Sunday’s List of 13: Random thoughts as 2016 comes to an end

Random thoughts on as 2016 comes to an end……..
13) Virginia Tech 89, Duke 75— Blue Devils get tripped up in Blacksburg in first game of the Grayson Allen suspension.

Georgia Tech 75, North Carolina 63— Rough day for the bluebloods of the ACC.

12) When Lane Kiffin got fired by USC, he sold his house in Manhattan Beach to actor Vince Vaughn for $6.5M; his next-door neighbor was the guy who created the TV show Duck Dynasty. Sounds like a pretty good neighborhood to live in.

11) Bill Parcells used to say he was against drafting any QB unless the kid started for three years in college, which would make us skeptical of North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, who started for only one season at UNC— he is expected to declare for April’s draft.

10) Rumors on the Interweb have the 49ers totally cleaning house after tomorrow’s game, with coach and GM both getting told to take a hike. Apparently their season sweep of the Rams didn’t impress ownership very much.

9) Bowl game tallies to this point: favorites are 13-23 vs spread. Over is 15-21.

8) Nevada basketball player Jordan Caroline is the son of former NFL lineman Simeon Rice, who won a Super Bowl as a defensive end for the Buccaneers.

7) Good grief, Jennifer Garner is in a lot of TV commercials. Whats in your wallet?

6) Villanova 80, Creighton 70— 5th straight time Wildcats beat Creighton, third straight win for Villanova in Omaha, handing the Bluejays their first loss this season.

5) Big West was 13th-ranked conference each of last two years; this year, they’ve slipped all the way to #26, with #180 Cal-Irvine their top-ranked team right now. There isn’t one good team in the league; you can almost pencil in their conference tourney champ for a play-in game already.

4) LSU 29, Louisville 9— I still can’t believe LSU fired Les Miles and replaced him with Ed Orgeron; just a totally baffling move. If you’ve ever read the book Meat Market, which dealt with Orgeron’s tenure at Ole Miss, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

3) Alabama 24, Washington 7— Huskies were held to 194 yards; Alabama scored their 11th defensive TD of the season in what wasn’t an interesting game.

Two jobs you do not want; replacing Nick Saban at Alabama, Mike Krzyzewski at Duke; will be virtually impossible for the next guy to satisfy those fanbases.

2) Clemson 31, Ohio State 0— Last six years, Big 14 teams have been favored in only 13 of their 55 bowl games; think about that for a second.

Since 2011, Big 14 teams are 5-7-1 vs spread when favored in a bowl game.

1— As far as 2017 is concerned, I hope people in this country become more tolerant of each other and of differing opinions. We’re a very diverse country and we need to respect each other more. Diversity should be a strength, not a weakness. It is OK to agree to disagree.

Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks for reading.

Saturday’s List of 13: Random stuff with weekend here

13) Dallas Cowboys apparently changed their mind; now Tony Romo and Mark Sanchez will see action at QB in Philly Sunday, after Dak Prescott makes his cameo appearance as the starter.

I’m guessing that Clint Longley, Babe Laufenberg and Glenn Carano won’t play for the Cowboys this week, but you never know.

12) I read the week where DeSean Jackson was “focused” on the Redskins’ game with the Giants this week, then I also read he is “intrigued” by the prospect of going back to Philadelphia as a free agent after the season. Um, both of those can’t be true.

Jackson is a really talented player; if the Eagles got rid of him the first time, my guess is he has to be a pain in the butt. You don’t just give away really talented players.

11) Prop bet in Las Vegas: Will Eldrick Woods win a PGA Tour event in 2017? No is -$150, yes is +$120.

10) This season is first time ever that over 30% of shots from floor in NBA games are 3-pointers.

9) This from the great Gil Brandt, who is very active on Twitter: in the Super Bowl era, 56 NFL teams have won their last six regular season games— 8 of those 56 teams won the Super Bowl.

Green Bay can win its sixth consecutive game Sunday night.

8) NFL’s Hall of Fame Game has been moved to Thursday night, before the induction ceremony starting next summer. Previously the game had been played on Sunday or Monday night, after Saturday’s ceremony.

7) Pretty cool on ESPN’s Orange Bowl broadcast; Bob Griese joined his son Brian and Steve Levy in the ESPN booth for a while. Brian Griese and his dad get along so well, it is great to hear.

6) Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue hasn’t gotten a technical foul this season; he got one last year, because he wandered out of the coaches’ box— he wasn’t aware that was even a rule.

5) New Mexico Lobos signed a point guard from New Zealand this week; young man is the PG on the New Zealand national team, so a good get for coach Craig Neal.

4) Miami Marlins lost their replay guy Pat Shine this week; he signed on to become a minor league manager. Watching as much baseball as I do all summer, thought Miami was the best team at challenging plays and Shine was the guy responsible for that.

3) Weird boxscore from college hoop this week: Western Illinois upset Fort Wayne as a 14-point underdog. Leathernecks were only 3-3 on the foul line; they were 18-37 on 3-pointers. Teams that shoot 37 3’s and only three foul shots almost never win.

2) I’m totally convinced that handicapping bowl games is a waste of time; there are so many intangibles involved— which coaches are changing jobs and I’m talking assistant coaches as much as head coaches. Who wants to be there? Who is healthy? Who isn’t giving a full effort because they don’t want to get hurt? When in doubt, I would lean towards underdogs.

1) This is a really busy week, with a few bowl games every day and conference play starting in college basketball and then Week 17 of the NFL Sunday. An excellent time of the year, would be close to perfect if we could get rid of this damn cold weather here in beautiful upstate New York.

Friday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a busy couple of days

13) So George Karl wrote a book and in promoting it, seems like he is managing to offend every single person in the NBA. Why is he doing this? Promote your book, don’t burn bridges; there is a difference.

12) You could play four years of college football and never know some of your teammates; thats how big college football squads are. Schools have an 85 scholarship limit, plus they have walk-ons/practice players too. If you’re on opposite sides of the ball, very possible you never meet a few guys.

11) I know absolutely nothing about UFC; my cousin claims that Amanda Nunes will beat Ronda Rousey in their bout Friday night, in case you care about stuff like that.

10) St John’s 76, Butler 73— Chris Mullin’s Red Storm beat Syracuse/Butler in last two games; they’ve got a solid 3-person nucleus. This wasn’t a fluky win; St John’s was only 4-16 on the arc. This was a good solid win- game was tied at the half.

9) Oregon 89, UCLA 87— Exciting, up-an-down game where defense wasn’t exactly a priority. Teams that beat UCLA will have to out-run them. Bruins are very hard to slow down.

8) Pitt 112, Marshall 106— Panthers were up 58-38 at half, but Dan D’Antoni has his team competing for 40:00 and this game got dicey for the Panthers late. Marshall is going to cause some problems in Conference USA.

7) Nebraska 87, Indiana 83— Cornhuskers were a 16-point underdog but they scored 1.21 points/possession and pulled a big upset in their Big 14 opener.

6) UConn hired back its former football coach Randy Edsall; in 2010, Edsall left UConn to go to Maryland, a move that didn’t help anyone. Getting back in Storrs should help the Huskies.

5) ESPNU has guy named Chris Spatola doing analysis on hoop games; he is Mike Krzyzewski’s son-in-law and also a former point guard at West Point. Sometimes in this crazy world of ours, it isn’t what you know, it is who you know.

4) Lane Kiffin has a weird resume; he is 41 and has already been HC of USC, Tennessee and the Oakland Raiders, but now he is at Florida Atlantic. Is he going backwards? If he wins at FAU will he quickly bolt for greener pa$ture$?

I’ll give Kiffin credit for this; in his three years as OC at Alabama, he had three first-year QB’s and got to the national playoff all three years. Not an easy thing to do.

3) Betting line this week on Matt McGloin’s passing yards for the Raiders: over 235.5 yards is +$135. Under 235.5 yards is -$175. Oakland tries to win the AFC West in Denver Sunday.

2) On February 8, 2017, the Rivers Casino will open in Schenectady, about 12 miles from Armadillo World HQ. Am curious to see what it is like; wonder how long it will be before we can go there and bet on games. I’m guessing that someday, the Trump administration will get sports betting legalized.

1) Sounds like Mark Sanchez is going to get a lot of playing time at QB for the Cowboys Sunday in Philly. Dak Prescott will start, Tony Romo will not play. Have fun handicapping that game.

Thursday’s List of 13: Random thoughts after my vacation

13) It is good to be home; had great fun at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas for eight days, but now it is time to get to work on college basketball. Having fun can be tiring.

12) There was a middle-aged man doing pushups in the McCarran Airport terminal by gate B14 Wednesday morning; I enjoyed my jelly doughnut while watching him exercise.

11) One of the basic rules of life: If there is a screaming child on an airplane that I am on, the child will undoubtedly be sitting right behind me. Just because.

10) $8 for WiFi is a sound investment for a 5-hour flight. Makes the time go so much faster.

9) Walking on the Las Vegas Strip at night is something everyone should do at least once; great place to people watch. It is better in summer than winter, but any time of year is fine.

Not a lot of English being spoken in Las Vegas this week; lot of visitors from other countries. Lot of people taking pictures of the ceiling in the Bellagio.

8) Planet Hollywood improved their sportsbook; put little dining area in near the bar, with white furniture that brightens the whole place up.

I’m watching the end of the Laker game Tuesday; game is 99-99 with 0:58 left, total is 204.5. Two guys in their 20’s come in and stand next to me; one of them has over 204.5. It looked good for his bet until a couple of missed foul shots, then lousy shot selection by D’Angelo Russell doomed him. My new friend was not happy. I went on my way.

7) If you ran an NFL franchise that needed a QB, would you trade a 1st and 4th-round draft choice to New England for Jimmy Garoppolo? Apparently that offer is on the table.

6) Dez Bryant’s TD pass against the Lions Monday night was the only left-handed TD pass in the NFL this season.

5) Tampa Bay Lightning head coach John Cooper was once a public defender in Lansing, MI; not sure how he got from there to being an NHL head coach, but he should write a book.

4) Oakland Raiders’ QB Matt McGloin is 1-5 as an NFL starter, with all six starts coming in 2013, when he helped ruin my ridiculously injury-riddled fantasy team (he was my 7th QB that year).

McGloin’s only win was against Houston, coached then by Gary Kubiak. McGloin needs to beat Kubiak’s Broncos this week for the Raiders to win the AFC West title.

3) I’m typing this and Bill Walton is at the UCLA-Oregon game talking about clothing-optional beaches in California. He is a gem.

2) Rookie QB Carson Wentz bought his offensive linemen shotguns for Christmas; if I’m coaching the Eagles, not sure I think thats such a great idea.

1) Northwestern 31, Pittsburgh 24— Cubs won World Series, Northwestern won a bowl game; whats next? Northwestern in NCAA tournament? That could happen too.

Wednesday’s List of 13: My top 13 NFL teams……

13) Broncos— Curious to see who plays QB for the Broncos next season; I’m guessing it is someone who is not currently on their roster.

12) Texans— Won division title with JJ Watt missing the whole season; not bad.

11) Redskins— Can you imagine if Green Bay and Detroit tie Sunday night? People in our nation’s capital are not going to be very happy.

10) Dolphins— Can’t wait to bet under on their 2017 over/under win total.

9) Seahawks— Need to improve their offensive line this winter/spring.

8) Packers— It is basically impossible to overpay a guy like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, thats how much they mean to a $1B business.

7) Giants— I see Scott Linehan doing so well as OC in Dallas and Steve Spagnuolo’s defense playing well in New Jersey, then I remember how terribly they did as head coach of the Rams. Timing is everything in life.

6) Steelers— I really liked their all-black uniforms they wore Christmas night.

5) Raiders— Derek Carr’s injury is just very unfortunate for a team having a great year.

4) Chiefs— Still unsure what that lineman’s TD pass was all about Sunday night, but they aggravated Denver, now they need help from the Broncos this week to win AFC West title.

3) Falcons— Falcons/Braves are both getting new stadiums next year; why?

2) Patriots— Since 2000, the AFC East has had 24 different head coaches; the Patriots have had one, other three teams 23.

1) Cowboys— Pounded Detroit in a game they didn’t even need. Impressive.

Tuesday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but…….

13) Cowboys 42, Lions 21— How does a team that has trailed in 4th quarter in 14 of 15 games still have a shot to make the playoffs? First half of this game was great but then Cowboys won going away, winning easily in a game they didn’t need.

Redskins are happier than hell; they’re in playoffs if they beat the Giants Sunday except for one incredible scenario. If Packers/Lions tie Sunday, they both make the playoffs. Imagine if that game goes overtime and both teams play cautiously, just to make playoffs? Wow.

12) Did Edwin Encarnacion turn down more money from the A’s than he took from Cleveland?

I can feel my blood pressure going up; A’s were going to sign him, then if they weren’t in the pennant race in July, trade him to a contender for prospects, the way they traded Matt Holliday and Ben Zobrist. Oakland’s starting pitching is better than it has been in couple years, so they could contend this year, if everything goes well.

Not often a player turns down more $$$ to sign elsewhere, especially if elsewhere is Cleveland.

11) Note to self; next year, when the Broncos play the Chiefs, there will be hard feelings, moreso than usual in this divisional rivalry, after Dontari Poe’s TD pass in the last 2:00 of Sunday nite’s win. Mr Poe is a defensive end who weighs over 300 pounds; him throwing a TD pass was the kind of stunt that gets remembered for a long time. Hopefully we can take advantage of that next year.

10) I was surprised by this: the mayor of New York City makes $225K. The governor of the state of New York only makes $179K. Shouldn’t a governor make more than a may0r?

9) Ravens’ WR Steve Smith was 11th wide receiver taken in the 2001 NFL Draft; the graduate of Santa Monica College and Utah is the only one of those 11 WR’s who is still playing in the NFL.

8) Houston Texans have been outscored by 42 points this season, but are in the playoffs.

7) When Jay Ajayi had his big run in overtime that set up the Dolphins’ game-winning FG Saturday, Buffalo only had ten men on the field. That kind of stuff gets coaches fired.

6) Matt Ryan has thrown TD passes to 13 different players this season, most in NFL history in one season.

5) Derek Carr is going to be the first-ever NFL QB to win 12+ regular season games but not make a playoff start- thats how unusual the timing of his injury was.

4) San Diego State 62, San Francisco 48— Aztecs win the Diamond Head tourney in Hawaii.

3) Nuggets 106, Clippers 102— No Paul, no Griffin, no Redick……no good.

2) Pistons 106, Cavaliers 90— Handicapping the NBA means you have to keep close tabs on who is “resting” that night. Lebron James “rested” last night and the Cavaliers got killed. Go figure.

1— 16 NFL games this Sunday, the way it should be. Most of the important games are at 4:00, except for the Detroit-Green Bay game, which is the night game. Should be quite a day.

Monday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but……….

13) Giants were 10-22 on third down Thursday night; that was the most 3rd down plays any NFL team has run in a game this season. Arizona was 10-21 on third down in the 6-6 tie with Seattle back in Week 7, but that was a five-quarter game. 10 of the Giants’ 24 first downs came via third down plays.

12) Golden State Warriors are 1-6 vs spread on second night of back/backs; their only cover was in Denver, back in early November.

11) Three years ago, when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, they had $28M invested in their offensive line. This year, they’ve got only $6.2M invested in their OL, which helps explain why their offense has been so erratic this season.

10) FOX NFL analyst John Lynch is very good; he explained Sunday how some NFL teams put red lines on their practice fields parallel to the sidelines 8 yards onto the field, to remind their receivers a run little bit away from the sideline, so they can give themselves space to make catches on passes near the boundary.

9) When Derek Carr broke his leg Sunday, Raiders went from 12-1 to 25-1 to win the Super Bowl; in reality, they went from 12-1 to unbettable.

8) Houston Texans will be first team since the 1998 Dolphins to host a playoff game in the same stadium that hosted the Super Bowl that same season.

7) Speaking of the Texans, they’re 5-0 this season in games decided by 6 or less points. There is an incredibly fine line between winning and losing NFL games.

6) Tampa Bay Bucs can still make the playoffs, but they need eight of the remaining games to fall their way; any of them doesn’t, and Tampa Bay’s season is over.

5) Walked past the Aria poker room after the NFL games Sunday afternoon; 4:30 on Christmas Eve, the room was PACKED. I don’t have a long enough attention span to play poker.

4) 2003 Indianapolis Colts are only team in instant replay era not to challenge a play all season. New England has challenged one play this year, back in Week 3- they won that challenge.

3) Look at the six teams that would be in the playoffs on the AFC side right now; three of them have a backup QB starting now. Moore-McGloin-Savage

2) Former Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt surfaced on an ESPN highlight last week; his Euroleague team was involved in a scuffle or something like that, can’t even remember what. Was hoping Blatt would stay in this country and coach a college team, but he went back overseas.

1— ESPN’s Mark May was working the Hawai’i Bowl Saturday night; Middle Tennessee’s second TD came on a flea-flicker. May quickly called out the name of the play and said it was the same play his Washington Redskins when Joe Theismann broke his leg in that famous Monday night game against the Giants.


Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up an NFL Christmas Eve

Redskins 41, Bears 21— Washington stayed alive in playoff race by picking off five passes and scoring five TDs on 10 drives, converting 8-13 on 3rd down. Very hard to lose an NFL game with a +5 turnover ratio. Redskins host the Giants next week; they’ll need to win and Green Bay to lose its game with Detroit.

Dolphins 34, Bills 31 OT— Miami gave up 589 yards on 90 plays and won; in two games vs Buffalo this season, Dolphins ran ball for 517 yards in sweeping pair of 3-point games. Kicker Franks (from RPI, an engineering/hockey school in Troy, NY) drilled a 55-yard FG with 0:06 to force OT, then ended game with 27-yard FG with 0:47 left in OT. Looks like Miami is going to make playoffs for first time since ’08, but they do host New England next week. Over is 12-2 in last fourteen Buffalo games.

Falcons 33, Panthers 16— Exhibit A why Kyle Shanahan should be the Rams’ next coach; in their last five games, on their first drive of the game, Atlanta has run 36 plays for 286 yards and FIVE TD’s. He’s made Matt Ryan a much better quarterback.

Atlanta jumps into the #2 seed in the NFC, with Seattle losing Sunday. That comes with a week off so it is a big deal.

NFL refs have called three roughing/passer penalties on Carolina opponents this year; they’ve called 13 on New Orleans’ opponents. I’m guessing Cam Newton’s dad knows that stat.

Packers 38, Vikings 25— Green Bay won its last five games, can win NFC North if it wins at Detroit next week; Pack is +12 in turnovers in its last three games. Minnesota is now 2-8 in its last ten games after a 5-0 start. Over is 7-2 in last nine Green Bay games. Three of Packers’ five TD drives were less than 60 yards. It was 37 degrees at kickoff in Green Bay, oddly warm for Christmas Eve.

Patriots 41, Jets 3— Sitting in the sportsbook all day watching games is great fun; group of guys near me bet the Jets (+24) in a teaser, because “……even if they’re way behind at the end they can still cover.” That sounded a lot better at 9:55am than it did at halftime, when New England led 27-0. Patriots won 21 of the 29 third down plays in the game.

Bryce Petty got KO’d before he completed a pass. Good news for Jets; apparently Todd Bowles only had kidney stones, so he made it to Foxboro for the game and will be fine.

Jaguars 38, Titans 17— Not only did Tennessee lose when they were tied for first in AFC South, they lost QB Mariota (broken leg). Jacksonville broke its 9-game losing streak, but they’ve trailed at halftime in only one of last six games- they have some potential. NFL-wide, home underdogs are 16-11 vs spread in divisional games this season. Over is 7-3 in Jaguars’ last ten games.

Browns 20, Chargers 17— Cleveland blocked a last-second FG to seal its first win of the year. This was fifth game this season Browns led at halftime. Last five times they had the ball, San Diego ran 23 plays for 23 yards and zero points. Hard to win that way.

As for San Diego, they’re probably moving to LA next season, they’re probably going to have a new coach and with Philip Rivers closer to 40 years old than 30, they might rebuild with a young QB too. Under is 6-1 in Browns’ last seven games, 4-0-1 in Chargers’ last five games.

Raiders 33, Colts 25— It can go rotten so quickly; Derek Carr broke his leg near the end of this game when the outcome was pretty much already decided- Raiders were up 33-14 when he got hurt. Oakland ran ball for 210 yards, threw for 249; they still lead AFC West but now Matt McGloin is the starter going forward. Indy is 0-5-1 vs spread in games following a win; AFC South non-divisional underdogs are 9-15 vs spread this season.

49ers 22, Rams 21— So the early games are almost all over and I’m waiting for the Ram game to start; this middle-aged Asian lady sits next to me in the sportsbook, whips out a thick wad of $100 bills and counts out $7,000 in cash. I know, I counted along with her.

Then she tells me how if the Falcons and Miami win their games, she will cash another $4,500 (she showed me those two tickets).

When Miami won, I asked her if she wanted to buy me dinner (she didn’t).

I asked her who her favorite NFL team was and she told me this: “I don’t have a favorite team; you have a favorite, you lose. I play to gamble.” And with that, she was gone. A fine woman.

Cardinals 34, Seahawks 31 OT— Seattle drops out of the #2 seed in NFC- both their games with Arizona this season went OT. Home team is now 1-6-1 in last eight series games, with Arizona winning three of last four visits here. Last six Redbird games went over total.

Seattle is a legitimately strange team; they’re 9-5-1 but they split with the Rams, went 0-1-1 vs Arizona, they lost to the Saints/Bucs- none of those teams are going to the playoffs.

Saints 31, Buccaneers 24— Tampa Bay was -2 in turnovers; so far this week, teams that were -2 or worse in turnovers are 0-7 vs spread. This is why handicapping can be so difficult; there is no way to accurately predict the bounce of an oblong ball.

Green Bay assumes lead for last Wild Card spot with this result. Tampa Bay’s program has progressed in Dirk Koetter’s first year as head coach, but it could’ve been a lot better. As for the Saints, they could look a lot different next year, with Sean Payton rumored to be a candidate in Los Angeles and Drew Brees advancing in age.

Texans 12, Bengals 10— Randy Bullock gagged on the game-winning FG on the last play of the game, pushing a 43-yarder wide-right, giving Houston the AFC South title and costing my godson his parlay. Been a rough year for kickers, at least in game-winning situations.

Saturday’s List of 13: Random thoughts on Christmas Eve

13) Get well soon, Todd Bowles; the Jets’ coach became ill and didn’t make the trip to Foxboro with the team Friday. No word on whether he will coach today, but considering that at one point they thought he might’ve had a heart attack, maybe coach Bowles should just take the day off.

Coaching is stressful, especially if you’re losing.

12) Merry Christmas to the 7-22 Brooklyn Nets, who drew Golden State/Cleveland on back/back nights as they head into Christmas with the worst record in the NBA (tied with 76ers).

11) JR Smith is out 3-4 months after thumb surgery this week. Takes a shooter away from the Cavaliers, but hardly the end of the world for them.

10) Cowboys’ rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott bought his offensive linemen ATV’s as Christmas gifts. Really nice ATV’s.

9) Guy in the Aria sportsbook had an authentic Michael Jordan White Sox jersey on last night; pretty cool.

8) USC 94, Wyoming 92 OT— Great ballgame that Wyoming led most of the way. USC heads into Pac-12 play 13-0- they start league play with their Oregon trip next week.

Cowboys are good, way better than I thought they’d be. One of their guys sprained an ankle in the overtime, have to check his status.

7) USC landed a big recruit in Charles O’Bannon, whose dad/uncle both played ball for UCLA. Trojans are having an outstanding recruiting year and they’re 13-0 now. Not bad.

6) I read Friday that Redskins’ backup QB Colt McCoy eats 6-8 eggs for breakfast every day, plus a bowl of oatmeal. If I did that, I’d have to do my film study in the bathroom, in between bouts of puking my guts out.

Oatmeal is only tolerable if it is drowned in maple syrup. 6-8 eggs is an awful lot of eggs; reminds me of Rocky Balboa training for his fight in Rocky.

5) Auburn 70, UConn 67 OT— Huskies are 5-6, first time since 1972 that they’ve had six losses before New Year’s Day. Lot of injuries, a very young roster, but there is still talent there. They could bounce back next season and have a really good year.

4) Oakland 86, Georgia 79— Very strange schedule this week for the Grizzlies; they lost at home to Northeastern Tuesday, lost at Michigan State the next night, then beat Georgia at home in this game. Coach Kampe is a fearless scheduler; he challenges his team.

3) Former big league pitcher Tom House is a throwing guru who has worked with several NFL QB’s in trying to improve their passing motions. He is also the guy who caught Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in the Braves’ bullpen back in 1974, when he was an obscure relief pitcher.

2) Minnesota Vikings’ team plane slid off the runway after landing in Appleton, WI last night as they arrived to play the Packers this afternoon. Apparently no one was hurt, but had to be a little scary, or maybe a lot scary.

1) Lefty minor league pitcher David Rollins has been claimed off waivers five times in the last 35 days; this is a guy who has allowed 29 runs in 34.1 IP in 31 big league games. As always, if you have a son, teach him to throw left-handed. It cannot hurt.

For the record, Rollins went from Seattle to the Cubs to Texas to Philly back to Texas and then back to the Cubs. How is the guy supposed to plan his life?

Friday’s List of 13: Doing some thinking out loud…….

13) Eagles 24, Giants 19— Dallas is NFC East champ and #1 seed in NFC. Horrible late hit call on the Giants set up Philly’s third TD— one of the worst penalties ever. Carson Wentz was running and Eli Apple slid to avoid him but they made contact- it wouldn’t have been a foul in basketball.

12) The more I think about it, the more adamant I am that the NFL needs to rid itself of penalties for taunting, celebration and fines for uniform violations. They would gain millions of dollars in positive press and give mainstream media less stuff to whine about.

Players would police the celebrations themselves if they got out of hand and now and then they would for sure. But it would also get people talking more about what they saw and that generates lots of free publicity. Nothing wrong with that.

11) 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion signed with Cleveland for three years, $60M.

10) Pitcher Ivan Nova gets $26M for three years from the Pirates.

9) Bartender here at the Aria Hotel is a White Sox fan; he wasn’t the least bit happy when the Cubs won the World Series and he seemed annoyed that I thought he might be.

8) You know that guy Mike Greenberg who is on ESPN with Mike Golic in the mornings? He just signed a contract for $6.25M a year— seriously, he did. Good Lord, there is a guy who has made thievery legal— $6.25M a year for him??? Yikes.

7) Idaho 61, Colorado State 50— High scoring Potato Bowl, but who wants to go to a bowl and freeze your butt off? Idaho plays its home games in a dome; their QB is Matt Linehan, whose dad is the Dallas Cowboys’ OC. Vandals are de-emphasizing football after next year, so this will be a great memory for everyone associated with the program.

6)  NFL will have a 4-team developmental league next spring, which sounds very similar to what the ill-fated UFL was a few years ago. Teams will play six games each.

5) Random food comments:
— Aria Cafe is open 24/7 and it is outstanding. Had chicken and waffles for the first time, and their fettuccini alfredo is tremendous.
— Pizzeria near the Aria sports book is expensive and um, no bueno. Greasiest pizza I’ve ever had, seriously, and I’ve eaten a large amount of pizza.
— Highly recommend the egg nog milkshakes at McDonald’s.

4) USC 83, Missouri State 75— Trojans are 12-0, a highly unlikely unbeaten team.

3) Cincinnati 93, Marshall 91 OT— Credit to Dan D’Antoni, Marshall’s coach/Mike’s brother; you score 91 points on Cincinnati, even with an extra 5:00, thats some great offense. D’Antoni has made the Thundering Herd a competitive team fairly quickly.

2) LaSalle 98, Mercer 96 3OT— Game of the night was in Macon, GA.

1— Duke caved in to public pressure and suspended Grayson Allen indefinitely for numerous tripping violations: Here are Duke’s next few games:

Dec 31- @Virginia Tech— Could be dicey in Blacksburg.
Jan 4- Ga Tech and Boston College, both at home. Duke couldn’t lose to these two teams at home if all the Blue Devils showed up drunk.

Jan 10— @ Florida State— How much you want to bet Allen is back for this game????? This is going to be a very good game, even if Allen plays.

Thursday’s List of 13: Bottom 4, top 9 in the NFL

32) Browns— Have shot at their first win when the warm weather Chargers visit Lake Erie on Christmas Eve.

31) 49ers— Lost their last 13 games, but play team they got their only win against this week, when they visit Los Angeles. Rams are actually favored to win a game.

30) Jaguars— They can’t even fire their coach right; word got out that they canned Gus Bradley before the team plane took off from Houston. Apparently the flight home was fairly awkward.

29) Rams– Good chance for Goff’s first career win this week.

9) Packers— They’ve had Favre/Rodgers at QB for the last 25 years; shouldn’t they have won more than two Super Bowls?

8) Dolphins— Other than a healthy Tony Romo, Matt Moore is the best backup QB in the NFL and now Miami fans are going to find that out. Only time Dolphins made playoffs in last 14 years was the year Brady tore up his knee in Week 1 and missed the rest of that year.

7) Seahawks— Their starting RT was a basketball player at Western Kentucky who played about one half of one college football game.

6) Falcons— They just pounded the dregs of the NFL, now they step up in class this week and have a rematch with the Panthers, who are playing on a very short week.

T4) Raiders/Chiefs— Oakland has the better record but the Chiefs beat them twice. Not fond of KC blowing two games at home in the last month; they need to be better in the red zone.

3) Giants— Not a huge fan of theirs but they win every week and that is what counts. This is where I tell you that the NFL should take radios out of players’ helmets and let the QB’s call their own damn plays- thats why you prepare for six days to play on Sunday. NFL would have a way better product if they let Game Day be the Players’ Day.

2) Cowboys— Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is being mentioned for the Rams’ HC job, in large part because he was Dak Prescott’s college coach. I can think of worse things.

1— Patriots— What happens when a big time college QB refuses to play in a bowl game so he doesn’t get hurt and ruin his draft prospects? I’m thinking if a QB did that it would hurt his stock a lot, since the QB is a team leader and the captain doesn’t desert his ship, even if it is sinking.

Wednesday’s List of 13: Some of my favorite movie quotes

Favorite Movie Quotes:

13) “Who’s the u-boat commander?” From Risky Business, when the kid’s father’s Porsche winds up in Lake Michigan, and then in a repair shop to be cleaned up.

12) “I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring.”
Susan Sarandon, from Bull Durham

11) “He’s a great player, but I don’t think we can get him in academically.”
Jerry Tarkanian, playing himself in Blue Chips

10) “In ‘Confessions of a Winning Poker Player,’ Jack King said, ‘Few players recall big pots they have won, strange as it seems, but every player can remember with remarkable accuracy the outstanding tough beats of his career.’ It seems true to me, ‘cause walking in here, I can hardly remember how I built my bankroll, but I can’t stop thinking of how I lost it.”
Matt Damon in Rounders

9) “I guess it comes down to a simple choice; get busy living, or get busy dying.”
Tim Robbins from Shawshank Redemption

8) “……Who cares? I’ll tell you. Me. I’m not your best friend. I’m your only friend. I don’t make anything? I’m making you money. And lest we forget, that’s the only reason any of you became stockholders in the first place. You want to make money! You don’t care if they manufacture wire and cable, fried chicken, or grow tangerines!

You want to make money! I’m the only friend you’ve got. I’m making you money. Take the money. Invest it somewhere else. Maybe, maybe you’ll get lucky and it’ll be used productively. And if it is, you’ll create new jobs and provide a service for the economy and, God forbid, even make a few bucks for yourselves.

And if anybody asks, tell ’em ya gave at the plant. And by the way, it pleases me that I am called “Larry the Liquidator.” You know why, fellow stockholders? Because at my funeral, you’ll leave with a smile on your face and a few bucks in your pocket. Now that’s a funeral worth having!”
Danny DeVito, in Other People’s Money

7) “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own

6) “You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”
Jack Nicholson, from A Few Good Men

5) “Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is you did everything you could. There wasn’t one more thing you could’ve done. Can you live in that moment as best you can, with clear eyes, and love in your heart, with joy in your heart? If you can do that gentleman – you’re perfect!”
Billy Bob Thornton in Friday Night Lights

4) “And you know Steve you get the feeling that Billy Chapel isn’t pitching against left handers, he isn’t pitching against pinch-hitters, he isn’t pitching against the Yankees. He’s pitching against time. He’s pitching against the future, against age, and even when you think about his career, against ending. And tonight I think he might be able to use that aching old arm one more time to push the sun back up in the sky and give us one more day of summer.”
The great Vin Scully, from For Love of the Game

Richard Dreyfuss in Let It Ride

2) “You’re a goddamn quarterback! You know what that means? It’s the top spot, kid. It’s the guy who takes the fall. It’s the guy everybody’s looking at first – the leader of a team – who will support you when they understand you. Who will break their ribs and their noses and their necks for you, because they believe. ‘Cause you make them believe. That’s a quarterback.”
Al Pacino, from Any Given Sunday

  1. “Do whats in your heart, son. You’ll be fine.”
    Robin Williams, from Good Will Hunting

Tuesday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but…….

13) Green Bay-Chicago game was played in frigid conditions at Soldier Field Sunday; turns out Bears’ QB Matt Barkley played with a wetsuit on underneath his uniform. He said the wetsuit did not hinder his play at all

Barkley is from California, played college ball at USC; he threw for 362 yards Sunday. He may have started a trend for cold-weather quarterbacks.

12) You read a lot about crummy things athletes do; the media loves negative publicity. Well, last week, Colts’ punter Pat McAfee paid the utility bills of 113  people in Indianapolis who were about to get their power turned off. He did same thing for 80 or 90 people last year.

Thats a good thing an athlete did; too bad it didn’t get more play in the media.

11) Clippers’ star Blake Griffin is having minor knee surgery, will be out for several weeks. He missed an average of 31 games a year the last two years, figures to miss another good chunk of games now.

10) There is a ranch in Texas that is the only place in America where it is legal to go and pay money so you can drive and fire guns from an actual tank like the ones in the Army. Not sure why anyone would do this, but you can if you want.

9) Aroldis Chapman criticized how he was used in the World Series; good grief. Cubs won their first World Series since 1908, don’t be criticizing the manager, no matter what- they won, and that is all that matters. Chapman is really rich and has a World Series ring; be positive.

8) Indian Hills CC in Ottumwa, IA has seven D-I transfers on its team, that is seven kids who washed out of D-I basketball programs, for whatever reason. This must be a great team to coach; you’ve got talented kids who you know are on their last shot at a college scholarship— they’re not going to give the coach trouble unless they’re biggest screw-ups on earth.

Ottumwa, Iowa by the way, was Radar O’Reilly’s hometown in the great TV show M*A*S*H*

7) The Texas state championship high school football game drew 35,059 fans to AT&T Stadium; thats 35,059 fans going to a HIGH SCHOOL game.

6) San Antonio Spurs retired Tim Duncan’s number 21 Sunday night; good for him. Great player and from all you read, a great teammate. Congrats.

5) In the last 17 Presidential elections, dating back to 1948, only nine times did an elector not vote for the candidate he/she was supposed to. This year, 37 electors would’ve had to abandon Donald Trump for the outcome of the election to be changed. It didn’t happen.

4) Former Minnesota Gophers coach Jerry Kill will be the new OC at Rutgers; Kill had to quit at Minnesota for health reasons; he was having seizures related to his epilepsy. Kill has since lost 25 pounds while working as an administrator at Kansas State, says he is healthier now. We wish him well.

3) Northeastern 81, Michigan State 73— Spartans are 7-5, they’re a young team whose most talented player is still hurt and they’re probably not going to make the NCAA tournament. One of the Interweb posts Monday said that today, Michigan State would be a #4 seed……in the NIT.

2) NFL has to simplify the catch rule; they’ve made themselves look stupid by making it too complex. You have the ball and two feet on the ground; thats a catch. Simple as that; none of this “going to the ground” nonsense that makes you roll your eyes.

1— This week’s kerfuffle is about Christian McCaffery/Leonard Fournette sitting out their bowl games to avoid injury, since they’re first-round prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft. When a player says “I’m skipping the bowl game to begin my preparation for the NFL Draft” it is a gutless way of saying, “I’m not risking injury to play in a game I couldn’t care less about.”

What about their teammates? Are they upset and if so, do they say anything? It is a free country obviously, but still you’re part of a team and you’re quitting on the team before the season is over.

Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said on TV Monday: “There is no way 100% of his teammates support his (McCaffery’s) decision.”

I’m pretty much deferring on this to people who’ve played major college football; early returns are mixed. There is a lot of gray area here; it is an interesting debate.

Monday’s List of 13: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Giants 17, Lions 6— Seattle jumps Detroit into #2 seed in NFC after an inept offensive performance by Lions in their 3rd (and last) outdoor game of year. Giants are 8-1 in last nine games, now head on road to Philly/Washington to end season. Last eight Detroit games stayed under the total, as have last six Giant games.

Steelers 24, Bengals 20— Bengals led 20-6 wth 2:51 left in first half, but Steelers kicked FG’s on five consecutive drives, then finally scored TD and won/covered fifth game in row, with four of those wins on road- they’ve now won seven of last eight games with Cincinnati. Favorites are 8-1 vs spread in AFC North divisional games this season.

Ravens 27, Eagles 26— Eagles scored TD with 0:04 left, went for two points and the win, a play I just disagree with, especially on road with a rookie QB who had just run for a TD. Tennessee did it, failed but wound up winning anyway. Philly has now lost nine of last ten games after a 3-0 start; they’re 1-7 on road. Ravens won its last five home games (4-1 vs spread).

Every TV announcer “loves the aggressive nature of going for two” in that spot. Without fail, they cover the coach’s butt by saying that, but I disagree. Let your entire team decide the game.

Packers 30, Bears 27— Green Bay blew a 27-10 4th quarter lead, but Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson with a 60-yard bomb to set up the GW field goal with 0:03 left. Packers have now won last seven games in Chicago, but Bears have to like what they see out of 3rd-string QB Barkley.

if Dallas wins Sunday night, Packers are tied with Tampa Bay for last Wild Card slot.

Colts 34, Vikings 6— Stunning no-show by Minnesota that basically ends their season; game was 27-nil at the half. I spent 50 Sunday afternoons watching Sam Bradford play for the Rams, so I’m not totally surprised by all this, and the Norv Turner resignation should’ve raised the red flag about as high as it can go, that there were big problems with this team.

Bills 33, Browns 13— Worst thing for the Browns is that they still have zero idea who their QB is as they move towards 2017. Cleveland is 2-12 vs spread; ’08 Lions went 0-16, but were 7-9 against spread. In its last four games, Cleveland was outscored 65-9 in first half. Buffalo is 7-1 if they allow 21 or less points, 0-6 if they allow more. Over is 11-2 in Buffalo’s last 13 games.

Titans 19, Chiefs 17— Chiefs led 14-0 after 10:31 of play but lost. Kansas City had the ball with 3:12 left up 17-16 and Tennessee had no timeouts left (other than 2:00 warning), but Chiefs couldn’t get a first down and lost 19-17 at home for the second time in five weeks (Bucs were other loss). Tennessee has now won four of last five games; they went for two-point conversion and the lead with 3:12 left, down 17-16 and won despite not getting it.

Texans 21, Jaguars 20— Houston benched Brock Osweiler after his second INT; he has $37M in guaranteed money coming his way. Bill O’Brien coached this game like he was getting fired if Houston misses the playoffs— Tom Savage may have saved O’Brien’s butt by leading this comeback that makes the Texans 6-1 at home this season. Jaguars lost their ninth game in a row; they fired coach Gus Bradley after the game- at least he’ll get to spend Christmas with his family.

Saints 48, Cardinals 41— 20 possessions in this game; 11 TD’s, three FG’s tried, not a lot of defense played. Cardinals have now allowed 30.9 pts/game their last seven games, giving up 22 TD’s on opponents’ last 72 drives. NFC South non-divisional road underdogs are 10-2 vs spread this season. Except for Seattle, NFC West has been a dumpster fire in 2016.

Falcons 41, 49ers 13— First three times they had the ball, Atlanta ran 22 plays for 157 yards and a quick 21-nil lead— Falcons coasted the rest of the way, running ball for 248 yards, throwing for 302. 49ers haven’t won since Week 1; they allowed 12.6 yards/pass attempt in this game. In their last three games, Niners have been outscored 52-0 in second half. I’m going to spend Christmas Eve in a sportsbook watching Rams-49ers; Feliz Navidad. Over is 12-2 in Falcon games this season.

Patriots 16, Broncos 3— In their last three games, Denver has two offensive TDs on 35 drives; we’re going to find out this winter how patient John Elway is. Will he go after Tony Romo and try to jumpstart his offense for 2017? Patriots won for just second time in last eight visits here. Under is 8-3 in last 11 Denver games, 4-1 in last five Patriot games.

Raiders 19, Chargers 16— Two years ago, Oakland went 3-13 with rookie Derek Carr at QB; things have improved for him. Oakland is 6-1 in true road games this year; they’re 8-1 in games decided by 7 or less points, thanks in large part to a +15 turnover ratio. San Diego is 1-7 in games decided by 7 or less points; their TO ratio is -6. There is a very fine line between winning and losing in the NFL.

Cowboys 26, Buccaneers 20— Prescott went 32-36/280 in this highly entertaining game; putting to rest any potential QB controversy. Jameis Winston is going to be really good; this was his first game in the brightest of NFL spotlights. Bucs’ 5-game win streak is snapped. Packer fans were rooting like hell for Dallas, Giant fans were rooting for Tampa Bay.

Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a sports Saturday…….

13) Kentucky 103, North Carolina 100— A GREAT advertisement for college basketball, just a tremendous game. Malik Monk had 47 for the Wildcats.

if the Final Four isn’t from this group: Villanova-UNC-Kentucky-UCLA-Duke, it will be a surprise, which means who the 4th #1 seed is will be critical, because the “5th #1” will be the 2-seed in that same region as the 4th #1.

12) One of the cool things about college basketball is that during pre-conference play, you want teams in your league to win….seriously. It raises the platform of the whole league and could mean an extra bid to the NCAA tournament in March.

Kentucky beating North Carolina could help….say Texas A&M get a play-in spot over Virginia Tech. You never know.

Put it this way; San Diego State’s regression in the Mountain West hurts everyone in the league, especially potential bubble teams like Nevada.

11) Over the last four years, Los Angeles Dodgers have shelled out $113M, just in luxury tax payments- they’re expected to be over the cap again this coming season.

10) OK there is a Mercedes commercial where the young teenage boy bugs his dad to drive thru a snowstorm so he can meet his girlfriend at a movie theater. The father reluctantly does, and no one is there, but because it is TV, the girl shows up….in her parents’ Mercedes. The only two cars on the road. In a snowstorm.

Do these people not own cellphones? Do kids not text each other? Couldn’t they just watch movies at one of their houses, so one parent wouldn’t have to drive? Why does this bother me?

9) You know how Boise State has a blue football field? Well, Eastern Washington has a red field; it doesn’t look bad on TV but who decided this was a good idea?

8) Houston Rockets made 24-61 3-pointers Friday night, most 3’s ever taken/made in an NBA game. Just for the record, Phoenix Suns are 316-350 since they stupidly fired D’Antoni 8.5 years ago- they were 253-136 with D’Antoni as head coach.

7) Highland Park HS won the Texas 5-A state championship Friday night; why do I mention this? QB for Highland Park is Jerry Jones’ grandson. Imagine their booster club has some serious cash.

6) UCLA 86, Ohio State 73— Buckeyes did good job in first half of running offense, making possessions longer to keep UCLA from running, but then they didn’t in second half and Bruins pulled away. UCLA is great fun to watch because of freshman PG Lonzo Ball, who reminds lot of people of Jason Kidd— he gets the open guy the ball and UCLA has lot of kids who can put the ball in the basket, if they get it in the right place.

5) Purdue 86, Notre Dame 81— Irish led by 14 at the half, but Boilers stormed back and got Matt Painter a big win. Dick Vitale’s daughters went to Notre Dame, so if ESPN puts him on a ND game, they’re begging me to change the channel— it is intolerable to listen to him.

4) Phillies gave CF Odubel Herrera $30.5M for five years; he hit .286 with 15 HRs for the Phils last summer. Herrera is the first player Philly has under contract for 2018, which is next season. For a big market team to have such roster flexibility is interesting.

By the way, the word processing program on my MacBook Pro has an annoying auto-correct that changes Odubel to double every time I type it. Every time.

3) Lane Kiffin’s move to Florida Atlantic means that Steve Sarkisian is the new OC at Alabama, once the Crimson Tide’s season is over. Good to see Sarkisian get a second chance in life; hope he makes the most of it.

2) Brandon Shell, the Jets’ right tackle this week, is nephew of the great Art Shell, the Raiders’ Hall of Famer. If he is anything like his uncle, young Shell is a keeper.

1) West Virginia coach Bob Huggins won his 800th game Saturday, just 10th college coach to do so. He looks gruff on TV but I’ve met him twice and he’s a pretty normal guy to talk to, and when he was sitting in the lobby at an AAU tournament in Las Vegas in July of ‘15, a ton of people came up to talk to him. His teams are fun to watch. Congrats coach.