The calendar says today is Friday – – and that means that we have all survived yet one more week on this planet as it careens around the sun. It also means that we need to strap ourselves in for another Football Friday experience. As is customary, I shall begin with a review of last week’s “Betting Bundle”:
College: 3-0-0 => Season: 9-6-0
NFL: 1-2-0 => Season: 10-5-0
Parlays: 0-2 Loss: $200 Season: 6-5 Profit: $413
College Football Commentary:
The Linfield College Wildcats extended their 2023 record to 6-0 by thrashing the Lumberjacks of the University of Puget Sound 55-6. Both teams scored touchdowns and then failed to covert the PAT in the first quarter, so the score was tied 6-6 going into the second quarter. From that point, Linfield scored 49 unanswered points. Linfield lived on big plays in the game; Puget Sound actually held the ball for more than half the game (31:25) but Linfield gained 203 more yards of offense in the game. This week, the Wildcats are at home to take on the Boxers of Pacific College who arrive at the kickoff with a record of 1-5. Go Wildcats!
Last week was not a great showing by several of the top-ranked teams in the country as I will point out as we go along in today’s rant. But Michigan had no real difficulty in steamrollering hapless Michigan State 49-0. The Wolverines are 8-0 and have won each of those games by 24 points or more. Even if – – and I said IF – – they are stealing opponents’ signs improperly, that is an impressive display. Look, Michigan has yet to play any team that is within hailing distance of being a “top team”; their conference schedule is back-loaded in terms of difficulty and their out of conference schedule should be greeted with utter scorn. Nevertheless, 8-0 and winning every game by 24 or more points is noteworthy.
Also noteworthy is the observation that the bottom has fallen out on the football program at Michigan State as it meanders along toward the end of this season. As of this morning, the season stands at 2-5 with the two wins coming at the expense of Division 1-AA Richmond and MAC powerhouse Central Michigan. There are 4 games left on Sparty’s schedule and two of them are against Ohio State and Penn State. It is going to be a long winter in East Lansing…
A former colleague and a reader of these rants back before the days when they appeared on the Internet is an alum of Florida State. He has a simple formula for figuring out the amount his annual donation to his alma mater:
- He gives the school a base amount of “X dollars”. If the Seminoles beat the Gators in football that year, he doubles his donation.
While I do not have any similar way to gauge any of my charitable contributions for the year, I do admire the simplicity of his generosity. And from that simplicity, you will probably not be surprised to learn that he hopes that Florida loses every football game that it ever plays. Knowing that, I was not overly surprised to get an email from him earlier this week telling me to check out Florida’s remaining schedule to see if – – maybe – – the Gators might lose every one of their remaining games. So here is the Florida football schedule for the rest of 2023:
- Vs. Georgia in Jax – – undefeated and ranked #1 in the country as of this morning
- Vs. Arkansas
- At LSU – – ranked #15 in the country as of this morning
- At Missouri – – ranked #16in the country as of this morning
- Vs. Florida St. – – ranked #4 in the country as of this morning.
The Gators should be underdogs in all of those games save for the one at home against Arkansas. Moreover, if the Gators were to lose all of their remaining games, they would not be bowl eligible. So, of course, I asked my former colleague if he might consider adding a “sweetener” to his contribution this year if his Seminoles not only win that final game of the season but if that victory would also keep Florida out of a bowl game. I have not heard back from him as of this morning…
Here are some comments on games from last week; I’ll start in the SEC:
Mississippi St. 7 Arkansas 3: Arkansas fired offensive coordinator Dan Enos in the wake of a 7-3 loss at home to Mississippi State. Frankly, I’m a little surprised Enos was the only one out on the streets. The Hogs have a bye week and a 2-6 overall record this year (0-5 in the SEC); so, I would have thought that head coach, Sam Pittman. would also be getting a pink slip.
Missouri 34 S. Carolina 12: Hear me out. Missouri could become the 2023 version of 2022’s TCU. The Tigers could follow that model of a completely out-of-the-box dark horse team that gets on a run and makes it to the CFP. Missouri is 7-1 for this season and they are tied with Alabama for the second-best overall record in the SEC. Moreover, Mizzou gets to go head to head with Georgia two weeks from now in a game that is going to be far more important than I ever thought possible at the start of the season. Am I going to bet on this happening? Hell, no! But I didn’t have TCU making the final game in the CFP last year either…
Alabama 34 Tennessee 20: Alabama trailed Tennessee 20-7at the half and were outplayed in the first half. Bama rallied in the second half pitching a shutout to win the game. Whatever Nick Saban said to his team at halftime needs to be bottled, trademarked and sold as a motivational tonic.
Ole Miss 28 Auburn 21: The stat sheet says this game should not have been this close. Ole Miss produced 475 yards on offense; Auburn only managed 275 yards. But that is the result in the books …
In Big-10 action:
Ohio St. 20 Penn St. 12: Ohio St. beat Penn St. in a defensive struggle. Actually, it was only because of a very good defensive effort by Penn St that made a game of it because the Penn St. offense was barely existent.
Rutgers 31 Indiana 14: UNLV and Rutgers both achieved bowl eligibility last week. For UNLV that is only their second bowl eligibility year since 2000. Rutgers won this game despite having only 39 yards of passing offense in the game. Woody Hayes would approve …
Minnesota 12 Iowa 10: The total offense generated by BOTH teams in this game was 363 yards. If you want to label the game, call it the Ineptitude Bowl. Iowa’s total rushing output for the game was 11 yards.
Nebraska 17 Northwestern 9: Call this the Battle of the “N-logos”. You have to find something interesting about this game because it had all the drama and heart-stopping ambience of a Gregorian chant concert.
Michigan 49 Michigan St. 0: So, what is the next embarrassment for Sparty football that might be more embarrassing than what the team has shown over the past several weeks? Maybe one of the starters caught on video in flagrante delicto with a barnyard animal? Michigan still has yet to play an opponent that anyone thinks is a real opponent – – but they keep mauling lesser opponents.
In ACC action …
Virginia 31 UNC 27: This is the first loss for UNC, and it comes in a game where the Cavaliers were 24-point underdogs on the road in Chapel Hill. UNC lost to a team that was 1-5 entering the game and that lone win had been over a Division 1-AA opponent. Nonetheless, the Cavaliers struck first and hung on to win this game. North Carolina – – now 6-1 for the season – – led 24-14 early in the third quarter but Uva quarterback Tony Muskett, had a great game going 20 of 30 including a game winning 14-yard TD pass in the closing moments.
Florida St. 32 Duke 20: Duke led 17-7 early in the second quarter but that lead would not be nearly enough because the Blue Devils would only manage a field goal from that point forward. The Seminoles gained 420 yards on offense as opposed to only 273 for the Blue Devils. Add to that the fact that Florida St. was 7 for 12 on third-down conversions and the result here is understandable. Duke’s record now stands s at 5-2; they are mathematically alive in the ACC race to crown a conference champion but the more realistic outcome for the Blue Devils is an upper level bowl game. Florida State remains unbeaten and should be given lots of consideration for inclusion in the CFP.
Miami 28 Clemson 20 (OT): Miami rallied from 10 points down at the start of the 4th quarter to force OT and ultimately to come away as the winner in this game.
In Big-12 games …
Oklahoma St. 48 West Virginia 34: West Virginia led 24-20 at the start of the 4th quarter – – then the teams combined to score 38 points in the 4th quarter. The Total Line for the game was 48 points; the oddsmakers did not think Oklahoma St. would reach that total all by themselves. Total offense in the game by both teams was 966 yards.
K-State 41 TCU 3: This TCU team is not nearly of the caliber of last year’s TCU team that went to the National Championship Game – – only to be slaughtered by Georgia. This makes 4 losses for the Horned Frogs on the season – – one each to Colorado, West Virginia, Iowa St. and K-State. Meanwhile, K-State is 5-2 for the season with the following schedule in front of them:
- Vs Houston’
- At Texas
- Vs Baylor
- At Kansas
- Vs Iowa St.
Texas 31 Houston 24: Texas took a big lead 21-0 in the first half and then saw Houston rally to make a game of it. The Cougars actually outgained the Longhorns 392 yards to 360 yards for the day. The Longhorns (6-1) had two weeks to overcome their loss to Oklahoma and came out revved up and ready to go; but after halftime, Houston tied the game and had a chance to create overtime at the end. The Texas defense held in the Red Zone in the final 2 minutes to secure the victory.
Out west in PAC-12 games …
Utah 34 USC 32: People have been “skeptical” or “critical of USC’s defense all season long. Well let me give you a picture of why fans of USC cannot be happy. The Trojans lost to Utah last week, but it is how they lost that is frustrating.
- Utah was without their starting QB yet again; that meant they would be relying on their running game more than they would if Cam Rising had been at 100% and ready to play.
- Even knowing that, the Trojans allowed the Utes to gain 247 yards on the ground in the game. Utah just pushed them around.
- Utah’s backup QB, Bryson Barnes, added 245 yards passing with 3 TDs and he also ran the ball for 57 yards in the game.
The coaches at USC who are assigned recruiting duties had better get some defensive studs signed up for next year because if not, there are going to be Big-10 teams that will embarrass USC. Having said all that negative stuff about USC, one also needs to recognize that Utah is a good team that is very well coached by Kyle Wittingham.
Washington 15 Arizona St. 7: The Huskies were 28-point favorites in this game and never began to threaten to cover that spread. The Total Line was 59.5 points. If you bet the OVER, you had to be tearing your hair out all through this one. Arizona St had the advantage in terms of offense generated by 61 yards on the game, but Washington turned the ball over 4 times in the game as compared to Arizona St. who only turned it over once. I said this could be a letdown game for Washington; it sure seems that way.
In miscellaneous other games:
SMU 55 Temple 0: There are SHOE Tournament implications for Temple – – and this is the 5th straight week Temple has given up 40 or more points to opponents.
South Alabama 55 So. Mississippi 3: Clearly some SHOE Tournament stuff here too for So. Mississippi …
Nevada 6 San Diego St. 0: Nevada won its first game of the year over San Diego St. That leaves only one winless team – – Sam Houston St. which can be forgiven for that record somewhat because it is the first year in Division 1-A football. However, this outcome does not assure Nevada elimination from the SHOE Tournament seeding later this year.
UNLV 25 Colorado St. 23: As noted above, UNLV and Rutgers both achieved bowl eligibility last week. For UNLV that is only their second bowl eligibility year since 2000. UNLV is 6-1 for the season; the last time UNLV started a season like this was in 1984 when their offensive backfield included Randall Cunningham and Ickey Woods…
New Mexico 42 Hawaii 21: There are SHOE Tournament implications here…
The SHOE Tournament Watch:
Over the years, several readers have chastised me for focusing SHOE Tournament scorn on the “little guys” in college football and ignoring Power 5 teams that are not good at all. Let me assure any and all folks who are interested in MAC football or AAC football that I am not consciously picking on schools in those conferences. So, this week, let me break down the SHOE Tournament Watch List as follows:
- Power 5 Teams: Arizona St. Indiana, Michigan St. Stanford, Vandy
- AAC Teams: East Carolina, Temple, UNC-Charlotte
- Independents: Army, UConn, UMass
- MAC Teams: Akron, Ball St. Kent St. W. Michigan
- MWC Teams: Hawaii, Nevada
- Sun Belt Teams: La-Monroe, So Mississippi
And to keep you up to date on teams in contention for the Brothel Defense Award in 2023, here is the data as of this morning:
- Temple gives up 38.0 points per game
- So. Mississippi gives up 38.1 points per game
- UMass gives up 42.4 points per game
Games of Interest This Week:
Michigan St. at Minnesota – 7 (40.5): Of course, you should not wager on this game; but you should also structure your weekend such that you will not have to watch this game unless you are kidnapped and tortured by domestic terrorists.
UMass at Army – 9 (51): Major SHOE Tournament implications here …
Tennessee – 3.5 at Kentucky (51): Both teams are 5-2 overall and both teams have 2 conference losses. The winner of this game remains mathematically alive in the SEC East race, but they will be on life support. The Vols are 0-2 on the road this year if you are looking for a trend in the game.
Florida St. – 20 at Wake Forest (51): The Total Line opened the week at 53 points and has inched down to this level. The Seminoles are 7-0 for the season and aspire to a CFP invitation; the Demon Deacons are 4-3 for the season (all 3 losses are in conference games) and aspire to bowl-eligibility.
Virginia at Miami – 18.5 (47.5): Clearly, the oddsmakers were only slightly impressed with Virginia’s upset win last week over previously unbeaten UNC …
Duke at Louisville – 5 (46): Florida St. is undefeated in ACC games this year. Four teams have only one loss in ACC games to date; both of these teams are among the four with only s single loss. This is an important game; the loser can forget being a part of the ACC Championship Game.
La Monroe – 1 at Arkansas St. (58): A team on the SHOE Tournament Watch List is a favorite on the road. That does not happen often …
UNC – 12 at Georgia Tech (64): The Tar Heels should be smarting from that loss last week to an inferior Virginia squad.
Oklahoma – 9 at Kansas (66): The Sooners own an 18-game wining streak over the Jayhawks. Oklahoma is the only team without a loss in the Big-12; Kansas has lost 2 conference games so a loss here would all but eliminate them from a shot at the Big-12 Championship Game.
Indiana at Penn St. – 32 (46): Given the ineptitude shown by the Penn St. offense last week against Ohio St. (see above), that spread is a testament to the porosity of the Indiana defensive unit. Indiana gave up 31 points to Rutgers last week; this game will be one of the ugliest games of the day. No way would I play a game with a spread like this – – but I would not be surprised if Penn St. were to win by 40 or more points. For the record, the Money Line for Penn St. in this game is minus-15,000.
- If you took Penn St. on the Money Line at those odds and wagered $100, you stand to win $0.67 if the Nittany Lions prevail.
- Be still my heart …
Wyoming at Boise St. – 5 (49): Both teams have one loss in MWC games. Wyoming is 5-2 for the season while Boise St is 3-4. However, Wyoming has lost both of its games on the road in 2023. This line set by the oddsmakers looks like a “venue call” to me.
Oregon – 6 at Utah (47.5): Both teams are 6-1 overall and both teams are 3-1 in PAC-12 games. Consider this an “elimination game” for the loser when it comes to the PAC-12 Championship Game. Here is an amazing stat to consider:
- In 7 games so far in 2023, Oregon has only turned the ball over 1 time.
This is my College Game of the Week. It beats out Georgia/Florida because of its “elimination game” status
UNLV at Fresno St. – 9 (58): With bowl-eligibility assured, is this a letdown game for UNLV? Or will they show up invigorated to defend their unbeaten status in MWC games? Fresno St. is 6-1 for the season and its loss was a conference game to Wyoming three weeks ago.
Colorado at UCLA – 16.5 (61.5): Colorado has 3 conference losses; it will not be part of the PAC-12 Championship picture in 2023. The Buffaloes’ overall record is 4-3 meaning they need 2 more wins for bowl-eligibility a year after finishing the season at 1-11. They have 5 games left to play including this one; none of them are walk-overs for Colorado but a couple of them should be competitive games. Meanwhile, UCLA with 2 conference losses might still sneak into the PAC-12 Championship picture but it would be a longshot at best.
Oregon St. – 3.5 at Arizona (56.5): Yes, I know that Oregon St. is 6-1 for the season but Arizona has been playing very well over the last several weeks. Oregon St. is tough at home but not nearly as good on the road. Their loss was a road game against Washington St and their two road wins were over San Jose St. and Cal (not exactly the Bruise Brothers). Arizona is a home underdog with the better defense; I like that betting angle here; give me Arizona plus the points; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
New Mexico at Nevada – 1 (50): Another team on the SHOE Tournament Watch List is a favorite this weekend… Note that New Mexico waxed another SHOE Tournament Watch List team last week (see above)
Georgia – 14.5 at Florida (49): I will be interested to see how Georgia’s offense looks in the absence of Brock Bowers who I think should be considered for the Heisman Trophy if the voters ever look beyond the QB position to cast their ballots.
Houston at K-State – 17.5 (60): The oddsmakers are clearly unimpressed by the game Houston gave Texas last week (see above). I know that K-State is always tough at home, but the size of the spread does surprise me here.
Iowa St. – 2.5 at Baylor (47.5): The Cyclones are one of four Big-12 teams with only one conference loss chasing undefeated Oklahoma for a slot in the Big-12 Championship Game. Baylor already has 2 conference losses. You may think Baylor has home-field advantage in the game, but Baylor is only 1-4 in home games this year. I think Iowa St. is the better team with positive momentum; I’ll take them to win and cover on the road; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Ohio St. – 14.5 at Wisconsin (45): The Buckeyes must avoid a letdown after beating Penn St. in the football equivalent of an axe fight last week.
Mississippi St. at Auburn – 6.5 (41): Auburn has been disappointing and sluggish on offense all year; Mississippi State won last week despite scoring only 7 points. This game has the earmarks of an UGLY game…
South Carolina at Texas A&M – 16 (52.5): The Gamecocks are 2-5 on the season and 0-3 on the road. Having said that, the Aggies’ offense has been so sporadic this year that backing them and giving 16 points to any team not confined to an ICU somewhere is risky.
The 2023 iteration of the Buffalo Bills is inscrutable. They looked like strong Super Bowl contenders in August; they have an elite talent at QB; they have a highly regarded head coach. Nevertheless, it is difficult to know how they are going to play “on any given Sunday” – – or Thursday night either. The Bills record is 5-3; that puts them a half-game behind the Dolphins in the AFC East and the Bills have played one more game than the Dolphins. By the way, the Bills beat the Dolphins four weeks ago by 4 TDs. That is in line with their “projection” as a top team. And then …
- The Bills have lost to the Jets and the Pats – – both teams below them in their division standings.
- The Bills have also lost to the Jaguars in a London game which can be acceptable due to the Jags’ competence and jet lag
- But the Bills only beat the woeful Giants by only 5 points and needed 2 TDs in the 4th quarter to do so.
- Last night as a double-digit favorite at home over the Bucs, the Bills dominated the stat sheet and won by only 6 points.
When you figure out what is going on with the Bills, please drop me a line and clue me in… The Bills seem to fit this description by the author Jack London:
“At once he became an enigma. One side or the other of his nature was perfectly comprehensible; but both sides together were bewildering.”
Let me also comment this week on the Washington Commanders. If you want an example of how a team can play up to or down to the level of its opponent, just check out the Commanders.
- In Weeks 1-4, the Commanders beat two bad teams in very close games. (Cards by 4 points and Broncos by 2 points). Also, they lost to the Eagles by 3 points.
- In Weeks 5-7, the Commanders have beaten the Falcons but have also lost two games to the Bears (by 20 points) and then lost to Giants in a game where the Commanders only scored 7 points. Those 7 points only came after the Commanders recovered a muffed punt that set up a TD drive of 21 yards.
The Commanders OL is embarrassing – – and what makes it more embarrassing is that at least three guys the Commanders had on their team are now elsewhere in the NFL and playing well. I refer here to Morgan Moses (Ravens), Brandon Scherff (Jags) and Trent Williams (Niners).
In the first half of last week’s game against the Giants, the Commanders had net offense of 46 yards. For the game, the Commanders were 1 of 15 on third down conversions.
So … the Commanders can play the Eagles – – a legit playoff team with a chance to go back to the Super Bowl in February 2024 – – to a game decided by a field goal where the Commanders scored 31 points AND they can lose to the Bears by 20 and then wet the bed against a bad Giants’ team starting its backup QB. That goes beyond “inscrutable” and into “WTF” territory.
A most pleasant surprise for its fans so far this year, the Houston Texans are 3-3 and in second place in the AFC South. The Texans were less than good just last year posting a season record of 3-13-1 and earning the second overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. They used that pick to take CJ Stroud (Ohio St.) who has been an important part of what appears to be a major turnaround. In addition to the play of the rookie QB, the Texans’ defense has played well too, ranking 8th in the NFL in points allowed per game (18.8). I suspect that some of the credit here belongs to new head coach, DeMeco Ryans, and GN Nick Caserio.
Deshaun Watson will be out again this week for the Browns. The fully guaranteed $230M contract the Browns lavished on Watson was a bad move by the Browns in the first place – – notwithstanding the fact that they had to part with multiple first round picks just to be able to negotiate with Watson. However, if Watson rarely if ever plays, it makes that deal into one of the worst personnel moves ever. When he has played in 2023 – – all or part of 4 games – – his QB Rating is 80.9 which is nothing to write home about.
The Bears are not a good football team in 2023. Neither are the Raiders and the game last week between the two of them was embarrassing. (I’ll get to details on that later.) So, what have the scheduling mavens of the NFL done?
- Both the Bears and the Raiders are on the air in Prime Time this week. Oh joy!
Here’s a quick review of last week’s NFL action:
Vikes 22 Niners 17: Kirk Cousins put on a show even though it was a “Prine Time Game” where Cousins has not shown well in the past. Here is his stat line:
- 35 of 45 for 378 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT
Justin Jefferson was not on the field, but Jordan Addison and TJ Hockenson combined to catch 18 passes for 209 yards and 2 TDs. The Niners offense was pedestrian. Brock Purdy threw two INTs in the 4th quarter and that did not help the Niners’ cause at all. The Niners’ defense was neither solid nor smothering; they gave up over 450 yards to the Vikes and did not sack Kirk Cousins even once on those 45 pass attempts. This makes 2 losses in a row for the Niners narrowing their lead in the NFC Wesst to a half-game over the Seahawks. Meanwhile, this win by the Vikes puts them in second place in the NFC North, two games behind the Lions. Maybe an interesting race is developing in the NFC North?
Ravens 38 Lions 6: The Ravens were as dominant as the scoreboard would indicate. The Ravens generated 504 yards on offense in the game (355 yards on offense in the first half) and had the Lions shut out 35-0 to start the 4th quarter. The Ravens simply disemboweled the Lions. There is no other way to put it. Lamar Jackson was unstoppable in this game with this stat line:
- 21 of 27 for 357 yards and 3 TDs with 0 INTs plus a rushing TD
I also read somewhere – – but did not record where – – that Lamar Jackson has started 16 games against NFC teams and his record in those games is 15-1. Wow!
Falcons 16 Bucs 13: For the first 59 minutes and 56 seconds, the Falcons had generated 401 yards on offense and produced only 13 points. In the final four seconds, the Falcons kicked a 51-yard field goal to win the game. Desmond Ridder tried to hand the game to the Bucs losing 3 fumbles in the Red Zone. So far in 2023 when the Bucs win, they score 20+ points; in their 4 losses this year, the Bucs have averaged 12 points per game.
Pats 29 Bills 25: I am not sure what was more surprising – – the Pats winning this game in the first place or the fact that Mac Jones’ stat line was significantly better than Josh Allen’s stat line.
- Allen: 27 of 41 for 265 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT
- Jones: 25 of 30 for 272 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INT
The Bills record after this game was 4-3; with their win last night, they stand at 5-3 this season. Josh Allen is fifth in the AFC in passer rating, but he threw in a fumble on top of an interception against the Pats. The Bills’ defense only sacked Mac Jones once in this game.
Bears 30 Raiders 12: The Ls Vegas Raiders should be embarrassed. The last time Tyson Bagent started a football game, it was in the Division 2 tournament semi-finals and his team (Shepherd U) lost that day to the Colorado Schol of Mines. Bagent only managed to produce 13 points in that college loss; so, you have to have figured that the Raiders’ defense would confound the rookie and hold the Bears to something near single-digits. Cue Lee Corso here:
“Not so fast, my friend!”.
Not only did Raiders lose the game, they lost by 18 points to the Bears. Given that the Raiders chose to start geriatric backup QB, Brian Hoyer, you would think their game plan would have included a heavy leaning on Josh Jacobs in the running game. Jacobs rushed 11 times for 35 yards which was not a good showing. Making it even worse, one of his carries was for 11 yards; so, his other 10 carries gained all of 24 yards. Meanwhile, the Bears running game produced 173 yards for the game on 38 carries. The Bears intercepted three passes and converted 8 of 13 third-down situations.
Giants 14 Commanders 7: The Giants had not scored a TD in the first half of any game this year; they got two of them in this game and that was enough to win. Going into this game, the Giants defense had recorded a total of 5 sacks for the season; they sacked Sam Howell 6 times in this game. See above for some of the other gory details of this game. The Commanders are 3-4 on the season with a point differential of minus-50 points. There are three other teams in the NFC with 3-4 records; here are their point differentials:
- Rams +14 points
- Saints +6 points
- Vikes minus-1 point.
Here is another indication of how sloppy and inept the teams were in this game. There were 18 punts and 14 assessed penalties in the game.
Browns 39 Colts 38: The Colts dominated the stat sheet gaining 456 yards and yielding only 316 yards. The Colts’ defense also created 5 turnovers in the game – – and somehow the Colts managed to lose. Myles Garrett has to be the Player of the Week. He had two strip sacks, and he blocked a field goal attempt in this game. Gardner Minshew had a Jekyll and Hyde type of game. He threw for more than 300 yards and produced 4 TDs in the game; he also created 4 turnovers in the game.
Chiefs 31 Chargers 17: The Chiefs posted 483 yards of offense (413 yards through the air) and won this game handily. The Chiefs only led by 7 at the half and the Chargers’ defense was efficient in the second half allowing only one TD on 6 Chiefs’ possessions. However, the Chargers’ offense in the second half produced this mess:
The Chiefs now lead the AFC West by a whopping three full games over the Raiders who have not looked “menacing” so far in 2023. Patrick Mahomes had a signature game here; he threw for 324 yards and 4 TDs in the game.
Steelers 24 Rams 17: The Rams outgained the Steelers by 54 yards in the game and converted 9 of 16 third down attempts. Usually, that leads to a win; last weekend it did not. The Rams did commit one turnover and it led to a short-field TD drive of 7 yards for the Steelers. The Rams led 17-10 at the start of the 4th quarter and managed to lose the game.
Broncos 19 Packers 17: The Packers had a BYE Week before this game and put forth this clunker of a game. The Broncos led 9-0 at the half; I guess you could say that the Packers “rallied” in the second half, but that would be very generous. The Packers led by a point with 8 minutes to play in the game; after a Broncos’ field goal putting the Packers behind the eight ball, the Packers had the ball in the final two minutes. But an INT by Jordan Love cemented the loss. Feh on both teams here …
Seahawks 20 Cards 10: The Seahawks led 14-10 at the half and then shut the Cards out in the second half to win a lackluster game. In the first half of the game, there was a scrum that would up with two players swinging at each other. Both “made contact” with an official but only one was ejected on the basis that the officials determined that he was the instigator. Frankly, if that is how it went down – – I did not see this game live – – then that is the best use of replay so far this season. The Cardinals, after playing close/competitive games in September, now look like the bottom-feeder team I expected all along. Since they beat Dallas at the end of September, they have lost four consecutive games, all by 10 points or more. The Cards were 0 for 3 on fourth down in this game.
Eagles 31 Dolphins 17: I was in the stadium to watch this game. The Dolphins’ high octane offense was held to 244 yards with only 45 yards coming on the ground. When Tua tried to pass, he was under pressure at least 75% of the time. Nevertheless, the Eagles only led 24-17 at the start of the 4th quarter and the Dolphins had put together a nice drive to get the ball deep in Eagles’ territory when Darius Slay intercepted Tua at the 2 yard line with about 11 minutes left in the game. From there, the Eagles put together a scoring drive that covered 83 yards in 13 plays and consumed 6 minutes and 35 seconds. The final defensive series for the Eagles had them regaining possession after 4 plays that netted the Dolphins zero yards. AJ Brown had another big game catching 10 passes for 137 yards. Brown has been impossible to stifle. He has caught at least six passes for at least 131 yards in each of the Eagles’ last five games.
Before getting to this week’s contests, let me keep you up to date on two trending issues in the NFL:
- The Steelers gained 300 yards on offense last week. That means they have been at or below 300 yards in 5 of their 6 games this week. Also, it has now been 40 consecutive games for Steelers OC, Matt Canada, where he has failed to put together a game plan that could gain 400 or more yards in a game.
- Sam Howell was sacked 6 times by the Giants last week. He has now been sacked 40 times in the Commanders’ seven games to date. That projects to 97 sacks for the season. The NFL record is 76 sacks in one season.
Games This Week:
For reasons known only to the NFL scheduling mavens, all the teams are in action this week. It is as if the “Bye Weeks” have taken a BYE Week after 6 teams took off last week and 4 teams will sit out next week.
One other interesting note before getting to the individual games this week. The road team is favored in 9 of the 15 games left on the card for this weekend. Whatever happened to home-field advantage?
Saints – 1 at Colts (44): The Saints have had a long week to prepare since they last played on Thursday night a week ago – – losing to the Jags. The Saints have been unimpressive this year posting a 3-4 record, but in the homogenized NFC South, that puts the Saints in second place one game behind the less-than-fearsome Falcons in the division. This is an important game for the Saints. Meanwhile the Colts are 2 games behind the Jags in the AFC South and a loss here would but the team squarely behind the eight ball. The QB comparison in the game is stark:
- Derek Carr: Never spectacular, never abjectly awful. Steady as she goes…
- Gardner Minshew: Sometimes 4 TDs; sometimes 4 INTs; sometimes both in the same game. Full speed in one direction or the other …
Jags – 3 at Steelers (41): The Steelers are 4-2 this year and are only a half game behind the Ravens in the AFC North. Amazingly, with that winning record, the Steelers’ point differential so far in 2023 is minus-24 points. The Jags have won 4 games in a row; that is the second longest winning streak in the league. Statistically, the two teams are about even; Trevor Lawrence is the better QB. Is that enough for me to take the Jags and lay points on the road in Pittsburgh? No.
Texans – 3 at Panthers (43.5): Obviously, the storyline here is the first NFL confrontation between Bryce Young (Overall #1 pick in April’s draft) and CJ Stroud (Overall #2 pick in April’s draft). So far, Stroud has the better record and the better stats, but it is way too soon to write off Young as a bust. The Panthers are winless this year. Their defense has been decent ranking 19th in the NFL in yards allowed per game; the offense has been less effective ranking 24th in the league in yards gained per game. On the scoreboard, the Panthers are losing by 12.5 points per game. Given that this game means a lot to the Texans in terms of the standings, I like them to win and cover even on the road; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Eagles – 7.5 at Commanders (43.5): Simply stated, this is a classic “sandwich game” for the Eagles. Last week, they had to prep for the high-flying Dolphins; next week, they face their closest rival in the NFC East, the Cowboys; the week after that they go on the road to take on the Chiefs. And here in the middle of all that are the plain vanilla Washington Commanders. No way do I take the Eagles to cover here; if you think that hook on top of a full TD in the spread makes you comfortable taking the underdog here, be my guest.
Rams at Cowboys – 6 (45): The Cowboys have the better overall roster. The Rams have the better QB and the better head coach. If you want to make a pick here, flip a coin…
Pats at Dolphins – 9.5 (47): Both teams surprised last week. The Pats were a pleasant surprise playing well and winning over the Bills. The Dolphins were pushed around by the Eagles and lost by 2 TDs. There is an unknown here:
- Tyreek Hill did not practice on Wednesday with a “hip injury”.
If he does not play, that changes a lot because it would allow the Pats to focus on Jaylen Waddle making the explosive Miami passing game less lethal. So, is Hill in or out? Without knowing that, this game is a pass…
Jets – 3 at Giants (37): Look for a defense-dominated game here. The offensive unit that makes the biggest mistake will lose this game. If you want to make a prediction as to which team’s offense will do that, have at it…
Falcons – 2.5 at Titans (35.5): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. The Titans are a mess; the only thing offensive about their offense is their body odor. Ryan Tannehill has a sprained ankle and is not expected to play; even if he does, he should not be at peak performance which is what Ryan Tannehill has to put out for the Titans to win. So, the Titans could start Malik Willis or Will Levis. At least if Levis starts his first game in the NFL, it might make the game watchable simply to see what the kid can do. For the Falcons, I trust Desmond Ridder about as much as the dealer in a 3-card Monte game…
Vikes – 1.5 at Packers (42): The Vikes played very well last week beating the Niners, but the Vikes traditionally do not play well in Green Bay. The counter to that statement is that the Packers have looked awful over the last several weeks,
Browns at Seahawks – 3.5 (38): The spread opened the week at 1 point and slowly rose to this level over the week. The Total Line opened the week at 41 points and dropped to this level pretty quickly. It looks as if the Browns will start PJ Walker again this week; he got the job done last week so the team should not lack confidence in him making plays. Make no mistake, it is the Browns’ defense that stands out for the team. I know this is a long ride for the Browns to get to the kickoff, but I really do like that defense to dig in and limit the Seahawks offense. I’ll take the Browns plus the points; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Chiefs – 7 at Broncos (47): If you like trends, here are two for you:
- Patrick Mahomes has started 12 games against the Broncos.
- In those games the Chiefs’ record is 12-0.
- Patrick Mahomes has started 16 games on the road against AFC West teams.
- In those games, the Chiefs’ record is 16-0.
Give me the Chiefs to win and cover on the road; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Bengals at Niners – 4 (43.5): The spread opened at 6.5 points and has been inching down over the course of the week; the Total Line opened at 45.5 points and dropped rather quickly to this level. This is my Game of the Week. The Niners have lost two in a row and need to right the ship; the Bengals continue to dig out of the early season hole they dug for themselves. These are two very good teams, and both need this game. The Niners will be without Deebo Samuel again and they really do need to give Christian McCaffrey a little breather at some point in this game; McCaffrey was on the field for all the offensive snaps last week.
Ravens – 9 at Cards (44.5): The spread opened at 7.5 points and has been expanding slowly all week. The Ravens look like a team with an eye on the AFC Championship Game; the Cards look like a team with an eye on a Top-5 Draft Pick next April.
(Sun Nite) Bears at Chargers – 9 (46): This game came within a millimeter of being the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. If you have followed the Bears’ fortunes this year, you know they can be awful or they can win by 3 scores depending on the phase of the moon. If you have followed the Chargers’ fortunes this year, you know that their defense can keep any opponent in any game. The two best things about this game as a nationally televised game are:
- Folks can see Tyson Bagent (rhymes with “agent”) play and root for a narrative like the one in the horrendous movie, Rudy.
- Folks can see Justin Herbert demonstrate to Bears’ fans how a QB named “Justin” should play QB in the NFL.
(Mon Nite) Raiders at Lions – 9 (46): The Total Line opened the week at 44 points. Both teams wet the bed last week (see above). The Lions have the better roster and the better coach and the better QB – – even if Jimmy G. can start and finish this game. I am tempted to take the Lions here but will resist that temptation.
So let me review the “Betting Bundle”:
- Arizona +3.5 against Oregon St.
- Iowa St – 2.5 over Baylor
- Texans – 3 over Panthers
- Browns +3.5 against Seahawks
- Chiefs – 7 over Broncos.
Also here are two Money Line parlays – – one for college games and one for the NFL…
- Tulane @ minus-400 (over Rice)
- Air Force @ minus-425 (over Colorado St.)
- Oklahoma @ minus-300 (over Kansas)
- $100 wager to win $106
- Ravens @ minus-450
- Chiefs @ minus-350
- Texans @ minus-170
- $100 wager to win $150
Finally, let me close this out with these words of wisdom from UNC coach, Mack Brown:
“Most players don’t mind drug testing once they realize they don’t have to study for it.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………