Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

13) Tennessee Titans had three players, five staff members test positive for COVID; they shut down their facility until Saturday. Minnesota Vikings also shut down their facility until their contact tracing is finished, since they hosted the Titans Sunday. No word yet if this changes this weekend’s schedule at all.

12) NFL teams with the most plays of 20+ yards this season:
19— Buffalo
18— LA Rams
17— Dallas
16— Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota

11) NFL teams with the fewest plays of 20+ yards this season:
6— Cincinnati
7— NJ Jets
8— Carolina
9— NJ Giants, New Orleans, Miami, Tennessee

10) NFL defenses that have allowed the fewest plays of 20+ yards this year:
8— Tampa Bay
9— Jacksonville, LA Rams, LA Chargers
10— Kansas City, NJ Giants

9) NFL defenses that allowed the most plays of 20+ yards this year:
18— Atlanta
15— Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota
14— Detroit, Seattle, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Baltimore

8) Lamar Jackson has started 27 NFL games; the team leading at halftime won every game. Ravens trailed six of those games at the half.

7) Denver Broncos will start their 3rd different QB in four weeks Thursday, when Brett Rypien gets his first NFL start against the Jets in Swamp Stadium.

6) Cincinnati Reds are first major league team EVER to have more walks than singles over the course of a season; Reds walked 239 times, had 221 singles. Granted it was a 60-game season, but that’s a lot of walks, or not a lot of singles.

5) Houston 4, Minnesota 1— Greinke got out of a 30-pitch first inning without allowing a run, but only lasted four innings. Valdez was stellar with five shutout innings of relief, Brantley knocked in a couple run and Minnesota lost its 17th straight playoff game, dating back to 2004.

4) Chicago 4, Oakland 1— Lucas Giolito had a perfect game into the 7th inning; Jose Abreu hit a 2-run homer, as the White Sox won in their first playoff game since 2008. 

Giolito’s grandfather was an actor who played Susan’s father on Seinfeld. 

3) Tampa Bay 3, Toronto 1— Blake Snell allowed three baserunners while throwing 5.2 scoreless innings; Tampa Bay had gotten saves from 12 different pitchers this season, but Fairbanks got this save, and he wasn’t one of those 12 guys. Incredible juggling of a pitching staff.

2) New York 12, Cleveland 3— Shane Bieber picked a bad night to have a bad night; he gave up seven runs over 4.2 IP. New York hit four home runs; they send Tanaka out to the moumd for the two-game sweep Wednesday.

1) The presidential debate was so tedious/annoying last night, I put the WNBA game on- much better to watch. What an embarrassment. Our country desires better than this. 

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

13) Chiefs 34, Ravens 20;
— Chiefs won their first three games, scoring 34-23 -34 points.
— KC kicker made two 58-yard FG’s last week; he missed a PAT and a FG in this game.
— Last 4+ years, Chiefs are 11-2 ATS as a road underdog.
— Chiefs won last four series games, by 20-3-5-14 points.

— Lamar Jackson is 0-3 against the Chiefs, 21-1 vs everyone else.
— Baltimore converted 3-9 on third down, Kansas City 10-13.
— Ravens are 9-16 ATS in last 25 games as a home favorite.

12) Tennessee Titans are 3-0 this season, but they haven’t covered a spread yet; their three wins are by a total of six points. Titans have turned ball over only once, are +4 in turnovers. 

11) I’m not a big fan of NFL teams trading star players for draft picks:
— Houston traded WR DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona, they’re 0-3, scoring 19 ppg.
— Arizona is 2-1, scoring 29 ppg.

— Minnesota traded WR Stefon Diggs to Buffalo; they’re 0-3, despite scoring 25 ppg. Vikings have converted only 9-25 third down plays.
— Buffalo is 3-0, scoring 31 ppg.

10) Nick Foles will be Chicago’s starting QB when the 3-0 Bears host Indianapolis Sunday; he came off the bench Sunday and led the Bears to a 30-26 comeback win in Atlanta.

9) College football spread results in conference games so far:
— Home favorites 7-10-1 against the spread
— Home underdogs 7-5 against the spread

8) Arkansas landed Florida transfer Felipe Franks as its new QB this fall, ending a two-year debacle where eight (8!!!) different kids played QB for the Razorbacks- one of them is the grandson of Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones.

Arkansas has lost its last 20 SEC games; Franks needs a lot of help.

7) Sam Pittman is the new football coach at Arkansas; like a lot of football coaches, Pittman has lived a little bit of a nomadic existence. Here are the coaching stops he’s made:

1984-85: Pittsburg State (GA)
1986: Offensive coordinator at a high school in Oklahoma
1987-88: Head coach at a high school in Missouri
1989-90: Head coach at a different high school in Missouri

1991: Offensive line coach at a junior college
1992-93: Head coach at that junior college
1994-95: Offensive line coach at Northern Illinois
1996: Offensive line coach at U of Cincinnati

1997-98: Offensive line coach at Oklahoma
1999: Assistant head coach, Western Michigan
2000: Offensive line coach, Missouri
2001: Offensive line coach, Kansas

2003-06: Offensive line coach, Northern Illinois
2007-11: Offensive line coach, North Carolina
2012: Offensive line coach, Tennessee
2013-15: Offensive line coach, Arkansas

2016-9: Offensive line coach, Georgia
2020: Head coach, Arkansas

This man must be great at packing; he’s paid his dues. Have to root for the guy.

6) I try to keep politics out of this space, but seriously? Donald Trump supposedly spent $70,000 on personal hairstyling “for television” and wrote it off on his taxes as a business expense. He paid $70,000 for that mess? I call BS on that. 

As a bald man, I have to laugh; what a fraud he is.

5) Lakers-Heat NBA final is first time ever the NBA final is between two teams who both missed the playoffs the year before.

4) 5th-seeded Miami is lowest-seeded NBA team to make the finals since the 1995 Rockets, who beat Orlando in the finals that year. 

3) If Seattle has a WNBA team, why can’t they have an NBA team? One of the great injustices in pro sports history was Seattle losing the SuperSonics- they supported the team, but they refused to build a new arena they didn’t need, so the league took their team away.

12 years later, Seattle has a new arena (they’re getting an NHL team); next time an NBA team needs to move, Seattle should be the first option.

2) Surprising news: LA Clippers told coach Doc Rivers to take a hike after seven years; Clippers lost to Denver in the playoffs, blowing a 3-1 series, when they led by 10+ points in each of those last three losses. 

Rivers had a 356-208 regular season record with the Clippers , was 27-32 in playoff games; he won the 2008 NBA title coaching Boston. If he still wants to coach, he won’t be unemployed for long.

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they do):
AL East: Tampa Bay, New York
AL Central: Minnesota, Cleveland
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Chicago, Toronto

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, St Louis
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Cincinnati, Milwaukee

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

New England 36, Raiders 20
— Raiders lost three fumbles (-2 in TO’s) converted 3-9 on third down.
— Las Vegas has given up 32 ppg so far this season.
— Last three years, Raiders are 9-15 ATS as a road underdog.

— New England ran ball for 250 yards; Michel ran 9 times for 117 yards.
— Since 2013, Patriots are 17-8 ATS coming off a loss.
— Last 4+ years, New England is 26-13-1 ATS as a home favorite.

Buffalo 35, Rams 32
— Rams were down 28-3, rallied to take lead, but lost on a TD with 0:15 left.
— LA is 6-2 ATS in last eight games as a road underdog.
— Rams have run ball for 153-191-167 yards, converting 22-39 on 3rd down.

— Buffalo’s first five drives: 36 plays, 251 yards, 28 points.
— Bills converted a 3rd-and-22 on the game-winning drive.
— Bills won first three games, scoring 27-31-35 points, gaining 1,303 yards.
— Buffalo’s coaches have done very well developing QB Allen’s skills.

Pittsburgh 28, Texans 21
— Texans in first half: six drives- three 3/outs. 3 touchdowns.
— Houston in 2nd half: 17 plays, 41 yards, 2 first downs, 0 points.
— Texans lost their first two games, giving up 34-33-28 points.

— Steelers won their first three games, scoring 26-26-28 points.
— Pitt outgained Houston 387-260, ran ball for 169 yards.
— Steelers’ last seven drives of game: 60 plays, 349 yards, 21 first downs, 25 points.

49ers 36, NJ Giants 9
— 49ers sweep their New Jersey road trip, beating Jets/Giants in consecutive weeks.
— 49ers had eight drives; four TD’s, three FG’s, one missed FG.
— NFC West teams are 8-2 ATS outside their division this year.

— Giants lost their first three games, by 10-4-27 points.
— Giants have been outrushed 369-170 this season.
— Big Blue is 1-12 ATS in last dozen games as a home underdog.

Titans 31, Minnesota 30
— Tennessee won its first three games, by total of six points.
— Gostkowski kicked six field goals; he made 54, 55-yard FG’s in final 6:31 for the win.
—Tannehill threw for 321 yards; no Titan caught more than five passes.

— Vikings lost their first three games, allowing 43-28-31 points.
— Minnesota lost field position by 14-15-11 yards; they’re minus-5 in turnovers.
— Last 4+ years, Vikings are 5-1 ATS as a home underdog.

Cleveland 34, Washington 20
— Washington trailed 17-0/20-0 in their two games; they trailed 17-7 at half here.
— Washington rallied to lead 20-17 after third quarter, was outscored 17-0 in 4th quarter.
— Redskins turned ball over four times, averaged only 5.2 yards/pass attempt.

— Cleveland’s first three drives: 25 plays, 85 yards, no points.
— Cleveland’s last nine drives: 52 plays, 229 yards, 34 points.
— Chubb ran 19 times for 108 yards, two TD’s.

Bengals 23, Philadelphia 23
— Bengals are 0-2-1; their games were decided by total of 8 points.
— Cincy allowed 545 rushing yards in their first three games.
— Last 3+ years, Bengals are 16-8-1 ATS as a road underdog.

— Eagles are 0-2-1 in first three games, were outscored 49-13 in 2nd half.
— Philly turned ball over eight times in three games, is -7 in turnovers.
— Eagles are 4-11-1 ATS in last 16 games as a home favorite.

Bears 30, Atlanta 26
— Chicago won its first three games, by four points each.
— Foles replaced Trubisky at QB in 3rd quarter, went 16-29 for 188 yards, three TD’s
— Bears’ first 10 drives: 59 plays, 268 yards, 10 points.
— Bears’ last three drives: 17 plays, 161 yards, 20 points.

— Atlanta led this game 26-10 with 7:00 left.
— Falcons lost 40-39 in Dallas LW, blowing 29-10 halftime lead- how many games like this do they have to lose before they fire the coach? 
— Falcons are 5-8 ATS in last 13 games as a home favorite.

Indianapolis 36, Jets 7
— Jets lost first three games, by 10-18-29 points- they were outscored 59-13 in first half.
— Jets’ offense was outscored 16-7 by the Colts’ defense in this game.
— Jets are 8-18-1 ATS in last 27 games as a road underdog.

— Colts outgained their first three opponents by an average of 384-228/game.
— Indy had a 16-yard advantage in starting field position, not counting the two pick-6’s.
— Colts are 11-6-1 ATS in last 18 games as a home favorite.

Panthers 21, LA Chargers 16
— Carolina despite scoring only one TD- they kicked five field goals.
— Panthers won field position by 13 yards in this game; they were +4 in turnovers.
— Carolina is 4-0 against the Chargers in California.

— Chargers outgained Carolina 436-302, but turned ball over four times.
— LA lost its first two games at SoFi Stadium, by total of 8 points.
— Chargers are 3-10 ATS in last 13 games as a home favorite.

Lions 26, Arizona 23
— Detroit was +3 in turnovers, won field position by 17 yards.
— NFL teams that were +2 or better or turnovers are 9-0 this week.
— Detroit is 2-0-1 in its last three visits to the desert.

— Arizona had only three plays of 20+ yards; they had 11 in first two games.
— Last 5+ years, Cardinals are 8-15 ATS as a home favorite.
— DeAndre Hopkins caught 10 balls for 137 yards, but no TD’s.

Buccaneers 28, Denver 10
— Tampa Bay held Denver to 226 yards, was +2 in turnovers.
— Buccaneers are 7-3-3 ATS in last 13 gamest AFC teams.
— Last 4+ years, Tampa Bay is 4-1 ATS as a road favorite.

— Denver lost its first three games, by 2-5-18 points.
— Backup QB Driskel got the start; he is now 1-8 as an NFL starter. 3rd-stringer Rypien replaced him, was 8-9 for 53 yards, with an INT.
— McManus did make a 56-yard field goal for the Broncos.

Seattle 38, Cowboys 31
— Dallas gave up 39-38 points in splitting its last two games.
— Cowboys threw ball for 461 yards, outgained Seattle by 110 yards, but turned ball over three times (-2)
— Dallas missed two PAT’s and a 2-point conversion.

— Seahawks won their first three games, scoring 38-35-38 points (15 TD’s/33 drives).
— Seattle has run 188 plays; only 29 of them have been on third down.
— Seahawks won four of last five series games,.

Packers 37, New Orleans 30
— Green Bay won its first three games, scoring 43-42-37 points (13 TD’s/27 drives)
— Packers scored on seven of nine drives in this game (4 TD’s, 3 FG’s)
— Lazard caught six passes for 146 yards, including a 72-yard TD. 

— Kamara caught 13 passes for 138 yards, ran ball 12 times for 58 yards.
— Over is 3-0 in New Orleans games this season.
— Saints are 5-12 ATS in last 17 games as a home favorite. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) Mississippi State 44, LSU 34:
— Stanford transfer Costello was 36-60 for 623 yards, five TD’s; 623 freakin’ yards.
— Three different MSU receivers had 120+ receiving yards.
— Bulldogs turned ball over four times (-2), still scored 44 points.

12) Mike Leach is a legend, as far as coaching quarterbacks goes; his record against the spread as a road underdog:
— Texas Tech 15-12 ATS
— Washington State 19-11 ATS
— Mississippi State 1-0 ATS
— total 35-23, 60.3%

11) Kansas State 38, Oklahoma 35:
— Sooners led 35-14 with 2:00 left in third quarter.
— K-State upset Oklahoma for second year in a row.
— Wildcats blocked a punt for second week in a row.

Since 2009, Oklahoma has lost six games when they were favored by 20+ points; during that time, no one else in the country has lost more than three such games.

10) Texas 63, Texas Tech 56 OT:
— Seems like lot of teams haven’t practiced tackling much this fall.
— Tech led 56-41 with 3:00 left in the game; quite a comeback. 

9) Upsets of the Day:
— Kansas State (+28) 38, Oklahoma 35
— Mississippi State (+16.5) 44, LSU 34
— UTEP (+9.5) 31, UL-Monroe 6
— Syracuse (+7.5) 37, Georgia Tech 20

8) Lakers 117, Nuggets 107 (LA wins 4-1)
— James/Davis combined for 65 points.
— Lakers held Jamal Murray to 19 points.
— Caruso was +16 in 26:00 off the bench.

7) AL Central update:
— Twins 7, Reds 3— Minnesota leads division by a game
— White Sox 9, Cubs 5— Pale Hose snapped a six-game skid.
— Pirates 8, Indians 0—  Cleveland needs a win Sunday and a Chicago loss to get home field in the first round of the playoffs.

6) Iowa State 37, TCU 34— Horned Frogs scored a TD at the gun to make it 37-34; spread was either TCU +2.5 or +3, but they didn’t kick the PAT, which made some people happy, and other people very unhappy.

5) Louisiana 30, Georgia Southern 28— Ragin’ Cajuns’ kicker split the uprights with a 53-yard field goal on the last play of the game, as Louisiana improved to 3-0- their last two wins were by a total of five points, and they were a 13-point underdog in the other game.

4) Georgia 37, Arkansas 10— Hogs led 7-5 at halftime. Here is Georgia’s QB situation:
— Presumptive starter Jamie Newman opted out of this season.
— USC transfer JT Daniels hasn’t been cleared to play yet.
— 3rd-stringer D’Wan Mathis went 8-17 for 55 yards, was benched.
— 4th-stringer Stetson Bennett, a 5-10 former walk-on, was 20-29 for 211 yards, two TD’s.

3) UCF 51, East Carolina 28— Officials in this game may need rotator cuff surgery soon; Golden Knights were penalized 19 times for 139 yards. ECU was penalized 11 times for 105 yards.

2) COVID has made subbing players in/out easier in goal-line situations in college football, since the benches now extend to the 15-yard line, instead of the 30, the way it used to be.

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL East: Tampa Bay, New York
AL Central: Minnesota, Clev/CWS
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Clev/CWS, Toronto

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, St Louis
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Cincinnati, Milwaukee

Saturday’s Den: Clearing out a cluttered mind…….

13) San Diego Padres clinched the #4 seed in the NL and home field in the first round of the playoffs, but they’ve potentially got a mess on their hands. A big mess.

San Diego’s top two starting pitchers, Dinelson Lamet/Mike Clevinger, both left their last start with tightness in the biceps area. Not good. If those two guys can’t go in the playoffs, Paddack/Davies would start Games 1-2, with Game 3 likely a bullpen game.

(Reminder: First round of the playoffs is best-of-3, with all three games on the field of the higher seeded team, with no days off)

12) Umpires haven’t traveled much this baseball season, so teams have been seeing the same umpiring crews a lot— I’m guessing that’s going to change next week, and teams will see umps they haven’t seen all season.

11) Miami Marlins clinched their first playoff spot since 2003 Friday night; Marlins have never lost a playoff series- they won the World Series in both 1997, 2003.

Don Mattingly may have clinched Manager of the Decade already, with the job he’s done this year. Marlins put together almost a whole new team after their squad was best by COVID early in the season, but they’ve stayed the course and now will play in the playoffs. Good for them.

10) St Louis Cardinals have played 10 doubleheaders this season, and may have to play an 11th against Detroit on Monday, if they’re playoff spot is up in the air. Phillies have played eight twinbills; right now, they’re on the outside looking in. 

9) Diamondbacks/Rockies were the last two major league games to play a doubleheader this year; Arizona swept a pair from Colorado Friday night.

8) Celtics 121, Heat 108 (Miami leads 3-2)
— Boston was down 7 at half, outscored Miami 41-25 in third quarter.
— Heat made only 7-36 shots behind the arc.
— Tatum had 31 points, 10 rebounds, six assists for the Celtics.

7) AL Central update:
— Reds 7, Twins 2— Minnesota leads division by a game
— Cubs 10, White Sox 0— Pale Hose have dropped six in a row.
— Indians 4, Pirates 3— Cleveland has won six in a row; they scored three times in the bottom of the 9th inning.

Chicago/Cleveland are tied for 2nd place, a game behind the Twins.

6) Indians 4, Pirates 3— Cleveland didn’t get a hit until the 7th inning, but Pittsburgh starter Keller walked eight guys in his five innings pitched. Indians won their last six games, have walk-off wins three of the last four nights.

5) Cubs’ TV analyst Jim Deshaies was a good lefty pitcher in his playing days; he holds the major league record by striking out the first eight batters of a game- no one else has ever done that. 

September 23, 1986 against the Dodgers, Deshaies whiffed the first eight LA batters— Tommy Lasorda then pinch-hit for his pitcher, down 2-0. Deshaies threw a complete game 2-hitter, winning 4-0- he only struck out two more hitters the rest of the game.

4) Philadelphia Eagles are down three starters on the offensive line; they’ll have new starters at both guard positions this week.

3) San Francisco 49ers announced that backup QB Nick Mullens will start against the Giants Sunday; CJ Beathard figures to be his backup, with Jimmy Garoppolo nursing a sprained ankle.

2) Was watching an old (1991) Miami-Florida State football game the other night; was fun to hear the great Keith Jackson calling the game, with Bob Greise as his analyst. Now Greise’s son Brian is an analyst on Monday Night Football; time sure flies.

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL East: Tampa Bay, New York
AL Central: Minnesota, Clev/CWS
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Clev/CWS, Toronto

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, St Louis
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Cincinnati, San Francisco

Friday’s Den: Random stuff with the weekend here…….

13) Teams that have already clinched playoff spots will be tweaking their lineups and pitching setups this weekend; A’s used Jesus Luzardo for three innings in relief Thursday, as they ready to maybe piggy-back him and Mike Fiers in Game 1 of the playoffs on Tuesday.

San Diego might not have Mike Clevinger (biceps) now, so Dinelson Lamet could get their Game 1 nod on Wednesday, which may shorten his stint on the mound in San Francisco tonight.

12) Cardinals 4, Brewers 2— Yadier Molina got his 2,000th hit, which is a lot, especially for a catcher; 32-year old Kwang-Hyun Kim is 3-0, 1.62 in his first season of American baseball.

11) Astros 12, Rangers 4— Texas is 13-10 in its new domed stadium when the roof is closed; they’re 0-4 when the roof is open, as it was in this game. Jose Altuve had three hits, three RBI in his best game of what has been a poor season.

10) Dolphins 31, Jaguars 13:
— Miami’s first three drives: 29 plays, 239 yards, 21 points.
— Fitzpatrick was 18-20 passing for 160 yards, two TD’s.
— Dolphins won four of last five visits to Jacksonville.

— Dolphins had a 12-yard advantage in starting field position.
— Miami converted 7-13 on 3rd down, Jaguars 3-10.
— Last 4+ years, Jaguars are 6-10 ATS as a home favorite.

9) Indians 5, White Sox 4— Cleveland sweeps a 4-game series, has won seven of last eight games- they trail Pale Hose by a game, Twins by two games in AL Central. All three teams are going to make the playoffs.

8) Lakers 114, Nuggets 108 (LA leads 3-1)
— Third straight series Denver has trailed 3-1.
— James/Davis combined to shoot 28 foul shots; Denver shot 23.
— Denver subs were a combined minus-29 in 82:00.

7) Pac-12 is going to play football starting November 6; they’ll have their conference title game December 18. If they’re smart, Pac-12 will play some weeknight games; won’t be much else going on sports-wise during the week in November.

6) UAB 42, South Alabama 10— Blazers racked up 509 yards, converted 10-16 third down plays and led 28-10 at halftime- UAB averaged 11.4 yards per pass attempt.

5) Was bummed out when I found out this week that the Starbucks closest to my house closed down; used to stop in there for a hot chocolate and a slice of lemon pound cake- they have great lemon pound cake. 

I’ve never had coffee, but hot chocolate on a chilly day is a good thing.

4) Congrats to the Toronto (Buffalo) Blue Jays, who clinched a playoff spot Thursday, despite playing their home games this season in their adopted hometown of Buffalo, where you can smelll Cheerios being made in the factory beyond the centerfield fence.

3) You know a guy is a sketchy prospect when he throws a no-hitter, and still doesn’t get picked up in our 14-team fantasy league, where each team has 28 players on his roster.

Cubs’ Alec Mills allowed eight runs in 9.2 IP in his two starts since throwing a no-hitter in Milwaukee September 13. For the season, he is 5-5, 4.48 in 11 starts.

2) Robinson Cano bunted for a hit against Washington’s shift in the 6th inning Thursday; it was his first bunt basehit since 2013.

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL East: Tampa Bay, New York
AL Central: Minnesota, Chicago
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Cleveland, Toronto

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, St Louis
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Cincinnati, San Francisco

Thursday’s Den: Doing some thinking out loud…….

13) We talked yesterday about the LA Chargers’ QB situation; Wednesday afternoon, word came out that on Sunday, Tyrod Taylor was getting a pain-killing shot for bruised ribs before the game, when the Chargers’ team doctor accidentally punctured Taylor’s lung with the needle. 


Rookie QB Justin Herbert is likely to start again this week; it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, going forward. I’m thinking the Chargers might also have a new team doctor soon.

12) Thinking out loud here, but is it better to be the #3 seed in the American League than the #2 seed? 

#3 seed would play the 2nd-place team with the worst record, which right now would be the Astros, who are 28-28.

#2 seed would play the #1 Wild Card team, which right now would be Cleveland, which is 32-24.

The #1 Wild Card team figures to be a team that ended the regular season on a roll; this is such a unique situation, no real way of knowing until it all plays out.

11) There could be extra games before the playoffs begin; St Louis may have to play a doubleheader on Monday if they’re still in contention to make the playoffs, then there is the possibility that three teams tie for the two Wild Cards in the National League- that could be very cumbersome.

10) Tuesday night in Washington, the Nationals beat Philly 9-8 when 32-year old rookie Yadiel Hernandez hit a walk-off homer for Washington. Hernandez is now the oldest player in MLB history whose first career home run was also a walk-off blast. 

9) Tampa Bay 8, New York Mets 5— Rays win their first AL East tile since 2010.

8) RIP to the great running back Gale Sayers, 77, who passed away this week after suffering from dementia the last few years. RIP, sir. 

Sayers was a great running back, fast, elusive- he scored six TD’s in a game against the 49ers, but he also hurt his knee in a later game against San Francisco and played only seven years in the NFL.  Sayers was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he was 34.

7) Back in the early 70’s, ABC had a Tuesday night movie of the week, where the movies were made just for showing on TV, not in theaters. Brian’s Song was one of those, but what a cast: Billy Dee Williams, James Caan, Jack Warden. 

The movie chronicled a great friendship between Sayers and teammate Brian Piccolo; Piccolo replaced Sayers when he got hurt, but Piccolo was discovered to have cancer, and he passed away way too young. Very sad movie, but Brian’s Song is one of the best-ever sports movies.

6) Miami 112, Boston 109 (Heat leads 3-1):
— Tyler Herro scored 37 points in 36:00 off the bench.
— Miami was +11 (19-8) in turnovers.
— Celtics took 40 3-point shots, 42 2-point shots.

5) It is interesting to me the total lack of major league catchers who are good hitters; JT Realmuto is far and away the best of the bunch, everyone else is hit-and-miss. Modern baseball values defense more than offense behind the plate.

4) Tuesday night was a rough night for an Australian gambler; this is from Ben Fawkes, who works for VSIN:

– This person wagered $228,733 on Lakers money line (-263) pre-game

– The person then cashed out for $97,624 in the 2nd quarter with Denver leading 44-32

– The person placed all that money on Denver -9.5

Denver won 114-106 after Alex Caruso made an unguarded layup w/ 1.6 sec left. Not good.

3) Random stat: Yu Darvish is having a great season for the Cubs; nine of his 11 starts have been at home at Wrigley Field, but in his two road starts, he’s allowed only one run in 13 innings.

2) Here is some obscure trivia: In many East Asian cultures, including China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan, the number 4 is considered unlucky.

You probably wouldn’t see a button indicating the 4th floor on an elevator because most apartment buildings and hospitals skip the number four altogether. In Beijing, it’s not even possible to get a vehicle license plate that has the number 4 on it. The Chinese word for the number 4 sounds much like the Chinese word for death., and that is why it is considered unlucky.

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL East: Tampa Bay, New York
AL Central: Minnesota, Chicago
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Cleveland, Toronto

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, St Louis
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Cincinnati, San Francisco

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings………

13) LA Chargers and head coach Anthony Lynn may have to have a conversation soon; he seems committed to Tyrod Taylor being the Chargers #1 QB, but fact of the matter is, rookie Justin Herbert was the 6th player taken in last spring’s draft- they’ve got a lot of $$$ tied up in him, and he looked good against the Chiefs Sunday, so he will be the starter, and probably soon.

Recent QB’s taken in the top 10 of the draft and when they first started:
— Joe Burrow— started Weeks 1-2
— Justin Herbert— started Week 2, but because of injury
— Tua Tagovailoa— hasn’t played yet

— Kyler Murray— started all 16 games
— Daniel Jones— started 12 games

— Baker Mayfield— started 13 games
— Sam Darnold— started 13 games
— Josh Allen— started 11 games
— Josh Rosen— started 13 games

— Mitch Trubisky— started 12 games
— Patrick Mahomes— started one game

Odds are the Chargers aren’t going to let Herbert sit on the bench all year.

12) Unusual situation this weekend, with the 49ers playing back/back games in New Jersey, especially when they had a lot of injuries against the Jets last week and complained about the “sticky” turf at MetLife Stadium.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t play in the 2nd half after spraining his ankle; he’s expected to play this week.

49ers are staying/practicing at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia this week; its pretty nice there-  golfer Nick Faldo owns a home there.

11) Speaking of turf, the Las Vegas Raiders play home games on natural grass, which is wheeled outside brand-new Allegiant Stadium when the Raiders aren’t playing there. 

When UNLV plays its home games in, they’ll play on an artificial turf field that is on the floor of the new stadium. Playing on artificial turf is cheaper than maintaining a pristine grass field.

10) Jacob deGrom has been the ace of my fantasy baseball team for a few years now; I was watching him pitch Monday night and I wondered if pitchers got queasy when they saw certain umpires calling balls and strikes when they pitched. 

So I looked up deGrpm’s record and came up with umpires who he excelled with, and also some where things didn’t go so well;

Umpires he likes to see:
— Ron Kulpa 2-0, 0;66 four starts
— Paul Mauert 3-0, 0.75 four starts
— Mark Ripperger 2-0, 1.64 three starts
— Lance Barrett 2-0, 0.48 three starts
— Jeff Nelson 3-0, 1.90 four starts

Umpires he’d rather not see:
— Tom Hallion 1-2, 6.87 four starts
— Mike Muchlinski 1-2, 7.98 three starts
— John Tumpane 0-3, 3.68 five starts

9) Two additional things about pitchers/umpires:
a) Next year, when things go back to 162 games, we’ll do more on our daily write-ups about umpires, getting back to the way we’ve always done things.

b) In October/November, when things get slow again before the college hoop/NBA re-starts, I’ll do a deeper dive into pitchers and umpires. Lot of good information in that database.

8) Since the Tampa Bay Rays started using an opener, a relief pitcher throwing the first inning or so, they’ve gone 64-41 in games where they used one. They do things differently, but it sure does work.

7) Nuggets 114, Lakers 106 (LA leads 2-1):
— Nuggets shot 55% from the floor for the game.
— Denver’s four subs were a combined +16.
— Lakers’ three starters other than Davis/James scored a combined 20 points.
— To oversimplify, Denver looked like the much hungrier team in this game.

6) Unusual situation in Anaheim, where SS Andrelton Simmons opted out of the rest of the season with six days to go, with the Angels still alive (though barely) for a playoff spot. The team was taken completely by surprise.

Simmons is a free agent after the season; this would lead you to believe that he has zero desire to re-sign with the Halos.

5) Chicago Bulls hired Billy Donovan as their new coach, which has to make give a lot of college coaches reasons to exhale— he would’ve been a highly sought after college coach.

I’m curious if Donovan would’ve been a strong candidate for the Knicks/Nets if he became available before those jobs were filled— Donovan grew up on Long Island.

4) Denver Broncos signed QB Blake Bortles to back up Jeff Driskel while Drew Lock nurses his injuries. Lock is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.

3) Cubs’ SS Javy Baez and Twins’ P Jose Berrios are married to sisters; they faced each other in the last two All-Star games, but until last Sunday night, they had never faced each other in a regular season game. Baez went 0-4 Sunday night, in a game Berrios won 4-0.

2) It is very early in this truncated college football season, but so far, home favorites in conference games are 1-5 ATS. Home underdogs are 2-2.

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL East: Tampa Bay, New York
AL Central: Chicago, Minnesota
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Cleveland, Toronto

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, St Louis
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Cin/Mil/SF

Tuesday’s Den: Nobody asked me, but…….

13) Las Vegas 34, Saints 24
— Penalties: Saints 10-129 yards, Raiders 3-13 yards
— Saints averaged 7.4 yards/play, converted 7-11 on 3rd down.
— New Orleans lost eight of its last ten road openers.

— Raiders converted 16-28 on 3rd down, scored 68 points in winning their first two games.
— Las Vegas ran 76 plays, the Saints only 57, but were outgained by 49 yards.
— AFC West teams are 5-0-1 ATS outside their division.

12) Raiders have spent $52.6M of their salary cap on their offensive line, the most of any team in the league.

When the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas was approved by the league, the vote was 31-1; for some unknown reason, Miami Dolphins were the team that voted against the move.

11) Being a head coach involves having both onions and a feel for your team.

3rd quarter Sunday, Rams lead 21-16 at Philly, 6:51 left in 3rd quarter. LA has 4th and a foot on their own 29, after intercepting a Wentz pass in the end zone on the Eagles’ previous drive. Most coaches, maybe 90%, maybe higher, punt the ball there. 

McVay has the Rams go for it, Goff sneaks for the first down, and Rams go down and kick a FG on a drive that went 68 yards on 16 plays and gave his defense a nice rest.

10) NFL injury issues:
— Giants’ RB Saquon Barkley is out for the year.
— Panthers’ RB Christian McCaffrey is out 4-6 weeks.
— Broncos’ QB Drew Lock is out for 3-5 weeks.

9) With Lock out for a while, Jeff Driskel figures to be backed up by Brett Rypien, who played college ball at Boise State but has to make his NFL debut.

8) So far this season, NFC West reams are 6-0 ATS outside their division; AFC West teams are 5-0-1 ATS. NFC East teams are 1-5.

7) Deion Sanders is going to be the football coach at Jackson State, where his son will undoubtedly follow him to play quarterback. 

Shedeur Sanders has verbally committed to play at Florida Atlantic, but that’s about to change; the kid is an accurate passer, a 4-star recruit. He played on ESPN a few weeks ago, and looked pretty good. Deion Sanders is the offensive coordinator for his son’s high school team.

6) They were talking on a ballgame the other night how hitters are no longer allowed to watch videos in between their at bats, and it has screwed up some hitters, who are used to doing that and need it to adjust their approach. Thank the Astros and their garbage can for that.

5) ESPN had Ian Happ miked while he played the outfield Sunday night; this bothers me, it is an intrusion on the game. Alex Rodriguez actually was busting Happ’s chops because he roots for the Cleveland Browns. Who in the commissioner’s office thinks BS like that is a good idea?

4) I’m thinking that if the expanded baseball playoffs that start next week are popular with fans, they’ll become a permanent part of the major leagues, in combination with a slightly shorter regular season (154 games?)

One thing I DO NOT want to see ever are automated umpires for balls/strikes; no thank you.

3) 203 ballplayers have made their major league debut this season, 18 of them play for the Miami Marlins. Someone’s going to write an interesting book about this unusual season.

2) Of the 30 current major league managers, Colorado’s Bud Black is the only one who was a pitcher in the major leagues. 10 of the 30 skippers were catchers in their playing days.

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL East: Tampa Bay, New York
AL Central: Chicago, Minnesota
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Cleveland, Toronto

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, St Louis
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Philadelphia, Cincinnati

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Dallas 40, Falcons 39
— Atlanta didn’t cover an onside kick with 1:49 left; watch the highlights, someone has to lose their job over this. Inexcusable loss.
— Falcons led 20-0; game was 29-10 at halftime.
— Atlanta ran 72 plays, Dallas 81; lot of plays for an NFL game.
— Very seldom a team is +3 in turnovers, wins field position by 17 yards, and loses.

— Prescott is first player ever with 450+ passing yards, 3 rushing TD’s in same game.
— Dallas turned ball over on three of first five possessions.
— Dallas hung 570 yards on Atlanta’s defense.
— Cowboys won eight of last ten home openers (3-1-1 ATS last five)

Rams 37, Philadelphia 19
— Game swung on great end zone INT by Darious Williams when LA led 21-16.
— Rams’ first three drives: 23 plays, 196 yards, 21 points.
— LA converted 16-29 on 3rd down in first two games.
— Last three years, Rams are 16-9 ATS on the road.
— Under McVay, LA is 4-0 in road openers, scoring 35.3 ppg.

— LA outgained Eagles 449-363; Rams ran ball for 191 yards.
— Last two years, Philly is 5-12 ATS at home.
— Eagles are 3-9 ATS in last 12 home openers.

Tampa Bay 31, Panthers 17
— Carolina’s 1st drive: INT, 2nd: fumble, 4th: lost on downs.
— Bridgewater threw for 365 yards, but they turned ball over four times (-2).
— Carolina gave up 65 points in losing its first two games.
— Last 2+ years, Panthers are 5-8 ATS as a road underdog.

— Bucs started two drives in Carolina territory, scored on first play both times.
— Fournette had 12 carries for 103 yards and two TD’s.
— Since 2014, Tampa Bay is now 5-15-2 ATS as a home favorite.

Pittsburgh 26, Broncos 21
— Denver QB Lock hurt his shoulder in first quarter, didn’t return.
— Former Florida Gator Driskel was 18-34/256 yards, two TD’s.
— Broncos converted only 8-27 third down plays in first two games.
— Broncos lost their last four road openers, by 10-13-5 points (1-3 ATS).

— Roethlisberger threw for 311 yards; Steelers won first home opener in three years.
— Conner ran for 106 yards and a TD.
— Last three years, Pittsburgh is 9-12 ATS as a home favorite.

49ers 31, NJ Jets 13
— First play of game, Mostert ran 80 yards for a TD.
— 49ers had lot of injuries; backup QB Mullens played 2nd half.
— 49ers are 10-5 ATS in last 15 road openers.

— Jets were outgained 763-531 LW in their first two games.
— Two trips to red zone, Jets kicked two FG’s.
— 49ers’ first four drives: 31 plays, 221 yards, 21 points.

Bills 31, Miami 28
— Allen was 24-35 for 417 yards, averaged 11.5 yards/attempt. Wow.
— Bills drove 97 yards for a TD on their first drive.
— Under McDermott, Buffalo is 3-2 ATS as a road favorite.
— Bills won six of last seven series games.

— Last 4+ years, Miami is 12-7-1 ATS as a home underdog.
— Dolphins covered via the back door with 0:49 left.
— Over is 15-3 in their last 18 home openers.

Indianapolis 28, Vikings 11
— On a day where Stefon Diggs caught 8 passes for 153 yards for Buffalo, Vikings gained total of 175 yards on 47 plays here.
— Cousins completed 11-26 passes, with three INT’s. In a dome.
— In their history, Vikings are 0-12 in road games against the Colts.
— Vikings are 3-9-1 ATS in last 13 games as a road underdog.
— Minnesota is 4-12-1 SU in last 17 road openers (5-10-2 ATS).

— Colts outgained first two opponents 799-416.
— Last three years, Indy is 10-6-1 ATS as a home favorite.
— In nine red zone drives this year, Colts have scored only 34 points.

Chicago 17, Giants 13
— Giants’ RB Barkley hurt his knee early; they fear a torn ACL.
— Giants had ball on 10-yard line as game ended, but couldn’t score.
— Giants started one drive on Chicago’s 25, but settled for a FG.
— Big Blue covered 15 of its last 21 games as a road underdog.

— Chicago scored 10 points on its first two drives, led 17-0 at halftime.
— Bears in 2nd half: 28 plays, 97 yards, no points, one huge sigh of relief.
— Under is 5-1-1 in Bears’ last seven home openers.

Green Bay 42, Lions 21
— Lions are 9-24-1 under Patricia; they were 36-28 under Caldwell, and they fired him.
— Detroit’s first two drives: 21 plays, 150 yards- they led 14-3.
— Detroit’s last nine drives: 38 plays, 154 yards, 7 points.
— Lions are 16-23 ATS in last 39 games as a road underdog.

— Packers gained 1,010 yards, scored nine TD’s on 18 drives in two games.
— Green Bay is 26-15-2 ATS in last 43 games as a home favorite.
— Packers won eight in row, 13 of last 14 home openers (11-3 ATS).

Tennessee 33, Jaguars 30
— Jax outgained Titans 480-354, had 30 first downs, converted 10-14 on 3rd down.
— Jaguars completed 49-65 passes, converted 15-24 on 3rd down in splitting their first two games.
— J’ville covered its last four road openers (3-0 ATS).
— Jaguars lost their last seven visits to Nashville.

— Gostkowski kicked a 49-yard FG with 1:36 left after Titans blew a 2-TD lead.
— Under Vrabel, Tennessee is 3-6-1 ATS as a home favorite.
— Titans won eight of last ten series games.
— Tannehill threw for 239 yards, four TD’s.

Arizona 30, Washington 15
— Washington fell behind 17-0 last week, 20-0 in this game. 
— Washington had trouble containing mobile QB Murray- he ran for 67 yards.
— Washington was down 27-3, then scored TD’s on TD’s on last two drives.

— Arizona ran ball for 340 yards, converted 14-31 on 3rd down in first two games.
— Cardinals scored two TD’s, kicked two FG’s on first six drives.
— Murray threw for 286 yards, ran for 67 more.

Chiefs 23, LA Chargers 20 OT
— Chiefs’ first six drives: 33 plays, 142 yards, 6 points.
— Chiefs’ last four drives: 40 plays, 232 yards, 17 points.
— Butker kicked two 58-yard FG’s, including game-winner in OT
— Reid’s SU record after a bye or Thursday game: 18-2.
— Chiefs won 12 of last 13 series games.

— QB Taylor was scratched just before kickoff; rookie Herbert made his NFL debut.
— Herbert was 22-33 for 311 yards, actually looked pretty good, averaging 8.5 yards/pass attempt.
— Chargers led 17-6 midway thru third quarter.

Ravens 33, Texans 16
— Baltimore scored 71 points in winning its first two games.
— Ravens had a pick-6, was +2 in turnovers again. 
— Baltimore ran ball for 230 yards.
— Ravens are 5-0-1 ATS in last six games as a road favorite.
— Baltimore is 9-4 ATS in last 13 road openers.

— Texans started 16 of 18 drives at their 25 or worse field position in first two games.
— How does passing game stack up after trading star WR Hopkins?
— Since 2013, Houston is 5-11 ATS as a home underdog.
— Houston covered twice in its last eight home openers.

Seahawks 35, Patriots 30
— NE ran ball for 217 yards LW, but only 67 yards here.
— Newton threw ball for 397 yards, but got stopped on 2-yard line running ball on last play of the game.
— Patriots scored on a pick-6 on first series of the game.
— Five red zone drives, 23 points.

— Seahawks won their last 12 home openers (9-3 ATS).
— Seattle completed 52-63 passes, scored 10 TD’s on 20 drives in first two games.
— Seahawks held Newton to 47 rushing yards; Patriot RB’s combined for 20 YR.
— Seattle had a 13-yard edge in stating field position. 


Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) Louisiana 34, Georgia State 31 OT— Ragin’ Cajuns sprung an upset at Iowa State last week; but had to fight like hell to avoid being upset here- they trailed 21-7 midway thru the third quarter.  

Louisiana outgained Georgia State by 100 yards, but converted only 3-14 on third down. Both teams ran the ball for 200+ yards.

12) Back in the day when ESPN first started, 1980 or so, one of the first leagues that let ESPN show its basketball games was the Sun Belt Conference. ESPN needs to show the Sun Belt some love and give their games more airtime. Besides, Sun Belt football is at a pretty high level and is fun to watch.

By the way, and I’m rambling here because its 2:30am and Korean baseball is on, but in 1980, Sun Belt basketball included VCU, South Alabama, Charlotte, South Florida, among others. Some of those teams are lot higher on the food chain now, but it is still a good league, and ESPN needs to give the league its own weekly time slot.

11) Dodgers 6, Rockies 1— In his career, LA’s Clayton Kershaw has started 43 games against Colorado; the Dodgers are 32-11 in those games.

10) Sounds like both the NBA/NHL might not start next season until January; college basketball is rumored to be starting November 25, which means the first part of November is going to pretty desolate for sports, except for football on the weekends. 

Good thing I have a very large stack of books to read; you’ll be getting some book reports in November, and lots and lots of football stats.

9) Navy 27, Tulane 24— Midshipmen were down 24-0 at halftime, after losing their opener 55-3 at home, so this was an emotional win for them after a huge second half.

8) Astros’ P Justin Verlander will have Tommy John surgery, will miss next season, then he’ll be a 39-year old free agent.

7) Miami 47, Louisville 34— Miami’s kicker made 48 and 57-yard field goals, which means we’ll be seeing him kick on Sundays fairly soon. Hurricanes were +3 in turnovers.

6) Best wishes to Florida State football coach Mike Norvell, who tested positive for COVID and is on the shelf for a while. Seminoles play Miami next week, leaving deputy head coach Chris Thomsen as the interim coach.

Thomsen was the head coach at Abilene Christian from 2005-11; he spent the past three years coaching the offensive line at TCU.

5) NC State 45, Wake Forest 42— Deacons stormed back from down 35-21 in third quarter to lead 42-38, but State scored with 5:51 left and held on for the win.

4) Lot of carping on social media about individual awards and who certain people voted for; to me, this is a total waste of time. I don’t give a rat’s ass about individual awards, other than who gets into the Halls of Fame. Too much drama about these NBA awards; its a team game, people.

3) Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire abruptly retired Saturday for health reasons; he has a career record of 1,068-1,039 in regular season games. Lot of people posted stuff on social media about how well-liked and well-respected Gardenhire is. We wish him well.

2) Celtics 117, Heat 106 (Miami leads 2-1)
— Four starters scored 20+ points for the Celtics.
— Only six Celtics played double figure minutes.
— Miami was 12-44 behind the arc; no bueno.

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL East: Tampa Bay, New York
AL Central: Chicago, Minnesota
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Cleveland, Toronto

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, St Louis
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Philadelphia, Cincinnati

Saturday’s Den: Random thoughts on a happy day

13) Good day Friday; finally got my new glasses, so my eyesight is back to 100%, for first time in 11 months. I have a list of people to thank, but unfortunately, I don’t know a lot of their names.

— Dr Mallick, my retina surgeon, who has since moved to New Jersey
— Dr Lemanski, my cataract surgeon

— My cousins Maureen/Kevin, who went above and beyond to help me out.
— Friends/drivers Luke, Christina, Dara.
— My friend Chris the bartender, who advised me on where to get a new pair of glasses back in February- they helped a lot.

— The people at Memorial Hospital who helped me thru retina surgery
— The people at the Surgery Center in Latham, where I had cataract surgery.

Dr Lemanski’s staff got me new glasses, so it is lot easier to write this site now.

People at the Retina Care Center were also very nice to me. 

Its been a long 11 months, but it is good to have my vision back to 100%.

12) Tampa Bay/Oakland clinched playoff spots this week; A’s are in postseason for 6th time in nine years, with a payroll in the bottom third of the sport.

11) Michael Bloomberg is contributing $100M to Joe Biden’s campaign in Florida; money like that has to buy a hell of a lot of TV commercials. This is  a good couple months for TV networks; politicians throwing money at them for commercial time.

10) WR Adam Humphries recently signed a $26M deal with the Tennessee Titans; this is a guy who had only one scholarship offer coming out of high school- Clemson. This is part of why Dabo Swinney’s team is in the college football playoff every year; he can recognize talent.

9) Boston Celtics are 8-5 in playoffs so far; they led by 10+ points in four of the five losses.

8) Cleveland Browns’ coach Kevin Stefanski came to Cleveland from the Vikings, where he had been an assistant coach for 14 years, working for three different head coaches. That’s an unusual career path for a pro football coach.

7) Lakers 126, Nuggets 114 (Lakers lead 1-0)
— Game was 70-59 at halftime; LA shot 53% from the floor.
— Anthony Davis scored 37 points; Denver needs to find a way to defend him.

6) Ruben Amaro Jr is a new TV analyst for the Phillies and he is very good; relaxed, talks the game, and as a former GM/coach, knows it very well.

5) Milwaukee Brewers are 24-26, wallowing just below the cut for the playoffs; their most talented pitchers are Brandon Woodruff/Josh Hader, but Hader has thrown only 15.2 innings all year, while a washed-up stiff like Brent Suter has thrown 26 innings- Brett Anderson has thrown 39 innings.

Milwaukee rushed Hader to the majors because their AAA team was in high-altitude Colorado Springs, where prospects got their confidence squashed by lofty ERA’s- they made him a reliever to limit his innings early in his career. But now that he is an established big leaguer, Hader needs to be a starting pitcher, so the Brewers can maximize his immense potential.

4) Late night TV surfing, ran into an old friend; the old TV show Without a Trace was very underrated, about the part of FBI in New York City that found missing people. Anthony LaPaglia was great as Jack Malone, who headed the agency. It is on Paramount Network 2-3 hours in a row, late at night.

3) ESPN signed up longtime NBA star Vince Carter as an NBA/college hoop analyst; you never know how these things are going to go, but I’ll be curious to hear what he has to say.

2) Speaking of college basketball, sounds like next season will begin November 25, the night before Thanksgiving. No freakin’ idea what the schedule is going to look like, but it’ll be fun to see kids playing basketball again.

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL East: Tampa Bay, New York
AL Central: Chicago, Minnesota
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Cleveland, Toronto

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, Cincy/StL
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Philadelphia, SF/Cin/StL

Friday’s Den: Wrapping up a busy Thursday

13) White Sox 4, Twins 3— Chicago clinches its first playoff berth since 2008.

6th inning of this game, Josh Donaldson was carping about balls/strikes during his at-bat, then he hits a home run to put the Twins up 3-2. When he rounds the bases, he kicks dirt on home plate as he scores as the ump kicks him out. Not good. 

Twins are fighting like hell to make the playoffs; you can’t get kicked out of a one-run game.

12) Dodgers were the first team to clinch a playoff berth; they’re 35-15 this season.

11) Browns 35, Bengals 30:
— Burrow was 37-61 for 316 yards, most passes a rookie has ever completed in a game.
— Bengals had 30 first downs, converted 8-18 on 3rd down.
— Last three years, Cincy is 15-8 ATS as a road underdog; over is 11-2 in their last 13 road openers.
— Bengals went 5-5 going for it on 4th down.

— Chubb ran for 124 yards, two TD’s for the Browns.
— Cleveland scored TD’s on three of first four drives.
— Browns allowed 68 points in splitting their first two games.

10) Sean McVay is in his 4th year as an NFL head coach; he went to college at Miami OH, but he is four years younger than another Miami alum, Ben Roethlisberger, who is still playing ball. McVay is 34, Big Ben is 38.

9) When the Clippers ousted Dallas in the first round of the playoffs, they shot 47% on 3-point shots from the corner, which is exceptional.

Problem is, they got to Game 7 against Denver in the 2nd round and went 0-12 on those corner jumpers behind the arc. 0-12 doesn’t butter the biscuit.

8) An adventurous gambler wagered $200,000 on the Lakers to win the NBA title; if the Lakers win it all, the bettor pockets $121,212.

7) Heat 106, Celtics 101 (Miami leads 2-0)
— Miami was down 13 at the half, but held Boston to 41 points in 2nd half, after Celtics scored 60 in first half.
— Miami was +11 (20-9) in turnovers.
— Crowder/Robinson took 24 shots; 22 of them were 3’s.

6) This weekend’s Mariners-Padres series was moved to San Diego, because of the poor air quality in Seattle.

5) Angels’ rookie 1B Jared Walsh has scored a run/driven in a run in nine consecutive games, the longest streak like that by a rookie in baseball history.

4) Saw a film clip Thursday of Colorado Rockies’ manager Bud Black giving up Reggie Jackson’s 500th home run in 1984, when Jackson was playing for the Angels. Black was a good pitcher, with a 121-116 career record.

Angels’ manager then was John McNamara; two years later, he was Boston’s manager when they lost the World Series in seven games to the Mets. He was also Jackson’s manager in Oakland in 1970, when Jackson got involved in a squabble with owner Charlie Finley, the team unraveled and McNamara got fired.

3) How would you like to be the guy who works for the Diamondbacks who advised them to sign Madison Bumgarner to a 5-year, $85M contract? You’d have to be a little bit queasy about you job.

Bumgarner is only 31, but he’s got a lot of miles on that arm; he’s thrown 1,877 regular season innings and 101 more in the postseason. This year, he is 0-4, 8.53 in seven starts. Not good.

2) Get well soon to Texas Rangers’ TV analyst CJ Nitkowski, who tested positive for COVID; Ranger games are fun to listen to- Nitkowski is a good analyst.

1) If you baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL East: Tampa Bay, New York
AL Central: Chicago, Minnesota
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Cleveland, Toronto

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, Cincinnati
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Philadelphia, San Francisco

Thursday’s Den: 13 athletes who excelled at more than one sport

(listed alphabetically)
— Danny Ainge— Played 14 years in the NBA, after a great career at BYU. He also hit .220 in 211 games over three years for the Toronto Blue Jays.

— Jim Brown— One of the best running backs in NFL history, he led the NFL in rushing in 8 of his 9 seasons. Brown also played basketball, ran track, and was a great lacrosse player while in college at Syracuse.

— Wilt Chamberlain— Scored 31,419 points in his NBA career; once scored 100 points in a game- he averaged over 30 ppg for his career. He preferred track in high school, high jumping, long jumping, running the quarter-mile and half-mile events while also throwing the shot put.

When he was in the NBA, Wilt got annoyed that he was criticized for shooting too much so the next season (1967-68) he led the league in assists. 

— Bob Hayes— Played wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys for 11 years; he also won two gold medals in track at the 1964 Olympics. Hayes caught 371 passes for 20 yards/catch in his NFL career, scoring 73 touchdowns.

— Bo Jackson— Was a great running back at Auburn, and played 38 games for the Raiders, averaging 5.4 yards/carry. He played eight years in the major leagues, hitting 141 homers- he played the last two years with an artificial hip.

— Michael Jordan— Not much to add here; won a national title at North Carolina, six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls, and out of nowhere, he hit .202 for the AA Birmingham Barons in 1994, as an outfielder, during his sabbatical from the NBA.

Hitting .202 doesn’t sound like much, but I was an official scorer for two years at the AA level; there are guys who were career baseball players who didn’t hit .200 at that level. Jordan also stole 30 bases that season.

— Kenny Lofton— Played 17 years in the big leagues, with a .372 on-base %age and 622 stolen bases— hell of a ballplayer, a 6-time All Star. Lofton also played college basketball at Arizona; he is one of only two people EVER to play in the Final Four and World Series.

— Nate Robinson— Played 11 years in the NBA, he won the Slam Dunk title three times even though he is only 5-9; he scored 11 ppg for his professional career. Robinson originally went to U of Washington on a football scholarship; he played football for the Huskies as a freshman, but gave football up after that season.

— Bill Russell— Played 13 seasons in the NBA, won 11 titles, lost in the finals another year. San Francisco won consecutive NCAA titles with Russell as their center in 1955-56. Russell also was a high jumper at USF; at one time, he was ranked as the 7th-best high jumper in the world, but had to choose between track and basketball as far as the Olympics went- he chose basketball.

— Deion Sanders— Played 14 years in the NFL for five teams; he picked off 53 passes in his pro career, running back nine of them for touchdowns. He also played baseball, playing nine years in the major leagues, hitting .263 for four teams, with 186 stolen bases.

— Tim Stoddard— First person ever to play in a Final Four and a World Series; he was a starting forward on NC State’s championship team in 1974. He also pitched in the major leagues for 13 years, winning a World Series ring with the ’83 Orioles. He also got a hit in his only at-bat in a World Series game.

— Charlie Ward— He won the 1993 Heisman Trophy, leading Florida State to their first-ever national title on the gridiron. Ward also played 11 years in the NBA for three teams, mostly the Knicks, scoring 6.3 ppg for his career.

— Dave Winfield— Played both baseball/basketball for the Minnesota Gophers; his college basketball coach was Bill Musselman, who later coached in the NBA. Winfield was also drafted by the NFL’s Vikings, but he never played college football.

Winfield was a great baseball player; he played 22 years in the majors, hit .283 with 465 career homers and an on-base %age of .353. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……

13) ESPN finally found its Monday Night Football crew; Steve Levy, Brian Greise, Louis Riddick are an excellent 3-man team. Smart, unassuming, easy to listen to.

12) Baseball announced its playoff plan; AL bubble in California, NL bubble in Texas, no days off in the division or league championship series, which is a big deal. Pitching depth is going to be a lot more important than usual. Aces will only pitch once in a best-of-5 series, unless they pitch a game on short rest.

Air quality in southern California could be become a problem; I’m assuming the backup plan is Arizona’s dome, but that wasn’t mentioned Monday.

World Series will be in the Rangers’ new domed stadium in Arlington.

11) Nuggets 104, Clippers 89 (Denver wins 4-3)
— Denver held LA to 33 points in 2nd half.
— Nuggets were down 3-1 in both series this year, but won both.
— Jokic had 16 points, 22 rebounds, 13 assists. Wow.
— In their 50-year history, Clippers are now 0-8 in games where they had a chance to reach the conference final.

10) Cincinnati Bengals’ kicker Randy Bullock missed a game-tying 31-yard field goal at the end of Sunday’s 16-13 loss to the Chargers; Bullock then grabbed his leg— a calf strain was given as the reason. Bengals need a new kicker. 

Problem is, Cincinnati plays on Thursday this week and if you bring someone into Ohio from another state, there is a 72-hour thing because of COVID, so the Bengals quickly scooped up kicker Austin Seibert, who was shown the door by the Browns after he missed a PAT and a field goal in Cleveland’s 38-6 loss in Baltimore Sunday.

Seibert will see his old friends Thursday, when the Bengals visit Cleveland.

9) Unusual fact: Five QB’s whose team won in Week 1 were led in rushing by their QB. More and more teams are going to running back-by-committee. 

I cringe every time a quarterback takes a hit while running; they’re very valuable players, so there is a fine line between a running QB making his offense more explosive while also risking the whole thing blowing up, if that QB gets hurt.

8) NFL officials called two huge offensive pass interference penalties Sunday, but they only called offensive holding 18 times in 16 games last week, so that’s an improvement. Thats the 2nd-fewest amount of Week 1 holding calls since 2001.

7) Why some teams don’t want their head coach also being a coordinator:

Denver Broncos totally screwed up clock management in the last minute Monday night; once Tennessee got within field goal range, Denver had to use its timeouts, to preserve some time for their offense if the Titans took the lead, which they did. 

Head coach Vic Fangio also coordinates Denver’s defense, and that was what he was thinking about while Tennessee was driving at the end. Game management was botched, depriving the Broncos of a last-gasp chance at a win- remember, the game was in Denver, so longer field goals are more possible.

6) Orlando’s NBA bubble on the Disney grounds will also host eight early season college basketball tournament:

— Champions Classic, Jimmy V Classic
— Wooden Legacy, preseason NIT
— Orlando Invitational, Charleston Classic
— Myrtle Beach invitational, Diamond Head Classic

5) Over the last 10 years, when NFL teams went for it on 4th and 1, they got the first down 64% of the time.

4) Tennessee Titans missed three field goals and an extra point Monday night; last year, they made only 44.4% of their FG’s, by far the worst %age in the NFL. 2nd-worst %age last year was the Jets, who made 67.9% of their field goals.

3) My preference for the NFL schedule would be Monday night doubleheaders every week but no Thursday games, except for Week 1 and Thanksgiving Day. Football wasn’t meant to be played on three days’ rest.

2) Michael O’Keefe, the actor who played Danny Noonan in Caddyshack 40 years ago, caddied for club pro Danny Balin this week at practice rounds for the US Open.

1) If you baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL East: Tampa Bay, New York
AL Central: Chicago, Minnesota
AL West: Oakland, Houston
AL wild cards: Cleveland, Toronto

NL East: Atlanta, Miami
NL Central: Chicago, St Louis
NL West: Los Angeles, San Diego
NL wild cards: Philadelphia, San Francisco