TV Numbers Today…

The NFL season is “half-over”; so, there is a sufficient sample size available to look at how the NFL is doing on TV in 2022.  There is a two-part answer to that question:

  1. The average audience for an NFL game is down 4% as compared to last year.
  2. Since the start of the 2022 NFL season on September 8th, NFL telecasts have drawn the 38 largest audiences and 47 of the “Top 50” television programs.

Many reports see the presence of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video as the explanation for that 4% decline.  Last year, those games were available on NFL Network – – which is available in about 72 million homes in the US – – and on FOX and on Prime Video which provided a greater “reach” for those Thursday games than exists this year with the streaming service alone.  Even with that “reduced availability” the average audience for a regular season NFL game in 2022 has been 16.2 million viewers.

Thursday games last season drew an average of 12.6 million viewers; this year Thursday games average only 10.0 million viewers.  But even considering that significant decline, there is good news for the NFL in the numbers.  Surveys say that the presence of the games via streaming has attracted a much younger audience; that is good news for advertisers and therefore good news for the NFL in the long run.  Surveys say that the average age for a Thursday night viewer is 46 years old and the average age for a viewer of a game on network TV is 54 years old.

Folks on “the business side” of the NFL understandably have a bounce in their step about now; their product is broadly consumed, and they are engaging their “audience of the future”.  Such is not quite the atmosphere surrounding folks on “the business side” of MLB.  The TV ratings for the recently completed World Series were bad when you look at the numbers with internal comparisons.

  • This year was the second worst TV ratings ever for the World Series.  Only the pandemic-shortened 202 season had a World Series with a smaller audience.

[Aside:  The World Series has been on TV since 1947; obviously there were not that many TV sets available in 1947 so I do not know how far back in history one goes to make modern numbers comparisons here.]

  • Game 6 – – the deciding game this year – – drew a smaller audience than the college football game between Georgia and Tennessee.
  • The last three World Series account for the three lowest audience totals and this year’s average audience for the World Series was smaller than the average audience for the NBA Finals.

There is a nugget of good TV audience news for MLB execs about now.  It may not have carried over into the World Series, but the divisional rounds of the MLB playoffs this year drew the largest audiences in the past five seasons.  If someone has determined how or why that was the case, I have not found it.

Those television numbers probably give energy to the folks in MLB who want to change a few rules to energize the product.  Next year there will be a few changes:

  • A pitch clock will be in effect.  That has been the case in minor league baseball for several years now and it does keep the game moving.
  • Larger bases – theoretically – will increase base stealing attempts.  If that actually happens, that means more action in the game.
  • “The shift” will be reined in a bit.  Presumably, that will cut down on home run swings which will cut down on strikeouts which will put the ball in play more often.

I hope all those initiatives achieve their desired results; I am glad to see that MLB is willing to depart from tradition just a bit to try to spice things up a bit.  I have four more suggestions for MLB to consider:

  1. Ditch the “ghost runner” in extra inning games.  Yes, the “ghost runner” has reduced the number of marathon games (14 innings and longer) but those are games that should have an audience on the edge of its seat.  I think the “ghost runner” does at least as much harm as it does good.
  2. Reduce the number of teams in the playoffs from 12 (this year) to 8 in future years.  Yes, I know that would have eliminated the Phillies from the playoffs this year and they made it to the World Series.  The problem is that the 12-team field extends the playoff schedule to a month; that is too long a period to maintain interest and there are too many playoff games making each playoff game more like an ”occurrence” than an ”event”.
  3. If cutting back on the number of teams in the playoffs is unacceptable, then cut back the number of games in the regular season.  I think a 144-game schedule would allow for plenty of time to sort out the playoff teams while providing a few more off-days for teams in the middle of the season and a way to avoid ridiculous baseball weather games in early April and/or early November.
  4. To try to reach a broader audience, have a Game of the Week on TV on Saturday afternoons at least from June to September if not longer.

Finally, let me tie a ribbon around my suggestions for MLB above by citing this observation by Thomas Edison:

“I have not failed.  I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

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

 

 

Buyers And Sellers

Here in the DC area, there is one major sports franchise that is clearly up for sale and another major sports franchise that everyone in the area hopes is truly up for sale.  The MLB Washington Nationals is the first franchise looking for a new owner; the Washington Commanders is the other franchise that almost every sports fan in the area hopes will be sold ASAP.  I have no dogs in either of those fights; it matters not a whit to me who owns either franchise but having thought about the “franchise marketplace” a bit, it seems to me as if there are a lot of opportunities for billionaires around the world to “buy in” if that is what they want to do.

Here is a compilation off the top of my head of the sports teams/franchises that are reported to be up for sale at the moment.  I am not talking about pickleball teams in pickleball leagues that have no established relevance in the sports world.  I am not talking about National Women’s Soccer League franchises that may some day get TV deals that allow their “Game of the Week” to attract more than a million viewers.  I am talking here about big name and big-time franchises:

  • Washington Commanders – NFL:  Forbes says this club is worth $6.5B so bids in the neighborhood of $7B are not out of the question.  There is plenty of reported interest in buying the whole club; from what I read there is little to no interest in anyone buying into a minority interest in the team with Danny Boy Snyder still in charge of the whole shooting match.  This story has at least a half-dozen twists ant turns to go before it gets into the home stretch regarding a team sale.  I’ll believe it when the ink has dried on the contract…
  • Washington Nationals – MLB:  The current owners took a fiscal hit during the COVID pandemic because their major source of wealth was commercial real estate.  Do not feel too sorry for them; the franchise is valued at $2.5B and will likely go to a bidder that goes slightly north of that figure.
  • Liverpool Football Club – EPL:  The Liverpool team is currently owned by the same folks who own the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Penguins and a few other sporting endeavors.  Liverpool is in no imminent danger of relegation in English football; in fact, as of today they are a full 9 points clear of the relegation zone.  I have read reports that say the club could be worth $4.1 – 4.5B and that such a bid would be sufficient to take control of the team.  Please do not take anything I said above as authoritative about the value of EPL franchises.
  • Inter Milan – Italian Serie A:  Reports say this franchise is worth $1.2B and other reports say that the club hopes only to sell a minority interest in the team.  My “knowledge” regarding Italian soccer football cannot be understated, but Inter Milan is one of the most recognized teams in the top Italian league along with clubs such as Juventus, Roma, and Lazio.
  • LA Angels – MLB:  Here is another way for someone to self-identify as one of only 30 people who own a franchise in MLB.  The price tag is reported to be in the $2.5-2.8B range.  As compared to the Washington Nationals franchise that has a similar valuation, the Angels are in a much larger market than the Nationals will ever experience.  However, the Angels have been the “poor relatives” as compared to the Dodgers for at least the last 30 years.  Indeed, the Nationals face some competition for interest from the Baltimore Orioles only about 50 miles away, but that is nothing as compared to the domination exercised by the Dodgers in SoCal.  [Aside:  Some folks say that the Orioles might also be up for sale if/when Peter Angelos passes on.  That could put a third MLB franchise on the market.]
  • Phoenix Suns – NBA:  The league forced the sale of the team based on a lot of “sleazy reports” about the current owner and the workplace of the team’s front office.  Forbes says the franchise is worth $2B; the NBA wants/needs the sale price to be higher than that because when Steve Balmer bought the Clippers at a forced sale about 8-10 years ago, he paid $2B for that franchise.  The NBA surely hopes the value of one of its franchises on the open market does not sell for less than the last one that was up for sale.
  • Ottawa Senators – NHL:  Last I saw, this franchise was valued at $700M – – which is pocket change for the folks who are trying to pick up the Washington Commanders’ franchise in the NFL.    One thing that might keep a lid of some sort on the price tag here is a condition of the sale that the team remain in Ottawa.  Without the threat to move from Ottawa to somewhere else on the globe – – Sioux Falls, SD, USA? – – a new owner here would be missing out on one of his/her more valuable negotiating postures to get concessions from local politicians.

Notwithstanding the valuations placed on some of these properties and/or the prices they could bring, there is added value in scarcity.  It seems that there are an unusual number of sports franchises available at one time and I wonder if that suggests that there will be a downward pressure on the bids from prospective buyers.  It is not as if there are hundreds of “customers” out there searching for these commodities.  Could be interesting…

Finally, today’s rant has focused on an upper level of professional sports; so, let me close with this definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm about a more minor level of sports:

Little League:  A youth sporting event that provides a socially acceptable way for adults to scar their children with the burden of their parents’ shattered, unfulfilled dreams.”

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

 

 

The NFL In Germany

Yesterday was the first time the NFL played a regular season game in Germany; the Bucs and Seahawks met in Munich and played in front of a crowd of 69,811 folks.  Back in the days when the NFL was trying to cultivate interest in Europe with the WLAF and NFL Europe, Germany was a place where fan interest seemed strong.  Yesterday’s game drew great interest as measured by the fact that the NFL created an electronic queue for those who wanted tickets for this inaugural “Germany Game”.  When that queue opened, the league says that 800,000 people tried for spots in that queue.  [Aside:  Of course, there were individuals who tried to sign up multiple times so that figure is inflated, but it does indicate ”fan interest” in the NFL product in Germany.]  Yesterday’s game provided a sample of one event, but that attendance figure tells me that “Germany” is now on the NFL’s list of “places to play regular season games” with a check mark next to it.

The NFL is serious about extending its fanbase beyond the US borders.  I read a report several months ago that said the league has assigned international marketing rights to 19 of the 32 teams in the league.  Germany, Mexico and the UK have now hosted regular season games; those three countries are targeted by specific teams for marketing opportunities.  However, the league’s “reach” is much more ambitious; for example, the LA Rams have been assigned the task of marketing the NFL to Australia and China.  In addition, when the NFL expanded its season to 17 games, it also slipped in a rule that every team must play at least one regular season game at an international venue every 8 seasons.

Commissioner Goodell is on record saying that he thinks London could support one and possibly two NFL teams on a permanent basis and that if the idea is to expand with two teams in London – or Europe – then maybe the idea should encompass a European Division which would minimize the number of trans-Atlantic crossings for the teams based there.  That makes intuitive sense, and it also makes for a complete realignment of the existing divisions within the league.  For example, you cannot just expand to 4 European cities and label them as the “European Division” because the current structure has 4 divisions per conference and adding “fifth one” to either conference would be awkward at best.

For the time being at least, the NFL is probably happy to stage a half dozen or so of its 272 regular season games outside the US.  There are revenue streams to be tapped “over there” …

Next up is an unusual happenstance in MLB…  The Houston Astros won this year’s World Series and were in last year’s World Series as the AL champs.  In 2021, the Astros drew 25,537 fans per home game; and in 2022, that number increased significantly to 33,198 fans per game.  In case your cell phone is not handy, the 2022 attendance for the Astros was a bit over 2.6M patrons.  So, the team was successful on the field and at the box office.

It turns out that both manager, Dusty Baker, and GM, James Click, had expiring contracts at the end of the season.  About a week ago, the team announced that Dusty Baker would be back in the dugout next year on a one-year contract.  After two World Series appearances in a row, he gets a one-year deal?

Thinking about that situation a bit more provides a possible explanation:

  • Dusty Baker will be 74 years old in the middle of the 2023 MOB season.
  • MAYBE Dusty Baker only wants to commit to managing a team for a year at a time?

However, the oddity of the story does not end there.  The Astros announced late last week that they will not give GM, James Click, a new contract.  According to reports, he too was offered a one-year contract, but he wanted a longer deal and the owner, Jim Crane, was not willing to do that.  Given the team success in the past two seasons on the field and at the box office, I have to wonder why the owner and the GM could not come to terms there.  The GM had to have been a significant part of the effort to construct the rosters of the last two Astros’ teams that played in the World Series; and even if he had nothing to do with marketing the team to the fans, the success of the team had to be part of the gate attraction that drew 2.6M fans last season.

There just has to be more to this story and I suspect it will come out in dribs and drabs.  Click is only 44 years old, so he is likely to be in and around MLB for a long time.  His “GM credentials” are well-polished.  Unless he is a royal pain in the ass and impossible to work with, James Click will get another shot at building a team.

Finally, here is a note from Dwight Perry’s weekend column in the Seattle Times that you should keep in mind as the FIFA World Cup gets underway:

“At Fark.com: ‘Former FIFA boss says giving the World Cup to Qatar was a mistake. It sure took a long time for that check to clear.’”

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

 

 

Football Friday – Lite 11/11/22

The New York Times says it has:

“All the news that’s fit to print”

A small 8-page local newspaper might say:

“All the news that fits, we print”

For today’s Football Friday-Lite, the word here in Curmudgeon Central is:

“All the stuff I had time to research fits just fine”

As usual, I begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College = 2-1-0                                                          Season Total = 17-9-0
  • NFL = 2-1-0                                                                Season Total = 14-14-3
  • Money Line Parlays = 1-1                                        Season Total = 5-14
  • Profit/Loss = +$28                                                     Season Total = minus-$378

 

College Football Commentary:

 

The Linfield College Wildcats ran their record for 2022 to 8-0 last week with a 65-0 beatdown of Willamette University. The Bearcats took the opening kickoff and had to punt the ball 2 minutes later.  That punt was blocked and returned for a TD, and it only got worse after that.  This weekend, Linfield completes its regular season schedule with a trip to Portland, OR to take on Lewis and Clark – – the college footb all team and not the corpses of the two famous 19th century explorers.  Go Wildcats!

Some happenings in the SEC from last week …

Georgia 27  Tennessee 13:  Tennessee was averaging 49.6 points per game – and then it met up with Georgia’s defense which did not allow the Vols a TD until the 4th quarter.  Tennessee QB, Hendon Hooker was sacked 6 times in the game.  It was not as close as the score might indicate.

LSU 32  Alabama 31:  Alabama’s second loss of the season pretty much assures they will not be part of the CFP this season.  That will be the second time in nine years that has happened.  LSU won on a 2-point conversion at the end of the game; lost in the noise over that bold move is that Alabama tried for 2-point conversions twice earlier in the game and failed on both attempts.

Liberty 21  Arkansas 19:  This was a game in Arkansas and the Razorbacks were a 14.5-point favorite.  Huge Freeze has Liberty playing serious football in 2022…

In ACC action …

Notre Dame 35  Clemson 14:  Clemson was ranked 4th in the first – – and most meaningless – – CFP poll.  Then they went out and lost to Notre Dame by 3 TDs.  By the way, that is the same Notre Dame team that lost at home to Marshall earlier this year.

  • [Aside:  If I wanted to make a wager back in August that both Alabama and Clemson would be virtually eliminated from CFP participation after the first week in November, what sort of odds do you think I might have gotten?]

Florida St. 45  Miami 3:  Back in the summer training camp times, people were salivating over the transfers and the recruits at Miami under new coach Mario Cristobal.  Well, maybe those new players were not as good as they were touted to be – – or maybe there is a coaching deficiency at Miami.  Something is wrong…

Duke 38  BC 31:  The futures bet for “Total Wins” by Duke this year was 3.  The Blue Devils became bowl eligible with this win and there are still games to play.  I said in my college football preview rant that I loved that OVER wager…

Moving along to the Big -12…

TCU 34  Texas Tech 24:  TCU just keeps on winning and is now 9-0.    But the remaining schedule for TCU is hardly a walkover:

  • At Texas (this weekend)
  • At Baylor
  • Vs. Iowa St.
  • Big-12 Championship Game???

Kansas 37  Oklahoma St. 16:    The Cowboys looked like the best team to challenge TCU in the Big-12 but they have laid an egg for two weeks in a row now.  Yes, the Cowboys have their starting QB on the sidelines but what happened to their defense?  They have given up 75 points in the last two games – – not surprisingly, both losses.   By the way, Kansas now has a shot at a winning season in 2022 and if that happens it will be their first winning season in 14 years.  Since that last winning season in 2008:

  • The Jayhawks have had 7 head coaches (counting one interim head coach)
  • Produced a cumulative record of 34-128-0 (counting this year’s 6-3 record)

Baylor 38  Oklahoma 35:  Baylor remains an outsider for the Big-12 Championship Game with this win.  The Sooners’ record falls to 5-4.

            In the Big-10 last week …

Ohio St. 21  Northwestern 7:    Ohio State won – – but did not come close to covering – – over Northwestern in a game dominated by bad weather.

Michigan 52  Rutgers 17:  Michigan struggled early against Rutgers but dominated in the end 52-17.  What do I mean by “dominated”?  Consider:

  • Rutgers total offense = 180 yards
  • Rutgers rushing offense = 14 yards (on 23 carries)
  • Rutgers first downs = 5
  • Rutgers offensive plays = 48  (Michigan ran 80 offensive plays)

Michigan St. 23  Illinois 15:  Looks as if the Illini could not stand prosperity.  Their loss leaves the Big-10 West as up for grabs.  Illinois has 2 conference losses and a game against Michigan still to come.  Four teams in the Big-10 West have 3 conference losses (Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue and Minnesota).

In the PAC-12 …

Oregon 49  Colorado 10:  Oregon continued to dominate the lower tier of the PAC-12.  Washington comes to visit Oregon this week and then Utah arrives next week before the Ducks close out the season on the road at Oregon St. in the “Civil War” rivalry game.

USC 41  Cal 35:  USC beat Cal by a TD, but the USC defense is almost painful to watch.   I don’t even want to think about what the Total Line for USC vs. Oregon might be if they were to meet in the PAC-12 Championship Game.  It could easily be in the mid-80s.

In other games of interest:

Air Force 13  Army 7:  The Falcons take possession of the Commander-in-Chief Trophy for 2022 having beaten both Army and Navy this season.

UConn 27  UMass 10:  That is 5 wins this year for UConn; they might be bowl eligible.  They have two games left to find a 6th win for the season:

  • Vs. Liberty – – Liberty beat Arkansas last week; this looks bad for the Huskies
  • At Army – – UConn’s chance for an invite to the “Poulin Weed-Eater Bowl”

Rice 37  UTEP 30:  That is Rice’s 5th win for the year as they look for a chance to go to a bowl game.  Here is what is left for the Owls:

  • At W. Kentucky
  • Vs. Texas-San Antonio
  • At North Texas

Here are the teams on my SHOE Tournament radar this week – – presented by their records so far:

  • Akron, Colorado Northwestern UMass and USF are all 1-8 so far in 2022
  • Hawaii and UNC-Charlotte are both 2-8 so far in 2022
  • Arkansas St., BC, Colorado St., New Mexico and Northern Illinois are all 2-7 so far in 2022.

Here is the “race” for the Brothel Defense Award for 2022 as of this week:

  • USF allows 39.6 points per game
  • Colorado allows 40.2 points per game
  • UNC-Charlotte allows 42.8 points per game

[Aside:  Please note that the 3 leading contenders for the Brothel Defense Award are also potential participants in the SHOE Tournament…]

 

College Football Games of Interest This Week:

 

            There are a handful of important games on the card this week that I have highlighted here as “big games”.

UNC at Wake Forest – 4 (77):  The Tar Heels are undefeated in ACC games and have a two-game lead in the loss column in the ACC Coastal Division; Wake Forest has 3 conference losses and is pretty much out of it in the ACC Atlantic Division.  The interesting thing here is the Total Line; both teams have good offenses and neither team has anything nearly resembling a “shut-down defense”.

Miami at Ga Tech – 2.5 (44):  After last week’s shellacking at the hands of Florida St., the oddsmakers seem to have abandoned Miami.

Kansas at Texas Tech – 3.5 (64):  Kansas is already bowl-eligible at 6-3 but is pretty much out of it regarding the Big-12 race because all the losses are in conference games.  Texas Tech is 4-5 overall and needs to find 2 wins to play in a bowl game.

Purdue at Illinois – 6.5 (45):  The Illini have a one-game lead in the loss column in the Big-10 West and Purdue is one of the teams chasing Illinois.  As noted above, Illinois has a date with Michigan still to weather so Illinois cannot afford a loss here.  This is a big game.

K-State at Baylor – 3 (52):  This is a big game in the Big-12.  Both teams are 4-2 in conference games, and both hope to be part of the Big-12 Championship Game.

Washington at Oregon – 12.5 (73):  The Total Line opened at 70 points and jumped up to near this level almost immediately.  Oregon must win out to have a shot at the CFP; Washington is under no such pressure.

TCU at Texas – 7.5 (65.5):  Texas (along with K-State and Baylor) has a 4-2 record in Big-12 games; TCU is undefeated for the season.  A win for Texas here could produce a huge disruption in the Big-12 dynamic regarding the CFP.  This is a big game; in fact, this is my College Football Game of the Week.

That line looks fat to me – – particularly with that hook on top of a full TD in the spread; give me undefeated TCU plus the points on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Texas A&M at Auburn – 2.5 (48.5):  The Aggies continue to find ways to disappoint; Auburn was sufficiently disappointing for the 2022 season that they got their coach fired.  Call this one the Agony Bowl?

Alabama – 11.5 at Ole Miss (65.5):  The Total Line opened at 62.5 and has been trending upward all week.  Ole Miss and LSU each have 1 conference loss; Alabama has 2 conference losses; all three teams are in the SEC West.  This is a big game.  Ole Miss likes to run the ball; Ole Miss has trouble stopping the run so Alabama should run the ball here too.  That makes for the potential of a low scoring game; so, give me the UNDER here; put it in the Six-Pack.

Wisconsin at Iowa – 1 (35):  Both Wisconsin and Iowa are 3-3 in conference games in the Big-10 West; at the moment, they trail Illinois by only 1 game.  The loser here will be virtually eliminated from the Big-10 West race.  This is a big game.

I know that both teams rely on defense and that neither team has an offense that would scare an Ivy League defensive coordinator, but that Total Line is too low; I like the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

LSU – 4 at Arkansas (61.5):  this game has a lot more meaning to LSU than it does to Arkansas.  I wonder if that small spread reflects a suspicion by the oddsmakers that LSU could suffer a let-down after the heroic win over Alabama last week …???

Georgia – 16.5 at Mississippi St. (53.5):  The Georgia Bulldogs are ranked #1 in this week’s CFP ranking and want to keep that situation intact.  I doubt that the Mississippi St. Bulldogs will be able to keep pace here.

 

NFL Commentary

 

The NFL season is about at the halfway point – – with an odd number of games and BYE weeks for teams spread out over the course of two months it is hard to identify an exact mid-point – – so maybe it is time to look at some playoff extrapolations.  There are 7 slots in each conference so let me look at the NFC first:

  • I am ready to concede the NFC North title to the Vikes.
  • I like the Eagles and Cowboys to come out of the NFC East
  • Someone has to win the NFC South and make the playoffs – – Bucs or Saints?
  • The “eyeball test” tells me that the Niners are the best team in the NFC West.

So that accounts for 5 NFC teams leaving two open slots:

  • I don’t like anyone else in the NFC North to make the playoffs.  In fact, maybe the second-best team there is the Bears and not the Packers.
  • Can the Giants continue to play relatively error-free football?  If so, they can sneak in too.  The Commanders are not out of it but cannot afford to give games away as they did last week against the Vikes.
  • Only one NFC South team will get in – – Bucs or Saints?
  • The Seahawks have a nice lead in the NFC West and even though I think the Niners will catch them, I doubt that either the Rams or the Cards pose much of a threat.
  • So, the NFC playoff question is which two teams of the Giants, Commanders and Seahawks get the nod.

The AFC is more up in the air.

  • I am ready to concede the AFC South title to the Titans.
  • I like the Chiefs to win the AFC West – – but I am not nearly as confident here as I am about the Titans.  I like the Chiefs to get in the playoffs even if they do not win this division.
  • In the AFC North, I like the Ravens to continue their strong play and win that division.
  • In the AFC East, the Bills will win – – IF Josh Allen’s elbow does not derail the train.

So, who might be the other three playoff teams…?

  • As of this morning, give me the Dolphins, Jets and Chargers.
  • Other threats for those playoff positions are the Bengals, Pats – – and the Browns if they can stay close until Deshaun Watson is eligible to play come December and assuming he can play at 80-90% of his capability after about a two-year layoff.
  • And remember – – IF Josh Allen’s elbow has him on the shelf for a while …

Here are some general comments from last week’s NFL results:

Four games last Sunday finished with a 20-17 score.

Vikes beat Commanders 20-17 moving the Vikes to 7-1 for the season – – the only loss was to the Eagles who are 8-0.  The Commanders led 17-10 in the fourth quarter and squandered the lead when QB Taylor Heinicke threw a brutally ugly INT that led to a Vikings’ TD.

Jets beat Buffalo 20-17 moving the Jets to half a game behind the Bills in the AFC East race.  Josh Allen was sacked 5 times in the game.

Chargers beat Falcons 20-17 demoting the Falcons to second place in the NFC South.

Chiefs beat Titans 20-17 in OT in a battle of division leaders.  The Chiefs were 13-point favorites in the game, but it took heroic measures by Patrick Mahomes late in the 4th quarter and then again in OT to pull out this win.

Dolphins beat the Bears 35-32.  The Bears have scored a total of 61 points in their last two games – – and lost both.  Over the last two weeks, the Bears traded away Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith from their defense…

Jags beat Raiders 27-20 after the Raiders ran out to a 17-0 lead in the first half.  Scoring 20 points will not get it done for the Raiders in 2022 because that defense has yet to hold a team under 20 in a game.  Trevor Lawrence was 25 of 31 for 235 yards and 1 TD in the game.

The Lions beat the Packers 15-9.  The Packers outgained the Lions by 135 yards and held the ball for 34:42 in the game.  Normally, that translates to a win, but 3 Packers’ turnovers (all INTs by Aaron Rodgers) gave the Lions their second win of the season and may have doomed the Packers to non-playoff status for 2022.  So, is it now fair to ask:

  • Did Rodgers’ “ayahuasca event” in Peru have another effect beyond giving Rodgers the ability to love his teammates unconditionally?

The Packers are now 3-6 and the rest of their November schedule looks tough:

  • Vs. Cowboys (this week)
  • Vs. Titans
  • At Eagles
  • Packers might be 3-9 when December starts…

The Bucs beat the Rams 16-13 in a snoozer of a game.  Cam Akers was let out of the coaches’ doghouse for this game; he might be returning there after carrying the ball 5 times for 3 yards.  The Rams managed to make only 9 first downs in the entire game.  Absent a miracle, the Rams are toast – – and they had to put QB Matthew Stafford in the concussion protocol this week.

 

NFL Games This Week:

 

            There are 4 teams on their BYE Week this week:

  1. Bengals:  They must hope that another week off will get Jamarr Chase back near full capacity.  He is a significant weapon for the Bengals’ offense.
  2. Jets:  I think the Jets’ defense can carry them to the playoffs this year – – but they need to use this time off to coach up Zack Wilson on how to avoid boneheaded plays that produce backbreaking results.
  3. Ravens:  They have a one-game lead in the AFC North and just need to keep on grinding.
  4. Pats:  Their defense is good – – but not good enough to carry a really vanilla offense.  They need to use this week to infuse some life in that offense.

(Sun Morning) Seahawks vs Bucs – 2.5 (44)  [Game is in Munich Germany]:  The Seahawks have won 4 games in a row; the Bucs have looked truly mediocre for the last month despite a win last week over the Rams.  I do not understand this line at all, but I do not want to back Geno Smith against Tom Brady either.  I think the game comes down to something simple:

  • Seahawks like to run the ball to set up their pass game
  • One thing the Bucs do well is stop the run.
  • Ergo …

Jags at Chiefs – 9.5 (51):  This could be a sandwich game for the Chiefs after beating division leading Titans last week and facing their closest AFC West rival – – Chargers – – next week.  The Jags’ record this year is 3-6 but consider:

  • They are +21 in points differential
  • All 6 losses have been by one-score

I do not think there is an upset brewing here, but I do think that line is fat; give me the Jags plus those points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Texans at Giants – 4 (41):  The Total Line opened at 38 and has climbed to this level for no known reason.  The Giants’ offense starts with Saquon Barkley running the football; the Texans have given up 100+ yards in 7 of their 8 games this year.  The Texans’ offense also starts with the run game and the Giants’ run defense is not super-good.  That is why the Total Line opened as low as 38 points and it does not seem to me that much has happened in the last week to add a field goal to the original estimate.

Saints – 1.5 at Steelers (40):  The spread opened as a “pick ‘em game”.  The Saints can still win their division because no one else in their division is particularly good.  That should give them a slight motivational edge over the Steelers who are not going to win their division and should be looking forward to 2023 pretty soon.  When Andy Dalton was with the Bengals, he played the Steelers 16 times and won only 3 of those games.  I gave this game consideration for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

Lions at Bears – 2.5 (48):  Had you shown me this week’s schedule in August, I would have predicted this game to be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, but it will have to take a back seat to one that comes later.  The Bears’ offense has come to life in the last two weeks as Justin Field has been running and passing with great efficiency; they have scored 61 points in the last two games and lost both.  The Lions’ defense gives up almost 30 points per game.  I am so tempted to take the OVER here …

Browns at Dolphins – 3.5 (49.5):  This is an important game for both teams.  The Browns are still within hailing distance of a playoff spot, and they do have Deshaun Watson on tap starting in early December.  They have 5 losses to date and need to avoid another one here.  Meanwhile the Dolphins are tied with the Jets at 6-3 in the AFC East and that puts them only a half-game behind the Bills in that race – – and the Bills might have a QB with a bum elbow.  The Dolphins need to avoid a loss here too.

Vikes at Bills – 3 (43):  This Total Line opened the week at 46 points.  The Josh Allen elbow situation likely drove the number down to this level.   The spread opened at 6 points and has collapsed to this level likely for the same reason.  I cannot make a selection in the game with that level of uncertainty surrounding the key player for the Bills’ offense.

Broncos at Titans – 3 (39):  The Broncos had a BYE Week last week; the Titans hope to have Ryan Tannehill back from injury this week.  Let me be clear; Ryan Tannehill is not a great QB – – but as of this date, he is far more capable than Malik Willis; Tannehill would be a major upgrade here.

Colts at Raiders – 4.5 (41.5):  The spread opened at 6 points and has shrunk as the week progressed.  This is my Dog-Breath Game of the Week for so many reasons:

  • This is Jeff Saturday’s coaching debut at something over the high school level.
  • “Reports say” that some of the Colts’ players are upset with that selection
  • Can the Raiders’ defensive staff get hold of game tape from Hebron Christian Academy games from a few years ago?
  • Rookie QB Sam Ehlinger will have a play-caller who has never called plays before
  • And then – – there is the clown show known as the Las Vegas Raiders’ defense…

I would not trust either team any further than I can throw a piano with my left hand.

Cards at Rams – 1.5 (40.5):  Both teams are stinking out the joint in 2022.  The Rams are a mess; they cannot – – or will not – – run the football and Cooper Kupp is their only pass catcher who gets open more than occasionally.  And – – Matthew Stafford was in concussion protocol this week.  On the other sideline are the Cards whose record is 3-6 and whose defense gives up 27 points per game.  Not a pretty picture here…

Cowboys – 4 at Packers (44.5):  Last night on the Amazon streamcast, Al Michaels was hyping this one as the late afternoon national game and said the question was:

  • Can the Packers save their season here?

The Cowboys are tied with the Giants in the NFC East two games behind the Eagles.  If the Packers lose, they can just “pack it in” so to speak; if the Cowboys lose, they put a playoff slot in jeopardy.

  • Motivation Edge = Cowboys

The Cowboys’ defense ought to be fired up for this game after watching last week’s tape where the Packers scored all of 9 points against the Lions.  I said against the LIONS!

I think this is a blowout game; I’ll take the Cowboys to win and cover on the road as Mike McCarthy wins a revenge game in Green Bay; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun Nite) Chargers at Niners – 7 (45):  This is the Game of the Week.  These are both good teams in second place in their division who need to win this game on this date.  I think there are two factors to consider here:

  • The Chargers are on the road for the second straight week while the Niners had a BYE last week.
  • The Niners like to run the ball and they run it well; the Chargers’ defensive weakness is defending the run.

This should be an exciting game where both teams leave everything on the field; I think the Niners prevail here; give me the Niners to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Mon Nite) Commanders at Eagles – 11 (44):  The Commanders can still see a path to the playoffs, but a loss here would blur their vision.  Their defense has played well for the last 3 or 4 games and that will have to continue against the Eagles who come to the game with a “mini-BYE” since they played on Thursday last week and on Monday Night this week.  If you like the Commanders to win outright here, they are the longest shot on the board this week on the Money Line at +425.  I’ll pass…

Let me review the Six-Pack here:

  • TCU +7.5 against Texas
  • Alabama/Ole Miss UNDER 65.5
  • Wisconsin/Iowa OVER 35
  • Jags +9.5 against Chiefs
  • Cowboys – 4.5 over Packers
  • Niners – 7 over Chargers

            Here are four Money Line Parlays for this week:

  • Cowboys @ minus-215
  • Dolphins @ minus-175                     To win $130

And …

  • Bears @ minus-145
  • Giants @ minus-225                         To win $144

And …

  • Cowboys
  • Dolphins
  • Bears
  • Giants  Money Lines as above             To win $462

And just for fun…

  • TCU @ +240
  • UNC @+160                                       To win $784

            Finally, let me close today with this item from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Kafka, Franz:  Czech-born author of the early twentieth century whose nightmarish novels feature tormented souls plagued by personal demons and kept in a suffocating state of repression by an uncaring and dominant government.  ‘The Feel-Good Writer of the Year’ (Prague Morning Herald, 1921)”

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

 

 

College Football Coaching Openings

In a normal college football season, the first week of November is about the time that the carnival workers take the cover off and start lubricating the annual coaching carousel as rumors of firings and backroom dealings begin to fly.  But this has hardly been a normal season in terms of coaching stability.  The firings began in September; Scott Frost was the first to part company with Nebraska and there have been plenty of other schools that followed suit to date.  Here is a list seven firings off the top of my head – – so there must be others:

  1. Scott Frost – – Nebraska
  2. Herm Edwards – – Arizona St.
  3. Karl Dorrell – – Colorado
  4. Bryan Harsin – – Auburn
  5. Geoff Collins – – Ga Tech
  6. Jeff Scott – – USF
  7. Paul Chryst – – Wisconsin

On that list, only the job at USF is outside the so-called Power-5 Conferences; that means there should be plenty of eager aspirants for ADs to pursue.  There are several “Candidate Categories” where ADs and/or search committees do business; surely, these will be fertile hunting grounds in this season of wide-open coaching positions.

Athletic Directors like to find a coach at a “small program” who has been incredibly successful and hire him to being his energy and his “culture” to a bigger program.  Sometimes that works out very well, but sometimes it does not.  Bryan Harsin came to Auburn after plenty of success at Boise St.; Geoff Collins came to Ga Tech after success at Temple.; Scott Frost had an undefeated season at UCF. I think folks will go fishing in this pool again this year and there are several names that come to my mind:

  • Hugh Freeze (Liberty).  He has been the head coach at Liberty since 2019.  This year, the Flames are 8-1 and have been ranked in the Top 25.  His overall record as of today is 34-12.
  • Deion Sanders (Jackson St.).  He has used his celebrity status to recruit talent to play for a team in the SWAC.  Conventional thinking is that he could be even more successful in recruiting with a more prominent program to sell to athletes.  Jackson St. is 9-0 this year and in Sanders’ tenure there, his record is 19-1.
  • Jamey Chadwell (Coastal Carolina):  He has been on the job since 2019 and after a 5-7 record in his first year there, the Chanticleers have gone 19-2.

Another candidate category are former college coaches who have been on the sidelines for a year or so.  Five candidates of this type come to mind:

  1. Tom Herman – – had success at Houston and Texas
  2. Bronco Mendenhall – – had success at BYU and UVa
  3. Dan Mullen – – had success at Mississippi St. and Florida
  4. Urban Meyer – – of course
  5. Chris Petersen – – had success at Boise St. and Washington

Naturally, anyone who had been a head coach in the NFL can be considered a target for these jog searches so maybe these guys will get a call or two:

  • Bill O’Brien
  • Matt Rhule
  • Frank Reich

And of course, there are always the “hot coordinators” who have been guiding parts of very successful team who are seen as being able to bring that level of excellence with them.  This year, I went to look up the names of coordinators that fit that description because I rarely can identify college coordinators if asked to do so directly.

  • Jim Chaney – – Offensive coordinator at Tennessee
  • Kenny Dillingham – – Offensive coordinator at Oregon.
  • Phil Longo – – Offensive coordinator at UNC
  • Glenn Schumann – – Defensive coordinator at Georgia
  • Ryan Walters – – Defensive coordinator at Illinois

And of course, there is always the “tug at the heartstrings” candidate – – the guy who returns to his alma mater to right the ship.  This year, the opening at Colorado is a perfect fit for Eric Bienemy the offensive coordinator for the KC Chiefs.  Please note that sort of hiring does not always equate with success; Scott Frost returned to Nebraska as a knight in shining armor and he was the first coach fired this year.

Normally, this sort of thinking would happen after Thanksgiving and into the first week of December, but this has not been a normal college football season in lots of ways.  In addition to the coach firings to date consider:

  • The CFP will happen without the presence of either Alabama or Clemson.

I did not see that coming back in August.

Finally, when a coach is fired, that means there has been a significant failure at one of the national collegiate institutions.  So, let me close with this observation by Groucho Marx that just might fit the mood in the coaching ranks today:

“No one is completely unhappy at the failure of his best friend.”

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

 

 

Just “Stuff” Today

Early in the MLB playoffs, I mentioned a Houston entrepreneur – – known as Mattress Mack – – who bet $10M on the Astros to win the World Series sometime before the end of the baseball regular season.  That winning bet will pay him a reported $75M and the Wall Street Journal says that is the largest legal wagering payoff on record.  The winner runs a furniture store in Houston and most of his payout will go to customers because he used his wager as a sales promotion:

  • Customers who bought $3000 or more worth of furniture/mattresses/etc. from his store during a specified time will get all their money back now that the Astros won the Series.  In essence, those customers were betting on the Astros too.
  • More than 18,000 people qualified for the refund so Mattress Mack is going to use most of his winnings paying out the refunds that were promised.

I have often mentioned here the “reader in Houston” who is a fountain of sports historical information and – – truth be told – – who is someone who has been known to place a wager now and then on a sporting event.  No, the “reader in Houston” is not Mattress Mack; but it came as no surprise at all to me when the “reader in Houston” told me that he and Mattress Mack were friends.

Next up … the FIFA World Cup is less than two weeks from its start and there is more news to report.  Recall that the authorities there have already warned people coming to Qatar for the games that public consumption or possession of alcohol is illegal in Qatar but that there will be “designated drinking areas” during the tournament.  Officials have warned fans coming for the games that they will be looking for people trying to smuggle alcohol into the country.

  • Memo to World Cup fans:  Do not poke the bear; my sense is that these folks are very serious about this issue.  Does the name Brittney Griner mean anything to you?

But there is more.  Qatar has been sharply criticized by various human rights organizations over issues such as:

  • Laws that discriminate against LGBTQ folks [Aside:  People who are in the LGBTQ community should read the Memo to World Cup fans above…]
  • Dangerous and exploitative conditions for foreign workers who constructed tournament venues

Now, there are reports that the officials in Qatar are going to “compensate” certain fans to disseminate positive news and messages pertaining to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.  I have not found any reporting that states definitively how many fans will be “compensated” nor how much “compensation” they might receive for their positive postings, but reports do say that some of the fans who will be part of this effort come from European countries such as Belgium, France and Holland.  I did read one report that said the “compensation” would be in the form of reimbursed travel and lodging costs but did not find that level of specificity anywhere else.

There is an English word for painting a positive rosy picture by paying “reporters” to promulgate said positive rosy picture.  I believe that word is “propaganda”.  I am not saying here that one should automatically disbelieve any sort of “happy news” that comes from the FIFA World Cup games in Qatar, but I do think these reports should be an alert not to overreact to “positive news” and/or “negative news” that may originate from protest groups who may not be “compensated” for their “reporting” but who do have an axe to grind.

There is another soccer-related incident in motion this morning.  A former women’s soccer coach at Loyola-Marymount University has filed a wrongful termination suit against the school.  The coach alleges that she “encountered a split loyalty” from the players and the athletic staff from the time she was hired and that someone on the Athletic Department staff told the coach that he (the staff member) did not care if the women’s soccer team was successful or unsuccessful.  The lawsuit contains all the elements of suits of this genre including:

  • Breach of contract
  • Defamation
  • Infliction of emotional distress
  • Retaliation.

So, why is this matter interesting?  I was ready to send this report to the Recycle Bin until I read about the program at Loyola Marymount.  The coach was hired at the end of 2019.  In the abbreviated 2020 season the Lady Lions had a 1-7-1 record and the overall record for the team under the coach’s direction until she was fired in October 2021 was 1-26-1.  Do the math here…

Obviously, I have zero insight regarding the actions that resulted in the alleged injuries inflicted on the plaintiff here, but I am confident that I would not survive the voir dire process to be seated on the jury in this matter…

The other “coach firing” story of the moment is the Indy Colts firing Frank Reich after the Colts’ most recent loss.  Reich’s regular season record in Indy is 40-33-1 and it certainly seems to me that the reason fir his firing is that he has been unable to find wining ways with retread QBs.  Since taking over the job in 2018, Reich had Andrew Luck at QB for one season, but Luck retired at age 29 just before the 2019 season.  Since then, the Colts’ front office has been in a frenzy to replace Luck and here are the starting QBs they gave Reich to work with:

  • Jacoby Brisset and Brian Hoyer in 2019
  • Philip Rivers in 2020
  • Carson Wentz in 2021
  • Matt Ryan and Sam Ehlinger in 2022.

In addition to QB woes this year, the Colts have not had Jonathan Taylor at 100% for the whole season.  So, yes; the Colts are struggling, and their offense is woeful at best.  Nevertheless, I do not think that is entirely Frank Reich’s fault.  The Colts hand the job to Jeff Saturday as the interim coach.  Saturday was a Pro Bowl caliber player for the Colts; no one can deny his on-the-field credentials.  However, his coaching experience includes one entry; he was the head coach for Hebron Christian Academy.  I may not have NFL coaching credentials, but I am confident in saying that it is a big step up in complexity from Hebron Christian Academy to the NFL.

Bonne chance, Jeff Saturday.

Finally, since much of today’s rant dealt with the sport of soccer – – obliquely – – let me close with this definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Football:  An English sport in which the fans could kick the ass of just any of the players.”

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

 

 

The Kyrie Conundrum

I want to circle back to Kyrie Irving and his choice not to renounce his acknowledgement of a book/documentary film that is widely believed to be false and antisemitic.  Because this is a sensitive topic, let me begin with two unequivocal declarations:

  1. All religious persecution and/or discrimination is wrong.
  2. The Holocaust happened during the time of World War II.

Kyrie Irving appears to me to think of himself not merely as being the “smartest guy in the room” but most likely as the “smartest guy in any room populated with any assortment of other human beings dead or alive”.  He is certainly entitled to think of himself in that way just as I am certainly entitled to think that he is deluded and ain’t half as smart as he thinks he is.  And If my sense of him is even nearly accurate, his self-perception is one of the barriers standing in the way of him simply declaring:

“I was wrong; I do not align myself with the antisemitic “stuff” in that book/documentary; I will not do anything so hurtful and wrong again.”

Irving has now been suspended without pay by his team – the Brooklyn Nets – for an indefinite period but one of at least 5 games.  The owner says that for now Kyrie Irving is not suitable to be part of the Nets organization.  According to one report I read a sincere apology, some sign of contrition and attendance at “sensitivity training” are part of what Irving needs to do to render himself “suitable to be part of the Nets organization” thereby leading to reinstatement.

Since I am unaware of the existence of a “sincereness meter” and/or a “contrition monitor” and since I have only minimal confidence in short term “sensitivity training events”, I think this matter is light-years away from any real resolution.  But there is another twist to add that will only make this more complicated.

NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, says he wants to meet with Irving about all this.  And at that point the NBPA – – Irving is a Vice-President of that union – – says that they will have to consider Silver’s request for its propriety.  To paraphrase the union’s statement here:

  • So far, Irving has been punished by his team and the union has very little to say about that matter.
  • However, if Silver gets involved, the that makes it a “league issue” and in that arena the union has rights, and responsibilities.

The Labor Movement in the US rightfully and properly fought to advance workers’ rights and worker safety because until there were unions, laborers were mistreated and exploited by management.  Unions exist solely to protect their members from such mistreatment and exploitation and unions take that charge seriously and act accordingly.  But in this case, it seems to me that some of the puzzle pieces just do not fit.

  • Kyrie Irving is not being exploited by his team or the NBA.  When his contract expires at the end of this season and he becomes a free agent, Irving will have made approximately $240M playing basketball.  That is not exploitation.
  • What Irving has done is to take a social position that many folks believe is just this side of heinous.  Until his suspension without pay, he appeared to me to have enjoyed toying with reporters’ questions about his beliefs and why he endorsed the book/documentary that he did.
  • And the union now interprets that it needs to protect him from discussing all this with the Commissioner?

When all this began, here Is what the union had to say:

“Anti-Semitism has no place in our society.  The NBPA is focused on creating an environment where everyone is accepted. We are committed to helping players fully understand that certain words can lead to hateful ideologies being spread. We will continue to work on identifying and combating all hate speech wherever it arises.”

One might quibble that the statement could have been stronger, but it was clearly on point regarding the fact that antisemitism as a form of religious discrimination or religious persecution “has no place in our society.”  What the NBPA seems incapable of doing is admitting that one of its members ran afoul of what the NBPA asserts is right and proper behavior.

The NBA, the NBPA and many of the players in the NBA have done a lot of positive work regarding racial injustice and exploitation.  All of these entities have received public kudos for those actions.  So, a question now arises as to why there is no similar activity by the league or the players or the union.

  • Jews are a minority in the US as are Blacks; in fact, according the 2020 Census, there are far fewer Jews in the US than there are Blacks.  So, where are the cries of outrage from players, the league, and the union?
  • When the NBPA does not sanction this misbehavior and then takes up for the perpetrator in some small way, does that not undermine the seemingly unequivocal statement that “Antisemitism has no place in our society”?
  • Memo to NBPA:  Even Nike – – often accused of significant exploitation of laborers – – sees what Kyrie Irving has done and is doing as a bridge too far.  It has canceled the next iteration of a signature shoe from Irving and terminated its relationship with him.  Perhaps that act might signal a need for the union to rethink its position and its inaction here?

Finally, since I mentioned Kyrie Irving’s career earnings above, let me close with this remark from Dorothy Parker:

“Money cannot buy health, but I’d settle for a diamond-studded wheelchair.”

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

 

 

Football Friday 11/4/22

George Jones sang:

“It’s finally Friday, I’m outta control,

Forget the workin’ blues and let the good times roll.”

Well, it is indeed Friday, but I am still in control here in Curmudgeon Central and I am ready to let the good times roll with another edition of Football Friday.  And as usual, I will begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack and Money Line Parlays:

  • College = 2-1-0                                              Season total = 15-8-0
  • NFL = 2-1-0                                                    Season total = 12-13-3
  • M/L Parlays = 2-2                                          Season total = 4-13
  • Profit/Loss = +$455                                       Season total = minus-$406

            I do not engage in “what ifs” very often, but I have one for last week.  IF the Jets had beaten the Pats, all four of my Money Line Parlays would have hit and instead of an imaginary profit of $406 the imaginary profit would have been $1983.  May the fleas of a thousand camels infest Zach Wilson’s armpits… [Hat Tip to Johnny Carson as Carnac the Magnificent for that imprecation.]

 

College Football Commentary:

 

The Linfield College Wildcats came home with another win last week defeating the George Fox Bruins 37-10.  That stretches the Wildcats record for 2022 to 7-0 as they return home to McMinnville OR to face the Willamette University Bearcats.  Willamette brings a 2-6 record to the game having lost their last 5 games in a row including a 53-0 blowout loss last weekend.  Go Wildcats!

Auburn and Coach Bryan Harsin “parted ways” last week after Auburn lost by 2 TDs to Arkansas.  That was the straw that broke the camel’s back; Harsin had been in hot water for a while.  Harsin took over the Auburn job from Gus Malzahn after the 2020 season; since then Auburn has gone 9-22 including a 3-10 stretch in its last 13 games.  The removal of Malzahn is interesting because at the time of his firing, Malzahn’s record at Auburn was 67-35 – – and that was not good enough for the boosters and alums at Auburn who seem to think that Auburn needs to be a national champion contender at least every other year.  Here is the statement by the university related to Harsin’s firing last week:

“Auburn University has decided to make a change in the leadership of the Auburn University football program.  President Christopher Roberts made the decision after a thorough review and evaluation of all aspects of the football program. Auburn will begin an immediate search for a coach that will return the Auburn program to a place where it is consistently competing at the highest levels and representing the winning tradition that is Auburn football.”

The Auburn coaching job is a two-edged sword:

  1. The expectations are unrealistic and the statement by the school on the release of Harsin makes it clear that those unrealistic expectations are still in place.
  2. The money is great.  Harsin will get a reported $15.5M buyout and half of that is due to him within 30 days of his termination plus there is no offset clause in there should he take another coaching job.  Gus Malzahn supposedly had a similar structure to his contract.

The first CFP rankings are out and there is lots of attention paid to those rankings.  I think the Committee has purposely done some finagling with the rankings knowing full well that they will have four or five more iterations before it really matters even a little bit.  I really think the first set of rankings is purposefully provocative to start the drumbeat that leads to the CFP in January.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain until Thanksgiving weekend…

Here are some results from last weekend in the SEC:

Arkansas 41  Auburn 27:  Arkansas is now 5-3 and has a real shot at a bowl game in December, but their next three games are all against ranked opponents.  They will play Liberty and LSU at home and then travel to play Ole Miss.  The season finale for Arkansas is on the road at Missouri.  Auburn is now 3-5.

Georgia 42  Florida 20:  The game was over at halftime with Georgia leading 28-3.  To give you an idea of Georgia’s dominance here, the Bulldogs turned the ball over 3 times in the game and the Gators did not turn the ball over once.  Yet, the final score had the Bulldogs up by just over 3 TDs.  Normally losing the turnover stat by 3 is a ticket to a loss.

Tennessee 44  Kentucky 6:  Pay attention to the Tennessee offense; running up 44 points on a good Kentucky defense is an impressive outing.  Even more impressive is that the Tennessee defense came up big in this game holding Kentucky to only 205 yards of offense for the day.  Look forward to the Tennessee/Georgia game this week; it should be interesting indeed.

Ole Miss 31  Texas A&M 28:  The Rebels gained 390 yards on the ground in this game on 62 carries.  That loss leaves the Aggies with an overall record of 3-5 with an SEC record of 1-4.  I read a report that said it would take $84M to buy out Jimbo Fisher’s contract.  I wonder if the “big money boys” around College Station have the stomach to pony up that much cheese…  By the way, that rushing total by Ole Miss is not totally surprising.  The Rebels have gained 250 or more yards in a game 5 times this season.

And in some Big-10 action from last week …

Ohio St. 44  Penn St. 31:  The teams combined to score only 30 points in the first three quarters of the game.  Then the two teams combined to score 45 points in the 4th quarter alone.  Why not?  The stat sheet for the game was almost even – – except for the fact that Penn St. turned the ball over 4 times and Ohio St. did not turn it over at all.  Penn St. led 21-13 early in the 4th quarter but could not hold the lead.

Minnesota 31  Rutgers 0:  This was a spanking.  Rutgers’ total offense for the day was 134 yards.  Rutgers managed 7 first downs in the game and one of those first downs came via a penalty on Minnesota.  Oh, and the Scarlet Knights “helped their cause” by turning the ball over 3 times in the game.  What a stinkeroo of a performance…

Illinois 26  Nebraska 9:  The Illini are in control in the Big-10 West; they have to lose a game for any other team there to challenge them.  For example, the Huskers are down 2 games in the loss column plus a tiebreaker to the Illini…

Iowa 33 Northwestern 13:  This was an offensive explosion for the Hawkeyes; going into this game Iowa averaged 14.0 points per game…

Michigan 29  Michigan St. 7:  The Wolverines controlled the game; they had more rushing yards (276) than Michigan St. had in total offense (215).  The Michigan defense was dominant in the second half; the Spartans had the ball 5 times in the second half and here are the results of those possessions:

  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 4 plays and a TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 5 plays and a PUNT
  • 8 plays and an INT

In some ACC action last week …

Miami 14  Virginia 12 (OT):  The game was tied 6-6 at the end of regulation.  Then it took 4 OT periods to get to a decision.  No TDs were scored; all points came from field goals, or the mandatory 2-point conversion tries in OT periods.  The total offense for the two teams combined through regulation time and all the OT periods was 600 yards.

UNC 42  Pitt 4:  The Tar Heels remain unbeaten in ACC games putting them in control of the Coastal Division.  Pitt was the ACC Champion last year but their record this year is only 1-2 in conference games and 4-3 overall.

NC State 22  Va Tech 21:  Tech led by 18 points at one point in the third quarter and led 21-10 at the start of the 4th quarter in this game.  One oddity from the stat sheet is that the Hokies were penalized 13 times in the game and 10 of those penalties were for a false start.  That is the sort of thing you tend to see in Pop Warner football…

Louisville 48  Wake Forest 21:  The stat sheet says this game should be really close:

  • Total Offense:  Louisville = 410 yards   Wake Forest = 398 yards.

The stat sheet was like a Sesame Street episode brought to you by the number 8:

  • Turnovers:  Louisville = 0   Wake Forest = 8  as in Eight!
  • Sacks by Louisville:  8  as in Eight!

To put that turnover stat in perspective, Wake Forest had only committed 5 Turnovers in the 7 games leading up to last weekend.  Wow!

Moving on to Big-12 games from last weekend …

TCU 41  West Virginia 31:  The Horned Frogs are still undefeated in 2022.  TCU had three TD plays of 50+ yards in the game.

K-State 48  Oklahoma St. 0:  I thought Oklahoma St. was going to win outright here so I took them plus a single point in last week’s Six-Pack.  <hanging my head in shame>.  K-State more than doubled the offensive output for the Cowboys:

  • K-State = 497 yards offense
  • Ok State = 217 yards offense

Three turnovers by Oklahoma St. did not help their cause even a little bit.  This was a great defensive game by K-State; the Cowboys had been averaging almost 45 points per game until last week; in fact, Oklahoma St. never made it to the Red Zone let alone the end zone.

Baylor 45  Texas Tech 17:  Baylor still has an outside shot at being in the Big-12 Championship game; Texas Tech is out of it.

And way out west in the PAC-12 …

Oregon 42  Cal 24:  Yet again, Oregon scored more than 41 points in this game.  Only Georgia has held the Ducks below that number in 2022.   However, a look at the Oregon defensive stats does not paint nearly as rosy a picture:

  • Oregon is 76th in the country in Total Defense allowing 386.3 yards per game
  • Oregon is 82nd in the country in Scoring Defense allowing 28.4 points per game

Utah 21  Washington St. 17:  Utah maintained the importance of its upcoming game against USC in terms of PAC-12 Conference standings.  The PAC-12 Championship game will involve two of these four teams:

  1. Oregon
  2. UCLA
  3. USC
  4. Utah

Washington St. will not be part of that crowd but has an excellent shot at bowl-eligibility.  They are not going to be serious underdogs in any of their remaining games; in fact, they will be favored in three of their four remaining games and could well be favored in the fourth one.

And in “other games of interest from last week” …

UConn 13  BC 3:  UConn is above .500 at this point in the 2022 schedule; I surely would not have predicted that in August.  The alert status in BC has to be the college football equivalent of DEFCON 1.  Right?

Notre Dame 41  Syracuse 24:  That makes two losses in a row for Syracuse.  Notre Dame won the game by running the ball; the Irish gained 246 yards on the ground on 54 carries.

UNC-Charlotte 56  Rice 23:  This was a game Rice was probably counting on to become bowl-eligible.  Life is going to be more difficult after losing to a bad UNC-Charlotte team.  The Owls were 15-point favorites at home in this game.

New Mexico St. 23  UMass 13:  The Aggies had to travel 2500 miles to get this win; I guess it was worth it…  UMass actually led at halftime 13-10 and then failed to score in the second half.

 

The SHOE Tournament:

 

The CFP determines a national champion on the field of play.  I know it will never happen, but I like to fantasize about determining the worst team in the country on the field of play also.  I call it the SHOE Tournament because it finds the SHOE team of the year where SHOE stands for Steaming Heap Of Excrement.  Here is how it would work:

I pick the worst 8 teams in the country and seed them with the worst of the bunch seeded #1 and the “least worst” at #8.

Then we play a normal bracket of 8 teams except the loser in each round has to play on while the winner can go home and not have to continue to embarrass itself on the field.

In the end there is one ultimate losing team…

I will begin this week by identifying 12 teams that are on my radar screen for entry into the SHOE Tournament.  As with the initial CFP rankings, there is lots of time and room for modification here – – but I’ll give it an early go this week putting my candidates in alphabetical order lest anyone think a seeding process has begun:

  • Akron  1-8
  • Colorado  1-7
  • Colorado St.  2-6
  • Hawaii  2-7
  • La-Monroe  2-6
  • Nevada  2-7
  • New Mexico  2-6
  • Northwestern  1-7
  • Northern Illinois  2-7
  • UMass  1-7
  • UNC-Charlotte  2-7
  • USF  1-7

 

College Games of Interest This Week:

 

Air Force – 7.5 at Army (40.5):  Air Force will claim the Commander-in-Chief Trophy with a win here since it has already defeated Navy earlier in 2022.  Tempted to play this game UNDER …

UNC – 7 at Virginia (61):  The spread opened at 9 points and dropped to this level; meanwhile the Total Line opened at 58.5 points and has risen to this level. The Tar Heels look to remain undefeated in ACC games this year.  UNC will score points; the UNC defense is not good – – but the Virginia offense is not good either.  I like the Tar Heels to win and cover even on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Michigan – 26 at Rutgers (45):  Two weeks ago, Rutgers broke a 21-game home losing streak in conference games by beating Indiana.  Last week, Rutgers was on the road.  This week, they can start a new losing streak in home conference games.

Wake Forest – 4 at NC State (54):  Both teams are already bowl eligible with 6-2 records; neither team is going to catch Clemson in the ACC Atlantic Division.  This one is just a game for bragging rights along Interstate 40.

Florida St. – 7.5 at Miami (52.5):  About 20 years ago, this would have been the biggest game of the year.  Not nearly so this week…

Ga. Tech at Va. Tech – 3 (41):  Guaranteed that “Tech” will win this game…

Iowa at Purdue – 3.5 (39.5):  Purdue trails Illinois in the Big-10 West race; the Boilermakers have 2 conference losses and Illinois has only 1.  This game means more to Purdue than it does to Iowa.

Penn St. – 14 at Indiana (50):  The Nittany Lions look to bounce back here after losing to Ohio St. last week.

Syracuse at Pitt – 3.5 (48.5):  Syracuse has lost two in a row – – to Clemson and then to Notre Dame – – after starting the season at 6-0.  Pitt has 3 conference losses; so, it is out of the running for the ACC Championship Game, but the Panthers do need 2 more wins to achieve bowl eligibility.

Oklahoma St at Kansas – 1 (64.5):  Kansas has lost 3 in a row; Oklahoma St. was pantsed by K-State last week (see above).  The Cowboys can still get into the Big-12 Championship Game; the Jayhawks are not mathematically eliminated but they will need a lot of Pixie Dust to get an invite there.

USF – 3.5 at Temple (50):  Two bad teams here.  USF is on my SHOE Tournament radar and Temple will put themselves there with a loss in this game.

Liberty at Arkansas – 14.5 (51):  Both teams have made brief appearances in the Top 25 in 2022.  Liberty is 7-1 so far this year; Arkansas is 5-3 and needs a win to become bowl-eligible.  That line looks fat to me; I’ll take Liberty plus those points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Michigan St. at Illinois – 17 (41):  Bret Bielema seems to have things pointed in the right direction in his second year at the helm for Illinois.  Meanwhile, Mel Tucker’s program at Michigan St. seems to be coming apart at the seams in Tucker’s third year in East Lansing.

Maryland at Wisconsin – 4.5 (49.5):  The Terps are 6-2; the Badgers are 4-4 and need to find 2 more wins to make it to a bowl game this year.

Texas – 2.5 at K-State (54):  If the Longhorns want to have any chance at all to be in the Big-12 Championship Game, they must win this one.  K-State is solidly in second place with only 1 conference loss but would fall behind the Longhorns on a tiebreaker if they lose this one.  Seriously important game for both teams…

Baylor at Oklahoma – 3.5 (61):  Baylor is in the same position as Texas; they must win this game to maintain a shot at being in the Big-12 Championship Game.

Ohio St. – 38.5 at Northwestern (56):  This should be an “Avert-Your-Eyes Game”.  The most interesting thing here is that the Total Line opened the week at 62 points and has dropped significantly from that level.

Florida at Texas A&M-3 (55):  Neither team can be happy with their status at this point of the season.  Their joint SEC record so far this year is 2-8.  The Aggies have lost 4 games in a row…

Auburn at Mississippi St. – 12 (51):  Game is interesting only to see how Auburn plays under its new interim coach…

Tennessee at Georgia – 8 (67):  This is certainly the Game of the Week in college football.  It might even be the Game of the Year – – and how refreshing might that be since the “Game of the Year” has always involved Alabama for the past several years.  Both teams are undefeated.  Take a look at some stats here:

  • Georgia allows 10.5 points per game
  • Tennessee scores 49.4 points per game

And …

  • Georgia allows 85.4 yards per game on the ground
  • Tennessee averages 199.6 yards per game on the ground

And …

  • Tennessee allows 393.6 yards per game in total offense
  • Georgia produces 530.1 yards per game in total offense

Texas Tech at TCU – 8 (68):  TCU is still unbeaten in 2022 sitting in first place in the Big-12 standings…

Alabama – 13 at LSU (56):  Alabama cannot afford another loss; they need to win out to climb into the CFP bracket.  Both teams are ranked in the Top Ten for now and while both teams have a great reputation for tough defenses, the 2022 teams are much stronger offensively.  I see lots of scoring here so let me take the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Clemson – 4 at Notre Dame (44.5):  Clemson is another undefeated team looking to impress the CFP Committee.

 

NFL Commentary:

 

            There were some interesting moves at the NFL trading deadline this week.  I have already commented on the Christian McCaffrey, Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith trades by the Panthers and the Bears so let me quickly comment on some others:

  • Bears acquire Chase Claypool from the Steelers:  I understand why the Bears would want to upgrade their pass-catching cadre.  What I do not understand is how or why the Steelers think trading away their most experienced receiver helps their rookie QB.
  • Jags acquire Calvin Ridley from Falcons:  Ridley is suspended indefinitely and cannot even apply for reinstatement until next March.  Again, I am not sure how or why the Falcons consider him to be expendable.  Ridley will be back eventually.
  • Vikes acquire TJ Hockenson from Lions:  Trading a Pro Bowl caliber player to a division rival is hardly commonplace.  Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you are not surprised that it was the Lions that did this.

They say that sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make.  Well, the Packers better hope that is the case because the Packers need help this year and they got bupkes at the trade deadline.

Two years ago, the Dolphins got three high draft picks from the Niners that allowed the Niners to move way up in the Draft so that the Niners could take Trey Lance.  The Dolphins have traded away those three high draft picks and got in return:

  1. Jaylen Waddle: One of the picks was part of the trade that moved the Dolphins up ahead of the Eagles to make that pick.
  2. Tyreek Hill:  One of the picks went to the Chiefs in the trade that got Hill to Miami.
  3. Bradley Chubb:  The last of those picks was part of the deal to get Bradley Chubb at this year’s trading deadline.

So, if you look at the trade as being Waddle, Hill and Chubb in exchange for Lance, you would have to say that it looks like the Dolphins won that trade comfortably – – at least for now.

This year’s iteration of the Tampa Bay Bucs is a mess.  The Bucs’ offense exposes the defensive unit because the offense does not stay on the field enough.  Consider that the Bucs rank 27th in the NFL in third-down conversions.  That means they do not put together lots of long drives that eat up the clock.  That fact is compounded by the fact that the Bucs’ offense does not give the defense a lot of margin for error.  When the Bucs do get into the Red Zone, the offense ranks 29th in the NFL in touchdown efficiency.  Far too often, the Bucs have to settle for a field goal in those situations – – which is better than when they turn the ball over in those situations.

One of the things that makes for Red Zone efficiency is the ability to run the ball effectively.  The back line of the end zone is like a 12th or even a 13th defender when the ball is inside the 20-yardline.  If the defense has no reason to play the run honestly, it makes for an awfully crowded area for the Red Zone offense.  And the Bucs running game is vestigial in 2022.  The Bucs average only 62 yards per game on the ground – – dead last in the NFL.  So, the question now becomes:

  • Are they last in rushing offense because they throw the ball about 75-80% of the time – – OR – – do they throw the ball 75-80% of the time because they just cannot run the ball?

Speaking of teams that are a mess, allow me to turn your attention to the Las Vegas Raiders.  With a 2-5 record for the season – – and their BYE Week already in the books – – they are in last place in the AFC West.  That is bad enough but then there is last week’s 24-0 loss to the mediocre New Orleans Saints.  If you watch the Saints’ highlights” one of the things that will jump out at you is the miserable tackling attempted by the Raiders’ defenders.  There are Pop Warner teams that tackle more effectively.  Raiders’ defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham said after that game that his charges need to “execute at a higher level”.  That is coach-speak for:

“Those guys stunk out the joint in the Saints’ game and if they do that again, I am going to lose my job!”

However, do not get the idea that the Raiders’ offense is off the hook here.  An offense that features Derek Carr, Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs generated only 183 total yards on offense for the game.  [Aside:  Alvin Kamara alone had 158 yards from scrimmage in that game.]  Here are two things Raiders’ fans need to be asking themselves:

  1. Is it possible that Josh McDaniels is a really good offensive coordinator and a really bad head coach?
  2. Where is Rich Bisaccia now that we need him?

Here are some comments about games from last weekend:

Broncos 21  Jags 17:  I read a report that said the “Broncos saved their season” with this win.  That may be a bit premature since the Broncos are now 3-5 in the AFC West and trail the Chiefs by 3 games in the loss column.  Having said that, they are in better shape than the Jags whose record now is 2-6 and they seem to play just well enough to lose close games.  The Jags’ passing attack was anemic at best here; it averaged only 3.5 yards per pass attempt.  Travis Etienne, however, had a good day running the ball for the Jags; he gained 156 yards on 24 carries and scored a TD.

Vikes 34  Cards 26:  Don’t look now, but the Vikes are 6-1 and lead both the Packers and the Bears by 4 games in the loss column.  The stat sheet was pretty even but the Cards had 3 turnovers – – including 2 INTs by Kyler Murray in the second half of the game – – which tilted things in favor of the Vikes.  One other thing from the stat sheet that stands out is that the Vikes had 5 Red Zone opportunities and scored TDs every time.

Falcons 37  Panthers 34 (OT):  The Falcons now lead the NFC South with a 4-4 record.  They tried to lose this game in the final seconds of regulation time, but Panthers’ WR DJ Moore was having none of that.  Here is what happened:

  • Falcons led by 6 with less than 30 seconds left in the game.
  • Panthers had the ball on their own 38-yardline.
  • PJ Walker threw up a Hail Mary to DJ Moore who ran between two defenders to get behind both of them.
  • That TD pass tied the score, and the PAT was going to win it for the Panthers … BUT
  • Moore took off his helmet to celebrate and incurred a 15-yard penalty.
  • That moved the PAT try back making it 48-yard kick attempt.
  • It failed; the game went to OT; the Falcons won it with a FG late in the OT.
  • That is the sort of outcome that falls in favor of a team that is in the good graces of the football gods…

Cowboys 49  Bears 29:  The Total Line for this game was 43 points; the Cowboys blew past that number by themselves.  An astonishing stat from this game is that the Cowboys were 9 for 11 on third-down conversions.  Both teams ran the ball very well; the Bears gained 240 yards on 43 carries and the Cowboys gained 200 yards on 29 attempts.  The Bears passing game was “limited” to be as polite as I can be.

Saints 24  Raiders 0:   It is easy to look at the stats for the game and point the finger at the Raiders’ offense as the reason for the loss here because that offense gained a measly 182 yards on offense for the day.  But that is only half the story.  The Raiders’ defense was similarly inept; for some reason, half the defenders on the field seemed to forget that using their arms as part of the technique of tackling is a good idea.  This was a totally sloppy effort by just about everyone on the Raiders’ roster (see comments above).

Dolphins 31  Lions 27:  The Lions scored all 27 points in the first half and led 27-17 at halftime.  The Lions had the ball only 3 times in the second half with these results:

  • 3 minutes and 55 seconds  5 plays  minus-2 yards  PUNT
  • 3 minutes and 6 seconds  5 plays  1 yard  PUNT
  • 5 minutes and 27 seconds  10 plays  53 yards  TURNOVER ON DOWNS

That pretty much tells you why the Lions’ defense could not hold the lead…  By the way, this is not a new situation for the Lions; over the last 3 games, the Lions have not scored a single point in the second half of those games.

Pats 22  Jets 17:  I did not see the game as it happened, but I have seen “highlights” of the 3 INTs that Zack Wilson threw in the game, and they were 3 genuinely ugly plays.  Two of them looked to be attempted throwaways that went to a defender instead of to the guy on the sidelines filling the Gatorade cups.  The Jets outgained the Pats by 99 yards for the day, but the Pats’ defense limited the Jets’ running game to only 51 yards.

Eagles 35  Steelers 13:  AJ Brown dominated the Steelers’ secondary catching 6 passes for 156 yards and 3 TDs.  The Eagles’ defense did its part forcing 2 turnovers and sacking Kenny Pickett 6 times.  The Steelers posted a pair of entries on the stat sheet that are strange in juxtaposition:

  • Steelers’ third-down conversions:  1 for 11
  • Steelers’ fourth-down conversions:  4 for 4 (and one of the conversions was a TD)

Tony Romo reported a stat during the telecast that the Eagles – – now 7-0 on the season – – have not trailed for even one second in the second half of any game so far this year.

Titans 17  Texans 10:  The Titans won this one with rookie Malik Willis at QB.  A lot of what Willis did for the day was to hand the ball to Derrick Henry 32 times and watch as Henry ran for 219 yards and 2 TDs.  In what would try to look like a passing game, Willis threw the ball 10 times and gained 55 yards on those attempts.  Meanwhile the Titans’ defense held the Texans’ offense to only 161 yards total offense for the day.

Seahawks 27  Giants 13:  The Giants trailed 13-10 at the start of the 4th quarter which set them up for a fourth quarter win as has been their specialty this season.  Not today.  While the Seahawks put 2 TDs on the scoreboard, here are the results of the 4th quarter possessions by the Giants:

  • 3 plays  6 yards  PUNT
  • 9 plays  46 yards  TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 6 plays  3 yards  END OF GAME

The Seahawks at 5-3 sit atop the NFC West.

Dwight Perry had this observation about tis game in the Seattle Times:

“If you predicted before the NFL season that the only Week 8 matchup pairing winning teams would be the Seahawks and Giants, step forward and claim your prize.

“And slip us the next winning Powerball numbers while you’re at it.”

Niners 31  Rams 14:  The Rams were shut out in the second half and Cooper Kupp injured an ankle in the final series of the game – – severity of the injury is still TBD.  The Niners’ defense limited the Rams’ running game to 56 yards on 19 carries. The Niners’ performance was dominant; they outgained the Rams by 145 yards; they also averaged 7.1 yards per offensive play to only 4.0 yards per play by the Rams.

Commanders 17  Colts 16:  The Commanders have won 3 in a row and are back to .500 – – and they are still in last place in the NFC East.  The Colts started Sam Ehlinger at QB replacing the injured/benched Matt Ryan and Ehlinger did not embarrass himself; this was not anything like the time the Cowboys ran Ben DiNucci out to start a game.  Here is Ehlinger’s stat line:

  • 17 of 23 for 201 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs

Taylor Heinicke started again for the Commanders and led two scoring drives producing 10 points and the win in the final 12 minutes of the game.

Bills 27  Packers 17:  The game did not feel like one with a 10-point margin of victory; there was never any serious indication that the Packers might win this game.  The Packers had more total offense in the game than the Bills but lots of it came as the Packers looked to move the ball from deep in their own territory.

 

NFL Games this Week:

 

It is a big week for BYE Weeks on the NFL schedule with 6 teams on hiatus:

  1. Broncos:  They need to use the extra time they have here to figure out how to score more than 21 points in a game.  The team’s defense got a little bit worse with the trading of Bradley Chubb,
  2. Browns:  They looked good in dominating the Bengals last week, but consistency has eluded this team for several years now.
  3. Cowboys:  Their offense can pat themselves on the back for scoring 49 points last week against the Bears.  Meanwhile, the defense should be given a swift kick in the posterior for allowing the Bears to score 29 points in only 4 quarters.
  4. Giants:  They lost a game when they were within striking distance in the 4th quarter; the Giants have won lots of those in 2022.  They need a week to reassure themselves that they can do that sort of thing again and again …
  5. Niners:  They get another week to get Christian McCaffrey familiar with the arcane parts of the Niners’ playbook.  Even more importantly, the defense gets to give some of its performers time to heal.
  6. Steelers:  This may turn out to be Mike Tomlin’s first losing season as the coach of the Steelers – – but the team will go down fighting.

Last night, the Eagles beat the Texans 29-17.  This was a “talent wins out” game; the Eagles have a better roster than the Texans, but the Eagles played down to the level of their opponent.  Given that type of performance, it is still at least 6 weeks too early for anyone to be mentioning a 17-0 season for the team.

A general comment on the NFL card for this weekend is that there are no “great games” and there are lots of games that can be considered for the “Dog-Breath designation”.  I think you will be surprised at my pick for Game of the Week” below…

Colts at Pats – 5.5 (40.5):  The Colts went with Sam Ehlinger at QB last week and the offense sputtered – – as it has all season long.  The Pats have also been less than formidable on offense in 2022 no matter whom they play at QB.  This game should be interesting to watch because it should be close from start to finish.  The Pats need this game if they want to climb out of the AFC East basement; the Colts need this game because they already trail the Titans by two games and have lost the tiebreaker already.

Bills – 11 at Jets (46):  Both teams have a winning record; the Jets trail the Bills by 2 games in the AFC East, so, the game has relevance to the standings.  Nevertheless, this looks like a mismatch to me.  I ran across this stat at one of those “handicapping sites”:

  • Bills have been favored by double-digits 10 times over the last two seasons.
  • Bills are 6-2-2 against the spread in those 10 games.

Dolphins – 4 at Bears (45.5):  This makes two road games in a row for the Dolphins and that is never a plus for an NFL team.  Moreover, the Dolphins’ 5-3 record is slightly tainted by the fact that the team also has a negative 14-point differential; other teams with that same record all have positive point differentials this morning.  Nonetheless, even though the Bears’ offense exploded last week and scored 29 points, the fact is that the Bears still average fewer than 20 points per game.  I am not yet sold on the Bears’ offense, so I’ll take the Dolphins to win and cover here; put it in the Six-Pack.

Vikes – 3 at Commanders (43.5):  This is a ‘Homecoming game” for Kirk Cousins.  The Vikes are 6-1 coming into the game having won 5 in a row and lead the NFC North by a comfortable 4 games in the loss column.  The Commanders are in last place in the NFC East, but they have won 3 games in a row thanks to a trio of good defensive efforts.  This game got brief consideration as the Game of the Week.

Packers – 3.5 at Lions (49.5):  The spread for this game opened as a “Pick ‘em game” but that did not last long at all.  The Lions have the worst record in the NFL and have lost 5 games in a row.  The Packers have disappointed lots of people and have lost 4 games in a row.  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Lions’ defense has given up more points than any other team in the league – – and the Lions have had a BYE Week already.

Chargers – 3.5 at Falcons (49.5):  The Falcons lead the NFC South with a 4-4 record.  The Chargers trail the Chiefs by a game in the AFC West.  The game is relevant to the standings.  Moreover, the oddsmakers have this pegged as a close game.  The Falcons will try to run the ball down the Chargers’ throats; the Chargers will try to throw the ball all over the field.  This is my Game of the Week.  This is also a “body-clock game” for a west coast team playing in the early time slot on the east coast.  Just a hunch but give me the Falcons plus the points at home; put it in the Six-Pack.

Panthers at Bengals – 7 (42.5):  Neither team has shown much consistency this season, but the Panthers appear to be playing better in recent weeks with PJ Walker at QB.  I think the key to this game is the protection the Bengals’ OL provides for Joe Burrow because the strength of the Panthers is their defensive front seven.

Raiders – 1.5 at Jags (48):  The spread here opened with the Jags as 1-point favorites; not so anymore…  This game got serious consideration for the “Dog-Breath” label.  The Raiders were awful last week; the Jags have lost 5 games in a row.

Seahawks at Cards – 2 (49):  The Seahawks lead the NFC West; The Cards are in the basement in the NFC West.  So, naturally, the Cards are favored in this game…  Say what?

Rams at Bucs – 3 (42.5):  Back in August if you had shown me this schedule of games, I would have immediately picked this as the Game of the Week.  Not so this weekend; neither team brings a winning record to the kickoff.  The loser of this game might put their playoff aspirations in jeopardy even though the Bucs have a road to the playoffs that only requires them to finish ahead of the rest of the mediocre NFC South teams.  This will be the national game in the late afternoon time slot, and I think it will be pretty thin gruel.

(Sun Nite) Titans at Chiefs – 13 (45.5):  Yes, both teams lead their division so that game has plenty of standings relevance and potentially playoff seeding relevance.  So, how is this not the “Game of the Week”?  Simple.  Look at the spread; the oddsmakers do not think this is going to be a nailbiter.  Now, if it is indeed a nailbiter, this will be – in retrospect – the “Game of the Week”, but I am not doing retrospectives here.  The clash of styles on offense between these teams could not be starker.  It should be an interesting game to watch – – unless it gets out of hand.

(Mon Nite) Ravens – 2.5 at Saints (47.5):  So, did the Saints come to life last week as they dominated the Raiders?  Or did they simply dominate a bad team that put forth a mediocre level of effort?  The Ravens ran the ball for 200+ yards against the Bucs last time out; I doubt they will do anything close to that level of business against the Saints’ defense – – so what can Lamar Jackson do in the passing game.  I think this will be a low scoring game and am tempted to take the UNDER, but I prefer taking the Ravens to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Let me review the Six-Pack here:

  • Alabama/LSU OVER 56
  • UNC – 7 over Virginia
  • Liberty +14.5 against Arkansas
  • Dolphins – 4 over Bears
  • Falcons +3.5 against Chargers
  • Ravens – 2.5 over Saints

            And here are two Money Line Parlays,

  • Bills @ minus-570
  • Commanders @ +150           To win $194

And…

  • Air Force @ minus-270
  • UNC @ minus-270
  • Penn St. @ minus-470          To win $128

            Finally, with the midterm elections early next week, that means the majority of the Congressthings have their careers on the line.  So, let me close today with an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm that speaks to Congressional careers:

Lust:  God’s way of giving overworked, stressed-out congressmen a convenient way to end the careers they lack the courage to end for themselves.”

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

 

 

A World Series “No-No”…

Two nights ago, the Phillies set a World Series record with 5 homeruns in the first 5 innings of a World Series game.  Last night, the Astros had 4 pitchers combine to throw a no-hitter at the Phillies tying the World Series at two games apiece.  What might these two teams have in store for us tonight?  Perhaps an extra inning affair with a final score of 19-18?

One of the narratives for this World Series is that there are no US born Black players on either team in the World Series 75 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in MLB.  That is a fact; I submit that is also a non-event.  Neither the Astros nor the Phillies have conspired to load their lineups with people who are not of African-American heritage.  The rosters of the two teams do not “mirror US society” and my response to that observation is “So what?”

  • The percentage of Black players in the NFL does not mirror US society.
  • The percentage of Asian players in the NBA does not mirror US society
  • The percentage of Hispanic players in the NHL does not mirror US society – – nor Canadian society.

There is plenty of inequality in society today; there is no need to try to carve out new territory for activism where there is no need for it.

Moving on …  Every metropolis in the country has its own sports story/issue that is at the core of local fandom.  I want to let you in on the DC area’s core-story this morning.  Late yesterday, reports surfaced that Danny Boy Snyder had retained Bank of America as investment bankers to consider offers to buy the Washington Commanders from him.  The team statement and the bank’s statement left it open that what he might choose to do is to sell only a minority interest in the team, but it also opened the door to a possible sale of the whole shootin’ match.

That announcement created the following coverage in this morning’s Washington Post:

  1. A front-page story above the fold with 8.5 column-inches on the front page and a total of 42 column-inches on an inside page in Section A.
  2. A report on the front-page of the Sports Section with 12 column inches on Page 1 there and another 24 column inches on an inside page
  3. A column by Jerry Brewer with 8 column-inches on the front page of the Sports Section with an additional 26 column-inches on an inside page.

If I were to try to give you a flavor of the reporting and the column here in a single word, that word would be:

  • Hallelujah!

Fans in this area are at the point where they might willingly accept one or two of the plagues that were visited on Egypt in the Book of Exodus – – if enduring that plague or two guaranteed that Daniel Snyder would sell the team, leave town and go live on his super yacht for the rest of his days on the planet.

I want to make two points here with the open acknowledgement that it is far too early in this story cycle to know how it ends.  These are first impressions that I will be looking to validate or refute as more information becomes available:

  1. This might be a PR move by Danny Boy where he makes it look as if he might sell the team but he winds up selling only a minority interest to a group of folks that allow him to “virtue-signal” that he is opening up NFL ownership to people who do not look like all the other NFL owners.
  2. If Bank of America comes up with a bid of $6B for the team – – Forbes says it is worth $5.6B – – and Danny Boy jumps at the offer and sells it all, I will have to wonder if the league might have shown Snyder a rough draft of the league’s ongoing investigation into his financial dealings and into the “toxic culture” as a way for him to find a face-saving way to get out from under.

At least for the moment, local writers, commentators and fanboys are overjoyed at the news that Snyder is even considering selling the franchise.  Right now, this is a situation that calls for “wait and see” – – but for most folks it just feels too good to avoid “irrational exuberance”.

For my next topic this morning, let me welcome back to Sports Curmudgeon rants a regular provider of grist for this mill.  José Canseco has been off the radar for a while now, but he just got back in the news earlier this week when he offered up some advice to Aaron Judge.  Actually, what Canseco did was to second some advice to Judge voiced previously by Jake Arietta on a podcast; Arietta told the podcast hosts:

“If I’m him, like ‘F**k Y’all’.  I’m not coming back here.  No, you want to boo me after what I just did for you?  I’m going to the Mets.”

Canseco added to that advice with this Tweet:

“Aaron Judge even if you were to replicate the season you had this year again the fans would still hate you because you’re making more money.  New York is known for the most psychologically damaged angriest people in the world.”

The advice to Aaron Judge from a former Cy Young Award winner and a former AL MVP is simple and direct.  I wonder what Judge’s agent is thinking about his impending free agency; somehow, I think the agent’s take on this is more important.

Finally, since I preached “patience” above regarding the possible sale of the Washington Commanders, let me close with this observation by author/journalist, Ambrose Bierce:

“Patience, n.  A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.”

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

 

 

Mostly NBA Stuff Today …

            The Brooklyn Nets fired coach Steve Nash; the Nets’ season began with a 2-5 record; so, there can be a patina of justification for such a decision.  But if anyone thinks that Steve Nash is now or has been “the problem” behind the underachievement of this attempted super-team, let me suggest that person is living in a delusion.  No one can logically deny the raw basketball talent on the Nets’ roster.  Similarly, no one can doubt that there are three stars on that roster all of whom have things going on between the ears that are not conducive to creating an efficiently functioning team.

I don’t know if Steve Nash – – or the next Nets’ coach – – needs a degree in psychological counseling to succeed there or if a whip and chair would be appropriate tools.  Those three stars on the Nets’ roster created a three-ring circus in Brooklyn not a basketball team.  The insider reports say that the Nets want to hire Ime Udoka to replace Nash and that negotiations are underway to achieve that end.

From a basketball standpoint, that choice makes perfect sense.  Udoka took over the job in Boston last year with the Celtics record below .500 and turned the team around such that it finished the season with a 51-31 record and made it through the playoffs to the NBA Finals.  Maybe he can work the same magic again in Brooklyn this season; the basketball talent is there.  But there is a caveat in my mind:

  • The Nets’ problem is not “basketball”; the Nets’ problem is “focus on basketball” to the exclusion of “outside nonsense”.
  • Udoka would bring his own knapsack of “outside nonsense” with him to add an entirely new dimension of “outside nonsense” to the dumpster fire already burning in Brooklyn.

Big rewards often come after one takes a big risk.  If that is the mindset of Nets’ owner Joe Tsai this week, then Udoka is a perfect successor for Steve Nash.  Lest you think that Nash is injured in some way by this decision, he will have plenty of money to ease his pain.  According to reports, Nash signed a 5-year contract prior to the 2020/21 NBA season to coach the Nets for a fully-guaranteed $45M.  Assuming the salaries are flat across the term of the deal, he is still owed about $25M.  More importantly, he will receive that $25M without having to put up with the “terrible troika” in Brooklyn.  That is what I would call a “win-win” for Steve Nash.

Let me stay with the NBA for one more comment today.  About a week ago, there was a report at CBSSports.com under a headline that read:

  • “Adam Silver says NBA will pay special attention to tanking this season: ‘We put teams on notice’”

The availability in next year’s draft of Victor Wembanyama already started rumors about teams wanting to maximize the number of ping-pong balls they will have in that draft lottery carnival machine.  If you unfamiliar with this youngster, he has played in France not in the US so coverage of him was not nearly as intense as it was for someone like LeBron James about 20 years ago.  If you are interested, Google his name and watch some of the YouTube footage of him.  In short, he is a 7’4” player who can handle the ball and shoot three point shots as well as score inside.  He is going to be a “good ‘un”.

Silver said that he and others in the league offices recognize that some teams will see an improved chance to draft Wembanyama as a small price to pay for a poor record this season.  Silver also recognizes that tanking games this year can call into question the “integrity of the games” and that is a line the Commish has to defend at all costs.  So, Adam Silver has to talk tough on tanking even if he cannot possibly answer a simple and direct question:

  • How will you differentiate between a bad team playing poorly and losing games from a bad team purposely playing poorly in order to lose games?  What are your criteria?

Oh, and a bonus question for the Commish:

  • If/when you detect tanking in a pure and unambiguous form, what is the penalty that will be exacted?  You put the teams on notice, so you must have also told them the consequences of them tanking the season in spite of your notice…

I’ll hang up and listen for your answer…

In the World Series last night, the Phillies set a World Series record hitting 5 homeruns off one pitcher in a World Series game.  The Phillies won the game 7-0 and lead the Astros 2 games to 1 with Game 4 scheduled for tonight in Philly.  The Phillies look to me to be a team that was constructed as a fantasy league team where defense is no part of the equation.  The Phillies had three players on the field last night who can easily project as a DH because of their defensive limitations:

  • Nick Castellanos
  • Rhys Hoskins
  • Kyle Schwarber

Hoskins and Schwarber both homered in the game – – I think Schwarber’s shot landed about three minutes ago – – and Castellanos contributed a base hit to last night’s win.  Lots of credit has been given to starting pitcher Ranger Suarez for his 5 shutout innings but I think there is one more important thing that Suarez did.

  • He kept the ball in the infield and away from the outfield gaps.

That may not sound like a big deal, but when the starting outfield has Schwarber in left field and Castellanos in right field, let’s just say there will be lots of acreage out there that will be left “unprotected”.

Finally, one of the off-the-court issues facing the Brooklyn Nets recently was Kyrie Irving’s association with an antisemitic book and documentary film.  So, let me close today with this this thought on antisemitism from Albert Einstein:

“If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world.  Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.”

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