Friday’s Den: Merry Christmas, everyone…….

13) NFL playoffs were expanded to 14 teams this year, so only the #1 seed in each conference gets a bye; over the last seven years, of the 14 teams to make the Super Bowl, 10 were one-seeds and four were 2-seeds. Having the bye has obviously been an advantage. 

12) Last five years, teams that had the first round by e were 12-7-1 ATS on the second weekend, which was their first playoff game that year. 

11) Over last three years, underdogs are 8-2-1 ATS on first weekend of the playoffs; one game was pick ‘em. 

10) 2012 Ravens are last Super Bowl champ that didn’t have a first round bye. 

9) Underdogs are 12-7 ATS in last 19 Super Bowls, though favorites covered the last two.

8) Baseball doings:
— Pirates traded 1B Josh Bell to Washington, for two young pitchers.
— Detroit signed free agent pitcher Jose Urena.

7) Atlanta Hawks led Chicago 83-59 at halftime Wednesday; are the Hawks that good, or are the Bulls terrible? (With Billy Donovan coaching, they won’t be bad for very long). 

6) Charlotte Hornets C Cody Zeller broke his left hand Thursday, is out 4-6 weeks. 

5) Pitt Panthers’ best player, Justin Champagnie, is out 6-8 weeks hurting his knee in practice this week. Pitt is off to 5-2 start, 1-1 in ACC games. 

4) Hawai’i 28, Houston 14:
— Rainbows picked off three passes, jumped out to a 21-0 lead.
— After Houston but the lead to 21-14, Rainbows ran a kick back for a TD, sealing the deal.
— This was Hawai’i’s first bowl on the mainland since the Sugar Bowl after the ’08 season. 

3) Wednesday’s UCLA-Oregon basketball game was postponed, not because any players or coaches had COVID, but because of COVID-19 testing protocols for the refs. 

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t scored a first quarter point in their last four games; they signed QB Drew Stanton to their practice squad, replacing the departed Josh Rosen. Stanton was with Bruce Arians in Arizona; he knows the offense.

1) Way back when, when Steve Alford was a great college player at Indiana, I was convinced that someday, he would be coach of the Hoosiers. His dad was a high school coach in Indiana, it just made sense that someday, Steve Alford would run the Hoosiers, but it hasn’t happened.

This is a goofy idea, but Indiana/Nevada should trade coaches; Indiana is 26-33 under Archie Miller in conference games, not very good. Alford has gone from Missouri State to Iowa to New Mexico to UCLA to Nevada- he’s made four Sweet 16’s, but no Elite 8’s.

Alford is 25-15 at Nevada, while totally remaking the roster after Eric Musselman left; it would be good theater if got to come home and coach Indiana.

Saturday’s Den: 13 quarterbacks who started a game for Bill Belichick

13 quarterbacks have started an NFL game for Bill Belichick:
13) Brian Hoyer (0-1)— Started 39 games in his 11-year career (16-23), playing for seven different teams. His only start for New England was a 26-10 loss at Kansas City in Week 4 this year. 

12) Eric Zeier (1-3)— Georgia alum started 12 games (4-8) in a 6-year NFL career, playing four games for the ’95 Browns, Belichick’s last year there. He later played for Baltimore. Tampa Bay. 

11) Drew Bledsoe (5-13)- Was the New England starter ahead of Brady when he got hurt in 2001; Bledsoe was was 101-98 as an NFL starter in his 14-year career, throwing for 45,946 yards, 257 TD’s. He finished his career with Buffalo, then Dallas. 

10) Bernie Kosar (11-18)— Went 56-58-1 as an NFL starter in his 12-year career, going 3-4 in playoff games. Cleveland released him after six starts in 1993; Dallas picked him up and he backed up Troy Aikman as the Cowboys won a Super Bowl. Cowboys’ other backup that year was future NFL coach Jason Garrett. 

9) Todd Philcox (2-3)— Syracuse alum played five years in the NFL, for three teams; he went 2-3 in five starts for Cleveland in 1992-93, throwing for 7 TD’s, running for one. 

8) Jacoby Brissett (1-1)— Is 12-20 as an NFL starter; went 1-1 for the 2016 Patriots, including a 16-0 loss in Buffalo, which is the last time New England didn’t score in the first half of a game. Brissett is still the backup QB for the Colts; this is his 5th year in the NFL. 

7) Mike Tomczak (4-4)— Played 15 years in NFL for four teams, going 4-4 as the starter for the ’92 Browns, his only year in Cleveland. The Ohio State alum was 42-31 as a starter in the NFL, and was 3-2 in playoff games (2-1 with Chicago, 1-1 with Pittsburgh).

6) Cam Newton (6-6)— Is 74-61-1 as an NFL starter; this is already his 10th year in the NFL. Is 3-4 in career playoff games, winning 2015 NFC title; he’s won more playoff games than Joe Namath, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins. Is 6-6 as New England’s starter this year.

5) Mark Rypien (2-1)— Went 47-31 as a starter in a 10-year career, winning the Super Bowl with the ’91 Redskins. Rypien went 2-1 in three starts for the ’94 Browns. His nephew Brett Rypien started a game at QB this year for the Broncos.

4) Jimmy Garoppolo (2-0)— Is 26-9 as an NFL starter, going 15-4 for the 49ers last year; he is in 7th NFL season. 2016 Patriots won both games he started for them. New England got a 2nd round draft pick for him when they traded him to San Francisco in October, 2017.

3) Vinny Testaverde (16-15)— Played 21 years in the NFL for seven teams; he could write a hell of a book. Went 9-4 as starter for the ’94 Browns, winning a playoff game against, ironically, New England. Cleveland’s defensive coordinator that year? Nick Saban. Testaverde was later a backup for the 2006 Patriots, but threw only three passes in three relief stints. 

2) Matt Cassel (10-5)— Wound up 36-45 as an NFL starter in his 14-year career, but didn’t make the playoffs in his one year (2008) as New England’s starter. He started one playoff game for the Chiefs, a 30-7 loss to Baltimore in the 2010 postseason. 

1) Tom Brady (249-75)— You may have heard of him; he’s won six Super Bowls and currently lives in Tampa. He was also a 6th round draft choice, meaning New England passed on drafting him five times before they finally took him.

If you’re scoring at home, that is 249-75 with Brady, 60-70 with everyone else.