Football Friday 11/12/21


For some folks, today is “POET’S Day” and the mantra is:

  • Punch Out Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday”

I just call it Football Friday and as usual I shall begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack.

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

Looking back over 9 weeks’ worth of selections, here are the results:

  • College:  8-12-0
  • NFL:  16-17-1
  • Total:  24-29-1
  • Money Line Parlays:  1-2

Assuming an imaginary $100 wager on each of the Money Line parlays, there is a net “profit” of $87 as of this week even though only 1 of 3 parlays paid off.


College Football Commentary:


The Linfield College Wildcats dominated the Willamette Bearcats last week to the tune of 77-7.  Linfield is 8-0 this season and will end its regular season this weekend at home in a Northwest Conference game against the Lewis and Clark Pioneers who will arrive at the kickoff with a 3-5 record for 2021 and a 2-game losing streak.  A conference championship plus an undefeated season for Linfield should get them an invitation to the Division III post-season championship tournament.  Go Wildcats!

Keeping an eye on the teams in contention for the Brothel Defense Award – the defense that allows the most scoring – here are the top three contenders as of this week:

  • Kansas gives up 42.8 points per game
  • Arkansas St. gives up 43.0 points per game
  • UMass gives up 45 points per game

There was a major shakeup in the coaching staff at Nebraska this week.  Head coach Scott Frost took a pay cut and kept his job, but Nebraska fired its Offensive Coordinator, Offensive Line Coach, Running Backs Coach and Quarterbacks Coach.  Here is what Scott Frost had to say as the firings were announced:

“I appreciate the work and sacrifices these men have made for the University of Nebraska and this football program and wish all of them well.

“They are all men of outstanding character and good coaches, but as we strive for better consistency and execution, we needed fresh ideas and voices on our offensive staff.”

Translation:  I get to keep my job and they don’t…

This mass firing seems a bit odd to me.  The Huskers score an average of 28.6 points per game.  Their overall record is 3-7 and their record in the Big 10 is 1-6.  The Huskers defense ranks 65th nationally in Total Defense and the offense ranks 19th nationally in Total Offense.

So riddle me this:

  • How is the obviously unsatisfactory record the fault of the offensive coaches?

Another college football coach finds himself out of a job this weekend; UMass fired head coach, Walt Bell last week.  His record over three seasons at UMass was a dismal 2-23.  As a college football independent and a school with no football “pedigree” in a part of the country that does not care about college football at all, UMass will never recruit enough top shelf football players to be a “better than average team”.  The long-term future there is dreary.

Taking over for the final three games of 2021 is Alex Miller who was a four-year starter at UMass at center and has been the offensive line coach there for this season.  Miller may find himself in a bittersweet situation:

  • The last 3 games for UMass are Maine (Division 1-AA), Army and New Mexico State.
  • As bad as UMass has been this year, the games against Maine and New Mexico State are winnable.  Maine is 4-5 against Division 1-AA competition and New Mexico State is 1-8 with the win coming at the expense of a Division 1-AA team.
  • Should UMass happen to win those 2 games, Alex Miller may seen as a savior and should be first in line to get that head coaching job – – and then face the dreary future outlook for UMass football.

Just yesterday, another down at the heels football program in New England – – UConn – – announced that it hired a new coach for next year.  Surprisingly, it was Jim Mora Jr. who has had head coaching jobs in the NFL and with UCLA.  That is a much bigger fish than I ever thought UConn could lure to the campus in Storrs.  Reports say that Mora got a 5-year deal with a starting salary of $1.5M per year  Here is something Mora said when he was announced as the new coach at UConn:

“It’s a chance to do what I love to do with a school that’s a national brand.”

I do not doubt for a minute that Jim Mora Jr. loves football and loves to coach football teams.  However, I do doubt that UConn is a “national brand” in football.  Maybe in women’s basketball and men’s basketball – – but not in football.

USC and Cal were supposed to play this weekend.  However, an outbreak of COVID-19 in and around the football program at Cal forced the postponement of the game until December 4th.  The interesting thing about that postponement is that USC/Cal will take place the day after the PAC-12 Conference Championship Game.  Not to worry, neither USC nor Cal has any chance of being part of that Championship Game; as of this morning, both teams have 4 losses in PAC-12 games.

Before I get to a review of last week’s games of interest, let me suggest you take a moment and read about an unusual occurrence proximal to a Division 1-AA game involving South Dakota State and North Dakota State.  A young moose wandered into the stadium where the game would be held the next day meandered about and then left the premises.  That is just not likely to happen in many other college football venues.  Here is a link to the “Moose Report”…

In Big-10 games last week…

Ohio St. 26  Nebraska 17:  The Buckeyes remain in the picture for the Big-10 East title; and therefore, in the picture for the Big-10 Championship Game.  The Buckeyes dominated the stat sheet, and they held the Huskers to 2 of 13 on third-down attempts, but they were never able to put the game away.  That was not the kind of impression they wanted to leave with the CFP Selection Committee.

Purdue 40  Michigan St. 29:  This is the second time this year that Purdue has beaten an undefeated Big-10 team that was highly ranked.  Call it a “let-down game” for Sparty if you want but the Boilermakers ran up 591 yards of offense (536 yards in the air)  for the game.  This was not some sort of “fluky win” by Purdue.

Wisconsin 52  Rutgers 3:  Where did that offensive explosion come from?  Prior to this game, Wisconsin was averaging just under 22 points per game.  The Badgers gained 579 yards on offense – – at least half again as much as one would have thought possible based on prior record.  The Wisconsin defense was predictably dominant holding Rutgers to only 205 yards of offense on 60 offensive plays.

Iowa 17  Northwestern 12:  The stat sheet for this game was “dead even”.  Three turnovers by Northwestern provided the margin of victory here.  Northwestern held Iowa to 2 of 14 on third-down tries and still lost the game.

Michigan 29  Indiana 7:  The Wolverines needed a solid win and they got it here thanks to their defense which held Indiana to 195 yards of offense for the day.

In ACC action…

Clemson 30  Louisville  24:  Is this a sign that the Clemson offense has finally started to jell?  Twice in the last two weeks, the Tigers have scored 30 points in a game.  Prior to the last two games – and ignoring a game against an overmatched Division 1-AA team – Clemson had scored 91 points in 6 games (15.1 points per game).  This week, Clemson plays UConn for some unknown reason; expect another offensive outburst there.  But has the Tigers’ offense found itself late this season?

BC 17  Va Tech 3:  Are these Va Tech players trying to get their coach fired?  If so, they are doing a pretty good job of it…

NC State 28  Florida St.  14:  The Wolfpack defense limited the Seminoles running game to 38 yards on 27 carries in the game.  NC State is still relevant in the ACC Championship picture; they trail Wake Forest by one game in the Atlantic Division race.

UNC 58  Wake Forest 55:  This is the first loss for Wake, and it takes a bit of explaining to understand why Wake Forest remains undefeated in ACC games.  This is a non-conference game that was scheduled independently by two teams in the same conference.  Since it was not part of the inter-divisional scheduling of the ACC itself, it is not counted as a conference game.  Hence Wake does not suffer a conference loss and UNC does not get credit for a conference win.  Got that?

Miami 33 Ga Tech 30:  Miami maintains relevancy in the ACC with this win.  The Hurricanes have 2 losses in the Atlantic Division; UVa has 2 losses there and Pitt is the leader in the division with only 1 loss on its record.

Pitt 54  Duke 29:  I said that Pitt needed a “get-back game” after losing two weeks ago and indeed Duke gave them that opportunity.

In the heartland where Big-12 teams play …

K-State 35  Kansas 10:  The game was never really in doubt.  The Kansas offense netted the grand total of 274 yards for the game.

TCU 30  Baylor 28:  That pretty much puts Baylor on the sidelines for the Big-12 championship.  Blame this loss on the Baylor defense; they gave up 562 yards to the TCU offense including 10.7 yards allowed per pass attempt.

Oklahoma St  24  West Virginia 3:  The stat sheet supports this scoreboard result.  The Mountaineers defense held the Cowboys to 285 yards on offense for the game.  Normally, that produces a win for the team – – but not here.  The Mountaineers’ offense only generated 133 yards on offense for the day and only 17 yards rushing on 33 attempts.  The Cowboys are still 1 game behind Oklahoma in the big 12 standings with a head-to-head game upcoming…

Iowa St. 30  Texas 7:  This was a total dump by Texas; the defense did not do its job (gave up 472 yards of offense to the Cyclones) and the offense was a no-show (gained only 218 yards for the day).

Next up is SEC action…

South Carolina 40  Florida 14:  If Florida fires Dan Mullen this year, point to this game result as the straw that broke the camel’s back…

Tennessee 45  Kentucky  42:  Seems as if the bloom is off the rose for Kentucky.  After starting the season at 6-0, Kentucky has lost its last 3 games and all of them have been SEC games.  Tennessee is 5-4 and should get to a bowl game this year because it only needs 1 more win to be bowl-eligible and remaining on the Vols’ schedule are games against South Alabama and Vandy.

Alabama 20  LSU 14:  This game carried a 28.5-point spread at kickoff.  ‘Bama had only a slim margin (13 yards) in total offense and ‘Bama was held to 6 yards rushing on 26 attempts.  Somehow, Alabama won this game – – thanks to its defense.

Arkansas 31  Mississippi St.  28:  Bulldogs’ QB, Will Rogers was 36 of 48 for 417 yards and 4 TDs with 1 INT – – but that was not enough.  Arkansas is now bowl eligible; Mississippi State needs another win to achieve that status.  Upcoming for the Bulldogs are Auburn, Tennessee State and Ole Miss…

Texas A&M 20  Auburn 3:  The Aggies stay in the race for the SEC West slot in the SEC Championship Game – – but they need Alabama to lose another conference game.  Auburn is in a tougher spot.  They need Alabama to lose a game while Auburn wins out – – AND they need the Aggies to lose another conference game.

Georgia 43  Missouri 6:  The Bulldogs dominated here but did not cover the 39-point spread.  Georgia produced 505 yards of offense in the game; Mizzou managed only 273.  The score was 40-3 at the start of the 4th quarter.

Pac-12 results from last week …

Utah 52  Stanford 7:  Utah is clearly the better team in 2021 – – but by more than 6 TDs?   The Utes hold a 1-game lead over Arizona St. in the PAC-12 South.  Stanford is last in the PAC-12 North with a 2-5 conference record.

Colorado 37  Oregon St.  34 (2OT):  Oregon St. won the stat sheet by almost 100 yards – – but that did not translate to the scoreboard.  This conference loss makes it virtually impossible for the Beavers to win the PAC-12 North; the Buffaloes have been irrelevant in the PAC-12 South for some time now.

Oregon 26  Washington 16:  Oregon is in control in the PAC-12 North.  The stat sheet says this game should not have been this close.  The Ducks produced 422 yards of offense and held the Huskies to only 176 yards.  Washington only managed to record 7 first downs for the entire game.

Arizona 10  Cal 3:  Arizona is off the schneid now at 1-8 for the season.  The total offense for Cal in the game was 122 yards.  The Bears tried to run the ball 26 times and gained only 28 yards.  Nonetheless, Arizona could not put the game away; it was a one-score game.

And in miscellaneous games of interest …

UNLV 31  New Mexico 17:  With this win by UNLV, there are no more winless teams in the country in 2021.  The Lobos’ passing game netted a grand total of 36 yards in the game on 16 attempts.  These are both potential SHOE Tournament teams as you will see below…

Houston 54  USF 42:  Houston has only one loss this year – – but giving up 42 points to a mediocre USF team tells me they might not be quite ready for prime time.

Boise St. 40  Fresno St. 14:  This result changed things atop the West Division of the Mountain West Conference.  This is Fresno St.’s second loss and it puts them behind both Nevada and San Diego St. both of which have only one conference loss.  Meanwhile, Boise St. and Air Force remain in contention in the Mountain Division as both schools are one game behind Utah St. in that division.

Cincy 28  Tulsa 20:  Another lackluster win for Cincy over a mediocre opponent – – but the Bearcats are still undefeated at 9-0 for the 2021 season.

Rhode Island 35  UMass 22:  Rhode Island is 6-3 as a Division 1-AA team in the Colonial Athletic Association Conference.

Memphis 28  SMU 25:  That is two losses in a row for SMU dropping their record for 2021 to 7-2.  The score at the start of the 4th quarter was 21-10 in favor of Memphis.  SMU rallied late but fell short.

Army 21  Air Force 14 (OT):  The Total Line was a ridiculously low 36 points – – and the game still went UNDER.  Defenses played to stop the run so Army – – uncharacteristically – – threw the ball 13 times in the game.  Air Force went even further out of its comfort zone and threw the ball 23 times.  After a scoreless first half, Army led 14-3 at  the end of the 3rd quarter but the game wound up  tied  and sent the game to OT.  Both teams came to the game averaging more than 300 yards rushing per game.  Here are the rushing stats for this game:

  • Army:  108 yards on 43 attempts (2.5 yards per carry)
  • Air Force:  175 yards on 49 attempts (3.5 yards per carry).


The SHOE Teams:


It is that time of year when I start to focus seriously on the teams I want to put in my imaginary SHOE Tournament where teams would determine on the field of play the worst team in the country.  As a reminder the acronym SHOE stands for Steaming Heap Of Excrement.

My “tournament” has only 8 teams, but I will list 12 teams that seem as if they could wind up in the final listing as of today.  Here they are alphabetically with their record for 2021:

  1. Akron  2-7
  2. Arizona  1-8
  3. Arkansas St.  1-8
  4. Florida International  1-8
  5. Kansas  1-8
  6. New Mexico  3-6
  7. New Mexico St.  1-8
  8. Ohio  2-7
  9. UConn  1-8
  10. UMass  1-8
  11. UNLV  1-8
  12. Vandy  2-7


College Games of Interest:

West Virginia at K-State – 6 (47.5):  K State is tough at home.  I will put K-State in a Money Line Parlay below at minus-220 odds 

UConn at Clemson – 41 (52):  This is what I meant above when I said I doubted that UConn was a “national brand” in football…

Duke at Va Tech – 11.5 (51):  I wondered above if the Va Tech players were trying to get their coaches fired.  Well, if they lose at home to Duke, I think they will achieve that goal…  I canot see Tech losing here so I’ll put them in a Money Line parlay too.

BC at Ga Tech – 1.5 (55):  BC needs another win for bowl eligibility…

Michigan – 1.5 at Penn State (48.5):  Michigan still has a path to the Big-10 Championship Game but a loss here all but rules them out.

Rutgers at Indiana – 7 (42):  Rutgers needs 2 wins to get to a bowl game.  The oddsmakers must be spooked by the blowout loss suffered by Rutgers last week (see above) because Indiana is 2-7 for the season and 0-6 in Big-10 games – – and they are a TD favorite here.

Houston – 25 at Temple (54.5):  Temple doesn’t score; they rank 120th in the country at 18.6 points per game.  I like this game to stay UNDER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Maryland at Michigan St. – 12.5 (61):  Sparty can still make it to the Big-10 Championship Game – – but not with a loss here.  Michigan St. threw in a clunker last week; it must not do that again.

Syracuse at Louisville – 3 (55):  The Orange can achieve bowl eligibility with a win here…

TCU at Oklahoma St. – 13 (55):  This is a big game for the Cowboys and not so important a game for the Horned Frogs.

Kansas at Texas – 31 (62): When Texas covers this spread, you will hear the Texas fanboys screaming “Texas is back!”  No, they are not…

NC State at Wake Forest – 2.5 (66):  This game could be for all the marbles in the ACC Atlantic Division.

Oklahoma – 5.5 at Baylor (62):  Baylor’s loss last week to TCU took the luster off this game.  It still should be a fun game to watch…

Notre Dame – 5 at UVa (63.5):  UVa leads the nation in total offense per game averaging 545.2 yards per game.  Notre Dame is 70th in the nation in total offense per game.  So why is Notre dame favored?  Well, UVa ranks 122nd in the country in Total Defense.  This game could be full of fireworks; I’ll take it to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Northwestern at Wisconsin – 24 (41):  That is an awfully large spread for a game that should be low-scoring…

Arizona St. – 5.5 at Washington (45):  Washington suspended its coach for this game after a sideline incident where he appeared to have slapped one of his players.  The Sun Devils cannot afford a loss here…

Washington St. at Oregon – 14 (58):  If the Cougars pull the upset here, they would take over first place – thanks to a tiebreaker – in the PAC-12 North.  If you think that can happen here, the Money Line odds for Washington St. are +450 this morning.

Mississippi St. at Auburn – 5 (50.5):  Auburn is playing to keep a hold on its path to the SEC Championship Game against Georgia.  Mississippi St. is chasing a bowl game invitation.

New Mexico St. at Alabama – 51 (68):  That is not a typo; Bama is favored by 51 points in this game.  Only 1 Internet sportsbook has Money Line odds posted for this game.  For your amusement, here they are:

  • New Mexico St.   +70,000
  • Alabama  minus-210,000

Texas A&M – 2.5 at Ole Miss (57):  The Aggies have something to play for; they can still win the SEC West.  Ole Miss cannot win the division and is already bowl eligible at 7-2.  This Is only the second road game for the Aggies this  year; they have played 6 home games and 2 neutral site games this year.  The Aggies are also going into a Money Line parlay today.

Georgia – 20 at Tennessee (56):  The Bulldogs have played nine games this year; that is a good sample size.  Here is what the Georgia defense has done in nine games in 2021:

  • They have allowed 6 TDs
  • They have allowed 6 Field Goals
  • They have allowed 5 PATs
  • That is 59 total points allowed in 9 games = 6.6 points per game.

Purdue at Ohio State – 21 (63):  Lightening has struck twice for Purdue in 2021 but not a third time here…

Miami – 3 at Florida State (61):  This is a potential “season salvage game” for the Seminoles.  Purely a hunch but I’ll take the Seminoles at home plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Arkansas – 3 at LSU (59):  That spread would have been inconceivable just two seasons ago…

Nevada at San Diego St. – 3 (46):  This one is for all the cheese in the West Division of the Mountain West conference.  Nevada has two losses for the season and both losses were on the road.  The Aztecs are 10th nationally in scoring defense only allowing 16.7 points per game.

Maine – 1 at UMass (59.5):  The oddsmaker is obviously not impressed by the coaching change at UMass…


NFL Commentary:


The four teams with BYE Weeks are:

  1. Bears:  They lost a close game to the Steelers on Monday night; it was their 4th loss in a row.
  2. Bengals:  They took a drubbing from the Browns last week; their record is 5-4, but they are in last place in the AFC North this morning.
  3. Giants:  They upset the Raiders last week; they will be pulling for a loss by the Eagles this week.
  4. Texans:  They lost again last week; no one will miss their presence on the card for this week.

Earlier this week, Cam Newton returned to the NFL and more specifically to Carolina and the Panthers where he spent most of his career.  The Panthers’ “experiment” with Sam Darnold is not working out plus the team had to put him on the IR meaning that he will be unavailable for a minimum of 3 weeks.  The other QBs “in the room” are PJ Walker and Matt Barkley; that tandem is not going to put the fear of God in defensive coordinators around the NFL.  So, to the rescue – hopefully for Panthers’ fans – comes Cam Newton who spent 9 seasons with the Panthers from 2011 to 2019.

Another major player move was announced yesterday.  Odell Beckham, Jr. was put on waivers by the Browns and none of the 32 teams picked hm up along with his existing contract.  Then as a free agent, OBJ narrowed down his landing spots to the Packers and the Rams; yesterday he signed with the Rams on a one-year deal described as “incentive-laden”.  Beckham has showed diva tendencies in New York and again in Cleveland.  Just recently, his father – –  Odell Beckham, Sr. of course – – did a LaVar Ball imitation by causing a stir as the “parent of the player”.

If OBJ was unhappy about the number of times he got the ball in Cleveland, how is he going to feel in LA when he lines up with – and must measure up to –  Cooper Kupp who leads the NFL in receptions; Robert Woods and Van Jefferson who have each shown top flight ability this year?  I will not be surprised to hear that he is not happy after about a month with the Rams.

Notwithstanding last week’s loss to the Broncos, if there were an award to NFL assistant coaches for biggest turnaround on the field, I think Dan Quinn as the DC for the Cowboys has to be the front-runner.  The Cowboys’ defense last year was as good as gauze  this year  they are giving up 24 points per game which may not sound good but is an improvement over the 29.6 points per game they gave up last year.

I ran across this item in Gregg Drinnan’s blog, Taking Note and I want to say that I agree with this 100%:

“You know what is really wonderful these days? You turn on the TV and tune into an NFL game. A woman is part of the on-field officiating crew and from the game’s start to its end no one mentions it.”

The Bucs will return to action this week after a BYE Week last week.  The Bucs are not a young team, and they needed a week off; injuries have been piling up.  The defensive backfield was hit hard as two starters – – Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carleton Davis – – had to go on IR.  The Bucs brought in Richard Sherman to fill that gap; he lasted less than a game before he became a sideline observer.  Antonio Brown is still wearing a walking boot and one report said he is 3 weeks away from practicing; Rob Gronkowski missed a couple of games but did practice after the BYE Week.  The Bucs are still leading the NFC  South by a half-game simply because the one guy who cannot be replaced has not missed any time this year.

The San Francisco 49ers are an enigmatic team.  They are in last place in the NFC West trailing the Cards by 5.5 games with 9 games left to play.  The Niners’ defense has been a mess; it ranks 25th in the NFL in points per game allowed (25.3 points per game).  There are 7 teams who give up more points per game than the Niners; of that septet, only the Falcons have a .500 record.  The strange thing is that in terms of total defense – – yards per game allowed – – the Niners rank 8th in the NFL.  How does that happen?

Regarding last week’s games, we saw a reversal of the trend from several weeks ago.  Instead of having a bunch of blowout games, this was the week where some of the generally weaker teams rose up to smite their NFL overlords.  The mantra, “On any given Sunday …” turned out to be more like “On THIS given Sunday…”

Jags 9  Bills 6:  Three turnovers by the Bills (2 INTs thrown by Josh Allen) were enough to keep the Bills out of the end zone all day long.  The Bills outgained the Jags by 83 yards for the day, but only got to the Red Zone once in the game.  There were two Josh Allens in this game; the one on the Jags played linebacker and all he managed to do was to intercept a pass, recover a fumble and record a sack.

Falcons 27  Saints 25:  The Saints staged a late rally to make this game seem like a nail-biter, but the score was 17-3 Falcons at the start of the 4th quarter.  Stop me if you have heard this before, but the Falcons’ defense disappeared in the fourth quarter.  The Saints actually took the lead at 25-24 with about a minute left in the game, but they did not convert on a two-point PAT.  The Falcons then drove the field in that final minute to kick a 29-yard field goal with 3 seconds left on the clock.

Broncos 30  Cowboys 16:  This game was not nearly this close.  The score was 30-0 with about 6 minutes to play in the game; the two scores by the Cowboys were meaningless and marginally contested.  The Broncos held the ball for just over 41 minutes and outgained the Cowboys by 117 yards.  The Broncos gained 190 yards rushing in the game and held the Cowboys to 78 yards rushing.

Giants 23  Raiders 16:  The Raiders dominated the stat sheet outgaining the Giants by 158 yards in the game.  Three turnovers (including a Pick-Six by Derek Carr) provided the Giants with the win.  The Giants led 17-16 at the start of the 4th quarter; here are the 3 possessions by the Raiders in the 4th quarter:

  • 8 plays for 70 yards leading to a Missed Field Goal
  • 3 plays for 12 yards leading to an INT
  • 10 plays for 52 yards leading to a Lost Fumble

Browns 41  Bengals 16:  You got the idea during the first quarter that this was not going to be the Bengals’ day.  Cincy took the opening kickoff and marched down the field to inside the 5  yardline.  Then Denzel Ward intercepted a pass and took it back 99 yards for a Browns score.  On the next possession, the Bengals drove the field again and scored to tie the game at 7-7.  As the first quarter ended, the Bengals had 143 yards of offense (on pace for 572 yards for the game) and the score was tied.

Pats 24  Panthers 6:  The return of Christian McCaffrey was not sufficient for the Panthers; he led the team in rushing (52 yards) and in receiving (54 yards).  A Pick-Six by the Pats early in the third quarter put the game out of reach at 21-6.

Ravens 34  Vikes 31 (OT):  Lamar Jackson took over the game in the 4th quarter and then again in OT to lead the Ravens to a come-from-behind win.  Jackson alone accounted for 386 yards of offense for the Ravens.  This puts the Ravens atop the AFC North with a comfortable 2-game lead in the loss column over the Browns and the Bengals and a 1-game lead in the loss column over the Steelers.  The Vikes fall to 3-5 for the season putting them 3 losses behind the Packers in the NFC North.

Cards 31  Niners 17:  The Cards outgained the Niners by exactly 100 yards in the game.  The Cards led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter because here are the results of the Niners’ four possessions in the first quarter:

  • 6 plays for 28 yards  leading to a Punt
  • 1 play for 18 yards leading to a Lost Fumble
  • 4 plays for 11 yards leading to a Punt
  • 6 plays for 68 yards leading to a Lost Fumble

The Cards achieved this win without Kyler Murray at QB; Colt McCoy stepped in and led the team with 249 yards passing plus 1 TD with 0 INTs.  Also missing in action for the Cards were DeAndre Carter and AJ Green.  The Cards’ defense forced the Niners’ offense to be one-dimensional holding the Niners to a meager 39 yards rushing for the game.  I ran across another interesting stat relative to this game:

  • The Niners have now lost 10 of their last 11 home games.

Chargers 27  Eagles 24:  The Chargers outgained the Eagles by 114 yards in the game.  Justin Herbert threw for 356 yards and 2 TDs in the game as compared to Jalen Hurts throwing for 162 yards and 1 TD.  The score was tied at 24 with 6 minutes left to play.  Then the Chargers drove 69 yards on 15 plays and kicked the game winning field goal with 2 seconds left in the game.

Chiefs 13  Packers 7:  Jordan Love (190 yards) had more passing yards in the game than did Patrick Mahomes (166 yards).  The Packers had 301 yards of offense and the Chiefs only gained 237 yards.  The Packers had nine possessions for the game; here are the outcomes from those nine possessions:

  1. Punt
  2. Missed FG
  3. Blocked FG
  4. Punt
  5. Turnover on downs
  6. Punt
  7. Punt
  8. INT
  9. TD

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had this observation about this game and the missing Aaron Rodgers:

“Unlike a good neighbor, Aaron wasn’t there for his teammates.”

Colts 45   Jets 30:  The two defenses took a sabbatical this week.  The two offenses combined to produce 1018 yards of offense in the game.  The Jets lost Mike White at QB in the first half to an “arm injury”; no problem, the Jets went to their #3 guy, Josh Johnson, and all he did was post this stat line:

  • 27 of 41 for 317 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT

The Colts led 42-16 at the start of the 4th quarter and the Jets rallied to make the game look closer than it was.

Titans 28  Rams 16:  The Titans did this without Derrick Henry there to control the clock and keep the Rams’ offense on the sidelines; give credit to the Titans’ defense here.  The Rams outgained the Titans by 153 yards for the day but only recorded 1 TD in three trips to the Titans’ Red Zone.  That Titans’ defensive unit also contributed a Pick-Six to the cause.  The Titans led 21-3 at halftime because here are the results of the Rams’ possessions in the first half:

  • Punt
  • FG
  • Punt
  • INT
  • INT
  • Punt
  • Punt

Steelers 29  Bears 27:    Each team’s special teams’ unit tried to give the game away and there were more than a few ticky-tack calls by the officials in the game.  Nevertheless, the Bears took the lead 27-26 with less than 2 minutes to play.  That was enough time for the Steelers to set up a relatively short field goal try to take the lead.  The Bears had one final heroic attempt to win the game with a 66-yard field goal try – – but it was short by about 10 -15 yards.

Dolphins 17  Texans 9:  The Texans’ draft position benefits this week from a loss to the Dolphins and a win by the Jags.  As of this morning, the Texans would draft second in next year’s draft immediately after the Lions figure out how to blow a draft pick.  Tyrod Taylor was back as the starting QB for the Texans; he threw 3 INTs and in 4 trips to the Red Zone he produced zero TDs.  Oh swell…


NFL Games:


Watching the Ravens throw up on their shoes against the Dolphins last night, it occurred to me that through some unknown contagion vector, all the teams in the AFC North now suffer from “Play Down To The Level Of The Opposition Syndrome”.  The Ravens kept the game close because they are a better team than the Dolphins even when the Ravens are at their putrid worst.  However, a defensive TD by the Dolphins sealed the deal on a night when the Ravens’ offense was AWOL from start to finish.

Jags at Colts – 10 (47.5):  The Jags’ defense is rounding into form; last week it kept the Bills out of the end zone for an entire 60-minute game.  The Colts trail the Titans by 3 games in the AFC South and cannot afford another loss here.  This is a game the Colts have had circled as a “W” ever since the NFL schedule was released in May.

Browns at Pats – 2 (45):  The Browns turned up 4 positive COVID-19 tests this week and three of those positive tests – – meaning those players are out for Sunday’s game – – were running backs.  Until and unless the Browns activate someone from the practice squad or sign someone off the street, the remaining RB for the Browns is D’Ernest Johnson.
There is good news and bad news for the Pats:

  • Good News is they are back home after two weeks on the road
  • Bad News is they are 1-4 at home this season.

Falcons at Cowboys – 9 (55.5):  The Cowboys’ offense stunk out the joint last week not scoring a point until late in the 4th quarter when the Broncos had 30 points on the scoreboard.  Oh, and the Cowboys’ defense did not cover itself in glory either giving up 30 points to the offensively mediocre Broncos.  I see a big rebound for the offense against a Falcons’ defense that has had “disappearance issues”; I’ll take the Cowboys at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Bills – 13 at Jets (47):  The Bills’ offensive unit should have been totally embarrassed in the team meetings this week after failing to score a TD against the Jags last week.  Two weeks ago, the same offensive unit sputtered against the Dolphins and saw the score tied 3-3 at the half.  Dolphins/Jags/Jets is the soft spot in the schedule and the Bills have not handled the first two thirds very well.  I think this is the week the Bills’ offense gets back in the groove…

Saints at Titans – 3 (44):  This is my runner-up for Game of the Week.  The Titans should have been euphoric for most of this week after beating the Rams last week without Derrick Henry; it was their 5th win in a row.  I suspect his absence will be more profoundly felt this week.  Meanwhile the Saints have to be angry with themselves after a heartbreaking loss to the Falcons last week (see above).  Here are two opposing trends:

  • Titans are 3-1 at home this season.
  • Saints are 3-1 on the road this season.

Bucs – 10 at Football Team (51):  Both teams had last week off to rest, recuperate and reassess their goals for the year.  For the Bucs, it is “Back to the Super Bowl”; for the Football Team, it is “Remembering Last Year’s Playoff Status.”  The outcome of this game depends on something simple:

  • Can the vaunted and thus far overhyped Washington front four put pressure on Tom Brady?

I don’t think so…

Lions at Steelers – 9 (43):  The Steelers are an average to slightly better than average team in 2021; that is all.  The Lions are on a glide path to – possibly – be the only team in NFL history to go 0-17; the Lions are in tear-down/rebuild mode and right now all they seem to have done is to tear-down.  Like the little kid in a room neck deep in horses[p]it who keeps digging around and  looking for a pony, here is a straw for the Lions’ coaches to snatch to try to convince the team they can win this game:

  • Lions had a BYE last week, so they are rested and doubly prepared.
  • Steelers are playing on a short week from Monday night’s game.

Like I said, this is grasping at straws…  And by the way, there really is no pony in that room full of – – you know.

Vikes at Chargers – 3 (52.5):  Both teams average scoring just under 25 points per game in 2021.  Both teams give up just under 25 points per game in 2021.  I think this will be a tit-for-tat game where each team that scores gets to watch the opponent do the same.  I think this will be high scoring, so I’ll take the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Panthers at Cardinals – 10.5 (44):  The Panthers’ defense is good; it ranks 7th in the league in Scoring Defense (20.3 points per game allowed) and 2nd in the league in Total Defense (293.1 yards per game allowed).  However, I do not think that will be enough to win this one against a rested and recovered Kyler Murray and his Band of Merry Men.  If Cam Newton plays and pulls out this game, he really is Superman.

Seahawks at Packers – 3 (49):  We may get to see Russell Wilson vs. Aaron Rodgers this weekend; that was not necessarily a given due to recent happenings – – Wilson’s injury and Rodgers’ mendacity.  Dwight Perry had a great way to look at this game in his column in the Seattle Times last weekend:

“The Seahawks’ Russell Wilson (broken finger) and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (unvaccinated arm) will face off Nov. 14 in Green Bay — maybe.

“Just call it the Pins and Needles Bowl.”

Eagles at Broncos – 2.5 (45.5):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Neither team is very good, and it is an inter-conference game which has the least impact on standings and tie-breakers and things of that sort.  The Broncos just beat the best team in the NFC East on the road last week; now they get to play one of the also-rans in the NFC East at home this week.  The only question here is:

  •  Can the Broncos avoid a let-down game?

(Sun Nite) Chiefs at Raiders – 2.5 (52):  This is my Game of the Week.  It is a longstanding rivalry game; it is a division game; both teams need to win this game badly.  What else do you need?  The Chiefs’ offense has been sputtering and wheezing for most of the season; after this much of the season, it is reasonable to wonder if it will ever “find itself”.

(Mon Nite): Rams – 4 at Niners (49):  Both teams lost last week meaning both coaching staffs had the opportunity to chew folks out.  I said above that the Niners are enigmatic, and I do not like the idea of an enigmatic team going up against a very good team that needs to win for playoff seeding purposes.  I like the Rams to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Let me review the Six-Pack for this week:

  • Houston/Temple UNDER 54.5
  • Florida St. +3 against Miami
  • Notre Dame/UVa OVER 63.5
  • Cowboys – 9 over Falcons
  • Vikes/ Chargers OVER 52.5
  • Rams – 4 over Niners

Now let me give you a 3-team college Money Line parlay and a 3-team NFL Money Line parlay:

  • Kansas State at minus-220
  • Va Tech at minus-450
  • Texas A&M at minus-115    A $100 wager wins $232.


  • Rams at minus-200
  • Bucs at minus-450
  • Broncos at minus-150  A $100 wager wins $206

Finally, since I cribbed a comment from Dwight Perry above, let me use another one here:

Q: What do Russell Wilson’s surgically repaired finger and a hand grenade have in common?

A: Neither is effective until you pull the pin.”

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



Random Thoughts…

There is a report on this morning saying that John Wall may be a “healthy scratch” for the entirety of the NBA season.  Wall wants out of Houston and the Rockets want to trade him.  So, what’s the problem?

The problem is John Wall’s contract; he will make $44.3M this year and the contract has a player option next year for $47.4M; that means any team that acquires Wall is on the hook for $91.7M over the next two years for a player who is not nearly worth that kind of money.  Even if Wall is 100% recovered from his Achilles tendon injury, his game is not what it was simply because of advancing age.  John Wall succeeded because of his speed; at his best, he was arguably the fastest player in the NBA; that is not nearly the case today.

The other part of the current problem is that John Wall was never a good – let alone great – outside shooter; his offensive game remains good and maybe better than average, but it is not $91.7M worth of “good”.  Defense was never Wall’s calling card so that is not going to entice any potential Rockets’ trading partner.  Given his recent injury history, the Rockets do not want to play him lest he get hurt again; with no recent “game tape”, potential trading partners are not exactly lining up.

Back when John Wall was an All-Star for 5 consecutive seasons,  you could say he was underpaid making $15-18M per year.  However, that is not the case in 2021 and as usual, it is “the money” that creates the impasse here.

Sticking with the NBA, the league has retained an outside law firm to investigate allegations that the owner of the Phoenix Suns, Robert Sarver, created a toxic company culture, often using racist and sexist language in front of employees.  [Aside:  Do these allegations have any parallels in other sports?  Hmmm…]  Sarver says he welcomes the investigation as a way to clear his name.  This story is in the early stage where there are flights of rhetorical fancy and reports of lurid behavior hitting the streets at least several times a week.  To give  you an idea of the rhetorical level at this time consider this statement from the NBA Communications Department:

“The NBA and WNBA remain committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees.”

Here is a statement from one of Sarver’s co-owners of the Suns’ franchise:

“The well-being and safety of every Suns employee, player, coach and stakeholder is first and foremost our priority. My sincerest sympathy goes out to all whose lives and professions have been impacted.”

In terms of reports about lurid behavior(s), some former and current Suns’ employees have alleged that Sarver showed pictures of his wife wearing a bikini and talking about instances where his wife had performed oral sex on him.  [Aside:  If Ms. Sarver were one of the complainants in the matter, I would agree at once that she was an aggrieved party.]

The NBA has a precedent for forcing the sale of a franchise based on troglodytic behavior by the franchise owner.  Go to Wikipedia for a short bio on Donald Sterling to refresh your memory of the things he said and did that brought the league down on him.  At this point in the story, I do not have nearly enough information to sense if the Sarver’s behavior is equivalent to – or possibly even worse than – Sterling’s behavior.  The independent law firm hired for the investigation has only begun its work.  However, it is not too early to pose a question about the end of the investigation:

  • Will the NBA receive a written report from the law firm?

Moving on …  Last year, the Tampa Bay Bucs set a precedent in the NFL being the first team ever to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium.  Next February, the Super Bowl will take place in SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and that facility is the home field for both the Rams and the Chargers.

  • Might this be the year when both teams in the Super Bowl will be playing a “home game”?

The Chargers have not looked great the past couple of weeks, but they have a very reasonable chance to be in the playoffs – – which is a sine qua non for playing in the Super Bowl.  The Rams are 7-2 as of this morning and it would take a significant collapse on the Rams’ part for them to miss the playoffs.  The Rams seem to recognize their potential for this season because with a variety of trades that brought players like Von Miller and Matthew Stafford to LA, the Rams have denuded themselves of draft picks for next year.  The team seems to be echoing the sentiments of a Rams’ former coach, George Allen who famously had a sign on his desk saying:

“The Future Is Now”

I believe the Rams have only a fifth and a seventh-round pick in next year’s draft.  That means the Rams’ scouting department will be looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack when the Rams finally get on the clock on Day Three of next year’s NFL Draft.

Finally, John Simon was the drama critic for New York magazine and the film critic for National Review.  He has been called “The Vicar of Vitriol” for some of his criticisms.  I will present one of them here and toss over in my mind how some of the Phoenix Suns’ employees might react if they had to read this sort of description of themselves:

“Barbra Streisand:  Ms. Streisand looks like a cross between an aardvark and an albino rat surmounted by a platinum-coated horse bun.  Though she has good eyes and a nice complexion, the rest of her is a veritable anthology of disaster areas.  Her speaking voice seems to have graduated from the Brooklyn Conservatory of Yentaism, and her acting consists entirely of fishily thrusting out her lips sounding like a cabbie bellyaching at breakneck speed and throwing her weight around.”

Now that is what I would call “hostile”…

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



Legal Stuff Today – – From A Non-Lawyer

According to a report at last week, Jon Gruden is “mulling his legal options regarding potential claims against the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.”  Serendipitously, I happened to bump into a friend who is a retired attorney and asked what might be the basis for such a lawsuit.  He is an avid sports fan and was familiar with Gruden’s firing based on emails that the NFL had collected in its investigation of the toxic work culture that existed in the Front Office of the Washington Football Team.  He tried to explain to me the concept of “tortious interference”.  Here is what I understand from that 10-minute conversation:

  • Gruden lost a job for which there was a contractual relationship between Gruden himself and the Las Vegas Raiders.
  • The cause of his loss of job – and therefore an economic loss – was the release of emails that were in the possession of the NFL and were nominally to remain private.
  • Gruden will assert that the release of emails was intentional and not accidental.
  • Ergo, the NFL – or someone at the NFL with access to those emails – inflicted a loss on Gruden by interfering in his relationship with the Raiders even though he had nothing to do with the “toxic work culture” being investigated which caused the emails to come into the possession of the NFL and neither did the Raiders.

Please make of that skimming of the surface of this aspect of contract law what you will.  To me, this potential legal action means two things:

  1. This matter is not dead and could come back to life with a bang.
  2. This is a trial where I would like to be a juror; the testimonies and cross-examinations here could be extremely interesting.

While I am treading very lightly in the area of legal matters and the NFL, let me return for a moment to the Henry Ruggs II incident where Ruggs was arrested after a car crash that killed a woman in another vehicle.  The authorities say Ruggs was driving at 156 mph and had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit.  Obviously, these charges need to be proven in court before the legal aspects of the case are decided; however, the NFL has a precedent for the way it might treat Henry Ruggs II once the Nevada authorities have completed their actions.

In 1999, Leonard Little (a defensive end for the St. Louis Rams at the time), was in a car accident that resulted in the death of a woman in another vehicle.  Little’s blood alcohol level was 2.4 times the legal limit at the time of the accident.  After the legal actions were resolved – Little was sentenced to 90 days in a workhouse, a thousand hours of community service and five years of probation – the NFL suspended him for the first 8 games of the 1999 season.

Times have changed since 1999 but in matters of crime and punishment, it seems to me that precedent is still an important element in balancing those two aspects of a case.  One can argue that what the NFL did 22  years ago was ”insufficient” in some way and that the league can now set a “more proper standard” for sanctions in matters such as these.  I believe that would be a difficult position for the league to take so I would expect something along the lines of an eight-game suspension to be the NFL’s action at the end of the legal process here.

Let me switch sports here but remain in the “legal realm”…  The CBA between MLB and the MLBPA expires 3 weeks from today on December 1st.  Normally, this is the time in negotiations where lots of things happen quickly as the deadline gets close; however, that does not seem to be happening this time around; there are no reports of progress at all.

Moreover, that three-week window to find a way to avoid a work stoppage includes the week of Thanksgiving.  I do not suspect that all the parties will take off on Wednesday and remain incommunicado for 3 or 4 days, but I do think there will be some “fallow times” during that week.  Given the choice, I suspect that folks on both sides of the negotiating table will prefer to be at a family Thanksgiving dinner table that week.

Baseball free agency has already begun – it started on November 7th – and it has been more than merely “quiet” since then.  Clearly, teams and player agents want to know what the new CBA is going to say about salaries and luxury taxes and arbitration and the like.  So, a lot of individual negotiating and a lot of trade proposals will have to be put on a back burner and then carried out in a condensed time frame if there is a work stoppage as of December 1st.

The union probably wants to find a fast-track for the younger star players to be paid in accordance with their on-field production.  Owners will want some significant concession(s) to relinquish the control they now have over their young stars.  If the union cannot get a lot of movement on that front, it would likely try to get an increase in the minimum salary for all players thereby moving the young stars up the economic ladder just a bit.  As always, this is about money and control; given where things stand now, I do not see a new CBA rising from the ashes in the next 3 weeks.

So, MLB is probably going to have a work stoppage.  In labor relations terms:

  • If the players initiate the stoppage, it is a strike.
  • If the league initiates the stoppage, it is a lockout.
  • If you are a baseball fan, it is frustrating no matter the label.

Finally, since I began today with a comment about a possible lawsuit by Jon Gruden against the NFL, let me close with a definition offered up by Ambrose Bierce:

Lawsuit, n.  A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.”

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



Roger Goodell’s Income…

Last week, there was a report that NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, had earned – – well, at least he was paid – – a total of $125M in salary and bonuses over the last two years.  I have had differences with Goodell and some of his decisions over the years, but I am here to say today that he deserves that $125M.  Let me try to justify that statement…

Back in 2014 in the aftermath of the “Ray Rice Incident”, I and many others found fault with the NFL and Roger Goodell in the handling of that matter and the discipline handed down.  However, on reflection, I then came to realize that the root of my problem with Goodell was his position as the NFL’s disciplinarian was not with Roger Goodell as the league’s commissioner.  My problem came from the fact that Goodell’s real job has little to nothing to do with handing down discipline.  I did a rant on that specific subject in September 2014; if you want to read it in its entirety, here is the link.

Here is what I think is the relevant passage from that rant in 2014:

“The job of the commissioner is to grow the league and the measures of league growth are things like revenue, attendance, public awareness, TV ratings etc. All of those are intertwined but when you take them as a package and add to them the responsibility to deal constructively with the players’ union, you have the modern set of responsibilities for a league commissioner. Unfortunately, they also seem to carry the burden of history with them, and they are also expected to be ‘The Disciplinarian’. That role does not mesh well with ‘grow the league’ and ‘deal constructively with the union’.”

In 2020 and 2021, attendance for the NFL is down from where it was in 2014, and just about everyone knows that the pandemic has a lot to do with that.  Notwithstanding the lower in-stadium attendance, when you measure the NFL on things like revenue (up over 2014), public awareness (try to read a sports section today where there is no mention of the NFL) and TV ratings (the NFL is the highest rated show on all five networks that telecast NFL games), things are more than hunky-dory.

Roger Goodell is not solely responsible for the league’s profitability and popularity, but he was directly involved in two things that made life better for team owners – – and remember, it is the team owners who hire/fire NFL Commissioners.

  1. Goodell oversaw CBA negotiations with the NFLPA resulting in a 10-year deal that guarantees labor peace and guarantees owners generous profits over the time of that labor deal.  The value of franchises just keeps going up and up; owners have to love that.
  2. Goodell also oversaw the negotiations with the TV networks some of which run even longer than the 10-year CBA does.  What those deals do is to lock in about $110-115B in revenue over the life of those deals.

Let me try to put those financial issues into perspective by doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations here:

  • TV deals this year bring in $10B in round numbers.  Suppose the NFL HQs skims 5% off the top of that revenue to help keep the lights on in the league Front Office.
  • That leaves $9.5B to be shared equally among 32 teams meaning each team would get $297M from the TV deals alone.  That money is pocketed by the owners before they ever sell a single ticket or have anyone buy a team jersey or sign a “partnership deal” or a “naming rights deal”.
  • Granted the salary cap figures for 2021 are depressed due to reduced in-game revenues in 2020 due to the pandemic, but the salary cap for 2021 is only $182.5M.
  • So, just from the TV deals, each NFL owner is $114.5M to the good this year.  The next time someone asks you how teams can afford to have 20 assistant coaches and trainers and scouts, remember this ballpark number for 2021.

So, back to Roger Goodell and the reported $125M he got as salary plus bonuses over the last two years.  Previous reports said – and I have no way to corroborate or deny those reports – that Goodell’s base salary was $44M a year.  If correct he would have earned $88M over the past two years simply by managing not to get fired.  So, it would appear as if he earned about 42% of his annual salary in bonuses.  If you are not particularly fond of The Commish, those numbers might be hard to swallow but consider two other points:

  1. Roger Goodell serves another very important function for his employers – the owners.  He takes the blame and makes himself the target for just about any criticism that might come the league’s way.  For example, if the Congress decides to hold public hearings with regard to the NFL’s “investigation” of the toxic work environment that existed for the Washington Football Team, it is going to be Roger Goodell who will be seated in front of the Congressthings listening to their rhetorical flourishes masquerading as questions.  He will be the target of their ire.
  2. Roger Goodell drove the negotiations with the union and with the TV networks and those turned out to be highly beneficial for Goodell’s side of the table.  Perhaps, that is a sign of Goodell’s innate negotiation skills; and if it is, then we should not be so surprised to learn that he negotiated a really beneficial deal for himself when he negotiated with the owners for his salary and benefits package.

I am sure I will continue to have my differences with Roger Goodell over various issues in the future, but I think I understand why he received the money he has over the last two years even though I do think it is just a tad excessive.

Finally, since today has been all about money, let me close with the following observation by Dorothy Parker:

“Money cannot buy health, but I’d settle for a diamond-studded wheelchair.”

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



Aaron Rodgers Should Be suspended…

The Green Bay Packers lost a game yesterday to the Kansas City Chiefs that they would probably have won if Aaron Rodgers had been the Packers’ QB for the game.  The Packers’ defense held the Chiefs to 13 points, but Jordan Love – making his first NFL start for the Packers – was only able to score 7 points.  As you must know by now, Rodgers missed the game because he tested positive for COVID-19.

If that was all there is to the story, one could toss it off as a stroke of bad luck for Rodgers and the Packers and look ahead to see if there are any sorts of playoff projections that can me made based on this defeat.  Would that everything here was so simple…

Ever since training camp, Aaron Rodgers has said he was “immunized” against COVID; he never said he was vaccinated, nor did he say directly that he had turned down the vaccination.  People tolerated that because he is a star player, and he has a persona of being a cool guy who is often flip with the media.  Heck, that is the persona that has gotten him as far as it has with the State Farm ads.

The problem is that he is not vaccinated AND that he has been violating the NFL protocols for unvaccinated players since the start of the season.  One glaring example is his appearance at his weekly press conferences.  As an unvaccinated player, he is required to do those session masked; Rodgers has done them all unmasked.  Given that easily observed violation of the protocols, it is logical to assume – – but we do not know for certain – – that he also violated the protocols when it comes to his mask-wearing behaviors inside the Packers’ facilities with his teammates and coaches.

Now comes the time to dig deep into the history of the US over the last 50 years or so and ask three variants of the question made famous by Senator Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) during the Senate hearings related to Watergate:

  1. What did the Packers know about the lack of vaccination and when did they know it?
  2. What did the NFL know about the lack of vaccination and when did they know it?
  3. What did the NFLPA know about the lack of vaccination and when did they know it?

These answers are relevant because it certainly seems to me that this was not a deep dark secret known only Aaron Rodgers and the medical professional who treated him with homeopathic “stuff” to provide “immunization”.  It is clear to me that Rodgers has been deceitful in his lies about his status and his improper behaviors as a result of his deceitful status representation.

  • But what did the team know and by letting it go on how badly did they endanger other players coaches and team staff?
  • And what about the league?
  • And what about the NFLPA which negotiated an agreement with the league nominally to protect its members from being exploited by rapacious owners who might provide ill-suited working conditions?  How about one of your own members being the “endangering agent”?

The COVID vaccines have presented a trigger point for many Americans.  Let me put my cards on the table:

  • I am vaccinated – – and boostered.  My extended family – save for my 8-year-old granddaughter – is also vaccinated and boostered.  My granddaughter has gotten a first shot and is awaiting the time for her second shot.
  • In any discussion with anyone, my recommendation is to take the vaccine.  Medical history says vaccines work – – see polio, smallpox et. al.
  • Socially, I believe private entities can require employees and customers to be vaccinated.  I do not support nearly to the same degree having governments mandate vaccinations.
  • I believe that unvaccinated individuals can and should be held accountable for their choice to turn down the vaccine.  That accountability might manifest itself in loss of a job or reduced health benefits or denied access to certain events.
  • I am fed up to my eyebrows with anecdotal horror stories about this entire issue; it is time to put lots of the rhetoric on ice.

But in the case of Aaron Rodgers, I am afraid that his “star player status” could get in the way of him suffering some consequences of his behavior.  And by “his behavior” I do not mean his decision not to take the vaccine – – that is HIS business and HIS decision.  What I mean by “his behavior” is his mendacity and his deceit.   Here is my position on the matter and I suspect that it will not resonate well with many NFL fans:

  • Tom Brady was suspended for 4 games a few years ago.  The nominal behavior that got him suspended was deflating footballs; that charge was not well supported by evidence and science said there were environmental factors that could have caused whatever measurements were made to have been what they were.  Brady was also non-cooperative with the investigation and supposedly was not candid with the folks doing the investigating.
  • Aaron Rodgers’ behavior is potentially far more consequential than was Tom Brady’s.  He has been lying about this status and availing himself of the relaxed restrictions enjoyed by vaccinated players for at least two months – – and probably four months.
  • I think Aaron Rodgers deserves a longer suspension than Tom Brady got.  For me it is a minimum of 6 games.

Finally let me close today with an observation from a highly unusual source for these rants, Pope Benedict XVI:

“In the name of freedom, there has to be a correlation between rights and duties, by which every person is called to assume responsibility for his or her choices, made as a consequence of entering into relations with others.”

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



Football Friday 11/5/21

Some Biblical scholars say that rains that caused the Great Flood – the one that Noah rode out on the Ark – began on a Friday.  I have no reason to dispute such an interpretation, but I can report that today is Friday and the weather here outside Curmudgeon Central shows no indication of impending rain.  So, I guess it is safe to get going on this week’s Football Friday.

Traditionally, I begin these rants with a review of last week’s Six-Pack.  The fact that I will admit to have committed such thoughts to the memory of the Internet demonstrates my inability to embarrass myself; last week’s selections were putrid:

  • College:  0-3-0
  • NFL:  1-2-0
  • Total:  1-5-0
  • Money Line Parlay  0-1

Since the start of the season, here are the cumulative results:

  • College:  7-10-0
  • NFL:  14-16-1
  • Total:  21-26-1
  • Money Line Parlays  0-1


College Football Commentary:


The Linfield College Wildcats continued their unbeaten season last week with a home victory over the George Fox Bruins by a score of 38-7.  Linfield is 7-0 for the 2021 season and 5-0 in Northwest Conference games.  This week the Wildcats will travel to Salem, OR to face the Willamette Bearcats.  Willamette is not having a good year on the gridiron; they bring a 1-7 record to the kickoff, and they give up 42.4 points per game.  Go Wildcats!

Looking at the contenders for the Brothel Defense Award for 2020 – the college football team that allows opponents to score early and often:

  • Arkansas St. gives up 42/4 points per game
  • Kansas gives up 43.8 points per game
  • UMass gives up 46.3 points per game

Over the last week there were two reports of coaching changes for college football.  Both were surprising to me for different reasons.

  1. Gary Patterson and TCU went their separate ways.  TCU has not had a sterling season in 2021; the Horned Frogs are 3-5 this week and one of those 3 wins came over a Division 1-AA team.  The surprising element here is that Patterson has been the coach at TCU for 22 years; I never saw him leaving the program in mid-season.
  2. Clay Helton reportedly found a new job.  Recall that Helton was fired at USC back in September; if reports are correct that he has already accepted a job, that would mean he was never really looking to take some time off and live on his buy-out check.  Reports this week said that Helton has taken the job at Georgia Southern where the Eagles are 3-5 so far this season.  In terms of prestige, it sure looks like a big step down for Helton from USC (PAC-12) to Georgia Southern (Sun Belt).

Kudos to the folks who did the scheduling for the teams in the Big-10 East.  There are 4 very good teams there:

  • Michigan
  • Michigan St
  • Ohio St.
  • Penn St.

The schedule maker clustered the games among those teams toward the end of the season giving them added gravitas.  Ohio State – for example – still has games against Michigan State and Michigan; Michigan State has Ohio State and Penn State still on the calendar.

Speaking of the Big-10, here are happenings there from last week …

Wisconsin 27  Iowa 7:  In the first half, Iowa made 1 first down and had 19 yards of offense.  The total offense for Iowa in this game was 156 yards; they had 24 yards rushing on 30 attempts.  The Badgers did not set the world afire on offense gaining only 270 yards, but it was plenty given the performance of the defense.

Rutgers 20  Illinois 14:  Rutgers is 4-4.  Can they get to a bowl game?  They need 2 wins from these remaining 4 games:

  • Vs. Wisconsin
  • At Indiana
  • At Penn State
  • Vs. Maryland

I doubt that the Scarlet Knights will be favored in any of those 4 games but that is why they play the game on the field and not just on paper…

Michigan St. 37  Michigan 33:  Sparty moves to 8-0 for the season while Michigan is now 7-1.  I thought this would be a tight defensive game and took it UNDER 51.5 last week.  My bad!  Michigan had 552 yards on offense to “only” 395 for Michigan St.  State had a balanced offense for the day gaining 199 yards rushing and 196 yards passing.  Michigan kicked a field goal with 12 minutes to play in the game to take a 3-point lead 33-30.  From then on, here are the Michigan possessions:

  • Fumble
  • Turnover on Downs
  • INT

Ohio St.  33  Penn St. 24:  Ohio St. shut down the Penn St. running game holding the Lions to 33 yards on 29 attempts.

In games pertinent to the ACC…

Notre Dame 44  UNC 34:  UNC was ranked in the top 10 in the pre-season polls and this loss puts their record at 4-4.  Reporters never seem to hold the poll voters responsible for such “irregularities”.

NC State 28  Louisville 13:  Louisville led the game 10-7 at the start of the fourth quarter and outgained NC State by 73 yards in the game.  The Cardinals also committed 10 penalties in the game for 101 yards.  Here are the final two possessions for Louisville:

  • With 5:53 to go and State leading 21-13, the Cardinals get the ball at their own 25.  Faced with fourth down and 2 yards to go, they go for it and do not make it.  NC State gets the ball at the Louisville 34 and gets a TD to make the score 28-13.
  • With 2:21 to go and State leading 28-13, the Cardinals get the ball at their own 25.  Faced with fourth down and 3 yards to go, they go for it and do not make it.  NC State gets the ball at the Louisville 34 and runs out the clock.
  • Notice any symmetry here?

Wake Forest 45  Duke 7:  Wake remains undefeated at 8-0.  Moreover, Wake has scored 35 points or more in every game this year.  The Deacons lead the Atlantic Division; NC State is in second place there with only 1 conference loss.  Here is the rest of the schedule for Wake Forest; it is not an easy one:

  • At UNC
  • Vs. NC State
  • At Clemson
  • At BC

Clemson 30  Florida St. 20:  I took FSU +9.5 in last week’s Six-Pack.  FSU had a PAT blocked in first quarter.  Oh well…

Syracuse 21  BC 6:  Syracuse won its 5th game of the season meaning it can be bowl-eligible with another win.  The last bowl appearance for the Orange was in 2018 when they won something called the Camping World Bowl.  Syracuse has 3 games left to play in order to find another win; here is the schedule:

  • BYE Week this week
  • At Louisville
  • At NC State
  • Vs. Pitt

Miami 38  Pitt 34:  I said last week that Pitt tends to lose a game or two a year that they should not.  Here was one of them.  Pitt is now down to 6-2 overall but they still lead the ACC Coastal Division with only this one conference loss.  Miami was a 9.5-point underdog and were led by a big game from freshman QB, Tyler Van Dyke.  This is Miami’s second consecutive win over a ranked opponent. Miami has only 2 conference losses; this win keeps them relevant in the ACC.

Va Tech 26  Ga Tech  17:  Coaches often say they strive for balance in their offense.  Ga. Tech had a perfectly balanced offense here; they gained 183 yards rushing and 183 yards passing.  They had 20 rushing plays and 26 passing plays in the game.

In Big-12 action last week …

Baylor 31  Texas 24:  Baylor is still in the race for the Big-12 championship with only 1 conference loss.  Texas led 21-10 with 9 minutes left in the third quarter and 21-17 after three quarters. Then from about 9-minute mark in the third quarter to the 8-minute mark of the 4th quarter, the Texas defense gave up 3 TDs on three drives that totaled 208 yards.  Ugly…

Oklahoma 52  Texas Tech 21:  That is the kind of dominant win the Sooners should hang on mediocre teams.  Where has that sort of performance been earlier this year?  Sooner freshman QB, Caleb Williams posted this stat line for the day:

  • 23 of 30 for 402 yards with 6 TDs and 0 INTs.

Oklahoma St. 55  Kansas 3:  The Cowboys posted 534 yards on offense; Kansas managed to gain only 143 yards including only 44 yards passing.  Kansas had 7 first downs in the game and 3 turnovers.  It was a debacle.  The score was 45-0 with 3:50 to play in the 3rd quarter when Kansas kicked a 45-yard field goal to avoid the shutout.

In SEC games last week…

Mississippi St. 31  Kentucky  17:  The Bulldogs’ defense had it second consecutive strong showing in this game holding the Wildcats to only 216 yards in the game.  Meanwhile the Air Raid offense was clicking with 344 yards gained in the air.  Mississippi State’s QB, Will Rogers (not that one, he’s dead)  set an SEC record for completion percentage in a game with more than 30 pass attempts.  Rogers was 36 for 39 in the game.  Mississippi State needs one more win to be bowl eligible.  Here are the Bulldogs’ remaining 4 games:

  • At Arkansas
  • At Auburn
  • Vs. Tennessee State
  • Vs. Ole Miss

The Bulldogs have been to bowl games in each of the last 11 seasons.  They need to find a win on that schedule and the game at home against Tennessee State looks good from here…

Auburn 31  Ole Miss 20:  Here is another game where the stat sheet is much closer than the scoreboard.  The difference in offensive output was only 21 yards.  Auburn QB, Bo Nix, had an efficient and effective game passing for 276 yards including one TD pass and rushing for two more scores.  Ole Miss turned the ball over on downs 3 times in the second half.  Auburn has only 1 SEC loss; they have a difficult schedule ahead of them, but if they can get to the Iron Bowl against Alabama with only 1 loss, then a win there would put Auburn in the SEC Championship game against Georgia.  Here is Auburn’s schedule:

  • At Texas A&M
  • Vs. Mississippi St.
  • At South Carolina
  • Vs. Alabama

Georgia 34  Florida 7:  In terms of offense the teams were even; Florida gained 355 yards and Georgia gained 354 yards.   The score was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter; then, the score was 24-7 at halftime.  How did that happen?  Here are the Florida possessions in the second quarter:

  1. Turnover on Downs
  2. Fumble
  3. INT
  4. INT
  5. Halftime.

Georgia has Mizzou, Tennessee and Ga Tech (as Division 1-A teams) left on its schedule. With their win last week and Kentucky’s loss to Mississippi St., I believe Georgia is guaranteed to be the SEC East champion this year. They will be huge favorites in two of those games and will probably be only a 10-point favorite over Tennessee.  That will put Georgia in the SEC Championship Game – – and unless they get totally blown out there, I see them headed to the CFP.

            Out there in PAC-12 territory …

Washington St 34  Arizona St. 21:  The stat sheet for this game says it should have gone to OT.  Sun Devils gained 406 and the Cougars gained 400 yards.  The difference here is rather obvious:

  • Arizona St had 5 turnovers (2 INTs and 3 lost fumbles)
  • Washington St. had 1 turnover (an INT)

Utah 44  UCLA 24:  There is another game that was very close on the stat sheet but not on the scoreboard.  Utah scored touchdowns on its first 4 possessions and never looked back.  Utah now leads the PAC-12 South Division with only 1 conference loss; Arizona State is second in the South with 2 losses.

Oregon 52  Colorado 29:  This outcome was never in doubt.  The Ducks led the game 45-14 at the start of the 4th quarter.  Oregon leads the PAC-12 North with 1 conference loss.

Cal 39  Oregon St.  25:  By losing here, Oregon St. now has 2 conference losses  in the North Division.  If they can get to the final game against Oregon with only two losses, they could win the division with a victory over the Ducks.  Cal showed balance on offense along with efficiency.  The Bears gained 258 yards in the air and 245 yards on the ground.  Cal was also 12 for 18 on third down attempts.  Three turnovers by the Beavers did not help their cause.

USC 41  Arizona 34:  Arizona is still winless at 0-8.  The USC defense should not be proud of this game giving up 34 points.  In the 7 games leading up to this, Arizona had never scored as many as 20 points in a game and had been shut out once by Colorado.

In miscellaneous college football games:

Nevada 51  UNLV 20:  UNLV drops to 0-8.  Nevada gained only 20 yards (18 carries) rushing but then again UNLV only gained 10 yards rushing (24 carries).  Clearly this was an aerial contest…

Fresno St. 30  San Diego St. 20:  That is the first loss for San Diego St.  In the West Division of the Mountain West Conference, there are three teams with only one conference loss – – Fresno St., San Diego St. and Nevada.  Fresno State would own the tiebreakers here since it has beaten both Nevada and San Diego St.

Houston 44  SMU 37:  This is the first loss for SMU; both teams are now 7-1 for the season.  Houston led 20-0 late in the first quarter but the game turned out to be a close game in the end.  The Cougars have won 7 in a row since losing in Week 1 to Texas Tech.

Coastal Carolina 35  Troy 28:  Troy is a 4-4 team.  Maybe the “Coastal Carolina mystique” is no more?

Cincy 31  Tulane 12:  The score was 14-12 at the half; this was not a dominating performance by Cincy.  Tulane is a 1-win team and that win came at the expense of Division 1- AA Morgan St.  Another head-shaker here is that Tulane has given up 40 or more points in 5 of their 7 losses; Cincy only scored 31…

Liberty 62  UMass 17:  Liberty covered 5 TDs this time…  The score was 41-3 at halftime.

Foreshadowing… Starting next week I will be focusing on the teams that are in contention for an invitation to my imaginary SHOE Tournament – – where we could det3erming on the field which team is the worst team in the country for 2021.


College Football Games of Interest:


(Fri Nite) Utah – 9 at Stanford (54):  This is an important game for the Utes as they seek to maintain control of the standings in the PAC-12 South Division.  Interestingly, the spread for this game opened at 6 points and jumped to 7 points almost immediately.  The spread hung in at 7 points until Thursday when it went up to 9 points in the span of a couple of hours.

Army at Air Force – 3 (37.5):  Get ready for running plays in this game.  Air Force leads the nation in rushing attempts per game (63.8) and in rushing yards per game (318.4)  Army is second in the nation in rushing attempts per game (63.6) and is also second in the country in rushing yards per game (312.3).  Games between the service academies are always fun to watch…

Pitt – 21 at Duke (64):  Pitt could use a “get-right game” now after losing last week to Miami.  Duke will give them that opportunity.

NC State – 2.5 at Florida State (56):  The Seminoles were within a score of Clemson down to the final play of the game last week.  NC State cannot afford a loss which might put them 2 games behind Wake Forest in the ACC Atlantic Division race.

Wisconsin – 13 at Rutgers (38):  Rutgers is looking for two wins to become bowl eligible; this is not likely to be one of the places they will find one.  I will say, however, that this is a large spread to cover in what looks to be a very low scoring game.

Clemson – 4 at Louisville (46):  If Louisville loses here, it will be their 4th conference loss; they are irrelevant in the ACC Championship Game picture.  If Clemson loses, it will their 3rd conference loss and they too would become irrelevant.  An interesting game…

Iowa – 12 at Northwestern (40.5):  The Hawkeyes began the season 6-0 with wins over teams like Iowa State and Penn State.  They have lost their last two games and have only scored 7 points in each of those losses.  As an homage to Bill Cullen on To Tell the Truth:

  • Will the real Iowa Hawkeyes please stand up.

Houston – 13 at USF (53):   A let-down game for the Cougars after beating undefeated SMU last week?

Indiana at Michigan – 20 (51):  The Wolverines cannot afford another in-conference loss…

Wake Forest at UNC – 2.5 (77):  The oddsmakers believe that the Deacons’ perfect season will come to an end here.  Regarding that big number on the Total Line consider:

  • Wake is 5th in the nation in scoring (43.8 points per game).
  • UNC is 22nd in the nation in scoring (36.5 points per game).

K-State – 24 at Kansas (56):  This is a rivalry game where one of the rivals just stinks.

Florida – 18 at South Carolina (53):  Florida coach Dan Mullen really needs his Gators to win this game convincingly…

Baylor – 6.5 at TCU (58.5):  Baylor needs a win to stay within shouting distance of Oklahoma in the Big-12.  TCU will either be emotionally charged or emotionally let down by the news of Coach Patterson’s leaving the school.  Baylor is the better team and I think their motivation here is more predictable; I’ll take the Bears to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six Pack.

Oregon St. – 10.5 at Colorado (54):  This is an important game for the Beavers as they strive to maintain relevancy in the PAC-12 North.  For Colorado, this is just another football game…

USC at Arizona St. – 8.5 (60):  This is an important conference game for the Sun Devils; not so much for the Trojans.

Missouri at Georgia – 39 (60):  Even with that spread, this is a conference game and not a body bag game…

Ohio St. – 14.5 at Nebraska (66):  The Buckeyes have been on a roll since losing to Oregon in Week 2.  Since that game, they have only been held under 41 points once – – last week against Penn State.  Ohio State leads the country in total Offense at 547.6 yards per game.  Nebraska ranks 44th in the country in Total Defense and 26th in the country in scoring defense.  I like the Buckeyes to keep rolling here to stay in the Big-10 East picture and to maintain the attention of the CFP Selection Committee; I’ll take them on the road to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Mississippi  St. at Arkansas – 5.5 (55):  The Bulldogs need one more win for bowl eligibility; can they squeeze it out here?  I mentioned above that State’s QB, Will Rogers went 36 for 39 passing last week.  Here is data mining stat:

  • Against SEC opponents, Arkansas allows 66% pass completions.

I like the Bulldogs on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Oklahoma St. – 4 at West Virginia (49):  The Cowboys cannot afford another conference loss, but this is a dangerous game for them.  West Virginia is a tough out in Morgantown…

Tennessee – 1 at Kentucky (56):  The spread here opened with Kentucky as a 3-point favorite, but it has moved slowly and steadily in the direction of Tennessee all week long.

Michigan St. – 3 at Purdue (53):  The Boilermakers were the ones to hand Iowa its first loss of the season; can they do that again to Sparty?  Is this a classic let-down game for Michigan St. coming off a big win in a big rivalry game last week against Michigan?

Auburn at Texas A&M – 4 (49):  This is a big game for the Aggies; they still have a path to the SEC Championship Game.  They need to beat Auburn here and then root for Auburn to beat Alabama.  Since Texas A&M beat Alabama on the field, they would own the tiebreakers there.

Oregon – 7 at Washington (51):  This is an intense rivalry that gets far less coverage than it deserves.

Cal – 11.5 at Arizona (51):  Is this where Arizona finds its first win of the season?  I don’t think so…

UNLV at New Mexico – 1.5 (45):  Is this where UNLV finds its first win of the season?  They have a real shot here because New Mexico is not a good football team.

LSU at Alabama – 28.5 (67):  In recent years, LSU would not have been a 4 TD underdog to half of the NFL teams…


NFL Commentary:


Teams with a BYE Week this weekend:

  1. Bucs:  They lost last week and have two weeks to prepare for the Football Team.
  2. Football Team:  They lost last week and have two weeks to prepare for the Bucs.
  3. Lions:  They lost last week – – as they seem to do every week of every year…
  4. Seahawks:  They won last week and hope to have Russell Wilson back on the field next week.

Over the last two editions of Football Friday, I have taken note of how many blowout games there have been in the NFL and wondered if growing numbers of non-competitive games might damage the league’s popularity.  This week, NFL Insider, Jason LaCanfora, on echoed my thoughts.  You can find the entirety of his comments here.

Here are a few of his comments:

“We aren’t even at the midpoint of the 2021 season – the first of the expanded 17 game schedule – and there appears to be no end of high-school style beatdowns that are over in many cases before halftime.”

And …

“It feels like there is a blowout problem arising. Sometimes when it’s quite predictable, and occasionally when it’s not.   But, most often, it is one of the usual suspects involved, and Vegas is going to have to continue pushing the point spread to new highs in many cases to account for the trend.”

And …

“We’ll see if this ends up being a blip. Or if these egregiously lopsided kind of affairs are something we can come to expect a few times in each expanded window. But the degree to which some of these teams are unable to put forth a fight for even a half feels a little bit like what MLB is going through.”

With that as a prelude, there were “only” 3 outrageous games last week; I have pulled them out of the pile of results from last week…

Seahawks 31  Jags 7:  The Jags won the stat sheet 309 yards to 229 yards.  Geno Smith was efficient if not spectacular throwing for 195 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs.  The Seahawks’ defense has been heavily criticized this year, but it was pitching a shutout until the final two minutes of the game when the Jags finally scored.  That was the Jags’ only visit to the Red Zone all day long.  In addition, the Seahawks’ defenders stopped the Jags on 3 fourth-down tries.

Rams 38  Texans 22:  This is a blowout game because the score was 38 – 0 at the end of the third quarter.  Matthew Stafford threw for 305 yards and 3 TDs. The Rams’ defense recorded 5 sacks in the game.

Eagles 44  Lions 6:  This was the “early game” on FOX in my viewing area – – until the score was 31-0 and they switched us over to a “more competitive game”.   Jalen Hurts only threw for 114 yards in this game but the Eagles ran the ball for 236 yards on 46 carries.  (They only attempted 14 passes in the game.)  They held the ball for 35 minutes and converted 5 of 10 third down situations.  The Eagles’ defense sacked Jared Goff six times and pressured him continuously.  Frankly, the Lions  played as if someone had dissolved Quaaludes in their sideline Gatorade.

The rest of the games were as competitive as we have come to expect from the NFL…

Panthers 19  Falcons 13:  There was not a lot of offense in this game.  Matt Ryan threw for 146 yards, and he was the most prolific passer on the field.  A big difference in the game was third-down efficiency; the Panthers converted 10 of 17 situations while the Falcons went 3 for 10.  Panthers’ QB, Sam Darnold had to leave the game with a concussion and was in the league protocol for concussions.  Calvin Ridley did not play in the game for personal reasons; that could not have been something Matt Ryan wished for.

Steelers 15  Browns 10:  This game was the CBS early time slot game in my viewing area.  It was about as artistic an endeavor as an axe fight.  Steelers’ kicker, Chris Bowell was injured in the game on a fake kick and the Steelers had to try two-point attempts after their two TDs in the game; neither of those conversions worked.  The Browns had the only turnover in the game, and it came in the 4th quarter while the game was a one-score contest.  Ben Roethlisberger’s record against the Browns in Cleveland for his career is now 12-2-1.  The Steelers’ defense deserves plenty of credit for this win holding the Browns to 10 points and only 3 of 10 third down conversions.

Saints 36  Bucs 27:  Jameis Winston had to be helped off the field in the first half with a knee injury incurred when he was “horse-collar tackled” on a scramble.  Trevor Siemian came in to finish the game and posted a positive stat line:

  • 16 of 29 for 159 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs

That may not look as gaudy as Tom Brady’s stat line – – but it was enough to win the game:

  • 28 of 40 for 375 yards with 4 TDs and 2 INTs

The Saints took the lead at 29-27 in the final two minutes with a 23-yard field goal.  On the next possession, Tom Brady threw a Pick Six to end the game.  This win puts the Saints on a par with the Bucs in the NFC South since both teams have 2 losses on the season – – and the Saints hold the tiebreaker as of now.  These tams will meet again on December 19th in Tampa.  Circle that game; it should be a critical game in the standings.

Here is the most interesting thing to me about the outcome of this game:

  • The Saints have beaten the Packers – resoundingly – and the Bucs.  Those are two excellent teams.
  • Meanwhile the Saints have lost to the Giants – a bad team in the same season.

Broncos 17  Football Team 10:  The game was tied at 10 apiece at the start of the 4th quarter.  Melvin Gordon scored his second TD of the game in the final 5 minutes to give the Broncos the lead.  Later, he lost a fumble at the Denver 24 yardline giving the Football Team a shot to tie the game in the final minute; but the Broncos’ defense held on for the win.  The Football Team saw its recently signed kicker, Chris Blewitt have two field goals blocked in the game.  The first was not much of a block because the ball was only about 6 feet off the ground when it reached the line of scrimmage where all the linemen were pushing and shoving one another.  Two weeks ago, the Football Team demonstrated total ineptitude in the Red Zone against the Packers and last week they got to the Red Zone twice and scored zero points.  The Broncos’ defense had 5 sacks and stopped the Football Team on 4 fourth-down tries.

I ran across this stat from this game:

  • WFT ran 19 plays inside the Broncos 30-yardline.  Total offense on those 19 plays was 17 yards.  Eleven of those plays resulted in either no gain, a loss or a turnover.
  • Yowza!

Pats 27  Chargers 24:  The stat sheet for the game was as close as the scoreboard.  The Pats’ offense was not particularly efficient, but the Pats got 4 field goals and a Pick-Six TD in the game.  The Chargers gained 163 yards rushing on only 20 carries.

Bills 26  Dolphins 11:  This game was 3-3 at halftime; here are the results of the first three possessions by the Dolphins in the second half:

  1. Three and out
  2. Three and out
  3. Three and out

The Dolphins’ defense tried to keep it close, and the score was a manageable 10-3 after three quarters.  The Bills put the game away in the 4th quarter with two TDs and a field goal in their 3 possessions in that 4th quarter.  The Dolphins turned the ball over twice including an INT in the final 3 minutes of the game.

Jets 34  Bengals 31:  I said last week in reference to this game that the oddsmakers feared a letdown game from the Bengals after beating the Ravens in Baltimore two weeks ago.  Well, this was a letdown.  Mike White made his first NFL start for the Jets; he threw for 405 yards with 3 TDs and 2 INTs, and the Jets amassed 511 yards on offense for the day.  The Bengals led 24-17 at the start of the 4th quarter and coughed up a hairball from that point on.  The Jets held the Bengals to 41 yards rushing for the day.  The Jets have only 2 wins this year but they have come at the expense of the Bengals and the Titans – – two division leading teams.  The Jets’ defense sacked Joe Burrow 3 times in the game.

Niners 33 Bears 22:  The Niners dominated the stat sheet 467 yards to 324  yards.  Nevertheless, the Bears led 13-9 at halftime and 16-15 at the start of the 4th quarter.  Here are the second half possessions for the Niners; it is not an endorsement for the Bears’ defensive unit – – although to be fair Khalil Mack was not on the field for the game:

  • TD
  • TD
  • TD
  • Field Goal
  • Kneel out the game

Justin Fields ran for 103 yards and a TD in the game.  Jimmy Garoppolo ran for 4  yards and 2 TDs in the game.  Seriously …

Titans 34  Colts 31 (OT):  This was a game of momentum swings.  The Colts took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but only led 17-14 at the half.  This win puts the Titans firmly in command of the AFC South race.  The Titans have two losses, and the Colts have 5 losses – – including ceding the tiebreaker to the Titans in the process.  This score of this game is one that the Titans seem fond of in 2021; consider these results from earlier in the 2021 season:

  • October 31:  Titans 34  Colts 31  (OT)
  • October 18:  Titans 34  Bills 31
  • September 19:  Titans 33  Seahawks 30 (OT)

Derrick Henry suffered a foot injury that some reports say will be season ending   He had surgery on the foot in the last week; the Titans signed Adrian Peterson to the practice squad; it does not look good for a Derrick Henry return this season.  It is easy to say that the Titans offense for the last year and a half has “run through Derrick Henry.”  That is not a cheap attempt at a play on words; it is simply a statement of fact.

Cowboys 20  Vikes 16:  No Dak Prescott; no problem.  Cooper Rush played QB for the Cowboys and acquitted himself very properly here:

  • 24 of 40 for 325 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT.

For the game, the Cowboys had 142 more  yards on offense than the Vikes had, but two turnovers and 11 penalties against the Cowboys for 96 yards kept the game close.  The winning TD came with 55 seconds left in the game when Cooper Rush hit Amari Cooper for a short TD.

Chiefs 20  Giants 17:  This was hardly an impressive win for the reigning AFC Champion against a team that is 2-6.  The Giants led early in the 4th quarter 17-14; however, in the 4th quarter, the Chiefs drove for two field goals while the Giants’ possessions produced a punt and then a turnover on downs.  The schedule for the Chiefs for the rest of the 2021 season is most difficult.

  • As of this morning, the Chiefs will not play a team with a losing record between now and the final game on Jan 9, 2022.


NFL Games:

Yes, I watched some of last night’s Colts/Jets game; the first quarter was interesting; after that…  The Jets had no answer for Jonathan Taylor who averaged 9.4 yards per carry in the game.  The Colts as a team ran the ball for 260 yards.  Mike White injured his arm and had to leave the game; at that point, the Jets’ fate was sealed. 

Texans at Dolphins – 5.5 (46):  The spread here opened at 7 points; the drop means there was “excess money” coming into the sportsbooks on the Texans.  Why anyone would bet on this game is a mystery to me.  Yes, I know; Tyrod Taylor is back to play QB for the Texans this week; maybe that is what “moved the line”.  This is unequivocally the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.    The loser here will likely gain in the competition for a high draft pick in 2022; other than that, there should be no interest here.

Broncos at Cowboys – 10 (49):  The Broncos’ defense is good, but the Broncos’ offense is less than mediocre.  I cannot see how the Broncos can keep pace.

Vikes at Ravens – 6 (49.5):  The Vikes play to their competition’s level and the Ravens are a good opponent.  The Ravens had a BYE Week last week to prepare for this one.  I have a hunch that the Ravens’; coaches were all over the defense for the last two weeks after a miserable outing last time and that the defense will show up lean and mean this week.  Give me the Ravens at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Pats – 3.5 at Panthers (40.5):  Bill Belichick has done a number on Sam Darnold and his former teammates in NY over the past couple of years.  He can do it again this time despite a stronger cast around Darnold – – and this assumes Darnold is fully recovered from his concussion last week.  I like the Pats to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Bills – 14.5 at Jags (48.5):  I think the Bills will get themselves back to their norm after a week to ponder a lackluster showing against the Dolphins last week and will turn this into a rout.

Browns at Bengals – 2.5 (47):  This could be the Game of the Week if you live in Ohio and/or are a fan of any AFC North team.  However, we take a larger and longer view here in Curmudgeon Central; it is a good game but not the best one of the week.  Once again, Odell Beckham, Jr. is in the middle of a team soap opera in Cleveland.  Don’t look now, but the Browns are in last place in the division.

Raiders – 3 at Giants (46):  It is a long trip and a “body clock game” for the Raiders.  The good news is that it will be the Giants that take the field against them.  The Raiders lead the AFC West this morning; they have plenty of reasons to take this game seriously.

Falcons at Saints – 7 (42):  Which Saints team will we see?  The one that beat the Bucs last week and that beat the Packers by 5 TDs earlier this year? Or the one that lost to the Giants?

Chargers – 1 at Eagles (50):  The spread opened as “pick ‘em” and expanded from there.  One sportsbook this morning had the line at 2.5 points.  This is another “body clock game”  for a west coast team but the fact is that the Chargers are the more talented team.  The Chargers have lost 2 games in a row and are in danger of falling out of contention; the Chargers will put a stop to that in this game; I like the Chargers to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Packers at Chiefs – 7 (48):  This is an example of the “Aaron Rodgers Effect”.  This game opened as a “pick ‘em” game – – until Rodgers was ruled out for a positive COVID-19 test.  This would have been the Game of the Week until that positive COVID-19 test.  Now, the interesting thing will be to see how much Jordan Love has learned by studying and practicing alongside Aaron Rodgers.  The key to the game now is simple:

  • The Packers will emphasize the running game.
  • The Chiefs have been vulnerable to the run all year long.
  • Can the Chiefs contain the Packers’ running game?

Cardinals at Niners – 1 (45):  Kyler Murray sprained an ankle 2 weeks ago and it looked as if it were still bothering/limiting him last week.  Is it fully healed?  DeAndre Hopkins had limited practice time last week.  Is he near full strength?  When you marry those injuries/limitations with the absence of JJ Watt from a leadership position on the defense, this game could be a lot closer than the team records in 2021 might indicate.

(Sun Nite) Titans at Rams – 7 (52.5):  Here is the Game of the Week.  The Titans have significant adversity to overcome with Derrick Henry on the shelf.  With the Colts victory last night, the Titans could see their 4-game lead cut to 3 games only a week after beating the Colts head-to-head.  The Rams hope that Von Miller is a quick study and that he is ready to contribute on defense.

(Mon Nite) Bears at Steelers – 6.5 (39):  The game should be close; that is the reason to watch it.  It would take a lot of imagination to think that this will be an exciting offensive display.

Let me add in here a College Football Money Line Parlay:

  • Ole Miss at minus-330
  • Mississippi St, at +160
  • Fresno St. at minus-200.
  • Parlay wins $408 on a $100 wager

And for good measure, here is an NFL Money Line Parlay:

  • Patriots at minus-180
  • Chargers at minus-120
  • Steelers at minus-280
  • Parlay wins $287 on a $100 wager.

Finally, I will close here with an NFL observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The Minnesota Vikings are turning their practice facility into a community COVID-vaccination site.

“Hardcore fans are demanding to take their shots downfield.”

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



Kudos To The Atlanta Braves…

Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves as the 2021 World Series Champions.  When the Braves lost the services of Marcell Ozuna back in June when his wife charged him with domestic violence, the Braves were languishing in the NL East standings and then when they lost Ronald Acuña, Jr. in July, I thought the Braves were out of the running to make the playoffs. However, a flurry of in-season acquisitions and some great pitching down the stretch put them in the playoffs where the team just caught fire.  The team and the Front Office deserve their accolades.

Diametrically opposite sentiments should go out today to Henry Ruggs II.  He has been released by the Las Vegas Raiders after a fatal car accident where Ruggs had pending felony DUI charges and in an incident where the police say Ruggs was driving at 156 mph.  According to Las Vegas authorities, in addition to the excessive speed – – no, I do not know how the police determined that – – they say that Ruggs blood alcohol was twice the legal limit and just for giggles, they found a loaded gun in the car he was driving.

Earlier this week, I got an email from a reader who is in suburban Paris, France for the Fall season.  He has subscribed to ESPN Player so that he can watch college football while outside the US.  Here is the meat of his communication:

“Well, as I watch the ACC network in particular (as well as other games of interest) it seems that at every exchange of possession they break for a commercial.  Having been physically present at the recent [UNC/Duke] game I noted that the network official on the field that holds up the digital sign to show the length for a commercial generally informed us that we would sit for up to at least 3 minutes while someone sold beer or gold coins or whatever!!

How in the world can any football team develop any rhythm with these sorts of breaks?  Also, how stupid of me to have to sit and stare at a basically blank screen telling me that the game is on commercial break?  In addition, since the ESPN Player app doesn’t even show commercial content I’m treated to a graphic and truly obnoxious music.

“Anyway…I know it’s all about money and I’m about to swear it all off (if only I could) but did want to raise and rant about this to you thinking that your vast audience might find some empathy and concern for the same issue…and that you might have some pithy thoughts to share.

“If not, that’s OK, I feel better on this Tuesday late afternoon here in suburban Paris in having gotten this off my chest.  Of course, I do have the option here of waiting until the games etc. are over and I can watch them on replay on Sunday W/O any interruption and maybe already knowing the outcome.”

There is certainly not a lot in that message that needs to be contradicted – – because the reader is correct.  I and others have noted that college football games are now trending toward game times that range from 3 hours and 45 minutes to 4 hours.  Part of the time expansion can be ameliorated by some rule changes I have advocated in the past, but the money generated by advertising is directly proportional to two things:

  1. The size of the audience which drives up the cost per 30 seconds of air time
  2. The number of seconds of advertising sold at whatever is the rate.

The reader here is completely correct to note that it is about the money and not about the games.  Why do you think the MAC plays games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays?  Answer:  They get paid to do so and they would not get as much if they only played on weekends because MAC games are – generally speaking – less interesting than other college football game options.  It is about the money – – exclamation point!

I think that the lack of a universal overseer in college football exacerbates the problem.  In the NFL, the league office controls the number of games to be telecast and it makes sure that each of its “broadcast partners” gets a fair share of national games where there is little choice for fans to go and watch a different game.  Such is not the case in college football and in that circumstance, many of the games draw a limited number of eyeballs.  Lower numbers of viewers lead to lower rates for 30-second ads when then means there need to be more of those lower-rate 30-second ads to generate desired levels of revenue.

There is another issue that leads to limited audiences for many college football games and that is inherent in the sport.  Passionate interest in college football comes from alums and students.  Let me use myself as an example here; I went to an Ivy League school so my allegiance to games involving ACC teams is nil; I will watch games on the ACC Network for two reasons:

  1. It is an important game involving two teams generally thought to be among the better teams nationally.
  2. I just like college football in general and happen to settle on that ACC game as something to watch.

On a normal Saturday here in the DC area, I have the option to watch about 20-24 college football games from noon until about 2:00 AM on Sunday morning.  That divides the audience pretty effectively; lots of folks can find access to a game that has an emotional link for them, but all those folks are not likely to pick the same game.

Let me channel President Clinton here and say:

  • I feel your pain…

I also know that the quest to reach revenue targets works to assure that the number of ad slots wedged into individual college football games is unlikely to decrease any time soon.  Those are the thoughts I have to share on the matter; sorry that they were not nearly “pithy.”

Finally, having touched on the subject of DUI above, let me close with this observation by humorist, Robert Benchley:

“Drinking makes such fools of people, and people are such fools to begin with that it’s compounding a felony.”

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



Soccer Stuff…

I ran across a report about a week ago that said the folks at FIFA headquarters in Zurich were “exploring the possibilities” for moving significant parts of those headquarters to a city in the US.  That caught my attention because in Europe – and in many other parts of the world – futbol/soccer is the predominant sporting enterprise and sporting interest.  In the US, soccer is at best the fourth most important sport and most likely the sixth or seventh most important sport.  So, I wondered why FIFA would even consider such a change.

The part of the organization that might be moved would be the folks who oversee the commercial side of FIFA’s activities.  Those are the folks who do things like negotiate media rights deals and official sponsorships for entities under FIFA’s domain.  According to the report I read, FIFA itself as the sport’s global overseer takes in more than $2B per year.  That number tells me that there would be more than a couple of US cities that would seek to be the landing spot for that enterprise.

According to the report, the folks at FIFA see a presence in the US as valuable for two reasons:

  1. There are plenty of people in the US that have experience dealing with the financial and commercial aspects of major sporting enterprises.  FIFA sees a talent pool here that can run its current operations and potentially expand them.  Current rules in Zurich demand that FIFA employ a minimum number of Swiss employees; presumably, that would not be the case in the US.
  2. If a FIFA presence here were to spark interest in soccer in the US – and soccer indeed is growing in interest and importance here – then there is room for a lot of market expansion for FIFA to exploit.

Several years ago, the US Department of Justice indicted several FIFA officials on corruption and bribery charges.  Those charges led to a change in FIFA leadership and prodded the Swiss authorities to launch its own investigation.  Nothing much has happened on the Swiss side of that investigation leading the current FIFA leadership to be at odds with the local authorities.  Suffice it to say that FIFA officials and Swiss officials do not see eye to eye on several matters.

As with any complicated agreement, there are hundreds of details to be worked out before anyone starts packing up their household things in Zurich for shipment to Wherever, USA.  However, this is an interesting development when you recall  that FIFA’s World Cup Tournament will be held in the US in 2026.

Let me stick with the sport of soccer for a while longer today and draw your attention to the darker side of the sport.  Soccer is a passion in various parts of the world that goes beyond the visceral levels of fandom here in the US.

  • Recall that a Colombian player named Escobar accidentally scored an “own goal” that knocked his Colombian national team out of a World Cup tournament about 30 years ago.  He was murdered about a week after that “own goal”.
  • Also recall that English soccer clubs were banned from participation in European soccer events about 40 years ago because of the hooliganism of English fans who would travel to see their team play.  Some Liverpool fans were tried and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after a melee in Belgium.

I bring that up because just this week a soccer coach for a team in a “third-tier Argentine league” in northwestern Argentina was shot in the shoulder after gunfire broke out at a soccer match; indications are that he was “collateral damage” and not the target of the gunfire.  Nevertheless, whatever it was that incited fans to fight among themselves – – reports say that the fighting erupted among fans of only one of the sides and not between supporters of both teams – – led quickly to gunfire.  That side, Huracan Las Heras, issued a statement about its fans.  They want real fans to attend games and they want the troublemakers to stay home so that the “real fans” and their families can come to the games.

One last soccer item for today …  I happened to glance at the English Premier League (EPL) table – or standings – recently and noted that the season is about 25% over.  As usual, there are a half dozen dominant teams and a half dozen teams whose only realistic objective for the season is to seek to avoid relegation to a lower-level league where revenues are also lower – – much lower.  There is an interesting symmetry expressed by the top team and the bottom team in the EPL as of today.

  • Chelsea has played 10 games.  They have 8 wins, 1 loss and 1 draw.
  • Norwich has played 10 games.  They  have 0 wins, 8 losses and 2 draws.
  • Chelsea has scored 26 goals and allowed 3 goals in those 10 games.
  • Norwich has scored 3 goals and allowed 25 goals in those 10 games.

Naturally, I had to go and see if Chelsea and Norwich had played each other yet this  year.  [Aside: The EPL schedule has every team playing every other team twice in a season; there are no divisions or conferences there.]  Indeed, the two sides met on October 23rd at Chelsea’s home field; here was the result:

  • Chelsea  7
  • Norwich  0

As bad as that looks, the stats for that game are even more startling.  Chelsea took 23 shots in the game and 13 were recorded as “on target”.  Norwich took 3 shots in the game and only 1 was “on target”.  Unless Norwich has about a half-dozen quality players recovering from injuries who will be back on the team soon, I think the team owners had better plan to take in significantly less revenue next year as the team is relegated to the Championship League.  As they teach you in the Boy Scouts, “Be prepared.”

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close today with this observation by author, Fran Lebowitz:

“Smoking is, as far as I am concerned, the entire point of being an adult.  Many people find smoking objectionable.  I myself find many – even more – things objectionable.  I do not like aftershave lotion, adults who roller-skate, children who speak French, or anyone who is unduly tan.  I do not, however, go around enacting legislation and putting up signs.”

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



All Baseball – – Most Of It Off The Field

As someone with no rooting interest in the World Series, I am happy that the Astros rallied from a 4-0 deficit to win last night.  Given that the teams will get today off to travel to Houston for Game 6, that gives me an unencumbered viewing of Monday Night Football tonight and then an uninterrupted view of Game 6 tomorrow night – – and perhaps Game 7 on Wednesday.  The batteries in my remote got a serious workout last night as I tried to follow two events in real time.  [Yes, I had the Cowboys/Vikes game recording so I could go back and get some of the things I did miss there.]

In a story related to baseball, those fun-loving folks at PETA – I like to think of it as People Eating Tasty Animals – have jumped on the seemingly endless trend these days to take offense at the name of something.  Last week PETA publicly called on MLB to change the term, “bullpen” to “arm barn”.  Here is the meat of their statement:

“Words matter and baseball’s ‘bullpens’ devalue talented players and mock the misery of sensitive animals.  PETA encourages Major League Baseball coaches, announcers, players and fans to change up their language and embrace the ‘arm barn’ instead.”

The folks at PETA must believe in the adage that any publicity is good publicity because this symbolic nonsense comes on the heels of a call from PETA earlier this year for the folks in Cleveland to add a “vegan hot dog” to the “contestants” in the “hot dog races” that take place between innings at games at Progressive Field there.

Dwight Perry reacted to this call from PETA in the Seattle Times over the weekend:

“PETA wants baseball to stop using the term ‘bullpen,’ saying it is a holding place for cattle about to be butchered and no place for pitchers.

“But still passing muster, for now: ducks on the pond, dying quail, gopher ball and dog days of summer.”

And, if I may add to Perry’s list, when a pitcher enters the game from the “arm barn” he will immediately have to deal with an opposing player who is using a BAT!  In deference to those flying mammals, should we call that a bludgeon and the player a bludgeoner?

Enough already…

In somewhat positive news related to baseball, there have been reports saying that there is progress in the negotiations between the Oakland A’s and the local governments in and around Oakland that could lead to the A’s remining in Oakland with a new place to play their games.  It is not a “done deal” but reports call the latest happening “clearing a major hurdle”.  Here is the deal:

  • The Alameda County Board of Supervisors – – Oakland is in Alameda County – – approved a “non-binding resolution to commit tax dollars to the $12 billion Howard Terminal project.”

The “Howard Terminal project” is a major development proposition which would build a baseball-only stadium at a waterfront property in Oakland.  In addition to the stadium, the project includes the building of:

  • 3,000 residential units
  • 1.8 million square feet of space for commercial use
  • A hotel

The owners of the A’s want to do the development and to recover some of the costs “through tax revenue”.  It is not totally clear what that means or how that might work but this move by the County Board of Supervisors comes on the heels of a previous commitment by the Oakland City Council – – in another “non-binding resolution” – – to allow the team to recover through tax funds the stadium-related infrastructure but would not allow about $350M in revenue recapture for infrastructure in the rest of the development area.

So, here is the way I understand the situation:

  • There is still negotiating to be done and the votes by both governing bodies to date is merely a signal to all the parties to keep at the negotiating.
  • I guess the idea of cost recovery through tax revenue means that the developers would get either a tax rebate or reduced taxes on revenues generated via the project up to a certain amount.
  • If that assumption is close to correct, then it would appear that there might be two tax rebate “bundles” from which the developers might draw – – the one approved by the City and another approved recently by the County.

I must say that I do not understand how the passage of two non-binding resolutions is categorized as clearing a major hurdle for this development project – – although I guess it would have been a major buzzkill if either or both bodies had voted against these non-binding resolutions.  Obviously, the Mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, sees the County Board’s vote in a much rosier light than I do saying that the Board of Supervisor’s action:

“…paves a clear path to keep the A’s rooted in Oakland and build a world-class waterfront ballpark district that will benefit Bay Area residents for generations to come.”

As Yogi Berra was reported to have said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Finally, since I cited Dwight Perry above, here is another of his observations from the Seattle Times:

“The Mets have reportedly turned to Chris Christie — the former New Jersey governor — for advice in their ill-fated search for a general manager.

“When asked what advice he could possibly offer, a Mets spokesman said they’ll close that bridge when they come to it.”

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