSU
  • Vs. Georgia
  • Vs. Alabama

Another schedule that caught my eye was Minnesota.  The Gophers are 6-0 now and with Rutgers on tap this week and with Maryland up next week, there is good reason to expect that record to inflate to 8-0.  Then the road gets bouncier:

  • Vs. Penn State – undefeated and currently ranked in the Top Ten
  • At Iowa – always tough at home
  • At Northwestern – a relative breather
  • Vs. Wisconsin – undefeated and currently ranked in the Top Ten

I mentioned above that Tennessee won its game last week over Mississippi State by a score of 20-10.  Obviously, coach Jeremy Pruitt slept better on Saturday night than he would have had the Vols lost again.  In addition, this report from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times indicates that someone else slept better last Saturday night.

“Tyler Ivens, a Knoxville sports-radio host, is living on the roof of Toyota Knoxville and vowing to stay there until the volunteers (1-4 with the only victory coming against Tennessee-Chattanooga) win another football game.

“So, what does he have a better chance of catching first – a win or shingles?”

The big surprise in SEC-land last week was South Carolina beating previously undefeated Georgia at Georgia by a score of 20-17.  The Gamecocks’ defense played an outstanding game.  The color commentator for the game said several times he thought Georgia’s Jake Fromm was the best QB in the country.  I respectfully disagree; Fromm missed too many open throws in this game to be “the best”.  He is a very good QB and he will be drafted in the NFL and can probably play at that level – – but “best in the country”?  I ran across this interesting stat for Georgia and Jake Fromm:

  • When Jake Fromm throws fewer than 30 passes, Georgia is 29-0
  • When Jake Fromm throws 30 or more passes, Georgia is 0-5.

In an embarrassing outcome for SEC football, UNLV beat Vandy 34-10.  Compounding the agony here, the game was in Nashville; I guess the only bright spot here is that it was not Homecoming Weekend.  [That happens this weekend.]  UNLV is now 2-4 for the season and all four losses have been by more than 2 scores.

Alabama beat Texas A&M 47-28.  I said last week that the Aggies could not get themselves into a shoot-out with Alabama; their defense was not able to prevent that from happening.  On the bright side, the Aggies defense held Alabama below its scoring average for the season.  Bama entered the game scoring at a 51.8 points per game clip.

In the Game of the Week, LSU beat Florida 42-28.  LSU remains unbeaten; Florida lost for the first time.  Going into this game the Gators’ defense had been allowing only 9.5 points per game; LSU rang them up for 6 TDs.  LSU QB, Joe Burrow, put up these stats against a very good Florida defense:

  • 21 for 24 for 293 yards and 3 TDs
  • Not a bad day at the office…

I mentioned above that Oklahoma beat Texas in the Red River Shootout on Saturday by a score of 34-27.  The halftime score was a defense-dominated 10-3 in favor of the Sooners.  So, what happened at halftime?  Did both offensive units pound down a bunch of energy drinks or did both defensive units load up on Quaaludes?

Baylor beat Texas Tech 33-30 last week to remain undefeated for the season.

Boise St. beat Hawaii 59-37 last week to remain undefeated.  I had the game OVER 60 in last week’s Six-Pack.  I must say that I did not expect Boise to come that close to taking the game over all by itself.

Appalachian State beat Louisiana-Lafayette 17-7; Appalachian State is undefeated for the year.

Clemson beat Florida State 45-14.  At one point in the second quarter, Clemson had more TDs than Florida State had first downs.  This was an unadulterated beatdown.

Louisville beat Wake Forest 62-59 handing the Demon Deacons their first loss of the season.  The two teams combined for 1188 yards of offense and 121 points here.  There must have been a notation on each team’s schedule that defense was “optional” for this game.

Another team to suffer its first loss of the year was Memphis.  Temple beat Memphis 30-28; four Memphis turnovers in the game led to this loss.  By the way, Temple is a very quiet 5-1 so far this year…

Wisconsin beat Michigan State 38-0.  Folks, Wisconsin has given up only 29 points in 6 games; four of the six wins have been shutouts.  Meanwhile the Badgers have scored 255 points in those 6 wins; the closest game so far was a 24-15 victory over Northwestern.  Wisconsin plays at Ohio State (also undefeated for 2019) next week.  Clear your calendars…

Penn State beat Iowa 17-12 in a defensive slugfest.  By the way, the Penn State defense is very good too.

Minnesota stayed unbeaten with a dominant win over Nebraska 34-7.  The Gophers ran the ball for 322 yards in this game.

Toward the bottom of the Big 10, we find Purdue beating up on Maryland 40-14.  For some perspective here, consider that Penn State held Purdue to minus-30 yards rushing and 93 yards total offense 2 weeks ago.  Last week, Purdue ran the ball for 138 yards and passed for an additional 420 yards.  Put those two sets of stats for the Purdue in juxtaposition if you dare…

Indiana shut out Rutgers 35-0.  Let me try to put this result in perspective too:

  • Indiana’s defense has held 3 opponents under 25 points so far this year.  Those three opponents were Ball St., UConn and E. Illinois (Division 1-AA).
  • Rutgers fired its coach 3 weeks ago.  Since then they have lost to Maryland by 41 points and then suffered this shutout loss by 5 TDs.  Might I suggest – ever so humbly – that the coach was not the problem at Rutgers?

Out west, Arizona State rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat Washington State 38-34.  Herm Edwards has the Sun Devils at 5-1 for the season with Utah, USC and Oregon still on the schedule.  Meanwhile, this is not the first time this year that Washington State has run out to a lead and then surrendered it in a loss.  Remember that UCLA scored 50 points in the second half against the Cougars earlier this year.

Oregon beat Colorado 45-3.  Since losing the opening game of the year to Auburn 27-21, Oregon has given up exactly 1 TD in 5 games.  In this rout, the Ducks registered 4 INTs.

Notre Dame beat USC 30-27 last week.  The Trojans rallied for 2 TDs in the 4th quarter to make the game look closer than it was.  That rally also made one of last week’s Six-Pack picks into a loser.  The Irish ran the ball for 308 yards in this contest.

Rice had the week off; so, it remains winless for the season.  Both Akron and New Mexico State lost last week; they too have yet to win a game in 2019.

Louisiana Tech beat UMass 69-21.  UMass came to the game with the worst scoring defense in the nation yielding more than 46 points per game.  And last week, made that stat even worse…


College Games of Interest:


Going into the games for this weekend, the Big 10 has 4 teams with 6-0 records.  According to CBSSports.com, the last time that happened was in 1906 and one of the teams that was undefeated then was the University of Chicago Maroons coached by Amos Alonzo Stagg.  One needs to be a football historian – or a trivia geek – to know that Chicago was one of the founding members of the Big 10 and ceded its place to Michigan State about 100 years ago with “rights of recall”.  Not a lot of danger that Chicago would want to take up football at the Big 10 level of competition any time soon…

(Fri Nite) Ohio State – 28 at Northwestern (49):  Only real hope for the Wildcats here is for Ohio State to be looking ahead to next week’s showdown with Wisconsin.

Wisconsin – 31 at Illinois (51):  Only real hope for the Illini here is for Wisconsin to be looking ahead to next week’s show down with Ohio State.

Clemson – 23.5 at Louisville (61):  The Cardinals put 62 points on the scoreboard last week against Wake Forest.  They will probably not score one-third of that total in this game.

Buffalo – 17 at Akron (48):  Akron seeks its first win here…

Rice – 4.5 at Texas-San Antonio (46.5):  Rice is winless this year and they are favored on the road in this game.  Does that tell you something about the esteem in which the oddsmakers hold UTSA?

Indiana – 5.5 at Maryland (59):  Indiana pitched a shutout last week and Maryland got steamrollered last week.  Who knows what might happen here?  Oh, and who cares?

Florida State at Wake Forest – 2 (69):  Wake Forest scored 59 points last week and lost the game.  That should be a wake-up call for the Florida State offense.

Purdue at Iowa – 17 (48):  Iowa is a tough place for visiting teams; this should be a low-scoring affair.

Boise St. – 7 at BYU (46.5):  Boise St. is undefeated, and they take a week off from conference play to face a serious challenge to their undefeated status.

Arizona St. at Utah – 13.5 (45):  This is an important game in the race for the PAC-12 South.  I agree with the oddsmaker here; this will be a low-scoring game.  I think the line is fat given that the Sun Devils have only lost once this year.  I’ll put Arizona St. plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack even on the road.

Oregon – 3 at Washington (49.5):  Both of these teams have intra-state rivalries and those games draw plenty of attention and publicity.  However, this rivalry is as intense as those intra-state games.  Oregon is undefeated in PAC-12 games; Washington is 2-2 in PAC-12 games.  The Huskies are all but eliminated from the PAC-12 North title and a loss here would shovel the dirt in on the coffin.  I like Oregon to win and cover here based on the strength of the Oregon defense, so I’ll put Oregon in this week’s Six-Pack.

Florida – 4 at S. Carolina (48):  The Gators are coming off their loss to LSU and the Gamecocks are coming off a huge road win over Georgia.  This could be a blowout game in either direction.  I think S. Carolina suffers a let-down game here.  I’ll put Florida to win and cover in this week’s Six-Pack.

LSU – 18 at Mississippi St. (61):  Mississippi St. is always tough at home and often pull a huge upset over a highly ranked rival in that venue.  Having said that, I don’t think that is going to happen here.  LSU has a significant edge in talent here.

Tennessee at Alabama – 34 (61):  This is gonna be a spanking…

Baylor at Oklahoma St. – 4 (68.5):  Baylor is undefeated this year and is a road underdog; Oklahoma St. is a tough out in Stillwater.  Also, it is Homecoming Weekend for OK St…

Minnesota – 28 at Rutgers (47.5):  Minnesota maintains its status as an undefeated team on the road this week.  Rutgers has been shut out 3 times this year – every other game on the schedule.  Rutgers is 0-4 against Big 10 opponents losing by a combined score of 165-7.

Missouri – 21 at Vandy (56.5):  It is Homecoming Weekend for the Commodores, but I don’t think the alums will be smiling too much after this game.

Temple at SMU – 7 (60):  Last week, Temple knocked off undefeated AAC foe, Memphis.  This week they face another undefeated AAC opponent.

Michigan at Penn St. – 9 (47):  Penn St. is undefeated, and Michigan has lost only once.  Both are in the thick of the Big 10 East race at this point, but the loser will be in deep water.  Call this one the Game of the Week.


NFL Commentary:


Three of the top teams in the NFL so far this year are the Ravens, Patriots and the Niners.  In addition to their gaudy records, it is fair to say that none of the three have gone through the toughest part of their schedule yet.  Let’s take a look…

The Ravens are 4-2 with wins over the Dolphins, Cardinals, Steelers and Bengals.  The losses came at the hands of the Chiefs and the Browns.  So, what has the schedule-maker put on the back end of the Ravens calendar?

  • At Seahawks
  • BYE Week
  • Vs Patriots
  • At Bengals
  • Vs. Texans
  • At Rams
  • Vs. Niners
  • At Bills
  • Vs Jets
  • At Browns
  • Vs Steelers

The Patriots are undefeated at 6-0; their opponents to date have been a motley crew other than one game against the Bills in Buffalo.  Now comes the interesting part of the Pats’ schedule.

  • At Jets
  • Vs Browns
  • At Ravens
  • BYE Week
  • At Eagles
  • Vs Cowboys
  • At Texans
  • Vs Chiefs
  • At Bengals
  • Vs Bills
  • Vs Dolphins

The Niners are likewise undefeated in 2019 with a 5-0 record; they have already had their BYE Week.  So, what’s next?

  • At Skins
  • Vs Panthers
  • At Cardinals
  • Vs Seahawks
  • Vs Cardinals
  • Vs Packers
  • At Ravens
  • At Saints
  • Vs Falcons
  • Vs Rams
  • At Seahawks

The Ravens, Pats and Niners will be tested more severely from here to the end of December than they have been to date…

After the Cowboys lost to the Jets last week – details later – both Dez Bryant and Terrell Owens criticized Jason Garrett and tried to pin the loss on him.  Remember when your Mom told you that you were known by the company you keep?  Well, the obverse can be true also.  Sometimes, the people who are against you speak eloquently to your credit.  Personally, I take the criticism(s) from Bryant and Owens as an endorsement for Jason Garrett.

I discussed the Packers’ win over the Lions in a Topical Rant earlier this week.  That game was not one that will likely be immortalized by NFL Films.

In last week’s Bagel Bowl where two winless teams sought to shed that label, the Skins beat the Dolphins 17-16.  Earlier in the week, the Dolphins’ coaching staff anointed Josh Rosen as the starting QB for the rest of the season.  Indeed, he started the game; but the coaches pulled him in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick in medias res.  A late two-touchdown rally by the Dolphins turned this into a nail-biter that ended with the Dolphins missing a 2-point conversion with only 6 seconds left on the clock.

Brad Dickson had this comment relative to the Skins’ game under their new interim head coach:

“You know unemployment is low when Bill Callahan gets a head coaching job.”

The Panthers beat the Bucs 37-26 in London.  The Panthers defense dominated this game with 7 sacks and 5 INTs.  With those stats, it is surprising that the Bucs scored 26 points.

The Seahawks rallied to beat the Browns 32-28.  The Browns had a 2 TD lead in the first half of this game and coughed it up.  Four Browns’ turnovers – including 3 INTs by Baker Mayfield – enabled the Seahawks’ comeback.  The Seahawks ran for 170 yards in the game and Russell Wilson threw 2 TDs – and scored a running TD on his own – to fuel the comeback.

The Vikes beat the Eagles 38-20.  The Eagles’ defense was a no-show last week allowing the Vikes 447 yards on offense.  Oh wait, The Vikes just scored another long TD over Rasul Douglas as I was typing that last sentence.

The Ravens beat the Bengals 23-17 last week.  The Bengals were competitive here, but they are still looking for their first win in 2019.  They played hard and they were in the game to the end.  Bengals’ WR, Auden Tate, had a breakout game – 5 receptions for 95 yards. In the end, though, this was just the Bengals being the Bengals and playing just poorly enough to lose.  The Bengals are a very bad NFL team right now.

The Saints beat the Jags 13-6.  The Saints’ defense limited the Jags to 226 yards total offense.

The Niners beat the Rams 20-7.  This was not the OVER 50 I predicted in last week’s Six-Pack but the Niners remain unbeaten.  The Niners’ defense stopped the Rams 4 times on 4th down in the game.  Jared Goff registered 78 yards passing in the game, and the Rams only totaled 157 yards on offense.  Holding the Rams to that low an output was thought to be as impossible as breaking the 4-minute mile once was.   The Rams tried to get a first down on third down or fourth down 13 times in this game; they converted ZERO of those attempts.

  • [Aside:  Do not think that only the Chargers’ fans in LA are not all that enthusiastic about their team.  The Niners had at least 40% of the LA Coliseum on their side for this game.  Front-running LA fans ought to be climbing all over the Rams in 2019 after a Super Bowl appearance as the climax to last year’s schedule; but they are not…]

The Texans beat the Chiefs 31-24 last week.  The Chiefs’ defense needs help – lots of help.  It gave up 192 yards rushing in this game.  The Texans and the Colts look like the class of the AFC South and should be battling it out for the rest of the season – – starting with a matchup this week.

The Broncos shut out the Titans 16-0 last week.  The Titans are not an offensive juggernaut but getting shut out by a Denver defense that has had problems of its own this year is pathetic.  Marcus Mariota was 7-18 for 63 yards and 2 INTs when he got pulled in favor of Ryan Tannehill.  The Broncos’ defense had 7 sacks in the game.

The Titans need to make a decision about their QB. Marcus Mariota’s contract is up at the end of the year; Ryan Tannehill probably isn’t the long-term answer under center. So, are the Titans ready to commit to Mariota?  Or should they go free-agent QB shopping?  Or can they find a QB in the draft?  The Titans’ defense is solid, but they need increased production on a consistent basis from the offense – – and that has not been forthcoming for a couple of seasons now.

The Jets beat the Cowboys 24-22.  The Jets’ offense looked competent with Sam Darnold on the field.  They were not an offensive juggernaut, but they were not a liability when they were on the field.  The Jets had been averaging a pathetic 179 yards on offense with Darnold in street clothes; in this game they had 338 yards on offense.  That’s not great but it is an 89% increase in productivity.  The Jets’ defense was harassing all day long; Dak Prescott was hammered more than a few times.  The Cowboys have now lost 3 in a row; this is the third straight game where they did not score a TD in the first half of the game.

The Cardinals beat the Falcons 34-33 last week.  The reason Dan Quinn was hired by the Falcons in the first place was his stature as a defensive guru.  In 2019, the Falcons rank 26th in the NFL in yards allowed per game at 388.8.  Last week, Kyler Murray threw for 340 yards and 3 TDs against the Falcons’ defense.  Matt Ryan had a stat line that should have belonged to a winning QB and not a losing one:

  • 30 for 36 for 356 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs

The margin of defeat for the Falcons was a missed PAT by Matt Bryant.  Having said that, Bryant is not responsible for the loss here.

The Patriots dominated the Giants 35-14 last week.  The Pats gave up their first passing TD of the year in the game.  I guess Giants’ fans can count that as a bight spot for the Giants.  The Pats do need to get better at WR – – through a trade or through the healing of Josh Gordon and his leg injuries.  Take your pick…

The Steelers beat the Chargers 24-17.  This game was not nearly as close as the score appears; the Steelers dominated from the start.  Melvin Gordon only gained 18 yards on the ground here; the Steelers’ defense was suffocating.  The Steelers won this game on the road playing their 3rd string QB.  Now, the Steelers get a welcome scheduling respite.  They have their BYE Week followed by a game against the sorry-assed Dolphins

  • Memo to Steelers’ Coaches and Players:  You must not squander this scheduling largesse…

Even though this game was in LA, the crowd was clearly pro Steelers.  If you told me that 60% of the fans were wearing “black and gold” for the game, I would concur.  Visiting teams need not fear playing an away game at the Chargers home field..  The Chargers are 1-3 at “home” this year.


NFL Games:


Teams taking a break this week:

  1. Browns:  That hissing sound you hear is all the over-inflated hype that was pumped into balloons for Browns’ fans during the last offseason.
  2. Bucs:  They get time off to decompress from last week’s game in London.  The Bucs record today is 2-4 and their record at home is 0-3.  Interesting…
  3. Panthers:  They too get time off to decompress from last week’s game in London.  The Panthers are hanging in NFC South race only one game behind the Saints.
  4. Steelers:  They won an important game last week with solid defense and a 3rd string QB who did not embarrass himself or the team.  For the longer term, they need Mason Rudolph to clear the concussion protocols

There has been a lot of “line movement” this week in NFL games.  Please do not ask me to explain why…

Arizona at Giants – 3 (50.5):  This spread opened at 1 point and has expanded slowly as the week progressed.  Kyler Murray has had two big games in a row; you can devalue that a bit by pointing out that those games came against the Bengals and Falcons – ranked 29th and 26th respectively in total defense this year.  However, he goes against a Giants’ defense this week that ranks 28th this year.  Why not another big game?  Meanwhile, the 30th ranked Cards’ defense gets to try and stop Daniel Jones…  This is not the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, but it came close to earning that stigma.

Houston at Indy – 1 (47):  The spread opened here with the Texans as a 1-point road favorite.  That flipped over quickly and now the spread has been steady for a couple of days.  This is the Game of the Week between two teams with winning records fighting it out for the lead in their division.  The Texans’ Deshaun Watson has been outstanding for the last couple of weeks – coincidentally the Texans’ O-Line has protected him for those two games.  The Colts have been solid all season long.  The key to the game is the ability of the Texans’ defense to contain the Colts’ running attack; so far this year, the Texans have been solid there ranking 8th in the NFL

Miami at Buffalo – 17 (41):  The Bills come off a BYE Week to host a junior varsity opponent.  There is no way I would take the Dolphins on the road nor is there any way I would lay 17 points with the Bills’ inconsistent offense.  The most interesting aspect of this game to me is this;

  • Will the Dolphins score more than once in the game?

Minnesota – 2 at Detroit (45):  Here is another game where the favorite has flipped; the Lions opened the week as a 1-point favorite.  The Vikes offense has had two good outings in a row (against the Giants and the Eagles); maybe they are on a roll?  The Lions come to the game off a short week after losing to the Packers and the officials on Monday Night.

Oakland at Green Bay – 6 (47):  This spread opened with the Packers as 7.5-point favorites.  Like the Lions, the Packers come to the game off a short work week.  Meanwhile, the Raiders had a BYE last week.  I think there are 2 keys to this game:

  1. Can the Packers run defense stop Josh Jacobs?  The Packers rank 23rd in the league in run defense allowing 124.5 yards per game.
  2. Will the Packers have either Davante Adams or Geronimo Allison – or both – active as WRs?

I’ll put the Raiders plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

Jax – 3.5 at Cincy (44):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Jags were bad enough before they traded Jalen Ramsey away earlier this week.  The Bengals are just plain bad.  The Jags should run the ball all day long; the Bengals surrender an embarrassing 184.5 yards per game.  That is the worst in the NFL by a margin of 14.9 yards per game.

Rams – 3 at Atlanta (55):  Both defenses are suspect here.  Both offenses seem to feast on marginal defenses.  If forced to make a pick here I would play OVER.  Fortunately, I am not forced to do anything, so I’ll pass on that opportunity.

SF – 9.5 at Washington (41) The Total Line opened at 43.5 and has dropped to this level.  No; I do not know why.  Kyle Shanahan may want to rub it in here for the way he and his father were escorted out of town by Danny Boy Snyder and his Enabler-in Chief, Bruce Allen.  Just a hunch, I’ll put the Niners in this week’s Six-Pack and lay the points.

Chargers at Tennessee – 2 (40):  You can find this line from 2.5 points all the way down to 1 point this morning.  The Chargers are just not nearly as good as I thought they might be back in August; the Titans continue to be the most inconsistent team in the league.  Ryan Tannehill starts at QB for the Titans; is that a plus?

Baltimore at Seattle – 3 (49):  If you adhere to the rule of thumb that a home team gets a 3-point advantage, this game would be a “pick-‘em” at a neutral site.  That looks about right to me – but I think the Seahawks enjoy a larger home-field advantage than your garden-variety NFL squad.  Russell Wilson would be my pick for MVP if I had a vote and if the vote were held this morning.  I’ll put the Seahawks to win and cover in this week’s Six-Pack.

New Orleans at Chicago – 3 (38):  I gave this game serious consideration as the Game of the Week.  The Bears just put Kyle Long – their best offensive lineman – and Akiem Hicks – a damned good defensive lineman – on IR.  Moreover, I don’t know who their starting QB is going to be.  Too many unknowns to make a pick here…

(Sun Nite) Philly at Dallas – 3 (49):  If these teams had winning records, this would have been the Game of the Week because it is an important division game and because these teams – channeling Keith Jackson here – just plain don’t like each other.  Amari Cooper may or may not be available; if he does play, he will likely be less than 100%.  In that case, I think the Eagles’ defense should be able to deal with the Cowboys passing attack.  Now, can they also handle Ezekiel Elliott?

(Mon Nite) New England – 9.5 at Jets (42):  Sam Darnold makes a positive difference on offense for the Jets.  He did not play in the first meeting between these two teams.  The Pats had that game so well under control that they played backup Jarret Stidham for the 4th quarter.  I don’t think the Jets can win here, but it will be a much more interesting game than the one back in Week 3.

Let me summarize this week’s Six-Pack:

  1. Arizona St. +13.5 against Utah
  2. Oregon – 3 over Washington
  3. Florida – 4 over South Carolina
  4. Raiders + 6 against Packers
  5. Niners – 9.5 over Skins
  6. Seahawks – 3 over Ravens

Finally, Brad Dickson offered up some courtship advice that is pertinent to NFL football:

“Forty-niners defensive lineman D.J. Jones just proposed to his girlfriend on the sidelines at Monday Night Football. That’s crazy. A proposal should be done in absolute privacy when there’s not a soul around – say, at Thursday Night Football.”

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