Back in the 1960s, Nancy Sinatra recorded Friday’s Child. One verse in that song is as follows:
“Friday’s child hard luck is her brother
Friday’s child her sister’s misery
Friday’s child her daddy they call hard times
Friday’s child that’s me.”
While the tone of those lyrics is certainly “curmudgeonly”, that is not an anthem for Friday here in Curmudgeon Central because around these parts, Friday in the Fall means another Football Friday.
As is customary, I shall begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack:
- College: 1-0-0
- NFL: 3-2-0
- Combined: 4-2-0
The cumulative results for the season are now:
- College: 3-5-0
- NFL: 8-7-1
- Combined: 11-12-1
College Football Commentary:
The Linfield College Wildcats ran their record to 3-0 last week with a drubbing of the Puget Sound Loggers. Linfield has had three excellent offensive showings so far in 2021 scoring 163 points in 3 games. On Saturday, the Wildcats will host the Whitworth Pirates as part of Linfield’s Homecoming weekend. The Pirates are 4-0 so far in 2021 and are allowing only 18 points per game. This is also a Northwest Conference game which could have lots of bearing on an invitation to the Division III football playoffs down the line. Go Wildcats!
They say that great minds run in similar channels. Well, last Friday I mentioned that ACC football was topsy-turvy this year with the normal “big dogs” looking weaker than usual (Clemson, UNC) and some of the middle-of-the-pack teams looking stronger than usual (Wake Forest, NC State, Va Tech). On that same day, here is a comment from Bob Molinaro – – clearly a great mind – – in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Take your pick: Glass half full: ACC football this year is a welcome example of parity. Glass half empty: it’s a mishmash of mediocrity.”
I agree that ACC football is a “glass half-full” this year. Actually, I think it is both a “mishmash of mediocrity” and a “welcome” change from having far too many blowout wins by the likes of Clemson throughout the season. Competitive games are always better than blowouts…
Just to check in on the teams contending for The Brothel Defense of the Year Award – – it goes to the team that allows any and all opponents to score a lot :
- Kansas allows 43.8 points per game to date.
- Arkansas State allows 45.6 points per game to date.
- UMass allows 47.2 points per game to date.
[For the record, Kansas won this award last year giving up 46.0 points per game in 2020 and they are threatening to win it again this year.]
If you have been reading these rants over the months and years of their existence, you know that I like to have fun with the names of players and coaches. Here are five football player names I have run across so far this year, and I wonder if any of them have brothers with names I propose here:
- Sincere McCormick – RB – UTSA: Brother named Disingenuous?
- Jack Sanborn – LB – Wisconsin: Brother named Chase?
- Jared Summons – OL – Arkansas St.: Brother named Jury?
- Sean Dollars – RB – Oregon: Brother named Silver?
- Jack Christ – OL – Penn St.: Brother named – – Nah … too easy.
Another thing you surely know if you have been reading football commentary from me is that I do not place a lot of value in polls early in the season. So, what I am about to do here is sort of in opposition to that belief and I need to explain. Much later this season, I will start to rank the worst teams in Division 1-A football to select the 8 worst teams that I can bracket into an imaginary SHOE Tournament to “identify” the worst team in the country. The idea is that the teams would play one another, and the loser must continue to play until there is an ultimate loser – the SHOE Team where SHOE is an acronym for Steaming Heap Of Excrement.
This year, some of the “usual suspects” are on my early warning radar such as Kansas and Vandy and UConn and UMass. However, there are several other teams that – while never to be confused with powerhouse programs – are not normally part of this sort of derision. So, let me just highlight a couple of bad teams that might not have yet caught your attention in 2021:
- Arizona The Wildcats are 0-4 and one of those losses was to Division 1-AA, Northern Arizona.
- Arkansas St. The Red Wolves are 1-4; the win was over Central Arkansas; they are currently second in the running for the Brothel Defense of the Year Award.
- Colorado The Buffaloes are 1-4 having beaten Division 1-AA, Northern Colorado. In 4 losing games against Division 1-A opponents, the cumulative score for those games is 112 – 34.
- New Mexico It is not uncommon for New Mexico State to be on the SHOE radar, but this year New Mexico started the season with 2 wins (albeit wins over a Division 1-AA team and then over New Mexico State) and have stunk out the joint in 3 games since then losing by a combined 92 – 23.
- UNLV The Runnin’ Rebels are 0-5; they opened the season with an overtime loss to a Division 1-AA team and since then they have been outscored 147 – 60 by Division 1-A opponents.
The big impact result from last week was Cincinnati beating Notre Dame 24-13 in South Bend. Cincy led 17-0 at the half and coasted home. Notre Dame continued to have difficulty running the ball in this game; the Irish gained 84 yards on 28 carries. The Bearcats were similarly constrained gaining 89 yards on 30 carries. Cincy is undefeated at 4-0; Notre Dame is now 4-1 and is probably no longer in serious consideration as a CFP team given its unimpressive wins to date. As I mentioned earlier this week, Cincy needs for both Notre Dame and Indiana to finish the season strong to make the wins by the Bearcats over those two schools look impressive to the CFP Selection Committee.
In action last week involving Big-10 teams…
Michigan 38 Wisconsin 17: The Wolverines are undefeated in 2021 and have cracked the Top 10 in the latest polls. Is this a reawakening or a mirage? We shall see. On the other hand, if Badger fans are thinking about anything as lofty as a New Year’s Day Bowl Game, they are likely to be sadly disappointed. The Wolverines need to stay vigilant because the latter part of the Michigan schedule has Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State on the dance card.
Ohio State 52 Rutgers 13: The Buckeyes led 45-3 at the half and then called off the dogs. Rutgers was able to move the ball gaining 346 yards on offense but 3 turnovers and only 1 of 5 fourth down conversions assured that the Knights would not be keeping up with Ohio State last week. Ohio State amassed 534 yards of offense here.
Nebraska 56 Northwestern 7: The Huskers ran up 657 yards of offense here including 427 yards rushing. Nebraska is now 3-3 for the season while Northwestern drops to 2-3.
Iowa 51 Maryland 14: I said last week that Iowa was winning on defense this year and that was certainly the case here as the Hawkeyes forced 7 turnovers (6 INTs and a fumble recovery) in the game. The Terps led 7-3 but then the “Turnover Tsunami” hit, and it was 34-7 favor of Iowa at the half. Here are the results of the eleven Maryland possessions from the start of the second quarter until the end of the game:
- End of Game.
In games relevant to the ACC…
UVa 30 Miami 28: I am not sufficiently facile in English to describe how Virginia scored the TD that put them in the lead late in the 4th quarter of this game. You will have to track that down on YouTube or somewhere else for yourself. It was as improbable an ending as the one the Hurricanes suffered on the infamous “Doug Flutie Hail Mary Play” almost 40 years ago. However, I can tell you that the Hurricanes missed a field goal at the very end that would have won it for them. A bizarre game ending indeed…
UNC 38 Duke 7: I said last week that the Duke defense was not in the same class as the UNC offense…
Pitt 52 Ga Tech 21: This game was over at the half when Pitt led 42-14.
Wake Forest 37 Louisville 34: Wake remains undefeated for 2021. Also, I got this game right in last week’s Six-Pack with the game going comfortably over 60 points.
Florida St 33 Syracuse 30: The Seminoles got “off the schneid” here and advanced their record to 1-4. The rushing totals in this game were interesting. Syracuse ran for 239 yards on 40 attempts by only two RBs. Florida State ran for 244 yards on 36 carries – – 33 of which were by two RBs. Those four running backs earned a little extra time in the whirlpool…
Clemson 19 BC 13: This is the first loss of the year for BC. Clemson’s offense showed signs of life here gaining 438 yards on the day. Clemson’s defense held BC to 46 yards rushing on 33 attempts. Notwithstanding those stats, BC had the ball late in the game where a TD would have changed the outcome.
In SEC action …
Georgia 37 Arkansas 0: This says a lot more about Georgia’s team than it does about how folks have wished for Arkansas to be back among the “relevant programs” in the country. The Razorbacks may get back to relevancy one of these years, but they are still a significant step down in quality as compared to the top-shelf of the SEC in 2021. This is the second shutout this season by the Dawgs’ defense; that is a special defensive unit. The score may not look like it, but Georgia won this game with its backup QB. Georgia leaned on its run game gaining 275 yards on 57 carries. Here are data about the Georgia defense through the first 5 games of the 2021 season:
- They have allowed a total of 23 points (two TDs and three FGs). That is #1 in the nation.
- They are 4th in the nation in rushing defense allowing 70.6 yards per game.
- They are 4th in the nation in yards allowed per rush attempt at 2.35 yards per try.
- They are 1st in the nation in pass defense allowing only 110 yards per game in the air.
- They are 1st in the nation in yards allowed per pass attempt at 4.7 yards per attempt.
- As I said, these guys are awfully good…
Alabama 42 Ole Miss 21: The Total Line for this game went to 78.5 at kickoff; the Bama defense saw to it that number was never seriously threatened. Ole Miss scored its first TD of the day with 8:25 to go in the third quarter; by that time Alabama already had 35 points on the scoreboard. The Alabama offense was balanced here gaining 241 yards passing and another 210 yards on the ground. Ole Miss now needs Bama to lose twice for the Rebels to get to the SEC Championship game. Not likely … Ole Miss coach, Lane Kiffin, spent time at Alabama as an assistant to Nick Saban. Coach Saban has not been kind to his former assistants when they get head coaching jobs and then face Alabama on the field. That situation has happened 24 times and the record is:
- Nick Saban 24 wins
- Former assistants 0 wins.
[Aside: Alabama and Georgia are not scheduled to play each other this year save for possibly in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia coach, Kirby Smart, used to be an assistant to Nick Saban for 9 years at Alabama. Just saying …]
Kentucky 20 Florida 13: Kentucky moves to 5-0 while Florida falls to 3-2. Kentucky has LSU this week and then Georgia next week. Those are big games in SEC-world. This was the first loss for Florida at Kentucky since 1986. Florida was sloppy in the game committing 15 penalties including 8 “false starts” and the Gators had a field goal attempt blocked and run back for a TD.
Miss St. 26 Texas A&M 22: This was the other surprise result in the SEC last week. The Bulldogs dominated the stat sheet gaining 438 yards to 326 yards for the Aggies. As you might expect from a Mike Leach coached team, Mississippi St. only gained 30 yards rushing and the rest came through the air. The Aggies were ranked #15 in the country last week; this is their second loss for the season.
Auburn 24 LSU 19: LSU only gained 37 yards rushing – – on 22 attempts – – for the game. LSU led 13-0 until late in the second quarter but three times had to settle for short field goals – – shorter than 35 yards. Those points left on the field were the difference in the game. The win for Auburn at LSU was their first since 1999, increasing the scrutiny of Ed Orgeron by LSU fans.
Vandy 30 UConn 28: Vandy is now 2-3 while UConn drops to 0-6. Sigh…
In Big-12 contests…
Texas 32 TCU 27: Texas is 4-1 but it is one of the the least impressive teams with that record today. Maybe Texas was looking ahead to the Red River Showdown this week? Anyhow, beating TCU by 5 is not going to impress anyone regarding post-season play…
Oklahoma 37 K-State 31: Once again the Wildcats are a tough home team. Oklahoma advances to 5-0 but the last couple of wins have been anything but “dominant” – – but winning is a whole lot better than losing.
Oklahoma St. 24 Baylor 14: The Cowboys are still undefeated in 2021; this was Baylor’s first loss of the season.
Iowa State 59 Kansas 7: This was never a game; the Cyclones led 38-0 at halftime.
Some PAC-12 results …
USC 37 Colorado 14: The Trojans had 494 yards on offense (276 in the air and 218 on the ground). Meanwhile the offensively challenged Buffaloes only gained 242 yards for the day. Colorado faced third down 10 times and converted once; they also had a fourth down try and it too failed.
Stanford 31 Oregon 24 (OT): Now the PAC-12 has no undefeated teams. The leader in the PAC-12 North Division this morning is Oregon State at 2-0. Who saw that coming? Oregon outgained Stanford by 60 yards for the day but that was not enough to overcome a dramatic finish here. Stanford QB, Tanner McKee threw a TD pass on an untimed down at the end of the 4th quarter to tie the game and send it to OT. That TD pass came at the end of an 86-yard drive in the final two minutes. Stanford visits Arizona St this week in what is an important PAC-12 game.
Oregon St. 27 Washington 24: The Beavers lead the PAC-12 North and Washington is now 2-3 for the season. Oregon St. was outgained on the field, and its offense was lopsided. The Beavers gained only 48 yards passing to 242 yards rushing.
Arizona St. 42 UCLA 23: Arizona St. shut out the Bruins for the entire second half to advance its record to 4-1 for the season. UCLA fell to 3-2. The Sun Devils are now the team to beat in the Pac-12 South after this dominating win at UCLA. Sun Devils’ QB, Jayden Daniels, took shots downfield during the game gaining 286 yards through the air on only 18 pass attempts.
In miscellaneous games …
Hawaii 27 Fresno St. 24: I said last week that Fresno St, was not a reliable team and the Hawaii was much better at home than on the mainland; nevertheless, this was still unexpected. Fresno St outgained Hawaii by 162 yards but turned the ball over 6 times in the game. Four of those turnovers were INTs and three of those INTs were inside the Hawaii 10-yardline! Notwithstanding that ineptitude, the Bulldogs led 24-10 at the start of the 4th quarter only to cough up a hairball over the final 15 minutes,
Rice 24 So Mississippi 19: That makes two wins in a row for Rice.
Navy 34 UCF 30: Navy won its first game of the year here. As usual, the Middies’ offense was run-oriented gaining 348 yards on the ground and only 58 yards in the air.
Ball St. 28 Army 16: Army lost its first game of the year here. As usual, the Cadets’ offense was run-oriented gaining 216 yards on the ground and only 66 yards in the air.
SMU 41 USF 17: SMU is 5-0 and perhaps their game against Cincy way down the road will be an important game relative to post-season invitations or exclusions.
Ohio 34 Akron 17 Could this be a SHOE Tournament foreshadowing?
Coastal Carolina 59 La-Monroe 6: Coastal was ranked #16 in the country and this kind of blowout win ought to keep them favorably ranked next week… However, consider this:
- The Chanticleers have played one Power 5 opponent and that was Kansas who might be the worst Power 5 team in the country.
- None of Coastal’s opponents this year has a winning record.
- For the record, the Chanticleers’ five opponents have a combined record of 7-16.
Toledo 45 UMass 7: Given the results to date, it is hard to imagine a SHOE Tournament without UMass participation.
BYU 34 Utah St. 20. BYU remains undefeated. The Cougars had to go to their third string QB after the backup QB who started the game had to leave with a “head injury”.
College Games of Interest:
(Fri Nite) Stanford at Arizona St. – 13.5 (51.5): The Sun Devils lead the PAC-12 South; the Cardinal – with their win last week over Oregon – controls its ability to finish atop the PAC-12 North. This is a big game for both teams. I don’t think Stanford is a great team – – but neither do I think Arizona State is a great team. That is a generous helping of points so I’ll take Stanford plus the points and hope they can make some defensive stops and keep the game close; put it in the Six-Pack.
Florida St. at UNC – 17.5 (64.5): Was last week an “awakening” for the Seminoles or was it an “anomaly”. That spread is a three-score number that the Tar Heels are expected to cover. We shall see…
Michigan St. – 6 at Rutgers (50): The spread opened at 5 points and now is as high as 6.5 points on various Internet sportsbooks. That means there is a lot of Michigan St. money showing up…
Wake Forest – 6 at Syracuse (57): Wake is 5-0 but the oddsmakers are unimpressed. Syracuse is 3-2 with those three unimpressive wins coming over Ohio, Albany and Liberty.
Maryland at Ohio State -21 (71): The Buckeyes cannot afford a close game at home against a lightly regarded opponent.
Ga Tech – 3.5 at Duke (61): I do not think either team here is reliable from week to week.
Boise St. at BYU – 6 (57): BYU looks to go 6-0 here; Boise St. looks to get back to .500 here.
San Jose St. at Colorado St. – 2.5 (45): Colorado St. is not a good team this year; so, what might that spread say about San Jose St.?
Utah at USC – 3 (52): Before the season, I thought this game would be a contender for Game of the Week. Not so as the 2021 season has unfolded. The combined record for these two teams is 5-4 and USC already has 2 in-conference losses.
Oregon St. – 3.5 at Washington St. (59): Oregon St. is undefeated in conference games and its only loss was on the road at Purdue. Washington St is 1-2 in PAC-12 games and 1-2 overall at home.
SMU – 13.5 at Navy (55.5): Cincy fans are pulling for a big win by the Mustangs here…
Georgia – 16 at Auburn (57): Auburn may not be close to Alabama in terms of proficiency this year, but they just might be the second-best team in the SEC – West. So how does a team “like that” fare against the Georgia defense? Auburn, QB, Bo Nix, will need to be at his best when “extending the play”/running for his life” in this game.
LSU at Kentucky – 3 (50.5): LSU is regularly an underdog at Kentucky in basketball – – but this is the spread on a football game. Here is something unusual about the Tigers in 2021; they rank 128th in the country in rushing offense gaining only 70.6 yards per game and 2.58 yards per carry. Kentucky’s pass defense is good yielding only 180.2 yards per game. I like Kentucky at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.
Vandy at Florida – 38.5 (60): This matchup is dictated by SEC scheduling protocols; nonetheless, it should be a boring mismatch.
Wisconsin – 10 at Illinois (42): The Badgers’ excellent defense goes up against a mediocre offense. Probably not a day that will exhaust the scoreboard operator.
Oklahoma – 3.5 vs, Texas (63.5): Normally, the so-called Red River Showdown is the Game of the Week in early October. Not this year (see below). The Sooners have “won ugly” a couple of times this year – – but they are undefeated. Texas is 4-1 and has not been impressive in doing so. It’s awfully early, but this smells like a “must-win game” for Oklahoma.
Michigan – 3.5 at Nebraska (50.5): I am more impressed by Michigan’s undefeated record than I am by Nebraska being 3-3 at this point in the season.
Alabama – 17.5 at Texas A&M (51.5): The only advantage I can assign to the Aggies here is the home field…
UTEP – 2 at So. Mississippi (44.5): Loser here is a likely SHOE Tournament participant. The same might apply to the winner.
Arkansas – 5 at Ole Miss (67.5): Both teams were waxed last week by the two best teams in the SEC – – and maybe in the country. Which team reacts more positively…???
Notre Dame at Va Tech “pick ‘em” (47): A second loss in a row here for the Irish might just get some of the “faithful” to begin to question the competency of the coaching staff…
Penn St. at Iowa – 1.5 (41.5): This is the Game of the Week in college football. If you believe the polls and you agree with Alabama and Georgia at #1 and #2 – in whichever order you prefer – in those polls, then you will find Iowa at #3 and Penn St. at #4. There is a ton of importance here on the Big-10 standings and on the CFP stature for both teams as of early October. This is a late afternoon game on Saturday; set aside time for it… Let me present some stats that make this an interesting contest:
- Iowa is 2nd in the nation in scoring defense allowing 11.6 points per game
- Penn State is 3rd in the nation in scoring defense allowing 12.0 points per game.
- Iowa’s defense is 1st in the nation in turnover margin per game (2.4)
- Penn State’s defense is 12th in the nation in turnover margin per game (1.2)
- Iowa scores 33.2 points per game
- Penn State scores 30.0 points per game.
Iowa and Penn State have played one common opponent, Indiana:
- Iowa 34 Indiana 6
- Penn State 24 Indiana 0
I purposely saved this game for last. It is a game of no importance, but it is surely a game of interest here in Curmudgeon Central. Let me present the betting lines and then a comment:
UConn – 3.5 at UMass (56): How bad are the teams in this scheduling blunder? Let me count the ways:
- Needless to say, neither team has won a game so far in 2021; it is almost unfortunate that one of them must win this weekend.
- UMass gives up the most points per game so far this year (47/2 points per game).
- UConn is not nearly so bad only yielding merely 39.7 points per game.
- UMass allows opponents to run the ball for 238.4 yards per game.
- UConn is much stingier allowing only 212.5 yards per game.
- UMass ranks 128th in the country (out of 130 teams) in scoring offense at 14.6 points per game.
- UConn ranks 125th in the country in scoring offense with a prodigious 16.5 points per game.
This is an “avert your eyes game” or maybe a “wish for a natural disaster that will force a cancellation” game. The winner this weekend should take a photo of the losing team leaving the field and caption that picture:
- “There but for the Grace of God go we.”
Bob Molinaro had another cogent observation in his column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:
“Foot soldier: The Ravens’ Justin Tucker was the NFL’s best clutch kicker long before he nailed the game-winning 66-yarder against Detroit. He’s now 16 for 16 on field goals in the final minute of regulation.”
Forget the distance of his most recent incident of kicking heroics and focus your attention on the number of times he has withstood the pressure and made something good happen for the Ravens…
There were a couple of headlines earlier this week indicating that Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores might be “falling out of favor” in Miami. The Dolphins are a disappointing 1-3 at this point in the season and they have a tough assignment this week on the road against the defending Super Bowl Champs in Tampa. So, I mentally checked that game off as a loss and a 1-4 start for the Dolphins and then went to look at the team schedule beyond that. It becomes “pillow soft” through December 19th
- At Jags – Jags are 0-4
- Vs Falcons – Falcons are 1-3
- At Bills – Bills are 3-1
- Vs Texans – Texans are 1-3
- Vs Ravens – Ravens are 3-1
- At Jets – Jets are 1-3 ‘
- Vs Panthers – Panthers are 3-1
- Vs Giants – Giants are 1-3
- Vs Jets – Jets are 1-3.
The Bills, Ravens and Panthers should be tough games – – but two of those three games are in Miami. The rest of those games are clearly winnable. The Dolphins could well be 7-6 with 4 games to play, It may be a bit early to “have issues” with Brian Flores and his coaching staff – – but if the Dolphins are significantly worse than 7-6 come Christmas week, have at Coach Flores…
I want to pose a contrarian interpretation of what has become a “commonplace” occurrence in the NFL. I have been watching a lot of game highlights this year and I keep hearing color analysts having verbal orgasms over a QBs’ ability to execute a “back-shoulder throw”. After seeing multiple dozens of these completions over the first 4 weeks of the season here is my problem:
- How many of those completions were planned to happen that way as opposed to the QB underthrowing the pass route and the receiver adjusting to the ball to make a circus catch?
Next time you hear the analyst say it was a great back-shoulder throw and you get to see the replay, you make the call there…
Moving along to last week’s games…
Cowboys 36 Panthers 28: The Panthers went into the game giving up the fewest passing yards in the NFL and the fewest rushing yards in the NFL; they had dominated their way to a 3-0 start. The Panthers’ defense was expected to dominate on Sunday, but instead, it was the Cowboys’ defense that put on the show in an impressive 36-28 win. Sam Darnold was sacked 5 times and threw 2 INTs in the game.
Football Team 34 Falcons 30: In my Pre-Season predictions, I said that Washington’s defense would carry the team this year, but that definitely has not been the case so far, and it was certainly not the case last Sunday. The Football Team’s defense surrendered 30 points, but they were bailed out by the offense that gained more than 400 yards and scored 34 points. Once again, the Falcons loss can be attributed to the failure of its defense in the final quarter or so of a game – – reminiscent of the Falcons’ defensive collapse in the Super Bowl against the Pats a couple of years ago. Last week, the Falcons’ defense yielded 12 points in the final four minutes and the difference on the scoreboard was only 4 points.
Chiefs 42 Eagles 30: The Eagles had three deep penetrations into Chiefs’ territory that resulted in very short field goals (25, 29 and 31 yards). That represents 12 points left on the field. Check it out; the margin of victory for the Chiefs was 12 points. Hmmm… The Eagles were able to move the ball against the Chiefs, not having to punt even once in the game. The Eagles finished with 461 yards and scored 30 points (seven of which were in garbage time) behind an offensive line missing four of five starters. What doomed the Eagles were:
- Failed opportunities in the Red Zone (three times resulting in those really short field goals)
- Nine penalties
- Rushing for only 103 yards against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses.
The Eagles’ defense also did not get stops, it allowed the Chiefs to convert 9 of 10 third downs and score touchdowns on six of seven possessions.
Giants 27 Saints 21 (OT): This was the “home-opener” for the Saints, but it did not go according to plan. This game turned out to be a coming out party for Giants’ QB, Daniel Jones who threw for a career-high 402 yards. Jones threw two touchdown passes of more than 50 yards including one in the fourth quarter to Saquon Barkley. Jones led the Giants on scoring drives on each of the Giants’ final three possessions of the game. This was the first win of the year for the Giants.
And in a perfect juxtaposition…
Jets 27 Titans 24 (OT): Both NY teams won their first game of the season on the same weekend; both scored 27 points to get the win; both won their games in OT. Derrick Henry gave the Titans an excellent performance (33 carries, 157 yards, one TD), but it wasn’t quite enough. The Titans had a chance to tie things up at the end, but a missed field goal gave the Jets their first win of the year. The Titans were without Julio Jones and A. J. Brown, so the passing game was limited; moreover, the Jets’ defense scored 7 sacks and Zach Wilson had a good day throwing for 298 yards. The AFC South is not a powerhouse division; if the Titans are seen as the best team there, the Colts might not think they are so far from “contending”.
[Aside: Another NYC football happenstance I ran across this week. Since the beginning of the 2017 season, the two teams in the NFL with the worst record going into Sunday’s games were the Jets and the Giants. Both had cumulative records of 18-49. Both teams won last week but they still have the worst cumulative records since the beginning of 2017.]
Bills 40 Texans 0: Last week, I said that this game could turn into a rout. Well, it did just that. During an ugly first half, Texans’ QB Davis Mills completed more passes to folks wearing Bills’ jerseys (2) than he did to his Texans’ teammates (1). The Texans only totaled 8 yards on offense in the first half and things didn’t get much better in the second half. The Texans finished with just 109 yards of offense, and the Bills’ defense recorded 3 sacks and 3 INTs.
Colts 27 Dolphins 17: The Colts’ defense absolutely shut down the Dolphins last week. The Dolphins went into halftime with a total of 73 yards on offense. The Colts’ offense in the first half was nothing to write home about and the score at the intermission was a manageable 7-3. Carson Wentz had a decent game, and he won his first game as an Indy Colt. The Dolphins’ offense was a no-show until garbage time; their first visit to the Red Zone did not happen until the fourth quarter when they trailed 20-3. For the day, the Dolphins were 3 for 11 on third down.
Bucs 19 Pats 17: Mac Jones played very well here despite being on the losing side. Not only did he throw for 275 yards, but he also completed 19 straight passes at one point. The Bucs showed that they can run the ball if need be in inclement weather rushing for 119 yards on 30 carries.
Bears 24 Lions 14: I said last week that the first team to 17 points would win. Nailed that. During the first half alone, the Lions got inside of Chicago’s 8-yard line on THREE separate drives, but on each drive, they came away with zero points. The results of those three drives were
- Turnover on downs
- Strip sack lost fumble
The Lions spent much of the day proving that they are indeed “the Lions”. They got inside the Bears’ 10-yardline a fourth time in the 4th quarter and turned the ball over on downs then too. Justin Fields threw for 215 yards in the game – – but remember, this was against the Lions.
Browns 14 Vikes 7: It was the Browns defense who won this game holding Dalvin Cook and company to under 3 yards per carry. That made play-action pass plays a lot less frightening and allowed the Browns to come away with a win even though this was a less-than-productive offensive showing. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 169 rushing yards for the Browns.
Packers 27 Steelers 17: This was a chapter in a recurring story in Pittsburgh; the Steelers’ defense played well – – but not well enough to overcome the play of a mild-mannered Steelers’ offense. The Packers’ defense held Pittsburgh to just 4 of 11 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down. I saw a stat that said only 9 of Roethlisberger’s 40 pass attempts went more than 10 yards downfield; Had you asked me to guess, I would have said “Five”. I have come to believe that the Steelers’ offensive coordinator has Big Ben on a “long-pass pitch count”.
Cards 37 Rams 20: This was an excellent game by the Cards’ defense. They limited Cooper Kupp to only 5 catches on 13 targets for only 66 yards. The Rams’ defense was good but not at its normal “elite” level here. Maybe the Cards are for real?
Seahawks 28 Niners 21: Defensively, the box score will tell you the Seahawks weren’t great — they gave up 457 yards of offense — but they came up with big plays when they had to. The Seahawks held the Niners to 2 of 14 on third-down conversions and created a turnover too. Jimmy G had to leave the game with an injury and Trey Lance took over the offense. Lance did throw a 76-yard TD to Deebo Samuel but that was as much a catch-and-run over blown coverage as anything else., The stat sheet says that Lance had “accuracy issues” completing just 9 of 18 pass attempts.
- Question: If QB is the most important position on a team, are the Niners consigned to second-tier status in the NFC West because they clearly have the weakest starting QB of the 4 teams there?
Ravens 23 Broncos 7: Teddy Bridgewater suffered a concussion in the game; while that is not the reason why the Broncos lost, it did assure that the Broncos were not going to win this game. Bridgewater completed 7 of 16 passes for 65 yards and one touchdown in the first half, but the Ravens held the lead at halftime, 17-7. Drew Lock took over for Bridgewater but he was not able to mount any significant threat to the Ravens’ defense in the second half. The Ravens were the first decent opponent the Broncos faced this season after the Broncos built a 3-0 record over the likes of the Jags, Jets and Giants.
Chargers 28 Raiders 14: The Chargers totally dominated the first half; it looked like a college game when the home team had invited Cupcake U as their Homecoming opponent. Then the Raiders came out in the 3rd quarter and moved the ball at will until the Chargers woke up and regained control of the game. These are two good teams and in case you had not heard, Justin Herbert is a very good QB. The Raiders only gained 213 yards on offense in this game which is a far cry from the 471 yards per game they had averaged in their first 3 games. That should tell you something about the Chargers’ defense too.
In an interesting game last night, the Rams advanced their record to 4-1 beating the NFC West rival Seahawks 26-17. Russell Wilson injured a finger on his throwing hand and had to leave the game in the second half. Wilson has been an “iron man” since coming into the league; he has started every game. Off the bench for Seattle came Geno Smith and Geno Smith did what Geno Smith usually does.
- He led a TD drive that closed the margin in the game to 2 points.
- He threw what had to be one of the uglier INTs of the year to ice the game for the Rams.
Here are the rest of the Week 5 games…
Jets at Falcons – 3 (46) [Game is in London]: I guess the calculus in NFL HQs is that the UK audience for “London Games” is not yet sufficiently sophisticated to realize that the NFL is exporting some of its worst games. Both teams carry 1-3 records to the kickoff but that does not tell the story of how sorry these teams have shown to be in 2021. Kickoff for this game is at 9:30 AM EDT; I will not be partaking of the first half for sure; perhaps I will catch some the second half – – or not. This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week .
Dolphins at Bucs – 11 (48): The spread here opened at 9 points and jumped to this level almost overnight. The Bucs have not been as dominant as most folks figured they would be with just about everyone who matters from last year’s Super Bowl roster back for another go in 2021. However, the Dolphins are about as meek and mild on offense as any defensive coordinator would want. I will not make this a selection because of my aversion to double-digit spreads in NFL games, but this could turn into a rout – – sort of like the way I thought the Bills/Texans game might turn into a rout last weekend.
Eagles at Panthers – 3.5 (45): I think this is the next episode in a long season for Eagles’ fans. The defense is good – not great; the offense is fair – not good; the coaching decisions are random – not rational. The Panthers won their first three games and were then pushed around by the Cowboys last week. Which version of their team shows up here?
Saints – 1 at Football Team (43.5): Is this the game where the over-hyped Football Team defense shows up and plays like something more than a bunch of formerly employed piano movers? Even if that is the case, I think there will be scoring in the game, so I like this game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.
Titans – 4.5 at Jags (48.5): If the Titans show up spring loaded to be pissed-off after losing to the Jets last week, this game will not be in doubt after the first quarter. However, last week’s loss to the Jets also showed that the Titans’ defense is not ready to carry the team when its two best pass receivers cannot play. By the same token, one needs to try to imagine how the Jags will play in the week after the “Urban Meyer Video Scandal”. If I were to watch this contest – and I do not plan to do so in real time or after the fact – I would be interested to hear how the announcing crew dances ever so gingerly around the issues raised by the “Video Scandal”.
Lions at Vikes – 9 (49): One Internet sportsbook had the spread here at 10.5 points; it is unusual for spreads to straddle such a common score differential as 10 points. The Vikes are 1-3 and are 2 full games behind the division-leading Packers. The Vikes need this game badly. The schedule maker must have granted the Vikes a wish because for a game they need badly, the schedule brings a bad team to town.
Broncos at Steelers “pick ‘em” (39.5): Will Teddy Bridgewater be able to play here, or will we see “Dull Drew” Lock squaring off against “Boring Ben” Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh? This will be the early CBS game in my viewing area this week so I will not be able to avoid it – – but you can and should. I am tempted to take the UNDER here – – but if I did that, I would want to watch the game and that is just not my idea of a good way to spend my Sunday afternoon.
Packers – 3 at Bengals (50): Were it not for a couple of games lower on the card this week, this might get some consideration for the Game of the Week. Who woulda thunk it? Both teams are 3-1; say it again, the Bengals are 3-1. And the Bengals are undefeated at home in 2021. I do not see either defense asserting itself to the point where it shuts down the opposing offense. I see score upon score here; I like the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.
Pats at Texans – 9 (39.5): Davis Mills was “confused” by the Bills’ defense last week and the Bills tend to play defense straight and simply outperform the opposition. The Pats prefer to play Jedi mind games with rookie QBs so this could be a fun game to watch.
Bears at Raiders – 5.5 (44): Justin Fields is going to be the Bears’ QB here – – and presumably for the rest of the year unless he really wets the bed. He will need all of his inherent “athleticism” here because the Raiders have a couple of excellent pass rushers and the Bears’ OL is – to be ultra-polite – a work in progress. I think the Raiders put a whoopin’ on the Bears here; I’ll take the Raiders to win and cover at home; put it in the Six-Pack.
Browns at Chargers – 1 (47): This is my runner-up for Game of the Week. The Chargers looked dominant against the Raiders last week and the Raiders are a good football team. The Browns are also a good football team, and it will be an interesting yardstick to see if the Chargers can play dominantly against them too.
- The Chargers are in a three-way tie in the AFC West with a record of 3-1.
- The Browns are in a three-way tie in the AFC North with a record of 3-1.
- Something’s gotta give…
Giants at Cowboys – 7 (52): Can Daniel Jones replicate his performance from last week? If so, this game might hit the OVER in the 3rd quarter. The Giants’ defense should have trouble stopping the Cowboys’ offense so this game could get out of hand should Jones have a less-than-wonderful game.
Niners at Cards – 5.5 (50): It looks as if Trey Lance will be the Niners’ QB here and that is not the matchup against Kyler Murray that is ideal for the Niners.
(Sun Nite) Bills at Chiefs – 3 (56.5): This is the Game of the Week. Not only do the Chiefs need a win here to stay in touch with the AFC West leaders (remember, the Chiefs are in last place in that division), but this head-to-head result could easily have tie-breaker implications involving playoff seeding. The Chiefs’ defense is a mess; so, what do they do? They sign “troubled” WR, Josh Gordon and he is likely to be activated for the game here. If you only have time to watch one game this week, make it this one…
(Mon Nite) Colts at Ravens – 7 (46): This is the third game in a row where the Colts are on the road. That is always a big challenge for an NFL team – – and when that third consecutive road game is against a very good opponent, the challenge gets even bigger. Yes, the Colts’ defense is good, but Lamar Jackson presents challenges to good defenses that many of those defenses are not capable of handling. I think that is the case here; I like the Ravens to win on both defense and offense; I think the Ravens will coast to a win here; give me the Ravens to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.
So, let me review this week’s Six-Pack:
- Stanford + 13.5 against Arizona State (Fri Nite)
- Kentucky – 3 over LSU
- Saints/Football Team OVER 43.5
- Packers/Bengals OVER 50
- Raiders – 5.5 over Bears
- Ravens – 7 over Colts (Mon Nite)
Finally, Brad Dickson formerly with the Omaha World Herald had this observation about the upcoming Super Bowl Halftime Show:
“Breaking news: Snoop Dogg will be the Super Bowl halftime performer. Which answers the age old question: do the halftime performers need to pass a drug test? No.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………