Football Friday 1/28/22

The sun has set and risen 7 times; astronomers will tell you that means seven days have passed.  Here in Curmudgeon Central the message is more specific – – it is once again Football Friday.  As is customary, I will begin with a review of last week’s Abbreviated Six-Pack:

  • College:  0-0-0
  • NFL:  3-0-0
  • Total:  3-0-0
  • Money Line Parlay:  1-0  Net profit for the week = $511

That “perfect week” of selections brings the cumulative results for the season to:

  • College:  15-20-0
  • NFL:  44-37-2
  • Total:  59-57-2
  • Money Line Parlays:  7-12  Net profit for the season = $367


NFL Commentary:


It isn’t that nothing happened in the world of college football last week; it’s just that nothing in that realm “sparked joy” as I sat down in front of the keyboard; and so, I deleted the two notes I had taken.  [Hat Tip to Marie Kondo…]

Ben Roethlisberger announced his retirement this week.  It was time.  “Big Ben” will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one of these days and deservedly so.  However, had he tried to play through the 2023 season, the collective memory of his career would have been tarnished.

Thanks to Ben Roethlisberger for an outstanding and entertaining career – – including a couple of iconic moments such as his pass to Santonio Holmes over 3 defenders in the corner of the end zone to win the Super Bowl in 2009.

  • Bonne chance, Big Ben…

In terms of what the Steelers do now to find a replacement for Roethlisberger, they have two QBs on their roster – – Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.  Rudolph has had sparks of competence in some of the games he has started when Roethlisberger was injured, but I think that the Steelers are looking at the AFC North with Joe Burrow in Cincy and Lamar Jackson in Baltimore and thinking – – “Is Mason Rudolph really good enough?”  Dwayne Haskins would be a complete crapshoot on the Steelers’ part; he showed little if any nuanced QB attributes in a brief stay here in DC and did not play enough with the Steelers to show anything at all.

This is not a “vintage year” for quarterbacks in the NFL Draft; the Steelers own the 18th pick in the Draft; more than likely, they would need to “trade up” to assure that they get “their guy” in this Draft.  Stay tuned for more on that front…

In terms of NFL QBs who might go to Pittsburgh, the two most frequently cited players are Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson.  Both men have ways of “getting out of their current contract” and choosing where to wind up; it is not as simple as pure free agency, but both could possibly be playing elsewhere next year.  The Steelers should be attractive to either Rodgers or Wilson.  The Steelers have a stable coaching situation; the defense is excellent; the pass catchers on the roster are clearly better than average but not great.  Stay tuned for more in this front too…

Reports yesterday said that the Bears hired Matt Eberflus to be their head coach.  Eberflus had been the defensive coordinator for the Colts over the past 4 seasons.  I am a bit surprised with the Bears’ decision here, but none of my surprise comes from the fact that I think Eberflus is a bad choice.  Hear me out:

  • The Bears’ defense is the strength of the team.  The Bears only won 6 games, and they ranked 28th in the NFL in points scored.
  • The Bears have a rookie QB who needs plenty of tutelage if he is going to become their franchise QB.  Justin Fields has a lot of physical talent; he needs to learn how to be a “QB” and not merely an “athlete”.
  • I would have thought the Bears would hire an “offensive guy” as the head coach to focus on the development of Justin Fields instead of a “defensive guy”.
  • And now you see why I am not a GM in the NFL…

Reports earlier this week also said that the Broncos have decided to “go offensive” with their choice of a new head coach this time around; they are going to hire Nathaniel Hackett whose last job was as offensive coordinator of the Packers over the past three seasons.  Like the Bears, the Broncos’ strength is its defense; unlike the Bears, the Broncos went to the other side of the ball in terms of their hiring decision.

The Packers with Hackett as the offensive coordinator finished the 2021 season 13-4 and earned the #1 seed in the NFC Playoffs.  The Packers achieved that status with Aaron Rodgers playing QB.  Let me make one thing very clear:

  • Unless Aaron Rodgers engineers a situation where he gets traded to the Broncos, Coach Hackett will have to make do with significantly inferior QB play in 2022.

I have mentioned Aaron Rodgers twice already so let me try to explain his situation as I understand it – – and remember, I am not an NFL GM:

  • Rodgers’ has a contract with the Packers for 2022.  After that, he would be an unrestricted free agent.
  • Ergo for 2022, I think he has three options.  He can retire; he can play for the Packers; or, he can demand/engineer a trade to another team.
  • Rodgers said in a press appearance earlier this week that he is not interested in being part of a “rebuild” so you can cross half the teams in the NFL off the list of possible teams he would play for.

Let me take those options in order.  Aaron Rodgers played in 2021 at the MVP level; if he does not win that award, he will get a significant amount of support for it.  Retirement is not a way to “get out of a contract”; as I understand it, he cannot “retire” in 2022 and then “unretire” in 2023 and come back as a free agent.  Rodgers certainly does not need the money, but given his level of play at age 38, there is no reason to believe that he could play another 4 or 5  years and pull in another $120-150M in salary with endorsements on top of that money.  That is a lot of cheese…  Rodgers salary for 2022 – – not counting various bonus possibilities – – would be in the neighborhood of $26M; personally, I cannot see him leaving that money behind in addition to foregoing much larger future revenues.

Rodgers can always return and play for the Packers; even if the team is head-over-heels in love with Jordan Love as their QB of the future, it was clear to almost any observer not part of Jordan Love’s nuclear family that Rodgers is still a far superior QB.  I cannot imagine the Packers telling Rodgers to take a hike.  That extends to the idea of the Packers initiating talks with any other team for just any old compensation for Aaron Rodgers.  The big question here is:

  • Was the ill will that was so widely reported last year between Rodgers and the Packers’ “management” as vitriolic as it was portrayed – – or was all that a bit over-dramatized?

Aaron Rodgers said he would likely make his decision(s) about next year by the time the franchise tag designation period is over; that would be March 8th.  Some have speculated that if the Packers designate Devante Adams with a franchise tag or sign him to a longer term deal, that might have a significant affect on Rodgers’ final decision.  Apparently, the “chemistry” between those two players extends beyond just pass catcher and pass thrower.

Finally, Rodgers could engineer a trade.  I put it that way because I just don’t think the Packers are going to be the ones to initiate that sort of thing.  However, if it comes to a trade, I expect that it would happen well before the NFL Draft because the Packers will certainly want a bounty of Draft Capital in return for a guy who played at an MVP level just this year.  The fact that the Broncos just hired Rodgers’ latest offensive coordinator will surely stir up a “Rodgers-to-the-Broncos” narrative.

[Aside:  I have a friend who has been a Patriots’ fan for the last 30 years.  He has fantasized about the Pats getting Aaron Rodgers form the day the “rift” between the team and the QB first surfaced.  I am certain he still harbors that fantasy so let me say here that I just do not see a “California-cool” Aaron Rodgers flourishing under “The Patriot Way”.  But remember, I am not an NFL GM…]

Dwight Perry looked ahead to an NFL announcement scheduled for next week and offered the following analysis in the Seattle Times:

“The Washington Football Team is revealing its new name on Groundhog Day.

“Maybe they’re trying to limit themselves to only six more weeks of bad football.”

The playoffs this year provide evidence that Professor Perry’s analysis is correct.  Consider that from the 2011 through the 2013 NFL season, the Washington Football Team – – under its previous name – – had three assistant coaches on its staff:

  • Sean McVay was the tight ends coach
  • Matt LaFleur was the QB coach
  • Kyle Shanahan was the Offensive Coordinator

No one in the team hierarchy obviously saw much coaching potential in that trio because all of them were let go in 2013.  All three made the playoffs this year while the Washington cumulative record since their departure has been 52-76-1.  Just as a comparison, those three head coaches led the Rams, Packers and Niners to a combined record of 35-16-0 this season…

Last week, I commented on the 2021 TV audience figures and how about 90 % of the biggest TV audiences happened when NFL games were on the air.  The four Divisional Playoff games last weekend upheld that standard:

  1. The “least watched game” was the Bengals/Titans game on Saturday afternoon.  The average audience for that game was 30.1 million viewers.
  2. Next up is the Niners/Packers game on Saturday night; its average audience was 36.9 million viewers.
  3. On Sunday afternoon, the Rams/Bucs game drew an average audience of 40.0 million viewers.
  4. And on Sunday night, the Chiefs/Bills game was watched by an average audience of 42.7 million folks.  One report said that the audience for this game peaked at 51.7 million viewers.  {No, I do not know how they are able to measure that…]

So, turning to last weekend’s playoff games, let me offer some observations I made during my time in front of the TV set.  Yes, I was one of the millions of fans who watched all the plays in all the games…

Bengals 19  Titans 16:  Ian Eagle and Trent Green called the game on CBS and did a great job.  Both men let the video present the obvious – – like the QB was sacked on the play – – and tried to analyze/explain how that came to be the outcome of the play.

The Titans acquired Zach Cunningham after the Texans cut him and he went through the waiver process.  I am too lazy to go and look up how many teams had a worse record than the Titans at that point of the season, but it had to have been two dozen.  So, here is my question:

  • How the Hell did two dozen teams – ones that were not doing all that well in 2021 – decide to pass on Zach Cunningham?  It is inconceivable that 20 teams or so looked at a guy in his mid-20s who had already led the NFL in tackles for a season – – what you expect linebackers to do – – and pass on him.  And that is another reason why I am not an NFL GM…

I guess the Titans’ analytics department can show that it was a good decision for the Titans to go for a 2-point conversion early in the 2nd period after a defensive penalty put the ball at the 1-yardline.  Rather than take the lead at 7-6, the Titans tried to make it 8-6 which is a distinction that does not make much of a difference to me.  Unfortunately for the Titans, the try failed.  And now you may begin to understand why I do not work in any NFL analytics departments…

I made a note that it seemed as if the Bengals were controlling the clock and not the Titans and that was “surprising”.  Well, I was right; the Bengals had the ball for 33:25 in the game and  the Bengals defense held Derrick Henry to 62 yards on 20 carries.  Here is another telling difference in the game stats:

  • Bengals were 7 of 15 on third-down conversions
  • Titans were 1 of 8 on third-down conversions

The Titans’ Front Seven on defense did its job; the Titans sacked Joe Burrow 9 times in the game for a total loss of 68 yards.  They have not kept “sack stats” for the entirety of the NFL’s existence but since those stats have been kept, this number of sacks has happened to four other QBs in playoff games.  Yes, you are correct; the Bengals are the only team to win a playoff game where they also gave up 9 sacks.

A good part of the Bengals’ success has to be attributed to the Bengals’ defense that recorded 3 INTs from errant Ryan Tannehill throws.  At least for last Saturday, 3 INTs trumped 9 sacks…

With the Bengals advancing to the AFC Conference Championship for the first time since 1988, the longest extant streaks for NFL teams not making it to the Conference Finals is shared by two teams:

  1. The Washington Football Team – under its previous name – won the NFC Championship game in 1991 and then went on to win the Super Bowl that year.  Since 1991, the team has been to the playoffs only 7 times and its playoff record is 3-7.
  2. The Detroit Lions lost that same NFC Conference Championship game to the Washington Whatevers in 1991.  Since 1991, the Lions have been to the playoffs 8 times but their playoff record since then is 0-8.  Five of the eight losses were by double digits and four of the eight losses were by 3 scores or more.  Yowza!!

Niners 13  Packers 10:  In the first half, the Niners looked more like a 7-10 team than a playoff team with a 10-7 record – – but the Niners’ defense kept grinding and prevented the Packers from scoring after the initial possession until allowing a field goal with 5:28 to go in the third quarter.

I posed this question to myself midway through the third quarter:

“Is this a defensive game or an example of inept offenses in the cold weather?”

Well, I think it was a bit of both.  The Niners won the game despite gaining only 212 yards on offense (106 rushing and 106 passing incidentally) while the Packers only managed 263 yards on offense.  Here are the stats that caused me to ponder this question in the first place:

  • After scoring a TD on its first possession of the game, the Packers next first half possessions resulted in lost fumble, punt, punt, punt, blocked field goal.
  • The Niners possessions in the first half went like this – – three and out, three and out, three and out, three and out (total offense at this point of minus 15 yards), INT.

The Special Teams decided this game; you can decide for yourself if the Niners won that battle or if the Packers lost that battle.  After  you get through that internal debate here is the bottom line:

  • The Niners had 113 return yards and the Packers had 77.
  • The Packers gave up a 45-yard kickoff return to start the second half.
  • The Packers allowed a makeable 39-yard field goal try to be blocked to end the first half.
  • The Niners only TD came via a blocked punt that was recovered and run into the end zone.

By the way, before the opening kickoff, Troy Aikman said that the game would likely be decided by the Special Teams.  That is a top-shelf reading of the tea leaves…

Rams 30  Bucs 27:  Three playoff games and all three were decided by a game-winning field goal as time expired.  As a fan with no specific rooting interest for any of the participating teams, it would be difficult to script a  set of circumstances more riveting.  I made a note at the end of this game as I tuned over to the last game of the weekend:

“Best playoff weekend ever?  Hope 4th game is not a blowout.”

Indeed, this game had plenty of excitement to get things going on Sunday.  The Rams turned the ball over 4 times in this game – once at the Bucs 1-yardline – and still managed to win the game.  Like the Bengals winning after yielding 9 sacks, the Rams defied the odds by winning after that many turnovers.

The stats say that the Bucs ran the ball only 14 times in the game.  Actually, it was only 13 times because one of the “rushing attempts” was a Tom Brady kneel down to end the first half.  Meanwhile, Brady dropped back and attempted 54 passes in the game – – completing 30 of them.  Back in September when these teams met – and the Rams won by 10 points – Brady attempted 55 passes.  So, why was the game plan a reprise of the one that was unsuccessful in Week 3?  Was that Brady’s idea or Byron Leftwich’s idea or Bruce Arians’ idea?  Because it was not a good idea…

And speaking of bad ideas:

  • Cooper Kupp led the NFL this season in pass receptions, yards receiving and TD passes caught.  Given that trifecta and with 28 seconds left on the clock in a tie game, someone thought it would be OK to give single coverage to Kupp.  He merely caught a 44-yard bomb from Matthew Stafford and set up the chip shot field goal to win the game.

Chiefs 42  Bills 36 (OT):  At the end of the Rams Bucs game, all I asked was for this final game of the weekend not to be a blowout.  I got that and more as an answer to my wish.  The game went to OT, and it was an offensive contest from start to finish with lots of good plays by both teams.  The total offense generated by the two teams was 974 yards; compare that to the 475 yards of combined offense in the Niners/Packers game from the day before.

The Chiefs had the #1 rated defense in the NFL in total yards allowed for the season.  Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs ran up 552 yards in this game.  Normally, the Chiefs amass lots of passing yards when their offense is clicking; in this game they managed three so-called “chunk plays” in the running game:

  • Patrick Mahomes scrambled for 34 yards
  • Mecole Hardman had a 25-yard run
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a 22-yard scamper
  • The Chiefs amassed 182 yards rushing on 27 attempts (6.7 yards per carry).

On the other side, Gabriel Davis had himself a career-day for the Bills catching 8 passes for 201 yards and 4 TDs.  Davis has been with the Bills for two seasons after being drafted out of UCF.  For the entirety of the 2021 season, he caught 6 TD passes and the most receptions he had in a single game was 5.  He caught 5 passes in a game twice in 2021, once against the Bucs and then against the Panthers.

[Aside:  I believe that Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes are the two most entertaining QBs to watch in the NFL at this time.  I can entertain arguments that some other QBs are as good or better – – but for pure entertainment value, these are my two “go-to guys”.  In this game, both QBs led their team in rushing; Mahomes gained 69 yards on 7 carries and Allen gained 68 yards on 11 carries. ]

The final two minutes of regulation time saw 25 points go up on the scoreboard.  The Bills scored 2 TDs generating 15 points; the Chiefs got a TD and a field goal to leave the scoreboard tied at 36 as time expired.  I am convinced that at least one of the “Football Gods” has hexed the Bills in playoff games.  Consider:

From 1990 through 1993, the Bills lost 4 consecutive Super Bowl games – – all of them against NFC East teams.

  • In the Super Bowl loss to the Giants by a score of 20-19, Scott Norwood’s last second field goal attempt from 47 yards out sailed “wide right”.  That was 1991…
  • The Bills scored to take the lead over the Titans with 15 seconds left in a wildcard playoff game.  Then came the famous “Music City Miracle” giving the Titans a 22-16 victory.  That was in 1999…
  • The Bills take the lead over the Chiefs by 3 points with 13 seconds left on the clock.  The Chiefs rally to score a tying field goal and win in OT.  That was 2022…
  • Charlie Brown had a better relationship with “The Fates” than the Buffalo Bills do.

[Aside:  Note that the Chiefs got the ball trailing by 3 points with 13 seconds left to play in the game at their own 25 yardline.  Three plays and 44 yards later, the Chiefs kicked the game tying field goal to send the game to OT.  Compare that to the Cowboys two weeks ago who had 14 seconds on the clock and called a QB draw that ate up the rest of the clock and sent the Cowboys home for the season.]


NFL Games:


For the record and before we get to this week’s selections in another Abbreviated Six-Pack, let me announce that I have no strong feelings about any of the picks and games here.  Challenge any of my selections here, and if you are eloquent and rational in  your challenge, I could very well come away agreeing with you.

(Sun 3:05 PM EST) Bengals at Chiefs – 7.5 (54):  It was not all that long ago – – Week 17 of the 2021 NFL regular season to be precise – – that the Bengals beat the Chiefs in Cincy on a field goal as time expired.  Seems as if the Bengals have that scenario down cold in their playbooks, no?  In fact, the Chiefs have won 11 of their last 12 games and that loss to the Bengals is the only blemish on the record.

The game in Week 17 was an offensive explosion with the two teams combining to gain 889 yards.  Joe Burrow feasted on the Chiefs’ defense back then posting this stat line:

  • 30 of 39 for 446 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs

Burrow’s favorite target of the day was JaMarr Chase who caught 11 balls for 266 yards; plenty of NFL receivers would call that a month’s worth of output.  I have no reason to believe that this game will devolve into a “three yards and a cloud of dust” offensive display.

By the way, the record for most passing  yards by both teams in a playoff game is 881 yards.  That mark was set by Tom Brady and Nick Foles (and Trey Burton too) in Super Bowl LII.  Might the Burrow/Mahomes collaboration this weekend eclipse that number?

I believe there is one significant injury situation relative to this game:

  • Tyrann Mathieu did not practice for the Chiefs on Wednesday after missing most of last week’s game in the NFL concussion protocols.
  • Mathieu was able to “fully participate” in Thursday’s practice with the Chiefs.
  • Mathieu – at full capacity – is an important part of the Chiefs’ defense and stopping the “other guy’s QB” is going to be the most important factor in this game.

I think the scoreboard operator will not have to battle boredom in this one; I like the game to go OVER; put that in the Six-Pack.

And, with that hook on top of a full TD in the spread, I’ll take the Bengals plus the points; put that in the Six-Pack too.


(Sun 6:40 PM EST) Niners at Rams – 3.5 (46):  As noted above, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay worked together in the past.  Now that they are head coaches, Shanahan has dominated the matchups; in fact, Shanahan’s Niners have beaten McVay’s Rams in the last 6 consecutive meetings.  In Week 18 of this year, the Niners needed a win over the Rams to assure themselves of a wildcard slot; they got that win.  Lest your memory fail you, that game went to OT and the Niners won with a field goal on the second possession of OT.  The Niners’ offense was dominant in that game gaining 449 yards to only 265 yards for the Rams.

Last week, the Rams had a 20-3 lead on the Bucs and stumbled their way to make it a nail-biter.  Against the Niners three weeks ago, the Rams had a 17-0 lead and eventually lost that game.  Those sorts of performances lead me to wonder:

  • Maybe the Rams are their own worst enemy when taking an early multi-score lead?
  • Maybe the Rams know best how to beat the Rams?

The game is in LA at SoFi Stadium but that may not be nearly the advantage one might think.  The Rams are only 5-3 at home while going 7-2 on the road this year.  The Niners are similarly better on the road this year; the Niners are 4-4 at home and 6-3 on the road.

Both teams run the ball well; in the two meetings so far this year, the Niners have run it better than the Rams; Cam Akers is back with the Rams for this game after missing the balance of the 2021 season.  The Niners have to run the ball well to set up their passing game which is not robust; the Rams prefer to run the ball but can air it out when needed – – see what happened in the final moments of the Rams’ win over the Bucs last week above.

I think the Niners have the ability to win the line of scrimmage on defense; and with their zone blocking, they can hold their own against the Rams’ defense.  If that plays out, I like the Niners in the game, so I’ll take them plus the points here; put that in the Six-Pack.

Let me review the Abbreviated Six-Pack here:

  1. Chiefs/Bengals OVER 54
  2. Bengals +7.5 against Chiefs
  3. Niners +3.5 against Rams

And here is a Parlay play just for the heck of it:

  1. Niners @ +165
  2. Chiefs/Bengals OVER 54 @ minus-110  To win $406 on a $100 wager.

Finally, back toward the top of this rant, I discussed the TV audiences for last week’s amazing playoff games.  So, let me close with a few observations about television itself as an entertainment medium”

“Why should people pay good money to go out and see bad films when they can stay at home and see bad television for nothing?”  [Samuel Goldwyn]

And …

“Television is a device that permits people who haven’t anything to do to watch people who can’t do anything.”  [Fred Allen]

And …

“Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your own living room by people you wouldn’t have in  your home.”  [David Frost]

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



2 thoughts on “Football Friday 1/28/22”

  1. And now you see why I am not a GM in the NFL….

    Yes, Sports Curmudgeon, but you are the GM of the internet.

    1. TenacioiusP:

      That role is merely a step along my planned career path whose goal is to become Dictator of the Universe. And I promise to be a most benevolent despot… 🙂

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