As happened in September, Football Friday and Friday the Thirteenth must co-exist. Not being superstitious, I feel no need to toss a pinch of salt over my shoulder as I set out on today’s rant nor do I think I should go around and look for a rabbit’s foot for good luck. After all, it wasn’t such good luck for the rabbit…
Demonstrating that I do not always think ahead in sufficient detail, I now realize that with the college football season all but over in terms of picking games, that means I would have to make a serious selection in 6 NFL games to fill out a weekly Six-Pack for the rest of the month. Simply put, that is not going to happen and so as of today, the weekly Six-Pack will masquerade itself with a smaller number of selections in the package.
Last week, the Six-Pack did well; the record was 4-2 overall and the college football portion of the Six-Pack remained en fuego. Here is the current status of the Six-Pack selections to date:
- Overall: 35-23-2
- College: 19-6-1
- NFL: 16-17-1
College Football Commentary:
As everyone knows, I like to have fun with the names of players and here are some that I ran across looking for “stuff” to put in rants during this college football season:
- Lawrence Cager (WR- Georgia): How come he isn’t on the basketball team…?
- Fa’Avae Fa’Avae (LB – Wash State): Obviously, his nickname should be “Echo” …
- Jeremaine Johnson (WR- UMass): His nickname is “OC”; there must be a story there…
- Andrew Parchment (WR- Kansas): Guess what he uses when he turns in a term paper…
- Camerun Peoples (RB-Appalachian State): Naturally, Camerun is a running back…
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times ran across a player name that I did not; here is his comment from his Sideline Chatter column:
“Just wondering… Does Arkansas linebacker Bumper Pool have a brother named Gene?”
I recall a nickname from the past that has always given me pause. Cory “Poop” Johnson was a linebacker at Kentucky and spent some time in the CFL. On one hand, I would like to know how he acquired that moniker; then again …
College Game this Week:
Army vs. Navy – 10.5 (40.5) [Game is in Philly]: These lines are interesting. The Total Line opened at 44 and has dropped steadily to this level; the preponderance of the betting money expects a low scoring game. Nonetheless, Navy has been a 10.5-point favorite for the entire week. That is a large spread for what is expected to be a low-scoring game. And why would people expect this to be a low-scoring game with the following stats:
- Army: Scores 30.8 points per game. Allows 22.3 points per game.
- Navy: Scores 39.3 points per game. Allows 24.2 points per game.
I think the reason here is that both teams run the triple option offense and most of their opponents only see that offense once a year meaning it is a “novelty” for the opposing defense. In this game, both defenses will have seen this offense every day in practice. Hence the thought that this will be a low scoring affair. Take another look at those stats for Army. On average, they are 8 points better than their opponents and yet their record is only 5-7.
I am definitely going to tune into this game tomorrow; it is always one of the more enjoyable games of the year. As the last college football entry in a Reduced Quantity Six-Pack, give me Army plus the points.
Earlier this week, I was on the subject of sub-.500 teams making the NFL playoffs and said that I remembered the Seahawks making the playoffs in that state about 15 years ago and that I did not recall another instance of that happening. Soon after that statement was posted, I got an email from the long-term reader in Houston who is a Sports Historian Extraordinaire. Here is the entirety of his communique:
“Carolina won the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record about 5 years ago.”
Actually, it was not “about 5 years ago”; it was “exactly 5 years ago” in 2014. Thank you for the addendum here…
At the end of last season, the NY Jets fired Todd Bowles. Some commentators found justification for that move in the fact that Bowles is a “defense guy” and what the Jets needed now was an “offense guy” to jump start the development of Sam Darnold as their franchise QB. That makes a modicum of sense unless you remember that some “defense guys” such as Bill Parcells, Marv Levy, Mike Tomlin and Bill Belichick found assistant coaches who could develop young QBs…
In any event, the Jets fired Bowles and hired Adam Gase who was offensive coordinator for the Broncos in the 2013 season when Peyton Manning set a bunch of offensive records. [Manning was 37 in that season and it was his 14th year of NFL action; somehow, I don’t think he needed much “development” in 2013.] Gase also spent a year with the Bears as their offensive coordinator and – surprise – without Peyton Manning setting passing records, the Bears finished with an “average offense”. Nonetheless, Gase got the head coaching job in Miami after a year with the Bears. In 3 years with the Dolphins he posted a record of 23-25.
So … how has Sam Darnold “developed”? It is a mixed bag comparing his rookie year to this year. Darnold’s completion percentage is up slightly and his interception percentage is also up slightly. His yards per attempt are up slightly and his yards per catch are down slightly. His passing yards per game are up slightly and his QB Rating is down slightly. Just as it would be wrong to say that Adam Gase has had a deleterious effect on Sam Darnold, it is equally wrong to conclude that Adam Gase has “jump-started” Darnold’s development.
[Aside: Adam Gase’s QB in Miami was Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins were a .500 team then. This year – separated from Adam Gase – Tannehill leads the NFL in QB Rating at 118.5. If you don’t believe that stat, Google is your friend…]
Here are a few Highlights from last week’s NFL action:
- The Titans beat the Raiders 42-21 after the game had been tied 21-21 at the half. The Titans have gone 6-1 since inserting Ryan Tannehill at QB and now are tied with the Texans in the AFC South.
- Jameis Winston threw for 456 yards and 4 TDs as the Bucs beat the Colts 38-35. (However, see below …)
- Devlin “Duck” Hodges led the Steelers to a road win in Arizona. That win kept the Steelers in the #2 wildcard slot in the AFC. If “Duck” gets them to the playoffs, he may start a “Duck Dynasty” in Pittsburgh.
- The Rams’ defense made Russell Wilson look mortal and the Rams’ offense suddenly looked like the Rams’ offense from a year ago. They beat Seahawks handily 28-12.
Here are a few Lowlights from last week’s NFL action:
- The Raiders got their doors blown off by the Titans. About month ago, the Raiders were 6-4 and one game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West with a game against the Chiefs upcoming. Since then, they have lost 3 in a row by a combined score of 116-33.
- Jameis Winston threw 3 INTs but the Bucs overcame that in beating the Colts. (However, see above …)
- The Dolphins scored 21 points – – on 7 field goals and no TDs. They lost the game to Jets 22-21 and coach Brian Flores was mad because he thought an officiating call cost him the game. Excuse me – – 7 field goals and no TDs and it was the officials who cost you the game?
- The Texans lost to Broncos and fell into a tie atop the AFC South with the Titans. How can you lose that game at home to a rookie QB leading a mediocre-at-best team?
- The Jags lost to the Chargers 45-10. So … maybe Gardner Minshew is not the answer at QB in Jax…
- The Pats’ offense was AWOL yet again. The problem there is simple…they do not have enough good receivers to make their short passing game work because no one is a real deep threat. Far be it from me to second guess Bill Belichick when it comes to personnel moves, but why is Josh Gordon on the Seahawks’ roster and not the Patriots’ roster?
- The Cowboys’ offense drove 75 yards on the opening drive for a TD – – then went into hibernation. Meanwhile the Dallas defense gave up 24 unanswered points to the Bears and the Cowboys lost 31-24.
NFL Games This Week:
With the Ravens’ win over the Jets last night, the Ravens have clinched a playoff slot as the AFC North champions. With their 12-2 record to date, the Ravens are also in the lead to get home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Tampa Bay – 3.5 at Detroit (45.5): I do believe that the Bucs are the better team top to bottom here; the Bucs are mediocre, and the Lions are bad. My problem is that I have no idea which incarnation of Jameis Winston will get off the team bus in Ford Field on Sunday. What I do know is that Matt Stafford will be in street clothes on the sidelines for this game. Since Stafford went down, the Lions are 0-5 and are averaging less than 17 points per game.
Philly – 4.5 at Washington (39): This spread opened at 6 points and has been slowly receding all week long. If you watched the first half of the Eagles/Giants game on Monday, you would have to wonder how the Eagles could possibly be favored over any other pro team by 6 points. If you watched the second half – and the OT – you would have to wonder why the opening spread was only 6 points. Just in case you were wondering, Eagles’ RB, Boston Scott, was born in Baton Rouge, LA. This could be a ‘trap game” for the Eagles because next week they play the Cowboys and it could be for all the marbles in the NFC East.
Chicago at Green Bay – 4 (40): The spread here opened at 6.5 points and has been sagging all week. The Packers are 10-3 on the season but the Packers’ offense has been lethargic – to be polite about it – since late October when they put up 42 points on the Raiders. The Bears’ defense in 2019 is not nearly as ferocious as it was in 2018, but the Bears only yield 17.8 points per game. I don’t know if Mitchell Trubisky is up to the task of winning a game in Lambeau Field, but I would not be shocked by a win for the Bears here.
New England – 10 at Cincy (41.5): There is a modicum of “intrigue” here even though the Pats are 10-3 and the Bengals are 1-12. However, not enough “intrigue” to get me to watch this one…
Houston at Tennessee – 3 (51.5): The Total Line opened at 47.5 and shot up to this level rather quickly. This is my Game of the Week. The Titans are hot; the Texans are coming off a loss at home to the Broncos who started a rookie QB on the road for the first-time last week. The Texans’ pass defense ranks 31st in the NFL this morning and Ryan Tannehill could have a huge game here. My only real concern is that the Titans historically play up to or down to the level of their opponent. The winner here will lead the AFC South division race and these two teams will meet again in two weeks to close out the season. I’ll put the Titans in this week’s Diminished Six-Pack and lay the points.
Seattle – 6 at Carolina (49): Seattle is coming off a big loss to the Rams; the Panthers are in free-fall. This is a “body-clock game” for the Seahawks but here is why they are favored by 6.5 points on the road:
- The Seahawks love to run the ball with a power running game.
- The Panthers give up 5.5 yards per rushing attempt.
The Seahawks have been uncharacteristically good on the road this year with a 6-1 record in those games. I’ll put the Seahawks in this week’s Short Six-Pack to win and cover.
Denver at KC – 10 (45): The spread opened at 13 points and dropped to this level quickly. The Broncos have won 2 in a row with rookie QB, Drew Lock under center. Is he ready to win a game in Arrowhead Stadium against Patrick Mahomes and Company? I doubt it. The often-maligned Chiefs’ defensive unit has held their last 3 opponents (Chargers, Raiders and Pats) to an average of 14 points per game.
Miami at Giants – 3.5 (46.5): Clearly this is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Maybe you can find some interest here if you call this the Geriatric Bowl:
- Eli Manning will start at QB for the Giants at age 38.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick will start at QB for the Dolphins at age 37.
If you can come up with something about this game more interesting than that, let me know…
(Sun Nite) Buffalo at Pittsburgh “pick ‘em” (37): This game was flexed into the Sunday Night Football slot for this week. If you want to call this one your Game of the Week, I will put up only the mildest of protests. As of this morning, these are the two AFC wildcard teams; the Bills can still catch the Pats in the AFC East but the only path to the playoffs for the Steelers is via the wildcard. It is a big game for both teams here; I have a social commitment on Sunday evening, so I am grateful for the inventor of the DVR…
- The last time the Bills beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh in a regular season game, the leading rusher in the game was OJ Simpson. He gained 227 yards and the year was 1975…
Steelers’ WR, JuJu Smith-Schuster had to leave practice with an undisclosed injury earlier this week and has been “downgraded” to questionable for this game. Not good news for Steelers’ fans…
Jax at Oakland – 6.5 (46.5): The spread opened at 4 points and the Total Line opened at 44.5 points. The adjustment to this level happened gradually over the week. Barring a construction workers’ strike or an earthquake in Las Vegas, this will be the final game for the Raiders in Oakland – – unless of course they return there in the 2039 NFL season. [Somewhere in the cosmos, Al Davis is smiling at that thought.]
Raiders’ RB Josh Jacobs missed last week’s game with a “shoulder injury” but now we know it is a “shoulder fracture” and yet, he is reportedly taking pain killers to see if he can play in this game. The Raiders are not making the playoffs this year; risking further serious injury to their stud running back in this game against a miserable Jags’ team would be monumentally stupid. Since October 27 – when the Jags beat the Jets 29-15 – the Jags have not scored more than 20 points in a game. Their record since then is 0-5 and they are averaging only 11.4 points per game in those 5 losses.
Cleveland – 3 at Arizona (49): No nonsense here. This is the So-What Game of the Week.
Atlanta at SF – 10.5 (48): The spread opened the week at 12 points and the Total Line was at 45.5 points. There has been plenty of line movement here. It is a big game for the Niners relative to their playoff seeding; it is a big game for Falcons’ coach Dan Quinn relative to his continued employment as the Falcons’ head coach in 2020.
Rams at Dallas – 1.5 (48.5): The spread for this game is all over the map this morning. The spread opened with the Cowboys as 3-point favorites; that lasted less than a couple of hours but as of this morning I can find the game as “pick ‘em” at one of the offshore sportsbooks and with the Cowboys favored by 1 point, 1.5 points and 2 points in other places. Here is a trend to consider:
- The Rams have a winning record at 8-5 as of this morning.
- The Cowboys have 7 losses this year and 6 of those losses have come against teams with winning records as of this morning.
- In 2019, the Cowboys have zero wins against teams with a winning record as of this morning.
If my calculations are correct, the Rams would be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss here. The Cowboys’ offense has sputtered the last 3 weeks against top-shelf defenses (Pats, Bills, Bears) and now face a better-than-average Rams’ defense. I think the wrong team is favored. I’ll put the Rams plus the points in this week’s Abbreviated Six-Pack.
Minnesota – 1.5 at Chargers (45): The spread for this game is also all over the map. The opening spread was 3 points; and this morning, you can find it everywhere from “pick ‘em” to 2 points. This was originally the Sunday Night game until the flexing decision put the Bills/Steelers game in that slot.
(Mon Nite): Indy at New Orleans – 9 (46.5): The Total Line here opened at 44 points. Colts’ WR, T.Y. Hilton could be back for this game; the Colts have struggled with him on the sidelines. The Saints have a playoff slot secured; I believe the Colts will be eliminated if they lose here – which I fully expect them to do.
Let me recall this week’s Four-Pack Masquerading as a Six-Pack:
- Army + 10.5 vs Navy
- Titans – 3 over Texans
- Seahawks – 6 over Panthers
- Rams +1.5 against Cowboys
Finally, since I used a Dwight Perry comment earlier today, let me close with another of his musings in the Seattle Times:
“A Las Vegas hospital billed the parents $2659 to pull a tiny doll’s shoe from their child’s nostril.
“Imagine what it would cost to remove Antonio Brown’s foot from his mouth.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………