Football Friday 12/27/19

If you remember the old TV series, Dragnet, the opening scene always ended with Jack Webb intoning:

  • “My name’s Friday.  I’m a cop.”

Surely, Curmudgeon Central is not on TV – and never will be – but maybe there is a parallel way to introduce today’s rant:

  • “Today is Friday.  It’s time for Football Friday.

Last week, the Six-Pack had only 4 elements, but the results were a comfortable 3-1-0.  Here is the status of the Six-Pack since September:

  • Overall:  38-27-3
  • College:  19-7-1
  • NFL:  19-20-2


College Football Commentary:


Two young assistant coaches of football heritage got jobs as offensive coordinators recently:

  1. Kendal Briles – – son of Art Briles – – will be the offensive coordinator at Arkansas
  2. Charlie Weis, Jr. – – son of Charlie Weis don’t you know – – will be the offensive coordinator at USF.

Sons of coaches have been successful in their own right more than a few times.  Consider:

  • Bill Belichick
  • Jim and John Harbaugh
  • Brian Schottenheimer
  • Kyle Shanahan

However, success is not a guarantee.  Consider:

  • Terry and Tommy Bowden
  • Rex Ryan
  • Mike and David Shula

As they say in the car commercials, “Your mileage may vary…”


College Games of Interest This Week:


Oklahoma St vs Texas A&M – 5.5 (54.5):  It is sort of a “regional rivalry” …

Iowa – 2.5 vs USC (52.5):  I thought this might be a Rose Bowl matchup from long ago when that was the Pac 8 or 10 or 12 versus the Big 10.  Alas, that never happened…

Washington St vs Air Force – 2.5 (68):  Here you have the Air Raid offense against the Air Force itself…

Oklahoma vs LSU – 13.5 (75.5):  LSU scores 47.8 points per game and Oklahoma scores 43.2.  LSU’s scoring defense is pretty good allowing only 21.2 points per game; Oklahoma allows 24.5 points per game.  I think this will be a game where points appear in abundance.  I’ll put this game in this week’s Six-Pack to go OVER.

Clemson – 2 vs Ohio State (63):  This is the game I really want to see but we have a social engagement that evening.  Once again let me pay homage to the person who invented the DVR…


NFL Commentary:


Last week, Bob Molinaro had this observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

On the upswing: I don’t know if Buffalo’s Sean McDermott should beat out John Harbaugh or Mike Tomlin as NFL Coach of the Year, but for getting the previously moribund Bills into the playoffs twice in his first three seasons, he deserves some sort of award.”

I agree that Sean McDermott has done a good job since his arrival in Buffalo and he should get some voting recognition for it.  I would add one more name to this list conditioned on how this week’s games turn out.

  • If the Eagles win this week and make the playoffs given the number of starting players who will not be in uniform for this game – and who have not been in uniform for so many games this year – Doug Pederson deserves at least a tip of the hat.

There are two ways the Eagles can make the playoffs this week:

  • Win and you’re in.
  • Lose to the Giants and Cowboys lose to the Skins.

The Eagles find themselves with this opportunity thanks to a 17-9 win over the Cowboys last week in Philly.  That game in the perspective of game results for the rest of this season demonstrates why stats must be viewed in context.  Consider:

  • The Cowboys have the most prolific offense in the NFL in terms of yardage.  They gain 425.8 yards per game; the Ravens are second at 414.5 yards per game; only the Cowboys, Ravens and Bucs average more than 400 yards per game.
  • The Cowboys rank 8th in the NFL in scoring points at 25.8 points per game.  By comparison, the Ravens score 33.8 points per game and the Bucs score 29.1 points per game.
  • Three times this season, the Cowboys’ defense has held an opponent to 17 points or less – – and lost those three games despite having the most prolific offense in the NFL.

I ran across this tidbit earlier this week.  The Cowboys have trailed at halftime in 7 games this year – – and they lost all 7 of them.  Naturally, I have no idea if that is merely a coincidence or if it speaks to a fundamental problem with the team or the coaches; but for a team that had the playoffs as a minimal expectation in August and a team with the most prolific offense in the league, that seems strange to me.

There were some Highlights from last week’s action in the NFL:

  • The Jets’ defense led the way to a 16-10 win over the Steelers with 4 sacks and 2 INTs.
  • Saquon Barkley accounted for 279 yards from scrimmage and 2 TDs for the Giants against the Skins’ “defense”.
  • The Chiefs’ defense held the Bears to 3 points – – and that is the second consecutive game where the Chiefs’ defense has only allowed 3 points.  Impressive.
  • Saints’ WR Michael Thomas broke the single season record for receptions – – held previously by Marvin Harrison – – and he still has another game to play.  Thomas has caught 145 balls in 15 games this year.
  • ZaDarius Smith had 3.5 sacks and 5 tackles for a loss in a dominant win by the Packers over the Vikes.

There were some Lowlights from last week’s action in the NFL:

  • The Jags gave up 518 yards of offense to the Falcons losing 24-12.
  • The Steelers’ run attack was anemic at best in their costly loss to the Jets.  Their leading rusher was James Connor who gained all of 32 yards in the game.
  • The Dolphins‘ defense allowed the Bengals – – the BENGALS – – to come back from a 28-6 deficit to force OT.  The fact that the Dolphins eventually won the game does not erase that lowlight.
  • The Panthers were stomped by the Colts 38-6.  Clearly, the Panthers’ on-field problems in 2019 are the fault of since-fired coach Ron Rivera…
  • The Chargers’ rushing attack totaled 19 yards against the Raiders.
  • The Skins’ defense gave up 552 yards of offense to the Giants – – the GIANTS.
  • The Lions’ total offense was 191 yards in their loss to the Broncos.
  • The Cowboys just stunk out the joint losing to the Eagles.  Offensive play calling was mysterious; receivers dropped passes; Dak Prescott missed open receivers; the defense was porous.  All in all, they lost as a team.
  • The Seahawks lost their top 2 RBs in their loss to the Cards – – Chris Carson and CJ Prosise.  That does not bode well for playoff-bound Seahawks unless Marshawn Lynch can indeed reprise his “Beast Mode” performance(s).
  • In the final drive of the game that produced the game winning score, the Rams defense gave up two 3rd down conversions one of which was a 3rd and 16 situation.


NFL Games This Week:


The league has structured the schedule for this week to avoid having teams play late in the day already knowing their playoff status based on the results of an early game.  I will indicate here which games are early afternoon starts and which are late afternoon starts.  There is a Sunday Nite game but no Monday Nite game this week.

Several Week 17 games are like minor bowl games in college football; it matters a lot if one of the teams shows up more interested in playing the game than the other team.

(Late afternoon) Tennessee – 3.5 at Houston (45.5):  The spread opened the week with the Texans favored by 1 point.  The deal with this game goes like this:

  • If the Titans win, they are in the playoffs with the #6 seed.
  • If the Texans win, they could advance from the #4 seed to the #3 seed.

I would guess that means that the game means more to the Titans than it does to the Texans.

(Early afternoon) Cleveland – 2.5 at Cincy (43.5):  Didn’t we just have this match-up 3 days ago?  [Actually, it was 3 weeks ago, but who’s counting…]  The so-called “Battle of Ohio” is no more interesting now than it was then.  The Bengals are already on the clock for the #1 pick in the NFL Draft next April and this could be Andy Dalton’s final game as a Bengal.  I am not sure if I should feel sad for him on that note or if he will be rejoicing at his liberation…

(Early afternoon) Chicago at Minnesota – 1 (37):  The Vikes’ loss to the Packers last week took real significance out of this game.  The Vikes are locked into the #6 seed in the NFC; the Bears are booking Caribbean cruises with their families.

(Late afternoon) Indy – 4 at Jax (42.5): Ho hum…  This game means nothing to either team and even less to me.

(Early afternoon) Atlanta at Tampa Bay – 1 (47.5):  Both teams have played much better in the second portion of the season.  The Falcons are 5-2 since the first week of November after starting the season 1-7.  The Bucs are 5-2 since November 10 after starting the season 2-6.  I think this game will have fireworks galore, so I’ll put this game in this week’s Six-Pack to go OVER.

(Late afternoon) Washington at Dallas – 10.5 (45.5):  The spread here opened the week at 14 points and has dropped steadily to this level all week.  That means there is a preponderance of “Skins’ money” coming in for reasons I do not understand. Local sports radio would have you believe that the Skins players would love to win this game simply to assure that the Cowboys do not make the playoffs.  If that were true, it would be the first showing of “emotional purpose” by the Skins all season.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, there is a reason to hope the Skins win this game outright:

  • If the Cowboys lose this game at home, will there be steam coming out of both of Jerry Jones’ ears during his post-game media commentary – – or just one ear?

(Early afternoon) New Orleans – 13 at Carolina (46):  The Saints have been assured of a playoff slot for a month now.  They can still earn themselves a BYE Week like this:

  • Beat Carolina AND EITHER a Packers loss to the Lions or a Niners loss to the Seahawks.

The Panthers are simply a mess – – and may be looking at remaining a mess for a while here given their “QB issues”.  Will Grier was mightily unimpressive in his first start last week; Kyle Allen looks as if he was a flash in the pan; Cam Newton’s shoulder and leg injuries are most worrisome.

(Late afternoon) Philly – 4 at Giants (44.5):  This is a big game for the Eagles; they make the playoffs with a win.

(Late afternoon) Pittsburgh – 2.5 at Baltimore (37):  The spread here opened with the Ravens as a 2.5-point favorite and with the Total Line at 40.5.  There has been a lot of movement here.  The game means nothing to the Ravens; they will rest Lamar Jackson and play RG3.  This game means everything to the Steelers who make the playoffs with a win and a Titans’ loss to the Texans.  However, they will have to play Duck Devlin at QB because the only other healthy QB on the roster is Paxton Lynch.   Yowza!

(Early afternoon) Jets at Buffalo – 1.5 (36.5):  This spread opened the week at 5.5 points.  The Bills will be the #5 seed in the AFC playoffs no matter what happens in the games on Sunday.  The Jets have played much better since the start of November posting a record of 5-2 in their last 7 games.  This will be a low scoring game.  Maybe the first team to 20 points is the winner?

(Early afternoon) Miami at New England – 16 (45):  The Pats cannot get home field advantage throughout the playoffs this year; that belongs to the Ravens.  However, the Pats can earn the #2 slot in the playoffs this year and that means a BYE Week for them.  The Dolphins have gone 4-4 in their last 8 games after coming out of the gate 0-7 this year.  The Dolphins have 3 first-round picks in next year’s NFL Draft; that bodes well for the team down the road – – but not here.  That line does look fat to me, so I’ll put the Dolphins plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

(Early afternoon) Green Bay – 12.5 at Detroit (43.5):  The Packers are peaking at the right time of the year; the defense is much better this year than in the recent past.  The Lions are a mess – – even on defense which is Matt Patricia’s specialty.  The Packers can make it to the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs meaning teams would have to come to Lambeau Field to play with:

  • A win here AND a Niners’ loss to the Seahawks.

(Early afternoon) Chargers at KC – 9 (45.5):  This spread opened at 7 points and the Total Line opened at 48 points; plenty of line movement here.  The Chiefs are playing for playoff seeding; the Chargers are playing because it would cost them a game check if they did not show up. Like the Packers, the Chiefs seem to be peaking at the right time and the Chiefs’ defense has been outstanding the last 2 weeks allowing a total of 6 points in 2 games.  The Chargers have been in an abyss for most of 2019.  I’ll put the Chiefs in this week’s Six-Pack and lay the points.

(Late afternoon) Arizona at Rams – 7.5 (49):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week – although the Browns/Bengals game was a close second in the voting.  The Cards have won 2 in a row; the Rams have lost 2 in a row and both losses were bad ones.  I would not be surprised to see the Rams “go through the motions“ here given that they started the season with Super Bowl aspirations and are out of the playoffs entirely with this game left on the schedule.  Meanwhile the Cards’ starting QB, Kyler Murray, has a “tweaked hamstring” and may not play.

(Late afternoon) Oakland at Denver – 3 (41):  This line is shocking.  The Raiders can still sneak into the playoffs if a whole bunch of things happen this week – – but the first and foremost of those things is for the Raiders to win this game.  The Broncos are mediocre at best and have been “playoff irrelevant” since back in October.  And yet, the Broncos are favored in the game…

(Sun Nite) SF – 3 at Seattle (47):  This is the Game of the Week.  This game will determine the NFC West champion and has seeding implications for both of these teams and potentially for some others.  To say that the Seahawks’ situation at running back is ‘in turmoil” would be an understatement.  However, they do have Russell Wilson playing at home and you should never minimize that.  It will be interesting to see if “Beast Mode” has anything left in the tank.

Let me summarize this week’s Six-Pack – once again with only 4 entries:

  • LSU/Oklahoma OVER 75.5
  • Falcons/Bucs OVER 47.5
  • Dolphins + 16 against Pats
  • Chiefs – 9 vs Chargers

Finally, with the closing of the NFL’s 2019 regular season, there will be no more NFL football in Oakland, CA.  So, let me close with a description of Oakland by Herb Caen, a San Francisco journalist:

“The trouble with Oakland is that when you get there, it’s there.”

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