Football Friday 11/19/21

Friday is named in honor of Frigg who was the wife of Odin in Norse mythology.  Spiritual folks believe that Frigg’s energy is infused into us at the end of the week reminding us of the need for rest and relaxation in our lives.  That sounds like a good reason to do a Football Friday.  Thanks, Frigg…

Let me begin today with a review of last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College:  2-1-0
  • NFL:  1-2-0
  • Total:  3-3-0
  • Money Line Parlays:  0-2

That brings the season totals for all the Six-Packs to:

  • College:  10-13-0
  • NFL:  17-19-1
  • Total:  27-32-1
  • Money Line Parlays:  1-4     Net loss on parlays:  =   $113.

 

College Football Commentary:

 

The Linfield College Wildcats finished their regular season undefeated; last weekend they beat Lewis and Clark 51-17.  That record got them an invitation to the Division III playoffs and this weekend they will play the Redlands College Bulldogs at home in McMinnville, OR.  Redlands is 8-1 on the season. Interestingly that one loss came at the hands of Linfield back on September 18th.  So far this year, Linfield has dominated opponents:

  • Linfield has scored an average of 52.8 points per game
  • Linfield has allowed an average of 11.7 points per game

The winner of this game will move on to play the winner of a game between St. John’s (MN) and Lake Forest.  Go Wildcats!

We are getting close to the time when the winner of the Brothel Defense Award will emerge.  The award recognizes the college football defense that allows everyone to score at will:

  • Arkansas St. allows 41.1 points per game
  • UMass allows 44.0 points per game
  • Kansas allows 44.1 points per game.

For the record, Kansas won this award in 2020 and UMass won this award in 2019.  The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Three college football coaches were fired this week; none of the three was truly shocking.  Let me go over them in alphabetical order.

Butch Davis was fired at Florida International.  Davis has been there since 2017; FIU made it to bowl games in his first 3 seasons there but in the COVID-shortened season of 2020 the team was 0-5.  This year, FIU has been awful; its record is 1-9.  So, I can understand that the school could decide to make a change.  However, it is the aftermath of the firing that is interesting here; Butch Davis did not go quietly into the night…

Davis made it clear that he thinks the school administrators were fortunate to have had those three bowl game appearances.  He said he was only allowed to offer minimal contracts of one year in length to any of his assistants.  He also said that when he arrived at FIU, all the pads for the players to use were “10 years old”.  The school would not buy new pads but one of the assistants knew that Mississippi State was getting new equipment and the assistant arranged to get the stuff Mississippi State was throwing out.  According to Davis, those pads were “only 5 years old”.  He also said that his assistants were not allowed to travel to recruit players “for financial reasons”.

That is not the kind of statement you hear from a recently fired football coach.  That is more than burning bridges; that is almost a scorched Earth policy statement.  Butch Davis is 70 years old; my guess is that he is not looking ahead toward his career progression.

Justin Fuente was fired at Va Tech.  Fuente has been the head coach there since 2016 and he has had the Hokies in bowl games 4 times.  Last year, Tech went 5-6; I said in my pre-season analysis that Fuente would be on a hot seat if they Hokies did not do better this year; as of this morning, they are 5-5 and he is out of a job.

The surprising thing to me is that he was fired after winning a blowout game over Duke last week; normally a coach that wins a game by 3 or 4 TDs gets to hang around for at least another week.  However, do not fret over Justin Fuente’s fate; reports say that his buyout clause calls for him to get $8.5M in installments over the next 3 years.

One name immediately surfaced as Fuente’s replacement; that would be Shane Beamer who has been the head coach at South Carolina for all of one season.  Beamer is the son of Frank Beamer who was an icon at Va Tech for 29 years.  Stay tuned…

Jimmy Lake was fired at Washington.  Lake has been the Huskies coach since 2020 and his record in 14 games is 7-7; he had been the Huskies’ defensive coordinator for two seasons prior to taking over the head coaching job.  Lake was suspended by the school for one game without pay last week after an incident where he shoved one of his players on the sideline and then fired him this week.  Reports say that Lake’s buyout clause will net him $10M with an offset clause that reduces that amount by any salary he earns in another coaching position.

In SEC action last week…

Alabama 59 New Mexico St. 3:  You guessed it; New Mexico State led 3-0 with about 5 minutes to play in the first quarter; then Alabama scored 59 unanswered points.  The score at the half was 49-3; I was with friends watching another game when we saw that halftime score and wondered if Nick Saban would put in the Alabama Student Council or the Latin Club to play the second half.  For the game the Aggies ran the ball 27 times for a net gain of 9 yards; they averaged 12 inches per carry.

Mississippi  St 43  Auburn 34:  This will not go down well in Auburn; it is a game they needed  to win, and they led 28-3 with 6 minutes left in the first half. Then came the deluge.  The Bulldogs then scored 40 unanswered points to lead 43-28 with 5 minutes to play in the game.

Florida 70  Samford 52:  Yes, that is Division 1-AA Samford that scored 52 points on the Gators’ defense gaining 529 yards on offense in the process.  Yes, that is Division 1-AA Samford that led Florida 42-35 at halftime.  Recall that Florida fired two assistant coaches last week – the defensive coordinator and the run game coordinator; you think maybe there were some other folks who might have been “the problem” that had the Gators at 4-5 on the season entering this game?  According to one report, Samford was paid $550K to come to Gainesville to play this game as a punching bag.

Georgia 41  Tennessee 17:  Here is the story line from that game:

  • Georgia gave up more than twice the number of points it has allowed per game so far this year.

Ole Miss 29  Texas A&M 19:  Ole Miss outgained the Aggies 504 yards to 378 yards.  To compound their problems, the Aggies also committed 11 penalties and turned the ball over twice in the game – – one of those turnovers was a Pick-Six.  Both teams now have 3 conference losses; the Aggies cannot win the SEC West;  Ole Miss can win with a lot of improbable outcomes including two straight losses by Alabama in the final two games of the year.

Kentucky 34  Vandy 17:  That ends a 3-game losing streak for Kentucky.

Arkansas 16  LSU 13 (2 OT):  This was a defensive game; LSU outgained Arkansas 308 yards to 282 yards.  Three turnovers – one in the second OT – did LSU in.  That is the 6th loss for LSU this year; the last time they lost that many games in a season was in 1999.  LSU fired its coach then and hired a guy named Nick Saban.  Ed Orgeron is “stepping down” at LSU this year; can LSU find a comparably competent replacement?

Some ACC results…

Notre Dame 28  UVa 3: UVA played without their starting quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who leads the nation in total offense with an average of 425.3 yards. Instead of getting those 425 yards from the QB position, UVa only got 196 yards in this game.   UVa has now lost 2 games in a row but it only has two conference losses and is one game behind Pitt in the Coastal Division.  You guessed it; UVa and Pitt play each other this week…

Pitt 30  UNC 23  (OT):  Pitt led 17-0 at the end of the first quarter and 23-7 at halftime.  Then the Pitt offense went dormant in the second half until regaining consciousness in the OT period.

Wake Forest 45  NC State 42:  I believe that Wake will be the Atlantic Division winner if it wins either of its last two games this season putting them in the ACC Championship Game.  Both games are road games for Wake – – this week is at Clemson and next week is at BC.

Florida St. 31  Miami 28:  I had this as a hunch bet last week in the Pick-Six.  Let me be clear; I do not think Florida St. is a good team; it is a mediocre team.  It is just that I don’t  think Miami is anything better than average/mediocre either.  This is the 7th  game for Miami this year decided by 4 points or less.  In those 7 tight games the Hurricanes are 4-3.

Va Tech 48  Duke 17:  This game was not nearly as close as the score might indicate.  Tech outgained Duke by 250 yards for the day.  And the winning coach got fired… (see above)

Clemson 44  UConn  7:  This was a scrimmage and nothing else.

Louisville 41  Syracuse 3:  Yes, this was a beat down that was supposed to be a close game.  Syracuse only gained 184 yards on offense and a meager 46 yards in the air.

On to the Big-10 we go…

Michigan 21  Penn State 17:  This was a slugfest; both defenses came to play and asserted themselves in the game.  The stat sheet is as close as the scoreboard; the difference is that Michigan scored TDs and Penn State scored field goals.  Michigan RB, Hassan Haskins, ran for 156 yards on 31 carries.

Rutgers 38  Indiana 3:  Last week I wondered why Indiana was a TD favorite in the game given that Indiana entered the game with a 2-7 record.  In no way did I think Rutgers would blow their doors off.  The Scarlet Knights ran the ball for 208 yards here.  The Hoosiers were most generous as hosts for the game turning the ball over 6 times (4 lost fumbles and 2 INTs)  Indiana was also 1 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Ohio St. 59  Purdue 21:  I said last week that Purdue’s history of beating Top-10 ranked teams this year would not carry over to this game.  Well, that sort of worked out the way I thought it would.

Michigan St.:  40  Maryland 21:   Finding a way to make it seem as if this game outcome was ever in doubt would be a challenge.  The stat sheet was relatively even until you notice these minutiae:

  • Maryland:  3 of 13 on third down conversions
  • Michigan St.:  9 of 14 on third down conversions
  • Maryland committed 13 penalties resulting in 7 first downs for Michigan St.
  • Michigan St. committed 8 penalties resulting in 3 first downs for Maryland.

Maryland turned the ball over on downs on its last 3 possessions in the 4th quarter.

Here are some Big-12 results…

Oklahoma St.  63  TCU 17:  The Cowboys more than “doubled up”  the Horned Frogs in Total Offense here gaining 686 yards while yielding only 273 yards.  Oklahoma St. ran the ball for 451 yards on 62 carries (7.3 yards per carry).

Kansas 57  Texas 56 (OT):  There are tons of folks in Austin who are not pleased with Steve Sarkissian this week.  Texas trailed 35-14 at the half and did manage to force OT, but ten penalties by the Longhorns and 4 turnovers in the game were too much to overcome even against  a miserable opponent.  Here are the results of the first half possessions by the Longhorns:

  • Fumble
  • TD
  • TD
  • Fumble
  • INT
  • Halftime

Texas Tech 41  Iowa St. 38:  Both teams are now 6-4 and each will go to a meaningless bowl game at the end of the season.  Be still my beating heart …

Baylor 27  Oklahoma 14:  The Sooners led 7-0 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter.  Then Baylor ran off 24 consecutive points until there were only 3 minutes left in the game.  Caleb Williams as ineffective in the game so Oklahoma went back to Spencer Rattler at QB.  The real difference in the game was the Baylor defense; it intercepted 2 passes and it held Oklahoma to only 260 yards of total offense and held the Sooners to 2 of 9 on third down conversions.

In PAC-12 games…

Utah 38  Arizona 29:  Utah stays on top of the PAC-12 South.  But is this the dawning of an awakening for Arizona or just a half-assed effort by Utah?

Arizona St. 35  Washington 30:  The Huskies led 24-14 with 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter and gagged the game away.  Arizona St. is 1 game behind Utah in the PAC-12 South with two games left on the schedule.

UCLA 44  Colorado 20:  UCLA is bowl-eligible…

Oregon 38  Washington St. 24:  The game was tied at 14 at halftime but Oregon stepped on the gas in the second half to pull away comfortably here.  Oregon/Utah this week is a big game for both teams.

In miscellaneous games of interest…

Utah St.  48  San Jose St. 17:  Utah St. leads the Mountain Division of the MWC by one game over Air Force.  Utah St. has two conference games left against two mediocre teams – – Wyoming and New Mexico.

Air Force 35  Colorado St. 21:  Because Air Force lost to Utah St. back in mid-September, the only way for Air Force to win the division is for Utah St. to lose both games awhile Air Force wins out.

San Diego St.  23  Nevada 21:  The Aztecs lead the West Division of the MWC by a game over Fresno St.  However, if those two teams tie, the tiebreaker belongs to Fresno St. based on its win over San Diego St. on October 30th.

UNLV 27  Hawaii 13:  Two wins in a row for UNLV and puts their record for the season at 2-8.

Cincy 45  USF 28:  Cincy is 10-0…

Maine 35  UMass 10:  This is the second loss in a row for UMass to a Division 1-AA team in the Colonial Athletic Association.  Maybe there is a message here for the Athletic Department at UMass…?

Here is an updated look at candidate teams for my imaginary SHOE Tournament at the end of the season.  I will narrow the field down to 10 teams this week:

  1. Akron  2-8
  2. Arizona   1-9
  3. Florida International   1-9
  4. New Mexico St.   1-9
  5. Tulane  1-9
  6. Southern Mississippi  1-9
  7. Temple   3-7
  8. UConn   1-9
  9. UMass   1-9
  10. Vandy   2-8

College Games of Interest:

 

(Fri Nite) Air Force at Nevada – 3:  Both teams have two losses in the MWC; the loser here will be eliminated from any shot at the conference championship game.

(Fri Nite) San Diego St. – 10.5 at UNLV (41):  The Aztecs lead their division in the MWC; UNLV is 2-8 but has won its last two games.

UVa at Pitt – 14.5 (66):  A win for the Panthers puts them in the ACC Championship Game; a win for the Cavaliers puts them in first place in the Coastal Division via a tiebreaker.  This may not be the Game of the Week, but it is as important as any other game on the schedule.

SMU at Cincy – 11.5 (65):  Cincy is still hoping to get some recognition from the CFP Selection Committee, but SMU is 8-2 so they are not necessarily a push-over here.

UMass at Army – 36 (57):  This game is interesting only because of the imaginary SHOE Tournament and the Brothel Defense Award for 2021…

Va Tech at Miami – 7 (56):  Both teams are inconsistent from week to week.  The Hokies got their coach fired (see above); a bad loss here by the Hurricanes might achieve the same end.

Syracuse at NC State – 11 (51):  Syracuse needs to find another win to become bowl-eligible, but NC State is a perfect 5-0 at home this season.

Michigan St. at Ohio St. – 19 (68.5):  This is a BIG game for both teams.  If you wonder why the spread is so big in a game involving two very good teams, consider:

  • Ohio St. ranks 6th in the nation in passing offense at 353.6 yards per game.
  • Ohio St. ranks 1st in the nation in scoring at 46.3 points per game.
  • Michigan St. ranks 130th in the nation in passing defense allowing 329 yards per game.
  • For the record, there are only 130 teams in Division 1-A college football…

Michigan – 16 at Maryland (57):  Michigan cannot afford a loss here and they are the better team…

Florida – 9 at Missouri (69.5):  Both teams are 5-5; both teams have only 2 wins in SEC games.  No one expected Missouri to be anything more than mediocre; lots of people – including lots of Florida alums and boosters – thought Florida might challenge for the SEC East title this year.

  • Prediction:  If Florida loses this game, Dan Mullen will be fired.

Texas at W. Virginia – 3 (56.5):  If the Texas defense gives up 52 points to Division 1-AA Samford (see above), maybe the Mountaineers can cover that Total Line by themselves.  Both teams are 2-5 in Big-12 Conference games this season.

Florida St. at BC – 2 (54.5):  BC is bowl-eligible; Florida St. needs to win out to become bowl-eligible.  BC is 3-1 at home; Florida St. is 1-2 on the road.

Minnesota – 7 at Indiana (43):  The Gophers are only one game behind Iowa and Wisconsin in the Big-10 West.  Minnesota is 3-1 in road games this year and Indiana is 1-4 at home.  I really think Indiana has tossed in their jock straps for the season; I’ll take Minnesota to win and cover here; put it in the Six-Pack.

Wake Forest at Clemson – 4.5 (57):  The last time Wake beat Clemson was in 2008; the last time Wake beat Clemson at Clemson was in 1998.  A win for Wake puts them in the ACC Championship Game; a win for Clemson keeps their slim hopes for getting to that game alive.

Nebraska at Wisconsin – 9 (43.5):  The Huskers are 1-6 in Big-10 games.  Normally, you would expect that they would have a huge negative point differential in those games but the point differential for Nebraska in those 7 games is only 7 points.  Nebraska has lost a lot of Big-10 games by single digits and then beat Northwestern by 49 points.  The Badgers are tied with Iowa in the Big-10 West and need a win here.

Illinois at Iowa – 12.5 (38):  The Hawkeyes lost to Wisconsin on October 30th, so they need to win out and also to have the Badgers lose a game in order for Iowa to play in the Big-10 Championship Game.

Oregon at Utah – 3 (59):  Utah leads Arizona St. by a game in the PAC-12 South and holds the tiebreaker over Arizona St. on the basis of a win over the Sun Devils on October 16th.  Oregon has a more comfortable two-game lead over both Oregon St. and Washington St. in the PAC-12 North.  This looks to me to be a “preview” of the PAC-12 Championship Game.  I think this is the College Football Game of the Week.

Cal – 2 at Stanford (45.5):  Cal versus Stanford is always a “Game of Interest” simply because of the rivalry.  Stanford has 7 losses this year and is not going to a bowl game; Cal has only 6 losses so they could theoretically make it to a bowl game by winning out over Stanford, UCLA and USC.

Arizona St. – 3 at Oregon St. (59):  Regarding the PAC-12 Championship Game, this is an elimination game for Arizona St.  In 2021, Oregon St. is 5-0 at home.

UCLA – 3 at USC (65.5):  The biggest rivalry game in the country where both schools are located in the same city.  USC is 4-5 this season but those 4 wins have been against some bad teams such as San Jose St., Colorado and Arizona.  Make no mistake, I do not consider UCLA a good team, but I do think they are the better team here.  I’ll take the Bruins to win and cover in this rivalry game; put it in the Six-Pack.

Auburn – 7.5 at S. Carolina (46):  This spread opened at 10.5 points but dropped like a rock once it was known that Bo Nix could not play QB for Auburn this week.  The Gamecocks can become bowl-eligible with a win here; South Carolina has the better defense in terms of Total Defense and Auburn is without its starting QB.  I like South Carolina plus the points here; put it in the Six-Pack.

Arkansas at Alabama – 21 (59):  The Razorbacks are much improved this season – – but they are no match for Alabama…

La-Monroe at LSU – 29 (57.5):  Consider these stats:

  • La-Monroe is 115th in the nation in Scoring Defense yielding 35.4 points per game.
  • La-Monroe ranks 122nd in the nation in Total Defense allowing 462.6 yards per game.

LSU is in the midst of a down year, but this really should be a laugher…

Iowa St. at Oklahoma – 3.5 (59):  Iowa St. has 3 conference losses; this game is for bragging rights.  Oklahoma stunk out the joint last week but is still tied atop the Big-12 with Oklahoma St.; both teams have only 1 conference loss.

Baylor at K-State “pick ‘em” (50):  The Baylor defense was “lights out” last week shutting down Oklahoma.  K-State has won 4 games in a row, and they are at home where they are particularly difficult to beat.

 

NFL Commentary:

 

There are two “QB-related” questions floating around the NFL this morning that I want to opine about.  The first deals with the return of Cam Newton to the Panthers:

  • Does Newton’s presence make the Panthers serious playoff contenders?

I think this depends on if you believe the glass is half-full or half-empty.  Cam Newton is not the same QB that he was even 3 years ago; he was never an accurate passer and now that his passing game is a short-passing game, accuracy becomes more important.  Having said that, even a somewhat diminished Cam Newton is a step up from the other three QBs the Panthers have on their roster now – – Matt Barkley, Sam Darnold and PJ Walker.  Using Darnold and Walker for 99% of the snaps this year until Newton showed up for some limited action last week, the Panthers have managed to arrive at this point in the season at 5-5.

The Panthers’ defense has been excellent; it ranks 2nd in the NFL in total defense only allowing 280.7 yards per game.  Christian McCaffrey is back after missing several earlier games; presumably, he can stay healthy.  I think 9 wins will be enough to make the NFC playoffs this year – – and maybe 8 wins will do the trick – – so the addition of Newton certainly enhances the Panthers’ chances here.

The second QB question for today is:

  • Did Russell Wilson rush his return to the field after finger surgery?

All the reporting out of Seattle was that Wilson was working extra hours on his rehab program and that he was progressing far more quickly than anyone had anticipated.  That is certainly a positive report, and it underscores the competitiveness that almost everyone knew was inside Russell Wilson.  He came back last week to start for the Seahawks on the road in Green Bay and played well below “Russell Wilson Standard”.  The Seahawks were shut out by the Packers and here is Wilson’s stat line:

  • 20 of 40 for 161 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs.

The Seahawks’ record this morning stands at 3-6 meaning they have little margin for error regarding any sort of playoff participation.  However, there are two glimmers of hope there:

Barring a recurrence of his injury, Wilson will certainly play better in future games than he did last weekend.  The stat line from last week is one you expect from a career backup at QB or one who is about to end his career.  Russell Wilson is neither.

The Seahawks’ schedule is manageable.  This week they play the Cards who have QB injury issues of their own to deal with temporarily.  After this week, the Seahawks have perfectly winnable games against the Bears, Football Team, Lions and Texans.  We shall see…

Last weekend, the NFL games reverted to another week of blowouts.  Seven games were decided by margins of 3 scores or more and three of those games were decided by 27points or more.  Let me review…

Cowboys 41  Falcons 3:  The Falcons had just about every negative stat you could imagine in this game.  They only had the ball for 22 minutes; they only made 11 first downs; total offense was 214 yards; they were 1 of 11 on third down conversions; and they turned the ball over 3 times in the game.  Putting out this sort of bed-wetting performance is all the more surprising given that the Falcons came to the game off an upset of the Saints just the week before.  The Cowboys showed total domination.

Bills 45  Jets 17:  This game was not this close; the Jets scored 2 meaningless TDs in the 4th quarter which began with the Bills in command by a score of 38-3.  Mike White was back at QB for the Jets; he went 24 of 44 for 251 yards but he also threw 4 INTs.  For the Bills, Stefon Diggs caught 8 passes for 162 yards and 1 TD.  The Bills made it to the Red Zone 7 times in the game and came away with 6 TDs.

Pats 45  Browns 7:  The Browns drove the field and scored a TD on their first drive of the game and led 7-0.  Then the roof caved in…  The Browns total offense was only 217 yards and the passing offense netted only 118 yards.  Here are the QB stats for the Browns:

  • Baker Mayfield was 11 of 21 for 73 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT
  • Case Keenum was 8 of 12 for 81 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs.

The Browns went 1 for 11 on third-down tries and 2 of 4 on fourth-down conversions.  The Pats visited the Red Zone 6 times in the game and got 5 TDs; three of the Pats’ TD drives were of the 90-yard variety.  This was a beat down…

Panthers 34  Cards 10:  The Panthers dominated this game from the start and led 31-3 as the fourth quarter began.  Colt McCoy subbed in for Kyler Murray again this week but his results against the Panthers’ defense were not nearly as gaudy as the results from two weeks ago were.  Here is Colt McCoy’s stat line for the game:

  • 11 of 20 for 107 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT

The Panthers showed a very balanced offense for the game gaining 175 yards passing and 166 yards rushing,  Cam Newton was in for some goal line packages and he scored a rushing TD and threw for another.  Compare the results of the first half possessions for the two teams:

  •             Panthers:  TD, TD, Field Goal, Field Goal INT, Field Goal = 23 points
  •             Cards:  FUMBLE, DOWNS, INT, Punt, Punt, Punt = 0 points.

Eagles 30  Broncos 13:  The Eagles outgained the Broncos 388 yards to 308 yards; the reason for the large score discrepancy is that the Broncos gained their yards in the mid-field area and bogged down when they got near the endzone.  For the day the Broncos got 1 TD in 5 trips to the Red Zone.  A scoop-and-score fumble recovery in the third quarter by Darius Slay put this game out of reach.  The Broncos were 1 of 11 on third down tries and 0 for 2 on fourth down tries.

Chiefs 41  Raiders 14:  The Chiefs’ offense was back hitting on all cylinders in this game running up 519 yards for the game.  After getting well under 200 yards passing two weeks ago, Patrick Mahomes posted this stat line against the Raiders:

  • 35 of 50 for 406 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs.

The Chiefs have had difficulty stopping the run this year; they rank 18th in the NFL in run defense.  However, the Raiders game plan did not seem to have considered running the ball even a little bit.  They only gained 50 yards on 14 carries.  The Chiefs had the ball for over 35 minutes and ran 76 offensive plays to only 51 for the Raiders.

Niners 31  Rams 10:  The word to describe Jimmy Garoppolo’s performance here is “efficient”:

  • 15 of 19 for 182 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs

In addition to the 2 TD  passes, the Niners also got 9 first downs from those 15 completed passes.  However, the biggest takeaway for me was that the Niners offensive line pushed the Rams defense around all night long.  They ran the ball down the Rams’ throats gaining 156  yards rushing and holding the ball for 39 minutes.

Lions 16  Steelers 16  (OT):  Well, the Lions cannot possibly lose 17 games this season…  That is about the only positive thing I can say about this game – – and it was the early afternoon game on my local channel this week.  The Lions ran the ball 39 times and gained 229 yards on the ground (5.9 yards per carry).  The Lions managed to miss a PAT and a field goal try in the overtime period that would have provided a win here so do not get the idea that this was a status-changing game for the Lions.  The Steelers have no excuse; they just stunk.  They got a TD on their first possession of the game and then were somnambulant from then on.  Mason Rudolph subbed in for Ben Roethlisberger for the game and was sub-standard to be very polite.

Colts 23  Jags 17:  The Colts ran off to a 17-0 lead in the first 12 minutes of the game including a blocked punt that was returned for a TD by the aptly named E.J. Speed.  From that point on, however, the Colts did not do much on offense and held on to win a game that keeps them in contention for a wildcard slot in the playoffs.  The Colts recovered a fumble in the final minute of the one-score game to put it on ice.  The Jags ran the ball for 179 yards in this game.  The Colts are 5-5 today and have a big game against the Bills on tap.

Titans 23  Saints 21:  The Saints outgained the Titans by 109 yards in the game.  However, what did the Saints in was what happened after they scored 3 TDs in the game.  They missed PATs on the first two touchdowns and then failed to convert a 2-point try on the third TD.  Note that they only lost the game by 2 points…  The Titans’ running game sorely missed Derrick Henry here; a mélange of runners carried the ball 29 times and only managed to gain 66 yards.

Football Team 29  Bucs 19:  The Football Team took an early lead and every time the Bucs rallied to make it a close game, the Football Team responded with another score.  Taylor Heinicke’s stat line was significantly better than Tom Brady’s for this game:

  •             Heinicke:  26 of 32 for 256  yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs
  •             Brady:  23 of 34 for 220 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs

With the score 23-19 with 10:55 left in the game, the Football Team took possession at their own 20 yardline.  The offense then put together a 19-play drive that resulted in a TD and took 10:26 off the clock making it a two-score game with 29 seconds left to play.

Vikes 27  Chargers 21:  The Vikes outgained the Chargers by 128 yards in this game and held the ball for over 36 minutes and it was still a one-score game.  The only really negative stat for the Vikes is that they committed 10 penalties for 115 yards and gave the Chargers 4 first downs via penalty.  The Chargers’ rookie WR, Justin Jefferson had a big day catching 9 passes for 143 yards.  The Vikes are 4-5 this morning with only 2 losses in conference; they remain in the playoff chase and have a very important game this week against the Packers.  The Chargers are 5-4 this morning in an incredibly tight AFC West Division race.  The span from first place to last place in the AFC West is one game.

Packers 17  Seahawks 0:  The Packers gained 393 yards on offense and the Seahawks only managed 208 yards.  Nevertheless, the score was 3-0 to start the 4th quarter.  The Packers held the ball for over 39 minutes in the game and the score was 3-0 to start the 4th quarter.  Red Zone efficiency was not a hallmark here; the Seahawks got there once and came away with nothing; the Packers got there 5 times and got two TDs for their trouble.  Was Russell Wilson merely rusty after being out for a month with a finger injury that required surgery – – or has he not healed as well as folks thought (see above)?

 

NFL Games:

 

There are two teams on BYE Weeks this weekend; both of them lost badly last weekend:

  • Broncos:  They are in last place in the AFC West, and they are only 1 game out of first place in the AFC West.  They need to find an offensive infusion.
  • Rams:  They are in second place in the NFC West, and they are only 1 game out of first place in the NFC West.  They need to make sure they fix their run defense during the off time.

I missed the first drive of the game last night between the Pats and the Falcons,  All I missed was an abortive 3-minute drive by the Pats leading to a punt.  From that point on, the Pats dominated the game.  The Total Offense for the Falcons was 165 yards; Matt Ryan was sacked 4 times and he threw 2 INTs.  Late in the game, the Falcons sent Josh Rosen in to play QB and he too threw an INT to end his only possession.  Finally, the Falcons turned to Felipe Franks for a shot at QB and he threw an INT on his first attempt.  The final score was 25-0; I had the sense that the teams could have played an additional 60 minutes and the Falcons would still not have scored.

Onward to the rest of the games this week:

Lions at Browns – 11.5 (43.5):  The Lions avoided losing last week in a tie game against the Steelers by running the ball over and over and over.  The Browns run defense is 5th in the NFL allowing only 94.7 yards per game.  If the Browns can force Jared Goff to throw the ball a lot, this game could become a rout.  Meanwhile the Browns’ run game will be solid with the return to full capacity of Nick Chubb and the Lions’ run defense ranks 30th in the NFL giving up 135.7 yards per game.

Niners – 6 at Jags (45):  The Niners ran the ball very effectively against the Rams last week (see above).  The Jags’ run defense is statistically the same as the Rams; the difference in  yards per game allowed by the Rams and Jags is 0.8 yards per game.  [Aside: that is 28.8 inches per game in case your calculator is not handy.]  The Niners have to travel a long way off a short week of practice/recuperation to play a body-clock game.

Colts at Bills – 7.5 (49.5):  Both teams need this game – for different reasons.  The Bills need a win to remain a half-game ahead of the Pats in the AFC East; the Colts are 5-5; a loss here leaves them little margin for error in the rest of the season.  I think the outcome here rests on a simple question:

  • Can the excellent Bills’ defense put the clamps on Jonathan Taylor?

If the Bills can force the Colts to throw the ball more than they would prefer to do, this could be a blowout win by the Bills – – but it is hard to count on the Bills this year after they lost to the Jags by a score of 9-6.  This game got consideration for the Game of the Week – – but lost out in the winnowing process.

Dolphins – 3.5 at Jets (44.5):  This is so obviously the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  And to add to the misery this game will inflict on fans consigned to watch it, the Jets are supposedly starting Joe Flacco at QB.  The reason the spread is so small here is that the Dolphins also stink and their QB, Tua Tagovailoa, has been “limited”” in practice this week.  The most cogent advice I can offer for this game is:

  • Avert your eyes!

Football Team at Panthers – 3 (43):  Cam Newton will get his first start of the season against Ron Rivera who was his coach in Carolina for all those times there.  It is a “Family Reunion Game” in the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Enough of that nonsense…  The Panthers’ defense versus the Football Team’s offense is the real storyline here.  The Football Team’s disappointing defense will be missing both starting defensive ends.  Chase Young tore his ACL last week and is out for the year; Montez Sweat has a broken jaw and is out for 3-4 weeks.  This is another good game to watch this week.

Ravens – 4.5 at Bears (44.5):  The Ravens have been inconsistent in recent weeks.  Consider:

  • 11/11/21:  Ravens lose to Dolphins 22-10
  • 11/7/21:  Ravens eke out an OT win over the Vikes
  • 10/24/21:  Bengals blow the doors off the Ravens 41-7
  • 10/17/21:  Ravens blow the doors off the Chargers 34-6

The Ravens need this game; they hold a half-game lead over the Steelers and one-game lead over the Bengals in the AFC North.  The Bears, on the other hand, are not going anywhere this year and are secretly celebrating the fact that they are in the same division with the Lions, so they do not have to face the fact of being in last place in their division.

Saints at Eagles – 2 (43):  The Eagles have played well recently by running the football and then running it some more.  However, the Saints will field the best run defense in the NFL; it allows only 72.9 yards per game.  Meanwhile, the Eagles’ defense has played more effectively in the last couple of weeks and the Saints’ offense will feature the aerial stylings of Trevor Siemian and/or Taysom Hill and/or Ian Book.  Alvin Kamara was “limited” in practice this week.  This could be a fun game to watch.

Texans at Titans – 10.5 (44.5):  This is a cautionary note of a game.  The Titans are obviously a different offense without Derrick Henry and the drop-off may be significant.  Last week’s numbers against the Saints were unimpressive.  Add to that worry the fact that this could be a classic look-ahead game for the Titans; they travel to New England next week to play the Pats and the team in front of them here are the lowly Texans.  I hate double digit spreads in NFL games and the Texans are absolutely not worth backing this year – – but this game could be a whole lot closer than the team records might lead you to believe…

Packers – 1 at Vikes (47):  The spread for this game opened at 3 points and has dropped steadily all week.  Because this is a Division Game and a critical game for the Vikes’ playoff aspirations, I chose this as the Game of the Week.  The Packers are hitting on all cylinders on offense and defense these days; the only “issue” I can see is that RB Aaron Jones is injured but that has not shown up as a huge weakness for the Packers.  So long as Aaron Rodgers can throw the ball to Davonte Adams, the Packers’ offense will be just fine.  The Vikes are not going to roll over and play dead here, but I think the Packers are the better team even considering that the game in in Minnesota; I’ll take the Packers to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Bengals – 1 at Raiders (50.5):  The Raiders are a mess right now – – and I do not mean to say that because they were blown out last week.  The Raiders had their BYE Week at Halloween; since then, they have lost 2 games in a row; one of those games was to a mediocre-at-best NY Giants team; and, more importantly, the Raiders have only scored a total of 30 points in those two losses.  Both defenses here are “middle of the pack” so I think this could be a high scoring affair.  In any case, I think Joe Burrow should have a good day against the Raiders’ secondary; I’ll take the Bengals to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Cards – 2.5 at Seahawks (48):  If Kyler Murray is healthy enough to play here – and does not reinjure his leg/ankle – the Cards should win this one handily.  If the QB confrontation is Colt McCoy versus the Russell Wilson that was on display last week, pick another game to watch.

Cowboys at Chiefs – 2.5 (56):  This was my runner-up for Game of the Week.  Yes, the Chiefs were dominant last week against the Raiders and there is plenty of history to suggest that the Chiefs can get on an offensive roll and wear out a scoreboard operator.  The Chiefs have won 4 of their last 5 games but it was not against elite competition:

  1. Chiefs beat the Football Team 31-13
  2. Chiefs lost to the Titans 27-3
  3. Chiefs beat the Giants 20-17
  4. Chiefs beat the Packers 13-7 (This was the “Jordan Love game”.)
  5. Chiefs beat the Raiders 41-14.

The Cowboys are more like the Titans than they are like the other teams noted above.  I think the wrong team is favored here; I’ll take the Cowboys on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun Nite) Steelers at Chargers – 6 (47):  Maybe Ben Roethlisberger will be back for this game; maybe TJ Watt will be able to play; Minkah Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, is expected to miss the game on the “COVID restricted list”.  Those are three important pieces for the Steelers…  However, here is a statistical item to think about:

  • Chargers’ run defense is worst in the NFL giving up 155.1 yards per game.

The Steelers would probably much prefer to run Najee Harris as the centerpiece of their offense as opposed to having Mason Rudolph throw the ball 50 times.

(Mon Nite) Giants at Bucs – 11 (50):  The Bucs have lost two in a row to the Football Team and to the Saints.  Add in the fact that this will be a “Prime Time Game” for Tom Brady, and I doubt the Bucs will extend that losing streak to three games.

Let me review the Six Pack and present two more Money Line Parlays for the weekend:

  1. South Carolina +7.5 against Auburn
  2. UCLA – 3 over USC
  3. Minnesota – 7 over Indiana
  4. Packers – 1 over Vikes
  5. Bengals – 1 over Raiders
  6. Cowboys +2.5 against Chiefs

College Football Money Line Parlay:

  • NC State  @  minus-400
  • Oklahoma St.  @  minus-370
  • Minnesota  @  minus-280   A $100 parlay wins $115.

NFL Money Line Parlay:

  • Niners  @  minus-275
  • Titans  @  minus-475
  • Ravens  @  minus-205  A $100 parlay wins $146.

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close with this observation by Ambrose Bierce:

“Admiration: n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.”

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

 

 

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