Football Friday – – On Thursday 12/30/21

The scheduling is totally off kilter this week so here on a Thursday is a significantly truncated version of Football Friday.  As usual, I shall begin with the outcomes of last week’s Six-Pack.

  • College:  0-0-0
  • NFL:  4-2-0
  • Total:  4-2-0
  • Money Line Parlays:  1-1  Net ”profit” for the week is $298.

And those results bring the cumulative results from the start of football season to:

  • College:  14-19-0
  • NFL:  30-31-2
  • Total:  44-50-2
  • Money Line Parlays:  4-10  Net “loss” for the season is $minus-177

College Football Games of Interest:

(Sat 3:30 PM EST) Cincy vs Alabama – 13.5 (57) :  This is an important game for the pecking order of college football.  Perceptions could change dramatically with a Cincy win – – or even a nail-biter with the Bearcats losing in the final minutes.  Most folks expect a blowout; I think Alabama is the better team – – but Nick Saban has not been whining much in the last week or so and his teams play a lot better when he whines about how good the upcoming opponent is…

(Sat 7:30 EST) Georgia – 8 vs Michigan (45):  I have had nothing but positive things to say about the Bulldogs’ defense this year and I take none of it back.  Nevertheless, I think that line is fat.  I’ll take the Wolverines plus the points in the CFP semi-finals even if I think Georgia will win the game; put it in the Six-Pack.

NFL Commentary: 

            The NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule in the 1978 season; this year marks toe inaugural of the 17-game season.  And this “expansion”/ “lengthening” reminds me of a handicapping challenge at the horseracing track.

  • “The Four Horse” is undefeated against this level of competition at 1-mile over the past 18 months.
  • Today’s race against this level of competition is at a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
  • Can “The Four Horse” hold on for an extra sixteenth of a mile?

Come Monday night in the NFL, there will be the completion of 16 games for all the NFL teams.  We will be able to look at the standings and see which teams would be in or out as of the “16-game schedule”.  But what is going to happen to those standings with an extra “sixteenth of a season” on tap for next weekend?

The NFL is absolutely not paying me a farthing to put it that way – – but the reality is that the games this week – – and next week too – – should pose some significant drama for the league to trumpet to its “broadcasting partners”.

So here is a summary of last week’s action…

Dolphins 20  Saints 3:  The  Dolphins lost 7 in a row earlier this year and now are on a 7-game winning streak.  Tell me that is something you see in any random year…  Last week, the Dolphins feasted on a Saints’ offense missing two starting tackles and the team’s 4th string QB – – Ian Book.  It was a mismatch; Book was sacked 8 times.  Here is how former Washington Times columnist and NFL historian Dan Daly saw the game:

“You watch a QB all night with BOOK on the back of his jersey, and all he makes you think of is Chapter 11.”

Bengals 41  Ravens 21:  The Bengals now lead the AFC North by a full game – – plus the tiebreaker over the Ravens who are in second place there.  Joe Burrow lit up the Ravens’ secondary to the tune of 525 yards and 4 TDs.  The Ravens remain in the playoff picture – – but not as prominently as they did a month ago before they went on their current 4-game losing streak.

Bills 33  Pats 21:  It was a convincing win for the Bills, and it puts them atop the AFC East based on the divisional record tiebreaker as of this week.  Josh Allen had a great game here throwing for 314 yards and 23 TDs.

Jets 26  Jags 21:  These are two bad teams going nowhere in 2021 – – and perhaps for the next several years as well.

Falcons 20  Lions 16:  The Falcons kept faint playoff hopes alive by winning here but it was not a convincing win considering that the Lions at 2-12-1 kept the game within one score using their backup QB for most of the game.  By the way, the Lions “covered” in this game and that brings the Lions’ record ATS (against the spread) to 10-5 for 2021.

Texans 41  Chargers 29:  The only thing to say here is:

  • “How the Hell did that happen?”

Rams 30  Vikes 23:  With this win the Rams took over first place in the NFC- West and guaranteed themselves a playoff slot.  The Vikes are a game behind the Niners and the Eagles in the NFC wildcard race.  Jimmy Garoppolo has a torn ligament in his thumb so the Niners will need to see what they have in high draft pick, Trey Lance, starting this week.

Eagles 34  Giants 10:  This game was 3-3 at the half and it looked as if the Eagles could not get out of their own way on offense for the entirety of that first half.  Whatever the Eagles’ coaches said to the team at halftime needs to be bottled and patented because the team came out in the second half and simply embarrassed the Giants for 30 minutes of football.

Raiders 17  Broncos 13:  It was not a pretty win, but the win keeps the Raiders as potentially relevant in the AFC wildcard chase.  The Broncos are not mathematically eliminated with this loss but their status this morning is the moral equivalent of elimination.

Bears 25  Seahawks 24:  The Seahawks led 24-14 at the start of the 4th quarter and gagged the game away.  Nick Foles quarterbacked the Bears for the win by throwing for 250 yards and 1 TD in the game.  By my calculation, the Seahawks are now eliminated from the playoffs as are the Bears.

Colts 22  Cards 16:  That is the third loss in a row for the Cards and it moves them out of the lead in the NFC West.  The win puts the Colts squarely in the middle of the AFC wild card race – – with a not-so-minor development this week:

  • Carson Wentz tested positive and went on the Covid Reserve List and is not expected to be available this week.

Jonathan Taylor kept his streak alive; for the 9th time this year, the Colts have won when he rushed for 100+ yards in the game.  When he fails to do so, the Colts’ record is 0-6.

Bucs 32  Panthers 6:  The wheels are coming off the Panthers’ wagon about now.  They do not have a franchise QB – – even when all their QBs are healthy – – and it shows.

Chiefs 36  Steelers 10:  The Steelers spotted the Chiefs a 23-0 lead at halftime and – unsurprisingly – had no real chance to overcome that burden.

Cowboys 56  Football Team 14:  This was a complete and total ass-kicking from start to finish.  The Cowboys were significantly better on offense and on defense and on special teams.

Packers 24  Browns 22:  The Packers had 4 INTs in the game; and yet, it came down to a final possession by the Browns to decide the outcome.  In addition to the 4 INTs, the Packers’ defense managed to sack Baker Mayfield 5 times.  This win belongs to the Green Bay defense…

Titans 20  Niners 17:  Even with the loss the Niners remain in the NFC wildcard race and would be the 6th seed if the season ended today.  Unfortunately for Niners’ fans, there are 2 more games to play with Trey Lance at QB.  Here is my take on that situation:

  • If he were ready for meaningful NFL action, Kyle Shanahan would have had him under center before it was dictated to Shanahan by injury.

Before I get to this week’s games, let me do a curmudgeonly look at the Bottom Quarter of the NFL – – the eight teams I think are the worst:

  • Ranked 25th – – Football Team:  They were awful against the Cowboys and had two defensive tackles throwing punches at each other on the sidelines.
  • Ranked 26th – – Seahawks:  Is Russell Wilson trying to make his departure from Seattle less traumatic for fans there?
  • Ranked 27th – – Lions:  This team plays hard and plays opponents close; not every team on my list can pretend to make that statement.  The roster needs a significant talent upgrade
  • Ranked 28th – – Texans:  Somehow, they have won 4 games this year with a roster that has been gutted like fish.
  • Ranked 29th – – Jets:  The roster is a mess.
  • Ranked 30th – – Giants:  The roster is also a mess.  Not a great day to be an NFL fan in NYC…
  • Ranked 31st – – Panthers:  What started out as a competitive and promising team in September has become a sorry sight in December.
  • Ranked 32nd – – Jaguars:  Who else?  Fans there may delude themselves into believing that a new coach is all they need.  Wrong…

NFL Games: 

Raiders at Colts – 8 (45):  This could have gotten serious attention as the Game of the Week  until Carson Wentz came down as covid-positive.  For the Raiders, I believe this is an elimination game; the Colts are much more likely to be in the playoffs but their hopes of winning the AFC South evaporate with a loss here.  I expect there to be a lot of Jonathan Taylor running the ball in the game; how well can the Raiders’ defense handle that?

Giants at Bears – 6.5 (37):  The Giants arrive at the kickoff on a 4-game losing streak and neither Jake Fromm nor Mike Glennon looked particularly competent last week against the Eagles.  The Bears are hardly a juggernaut, so I am loathe to take them needing a full TD margin to collect the win.  Watch the game if that is the game in your viewing area – – but bet on this one with extreme caution…  This is my Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

Bucs – 13.5 at Jets (45):  The Bucs lost several key players – – Lavonte David, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans – – last week.  Leonard Fournette is questionable for this game and Coach, Bruce Arians, tested positive for Covid-19.  So what?  They are playing the Jets…

Falcons at Bills – 14.5 (44.5):  So many angles for this game:

  • The Bills could easily suffer a letdown game after beating the Pats last week to take over 1st place in the AFC East.
  • The weatherman says the high for Sunday will be 31 degrees and there should be snow showers in the afternoon.  The Falcons are a “dome team”; those are not “dome conditions”.
  • This is pretty much an elimination game for the Falcons.

The spread has been this high all week – – long before the weatherman could give a credible forecast.  So, how come?  Well consider that in the 8 losses so far by the Falcons this year, 5 of those losses have been by 18 points or more.  When they lose, they often lose embarrassingly BIG.  On the other hand, the Bills have been an up-and-down team all season long; they have looked like Super Bowl material in some weeks and a team about to pocket a high draft choice on other weekends.  This is a hunch, but I think that line is fat even in blustery winter weather on the shore of Lake Erie; I’ll take the Falcons plus that pile of points on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Cards at Cowboys – 6 (50):The Cowboys are flying high after putting 56 points up against the Football Team last week.  Meanwhile the Cards appear to be in self-immolation mode.  Putting all that into perspective, the Cowboys are not as good as they looked to be last week, and the Cards are not nearly as bad as their record over the previous 3 games might indicate.  Having said all that, the Cowboys are on a positive trajectory and the Cards are “reeling” to say the least.

Panthers at Saints – 7 (39):  Notwithstanding last week’s debacle, the Saints can still make the playoffs – – with lots of dominoes falling just right.  The Panthers are toast for 2021 and it will be interesting to see the patience level that owner David Tepper has with a coaching staff and team that started out very strongly making it appear as if there would be significant improvement over last year.  The key matchup here is the Panthers’ OL against the Saints’ DL.  I wonder how much “max-pressure defense” the Seahawks’ braintrust can tolerate.

Eagles – 3 at Football Team (45.5):  On one level, the Eagles’ chances to make the playoffs are simple and straightforward.  If they win out, they are in the playoffs; no doubt about that.  The Eagles dominated the Football Team a couple of weeks ago running the ball for more than 220 yards in that game.  If the Football Team cannot devise ways to avoid a similar rushing outburst, the Eagles will win here and be on the cusp of a playoff slot.

Chiefs – 5 at Bengals (50).  This is clearly the Game of the Week.  The Chiefs have wrapped up the AFC West race and the Bengals lead the AFC North by a game after last week’s win over the Ravens.  I see an offensive shoot-out between Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow in this one.  I like the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Jags at Pats – 15 (41):  The spread here opened the week at 17 points; that number actually attracted enough Jags money to erode the number to this level.  The Pats’ defense should befuddle both Trevor Lawrence and the Jags’ play caller; the only question in my mind is how badly will the Pats’ offense abuse the Jags’ defense.  I’ll take a flyer here and pick the Pats to run it up on the sorry-assed Jags; yes, I’ll lay the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Dolphins at Titans – 3.5 (40):  The Dolphins have won 7 in a row; I think that comes to a grinding halt here.  It will be a low scoring game because both teams have excellent defensive units.

Broncos at Chargers – 6 (46):  Both teams are teetering on playoff elimination after both teams stunk out the joint last week.  The Chargers loss to the Texans by 12 points was beyond ugly; the coaches have had plenty of reason to chew on the players for that stinkaroo.  The Broncos are not in great shape either; their hope will be to run the ball against an anemic Chargers’ rushing defense.

Texans at Niners – 14.5 (46):  The Texans refuse to roll over and play dead even when they are on the losing end of a big spread.  The Niners are going to have to deal without the services of Jimmy G for at least a week due to “ligament damage” in the thumb of his throwing hand.  I am tempted to take the Texans with that many points.

  • “And lead us not into temptation …”

Lions at Seahawks – 7 (43):  The Lions are 2-12-1 in the standings, but they are 10-5 against the spread.  The Lions are talent-deficient, but they do play hard for coach Dan Campbell.  Frankly, I think the Seahawks have figuratively tossed in their jock straps for the season, but the Lions have not.  I like the Lions plus the points here even on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Rams at Ravens – 3.5 (46):  It looks as if Lamar Jackson will be available for the Ravens this week.  Is that spark along with the urgency of potential playoff elimination enough to lay points against the Rams?

(Sun Nite) Vikes at Packers – 6.5 (49):  The Packers can have the only BYE Week in the NFC playoff schedule this season but to make sure that belongs to them, they need to keep winning; to me, that means the Packers will not take their foot off the gas.  I like the Packers to win and cover here; put that in the Six-Pack.

(Mon Nite) Browns – 3 at Steelers (41):  Both teams have outside chances to make the playoffs; I will be surprised if either of them actually makes it there.  This is possibly Ben Roethlisberger’s final game in Pittsburgh – – or anywhere else in the NFL for that matter.  Maybe that emotional spark catches on with others on the field…?

So, let me review the Six-Pack:

  • Michigan +8 against Georgia
  • Falcons +14.5 against Bills
  • Chiefs/Bengals OVER 50
  • Lions +7 against Seahawks
  • Packers – 6.5 over Vikes
  • Pats – 15 over Jags

And for your amusement, consider this Money Line Parlay:

            Finally, let me close here with Brad Dickson’s comment about the passing of John Madden earlier this week:

“John Madden just arrived in Heaven.  It took longer because he traveled there in a Winnebago.”

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