Shakespeare told us that the quality of mercy “droppeth like the gentle rain from Heaven.”
Football Friday droppeth from the sky like a lead brick simply because it is Friday. So, let me get things cooking here with a review of last week’s “Betting Bundle”.
College: 2-0-0 => Season: 11-6-0
NFL: 0-3-0 => Season: 10-8-0
Parlays: 0-2 => Loss = $200 ==> Season: 6-7 Profit = $213
College Football Commentary:
The Linfield College Wildcats beat Pacific University 42-27 last weekend extending their record to 7-0 this year. The Wildcats have won the Northwest Conference Championship in 12 of the last 13 seasons and the final game of this year is at home against Whitworth. Assuming both Linfield and Whitworth win their games this weekend, they will arrive at the field undefeated in conference games making it a winner-take-all game.
To set that up, Linfield must beat Pacific Lutheran this week; the Lutes are 4-4 to this point in the season. And Whitworth will need to prevail over George Fox University; the Bruins record this morning stands at 3-5.
There are still 8 Division 1-A football teams who are undefeated in 2023:
- Air Force
- Florida St.
- James Madison
- Ohio St.
For reasons that are not clear to me, James Madison may or may not be bowl-eligible due to the timing of their “graduation” to Division 1-A from Division 1-AA. Seven of these eight teams are currently ranked in the Top-25; Liberty University is 8-0 and is in the lead in C-USA but is unranked.
Clemson was the pre-season favorite to win the ACC; with their loss last week, the Tigers are 4-4 on the season. The last time Clemson had four regular-season losses was in 2010. In 2023, Clemson has been eliminated from the ACC Championship race.
Big things were considered for SMU entering the season after a mediocre 7-6 campaign in 2022. SMU lost to two Big 12 opponents early on this year but have reeled off four straight wins in AAC play. In those four games, SMU has outscored its conference opponents by a combined 189-36.
There were two really surprising upsets last week:
- UNC lost 46-42 to Georgia Tech – – a team that entered Saturday with a 3-4 record. It was the Tar Heels’ second-straight conference loss to a team with a losing record – – they fell to Virginia two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, UNC was undefeated and was a longshot to make the CFP; today, they need help just to make it to the ACC Championship Game.
- The bigger of the two upsets last week was Kansas beating Oklahoma. This was the Sooners’ first loss to Kansas since 1997. The Big-12 title race is now open to all conference teams with one conference loss and the results of this game guarantee that the Big-12 champion will not present an undefeated record to the CFP Selection Committee. Two weeks ago, Oklahoma needed a late rally to beat UCF – – an opponent that can only be called “mediocre”.
Speaking of the Big-12, the conference moved aggressively compensate for the imminent loss of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC. Four new teams accepted invitations to join the Big-12 – – bringing the conference membership to 14 schools but who’s counting? The four new members are not exactly “lighting it up” this year:
- BYU is 5-3 overall and 2-3 in conference games.
- Cincinnati is 2-6 overall and 0-5 in conference games.
- Houston is 3-5 overall and 1-4 in conference games.
- UCF is 3-5 overall and 0-5 in conference games.
These four newcomers have some growing-up/catching-up to do as compared to their conference comrades. As of today, the cumulative conference record for these newcomers is a shabby 3-17.
One of the slots in the New Year’s Day Bowl Games is set aside for a conference winner outside the Power-5. Even though Liberty is undefeated and leading its conference, it gets rather little attention as a contender for that slot. The two teams that get mentioned more often are:
- Air Force (8-0). They lead the Mountain West Conference and have games with Army, Hawaii, UNLV and Boise St. remaining. The Falcons should be favored in all four of those games.
- Tulane (7-1). They are tied atop the American Athletic Conference with no losses in conference games. Their only loss was to Ole Miss back in Week 2; it is not a huge embarrassment for an AAC team to lose to an SEC team. Every other team in the AAC already has 2 or more losses on the books; so from the AAC it would have to be Tulane or bust. The rest of the schedule for the Green Wave is E. Carolina, Tulsa, Florida Atlantic and UT-San Antonio.
Some games from last week in the ACC:
Florida St. 41 Wake Forest 16: The Seminoles remain unbeaten and in the hunt for a CFP invitation. This game was never in doubt:
- Florida St. Total Offense = 508 yards
- Wake Forest Total Offense = 210 yards
NC State 24 Clemson 17: As noted above, Clemson is only 4-4 this season and all four losses have been to ACC opponents. Here is the rest of the Clemson schedule:
- Vs. Notre Dame
- At Georgia Tech
- Vs. UNC
- At South Carolina
Louisville 23 Duke 0: Louisville has only 1 conference loss and is a contender for the ACC Championship Game; this was Duke’s second conference loss. Duke’s offense was a no-show for the game gaining only 51 yards rushing and 202 yards of total offense. The Blue Devils were forced to punt 10 times in the game.
Notre Dame 58 Pitt 7: With 2 losses, Notre Dame is not in the CFP mix, but this was a statement win by the Irish telling the New Year’s Day Bowl Committees to remember the Fighting Irish.
Miami 29 UVa 26 (OT): The Hurricanes were 18.5-point favorites in the game. UVa won the stat sheet handily:
- Virginia Total Offense = 377 yards
- Miami Total Offense – 276 yards
- Virginia 23 first downs
- Miami 16 first downs
Virginia had a double-digit lead in the game and coughed it up.
Ga Tech 46 UNC 42: This makes it two losses in a row for UNC and the Heels are the second “big dog” in the ACC to fall to Georgia Tech this year. Tech outscored UNC 22-7 in the 4th quarter to come away with the win. The two teams combined for 1212 yards of offense in the game.
Va Tech 38 Syracuse 10. Tech is 4-4 on the season but they only have 1 loss against ACC opponents. If Tech wins out and either Louisville or Florida State stumbles, the Hokies might end up in the ACC Championship Game despite four losses for the year.
In Big-12 action:
K-State 41 Houston 0: The Cougars put a scare into Texas two weeks ago but none of that sort of play carried over here. Five teams in the Big-12 have only one conference loss and K-State is on that list.
Kansas 38 Oklahoma 33: The stat sheet was as even as the scoreboard:
- Kansas Total Offense = 443 yards
- Oklahoma Total Offense = 436 yards
Kansas trailed 33-32 in the game which was decided in the final minute when Devin Neal ran nine yards for a TD. (A two-point conversion try failed.) That TD broke an 18-game losing streak to Oklahoma for the Jayhawks. It was Homecoming Weekend for Kansas; the alums got a special treat here. With this win, Kansas is now bowl-eligible; Oklahoma – – even if it wins the Big-12 Championship Game – – is probably out of CFP consideration with this loss to a previously unranked team.
Texas 35 BYU 6: Mallik Murphy filled in for injured Texas QB Quinn Ewers and played an excellent game:
- 16 of 25 for 170 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT
Texas is another of the “one-loss teams” in the Big-12 as of this morning.
Iowa St. 30 Baylor 18: The Cyclones are in the middle of the Big 12 race now that Oklahoma has a conference loss.
Oklahoma St. 45 Cincy 13: This game was simply a beatdown. There is no other way to describe it.
Moving on to games in the Big-10:
Penn St. 33 Indiana 24: Penn St. was a 32-point favorite here and had to scratch and scramble to win the game; covering was never in question. Perhaps, this was a letdown game for the Nittany Lions after losing a week ago to Ohio St.? If that were the case, the team had better not take this week’s opponent lightly as it looks ahead to a game at home against Michigan.
Northwestern 33 Maryland 27: That evens up Northwestern’s record for the year at 4-4 and pretty much eliminates them from a SHOE Tournament invitation.
Nebraska 31 Purdue 14: After some early-season missteps, Nebraska is only 1 win away from being bowl eligible. It looks like Coach Rhule has this program headed in a positive direction. Four teams in the Big-10 West have conference records of 3-2; Nebraska is one of the four.
Ohio St. 24 Wisconsin 10: Wisconsin is another of the Big-10 West teams with a 3-2 conference record. The Buckeyes dominated the stat sheet but turned the ball over 3 times in the game keeping it relatively close.
Here are a few SEC games from last week:
Texas A&M 30 South Carolina 17: The Aggies’ defense held S Carolina’s running game to 33 yards on 28 carries in the game. Wow!
Auburn 27 Mississippi St. 13: Both teams need two more wins for bowl eligibility. That is the ceiling for both squads this season.
Georgia 43 Florida 20: Last week, I wondered aloud here how the Georgia offense might perform without Brock Bowers in the lineup. In case any doubt remains, Georgia outgained Florida by 176 yards in this game. Florida scored a TD in the first 4 minutes of the game and also scored a TD in the final 2 minutes. In between, it was all Georgia…
Tennessee 33 Kentucky 27: Neither team has a realistic shot at the SEC Championship Game, but this win does make Tennessee bowl-eligible and leaves Kentucky needing one more win to achieve that status. Here is the rest of the Kentucky schedule:
- At Mississippi St.
- Vs. Alabama
- At South Carolina
- At Louisville
Out west in the PAC-12 …
Oregon 35 Utah 6: Here is the telling stat from this game:
- Oregon averaged 6.7 yards per offensive play.
- Utah averaged 3.7 yards per offensive play.
This was a “statement game” for Oregon. They needed a good showing to make the case that they too belong in the CFP discussion despite losing to Washington earlier this season. It is very possible that the Ducks and the Huskies will meet again in the PAC-12 Championship Game and Oregon wants to have a tidy résumé to put before the Selection Committee if it can win that game.
USC 50 Cal 49: The two teams combined for 1024 yards of offense; it was a “Tackling Optional Game”. USC trailed by 11 points at halftime and needed a 21-point outburst in the 4th quarter to secure this victory. Cal may not be the worst team in the PAC-12, but they are hardly a powerhouse.
Washington 42 Stanford 33: The Huskies remain unbeaten and are properly part of the CFP discussion as of today.
UCLA 28 Colorado 16: The Bruins are now bowl eligible; the Buffaloes still need to find two wins to make it to a bowl game Here is the rest of Colorado’s schedule; it is not an easy one:
- Vs. Oregon St.
- Vs. Arizona
- At Washington St.
- At Utah
UCLA recorded 7 sacks in this game; the Colorado OL needs a lot of help from the transfer portal in the off-season if Coach Prime hopes to make Colorado relevant on the gridiron once again.
Arizona St. 38 Washington St 27: This is only the second win of the year for Arizona St. Wash St. needs two more wins for bowl eligibility
Arizona 27 Oregon St. 24: Arizona struggled earlier this year but seems to have gotten things together. One more win and they go to a bowl game…
In miscellaneous games:
SMU 69 Tulsa 10: Two weeks ago, SMU scored 55 points on Temple. Now they put a beat down on Tulsa. Do the Mustangs have some sort of vendetta against school names that begin with the letter “T”? The Sesame Street characters want to know …
BC 21 UConn 14: SHOE Tournament implications here…
UMass 21 Army 14: SHOE Tournament implications here …
Appalachian St. 48 So Miss 38: SHOE Tournament implications here …
Tulane 30 Rice 28: As noted above, Tulane is 7-1 and would like to be the Group of 5 team that gets invited to a New Year’s Day Bowl Game. A 2-point win over Rice is not much of a calling card …
Liberty 42 W. Kentucky 29: Liberty is one of the undefeated teams in the country. They may not play the world’s toughest schedule, but they only can beat the team that takes the field against them…
The possibilities for the SHOE Tournament field are beginning to crystallize. Here are a dozen teams on my watch list:
- Akron (1-7)
- Army (2-6)
- Ball St. (2-6)
- Cincinnati (2-6)
- East Carolina (1-7)
- Kent St. (1-7)
- La-Monroe (2-6)
- Michigan St. (2-6)
- Southern Mississippi (1-7)
- Stanford (2-6)
- Temple (2-6)
- UConn (1-7)
And just a brief update on the teams in contention for the Brothel Defense Award for 2023:
- Southern Mississippi gives up 39.4 points per game.
- UMass gives up 39.2 points per game.
- Temple gives up 38.0 points per game.
Games of Interest This Week:
I don’t care if you get tired of hearing from and about SEC teams. For this weekend, much of the focus for folks who like and follow college football will be on two SEC games:
- LSU at Alabama – – and – –
- Missouri at Georgia.
I don’t say this to minimize the rest of the games on the schedule for this weekend. In fact, neither of those two games is my College Game of the Week. But in terms of real and potential impact on the college football season, this is “where the action is” this weekend.
Miami – 6 at NC St. (44): The spread opened the week at 3.5 points and has climbed steadily during the week; one sportsbook has it at 7 points this morning. No, I don’t know why …
Wisconsin – 9 at Indiana (45): The Badgers are tied for the lead with 3 other teams in the Big-10 West; they need this game. Indiana is playing because that is what the schedule tells them they are supposed to do.
UCF – 4 at Cincy (59.5): Two of the new teams in the Big-12 who have not impressed so far this year. Maybe the rallying cry for this game should be:
- Conference bottom-feeders – – Unite!!!
Ohio St. – 19 at Rutgers (42): Ohio St. has not been blowing opponents away this year the way they have in the past. Is this the game where the offense clicks and hangs something like 70 points on Rutgers?
Florida St. – 21 at Pitt (50.5): This looks like a big mismatch to me …
Penn St. – 8 at Maryland (51): The spread opened at 10 points and has been dropping slowly all week long. The Lions did not impress last week, and they could easily be looking past the Terps toward their meeting with Michigan next week.
Tulane – 17 over E. Carolina (47): Tulane wants and needs to impress the New Year’s Day Bowl mavens; they got a shot at a big bowl game last year and won the game; they would like to do that again. E. Carolina is on the SHOE Tournament watch list…
Nebraska – 3 at Michigan St. (35): The Huskers will get a bowl game with a win here. The Spartans’ football program is in disarray.
Va Tech at Louisville – 9.5 (49): Both teams have only 1 conference loss and they are looking up at Florida St. in the standings. The winner here is in a good place.
Navy – 6.5 at Temple (46): Temple gives up 38 points per game all by themselves. The Total Line here reflects the fact that Navy will predominantly run the football and keep the clock running thereby limiting the number of possessions and the number of scoring opportunities.
Iowa – 5 at Northwestern (30.5): Iowa is one of four teams tied atop the Big-10 West; they need a win more than does Northwestern. Absent defensive scores or special teams’ scores, the first offense to put 15 points up should win this game.
Illinois at Minnesota – 2 (43): Minnesota is in that mix atop the Big-10 West race. Illinois is not…
Kentucky – 3 at Mississippi St. (46): Kentucky has lost three games in a row – – but those losses have come at the hands of Georgia, Mizzou and Tennessee. Those are top teams in the SEC and Mississippi St. is definitively not a top team in the SEC. Yes, Mississippi St. is much tougher at home than on the road, but I think Kentucky is the significantly better team here; I like Kentucky to win and cover on the road; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Oregon St. – 13.5 at Colorado (63): I suspect that Colorado’s quest for bowl-eligibility will take a big hit in this one…
Army at Air Force – 19 (31.5): Wow, that is a huge spread for a game between two service academies. Air Force is undefeated and is eyeing a possible New Year’s Day Bowl Game; Army is on the SHOE Tournament watch list.
Cal at Oregon – 24.5 (59): Cal scored 49 points on USC last week; they won’t do that again here. Oregon has plenty of incentive to keep its foot on the gas in this one; it could get very ugly.
UCLA – 3.5 at Arizona (51.5): Arizona would become bowl eligible with a win here. Last week, I liked Arizona as a home underdog with the better defense. Arizona won that game outright. I think the same situation obtains here PLUS UCLA arrives with a seemingly gaudy 6-2 record, but the Bruins have not beaten anyone of note all season long. I’ll take Arizona plus the points again this week; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Washington – 3 at USC (76): This is my College Game of the Week. Washington needs the game to remain unbeaten knowing that one of the teams ranked ahead of them today must lose when Michigan and Ohio St. play later. It also features two serious Heisman candidates in Caleb Willliams and Michael Penix Jr.
Kansas at Iowa St. – 3 (53): Iowa St. is one of 5 conference teams with only 1 conference loss; Kansas already has 2 conference losses; the game means more to Iowa St. However, the same was true last week when Kansas rose up and beat Oklahoma (see above). Can the Jayhawks replicate that kind of game?
LSU at Alabama – 3 (60): This was my runner-up for the College Game of the Week. Alabama leads the SEC West with a 5-0 record; LSU – – along with Ole Miss – – is in second place at 4-1. If LSU wins the game, the SEC West will become highly interesting because Alabama has beaten Ole Miss and Ole Miss has beaten LSU and now … The LSU defense has played well the last two weeks, but it will be missing two starters in this game; can the Tigers make up for those absences? Alabama’s defensive prowess is not in question, but Alabama’s offense has been a bit of “hit-or-miss” in 2023. I think the Alabama offense can get well against the “spotty” LSU defense AND I think the LSU offense is plenty good enough to challenge the ‘Bama defense. I like this game to go OVER; put that in the “Betting Bundle”. This is the Saturday night game in Prime Time for Eastern Time Zone viewers. I’ll be watching…
Oklahoma – 6 at Oklahoma St. (60.5): The Total Line opened the week at 70 points and has plummeted more than 9 points during the week. Both teams bring 4-1 conference records to the field; the loser could be eliminated from contention for the Big-12 Championship.
Missouri at Georgia – 15 (56): Georgia is undefeated in 2023; Missouri is the only SEC East team with only 1 loss. An upset for Mizzou here could easily vault them into the SEC Championship Game because they would own a tiebreaker over Georgia and the teams could each finish with 1 loss. Missouri QB, Brady Cook, has thrown for 300+ yards in Mizzou’s last 4 games; can he do that to the Georgia defense? Georgia QB, Carson Beck, has had three straight games with 300+ yards passing; can he keep that up in this game? This is a great game to watch because Georgia could win by more than 4 TDs – – OR – – Mizzou could win outright at Money Line odds of +520.
- I am not making a pick in this game, but I suspect that Georgia has put the pieces together for the season as shown in last week’s demolition of Florida. If I am right, they will cover 15 points with ease, but I only suspect that to be the case …
Texas A&M at Ole Miss -3 (54): Mississippi needs a win to remain part of the conversation in the SEC East should LSU prevail this weekend.
K-State at Texas – 4 (49): Both teams have only one conference loss in Big-12 play. This is virtually an elimination game for the loser.
Hawaii at Nevada – 3.5 (50.5): SHOE Tournament implications here…
Notre Dame – 3 at Clemson (44): The Irish will not be part of the CFP but would love to get a New Year’s Day Bowl bid…
Let me begin this section with an “update issue”:
- The Eagles only sacked Commanders’ QB, Sam Howell, once in last week’s game. That means Howell has been sacked 41 times in 8 games putting him on pace to be sacked 87 times for the season. The NFL record is 76 sacks in a season.
That update could possibly indicate that the Commanders have figured out how to protect Sam Howell more effectively. However, I wonder if the team is “protecting” him properly in a larger sense. Consider:
- The Commanders ran 69 offensive plays against the Eagles last week and 53 of those plays were passes or attempted passes.
- The score was tied, or the Commanders were in the lead until the final 7 minutes of the game; it is not as if the Commanders had to play “catch-up” until then.
Remember when Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon in Week 1 and there was such an outcry about the evils of artificial turf? Well, there really was such a weeping and gnashing of teeth; go check it out for yourself. The NFLPA even got to the point where it “demanded” that all NFL stadiums convert to natural grass. [Aside: Growing and maintaining natural grass in a domed stadium is tricky business…]
Well, last week on the natural grass of Lambeau Field, Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles tendon. Did you hear any outcry about the playing surface? Did you hear any apologies from the shriekers who accused the turf of harming Aaron Rodgers? I didn’t …
Jaren Hall, a rookie from BYU, replaced Cousins last week. At the time, the QBs on the Vikes’ roster were Hall, Sean Mannion and Nick Mullens. The Vikes are 4-4 and have to decide on how to proceed for the rest of 2023; they are in the hunt for a playoff slot; or they could bag the season and try to figure out what to do at QB for next year – – because Cousins is an unrestricted free agent come next March. I think what the Vikes did was to kick the can down the road. They traded with the Cards to acquire Josh Dobbs to play QB – – for now.
The Vikes’ schedule is relatively soft for the next few weeks; they could build up some wins in that stretch to enhance their playoff possibilities:
- At Falcons
- Vs. Saints
- At Broncos
- Vs. Bears
- BYE WEEK
- At Raiders
After that soft spot in the schedule with winnable games stacked one upon another, the sledding gets a bit more difficult for the Vikes down the home stretch:
- At Bengals
- Vs. Lions
- Vs. Packers
- At Lions
And for the record, that trade means the Cards will go with rookie, Clayton “Name That” Tune as their QB until Kyler Murray is ready to take over those duties. Murray practiced with the team last week and is expected back before Thanksgiving.
From the games last weekend …
Seahawks 24 Browns 20: The Seahawks ran off to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Browns’ defense kept the score in check such that the Browns had the lead 20-17 as the 4th quarter began. The Seahawks took possession at their own 43 yardline with 1:20 left to play in the game and drove 57 yards in 5 plays to score the winning TD. PJ Walker committed 3 turnovers in the game (2 INTs and a lost fumble) and that was more than the Browns’ defense could cover for.
Broncos 24 Chiefs 9: The Broncos hadn’t beaten the Chiefs since 2015, and they had never beaten Patrick Mahomes. They say that Patrick Mahomes had the flu all week and was not fully recovered for the game. That might explain his zero TDs and 2 INTs in the game. That does not explain how:
- The Chiefs’ running game amassed only 62 yards in the game – – or – –
- The Chiefs’ defense held Russel Wilson to 86 yards passing but allowed 3 TD passes in the game.
I chalk this result up to the adage, “On any given Sunday…”
Ravens 31 Cards 24: The Cards slightly outgained the Ravens in the game; the Cards had one more first down than the Ravens. That is the good news for the Cards. The bad news is that the Cards turned the ball over twice and the Ravens never turned the ball over. Those two Cards’ turnovers were INTs, and both led to TDs by the Ravens
Bengals 31 Niners 17: That is 3 losses in a row for the Niners dropping them a half-game behind the Seahawks in the NFC West standings. In each of those 3 losses, the niners’ offense only produced 17 points. The Niners moved the ball well producing 460 yards on offense but that only translated into 17 points. Brock Purdy had a good day throwing for 365 yards in the game – – but he also threw 2 INTs that were harmful; I believe that makes 6 turnovers for Purdy in the last 3 games. Christian McCaffrey broke Lenny Moore’s record for touchdowns in consecutive games (17), set in 1963-64. With the win, the Bengals kept pace behind the Ravens who also won last week. Every team in the AFC North is above .500 this week.
Titans 28 Falcons 23: This was the first start for Titans’ rookie QB, Will Levis and it was most impressive:
- 19 of 29 for 238 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs
DeAndre Hopkins caught three of those four touchdown passes. That stat line suggests to me that Levis should be the starter going forward even if Ryan Tannehill is fully recovered for this weekend. Meanwhile, the Falcons benched Desmond Ridder at halftime; the Falcons offense in the first half totaled only 89 yards and Ridder had taken 5 sacks. He was replaced by Taylor Heinicke who rallied the team in the second half but still fell short.
Bills 24 Bucs 18: The Bills are in second place in the AFC East – – one game behind the Dolphins. The Bucs’ loss drops their record to 3-4 and puts them a game behind both the Saints and the Falcons in the NFC South. The Bills outgained the Bucs by 125 yards in the game and yet only won by 6 points. It is very difficult to anticipate how either of these teams will play from game to game.
Chargers 30 Bears 13: Tyler Bagent started his first NFL game and played the whole way. Frankly, he played better than several other “backup QBs” played last week and he did not look confused or intimidated by the experience at all. The difference here is that the Chargers played a complete game with solid execution in all phases of the game. That was too much for the Bears last week – – and it would have been no matter who was playing QB for the Bears last week.
Panthers 15 Texans 13: This gets the Panthers off the schneid; now, there are no winless teams in the NFL in 2023. It was a defensive game:
- Panthers’ Total Offense = 224 yards
- Texans’ Total Offense = 229 yards
The Panthers won on a 23-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in the game.
Jags 20 Steelers 10: The Steelers lost Kenny Pickett to a rib injury at the end of the first half and turned to Mitchell Trubisky for the second half. That didn’t work well; Trubisky did throw a TD pass, but he also threw 2 INTs in the second half. The Jags committed 3 turnovers in the game which is usually a formula for losing – – but not with the Steelers’ offense in sputtering mode here.
Cowboys 43 Rams 20: This game was out of hand by the middle of the second quarter; the Cowboys led at halftime 33-9. Making things even worse for the Rams, Matthew Stafford had to sit out the 4th quarter with a thumb injury on his throwing hand; Brett Rypien was his ineffective replacement. The Cowboys’ offense, defense and special teams were firing on all cylinders in the game:
- Offense produced 387 yards total offense
- Defense produced a Pick-Six
- Special teams blocked a punt resulting in a safety
The Rams need Stafford to be able to throw effectively ASAP if they hope to remain relevant in the NFC playoff conversation. The Rams are 3-5 and have a winnable game coming up against the Packers – – if Stafford can play near his normal level of competence.
Vikes 24 Packers 10: This may have been a Pyrrhic victory; Kirk Cousins had to leave the game on a cart with a torn Achilles tendon which means “out for the season”. The backup QB was Jaren Hall – – a rookie QB out of BYU taken in the fifth round in last April’s Draft. The Vikes led 10-3 at the half but broke it open with 2 TDs in the first 9 minutes of the third quarter. The Packers had the ball in the Red Zone twice in the 4th quarter and scored 0 points on both incursions.
Dolphins 31 Pats 17: After a competent showing two weeks ago against the Bills, the Pats’ offense reverted to its more customary stature – – plodding incompetence. The Pats’ defense is good, but it needs some production from the offense to be competitive:
- Pats’ Total Offense = 218 yards
- Pats’ Time of Possession = 24:05
- Pats had 3 “drives” of “three-and-out” and another “drive” of “four-and-out.”
Meanwhile, Tua had a big day producing this stat line:
- 30 of 45 for 324 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT
Saints 38 Colts 27: Until this game, the Saints’ offense had been mundane in 2023; it sprang to life in this game generating 511 yards total offense. In the 7 games leading up to this one, the Saints had only scored more than 20 points twice this season. Derek Carr threw for 350 yards and 2 TDs in the game. The Colts kept it close for half the game; the Saints only led 21-20 at halftime. The Colts’ defense is problematic; this is the third game in a row that it has given up 37 or more points.
Jets 13 Giants 10 (OT): This game was like watching a mudslide slowly advancing and, in the process, demolishing a housing community. You don’t see it often – – and you are glad that is the case.
- There were 23 points scored in this contest. There were 24 punts in the game. You don’t see that sort of thing very often.
- The Giants’ passing offense was minus-9 yards for the game. You don’t see that sort of thing very often.
- The teams combined to go 4 of 34 on third-down conversions. You don’t see that sort of thing very often.
Tyrod Taylor started the game in place of Daniel Jones at QB for the Giants. Taylor had to leave the game in the first half with a rib injury that sent him to the hospital at least overnight. His replacement was Tommy DeVito a rookie from Syracuse who scored a running TD in the second half but whose passing stats were:
- 2 of 7 for minus-1 yard with 0 TDs and 0 INTs.
Eagles 38 Commanders 31: I said last week, this was a “sandwich game” for the Eagles and they played that way for 3 quarters of the game. The score was tied 17-17 starting the 4th quarter. AJ Brown had another monster game with 8 receptions for 130 yards and 2 TDs. He set an all-time NFL record by having more than 125 yards receiving in 6 consecutive games. If you are discussing who is the best WR in the league in 2023, Brown must be in the discussion. The Commanders actually outgained the Eagles for the day by almost 100 yards and the Eagles turned the ball over twice inside the Commanders’ 5 yardline. And still the Eagles won the game…
Lions 26 Raiders 14: Looking at the score, you might think the outcome of this game was in doubt for more than the first 10 minutes or so. Not so; the Lions completely dominated the play. The Lions outgained Raiders by 389 yards in the game and registered 6 sacks. Consider:
- Lion’s time of possession = 39:33
- Lions’ first downs = 29 Raiders’ first downs = 12
- Lions’ total offense = 486 yards Raiders’ total offense = 157 yards.
- [Aside: The Lions’ offense was more than triple the Raiders’ offense here.]
- And for good measure, the Raiders turned the ball over 3 times in the game. Lions’ rookie RB, Jahmyr Gibbs, made it look easy while logging these stats:
- 26 carries for 152 yards and 1 TD
- 5 pass receptions for 37 yards
The Lions are 6-2; they lead the NFC North by 2 games over the Vikes who must navigate the rest of the year with Josh Dobbs at QB in place of Kirk Cousins. Absent injury woes of their own, the Lions’ path to the NFC North title seems like a smooth one.
Games This Week:
“BYE Weeks” took a BYE Week last weekend; all 16 teams were in action. Not so this week, four teams have the week off:
- Broncos: They have an extra week to enjoy their upset of the Chiefs and to celebrate the first time the Broncos have ever beaten Patrick Mahomes.
- Jags: The Jags are 6-2 and both losses were at home. They get an extra week to figure out why that is the case.
- Lions: They are also 6-2 and can use the week off to heal injuries and figure out ways to keep this momentum going.
- Niners: They have lost 3 in a row. Other than getting Deebo Samuel back from injury, what do they need to do to get back to winning ways?
In last night’s game, the Steelers beat the Titans 20-16. In case there was any ambiguity how and why the Steelers advance their record to 5-3, let me offer up some facts for our consideration:
- In their 3 losses, the Steelers have scored 7 points, 6 points and 10 points. It’s hard to win in the NFL when one’s offense plays like that.
- In their 5 wins, the Steelers have scored an average of 20 points per game. It takes an awfully stingy defense to live on the edge like that.
The Steelers’ offense generated 326 yards on offense meaning they have been above the 300-yard mark for only the second time in 2023. At the same time, this was the 42nd consecutive week for the Steelers’ offense to fail to gain 400 yards in a game.
Dolphins vs. Chiefs – 2 (51) Game is in Germany: For its first-ever regular season game in Germany, the NFL provides fans with two teams leading their divisions. This is a yardstick game for the Dolphins; their record is 6-2 but none of the 6 teams they beat has a winning record in 2023. They have played two teams with winning records (Bills and Eagles) and have lost both of those games badly. The Chiefs are a good team with a winning record; the Dolphins’ credibility is on the line here. This game is good enough to set an alarm to assure you are up and ready to watch, starting at 9:30 AM on Sunday. You like trends for NFL games? Here’s one:
- Patrick Mahomes has won his last 8 starts after a loss.
- The Chiefs lost last week.
Vikes at Falcons – 4 (37): It looks as if Jaren Hall will be the Vikes’ QB as the team gives Josh Dobbs a week to “learn the system”. The Falcons may or may not start Desmond Ridder; if not, they will go with Taylor Heinicke who will either light up the Vikes or find a way to lose a turnover at the most critical moment of the game. This game was a contender for Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Don’t watch it; don’t wager on it.
Seahawks at Ravens – 6 (44): Both teams lead their division; both teams are good. I think the Ravens are the better team but not by much. Lamar Jackson is 17-1 against NFC opponents in his career; he even won last week against the Cards when he only offered up his “C+ game”.
Cards at Browns – 7 (37): The spread for this game is all over the place this morning. I found it as low as 6.5-points and as high as 9 points at one sportsbook today. Who will be the Browns’ QB? That is a “game-time decision”. Deshaun Watson is “Questionable” – – in just about every sense of the word – – with PJ Walker and Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the wings. The Cards will start rookie Clayton Tune. And some folks will actually bet cash money on this game… Amazing.
Rams at Packers – 3 (38): The spread opened the week with the Rams as 2-point favorites. The Rams were dominated by the Cowboys last week and Matthew Stafford may or may not be over his thumb injury. If he can’t go, Brett Rypien will be the Rams’ QB in a game the Rams need to win to maintain relevance. The spread movement tells me that most folks do not anticipate Matthew Stafford in the game. Meanwhile, the Packers stunk out the joint last week also. A loss for the Packers here would put them four full games behind the Lions in the NFC North. This is a game that one team will lose and the other will win by default.
Bucs at Texans – 3 (40): The Bucs are on a three-game losing streak; the Texans lost last week to the previously winless Panthers. Neither team is riding a wave coming into this one. This is not nearly the worst game of the weekend, but it is one to avoid if possible.
Commanders at Pats – 3 (41): The Commanders defense has given up 228 points so far this year (28.5 points per game); that is the worst in the NFC and second in the NFL only to the Colts who have given up 229 points so far this year. On the other side of the ball, the Pats’ offense only produces 14.8 points per game. The Commanders’ defensive backfield has been regularly torched this season; the Pats’ WRs are substandard at best. I will have to watch this game because of my geolocation on Sunday; if you have other choices, exercise those choices.
Bears at Saints – 9 (41): The Saints have a good defense; sometimes they have a decent offense too. The Bears will still start Tyson Bagent in the game, and I don’t think he is up to going toe-to-toe with the Saints’ defensive unit. But do I trust Derek Carr to have two big games in a row?
Colts – 2 at Panthers (44): Both teams are in the cellar in their division. Both teams might realistically aspire to mediocrity this year. I am a bit surprised at the Total Line being as low as it is. The Colts give up points galore; if Colts’ QB Gardner Minshew has one of his “magical games” this total could be near 60 points.
Giants at Raiders – 1.5 (37): These are two bad teams; this is my Dog-Breath Game of the Week. The Raiders’ defense was torched for almost 500 yards last week (see above). The Giants’ offense only averages 11.9 points per game. The Raiders come to the game with a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator and a new QBs coach and they plan to start rookie Aiden O’Connell at QB. Those sorts of changes can produce great highs or mass confusion. The constant in this equation is the Giants; they will play solid if not spectacular defense and will be miserable on offense.
Cowboys at Eagles – 3 (47): This is my Game of the Week. This is a big game for both teams. The Eagles lead the NFC East by 1.5 games; if they win here, that becomes a commanding lead equivalent to 3 games given they would hold the tiebreaker at least until the rematch in Dallas later this year. The last three times Dak Prescott has faced the Eagles, the Cowboys have won all 3 games. I have seen the Eagles play 3 times this year and I believe that Jalen Hurts is not at “full strength”. I like the Cowboys plus the points in this game – – even on the road in Philly; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
(Sun Nite) Bills at Bengals – 2 (49.5): The spread opened the week with the Bills as a 1-point favorite but that did not last long. Josh Allen versus Joe Burrow will be most entertaining to watch, and the Bengals seem to have steadied the ship in recent weeks. When things go right for the Bills, they can beat anyone; but they have had too many games in 2023 where everything seems to be a half-note off key. I like the Bengals at home in this game laying less than a field goal; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
(Mon Nite) Chargers – 3 at Jets (40): The Chargers beat the Bears handily last week; does that mean they have found the keys to success? The Jets will field a much better defense than did the Bears last week and it’s a long trip from LA to the Meadowlands for the Chargers. I am tempted to take the points here – – but I will resist.
Let me review the “Betting Bundle”:
- Kentucky – 3 over Mississippi St.
- LSU/Alabama OVER 60
- Arizona +3 against UCLA
- Cowboys +3 against Eagles
- Bengals – 2 over Bills
And here are two Money Line Parlays – – one college and one NFL – – just for fun:
- Browns @ minus-350
- Saints @ minus-380
- Ravens @ minus-260 $100 wager to win $125.
- Wisconsin @ minus-340
- Oregon St. @ minus-460
- SMU @ minus-400 $100 wager to win $97.
Finally, let me close with these words from Alabama head coach, Nick Saban:
“Mediocre people don’t like high achievers, and high achievers don’t like mediocre people.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………