In Germanic lore, Friday is named for the goddess, Frigga, who was Odin’s wife. The Romans referred to the sixth day of their week as “dies Veneris” – or the Day of Venus the goddess of love. In 2020 and in the bowels of Curmudgeon Central, we just call it Football Friday.
As usual, I shall begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack – which is significantly better this week as compared to the “Shutout Six-Pack” from two weeks ago:
- College: 1-0-0
- NFL: 3-1-1
- Combined: 4-1-1
Here are the updated season totals:
- College: 6-11-1
- NFL: 13-10-1
- Combined: 19-21-2
College Football Commentary:
A couple of years ago, there was a week when both Ole Miss and Mississippi State were ranked in the Top 5 teams in the country; lots of folks believed that this signaled a shift in the geography of SEC football prowess; it most certainly did not. Fast forward to today and one might over-react to three stories this week and conclude that football is dying a slow death in Mississippi. That too would be wrong, but maybe you could be convinced to believe that someone has put a hex on football in Mississippi?
Let me start with the football situation at Southern Mississippi. Back in September after losing its first game of the season by two scores to South Alabama, then-coach Jay Hopson immediately resigned and was replaced by Scotty Walden as the interim coach for the balance of the 2020 season. Walden had to miss last week’s game – – a loss to Liberty by 21 points – – because he tested positive for the coronavirus. On Tuesday of this week, Walden announced that he is leaving Southern Mississippi to take the head coaching job at Austin Peay, and he is leaving immediately.
Walden will be replaced by Tim Billings who has been the defensive coordinator and tight ends coach and who led the team on the sidelines last week in that loss to Liberty. As is the norm, Coach Walden declared that he is ecstatic to go to such a great place as Austin Peay and the Athletic Director there says that they are thrilled to have such a good person as their new head coach. Meanwhile, in Hattiesburg, the folks at Southern Mississippi will have a third head coach on the sidelines since the season began on September 3rd and the Director of Athletics at So. Miss said that his goal is to “have a full-time head coach in place by the end of November.”
Unless Tim Billings moves up from “interim coach” to head coach, that does not leave a lot of wiggle room for the Director of Athletics. November has 30 days; So. Miss will play its final game on 27 November. Or … maybe the plan is to hire the next head coach and have him take over before this season is done. That would make 4 different head coaches for the team in a single season. I am not going to spend the time and effort to check it out, but I have to think that has not happened in major college football before.
Meanwhile, over in Starkville, MS, there appears to be turmoil in the Mississippi State program. CBSSports.com reported yesterday that Coach Mike Leach confirmed that 3 more players will be leaving the team and he has suggested that the team may need a “purge” of “malcontents”. In the last two weeks, a total of 7 players have left the team – – and if there is a “purge” coming, that number might increase dramatically.
Mike Leach is no stranger to controversy; he sets a high standard when it comes to being unorthodox as a college football coach. Nonetheless, it is beyond unorthodox for a college coach to refer openly to purging malcontents from his roster. Mississippi State opened the 2020 season with a bang beating LSU 44-34 and racking up 600 yards passing in that game. Since then, the Bulldogs’ fortunes have soured; they have lost their last 3 games scoring a total of 30 points in those three losses. And this week, they get to mosey on over to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama – – and they will arrive as a 30-point underdog.
And at Ole Miss, coach Lane Kiffin was fined $25,000 for openly and pointedly criticizing the officials and the officiating in last week’s loss to Auburn. His criticism seems justified to me, but coaches just cannot unload on the way he did. Kiffin has said he will pay the fine in pennies. Let’s do some math…
- A US penny (since 1982) weighs 2.5 grams; there are 453.6 grams per pound.
- $25,000 equals 2,500,000 pennies.
- (2.5 X 2,500,000) / 453.6 = 13,779 pounds.
- Memo to Coach Kiffin: Be sure to rent a big enough truck. And take a couple of your lineman along to help you unload the cargo at the delivery point.
Perhaps one or more of the football gods is really ticked off at the State of Mississippi for some reason…
Rutgers beat Michigan St.38-27. That is not a typo; that is merely a gigantic surprise. Michigan St. won the stat battle gaining 379 yards on offense to 276 for Rutgers. You do not have to go exploring on the stat sheet to see how the game turned in favor of Rutgers; Michigan St. turned the ball over 7 times – 2 INTs and 5 lost fumbles. Here are the results of the Spartans’ possessions for the day:
- 1st Quarter: Fumble, Fumble, Turnover on downs, TD
- 2nd Quarter: INT, Fumble, Field goal, Halftime
- 3rd Quarter: Fumble, Fumble, TD, Turnover on downs
- 4th quarter: Punt, TD, Interception.
Three of Rutgers’ TD drives in the game were 26 yards or shorter including one “drive” that traversed 1-yard and took 5 plays to accomplish.
Rutgers broke a 21-game conference game losing streak last week. We will see in coming weeks if Rutgers has taken a giant step forward in its football program – – or if Michigan State is in the throes of a total rebuilding of its team. Or perhaps … both?
Northwestern beat Maryland 43-3. The other doormat of the Big 10 – aka Maryland – – did not fare nearly as well last week. The Terps opened the scoring in the game with their field goal at 9:15 of the first quarter. After that, nada. Maryland QB, Taulia Tagovailoa had a less-than-impressive start to his career at Maryland going 14 for 25 for 94 yards and 3 INTs.
Ohio St. beat Nebraska 52-17. As I said last week, this game shaped up to be a modern version of the 1050s TV show, You Asked For It. Buckeyes’ QB, Justin Fields was surgical in the passing game posting this stat line:
- 20 of 21 for 279 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs
Wisconsin beat Illinois 45-7. Lest you think Justin Fields had the best stat line of the week, Badgers’ QB Graham Mertz (Is Ricky Ricardo his godfather?) had an even better day posting this stat line:
- 20 of 21 for 248 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs
After the game, it was reported that Martz tested positive for COVID-19. Please do not let the Internet start the “rumor” that the coronavirus is a performance enhancer for athletes…
Michigan beat Minnesota 49-24. The Wolverines showed a balanced attack running for 256 yards and throwing for another 225 yards. Joe Milton has taken over the starting QB role in Michigan with the departure of Shea Patterson and all he did in his debut was go 15 for 22 for 225 yards and 1 TD through the air plus carrying the ball 8 times for 52 yards and another TD. Add in two turnovers by Minnesota and you have the result cited above.
Indiana beat Penn St. 36-35 in OT. Penn State dominated the stat sheet gaining 488 yards to only 211 by Indiana. Ten penalties on the Nittany Lions for 100 yards certainly did not help the Penn State cause here.
UNC beat NC State 48-21. The Tar Heels rebounded from their upset loss to Florida State last week in a big way; they outgained the Wolfpack by almost 200 yards on the day. The biggest difference was in the running game where UNC had 326 yards and NC State had 34.
Louisville beat Florida State 48-16. The Seminoles led 7-0 with 12;40 on the clock in the first quarter and then surrendered 28 consecutive points in the next 15 minutes. It was never really a contest. Florida St. went for it 5 times on fourth down; they only succeeded once.
Clemson beat Syracuse 47-21. Clemson is now 6-0; They have been penciled in for the CFP since the season began. Week by week, that prognostication looks better and better.
Notre Dame beat Pitt 45-3. Pitt’s offense was held to a total of 164 yards for the game. It was never a contest… Notre Dame is undefeated at 5-0 for the season.
K-State beat Kansas 55-14. K-State is 4-1 for the season and is undefeated in its four Big 12 games. K-State returned 2 punts for TDs in this game and also had a Pick-Six. Kansas is a miserable football team.
Oklahoma State beat Iowa State 24-21. Oklahoma State is also undefeated in Big 12 games. Normally one thinks of Oklahoma St. as an offensive team that wins by outscoring opponents; this year’s squad also had a stingy defense; they could well be part of the Big 12 Championship Game.
LSU beat South Carolina 52-24. LSU is a most unreliable team this year; and last week, the “Good-LSU” took the field in Baton Rouge.
Alabama beat Tennessee 48-17. Alabama is a very reliable football team this year. Alabama is 5-0 and should be penciled in for the CFP along with Clemson. The Crimson Tide dominated the game gaining 587 yards to 302 yards for the Vols. Alabama scored 6 TDs in the game; one came on a “scoop-and-score”; the other 5 were rushing TDs. Alabama WR, Jaylen Waddle was lost for the season with a “lower leg injury” incurred on the opening kickoff. The injury was subsequently diagnosed as a broken ankle.
Cincy beat SMU 42-13. The Bearcats look to be the class of the AAC after this result. Ahead on their schedule are games against Memphis, Houston and UCF; if they run that table, they should be the Group of 5 team playing on New Year’s Day.
College Games of Interest:
Michigan St. at Michigan – 24 (52.5): Is Michigan as good as it looked last week against Minnesota? Is Michigan State as bad as they looked in losing to Rutgers? We may get some indications here…
UNC – 7 at UVa (61.5): That spread is suspiciously low given the way UNC destroyed NC State last week.
K-State at West Virginia – 3.5 (45.5): The Total Line opened the week at 50 points and has dropped significantly. Perhaps the line here anticipates a soggy field from the remnants of Hurricane Zeta? K-State arrives in Morgantown undefeated in Big-12 competition and they are getting points; I’ll take the Wildcats plus those points; put it in the Six-Pack.
BC at Clemson – 23.5 (56): Clemson has won 27 consecutive games against ACC opponents. The all-time ACC record for consecutive wins stands at 29 in a row and is held by Florida State from 1992-1995. I doubt that BC will derail Clemson’s run of conference victories this week notwithstanding the news that broke last night that Trevor Lawrence tested positive for coronavirus and will not play. That news moved the line here a lot; yesterday, the spread was 31.5 points, and the Total Line was 61 points. Bettors who took the points with BC earlier in the week, now have a real chance at a middle. [Aside: I assume anyone reading about games, spreads and totals knows what a middle is. If not, leave a comment and I’ll try to explain it.]
Va Tech – 3.5 at Louisville (68): Tech looked awful losing to Wake Forest last week. Louisville dominated Florida State last week. Nonetheless… Louisville gives up a lot of rushing yards (187.3 yards per game on the ground) and Va Tech runs the ball well. I like the Hokies to win and cover – even on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.
Notre Dame – 20 at Georgia Tech (57): This could well be a trap game for Notre Dame because next week they will host Clemson in South Bend. The Irish are clearly the better team but …
Indiana – 10 at Rutgers (53.5): Both teams surprised in their wins last week.
Ohio State – 11 at Penn State (63): This is probably the Game of the Week. Penn State gained almost 500 yards last week on the Indiana defense; I do not see that happening this week. Penn State is down to its #3 running back due to injury to one and to opting out for the other backs previously ahead on the depth chart.
Memphis at Cincy – 6.5 (55.5): This is a test for Cincy as they seek to hold onto the reins in the AAC and stay on track to play in a New Year’s Day bowl game.
Boise St. – 14 at Air Force (49): What is interesting here is that the spread opened the week at 8.5 points and the Total Line opened the week at 52 points. That is an awful lot of line adjustment…
Rice at So. Mississippi – 2 (58): Can the new interim head coach for the Golden Eagles get his first win? (See above)
Texas at Oklahoma St. – 3.5 (58): The Cowboys are in good shape in the Big-12 race now and need a win here to stay that way.
LSU – 3 at Auburn (65): Both teams come to the game with 2 losses on their record. Two losses are probably too many to be a factor in the SEC Championship Game – – but three losses are the kiss of death. Both teams won last week. Neither team is consistent.
Mississippi St. at Alabama – 31 (63): If there are Bulldog players who are “malcontented” now, I do not know what adjective one might use to describe their feelings after this ass-kicking happens.
Arkansas at Texas A&M – 12.5 (54.5): Arkansas has been a positive surprise so far this year; Texas A&M is pretty much what the Aggies are every year. They win more than they lose, and they get stomped by the likes of Alabama. I think the line is fat; I’ll take the Razorbacks plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.
Missouri at Florida – 12 (62): Florida and Georgia lead the SEC East with one loss each and will face each another next week. Is this a “look-ahead game” for the Gators?
Georgia – 17 at Kentucky (42.5): Is this a look-ahead game for the Dawgs? For a game that appears to be a low-scoring affair, that is an awfully large spread…
The Bucs signing of Antonio Brown is understandable from the vantage point of physical talent on the field on Sundays. No one doubts that Brown is a top-shelf WR. However, earlier this year when Brown was looking around for places to land once his suspension was served, Bucs’ coach Bruce Arians said that he did not think Antonio brown would “fit into the locker room” that he was trying to construct with the team.
It is not as if the Bucs are in desperate straits now; so, is it fair to ask coach Arians:
- What changed?
Benjamin Disraeli – the 19th Century Prime Minister of the UK – famously said there are three kinds of lies:
“Lies, damned lies and statistics.”
There is an NFL stat this year that is certainly misleading if not an outright lie about the value provided by achieving that statistic. I refer to “Total Yards Passing”. Here are the top 3 NFL QBs as of this morning using that stat as your yardstick:
- Matt Ryan – – 2181 yards (does not count yardage in last night’s game versus the Panthers)
- Deshaun Watson – – 2095 yards
- Joe Burrow – – 2023 yards.
Before you gaze too fondly at those impressive numbers, take a moment to check the NFL standings and note that the Falcons, Texans and Bengals have a combined record of 3-17-1. I think the reason all those passing yards do not add up to success in the standings is based in the reason that there are so many passing yards in the first place:
- The Falcons never have a lead that is “safe” because the Falcons’ defense is more than “suspect” giving up 29.7 points per game. Matt Ryan is throwing the ball all the time because the team needs to amass every point they can possibly squeeze out of a 60-minute game.
- The Texans also have a “suspect” defense which allows 31 points per game. Deshaun Watson needs to score a lot to keep the game in doubt and he has often had to do it from behind since the Texans have fallen behind rather regularly in 2020
- The Bengals defense is the best of these three yielding “only” 27.4 points per game. However, teams have loaded up against the Bengals’ run game meaning that Joe Burrow has thrown an average of 41.9 passes per game.
The NFC East is clearly the weakest division in the NFL this year; the Eagles lead this sorry lot by a half-game today with a record of 2-4-1. The combined record for the 4 teams is an embarrassing 7-20-1; as a whole, the 4 teams have been outscored by 184 points – and that takes into account that there have been 5 division games already where the combined point differential has to come out to be zero.
Having said that, I think the AFC East is not looking all that formidable at the moment.
- The Bills lead the division with a 5-2 record. However, the Bills have not looked good the last two weeks and – – even with that 5-2 record – – the Bills’ point differential is minus-4 points.
- The Dolphins are 3-3; they have played very well in their last two games but were less than awesome before that.
- The Patriots look ordinary at best with a 2-4 record. Cam Newton has not dazzled at QB and with Julian Edelman hobbled a bit, there are no pass-catchers on the roster who keep defensive coordinators up at night.
- The Jets are – – well, they are the Jets. ‘Nuff said…
The Steelers beat the Titans 27-24. The Steelers were 13 for 18 on third down tries; Juju Smith-Shuster and Dionte Johnson each caught 9 passes in the game for a combined 165 yards and 2 TDs. The Titans’ WR, A.J. Brown, caught six passes for 153 yards and a TD. The Steelers are 6-0 and they are the only undefeated team at this point of the season. They have two games on tap with the Ravens – one this weekend and the second one on November 26th. Circle those dates on your television viewing calendars…
The Browns beat the Bengals 37-34. The Browns needed a miracle finish – two picture-perfect throws from Baker Mayfield to WRs you never heard of – to win this game. Odell Beckham Jr. suffered what was “feared to be” a significant knee injury. Indeed, it was a torn ACL, and he is out for the rest of this season. Joe Burrow threw for 406 yards and 3 TDS but the Bengals could only gain 81 yards on the ground for the game meaning they asked him to throw 47 times in the game.
The Bills beat the Jets 18-10. The Bills’ offense sputtered every time it got to the Red Zone and they were forced to attempt 8 field goals in the game. Kicker, Tyler Bass, made 6 of those tries from 29, 37, 40, 46, 48 and 53 yards (he missed on tries from 37 and 45 yards) and that was the totality of the Bills’ scoring for the day. That futility came against a Jets’ defense that was on track to be historically awful so far this year.
The Jets’ offense showed signs of life in the first half taking a 10-0 lead with 7 minutes left in the first half. Then it went back into suspended animation. At one point in the first half, Sam Darnold had this worthy stat line:
- 10 for 11 for 107 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs
Here is Darnold’s final stat line for the game:
- 12 for 23 for 120 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs
Doing a bit more math here and subtracting the first stat line from the second, you will ss how Darnold and the Jets’ offense fared as the game went on:
- 2 for 12 for 13 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs
The Packers beat the Texans 35-20. The Packers had this one on cruise control after leading 21-0 at the half. The Texans scored a TD in the final two minutes of the game to make the score look halfway decent. The biggest difference in the game was that the Packers scored 4 TDs on 4 trips to the Red Zone.
The Lions beat the Falcons 23-22. The Falcons concocted yet one more way to lose a lead and a football game. The Falcons drove 76 yards to score a TD and convert a 2-point try giving them a 22-16 lead with 1:04 seconds left in the game and with the Lions having no timeouts. Matthew Stafford drove the Lions 75 yards in 64 seconds to get the game-winning touchdown. The Lions QB completed four passes on the drive with two going to T.J. Hockenson, including the game-winning TD with no time left. Even with that dramatic late-game action, you could argue that Lions’ kicker, Matt Prater was the game hero. Prater hit three long field goals (49, 50 and 51 yards), and he also converted the PAT with no time left on the clock that won the game.
The Bucs beat the Raiders 45-20. Tom Brady was in a groove here; he completed 33 of 45 passes for 369 yards, threw for four touchdowns and ran for one. All in all, nine different Bucs caught a pass in the game and those 4 TD passes all went to different receivers. The Raiders trailed 21-10 at halftime but rallied to close the gap to 24-20 with 12 minutes to play in the game. Then the roof caved in; the Raiders lost the ball on an INT and then on downs and the Bucs turned those two opportunities into TDs to win going away.
The Saints beat the Panthers 27-24. The Saints had neither Michael Thomas nor Emanuel Sanders available for action in this game; so, they turned to Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray to carry the ball and carry the day. Those two running backs averaged 5.5 yards per carry and a total of 130 yards in the game. Kamara added to his run totals by catching 8 passes for 65 yards.
The Niners beat the Pats 33-6. That was the first time this season that I have had the chance to watch a Pats’ game start to finish this year. Cam Newton threw three interceptions before being benched for Jarrett Stidham in the second half. Newton was not the totality of the Pats’ offensive ineptitude; the offense managed to gain only 59 yards in the first half. The Pats’ defense was also poor. The Niners run game was dominant gaining 197 yards in the game.
I mentioned that Cam Newton was benched in the second half of the game; he deserved it; he did not play well at all. Going 9 for 15 for 98 yards and 3 INTs is not exactly the résumé entry you might expect from a former MVP. Newton looks to me like a shell of his former self; he was never a pin-point passer and he has not evolved that skill. However, his shortcomings are magnified by the fact that the Pats do not have any WRs or TEs who are anything but ordinary. Just as it was obvious two years ago that Cam Newton was playing hurt and at far less than maximum efficiency, it is equally clear to me that Julian Edelman is also playing significantly below his standard of performance. And if N’Keal Harry is the Pats’ lead receiver, this could be a LONG season for the folks in Foxboro.
The Chargers beat the Jags 39-29. Justin Herbert shone in this game; the Chargers amassed 484 yards on offense and Herbert was involved in 413 of those yards. Here is what he accomplished for the game:
- Passing: 27 for 43 for 347 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs
- Rushing: 9 carries for 66 yards and 1 TD.
The Chargers defense was dominating too. Here are the results of the Jags’ possessions for the day:
- First Quarter: Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt
- Second Quarter: TD, Turnover on downs, TD
- Third Quarter: Turnover on downs, TD
- Fourth Quarter: Turnover on downs
- Yes, the Jags only had the ball 3 times in the entire second half.
Meanwhile, the Jags’ defense surrendered 30 or more points for the sixth straight game. That ties an NFL record for the longest streak ever. That should give the Jags’ coaching staff yet one more thing to work on during the team’s BYE Week this weekend.
The Chiefs beat the Broncos 43-16. Looking at that score, you would assume that Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ running backs must have had a dominating performance. Not so… The Chiefs scored 5 TDs but only three of them came from the offense. Another one came on a special teams play (a 102-yard kickoff return) and one more came via defensive play (a Pick-Six). LeVeon Bell made his first appearance as a Chief here carrying the ball 6 times for 39 yards. The Broncos outgained the Chiefs 411 yards to 286 yards for the day. However, the Broncos turned the ball over 4 times and lost the ball on downs 2 other times.
The Cards beat the Seahawks 37-34 in OT. There were loads of offense in this game – – 1091 combined yards of offense to be specific. One clear point came out of the game; the Seahawks just cannot put pressure on a QB; the DL is OK against the run, but it generates zero inside pass rush. The team must have recognized that shortcoming too because they went out and traded for Carlos Dunlap to improve their play from the edge. The turning point in the game came on an OT interception by Isaiah Simmons. I touted him as the best defensive player in this year’s draft and I stand by that assessment.
Glancing at the game stats here, I noticed something that must be unusual. If you look at the game stats for the two QBs you will see:
- Russell Wilson threw for 388 yards and 3 TDs and was the Seahawks’ leading rusher (84 yards).
- Kyler Murray threw for 360 yards and 3 TDs and was the Cards’ leading rusher (67 yards).
- You do not see that kind of offensive outburst from both teams’ QBs in a game very often – – particularly the part about each one leading his team in rushing.
I saved one game for last in terms of commentary. The WTFs beat the Cowboys 25-3. For the record, Dion DiMucci is not related to Ben DiNucci. In case you do not know who either one is, DeNucci is the QB of the Cowboys as of this moment and DiMucci was the lead singer for Dion and the Belmonts. The Belmonts sang “I Wonder Why” in 1958. Ben DiNucci wonders why he gets to be the one to try to survive behind the screen door that is the Cowboys’ OL in October 2020.
The Cowboys’ OL is decimated with injuries and the current starters are not up to snuff at the NFL level. That does several intertwined things to the offense:
- It minimizes the threat of the running game; Ezekiel Elliott is much less effective when the OL does not open huge holes for him
- It minimizes the pass game because the QB does not have time to sit back and throw the ball to an open guy
- Without a serious passing threat, the defense can load up on the run game – – and without a serious run game, the defense can unload on the QB.
That is what happened last week; the Cowboys gave up 6 sacks and Andy Dalton was knocked out of the game on a blatant cheap shot by one of the WTFs’ linebackers. [Aside: The fact that there was no suspension for that cheap shot tells me that all the breast-beating about focusing on player safety by the NFL and the NFLPA is nothing but balderdash.] And with that cheap shot hit on Dalton, enter Ben DiNucci – – stage right.
There are multiple reports that various Cowboys’ players are roasting their coaches saying they are incompetent, make no changes and do not know what they are doing. OK, maybe that is true; I am not part of the team. However, anonymous sources like this are becoming far too commonplace in reporting. I really wish the reporter who “broke” this news would have done the work to confirm the story and get the sources on the record. I can sit here and pretend to have “sources” and make up stuff, but I do not do that.
BTW, the Cowboys’ defense stunk out the joint too last week and for the balance of the 2020 season to date. The Cowboys have now given up 20 points in the first half in six straight games this year. As a result of those first half performances, the Cowboys have trailed by at least 14 points in those six straight games. Last week, the Cowboys looked as if they would have preferred to be anywhere other than on a football field.
Four teams are on their BYE Weeks:
- The Cards are in good position; they are only a half game behind the Seahawks in the NFC West and the Cards have the best point differential in that division.
- The Jags have lost 6 games in a row and have given up 30 points or more in those 6 losses; that must stop.
- The Texans have only given up 3 fewer points for the season than the Jags; Romeo Crennel is a defensive guy; he needs to fix that – quickly.
- The WTFs can bask in the glory of their win last week.
Indy – 2.5 at Detroit (50): Take a deep breath here; the Lions come to this game on a 2-game winning streak. Uncharacteristically, the Lions are winless at home so far this year (0-2) and they are 3-1 on the road. The Colts had a BYE Week last week and they bring a stronger defense to this game than the Falcons brought last week.
Minnesota at Green Bay – 6 (51): The Vikings are about to see their season flushed down the drain; a loss here would put them 5 full games behind the Packers in the NFC North with the Packers holding the tie-breaker due to a season sweep of the series. Aaron Rodgers is conducting an offensive symphony in Green Bay; Kirk Cousins is leading a chorus of kazoos. I think the Packers win big here; I’ll take them to win and over; put it in the Six-Pack.
New England at Buffalo – 4 (41): I gave this game a moment’s thought as the Game of the Week because it is a division game and because the Patriots season might be hanging in the balance here. But that was not nearly enough to keep the game on the list for more than a few seconds. As noted above, the Bills have not played well the last couple of games; if the Pats can put some semblance of an offense together here, they might be able to win the game outright on the strength of their defense. It will be interesting as a game to follow – – but it is not a Game of the Week candidate and certainly not one that is going to be part of the Six-Pack. Here is a trend:
- Sean McDermott is 0-6 in games against Bill Belichick
Tennessee – 5.5 at Cincy (53): The Titans lost a tough game to the Steelers last week and now have to go on the road to maintain their 1-game lead over the Colts in the AFC South. The Steelers made life difficult for Derrick Henry last week but the Bengals’ defense – particularly the Bengals’ run defense – is not nearly as good as the Steelers’. The Bengals rank 28th in the NFL in run defense yielding an average of 133.7 yards per game. I think Derrick Henry has a big day here to put the Titans back on track; I like the Titans to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.
Las Vegas at Cleveland – 2.5 (50.5): Look, the Raiders are not going to win the AFC West this year barring something like the Chiefs’ plane crashing into the Rocky Mountains one of these weeks. However, the Raiders are in the thick of a playoff race as one of the AFC’s three wild card teams this year. This game could be an important tiebreaker with the Browns down the line; this game means something to both teams. Both teams have a negative point differential for the season – – but those stats are not based on the same foundation:
- Browns are minus-21 points for the season with a 5-2 record.
- Raiders are minus-26 points for the season with a 3-3 record.
The Raiders would love to run the ball here; statistically, the Browns look as if they have a tough run defense allowing fewer than 90 yards per game. However, part of the reason for that “strong showing” is that the Browns pass defense is miserable. The Browns pass defense ranks 30th in the NFL giving up 288.1 yards per game.
Jets at KC – 19.5 (49): The spread here opened the week at 21.5 points and that must have drawn plenty of “Jets money” because it was down to 20 points in about 12 hours and has settled in at this level since Monday/Tuesday. Maybe the Chiefs’ offense takes this game as a “scrimmage” and the Jets can slide in under the number; maybe the Chiefs’ offense is clicking and just destroys whatever the Jets’ defense thinks it might be able to do in the game. The Chiefs have been on the road for the last two weeks and return to Arrowhead Stadium where they lost their only game of the season. That is too big a spread to take seriously and there are too many mental factors to worry about here. However, if you are a diehard Jets’ fan here are the data you need:
- The Jets are +1325 on the Money Line this morning
- The Jets were +3000 on the Money Line yesterday
- There must be “Jets Money” coming in on the Money Line now…
Rams – 3.5 at Miami (46): Welcome to the NFL, Tua Tagovailoa; let me introduce you to Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. I suspect that the Dolphins had this tactical move planned from the day everyone arrived in Training Camp; Tua was going to be the starter after the BYE Week come Hell or high water. Yes, the Rams are on a short week having played last Monday night and yes, this will be a body clock game for the Rams after traveling from LA to Miami for the game. That is all well and good; bonne chance, Tua Tagovailoa…
New Orleans – 4.5 at Chicago (43.5): This will be a low scoring game because the Bears’ offense is anemic and because the Bears’ defense is very good. Michael Thomas is slated to return for the Saints and that has to be a plus.
SF at Seattle – 3 (54): This game had serious Game of the Week potential given its potential importance in the NFC West race – the toughest division in the NFL A loss here for the Niners would put them down 3 in the loss column to the Seahawks and that would be a huge obstacle to have to overcome. The Seahawks lead the division with a 5-1 record even though their defense is awful; they give up 479.2 yards per game which is the worst in the NFL by a wide margin. [The next worst team defense belongs to the Jags at 424.7 yards per game.] This is a must win for the Niners; this is an important game for the Seahawks who lost their first game of the year last week. Here is a trend for you:
- The Seahawks have lost outright in their last 4 games against NFC West teams.
(Sun Nite) Dallas at Philly – 9 (43): The spread here opened the week with the Eagles as 4-point favorites. I assume it was the announcement that Andy Dalton could not play that sent the number soaring to this level; you can even find it as high as 10 points this morning. Neither team here is nearly consistent enough to merit placement in the Six-Pack but this game does point to an interesting NFL marketing reality:
- Three of the NFC East teams will play this week.
- All three teams will play in prime time – – the Giants are on MNF.
- All three of those teams stink.
- Nonetheless, NFC East teams tend to draw big audiences and comfy ratings.
- So, the NFL has not bothered to “flex” the Eagles/Cowboys out of Sunday night.
[Aside: The WTFs are on a BYE Week; that is why they are not part of this discussion.]
Chargers – 3 at Denver (44.5): I think the Broncos’ defense is good enough to make Justin Herbert struggle in this game. I think the Chargers’ defense is good enough to make Drew Lock struggle in this game. I am tempted to take the game to stay UNDER, but I shall resist that temptation.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore – 4 (46): This is the Game of the Week. The teams bring a combined 11-1 record to the stadium. The Ravens’ offense will have to deal with an excellent Steelers’ defense here and the Steelers’ offense will have to deal with an excellent Ravens’ defense here. The Ravens enjoy a scheduling edge here; the Ravens had a BYE Week last week and this is a second consecutive road game for the Steelers. This is a game to savor and having a wager on a game like this is not necessarily a way to enhance your viewing pleasure. Just sit back, watch and enjoy – – if the game is available in your viewing area…
(Mon Nite) Tampa Bay – 11 at Giants (45): There are three bad NFL teams on their BYE week this week and the Falcons played on Thursday night so finding a Dog-Breath Game of the Week was difficult. My first inclination was the Eagles/Cowboys game because neither team is any good – – but that could have a major impact on a division championship race down the line. So, I am going with this game as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. I do not think this game will be competitive; I think Tom Brady has begun to settle in with the Bucs. And I do not see the Giants home field providing much of an advantage here; the Giants are only 1-2 at home and that win came over the less-than-fearsome WTFs. I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games, but I am making an exception here; I like the Bucs to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack. Here is a trend that makes me feel better about this selection:
- In the last 5 years, Tom Brady (with the Pats) covered 75% of the games where he and the Pats were double-digit favorites.
- In the last 5 years, Tom Brady (with the Pats) covered 77% of the games facing opponents with records below .500 at the time.
Let me review this week’s Six-Pack:
- K-State +3.5 against West Virginia
- Arkansas + 12.5 against Texas A&M
- Va Tech – 3.5 over Louisville
- Packers – 6 over Vikes
- Titans – 5.5 over Bengals
- Bucs – 11 over Giants
Finally, here is an NFL oddity noted by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“As if Green Bay losing 38-10 to the Bucs last Sunday wasn’t bad enough, Jamaal Williams’ pants tore open during the game, exposing his right buttock.
“So how do they list him on the Packers’ roster now — running back or split end?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………