Today I am going to take a moment to savor this iteration of Football Friday because it is the penultimate one. Two weeks from today, I will put this feature on the shelf for 6 months; so there is reason for me to want to relax and enjoy every keystroke. As I do that, I am reminded of this assessment by author Gene Fowler:
“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
As usual I will begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack selections. Before I put forth the data here in its typical form, let me give a short overview.
- I made 2 selections against the spread.
- I made two selections regarding the Total Line.
- I picked 2 teams to win as part of a Money Line Parlay.
- All 6 of those selections were wrong.
In my defense, let me say only that it is equally difficult to pick 6 losers out of 6 selections as it is to pick 6 winners out of 6 selections. Not a lot of consolation there…
Here are the data:
- College = 0-0-0 Season Total = 20-12-0
- NFL = 0-4-0 Season Total = 24-27-3
- Money Line Parlays = 0-1 Season Total = 11-23
- Profit/Loss = minus-$100 Season Total = +$408
College Football Commentary:
Alabama head coach, Nick Saban will need to replace both his offensive and defensive coordinator for next season. A couple of weeks ago, defensive coordinator, Pete Golding, took the defensive coordinator position at Ole Miss. That did not seem like a natural move to me at the time; but coaching shuffles in the SEC happen every year and so, I let it pass by. This week, offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien took the job as the offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots. Frankly, that does not surprise me at all.
When Bill O’Brien was fired as the head coach of the Houston Texans, his image as an NFL head coach was significantly tarnished. Not a lot of things went right during his last weeks with the Texans; O’Brien needed to take a year or so to regroup and to put some luster on his credentials. What better tired and true means of doing that than to go and be a senior assistant to Nick Saban at Alabama. That ploy has worked miracles in the past.
Now, O’Brien makes a logical move to work with another coaching legend, Bill Belichick. On the assumption that the Patriots’ offense is not a laughingstock next season and/or there is video evidence of Bill O’Brien acting “improperly” with a barnyard animal, I would say that the tarnish is virtually gone from Bill O’ Brien’s résumé.
Will this upheaval of the Alabama staff cause the Tide to “take a step back” next season? I think there are two ways to look at that question:
- Alabama was 11-2 last season and if the CFP had been expanded last year, Alabama would have been in the Tournament. It is pretty easy to “take a step back” from that level of performance.
- There have to be plenty of very talented coaches who would love to work at Alabama with Nick Saban. I suspect that he will replace both coordinators with highly competent folks.
Going into last week’s playoff games, more than a few commentators opined that it was difficult for one team to beat an opponent three times in a season. That “difficulty” is compounded by the fact that such a situation can only happen if the two teams in question are in the same division – – meaning the coaches and players know their opponents better than in a normal playoff situation. However, it happened last week when the Eagles trounced the Giants, and I think as we look back on that spanking we should also consider this:
- For one team to beat another team three times in a season, it can only mean that the first team has already beaten the second team twice.
If you looked back at the two Eagles/Giants games and gave much less credence to the game in Week 18 which had little to no significance, you would see that when it mattered, the Eagles beat the Giants 48-22. That result should indicate that there is a significant disparity between the two squads – – and “disparity” showed itself again last week with a 38-7 Eagles’ win. The combined score for the three contests was:
There was a point in last week’s Eagles/Giants game that made me wonder about what was behind a coaching decision. Here is the situation in general:
- Eagles lead by 21 points early in the 4th quarter. The Giants will need to score 3 TDs and hold the Eagles scoreless for the final 10-12 minutes just to tie the game.
- The Giants face a 4th and 6 situation in their own territory – – but not deep in their own territory.
- The Giants choose to punt the ball – – and I think that was the coaching equivalent of waving the white flag with that game situation in front of the team.
Daniel Jones had a good season in 2022 and his contract is up at the end of this season because the Giants chose not to exercise their fifth-year option. So, does that “capitulation” by the coaching staff indicate that they do not have confidence in Daniel Jones to convert a 4th and 6 situation? If so, does that mean they plan to move on from Daniel Jones as their starting QB?
Another thing came to mind as I watched the playoff games last weekend. This is going to be an interesting time for free agent running backs in a few weeks. Consider these 4 players:
- Saquon Barkley: Age 26 next season. Made the Pro Bowl twice in 5 seasons. Career rushing average is 4.5 yards per carry. 2022 yards from scrimmage = 1650 yards.
- Josh Jacobs: Age 25 next season. Made the Pro Bowl twice in 4 seasons. Career rushing average is 4.4 yards per carry. 2022 yards from scrimmage = 2053 yards.
- Tony Pollard: Age 26 next season. Made the Pro Bowl once in 4 seasons. Career rushing average is 5.1 yards per carry. 2022 yards from scrimmage = 1378 yards.
- Miles Sanders: Age 26 next season. Made the Pro Bowl twice in 4 seasons. Career rushing average is 5.0 yards per carry. 2022 yards from scrimmage = 1347 yards.
One or more of these guys could wind up with a franchise tag meaning they would be “off the market”. However, if you assume they are all “on the market” and another team is looking to sign a free agent running back, here are four players who present very similar stats. As I said, it could be an interesting time…
The Panthers decided to hire Frank Reich as their new head coach. That choice has received some knee-jerk criticism because it means that interim coach Steve wilks who did an excellent job in that position last season was passed over. Once again, a “white guy” got a head coaching job over a qualified “black guy”.
The “bad optics” here are magnified to some extent by the fact that Reich’s record in Indy – – his only head coaching experience at any level of football – – was a good-but-hardly-great 40-33-1 in four and a half seasons. On the plus side, Reich has a reputation as a coach who improves the play of his QB and the Panthers need to upgrade their QB performance(s) in whatever way is open to them.
There is also an elephant in the room regarding Steve Wilks as a head coaching candidate. If I were in the market to hire someone for a job – – any job – – and I had several applicants who presented varying degrees of competence for that job, I would be hesitant to hire the one candidate in the group who was in the process of suing me in court for whatever reason. Forget items like race or gender or ethnicity or religious affiliation; given viable options, I think I would avoid hiring the guy that was suing me.
There is also a lot of speculation about where Sean Payton might wind up as a head coach. I am on record saying that I hope it is somewhere – anywhere – in order to get him off TV where I think he is well below the level of “good”. There are four teams that are still looking for a coach at this moment:
- Broncos: Maybe the best choice – – but possibly the worst choice too. The defense is great and there is a QB in place who has had lots of success in his career. That QB has also been a divisive element in a locker room. This is a boom-or-bust situation for the next head coach.
- Cards: Here is all I need to know about that job. They have a QB under contract through the 2028 season with a Cap Hit of $45-50M per year AND when they signed the original deal they stuck a clause in it requiring that QB to spend 5 hours a week at home studying the playbook. That job would be a hard pass to me…
- Colts: As of this morning, the team depth chart shows Nick Foles and Sam Ehlinger as the two guys at the position. So, finding a franchise QB is Task One and at the same time, the new head coach will have to deal with Jim Irsay as the owner. Yikes!
- Texans: I think this is the best position of the lot. There is nowhere to go but up; the team has a bunch of high draft picks that could form the core of a newly constructed team; and the AFC South is not a juggernaut of a division.
For the various aspirants who seek these head coaching positions, I offer up this observation by Niccolo Machiavelli:
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”
With the Cowboys exit from the playoffs last week, lots of folks piled on Dak Prescott for his performance in the game. Unquestionably, losing 2 INTs was a major factor in the Cowboys’ loss but to be fair one was a tipped ball and the other was an excellent play by the defender. I am not here to defend Dak Prescott; he has not played up to his $30+M per year contract. However, I do think that an insufficient amount of “blame” for the Cowboys’ loss has been directed at Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator and play caller.
- Tony Pollard was injured and out of the game in the second quarter last week with an injury that required surgery.
- If I counted correctly, in the second half, the Cowboys threw the ball 23 times and ran it 8 times – – only 6 of those carries by Ezekiel Elliott.
- It is not as if the Cowboys’ passing game was lighting up the Niners’ defense. The Cowboys only averaged 5.6 yards per attempt in the game.
Here is a brief look at last week’s playoff games:
Niners 19 Cowboys 12: The Cowboys’ defense did its job; the Niners with Brock Purdy had been averaging almost 35 points per game and the Niners only put 19 points up on the board. This loss belongs to the Cowboys’ offense; it is as simple as that.
Bengals 27 Bills 10: This was a dominant performance by the Bengals; they scored 2 TDs on two long drives in the first quarter and never looked back. The Bengals’ defense was stifling in the game pressuring Josh Allen on just about every passing play and holding the Bills to 63 yards rushing for the game.
Eagles 38 – Giants 7: Here is a look at the stats that will show how lopsided this game really was:
- Eagles’ Yards Rushing = 268 yards
- Giants’ Total Offense = 227 yards
Chiefs 27 Jags 20: This was the most fun game to watch. Patrick Mahomes played the second half on an obviously injured leg/ankle; Trevor Lawrence served notice to the AFC South division that they will have to game plan for him starting in Week 1 of next season. Chad Henne – – yes, he is still in the league – – led the Chiefs to a long TD drive while Mahomes was out of the game and Travis Kelce merely caught 14 passes for 98 yards and 2 TDs in the game.
This Week’s Games:
Let me get the weather forecasts on the table to start:
- Philly: Cloudy with temps around 50 degrees and a slight chance of rain.
- KC: Sun will be down with temps in the high teens/low 20s with a 2% chance of precipitation.
Basically, the weather forecasts for the weekend are positive.
However, at this point I feel the need to present two definitions from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Weather: A natural phenomenon created by God to give boring people something to talk about.
“Weatherman: A job created by television to give boring people something to talk about on camera.”
(Sun 3:00 PM EST) Niners at Eagles – 2.5 (46.5): The spread opened the week as a “pick ‘em game” but has been hovering at this level for most of the week. I think the outcome of the game will hinge on the ability of the Eagles’ defense to contain the Niners’ running game. For the regular season, the Eagles gave up 122 yards per game rushing (16th in the league); the Niners can and will run the football. This should be a great game; I like the Eagles to win and cover here; put that in this week’s very abbreviated Six-Pack.
(Sun 6:30 PM EST) Bengals at Chiefs – 1.5 (47.5): The lines for this game are all over the place. You can find the spread anywhere from “pick ’em” to “Chiefs minus-2”. The Total Line varies from 49 points to 47 points. The numbers here seem to be the most prevalent ones even though I have not found a sportsbook that has both of those numbers posted at the same time. I like the way the Bengals are playing now particularly on defense. It is not a good idea to pick against the Chiefs at home, but I think the Bengals can get that job done; I’ll take the Bengals plus the points. Also, give me the OVER in this game; put both selections in the Six-Pack.
Let me review this week’s half of a Six-Pack. [Aside: If my selecting is no better than last week, you may consider that the half of a Six-Pack was presented by a half-wit.]
- Eagles minus-2.5
- Bengals + 1.5
- Bengals/Chiefs OVER 47.5
Finally, apropos of nothing, here is an observation by Dwight Perry retired from the Seattle Times:
“Seattle has been declared the No. 1 city for singles, according to a study released by the personal-finance website WalletHub.com.
“Heck, Ichiro could have told you that two decades ago.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports……..