Football Friday 2/9/24

This set of Football Fridays began in August 2023.  With the Super Bowl on tap two days from now, it seems proper to recall some old time Sinatra lyrics:

“And now the end is hereAnd so I face that final curtain…”

So, as always, let me review the “Betting Bundle” from two weeks ago:

  • College  =  0-0-0   =>  Final Season Total  =  21-10-0
  • NFL  =  2-1-0   =>  Season Total  =  29-31-0
  • Parlays  = 0-0  =>   Final Season Total  =  11-17  Final Net “Profit” = $8

The college selections and the money line parlay selections are done for the season.  I will be making two selections this week (against the spread and on the Total Line) because I will forecast the exact final score of this year’s Super Bowl.  In eleventh grade English, I was taught that this sort of “literary ploy” was called “foreshadowing” and that great authors used this technique to seize the interest of the audience.  Thanks to Miss Reed for the instruction…


College Football Commentary:


Well after most of the college football head coach shuffling was underway, reports of unrest kept showing up:

  • Nick Saban simply retired and recently announced that he was going to be part of ESPN’s Gameday[Aside:  Is this an indication that Lee Corso might be “stepping away”.]
  • Jim Harbaugh ditched his job with the national champs to go to the NFL
  • Jeff Hafley left BC as the head coach there to take a defensive coordinator job in the NFL.  Hafley had been at BC for 4 years with 2 bowl appearances; so, it would not seem as if he were “nudged aside”.
  • There are persistent rumors that Chip Kelly is looking to get an offensive coordinator position in the NFL and abandon the head coaching position at UCLA.

I was trying to make sense of all that when it occurred to me that college basketball has recently seen a bunch of its excellent long-time coaches leave that game too:

  • Jim Boeheim
  • Mikie Brey
  • Mike Krzyzewski
  • Roy Williams
  • Jay Wright

I wonder if the arrival of the “NIL Era” of collegiate athletics has a lot to do with this.  The existence of the transfer portal created a situation where college coaches needed to be in “recruiting mode” for just about every day that they were not in “game planning mode” or even “game day mode”.  Moreover, coaches needed not only to recruit excellent players who may have been “upset” at their current schools; coaches also needed to “re-recruit” their own players lest they too become “upset” and seek refuge in the transfer portal.  Now, add to that chaos the fact that money has become involved in the wooing processes.

So, maybe one of the fall-outs of NIL and the Transfer Portal is that some highly regarded college coaches just decided that they do not need that kind of hassle and decided to “take their lives in different directions”.  Obviously, I can’t say for sure, but I do wonder …


NFL Commentary:


The NFL, their broadcast partners and the majority of football fans are rooting for a competitive game this weekend.  Folks who bought advertising slots in the fourth quarter of the game are lighting candles in church seeking the beneficence of something other than a score of 38-0 – – either way – – as that final quarter begins.  Such has not always been the case with the final game of the NFL season.  Dan Daly is a certified “NFL Historian”, and he provided the following reminder:

  • Fun Fact:  In the 1939 and 40 NFL title games, the winning teams scored a combined 100 points and the losers scored 0.  Packers 27 Giants 0 and Bears 73 Washington 0.”

Here is an interesting question posed by Dan Daly:

  • What is the common thread with these 7 NFL coaches?
      1. Hank Stram
      2. Don Shula
      3. Tom Landry
      4. Dick Vermeil
      5. Bill Cowher
      6. Andy Reid
      7. Sean McVay

The answer is that all seven of these coaches lost a Super Bowl Game before they won a Super Bowl Game.

I was unaware of a “curse” that overhangs the Super Bowl until I read about the so-called “Cousins Curse”.  According to that curse, no team has ever won the Super Bowl if it lost a regular season game to a team quarterbacked by Kirk Cousins.  Did I hear someone ask why that is interesting?  Well, on October 23rd, 2023, Kirk Cousins led the Vikes to a 22-17 victory over the Niners.  Cue the spooky organ music …

Too many commentators have put too much energy into reports about Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift.  Yes, it is an interesting confluence of disparate fandoms – – music and sports; but this confluence has precedent to the point that I suggest it is not even the biggest “crossover relationship” in history.  Please recall:

  • Joseph Paul DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe – – née Norma Jeane Mortenson

A tidbit of history was made two weeks ago when the Niners rallied to beat the Lions in the NFC Championship Game.  The Lions led the game by 17 points at halftime.  In the history of the Super Bowl, teams leading at halftime by 17 points or more were 21-0; now teams with that lead at halftime are 21-1.

After the Lions were eliminated from this year’s playoffs, much was made of their “championship drought” which extends back to 1957.  The summer after that victory, the Lions traded away their QB, Bobby Layne, and he was none too happy about being sent to the Steelers.  At that time, he placed a curse on the Lions saying that they would not win another championship for the next 50 years because they were dumb enough to trade him.  That bold prediction seems quaint in 2024 because the 50-year mark arrived in 2007 and stands at 67 years – – and counting.

Interestingly, that is not the longest current “championship drought” in the NFL; that mortification belongs to the Arizona Cardinals who last won an NFL championship as the Chicago Cardinals in 1947 – – a full decade before the Lions’ victory and the “Layne Curse”.  Just for fun, here are some happenings from 1947:

  • Dr. Edwin Land demonstrated the first Polaroid Instant Camera
  • Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers
  • The US Air Force was created
  • The CIA was created
  • Mike Krzyzewski was born
  • Fiorello La Guardia died – – and – –
  • Miracle on 34th Street was released.

It has indeed been a long time since 1947…

Andy Reid will join an elite group of head coaches on Sunday when he leads a team to the Super Bowl for the 5th time.  Sunday will be the Chiefs’ fourth appearance in the game under Reid’s guidance and the Eagles went to the Super Bowl with Reid at the helm back in 2005.  Here are the other NFL head coaches who went to the Super Bowl 5 or more times:

  • Bill Belichick – – 9 times with the Pats
  • Don Shula – – 6 times, once with the Colts and five times with the Dolphins
  • Tom Landry – – 5 times with the Cowboys

I think too many commentators and fans attach too much emphasis on “winning the Super Bowl in any discussion of a quarterback’s “greatness”.  Consider this list of 5 quarterbacks who never won a Super Bowl:

  1. Dan Fouts
  2. Jim Kelly
  3. Dan Marino
  4. Warren Moon
  5. Fran Tarkenton

They are undeniably great quarterbacks whether you judge by the statistical record or – – if you are of a certain age – – if you judge by the “eyeball test”.”

Now consider this list of 9 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks and ask yourself if they compare favorably with any of the five listed above:

  1. Trent Dilfer
  2. Nick Foles
  3. Jeff Hostetler
  4. Brad Johnson
  5. Jim McMahon
  6. Mark Rypien
  7. Phil Simms
  8. Joe Theisman
  9. Doug Williams

I do not intend to demean any of the nine QBs on the second listing here; they were clearly well above average as QBs in their time and over NFL history.  At the same time, I think that trying to add any of these nine QBs to the list 5 non-Super Bowl winning QBs above would be impossible.

I ran across this stat that I found very interesting – – and sufficiently arcane that I did not even try to verify on my own.  I present it here unadulterated:

  • Patrick Mahomes has been an underdog in 3 playoff games in his career.  His record in those three games is 3-0.
  • Patrick Mahomes now has as many “underdog playoff victories” as Brett Favre, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Steve Young combined.  Those four QBs – – all in the Hall of Fame by the way – – went 3-25 in their careers as “playoff underdogs”.

Let me move on to a review of the Conference Championship Games from two weeks ago.  The games were good to watch because they were close and competitive but I suggest that both games were lost rather than won.

Chiefs 17  Ravens 10:  The stat sheet confirms that this game was dead even, but the Ravens’ offense was inefficient at best for most of the game.  Consider that the Ravens scored their TD with 5 minutes left in the first quarter.  Here are the Ravens’ possessions from that point on:

  • 4 plays – – 8 yards – – FUMBLE
  • 5 plays – – 19 yards – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – 6 yards – – PUNT
  • 1 play – – minus-1 yard – – HALFTIME
  • 3 plays – – 4 yards – – PUNT
  • 7 plays – – 31 yards – – PUNT
  • 5 plays – – 63 yards – – FUMBLE
  • 12 plays – – 74 yards – – INTERCEPTION
  • 9 plays – – 29 yards – – FIELD GOAL (with 2:38 left in the game).

I think there are two other reasons the Ravens lost a game they could have won; both were self-inflicted wounds.

  1. The Ravens led the NFL in rushing in the regular season.  They only ran the ball 16 times in the game and one of those “rush attempts” was Lamar Jackson taking a knee to end the half.  The Ravens ran for 229 yards in their previous game against the Texans; they gained 81 yards on the ground here.  The Ravens’ leading rusher, Gus Edwards, carried the ball exactly 3 times and touched the ball exactly 4 times in the game.  I don’t know if this was an error in “game planning” or an error in “play calling”, but it does not seem particularly bright for a team to abandon one of its potent weapons in a championship game.
  2. The Ravens lost their poise.  The Ravens were penalized 8 times for 95 yards; the average penalty was for 12 yards, so these were not “illegal motion” or “delay of game” infractions.  Five of those eight penalties gave the Chiefs a first down.  As the first half was winding down, the Chiefs put together a 55-yard drive resulting in a field goal.  Of those 55 yards, 30 yards came as a result of an unnecessary roughness penalty followed by a roughing the passer penalty.  Then late in the 4th quarter with the Ravens trying to regain possession to attempt to tie the game, the Ravens sent 12 defenders on the field giving the Chiefs another first down.

One of the buzzwords these days is “accountability” and people talk about the importance of “holding folks accountable” in all walks of life including the NFL.  Well, riddle me this:

  • What is the “accountability” for that “game planning/play calling” mystery and/or those “loss of poise penalties” that were instrumental in the Ravens losing a playoff game and a shot at the Super Bowl?
  • Who held whom “accountable” and what was the “sanction”?

Niners 34  Lions 31:  The stat sheet confirms that this game was a nail-biter:

  • Niners’ Total Offense = 413 yards   Lions’ Total Offense = 442 yards
  • Niners’ 3rd down Conversions = 6 of 12   Lions’ 3rd down Conversions = 6 of 12
  • Niners’ average gain per snap = 6.3 yards   Lions’ average gain per snap = 6.1 yards
  • Niners’ penalties = 3 for 20 yards   Lions’ penalties = 2 for 15 yards
  • Niners’ turnovers = 1   Lions’ turnovers = 1.

Lions’ coach Dan Campbell has been roundly criticized for his two “4th down gambles” in the second half of this game.  My long-suffering wife had “adopted” the Lions as her favorite playoff team and she was unhappy with the failure of those two gambles.  I think what irked her at least as much is that I said those risks were not worth taking before the ball was snapped on either occasion.  The second of the two “gambles” was particularly dangerous.  The Lions trailed by 3 points with about 10 minutes left in the game.  Campbell turned down the option of a 47-yard field goal in lieu of going for it on 4th-and-3.  Campbell defended that decision – – and the previous one – – saying that this is what he had done all season long and the Lions were going to play “the way we are”.  Yes, the Lions led the NFL in fourth down conversion attempts; no, that fact does not mean “who you are” is a bunch of madmen who ignore the game situation in front of you at decision time.  As Forest Gump’s mother explained to Forest:

“Stupid is as stupid does.”

There was another Lions’ decision that was as bad as either of the two decisions to “go for it.”  With a little more than 2minutes left in the game the Lions had the ball at the one-yardline trailing by 10 points; the Lions needed a score on the possession and equally important, needed all their timeouts to stop the clock on defense in the hopes of  a future offensive possession.  Somehow, someone decided to call a running play up the middle that got stuffed and cost the Lions the timeout they had to have on the Niners’ next possession.  Wow…


THE Game:


With the Super Bowl happening in Las Vegas for the first time, you had to know that something “Las Vegas-like” would happen this weekend.  Here is the leader in the clubhouse:

  • The Chicken Ranch is a famous legal brothel in Sin City.  They have announced what they call a sextravaganza.  For the winning Super Bowl team, the Ranch will give players free run of the brothel for the night and spouses are welcome to participate in threesomes.

In case you think I am making this up – – thanks for bestowing that level of creativity on me – – follow this link:

As is always the case, there are hundreds of ways to wager on various aspects of the Super Bowl game.  Every regular season game features “proposition bets”; the Super Bowl takes that concept to another galaxy.  Proposition bets – – or props – – are simple statements that allow the bettor to take one side or the other with odds attached to either side of the prop.  For example:

  • Joe Flabeetz will rush for more than 72.5 yards in the game

One thing is for certain, good old Joe cannot run for exactly 72.5 yards in the game so he must end up either over that number or under that number.  You, as a bettor, can pick a side and either win or lose by looking at the final stat sheet to see the official yardage assigned to Joe’s rushing tries.  You do not need a stratospheric IQ to grasp the concept of a prop bet.

The Super Bowl is a time for “Props on Steroids”.  Many props involve game action/events, but many others involve the elements surrounding the game:

  • You can bet on the coin flip – – heads or tails?
  • You can bet on the duration of the National Anthem – – over or under a time limit.
  • You can bet on the color of the Gatorade that will drench the winning coach
  • You can wager on whether Travis Kelce will propose to Taylor Swift after the game.
  • You can make those bets; I will choose not to do so…

You can wager on individual happenings in the game:

  • Total number of accepted penalties = 10.5
  • Will the first score in the game be a TD, a Field Goal or a Safety?

[Aside: If you bet “safety” and that happens, your odds were +10,000 at FanDuel as of this morning.]

You can engage in what are known as “Cross sports props” too:

  • Oscar De La Hoya Professional Boxing Wins (39) VS. Patrick Mahomes Pass Attempts  in the Super Bowl Game
  • [Aside:  If you take the “Mahomes- side” here you get odds at +115.]
  • Highest Scoring NCAAB Team Feb. 10, 2024 VS. Christian McCaffrey Total Rushing Yards in the Super Bowl Game.
  • [Aside:  If you take the “McCaffrey-side here, you get odds at +400.]

Trust me when I say there are hundreds of such props as the books try to appeal to the interests of the 100 million or so folks who will tune into the game on Sunday.  It is an audience with wide interests; the sportsbooks have cast a wide net.

(Sun. 6:30 PM ET)  Niners – 3 vs. Chiefs (47): Most of the sportsbooks have the spread at 2.5-points but there are a couple of places with the line at 3 points.  In another example of foreshadowing, let me choose to employ the slightly larger spread for the record here.  If the Chiefs win on Sunday, they will be the first “repeat champions” since the Pats did it in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.  Two weeks ago, I thought that the Ravens ability to run the ball against the Chiefs would allow the Ravens to win that game.  As noted above, the Ravens never really tried to run the ball then and they are at home watching this weekend.  This week, I think the ability – or inability – of the Chiefs to run the ball will be important.  The Niners have not been stout against the run playing the Packers or the Lions in this year’s playoffs; if the Chiefs can run the ball to set up their passing game, I believe the Chiefs will win the game outright.  The time has come for me to reveal my exact score prediction for the game:

  • Chiefs 27   Niners 23

With that prediction and the lines as stated above, I like the Chiefs plus the points, and I like the game to go OVER put those selections in the final “Betting Bundle” of this NFL season.

Finally, let me close today – – and the season – – with the way Dandy Don Meredith would declare various Monday Night Football games to be finished:

  • “Turn out the lights, the party’s over
  • They say that all good things must end.
  • Call it a night, the party’s over
  • And tomorrow starts the same old thing again …”

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