I suspect that this will be the last Football Friday for 2021 because next Friday will probably be devoted to the annual Bad Ads compilation that is traditionally the final rant of the year. However, I will keep options open…
Of course, I have to begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack:
- College: 0-0-0
- NFL: 3-3-0
- Total: 3-3-0
- Money Line Parlays: 0-1 Net loss = $100
Those results bring the season totals to:
- College: 14-19-0
- NFL: 26-29-2
- Total: 40-48-2
- Money Line Parlays: 3-9. Net loss = $475
College Football Commentary:
I saw my first college football game live and in person on Thanksgiving Day in 1948, not to worry; I was safe; the dinosaurs had all been dead for at least a dozen years back then. Because I came to enjoy football in its many forms – – collegiate, NFL, Canadian, USFL, XFL, et. al. – – I have wondered over the past year or so if the game I came to like, and follow would survive in any form that I might recognize five years from now. My answer is that it will survive but in a form that will be dramatically different from what existed on that very cold Thanksgiving Day in 1948 when a 5-year-old kid and his father took in the game from around the 20-yardline.
The existence today of NIL (Name Image and Likeness) rights and deals for athletes would have been Fantasyland for athletes in 1948 – – and even indeed athletes in 2008. I read one report that said that Alabama QB and Heisman winner, Bryce Young had an NIL deal worth more than $1.2M to him and his family. Those values make players significantly more “portable” than they ever were; Bruce Young with his “million dollars in the bank” can opt to play college football wherever the Hell he damned well pleases. Good for him… Potentially, not so good for college football as a whole…
Another major change is the existence of the CFP as the means to determine the national champion. For years, the way that was done was by a poll of writers who covered college football and/or a poll of the coaches of college football teams. Neither “set of experts” was willing or able to put in the work to see every team that might be a viable contender for a top spot in the polls so there were rarely times when everyone agreed as to who the best team of the year was.
Enter the much maligned BCS. It was hugely flawed – – but it was better than deciding the national champion by polling simply because that title was determined by the outcome of a real live college football game. Many people hate the BCS; but they ought acknowledge that it was a less-flawed means of determining a national champion than had existed in the pre-BCS era.
And now we have the CFP with a four-team playoff bracket. That is viewed as “insufficient” by many observers who want that tournament expanded to 8 or 12 or even 16 teams. My preference would be to expand to 8 teams, but no one is going to listen to my arguments as to why that is the ideal tournament size; TV money availability will drive the outcome here. Frankly, the showing of Cincy in this year’s CFP with the Bearcats representing all those “little guys who never get any respect” will be important for the public’s view regarding an expanded CFP;
- If Cincy loses to Alabama in the semi-final round by 4 TDs, the narrative will be that the “little guys” cannot compete with the “big boys” and the world needs to come to grips with that meritocratic fact.
- If Cincy plays Alabama tight – – or even beats Alabama – – the pressure for a major expansion of the CFP will be more than the power brokers for college football can withstand.
- For the record, as of this morning Alabama is a 13.5-point favorite in that game on New Year’s Eve.
I think that anyone who suggests that college football is on a precipice and that a fall over that precipice will destroy the game itself is hyper-ventilating. College football will survive; indeed, I believe it will flourish for the balance of my time on this orb rotating the sun; but it is going to survive in a different form that what I knew about for the 60 years between 1948 and 2018.
I was watching the Eagles/Football Team game on Tuesday night in Philly and noticed a big difference between the Eagles at home and the Football Team at home. In Philly when there were crowd shots, it was often impossible to see any fan decked out in burgundy and gold colors; the crowd was easily 95% “green and white”. Such is not the case for the Football Team in their home games at FedEx Field. It is not unusual for games there to have 40-50% of the crowd sporting the colors of the visiting team – particularly if the opponent is within driving distance of Fed Ex Field such as Baltimore, Philly, Pittsburgh, NYC.
Speaking of that game – one of the ones postponed last weekend on account of a covid outbreak within the Football Team – there is an “integrity of the game issue” for the NFL poohbahs to keep in mind.
- The spread for that game opened last week at Eagles – 3 points.
- When the outbreak was announced and the list of players revealed, the line went as high as Eagles – 13.5 points
- Then when the game was postponed, the line dropped to Eagles – 8 points.
- When it was announced that the Football Team would start and play Garret Gilbert at QB, the line jumped again to Eagles – 12 points.
If “certain select individuals” knew ahead of time about those announcements and lists of infected players, they would have a big edge on the general public when it comes to wagering. I am NOT saying anything like that happened, but it could happen.
- Memo to NFL and NFLPA: Be very judicious and very secure about decision making regarding game postponements and the like. “Integrity of the game” could involve more than “game fixing”/”point shaving”.
Please note that the final game score had the Eagles winning by 10 points. The spread spent time on both sides of that outcome by sizeable margins…
Based on the games available to me in the last two weeks, I have seen the Cowboys play two weeks in a row. I am not a doctor or a physical therapist by any means, but I honestly believe that Dak Prescott is injured and playing through an injury that has not been acknowledged. [Aside: I have said in the past that I thought both Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton were playing with significant injuries and those observations turned out to be factual.] Here is what I see when I watch Dak Prescott:
- There is little if any zip on any pass he tries to throw downfield.
- He is missing badly on a lot more short passes than he did in previous years.
I don’t know if he has a real shoulder injury – – the one that kept him out of all the Cowboys’ Exhibition Games – – or if the leg injury that kept him out of a game earlier this year is preventing him from planting and using his lower body properly. Someone far more experienced in analyzing QB motions would have to answer that, but I think there is something wrong with him that needs “fixing”/’healing”.
Now let me say something to Cowboys’ fanboys that might seem counter-intuitive:
- You fanboys need to hope that I am spot on here.
The reason I say that is rooted in simple economics. If Dak Prescott has been completely healthy and injury free for the past couple of weeks, then the Cowboys have a rotting albatross carcass hanging around their collective necks. According to Spotrac.com Prescott is signed through the end of the 2024 season and represents a Dead Cap hit of more than $77M next year. It is far more advantageous for the Cowboys as a franchise to have Dak Prescott performing as he is due to injury than it is to have him performing this way because of some sort of regression or topping out in ability. I will say it again, I think Dak Prescott is playing while injured…
Far, far, far too much has been and is being made about Michelle Tafoya’s presence or absence from the Sunday Night Football presentation. As is always the case when discussing the gravitas and/or the criticality of any and all sideline reporters, there are a couple of fundamental questions that has to be asked – – and answered with sometimes embarrassing candor:
- Does anyone anywhere tune into Sunday Night Football to see whoever is the sideline reporter for the game?
- How many TV sets will “turn off” if any sideline reporter is no longer part of the telecast?
- Conversely, how many extra viewers will NBC attract if it has a certain sideline reporter assigned to the game as opposed to some other sideline reporter?
I do not pretend to know what the story is about Michelle Tafoya and Sunday Night Football and her potential future endeavors with NBC or with any other broadcast network. It does not give me any pleasure to reveal this – nor does it embarrass me in the least – but:
- I do not care who the sideline reporter(s) is(are).
- They can use Michelle Tafoya or Michelle Branch or Cliff Branch or Cliff Clavin to report from the sidelines- – or they can use no one; it makes no damned difference to me.
Some pertinent – – and some not so pertinent – – comments from last week’s games…
Eagles 27 Football Team 17: The Eagles totaled 519 yards on offense here and dominated in the running game. In fact, the Eagles gained one more yard rushing than the Football Team amassed in total yardage.
Rams 20 Seahawks 10: The Rams’ defense held the Seahawks to 214 yards of total offense and only 134 yards passing. Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had this observation:
“Sticky-fingered Cooper Kupp, who is having a record-breaking season for the L.A. Rams with 113 catches, 12 TDs and 1,489 receiving yards — all tops in the NFL — has more receiving yards than every receiver combined on the Philadelphia Eagles.”
Messr. Molinaro was clairvoyant with that comment because Kupp scored the only two TDs for the Rams in this game and both came on throws from Matthew Stafford that definitely required “sticky fingers”.
Raiders 16 Browns 14: This was an ugly game, but Al Davis was looking down on the stadium in Cleveland and reminding the Raiders to “Just win, baby!” The Raiders’ defense definitely showed up here holding the Browns to 236 yards on offense. Both teams are now 7-7 and both retain outside chances to make the playoffs.
Vikings 17 Bears 9: This was another ugly game; the Vikes were outgained on offense almost two-to-one and still won the game. The Vikes’ total passing yardage was an embarrassingly low 61 yards. The Bears turned the ball over 3 times here and simply made a mess of their drives; here is how the Bears’ eleven possessions went for the game:
- Three plays – – PUNT
- Five plays – – LOST FUMBLE
- Eight plays – – LOST FUMBLE
- Twelve plays – – FIELD GOAL
- Four plays – – MISSED FIELD GOAL
- Five plays – – PUNT
- Three plays – – PUNT
- Four plays – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
- Eleven plays – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
- Eight plays – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
- Nine plays – – TD with no time remaining
Lions 30 Cards 12: This was a monumental bed-wetting by the Cards. That is two losses in a row for the Cards leading to a tie atop the NFC West with the Rams; both teams are 10-4. The win for the Lions deprives them for now of the top pick in the Draft next spring; as of today, they will pick second.
Texans 30 Jags 16: As of now, the Jags will pick first next Spring. Obviously, the team did not rejoice sufficiently in the firing of Urban Meyer to come out and beat a woebegone opponent here.
Cowboys 21 Giants 6: With this loss, the Giants have now had double-digit losses in each of the last 5 seasons. The team announced that Daniel Jones is out for the rest of the year with a neck injury. The Giants’ scouting department needs to get down to some serious business here…
Bills 31 Panthers 14: The stat sheet looks like a much closer game than appeared on the scoreboard. The Panthers turned the ball over on downs 4 times in the game.
Dolphins 31 Jets 24: The Jets led 10-0 at the end of the first quarter and 17-7 halfway through the second quarter. However, it was to no avail. With their 3-11 record this year, the Jets could still find their way to the top pick in next Spring’s NFL Draft. The Jets’ offense was a no-show for the second half; here are the Jets second half possessions:
- Three plays – – PUNT
- Six plays – – PUNT
- Three plays – – LOST FUMBLE
- Three plays – – PUNT
- Three plays – – PUNT
- Four plays – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
Steelers 19 Titans 13: The Steelers only gained 168 yards of offense in the game, and they still won. The Titans held the ball for just over 39 minutes and held the Steelers to 2 of 11 on third-down conversions – – and they still lost. The Titans have a 1-game lead – – plus the head-to-head tiebreaker – – over the Colts in the AFC South with 3 games left to play. The Steelers at 7-6-1 are still playoff hopefuls.
Niners 31 Falcons 13: The Niners’ ground game won this one; the Niners averaged 5.1 yards per carry as opposed to 2.7 yards per carry for the Falcons. The Niners at 8-6 have a good shot at the NFC playoffs; the Falcons at 6-8 would need to win out and get a lot of pieces to fall just right to make the playoffs.
Saints 9 Bucs 0: The Bucs were embarrassed in this one. They won the stat sheet rather handily despite three significant in-game injuries but never scored or threatened to score. The Bucs defense held the Saints to 11 first downs and only 3 of 16 third-down conversions. And still, the Bucs lost the game. Nonetheless, the Bucs hold a 3-game lead over the Saints in the NFC South with only 3 games to play.
Packers 31 Ravens 30: Once again, the Ravens lost on a failed two-point conversion late in the 4th quarter. That Ravens’ loss allows the Bengals to claim the top spot in the AFC North on the basis of a tie-breaker – – but the Ravens and Bengals meet this week…
Bengals 15 Broncos 10: I believe this loss eliminates the Broncos from the AFC West race, but they are mathematically alive in the AFC playoff race.
Colts 27 Pats 17: The Pats were shut out for three quarters but rallied to close the score to 20-17 with a little over 2 minutes left in the game. Then Jonathan Taylor took a handoff and ran 67 yards for a TD to put the game on ice. The Pats hold on to a 1-game lead in the NFC East as of today.
Chiefs 34 Chargers 28 (OT): Patrick Mahomes threw for 410 yards – and 3 TDs – and added another 32 yards rushing in the game. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill combined to catch 22 passes for 339 yards and 3 TDs.
Watching the Titans/Niners game last night I was amazed at how aggressive the Niners’ defense was and simultaneously by the lack of any concerted effort by the Titans to exploit that aggression. On offense, the Niners seemed incapable of doing anything wrong for the first 18 or 20 minutes of the game and then the offense became passive and almost sleep-walking. I did not get that at all…
AJ Brown was a monster in the game catching 11 passes for 145 yards. And I have a question here:
- When the Texans waived linebacker, Zach Cunningham, he was not claimed by at least 25 teams in order for the Titans to be able to get him. How is he not a starter on most if not all of the teams that passed on him?
(Saturday 4:30 PM EST) Browns at Packers – 7.5 (46): I do not see the Browns’ 19th ranked offense racking up lots of yardage on a pretty good Packers’ defense. Yes, I know the Browns will get a bunch of guys back to action from the dreaded covid list, but I think Aaron Rodgers will do them in. I do not believe this is a playoff elimination game for the Browns – – but it is close. The Packers need to keep winning to get a playoff BYE and only home games in the NFC playoffs. I thought about this one as the Game of the Week but chose elsewhere.
(Saturday 8:15 PM EST) Colts at Cards – 1 (49): Here is another game that got consideration as the Game of the Week because both teams need to win to maintain their playoff status. The Cards were awful last week; the Colts rode Jonathan Taylor to break the Pats’ 7-game win streak last week. The Cards have not “been right” for a while now; they started the season at 7-0 and have gone 3-4 since then. This is a big game for both teams… Here is an interesting stat I ran across:
- Colts are 8-0 this season when Jonathan Taylor rushes for 100 yards or more
- Colts are 0-6 this season when Jonathan Taylor rushed for less than 100 yards.
Bucs – 11 at Panthers (43.5): The Bucs will miss Chris Godwin and Mike Evans on offense; their absence was part of the offensive melt-down last week against the Saints. I don’t think there will be a lot of scoring here, but I trust Tom Brady more than I do Cam Newton to put a few points on the board. However, I think that line if fat; I’ll take the Panthers plus the points at home; put it in the Six-Pack.
Giants at Eagles – 10 (40.5): The Giants won the last time these two teams met in the Meadowlands; I don’t see that happening again with either Jake Fromm or Mike Glennon under center for the Giants. However, I do not trust the Eagles’ offense to cover a double-digit spread either.
Chargers – 10 at Texans (45.5): The Chargers lost in OT to the Chiefs last week; the Texans are nearly as formidable an opponent. The Chargers are in a good position to make the playoffs as a wildcard, but they do need to win this game to maintain their status; the Texans are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
Lions at Falcons – 5.5 (43): The Lions raised their record against the spread to 9-4 with their win last week over the Cards. I am tempted to pick them here because the Falcons are 1-5 in home games this year. However, the Lions are 0-6-1 on the road… Whatever; I succumb to temptation here; I’ll take the Lions on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.
Ravens at Bengals – 3 (45): The winner of this game will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC North with two games left in the season. Lamar Jackson will probably be back for the Ravens which is a plus, but the Ravens’ secondary is depleted too much to hold the Bengals down. This should be a great game to watch.
Rams – 3 at Vikes (49): This is a big game for the Vikes in the sense that a loss could mean missing the playoffs entirely. The Rams have had two good defensive games in a row; the question here was whether they could keep Dalvin Cook from running wild thereby setting up the Vikes’ passing game; that is no longer the question because Cook is on the covid reserve list and will not play Sunday. The spread moved only marginally on that news and I find that surprising. The Vikes are much better as a home team; this too will be an interesting game to watch.
Jags at Jets “pick ‘em” (41): Do I even need to point out that this is unquestionably the Dog-Breath Game of the Week? The Jags are winless on the road this year; the Jets are 2-5 at home. That is enough of an edge for me; I like the Jets to win here; put it in the Six-Pack.
Bills at Pats – 2.5 (43.5): The spread here opened the week with the Bills as 1-point favorites. If the Pats win, they will lock up the AFC East title and will be in the running for the overall #1 seed in the AFC playoffs. If the Bills win, they will tie the Pats on top of the division and will negate the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage the Pats now hold. This is my Game of the Week.
Bears at Seahawks – 6 (43): The Bears are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs; you can really stretch your imagination and find a way that the Seahawks can make the playoffs – – but in reality, this game is pretty meaningless. Russell Wilson had a less than stellar game last week; I think he will bounce back here at home; I’ll take the Seahawks to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.
Steelers at Chiefs – 10 (45): The Steelers cannot afford a loss if they want to believe they can still make the playoffs. The Chiefs need the game to maintain their position as the top seed in the AFC playoffs. The Chiefs seem to be having a “covid outbreak” and last I saw both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were on that covid list. Will they both be able to play or not? With the spread hanging in at 9 points, the oddsmakers seem to believe they will be on the field.
Broncos at Raiders “pick ‘em” (41): I believe the loser of this game is eliminated from the playoffs. Both teams have hurdles to overcome.
- The Raiders have a short week to prepare for this game thanks to rescheduling last week’s game against the Browns.
- The Broncos will start Drew Lock in place of Teddy Bridgewater at QB due to injury.
Purely a hunch, but I think the Raiders will find a way to win a close game; put that in the Six-Pack.
(Sun Nite) Football Team at Cowboys – 9.5 (47): The good news for the Football Team is that Taylor Heinicke will probably be eligible to come off the covid list and play QB; that is important. The bad news for the Football Team is that they have a very short practice week and a road game here against a team looking to lock up the division race and stay in the picture for the overall #1 seed in the NFC playoffs. Yes, I know I said above that I think Dak Prescott is playing injured; nonetheless I don’t think the Football Team can keep up here; I’ll take the Cowboys at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.
(Mon Nite) Dolphins – 1.5 at Saints(39): Don’t look now, but the Dolphins have won 6 games in a row to give them a glimmer of hope of making the playoffs after starting the season at 1-7. The Saints’ defense was dominant last week against the Bucs and the Dolphins offense is ranked 24th in the league sandwiched between the offensive juggernauts known as the Jets and the Falcons. Yesterday afternoon, the Saints were 3-piont favorites and I was poised to take them to win and cover – – until the covid list was announced and both Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemien are on it. It appears that the Saints will play Ian Book at QB here. No way am I making a pick here…
And here are two Money Line Parlays for you:
- Raiders @minus-110
- Cowboys @ minus 470
- Bills @ +115 To win $398 on a $100 wager.
- Chargers @ minus-450
- Eagles @ minus-450
- Jets @ minus-120 To win $174 on a $100 wager.
Here is a quick review of this week’s Six Pack
- Panthers +11 against Bucs
- Jets “pick ‘em” over jags
- Seahawks – 6 over Bears
- Raiders “pick ‘em” over Broncos
- Cowboys – 9.5 over Football team
- Lions +5.5 against Falcons
Finally, here is another item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:
“The Cowboys CeeDee Lamb has been fined more than $20,000 for having the shirttail of his jersey exposed during a game.
“It’s called the Untuck Rule.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………