Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 12/5/15

This will be the last iteration of the NCAA flavor of Mythical Picks for the season. Please keep the cheering down to a dull roar. I have never – and will not begin now – to try to make picks for bowl games that mean precisely nothing. I may have something to say about college football or have a pick for a single game somewhere down the road. In such a case, I will incorporate it into one of the daily rants. Specifically, I will continue to “report” on the progress of Linfield College football in the 2015 season via daily rants.

Oh, not to worry, the final seedings for the imaginary – yet more interesting than three quarters of the actual bowl games – SHOE Tournament appear below…

Last week’s Mythical Picks were plain vanilla in terms of outcome. The record last week was 9-8-0 leaving the season record at 102-97-5.

The “Best Pick” of the week was taking Texas/Texas Tech Over 72; the total score went north of 90 points.

The “Worst Picks” of the week were all of the 8 losses. Other than the Stanford minus 4 pick, none of them were even close.

No one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game this weekend should such a wager involve real money. If you are dumb enough to do that, you also probably think:

    A love triangle is a problem best solved in geometry class.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats won their third round game in the NCAA Division III football tournament beating Cortland State 38-22. That puts the Wildcats’ record at 11-0 for the season and puts them in the “Elite Eight” for those playoffs. This week, the Wildcats host the next round of the playoffs when the Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders bring their 11-1 record to McMinnville. The Crusaders only loss for the year was on Halloween to Hardin-Simmons by 3 points but the Crusaders avenged that loss in the Division III playoffs beating Hardin-Simmons by a score of 37-19. It should be a good game. Go Wildcats!

Last week, Memphis beat SMU 63-0. The interesting stat from the game was that Memphis QB, Paxton Lynch threw for 7 TDs. What makes it even more interesting is that he threw those 7 TD passes in the first half of the game. The score at halftime was 56-0. To say SMU “struggled” in the game is a monumental understatement; obviously, the defensive unit had no clue how to stop Memphis; on the other side of the ball, the SMU offense gained only 97 yards of offense for the day and turned the ball over 5 times. Remember this performance when you see the seedings for the SHOE Tournament below.

In another game that had SHOE Tournament importance, E. Michigan came from ahead to lose to Central Michigan 35-28. E. Michigan led 21-7 at the half – – and then gave up 28 points in the third quarter. You may be sure that you will see E. Michigan in the SHOE Tournament below.

Wyoming beat UNLV last week 35-28 giving the Cowboys 2 wins for the year and dropping their seeding in the SHOE Tournament.

UTEP came from behind to beat N. Texas 20-17. That was UTEP’s 5th win for the year meaning they could not possibly have fit into the SHOE Tournament. But N. Texas has been a fixture for that tournament for quite a while now. Here is how the game was so close:

    UTEP total offense was 256 yards
    UTEP fumbled 6 times and lost 5 of them
    N. Texas total offense was 205 yards
    N. Texas lost 1 fumble and threw 1 INT
    N. Texas penalized 10 times for 112 yards

Aren’t you glad you missed that game?

Akron beat Kent State 20-0 last week but the stats for the game were very lopsided. Akron had the ball for 40:59 in the game; Akron held Kent State to 135 yards total offense; Akron held Kent State to 10 yards rushing on 20 rushing attempts. Adding insult to injury, Akron also recovered three fumbles in the game. Now look at the final score of 20-0 and you will wonder how it could have been so close…

Kentucky led Louisville 24-7 in the first half. The final score was Louisville 38 and Kentucky 24. Not much more to say about that one…

In games that actually mattered last week, Houston disposed of Navy 52-31. At the end of the 3rd quarter, it was 38-17; the outcome here was not seriously in doubt. That victory puts Houston in this week’s AAC Championship Game against Temple (more about that game later). Houston QB, Greg Ward, Jr. led the Cougars’ offense throwing for 308 yards and 3 TDs. Navy gets the week off to prepare for its game against Army next weekend.

Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State 58-23 to win the Big 12 Championship for the year. It turns out that State’s 10-0 record was a mirage…

Ohio State beat Michigan 42-13 but the game was actually still in doubt at halftime when Ohio State only led 14-10. Ohio State’s running game returned to life last week:

    Ezekiel Elliot ran for 214 yards and 2 TDs
    JT Barrett ran for 139 yards
    Total rushing yards for Ohio State were 396 yards
    Total offense for Michigan was 364 yards.

However, Ohio State will not play in the Big 10 Championship Game because Michigan State beat Penn State handily 55-16. This game was also still in doubt at halftime when Michigan State only led 20-10. However, the second half belonged exclusively to Michigan State.

Meanwhile, Iowa beat Nebraska 28-20 running the Hawkeyes’ record to 12-0 and setting up an Iowa/Michigan State game for the Big 10 Championship this weekend.

UNC ran its record to 11-1 beating NC State 45-34. Actually, this game was over very early on. UNC led 35-7 at the end of the 1st quarter. UNC goes on to play Clemson in the ACC Championship Game this weekend.

Clemson played a rivalry game last week beating South Carolina 37-32. The ACC might not have a CFP participant if UNC wins the Championship Game. The Selection Committee has done everything but spell out that UNC’s body of work for the year is not real good. Even though UNC is 11-1, consider:

    The loss is to South Carolina – a 3-win team.
    One win is over North Carolina A&T (Division 1-AA)
    One win is over Delaware (Division 1-AA)

The SEC could be in for turmoil too if Florida were to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Florida has two losses and the last one was to Florida State in which the Florida offense scored no points. However, a win over Alabama would mean that Alabama would have 2 losses also and would not be a conference champion. Let me say this unequivocally:

    If you are someone who desperately wants to see the CFP expanded to 8 teams, you have to root very hard for Florida to win on Saturday. If the SEC has no team in the CFP field, the cries to expand the tournament will hit a crescendo.

    Personally, I like the 4-team field well enough to hope merely for a good competitive game for me to watch.

In rivalry games:

    Washington beat Washington State in the Apple Cup
    Oregon beat Oregon State in the Civil War
    Alabama beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl
    Ole Miss beat Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl


The Ponderosa Games:

Last week there were 3 Ponderosa Games and none of the favorites covered.

Appalachian State, Central Michigan and Oregon failed to cover.

That brings the season record for Ponderosa favorites covering to 38-49-1. That is one of the most unbalanced season records I can recall since I started tracking this sort of thing in the mid-90s.

There are no Ponderosa Games on the schedule this week and the only college game on tap for next week is Army/Navy. Even though Army is not very good this year and Navy is ranked at #23 in the country, I doubt that there will be a Ponderosa number on that rivalry game. I believe the final record for Ponderosa games will be 38-49-1.

The SHOE Tournament:

The CFP determines the National Champion. If there were a SHOE Tournament, it would determine the worst team in the country, the SHOE Team – the Steaming Heap Of Excrement. Here is how that tournament would operate:

    A Selection Committee (me) would pick the 8 teams to contend for this level of ignominy and then would seed the teams where the #1 seed is presumably the worst team in the country. However, that level of sordidness would be determined on the field.

    The seeded teams would play in the normal seeding order #1 hosts #8 and #2 hosts #7 etc. Here is the kicker:

      The winners can stop playing but the losers have to soldier on and play again the following week.

      One team will wind up losing 3 games in the SHOE Tournament and be this year’s SHOE Team.

Without further ado, here are the teams for this year’s Tournament:

#1: Kansas – 0-11, losing margin of 31 points per game, worst defense in the country

#2: UCF – 0-11, worst offense in the country

#3: N. Texas – 1-11, lost to 1-AA Portland State 66-7

#4: La-Monroe – 1-11, win over 1-AA Nichols St., plays New Mex St. this week, so what?

#5: Wyoming – 2-10, losing margin is 15 points per game; lost to E. Michigan

#6 E. Michigan – 1-11, losing margin is 17 ppg, beat Wyoming and lost 10 in a row.

#7: Oregon St. – 2-10, losing margin is 18 ppg; 110th in offense and 117th in defense.

#8: SMU – 2-10; see above for last week’s debacle; a late surge of stink got them here.

Games of Interest:

Texas at Baylor – 20 (68): This is a meaningless game; so why is it a game of interest? Well, the anticipated resurgence of Texas football seems to be delayed just a tad and the Texas fanboys cannot be happy playing a game on a weekend where just about everyone else taking the field has a reason to do so. It looked for a while as if Texas might be bowl eligible and get themselves to a minor bowl game but the bottom fell out of that market over the last month. The Longhorns rank 104th in the country on offense and 86th on defense; that is not a recipe for success. Baylor will go to a bowl game but they had their eyes on something much bigger until losing last week to TCU in a monsoon. I put this game on the list to demonstrate why I do not pick bowl games. Neither team has any burning desire here; neither team will achieve anything of value from a win. So, the question is simple; which team will show up at kickoff playing hard as opposed to going through the motions? The answer to that question usually points to the team that will cover the spread in such a game and the answer to that question is best derived through mind-reading skills.

New Mexico St at La-Monroe “pick ‘em” (59): La-Monroe is a SHOE Tournament team playing a final game against a 3-win team and it is a “pick ‘em” game. People in Monroe, LA must have better things to do than to attend this monstrosity of a game.

W. Virginia – 5.5 at K-State (58): At least K-State has a reason to play hard in this game; the Wildcats have 5 wins and need 6 to be sure of a bowl invitation. I think this will be a high-scoring affair so I’ll take K-State plus the points and I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Temple at Houston – 6 (54.5): The Total Line opened the week at 57 and dropped quickly to this level where it seems to have settled. This is the AAC Championship Game and it matches a team that wins with offense (Houston, ranked 15th in the country) against a team that wins with defense (Temple, ranked 19th in the country). Make this a venue call, I’ll take Houston to win and cover.

USC vs. Stanford – 4.5 (58.5) [Game is in Santa Clara]: The spread here opened at 3.5 and the Total Line at 61. This is for the PAC-12 Championship and a win for USC would lock the PAC-12 out of the CFP. USC enters the game with 4 losses on its sheet; no amount of chaos involving upsets this week will result in a 4-loss team playing in the CFP. USC has a revenge factor going for it here; Stanford beat USC at Stanford earlier this year. I think the Total Line has moved in the wrong direction; I like this game to go OVER.

Florida vs. Alabama – 18 (40) [Game is in Atlanta]: The spread here opened at 15 and has climbed slowly but steadily to this level during the week. I am not a “trend bettor” but Alabama has won the last 4 games between these two teams by a cumulative score of 143-47. The Alabama defense is peaking; they have given up 41 points in their last 4 games. Florida struggles on offense and wins on defense; against Florida State the only points the Gators could muster was via a safety. I doubt Florida can play “grind-it-out-offense” and be even marginally successful here. The question is:

    Do they have a repertoire of “trick plays” they can go to in dire circumstances?

Normally, when I expect a low scoring game, I prefer to take the points particularly three scores worth of points. However, in this case I can easily see Florida scoring only once in the entire game. For two excellent defensive squads, I will just take this game to stay UNDER.

Air Force at San Diego St. – 6.5 (50): The Total Line opened at 52.5 and dropped to this level almost immediately. This game is for the Mountain West Championship. Both teams run the ball most of the time and they both do it effectively as demonstrated here:

    Air Force is 3rd in the country in rushing yards per game (323.2)
    San Diego St. is 15th in the country in rushing yards per game (235.5)

Air Force holds an edge there, but with regard to defending against the run:

    San Diego St. is 4th in the country against the run (95 yards per game)
    Air Force is 34th in the country against the run (139.5 yards per game).

If San Diego St. can limit the Air Force running game, the Falcons do not have a potent pass attack to resort to. For the year, Air Force only averages 138.6 yards per game meaning they rank 120th in the nation. I like San Diego St. to win and cover here.

UNC vs. Clemson – 4.5 (67.5) [Game is in Charlotte]: The Total Line for this game opened at 63 and shot up to this level in about 24 hours. At first glance, this game looks like a shoot-out. Clemson averages 503 yards per game and UNC averages 496. So the ball will just be racing from one end of the stadium to the other, right? Maybe not… The Clemson defense only gives up 288 yards per game and it is on defense where Clemson enjoys the advantage here; UNC allows 395 yards per game. Purely a hunch – and mixed with a bit of a wish for some degree of chaos in the final week for the Selection Committee to deal with – I’ll take UNC plus the points here and I’ll root for them to win the game to produce said chaos.

Michigan St. – 4 at Iowa (51) [Game is in Indy]: The winner here is the Big 10 Champ and will be a shoo-in for the CFP. Right now, Iowa is ranked 4th and Michigan St. is ranked 5th by the CFP Selection Committee so in essence this is a play-in game for the CFP. Iowa finished the season at 12-0; some folks have downgraded that accomplishment saying that Iowa did not have to play any of the best Big 10 teams and was “less than adventuresome” in its out of conference scheduling. Nonetheless, the last time an Iowa team went undefeated for an entire season was back in 1922; so this is a big deal. The expectation here is for an old-time, smash-mouth football game; neither team gets fancy on offense and both teams play tough defense. I smell a low-scoring game here so I’ll take Iowa plus the points.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. It is an appropriate way to bring the college football regular season to a close:

“From the ‘Sometimes These Headlines Just Write Themselves’ file:

“B1G awards: U-M’s Butt named Tight End of the Year”

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 12/6/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were ever so slightly “in the black” and pushed the season total over the .500 mark. Last week’s record was 9-7-0 bringing the season total to 91-89-5. The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games went 2-1-0 keeping the coin in positive territory for the season at 14-12-1.

The “Best Picks” from last week were taking the Vikings plus points and the Skins plus points and watching both teams win straight up.

The “Worst Picks” from last week were the ones in the Pats/Broncos game. I liked the Pats and gave points (They lost straight up.) and I liked the game OVER 44 (It stayed UNDER.).

No one should use any info herein as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this week – or any other week for that matter. If you are dumb enough to that, you probably also think that:

    Nacho cheese is cheese that belongs to someone else.

General Comments:

Despite suffering his second collarbone injury for the season, the Cowboys have chosen not to put Tony Romo on the injured reserve list for the moment. Reportedly, the reason is that the Cowboys are not mathematically eliminated from the NFC Playoffs and should they get in and should Romo’s shoulder be “healed”, they want him available for a playoff run. That thinking stretches the limits “wishful thinking” and threatens to edge over the line into the realm of “magical thinking”.

Wishful thinking is hoping against hope; in the rare situation where a bit of wishful thinking comes to pass, it makes for a huge feelgood moment. Magical thinking is different; magical thinking is accepting the concept that Santa Claus on a sleigh powered by flying reindeer can actually visit the home of every child in the world on a single night.

If my math is correct, the best record the Cowboys can attain is 8-8. To do that they will need to win all of their next 5 games and even if they do so, there is no guarantee that they will win the NFC East. Compounding their task is a stark fact:

    The Cowboys have had 7 games this year with Tony Romo unable to play.
    The Cowboys lost all 7 of those games.

Just as maintaining the Santa Claus Myth for young kids does no great harm, neither does keeping Tony Romo on the active roster do any great harm. Nevertheless, he and his wife need not worry about booking themselves on a vacation to Tahiti sometime in January 2016…

On Thanksgiving, the Lions beat the Eagles 45-14 meaning that the Eagles defense gave up a total of 90 points in a 5-day period. More than a few Eagles’ fans have been lighting up Philly sports radio for the last few months calling for Sam Bradford to be benched – or worse – meaning that Mark Sanchez would take over the QB duties. Well, now those fans have seen Sanchez for about 6 quarters of football and it is time to ask them if they still think Sam Bradford is the reason the Eagles have not done well this year. I am not saying that Bradford has had a good season; he has not. I am not even saying that Bradford is well-suited to chip Kelly’s offense; I think he is not. However, Sam Bradford is not the reason the Eagles have been unsuccessful and the reason I say that is that there are multiple reasons why the Eagles have been unsuccessful.

Against the Lions, the Eagles defense surrendered 3 TDs to Calvin Johnson and allowed Matthew Stafford to throw 5 TD passes in the game. The 90 points the defense has surrendered in the past two games have been against the Bucs and the Lions. I doubt that many folks would place those two opponents near the top of a list titled “Fearsome Offenses NFL 2015”.

Later on Thanksgiving, the Panthers pantsed the Cowboys 33-14. In addition to losing Tony Romo for the rest of the season, there had to be another disappointing aspect to the game:

    Someone was wearing a Cowboys jersey in the game with the number 88 on it and was doing a miserable imitation of Dez Bryant.

The Panthers got a Pick Six on the Cowboys’ first possession of the game. Here is what followed in the first half:

    Two more INTs – one of which was a second Pick Six
    Two punts
    One field goal

Folks, that was BEFORE Tony Romo was injured; that was the offensive output with the varsity squad on the field. The score at the half was 23-3 and anyone watching the game who was not adorned in Cowboys’ paraphernalia had to know the outcome was not in doubt. For the game, the Cowboys managed only 209 yards of offense. From here forward, they will have Matt Cassel and/or Kellen Moore at QB. Good luck with a playoff run…

On Thanksgiving night, the Bears beat the Packers 17-13 in Lambeau Field on the night the Packers retired Brett Favre’s number. The game was not nearly as exciting as I would have wanted. After all, that is when the tryptophan from all the turkey tends to kick in and an exciting game on the TV would have made it much easier to stay conscious. Whatever… At kickoff, the Bears were 9.5-point underdogs and they won the game outright; that should get Bears’ fans pumped for at least a week.

The Skins beat the Giants 20-14 and based on tie-breakers the Skins are now the NFC East leaders with a 5-6 record. This game was not as close as the score would indicate; the Skins led 20-0 after 3 quarters and the Skins’ defense dominated. The Skins got 3 turnovers in the game and did not give the ball away one time. Here is what I mean by “dominated”:

    The first 10 Giants’ possessions resulted in:

      3 INTs
      7 punts.

Kirk Cousins continues to play well in the “Jay Gruden offense” and he topped the 300-yard mark once again. Cousins’ contract is up at the end of this season; I think he is in line for a nice payday…

The Broncos handed the Patriots their first loss of the year by a 30-24 score. People have properly paid lots of attention to the injuries that the Pats have encountered at the WR position this year. However, it should also be noted that at the end of the game on Sunday, the Pats were also without their two starting inside linebackers on defense. The Broncos’ defense had no such difficulties and played exceptionally well holding the Pats to only 301 yards of offense – the Pats’ lowest offensive output for the year. Virtually all of that offense came through the air; the Pats could only eke out 39 yards rushing for the night.

Brock Osweiler played well in this game showing poise in addition to physical skills. Like Kirk Cousins, his contract also expires at the end of this season. One or two more games like the one on Sunday night and he too will be in line for a nice payday…

The Raiders beat the Titans 24-21 limiting the Titans to only 44 yards rushing. Marcus Mariota played decently but Derek Carr played better. Carr threw for 330 yards and 3 TDs including a late game TD that marked a come-from-behind win.

The Bengals beat the Rams 31-7 and two stats from that game will let you know how discombobulated the Rams were:

    Todd Gurley ran the ball only 9 times
    Nick Foles threw the ball 46 times – including 3 INTs

The Chargers beat the Jags 31-25 last week. Philip Rivers had a field day against the Jags’ defense going 29-43 for 300 yards and 4 TDs. That had to make the 5 hour flight home pleasant. The Jags’ offensive ineptitude aided in the win. Note the margin was only 6 points and consider that the Jags had the ball inside the Chargers’ 30-yardline on 4 occasions in the game and scored ZERO TDs.

The Chiefs beat the Bills 30-22 and the Chiefs are en fuego. After a miserable start, the Chiefs have run off 5 straight wins and are in the thick of the AFC wild card picture. The Chiefs had a tough schedule at the start but from here to January, the schedule is not nearly as fearsome:

    At Raiders
    Vs Chargers
    At Ravens
    Vs Browns
    Vs Raiders

All five of those are “winnable games”; I doubt the Chiefs will run the table, but they should stay in the wild card chase to the end. The Chiefs have something in their favor as they make their wild card run. Three other AFC teams angling for those slots are the Steelers, Texans and Bills; the Chiefs have beaten all three of them giving them a significant advantage in tie-breaking situations.

The Cardinals beat the Niners 19-13 in a game that was so wacky that it got the officiating crew taken off this week’s nationally televised Sunday Night Game. The margin of victory came after two early mistakes by the Niners in the first quarter (an INT and a muffed punt recovered by the Cards) gave the Cards 2 field goals. Oh, and Carson Palmer ran for a TD on a bootleg. Honest, there is video to prove it…

The Colts beat the Bucs 25-12 and held the Bucs scoreless in the second half and to less than 100 yards of offense in the second half. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 3 TDs and 315 yards in the game – – not bad for a 40-year old backup QB. Nevertheless, when Andrew Luck is completely recovered from his lacerated kidney, I think the Colts would be dumber than donkey dung to keep Luck on the sidelines.

The Texans beat the Saints 24-6; the Saints did not score a TD in the game. That is the first time in Sean Payton’s tenure in New Orleans where that has happened. In case you have lost track, Payton took over in New Orleans at the start of the 2006 season. The Texans’ defense dominated the game holding the Saints to only 268 yards of total offense.

The Vikes beat the Falcons 20-10 and fans booed Matt Ryan during the game. Ryan did not have a stellar game; he threw 2 INTs in the Vikes’ half of the field – one of them inside the Vikes’ 5-yardline. This makes 4 straight losses for the Falcons; if their season is not in a freefall right now, it sure will be if they lose this weekend.

The Jets beat the Dolphins 38-20 but the game was not nearly this close. Early in the 4th quarter, the Jets led 35-7 and put it on cruise control. This loss makes the Dolphins’ record against AFC East foes a sorry-assed 0-5. As mentioned above, the Dolphins fired their offensive coordinator after the game. Here is a stat that might have tilted the scales in favor of jettisoning him:

    The Dolphins ran the ball 9 times in the game for a total of 12 yards.

The Seahawks beat the Steelers 39-30 in a most entertaining game. Russell Wilson threw for 5 TDs and 345 yards in the game; there were loads of open Seahawks’ receivers running through the Steelers’ secondary. When the Steelers had the ball, Ben Roethlisberger was also carving up the Seahawks defense; he threw for 456 yards in the game on 55 pass attempts; the Steelers had 525 yards of total offense for the day.

And then there was the Monday night game where the Ravens won on the blocked field goal returned for a TD on the final play of the game. Here is all I have to say about that game and the Browns in 2015:

    Good teams find ways to win games.
    Bad teams invent ways to lose games.

The Games:

(Thurs Nite) Green Bay – 3 at Detroit (46.5): The Packers have lost four of their last 5 games including a loss at home to these same Lions. What is even more disturbing to Packers’ fans is that Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offensive unit appears confused on more than a few plays. Meanwhile, the Lions have won 3 games in a row and I sure never saw that coming. I shall turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip protocol and the coin says to take the Lions plus the points.

SF at Chicago – 7 (43): The favorite has covered the last 4 times these teams have met. Of course, they do not play all that often so that stretch of 4 games goes all the way back to October 2006. Nothing interesting there… The Bears are coming off a win over the Packers at Lambeau field last week; the Niners start Blaine Gabbert at QB with rookie Dylan Thompson (South Carolina) as the backup. I know full well that Jay Cutler is capable of throwing 3 INTs against the Bournemouth Gynecologists (/Monty Python’s Flying Circus) but I still cannot bring myself to take the Niners on the road with Blaine Gabbert at QB. I’ll take the Bears and lay the points.

Cincy – 9.5 at Cleveland (43): The spread for this game opened the week at 7.5 points and has been rising all week. You can even find it as high as 10.5 points at one Internet sportsbook this morning. The Bengals have a comfortable lead in the AFC North but they are still involved in a race for a BYE Week in the playoffs and possibly home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Bengals have something to play for; the Browns do not. The Browns are 26th in the NFL in yards gained per game and they are 30th in the NFL in yards allowed per game. It looks as if Austin Davis will be the Browns’ QB this week; how might that change the equation here. This is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Jax at Tennessee – 2.5 (43): Woof! Woof! Without question this is the stone cold Dog-Breath Game of the Week. It is worth exactly no verbiage. I’ll take the Jags plus the points here.

Houston at Buffalo – 3 (42): The Texans have won 4 in a row and are tied with the Colts for the AFC South lead at 6-5. That record puts them in a tie with Pittsburgh, KC and the Jets for wild card slots in the playoffs. The Bills are 5-6 and need a win here to avoid needing miracles at the end of the season to get into the playoffs. I am a bit concerned with Tyrod Taylor’s shoulder; the Bills have not played well on offense the last two weeks and if the Bills have to turn to EJ Manuel, this game could get out of hand quickly. I like this game to be dominated by defense so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Baltimore at Miami – 4 (43.5): Both teams are 4-7; the winners will delude themselves that they can make the playoffs and “do some damage” once they get there; the losers will fade from relevance. The Ravens are 11th in the NFL in offense while the Dolphins are 27th. The Ravens are 17th in the NFL in defense while the Dolphins are 28th. It is difficult to get any adrenaline flowing about a game involving a QB duel between Matt Schaub and Ryan Tannehill. I like the Ravens plus the points here in a blasé sort of way.

Carolina – 7 at New Orleans (50): The Saints cannot be as bad as they looked on offense last week, can they? The Saints cannot be as bad as they looked against the Skins a few weeks ago yielding almost 50 points there, can they? Well, if they can, this is not the team they want to face this week because the Panthers have an excellent defense (2nd in the NFL) and an adequate offense (17th in the NFL). Here is how I see the game unfolding.

    Saints offense gets 3 scores – say 17 points

    To cover, the Panthers need 25 points; they can do that.

    To take the game OVER 50, they need 34 points; they can do that too.

I like the Panthers to win and cover and I like the game to go OVER 50.

Seattle at Minnesota “pick ‘em” (41.5): Last week Ben Roethlisberger torched the Seahawks defense (see above). Whoa! I think he just completed another pass to a wide open receiver as I typed that last sentence. Teddy Bridgewater is playing well but he is not yet Ben Roethlisberger. If the oddsmaker wants me to pick the better team in this pick ‘em game, I’ll take the Seahawks as the winner.

Arizona – 6.5 at St. Louis (42.5): The Total Line opened the week at 44.5 and has been dropping steadily all week. The Rams have lost 4 games in a row but remember that they did beat the Cards in Arizona on October 4th. I do not know if the Rams have another upset they can pull out of a hat, but that line does look fat to me. I’ll take the Rams at home plus the points.

Atlanta at Tampa – 1.5 (46): The Falcons were once 5-0 for the season; this morning their record is 6-5. In October, they aspired to keep pace with the Panthers for the NFC South lead; In December, they are hoping to find ways to scratch out a win here or there. The Bucs have played well this season and Jameis Winston has had more good games than bad games. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Falcons plus the points.

Jets – 1.5 at Giants (45): The spread opened the week as a “pick ‘em” game but jumped to this level pretty quickly; you can find the spread as high as 2 points at two Internet sportsbooks this morning. These teams are hardly exciting ones this year; if the Giants happen to win, both teams will be 6-6 for the season. Ho-hum… The teams are dead even on offense; the Jets average 2 yards per game more than the Giants. On defense, that is a different story. The Jets are 3rd in the NFL giving up 323.9 yards per game while the Giants are dead last in the NFL giving up 419.6 yards per game. Yes, the Giants give up ever so slightly more yardage per game than the miserable Saints’ defense does. I’ll take the Jets and lay the points.

Denver – 4 at San Diego (43.5): Given that Brock Osweiler played as well as he did against the Patriots last week, this spread shows him no love. I think the Broncos’ defense will hold the Chargers well below the 31 points they put on the board against the Jags last week meaning that this game will not turn into a Brock Osweiler/Philip Rivers shoot-out. I like the Broncos to win and cover even on the road.

KC – 3 at Oakland (44): The Chiefs are smack dab in the middle of the AFC wild card race and the Raiders can insert themselves there with a win in this game. What we have here is a real throwback; we have a Chiefs/Raiders game that is important to both teams in terms of the playoffs. Looks as if Mr Peabody set the Wayback Machine for some time in the late 60s/early 70s. I think this will be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Philly at New England – 10 (49): The Pats lost last week and they justifiably can look at the game tapes and think that a few dubious officiating calls in the 4th quarter had something to with that. The Eagles do not have the defensive personnel to match up with the Pats’ offense. I like the Pats to win and cover at home.

(Sun Nite) Indy at Pittsburgh (no lines): No lines means no pick for the game. The reason there are no lines is that Ben Roethlisberger is in the process of clearing out of the NFL Concussion Protocol so his availability for this game may not be known until Saturday. If I have to explain to you that there is a significant difference between the Steelers with Roethlisberger at QB and Landry Jones at QB, then you should not have read this far into these Mythical Picks.

(Mon Nite) Dallas at Washington – 4.5 (42): If the Giants lose on Sunday as I think they will, then the Skins can open up a significant lead in the NFC East with a win here. A win would give then a 3-1 record in the division; everyone else in the NFC East has two division losses as of this morning and the Giants have 3 division losses already. Jerry Jones still thinks the NFC East can be won by the Cowboys – hence no IR for Tony Romo yet (see above) – but a loss here would be the 9th of the year for the Cowboys and that would put the nail in the icing to mix metaphors here. Once more, I shall turn to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Skins and lay the points.

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

Coaching Stories

Last week, when news reports had it that Les Miles was on his way out at LSU, I wrote that it is not so simple to replace a coach who wins about 70% of the games played along with a national championship. I stand by those remarks as LSU folks seemingly have come to their senses. Les Miles will be back at the helm in Baton Rouge next season.

However, in the frenzy of “football coach firing season”, which occurs in late November and early December every year, the folks at the University of Georgia have climbed out on a limb by firing their head coach, Mark Richt. Here is a brief overview of Mark Richt’s tenure at Georgia – the only school where he has been the head coach:

    Head coach from 2001 through 2015
    Bowl eligible every season
    Overall record is 145-51 (74% wins)
    SEC East Division Champion 6 times
    SEC Conference Champion 2 times
    SEC Coach of the Year 2 times

For the record, Urban Meyer, Nick Saban and Bob Stoops are the only other current college football coaches I found who had winning percentages of 74% or higher. Mark Richt is in rather good company there…

Coach Richt will be 56 years old early next year; his coaching days are not done if he decides that he wants another position. The résumé that I summarized above will surely get him offers from other schools unless he makes it known that he is not open to such offers. Meanwhile the folks at Georgia will now figure out at whom they will throw money to come to Georgia and surpass Mark Richt’s record there.

Having said all of the above, the 2015 season was disappointing for Georgia fans. The SEC East was a mess this year; South Carolina imploded; Missouri fell apart; Florida had a new coach; Tennessee was improved but still middling. Nonetheless, Georgia found a way to lose 3 conference games and finish 2 full games behind Florida. Personally, I think the reason for that poor showing goes beyond the coaching staff.

On October 10th, Georgia lost RB, Nick Chubb, to a season-ending knee injury. The Georgia offense was designed to feature Chubb as the main weapon and the passing game as the icing on the cake. This offense was supposed to be akin to Rex Ryan’s “ground and pound”; and like Rex Ryan’s NFL teams, Georgia had QBs for whom the top aspiration was that they would “manage the game” as opposed to stink out the joint. Here is what I wrote about the loss of Nick Chubb in NCAA Mythical Picks the week after his injury:

“Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury on his first carry of the game and Chubb is more than just a really good RB; he is what makes the Georgia offense go. Georgia led 24-3 in the first half and managed to lose 38-31. The Vols ran up 512 yards of total offense on a Georgia defense that has not looked nearly that bad all season long. Some folks may want to ascribe this loss to the hangover sustained from the clobbering that Alabama put on Georgia 2 weeks ago; I think it was more about the loss of Nick Chubb. And, that has implications for Georgia and the SEC East going forward.”

Indeed, those implications going forward seem to have encompassed the coaching tenure of Mark Richt. Yes, this was a year when the SEC East was ripe for picking and Georgia did not do the picking. Yes, that makes fans/boosters/administrators frustrated. No, that is not justification for them to take leave of whatever they have that passes for common sense. Here is what Nick Saban had to say about Mark Richt, his firing at Georgia and what it means for the college coaching profession:

“I don’t know what the world’s coming to in our profession. Mark Richt has been a really good coach and a really positive person in our profession for a long, long time. … We all get it. We know we have to win games. But winning nine games is not bad.”

At the NFL level, recall that the Miami Dolphins fired head coach, Joe Philbin, a couple of months ago and took the opportunity to fire the defensive coordinator too. The team had a brief “resurgence” if you count beating the Titans and the Texans as pivotal events for your team. Nonetheless, the Dolphins now find themselves at the bottom of the AFC East; they are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but they have as much chance of winning the Powerball lottery as they do of making the playoffs. So, what did the Dolphins do next?

    They fired their offensive coordinator.

People have looked at that and interpreted it as a sign that the owner will do a total restructuring and reorganization of the football operation in the off season. Good for him; the team needs it. The problem he has to face up to is that the players on the field are also in need to a total restructuring; the Dolphins have bigger problems than just the coaching staff.

By the way, the Dolphins made another announcement recently that is not likely to make their fans real happy. In the wake of this unsuccessful season and the bloodletting of the coaching staff here is what the Dolphins will do next year:

    They will increase ticket prices for about half the seats in Sun Life Stadium.

In the world on international soccer, there is a coach in place who is facing a revolt from his players. Fifteen members of the Venezuelan national team have said they will quit the team unless the coach and some folks in the Venezuelan Federation are removed. Venezuela has never made it to the World Cup Tournament and has been a traditional doormat in South American international soccer play. This is not nearly the sort of seismic news that it would be if such a threat came from the Brazilian or the Argentine teams; however, it does speak to the idea that sometimes the players believe the coaches are incompetent just as coaches often believe certain players are incompetent.

And for the record, one of the Venezuelan Federation folks – an overseer of a traditional doormat of a program – was one of the FIFA officials who was arrested in Switzerland about 6 months ago as part of the US/Swiss investigations and prosecutions of FIFA execs who just might have been involved in some corrupt activities.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times. Yes, he should be ashamed of himself for this groaner…

“Former Olympic 1,500-meter champ Sebastian Coe of England defeated former 20-foot vaulter Sergey Bubka of Ukraine, 115-92, to become president of IAAF, track & field’s governing body.

“Moral of the story: It doesn’t pay to run against Coe, even if you are No. 1 in the poles.”

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

A Race To The Bottom Tonight

Sports fans always look forward to “Games of the Year” whereby two teams considered to be “The Best” meet on the field/court/ice/pitch to determine the superior squad. However, there is inherent symmetry in the world and tonight will provide fans with a chance to glance at the other end of the stick. Tonight, at 7:00 EST, the Los Angeles Lakers tote their 2-14 record to South Philadelphia to play against the Philadelphia 76ers and their 0-18 record. You might be surprised to learn that the Sixers are favored by 1.5 points in this Race-to-the-Bottom Classic.

The fact that Kobe Bryant – who went to high school in suburban Philly before jumping to the NBA – has just announced that this will be his final season as a player will likely goose the attendance for the game. Might it actually be a sellout? If it is, it could be the only sellout of the season for the Sixers.

Philly fans like basketball; they generally support teams well even if those teams are “not fully functional”. Nevertheless, the Sixers of the past few years have been well below the descriptor of “not fully functional”; for the past several years, the Sixers have been “painfully pathetic”. Most folks identify the arrival of GM Sam Hinkie a little over 2 seasons ago as the start of the “painfully pathetic” era; I happen to think that the origin of this giant puddle of dog-barf began with the idiotic trade the Sixers made to acquire Andrew Bynum. However, that is quibbling so I will move on.

From the fans’ perspective the problem with the Sixers these days is that they are not only losing but they are losing every way you can imagine.

    Sometimes, they get blown out from the start and lose by a huge number.
    Sometimes they lead in the 4th quarter and then lose.
    Sometimes they rally from behind to take the lead late and then lose.

There is no fixed script for Sixers’ games except for the outcome. They lose. Moreover, one has to wonder if there is anything more than rhetorical gas behind the pronouncements that there is a master plan behind all of this. The front office plan/philosophy is to tear down the team to nothing and then proceed to use the assets gained by the tear down to rebuild the team. Indeed, they been wheeling and dealing for draft picks and foreign players. The problem is that the product on the court after 2 full years of restructuring is abjectly awful – or painfully pathetic if you prefer.

GM, Sam Hinkie, is trying to implement an NBA version of Moneyball; he is a devotee of advanced analytics for the game and he believes – probably correctly – that if/when he assembles a team with 5 or 7 outstanding young players at one time, that the Sixers will become a dynastic team. As Hamlet said, “Aye, there’s the rub…” So far, Hinkie’s top picks in the draft have been:

    Nerlins Noel: Good defensive player but no offense
    Michael Carter Williams: Traded away to Bucks and now benched there
    Joel Embiid: Has yet to see the floor due to foot injuries/surgeries
    Jahlil Okafor: Good offensive player but no defense

In the 2+ seasons of the Hinkie Master Plan, the Sixers cumulative record is 37-145. One need not resort to advanced analytics to recognize that is beneath miserable. The Sixers potentially have as many as 5 first round draft picks for next summer. Hey there, that has to be the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, if you look at the prior draft picks (note that three of the four top picks all play center) you have to wonder if that light at the end of the tunnel might actually be a gorilla with a flashlight.

And just when it seemed as if the Sixers were due for just a smidgen of good news, we learned that the latest top pick, Jahlil Okafor has had 3 “off-court incidents” in the last month to include an altercations where punches were thrown, a gun outside a club in the late-night hours and a speeding ticket on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge where the vehicle was clocked at 108 mph. Okafor is only 19 years old but that speeding ticket indicates to me that he knows that his future lies in getting out of this situation as fast as possible.

There is a report on CBSSports.com this morning that the Sixers will provide Okafor with a security guard “whenever he goes out”. Obviously, the Sixers want to protect the value of their asset; not so obviously, the Sixers seem not to understand the difficulty of protecting anyone from oneself.

However, all of that drama regarding the Sixers will be on hold tonight as the Lakers come to town with their “local kid made good” who is on his farewell tour on a team so bad that the Sixers might actually win the game. For one night, Philly basketball fans might actually enjoy going to the arena for a game – unless and until the Sixers find a way to lose at the end yet again.

Meanwhile, the world of college football finds itself in the situation whereby they are not going to have 80 bowl-eligible teams available for the 40 stupid bowl games that will transpire. As of this morning there are 75 teams with 6 wins. Of the teams with 5 wins, only 3 of them (Georgia State, Kansas State and South Alabama) have another game to play this weekend. Ergo, the NCAA will have to name at least 2 and as many as 5 ineligible teams “good enough to participate in a bowl game.” Never an entity to miss an opportunity to perpetuate a fiction, the NCAA will determine which ineligible teams to anoint with pixie dust by using:

    The Academic Progress Rate

I am not going to try to explain what this is other than to say it is a concoction of the NCAA that tries to hold schools accountable for having athletes take courses and progress toward degrees. And if you think that is effective, you have already bought into the fiction of the student-athlete in revenue sports and do not need to have your eyes diverted by smoke and mirrors. If you care to know more about that nonsense, here is a link to Wikipedia’s explanation.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Wisconsin fans hurled snowballs at their own cheerleaders at last Saturday’s football game.

“Coincidence? Irate school officials immediately announced they will no longer accept student applications postmarked Philadelphia.”

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

NFL Dollars And Sense…

In something far below the level of Earth-shattering news – in fact even below the level of marginally important news – CBS Sports today announced that it will have a new logo and new on-screen graphics coinciding with its telecast of the Super Bowl in February 2016. The new logo is described as “newer” and “sleeker” than the old one. Please raise your hand if the logo that a network uses on its sports telecasts has any bearing on whether you choose to watch that event on that network.

I thought so…

I read another report regarding CBS recently. For the telecast of Super Bowl 50, CBS is charging $5M for the “prime” 30-second spots in the game and that almost all of the “prime” spots have already been sold. If that is the case and we are not quite into December yet, I suspect that the price of the unsold “non-prime” spots might see a slight increase as December proceeds into January.

Large sums of money and the NFL get mentioned together lots of times these days. As the league owners march toward a decision regarding whether to put a team or two in Los Angeles, some folks have begun speculating about the “relocation fee” that the non-moving owners will split up as collected from the owner(s) who receive approval for such a move. Speculation about the “relocation fee” started at $500M for each team that earns approval for a move and some estimates have been as high as $600M per team. Let me put that into perspective for you here:

    The Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore as the Ravens in 1996. In order to gain league approval for that move, Art Modell paid the NFL a total of $29M – $20M up front and $9M in deferred payments over the next 15 years.

    Therefore, in roughly 20 years, the relocation fee jumped about 1700%.

The dynamic here is also interesting. Imagine that the final outcome is that the league owners vote to allow 2 teams to move to LA. For the moment, it does not matter which two make the move; just consider that there are 2 such teams. And merely to make the math come out in even numbers, assume that the “relocation fee” is set at $600M per team. In this imaginary instance, 30 teams will split $1.2B of “relocation fees” which comes out to be $40M per team. So let me pose a couple of questions here:

    1. If you owned a team that was not going to be affected in any meaningful way, why would you vote to oppose moving two teams to LA? NFL teams are profitable enterprises and just because you happen to own one of those teams, you now have the option to cash in a $40M lottery ticket just for raising your hand and saying “Aye!”

    2. Since the cold hard fact of the dynamic in my imaginary scenario above is that the “relocating owners” are going to pay significant money to the “non-moving NFL owners” in exchange for their votes to approve the relocation, why is this not thought of in terms of bribery? When IOC members and/or FIFA execs receive things of significant value in exchange for their vote on a specific matter, the word “bribery” leaps immediately into our vocabulary. In a broad sense, the 30 “non-moving NFL owners” are doing the same thing.

Now look back at the terms of the “relocation fee” imposed on Art Modell when he moved his franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore. He paid two-thirds of the fee up front and then paid off the rest of the obligation over 15 years. [Aside: He paid $9M over 15 years or $600K per year. That is an amount of money that I would love to see deposited into my retirement account annually, but in terms of the amounts we are talking about in the current relocation situation, that is chump-change.] Some commentators have opined that the terms of the relocations fee payments could have a significant impact on which teams can make this move. Specifically, some folks have said that if the entire $600M had to be paid upfront as an integral part of the deal, that specification would take the Oakland Raiders off the board. Reporters in the Bay Area have said definitively that Mark Davis cannot come up with that amount of money in a single chunk without selling off a fraction of the Raiders that could put his total command of the team in jeopardy.

Please note, I am not the one saying that for a very simple reason. I have exactly no knowledge of Mark Davis’ balance sheet or the details of the ownership arrangement for the team. What I do know is that the Raiders are owned by a partnership and that Mark Davis – and presumably his mother – are the General Partners in the ownership arrangement while any other owners are Limited Partners. Remember, I am not an attorney, but my understanding of limited partnerships is that the General Partner has complete and total control of the entity up to the limit of the General Partner committing illegal acts. What I do not know is whether the partnership agreement that prevails in the Raiders’ situation might allow the Davis family to decree that they and the other limited partners need to pony up cash should it be necessary to pay the relocation fee in a single chunk.

I am sure that some Raiders’ fan somewhere is going to read that and soar straight into Paranoia Mode wherein the NFL now has some way to “get even” with the Davis family for legal actions undertaken by patriarch Al Davis 30 and 40 years ago. Hey, it could happen. On the other hand, I do not think that it is imminently important for everyone in Raiderland to fashion for themselves a series of tinfoil hats to ward off the mind-control rays emanating from mahogany row at NFL Headquarters.

Here is one other way to look at the relocation fee issue. The Chargers, Raiders and Rams are the 3 teams “in play” for league approval to move to LA. According to Forbes’ valuation of those franchises, these three entities are worth between $1.43B (Raiders) and $1.52B (Chargers). To make the numbers come out even, consider that they are worth $1.5B. If that is the case, then the relocation fee is 40% of the franchise value. The Spanos fortune comes from real estate ventures; the Kroenke fortune comes from real estate and sports entrepreneurial ventures. Within both entities, there are serious “business folks” who use sophisticated understandings of markets and opportunities to project profitable decisions.

    In both of those ownership situations, they think it is worthwhile to pay a fee of 40% of the overall worth of the franchise to move to LA. Therefore, what ought we to infer from that analysis and conclusion about the increased profitability and value of the franchise itself simply by locating itself in LA?

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this hopeful view of sports finances recently:

“Bob Iger will be paid $1 per year to steer the Raiders’ quest to build a stadium in Los Angeles. Sheikh Salman, running for president of FIFA, says he will do the job for free. This trend can mean only one thing: Cheaper beer.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/28/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were – to put it politely – less than satisfactory. The record for last week was 6-8-0 bringing the season record to 93-89-5.

The “Best Picks” last week were taking Temple +2 (They beat Memphis straight up.) and taking Michigan State +14 (They beat Ohio State straight up.).

The “Worst Pick” last week involved the Cal/Stanford game. I took Cal +11 and they did not cover and I took the game to go OVER 64 and it did not.

As evidenced by last week’s record, no one should take any information herein and use it as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money on this weekend or any other weekend. If you are dumb enough to do this:

    You probably think khakis are what you need to start a car in Boston.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats won their first round game in the NCAA Division III football tournament last week beating Whitworth 48-10. That puts the Wildcats in the Sweet 16 and their next opponent will be Cortland State this Saturday in McMinnville, OR. The wildcats are 10-0 for the season; Cortland State will travel cross country from New York for the game and they bring a 9-2 record with them. Go Wildcats!

If someone wrote back in August that we would arrive at Thanksgiving week with 2 undefeated teams and that those teams would be Clemson and Iowa, can you please provide me with a link to that essay. I most certainly would never have predicted that. Yet, that is the case…

Before I get to my personal view of where we stand vis a vis the CFP tournament field, here is what I think about the announcements by Ezekiel Elliot and Cardale Jones that they will not be back at Ohio State next year and that they will declare for the NFL Draft:

    Duh !

    No one expected either of you to be back at Ohio State next year.

Here is how I see the CFP tournament field shaking out:

    Clemson: They have been ranked #1 in all the CFP Weekly Polls but they can ill-afford to lose to S. Carolina (who lost to The Citadel last week) or to UNC in the ACC Championship Game. Dabo Sweeney gets rather exercised when someone refers to “Clemsoning” – the art of losing a game to a team that one ought to beat handily. If they lose either of their next games, Sweeney will hear a bunch of questions about ‘Clemsoning”.

    UNC: They already have a loss to S. Carolina on their record and it stands out like a giant zit on a bride walking down the aisle. If they beat Clemson, they might be in the playoff; otherwise…

    Notre Dame: This is a “quasi-ACC team” given that they play 6 games against ACC opponents. They must beat Stanford this weekend to remain in consideration; if they do, their “claim to fame” is that their only loss came at the hands of Clemson (#1 in the polls) at Clemson by only 2 points in a monsoon.

    Michigan State: This is pretty simple; they need to beat Penn State this weekend because that will put them in the Big 10 Championship Game and then they need to beat Iowa in that game. If they do that, they are in the CFP. Their only loss (to Nebraska) came courtesy of a horribly blown call by the officials in the final moments of that game.

    Iowa: Their status is pretty simple too; they need to beat Nebraska this weekend and then win the Big 10 Championship Game. If they do that, they are in the CFP.

    Ohio State: They can still get in but it is going to take a lot of things to fall just right:

      1. Beat Michigan this weekend

      2. Watch Penn State beat Michigan State. That will put Ohio State into the Big 10 Championship Game.

      3. Beat Iowa in that game handily – similar to the way they beat Wisconsin in that game last year. The reason they need a big win is that the loss to Michigan State is a bad loss.

        They lost at home.
        They lost to a backup QB
        They had 5 first downs in the game.
        They generated 124 yards of offense in the game.

    Oklahoma: They have to beat Oklahoma State this weekend and – if I were on the Selection Committee – I would want to know a lot about the availability of QB Baker Mayfield. He had to come out of the game after taking a head shot in the first half of the game. In the second half, the Sooners were one-dimensional; they could not throw the ball and they looked very mediocre.

    Oklahoma State: They have to beat OU this weekend; one of those teams will be eliminated from CFP consideration by Sunday morning. State did not look good in their loss to Baylor at home last weekend.

    Baylor: They need to beat TCU this weekend; if they lose that game, they are toast. They also need Oklahoma State to beat Oklahoma because if Baylor winds up tied with Oklahoma, they will stay home because Baylor lost to Oklahoma at Baylor by 10 points. On the other hand, they beat Oklahoma State by 10 points at Oklahoma State.

    TCU: I do not think there is any way for TCU with its two losses to get into the CFP since there has to be at least one and possibly two Big 12 teams that will end the season with only one loss. However, they can spoil any chances Baylor has of getting in…

    Stanford: They are a longshot – even if they win out because they already have 2 losses on their record (Oregon and Northwestern). However, if they finish the season beating Notre Dame and then winning the PAC-12 Championship game over either UCLA or USC …

    Alabama: This is simple and straightforward. Bama needs to beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl and then beat Florida in the SEC Championship Game. If they do that, they are in.

    Florida: They need to beat Florida State this weekend and then beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. That is a tall order; those are two quality opponents. The “nightmare scenario” for the SEC fanboys would be:

      Florida loses to Florida State giving Florida its second loss

      Florida then beats Alabama meaning no team in the SEC has less than 2 losses on the record.

    Imagine the screeching if the Committee looks at the SEC teams having 2 losses and decides to invite neither of them.

Here are the four teams I think belong in the CFP – in alphabetical order:

    Alabama
    Clemson
    Michigan State
    Oklahoma

Now, all those four teams need to do is to take care of business…

The other thing I want to talk about this week is the story that folks at LSU want to fire Les Miles because – according to reports:

    He does not develop quarterbacks
    He has not beaten Alabama in 5 years
    He has not had LSU competing for national championships since 2011.

Look, all of those things are true and yet, I would like to offer a cautionary note to LSU folks. Please understand, I have no ties or allegiances to LSU or to any of its rival schools and I do not know Les Miles from Les Brown and his Band of Renown and/or 40 Miles of Bad Road [/Duane Eddy]. Recall in a moment of reflection what happened in these two circumstances:

    Michigan fired Lloyd Carr in 2007. He had won a national championship there; he had won the Big 10 Championship 5 times and his record there was 122-40. That is very comparable to Les Miles’ achievements at LSU. And what happened to Michigan after Carr was run out of Ann Arbor:

      3 years with Rich Rodriguez and an overall losing record.

      The “Brady Hoke Era” emblazoned with mediocrity.

      Then – – Jim Harbaugh 7 years later and a ray of hope.

    Tennessee fired Phil Fulmer in 2008. He had won a national championship there and compiled an overall record of 152-52. That is very comparable to Les Miles’ achievements at LSU. Here is what happened to Tennessee after Fulmer was run out of Knoxville:

      Lane Kiffin lasted a year and went 7-6

      Derek Dooley was there for 3 years and went 15-21 overall

      Butch Jones took over in 2013 and was 11-13 going into this year.

Les Miles will finish his 11th season at LSU this year. He has won a national championship there; he has been in the BCS championship game one other time and lost. In those 11 seasons he will have amassed 7 seasons with 10 or more wins. As of this morning, his overall record at LSU is 110-32. Perhaps he is “the problem” standing in the way of LSU achieving football glory; perhaps not. If the boosters succeed in running him out of Baton Rouge, they had best be right.

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 8 Ponderosa Games and the favorite covered in 5 of them. That brings the cumulative record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 38-46-1.

Auburn, BYU, La Tech, Middle Tennessee St and West Virginia covered.

Clemson, Florida and Kentucky did not cover.

This week we have 3 Ponderosa Games.

E. Michigan at C. Michigan – 24 (56.5): Nothing like a MAC game with a huge spread to convince me to look elsewhere for my football viewing enjoyment.

Oregon St at Oregon – 35 (68.5): This is a huge spread in a huge rivalry game – a game that actually has a name of its own. They call it “The Civil War” and the last time Oregon State won the game was in 2007.

La-Laf at Appalachian St – 24 (60): This spread opened at 21 points; to go up by 3 points would indicate that a lot of money came in early on Appalachian St. Why? I have no idea…

The SHOE Teams:

Barring an unexpected set of circumstances this week, these 6 teams will be in the SHOE Tournament to determine the SHOE Team for 2015 – the Steaming Heap Of Excrement. Final seeding will have to wait another week…

    E. Michigan 1-10
    Kansas 0-11
    La – Monroe 1-10
    N. Texas 1-10
    UCF 0-11
    Wyoming 1-10

That means I believe I will need 2 more teams to round out the field – and then I need to have a couple of other possibilities in the event that one of these teams pulls a big upset this week. So, waiting in the wings will be:

    Hawaii 2-10
    Oregon St 2-9
    Purdue 2-9
    SMU 2-9
    UMass 2-9

Games of Interest:

There are lots of interesting games this week because some games are important in conference standings and/or CFP rankings while others are simply big rivalry games. So, let me get to them…

(Thurs Evening) Texas Tech at Texas – 1 (72): When I was young, Texas always ended its season on thanksgiving weekend with a game against Texas A&M – before the Aggies joined the SEC. This is a “replacement rivalry game” in my mind but it is interesting this year because Texas Tech averages 221 yards per game more on offense than Texas does and Texas is the favorite in the game. That is because while Tech is 3rd in the country in total offense, they are also 126th in the country (3rd for the bottom) in total defense. You can check out this game during the Bears/Packers game or instead of that game if you want to see a points explosion. I like this game to go OVER.

Iowa – 2 at Nebraska (58): Iowa must win here to maintain position in the CFP rankings; losing this late in the season to a 5-6 Nebraska team that has already lost to Purdue and Illinois (shudder), might make Iowa unpalatable to the Selection Committee. It is not often that you see a team with an 11-0 record as only a 2-point favorite over a team that is 5-6. I like this game to go OVER.

Missouri at Arkansas – 14 (46): If Missouri loses this game, it will be Gary Pinkel’s last game on the sidelines. He is retiring to spend time with his family as he fights non-Hodgkins lymphoma. That should provide the team with some motivation but the real need for Mizzou is for the offense to come to life in the game if they are to win it – or even keep it close. The offense has not scored as many as 20 points in a game since October 3rd. The defense for Mizzou is fine; it ranks 11th in the country. I’ll take Missouri plus the points here with the hope that the offense will show up in something other than a semi-conscious state.

Navy at Houston (no lines): The winner here will play in the AAC Championship game. That is why this game is interesting. Houston was undefeated until last week when they lost to UConn. Why there are no lines is a mystery to me…

Washington St. at Washington (no lines): This is a huge rivalry game in the Pacific Northwest. Washington St. leads the nation in passing yardage (407 yards per game). Washington only gives up 209 yards per game passing. Just those stats make this game interesting.

Baylor – 1.5 at TCU (no Total Line): I have no idea why there is a spread but no Total Line for this game but that is the way it is at the moment. Baylor must win to stay relevant for the CFP rankings (see above). Both teams have “injury issues” at the quarterback position so there is no reason to make a pick on this game.

Ohio State at Michigan – 1 (45.5): If you do not realize that this is one of the biggest rivalry games of the year every year, then I wonder why you have been reading this stuff long enough to get to this sentence. Oh, and the winner of this game will be in the Big 10 Championship Game if Michigan State loses to Penn State. I think this will be a defensive game. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Penn State at Michigan State – 11 (46.5): Did Michigan State leave everything they have on the field last week against Ohio State? If so, they could spit the bit here. Otherwise, Michigan State is the better team and should win this game and move forward to the Big 10 Championship Game. Having said all that, given the fact that Michigan State QB, Connor Cook, is still recovering from an injury and that Michigan State has only played close games all year long, that spread looks awfully fat. I’ll take Penn State plus the points – even though I expect Michigan State to win the game straight up.

Duke – 4 at Wake Forest (46.5): This game is interesting simply because I think it will be low scoring. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Va Tech – 3.5 at UVa (51): This is a big rivalry game between two decidedly mediocre squads. A win for Tech will put them in a bowl game; the best UVa can hope for is to finish the season with a win and a 5-7 record. I see this as an offensive game; I’ll take the game to go OVER.

UNC – 5.5 at NC State (65): The spread opened at 7 and the Total Line opened at 61.5. That is a lot of line movement. UNC will be in the ACC Championship Game no matter what. As outlined above, they might catch the eye of the CFP Selection Committee with a win here and win over Clemson in that Championship Game so the game is somewhat meaningful to them. NC State is 7-4 on the season and already knows it will be in a bowl game; the meaningfulness of this game to the Wolfpack is that it is against “those guys” in “that school” about 25 miles from here. I think UNC is significantly the better team. UNC is 7-0 in ACC games; NC State is 3-4 in ACC games. I like UNC to win and cover.

Maryland – 1 at Rutgers (56): This game is interesting because it pits the two newest members of the Big 10 in a game that should remind everyone that neither team belongs in the same football conference with the rest of the Big 10. Neither team is any good; the game is most likely to be lost by one team as opposed to being won by one team. Avert your eyes…

Florida State – 2 at Florida (43.5): Florida had to go to OT to beat a sorry-assed Florida Atlantic team last week. My guess is that they were looking past that game to this one. A former colleague is a Florida alum. He said that he gave $500 to the school alumni fund every year – except in the years when Florida beat Florida State. In those years his contribution was $1000. This game is a big deal to a lot of people. Florida only gives up 14.5 points per game and Florida State only gives up 17 points per game. Since neither team is an offensive juggernaut, I do not know where that 44th point is going to come from. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Georgia – 5 at Georgia Tech (48): Neither team has performed this year up to the standards that fans have come to expect from them in the recent past. I do think that Georgia is the better team here so I’ll take them to win and cover even on the road.

K-State – 20 at Kansas (55): This has been a down year for K-State. However, they are averaging just under 30 points scored per game. This week, K-State goes against the worst scoring defense in the country; Kansas gives up an average of 46.2 points per game. With a win here and a win next week over West Virginia, K-State can still become bowl eligible. Kansas on the other hand will be in the SHOE Tournament. I like K-State to win and cover here.

Texas A&M at LSU – 5 (53.5): The Total Line opened at 50.5 and jumped up to this level in less than 24 hours. This is a “Les Miles Coaching For His Job Game” (see above). The Aggies give up 202.5 yards per game on the ground; LSU will run the ball with Leonard Fournette. I think that is the fulcrum for the game. I like LSU to win and cover.

Alabama – 14 at Auburn (48.5): Auburn’s offense is 377 yards per game and on average 201 of those yards come on the ground. Good luck running the ball for 200 yards on the Alabama Front-7. Meanwhile, Auburn’s defense gives up 181 yards per game on the ground and Derrick Henry will be running at them in this game. I like Alabama to win and cover here.

Clemson – 17 at S. Carolina (55): I know this is a rivalry game that energizes the whole state of South Carolina every year. Nevertheless, Clemson is the far better team and they do have a conference championship game to play next week. I think they are going to use this game as a scrimmage. I’ll take Clemson and lay the points.

Oklahoma – 6.5 at Oklahoma St (69): The lines seem to say that OU QB, Baker Mayfield, is fine and will play his normal game this week. If he does not, these lines are way out of whack. Since I have no idea as to his status, I’ll refrain from a pick here…

Mississippi – 1 at Mississippi St (64): The total Line opened at 60 and jumped quickly to this level. Ole Miss is the faster team and State is the bigger team. Speed kills. I’ll take Mississippi and lay the point.

Notre Dame at Stanford – 4 (55): Notre Dame has a realistic shot at the CFP without direct and obvious Divine intervention; Stanford can get in also but that would require direct and obvious Divine intervention. Notre Dame has a ton of injuries and they seem to have taken their toll. The Irish are 10-1 for the season but they needed a late TD to beat Temple by 4 points and they beat a woebegone BC team last week by only 3 points – and seemingly turned the ball over every other possession. Make this a venue call; I like Stanford to win and cover.

UCLA at USC – 3.5 (63): The winner here plays Stanford in the PAC-12 Championship game. UCLA lost to Stanford by 3 TDs in mid-October; USC lost to Stanford by 10 at the end of September. Overall, USC has played the tougher schedule. I’ll take USC and lay the points.

La-Monroe at Hawaii (no lines): Here is a game between a SHOE team and one of the teams on the watch list to fill out the SHOE Tournament field. Of course it is a game of interest – albeit not wagering-interest…

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/29/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks did quite well. The record for the week was 10-5-0 which was good enough to get the season record all the way back to .500 at 82-82-5. The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip games were also en fuego last week going 4-0-0. That performance actually put the coin back over .500 for the year at 12-11-1.

The “Best Pick” of the week was taking Indy + 6 points. The Colts won the game straight up.

The “Worst Pick” of the week was taking the Jets and laying 2.5 points. The Jets lost the game straight up.

Do not allow the success of the last two weeks’ worth of Mythical Picks to dull your senses. The fact that it took two weeks with a combined record of 19-11-0 to get back to .500 – which is not profitable should you be playing with a vig – should be sufficiently cautionary to prevent you from using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real game involving real money. You would have to be mighty dumb to make such a mistake; in fact, here is what I would say to someone so dumb:

    Enjoy your day job – alphabetizing that bag of M&Ms.

General Comments:

Last Thursday night, the Jags beat the Titans 17-13 in a game that was hard to watch. It was so full of mistakes and bungled plays it made my teeth itch. I actually found myself tuning into the Texas State/La-Monroe game on another channel during the timeouts/commercial breaks. That game was even more miserable – but at least those guys are not drawing down NFL level salaries to go out there and play football poorly. Let me give you a couple of “highlights” from the Jags/Titans event:

    Blake Bortles fumbled on a QB sneak.

    Delanie Walker caught 8 passes for 109 yards. On some of the patterns over the middle he was so open that it looked as if he had not showered for a month and the defenders were trying to stay away from him.

    The Titans got 5 first downs on pass interference/defensive holding calls.

The Bucs went into Philly and simply torched the Eagles last week. Jameis Winston threw 5 TD passes in the game without throwing an INT. In so doing, he became only the second rookie QB in the history of the NFL to do that. If you refrain from a Google search, you will never guess the other QB to do that so I’ll share that tidbit with you. It was Ray Buivid of the Chicago Bears back in 1937.

    Buivid had a 2-year career in the NFL (1937 and 38).

    In his career, he threw a total of 11 TD passes; 5 of them came in a single game.

Winston was not the only Buc to have a monster day on offense. Doug Martin ran the ball 27 times for 235 yards. In case the batteries in your calculator are dead, that is just a tad shy of 9 yards per carry. The Bucs generated 521 yards of offense for the day – a franchise record.

Those Eagles’ fans who had clamored for the team to bench Sam Bradford since about the third week of the season got a taste of what it is like to have Mark Sanchez under center for your squad. This was one of his “bad days”; he threw 2 TDs – – but he also threw 3 INTs. Look, when your defense gives up 521 yards and 45 points, the odds are that you are going to lose no matter what your QB does; no one can put the blame for this loss on the offense or the QB or the special teams or… This was simply a bad day for the Eagles’ defense.

In another rout, the Panthers extended their record to 10-0 with a 44-16 spanking of the Skins. Two weeks ago, the Skins and Saints were tied at 14 early in the second quarter; then the Skins ran off 33 straight points to win 47-14. Last week the Panthers and the Skins were tied at 14 as the second quarter began. This time, it was the Panthers who ran off 30 straight points before conceding a safety in the final seconds of the game.

Cam Newton threw 5 TD passes to 5 different receivers; Jonathan Stewart ran for 102 yards and the Panthers’ defense shut down the Skins’ offense like the lid on a coffin. Let me give you just a few numbers from the game:

    Total rushing yardage for the Skins was 14 yards
    Kirk Cousins was sacked 5 times
    Skins lost 4 fumbles
    Skins were 2-9 on 3rd down conversions
    Skins’ time of possession was under 22 minutes
    Skins’ total offense was 186 yards

Notwithstanding any of the data above, Skins’ DL, Jason Hatcher, said after the game that the league officials are against the Skins because of the team name. One penalty call that nullified a Skins’ TD seemingly engendered this eruption of stupidity. The charge of bias in officialdom here would seem also to be contradicted by the fact that 5 of the penalties called on the Skins last week were for having a defensive lineman jump offsides. Oh, and none of those calls was even remotely “borderline”.

    Memo to Jason Hatcher: Even if the call that infuriated you and potentially some of your teammates was incorrect, that is not evidence of a conspiracy against you and the team. Moreover, if you are going to level such a charge, you need to find a more credible context for it. Try doing that in the hours after you just beat a team by 33 points – as you did the week before. In that event, people might listen to your charge and not feel embarrassed for you immediately after they process what you said.

In San Diego, there was another rout last week. The Chiefs traveled west and beat the Chargers 33-3. Other than for dedicated fans of the KC Chiefs, this was a difficult game to watch; the outcome was not in doubt for very long despite the fact that the score was only 12-3 at halftime. The Chiefs have won 4 straight games putting their record at 5-5 for the season and putting them squarely in the morass of teams seeking a wild-card slot in the AFC playoffs. Meanwhile, if the Chargers continue to play like this, there will not be a tsunami of tears shed in San Diego should the team get to move to LA.

The Packers beat the Vikes handily last week 30-13 and the game featured the reappearance of Eddie Lacy as an effective running back. The Packers gained 124 yards on the ground and Lacy had 100 of them. Aaron Rodgers did not have to throw the ball 61 times as he did the week before; in this game the Packers ran the ball 34 times and threw the ball 34 times. Defensively, the Packers recorded 5 sacks and held Adrian Peterson to 45 yards on 13 carries.

The Seahawks beat the Niners handily 29-13. Russell Wilson threw 3 TD passes and RB, Thomas Rawls, subbing for Marshawn Lynch ran for 209 yards; the Seahawks offense generated 505 yards of offense for the day. If there was a point of light for the Niners in the game it was this:

    Blaine Gabbert played QB and he did not stink out the joint. He was 22-34 for 264 yards and 1 TD.

With Colin Kaepernick gone for the year on IR – and perhaps gone for good from SF – the fact that Gabbert did not stink in spades has to be a plus.

The rest of the games last week were much closer contests to the ones above. The Cowboys beat the Dolphins 24-14 with Tony Romo back at QB. That was not the only change in the script for the Cowboys last week. In this game they took a lead into the 4th quarter of the game and did not cough it up. They had seemingly turned that sort of game behavior into an art form this year. The Dolphins totaled 210 yards of offense for the game. The week after Dan Campbell debuted on the sidelines with his gung-ho team message I said it would be a challenge for him to keep that up with his team. I think we can say that the emotional hype has pretty much dissipated by now and that it is safe for the wives of the players on the 4-6 Dolphins (0-4 in the division and 2-5 in the conference) to book warm weather cruises for January 2016.

The Lions beat the Raiders 18-13. The Raiders had a meaningful playoff run on their racket and will likely look back on this loss as the game that killed off that goal. The Raiders are not out of the playoff chase but they do have 6 teams ahead of them in the AFC vying for 2 wild-card slots and they have now lost 3 games in a row. The Raiders forgot to pack their offensive playbook for their trip to Detroit; they only gained 214 yards in the game. The Lions have now won 2 in a row; not to worry, they too will miss the playoffs this year.

The Ravens beat the Rams 16-13 on a last second field goal after trailing 13-3 with about 10 minutes left in the game. You have seen the video of Case Keenum getting tossed to the ground and suffering a concussion a play or two before fumbling to set up that last second field goal try. It has to be clear from those events that the NFL’s “concussion protocols” and “player safety initiatives” still need work. The Rams are now 4-6 for the season and have lost 3 games in a row – just like the Raiders. The difference here is that the Rams are not looking up at 6 teams ahead of them in the playoff chase. The Rams’ problem is that even with a healthy Nick Foles and a healthy Case Keenum, they do not have a good QB.

Meanwhile, it is apparent that someone in the Ravens’ organization has pissed off the football gods. I have no idea what that someone did or said, but this year the Ravens have not only lost a lot of players to injuries but they have lost their best players at various positions to season ending injuries.

    Terrell Suggs – out for the year week 1
    Steve Smith Sr. – out for the year a couple of weeks ago
    Justin Forsett – out for the year last week
    Joe Flacco – out for the year last week.

The Texans beat the Jets 24-17. It sure looks as if the Jets are imploding; they have lost 4 of their last 5 games. Not to put too fine a point on it, they lost this game to a team with a QB that was not on an NFL roster a month ago who threw for 229 yards and 2 TDs. The Texans recorded 3 sacks in the game and this is their third win in a row.

Brock Osweiler “led” the Broncos to a 17-15 win over the Bears last week. I use the quotation marks there because:

    Osweiler did not make any costly mistakes in the game – no turnovers

That performance combined with the Broncos’ defense returning to form (5 sacks of Jay Cutler in the game) produced this win.

The Colts beat the Falcons 24-21 in a game that was anything but artistic. The Colts were outgained by 99 yards in the game AND the Colts turned the ball over 3 times AND they won despite all of that. The Falcons led 21-7 in the 3rd quarter and then coughed up a giant hairball; this is their 4th loss in 5 games like the Jets. The fact that the Falcons lost Devonta Freeman to a concussion did not help in this game and will not help them this week if he cannot play then. The Texans and the Colts are both at 5-5 and sit atop the AFC South. The Colts and Texans meet on December 20 in Indy; that could well be a play-in game for the AFC playoffs.

The Cards beat the Bengals 34-31 on Sunday night. This was NOT a case of Andy Dalton choking in prime time; ignore anyone who tries to sell you that nonsense. These are two good teams and when they meet, one of them is going to lose. If you must assess blame here, lay it on the Bengals defense that gave up 282 yards passing in the second half of the game.

On Monday night, the Pats continued their mastery over the Bills despite Rex Ryan’s best emotional efforts. The Patriots injury situation is different from the one befalling the Ravens. The Patriots seem to have a propensity to have WRs get hurt this year:

    Julian Edelman
    Danny Amendola
    Aaron Dobson
    Keshawn Martin

Nonetheless, the Pats are 10-0 and if they win this week, either the Jets or the Bills will have to win out to tie the Pats for the AFC East lead. Not only is it a real longshot that either team can win out, the likelihood that the Pats will win only one more game this season is also slim. There are not a ton of tough games left for the Pats:

    At Denver
    Vs Philly
    At Houston
    Vs Tennessee
    At Jets
    At Miami

The Games:

The Bye Weeks are over. It is time to separate the sheep from the goats…

Due to the compressed time this week to get this and the NCAA Mythical Picks written, these picks will tend to be short and sweet.

(Thurs Early Afternoon) Philly at Detroit “pick ‘em” (45): The Total Line here opened the week at 47 and dropped to this level almost immediately. Statistically, the Eagles are the better team (offense, defense, scoring, scoring defense). Nevertheless, they have played some bad football in recent weeks. This is purely a hunch. I am going to try to exploit “The Mark Sanchez Factor” here. I have no idea if he will go nuts and throw 4 TDs in this game of if he will turn the ball over 3 times and give the Lions a short field. Either way, I’ll take the game to go OVER figuring that scores can be at either end of the field and that is a plus.

(Thurs Late Afternoon) Carolina at Dallas “pick ‘em” (46): One of the people on sports Radio here in Washington said there are three undefeated teams left in the NFL:

    The Pats
    The Panthers
    The Cowboys with Tony Romo at QB.

One of the three will cease to be undefeated when the clock hits zero at the end of the fourth quarter here. I think the Panthers will prevail; I’ll take them to win the game.

(Thurs Nite) Chicago at Green Bay – 9 (46.5): The Packers will retire Brett Favre’s #4 at halftime of this game and Bart Starr will be in attendance too. That means that all 3 QBs who won Super Bowls for the Packers will be in the same stadium at the same time. That is a feelgood fact that has nothing to do with the game on the field. The Total Line here opened at 48 and has been dropping slowly. The last time these teams met, the total score was 54. I see no reason why it should drop by almost 10 points here. I like the game to go OVER.

New Orleans at Houston – 3 (48): The Saints had two weeks to try to mend their woeful defense and turn it into a unit that is merely sub-standard. The Saints have given up an average of 31.5 points per game; that is the worst in the NFL; moreover, it is 3.3 points per game worse than the Chargers who rank 31st in the league on that scale. The Texans are not an offensive juggernaut so there may be a “defensive mirage” after this game. This game means a whole lot more to the Texans than it does to the Saints. The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip protocol is in effect here and the coin says to take the Saints plus the points.

Minnesota at Atlanta – 2 (46): Very simple here. I think the Vikings are the better team and I think they are playing better football these days. I like the Vikes to win the game so I’ll take them plus the points here.

St Louis at Cincy – 9 (42): The Bengals need to win just to reverse the team momentum after two losses in a row. Who knows what level of mediocrity the Rams will get out of their QB situation? Even The Shadow doesn’t know… Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Bengals to win and cover.

Tampa at Indy – 3 (46.5): The Colts are tied with the Texans atop the AFC South. This is a game they need to win. The Bucs are 5-5 meaning they will not win their division (Carolina has that sewn up) but they are in the thick of the wild card race. They too need to win this game. I like the Bucs plus the points here.

Giants – 2.5 at Washington (47): This game opened as a “pick ‘em” game and the spread went to this number in less than 24 hours. This game is important to the NFC East standings. If the Skins win, they will be tied (essentially) with the Giants; they will have split the head-to-head games and they will have the same record. If the Giants win, their lead over the Skins will be 2.5 games because they will hold the tie-breaker having swept the head-to-head games. The Skins are a much better team at home than they are on the road; on the other hand, the Giants seem to have the Skins’ number over the past several seasons; the Giants have won and covered the last 5 times these teams have met. Statistically, the Giants have the edge in this game. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip game and the coin says to take the Skins plus the points.

Oakland – 1.5 at Tennessee (44): Here is the basic question for this game. Can the Raiders shake themselves out of the funk they have been in over recent weeks? If so, they should stomp a bad Titans’ team. It is another long trip for the Raiders to make it to kickoff; I do not like that at all. I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Buffalo at KC (no lines): Tyrod Taylor was clearly hurting in the final minutes of the Monday night game. Can he play here or will the Bills have to go to EJ Manuel? Until there is clarity around Taylor’s shoulder injury, there will be no lines here. Whenever the lines go up, do not be surprised if the Total Line is 41 or less…

Miami at Jets – 3 (42.5): It is awfully early in the season to say that the Jets face a “must win” situation. Rather what they face here is a “must wake up situation”. Venue call here; I’ll take the Jets and lay the points.

San Diego at Jax – 3.5 (46): The Committee of One that analyzes the worst games of the week could not make a unique choice this week and so this game is the co-Dog Breath Game of the Week. The Chargers are awful and out of it; the Jags are awful but are still theoretically in the running for the AFC South division lead. If you are forced to watch this game, do not focus on the players; nothing important is going to happen there. Instead, use your time and energy to try to count the house in Jax whenever there is a shot of the stands. Counting people is probably going to be easier than counting empty seats. Only because I said I would make a pick in every game where there were lines, I’ll take the Jags to win and cover.

Arizona – 10 at SF (45.5): I hate laying double-digit spreads. I also think the Cards are one of the really good teams this year and that the Niners are one of the really bad teams this year. I’ll take the Cards to win and cover even on the road.

Pittsburgh at Seattle – 4 (45): This is one of the best games on the slate for the week. Both teams need this game to stay in striking position in the wild card races in their respective conferences. I think the game will be higher scoring than the Total Line here would suggest. I like the game to go OVER.

(Sun Nite) New England – 3 at Denver (44): Lost in the discussion of the QBs for this game (Brady vs Osweiler) is the fact that the Patriots lead the NFL in scoring defense (18.1 points per game) and the Broncos are second in the NFL in that category (18.2 points per game). Assuming that the Pats do not have to resort to playing a defensive tackle at wide receiver because they have simply run out of bodies at that position, I like the Pats to win and cover here. I also like the game to stay UNDER.

(Mon Nite) Baltimore at Cleveland – 2.5 (41): The Browns demoted Johnny Manziel to 3rd string – behind Josh McCown and Austin Davis – for this game and for who knows how long. Is that a football team or a second-rate circus in Cleveland? This is the co-Dog Breath Game of the Week featuring one team wracked with injury such that it is playing its JV team against another team that has not figured out how to get out of its own way. I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip protocol and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Happy Thanksgiving all…

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

Admin Note…

My intention is to have both flavors of Mythical Picks on the street on Wednesday this week so as not to do any writing on Thanksgiving Day. Then again the road to perdition is paved with good intentions…

Nevertheless, the priority this week will be to get the Mythical Picks out early and put off until Friday any decision about posting something then.

In any event, Happy Thanksgiving, all…

Let’s Do Some Math Today…

The world is full of bad jobs. I would like to add one to the list today. Even though this job probably pays well and is related to a high-profile event, this is a bad job because it is highly stressful, and the only recognition one may get from it would be if one fails miserably. I am referring to:

    Head Honcho in charge of Security for the Super Bowl in Santa Clara

With no intention whatsoever of starting a political discussion relative to terrorism and terrorist events, it seems rather clear to me that there are folks out and about who would if they could do something to disrupt the Super Bowl in a violent way. I believe it was former CIA Director James Woolsey who said that the terrorist objective in one of their raids was to kill hundreds of people, injure thousands and frighten millions. If that is close to accurate, then the stadium in Santa Clara plus the iconic landmarks of San Francisco would be inviting targets for the first week of February 2016.

Someone with lots of help has the job to make sure nothing of that sort goes down then. (S)he will make a lot of money in that position and will likely spend some of that money on the Giant Economy Size bottle of Rolaids. If successful, no one will know who did the job; if unsuccessful …

Last week, I mentioned that there is going to be a professional rugby league starting up in the Spring of 2016 and that there will be yet another attempt to start a Professional Spring Football League to start around the same time. I hope both of the new leagues succeed even though I am not going to invest my life savings in a franchise for either league. I mention those new enterprises because it seems as if 2016 is going to be The Year of the Sports Start-Up. In addition to those two newcomers, get ready to welcome The Champions League next Summer.

The Champions League – as currently envisioned – will consist of 16 basketball teams whose rosters have “a strong preference for players who have competed in the NBA during the last three years.” According to reports, the team that will represent New York in the new league is already taking shape and some of the names on the roster are Al Harrington and Rasheed Wallace. Other former players who are reportedly on board with The Champions League are Rip Hamilton, Josh Howard and Brandon Roy. I mention these players only to give you a sense of what sort of competition you may expect from The Champions League.

According to reports, each team in the news league will have two former NBA All-Stars on its roster in addition to a Hall of Fame member in the team’s Front Office. For the 16 teams the league says it will employ a total of 250 folks and that the players will make about $200K each for the year. The season will consist of 30 games to be played in July and August when the NBA is dark. So, let me do a bit of math here…

    Each of the 16 teams should have 12 – 15 players on the roster. Let me assume the number is 14 per team meaning there will be 224 players in the league.

    If each player makes $200K, the player salary cost will be just under $45M.

    Each team will have to pay the Front Office folks something and will have to pay things like travel costs and rents for their game venues. Just for giggles, let me lowball that number at something like $500K per team or $15M for the league.

    Ignoring all other costs, the league needs to generate something in the vicinity of $60M during their 2-month season to break even.

One other featured item in the league’s announcement of itself is that they will offer “family-friendly and affordable entertainment during the NBA’s downtime.” Focus on the word “affordable” there as we do some more math:

    If there are 16 teams playing a 30 game schedule, that means there will be 240 games. Absent a TV deal, those 240 games would have to generate $250K per game to get to the $60M level.

    Most of the teams in the D-League play to average crowds of 2500 fans. A few teams average 4500; some teams average less than 1000 fans per game.

    For the Champions League averaging 2500 fans per game would mean that each fan would need to cough up $100 per game in total revenue for the team.

I admit these are ballpark numbers and average attendance for this product may exceed the average attendance in the D-League. Nonetheless, this does not make sense to me at all. I can see fans turning out for “Old-timers Games” – but not a dozen times in a two month span. Moreover, if each team is going to play 30 games in July and August as announced, that means they will play every other day; there are 62 days in July and August combined. That does not sound like scheduling that recognizes that many of the roster players – and particularly the ones that fans might know and recognize and want to see on the court – are in their late 30s/early 40s.

For basketball junkies, The Champions League will fill in the times of the year when there is no basketball competition other than the WNBA. However, the league will have to compete with the start of NFL training camp and the NFL Exhibition Season along with the jockeying for position among baseball teams as their season gets down to the sprint to the finish. The numbers for The Champions League as presented just do not add up in my mind unless there is a TV deal somewhere in the mix.

Finally, hers is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“And from the Sometimes These Items Just Write Themselves file comes word that organizers in Hawaii canceled the annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim, citing high surf and … rough water conditions.”

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

Some Prop Bets…

You may not realize it. The NBA regular season has not only begun; it is almost 20% over. The Golden State Warriors have yet to lose a game and sport a 15-0 record. At the other end of the spectrum, the Philadelphia 76ers have yet to win a game and sport a 0-14 record. This has led some folks to suggest a prop bet:

    What will happen first?

      The Warriors lose a game or the Sixers win a game.

You should not be surprised to learn that there is one statistical category in which the Sixers lead the entire NBA. That would be turnovers per game. The Sixers – on average – turn the ball over 18.9 times per game; only one other team – the miserable Sacramento Kings – turn it over more than 17 times per game. Basically, the Sixers lead the rest of the NBA by almost 2 turnovers per game. To give you a perspective, the Lakers, Pelicans and Nets are also off to miserable starts this year. Compare the turnover per game stats here:

    Sixers 18.9
    Lakers 15.0
    Nets 14.7
    Pelicans 13.8

I would like to propose two other prop bets:

    What will happen first?

      The Sixers win a game or the Carolina Panthers lose a game.

      The Sixers win 12 games or the Phillies win 12 games.

Back in 1973 when the Sixers set the NBA record for futility with a 9-73 record, I happened to see them play a handful of games because a good friend of mine was working for a newspaper in Philly and covered that miserable excuse for a basketball team. I know that I will be spending a week in Philly in January/February 2016 and I am going to be sure to watch this year’s version of the Sixers just because they may pose a challenge to that 1973 team in terms of futility.

Some sportswriters have suggested that American Pharaoh should be the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. Listing American Pharaoh’s accomplishments that support such a “nomination” is pretty simple:

    He won the Triple Crown – a feat that had not been accomplished since 1978

    He also won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Since the Breeders’ Cup races did not begin until 1984, no horse has ever won this race and the Triple Crown in the same year.

Having now presented you with the reasons why American Pharaoh will – not should but WILL – be named Horse of the Year, let me say that I would not consider for even a moment naming him the Sportsman of the Year. The reason is contained in the name of the award; it is the SportsMAN of the year; that is easily extended to SportsHUMAN of the Year. It is not the SportsMAMMAL of the year or the SportsLIFEFORM of the Year.

Moreover, I do not need to hear any arguments about Secretariat and any “precedents” he may or may not have set with any awards he may have won years ago. Making a dumb decision in the past is not justification for making another dumb decision in the present. The Supreme Court of the United States made a dumb decision in the Dred Scott Case; that is not a reason for them to make another dumb decision in the current session of the Court.

Naming American Pharaoh the Sportsman of the Year makes as much sense as naming Kermit the Frog the Horse of the Year.

I have spent some time in previous rants on the subject of Daily Fantasy Sports and their relation to gambling. I will not bore you again with my views there. However, if you have not seen/heard John Oliver’s commentary from his HBO program Last Week Tonight on this subject, here is a link that will get you there. It is a long segment but it is worth your time.

    [Aside: Some of the language used here – remember, this is late night cable TV – is absolutely inappropriate for the workplace or for children. Please use discretion and volume control whenever and wherever you check this out.]

Finally, here is a brilliant observation by Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot regarding fantasy football:

“Idle thought: Before believing the next NFL player who credits God for his success, I’ll need to know the lineup of the Deity’s fantasy team.”

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