Upcoming Writing and Posting…

The writing schedule for the next couple of weeks will be on an “as time allows” basis.   I have some family obligations to discharge over the next several days; then my long-suffering wife and I are heading to Dublin for a visit of about 10 days.

Things should return to some state of normalcy in the week of 4 November – – until some more travel that will lead right up to Thanksgiving time.

Here is what I know:

  1.  There will be no Football Friday this week (10/25/19).
  2.  If there is a Football Friday next week (11/1/19), it will be an abbreviated version.
  3.  Standard daily rants will also likely be abbreviated versions.

Hope to be back to normal on 4 November – for a while…

Stay well, everyone…

 

 

Football Friday 10/18/19

I don’t like tacos enough to celebrate Taco Tuesday except by accident.  However, I do like football enough to celebrate Football Friday whenever my schedule will permit.

Last week, the Six-Pack broke even at 3-3.  Cumulatively for the season:

  • Six-Pack is 20-10
  • College games are 9-3
  • NFL games are 11-7

 

College Football Comments:

 

The Linfield College Wildcats treated their Homecoming crowd to a blowout win over Puget Sound last week to the tune of 77-22.  Linfield ran out to a 35-0 lead and never looked back.  That brings the Wildcats record to 3-1 for the season; since their Division III regular season schedule only has 9 games, that puts Linfield just 2 wins short of yet one more winning season in football.  This week the Willamette Bearcats visit McMinnville OR in another Northwest Conference game.  Willamette brings a 2-3 record to the game; there is one common opponent for the two teams:

  • Linfield beat Pacific 52-14
  • Willamette lost to Pacific 59-14
  • Go Wildcats!

College football has always been a regional sport.  In the beginnings, it was an east coast sport played by Ivy League schools and others in that part of the world.  The game migrated south and west; for years now, the “center of gravity” for college football has been from the Carolinas west to Texas and down to the southern border of the US.  For a while, West Coast football was sort of relevant; USC was a dominant team for a while; UCLA was relevant more often than not; more recently Washington and Oregon made noise on a national level.  Such does not look to be the case in 2019.

When Oklahoma defeated Texas last week, it pretty well rendered college football west of Norman OK interesting – – but unimportant.  Maybe the focus of “Western Football” this year is Boise St. who is undefeated as of this morning with a schedule in front of it that makes you think they could remain in that condition.  No one thinks that the Mountain West Conference is equivalent to the PAC-12 out west – – but most college football observers think the PAC-12 is nothing more than interesting – – but unimportant.

With the college season about half over, there are 4 teams that have underachieved the hype and expectations for those teams back in August.  Please note, three of these four teams have a winning record; those teams are not abject failures; I just think they have fallen short of what was expected from them.

  • Michigan Wolverines:  Yes, they are 5-1 having just beaten Illinois.  However, this was supposed to be the year that Michigan won the Big 10 and crashed the CFP party.  So far this year, the Wolverines have not made me sit up and take notice that they are a powerhouse; it is not clear that they are favorites to win the Big 10 East – – let alone the Conference Championship.  Michigan struggled to beat Army (certainly not a CFP candidate) and later beat Iowa (not a CFP candidate either) by the rousing score of 10-3.  Moreover, that loss on their record is not just a blot; it was a total beatdown by Wisconsin.
  • Tennessee Volunteers:  The Vols won last week to raise their record to 2-4.  No one outside Knoxville – other than those folks who sings Rocky Top as a lullaby to put their kids to sleep – thought that Tennessee would beat out the real big dogs in the SEC for the SEC Championship in 2019.  But no one expected the Vols to be this bad – – especially not coach Jeremy Pruitt who has seen his team lose to Georgia State and then lose to BYU after leading by what should have been a comfortable margin in the 4th quarter.  The next two weeks pit the Vols against serious competition; this week at Alabama and next week at home against South Carolina.   After that, the schedule softens significantly but by then, the Vols may need to win-out to be bowl eligible.
  • UCF Golden Knights:  UCF is 4-2 on the season having lost two of its last 3 games.  We heard so much over the past 2 years about how UCF was the shadow national champion and the idea was they would roll though 2019 undefeated again and maybe – – just MAYBE – – get the big guys in college football to give then a shot at the real national championship.  As they would often say to losing contestants on TV game shows:

“What lovely parting gifts do we have for the Golden Knights, Bob?”

  • Washington Huskies:  The Huskies are 5-2; the losses are to Cal and Stanford which are good but not great teams; of the five wins, probably the best opponent was USC whose record stands today at 3-3.  There was talk during the summer that this was the year that the PAC-12 would not be shut out of the CFP festivities and that Washington would be the PAC-12 rep in the tournament.  That is not going to happen with those two losses already on the books.

Looking at remaining schedules, two teams are interesting now.  Auburn is 5-1 with 6 game remaining.  Here are 3 of those 6 opponents:

  • At LSU
  • Vs. Georgia
  • Vs. Alabama

Another schedule that caught my eye was Minnesota.  The Gophers are 6-0 now and with Rutgers on tap this week and with Maryland up next week, there is good reason to expect that record to inflate to 8-0.  Then the road gets bouncier:

  • Vs. Penn State – undefeated and currently ranked in the Top Ten
  • At Iowa – always tough at home
  • At Northwestern – a relative breather
  • Vs. Wisconsin – undefeated and currently ranked in the Top Ten

I mentioned above that Tennessee won its game last week over Mississippi State by a score of 20-10.  Obviously, coach Jeremy Pruitt slept better on Saturday night than he would have had the Vols lost again.  In addition, this report from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times indicates that someone else slept better last Saturday night.

“Tyler Ivens, a Knoxville sports-radio host, is living on the roof of Toyota Knoxville and vowing to stay there until the volunteers (1-4 with the only victory coming against Tennessee-Chattanooga) win another football game.

“So, what does he have a better chance of catching first – a win or shingles?”

The big surprise in SEC-land last week was South Carolina beating previously undefeated Georgia at Georgia by a score of 20-17.  The Gamecocks’ defense played an outstanding game.  The color commentator for the game said several times he thought Georgia’s Jake Fromm was the best QB in the country.  I respectfully disagree; Fromm missed too many open throws in this game to be “the best”.  He is a very good QB and he will be drafted in the NFL and can probably play at that level – – but “best in the country”?  I ran across this interesting stat for Georgia and Jake Fromm:

  • When Jake Fromm throws fewer than 30 passes, Georgia is 29-0
  • When Jake Fromm throws 30 or more passes, Georgia is 0-5.

In an embarrassing outcome for SEC football, UNLV beat Vandy 34-10.  Compounding the agony here, the game was in Nashville; I guess the only bright spot here is that it was not Homecoming Weekend.  [That happens this weekend.]  UNLV is now 2-4 for the season and all four losses have been by more than 2 scores.

Alabama beat Texas A&M 47-28.  I said last week that the Aggies could not get themselves into a shoot-out with Alabama; their defense was not able to prevent that from happening.  On the bright side, the Aggies defense held Alabama below its scoring average for the season.  Bama entered the game scoring at a 51.8 points per game clip.

In the Game of the Week, LSU beat Florida 42-28.  LSU remains unbeaten; Florida lost for the first time.  Going into this game the Gators’ defense had been allowing only 9.5 points per game; LSU rang them up for 6 TDs.  LSU QB, Joe Burrow, put up these stats against a very good Florida defense:

  • 21 for 24 for 293 yards and 3 TDs
  • Not a bad day at the office…

I mentioned above that Oklahoma beat Texas in the Red River Shootout on Saturday by a score of 34-27.  The halftime score was a defense-dominated 10-3 in favor of the Sooners.  So, what happened at halftime?  Did both offensive units pound down a bunch of energy drinks or did both defensive units load up on Quaaludes?

Baylor beat Texas Tech 33-30 last week to remain undefeated for the season.

Boise St. beat Hawaii 59-37 last week to remain undefeated.  I had the game OVER 60 in last week’s Six-Pack.  I must say that I did not expect Boise to come that close to taking the game over all by itself.

Appalachian State beat Louisiana-Lafayette 17-7; Appalachian State is undefeated for the year.

Clemson beat Florida State 45-14.  At one point in the second quarter, Clemson had more TDs than Florida State had first downs.  This was an unadulterated beatdown.

Louisville beat Wake Forest 62-59 handing the Demon Deacons their first loss of the season.  The two teams combined for 1188 yards of offense and 121 points here.  There must have been a notation on each team’s schedule that defense was “optional” for this game.

Another team to suffer its first loss of the year was Memphis.  Temple beat Memphis 30-28; four Memphis turnovers in the game led to this loss.  By the way, Temple is a very quiet 5-1 so far this year…

Wisconsin beat Michigan State 38-0.  Folks, Wisconsin has given up only 29 points in 6 games; four of the six wins have been shutouts.  Meanwhile the Badgers have scored 255 points in those 6 wins; the closest game so far was a 24-15 victory over Northwestern.  Wisconsin plays at Ohio State (also undefeated for 2019) next week.  Clear your calendars…

Penn State beat Iowa 17-12 in a defensive slugfest.  By the way, the Penn State defense is very good too.

Minnesota stayed unbeaten with a dominant win over Nebraska 34-7.  The Gophers ran the ball for 322 yards in this game.

Toward the bottom of the Big 10, we find Purdue beating up on Maryland 40-14.  For some perspective here, consider that Penn State held Purdue to minus-30 yards rushing and 93 yards total offense 2 weeks ago.  Last week, Purdue ran the ball for 138 yards and passed for an additional 420 yards.  Put those two sets of stats for the Purdue in juxtaposition if you dare…

Indiana shut out Rutgers 35-0.  Let me try to put this result in perspective too:

  • Indiana’s defense has held 3 opponents under 25 points so far this year.  Those three opponents were Ball St., UConn and E. Illinois (Division 1-AA).
  • Rutgers fired its coach 3 weeks ago.  Since then they have lost to Maryland by 41 points and then suffered this shutout loss by 5 TDs.  Might I suggest – ever so humbly – that the coach was not the problem at Rutgers?

Out west, Arizona State rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat Washington State 38-34.  Herm Edwards has the Sun Devils at 5-1 for the season with Utah, USC and Oregon still on the schedule.  Meanwhile, this is not the first time this year that Washington State has run out to a lead and then surrendered it in a loss.  Remember that UCLA scored 50 points in the second half against the Cougars earlier this year.

Oregon beat Colorado 45-3.  Since losing the opening game of the year to Auburn 27-21, Oregon has given up exactly 1 TD in 5 games.  In this rout, the Ducks registered 4 INTs.

Notre Dame beat USC 30-27 last week.  The Trojans rallied for 2 TDs in the 4th quarter to make the game look closer than it was.  That rally also made one of last week’s Six-Pack picks into a loser.  The Irish ran the ball for 308 yards in this contest.

Rice had the week off; so, it remains winless for the season.  Both Akron and New Mexico State lost last week; they too have yet to win a game in 2019.

Louisiana Tech beat UMass 69-21.  UMass came to the game with the worst scoring defense in the nation yielding more than 46 points per game.  And last week, made that stat even worse…

 

College Games of Interest:

 

Going into the games for this weekend, the Big 10 has 4 teams with 6-0 records.  According to CBSSports.com, the last time that happened was in 1906 and one of the teams that was undefeated then was the University of Chicago Maroons coached by Amos Alonzo Stagg.  One needs to be a football historian – or a trivia geek – to know that Chicago was one of the founding members of the Big 10 and ceded its place to Michigan State about 100 years ago with “rights of recall”.  Not a lot of danger that Chicago would want to take up football at the Big 10 level of competition any time soon…

(Fri Nite) Ohio State – 28 at Northwestern (49):  Only real hope for the Wildcats here is for Ohio State to be looking ahead to next week’s showdown with Wisconsin.

Wisconsin – 31 at Illinois (51):  Only real hope for the Illini here is for Wisconsin to be looking ahead to next week’s show down with Ohio State.

Clemson – 23.5 at Louisville (61):  The Cardinals put 62 points on the scoreboard last week against Wake Forest.  They will probably not score one-third of that total in this game.

Buffalo – 17 at Akron (48):  Akron seeks its first win here…

Rice – 4.5 at Texas-San Antonio (46.5):  Rice is winless this year and they are favored on the road in this game.  Does that tell you something about the esteem in which the oddsmakers hold UTSA?

Indiana – 5.5 at Maryland (59):  Indiana pitched a shutout last week and Maryland got steamrollered last week.  Who knows what might happen here?  Oh, and who cares?

Florida State at Wake Forest – 2 (69):  Wake Forest scored 59 points last week and lost the game.  That should be a wake-up call for the Florida State offense.

Purdue at Iowa – 17 (48):  Iowa is a tough place for visiting teams; this should be a low-scoring affair.

Boise St. – 7 at BYU (46.5):  Boise St. is undefeated, and they take a week off from conference play to face a serious challenge to their undefeated status.

Arizona St. at Utah – 13.5 (45):  This is an important game in the race for the PAC-12 South.  I agree with the oddsmaker here; this will be a low-scoring game.  I think the line is fat given that the Sun Devils have only lost once this year.  I’ll put Arizona St. plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack even on the road.

Oregon – 3 at Washington (49.5):  Both of these teams have intra-state rivalries and those games draw plenty of attention and publicity.  However, this rivalry is as intense as those intra-state games.  Oregon is undefeated in PAC-12 games; Washington is 2-2 in PAC-12 games.  The Huskies are all but eliminated from the PAC-12 North title and a loss here would shovel the dirt in on the coffin.  I like Oregon to win and cover here based on the strength of the Oregon defense, so I’ll put Oregon in this week’s Six-Pack.

Florida – 4 at S. Carolina (48):  The Gators are coming off their loss to LSU and the Gamecocks are coming off a huge road win over Georgia.  This could be a blowout game in either direction.  I think S. Carolina suffers a let-down game here.  I’ll put Florida to win and cover in this week’s Six-Pack.

LSU – 18 at Mississippi St. (61):  Mississippi St. is always tough at home and often pull a huge upset over a highly ranked rival in that venue.  Having said that, I don’t think that is going to happen here.  LSU has a significant edge in talent here.

Tennessee at Alabama – 34 (61):  This is gonna be a spanking…

Baylor at Oklahoma St. – 4 (68.5):  Baylor is undefeated this year and is a road underdog; Oklahoma St. is a tough out in Stillwater.  Also, it is Homecoming Weekend for OK St…

Minnesota – 28 at Rutgers (47.5):  Minnesota maintains its status as an undefeated team on the road this week.  Rutgers has been shut out 3 times this year – every other game on the schedule.  Rutgers is 0-4 against Big 10 opponents losing by a combined score of 165-7.

Missouri – 21 at Vandy (56.5):  It is Homecoming Weekend for the Commodores, but I don’t think the alums will be smiling too much after this game.

Temple at SMU – 7 (60):  Last week, Temple knocked off undefeated AAC foe, Memphis.  This week they face another undefeated AAC opponent.

Michigan at Penn St. – 9 (47):  Penn St. is undefeated, and Michigan has lost only once.  Both are in the thick of the Big 10 East race at this point, but the loser will be in deep water.  Call this one the Game of the Week.

 

NFL Commentary:

 

Three of the top teams in the NFL so far this year are the Ravens, Patriots and the Niners.  In addition to their gaudy records, it is fair to say that none of the three have gone through the toughest part of their schedule yet.  Let’s take a look…

The Ravens are 4-2 with wins over the Dolphins, Cardinals, Steelers and Bengals.  The losses came at the hands of the Chiefs and the Browns.  So, what has the schedule-maker put on the back end of the Ravens calendar?

  • At Seahawks
  • BYE Week
  • Vs Patriots
  • At Bengals
  • Vs. Texans
  • At Rams
  • Vs. Niners
  • At Bills
  • Vs Jets
  • At Browns
  • Vs Steelers

The Patriots are undefeated at 6-0; their opponents to date have been a motley crew other than one game against the Bills in Buffalo.  Now comes the interesting part of the Pats’ schedule.

  • At Jets
  • Vs Browns
  • At Ravens
  • BYE Week
  • At Eagles
  • Vs Cowboys
  • At Texans
  • Vs Chiefs
  • At Bengals
  • Vs Bills
  • Vs Dolphins

The Niners are likewise undefeated in 2019 with a 5-0 record; they have already had their BYE Week.  So, what’s next?

  • At Skins
  • Vs Panthers
  • At Cardinals
  • Vs Seahawks
  • Vs Cardinals
  • Vs Packers
  • At Ravens
  • At Saints
  • Vs Falcons
  • Vs Rams
  • At Seahawks

The Ravens, Pats and Niners will be tested more severely from here to the end of December than they have been to date…

After the Cowboys lost to the Jets last week – details later – both Dez Bryant and Terrell Owens criticized Jason Garrett and tried to pin the loss on him.  Remember when your Mom told you that you were known by the company you keep?  Well, the obverse can be true also.  Sometimes, the people who are against you speak eloquently to your credit.  Personally, I take the criticism(s) from Bryant and Owens as an endorsement for Jason Garrett.

I discussed the Packers’ win over the Lions in a Topical Rant earlier this week.  That game was not one that will likely be immortalized by NFL Films.

In last week’s Bagel Bowl where two winless teams sought to shed that label, the Skins beat the Dolphins 17-16.  Earlier in the week, the Dolphins’ coaching staff anointed Josh Rosen as the starting QB for the rest of the season.  Indeed, he started the game; but the coaches pulled him in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick in medias res.  A late two-touchdown rally by the Dolphins turned this into a nail-biter that ended with the Dolphins missing a 2-point conversion with only 6 seconds left on the clock.

Brad Dickson had this comment relative to the Skins’ game under their new interim head coach:

“You know unemployment is low when Bill Callahan gets a head coaching job.”

The Panthers beat the Bucs 37-26 in London.  The Panthers defense dominated this game with 7 sacks and 5 INTs.  With those stats, it is surprising that the Bucs scored 26 points.

The Seahawks rallied to beat the Browns 32-28.  The Browns had a 2 TD lead in the first half of this game and coughed it up.  Four Browns’ turnovers – including 3 INTs by Baker Mayfield – enabled the Seahawks’ comeback.  The Seahawks ran for 170 yards in the game and Russell Wilson threw 2 TDs – and scored a running TD on his own – to fuel the comeback.

The Vikes beat the Eagles 38-20.  The Eagles’ defense was a no-show last week allowing the Vikes 447 yards on offense.  Oh wait, The Vikes just scored another long TD over Rasul Douglas as I was typing that last sentence.

The Ravens beat the Bengals 23-17 last week.  The Bengals were competitive here, but they are still looking for their first win in 2019.  They played hard and they were in the game to the end.  Bengals’ WR, Auden Tate, had a breakout game – 5 receptions for 95 yards. In the end, though, this was just the Bengals being the Bengals and playing just poorly enough to lose.  The Bengals are a very bad NFL team right now.

The Saints beat the Jags 13-6.  The Saints’ defense limited the Jags to 226 yards total offense.

The Niners beat the Rams 20-7.  This was not the OVER 50 I predicted in last week’s Six-Pack but the Niners remain unbeaten.  The Niners’ defense stopped the Rams 4 times on 4th down in the game.  Jared Goff registered 78 yards passing in the game, and the Rams only totaled 157 yards on offense.  Holding the Rams to that low an output was thought to be as impossible as breaking the 4-minute mile once was.   The Rams tried to get a first down on third down or fourth down 13 times in this game; they converted ZERO of those attempts.

  • [Aside:  Do not think that only the Chargers’ fans in LA are not all that enthusiastic about their team.  The Niners had at least 40% of the LA Coliseum on their side for this game.  Front-running LA fans ought to be climbing all over the Rams in 2019 after a Super Bowl appearance as the climax to last year’s schedule; but they are not…]

The Texans beat the Chiefs 31-24 last week.  The Chiefs’ defense needs help – lots of help.  It gave up 192 yards rushing in this game.  The Texans and the Colts look like the class of the AFC South and should be battling it out for the rest of the season – – starting with a matchup this week.

The Broncos shut out the Titans 16-0 last week.  The Titans are not an offensive juggernaut but getting shut out by a Denver defense that has had problems of its own this year is pathetic.  Marcus Mariota was 7-18 for 63 yards and 2 INTs when he got pulled in favor of Ryan Tannehill.  The Broncos’ defense had 7 sacks in the game.

The Titans need to make a decision about their QB. Marcus Mariota’s contract is up at the end of the year; Ryan Tannehill probably isn’t the long-term answer under center. So, are the Titans ready to commit to Mariota?  Or should they go free-agent QB shopping?  Or can they find a QB in the draft?  The Titans’ defense is solid, but they need increased production on a consistent basis from the offense – – and that has not been forthcoming for a couple of seasons now.

The Jets beat the Cowboys 24-22.  The Jets’ offense looked competent with Sam Darnold on the field.  They were not an offensive juggernaut, but they were not a liability when they were on the field.  The Jets had been averaging a pathetic 179 yards on offense with Darnold in street clothes; in this game they had 338 yards on offense.  That’s not great but it is an 89% increase in productivity.  The Jets’ defense was harassing all day long; Dak Prescott was hammered more than a few times.  The Cowboys have now lost 3 in a row; this is the third straight game where they did not score a TD in the first half of the game.

The Cardinals beat the Falcons 34-33 last week.  The reason Dan Quinn was hired by the Falcons in the first place was his stature as a defensive guru.  In 2019, the Falcons rank 26th in the NFL in yards allowed per game at 388.8.  Last week, Kyler Murray threw for 340 yards and 3 TDs against the Falcons’ defense.  Matt Ryan had a stat line that should have belonged to a winning QB and not a losing one:

  • 30 for 36 for 356 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs

The margin of defeat for the Falcons was a missed PAT by Matt Bryant.  Having said that, Bryant is not responsible for the loss here.

The Patriots dominated the Giants 35-14 last week.  The Pats gave up their first passing TD of the year in the game.  I guess Giants’ fans can count that as a bight spot for the Giants.  The Pats do need to get better at WR – – through a trade or through the healing of Josh Gordon and his leg injuries.  Take your pick…

The Steelers beat the Chargers 24-17.  This game was not nearly as close as the score appears; the Steelers dominated from the start.  Melvin Gordon only gained 18 yards on the ground here; the Steelers’ defense was suffocating.  The Steelers won this game on the road playing their 3rd string QB.  Now, the Steelers get a welcome scheduling respite.  They have their BYE Week followed by a game against the sorry-assed Dolphins

  • Memo to Steelers’ Coaches and Players:  You must not squander this scheduling largesse…

Even though this game was in LA, the crowd was clearly pro Steelers.  If you told me that 60% of the fans were wearing “black and gold” for the game, I would concur.  Visiting teams need not fear playing an away game at the Chargers home field..  The Chargers are 1-3 at “home” this year.

 

NFL Games:

 

Teams taking a break this week:

  1. Browns:  That hissing sound you hear is all the over-inflated hype that was pumped into balloons for Browns’ fans during the last offseason.
  2. Bucs:  They get time off to decompress from last week’s game in London.  The Bucs record today is 2-4 and their record at home is 0-3.  Interesting…
  3. Panthers:  They too get time off to decompress from last week’s game in London.  The Panthers are hanging in NFC South race only one game behind the Saints.
  4. Steelers:  They won an important game last week with solid defense and a 3rd string QB who did not embarrass himself or the team.  For the longer term, they need Mason Rudolph to clear the concussion protocols

There has been a lot of “line movement” this week in NFL games.  Please do not ask me to explain why…

Arizona at Giants – 3 (50.5):  This spread opened at 1 point and has expanded slowly as the week progressed.  Kyler Murray has had two big games in a row; you can devalue that a bit by pointing out that those games came against the Bengals and Falcons – ranked 29th and 26th respectively in total defense this year.  However, he goes against a Giants’ defense this week that ranks 28th this year.  Why not another big game?  Meanwhile, the 30th ranked Cards’ defense gets to try and stop Daniel Jones…  This is not the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, but it came close to earning that stigma.

Houston at Indy – 1 (47):  The spread opened here with the Texans as a 1-point road favorite.  That flipped over quickly and now the spread has been steady for a couple of days.  This is the Game of the Week between two teams with winning records fighting it out for the lead in their division.  The Texans’ Deshaun Watson has been outstanding for the last couple of weeks – coincidentally the Texans’ O-Line has protected him for those two games.  The Colts have been solid all season long.  The key to the game is the ability of the Texans’ defense to contain the Colts’ running attack; so far this year, the Texans have been solid there ranking 8th in the NFL

Miami at Buffalo – 17 (41):  The Bills come off a BYE Week to host a junior varsity opponent.  There is no way I would take the Dolphins on the road nor is there any way I would lay 17 points with the Bills’ inconsistent offense.  The most interesting aspect of this game to me is this;

  • Will the Dolphins score more than once in the game?

Minnesota – 2 at Detroit (45):  Here is another game where the favorite has flipped; the Lions opened the week as a 1-point favorite.  The Vikes offense has had two good outings in a row (against the Giants and the Eagles); maybe they are on a roll?  The Lions come to the game off a short week after losing to the Packers and the officials on Monday Night.

Oakland at Green Bay – 6 (47):  This spread opened with the Packers as 7.5-point favorites.  Like the Lions, the Packers come to the game off a short work week.  Meanwhile, the Raiders had a BYE last week.  I think there are 2 keys to this game:

  1. Can the Packers run defense stop Josh Jacobs?  The Packers rank 23rd in the league in run defense allowing 124.5 yards per game.
  2. Will the Packers have either Davante Adams or Geronimo Allison – or both – active as WRs?

I’ll put the Raiders plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

Jax – 3.5 at Cincy (44):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Jags were bad enough before they traded Jalen Ramsey away earlier this week.  The Bengals are just plain bad.  The Jags should run the ball all day long; the Bengals surrender an embarrassing 184.5 yards per game.  That is the worst in the NFL by a margin of 14.9 yards per game.

Rams – 3 at Atlanta (55):  Both defenses are suspect here.  Both offenses seem to feast on marginal defenses.  If forced to make a pick here I would play OVER.  Fortunately, I am not forced to do anything, so I’ll pass on that opportunity.

SF – 9.5 at Washington (41) The Total Line opened at 43.5 and has dropped to this level.  No; I do not know why.  Kyle Shanahan may want to rub it in here for the way he and his father were escorted out of town by Danny Boy Snyder and his Enabler-in Chief, Bruce Allen.  Just a hunch, I’ll put the Niners in this week’s Six-Pack and lay the points.

Chargers at Tennessee – 2 (40):  You can find this line from 2.5 points all the way down to 1 point this morning.  The Chargers are just not nearly as good as I thought they might be back in August; the Titans continue to be the most inconsistent team in the league.  Ryan Tannehill starts at QB for the Titans; is that a plus?

Baltimore at Seattle – 3 (49):  If you adhere to the rule of thumb that a home team gets a 3-point advantage, this game would be a “pick-‘em” at a neutral site.  That looks about right to me – but I think the Seahawks enjoy a larger home-field advantage than your garden-variety NFL squad.  Russell Wilson would be my pick for MVP if I had a vote and if the vote were held this morning.  I’ll put the Seahawks to win and cover in this week’s Six-Pack.

New Orleans at Chicago – 3 (38):  I gave this game serious consideration as the Game of the Week.  The Bears just put Kyle Long – their best offensive lineman – and Akiem Hicks – a damned good defensive lineman – on IR.  Moreover, I don’t know who their starting QB is going to be.  Too many unknowns to make a pick here…

(Sun Nite) Philly at Dallas – 3 (49):  If these teams had winning records, this would have been the Game of the Week because it is an important division game and because these teams – channeling Keith Jackson here – just plain don’t like each other.  Amari Cooper may or may not be available; if he does play, he will likely be less than 100%.  In that case, I think the Eagles’ defense should be able to deal with the Cowboys passing attack.  Now, can they also handle Ezekiel Elliott?

(Mon Nite) New England – 9.5 at Jets (42):  Sam Darnold makes a positive difference on offense for the Jets.  He did not play in the first meeting between these two teams.  The Pats had that game so well under control that they played backup Jarret Stidham for the 4th quarter.  I don’t think the Jets can win here, but it will be a much more interesting game than the one back in Week 3.

Let me summarize this week’s Six-Pack:

  1. Arizona St. +13.5 against Utah
  2. Oregon – 3 over Washington
  3. Florida – 4 over South Carolina
  4. Raiders + 6 against Packers
  5. Niners – 9.5 over Skins
  6. Seahawks – 3 over Ravens

Finally, Brad Dickson offered up some courtship advice that is pertinent to NFL football:

“Forty-niners defensive lineman D.J. Jones just proposed to his girlfriend on the sidelines at Monday Night Football. That’s crazy. A proposal should be done in absolute privacy when there’s not a soul around – say, at Thursday Night Football.”

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

 

 

Writing Schedule Disruption

We have house guests who will arrive on Sunday (15 September) and stay through Thursday (19 September).  Then on Friday (20 September) we leave for a weekend trip with other friends not to return until the following Monday (23 September).

I doubt I will have time to do much writing next week – – and I am positive that I will not have the time to compile the data let alone to actually write a Football Friday next week.

Then, we have a different set of house guests arriving on the following Thursday (26 September).

The bottom line is that the writing schedule for the next two weeks will be sporadic.  There will definitely not be a Football Friday next week (20 September) but I will try to do one early in the week after next week.  Oh, and in the middle of all this social stuff, I have dental appointment and a doctor’s appointment.

I plan to come up for air around October 1….

Stay well everyone.

 

Work Together…

About a week ago, the Washington Post ran a long story on the status of the NFL/NFLPA negotiations over a new CBA under this headline and sub-head:

  • A LIFETIME SPOILING FOR A FIGHT
  • NFLPA’S Smith warns of coming labor battle – and is ready to dig in

I do not doubt that there will be acrimony in these negotiations and I do not doubt that NFLPA leader, DeMaurice Smith, will need to do more than put up a “good fight” given that he has been accused of getting a not-so-good deal for the players in the last round of negotiations.  In addition, there has been plenty of reporting over the past year or so that there is some personal animus in the relationship between Smith and NFL Commish, Roger Goodell.

However, before we get sidetracked on secondary issues such as length of practices at training camp or the number of days devoted to OTA’s in the off-season or some proposed rule change involving pass interference calls, allow me focus on the big issue first.  That big issue should lead the reporters and commentators covering these negotiations to take the advice given to Bob Woodward back in Watergate days:

  • Follow the Money

The NFL is a $15-16B enterprise, and the owners and players share that money.  THE biggest issue by far is what percentage of that money goes to the owners and what percentage goes to the players.  If the sides find a way to come to an agreement there, NO OTHER ISSUE will hold up a finalized CBA.

The second most important issue is how the NFL and the NFLPA can work TOGETHER to increase the total revenue taken in by the league.  That is important because either side can do damage to this enterprise if they go into a prolonged work stoppage and/or they engage in behaviors that turn off the fans.  The way for BOTH sides to benefit is to grow the league revenue and that means they need to work together.

The two issues outlined above can be intertwined.  As I read the current CBA – and I admit that I do not understand it fully – it seems to me that the players get 47% of one category of revenue and 48.5% of a smaller category of revenue.  Let me posit here that the players are getting 47.5% of the football revenue – however that is defined.  Obviously, each side wants a larger percentage during the life of the next CBA; moreover, the owners would like to skim some revenue off the top for things like a “stadium building and rehabilitation fund”.  The fundamental issue is that the sides may haggle over the percentage of the split, but it is in the interest of neither side to do anything that takes the game off television or takes the game off the betting boards in the various states that now allow sports betting.  To make that happen is self-immolation.

The media coverage ought not to focus on the “spoiling for a fight” aspect of these negotiations; the real story here is what are the activities going on in the background while each side holds their press conferences to air their side of the story.  Not much of substance happens in that arena; the real reporting ought to be what is happening in the talks that are taking place in private.

There is a situation ongoing in college football where – similarly – there is a relatively simple solution to a problem but any movement toward that simple solution has gotten no media traction.  The issue is the ability of players to transfer from one school to another and the waiver system that allows some of them to play without sitting out a season while others must miss a year.  Michigan coach, Jim Harbaugh, enunciated a solution that would work to resolve this issue.  Here it is:

“My opinion is that every student-athlete should have a one-time ability to transfer and will not have to sit out a year.  I’d keep the graduate-transfer rule in place that we have right now.”

That may or may not be perfect – – but it is far better than the waiver-application process via the transfer portal with subsequent approvals or denials of waiver applications by some faceless NCAA adjudication entity.  And now, here is why that simple and direct solution to this problem will never happen:

  1. The language there is clear and unambiguous.  It was stated in 34 words and not 34 pages of paragraphs and nested sub-paragraphs with multiple uses of the words, “whereas”, “however”, “moreover”, “in light of”, “accompanying” … you get the idea.
  2. More importantly, this process would require no oversight and no approval by any of the poohbahs in the NCAA hierarchy.  It would put the student-athletes in charge of their own lives/careers.  Anyone who thinks that is a prime objective at NCAA headquarters likely also thinks one needs to be a Medal of Honor recipient to order a Hero Sandwich.

As we approach August, MLB still has 5 teams on track to lose 100 games in 2019.

  1. Tigers project to lose 113 games
  2. Orioles project to lose 107 games
  3. Royals project to lose 102 games
  4. Blue Jays project to lose 101 games
  5. Marlins project to lose 100 games

Finally, here is an item I found in Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times:

“Brewers pitcher Jhoulys Chacin walked in three straight runs with the bases loaded.

“Lovers of the George Foreman Grill are just dying to know: So when is Jhoulys Chacin Wok Night?”

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

 

 

On Hiatus …

I shall be off the air for about 3 weeks.  Later today, my long-suffering wife and I leave for two weeks of traveling around Switzerland by a series of train rides.  After that, we will fly to Ireland for a week to visit The FOG – – The First and Only Grandson – – and his parents too.

If all goes according to plan, we will be home late in the afternoon of June 17th.  Depending on the impact of jet-lag and the attending chores of returning home, I hope to be back on June 18th – – but it might not be until June 19th.

Please check back then.

Stay well, all…

 

The Jets Lead The News…

In recent years, the Bengals, Browns, Cardinals, Jags, Lions, Raiders and Skins have dominated NFL news items involving ineptitude and outlandishness.  A team that has been on the periphery of that septet has now seemed to demand entry into that “fraternity”; welcome to the NY Jets.  Yesterday, they fired their GM and handed that job – on an interim basis to be sure – to their new head coach who arrives with a career record of 23-25 and whose experience as a GM is ZERO.  As if that is not bad enough, consider:

  • The GM they just fired is the guy who just hired this hugely successful coach
  • The GM they just fired is the guy who signed up all the team’s free agents for the 2019 season.
  • The GM they just fired is the guy who organized and ran the NFL Draft that just passed.

If the GM was found to be embezzling team funds, I can understand this decision at this time.  If there are allegations that he has been sexually abusing household pets, I can understand this decision at this time.  Absent anything of those natures, this decision is ever so indicative of a franchise in disarray.  Welcome to Disarray Island, NY Jets.

Earlier this week, there was a headline at CBSSports.com that read:

  • Ten Storylines to Watch at the PGA Championship 

As you might imagine, the examples here were nonsensically focused on Tiger Woods to the extent that the entire compilation read like an old David Letterman routine on “Ten Things…”  This is NOT the CBSSports.com list; it is my impression of what the author there wanted to write – – but the editor demanded a slightly broader coverage:

  • Will Tiger Woods Eat the Same Breakfasts at the PGA as He Did at the Masters?
  • Did Tiger Woods Sleep Well Last Week?
  • How Regular Has Tiger Woods Been – A Septic Tank Check-up.
  • Does Anyone Dare Challenge Tiger Woods for This Championship?
  • Notice That Tiger Woods Always Wears Matching Socks in Majors
  • Will Adverse Weather Affect Tiger Woods at All?
  • Is Tiger Woods’ Caddy the Smartest Caddy on The Course?
  • Can Tiger Woods Go “Back-to-Back” in Majors? [On the golf course; not with waitresses. Get your mind out of the gutter…]
  • Can Tiger Woods Fart His Way to Fame This Week – – and the most important story line form this weekend’s PGA Championship
  • Which is Closer to the Bethpage Clubhouse – a Perkins Pancake House or an IHOP?

Since I was speaking about a headline to an article at CBSSports.com just above, let me note here that all the way back in 2016, those same good folks reported that Caitlyn Jenner would pose nude for a Sports illustrated cover.  I wish it were not so because the image evoked is significantly worse than disgusting – – but here is the link:

For anyone seeking a sign that the apocalypse is upon humankind, take that event and put it high up on your list of things to watch for…

Speaking of silly storylines and/or headlines, here is one from The Onion.

  • Kyrie Irving Promises He Won’t Quit on Whatever Team He Signs with This Offseason

When you read the stories going around now that the NCAA is contemplating changing the 3-point line in men’s basketball from the current distance to the “international distance”, the best advice I can offer is the title of a former cable TV comedy show:

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm

If my calculations are correct, the displacement of the 3-point line will be a grand total of 20 inches.  A difference of 20 inches would be important if you were comparing:

  • A home run that just cleared the left field wall in a baseball game
  • A horse race involving a purse of $2M
  • A 4th and 20 play in the Super Bowl that gained 19 yards and 16 inches
  • Porn Star A versus Porn Star B.

With regard to men’s college basketball, this would be a cosmetic change and nothing more than that.

Finally, here is another golf comment from an author and golf champion of the past, Horace G. Hutchinson, since the PGA Championship will commence later today:

“If profanity had any influence on the flight of the ball, the game of golf would be played far better than it is.”

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

 

 

Schedule Uncertainty

I have been summoned for jury duty tomorrow.  I am only obligated to show up for one day – – unless of course I am seated on a jury and then I am committed for the duration of the trial.  The last time I was called to the courthouse, the trial I heard lasted for 4 days.

Of course, it is possible that I will be dismissed early enough tomorrow to get home and write a rant.  Somehow, that seems like more than I can rely on – – so I will probably not write tomorrow and I hope to be able to be free on Friday to do a rant then.

Please check back then.

Stay well, all…

 

Great Minds – – – And All That Stuff

Today I ran across a blog item by Brad Dickson formerly with the Omaha World-Herald.  In the piece, he decides which activites are “Real Sports” and which ones are “Not Real Sports“.  You can read it here; it is worth your time and effort.

https://www.braddicksononline.com/sports/2019/3/15/realsport

Back in 2001, I took a shot at something similar writing about what activities were sports and what participants were athletes.    You can read – or reread if you have been around here that long – my take on this subject here.

What Is A Sport – Who Is An Athlete?

If this were a high school English class, you would have to “Compare and Contrast”.  Fortunately for all of us, this is not a high school English class…

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

 

 

On Hiatus

I will be off the air until next Tuesday – – March 5.

My long-suffering wife and I are heading to Arizona to spend a weekend with friends from grad school days.  I will be taking in a handful of Spring Training  baseball games; my wife will be taking in crafts fairs and museums.  A good time will be had by all…

See you next week…

Stay well, everyone.