The Chargers In LA…

For the past several years, lots of folks have poked fun at the LA Chargers who have been unable to attract a sufficiently significant fanbase in LA to fill their 30,000-seat stadium.  There is precious little “home field advantage” for the Chargers there; normally the crowd is equally divided between Charger fans and visiting fans.  The general narrative has been that all will be well once the Chargers get to be tenants in the new $5B stadium complex being built in LA by Rams’ owner, Stan Kroenke.  Recent reports, however, cast a small shadow on that rosy scenario.

As part of the deal that got NFL approval for the Rams to move back to LA, the Chargers were designated as tenants in the new stadium and part of the deal called for the Chargers to sell a bunch of Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs) to help fund the stadium complex itself.  This was not a commitment by the Chargers but the sales they would generate would be part of the base funding for the stadium.  The amount “pledged” by the Chargers was $400M.

[Aside:  These figures need to be put in context; Stan Kroenke’s net worth is estimated to be about $10B.  Therefore, $400M represents 4% of his wealth.  Moreover, his family wealth is beyond the $10B figure because his wife is an heir to the Wal-Mart enterprises, and her net worth is approximately $7B.]

Back to the Chargers…  It surely looks as if they are going to fall short of that $400M PSL target.  Sales to date have been slow; the total value is only about $50M.  That $400M, plus NFL-provided financing to the tune of $200M, was supposed to provide a bit more than 10% of the total cost of the stadium and real estate development project.  Recent reports say that the Chargers are looking to goose the sales by reducing the prices on their PSLs.  Economics 101 says that demand for a product will increase when the price is decreased; from that perspective, the move makes sense.  As is often the case, there is a “HOWEVER” in there:

  • Under reduced pricing, the target figure now is only $150M; that is less than 40% of the original target.
  • It is unclear if the Chargers will give rebates to fans who have already purchased Chargers’ PSLs at the original price.  For a team that has had difficulty in attracting fan interest in LA, that would be a great way to piss off the “first adopters” of the new team.

Mr. Kroenke is responsible to make up any shortfall(s) here; for the Chargers, this means they have “disappointed” their new landlord even before moving in.  To be clear, that is not a good move.

Back when the wheeling and dealing was going on regarding the NFL’s return to LA, there were 3 teams in the mix.  The Rams wanted upgrades in St. Louis they could not extract from the politicos there; the Raiders wanted – and needed – a new stadium but there was no way the city of Oakland could or would build one for them; the Chargers needed a new stadium too but not to the same extent that the Raiders did and the citizens of San Diego voted in a referendum not to devote public funds to such an endeavor.  Of those 3 teams, moving the Chargers made the least sense to me then; and in light of what has gone down with the team and its crowds and these PSL sales, it makes less sense today.

Speaking of new stadiums and financial considerations, the Raiders are moving along with their new stadium in Las Vegas.  One of the problems that the new stadium location had was that there was a lack of nearby parking for fans who might want to tailgate before a game and for the number of vehicles that one would expect to attract to a stadium that will seat 65,000 fans normally but is expandable to 72,000.  One of the original “solutions” to this problem would be to create satellite parking areas with shuttle buses; some of the identified satellite facilities were a couple of miles from the stadium.

Somehow, that situation needed improvement.  Recent reports indicate that improvement is on its way.  The Las Vegs Review-Journal reports that the Raiders have purchased a 17-acre tract near the stadium to be used for stadium parking.  The cost of the tract was $28M or about $1.65M per acre.  That looks to me as if the previous owner of the land recognized the importance of that acreage to the Raiders.  In addition, the team has also acquired several “parking lots and commercial buildings” proximal to the stadium site.  Here is the full story from the Review-Journal.

Switching from the NFL to the XFL, the new league assigned each of its 8 teams a QB as Round 1 of the XFL Draft.  All XFL players have contracts with the league so these assignments were made in a mysterious way.  Two of the QB assignments look like marketing decisions to me:

  1. The XFL’s Washington DC team gets Cardale Jones as a QB.  Cardale Jones is a physically large black QB who played college football at Ohio State.  Coincidentally, the NFL’s Washington DC team has Dwayne Haskins on the roster nominally as its QB-of-the-future.  Dwayne Haskins is a physically large black QB who played college football at Ohio State.  What are the odds…?
  2. The XFL’s Dallas team gets Landry Jones as a QB.  Could there be a more aptly named QB for a pro football team in Dallas than Landry Jones?  The only way to increase the ties to “Pro Football in Dallas” would be for Landry Jones to name his daughter Meredith.  [Aside: Yes, Landry Jones was named for Tom Landry.]

Finally, here is an observation from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Former NHL forward Darren McCarty says marijuana “saved his life.”

“Which probably just clinched him the first Lady Bong Trophy.”

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



The Integrity Of The Games

By now, you must have heard about and seen the replays of the highly controversial calls made and not made by the officials in the Packers/Lions game on Monday night.  I do not care to rehash the purported importance of those calls on the outcome of the game; those sorts of issues have been litigated to death on sports radio and on the talking-head TV shows.  I want to go in a slightly different direction with this issue.

  • The NFL is flirting with a situation where people can begin to doubt the integrity of the games on the field.

I am not accusing anyone in the league offices or any of the officials in Monday’s game of any nefarious behavior(s), but we should acknowledge that we live in society that does more than tolerate conspiracy theories.  And the NFL can allow creative thinkers to cast some conspiracy nets very broadly these days.

Ironically, the last time a Monday game ended with such an influence from the officials was the infamous “Replacement Refs Game” and the Packers were in that game too but came out as the “victims” of the bad call instead of the being the “beneficiaries” of the bad calls.  The problem is not who benefits from or who loses as a result of the actions; it is the atmosphere around the actions.

The league has to make decisions which may benefit one team or not.  The NFL suspended Tom Brady for 4 games a few years ago; that “hurt” the Pats and “helped” their 4 opponents in those games.  That sort of thing is unavoidable.  What the NFL should not allow to happen is for its officials to be seen as bumbling fools as is the case in the WWE.  Thousands of people in the stadium see what happened on the field and then see the replays; millions at home also see this; the officials saw it in real time and then see it in super slow motion on replay.  After all of that, the officials don’t see what everyone else sees.  [Aside:  That is a standard “script” for a lot of rassling matches where the “bad guy” has a “foreign object” hidden in his trunks or is slipped a “foreign object” by an outside assistant.  Everyone sees it and recognizes it – – except the referee.]

The popularity of NFL football in the US has several pillars holding it in place; one of those pillars is that millions of people wager millions of dollars on NFL games meaning that those millions of people:

  • Care about the outcome of the games
  • Care about the honesty of the processes that lead to the outcome of the games

That “caring” must not be abused lest those people stop wagering on NFL games which will weaken an important pillar of NFL popularity.  The revenue streams for the NFL and the franchise values for the teams cannot be maintained if too many people stop betting on the games.  Gambling is not the sole reason for NFL popularity, but it is a critical one.

I drew a comparison to professional wrestling above.  Let me continue with it for a moment.  Lots of people watch pro wrestling – but gambling on pro wrestling is minuscule.  People watch it to see the unfolding of a soap opera style plot along with plenty of athleticism and acrobatics.  Maybe the NFL could morph into something akin to that which would hold a fanbase’s interest, but I cannot imagine that it would be able to maintain the numbers it now enjoys.  Ergo, there is ditch along the side of the road on which the NFL is traveling and the vehicle careening down that road is edging its way toward that ditch.

During the Monday night game, former Lions’ star, Barry Sanders, Tweeted that the NFL

“… needs to look at a way to prevent that [blundered calls] from happening.”

It would be hard to argue that Sanders is wrong there.  The problem is that if the root cause of the bad calls is human error, then there is no way to prevent “that” from happening.  What the league needs to do is to try to repair any other aspects of the game that allow “that” to happen.

Part of the problem is technology and replay.  Technology allows millions of fans to have a reason to question – maybe even doubt – the competence of the officials on the field.  If they can question a set of officials enough times, then they can cross into a space where they begin to wonder if those officials might be failing to make proper decisions on the field for some reason that is not generally known.  When instant replay became feasible, the NFL adopted it as part of the game with the stated intent of

  • Getting it right.

Hey, if I were in the position of explaining why this new tool was being added to the game, I would surely use that as a justification.  I would never tout this new tool as something that would enable the officials to “get it wrong”.  Channeling Hamlet here:

“Aye, there’s the rub…”

Far too often, replay lets lots of fans see that the call on the field was wrong, but it will stand as called (wrong) for some reason that the official never explains.  That can be fertile soil to sprout some conspiracy theories.  If any of those sorts of things begin to fix themselves in the minds of fans, the slogan “On any given Sunday …” can take on an entirely new meaning on an orthogonal axis to where the league wants to go.

For the record, I am not advocating the removal of instant replay.  The toothpaste is out of the tube on that one and it is not going back in.  However, the league need not expand its purview any wider than it is now until and unless they come up with an efficient and effective way to make changes when those changes are obviously necessary.

Oh, but there is more to the “integrity of the game” issue in 2019.  Every year, there is a team in the league that is the doormat.  The NFL – knowing that competitive balance is a good thing for the league – seeks to assist that team’s efforts to become more competitive/competent through the NFL Draft.  I have argued before that the Draft may not be as great a tool for “leveling the playing field” as it is made out to be, but the intent behind the draft is noble indeed.  This year, there are a handful of “bad teams”; with almost 40% of the season in the rear-view mirror, there are two teams that have not won a game yet and three others with only one win to their credit.  [Aside: The Skins have only 1 win this year and it came at the expense of the Dolphins who have not won any games so far this year.]

And since I just mentioned the Dolphins, let me say that they are an assault on the integrity of the game for the NFL.  The NFL Draft is supposed to “alleviate the suffering” for the worst teams in the league in each season; the NFL Draft is not supposed to be a reward for winning the race to the bottom.  The Miami Dolphins in 2019 are an inept bunch – but their ineptitude feels different.  They give every indication that they are trying to lose so that they can rebuild via the draft.  That is what the Sixers did in the NBA over about a 4-year period of tanking; that surely seems to be what the Dolphins are doing now in the NFL as they have traded away their good players for future draft picks and put a mighty inferior product on the field for games this year.

Tanking in pro football – or basketball or baseball – does not protect the integrity of the game.  Intending to lose – and/or losing intentionally – is what happens in professional wrestling where few if any people identify “integrity of the game” as a vital element of the competition.  If you look at the Dolphins season in 2019, they do not seem to be trying very hard to win games.  Their first four losses were by margins of 49 points, 43 points, 25 points and 20 points.  If you look at that sequence and see it as “progress”, then you are like the little kid who is in a room up to his neck in horseshit and goes digging around in the muck to find the pony that has to be there somewhere.

In the last 10 years or so, the NFL has seen some monumentally bad teams play out a season.  However, the Lions under Rod Marinelli played to win games; they were just not good enough to do so and went 0-16.  The Browns under Hue Jackson had a pair of seasons with a cumulative record of 1-31, but they tried to win games.  The 2019 Dolphins need to do a better job of looking like they want to win a game or two.  Any objective look at their roster will tell an observer that this team is not capable of ‘breaking even” for the season – but losing their 5 games to date by an average of 27.6 points per game hints at a less than robust effort to build a competitive roster for the year.

The NFL is still the 800-lb gorilla for sports in the US and it is going to remain in that position for a long time – – unless it shoots itself in the foot.  Giving fans even a spark of a reason to question the integrity of their games is the figurative equivalent of the league not only shooting itself in the foot but also taking careful aim to assure that the bullet does the most damage possible to the bones and tendons in the foot.

Finally, since today’s rant is about football – with occasional nods toward professional wrestling – let me turn to The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm for definitions of those activities:

Football:  An American sport in which men try to get a teardrop-shaped ball from one end of a big field to another while grunting, piling on top of one another, and giddily jumping up and down when they succeed.  Homoerotic? You decide.

And …

Wrestling:  Boxing with hair.

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



An Addendum … Then Tennis Tuesday

#1 son is a serious runner who tries to do at least 2 marathons per year when he is not being a university professor and raising his son.  He sent me an email yesterday after I wrote about Eliud Kipchoge’s breaking of the 2-hour barrier for the 26.2-mile distance.  Here is the text of that email:

“You really should give a shout out to Brigid Kosgei of Kenya. She broke the women’s world record at Chicago this weekend too. 2:14:04, beating the previous WR by over a minute. That record had stood for 16 years.”

That email demonstrates that I do not follow marathon running closely at all.  Indeed, breaking a world record that had stood for 16 years by a clear and open margin is worthy of a “shout out” at least.

I saved this next item for a couple of days in order to provide a long-term reader with something he routinely suggests for these rants.  Here is a Tennis Tuesday item…

Gianluca Moscarella is a chair umpire for matches sanctioned by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).  He has been a tennis official for ATP matches since 2010 and has earned a Gold Badge which – evidently – is the top level of certification handed out by the organization.  He was suspended from the ATP “provisionally” and removed from a tournament in Florence for some remarks that are more than a tad unusual.

  • Early in the match, he is overheard to say to a young ball girl kneeling by his chair that she is “fantastic, very sexy”.  He also asked the girl, “Are you OK?  It’s hot.  Do you feel hot?  Physically or emotionally?”
  • Later in the match while one of the players was taking a potty break after the first set, Moscarella climbed down from his chair, went to the contestant still on the court and encouraged him to “stay focused” and engaged in “coaching” that player.

The ATP has launched a “full investigation”.  Indeed, there may be more to learn by a “full investigation”, but one thing is clear to me.  If in fact there is audio evidence that Moscarella “coached” one of the match participants, that sort of behavior is anathema to sports officiating no matter what the sport.  Moreover, if again there is audio evidence that Moscarella said those things to a young girl as the match was going on, there is no justification for his continued employment as a tennis official by the ATP.

As Warner Wolf used to say – – with a minor modification here:

“Let’s go to the audio tape…”

As the sports world gets ready to ignore the XFL Draft that will happen this week, there is a report that the average XFL player will make $55K.  Since winning teams earn bonuses for winning games, the calculation here does not mean all the players will earn that much; some will necessarily earn less.  And so, before there are any announcements from the league or any analyses of rosters that are generated via the Draft, let me remind everyone:

  • You get what you pay for…

The XFL season will run 12 weeks – from the second week in February to the XFL Championship Game on April 26, 2020.  One of the provisions in the standard XFL contract is that every player is free to opt out of his contract to accept a bona fide NFL contract offer after the XFL Championship Game is over.  The salary structure here and the player’s freedom to opt out of his XFL contract in favor of an NFL contract demonstrates to me that the XFL is initially seeking to occupy a market niche as a developmental league for the NFL without any formal or legal ties to the NFL.

We have seen this business model in operation in the past and it has not worked.

  • The World League of American Football tried to use “minor league football” to develop market interest in Europe.  It failed to do that, and it also failed to develop any serious following here in the US.  Yes, it did provide NFL teams with some players in its existence, but that was not worth the cost of keeping it alive.
  • The Alliance of American Football crashed and burned in mid-season last year.  It did not have nearly the time on the vine to develop any players for the NFL; its problem was a fundamentally flawed business model wherein their games were on network TV, but the league was not getting any money for putting those games on network TV.

People tuning in to see the first XFL games played will do so the week after the Super Bowl in February 2020.  If those fans are to enjoy the XFL game on their TV screen, they are going to have to erase from memory the quality of football they saw the week before in the Super Bowl – and indeed the quality of football they saw in the full range of the NFL playoffs for the 5 weeks prior to the XFL debut.  XFL football is going to be rough around the edges to say the least; it is not going to look like the NFL; it is probably not even going to look like the CFP.

Here is the “survival question” for the XFL:

  • Can it generate sufficient interest in Year 1 to get it a revenue-generating contract for its media rights in Year 2?
  • If it can – or if it enters into some sort of symbiotic relationship with the NFL – then XFL 2.0 might just make it.
  • If it cannot, then perhaps it will have the wherewithal to try to make a go of it for a second season.  But that will be a make-or-break situation for XFL 2.0.

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

“For you big believers in Bad Things Happen in Threes, Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) is out for the Steelers, Drew Brees (thumb) is out for the Saints and Christie Brinkley (broken arm) is out for ‘Dancing with the Stars’.”

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



Social Justice…

Over the past couple of years when athletes have taken a stand on social or political issues, there has been a segment of response that goes along the lines of:

  • Stay in your lane; play your sport; do your activism in private and not in people’s faces.

That response always triggers folks to cry “censorship of free speech” and what then happens is that the issue gets lost as folks argue about the propriety of the athlete’s declarations about the issue.  When I say the name “Colin Kaepernick” today, more people associate him with “kneeling during the National Anthem” then with “protesting police brutality”.

Today, the NBA finds itself in a similar situation with the “Daryl Morey Tweeting Affair”.  The NBA is trying to have it both ways:

  • On one hand, the NBA has “branded itself” as an organization that is a social justice warrior.
  • On the other hand, the NBA takes in billions of dollars from Chinese companies that are coerced to behave the way the Chinese government wants them to behave and now those billions of dollars are at risk if the NBA does not satisfactorily condemn Daryl Morey and/or the Houston Rockets and/or the NBA’s initial positions in the “Tweeting Affair”.

Maybe – just maybe – the best reason for athletes and sporting enterprises to steer clear of sociopolitical issues is that it does not help to alleviate the root causes of the issues of concern – – but it sure does impact the revenue stream(s).

  • [Aside: Quietly, one of the NBA teams – the Blazers – has found itself in the middle of another social justice matter.  Based on protests, the team has disassociated itself with a company that also does business with the Israeli Defense Force.  Of course, the team is free to make that choice for itself, but the issue of boycotting Israel and divesting any ownership or relationship with Israeli entities is a controversial one.]

Another entity caught in the middle of all this is ESPN.  Nominally, ESPN is an entity associated with “sports journalism”.  Actually, ESPN is dependent on the NBA to provide it with hundreds of hours of original programming that ESPN needs the way Dracula needs blood.  ESPN has had to walk a fine line here with regard to reporting on this entire matter; in fact, if you are interested in following the latest happenings, there are other places you might go before ESPN.  Let me just say that ESPN’s coverage here has not put the reputations of Woodward and Bernstein in any sort of danger.

Moving on from social justice and back to sports, a Kenyan runner, Eliud Kipchoge, broke the 2-hour barrier for the marathon by running the 26.2 miles in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds.  That is about 10 seconds faster than the standing world record for a marathon.  And … the folks who regulate running in the world are not going to recognize this feat as a world record.  To be sure, there were significant differences between this event and a “typical” marathon run as a road race.  Consider:

  • The course was laid out and chosen for speed and not for duress.
  • There were pacesetters throughout the race that rotated into and out of the event.  Pacesetters affect wind resistance.
  • There was a pace car involved that too – allegedly – provided wind resistance.
  • Bicyclists handed fluids to Kipchoge during the event; he was not required to pick up bottles of fluid from hydration stations as would be the case in a “normal marathon”.
  • Kipchoge also wore custom-made Nike shoes that are not generally available to all runners – and that evidently is a marathon racing “no-no”.

Looking at the list of “irregularities”, I can understand why this specific time might not be recognized as a world record.  At the same time, this event has provided runners with two important things:

  • The 2-hour barrier – thought to be unachievable just as was the 4-minute mile – can be broken.
  • The time of this event – 1:59:40 – can now be a target for other marathoners to focus upon.

We can recognize the “irregularities” here, but that ought not obscure the fact that Eliud Kipchoge did something that was remarkable and important regarding marathon running.

Changing the subject … I guess I just do not understand why MLB teams change their strategies so drastically once it becomes “playoff time”.  Most teams do it; however, let me focus on the Dodgers here.  In 2019, the Dodgers won 106 games; that was the most in the NL by a significant margin and they did that without ever using Clayton Kershaw as a relief pitcher.  So, why switch strategy?

Here is a summary of the history of Clayton Kershaw as a relief pitcher in playoff situations:

  • 2008 playoffs  2 relief appearances Dodgers lost the series
  • 2009 playoffs  1 relief appearance Dodgers lost the series
  • 2016 playoffs 1 relief appearance  Dodgers won the series
  • 2017 playoffs  1 relief appearance Dodgers lost the series
  • 2018 playoffs  1 relief appearance Dodgers won that series
  • 2019 playoffs  1 relief appearance Dodgers lost that series.

In summary, 7 relief appearances and the team record for series where they occurred is 2-4.  I know this is not “Advanced Analytics”, but what is there in these numbers that says it is a good idea to continue to do this?

Finally, here are two Tweets from humor writer, Brad Dickson:

“In 2018 an all-time record number of STDs were diagnosed in the U.S. Hey, I think it’s just nice to see kids turning off the video games and getting out of the house.”

And …

“A record number of STDs were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2018. I blame the super crowded Southwest Airlines boarding policy.”

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



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.


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………



Baseball Playoffs, Stadiums And Attendance

The National League playoffs are set.  The two teams with “home field advantage” took gas in that final game with the home field advantage.  The Cardinals scored early and often beating the Braves 13-1.  The Dodgers lost to the Nationals in the late innings ending a season that saw them win a franchise record 106 games.

I had no idea who would be the NL pennant winner this year, and I had no “favorite team” in the fight.  I thought the Braves were a better team than the Cardinals by a small margin – – but the Cards showed me on the field that I was wrong.

The Nationals had been in a Game 5 situation 3 times in the past and had lost in all those situations.  Not this time…

There is a report this morning out of Philly that Gabe Kapler has been fired as the Phillies’ manager.  He has been there 2 years and his record is 161-163; it is fair to say that his record defines mediocrity.

Sticking with baseball stuff, Commissioner Rob Manfred seems to be turning up the heat on the politicos in Oakland.  The A’s have finally identified a site to build a new stadium in the Bay Area – down in the port region.  For the owner to finance that construction – with some MLB help – he says he needs the revenue that would be generated from a real estate development deal at the site of the current stadium – the Oakland Coliseum.  The owner of the A’s wants to buy the 50% share of the land/stadium tract from Alameda Count which wants out of the business of owning/running a stadium.  Sounds simple, right?  Here is the problem:

  • The City of Oakland also wants to buy the 50% interest in the site – – but the City of Oakland does not have the funds on hand to close the deal.  The A’s owner has offered $85M for the site.
  • So, the City of Oakland has filed a suit against Alameda County to block the sale to the A’s owner claiming that State law requires publicly owned land to be under consideration for affordable housing before being sold to private interests and Alameda County did not do that.

Rob Manfred weighed in here supposedly telling the Oakland mayor that if the suit is not dropped so that the Coliseum development and the new stadium construction can proceed together as a “package deal”, then the A’s just might have to move to Las Vegas.  [Aside:  There is no major league quality stadium in Las Vegas now, but there is high probability, that hurdle could be crossed.]  For more details on this matter, here is a link.

The Oakland pols are in a bind here.  The city has already lost the Warriors to a new home in San Francisco and the city has already lost the Raiders to Las Vegas.  For years, the city has made it clear that it was not going to spend public funds on a new stadium for the A’s.  Now, MLB has threatened to take the team out of the Bay Area entirely if the city does not stop trying to throw a monkey wrench into the works of the A’s finding a new venue.  [Aside:  With the demise of Shea Stadium a while back, the A’s have had to play in the worst MLB venue of all.  What the Oakland Coliseum needs is the wrecking ball.]

Your move, Madame Mayor…

There is another baseball item worth a moment’s consideration today.  MLB saw a small decline in live gate attendance for the 2019 regular season; 68.5M folks found their way to MLB games this season as compared to 69.7M fans in 2018.  To put this in perspective, the high-water mark for MLB regular season attendance was way back in 2007 when 79.5M fans went through the turnstiles.  Some individual team stats regarding attendance are interesting:

  • 16 of the 30 teams showed an increase in attendance over 2018.  [Aside:That is technically correct but consider that one team showing an increase – the Miami Marlins – increased by 2 fans per game.]
  • The Phillies – is this “The Bryce Harper Effect?” – had the largest increase in attendance year-over-year drawing 569,267 more fans in 2019 than in 2018.
  • Two teams – the Mariners and the Blue Jays – saw home attendance drop by more than 500,000 fans this year.
  • Three teams that made the playoffs – the Astros, Yankees and Nats – all saw attendance go down in 2019.  The Nats showed the largest decline of the three having 269,823 fewer fans show up for their games.
  • The Dodgers set a franchise record for attendance in 2019 drawing 3,974,309 people to Dodgers Stadium.  Four other teams – the Cardinals, Yankees, Cubs and Angels – drew more than 3,000,000 fans in 2019.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, the Marlins drew fewer than 1,000,000 fans for the second year in a row attracting only 811,302 patient souls to the ballpark.

It seems that the big factor in the decline this year is a drop in season ticket sales and game package sales.  On the other hand, single game sales showed an increase.  This is not necessarily a crisis for MLB; 68.5M fans in attendance is not a trivial number.  Moreover, minor league baseball attendance showed a significant increase over 2018.  In 2019 minor league attendance was 41M fans and that is a 2.6% increase over 2018.

Finally, having mentioned stadium matters above, let me close with this observation from Brad Rock, formerly with the Deseret News:

“Dodger Stadium is undergoing a $100 million renovation.

“Plans include a new entertainment plaza, a beer garden, improved seating and two sports bars.

“Dodger Dogs will continue unchanged for another 1,000 years or so, before being retired to right field with their own monument.”

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



UCLA Attendance Woes … And The XFL Draft

I read a report a few weeks ago that attendance at UCLA football games is becoming problematic.  According to Yahoo! Sports, UCLA gave away tickets to the UCLA home game against Oklahoma earlier this year and the recipients of the free tickets chose to do something other than go to the game.  Every season ticket holder was given 4 free tickets to the game; a total of 75,000 tickets were issued; the announced attendance was 52,578; looking at photos of the stadium, some of those 52,578 folks must have worn a Klingon Cloak of Invisibility to the stadium.

It seems that waning attendance at UCLA home games is not isolated to this one instance – a game where it certainly appeared as if UCLA was overmatched and was likely to be on the short end of a blowout score.  I think there are several reasons behind these attendance woes:

  1. UCLA football has not been highly relevant for a while.  Since 1986, UCLA has been to the Rose Bowl twice.  Its last 5 bowl appearances have been to marginally relevant contests in the Cactus Bowl, Foster Farms Bowl, Alamo Bowl, Sun Bowl and Holiday Bowl.
  2. UCLA football has never enjoyed the stature of UCLA basketball.  UCLA football was routinely considered “the other college team” in LA after USC.
  3. UCLA plays its home football games in the Rose Bowl which is in Pasadena about 30 miles from the UCLA campus.  In LA traffic, those 30 miles or so are not ones that are normally traversed at typical highway speeds.

If any of the Athletic Department mavens have not yet figured this out, their football games offer two very unattractive aspects to potential attendees:

  1. The team loses as often as it wins – and when the opponent is a top-shelf team the expectation is to see your home team take a drubbing.
  2. It is inconvenient at best – and more like a pain in the ass – to get to and from the venue where the game will take place.


Switching gears…  The XFL is going to hold its draft next week over a two-day period.  Not surprisingly, the XFL Draft will not resemble any other draft in any other professional league in the US.  At the end of the process, each team will have 71 players on its roster; I don’t know if teams can sign free agents since my understanding is that all player contracts are with the league and not with the individual teams.  I’ll leave that item as a TBD question…

The draft will consist of 6 Rounds.  Here is how it will go:

  • Round 1:  Before any team takes any player from the draft pool, the league will assign 1 QB to each of the 8 teams.  That is all I know about this round; I don’t know who will make the assignments or what criteria will be in play as the assignments are made.  I have no idea if the teams can trade the player assigned to them during or after the draft.  All I know is that at the end of Round 1, every team will have 1 QB on its roster whether it wanted that QB or not.
  • Round 2:  Using a snake draft, each of the eight teams will draft 10 players who are designated as “Skill Position Players”.  These will include QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs.  [Aside:  A snake draft is often the model used to draft players in a fantasy league.]  It is not clear how the order of selection for Round 2 will be determined.
  • Round 3:  Using a snake draft again – but with a different order for the teams – each of the 8 teams will select 10 players designated as “Offensive Linemen”.
  • Round 4:  Using a snake draft again – and with het another order of the teams – each of the 8 teams will select 10 players designated as “Defensive Lineman” or “Linebacker”.
  • Round 5:  Using a snake draft again – with yet another ordering of the teams – each of the 8 teams will select 10 players designated as “Defensive Backs”.
  • Round 6:  Using a snake draft yet again, each of the 8 teams will select 30 players from the draft pool that is left after Rounds 1 through 5.

Clearly, Round 6 is where teams will find their punter, kicker and probably their long-snapper.  Round 4 – the one where teams pick defensive linemen and linebackers – seems the most difficult one to me.  Each team will need 7 starters in those positions and 4 backups at the very least.  Taking only 10 players in this round, tells me that teams will need to be most efficient and judicious in their selections.

The XFL Draft will not be televised and given the timing restrictions it would not make for interesting television.  After the announcement of the assigned QBs in Round 1, the draft will proceed through Rounds 2, 3 and 4 on the first day with each team having 90 seconds to make their selection.  Even if Mel Kiper, Jr. were available to make comments on the picks here, it would be useless since it takes Mel Kiper, Jr. at least 60 seconds to tell you if it’s raining outside.

Eight XFL teams will have rosters of 71 players by the end of next week.  I am trying to guess how many of the 568 names I will recognize once it is finished.  My guess is 150 players or a little more than 25% of the league.

Finally, let me close today with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Coffee:  A laxative that you can buy in the same places that sell croissants.”

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



The Tweet Heard Round The World

I am sure you have heard or read about the “international incident” that is really a kerfuffle caused by a Tweet from the GM of the Houston Rockets.  Daryl Morey – in a Tweet since taken down – expressed his support for the Hong Kong protestors; the Chinese government and the people who run basketball in China took umbrage at that; there have been economic repercussions already.  I will not go into the details here; you can find good reporting on the subject here.

There are two aspects of this kerfuffle that transcend the current state of conflict between the NBA and the Chinese folks who care about basketball.  The first one is simple and direct:

  • This is not a “free speech issue”.

Daryl Morey exercised his free expression with his Tweet.  No one seeks to criminalize that action.  That is what the First Amendment protects against and it is not in play here.  US politicians on both ends of the political spectrum have felt it necessary to comment on all this and most of them immediately take the position that they are defenders of free speech.  Good for them; now, if we could only get them to understand what it is that they are defending.

The fact is that free expression is one of the pillars of US democracy.  The fact is that free expression is not protected, valued or even tolerated in some parts of the world outside the US.  We can wring our hands and bemoan that second fact, but it remains a fact.

Moreover, when one exercises one’s free speech rights here in the US, that does not immunize one from all consequences.  If a journalist makes up “facts” and synthesizes quotations from imaginary sources to enhance reporting, you could argue that the journalist is exercising his free expression.  And he/she is doing just that; he/she will not be prosecuted for doing so, but he/she is almost assuredly going to be fired by his/her employer for doing so.  If that is too abstract for you, just think about Colin Kaepernick.

The second aspect of this kerfuffle that I find interesting is the PR dance that the NBA must now perform.  The NBA has portrayed itself as ever so politically correct and inclusive.  Here are several examples:

  • They do not refer to team owners as “owners” because that may have a bad connotation for the African American players in the league.  Owners are now referred to as “governors” – – as if that makes any difference and might not be offensive to anyone anywhere.
  • They express pride that the players in the NBA have certain powers of control over their careers that players in other sports do not – – as they wink in the direction of the NFL.
  • They threatened to take their All-Star game out of North Carolina when the state legislature enacted a gender-specific bathroom law that was not in line with NBA thinking.  [Aside:  That is exactly what the Chinese are doing now.]
  • They openly supported Colin Kaepernick in his confrontation with the NFL.

Now, the NBA finds itself at odds with its “Chinese partners” who have already begun to withhold some economic benefits from the Rockets specifically and the NBA more generally.  They will have to navigate a way through a minefield here without looking too much like hypocrites while they try to repair the damages done to one of their revenue streams and to their access to the Chinese basketball market.

Personally, I think the situation the NBA finds itself in today is an inevitable consequence of the NBA’s decision to try to exploit the Chinese marketplace once it was clear that Yao Ming had established a natural way for the NBA to try to access the emerging middle class in a country with 1.4 billion people.  The political, economic and social systems of China and the US are not the same and I believe that it is impossible to do billions of dollars’ worth of business with China and not encounter situations where the two systems butt heads.  The sane way to approach such “head butting incidents” is to keep them low-key and one of the best ways to keep them low-key is to avoid screaming “Free Speech” at the onset of the confrontation.

Switching gears…  The Skins fired Jay Gruden at 5:00 AM yesterday.  Already you can find articles speculating on his replacement; talk about jumping the gun.  If I had any insight as to who may or may not be on the Skins’ radar, I would have to be a mind reader; I am not a mind reader AND I can assure you that if I could read minds I would not choose Danny Boy Snyder and/or Bruce Allen as the minds I would want to read.  So, let me offer some facts and opinions here for you to keep in mind as you encounter the speculations that have begun and will continue to emerge:

  • Danny Boy Snyder has owned the team since 1999.  Counting interim coaches, Bill Callahan – the incumbent as of yesterday – is the 10th head coach since Danny Boy took the helm.
  • Over that period, he has had two “confidants” – or “Enablers-in-chief” – in the Skins’ organization.  He and they have made the coaching decisions over the past two decades.
  • None of the previous coaches – one of which is in the Hall of Fame and another of which has won 2 Super Bowls – left Washington with a winning record.
  • The same folks will be doing the interviewing and hiring this time.  Why should anyone expect anything different to happen?

Danny Boy Snyder has already tried just about every formulaic approach to finding the next great coach who will take the Skins to the pinnacle of the NFL.

  • He inherited a highly successful coordinator – Norv Turner.
  • After he fired Turner because he would not play Jeff George at QB, he hired the highly successful NFL coach who had won more than 60% of his games – Marty Schottenheimer.
  • After he fired Schottenheimer the next year when the team went 8-8, he hired the college coaching whiz who was going to revolutionize the NFL – Steve Spurrier.
  • After Spurrier called in his resignation from a golf course, Danny Boy Snyder hired the franchise legend to come back and right the ship – Joe Gibbs.
  • After Gibbs left the post, he hired the guy who was willing to take the job – Jim Zorn.
  • When he fired Zorn (who was in no way ready for a head coaching position in the first place) he hired the former Super Bowl winning coach who had taken a year’s sabbatical – Mike Shanahan.
  • When he fired Shanahan, he hired the young, up-and-coming NFL coordinator who was the hot commodity of the season – Jay Gruden.

Danny Boy Snyder and Bruce Allen have pushed all the buttons and it has not worked yet.  In addition, there is some strong evidence that they would not recognize nascent coaching expertise if it were present and bit them on their collective noses.  Three NFL wunderkind coaches in 2019 are Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVey and Matt LaFleur.  All three of them have been on the Skins’ coaching staff under the watchful eyes of Danny Boy Snyder and Bruce Allen.  All three are elsewhere as head coaches; all three are probably happy to be anywhere but the head coach of the Skins.

Finally, since I mentioned the NBA’s attempts to be ever so politically correct above, consider this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The International Association of Athletics Federations is ditching the term ‘fastest loser’ — to describe track athletes who don’t win heat races but advance anyway — because the phrase devalues athletes’ achievements and will replace it with ‘fastest nonautomatic qualifier.’

“Hey, it was either that or … participation trophies for everybody!”

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



Busy Times In Sports…

This is a particularly busy time on the calendar for US sports fans.  The NFL is in full swing; college football involves conference games not cupcake games; and MLB has our playoff series going on simultaneously.  There is always something happening somewhere that is interesting and important.

Regarding the MLB playoffs, the two series involving AL teams have the two favorites holding a 2-0 lead.  The Yankees have won their two games at home over the Twins in convincing fashion.  The Yankees’ offense has been most efficient scoring 18 runs on 19 hits in those two games.  The Astros handled the Rays in Game 1 behind Justin Verlander and then Gerrit Cole struck out 15 batters in 7 2/3 innings to give the Rays their 2-0 lead in that series.  To put that performance in perspective, consider:

  • Cole struck out every Rays’ player in the starting lineup at least once.
  • Of those 15 strikeouts, 14 had a swinging third strike.  He was just throwing the ball by everyone.
  • This is the 10th consecutive start where Cole has struck out 10 or more batters.
  • Only Kevin Brown (with the Padres) and Bob Gibson (with the Cardinals) have ever struck out more batters in a playoff game.

Since MLB went to the 5-game playoff series format, 31 teams have taken a 2-0 lead and 28 of those teams went on to win the series.  A comeback by the Rays and/or the Twins can happen; it is not likely…

The two NL series have been more competitive.  In their first game, the Cards and Braves were tied 3-3 after 8 innings; then the fireworks began.  The Cards scored 4 runs in the top of the ninth, but the Braves kept the excitement level up by scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the ninth.  The Cards took a 1-0 lead in the series and took home field advantage from the Braves.  Notwithstanding that loss, the Braves have rallied to take the next two games to regain home field advantage.  Moreover, the way they won Game 3 in the series was a sort of cosmic payback.

  • The Cards led 1-0 at the end of 8 innings; the Braves had only 4 hits in the game.
  • The Braves rallied to score 3 runs in the top of the ninth against Cards’ closer, Carlos Martinez.
  • The Braves scored 3 runs off Martinez in that ninth inning in Game 1 – – but that was one run too few.  Not in Game 3; the Braves closed it out to lead the series 2-1.

In the other NL series, the Dodgers coasted in Game 1 against the Nats.  In game 2, the Nats ties the series behind a strong pitching performance from Steven Strasburg with Max Scherzer making a relief appearance in the game.  The series moved back to Washington and there were echoes of a prior playoff disaster for the Nats.

  • Anibal Sanchez gave up 1 run and 4 hits in 5 innings; Sanchez had also struck out 9 Dodgers; the Nats led the Dodgers 2-1.
  • For some reason, that was the time to pull Sanchez and bring in Patrick Corbin for the 6th inning.
  • Corbin and Wander Suero proceeded to give up 7 runs in the 6th inning and the game was out of hand from there on.

Years ago, the Nats lost a Series to the Cards when they had Gio Gonzales coasting through a game with a comfortable lead after 5 innings only to be pulled for what sounded like good reasons but in reality the reason he was pulled was drastic over-managing from the bench.  There is another way to look at the Nats’ pitching situation in this post-season.

  • The Nats’ bullpen has been horrible all year long.  The bullpen ERA is north of 5.00.
  • Now that the manager has taken two opportunities to “go to the bullpen” in potentially game-winning situations and brought in one of the three starting aces, what does that tell the relief pitchers sitting out there in the bullpen?  The ineffective relief pitchers may now be demoralized on top of being ineffective.
  • And the benefit of that would be …?

The Nats will be able to start Scherzer in Game 4 and then Strasburg in Game 5.  That means they still have hope in the series – – but at some point, the over-managing must stop.

There is another big sports event out of the Washington area this morning.  The Skins fired coach Jay Gruden after starting the season at 0-5; Bill Callahan (former coach of the Raiders) will be the interim head coach.  There are plenty of reasons for the Skins to make a change:

  • In more than 5 seasons with the Skins, Gruden’s record is 35-49-1.
  • The Skins have been dispirited all season; they have lost their 5 starts by an average of 15.6 points per game.
  • Attendance in Washington is cratering; Washington is a front-running town because – as a rule – the losers every 4 years or so they have to leave town.
  • More importantly, Gruden has chosen not to play Danny Boy Snyder’s new QB toy, Dwayne Haskins.
  • Most importantly, the Skins play the Dolphins this week and that gives the new interim coach a real shot at winning his first game to create the phantasm of the team going on a winning streak and “making a run at the playoffs”.

In a rational world, no accomplished NFL coach would take the job with the Skins’ dysfunctional organization.  However, there are only 32 such jobs in the world and when one comes open, it behooves anyone who is offered an interview to take the interview and to take it seriously.  In the statement from the Skins regarding the firing, they said that Gruden was being fired because the team had “not lived up to expectations”.  Well, I guess that should be counted as “literally correct” since no one expected the team to win zero games for the season; however, anyone who looked at the roster and thought that the team should be as good as 3-2 at this part of the season is squarely in one of two mental states:

  1. He is looking at the world through burgundy-and-gold colored glasses
  2. His brain is parked at the intersection of Delusion and Fantasy Streets.

Finally, Bob Molinaro had this item in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week.  As of this morning, he is “halfway” to cashing in his ticket:

The parlay: Wonder if Las Vegas will set odds on both Grudens — Jay and Jon — getting fired by the end of this season. There have been longer shots.”

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



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………