Professional Wrestling Today ???

Professional wrestling bills itself as “sports entertainment”.  From where I stand, it is certainly not a “sport” and I do not find it even remotely “entertaining”.  So, let me invent my own descriptor for what World Wrestling Entertainment puts on the air periodically:

  • “Scripted acrobatic faux violence.”

Another way to look at it is that professional wrestling is a soap opera where serial romantic interludes are replaced by serial “fights to the death”.  The comments above should explain why I rarely refer to any sort of happenstance in the realm of “rassling.  But now there is a story out there that deserves some comment.

Vince McMahon has been the “kingpin” of professional wrestling for about 30 years, and he has been a successful businessman in that arena chalking up a net worth – – according to Forbes – – of $3B.  However, he is now accused in a civil lawsuit of behaviors that go will outside the bounds of sexual harassment.  His accuser says that she was subjected to “sexual slavery” not only at the hands of McMahon but also, she was “served up” to wrestlers and other company executives.  The WWE was recently bought out by another entity and McMahon was on the Board of Directors for that other entity until last week; he has stepped down via resignation from the position and he vows to clear his name and vigorously defend himself.

This story is at a dangerous stage.  It is so salacious that one cannot ignore it totally; witness that even I as a professional wrestling hater am commenting on it.  At the same time, we have only heard one side of this story so far.  To be sure, what we have heard so far is sufficiently revolting that one is spring-loaded to take sides; maybe that is the proper thing to do sometime later as more facts and more testimony under oath present themselves.  However, I will refrain until that time because of numerous precedents where salacious stories proved to be fabricated in the end.  I am NOT saying that is the case here; I don’t know enough yet to take a side – – but it is tempting to recall that reports say McMahon has paid off accusers of his “wrongdoings” in the past and take up the cause against him.

At the moment, this is a civil matter and not a criminal one.

Moving on …  There is an interesting circumstance that may come to pass regarding the 2018 NFL Draft.  In that Draft, there were 5 QBs taken in the first round:

  • Baker Mayfield – – 1st – – Not a bust but certainly not a star QB either
  • Sam Darnold – – 3rd – – This is his 3rd team in 6 seasons.  Meh!
  • Josh Allen – – 7th – – Franchise QB
  • Josh Rosen – – 10th – – 3 teams in 3 seasons; out of the league.  Flame-out!
  • Lamar Jackson – – 32nd – – Probably about to win his second MVP Award

Many will look at that summary and conclude – correctly – that drafting players in general and quarterbacks specifically is much closer to a crapshoot than it is to a science.  I think there is another way to look at this listing:

  • If the Niners beat the Chiefs two weeks from now in the Super Bowl Sam Darnold will be the first QB taken in that year’s first round to get a Super Bowl Ring.

[Aside:  One other QB from the 2018 Draft has already received a Super Bowl Ring.  Danny Etling was on the practice squad of the Pats’ team in 2019 when the Pats beat Rams.  Etling was taken in the 7th round with the 219th overall pick in 2018.]

Switching gears …  I have been pondering a question for about a month and offer it up to everyone for consideration.

What is worse for an NFL team:

  1. Not having a franchise QB – – OR – –
  2. Having a QB who is not a franchise QB but is way overpaid?

Some of the teams who do not currently have franchise QBs:

  • Commanders – – it’s been a while since they had a top-shelf QB.
  • Falcons – – Mediocre at the very best at the QB position
  • Pats – – Embarrasingly ineffective.
  • Raiders – – Plain vanilla at QB
  • Titans – – Maybe Will Levis?  Some day?  Perhaps?

And here are four teams that seem to be paying a lot more for their QBs relative to the productivity on Sundays:

  1. Broncos – – Russell Wilson – – Contract calls for $188M over the next 5 seasons.
  2. Browns – – Deshaun Watson – – Contract calls for $138M over the next 3 seasons.
  3. Giants – – Daniel Jones – – Contract calls for $106M over the next 3 seasons.
  4. Saints – – Derek Carr – – Contract calls for $110M over the next 3 seasons.

So, which of the two lists above is the worst one for a team to be on?  It’s a close call.

Finally, I want to close today with an observation from a professional wrestler named Chris Jericho:

“Think about it – professional wrestling as an Olympic sport would be pretty cool.  Look at figure skating or gymnastics – what is it?  It’s a choreographed performance that is judged.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Bouncing Around today …

No shovel has gone into the dirt in Las Vegas to begin construction on a new ballpark for the ultimate arrival of the Las Vegas A’s, but the team continues to work on how and where they will play in their “gap seasons”.  Here is the math to explain the existence of “gap seasons”:

  • The lease on the Oakland Coliseum – – or whatever they are calling it this month – – expires at the end of the 2024 season.
  • The new ballpark in Las Vegas is not scheduled to be operable until the start of the 2028 season.
  • Ergo, where to play from 2025 to 2027?

The acrimony that exists between the team and the power structure in Oakland will make any negotiations for a short-term lease extension difficult; moreover, it is hard to imagine loads of fans in Oakland turning out to see the team that has chosen to skip town.  The A’s attendance over the past several years has been abysmal; if the A’s play in Oakland from 2025-2027, it will probably be even worse.  Nevertheless, a short-term lease extension remains an option.

The team has begun to look for other interim venues and here are some possibilities:

  • There is a minor league park in Las Vegas where the LV Aviators play.  The facility seats 8200 and can accommodate 10,000 fans with standing room.  Interlacing the A’s schedule with the Aviators’ schedule would be necessary.
  • The A’s could share Oracle Park with the SF Giants.  Major league teams have shared a facility in the past so figuring out the combined schedule is something for which there is some history.  In addition, even though the Cubs and White Sox do not share a park, the two teams are rarely – if ever – in town on the same dates.

The A’s owner and other execs have begun to check on the possibility of playing some games in other minor league facilities in the west.

  • The Sacramento River Cats play in a stadium that seats 10,600 fans and can accommodate 14,000 folks with standing room.
  • The Salt Lake Bees play in a stadium that seats 14,500 and has accommodated as many as 16,500 in the past.

The simplest resolution here would be for the A’s to play in Oracle Park because that facility is obviously ready to accommodate major league teams and major league crowds.  Probably, any of the minor league facilities under consideration would need some sort of “upgrading” to achieve “major league acceptability”.  And the beat goes on …

[Aside:  There is precedent for two teams sharing a facility on a short-term basis.  In the 1970s, the Yankees took 2 years to modernize Yankee Stadium and for that time the Yankees and Mets both played home games in Shea Stadium.]

Moving on …  The NFL has a “modified gambling policy” in effect for players during Super Bowl Week.  Players for the Chiefs and for the Niners are barred from betting of any kind during that week including casino games and sports other than football.  This is more draconian than the existing regular season policy where players/coaches are permitted to gamble on things like blackjack or slot machines so long as they stay away from sportsbooks.

The NFL has a love/hate relationship with gambling.  It loves the attention that gambling draws to its games and the revenues it enjoys from its “corporate partners” in the gaming industry; it also hates the idea that someone might perceive any sort of gambling activity by NFL folks as an indicator that NFL games are “rigged” in some way.

Speaking from a reality-based perspective, let me assert that the most recognizable person involved in the Super Bowl this year is Andy Reid. His visage with his trademark moustache is easy to spot; his girth makes him easy to spot at a distance.  I would have no difficulty in picking Andy Reid out of a crowd.  Now, having said that, I would NOT have any bad feelings or sinister suspicions if I saw Andy Reid pull the lever on a slot machine.  Just saying…

Over the weekend, Kevin Blackistone had a column in the Washington Post under this headline:

  • “It’s obvious the college game needs Rooney Rule”

I’m sorry, but I do not think college sports need a version of the Rooney Rule.  I fully agree with Blackistone that minorities are underrepresented in coaching and athletic director positions; where we disagree is on the efficacy of the Rooney Rule to resolve that situation.  The problem with the “collegiate situation” as opposed to the “NFL situation” is in the hiring decision maker.

  • In the NFL, the owner either hires the coach directly or he hires a GM and then acquiesces to the GM’s choice as the coach.  The decision maker is a single and identifiable person.
  • In big-time college sports, it appears as if the Athletic Director at Fugue State is hiring its coach.  Yes, the Athletic Director is the one who runs the press event to announce the new coach; but that decision is made in conjunction with the university administration and with the big donors to Fugue State’s athletic programs.
  • So, in the college version of the Rooney Rule, who would be required to do the mandatory interviews of minority candidates?

Remember that the major distinction between a cynic and a realist is whether or not you agree with him/her.  I think I am a realist here when I say that if the three biggest donors to a school’s athletic program tell the Athletic Director not to hire Joe Flabeetz, then poor Joe is not going to get the job.  The same goes for the university president who may be hearing from donors to other areas of the university.  It is not a pretty system, but it is one that will not be resolved by a Rooney Rule.  In fact, what a Rooney Rule will do at the collegiate level is to take the number of pro forma/sham interviews and multiply them by a factor of 100.

Finally, I’ll close today with this view of cynicism by author Julian Baggini:

“If there’s one thing that makes me cynical, it’s optimists.  They are just far too cynical about cynicism.  If only they could see that cynics can be happy, constructive, even fun to hang out with, they might learn a thing or two.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Thinking About Sports Illustrated …

It has been about two weeks since Sports Illustrated laid off its staff.  There has been little if any reporting on any sort of progress in the corporate negotiations that might give some sort of reprieve to the magazine, but even if there is sub rosa progress on such talks, I suspect that any “reprieve” would be temporary at best.  I think there are two barriers in place that will prevent SI from survival in 2024 and beyond:

  1. The first is reassembling a competent staff.  I am not here to play the crotchety old-guy and proclaim that there will never be another confluence of writing talent to equal what SI had in the 60s, 70s and 80s.  I mean that any sort of resurrected SI would remain on sufficiently thin financial ice as to be unable to attract and retain the best sports writers/commentators of today.  Staff quality is particularly important to a resurrected SI, given the scandal of its using AI generated articles by fictitious authors in previous editions; trust must be restored.  Writing about sports is enjoyable and maybe even luxurious; I resemble that remark.  At the same time, writers need to be able to survive economically, and counting on a reincarnated SI as the source of “funding” would be a huge gamble.
  2. The second is that print journalism in general – – not just in sports – – is an industry with declining revenues.  The LA Times is laying off lots of folks; reports say that the Washington Post may have lost $100M last year; the NY Times laid off – – or reassigned – – its entire sports staff.  Until and unless market forces change, this is a death spiral.  Revenues go down, writers are laid off, the product declines in quality, revenues go down further…

Observers have offered various explanations for the demise of what was once a great journalism franchise.  I don’t know enough to do a deep dive into all of this, but I do think that two of the more common explanations are shallow:

  1. Some folks believe that the demise of SI is another example of “Go Woke, Go Broke.”  Yes, the magazine put a transgender woman on the cover of a Swimsuit Issue, and I am sure it angered more “existing readers” than it attracted as “new subscribers”.  But I doubt that is the reason since SI had been in severe pruning mode for at least 5 years prior to that “Woke” action.
  2. Other folks believe that the Internet killed SI because the folks running the magazine never figured out how to generate meaningful revenues from online readership.  If that is the reason, then the financial people at SI must not have been able to figure out the successful survival strategies that keep other magazines alive and well such as The Atlantic and/or The Economist.

I recognize that many folks today prefer to consume news and entertainment media ‘on their devices”.  Personally, I prefer a three-dimensional newspaper or magazine for lengthy consumption and electronic media for shorter engagements, but my preferences do not set a marketplace.  If some sort of financial construct can emerge that gives SI new life, the challenge for the managers there will be to hit the ground with a quality product that attracts print AND online revenues.  It can be done; the folks who ran and who now own SI have never figured out how to do this.  And I think the first thing on their plate has to be that the new financial model must support a publication that is weekly and not monthly.

And now for something completely different … [Hat Tip to John Cleese] Every year in England they have a sporting tournament known as the FA Cup.  This year, 732 different soccer clubs entered the tournament; some of the entrants were professional clubs in the various tiers of soccer in England; some of the teams were amateur entrants; it seems that the only criterion for entry is that the club is located in either England or Wales.

Maidstone United is described as a “sixth-tier side”.  As an analogy to US college basketball, Maidstone United would be a solid favorite over a recreation league champion but would likely be overmatched against the worst of the 350-or-so Division 1 College basketball teams.  Nevertheless, Maidstone United won its first four games in the tournament to get to last weekend’s challenge against Ipswich Town.  On paper, this should have been the end of the line for Maidstone United; Ipswich Town is in second place in the English Championship meaning that it is on the verge of being promoted to the Premier League next year.  In its last 5 games against Championship level competition, Ipswich town has a victory and 4 draws.  At the same time, Maidstone United was in fourth place in its “sixth-tier league” and had lost its previous three games in that league against competition at that level.

But that is why the play the games …  At the end – – or “after full time” as they say in England – – the result was:

  • Maidstone United  2  Ipswich Town  1.

That result advances Maidstone United to the FA Cup’s version of the “Sweet 16”.  Their next opponent will be either Sheffield Wednesday or Coventry City depending on the outcome of that match on 6 February.  As of this morning, both Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry City are Championship League teams, as is Ipswich Town.

  • Coventry City is currently in 6th place in the Championship having won 4 and tied once in its last 5 games at that level.
  • Sheffield Wednesday is currently in 23rd place in the Championship – – and is currently in the “Relegation Zone” – – having won 2 and lost 3 in its last 5 games at that level.

Maidstone United is known as “The Stones”.  Stones on the road ahead can either be obstacles or steppingstones.  So far, “The Stones” have been using them as steppingstones.

Finally, since I began today ruminating on the demise of Sports Illustrated let me close with these words from Frank Deford:

“I grew up in Baltimore and that’s why I root for the Orioles.  I’m very suspicious of people who move and take on a new team.  You should stick with the team of your youth all the way to your grave.  That shows a sense of loyalty and devotion.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Football Friday 1/26/24

This compendium of Football Fridays began back in August; today is the penultimate entry in that series.  Yes, I know that there are still two weeks to go in the NFL season after this weekend, but I refuse to recognize the Pro Bowl – – as it is currently configured or as it was previously configured – – as an event worthy of one’s time and energy.  So, Football Friday will be on hiatus next week and will return on the Friday before the Super Bowl.

With that out of the way, let me begin with a review of last week’s “Betting Bundle”:


  • College  =  0-0-0   =>   Final Season Total  =  21-10-0
  • NFL  =  1-3-0   =>   Season Total  =  27-30-0
  • Parlays  =  0-0  Profit/Los  =  0   =>   Season Total  =  11-17  Profit  =  $8


College Football Commentary:


I wonder if a gentleman named Roy Englebrecht is a visitor to this website.  If he is not, then great minds run in similar channels.  Mr. Englebrecht was described in a report at as a “Newport Beach, California-based promoter” and he wants to stage something he called “The Irrelevant Bowl”.  In his vision for such a thing, the game would match the two worst college football teams in the country giving them each a chance at redemption for the season.  Obviously as a “promoter”, Mr. Englebrecht tends to “always look on the bright side of life”.  [Hat Tip:  Monty Python and Spamalot]

“The Irrelevant Bowl” would be a truncated form of my “SHOE Tournament” which I would propose for the 8 worst teams in the country and which would focus on the dark side of life by making the loser play on to determine THE UNEQUIVOCAL WORST TEAM AS DECIDED ON THE FIELD OF PLAY.

[Aside:  Recall that “SHOE” is an acronym for Steaming Heap Of Excrement and that the ultimate loser of such a “tournament” would be known as the “SHOE Team”]

Unless “The Irrelevant Bowl” can come up with a ton of TV money to dangle in front of the paper-shufflers at the NCAA, the chances of there ever being an “Irrelevant Bowl” are about the same as having the NCAA sanction and organize a SHOE Tournament.  That is not part of the noble ideal that sits behind the façade of the NCAA; they seek to crown champions not to bury the detritus of a sport.

Notwithstanding my assessment that “The Irrelevant Bowl” will ever be a real thing, I am rooting for Mr. Englebrecht simply based on recent history in college football:

  • The BCS started with two teams playing for a championship; “The Irrelevant Bowl” would be two teams playing for “redemption” or “ignominy depending on your point of view.
  • The BCS expanded to become the CFP involving 4 teams
  • The CFP expanded so that it will involved 12 teams starting in 2024.
  • Perhaps “The Irrelevant Bowl” – – should it ever get started – – might expand to become my fantastical “SHOE Tournament” under a totally different name of course.


NFL Commentary:


They say one is known by the company one keeps.  In that case, might I suggest that Baker Mayfield is now keeping company with some rather accomplished NFL QBs.  Mayfield won a playoff game with the Bucs this year; previously, he won a playoff game with the Browns in the 2020 playoffs.  Until this year, only 4 QBs in the NFL had won playoff games with two different franchises:

  • Tom Brady
  • Brett Favre
  • Peyton Manning
  • Joe Montana
  • And now there are 5 QBs on this list …

With the Conference Championship Games on tap for this weekend, this is the sixth consecutive year that the AFC Championship Game will involve the Chiefs.  The AFC – – and NFL – – record for consecutive appearances in the Conference Championship Game is held by the Pats at seven years in a row.  Over in the NFC, there is no streak ongoing this year and the record in the NFC is shared by the Eagles and the Cowboys at four consecutive appearances

Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll were both “relieved of command” a few weeks ago and neither has gotten a new job.  Is that a signal that the NFL is handing the baton over to a new generation of leadership – – or is that ageism at work in the NFL?  Or perhaps it is neither…

Along the same lines, Brian Flores did a great job as the defensive coordinator for the Vikes this year; no one can say that unit underachieved.  Based on reporting about the NFL coaching carousel, Flores has not even been interviewed let alone offered a job.  Is that racism at work in the NFL – – or is that a reluctance on the part of any owners to deal with someone who is suing them in court?  You make the call there …

Last week’s Bills/Chiefs game did more than decide which team would advance in the playoffs.  That game provided fans with an entertainment level that is not matched elsewhere in the sport in 2024.  In fact, the only QB confrontation that I can recall that was as entertaining was the one involving Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  Mahomes and Allen are fun to watch anytime they are on the air separately; when they are facing each other, they never fail to entertain.

The TV network execs and the advertisers for last week’s Bills/Chiefs clash were more than merely entertained; I suspect they were bordering on rapturous.  The folks who measure TV audience size report that the Bills/Chiefs audience averaged 50.4 million viewers last Sunday.  Even for the ratings-dominant NFL, this is a milestone.  It represents the largest audience for any NFL game other than a Super Bowl telecast.

The Packers fired Defensive Coordinator, Joe Barry, earlier this week.  Early in the season, the Packers’ defense was porous at best but as the season went on, the Packers’ defense played very well.  In fact, in the Packers’ wildcard round victory over the Cowboys, the Packers’ defense was in control holding the Cowboys to only 16 points in three quarters of football.  Usually, coaches are fired on the basis of “What have you done for me lately?”  This one seems to be based on more than just that.

Looking at the list of finalists for the various NFL individual awards for 2023, here are my picks:

  • Defensive Player of the Year:  Myles Garrett or Maxx Crosby – – either/or
  • Offensive Player of the Year:  Christian McCaffrey
  • Offensive Rookie of the Year:  CJ Stroud
  • Defensive Rookie of the Year:  Jalen Carter or Joey Porter, Jr. – – either/or
  • Comeback Player of the Year:  Damar Hamlin – – and I will not entertain any arguments…
  • Coach of the Year:  DeMeco Ryans or John Harbaugh – – either/or
  • Most Valuable Player :  Lamar Jackson

Here is a statistical tidbit related to the Lions/Niners game this weekend in Santa Clara, CA:

  • The last time the Lions won a road playoff game was in 1957.
  • The Lions have lost eleven straight road playoff games since 1957.
  • The team the Lions beat in 1957 was – – drumroll – – the SF 49ers.

Let me review the four games from last week:

Lions 31  Bucs 23:  The game was tied at 17 at the start of the 4th quarter but the Lions put together two long drives (75 yards and 89 yards) in the fourth quarter to take control of the game.  The stat sheet for the game was very balanced:

  • Lions’ Total Offense = 391 yards   Bucs’ Total Offense = 408 yards
  • Lions’ First Downs = 26   Bucs’ First Downs = 23

The biggest statistical discrepancy was in the turnovers; the Bucs turned the ball over twice and the Lions did not turn it over at all.

Ravens 34  Texans 10:  I really thought that the Texans’ defense could make this game much more competitive; I was wrong.  The Ravens’ offense dominated the game holding the ball for 37:35 in the game.  Even more dominant was the Ravens’ running game which racked up 229 yards on 42 attempts – – 5.5 yards per carry.  It was just another day on the field for Lamar Jackson:

  • 16 of 22 for 152 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs – – AND – –
  • 11 carries for 100 yards and 2 TDs

The Ravens have fared extremely well against opponents who made the playoffs in both conferences this year:

  • Versus the Texans, the Ravens won by 16 in September and by 24 last weekend.
  • Versus the Browns, the Ravens won by 25 in October.
  • Versus the Lions, the Ravens won by 32 in October.
  • Versus the Rams, the Ravens won by 6 in December.
  • Versus the Niners, the Ravens won by 14 in December,
  • Versus the Dolphins, the Ravens won by 37 in December.

In contrast to that impressive sets of showings, the Ravens played the playoff-bound Steelers twice this year with the following results:

  • Steelers 17  Ravens 10  – – January 2024
  • Steelers 17  Ravens 10  – – October 2023

Niners 24  Packers 21:  The Niners needed to rally from 7 points down at the start of the fourth quarter to win this game.  It was the first time the niners had trailed in the second half and managed to come back and win the game.  The Niners closed the score to 21-17 at the start of the 4th quarter.  The teams then traded punts until the Packers drove to set up a 40-yard field goal try with just over 6 minutes left in the game that was unsuccessful.  At that point the Niners took the ball at the Packers 30 and marched down the field with Brock Purdy hitting 5 out of 6 passes and scrambling for 9 yards to set up a second-and-one situation that led to Christian McCaffrey getting the first down and a touchdown that won the game.

The game featured two young QBs who have taken a measure of criticism/scorn over the last year or two.  Brock Purdy had the better day here:

  • 23 of 39 for 252 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs

Chiefs 27  Bills 24:  This game was back-and-forth for 60 minutes; the largest lead in the game was 7 points for a 4-minute period in the second quarter.  Here is how close this game appeared to be:

  • Chiefs’ Total Offense = 361 yards   Bills’ Total Offense = 368 yards.

However, a closer examination of the stats from the game reveals that the Chiefs should be thankful they were in the game at all let alone on top on the scoreboard:

  • Chiefs’ 3rd Down Conversions = 1 of 5  Bills’ 3rd Down Conversions = 7 of 14
  • Chiefs’ Red Zone = 2 of 4   Bills’ Red Zone = 3 of 4
  • Chiefs’ Time of Possession = 22:57  Bills’ Time of Possession = 37:03
  • Chiefs’ Offensive Plays = 48   Bills’ Offensive Plays = 77
  • Chiefs’ First Downs = 21  Bills’ First Downs = 27

People will remember that the Bills missed a game-tying field goal with less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter.  People should also remember that the Bills went for it on 4th down with a fake punt in Bills’ territory and that gave the ball to the Chiefs with a short field.  The only reason the Bills did not pay for that stratagem was that Mecole Hardmen fumbled the ball out of the end zone and gave the ball back to the Bills three plays later.

I am not going to be critical of the decision to go for it on fourth down because the Chiefs led at the time and the Bills needed to score not punt.  However, I will criticize the choice of a fake punt by the Bills.  Here’s why:

  • The biggest offensive weapon for the Bills is clearly and obviously Josh Allen; he can beat opponents with his arm and with his legs.  A fake punt – needing about 4 yards – takes that potent weapon off the field and puts him on the bench.
  • How is that a good idea?


The Conference Championship Games:


Because there are only two games this weekend, I will make a selection in each game for the “Betting Bundle” but with less than my usual degree of enthusiasm.  Each of the four teams can be a winner on Sunday; each game could come down to a last second field goal try; each game could be a two-score margin of victory or more.  There are not weak sisters in the field this weekend.

(Sun 3:00 PM ET) Chiefs at Ravens – 4 (44):  The spread opened at 2.5 points and climbed quickly to 3.5 points; you can still find the spread at that level at a few of the sportsbooks this morning.  This matchup pits the two best scoring defenses in the NFL at each other:

  • Ravens allow 16.1 points per game (Best)
  • Chiefs allow 17.1 points per game (Second Best)

Last week was the first time Patrick Mahomes had to play on the road in the playoffs.  This week provides another “first”.  This is the first time the Ravens will host a Conference Championship Game.

The potential return to the Ravens’ lineup by TE Mark Andrews should be a big help for the Ravens even if he is only 75% of what he would be without his injury.

Last week the Ravens ran the ball for 229 yards; last week, the Chiefs gave up 182 yards rushing to the Bills – – and managed to come away with a win.  I think the Chiefs’ ability – – or lack thereof – – to stop the Ravens’ run game is going to decide the outcome here.  That assessment is not meant to take away anything from any of the other participants here; these are two really good teams; each team has star players who can take charge of a game.  I do believe however, if the Chiefs can make the Ravens throw the ball more than they are used to doing then the Chiefs can win the game.

  • I think this game will be a nail-biter and go down to the wire; therefore, give me the Chiefs plus the points; Put that in the “Betting Bundle”.  In addition, despite the two top scoring defenses being on the field, I think there will be plenty of points in the game, so I’ll take the game to go OVER.  Put that in the “Betting Bundle also.

(Sun 6:30 PM ET) Lions at Niners – 7 (51):  These lines have been steady as a rock all week long; for a brief time on Thursday a couple of the sportsbooks had the Total Line up to 51.5 points but they settled back to the opening number this morning.  A huge question hanging over the time leading up to this game is this:

  • Can Deebo Samuel play – – and if so, can he play anywhere near his normal level of competency?
  • Deebo Samuel did not practice this week.

Another interesting item related to the running game could emerge here.  Christian McCaffrey led the league in rushing this year; the Lions rank 3rd in the NFL in rushing defense allowing only 3.7 yards per carry.

[Aside:  The last player to lead the NFL in rushing AND to make it to the Super Bowl was Shaun Alexander back in 2005.  Make of that what you will …]

For the Lions, a key factor will be the ability of the Lions’ OL to protect Jared Goff.  When he has time to throw, he has three quality receivers out in pass patterns any one of which can do significant damage.

  • I think each team will be able to move the ball on the opposing defense in this game so give me the game to go OVER; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

So let me review this week’s ”Betting Bundle”:

  • Chiefs +4 against Ravens
  • Chiefs/Ravens OVER 44
  • Lions/Niners OVER 51

There are no Money Line Parlays for this week but here is one potential parlay to have in mind if you believe that both underdogs can win outright this weekend.  For the record, I do not think that is likely. However:

  • Chiefs @ +175
  • Lions @ +285
  • $100 wager to win $959

Finally, these words from former Florida St. head football coach, Bobby Bowden:

“To have the kind of year you want to have, something has to happen that you can’t explain why it happened. Something has to happen that you can’t coach.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Doings In “Coaches World” …

Lots of news/rumors today in “Coaches World” …  Yesterday, I mentioned in passing that Wes Unseld, Jr. had not exactly succeeded in his tenure with the Washington Wizards and that the expectation that he would bring tough defense to the fore was not nearly borne out in on-the-court results.  This morning, the Wizards have kicked Unseld upstairs in the organization; he  is no longer the coach; he is now in a “front office advisory position”.  The Wizards record so far this season is 7-36; the team’s combined record under Unseld’s leadership is 77-130 (winning percentage = .372); so, the team had to dig deep into management-speak as it announced the basis for this move:

“After several thoughtful conversations with Wes, we determined together that a change was needed for the benefit of the team.”

And …

“Wes embodies the characteristics we value in our organization, and his vast basketball experience will be an asset to the front office as we progress toward our long-term goals.”

Another big event in “Coaches World” from yesterday was the decision by Jim Harbaugh to leave Michigan and take the job as the head coach of the LA Chargers.  First of all, I wondered why he would leave Michigan now after winning the national championship just a couple of weeks ago; he is in the process of beatification there.  Then I remember that the penny-ante bureaucrats at the NCAA have not given up on investigating him and Michigan for real or imagined violations of their sacred rulebook.  So, from that perspective, it is the perfect time for him to pack up his belongings and ship them from Ann Arbor to LA and take on a new challenge in the NFL.

I said here previously that I thought the Chargers’ job was the best NFL head coaching vacancy in this cycle simply because all the other teams looking for a new coach are either deficient at the QB position or at best have a question mark at the QB position.  That is not the problem with the Chargers; Justin Herbert is a blue chip QB.  The Chargers seem always to invent ways to lose games that they need to win and should have won.  The most recent egregious example of this tendency was in last year’s AFC playoffs:

  • The Chargers led the Jags 27-0 late in the first half of a wildcard round playoff game.
  • The Chargers benefited from 5 turnovers by the Jags in that game.
  • Nonetheless, the Chargers lost the game 31-30.

In Jim Harbaugh’s previous stops on the coaching circuit, his teams have lost a few “big games”, but they were never known for beating themselves sufficiently often that their fans could never count on a victory until the clock read 0:00.  If he can remove that tendency from the Chargers’ team, he will be a success there because there is plenty of individual physical talent on the roster.

Another way to look at Harbaugh’s decision to take the Chargers’ job is to examine the coaching lineup in the AFC West:

  • Broncos:  Head coach is Sean Payton who has won a Super Bowl and has an overall record of 152-89 (winning percentage = .631).
  • Chargers:  Head coach is Jim Harbaugh who has won a collegiate national championship and has taken an NFL team (Niners) to the Super Bowl.  His NFL coaching record is 49-22-1 (winning percentage = .690).
  • Chiefs:  Head coach is Andy Reid who has won 2 Super Bowls and has an overall record of 258-144-1 (winning percentage = .641).
  • Raiders:  Head coach is Antonio Pierce who salvaged what he could of the Raiders’ season in 2023 and has an overall record of 5-4 as the interim head coach in Las Vegas (winning percentage = .556).

Two observations from that listing:

  1. That is a potent coaching lineup that is not matched in any other NFL Division.
  2. Coach Pierce has his work cut out for him matching wits with those division rivals.

One final thought about “Coaches World” today …  This is a flight of fantasy; it is not impossible but the odds against this happening are as long as a Wagnerian opera.  Imagine:

  • The Washington Commanders hire Bill Belichick as their new coach.
  • The Washington Commanders sign Kirk Cousins as a free agent in this offseason.
  • The Washington Commanders go on to win the Super Bowl in the next couple of years.
  • The Washington Commanders’ fans experience joy in the victory and agita at the fact that the team ran Cousins out of town six years ago.

Finally, let me close today with these words from George F. Will about the sport of football:

“Football combines the two worst features of American life.  It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



NBA Today …

Do you realize that the NBA regular season is half over?  It began on October 24, 2023, which was 13 weeks ago.  Other than the freshly minted In-Season Tournament – – no peeking, do you remember the two teams that played in the final game of that creation? – – has there been any real buzz about the league in the last 13 weeks?

Yesterday, something unusual happened in the NBA so let’s use that as an opportunity to talk about the NBA today.  Last year, the Milwaukee Bucks finished the regular season with a record of 58-24.  Obviously, they made the playoffs with that record since five-eighths of the teams in the NBA make the playoffs these days.  The Bucks lost in the first round of those playoffs to the Heat and that was considered to be sufficiently unsatisfactory that the Bucks fired their coach from last year – – Mike Budenholzer – – and replaced him with Adrian Griffin.

Griffin had no head-coaching experience prior to taking over the Bucks but he had been an assistant in the NBA for about a decade.  The Bucks record as of this morning is 30-13 which is a winning percentage of .698.  And yesterday, the Bucks fired Adrian Griffin.

I said above that this was “unusual”.  It is sufficiently “unusual” to make me wonder about the motivation behind the decision.  Griffin’s contract with the Bucks was described as being a “multi-year deal” at $4M per year.  Given coaching salaries in the NBA these days, I doubt if there is any sort of financial dimension to the decision.

Days before the season opener, there was a reported confrontation between Griffin and Bucks’ assistant coach, Terry Stotts that resulted in the Bucks firing Stotts.  That incident may or may not have entered into the decision made yesterday but it seems strange that it would be allowed to percolate for 13 weeks if it were deemed to be anything close to a “firing offense” for the head coach.

The Bucks’ record of 30-13 as of today means that they and two other teams – – Timberwolves and Thunder – – share the distinction of having the second-best record in the NBA trailing only the Celtics by 3.5 games.  Those three teams are on pace to win 56 games in the regular season which would make them a shoo-in for the upcoming playoffs no matter who the coach is or is not.  There is more to this than meets the eye …

Now, since I mentioned the NBA and its standings today, I would be remiss – – and I would damage my street cred as a Certified Curmudgeon – – if I did not point out a couple of things at the bottom of the NBA standings.

  • It was just over 50 years ago when the Sixers set the record for NBA futility in a season finishing with a record of 9-73.
  • As of this morning, the Pistons record is 4-39; with that winning percentage, the Pistons are on pace to win a total of 7.6 games.
  • When the Sixers set this ignominious record, they did not win their fifth game until they had lost 48 games.
  • The Pistons’ coach – – Monty Williams – – is also in his first year with the Pistons and he is still as the Pistons’ coach with that performance.  Interesting …

Here is another item from the bottom of the NBA barrel this morning …  The Washington Wizards do not have a new coach this year; Wes Unseld, Jr. has been with the Wizards for the past two seasons and is under contract with the team through the 2024/2025 season.  As of this morning, the Wizards have the second-worst record in the league at 7-35. The interesting thing about the Wizards today has nothing to do with the fact that the team is not very good; the thing is that when Wes Unseld, Jr. was hired for the job, the buzz around the Washington area was that he was going to instill tough defense.

He has been on the job now for two-and-a-half years and as of this morning the Washington Wizards rank dead last in the NBA in points allowed per game (124.9 points per game allowed).  So much for the definition of “tough defense” …

One last NBA observation today …  The NY Knicks’ record this morning is 27-17 putting them on pace to win 50 games this year.  If they achieve that mark, it will be only the second time since 2000 that the team has won 50 games in a season.  What is equally interesting is that the Knicks seem to be doing this with defense.  As of this morning, the Knicks rank third in the NBA in points allowed per game (110.4 points per game).  The Knicks actually rank in the lower half of the NBA – – 16th out of 30 teams – – in points scored per game and yet they project to be a 50-game winner this year.

Finally, since today referred to historical events in the NBA, let me close with this “definition” of history offered up by Leo Tolstoy:

“History is nothing but a collection of fables and useless trifles, cluttered up with a mass of unnecessary figures and proper names.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………




Being a fan of an NFL team ensures that the person adopting that status will experience stratospherically high emotions and abysmally low times as well.  Some of the low points are so dramatically deflating that they exist in the collective memory of a team’s fandom so fundamentally that they can be recalled with a simple phrase.  Consider:

  1. Bears’ Fans can go decades on end without hearing anyone refer to a “Double
  2. Browns’ Fans all remember “The Drive”.  John Elway engineered a 98-yard drive with only a few minutes left in an AFC Championship Game with the Browns leading by a TD.  “The Drive” sent the game to OT and the Browns lost there.
  3. Chiefs’ Fans are still embarrassed to be reminded of Abner Haynes winning the coin toss in an overtime playoff game and botching the choice by telling the referee “we’ll kick to the clock”.
  4. Colts’ Fans remember well the “Second half onside kick” in the Super Bowl game against the Saints.
  5. Cowboys’ Fans need only to hear the name “Leon Lett” before they bow their heads and shake their heads.
  6. Dolphins’ Fans old enough to have witnessed the “Snowplow Game” are still frustrated by the result of the game and how it came to be known by that moniker.
  7. Falcons’ Fans prefer never to recall leading in the third quarter of a Super Bowl game by the score of “28 to 3”.
  8. Giants’ Fans vividly recall the botched handoff from Joe Pisarcik to Larry Czonka that led to the infamous “Miracle in the Meadowlands”.
  9. Jets’ Fans all remember the “Butt Fumble”.  It may not have happened in a playoff context, but it was on national TV in prime time on Thanksgiving for all the world to see.
  10. Pats’ Fans can be triggered by one of two phrases to recall their utter despair.  The two phrases refer to the same low-point; the phrases are “David Tyree” and/or “Helmet Catch”.  Those memories are all the more painful because they recall a Super bowl defeat.
  11. Raiders’ Fans can debate which of two phrases is more galling.  Would it be “Immaculate Reception” or “Tuck Rule”?
  12. Seahawks’ Fans feel a sharp pain every time the name “Malcom Butler” enters the conversation.

The above is not an exhaustive list; it is simply a compendium of the embarrassing and frustrating instances in the history of a dozen of the NFL franchises.  So, some of you are probably wondering why this is of any particular interest today.  After all, that Chiefs’ fans trigger point happened all the way back in 1962 when the team was still known as the Dallas Texans.

I bring it up today because one NFL fan base now has two disastrous moments etched in its collective memory and the same phrase will bring to the fore each and/or both of the two disasters.  As far as I can recall, this situation is not duplicated elsewhere; there was only one “Snowplow Game”; the “Tuck Rule” was only invoked once; there has only been one “Miracle in the Meadowlands”.  But as of this morning the following situation obtains:

  • Bills’ Fans can be doubly haunted by two words – – “Wide right…”

In a Super Bowl game against the Giants in 1991, the Giants led the Bills 20-19 with about 10 seconds to go in the game.  The Bills set up to try a 47-yard field goal by Scott Norwood; the game was on the line.  Al Michaels was doing play-by-play for that game and when Norwood missed the field goal, Michaels’ call was “Wide right…”  It became a horrible memory for Bills’ fans all over western NY State.

  • [Aside:  By missing that field goal, Norwood and the Bills created a record that cannot ever be broken – – although it may be equaled.  The eventual one-point margin of victory by the Giants in the game is the smallest possible margin of victory in a Super Bowl game because the final result cannot be that the game ends in a tie.]

And then there was the Bills/Chiefs playoff game last night.  With the Chiefs leading 27-24, the Bills set up to try a 44-yard field goal by Tyler Bass with less than two minutes left on the clock.  And the instant the ball left Bass’ foot, it started veering to the right and it too missed with plenty of distance, but it too was “Wide right…”  The only thing missing – – other than the field goal try itself of course – – was Al Michaels on the call.

Finally, since today has been all about despair, I’ll close with the definition of that word from the Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Despair:  An utter loss of hope; a feeling of uselessness.  Often brought about through contact with a greeter at Walmart.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Football Friday 1/19/24

Nelson Mandela said:

“If there is anything that would kill me, it is to wake up in the morning not knowing what to do.”

I have never had to confront that situation – – particularly on Fridays when I wake up knowing exactly what I am to do.  I need to compile a Football Friday.  And to get things rolling today, let me review last week’s ‘Betting Bundle”.


  • College  =  0-0-0     Final Season total  =  21-10-0
  • NFL  =  5-1-0      Season  =  26-27-0
  • Money Line Parlays  1-1  Profit  = $93     Season  =  11-17   Profit  = $8


College Football Commentary:


There are no games or practices happening these days so reporting on college football has to rely on other events for content.  Let me give you a capsule summary of what is going on in three of the main sources of “news” related to college football:

  1. Jim Harbaugh is interviewing for jobs outside of Ann Arbor and simultaneously negotiating with the University of Michigan for a contract extension there.  There are lots of moving parts here; but in the end, these events will likely produce more entropy than anything else.
  2. Deion Sanders has gone silent for a couple of weeks.  When next he surfaces, he will need to make up for his public absence by saying something abjectly outrageous.
  3. Some players have chosen to declare for the NFL Draft and other players have chosen to return to the college game next year – – as it has been in the past and as it shall be in the future.

There is one piece of interesting news related to small school college football.  Northwestern Oklahoma State is a Division II school in Alva, OK.  Yesterday, the head coach there – – Ronnie Jones – – announced that he has hired a new defensive coordinator.  That new addition to the football staff there is:

  • Jerry Glanville.

Glanville is 82 years old and has been a head coach in the NFL, and at the Division 1-A college level.  Defense has always been his “specialty” along with his quirky habit of leaving tickets to games for Elvis at Will Call.  One of Glanville’s famous quotes was:

“I haven’t heard from Elvis since his daughter married Michael Jackson.  I think it killed him.”


NFL Commentary


Giants’ defensive coordinator, Wink Martindale, and Giants’ head coach, Brian Daboll are no longer colleagues.  There had been reports more than a month ago that the two men were not getting along; Daboll denied and dismissed those reports around Thanksgiving, but it now appears that there was plenty of truth in them.  In the last week, the NY Post reported that Martindale and Daboll had a “heated argument” and that Martindale “cursed out” Daboll as he stormed out of the Giants’ facility.  Interestingly, Martindale’s contract with the Giants has another year to go so there would appear to be a need for either rapprochement or legal intervention regarding contract details.

Last weekend, I was happy to hear Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge again as the voices for the Texans/Browns playoff game.  The last half hour or so of that telecast could not have been easy for those gentlemen; there was no mystery about the outcome.  And I think they did a very good job under less than riveting circumstances.

Last week, I said there was an irony in the fact that the Browns and the Texans would meet in the playoffs and that Deshaun Watson would not be the QB for either team.  Add to that the tidbit that Baker Mayfield – – run out of Cleveland by an owner who traded away a bunch of assets to acquire Watson from the Texans – – is now going on to the second round of the playoffs while the Browns are going on Caribbean cruises with their families.  Redemption stories like that one are usually found in Hollywood scripts…

This entire season has been one of redemption for Mayfield.  There was not a buzzing market for his services in the last offseason; he took the Bucs’ job on a 1-year deal at $4M with lots of incentives. It appears that he has already earned more than $2M in incentives with more possibly coming if the Bucs win this weekend.  In any event, there should be a lot more interest in his services this off-season than there was last year.  So, let’s pretend that you are an NFL GM, and your team is not one of the teams with a franchise QB.

  • Where might Baker Mayfield fit into your vision for your team?

And while we are at it, add one other veteran QB to this thought experiment.

  • Where might Joe Flacco fit into your vision for your team?

The only team I think that cannot even consider either Mayfield or Flacco for 2024 is the Cleveland Browns.  If Deshaun Watson is to be the starter there and if Deshaun Watson has a couple of bad games, it might be very disruptive having either Mayfield or Flacco in the locker room given their recent history with the Browns.  But you never know what jimmy Haslam will do next…

Last weekend we heard many, many times about the trade between the Lions and the Rams involving Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff.  Stafford led the Rams to a Super Bowl Championship; Goff has led the Lions to their first division championship in 30 years and is one game removed from the NFC Championship Game.  But there was more to that trade, and I think I have tracked down the other draft choices accurately; in addition to the QB swap, the Lions got three early round draft picks that produced Jahmyr Gibbs, Sam LaPorta and Jameson Williams.  I would say that trade helped both teams.

Here is an interesting stat I ran across:

  • These are the first NFL playoffs since 1998 where there is no one named Manning or Brady as a QB on any roster.

Let me review the wildcard round games from last weekend.  There were lots of blowout games last week; only one game out of six was inside two scores.

Texans 45  Browns 14:  Even without two Pick Sixes by the Texans on two consecutive possessions by the Browns, this game was not in doubt.  The stats say it should have been closer, but watching the game never gave me the impression that the Browns were the better team on the field.  Here is a key stat from this game:

  • Texans:  44 offensive plays, 8,1 yards per offensive play
  • Browns:  70 offensive plays, 4.6 yards per offensive play

There was a sub headline on Sunday morning at which said that CJ Stroud “added to his legacy” in this game.  Let’s not get too far ahead of reality here; CJ Stroud is in the process of building his reputation; anything resembling “his legacy” appears to be at least a decade into the future.

I pointed out last week that the Browns’ defense was not the same on the road as it was at home giving up 29.6 points per game on the road as opposed to 13.1 points per game at home.  That trend was carried on even accounting for the 14 points the Texans got on those two Pick Sixes.

Chiefs 26  Dolphins 7:   The stat sheet suggests that this game should have had a bigger margin.  Consider:

  • Chiefs’ Time of Possession = 34:05  Dolphins’ Time of Possession = 25:55
  • Chiefs on Third Down = 6 of 15   Dolphins on Third Down = 1 of 12
  • Chiefs’ First Downs = 25   Dolphins’ First Downs = 13

The Dolphins’ only score was a 53-yard pass to Tyreek Hill with 14 minutes left in the second quarter.  At that point there were 44 minutes left in the game; here are the Dolphins’ possessions from that point on:

  • 6 plays – – 21 yards – – 3:05 Time of Possession – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 3 plays – – minus-10 yards – – 1:19 Time of Possession – – PUNT
  • 2 plays – – 17 yards – – 0:18 Time of Possession – – Halftime
  • 3 plays – – 6 yards – – 1:39 Time of Possession – – PUNT
  • 7 plays – – 9 yards – – 4:42 Time of Possession – – PUNT
  • 10 plays – – 53 yards – – 4:44 time of Possession – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 12 plays – – 27 yards – — 1:36 Time of Possession – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 4 plays – – 28 yards – – 1:08 time of Possession – – END OF GAME

So, in 44 minutes of playoff football, the Dolphins ran 47 plays gaining only 151 yards and they punted 3 times and turned the ball over on downs another 3 times.

The Dolphins’ accomplishments this year may have been overrated.  Against winning teams, the Dolphins were 1-5 in the regular season.  The high-powered Dolphins’ offense averaged 16.1 points per game against teams that made the playoffs and 35.6points per game against non-playoff teams.

Packers 48  Cowboys 32:  So much for the idea that 7th seeds cannot beat 2nd seeds …   If the Dolphins were shown to be a mirage (see above), then the Cowboys were exposed as a fraud.  Do not be fooled; this game was not nearly as close as a 16-point differential would lead you to believe; at one point in the 4th quarter, the Packers led 48-16.  The Packers led 27-0 at the half and had the game on cruise control for the remainder.  For their first 6 possessions, the Packers scored 5 TDs and punted once.  Oh, and in that same stretch of the game they had a “Pick-Six”.  The Cowboys’ offensive stats this year were impressive, and they were wholly misleading:

  • Cowboys led the league in scoring with 509 points – – but lots of those points came against the Giants (89 points) and the Commanders (83 points).
  • Cowboys’ point differential of 194 points was second in the NFL but 135 of those “excess” points came against the Giants and the Commanders.
  • Those stats are there and will remain there – – AND – – they are meaningless.

Dan Quinn, the defensive coordinator of the Cowboys was considered to be a “hot prospect” for the head coach openings this year.  He did himself no favors with the way his unit performed on the “big stage”.  On a day when the Cowboys’ offense generated over 500 yards on offense and converted 10 of 16 third-down tries, the Cowboys’ defense was a complete no-show for four quarters.  On the TD pass to Luke Musgrave at the end of the third quarter, there was no Cowboys’ defender in the same area code as the receiver.

Consider this:

  • Packers’ Offensive Plays = 54 producing 41 points (Packers’ defense produced 7 points)
  • Cowboys’ Offensive Plays = 89 producing 32 points

.  After the game, Mike McCarthy said the team was not ready to play on Sunday.  Serious question here:

  • How can professional football players not be ready to play in a playoff game?

Packers’ RB, Aaron Jones was surely ready for the game.  He carried the ball 21 times for 118 yards and 3 TDs.  Just for fun, he also caught a pass for another 13 yards in the game.

Cowboys’ fans demonstrated what front-runners they are – – mirroring their favorite team – – by abandoning the stadium for about all of the fourth quarter here.  Late in the game, there were more “green and gold” colors in the crowd shots than there were “blue and silver”.

Lions 24  Rams 23:  If you are a fan or either team, you are either ecstatic (Lions’ fan) or you are disconsolate/tormented (Rams’ fan).  As a football fan, this was a great game for me because it was close from start to finish.  Puka Nacua and Amon-Ra St. Brown put on a show here:

  • Nacua:  9 receptions for 181 yards and 1 TD
  • St. Brown:  7 receptions for 110 yards and 0 TDs

Bills 31  Steelers 17:  Josh Allen was Superman in this game; he threw for 3 TDs and rambled 52 yards on a broken play for another TD.  With RB, James Cook adding 85 yards from scrimmage and the Steelers’ defense producing no turnovers, the outcome was never seriously in doubt despite the stat sheet appearing to be balanced:

  • Bills’ Total Offense = 368 yards   Steelers’ Total Offense = 324 yards
  • Bills’ 3rd Down Conversions = 5 of 12   Steelers’ 3rd Down Conversions = 5 of 11
  • Bills’ Offensive Plays = 66   Steelers’ Offensive Plays = 63

The Bills and Eagles played on November 26th and the Bills lost that game in OT on a TD scamper by Jalen Hurts.  That loss left the Bills with a 6-6 record and raised the Eagles’ record to 10-1.  However, since that game the fortunes of the two teams have gone off on different vectors.  The Bills won their last 5 games in a row to make the playoffs and win their division; the Eagles lost 5 of their last 6 games, limped into the playoffs and made only a cameo appearance there due to this next result from last week.

Bucs 32  Eagles 9:  The collapse of the Eagles’ 2023/24 season was completed last Monday night.  The Eagles only ran the ball 15 times in the game and gained all of 42 yards; when these teams met in the regular season, the Eagles ran the ball for 200+ yards.  If that sort of game planning makes sense to you, I bow to your superior insights.  The Eagles’ secondary made Baker Mayfield look like the second coming of John Unitas; here is Mayfield’s stat line:

  • 22 of 36 for 337 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs

But wait, there’s more …  The Eagles were 0 for 9 on 3rd Down Conversions and 0 for 2 on 4th Down Conversions.  It is a tossup in my mind which NFC team was the bigger embarrassment in last week’s playoff games – – the Eagles or the Cowboys.  Take your pick…

The Packers showing against the Cowboys has led some commentators to conclude that Jordan Love is the next Packers’ Hall of Fame QB in the footsteps of Brett Favre and then Aaron Rodgers.  I think that is a bit premature even as I acknowledge that Jordan Love has been nothing short of outstanding from the first week in November until now.  The following observation has no intent behind it regarding a shot at Jordan Love.  Nevertheless, in the midst of all the gushing enthusiasm over Jordan Loves’s performance recently, please keep this in mind:

  • The Packers had Brett Favre as their QB for 17 seasons from 1992 through 2007.
  • The Packers had Aaron Rodgers as their QB for full-time QB for 15 seasons from 2008 through 2022.
  • Both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers deserve to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
  • And yet, in that three-decade period with Hall of Fame leadership, the Packers took down only 2 – – as in TWO – – Super Bowl trophies.

I believe that jargon of the day calls for me to suggest to Packers’ fanboys to

  • “Slow your roll …”



This Week’s Games:


This is the point in the NFL schedule where my rooting interest in outcomes of the games becomes more focused.  This is purely a personal opinion; I do not expect others to come at these games in a similar fashion.

From this vantage point in the season, I can assess the possible pairings for the Super Bowl game in 3 weeks.  For me, watching the Super Bowl is not about witnessing the football version of “The Little Engine That Could” or seeing some plucky group of underdogs/overachievers try for “the ultimate prize.  What I want to see is the two best teams possible meet in that game.  I say “two best teams possible” because it has happened that my perception of the “two best teams overall” have been in the same conference so they could not both take part in the Super Bowl.

So, notwithstanding any selections I am about to make against the spread or involving the Total Line, here are my “rooting preferences” for this week’s games:

  1. Ravens over Texans
  2. Niners over Packers
  3. Lions over Bucs
  4. Bills over Chiefs

(Sat 4:30 PM ET) Texans at Ravens – 10 (43.5) :  The Texans have been nothing short of amazing this year after recording a 3-13-1 record a year ago.  Back in August/September, you could have gotten 200-to-1 odds on the Texans making it to the Super Bowl let alone winning it.  And here they are with that possibility still alive and well.  If CJ Stroud is not named the Offensive Rookie of the Year, he should demand a recount.  Last week, the Texans sliced and diced the normally stingy Browns’ defense; this week they take on the Ravens’ defense which allowed the fewest points of any team in the league in 2023 (16.5 points per game).  I think there are two key elements in this game:

  1. Can the Texans protect CJ Stroud and avoid negative plays?
  2. Can the Texans pressure Lamar Jackson and keep the Ravens’ passing game under a bit of control?

Lamar Jackson has been less-than-dominant in previous playoff games; his record has been 1-3 in the post-season.  And a major part of why he has been less than successful in the playoffs is that he has turned the ball over 7 times in playoff games.  The Ravens need to hope that does not happen this weekend.

Here is a trend to consider:

  • The Texans have been underdogs in 8 games that Stroud has started this year.
  • The Texans are 6-2 against the spread in those 8 underdog games”.
  • Stroud is starting here, and the Texans are underdogs …

I like the Texans plus the points here and I like this game to go OVER; put those selections in the “Betting Bundle”.

(Sat 8 :15 PM ET) Packers at Niners – 9.5 (50):  Eight teams continue their seasons into this weekend; seven of the eight are playing QBs drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft in whatever year those QBs were eligible.  The only exception is Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, taken with the final draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.  The Niners “philosophy” is to get a lead and then have their pass rushers torment the opposing QB.  The Packers faced a team with the same “philosophy” last week; that is how the Cowboys like to play.  So, what the Packers did was to get a lead by scoring a TD with a dominant opening drive that went 75 yards in 8 minutes.  If the Packers can replicate that sort of early success here, we will get to see if Brock Purdy can win from behind instead of always winning from the front.  The Niners’ offense this year has been solid; they average 28.9 points per game; so, getting a lead on the Niners may be easier said than done.  The Packers were slightly more than a full TD underdog last week against the Cowboys and won the game outright; might they do anything similar this week?  I do not have a strong feeling about the outcome of this game; I can talk myself into just about any outcome but in all of my ruminations, I like this game to OVER.  Put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

(Sun 3:00 PM ET) Bucs at Lions – 6.5 (48.5):  This is the only game this weekend where the line has moved significantly.  The spread here opened at 4.5 points and has been hanging around at this level for the last couple of days.  I don’t have any confidence in trying to predict how the Bucs’ offense will play in this game.  Last week they were efficient and effective in beating the Eagles; two weeks ago, in a game they had to win to make the playoffs, the Bucs scored 9 points against the Panthers.  The Lions beat the Bucs in the regular season; if you think that is the key to this game, just remember that the Eagles also beat the Bucs in the regular season and the Eagles are not the ones advancing to this round of the playoffs.  I think this game will be exciting; both teams should be able to produce so-called “chunk plays”.  I think the line is fat; so, give me the Bucs plus the points; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

(Sun 6:30 PM ET) Chiefs at Bills – 2.5 (45):  From a viewing standpoint, this has to be the Game of the Week simply because it will be Josh Allen versus Patrick Mahomes.  Mahomes will be starting in his 16th playoff game, and this is his first road game in that sequence – – not counting of course neutral sites for Super Bowl games.  He leads the team to the field in their 6th consecutive shot at the AFC Championship.  These teams met in the regular season and the game came down to Kaderius Toney lining up offsides and negating a TD on a trick play.  Both teams will have their excellent QBs facing excellent defenses on the other side of the ball.  The Chiefs’ undoing this year has been the ability of their WRs to catch passes that hit them in the hands.  Here is an interesting betting stat; make of it what you will:

  • The Chiefs have been underdogs only 9 times with Patrick Mahomes at QB.
  • The Chiefs are 8-1 against the spread in those 9 games.
  • The only loss against the spread was when the Bills won and covered in 2022.

The Bills are banged up; five defenders did not practice this week and three more defenders were “limited” in practice.  The Chiefs have been their own worst enemy in lots of situations this season.  The weather forecast for Buffalo on Sunday calls for temperatures in the low 20s and only a slight chance of precipitation; hopefully Mother Nature will abide by that forecast.  No pick in this game; I just want to sit back and enjoy.

So let me review the “Betting Bundle”:

  1. Texans +10 against Ravens
  2. Texans/Ravens OVER 43.5
  3. Packers/Niners OVER 50
  4. Bucs +6.5 against Lions

            No Money Line parlays this week; none of the odds are particularly appealing.

Finally, let me close today with these words from former Alabama coach, Nick Saban:

“If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader.  Sell ice cream.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Business Items Today

There has been a lot of reporting on “Long-COVID”.  According to the CDC:

“Long COVID is broadly defined as signs, symptoms, and conditions that continue or develop after acute COVID-19 infection. “

No one should come here for medical information but there may be a part of the sports world that is suffering from the economic consequences of “Long-COVID”.   Take yourself b ack to 2020 when the pandemic was running rampant in the US and many areas of the country were in “lockdown mode”; people were encouraged to stay at home and many public institutions simply closed down.  One such public institution that had to close was the Baseball Hall of Fame; it generated next to no revenue for 2020 and a significantly diminished amount in 2021.  Unfortunately, it seems that in our post-COVID that revenues for the Hall of Fame have not returned to previous levels

The Baseball Hall of Fame is a non-profit entity which means that its tax filings are publicly available.  According to a report at, here are some data from filings with the IRS:

  • Prior to COVID, revenues were in the range of $13-14M per year
  • In 2021, revenue was $9.4M
  • In 2022, revenue was $2.4M

The 2021 revenue figure is inflated by money the Hall of Fame received from government funds aimed at keeping the economy afloat and from what are characterized as “generous donations” from private sources.  Those government funds are no longer applicable, and the private donations have seemingly returned to pre-COVID levels leaving the Hall of Fame in some financial straits.

Moreover, there is an ominous sign out there related to 2023.  When Mariano Rivera was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the summer of 2019 – – before anyone ever heard of COVID – – the attendance for that weekend ceremony was approximately 55,000 visitors.  When Scott Rolen and Fred McGriff were inducted in the summer of 2023, the attendance was about 10,000 folks.  This report at has more data and more information about the Hall of Fame’s financials.  Perhaps the underlying problem is a heretofore unrecognized economic dimension to “Long-COVID”?

Moving on …  The state of college athletics in the “revenue sports” is chaos.  The combination of the transfer portal with the explosion of money available for athletes via Name Image and Likeness rights (NIL) has produced significant changes in the athletic landscape – – and not all of those changes have been for the good.  The creation of NIL Collectives – – entities that allow college athletic boosters to pool their monies to use in the recruitment of players is one of those “not-purely-positive changes”.  However, their existence raises a question in my mind that I do not have an answer for.

Imagine an NIL Collective that seeks to advance the sporting fortunes for good old Whatsamatta U.  The folks who run the collective – in consultation with the head coach of course even though such consultations may not be recorded anywhere – go out and seek to find a top-shelf QB and a half dozen studs to play on the offensive and defensive lines because that seems to be all that the team needs to contend for next year’s CFP.  After a careful national search for such players and after negotiations, that NIL Collective secures the services of exactly what they and the coach believe are the necessary ingredients for gridiron success next season.

So … the athletes are not necessarily students at the college even if they take real courses and get real grades in those courses for work that they do on their own.  They are where they are doing what they do because the NIL Collective has paid them for those services.  And if that is even remotely the case, then why shouldn’t those athletes be considered employees of the NIL Collective such that the Collective must pay appropriate employment related taxes?

One last “business item” today …  There are reports that execs at Disney – – the owner of ESPN – – and the NFL are in negotiations that might give the NFL an equity stake in the Worldwide Leader in Sports.  According to those reports, ESPN would take over some if not all of the NFL’s media properties such as the NFL Network and Red Zone TV.  Such a transfer of media properties to ESPN makes a lot of sense from the perspective that it puts media-savvy folks in charge of those NFL properties potentially giving them more room to grow.

However, the idea that the NFL would have some equity stake in ESPN could prove a bit awkward when it comes time to negotiate the next media rights deals for NFL games.  The other networks may sense that all is not on the up-and-up when one of the competing bids comes from an entity partially owned by the seller of the media rights.  And, when the NFL sits down to negotiate directly with ESPN, it would be negotiating with itself.  Seems awkward to me…

Finally, here is an entry in The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Business, Big: An organization dedicated to grinding dreams into the dirt.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Looking Back On Previous NFL Drafts

Earlier this week, people in the US celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  and used that day to contemplate a better world for tomorrow.  Today is the birthday of another great American – – Benjamin Franklin.  To honor Benjamin Franklin, if anyone annoys you today, tell that person to:

  • Go fly a kite!

I have seen several “Mock Drafts” and various reporting that indicates the possibility of QBs being taken in the overall #1, #2 and #3 slots this April.  If that were to happen, it would be the 25th anniversary of the only time I can recall that such a sequence of draft picks took place.  And looking back at that previous happenstance might be a cautionary tale for NFL GMs this time around.

Let’s use Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and set the date for 1999.  Based on the standings for the 1998 regular season, the Eagles should have had the overall #1 pick via tiebreakers; the Eagles were 3-13 in 1998.  However, that was the year that the NFL added “Cleveland Browns 2.0” to the league and part of the deal for that new franchise was that it would get the overall #1 pick in the draft in its first year of existence.  So, the top three draft slots in April 1999 went to:

  1. “Cleveland Browns 2.0”
  2. Philadelphia Eagles
  3. Cincinnati Bengals

So, what did those teams do with their coveted high picks and how did it all turn out?

  • Browns took Tim Couch (Kentucky).  He played in the NFL for 5 seasons and had an unremarkable career.
  • Eagles took Donovan McNabb (Syracuse).  He played in the league for 13 seasons and made the Pro Bowl 6 times.  He was the QB for an Eagles’ team that made it to the Super Bowl but lost that game.  His was not a “Hall of Fame career” but the pick turned out to be quite productive.
  • Bengals took Akili Smith (Oregon):  He appeared in 22 games over a 4 year career; in those 22 games he threw 5 TDs and 13 INTs.  Basically, that pick was a wasted asset.

I am not saying that the various QBs who may be selected at the top of this year’s NFL Draft will turn out to be analogous to the ones from 25 years ago, but in the euphoria that will accompany the high picks this year, perhaps fans and GMs should take a moment to exhale.

And since I am on the subject of QBs taken in the first round of the Draft, let me jump ahead in time to look at some more recent selections from the 2021 NFL Draft…

Trevor Lawrence was the overall #1 pick in 2021; he has been in the league for 3 years.  In a sense, his first year was “wasted” in that the Jaguars as a team were experiencing the futility of Urban Meyer’s mercifully brief NFL coaching career.  Lawrence made the Pro Bowl and led the Jags to a winning record and even a playoff win in his second year – – and then he may have regressed in 2023.  I say he “may have regressed” because it is not clear to me that he was completely healthy for the last month of the 2023 season but next year will be his fourth year on his “rookie contract” and the Jags will have an option for a fifth year.  I have no doubt that the team will exercise that option, but if his performance is as it was in 2023, I wonder what might be Trevor Lawrence’s contractual situation at the end of the 2025 season.

Mac Jones went in the middle of the first round of the same draft class that produced Trevor Lawrence.  In his rookie year, Jones made the Pro Bowl and led the Pats to a 10-7 record starting all 17 games in the regular season.  In year two, he only started 14 games and the Pats were 6-8 in those games; this year he started 11 games; the Pats were 2-9 in those games, and he was ultimately replaced by Bailey Zappe.  We can debate from not until next year the cause(s) of that regression in performance, but the fact of the regression is axiomatic.  Like Lawrence, Mac Jones will be in his fourth year on his “rookie contract” in 2024.  I am not sure that the Pats will exercise their fifth year option based on Jones’ career arc to date.

Justin Fields was another product of the 2021 NFL Draft as a first-round QB selection.  He has generated lots of content and commentary over his three years in the NFL; some folks say he is a bust; others think he may be the best QB the Bears have had since Sid Luckman in the 1940s.  As is usually the case, both extremes on that spectrum are just that – – extremes.  Fields is not a bust; and at the same time, Fields does not project to be a Hall of Fame QB as was Luckman.  We will learn in the coming months what various “football people” think about Justin Fields.  The Bears own the overall #1 pick in this year’s draft so:

  • If the Bears are convinced that he is their long-term answer at QB, they could use that #1 pick to “add pieces around” Fields and go forward – – or the Bears could trade that pick for multiple assets in the future.
  • If the Bears are not convinced that he is their long-term answer at QB, they can seek to trade Fields to another team.  And at that point, we might learn what assessment other teams have made about Justin Fields by assessing the trade offers that they put in front of the Bears’ braintrust.

The lesson to be learned from the NFL Draft 25 years ago and the one from 3 years ago is simple:

  • Scouting college football players and projecting their performance in the NFL is not a science.

Finally, consider these definitions from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Science:  The study and investigation of phenomena based on rigorous study and experiment, conducted solely for the purpose of pissing off those who think God did it all.”

And …

Scientist:  A person in a lab coat who appears at the beginning of science fiction films to explain how the collision of certain isotopes can result in a half-man-half-lemur.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………