Saturday’s Den: Happy New Year, everyone…….

13) Alabama 27, Cincinnati 6:
— Alabama had 8 of the top 38 picks in last year’s NFL Draft, but here they are again, playing for the national title. Nick Saban is the best college coach ever.
— Total yardage: Alabama 482, Cincinnati 218
— Yards rushing: 301-74. Not a fun game to watch. 

12) Georgia 34, Michigan 11:
— SEC started 0-5 in bowl games, but now it is Georgia-Alabama for the national title.
— Dawgs outgained Michigan, 521-328
— Georgia converted 10-16 third down plays. 

11) Wake Forest 38, Rutgers 10:
— Wake Forest is smallest school in country with a Power 5 football team.
— Last six years, Demon Deacons are 45-30 SU.
— How come no one talks about Dave Clawson for bigger $$$ jobs?

Whats the deal with starting bowl games at 11am? That means the pregame meals are at 7am, which isn’t normal. No game should start before noon, local time. 

10) Central Michigan 24, Washington State 21:
— Pac-12 teams are 0-4 in bowl games this season, 4-9 ATS in last 13 bowls.
— Good TV exposure on CBS for the MAC’s Chippewas.
— It rained at the Sun Bowl, which pretty much sums up the last two years. 

9) Purdue 48, Tennessee 45 OT:
— Fantastic game, probably best bowl this year, maybe best game all season.
— In a 3:23 span of 4th quarter, each team scored 14 points.
— Total yardage: Tennessee 666, Purdue 627
— Vols had 14 penalties for 128 yards. 

8) Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell turned down offers to play D-III college football and walked on at Purdue; in 2017, he was the 8th-string (out of nine) QB- he played WR on the scout team.

At the start of the 2019 season, he was still only the 4th-string QB, but he didn’t transfer, he hung in there, and this year he threw for 3,712 yards, 28 TD’s. Good for him.

Reading Twitter during the 4th quarter/OT of this game was fun; everyone was watching it. Troy Aikman even tweeted about it. Purdue won the game, but both teams won, in terms of exposure and how recruits view their program. 

7) Wisconsin 20, Arizona State 13:
— Badgers killed off last 9:57 of this game with a 19-play, 90-yard drive.
— Wisconsin threw only 15 passes, but averaged 9.1 yards/attempt.

6) South Carolina 38, North Carolina 21:
— Gamecocks had TD passes of 69-66 yards in first 7:15 of this game.
— Total yardage: 543-333, South Carolina.
— UNC began season as a top 10 team; they finish season 6-7. 

5) Am reading a book written by Chris Andrews, who runs the sportsbook at SouthPoint Casino in Las Vegas; two years ago, when 49ers-Chiefs played in Super Bowl, when SouthPoint posted the props for the game, not the spread but the props, they took $150,000 in action in the first 25 minutes after they were posted. People love prop bets. 

4) Was watching the East Tennessee-Chattanooga basketball game Thursday night; it was weird, the voice on the game was a split-second ahead of the picture. Announcer would say a shot was good, before it went thru the hoop on the screen. 

3) RIP Betty White, who passed away Friday at age 99, three weeks before her 100th birthday. 

Betty White had a great career; she danced on a TV show in Los Angeles in freakin’ 1939!!! In the 70’s, she was a co-star on the Mary Tyler Moore show. She was in a bunch of shows after that; she is the oldest person ever to host Saturday Night Live.

Betty White was funny as hell when women on TV weren’t expected to be funny; in real life, she was married to game show host Allen Ludden, who hosted Password. She was actually in the Odd Couple episode where Felix/Oscar are on Password; they lost to Betty and her partner.

RIP ma’am. 

2) Rams’ WR Cooper Kupp played I-AA football at Eastern Washington; he comes from a football background; his dad was a QB who was drafted by the Giants in the 5th round of the 1990 Draft- he got into one NFL game, going 3-7 for 23 yards for the Cardinals in a 1991 game. 

Kupp’s grandfather played 11 years as a lineman in the NFL, for the Saints/Cowboys.

1) I hope all of you have a Happy New Year; 2021 was better than 2020 (it didn’t take much); hopefully 2022 will be a lot better than both those years. Thanks for reading. 

Friday’s Den: Some suggestions to make the (sports) world better

It is easy to sit here and criticize everything, so before I sit here and criticize everything, here are some good ideas that have been put into play:

— NHL, NFL moving their drafts around the country— Anything that gets the fans closer to the league is a good thing. NHL started this; NFL kind of stumbled into it, but it helps them.

I’m guessing the NFL Draft in Las Vegas this spring should be fun.

— Hard Knocks in season— Brilliant idea they’re doing this year for the first time. The more people see behind the curtains, the better for the league’s business. Plus, the Colts are hot now, so it makes the show more interesting.

— Whoever put the TV camera in the end zone pylon deserves a raise; gives us an interesting view of the action.

— Baseball adding the Wild Card needed to happen, now they want to expand the playoffs further, maybe to 14 teams.

Why? To make more money from the networks (that’s the answer to every question)

Some suggestions to make the (sports) world a better place:
Non-sports stuff:
— More game shows, less of these BS talk shows where the hosts stage arguments so they can yell at each other. Game shows were excellent, made people at home think some.

— We need to respect each other more; just because we disagree about something doesn’t mean we have to hate each other. Agree to disagree, but maintain respect for each other. Debating stuff can be fun.

Sports stuff
Baseball
— Universal DH is a must. Why?
a) Pitchers suck at hitting
b) Pitchers get hurt hitting/running bases
c) DH’s make more $$$ than relief pitchers; the players’ union likes the DH.
d) More offense equals a more interesting game.

— Banning shifts. Why?
a) Line drives in the gap are more fun to watch than having every guy swing for the fences.
b) More balls in play equals quicker games, more action.
c) Great fielding plays make for better highlights, which attract fans.

— Allow draft picks to be traded.
a) This will give smart teams (maybe with less $$$) to outwit rich, impatient teams.
b) Gives fans/media more stuff to talk about.
c) Anything that keeps baseball in the forefront of conversation is a good thing.

— Market the game better. How?
a) Create an NFL Films-type group that produces a Hard Knocks show where we can see some of the inner workings of baseball. It would be great.
b) Imagine last cuts in spring training? Would be good television.
c) Trade negotiations at the deadline? It would be like watching Moneyball all over again.
d) Show Winter League games from Central America.
e) Get rid of all TV blackouts; you WANT people to watch baseball.

— Geographic realignment. Why?
a) Create more local rivalries— Padres TV guys were complaining that every time they visit Dodger Stadium, they pass thru Anaheim, yet they rarely play the Angels. 

b) More rivalries mean bigger crowds, better TV ratings, more $$$
c) Reduce travel costs.
e) All five California teams in one division; those teams would play 119 of their 162 games in California.

— Market ALL the teams, not just New York, Boston and the Dodgers.
a) Every team has to appear on Sunday Night baseball every so often.
b) Mike Trout is really good; put the Angels on national TV more. 

c) Houston/San Diego are big cities; show the Astros/Padres more on national TV. 

— Make Wild Card playoffs best-of-3. One game just doesn’t cut it; you fight for six months to make the playoffs, then lose one game and you’re out. 2 out of 3 would be better, plus it gives the other playoff teams a few days to rest up for their playoffs.

— Showing games from Japan/Korea in the mornings wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

Basketball
— Let kids go straight from high school to the NBA, the way it was when Lebron James was in high school. Kids going to college for one year is a farce.

— They’ve turned college basketball into a glorified version of AAU; players transfer at the drop of a hat. Kid at a mid-major makes two layups in a row, he wants to play in the ACC. Not too sure how to fix it, but having obvious pro prospects skip college altogether would help.

— Shorten NBA playoff series, make series best-of-5, increase the drama.  Upsets now and then are a good thing, like the NCAA tournament.

— I’m curious to see how this play-in tournament is going to work. It’ll shorten the regular season by four games

— Big East should host their conference tournament at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse one year, the gym where they filmed the end of Hoosiers. You have Butler in your league, take advantage of it.

Football
— No more Thursday Night Football, except for Week 1 and Thanksgiving. Instead, they should have Monday night doubleheaders, 7:00/10:30 kickoffs. It would be popular. Football wasn’t meant to be played on three days’ rest.

— Add a second bye week for each NFL team, play a 19-week schedule with 17 games, and have the Super Bowl on Sunday of Presidents’ Day weekend, when everyone is off on Monday.

— Add the AAF’s onside kick rule, when instead of an onside kick, the kicking team gets the ball on their own 35-yard line, 4th-and-15. They get the first down the keep the ball; the onside kick rule they use now isn’t good. Too hard for a recovery by the kicking team.

— If a kickoff goes thru the goal posts, the kicking team gets one point.

— Higher seed in playoffs chooses their opponent in playoffs; they do this in the G-League and it is a good idea. Would make for a good TV show when they choose their opponents.

— College football needs to change their recruiting calendars, to end the insanity of the coaching carousel before bowl season. What happened this fall was embarrassing, schools throwing $$$ at coaches, just before the early recruiting period.

Too many bowl games with lame duck coaches and quarterbacks transferring as soon as they’re not the starter anymore. 

— College football playoffs should be 12 teams; cut out some of these low-level bowl games which mean nothing.

These are just suggestions, but they would improve things.
What do you think? Have any ideas? 

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

13) Pittsburgh Steelers social media has been buzzing this week; the Steelers are 7-7-1 with two weeks left, Ben Roethlisberger looks to be retiring, things aren’t looking up in Steel City.

Some fans are clamoring for Mike Tomlin to be fired; the guy has never had a losing season. Meanwhile, Bill Cowher was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer. 

A comparison:
Bill Cowher:
regular season 149-90-1
playoffs 12-9
Super Bowl 1-1

Mike Tomlin:
regular season 152-84-2
playoffs 8-8
Super Bowl 1-1

Looks pretty similar to me. 

12) Last seven weeks, teams are 7-0 SU/ATS the week after playing the Denver Broncos. Denver played the Raiders last week. 

11) Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Josh Giddey had a game last week where he grabbed ten rebounds, dished out 10 assists, but didn’t score any points. None. Zero, Bupkis.

He’s the first player with a double-double on zero points since Norm Van Lier in 1971.

10) Auburn 70, LSU 55:
— First loss in 13 games for LSU.
— Auburn sprinted out to a 21-4 lead.
— LSU shot 28.6% for the game. 

9) Alabama 73, Tennessee 68:
— Tennessee played without two starters.
— Teams combined to make only 14-60 3-pointers.
— Gurley scored 20 points in 32:00 off bench for Alabama. 

8) Air Force 49, Utah State 47:
— Falcons were a 13-point home underdog in their Mountain West opener.
— Bad loss for 9-5 Utah State (now has losses to teams #198/#278)

7) Oklahoma 47, Oregon 32:
— Sooners led 30-3 at halftime, coasted to an easy win. 

— Oklahoma ran ball for 322 yards.
— Bob Stoops’ son Drake caught a TD pass.
— Favorites have covered last nine bowl games. 

6) Clemson 20, Iowa State 13:
— Clemson converted 9-18 third down plays.
— This snaps 12-game bowl losing streak for ACC teams.
— Cheez-Its make enough $$$ to sponsor a bowl? Never liked them much. 

5) Maryland 54, Virginia Tech 10:
— Maryland opened scoring with a 92-yard punt return.
— Terps outscored Va Tech 30-0 in second half.
— Taulia Tagovailoa (Tua’s brother) was 20-24/265 passing.

4) NFL tidbits:
— Sam Darnold will start at QB for Carolina this week.
— Sam Ehlinger (no NFL passes) will start for the Colts if Carson Wentz doesn’t.
— Vikings’ WR Adam Thielen (ankle) is out this week. 

3) I belong to AARP; you can save some money by belonging (15% off every time you eat at Denny’s, for example), so the AARP Magazine comes to my house every month. 

Felt really old this week when the magazine came and Michael J Fox was on the cover; Alex Keaton is over 55 too? I think George Clooney was on last month’s cover.

Oy. 

2) Former Seattle Mariners’ 3B Kyle Seager retired Wednesday; he hit 35 homers LY, knocked in 101 runs, but hit only .212, with a .285 OB%.

Seager played his entire 11-year big league career with the Mariners. 

1) Sports handicapping has never been easy, but the COVID era has made it way harder; you never know who is going to play, from game-to-game. Right now, there are five NBA coaches on the COVID list.

Handicapping bowls has always been kind of random; which team is motivated to win, what players/coaches have one foot out the door to their next destination. Throw in the COVID issues and it is often a guessing game. Proceed at your own ris

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

13) Strange Stat of the Day: NFL quarterbacks who went to Notre Dame have lost their last 24 starts; last time a Notre Dame QB won an NFL game was Brady Quinn, in 2012. 

12) Miami Dolphins are first NFL team ever to win seven games in a row and also lose seven games in a row, both in the same season.

11) Saw a clip on Twitter this week that showed Steph Curry making 105 three-point shots in a row, which is freakin’ impressive. He might be the greatest shooter ever.

Curry’s success has done a lot to improve basketball, making it cool for kids to work on their shooting. Passing/shooting makes for attractive basketball; the Warriors do lot of that, and now teams all over the country have been doing more of that. 

10) Colts’ QB Carson Wentz isn’t vaccinated, now he has COVID and is likely to miss Sunday’s game against the Raiders. No bueno, unless you root for the Raiders.

Wentz is being paid $15.4M in base salary this year and also got a $10M signing bonus; as one of the most important people working for a franchise worth around $3B, you’d think he would get the vaccine, but no. 

Getting your vaccine shots is like wearing a seat belt; you might get in a car accident, but you’re way more likely to survive it. This isn’t a political issue, it is a medical one.

Sam Ehlinger will be the Colts’ QB if Wentz doesn’t play; he’s taken 18 snaps in three games of mop-up duty, but hasn’t thrown his first NFL pass yet. 

9) Boise State/Miami backed out of their bowl games, so Washington State-Central Michigan will face each other in the Sun Bowl in El Paso Saturday. 

8) Air Force 31, Louisville 28:
— Air Force had TD passes of 61-64 yards, which is unlike them.
— Falcons completed 9-10 passed, for 225 yards. Go figure.
— Louisville ran a kickoff back 100 yards for a TD.
— ACC teams slip to 4-14 SU, 5-13 ATS in their last 18 bowls.
— Flyboys finish a very successful season 10-3. 

7) San Diego State won its bowl game last week 38-24 over Texas-San Antonio; Aztecs’ QB Lucas Johnson threw threw for 333 yards and three TD’s. Aztecs finished the season 12-2, everyone is happy, right?

Not so much; Johnson entered the transfer portal Tuesday. Very curious where he will play his last year of college football. It just seems like teams are almost openly poaching players off of other rosters. 

6) Carolina Panthers gave coach Matt Rhule $62M for seven years? Why?

Rhule went 47-43 as a college coach (Temple/Baylor); going 28-23 at Temple was impressive- they don’t win a lot at Temple. He went 1-11 his first year at Baylor, 11-3 his third/final year.

If Carolina were to fire Rhule after this season, it would be an expensive buyout, but Panthers owner David Tepper is the NFL’s wealthiest owner ($13B) so he can afford it. 

5) Minnesota Vikings’ last 12 games were all decided by eight or less points. 

4) When the TV show Law and Order started in 1990, the District Attorney character’s name was Adam Schiff, played by Steven Hill. 

Still strikes me as weird how today, 31 years later, one of our most prominent Congressmen is also named Adam Schiff. Weird coincidence. 

3) Long time ago, 2004 or so, I got to watch a Chiefs-Giants preseason game from the press box at Giants Stadium. Good way to watch a game.

Before the game, they have a free buffet for the press (yes, this website is considered press) and I was on line to eat- the Chiefs radio crew was right behind me. 

I actually felt guilty that I was on line in front of Len Dawson, the Chiefs QB who led them to two of the first four Super Bowls. Not guilty enough to give up my spot on line, though.

That was a fun night; also met Dick Vermeil and Al Saunders that night; they were both coaches for the Rams when they won the Super Bowl a few years before that. All in all, a fun night.

2) If you have Showtime, Billions makes its season premiere January 23; the Ray Donovan movie premieres January 14.

1) RIP to coach John Madden, who passed away Tuesday at age 85.

Madden coached the Raiders for ten years, going 112-39-7. Oakland won Super Bowl XI over the Vikings. He was a Hall of Fame coach who became even bigger as a broadcaster and spokesman for the wildly popular video game bearing his name.

RIP, coach. 

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

13) Miami 20, New Orleans 3:
— Miami scored on a pick-6 in first 5:00 of game.
— Dolphins outgained New Orleans 259-164.
— Miami moves up to the #7-seed in the AFC.
— Miami is first team ever to win 7 in row, lose 7 in row in same year.

— Saints’ first four drives: 13 plays, 7 yards, no first downs.
— New Orleans was 0-12 on third down.
— Over last 14 years, Saints started five QB’s; this season, they’ve started four. 

12) ACC plays its first bowl Tuesday, when Louisville/NC State take the field; over last two seasons, ACC teams are 4-13 SU in bowl games, 5-12 ATS (2-5 as favorites, 3-7 as dogs). 

11) Last five games, Pittsburgh Steelers were outscored 97-9 in the first half.

Steelers offensive line coach Adrian Klemm left Pittsburgh to take the same job at Oregon, not exactly a positive career move, which makes you believe he was getting fired from the Steelers, so they let him leave gracefully. 

10) As a basketball stats nerd, I’m a big believer that assists for 3-pointers should count as 1.5 assists, and that assist opportunities that lead to made free throws should count for half an assist apiece. Its a more accurate way of telling who the best playmakers are. 

9) Nick Foles is the Bears’ 3rd-string QB, but he’s won a Super Bowl, has a 33-29 career won-lost record in the NFL. Why didn’t Chicago trade him for draft picks? Lot of teams could use him, and the Bears could sure as hell use the extra draft picks.

Think about it; how many current starting QB’s is he better than? 

8) This week in the NFL, just this week, teams went for it on fourth down 54 times, getting the first down 34 times (63%). 

7) NFL flip-flopped start times for two games this week; Rams-Ravens moves from 4:25 to 1:00, while Saints-Panthers becomes a 4:25 game. 

Does this mean Lamar Jackson isn’t going to play? 

6) NFL turnover knowledge:
— Last four games, Green Bay is +9 in turnovers.
— Last three games, Raiders are minus-10 in turnovers.
— Last seven games, Kansas City is +14 in turnovers. 

5) Western Michigan 52, Nevada 24:
— Broncos ran a kickoff back 100 yards for a TD.
— Total yardage was 514-242.
— MAC teams improve to 2-5 in bowls this year.
— Nevada’s coach bolted, their QB bolted; this was 31-10 at halftime.
— Favorites have rallied, are now 8-8 ATS in bowls this year. 

4) Apparently the Saints called Drew Brees, Philip Rivers last week, seeing if they were interested in making a comeback. They weren’t, so Ian Book/Blake Bortles were the Saints’ QB’s Monday night. 

3) LA Clippers star Paul George hurt his right elbow, is out 3-4 weeks. 

2) USC is #7 in the latest college basketball poll, highest they’ve been ranked since 1975. 

1) Seeing those commercials for Olympic skiing on TV, I’m reminded of the three times I went skiing in my life. I despise cold weather, hate snow; skiing wasn’t my thing, but the bar in the ski lodge was fun.

As for the actual skiing, I enjoyed the chair lift; after that, it was all downhill!!! 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Buffalo 33, New England 21
— Bills are now tied for first in AFC East, with Patriots.
— Buffalo was 6-12 on third down, Patriots 1-10
— Last five games, Bills outscored opponents 78-32 in second half.
— Over is 5-2 in last seven Buffalo games.

— Patriots lost last two games, giving up 27-33 points.
— Jones was 14-32 passing for only 139 yards, two INT’s.
— Patriots are +16 in turnovers in their wins, minus-9 in losses.
— New England is 5-11 ATS last 16 games with spread of 3 or less.

LA Rams 30, Minnesota 23:
— Rams clinch 4th playoff berth in five years under McVay.
— Before McVay, Rams had gone 13 years with no playoff berths.
— Michel ran ball 27 times fir 131 yards and a TD.
— Powell ran a punt back 61 yards for a TD to make score 20-10.
— Under McVay, LA is 8-3-1 ATS as a road underdog.

— Rams were 7-14 on third down, Minnesota 2-12.
— Vikings had 12-play, 84-yard drive that ended with red zone INT.
— Minnesota’s first TD was a 2-yard drive after an INT.
— Over is 6-2 in Vikings’ last eight games.
— Minnesota has been outscored 115-31 in last 2:00 of each half.

Houston 41, LA Chargers 29:
— Horrific loss for 8-7 Chargers, who are 4-6 in last ten games.
— LA falls to #9 seed in AFC with this loss.
— Over is 7-2 in Chargers’ last nine games.
— Chargers converted 37 of last 74 third down plays.
— Last 11 games, Chargers allowed 30.6 points/game.

— Texans won their last two games, scoring 30-41 points.
— Burkhead ran ball for 149 yards (6.8 yards/carry).
— Rookie QB Mills averaged 8.9 yards/pass attempt.
— Houston is +10 in turnovers in its wins (minus-8 in losses).

Cincinnati 41, Baltimore 21
— Ravens lost last four games, giving up 28.8 ppg
— Bengals led 31-14 at halftime.
— Last three games, opponents are 21-44 on third down 
— TE Andrews caught eight passes for 125 yards and a TD.

— Burrow threw for 525 yards and four TD’s.
— Bengals in first half: 5 drives, 34 plays, 333 yards, 31 points.
— Bengals are 8-1 scoring 24+ points, 1-5 otherwise.
— Over is 6-2-1 in last nine Bengal games.

Tampa Bay 32, Carolina 6:
— Vaughn scored Bucs’ first TD with a 55-yard run.
— Tampa Bay outgained Carolina, 391-273.
— Under is 5-2 in Tampa Bay’s last seven road games.
— Buccaneers are 6-3 ATS in last nine visits to Charlotte.

— Carolina lost 10 of last 12 games after a 3-0 start.
— Carolina is 0-10 if it allows more than 14 points.
— Panthers are 2-8-1 ATS last 11 games as home underdogs.
— Last 11 games, Panthers were outscored 167-83 in second half.
— These teams play again in two weeks.

Philadelphia 34, NY Giants 10:
— Game was 3-3 at halftime.
— Eagles outgained Giants, 324-192.
— Giants lost five of six games since their bye (1-5 ATS)
— Giants have been outscored 90-19 in last 2:00 of each half.

— Eagles’ first TD was on a 21-yard drive.
— Philly scored two TD’s 0:21 apart early in 4th quarter.
— Philly held Giants to 2.3 yards/pass attempt.
— Fromm was 6-17 for 25 yards in his first NFL start.
— Eagles won 14 of last 17 series games.

Atlanta 20, Detroit 16:
— Starting QB Goff (COVID) didn’t play.
— Lions are 1-5-1 in games decided by 4 or fewer points.
— Detroit covered six of its last seven games.
— Ten of last thirteen Detroit games stayed under the total.
— Lions are 8-2 ATS in domed stadiums this season.

— Falcons picked off a pass on their 1-yard line with 0:33 left.
— Detroit outgained the Falcons, 338-254.
— Atlanta is 6-2 if it allows 25 or less points, 1-6 if it gives up 26+. 
— Atlanta is 4-2 ATS as a favorite this season.

NJ Jets 26, Jacksonville 21:
— Jacksonville had ball on Jets 1-yard line in last 0:30, didn’t score.
— Jaguars first three drives: 35 plays, 161 yards, only 12 points.
— Jaguars lost seven in row, 28 of their last 30 games.
— Jaguars are 0-6 ATS the last six weeks.

— This was first time Jets were favored in last 27 games.
— Rookie QB Wilson ran 52 yards for Jets’ first TD.
— Jets ran a kickoff back 102 yards for their second TD.
— Over is 9-3 in last twelve Jet games.

Chicago 25, Seattle 24:
— Chicago scored TD, got game-winning 2-point conversion with 1:01 left.
— Bears are 3-2 with Dalton/Foles starting, 2-8 with rookie QB Fields.
— Seahawks led 24-14 after three quarters.
— Bears converted 7-14 on third down, Seattle 3-10.

— Seahawks lost five of their last seven games.
— Seattle ran ball for 170 yards, were outscored 18-7 in second half.
— Penny ran ball 17 times for 135 yards on a snowy day in Seattle.
— Seattle lost five of seven home games SU this season.

Kansas City 36, Pittsburgh 10:
— Steelers in first half: 27 plays, 109 yards, no points.
— Kansas City led 23-0 at halftime.
— Steelers have been outgained eight games in a row.
— Last six games, Steelers were outscored 114-19 in first half.
— Pittsburgh covered once in last six visits to Arrowhead.

— Chiefs’ first four drives: 36 plays, 250 yards, 24 points.
— Chiefs won last eight games, covering last six.
— Kansas City converted 25 of last 51 third down plays.
— Chiefs have 20 takeaways in last seven games (+14)
— Kansas City is 8-0 if it allows 17 or less points, 3-4 if they allow more.

Las Vegas 17, Denver 13:
— Denver scored 10 points in a 0:22 span late in first half.
— Broncos are 1-7 ATS TY in games with spread of 3 or less.
— Denver is 6-1 if it scores 23+ points, 1-7 if it doesn’t.   
— 12 of 15 Denver games stayed under the total.
— Broncos are 0-6 ATS in last six road series games.

— Raiders outgained Denver, 342-158
— Jacobs carried ball 27 times for 129 yards.
— Las Vegas was 6-12 on third down, Broncos 1-10
— Raiders won last five meetings (4-1 ATS)
— Last eight games, Raiders are minus-13 in turnovers (4-17)

Dallas 56, Washington 14:
— Dallas outgained Washington, 497-257.
— Cowboys converted 10-15 on 3rd down, averaged 8.6 yards/pass attempt.
— Washington covered once in last five visits to Dallas.
— Washington is 8-18-2 ATS last 28 games coming off a loss.
— Last three games, Washington converted 12-40 on third down.

— Cowboys scored a TD on four of first five drives.
— Dallas scored TD’s on a pick-6, blocked punt.
— Dallas won/covered its last four games.
— Last three games, Dallas led 24-0/15-3/42-7 at halftime.
— Cowboys has outscored foes 85-9 in last 2:00 of each half.

If the NFL playoffs started today (they don’t):
#1 seeds— Kansas City, Green Bay
#2’s— Tennessee, Dallas
#3’s— Cincinnati, LA Rams
#4’s— Buffalo, Tampa Bay
#5’s— Indianapolis, Arizona
#6’s— New England, San Francisco
#7’s— Baltimore, Philadelphia

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a busy Christmas Day……..

13) Green Bay 24, Cleveland 22:
— Mayfield threw four INT’s on ten drives.
— Cleveland is 3-6 in games decided by six or fewer points.
— Last five Cleveland games stayed under the total.
— Since his debut in 2018, Mayfield has thrown 54 INTs, more than any QB during that time.

— Browns outgained Green Bay, 408-311.
— Packers were 3-10 on third down, Cleveland 7-12.
— Browns missed PAT after their first TD, 2-point play after 2nd TD.
— In their last five games, Packers scored 33.4 ppg

12) Indianapolis 22, Arizona 16:
— Colts ran ball for 126 yards, even with four starting OL guys out.
— Taylor carried ball for 108 yards; Colts averaged 7.3 yards/pass attempt.
— Last seven weeks, Indy led each game by 6+ points at halftime.
— Colts won six of their last seven games.

— Cardinals lost last three games, giving up 30-30-22 points.
— Arizona missed two FG’s and an extra point.
— Murray ran for 74 of Arizona’s 133 rushing yards.
— Cardinals are 3-5 ATS last eight games (6-1 ATS first seven).

11) Kurt Warner’s movie American Underdog opened in theaters Saturday; NFL Network helped promote it by showing a replay of Super Bowl XXXIV Friday night. Still get nervous watching replays of that game; its been 21 years, what a fun night that was. 

10) Rams led that Super Bowl 16-0 in third quarter, blew the lead, then won it 23-16 with a TD right after the 2:00 warning; years later, when the Falcons blew a 27-3 lead to New England in the Super Bowl, I remember sitting there, knowing what every Falcons’ fan had to be thinking. Had to be a horrible night for them.  

9) Baltimore Ravens are down to one healthy QB for their game with the Bengals; 35-year old Josh Johnson, who has a 1-7 record as an NFL starter, will get the nod. Tyler Huntley (COVID) and Lamar Jackson (ankle) are both apparently out this week.

Josh Johnson played college football at U of San Diego (not San Diego State), where his coach was Jim Harbaugh, John’s brother.

8) Saints signed veteran QB Blake Bortles as a backup for rookie Ian Book; Bortles has a 24-49 record as a starter, but he did lead Jacksonville to a playoff berth in 2017. Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian are both out for Monday’s game. 

7) Miami Dolphins are the team that appears to have the most salary cap room heading into the next offseason. 

6) Final of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawai’i between Stanford-Vanderbilt was cancelled after Stanford’s program had COVID issues. 

5) New York Knicks haven’t won consecutive games since October 28-30; they’re 3-9 ATS this season in the game following a win. 

4) Houston Cougars lost two of their best basketball players this week; Marcus Sasser (toe) is out for the year, and Tramon Mark (shoulder) is out for the foreseeable future. Cougars were a top 10 team before those injuries; now? Not so much. 

3) Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman tore his rotator cuff; he may or may not have the surgery after the season, depending on how painful the next 7-10 days are. He injured his left shoulder when he jumped into a drill during practice and collided with a player. 

2) Penn State’s football team heads into its bowl game 7-5; they’re 0-4 in games decided by four or fewer points. 

1) The John Madden documentary was interesting Saturday; the Madden video game has posted over $7B in revenue over the years. Thats BILLION, with a B. People love their video games. 

Saturday’s Den: Merry Christmas- here are some NBA trends…….

Nothing says Merry Christmas like a set of NBA trends.

Thanks to everyone for reading this site; I appreciate it.

Hawks (15-16):
— 3-6 SU last nine games.
— won four of last six road games.
— 0-8-1 ATS last nine HF
— 3-6 ATS as a road underdog.

Celtics (16-16):
— lost last three home games.
— 4-1 ATS last five road games.
— 5-2 ATS as a road favorite.
— under 9-3-1 last 13 road games

Nets (21-9):
— 4-1 SU last five games.
— 1-5 ATS last six home favorite
— 8-6-1 ATS on the road.
— under 9-6 at home

Hornets (17-17):
— covered last eight home games.
— lost nine of last 13 games SU
— 8-10 ATS as a road underdog.
— over 7-3 last ten home games

Bulls (19-10):
— won six of last eight games.
— 9-5 ATS at home.
— 6-2 ATS as a road favorite.
— six of last nine games went over.

Cavaliers (19-13):
— covered 14 of their last 15 games.
— 10-3 SU last thirteen games
— 7-0 ATS as a home favorite
— under 5-0 last five games

Mavericks (15-16):
— Lost 12 of last 18 games SU.
— 4-6 ATS as home favorites
— 4-1 ATS as a road favorite.
— Under 9-2 last eleven games

Nuggets (15-16):
— Lost 12 of their last 18 games
— 5-9 ATS as a favorite
— over 15-3 last 18 games. 
— 1-4 ATS if they played night before.

Pistons (5-26):
— Lost 16 of last 17 games SU
— 3-2 ATS if they played night before
— over 6-2 last eight home games.
— over 7-3 last ten games.

Warriors (26-6):
— won seven of last nine games SU
— 14-3-1 ATS as home favorites.
— under 10-4-1 last 15 games overall
— under 5-2-1 last eight home games

Rockets (10-23):
— lost six of last seven games SU.
— covered six of last eight hone games.
— over five of last seven home games
— over 10 of last 13 games overall.  

Pacers (14-19):
— 6-2 ATS as a road underdog
— 8-5 ATS as a home favorite,
— 0-7 ATS as a road favorite
— under 10-2 last twelve road games

Clippers (17-15):
— lost three of last four games 
— under 7-2 last nine games.
— 7-11 ATS as a home favorite.
— 0-4 ATS if they played night before

Lakers (16-17):
— lost last four games SU
— 4-10 ATS as a home favorite.
— 1-5 ATS as a road favorite.
— under 5-1 last six road games

Grizzlies (19-14):
— lost last three games SU.
— won/covered six of last seven on road.
— 6-4 ATS as road underdogs.
— over 12-7 at home

Heat (20-13):
— won six of last eight games SU
— over 7-2-1 last ten home games.
— 4-0 ATS as home underdogs.
— 3-7 ATS as as road favorites

Bucks (21-13):
— won five of last nine games SU.
— 5-8 ATS as home favorites, 8-3 ATS as road favorites
— 2-7 ATS as underdogs.
— six of last seven games stayed under.

Timberwolves (15-17):
— won four of last six games SU
— 7-4 ATS last 11 home games
— 7-4 ATS last 11 road games
— over 10-3 last 13 games

Pelicans (12-21):
— won five of last six games SU
— 6-10 ATS as road underdogs
— 8-6 ATS at home
— under 11-7 on road

Knicks (14-18):
— lost nine of last 12 games SU.
— over 5-1 last six road games
— 5-11 ATS at home 
— 3-8 ATS as an underdog. 

Thunder (11-20):
— won three of last four games
— 5-0 ATS last five games overall.  
— 9-5 ATS as home underdog, 10-5 as road dog
— over 6-2 last eight road games

Magic (7-26):
— lost seven of last eight home games SU
— under 7-4 last 11 home games 
— 3-10 ATS as a home underdog
— 8-5 ATS last 13 road games. 

76ers (16-16):
— 2-7 ATS last nine games
— last five of last seven home games SU
— 4-10 ATS at home
— last five home games stayed under total.

Suns (26-5):
— won last five games SU
— 5-2 ATS last seven games
— 14-12 ATS as a favorite
— under 8-4 last 12 home games 

Trailblazers (13-19):
— lost 11 of last 14 games SU
— 3-11 ATS on the road
— 9-6 ATS as a home favorite/
— 2-8 ATS as an underdog.
— under 4-1 last five home games

Kings (13-20):
— lost six of last eight games SU
— 9-12 ATS at home
— over 5-2 last seven road games
— 2-4 ATS if they played night before.

Spurs (13-18):
— 10-4 ATS last fourteen games
— 9-4 ATS as road underdogs.
— covered six of last seven road games.
— over 12-2-1 at home

Raptors (14-15):
— 6-1 ATS last seven games
— 0-4 ATS as home underdogs, 7-5 as road dogs.
— over 4-1 last five games
— 4-1 ATS if they played night before

Jazz (22-9):
— won 10 of last 12 games SU
— over 8-3 last 11 games
— 8-5 ATS as road favorite
— under 8-4-1 on the road

Wizards (17-15):
— lost seven of last ten games 
— 4-1 ATS as home underdogs, 5-8 as road dogs.
— 1-6 ATS as road favorites
— over 9-3-1 last thirteen games. 

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

13) Hawai’i has opted out of its own bowl game, due to COVID/other stuff, and Memphis is obviously already there- Friday night’s Hawai’i Bowl is off. Too bad. Apparently 30 people in the Hawai’i program tested positive for COVID- they also lost some transfers.

Lost opportunity for both teams; there are no sports on TV Friday night, none, so three hours of Memphis-Houston exposure would’ve had to help both teams’ recruiting efforts.

12) Titans 20, 49ers 17:
— San Francisco led game 10-0 at halftime.
— 49ers drove 95 yards to tie game 17-17 with 2:20 left.
— Titans kicked 41-yard FG at 0:00 for the win.
— 49ers are 2-6 SU when they score fewer than 30 points.

— Titans’ WR Brown caught 11 passes for 145 yards and a TD.
— 49ers outgained Tennessee, 389-278.
— Titans were 9-16 on third down, San Francisco 3-8.
— Tennessee is 18-10 ATS last 28 games as an underdog.

11) A reminder that Titans’ QB Ryan Tannehill was a WR his first two years at Texas A&M, but was moved to QB by Aggies coach Mike Sherman, whose son-in-law is Zac Taylor, who now coaches the Cincinnati Bengals.

My lasting memory of Tannehill will always be HBO’s Hard Knocks, when Tannehill was a rookie in Miami. He is sitting in the QB room with Matt Moore, one of the other QB’s, and Tannehill says he doesn’t know who the other three teams in the AFC East are. 

“How do you not know that???” Moore was incredulous. Good television.

10) All NFL teams take a team picture every season, but the Indianapolis Colts don’t post that year’s picture in their facility, unless the team makes the playoffs.

9) Huge tip of the cap to NFL Films, the NFL and HBO for the in-season Hard Knocks show; very good, lot more to work with than during training camp. Colts are cooperating by going on a run while the show has been airing.

8) Major League Baseball really needs to imitate what NFL Films does; they need to expose their game to more and more people, so people can see how great the game is.

Imagine a Hard Knocks-type show in spring training? Showing guys getting sent down to AAA or released, then showing the inner workings of a team for part of a regular season?

This would be a huge success, would expose the game to younger viewers. Every sport needs to grow its fanbase; if you get arrogant, that fanbase could shrink.

7) Missouri QB Connor Bazelak entered the transfer portal after Missouri lost 24-22 to Army in their bowl game (Bazelak didn’t play in that game). Bazelak has two years of eligibility left.

6) Vanderbilt 69, BYU 67:
— Scotty Pippen Jr scored 23 for the winners.
— Vandy-Stanford for the tournament title Saturday night.
— BYU is 4-3 in its last seven games, after a 6-0 start.

5) Stanford 79, Liberty 76:
— Liberty led this game 28-15 early on.
— Stanford made 12-20 on arc, but missed 10 foul shots.
— Darius McGhee scored 41 of Liberty’s 76 points.

4) Indiana Pacers are 0-7 ATS this season as a road favorite. 

3) Sounds like rookie Ian Book will start at QB for New Orleans Monday night against the Dolphins; not even sure if they have a backup QB, with Siemian/Hill both out. Would they use RB Alvin Kamara as a Wildcat QB if they needed an emergency QB?

2) 49ers’ loss Thursday night puts Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs; Dallas/Green Bay are only two teams that have clinched a playoff spot.

1) Back in 1972, Robert Irsay traded the Los Angeles Rams franchise to Carroll Rosenbloom; he got the Baltimore Colts in return. 11 years later, Irsay moved the Colts to Indianapolis.

It would take too long to detail the drama the Rams franchise went through after that deal, with Rams moving from LA to Anaheim to St Louis, Rosenbloom’s widow’s hometown. After she died, they got smart and moved back to Los Angeles a few years ago.

Could you imagine if a franchise swap like that happened today? 

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

13) Texas A&M opted out of the Gator Bowl Wednesday; they’re down to 38 scholarship players for various reasons, so they bailed out on a game with a $5M payday.

Rumor has it that four teams have already contacted Wake Forest about the possibility of replacing the Aggies and playing Wake in the Gator Bowl- according to the rules they have for this stuff, Rutgers appears to be at the front of the line to play in the game.

12) Army 24, Missouri 22:
— Army kicked a 41-yard FG at 0:00 for the win.
— Mizzou led 16-7 at halftime.
— Tigers scored TD with 1:11 left to grab a 22-21 lead.
— Cadets were 6-9/95 passing; they finish the year 9-4.
 
11) So far this bowl season, underdogs are 7-5 ATS. Over is 9-3.

10) Wyoming scored 52 points in their bowl win and only threw 11 passes; they ran ball for 404 yards, beating a Kent State squad that ran ball for 319 yards, threw for 337 more. You gain 656 yards and lose by two TD’s, Kent State needs to recruit lot of defensive players.

9) Teams from Conference USA are 3-4 SU/4-3 ATS in bowl games this month; the thing is, they were the underdog in all seven games.

8) This is from Anthony Reinhard on Twitter:
There were 67 touchdowns in 16 NFL games last week; 4.2 TD’s/game is the 5th-lowest for any week since 2012.

7) Last three games, Chicago Bears are minus-9 in turnovers; starting a rookie QB is likely to cost coach Chuck Nagy his job. Nagy made the mistake of going 12-4 his first year with the Bears— it was all downhill from there (8-8, 8-8, now 4-10).

The trick is go to 4-10 your first year, and save that 12-4 season for when your contract is up for re-negotiation. If only it was that simple.

6) Genius alert: A 24-year old guy from New Jersey has admitted to impersonating a New England Patriots player in order to get “family and friends” Super Bowl rings.

The genius sold three rings with Tom Brady’s last name on them after he impersonated a different Patriots player in order to buy them. He pled guilty to one count of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.

Oy.

5) If you’re voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame, how do you not vote for Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds?

4) Oakland A’s named Mark Kotsay their new manager; A’s had an excellent manager, but they let Bob Melvin bolt to San Diego, probably because they’re headed for a downturn and they’ll save a few bucks having a rookie manager instead of a really good one.

3) Major league baseball salaries went down 4% last year; I’m sure that’ll go over well during the negotiations for the new labor agreement. The elite players are still breaking the bank, but guys in the middle tier of rosters aren’t making as much these days.

No one is starving for sure, but these are competitive people and competitive people don’t like to lose at anything. 

2) Preseason Player of the Year in the SEC? Scottie Pippen Jr, who plays for Jerry Stackhouse at Vanderbilt.

1) Tennessee 77, Arizona 73— This score will carry some weight on Selection Sunday; Vols jumped out to a 26-11 lead, Arizona tied the game twice in the second half, but the Vols hand Arizona its first loss. Credit to the Wildcats for going to Knoxville for this game, not playing on a neutral court. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

13) Philadelphia 27, Washington 17:
— Washington was outgained 519-237.
— Newly-acquired QB Gilbert was 20-31/194 in his 2nd NFL start.
— Gibson gained only 65 yards on 21 touches.
— Eagles averaged 9.7 yards/pass attempt.
— Washington is 8-17-1 ATS last 26 games coming off a loss.

— Eagles turned ball over on their first two drives.
— Philly is in 3-way tie for last Wild Card slot in NFC.
— Eagles won five of last seven games (6-3-1 ATS last ten)
— Philly is first team since 1985 with 175+ rushing yards in 7 straight games.
— Eagles won seven of last eight series games (5-2-1 ATS)

12) LA Rams 20, Seattle 10:
— Rams won last three games, giving up 13.3 ppg.
— Cooper Kupp caught nine passes for 136 yards, two TD’s.
— Rams outgained Seattle, 332-214.
— LA/Arizona are tied for first place in NFC West. 

— Seahawks were 3-11 on third down, Rams 6-12.
— Seattle is 5-1 if it scores 28+ points, 0-8 if it doesn’t.
— Seattle lost four of its last five road games.
— First losing season since 2011 for the Seahawks.
 
11) Brock Huard was the analyst on the LA-Seattle game; he deserves to be one of the voices on Sunday night or Monday night NFL games. He was a quarterback; he is smart, makes his point without blabbing about himself all the time. Underrated analyst.

10) San Diego State 38, Tex-San Antonio 24:
— Aztecs racked up 31 first downs on 76 plays.
— San Diego State averaged 9.3 yards/pass attempt.
— Rough end to a great season for the 12-2 Roadrunners.

9) Wyoming 52, Kent State 38:
— Wyoming QB Williams ran for 200 yards, 4 TD’s; he was 9-11/127 with a TD passing.
— Total yardage: Kent 656-531.
— This was Kent’s 2nd bowl in three years, just their 4th bowl ever.

8) I’ve heard people complain that there are too many bowls, they don’t mean much, and on and on…..the thing is, ESPN wouldn’t show so many bowl games if they didn’t make money.

Read on the Interweb few days ago that last year, 2.1M people watched the Camellia Bowl, that’s the freakin’ Camellia Bowl (Buffalo 17, Marshall 10).

People like football.

7) Davidson 79, Alabama 78:
— Davidson was 12-24 on the arc, Alabama 12-36.
— Wildcats are very well-coached; they’ve won eight games in a row.
— Alabama is 4-3 against top 100 teams.

6) Villanova 71, Xavier 58:
— Xavier led 38-30 at halftime.
— Villanova shot 62% inside the arc.
— Villanova played only six guys more than 4:00.

5) NHL players will not participate in February’s Winter Olympics in China; I’m guessing the NHL will use that time period to make up lot of the regular season games being postponed now because of COVID.

4) There is a high school in the Phoenix area called Sunnyslope High School; that just sounds good. Who wouldn’t want to go to Sunnyslope? I feel warmer just typing that.

3) I’m a firm believer that QB’s/WR’s should get stat credit for pass interference penalties; if Joe Burrow throws a 50-yard bomb to Ja’Marr Chase and they get a PI, why shouldn’t those two get stat credit (a separate category) for those yards?

2) Jets are favored at home this week, just 10th time they’ve been favored in their last 46 home games.

1) USC QB Kevon Slovis is transferring to Pitt, as the epidemic of quarterbacks transferring stays alive. Slovis threw for 7,576 yards in three years at USC; he is from Arizona- the offensive coordinator on his high school team? Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner.

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

13) Raiders 16, Browns 14:
— Interim head coach against an acting head coach; strange times we live in.
— Carlson kicked 48-yard FG at 0:00 for the win.
— Raiders outgained Cleveland 328-236.
— Longest play for Raiders: 19 yards, they were minus-2 in turnovers.

— Cleveland trailed 10-0 at halftime.
— Browns took 14-13 lead with 3:45 left, after an 80-yard drive.
— Chubb ran ball 23 times for 91 yards and a TD.
— Browns were down eight starters because of COVID. 

12) Vikings 17, Bears 9:
— Vikings were +2 in turnovers, ran ball for 132 yards.
— Cook carried ball 28 times for 89 yards.
— Minnesota has been outscored 112-28 in last 2:00 of each half.
— Just 2nd win for Vikings in last seven series games.

— Bears lost seven of their last nine games.
— Five trips to red zone, nine points. Not good.
— Bears’ only TD was on last play of game, garbage time.
— Chicago outgained the Vikings, 370-193. 

11) Why are football coaches becoming game management nitwits?

Sunday in Detroit, down 10-0 with 2:05 left in first half, 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Arizona goes for the touchdown instead of the easy field goal. Why?

To paraphrase my high school Chemistry teacher, it was nonsensical. You need 10 points, which is 7+3. Take the three points and move on- they had a whole second half to get the TD. When you just answer “analytics” anytime someone doubts your approach to game management, you lose your credibility.

When you try/fail on a 2-point conversion or 4th down gamble, it deflates your momentum, something analytics people fail to grasp. This isn’t Strat-O-Matic or fantasy football; the human element can’t be quantified. Sometimes doing old school stuff is the right thing to do.

10) Detroit Lions are a bad team, but they’ve been fun to watch, partially because their coach is, how can I say this……unpredictable. Detroit kicked FG in first quarter Sunday to take 3-0 lead, and they try an onside kick…….in the first quarter. 

Against the Rams earlier this season, Detroit ran two fake punts and also recovered an onside kick- two of those happened in the first 5:00 of the game. Very unusual.

No way Dan Campbell uses analytics, he follows his gut. Lions play hard for him, but if they ever improve and become a contender, I wonder if he’ll continue his sometimes-bizarre tactics.

9) Baltimore Ravens lost their last three games by total of four points, going for two points twice in last minute, when a PAT would’ve tied either game. Coach Harbaugh says injuries on their defense are the reason why they didn’t play for overtime, but Baltimore has a great kicker, maybe the best kicker ever. Going to overtime doesn’t seem like such a bad option.

8) Ravens backup QB Tyler Huntley has played well in relief of the injured Lamar Jackson; someone on the Interweb posted this interesting question:

If Huntley continues to play well, would Baltimore shop Jackson for a boatload of high draft picks, before he breaks the bank with his next contract?

Jackson has a 37-12 regular season record as a starter, 1-3 in playoffs, with Baltimore scoring only 13.5 ppg in those four playoff games. 37-12 is hard to walk away from, but if Jackson does not play well in the playoffs this year, or doesn’t even make the playoffs, what will they do?

Could be an interesting decision for the Ravens’ brass this winter.

7) Colts led New England 17-0 at halftime Saturday night; it was the first time in last 100 games that the Patriots didn’t score in the first half.

6) Tampa Bay got shut out Sunday night, first time since 2006 a Brady-led team was shut out. Back in 2006, Patriots lost 21-0 to Miami, a Dolphin team coached by……..Nick Saban.

5) Sounds like Denver QB Teddy Bridgewater (concussion) won’t play this week, meaning backup Drew Lock (8-10 as an NFL starter) will get the start in Las Vegas.

4) There are 32 college basketball teams on COVID pause, which could mean down the road, we’ll see some scheduling on the fly, with teams scheduling games to improve their rankings with hastily-out together non-conference games. Could be interesting.

3) I spent good part of last weekend binge-watching the old TV series Las Vegas, which ran from 2003-08; I didn’t even know it existed until I stumbled upon it during the pandemic; they had  lot of good guest stars, some weird story lines. Not sure why the E! Channel doesn’t have this show in their normal rotation.

One recurring theme watching this show; if you’re a guy who isn’t a) rich or b) really good looking or c) both (the preferable option), never talk to a woman in Las Vegas.

2) In normal times, I like to go Las Vegas for Christmas week, and Tuesday would’ve been my day to fly there, had I gone this year. As it turns out, the Rams are playing Tuesday night; it would’ve been tight whether I could’ve gotten checked in at the hotel before kickoff.

Few years ago, same thing happened with the A’s playing in a one-game Wild Card playoff; by the time I got to my room, A’s were down a couple runs and the trip was off a to bad start, so guess it worked out well that I’m not traveling Tuesday.

1) With four NFL games Monday/Tuesday, all after dark, three of them in Cleveland, Chicago and Philadelphia, have to credit the hardy fans who bundled up to sit outdoors for 3-4 hours to root their team on.

Myself, I’m not very tough; sitting here in my living room with a blanket on my legs, flipping channels between games while I surf the web. Can’t freakin’ stand cold weather. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Sunday

Detroit 30, Arizona 12:
— First loss in eight road games for Arizona.
— Four trips to red zone, six points. Not good.
— Kirk caught nine passes for 94 yards and a TD.
— Down 10-0 with 2:05 left in half, Arizona went for it on 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line, eschewing an easy FG. They didn’t make it. 

— Detroit scored on six of its ten drives.
— Lions are 5-2 ATS as a home underdog this year.
— Detroit covered five of its last six games.
— Lions are 4-0-1 SU in last five games with Arizona.
— Under is 9-3 in last 12 Detroit games. 

Pittsburgh 19, Tennessee 13:
— Titans turned ball over four times (-4)
— Tennessee’s only TD came on a 25-yard drive.
— Titans led this game 13-3 at halftime.
— Tennessee was 8-18 on 3rd down, Steelers 2-11.
— Titans are 11-20-1 ATS last 32 games with spread of 3 or less.

— Pittsburgh’s first four drives: 14 plays, 35 yards, 2 first downs, no points.
— Steelers started four drives in Titans territory, kicked FG on all four.
— Titans outgained Pittsburgh 318-168.
— Steelers have been outgained seven games in a row.
— Pittsburgh is 6-0-1 SU giving up less than 24 points.

Houston 30, Jacksonville 16:
— Texans ran a kickoff back 98 yards for a TD.
— Houston was 10-18 on 3rd down, Jaguars 3-14.
— 10 of their 13 first downs came on third down conversions.
— Rookie QB Mills gets his first NFL win in eight starts.
— Houston won eight in row, 14 of last 16 series games.

— Jaguars lost six in row, 27 of their last 29 games.
— Jacksonville has nine losses by 10+ points.
— Jaguars have seven TD’s on their last 77 drives.
— Jacksonville has been outscored 123-38 in first half.

Buffalo 31, Carolina 14:
— Panthers’ first five drives: 30 plays, 94 yards, no points.
— Carolina lost nine of last 11 games after a 3-0 start.
— Carolina is 0-9 if it allows more than 14 points.
— Last five Carolina games went over the total.

— Bills had four TD drives, only one longer than 57 yards.
— Buffalo held Panthers to 3.0 yards/pass attempt.
— Bills are 8-4 ATS in last 12 games as home favorites.
— Last four games, Bills outscored opponents 62-18 in second half.

Miami 31, NJ Jets 24:
— Jets in second half: 22 plays, 44 yards, 3 first downs, no points.
— Jets lost six of their last seven games.
— Jets gave up 34.0 ppg in their last nine games.
— Jets lost 10 of last 12 games against the Dolphins.

— Dolphins won last six games (5-1 ATS), giving up 13.2 ppg.
— Miami outscored last five foes 76-30 in second half.
— Miami gave up six TDs on opponents’ last 68 drives.
— Miami is 24-12-3 ATS in last 39 home games.  

Dallas 21, NY Giants 6:
— Cowboys’ two TD drives were 15-29 yards.
— Dallas is 6-2 SU/7-1 ATS on road this season.
— Dallas converted 8-14 third down plays.
— Cowboys won nine of last ten series games.

— Giants won/covered once in their last five games.
— Giants are 7-17 ATS last 24 games as home dogs (3-2 TY).
— Giants have five touchdowns on last 52 drives.
— Giants have been outscored 87-19 in last 2:00 of each half.
— Seven of last eight Giant games stayed under the total.

Green Bay 31, Baltimore 30:
— Packers scored TD on four of first six drives.
— In their last four games, Packers scored 35.8 ppg
— Only nine of their 59 plays came on third down.
— Green Bay is 10-2-1 ATS in its last thirteen games.

— Ravens lost last three games, by total of four points.
— Baltimore scored TD with 0:42 left, went for 2 points and lead, but failed.
— Andrews caught 10 passes for 136 yards, two TD’s.
— Backup QB Huntley threw for 215 yards, ran for 73 more.
— Last six years, Ravens are 6-1 ATS as home underdogs.

San Francisco 31, Atlanta 13:
— Falcons turned ball over on downs 3 times inside 49ers’ 10-yard line.
— Atlanta is 5-2 if it allows 25 or less points, 1-6 if it gives up 26+. 
— Last five games, Atlanta was outscored 74-22 in second half. 
— Atlanta is 1-6 ATS this year in game following a win.
— Falcons squandered a 19-yard advantage in field position.

— 49ers won/covered five of their last six games.
— Niners converted 6-11 on third down, averaged 9.8 yards/pass attempt.
— First six drives, 49ers scored four TD’s, kicked a FG.
— 49ers are 6-1 if they give up 23 or less points.
— Last six games, 49ers outscored opponents 112-61 in first half.

Cincinnati 15, Denver 10:
— Burrow threw a 56-yard TD pass with 0:30 left in 3rd quarter.
— McPherson kicked 58-yard FG at time expired in first half.
— Bengals are 16-11 ATS last 27 games as a road underdog.
— Cincinnati is 10-5 ATS last 15 games coming off a loss.
— Ja’Marr Chase caught only one pass, for three yards.

— Denver is 6-1 if it scores 23+ points, 1-6 if it doesn’t.
— Broncos lost fumble in red zone early in 4th quarter.
— 11 of 14 Denver games stayed under the total.
— Broncos are 5-12-2 ATS last 19 games as a home favorite.

New Orleans 9, Tampa Bay 0:
— There were no touchdowns in this game.
— Saints were outgained 302-212, but they were +2 in turnovers.
— Last three games, their opponents are 11-46 on third down.
— New Orleans covered nine of last 11 games as a road dog.

— Tampa Bay never got into the Saints’ red zone.
— Bucs converted 6-19 on third down, Saints 3-16.
— New Orleans won eight of last ten series games.
— Saints are 5-2 ATS in last seven visits to Tampa Bay.

Auburn QB Bo Nix is transferring to Oregon.

AFC North standings:
8-6: Bengals, Ravens
7-6: Browns
7-6-1: Steelers

San Francisco 66, Arizona State 65:
— ASU led 60-55 with 4:35 left in the game.
— USF was 12-30 on the arc, Sun Devils 6-24.
— Arizona State is 5-7; they were 5-11 on foul line. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday…….

13) Colts 27, Patriots 17:
— Patriots have their 7-game win streak snapped.
— Colts outrushed New England, 226-81.
— Patriots’ first six drives: 32 plays, 119 yards, no points.
— Patriots’ last four drives: 34 plays, 214 yards, 17 points.
— New England is 5-10 ATS last 15 games with spread of 3 or less.

— Colts won five of their last six games.
— Taylor salted game away with 67-yard TD run with 2:01 left.
— Indy blocked punt for a TD, giving them a 14-0 lead.
— Colts are 7-0 giving up 24 or fewer points, 1-6 if they allow 25+.

12) Before this game, the last time a Colts-Patriots game didn’t have a QB named Manning or Brady was 1997, when Jim Harbaugh played for the Colts, Drew Bledsoe for New England.

EJ Speed scored a TD on a blocked punt; EJ Speed is a tremendous name for a ballplayer, but if you were watching a movie and there was a character named EJ Speed, you might turn it off.
 
11) Saturday’s college basketball upsets:
— Canisius (+15.5) 65, Buffalo 64
— Hofstra (+12.5) 89, Arkansas 81
— Pitt (+11) 59, St John’s 57
— Providence (+7.5) 57, UConn 53
— Grand Canyon (+5.5) 49, San Francisco 48

10) Grand Canyon 49, San Francisco 48— First loss of the season for the Dons.

9) Western Kentucky 59, Appalachian State 38— App State gained 609 yards, but lost by three TD’s; they turned ball over four times. Hilltoppers threw for 422 yards.

8) UAB 31, BYU 28— Blazers blew 14-0 lead, scored winning TD with 6:17 left to post the upset. UAB converted 9-14 third down plays.

7) Liberty 56, Eastern Michigan 20— Flames were first favorite to win or cover this bowl season; their coach is former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, who was the high school coach in the movie The Blind Side.

6) Underdogs covered six of the first eight bowl games this season.

5) Not only do the Cleveland Browns have COVID issues, their next three games are all night games, in Cleveland-Green Bay-Pittsburgh. In December. Their trainers will be very busy.

4) Auburn hired Austin Davis as its new offensive coordinator; he had been the Seahawks’ QB coach. Davis was a backup QB in the NFL for seven years; he is 32 years old.

3) Lakers’ star Anthony Davis is out at least four weeks with a sprained MCL.

2) LSU QB Max Johnson was expected to transfer to Florida State, where his dad played, but he is going to Texas A&M instead with his younger brother, a highly-touted tight end prospect.

1) Mets named Buck Showalter their new manager; when a billionaire hedge fund guy buys a franchise, he isn’t going to screw around. Showalter made the playoffs with Arizona and the Orioles; he is a huge upgrade for the Mets.

Saturday’s Den: Wrapping up a busy Friday……..

13) Three Week 15 NFL games got pushed back Friday because of COVID:
— Raiders-Browns will be played Monday at 5:00
— Washington-Eagles will be played Tuesday at 7:00
— Seattle-Rams will also be played at 7:00.

12) New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton tested positive for COVID, will miss Sunday night’s game against Tampa Bay. Payton also had COVID in March, 2020.
 
11) Chargers lost in overtime to Kansas City Thursday night; they went scoreless on three drives where they had the ball inside the Chiefs’ 5-yard line.

Chargers failed on 4th/goal twice in first half, becoming first NFL team to do that since 1984, when the Chargers also did it, also against Kansas City.

10) Creighton 79, Villanova 59:
— First Big East game of season
— Creighton shot 65% inside arc.
— Bluejays outscored Villanova 23-9 in last 10:00.

9) Richmond 83, NC State 74:
— Spiders get good non-league win on neutral court in Charlotte.
— Wolfpack was only 21-34 on foul line.
— Richmond has won its last four games.

8) Oregon Ducks hired Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning as their new football coach; he worked the last three seasons for the Dawgs.

Next September, Lanning’s first game as Oregon’s head coach is against……..Georgia.

7) Middle Tennessee 31, Toledo 24:
— Toledo led 17-14 after three quarters.
— MTSU scored 17 points in 10:25 span of 4th quarter. 
— Rockets ran for 235 yards, but had 116 yards in penalties.
— Toledo has now lost four bowls in a row.

6) Coastal Carolina 47, Northern Illinois 41:
— Coastal outscored NIU 14-3 in fourth quarter.
— NIU lost despite running ball for 335 yards.
— Huskies converted 4-5 fourth down plays.
— NIU was on the Coastal 4-yard line when game ended.

5) Texas Longhorns QB Casey Thompson, who threw for 2,113 yards, 23 TD’s this year, entered the transfer portal. Texas started out 4-1, slumped to 5-7; the QB saw the writing on the wall and is hitting the road.

4) NHL’s Vancouver Canucks are 6-0 since they changed coaches, outscoring opponents 20-11. Canucks are now 14-15-2 this season.

3) Brooklyn Nets’ coach Steve Nash was saying how Kevin Durant’s playing time (played 41+ minutes in five of Nets’ last nine games) is unsustainable, so the Nets are bringing back un-vaccinated Kyrie Irving to play in games outside New York State.

Irving can’t play/practice in Brooklyn, since he is unvaccinated, but he can play in most of the road games, and the Nets need to take some of the workload away from the 33-year old Durant, who tore his Achilles tendon in 2019.

2) There was supposed to be a basketball doubleheader in Las Vegas Saturday; UCLA-North Carolina and Ohio State-Kentucky, but Ohio State/UCLA have COVID issues and opted out, so Kentucky will play the Tar Heels instead. 

Western Kentucky-Louisville game was picked up by CBS for a national telecast.

1) Duke was supposed to play Cleveland State Saturday, but the Vikings have COVID issues, so Duke added a game with Loyola MD, but then the Greyhounds had to drop out with their own COVID problems, so now Duke is playing Elon instead.

Mid-majors don’t mind losing so much, as long as they get TV exposure, which can help their recruiting- this game is on the ACC Network.