TGIF – – Thank God It’s Friday – – is a common state of mind in workplaces around the country. Here in Curmudgeon Central that acronym is modified slightly to become TGIFF – – Thank God It’s Football Friday. So let me get into it and review last week’s Six-Pack:
- College = 1-0-0
- NFL = 3-2-0
- Total = 4-2-0
That brings the cumulative season totals to:
- College = 7-7-0
- NFL = 13-14-1
- Total = 20-21-1
College Football Commentary:
The Linfield College Wildcats extended their record to 6-0 for the season last week beating Pacific Lutheran 52-7. In five of their six victories, Linfield has scored more than 50 points. This week Linfield hosts the George Fox Bruins in McMinnville. The Bruins have a record of 4-2 for the season and have won their last 4 games in a row. Both teams are undefeated in Northwest Conference games this year. Go Wildcats!
Taking a quick peek at the schools in contention for the Brothel Defense Award – given to the team that allows others to score most easily:
- Tulane gives up 42.3 points per game
- UMass gives up 44 points per game
- Arkansas St. gives up 44 points per game
Texas Tech fired Matt Wells as its head football coach this week. This is interesting because Tech is 5-3 this season and the last time the Red Raiders had a winning season in football was 2015. I would have thought that a 5-3 start to the 2021 season might get him a contract extension. By the way, the last time Texas Tech had a winning record in Big-12 Conference games was in 2009; Mike Leach was the coach that year and he too was fired during the season.
One a more generic level, I wonder about one of the ongoing storylines for this college football season. Cincy has gotten a lot of support as an “outsider team” to break into the CFP this year. So, I wonder what might happen if the following comes to pass:
- On November 20 Cincy with a 10-0 record hosts SMU with a 9-0 record.
- Suppose SMU wins that game on the road.
- Does the narrative immediately flip to SMU worthiness for the CFP – – because there has been little evidence of that narrative to this point of the season?
UNLV has a large replica of a slot machine on its football sidelines this year. Whenever the team scores or creates a turnover, players gather round the slot machine and pull the lever. That seems harmlessly clever; University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a slot machine; a natural connection. However, there is a meta-message here and it is not nearly as benign:
- UNLV has lost every game to date this year.
- Slot machines are programmed to assure that players using them are losers in the long run.
If there was a thread that ran through last week’s college football results, let me suggest that it would be unimpressive performances by ranked teams. Let me pull those unimpressive results from the bulk of the commentary here to show what I mean.
#2Cincy 27 Navy 20: This was not the kind of impressive win that a Top 5 team would be expected to put upon an opponent who arrived at the kickoff with a 1-5 record. The Middies outgained the Bearcats 308 yards to 271 yards and had more first downs too (21 to 14).
#3Oklahoma 35 Kansas 23: This was an ugly win for the Sooners; Kansas outgained Oklahoma 412 yards to 391 yards; Kansas had more first downs and Kansas converted on 9 of 13 third down tries. The Jayhawks led 10-0 at the half and led 17-14 at the start of the 4th quarter. If the CFP Selection Committee “snubs” the Sooners, the way they played in this game will probably be a major reason for the “snub”.
Illinois 20 #7 Penn State 18 (9OT): And it was in State College no less. The Lions were 24.5-point favorites at kickoff. This was the longest game in Division 1-A ever. The total Penn State offense was 227 yards. The only word I can come up with here is “shameful”.
Iowa St. 24 #8 Oklahoma St. 21: Oklahoma leads the Big-12 with a 5-0 record; Iowa St, Oklahoma St. and Baylor have one loss in conference games. Iowa St. drove 85 yards for a TD late in the 4th quarter to come from behind to win this game. It was as even on the stat sheet as it was on the scoreboard.
Appalachian St. 30 #14 Coastal Carolina 27: The pollsters and the people doing Top 25 rankings should now pose this question:
- What lovely parting gifts do we have for the Chanticleers, Johnny?
This was no fluke. Appalachian St. outgained Coastal Carolina by 226 yards of offense. Coastal Carolina’s running game was shut down gaining all of 55 yards on 29 running attempts. Two turnovers by Appalachian St. kept this game closer than it should have been.
Miami 31 #18NC State 30: The stat sheet for this game was as close as the scoreboard was. Miami played with a true freshman at QB, and Tyler Van Dyke exceeded any rational expectations anyone may have had as he filled in for injured starter D’Eriq King. Van Dyke was 25 of 33 for 325 yards passing and 4 TDs. This is the first conference game loss for the Wolfpack who remain in contention for the ACC Atlantic Division title trailing only undefeated Wake Forest.
Wisconsin 30 #25Purdue 13: The game was tied at 13 as the teams came out for the second half. That is when the Badgers’ defense decided to pitch a shutout.
Seven of the Top 25 teams last week either lost outright or were most unimpressive in beating significantly lesser competition. It makes one wonder about the validity of the rankings…
Moving on to Big -10 games from last weekend:
Michigan 33 Northwestern 7: Michigan advances to 7-0. The Wolverines rank #2 in the nation in scoring defense allowing only 14.3 points per game and they rank #11 in the nation in Total Defense allowing only 299 yards per game. Michigan’s offense is no slouch either; they score an average of 37.7 points per game. Last week, Michigan’s offense gained 457 yards and Michigan’s defense only allowed 233 yards.
Ohio State 54 Indiana 7: The game was tied at 7-7 late in the first quarter; then the ass-kicking began. The Buckeyes gained 559 yards on offense and held the Hoosiers to a mere 135 yards for the game.
For fans of ACC teams…
UVa 48 Ga Tech 40: I said last week that there could be fireworks in this game; that was pretty much on point. The teams combined to produce a total of 1206 yards of offense. There were 59 first downs achieved in the game; the teams combined to go 13 for 24 on third-down tries – – whenever one of the defenses managed to create a third-down situation.
Pitt 27 Clemson 17: Clemson’s offensive ineptitude was on display again here. The Tigers gained only 309 yards of offense for the day and 80 of those yards (more than 25 % of the game output) came on a single drive for a TD in the first quarter. Pitt converted 11 of 19 third-down tries in the game. The Panthers remain unbeaten in ACC games (and 6-1 overall) with this win. Clemson has now lost twice in ACC games meaning they are really longshots to make it to the top of the ACC Atlantic Division this year.
Syracuse 41 VA Tech 36: As the score indicates, there was plenty of offense in this game. Syracuse amassed 545 yards and Tech gained 437 yards. Tech led 36-27 with five-and-a-half minutes left in the game. Syracuse got a TD on a short drive to narrow the margin to 36-33; then the Syracuse defense held and gave the ball to the offense at their own 30 yardline with just over a minute left to play. Forty-five seconds later Syracuse scored the winning TD. In my preseason essay on college football this year, I said that Va Tech coach, Justin Fuente, was probably on a warm seat that could get hot with some bad losses – – like this one…
Florida St. 59 UMass 3: This is the kind of shellacking that the coaching staff at Florida St. needed to lay on such a mismatched opponent. The Seminoles gained 586 yards on offense; the Minutemen managed only 241 yards.
Wake Forest 70 Army 56: Wake gained 638 yards on offense; 458 of those yards came through the air. Impressive. Wake allowed Army to gain 599 yards of offense; 420 of those yards came on the ground. Unimpressive. The Wake Forest defenders need to say, “Thank you!” to the offensive guys this week; usually when you give up 8 TDs in a game, you lose that game… Wake is still undefeated.
There were no Big-12 games of note other than the ones cited above as unimpressive performances, so let me move on to the SEC…
Texas A&M 44 South Carolina 14: This game was 41-0 at the end of the third quarter. South Carolina only produced 185 yards on offense for the day.
Alabama 52 Tennessee 24: This game was close with 14 minutes left to play; the score then was 31-24. From that point on, the Alabama defense asserted itself with an INT that led to a short-field TD and then forcing a turnover on downs allowing Bama to make this look more like a blowout than it was for most of the game.
Mississippi St. 45 Vandy 6: Mississippi St. gained 522 yards on offense here; Vandy gained 145 yards. It is not news when a Mike Leach team gains 461 yards passing; it is news when a Mike Leach team holds an opponent to 6 yards rushing for an entire game.
Ole Miss 31 LSU 17: The Total Line for this game was 76. Two weeks ago, the Total Line for an Ole Miss game was 83. Neither game came close to threatening the Total Line even though Ole Miss won both games. Maybe it is time to recognize that Ole Miss can win games without scoring 50 points?
In games involving teams from the PAC-12…
Washington 21 Arizona 16: Arizona remains winless for 2021.
BYU 21 Washington St. 19: I wondered last week how the Washington St. team might react to the firing of its head coach and 4 assistant coaches. BYU is a quality opponent and Washington St. played them tit for tat. A missed PAT in the third quarter by Washington St. and a failed 2-point conversion to make up for that miss provided the margin of victory here. BYU RB, Tyler Allgeier gained 191 yards on 32 carries and scored 2 TDs in the game.
Oregon 34 UCLA 31: UCLA rallied from a 34-17 deficit in the 4th quarter to make this a one-possession game. However, the final UCLA drive ended in INT with about 45 seconds left on the clock. The PAC-12 conference race is very fluid at the moment. There are no teams that are undefeated in conference games. In the North division, Oregon and Oregon St. each have one conference loss. In the South division, Arizona St. and Utah each have one conference loss.
Oregon St. 42 Utah 34: Neither team is noted for its offense but both teams found ways to gain over 450 yards in this game. A blocked punt returned for a TD by Oregon St. provided the margin of victory.
Notre Dame 31 USC 16: The Irish led 24-3 after three quarters; the stat sheet says it should have been much closer than it was because USC outgained Notre Dame on offense by 45 yards. The Irish benefited from 9 penalties (5 of those penalties produced first downs for Notre Dame) and they converted 8 of 12 third-down tries in the game.
In miscellaneous games…
UTSA 45 La-Tech 16: UTSA remains unbeaten for 2021. On the stat sheet this game should have been a nail-biter; each team gained 401 yards of offense; three turnovers by La-Tech provided the difference in the game.
San Diego St. 20 Air Force 14: San Diego St. remains unbeaten. This was a defensive game from start to finish; the Aztecs gained only 229 yards and won the game. Air Force led the nation in rushing coming into the game and was limited to 192 yards on 49 attempts. This was the second conference loss for Air Force; they trail Utah St. in the standings and one of the losses for the year was to Utah St.
SMU 55 Tulane 26: The Mustangs maintain a patina of relevancy.
San Jose St. 27 UNLV 20: UNLV remains winless for 2021.
Hawaii 48 New Mexico St. 34: The Aggies are 1-7 for the season and the reason is their defense. Only once have they held a team below 30 points this year – – and they gave up 28 in that game. Even in their win over Division 1-AA South Carolina State, they gave up 35 points.
College Football Games of Interest:
Iowa at Wisconsin – 3 (36.5): Neither team is great on offense; Iowa ranks 74th in the country in scoring offense and Wisconsin ranks 110th. Both teams play well on defense; Iowa ranks 4th in the country in scoring defense and Wisconsin ranks 17th. I agree this will be a defensive contest, but I am still stunned at how low that Total Line is for the game. The betting action and the polls are in conflict for this game. Wisconsin is the favorite but is unranked; Iowa is ranked in the Top 10. Interesting…
Duke at Wake Forest – 16 (70): Duke gives up 31.6 points per game; Wake Forest scores 43.1 points per game. This should not be close…
Michigan – 4 at Michigan St. (51.5): Both teams are undefeated as of today; that will change tomorrow. Both teams rank in the Top 20 in scoring defense. I will anoint this as the College Football Game of the Week. I see this as a defensive game, so I’ll take it to say UNDER the Total Line; put it in the Six-Pack
BC at Syracuse – 7 (51): The spread opened at only 4 points and has climbed steadily throughout the week.
Iowa St. – 7 at W. Virginia (47): An important Big-12 conference game for the Cyclones…
Miami at Pitt – 9 (62): This is a big game for Pitt and the spread opened at 12 points and has been dropping steadily. Historically, Pitt teams lose about a game a year to an opponent they ought to beat. Is this one of those games?
Rutgers – 1.5 at Illinois (42): Two lesser lights in the Big-10 should put on an entertaining game…
Va. Tech at Ga. Tech – 4 (55): This could be a big game for Va. Tech coach Justin Fuente (see above)
Florida St at Clemson – 9 (48): Clemson only scores 20 points per game so that line looks fat at first. Then you look at the Clemson defense and see that it only allows 14.6 points per game, and you wonder if the Seminoles can actually hit the end zone twice. This is a big test for Florida St. who arrive on a 3-game winning streak; this is also a big test for the offensively challenged Clemson offense. I think that line is indeed fat; I’ll take the Seminoles plus the points because I don’t like Clemson to score that much; put it in the Six-Pack.
UMass at Liberty – 36 (57.5): The last time Liberty had a line like this, they were 33-point favorites over La-Monroe – – and then Liberty lost that game outright. I can only find one Internet sportsbooks with a Money Line for this game – – in case you think lightening will strike twice:
- UMass is at +8,500
- Liberty is at minus-23,500
- Good luck…
North Texas at Rice – 3 (56): Rice has won 3 of its last 4 games – – in case you had not noticed…
UCLA at Utah – 6.5 (60.5): This is an important PAC-12 game for both teams. Utah shares the lead in its division with Arizona St and each has one in-conference loss; UCLA has two in-conference losses so another one would probably end their hopes for a chance to play in the conference championship game.
Washington St. at Arizona St. – 16 (53): The same situation as in the UCLA/Utah game applies here. Arizona St. is tied for the lead with Utah in the South Division and Washington St has two losses already and could become irrelevant in the North Division if they lose here.
Oregon St. – 1 at Cal (55): The Beavers are tied with Oregon for the PAC-12 North lead and Cal is at the bottom of that division with 3 in-conference losses already. I am surprised to see the spread as small as it is.
Colorado at Oregon – 24 (49): This should not be a nail-biter…
Purdue at Nebraska – 7.5 (53.5): The Total Line opened the week at 49 points and has risen steadily as the days went by.
Kentucky – 1 at Mississippi St. (47): The oddsmakers obviously believe Kentucky’s defense can control the Bulldogs’ Air Raid offense.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma – 20 (66): An interesting way to start for the interim head coach at Tech…
Penn St. at Ohio St. – 19 (62): In some seasons, this would clearly be the Game of the Week; but in 2021, it is not even the Big-10 Game of the Week when compared to Michigan/Michigan St.
SMU at Houston -1 (62): The Mustangs have not lost yet…
Texas at Baylor – 3 (61): Baylor has only one conference loss so far; they need to win here to stay within hailing distance of Oklahoma.
Ole Miss at Auburn – 3 (66): Each team has only 1 loss in conference, so this is an important game for both sides. The Ole Miss path to the SEC Championship game is to win out and root for Auburn to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl later. Auburn needs to win out to get to that game. I think Ole Miss is the better team here and ought to win the game outright; I’ll take the Rebels plus the points on the road; put it in the Six Pack.
Georgia – 14 vs. Florida (51): Many is the year when this game would be the Game of the Week…
Cincy – 26 at Tulane (62): The Bearcats need to win impressively this week; they were disappointing last week (see above).
UNC at Notre Dame – 4 (62): Back in August, this was a game I had highlighted on the schedule. Then they started playing the games for real…
Fresno St. at San Diego St. “pick ‘em” (45): San Diego St. is undefeated this year; Fresno St is in the same Mountain West Division with the Aztecs and Fresno St. has only one loss in conference. The Mountain West may not be the football equivalent of some other conferences, but this is a big game for Mountain West fans.
The NFL trade deadline is next Tuesday afternoon, and it cannot get here fast enough. Once it has come and gone, we can be freed from any more reports such as these:
- Will Deshaun Watson be traded?
- Where will Deshaun Watson be traded?
- Will the NFL allow him to play if and when he is traded?
In addition, we can stop reading things like:
- Five trades that contending teams need to make now
- Will the Jackasses be sellers or buyers this year?
- Six players who can benefit from a change of scenery
Two weeks ago, there were a bunch of blowout games; last week there were enough blowout games that makes me begin to wonder if the NFL is tilting away from parity more significantly than usual. There are always dominant teams and bottom-feeders in every season but in the NFL there always tended to be a solid middle-class of teams that were good enough to keep many of the games close. In fact, it is that strong middle class of teams that allows the NFL to carry on with its mantra of
- On any given Sunday … [Read with the intonation of John Facenda!]
It is difficult to put a lot of faith in the “Any given Sunday” proposition when 30% of the games are decided by three scores or more. I hope the results of the last two weeks do not portend the separation in the NFL between a bunch of really good teams and a bunch of really bad teams. That would not be a positive evolutionary step for the league. The presence of 4 games with double-digit spreads on the card for this week is not a good sign.
Here are the six blowout games from last week; there were only 13 games on the card…
Bengals 41 Ravens 17: This puts the Bengals in first place in the AFC North and it happened in Baltimore. The game was close at halftime with the Bengals leading 13-10, but the second half was a totally different story. Yes, Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase are excellent (Chase had 201 yards receiving in this game) but do not give short shrift to the Bengals’ defense. They are also playing excellent football; they only give up 18.3 points per game.
Giants 25 Panthers 3: Sam Darnold has really come back to Earth after a big start to 2021 in a new environment. Last week, he was miserable throwing for only 111 yards on 25 pass attempts and tossing in an INT just for good measure. But wait, there’s more… He was also called for intentional grounding in the end zone – – so he yielded a safety too. The Panthers were not able to run the ball either (56 yards on 17 carries) so it was not a pretty afternoon for Panthers fans or backers. The Giants played opportunistic football scoring 25 points but only gaining 309 yards on the day. The Giants’ defense dominated this game registering 5 sacks and holding the Panthers to less than 200 yards offense.
Pats 54 Jets 13: The Pats racked up 551 yards on offense and here are the results of the Pats’ 11 possessions in the game:
- Field Goal
- Field Goal
- Kneel out the clock
Jets’ QB, Zach Wilson injured his knee in the first half and did not return to this game to take a pounding. That may have been a blessing in disguise for him and for the team in the future.
Titans 27 Chiefs 3: I’ll say it now;
- If the Chiefs do not improve significantly starting immediately, they are not going to make the playoffs.
I know that Patrick Mahomes had to be removed from the game, but that is not why the Titans prevailed. The Titans had the ball for more than 36 minutes last week and converted on 8 of 12 third down tries. The Titans’ defense limited the Chiefs passing game to only 4.7 yards per pass such that the Titans had more passing yards for the game than did the Chiefs. Looking at the replay of the game, the Titans just pushed people around for most of the day.
Cardinals 31 Texans 5: Do not pin this loss on the Texans’ defense. They recorded a safety, created an INT and sacked Kyler Murray 4 times. This loss belongs on the offense’s ledger. Here are some sorry-assed numbers for the game:
- Texans had 160 yards total offense
- Texans recorded 8 first downs
- Texans were 2 for 13 on third down conversions
- Texans were 0 for 2 on fourth down conversions
- Texans never got into the Red Zone.
Bucs 38 Bears 3: It was 35-3 at halftime and the Bucs called off the dogs. The Bears turned the ball over 5 times and went 2 for 11 on third down tries. This was the late afternoon game in my viewing area; I basically gave up on it at halftime and paid attention to other things in my life.
It is hard to believe that any of those games were fun to watch – – even for fans of the winning sides. And for the NFL where parity has become commonplace, it is hard to believe that I have put games with 14-point victories in the category of “non-blowouts.” Here are the rest of the games from last weekend…
Packers 24 Football Team 10: The Football team won the stat sheet – – because the stat sheet does not itemize the plays that created the outcome. The Football Team had 430 yards on offense to only 304 yards for the Packers and the Football Team never punted the ball over the entire game. Normally, those stat sheet entries point to the winning team but not last week. Here is what the Packers did to win the game:
- Washington got to the Red Zone 4 times and scored 0 TDs.
- Washington turned the ball over twice.
- Washington failed on fourth-down tries 4 times out of 5 attempts.
The “good news” for the Football Team is that this was not another game that the defense lost. This time it was the offense that botched things.
Colts 30 Niners 18: The Niners specialized in committing defensive pass interference penalties – – and I do not mean to imply that any of the calls were borderline. At one point, the Colts had gained more yards on 3 long defensive pass interference calls than they had gained on offense by themselves. For the night, the Niners committed 7 penalties for a total of 122 yards. Add 4 turnovers to the Niners side of the ledger and you can see how this game ended the way it did.
Falcons 30 Dolphins 28: Finally, we come to a game decided in the last minute. It is not too often that a game summary for the Falcons includes plaudits for their defense – – but two INTs by the defense came at convenient times to keep this game close until the final drive when Matt Ryan – – with the help of a great catch by Kyle Pitts – – set the Falcons up for a winning field goal with no time left on the clock. Tip your hat to the Falcons’ special teams too; they blocked a kick in the game and that turned into a TD by the offense.
Raiders 33 Eagles 22: The Eagles led the game 7-0 after the first possession of the game; by the next time they scored, the score was 30-7 in favor of the Raiders and there was only 11:41 left in the fourth quarter. This was an ineffective and unorganized showing by the Eagles. Jalen Hurts was only 18 of 34 for the day and the Eagles managed to lose two fumbles in the game. Derek Carr had a monster game here with this stat line:
- 31 of 34 for 323 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT
Rams 29 Lions 19: The Lions took a 10-0 lead in the game and seemed as if they might pull a massive upset. They outgained the Rams on offense and the Lions’ defense held the Rams’ running game to 47 yards on 19 carries. However, the Lions did turn the ball over twice and the Lions did allow the Rams to convert 9 of 13 third down plays. It was not a “statement win” for the Rams but it might be a statement loss for the Lions who did gain 415 yards on offense for the day – – and still lost.
Saints 13 Seahawks 10: Both starting QBs did their best to try to give this game away; Geno Smith got the job done. The two teams combined to go 5 for 25 on third down conversions; total offense for both teams was only 523 yards – – about what the Bengals totaled by themselves in their win over the Ravens. DJ Metcalf caught an 84-yard TD pass in the first quarter to put the Seahawks on top 7-0; for the rest of the game, he caught 1 pass for 12 yards. Was that dumb play calling or dumb execution?
There are only two teams on their BYE Week:
- The Raiders can enjoy their two-game winning streak under interim coach Rich Bisaccia.
- The Ravens can lick their wounds after the beating they took last week at the hands of the Bengals.
Naturally, I watched last night’s Packers/Cardinals game; it was a great game; both teams played well on defense and the game was decided by an INT with about 15 seconds left in the game. The Packers played without two of their top receivers; no problem; the Packers ran the ball for 151 yards on 34 carries. For the Cards, JJ Watt did not play, and DeAndre Hopkins was probably only on the field for a half-dozen plays due to injury.
The stat sheet for the game was dead even; the Packers gained 335 yards as compared to the Cards’ output of 334 yards. The biggest difference was in time of possession; the Packers had the ball for 37:35 due mainly to their success in running the ball. Three turnovers by the Cards – including the INT that sealed the game for the Packers – did not help the Cards’ cause even a little bit.
The Packers now hold the tiebreaker over the Cards should that come into play for seeding in the NFC playoffs. However, the Packers’ schedule from here on out is not particularly soft. They are on the road in KC next week and still have games against the Rams, Ravens and Browns plus two against the Vikes. But for now, the Packers sit atop the NFC.
Dolphins at Bills – 14 (49): The Bills are clearly the better team here and they are coming off their BYE Week; the Dolphins have lost 6 in a row after winning in Week 1. In the first meeting of these two teams this season, the Bills dominated to the tune of 35-0. It will be closer than that this time – – but still not close.
Panthers at Falcons – 3 (47): The Panthers started the season with three wins and have lost their last 4 in a row. The Falcons are on a 2-game win streak. Matt Ryan is clearly the better QB in the game; the Panthers’ defense is the better defense in the game (third in the league in Total Defense). The loser of this game will see its relevance diminished regarding playoff potential.
Eagles – 3.5 at Lions (48): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. The Lions are winless for a reason; they are not a good football team. The Eagles have won twice but that masquerades the fact that the Eagles too are not a good football team. Both teams could wind up drafting in the Top 5 in next year’s NFL Draft. If the Lions lose here, their schedule takes a turn for the worse:
- At Steelers
- At Browns
- Vs. Bears (Thanksgiving Day Game)
- Vs. Vikes
- At Broncos
- Vs. Cardinals
- At Falcons
- At Seahawks
- Vs. Packers
Perhaps, the Lions will be favored on Thanksgiving Day at home; but other than that, they should be the underdog in every other contest all the way through to January 9th.
Looking at the rest of the Eagles schedule they have a game against the Jets that should be winnable, and they have two games against the Giants and another two games against the Football Team that might produce a win or two – – or not.
Titans at Colts – 2.5 (51): At the beginning of the week, the Titans were favored by 1 point in the game and the Total Line was down at 47 points. That is a lot of line movement for a single game. The Titans lead the AFC South at 5-2; the Colts are second at 3-4. This is a big deal game for the Colts because a win would put them only a game out of first place and it would keep them in wildcard contention in the event they never do catch the Titans. It is a big deal for the Titans as well since a win would give them a 3-game lead in the division with half the season in the books and it would give them 2 wins over the Colts in 2021. For these reasons, this is my Game of the Week. The Colts have played well the past couple of weeks, but the Titans are really on a roll; I like the Titans to win outright so I will take them plus the points on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.
Rams – 14.5 at Texans (48): The Rams got a soft spot from the schedule maker playing the Lions last week and the Texans this week. The Texans have the worst point differential in the NFL at minus-106 points.
Bengals – 10.5 at Jets (42): This line tells me that bettors are worried about a let-down game from the Bengals this week after clobbering the Ravens last week. Clearly, the Jets are not in the same category as the Ravens. It will be interesting to see how the Bengals play in this circumstance; most of these players have never been in a similar setting. With Zach Wilson injured, the Jets will have Mike White at QB with recently acquired Joe Flacco as the backup. This could get ugly quickly.
Steelers at Browns – 4 (42.5): Case Keenum should start in place of Baker Mayfield here; normally, that would be a disqualifying mark against the Browns. However, the Browns’ defense is good against the run (second in the NFL) and if they can shut down Najee Harris, they will take away a major component of the Steelers’ offense. This will not be an artistic event by any means, but it is one of the better games to watch in the early afternoon time slot.
Niners – 4 at Bears (39.5): This game got serious consideration as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Neither team is getting quality play at the QB position; that was to be expected for the Bears as they sought to develop Justin Fields into an NFL QB. That was not supposed to be the case for the Niners who had to expect more productive play from Jimmy Garoppolo than they have gotten. The Bears are 3-4 and two of those three wins came at the expense of the Bengals and the Raiders – – two division leading teams.
Jags at Seahawks – 3 (44): The Jags had a BYE Week last week to bathe in the glory of a win over the Dolphins two weeks ago. Now they must go to Seattle which is not quite as long a journey as the one to London. The Seahawks have been uncharacteristically bad at home this year losing all three games played there. In “normal times”, the Seahawks can rely on the fact that they are sure to get competent play from the QB position; with Russell Wilson on the sidelines, that is no longer a guarantee. This was my runner-up for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.
Pats at Chargers – 4 (49.5): The Chargers opened the week as 6-point favorites, and that number has dwindled slowly downward all week long. The Chargers had a BYE Week last week to prepare for this game; the Pats had a monster game against the Jets (see above); they will not match that kind of offensive output against a decent Chargers’ defense.
Football Team at Broncos – 3 (44): Washington’s defense played its best game of the year last week; it did not produce a win, but there was clear improvement. The Denver defense is injured, and the Broncos are a team that relies on its defense to keep games close. I think the wrong team is favored here; I like the Football Team on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.
Bucs – 4.5 at Saints (50): This is a big game for both teams in the NFC South race. For me, Saints’ games are “unpickable” because there is no way to know which version of Jameis Winston will show up and play. He might throw 5 TDs in a game – – or he might throw 5 INTs. It makes a difference. A win for the Bucs here would put them two up in the loss column versus the Saints.
(Sun Nite) Cowboys – 1.5 at Vikes (55): This spread for this game is all over the place; I found it as a “pick ‘em” game at one sportsbook and at 2.5 points at another sportsbook. The line cited here is the most common one. Both teams had a BYE Week last week; this was my runner-up for Game of the Week
(Mon Nite) Giants at Chiefs – 9.5 (52): One Internet sportsbook opened this game with a spread of 13 points; everyone else had the game at 10 or 10.5 points; it did not take long for the lines to level out across the sportsbooks. This is a big game for the Chiefs who have not looked like a playoff team for the last several weeks. Given the urgency for the Chiefs plus the fact that the Giants are not very good, I like the Chiefs to win big here; I’ll take the Chiefs and lay a whole lot of points; put it in the Six-Pack.
So, let me review the Six-Pack and give you a bonus selection for the week:
- Michigan/Michigan St. UNDER 51.5
- Ole Miss +3 against Auburn
- Florida St. + 9 against Clemson
- Titans +2.5 against Colts
- Football Team + 3 against Broncos
- Chiefs – 9.5 over Giants.
BONUS SELECTION: A three team Money Line parlay where all three teams are small underdogs:
- Titans at +120
- Football Team at +150
- Ole Miss at +130
- Parlay odds pay out at +234 (if I did the math correctly)
[EDIT: I did the math wrong. The parlay odds pay out would be +1165. I was very sloppy. sorry. Thanks to the reader in Houston for the correction.]
Finally, let me close with this item by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Browns sack-master Myles Garrett has decorated his front yard for Halloween with tombstones featuring the name and jersey number of opposing quarterbacks.
“What’s he handing out this year, Nestle Crunch?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………