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:
- Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in SF began.
- The first broadcast episode of The Lone Ranger aired.
- The first edition of Newsweek magazine hits the streets.
- The board game, Monopoly, is released.
- MLB stages its first All-Star Game.
- 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:
- Turnover on downs
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…
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:
- The defense gave up 600 yards of offense to the Titans here
- 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:
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…
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………