A Dodgers’ Eruption…

I do not have any voodoo dolls here in Curmudgeon Central; I would not even know where to begin if I wanted to put a hex on someone of something; my depth of understanding of witchcraft pretty much begins and ends with the opening scene of Macbeth.  It is pure coincidence that I spoke highly just yesterday about the Atlanta Braves’ pitching staff and the Braves’ undefeated status in the MLB playoffs this year … and then watched to see the Dodgers score 11 runs in the first inning and go on to win yesterday’s playoff game 15-3.  Earl Weaver defined “momentum” in baseball in the following way:

“Momentum?  Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.”

Far be it from me to set aside a baseball observation from Earl Weaver, but yesterday’s first inning and final result has to make the Braves wonder if anyone got the license plate of the truck that just ran them over.  Oh, and by the way, the Dodgers’ “next day’s starting pitcher” is slated to be Clayton Kershaw whose back spasms have reportedly subsided…

In the other playoff series, the Astros survived a “win-or-go-home game” against the Rays, but they still trail in that series 3-1.  There is no NFL game tonight; this week’s Thursday game has been rescheduled as part of the NFL’s schedule gymnastics in these “times of COVID-19”.  Ergo, the Rays/Astros game that starts at 5:00 PM EDT this evening should be the viewing focus for sports fans in the US.

Moving on …  The Houston Texans won their first game of the season last weekend under interim coach, Romeo Crennel.  Absent a Hollywood-like trajectory for the rest of the season where the Texans never lose another game and go on to win the Super Bowl, Crennel at a current age of 73 is not going to be the next permanent head coach for the Texans.  And, even if that Hollywood scripted ending to the season comes to pass, Crennel would not get a 10-year contract as the next head coach of the Texans.

Last weekend also saw another owner decide to “go in a different direction”.  Arthur Blank owns the Atlanta Falcons and he decided after last week’s loss that put the team at 0-5 to start the 2020 season that it was time for a change.  Blank fired head coach, Dan Quinn; and then, he “took it up a notch”  [Hat Tip to Emeril Lagasse…] and also cut ties with GM Thomas Dimitroff.  Those actions make sense in the following way:

  • The Falcons are 0-5 this year; they were 7-9 in each of the last two seasons.
  • [Aside:  To me, it seemed as if the Falcons never rebounded from that stunning loss to the Pats in the Super Bowl in February 2017.]
  • However, if one believes that the team has been somehow “deficient” since that NFC Championship season, then there is plenty of “blame” to be shared by the coach and the GM.

[Aside:  For the record, my prediction in the NFL Pre-Season Analysis back on September 3rd was that Dan Quinn would make it through the 2020 season “without great jeopardy”.  So much for that prognostication…]

Note that both NFL teams that have made coaching changes this year have also made GM changes too because in Houston Bill O’Brien was the coach and the GM.  Might this be the dawning of a new era of accountability for GMs in the NFL?  If so, I would say that it is high time.

As the coaching searches in Houston and Atlanta gather steam, you will certainly hear the standard litany of names of every “hot” assistant coach or college coach or “temporarily unemployed” NFL head coach as being “on the list” or “in the mix”.  At some point or another, expect to hear and read about the following as the next head coach of the Houston Texans and/or the Atlanta Falcons:

  • Eric Bieniemy
  • James Franklin
  • Richie Kotite   [Just seeing if you are paying attention…]
  • Josh McDaniels
  • Urban Meyer
  • Lincoln Riley
  • Nick Saban
  • Dabo Swinney

I think there are two men who deserve consideration for head coaching jobs because of the way they have molded effective defenses in these “days of offense” in the NFL.  They are:

  1. Matt Eberflus – Defensive Coordinator for the Indy Colts:  He has been with the Colts for 2-plus seasons; he took over a defense that was not very good and through the first 4 games of the 2020 season was only allowing 14 points per game.  He is only 50 years old meaning he could well be around to sustain a rebuilding of an NFL franchise.
  2. Robert Saleh – Defensive Coordinator for the SF 49ers:  He was part of the defensive staff in Seattle that produced the Legion of Boom and a Super Bowl victory.  Kyle Shanahan hired him in SF and the Niners’ defense has been an important element in the team’s success over the past couple of years.  Saleh is only 41 years old; he seems to have an awfully long career ahead of him in the coaching business.

We shall see if either man emerges as a candidate for a chance to be an NFL head coach in the next spin of the NFL coaching wheel…

Finally, here is a Tweet from humorist, Brad Dickson:

“On the news tonight all they talked about were boycotts, protests, riots, violence, dissension, disease, lawsuits and court cases.  And that was just the sportscast.”

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



Please Vote …

In normal times – – and 2020 cannot be considered “normal times” on so many levels – – I implore folks quadrennially on Election Day to get out and vote.  It is a right conferred on people by their citizenship; it is a responsibility to one’s citizenship to exercise that right.

This year, Election Day may well be inconvenient for voting given the potential for higher turnout, stringent checks on the identity and the status of someone showing up to vote and the always possible threat of inclement weather in early November.  My long-suffering wife and I decided that we would take advantage of our retirement status and go out to vote today – – a Wednesday – – in the middle of the day.  When we arrived at our polling place and the two of us joined the line, we doubled the number of people in line waiting to vote.  It was as simple and as convenient a process as could be expected.

So, this year, let me urge everyone to get out and vote before Election Day or on Election Day or by mail  or by sending up a white puff of smoke from your chimney.  I do not endorse candidates; my political opinions are not important to you.  I do not want to know for whom you decide to vote; that is none of my business.

Please, just vote !



RIP Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan passed away earlier this week.  He was a worthy Hall of Fame player winning the NL MVP Award in consecutive seasons – a feat accomplished by less than a dozen players in baseball history.  He was the best second baseman that I ever saw in person.  After his playing days, Morgan became a baseball color analyst for baseball games on NBC and ESPN.

Rest in peace, Joe Morgan.

[Aside:  The last several months has been a difficult period for members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  In about 3 months’ time, Lou Brock, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Joe Morgan and Tom Seaver have all died.]

Sticking with baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays have taken a commanding 3-0 lead over the Houston Astros in the ALCS behind timely hitting and excellent defense.  The only time in MLB history when a team down 3-0 in a post-season series came back to win four straight games was when the Red Sox did that to the Yankees in 2004.  The Astros are not rolling over and playing dead; the Rays lead the series because they are playing better baseball.

In the NLCS, the Atlanta Braves maintained their undefeated status in the 2020 post-season last night beating the LA Dodgers 8-7 taking a 2-0 lead in the series.  Yesterday afternoon, Clayton Kershaw had to be scratched as the starting pitcher for the Dodgers due to back spasms; the team is hopeful that he can pitch again in Game 4.  The Braves have been nothing short of dominant in this year’s playoff games.

  • The Braves’ record is 7-0
  • The combined score in those 7 games is 37-13.
  • The team ERA in those 7 games is 1.60.

In NFL news, The LeVeon Bell Era in NY has come to an end.  The Jets released the clearly disgruntled RB, and he will become a free agent as soon as he clears waivers.  When Bell signed a long-term $52M deal with the team, it was prior to the hiring of Adam Gase and the coach/player relationship never developed.  Bell was dogged by injuries during his time with the Jets and his productivity declined significantly as compared to his days with the Steelers.  [Aside:  Some in NY might say that Bell “was dogging it” for at least some of his time there; I prefer not to engage in mind-reading.]

Bell appeared in 17 games for the Jets and never gained 100 yards in any of those games.  I ran across a stat related to that problematic productivity that I found interesting:

  • No Jets’ RB has rushed for 100 yards or more in a game since October 2018.
  • In that last game where a Jets’ RB ran for 100 yards, Isaiah Crowell set the Jets’ team record for yards in a game at 219 yards.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys signed QB, Garrett Gilbert, off the Browns’ practice squad.  With the gruesome injury to Dak Prescott last week and the elevation of Andy Dalton to the starting position, the Cowboys needed to augment their depth at QB.  The only other QB on the roster is rookie 7th round pick, Ben DiNucci.  Gilbert played college football at Texas; his NFL “career” is rather limited; he has only attempted 6 passes in the NFL despite being drafted in 2014.  Gilbert did lead the defunct AAF in passing while that league was still solvent  throwing for 2154 yards and 13 TDs with the Orlando Apollos.  DiNucci played his college football at Pitt and then at Division 1-AA, James Madison University.

Let me make an observation about the telecasts of NFL games this year.  Early on, I was watching when one of the Packers scored a TD and did a “Lambeau Leap” into the empty stands.  I thought that was clever as a one-off celebration.  However, the NFL is a copycat league and seems to live by the motto, “Nothing exceeds like excess”.  Now we have players holding their fingers over their lips to quiet crowds that are not there and/or players blowing kisses to “cardboard cutout fans” in the seats.  How stale have those sorts of things become?

The Washington WTFs demoted Dwayne Haskins from starting QB to #3 QB who would not be active for last Sunday’s game against the Rams.  Rather than be with the team, Haskins stayed home with an upset stomach.  According to the team’s new Director of Communications, Julie Donaldson, he had a bout of intestinal flu and that his absence had nothing to do with COVID-19.  I totally believe her about COVID-19; if the team were to try to be coy about a test result for the coronavirus, I think the league would land on the team like a ton of bricks.  Having said that, the WTF franchise is hardly a model of transparency, honesty and candor.  And so, the world will never know – or care for that matter – if Dwayne Haskins’ upset stomach would have been nearly as severe if he were still slated to start last Sunday’s game.

And by the way, it has been about 3 months now since the revelations of sexual harassment in the Washington front office and business office.  The team and the league began in investigation into those matters with lots of fanfare and posturing.  This investigative task is not the equivalent of the Warren Commission or the muddled mess facing the Senate Watergate Committee. So:

  • Question for the NFL and the WTFs:  How long might it be before we can expect to hear the findings of the investigation and the corrective actions taken by the team and the league?  Three months?  Six months?  The Twelfth of Never?

Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in his Seattle Times column last weekend:

“Q: What did SMU — whose entire student section got ejected from the Mustangs’ Oct. 3 game against Memphis for refusing to follow coronavirus protocols — and John McKay’s legendary USC football teams have in common?

“A: The student body left.”

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



RIP Whitey Ford

Whitey Ford died last weekend.  He was a mainstay of the Yankees’ pitching staff in the 1950s and 1960s which were dynastic years for the team.  Ford holds the highest winning percentage for pitchers with more than 200 wins in MLB history at .690.  Ford was known as “The Chairman of the Board” because of his calm and straightforward demeanor.  According to lore, he had been struggling with arm injuries for about 2 years (there was no Tommy John surgery or rotator cuff surgery in those days) and after 1 inning in a road game he walked to the dugout and then into the locker room and headed home.  He left a note on the locker of manager Ralph Houk that said, “I’ve had it; I’ll call you when I get home.”

Rest in peace, Whitey Ford.

Sticking with baseball for a moment, Bob Molinaro had this item in a column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Repairs needed: With everything else going on in America ― and the impact it’s having on sports ― MLB playoff games shouldn’t be high on anybody’s list of complaints. But, man, do these games drag ― averaging about 3 hours and 30 minutes. Pitching changes are relentless. Strikeouts come in comic abundance. Let’s face it, baseball is broken.

The key observation in that commentary is that the games drag – – and they do.  I am not referring to any sort of “drag” that comes from tight and low-scoring games; I enjoy games where a lead change is always imminent.  But the number of walks and strikeouts means that there are long stretches of time when the ball is never in play.  Some batter/pitcher matchups can be made into a TV mini-series as the pitcher fidgets around in the same zip code with the mound and the batter adjusts his gloves as often and as fastidiously as a super-model getting ready to stride down the runway.  That is not enjoyable viewing.

Another of the major tennis tournaments concluded over the weekend when Rafael Nadal won the French Open for the 13th time.  That means Nadal has now won 20 of tennis’ major tournaments and he did that by beating Novak Djokovic in the finals.  Djokovic is the #1 ranked player in the world, and he had not “lost” a match so far this year.  His only “loss” came in the US Open when he accidently hit a linesperson with a ball to her throat; and for that, he was disqualified.  Last weekend, Nadal beat him in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers for their convincing victory over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.  The NBA’s “Orlando Bubble” experiment worked even better than could have been wished for; players, coaches, staff and officials experienced no COVID-19 outbreaks.  For anyone who chooses to nit-pick here, just remember that it worked.  Now the Lakers and the rest of the NBA – along with the NBPA – must wrestle with some thorny issues for the future such as:

  • How will they handle the hit to revenue in 2020 because revenue in 2020 is what determines the salary cap in 2021?  When the NBA got a humongous new TV deal, the owners suggested phasing in the new cap numbers over several years and the players would have none of that.  Now, revenues went down sharply…
  • The schedule for next season is not going to be an easy thing to assemble.  When will the season start?  How many regular season games?  How to avoid having the playoffs draw so poorly against playoff baseball and the NFL?
  • Those decisions all involve money that flows to the owners and the players and the two sides now have about 6 weeks to figure it all out.

Dwight Perry commented on an interesting event that came out of the NBA’s “Orlando Bubble” experiment in the Seattle Times:

“Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook thanked the housekeeping staff at Orlando’s Grand Floridian hotel with a huge assist — an $8,000 tip — as he departed the NBA bubble.

“’They took great care of us,’ Westbrook told Bleacher Report. ‘Took the time and energy to do their job at a high level. That was the right thing. I like to do the right thing.’”

The “Bubble” was about 3 months long; indeed, the staff at the hotel performed their services over an extended time and obviously performed them to the great satisfaction of Russell Westbrook.  Even considering the fact that Russell Westbrook makes a ton of money playing NBA basketball, that was a generous and thoughtful gesture on his part.  If you want to read the backstory for this happening, you can find it here.

Anyone who has been reading these rants for a while knows that I like to have fun with the names of athletes that I run across.  Here are some college football players with names that made me smile:

  • Robert Corner III is a defensive back for UTEP – – Of course that is his position
  • Phat Watts is a WR for Tulane – – Not a good name for a WR
  • Bumper Pool is a LB for Arkansas – – He bumps into lots of people at that position
  • Chase Oliver is a LB for Fla. St. – – I love names that are complete sentences
  • KJ Vault is a S for Tulane – – I wonder if he is majoring in banking

And there are always those players whose names give copy editors nightmares – – such as:

  • Eugentavious Blue – – WR  Miss Valley State
  • Kwatrivous Johnson – – OL  Mississippi State
  • Izuchukwu King Ani – – DE  Mississippi State
  • Simeon Nwokenkwo – – LB  Grambling

Finally, Tom Brady lost track of downs at the end of last week’s loss to the Bears.  Greg Cote had this comment – and confession – related to that incident in the Miami Herald last weekend:

“What were the odds of Tom Brady forgetting it was fourth down? Only time Greg Cote gets mixed up on small numbers is when he shoots a six on a golf hole and ‘mistakenly’ writes five on his scorecard.”

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



Football Friday 10/9/20

Some folks find themselves in tedious and/or dead-end jobs which makes the typical work week a slogging and repetitive quest to make it to Friday.  For some of these people, just getting to Friday without committing mayhem in the workplace is an accomplishment.  Fortunately, no such milieu exists here in Curmudgeon Central because every day allows for critical commentary on some aspects of the world of sports.

Nonetheless, there is general exuberance in the air here on Fridays in the autumn because those Fridays are reserved for Football Friday.  Even the necessity to record the disastrous results of last week’s Six-Pack cannot kill the joy here in the room.  Here are the results from last week:

  • College:  1-3-0
  • NFL:  0-2-0
  • Combined:  1-5-0

That reduces the previously positive record for Six Packs to:

  • College:  4-6-1
  • NFL:  7-5-0
  • Combined:  11-11-1

Before proceeding to commentary, there is a betting issue or lesson from last week’s Six-Pack.  Last Friday morning, I picked the Pats +7.5 against the Chiefs; either last Friday evening or early Saturday morning, I learned that Cam Newton would not play in that game due to a positive COVID-19 test.  Had I known that on Friday morning …

The football gods giveth and the football gods taketh away.  Those folks who took the Chiefs on Friday – or earlier in the week – got themselves a bargain as the spread went up as high as 10.5 points early on Sunday.  Folks such as I who took the Pats early in the week  were not so fortunate.

This is the reason they call it gambling.  It is not banking; it is gambling.  Such are the ways of the gambling world…


NCAA Commentary:


Eight ranked teams lost last weekend.  Granted there were three games that paired one ranked team against another ranked team; and since there are not ties in college football, that guaranteed at least three ranked teams would take it in the ear.  Nevertheless, there were still five other ranked teams that lost last week.

  • That is not a usual outcome
  • In this year where only about 60% of the teams are playing so far, the number of “ranked teams” is concentrated in the active conferences meaning the “ranked teams” represent mid-tier teams from the active conferences.
  • Rather than try to analyze or rationalize this sort of thing, I suggest that we simply acknowledge that 2020 is and will be a “Black Swan season” and just take it as it comes.

There was one loss by a “ranked team” that stood out to me.  It stood out because there was an awful lot of chitter-chatter about this team being “really good” and possibly a sleeper for the CFP.  I am referring to the University of Central Florida (UCF).  Last week, the Golden Knights lost at home to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 34-26.  Going into the week, there were some people who were floating the idea that UCF was the best college football team in the State of Florida conjuring up rationales as to why they were better than Miami or Florida or even hapless Florida State.  Here is some of what happened in that game:

  • UCF was penalized 18 times in the game for 124 yards.
  • Both teams recorded a safety in the game – not a commonplace occurrence.
  • UCF led – at home where they had won 21 games in a row – 23-5 with a minute-and-a-half to play in the first half.
  • UCF led 26-29 with 11 minutes left in the third quarter meaning they were held scoreless for the final 26 minutes of the game.

Not only did UCF crash and burn at home last week; it did so against a mid-level opponent.  I have perused the various rankings for college teams this week after Tulsa’s victory at UCF and cannot find them in any of the Top 25 listings.  Recalling that only about 70 teams are playing now, that pretty much defines Tulsa as a mid-level team.

I do not mean to imply here that UCF is a bad team; they are not.  I do mean to imply that some of the fanboys who write about and comment on college football were in some sort of erratic orbit when they hinted at UCF being the best team in Florida or a sleeper for the CFP.  Regarding UCF and the CFP, the seemingly most appropriate thing to say now is the refrain often heard on the old TV show, Match Game:

“What lovely parting gifts do we have for UCF, Johnny…?”

It is difficult for me to point to the most embarrassing loss for a ranked team last weekend because both are embarrassing:

  1. TCU 33  Texas  31:  No miracle comeback for Texas this week; this was a  home loss to an unranked opponent.  TCU ran 80 plays and had 25 first downs; Texas ran only 60 plays and had only 16 first downs.  The score makes it look closer than it really was.
  2. Iowa St. 37  Oklahoma  30:  That is the second loss in a row for the Sooners who led by a TD with 8 minutes to play.  On the kickoff after the TD that gave them that lead, the Cyclones got an 85-yard return that set up a tying score.  Then Iowa St. got the ball again and won the game with another TD.  Here is a mini-fact coming out of this game:  The last time Oklahoma lost to Iowa St. in Ames IA was in 1960.

Texas and Oklahoma will meet in the usually highly anticipated “Red River Showdown” this week.  This year the teams will arrive this year with a mediocre combined record of 3-3.  Oklahoma has been the Big-12 Conference Champion for the last 5 years, but they now have 2 losses in conference and that will be difficult to overcome.  The Texas defense has been embarrassingly bad so far this year, so maybe the Big-12 race is wide open for 2020.  I will go out on a limb here and declare early in the season that:

  • Kansas will NOT win the Big-12!

I do not know who will win that conference, perhaps Oklahoma State?  The Cowboys demolished the aforementioned Kansas last week 47-7.  In that game, Oklahoma State gained 593 yards on offense as opposed to 193 for Kansas.  The Cowboys were 9-18 on third down conversions and the Jayhawks were 1-14.  This was a butt-stomping…

If you ignore that opening week loss by K-State to Arkansas State, perhaps Kansas State could make noise in the Big-12 race?  It should be wide open in the heartland…

Air Force put a whipping on Navy last week 40-7.  Air Force gained 410 yards on offense and held Navy to only 241 yards.  Navy actually led 7-3 early in the second quarter and then the roof caved in.

UNC beat BC 26-22.  There was an unusual play at the end of this game.  The Tar Heels led 24-22 but BC had just scored a TD and was going for a 2-point conversion to tie the game and send it to OT because there was less than a minute left on the clock.  The pass attempt for that 2-point conversion was intercepted and returned 99 yards the other way giving UNC 2 points and creating that final score.

Alabama beat Texas A&M  52-24.  Alabama ran up 542 yards offense which was 9.9 yards per offensive snap.  Given the Alabama defense and the amount of raw talent on that defensive unit, college opponents are in deep yogurt if they allow the Alabama offense to operate with that level of efficiency.

In other SEC action, Georgia beat Auburn 27-6:  This was a dominant performance by the Georgia defense.  Auburn had only 177 yards passing and 39 yards on the ground.  That defense just might be good enough to get the Dawgs to the SEC Championship Game.

Tennessee beat Missouri 35-12 last week.  Tennessee has looked good so far this year and last week they ran the ball for 232 yards and 4 TDs in that win over Missouri.  This week they go to Athens to play Georgia.  Can they run the ball on that defense?  That will be an interesting stat to look for…

Arkansas beat Mississippi State last week 21-14.  In one sense, this is a shocking result given that the Bulldogs beat LSU two weeks ago and racked up 600 yards passing on the LSU defense.  In another sense this is “business as usual” for a Mike Leach team; his Air Raid offense is known for fireworks and stats – – but not for consistency.  After beating the defending national champions, Mississippi State turned around and lost at home to a team that had lost 20 consecutive conference games over a nearly 3-year time span.  The Air Raid offense can be a ton of fun to watch; it can also drive one to drink – – heavy drink.

Because I mentioned UCF and its purported status as the best football team in the State of Florida, I feel that I should point out that Florida State recorded a win last week – albeit one over Jacksonville State which is a Division 1-AA team.  The score was 41-24 but a program with the history of Florida State was really punching down in this matchup.  Jacksonville State is part of the Ohio Valley conference which is the home of football programs such as Austin Peay, Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee Tech.  Nonetheless, Jacksonville state led this game 21-7 with about 4 minutes to play in the second quarter.  It was a win; it was not a dominant win.

Before moving into the Games of Interest this week, let me offer up an observation about this year’s “Red River Showdown”.  Either Texas or Oklahoma will lose that game and the rabid fans aligned with both schools will not take kindly to the result.  I fully suspect the losing coach will become a piñata for the fanboys on various social media platforms.  I think the most measured commentary about the losing coach will be that he ought to be fired and bought out of his contract; many of the comments will go much further and involve illegal or physically impossible acts.  Here is a hunch:

  • I suspect that next week will be the first week of the college football season where someone speculates on what it will take to get Urban Meyer back into college coaching – – and it will be by the fans of the school that loses the Texas/Oklahoma game.


College Games of Interest:


Tennessee at Georgia – 12.5 (43):  As mentioned above, this game will be interesting from a statistical standpoint.  Tennessee is 2-0 for the year and has scored 66 points in those two wins.  The Georgia defense has looked really good so far this year.  So, how will this one play out?  The spread for the game opened at 14 points and clearly there was enough “Tennessee money” coming in to drop that line by 1.5 points.

Alabama – 23 at Ole Miss (69):  Nick Saban’s defense will be tested by Lane Kiffin’s offense here.  I believe that the outcome of that test will determine the winner of this game against the spread.  The Ole Miss defense is not going to shut down the Bama offense.  In two games this year, the Ole Miss defense has allowed a total of 1201 yards – – 600.5 yards per game.  Of the 74 Division 1-A schools playing to date, Ole Miss ranks 74th.

Arkansas at Auburn – 13.5 (47.5):  Can Arkansas win 2 SEC games in a row?  I doubt it.  At the same time, what did Auburn show anyone last week that might indicate it should be a 2 TD favorite over a conference opponent?

Mississippi St. at Kentucky – 2 (58):  Which Bulldog team will make the trip to Lexington?  The one that smoked LSU or the one that wet the bed against Arkansas?  Kentucky has two ingredients to keep the Air Raid offense in check; the Wildcats like to run the football (276.5 yards per game so far this year) thus keeping the Bulldogs’ offense on the sidelines and the Wildcats have a respectable pass defense too.  Should be an interesting game…

Florida – 6 at Texas A&M (57):  The Aggies were over their heads last week against Alabama; Florida may well be the best SEC East team if Georgia is not.  The Gators’ defense is uncharacteristically porous this year giving up 471 yards per game so far this year – – but I do not trust the Aggies offense to be dominant there.  I like Florida to win and cover here; put it in the Six Pack.

Miami at Clemson – 14 (62.5):  This is the College Game of the Week.  Lots of people have focused on the offenses for these two teams and their ability to score with big plays and gaudy stats.  I think the proper focus is on the defensive units here.  Clemson is allowing only 303 yards per game; Miami is allowing only 377 yards per game.  Unless one of the teams jumps out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, I think both coaches will opt to let their defenses keep things under control and play for a winning score late in the game.  I like this game to stay UNDER 62.5; put it in the Six-Pack.

Duke – 2.5 at Syracuse (51):  Duke is 0-4; Duke leads the ACC in turning the ball over; Duke is on the road against a team that always plays better at home than anywhere else; on defense Duke gives up 440 yards per game and 32.3 points per game..  Those are facts; why is Duke favored?  I like Syracuse at home to win outright so I’ll take them plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Oklahoma – 2 vs Texas (72):  This game could unfold in so many different ways that I would only venture a pick if I already had time-traveled on to Sunday morning so I could look at the final score to get it right.  The only thing I am confident in here is that there will be scoring; this will not be a 17-10 game unless it is played in a monsoon.

K-State at TCU – 8 (51):  K-State has racked up two upsets; TCU has had one upset.  Do I trust either team to emerge as a “player” in any sort of national discussion?  No, I do not…

Temple – 3.5 at Navy (50.5):  Here is another mysterious game.  Navy has been blown out twice and made a miracle comeback to eke out a win over Tulane.  Temple is playing its first game of the year.  The only thing that is certain here is that the Owls will not be traveling very far to reach the game venue.

Florida State at Notre Dame – 21 (51):  Do not be fooled by the Seminoles’ “offensive explosion” last week putting 41 points on the scoreboard; that was against Jacksonville State; the Notre Dame defense will be just a tad better.  In fact, Notre Dame’s defense ranks 11th in the nation giving up only 282.5 yards per game.


NFL Commentary:


Let me begin this week by posing a rhetorical question that has come up before:

  • Which of the two NYC teams – which never play in NYC itself – will be the first to win a game this year?

Both the Giants and the Jets have been lousy this year.  The Jets have been outscored by 66 points so far – – worst in the NFL.  Meanwhile the Giants have been outscored by 49 points so far this year – – next-to-worst in the NFL.  The Jets have a quarterback who regressed last year and certainly has not markedly improved from that regression in 2020.  The Giants have a quarter back who is in the midst of a regression year.  The Giants have a first-year head coach; it is too early to declare that he is not made from the right stuff, but he surely has not “exploded onto the scene”.  The Jets have a coach who seems to want to find new ways to piss off his players and/or the folks who cover the team.

  • The Giants and the Jets both reside in Dysfunction Junction.

Let me look ahead at the schedules for both teams.  Games highlighted here are ones where the NYC team has a real chance to come away with a win.

  • October 11:  Giants at Dallas    Jets vs Arizona
  • October 18:  Giants vs. Washington    Jets at Chargers
  • October 22:  Giants at Philly
  • October 25:  Jets vs Buffalo
  • November 1:  Jets at KC
  • November 2:  Giants vs Tampa Bay
  • November 8:  Giants at Washington
  • November 9:  Jets vs. New England
  • November 15:  Giants vs Philly    Jets at Miami
  • November 22:  Giants BYE WEEK    Jets BYE WEEK
  • November 29:  Giants at Cincy    Jets vs. Miami
  • December 6:  Giants at Seattle    Jets vs. Las Vegas
  • December 13:  Giants vs Arizona    Jets at Seattle
  • December 20:  Giants vs. Cleveland    Jets at Rams
  • December 27:  Giants at Baltimore    Jets vs. Cleveland
  • January 3:  Giants vs. Dallas    Jets at New England

Forget the highlighted games there for a moment and simply reflect on the reality that the 2020 NFL season looks grim for fans in NYC, Northern NJ and downstate Connecticut.

Changing topics, the NFC East is a certified mess and it is interesting to note that after 25% of the 2020 NFL season is in the books, all four teams in that division have been outscored by opponents by at least 20 points.  The Cowboys have scored 126 points in 4 games (31.5 points per game) and are still negative in point differential.

Meanwhile, all four teams in the NFC West have a positive scoring differential after 4 games of the season.  Interestingly, the Niners who are “last in the division” at the moment thanks to tiebreakers have the biggest point differential in that division at +36 points.

And one final bit of NFL commentary if I may…  You have certainly heard about or read about the WTFs decision to bench QB Dwayne Haskins.  Lots of folks have opined that this is too hasty a decision and that elevating Kyle Allen to the starting role is not akin to sitting Haskins but replacing him with a luminous backstop.  Make of that what you will; time will tell if Dwayne Haskins has an NFL career worthy of remembering or if he is simply a latter-day version of JaMarcus Russell and/or Akili Smith.  Here is what I find interesting in this matter:

  • Danny Boy Snyder has – since the time he bought the team in the late 1990s – fancied himself as part of the football talent evaluation team in the organization.
  • According to reports, he has “advocated for” 4 QBs to be the team starter in the last 20 years.
  • All 4 of those QBs turned out to be “mediocre at best”.
  • The first was Jeff George signed as the swan song to his career.  When Marty Schottenheimer benched George in 2001, that pretty much sealed the deal that Schottenheimer was not going to last long in DC.  He was fired after 1 season.
  • Next was Patrick Ramsey drafted by the team in 2002.  Danny Boy bragged to reporters covering the team that it was he who “discovered” Ramsey and his cannon for an arm.  New coach Steve Spurrier acceded to pressure and started Ramsey 5 times as a rookie with marginal results.  Ramsey’s NFL career spanned 7 seasons; however, after he left Washington in 2005, he never started another game in the league.
  • The third one was RG3.  Reports said that it was the owner who traded up to get the opportunity to draft RG3 with the #2 overall pick in 2012.  [Aside:  Andrew Luck was the #1 pick that year.]  Reports at the time indicated that RG3 had the ability to take issues to Danny Boy directly bypassing the coaching staff.  That led eventually to a rift between Mike Shanahan and Danny Boy and it had the secondary effect of having Kyle Shanahan take his coaching talents elsewhere.
  • And now we have the saga of Dwayne Haskins who was a “local kid” who happened to go to school with Danny Boy’s son and presented Danny Boy with another opportunity to “take over the first round of the draft” to assure that Haskins became one of the WTFs.  When Coach Jay Gruden would not play Haskins last year despite starting the season with an 0-5 record, that intransigence greased the skids for Gruden to be sent packing.

While it may be that the Giants and the Jets both reside in Dysfunction Junction, the WTFs – under whatever name they operate under – have existed in a 20-year environment of Meddlesome Ignorance.  You make the call as to which situation is worse…

Last week, the sorry-assed Jets lost by 11 points to the previously winless Broncos.  The Broncos gave Brett Rypien – an undrafted free agent – his first NFL start, and he managed to score 37 points on the Jets’ defense.  That number of points is bad enough for the defensive stalwarts in NY to deal with but consider that Rypien also threw 3 INTs that terminated possessions that could have put even more points on the scoreboard.  Another black mark for the Jets’ defense is that they led 28-27 with 6 minutes to play and then proceeded to surrender 10 points with the game on the line to a first-time starter.  And on top of all that, the Jets gave the Broncos 7 first downs on penalties.

The Saints beat the Lions 35-29  The Lions blew another double-digit lead here; they led 14-0 in the first quarter and then reverted to being “The Lions”; the score at the half was 28-14 and when the Saints scored on their first possession of the second half, it meant that the Lions’ defense had given up TDs on 5 consecutive drives.  The Saints were 10 for 14 on third down tries and held the ball for 36 minutes.

The Bengals beat the Jags 33-25.  Did the Bengals offense mature after their dismal showing in that tie game against the Eagles or is the Jags’ defense really that bad.  The Bengals had 508 yards of offense.  Joe Mixon did a “Jim Brown imitation” here running for 151 yards 2 TDs and 30 yards worth of pass receptions and Joe Burrow went north of 300 yards again.

The Vikes beat the Texans 31-23.  The Vikes got big games on offense from Kirk Cousins, Adam Theilen Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson.  That is  good news for them; the Vikes offense has been mediocre at best prior to last week’s eruption.  Meanwhile, they won the game by only a one-score margin even with those four offensive players doing very well.  In fact, a 4th quarter TD pass by Deshaun Watson was overruled on replay or the game would have been even closer.  That is not so good news for the Vikes.  Meanwhile, you have to look very hard to find good news of any kind for the Texans who fall to 0-4 now.  The Texans offense sure looks as if it could use DeAndre Hopkins more than it can David Johnson; the caretaker regime of Romeo Crennel begins this week…

The Ravens beat the WTFs 31-17.  Here is a list of the good news items for the WTFs:

  • Dwayne Haskins did not throw up on his shoes this week as he had done the week before.
  • That’s it; that’s the list.

Notwithstanding that performance by Haskins, it was insufficient for him to keep his job as the starting QB for the WTFs going forward.  Several of the WTF players had positive stats that were meaningless because anyone watching that game knows that the Ravens were never in the slightest danger of losing.  In fact, the score is much closer than the game was; the WTFs got a meaningless TD with 2 minutes left in the game that makes it look “respectable”.

The Bucs beat the Chargers 38-31.  I think Justin Herbert is going to be “the real deal” in the NFL; he still must learn his craft, but he looks promising to me.  Meanwhile, Tom Brady had a more-than-workmanlike game here with 369 yards passing and 5 TDs.  Ho hum …  Oh, by the way, those 5 TD passes went to 5 different receivers.  Not bad at all.

The Seahawks beat the Dolphins 31-23.  The Dolphins moved the ball well – – until it came time to put it in the end zone.  Dolphins had 415 yards of offense for the day.  The Dolphins’ only TD in the game came in the final 2 minutes of the game.  Up until then all the scoring drives ended in field goals but the drives were impressive until the end:

  • 41-yard field goal after 9 plays and 64 yards consuming 4:02
  • 29-yard field goal after 8 plays and 64 yards consuming 3:43
  • 45-yard field goal after 10 plays and 48 yards consuming 4:21
  • 43-yard field goal after 10 plays and 55 yards consuming 5:49
  • 29-yard field goal after 17 plays and 73 yards consuming 7:59

[Aside:  There were only 3 penalties called in the game – – all 3 were against the Dolphins.  That is an oddity…]

The Browns beat the Cowboys 49- 38.  The Cowboys’ offense is gold-plated; the Cowboys’ defense is putrid; that defense gave up 508 yards to the Browns here.  At one point, the Browns scored 30 unanswered points in this fiasco.  The bad news for Browns is that Nick Chubb left the game in the first half and could not return.  Here are two stats I ran across earlier this week relative to the Cowboys and the Browns:

  1. The last two teams to score 49 or more points on the Cowboys in Dallas both made it to the Super Bowl later that season.  The Eagles did it in 2004 and the Broncos did it in 2013.
  2. Dak Prescott has had to throw the ball a ton this year playing catch-up or keep-up due to the lack of a Cowboys’ defense.  Prescott is on pace to throw for 6,760 yards this year.  For perspective, the NFL single season record for passing yards is held by Peyton Manning at a mere 5,477 yards.

The Rams beat the Giants 17- 9.  The Giants’ defense played very well here; the Rams could only generate 240 yards total offense for the game.  Meanwhile, the Giants’ offense was pathetic; they got to the Red Zone 4 times and came away with 3 chip-shot field goals and nothing else.  This is the second straight game where the Giants have not scored a TD.

The Panthers beat the Cards 31-21.  I have two questions here:

  1. When are the Arizona Cardinals going to learn how to beat the teams they are supposed to beat?
  2. Is the Panthers’ defense REALLY that good?

The Cards only managed to produce 262 yards on offense for the day as compared to 444 yards for the Panthers.  The Panthers ran the ball for 168 yards averaging almost 5 yards per carry – – without Christian McCaffrey.  That rushing game allowed the Panthers to control the ball for 37 minutes.  The Panthers have won 2 in a row with McCaffrey on the sidelines.

The Colts beat the Bears 19-11.  With this victory, the Colts extend their record to 3-1 even though they are only scoring 14 points per game.  Much of the game coverage focused on the fact that Nick Foles was “less than fully successful” as a starting QB once again in this game.  Overlooked was that this Colts’ defense is very good.  In this game, the Colts’ defense held the Bears to 28 yards rushing; talk about making an offense one-dimensional…  The Colts’ offense needs to wake up; it is hard to win in the NFL in 2020 if you cannot score.

The Bills beat the Raiders 30-23:  Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs have found “their chemistry”; this was another game where Diggs had more than 100 yards receiving.  The Bills’ defense was better in this game than it has been earlier in the season.  Two fourth quarter fumbles lost by the Raiders sealed the deal here.   Do not ignore Josh Allen and his performance for the Bills to date this year; has a 122.7 QB Rating for the first 4 games this year.  Forget the number itself and how it is calculated; focus on this:

  • Only Russell Wilson has a higher QB Rating for the first four games of 2020.

The Chiefs beat the Pats 26-10.  The game was close until a Pick-Six in the second half by Chiefs put it out of reach.  The Pats’ defense kept them in the game; the Chiefs had all of 6 points at halftime.  Brian Hoyer played poorly here making mental and physical errors until he was pulled in favor of Jarret Stidham in the second half.

The Eagles beat the Niners 25-20.  The Eagles lead the NFC East at 1-2-1.  They are a hot mess; the Cowboys are a simmering mess; the WTFs and the Giants are a mess at a rolling boil.  The Eagles won despite fielding a receiving corps made up of Manny Moe and Jack.  [If you are too young to relate to that trio, Google is your friend…]  The Niners were also in a state worse than decimation regarding injuries – –  and it showed.  The Niners’ Brandon Aiyuk looks as if he going to be a really good WR.

The Packers beat the Falcons 30-16.  This was another game that was never in doubt.  The Falcons are 0-4 and face a crucial part of their schedule:

  • Vs Panthers
  • At Vikes
  • Vs Lions
  • At Panthers
  • Vs Broncos

Those are 5 winnable games in a row for the Falcons.  They need to win at least 4 of those games.  Meanwhile, the Packers are 4-0 for two years in a row – – the first time that has happened on “the frozen tundra” since some guy named Lombardi was their coach.  The Falcons never led last week; so, there was no possibility of them blowing a lead to lose yet another game.  Packers’ TE, Robert Tonyan, caught 6 passes for 98 yards and 3 TDs here.  Raise your hand if you know where he played college football.  That would be at Indiana State in the Missouri Valley Football Conference facing opponents such as N. Dak. State,  S. Dak. State,  Illinois State, and Missouri State.

One last thing before getting to this week’s games…  The Broncos now have 4 QBs on their roster who are between the ages of 23-28.  I feel confident in saying that none of them have yet proven conclusively that they are “the franchise QB for the Broncos over the next five years”.  That means the Broncos need to develop one of these four – – or start over in a QB search that seems never to end in Denver.  Here are the incumbents in alphabetical order:

  • Blake Bortles – age 28
  • Jeff Driskel – age 27
  • Drew Lock – age 23
  • Brett Rypien – age 24


NFL Games:


            The Lions and the Packers are on their BYE Weeks.  The Lions need to figure out how to hold onto leads; the Packers need to keep doing what they have been doing because it has resulted in a 4-0 record and an average of 38 points per game on the scoreboard.

Carolina at Atlanta – 1 (54):  The spread for this game is all over the place.  It opened the week at 3.5 points and has been dropping all week.  This morning you can find it at 2 points, and you can find the game as a “pick ‘em game”.  The Panthers have been a positive surprise for their fans; nothing remotely similar can be said of the Falcons so far this year.  As noted above, this begins a critical 5-game stretch for the Falcons; winning this game at home might be a turning point for the Falcons’ season; losing this game at home might render the season moot.  The temptation is strong to take this game to stay UNDER 54 points – – but I shall resist that temptation.

Las Vegas at KC – 11 (55):  The Chiefs offense sputtered last week against the Pats’; a late game Pick-Six made it look as if the Chiefs figured things out in the second half.  The Raiders’ defense is a bit more porous; the Raiders’ defense has allowed 30 points per game so far this year – – and – – the Raiders have not yet faced an offense quite as explosive as the one it will face here.  I really hate double-digit spreads in the NFL so I will avoid making a selection here but there are two “trend stats” that are interesting:

  1. Chiefs are 11-1-1 in covering the spread in their last 13 games
  2. Andy Reid is 10-4 covering the spread against the Raiders since he took over in KC.

Denver at New England (no lines):  If this game is played this weekend, I suspect the Broncos’ offense will not score 37 points as it did last weekend.  If Cam Newton is cleared to play, I think the Pats win comfortably; if the Pats need to play Brian Hoyer and/or Jarret Stidham, I think the Pats will win but it will be close.

Rams – 7.5 at Washington (45):  The good news for the Rams is that the WTFs are not a good team.  The bad news for the Rams is that this is their 3rd trip to the East Coast in 5 weeks and that has to take a toll; the offense was lethargic against the Giants last week.  Much of the focus will be on Kyle Allen starting in place of Dwayne Haskins this week.  If you are sentenced to watching this game by your local TV coverage, do not focus on Allen at QB; focus on Aaron Donald playing against the OL of the WTFs.

Jax at Houston – 5 (54.5):  On Wall Street, when a company is in desperate straits and their stock drops 50 % in a day or two, the traders look for what the call a “Dead Cat Bounce”.  That means at some point the stock will show a sharp small rise in price because it sold off so quickly much the way a dead cat’s carcass would “bounce” if you threw it out of a 10-story window.  The Houston Texans are due for the NFL analog of the “Dead Cat Bounce” this week.  They have a new head man on the sidelines; there are probably a few players who now realize that ownership might consider certain players’ jobs “expendable” just as it did with the recently departed coach.  Add to that situation this simple and unavoidable fact:

  • The Jags stink!

I think the Texans get their first win of the season here and I think they do it in style; I’ll take the Texans to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Buffalo at Tennessee (no lines):  Take away all the drama surrounding the Titans and their COVID-19 outbreak, and this would be a VERY interesting game – – in fact,  the Game of the Week.  But I suspect the drama will win out here.  Too bad…

Arizona – 7.5 at Jets (46.5):  Joe Flacco takes over for Sam Darnold this week.  Other than that, I cannot find anything abut this game that is interesting.  This is my Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

Philly at Pittsburgh – 7 (44):  This is  a battle between two division-leading teams.  Yes, the Steelers are 3-0 and have shown a really good defense thus far in 2020.  Meanwhile, the Eagles are merely the least worst team in the NFC East.  I think the Steelers’ defense will dominate here; I like the Steelers at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Cincy at Baltimore – 13 (51):  Lamar Jackson sat out a practice earlier this week to rest a sore knee; the next day they said he had an “illness”.  The line for the game did not move even a half-point with either announcement.  Joe Burrow got his first NFL win last week throwing for 300 yards against the Jags.  Lamar Jackson or no Lamar Jackson, the Ravens’ defense is quite a different animal than the Jags’ defense.

Miami at SF – 9 (52):  The Total Line for this game opened the week at 48.5 points and has been climbing all week; it is even at 52.5 at two sportsbooks now.  As of this morning, it is not certain if Jimmy Garoppolo can play this weekend; that 9-point spread says – or at least assumes – he will be in the starting lineup.  But who knows?  The Dolphins are not a good team but the Niners are the football equivalent of a field hospital.  I like the Dolphins to keep it closer than a TD; so, I’ll take then plus the points.  AND, since the concept of a Six-Pack is generic and not literal, I will ALSO take this game to stay UNDER.

Giants at Dallas – 9 (54):  This game got serious consideration as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Here we have an inept offense for the Giants that has not produced a single TD in two full games against a Cowboys’ defense that gives up 36.5 points per game.  Best thing I can say about the game is that it is a “division rivalry”.

Indy – 1 at Cleveland (46.5):  The Colts have only given up 56 points this year in 4 games.  That is the lowest total in the NFL even though the Steelers and their excellent defense has only played 3 games.  I think this will be a low scoring game that never is outside a one-score contest.

(Sun Nite) Minnesota at Seattle – 7 (56.5):  The Vikes got an important win last week in that it took some of the heat off Mike Zimmer and the coaching staff.  The bad news for this week is that the Vikes’ defense has given up 31 points per game and the Seahawks have the second-highest scoring offense in the NFL at 35.5 points per game.  This should be a high-scoring affair and I do not think the Vikes can keep pace.

(Mon Nite) Chargers at New Orleans – 8 (50):  The Saints are 2-2 – – but the eyeball test says they are “better than that”.  The Chargers are 1-3 – – but the eyeball test says they might be “better than that”.  Here is a trend you might find interesting:

  • The Saints have covered the spread in their last 13 games played in the month of October.

Finally, since I mentioned directly the sorry state of the NY Jets at this time, let me present you with a quotation from former Jets’ QB, Geno Smith as a way to remind you that the Jets have been “problematic” for a while now:

“It’s almost exciting to think about all the room for improvement that we have.”

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



The Coronavirus, King Louis XIV And The NFL…

The novel coronavirus – the one that causes folks to come down with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – is a center of attention for many categories of folks in the US.  Scientists and physicians work to try to understand the virus to find ways to “eradicate it”.  Politicians focus on actions they have taken – or would take if they had the chance – to mitigate the spread of the virus and the number of citizens who become infected.  Ordinary citizens choose the amount of caution they will accept in their normal lives to avoid contracting the disease while still being able to survive financially.  You get the idea…

Another category of folks focused on the coronavirus is the group of people who are trying to run business enterprises while everything else is going on.  One such entity in the middle of all this is the National Football League.  Looking at the arc of the NFL’s attempts to deal with the virus while still trying to maintain revenue streams, here is what I see:

  • Early on, the NFL shut everything down – no workouts, no OTAs, no people in team facilities.
  • To keep the league alive, it began to adapt by doing things virtually – including the NFL Draft.
  • However, there is no way to play the games virtually …
  • Faced with the economic necessity of “re-opening” the league spent time working to come up with mitigating strategies to add health and safety protocols to their extant team rules and regulations.  [Aside:  Some might say the NFL squandered some of the time it had to do this by trying to wish the virus away.  I think worrying about answers on that dimension is not a fruitful way to spend my own time and energy.]

And now the NFL must deal with the behaviors exhibited and the choices made by the 3000 or so folks who get the product on the field and on TV which is where the revenue comes from.  The NFL protocols were never going to be as draconian or as effective as those imposed by the NBA in its “Orlando Bubble”.  Nonetheless, the NFL got to a stage where the number of positive tests was exceptionally low meaning that the positivity rate for that subset of the general population was something the scientists and politicians would hope to achieve everywhere.   Now with a tip of the hat to King Louis XIV of France and a minor modification of his declaration:

Après cela, le déluge.

For the first three weeks of the season, the virus appeared to be held at bay.  There were positive tests here or there, but nothing that might be seen as the virus having breached the defenses erected by the league.  There were some “poor choices” and “improper behaviors” demonstrated by coaches who chose not to wear masks/PPE on the sidelines during games; the league dealt with that the way it deals with most things by fining the coaches and the teams.  I believe – but certainly cannot prove – that some of the NFL execs figured out that fines were not going to be sufficient to get the attention of millionaire players and coaches or billionaire owners so the league floated the idea that fines might be escalated to suspensions and or loss of draft picks in the event of future flaunting of the rules.  Amazingly, those coaches began immediately to “make better choices”…

Even with all the precautions and the protocols and the rapid assessments of penalties for violation the protocols, the NFL now faces an outbreak.  The Tennessee Titans have about 2 dozen players, coaches and team personnel who have tested positive.  The Titans’ game against the Steelers last week had to be postponed and the NFL schedule for several teams had to be juggled to accommodate the time when the titans/Steelers game could be replayed.  The Titans went into lockdown; things appeared to be on the mend – – and then there were several new positive tests “in the building”.  [Aside:  The NFL should be thankful that the Vikings, who played the Titans just days before the rash of positive tests among the Titans, did not experience any wave of positive tests among their players/coaches.]

There are reports that the NFL is investigating how this outbreak may have begun and one report said that the Titans may not have followed the prescribed rules for bringing in a new player for the roster.  If that is the case and it can be shown that the current problems can be linked directly to that evasion of the protocol standards, I am not sure there are sufficiently severe punishments available to the Commish.  The largest fine he can impose on a team is $5M; that would be pocket change to an NFL owner…

There are more examples of “bad choices” exhibited by NFL folks.  Reports say that the Raiders’ tight end, Darren Waller was fined $30K – and about a dozen of his teammates including Derek Carr were fined $15K – for participating in a charity event.  Say what?  It turns out that the players raised $300K for Waller’s foundation that helps people with drug and alcohol addiction and did so in public without wearing masks.  The NFL protocol – negotiated with the NFLPA – says that players will wear masks in public so long as these protocols are in effect.  There is plenty of photographic evidence that the players chose not to follow those rules and hence the fines.

Somewhere in the cosmos, Al Davis has a smile on his face.  The Raiders have racked up the most fines as a team for violation of these protocols which would not have been welcome elements to Davis’ credo of “Just win, Baby.”  Coach Jon Gruden was one of those coaches fined for not wearing masks in Week 1 drawing a $100K fine for setting a bad example.  [Aside:  Raise your hand if you believe that fine might be “reimbursed” to Coach Gruden somehow, someway.]

Keep an eye on this developing situation.  The NFL is out to protect a business entity that takes in $15B a year without any intervention from the novel coronavirus.  The teams and coaches are comprised of young men who see themselves as invincible and who – in many cases – have never had to worry about things like maturity and accountability for their actions.  The season is only 25% in the books and  the behaviors of coaches and players could take several courses from this point on:

  1. Very positive course:  Players, coaches and others see what has happened with the Titans and the Raiders and commit themselves to adherence to the protocols in a way where they even might go over and above the strictures contained in those protocols exhibiting in reality “an abundance of caution”.
  2. Not so positive course:  The protocol restrictions become more and more annoying and the sense of “invincibility” and the attitude that the rules don’t apply to me may set in leading to more outbreaks among more teams down the line.

Finally, since I mentioned King Louis XIV of France above in a snarky sort of way, let me close with one of his very cogent observations – which would be deemed politically incorrect in 2020:

“I could sooner reconcile all Europe than two women.”

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



The First NFL Head Coach To Be Fired In 2020 Is …

Here is a link to my NFL Pre-Season Analysis for this year.  I said there that Bill O’Brien would be fired as the GM of the Texans and that Coach O’Brien would be fired as part of that process.  It was Prediction # 21 for those who care.  Well, it happened earlier this week and not at the end of the season.  Bill O’Brien is the first coach and/or GM to lose his job in the NFL this season.

As a coach, O’Brien did well enough until this year’s 0-4 start – – even though those first 3 losses were to the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers.  The 2020 version of the Texans is unimpressive at best.  Having said that, the problem with this team is about more than the coaching than it has gotten.  Fundamentally, this team is not as good as it could be – or ought to be – because of decisions made by the GM in assembling the roster.  In the case of the Texans, that GM and that coach happen to be one and the same hominid.

Here is something I said in that Pre-Season Analysis linked above:

“If I tried to tell you that I understand the reasoning behind most of the Texans’ off-season moves, I would be a big enough liar to run for the US Senate.”

The Texans have made some head-scratching personnel decisions over the past couple of years:

  • They gave up multiple first-round picks for Laremy Tunsil and then signed Tunsil to a bloated and team-unfriendly contract from a salary cap standpoint.
  • They traded away Jadeveon Clowney for next to nothing.
  • They traded DeAndre Hopkins for David Andrews – – say what?
  • They acquired Brandin Cooks – – a very good WR who is 27 years old and is now with his fourth NFL team.

The Texans have a franchise QB – – if they can figure out how to assemble an OL that will keep him from going to the morgue any time soon.  That roster is a mess and a half; and, in this case, the coach rightfully takes the fall for the roster because the coach and the GM are one and the same.  Here is why I think “Bill O’Brien the coach” is competent and is collateral damage in this firing of “Bill O’Brien the GM”:

  • He has won the AFC South 4 times in 6 seasons – – and finished 2nd in the Division in one other season.
  • He has won with both Brock Osweiler and with Brian Hoyer as his QBs.
  • I think that shows that he can coach – – but it also shows along with some of the personnel moves listed above – – that he would not recognize a good personnel move from a team perspective if it ran into the room and bit him on the ankle.

Do not delude yourself; the Texans’ ownership did not make this move because it has a strategic vision for the future and the “next Bill Belichick” already under contract and waiting in the wings.  Taking over on an interim basis will be Romeo Crennel.

I have no reason or interest in trashing Romeo Crennel.  He is the interim coach here because he is the only coach on the staff that I can find who has ever been a head coach in the past.  He must be a wonderful person because he keeps getting head coaching opportunities with the thinnest of credentials:

  • He has been the head coach for 83 games; his record is 28-55-0.  Basically, he wins 1 of every 3 games.
  • In his 5 full seasons of coaching, his teams have had a winning record 1 time; in those 5 full seasons of coaching, his teams have suffered double-digit losses 4 times.

In a sense, Romeo Crennel may take over the Texans at a propitious moment.  With an 0-4 record on the books so far, there is no realistic way he can do any worse over the next 4 weeks.  And the NFL schedule-maker has put a gift-wrapped opportunity in front of Coach Crennel:

  1. The Texans play the Jags next weekend at home.
  2. The Texans get to play the Jags again on November 8th in Jax.

Romeo Crennel has two games against one of the worst teams in the NFL over the next month; they are clearly winnable games; if he wins both, he will be seen as a successful interim coach as compared to the 0-4 start to the season by the “Texans under previous management”.  Not to worry though, Romeo Crennel will not be the coach of the Houston Texans come next year; Crennel is now 73 years old; and the Texans will be in a rebuilding mode for at least another year or two.

For the record, this is not a particularly attractive job even though it is one of only 32 jobs of its kind in the world.  The Texans’ roster needs an overhaul, and they will not have a first round or a second-round pick in next year’s Draft.  It is always important to a young and upcoming coach to land in a spot where he can have success in the early stages of his career; it sets his narrative on a positive vector.  The Texans do not look as if they will provide such an environment for a “young and up-and-coming type” come next January when Romeo Crennel will revert to a defensive coordinator job somewhere.

Moving on …  Last Sunday, I had to watch the Ravens/WTFs game here in Northern Virginia; it was the only game on in the early time slot.  There was a shot of Alex Smith on the sidelines as the game went on.  I want to be on record here unambiguously before anything like this takes place:

  • If – – I said IF – – Alex Smith sees the field for even one play this season and even if it is for a “kneel down” to end a half or a game, Alex Smith deserves to be the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
  • Over the past 2 years he has had 17 surgeries and at least one stint in an ICU where his life was in the balance.  Moreover, he has rehabbed from a devastating leg injury to the point where he has been able to take part in team practices.
  • Any jamoke can put on a uniform and a tuck a helmet under his arm and stand on the sidelines, but Alex Smith is doing that this year after a monstrous trek through the medical system of the US.  If he makes it across those sidelines and into action in 2020, he would get my vote unequivocally as the Comeback Player of the Year.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times recently:

“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………



Rest In Peace, Bob Gibson

Bob Gibson died last Friday.  In an era when pitchers dominated MLB, he was as dominant a figure on the mound as any of the greats from that time.  In 1968, he pitched more than 300 innings to an ERA of 1.12.  Please do not waste your time looking for any pitcher with remotely comparable stats over the last 40 years. Oh, did I mention that in that 1968 season he also threw 13 shutouts, 28 complete games and struck out 268 batters?

His ferocity as a competitor was legendary.  Tim McCarver tells the story that Gibson was in some difficulty in a game and McCarver went to the mound to say something to Gibson.  Gibson’s response was classic and ultimately dismissive:

“The only thing you know about pitching is that it’s hard to hit.”

Rest in peace, Bob Gibson.

With regard to MLB today, the playoffs are down to 8 teams – – where I would have preferred for them to begin.  Obviously, the biggest surprise is the presence of the Miami Marlins in the MLB analog to the Elite Eight.  Other than losing 105 games just last season there was every reason to believe the Marlins would still be playing baseball in October.  Dwight Perry had this in his Seattle Times column regarding the Marlins:

“Retired baseball writer Jim Street, via Facebook, on the only thing more shocking than the Marlins making the NL playoffs: ‘They also tied for the MLB lead in home attendance.’”

Speaking of leagues in the midst of their playoffs – – and using a particularly awkward segue – – the TV ratings for the NBA Playoffs are down significantly this year.  Moreover, according to reports, the decline is even worse than the raw numbers because for the first time, Nielsen has included “out-of-home” viewership in the ratings number.  This means that Nielsen has adjusted the numbers to reflect one venue where large numbers of viewers were present – – such as a sports bar where an NBA Playoff game might be on some of the sets in house.  These “Out-Of-Home (OOH) Adjustments” cannot possibly have diminished the Nielsen estimates for numbers of viewers.

Notwithstanding that upward adjustment, none of the Lakers/Nuggets games in the Western Conference Finals could attract 5 million viewers nationwide.  For perspective, the Western Conference Finals in 2002 when the Lakers beat the Kings in a controversial Game 7, the estimated viewership – – with no “OOH Adjustment” – – was 23.8 million viewers.  I know; 2002 was a long time ago; but that is a staggering decline in TV attraction nonetheless.

Some folks have opined on the reason(s) for this year’s decline e.g.:

  1. The champs this season are always going to be “asterisk champions” in the minds of fans so why pay close attention to these playoffs?
  2. NBA player protests diverted attention from the games to social justice issues and sports fans prefer to watch sports than social justice lectures.
  3. LeBron James fatigue – – every year the Finals are the same story with LeBron James versus the rest of the basketball world.

I do not think any of those three explanations hit the mark although I will concede that each of the three might have a secondary or tertiary effect on the low ratings.  I think the problem is:

  • The Calendar.

2020 is nowhere near a “normal year” but a lot of folks have accommodated the fact of its “novelty” and are in the process of reconciling their lives to the “Year of the Pandemic”.  It is October; in October, the NBA is not normally playing basketball; in October, the NBA is just about to open up training camps so that they can start their season around November 1st with 6-8 weeks of games everyone is primed to ignore.

The NBA Finals “belong” in May/June.  When that happens in a normal year, the NBA Finals go up against a different set of other attractions than this year.  Normally, the NBA Finals contend with the Stanley Cup Playoffs/Finals, mid-season MLB games, the Triple Crown in some years and MLS games.  From a TV ratings perspective in the US, that is not a difficult set of opponents for the NBA.

This year is quite different.  MLB is having its playoffs now and while the early series of NBA games were going on, they had to compete with an MLB regular season where every game had a magnified importance due to the truncated season.  That was a minor effect because the major effect is that this year’s NBA playoffs and finals are up against football – – college and pro – – and the NBA playoffs never had to worry about that kind of competition for attention in the past.  A random regular season NFL game in prime time will comfortably draw 15-20 million viewers and sometimes 30 million.  A look at the Washington Post sports section last weekend showed the following amount of coverage on Sunday 4 October:

  • NFL:  243 column inches of content
  • Coll Football:  144 column inches of content
  • MLB:  45 column inches of content
  • NBA:  30 column inches of content
  • MLS:  22 column inches of content
  • Preakness:  21 column inches of content
  • Tennis:  20 column inches of content
  • World soccer:  18 column inches of content
  • WNBA:  15 column inches of content
  • NASCAR:  10 column inches of content
  • Golf:  10 column inches of content

October is “football time in the US” and not basketball time.  The TV ratings reflect that, and the “area” devoted to football in the Post’s sports section reflects the perception of sports fans’ interest in various sports in the moment.  The NBA mavens must figure out a way to avoid a conflict with “football season” in the future because the comparison is not a good look for the NBA.

Finally, Bob Molinaro posed this question about rescheduling in college basketball for the upcoming season:

“Hoop du jour: Now that the Maui Invitational featuring college basketball teams from around the country has been moved to Asheville, North Carolina, because of COVID-19 concerns, will coaches ditch their colorful Hawaiian shirts for red flannel?”

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



Football Friday 10/2/20

Dragnet featured Sgt. Joe Friday.  Robinson Crusoe had a servant named Friday.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, we have Football Friday.

Let me review the results from last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College:  0-1-1    =>    Season Total:  3-3-1
  • NFL:  2-2-0    =>    Season Total:  7-3-0
  • Combined:  2-3-1    =>    Season Total:  10-6-1


College Football Comments:


At halftime last week, Texas A&M held a tenuous 7-5 lead over Vanderbilt.  I imagine there were a few tight sphincters among the moneyed set in College Station who dug deep to hire Jimbo Fisher a couple of years ago for a truckload of cash.  In a Hollywood script, Fisher would have taken his team to the locker room, given them a tongue-lashing and the young lads would then emerge onto the field for the second half and show those upstarts who’s the boss.  What happened is that the Aggies slogged through the second half too and won the game 17-12 despite being a 28-point favorite.  Some folks say that a win is a win no matter the margin of victory; I wonder how the folks who are footing the bill for Jimbo Fisher’s livelihood view the situation…

In another part of Texas, there was a wild and woolly game between Texas and Texas Tech.  The Longhorns prevailed 63-56 in OT.  Last week, I said that there would be “points aplenty” in this game; there were 119 points scored.  Texas had to rally with 2 TDs and a 2-point conversion in the final 3 minutes to force overtime and then win the game.  I am sure lots of folks in and around Austin see the positive aspects of that come from behind victory, but I see it differently:

  • Texas should have lost that game; not only did the defense allow 56 points, the team was penalized 10 times for 100 yards in the game.
  • Texas’ opponent beat Division 1-AA Houston Baptist in the first game of the season by 3 points and gave up 600 yards of offense to Houston Baptist.  And Texas needed a furious rally and then OT to win the game?

Miami and Florida State renewed their rivalry last week.  There was a time when the outcome of this game had a major bearing on the national champion for the season; such is no longer the case.  In fact, the rivalry is diminished because of the severely reduced stature of the Florida State football program.  Last week, the halftime score had Miami comfortably in command 28-3; the final score was 52-10.  The Seminoles yielded 500+ yards, lost by 42 points and were penalized 12 times in the game.  If they continue to play like that, they might just earn a new nickname, the Tallahassee Lassies.  [Hat Tip to Freddy “Boom-Boom” Cannon…]

In SEC action, Florida beat Ole Miss 51-35.  Florida has been strong on defense under Coach Dan Mullen, but they gave up 35 points to Ole Miss here.  Does that mean the Ole Miss offense is really potent under new coach Lane Kiffin?  That could be worth watching.  Another hypothesis you can take from this game and look for verification down the road is this:

  • The Ole Miss defense needs work.

Last week, I said the Mississippi state/LSU game would be a “Game of Interest” because it matched Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense against LSU where strong defense is a way of life.  It was more than a Game of Interest; it turned into a major upset as Mississippi State won the game outright 44-34.  That result was no fluke; State threw the ball 60 times and gained 623 yards in the air for the game.  Someone charted those pass plays and said that there were 5 receivers in the pattern on 48 of the 60 plays; I think it is fair to say it was a “wide-open offense”.  [Aside:  State’s total offense running the football was 9 yards.]  The score was tied at 34 with just under 10 minutes left to play and from that point on it was all Mississippi State.  One more interesting stat from this game:

  • The 623 yards passing by Mississippi State was the most passing yards in a game in the history of the SEC.

Georgia beat Arkansas 37-10; that is not a surprising result.  However, if you tuned in at halftime you would have seen that Arkansas led 7-5 and then Arkansas took the lead at 10-5 soon after the second half began.  Then reality set in…

In another upset from last week, K-State beat Oklahoma 38-35.  You could call this a major upset – – except that this is the second year in a row that K-State has beaten the Sooners straight up.  I said last week this would be an “organized ass-kicking” but thought it would be Oklahoma delivering the kicks and not receiving them.  K-State scored 24 unanswered points in the final 17 minutes here to win the game.  I ran across this stat earlier this week and have not even tried to verify it:

  • This is the 6th time since 2009 that OU has lost outright to a 20-point (or more) underdog.
  • Do the math; that averages out to once every other year…

Another embarrassing factor for Oklahoma here is the K-State played the game with 7 of its starters out or action.  That is not quite like allowing the K-State JV to rally and win the game – – but it’s close…

Another big surprise of this early football season is that UTEP is 3-1.  The Miners beat La-Monroe last week 31-6.  The reason this is a surprise comes from a comparison to the UTEP combined record over the past three seasons.

  • UTEP in 2020:  3-1-0
  • UTEP in 2017 – 2019:  2-34-0

Tulane beat So. Mississippi 66-24.  Recall that Tulane lost  to Navy two weeks ago after leading 24-0 at the half.  The So. Mississippi program appears to be in deep yogurt now:

  • The record is 0-3.
  • One loss was by 11 points to South Alabama – – a Division 1-AA school.
  • The head coach resigned the day after that loss to South Alabama
  • The combined score in the losses is 119-75 (almost 15 points per game).


College Games of Interest:


Auburn at Georgia – 7 (45):  Both teams are ranked.  Auburn handled Kentucky last week in a workmanlike fashion; Georgia had to struggle to overcome Arkansas (see above).  Both teams play solid defense so I agree with the oddsmaker here that this will be a low-scoring game.  To me, that line looks fat; I like Auburn on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Texas A&M at Alabama – 18 (51.5):  If there is agita in College Station after squeaking out a win over Vandy, there might be episodes of projectile vomiting come Saturday night.  The Aggies managed only 17 points against the Vandy defense; odds are that the Alabama defense is just a bit better.

South Carolina at Florida – 17.5 (57):  As noted above, the Gators’ defense was torched last week even though Florida won the game.  This game could be a litmus test for that defensive unit…

Arkansas at Mississippi State – 17 (69):  The Air Raid offense scored 44 points against LSU.  Granted, LSU lost lots of very good defenders to the NFL last Spring, but I have to believe that the LSU defense with their “replacements” is at least as good as the Arkansas defense.  I am tempted to take the game to go OVER – – but I will resist that temptation because I do not have a handle on the Arkansas offense and it is a lot to expect for State to take thee game over – – or nearly over – – all by itself.  However, I like Mississippi State to avoid a letdown in its home opener against a bottom-dweller in the SEC; I like Mississippi State at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

LSU – 20.5 at Vandy (51):  Vandy held Texas A&M to 17 points last week; is that defense good enough to hold LSU down?  LSU ought to be up for this game after losing at home to Mississippi State last week – – or is this just not LSU’s year?  We will get some answers from this game…

NC State at Pitt – 14 (47):  The Pitt defense is very good.  The Pitt offense – – not so much.NC State is an up-and-down team.  Could be an interesting game that provides insight down the road…

UNC – 14 at BC (54):  BC is 2-0 under new coach Jeff Hafley and they are at home.  UNC has not played in the last two weeks.  So, why the big spread…?  Well, the two wins by BC have come over a less-than-fearsome Duke team and then over Texas State by a field goal.

Va Tech – 11 at Duke  (54):  Va Tech beat NC State last week with almost two dozen players and coaches out of action and they won by 3 TDs.  Duke is winless this year; turned the ball over 7 times last week and simply has not been able to run the ball this year.

UVa at Clemson – 28 (55):  Clemson is ranked #1 in the country; Virginia is 1-0 on the season having beaten Duke last week.  Clemson wants to retain their record and their ranking because they have an eye on the CFP down the road; to see the Cavaliers in that light would require a lot of “magic mushrooms”.  I think Clemson wins in a romp; I usually avoid picking games like this, but I like Clemson to win and cover at home; put it in the Six-Pack.

TCU at Texas – 11 (63):  The OT win last week by the Longhorns was not something the team should be proud of (see above).  The Texas defense has something to prove now.  TCU lost at home last week to Iowa State.

Oklahoma – 7 at Iowa State (63):  Good news for the Sooners here is that they are not favored by 20 points or more?  (See above)  Iowa State has not been impressive so far this year.  Other than looking for info pertinent to future games, this contest elicits a hearty “Meh!”

Navy – 7 at Air Force (45.5):  This is the first game of the season for Air Force; Navy is 1-1.  The reason this is a Game of Interest is that it is a Service Academy game and they are always interesting.

Oklahoma State – 22.5 at Kansas (54):  I am not sure if Oklahoma State is particularly good this year, but I am confident in saying that Kansas at 0-3 is awful.

Ole Miss at Kentucky – 7 (61.5):  Ole Miss scored 35 points against Florida last week; are you sure the Kentucky defense is significantly better than Florida’s?  That line is fat; I like Ole Miss on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.


NFL Comments:


Surely, you are aware that the NFL is celebrating its 100th anniversary this season; they have been beating us over the head with references to that for a while now.  However, tomorrow October 3, 2020 will be the 100th anniversary of the first NFL game ever played:

  • The game took place in Dayton, OH between the Dayton Triangles and the Columbus Panhandles.  [Aside:  I understand the Florida panhandle and the Texas panhandle and the Oklahoma panhandle – – but Columbus, Ohio?]
  • The Triangles won the game 14-0.
  • Contemporary reports said that the attendance was 4000 people and admission was $1.75.
  • Each player in the game was paid $50.

Things have come a long way since then.  The Dayton Triangles joined other teams in the formation of the NFL by paying a “Franchise Fee” of $25.  The “Franchise Fee” for an expansion team in today’s NFL would surely draw something around $1B.

The Dayton Triangles were very good in that first NFL season posting a 9-1 record for the season.  Eventually, the Triangles were sold to a NY syndicate that moved the team to NYC and became known as the Brooklyn Dodgers – – obviously before the days of trademarking team names.  The football Brooklyn Dodgers morphed into the Brooklyn Tigers until the Tigers folded in 1944.  The Brooklyn Tigers were hardly a successful franchise; after missing the NFL playoffs for 13 straight years, the Tigers went 0-10 in their final season.  So much for the history lesson…

NY  Jets’ fans have expressed frustration and anger on sports radio and in various blogs; there is an online petition seeking the firing of Adam Gase; you get the picture; that is pretty standard stuff for an angry fanbase.  However, it looks as if there is something even worse afoot in NYC – – apathy about the hometown lads.  A fan tried to organize a protest outside the Jets’ team practice facility.  Fans were urged to show up wearing masks and to practice social distancing, but only a handful of folks bothered to show up.  Moreover, the TV ratings in NYC for last week’s Niners/Jets game was not the most watched TV program in its time slot let alone for the day.  The Jets last appearance in the NFL Playoffs was back in 2010; since then the team has been above .500 only once – – and it is not going to be above .500 once again in 2020.

In fact, with 3 games in the books, the Jets have not led for a single second in any of those three games.  That changed in the first quarter of last night’s game against the Broncos; nonetheless it was the case for more than 180 minutes of NFL football in 2020.  Moreover, that dynamic changed on a 45-yard scramble by Sam Darnold – a feat that may never be replicated in this life.  The irony wrapping around all this is that Adam Gase is supposed to be an offensive mastermind.  Here is why Jets’ fans may be seeking solace in apathy:

  • The Jets’ roster had three bona fide top-shelf players back in July.  CJ Mosely just cannot get on the field and stay there; LeVeon Bell has a hamstring injury this year after spending much of last year feuding with the coach; Jamal Adams forced the Jets to trade him and then lampooned Gase’s leadership abilities on his way out of town.
  • Fans cannot show up at the games with paper sacks on their heads to vent their spleen because there are no fans allowed at the games.  So, maybe apathy is the only refuge available…

Last night, the Thursday game between the Jets and Broncos could have had several monikers:

  • It could have been the Bagel Bowl – both teams were 0-3 at kickoff.
  • It could have been the Burnt Butt Cheeks Bowl – – both coaches are on a hot seat.
  • It could have been the No Score Bowl – – the Jets are averaging 12.3 points per game and the Broncos are averaging 15 points per game.
  • You get the idea…

On a much brighter note, the Green Bay Packers are on an offensive roll.  The Packers average 459.7 yards per game and 40.7 points per game so far this year.  Over the course of the off-season, there was a lot of speculation about how Aaron Rodgers might take to the fact that the Packers drafted a QB in the first round of the Draft instead of getting him more “weapons” at WR.  We have not heard much about that lately…

Mitchell Trubisky started the season at 2-0 as the Bears’ QB and he won one of those games with a miraculous 4th quarter comeback rally over the Lions.  Then, in the third game he was benched in the second half with his team trailing.  I cannot recall a starter being pulled under those circumstances in the past.   No matter; it worked; the Bears rallied again – under Nick Foles this time – and won the game over the Falcons.

If the Bears squander their 3-0 start this year and wind up under .500, there will be a call for Coach Matt Nagy’s head on a plate.  Let me go on record here well before that sort of thing is anywhere near the surface to point out that Matt Nagy is NOT the guy who did the scouting and made the drafting decision to take Mitchell Trubisky with the #2 overall pick in the NFL Draft ahead of both Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson.

Last week, the Dolphins beat the Jags 31-13.   That was a different Dolphins’ team than had showed itself in the first two weeks.  “Fitz-Magic” got the best of “Minshew Mania” even though the Dolphins only gained 160 yards in the air.  Ryan Fitzpatrick was 18 for 20 in the game.  The Jags turned the ball over twice in the game and were penalized 8 times.

The Bears beat the Falcons 30-26.  Stop me if you have heard this before, but the Falcons had a double-digit lead in the second half and managed to lose the game.  Nick Foles came into the game trailing 26-10 and rallied the Bears to a win on a TD pass to Anthony Miller with just under 2 minutes left in the game.  The Bears may have a “QB controversy” on their hands, but they won this game and are 3-0 to start the season.

The Falcons – on the other hand – are 0-3 for the season and appear to be in disarray.  In blowing that 16-point lead in the second half last week, the Falcons became the only team in NFL history to blow a 15-point (or more) lead in the second half twice in a season.  That is not the sort of list you seek to be at the top of.  The Falcons’ offense had the ball five times in the fourth quarter and scored zero points to protect its lead; meanwhile, the Falcons’ defense was collapsing.  Chris Berman used to say, “No one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.”

Well, in 2020, no one blows leads like the Atlanta Falcons and this has been going on for a while now.  Is it fair to ask at this point:

  • Who is drafting the players on defense and who is “coaching them up” and should those folks still have the jobs they have?

The Browns beat the WTFs 34-20.  The game was an implosion for WTFs’ QB, Dwayne Haskins.  He threw 3 awfully bad INTs and he lost a fumble on a strip sack.  Those 4 turnovers led to 24 points for the Browns which was more than the WTFs’ offense could produce in the game.  Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined to run the ball 35 times for 154 yards and 2 TDs.  The WTFs actually led the game 20-17 with 11:14 left in the game but then the floodgates opened.

  • As a result of this loss, Washington’s all-time record as an NFL franchise dropped to 604-605-28. This means they are under .500 for the first time in 45 years.

The Niners beat the Giants 36-9.  The Niners had 9 of their starters out of the game due to injuries but not a problem.  Nick Mullens stepped in at QB and went 25 for 36 for 343 yards and 1 TD with zero INTs.  Rookie WR, Brandon Aiyuk, caught 5 passes for 70 yards and ran the ball 3 times for another 31 yards plus a TD.  Here is how bad the Giants’ offense was in that game:

  • Playing against a depleted defense, the Giants never snapped the football inside the Red Zone for the entire game.

The Bills beat the Rams 35-32.  The Bills led this game.  The Bills led the Rams 28-3 with 8 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter.  The Rams came back to take the lead at 32-28.  [Aside:  If you want a primer on how to blow a 28-3 lead, check out the Falcons in the Super Bowl against the Pats…]  The Bills managed to stage one final TD drive scoring with 15 seconds left on the clock to win the game.  The Rams gained a total of 478 yards on offense and ran the ball for 167 yards.  The Bills had the ball in the Red Zone 5 times and scored TDs on all 5 opportunities.

The Pats beat the Raiders 36-20.  Like the Bills in the game mentioned above, the Raiders got into the red Zone 5 times.  The difference is that they only scored 2 TDs on those drives – – and the second of those TDs came at the end of the game in “garbage time”.  On the Patriots’ last 8 possessions in the game (from the end of the first quarter to the final whistle), here are the results:

  • Field goal, Field Goal, TD, Kneel to end the 1st half, TD, Field goal, TD, Kneel to end the game.

The Pats dominated time of possession by running the ball 38 times for 250 yards and 2 TDs.  Sony Michel and Rex Burkhardt led the charge on the ground.  Just to be clear, that Patriots’ tandem of running backs will never be confused with the tandem of Jim Brown and Bobby Mitchell.  Adding insult to injury, the Raiders lost 3 fumbles in the game.

The Steelers beat the Texans 28-21.  The Steelers had to overcome a 14-3 d3eficit in this game and they did it on the backs of the defense.  The Texans managed only 29 yards rushing for the day and the Steelers sacked Deshaun Watson 5 times.  The Steelers ran the ball on a porous Texans’ rush defense 38 times for 169 yards controlling the ball for almost 37 minutes in the game.  This is not new for the Texans; here are stats from their first three games in 2020:

  • Chiefs:  166 yards rushing and time of possession = 34:47
  • Ravens:  230 yards rushing and time of possession = 34:51
  • Steelers:  169 yards rushing and time of possession = 36:51

The Titans rallied to beat the Vikes 31-30.  Dalvin Cook ran for 181 yards and rookie WR, Justin Jefferson had a big day catching 7 passes for 175 yards and a TD.  The Vikes led 24-12 with 8 minutes left in the 3rd quarter; after the Titans rallied to take the lead 25-24, the Vikes scored a TD and missed a 2-point conversion to lead 30-25 with 10 minutes left in the game.  Then the Titans managed two field goals in that remaining time to win by a point.  The hero for the Titans has to be Stephen Gostkowski who kicked 6 field goals in the game three of which were longer than 50 yards.

The Bengals and the Eagles played to a tie at 23-23.  Joe Burrow attempted 44 passes in the game and was sacked 8 times.  Given the state of the Bengals’ OL and Burrow’s status as a rookie, dropping him back that many times might be considered the NFL equivalent of child abuse.  The game was a stinkpot from top to bottom; as an example, consider that the Eagles were penalized 11 times in the game.  Nothing important happened on the field in this game so let me point to a group of folks who went through agony on account of this game:

  • The Total Line for this game was 46.5 points.  When the game went to OT at 23-23, folks with the OVER were probably counting their winnings and folks with the UNDER may have thrown their tickets away in disgust.
  • There was no point in the OT when either team pretended that it intended to score a point.
  • In the OT, the Bengals had 4 drives consisting of 12 plays and generating a net of 14 yards.
  • In the OT, the Eagles had 3 drives consisting of 14 plays and generating a net of 31 yards.
  • The folks with the UNDER wagers cashed even though that was a low-probability event at the start of the OT.

The Colts beat the Jets 36-7.  As noted above, the Eagles, Bengals, Vikes, Falcons and Giants stunk last week.  And then there were the Jets who made all of them look marginally respectable.  Sam Darnold threw a pair of Pick-Sixes and the Jets offense yielded a safety in the game.  The Colts won with their offense on cruise-control.

The Lions upset the Cards 26-23.  Kyler Murray threw 3 INTs.  Unlike previous games this year, the Lions shut out the opponent in the 4th quarter while generating two field goals – one with  4 seconds remaining on the clock – to win the game.  Adrian Peterson ran 22 times for 75 yards here.  For the Cards, DeAndre Hopkins continued to shine catching 10 passes for 137 yards.

The Panthers upset the Chargers 21-16.  Normally, when a team scores 21 points in a game, it is with 3 TDs and 3 PATs.  Not the Panthers…  they scored their 21 points on 5 field goals, a TD and a missed PAT.  Not to worry, they do not award style points in the NFL standings.  The Panthers had 6 trips into the Red Zone and got points as noted here in all six visits.  Two weeks ago, Justin Herbert  looked great subbing for Tyrod Taylor at the last minute.  This week was not quite as good.  Herbert was 35 for 49 for 330 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.

The Seahawks beat the Cowboys 38-31.  The Co0wboys’ special teams were a bubbling mess in the game.  Somehow a kickoff was mishandled and recovered at the half-yardline; that error led to a safety.  Also, the Cowboys missed 2 PATs.  That is the sort of thing you might expect to see in an Ivy League game not an NFL game.  Dak Prescott had a fine day, but it was not enough to overcome defensive and special teams collapses.  Prescott was 37 for 57 for 472 yards with 3 TDs and 2 INTs; he also ran the ball 6 times for 26 yards.  Did I mention that the Cowboys were penalized 10 times in this game?  On the other side, Russell Wilson had an “other-worldly game”.  Wilson was 27 for 40 for 315 yards with 5 TDs and zero INTs; he ran the ball 6 times for 22 yards.  This is two games in a row where Wilson has thrown 5 TDs and zero picks.

The Bucs beat the Broncos 28-10.  Short and sweet, here is how that happened:

  1. Tom Brady threw 3 TD passes
  2. The Bucs’ defense had 6 sacks and recorded a safety.
  3. The Bucs’ special teams blocked a punt.

The Packers beat the Saints 37-30.  The Packers won another shoot-out game; as noted above, the Packers’ offense is running smoothly and efficiently.  As to the defense, I think it might be a good idea for the team to have some tackling drills.  Alvin Kamara had a great game running the ball 6 times for 58 yards and catching 13 passes for 139 yards and 2 TDs.

The Chiefs beat the Ravens 34-20 on MNF.  The game was not that close.  The Ravens had the best scoring defense in the NFL entering the contest yielding only 22 points in the first two games.  That defensive unit saw the Chiefs put up 34 points and gain 517 yards on offense.  Here is a stat that will give you an idea of how dominant the chiefs were on Monday night:

  • The Chiefs were 10-13 on third down conversions – – and one of the “failures” was in the final 2 minutes when the Chiefs were just running down the clock.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs defense held Lamar Jackson to 97 yards passing – – his lowest total in his still young career.


NFL Games:


In the 14 games listed here, the road team is favored in 6 of them.  That is more than usual.  Should anyone try to divine some deep meaning in that observation, there is none other than this:

  • Six road teams this week are better than the rivals they will travel to meet.

Indy – 2.5 at Chicago (43):  The spread for this game varies all over the place.  You can find it as high as 3 points this morning and as low as 1 point. Both teams arrive undefeated.  Which starting version of Nick Foles will show up for the Bears:

  1. The Nick Foles who lost his starting job to Gardner Minshew last year in Jax?
  2. The Nick Foles who threw 27 TDs with only 2 INTs in a season for the Eagles several years ago?

New Orleans – 4 at Detroit (54):  The Saints did not look good last week losing at home to the Packers – particularly on defense.  The Lions surprised the Cards; can they win two in a row?  It is awfully early in the season to think about “must-win games” but the Saints are 1-2 and need to start playing a lot better – – starting here.  I am tempted to take the game to go OVER – – but will resist that temptation.

Arizona – 3 at Carolina (51):  Was that the “real” Panthers’ team on display last week or was that a fluky win over the Chargers?  The Cards have a franchise history of losing to teams they ought to beat and here is a team that – on paper – they ought to beat handily.

Jax at Cincy – 3 (49):  With the Thursday Night game between the Broncos and Jets off the weekend schedule, this game was an easy choice as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

Cleveland at Dallas – 4.5 (56):  This is a confirmation game for the Browns.  Their record is 2-1, but after getting slapped silly by the Ravens in Week 1, those two wins came at the expense of the WTFs and the Bengals – – not exactly the NFL elite.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Cowboys are “elite” either but I do think they are a step up from the WTFs and the Bengals so maybe we can find out where in the picking order the Browns belong in 2020?  Here are two trends that say the Browns have a tough row to hoe here:

  1. In their last 11 road games against the NFC, the Browns are 0-11.
  2. In their last 30 road games of any sort, the Browns are 4-26.

The Browns can run the ball.  The Cowboys’ rush defense ranks 23rd in the NFL giving up 128 yards per game.  That is the matchup that I think will determine the outcome here.

Minnesota at Houston – 4 (53.5):  Yes, I know the combined records here are 0-6 and the combined records for Jax and Cincy are 1-4-1 but this game is a better game simply because these are better teams that are underperforming.  Also, remember that the Texans have lost to the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers.  The Texans cannot protect Deshaun Watson; he is running for his life on way too many plays.  Fortunately, the Vikings do not rush the passer very well this year, so maybe he can take a moment to read a defense without having a defensive end taking him to the ground?  The Vikings offense came alive last week; is that an aberration or the start of something new in Minnesota?  I think the Texans are the better team here, but I am not going to try to pick a game where neither team has shown they know how to win a game.

Seattle – 6 at Miami (54):  I was not a geography major, but I do believe that the trip from Seattle to Miami is the longest one a team can make without playing in London.  Russell Wilson has been on fire so far in 2020; I do not see the Dolphins’ defense being able to stop him.  At the same time, the Seahawks’ pass defense – – mainly the secondary – – is not particularly good so there is plenty of potential for a “Fitz-Magic” game.  The temptation to take this game to go OVER is strong – – but not strong enough.

Chargers at Tampa Bay – 7.5 (43):  These are two teams with good defenses.  It is still not completely clear if the Chargers will play Justin Herbert or Tyrod Taylor at QB, but I do not think either of them will be super successful against the Bucs’ defense.  Tom Brady will do well enough against the Chargers’ defense to get a win here, but I am not going to pick the game with that hook on top of a full TD in the spread line.

Pittsburgh at Tennessee:  Postponed due to COVID-19

Baltimore – 13.5 at Washington (45):  The Ravens’ defense got torched by Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid on Monday night.  Meaning no disrespect whatsoever, Dwayne Haskins ain’t no Patrick Mahomes and Ron Rivera is not Andy Reid.  If the Ravens’ defense shows up in a nasty mood with the intent of demonstrating that they are indeed an elite defense in 2020, the WTFs are going to be hard pressed to score.

Giants at Rams – 13 (48):  The spread opened the week at 10 points and has climbed steadily to this level as of this morning.  It could go higher by game time since there is one Internet sportsbook that already has the game at 14 points.  The Rams played their guts out in the second half last week and lost a heartbreaker to the Bills (see above).  They should face no such adversity in this game.

New England at KC – 7.5 (53):  And here we have the easy choice for the Game of the Week.  The Chiefs were excellent on Monday night dominating the Ravens (see above).  But if the Pats can run the ball successfully here – they lead the NFL averaging 178 yards per game – they can effect the best tactical maneuver possible against the Chiefs:

  • Don’t let the offense on the field.

I like ;both teams here and I think these two coaches are the two best in the league at this time.  I say that to be sure no one takes my pick here as a slight of any kind.  I like the Patriots plus the points in this game – particularly that hook on top of a full TD – so put it in the Six-Pack.

Buffalo – 3 at Las Vegas (53): This is such an interesting game that I gave it a fleeting shot at being the Game of the Week.  The Raiders have looked quite good on offense this year; the Bills have looked less than expected on defense this year.  The Bills’ offense has been able to stand in there in games that became shoot-outs in 2020, the Raiders defense has allowed 30 points per game on defense.  This is a long trip to the game venue for the Bills – – but I think the coaches and the team see plenty of value in staying undefeated in this first quarter of the 2020 NFL season.

(Sun Nite) Philly at SF – 6 (46):  This game could easily be the “Medicare Bowl” or the “Radiology Bowl” given the number of significant injuries sustained by both teams so far in the 2020 season.  I think the Eagles are in complete disarray while the Niners are merely shuffling the chairs in a multi-dimensional game of musical chairs.  But with both teams playing without very good starting players, who knows what can happen.

(Mon Nite) Atlanta at Green Bay – 7 (56.5):  The Falcons’ defense has gagged away two games in a row and now get to play against Aaron Rodgers and an offense that is dominating NFL defenses to this point in the season (see above).  At the same time, the Falcons’ offense should be able to move the ball and score a bit against a Packers’ defense that has allowed 28 points per game this season.  I see the potential for the scoreboard operator to suffer a seizure from the flashing lights there; I’ll take this game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Let me review this week’s Six-Pack:

  1. Auburn +7 against Georgia
  2. Clemson – 28 over UVa
  3. Mississippi St. – 17 over Arkansas
  4. Ole Miss +7 against Kentucky
  5. Pats +7.5 against Chiefs
  6. Packers/Falcons OVER 56.5

            Finally, it is important for everyone to understand that all the picks here – – and the implied selections here – are subject to being horribly wrong.  For that reason, I think it is worthwhile to contemplate this entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Fallible:  What you are praying that most store-bought pregnancy tests often are.”

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



A Little Of Everything Today

It is still way too early to use anything that happens in the MLB Playoffs to be definitive/indicative regarding the World Series.  Nevertheless, the game between the Braves and Reds yesterday that went to the 13th inning before the only run in the game came across the plate was an entertaining contest.  If I have counted correctly, there were 373 pitches tossed in that game; since the game ended as a 1-0 walk-off win for the Braves in the 13th inning, that means that every one of the 372 preceding pitches could have changed the trajectory of the game.  The game was not exciting/riveting because of the offensive fireworks on display; it was exciting/riveting because of the pitching and defense on display.

There were a bunch of commentators who seemed overly enthusiastic about dancing on the NFL’s grave after Week 1 TV ratings showed a double-digit decline as compared to last year.  Jason Whitlock has attributed that sort of reporting to a hidden “war on football” and I completely disagree with that thesis.  Nonetheless, there is a segment of the sports reporting cognoscenti that seems to take pleasure in reporting negative TV information about the NFL – – but is conspicuously focused on other things when NFL TV information is positive:

  • Week 2:  Monday Night Football ratings were up 26% in 2020 over comparable ratings for Week 2 in 2019.  [Saints/Raiders was a good matchup but not the best matchup of the weekend as compared to Pats/Seahawks or even Chiefs/Chargers.]
  • Week 3:  Monday Night Football ratings were up 36% in 2020 over comparable ratings for Week 3 in 2019.  [This was THE best matchup on the NFL schedule for the week.]

Lest anyone plan to dance on the grave of the NFL for its television popularity, the Chiefs/Ravens game on last Monday drew an average of 14.2 million viewers.  Ask any of the NFL doomsayers to point to any one or two television programs on that evening that drew as many as 75% of that many viewers (10.65 million viewers).  I tried to find even one program that achieved that  status and could not…’

Before I go any further, let me offer congratulations to the Tampa Bay Lightening as the Stanley Cup Champions in 2020.  I watched some of the Capitals/Islanders series and some of the Flyers/Islanders series; and then, I saw a couple of the Stanley Cup Finals games between the Lightening and the Dallas Stars (including the Stars’ Double OT win).  To a very untrained eye, it appeared to me that the Lightening were bigger, faster and more focused on what they were doing than were the Stars.  I will leave it at that lest anyone start to get the impression that I know anything more than the most superficial aspects of ice hockey.

I enjoyed what I saw in the NHL playoffs; I will cede the floor to others who can provide meaningful analysis of what happened there.  For those who did not see any of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, I would suggest that you missed some exciting and very interesting “Sports on TV”.

Let me set the stage for my next item today.  #1 son is an NFL fan, and #1 son is singularly responsible for the genesis of “Sports Curmudgeon rants” going all the way back to 1994.  If anyone is interested in that backstory, keep goosing me to write a memoir about Sports Curmudgeon rants.  I have tried 3 times in the past and those have been disastrously horrid examples of exposition.  In any event, I got an email from #1 son earlier this week and his intent was to diminish the qualifications of Eli Manning for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  To make his case, #1 son compared Eli Manning’s career stats to those of Jay Cutler.  Consider these stats – – which I have confirmed:

  • Games Played:  E. Manning = 236  Cutler = 153.
  • Completion %-age:  E. Manning = 60.3%  Cutler = 62.0%
  • Career QB Rating:  E. Manning = 84.1  Cutler = 85.3
  • Yards per Season:  E. Manning = 3866  Cutler = 3674
  • TDs per Season:  E. Manning = 24.8  Cutler = 23.7
  • INTs per Season:  E. Manning = 16.5  Cutler = 16.7

Looking at those career numbers, it is difficult to argue that Eli Manning’s career numbers were significantly better than Jay Cutler’s career numbers.  And #1 son is completely right to assert that there are lots of people touting Eli Manning as a shoo-in to the Hall of Fame whereas no one thinks that Jay Cutler should get more than a courteous nod from the voters who determine that honor – –   EXCEPT FOR – – the fact that Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings and was twice voted Super Bowl MVP.

Let me be clear, # 1 son is not trying to make a case for Jay Cutler to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; as a transplanted citizen who matured as a sports fan in Chicago, that is not even close to his intent.  His point – and it is a valid one – is that over their careers, Jay Cutler and Eli Manning were more similar than different in terms of their career stats.  The one huge difference is those TWO SUPER BOWL RINGS.

However, #1 son concludes his email message to me by  saying that if those two Super Bowl rings are so important in the minds of voters, then they also need to enshrine Jim Plunkett who was also the QB for two Super Bowl winning teams in the 1980s (Raiders) and who earned one Super Bowl MVP honor.  .

Stats tell an important story as #1 son has laid out here.  There is also what I call the “eyeball test”.  I saw plenty of games played by Jay Cutler, Eli Manning and Jim Plunkett.  Stats aside, here is my “eyeball rating”; if you gave me the choice of these there QBs in their college graduating days as the guy I would want to build my franchise around, here is my order – – and the gaps between the three are easily discernable:

  • #1:  Eli Manning
  • #2:  Jay Cutler
  • #3:  Jim Plunkett

Having said all of that, #1 son – – and none of you – – need worry about this because I do not have a vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame nor will I ever…

Finally, let me leave you today with an item from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Facebook:  An Internet destination for people who want to be found by everyone who used to beat them up in high school.”

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