Football Friday 10/4/19

Football Friday returns to an actual Friday this week – – plus it falls on Highway Patrol Day.  Ten-four…

My real time football viewing last weekend was almost nil as we had houseguests from Thursday night to late on Sunday.  Fortunately, there is an ample menu of replays available.

Reviewing last week’s Six-Pack, the record was 5-1 – – the loss was the Thursday night game where I picked the Packers to win and cover against the Eagles.

So, the Six-Pack results to date are as follows:

  • The Six-Pack overall is 14-4.
  • For college games in the Six-Pack, the record is 7-0
  • For NFL games in the Six Pack, the record is 7-4.

One of the Six-Pack selections from last week demonstrates that it is much better to be lucky than smart.  The pick was Maryland/Penn State UNDER 62.5.  My reasoning was that Penn State’s defense would hold Maryland in the teens or low-20s despite Maryland’s big offensive outbursts earlier this season.  And, I thought that Maryland would hold Penn State to less than 30 points.  The only part of that “analysis” that was correct is that Penn State won the game.  The final score was 59-0 which means my “analysis” was totally off target – – and yet I “cashed my ticket” figuratively speaking.

Fear not; I am not going to tout my Six-Pack record the way some of the screamers on TV like to do.  In fact, I want to foreshadow this week’s picks by saying I had difficulty assembling a Six-Pack.  None of the games this week jumped off the board at me.  I think I’ll need to be lucky to break even this week.

 

NCAA Football Comments:

 

I mistakenly told you last week that Linfield would be visiting Pacific University for a Northwest Conference game.  Actually, Linfield had a BYE week last week and will play Pacific University this week in Forest Grove, OR.  Go Wildcats!

Last weekend was only the final weekend in September and unless I counted wrong, there were only 3 winless teams left in Division 1-A football.  UMass and Akron entered the week winless and played each other with UMass prevailing.  Vandy finally won a game last week beating Northern Illinois.  That leaves Akron, New Mexico State and Rice as the only winless teams.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are still 18 undefeated teams as of this morning.  Auburn and Florida are unbeaten and play each other on Saturday – – so the number will drop to at least 17 by Monday.  In case you had not noticed, there are some undefeated teams out there who most folks would not consider to be among the “Usual Suspects” such as:

  • Appalachian State
  • Baylor
  • Boise State
  • Memphis
  • Minnesota
  • SMU
  • Wake Forest

For those of you who are “of a certain age”, you may recall Harold Stassen as a political figure.  He was – seemingly – a perennial candidate for one office or another but there was an interesting period in his life when he tried to run for President of the US in 1952 and then ran for Governor of Pennsylvania in 1958 followed by a run for Mayor of Philadelphia in 1959.  None of those runs were successful.  Interestingly, they were in a chronological order that was opposite from the way a politician might seek elective offices; he seemed to be running the base paths backwards.

I mention this brief historical interlude because Charlie Strong is starting to resemble the “Harold Stassen of College Football”.  Strong was the coach at Texas for 3 years; after he was fired from that job, he was hired by USF where he is midway through his 3rd season.  Going back to last year, USF has lost its last 9 games to Division 1-A opponents.  This year, the cumulative score for USF against other Division 1-A schools is a pathetic 111-31.  If he gets canned at the end of this season, he may be relegated to seeking a job at one of the perennial doormat schools in the country where he can hope to win 5 or 6 games in a season to resurrect his career.  Or he can be the “Harold Stassen of College Football”.

Charlie Strong is merely on a hot seat at USF.  Chris Ash has already been fired at Rutgers.  [Aside:  I know; this is more like him getting a pardon and not being forced to stand on the sidelines watching his team get its doors blown off.]  The firing is understandable to a degree; Ash’s record in Big 10 conference games was 3-26.  No one expected him to turn Rutgers into a serious contender in the Big 10 East but losing that many games – – and losing too many of them by huge margins – – was too much for the Rutgers’ administrators to take.  Shed no tears for Coach Ash; his buyout was reportedly $8.5M

Word is that Rutgers wants to hire Greg Schiano – who had that position for 10 years back at the beginning of this millennium.  That was before Rutgers was in the Big 10 East and had to face Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State every single season.  Back then, Rutgers was in the Big East where it had to contend with the likes of UConn, Temple, USF and Boston College.  Even with that “softer college scheduling” Schiano’s teams at Rutgers went 67-66.  Those were the “good old days” for Rutgers football – – unless you think back to 1869 when Rutgers beat Princeton 6-4 in the first college football game ever.

Schiano’s reputation has been tarnished by his presence on the Penn State staff during the time of the “Sandusky Scandal”.  Maybe he needs a head coaching job to jumpstart his career.  If that is the case, then good luck to him.  If that is not the case, this might not be a great job for anyone to take without a very fat paycheck and an ironclad buyout clause.

Speaking for a moment about coaches on hot seats and coaches being fired, it seemed that USC coach, Clay Helton, had cooled off his seat significantly 2 weeks ago when the Trojans beat Utah.  That “reprieve” seemed to come to an end last weekend when the Trojans lost to Washington.  USC has already fired its Athletic Director and the clamor to fire Clay Helton continues to build.  The interesting thing about this clamor is that it contains two parts:

  • Part 1:  Fire Clay Helton.  He was a bad hire in the first place and is over his head coaching one of the blue-blood college football programs in the US.
  • Part 2:  Hire Urban Meyer.  He is the coach that USC fans and alums deserve, and he is cooling his heels doing TV commentary.

The unspoken assumption here is that Urban Meyer would jump at the opportunity to take this job.  Maybe he would – – but I am not so sure.  Consider:

  • Urban Meyer has been a very successful coach at Bowling Green (record of 17-6), Utah (record of 22-2), Florida (record of 63-14 plus two national championships) and Ohio State (record of 44-4 plus one national championship).
  • Note that his career trajectory has been “upward” in terms of school prestige with regard to football.
  • Urban Meyer is 55 years old and has had some health issues along the way.  If/when he takes another head coaching job, it could well be his final head coaching position – – so maybe he would want it to be the best possible way for him to close out his career/leave his legacy.
  • Question:  In 2020, is USC a big enough/important enough football program to be the pinnacle of Urban Meyer’s football career?  I am not so sure…

What are the jobs that might be worthy of being the capstone on a career such as Urban Meyer’s?  There are two possibilities that come to my mind:

  1. Notre Dame:  Urban Meyer once said this would be his “dream job” given his devout Roman Catholicism.  Brian Kelly is in his 10th season at Notre Dame and Kelly is 57 years old.  He will not be there forever…
  2. New England Patriots:  I don’t mean to imply that Urban Meyer would take just any NFL job; I think he would take the challenge of following the legend that will exist in New England once Bill Belichick hangs up his whistle.  Just as a reference, Belichick is 67 years old.

The game that put Clay Helton back on his hot seat saw Washington beat USC 28-14 in what had to be a smashmouth game.  Shades of Woody Hayes, Washington ran the ball 35 times for 193 yards while USC ran the ball 33 times for 212 yards.

Arizona beat UCLA 20-17 last week.  That game followed UCLA’s 50-point outburst in the second half two weeks ago.  Here, the Bruins could not get to 20 points against a team that had already lost to Hawaii earlier on.

Meanwhile, Washington State – the team that experienced UCLA’s 50-point outburst two weeks ago – returned to action last week and lost badly to Utah 38-13.  Basically, the Cougars exhibited some hangover symptoms against the Utes and Cougars’ coach, Mike Leach, referred to his own players as “fat, dumb, happy and entitled”.  I sense that all is not pleasant on the Palouse…

Wake Forest remained unbeaten for the 2019 season last week with a 27-24 win over Boston College.

Another ACC game saw Duke trample Va Tech by a score of 45-10.  This game was in Blacksburg no less!  Whatever happened to the Va Tech defense that put the fear of God into opponents?  It has not been on display so far in 2019.  The Hokies suffered a losing season last year; if that happens again this year, that would be the first time since 1991/92 for consecutive losing seasons in Blacksburg.  Once again if that happens, I will not be surprised to see Va Tech involved in the college football coaching carousel come December.

In a game involving an ACC team that ACC fans would prefer to ignore, Temple beat Georgia Tech 24-2.  The only interesting aspect of this game is that the current coach at Georgia Tech was the coach at Temple until this year.  This was not a happy homecoming for Geoff Collins…

I mentioned the Penn State/Maryland game above regarding the Six-Pack last week.  Some people refer to this “rivalry” as a “border war” because indeed Maryland and Pennsylvania share a border known as the Mason Dixon Line.  However, I doubt that anyone in State College, PA looks at Maryland as an archrival.  The teams have met 43 times; consider these stats:

  • Penn State “leads the series” 40-2-1.
  • The two wins for Maryland came in 1961 (Joe Paterno was an Assistant Coach at Penn State then) and 1992.

Maryland has now lost 2 games in a row after winning its opening 2 games by a combined score of 142-20.  If you assume that Maryland might be looking ahead to the Penn State game, that might explain its loss 2 weeks ago to Temple.  However, if indeed they were pointing to the Penn State game, it does not say anything positive about the team.  In addition to losing 59-0, the Terps; total offense for the game was 128 yards.

In other Big 10 action, Ohio State beat Nebraska 48-7.  This was total domination; the score at halftime was 38-0 leading the Buckeyes to “stroll along” in the second half.  The Huskers entered the game with a 3-1 record with the loss being an OT game against Colorado.  Notwithstanding that fact, they were totally outclassed in every phase of the game on national TV in prime time.

Michigan State beat Indiana 40-31.  Let’s just say that the end of this game was out of the ordinary:

  • The game was tied 31-31 with 8 seconds on the clock.
  • Michigan State kicked a field goal to take the lead 34-31.
  • On the final play of the game, Michigan State got a “scoop and score” off a fumble to add 6 more points to the total.
  • Nine points scored in the final 8 seconds of the game…

Oklahoma State beat Kansas State 26-13.  K-State had edged its way into the Top 25 entering this game and then proceeded to lay an egg here.  The Wildcats only recorded 8 first downs in the game.  The Cowboys outgained the Wildcats 520 yards to 244 yards.

At the end of last season, Kentucky was solidly and properly ranked in the Top 25.  In my college football preview, I said that they might struggle this year to replicate that stature in 2019.  So how have things gone?

  • Kentucky won its first two games convincingly against soft opponents – Toledo and E. Michigan.  Combined score was 76-41
  • Kentucky has lost its last three games against SEC opponents – Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina.  Combined score was 81-41.
  • Kentucky has a BYE Week this week and Arkansas at home for Homecoming next on the schedule.  Arkansas is the doormat of the SEC; the Wildcats need a win in that game.

 

College Football Games This Week:

 

(Fri Nite) UCF – 3.5 at Cincy (60.5):  The only time UCF scored fewer than 40 points in a game this year, they lost that game to Pitt.  They rebounded from that loss to smash UConn last week 56-21.  Other than a shutout loss to Ohio State, Cincy has won its other three games averaging 111 points in those 3 wins.  This should be a fun game to watch.

USF – 11 at UConn (49):  I mentioned above that Charlie Strong may be on a hot seat at USF given the Bulls’ lack of success against Division 1-A teams recently.  Well, Randy Edsall’s seat at UConn also has to be hot to some degree; it is ameliorated by the fact that UConn will be dropping out of the AAC at the end of this season and it might be difficult to hire a replacement coach given all the uncertainty up there.  To demonstrate the dilemma for the UConn administrators, Edsall’s record at UConn in this second stint there is 5-23.

Texas – 10.5 at W. Virginia (61.5):  This could well be an important Big 12 game as things sort out later in the season.  Meanwhile, Texas has its Red River Showdown with Oklahoma in Dallas next week.  This could be a trap game for the Longhorns…

Purdue at Penn State – 29 (56):  Purdue lost its starting QB and its best WR on the same play last week.  The spread here opened at 24 points and risen steadily throughout the week.  This smells like a blowout game to me.

Baylor at K-State – 2 (49):  Baylor is undefeated so far this year and they are a road underdog here…

Maryland – 12 at Rutgers (57):  Both teams were shut out last week; Michigan beat Rutgers 52-0 while Penn State beat Maryland 59-0.  Rutgers just fired the coach (see above).  Call this the Pity Party Game of the Week?

Va Tech at Miami (FL) – 14 (46):  Call this one The Disappointment Bowl.  Both teams are 2-2 and both have underperformed expectations for the season.

Oregon St. at UCLA – 6 (65.5):  If the Bruins lose this one to the Beavers, the natives will be getting restless in Westwood, CA…

Cal at Oregon – 18 (46):  This is an important PAC-12 game.  Since losing to Auburn on the road in the season opener, the Oregon defense has not allowed a TD in the last 3 games.  [They did allow 5 field goals in those 3 games.]  Meanwhile, Cal comes to the game with a 4-1 record and they have only given up 20 points in a game one time this year.  I know that Oregon enjoys a significant home field advantage, but that line looks awfully fat to me given that both teams feature solid defenses.  I’ll put Cal plus the points in the Six-Pack for this week.

Iowa at Michigan – 3.5 (48):  Iowa is undefeated – against an undistinguished set of opponents.  Michigan and Jim Harbaugh very specifically cannot afford to lose a home game this early in the season with the likes of Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State all coming to Ann Arbor later in this year.

Illinois at Minnesota – 14 (57):  Minnesota is undefeated in 4 games this season but the total margin of victory in those 4 games is 20 points.  Illinois is hardly a fearsome opponent – but that label could be applied to Minnesota’s four victims to this point in the season.  The only team the Gophers’ defense could hold under 30 points was Division 1-AA South Dakota State.  I am not a Lovie Smith acolyte, but that line is FAT at the Sally Struthers level of FAT.  I’ll put Illinois plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

Georgia – 24 at Tennessee (51.5):  Just what Jeremy Pruitt needs; another home blowout with him standing on the sidelines with no answers to any of the questions.  The calls to replace Pruitt are becoming more audible to the point that Athletic Director, Phil Fulmer, thought it was necessary to say that he would not be returning to the sidelines as an interim coach.

  • Memo to Jeremy Pruitt:  Rent; don’t buy.  And don’t buy any green bananas either…

Air Force – 3.5 at Navy (45):  Games between any two of the service academies are always fun to watch.  You will not see a single player “dogging it” even once during the game.

Auburn – 2.5 at Florida (48.5):  This is the Game of the Week.  Both teams are undefeated; both teams have shown they can play solid defense.  A win for Florida will set up the Florida/Georgia game as the road to the SEC Championship Game from the SEC East.

Michigan State at Ohio State – 20 (49):  Sparty is 3-1 and the Buckeyes are 4-0 so far this year.  That could cause one to look at the spread and do a double take – – but the eyeball test says that Ohio State is indeed the better squad.

Utah State at LSU – 28 (73.5):  This spread opened at 24 points and has been climbing all week long.  In no way do I think Utah State is going to win the game, but that is a ton of points even accounting for the huge home field advantage that LSU enjoys in Baton Rouge.  To give you an idea of how the oddsmakers view Utah State as a possible winner of the game, you can find the Money Line odds as high as +2150 as of this morning.

 

NFL Comments:

 

So much for home field advantage in the NFL…  Last week visiting teams won 11 of the 15 games on the schedule outright.  The Browns, Bucs and Raiders were all road winners despite going off as underdogs of at least a TD at game time.  The four losing road teams were:

  1. Bengals (0-4)
  2. Cowboys
  3. Skins (0-4)
  4. Vikes

Please note that two of those four teams have not won a game all season long – – at home or on the road or on the moon…

Someone had the temerity to ask Bill Belichick what role football analytics plays in his thinking as he constructs a game plan for the upcoming opponent.  Belichick is famous for his terse responses to press queries and his answer here was brilliant in that there was not room for a follow-up question:

“Less than zero.”

Give Coach Belichick an A+ here for simplicity and candor…

The Niners had last week off with the earliest possible BYE Week on the NFL schedule.  Nonetheless, the Niners enter this weekend’s games as the only undefeated team in the NFC as both the Cowboys and the Rams lost last week.

In horseracing handicapping parlance, there are front-runners and there are stretch runners.  Well, it appears as if every team in the AFC South falls into the same category here; all four teams have records of 2-2 with the first quarter of the season in the record books.  Moreover, two of the teams there – – Jags and Texans – – have a point differential of ZERO after the first 4 games of the season.

The Pats beat the Bills 16-10 to stay unbeaten for the year.  However, the Bills’ defense demonstrated in defeat that it is for real in 2019.  Consider these stats as you also consider the Bills’ defense:

  • The Pats averaged a meager 3.6 yards per offensive play and one offensive TD.
  • Another Pats’ TD came from a blocked punt that was “scooped for a score”.
  • Tom Brady completed less than 50% of his pass attempts (18 for 39 for 150 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT).
  • Pats gained only 74 yards rushing and had total offense of 224 yards

Four INTs thrown by Bills’ QBs doomed the team last week.  Josh Allen was knocked out of the game and replaced by Matt Barkley.  In this game, Frank Gore rushed for 109 yards and became only the fourth RB in NFL history to gain more than 15,000 yards in a career.

The three running backs just behind Frank Gore on the all-time rushing list are all in the Hall of Fame:

  • Curtis Martin
  • LaDanian Tomlinson
  • Jerome Bettis

The three running backs ahead of Gore on the all-time rushing list are also all in the Hall of Fame – – and it is not inconceivable that Gore will jump into third place on this list sometime this season.  He needs to gain another 248 yards to do so.  Those 3 rushing leaders are:

  • Emmitt Smith 18,355 yards
  • Walter Payton 16,726 yards
  • Barry Sanders 15,269 yards.

The Bucs beat the Rams 55-40 last week.  I said in Football Friday last week that if the Giants could go “north of 30 points against the Bucs”, I did not see why the Rams could not go north of 40 points.  The problem here is that the Rams defense was a no-show and the Rams’ offense kept giving the ball away.  Frankly, I am surprised that the Bucs could score 55 points on anybody – let alone the NFC representative in last year’s Super Bowl game.  Jared Goff threw the ball 68 times last week amassing 517 yards in the process.  That speaks to the desperation play calling the Rams fell into as they fell behind by 3 TDs early on.  Meanwhile, Jameis Winston threw for 385 yards and 4 TDs in the game.

The NFL record for sacks in a season is 22.5 sacks held by Michael Strahan in 2001.  Three players have recorded 22 sacks in a season between 1984 and the present.  Bucs’ defender Shaq Barrett is on pace to shatter that sacks record for a season.

  • Barrett has 9 sacks in 4 games
  • That projects to 36 sacks for a full 16-game regular season.
  • Yowza!

The Eagles beat the Packers 34-27 in the Thursday Night game last week.  The stats for this game do not lead you to deduce the winner.

  • Aaron Rodgers was 34 for 53 for 422 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT.
  • Davante Adams caught 10 passes for 180 yards

The Packers had no meaningful running game.  Rodgers was the team rushing leader on his scrambles; the other running backs carried the ball 15 times for a total of 31 yards.  Conversely, the Eagles ran the ball effectively – – 33 carries for 176 yards.

The Giants beat the Skins 24-3.  The natural storyline here was that Dwayne Haskins entered the game late in the first half and faced Daniel Jones who was making his second career start.  Recall that Haskins was dismissive of the Giants taking Jones ahead of him back on draft day and he declared that teams that passed on him had “messed up”.  One half of one football game in their first NFL season does not say anything definitive about these two QBs but in this first encounter, you would have to say that Jones was the superior player:

  • Jones was 23 for 31 for 225 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs
  • Haskins was 9 for 17 for 107 yards with 0 TDs and 3 INTs
  • Jones ran 5 times for 33 yards
  • Haskins ran 2 times for 23 yards

A less obvious story line for this game is contained in the rushing stats for the Skins.  They ran the ball 17 times and gained 55 yards.  If you look at those numbers and say to yourself that they are not very good, consider the following:

  • For the season, the Skins rushing stats are pretty much what you see here; they do this every week.
  • For the 4 games in 2019 – – all losses for the Skins – – they average running the ball 17 times and they average 49.75 yards per game.
  • Adrian Peterson is the team’s leading rusher with 90 yards (2.7 yards per carry).

People say the way to win in the NFL is to run the ball effectively and to stop the opponent from running the ball effectively.  If that mantra is correct, the Skins miss out on both ends.  We see that they run the ball poorly; here is how they stop the run:

  • Opponents average 147.5 yards per game on the ground (4.7 yards per carry)
  • Opponents achieve 7.25 first downs per game against the Skins’ defense.

The Raiders beat the Colts 31-24 last week.  The Raiders’ defense held RB, Marlon Mack, to 39 yards on 11 carries.

The Titans beat the Falcons 24-10 last week.  Matt Ryan threw for 397 yards in the game and that produced only 10 points on the scoreboard.

The Bears beat the Vikes 16-6 last week.  The Bears’ defense was in control of this game from the start.  Dalvin Cook had gained 125 yards per game until last week; the Bears held him to 35 yards on 14 carries.  That put the Vikes’ hopes for victory squarely in the hands of Kirk Cousins and that simply did not work.  If the Vikes’ run game was squashed, the passing game was merely mediocre.  Mitchell Trubisky had to leave the game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury; he is not going to play this week.  Chase Daniel came in and did what backup QBs are supposed to do; he ran the offense competently if not spectacularly.  It was good enough to win the game which is what it is all about.  Right?

Meanwhile, the Vikes have to realize by now that Kirk Cousins is not the guy to get them wins over opponents that are very good.  He can – and usually will – beat the teams the Vikes are supposed to beat; but the Vikes are on the hook to pay him about $28M this year and about the same amount next year.  That does not seem to be a lot of bang for the buck.

The Panthers beat the Texans 16-10 last week.  Deshaun Watson only threw for 160 yards in the game; Kyle Allen threw for 232 yards notching his second win in as many starts for his career.

The Chargers beat the Dolphins 30-10; the Dolphins were shut out in the second half indicating to me that they made the proper adjustments at halftime to assure losing the game.  Chargers’ DL Melvin Ingram injured his hamstring in this game and may be out for a while.

The Chiefs beat the Lions 34-30 last week.  Maybe the Lions are not as bad as the Lions traditionally are?  The Chiefs won the game without Patrick Mahomes throwing a TD pass – – and still they scored 34 points.

The Browns beat the Ravens 40-25 last week.  Lamar Jackson threw 3 TDs and 2 INTs in the game.  The Browns ran the ball very effectively here; Nick Chubb ran for 165 yards and 3 TDs including an 88-yard carry on a simple off-tackle run.

The Jags beat the Broncos 26-24 last week.  Joe Flacco threw for 303 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT but the Broncos lost DL, Bradley Chubb for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.  The Jags’ Leonard Fournette ran for 225 yards in this game.

The Steelers beat the Bengals like a drum last week.  It was a battle of winless teams and the Bengals looked much the worse squad; they made the Steelers look like a 3-0 team and not an 0-3 team.  The Bengals’ OL gave up 8 sacks in the game.  Mason Rudolph played well – nothing spectacular but efficient and effective.  Going into this game, the Steelers’ defense had been allowing 444 yards per game; they held the Bengals to 244 yards total offense.

The Seahawks beat the Cardinals 27-10.  It surely does not seem as if the Cared’ new “Air Raid Offense” is fooling a lot of defensive coordinators and defenders…

The Saints beat the Cowboys 12-10 and the key was that the Saints’ defense held Ezekiel Elliott to 35 yards on 18 carries.  Another interesting stat from the game:

  • Teddy Bridgewater targeted WR Michael Thomas 9 times in the game.
  • The result of those 9 targets was 9 completions for 95 yards.

One comment about last night’s Seahawks win over the Rams on Thursday Night Football:

  • If you went to the paint store and found a paint chip to match the color of the Seahawks’ Thursday night uniforms, would the color be called “Baby Vomit Green”?

 

NFL Games this week:

 

These teams will have their BYE Week this weekend:

  • Lions can take something positive from their loss to the Chiefs last week as they prepare for a visit to Green Bay next week.
  • Dolphins get a free week to figure out new and creative ways to lose future games.  I wonder how many survival pool picks have involved whatever team is playing the Dolphins?

Baltimore – 3.5 at Pittsburgh (44):  The Ravens defense unraveled last week while the Steelers’ defense finally decided to show itself last week.  What happens now?  The Steelers are not the same offensive team without Leveon Bell, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger – – but they are not awful without them; their replacements may never make it to the HoF, but they are competent.  A win for the Steelers here puts them right back in the middle of the AFC North race.  I’ll put the Steelers plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

(London Game) Chicago – 5 vs. Oakland (40): This spread opened at 7 points and dropped almost immediately to this level where it stayed all week.  Kahlil Mack gets to go against the team that traded him away; that might be a scary proposition.  Chase Daniel was adequate as the backup QB last week – – but the reason the Bears beat the Vikes was the Bears’ defense.  Games in London are sort of “Body Clock Games” for both teams – but in this case Chicago is two time zones closer to London than is Oakland.  I’ll put the Bears to win and cover in this week’s Six-Pack.

  • [Aside:  I saw a note saying that this is the 25th NFL game played in London and that there has never been a game there where both teams had winning records.  Amazing.  One bias toward that end is that the NFL puts teams in London games that have difficulty filling their home stadiums and those teams tend to be bad ones.]

Arizona at Cincy – 3 (46.5):  I will not listen to any argument to the contrary; this is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Do you think there is anyone sufficiently brain addled to bet this game on the Money Line?  I went looking for a trend that might point to one side or the other and even the trends are confusing:

  • Cards are 5-2-1 against the spread in their last 8 road games
  • Bengals are 6-2 against the spread in their last 8 games overall

Here is a result that will only be wished for in Curmudgeon Central:

  • Dolphins go 0-16 for the season and the Cards go 0-15-1.
  • Cards are winless and only get the SECOND pick in next year’s draft.

Jax at Carolina – 3.5 (41):  This game pits Gardner Minshew (sixth round pick) against Kyle Allen (undrafted free agent) as the QBs.  The Panthers’ defense has come alive the last couple of weeks – particularly the pass rush.  So, is this a confrontation between Kyle Allen and Gardner Minshew or between Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette or between the two defensive units?  Maybe all of the above…

Minnesota – 5 at Giants (43.5):  Kirk Cousins has never played well in The Meadowlands.  He played with great mediocrity last week against the Bears.  This week’s defense will not challenge him nearly as much as the Bears did last week.  Daniel Jones is 2-0 at the helm for the Giants – – but the Vikes defense is a big step up from the Skins’ defense last week and/or the Bucs’ defense the week before that.  The Vikes have the better defense by far and that is the story of the game.  I’ll put the Vikes to win and cover in this week’s Six-Pack.

New England – 15 at Washington (43.5):  This spread opened at 13 points and has risen slowly during the week.  There is one Internet sports book this morning that has a 16-point spread posted.  The Pats lead the league in total defense; they lead the league in interceptions; they are tied for the lead in sacks.  The Skins’ offense aspires to mediocrity.  The Pats defense has given up 1 TD in 4 games.  Meanwhile, the Pats have 1 TD from special teams in those 4 games plus 2 TDs from the defensive unit.  Here are some questions for this game:

  • Who will be the Skins’ QB in this game?
  • What happened to the Pats run game with Sony Michel?
  • Will Benjamin Watson be ready to play his normal game coming off his 4-game suspension?
  • Will Belichick run it up or take mercy on Jay Gruden?

Jets at Philly – 13.5 (43.5):  Is Sam Darnold able to play?  If not, the Jets’ offense might have significant difficulty scoring points even against an injury-depleted Eagles’ defense.  There are conflicting trends at work for this game:

  • Jets are 1-6-1 against the spread in their last 8 games on grass
  • Eagles are 2-7 against the spread in their last 9 home games

Tampa Bay at New Orleans – 3 (47):  This spread opened at 6.5 points and sagged to this number almost immediately.  The Bucs lead the NFL in rushing defense; meanwhile, the Saints need to lean on Alvin Kamara more than usual with Drew Brees sidelined for about another month.  The Saints are 2-0 with Teddy Bridgewater subbing in for Drew Brees and the two wins came at the expense of the Cowboys and the Seahawks.  This is a big division game; can Teddy Bridgewater sustain his mojo?  I like this game to stay UNDER as one item in this week’s Six-Pack.

Atlanta at Houston – 5 (49):  Both teams lost at home last week; both teams looked bad in doing so.  The Texans are still not protecting Deshaun Watson and the Falcons are a different team from week to week.  It sure looks to me as if the Texans’ defense misses Jadeveon Clowney.    The Falcons are 1-3; this is a big game for them.  Both coaches are on a hot seat; it would not be good for either one to be on the short end of a blowout game.  Here are two strange betting stats for you to ponder:

  • Texans are 1-13 against the spread in the last 14 games in Week 5 of a season
  • Falcons are 1-8 against the spread in their last 9 games in October

Buffalo at Tennessee – 3 (38.5):  You have to go looking to find lines on this game because the Bills’ QB is unknown at the moment.  The Bills’ defense showed itself to be top-shelf against the Pats last week.  Now the Bills’ offense needs to pick up the pace a bit despite the possibility that Matt Barkley might be under center this week.  Once again, which version of the Titans will show up here – – the one that beat the Falcons handily and humiliated the Browns or the one that lost to the Jags and the Colts?

Denver at Chargers – 6.5 (44.5):  The Chargers are 2-2 with defensive injuries – – but RB, Melvin Gordon is back in the fold.  The Broncos are 0-4.  Even with Vic Fangio in charge out in Denver, the defense there has been pretty much a disappointment.  Guess it was the players he had in Chicago that made that defense so fearsome…

Green Bay at Dallas – 3.5 (46.5):  I shall anoint this as the Game of the Week.  The Cowboys are 3-1 but the wins were over the Skins (0-4) and the Dolphins (0-4) and the “Eli Manning Giants” (0-2).  Last week against a much better Saints’ team, the Cowboys scored all of 10 points.  The Packers have beaten the Bears (by one TD) and the Vikes (by 5 points) and the Broncos (0-4) and the Packers lost at home to the Eagles.  Let’s just say there are plenty of question marks surrounding both teams.  Last week, Packers’ offense was alive and well – – but the Packers lost.  Last week, the Cowboys’ offense was shut down – – and the Cowboys lost.  This is a big game; the Packers’ defense took last week off and the Cowboys’ offense took last week off.  Which unit returns to form this week?

(Sun Nite) Indy at KC – 11 (56):  The spread here opened at 9 points and has risen to this level over the course of the week.  The Chiefs won last week without Patrick Mahomes throwing a TD pass.  Was that just a weird occurrence or is there some other dimension to the Chiefs’ scoring capabilities?  The Colts lost at home last week to the Raiders giving up 31 points.  That is not a good omen for going on the road to play the Chiefs this weekend.  The Chiefs looked mortal last week on the road – – but they won.  Now they are back at home…

(Mon Nite) Cleveland at SF – 4 (46):  Finally, we – and ESPN – get a good MNF game.  The Niners coming off a BYE week; the Browns are playing their second consecutive road game.   Baker Mayfield should test the Niners’ secondary here.  The Browns offense looked good against the Ravens; if they play that way for the balance of the season they will be in the playoffs.  Now they need to show they can do that…

Let me review this week’s Six-Pack:

  1. Cal +18 points against Oregon
  2. Illinois + 14 points against Minnesota
  3. Steelers +3.5 against Ravens
  4. Bears – 5 over Raiders
  5. Vikes – 5 over Giants
  6. Bucs/Saints UNDER 47 points

Finally, I mentioned Frank Gore’s achievement of eclipsing 15,000 yards rushing in his NFL career.  Here is what Bob Molinaro had to say about Gore in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Relentless: There have been more talented and exciting players at his position than Buffalo’s 36-year-old Frank Gore — who Sunday became the fourth back in NFL history to gain 15,000 yards on the ground — but none has run harder or longer after overcoming reconstructive surgery on both knees and shoulders. Gore is a gamer.

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

 

 

4 thoughts on “Football Friday 10/4/19”

  1. While I love the Bears (playing rugby there will do it) one of the reasons they dropped precipitously out of the rankings after losing to ASU (the spread was under 5 and they lost by 7, a 12 point swing) had to do with the fact that their starting QB Garbers is out indefinitely. That would also partly explain the line here, with Devon Modster getting the call. Modster used to be UCLA’s starting QB, transferred to Cal and just became eligible. So, the cupboard isn’t entirely bare but it is also not warm-fuzzy encouraging (from last week’s action) that Modster is in charge for now. I would expect some improvement based on experience and a week’s worth of practice.

    The comments about SC are spot-on, to which I would add one more: Meyer is wise enough to see the snakepit politics in the USC football program and as you had mentioned his leaving OSU on a high, why would he add that soap opera into his life, now that he’s making big bikkies (an Aussie term) on the commercials circuit?

    Since we’re talking about football, it’s Rugby World Cup time and while there have been a couple of shockers (Japan beat Ireland and Uruguay beat Olympic champion Fiji [to be fair, 7s is a different game, the USA is still the 15s champion since 1924]) but mostly it has gone according to form. The USA lost to England and to France (doing better) and have an outside shot at beating Argentina if things go right and should beat Tonga if they aren’t injured and keep their heads in the game. All in all a tough pool, but worth watching. The next game is Tuesday.

  2. also recall in the London games, they almost always send the Tampa Bay Sucks due to Glazer’s business interests over there – he owned Man U, a successful team…. Tampa rarely would qualify with a winning record and they don’t this year

    1. Ed:

      And when they don’t send the Bucs they send the Jags – – who also cannot fill their stadium. Nonetheless, you would think that by now one of those “less than successful” teams would have drawn an opponent with a winning record…

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