Football Friday 12/23/22

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 = 0-0-0                                               Season Total = 20-12-0
  • NFL = 2-1-0                                                     Season Total = 20-20-3
  • Parlays = 0-2                                                  Season Total = 7-22
  • Loss = minus-$200                                        Season Total = minus-$258


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:

  • Navy is a member of the American Athletic Conference (AAC)
  • As part of the ongoing college football realignment processes, three teams are leaving the AAC for “greener pastures”.  Those schools are Cincy, Houston and UCF.
  • Meanwhile, six schools are joining the AAC next year.  Those schools are FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB, UNC-Charlotte and UTSA.
  • Not to put too fine a point on it, but the three departing programs tend to be better programs than the six arriving teams.

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.


NFL Commentary:


We are deep enough into the NFL season for me to make the following definitive statement:

  • The NFL Pre-game shows – – all of them without exception – – have become unwatchable.

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.

  • Memo to ALL the NFL Pregame Shows:  Just do what you know how to do.  Talk about football and analyze football.  That is what the network folks do in post-game shows, and it works.  Consider this comment by a real comedian, Jo Koy:

“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:

  • Falcons blow a 28-3 second-half lead against the Pats in Super Bowl LI
  • Colts give up 33 points in one quarter to the Cowboys
  • Colts squander a 33-point lead at halftime and lose to Vikes in OT

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:

  • 10 plays => MISSED FG
  • 11 plays => INT
  • 1 play => LOST FUMBLE
  • 6 plays => BLOCKED FG
  • 6 plays => TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 4 plays => TURNOVER ON DOWNS

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:

  • 13 of 26 for 97 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs.

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”:

  • 18 of 35 for 318 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT

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:

  • Chiefs’ Total Offense = 502 yards
  • Texans’ Total Offense = 219 yards

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:

  • 4 plays  1:29 time of possession  minus-1 yard  TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 5 plays  2:28 time of possession  15 yards  INT
  • 3 plays  0:46 time of possession  minus-8 yards  LOST FUMBLE
  • 3 plays  1:22 time of possession  13  yards  LOST FUMBLE
  • 3 plays  0:59 time of possession  16  yards  INT
  • 3 plays  1:32 time of possession  9 yards  PUNT
  • 9 plays  1:32 time of possession  75 yards  TOUCHDOWN (meaningless at that point)

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:

  • 21 of 26 for 197 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT

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:

  • 28 of 42 for 313 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs

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:

  • Giants are 8-5-1                      Point Differential = minus-25
  • Vikes are 11-3                         Point Differential = +2

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:

  • Cloudy with snow and blowing snow.  Wind 25-30 mph with gusts to 50 mph
  • Temperature =  +2 degrees.  Wind Chill = minus-18 degrees.

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:

  • Panthers win their division if they win out
  • Lions will make the playoffs for the first time since 2016 if they win out and amass 10 wins for the season.

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:

  • Cloudy with snow and drifting snow; wind at 20mph gusting to 30 mph
  • Temperature = +9 degrees                 Wind Chill = minus-14 degrees

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:

  • Temperature of 10 degrees with a wind chill of minus-9 degrees
  • Snow showers with winds of 10 mph gusting to 25 mph.

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.

  • [Aside:  If McSorley goes down in this game, the #4 guy is David Blough who started 5 games for the Lions in 2019 and lost them all.]

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:

  1. Giants + 4.5 against Vikes
  2. Lions – 2.5 over Panthers
  3. Bengals – 3 over Pats
  4. Packers/Dolphins OVER 47.5

And here are three Money Line Parlays for this week:

  • Bengals @ minus-160
  • Cowboys @ minus-200                                To win $144

And …

  • Packers @ +175
  • Bengals @ minus-160                                  To win $347

And …

  • Lions @ minus-140
  • Cowboys @ minus-200                                To win $157

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.”

And …

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………



6 thoughts on “Football Friday 12/23/22”

  1. I absolutely concur with your point about NFL pregame shows. They have become pure awful. I also think most of the commentators have been away from the game for too long to add any useful analysis. The game has changed a lot since most of these guys evaluated talent, made a gameplan or threw a pass for an NFL team. So all they can do is yuck it up. It’s time to clear the decks and bring in some new talent.

  2. it’s not just the NFL pregame with the yuk-yuk. ESPN College GameDay has added Pat McAfee as clown prince and Desmond Howard continues to laugh like a hyena. I’ve about had it with that program.

    just my opinion, though.

    1. SteveNC:

      I have not seen a lot of College Game Day so I did not include any reference to it. Pat McAfee is someone I can take in SMALL doses…

  3. “Storm for the ages”. The NY governor is a fool. The second biggest city in the state, her home area, just had a 6 FOOT snowfall. They moved the NFL game – they didn’t move any this week. Don King says she sensationalizes things too much.

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