Baseball fans can rejoice; the sequence of Football Fridays has just about run its course; only two more will come to pass after today. So let me open this week’s endeavor with these words from Lady Randolph Churchill – – Sir Winston’s mother:
“Life is not always what one wants it to be, but make the best of it as it is the only way of being happy.”
I’m happy and will surely try to make the best of this late-season Football Friday and the way we always begin these things is to review last week’s Six-Pack selections:
- College = 0-0-0 Season Total = 20-12-0
- NFL = 2-1-0 Season Total = 24-23-3
- Money Line Parlays = 2-0 Season Total = 11-22
- Parlay Profit/Loss = +$375 Season Total = +$508
College Football Commentary:
Things are relatively dark in the world of college football at this time of the year but there is a story brewing in Ann Arbor that could bear watching. Michigan Offensive Coordinator, Matt Weiss, has been suspended once it came to light that police are investigating a report of alleged “computer access crimes” involving Michigan athletic department computers. I have no idea what the scope of that investigation might be, nor do I know precisely what “computer access crimes” might encompass, but I do know that Matt Weiss had a very successful season in terms of producing a Wolverine offense that scored a lot of points.
Just stay tuned into this one…
The Vikes/Giants game showed me that the Vikes were luckier than competent in amassing their 13-4 record in 2022. (The team’s point differential for 17 games was minus-3 points while they won 9 more games than they lost!) The Vikes went 11-0 in one-score games meaning they were 2-4 in games with a significant point differential. That “Purple pass defense” out there on display last weekend was embarrassingly bad after ranking 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed in the regular season. There is a coterie of NFL fans who live to hate on Kirk Cousins; he was not great in the game last weekend, but he was not to blame for that defensive showing either.
Trevor Lawrence was at his worst in the first half against the Chargers and at his best in the second half. When he learns to stifle “Bad-Trevor” such that “Good-Trevor” does not have to bail the team out, he is going to be awfully good. Trevor Lawrence was worth the overall #1 pick in the draft.
Thinking about the Chargers as we look ahead to the 2023 season and beyond, Dean Spanos is one of the NFL owners who does not like to pay someone not to work. Having said that, I really think the Chargers can and should move on from Brandon Staley and move forward from there. Sean Payton working with/tutoring Justin Herbert could be a marriage made in Heaven. Then again, here is what Mae West had to say about marriage:
“Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution.”
Granted the data here represent a small sample size; it only has been 3 years that the NFL has had 7 teams per conference in the playoffs. However, in that time, the #7 seeded team has never beaten the #2 seeded team in either conference. At least the Dolphins made a game of it this year… The other “seven-versus-two game” was a blowout by the Niners.
Skylar Thompson was 18 of 45 for 220 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions (44.7 QB rating) in the Dolphins’ Sunday’s loss to the Bills, so the quarterback play wasn’t good. Tua led the league in passer rating this year, but who knows if he would have been his early-season-self prior to the second – – or maybe the third – – concussion he sustained that eventually ended his season.
But it is not just the seventh-seeded teams that make for playoff problems. The team with 7th best record in the NFC bracket – not the #7 seed but a division winner – also got spanked on Super Wild Card Weekend with Bucs losing 31-14. [Aside: Let the record show that the game was not nearly that close.] The Bucs’ regular season stats explain their 8-9 record.
- The Bucs ranked 25th in points scored 30th in average yards per pass completion, 26th in touchdowns scored, 22nd in “red zone production”, and 20th in turnover margin.
Yes, the Bucs won their division and yes, maintaining the rivalries within divisions is a good idea for the league, but the Bucs were no more worthy of a playoff slot this year than the Washington Generals are worth a moment’s consideration in this year’s “Bracketology”.
The Bucs threw the ball 66 times against the Cowboys. Yes, they fell behind and needed to play catch-up football – – but they were throwing it all over the place in the first half when the score was 0-0. I made this note to myself around halftime of the Bucs/Cowboys game on Monday night:
“Maybe Byron Leftwich is not certified the innovative genius of an offensive coordinator that he has been made out to be?”
And what do you know? By Thursday of this week Byron Leftwich was “relieved of command” for the Bucs’ offense which will be undergoing a major restructuring in this offseason. It was not just the game last weekend, the Bucs’ offense was not very productive this year as noted above; so, changing out the OC would seem to make a ton of sense. However, I do recall loads of folks identifying Byron Leftwich as some sort of offensive genius who deserved to be a head coach somewhere – – if only those white franchise owners would give him a shot don’t you know – – and those heaps of praise were not that long ago… Here is the Bottom Line in the real world:
- Byron Leftwich’s offense was efficient and effective when it had a solid offensive line in front of Tom Brady who had the likes of Gronk and Antonio Brown inter alia to throw the ball to.
- In 2022, Byron Leftwich’s offense only had Tom Brady from that listing above…
The Bucs are not heaping all the blame on Leftwich. The team – – and head coach Todd Bowles – – have recognized that the team “underperformed” in 2022 and the team has begun a housecleaning of the coaching staff.
- Four offensive assistant coaches have been fired.
- One offensive assistant coach has decided to retire.
- One special teams’ assistant has been fired.
- One defensive assistant has been fired.
- One defensive assistant has decided to retire.
Look coaches and assistant coaches come and go; without top-shelf players, they never achieve greatness. So, this is the time on the NFL calendar when there is an ongoing search for scapegoats to explain various aspects of under-achievement around the league. Scapegoating is not unique to the NFL as indicated by this comment from former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich:
“Until someone is prepared to lay out the systemic problem, we will simply go through cycles of finding corruption, finding a scapegoat, eliminating the scapegoat, and relaxing until we find the next scandal.”
Let me return for a moment to the Vikes/Giants game last weekend. Daniel Jones has not exactly been a fan-favorite among Giants’ fans for the last couple of years, but everyone needs to acknowledge how well he played against the Vikes last weekend. Jones finished the game with this stat line:
- 24 of 35 for 301 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs
- PLUS, he rushed for 78 yards.
Daniel Jones is the first player in NFL history to throw for 300 yards, rush for 75 yards, and throw for two touchdowns in a playoff game. Not bad for a guy whose fifth-year contract option was not picked up by the Giants’ braintrust…
I know; if you are a Daniel Jones hater you will quickly point out to me something I already know. Jones was most impressive Sunday, but he was also facing a Vikings’ defense that finished the regular season 31st in total yards allowed and 31st against the pass. Forget the nit-picking; here is a 2023 offseason reality for the NY Giants:
- Daniel Jones deserves a contract offer from the Giants that will avoid him being tempted to test free agency thereby forcing the Giants to use a franchise tag on Jones which will pay him $40+M for one year – next year – guaranteed.
Here are a few statistical notes from last weekend’s wild card playoff games:
- The Bills outgained the Dolphins 423 yards to 231 yards – – and the game went down to the wire with a 3-point differential. Bills’ turnovers kept the game close; if the Bills do not remedy that sort of behavior, they will be out of the playoffs this weekend.
- Justin Jefferson caught 7 passes for 47 yards in the game against the Giants – – but none of those receptions came in the 4th quarter when the Vikes needed to overcome a Giants’ lead.
- The Chargers’ rushing game was AWOL last weekend. They tried to run the ball 23 times and gained a total of 67 yards. That is just under 3 yards per carry and for a playoff team, that “don’t feed the bulldog” …
- The Ravens’ defense did what needed to be done; they held the Bengals to 234 yards on offense and 17 points on the scoreboard. There is no way to pin that 98-yard scoop-and-score on the Ravens’ defensive unit and the Ravens’ offense outgained the Bengals by 130 yards. But the stat that demonstrates why the Ravens lost – – in addition to that 98-yard scoop-and-score – – is that the Ravens had the ball in the Red Zone 4 times and got only 1 TD out of those opportunities.
- The Seahawks led the Niners 17-16 at the half – – but if anyone thought they were the better team on the field that day, that someone was residing in a delusional space. When the smoke cleared, the Niners had outgained the Seahawks by 173 yards and won the turnover battle 2-0.
NFL Games This Weekend:
Before I get to the four games this weekend, let me observe that three of the four teams in the NFC East are still playing at this point of the season. So, let me be the one to label this weekend’s slate of games as:
- The NFC East Invitational.
Lest anyone wonder about the situation of the fourth team in the NFC East – – the Washington Commanders – – they may not be playing this weekend, but they are the only team in their division that is potentially up for sale in this offseason. Commanders’ fans all over the DC area are making pilgrimages to their local churches praying that a sale to a new owner – – any new owner not named Sam Bankman-Fried – – goes to closure in the next 8 weeks.
(Sat 4:30PM EST) Jags at Chiefs – 9 (52): The Chiefs beat the Jags in the regular season 27-17 but I think this game will be much higher scoring than that. Trevor Lawrence is improving game by game and the Jags’ pass defense will once again struggle to pressure Patrick Mahomes. I see lot of points here, so I’ll take the game to go OVER; put that in the Six-Pack.
(Sat 8:15PM EST) Giants at Eagles – 8 (48): The line for this game is unusual for a game in the playoffs. One sportsbook has the game at 9 points and has had it there all week long; For most books the line opened the week at 7.5 points, and it has crept up to 8 points at most books. However, you can still find this at 7.5 points at one Internet sportsbook along with the spread at 8.5 points at two other Internet sportsbooks. Those sorts of disparities exist for some regular season games, but it is unusual for a playoff game. More than a few Eagles’ fans have posted notes saying that the Eagles can just mail this one in because the Eagles won both regular season encounters ”comfortably”. I disagree; the Giants are peaking now, and the Eagles have not looked nearly like their early-season dominant form for the last several weeks. I like the Giants plus the points here; put it in the Six-Pack.
(Sun 3:00PM EST) Bengals at Bills – 5.5 (49): Neither team showed its best form in winning last weekend; both teams need to correct that sort of nonsense if they aspire to move on and play the winner of the Jags/Chiefs game. The weather forecast for Buffalo on Sunday afternoon is for rain changing to snow with temperatures in the low 30s at kickoff. Josh Allen must cure himself of his turnover proclivities here; Joe Burrow needs to pray that his makeshift OL can keep his body and soul together for the three-and-a-half hours of this game. I am tempted by the OVER here – – but not two and a half days in advance of that sort of weather forecast.
(Sun 6:30PM EST) Cowboys at Niners – 4 (46): For me, this is the Game of the Week. This will either be the “Brock Purdy Coming Out Party” against the best defense he has had to face yet, or it will be the “Brock Purdy Clock Strikes Midnight Game”. Or, perhaps this will be the game that indicates that the Bucs’ defense against the Cowboys last week was nothing more than mediocre and then against the best defense in the NFL – – statistically – – that offensive explosion last week was a mirage. I like the Cowboys plus the points, and I like the game to go OVER; put both of those picks in the Six-Pack.
So let me review the Six-Pack for this week:
- Jags/Chiefs OVER 52
- Giants +8 against Eagles
- Cowboys +4 against Niners
- Cowboys/Niners OVER 46
And just for fun, here is a Money Line Parlay for the weekend:
- Giants @ +300
- Cowboys @ +175 To win $1000.
Finally, consider these words from humorist Arnold Glasow and ask yourself how many “good leaders” there are among the folks who own NFL teams:
“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………
2 thoughts on “Football Friday 1/20/23”
I was a Kirk Cousins-hater until the Giants – Vikings game. Not anymore, though. How anyone can think the Philadelphia Eagles are going to beat the NY Giants by eight points in a playoff game is beyond me. I hold to my NFL fan maxim: it is extremely hard to beat the same team three times in a season. The NFC East is proving itself the best division in the 2022 NFL.
Please note that I selected the Giants +8 this week and also took a flyer on the Giants on the Money Line as part of the parlay…
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