Football Friday 1/14/22

Last week’s Football Friday was littered with meaningless games and participation by players whose recognition would have had to have grown tenfold for them to be categorized as “unfamiliar”.  This week’s Football Friday involves 14 teams that will take the games very seriously and players who have routinely played for the teams this season to get those teams into playoff status.  Last week was only slightly better than the final week of the Exhibition Season; this week will be riveting.

Let me begin with the results of last week’s Six-Pack – – plus one other pick:

  • College:  1-0-0
  • NFL:  2-4-0
  • Total:  3-4-0
  • Money Line Parlay:  0-1  Net loss for the week = $100

And that brings the cumulative results for the season to:

  • College:  15-20-0
  • NFL:  36-36-2
  • Total:  51-56-2
  • Money Line Parlays:  5-11  Net loss for the season = $161

 

College Football Commentary:

 

There is little happening in college football at this time of the year other than recruiting efforts by coaches to get high school players to commit to the coach’s school and/or to convince a player in the “transfer portal” to land at the coach’s school.  That whole process is uninteresting to me until the music stops and all the recruits and transfers have settled into their new positions.  So, there has been a paucity of commentary on the college front in these offerings over the past month or so.

However, there was a Tweet I ran across that I wanted to share just because it is amusing.  Brad Dickson was a columnist for the Omaha World-Herald; he still lives in Omaha and often comments on Nebraska football – – which is akin to a religious cult at times in parts of Nebraska.  Here is his reaction to a “rumor” making the rounds in the heartland:

“On message boards some Husker fans are speculating about Zac Taylor possibly leaving the Cincinnati Bengals to return and coach Nebraska. Let me put it this way: there are better odds that Richie Incognito is named the next pope.”

For the record:

  • There have been 13 Popes named Innocent.
  • There have been 0 Popes named Incognito.

 

NFL Commentary:

 

Earlier this week, I mentioned a lawsuit filed by a fan against the Giants and Jets claiming false advertising and deceptive practices because they call themselves the NY Giants/Jets but play and practice in New Jersey.  I said then that the same thing applies to the Bills, the Football Team, the Cowboys and the Niners – – off the top of my head.

The reader in Houston added to the list in an email sent to me the day after my observation:

“The LA Rams and Chargers play in Inglewood, CA.

“The Las Vegas Raiders play in Paradise, NV. (FYI – the Las Vegas Strip is not in Las Vegas, but in a pair of unincorporated towns called Paradise and Winchester.)

“The Miami Dolphins play in Miami Gardens, FL

“In addition, there are six teams (Arizona, Tampa Bay, Carolina, New England, Tennessee, and Minnesota) who have a state or region in their name instead of the city. That means there are 16 NFL teams playing their home games “legitimately” in the city in their name.”

Thanks as always to the reader in Houston for the additions and clarifications.

Last week, I noted that some of the fans in Jax were planning to wear clown costumes to the final game there.  Dwight Perry also knew of those plans and had this comment in the Seattle Times:

“Jacksonville Jaguars fans plan to attend Sunday’s season finale dressed as clowns to protest the team’s ineptitude.

“Hey, it was either that or humiliate themselves by wearing their Jags jerseys.”

Perry did not spare his local franchise of scornful comment in his column.  Taking note of the team’s less-than-wonderful record at the end of December, he had this comment:

“The Seahawks — going nowhere fast at 5-10 — should switch to a buzzard on their helmets for the rest of the season.”

For the record, the Seahawks “rallied” from that record to finish the season at an unsatisfying 7-10.

Looking at the scheduling for this week’s 7 playoff games, please remember that the distribution of the games into the available time slots provided by the “TV broadcast partners” was done by the league.  With that in mind, let me suggest that the scheduling mavens for the NFL never paid much attention in geography class in middle school nor have they any meteorological training.  I offer the following as supporting evidence to that statement:

  • The game in Tampa will take place at 1:00 PM EST.
  • The Tampa forecast is for a high temperature of 70 degrees with some thundershowers.
  • The game in Buffalo will take place at 8:15 PM EST.
  • The Buffalo forecast is for temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees with some wind.
  • The game in KC will take place at 8:15 PM EST.
  • The KC forecast is for temperatures in the 20s with some wind.

The Prosecution rests, Your Honor…

Now that the rest of the NFL season involves only 14 of the 32 teams, it made sense to me to look at how these teams fared against one another in the regular season.  Ignoring the teams that were at or near break-even against their “playoff peers” here are the  best and worst of the records:

  • Packers – – 5-1
  • Bucs – – 4-1
  • Chiefs – – 6-3  (Over half of the Chiefs’ opponents made the playoffs)
  • Bengals – – 4-2
  • Bills – – 2-4
  • Cowboys – – 2-4
  • Steelers – – 2-5
  • Rams – – 2-5
  • Eagles – – 0-6

[Disclaimer:  I aggregated all those records by hand so I could be off somewhere in the process due to “human error” which is often a euphemism for “being a dumbass”.]

As the playoff games begin, I want to cite here again an item I have saved from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot from a year ago.  It was published before the start of last year’s playoffs and surely seemed to be accurate then, so …

New rules: It’s curious how during NFL postseason games almost nobody on the offensive line holds, pass defenders get away with grabbing receivers, and rarely is anybody detected for illegal blocks on kick returns. It appears that the refs are following orders to let ‘em play. But if a laissez-faire approach is good for the playoffs, why not just let ‘em play all season?”

Taking a quick glance at last week’s games…

Vikes 31  Bears 17:  The Bears led 17-10 at the start of the 4th quarter.  Then two TD passes by Kirk Cousins and a Pick-Six by Andy Dalton produced this final result.  Meh!

Browns 21  Bengals 16:  Joe Burrow sat out the game and Brandon Allen demonstrated why he is the backup QB in Cincy.  The Bengals generated only 182 yards of total offense and here is Allen’s individual stat line:

  • 15 of 29 for 136 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs

Case Keenum was the Browns’ QB for the day; he did not exactly light up the scoreboard here and the difference in the game was the rushing  yardage:

  • Bengals – –  79 yards on 18 carries
  • Browns – –   205 yards on 41 carries

Lions 37 Packers 30:  Aaron Rodgers played the first half; Jordan Love played the second half.  If Love is seen as the “future franchise QB” in Green Bay, he must be showing some great talent in their practices because his one game where he subbed for Rodgers for COVID reasons and this second half have not been impressive.  Here is his stat line for last week:

  • 10 of 17 for 134 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

Jags 26  Colts 11:  The loss sends the Colts home and out of the playoffs; Carson Wentz played a miserable game here but before all the blame gets heaped on him consider that the Colts defense – – a highly regarded unit for most of the year – – allowed Trevor Lawrence to complete his first 11 passes; gave up 318 yards of total offense and gave up 26 points to a team that had not scored more than 24 points in the previous 16 games.  The Jags were the lowest scoring team in the NFL for 2021.

[Aside #1:  The Money Line odds for the Lions last week were +900 and the Money Line odds for the Jags were +1100.  Had someone parlayed those two picks and wagered $100, he would have won $11,900.]

[Aside #2:  No, I did not have that…]

Steelers 16  Ravens 13 (OT):  This game had all the aesthetic qualities inherent in firing squad.  The Steelers move on to the playoffs and the Ravens stay home having lost their final 6 games in a row in 2021.  That sounds awful but there is a glimmer of hope in there:

  • Lamar Jackson missed some time in those six games due to an ankle injury
  • Five of those 6 straight losses were by 3 points or less.

Bucs 41  Panthers 17:  The Bucs only led 17-10 after 3 quarters.  Never believe that players are not aware of personal stats or bonus thresholds.  Tom Brady saw to it that Gronk got his catches/yardage needed for a $1M bonus in the game.  Gronk caught 7 passes for 137 yards here.

Football Team 22  Giants 7:  A truly meaningless game where the Giants produced only 177 yards of total offense and turned the ball over 3 times.  In those circumstances, it is surprising the Giants only lost by 15 points.

Titans 28  Texans 25:  The Titans secured the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs with this win; the Texans finished the season with a 4-13 record, but they did not quit.  The Titans led 21-0 at the half but the Texans rallied to make the score 21-18 with about 12 minutes left in the game.  From there, the teams traded TDs to produce the final score.

Dolphins 33  Pats 24:  The win gives the Dolphins a sweep of the Pats in 2021 and it gives the Dolphins a winning record at 9-8 despite suffering a 7-game losing streak in mid-season.  None of the above saved Brian Flores’ job as the Dolphins’ head coach.

Bills 27  Jets 10:  The score was 13-10 at the start of the fourth quarter.  The Bills had two possessions in the 4thquarter and got a TD on both of them.  [Aside: They also had a final possession to run the clock out.]  Meanwhile, here were the results of the three possessions by the Jets in the 4th quarter:

  • 6 plays leading to a PUNT
  • 3 plays leading to a PUNT
  • 3 plays leading to a PUNT

Saints 30  Falcons 20:  The Saints had the ball for 39:17 in the game thanks to Alvin Kamara carrying the ball 30 times for 146 of the Saints’ 195 rushing yards.  The Saints converted 8 of 16 third-down tries while the Falcons only managed to convert 3 of 10.  The fact that the Falcons turned the ball over three times did not help their cause even a little bit.

Seahawks 38  Cards 30:  The Seahawks gained 431 yards on offense here; where was that offense earlier this year?  The score was 24-24 at the end of the 3rd quarter.  On their last 3 possessions – – other than kneeling out the clock – – the Seahawks scored 3 TDs.  Here are the results of the last 3 possessions by the Cards:

  • 4 plays leading to a LOST FUMBLE
  • 14 plays leading to a 30-yard FIELD GOAL
  • 14 plays leading to a 36-yard FIELD GOAL

Niners 27  Rams 24 (OT):  The Niners produced 449 yards on offense and the Rams only managed 265.  Normally, games like that do not go to OT.

Chiefs 28  Broncos 24:  This game was dead even on the stat sheet.  An 86-yard scoop-and-score in the middle of the 4th quarter by the Chiefs provided the margin of victory here.

Cowboys 51  Eagles 26:  The Cowboys are the better team here when both teams are playing their “regulars”.  The Eagles sat several of their “regulars”, so this game turned into a practice session pretty quickly.

Raiders 35  Chargers 32 (OT):   This was the perfect way for the NFL to have its final regular season game come to its conclusion.  The Raiders generated almost 100 more yards on offense than the Chargers did, but the Raiders also accumulated 108 yards in penalties on 10 violations.  The overtime period saw three scoring plays (all field goals naturally); that is not commonplace for NFL OTs.

 

NFL Playoff Games:

 

(Sat 4:30 PM EST)  Raiders at Bengals – 6 (49):  The Bengals last won a playoff game at the end of the 1990 season, and they have missed the playoffs entirely for the past 5 seasons.  [Aside:  That last win in 1990 came at the expense of the Houston Oilers.]  They are favored here because Joe Burrow, JaMar Chase, Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon make for a big-time offense; the Bengals average 27.1 points per game.  The Raiders’ pass defense ranks 13th in the league giving up 222.9 yards per game.  Meanwhile, the Raiders’ passing game is not as potent, but it will play against the 26th ranked pass defense of the Bengals which allowed 248.4 yards per game.  I think the two passing offenses will decide the outcome.  The Raiders are accustomed to playing tight games this year; 7 of their 10 wins were one-score games and four of those one-score wins were overtime games.  The Raiders are on a 4-game winning streak and the total margin of victory in those 4 wins was 12 points.  The Bengals defeated the Raiders in the regular season in Las Vegas by 18 points but that was 8 games ago.  Purely a hunch, I think the Raiders keep this game close; I’ll take the Raiders plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack

(Sat 8:15 PM EST)  Pats at Bills – 4 (43.5):  The Bills bring a 4-game winning streak to the game.  These teams split their meetings in the regular season with each team winning on the road.  The Pats have been better on the road than at home; they are 6-2 on the road and only 4-5 at home.  Go figure…  As noted above, this game will be played in COLD weather but without the sort of windy conditions that prevailed when the Pats beat the Bills in Buffalo back in December.  Each team has a fairly obvious defensive key:

  • Pats’ rookie QB, Mac Jones, has been better at home than on the road despite the teams home/road record.  The Bills could load up to stop the Pats’ run game and force Jones to beat them in “adverse conditions”.
  • The Bills’ running game survives because oftentimes Josh Allen is their leading rusher.  Allen rushed for 763 yards this year on 122 carries (6.3 yards per carry).  The Pats could easily adopt the same strategy as the Bills and load up to stop the run and put a spy on Josh Allen.

It looks to me as if the Bills are peaking as they enter the playoffs on a 4-game winning streak.  I know that Bill Belichick’s teams do not usually make early playoff exits, but I think the Bills are the better team right now; I like the Bills to win and cover at home; put it in the Six-Pack.  I need another pick to fill out the Six-Pack so … even in the frigid weather forecast for this night game, I will take the game to go OVER the total; put that in the Six-Pack too.

(Sun 1:00 PM EST)  Eagles at Bucs – 9 (45.5):  The Eagles can run the football; they led the NFL in rushing gaining 159.7 yards per game on the ground.  On paper, it would appear that this would play into the Bucs’ hand since the Bucs had the third best rush defense in the league allowing only 92.5 yards per game.  However, the Bucs had nice leads for large portions of games this year meaning that the opposition was favoring a pass offense to catch up.  The Eagles’ defense cannot allow this to become a shoot-out; in that circumstance, the Bucs would hold significantly superior firepower.  The Bucs will be without Chris Godwin (injury) and Antonio Brown (goofball), so the Bucs’ offense is hampered slightly.  However, Mike Evans will be on the scene.  Moreover, the Eagles defense against tight ends over the middle this year has been less than air-tight, and the Bucs have 3 tight ends – Gronk, Cameron Brate and OJ Howard – who should have big days.  The Bucs have won 5 of their last 6 games but they have only faced one “better than average offense” in that stretch; here are their victims:

  • Panthers
  • Bills
  • Falcons
  • Colts
  • Giants.

The loss in that run was to the Saints who only scored 9 points but still won the game.  I like this game to go OVER the total; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun 4:30 PM EST)  Niners at Cowboys – 3.5 (51):  The Niners can run the football too; they average 127.4 yards per game and when the running game is working, they just keep on keeping on.  If the Cowboys’ defense does not force the Niners to throw the ball more often than they want to throw it, the Niners will win the game straight up.  As noted above, do not be fooled by the Cowboys’ 51 point outburst last week; that was against practice squad members of the Eagles team.  I was also impressed by the Niners’ defensive Front 7 in last week’s win over the Rams.  I think the Niners can win the game straight up so I will take them with the points here; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun 8:15 PM EST)  Steelers at Chiefs – 13 (46):The Chiefs beat the Steelers like a drum in Arrowhead Stadium on the day after Christmas by a score of 36-10.  If any of the players have repressed that memory, I suspect that Mike Tomlin and company will be sure to bring back those memories.  The Chiefs’ defense is up-and-down this  year; if they take the game less than 100% seriously on defense, this could be a nail-biter.  The Chiefs’ defense allows 368.9 yards per game putting it at 27th in the NFL.  I am not a fan of the Steelers’ offense by any means – – but the Chiefs’ shortcomings on defense can keep this game close.  On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs’ offense is elite and even the excellent Steelers’ defense is unlikely to render it merely average.  I cannot see the Steelers winning this game, but I have no interest in making a selection with that big a spread in a playoff game.

(Mon 8:15 PM EST)  Cards at Rams – 4 (49) :  Like the Pats/Bills game, this game presents two teams that split their regular season encounters with each team winning on the road.  Neither team comes to this game playing strong, consistent football.  The Cards lost 4 of their last 5 games and the Rams arrive on a 2-game losing streak.  Both teams rely on strong defenses to be successful; I assume both defenses will show up intending to dominate the opponent; ergo, I like the game to stay UNDER the Total; put it in the Six-Pack.

And here are two Money Line parlays to consider:

  • Bills @ minus-200
  • Chiefs @ minus-700
  • Bucs @ minus-375  to win $118 on a $100 wager.

And …

  • Raiders @ +190
  • Niners @ +145  to win $611 on a $100 wager.

Finally, here is one more item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“At TheOnion.com: ‘Star high-school quarterback blissfully unaware he’ll be Jets starter 4 years from now.’”

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

 

 

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