Perhaps, just as “necessity is the mother of invention” maybe repetition is the father of comfort. I say that because I’ve been repeating Football Friday since late August; it has been comfortable knowing what I was going to do every Friday morning; I had a core set of information sources for those rants. And now, I am down to the penultimate Football Friday…
- Sic transit gloria mundi…
[Aside: Notwithstanding appearances, that phrase does NOT mean that Gloria threw up on the subway last Monday.]
Last week’s Six-Pack was a miserable 2-4-0. Here are the cumulative results to date:
- Overall: 45-32-4
- College: 20-9-1
- NFL: 25-23-3
College Football Commentary:
Was I ever wrong about the LSU/Clemson game… In retrospect, I think I recognize my error there. When I tuned in to see Clemson during the Fall, I usually only watched a portion of the game because – frankly – I am not sufficiently interested in watching one team beat its opponent by 45 points to stay to the bitter end. The regular season opponents Clemson faced in the ACC were overmatched – – but I gave those opponents more credit for competency that it seems they deserved.
- I thought Clemson’s defense could hold LSU to the mid-thirties.
- I thought Clemson could score 45 points or more on just about anybody except Ohio State. After all, Clemson did that for 6 weeks in a row from October 12 through November 16.
LSU was much the better team last Monday night; there was nothing fluky about that win.
Congratulations to LSU!
Brad Dickson posted this Tweet just prior to the LSU/Clemson game:
“If Clemson loses, I hereby offer to donate $15,000 to the charity of Dabo Swinney’s choice if the first thing he says in the post-game interview is, ‘This is God’s fault.’”
For the record, Messr. Dickson’s bank account remains intact…\
I had lunch with a former colleague yesterday and he asked me to guess the NFL team that had the worst cumulative record over the past 3 seasons. Guessing it was the Browns seemed too obvious and the Bengals were not horrendous before last season and the Skins were near .500 just a couple years ago. So, my guess was the NY Jets and I was wrong. The answer is:
- The NY Giants had a record of 12-36
- [By comparison, the Jets had a lofty record of 16-32.]
As I was watching the Niners/Vikes game last weekend, I wondered which team Danny Boy Snyder was rooting for. If I knew that, I might have insight into the “lesser of two evils” here:
- Vikes’ QB was Kirk Cousins – – the QB the Skins had who beat out Danny Boy’s BFF, RG3. Moreover, the Skins could not get him signed to a long-term deal, so they paid him more than $40M on two franchise tags only to see him walk away in free agency leaving the skins with only a compensatory draft pick.
- Niners’ head coach was Kyle Shanahan – – the offensive coordinator for the Skins when his father was the head coach. Mike Shanahan was engaged in the NFL equivalent of a nuclear exchange with Danny Boy and the recently departed Bruce Allen leading to Shanahan’s departure and the hiring of Jay Gruden as the Skins’ head coach. [We know how that worked out…]
Sadly, I shall never know the answer here.
On the other hand, I am pretty sure I know who the execs at State Farm Insurance are rooting for this weekend. All season long they have featured ads with Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes as their celebrity spokesthings. If the Packers and Chiefs win this weekend, that will be the QB pairing in the Super Bowl.
With the ascent of the Titans to the AFC Championship Game this weekend coming out of the 6th seed for the playoffs, I went looking to see how teams with that seeding had done in previous playoffs. It is not a common occurrence for a team in that position to advance very far but the Steelers in 2005 and the Packers in 2010 came from the 6th seed slot and won the Super Bowl in addition to their Conference Championship.
If the Titans win this week, they will advance to the Super Bowl having beaten the top 3 seeds in the playoffs and – interestingly:
- The AFC West champions this week
- The AFC North champions last week
- The AFC East champions the week before that
- The AFC South champions in the final game of the regular season.
I am not rooting against the Titans this week, but I do want to lay down a marker here in the event that they do win this game and make it to the Super Bowl.
- The fact that they rose from the 6th seed to “shock the world” is NOT any sort of justification to expand the NFL playoffs to 14 or 16 teams.
I recognize that there is money to be made from expanded playoffs; there is also no reason to expand the playoffs. There is enough wailing to go around when a team with a 9-7 or an 8-8 record makes the playoffs now; if you expand the field, that is going to happen far more frequently.
I said above that I would like to know whom Danny Boy Snyder was rooting for in the Vikes/Niners game. However, here is something else I really want to know:
- What did Texans’ coach, Bill O’Brien, say to the team in the locker room at halftime after blowing a 24-0 lead to trail 28-24 at halftime?
I can imagine the situation where he simply went to a clean whiteboard and wrote “WTF!” on it in large letters and then walked away…
I said last week that Dalvin Cook was the key to the Vikes being able to hang with the Niners. Well, that might have been the case if Cook had been able to run the ball even a little bit; Cook gained a total of 18 yards on 9 carries. The Niners’ defense dominated the game forcing the Vikes to go 2 for 12 on third down conversions and creating “three-and-out” on 7 possessions.
The Titans took the game to the Ravens and simply beat them down. The most telling stat is that Ravens tried to convert 4th down 4 times in the game and failed each time. The first of those failures was in 1st quarter with the Ravens trailing 7-0. Sometimes the “bold play” is also the “bad play”. The way Derrick Henry runs the ball reminds me of Jim Brown and Marion Motley for those of you who recall the NFL of the 50s and ‘60s.
The Ravens moved the ball in this game but had little to show for it. Consider:
- Ravens total offense was 530 yards yielding only 12 points.
- Ravens ran a total of 92 offensive plays to the Titans’ 53 plays.
The Chiefs/Titans game would not have been plausible in a Hollywood movie. There were lots of “low-probability events” in the game; the only thing missing was a safety to finish off the oddness. I think momentum swung in favor of Chiefs when Texans tried a fake punt in their own territory in the second quarter leading 24-7. It did not work; the Chiefs scored; momentum swung. The Texans’ run game was AWOL gaining a total of 55 yards. That made the game “Shaun Watson against the world”.
[Recall that a previous Houston team (the Oilers) blew a 35-3 second-half lead in a playoff game and then lost in OT to the Bills 41-38. By comparison, this collapse was relatively minor.]
The Seahawks/Packers game was nowhere near as bizarre as Chiefs/Texans by any means, but it was just as entertaining. Davante Adams was the difference maker there catching 8 passes for 160 yards and 2 TDs. I’m sorry to report that “Beast Mode” looked a lot like “Fluffy Kitten Mode”. Twelve carries for twenty-six yards is unimpressive. [BTW the “Beast Mode” stats since coming out of retirement late in the season are 30 carries for 67 yards.] Russell Wilson almost brought the Seahawks back from a 21-3 hole at halftime despite the Seahawks’ OL giving up 5 sacks in the game and forcing Wilson to run for his life about a half-dozen other times.
As usual there were some Highlights from last week:
- Patrick Mahomes passed for 321 yards and 5 TDs. Just another day at the office…
- Travis Kelce caught 10 passes for 134 yards and 3 TDs. Ho- hum …
Of course, there was also a Lowlight from last week:
- The Ravens’ run game let them down and Lamar Jackson was forced the try to make up for its absence by attempting 59 passes. That is not how the Ravens won their division and got the #1 seed in this year’s playoffs.
This Week’s Games:
(Sun Afternoon 3:00 PM EST) Tennessee at KC – 7.5 (53): You can find this game with a 7-point spread at several sportsbooks this morning and with an 8-pooint spread at 2 Internet sportsbooks this morning. The most common number is 7.5 points. Meanwhile, the Total Line opened the week at 51.5 points and jumped quickly to this level just about everywhere. The Titans beat the Chiefs here in KC earlier this year and did it – no surprise here – with Derrick Henry running the ball all day long. [He had 23 carries for 188 yards and 2 TDs that day.] If the Titans can do that again here, they can win this game outright; if it turns into a track meet, the Titans will not be able to keep up. When the Titans beat the Chiefs earlier this year, the Titans’ defense forced the Chiefs to kick 3 field goals from the Red Zone; replicating that performance will not be easy. I really do not like that half-point hook on the spread here, but it is what it is. Here are two trends I am about to ignore:
- Titans are 7-1-1 against the spread in their last 9 games against AFC teams
- Chiefs are 2-7 against the spread in their last 9 home playoff games.
I’ll put the Chiefs in this week’s abbreviated Six-Pack to win and cover and I’ll take the game to go OVER.
(Sun Evening 6:40 PM EST) Green Bay at SF – 7.5 (46.5): The Total Line here opened the week at 44.5 points and has climbed slowly to this level. When these teams met in the regular season, the Niners dominated the game (score was 37-8) and did so by limiting the Packers’ running game and then harassing Aaron Rodgers every time he tried to pass. (Rodgers averaged 3.2 yards per attempt in that game.) I don’t think the Packers’ OL can stand up to the Niners’ pass rush if there is no threat to run the ball in this game. So, the question comes down to what sort of running strategy can the Packers’ braintrust come up with. I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but I’ll take the Niners to win and cover and I’ll take this game to go OVER also to finish off this week’s truncated Six-Pack.
Let me summarize this week’s Six-Pack:
- Chiefs – 7.5 over Titans
- Chiefs/Titans OVER 53
- Niners – 7.5 over Packers
- Niners/Packers OVER 46.5
Finally, the four teams remaining in the playoffs have done a lot of winning this season, but they still have challenges ahead of them. Given that circumstance, it is proper to recall Paul “Bear” Bryant’s observation about winning:
“Winning isn’t everything, but it beats anything that comes in second.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………