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

13) Bengals 31, Ravens 27— An epic gag by Baltimore, giving up a 49-yard TD pass with 0:41 left on a 4th-and-12 play that puts Buffalo in the playoffs and knocks the Ravens out. Bills are in the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

12) Falcons 22, Panthers 10— Atlanta is in, Seattle is out; Falcons visit the Los Angeles Coliseum next week to play the Rams.

11) Buccaneers 31, Saints 24— Tampa Bay scored on a 38-yard TD pass with 0:09 left to beat the Saints, who will now host Carolina next week in the playoffs, as the #4 seed.

10) Titans 15, Jaguars 10— If you’re Jacksonville, how do you feel about going to the playoffs with two consecutive losses? Meaningless losses, but still…….

Titans visit Kansas City next week in the playoffs.

9) Cowboys 6, Eagles 0— First NFL game in ten years that was 0-0 after three quarters. Eagles’ #3 QB Nate Sudfeld wasn’t horrible in his NFL debut.

8) Patriots 26, Jets 6— With 10:28 to play and down 24-3, the Jets kicked a 35-yard FG. This was the only game that was still going on at 4:05 ET— Week 17 games tend to go faster. Game ended at 4:10, leaving 15 minutes of dead air before the late games started.

7) Colts 22, Texans 13— Houston GM Rick Smith is taking a leave of absence to help care for his wife, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. No one is saying if he’ll be back in his job as GM; there were rumors that Smith and coach Bill O’Brien weren’t getting along well, to the point that one of them would have to leave the Texans. We’ll see.

6) Chargers 30, Raiders 10— This is how fragile success in the NFL is; Raiders were 12-4 last year. Now they might be totally cleaning house, 12 short months later.

Oakland hasn’t ended the regular season with a win since 2009- Jack Del Rio told a writer he was fired before I got the game’s stats written in my notebook.

5) Cardinals 26, Seahawks 24— Arizona won four of its last five visits to Seattle; Cardinals will have a hard time finding a head coach as good as Bruce Arians was.

4) Chiefs 27, Broncos 24— This game was first time since 1987 that the Chiefs won a game that was QB’d by a player they drafted— 30 years !!! Todd Blackledge was the QB in ’87; this game was won by rookie Patrick Mahomes, and now Alex Smith can get traded to the Browns, after the Chiefs lose in the playoffs.

3) Steelers 28, Browns 24— Cleveland has the 1st and 4th picks in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft— maybe they should call Kevin Costner to make the picks for them (movie reference).

Cleveland just went 1-31 the last two years; the NFL should demand that one of their first round picks be a quarterback, just so the fans don’t get even more depressed.

2) Vikings 23, Bears 10— Minnesota gets #1 seed in NFC; if they win two home playoff games, they’ll play the Super Bowl on their home field.

1) NFL playoff picture:
AFC: Patriots/Steelers get byes. WC games: Titans @ Chiefs, Bills @ Jaguars
NFC: Eagles/Vikings get byes. WC games: Falcons @ Rams, Panthers @ Saints

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

13) TCU football coach Gary Patterson was on ESPN2 during the Frogs’ basketball game with Oklahoma Saturday; he said that before TCU became good in hoops the last couple years, he would hold his football recruiting weekends when TCU’s basketball team was on the road, so recruits wouldn’t see the Horned Frogs playing at home in a near-empty gym.

Now that Jamie Dixon has invigorated TCU’s basketball program, Patterson has his recruiting weekend when the Frogs have home hoop games, so recruits can see how passionate TCU fans are in supporting their teams (when they’re good).

12) Penn State 35, Washington 28— Pac-12 went 1-8 in bowls this season; the one win was by Utah over a West Virginia team whose QB didn’t play. These things go in cycles, but the Pac-12 sure had a rough go of it this year. Utah coach Whittingham is 11-1 in bowls, by the way.

11) Arizona 84, Arizona State 78— Sun Devils were last unbeaten team in country; I wish DirecTV carried the Pac-12 Network- this would’ve been a helluva game to watch.

10) Butler 101, Villanova 93— Bulldogs made 15-22 on arc— 15 of 22!!!! They were down 20 to Georgetown in Big East opener, rallied to win in double OT, then hand the #1 team in country its first loss here, so a darned good week for Butler.

9) Oklahoma 90, TCU 89— Freshman Trae Young had 39 points, 14 assists; Sooners really need to develop some other scoring options, for when February/March roll around.

8) Wichita State 72, UConn 62— Shockers win their debut in the AAC, even though they didn’t get to Hartford until 10pm Friday and didn’t have a shoot-around.

7) New Jersey Giants GM Dave Gettleman started cleaning house Saturday, his 2nd day on the job, firing executive Marc Ross and waiving unhappy RT Bobby Hart. Ross had been with the Giants since 2007- he was vice president of player evaluation, and was in charge of the draft.

6) Arkansas 95, Tennessee 93 OT— Razorbacks were down 9 late in regulation, went on 28-8 run and led by 11 in OT— this was great fun to watch. Arkansas led for 27 seconds in regulation.

5) North Carolina 73, Wake Forest 69— Tar Heels scored the last eight points of the game.

Duke 100, Florida State 93— Seminoles were 15-32 on arc and still lost; Duke had 23 offensive rebounds, which is a lot.

4) Mississippi State 31, Louisville 27— Bulldogs’ QB got hurt in the Egg Bowl, then their coach bolted for a school in the same league, so pat on the back to the Miss State kids for winning this game. Miss State is the “small market” team of the SEC;  good to see them have success.

3) There are rumors afoot that the Oakland Raiders will offer Jon Gruden their head coaching job, along with a small ownership stake in the team.

2) Upsets of the Day:
Football: Mississippi State (+7) 31, Louisville 24
Basketball: Green Bay (+9.5) 80, Oakland 79
Idaho State (+8) 62, Weber State 60
Butler (+5.5) 101, Villanova 93
North Texas (+5.5) 72, Tex-San Antonio 71
Richmond (+5) 69, Davidson 58

1) According to ESPN Stats, this is first time since at least 1948 that there will be no unbeaten college basketball teams on New Years’ Day.

Saturday’s List of 13: Clearing out a cluttered mind……..

13) There is a betting line out there, on how many NFL head coaches get fired between Monday and the Super Bowl. Over/under is 6. Dirk Koetter’s staying in Tampa helps the under.

12) Number 9 horse was going to win a race at Gulfstream Park Thursday, the last leg of the pick-6. Race caller even started to call the horse the winner, when jockey Emisael Jaramillo fell off the horse, allowing the 6 horse to win the race.

Had the 9 horse won, one bettor would have hit the pick-6, for $571,000.

Five hundred.  71 thousand. Dollars. Oy.

11) One of the disappointing things about being retired is realizing how horrendous daytime TV is. Simply awful, couldn’t be worse.

There was this guy on TV the other day who was killing Bill Belichick for the Garoppolo trade, ripping Belichick like he was GM of the Browns or something like that.

What we’ve devolved to now is people who are so desperate for attention that they purposefully say stupid stuff, just to get noticed, which is why I‘m not typing this genius’s name.

I’m no Patriots’ fan, but Belichick is one of the best coaches in NFL history, and if you’re going on national TV to rip him, then maybe you shouldn’t have a spot on national TV.

10) Iowa State is playing Memphis in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis today; you’d think it is a true road game for the Cyclones, but Iowa State had a pep rally at the minor league baseball stadium in Memphis and it looked like at least 10,000 people were there, all in red and gold, so Cyclones will have more than their share of support at the game.

9) How is it possible that Iowa State didn’t lose a fumble all season long?

8) Northwestern 24, Kentucky 23— Wildcats lost junior QB Thorson with a blown-out knee after he caught a pass on a trick play with 14:25 left in 2nd quarter.  Now the young man will have to rehab all winter/spring as he preps for his senior year at Northwestern.

Stuff like this will encourage future NFL prospects to skip bowl games so they can stay healthy for the NFL Draft, which is only four months away.

Kentucky scored TD with 0:37 left to make score 24-23, then went for two points and the win even though:
a) Kentucky has the better kicker
b) Northwestern’s backup QB was playing.

So Kentucky had just about every edge if the game goes to OT but they go for two points and the win, not to mention, they gave up valuable national TV exposure by declining to play in overtime. Not smart.

7) Boston hasn’t hosted an NBA All-Star Game since 1964? How is that possible? They had one in Las Vegas in 2007 and Vegas obviously doesn’t even have an NBA team.

6) Michigan State went 10-3 in football this year, and 13 of their 22 starters were freshmen or sophomores, so the Spartans should be pretty darned good next year, too.

5) When an NFL team is sold these days, there can be a group of buyers, but there can be no more than 24 people in the group and one person must own 30+%of the team.

4) Looks like Johnny Manziel will be playing in the CFL next summer; Hamilton Tiger-Cats own his CFL rights. Manziel is only 25; seems like he should be in his mid-30’s by now.

3) Jets announced that their coach/GM will be back next season; Jets’ last four head coaches all went 9-7 or 10-6 their first year- their combined record the rest of their tenures: 89-118.

2) There has been decent amount of chatter on social media about Hall of Fame voting, so I’ll throw my two cents in— there is no way on God’s green earth that Omar Vizquel was a Hall of Fame player. Played over 20 years, was an outstanding fielder, but a Hall of Famer? No.

1) Pardon me for being cynical, but one of the announce teams at a bowl game was heaping praise on Scott Frost for coaching Central Florida in its bowl game, even though he has already taken the Nebraska coaching job. They praised Frost effusively; I had to turn the channel. Why?

Here is how it works. Frost quit on UCF about 45 seconds after they won the C-USA title game; from that point on, he became Nebraska’s coach, simple as that, but the thing is, Nebraska was lousy this year and isn’t in a bowl game. No TV time for the Cornhuskers.

By coaching Central Florida ON NATIONAL TV Monday, Frost gets FOUR HOURS of NATIONAL TV EXPOSURE that he wouldn’t get if he had just gone away— you can’t buy that kind of exposure to recruits.

UCF should’ve told him to take a hike as soon as he signed with Nebraska.

Friday’s List of 13: Things I’m looking for on last weekend of 2017……..

13) Falcons need to beat Carolina to make the playoffs; if they lose, then Seattle needs to beat the Cardinals to get in. All the playoff-relative games start at 4:25 Sunday- should be fun.

12) Georgia-Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl? I’m guessing LA Rams/Dawg alums Todd Gurley, Alex Ogletree will make the short drive to Pasadena to root on their buddies.

11) Ravens need to beat Cincinnati to get in playoffs; no excuses. If Baltimore loses, then the Bills get in if they won in Miami.

10) Alabama/Clemson play in the playoff for the third year in a row; couple of sophomore QB’s will be in the spotlight. Dabo Swinney is an Alabama alum- he is the 5th Clemson head coach who went to Alabama, which is odd.

9) New Orleans clinches the NFC South by winning at Tampa Bay, which means a home game in the playoffs— Saints won their last seven home games.

8) USC-Ohio State should be the Rose Bowl; I’m not saying this should be a playoff game, just saying that the Rose Bowl should always be a Pac-12-Big 14 game. Trojans won their last seven games with Ohio State.

7) Chargers-Raiders in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium in Carson could actually mean a playoff berth for a Charger squad that started the season 0-4. Bolts would’ve made the playoffs if their kicker didn’t screw up in the first couple weeks- they wound up going thru five kickers this year.

6) Iowa State/Wisconsin both had really good seasons, but somehow both wound up playing true road games in bowls, the Cyclones in Memphis, the Badgers in Miami. Not sure how that happened, and it doesn’t seem all that fair, but it is what it is.

5) Read somewhere on the Interweb that Buffalo has a 13% chance of making the playoffs; they have to win obviously, but then the Ravens also have to lose, or the Titans/Chargers both have to lose. Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999.

4) Central Florida gets 9.5 points in their bowl game, and the Knights are unbeaten; they’re playing an Auburn team that beat Alabama, split a pair with Georgia, with the loss on this same field in the SEC title game

3) Tennessee lost its last three games, but they get in playoffs by beating Jacksonville team that figures to be looking ahead to its playoff game next week.

2) Saturday is the first full day Saturday for conference games in college basketball, so I’ll have all four of my eyes on those games Saturday.

1) Couple of QB’s get their first NFL starts Sunday, after backing up QB’s who won division titles; Sean Mannion with the Rams, rookie Patrick Mahomes with Kansas City.

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

13) OK, so it is really cold in beautiful upstate New York this week, where I live. I’m in the grocery store Wednesday, buying some non-nutritional food items, and I see this guy walk in the store wearing a jacket and shorts. It is 15 freakin’ degrees out. This genius has shorts on.

Guy looked like he was in his mid-late 40’s. I had a parka on over a sweatshirt and I was still freezing. This guy had shorts on, not even gym shorts, the kind you wear in summer. Oy.

12) Duke 36, Northern Illinois 14— NIU tried the worst fake punt I’ve even seen- seriously.

4:32 left in first quarter, Duke leading 7-0. Northern Illinois has 4th-and-18 at their own 11— their punter catches the snap and throws a long pass to the gunner going down the sideline on the right— the pass bounces couple yards short of the receiver, who was 3-4 yards short of the line to gain anyway, and he was covered, to boot. Simply awful.

The TV announcers were stunned, tried to be kind, but it was coaching malpractice. Duke scored a TD three plays later, led 14-0 on their way to an easy 36-14 win.

11) UCLA kicker JJ Molson is an 8th generation member of the Molson family, who own part of the largest brewery in Canada. His dad’s cousin owns the Montreal Canadiens; the kid’s mother is an optometrist- their family’s net worth is estimated a $1.6B, thats billion, with a B.

JJ Molson turned down a scholarship offer from Alabama to kick at UCLA. Before this season, he had never kicked before a crowd larger than 1,000 people.

10) Utah 30, West Virginia 14— Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is the King of Bowls; he is 11-1 in bowls as a head coach. Utes weren’t even that good this year (7-6) but they won this game easily.

9) Weird scene after the Seattle-Dallas game Sunday, with Seahawks’ DB Earl Thomas running up to Cowboys coach Jason Garrett in the tunnel after the game and apparently asking Garrett to recruit him in free agency this winter. You don’t see that every day.

8) 91-year old Mel Brooks has been an actor, writer, producer, director, comedian, composer. He is a comic genius- his resume goes from Get Smart to Blazing Saddles to The Producers. Brooks was married to the great actress Anne Bancroft for 41 years before she passed away in 2005.

During World War II, Brooks was a corporal in the 78th Infantry Division, defusing landmines. What a life he’s had, but it was amazing to me that the guy who created such great comedy spent part of his life under the greatest pressure imaginable, defusing landmines in a war. Wow.

7) Phoenix Suns beat Memphis 99-97 Tuesday night on a great side out-of-bounds play with 0:00.6 left; the inbounder basically tried to put his pass in the basket, then Tyson Chandler simply tipped it home at the buzzer- there cannot be offensive goaltending on a shot that wouldn’t be a legal basket, such as an in-bounds pass. Clever strategy by Suns’ coach Jay Triano.

6) All the NFL games with playoff implications are being played at 4:25 Sunday, to increase the drama as far as who makes/misses the playoffs.

Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh was whining Tuesday that the late start might hurt the crowd in Baltimore, saying, “I don’t think the NFL did us any favors by moving it back, but they don’t care about us. So, we just have to care about ourselves. We have to take care of our own business. That goes for our team, for our fans and for our city. Let’s go win the football game.”

Playing the “us against the world” card. Jeez, all they have to do is beat the Bengals.

5) Jacksonville Jaguars have had 13 players who started every game this season; Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had one. Part of winning is the good fortune of staying healthy.

4) Saw a scary story on the Interweb this week about how Houston Astros’ coach Rich Dauer almost died at the Astros’ World Series parade/celebration just after the World Series.

Turns out Dauer had fallen and banged his head the day before, and he had bleeding on the brain the next day. Doctors performed an aamergency operations and he came thru it well, in a situation where one doctor had given him a 3% chance of having a complete recovery.

3) Rams are sitting out lot of starters this week, notably Todd Gurley/Jared Goff, which means QB Sean Mannion will make his first NFL start……….likewise for the Chiefs, with Alex Smith taking a seat in Denver this week— rookie Patrick Mahomes gets his first NFL start.

2) Chicago Bulls are 3-20 with Nikola Mirotic out of the lineup this season; they’re 9-2 since he got back in the lineup. Mirotic was out of the lineup because he got punched out by teammate Bobby Portis in a practice before the season started and his cheekbones got broken. Not good.

1) Disappointing news from the Arena Football front, where apparently the Tampa Bay Storm have closed up shop, meaning the AFL is down to four teams this season, which obviously isn’t a good situation. Arenaball is a great, affordable night out; hopefully more cities will be interested in having a team and the league can become popular again, like it was in the 90’s.

Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings…….

13) If you bet the San Francisco 49ers over/under win total for this season, your mood turned when Jimmy Garoppolo became the Niners’ starting QB.

When the 49ers were 0-9, under 4.5 wins looked golden; now they’re 5-10 and under is a loser, over is a surprising winner, which is a good example of how season-long prop bets can be dicey, since Garoppolo was in Foxboro for the first half of this season.

12) If you have Showtime on your TV and are looking for some good binge-watching, Season 2 of Billions will run all day Sunday, starting at 7am. Season 1 ran all day Christmas Eve; got to see some episodes of this terrific program before and after football, which was fun.

11) In their last five games, Arizona Cardinals have held their opponents to 10-58 on third down, which is really good defense. Redbirds are only 7-8, but they’re still playing hard.

10) Speaking of the Cardinals, reports are out that Bruce Arians won’t be back as coach next year. Arians is 48-30-1 in Arizona, but is 65 and has had some health issues recently. Redbirds have an older roster (11 players are older than Sean McVay)- they’re going to miss Arians.

9) I mentioned Artis Gilmore briefly last week; the former Jacksonville center played 17 years in the NBA/ABA— he played 80+ games in 13 times, including his first eight years in ABA, where teams didn’t own their own airplanes, and teams sometimes played three nights in a row.

Gilmore averaged 18.7 ppg, 12.3 rpg in his career; he played 41+ mpg in his first four years, 37.4+ mpg in seven of his first eight years, 34.1+ mpg in his first 11 years. In other words, he wasn’t soft like some of today’s stars, who whine about every little inconvenience while making eight figure salaries.

8) If you didn’t see DeAndre Hopkins’ TD catch against the Steelers Monday night, go find it on ESPN.com on YouTube— just a great catch.

7) Surprising fact: This is first time since 2010 the Steelers have a first round bye in the playoffs.

6) US Presidents are not allowed to accept gifts from foreign governments that are worth more than $390; am wondering how they came up with that amount as a limit, but thats the rule.

5) I was wondering about this so I looked it up; in NFL games this season where turnovers were even, the favorite is 27-28-2 vs spread this season. Was hoping for a more dramatic %age that would tell me something, but we don’t always get what we want.

4) Miami Dolphins have only three rushing TD’s this year; only team in last 20 years with fewer than that? The 2005 Arizona Cardinals had only two rushing TD’s all season.

3) Paxton Lynch will start at QB for the Broncos this week………I’m really not sure why, other than they want to take one more look at Lynch before the offseason. Denver has to make a move for a franchise quarterback this winter— it is hard to believe that their 2018 starter is currently on their roster, but I said the same thing about them at this time last year.

2) New England Patriots signed LB James Harrison for the rest of the season, after the Steelers surprisingly cut him last week. The 39-year old Harrison lost his starting job this season- he played a total of 40 snaps the whole season.

1) Isaiah Thomas is going to be ready to play pretty soon, which is going to change some things for the Cavaliers; Thomas was the #3 scorer in the NBA last year for Boston; he played 33.8 mpg LY, so that is 33 minutes a game that current Cavaliers are going to sit.

Cleveland is 24-10, so the guys who’ve been playing now are doing well; going to take selfless guys to accept a “demotion” with Thomas returning, and it will take a few games for everyone to get used to playing together, with some guys taking a lot fewer shots, and even Thomas having the ball a lot less than he is used to having it.

Tuesday’s List of 13: No one asked me, but……

13) NFL didn’t flex a game into primetime this week; they’ll have seven 1:00 games, and then all nine games with playoff implications will be at 4:25. Should be a fun day of football.

12) This will be first time since 1995 the NFL went consecutive weeks without a Sunday night game, but this Week 17 thing makes sense. Makes it little tougher for handicappers, though.

11) Todd Gurley is the first NFL player since Herschel Walker in 1986 to log 100 yards rushing and 150 yards receiving in the same game.

10) Unsolicited opinion: Minnesota Vikings need to sign Case Keenum as their QB going forward- if they choose Sam Bradford over Keenum, they’re ignoring the evidence in front of their faces. As for Teddy Bridgewater, I guess a lot depends on how his knee is.

As a Ram fan, I’ve seen a lot of both Bradford, Keenum; Keenum is a gym rat, a guy teammates rally behind, a leader. Bradford gets hurt a lot; he’s not bad, but look at his career record.

9) Jerry Jones’ grandson is a 5-10, 180-pound QB who just won two HS state titles in Texas; he has scholarship offers from Texas Tech, Arkansas, but those schools might be recruiting Jerry’s wallet as much as the kid. College sports can be like that.

What are the odds that five years from now, when Jerry is 80, Cowboys draft the grandson?

8) UCLA QB Josh Rosen is sitting out the Cactus Bowl with concussion-related issues; will be interesting to see if Rosen/Darnold enter the draft or go back to school for another year. And if Rosen/Darnold both balk at Cleveland and go back to college, do the Browns take Josh Allen?

7) If you care about such things, baseball’s 2018 winter meetings are at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas next December 9-13. Good place to have them.

6) Halftime score from Saturday: Oklahoma 68, Northwestern 38. Sooners scored 68 points in a half against a Big 14 team- think they were 14-20 on the arc in that half.

5) New Mexico State beat Miami 63-54 Saturday, their first win over a top 10 team since 1990. Back then, the Aggies and Cal-Santa Barbara were always chasing UNLV in the Big West- they had some really good teams.

4) Movie scenes that could never be made today: In the 1982 movie The Verdict, Paul Newman plays a down-on-his-luck lawyer who stumbles onto a big wrongful death case that he should win, but then he finds out his girlfriend is actually a double agent for the plaintiffs.

Newman finds this out just before he is supposed to meet the girlfriend in a bar; he walks in, sees her and decks her with one punch. Don’t think that scene would get by the censors these days.

3) Pet peeve; Norm Stewart, Gene Keady and Mike Montgomery are in the College Basketball Hall of Fame, and Jerry Tarkanian isn’t; on which planet does that make sense?

Tarkanian is in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield; this college HOF is in Kansas City– they need to change how their inductees are chosen.

2) Funny how in NFL games played in the snow or really cold weather, there are a lot fewer penalties called. Refs want to get the hell out of there.

1) Congrats to Fresno State’s football team, which went 10-4 this year after going 1-11 LY. Jeff Tedford did a great job in his first year in Fresno- he was Aaron Rodgers’ coach at Cal and also was a head coach in the CDL— the man knows his stuff.

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

Rams 27, Titans 23— On opponents’ opening drives this season, Rams forced 8 turnovers on 15 drives, which is an amazing stat. Todd Gurley was a beast in this game; 118 rushing yards, 158 receiving yards, two touchdowns. Rams clinch their first divisional title since 2003.

Tennessee lost its 3rd game in row, is in danger of missing the playoffs for 10th year in a row. Seven of Titans’ last nine games were decided by five or less points. If Tennessee loses next week, they could still make it playoffs if Bills/Chargers also lose.

Bengals 26, Lions 17— This loss KO’s Detroit from playoff contention and likely ends the tenure of Jim Caldwell as head coach. Matthew Stafford makes $27M a year; he is now 59-65 as an NFL starter, 0-3 in playoff games. Lions last won a playoff game in 1991.

Chargers 14, Jets 7— Chargers won five of their last six games; they play Oakland next week in what should be a weird game, given how popular the Raiders remain in the LA area. Bolts need a win and also Titans to lose and then either Buffalo or the Ravens to lose to make the playoffs. Under is 9-1 in Chargers’ last ten games.

Jets are 11-42 on 3rd down in last three games; they’re 2-8 in their last ten games. Not sure why Christian Hackenberg hasn’t played yet; its similar to the Davis Webb/Giants quandary.

Bears 20, Browns 3— Cleveland is 1-30 the last two years, 3-12 vs spread this year. Browns are -15 in turnovers their last six games. Does this mean Sam Darnold stays at USC? Sounds like he doesn’t want to live near Lake Erie.

Panthers 22, Buccaneers 19— Carolina hadn’t scored an offensive TD all day until they drove 59 yards for the game-winning score with 0:35 left— they’re in the playoffs now, but they can win the division if they win next week and the Saints lose at Tampa Bay. Carolina is +10 in turnovers in its last six games.

Bucs’ GM and coach were talking big on Hard Knocks this past summer; but now they’re 4-11 and you wonder if Jon Gruden wants to coach the Bucs again, will they hire him?

Saints 23, Falcons 13— New Orleans is in the playoffs after starting season 0-2; Atlanta can still make playoffs by beating Carolina next week- they won 34-31 in Seattle Nov 20, the game that gives them the tie-breaker over the Seahawks.

This was first time in five years these two divisional rivals split their season series; New Orleans has won seven home games in a row- if they win next week, they’ll get another home game in the first round of the playoffs.

Weird thing about handicapping football; 10 of last 13 Atlanta games stayed under the total. Last year, 12 of 16 Falcon games went over the total. Each season is a separate entity.

Redskins 27, Broncos 11— Denver has to make a move for a franchise QB this winter; they were 1-7 on road this year, 0-4 as road underdogs, with six road losses by 10+ points- they’re -16 in turnovers. Thats a nice way of saying they’re terrible.

Washington is 3-2 in its last five games, can finish .500 if they beat the Giants next week. Going to be lot of QB-related issues this winter; will Redskins keep Cousins? Will Giants get rid of Eli Manning? Who will the Giants hire to be coach and GM? Will Washington keep Jay Gruden?

Chiefs 29, Dolphins 13— Do yourself a favor and find the video of Andy Reid’s post-game press conference; he did it in full Santa Claus garb. It is tremendous.

Chiefs win the AFC West, are 32-15 the last three years- they’re in playoffs for 4th time in last five years, but they also have questions— will they trade Alex Smith to the Browns?

As for Miami, they paid Jay Cutler $10M to come in and go 6-9- they lost six of last eight games, went 2-6 on the road. Dolphins can ruin Buffalo’s season by beating the Bills next week.

Patriots 37, Bills 16— NFL should go to FOX TV’s Mike Pereira, ask him how much he wants to take over the league’s instant replay system and put him in charge of it- that would fix a lot of the indecisiveness that seems to plague the current system.

As for Bills’ coach Sean McDermott and other AFC East coaches, their job security is tied to how long Tom Brady decides to play, because as soon as #12 walks, the AFC East becomes a free-for-all. But if the Titans, Bills and Chargers all win next week, then Buffalo misses the playoffs in a tie-breaker with the Chargers, who beat them 54-24 when Nathan Peterman threw five INTs in a half in his first NFL start. Decisions like that are bad for a coach’s job security.

Home teams are 8-1-1 vs spread in AFC East divisional games this season.

49ers 44, Jaguars 33— This was the first game in NFL history with a final score of 44-33; there are media members who already want Jimmy Garoppolo fitted for his gold Hall of Fame jacket. Garoppolo is 6-0 as an NFL starter and the 49ers will be a trendy pick to make the playoffs next year, but at this point, they’re passing tired horses.

Jacksonville clinched the AFC South when the Titans lost; Andrew Catalon on FOX was killing Blake Bortles in the third quarter of this game. Guy QB’s a 10-5 team and is getting crushed on TV. Four of last five Jacksonville games went over the total.

Cardinals 23, Giants 0— Arizona got its first shutout in 25 years, night after the Vikings got their first shutout in 24 years. If I was a Giants fan, I’d want to at least see Davis Webb play, to see if he has any ability, or any potential to at least bring back draft picks in a trade. Quarterbacks are valuable, I’m told.

Cardinals head to Seattle next week with a chance to finish .500; they’re an older team with an older coach— will Arians be back? Will Carson Palmer be back?

Seahawks 21, Cowboys 12— Dallas outgained Seattle 283-136, and lost by nine points. Brutal day for the Cowboys, which didn’t score a TD, then watched kicker Bailey miss two easy FG’s to get margin within a TD in 4th quarter. Last nine times Dallas had the ball, they turned ball over three times, kicked four FG’s, missed two other FG’s. Touchdowns win games.

Seattle needs the Falcons to lose at home to Carolina next week, and then to beat Arizona to make the playoffs. Seahawks have gained a TOTAL of 285 yards the last two weeks- their OL is terrible, but Russell Wilson’s big heart is keeping them alive.

If the playoffs started Christmas morning (they don’t), they would look like this:
AFC: Patriots-Steelers-Jaguars-Chiefs. Wild Cards: Ravens/Titans
NFC: Eagles-Vikings-Saints-Rams. Wild Cards: Panthers/Falcons

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

13) Whats the point of having the Packers play home games at night on December 23? Do they want someone to freeze to death in the stands?

The answer is that if they stumble across a snow game, they’ll get huge TV ratings, because snow games, it has been proven, get better ratings on TV than games in ordinary weather.

12) Wake Forest has three coaches on its staff who scored 1,240+ points in their playing days in college; Danny Manning (Kansas), Randolph Childress (Wake) and Steve Woodberry (Kansas).

11) Major league ballplayers who play 8+ years in the majors get a lifetime pass to games (with a guest). Not a bad perk.

10) Good to see former Ohio State/NBA center Greg Oden finding his way as a student assistant coach with the Buckeyes. Oden earned over $24M in his NBA days, but played only 105 games, scoring 14.9 ppg in a injury-shortened career. He turns 30 next month- time flies.

9) UCLA 83, Kentucky 75— Hopefully these teams will continue to play every year; their games are always fun to watch. Bruins are 9-3; they don’t have great depth because of the shoplifting mess in China, but they play hard- this is a sold win for them.

8) Florida Gulf Coast has a 6-10 junior named Michael Gilmore, who is a great-nephew of Artis Gilmore, who played in the ’71 Final Four for Jacksonville and then played 17 years in the ABA, NBA and scored 24,941 points.

Gilmore played in the ABA for the Kentucky Colonels, one of the great forgotten teams of all time. Coached by Hubie Brown (yes, the guy on ESPN) the Colonels won the ’75 ABA title- they had Maurice Lucas, Louie Dampier, Caldwell Jones- they had Johnnie Neumann and Travis Grant on the same team- two of the worst gunners in basketball history!!!

7) Think about it; Kentucky owner John Y Brown shuttered the Colonels as part of the ABA-NBA merger, with a promise that he could later buy the Celtics, which he did. Had he not done that, then Maurice Lucas doesn’t go to Portland and the Trailblazers don’t win the ’77 NBA title.

6) Wyoming 37, Central Michigan 14— Wyoming QB Josh Allen will be much-discussed when the NFL Draft comes around in April; he has a strong arm, can run, but hasn’t played against the same competition as Sam Darnold/Josh Rosen.

I like Allen, but he damn sure better learn how to slide, because NFL defenders will put him on the IR pretty quickly otherwise. He likes to run and challenge defenders— can’t do that much in the NFL.

5) Poor Alabama A&M; they’re 0-13 with 11 road games- they lost 89-49 to Georgetown, the last of a ridiculous pre-conference schedule that pays a lot of the program’s bills. Bulldogs played at Michigan, Georgetown, Alabama, Minnesota, DePaul. Losing isn’t fun.

4) St Bonaventure 60, Syracuse 57 OT— Solid win for the Bonnies, who are located in middle of nowhere. If you’re not from NY or Pennsylvania, I defy you to find their campus on a map- they have to recruit like hell and they play in a very tough league. Mark Schmidt is a very good coach.

3) USC 89, Middle Tennessee 84— Semi-final in the Diamond Head tourney in Hawaii, this was an excellent game.

2) South Florida 38, Texas Tech 34— Bulls scored a TD with 0:16 left to win this game. After a few cruddy bowls during the week, the bowl games Saturday were actually competitive games.

Army 42, San Diego State 35— Cadets scored TD with 0:18 left to win game. Rashaad Penny ran 14 times for 221 yards, but Aztecs couldn’t stop Army’s offense.

1) One of the odd things about college basketball is that after you play a team, especially these non-conference games, you root like hell for your opponents to do well down the road, since it enhances your resume if they do.

Saturday’s List of 13: Clearing out a cluttered mind…….

13) One of the odd things about college basketball is that November is a much better month for games than December. I mean, we have two mid-major teams here where I live, Albany and Siena- they both played Memphis AND Louisville this season.

College basketball gets real next week, when conference games start in earnest and everyone get back to playing their own kind. Can’t wait.

12) Worst offenders for scheduling cupcakes this year in pre-conference games:
#350 Georgetown— Played Richmond, Syracuse and a lot of sub-300 teams
#344 Mississippi State— Played Cincinnati, Dayton and nine other stiffs.
#340 NC State— Played Penn State and in Atlantis tournament; have new coach.
#336 Virginia Tech— Hokies are 10-2; NC schedule #336 could hurt on Selection Sunday

11) Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon “……is pissed every time the Yankees make a move”, referring to Giancarlo Stanton’s acquisition.

Only a jackass like Wilpon would be angry that a great player was traded OUT of his division; he should be angrier that the Phillies signed Carlos Santana, since the Philllies, you know, actually compete with the Mets, and seem to be trying to win, unlike Wilpon’s Mets.

10) Mets brought former GM Omar Minaya back as “special assistant to the GM”, joining former manager Terry Collins in that title. What exactly will these two be doing, other than stealing money? Roving minor league instructors? Scouting? Running the Mets’ Twitter account?

Maybe one of these “special assistants” should tell Fred Wilpon that he owns a baseball team that is located eight miles from the Bronx, where they spend a lot of money to try and win. it would be nice if the Mets spent some money, too.

9) How about the Jaguar commercial on TV where the guy gives his wife a Jaguar for Christmas and instead of thanking the guy, she complains because he put a few hundred miles on the car before she got it? Oy. He gave you a freakin’ Jaguar……say thanks!!!!!

8) NHL teams that play road games on consecutive nights this season are 34-44 on the second night this season; 17-26 if they won the first night, 17-18 if they lost the first night.

7) This is from sportsbusinessdaily.com, talking about what college football players get as “swag” for playing in bowl games:

“……..the reward provided more than any other by the bowl committees to the game’s participants will be a chance to shop in a gift suite. The suite is a portable store set up on campus or at a venue in the game’s host city, where players browse through a variety of items, then have up to $550 worth of those goodies shipped to the address of their choice.”

Take the Potato Bowl in Idaho; in addition to the $550 from the gift suite, players on Wyoming, Central Michigan will all get Oakley sunglasses, an Under Armour backpack and a beanie.

6) Texas A&M’s basketball team was without three starters for its win over Buffalo Thursday; leading scorer DJ Hogg is suspended for at least three games, meaning he’ll miss the Aggies’ first two SEC games, against Alabama/Florida.

5) NFL teams that have gone 3/out the most times this season: Colts (65), Browns/Giants (58), Seattle-Denver-Jets (57).

Fewest 3/outs this year: Patriots/Steelers (27), Falcons (31), Saints (32), Chargers (35).

4) Most 3/outs forced this year: Broncos-Cardinals-Jaguars (62), Eagles (59), Ravens (56).

Fewest 3/outs forced: Packers (32), Raiders/Patriots (33), Falcons-Bears-Bucs (34).

3) UCLA extended the suspensions for basketball players Jalen Hill and Cody Riley for this whole season, after they got busted for shoplifting in China along with another player, who has since left the school. Riley had been expected to start for the Bruins, who are 8-3 heading into their game with Kentucky today.

The two kids can practice starting Dec 26, which is a big help to them and also helps the team have better practices. I’m pretty sure this decision was made at the highest level of the school, lot of political ramifications involved.

2) Underrated accomplishment of the year: UAB went 8-5 in football this year, played in the Bahamas Bowl. No big deal, you say?

UAB didn’t field a football team the last two years; the school dropped football to save money, but after an outcry from alumni/public, it was brought back this season. So an expansion team goes 8-5 and gets a bowl invite. Thats very impressive to me.

1) Mentioned briefly yesterday about Dick Enberg passing away; he was at the forefront of the tremendous growth in interest in college basketball— he broadcast the Indiana St-Michigan St game in 1979, the Bird-Magic national championship game.

Working with Billy Packer/Al McGuire, Enberg was the point guard of a great 3-man announce team that taught me so much about college basketball. ESPN then came along and my winters have been filled with basketball ever since.

Mr Enberg called 28 Wimbledons, ten Super Bowls, nine no-hitters and eight Final Fours; he will surely be missed.

Friday’s List of 13: Random stuff with weekend here…….

13) Why did the Giants trade for Evan Longoria? Their third basemen combined to hit .216 LY, with only nine homers, 51 RBI. Not good.

12) How was Tennessee’s basketball team picked to finish 13th in the SEC? Vols are 8-2, with their only two losses to Villanova/North Carolina- they’re good.

11) 82-year old Len Dawson, who led the Kansas City Chiefs as their QB in Super Bowls I and IV, is retiring from his job on Chiefs’ radio after this season.

I like to collect unique pictures off the Internet on my phone; one of the ones I have is of Dawson at halftime of Super Bowl I, sitting on a folding chair in the Chiefs’ locker room, taking a drag off a cigarette with an open bottle of Fresca at his feet. Somehow that wouldn’t fly today.

10) Wyoming QB Josh Allen will play for the Cowboys in the Potato Bowl Friday; he hurt his throwing shoulder against Air Force, sat out the Cowboys’ last two games, so if he wants to make a statement to NFL scouts for next April’s draft, he needs to show he is healthy in this game.

9) Lakers’ rookie Kyle Kuzma scored 38 points off the bench Wednesday; he is only the 3rd rookie since 1983 to do that, joining Walt Williams (1993) and Rodrique Beaubois (2010) on that list.

Rodrique played only four years in the NBA, for Dallas (182 games). Williams played 12 years in the NBA for six different teams, scoring 8,200+ points.

8) John Schnatter, the guy on all those Papa John’s pizza commercials, is out as the company’s CEO— Papa John’s is the best pizza I’ve ever had, but six of the seven places in the Albany area closed a few years ago, and the one that stayed open doesn’t deliver to my suburb.

7) Want to win a bar bet? Oprah Winfrey and Anthony Mason are the two most famous alumni of………Tennessee State.

6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t led a game at halftime since Week 4 against the Giants, back on October 1st. They were tied 3-3 against the Jets in Week 10.

5) Before he was a big time college basketball coach, South Carolina’s Frank Martin was a busboy, a bouncer, a short-order cook and a math teacher. Bouncer is easy to see; high school math teacher seems like a bit of a reach. Coach Martin walked by me at an AAU tournament in Florida few years ago— the man has immense shoulders, just a large, tough-looking guy.

4) Temple 28, Florida International 3— Why is a bowl game that is sponsored by a company that makes lawn mowers played in a domed stadium with FieldTurf?

FIU’s senior QB Alex McGough was hurt on first series of this game; the kid is from the Tampa area- this was his last college game- he stayed in for two plays after his shoulder injury, but you could tell he was in agony. Just felt really bad for the kid.

3) Knicks 102, Celtics 93— Kristaps Porzingis was 0-11 from floor but the Knicks won. Go figure.

2) Thing I learned listening to Bill Walton last night on the UConn-Arizona game; The earth rotates around the sun at an angle of 23.5 degrees, which is why we have different seasons.

You thought it was going to be something about basketball?

1) Mike Sando of ESPN did some research; Jaguars had 19 Week 1 starters still in the lineup in Week 15, most in the NFL- they’ve stayed pretty healthy. Arizona had only 10 starters still in the lineup, least in the league- they played several games with their #3 QB.

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

13) Sad day for baseball fans in Tampa Bay/St Pete; Rays traded 3B Evan Longoria to the Giants Wednesday, for Denard Span, Christian Arroyo and two minor leaguers.

Longoria is one of the two best players in Rays’ history (Carl Crawford being the other); he helped lead the underdog Rays to the 2008 World Series.

Wouldn’t be stunned if the Rays wound up moving to Montreal and becoming the Expos.

12) Tampa Bay’s final 2017 payroll was $81,346,870; only three MLB teams had a payroll lower than that. Of the other four AL East teams, the next lowest payroll was $165,179,831.

11) Also in the AL East, Orioles’ closer Zach Britton ruptured his achilles tendon and will miss the next 6-8 months, and possibly the whole 2018 season.

10) Los Angeles Rams average 4.73 points/red zone drive, which ranks 18th in NFL in ppp, but the thing is, Rams have been in the red zone 64 times this year, six more times than anyone else in the NFL. Patriots are second, with 58 red zone drives. Bears are last, with only 28. (Red zone drives are when you get inside the other team’s 20-yard line)

9) Why are Rams’ punter Johnny Hekker and PR Pharoh Cooper in the Pro Bowl? Because field position is important, and these two guys have helped the Rams win field position most every week.

This season, Rams have started 85 drives 75+ yards from goal line; their opponents have started 123 drives on their own 25 or worse. Thats a difference of almost three drives per game.

8) One more piece of Rams’ news and it isn’t good news; kicker Greg Zuerlein has a herniated disc in his back, is done for the season. Zuerlein had a great year, is the NFC’s Pro Bowl kicker, but he is having back surgery today. Rams signed Sam Ficken, who kicked in college at Penn State.

7) If ESPN insists on showing so many of Duke’s pre-conference games, could they at least play good teams? As I’m typing this, they’re beating banged-up Evansville 53-18. Play a true road game now and then; it won’t kill you. Might even help you play better in March.

6) A legislative election in Virginia wound up being a tie, and that election could’ve swung which party holds the majority in the state. If you’re unhappy with how the government is doing, register and vote every November. You never know how much of a difference you might make.

5) Former Cowboys’ RB Darren McFadden sued his former agent for screwing up a Bitcoin deal that cost McFadden $3M, amongst other shenanigans that cost the RB another $12M.

Someone came out this week and said that if McFadden’s $3M Bitcoin investment had gone thru back in 2008, it would be worth $237M now. Whoops.

4) Louisiana Tech 51, SMU 10— SMU’s play-caller in this game is a grad assistant; you NEVER see that in big time college football, but Sonny Dykes just got hired by the Mustangs and he isn’t 100% up to speed on the team’s playbook yet. Two nights in a row, though, terrible bowl games.

Louisiana Tech alum Terry Bradshaw was an honorary captain for this game, which was played at a soccer stadium in Frisco, TX that seats around 20,000 people.

3) Wofford 79, North Carolina 75— Terriers were a 24.5-point underdog, but held Tar Heels to 36.4% from floor, and survived being outscored 28-16 on foul line. .

2) When the Miami Marlins were crying poor so they could get their new domed stadium 10 years ago, they actually made $35.6M profit in 2007, 2nd-most in the major leagues that season. Going to be a lot of bitter people in south Florida next summer, with that beautiful stadium hosting the worst team in the major leagues, because new owners are dumping all the good players to save $$$

1) DirecTV calls me the other day and tries to get me to buy even more premium channels; the problem is, the person on the phone? I can’t understand what she is saying- she talks really fast and well.…I just couldn’t understand her.

I’ve hit my ceiling on how much I’m spending for TV anyway, but you’d think they’d put people on the phone who you can understand when they speak.

Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings…….

13) OK, I’m asking for your input here— e-mail me at ffib13@gmail.com

Who, in your opinion, is the greatest Los Angeles Laker ever?

Kareem, Magic, Wilt, Kobe, Jerry West, Shaq, Happy Hairston, Nick Young?

Let me know what you think.

12) Why are the Baltimore Ravens rolling right now? In their last five games, Ravens have been playing on a shorter field, winning field position by 17-13-14-5-17 yards. Thats a combination of defense/special teams. John Harbaugh was a special teams coach before he was a head coach.

11) Arizona Cardinals didn’t score a touchdown in their last two games, are switching to Drew Stanton at QB this week for their home game against the Giants.

10) Last June, Golden State Warriors sent $3.5M to the Chicago Bulls for the 38th pick in the draft and then took Jordan Bell from Oregon.

Bell is playing 12.3 mpg for the powerhouse Warriors; he couldn’t have helped the 9-20 Bulls?

9) Stephen Curry’s father Dell played 16 years in the NBA for five teams, scored 12,670 points; he made 40.2% of 3-pointers in his career. Why did he go to Davidson? Why didn’t Dell’s alma mater, Virginia Tech, offer him a scholarship?

8) ESPN President John Skipper resigned Monday, citing a substance addiction problem. Guy in that job had to be making a freakin’ fortune; I hope he exorcises whatever demons he has.

ESPN fired a lot of people recently; couple of them weren’t very happy on Twitter Monday night, unhappy that they got fired by a guy who apparently was often drunk/stoned on the job.

7) Packers put Aaron Rodgers on IR, so he is done for the last two games. Probably a smart move, to avoid risking Rodgers getting re-injured in meaningless games the next two weeks.

6) NHL’s Islanders are moving from Brooklyn back to Long Island, to a new arena that will be built around Belmont Park. Barclays Center doesn’t have great sight lines for hockey, so this is a good move for Islander fans.

5) There won’t be any baseball moves announced next week; MLB offices are closed between Christmas and New Year’s, so while stuff may actually happen, it won’t get officially announced.

4) So far this season. Chicago, Minnesota, Las Vegas are your NHL attendance leaders.

3) If your fantasy football team is still alive in the playoffs and you need a WR to replace an injured guy, try Kendall Wright of the Bears.

In his last two games, Wright was targeted 24 times, caught 17 balls for 188 yards.

2) Kudos to Chick-fil-A, the fast food giant that is never open on Sundays.

When the Atlanta airport got shut down by a power outage Sunday, people from Chick-fil-A went in to the airport and GAVE OUT FREE FOOD to people stranded in the airport.

Good for them.

1) Can you imagine the personal injury lawyers busting their butts to get to Tacoma Monday in wake of the horrible train accident there? Hundreds of injured people just waiting for a lawyer to hand them his card, so they can sue Amtrak and everyone else within sight.

As Lloyd of Lubbock said on the The Odd Couple, “Shake my hand. You’re insured.”

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

13) In the great TV show Billions, hedge fund trader Bobby Axelrod, who is really rich, likes to say, “Whats the point of having (bleep) you money if you never say (bleep) you?”

Boosters at the U of Oregon must have bleep-you money, since they just gave Jim Leavitt $1.7M a year to stay at Oregon, to be the Ducks’ defensive coordinator. $1.7M a year for a guy who isn’t the head coach!!!! Why?

Apparently the boosters were more than a little annoyed that former coach Willie Taggart took a job interview at Florida State while using a Oregon’s booster’s private plane on a recruiting trip, so they overpaid Leavitt to keep him from joining Taggart at FSU. Spite can be expensive.

12) Atlanta’s airport is the biggest one in the country and it was shut down Sunday after a fire in an electrical box. 1,200 flights were canceled Sunday. Imagine the chaos? Monday morning the airport was jammed with travelers who were still stuck there, and the electronic boarding pass system wasn’t working, multiplying the backlog of customers.

11) Baseball agent Scott Boras still has 13 unsigned free agents for next season; when does this guy sleep?

10) Phillies gave 1B Carlos Santana $60M for three years, which moves Rhys Hoskins to LF, but also creates a logjam at the other two OF positions. Nick Williams figures to play in center, but will Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr play right? Or will they make another trade?

9) Some people are comparing Oklahoma freshman Trae Young to Steph Curry, which is really unfair. Curry was mostly under the radar until he led Davidson to the Elite 8 as a sophomore, and his dad played in the NBA.

Young is a terrific player, but let him be a kid and progress at his own rate.

8) Illinois State 101, Ole Miss 97 OT— Last spring, ISU coach Dan Muller posted a sarcastic note on Twitter, essentially daring Power 5 teams to schedule his Redbirds. Ole Miss took him up on it, and I wonder now if Andy Kennedy regrets it.

Ole Miss lost four of its last five games, with three of the losses in OT. Rebels just got some new facilities couple years ago; the boosters who paid for those facilities probably ain’t real happy with the losing.

7) Herm Edwards is the new football coach at Arizona State; ASU fired Todd Graham, the last head coach but kept both coordinators, but since Edwards got hired, both coordinators already quit. One took a head coaching job at UL-Lafayette; the other one left for health reasons.

6) Billy Joel has had 46 concerts in Madison Square Garden, the most of any performer.

5) NFL coaches must get sick of talking to the media; I mean, how many times can you say the same thing? It is part of why they make a ton of money; they’re the voice of the franchise, talking to all their fans, but for a coach on a losing team whose job may be on thin ice, it can’t be a lot of fun.

Bill Belichick is so boring in his pressers- he just fulfills his obligations and moves on, but players need to look at that and imitate it— keep them from getting fined by the league.

4) Purdue basketball coach Matt Painter once worked as a fork lift operator, before he began his coaching career. Painter also appeared in the 1994 movie Blue Chips; lot of college basketball players back then were in the movie, playing ball in the game scenes.

3) Why did the Lakers retire two numbers for Kobe Bryant?, So they can keep selling two of his t-shirts in their gift shop? I know he wore both 8 and 24; pick one of them and retire it.

2) Fort Wayne 92, Indiana 72— Mastodons made 17-30 3-pointers, beat Indiana for second year in a row; their coach Jon Coffman makes $135,000 a year. Indiana coach Archie Miller makes $2M a year.

1) Falcons 24, Buccaneers 21— Atlanta is 9-5 and controls its own destiny in NFC South; they play Saints, Panthers to finish season.

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Patriots 27, Steelers 24— NFL needs to fix its catch rule; it lacks common sense, but lets be real- Steelers could’ve kicked a FG on the next play and gone to OT. They gambled on the last play and it blew up on them the same way it blew up on Seattle in their Super Bowl loss to NE.

Steelers converted 10-16 on 3rd down, outgained Patriots 413-360; they had 63 penalty yards, New England had 4 penalty yards. Four. This was the 3rd time in their last five games that New England had either one or two accepted penalties. Go figure.

Patriots are now 13-2 vs spread coming off their last fifteen losses.

Rams 42, Seahawks 7— Rams scored five TDs in this game, none on scoring drives longer than 47 yards; LA won field position by 24 yards, ran ball for 244 yards and totally dominated Seahawks’ offensive line. This was the Rams’ biggest game since 2003, and they came up huge.

Rams haven’t clinched anything yet, but they look to be headed to the #3 seed in NFC. As for the Seahawks, Pete Carroll has to get them ready to play in Dallas Sunday- they’ll need help to make the playoffs, but they ain’t dead yet. Carroll has a lot of coaching to do this week.

Jaguars 45, Texans 7— Jacksonville is in the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, outgaining Houston 464-186 in this game. Jaguars won seven of last eight games, are right now the #3 seed in AFC- they visit Chargers, Titans in last two games.

As for Houston, games like this get coaches fired, but O’Brien/Watson were a potent combo when the rookie QB was healthy. Will be interesting to see if Texans bring O’Brien back in 2018, seeing how they’re 1-7 in their last eight games.

Cowboys 20, Raiders 17— In what was basically an elimination game between storied franchises,  Dallas survived, thanks to winning a 4th down measurement by a millimeter, and then when Oakland QB Carr fumbled trying to stretch the ball over the goal line in the last minute- the ball went into the end zone for a touchback.

Favorites are 13-0 SU this week (Chiefs/Rams closed as pick ‘em), 10-2-1 vs spread.

Eagles 34, Giants 29— Eli Manning passed for 434 yards, but Philly won for 11th time in last 12 games, with two short TD drives of 20-18 yards. Eagles clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs; they were outgained 504-331 here, but they won field position by 11 yards and Nick Foles won his first start this season- he is 21-16 as an NFL starter. Philly is now 9-2 in its last 11 games vs the Giants in the Garden State.

49ers 25, Titans 23— Niners won four of last five games after an 0-9 start; Garoppolo is first QB since Ben Roethlisberger to win his first five NFL starts. Titans-Bills-Ravens are in 3-way tie for the two AFC Wild Card slots- the last two weeks are going to be fun.

Titans close with Rams/Jaguars at home; Ravens close with Colts/Bengals, Buffalo plays New England and Miami. Six of last eight Tennessee games were decided by 5 or less points.

Next summer, 49ers will be a fashionable Cinderella pick in the NFC- the media loves John Lynch, the 49ers’ new GM. And now SF has its quarterback of the future.

Panthers 31, Packers 24— Broken collarbones take 12 weeks to heal, whether its Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone or your collarbone or mine. He came back in eight weeks, was 26-45/290, with 3 TD’s, 3 INTs. You throw three INTs, you usually lose.

Carolina has won six of its last seven games; they close with the Bucs/Falcons. With Green Bay pretty much out of it now, do they play Rodgers the last two games, or let his collarbone heal fully and let Brett Hundley play the last two games?

Speaking of the Panthers, 81-year old owner Jerry Richardson will sell the team after news got out that he has paid off a few Panthers’ employees after they were harassed by Richardson, who has had a heart transplant and is the only NFL owner who also played in the league.

Steph Curry tweeted that he is interested in buying into the Panthers.

Vikings 34, Bengals 7— Minnesota clinches the NFC North by clubbing a disinterested Bengals team that will have a new coach next season. Cincy was outscored 67-14 in their last two games.

It is easy to criticize Marvin Lewis because he never won a playoff game (0-7) in Cincinnati, but he is also 123-119-3 as coach of the Bengals. Cincinnati’s three coaches before Lewis combined to go 52-124 from 1992-2002.

Wonder what odds you could’ve gotten in August for Case Keenum as NFL’s MVP?

Bills 24, Dolphins 16— Tennessee’s loss to the 49ers is a big boost to Buffalo’s playoff chances; Bllls were +3 in turnovers here, allowed only one TD in Miami’s three red zone drives and now they are 8-6. Miami came to western New York on a short work week and now they’ve been outscored 144-54 in their last four road games.

Home teams are 7-1-1 vs spread in AFC East divisional games this season.

Buffalo might want to practice clock management; they led 24-6 in 4th quarter, but Miami had the ball with 0;35 left near midfield, down 24-16, in what would’ve been an epic choke by Buffalo, which was snapping the ball with 0:10-0:20 left on play clock with 7-8 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Need to milk that play clock for every second you can when you’re protecting a 4th quarter lead.

Saints 31, Jets 19— Saints/Carolina are tied atop NFC South, but Saints swept Carolina. so they control own destiny. New Orleans has rematch with the Falcons this week; they’ve won their last six home games. Jets lost seven of last nine games. Saints had 7 plays of 20+ yards; they have 41 in their last six games.

Redskins 20, Cardinals 15— Hard to win when you don’t score a touchdown; Arizona is only team this week not to score an offensive TD- they had ball in the red zone six times, kicked five FG’. Cardinals ran 80 plays to Washington’s 47, but only gained 286 yards, completing only 16-41 passes. Washington was out-rushed 497-192 in its last three games.

Ravens 27, Browns 10— Baltimore won four of last five games; they’re in 3-way tie for two AFC Wild Cards, but right now, they’re odd team odd. Good news is that they close with couple of lame duck coaches, playing Colts/Bengals to finish season out.

Baltimore had a 17-yard edge in field position, as Browns are now 1-29 the last two years- they are 3-11 vs spread this year. From sounds of things, USC’s coaches should be happy Cleveland is so terrible; USC QB Sam Darnold doesn’t want to play there, may stay in school another year.