Football Friday 1/21/22

Football Fridays are dwindling down to a precious few.  Taking both quantity and quality into account, this is my favorite weekend of football in the NFL season.  There are 4 games on the card and every one of them projects to be a gem.  So, let me get this train rolling with a review of last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College:  0-0-0
  • NFL:  5-1-0
  • Total:  5-1-0
  • Money Line Parlays: 1-1  Net profit for the week = $18

Those results bring the cumulative record for the season to:

  • College:  15-20-0
  • NFL:  41-37-2
  • Total:  56-57-2
  • Money Line Parlays:  6-12  Net loss for the season = $144

[Aside:  Before going any further into this week’s offering, I am skeptical that I will find 6 things to offer as selections  on the card this week.  So, consider this week’s “Six-Pack” in a figurative sense and not a literal sense.]


College Football Commentary:


Yes, there actually are some things to say on that subject this week…

The Texas Longhorns hired Gary Patterson late of TCU as a “Special Assistant to the Head Coach”.  This could be a great move by Texas because Patterson is a defensive guy and won lots of games in 20+ years at TCU because of his defenses.  The Longhorns’ defense for the last several years has been mediocre at best and embarrassing at times.  Remember they gave up 56 points to Kansas in a loss last season.  Assuming that head coach Steve Sarkissian takes heed of the advice/guidance provided by his new “Special Assistant”, this could be a big deal for the Longhorns.

Next, in something that I consider to be “good news for now”, it appears as if the idea of expanding the CFP from 4 teams to 12 teams is doomed.  The ACC announced that it is opposed to such an expansion; and if the conference commissioners were telling the truth a few months ago, that should mean that the PAC-12 and the Big-10 are also similarly opposed since those three conferences pledged allegiance to one another to counter/protest the SEC poaching Texas and Oklahoma from the Big-12.

There is money to be made from CFP expansion and that is why it will eventually happen.  But expanding from 4 teams to 12 teams in the current hierarchy makes no sense.  Even with only 4 teams involved, the semi-final games were “drama-free”; adding 8 more teams to the tournament will make the early round games even worse.  There have been years when I thought that it would be a good idea to have 6 teams participating; I am sure someone can point to a year where 8 teams might have been a good set up.  But even at 8 teams, the odds of having a balanced college football tournament field are long ones.

Eventually, the dollar signs will prevail here and there will be expansion – – but a 12-team CFP field will certainly be “ho-hum” for the first round and only slightly less interesting in the second round.

  • Memo for the CFP “Custodians”:  Approach any and all ideas for expansion of your product with caution.  More is not always better…

Here is Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times on the subject of CFP expansion:

“Expand the College Football Playoff?  We already have a 14-team tournament.

“It’s called the Southeastern Conference.”


NFL Commentary:


There appears to be some symmetry in the world of “playoff football” …

Last weekend – – the NFL’s Wildcard Round – – supplied strong evidence in support of the following proposition:

  • It would be a BAD idea for the NFL to expand the number of teams in the playoffs from 14 teams to 16 teams.

In fact, the results from last weekend’s games supplied strong evidence in support of the following proposition:

  • It would be a GOOD idea to contract the number of teams in the playoffs from 14 teams to 12 teams.

If everyone could take off their fanboy hat for just a moment and look back at last weekend’s games:

  • Four games were never in doubt after the middle of the second quarter.  The average margin of victory in these four games was 22.5 points.  The “Drama Coefficient” in those four games was ZERO.
  • The two games that ended as “one-score games” were lost by the losing team as opposed to won by the winning team.
  • In one of the two games that ended as “one-score games”, the officiating crew led by Jerome Boger made the game infuriating no matter which side you were rooting for.


  • Do we as fans need/want any more of that sort of thing as “playoff games”?

The two teams that “got in” as the #7 seeds in the two brackets were the Eagles and the Steelers.  Let me just say that it was not a great weekend for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because both of those teams soiled the sheets on national TV for any NFL fan to see. Does any fan of “football” – – not a fanboy for a specific team – – think that things would have been a whole lot better if there were #8 seeds added to the mix?

I believe that there are two reasons why the NFL is the sports juggernaut that it is:

  1. Football lends itself to wagering almost seamlessly.  When the concept of the point-spread was introduced about 75 years ago, football was the primary beneficiary
  2. Football games are events and not occurrences.  The regular season is now 17 games held a week apart – – save for Thursday night aberrations.  Every game has an impact on a team’s potential to make it to the playoffs.  Only in late September does that situation obtain in MLB after about 160 regular season games; only in mid-April does that situation obtain in the NBA after 82 regular season games.

Given that second condition, there should be no reason for anyone who is a “custodian of the game” to add another playoff game to the mix when – most of the time – it will be a laugher.  The only force pushing for it is greed – – and greed is a powerful motivator.  But as fans, we need not go along with the mindset that making more money is better for the fans than merely making a mountain of money.

For the first time ever, the NFL “treated” fans to a Monday Night Football presentation of a playoff game.  What did we get?  We got a 34-11 blowout that was as much of a nail-biter as a Popeye the Sailor cartoon until we figured out how Popeye was going to get a slurp of his spinach.

Bengals 26  Raiders 19:  This was clearly the worst officiated game that I saw all season long.  The NFL grades out every official on every play in the regular season and then puts together the “best at their positions” to do the playoffs.  How can anyone think that is a bad idea?  Here’s how:

  • Officiating teams are indeed teams just as the players on the opposing sidelines are teams.  They work together as a unit and working together for officials is enhanced by practice and repetition – – just as it is for the teams on the field.  Throwing together highly graded officials who have never worked together for playoff games makes no sense; that is the sort of thing to do in the Exhibition Season to see which officiating crews work best together; it is not something to “experiment with” in the win-or-go-home stature of the playoffs.

I do not want to pile on the officiating crew any more than as happened already, but I am not going to shed a tear at a report from the middle of this week that Jerome Boger and that crew will not be working any games this weekend – – despite whatever grading the individuals received.

Bucs 31  Eagles 15:  Do not be fooled by the 16-point margin of victory here; this game was 31-0 at the start of the 4th quarter; the two Eagles’ TDs came in garbage time.  It appeared that Eagles’ QB, Jalen Hurts, somehow forgot how to throw a football accurately somewhere between the warmups and the kickoff.  He completed only 23 of 43 attempts and some of those “misses” were by a mile.  Over the course of the regular season, the Eagles led the NFL in rushing; last week they managed to gain only 95 yards on the ground, and it was the Bucs who dominated time of possession 33 minutes to 27 minutes.

Niners 23  Cowboys 17:  The Cowboys did themselves in committing 14 penalties in the game – – three on defensive end Randy Gregory that were so obvious Ray Charles would have thrown the flag.  I assume you have seen or heard about the infamous “QB draw with 14 seconds left in the game” that ran out the clock because there were no timeouts available, so I will not describe the situation here.   But that play does raise some interesting issues:

  • The Cowboys’ offensive coordinator and play caller – – Kellen Moore – – has been anointed by “NFL insiders” as a certified offensive genius.  If he called that play, he needs to turn in his “genius card” and go eat at the table of mere mortals.
  • The Cowboys’ head coach – – Mike McCarthy – – defended the call as the right one and challenged the intellect of anyone who doubted it was the right call.  OK, he is defending his coaches and players from a full ration of criticism and scorn; I get that.  But he is the head coach, and he is on the headset listening to the call; so, his inaction means he really thought that was a good play at the time?  Or is it that he is just there on the sidelines like a Christmas tree ornament?

When I boil away the emotion and the rhetoric that has infused that game-ending fiasco, I come back to an important line from the movie, Forrest Gump:

“Stupid is as stupid does.”

The Niners deserved to win this game demonstrating a balanced offense that gained 172 yards passing and 169 yards rushing.  The Niners had the ball for 34 minutes, converted 6 of 13 third-down attempts and only turned the ball over once.

Let me pause here to present some recent data regarding the Dallas Cowboys as “America’s Team”.  The Cowboys won the Super Bowl at the end of the 1995 season; that was the same year that the Jacksonville Jaguars entered the NFL as an expansion team and finished 1995 with a 4-12 record.  I doubt that I would have to spend a lot of time convincing most NFL fans that the Jags are not a franchise with a huge national following or any sort of glorious winning tradition.  Nonetheless, consider these stats from the start of the 1996 season until today:

  • In the playoffs, the Cowboys’ record is 4-11
  • In the playoffs, the Jags’ record is 7-7

Chiefs 42  Steelers 21:  The game was scoreless for the entire first quarter and the Steelers led 7-0 with a defensive TD in the second quarter.  That happened with 10:41 on the clock; from that point until the 9:14 mark in the third quarter, the Chiefs scored 35 unanswered points.  For those keeping score at home, that is 35 points in 15 minutes and 25 seconds.  This game was embarrassing:

  • In the first half, the Steelers had  8 possessions.  They punted 7 times and kneeled out the ball to end the half on the eighth possession.
  • In the first half, the Steelers’ “best possession” was 6 plays for 20 yards encompassing 3 minutes and 47 seconds before executing the punt.

Seriously, did anyone outside the city limits of Pittsburgh believe the Steelers had a ghost of a chance to win this game?  I know that one of the NFL mantras is that “defense wins championships”, and the Steelers have a very good defense.  But  the Steelers’ offense has been weak at best for most of the year and was miserable last weekend; the offense was too much of a burden for the defense to bear.

Oh, and by the way …

  • Memo to everyone who earlier this season thought the Chiefs’ had serious offensive problems:  Not really…

Bills 47  Pats 17:  This was the biggest beat down of the weekend and the biggest difference was in the stat lines produced by the two QBs:

  • Mac Jones:  24 of 38 for 232 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs + 18 yards rushing
  • Josh Allen:  21 of 25 for 308 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs + 66 yards rushing

The Bills never punted in the game and never turned the ball over; they scored on every possession save the final one to kneel out the game.  It is difficult to lose when doing that.

Back in early December, the Pats beat the Bills only throwing the ball 3 times in the entire game and running the ball down the Bills’ throats.  Noting of that sort happened last weekend; the Pats ran the ball 20 times and gained only 89 yards.  I said last week that the Bills could adopt the defensive strategy to shut down the Pats’ run game and force Mac Jones to beat them.  I do not know if that was the explicit game plan on defense, but it seems to be what worked here.

For the last 20 years, the Pats were a significantly superior team as compared to the Bills; that situation no longer obtains; in fact, the Bills are the superior team now.  This rout was not a fluke; my eyes tell me that overall, the Bills are faster at just about every position than the Pats are, and superior speed is very difficult to overcome.

Rams 34  Cards 11:  At one point in the season, the Cards had the best record in the NFL.  Since Halloween, the Cards are 4-6 but that record is worse than it looks.  Included in those 6 losses are these two embarrassing clunkers:

  •  Nov 14:  Panthers 34  Cards 10
  •  Dec 19:  Lions 30  Cards 12

In their final 5 games, the Cards went 1-4.  I mention this because they played like a team that did not belong in the playoffs last week.  This was another flat-out beat down.  Yes, the Cards had to play without DeAndre Hopkins and that had to hurt their chances, but that does not explain the 375 yards of offense given up to the Rams nor the 6 of 13 conversion rate by the Rams on third downs.

The Cards’ offense was no better than the Cards’ defense here.  The Cards only had the ball for 24:14 in the game; the total offense was 183 yards; the Cards were 0 of 9 on third-down attempts and 1 of 2 on fourth down attempts.  I know the Rams’ defense is very good – – but that showing was embarrassing.

The return of Cam Akers to the Rams’ backfield was impressive; he could be an important offensive piece for the team this week against the Bucs.  In the game against the Cards, he carried the ball 17 times and caught 2 passes accounting for 95 yards from scrimmage.

The Rams got a Pick Six off a totally misguided pass attempt by Kyler Murray who threw the ball underhanded while being tackled in his end zone.  The ball was like a soft pop foul in baseball, and it was picked off at the Cards’ 3-yardline and run in for a score.  That made the game score 21-0 and pretty much ended any suspense one might have been imagining as to the game outcome.  Both Peyton and Eli Manning were biting their tongues in the aftermath of that play…

Let me offer an off-the-wall observation here:

  • I don’t think the Cards are a well-coached team.  They were undisciplined against the Rams; and as noted above, they cratered in the second half of the season.  I don’t know if this “issue” belongs to Kliff Kingsbury or to his assistants, but some sort of introspection and “self-analysis” seems needed here.


The NFL Games:


(Sat 4:30 PM EST) Bengals at Titans – 3.5 (47.5):  Here are two “big deals” that favor the Titans in this game:

  1. They had a BYE Week last week to rest and recuperate and game-plan.
  2. Derrick Henry is back and cleared to play.

Here are two big deals that favor the Bengals in this game:

  1. Joe Burrow is the better QB in the game and has been en fuego lately.
  2. The Bengals rush defense – the one having to deal with Derrick Henry – ranked 5th in the NFL last season giving up only 102.5 yards per game.

The Titans’ pass defense has not been very good this year (25th in the NFL) and the Bengals’ pass offense is the heart of the offense.  This game will be won and lost at the line of scrimmage.  If the Titans’ OL can set up the run and if the Titans’ DL can get pressure on Burrow, the Titans should win handily.  The question is, can those two units do that …???  The Weather forecast for Saturday in Nashville calls for sunny skies with a high temperature of 40 degrees and a low of 24 degrees.  Those conditions should not be an assist for the Titans’ pass defense; I think the Bengals will keep this game close; I’ll take the Bengals plus the points; put it in the Abbreviated Six-Pack.

(Sat 8:15 PM EST) Niners at Packers – 5.5 (47):  Forget the players and the game strategies for a moment and focus on the weather forecast for Green Bay tomorrow:

  • The high temperature for tomorrow will be 20 degrees.
  • The low temperature for tomorrow will be 1 degree below zero.
  • This game is tomorrow night…

According to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“Love keeps the cold out better than a cloak.”

Nonsense!  Those players and coaches on the sidelines will be wearing cloaks in Green Bay tomorrow night…

In any weather conditions, the Packers should look to contain the Niners’ running game and put the burden on Jimmy G. to beat them.  That strategy is even more important if Jimmy G has to deal with frostbite in addition to the Packers’ defense.  I think this game turns on this aspect – – how well can the Packers contain the Niners’ running game.  These teams met in Santa Clara back in September with the Niners winning by 2 points.

The Niners reported that Jimmy G was “limited” in practices this week with his injured thumb; if he cannot play efficiently for the entire game and the Niners have to use Trey Lance in these circumstances, I think this will be a mismatch.  There are too many unknowns here; I have no selection for this game.

(Sun 3:00 PM EST) Rams at Bucs – 3 (48):  On a typical January weekend, weather for a football game in Tampa is not much of a factor; such seems to be the case for this weekend.  On Sunday the temperature range is between 37 and 61 degrees with little chance of rain.  The Rams beat the Bucs by 10 points back in September in LA; Matthew Stafford threw for 343 yards on that day.  This weekend, the focus for the game has to be on the Bucs’ OL.  Both OT, Tristan Wirfs and C, Ryan Jensen had to miss part of last week’s game with injuries; both are All-Pro linemen; both are listed as “questionable” for this game meaning they will try to play and then see how things go.  If the Rams’ defense with Von Miller and Aaron Donald get to go against subs, this could be a LONG day for Tom Brady who is not exactly a “scrambler”.  The Bucs’ defense dominated the Eagles last week, but the Rams’ offense plays at a different level than the Eagle’s offense; I think the defensive edge here goes to the Rams sufficiently that they can win the game outright; so, I’ll take the Rams plus the points here; put it in the Abbreviated Six-Pack.

(Sun 6:30PM  EST) Bills at Chiefs – 2 (53.5):  Here is another rematch from the regular season.  Back in October the Bills went to KC and beat the Chiefs by 18 points; Josh Allen had a big day throwing for 315 yards and rushing for 59 yards.  That was just about the time when the Chiefs were putting the pieces together for a late run to the playoffs.  The Bills’ defense led the NFL in pass defense (163 yards per game allowed) and in total defense (272.8 yards per game allowed).  I do not think that will matter here; I think both teams will score a lot.  The weatherman should not be a major factor with temperatures on Sunday ranging from 33 to 43 degrees with no rain in the forecast.  I like this game to go OVER; put it in the Abbreviated Six-Pack.

So, let me review this week’s Abbreviated Six-Pack:

  • Bengals + 3.5 against Titans
  • Rams +3 against Bucs
  • Bills/Chiefs OVER 53.5

And the temptation is too great to ignore an interesting Money Line Parlay here:

  • Bengals at +160
  • Rams at +135  to win $511 on a $100 wager.

Finally, since these are winter football games where winter weather can be a factor, let me close with this characterization of winter days from Bill Watterson – – the creator of Calvin and Hobbes:

 “I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood.”

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



4 thoughts on “Football Friday 1/21/22”

  1. I believe the ACC is betting their long term interests are better served by making it harder for Notre Dame to get into the playoffs without joining a conference.

    1. Doug:

      If you are correct, then the ACC may be having an attack of hubris thinking that the ACC is where Noter Dame would choose to become a football member. Several other conferences – – Big-10 leaps to mind – – would probably find a way to incorporate Notre Dame.

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