Football Friday 10/30/20

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. 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…


NFL Commentary:


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.

  1. 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.
  2. The Dolphins are 3-3; they have played very well in their last two games but were less than awesome before that.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


NFL Games:


Four teams are on their BYE Weeks:

  1. 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.
  2. The Jags have lost 6 games in a row and have given up 30 points or more in those 6 losses; that must stop.
  3. 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.
  4. 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………



A Reader Vents …

Earlier this week, I got a lengthy email from a reader who needed to vent.  Fortunately for me, I was not the focal point of his anger/frustration; he evidently has had it up to his earbrows with some of the announcers assigned to do college football games.  Here is the way he introduced his frustration:

“ … it seems to me that collegiate game TV [announcing] teams should do some elementary homework on the teams they are covering and the context of the game they are calling and to share it and enhance the particular significance variables that might be present in a particular game.”

That seems to be a fair – – and not an impossibly difficult – – standard by which announcers might be “graded”.  It might be a bit difficult if Powerhouse U is playing Cupcake College for the first time ever, but in normal circumstances …

The reader’s email points out the lack of context often displayed by announcers regarding the game on the field.  Is this an emerging rivalry game?  Is it a revenge game?  Is there “bad blood” – – or “good blood” – – between the coaches?  I find myself in no position to defend many of the announcing teams doing college football games; rarely, do they even seem to be interested in such “angles” to their games.  Many of the announcing teams, to be candid, are not very good.

Then the reader went on to mention a pet peeve of mine – one that I was never sure many other people shared.

“ … in the second half, Mr. Golic and his colleagues went on and on about the ‘damn’ Big Ten and their return to football…a topic that nauseates me (and I have an advanced degree from Iowa and was on the faculty at both Iowa and Indiana) and then went on a long commentary about equality etc. (don’t get me wrong, I support Black Lives Matter …) but all of this while the game was going on in front of them…”

Amen to this!  Announcers are on site to inform the listener/viewer what is happening at that site on that day.  If there is an event in the game or even in the stadium area that relates directly to issues in a larger context in the country, then the announcers can and should “put it on the table”.  However, they are there to present a football game; they are not there to deliver a sermon and they are not there to propagandize their personal social beliefs or those of the network that employs them.  Even if the game in front of them shows a scoreboard that reads 77-3 in the third quarter, sermonizing and traversing mental flights of fancy is inappropriate.  Sermonizing can happen on a personal podcast or in a column published somewhere or as a guest on a sports radio show somewhere.

The problem is that on a national TV broadcast, there are plenty of folks who tuned into THAT game because they wanted to see THAT game and to hear you give them insight and expertise relative to THAT game.  I cannot speak to every TV market in the US, but I do know that in Northern Virginia, I have the choice to tune in to see at least four or five games in any and all of the time slots on every Saturday.  If I tune in to see Whatsamatta U play Catatonic State, it is because I have a reason to want to see THAT game and not the others on my menu.  And I can say with certainty that I never pick my viewing choice based on the probability of social sermonizing by the announcing team.

The email closed with:

“Thanks for listening and wading through this bile, if you did….”

I did; it was not bile because I agree with much of what you said bothered you.  And that should put a small degree of fear in your mind because I am confident that no mental health professional ever told one of his clients to read my stuff and to start thinking as I do…

Moving on …  Olympic weightlifting may be in trouble as an approved sport.  You may wonder how that can be since the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger” would seem to embrace weightlifting to the Nth degree.  What could be the downfall of this sport?  Well, it is a sport regulated by national Committees/Federations and an International Federation while the Olympics are regulated by the IOC.  Given those facts, it should not be a total surprise that the problem here is:

  • Corruption.

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) had an interim president, and that woman was just removed from office.  This happened at a virtual board meeting which did not include the president, and which was chaired by the vice-president who immediately assumed the duties of the president at the conclusion of the meeting.  The ousted president claimed that she was removed from office for trying to enact reforms related to “widespread doping and corruption” within the organization.

The IOC is righteously indignant about the allegations of doping and the use of PEDs in the sport of weightlifting notwithstanding its overt posture that it is on top of drug testing and has all the measures in place to regulate it for the Games.  [Aside:  If you believe that, you may not be the dumbest person on the planet, but you damned well better pray that he doesn’t die.]  In addition, there are allegations of “financial shenanigans” within the IWF.  It seems that an audit/investigation turned up an unaccounted for $10.4M and evidence that voters were bribed in various IWF “elections”.  Here is a link to more details on this story…

The IOC can refuse to recognize the IWF as a governing body thereby closing the Olympic  doors to any athletes that emerge from IWF sponsored competitions.  Might they do that?  The cynic in me wonders if that decision depends on finding that missing $10.4M and how it might find its way surreptitiously to the personal accounts of key IOC officials…

Finally, here is another Olympics-related event from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The Japan Swimming Federation has stripped Daiya Seto, the reigning world champion in two individual-medley events, of his team captaincy for the Tokyo Olympics after he was caught cheating on his wife.

“In other words, he got DQ’d for not staying in his own lane.”

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





Congratulations To The Los Angeles Dodgers

Congratulations to the LA Dodgers; they are the World Series Champions in 2020.  While I would have preferred to have a Game 7 to watch this evening, I am happy to have seen a close and well-played game last night.  There was an inordinate number of strikeouts, however.

  • Blake Snell started for the Rays; he retired 16 batters; nine of those outs came via strikeouts.
  • The Dodgers used 7 pitchers in the game; they retired 27 batters; sixteen of those outs came via strikeouts.
  • For the game, there was a total of 27 strikeouts out of 51 outs.  53% of the outs in the game were strikeouts.

Mookie Betts was the offensive hero of the game for the Dodgers; he advanced a runner to third base with a double in the sixth inning and that runner scored on a wild pitch.  Then Betts scored the second Dodgers’ run on an infield ground ball.  Later, he gave the Dodgers an insurance run with a home run and the game went into the books as a 3-1 victory for the Dodgers.

One thing seems to be overblown about this World Series win by the Dodgers.  Too many people have said that this triumph creates a positive legacy for Clayton Kershaw.  Frankly, I think that is buncombe. [Hat Tip to H.L. Mencken for that word.]  Clayton Kershaw is a three-time Cy Young Award winner and has been in the All-Star Game 8 times in his 13-year career – – and by the way one of the years that he “missed out” was in 2020 because there was no All-Star Game.  Yes, his post-season statistics are not nearly as dominant as are his regular season stats.  Nevertheless, his “legacy” did not need any enhancement.  If he announces his retirement today, he should be a first ballot inductee in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2025 – – and that should also have been the case if the Dodgers had lost this Series.

The Dodgers – and their fans to be sure – can enjoy themselves for the next 100 days or so until it is time for pitchers and catchers to report to Spring Training.  [Please note that the aspiration here in Curmudgeon Central is that 2021 will present a normal sporting calendar and that the pandemic will be on the retreat by then.]  MLB as an institution, however, cannot just sit back and bask in the glory of putting on a World Series after its COVID-truncated season in 2020; MLB has some work to do over the winter over and above the normal free agency period.

Baseball has tried to rev-up the pace of play for the last decade or so.  It has not worked; on average games take about as long to play now as they did over the past 5 years.  With the increased emphasis on home-run hitting, the numbers of strikeouts and walks have increased adding to the length of games and subtracting from the amount of time a ball is actually in play.  These are genuine issues for the folks nominally “in charge of the game”.  The problem, from my perspective, is that the guy in charge of the folks nominally in charge of the game – Rob Manfred – seems only to give a fig about economic issues related to baseball.

Given the significantly decreased revenue for every team in MLB this year, there will likely be a contentious free agency period; players and agents are not going to be happy; I think the OVER/UNDER until you hear someone hint at “collusion” is January 3rd.  The players’ union cannot have forgotten that the 2020 season was cobbled together over their objections as to the number of games played and the pro-rated salaries that were paid out.  Economics and goodwill or the lack of goodwill will dominate baseball news.  That will push to the background some bad ideas that The Commish has spoken highly of:

  • He said he likes the expanded playoff format and would not mind seeing it made permanent.  Such a bad idea…  There were two teams in the playoffs this year with records below .500 in the regular season.  Given the division alignment of MLB, there should be 4 teams from each league in the playoffs – the three division winners and ONE wild card team per league.  Period!
  • He said he likes the “man-on-second” rule to start each half-inning of extra inning games.  This is the MLB version of soccer’s penalty kicks as the way to determine the winner in an overtime situation.  The game is played for nine innings over about 3 hours under one set of rules – – and then you change the rules to determine a winner.  In what universe does that make sense?  Why not fully commit to the soccer model and determine the winner via a Home Run Derby between three members of each team drawn at random by the  home plate umpire?
  • He said that he thought the “seven-inning doubleheaders” used this year provided excitement for the game.  That point is not worth arguing over; I will concede it.  However, if The Commish is serious, he is going to face stiff opposition to the idea not from the players but from his employers – the owners.  If there are seven-inning doubleheaders next year, that will deprive owners of the ability to charge separate admission fees for the two games played day-and-night.

Baseball has work to do this off-season and it appears as if the guy in charge is looking in the wrong direction(s) on the major issues facing the game.  I know it was fashionable to beat up on Bud Selig during his couple of decades as Commissioner; frankly, I would be more optimistic about getting positive changes infused into MLB if he were still the guy in charge.

Finally, apropos of nothing, here is an interesting Tweet from humorist, Brad Dickson:

“If I had Pat Sajack’s job whenever a contestant says, ‘I’m the mother of two beautiful children,’ I’d go, ‘OK. How many altogether?’”

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



A Great World Series So Far…

It does not matter if you are rooting for the Dodgers or the Rays in the World Series, there has been plenty of excitement in the games so far.  We have seen power hitting, clutch hitting, excellent fielding and daring baserunning in the Series.  Surely, you have seen and read about the Rays’ miracle win in Game 4; if you have not, Google is your friend.  As to that game ending sequence, moviegoers would boo and hiss if that were the scripted ending to yet one more sequel to The Bad News Bears – – but somehow it worked in real life.

Game 5 on Sunday night was a perfect example of why God inspired someone to invent the DVR.  After enjoying an OT game on Sunday Night Football Game 5 of the World Series was like enjoying a sip of aged grappa as a digestivo after a nice meal.  Daring baserunning put the Rays in position to tie the game and then snatched that opportunity away.

  • Manuel Margot stole second base and advanced to third when the ball skipped away from the Dodgers’ infielder covering second base on the throw.  The play at second was close as was the play at third base because the ball did not “skip away” very far.  The Rays trailed by a run at that point in the game; there were no outs at the time.
  • A couple of pitches later, Margot was thrown out trying to steal home – – and that play was as close if not even closer than the two plays that got Margot to third base to set it all up.

Today is a day off for both the Dodgers and the Rays.  That fact led Dwight Perry to pose this pertinent question in the Seattle Times over the weekend:

“Which timeout is the more needless time waste — the NFL’s two-minute warning or MLB scheduling a “travel day” (or two) during a single-site World Series?”

Here is another astute observation from Professor Perry in the Socratic form of question and answer related to the two-minute warning:

“Q: How could you tell whether you were watching the NFL game or the presidential debate on TV Thursday night?

“A: The Giants and Eagles stopped at the two-minute warning.”

Having backed into talking about the NFL, let me offer a suggestion to the NFL mavens.  You have put in place COVID-19 protocols that are purposefully and intelligently designed to reduce the probability of viral transmission.  One element of those protocols is that coaches and team staff must wear masks on the sidelines during games.  Obviously, there will be moments when a coach needs to lower his mask to enable others to hear or understand what he is saying; those sorts of brief “exposures” are imperfect but understandable.

Here is what should not be tolerated:

  • Coaches, assistant coaches and staff members on the sidelines with masks that cover only their mouth and not their nose.
  • In the past, the NFL has levied fines for not wearing a mask; coaches with “noses out” should be fined half that amount and the league office only need to watch the television feeds for the games to identify which coaches to collect from.

A former colleague and long-term reader of these rants sent me an email with a football trivia question.  I shall pose the question here and the answer further down in the rant:

  • “Two colleges have produced three different Super Bowl winning quarterbacks.  Can you name the schools and the quarterbacks?”

[I got one of the schools and its QBs but not the other one without “cheating” and using Google.]

Down in Miami, the Dolphins enjoyed their BYE Week and are obviously spending time getting set for the dawning of the Tua Era in Miami.  The Dolphins chose to use the BYE Week as the time to make this move; you could convince me that this was their plan from the beginning even though you would need to be a mind-reader to know that was the case.  Ryan Fitzpatrick said he was “heartbroken” when he got the news that he was going to the bench; and if you look at his last two games as a starter, you can probably understand why.  In those last two games:

  • The Dolphins were 2-0.
  • Fitzpatrick was a combined 40-55 for 541 yards with 6 TDs and 2 INTs.
  • 10 yards per pass attempt and 13 yards per completion is pretty impressive.

In my mind, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career has been QB who served as a “back-up” or a “fill-in due to injury”.  It was not until I went looking for his stats in these last two games that I learned that Ryan Fitzpatrick has taken 6204 snaps in his career and has completed 3024 passes.  That is a lot more “backing-up” or “filling-in” than I had realized.

Here is the trivia answer:

  • Alabama has produced 3 Super bowl winning QBs – – Bart Starr, Joe Namath and Ken Stabler.  [This is the one I figured out myself.]
  • Purdue has produced 3 Super bowl winning QBs – – Len Dawson Bob Griese and Drew Brees.  [I forgot where Len Dawson had gone to college.]

Finally, since I have “stolen” items from Dwight Perry twice already, let me complete the trifecta here with another of his items:

”At ‘Mitch Trubisky studying game tapes in hopes of discovering what Bears saw in him in first place.’”

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



Football Friday 10/23/20

Geoffrey Chaucer observed, “Time and tide wait for no man.”  And so, the passage of seven days’ time – – having failed to wait for anyone – – brings us to another Football Friday.

Before I review last week’s Six-Pack, I must take issue with Salvador Dali for a moment.  Dali said, “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”  Look back at last week’s Six-Pack and you will see perfection attained – albeit as a mirror image.  Here are the results:

  • College:  0-3-0
  • NFL:  0-3-0
  • Combined:  0-6-0

That lowers the season totals to:

  • College:  5-11-1
  • NFL:  10- 9- 0
  • Combined:  15-20-1

Having attained perfection – it is just as difficult to be wrong on every pick as it is to be right on every pick – you would think that I would simply retire on my laurels.  Not to worry; I live by a slight twist on Dali’s statement above:

  • I do not fear shame; I seek out ways to demonstrate my inabilities.

And so it goes…


College Football Commentary:


This week marks the beginning of the Big 10 football season.  A few months ago, the Big 10 announced that it would not be playing football in the Fall of 2020 for public health reasons and for the protection of its students and “student-athletes”.  Any claim that the Big 10 schools may have tried to stake on the moral high ground related to those issues is rendered null and void as of kickoff time tomorrow.  The pandemic is not nearly under control – especially in some of the states where Big 10 schools reside – and yet, they will play football.  I have no problem with that decision except that it is nothing more than an inability on the part of the schools to keep their hands off the revenue spigot.  If only they would just admit that…

Kentucky beat Tennessee 34-7.  This is the first win for Kentucky on the road against Tennessee since 1984.  The stats appear to be even in the game; Kentucky’s offense was 297 yards and Tennessee’s offense was 287 yards.  Here is a big part of the difference; the Vols turned the ball over 4 times in the game and those 4 turnovers came on 4 consecutive possessions in the first half.  Two of those turnovers were Pick Sixes within 3 minutes of each other; OUCH!  I ran across this great stat:

  • In the last two weeks, Kentucky has allowed a total of 9 points and intercepted 9 passes.
  • That does not happen very often…

Arkansas beat Ole Miss 33-21.  Ole Miss scored 48 points on Alabama two weeks ago and scored zero points in the first half here against Arkansas.  Explain that one to me, please…  Ole Miss outgained Arkansas for the game by 48 yards, but they turned the ball over SEVEN times – –   six pass interceptions and a lost fumble.  Arkansas is now 2-2; that is one more win in the SEC than they have had in the last 3 seasons.  It is still early, but right now Arkansas is a great comeback story.

Texas A&M beat Mississippi State 28-14.  The story here is the offensive stats for Mississippi State.  They threw the ball 40 times for 219 yards – 5 yards per attempt and 7 yards per completion.  Those are “dink-and-dunk stats” not “Air Raid Offense stats”.  Moreover, the Bulldogs ran the ball 20 times accumulating a net yardage of minus-2 yards.

  • Memo for Miss State Bulldogs:  Those offensive numbers “don’t feed the bulldog”…

I have to wonder if the Miss St. OL is up to the task here.  The Aggies recorded 6 sacks and another 8 tackles for a loss in this game.  In the last 3 games, the State offense has only scored a total of 30 points.

South Carolina beat Auburn 30-22.  This is not an important outcome, but it is interesting because the last time South Carolina beat Auburn was in 1933.  Here are six other things that happened in 1933 for perspective:

  1. Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in SF began.
  2. The first broadcast episode of The Lone Ranger aired.
  3. The first edition of Newsweek magazine hits the streets.
  4. The board game, Monopoly, is released.
  5. MLB stages its first All-Star Game.
  6. The first NFL Championship Game took place.

Alabama beat Georgia 41-24.  Scoring 41 points on the Georgia defense is very impressive; racking up 564 yards of offense against that defense is beyond impressive.  Georgia led 24-17 with less than a minute to play in the first half and 24-20 at halftime.  Then the second half happened and here are the Georgia possessions:

  • Punt, Punt, Interception, Missed FG.

That is correct; Georgia only had the ball four times in the second half and only one time in the 4th quarter.

Miami beat Pitt 31-19.  The Hurricanes rebounded from the spanking they got from Clemson two weeks ago to win this game handily.  The stats for the game look relatively even; Miami outgained Pitt by only 31 yards in the game.  The difference was 10 penalties on the Panthers and a miserable 3 for 17 by Pitt on third down conversions.  The Pitt rushing offense did not show up here; the total rushing offense for the day was a meager 22 yards.

Clemson beat Georgia Tech 73-7.  I said above that Clemson put a spanking on Miami two weeks ago.  If that was a “spanking”, this was “aggravated battery”.

Notre Dame beat Louisville 12-7.  This was either a titanic defensive effort by both teams or significant offensive ineptitude on the part of both teams.  Louisville’s total offense was 219 yards; Noter Dame’s total offense was 338 yards.

Florida State beat UNC 31-28.  Major upset here; the Tar Heels went off as 13.5-point favorites and lost outright.  UNC outgained Florida State on the day 558 yards to 432 yards and UNC won the first down stats 27-16.  What happened?  UNC was 2-12 on third down conversions and 0-3 on 4th down conversions.  Here are the results of the Tar Heels’ eight possessions in the first half:

  1. Punt
  2. Punt
  3. Punt
  4. Punt
  5. Turnover on downs
  6. Interception
  7. TD
  8. Halftime

Va Tech beat BC  40-14.  The stats here also indicate that this should be a close game.  The Hokies won the “offensive stats” by a slim 461-435 margin.  BC turned the ball over 5 times – – 3 lost fumbles and 2 INTs – – and that was the difference in the game.

BYU beat Houston 43-26.  [Aside:  Both teams are the Cougars so I guess you could call this game a cat fight.]  BYU is having a really good year and lots of people have not been noticing.  BYU is 5-0 with an average margin of victory of 30 points per game.  BYU is an independent so theirs is not the most difficult schedule in the country, but they have not feasted on Division 1-AA teams either.  They have beaten Navy, Troy, La-Tech, UTSA and Houston.  A road game against Boise St. on Nov 6 could be interesting…

UCF lost again last week – – this time to Memphis 50-49.  The interesting thing about UCF this year is not the clamor from its fanboys that it should be – at a minimum – in one of the New Years’ Day bowl games; that nonsense is for past seasons.  No, the story this year is the penalty flags thrown on UCF.  They were penalized 10 times against Memphis last week – – and that was a good game for the Golden Knights. (BTW Memphis was handed 7 first downs in because of penalties in the game.)  In their 4 games this year, UCF has incurred 55 penalties – – yes, they lead the nation in that statistic.    In the loss to Memphis last week, both teams had more than 700 yards of offense; UCF threw for 601 yards. UCF led 35-14 with 11 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter and then gave up 36 points in 26 minutes.

Ga Southern beat UMass 41-0.  This is interesting because it was the first game of the year for UMass.  This is a school with a “less than rich football tradition” [I am trying to be polite here.] that canceled its season early on.  Now they are back on the field upholding the UMass football tradition – – such as it is…


College Games of Interest:


Nebraska at Ohio State – 26 (68):  Nebraska was one of the most vocal critics of the Big 10’s decision to cancel football back in the summer.  Now the Huskers get to open on the road at Ohio State.  This is almost like a modern version of the old TV show from the 1950s, You Asked For It.

Alabama – 21.5 at Tennessee (65.5):  The Vols were blown away by Kentucky last week (see above).  Just to add a bit more drama to the mix, Tennessee fired its defensive line coach this week – as if it were his fault that the Vols only scored 7 points last week.  Alabama can score as much as they want in this game; will the Vols’ offense put up the pretense of a fight?  I think the Vols are over their heads here; I’ll take Alabama to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

South Carolina at LSU – 6 (55):  South Carolina had a historic win over Auburn last week (see above).  LSU had a week off thanks to the coronavirus.  Do I trust either team to play to a script off past performances?  No, I do not…

Auburn at Ole Miss – 3.5 (72):  The Total Line for this game opened at 63 points and has risen steadily all week.  There is an interesting matchup here:

  • The Auburn offense ranks 57th in the country at 366.8 yards per game.  Being kind, let us call that “mediocre”.
  • The Ole Miss defense ranks 76th in the country yielding 579.5 yards per game.  Only 77 teams have played so far this year so there is no room for kindness here; that defense stinks.

Penn State – 5.5 at Indiana (62):  Indiana won 8 games last year.  Penn State will not have its best RB, Journey Brown, who is out for the year with a “medical condition”.  Could be interesting…

Syracuse at Clemson – 46.5 (62):  This is a conference game with a spread like that?  Highly unusual – – notwithstanding last week when Clemson defeated another conference foe by 66 points.

Iowa – 3 at Purdue (52):  Purdue coach Jeff Brohm tested COVID-19 positive and has asked the NCAA to allow him to coach the game from his “isolation chamber”.  That will require the NCAA to waive one of its many stupid rules.  The NCAA response to that petition for sanity is the reason this game might be interesting.

Cincy at SMU – 2.5 (56):  These are the two remaining undefeated teams in the AAC.  Cincy is 3-0; SMU is 5-0.

Middle Tennessee State at Rice – 3.5 (50):  This is interesting because Rice is favored.  That does not happen often…


NFL Commentary:


The Steelers beat the Browns 38-7.  This was as dominant as the score would indicate; Baker Mayfield was sacked 4 times and intercepted twice – – one a Pick-Six.  Mayfield’s stats for the day were 10 of 18 for 119 yards and 1 TD and 2 INTs.  The Browns have won games this year by running the ball and controlling the pace of the game; the Steelers shut down the run game and won handily.

The Titans beat the Texans 42-36 (OT).  Maybe the Texans’ win two weeks ago was more than a “dead cat bounce”?  After all, they came from behind to force OT against an undefeated team here.  The two major problems facing the Texans are:

  1. The defense gave up 600 yards of offense to the Titans here
  2. The OL that is about as reliable as a deadbeat dad.  Deshaun Watson should sue for lack of support.

The Titans marched 82 yards in OT to score a TD and seal the game.  Derrick Henry scored the winning TD and – by the way – amassed 264 yards from scrimmage for the day.

The Falcons beat the Vikings 40-23.  The Falcons ran out to a 20-0 lead at halftime – – and did not blow such a lead for a change.  Matt Ryan threw 4 TDs in the game; Kirk Cousins threw 3 INTs in the game.  The Vikings are now 1-5.  That puts them in the following company – – all of whom are only 1 game ahead of the 0-6 NY Jets:

  • Falcons
  • Giants
  • Jags
  • Texans
  • WTFs

Just to clarify … that is not a list one should seek to be on.  Moreover, the Vikes’ defense has allowed more points than any of the five teams on the list above (34 points per game).

The Colts beat the Bengals 31-27.  The Bengals led this game 21-0 in the first quarter but could not hold on.  [Aside:  Since the Falcons did not blow their huge early lead, another team needed to step up and do the deed.  Thanks to the Bengals here…]   Philip Rivers led the comeback with 3 TDs and 371 yards passing.  After the scoring eruption in the first quarter, the Colts’ defense smothered the Bengals’ offense.

The Lions beat the Jags 34-16.  Like the Falcons and the Bengals, the Lions amassed a big lead – – 21 points – – and followed the “Falcons’ Model” from last week and did not blow the lead.  Rookie RB, DeAndre Swift, scored 2 TDs and averaged 8 yards per carry on the day.  The Jags were just awful in this game – – but what’s new?

The Bears beat the Panthers 23-16.  The Bears are 5-1 for the year and lead the NFC North; the defense deserves most of the credit for this win.   The defense held the Panthers to 3-13 on third-down conversions and recorded 4 sacks along with 3 takeaways.

The Broncos beat the Pats 18-12.  The Pats lost a game where they did not surrender a TD; those 18 points came on 6 field goals.  The Pats slipped below .500 here and this is the latest in a season where they have been under .500 since 2002.  The Pats’ run game was anemic.  Cam Newton gained 76 yards on the ground – – half of that total coming on one play.  The running backs carried the ball 15 times among them and gained a combined total of 41 yards.

The Giants beat the WTFs 20-19.  The winning score came on a scoop-and-score in the 4th quarter by the Giants’ defense.  The Giants offense was a no-show for most of the game.

  • Giants total offense = 242 yards.
  • Giants ran a total of 44 plays in the game.
  • Giants had the ball in the Red Zone 3 times and got no TDs.
  • Giants had the ball with “goal to go” twice and got no TDs.
  • Giants won the game, nonetheless.
  • These are two very flawed teams.

The Ravens beat the Eagles 30-28.  Early on, it looked as if this was going to be a game with a score something like 50-0; the Eagles’ offense was non-existent until someone flipped a switch and it started to click.  At one point in the 2nd quarter, a screen graphic said the Eagles’ net offense was minus-7 yards.  The Ravens’ passing game was limited to dink-and-dunk stuff, but it was enough to get the job done.

The Dolphins beat the Jets 24-0.  The  Jets’ offensive futility was encapsulated in one play.  Joe Flacco dropped back to pass; got no protection; tried to scramble and kept retreating until he was sacked for a loss of 28 yards.  The Jets’ defensive futility is shown by the 24-point score.  Tua Tagovailoa saw the field for the first time with a little over 2 minutes to play in the game.  He has been named the starter for the Dolphins in their next game after a BYE week this week.  The Jets are the only winless team so far this year AND the Jets have not covered against the spread in any of their six losses.

The Bucs beat the Packers 38-10.  The Packers led 10-0 and seemed to be cruising until Aaron Rodgers threw a Pick-Six and everything went in favor of the Bucs for the rest of the game.  The Bucs dominated the second quarter 28-0.

The Niners beat the Rams 24-16.  Jimmy Garoppolo and Jared Goff are QBs who are either very good or very bad depending on the phase of the moon or the closing price of soybeans.  Jimmy G played well here, and Jared Goff kept inventing ways to miss open receivers.

The Chiefs beat the Bills 26-17 on a rainy night in Buffalo.  I’m not sure what happened to the Bills’ defense but it did not show up in this game; the Chiefs ran the ball excellently (245 yards on 46 attempts) and threw it when necessary.  Josh Allen had a bad night; until early in the 4th quarter when he led a Bills’ TD drive.  Up until that point, he had a grand total of 66  yards passing.  The Chiefs held the ball for just over 37 minutes in the game and gained 466 yards of offense as opposed to 206 yards for the Bills.  This game was not as close as the score makes it look.

The Cards beat the Cowboys 38-10.  This game was also not as close as it looks; this was an organized and well-executed ass-kicking from start to finish.  Kyler Murray had a terrible game for him completing only 9 passes, but the Cards did not need him because they basically ran the ball whenever and wherever they pleased.  The Cards gained 261 yards rushing on only 35 carries; the Dallas defense was a mirage in the game.  Also, four turnovers by the Cowboys did not help their cause.

The Cowboys are 0-6 against the spread in 2020.  In addition to that ignominy, there was another embarrassing moment in the 4th quarter of this game.  The Cowboys were down 25 points (28-3) and tried a 58-yard field goal (surprise, it was no good).  And even if it were good, that would have made it a 22-point game.  Seriously now, a 58-yard field goal in the 4th quarter down 25 points …  What is that all about?

The Dallas Cowboys are a mess right now.  The defense stinks; the offensive line that used to be the strength of the team now has 5 former piano movers starting.  Dak Prescott could move enough to handle pressure; Andy Dalton needs a clean pocket to be effective; that offensive line is not going to give him a season of clean pockets.

If I were Dak Prescott’s agent, I would take the tape from this game against the Cards in to show to Jerry Jones when I negotiate for Dak next year.  [Aside: Andy Dalton is only on a 1-year deal, so it is not as if Jones signed his “backup QB for the future”.]   The Cowboys have no QB controversy; they have a QB conundrum.

In addition, the Cowboys’ secondary is porous – and that is being exceedingly kind.  And still, there are no rumors of them talking to Earl Thomas to come in and play safety.  That fact says something to me about the NFL grapevine…


NFL Games:


 The four teams on a BYE Week this week are:

  • Colts:  They need to get their defense playing the way they did in the early games this season.
  • Dolphins:  They will spend the week getting Tua ready to start next week.
  • Ravens:  They will be sitting at home and rooting for the Titans to knock off the Steelers on Sunday.
  • Vikes:  They will be running computer simulations of the rest of the NFL season to find any ways things can unfold with the Vikes on top of the NFC North.

Cleveland – 3 at Cincy (50.5):  So many parallels in this game…  both teams are in Ohio; both have young QBs taken #1 in the Draft; both QBs won the Heisman; both teams have “struggled” in recent seasons.  I could go on…  The Browns succeed when they can run the ball, control the pace of the game and remove the need for Baker Mayfield to have to throw the ball 35 – 40 times.  The Bengals run defense ranks 27th in the NFL giving up 142.3 yards per game.  I think that is the way the game will unfold; I like the Browns – even on the road here – to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Dallas – 1 at Washington (45):  The spread opened the week with the Cowboys as 3-point favorites; this morning the game is either a 1-point spread or a “pick ‘em” game.  There is a macabre aspect of this game worth watching:

  • The Cowboys’ defense cannot stop the run.  They rank 31st in the NFL this year giving up 173.3 yards per game.
  • The Cowboys’ pass defense is middling ranking 17th in the NFL.  However, the Cowboys do give up long pass plays more than you would expect for a pass defense ranked in the middle of the league.
  • Here is the deal, though.  The WTFs do not run the ball well nor do they throw it deep.  So, what is going to happen there…?

I think it is far more likely that this game will be lost as opposed to won.  The team that makes the last mistake will be the loser.  If you are interested in trends, here are a few:

  • Cowboys are 14-2 straight up against division opponents in their last `16 games.
  • Cowboys are 13-3 against the spread in those same 16 division games.
  • WTFs are 1-7 straight up in their last 8 games against the Cowboys
  • WTFs are 2-6 against the spread in those same 8 games against the Cowboys.

Your mileage may vary.  Only one thing is certain:

  • This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

Detroit at Atlanta – 2.5 (54.5):  Take a deep breath here; both teams will arrive at the kickoff coming off a win last week.  Do you believe the Falcons are rejuvenated under the guiding spirit of Raheem Morris?  Do you trust the Lions on the road against anyone other than the Altoona Asthma Attacks?

Carolina at New Orleans – 7 (51):  Teddy Bridgewater returns to the Superdome where he was Drew Brees’ understudy for 2 years.  The Saints had a BYE Week last week and Michael Thomas is about to return to action; that good news needs to be tempered by the fact that the Saint’s defense has not been good this year and that unit is not getting any sort of talent infusion.  The Panthers are playing surprisingly well so far this year – – but I am not yet ready to trust them on the road in a division game.

Buffalo – 12.5 at Jets (46):  The Jets are at home and playing a division rival.  And, they are  a double-digit underdog.  Talk about a slap in the face.  The Bills’ defense has not played up to its press clippings in the last couple of games.  Against the Jets’ OL, and against a slow-as-molasses Joe Flacco at QB, I think the Bills’ defense will look good in this game.  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games so I will not make a selection here.

Green Bay – 3.5 at Houston (57):  Have the Texans rejuvenated themselves with Bill O’Brien being somewhere else? Can the Texans’ defense – – worst in the NFL against the run – – stop Aaron Jones?  Will Deshaun Watson have a field day against a Packers’ defense that allows 27.2 points per game?  This could be an interesting game to watch. 

(Sun Nite) Seattle – 3 at Arizona (56):  Here is a stat that surprised me:

  • In the 6 games played by the Cards so far this season, all 6 of them have gone UNDER.

The Seahawks had a BYE last week while the Cards had their laugher of a game against the Cowboys.  The Seahawks’ defense is last in the NFL giving up 471.2 yards per game – – and yet, they are 5-0.  Will this turn into a track meet?

SF at New England – 2 (44):  The spread here opened with the Pats as 5-point favorites, but that number has been eroding all week.  I would not be surprised to see this as a “pick ‘em game” by kickoff.  The Pats are definitely struggling this year on offense even with Cam Newton on the field; the Niners are a M*A*S*H unit.  There will be lots of gooey commentary here about Jimmy G returning to Foxboro.  Ho-hum…  I like the Niners in this spot; I’ll take them plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

KC – 9.5 at Denver (46):  The Broncos won last week without scoring a TD (see above).  That offensive productivity will not cut it this week.  I think the Chiefs will play better than they did last week in Buffalo and that the Broncos will not be able to keep up.  Here are some trend stats relative to this game:

  • Since 2015, the Chiefs are 28-4 straight up against division rivals.
  • The Chiefs are 21-10-1 against the spread in those 32 games with division rivals.
  • The Chiefs have won 9 in a row over the Broncos
  • The Chiefs are 8-1 against the spread in those 9 wins over the Broncos.

Tampa Bay at Las Vegas (no lines):  The Raiders had to send their offensive lineman home for isolation due to a coronavirus exposure.  This was supposed to be a Sunday night game, but it was “flexed” to Sunday afternoon because the NFL did not want to take the chance that there would be no Sunday Night Game this week.  The Raiders like to run the ball with Josh Jacobs as the main man in that attack.  I think the Bucs defense might be able to take that aspect of the Raiders’ game away.  In that circumstance, I think the Bucs can dominate this game.

Jax at Chargers – 7 (49):  I know both teams here have bad records; combined they are 2-9 for the season.  However, the Jags lose games by an average of 9.3 points per game and the Chargers only lose by an average of 3 points per game.  The Jags’ defense is an illusion; I think Justin Herbert and his pass catchers will have a field day.  I like the Chargers at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.  Here is a trend that boosts my confidence in this selection:

  • The Jags are 1-9 straight up in their last 10 games in the Pacific Time Zone.
  • The Jags are 2-8 against the spread in those same 10 Pacific Time Zone games.

Pittsburgh at Tennessee – 1.5 (50.5):  This is the Game of the Week featuring two teams that bring 5-0 records to the field.  The spread opened with the Steelers as a 1-point favorite and has eased over to the Titans’ side of the ledger.  I think the oddsmaker was right at the beginning of the week; I like the Steelers to win the game straight up, so I’ll take them plus the points here; put it in the Six-Pack.  In addition, I think that both teams are going to be able to score on the other guy’s defense.  So, in addition, I like the game to go OVER; put that in the six-Pack too.

(Mon Nite) Chicago at Rams – 6 (45):  Even a Ouija board cannot predict the arc of this game.  You have Aaron Donald and his buddies up against a less than dynamic Bears’ offense.  On the other hand, you have an erratic Jarod Goff going up against a dominant Bears’ defense.  My advice is simple; pour yourself a nice glass of Chianti and sit back and see what happens…

Let me review the Six-Pack and note for the record that I cannot do any worst than I did last week:

  • Alabama – 21.5 over Tennessee
  • Chargers – 7 over Jags
  • Steelers +1.5 against Titans
  • Steelers/Titans OVER 50.5
  • Browns – 3 over Bengals
  • Niners + 2 against Pats.

Finally, as a tip of the hat to the start of Big 10 Football this weekend, here is an observation regarding college football in general by H. L. Mencken:

“College football would be more interesting if the faculty played instead of the students – there would be a great increase in broken arms legs and necks.”

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



NFL Oddities Today …

Based on a report that was out there last week, NFL fans may have dodged a bullet.  We have seen the need for the league to have scheduling flexibility in this COVID-19 influenced season; games have been moved around and postponed and the like.  According to the report last week, if the Lions/Jags game had to have been postponed, the only option left for the league would be to play that game in Week 18.  There was no way to put that game anywhere in the existing 17-week schedule.  The existence of a “Week 18” would necessitate a change in the playoff schedule and the Super Bowl; it would be disruptive.

Now, imagine for a moment that the NFL gets incredibly lucky with its schedule-juggling act for the rest of the year.  Would anyone want the Lions/Jags game to be the only game taking place in a “Week 18”?

That report, coming so early in the season, points to the likelihood of an extended regular season this year.  However, the only reason to play games in an extended season between teams that are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs or involving a team whose playoff seeding is cast in concrete would be to ascertain the order in the 2021 NFL Draft.  That is pretty thin gruel in terms of motivation and meaning – – but once the extension has been scheduled and the playoff games moved and the Super Bowl moved, there is no real way to untangle that mess.

Fans dodged the bullet last week of seeing a Lions/Jags game in Week 18, but there are other riflemen on the firing squad.  Fans need to remain nimble – – and lucky.

While on the subject of the NFL and things that do not make a lot of sense, let me bring up the NY Jets once again.  After their loss to the Dolphins last week, the Jets traded DT, Steve McClendon to the Bucs.  McClendon is 34 years old; by the time the Jets rebuild and approach relevance, he will likely be out of the league.  Nonetheless, he is functional defensive lineman at this point in his career and the Bucs need a DT because of an injury to Vita Vea.  So, the trade made sense to me in that the Jets – seemingly – were trading away veteran assets to amass more draft picks.

However, as I looked at the details of the trade, things got a bit murkier:

  • Bucs get McLendon plus the Jets’ 7th round pick in 2023
  • Jets get the Bucs 6th round pick in 2022.

Forget the timing of the two draft picks; that is really getting down into the weeds.  A 6th round pick is marginally better than a 7th round pick – with the emphasis on the word marginally.  So, the Jets sent off one of their starting defensive linemen for a marginal improvement in draft position in 2022.  That’s it?  That’s all there is?

The story continues…  In this morning’s Washington Post, there is a report according to “a person with direct knowledge of the deal” that the Jets have traded outside linebacker Jordan Willis to the Niners.  Willis is not the second coming of Lawrence Taylor, but he is a functional player and the Niners need defensive help due to injuries.  So, here is the reported deal:

  • Niners get Jordan Willis plus the Jets’ 7th round pick in 2022
  • Jets get Niners’ 6th round pick in 2022.

Stop me if you have heard this before…

Take these trades and juxtapose them with the outright release of LeVeon Bell about a week ago; the Jets got nothing for Bell, a pittance for McClendon and a drop in the bucket for Willis.  Now, tell me that the Jets have not thrown in the towel on the 2020 season…

As I said, Steve McClendon is a competent DL and Willis is a functional LB, but they were simply marking time with the Jets.  There is no defensive lineman or linebacker in the history of the NFL who could make the 2020 Jets into a good team.  In fact, the 2020 Jets even prior to these player giveaways might be an historically bad team if they continue the path they are currently on.  Consider:

  • After 6 games, the Jets have a point differential of minus-110.  That is an indictment of the Jets’ offense and the Jets’ defense.
  • [Aside:  The next worst point differential this year after 6 games belongs to the miserable Jags – – but the Jags’ mark is only minus-56 points which is only half of the Jets’ margin of defeat.]
  • If you project the Jets’ stat out to 16 games – I know, that is not likely to happen – the Jets’ point differential for the season would be minus-293.3 points.
  • The worst point differential in NFL history was posted by the expansion Tampa Bay Bucs in 1976 at minus-287 points.

On track to be historically bad…

There was another report late last week that made me scratch my head.  The report at said that the Lions coaches were working with Matthew Stafford on his footwork mechanics.  I recognize that no one is perfect; everyone has room for improvement.  Having said that, I wonder if it might be a bit late to make any significant changes to Matthew Stafford’s muscle memory.

  • In his college career, Stafford dropped back and threw 987 passes completing 564 of those passes.  He had 51 TDs and 33 INTs and was the overall #1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
  • In 12 seasons in the NFL, Stafford dropped back and threw 5,864 passes completing 3661 of those passes.  He had 265 TDs and 138 INTs.

It is about time someone corrected his footwork…

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

“Seahawks QB Russell Wilson says he taught speedy second-year wideout DK Metcalf to swim this summer.

“The 100-yard fly, we presume.”

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



Hither And Yon Today …

For all baseball fans who have watched the Dodgers/Braves NLCS and Game 1 of this year’s World Series, I need your help.  Please explain to me why the folks who run the Boston Red Sox thought it was a good idea to trade Mookie Betts.  I am not criticizing the return the Red Sox got for Betts; I wonder why it was even an idea worth considering.

The other smidgen of baseball news today is that the Mets have a new owner.  Steve Cohen’s bid – reportedly $2.42B – to buy the NY Mets has been approved by the MLB owners according to a report at  Cohen made his fortune as a hedge-fund manager; but in doing so, gained some notoriety.  His firm pleaded guilty to insider trading and settled a civil action against it to the tune of $1.8B; as part of that settlement in the case, Cohen was barred from managing the money of other people for a period of two years.  All of that is water under the bridge but it did present the possibility that the MLB owners might not approve of him as “one of their club members”.  If the reports are correct, Cohen has just cleared that bar and will take ownership of the team.

Moving along …  According to this report in Forbes, the Ivy League may cancel its entire basketball season.  Back in March of this year, it was the Ivy League that was the first collegiate conference to cancel its conference tournament and that led to the cancellation of all college basketball including March Madness.  The issue now is the NCAA’s view of when to restart the college basketball season as opposed to Ivy League rules on when to start winter sports.

The Ivy League canceled its fall sports – and has not moved to reinstate them; in so doing, it also set January 1st as the date for winter sports to begin – pending  proper public health conditions.  The NCAA has decreed that college basketball will commence play on November 25th and some teams have already begun practicing in an organized way.  According to the report in Forbes, Harvard is in the lead with regard to canceling its basketball season; three of its basketball players have entered the NCAA’s transfer portal.

If Harvard is the only team to cancel its season, the Ivy League should be able to survive with the remaining seven teams.  If a few other teams follow suit, it would be difficult for the Ivy League to cobble together a schedule that made any sense.  Stand by for more news on this front…

Another development at the intersection of college athletics and the pandemic is reported by the Washington Post this morning.  Not surprisingly, it is a rather clear example of the tail wagging the dog.  According to the Post report, Michigan health officials have issued an emergency “stay-at-home order” for the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.  The basis for this order is the recognition of hundreds of new COVID-19 cases in the county where contact tracing has revealed that students on campus are “ignoring coronavirus restrictions”.  The emergency order now restricts students on campus to their residence unless they are out and about to get food, go to class, go to the doctor, go out to vote or to work at an essential job.  You get the idea here…  That is sound public health policy implementation, you say.  Good for the health officials and the school administration for clamping down here…

Here is the rub:

  • School athletics are exempt from the order; athletes – like the Michigan football team – can be out and about as they practice for their upcoming game against Michigan State.
  • Fundamentally, that exemption is a de facto designation of Michigan football as an “essential job”.
  • Football practice violates plenty of rules set in place for students on campus.  It does so by necessity; you cannot have football practice in “small groups”, and you cannot have football practice with mandatory masks and social distancing.  That is obvious.
  • What is equally obvious is that football occupies an exalted status in the community and in the university structure.

I have suggested in the past that college athletics need to be separated from colleges and universities in an administrative sense because the goals and objectives of Athletic Departments do not mesh cleanly with the goals and objectives of a university.  [Along with that suggestion, I would make Athletic Departments taxable entities requiring full accounting reports and I would deny tax deductions for alumni contributions to Athletic Departments.]  Now we have one example where the goals and objectives of the Athletic Department – which already differs from the goals and objectives of the university – are also in conflict with the goals and objectives of the public health folks in Washtenaw County.

On Broadway, Rule Number One is that “The show must go on.”  It appears that directive extends to the NFL Super Bowl Halftime Show.  Pepsi is the sponsor/producer of that extravaganza and Pepsi announced recently that there will be a halftime show with or without fans in the stands.

  • How can this be?
  • How can these folks hope to put on a show without a horde of mouthbreathers jumping and flailing around like people with fire ants in their pants around the stage?
  • How can the mouthbreathers possibly enjoy the performance wearing masks and socially distancing?
  • But the show must go on…

Finally, here is an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Galileo:  Astronomer and physicist often called the father of modern science.  Although he was condemned and imprisoned by the Roman authority for his forward-thinking view of the structure of the universe, he did wind up many years later as part of a song lyric in Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, so hopefully that makes up for it.”

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



The World Series Starts Tonight

The World Series will begin tonight.  Tyler Glasnow and Clayton Kershaw will get the call as the starting pitchers tonight around 8:00 PM EDT.  Even though all the games this year will take place in Arlington, TX, MLB has adopted the standard “travel day” scheduling for the Series.  There will be games tonight and tomorrow night; then, there will be an off day on Thursday; then, action resumes with games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if needed) followed by another day off…

In a normal year, this weekend would have been one of the “finalists” for the Annual Autumnal Pilgrimage to Las Vegas.  It could be overlooked if one of the pilgrims had a family commitment that obviated the choice; but absent something like that, the idea of having a weekend of college football, NFL football, English Premier League soccer AND the World Series to watch – – and to wager on – – is most enticing.  Not this year.  There will be no Autumnal Pilgrimage in 2020; the coronavirus saw to that.  Personally, I am looking forward to the return of this tradition in 2021 as a way to confirm a return to normalcy.

I believe there is a “hidden piece” of good news about the World Series this year.  Neither Joe West nor Angel Hernandez will be part of the umpiring crew.  Their absence does not guarantee that there will be no controversial or missed calls in the Series.  There absence does diminish the number of likely controversial moments in the Series.

The World Series has been an important part of the sports calendar for me even when I could only see the games on weekends because the games were played in the daytime and I had to be in school.  Kids today have the luxury of DVRs if they want to see the World Series; and although I have not tried this, I think there might be an interesting experiment to be done here.

  • Baseball officials and pundits often decry the aging demographic of baseball fans and  worry about the attraction of the next generation of baseball fans.
  • Lots of people who experience baseball games – me included – recognize that the game is not in tune with the short-attention-span culture of many of today’s children.
  • So, perhaps watching a game that has been recorded on a DVR – allowing fast-forwarding through pitching changes, batting glove adjustments and replay conferences – might be an interesting way to see a game.

[Aside:  If I were the Baseball Czar of the Universe, I would at least mandate that the Saturday World Series Game take place during daytime in order that any young person who is a nascent baseball fan and who wants to see the game live can do so without having to stay up past midnight.]

I have enjoyed watching most of this year’s playoff games that got us to this point in the MLB calendar because many of the games were competitive.  I must admit that when one of the games ended the first inning with the score 11-0, I found something else to occupy my time, but I saw a lot of baseball over the last several weeks.  I like watching baseball and because I like watching baseball, I recognize some of the flaws in baseball as an entertainment product.

  • Owners, players, broadcasters and fans need to remember that professional baseball only succeeds as a commercial entity because it is a form of entertainment.
  • The lack of entertainment is the fundamental reason we do not have Major League Philosophy.

Too many innings in too many baseball games in the past several years present a sequence of walks, strikeouts, home runs (with a signature bat flip), and home runs (without a signature bat flip).  In later innings, that sequence might be interrupted with a pitching change – – always something to get the adrenaline level up to the next level.

Think about it …  In an inning where we have batters “working the count” and there is a walk plus three strikeouts, there might be 25-30 pitches where the ball is never in play.  That would be fine if it happened once a week; it happens far more frequently than that.  Even in an inning where you mix in a home run, the “excitement factor” tends to focus on the style of the bat flip and/or the pace of the “home-run-trot” after the ball lands in the seats.

One thing that detracts from “action” in baseball games is The Shift.  It does precisely what it is designed to do; it keeps pull hitters off the bases to a greater extent than in the days before The Shift.  The fact that players and managers are so blockheaded as to allow The Shift to be as efficient as it is makes me wonder why baseball analytics only seems to apply to the defensive aspects of the game.  Forget the lost art of bunting; just look at the defenders deployed in The Shift and apply the wisdom of Wee Willie Keeler from more than a century ago and …

  • “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.”

Some folks have suggested banning or regulating The Shift to get more baserunners and more drama into the games.  I am totally against banning The Shift; I do not believe in saving someone from himself/herself.  If I ever heard of a “rule-based limitation” on The Shift that made sense, I might support it; so far, I have not heard such a thing.

But the fundamental problem for MLB remains; it only continues to exist and succeed as an entertainment product, and for far too many folks, having a bat flip after a home run be the most exciting thing to happen over about an hour of game time fails to cut the mustard.  In fact, it is much closer to cutting the cheese…

Notwithstanding any of the above, I shall be tuned in tonight to see Game 1 of the World Series.  The betting line for tonight’s game opened with the Dodgers favored at minus-160; it moved to minus-165 very quickly and has continued to slide in favor of the Dodgers.  This morning the money line for the Dodgers is either minus-172 or minus-175 depending on which sportsbook you are checking.  The run Total Line is 7.5.

Finally, here is an entry taken from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Fat:  What you don’t realize you are getting until you have to suck in your gut even when you are lying down.”

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



The World Series Combatants Are Set

Back in late July when MLB began its truncated season, there were no guarantees that we would get to a World Series at all in 2020 let alone a World Series that would take place as scheduled back then.  Well, here we are.  The Rays and the Dodgers will commence play in the Series tomorrow.  The Dodgers are favored in Game 1 at minus-165.

The Rays got to the Series beating the Astros in a Game 7 event over the weekend.  In doing that – and with the Dodgers on tap as the Rays’ Series opponents – the Rays have an opportunity to do something unexpected.  I believe the Rays began the season with the 27th lowest Opening Day payroll in MLB; now consider:

  1. They defeated the Yankees in the ALDS, and the Yankees had the highest Opening Day payroll in MLB.
  2. They defeated the Astros in the ALCS, and the Astros had the third highest Opening Day payroll in MLB.
  3. Now they get to play the Dodgers who – wait for it – had the second highest Opening Day payroll in MLB.

The Dodgers presented this opportunity by beating the Atlanta Braves last night after trailing in the NLCS 3 games to 1.  Cody Bellinger’s solo home run provided the margin of victory sending the Dodgers to the World Series for the third time in the last 4 years.  There was an unusual play earlier in the game that turned out to be particularly important.  The Braves had runners at second and third with no outs.  On a ground ball to the third baseman, the runner at third broke for the plate and that began a 5-2-5-6 double play erasing both of those baserunners and leaving the Braves with a man on first and two outs.  I do not recall ever seeing such a double play sequence.

An interesting situation is brewing in the NBA.  Daryl Morey is “stepping down” as the GM of the Houston Rockets after being in the job for 13 years and having the Rockets in the NBA playoffs in each of the last 8 seasons.  For the record, that is the longest active streak of playoff appearances for any NBA franchise.  Under “normal circumstances”, you would think that Daryl Morey would be a “hot property” for any team looking to take their Front office in a “different direction”.  However, there is an unusual circumstance here…

Recall it was a Tweet from Daryl Morey supporting the Hong Kong demonstrators that caused a rift between the NBA and the Chinese government – – and it cost the NBA lots of money (as much as $400M according to some reports).  The NBA and its players latched onto the Black Lives Matter social justice movement very quickly and made it a centerpiece of the viewing experience for the NBA playoffs; the league and the players studiously avoided any semblance of awareness of – let alone concern for – Hong Kong protesters or Uighurs in concentration camps.  That circumstance might be completely coincidental; if Daryl Morey does not get an NBA executive job offer, it will be a difficult job convincing me that it is coincidence.

  • If that comes to pass, I will be convinced that the ultra-woke NBA and its altruistic players are far more adept at virtue signaling as a means to take in revenues than they are at seeing social injustice wherever it is and whenever it happens.

Sticking to basketball, the preparation for the college basketball season began last week as teams were allowed to begin organized practices.  Athletic Departments around the country are scrambling to fill out schedules that minimize travel and fit into venues that reside in jurisdictions that will allow for games to take place.  Rather than the season being cast in concrete, it seems as if the season is cast in vanilla pudding.

The early days of a normal college basketball season would find teams taking long trips to vacation spots to play in early season tournaments.  This year the “Maui Tournament” will take place in Ashville, NC; the “Virgin Islands Tournament” will move its operation to Washington DC and the “Bahamas Tournament” will happen in Sioux Falls, SD.  Lest there be any confusion, I have been to all of the venues mentioned above and I can assure you that none of the landing spots for these “Tournaments” bears the slightest resemblance to the original sites in the months of November and December.

This year, these tournaments are not a pleasant interlude for the players in the early stages of a season; this year, these events are happening because teams want – and need – to find opponents to play against before conference games commence.  In years past, some Ivy League basketball teams would take a swing around the “Sun Belt States” after final exams were over up north and play four or five games along the way.  A quick look at the schedules for all eight of the Ivy League schools this morning shows eight completely empty schedules.

At some of the powerhouse schools the schedules do not look significantly more certain:

  • Duke will play in the Champions Classic and Appalachian State on a date listed as “TBA”.
  • Indiana has 6 games scheduled – – but no games between Nov. 30th and Dec 22nd.
  • Kentucky’s schedule as listed on the UK athletics website contains this information, “The 2020-21 men’s basketball schedule will be posted as information becomes available.”
  • Kansas has lots of games scheduled – 13 by my count – but 10 of the 13 games have either the opponent as “TBD” or the venue as “TBD” – – or both.
  • UNC has 3 games on its schedule this morning on from Nov 30 through December 2 in the relocated “Maui Tournament”.
  • Washington has 1 game scheduled (on Dec 19th) and three “placeholders” on the schedule with opponents and venues listed as “TBD”.

Finally, here is a baseball item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times from back in the regular season:

“The Yankees — for the first time in their 120-year history — hit into five double plays and committed four errors in the same game in a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Marlins.

“Or as the 1962 Mets used to call such an occurrence, Friday.”

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



Football Friday 10/16/20

It is a dreary, rainy day here in suburban DC; it is the kind of day that could tempt one to wake up, look out the window and then pull the covers back over one’s head to go back to sleep.  However, that is not the case in Curmudgeon Central – – because today is also Football Friday.

I shall begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack – – which had 7 selections in it:

  • College:  1-2-0
  • NFL:  3-1-0
  • Combined:  4-3-0

Going back to the start of all this “Six-Packing” for the season, the records are:

  • College:  5-8-1
  • NFL:  10-6-0
  • Combined:  15-14-1


College Football Commentary:


The coronavirus seemingly set its sights on SEC Football over the last week – – or perhaps the relatively lackadaisical approach to dealing with the virus in SEC Country for the last several months is beginning to show the consequences of such an approach.  Whatever.  Let me review the bidding:

  • Vandy/Missouri game has been postponed.  This is not a big deal even giving a nod to Mizzou for its win over LSU.  The Tigers already have two losses in conference play and Vandy is probably one of the ten worst teams playing at the moment.
  • LSU/Florida game has been postponed.  This might be a big deal because Florida is one game behind Georgia in the SEC East.  LSU has two losses in conference and its defense has been shredded twice this year.
  • Alabama coach, Nick Saban, and Alabama AD, Greg Byrne both tested positive for the coronavirus.  Saban is at home in quarantine and will not be allowed to coach remotely in this week’s game between #2 ranked Alabama and #3 ranked Georgia.  Steve Sarkissian will be in charge on the sidelines for what is the best game on the weekend card.
  • Ole Miss played Alabama last week and Rebels’ coach, Lane Kiffin, said this week that the team had “some positive tests” but there has been no shutdown at Ole Miss and the game against Arkansas this weekend is still on.

All that good stuff happened after last weekend’s eruption by Florida Coach, Dan Mullen who thought that there were too many students in the stadium at Texas A&M and that their presence gave the Aggies the boost they needed to beat the gators.  Mullen ranted that he wanted 80,000 people in the stands at The Swamp this week for the LSU game – – COVID-19 protocols be damned.  For the record, the attendance at College Statin was 24,000 in a stadium that holds well in excess of 100,000; it was not “jam-packed”…

  • Memo to Florida Coach, Dan Mullen:  Not to worry coach; there will not be any fans in The Swamp this weekend and neither will you or your team be there.  The virus has intervened to cause the game to be postponed.
  • Take the week off and cut back on the caffeine…

And speaking of the SEC, I presume you have noticed that there seems to be a tectonic shift in SEC football so far this year.  For the last decade or so, the signature element of SEC football has been the presence of big, strong, tough and stingy defenses.  That is not quite the story of 2020 SEC football:

  • Florida has given up 495 yards per game and a total of 100 points in its three games.  Even so, the Gators’ record is 2-1.
  • Alabama has given up 473 yards per game and a total of 100 points in its three games.  The Tide’s record is a perfect 3-0.
  • LSU has given up 494.7 yards per game and a total of 96 points in its three games.  The Tigers’ record is 1-2.
  • You get the idea…

The SEC team that appears to be following the “old-school SEC script” in 2020 is Georgia.  So far, the Bulldogs are only allowing 236.7 yards per game and 12.3 points per game; that is the sort of football I have come to expect from a top-shelf SEC team.

Texas A&M beat Florida 41-38.  Florida was ranked #4 in the country at kickoff.  The Gators led 38-31 with 6 minutes left in the game but that porous Florida defense mentioned above could not seal the deal.  An 81-yard TD pass tied the game with 4:30 left on the clock and then the Aggies won it with a 26-yard field goal with 2 seconds left on the clock.  Florida may need to beat Georgia and then win out to be the SEC East champion this year.

Georgia beat Tennessee 44-21.  Tennessee led 21-17 at the half and then never moved the scoreboard again.  The Vols had been running the ball for 200+ yards per game  coming to the kickoff here.  I said last week that it would be interesting to see if they might be able to sustain that against an excellent Georgia defense.  In short, they could not.  Tennessee’s running game for the day was 27 carries for minus-I yards.  That stat may be a tad misleading since sacks count as negative rushing yards in college football.  In terms of real running plays where an actual running back is handed the ball on a designed play, the Vols ran the ball 16 times and gained 36 yards.  I guess that is a better stat line – – but it is still miserable.

Missouri beat LSU 45-41.  The LSU defense – something that has been  a source of pride in Baton Rouge for the last decade or so – simply collapsed once again.  Mizzou had 586 yards on offense and the LSU defense could not hold the 41-38 lead that it had at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Auburn beat Arkansas 30-28.  Maybe I need to begin to take Arkansas more seriously than has been the case for the last 3 years when they were outclassed by SEC competition.  Or … maybe … Auburn is not all that good and the glory that was Bo Nix may be nothing more than a phantasm.  Moreover, there was a controversial and critically important officiating call in the final 20 seconds that went Auburn’s way and that allowed the Tigers to connect on a 39-yard field goal on the next play to win the game.

Kentucky beat Mississippi State 24-2.  The Air Raid Offense was clearly grounded last week.  Two Bulldog QBs threw the ball a total of 70 times in the game; Kentucky intercepted 6 of those throws.  Do not get the idea that Kentucky was dominant here, however. The Wildcats’ offense was a meager 157 yards for the day and only managed to make 10 first downs.

Alabama beat Ole Miss 63-48.  I said last week that Ole Miss would not be able to stop Alabama on offense with what was the worst ranked defense in college football at the time.  Sixty-three points allowed would seem to validate that analysis.  That Ole Miss defense that ranked dead last in the nation as of last week gave up 723 yards to Alabama and 306 of those yards came on the ground.  Alabama recorded 37 first downs in the game.  At the same time, there was a meltdown by the Alabama defense which allowed 48 points and 647 yards for the game.  Let me do some math for you here; the total offense by both teams in this game was 1370 yards; that is the most ever in a regulation SEC game.

Oklahoma beat Texas 53-45 – – and it took four OTs to get to that ending.  Texas was down by 14 points going into the 4th quarter but managed to find a way to get the game to OT, but that was all she wrote for the Longhorns.  Both the Sooners and the Longhorns now have 2 conference losses opening the door for one of the other Big-12 teams to be the conference champ in 2020.

K-State beat TCU  21-14.  This was not a spectacular game in terms of scoring or eye-popping stats – – but – – K-State is undefeated in Big-12 games putting them 2 full games ahead of Texas and Oklahoma in that race.  This win is the second time this year that K-state has won a road game where they were underdogs.  For the record, Iowa State and Oklahoma State are also undefeated in conference play so far this year…

Clemson beat Miami 42-17.  The Clemson defense put the clamps on for the second half.  Miami only managed 210 yards of offense for the entire game; but in 8 possessions in the second half, the Miami offense produced these results:

  1. Punt
  2. Interception
  3. Punt
  4. Turnover on downs
  5. Interception
  6. Punt
  7. TD – – getting the score to 35-17
  8. Interception.

Meanwhile the Clemson offense was balanced and methodical gaining 292 yards in the air and 258 more yards on the ground.  Miami is a good team, but it is not quite ready for “Prime Time” as defined by Clemson and other CFP contenders.

Notre Dame beat Fla State 42-26.  The story for this game can be summarized simply and succinctly.  The Irish ran the ball for 353 yards in this game, more than 9 yards per attempt.  End of message…


College Games of Interest:


UNC – 12.5 at Florida State (64):  The spread opened at 8 points and has been expanding all week long.  One sportsbook has it at 13.5 points this morning and indeed this line could go higher before kickoff.  Rankings do not mean much in 2020 but UNC is ranked as high as #5 in the country in the AP poll this week and Florida State is a mess.  I am tempted to take the game to go OVER, but I will resist that temptation.  However, I do like the Tar Heels to win and cover even on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Pitt at Miami – 12.5 (47.5):  The Panthers have lost two games in a row when they were favored.  Miami is coming off a spanking by Clemson (see above).  It will be =interesting to see which team – if any – suffers from a “hangover” in this game.

Ole Miss – 1.5 at Arkansas (75):  Ole Miss cannot seem to stop anyone on offense, and no one has shut down the Ole Miss offense so far this year.  This could be an exciting game to watch.  Arkansas’ defense has been decent so far this year, but if Ole Miss can put up 48 points on Alabama, I wonder if the Hogs can keep pace.  I’ll take Ole Miss and lay the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Texas A&M – 4.5 at Mississippi St. (54):  Which version of the Mississippi St. offense will show up here?

Georgia at Alabama – 4.5 (56.5):  I cited some Georgia defensive stats above that are impressive; here is another one:

  • In three games so far this year, the Dawgs have not surrendered a TD when the opponent has gotten to the Red Zone.

Meanwhile, Alabama is averaging 560.3 yards of offense per game and 51 points per game.  This is clearly the Game of the Week and it is on in prime-time tomorrow night…

BC at Va Tech – 13 (62):  Both teams are 2-1 on the season; both teams have outscored opponents by a total of 17 points for the season; BC does this by keeping scores low; Tech does this by scoring a lot and allowing lots of scores.  Given those similarities, I think that spread is very fat; I’ll take BC plus the points here; put it in the Six-Pack.


NFL Commentary:


The Raiders beat the Chiefs 40-32.  The Raiders were an 11.5-point underdog in the game and hung in with the Chiefs in a high scoring affair; most teams cannot do that.  Derek Carr played up to and equal to Patrick Mahomes in the game.  The Chiefs’ defense was spotty here letting the Raiders have the ball for more than 35 minutes in the game.  Also, the Raiders were 7-14 on 3rd down conversions and 2-2 on fourth down conversions.  This is a signature win for the Jon Gruden Raiders.

The Panthers beat the Falcons 23-16.  That result got both the coach, Dan Quinn, and the GM, Thomas Dimitroff fired in mid-season.  This was an “unusual” loss for the Falcons because it was not the defense that failed to perform; here it was the offense that underwhelmed.  Terry Bridgewater continued to excel as the Panthers’ QB throwing for 313 yards for the game.

The Texans beat the Jags 30-14.  I said last week I expected a “dead cat bounce” from the Texans in this game and they did indeed “bounce” to get their first win of the season over a miserable opponent.  Deshaun Watson threw for 359 yards and the Texans amassed 486 yards offense in the game.  Now, can they sustain that sort of play…?  The Jags just stink; there is no deep insight to be sought there.

The Steelers beat the Eagles 38-29.  In last year’s NFL Draft Analysis, I said that Chase Claypool did not look like a TE to me but looked as if he could be a WR in the NFL.  Well, that is what the Steelers have done with him and he merely caught 4 TD passes in Sunday’s game.   The Steelers’ defense gave up a lot of points here, but they did have 5 sacks and 2 INTs in the game.  The Eagles unveiled Travis Fulgham as a starting WR.  Fulgham was picked up off the waiver wire; he had been in camp with the Lions but did not make the team.  Remember, he is also the guy who caught the game winning TD against the Niners two weeks ago and here is what he did against a very good Steelers’ defense last week:

  • 10 receptions for 151 yards and 1 TD

So, here is a question:

  • Who did the Lions keep on their roster and their practice squad ahead of Travis Fulgham and when can we expect to see those guys unleashed on Lions’ opponents?

The Rams beat the WTFs 30-10.  Alex Smith not only got on the field; he played a bit more than half the game.  His stats would lead you to believe that he was awful – and he was surely not particularly good – but consider that he got nothing in terms of protection from his OL.  Smith’s stat line was 9 for 17 for 37 yards.  Last week, I said that Aaron Donald versus the WTFs’ OL would be something to watch.  Well here is what Aaron Donald did – and what the Rams defense did last week:

  • Donald:  4 solo tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble
  • Rams defense:  8 sacks and total yardage allowed of 108 yards.  Held the WTFs to 2-13 on third downs and 0-1 on fourth downs

The Cowboys beat the Giants 27-24.  The question going into this game was easy;  Would the miserable Giants’ offense be able to do any business against the miserable Cowboys’ defense?  The answer is that it could, and it did – – but not enough.  The Cowboys lost Dak Prescott to a gruesome ankle injury, but Andy Dalton came in and played well enough to get the Cowboys a win that they needed to take over as the NFC East division leader at 2-3-0.

The Cards beat the Jets 30-10.  The Jets led the game 7-3 in the first half, then reality set in.  Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins continued to work like a charm here; the pair combined for 131 yards and a TD.  The question that comes out of this game is simple:

  • Just how bad are the NY Jets?
  • Are they 2-14 bad?  Or 1-15 bad?  Or …

The Ravens beat the Bengals 27-3.  The score pretty much tells you how this game unfolded; it was domination by the Ravens’ defense from start to finish.  The Ravens’ offense looked lethargic most of the day, but it really did not matter; the Bengals were never a real threat to get to double digits on the scoreboard.  Joe Burrow was sacked 7 times and the Bengals ran up a total of 208 yards of offense in the game.

The Dolphins beat the Niners 43-17.  If you just look at the score, you would figure that Ryan Fitzpatrick had a monster day and the Niners could not keep up.  Well, you would be half right; Fitzpatrick was 22-28 for 350 yards and 3 TDs; that is a rather good stat line for a game.  However, the real story here is the Dolphins’ defense which shut down the Niners’ offense to the point that Jimmy Garoppolo was benched in the second half for inefficiency; he was held to a miserable day:

  • 7 for 17 for 77 yards with zero TDs and 2 INTs

However, his replacement, CJ Beathard, did not do all that much better with a stat line of:

  • 9 for 18 for 94 yards with 1 TD and zero INTs

The Browns beat the Colts 32-23.  The Browns are not 4-1; this is not the same sort of team that we have seen fielded by the Browns’ organization over the last 5 years or so; these guys can run the ball and throw the ball and play defense.  This is a competent football team – – and that has not been the case in Cleveland recently.  The Colts are good on defense, but I thought they would be much better on offense with Philip Rivers at QB than they have shown so far in 2020.

The Seahawks beat the Vikings 27-26.  Leading 26-21, the Vikes had the ball at the Seattle 6 yardline 4th and 1.  The Seahawks had only 1 timeout and there were 2 minutes to go in the game.  The Vikes went for the first down that would seal the win; they did not get it and Russell Wilson took the Seahawks 94 yards in a minute and 42 seconds to win the game with a TD  pass to DK Metcalf.  I cannot fault Vikes for that decision; I have to give massive kudos to the Seahawks’ offense for that final drive.

The Saints beat the Chargers  30-27.  This one took OT and the Saints had to rally from a 20-3 deficit in the second quarter to get the win.  Drew Brees was effective when he had to be; Emmanuel Sanders caught 12 passes for 122 yards in the game.  Justin Herbert still has lots to learn about being an NFL QB, but all the tools are at his disposal.  He got the Chargers in position to kick a game winning field goal from 50 yards with no time left in regulation time – – but it doinked off the upright and the Chargers lost in OT.

The Titans beat the Bills 42-16.  To call this win “convincing” would be an understatement; the Titans answered any and all questions about their readiness after their COVID-19 engagement.  The Bills sealed their fate in this game with 3 turnovers.  Ryan Tannehill was not spectacular, but he was efficient going 21-28 for 195 yards and 3 TDs and no picks.


NFL Games:


There are two postponed games this weekend.  The Jets will not fly to LA to play the Chargers and the Dolphins will not visit the Broncos in Denver because the Broncos will be in New England to play the Pats as a result of a previous scheduling gyration.  Such is the 2020 NFL schedule.  So, to keep things interesting, the Jets will fly to Miami to play the Dolphins since both teams had a postponement this week.

There are 4 teams on Bye Weeks:

  1. The Chargers need to regroup after their OT loss last week.
  2. The Raiders can bask in the glory of last week’s upset over the Chiefs.
  3. The Saints are 2-2 and need to string some wins together.
  4. The Seahawks have things going their way – – and want to keep things that way.

There are two games this weekend where the lines have moved significantly as the week progressed; they will be noted below…

Chicago at Carolina – 1.5 (44.5):  Here are two trend stats that make me wonder how – and why – folks track this sort of stuff:

  1. Teddy Bridgewater is 30-9 against the spread as a starting QB
  2. Teddy Bridgewater is 17-4 against the spread as a starter after a win in the previous game.

I liked the Panthers in this game before I found those trend stats.  I like the way the Panthers’ defense is playing and I am not sold on the Bears’ offense regardless of who the QB might be.  Yes, the Bears’ defense is good, but it is not the Steel Curtain.  I like the Panthers at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Detroit – 3 at Jax (55):  For the first time, I am declaring a dead-heat in the race to be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week and this game is part of that dead-heat.  If this is the game in the Sunday afternoon early slot broadcast in your viewing area, I feel your pain.

Atlanta at Minnesota – 4 (54.5):  The Total Line opened the week at 57 points and has been slowly dropping all week long; one sportsbook has it at 54 points this morning.  This is the second game in the dead-heat for Dog-Breath Game of the Week; after all, the teams bring a combined record of 1-9 to the field.  Will the Falcons exhibit a “dead-cat bounce” here as did the Texans last week after jettisoning their coach and GM?   Does it matter? 

Houston at Tennessee – 3.5 (53):  Speaking of a “dead-cat bounce”, the problem is that the cat is actually dead [Forget Erwin Schrodinger here…] and it does not bounce twice.  This is a short week for the Titans having played on Tuesday night.

Washington at Giants – 3 (43):  Here we have the third game in the dead-heat as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  You almost have to root for a tie game here because neither team gives any indication that it deserves to win one.  It is another game where the combined records of the teams is 1-9 and they have been outscored by a combined 105 points.  Feel sad for me, please; this is the game in the early Sunday afternoon slot that I will get to watch…

Cleveland at Pittsburgh – 3 (51):  This is my runner-up for Game of the Week.  In addition to pairing two teams that are playing well, there is the interesting storyline of Myles Garrett renewing acquaintances with folks on the Steelers’ offensive line – – and presumably with Mason Rudolph during the warm-ups.  The Browns are at their best when they run the ball and control time and tempo; the Steelers play tough run defense.  This should be a great game to watch.  Here is a trend stat for you:

  • The last time the Browns beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh was in 2003.

Baltimore – 7.5 at Philly (48):  You can find the spread on this game as high as 9 points as of this morning; I suspect the line will trend up between now and game time.  The Eagles’ DL leads the NFL in sacks – – but they look to struggle here against the highly mobile Lamar Jackson.  Speaking of struggling, everybody’s offense struggles against the Ravens’ defense.

Cincy at Indy – 8 (46):  The Bengals had to contend with the Ravens’ defense last week and now they go on the road to play the Colts’ defense.  Joe Burrow will not quit, but he and his running buddies are over-matched here.

Green Bay at Tampa Bay “pick ‘em” (55.5):  This is my Game of the Week.  Two Hall of Fame QBs have at each other.  The Bucs bring the statistically superior defense to the party yielding 55 fewer yards per game than the Packers.  On the other hand, the Packers bring the statistically superior offense to the party averaging 80.5 more yards per game than the Bucs.

(Sun Nite) Rams – 3 at SF (51.5):  Here is one of the games with an unusually large line movement.  The spread opened with the Niners as 3-point favorites and it has flipped; the line has moved a full 6 points.  The Niners played poorly last week and may be suffering from “Super Bowl Hangover”.  The Rams’ defense was dominant last week against the WTFs, but they will not have it nearly as easy this week – – right?  I like the  Rams to win and cover here on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Jets at Miami – 10 (47):  The spread in this game presents two interesting twists:

  1. This is the 22nd game for Brian Flores as the head coach of the Dolphins.  AND it is the 1st time in his tenure there when his team has been favored.  And by 10 points nonetheless…!
  2. In fact, the last time the Dolphins were favored in a game predates Flores arrival in Miami.  It was back in Week 16 of the 2018 season when the Dolphins lost outright to the Jags as a 3-point favorite.  The coach of that Dolphins’ team was Adam Gase.

There is not a lot of reason to want to see this game unless you think the Dolphins at 2-3 can rally and threaten in the AFC East.

Denver at New England – 9 (45):  The Broncos have a win this year; that is good news.  The fact that their win came over the Jets mitigates the value a bit.  As of now, the word is that both Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore will be ready to play; hence the 9-point spread…

(Mon Nite 5:00 PM ET) KC – 4.5 at Buffalo (57):  The Bills played last Tuesday and here they are playing on a Monday.  Keep this up, and they will think they are back in college playing a MAC schedule.  Both teams suffered their first loss of the season last week and neither one wants to make it two in a row.  The two young QBs here are both playing very well this year.  I smell a shoot-out here; I like the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack. 

(Mon Nite 8:15 PM ET) Arizona – 1 at Dallas (55) :  Here is the other game this week with major spread movement.  The line opened with the Cowboys as 3-point favorites, so the line moved 4 points and flipped the favorite.  The Cowboys will have Andy Dalton at QB; the Cards will be without Chandler Jones as their premier edge rusher.  I expect a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott in this game and a lot of playmaking out of Kyler Murray.

Let me summarize the Six-Pack:

  1. UNC – 12.5 over Florida State
  2. Ole Miss – 1.5 over Arkansas
  3. BC +13 against Va Tech
  4. Panthers – 1.5 over Bears
  5. Rams – 3 over Niners
  6. Chiefs/Bills OVER 57

            Finally, here is a cogent NFL observation from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Wishing: It’s a terrible thing the NFL did canceling the Pro Bowl game for this season. The league should get rid of it forever.”

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