Miley Cyrus said:
“I take a hiatus every now and again, but I’m not good at it.”
Well, after my brief hiatus, let me say that I think I am quite good at it and that my long-suffering wife and I very much enjoyed ourselves over the past week and a half. So, today will be the return of Football Friday and to get things started, let me review the “Betting Bundle” from two weeks ago:
- College: 1-3-0 => Cumulative: 3-4-0
- NFL: 0-0-0 => Cumulative: 4-3-0
- Parlays: 1-1 “Profit” = $119 => Cumulative: 3-2 “Profit” = $314
College Football Commentary :
The Linfield College Wildcats extended their record to 3-0 by overwhelming conference foe, Willamette University by a score of 70-14. This week, Linfield goes on the road to Portland, OR to take on the Lewis and Clark Pioneers. Lewis and Clark is 2-2 on the season; they share one common opponent with Linfield. Lewis and Clark also dominated Willamette two weeks ago by a score of 38-7. Go Wildcats!
This weekend is the Texas State Fair and that means it is also the time for the Texas/Oklahoma football game – – dubbed the Red River Rivalry. Over the past several years, this game had lost some of its historical luster; there were seasons where both teams were ranked in the Top Ten and this was a huge deal. Well, both teams are ranked highly again this year; the AP has Texas ranked #3 and Oklahoma ranked #12. Big game; big rivalry.
Another big game this week will be the Alabama/Texas A&M game in College Station, TX. Both teams are undefeated in conference games; the winner here will not only take the lead in the SEC West, but it will also own the tiebreaker between the teams should that become necessary. I know it is awfully early in the season to call this a “must win” game for either team or to say that the loser here will be eliminated from the SEC West race – – but the game does have that vibe …
Alabama coach, Nick Saban will have to deal with a coach this week who was once part of his staff in Jimbo Fisher. Saban can also look at another coach in a big game this week who used to be part of his program at Alabama in Steve Sarkissian at Texas. And don’t forget about Kirby Smart at Georgia too. Saban has been a mentor to all three of those successful coaches which reminds me of an observation about mentors by the author Bo Sanchez:
“Getting a mentor is a shortcut to success.”
By the way, the plan for the SEC next year is to get rid of the East and West Divisions with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma to the conference. The SEC Championship Game will simply pit the #1 team against the #2 team in the 16-team conference.
In the SEC East, there are 3 undefeated teams – – Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri – – and they all get to play one another. And, Tennessee has only one loss this year meaning that if it runs the table, it will win the SEC East. I know it’s early, but there is plenty of “sorting out” needed in the SEC East.
Penn State has been on a 10-game winning streak ever since losing to Ohio State last season. The Nittany Lions should make that 11 games in a row when they host UMass next week after a BYE Week this week – – and then comes a road game at Ohio State. Look forward to that one…
- [Aside: This weekend, UMass is a 19-point underdog to Toledo. Why are they going to play Penn State next week?]
Florida State is undefeated this year and has already played LSU and Clemson. They had a BYE Week last weekend and now have 3 consecutive home conference games against Va Tech, Syracuse and Duke. It is conceivable tat the Seminoles will be undefeated on Nov 11th when they host the Miami Hurricanes and maybe on November 25th when they visit Gainesville. FL to take on Florida.
When Ole Miss beat LSU 55-49 last week, it put Ole Miss in a position to win the SEC West and gave it a manageable schedule. The Rebels do have a two-week rough spot to navigate in early November hosting Texas A&M one week and then traveling to play Georgia on the road the next week.
Just to track the Iowa scoring record for the season – – because Iowa’s offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’ job depends on it – – the Hawkeyes have scored 111 points in 5 games. To keep his job, the team needs to average 25 points per game. You do the math … Oh, and by the way, Iowa starting QB, Cade McNamara will be out for the rest of the season. Yowza!
- [Aside: Iowa scored 26 points last week but 7 of them came on a punt return. Do those count as part of the necessary 25-point average for the season? Let the lawyers begin to parse the clauses in that contract…]
After two tough games in a row – – both resulting in losses – – Colorado takes on Arizona State and then Stanford over this weekend and next. The Buffaloes have a rather clear path to bowl eligibility this year which is something that was not conceivable last year in Boulder, CO.
USC is one of the teams to beat Colorado in the last two weeks. The Trojans ran off to a huge lead, but Colorado rallied to make the final score very respectable at 48-41. USC is undefeated and ranked 10th in the country this week – – but the Trojans’ defense is very suspect.
If you look at the AP rankings this week, you will find three Big-10 teams in the Top-6. Once Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State get through playing one another – – as will happen since they are all in the same division – – that will all get sorted out.
Just an update on the “race to the bottom” to determine this year’s Brothel Defense Award which goes to the team that gives up the most points per game. As of this morning, here are the “contenders”:
- North Texas giving up 43.0 points per game.
- UMass giving up 39.2 points per game.
- So. Mississippi giving up 39.0 points per game.
Games of Interest This Week:
Syracuse at UNC – 9.5 (59.5): Syracuse is 4-1 for the season and finds itself almost a “double-digit dog” on the road here.
Kentucky at Georgia – 14.5 (48): Kentucky is undefeated this year and finds itself a two-touchdown plus a hook underdog on the road here. Georgia is undefeated this year but against Division 1-A teams the Bulldogs are 0-3-1 against the spread. I can’t see Kentucky winning this one, but I do think they can hang with Georgia here based on their running game. I’ll take Kentucky plus the points; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
LSU – 4.5 at Missouri (65): The spread opened the week at 7 points and has shrunk to this level over the course of the week. Meanwhile the Total Line opened the week at 62.5 points and has expanded over the course of the week. The oddsmakers did not anticipate the money that would come in on this game very well last Sunday night.
Oklahoma at Texas – 6 (60): This is my “College Game of the Week”. The winner here has a clear shot to be on the short list for the CFP come December. I see this game as an offensive explosion, so I’ll take the game to go OVER; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Arizona at USC – 22 (71): If you like a good defensive battle, do not watch this game.
Oregon St. – 9 at Cal (51): The Beavers are 4-1 and are coming off an upset win over Utah last week. Yes, I know; Utah still does not have its starting QB ready for action; nonetheless consider this stat from the game:
- Oregon State ran for 227 yards against a Utah defense that had only been giving up 51.5 yards per game this year.
Cal is 3-2 this year but against its only “tough opponent” so far, they were dominated 59-32 by Washington.
Alabama – 1 at Texas A&M (47): I came close to putting the “College Game of the Week” on this game. The spread opened the week at 3.5 points and has been slowly dropping all week long. I am more interested in the Total Line here. Both teams play good defense and neither team offers an explosive offense. So, absent defensive scores or special teams scores, I am not sure where the 48th point will come from. So, I’ll take this game to stay UNDER; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Dick Butkus died yesterday at the age of 80. He was the middle linebacker that every NFL and AFL team wanted to have on its roster in the 1960s and early 1970s. He played the game with a ferocity that was unmatched. Off the field, Butkus was soft-spoken and thoughtful; he spent time after his playing days came to an end due to knee injuries in the broadcasting booth and as an actor for movies and TV.
Rest in peace, Dick Butkus.
#2 son likes to ferret out trivia questions for me. He ran across some “standings” that were created by someone who obviously wanted to make the NFL schedule seem like the MLB schedule so he – – I am assuming that only a guy would do something like this – – went back and compiled the record for all 32 NFL teams over their last 162 games. The math is not hard, but it is a lot of work to – – seemingly – – no significant end.
In any event, #2 son posed this challenge to me:
- The “Top-5” NFL teams all have 100 wins or more over their last 162 games; name them.
I got three of the “Top-5”. The Chiefs, Pats and Steelers all had 100 wins or more. I whiffed on the other two which were the Seahawks and the Packers.
Naturally, as the presiding officer here in Curmudgeon Central, I wanted to know who the “Bottom-5” were. Again, three of the five were pretty obvious – – Bears, Browns and Jags. I thought the Lions would be in the “Bottom 5”, but they were not. So, I will pose the question to you here:
- Who are the other two teams to join the Bears, Browns and Jags on this “Bottom-5” List?
- The answer will be a few paragraphs later…
I also got an email from a former colleague who sent along a trivia fact but did not use it to pose a question. It is interesting by itself:
- The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers had a Top-5 pick in the NFL Draft was in 1970 when they used that pick to take QB Terry Bradshaw.
David Carr – – Derek Carr’s older brother – – currently holds the unenviable record for taking the most sacks in an NFL season. That happened when David Carr was the rookie QB for the expansion Houston Texans in 2002. Carr was sacked 76 times in that season; only he and Randall Cunningham had the great honor to be sacked more than 70 times in a season. Carr’s record would seem to be in jeopardy as of this morning:
- Sam Howell (Commanders) has been sacked 24 times in 4 games. For a 17-game season that projects to 102 sacks for the season.
- Daniel Jones (Giants) has been sacked 22 times in 4 games. For a 17-game season that projects to 93.5 sacks for the season.
Yes, it is a small sample size, but at anything near this pace, both Howell and Jones will blow by Carr’s record sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The Green Bay Packers have an unusual aspect to their schedule. Their last game was on Thursday September 28th when they lost to the Lions 34-20. This weekend they do not play until Monday night. That is an 11-day “respite”. But wait, there’s more … After playing the Raiders this Monday night, the Packers get their BYE Week; their next game would be on October 22nd meaning the Packers will play one game in 23 days. That does not happen to NFL teams routinely.
- Trivia Answer: the other two teams on the “Bottom-5” list from above at the Jets and the Giants.
I am not going to go through all the games from the past two weeks with comments on all of them – – but there are some that seem worthy of note.
Texans 30 Steelers 6: Who saw this coming? The Texans rookie QB didn’t look like a rookie here throwing for 306 yards and two touchdowns in the game and the Texans posted 450 total yards on offense. I said a couple of weeks ago that Steelers’ Offensive Coordinator, Matt Canada, has not been very capable over the last year or so with the team and he outdid his incompetence in this game. The Steelers only generated 53 yards on offense in the first half here.
Seahawks 24 Giants 3: Daniel Jones did nothing in that game to take the edge off his label of “Prime time flop”. To be fair, he was sacked 11 times in the game meaning the Giants’ OL was playing their usual brand of failed pass protection.
Chargers 24 Raiders 17: The Raiders’ defense showed up this week but having to start a rookie QB, Aiden O’Connell, did not allow the Raiders’ offense to keep up its end of the bargain in this game. O’Connell did not throw up on his shoes in his first NFL start but he made plenty of “rookie mistakes” including losing two fumbles and taking 7 sacks in the game. The Chargers’ defense played without Joey Bosa in the game, but Khalil Mack asserted himself with the following results:
- 10 tackles, 9 QB pressures, 2 forced fumbles and 6 QB sacks.
Not a bad day at the office …
Ravens 28 Browns 3: The Browns never got to the Rad Zone until late in the 4th quarter when the outcome was already decided. Deshaun Watson was a late scratch from the game with a “shoulder injury”; so, the Browns were forced to start a rookie quarterback making his first career start resulting in a disaster for the offense. With Dorian Thompson-Robinson under center, the Browns mustered all of 166 yards of offense and Thompson-Robinson threw three interceptions. The Browns get a BYE this week – – maybe just in time???
Broncos 31 Bears 28: The Broncos were getting pantsed by the worst team in the NFL until late in the 3rd quarter when the Broncos saved face with a stunning comeback from a 28-7 deficit. The Broncos’ defense played well in the second half slowing down Justin Fields. The Broncos’ defense forced two turnovers in the second half including a defensive TD on a “Scoop-and-Score) to tie the game at 28. In the first half, Justin Fields looked like the Bears’ QB of the future: he started the game with 16 straight complete passes and had 231 yards and three touchdowns in that first half. But the Bears reverted to form late in the game. Here are the results of their last 4 possessions that began with the Bears leading 28-14 with only seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter:
- 3 plays – – 10 yards – – 1:18 time of possession – – PUNT
- 5 plays – – 10 yards – – 2:41 time of possession – – LOST FUMBLE
- 11 plays – – 57 yards – – 4:03 time of possession – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
- 7 plays – – 22 yards – – 1:14 time of possession – – INT
Bills 48 Dolphins 20: Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs connected for three touchdowns on the day. The Dolphins’ defense was overwhelmed. Meanwhile, the Dolphins’ offense – – the one that had scored 70 points the week before this one against the Broncos just could not keep pace.
Eagles 34 Commanders 31 (OT): The Eagles remain unbeaten for the season and the Commanders demonstrated that they are not the mediocre team they have been for the last several seasons. The big difference in the game was the inability of the Commanders to deal with Eagles WR, AJ Brown who had 9 receptions for 175 yards and 2 TDs for the game.
By the way, in last week’s games, it seems as if some NFL offensive units set their alarm clocks for the wrong time. Consider:
- The Giants, Browns, Bengals and Pats scored only 3 points in their games.
- The Steelers scored 6 points in their game.
- The Falcons scored 7 points in their game.
- The Saints scored 9 points in their game.
Seven NFL teams did not reach double-digits last week …
In last night’s NFL action, the Bears won their first game of the year defeating the Commanders 40-20. On one hand, the Bears deserved to win this game; they produced a balanced 451 yards on offense and did not turn the ball over. The Bears played sound football.
I try not to use “gutter language” in these rants, but I think the appropriate way to describe the Commanders’ performance last night is that they “shat the bed”. And that description applies to the offense, the defense and the play-calling on both offense and defense. Specifically regarding the play-calling on offense, the Commanders “ran the ball” only 10 times in the game but even that statistic is inflated because 4 of those runs were scrambles by Sam Howell. In reality, they ran the ball 6 times in the game. That is not innovative or creative; that is dumb particularly when the QB is being hurried or hit on at least 75% of those pass attempts. The Bears as a team had 2 sacks coming into this game; they recorded 5 sacks against the Commanders’ offensive line whose only “offensive” trait was its breath.
On defense, the Commanders have 6 first-round picks in their starting lineup. That amalgamation allowed Justin Fields to produce 282 yards passing with 4 TDs and 0 INTs. Ladies and gentlemen, Justin Fields is not going to be named as the All-Pro QB in the NFL this year. Every Commanders’ player who suited up for last night’s game ought to be embarrassed this morning.
This Week’s Games:
BYE Weeks start now. This week these teams will not see action:
- Browns: The Browns may not be a great team – – but they are a lot better with Deshaun Watson at QB – – and he can use another week off to get healthy.
- Bucs: The Bucs are 3-1 and lead the NFC South; I’m not sure they would prefer to have this week off.
- Chargers: The Chargers are averaging 27.5 points per game, and they are only 2-2 for the season. They need to do something to get their defense right.
- Seahawks: The Seahawks are one game behind the niners in the NFC West, but their only loss was in a division game at home. That could hurt them down the line.
Before getting to the individual games, allow this overview comment. There are many marginally interesting contests on the schedule for this weekend. Picking the Game of the Week was a no-brainer; picking a single Dog-Breath Game of the Week was a challenge.
Jags at Bills – 6 (48): This is a “London Game” with a wrinkle. The Jags are playing in London for the second straight week; the Bills are crossing the pond this week. Thanks, but no thanks on this game as a wagering proposition for me…
Texans at Falcons – 2 (41): This line feels to me like leaning toward a home team because the visiting team is young and inexperienced. You can call me out on this in a year or two, but I think the Falcons will win in spite of Desmond Ridder and not because of him. I don’t know what may happen this weekend, but I think the Texans are on a better trajectory for the future than are the Falcons.
Panthers at Lions – 9 (44): The line opened the week at 7 points; it expanded to 10 points in mid-week and seems to have settled at this number for now. I think the Panthers are overmatched here and I think the Lions under Dan Quinn will not take their foot off the gas. I like the Lions to win and cover at home; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Titans – 2.5 at Colts (43): The week opened with the Colts as 1.5-point favorites in the game, but all the momentum has been toward the Titans this week. All four teams in the AFC South are 2-2 this morning, so this is an “important game” even if it is only Week 5.
Giants at Dolphins – 12.5 (47.5): The Giants are awful; there is no way to sugar-coat that. The Dolphins may not be as great as they seemed scoring 70 points against the Broncos, but they are clearly the better team here. Losing to this Giants’ team would be an embarrassment of gargantuan proportion for the Dolphins. The only reason I will not take the Dolphins and lay the points is that I do not play NFL games with double-digit spreads.
Saints at Pats “pick ‘em” (39.5): This is the sort of team the Pats are designed to beat – – a team that does not score a lot of points which allows the Pats’ defense to smother them. The Saints average 15.2 points per game this year. No fireworks in this contest; the first team to 20 points is the winner.
Ravens – 4 at Steelers (38): These AFC North division games usually end with the winner eking out a victory by a point or two and with the winner also looking as if he had been in a rock fight. The Steelers’ offense is pathetic – – but the Steelers’ defense always shows up to play against Lamar Jackson. There is some question about the Steelers’ QB situation. If Kenny Pickett cannot go, that means Mitchell Trubisky against the Ravens’ defense and if that is the case, the Steelers’ defense will need to be close to perfect to make this a game.
Bengals – 3 at Cards (45): The Bengals are 1-3; if they lose this game, they may just be done for the year in terms of “Super Bowl aspirations”. Everything hinges on the lingering calf injury to Joe Burrow; if he is “healed”, the Bengals are the better team; if not …
Eagles – 4 at Rams (50): The spread here opened with the Eagles as 6-point favorites and the Total Line was set at 46.5 points. There has been plenty of line movement in this one. The Eagles are still unbeaten in 2023 but they have hardly appeared to be any sort of juggernaut; their point differential is only +28 points which is less than six other teams in the NFL five of which have a loss on their record.
Jets at Broncos – 2.5 (43.5): You guessed it; this is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Can the Jets’ offense click here to save face for their OC, Nathanial Hackett? The Jets may not even need that to win because the Jets’ defense ought to be able to contain Russell Wilson and the Broncos’ offense. I rarely make a pick in the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, but I think the wrong team is favored here. Give me the Jets on the road plus the points; put that in the “Betting Bundle.”
Chiefs – 3.5 at Vikes (52.5): The spread opened at 6.5 points and shrunk to this level as the week wore on. The Vikes won last week to get off the schneid for 2023 but I have difficulty seeing the Vikes’ defense containing the Chiefs’ offense. I like the Chiefs on the road to win and cover; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
(Sun Nite) Cowboys at Niners – 3 (45): This is so obviously the Game of the Week that I will entertain no debate on the topic. Both teams are on a roll.
- The Cowboys have 3 wins this year – – by margins of 40 points, 20 points and 35 points.
- Somehow, the Cowboys managed to lose to the Cards along the way.
- The Niners are undefeated this year and have given up only 14.5 points per game.
(Mon Nite) Packers at Raiders – 1 (44): Both teams looked bad, bad, bad in their last game. The Raiders could only score 17 points against the Chargers’ defense and the Packers were pushed around by the Lions. The Packers are the better team; the Raiders are at home; if you want to bet on this game, just bet on the coin flip.
So let me review this week’s “Betting Bundle”:
- Texas/Oklahoma OVER 60
- Alabama/Texas A&M UNDER 47
- Kentucky +14.5 against Georgia
- Lions – 9 over Panthers
- Jets + 2.5 against Broncos
- Chiefs – 3.5 over Vikes
And just for fun here are three Money Line Parlays for the Week
- Jets @ +125
- Lions @ minus- 470
- $100 wager to win $173.
- Texans @ +115
- Chiefs @ minus- 180
- $100 wager to win $234.
- Lions @ minus-470
- Dolphins @ minus- 600
- Chiefs @ minus-180
- $100 wager to win $120.
Finally, I’ll close this Football Friday with an observation by former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden about one of his players:
“He doesn’t know the meaning of the word “fear”. In fact, I just saw his grades and he doesn’t know the meaning of a lot of words.”
But don’t get me wrong, I Iove sports………