Football Friday 10/11/19

Chuck Todd tells us:

“If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet The Press”

In this little backwater of the Internet:

  • If it’s Friday in the Fall, it’s Football Friday. 

I said last week that I had no strong feelings about the games in the Six-Pack and the results were in consonance with that statement.  Overall, the Six-Pack went 3-3.  Here are the cumulative stats to date:

  • Overall, the Six-Pack record is 17-7
  • College games are 8-1
  • NFL games are 9-6

 

College Football Commentary:

 

The Linfield College Wildcats beat Pacific University last week 52-14 giving the Wildcats a 2-1 record for the 2019 season.  All three of Linfield’s games to data have been on the road.  Tomorrow is Homecoming weekend for Linfield – for the alumni and for the football team.  The University of Puget Sound will be the opponent this week and the Loggers bring a 3-1 record to the kickoff.  This is a Northwest Conference game.  Go Wildcats!

As of this morning, 16 Division 1-A college football teams remain unbeaten. As was the case last week, at least one of those teams will suffer a loss this week when unbeaten Florida and unbeaten LSU face each other.  Two other undefeated teams have worthy opponents this week; Minnesota hosts Nebraska and Wake Forest hosts Louisville.

As of this morning there are still 3 winless teams in Division 1-A.   Akron, New Mexico State and Rice have yet to come out winners.

Wisconsin is one of the undefeated teams this year and the combined score in all of Wisconsin’s games is a staggering 217-29.  As lopsided as that score looks, consider that 14 of the 29 points surrendered by the Wisconsin defense came in “garbage time” to Michigan after Wisconsin had run out to a 35-0 lead.  Wisconsin leads the nation in scoring defense giving up 5.8 points per game.  Four other teams are giving up fewer than 10 points per game.

At the other end of the stick, the UMass defense is the most porous one in the country allowing 46.7 points per game Three other teams are yielding 40 or more points per game.

The scoring leader in college football so far is LSU – and that is not the “football mode” one normally associates with LSU.  The Tigers average 54.6 points per game.

Three teams have had so much difficulty scoring that they average fewer than 15 points per game.  They are Bowling Green, Northwestern and – – at the bottom of the list – – Rutgers which averages 14.2 points per game.

Speaking of Rutgers…  It had been fairly well established that Maryland only looks like a powerhouse team when it is playing an opponent that is “mediocre at best” and that Maryland can be embarrassed by good teams.  Last week, Maryland beat Rutgers 48-7. Put your own label on Rutgers here…

In another Big-10 blowout, Penn State beat Purdue 35-7.  Purdue was missing its starting QB and its best WR for the game; the Boilermakers never had a chance here.  The Penn State defense loaded up to stop the run and did so most effectively holding Purdue to minus-30 yards rushing for the game and to a total of 93 yards on offense.

Minnesota remained unbeaten for the season trouncing Illinois 40-17.  This was one of the Six-Pack losers last week.

Michigan beat Iowa 10-3 last week in a game that turned the clock back to the 1940s…

USF beat UConn last week 48-22.  Both coaches here are on a hot seat – – but Charlie Strong at USF really needed this win.  USF had been on a massive losing streak against Division 1-A opponents that went back to the middle of last season; patience had begun to wear thin.  On the other hand, Randy Edsall may be safe for a strange reason.  UConn is leaving the AAC next season with no certainty as to what the future of UConn football might be.  Therefore, it might be difficult to attract a replacement for Edsall who would bring a résumé superior to Joe Flabeetz.

In a battle of unbeatens, Florida beat Auburn 24-13.  Both defenses played very well; Florida’s defense was dominant intercepting 3 passes and harassing Auburn QB, Bo Nix for the entire game.  Florida RB, Lamical Perine, had 130 yards rushing including an 88-yard TD scamper.  Florida fumbled the ball away 4 times in the game and still won…

In another SEC game last week, Georgia pounded Tennessee 43-14.  The game was still within hailing distance at halftime but the Vols were shut out in the second half.  Here is how the Tennessee offense worked in the second half:

  1. Three-and-out
  2. Three-and-out
  3. INT
  4. Three-and-out
  5. Fumble – – scooped and a score for Georgia

Tennessee coach, Jeremy Pruitt, is simultaneously on a hot seat and on thin ice – – and that is not a “happy place” …

Ole Miss beat Vandy 31-6 last week.  The Rebels simply ran the ball down the Commodores’ throat all day long:

  • Ole Miss total rushing yards = 415
  • All four TDs by Ole Miss came on the ground.  The shortest TD run was 24 yards; the longest TD run was 84 yards.
  • Vandy ranks 112th in the country in rushing defense allowing opponents an average of 211.2 yards per game.

Two weeks ago, UMass won a football game.  Not being able to stand prosperity, the Minutemen reverted to form last week losing to Florida International – – not to be confused with any team that might be considered even semi-seriously as a good football team.

SMU remained unbeaten beating Tulsa 43-37 in triple OT last week – – and it took a miracle comeback to make that happen.  The Mustangs trailed 30-9 at the end of three quarters but rallied to force OT and eventually get the win.  SMU is ranked in the Top 25 this week for the first time since 1982 – – which was before the NCAA imposed “The Death Penalty” on SMU football.  Tulsa missed 3 FGs and a PAT in last week’s game.  Maybe this is SMU’s year…?

In Big-12 action, Baylor remained undefeated with a convincing road win over K-State 31-12.

I said last week that Texas might find itself in a “trap game” with West Virginia if it was looking ahead to this week’s Red River Showdown with Oklahoma.  The Longhorns were outgained on the field and this was a 1-score game well into the 4th quarter.  Nonetheless, Texas won by 11 points as a 10.5-point favorite; that means the big money boys in Austin are happy – – even though they had to sweat it out to the very end.

Oklahoma may too have had some “look-ahead issues” last week, but the Sooners did not have as stout an opponent as Texas did.  Oklahoma beat Kansas 45-20.

Cincy beat UCF 27-24.  With a second loss pinned on UCF, there is little reason to listen to any arguments about the Golden Knights deserving something better than a Group 5 invitation to a New Year’s Day Bowl Game.  So, who will be the Group 5 darling for 2019?

  • Cincy has one loss – to Ohio State and there is no shame in that.
  • SMU is undefeated so far.  [Aside:  Cincy and SMU could meet in the AAC Championship Game on December 7.]
  • Boise State is undefeated so far.
  • Appalachian State is undefeated so far…

VA Tech beat Miami 42-35 last week.  The Hurricanes outgained the Hokies by 226 yards for the game and still lost.  Tech led comfortably at halftime 28-7 but Miami rallied to make a game of it and actually tied the score at 35 apiece in the 4th quarter.

Oregon beat Cal 17-7 last week.  I had Cal + 18 points in the Six-Pack last week and the Cal defense did not allow Oregon to score 18 points.  Thank you to the Cal defense…

Another team that seems unable to stand prosperity would be UCLA.  After its miracle comeback to beat Washington State, the Bruins have reverted to losing ways.  Last week, UCLA lost to Oregon State – a traditional PAC-12 bottom feeder.  The game was closer on the field than it was on the scoreboard.  UCLA gained 478 yards on offense; Oregon State gained 424 yards on offense.  However, on the scoreboard Oregon State prevailed 48-31.

  • Oregon State QB, Jake Luton threw 5 TD passes here
  • Oregon State WR, Isaiah Hodgins caught 10 passes.  Three were for TDs.

 

College Games this Week:

 

(Fri Nite) Virginia at Miami – 2 (43.5):  I have exactly no idea why Miami is favored in this game…

Rutgers at Indiana – 28 (50):  Rutgers lost to Maryland last week by 41 points and is now a 4 TD underdog to “decidedly-mediocre” Indiana.

Michigan – 23 at Illinois (49):  Michigan averages 28 points per game so far this year; they have scored 140 points in 5 games.  However, 92 of those points came in two games against Rutgers and Middle Tennessee State.  In the other 3 games against real opposition, Michigan has averaged only 16 points per game.  Look at the spread here and ask yourself how the oddsmaker categorizes Illinois…

Oklahoma – 10.5 vs. Texas (76):  Believe it or not, the Red River Shootout is not the Game of the Week this year.  Normally, this game is the football focal point for the weekend.  Both QBs get mentioned as Heisman Trophy candidates, so I think the difference in this game will be the two defenses.  OU has the slightly better defense, but neither one is anything to write home about. The Sooners rank 82nd in the nation giving up 432 yards per game; Texas ranks 94th in the country giving up 448.3 yards per game.

Nebraska at Minnesota – 7.5 (50):  The Gophers strive to stay unbeaten here. If they win and go to 6-0, there is a distinct possibility that they will be 8-0 around Halloween time because their next to opponents are Rutgers and Maryland.  Nebraska QB, Adrian Martinez was not around at the end of last week’s game; he is an important part of the Husker offense; how well might he play here?

Hawaii at Boise St – 13.5 (60):  Boise State is undefeated, and they are always tough at home.  Hawaii has only lost once – – to Washington and they opened their season with two wins over PAC-12 schools.  I like the game to go OVER, so I’ll put that in this week’s Six-Pack.

Michigan St. at Wisconsin – 10.5 (40.5):  Sparty’s defense is very good; they held Ohio State under 40 points this year.  I am not being snarky here; if you think that is no big deal, consider that Michigan State is the only team to do that.  Oh, by the way, the 34 points that Ohio State managed to score is the most points allowed by Michigan State in 2 years.  Wisconsin is going to try to run the ball and then run it some more; this year, the Badgers could be called the Bludgeoners.  This should be a great game to watch…

Florida at LSU – 13.5 (56):  This game matches two Top 25 teams and both are undefeated.  That makes this the Game of the Week in college football.  As noted above, LSU leads the nation in scoring at 54.6 points per game.  Given the Total Line here, you can get a sense of how highly regarded the Florida defense is.  The Gators’ defense has 12 INTs so far this year and a total of 17 takeaways; they will need to keep up that level of stinginess to hang with LSU at home…

Alabama – 17 at Texas A&M (61):  The Aggies simply cannot allow this game to turn into a shoot-out; they do not have the offensive firepower to keep up with Bama.  Simply put:

  • Can the Aggies defense prevent that from happening?

You have to figure that Alabama will have an off day one of these games; might this be the one?

Army – 4 at W. Kentucky (43): The Cadets lost last week – meaning they should arrive at kickoff here even more intense than they normally are.  I’ll put Army to win and cover in this week’s Six-Pack.

USC at Notre Dame – 10.5 (60):  Here is another college football pairing that has enjoyed Game of the Week stature in previous years.  The theme for this game is “Fighting”:

  • You have the Fighting Irish who are Fighting to remain on the doorstep for the College Football Playoff.
  • On the other sideline, you have a head coach who is Fighting to keep his job as the villagers are busy assembling their torches and pitchforks.

USC gets its starting QB back for this game – – but that is probably not enough to win on the road in South Bend, IN.  I’ll put Notre Dame to win and cover in this week’s Six-Pack

Florida State at Clemson – 27 (59.5):  Twenty years ago, Florida State would have been a solid 27-point favorite over Clemson.  The worm has turned…

Penn State – 3.5 at Iowa (42):  Two solid defenses here…  Iowa gives up 351.2 yards per game; Penn State gives up 367.9 yards per game.  In losing to Michigan 10-3 last week, Iowa only gained 1 yard on the ground.  In beating Purdue last week 35-7, Penn State held the Boilermakers to minus-30 yards rushing.  This could be interesting…  This game starts a tough stretch for the Nittany Lions; after Iowa, they have Michigan and Michigan State on their dance card.

 

NFL Commentary:

 

Recently, there have been several NFL players who have left teams either by holding out until free agency or talking their way out of town.

  • DJ Swearinger was released by the skins after he openly and directly criticized their defensive play calling.
  • Odell Beckham, Jr. made a sufficient pain of himself that the Giants unloaded him.
  • Antonio Brown – – no need to rehash all that stuff here
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick basically arranged for his own trade
  • Stefon Diggs is trying to talk his way out of Minnesota as we speak
  • LeVeon Bell left the Steelers for a bunch of reasons

I think Bell’s situation is the most interesting one on that list.  It seemed pretty clear that Bell had some “chemistry issues” with the coach(es) and/or some of the other players on the team.  In addition, there were clearly some financial issues mixed into the stew.  Recall that Bell sat out an entire season rather than signing a franchise tag and playing for a guaranteed $15M last year; in doing so, he earned his free agency and was able to select where he wanted to play and what kind of contract he wanted to sign.  He signed on with the Jets who have come out of the gate with an 0-4 record this year.

What I find interesting here is that LeVeon Bell has been quiet as a church mouse over the past month.  He has been a first team All-Pro twice in his career and he has been to the playoffs twice.  Nonetheless, here is how 2019 looks to him:

  • Bell is averaging 2.9 yards per carry – other than his rookie year, he has never been below 4.0 yards per carry.
  • Bell is averaging 6.1 yards per reception – for his 5 years in Pittsburgh, he averaged 8.3 yards per catch.

Bell has the contract he wants, and he is seemingly taking the team’s poor start – plus his diminished productivity calmly and quietly.  At some point later in this season, I am confident that he will answer some sort of query by saying that all he wants to do is win – or something long that line.  When that happens, I reserve the right to be skeptical.

I never purport to be able to read minds, but I think that LeVeon Bell wanted something more than the long-term contract he eventually got from the Jets.  I think he wanted to be just about anywhere other than in Pittsburgh in the Steelers’ organization for whatever were personal reasons.

The Seahawks beat the Rams 30-29 last week.  Something is not working with the Rams’ defense and I don’t know what it is.  That defense was a lot better last year; this year the Rams give up way too many plays that sustain drives.  That is very unusual for a defense coached by Wade Philips.  Russell Wilson was “held” to 266 yards passing here – – but he threw 4 TDs in the process.

The Colts upset the Chiefs 19-13 last week.  The Chiefs simply could not run the ball effectively all game.  Normally, that would play into the hands of the Chiefs – – having Mahomes throw the ball even more than normal; not last week.  Mahomes was harassed all game long and he suffered an ankle injury that hobbled him for much of the second half.  The Chiefs came into the game ranked 31st in the NFL in run defense; that came to haunt them in this game.  The Chiefs allowed the Colts to control the clock and to mount long drives.  The Colts gained 180 yards rushing in the game.  The Chiefs had the ball only 22:45. Here is a stat I ran across:

  • In the past 60 games where an NFL team has had less than 23 minutes time of possession, those teams have gone 6-54.

The Colts stand at 3-2 now and the next 6 games on their schedule could be very important ones.  This week they play an important division game against the Texans; on November 21, they will play the Texans again.  Sandwiched between those two important division games are:

  1. Vs. Broncos
  2. At Steelers
  3. Vs. Dolphins
  4. Vs. Jags

If the Colts can split with the Texans, they will be 8-3 around Thanksgiving.

The Packers beat the Cowboys 34-24.  The Packers had to go without WR Davante Adams for the game.  Not to worry, Aaron Jones shouldered the responsibility; he caught 7 passes and led the team in rushing with over 100 yards.  The Packers roared out to an early lead and the Cowboys pretty much resigned themselves to throwing the ball a lot more than they normally do.  Dak Prescott accumulated 463 yards passing in the game and Amari Cooper accounted for 226 of those yards.  However, 3 INTs by Prescott tarnished those gaudy stats.

The Ravens beat the Steelers 26-23 in OT.  This was a typical slugfest between these AFC North teams.  Mason Rudolph was knocked out (literally) in what was the scariest moment of the weekend.  The Steelers’ defense was uncharacteristically poor early in the season, but it seems to have found its groove over the past several games.

  • Three weeks ago, they forced 5 turnovers from the Niners – but lost the game.
  • Two weeks ago, they sacked Andy Dalton 8 times – and won the game
  • Last week, they sacked Lamar Jackson 5 times, held him to 161 yards passing and had 2 INTs – but lost the game in OT.

The Steelers record is 1-4.  If Mason Rudolph has to miss multiple games as he emerges from the concussion protocols, the Steelers’ season is cooked.  Even if Rudolph does not miss any time and comes back to play well, the Steelers have precious little wiggle room left as they seek a playoff slot.

The Pats beat the Skins 33-7.  The only surprise here is that the Skins led the game 7-0 in the first quarter on a 65-yard TD run by WR, Steve Sims, Jr.  That was the first time this year that the Pats had trailed in a game.  I suspect that Jay Gruden knew he was going to be fired after the game because he did not start Case Keenum at QB and – more importantly – he did not start Danny Boy Snyder’s favorite, Dwayne Haskins.  Instead, he started Colt McCoy; not surprisingly, that was not a sufficient jump start to the Skins’ offense to make the game competitive.  Here is an important stat from the game:

  • Skins had 11 third-down situations
  • Skins converted 1 of those 11 third-down situations.

Based on the few crowd shots I saw, I don’t know if the crowd was 50% Patriot fans as some have asserted but I did see LOTS of fans wearing either blue or white Patriots gear at the game.

  • [Aside:  Jay Gruden was summoned to a 5:00 AM meeting where he was fired.  If I am correct that he knew he was going to be fired and then got a message to show up at 5:00 AM, how cool would it have been for Jay Gruden to sleep in and show up at the park around 9:15AM?  If I were in that situation, that’s what I would have done…]

The Broncos beat the Chargers 20-13.  The Broncos won for the first time this year.  The Broncos’ defense had been less-than-successful in the first 4 games; however, last week they held Philip Rivers and the Chargers to 246 yards total offense.  Keenan Allen was the NFL’’s leading receiver after the first 4 games; however, last week he caught 4 passes for all of 18 yards.  On any given Sunday…

The Panthers beat the Jags 34-27 last week.  Gardner Minshew threw for 374 yards in the game but that was not enough.  The Jags defense just could not stop Christian McCaffrey who ran the ball for 172 yards and 2 TDs and who also caught 6 passes for 61 yards and another TD.  The Panthers’ Kyle Allen remains unbeaten as a starting QB…

The Cards beat the Bengals 26-23.  Someone had to get their first win of the season here; it turned out that the Cards were less bad.  The Bengals gave up 266 yards rushing – QB Kyler Murray accounted for 93 of those rushing yards.  Moreover, the Bengals defense was an “Equal Opportunity Sieve”; it also allowed the Cards to pass for 250 yards meaning the Cards total offense was 516 yards.  Look back at the score; the Cards gained 516 yards and won by a field goal.  Good luck replicating that…

Looking at the Bengals, it is fair to ask this question:

  • If they cannot beat the Cardinals at home, who can they beat on their schedule?

Well, they have a road game in December against the Jets – – but Sam Darnold is back this week from his bout with mononucleosis and the Jets have to be better with him under center than they have been with Luke Falk dealing the cards.  Also, the Bengals visit the Dolphins on December 22.  I did not bother to check out the rest of the NFL schedule for that week because I was confident that I had already stumbled across the Dog-Breath Game of the Week for that weekend.

The Bills beat the Titans 14-7 last week.  The Bills are now 4-1; their defense is strictly legit; count the Bills as serious playoff contenders in the AFC.  In this game, the Bills sacked Marcus Mariotta 5 times.  The Titans had 4 field goal attempts in the game and missed all 4 of them.  Two were from 50+ yards; the other two were chip shot attempts from less than 35 yards.  On Tuesday, the Titans cut kicker Cairo Santos and replaced him with Cody “Double-Doink” Parkey.

The Texans beat the Falcons 53-32.  Generally, the Texans are not a high scoring team – – but they lit up the scoreboard here.  Deshaun Watson finished with a perfect passer rating (158.3) for this game; Will Fuller caught 14 passes for 216 yards and 3 TDs here.  Houston had 592 total yards on offense and amassed 31 first downs on 67 plays.  Dan Quinn’s tenure in Atlanta may well be coming to an end.

The Vikes bet the Giants 28-10.  The Vikes’ defense was just too much for the Giants’ offense.  The Giant’s defense was not able to contain the Vikes’ run game meaning that Kirk Cousins had lots of time to pick out receivers and move the chains.  This game was never seriously in doubt.

The Saints beat the Bucs 31-24.  Even giving up 24 points, the Saints’ defense deserves praise here.  Mike Evans is the Bucs’ leading receiver and one of the best WRs in the league; he does not get the recognition he deserves because he plays in Tampa and because the Bucs lose too many games despite his performances.  Last week, the Saints’ defense shut him out; he did not catch a single pass in the game.  The Saints defense also sacked Jameis Winston 6 times.  The Saints are now 3-0 under Terry Bridgewater who threw 4 TD passes in this game.

The Raiders beat the Bears 24-21 in the NFL’s first “London Game” of the season.  The Raiders led 17-0 at the half and the Bears came back to take the lead for a while.  The Bears’ run game stalled against the Raiders’ defense and Chase Daniel was not able to take control of the game by himself.

The Eagles beat the Jets 31-6.  This was an ugly game.  The Eagles scored 2 defensive TDs and sacked Luke Falk 10 times.  The Eagles got a win they may well need for playoff consideration because the next 7 weeks look brutal.  The NFL’s schedule-maker did the Eagles’; no favors with this upcoming slate:

  • At Vikes,
  • At Cowboys,
  • Vs Bills,
  • Vs Bears,
  • BYE,
  • Vs Pats
  • Vs Seahawks.

OUCH!

The Jets without Sam Darnold and trying to make do with their #3 QB are uninteresting at best.  The Jets did score an offensive TD in this game; that is the good news.  Here is the bad news:  That was the first offensive TD the Jets scored since Week 1 against the Bills.

The Niners beat the Browns 31-3 on MNF.  This was a total throttling.  Baker Mayfield was – not to put too fine a point on it – awful.  He was 8-22 for 100 yards with 2 INTs and 2 fumbles – – one of which was a lost fumble.  Compare his stats to Luke Falk in Eagles game…  Falk was 15-26 for 120 yards 2 INTs and a lost fumble.

Those are comparable stats, but few people have thought to compare Mayfield and Falk as NFL QBs of the future.

  • Mayfield was the Heisman Award winner and overall #`1 pick in the 2018 draft.
  • Falk was taken 199th overall in the sixth round of the 2018 draft.  [Aside: Coincidentally, Tom Brady was also the 199th pick in his college draft.]
  • Obviously, Mayfield was the first QB taken in the 2018 draft.
  • Falk was the 9th QB taken in the 2018 draft
  • Falk was drafted by the Titans and cut by the Titans in 2018.  He signed on with the Dolphins in 2019 and was cut by the Dolphins before signing on to the Jets’ practice squad.

Last week, those two QBs with hugely different pedigrees performed comparably.

 

NFL Games This Week:

 

Four teams have their BYE Week this weekend:

  1. The Bills are 4-1 on the strength of an outstanding defense.  They could use the extra week to goose up their offense a bit.
  2. The Bears are also being carried by their defense.  Their offense does not need a mere goosing up; it needs a 10 EEE suppository.
  3. The Colts are playing very well despite the retirement of Andrew Luck.  After years of scorn, the Colts’ OL has performed extremely well so far this year.
  4. The Raiders got the entire week off from coach Jon Gruden as a reward for their performance in London beating the Bears.

Sam Darnold returns to action for the Jets this week; his spleen has been declared “back to normal”.  If the Jets were to win this weekend, I suspect that coach Adam Gase would give a game ball to Sam Darnold’s spleen.

I have given this proposition a lot of thought recently.  What is the most dysfunctional entity in Washington DC?

  • The US Congress
  • Danny Boy Snyder’s football team?

You make the call…

Carolina – 2.5  vs. Tampa Bay  (47.5) [Game is in London]:  Since the Bucs won the first meeting of these teams in Week 2, this is an important game in the NFC South; a win by the Bucs here will give them the first tiebreaker with the Panthers should things come to that.  Back in Week 2, Cam Newton was the Panthers’ QB and he was playing hurt; you could see it through your TV screen.  I am not yet ready to say that Kyle Allen is as good as a healthy Cam Newton, but he is better than the hurting Cam Newton that was on the field back then.

Cincy at Baltimore – 11 (48):  This spread is all over the place; I can find it as low as 10.5 points this morning and as high as 12 points.  Last week, the Ravens beat the Steelers in an OT game that was physical/in-your-face football.  By comparison, they should have much less difficulty this week.

Seattle – 1.5 at Cleveland (46):  The spread opened the week with the Browns as a 2.5-point favorite; that did not last long.  The Seahawks have been off for 10 days; the Browns are working on a short week after losing to Niners in SF on Monday night.  Russell Wilson is putting together a foundation for an MVP award this year; I certainly did not see anything from the Browns’ defense on Monday that tells me they can derail him.  The biggest issue here is that the Seahawks are traditionally a far better team at home than on the road.  I’ll put the Seahawks to win and cover in this week’s Six-Pack.

Houston at KC – 4 (55):  The spread here opened with the Chiefs as 7.5-point favorites.  The fact that the line moved down so much tells me that folks expect Patrick Mahomes to be significantly less than 100% on his injured ankle this week.  Notwithstanding that he may not be at full capacity on Sunday, I don’t see either defense here putting the clamps on the other guys.

New Orleans at Jax – 1.5 (43.5):  Excuse me, but I do not know why the Jags are favored here.  I’ll put the Saints plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

Philly at Minnesota – 3 (44):  This is a big game for both teams – especially the Eagles when you consider their upcoming schedule as outlined above.  The Vikes are even with the Bears and chasing the Packers in the NFC North – and the Lions are still a factor in that race.  Translation:  The Vikes can’t afford to lose this game either.  You will be beaten to death this weekend by the talking heads with the stat that Kirk Cousins is only 5-27 over his career playing against an opponent with a winning record – and the Eagles are 3-2 coming to this kickoff. The key to this game is for the Eagles to stop Dalvin Cook; the Vikes are eminently beatable if he is held in check.

Washington – 3 at Miami (42):  With no hesitation at all, I anoint this game as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  One of these teams will emerge from the ranks of the winless about 3 hours after the kickoff.  Whichever team that is, there will be little joy in the hometown; the fans of these teams know they both stink.  I am convinced that forcing prisoners of war to spend 3 hours watching this grease fire of a game would be a violation of the Geneva Convention.  The Dolphins give up just over 40 points per game; the Skins have given up 30+ points in 4 of their 5 games.  If that sounds like an OVER bet to you, take a moment and look at the offensive outputs for these squads.  Avoid this game like the plague.  On Wed. the Dolphins announced that Josh Rosen will be their starting QB for the rest of the season; what did he do to deserve that?

SF at Rams – 3.5 (50.5):  This is the Game of the Week.  It is a division game and when it is over, either the Niners will hold a 2.5 game lead over the Rams or the Rams will have closed the gap in the NFC West to half a game.  [Yes, I know; the Seahawks are also in that division and playing very well; I praised them up above.]  I think both offenses will find the end zones early and often.  Might it be that the team with final possession wins?  I think the total score could be in the neighborhood of 60 points, so I’ll put this game in the Six-Pack as an OVER selection.  The Niners have the opportunity to let the football world know they are “for real” in 2019 with a convincing win here.

Atlanta – 2 at Arizona (51.5):  The Total Line opened the week at 47 and has been rising all week.  I have to believe that if someone were setting a line on this game back in late August, the Falcons would have been a much bigger favorite; I certainly did not expect the Falcons to get to this game with only 1 win to their name.  These teams will field two bad defenses.  Here is the burning question:

  • Can either or both of these mediocre offenses take advantage?

Dallas – 7 at Jets (45):  The Cowboys seem to have shown the rest of the league how to beat the Cowboys over the past couple of weeks.  The formula is to stop the Cowboys’ run game and force them to try to win the game through the air.  I don’t think that is going to happen here.  The most interesting aspect of this game would be to watch to see how the Jets’ offense looks with Sam Darnold back at the wheel.

Tennessee at Denver – 2 (41):  The spread opened the week with the Titans as 2-point favorites but that has flipped as the week wore on.  Last week, these teams went in opposite directions:

  • The Broncos got their first win of the season
  • The Titans threw up on their shoes.

Home field means a lot to the Broncos; perhaps that is a big factor in the swing in the spread line over the week?

(Sun Nite) Pittsburgh at Chargers – 6.5 (41):  When someone asked Mike Tomlin for a comment regarding the rumors that the Skins might try to trade for him to be the Skins’ coach next year, Tomlin’s replay was along these lines:

  • I don’t pay attention that that stuff.  I have to prepare to play a team with a Hall of Fame QB and I have to start my 3rd string QB.  That’s all I think about.

Even if that is not true, big props to Mike Tomlin for shutting that nonsense down – – for the moment.  The best news for the Steelers 3rd string QB is that the game will be played in the Chargers’ bandbox of a stadium and that there will be a heavy representation of Steeler fans in the audience.

(Mon Nite) Detroit at Green Bay – 4 (47):  The Lions had their BYE Week last week, so they should be well-prepared for this game.  The Packers had a relatively easy time of it beating the Cowboys last week.  I think this will be a low scoring/defensive struggle notwithstanding the playmaking skills of both Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford.

Let me review this week’s Six-Pack:

  • Boise St./Hawaii OVER 60
  • Army – 4
  • Notre Dame – 10.5
  • Seahawks – 1.5
  • Saints +1.5
  • Niners/Rams OVER 50.5

Finally, here is a tidbit from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“What are the odds? Interim head coach Bill Callahan has now succeeded both Gruden brothers. In 2002, he took over for Jon in Oakland and led the Raiders to the Super Bowl. It’s not a scenario that will be repeated in Washington.”

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

 

 

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