Football Friday 12/16/22

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.

  • College = 0-0-0                                   Season Total = 20-12-0
  • NFL = 3-0-0                                         Season Total = 18-19-3
  • Parlays = 0-2                                      Season Total = 7-20
  • Loss = minus-$200                            Season Total = minus-$58

            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:

  • Who takes the job in Annapolis – – AND – –
  • Does Niumatalolo get any offers from significant schools in this coach-hiring season?

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.


NFL Commentary:


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.

  • I have been amused by folks who want to say that hiring Saturday as the interim coach violated the Rooney Rule because if the Rooney Rule were to apply to that situation no coaches would be fired during the season.  It is unreasonable to expect an owner to be able to fly in and interview multiple candidates for a job after firing the incumbent coach on Monday morning as the team prepares for another game in 6 or 7 days.
  • However, now that Saturday has said he would like the job permanently, that makes for an interesting situation because if he indeed gets the job permanently, there will be cries that Saturday got an unfair advantage in the process because he got hired for the interim job without “competition” from Black assistant coaches in the league.

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:

  • The Carolina Panthers decide at the end of this regular season that Steve Wilks did a really good job as their interim coach and the owner has decided that he wants to hire Wilks permanently.  Wilks is a Black man; do other Black men have to go through a sham interview process?  Because if the answer to that question is negative, then why should any Black assistant coaches have to go through a sham interview process when/if any owner has decided that he wants to hire a White guy as his next coach?

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:

  1. This will cause more delays and interruptions in the game flow.  When those reviews happen, they will not be confined to a 30-second window; I will not be surprised to see some of them take close to 5 minutes before an official call is made.
  2. Remember how well it worked when the NFL made pass interference calls reviewable.  Yuck!  That abomination lasted all of one season before being rescinded.

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:

  1. The Ravens and the Bengals are both 9-4 in the AFC North race.  The Ravens beat the Bengals on October 9th, but the two teams will meet again in Cincy on January 8th in the final game of the regular season.
  2. The Tampa Bay Bucs lead the Panthers and the Falcons in the AFC South race by 1 game.  The Bucs have a tough game this week against a clearly motivated Cincy Bengals team (see above).  And then, the Bucs close with games against the Panthers on January 1st and then the Falcons on January 8th.

Interesting stat of the week here:

  • The Jags are 5-8-0 for the season and their point differential is ZERO.
  • The Raiders are 5-8-0 for the season and their point differential is minus-5.
  • Four other teams are 5-8-0 for the season and their point differentials range from minus- 23 to minus-39.
  • The Indy Colts are 4-8-1 for the season and their point differential is minus-89.

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:

  • 9 plays  47 yards  INT
  • 5 plays  52 yards  INT
  • 6 plays  27 yards  PUNT
  • 7 plays  43 yards  INT
  • 9 plays  46 yards  MISSED FIELD GOAL
      • [Aside:  All three INTs were in the Red Zone.  Yikes!]

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:

  • 3 plays for minus-20 yards leading to a PUNT
  • 3 plays for ZERO yards leading to a PUNT
  • 1 play for minus-6 yards leading to a LOST FUMBLE
  • That nets out to 7 plays for minus-26 yards with 2 punts and a lost fumble.

Lions 34  Vikes 23:  Talk about an unbalanced offense:

  • Vikes’ passing offense = 394 yards
  • Vikes’ rushing offense = 60 yards

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:

  • Panthers’ rushing offense = 223 yards (on 46 carries)
  • Panthers’ rushing first downs = 14

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:

  • Niners’ rushing offense = 209 yards (on 36 carries)
  • Niners’ rushing first downs = 12

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:

  • Chargers Total Offense = 432 yards
  • Dolphins Total Offense = 219 yards


  • Chargers Time of Possession =39:38
  • Dolphins Time of Possession = 20:22


  • Chargers Third Down Conversions = 9 of 18
  • Dolphins Third Down Conversions = 3 of 11


  • Justin Herbert stat line = 39 of 51 for 367 yards and 1 TD and 0 INTs
  • Tua Tagovailoa stat line = 10 of 28 for 145  yards and 1 TD and 0 INTs

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:

  • Seahawks were 4 of 13 on third-down conversions
  • Seahawks rushing offense = 70 yards

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. 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:

  1. Traditionally, the Eagles play down to the level of their opponents.  I will not be surprised at all to see the Eagles play sloppy football here and give the ball away on turnovers.
  2. The Eagles have had more difficulty defending mobile QBs as opposed to drop back QBs.  Justin Fields is a prototype mobile QB.

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:

  1. They have been far more efficient on offense in the past several games – – AND – –
  2. Their defense stinks meaning the Cowboys will also light up the scoreboard.

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:

  • Will the winning coach feel as if his hot seat has cooled off a tad?
  • Will the losing coach be fired in the locker room after the game so he can spend Christmas with his family?

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:

  • The Pats’ offense has sputtered this year and there has been plenty of scorn heaped on the offensive coaches.
  • The Raiders’ defense stinks – there is no polite way to put that.
  • So, which team deficiency will underwhelm the other this week?

(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:

  • Bills – 7 over Dolphins
  • Jags/Cowboys OVER 47.5 points
  • Bengals – 3.5 over Bucs

And here are two Money Line Parlays for fun:

  • Cowboys @ minus-200
  • Chargers @ minus-155                    To win $147

And …

  • Commanders @ minus-210
  • Bengals @ minus-190                      To win $125

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………



2 thoughts on “Football Friday 12/16/22”

  1. RE the continuing dust up regarding minority coaches in the NFL: I can’t help reflecting on the distant past when college teams for much of the country…not just the south…did not have black players and then one day they woke up and now you have teams…particularly in the south…with majority black rosters…my, my how times did change.

    So, now it seems that the management cadre of the NFL just can’t seem to recognize that the vast majority of their player personnel (past and present) are not white but are still unable to come around and reap the benefits of the rich minority talent that exists out there. Maybe one day…who knows?

    1. UNC-65:

      Welcome aboard…

      By the way, you graduated in the same year that I did – – so I too have seem how significantly times have changed.

      For the record, I continue to see sports as a meritocracy but that status is challenged in the NFL coaching ranks by a countervailing force. That force is the sense by the owners that they have to be among the smartest people on the planet – – because it had to be their acumen and insight that got them to the status they now enjoy. And in that situation, they take the position that they are going to hire – – and pay handsomely – – whomever they damned well choose to coach THEIR football teams. That is why I believe that until or unless there is a mindset change in that cadre of owners, this is a debate that will continue beyond my days on the planet.

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