A Disturbing Report About Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown was an NFL player of some renown – – until something happened in a game between the Bucs and the Jets which caused him to take off his uniform and his pads on the sidelines and then storm off the field while the game was still in progress.  That was certainly his last appearance in a real NFL game and is possibly the last time he had any real interaction with any NFL team.

Antonio Brown has had a history of unusual behaviors some of which involved interacting with law enforcement officials and/or other parts of the US legal system.  He has been accused of sexual assault; he has been convicted of reckless driving; he attacked someone who came to his home to move him out of his house.  Currently, Antonio Brown is in a house with police on the outside of that house and the police have a warrant for Brown’s arrest.  It is not clear from reporting the entirety of the charges in that warrant and the police are not characterizing the situation as a “standoff” or as a “hostage situation” – – leaving open the question as to how or why this has been ongoing for about 72 hours.

I have no credentials as a mental health expert, but in my layman’s understanding of the world, it is clear to me that Antonio Brown needs behavioral assistance.  I fear that the problem in this case may be that Antonio Brown has convinced himself that he is OK and that just as all his previous escapades have faded into our societal background, so will this one – – and the next one and…  His involvement with the NFL is over; hopefully, his erratic behaviors now and in the future will not end in with a more serious set of consequences for him and for someone he has interacted with.

Moving on …  There has been a “major signing” in this MLB free agent season; the Texas Rangers have signed Jacob deGrom for 5 years and $185M.  I see this decision by the Rangers as a high risk/high reward situation.

  • There can be no question that deGrom is an elite starting pitcher.  He has started 209 games and pitched to a career ERA of 2.52.  In 2021, his season ERA was 1.08.  So, you may wonder, “What’s the risk?”
  • Jacob deGrom will be 35 years old in June 2023.  He has had injury issues in each of the last 3 seasons; in the 2022 season he only managed to pitch 64.1 innings over the course of 11 starts.

So, what might the Rangers be getting for that $185M guaranteed contract?  Will they get the 4-time All-Star and 2-time Cy Young Award winner – – or will they get someone who cannot give them even 100 innings of performance in a season?

One other aspect of this signing is the fact that deGrom will leave the Mets where he has been for his entire 9-year career so far.  His status in “Mets’ lore” is not quite the same as that of Tom Seaver but there are lots of similarities.  Just as it was “unusual” to see Seaver in a Reds’ uniform or a White Sox uniform, it will be unusual to see deGrom in a Rangers uniform starting next April.

One other thing happened over the weekend related to MLB.  The Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Contemporary Era Committee” voted to put Fred McGriff into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  There are 16 members of this Committee and selection for the Hall of Fame requires that a candidate receive a minimum of 12 votes.  McGriff was named on all 16 ballots submitted so he made it to the Hall easily.  Here are some other candidates and how many votes they received:

  • Don Mattingly – – 8 votes
  • Curt Schilling – – 7 votes
  • Dale Murphy – – 6 votes

Interestingly, there were four players under consideration by the Committee who have been connected with “steroids”/”PEDs”.  This Committee is not the same as the Baseball Writers Association who vote for inductees until their eligibility expires.  This Committee is sort of like a “second opinion” on various candidates’ worthiness for the Hall; this Committee includes six members of the Hall of Fame, seven MLB executives and 3 members of the media who cover baseball.  That Committee considered these players and all of them received fewer than 4 votes – – well shy of the 12 votes needed for entry to the Hall of Fame:

  • Albert Belle
  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Raphael Palmeiro

Next …  The US may be out of the World Cup but that does not mean that there is no soccer news to think about.  Cristiano Ronaldo had been part of Manchester United in the English Premier League up to the start of the World Cup hiatus.  Let’s just say that all was not well inside the club and Man U chose to release Ronaldo as he left to play for his native Portugal in the World Cup.  That was unusual enough, but Ronaldo is now in a situation that is even more unusual.

Reports say that the Saudi Arabian club, Al Nassr, has offered Ronaldo $75M a year to come and play for the club in the Saudi Arabian league.  If you are wondering why an elite talent like Ronaldo might want to play in a second-tier league even at such a lucrative salary, it is also reported that Ronaldo would be able to choose the coach for that team if he so desires.  In essence, he would be a “player-GM” for the squad.

But wait, there’s more…  Ronaldo is 37 years old, and the contract offered to him would be for 3 years at $75M per year.  He would have the option to retire and take on an “ambassadorial role” for the club because the sense in the Saudi Arabian soccer community is that his star power and influence might help the Saudis land the hosting rights for the 2030 FIFA World Cup.  If Qatar can be a host, why not Saudi Arabia?

Finally, yesterday was Dwight Perry’s final Sideline Chatter column in the Seattle Times.  While I will certainly miss reading his column, I surely wish him health, happiness and prosperity in a well-deserved retirement.  I have a small inventory of his comments for future use in closing these rants; let me close today with one from yesterday’s final column that will demonstrate why I am going to miss Sideline Chatter:

“A skunk showed up in the stands at last Sunday’s Browns-Bucs game in Cleveland, walking up and down the steps of section 140 before disappearing beneath the seats. Like the Browns’ O-line opening holes for Nick Chubb, fans gave the critter lots of leeway.

“Fortunately, Pepe Le Pew didn’t get called for illegal use of glands.”

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

 

 

Hugh Freeze to Auburn …

Another major college football coaching vacancy has been filled recently; Auburn hired Hugh Freeze away from Liberty to take over the Auburn program.  To say that Coach Freeze is a “controversial hiring decision” is an understatement.  Make no mistake, he has been successful at multiple levels of college football starting with an NAIA school up through Ole Miss and then to Liberty before landing at Auburn this week.

Freeze left Ole Miss under duress in 2016; the NCAA notified the school of several Level 1 recruiting violations and that preliminary investigations showed the likelihood that the program and/or some of its boosters had provided “impermissible benefits” to team members.  Freeze alleged that the violations had occurred during the days of his predecessor at Ole Miss, Houston Nutt; that story unraveled when Nutt sued Ole Miss for defamation and the school settled the matter and issued a public apology to Nutt.

In the SEC, that sort of behavior is not commonplace – – but it is not so outrageous as to get a successful coach fired.  Then came a big surprise:

  • Ole Miss officials became aware that Freeze had used the cell phone that the school provided to him to place a call to an “escort service”.
  • Freeze said he must have misdialed the number.
  • Problem was that he had “misdialed” that same number about a dozen times on the same phone over the course of his five years at Ole Miss.

Those circumstances – plus the NCAA investigations – must have been too much for the folks who ran Ole Miss and they threatened to fire Freeze for cause citing a clause in his contract allowing them to do so for reasons of moral turpitude.   Freeze chose to resign in 2016 and was out of a head coaching job until he arrived at Liberty in 2019 where he has amassed a record of 34-15 and has taken Liberty to three consecutive bowl games – – and won them all.  [Aside:  Liberty is also bowl-eligible this season with their 8-4 record.]  His contract at Auburn is reportedly for 6 years at $6.5M per year.

Next season, Auburn will play Ole Miss in Auburn; it will not be until 2024 that Freeze will return to Oxford, MS as the coach of the opposing football team.  I cannot find the date for that game in 2024, but when I do, I will circle it on my calendar.

Speaking of recently hired college football coaches, Brad Dickson formerly with the Omaha World News had this to say about new Nebraska head coach, Matt Rhule:

“At his press conference Matt Rhule said he could’ve made good money sitting on his butt and doing absolutely nothing. In Omaha we call someone like that ‘mayor.’”

Switching gears …  The NFLPA has filed a grievance against the NFL alleging collusion among the owners not to offer fully guaranteed contracts to “certain players” in light of the fully guaranteed contract given to Deshaun Watson by the Cleveland Browns.  I suspect that this issue is going to generate more heat than light over the next several months as an arbitrator mulls the issue(s) and as contract negotiations with NFL free agents bubble up in the impending offseason.  So, let me put my general comments out there before the fact – – which means that my views can change dramatically if new and corroborated information becomes available:

  • The NFLPA filed this grievance.  Therefore, it is incumbent on the NFLPA to prove that collusion occurred; it is not incumbent on the NFL to prove that collusion did not occur.
  • The standard of proof in this matter is not as it is in a criminal trial – – “beyond a reasonable doubt”.  The standard of proof here is more like “a preponderance of the evidence”.
  • The fact that 31 of the 32 NFL owners have not offered any fully guaranteed contracts to QBs other than Deshaun Watson does not prove collusion.  Some things happen by coincidence that result in a set of circumstances that appear as if there were collusion.  As an admittedly simplistic example, it is not collusion that 31 of the 32 NFL owners do not have the surname “Haslam”.  That is a fact, and that circumstance could have arisen from “collusion” among the other owners; it looks like “collusion; but it just isn’t.

I suspect that the legal folks at the NFLPA recognize that they are going to need some inside information to prevail here and probably hope that whatever is akin to a “discovery process” in this arbitration hearing will yield them something probative.  As an example, somehow a portion of the email exchanges between Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen came out from the bowels of the NFL’s electronic records and there was juicy information there.  So, I suspect the NFLPA folks are hoping to find something like that involving communications between/among owners and league officials on the subject of fully guaranteed contracts.

I think the NFLPA is a longshot to prevail here, and I think that the sentiment in the court of public opinion will depend on where the line is drawn regarding “collusion”.

  • Imaginary Scenario #1:  At an owners’ meeting subsequent to the Browns giving Watson his fully guaranteed contract, an owner stands up and says to Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam, “You are a fool giving him that contract.  My team would never do anything like that!”  Several other owners applaud and say “Hear!  Hear!”.  Is that “collusion?”
  • Imaginary Scenario #2:  Several owners are talking and are overheard by multiple other people saying that the fully guaranteed contract the Browns gave Watson is a stupid business decision.  One owner says, “It would serve Haslam right if Watson broke his leg in his first game and there is no injury provision in the deal.”  The other owners agree and say they would always want “injury protection” in a big-money long-term deal.  Is that “collusion?”
  • Imaginary Scenario #3:  An email exchange between an owner and an official in the NFL Front Office surfaces saying, “Not to worry, I am in full agreement.  My team will never give a fully guaranteed long-term contract to anyone.”  Is that “collusion?”

It is way too early in this story to take sides – – unless one is universally pro-union or pro-management in such confrontations.  But I do believe this confrontation has the potential to be quite interesting.

Finally, let me close with this observation about the subject of collusion from actor Chris Pine:

“For me growing up, Christmas time was always the most fantastic, exciting time of the year, and you’d stay up until three in the morning.  You’d hear the parents wrapping in the other room; but you knew that also, maybe, they were in collusion with Santa Claus.”

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

 

 

USA Makes The Knockout Round – World Cup 2022

Congratulations to the US Men’s National Team for advancing from Group Play and into the Knockout Round of the FIFA World Cup tournament.  They needed a win over Iran to earn that placing in the Knockout Round and they got it by winning yesterday by a score of 1-0.  The next game for the US team is on Saturday December 3rd against the Netherlands.

About a week ago, I commented on 4 free agent shortstops who should be positive additions for whatever team signs them.  Over the weekend, I was glancing at a list of some of the “top free agents” for this MLB offseason and two names jumped out at me as high risk/high return names:

  1. Andrew Benintendi:  He is only 28 years old and has been in the major leagues for a total of 7 seasons – – but the first one was sufficiently brief that he qualified for the Rookie of the Year Award the next season.  He has been an All-Star once and also received a Golden Glove award.  His career batting average is .279 and he routinely gets more base hits than strikeouts.  However, he has had difficulty staying healthy.  Only twice has he been able to play in more than 138 games in a season.
  2. Joey Gallo:  He is only 29 years old and has been in the major leagues for 8 seasons.  He has been an All-Star twice and has received a Golden Glove Award twice in his career.  However, his career batting average is only .199 and he has been on three different teams in the past two seasons.

Switching gears …  Let me use the latest CFP rankings to demonstrate why I have no real problem with expanding the CFP beyond 4 teams but why I also have problems with expanding it all the way to 12 teams.  Here are the Top-4 as of this morning:

  • Georgia           12-0
  • Michigan         12-0
  • TCU                 12-0
  • USC                 11-1

I have no problem with the first three teams; I could entertain a reasoned debate about the 4th team on the list because here are the next 4 teams:

  • Ohio St.           11-1
  • Alabama          10-2
  • Tennessee       10-2
  • Penn St.           10-2

            Is USC’s one loss – – one point to 11th ranked Utah – – less of a stain on the record than Ohio St.’s blowout loss to #2 ranked Michigan?  Let the rhetoric flow…  And then look at the next four CFP ranked teams as of this morning:

  • Clemson          10-2
  • K-State             9-3
  • Utah                  9-3
  • Washington     10-2

If these were the 2022 final rankings there would be 3 teams in the expanded CFP field with 3 losses already on the books. Is that really desirable.  And by the way please take careful note of this next point:

  • A key point made by advocates for an expanded playoff to 12 teams is that such an expansion would open the door for more teams from outside the “Power 5” conferences to take part in the CFP.

Go back and review the list of 12 teams presented above and find me a team from outside a “Power 5” conference.  There are no such teams and if you continue down the listing for today, you will only find 2 such “Outsiders” in the Top-25:

  1. Tulane            10-2      Ranked 18th
  2. UCF                 9-3       Ranked 22nd

            I am all for expansion of the CFP from 4 teams to 8 teams; I think expanding to 12 teams is overdoing it by a lot.  And Heaven forbid someone thinks expansion to 16 teams would make sense because then no teams would ever get a first-round bye. If that expansion were in place this morning, one of the first wound games would be:

  • #1 Georgia vs. #16 Oregon

We already saw that game this season and Georgia “eked out” a 49-3 win in that “contest”.

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close with this observation by actor John Barrymore:

“The good die young – – because they see it’s no use living if you’ve got to be good.”

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

 

 

College Football In The News Today

Well, the big news today comes out of the realm of college football.  Two college coaching hires have been announced; two more coaches were given pink slips and there are reports that Deion Sanders has been offered the Colorado job, but no details have been elucidated.  So, let me dive in…

  1. Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell away from Cincy where Fickell has been for the last 6 seasons and where he amassed a record of 57-18.  Last year, his Bearcats were the first team outside the so-called Power-5 conferences to take part in the CFP.
  2. Nebraska hired Matt Rhule meaning that Rhule will have another reclamation project on his hands.  The Huskers were college football royalty once upon a time but the last time they made it to a New Year’s Day Bowl Game was in 2006.  The last time they were in any bowl game of any kind was in 2016.

While there is likely a lot of smiles and levity in the Fickell and Rhule households today, two other coaches will not be back at work next season…

  1. Stanford saw coach David Shaw resign his position after being at the school for 12 seasons; he took over after Jim Harbaugh left Stanford to take the job as the head coach of the Niners in the NFL.  Stanford was 3-9 this year – – the worst record in Shaw’s tenure there.  He was the National Coach of the Year in 2017 but Stanford has not been to a bowl game since 2019.
  2. Florida Atlantic fired Willie Taggert after the Owls went 5-7 this season and failed to make a bowl game.  Taggert has been a head coach for 13 seasons with a combined record of 71-80 at 5 different schools.  About 5 years ago, he was one of the “hot prospects” involved in the college coaching game of musical chairs but his tenures at both Oregon and Florida State were brief and nothing more than mediocre.

And there are reports by FOX sports and by CBSSports.com out there but not yet confirmed that Colorado has offered its head coaching position to Deion Sanders whose Jackson State team just completed an undefeated season in the SWAC at the Division 1-AA level.  Jackson State has a record of 22-2 over the last two seasons after Sanders took the job there.  In the last two seasons, Jackson State has a conference record of 16-0 and to put that in perspective, the time before that when Jackson State was the SWAC Champion was in 2007.

Colorado is more than a reclamation project; Colorado needs a resurrection.  Ever since the Buffaloes jumped from the Big-12 to the PAC-12 in 2011, the school has posted exactly two winning seasons (one of them in the COVID-abbreviated 2020 season).  I do not know that the Colorado program is worthy of the label “A Lazarus of Bethany Project” (John 11: 1 – 44) but I am confident in saying that putting the Buffaloes back on the list of top college programs will be a Herculean task.

And once I got past the surprises provided by the coach-hiring processes, I came to notice that the college football results from last weekend also had more than a couple of surprise results:

  • LSU will play in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia and probably looked ahead to that game as they lost badly to Texas A&M by 2 TDs last weekend.  That is 3 losses for the Tigers in 2022; so, even if they beat Georgia, they are not likely to be in the CFP.
  • South Carolina beat Clemson 31-30 meaning that the Gamecocks beat two Top 10 teams in consecutive weeks.  S. Carolina finishes the season with an 8-4 record – – all four losses were against SEC opponents.  This loss is the second of the season for Clemson making it a longshot for a CFP berth.
  • Oregon St. beat Oregon 38-34.  Oregon led 31-10 at one point in the game and led 34-17 in the 4th quarter.  Oregon simply collapsed at the end of this game.  That is the third loss of the year for the Ducks.
  • USC can still aspire to a CFP slot after a win over Notre Dame by 11 points.  They will need a win in the PAC-12 Championship Game against Utah to maintain that chance.
  • TCU creamed Iowa St. 62-14 to stay undefeated for 2022.  The fact that the Horned Frogs won this game is not nearly a surprise – – but that margin of victory is surprising.
  • Michigan beat Ohio State convincingly in Columbus OH.  It is not a shock that Michigan won the game; after all, they too were 11-0 at the kickoff.  However, beating Ohio State at home by 3 TDs is always a surprise.

Assume for a moment that Michigan beats Purdue in the Big 10 Championship Game and that TCU beats K-State in the Big-12 Championship Game.  Both will be favored to do so; and if those games go as foreseen, that will cement those two teams in the CFP bracket.  But what if…

  1. Georgia loses to LSU (with 3 losses already this year) – – AND – –
  2. USC loses to Utah.

I am not predicting that either of those things will happen, but if they do, the CFP Selection Committee members will earn whatever their stipends are for serving on that body for 2022.

Finally, let me close here with these words about “surprises” and “football” from Cris Collinsworth:

“Most of us have been in a street fight at one point or another and it’s not always the best athlete that wins.  Sometimes, it’s a tough guy that surprises people and I think that still has a major role in football, which is why the numbers do not always decide things.”

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

 

 

A Brief Thanksgiving Note …

Happy Thanksgiving everyone… Just a brief note today.

In an email exchange with a friend, the subject turned to Aaron Judge and his free agency.  My friend pointed out that the focus on Judge and where he will wind up takes away from what he called “The Year of the Shortstop” in this year’s MLB free agency.  I knew that Xander Bogarts and Trea Turner were “on the market”, but he informed me that Dansby Swanson and Carlos Correa were also available to the highest bidder.

My friend is absolutely correct; all four of those players would be quality additions for an acquiring team.  I went and checked because I was not certain but indeed, all four of those top-shelf shortstops is under 30 years old as of this morning.  I will try to follow the courting and signing of those four players this winter.

I pointed out that Justin Verlander was also a free agent coming off a season where he:

  • Won the AL Cy Young Award
  • Posted a record of 18-4
  • Pitched to an ERA of 1.75.

Not bad for any pitcher let alone a guy who will turn 40 years old right around the start of Spring Training next year.  I wonder if Verlander will get something like Max Scherzer got last winter from the Mets.

The biggest enigma of the free agent season to me is Cody Bellinger.  He will be 28 years old in the middle of next season, so he should be in or near the prime of his career.  In 2019, he was the NL MVP and had a spectacular year at the age of 23.  However, his last two seasons have been poor – – not just by the standard of someone who was the MVP, those two years were poor for about any MLB player:

  • 2021:  Batting average = .165 He had 94 strikeouts versus 52 base hits
  • 2022:  Batting average = .210 He had 150 strikeouts versus 106 base hits.

That is all I have time for today.  Guests will be arriving shortly, and I need to assemble the smoker I will be using to prepare the turkey for tonight’s festivities.

I hope everyone has a good time over this Holiday Weekend.  Writing will be sporadic next week due to other guests and a travel day.

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

 

 

What I Know, Think And Feel …

Here are four things I know:

1.  I saw Matt Ryan play QB for the Colts last Sunday AND I saw Sam Ehlinger play QB for the Colts three weeks ago against the Commanders.  The eyeball test tells me clearly that in November 2022, Ryan is far more prepared to be an NFL QB than Ehlinger.  Maybe someday Ehlinger will be a star in the NFL – – but not this month.  Therefore, whoever decided to bench Ryan and announce that he had a shoulder injury is a football fool.  If that was Frank Reich’s decision alone, then he deserved to be fired; if it was someone above him in the organization, that person deserves to be fired; if it was the owner, Jim Irsay, just chalk that up to another goofy decision by a meddlesome owner.

2.  I know Mike Tomlin is the most candid head coach in the NFL.  At one of his press events, someone asked for his opinion of the Colts’ decision to hire Jeff Saturday as their coach two weeks ago.  Here is what Tomlin said:

“My opinion doesn’t matter; I’m not a part of that organization. I’m not part of the decision-making process. I know Jeff, I like Jeff. I think he’s a dynamic personality and football lover and charismatic leader, but I have no opinion worth mentioning regarding their hiring practices or that selection in particular. It’s irrelevant to me. I’m focused on the preparation of this group relative to us stepping in that stadium against that group Monday night.”

Left unsaid was the rather clear message that he did not want to be asked about it again…

3.  I know that the NFL menu of games for Thanksgiving Day this year is quite a feast.  Even the opening game (Bills/Lions) is an important game.  The Bills and Dolphins are tied for the AFC East lead and the Lions have quietly won 3 games in a row.  The late afternoon game (Cowboys/Giants) will determine second place in the NFC East race for the moment.  The night game (Vikes/Pats) will test the ability of the Vikes to put a horrible performance last Sunday behind them on a short week of practice.  It is not often that the Thanksgiving Day lineup looks so appetizing.

4.  I know there are reports that say that Doug Kazirian – an ESPN sports betting Insider – won $58K in a handicapping contest sponsored by the William Hill sportsbook.  Congratulations to Kazirian and a friendly reminder here.  The IRS knows about this and has access to all the congratulatory memos, Tweets and the like related to this.  Do not forget to report this as “Additional Income”.

Here are five things I think:

1.  I think Matt Rhule should be a hot commodity for a college coaching job next month.  If he gets a turn-around job at a mid-major program, he will be out of there when/if he does another turn-around job.  His successes at the collegiate level (Temple and Baylor) were both resurrection situations.

2.  I think the USC/Notre Dane game this week may be a pivotal moment for either/both programs.  Lincoln Riley is a first-year coach at a school with lot of “history” in college football.  Marcus Freeman is in his first year as the head coach at what Tony Kornheiser has often referred to as “The University of Football In North America”.  Riley’s club has more to play for this year — a Pac-12 championship game appearance and a possible spot in the College Football Playoff.  However, both coaches are looking for a dose of national credibility that could convince quality recruits to arrive on campus.  Big game…

3.  I think it may be time for the Rams to consider shutting down Matthew Stafford for the rest of the season.  He has been in and out of the concussion protocol twice this year; the Rams are going nowhere. Why take the risk?

4.  I think Lions’ fans are pleasantly surprised by the Rams’ descent from the top of the NFL this year because the Lions own the Rams’ first-round pick next year because of the trade that put Matthew Stafford in LA in the first place.

5.  I think the NBA and Adam Silver are playing fans for idiots.  After a 2-week “sensitivity training regimen” and a “candid interview” with Kyrie Irving, they have decided they know perfectly well that Irving is not antisemitic.  Look, I don’t care if he is or is not; Kyrie Irving means nothing to me.  But the NBA made a huge virtue-signal out of Irving and now they want me to believe that he is “cured” of what they accused him of two weeks ago?  Thanks – – but no thanks.

Here are three things I feel:

1.  I feel as if the LA Dodgers are clearing a bunch of salary commitments over the next few years so that they can become major bidders for Aaron Judge sometime in the next 6 – 8 weeks.  I said previously that I would not be surprised if a team offered Judge a 5-year deal worth $250M – – breaking into the $50M per year category.

2.  I feel as if the Arizona Cardinals are imploding.  Last year they were everybody’s focal point as a team on the rise and a team that approached the game with a new interpretation of strategy and tactics.  Well, now the Cards are 4-7; they will almost assuredly miss the playoffs; they bungled the contract extension negotiations with Kyler Murray when they inserted that “homework study clause” in it.

3.  I feel as if the widening allegations/information about Brett Favre’s association with some shady/sleazy financial activities makes it more likely that people will react negatively to lawsuits against folks like Tom Brady and Steph Curry related to the recent FTX collapse/debacle.  This might be an inflection point for celebrity endorsers for products that are not iron clad – – think toilet paper here.  FTX collapsed and there were celebrity/athletes who were endorsing FTX as a good deal and the next big thing.  Now we will find out if those athletes/celebrities are legally liable for what they said in those FTX ads.

  • Memo for Prosecutors out there:
      • Do not let me be on one of the juries in the FTX celebrity cases you will try.  The defendant is potentially a slime and probably did most of what you have accused him/her of doing – – but this would likely have been “nipped in the bud” had there been REAL oversight by the FTX Board of Directors.  If you put ALL the guilty parties in front of me, I’ll be happy to send all of them to hard labor for the next 15-30 years.  But please do not try to hang the blame for that hot mess on the endorsers alone…

So, what’s next?

Next up is a Holiday Weekend with great food, family and friends, good football and traffic jams beyond description.  Happy Thanksgiving to all…

Finally, I’ll close with this observation about traffic jams from comedian Steven Wright:

“They say the universe is expanding.  That should help with traffic.”

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

 

 

Football Quick Hits…

Since there will be no Football Fridays for the next two weeks, let me take a moment today to review football stuff from last weekend.  I’ll start in college football…

The Linfield College Wildcats won their first-round game in the Division III college football playoffs beating Pomona-Pitzer 51-24.  This week the Wildcats welcome Bethel to McMinnville, OR for a “Sweet-16 level” game.  Go Wildcats!

Vandy beat Florida 31-24.  Maybe Vandy’s upset of Kentucky two weeks ago was not as big a surprise as it seemed at the time.  Vandy needs one more win to get to a bowl game – – but that last game is against Tennessee and the Vols should be up for that game because…

Tennessee lost badly to a mediocre South Carolina team 63-38.  Tennessee had been ranked #6 in the nation going into that game.  No longer…

Arkansas beat Ole Miss 42-27.  Ole Miss will get a bowl bid – – but the quality of the bid they will get went down as of the conclusion of that game.

Michigan beat Illinois 19-17.  This was a lot closer than the oddsmakers thought it would be.  Illinois led 17-10 at the start of the 4th quarter but could not hold on for an upset win.

TCU beat Baylor 29-28.  TCU remains undefeated and in the conversation as a CFP participant.  This was not a pretty win for the Horned Frogs – – but a win is a win.

K-State beat W. Virginia 48-31 to maintain its shot at playing TCU in the big-12 Championship Game.  There was an oddity in this game:

  • K-State led 28-19 at the end of the first quarter.

USC beat UCLA 48-45 in a game devoid of defense.  The Trojans are now ranked #5 in the country.

Oregon beat Utah 20-17 ending any hopes the Utes may have had for competing in the CFP.

Texas A&M managed to beat UMass 20-3 which is an embarrassingly close game for the Aggies.  So, here is a quick quiz:

  • What was the more disastrous investment?
    • Putting your money in crypto on FTX – – or – –
    • Hiring Jimbo Fisher for $105M?

Moving on to some quick looks at NFL results …

The Cowboys beat the Vikes 40-3.  What to make of that game?  My thought is that the Vikes are not that bad, and the Cowboys are not that good.  Both teams will make the NFC Playoffs and if they meet again the game will not be decided by more than 5 TDs.

The Pats beat the Jets 10-3; the game was decided on an 84-yard punt return with 5 seconds left in the game.  Up to that point this game was nothing more than ugly.  Consider just a couple stats from that game:

  • 11 “drives” started by both teams ended up as three-and-out
  • 19 total first downs in the game – – both teams combined
  • 10 QB sacks recorded in the game

Just an observation but Zach Wilson throws a lot of passes off his back foot – even when he does not have to as a way to avoid being hit in the throwing process.  Yes, I know that Aaron Rodgers does this, and Patrick Mahomes does this too – – but the much more effective way to throw a football for most human beings is to step into the throw and not to throw off the back foot.  Perhaps someone might want to work with Wilson on those mechanics?

The Eagles rallied in the 4th quarter to beat the Colts 17-16.  It was the defense that won this game for the Eagles keeping it close until the offense decided to wake up in the final 10 minutes of the game.

The Commanders beat the Texans 23-10.  As the teams left the field at halftime, the Texans Total Offense for the first half of the game was 5 yards – – or 180 inches.

I said last week that I thought the Giants were shoo-ins for the playoffs unless they got hit with a rash of injuries.  Maybe I jinxed the Giants.  Last week, they lost to the Lions 31-18 and lost 6 players during the game to injuries – – on top of having 4 other starters out for the game.

The Ravens beat the Panthers 13-3 scoring late in the game to provide the margin of victory.  Actually, Baker Mayfield threw 2 INTs in the 4th quarter of the game to assure defeat for the Panthers.

The Chiefs rallied in the final two minutes to score a TD and beat the Chargers 30-27.  As usual, Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert put on an entertaining show for fans.

The Niners dominated the Cards in Mexico City 38-10 – – and it was not that close.  Right now, I think the Niners are playing the best football in the NFC.

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close with this remark by Fred Allen:

“Hollywood is a place where people from Iowa mistake each other for movie stars.”

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

 

 

Bait And Switch …

One of the oldest con games around is the old “bait and switch”.  Today an example of that con is on display at the World Cup games in Qatar.  After pretending that fans who came to Qatar to see the tournament games would be allowed to drink beer under controlled circumstances even though public consumption of alcohol is illegal in Qatar, the government announced late last week that there will be no beer sales or beer drinking in public for the games.  Many commentators have labeled this an “abrupt about face” by the Qatari officials; please, call it what it is, it is bait and switch.

The timing of the announcement was perfect; it became known just as lots of fans traveling to see the games were in the boarding process for their flights to Doha.  It seems to me this was not “accidental” or “coincidental”.

FIFA has over the last couple of decades done some virtue-signaling expressly trying to hold the World Cup Tournament in “less developed places” such as South Africa (Who can ever forget the vuvuzelas?) and now in a fabulously wealthy – but tiny – country like Qatar.  [Aside:  Not to worry, palms were greased to get those Tournaments to those virtuous sites.]  But this set of events might make the FIFA folks think twice about “doing business” with a theocratic state.  According to reports, Budweiser is a FIFA sponsor and coughs up $75M per year for that sponsorship opportunity.  The corporate overlords for Budweiser cannot be happy with this turn of events.

Two games have happened in the Tournament as of this morning.  Ecuador beat Qatar 2-0 in the opening game and England beat Iran 3-0 in Group B competition.  Group B is where the US Men’s Team will be competing.

Switching gears …  The Toronto Argonauts beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-23 in the CFL Grey Cup game last evening.  The game was held in Regina, Saskatchewan at the home field of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  The Blue Bombers had won the last two Grey Cup championships and were favored in this game.  The Argonauts were down 23-14 in the fourth quarter and rallied to take the lead with less than 5 minutes to play.  The Blue Bombers got within field goal range but had the field goal attempt to win the game blocked with under a minute left on the clock.

My TV remote got a workout last night going back and forth between the Grey Cup game and the Bengals/Steelers game first and then for the early part of the Chiefs/Chargers game.  CFL games are quite different from NFL games or even college football games.  It takes a moment for me to adjust my thinking about the game and the strategic decisions within the game, but once I do, I find CFL games to be quite entertaining.

Next up …  Perhaps you have followed to some degree the collapse of FTX – the cryptocurrency trading exchange.  One bit of fallout for the sports world – – other than the decline of cryptocurrency values and the effect that has had on athletes who chose to take all or part of their contract money in cryptocurrency – – is that the folks in Miami have a basketball arena named by FTX.  The agreement between FTX and Miami began in the Spring of 2021 and was supposed to run for 19 years at a cost to FTX of $135M.  Well, FTX is not in any position to live up to that agreement now and the folks in Miami are out and about seeking a new naming rights sponsor for the venue where the Miami Heat play their home games.

Just a guess, but I don’t think the Miami folks will be contacting anyone from Enron about this sponsorship opportunity…

Moving on …  Subsequent to the World Series, MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred, was asked about the status of two franchises with attendance issues – – the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland A’s.  Manfred was optimistic about the Rays being able to stay in the Tampa area but was less sanguine about the situation in Oakland.  The resolution of the issues in these two cities is important for MLB and its fans because Manfred said that baseball would look to expand and add two new teams once the stadium issues in Tampa and in Oakland are resolved.  Here is what the Commish had to say about the two situations:

“I’ve got a lot of faith in Stu Sternberg (owner of the Tampa Bay Rays). I think they will find a place to get a ballpark built. I think baseball can thrive in Tampa.”

And …

“I think the mayor in Oakland has made a huge effort to try to get it done in Oakland; it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.”

[Aside:  The Oakland mayor is leaving office this year so any negotiations that may have been ongoing will surely need to take a moment to reset starting next year.]

Manfred also said that the A’s cannot continue to play in whatever the Oakland Coliseum calls itself this month.  The lease on that stadium by the A’s runs through the end of 2024.  It seems clear to me that there will not be a new stadium ready for business in the Spring of 2025 since there is not deal in place now that will allow for groundbreaking in the next 48-72 hours.  I t will be interesting to see how the focus of negotiations might change as the end of the current lease gets closer and closer.

Regarding the situation in Tampa, I wonder why the Commissioner is as optimistic as he seems to be.  The idea of putting a new stadium in “downtown Tampa” was put to rest; so, it would seem as if there has been no real progress in that part of the world.  Did Manfred just tip his hand…?

Finally, Dwight Perry will retire in two weeks.  He announced that in his column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times last weekend.  Currently, that column runs every Sunday in the paper – – but there were times when it ran 5 days a week.  I wonder if the column has become an institution in the Seattle area such that it needs to be carried on.  If that turns out to be the case, let me say before the fact that Dwight Perry will be a tough act to follow.  Here is his “retirement announcement”:

“I will retire Dec. 3 after 23½ years at The Seattle Times and 51-plus in the newspaper industry, so my final column will appear Sunday, Dec. 4.

“Now we rejoin Sideline Chatter, already in progress …”

Bonne chance, Dwight Perry…

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

 

 

Football Friday 11/18/22

I feel as if Football Friday went through a time warp back to the 1920s.  No, I have not been visited by Mr. Peabody and Sherman, but check the analogy here:

  • 1920s:  WW I just ended; there was a “return to normalcy” per President Harding; and then the Great Depression and WW II followed.
  • Football Fridays:  Disrupted last week to yield a Football Friday-Lite; this week is going to be a normal Football Friday;  there will be no Football Friday at all next week and if there is one on December 2, it will be another “Lite one”.

So, let me begin as usual with a review of last week’s Six-Pack and Money Line Parlays:

College = 2-1-0                                                          Season Total = 19-10-0

NFL = 0-3-0                                                                Season Total = 14-17-3

Money Line Parlays = 1-3                                         Season Total = 6-17

Profit/Loss = +$484                                                   Season Profit = $106

 

College Football Commentary:

 

            The Linfield College Wildcats beat Lewis and Clark 70-7 to wrap up a 9-0 regular season.  Division III college football has a bracketed tournament to determine its national champion; normally, the Northwest Conference champion gets an invite to that event and with a 9-0 record, I expected Linfield to participate.  Indeed, this week Linfield will host Pomona-Pitzer in a first-round game of a 32-team bracketed field.  The Sage Hens bring an 8-2 record to this game.  Interestingly, the two losses on their schedule are both against teams that Linfield defeated earlier this season.  Go Wildcats!

The Big Ten West appeared to belong to Illinois 2 weeks ago as the Illini had a comfortable lead in the division with a winnable schedule ahead of them. However, after following up a miserable loss to Michigan State two weeks ago with a lackluster performance and another loss to Purdue last week, the race in the Big 10 West is now wide open.

Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota and Iowa are currently tied in the Big Ten West standings with a 4-3 conference record. The Illini play No. 3 Michigan this week and they are a 17.5-point underdog; so, they are likely to fall out of the race. That situation elevates the importance of the Iowa/Purdue game upcoming in Week 12. And Minnesota is hanging in there to see if anyone falters so that they might swoop in and pick up the shards…

I want to take a minute this week to talk about three college coaches in their first year on their current job who have produced significant turnaround results.  I am sure there are others out there who have done similarly laudatory work but these three are the ones that came to my mind as I was putting this stuff together.  Listed alphabetically:

  1. Kalen DeBoer – Washington:  He spent 5 seasons as the coach at the University of Sioux Falls – – an NAIA school.  In those 5 seasons he won 3 NAIA National Championships and lost in the Championship Game one other time.  After time as an assistant coach in various places, he took over Fresno State in 2020 and was hired by Washington last year after the Huskies went 4-8 in 2021.  As of this morning DeBoer’s Huskies have an 8-2 record and last week they upset Oregon which had been ranked #6 in the country at the time.
  2. Sonny Dykes – TCU:  He came to TCU from nearby rival SMU, and he has the so far undefeated Horned Frogs ranked in the Top 4 in the CFP rankings as of this morning.  Hard to find a lot of fault there…
  3. Jim Mora – UConn:  The Huskies had been a doormat – and a perennial contender for my imaginary SHOE Tournament – for years.  When Mora took the job, it seemed like such a huge step down for him that I wondered if he was serious.  A coaching career arc that goes from the Atlanta Falcons to the Seattle Seahawks to UCLA to UConn is more than a bit unusual.  He took over a program that went 10-50 in the last 5 years and now has the Huskies bowl-eligible before Thanksgiving.

In Big-10 action last week …

Michigan 34  Nebraska 3:   This game was never in doubt; the Wolverines almost tripled the Huskers in total offense 411 yards to 146 yards.  Brad Dickson had this Tweet as the kickoff approached:

“Michigan is favored by 31 points over the Huskers. Right now, the team feels like a Democrat running for office in Nebraska.”

Purdue 31  Illinois 24:  As noted above, the Big 10 West race is a scramble and Illinois is no longer the big dog there.  Illinois has a date with Michigan this week where they are 17.5-point underdogs.

Minnesota 31  Northwestern 3:  The Gophers are still in the race for the Big 10 West.  Like Illinois, Iowa and Purdue, the Gophers have 3 conference losses.  Iowa and Purdue play each other soon, Illinois must deal with Michigan this week.  Here is the rest of the Minnesota schedule:

  • Vs. Iowa this week – – huge game for both teams
  • At Wisconsin next week

Iowa 24  Wisconsin 10:  This victory means that Iowa remains in the Big 10 West picture despite miserable offensive stats for the Hawkeyes:

  • Total Offense = 251.1 yards per game – – ranked 130th in the country
  • Scoring Offense = 17.9 points per game – – ranked 124th in the country

Ohio St. 56  Indiana 14:  It was indeed that ugly; the Buckeyes generated 662 yards on offense compared to 269 for the Hoosiers.  CJ Stroud threw 5 TD passes in the game.  By the way, Indiana has now lost to Penn St and Ohio St in consecutive weekends by the combined score of 101-28.  The Hoosiers started the season with three straight wins; now their record is 3-7 …

Penn St. 30  Maryland 0:  The Penn St. defense had its way with the Terps in this one:

  • Maryland Total Offense = 134 yards
  • Maryland Rushing Offense = 60 yards on 38 carries
  • Maryland First Downs = 11
  • Maryland Punts = 9

Moving on to SEC games…

Georgia 45  Mississippi St. 19:  Georgia only led 17-12 at the half, but the second half was dominated by the Georgia defense.  This win puts Georgia in the SEC Championship Game against LSU.

Auburn 13  Texas A&M 10:  I suggested this game could be called the Agony Bowl last week and it seems to have lived down to that label.  If you ever wanted proof that pre-season polls are nothing more than wild guesses, remember that the Aggies were ranked #6 in the country back in August.  They are now #7 – – in the SEC West.  With this loss, the Aggies will not be bowl eligible and will have a losing record for the 2022 season.

Alabama 30  Ole Miss 24:  The Rebels ran out to a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter and led 17-14 at halftime.  The Tide rallied in the third quarter and the score was tied at 24 as the fourth quarter began.  Then the Alabama defense pitched a shutout in the 4th quarter; here are the results of the 3 possessions for Ole Miss in the 4th quarter:

  • 3 plays  minus-4 yards  1:47 time of possession  PUNT
  • 8 plays  36 yards  1:47 time of possession  TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 8 plays  55 yards  1:37 time of possession  TURNOVER ON DOWNS

LSU 13  Arkansas 10:  The win guarantees LSU the SEC West slot in the SEC Championship Game.  This was a defensive struggle from kickoff to final gun.  Neither team generated 300 yards on offense; there were a total of 13 punts in the game.  LSU freshman LB, Harold Perkins, Jr. had 4 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in the game.

Tennessee 66  Missouri 24:  That is quite a reversal of form for the Vols after scoring one meaningless TD two weeks ago against Georgia.

Vandy 24  Kentucky 21:  The Commodores came to the game having lost their last 26 consecutive conference games; that losing streak is over.  Trailing 21-17, Vandy went on a fourth quarter offensive drive that covered 80 yards – – including two fourth-down conversions – – and scored with about 30 seconds left in the game on a short pass.  For the record, Kentucky was a 17.5-point favorite in the game.

Let me interject something here about Vandy football in the SEC.  In general, Vandy is over-matched in the SEC.  Since 2000, the Commodores have posted exactly 3 winning seasons; since joining the SEC in 1933, Vandy has never had double-digit wins in a given season.  Prior to their win over Kentucky last week, their 3 wins this year had been against Hawaii, Elon and Northern Illinois.  In two games against Alabama and Georgia this year, Vandy has been outscored by a combined 110-3.  Now lest you leap to the conclusion that Vandy is the worst SEC team ever, let me lay some history on you:

  • Sewanee: The University of the South  was a charter member of the SEC when it formed in 1932.  The Sewanee Tigers were in the SEC for 8 seasons and never won a single football game against an SEC opponent.
  • Against SEC opponents, Sewanee was shut out 26 times.
  • By comparison, Vanderbilt looks like a powerhouse…

Now on the results from the Big-12 …

K-State 31  Baylor 3:  The Wildcats remain in the Big-12 Championship Game picture, but this loss likely eliminates Baylor for any chance to get there.

TCU 17  Texas 10:  Ignoring the fact that TCU was a 7.5-point underdog in the game, the Horned Frogs remain undefeated for 2022 and this victory guarantees them a place in the Big-12 Championship Game.  Credit the TCU defense here; the only Texas TD came on a scoop and score by the Longhorns’ defense.  Consider this pair of stats for the game:

  • Texas Rushing Offense = 28 yards on 22 carries
  • Texas RB, Bijan Robinson, Rushing Offense = 29 yards on 12 carries

TCU defense held Texas to 1 of 13 on third-down conversions.

West Virginia 23  Oklahoma 20:  This is only the second conference win for W Va.  The loss sets Oklahoma’s record at 5-5 for the season and all 5 losses for the sooners have been in conference.  The Mountaineers need to win both remaining games to be bowl eligible; the remaining opponents are K-State and Oklahoma St.  The Sooners need to find a win in their last two games for bowl eligibility.  Their opponents will be Oklahoma St. and Texas Tech.

Pitt 37  Virginia 7:  The score was 28-0 at the end of the first quarter and the way that happened was a bit strange.

  • Pitt scored on a Pick-Six on the first play of the game. 
  • Pitt scored on a Pick-Six on the next Virginia possession
  • Pitt added 2 offensive TDs on the next possessions of the quarter to lead 28-0.

Some ACC results from last week …

BC 21  NC St. 20:  NC State had won 17 straight home games and was an 18-point favorite at kickoff.  One interesting stat from the game concerning BC – – the winner here:

  • Net Yards Rushing = minus-1 yard on 22 rushing attempts

UNC 36  Wake Forest 34:  The teams combined to produce 1079 yards of offense in the game – – 786 of those yards coming via the passing games.  This win puts UNC in the ACC Championship Game.

Florida St.  38  Syracuse 3:  That is 4 losses in a row for the Orange after a 6-0 start to the season.  Meanwhile, the Seminoles’ offense has been on fire the last two weeks – – they beat Miami by 42 points two weeks ago – – and the Seminoles have quietly accumulated a 7-3 record for the year.

And out west in the PAC-12 …

Washington 37 Oregon 34:  Oregon might still make it to the PAC-12 Championship Game but with its second loss of the year, the Ducks can kiss any CFP participation goodbye.  Oregon had a slight advantage on the stat sheet, but it was the Oregon defense that was the weak link here allowing the Huskies to gain 552 yards on offense for the day.  By the way, Oregon was a 13-point favorite at kickoff time.

Utah 42  Stanford 7:  The Utes remain in good position to be part of the PAC-12 Championship Game but their two losses so far in 2022 makes it highly unlikely that they will be part of the CFP.

Arizona 34  UCLA 28:  This is the second loss of the year for the Bruins, and it surely hurts their chances for a chance in the PAC-12 Championship Game.  Until last week, the Bruins had wins over Utah and Washington; their only blemish was a loss to Oregon.  Were they looking past a mediocre Arizona team to a game against USC?

USC 55  Colorado 17:  This was a walkover for USC even though Colorado led 3-2 at the end of the first quarter.  Some bad news for Trojan fans is that RB Travis Dye suffered an injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season – – even if the season extends into January 2023.

And in random games of interest from last week …

UConn 36  Liberty 33:  This was a big let-down game for Liberty and the win makes UConn bowl-eligible for the first time since 2015.  This represents a major turnaround accomplishment for Huskies’ coach Jim Mora in his first year at UConn (see above).

Notre Dame 35  Navy 32:  Navy outgained Notre Dame on offense by 33 yards for the day and held the Irish to only 68 yards rushing.  The Irish led 35-13 in the second half and held on for the narrow win here.

Western Kentucky 45  Rice 10:  Rice still needs another win to be bowl eligible.  This game was never close.

Arkansas St. 35  UMass 33:  Two SHOE Tournament candidates faced off here …

 

The SHOE Teams:

 

Let me pose a conundrum here.  Florida International is 4-6 this year.  Normally teams with 4 wins are easily eliminated from consideration for my SHOE Tournament.  But FIU is a special case.  Consider:

  • One of the four wins was in OT against a Division 1-A opponent (Bryant)
  • FIU has lost 73-0 to W. Kentucky, 52-14 to North Texas, 41-12 to Texas St. and 52-7 against Florida Atlantic.

I am going to list them as “on the radar” this week just because those losses are so bad.

  • Akron  1-9
  • Colorado  1-9
  • Colorado St.  2-8
  • Florida International  4-6
  • Hawaii  2-9
  • Indiana  3-7
  • New Mexico  2-8
  • Northwestern  1-9
  • UMass  1-9
  • UNC-Charlotte  2-9
  • USF  1-9
  • Va Tech  2-8

And before I leave the college commentary for the week, here are the three teams contending for the Brothel Defense Award for 2022:

  • USF gives up 40.0 points per game
  • UNC-Charlotte gives up 41.1 points per game
  • Colorado gives up 41.7 points per game

It looks as if that “race to the bottom” will go down to the wire.  Also please note that the 3 teams in contention here are all on the SHOE Tournament watch-list…

 

College Football Games of Interest This Week:

 

K-State – 7.5 at W. Virginia (54.5):  K-State needs a win to stay in line for a shot at TCU in the Big-12 Championship Game; W. Virginia needs a win to keep alive the possibility of a bowl game appearance this year.  An important game…

NC St. at Louisville – 4 (45):  Both teams are wildly inconsistent this year.  Betting on this game is like playing the lottery…

Va Tech at Liberty – 10 (47):  My guess is that Liberty coach, Hugh Freeze, had some candid remarks to make to the team after they lost to UConn last week as 2 TD favorites.

Miami at Clemson – 18 (48):  Earlier in the season, some were touting this game as a confrontation between “the establishment” (Clemson) and the “resurrected powerhouse” (Miami).  However, the Hurricanes show up here with a 5-5 record hoping to find one more win so they can go to a bowl game.

Ohio St. – 27 at Maryland (62.5):  About once a year, the Terps play a game about a mile over their heads and win a game no one thought they had a shot at winning – – or maybe losing such a game by a late field goal.  Is this that game?

Illinois at Michigan – 17.5 (41):  Both teams need this win; one team is a lot better than the other one…

Northwestern at Purdue – 18 (44):  The Boilermakers cannot afford a loss given the state of events in the Big-10 West; Northwestern has lost 9 games in a row after winning the opening game against Nebraska in Dublin Ireland.

Georgia – 22 at Kentucky (48.5):  Maybe Kentucky was looking ahead to this game as it lost to Vandy last week?

UConn at Army – 10 (44):  It will be interesting to see if UConn can deal with the Army triple option offense…

Texas – 10 at Kansas (63.5):  Both teams lost last week; both teams are already bowl eligible; both teams are eliminated from the Big-12 Championship Game.  Hi ho…

Iowa at Minnesota – 3 (31.5):  That Total Line is not a typo; it opened the week at 33 points and has slowly eased on down the line.  If you still like the UNDER, you can still find this at 32 points at some Internet sports books.  This is a Big Game in the Big-10 West and because of the implications for the winner and loser here, this is my College Game of the Week.  I know Minnesota has won 3 in a row – – but those three opponents were Rutgers, Nebraska and Northwestern.  Iowa wins by shutting down opposing offenses and Minnesota’s offense is nothing special to begin with.  I think Iowa is the better team so getting points with the better team sounds like a good idea; I’ll take the Hawkeyes plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

UMass at Texas A&M – 33.5 (47.5):  I have two comments about this game and this spread:

  1. The Aggies have never scored more than 28 points in any game this season and they are 33.5-point favorites here.  What does that tell you about how the oddsmakers think of the UMass defense?
  2. I read that Jimbo Fisher’s buyout clause for this year is $85M.  If the Aggies lose to this opponent at home, I think some of the big-money-boys there will start passing the hat…

By the way, UMass is +7500 on the Money Line.

I fully expect the Aggies to break their 6-game losing streak here but there is no way I would wager even a farthing on the game…

BC at Notre Dame – 20.5 (42.5):  The Total Line opened at 46.5 points and has been dropping steadily all week.  This is another interesting spread in that Notre dame only scores 29.7 points per game.

Stanford at Cal – 4.5 (47.5):  This is a huge rivalry game…

USC – 2.5 at UCLA (76.5):  the Trojans need the win to stay on track for the PAC-12 Championship Game and it would love to win big to impress the CFP Selectors.

Utah – 2 at Oregon (60):  The other important PAC-12 game this week.  One of these teams will have a third loss for the season on Saturday night…

TCU – 2.5 at Baylor (56.5):  TCU is locked into the Big-12 Championship Game and would be in the CFP bracket if it were announced today.  They will drop out of the Top-4 with a loss here and will probably not get back in between now and the announcement of the 4 teams in the CFP field.  Big game for the Horned Frogs…

Ole Miss – 2.5 at Arkansas (64):  The Total Line here opened at 59 points and has been monotonically increasing as the week went on.  The Razorbacks need a win to get to bowl eligibility.  Ole Miss is already bowl-eligible and is looking to get a quality invitation – – not a pre-Christmas game.  Ole Miss can and will run the football here because Arkansas’ run defense gives up 146.3 yards per game (ranked 65th in the country).  I like Ole Miss to win and cover even on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Oklahoma St. at Oklahoma – 7.5 (66):  They call this rivalry game, “Bedlam”.  The Cowboys can still maneuver themselves into the Big-12 Championship Game, but a loss here will likely doom those chances.  The Sooners have not been impressive at all this year; that hook on top of a full TD is enticing; I’ll take the Cowboys with the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

 

NFL Commentary:

 

D.C. Attorney General, Karl Racine, filed a lawsuit against the NFL, the Washington Commanders, Daniel Snyder and Roger Goodell alleging they colluded to deceive residents and fans about an NFL probe into the team’s toxic workplace culture and claims of sexual misconduct.  While I hope this matter proceeds because it will shed light on all the findings in the toxic workplace investigation and possibly on those hundreds of thousands of emails involving former team President, Bruce Allen, I have to say that it is a bit of stretch for me to see this as a violation of a consumer protection law.  But good luck to AG, Racine here; nothing ventured; nothing gained – – or lost.

I want to comment on two specific teams here this week.  I’ll start with a team that is surprisingly good this year and looks as if it is playoff bound; I speak of the NY Giants.  The Giants are 7-2 with a point differential of only 14 points.  Their wins have not been artistic in any sense, but their record has them in second place in the NFC East one game behind the Eagles and one game ahead of the Cowboys.  It looks as if 10 wins will assure an NFC team of a playoff slot and all the Giants need to do is to win 3 of their final 8 games to get to 10 wins.

Here is their remaining schedule:

  • Vs. Lions (this week)
  • At Cowboys (Thanksgiving)
  • Vs Commanders
  • Vs. Eagles
  • At Commanders
  • At Vikes
  • Vs Colts
  • At Eagles

I do not have a problem seeing 3 wins on that menu unless a large number of debilitating injuries afflict the Giants.

The other team I want to look at is having a surprisingly bad season; they are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs just yet but if those playoff chances were in human form, they would be in an ICU somewhere.  I speak of the Las Vegas Raiders.  Just as the Giants find ways to win close games despite a minuscule point differential, the Raiders never seem to win close games.  The Raiders are 2-7 in 2022 and their point differential is only minus-23 points.  But look at this another way and focus on the last 3 games for the Raiders:

  • They were shut out by the Saints
  • Then they lost to the Jags after leading by 17 points in the game
  • Last week they lost to the Colts in Jeff Saturday’s first game ever as a head coach.

That is not a good trend line by any definition of “good” …

The Raiders made the playoffs in 2021 and added two players that appeared to be quality additions in Chandler Jones and Davante Adams.  I did not think that was sufficient for the Raiders to overtake the Chiefs in the AFC West, but I thought they would be right in the middle of the wild card chase – – and they are not.  Chandler Jones has been almost invisible this year; Adams has lived up to his billing, but he cannot do it alone.

The Raiders’ defense has been miserable; it has yet to hold an opponent under 20 points for a game.  There are rumors of wholesale changes coming to the Raiders’ roster come the offseason including perhaps trading/releasing Derek Carr.  Mark Davis has said that first year head coach Josh McDaniels will be back next year; the jury is still out on McDaniels’ capabilities as an NFL head coach notwithstanding his successes as an offensive coordinator.  In this job plus his previous time as the head coach in Denver, McDaniels‘record is a less-than-stellar 13-24.

I want to throw something out there for cogitation:

  • Perhaps it is going to take a cadre of players who are super-dedicated to their craft and their performance to survive in Las Vegas where there are outside activities/distractions that are significantly greater than in most other NFL cities.

The temptations present in “Sin City” may be one part of the deteriorated state of the Raiders in 2022.  Just a thought…  As Mae West said about temptations:

“When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I haven’t tried before.”

Bucs 21  Seahawks 16:  The Bucs improve their record to 5-5 and lead the feeble NFC South by a full game.  That win snapped the Seahawks 4-game win streak and puts the Seahawks in a virtual tie with the Niners in the NFC West – – both teams have 4 losses.  The Seahawks preferred way to play is to run the football and control the clock.  That didn’t work:

  • Bucs Time of Possession = 36:55   Seahawks Time of Possession = 23:05
  • Seahawks Rushing Offense = 39 yards on 22 attempts

Another big difference here was the Bucs converting on 10 of 15 third down tries while the Seahawks were 1 for 9 in those situations.  And yet, this was a one-score game…

Tom Brady now holds another “NFL Record”; he has the most passing yards in games outside the US with 1210 yards in 4 games.  So, whose record did he break last week?  That would be – – wait for it – – Blake Bortles.

Dolphins 39  Browns 17:  Don’t look now, but the Miami Dolphins are alone in first place in the AFC East.  This was simply an old fashioned beatdown.  The Browns now have 6 losses and still have the Bills and the Bucs to play before Deshaun Watson becomes eligible to play.

Titans 17  Broncos 10:  The Broncos led 10-0 with 2 minutes to play in the first half but their offense in the second half was “unproductive” in its 6 possessions:

  • 3 plays  5 yards  PUNT
  • 6 plays  32 yards  PUNT
  • 9 plays  14 yards  PUNT
  • 5 plays  1 yard  PUNT
  • 3 plays  4 yards  PUNT
  • 10 plays  50 yards  INTERCEPTION

The Titans have a 2-game lead in the loss column over the Colts in the AFC South.

Lions 31  Bears 30:  The Chicago Bears are going through Groundhog Day – – the movie.  For the third week in a row, the Bears have scored 29 points or more – – AND they have lost all three games.  For the record, the Bears are the first team in NFL history to lose three straight games despite scoring 29 points or more in each game. In this one, the Bears dominated the stat sheet and led by 14 points at the start of the 4th quarter.  Then they let the Lions – – I said the Detroit Lions!  – – score 3 TDs in the 4th quarter and the Bears missed an extra point to assure the defeat.  The win for the Lions moves them out of the basement in the NFC North by half-a-game.  Yuck!

Giants 24  Texans 16:  Saquon Barkley was the story of this game carrying the ball 35 times for 152 yards and a TD.  The Giants are now in sole possession of second place in the NFC East.  The Texans have some good young talent, and they play hard; maybe in a year or two, they will be contenders in the AFC South…?

Chiefs 27  Jags 17:  It was just a typical day at the office for Patrick Mahomes:

  • 26 of 35 for 331 yards with 4 TDs and 1 INT

The Chiefs ran off to a 20-0 lead in the first half and never looked back.

Vikes 33  Bills 30 (OT):  This was the “early game” selected for my viewing area and it was a great choice.  There were huge momentum swings in the game; both QBs were hot and cold in the game; Stefon Diggs and Justin Jefferson both made highlight reel catches; and the game went to OT for a decision.  The loss drops the Bills a half-game behind the Dolphins in the AFC East.   The Bills played QB Josh Allen last week despite an elbow injury and that decision did not bear fruit. Allen made several mistakes in the loss, including a fumbled snap with under one minute to play that the Vikings recovered for a TD.  Allen also threw 2 INTs in the game.

Steelers 20  Saints 10:  The stat sheet says this game should have been a blowout:

  • Steelers Total Offense = 379 yards               Saints Total Offense = 186 yards
  • Steelers Time of Possession = 38:56   Saints Time of Possession = 21:04
  • Steelers Penalties = 3 for 40 yards               Saints Penalties = 10 for 74 yards
  • Steelers Third Downs = 9 of 17                        Saints Third Downs = 3 of 12

The return of TJ Watt to the lineup helps to explain the Saints offensive difficulties but with numbers like that the question is:

  • How did the Steelers only win by 10 points?

Colts 25  Raiders 20:  As if there was not enough “strangeness” surrounding the Colts over the past couple of weeks, Jeff Saturday sat Sam Ehlinger on the bench and played Matt Ryan at QB.  It was not that long ago that the owner wanted Ryan on the sidelines when Frank Reich was the coach.  That team simply needs to put “WTF” decals on their helmets for the rest of this season.  Meanwhile the Raiders fall to 2-7 losing yet another one-score game.  I said above that the Raiders’ defense has been lacking; in this game they yielded 415 yards to a Colts’ offense that has not been dominant all year long.  Do not let the Raiders’ offense off the hook here; consider the results of the Raiders’ first four possessions:

  • 3 plays  5 yards  PUNT
  • 3 plays  minus-19 yards  PUNT
  • 3 plays  4 yards  PUNT
  • 8 plays  28 yards  TURNOVER ON DOWNS

That is 17 plays for 18 yards to start the game.  Outrageous.

Cards 27  Rams 17:  It’s all but official; the Rams are not going to make the playoffs as the reigning Super Bowl Champions.  As of this morning, they are in last place in the NFC West and already have 6 losses on the books.  The Rams cannot run the ball and Cooper Kupp needs ankle surgery which severely limits the passing offense.  The Cards also have 6 losses on the season, but they appear to be a better team than the Rams at this point of the season.  Colt McCoy was the Cards’ QB in this game and John Wolford was the Rams’ QB.  Here is a stat that I ran across earlier this week:

  • The Rams have been outscored 81-17 in fourth quarters thus far in 2022.

Packers 31  Cowboys 28 (OT):  Mike McCarthy’s return to Green Bay looked promising early in the second half of last week’s game.  The Cowboys led 28-14 at the start of the 4th quarter but the Packers scored twice to force OT and then won the game in OT with a chip shot field goal.  Christian Watson – – the guy who dropped the perfectly thrown bomb on the Packers’ first play in Game 1 – – was the hero last week.  Watson caught 3 TD passes from Aaron Rodgers and had 107 yards receiving.  Dallas’ WR, Cee Dee Lamb, caught 11 passes for 150 yards and 2 TDs.  The win snaps a 5-game losing streak for the Packers; the loss drops the Cowboys into third place in the NFC East.  Here is a bit of perspective about this defeat for the Cowboys:

  • The Cowboys had never lost a game where they led by 14 points or more in the fourth quarter.
  • Prior to this game, the Cowboys’ record in games where they led by 14 points or more in the fourth quarter was 195-0.

Niners 22  Chargers 16:  The Niners outgained the Chargers by 149 yards in this game and held the ball for 36:59 in the game.  The key was the Niners’ exploitation of the Chargers’ run defense; the Niners ran the ball 41 times for 157 yards and 2 TDs.  The Niners are now a half-game behind the Seahawks in the NFC West while the Chargers are now 2 full games behind the Chiefs in the AFC West.

Panthers 25  Falcons 15:  Two mediocre teams put on a mediocre show last Thursday night.  The bright light from the stat sheet was the Panthers running game; they ran the ball 47 times for 232 yards and 2 TDs.  Other than that …

Commanders 32  Eagles 21:  The Commanders dominated time of possession with their run game.

  • Commanders Time of Possession = 40:24
  • Commanders Offensive Plays = 81                    Eagles Offensive Plays = 47

It was a total team effort for the Commanders.  The offense converted 12 third-down situations; the defense forced 4 turnovers and the special teams contributed a 58-yard field goal.

 

NFL Games This Week:

 

            Four teams are on their BYE Week this week:

  1. Bucs:  They lead the NFC South by a full game despite a mediocre 5-5 record.  This gives Tom Brady a chance to have Thanksgiving dinner with the wife and kids … scrap that.
  2. Dolphins:  They get to luxuriate for a week as the division leader in the AFC East.  Only the Chiefs have scored more points than the Dolphins to this point in the 2022 season.
  3. Jags:  The Jags get some rest and some time to try to learn how to win close games.  The Jags’ record is 3-7 and yet the point differential is +11 points.
  4. Seahawks:  They too get a week off as a division leader with a half-game lead over the Niners.

Please note that the NFL arranged for all of its three “Florida teams” to be on a BYE Week together.  Is this a test of a State’s ability to deal with withdrawal from NFL game action for a weekend?

In last night’s game, the Titans played workmanlike football in defeating the Packers 27-17.  The Packers seemed to have some momentum after last week’s OT win over the Cowboys, but any remnants of that energetic finish were well hidden in this game.  The Titans scored on the game’s opening possession and never looked back.  The Packers’ game plan was to stop Derrick Henry – – and for the most part they did just that.  The problem is that sort of defense opened the passing game for Ryan Tannehill who looked like a Hall of Fame QB in the game with this stat line:

  • 22 of 27 for 333 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT.

Panthers at Ravens – 13.5 (41.5):  The Total Line opened at 45 and has fallen to this level pretty much coinciding with news that Baker Mayfield will be at QB for the Panthers.  The Ravens are coming off their BYE Week; this game has the potential to get UGLY.

Browns vs. Bills – 8 (42.5) [Game moved to Detroit due to weather]:  Does the neutral site really matter here?  The Bills are the better team even with Josh Allen having a “compromised” throwing arm.  I read one weather report that said Buffalo could get up to 6 feet of snow this weekend from a lake-effect storm.  However, another weather source was more optimistic calling for only 4 feet of snow over the weekend.

Eagles – 8 at Colts (45):  The Eagles’ weakness is run defense; the Colts have Jonathan Taylor healthy and ready to play.  I think the Eagles are the better team, but I am not willing to play the game with a spread that is more than a TD.

Commanders – 3 at Texans (40):  This is the second week in a row the Commanders are on the road and that is not a good thing for a young team.  However, here is the good news.  The Texans’ run defense is awful, and the Commanders showed last week that they can use their run game to control the entire game.  Assuming – – I know the danger here – – that Taylor Heinicke does not go way off script and turn the ball over multiple times. I like the Commanders to handle this game very calmly.  I’ll take the Commanders to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Jets at Pats – 3 (39):  I thought about this as the Game of the Week because this game has lots of playoff implications down the road.   I see this as a game dominated by the two defenses; Zach Wilson must avoid any dumb turnovers in this game for the Jets to have a chance to win here.

Lions at Giants – 3 (46.5):  The Giants are 7-2; they are at home; they are playing the horribly inconsistent Lions whose record is 3-6.  And the Giants are only favored by a field goal?  The Lions are a feisty team, but that defense is going to be severely challenged here by Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones.  I know the Giants play close games with everyone, but I like them to win by more than a field goal here; I’ll take the home Giants to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Rams at Saints – 3 (39):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The combined record for these teams is 5-14; the only reason to think the Saints are relevant in 2022 is because they are in a division where the division leader is 5-5.  Matthew Stafford is supposed to be ready to go for the Rams this week; the Saints will stick with Andy Dalton.  Two teams heading to the same place – – oblivion.

Bears at Falcons – 3 (49):  The only reason I am not taking this game to go OVER is that both teams will run the ball successfully and shorten the game/minimize possessions.  The Falcons are still alive in the NFC South race despite a 4-5 record; the Bears are not a factor in the NFC North race.

Raiders at Broncos – 2.5 (41):  This game is not quite “Dog-Breath”, but it is certainly not pretty.  You have heard of the immovable object and the overwhelming force?  Well consider this situation:

  • The Broncos’ offense cannot or does not score.
  • The Raiders’ defense has yet to hold an opponent under 20 points in a game.

So, the game probably comes down to which underwhelming trend predominates here…

(Sun Nite) Chiefs at Chargers – 5 (52): The spread opened at 7 points and has shrunk by 2 points; meanwhile, the Total Line opened at 50 and has expanded by 2 points.  Go figure…  This is my Game of the Week because it has a major effect on the AFC West standings and potentially on the Playoff BYE Week situation in the AFC.  If the Chiefs win, they will have a 3-game lead on the second place Chargers with 7 games left on the schedule.  That pretty much means that the Chiefs can put a stranglehold on the AFC West division race with a win here.  The game will feature Patrick Mahomes against Justin Herbert; that alone makes this a game you want to watch on Sunday Night Football.

Cowboys – 2 at Vikes (47):  I came within a whisker of calling this one the Game of the Week.  The Vikes have won 7 games in a row; they may not have all been pretty wins, but they have been wins.  The Cowboys need a win here lest they fall significantly behind in a surprisingly tough NFC East race.  The Cowboys’ defense has had problems against the run and last week showed some vulnerability to the pass.  The Vikes have a strong runner in Dalvin Cook and a freakishly good WR in Justin Jefferson.  I like the Vikes to prevail at home so let me have the Vikes plus those two points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Bengals – 4 at Steelers (41):  TJ Watt is back on the field and that elevates a solid Steelers’ defense up to the level of strong.  The Bengals’ offense will be challenged here.  The Steelers’ issue remains their offense’s ability to score; the Steelers have scored only 140 points in 9 games (15.5 points per game); only the Broncos have scored fewer points so far in 2022.

(Mon Nite) Niners – 8 vs. Cards (43.5) [Game is in Mexico City]:  Will Kyler Murray’s hamstring allow him to play?  That is the major question hanging around this matchup in terms of the spread projected here.  I do not think it matters who the Cards play at QB regarding the winner of the game; the Niners seem to be poised to go on a run and take over the NFC West.

Let me review the Six-Pack:

  1. Oklahoma St. +7.5 against Oklahoma
  2. Iowa +3 against Minnesota
  3. Ole Miss – 2.5 over Arkansas
  4. Commanders – 3 over Texans
  5. Giants – 3 over Lions
  6. Vikes +2 against Cowboys

            And here are some Money Line Parlays for this week:

  • Bills @ minus-350
  • Chiefs @ minus-230
  • Niners @ minus-360                                     To win $136.

And …

  • Michigan St. @ minus-335
  • Liberty @ minus-340
  • James Madison @ minus-320                        To win $121

Finally, coaches often talk about their team’s focus on a common goal.  So, let me close this week’s Football Friday with Lou Holtz’ observation about a team’s common goal:

“On this team, we are all united in a common goal; to keep my job.”

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

 

 

An Overlooked Election Result

Nine days ago, the US had its mid-term elections.  If you have tuned into any of the cable news networks between then and now, you have been inundated with commentary, punditry and analysis of who voted how and why.  Not to worry; I am not going to give you any added information along those lines here, but I do want to mention something that was on a ballot last week that has drawn no coverage that I have seen or heard on the cable news outlets:

  • Voters in California rejected two ballot initiatives that would have made sports betting legal in California.

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that each state could choose to have or not to have sports betting within its borders, 33 of the 50 states have instituted legalized sports betting.  Voters in California had two options to establish sports betting there and they rejected both by overwhelming numbers.

  1. Proposition 26 would have legalized sports betting at racetracks and at casinos on tribal lands.  It was voted down 70% – 30%.
  2. Proposition 27 would have legalized mobile sports betting within the state.  It was voted down 83%-17%.

As you might imagine, these initiatives were supported by sports gambling companies like FanDuel and DraftKings and there was a lot of political advertising in support of the initiatives in the weeks leading up to the election.  Nevertheless, the will of the people in California came through loudly and clearly with those voting margins.

If you have followed any of these rants for any period of time, you know that I am in favor of legalized sports betting for purely pragmatic reasons.  The fact is that those overwhelming rejections of ballot initiatives last week will not stop the citizenry of California from betting on sporting events such as NFL games.  People reporting on those election results never seem to point out that local bookies in every major population center in California remain in business affording someone there who wants “to get down” on “Niners – 7 points against the Cardinals this week” the means to do so.

Gambling is a part of human nature – for better or worse.  People will bet on games legally or illegally.  So, my position is that states should make it legal and then tax the companies’ profits for the states’ general funds.  Voters in California see it differently and so I guess bettors there will continue to have to make the trek to Las Vegas to “get down” on sports action.

[Aside:  One report I read said that pro-gambling interests could still get legalized sports betting in California if the Legislature and Governor enact enabling legislation.  Good luck with that.  The politicians in the Legislature and the Governor himself will not act considering the overwhelming vote just a week ago.  Chances of that happening are Fat, No and Slim.]

Speaking of betting on sports, let me go off on a slight detour here and pose this question:

  • Has the NFL’s pursuit of parity overachieved?

The mantra of the league has long been, “On any given Sunday…”  And this year the parity in the league is significant.

  • Seven of the 32 teams are within one game of .500
  • Eleven of the 32 teams are within two games of .500.

There is no dynasty in the league and the two teams that have been the targets of scorn in recent years (Jags and Lions) have both escaped the basement of their divisions as of this morning.  Instead of the league breaking into three general categories of “The Haves”, “The Have Nots” and “The Question Marks”, it appears as if the NFL in 2022 consists of:

  • “The Better Than Averages”
  • “The Great Unwashed Middle”
  • “The Needs Work”

I suggest here that fans everywhere want “great teams”/”dynasty teams” so that fans of the “great teams” can revel in reflected glory and fans of “other teams” can hate on the successes of the great teams.  When an underdog beats a leviathan that was favored by 14 points, there is a lot of emotion spilling out on both sides of that outcome.  When Team A with a record of 7-6 beats Team B with a record of 6-7, the fans of Team A are happy – – but nowhere near ecstatic.

Let me be clear; the NFL has no reason to worry about this in 2022 or for the foreseeable future.  One can extrapolate the situation that exists now to a point where the best teams finish the season at 11-6 and the worst teams finish at 6-11 and fans become less enthusiastic and turn to other diversions.  If that is ever going to happen, it will be decades from now.  Today, the NFL enjoys the interest and the attention of millions of people who play fantasy football and fantasy players do not focus on team successes and failures; fantasy players only care about individual stats.  Those millions of fans do not and will not care if “The Great Unwashed Middle” expands to cover as many as 25 teams in some future season.

Finally, since some of today’s essay dealt with mediocrity, let me close with this observation on the subject:

“Radio is a bag of mediocrity where little men with carbon minds wallow in sluice of their own making.”  Fred Allen

[Aside:  And remember that Fred Allen never had to listen to sports talk radio…]

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