Confused By A Court Ruling…

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the Ed O’Bannon/NCAA lawsuit last week saying that the NCAA rules which restrict payments to athletes violate antitrust laws but it also found that the District Court Judge was wrong in ruling that athletes could receive $5K in compensation for the NCAA using their likenesses to generate revenues. Normally, at this point, I would try to expand upon that statement; but to be frank, it seems self-contradictory to me. Even worse, people who have written about it have claimed that the Appeals Court decision is a victory for both sides. I do not understand that either.

I barely know how to spell Sherman Anti-Trust Act but it sure does seem to me that the NCAA is a “combination in restraint of trade” and I do recall from my high school history classes that such entities are forbidden by the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. I will stand corrected if someone argues that it is not the NCAA that is the “combination” here but it is the various conferences that are amalgams of NCAA members that are the entities doing the “restraining”. So, if indeed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that NCAA rules are somehow in violation of the anti-trust laws, I do not see how that can be a “victory” for the NCAA. Here is a portion of the ruling from last week:

“The NCAA is not above the antitrust laws, and courts cannot and must not shy away from requiring the NCAA to play by the Sherman Act’s rules. In this case, the NCAA’s rules have been more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism in support of the college sports market. The Rule of Reason requires that the NCAA permit its schools to provide up to the cost of attendance to their student athletes. It does not require more.”

To me, that sounds as if the court is telling both sides that they lost. The NCAA has a new set of standards to operate under and the athletes get scholarships as their ”compensation” for going to a school and playing sports there. That sounds to me as if neither side got what it wanted out of this matter. In fact, it sounds as if the athletes lost some important ground in terms of seeking payment for their services by colleges:

“…in finding that paying students cash compensation would promote amateurism as effectively as not paying them, the district court ignored that not paying student-athletes is precisely what makes them amateurs.”

Frankly, it is a bit sad to me to learn that it took folks at the appellate level of the Federal Judiciary to figure out that not paying the players is the essence of amateurism…

Surely, this is not over and there will be more to come from this lawsuit. Hopefully, the next ruling will be a tad clearer for those of us who are interested in sports but not steeped in the legal construct of anti-trust law. Here is a summary article from last week; perhaps it will make things clearer than I can make them here

I am not one who goes to a sporting event and revels in the antics of team mascots. To my mind, the best of the mascots rise to the level of “mildly annoying”. Those comments set the stage for my reaction to a story from last week about Ragnar the Viking. He is the guy who rides his motorcycle out in the stadium during Minnesota Vikings’ games; his costume consists of furry boots and vest, a metal helmet with horns and a huge beard. I guess the word I would use to describe him – never having seen him in person – would be “harmless”. Last year, the Vikings paid Ragnar $1500 per home game ($12K per season) for his services; this year, Ragnar wanted a raise to $20K per game ($160K per season). You need not get out your calculator to realize that is more than a “cost of living increase” in percentage terms. Also, not surprisingly, the Vikings did not accede to his demand and unless there is some kind of negotiated settlement, the Vikings will have to go forth this year without Ragnar and his motorcycle.

At some point, I suspect that someone will write some kind of sappy story about how a certain element of attending Vikings’ games has been missing now that Ragnar is not on the premises. When you read such a story, please recall the numbers here and ask yourself:

    If you owned the Vikings, would you pay a mascot $160K a season – and more if the team has a home playoff game or two?

I do not think I need to spell out what my response would be…

Picking up on another story from last week, the Washington Nationals fired Matt Williams as their manager because the team did not come close to living up to expectations for this season. Williams just finished his second year as manager of the team and – interestingly – he was the NL Manager of the Year in 2014. Juxtaposing the two seasons, one might draw different conclusions:

    A. Williams got awfully stupid awfully fast in 2015 to go from “Manager of the Year” to “Expendable Scapegoat of the Year” – – or – –

    B. “Manager of the Year” is pretty much a meaningless honor despite that significance that the folks who vote on it attach to it.

The entire coaching staff for the team has also been sent packing but the GM who assembled this team of underachievers is still in place and the activist owner of the team has not yet figured out neither the manager nor a single coach ever blew a lead in the 7th or 8th inning to lose a game and that the players were responsible for each and every runner left in scoring position all season long.

With regard to the MLB playoffs:

    Take the OVER in games between the Rangers and the Blue Jays.

    Take the UNDER in games between the Mets and Dodgers when Kershaw or Grienke pitch for the Dodgers.

    I will go with an avian World Series – Blue Jays versus Cardinals.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding baseball records:

“I’m sorry, but there are too many records in Major League Baseball. The other night a game was halted to announce a player just tied the mark for most stolen bases on a Thursday by a guy named Gary.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 10/3/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were not mythically profitable at 6-7-2 but it was hardly the worst weekend ever for college Mythical Picks. Overall for the season, the record now stands at 27-27-3. That record reminds me of a comment made by Gene Mauch when he was the manager of the Phillies back in the dearly 1960s. After splitting a Sunday doubleheader – millennials can Google this term to find out what they were – a reporter asked him something along the lines of how he felt about the split. Mauch replied something like this:

    It is sort of like kissing your sister through a screen door.

The “Best Pick” from last week taking the Mississippi State/Auburn game UNDER 58 and seeing it end with only 26 points on the board. The “Worst Pick” from last week has two entries:

    On Friday nite I took UVa +2.5 against Boise St. and UVa lost by 42. On Saturday morning, I thought it could not possibly get worse than that. After all, I was off by 39.5 points…

    Then, on Saturday, I took Oregon to beat Utah by 11 or more. Well, Oregon lost that game and it was not close; Oregon lost by 42 to Utah and the score reflected the way the game ought to have turned out. So. I was off by 53.5 points in the game meaning it was even worse than the Friday nite embarrassment.

No one ought to consider any of the information here as sufficiently authoritative such that one would consider it as a basis for making a real wager involving real money on a college football game this weekend.

    Anyone stupid enough to do that also thinks that ambassadors do not get sick because they have diplomatic immunity.

General Comments:

I must apologize; I misspoke last week. Linfield had the week off and did not visit Lewis and Clark in Portland last week. Instead, they will play that game this weekend. Linfield’s record remains at 2-0 as they embark on their conference schedule for the season and as they continue to keep alive their streak of winning seasons in football that started back in 1956.

Finlandia did indeed play its scheduled game against Wisconsin-Stevens Point. In keeping with the disastrous season for the Finlandia Lions they lost the game; moreover they lost big. The score was 77-6. That means that Finlandia now has a record of 0-4 and the cumulative score against them is 272-9.

I happened upon Finlandia because someone chided me for reveling in the success of Linfield and my search for a team at the other end of the stick was brief and ended as soon as I found Finlandia. I did not do any research other than the current record early in this season and so I did not notice the twist in the schedule for Finlandia that begins this week:

    Maranatha Baptist College comes to visit Finlandia this week. Maranatha is 0-4 on the season and it has been outscored by a cumulative 193-27. There is no line on this game, but consider the possibility that Maranatha might be a favorite in the game on the road. Would you like to back them…?

    Moreover, Finlandia and Maranatha will meet again this year on October 31. That is correct; these teams will play on Halloween; you cannot make this kind of stuff up. In any event, this provides at least two chances for Finlandia to win a game over a disastrously bad opponent – – just as it provides the same pair of opportunities for Maranatha. I will have to track the fate of the loser in this week’s contest…

Dabo Sweeney – head coach at Clemson – said in a press conference this week that he fills out his coaches’ poll ballot every week and he thinks it is a meaningless exercise this early in the season. Kudos to Dabo Sweeney for candor!!!

Oh, by the way, any coach who did not give Utah a vote in the Top Ten this week – irrespective of whether or not Utah is going to be one of the 10 best teams in the country come December – should have his voting privileges revoked. If coaches are going to do this kind of nonsense, they ought to spend enough time and energy to check the realities of the season and not merely the reputations of the schools on the ballots.

Utah’s defense is excellent. In the opening game of the year they completely stifled Michigan and the Wolverines have gone on to win their last three games convincingly. Last week, Utah shut down Oregon – a team that normally thinks scoring only 45 points in a game is a bad day at the office. Oregon only gained a smidge over 5 yards per snap; often they average over 11 yards per snap. Utah’s defensive line can play the run and it can pressure the QB. The Utes will be a tough out for opponents this season.

Utah won the game 62-20; it was an old fashioned ass-kicking. In the second quarter, Utah led 20-13 and it was still a game. From that point until the middle of the 4thquarter, Utah ran off 42 straight points before Oregon scored a meaningless TD at the end.

In another PAC-12 game, UCLA dominated Arizona and won by 26 points. I thought that UCLA freshman QB, Josh Rosen, might be uncomfortable with his first real road game against a real opponent with really rabid fans in the stands. The verdict is in:

    He was not even remotely uncomfortable.

    UCLA scored 42 points in the first half.

Speaking of Michigan above, the Wolverines shut out BYU last week 31-0. The Michigan defense held BYU to 50 yards rushing and 55 yards passing for the game. Before your disregard that accomplishment by Michigan, consider that BYU had beaten Nebraska and Boise St. and lost to UCLA by a single point coming into that game. Yes, the game was in Ann Arbor, but nonetheless…

Arkansas lost to Texas A&M by 7 points in OT last week. If I have counted correctly, that means that Arkansas teams under Bret Bielema are now 0-11 in games decided by 10 points or less. Just to be clear, that is not a good thing… Consider these stats:

    Arkansas held the Aggies to 2-9 on third down conversions.

    Arkansas held the ball for more than 40 minutes.

    Arkansas still managed to lose the game.

LSU beat Syracuse by 10 points in Syracuse. The Orange played tough throughout the game but they really did not have an answer for Leonard Fournette who gained 244 yards and scored 2 TDs in the game. Zack Mahoney started at QB for Syracuse. If you do not recognize the name, you can be excused because back in the days of Spring Practice, Mahoney was listed at #5 on the QB depth chart. He threw 3 TD passes in the game which is more than adequate for a “fifth-stringer”…

Florida beat Tennessee 28-27. The story of the game is not how close the score was; the story here is that Tennessee had a 13-point lead in the 4th quarter and managed to lose the game. That happened to Tennessee earlier this year against Oklahoma when the Vols blew another double-digit lead to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Last week, Florida came up with a 63-yard pass play in the final two minutes to take the lead and hold on for the win.

At kickoff time last week, Missouri was ranked #25 in the country in those less-than-meaningful polls. They traveled to Kentucky – hardly a traditional football powerhouse – and managed to lose the game 21-13. So, I hear some of you saying that Kentucky is a pretty good defensive team and this ought not to be so embarrassing. Well, it might not be except for the fact that Mizzou managed to score a grand total of 9 points against UConn just two weeks ago. All three of UConn’s other opponents scored more than 9 points this year and those three juggernauts were :


Missouri carries a 3-1 record so far this year but the upcoming SEC schedule will provide a higher level of competition than the Tigers have seen fit to schedule so far. Florida, Georgia, Mississippi St and BYU – along with other SEC opponents await Mizzou…

Bowling Green beat Purdue 35-28. That is the second win of the year for Bowling Green over a Big 10 team; they beat Maryland earlier in the season. Bowling Green is one of those teams that plays offense at a frenetic pace; they ran off 92 plays last week; they were 11-16 on third down conversions and they gained 39 first downs in the game. Bowling Green loves to throw the football; the passing stat line for the game was 43-59 with 1 INT producing 402 yards though the air.

Maryland could not handle the pace of Bowling Green earlier this year; last week, they faced West Virginia who also plays the game at breakneck speed. The Terps lost to the Mountaineers by 45-6. This appears to be a bad omen for Maryland. If any of the “lower-tier” Big 10 teams can play at such a pace, the Terps could be in trouble because you can be sure that the “top-tier” Big 10 teams are going to play smash-mouth football against the Terps and beat them with that style of play.

TCU and Texas Tech played what is coming to be known as a “Typical Big 12 Game”; the final score was TCU 55 and Texas Tech 52. TCU caught a tipped pass in the end zone in the final minute of the game to come from behind and win the game. The two teams combined to produce 107 points, 70 first downs, 187 offensive plays and 1357 yards of offense. About 50 years ago, Jerry Lee Lewis sang:

Whole lot of shakin’ going on…

It is safe to say that in the TCU/Texas game:

Not a whole lot of tacklin’ going on…

For Texas last week it was déjà vu; special teams undid the Longhorns for the second week in a row; Texas lost its last two games by a total of 4 points. Two weeks ago, Texas lost when they missed an extra point that would have tied the game in the final moments. Last week with the score tied, the punter flubbed the snap from center and could only get off a kick that reached the original line of scrimmage around the Texas 25 yardline late in the 4th quarter. From there Oklahoma State kicked a game-winning field goal with less than 10 seconds left to produce yet one more stain on the Longhorns’ record for the season. Let me put this in perspective for you:

    Texas is 1-3 so far this year.

    The last time Texas started 1-3 was back in 1956.

Kansas State must be recruiting their football players with an eye toward having them bond together and share in the same major. Consider:

    Potential linguistics majors include DL Bryce English and OL Scott Frantz

    Potential forestry majors include OL Will Ash and DL Tanner Wood.

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week, the favorites in Ponderosa Games covered in 4 of the 9 contests. That brings the cumulative record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 19-20-0.

Baylor, Iowa, Notre Dame and Wisconsin covered.

Alabama, LSU, Michigan St. Mississippi and Ohio State did not cover.

This week, we have only 4 Ponderosa Games;

Army at Penn State – 25 (47.5): These teams last played each other in 1979. Notwithstanding the lack of any semblance of a “traditional rivalry”, I read a report that said the game was sold out and the crowd in State College was expected to be 107,000.

Wyoming at Appalachian St – 25 (53.5): I do not recall ever seeing Appalachian St. as a Ponderosa favorite.

Hawaii at Boise St. – 24.5 (53.5): The weather forecast for Boise this Saturday is partly sunny with a high of 71 degrees. Better for Hawaii to be there for a game in September than in the last week of November…

E. Michigan at LSU – 44.5 (59.5): Here are the money line odds for this game:

    E. Michigan is plus-71,500
    LSU is minus-165,000

Enjoy the game…

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Temple – 22 at UNC-Charlotte (44): My first reaction here was surprise that Temple was a 22-point favorite over any other Div 1-A school. Then I recognized that this is UNC-Charlotte’s first year as a Div 1-A school and that Temple had already beaten Penn state and Cincy this year. I am not happy about taking Temple on the road with that big a spread so I’ll just take the game to go OVER.

(Fri Nite) UConn at BYU – 18.5 (44): After starting the season with Nebraska, Boise St. UCLA and Michigan and splitting that strong quartet, BYU gets a softer opponent to come to their house. The question is if the team can get up for this game or if it will take the outcome for granted. With E. Carolina coming up on the schedule next, there is not a lot of reason to look ahead to a tough opponent next week. I’ll take BYU at home and lay the points.

UNC at Georgia Tech – 7.5 (62): The spread here opened the week at 10 points but it has settled here for the last couple of days. UNC is a yo-yo team; Georgia Tech is a one-trick pony. My guess is that one of these teams is going to make that spread look silly – but I have no idea which one. I will watch the game to see the outcome with the hope of learning something for a game down the line but no pick is coming here.

Bowling Green – 8 at Buffalo (68): If a pair of lower-tier Big 10 teams cannot stop Bowling Green, why should I think Buffalo can. This is the University of Buffalo not the Buffalo Bills. I’ll take Bowling Green and lay the points.

Kansas at Iowa St – 16 (59): Iowa State is not a good football team and I am not trying to say that it is. Nevertheless, I think Kansas is potentially a truly awful team and they are on the road here. I will take Iowa St. at home and lay the points.

Minnesota at Northwestern – 4 (40): Minnesota has a good defense and so does Northwestern. Neither team has an offense that will strike fear into the heart of an opposing defensive coordinator. This game should be very low scoring (as the Total Line would indicate) and so, I’ll take Minnesota plus the points.

West Virginia at Oklahoma – 7 (58.5): I think West Virginia can score points here and I do not think that West Virginia can hold the OU offense in check and off the board. I like this game to go OVER.

Iowa at Wisconsin – 7 (46): Here is the game within the game:

    Wisconsin can and will run the ball effectively against just about anyone.
    Iowa has not yielded a rushing TD yet this year.

In 4 games Iowa has only given up a total of 336 yards on the ground. That sounds really good until I tell you that in 4 games, Wisconsin has only given up a total of 331 yards on the ground. I think this is a game where two teams try to bludgeon each other into submission and neither is going to succeed. In a low scoring game, I’ll take Iowa plus the points.

Mississippi St. at Texas A&M – 7 (61.5): The Total Line for this game opened the week at 56.5 but spent very little time at that level. I know that the Aggies can move the ball and score but I also have seen Mississippi St. hold LSU’s offense in check. I like Mississippi St. plus the points here and I like the game to stay UNDER.

Kansas St. at Oklahoma St – 8 (49): This may not be the best Kansas State team Bill Snyder ever put on the field, but I am not all that enamored by Oklahoma St. either. That line looks fat to me so I’ll take Kansas St. plus the points.

Arizona St at UCLA – 13.5 (60): Arizona St. had enough talent that many folks had them as a dark horse to win the South Division of the PAC-12. They have not played that way so far – but if the talent was there I guess it is still there. I will not make a pick here but I will watch the outcome here to see if Arizona St. is a team worthy of backing somewhere down the line.

Arizona at Stanford – 14 (63.5): Arizona may not be a great team, but it is a competent team. I do not trust the Stanford offense to score enough to cover 2 full TDs against a competent team. I’ll take Arizona plus the points here.

Texas at TCU – 14.5 (71): I think TCU can score points on anybody and I am not confident that Texas can score a lot on the TCU defense – even though TCU has injury problems there. I like TCU at home to win and cover.

Air Force at Navy – 5 (51): There will be no malingerers on the field in this game. More than likely, this game will go down to the wire so I am not inclined to guess which team will do whatever near the end to determine the outcome. Rather, I think that these guys will both be successful on offense and so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Alabama at Georgia – 2 (55): Alabama is an underdog for the first time in 73 games. The last time Alabama got points was in the 2009 SEC Championship Game against Florida. This will one of the top 3 games of the weekend. Georgia features Nick Chubb running the ball; after you finish talking about Leonard Fourchette at LSU, the next RB you want to rave about is Nick Chubb. Simple question:

    Can the Alabama defense hold Chubb in check?

My guess is that they can and in so doing the Alabama defense will keep the game UNDER. My pick here is UNDER.

Mississippi – 7 at Florida (52): This should be a great game and it is an important game within the SEC. Neither team has a loss this year. Florida has beaten SEC foes Kentucky and Tennessee by a total of 5 points; the Gators know what it means to be in a close game down to the end. Ole Miss has beaten Alabama by 6 points and has toyed with its other 3 opponents. Florida has a good defense and a mediocre offense so I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.

Texas Tech at Baylor – 17 (88): Tech stayed within a field goal of TCU last week and they are a three score dog here. That has to mean that most folks think that Tech left everything on the field last week and have nothing left for this game. The Total Line opened here at 85.5 and has risen slowly to this level. I think that any “great defensive play” that occurs in this game will be an accident. I will just watch this game and see of Texas Tech can take the Total over 100 points for a second week in a row…

Oregon – 7 at Colorado (70): I know that Oregon got waxed last week by Utah and the game was in Eugene. Moreover, I know that this game is in Boulder. However, please to not confuse Colorado with Utah. Also, know that Oregon has beaten Colorado by 30 or more points in each of the last 4 seasons no matter the venue. Assuming that the entire Oregon squad is not comatose at kickoff time, I think Oregon rolls here. I’ll take Oregon to win and cover on the road.

Washington St. at Cal – 19 (70): Cal can score points here; they put 46 on the board against Texas. Washington St should score here too because Cal’s defense is not exactly potent. I’ll take this game will go OVER – and it would not shock me to see it go OVER by the end of the 3rd quarter.

Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee St – 2 (50): I do not understand this line at all. Vandy has played Mississippi and Georgia this year; while they did not win either game, they kept it close and made the other guys work for the win. Here they play Middle Tennessee St. and they are the underdog? Here is a golden rule of sports wagering:

    Oddsmakers do not play favorites and oddsmakers do not have their heads up their asses.

Because that line is so confusing to me, I will simply pass on it and move on…

South Carolina at Missouri – 2 (41): Here are two hugely disappointing teams so far in 2015. S. Carolina lost its QB to injury; Missouri will go to its backup QB due to a suspension for the starter. Both teams have already lost to Kentucky this year. Totally as a venue call, I’ll take Mizzou and lay the points at home.

Arkansas at Tennessee – 6.5 (56): This game is interesting only to see which team will find a way to lose in the final minutes. Instead of betting the game, take your money and go put it all on “BLACK” for a spin of the roulette wheel.

Notre Dame at Clemson “pick ‘em” (54): Here is the last of the top 3 games of the weekend. The oddsmaker wants me to just pick the winner here. OK, I think Notre Dame is the better team so I’ll take Notre Dame to win here. Plain and simple…

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 10/4/15

Last week, the Mythical Picks were mythically profitable with a record of 9-7-0. That makes the cumulative record for the season stand at 25-23-1. Some of you may choose to look at that cumulative record and note that a person flipping a coin can expect to have a record as good as that one. Moreover, you would be absolutely correct in taking that position. However, the Curmudgeon Central Coin is doing much better than chance at the moment. Last week the Coin correctly predicted the Raiders/Cleveland game would go OVER 44.5. That brings the season record for Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games to 4-1-0. The sample size is small to be sure, but the record is impressive so far; that is an 80% success record if you please…

The “Best Pick” from last week was taking the Bills +3 points when the Bills went out and shellacked the Dolphins by 27 points. The “Worst Pick” from last week was taking the Colts – 3 points and watching them win the game by only 2 points.

No one should think of using any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on any NFL game this weekend. None of these picks are 50-Star Mortal-Lock Bet-The-Mortgage-Money Picks of the Decade. They are here for fun and amusement only.

    Anyone stupid enough to take these picks seriously is also dumb enough to rip the case off of his/her computer to find the cookies that are stored inside.

General Comments:

There are 7 undefeated teams in the NFL after 3 weeks. Here in Curmudgeon Central, we tend to focus on the other end of the spectrum and so, it is more appropriate to begin this week with the fact that there are still 4 winless teams in the standings:

    Baltimore Ravens: This franchise has never started a season 0-3 until now. They played the Broncos and the Bengals tough – and both the Broncos and Bengals are among the 7 undefeated teams. However, they also gave up almost 40 points to the Raiders… The Ravens’ defense is not what we have come to expect from that franchise and Steve Smith Sr. (age 36 by the way) is their “home-run threat” on offense. It may be a long season indeed in Baltimore.

    Chicago Bears: The entire fanbase for that team owes Jay Cutler a huge apology. The offense last week with Cutler on the sidelines for the entire game was an embarrassment to the Bears as a franchise – and that franchise has been around for almost a century now. The defense is not as bad as the offense – – but it is still not nearly good. The Bears are losing by almost 20 points per game!

    Detroit Lions: They have looked “blah” on offense and they have looked “blah” on defense. Other than that, all is well…

    New Orleans Saints: The Saints do not look as if they are ready to return to their Bizarro-world persona as the Aint’s, but they surely have not looked good this year at home or on the road.

There are too many teams that are 1-2 to go through them individually here but I do want to point to the SF 49ers as a team with a 1-2 record that might well be as bad or worse than half the teams on the “Winless List” above. After winning their opening game, the Niners have lost the next two and they have yielded 40+ points in each of those losses. The Niners’ offense has not looked good in either game but it would not really have mattered all that much; when you give up 40 points in an NFL game, the odds are overwhelming that you are going to lose.

The Niners front office found it necessary to fire Jim Harbaugh at the end of last year. The team did not perform nearly as well last year as it had in previous years under Harbaugh and there were hints that his intensity had worn thin on the players. Whether that was true or not, it was as obvious as the fact that night follows day that his continued existence in SF had worn thin with the GM and the Team President – who happens to be the son of the majority owner. In the offseason, the team lost to free agency/retirement a whole passel of good players on both offense and defense. And they turned over the coaching reins of the reconstructed team to Jim Tomsula.

Tomsula is a heartwarming story. He has been a football lifer coaching at every level imaginable including being a line coach in the NFL. He has never been a coordinator nor a head coach, but this was the team’s bold move in replacing Harbaugh. Let me be clear about a couple of things here:

    1. I am not a Jim Harbaugh fanboy. He has been a successful – if not a long-term – coach in several places. His manic levels of intensity are sort of fun to watch from afar but could easily become frightening or at least annoying if I had to live with them.

    2. I am not a Jim Tomsula fanboy. If he succeeds, some will make him out to be a Horatio Alger character; there is neither harm nor glory in that. If he fails, there will be tons of folks out there who will claim to have “told you so”.

    3. As of this moment, Jim Tomsula is in a compromising position. The roster has turned over and has been restructured the way his bosses want it. He is the guy who is supposed to produce the results on Sundays. If the team plays the way it has the last two weeks, the team will not win many more games and will be embarrassed more than a couple of times. So, who is more likely to take the fall for that?

      The Horatio Alger character of a coach – – or – –

      The Team President – son of the majority owner – and his BFF the GM.

      You make the call…

Last week against the Cardinals, the Niners offered nothing more than token resistance; the analogy might be the French Army along the Maginot Line at the beginning of WW II. I have already admitted that I was wrong about the Cards in my pre-season predictions; barring a catastrophe, they are surely going to win more than the 7 games I gave them in those predictions. I was also wrong about the Niners; I thought the Niners would also win 7 games; and after seeing them in the first 3 games, I am not sure they can win 5 games. Colin Kaepernick threw two INTs for TDs early in the game last week and that did two things:

    1. It sealed the fate of the game right there and then. Importantly, the Niners did not fight to keep the game close; basically they sat back and absorbed a 40-point bludgeoning.

    2. It indicated that Colin Kaepernick continues to regress as a QB. There were two INTs after the early ones, but the 4 INTs only tell part of the story here. For the day, Kaepernick was 9-19 (hardly acceptable) for a total of 67 yards passing. That is only 3.5 yards per pass attempt; that is a level of production that is unacceptable for a high school QB.

As pathetic as the Niners were in losing by 40 to the Cards, the Bears looked worse in their 26-0 loss to the Seahawks. Getting shut out is never a good thing but the way the Bears lost is another whole ‘nother level of bad:

    A. The Bears had 10 possessions. They punted at the end of every possession.

    B. Six of those 10 punts came after three-and-out possessions.

    C. Jimmy Claussen was 9-17 passing for 67 yards.

Going into this game, Claussen had a career record of 1-10 as a starter in the NFL and that win came over a team with John Skelton at QB back in 2010. As of this morning he is 1-11 as a starter…

Tyler Lockett – rookie WR and return man from Kansas State – returned the second half kickoff for the Seahawks 105 yards for a TD. Lockett already has two returns for TDs this year (the other was a punt return) and the Seahawks ought to find a way to give him a few snaps at the WR position too. Since I have mentioned how wrong I was in some of my pre-season predictions, allow me to direct your attention to the fact that I specifically said Lockett would be a positive addition to the team.

After seeing how bad the Bears and Niners have been to this point in the season, one might think that it is a good thing they are not in the same division so they do not have to play each other. Not so fast, my friend… The schedule mavens in the NFL have set up the Niners to travel to Chicago on 6 December. Moreover, the Bears play the Lions twice, the Skins and the Bucs. Fans in Chicago will have plenty of time on Sundays this year to catch up on their needlepoint projects…

Speaking of the Lions, they too stink. They are not going to be “0-16 bad” as they were just a few years ago, but they are not a good football team. The offense is mediocre and the defense does not make plays that set up that mediocre offense in ways that the offense can cash in. Last week against the Broncos, Peyton Manning threw for 324 yards and Demaryius Thomas caught 9 balls for 92 yards. However, it was the Broncos’ defense that was most impressive in the game; those guys are good…

The Panthers beat the Saints 27-22. The Saints played with backup QB, Luke McCown at the controls so that 5-point margin of victory is not all that impressive. If the Saints’ fans want to look for something positive here, they lost their first game by 12 points and their second game by 7 points and their third game by only 5 points. There are still a half-dozen games on the schedule against opponents that are far below “fearsome”. However, the Saints’ defense just has to get a lot better if they are going to win games… For the Panthers, it sure looks to me as though Cam Newton is the mirror image of Colin Kaepernick. Newton seems to understand how to run a passing attack at the NFL level; when the defense gives you an open tight end, the idea is to deliver the ball there as soon as you see it. Last week, he and Greg Olsen hooked up so often that people were wondering if they needed to get a room; Olsen caught 11 passes for 134 yards and 2 TDs.

The Giants had a double-digit lead in the 4th quarter against the Skins last Thursday night and so it was perfectly appropriate to think of how the Giants would squander that lead. Well, they did not do that in this game partly because the Skins are not nearly as good as the Cowboys or the Falcons who had closed on the Giants in the first two games. Coming into the game, the Skins had the #1 rushing offense in the league and the Giants shut it down; the Skins’ leading rusher on Sunday was Matt Jones with 38 yards on 11 carries. For some reason, Alfred Morris was a rare sight on the field in the game even when it became clear that the Giants were ready for anything Jones might throw at them.

The Bills pounded the Dolphins into submission on Sunday winning 41-14 after leading 27-0 at the half and coming home on cruise control. The Dolphins had legitimate playoff aspirations this year but their only win came over a truly mediocre Skins’ team by 7 points – and the margin of victory was provided by a punt return for a TD. Jim Tomsula will get the benefit of the doubt for a while if the Niners crash and burn this year; Joe Philbin will not. Whatever happened to the nominally dominant Miami defense with the addition of Ndamukong Suh; it got pushed around once again…? The Bills’ have gotten excellent play from young QB, Tyrod Taylor. Last week Taylor was 21-29 for 277 yards. Those are not “Brady Numbers” nor “Rodgers Numbers”, but they are satisfactory numbers for a team that also plays sound defense.

The Raiders beat the Browns 27-20 to go 2-1 for the season with the Bears up next on the schedule. There may indeed be a ray of light out there in “The Black Hole”. There are 3 second year QBs in the NFL at the moment and Derek Carr has been the most impressive of the three to date. He has thrown 5 TDs and only 1 INT so far. Those are not stratospheric stats, but the ratio is very positive. As flawed as the stat is, Carr also has a QB Rating of 104.2 and you cannot play poorly and still get that kind of a rating.

The Raiders’ win was the first win for the team in the Eastern Time Zone since December 2009 – not quite 6 years. The Raiders’ last road win was all the way back in November 2013 and the last time the Raiders had a 2-game winning streak was in 2012. I am not yet ready to pencil them in for a playoff slot, but this year’s Raiders’ team is competitive and you would not have said that without giggling about the Raiders over the last several years.

Meanwhile, Josh McCown continues to show the Browns’ fans why he has been a career backup QB. Coach Mike Pettine says he is not going to change QBs and put Johnny Manziel under center for this week; I really wonder how long he will be able to do that and not get a phone call from upstairs telling him who the starting QB will be – with or without Pettine on the sidelines as the coach.

The Texans beat the Bucs 19-9 last Sunday. Note that is a 10-point margin of victory; and then, consider the day that Bucs’ kicker Kyle Brindza had:

    He missed makeable field goals of 41 and 33 yards.

    He missed a gargantuan field goal try at 57 yards.

    AND he missed an extra point.

There you have 10 points left on the field. Bucs’ coach Lovie Smith said that Brindza had an “off day”. I think that what he meant was that if Brindza has another day like that he will be “off” the team.

For the first 10 minutes of the game, it looked as if the Cowboys were going to beat the Falcons by a minimum of 5 TDs; they were pushing the Falcons’ defense around and stopping the Falcons’ offense effectively. The score at the half was 28-17 and it looked as if Brandon Weeden was large and in charge. I do not know what kind of talk the Falcons listened to in the locker room at halftime or what adjustments were made, but it was a totally different game in the second half. The Cowboys did not score a point and the Falcons – paced by Julio Jones catching a key pass every time the team needed it and Devonta Freeman gashing the Cowboys’ defense for a total of 141 yards and 3 TDs – won the game 39-28. There are three things to note about the Falcons after this game:

    1. The Falcons are 3-0 and all of the wins came over teams from the NFC East. Too bad they do not play in the NFC East…

    2. The next 6 games on the Falcons schedule are pretty soft with three home games against the Texans, Skins and Bucs plus three road games at the Saints, Titans and Niners.

    3. A 9-0 start to the season might be a lot to ask here but a 7-2 start looks very attainable.

The Vikes beat the Chargers 31-14 last week. The Vikes are a pretty good team when they feature Adrian Peterson as they did here when he gained 126 yards on 20 carries. The Vikes’ offensive coordinator is Norv Turner and he has built offenses around really good RBs in the past – e.g. in Dallas with Emmitt Smith and later in San Diego with LaDanian Tomlinson. Now he can do it one more time with the Vikes. The Chargers are not a bad team, but they are not a good road team.

The Pats beat the Jags 51-17. The only thing to say about that game is “Hi-ho!”

The Jets’ defense had taken the ball away from opposing offenses 5 times in each of the first two games – both of which the Jets won. Last week, the worm turned. This time the Jets turned the ball over to the Eagles 4 times and – surprise – the Jets lost 24-17. The game was a tale of two halves; the Eagles won the first half 24-0; the Jets won the second half 17-0. I mentioned above that 3.5 yards per pass attempt is unsatisfactory; well, at one point in the 2nd quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick was 11-15 passing for a total of 44 yards. For the record:

    4 yards per pass completion is worse than 3.5 yards per pass attempt in just about any circumstance.

    Fitzpatrick’s yards per pass attempt was just a tad under 3.0.

Geno Smith was on the sidelines for the game and I imagined a thought-bubble over his head with something like this:

“If Fitz throws 3 INTs in the next game and we blow the one after that, my chances of coming back as soon as my jaw is healed are real good…”

The Colts came back from a 13-point deficit at the end of the 3rd quarter to beat the Titans 35-33. Andrew Luck continued to throw INTs here and the Colts’ OL continued to stink in spades. I know there had to have been at least a hundred bloggers ready to write the “Andrew Luck is Overrated” story at the end of the 3rd quarter on Sunday. Those draft blog postings went the way of the delete key because Luck was 11-13 in the fourth quarter for 144 yards and 2 TDs. Note that several QBs cited above did not come close to that output over the course of an entire game. Colts’ DB, Dwight Lowery, is the other hero in the game; he had 2 INTs and one was a Pick Six.

The Steelers beat the Rams 12-6 but they have lost Ben Roethlisberger at QB for at least several weeks. If you Google “Pyrrhic Victory”, you may come to understand what the Steelers accomplished last Sunday. Michael Vick takes over in Pittsburgh. When the Steelers signed him, plenty of fans expressed huge displeasure at having him on the team due to his previous criminal actions. The question to ask those fans – not the Steelers’ fans in general but the ones who were so adamantly vocal about all of this:

    Would you rather be riding with Michael Vick now or might you prefer:

      Case Keenum – or –
      Blaine Gabbert – or
      Dan Orlovsky – or –

    I can go on here for a while…

Meanwhile, the Rams are an unbalanced team. They have a better-than-average defense but their offense has been AWOL for two of their three games. Last week, the Rams were 2-10 on third down conversions against a Steelers’ defense that entered the game ranked 25th in the NFL. What’s up with that…?

The Bengals beat the Ravens 28-24 but the unusual thing here was that the Ravens had the lead twice in the 4th quarter and surrendered that lead both times. That is not “Ravens’ football” as we have come to know it. Andy Dalton threw for 383 yards but that is not the most stunning stat from the passing game last week. Against the Ravens’ defense, AJ Green caught 10 passes for 227 yards and 2 TDs. Most impressive… Here is what was not impressive. The game was so littered with penalty flags that it looked as if the leaves had fallen off the trees early. With 12:27 still to play in the 2nd quarter, there had already been 10 penalties assessed and a couple that were declined.

In the Monday night game, Aaron Rodgers picked the Chiefs’ defense as clean as a carcass out on the Serengeti plain. He threw 5 TD passes and spent much of the evening with a huge smile on his face and a chuckle in his gut. The absence of Jordy Nelson at WR would likely have derailed most teams but with Rodgers throwing the ball, James Jones and Randall Cobb have emerged as top-drawer receivers. Maybe the constant factor here is the guy throwing the ball to those catchers…?

Before we get to the games for this week, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle has observed the new “buzz phrase” that game analysts are using regarding quarterbacks. Here is his interpretation:

“The Hot New Thing every quarterback has to have: eye discipline. How do QBs develop that? I don’t know. Take their wives to the beach?”

The Games:

The Patriots and the Titans get the week off as the Bye Week Season commences in the NFL.

    The Pats will spend the week prepping for a visit to Dallas when they get back to action.

    The Titans were at home last week and will spend their off week at home. After that the schedule mavens have them home for the next three games meaning the team will have been at home in Tennessee for significantly more than a month.

(Thurs Nite) Baltimore – 2.5 at Pittsburgh (43.5): No team has ever started a season at 0-3 and made it to the Super Bowl; the Ravens are 0-3 and a loss here could turn what was a promising season into a raging disaster. For the Ravens, this is a “must win game”. The Steelers on the other hand are 2-1 and still have the division-leading Bengals in sight. However, they have to navigate a series of games without Ben Roethlisberger including 4 games prior to a meeting with the as yet undefeated Bengals. Here is what the three games after this one and before the one against the Bengals look like for the Steelers:

    At San Diego – a five hour flight to the game and a Chargers’ team that is much better at home than on the road.

    Home against Arizona – a hot team that scores lots of points with a head coach who was once run out of town in Pittsburgh

    At KC – a team with a legit shot at the playoffs who plays well at home.

Frankly, this is almost as much of a “must win” game for the Steelers as it is for the Ravens. I will break out the Curmudgeon Central coin for a Coin Flip game right at the outset this week. The coin says to take the Steelers plus the points at home. Hey, the coin has been picking at 80% so far this year…

(Sun 9:30 AM EDT) Jets – 1.5 vs Miami (41) [London Game]: If this is a “must see game” for you, be sure to set your alarm clock and hope that the sermon in church this week is not one of those that lasts 90 minutes. The Jets came back to Earth last week; it is not reasonable to expect a defense to produce 5 takeaways every game.

    [Aside: 5 takeaways per game would lead to 80 takeaways for the regular season. The NFL record for most takeaways in a season is only 66 and that record has stood for 63 years. The record belongs to the 1961 San Diego Chargers and it was accomplished in a 14-game season.]

The Dolphins have underachieved expectations by a wide margin to date; and in at least two of their games, they seemed to be doing not much more than going through the motions. More often than not, the winner of a London Game is the team that shows up ready to play and without any jet lag. In this game, the Jets may suffer some jet lag but the Dolphins could match that malady with nonchalance. I like the Jets to win and cover here.

Jax at Indy – 9 (47): Both teams are 1-2, as are all the teams in the AFC South meaning that the winner here will be in the lead in the division on Sunday night. Notwithstanding that level of importance, this game holds no interest for me at all. The Jags are a bad team and the Colts have dominated them for a while now. The Colts’ can only beat teams handily if the opponent is ordinary or worse along the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Both QBs turn the ball over more than a lot. Looking at trends offers little to no help here:

    Jax is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games after losing straight up
    Jax is 0-6 ATS in their last 6 games after giving up 30 points or more.

    Indy is 4-0 ATS at home against teams with losing records.
    Indy is 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games against AFC opponents.

You guessed it. This is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game. The coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Houston at Atlanta – 6.5 (47): The Falcons are undefeated and are tied atop the NFC South with the Panthers. The Texans are another of those 1-2 teams in the AFC South. I have no idea what kind of magic potion the Falcons are using in their Gatorade, but it is working. Despite shutting out the Cowboys in the second half last week, I am not anywhere near ready to anoint the Falcons’ defense as an elite unit; however, the Texans are bringing a meager offense to the party here. I like the Falcons at home to win and cover. I think the Falcons are on a roll…

Carolina – 3 at Tampa (40): If I am correct about the Falcons game above, then the Panthers will need to win here to keep pace in the NFC South race. The Bucs left points on the field last week (see above) and points will be at a premium in this game; neither team can allow that to happen here. I can foresee two scenarios for this game:

    Panthers look past this “lowly opponent” in anticipation of their Bye Week next week and lose the game outright.

    Panthers realize they will have 2 weeks of hell-to-pay if they lose to the Bucs in Tampa where the Bucs have lost 10 in a row and they go out and squash the Bucs.

I will lean toward the latter scenario and I’ll take the Panthers to win and cover on the road.

Giants at Buffalo – 5.5 (47): Victor Cruz says he will play this weekend in Buffalo. Rex Ryan loves to fashion his defense to stop the other team’s big threat; and for the Giants, that would be Odell Beckham, Jr. Without Cruz on the field, that would make life difficult for Eli Manning and the Giants who are not a great rushing team. However, with Victor Cruz in the lineup, doubling Beckham Jr, on every play might not be as productive a defensive stratagem as it might have been in the past. I like the Giants here plus the points. However, I must admit that I am concerned that the Giants will not put the kind of pressure on Tyrod Taylor that teams seek to put on inexperienced QBs…

Oakland – 3 at Chicago (44.5): The Bears are a hot mess (see above). Jay Cutler is listed as “Out” in the injury report meaning another week of Jimmy Claussen and/or David Fales. Oh, Alshon Jeffrey is also listed as “Questionable” for the game with a hamstring injury. The Raiders broke their road jinx last week but this is a second straight week with travel of a significant distance to play a game – and as a field goal favorite no less. I’ll take the Raiders and lay the points even on the road; this selection is a statement of how bad I think the Bears are and not how good the Raiders are.

Philly – 3 at Washington (46.5): If the Eagles’ offense continues to play poorly and if the Skins play to their normal level of competence, this could be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. However, I have a hunch that both teams will play well here because it is a division game and there is a real rivalry between the clubs. However, there is the possibility of so much rain in the DC area [thanks to Hurricane Joaquin] that the game may need to be rescheduled. If they do play on such a soggy turf, I like this game to stay Under.

KC at Cincy – 4 (44.5): The Chiefs get a short week to prep for a game against an undefeated rival in the undefeated rival’s home park. That sounds as if this is an easy pick except for two things:

    The Chiefs are a good road team – and –

    The Chiefs’ defense is a good unit.

In big games, the knock on Andy Dalton is that he folds under pressure and turns the ball over a lot. Well, this is not a playoff game to be sure; but he is going to feel pressure from the Chiefs’ front seven. I think there will be scoring by both sides here so I’ll take this game to go OVER.

Cleveland at San Diego – 7.5 (45): The spread opened the week at 10 points and dropped to this level almost instantly. You can still find the game at 8 points at several Internet sportsbooks if you go looking. I know that the Chargers were handled rudely by the Vikes last week in Minnesota but this time they are at home and their opponent has had the big trip. Purely a venue call; I’ll take the Chargers and lay the points. Actually there is another factor in the selection. The Chargers start Philip Rivers at QB and the Browns start Josh McCown at QB.

Green Bay – 9 at SF (48.5): The Niners have given up 43 points to the Steelers and 47 points to the Cardinals in the last two games. Yes, both games were on the road and this one is at home. However, the opponent is a team that has been known to score a few points itself. This looks like a game where a porous defense has to try to contain a top-shelf QB and passing attack. That same porous defense has not been able to do that for the last two weeks. I like the Packers to win and cover here and I like the game to go OVER.

Minnesota at Denver – 7 (43): These are both good defensive teams and Minnesota will try to control the clock with its running game. That makes it seem as if this will be a low-scoring game and that makes the line look fat to me. I’ll take the Vikes plus the points.

St. Louis at Arizona – 7 (42.5): The Cards are going to score points even on a good Rams’ defense. The unknown here is what the Rams will do on offense – or in other ways – to score points. The Cards have beaten 3 opponents this year that are not nearly as good defensively as the Rams (Saints, Bears, Niners) so the question is to what extent their output will diminish here; so far, they have been held under 40 points only once and in that game they scored 31 points. The other question here is if the Rams can score with their mediocre offense against a Cards’ defense that has not been stressed yet this year. I like the Rams plus the points and I like the game to go OVER.

(Sun Nite) Dallas at New Orleans (no lines): This could also be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week if Drew Brees and Tony Romo watch the game from the sidelines with injuries to their throwing arms. That is not normally the case for a Sunday Night Football game. Brees is officially “Questionable” for the game: Romo was still in a sling last week on the sidelines so I can safely figure that he will not be playing this week. Should a line emerge here and if you have to make a bet on the game because you are watching it, let me offer two pieces of advice:

    1. Get yourself some addiction counseling very quickly – and –

    2. Take whomever is the dog plus the points.

(Mon Nite) Detroit at Seattle – 9.5 (43): The game has a ton of meaning for the Seahawks and the Lions are about two weeks removed from “playing for pride” during the rest of the 2015 season. Marshawn Lynch is said to be “50/50” to play here due to a hamstring injury.

    Memo to Pete Carroll: Lynch is your “bell cow”. Call Keith Jackson if you need an explanation here. If you cannot beat the sorry-assed Lions without Lynch, you are not going anywhere near the Super Bowl this year anyhow. Give the dude an extra week to get himself a bit closer to “right”.

I really do hate to lay double-digit spreads in the NFL – and 9.5 points in the moral equivalent of a double-digit spread – but I do not see how the Lions are going to generate enough offense to stress the Seahawks defense or how the Lions’ defense is going to throttle the Seahawks’ offense whether or not Marshawn Lynch is in the game or in pajamas on the sideline. I’ll take the Seahawks at home and lay the points.

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

NBA Training Camps Begin…

NBA teams are heading to training camp – – already. In news that cannot be a surprise to anyone who follows the NBA even a little bit, Derrick Rose is injured. In a practice, he took an elbow to the face and suffered a fracture to the orbital bone that will require surgery. I will not pretend to be a surgeon, but any sort of procedure that happens near one’s eye socket cannot be considered “minor”. Obviously, there is no recovery prognosis yet since the surgery is not scheduled until later today.

The Chicago Bulls are obviously a much better team with a healthy Derrick Rose on the floor – even though he has had trouble staying on the floor for much of his career. For this season, it is probably much more important for the Bulls to have him active in training camp than it was before because the Bulls have a new coach this year (Fred Hoiberg) and that means a new system that will nominally be orchestrated by the point guard.

According to several reports I read, if the surgery goes well, Rose might be expected back sometime around 1 December and would play with a mask for a time after that. Allowing him time to get into game condition and to adjust to the mask/injury under game conditions, the Bulls might be ready to run on all cylinders around Christmas. On Christmas Day, the Bulls play at Oklahoma City; that will be the 27th game of the season for the team meaning the season is just about one-third done at that point. Absent a major collapse in November and early December, the Bulls ought to be able to get themselves positioned for a playoff berth. After all, they are in the Eastern Conference…

A couple of other teams start training camp with a variety of “issues” in the air. Out in Sacramento, everyone seems focused on the interpersonal dynamic between Coach George Karl and center DeMarcus Cousins. To be sure, that will be fun to watch because those two men have broadly different views of what it means to be in/play in the NBA. As much fun as it might be to stand back and observe those two folks as they seek to coexist without committing any felonies one upon the other, there is another actor in Sacramento who might get a few solo numbers in the opera there. During the offseason, the Kings signed Rajon Rondo.

Rondo has clashed with coaches and teammates in his prior venues and was basically asked by the Dallas Mavericks to stay away from the team in the midst of the playoffs last year. Not only that, but when it came time to share in the playoff money the team earned, the Mavs stiffed Rondo. Ask yourself these questions:

    Just how big a pain-in-the-ass must he have been in Dallas?

    What might convince the geniuses who run the Kings that the serenity that encircles the Kings’ franchise might mellow out such a pain-in-the-ass?

The Kings may or may not be a relevant team next year, but they should be fun to stand back and observe…

In another offseason addition that makes me shake my head in wonderment, the NY Knicks signed Robin Lopez for $54M over 4 years. I understand that the Knicks need someone on the court who can and will play defense and that Robin Lopez can and will do that. Nevertheless, there is also some need on the Knicks for a center who might frighten the opposition should the ball ever find its way into his hands in the forecourt – – not a foregone conclusion on that squad. Over his career, Robin Lopez has averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds per game. With that sort of offensive production, Lopez might have to be the second coming of Bill Russell on defense to be worth 4 years and $54M…

The LA Lakers will also be interesting to watch this year even though they are not likely to be a championship caliber team. The Lakers get Kobe Bryant back from injury and it will be interesting to see if he has much gas left in the tank. As interesting as that might be, the Lakers will be interesting for a variety of other reasons:

    Nick Young is on the roster. To say that Young has no conscience when the ball is in his hands would be an understatement. Last year with Bryant in the stands, Young sort of had free rein. That is not going to happen this year…

    Metta World Peace is on the roster. The Lakers signed him to a 1-year deal. He says that the fact that the Lakers gave him a chance shows that the Lakers are “going for it” this year. I am not sure what he thinks the team is going for…

    Roy Hibbert is on the roster. One of the assets Metta World Peace brings to the team is his ability to mentor Hibbert. Excuse me, but Roy Hibbert is 29 years old and has been in the NBA for 7 years. He should be “the mentor” and not “the mentee” by now…

In the last couple of days, the Chicago Bears have done two unusual things. It is not common at all for teams to trade players in the middle of an NFL season; nonetheless, just this week, the Bears have made two separate trades in which they have sent players off their roster elsewhere in exchange for low-round draft picks. DE, Jared Allen went to the Panthers for a conditional 6th round pick and LB, Jon Bostic went to the Pats for another 6th round pick (pending Bostic passing a physical in New England). The Bears have a new coaching staff and a team that is overmatched this year; they do not need a mere rebuilding process; they need to pour a new foundation first and then rebuild the structure of the team. Nonetheless, these trades are interesting for reasons other than their novelty;

    1. The Bears’ offense stinks like a cheese factory in July. So, why trade away defensive players?

    2. If all the Bears can get for those two players are 6th round picks, what is the point? Here are some recent 6th round acquisitions by the Bears; see if there are any difference-makers here?

      David Fales QB San Jose St. 2014
      Pat O’Donnell P Miami (Fl) 2014
      Cornelius Washington LB Georgia 2013
      Isaiah Frey DB Nevada 2012
      JT Thomas LB West Virginia 2011
      Dan LeFevour QB C. Michigan 2010

Yes, I know that Tom Brady was also a 6th round pick. Nonetheless, 6th round picks are much more likely to be minor players on a team or scrubs who do not make it out of training camp.

By the way, do the Bears still retain the rights to Dan LeFevour? If so, they should give him a call…

Finally, here is some sidebar NBA news courtesy of Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle and Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

Talk about an athlete making a sacrifice for his team: Rockets guard James Harden agreed not to wear his prized Nike Air Jordans in public after Oct. 1, in deference to his new shoe sponsor, Adidas. Incredible loyalty by a guy who will earn only $200 million for wearing Adidas.

Harden incurred the displeasure of Adidas when he was photographed wearing the Air Jordans while on a date with Khloe Kardashian. Harden’s contract with Khloe stipulates that he won’t date either of the Olsen twins. [Scott Ostler]

And …

“Parting thought: I close by presenting the following without comment because some things are so absurd they require no punch line: Adidas is paying James Harden $200 million to wear its sneakers.” [Greg Cote]

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

The Washington Nats Dugout Scuffle

The grand sports issue here in the DC area as of this moment is the dugout scuffle between Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper. The Washington Nationals had a disgraceful season. Fanboys in the area will cry crocodile tears lamenting injuries to various players on the team as an excuse for the team’s miserably embarrassing performance this year. Nonsense. The problem with the Nats is pretty simple and it was expressed by one of the SF Giants players – do not recall which one – last year just as the Giants and Nats were getting ready to play each other in the NL Playoffs. Even last year, people revered the Nats’ lineup and thought it was an unstoppable juggernaut. This “mystery Giants’ player” said they had loads of good players but – as he grabbed his man-zone – he suggested that they did not have anything “there”.

That may not have been the most articulate expression of his analysis/opinion but it was much closer to right than it was to wrong. Moreover, the roster for 2015 suffers from similar problems that one might express in the same crude fashion. The Nats have at least a half-dozen – and more likely 10 – bona fide stars on the roster right now – – if all you look at are individual stats. What they also have are a bunch of guys who are stars AND are front runners. When things go their way, these guys just pile on the stats and make it appear that they are the reincarnation of the 1927 Yankees. However, as soon as something starts to go wrong and the Nats need a clutch hit or play in the field – – not so much.

The weakest link on the Nats this year was the bullpen. More specifically, the least productive part of the team was the setup men who got the team through the 7th and 8th innings of games to usher in the closer. With the Nats this year, one of the most famous Yogisims was fully applicable:

The game was never over until it was over.

At the trade deadline, the Nats acquired Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies and anointed him as their closer. The previous closer was “demoted” to being the 8th-inning set up guy. Hey, if you were good enough to have been the closer, you ought to be able to get through the 8th innings of games instead of the 9th innings, right? Well, that did not work and people ascribed it to an ego bruise. Please; spare me; you are getting paid millions of dollars to pitch one inning per game about 3 times a week; suck it up, buttercup.

Papelbon will receive exactly no votes in the “Mr. Congeniality Contest” nor will anyone ever nominate him for “Clubhouse Chemistry Guy of the Year”. However, no one can realistically challenge his competitiveness. He is one of those guys who seems to be a pain-in-the-ass; but if he is going to be in the league, it is probably better to have him be your pain-in-the-ass as opposed to the other guy’s pain-in-the-ass.

I wrote last year that I think Bryce Harper is one of baseball’s most polarizing players; I continue to believe that. Harper is incredibly talented; anyone who disputes that statement either has not watched Harper play or knows nothing about baseball. Harper is also one of those “frontrunners” I referred to above. As talented as he is and as dedicated to getting better year over year he is, if I needed a clutch hit to win an important game, I would much rather have Jayson Werth at the plate than Harper despite the fact that Harper is hitting about 100 points higher than Werth this year. Moreover, Harper will get only token acknowledgement in a putative “Mr. Congeniality Contest”.

If there had to be a dugout fight in the Nats’ dugout the day the team was eliminated from the NL Playoffs – after they were the pre-season favorites to win the World Series – the odds-on favorites for the combatants would have to have been Harper and Papelbon. The proximal event(s) that triggered the scuffle do not really matter; the scuffle has to be seen by the folks who run the team as a fundamental issue with regard to the roster they have built. They have individual “stars” on the team who seem to exist in their own orbits and only acknowledge the existence of other “stars” on the team during “mandatory walk-off victory celebrations”. That does not work in team sports; the Nats need only look at their NFL DC brethren to see how that formula for roster building produces little in terms of championship results.

What is the solution here? I do not know what the team will do but I think there are several fixed points in the environment that cannot be ignored:

    1. There is no way on the planet that the team will discipline Bryce Harper in any way for anything that is not a first degree felony. He is their “Golden Boy” and he has an agent (Scott Boras) who will not look kindly on an organization that even hints that there is a minor flaw in Harper’s greatness.

    2. The team is on the hook to pay Jonathan Papelbon $11M next year; they picked up that contract option when they traded for him in July. Moreover, Papelbon has a no-trade clause in that contract that he has to waive in order for the Nats to move him elsewhere. The Nats can trade Papelbon if they are willing to pay much/most of that $11M salary AND if they agree to take nothing more valuable than a liverwurst sandwich in return.

    3. Other members of the bullpen will recognize that they are set up to be the scapegoats for this season’s collapse and any of them who can sign elsewhere would be wise to do so. Any who choose to stay here will be under a microscope for any flaws starting the week before Spring Training commences in February 2016.

    4. The knee-jerk “fire-the-manager” option could well be invoked here. Matt Williams is described in the local press as being “all-business” and “stern” while the common wisdom is that the players would like someone who will pat them on the head once in a while. Maybe even pass out juice boxes and participation trophies… Nothing cures overly-indulged entitled individuals more than getting rid of a “no-nonsense” manager and replacing him with “Dr. Feelgood”.

For the record, what this particular roster needs least is a manager who will let the players do whatever it is they want to do. The team appears to have plenty of spoiled kids/brats on it; they need no encouragement to continue to live their lives in such a fashion. What this roster needs most is a significant restructuring. Some of their frontrunning “stars” need to be moved on to teams who will be enamored with their individual stats; and in return, the Nats need to acquire a few guys who – for lack of a more eloquent description – have something down in their “man-zone”. The problem with that avenue is that it will require the folks who assembled the roster – the activist owner and the GM – to acknowledge that THEIR roster and THEIR decisions were not so good. I just doubt that is going to happen…

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

The Pro Football Hall Of Fame…

I ran across a report enumerating the 100+ Finalists on the list this year for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and that list caused me to stop and think about the election processes there. Be assured, I am not part of the Committee that will cut that list down the 18 players on whom the Committee will actually vote nor will I be part of the final winnowing process. If I were part of that process, I would probably understand why one of the players on the list this year for the first time was a long-snapper.

I watch a lot of football; I think I understand a bit about the game. I have to say, however, that it never occurred to me until last week to think of long-snappers in terms of a hierarchy or in terms of them being sufficiently outstanding at their craft to be worth Hall of Fame deliberations. This year, Ethan Albright will be part of those deliberations. For those of you who do not recognize the name, Albright played from 1995 through 2010 and holds the record for most consecutive games played by any long-snapper at 224 games.

The outline for the Selection Process – and the identities of the 46 members of the Selection Committee – are here on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. I find one part of that document particularly interesting:

“Any fan may nominate any qualified person who has been connected with pro football in any capacity simply by writing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The only restriction is that a player and coach must have last played or coached at least five seasons before he can be considered. For example, a candidate for the 2015 class must have concluded his career not later than the 2009 season.”

I was not aware that I could nominate anyone for the Pro Football Hall of Fame – or that Freddy Fanboy could either. My guess is that you did not know that until now; armed with this knowledge, you may choose to exercise your newly-found empowerment in future years…

A few of the first-timers on the list of 100+ folks under consideration this year include – in addition to Ethan Albright – Brett Favre, Terrell Owens and Darren Sharper. I will find it interesting to see the fate of these players in the voting this year and in future years because their fates will speak directly to the issue of “on-field performance” versus “whole person factors” when it comes to enshrinement in Canton.

    Brett Favre: No one can doubt that his performance on the field mandates his inclusion in the Hall of Fame. His late-career “Hamlet portrayals” regarding his retirement might not have sat well with some of the members on the committee and it takes an 80% positive vote of the Committee Members present and voting to get in.

    Terrell Owens: Again, no argument regarding his stats… However, he was not always a great teammate nor was he always cooperative with the “ink-stained wretches” who covered the NFL and/or the teams he was on.

    Darren Sharper: His 14-year career included 6 All-Pro selections and a place on the All-Decade Team for 2000-2009. However, he has also plead guilty to being a serial rapist in several different states.

Next February, the Super Bowl game will take place in Levi’s Stadium – the new playpen for the SF 49ers – in Santa Clara, CA. Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this advice for folks living in the Bay Area:

“Get ready for the Goodell, the bad and the ugly.”

With regard to “the ugly” here, I have not seen any reports yet regarding the artiste who will provide the halftime entertainment for that spectacle. Since I find all of the halftime acts irrelevant at best and lame all of the time, here is a suggestion for a spectacle I would watch:

    February 2016 will see the Presidential primary races in full gear in both parties. Invite all of the candidates who dare to speak to the 100 million folks watching for 5 minutes – with the proviso that the mouthbreathers on the field who get access to the field by a lottery process – will all be carrying rotten fruits and veggies.

    It is one thing to talk tough about what you will do as President; it would be another to agree to that kind of potential confrontation.

The Niners’ fans who attend games in Levi’s Stadium seem hell-bent to replace Raiders’ fans and Eagles’ fans as the hands-down leaders in the clubhouse when it comes to boorish antisocial behavior. There have been a series of beat-down incidents at Niners games in the past year or so where the recipient of the beating merely committed the sin of wearing a jersey of a team other than the Niners. It has gotten to the point where the Santa Clara City Council is considering stopping the sale of alcohol at halftime of Niners’ games.

I understand that drunken fans in large numbers morph quickly into a mob and mobs do things that individuals – sober or inebriated – would think twice about doing. Nonetheless, stopping beer sales at halftime is a relatively impotent response to the problem. I have never been to a Niners game – in any of their current or previous venues – so what I am about to say here applies to their fans only as an extension of what I have seen elsewhere:

    After 3 to 6 hours of tailgating prior to a game – often with beer companies having tents in the area where one can purchase extra beer if one’s own supplies run out – at least 30% of the people who enter the stadium prior to kickoff would not be able to operate a motor vehicle legally. Moreover, what a large fraction of those folks who are already “half-lit or worse” do the minute they clear the ticket scanning site is to get in line to buy more beer – and not just one.

The teams – and the owners of the concession rights – make a lot of money selling beer at NFL games. Cutting fans off at halftime will diminish the flow of a revenue stream but it is not likely to assure sobriety at the end of a game. To make a real difference here, teams and venues would need to add a breathalyzer test to the metal detectors as screening devices to determine who can and who cannot enter the stadium in the first place.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times that is appropriate in terms of the upcoming Pro Football Hall of Fame selections:

“One thing to be thankful for: Selfie sticks hadn’t yet been invented when Terrell Owens and Deion Sanders were choreographing their end-zone celebrations.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 9/26/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were decidedly in the red – mythically of course. The record for last week was a miserable 5-9-1 bringing the cumulative record for the year to 21-20-1. Those are not inspiring results so far this year – but it better than sitting on a sharp nail. The best pick last week was taking Stanford +9.5 and seeing Stanford beat USC straight up. The worst pick of the week was taking Cal/Texas to stay UNDER 58.5; the teams had 48 at halftime and looked on course to break 90; they slowed down in the second half and the total score was only 89.

Obviously no one would read that last paragraph and think that these picks provide a path to fame and fortune. Indeed no one ought to even consider using any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real college football game this weekend – or any other weekend for that matter. Here is how dumb one would have to be to do that:

    It would take you 2 hours to watch 60 Minutes.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats extended their record to 2-0 last weekend in their quest to keep their streak of winning seasons alive. They beat the University of the Redlands 44-7 and begin their Northwest Conference schedule this week. They take a very short trip to Portland, OR to take on Lewis and Clark College. The Pioneers bring an 0-2 record to the game having lost to Claremont College and Pomona-Pitzer. Go Wildcats!

A neighbor who reads Mythical Picks in the Fall told me that he thought it was incongruous for a curmudgeon to revel in the successes of Linfield’s football program without some concurrent following of some obscure team’s utter futility. He has a point there. So, I went searching around and latched onto Division III Finlandia University. In parallel with Linfield, I have no affiliation with the school and know next to nothing about it academically or athletically. Here is what I did find, however:

    For 2015, the Finlandia Lions started the season 0-3. Lots of teams start 0-3 but Finlandia has had 3 epic losses. Here is the cumulative result so far this year:

      Opponents: 195
      Finlandia: 3

This week Finlandia hosts the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point up in the far reaches of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Go Lions!

The folks who brew Guinness and publish the Guinness Book of Records have hit upon a fantastic way to advertise their product at minimal cost to the company. People all over the world with way too much time on their hands go to great measures to get themselves and/or herds of their compatriots into that book. The Guinness folks “certify” the record and that gets the story into hundreds of outlets around the world. What a scam those folks are pulling on us; I would call them despicable scoundrels if they did not brew such a good beer.

Fans of Mississippi State football recently got together to “set a record” thereby giving Guinness some more free advertising. They set a record for “Most People Ringing Cowbells Simultaneously”. The previous record had been 640 bell ringers set somewhere in Switzerland; now that record stands at 5,748. I know you want to have all the details on this monumental achievement, so here is a link.

There is another intersection between college football news and beer this week. I will simply cite Dwight Perry’s item from the Seattle Times for you here:

“TCU defensive end Mike Tuaua and backup wide receiver Andre Petties-Wilson were arrested in Fort Worth on suspicion of accosting a fellow student and stealing his case of Keystone Light.

“They face charges of robbery, bodily injury and questionable taste in beer.”

Up until last weekend, Ole Miss had never beaten Alabama two years in a row. They have now. I heard one of the folks on sports radio saying that this indicated that Alabama was following the same downward path as Notre Dame as an “old-line football power” and that new schools were about to emerge as power programs. He may be right; but I think he is overstating the situation.

First of all, Notre Dame is pretty good this year; they had a few “down years” but they seem to be getting their fair share of football players year over year. Secondly, I think that what this shows is that there are more schools out there that are highly competitive with the traditional top-shelf programs. Rather than indicating a violent shift in the college football hierarchy, I think this points toward more parity in college football and a large part of that parity comes from the reduction in the number of scholarships that schools can give out. Today, there are fewer “blue chip” players riding the bench at the top schools because they are now out there playing for other schools. In fact, I think the rest of the SEC has caught up with Alabama and LSU to the point that when one of them loses a game it is not necessarily a “headline event”.

I mentioned above that my best pick of the week was taking Stanford plus a passel of points and seeing them beat USC straight up. Much has been made of the pressure on Texas coach Charlie Strong and Arkansas coach, Bret Bielema this week. Frankly, I think some of the microscopic attention ought to turn itself to Steve Sarkisian. After embarrassing himself and the school with his “impaired performance” at a booster rally, the team has not looked anything like the shoo-in champion of the PAC-12 (as more than a few folks predicted) nor as a strong contender to be in the Playoff Championship Game (as some predicted). Clearly, it is too early to write USC off, but they really looked ordinary against a Stanford team that lost badly to Northwestern earlier this month.

In its first season as a Division 1-A football program, UNC-Charlotte had won its first two games. Last week they encountered Middle Tennessee State – never to be confused with Alabama, Notre Dame or Ohio State – and lost that game by a score of 73-14. Welcome to Division 1-A…

Texas Tech beat Arkansas last week – at Arkansas no less – by 11 points and then coaches Kliff Kingsbury and Bret Bielema got into a spitting contest that matters not at all. What does matter is that Arkansas has now lost 2 home games in a row to Toledo (!!) and Texas Tech (!). Bielema is a large man with an outsized persona; perhaps he is the Rex Ryan of college football?

Speaking of teams losing badly, how about UCF? Last week, they lost to Division 1-AA Furman; the last time Furman beat a Division 1-A team was in 1999; just a week before the UCF game, Furman lost to Va Tech 42-3. UCF is now 0-3 on the season having also lost to FIU earlier this year. There are reports that George O’Leary wants to get out of the coaching business and take over as UCF Athletic Director. He may get out of the coaching business for other reasons if the team continues to lose games like this. Two years ago, UCF played in the Fiesta Bowl; that is a major game not an irrelevant game. Now, two years later, you have this kind of a team on the field…?

Georgia waxed South Carolina 52-20 last week. It looks as if it will be a loooong season for Gamecock fans. Georgia running back, Nick Chubb ran for 159 yards and 2 TDs in the game last week.

Navy beat E. Carolina last week by 24 points. Unless Navy is REALLY good this year, it may be that ECU is in for a long season also. They do have a win on their record this year over Division 1-AA Towson and they still have Va Tech and BYU on the schedule.

Idaho won a football game last week. Playing at home, they beat Division 1-AA Wofford by 3 points. If that is their only win for the year, they will be in the SHOE Tournament. By the way, Wofford College is in Spartanburg, SC; how much did they have to get paid to take that jaunt across the entire country to beautiful downtown Moscow, ID?

LSU played characteristically well beating Auburn last week 45-21. Going into the game, I did not think LSU could score 45 points nor that Auburn could give up 45 points; I was very wrong. Running back Leonard Fournette gained 228 yards and scored 3 times. He is very big and very fast; absent a traumatic injury, he will be playing Sunday football down the line.

From the same game, it surely appears as if the pre-season hype for Auburn QB, Jeremy Johnson was just that – – hype. Against LSU, Johnson was 11-19 for 100 yards. Word is that he will not start this week…

Missouri had a bad day at the office last week even though they won the game. Playing at home against UConn, Mizzou only won by a score of 9-6. Moreover, UConn had a chance to tie the game at the end with a field goal but UConn set up with a fake field goal that was telegraphed so badly that it looked as if the entire Missouri defense knew it was a fake and where the fake play was going. The pass play was into tight triple coverage and resulted in an INT that sealed the game. Nonetheless, this is an embarrassing result for a team in the SEC West at home against a mediocre-at-best program.

Ohio State beat Northern Illinois by a measly 7 points last week. That result ought to indicate 2 things:

    1. Even very good college football teams struggle to win once in a while – and sometimes they even lose a game as Alabama did last week.

    2. Northern Illinois should have gotten at least a few votes as the #2 team in the country from voters who only check the scores of the games and the stats after the fact.

In addition to holding Ohio State under 300 yards of total offense, Northern Illinois got 5 turnovers in the game. That is why the game stayed as close as it did; even with 5 turnovers, Northern Illinois only scored 7 points in the game. This week, Ohio State faces another MAC team and then the Big 10 season starts. I do not want that to sound too ominous because the first six Big 10 teams on Ohio State’s schedule are not particularly fearsome:

    At Indiana
    Vs Maryland
    Vs Penn State
    At Rutgers
    Vs Minnesota
    At Illinois

That takes Ohio State thru 14 November and if they are indeed the best team in the country, they should be undefeated at that point. Then their season starts in earnest on 21 November hosting Michigan State that weekend followed by a game at Michigan the next weekend.

Temple beat UMass by 2 points last week. The margin of victory came via a blocked extra point that Temple returned all the way to the other end zone for 2 points. That brought Temple to within 1 point of UMass and a very late field goal sealed the win. Temple is now 3-0 on the season.

Kansas State beat La Tech 39-33. The surprise here was the margin of victory (K-State was a 10-point favorite) plus the fact that it took 3 OTs to get the win.

Florida State beat BC 14-0. This was a result of good defense by Florida State and rather inept offense from BC. It seemed as if BC had “second and long” just about all the time.

UCLA beat BYU 24-23 even on a day when freshman phenom QB, Josh Rosen, had a bad game. Rosen was 11-23 for 106 yards and 3 INTs in the game. Nevertheless, UCLAQ found a way to win… Brad Rock juxtaposed Rosen with BYU freshman QB, Tanner Mangum with this comment in the Deseret News:

“UCLA QB Josh Rosen is 18 and BYU’s Tanner Mangum 22, but both are true freshmen.

“Nobody noticed the age difference, last week, until Rosen pulled out his iPhone and Mangum said, ‘Hey, nice Walkman.’”

Miami beat Nebraska 36-33 in OT. The game ended when Miami DB, Corn Elder intercepted a Miami pass. Indeed, the Cornhuskers lost the game when a guy named Corn intercepted a pass. Karma…

Ponderosa Games:

For the first two weeks of the season, the favorites covered an inordinate percentage of the spreads in these games. Last week, the favorites “regressed to the mean. Last week, there were 12 Ponderosa Games and only 1 favorite covered. The record last week was 1-11-0 bringing the season cumulative record to 15-15-0 for favorites covering spreads here.

Oklahoma State covered.

Arizona St, Michigan, Michigan St, Minnesota, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Oregon, TCU, Texas A&M, Washington St and Wisconsin failed to cover.

This week, we have 9 Ponderosa Games:

C. Michigan at Michigan St – 26.5 (54): Games between a “directional school” and a “state school” are often Ponderosa Games.

W. Michigan at Ohio St – 31.5 (61): If W. Michigan gets 5 turnovers from Ohio St. as N. Illinois did last week, they can keep the game close.

    [Aside: If you are wondering why E. Michigan is not a Ponderosa underdog, it is because E. Michigan is playing Army this week.]

Vandy at Ole Miss – 24.5 (54): The Total Line for this game opened at 59 and dropped to this level very quickly.

N. Texas at Iowa – 25 (54.5): Iowa is a Ponderosa favorite?

Rice at Baylor – 34.5 (75): This will be ugly.

LSU – 24 at Syracuse (47): The majority of Ponderosa favorites are home teams; LSU is a Ponderosa favorite on the road here.

UMass at Notre Dame – 29 (59): Maybe the Pope needs to say a mass for UMass here?

La-Monroe at Alabama – 38 (58): Do you think Nick Saban worked the team a bit harder than usual this week?

Hawaii at Wisconsin – 24.5 (50.5): That is a long way to fly to take a beating…

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Boise St. – 2.5 at UVa (49): The Total Line here opened at 55.5 and dropped to this level very quickly. This probably reflects the fact that Boise St. will have to play without their starting QB here plus the fact that UVa has not exactly been an offensive juggernaut this year. I will make this a pure venue call and take UVA plus the points.

(Fri Nite) Stanford – 15.5 at Oregon St. (44.5): Stanford has to suffer at least a small letdown after beating USC on the road last week, no? On the other hand, Oregon St. looked awfully meek when they played Michigan earlier this year. I think the line is fat so I will take Oregon St. plus the points.

BYU at Michigan – 6.5 (44.5): BYU is not in a conference so they get to schedule all of their games without the restrictions that a conference imposes. You cannot accuse the folks there of scheduling only patsies. They have already played UCLA and Nebraska and hoof it all the way to Ann Arbor for this game. Both teams have better defenses than offenses so I see a low scoring game. I’ll take BYU plus the points here.

Missouri at Kentucky – 2.5 (45): Neither team has an offense that scares anyone. I am surprised to see Kentucky favored in a conference game and after UConn held Missouri to 9 points last week, there is no way I would take Mizzou on the road with that few points. Therefore, I will take the game to stay UNDER.

Navy – 7 at UConn (47): Perhaps this game will give an indication of how good Navy might be this year and/or how good UConn might be this year. No wagering interest hear at all, but the game is worth some attention.

Bowling Green – 2.5 at Purdue (75): This line opened with Purdue as a 2-point favorite but the movement has been toward Bowling Green all week. On the road at Maryland a couple of weeks ago, Bowling Green scored 48 points; last week Purdue gave up 51 points to Va Tech. I know that Bowling Green’s defense is nothing to write home about, but I like them to win here by wearing Purdue down. I’ll take Bowling Green on the road and lay the points.

Kansas at Rutgers – 14 (65): Kansas just stinks. Rutgers has coaches suspended and a half-dozen players either kicked off the team or in jail or both. This game is as attractive as a landfill site. Do not wager on this game; do not watch this game. Merely marvel at the fact that Rutgers can be a 2 TD favorite here; how bad must Kansas be?

Ga Tech – 7 at Duke (56): Notre Dame put the brakes on the Ga Tech option offense and forced Tech to throw the ball way more than they wanted to. Can Duke do something similar? Probably not. Nevertheless, this is a game between two good ACC teams and the rivalry had to have heated up last year when Duke beat Ga Tech in Atlanta. Purely a hunch here, but I like Duke at home plus a TD’s worth of points.

Texas A&M – 7 vs. Arkansas (58) Game is in Arlington, TX: Arkansas has lost two consecutive home games (one was in Little Rock) to Toledo and to Texas Tech. Texas A&M is a better squad than either of those teams and while this is a neutral site game, there are likely to be plenty of Aggie fans in attendance. I like Texas A&M to win and cover here.

Tennessee – 1.5 at Florida (48): Florida opened as a 2-point favorite here; the Total Line opened at 53.5. Neither team is great on offense but it appears as if Florida has the better defense. This is completely a venue call; I’ll take Florida plus the points.

Mississippi St. at Auburn – 3 (58): Auburn has changed QBs; is that going to be a plus for the team against a good Mississippi St defense? Miss. St has Dak Prescott at QB and he has good games and bad games seemingly with no pattern. I think this will be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

TCU – 6 at Texas Tech (80): Yes, you read the Total Line correctly; believe it or not, it started the week higher at 81. The team that has the ball last is likely the winner here because neither defense is outstanding and both units will be tired in the 4th quarter. No pick here, but keep your eyes on the crawl at the bottom of your TV screen for a lot of “Score Alerts” here.

Utah at Oregon – 11.5 (64.5): Utah wins when their defense dictates the pace of the game and the field position; Oregon wins when it overwhelms the opposition with speed and quick strikes. Here are a couple of trend angles for the game:

    Since the start of last year, Utah is 7-1 against the spread on the road. They are on the road here.

    Since the start of last year, Utah is 5-1 against the spread as an underdog. They are the underdog here.

Forget the trends, I think Oregon is too fast for Utah to contain for 60 minutes. I’ll take Oregon and lay the points.

Northern Illinois at BC – 4.5 (47): Last week, Northern Illinois lost to Ohio State by 7 points while BC was shut out by Florida State (see above). The spread here suggests a significant offensive rebound for BC and that Northern Illinois left all of itself on the field against Ohio State. I think this will be a low scoring affair and so I’ll take N. Illinois plus the points.

Oklahoma St. – 3 at Texas (59): Last week, Ok.St. beat up on Texas-San Antonio; this week they get just plain Texas. The Longhorns have had plenty of problems this year but they have a decent defense and they are getting points at home. Purely a venue call; I’ll take Texas plus the points.

USC – 5.5 at Arizona St (61): USC played poorly on defense against Stanford last week. Arizona St. wins by outscoring the other guys. I do not see a lot of “three-and-outs” happening here. I like the game to go OVER.

UCLA – 3 at Arizona (66): This may the best game of the weekend. This will be the first real road game for UCLA freshman QB, Josh Rosen, so I expect him to play a tad below his level in the game. UCLA’s defense ought to keep Arizona from running wild too. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Cal – 3 at Washington (60): I am not impressed by either defense here and both teams have shown they can score points on offense. Therefore, I like the game to go OVER.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 9/27/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks would have been ever so slightly mythically profitable. The record last week was 9-8-0 bringing the season total to 16-16-1. The best pick last week was Tampa Bay plus 10.5 points when the Bucs won the game outright. The worst pick last week was Indy minus 7 when the Colts lost outright and it was not close. The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games worked out exactly the way one might expect coin flip games to work out. The record last week was 1-1-0; for the season the coin is 3-1-0.

Clearly, the performance to date is not inspiring in any way. No one should look at those results and think that they have stumbled upon a path to wagering nirvana. No one should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on an actual NFL game this weekend. Here is how stupid one would have to be to do that:

    If someone offered you a penny for your thoughts, you would have to give them some change back.

General Comments:

Before I get to the details of what happened last week and what that might portend for the season, I want to share with you a great question posed by Gregg Drinnan in a recent iteration of Keeping Score:

“When an NFL team calls timeout, someone runs around the field squirting water into the mouths of the players. Just wondering, but what does that person put on their income tax return under Occupation?”

I guess the same question would apply to the “ball boys” because that occupation designation might be ambiguous…

OK, enough high school humor. Last week was a bad week for a good friend who is in several fantasy leagues – about which I do not care – and also 3 different survival pools/knockout pools. I spoke with him on Tuesday and he was not a happy camper. In his three survival pools he took:

    The Ravens to beat the Raiders
    The Dolphins to beat the Jags
    The Saints to beat the Bucs

His survival pool action for the year is finito. I wonder what the “knockout rate” was last week for those sorts of pools all over the country…

The season is two weeks old; if we equate that to a baseball season, it is about May 1st. Recall last year about this time, fans were thinking that Tom Brady was washed up and were speculating about his benching in favor of Jimmy Garoppolo. Also about this time last year, the Packers were not doing well and Aaron Rodgers felt is necessary to go on the radio to tell the fans in Green Bay to R-E-L-A-X.

That is where we are today. I am not pushing any panic buttons here; I am pointing out some teams that have played surprisingly well and others that have been surprisingly bad in the first two games. The fact that this happens every year does not mean we should ignore it; however, it does mean we should not afford it more credence than it deserves.

I think there are 5 surprisingly good teams:

    Arizona Cardinals: I said I was not sold on the Cards and predicted they would win only 7 games for the season. They are 2-0 and they have played really well averaging 39.5 points per game in those 2 wins. Buried way down in the Cards’ stats is the fact that they have yet to give up a sack this year.

    Atlanta Falcons: They are also 2-0. Their defense last year was miserable and so far this year they are only giving up 22 points per game. Oh, and they have Julio Jones on the roster and he is healthy…

    Carolina Panthers: In their two wins so far this year, the Panthers have only yielded a total of 26 points. Granted, they have only scored a total of 44 points in those two wins, but still…

    Cincinnati Bengals: I thought they would only win 8 games this year taking a step back from 4 consecutive years in the playoffs. They have played very well so far this year especially on defense.

    New York Jets: I projected them to win 4 games this year and they have half of that number already. In their two wins, their defense has created 10 takeaways. They are not going to keep up that pace, but it has been impressive indeed.

Here in Curmudgeon Central, the focus is generally not on the surprisingly good teams; rather, it is on the teams that seem to be on a path to the bottom or on teams that are asking themselves if things can possibly get any worse. Falling into that category are 7 teams:

    Baltimore Ravens: I guess it is OK to lose to a good Broncos’ team in Denver if you do not give up an offensive TD in the loss. It is not OK to lose to the Raiders when you score 33 points. I know that Terrell Suggs is out for the year, but still…

    Chicago Bears: They have simply been dreadful. I did not have lofty expectations for the team this year (5 projected wins) but they are giving up 39.5 points per game in their 2 losses…

    Detroit Lions: Yes, both losses have come on the road but this was nominally a team that would win on offense this year. Now it could be that Matthew Stafford is “hurting” and that would mean the field presence of Dan Orlovsky. How long until someone gives him the name “Oy-oy Orlovsky”?

    Indianapolis Colts: Put simply, their OL is substandard. They cannot run the ball and they are not protecting Andrew Luck well. The Colts’ defense is not good enough to carry the team.

    New Orleans Saints: In a nutshell, the Saints’ defense is offensive. That is not a good thing. Oh, and Drew Brees has a sore shoulder. Shudder

    New York Giants: They have blown a 10-point lead in both losses this year with blockheaded plays at the end of both games. On the bright side, they have a short week game tonight meaning they have had less time to think up ways to screw up the next one.

    Philadelphia Eagles: Where is the vaunted Chip Kelly offense? The OL is MIA; the Eagles cannot run the ball even a little bit. Dwight Perry found this “headline” and had it in the Seattle Times earlier this week:

    “Sam Bradford defeats deer in headlights in staring competition.”

    It is not that far off target…

There is plenty of time for all of these teams to change the vector heading for their seasons. All I am saying here is that the 7 surprisingly bad teams need to throw it into gear pretty soon and the 5 surprisingly good teams need to avoid believing all their press clippings.

Last week, I saw the Broncos/Chiefs game and I saw enough to convince myself that Peyton Manning is not “finished”. He is clearly on the downward arc of his career, but he can still play QB with no embarrassment. I think the issue in Denver is their OL. On passing plays, the offensive line is supposed to get in the way of the pass rushers in order to slow them down on their trek to get to the QB. The Broncos’ OL is doing that in the most nominal fashion. Quarterbacks and receivers have to have a little time to get their plays to work…

With regard to the Pats win over the Bills last week, I think it is time for media to stop taking the easy way out during the week prior to any game where a team coached by Rex Ryan is playing the Pats. The braggadocio act has become hackneyed for one simple reason:

    The Pats win those confrontations too often to make the pontifications interesting.

Against the Bills in his career, Tom Brady is 24-3 in 27 starts and has thrown 61 TD passes. No player on the Bills nor any fan in Buffalo needs to say a word about what they are going to do to Brady in any game. After they do something positive – like beat the Pats on a Pick Six from Brady – they may be allowed a few hours to crow. Until them, please go the bar and get a free mug of Shut The Hell Up

There were several Bills’ players who felt emboldened by Ryan’s bluster to denigrate the Pats as a team and specific players on that team. Well, the Pats had 466 yards passing against the defense that was doing most of the posturing and preening. In the end, the Bills’ defensive players look like primary standard asshats. Demonstrating their high degree of professionalism, the Bills amassed a total of 140 yards in penalties during the game. Make that asshats-squared…

After the game, here is what Rex Ryan had to say:

“I have to do a better job at controlling my emotions. And it starts with me.”

And with that statement alone, Rex Ryan earns is Masters’ Degree in The Obvious from Curmudgeon College. Congrats…

Last year, people in Dallas were referring to Tony Romo/Dez Bryant/DeMarco Murray as the reincarnation of “The Triplets”. Murray is gone in free agency, Bryant is out 10-12 weeks with a broken foot; Romo is out 8 weeks with a broken clavicle. The objective now is for the Cowboys to try to hold serve and break even while those guys heal. Brandon Weeden will be at the helm with Matt Cassel behind him. There will be a lot of reliance on the defense – and it is a good defense. The return of Sean Lee from ACL surgery has been a big plus for the Cowboys. Against the Eagles last week, he had an INT and at one point in the 4th quarter the announcers said he had made 11 solo tackles. I did not count any of his tackles from that point forward so I do not know the total, but he was all over the field.

Speaking of the Eagles – and I am reminded here of my mother’s admonition never to speak evil of the dead – they have stunk in spades in their first two games. The offense has been virtually non-existent; on the rare occasions where Sam Bradford actually hits Jordan Matthews in both hands, Matthews drops the ball. There is no rhythm or pace to the offense. Adding to that ineptitude, the defense has played well – except for when it matters. At the end of the first half against the Cowboys last week, the Cowboys drove the field helped along by 5 defensive penalties all of which resulted in 1st downs. Maybe that is something that just happens to a pee-wee football team; that is not acceptable for an NFL team. If the Eagles are not the most disappointing team in the league so far, then the Colts are…

The Colts have to find ways to protect Andrew Luck because that is the only hope they have to win games. They cannot depend on the running game and they cannot depend on the defense. Luck was not sacked last week by the Jets, but he was hurried and hit and had to scramble on about 75% of his dropbacks. The Colts are in a bad division; as of this morning, Jax and Tennessee are tied for the division lead. I suspect that will not be the outcome at the end of the season but the Colts are a flawed team. Make no mistake about that…

The Steelers beat the Niners last week and I think that Antonio Brown may be the best WR in the NFL if Julio Jones and/or Odell Beckham Jr. are not. Against the Niners, Brown caught 9 passes for 195 yards and a TD; not a bad day at work… Back in training camp, Ben Roethlisberger said that his goal for the year was to have the Steelers average 30 points per game. Indeed, the season is young but the Steelers have scored 64 points in 2 games; last week against the Niners, Roethlisberger threw for 369 yards and 3 TDs. Oh, by the way, the Steelers get RB, LeVeon Bell back from his suspension starting this week. Here is a capsule of how the Steelers dominated that game:

    On 2 long drives, the Niners ran17 plays in each one and came away with a total of 3 points. 34 plays = 3 points…

    At one point in the 3rd quarter, the Steelers had run a total of 36 offensive plays and had produced 29 points…

This was to be the “Year of the Dolphin”. Ryan Tannehill was going to take a big step forward and the acquisition of Ndamukong Suh to that DL was going to produce a lockdown unit there. Not so fast Sparky; the Dolphins lost to the Jags last week with another lackluster offensive performance. Moreover, there were reports that Suh was freelancing on defense and ignoring the calls made by the defensive coordinator. Obviously, I have no idea if that is true or not but there is a cautionary tale here for Messr. Suh:

    You got the largest contract and the largest guaranteed money for a defensive player in the history of the NFL. You are a defensive tackle and there have been instances in your career when fans, commentators and other players have thought you were a dirty player. Now IF these stories about your “freelancing” are correct and you are ignoring your coaches, you are entering into dangerous NFL historical territory.

    That profile fits beautifully with the career arc of one Albert Haynesworth.

      Memo for Ndamukong Suh: You really, REALLY, do not want your name mentioned in the same paragraph with his.

The Raiders scored 40 points on the Ravens’ defense to earn a win last week; recall that the Broncos were unable to score an offensive TD on that defense just a week prior to this game. They looked like the “old-time Raiders” in the first half amassing 10 penalties in the first 30 minutes of the game. However, the present Raiders’ defense is nothing like the “old-time Raiders”; last week they gave up 493 yards of offense and still won the game. Al Davis would be happy that they won; somehow I think that Ted Hendricks, Jack Tatum and “The Tooz” would not be so happy with that performance. In two games, the Raiders have yielded 889 yards or 6.5 yards per offensive play by the opponents. This week the Raiders go on the road to Cleveland. There is good news and bad news:

    Bad news: Raiders are 3-24 in their last 27 road games.

    Good news: Raiders will play the Browns this week.

Meanwhile, the Ravens’ defense was a real no-show last week. They exerted little if any pressure on Derek Carr and put the Raiders in “third-and-long” situations only on rare occasions. That has to change if the Ravens are going to get things turned in a positive direction…

The Titans lost to the Browns last week and Marcus Mariota looked as bad in that game as he looked good in the opening week win over the Bucs. Such is the story of rookie NFL QBs… In that same game, Johnny Manziel threw two long TD passes to Travis Benjamin (50 yards and 60 yards) and Benjamin had a long punt return for a TD too. Please do not extrapolate this to conclude that Manziel-to-Benjamin is the reincarnation of “Montana-to-Rice”. Remember, those were the Titans playing defense out there last week…

The Bucs beat the Saints in N’awlins last week making it 6 games in arrow that the Saints have lost at home in their dome. That site used to be one of the great home-field advantages but not recently. The Saints are a mess; their defense could not stop a faucet drip. So far this year they have lost to the Bucs and the Titans; last year, the Bucs and the Titans were the two worst teams in the NFL.

Last week, the Bears gave up 48 points to the Cardinals and they lost Jay Cutler to a hamstring injury. For all those Bears’ fans who have been clamoring for the team to get rid of Cutler, you now have Jimmy Claussen under center for the next several weeks. Should he be unable to play, you will get to see David Fales. In that circumstance, two things should become clear to Bears’ fans quickly:

    1. Jay Cutler ain’t all that horrible as a QB or as a human being.

    2. David Fales is a person with a name that is a complete sentence.

As they used to say on the old TV show, To Tell The Truth, will the real St. Louis Rams please stand up? After an opening week win over the Seahawks, the Rams’ defense was gashed repeatedly by the Skins running game last week and the Rams’ offense was meek as a lamb. The biggest improvement in the Skins so far this year has nothing at all to do with the drama that surrounds their QB situation; the biggest improvement has been in the OL which is opening good holes in the running game and giving Kirk Cousins time to set up his passing attack.

The NFC East is a division in flux. The Cowboys have bad karma with the football gods so far this year; the Giants are intent on giving games away; the Eagles just have stunk out the joint and the Skins have played the best football in the division to date. Can those situations continue to obtain?

The Games:

(Thurs Nite) Washington at Giants – 3.5 (44): The Giants have lost two games by a total of 5 points after leading by double digits in both games. The offense has moved the ball but has not scored a lot. The question here is whether the Giants defense can slow down the power running attack of the Skins sufficiently to allow that same defense to try to put some pressure on Kirk Cousins. I think this will be a low scoring game and so I will take the Skins plus the points here – with very little conviction.

Pittsburgh – 1 at St. Louis (48): Ben Roethlisberger said he wanted the Steelers to average 30 points per game this year (see above). They will have a fast track on Sunday to chase that goal. The Rams did not play well last week particularly on defense so that unit might be highly motivated here. I think the Steelers will prevail here mainly because they have the better QB and the better RBs. I’ll take the Steelers and lay the point on the road.

San Diego at Minnesota – 2 (44.5): The Vikings featured Adrian Peterson last week in their win over the Lions so I expect they will do the same here. The Vikings’ defense also harassed Matthew Stafford all game long and I expect they will do the same here. I like the Vikes at home to win and cover.

Tampa Bay at Houston – 6.5 (40): Jameis Winston has faced the Titans’ defense and the Saints’ defense so far. This week he gets to see the Texans’ defense and that is a more competent unit. The Texans’ have a different sort of QB issue to deal with. The Bucs have a young QB who will be up and down all year long; the Texans have two QBs neither of which is very good. The Texans really do need a healthy Arian Foster to run the ball because that will mean it spends less time in the hands of whichever QB happens to be in the game at the moment. I think points will be at a premium in this game so I will take the Bucs plus the points here and hold my breath…

Philly at Jets – 3 (46.5): The Eagles have two things going for them in this game:

    1. The Jets played on Monday night last week and have a short week to prepare.

    2. The game is at the Jets where the Eagles will be booed much less than they would had the game been in Philly.

It is put up or shut up time for the Eagles’ offense here – but the problem is that the Jets’ defense is very good even if they do not get 5 takeaways again this week. If Sam Bradford stinks it up in the first half again this week, and the Eagles go to Mark Sanchez in the second half, think of the pre-cooked storyline comments the announcers will have. I like this game to stay UNDER.

New Orleans at Carolina – 3 (45): The Saints may have lost 6 straight home games (see above) but that does not mean I like them on the road outdoors. If the team is not spoofing about Drew Brees’ shoulder issues, the Saints will be in big trouble here; they are not likely to run the ball well against the Panthers’ defense. I like the Panthers to win and cover at home.

Jax at New England – 14 (48): After feeling the adrenaline of playing Rex Ryan’s Bills last week, the Pats may have difficulty getting themselves into a fiery state of mind with the Jags coming to visit. Moreover, the Pats get their BYE Week in the first available slot next week so they may be looking through this game to the week off. I think that line is fat; I’ll take the Jags plus the points.

Cincy at Baltimore – 2.5 (44): This is the Ravens’ home opener and it is pretty much a “must-win” game for the Ravens’ fans if they want their team to be a factor in the AFC North Division race. The Bengals are 2-0 and have played really well in both games. I like the “desperation factor” here even if it may be just a tad hyperbolic this early in the season. I’ll take the Ravens and lay the points at home.

Oakland at Cleveland – 3.5 (44.5): This will not be a pretty game; it may be the worst game of the week. The Raiders do not travel well (see above); the Browns will go back to Josh McCown at QB if he is cleared to play and that is surely not a warm and fuzzy feeling for anyone looking to back the Browns with some cash on the line. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER. Why not?

Indy – 3 at Tennessee (45): The Colts have a chance here to take their record to 1-2. If they win here, the Titans will also be 1-2 and after the Jags lose in New England they will also be 1-2. The best that the Texans can be on Sunday night is also 1-2. So, the Colts have motivation here… Yes, they are coming off a short week after a Monday night game, but I think they are the better team here. The spread opened the week at 5 points and dropped to 3.5 points almost immediately and is now at 3 points. I like the Colts to win and cover even on the road.

Atlanta – 1.5 at Dallas (45): This game features two undefeated teams; no other game on the card this weekend can make that statement. The oddsmakers set this line and it has stayed pretty much at these numbers for the entire week. That tells you what they and the betting public think about the injuries to the Cowboys; no one looking at this game on Labor Day would have had the Falcons as road favorites. The Falcons play their third consecutive team from the NFC East and their second straight road game. Just a hunch, but I like the Cowboys here plus the points.

SF at Arizona – 6 (44): The Cards are on a roll and the Niners’ defense showed some holes against the Steelers last week. I think Carson Palmer and company will exploit those holes and light up the scoreboard. I like the Cards to win and cover at home.

Chicago at Seattle – 14 (43.5): This is the only game this weekend featuring two teams without a win so far. The Seahawks have an excuse; one of their losses was in OT and the other was to the Packers – a very good team. The Bears have no such excuses and are going to start the game with a sorry excuse for a QB. I will not lay that many points (and in fact, you can find the spread at 14.5 points at two Internet sportsbooks this morning) even with the game in Seattle. I like the game to go OVER because I think the Seahawks are going to score close to 40 points by themselves.

Buffalo at Miami – 3 (43): Absent the hype and bluster of a thousand press conferences, Rex Ryan will likely have the Bills more than ready to play this game. The Dolphins have been sleepwalking in two games against the Skins and the Jags and have split those two games against opponents that are not as good as the Bills. I like the Bills to win outright so I’ll gladly take them plus the points here.

(Sun Nite) Denver – 3 at Detroit (44.5): The Lions are finally at home for a game and the Broncos are on the road for the second week in a row. Often, that is the feather on the balance that would get me to take the home team in a game like this. HOW-EVAH … The Lions have not been running the ball well and Matthew Stafford is hurting – albeit not injured. The longest offensive play for the Lions last week was a 17-yard pass completion even though the Lions threw the ball 53 times in the game. The Broncos defense is the superior defense here and Peyton Manning may not be the same QB he was 5 years ago, but he is still very good. I’ll take the Broncos and lay the points on the road.

(Mon Nite) KC at Green Bay – 6.5 (49): The Chiefs have had a long time to get ready for this game coming off the Thursday night game last week. It is almost like an additional BYE Week. The trip from KC to Green Bay is not transcontinental by any means but it is a road game and the Packers play very well at Lambeau Field. I think this will be an offensive game and I do not think the Chiefs can keep pace. Alex Smith is overmatched here against Aaron Rodgers. I like the Packers to win and cover.

Finally, consider this comment from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot after the first week of this NFL season:

“Complaints: Four missed extra points in the NFL’s Week 1 are half as many as were missed all of last season. Bengals booter Mike Nugent, whose point-after attempt was blocked, says of the directive that pushed kicks back to 33 yards, ‘I don’t know of any rules that have been changed to make guys fail more.’ After the way the league has changed rules to help the offense, defensive players would take exception to that. But the extra point issue will be with us all season, giving fans one more thing to talk about. Which is always the NFL’s plan.”

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

QBs And The Law Of Supply And Demand…

There is still time for another NFL set of weekend games in the month of September; it is not even BYE Week time yet. Nevertheless, we can already see how thin the supply of NFL caliber QBs is. Consider the following situations:

    Dallas Cowboys: They will have to do without Tony Romo for about 8 weeks. The only other QB on their roster as of Tuesday morning was Brandon Weeden. They will get to go shopping on the Free Agent Quarterback Market.

    Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler has a hamstring injury that will keep him out a “couple of weeks”. The QBs on the roster now are Jimmy Claussen and David Fales – a 6th round pick from San Jose St. who is on the practice squad.

    Philly Eagles: Sam Bradford has looked horrible and horribly confused in two starts this year. Behind him is Mark Sanchez who will consider the label of journeyman as his next career achievement.

    NY Giants: Eli Manning has played poorly – physically and mentally – at the end of the first two games this year. Behind him is Ryan Nassib – meaning that Eli’s job is perfectly safe.

    New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees says he has a sore shoulder. Luke McCown might get his wish from the Verizon ads and get to show how good he can be – or not. Behind those two is Garrett Grayson whose claim to fame is that he is Colorado State’s all-time leading passer – ahead of Kelly Stouffer.

Not only are those situations dire, but consider what might happen to teams with really good QBs should the injury bug strike:

    Denver would put Brock Osweiler under center.

    New England would go with Jimmy Garappolo.

    Indy would turn to Matt Hasselbeck.

    Green Bay would hand the reins to Scott Tolzien or Brett Hundley.

    Atlanta would start Sean Renfree – a 7th round pick from Duke.

    Arizona would relive last year’s nightmare with Drew Stanton and/or Matt Barkley.

The QB Free Agent Market has commodities such as:

    Jason Campbell

    Rex Grossman – he was actually in the Falcons’ camp this year.

    Matt Flynn

    Kyle Orton

    Christian Ponder

    John Skelton – – and of course – –

    Tim Tebow.

In case you get upset the next time you read about a contract for a “better-than-average NFL QB” and think that the team must be out of its mind, think about the Law of Supply and Demand from when you took Econ 101. The demand is fixed at 32 starters and 32 – 48 backups. The current supply is far less than that plus the colleges are not turning out “NFL-ready” QBs at more than about 1 per year – sometimes 2 – maybe.

I mentioned Brock Osweiler above and I think he is in an interesting situation in Denver. He is behind Peyton Manning there and is not likely to get a lot of time on the field this year absent an injury situation. Nonetheless, Osweiler’s rookie contract will expire at the end of the 2015 season and he will be an unrestricted free agent at age 25 – unless someone in Denver takes total leave of his/her senses and makes Osweiler their franchise player. As of today, Osweiler has been in the NFL for 3 years plus 2 games; in that time he has hit the field in 13 games all as a substitute. He has thrown 30 passes completing 17 of them for 159 yards. He is not much of a runner; in 19 rushing attempts, he has a net of minus-11 yards.

So, you are the GM of an NFL franchise and you need either a starting QB or a competent backup. Over the winter Brock Osweiler’s name goes on the list that has those seven players above – plus plenty of others of even less renown.

    Would you make Osweiler an offer? For what kind of job and at what salary level?

    Do you have any reason to believe he can or cannot play adequately in the NFL? After all, it has been a long time since those tapes of his games at Arizona St. that you can watch.

    Do you look at what he has done in exhibition games and put credence in whatever he did there?

The supermarket shelves are bare and there is no reason to believe a truckload of new QBs will be arriving anytime soon. The shelves may be bare but no one has found a way to repeal that damned Law of Supply and Demand. This is an interesting time to be an NFL GM…

Have you noticed the new team jackets that coaches are wearing on the sidelines this year? Is that a zipper up the back of the jacket to the neck? Is that a zipper pocket on the sleeve for carrying one’s smartphone – which you are not supposed to use on the sidelines? Is this all some kind of new fashion design initiative by the league?

Here is an idea for another NFL extravaganza:

    Introduce the new coaches’ attire in a fashion show format and have all the coaches “walk the runway” to show off the designs and the new colors.

    Hey, it would provide some programming time for NFL Network and it does not take a genius to realize that they need the content.


Finally, here is an item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald demonstrating that some football coaches may indeed be from another galaxy:

“A football assistant coach at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, took a high-voltage shot from a Taser gun last week in a morale-boosting stunt to increase team unity. It worked, as afterward players unanimously agreed the coach was an idiot.”

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

NFL Opening Week Excess…

If you are anything like me, you look forward to the first week of the NFL season simply because the NFL starts its season with – no surprise here – excess. There is a Thursday Night game; then, I can see the standard 3 games on Sunday followed by a Sunday Night game; and of course, the opening weekend has to culminate with a Monday Night Football doubleheader. It does not take a calculator to recognize that makes 7 games on TV for the opening weekend meaning that I can get a look at 14 of the 32 teams in the league right out of the gate. Trust me, I do not want the NFL to think about trimming that excess even a little bit.

Having said that, I do have a quibble with the presentation of the late Monday Night Football telecast. Regular readers here know that my fondest wish is for Jon Gruden to get an offer to come back and coach in the NFL that is so outlandish that he cannot turn it down. Most folks seem to love Gruden on MNF; I do not; I recognize that I must be in the minority here. However, looking back on the first Monday night extravaganza, the announcing booth for the second game was Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer. Oh, my …

Chris Berman is very good as a studio host/analyst. He is a big persona and he is clever; he knows how to draw out the folks he is working with and does it seamlessly; in that setting he does an excellent job just about every week. Nevertheless, doing play-by-play is not his milieu. If you are of a certain age, you can play this in your imagination:

    Think of listening to Howard Cosell doing play-by-play for a 3-hour sporting event. How long might it take you to realize that – whether you loved him or hated him as a color analyst – doing play-by-play was not his long suit?

However, that only begins my problem with the decision makers at ESPN. Like Chris Berman, Trent Dilfer is perfectly acceptable as a studio analyst. Listening to him for 3 hours doing live color analysis definitely makes my teeth itch. There has to be someone in ESPN’s employ who can cover that assignment next year, right? Here is how bad I think it was:

    By the third quarter of the second game, I was hoping that Jon Gruden would appear in the booth having used the “Beam-me-up, Scotty-Machine” from Star Trek to finish the game.

    For a fleeting moment in the second half, I actually thought it might be acceptable to have Joe Theismann make a comeback on MNF. Shudder…

The opening weekend of the NFL season generated what seems to be a brief squall of controversy regarding the fidelity of the headset communications in the Pats/Steelers game. We know now that the equipment is provided by the NFL and not by the teams and we know now that the NFL will investigate the problem with the goal of resolving it. Swell… Lost in all of this, seemingly, is a relatively simple way to analyze the problem and resolve it:

    Major college football programs play in front of crowds as large as – and often larger than – the crowds at NFL stadiums. They have TV and radio coverage often from multiple outlets going on simultaneously. In the games I get to watch, all of the coaches on both sides of all the fields are using headsets to communicate with whomever they want and it seems as if problems are few and far between. When was the last time in a major college game that you saw the referees stop the clock and go tell one of the teams to take off their headsets because the ones on the other side of the field were not working?

Somehow, in virtually the same environment, the communications systems and protocols work at the collegiate level but the NFL cannot find a way to duplicate that. Seriously, does that make even a little sense to you?

Now ask yourself this question:

    How long will it be until the person(s) involved in the NFL “investigation” of this problem check out how this matter is handled at Michigan or Ohio State or Alabama or LSU or … ?

You may recall that there was drama surrounding the injury that RG3 suffered in the exhibition season and when he might be cleared to play again. [Aside: This involved RG3 and the Skins so drama is not surprising. Both he and the organization could find a way to add drama to an afternoon nap.] However, the dramatic situation went over the top even for those actors.

First, RG3 did not have a concussion and was cleared to play; the next day, the diagnosis was a concussion and he could neither play nor practice. That twist only set the stage for the physician involved here, Dr. Robert Kurtzke, to resign his position as one of the folks involved with the NFL and the NFLPA as an independent neurologist tasked with assessing players with head injuries. The use of independent medical consultants/evaluators is one of the means by which the league and the players union have addressed the issue of player safety. Team physicians in the employ of the individual clubs no longer make unilateral and unchallenged decisions on injury matters – particularly head injury matters. As best I can piece together the sequence of what happened here:

    RG3 was injured in an exhibition game against the Lions and from the team statements he had a concussion and then he did not have a concussion.

    Then the story was that he had a concussion but it was not severe and he was still going to be the starting QB.

    At a subsequent practice, a reporter asked RG3 if he had a concussion and RG3 declined to answer that question.

    The team announced that RG3 would start the next exhibition game – – and then the next day the team had to report that Dr. Kurtzke had never cleared RG3 to play.

If RG3 had a head injury of any kind and Dr. Kurtzke was to be the medical professional in charge of the evaluation of that injury, there is exactly no reason for the team or the coach to say even a word about the situation. RG3 can say whatever he wants about it because he is the patient and he can express his understanding of his situation however and whenever he wants to. Nevertheless, the loudest voice in the choir here has to be Dr. Kurtzke’s and his voice has to be tempered by doctor/patient confidentiality.

So, Dr. Kurtzke found himself in the midst of a situation where the team had a player practicing – and presumably ready to play in the next exhibition game – that he had not completed treating/evaluating. Coaches and team officials were making public pronouncements about the matter that he was nominally in charge of. Given that he has to have been an acceptable choice to both the NFL and the NFLPA, he must be a competent and recognized professional in his field which means that he does not need the drama and the potential to be caught in the crossfires created by said drama. No wonder he resigned from the independent evaluation program…

Finally, Gregg Drinnan in Keeping Score at posed this question:

“With all of the money that Major League Baseballers make what’s with so many scraggly beards and bad haircuts?”

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