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

Browns 32, Bengals 13
— Bengals’ first seven drives: 33 plays, 116 yards, 7 first downs, no points.
— Bengals trailed 25-0, finally scored a TD, then missed the PAT.
— Browns outgained Cincinnati, 440-229.
— Browns have now won eight of last nine series games.
— Bengals miss injured WR Ja’Marr Chase, who is out 4-6 weeks (hip)

— Cleveland snaps its 4-game losing streak.
— Browns converted 8-13 third down plays.
— Cleveland averaged 10.7 yards/pass attempt.
— Browns led this game 11-0 at halftime.
— Cleveland’s first three drives in 2nd half: 27 plays, 218 yards, 21 points. 

— How much does a quarterback influence the pointspread? Tennessee Titans were -3.5 in Houston last week, until it was announced that rookie QB Malik Willis would be starting in place of Ryan Tannehill. Spread moved to Houston -1, so in this situation, the QB change moved the spread 4.5 points. 

Willis wound up throwing only 10 passes the whole game; he was 6-10/55 passing, ran ball five times for 12 times. He handed off 40 times, which is a good idea when Derrick Henry is on your team. Titans won 17-10.

— NFL trading deadline is 4:00 Tuesday; Chicago Bears traded LB Roquan Smith to Baltimore Monday, for 2nd/5th round draft picks. Chicago traded DE Robert Quinn to the Eagles last week, then gave up 49 points to Dallas. Sounds like they’ve given up on this season.

— There will be scapegoats: Detroit Lions have lost five games in a row- they fired their DB’s coach Aubrey Pleasant Monday. It isn’t Pleasant’s fault that in their last three games, Detroit was outscored 48-0 in second half.

— On their first drive of each game this season, Arizona Cardinals have been outscored 41-9; Cardinals haven’t scored a TD on their first drive in their last 13 games.

— Jacksonville Jaguars are 2-6 this season; all six of their losses were by 8 or less points. Their wins were 24-0 against the Colts, 38-10 at the Chargers.

QB Trevor Lawrence has thrown six interceptions this season; all six have come in the red zone or in the final 2:00 of a one-score game.

— If I ran the NFL, we would discourage officials from calling taunting penalties in the 4th quarter; you call those early in the game, to discourage taunting, but to call the first taunting penalty in the 4th quarter, after guys have been jawing at each other for 2.5 hours, it just seems kind of subjective. It is an emotional game; officials need to ignore the BS late in the game.

— Auburn fired football coach Bryan Harsin Monday; he was 9-12 at Auburn, 4-9 in SEC games, replacing Gus Malzahn after he was told to take a hike with a 67-35 record, 38-27 in SEC tilts. 

Some of these college football programs are influenced by insanely impatient rich boosters; Auburn is a bad job until Nick Saban retires- Auburn will always be worse than Alabama until the 70-year old Saban goes away, and Auburn boosters don’t seem to understand that.

— Speaking of which, Auburn hired John Cohen as its new athletic director Monday; he leaves his alma mater Mississippi State to join Auburn, where he will bank $1.5M a year.

— Still in the SEC, Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss Rebels are 8-1 this season, their best start since 1962. Rebels have this week off, host Alabama next week.

— Texas A&M is 3-5, has lost four games in a row, giving up 31.8 ppg in those losses. Read it on the Interweb somewhere this weekend that Jimbo Fisher ain’t getting fired, not now, If A&M fired Fisher now, they’d have to pay him $86M- that’s not an exaggeration. His assistants will be probably be shuffled, but Fisher isn’t going anywhere for now.

— College football games ended around 2am here in the east late Saturday night; NFL had a game from London on at 9:30am Sunday morning. Not a lot of time for sleeping.

If you enjoy college football, I highly endorse ESPN’s wrap-up show late Saturday night, with Matt Barrie, Joey Galloway and a third person, who varies from week to week.

They show ton of highlights; they’re smart, good-natured and they can be critical, if need be. Good way to wrap up the college football day.

Feel bad for people who work in Las Vegas sportsbooks; the London games start at 6:30am in Nevada— the betting windows probably open at 5:30 or so. Luckily most casinos have a Starbucks nearby.

— A sentence I never thought I would type; Arizona State beat North Dakota in hockey last week in Las Vegas, apparently a pretty big upset. Didn’t even know ASU had a hockey team.

— If you care about such things, thru Sunday’s games, NBA teams playing for a 2nd consecutive night are 12-16-1 ATS so far this season.

— Game 3 of the World Series got rained out Monday night, which probably eliminates the travel day for Thursday, should the series get to a Game 6.

— Do kids trick or treat anymore on Halloween? My doorbell rang once Monday night; two little kids, maybe 6-7 years old. Bought three damn bags of candy, gave out two candy bars. Now I have to give the candy away before I eat it all, which I don’t need to do. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday……..

Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT
— Down 34-28, Carolina WR Moore caught 62-yard TD pass with 0:12 left; his strutting in end zone drew 15-yard penalty- Carolina missed the game-winning PAT, forcing OT
— Panthers also missed a 32-yard FG in overtime.
— Carolina ran ball for 173-169 yards in last two games.
— Foreman carried ball 26 times for 118 yards, 3 TD’s.
— Panthers had seven plays of 20+ yards, four of them on 3rd down.

— Koo kicked 41-yard FG with 1:55 left in OT; Atlanta is now 4-4.
— Falcons scored on a pick-6 with 0:41 left before halftime.
— Falcons’ first six drives: 30 plays, 117 yards, 7 points.
— Atlanta’s last six drives: 37 plays, 275 yards, 23 points.
— Falcons are 1-7 ATS last eight games as a home favorite.

Commanders 17, Colts 16
— Washington won last three games, by total of eight points. 
— Commanders drove 89 yards for game-winning TD with 0:22 left.
— Opponents stayed under their team total five of last six games.
— Last three games, Washington is +3 in turnovers (minus-7 in first five).
— Commanders are 12-6 ATS last 18 games coming off a win.

— Colts are 3-4-1; they’re trailed all eight games after three quarters.
— Colts have been outscored 133-73 in quarters 1-3 this season.
— Colts rallied, led this game 16-7 with 5:00 left to play.
— Indy only scored 10 points in three red zone drives.
— Seven of their eight games stayed under the total. 

Broncos 21, Jaguars 17
— Denver drove 80 yards for game-winning TD with 1:43 left.
— Broncos won despite converting only 2-11 third down plays.
— Denver has held all eight opponents under 6.0 yards/pass play.
— Broncos allowed 9-10-17 points in their three wins.
— Seven of eight Denver games stayed under the total.

— Jaguars lost last five games, giving up 24.0 ppg.
— Jacksonville scored only 10 points on three red zone drives.
— Jacksonville’s two TD drives were both 47 yards.
— Last 2+ years, Jaguars are 0-6 ATS as a favorite.
— Jaguars lost despite 12-yard advantage in field position.

Cowboys 49, Bears 29
— Dallas’ first four drives: 33 plays, 273 yards, 28 points.
— Cowboys converted 9-11 third down plays.
— Pollard carried ball 14 times for 131 yards, three TD’s.
— Cowboys won/covered six of their last seven games.
— Last five games, Cowboys outscored foes 78-21 in 2nd half

— Chicago lost four of its last five games.
— Chicago is 4-9 ATS in last 13 games as a road underdog.
— Cowboys averaged 7.8 yards/play for the game.
— Chicago is 2-7 ATS last nine games coming off a win.
— 2nd-year QB Fields is 5-13 as an NFL starter.

Saints 24, Raiders 0
— Kamara had 27 touches for 158 yards, three TD’s.
— Raiders didn’t have any plays longer than 18 yards.
— Last five games, Saints are 33-66 on 3rd down.
— New Orleans is 12-7-1 ATS last 20 games coming off a loss.
— Saints’ coach Allen went 8-28 as Raiders’ coach from 2012-14.

— Raiders were outgained, 367-183, averaged 3.4 yards/pass attempt.
— Las Vegas is 0-4 SU on road TY, giving up 25.5 ppg.
— Last three games, opponents converted 23-39 on third down.
— Las Vegas’ opponent went over team total in last six games.
— Derek Carr is 59-76 as an NFL starter.

Eagles 35, Steelers 13
— Steelers lost six of their last seven games.
— Pittsburgh converted 1-12 on 3rd down, Eagles 7-12.
— Steelers are 9-13 ATS last 22 games coming off a loss.
— Steelers have no turnovers (+9) in their wins, 14 (-9) in losses.
— Pittsburgh has been outscored 86-47 in second half of games.

— Philly is 7-0, scoring 38-24-24-29-20-26-35 points (28 ppg).
— Eagles’ first four drives: 26 plays, 207 yards, 21 points.
— WR Brown caught six passes for 156 yards, three TD’s.
— Philly averaged 8.8 yards/pass attempt.
— Eagles covered their last seven games as a home favorite.

Dolphins 31, Lions 27
— Detroit led 14-0 with 2:00 left in first quarter.
— Dolphins outscored Detroit 14-0 in second half.
— Miami gained 476 yards, converted 8-12 on third down.
— First six drives, Dolphins scored four TD’s, kicked a field goal.
— Hill caught 12 passes for 188 yards; Waddle 8 for 106, with two TD’s.

— Lions lost last five games, giving up 32 ppg.
— Detroit in first half: 39 plays, 346 yards, 3 TD’s, 2 field goals.
— Detroit in second half: 20 plays, 52 yards, no points.
— Goff threw ball for 321 yards, didn’t turn ball over.
— Under Campbell, Lions are 4-19-1 SU, 14-9-1 ATS.
— Under Campbell, Lions are 7-2-1 ATS as a home underdog.

Vikings 34, Cardinals 26
— Arizona is 1-5 when it scores less than 29 points.
— Cardinals turned ball over three times, including a fumbled punt.
— Last three games, Arizona is 11-37 on third down.
— Cardinals outscored opponents 42-15 in last 2:00 of each half.
— WR Hopkins caught 22 balls for 262 yards in his first two games.

— Vikings won last five games, scoring 28-28-29-24-34 points.
— Minnesota’s last two TD drives were 31-25 yards.
— Cook carried ball for 111 yards (5.6 yards/carry).
— Vikings allowed 22+ points in five of last six games.
— Last four games, WR Jefferson caught 34 passes for 506 yards.

Patriots 22, Jets 17
— Patriots scored only one TD, kicked five field goals.
— New England had huge 23-yard edge in field position.
— Patriots are +7 in turnovers in its wins, minus-6 in losses.
— New England gave up 20-37-27-33 points in losses; 14-0-15-17 in wins.
— Jones threw pick-6 in last 1:00 of first half, was nullified by roughing/passer call.

— New England won last 14 series games (9-4-1 ATS)
— Jets led this game 10-6 at halftime.
— Last four weeks, opponents converted 19-62 third down plays.
— Gang Green is 3-9 ATS last 12 games as a home underdog.
— Jets lost three of their four home games SU.

Titans 17, Texans 10
— Tennessee won/covered last five games, allowing 15.2 ppg.  
— Henry ran ball 32 times for 219 yards, 2 TD’s.
— Overall, Titans ran ball for 314 yards (Hilliard 8 carries for 83 yards)
— Willis was 6-10/55 passing in his first NFL start; he handed off a lot.
— Last four games, Titans allowed only 48.2 rushing yards/game.
— Six of seven Titan games stayed under the total.

— Texans lost five of their last six games.
— Houston converted only 2-14 third down plays.
— Tennessee outgained Texans, 354-161.
— Houston has allowed 185.2 rushing yards/game in first seven games.
— 2nd-year QB Mills is 3-14-1 as an NFL starter.

Seahawks
27, Giants 13
— Giants’ first four drives: 17 plays, 34 yards, 2 first downs, no points.
— Giants’ last six drives: 43 plays, 178 yards, 11 first downs, 13 points.
— Barkley carried ball 20 times for only 53 yards.
— 6-2 Giants have trailed by 10+ points in five of eight games.
— Under is 6-1-1 in Giant games this season.

— Seahawks won four of their last five games.
— Seattle is 3-0 when it allows less than 27 points.
— Seahawks in 2nd half: 5 drives- 23 plays, 154 yards, 17 points.
— Seattle gained only 277 yards, converted 3-13 on third down.
— Seahawks went over their team total five of last six games. 

49ers 31, Rams 14
— McCaffrey had 26 touches for 155 yards, also threw a 34-yard TD pass.
— 49ers’ last four drives: 25 plays, 225 yards, 21 points.
— Last three games, 49er opponents were 23-36 on third down.
— 49ers won eight of their last nine games against the Rams.
— QB Garoppolo is 40-19 as an NFL starter.

— Rams were held to 10-9-10-14 points in their losses.
— In those four losses, Rams were outscored 58-3 in second half.
— LA in second half Sunday: 25 plays, 43 yards, no points.
— Rams are 2-8-1 ATS in last 11 games as a home underdog.
— Rams are averaging only 68.4 rushing yards/game. 

Bills 27, Packers 17
— Packers lost their last four games, giving up 26 ppg.
— Last four games, Green Bay converted 14 of 44 third down plays.
— Last five weeks, Green Bay gave up 158 rushing yards/game.
— Green Bay went under its team total in seven of eight games.
— Under is 5-3 in Packer games this season. 

— Buffalo in first half: 27 plays, 254 yards, 24 points.
— Only seven of Bills’ 54 plays came on third down.
— Buffalo is 12-5 ATS last 17 games as a home favorite.
— Bills won/covered their first three home games TY, 41-7/38-3/27-17.
— Josh Allen is 48-25 as an NFL starter.

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

TCU 41, West Virginia 31— TCU QB Duggan was 16-28/341 with three TD’s. Horned Frogs might be the quietest 8-0 team ever. TCU has scored 38+ points in every game this season.

— JT Daniels is the QB for West Virginia; he used to play at USC, one of three QB’s starting around the country who used to start for the Trojans. 

Saturday’s report card for Trojan alumni QB’s:
JT Daniels, WVU— 23-39/271 passing, 2 TD’s, 1 INT. WVU lost 41-31
Jaxson Dart, Ole Miss— 140 yards passing, 95 rushing. Ole Miss won 31-28
Kedon Slovis, Pitt— 14-31/236 passing. Pitt lost, 42-24

Arkansas 41, Auburn 27— Auburn was 68-36 when Gus Malzahn coached them, but that wasn’t good enough, so they told him to take a hike. Now they’re 9-12 under Bryan Harsin, have lost four games in a row, giving up 42-48-41 points the last three games. No bueno.

Auburn’s QB last year was Bo Nix; he bolted to Oregon. Speaking of which……..

Oregon 42, California 24— Bo Nix was 27-35/412 passing, with three TD’s; he also ran 12 times for 59 yards, and three more TD’s. Ducks are 7-1, by the way. 

— While I’m here, let me vent about DirecTV:
No Pac-12 Network
No FOX local channel this week, which means no World Series, no Giants/NFL games, no Ohio State-Penn State game.
I pay a boatload of $$$ for DirecTV, at least until this football season is over, then it is sayonara with the NFL Sunday Ticket going elsewhere (Apple TV???) next year.

Ole Miss 31, Texas A&M 28— Ole Miss faked a punt on 4th-and-5 from their own 15-yard line midway thru 2nd quarter, when they trailed 14-7.

You have to have four things if you fake a punt on your own 15-yard line:
a) a play you think will work.
b) job security, lot of job security
c) boatload of $$$ in your bank account, in case the fake doesn’t work.
d) as Bill Raftery would say, ONIONS!!!!

Upsets of the Week:
Charlotte (+15) 56, Rice 23
North Texas (+10) 40, Western Kentucky 13
UConn (+8) 13, Boston College 3
Florida International (+6) 42, Louisiana Tech 34 OT
Florida Atlantic (+4.5) 24, UAB 17

Kansas State 48, Oklahoma State 0— Cowboys came into the game 6-1, scoring 34+ points in all seven games. They were 9-4 in last 13 games vs K-State, but they got whacked here.

Total yardage was 495-217; Wildcats went for it on 4th down three times, and made the first down all three times. K-State was +3 in turnovers; this was a total beatdown.

Louisville 48, Wake Forest 21— Wake turned ball over eight times, all in the second half- they turned ball over six times in the third quarter, when Louisville scored 35 points.

Ohio State 44, Penn State 31— Buckeyes trailed 21-16 with 10:00 left in game; they scored 28 points in a 6:09 span of 4th quarter to pull away for the win. Ohio State was outgained 482-452, but Nittany Lions turned ball over four times (minus-4).

UConn 13, Boston College 3— This is a horrendous loss for BC, which is 1-6 against I-A opponents. Since 2012, Eagles are 60-72 SU in football; their basketball program hasn’t been in the NCAA Tournament since 2009, their 4th year in the ACC.

Moving from the Big East to the ACC may have made sense financially, but on the field/court, it has been a disaster. If they had turned down the ACC, they’d probably be in the Big 14 now, instead of Rutgers- at least their football profile would be better.

Fresno State 32, San Diego State 28— Aztecs led 28-10 with 1:00 left in third quarter, but Fresno scored twice in last 1:09 to pull out an unlikely home win. Both teams are now 4-4; Jake Haener completed 35-46 passes for 402 yards and three TD’s for Fresno.

— Oklahoma’s kicker scored a touchdown on a fake field goal; don’t see that a lot.

— North Carolina QB Drake Maye was 34-44/388 passing, with five TD passes in a 42-24 win over Pitt. Tar Heels outscored Pitt 21-0 in 4th quarter.

Central Florida 25, Cincinnati 21— Knights scored on a 17-yard run with 0:48 left to give UCF a win over Cincinnati, which is bolting the AAC for the Big X fairly soon.

Houston 42, South Florida 27— Houston QB Clayton Tune was 31-37/380 passing with four TD’s in Cougars’ win over USF.

Miami 14, Virginia 12 OT— Third I-A game this season with no touchdowns; Virginia has a good QB, Brennan Armstrong, but they’re 2-5 vs I-A teams and they scored 16 points in both the wins.

Iowa, by the way, played in the other two games with no TD’s this season.

— It was an upsetting day in Conference USA; all four underdogs won SU. Not often a 15-point favorite loses 56-23, but Charlotte pounded Rice, just their second win this season. 

Michigan 29, Michigan State 7— Last year, Spartans gave football coach Mel Tucker a 10-year, $95M contract, in the midst of their 11-2 season. Here is Tucker’s head coaching record in college ball:
2019 Colorado 5-7, 3-6 in Pac-12
2020 Michigan State 2-5, 2-5 in Big 14
2021 Michigan State 11-2, 7-2 in Big 14
2022 Michigan State 3-5, 1-4 in Big 14

3.5 years: 21-19, 13-17 in league games. $9.5M a year. What a country.

Astros 5, Phillies 2
World Series heads to Philadelphia tied 1-1
Altuve went 3-4, Bregman hit a home run.
Valdez got 19 outs on 104 pitches.
Phillies were 0-7 with runners in scoring position. 

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

Phillies 6, Astros 5 (10):
JT Realmuto homered in the 10th inning for the winning run.
Astros led 5-0 after two innings, but game was 5-5 after four innings.
Kyle Tucker homered twice for Houston.
In eight World Series starts, Justin Verlander is now 0-6, 6.07; in 25 other playoff starts, he is 15-5, 3.04.

— Phillies are sixth team all-time to overcome a five-run deficit to win a World Series game. Dusty Baker was on the wrong end of the last two, also losing Game 6 of the 2002 World Series against the Angels.

— The local FOX TV station and DirecTV are at war over $$$, so I couldn’t watch this game on my TV, which is pretty sad. Greedy bastards on both sides.

I started watching the game on my phone but got booted off that after an hour. Listened to rest of the game on the ESPN app on my phone. Baseball on the radio is still excellent.

Utah 21, Washington State 17:
Utah’s backup QB Barnes threw for 175 yards and a TD.
Utes were 7-15 on third down, Wazzu was 3-10.
Coogs ran ball 19 times for only 42 yards.

East Carolina 27, BYU 24:
Pirates kicked a 33-yard FG at the gun for the win.
ECU’s Mitchell ran ball for 176 yards (8.4 yards/carry)
East Carolina is 6-3 this year, 13-8 in their last 21 games.

Florida International 42, Louisiana Tech 34 OT:
Tech led 17-7 midway thru second quarter.
FIU forced overtime with a FG with 0:16 left in regulation.
Tech converted 10-18 on 3rd down, outgained Tech 429-378.
FIU’s QB James threw for 321 yards, three TD’s.

— Mentioned the other day that I watched the old (1979) movie Fast Break the other night, one of my favorites. Gabe Kaplan’s Cadwallader team plays Western U; he got a new contract if his team pulled the upset, which of course, they did, because its the movies.

Anyway, forgot to mention that the assistant coach for Western U (with no speaking part, and unlisted in credits) was none other than the great coach Jim Harrick, who at the time was an assistant coach at UCLA. He became the coach at Pepperdine later that year, and went on to win a national title at UCLA in 1995.

— College basketball teams are allowed to take a foreign trip once every four years; with the last two years screwed up by COVID, there weren’t any trips taken, so lot of teams took them this past summer. Those trips give teams an extra ten practices before the trip, plus, games/bonding experiences during the trip- they’re generally a big help.

Pacers 127, Wizards 117— Indiana Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton is first Pacer with 10+ assists in five straight games since Mark Jackson, in 2000.

Cavaliers 132, Celtics 123 OT— LeVert/Mitchell both scored 41 points for Cleveland, which made 16-35 on the arc. Three Boston starters were minus-20 or worse, in a game they lost in overtime. Sub Sam Hauser was +23 in 12:00, which is hard to do.

Timberwolves 111, Lakers 102— Lakers turned ball over 22 times (minus-12); they’re now 0-5, the only NBA team that hasn’t covered the spread yet. Sacramento is the only other NBA team that hasn’t won a game SU.

— Liberty signed football coach Hugh Freeze to an 8-year contract extension worth just under $5M a year; Freeze is 33-12 coaching Liberty, 82-40 overall, with previous stops at Arkansas State and Ole Miss.

— With Election Day looming, a word of advice; if you’re running for public office, and it doesn’t matter which party you are, because both sides are doing it this year, do NOT send me a post card advertisement that does nothing but rip the other candidate. 

I’ve gotten three such post card-type ads; they don’t mention the candidate they’re backing, they just rip the other side, complete with pictures and all. Tell me why to vote FOR your candidate, do NOT tell me why to vote against the other person. 

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

— Question for you to discuss amongst yourselves:

If somehow we could have a football league with every player ever playing in their prime, under today’s rules, and you had the first pick, who would you want your quarterback to be?

It is an interesting debate.

Ravens 27, Buccaneers 22
Ravens in first half: 41 plays, 141 yards, 3 points.
Ravens in second half: 34 plays, 289 yards, 24 points.
Ravens are 10-1 ATS last eleven games with spread of 3 or less.
Jackson threw ball for 238 yards, ran for 43 more.
AFC North teams are 12-9 ATS in non-divisional games.

3rd down conversions: Ravens 6-13, Bucs 4-13
Rushing yardage: Ravens 33-231, Bucs 15-44
Tampa Bay lost five of its last six games (0-6 ATS)
Tampa Bay is 0-4 this year when it gives up more than 15 points.
NFC South teams are 6-12 ATS in non-divisional games.

— Ryan Fitzpatrick is sitting there on the halftime show for Amazon; he played QB for 17 years in the NFL. I’d rather hear his insights than Kirk Herbstreit’s. Herbstreit never played in the NFL; plus he works college games on Saturday.

NC State 22, Virginia Tech 21
Hokies led 21-3 with 2:00 left in third quarter.
State was 8-19 on third down, Tech 1-11.
Freshman QB Morris was 20-29/265 passing, with three TD’s.

Southern Miss 39, Louisville 24
Golden Eagles led 29-11 at halftime.
Southern Miss had TD passes of 52-76 yards.
USM salted game away with a 52-yard pick-6 with 1:14 left.

— Los Angeles Lakers are 0-4, first time Lebron James has been 0-4 since his rookie year back in 2003. Lakers, by the way, are shooting 22.3% on the arc this season; when you have a great passer on your team, it seems like a wise thing to surround him with good shooters.

— Bengals’ star WR Ja’Marr Chase is out 4-6 weeks with a hip injury, a huge blow to Cincinnati’s chances this season.

— Mac Jones is starting at quarterback for the New England against the Jets Sunday.

— New Jersey Giants drafted WR Kadarius Toney in the first round last year, under a different regime; they traded him to Kansas City Thursday, for 3rd/6th round draft picks. Toney played in only 12 of a possible 23 games with the Giants, catching 41 passes for 420 yards.

— World Series starts tonight; Phillies’ ace Aaron Nola and Astros’ 3B Alex Bregman were college roommates at LSU.

— Houston-Philly World Series goes for the next week; the Week 9 Thursday night NFL game is also Houston-Philly, with Eagles visiting the Texans.

— David Stearns quit as Milwaukee Brewers’ president of baseball operations; Brewers missed the playoffs by a game this year, after making the playoffs the last four years.

Stearns is only 37 years old; guys don’t generally quit big jobs like that. Hope he is OK.

— Doing my preseason college basketball homework, lot of teams have jumped leagues for this season. Belmont/Murray State bolted the OVC for the Missouri Valley. Sun Belt Conference has four new teams, Loyola Chi is in the Atlantic-10 (A-15?) now, CAA added four new teams.

— Dolphins-Lions this week; Jared Goff’s first NFL start came against Miami in 2016, a game I’ve talked about in this space many times. Rams led 10-0 with 5:00 left, lost 14-10. Six years later, lot of people on both sides have changed jobs since then.

— There has been only one kick/punt return for a TD in the NFL this season, Devin Duvernay for the Ravens in Week 2.

— I enjoy researching trends, and thinking about handicapping and then picking winners; one thing that pretty much baffles me is prop betting. I’m not clear on how the bettor has any edge on prop bets; so much depends on coaching adjustments, injuries that happen after the game starts.

If you just want action, prop bets must be awesome; you can wager on most anything, but if you are serious about turning a profit, not sure how great prop bets are. 

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

— We talked a few days ago, about how starting next year, Amazon Prime will televise an NFL game the day after Thanksgiving. Putting an NFL game on at 3:00 in the afternoon on a Friday seems unusual, but there is this: if Amazon can keep people out of shopping malls for a few hours on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, those people are more likely to do their shopping online, where the #1 option is………Amazon.

Go figure.

— Under is 63-44-1 in NFL games this season; only three teams have played more overs than unders— Raiders, Browns, Saints.

Broncos, Colts, Bucs have gone under in six of seven games, Bills/Rams in five of six.

— Best teams against spread this season:
6-1— Falcons, Giants
4-1-1—- Bills
5-2— Bengals, Cowboys, Jets

— Watched one of my all-time favorite movies Wednesday; Fast Break, with Gabe Kaplan as the manager of a New York City deli who quits to become a college basketball coach in Nevada. The movie came out in 1979, when I was a college student who hoped to be a basketball coach one day. Hadn’t seen the movie in a very long time, so this was fun.

I mention this because in the movie, the players at Cadwallader University wear Nikes, when Nike wasn’t that big a deal in 1979— the company didn’t go public until 1980. Nike registered the “swoosh” with the patent/trademark people in 1974.

The basketball parts of this movie are excellent; Gabe Kaplan had being a coach down pat; one of his players was Bernard King, the great NBA player. Michael Warren played at UCLA- he has 87 acting credits on IMDB.com.

— The question of whether to pay Lamar Jackson as a top-flight QB is a quandary the Baltimore Ravens will soon face; Jackson is the #5 rusher in the NFL right now, with 510 yards— no one else on the Ravens has more than 189 rushing yards. Very unusual for a quarterback. 

Baltimore beat the Browns 23-20 last week, with Jackson throwing for only 120 yards; he ran for 59 more. Ravens won; Jackson is 42-18 as an NFL starter, impressive. It’ll be fascinating to see what they wind up doing, especially with Jackson acting as his own agent.

— Philadelphia Eagles acquired DE Robert Quinn from the Bears, for a 4th-round draft pick. Eagles are going all-in on a Super Bowl run this season. Eagles are 4th team for Quinn over the last five seasons— he was an All-Pro player for Chicago last year.

— Was watching Kansas State’s football game Saturday; Kurt Warner’s son Kade is a receiver for the Wildcats. Jake Rubley is a backup QB for K-State; his dad TJ Rubley started seven games for the Rams in 1993, but played in only one more NFL game after that, for Green Bay in 1995.

TJ Rubley was Jake’s high school coach, so the kid is well-schooled.

— St Louis Cardinals fired lot of their coaches this week, including pitching coach Mike Maddux. Veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright will be back next year, for his 18th big league season, all with the Redbirds.

— Phillies manager Rob Thomson took the team over this season, when Philly was 22-29; he is trying to join Jack McKeon/Bob Lemon as the only managers to win a World Series after taking the team over during a season.

— Winger Phil Kessel played in his 990th consecutive NHL game this week, setting a record; you have to be a tough SOB to not miss an NHL game for over 12 seasons.

—- Houston, Oklahoma City have the two youngest rosters in the NBA.

— Valparaiso University has switched its nickname from the Crusaders to the Beacons.

— Belmont/Murray State jumped from the OVC to the Missouri Valley Conference this season; Belmont went 94-14 in OVC games the last six years, but played in the NCAA’s only one time in those six years (there was no tourney in 2020).

— Since 2012, Missouri Valley squads are 12-1 in first round of the NCAA Tournament. Jumping from the OVC to the MVC is a large jump, for both programs.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

Notes on how NFL divisions are doing against the spread, in non-divisional games:
— NFC East— (14-5) 9-2 ATS at home, 7-3 as underdogs, 7-2 as favorites.
— NFC North— (8-10) 2-5 ATS on road, 4-5 as underdogs, 3-4 as favorites.
— NFC South— (6-12) 3-5 ATS on road, 4-8 as underdogs, 2-4 as favorites.
— NFC West— (9-10) 3-6 ATS as favorites, 6-4 as underdogs, 4-6 at home

— AFC East— (12-8) 0-4 ATS as home dogs, 6-1 as road dog, 7-3 as favorites
— AFC North— (11-9) 5-2 ATS as underdogs, 6-4 on road, 6-7 as favorites
— AFC South— (6-8) 3-5 ATS as road underdogs, 2-3 at home, 1-2 as favorites
— AFC West— (6-10) 1-5 ATS as home favorites, 4-3 as road favorites.

— Scheduling quirk; Indianapolis Colts have already played five of their six division games. There are six teams that have only played one divisional game so far.

— Green Bay is +10.5 at Buffalo this week, just second time in last 11 years they’ve been a double digit underdog. In 2017, Packers (+13) lost 31-28 in Pittsburgh.

— QB Bailey Zappe has had an interesting path to the NFL:
He played three years at I-AA Houston Baptist. The offensive coordinator there got a better job at Western Kentucky— he took Zappe and HBU’s best receiver with him. Zappe threw for 62 TD’s in three years with the Huskies.

At Western Kentucky, Zappe threw for another 62 TD’s, but in one season. New England took him in the 4th round of last spring’s draft.

So far in his rookie season, Zappe has thrown for 596 yards, four TD’s.

— World Series starts Friday night; games are on FOX. Problem is, the FOX station in Albany is having a price war with DirecTV, as in, the station is no longer being shown on DirecTV, which means the World Series won’t be on my TV Friday night, unless these greedy bastards come to an agreement on their dispute.

Oy.

Called both parties to complain; they both blamed the other side. Go figure.

The DirecTV guy did tell me that I can probably watch the ballgame on my phone, so there is that. Can also go out and watch it at a bar that doesn’t have DirecTV.

— Miami Marlins named Cardinals’ bench coach Skip Schumacher as their new manager; he also spent four years coaching in the San Diego Padres’ organization, after playing 11 years in the majors, for three different teams.

— George Clooney/Julia Roberts have now been in six movies together; by way of contrast, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn were in nine movies together.

— Manhattan Jaspers fired their basketball coach Tuesday, less than two weeks before the season starts. Bad timing.

Manhattan had been picked to finish second in the MAAC in the preseason coaches’ poll; good luck with that, seeing how a lot of Manhattan’s players voiced their displeasure with Steve Masiello getting fired— he had been there for 11 years.

Manhattan made the NCAA’s in 2014 and 2015, but they haven’t had a winning season since; Masiello’s contract was up in April.

Manhattan has 10 seniors, who are not happy; the players could petition the NCAA to be immediately eligible if they transfer, which could create a small tsunami of players going elsewhere. Stay tuned.

— Speaking of the MAAC, the league made a big jump last year, ranked #16 out of 32 college hoop conferences. That is 11 spots higher than the year before, and highest ranking for the league since 2013, when the MAAC was #14 in the country. 

— There are 11 Division I college basketball programs in the state of Indiana.

— In the NBA, Portland Trailblazers are 4-0 for the first time since 1999.

— Denver G Ish Smith is playing for his 13th NBA team, which is an NBA record. In his 13 seasons, he’s scored 5,465 points, with 2,800 assists. Interesting career.

— Halloween is coming up next week; few years ago, I spent Halloween weekend at the SouthPoint Casino in Las Vegas, a very good place.

The rodeo was also in Las Vegas; first couple nights I was there, 80% of the people in the casino were wearing cowboy garb— tins of Skoal, the whole deal. I felt like an extra in an old western movie. Bartenders were annoyed; apparently, cowboys aren’t good tippers.

The night after the cowboys went home, they laid out a red carpet at the front door of the casino; asked a security guard what the deal was, it was the Fetish and Fantasy Ball.

Talk about an eye-opening experience; some very interesting costumes. I rode up in the elevator with a couple; the guy was dressed up as a prison guard, his female friend was his prisoner, with a cuffs on and all that, even around her neck. Her costume was cut in strategic places.

Difficult to concentrate on your gambling with costumes like that roaming around the casino all night, but I do highly recommend Halloween in Las Vegas.

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

We’ll start today with a story from a long time ago; don’t think I’ve told this one here, if I have, then my bad, but I don’t think I have. Anyway………

Way back in 1986 or so, I was in my mid-20’s, still living at home. That football season, for the first 5-6 weeks that season, my dad’s insurance guy would show up at our house on Monday night with something for my dad to sign. He would stay for the first half of the  football game; it just seemed like he liked hanging out and talking ball, so he made excuses to show up, which made sense. My dad was fun to talk to.

Anyway, we’re sitting there one night, and I hardly know this guy, but he says to me, “Are you putting money away for your future? Because if you’re not, then you’re a f—-ing idiot!!!”

My eyes are bugging out of my head; I hardly knew this guy and he is cursing me out in my own house. I mean, what he said was right, but jeez, not great people skills on his part. My dad was sitting there, half-smiling. It was a little weird.

The insurance guy played ball at the Colonie Athletic Club with couple friends of mine, but I was never there— we were pretty much strangers, but I listened to him; entered the Deferred Compensation program where I worked, and started putting money away every payday, so now, 36 or so years later, things are better than they would have been otherwise.

Sadly, a couple years later he passed away after playing either hoops or handball— he was in his early 40’s, I think. But my Deferred Comp letter that comes four times a year came in the mail Monday; whenever it does, it reminds me of that night, and how odd it was.

Sometimes, wisdom comes in unusual forms.

Bears 33, Patriots 14
— Chicago scored on 7 of its 11 drives.
— Bears outgained New England, 390-260.
— Chicago converted 11 of 18 third down plays.
— 2nd-year QB Fields is now 5-12 as an NFL starter; he threw the ball for 179 yards, ran for 82 more.

— Patriots benched QB Jones after three scoreless drives.
— Zappe led TD drives on his first two drives, but after that……
— 5 drives, 24 plays, 78 yards, 3 turnovers.
— Patriots are 20-21 SU since Brady left; 11-9 ATS at home.
— New England gave up 20-37-27-33 points in their losses; 14-0-15 in wins.

— Gambling is difficult; no one saw this result coming.

— Bears have a WR named Equanimeous St Brown; his brother Amon-Ra St Brown plays for Detroit. I’m looking thru the stats and I can’t stop thinking “Who the bleep names their kid Equanimeous?” so I did some research.

In case you were wondering, the word “equanimeous” means having emotional stability and composure, particularly in times of high stress. So now we know that.

— Was interesting to hear that Chicago QB Justin Fields acknowledged that WR Darnell Mooney is a great friend of his; Mooney has been targeted 39 times in seven games; next-highest on the Bears is 20 targets (St Brown). Pretty big difference; if you have a fantasy football team, you want WR’s who are best buddies with the QB.

— World Series odds: Astros -185, Phillies +150

— National League teams won the last three World Series. Astros are in World Series for 4th time in six years, winning in 2017, losing in 2019, 2021.

— April will be the last time Jim Nantz calls a Final Four; he will step away from the college basketball mike after this season, with Ian Eagle taking his place.

— Indianapolis Colts benched QB Matt Ryan for this week’s game with Washington; Sam Ehlinger will make his first NFL start in Ryan’s place.

Since Frank Reich has been the Colts’ coach, these QB’s have started for Indianapolis:
Philip Rivers 11-6
Andrew Luck 11-7
Carson Wentz 9-8
Jacoby Brissett 7-8
Matt Ryan 3-3-1
Brian Hoyer 0-1
Ehlinger will be the Colts’ 7th starting QB the last 4.5 years. Not ideal.

— NFL injuries:
Jets’ RB Breece Hall tore his ACL, is out for the year.
Chargers’ DB JC Jackson (knee) is out for the year.
Chargers’ WR Mike Williams (ankle) is out for several weeks.

— Jets acquired RB James Robinson from Jacksonville, for a 6th-round pick.

— Georgia Bulldogs are favored by 23.5 points over Florida this week, the most points Georgia has ever been favored by in this rivalry- the previous high was in 1971, when the Dawgs were a 21-point favorite over the Gators.

— Robert Griffin III is on ESPN’s Monday night pregame show; he had a very strange playing career. Washington broke the bank by trading draft picks so they could take RGIII with the 2nd pick in the 2012 draft- they went 10-6 in Griffin’s rookie year, made the playoffs, but from that point on, RGIII had a 7-20 record as an NFL starter.

Since then, Washington has only made the playoffs twice; their last playoff win was in 2005.

The NFL Draft is a fascinating study because in a business where each team is worth $3-4B, the draft is very much an inexact science. You trade a bundle of picks to draft a guy, that guy better be good, or there is a price to pay.

Think about it this way; RGIII is 32 years old, and his TV career is well underway. The last two Super Bowl-winning QB’s are 45 and 34 years old. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Chiefs 44, 49ers 23
— Chiefs scored six touchdowns on nine drives.
— Kansas City averaged 11.3 yards/pass attempt.
— Chiefs have 27 TD’s on 68 drives this season. 
— Last four weeks, Chiefs converted 29-49 third down plays.
— KC is 8-4 ATS last 12 games coming off a loss.

— Chiefs led 14-13 at halftime.
— McCaffrey had 10 touches for 62 yards in his SF debut.
— 49ers have been outscored 86-53 in second half.
— Garoppolo threw two INT’s in the red zone.
— NFC West teams are 3-7 ATS as a non-divisional favorite.

Commanders 23, Packers 21
— This just in: Heinicke is a better QB than Carson Wentz.
— Commanders’ first 2 drives: 6 plays, 7 yards, no first downs.
— Commanders’ last 7 drives: 66 plays, 357 yards, 23 points.
— Last four games, Washington scored 41 points in 13 red zone drives.
— NFC East teams are 14-5 ATS in non-division games.

— Packers lost last three games, to Giants/Jets/Washington. 
— Last four weeks, Green Bay gave up 159,3 rushing yards/game.
— Washington was 7-16 on third down, Packers 0-6.
— Last three games, Green Bay converted 8 of 32 third down plays.
— Green Bay stayed under its team total in six of seven games.

Bengals 35, Falcons 17
— Bengals’ first four drives: 28 plays, 314 yards, four TD’s.
— Chase had 8 catches for 130 yards, 2 TD’s; Boyd 8 catches for 155 yards, one TD
— Cincinnati had ten plays of 20+ yards, Falcons had one.
— Last four games, Cincy converted 32-60 on 3rd down.
— Cincinnati won four of last five games (5-0 ATS).

— Teams are 0-6 SU/ATS the week after playing the 49ers.
— Falcons had only one play longer than 12 yards.
— Atlanta in 2nd half: 20 plays, 40 yards, 3 first downs, no points.
— Bengals outgained Falcons, 537-214.
— Last five opponents converted 39-76 third down plays.

Giants 23, Jaguars 17
— Game ended with Jaguar WR tackled on 1-yard line.
— Jaguars were in red zone five times, scored 17 points.
— Jacksonville had 13 penalties for 81 yards.
— Jaguars are 2-8 ATS in last ten games as a home favorite.
— Jaguars lost last four games, giving up 24.8 ppg.

— Giants won/covered six of first seven games.
— They were tied/behind in 4th quarter in six of seven games.
— Giants outscored opponents 58-22 in 4th quarter.
— Jaguars led 17-13 with 6:00 left in this game.
— Last four games, Big Blue converted 25-51 on third down.

Cowboys 24, Lions 6
— Detroit led 6-3 at halftime,
— Lions in 2nd half: six drives, five turnovers.
— Down 10-6 in 4th quarter, Detroit lost a fumble on the Dallas 1-yard line.
— Lions threw two INT’s, lost three fumbles (minus-4), all in 2nd half.
— Last two games for Detroit: 19 drives, 7 turnovers, 2 field goals.

— Cowboys won/covered five of their last six games.
— Dallas had TD drives of 82-54-24 yards.
— Cowboys have converted only 28-87 third down plays.
— Dallas is 7-3 ATS in last ten games as a home favorite.
— Under is 6-0-1 in their games this season.

Titans 19, Colts 10
— Tennessee won its last four games, scoring 24-24-21-19 points.
— Titans’ only TD was 76-yard pick-6 early in second quarter.
— Tennessee is 4-2 despite being outgained by 110.2 yds/game.
— Opponents have converted only 20-72 third down plays.
— Tennessee has outscored opponents 95-47 in first half.

— Indy’s only TD came on 58-yard drive midway thru third quarter.
— Colts turned ball over three times (minus-2).
— Tennessee won four of last five series games.
— Six of Indy’s seven games stayed under the total. 
— Colts have been outscored 126-67 in quarters 1-3 this season.

Ravens 23, Browns 20
— Cleveland lost last four games, giving up 23-30-38-23 points.
— Five of Browns’ first seven games were decided by 3 or fewer points. 
— Ravens converted 7-15 on third down, Cleveland 2-11.
— Last four games, Browns converted 15-50 on third down.
— Browns are 9-16-2 ATS in last 27 games coming off a loss.

— Baltimore had a 14-yard edge in field position.
— Tucker put Ravens up 23-13 with 55-yard FG, 11:24 left in game.
— Ravens ran ball 44 times, threw only 16 passes.
— Baltimore is 2-7 ATS last nine games as a home favorite.
— Ravens won 10 of last 13 series games.

Panthers 21, Buccaneers 3
— Tampa Bay lost four of its last five games (0-5 ATS)
— Buccaneers scored one TD on their last 19 drives.
— Last four games, Bucs ran ball 71 times for 193 yards,
— Tampa Bay is 0-3 this year when it gives up more than 15 points.
— Six of seven Tampa Bay games stayed under the total.

— Carolina’s three TD drives: 80-77-75 yards.
— Carolina’s other 7 drives: 34 plays, 188 yards, 5 first downs, no points.
— Panthers ran ball for 173 yards, Tampa Bay 46.
— Five of last six Panther games stayed under the total.
— Walker is 3-1 as an NFL starting QB.

Jets 16, Broncos 9
— Jets won/covered four in row, five of last six games.
— Jets’ only TD was a 62-yard run with 7:34 left in first quarter.
— Gang Green won/covered all four of their road games.
— Jets converted only 3-14 on 3rd down, averaged 3.6 yards/pass attempt.
— Three of their last four opponents played a backup QB.

— Denver lost last four games, by 9-3-3-7 points.
— Broncos scored 16 or fewer points in six of seven games.
— Last six games, Broncos are 23-87 on third down.
— Six of seven Denver games stayed under the total. 
— AFC West teams are 6-11 ATS outside the division.

Raiders 38, Texans 20
— Raiders outscored Houston 21-0 in fourth quarter.
— Texans’ first 5 drives: 43 plays, 300 yards, 20 points.
— Texans’ last 3 drives: 24 plays, 106 yards, no points.
— Houston allowed 163.8 rushing yards/game in first six games.
— 2nd-year QB Mills is 3-13-1 as an NFL starter.

— Jacobs ran ball 20 times for 143 yards, three TD’s.
— Raiders’ first 3 drives: 20 plays, 66 yards, 3 points.
— Raiders’ last 4 drives: 34 plays, 314 yards, 28 points.
— Las Vegas scored 32-29-38 points in their last three games.
— Raiders averaged 8.4 yards/pass attempt. 

 Seahawks 37, Chargers 23
— Seahawks ran ball for 214 yards (6.3 yards/carry).
— Seattle led 17-0 after the first quarter.
— Only nine of Seahawks’ 63 plays were on third down.
— Seattle is 3-0 when it allows less than 27 points.
— Four of Seahawks’ last five games went over the total.

— Chargers gave up 37-38-37 points in their three losses.
— Chargers turned ball over on two of first three drives.
— Bolts converted 5-15 on third down, 1-3 on fourth down.
— Chargers ran ball for 81 or fewer yards in six of seven games. 
— four of Bolts’ last five games went over the total.

Dolphins 16, Steelers 10
— Neither team scored in second half.
— Miami in first half: 5 drives, 38 plays, 231 yards, 16 points.
— Miami in 2nd half: 6 drives, 26 plays, 127 yards, no points.
— Dolphins stayed under their team total in six of seven games TY.
— Tagovailoa is 17-9 as an NFL starter.

— Steelers lost five of their last six games.
— Steelers have no turnovers (+9) in their wins, 12 (-7) in losses.
— Pittsburgh has only nine TD’s on 74 drives this season.
— Steelers are 15-9 ATS last 24 games as a road underdog.
— Steelers are 3-7 ATS last ten games coming off a win.

Phillies 4, Padres 3:
— Harper hit a 2-run homer in bottom of 8th.
— Ranger Suarez got 2 batters out on 2 pitches for the save.
— Phillies head to Houston for World Series, starting Friday.

Astros 6, New York 5:
— Down 3-0, Pena tied game with 3-run homer in 3rd inning.
— Bader had three hits, scored three runs for New York.
— Astros’ bullpen closed game out with three perfect innings. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

Oklahoma State 41, Texas 34
Texas has now lost five straight true road games.
Longhorns led 31-24 at halftime.
Sanders threw for 391 yards, two TD’s, both in last 10:00.

Tulane 38, Memphis 28
Green Wave is in Top 25 for first time since 1998.
Tulane has outscored opponents 62-10 in first quarter.

TCU 38, Kansas State 28
Horned Frogs outscored K-State 21-0 in second half.
TCU converted 10-19 on third down, Wildcats 3-9
Kade Warner (son of Kurt Warner) caught a 28-yard TD pass for K-State.

LSU 45, Ole Miss 20
Rebels led 17-3 early in second quarter.
LSU outscored Ole Miss 28-0 in second half.
LSU ran ball for 252 yards, had 35 first downs.
Ole Miss had 10 penalties for 111 yards.

Upsets of the Week:
FIU (+13.5) 34, Charlotte 15
Duke (+10) 45, Miami 21
Marshall (+9.5) 26, James Madison 12
Buffalo (+7.5) 34, Toledo 27
Western Michigan (+7) 16, Miami OH 10
Liberty (+7) 41, BYU 14
Oklahoma State (+6.5) 41, Texas 34
Bowling Green (+6.5) 34, Central Michigan 18

Clemson 27, Syracuse 21
Syracuse led 21-10 at halftime, didn’t score in second half.
Orangemen forced a fumble, ran it back 90 yards for a TD.
Backup QB Klubnik came off bench to lead winning rally.
Clemson ran for 293 yards, outgained Syracuse 450-291.

Rice 42, Louisiana Tech 41 OT
Tech tied game on 19-yard TD pass with 0:37 left in regulation.
Rice WR McCaffrey caught 10 passes for 171 yards, two TD’s.
Owls ran ball for 279 yards; they’re 4-3, could go bowling.

Liberty 41, BYU 14
BYU led 14-3 after first quarter.
Liberty converted 7-12 on third down, BYU 3-11
Flames ran ball for 300 yards, 6.3 yards/carry.

Boise State 19, Air Force 14
Broncos are 3-0 since Dirk Koetter was named offensive coordinator.
Boise held Air Force to 175 rushing yards.

Oregon 45, UCLA 30
Oregon QB Nix threw for 283 yards, five TD’s.
Ducks ran ball for 262 yards, 5.7 yards/carry.

South Carolina 30, Texas A&M 24
Aggies’ offense has scored 24 or less points in nine straight games vs I-A teams; only teams with longer streaks are Rutgers, Colorado State.

Houston 5, New York 0
Javier got 16 outs on 84 pitches.
Houston used five relievers to get the last 11 outs.
Aaron Boone is taking heat for removing Cole with bases loaded in 6th inning, down 2-0, after throwing 95 pitches. All three baserunners wound up scoring.
Houston is 6-0 this postseason; Astros lead series, 3-0

Philadelphia 10, San Diego 6
First playoff game since 1932 where neither starting pitcher finished the first inning.
Rhys Hoskins homered twice for Philly.
Kyle Schwarber homered, scored three runs.
Phillies lead series, 3-1

Saturday’s Den: Some stories, other stuff on a fall Saturday

— Today (Saturday) is the 50th anniversary of my best day ever as a sports fan.

October 22, 1972, a Sunday. I was 12 years old.

Game 7 of the World Series started at 1pm (imagine that now?); A’s beat the Reds when Pete Rose flied to left fielder Joe Rudi to end the game, giving Oakland its first of three straight World Series titles. I was very excited that day.

I became an A’s fan in 1965, after getting a set of baseball cards from my grandparents. One of the cards was a Kansas City A’s rookie card, with four prospects on it. One of the prospects had no minor league record; they misspelt his name on the back of the card.

Went to my dad, showed him the card and told him, “This is my favorite player” He gave me an odd look (that happened a lot when I was a kid) but I was now an A’s fan- they were a bad team back then, but things gradually got better, once they moved to Oakland in 1968.

What are the odds that the player with no minor league record would become a Hall of Famer?

Jim (Catfish) Hunter threw a perfect game in 1968, made six All-Star Games pitching for the A’s, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987. He was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the ’72 Series, getting eight outs while pitching with one day of rest.

As if winning the World Series wasn’t enough……..

The 4:00 NFL game on local TV was supposed to be Broncos-Raiders, but luckily for me, they showed the Bengals-Rams game instead.

Rams led 10-0 at halftime, blew the lead, but David Ray kicked a field goal at the end, giving the Rams a 15-12 win, and giving me a very excellent day.

Fifty years ago; time flies when you’re having fun.

— Back in the early 80’s, I coached JV high school baseball for a year; talk about someone being in over his head, that was me. Things didn’t go well in terms of wins/losses, but the kids had fun, and a lot of us have remained friends over the years. 

I found out just this week, 38 years later, that the father of one of those guys had played minor league baseball, three years in the Pirates’ organization. Wish I had known back then; would have picked his brain about the experience.

One of his coaches in the minors was Danny Murtaugh, who later won two World Series managing Pittsburgh. One of his teammates in spring training was Mario Cuomo, who later became governor of New York.

Spent some time this week picking my friend Dave’s brain about this; his dad is 97 years old now. I didn’t know him well; he never said a word to me (other than hello) during the season when I coached his son, even though he probably cringed when he watched our team play.

He played three years in the minors, then had to make a life decision. This was 1952; there was no big money in baseball yet, and he was about to get married. He did well in the minors, with a .298 batting average— he led the league in triples one year, but he was about to get married and the Pirates were going to send him to play minor league ball in Hollywood the next year- the Dodgers hadn’t moved to Los Angeles yet.

While pondering his decision, he wrote a letter to Pirates GM Branch Rickey, who responded with a 3.5-page letter, a hugely thoughtful thing to do. Obviously, it was a much different world in 1952; no Internet, hell no cable TV. Branch Rickey had never seen my friend’s dad play, so he could only give general advice based on scouts’ reports.

My friend has this letter; he texted me a copy of it last night. That Branch Rickey took the time to write a 3.5-page, single-spaced letter to someone he had never seen play is remarkable.

My friend’s dad is also in the Ithaca College Hall of Fame, along with Gorilla Monsoon, the pro wrestler. He retired from baseball after three years, went into the insurance business and did very well in it. In today’s world, where players get to the majors a lot faster and the money is a lot bigger, his choice might have been different.

That is what makes life interesting, the choices we have/make. 

— I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell this one story from that season coaching those guys.

We were winning one game by a decent amount, and Dave was pitching. He had a good arm but he was struggling with his curveball, so he was just throwing fastballs, the other team was hitting long fly balls (the field had no fence) and our outfielders were catching them.

But he calls me out to the mound in the 4th inning; I go out there— we hadn’t won a game in a while and I say to him “What could possibly be the problem?” He hands me the ball, says “I never want to pitch again the rest of my life” and walked off the mound.

Seriously, he didn’t want to pitch anymore. We laugh about it now; but I needed to sub in someone to get the last 10 or 11 outs in this game- there weren’t a lot of choices. We held on to win the game, but it says a lot that 38 years later, I have a pretty vivid memory of it.

— One more story for today: guy I know went to the Cleveland-New York playoff game earlier this week, the game that got rained out. They drove down from Albany, 150 miles or so, and got there just before the scheduled first pitch, but there was a rain delay.

Weren’t lot of parking spots available; they tried this one lot where apparently the buses parked, but it was full— the lady running things hinted that she could find them a spot if they threw her a few extra bucks.

So a parking lot that cost $55 to park in wound up costing them $85, to watch a game that was never played. Oy.

— I’m watching the Magic-Hawks’ NBA game as I write this; they’re showing clips of Dejounte Murray and Trae Young riding camels during their recent trip to Abu Dhabi. There is no way on God’s green earth I would ever ride a camel; too damn tall.

— Texas Rangers hired future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy as their manager; brilliant move. Bochy won three World Series managing the Giants, also got San Diego to a World Series.

— Phillies 4, Padres 2
Schwarber hit a home run in first inning.
Phillies’ bullpen threw four scoreless innings.
Philadelphia leads series, 2-1.

— Tulsa 27, Tulane 16
Temple led 10-0 after first quarter.
Deneric Prince had an 84-yard TD run early in 4th quarter to put Tulsa ahead 24-10.
Temple was 4-18 on third down, Tulsa 2-11.
Total yardage: Tulsa 454, Temple 280

— Western Kentucky 20, UAB 17
UAB led 17-7 with 2:00 left in first half.
Hilltoppers had 11 penalties for 86 yards, UAB 4 for 22.
Blazers turned ball over four times (minus-3)

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

— Carolina Panthers traded RB Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers; in return, they get:
2023 2nd round pick
2023 3rd round pick
2023 4th round pick
2024 5th round pick

I would advise against wagering on Carolina the rest of this season.

Cardinals 42, Saints 34
— Cardinals scored 22 points in 1:42 span of 2nd quarter, with two pick-6’s.
— Saints outgained Arizona, 494-326, but were minus-3 in turnovers.
— In his first game this season, WR Hopkins was targeted 14 times, caught 10 passes for 103 yards.
— All the other Cardinals were targeted 15 times, caught 10 balls for 101 yards.

— Saints lost five of last six games; their turnover ratio is minus-11.
— New Orleans has been outscored 103-68 in first half.
— Saints have been outscored 46-15 in last 2:00 of each half.
— Last four New Orleans games went over the total.

— Worst thing about the Amazon Prime NFL game is that it is tough to go back/forth between games on my TV, when one of the games is on Amazon— doesn’t switch back quick enough. Need two devices working, instead.

— Thursday was just 27th night ever with NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL all playing on same night. Someone on Twitter called it the Sports Equinox.

— Next year, NFL will have a game the Friday after Thanksgiving, a 3pm Friday game that will be shown on Amazon Prime. Good thing I’m already divorced; putting games on at 3:00 on a weekday afternoon would’ve caused a problem. (It’s a joke!!!, but there will be a Friday game)

— Dak Prescott is starting at QB for Dallas Sunday against the Lions. Cooper Rush goes back to one of the best jobs in America, getting paid $977,500 to be the backup QB, where no one ever hits you and no one ever boos you.

— Other night on TNT, Reggie Miller called Steph Curry “the greatest shooter ever” which pretty much ends that discussion, seeing how Miller is also in that discussion.

— Speaking of TNT, their Inside the NBA crew signed on for the next five years; it is a popular show, must make the network lot of $$$$.

— Philadelphia 76ers haven’t made the Eastern Conference Finals (NBA’s version of the Final 4) since 2001; that fact surprised me.

— Big rule improvement in the NBA: outlawing teams giving a foul to end a fast break. Those fouls took away lot of fast breaks, which are fun to watch— there were 1,700 take fouls in the NBA last year. The game will have a better flow now.

— I’ll say this again; an assist on a 3-point shot should count as 1.5 assists, passes that lead to made foul shots should also be credited, half an assist for every made free throw. Points are points, no matter how they’re scored.

— Houston 3, New York 2
Bregman hit a 3-run homer in third inning.
Astros won their first five playoff games, by total of seven runs.
Series heads to New York with Houston leading, 2-0.

— Yoenis Cespedes is still playing baseball; he is playing in the Dominican Winter League, and may be looking at making a comeback in the big leagues next spring.

— Don’t always judge strategy by results; a coach/manager can make the right move, and it might not work. Coaches play percentages; sometimes nothing they would try will work, other times, there are no bad options.

— Appalachian State 42, Georgia State 17
Georgia State led 14-0 after first quarter.
App State outscored them 35-3 in second half.
App State ran ball for 404 yards, outgained Georgia State 466-301.

— Virginia 16, Georgia Tech 9
Tech’s only TD came on a pick-6 (they missed the PAT)
Virginia led 13-9 at halftime.
Cavaliers outgained Tech, 410-201
Yellow Jackets were 6-21 on third down, Virginia 2-14.

— Troy 10, South Alabama 6
Troy scored only TD of game on first play of 2nd quarter.
Troy converted 1-12 on third down, South Alabama 4-13
Jaguars ran ball 21 times for 31 yards.
Total yardage: Troy 266, South Alabama 244

— There is a great writer named Joe Posnanski who has written a few books that are all good; he really is an excellent sportswriter. He also has an e-mail thing where you get knowledge from him every day, and it is free.

Mr Posnanski posted this great nugget this week: in 1952, a guy named Don Lenhardt batted three times with the bases loaded. He was a utility player who had an ordinary career, but in those three AB’s that year with the bases loaded……..

First time with bases loaded, he hit an inside-the-park home run.

Second time with bases loaded, he hit a walk-off grand slam.

The day after his walk-off grand slam, Lenhardt got traded from Boston to Detroit.

Less than a week later, in this third AB with bases loaded, he hit a home run against the Red Sox, the team that had just traded him.

For the season, Lenhardt hit .239 with 11 HR’s, but he was perfect with the bases loaded.

Thursday’s Den: Quick Notes on NFC teams

Arizona Cardinals— On each team’s first drive of the game, Cardinals have been outscored 27-3. On their first drives, Arizona has run 30 plays for 122 yards, opponents 57 plays for 308 yards.

Atlanta Falcons— Falcons are only 11th NFL team since 1989 to start a season 6-0 against the spread. Falcons are 11-6 ATS last 17 games as a road underdog.

Carolina Panthers— Panthers have gone 3/out on 22 of 62 drives (35.5%); they’ve given up 24 plays of 20+ yards (-7). On 38 drives that started 75+ yards from goal line, they scored 29 points.

Chicago Bears— Bears have been outscored 84-39 in first half this season; on their first drive of 3rd quarter, Chicago has scored four TD’s, kicked a field goal (39 plays, 373 yards). 

Dallas Cowboys— In their two losses, Cowboys lost field position by 12-17 yards; they’ve converted only 25-78 third down plays. Under is 5-0-1 in their games this season.

Detroit Lions— Lions have forced only nine 3/outs, tied for least in NBA (Seattle); under Campbell, Lions are 4-17-1 SU, 14-8 ATS. Over is 5-2 in Detroit’s last seven games.

Green Bay Packers— Green Bay went under its team total in five of six games; they’ve converted only 8 of last 26 third down plays. Packers have forced 23 3/outs, T2 in league. 

Los Angeles Rams— Rams allowed a defensive TD in their last three games; they’ve gone 3/out on 20 of 59 drives (33.9%). Rams allowed 47 points on 12 red zone drives (3.92).

Minnesota Vikings— Vikings have TD drives of 78-75-86 yards on their first possessions; they outscored opponents 21-10 on first drives. They’re 5-1, scoring 27.3 ppg in last four games.

New Jersey Giants— 5-1 Giants have trailed by 10+ points in three of five wins; they have only 13 plays of 20+ yards, three less than any other team. Giants have outscored foes 87-49 in second half of games.

New Orleans Saints— Saints are 0-4 when they score less than 27 points; they’ve been outscored 75-54 in first half. Saints have been outscored 31-12 in last 2:00 of each half.

Philadelphia Eagles— Last five games, on their first drive, opponents ran total of 18 plays for 41 yards. Eagles have forced 24 3/outs, gone 3/out only nine times themselves, best ratio in NFL.

San Francisco 49ers— 49ers were held to 10-10-14 points in their losses; they’ve forced 23 3/outs, gone 3/out only 12 times. SF has 25 plays of 20+ yards; they’ve allowed 13 (+12).

Seattle Seahawks— Seahawks on first drive of game: 47 plays, 357 yards, 27 points. Seahawks on first series of second half: 32 plays, 167 yards, no points.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers— Opponents in first drive of game: 54 plays, 281 yards, 23 points. Opponents on first series of second half: 33 plays, 89 yards, 6 points.

Washington Commanders— They’ve gone 3/out 22 times on 65 drives (33.8%), allowed 29 plays of 20+ yards (minus-7). Last five games, Commanders have been outscored 77-20 in first half.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

— Philadelphia 2, San Diego 0
Wheeler allowed one hit in seven IP
Harper, Schwarber homered for the Phillies.

— New York 5, Cleveland 1— Bronx wins series, 3-2, heads to Houston for the ALCS, which starts Wednesday night.

Disappointing but not surprising to see Will Little working the plate for Game 4 of the New York-Cleveland series. Since 2013, New York is 16-6 when Little is behind the plate.

Remember an A’s game in New York in 2017, when I was sitting at a bar having lunch during the game. Jed Lowrie/Bob Melvin both got tossed because Little was doing his thing, helping out the home team. It was Lowrie’s first career ejection. It wasn’t good for my blood pressure.

— Forgot to mention this last week, but AJ Pierzynski does a nice job as a TV analyst; he was a good MLB catcher. He offers opinions, and mostly just talks ball, which is a positive thing.

— Surprising stat: Last 10 years, Detroit Lions are 9-1 ATS in the game after their bye week.

— Celtics 126, 76ers 117
Tatum/Brown both scored 35 points.
Boston’s bench outscored Philly’s subs, 34-11

— Great to hear analyst Stan Van Gundy on this game; listening to him talk ball is like taking a master class in basketball. Always learn a lot from him.

— Golden State Warriors paid Jordan Poole $140M for four years, Andrew Wiggins $110M for four years as they solidify their future.

— NBA retired number 6 throughout the league, in honor of the great Bill Russell, who passed away this summer. Active players who wear number 6 now can still wear it, but no one else will be issued number 6.

Russell played 13 years in the NBA, won 11 titles; he missed the Finals once in 13 years.

— With NBA starting this week, we point out that Kentucky has 27 alums on NBA rosters at the start of the season, Duke has 25.

— Added Hulu to my TV last week, meaning unlimited CSI and M*A*S*H late at night for me, two of my all-time favorite TV shows.

— Big 14 hasn’t won a national title in college basketball since Michigan State in 2000.

— Odd fact: Justin Herbert threw 57 passes in the Chargers’ 19-16 win Monday night, but he didn’t throw a TD pass. It was the most passes ever thrown in an NFL game by a QB who didn’t throw a TD, and whose team won that game.

— Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay spoke out Tuesday against Washington owner Daniel Snyder, calling for his removal as the Commanders’ owner.

NFL teams go for $3-4B each, so if Snyder has to sell, he’ll make a boatload of $$$, but rich people don’t like to be told when to come and go.

— In 2010, Joe Jacob bought the Golden State Warriors for $450M; this season, the Warriors’ payroll plus their payroll tax might be more than $450M.

— Reggie Miller was talking about the scuffle Golden State had in practice during training camp; Miller said stuff like that happens in the NBA, but it happens more on good teams than bad teams, because good teams have more accountability. Bad teams don’t care as much. 

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

Chargers 19, Broncos 16 OT
— Broncos in first half: 25 plays, 201 yards, a TD and two field goals
— Broncos in 2nd half/OT: 33 plays, 72 yards, 6 punts, one field goal.
— Wilson completed 10-10 passes in first quarter.
— From 2nd quarter on, Wilson completed 5-18 passes.
— Five of six Denver games stayed under the total. 

— Chargers kicked FG in OT, after Denver muffed a punt.
— Chargers ran 83 plays, only two of which gained 20+ yards.
— Chargers converted 11-22 third down plays.
— Bolts averaged 3.8 yards per pass attempt.
— In overtime, two teams combined to run 16 plays for 16 yards. 

— Carolina Panthers traded disgruntled WR Robbie Anderson to Arizona; they get a 6th and 7th round draft pick in return. Panther coaches sent Anderson to the locker room during Sunday’s loss in Los Angeles, after he got into a spat with Carolina’s WR coach.

Anderson has caught 13 passes for 206 yards this year, but over half those yards came in Week 1. Cardinals need WR help after Marquise Brown got hurt Sunday; they also get DeAndre Hopkins back from his six-game suspension this week.

— Panthers scored six TD’s in their last four games; problem is, Carolina’s offense only scored three of them- their defense scored the other three.

— Washington QB Carson Wentz is out 4-6 weeks with a broken finger on his passing hand; Taylor Heinicke (7-9 as an NFL starter) takes his place under center for the Commanders.

Maybe the change will help; Commanders have converted only 8 of last 37 third down plays.

— Cincinnati Bengals are only team in NFL that hasn’t given up a second half touchdown this season; they’ve outscored opponents 71-30 in second half this year.

Football players are really, really tough; Bengals’ left tackle Jonah Williams dislocated his kneecap in the Week 5 loss at Baltimore, but he returned to that game, then played Sunday in New Orleans.

— Cleveland Browns are only the third team in last 58 years that led each of their first five games after three quarters, yet lost more than half those games.

1999 Saints, 2015 Seahawks are other two teams on that list.

Streak ended for the Browns Sunday, when they got waxed 38-15 at home by New England.

— College quarterbacks take harder hits than NFL QB’s; lot fewer roughing the passer calls in the college game.

— In case you’re wondering, the record for most punts with one team: Sam Koch punted 1,168 times for the Ravens, from 2006-21.

— Illinois football coach Bret Bielema is a throwback; Saturday, Illini RB Chase Brown carried the football 41 times for 190 yards in their 26-14 win over Minnesota. 41 carries is a lot for two games, even moreso for one.

Long time ago, USC coach John McKay was asked why his tailback was carrying the ball so much. “Why not?” McKay replied. “The ball isn’t very heavy. And besides, he doesn’t belong to a union.”

— So far in Sun Belt conference games this season, underdogs are 18-6 against the spread; they were 5-0 ATS this past weekend.

— Penn State coach James Franklin is a very good coach; how do I know this? The freakin’ guy won at Vanderbilt. In three years with the Commodores, Franklin went 6-7, then 9-4/9-4- he went 11-13 in SEC games at Vanderbilt, won two of three bowl games.

These days, Vanderbilt has lost its last 24 SEC games; they haven’t played in a bowl game since 2018, haven’t won a bowl since 2013. Tough job.

— Since 2015, Alabama has scored 56 touchdowns on special teams/defense, most in the country; San Diego State is next on that list, with 38.

— Five oldest I-A college football players are all 29+ years old; they’re all Australian punters. They punt for East Carolina, Illinois, Miami, Oklahoma State, TCU.

— NBA season begins tonight; all the major sports overlap starting this week.

—- Last two years, Seattle Mariners went 67-41 in one-run games, but then they got swept in the playoffs by Houston, losing the three games by total of four runs. Great year for Seattle, making the playoffs for first time since 2001.

— With the Braves getting bounced from the playoffs, 2009 Phillies remain the last defending World Series champ to get back to the World Series the following season.