Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Cowboys 36, Giants 35— Not sure why Dallas played QB Prescott whole game, but they did and WR Beasley made a great catch with 1:12 left to win this game. Cowboys host Seattle next week; they’re in playoffs for only third time in last nine years. 

Giants split their last eight games, scoring 27+ points in four of last five; six of those eight games were decided by four of fewer points. Big Blue lost nine of its last 11 games with Dallas. 

Ravens 26, Browns 24— Baltimore was 4-5 and everyone assumed John Harbaugh was history, but they started rookie QB Jackson after their bye week and went on a 6-1 run that won them a division title. Ravens led this game 20-7 at halftime, then hung on for dear life; Browns had ball on their 40-yard line in last 1:20, but couldn’t get in field goal range. 

Cleveland finished 7-8-1, their best record in 11 years; Mayfield is entrenched as their QB, and if you watched Hard Knocks this past summer, that probably surprises you. Good for them, but it sounds like Cleveland is going hire Mike McCarthy as head coach, instead of Gregg Williams. 

Ravens host Chargers in playoffs next week; they upset Bolts 22-10 in Carson last week. 

There was huge call in Ravens’ favor in last 2:00 of first half; Jackson fumbled near goal line, but whistle blew while Browns were running ball back for TD. That call may have kept Steelers out of the playoffs. 

Colts 33, Titans 17— Colts bounced back from 1-5 start to make playoffs for first time in four years. Indy visits Houston next week; they split a pair of 3-point decisions with the Texans this season. In second half of season, Colts were 4-0 in games decided by 3 or fewer points. 

Mariota didn’t play, Titans didn’t win; Tennessee finished 9-7 for third year in row; they fired Mike Mularkey after he made playoffs LY, but Vrabel didn’t make playoffs this year, despite winning four of last five games. 

Patriots 38, Jets 3— Bill Belichick has been the Patriots’ coach since 2000; Jets fired Todd Bowles after the game. Patriots are #2 seed in AFC; as for rest of AFC East since 2000……..

— Buffalo coaches: Phillips, Williams, Mularkey, Jauron, Gailey, Marrone, Ryan, McDermott
— Miami coaches: Wannstedt, Saban, Cameron, Sparano, Philbin, Gase.
— Jets coaches: Groh, Edwards, Mangini, Ryan, Bowles. 

Eagles 24, Redskins 0— Philly outgained Redskins 360-89, held Washington to 8 first downs, 0-9 on third down plays. Eagles made playoffs when the Bears won in Minnesota; they visit Chicago in first round game next week. Foles re-injured his ribs, didn’t finish this game, but defending Super Bowl champs won five of their last six games. 

Redskins started season 5-2, but were ravaged by injuries; they scored 16 or fewer points in their last five games, starting four QB’s in their last seven games. 

Bears 24, Vikings 10— Chicago won/covered nine of last ten games; in their last four games, they allowed only two offensive TD’s on 41 drives. Bears host Philly in playoffs next week. 

Since 2004, Minnesota has had 11 different QB’s; Zimmer fired his OC during the season this year. Vikings are 47-32-1 under Zimmer, but he needs to get his offense in order next year. 

Texans 20, Jaguars 3— Houston won 11 of last 13 games; they host Colts in playoffs next week. Texans are in playoffs for fifth time in last eight years. 

Jacksonville went 10-6 LY and made playoffs for first time in decade; they lost 3-9 in last 12 games, scoring 17 or fewer points in last five games. Kyler Murray would look very good in a Jacksonville uniform next fall. 

Falcons 34, Buccaneers 32— Atlanta swept the Bucs this year, scoring 34 points in both games; Falcons showed some grit, winning last three games after a 4-9 start. Average total in last six games in this series is 59.2. 

Tampa Bay fired Dirk Koetter after the game; kind of unfair to keep the GM and fire the coach when the QB is the guy who got suspended for off-field hijinx which threw the Bucs’ offense into disarray. Buccaneers haven’t made the playoffs since 2007- they were -18 in turnovers TY. 

Bills 42, Dolphins 17— Miami went 4-9 after starting season 3-0; they lost their last seven road games, and were 2-6 as road underdogs this year. Dolphins converted 10 of last 50 plays on third down; I’m really not sure why they’re so committed to Tannehill as their QB. 

Buffalo is 8-4 in its last dozen games with Miami, winning six of last seven series games played here; they outgained Dolphins 796-400 in two meetings this season, but split the games. 

Steelers 16, Bengals 13— Pittsburgh misses playoff for first time in five years; they lost four of their last six games- four of their last five games were decided by exactly three points. 

Bengals were one of six teams not to score an offensive TD this week; Cincy lost nine of its last 11 games, missing playoffs for third year in row. Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. 

Chargers 23, Broncos 9— 12-4 Chargers didn’t win AFC West, so they’re going to Baltimore for first-round playoff game this week; they were upset 22-10 at home by Ravens in Week 16. LA won five of its last six games overall. Chargers are 7-0 outside of LA this season. 

Denver finishes with consecutive losing season for first time since 70’s; have to think they’re going to be changing head coaches this winter. 

Seahawks 27, Cardinals 24— Seahawks won six of last seven games, will visit Dallas in most interesting of the four playoff games next week; their last seven games with Arizona were all decided by 6 or fewer points. Cardinals had won their last three visits to Seattle. 

There are rumors that Arizona will fire HC Wilks after only one year; would be second year in row that the coach QB Josh Rosen played for got fired— his coach at UCLA (Jim Mora) got the boot after last season. Redbirds should hire a QB guru to tutor young Rosen. 

Arizona gets the #1 pick in drat for first time since 1958, when they were based in Chicago; that year, Redbirds took QB King Hill with first pick- he started only 29 games in 12 years, and most of those were for the Eagles. 

Rams 48, 49ers 32— 49ers turned ball over on their first three drives; on their first two drives, Rams started on SF 7 and SF 13-yard line, scoring TD’s both times. 49ers went 0-8 on road this year for first time since 1979, the year the Rams made Super Bowl for the first time. 

LA gets a first-round bye and will host a playoff game on January 12th, a Saturday night. 

Lions 31, Packers 0— Six highest-paid QB’s in the NFL missed playoffs this year:
— Aaron Rodgers: $33.5M
— Matt Ryan: $30M
— Kirk Cousins: $28M
— Jimmy Garoppolo: $27.5M
— Matthew Stafford: $27M
— Derek Carr: $25M

Chiefs 35, Raiders 3— Oakland was 12-4 only two years ago, but things change quickly in the NFL- they went 10-22 the last two seasons. If I was paying a coach $100M over ten years, I’d have expected more than a 4-12 first season. Here is the draft order for April’s draft:

1) Cardinals
2) 49ers
3) Jets
4) Raiders
5) Buccaneers
6) Giants

Panthers 33, Saints 14— The game meant nothing for New Orleans and it showed, since Drew Brees was in street clothes. Teddy Bridgewater is a free agent this winter, so the game meant a lot to him; have feeling he’ll be a starter somewhere in NFL next season. 

Carolina snapped a 7-game skid here; Ron Rivera will return as coach next season. Had they lost this game, Panthers would’ve been first team ever to finish season 6-10 after having been 6-2. 

Saturday’s List of 13: Random lists of 3

13) Best 3 NBA players of all-time:
1) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 2) Michael Jordan 3) Lebron James. 

12) Favorite Las Vegas hotels:
T1) Aria/Vdara 3) Mandalay Bay 4) SouthPoint

11) Favorite Las Vegas sports books:
1) Westgate 2) Aria 3) Golden Nugget

10) Favorite Batman villains:
1) Riddler (Frank Gorshin) 2) Egghead (Vincent Price) 3) Mad Hatter (David Wayne)

9) College football bucket list:
Games at: 1) LSU 2) USC 3) Rose Bowl

8) College basketball bucket list:
1) NC State 2) Iowa State 3) Colorado State

7) Favorite non-sports movies:
1) Rounders 2) The Bodyguard 3) Begin Again

6) Favorite QB’s (non-Rams) to watch:
1) Dan Fouts 2) Aaron Rodgers 3) John Elway

5) Best Oakland A’s managers:
1) Dick Williams 2) Bob Melvin 3) Tony LaRussa

4) Best LA/St Louis Rams head coaches:
1) Dick Vermeil 2) Sean McVay T3) George Allen/Chuck Knox

3) My favorite comedians:
1) Steve Martin 2) Bill Murray 3) David Letterman

2) Favorite dinners:
1) Pizza 2) Spaghetti and meatballs 3) Scrambled eggs and bacon

1) Favorite TV characters:
1) Oscar Madison (Odd Couple) 2) Jonathan Higgins (Magnum PI) 3) Henry Blaker (M*A*S*H*)

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

Saints 31, Steelers 28— Wth 4:11 left, Steelers had ball on their own 42, 4th-and-5, while leading 28-24. They faked a bleeping punt, and it failed. Football coaches have gone off the rails this season, going for it on 4th down, and all the ex-player TV analysts applaud them for it. 

Here’s a hint, Mike Tomlin; your QB is going to the Hall of Fame, he’s really good. Steelers gained 429 yards in this game, converted 6-13 third down plays. How about putting the game in Roethlisberger’s hands, instead of a special teamer? Just a thought. 

Should be mentioned that if the Steelers had punted and pinned the Saints back deep in their own territory, New Orleans had zero TD’s on their previous three drives, but Saints only had to drive 46 yards for the game-winning score. It is almost like Tomlin is trying to get fired. 

Pittsburgh needs to beat the Bengals next week and hope that the Browns upset Baltimore, or else they’ll miss playoffs for first time since 2013. 

Seahawks 38, Chiefs 31— Mirage sportsbook here in Las Vegas took a $220,000 wager on the Chiefs to cover this game as a 1-point favorite; whoops. 

Seattle clinched a playoff spot and likely will play at Dallas in one of the Wild Card games; they ran ball for 210 yards in this game. Under Carroll, Seahawks are 13-5 as home underdogs. Six of last seven games for both teams went over the total. 

Chiefs need to beat Oakland next week to claim the #1-seed and a first round bye in playoffs; 

Eagles 32, Texans 30— Are we sure that Carson Wentz should be the Eagles’ starting QB? Nick Foles threw for 471 yards, four TD’s, and led a drive for the game-winning FG at the gun.  

Houston scored pair of TD’s in 4th quarter to rally from a 29-16 deficit and looked to have ended the Eagles’ season, but they couldn’t hang on and slipped to the #3 seed in AFC, letting Patriots move ahead of them in the race for a first round bye. 

Darren Sproles scored a TD and gave the ball to Mike Trout, who has season tickets just behind one end zone. Like Trout needs another souvenir for his trophy case. 

Packers 44, Jets 38 OT— Late in this game, with Jets leading 35-20, I turned to guy next to me and said, “Can you believe a team led by Aaron Rodgers is going to go 0-8 on the road?” Well, not so fast, my friend. 

Green Bay still trailed 35-23 with 7:00 left, but actually took a 38-35 lead before Jets tied game with 0:17 left- Rodgers ended things with a TD pass to Devante Adams in OT. 

Jets lost eight of last nine games, but rookie QB Darnold threw for 341 yards and three TD’s. Gang Green averaged 8.7 yards/pass attempt, ran a kick back for a TD, but still lost. 

Packers are 20-42 on third down their last three games.  

Cowboys 27, Buccaneers 20— Tampa Bay is 5-10 this season; they lost seven of their last nine games, lost their last seven road games after winning opener 48-40 in the Superdome.

— In their five wins, Buccaneers are +4 in turnovers.
— In their ten losses, Buccaneers are -22 in turnovers. 

If you had to make the call, would you pay Jameis Winston $20M a year to be the face of your franchise going forward, or would you move on to someone else? It is an interesting decision. 

Dallas wins NFC East, will probably host Seattle in their first playoff game; they’ve won six of last seven games, finished 7-1 at home in the regular season. 

Patriots 24, Bills 12— New England catches a huge break when the Texans lost in Philly; now the Patriots are the #2 seed in AFC and need only to beat the Jets next week for a first round bye. 

Change in tactics for NE with WR Josh Gordon suspended by the NFL; Patriots ran ball 47 times for 273 yards, throwing only 25 passes. Teams combined to connect 5-25 on third down; both teams turned ball over three times. 

Patriots are 33-4 in their last 37 games vs Buffalo; must be nice to have six games every freakin’ year against Jets-Bills-Miami.

Falcons 24, Panthers 10— Carolina lost last seven games (1-6 vs spread); backup QB Heinecke got KO’d for a while from his first NFL start but came back later. Even less experienced #3 QB Allen came in and was 4-4 passing for 38 yards. 

— Carolina ran 84 plays for 436 yards; they scored 7 points on four red zone drives.
— Atlanta ran 48 plays for 427 yards; their two 2nd half TD’s were on plays of 75-44 yards.

Panthers turned ball over four times (-2) on 11 drives; rough end to their season- they’ve lost six of their last seven games with Atlanta. 

Jaguars 17, Dolphins 7— Looked like Jacksonville knew the Dolphins’ play calls before Miami did; several times when the Dolphins tried misdirection, there was a Jaguar standing waiting for it, and one of those plays resulted in a crucial turnover. 

Officials in this game might need rotator cuff surgery from throwing so many flags; both teams were called for 10 accepted penalties. Subtract penalty yardage and Jacksonville won yardage battle, but by 147-88 margin. This was an ugly game played in perfect weather. 

Dolphins are 7 for their last 37 on third down; Ryan Tannehill is in his 6th year as an NFL QB; his career W-L record is 42-45. If I was a Miami fan, I’d be an unhappy human, with him as my team’s franchise quarterback- he was a WR until his junior year in college. 

Colts 28, Giants 27— Indy is now 9-6 after starting season 1-5; they play Tennessee on Sunday night, in what is a play-in game for the #6 seed and likely a trip to LA to play the Chargers in the first round of the playoffs. Steelers’ loss in New Orleans opened the door for that to happen. 

Jets and Giants both led 14-0 Sunday, and both lost; Giants finish season 6-1 vs spread as road underdogs. Six of their last seven games went over the total. 

Vikings 27, Lions 9— On their first four series, Minnesota ran 12 plays for five yards, and trailed 9-0, even though Detroit was putrid in the red zone. On the last play of the first half, Vikings completed a 44-yard Hail Mary for a TD that gave Minnesota the lead- Detroit never scored again. 

Vikings are the #6-seed in NFC right now; they play the Bears next week, while the Eagles are in Washington. This was Minnesota’s first win in their last four road games. 

After going 36-28 in four years under Jim Caldwell, Detroit is 5-10 this year, proving that just because you know Tom Brady doesn’t mean you can win NFL games without him. 

Browns 26, Bengals 18— Cleveland was eliminated from playoff hunt, but they’ve won five of last six games- Browns play Baltimore next week while trying for a winning season, a pretty big accomplishment for a team that was 4-44 the last three years. Backdoor cover here for Bengals; they trailed 23-0 after third quarter, but Cincinnati scored couple of TD’s in the last 5:00 to beat the spread. 

Bengals lost six of last seven games overall but they covered five of last six games as underdogs vs divisional rival Cleveland. 

Rams 31, Cardinals 9— Rams ran ball for 269 yards as they moved to 12-3 and got within one game of clinching a first round bye in playoffs- they won their two games vs Arizona this year by a combined score of 65-9. LA won in Glendale for 4th year in a row, even though Todd Gurley sat this game out with a knee problem. CJ Anderson was signed by the Rams on Tuesday, but ran ball for 167 yards and a touchdown. 

In their last three games, Cardinals were outrushed 606-225. 

Bears 14, 49ers 9— Chicago won/covered eight of its last nine games, are 3-3 SU on road, 2-3 as road favorite; they can still get first round bye if they win and Rams loss to San Francisco in the LA Coliseum. Otherwise, they’ll probably play either Vikings/Eagles in first playoff game. 

Four of Chicago’s last five games stayed under the total; under is 6-3 in 49ers’ last nine games.

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

13) Titans 25, Redskins 16— Tennessee lost QB Mariota (stinger), but backup Gabbert came in, threw GW TD pass with 4:30 left. Titans scored a defensive TD on the last play of the game, exciting some people in the Aria sportsbook who were beneficiaries of that play. 

Tennessee is 9-6 and still in mix for a playoff spot; Washington isn’t. 

12) Ravens 22, Chargers 10— This score means Kansas City can clinch AFC West with win in Seattle today; it also puts pressure on the Steelers to win in New Orleans, or else they’ll be out of the playoff picture, for now. 

At one point in this game Baltimore had outgained the Chargers 164-14 but led only 3-0; they totally controlled this game and will be a dangerous team if they get a home game in playoffs. 

11) So I’m sleeping late Friday night and I wake up because a dog is barking, which is odd in a hotel, especially a really nice hotel like Vdara; I figure someone has their TV on too loud or something, but when i went downstairs Saturday morning, lady in the next room is taking this large canine out for a walk. Go figure. 

10) Baylor Bears have a good defensive team; they’ve held both Arizona and Oregon under 50 points, so if Baylor was in a down Pac-12 this year, they might be favored to win it. 

9) Wizards 149, Suns 146 3OT— Guy sitting next to me in the sportsbook wagered on the Suns just before I left; game wound up going three OT’s- if he stayed and watched whole game, his wife probably wasn’t really happy about it. He was telling her how pointspreads worked just before he went to make the bet- she didn’t look terribly interested. 

Suns were +5, so the guy cashed his ticket. 

8) The status of Miami quarterback N’Kosi Perry for Thursday’s Pinstripe Bowl is in doubt after a sexually-explicit video was posted on his Snapchat account, according to the Miami school newspaper. The video reportedly involves two people having sex, and was posted after Miami’s win over Toledo September 15. The video resurfaced among Miami students this week.

7) Upsets of the Day:
— Cal-Riverside (+9) 60, LMU 53
— Indiana State (+8) 72, Colorado 67
— Seton Hall (+7.5) 78, Maryland 74
— Georgia (+5) 70, Georgia Tech 59
— Arizona State (+3.5) 80, Kansas 76

6) Auburn 93, Murray State 88— Racers will be an interesting Cinderella team in March; Auburn was 13-33 on arc in this entertaining game. Murray led by as many as six points in the second half, but Auburn got hot- they had been 9-47 on arc in their previous two games. 

5) LaSalle 57, Towson State 51— Kid on Towson caught an inbounds pass in the backcourt, got confused and laid the ball in the wrong basket, scoring two points for LaSalle and guaranteeing he’ll be on SportsCenter every week for at least a year. 

4) Army 70, Houston 14— You give up 70 points in a bowl game, tying the all-time record, it is a problem, but giving up 70 to a service academy is even worse— your athletes have to be bigger and faster, albeit not tougher. 

Houston’s best defensive player skipped this game to prepare for the NFL Draft, after he and the coaches 

3) Couple of ESPN’s college basketball analysts now go on the court during TV timeouts to illustrate a point they want to make about the game. This bugs me; if you need attention that bad, then go back into coaching. Use a grease board to make your points; stay off the floor. 

2) Other college basketball stuff:
— Kentucky 80, North Carolina 72— Best win by far for this year’s Wildcats.
— Ohio State 80, UCLA 66— Still think Steve Alford should be coach at Indiana.
— NC-Greensboro 83, Samford 75— Spartans were down 12 at halftime.
— San Francisco 74, Stanford 65— Bill Russell’s alma mater is 12-1. 

1) Some well-known people who have birthdays today:
— Musician Eddie Vedder
— Soap opera star Susan Lucci
— Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh
— Former Steelers’ LB Jack Ham
— Political pundit Bill Kristol
— Former Mets’ pitcher Jerry Koosman

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

13) Dodgers traded Matt Kemp/Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood to the Reds, making it obvious they’re clearing roster/payroll space to go after free agent Bryce Harper. 

Not sure what the Reds are thinking, unless they’re going to flip Puig to a contender. 

12) Washington Nationals signed P Anibal Sanchez, Cardinals signed reliever Andrew Miller. 

11) Pac-12 basketball teams are 5-27 vs spread as underdogs so far this season. That is a hard stat to believe, but I checked it twice. They don’t have any teams in KenPom’s top 40, which pretty much means the conference tournament winner might be the only Pac-12 team in the NCAA tournament in March. 

10) A’s traded for 2B Jurickson Profar in a 3-way deal with Texas, Tampa Bay. Profar was one of five American Leaguers LY with at least 35 doubles, 20 home runs, 75 RBI and 10 stolen bases. 

— A’s traded two prospects, a draft pick and international bonus money for Profar.
— Texas got four prospects and international bonus money
— Tampa Bay got two pitching prospects and a draft pick. 

9) Rick Pitino will coach EuroLeague powerhouse Panathinaikos in Greece, starting Thursday. His team is currently in 10th place with a 6-7 record- his roster has Giannis Antetokounmpo’s younger brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, former Kings big man Georgios Papagiannis, and ex-NBA point guard Nick Calathes.

The team’s owner is notorious for being a volatile human who once threatened to kill the refs, so this could be interesting. 

8) Couple years ago I spent this week at the Aria hotel, which is very nice but the pizza I had there was lame. Last night, I gave the same pizza place a second chance and it was very good. Not really sure why there was such a difference; they probably just had a bad day back then. 

Will probably be there again Sunday watching NFL games, so more pizza is in the offing.

7) New Jersey Jets have thrown 58 passes this season that went 20+ yards downfield but completed only 17% of them, which isn’t good. 

Bills/Packers have both thrown 78 such passes, most in the league, Buffalo completing 27% of them, Green Bay 35%. Giants have thrown 57 of them, completing 44%. 

6) FIU 35, Toledo 32— First underdog to win a bowl game this season; this was the 9th bowl. 

5) BYU 49, Western Michigan 18— Cougars were down 10-7 at halftime, then dominated the second half. Both teams finished the season 7-6. Favorites are 8-2 vs spread in bowls so far. 

4) Rockets’ PG Chris Paul has a hamstring issue, is expected to be out 2-3 weeks. Houston is 0-5 without Paul this season. 

3) Six former G-League head coaches have become NBA head coaches; 40% of players on NBA rosters played at one time or another in the G-League. 74 other G-League coaches have moved up to the NBA as an assistant.

2) Buffalo Bulls of the MAC split a couple road games with Syracuse/Marquette this week, but more impressive than that is this: Buffalo was a small underdog in both games, getting 3.5 points at Syracuse, 2 points at Marquette- thats the oddsmaker telling us that Buffalo is at least as good as their more brand-name opponents. 

Buffalo hammered Arizona in the NCAA’s last year; they’ll likely be a force this March, too. 

1) Looks like the Oakland Raiders will play home games at AT&T Park in San Francisco next year, where the baseball Giants play. Raiders are moving to Las Vegas in 2020 and the city of Oakland is suing them, so the Coliseum is out for next year. 

Thursday’s List of 13: Questions, questions, always questions……

These are questions to discuss with friends or ponder while you’re trying to get to sleep at night:
13) If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would you choose? 

12) If you had to do it all over again, what college would you have gone to, or would you have even gone to college? 

11) All-time favorite movie? 

10) If someone was going to buy you a car, any car, which one would you choose? 

9) Whats your favorite vacation destination(s)? 

8) When college coaches get fired, how often does the new coach talk to the old coach to share information? It has to happen sometimes, just not sure how much. 

7) OK, 2:00 to go, your team is down 3 and you have the ball on your own 25-yard line. Of any QB ever, who would you want running your team for that last 2:00? 

6) Someone is going to buy you dinner, anything you want, anywhere— what would you order? 

5) If your son was a great college basketball player and he let you choose where he would go to college, where would you send him? 

4) You can go to one concert; which performer/band wold you choose to see? 

3) Bases loaded, two outs, you’re down a run in last inning; what hitter, past or present, would you want up at the plate for your team? 

2) You can go on a date with anyone (assuming you’re single for that night), and not with your spouse; who would you choose? 

1) My last question isn’t a question, its a thought: Live your life, do things you want to do. Life is short; do what you can, while you can. Have fun.