Back sometime around Jan 6,2023.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all…
Don't Get Me Wrong, I Love Sports…
Back sometime around Jan 6,2023.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all…
Normally, I save this compilation until New Year’s Eve as the last rant of the year. However, this year my long-suffering wife and I will be spending the time between Christmas and Twelfth Night in Ireland visiting our grandson – – and his parents too of course. I will not be taking a computer with me and there is no way on the planet that I would try to compose something like this on a phone; ergo, it has been pushed forward a week on the calendar.
The basis for this annual happening is that the folks who pay for commercial time on TV are the ones who make it possible for me to see all the sporting events/programs that I enjoy throughout the year. I certainly do appreciate sponsors making all that programing available but that does not mean that I must think that the ads they put in front of me are meaningful and/or effective. In fact, lots of them are not very good and some are downright stupid. So, this gives me a chance to point out the ones that are the worst of the lot. It’s what curmudgeons do …
Let me begin with one ad that has been around for several years and is stupid on so many levels that I am shocked when they “bring it back”. I’m sure you will recognize this one.
You know, it must be nice to live in an economic situation where one can buy a $60-70K present for one’s partner without him/her knowing the money was missing from the exchequer. Moreover, if in real life the guy ran and hugged the truck and not the woman, that puppy would be replacing him in the bed, and he would be sleeping in the truck bed. And they keep bringing that ad back year after year…
In the world of truly stupid ads, there is a new entry this year from a source of truly stupid ads in years past. Liberty Mutual seems to be “moving on” from a tight focus on LIMU the Emu – – and Doug – – which is a good thing. However, the company now has an ad showing “young people having a good time” at a pool party where they “have fun” looking at laptop computers and cell phones with the Liberty Mutual app on the screen. They have those devices in and around the swimming pool. Just what I need, an insurance company that thinks portable electronics and swimming pools go together. The person who came up with that needs to be in the deep end of a swimming pool just as someone throws him/her a plugged-in toaster…
Occasionally, you see an ad on TV, and you wonder what thought process led to someone paying for the airtime to show that to me. A prime example this year was GE Aerospace advertising on NFL games. Why? Can someone there possibly think that the next time I need a jet engine, I’ll remember this ad and go buy a GE Aerospace jet engine. Which exec in GE approved that advertising expenditure?
Old Navy continued their tradition of ads around Holiday Season featuring ugly clothing and annoying characters. This year it is a woman “playing the piano” and “singing” until she tries to feed a bunch of asparagus to a stuffed reindeer. This obviously makes me ready to rush out to Old Navy. How about you?
During March Madness in 2022, there were repeated live-reads by the play-by-play guys about Coca Cola where they urged you to “Debate the Goatness”. Those intercessions hit an exacta one should never seek; they were annoying AND they were stupid.
But wait; there’s more… The good folks at Coke also used ad time in March Madness to introduce me to a new product – – Coke with Coffee. And wouldn’t you know it, they added vanilla to that concoction. That gets a strict “I’ll pass” from me…
Also during March Madness, the folks at Dell chose to take some time to inform us of their product line. To highlight the fact that Dell technology allows people to work from home or the office or just about anywhere, the ad shows hundreds of people in an “office setting” moving their desks out to the middle of the streets in an urban area. That blocks traffic completely since the desks are proximal to one another. So, the message here is that Dell technology creates the potential for urban gridlock and creates problems for anyone who might be trying to get somewhere for some reason. Not a good message…
In the world of beer advertising, we can always count on these two competitors to come up with something dumb:
In 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused food commodity prices to spike to the highest levels ever since global stats began to be kept. The food price index jumped 10.6% year over year. There was also a spike in the number of bad ads perpetrated on US TV watchers in 2022 by restaurants and other food purveyors. Are those two things conjoined? It doesn’t matter; here are some of the bad ads from that group.
In this cursed food category, there are two sponsors that contributed two separate ad campaign entries that were bad/stupid in the year. The deserve the scorn provided by a category of their own this year:
So, there is my compilation of bad ads in the waning days of 2022. You may wonder how I convince myself that I have sufficient insight and/or stature to label these ads as bad ones and that would be a fair question to ask. Rather than pat myself on the back, let me close with this observation about advertising by David Ogilvy, known as the “Father of Advertising” and a founder of the giant international ad agency, Ogilvy and Mather:
“It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. I doubt that more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea.”
Do you see any “big ideas” in the ads cited above?
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
Almost 60 years ago, Andy Williams released a Christmas album, and one song told us that this is:
“The most wonderful time of the year…”
Andy made that declaration in light of holiday celebrations and family events; he failed to mention that this is crunch time for NFL teams hoping to make the playoffs. However, here in Curmudgeon Central that fact will not pass by unobserved because today is one more iteration of Football Friday. And is the custom here, I shall begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack.
College Football Commentary:
Last week in my remarks about Navy firing coach Ken Niumatalolo, I wondered if that job would be attractive to a lot of people. Well, it was certainly attractive to Brian Newberry who took the job earlier this week. Newberry had been the Navy Defensive Coordinator under Niumatalolo for the last 4 years. As I thought about the Navy program more, I think Newberry has a chance to “make a splash” next year for reasons outside the program in Annapolis. Consider:
So … Navy’s conference schedule could get a tad easier leading to an improved record. Could be interesting …
The only bowl game that is moderately interesting over the next several days is the Quick Lane Bowl Game on Monday 26 December.
New Mexico St. vs Bowling Green – 4 (48): This is interesting because the Aggies have been a college football punching bag for most of the last decade but scratched their way to 6 wins this year under first-year coach, Jerry Kill (formerly at Minnesota). That’s it; that’s all I got.
We are deep enough into the NFL season for me to make the following definitive statement:
The producers and directors of those shows need to stop trying to make the programs into “comedic gold”. The all-to-frequent belly laughs on the set are forced and unconvincing simply because the “jokes” offered up are not remotely funny. Leave that stuff to stand-up comics on Comedy Central; those guys are pros at making people laugh; the hosts and former NFL players are rank amateurs. Personally, there are few things in the world that are more uncomfortable to me and more cringeworthy than someone who is trying to be funny but is not funny.
“Comedy is just an unspoken language. Everybody understands it. Funny is funny. When it’s not funny, they let you know.”
One of last year’s offseason acquisitions that had not been working out at all was the Chargers’ signing of CB, JC Jackson. He just did not work out in LA for whatever reason you might want to ascribe to the situation. His deal with the Chargers was for 5 years and reportedly, $40M worth of guarantees are in that contract. Jackson suffered a ruptured patella tendon in October ending his season then. And this week things got worse …
Jackson was arrested and booked into a jail in Massachusetts for a “non-violent family issue”. As is customary in situations like this, the Chargers released this statement:
“We are aware of media reports this afternoon pertaining to J.C. Jackson. We will continue to gather information on the matter and will refrain from further comment at this time.”
I wonder what a “non-violent family issue” might be…
In NFL action from last week …
Vikes 39 Colts 36: The Colts led 33-0 at the half this week and Vikes forced OT and then won in OT. Remember if you will, the Colts/ Cowboys game from Week 13. The Cowboys scored 33 points in the 4th quarter back then to win that game 54-12. The game last week represented the biggest squandering of a lead in the history of the NFL. You have to feel sorry for Matt Ryan; he is only partially responsible for the following events, but he was present for all of them:
Bills 32 Dolphins 29: This loss puts the Dolphins record at 8-6 meaning the wild card race in the AFC just got murkier. The Bills’ winning drive with the score tied at 29 each came in the final 5 minutes of the game and culminated in a 25-yard field goal with only 2 seconds left on the clock. The Bills retained their hold in the #1 seed in the AFC Playoff picture with this win.
Niners 21 Seahawks 13: The Niners clinched the NFC West title with this win and the loss keeps the Seahawks on the outside looking in for the NFC playoffs. The Niners amassed 96 more yards of offense than the Seahawks in the game. The Niners’ defense is for real. The Niners have won 7 games in a row and their defense has not allowed more than 17 points in any of those 7 victories.
Browns 13 Ravens 3: So much for the idea that Tyler Huntley is just a less-experienced version of Lamar Jackson. The Ravens only averaged 4.5 yards per pass attempt in this game; that does not get it done in the 2022 incarnation of the NFL. The Ravens kicked a field goal with 10 minutes left in the second quarter of this game. Here are the results of their final 6 possessions of the game:
Saints 21 Falcons 18: Falcons’ coach Arthur Smith said that he was changing QBs for this game because Marcus Mariota was not performing up to the standard he had for QBs, and he wanted to see what Desmond Ridder might do in the job. Here is Ridder’s stat line:
OK, Coach. Now that you have seen what he might do, what is your assessment because that looks pretty much like plain vanilla to me. Falcons’ defensive coordinator Dean Pees was briefly hospitalized when he was run into by a Saints player during pre-game warmups. Pees was taken off the field on a stretcher but released from the hospital and accompanied the team back to Atlanta.
Jags 40 Cowboys 34 (OT): The Cowboys led 27-10 with about 4 minutes left in the third quarter and coughed up the lead losing in OT to a Pick-Six. The Jags’ final 5 possessions in regulation produced 3 TDs and a field goal wrapped around a lost fumble. Meanwhile the Cowboys’ offense was producing over that same time 1 TD and two “three-and-outs”. In OT, the Jags took the kickoff but had to punt the ball away. Soon after that, the Jags intercepted a bobbled pass from Dak Prescott and returned it for a TD; it was the Jags’ second INT for the game. The Jags dominated the stat sheet gaining 503 yards of offense for the day. The Jags are one game behind the Titans in the AFC South with three games to play. As of today, the Jags hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, and the two teams will play again in Week 18. As Lenny Kravitz told us:
“It ain’t over till it’s over…”
Lions 20 Jets 17: Zach Wilson was back under center for the Jets in place of the injured Mike White. Even though the Jets lost the game, this one cannot be pinned on Wilson by himself; here is his stat line”:
Those are not Hall of Fame numbers, but they are not stumblebum numbers either. Both teams are now 7-7 and remain in contention for a playoff slot in their conference. Especially noteworthy is that the Lions started the season at 1-6 and have only lost to the Bills – – no shame there – – since that bad starting record. The Lions close out the season with the Panthers, Bears and Packers — all teams with losing records as of today. The chances of the Lions getting 9 wins this year are very good and they may even finish 10-7 with the way they are playing.
Eagles 25 Bears 20: I said last week that this was a Trap Game for the Eagles. They won this game, but it was touch-and-go until the final 2 minutes. The Eagles were comfortably ahead on the stat sheet outgaining the Bears by 173 yards. The Eagles now lead the NFC East race by 3 games with 3 games left to play. The Eagles’ defense recorded 6 sacks in the game and AJ Brown caught 8 passes for 182 yards.
Chiefs 30 Texans 24 (OT): Looking at the stat sheet, you would never have projected that this was a game to go into OT:
The Chiefs fumbled the ball away twice in the game and they missed a field goal late in the fourth quarter that would have ended the game in regulation. Ironically, the event that led to the win in OT was the recovery of a Texans’ fumble that led to a TD on the next play. Patrick Mahomes threw 2 TDs and ran for another in the game.
Steelers 24 Panthers 16: The Steelers’ defense deserves credit for this victory; the Panthers only managed to produce 209 yards on offense and only 21 yards rushing. Whatever success the Panthers have had this year can be attributed to its running game led by D’Onta Foreman. The Steelers just squashed that aspect of the Panthers’ offense here. Nevertheless, the Panthers at 5-9 still control their path to the playoffs and will win the NFC South Division with an 8-9 record if they can beat Detroit, Tampa and New Orleans to end the season.
Bengals 34 Bucs 23: The first half was all Buccaneers; they led 17-3 and were dominating the game. Tom Brady’s teams were 89-0 in games where they led by 17 points at any time in the game – – but not last weekend. I have no idea what happened to that team at halftime because after the intermission, the Bucs disappeared. Here are the results of the Bucs’ possessions in the second half:
The Bucs outgained the Bengals by 159 yards for the game but that showing by the offense in the second half set up three TD drives of less than 40 yards for the Bengals.
Broncos 24 Cards 15: Colt McCoy started at QB for the Cards but had to leave the game due to a concussion putting Trace McSorley under center for the Cards. McSorley threw 2 INTs in the fourth quarter that opened to door for a Broncos’ rally that scored 3 TDs in a 13-minute stretch in the second half. Latavius Murray led the way carrying the ball 24 times for 130 yards plus a TD. Brent Rypien was the Broncos’ starting QB; here is his stat line:
The Broncos outgained the Cards on offense for the game – – and Klif Kingsbury is reputed to be an “offensive coach” …
Raiders 30 Pats 24: Surely you have seen replays of the final play in this game; it is as bizarre an ending to a game as was the “Immaculate Reception” 50 years ago. The game was dead even on the stat sheet and would have been a great candidate for a decision in OT – – but that final play thwarted that possibility. The Raiders led 17-3 at the half but they had to rally and score a TD in the final 3 minutes to set up the bizarre ending to the game.
Chargers 17 Titans 14: This was hardly a fine showing by Chargers QB, Justin Herbert. Here is his stat line for the day:
Nonetheless, the game was tied at 14 apiece with 48 seconds left in the game. The Chargers had the ball at their own 23 yardliine. Herbert engineered a 6-play drive gaining 52 yards setting up a game-winning 43-yard field goal. The win puts the Chargers into the sixth spot in the AFC playoff race thanks to losses by Miami, New England and the New York Jets last weekend. The Titans still have a one-game lead over the Jags in the AFC South but have dropped four straight games – – for the first time since 2015 no less. Derrick Henry recorded 162 yards from scrimmage in the game; the rest of the team amassed a total of 122 yards. This man needs some help!
Giants 20 Commanders 12: The Commanders outgained the Giants by 99 yards in the game, but the Commanders reached the Red Zone 3 times and got only 1 TD. The Commanders’ defense only allowed 13 points in the game; the Giants’ first TD cane on a strip-sack and a scoop-and-score. And with all of that, the Commanders lost the game. Taylor Heinicke lost two fumbles in the game; one was the strip sack mentioned above; the other came in the 4th quarter with the Commanders inside the Giants’ 10 yardline in a one-score game situation. The Commanders averaged 6.1 yards per rushing attempt: and yet, they threw the ball more often than they ran it. Players are responsible for play execution and penalty avoidance but the Commanders’ play-calling in this game was just a tad suspect too.
NFL Games This Week:
I love Lewis Black’s comedy act; one of his famous lines is:
“Do you know what ‘meteorologist’ means in English? It means liar.”
There are plenty of NFL folks this week who hope that the meteorologists calling for cold and snow over much of the country this weekend are indeed – – liars. Weather forecasts for snow, brutal cold and windy conditions have made betting lines. Yesterday, the temperature was recorded as below-zero in 18 states; the Governor of New York has called this a “storm for the ages”. I will try to provide some info on weather forecasting for some of the games below.
Looking at the three games scheduled for Christmas Day, those match ups looked a whole lot more exciting back in May when the schedules were announced. Today, the best game of the three – – Packers/Dolphins – – only elicits Meh! from these quarters.
The Thursday Night Football game between the Jets and the Jags last night was a slog – – and not because of the weather. The Jags won 19-3 but the Jets’ offense was a no-show for the game. Zach Wilson was benched in the second half in favor of Chris Streveler, who played college football at South Dakota State and Minnesota. Streveler reminds me of a right-handed Tim Tebow. He gave the Jets a change of pace and actually made a few first downs – – but he produced exactly zero points for the Jets. The Jags stay on pace to win the AFC South if they win out. The Jets turned in a bed-wetting performance.
(Sat) Giants at Vikes – 4.5 (48): Both teams win close games and lose big when they lose; that is evidenced by these stats:
The Vikes have clinched their division and therefore a playoff spot; a win will maintain their position as the 2nd seed in the NFC. The Giants hold down a wild card slot as of this morning, but eight wins and a tie are not going to get them in the post-season action. The Vikes’ defense is less-than-robust; they give up 25 points per game – – and I think they used up their storehouse of wishes granted by their Fairy Godmother in last week’s erasure of that 33-point halftime deficit. With only a minimal amount of enthusiasm, I’ll take the Giants and the points here; put it in the Six-Pack.
(Sat) Saints at Browns – 3 (31.5): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. It is also a game that should be significantly affected by weather conditions and the Total Line for the game opened at 36.5 points and has dropped significantly to the lowest Total Line for an NFL game in almost 15 years. Here are the weather highlights:
Get set for a lot of running plays in this one; throwing the ball in 30 mph wind conditions is risky business. The Browns listed Nick Chubb as questionable for the game with an ankle issue; if he can’t go, Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson will be getting a lot of work. The Saints – – a dome team clearly not used to conditions anything at all like the ones forecast here – – will rely on Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill to move the ball. First team to double digits wins?
(Sat) Lions – 2.5 at Panthers (44): I gave this consideration as the Game of the Week because:
But I found what I think is a more important game later in the card… I think the Lions’ offense is too much for the Panthers’ defense to hold in check. Weather should not be a big deal in this game; no snow in the forecast, light winds around 10 mph but cold at 25 degrees. I like the red-hot Lions to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack
(Sat) Bengals – 3 at Pats (41): It will be cold and there will be some wind for this game, but nothing like some of the other NFL venues this week. The Bengals are getting their act together for the playoffs and what they hope is a Super Bowl run. The Pats can still make the playoffs but will first have to put the memory of that boneheaded play that lost them last week’s game out their collective mind. Joe Burrow outplays Mac Jones here; give me the Bengals to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.
(Sat) Bills – 8.5 at Bears (39.5): The Total Line for this game opened the week at 42 points and has dropped probably due to “weather issues”; frankly, I am surprised the Total Line has not dropped further. Here are projected game conditions:
The good news here is that both teams are “cold weather teams” and this will not be the first time either team has played in conditions akin to these. The Bills are the more talented team, but strange things can happen in those sorts of weather conditions…
(Sat) Texans at Titans – 3 (35): The spread opened at 7 points and the Total Line opened at 40 points. My guess is that both lines were adjusted based on the news that Titans’ QB, Ryan Tannehill, is likely out for the year with an ankle injury. Weather will be cold and breezy – – using the forecasts at other venues as a yardstick this week. The Titans have lost 4 in a row and another loss here to a lowly foe such as the Texans could well doom their entire season.
(Sat) Seahawks at Chiefs – 10 (49): Only the Lions’ defense has given up more points in this NFL season than the Seahawks’ defense. “Generous defenses” usually get blistered by the Chiefs’ offense; hence the double digit spread. Other than biting cold, there should be no weather interventions in this game. The Chiefs cannot afford another loss if they hope to catch the Bills for that #1 seed position in the AFC Playoffs. Likewise, the Seahawks playoff aspirations would be doused with ice water if they were to lose here. Motivation edge – – no one.
(Sat) Falcons at Ravens – 6.5 (34): The Total Line opened the week at 40.5 points and seemingly due to the weather forecast, it has dropped more than 6 points so far. It appears that it will be cold (22 degrees) at kickoff with gusting winds that will make it feel like 8 degrees. These teams should be minimally affected because both teams succeed by running the football. With their loss last week, the Ravens are now 1 game behind the Bengals in the AFC North race; they cannot afford another loss lest they fall into the muck and mire of teams battling for that last playoff slot. The Falcons have not been eliminated from the playoffs because there is still a highly improbable path for them to traverse that would give them the AFC South title.
(Sat) Commanders at Niners – 7 (37): This is my Game of the Week. Both teams have winning records; both teams would be in the playoffs if the playoffs started this morning; the Commanders need to win because a loss could put them on the outside of the playoff structure; the Niners need to win because they have a shot at improving their seeding in the playoffs if they win and the Vikes and Eagles both lose. I know it is not de rigueur to say anything negative about gutsy/gritty Taylor Heinicke, but the Commanders’ offense does not score points. And this week, that offense goes against the NFL defense that gives up the fewest points per game by a significant margin (15.0 points per game). Moreover, that “points per game stat” is not a fluke, the Niners also yield the fewest yards per game in the NFL too. If the Commanders win this game, it will be because the Commanders’ defense does a modern-day version of the battle stand at Thermopylae.
(Sat) Eagles at Cowboys – 5 (46): This would clearly have been the Game of the Week if the events of last week had not happened. The spread opened the week with the Cowboys as 1-point favorites; but as the week went on, it became more likely that Jalen Hurts would not play due to a strained shoulder suffered in last week’s win over the Bears. The drop in the Total Line is probably related to that potential and not due to the weather even though it should be cold in Dallas. Playing Gardner Minshew in place of Hurts makes a ton of sense for the Eagles because all they need to do is win one of their last three games to secure the top seed in the NFC playoffs; they need not win this game.
(Sat Nite) Raiders at Steelers – 2.5 (38.5): The Total Line opened at 41 points and appears to have dropped due to the weather forecast. Here is the meteorological outlook:
Josh Jacobs runs the ball very well for the Raiders – – but remember what the Steelers did to the Panthers’ running game last week. The Raiders are not likely to prevail of they cannot run the ball for more than 21 yards in the game. I assume that Kenny Pickett will be back at QB for the Steelers in this game; if not, that is a big edge for the Raiders.
(Sun) Packers at Dolphins – 4 (47.5): Good news; the severe winter storm/weather factor is of no concern in Miami. The Dolphins have lost 3 games in a row and need to turn things around now if they want to remain playoff relevant. The Packers are still mathematically alive in the NFC playoff picture but let me just say they do not control their run to a playoff berth. I smell a shootout here; I think this game will go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.
(Sun) Broncos – 2.5 at Rams (36.5): Back in May, this looked like a great game to show on Christmas Day; now that the game is 2 days in the future, not so much; both sides have been eliminated from the playoffs; this is a game between also-rans. The spread opened with the Rams as a 1-point favorite, but it bounced to the Broncos’ side quickly and has opened up to this level during the week. Go and enjoy Christmas dinner with family and friends and do not worry about recording this game; it doesn’t matter.
(Sun Nite) Bucs – 9 at Cards (40): The Cards will start their #3 QB for this game, Trace McSorley. He finished the game last week against the Broncos when #2 QB, Colt Mccoy, suffered a concussion.
This game would have been the Dog-Breath Game of the Week had it not lost/won a coin flip here in Curmudgeon Central with the Saints/Browns game.
(Mon Nite) Chargers – 4.5 at Colts (45.5): The Chargers arrive at the kickoff with a final drive victory last week. The Colts arrive at the kickoff after setting the all-time NFL standard for a come-from-ahead loss. The Chargers are the better team and should be in a better frame of mind.
So, let me review this week’s abbreviated Six-Pack:
And here are three Money Line Parlays for this week:
Finally, since I quoted from two songs today, let me close with two music-related definitions from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Karaoke: A once-in-a-lifetime chance for lonely, untalented people to be even more sad and pitiable than they are in everyday life.”
“Kiss: A1970s glitter rock band featuring men in elaborate make-up and black spandex that gave a generation of antisocial cretins permission to rock out.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
Franco Harris passed away earlier this week approximately 48 hours before the 50th anniversary of his “Immaculate Reception”. Harris is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was an enthusiastic and articulate ambassador for the NFL and for football as a sport. He was selected for the Pro Bowl 9 times in his career and was part of the 4 Super Bowl Championships won by the Steelers in the 1970s. When he retired, Harris led the NFL in rushing – – including the approximately 1500 yards he gained in playoff games.
Rest in peace, Franco Harris.
Yesterday, I mentioned the major change in the way MLB games are played/managed these days which makes a complete game by a starting pitcher a rarity. That prompted an email from a reader with the following supporting evidence:
“An interesting bit of data: Since 2000 only one MLB pitcher has more than 10 complete games in a season (James Shields in 2011). The last pitcher to have 20 or more complete games in a season was Fernando Valenzuela in 1986. Phil Niekro had 20+ complete games three consecutive seasons (1977-1979). In 2022, Sandy Alcantara lead the majors with six and that was double the second most.”
In another baseball happening, the Mets signed free agent shortstop, Carlos Correa, to a deal reportedly worth $315M over the next 12 years. I have not found the breakdown of how that money will be paid out yet but let me assume as an approximation that it will be paid out as a flat sum; Correa will make $26.25M per year. Prior to that signing, reports said that the Mets’ payroll in 2023 was going to be $345M and with baseball’s “Competitive Balance Tax, Mets’ owner was going to be on the hook for approximately $420M just for the 2023 season. Add in the Correa deal and the salary commitment goes up to 371.25 and with the added Competitive Balance Tax, the total cost is approximately $460M.
Shed no tears for owner, Steve Cohen, he can afford it; Forbes says he is worth $17.5B. However, the Mets and the Pirates are both in the National League – -nominally as competitors. There are a bunch of players on the Pirates who are eligible for arbitration this offseason so the best one can do now is to estimate the Pirates’ payroll for 2023. Spotrac.com does that sort of thing and their estimate for the 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates’ payroll is $58M.
I find it difficult to look at those data and then conclude that the competition in the National League next year will be on a level playing field. I certainly do not begrudge the Mets’ players for negotiating big deals for themselves; I have no quarrel with how Steve Cohen chooses to spend his money; I recognize the Pirates’ owner, Robert Nutting, cannot commit to those sorts of salary levels for the Pirates. There are no “evil manipulations” at work here; yet, the idea of the level playing field for a major league baseball season in 2023 is more than “juuust a bit outside…” [Hat Tip to Bob Uecker as Harry Doyle]
Moving on … Recall back when NFL teams were in Training Camp, the Bills had a rookie punter, Matt Araiza in camp. A woman filed a civil lawsuit against Araiza accusing him and two other men who were teammates with Araiza on the San Diego State football team of gang raping her when she was 17 years old. The woman named three assailants but alleged that she could have been raped by as many as 20 men. That was a sufficiently lurid and horrid accusation that the Bills released Araiza almost immediately despite having spent a 6th round draft pick on him.
Araiza denied the allegations – as one should expect – and the case was turned over to the San Diego police and district attorney’s office. Earlier in December they announced that no criminal charges would be filed in this matter.
“Ultimately, prosecutors determined it is clear the evidence does not support the filing of criminal charges and there is no path to a potential criminal conviction.”
Araiza’s lawyer said that these allegations were a “shakedown” from the start. Araiza says he is excited to get on with his NFL career. The woman’s lawyer had a very different view of this situation:
“I’m not surprised. The police rarely pay much attention to cases where the victim is intoxicated. Here, the police made it clear in January 2022 that they weren’t interested in the case. They made that clear by ghosting my client and keeping her in the dark. It was only the media attention that caused the police to commence a dog and pony show long enough for them to say they conducted a thorough investigation.”
I will be interested to see if the Bills – – or some other NFL team – – sign Araiza based on this decision by the authorities in San Diego or if they might wait for an outcome from that civil lawsuit that was filed, and which kicked this snowball down the hill in the first place.
Finally, since part of today’s rant dealt with police investigations and the like, let me close with this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times – – prior to his retirement:
“Dutch and Belgian police raided 24 farms in what DutchNews.nl called a major case of ‘manure management fraud’ — that is, piling on much more fertilizer than allowed.
“The farmers face possible charges of document fraud and conducting a boxing news conference without a license.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
I received two emails recently from folks who know that I like sports trivia and statistical oddities. The first was from #2 son:
“Hey dad, here’s a fun trivia fact for the Curmudgeon:
The fastest player in NHL history to reach 1000 points was, of course, Wayne Gretzky. He did it in just 424 games!
Who was the second fastest to 1000 points?…
I thought about it and reasoned that it had to be a younger player because scoring in hockey 50-70 years ago was much lower than it is now. So, I thought Mario Lemieux or Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby. Turns out this is the answer:
“Answer: Technically, it was Wayne Gretzky again. He did it in his next 433 games! 😲”
So now you know that one… And a couple of days later I received another email from a friend with the following question:
What Hall of Fame player had a season with more than 600 at-bats where he had more triples than strikeouts?
My immediate thought was Joe DiMaggio because it seemed as if he never struck out and he hit with power and was fast on the bases. Seemed logical so off went that response – – which of course was wrong. The answer is:
As I said, my response to this question was Joe DiMaggio so I decided to check out the career strikeout records for Musial and DiMaggio.
Baseball is a very different game in 2022; highly sought-after players strike out 150 times in a season. There are myriad reasons for the change and one of the reasons is that there has been a complete change in the way managers handle their pitching staffs and their bullpen. When Gaylord Perry died a few weeks ago, one of the reports about his career had this comparison in it:
“Perry completed 303 games. The next pitcher to match that could be current career leader Adam Wainwright, age 41, who plans to retire after the 2023 season. Adam has 28. …”
Wainwright’s 28 complete games in a career that has spanned all or part of 17 seasons so far and has caused him to start 390 games needs to be juxtaposed to another MLB statistic from times past.
Indeed, as Bob Dylan reminds us, the time’s they are a-changin’…
Since today’s rant has been based on email exchanges, let me continue along that path with another one from Gregg Drinnan – – author and creator of the blog, Keeping Score which you can find here. I had asked him recently about the CFL expansion team that had been planned for the Maritime Provinces in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Atlantic Schooners got caught up in the COVID confusion of 2020 and I had heard nothing about any plans to revive interest in a team further east in Canada beyond Montreal.
I got an email from Gregg Drinnan yesterday with a link to an event called Touchdown Atlantic 2023. The CFL will play a regular season game in July 2023 at a college football stadium in Halifax. I did not realize that they did that last season as well, but the report on Touchdown Atlantic 2023 indicates that they did. Perhaps the idea of an eastern expansion for the CFL is still alive – – possibly on life support but still among us.
Doing a bit of reading on the matter, it seems that there is not sufficient political support in Halifax for the expenditure to build a stadium there to house a CFL team permanently. Halifax is a city with a population of about 420,000 and it appears to be the largest Canadian city east of Quebec. [Aside: The college football stadium for Touchdown Atlantic 2023 has a seating capacity of 1100; clearly that is not a permanent home for a CFL franchise.] Evidently, people involved in the expansion planning also considered building a stadium in Moncton, New Brunswick to no avail. That may have been a blessing in disguise for a putative expansion team because the population of Moncton is only 75,000 people and the greater metro area there has only about 150,000 people.
Many years ago, my long-suffering wife and I took a driving vacation in eastern Canada that took us to Moncton and to Halifax, but it was sufficiently long ago that I did not recall if the two cities were close enough such that a stadium in one of the cities might be supported by a significant number of fans from the other city. Thanks to Google Maps, I think the answer to that speculation is – – Unlikely. The driving distance is 243 km (about 145 miles), and the driving time is 2 hours and 51 minutes – – one-way.
I am certainly no expert on Canadian Football economics, but it appears to me that if there is going to be a CFL team in “Atlantic Canada” – however you draw the boundaries on that area of the map – it is going to be in the greater Halifax area if it is going to have a chance to survive.
Finally, since today’s rant centered on email exchanges, let me close with this observation by Judith Martin – – perhaps more widely known as “Miss Manners”:
“For email, the old postcard rule applies. Nobody else is supposed to read your postcards, but you’d be a fool if you wrote anything private on one.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
On the Chinese calendar, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. Those versed in the astrological arts say that this Year of the Tiger should be associated with enthusiasm, adventure and risk-taking; it is also a year that favors creativity. Chinese astrology would encourage folks to live out the Year of the Tiger in 2022 aligned with the motto:
I am not into astrology, so I just look at things as they are and try to see if there is a theme or a trend in my “data”. Coming from that starting point, I am here to declare that, in the NFL, this is the Year of the Bargain-Basement QB.
There is a cadre of very expensive QBs in the league who have under-performed their previous achievements and who have not played up to the cost they have imposed on their teams. In alphabetical order:
The combined team records for these 7 QBs is 35-61-2. Some of those QBs have been injured so their combined record as the starting QB for 2022 is 29-54-1. Unimpressive…
However, the obverse seems also to be true in 2022. There are also stone-cold bargains at the QB position who are producing results for their teams that are superior to the results above.
The combined record for these teams is an impressive 61-35-1 and in games started by those 7 “bargain QBs” the team record is 59-29-1.
I could also argue that the Niners have started 3 different QBs on their way to a division title that is already secured in 2022 and all those QBs could be considered a bargain using the yardstick of the five “expensive QBs” listed above. Moreover, the Jets have managed to remain “playoff-relevant” here in mid-December having started a trio of QBs who would also qualify as bargains there.
Let me be clear; I am not saying that “expensive QBs” don’t make sense for NFL teams because Patrick Mahomes is “expensive”, and he wins games for the Chiefs. Dak Prescott is “expensive”, and he wins games for the Cowboys. Kirk Cousins is “expensive”, and he wins games for the Vikes.
Moreover, it seems clear to me that at a minimum, Burrow, Herbert and Hurts will join the list of “expensive” QBs in the near future and perhaps Tua and the “Jones boys” will do so also. However, the NFL should look back on 2022 as the Year of the Bargain-Basement QB just as the devotees of Chinese Astrology will see it as the Year of the Tiger.
Finally, since today had to do with astrology – – obliquely to be sure – – let me close with two observations about astrology:
“I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re skeptical.” [Arthur C. Clarke]
“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” [John Kenneth Galbraith]
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
Argentina beat France on penalty kicks to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup yesterday. Regulation time ended with the teams level at 2-2; in the 30-minute overtime, each team scored once sending the game to a penalty kick decision. Argentina made all four of its tries;
France made only 2 so that ended the match and allowed Lionel Messi to claim the only honor/trophy that had eluded him in his illustrious career. If you watched this game and came away from it with the idea that it was not a good expenditure of your time, then you simply do not like soccer and should make a note to yourself not to waste any more time trying to appreciate the sport.
Messi scored two of Argentina’s goals and assisted on the third; the other superstar in the game, Kylian Mbappe, scored all three of France’s goals before the penalty kick phase began. Each superstar went first in penalty kicks for his side, and each converted to begin that round. Each one demonstrated his greatness in this game. In a way, it could be that this game was a passing of the torch from Messi to Mbappe as the best player of this time. Lionel Messi is 35 years old; this is his last FIFA World Cup appearance. Kylian Mbappe will be 24 years old tomorrow and will likely be a fixture in future World Cup tournaments for the next dozen years or so. Perhaps the two players might meet once again in the Olympics in 2024? If not, this World Cup Final game was a satisfactory punctuation mark for the two careers.
The “Final Four” for the World Cup had one other dramatic element. The Moroccan team was the first African team and the first team from an Arab nation to make it that far in any World Cup tournament. Morocco made it to the “Final Four” with surprising wins over both Spain and Portugal; the Moroccan side was a significant underdog in both games. Their history-setting run in the tournament ended in the semi-finals when France beat Morocco 2-0.
The World Cup Tournament began just before Thanksgiving; the last four weeks have produced plenty of upbeat news in the world of futbol, but the last four weeks have not been nearly so kind to the image/legacy of another great player, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo’s days in soccer are not over; he may not be part of the English Premier League nor any of the other major soccer entities in Europe, but he is not finished in the soccer world. Ronaldo signed a lucrative contract with Al-Nasr FC, a team in the top league of Saudi Arabia; reports say the deal could pay him up to $207M per year. Reports say the deal covers two and a half years making it worth something north of $500M. Some reports say that this deal is part of a grand plan by sports authorities in Saudi Arabia to focus attention there so that perhaps Saudi Arabia could host a future FIFA World Cup Tournament
Prior to yesterday’s World Cup Final game, I read a report that said the only way FIFA might avoid a controversy regarding the officiating in the game would be to assign a referee from England to the game. The reasoning is that the English hate both the French and the Argentinians equally so there would be no “apparent conflict of interest” in the calls made in the game. As it turned out, there was no great controversy on that front during or after the game other than the normal histrionics and gesticulations of the players and coaches as is customary in any soccer match.
Finally, let me close today with an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Left: 1. A sociopolitical stance that leans toward the liberal often adopted by movie stars who make so much money that they will never have to mix with the proletariat scum they claim to champion. 2. A turn signal that remains in a constant ON position in cars driven by anyone over sixty-five.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
In Willie Nelson’s September Song, he tells us that the says dwindle down to a precious few in September and November. For NFL teams, they can wait until the middle of December to think their future consists of just a few days. And here we are with only a handful of Football Fridays before we bid adieu to just over half of the NFL…
As always, let me begin with a review of last week’s abbreviated Six-Pack.
I have glanced at this week’s set of NFL games and there will not be six selections again this week. Next year, I will have to come up with a different label for selections.
College Football Commentary:
Immediately after Navy lost to Army in double OT last week, the Academy fired its coach, Ken Niumatalolo. He had been the head coach at the Naval Academy for 15 seasons and posted a combined record there of 109-83 and taking the Midshipmen to bowl games in 10 of those 15 seasons. It will be interesting to me to see:
The reason for the second question is that Niumatalolo’s offensive philosophy has been to run the triple option. Given the rosters he has had at the Academy, that makes a lot of sense; the coaches at Army and at Air Force do the same thing. However, I just cannot see an SEC or Big-10 team turning to the triple option as their bread-and-butter offense any time soon. And I say that fully recalling the success that Paul Johnson had employing the triple option at Georgia Tech recently.
To say that Bobby Petrino has had a “checkered history” in terms of college coaching would be an understatement – – but his teams at Louisville and at Arkansas played good offense. Petrino has gotten another chance to do some college coaching this month albeit not as a head coach; it has been announced that he will be going to UNLV as the offensive coordinator there. Maybe that is a steppingstone to get him back into a head coaching job? Petrino is 61 years old; so, if he aspires to another head coaching gig in Division 1-A, it is important for him to be successful with the UNLV offense in the next year or two.
College Football Games of Interest:
This is the season of MINOR bowl games involving teams that often inspire a reaction along the lines of Meh! There are certainly no games worthy of a wager over the next week or so, but there are two games that are worth a glance.
(Sat 12/17) Rice vs So. Mississippi – 6.5 (45.5): This is the Lending Tree Bowl; if you cannot give a rapid synopsis of the proud history of this game, you are not alone. For this year’s contest, if Rice manages to win, both teams will have a losing record for 2022.
(Mon 12/19) UConn vs Marshall – 10 (41): This is the Myrtle Beach Bowl; I suspect you can deduce from that where the game will take place. The game is interesting because UConn is taking part in a bowl game for the first time since 2015. And in the years from 2016 through 2021 when UConn was not bowl-eligible, the combined record for the Huskies was 10-50.
Am I the only person who thinks Sean Payton is “not good at all” on TV as a pre-game/post-game analyst? I sure hope he gets a good offer to return to the NFL sidelines next year so that he does not feel as if he should return to the TV gig. I know that Bill Parcels was good in the TV studio and that Payton is a “Parcels disciple”, but that Parcels-trait did not convey during the two coaches’ time together.
Speaking of coaches getting job offers, Jeff Saturday has let it be known that he would like to stay on as the permanent head coach for the Colts starting in 2023. And that presents an interesting situation.
The fact of the matter is that Rooney Rule – well-intentioned as it is – will not solve the problem of ”fewer Black head coaches in the NFL” than some folks believe ought to be in those positions. Let me pose a hypothetical here:
I have heard the arguments about percentage of Black players in the league not mirroring the percentage of Black head coaches in the league for years. Anyone who cannot/will not see that disparity is either so self-absorbed that he/she cannot get outside himself/herself to think about the ramifications of such a situation or that person simply believes that he/she knows best what is best for them and does not want any outside interference with their actions. Until and unless the membership in the cadre of NFL owners changes to the point where more owners are willing to consider hiring minority candidates for the high-paid job of coaching their football teams, the Rooney Rule – and any amendments that might be made to it – will be a fig leaf and nothing more.
In a report that surfaced yesterday, it seems that the NFL might be amenable to making roughing the passer calls reviewable. According to Troy Vincent, the Competition Committee will take up this matter when it meets in the offseason to make rule change recommendations to the owners who make the decision(s). Sounds like a good idea except possibly for these two things:
Russell Wilson is on record saying that he would like to continue playing until he is 45 years old like Tom Brady. Wilson turned 34 years old just a couple weeks ago so he says he would like to play for another 11 seasons. I do not blame Wilson alone for the Broncos’ lack of ability to score in 2022 – – but he is part of the problem. It appears to me that his career may have peaked, and the arc now is a downward one. And if that is indeed the case, he will NOT be around in the NFL as a player 11 years from now.
As the regular season comes to an end, it becomes a bit easier to look at upcoming schedules to find key games or potentially key happenings. Here are two scheduling observations:
Interesting stat of the week here:
In games from last weekend…
Ravens 16 Steelers 14: I said last week this game would be an alley fight. Both starting QBs left the game in the concussion protocol. To give you an idea of how badly the Steelers wanted to give this game away, here are the results of the Steelers’ possessions from the start of the second quarter to the end of the 3rd quarter:
And the Steelers only lost by 2 points…! Those 3 INTs were thrown by Mitchell Trubisky after he entered the game when Kenny Pickett left in the concussion protocol. There is an interesting angle in that happenstance. Earlier this season, Pickett replaced Trubisky in a game and Pickett went ahead to throw 3 INTs in that game. I think Mike Tomlin should worry if he is forced to substitute Mason Rudolph for one of his other QBs anytime in the rest of this season. By the way, the Ravens ran the ball 42 times in the game gaining 215 yards in the process.
Bengals 23 Browns 10: The Bengals and Ravens have the same record, but the Ravens are undefeated in the division and the Bengals record there is 2-3. The Browns are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet, but that status will come soon. The arrival of Deshaun Watson was not nearly as tectonic an event as some had imagined. The Bengals had been giving up more than 20 points per game going into this one and the Browns only managed to score 10 points.
Cowboys 27 Texans 23: It took a heroic goal line stand and then a 98-yard TD drive in the final 3 minutes of the game for the Cowboys to pull this out. Talk about playing down to the level of one’s competition… The narrative for the game is that it was “The Battle for Texas” and that reminds me of a remark made by US Army General Philip Sheridan:
“If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.”
Jags 36 Titans 22: I said last week that these two teams were unpredictable. I doubt that many computer simulations had the Jags winning by 2 TDs AND that the Total Score would be in the high-50s. The Titans lead the AFC South with a 7-6 record, but they have now lost 3 games in a row. The Jags produced 428 yards on offense including 368 yards passing. Compare that offensive performance by the Jags with how the Titans delivered on offense in the third quarter of the game. The Titans led at halftime 14-13; the Jags scored 13 points in the third quarter while the Titans’ offense was doing this:
Lions 34 Vikes 23: Talk about an unbalanced offense:
The Lions produced 464 yards on offense and did not allow a sack on 39 pass attempts. The Lions are hot; they have won 5 of their last 6 games. The Lions are playing a “meaningful game in December. “ Most teams want to play meaningful games in January but since the Lions have been a doormat for so long, let me consider that they are taking baby steps toward a situation where they can aspire to something bigger and better.
Bills 20 Jets 12: A slick field and bad weather meant points were at a premium in this game. The Bills’ defense rose up and recorded 4 sacks in the game, created 2 turnovers and ended the game by forcing 4 straight incomplete passes by Jets’ QB Mike White. The Bills now lead the AFC East by 2 full games.
Eagles 48 Giants 22: I said last week that I thought the Total Line for the game (44.5 points) was too low. I was right, but I never thought the game would go OVER in the third quarter nor that the Eagles would take the game OVER the Total Line by themselves. Since losing to the Commanders, the Eagles are averaging 41 points per game and 5.3 sacks per game on defense. In this game the Eagles averaged 9.3 yards per rushing attempt; the game was never seriously in doubt.
Chiefs 34 Broncos 28: The Broncos finally found ways to score – – but the Chiefs found more ways to score. The loss puts the Broncos in the same category as the Texans – – eliminated from the AFC playoffs this year. The Chiefs led 27-0 in the second quarter, but the Broncos closed it to 27-21 late in the 3rd quarter. The Broncos’ defense intercepted Patrick Mahomes 3 times in the game.
Panthers 30 Seahawks 24: If the Seahawks miss the playoffs, they will look back at this game and see the cause of their disappointment. The Panthers held the ball for 39:16 in the game producing these numbers:
Two INTs thrown by Geno Smith sealed the deal here…
Niners 35 Bucs 7: The Niners are large and in charge of the NFC West having won 6 games in a row. The Niners gashed the Bucs’ defense in the running game:
The Niners led 35-0 soon after halftime and took their foot off the gas pedal and coasted to this victory.
Chargers 23 Dolphins 17: This was a big win for the Chargers keeping them very much alive in the AFC playoff race, and it was a big loss for the Dolphins who are now 2 games behind the Bills in the AFC East race. From the stat sheet, you would have thought this game should be a blowout:
And yet, it went down to the end as a one-possession game…
NFL Games This Week:
No more BYE Weeks for this regular season; each weekend will have a full slate of 16 games from here until January 8, 2023.
In last night’s game, the Niners beat the Seahawks for their 7th win in a row to clinch the NFC West race and assure the Niners a spot in the playoffs. As a division winner, the Niners will host at least one playoff game. The score of the game – – 21-13 – – makes it appear that this was a nail-biter; it was not. The Niners’ defense had control as seen by:
Moreover, in the 4th quarter when the Seahawks got the ball in good field position, the defense caused an intentional grounding penalty on first down costing the Seahawks 13 yards and stifling any threat. The Niners are going to be a tough out in the playoffs.
(Sat 1:00 PM ET) Colts at Vikes – 4 (47.5): The Vikes are not as good as their 10-3 record makes then look; the Colts may or may not be as bad as their 4-8-1 record makes them look. Both teams played terribly the last time they were on the field; that was two weeks ago for the Colts who had last week off. I don’t know who the announcing crew is for this game, but I beg them not to try to make any cute references to Jeff Saturday’s team playing on a Saturday.
(Sat 4:30 PM ET) Ravens at Browns – 3 (38): Ravens’ QB Tyler Huntley has cleared the concussion protocol, but he did not practice this week. Lamar Jackson’s knee is “week-to-week” according to coach John Harbaugh; I doubt that Jackson will see the field on Saturday. So, who will be the QB for the Ravens? Deshaun Watson will be starting his 3rd game for the Browns; he has looked awfully rusty in those first two games and the Ravens’ defense is for real.
(Sat 8:15 PM ET) Dolphins at Bills – 7 (44): The Total Line for this game opened at 47 points and has dropped significantly from there. Weather.com says there is a 58% chance of snow on Saturday and that temperatures will be below freezing for most or all of this game. I am going to call this the Game of the Week because a Bills’ win would give then a guaranteed playoff slot and it would help secure for the team the coveted BYE Week in the playoffs. The Dolphins are chasing the Bills in the AFC East race, but they are only a game ahead of both the Jets and the Pats; they need this game too. This is a “show-me game” for Tua. He was terrible last week, and he has not done well in cold weather games. Also, this is the third road game in a row for the Dolphins and that is never easy for any team let alone one that has lost the first two legs of that road game span. Tua needs a bounce-back game in the cold/snow here. I’m not buying it; I like the Bills at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.
Falcons at Saints – 4 (44): Since the Falcons are only a game behind the Bucs in the NFC South, you might try to convince yourself that this is an important game. It is not. Even the Falcons’ braintrust does not think so; they have decided to switch out QBs for this game showing what they think of it and their chances beyond it. Desmond Ridder will be the Falcons’ QB; I will not be surprised to see him have an adrenaline-fueled strong game that will convince the coaches to keep him in there – – until he regresses to the mean for rookie QBs in a week or two.
Lions at Jets – 1.5 (44.5): If there was any measurable amount of sentimentality here in Curmudgeon Central, this would be the Game of the Week. Think about it; both the Detroit Lions and the NY Jets are going to play a game with significant playoff implications for both the winner and the loser in the second week of December. Please do not tell me you had that back in August… The path to the playoffs for the Lions is to run the table; that would give then 10 wins and that is virtually certain to get them into post season play. The Jets probably have a little more leeway here; they could get to 10 wins by going 3-1 down the stretch – – but they end the year with two consecutive road games, so they do not want to “spend” that loss here.
Chiefs – 14 at Texans (49): I suspect that the Texans’ emotional energy was sapped on that final possession against the Cowboys. With first and goal at the two yardline and a chance to make it a two-score game with about 3 minutes to play, the Texans tried four times and got a net of about 12 inches. The Chiefs had a big lead on the Broncos and almost gave it away; I am certain the Chiefs’ coaches let the team know about that this week. I think this game will be in the bag by halftime.
Eagles – 9 at Bears (48.5): This is a Trap Game! Hear me out. Yes, the Eagles are 12-1 and the Bears are already eliminated from the playoffs. Yes, if everyone were to play to the top of the ability on Sunday, the Eagles would win the game. However, there are two negatives here for the Eagles:
One thing that is massively in favor of the Eagles is that the Bears’ defense gives up points galore – – 25.6 points per game the fourth most in the league. Even though I realize it is perfectly possible that the Eagles could win this game 42-10, there is no way I would bet on that or anything close to that happening.
Steelers at Panthers – 3 (38.5): A Steelers’ loss here will guarantee that Mike Tomlin will have his first losing season ever in Pittsburgh. With Kenny Pickett in the concussion protocol for the second time this season, the Steelers are faced with the choice of Mitchell Trubisky or Mason Rudolph at QB. That is not a good position to be in. the Steelers could not stop the Ravens’ run attack last week (see above) and the Panthers won last week by running the ball 46 times (see above again). This is a gut-check game for the Steelers front-7 on defense.
Cowboys – 4 at Jags (47.5): These lines have moved a lot this week; the spread opened at 6.5 points and the Total Line opened at 45 points. The Jags are a whimsical team from week to week; the Cowboys got a huge scare from a 1-win team last week. I expect the Cowboys to be focused in this week and – – who knows how the Jags will play? I do expect the Jags to be involved in a high-scoring affair for two reasons:
I like this game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.
Cards at Broncos – 3 (37): This game opened the week as a ‘pick ‘em game”. I guess the movement has been due to the certainty that Kyler Murray will not play in the game – – even though that seemed pretty certain to me last week. It is not yet clear if Russell Wilson can play this week as he was in the concussion protocol last week; if he cannot go it will be Brett Rypien facing off against Colt McCoy. That ought to get at least a; dozen folks to tune in. None of this makes a difference; this is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. The two teams bring a combined record of 7-19 to the kickoff. As far as I am concerned, the most interesting aspect of this game is this:
Titans at Chargers – 3 (46.5): I anoint this as the runner-up Game of the Week losing out by a nose. The Titans have lost 3 games in a row and have looked bad in each game; nonetheless, they still lead their division race by two full games; keep that in mind as you assess the powerhouse AFC South Division. The Chargers rebounded from a loss to the Raiders two weeks ago to beat the Dolphins in a gutsy game. This is an important game for both teams
Bengals – 3.5 at Bucs (44): This is also an important game for both teams; the Bengals need a win to keep marching toward a division title; same goes for the Bucs. Until last week, the Bucs’ defense kept the team in games until the offense found a way to move the ball a bit; last week, the defense was a no-show, and the result was a laugher. Oh, but it was also a laugher because the Bucs’ offense was also a no-show. I think the Bengals are putting it together for a stretch run and a playoff run; I don’t think the Bucs can keep pace here; give me the Bengals to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.
Pats at Raiders – 1 (44): The narrative here is pupil going up against his teacher. The last time Josh McDaniels faced Bill Belichick; it was McDaniels who came away with the win. I suspect that coach Belichick recalls that outcome too. There is an interesting matchup here beyond the coach and his pupil:
(Sun Nite) Giants at Commanders – 4 (40): This game is a combination of a division game along with a disastrous consequence for the losing team as it relates to the playoffs. The teams have identical records and they played to a70-minute tie game just two weeks ago. So how come this is not the Game of the Week? Well, if you had to watch that game from two weeks ago because it was the one piped into your viewing area, you would realize that one element for “Game of the Week status” was missing and that missing element was competent play on both sides of the ball by both teams. What I am rooting for here is another tie game between the teams; it has to have been a while since that happened in the NFL…
(Mon Nite) Rams at Packers – 7 (39.5): If I asked 50 NFL fans to list the 5 most disappointing teams so far in 2022, I am confident that both the Rams and the Packers would be on 40 or more on every one of those lists. The two teams have combined for 9 wins so far this year; lots of folks would have thought that at least one of these teams would enter this matchup with 9 wins all by themselves – – and maybe both teams would have such a record. Baker Mayfield’s arrival in LA makes for a nice story but the real story of this game is that neither defense is playing well. This game will be played in typical weather for Green Bay in December; the high for Monday is forecast to be a balmy 19 degrees with a low at night of 7 degrees.
So, let me review the depleted Six-Pack for this week:
And here are two Money Line Parlays for fun:
Finally, let me close this lengthy piece with an observation by Woody Allen:
“I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
With the Philadelphia Eagles having the best record in the NFL at this point of the season, there has been a lot of reporting/analysis on how they achieved that lofty status. The Eagles’ GM, Howie Roseman has been the subject of several pieces recently as a key contributor to the team’s success due to his successful use of trades and draft choices to provide talent to the coaching staff. Back on Draft Day this year, Roseman orchestrated a trade with the Titans to acquire WR, AJ Brown and that acquisition has paid plenty of dividends to this point in the 2022 season. Consider Brown’s stats through the first 13 games:
So, the focus on Roseman’s acumen in making that trade is well earned – – but here in Curmudgeon Central, there is a recognition that a great deal for Team A often accompanies a bad deal for Team B. Moreover, there is a need here in Curmudgeon Central to maintain a certain measure of stature in the unofficial Congress of Curmudgeons. Therefore, I tend to focus on things like:
Since QB is the “most important” position on a team, my thinking turned to moves involving QBs and there was a clear-cut winner for worst move involving a QB:
In 13 games this year, Wilson has not provided much offensive firepower; the Broncos have only scored 194 points in those games – – 14.9 points per game. In fact, last season the Broncos averaged 19.7 points per game and the consensus was that level of output was unsatisfactory.
Two other QB-related moves came to my mind, however. The Commanders spent far less draft capital and no players from their NFL roster to acquire Carson Wentz from the Colts. That move by the Commanders has not have any more on-field success than the Broncos trade has, but the Commanders did not mortgage their future in the deal. But there was another move that has not gotten much scrutiny that was – – simply stated – – a bad decision.
Looking back, Winston suffered a major knee injury that limited him to 7 games in 2021. And in 2020, he only saw the field in 4 games – – none as the starter. Add in the fact that in 2019 he led the NFL in passing yards (5106 yards) and at the end of the year, the Bucs moved on from him. So how did 2022 pan out for the Saints and Winston?
The Saints’ Front Office has not figured out a way to replace the retired Drew Brees at QB since the end of the 2020 season. In addition to Winston and Dalton, add Taysom Hill to the equation and ask how a team that finished 9-8 last year could decide to “stand pat” at QB with that trio? That decision was not as bad as the ones made by the Broncos and the Commanders because it only cost the Saints Winston’s salary money; there were no draft picks or players lost. But essentially, the Saints just kicked the can down the road in terms of finding a “centerpiece QB.”
Now, of course, the saving grace might be that a bad finish for 2022 would put the Saints in an excellent position to draft their “QB-of-the-future”; as of this morning the Saints would own the #5 pick in 2023. But there is a rub…
By the way, the person who made that trade for the Eagles is Howie Roseman. It certainly seems as if Howie Roseman had a couple of smart moves back on Draft Day 2022…
Finally, since today was focused on successes and failures, let me close with this observation by Joseph Heller:
“Success and failure are both difficult to endure. Along with success come drugs, divorce, fornication, bullying, travel, medication, depression, neurosis and suicide. With failure comes failure.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
The 1983 NFL Draft was THE Year of the Quarterback. Six QBs were taken in the first round of that Draft; three of those QBs are in the Hall of Fame – – John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. A fourth QB taken in that first round – – Tony Eason – – was the starting QB in Super Bowl XX. Not a bad talent pool …
I know it is far too early to evaluate the 2020 NFL Draft, but my far-too-early perspective is that there was also a deep pool of QB talent in that Draft. Consider:
I am absolutely not projecting three of the players above as Hall of Fame inductees and specifically, I am not saying that the 2020 NFL Draft will surpass the 1983 NF Draft in terms of producing outstanding QBs for the league. All I want to lay out there today is that four of those five young players are already very good at their craft and the fifth guy could be as good as his colleagues. We shall see…
That about ends the upbeat portion of today’s rant; from here on out, the subject matter is a lot darker. Let me begin with a report from earlier this week that Texas basketball coach, Chris Beard, was arrested on charges of domestic violence and has been suspended by the university without pay “until further notice”. According to an ESPN report, a woman identifying herself as Beard’s fiancée said that he bit her and choked her as the result of an argument between the two parties. Because of the allegation of choking, the charge here could be a felony under Texas law and could result in a sentence of up to 10 years in jail. The situation is clearly not a good one – – but there are some unusual aspects here.
The woman who was on the receiving end of the alleged biting/choking said that her part in the argument included “breaking a glass” and that act preceded Beard losing control. Beard and his attorney claim that they have an “audio recording” of the alleged assault that shows it was not Beard who was the “primary aggressor” in that contretemps. Beard was released on bail and ordered to stay away from the residence where this allegedly happened – – no surprise there. But the real surprise for me comes from a statement by Beard’s lawyer that the complainant wants the charges dropped.
There is another story out there that was sleazy to begin with and seems to get worse with every new report is the involvement of Brett Favre in a scheme to divert government funds intended for impoverished families into funds to pay for a volleyball venue as Southern Mississippi where Favre went to college and where his daughter was/is a member of the volleyball team. At first, it appeared that Favre had merely lent his fame/celebrity status in that part of the world to an endeavor that he thought was on the up-and-up, but which turned out to be dastardly at best. The Mississippi Department of Human Services is seeking in court to recover funds from Favre and from others allegedly involved in this scheme and Favre’s lawyers seek to have him removed as a defendant there.
According to that motion, Favre asserts that this misappropriation of government funds was done by folks in the government and that he – as a private citizen – was in no position to effect such a misappropriation. The former head of the Mississippi Department of Human Services has already plead guilty to charges related to this fraud and Favre’s lawyers say the lion’s share of the blame belongs to former Mississippi governor, Phil Bryant and other government officials. As various parties to all this squalor present arguments in the case, it turns out that Favre was also involved in an effort to build a “football facility” at Southern Mississippi in 2019 as part of a recruiting effort for Deion Sanders’ son, Shadeur Sanders, to go there.
As they say in those 3:00 AM infomercials:
“But wait; there’s more…”
Another ESPN report says that Favre is a major investor in two Florida drug companies that are somehow “enmeshed” in the Mississippi welfare funds misappropriation case; Favre asserts that he invested his own funds in these speculative enterprises. The two drug companies are researching a nasal spray to help treat concussions and a cream that would prevent/limit concussions. Somehow, authorities allege that welfare funds from Mississippi wound up in the hands of the funder of those two drug companies. The ESPN report on all this was done by investigative reporter, Mark Fainaru-Wada. It is a lengthy report that describes a situation which can best be labeled as “sordid”. Here is a link to that report; be sure you have a cup of coffee near at hand as you wade through it.
Finally, the allegations surrounding the welfare funds fraud in Mississippi lead me to close today with this observation about government by H. L. Mencken:
“Has the art of politics no apparent utility? Does it appear to be unqualifiedly ratty, raffish, sordid, obscene, and low down, and its salient virtuosi a gang of unmitigated scoundrels? Then let us not forget its high capacity to soothe and tickle the midriff, its incomparable services as a maker of entertainment.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………