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

— When I was a kid, two guys in our neighborhood drove Cadillacs; the guy who owned a funeral parlor, and the guy who owned a beer distributorship.

There’s a lesson in there for kids; get into a line of work where you’ll never, ever run out of customers. Dying and drinking fit that description.

— Monday was the Sports Equinox, the only day in 2023 where all four pro sports were in action on the same day. Only the 29th time it has ever happened. 

— Saturday night in Fort Collins, Colorado State was penalized after their fans threw snowballs at the Air Force bench during the Falcons’ 30-13 win. Problem is, the game was 13-13 when the snowballs were thrown; Air Force scored a touchdown on the drive after the penalty.

— NHL has struck gold with their Stadium Series games, where teams play outdoors; they draw very large crowds. Flames-Oilers in Edmonton Sunday drew 55,411 fans. 

Lions 26, Raiders 14
Lions outgained the Raiders, 486-157.
Detroit won/covered five of its last six games.
Under Campbell, Detroit is 7-2 ATS as a home favorite.
Under Campbell, Lions are 29-12-1 ATS overall.

Raiders in 2nd half: 22 plays, 76 yards, no points.
Raiders’ only TD in 2nd half was 75-yard pick-6 by Peters.
Las Vegas lost last three road games, by 28-17-18-12 points.
Raiders’ team total: under 8-0

— Through eight weeks of the NFL season, seven rookie QB’s have started a game, the most of any year in the Super Bowl era. 

Rangers 3, Diamondbacks 1
Texas scored 3 runs in 2nd inning; Seager hit a 2-run homer.
Scherzer left after three innings with a bad back.
Texas bullpen got 18 outs, allowed only one run.
Rangers lead series, 2-1

— Rangers’ OF Adolis Garcia left the game with left side tightness.

— It is good to watch the World Series live again; this time last year, I had DirecTV and they were at war with the local FOX station, so no live baseball— watched the replays of the World Series at 2:30am on MLB Network. Watching them live is more fun. 

— Whoever invented the multi-view, with football game/baseball game next to each other on the same screen, that person deserves a raise, a big raise.

— In case you were wondering, there have been 20,533 major league baseball players; it is difficult to make it to the big leagues, even harder to stay there.

— Word of the Day: Camaraderie— Mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.

— College football conference trends:
AAC— home favorites are 5-11 ATS, home underdogs are 4-8.
ACC— home underdogs are 10-4 ATS
Big X— home favorites are 12-9 ATS, home underdogs are 9-4
Big 14— home underdogs are 3-11 ATS
C-USA— home favorites are 5-8 ATS, home underdogs are 2-8

MAC— home favorites are 6-8 ATS, home underdogs are 3-7
Mountain West— home favorites are 6-8 ATS, home underdogs are 5-7
Pac-12— home underdogs are 10-4 ATS
SEC— home favorites are 13-7 ATS, home underdogs are 4-10
Sun Belt— home favorites are 8-12 ATS.

— Iowa-Northwestern total for this week is 29.5, the lowest college football total on record. Five of the six meetings in this series stayed under the total. This game is in Chicago, not Evanston.

Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, the head coach’s son, will finish out this season, then take a hike, the school announced Monday. Nice way of saying he got fired.

— NFL divisional trends:
NFC East teams are 12-9 ATS outside the division.
NFC North teams are 9-12-1 ATS outside the division.
NFC South teams are 7-14-1 ATS outside the division.
NFC West home teams are 6-3 ATS outside the division.

AFC East underdogs are 3-5 ATS outside the division.
Underdogs are 5-0 ATS in AFC North divisional games.
AFC South underdogs are 11-5 ATS outside the division.
AFC West underdogs are 0-5 ATS outside the division.

— UNLV’s football program is 6-2, their best year in a long time; it turns out that the last time UNLV went thru an entire season with the same starting QB was 1996, when John Denton was the Rebels’ quarterback. Thats a lot of instability at a very important position.

— San Jose State shut Hawai’i out 35-0 Saturday; it was the first time since 1998 that Hawai’i was shut out at home.

— I’m curious about the mechanics of the transfer portal; who contacts who? If Player A wants to bolt his current school, does he have people contract other schools, or do schools contract players who want to bolt? Or both?

— If the World Series goes seven games, Game 7 is Saturday night on FOX, the same time as the Alabama-LSU football game on CBS. Good time for multi-view on YouTube TV.

— Chiefs-Dolphins play Sunday morning at 9:30, in Germany; was this a good idea, having one of the marquis matchups of the season at 9:30am?

Kansas City wanted the game to be in Germany; every team has to play an international game once every eight years, and the Chiefs wanted their game to be in Germany since they have global marketing rights there.

— NFL trades (trade deadline is Tuesday at 4:00):
Giants traded DE Leonard Williams to Seattle, for a 2nd and 5th-round draft pick.
Philadelphia traded DT Kentavius Street and a 2025 7th-round pick to Atlanta, for a 2024 6th-round pick.

— Cardinals benched QB Joshua Dobbs; rookie Clayton Tune will start this week in Cleveland, unless Kyler Murray is deemed healthy enough to make his return from ACL surgery. 

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

Eagles 38, Commanders 31
— Washington led 17-10 at halftime.
— Eagles’ last five drives: 22 plays, 155 yards, 4 TD’s.
— Hurts was 29-38/319 passing, with four TD’s.
— Eagles won seven of first eight games (4-2-2 ATS)

— Washington lost five of last six games SU (2-3-1 ATS)
— Commanders scored 31-31 points vs Philly TY, lost both games.
— Washington kicker Slye made a 61-yard FG to end the first half.
— Commanders threw 26-yard TD pass with 1:01 left to push the spread.

Saints 38, Colts 27
— Derek Carr was 19-27/310 passing, with two TD’s.
— New Orleans averaged 11.7 yards/pass attempt.
— Saints are 17-10-2 ATS last 29 games coming off a loss.
— Saints are 3-1 scoring 20+ points, 1-3 scoring less than 20.

— New Orleans outgained the Colts, 511-371.
— Saints led 21-20 at halftime.
— Colts are 7-12 ATS in last 19 games with spread of 3 or less.
— Colts gave up 31-29-37-39-38 points in losses; 20-19-16 in wins.

Jaguars 20, Steelers 10
— Jaguars won/covered their last five games.
— Jacksonville’s first six drives: 3 field goals, 3 turnovers.
— Jaguars converted 6-13 on third down, Pittsburgh 3-12.
— Jacksonville outscored last four opponents 75-19 in first half.

— Steelers’ first four drives: 12 plays, 12 yards, four punts.
— Jaguars outgained Pittsburgh, 377-261
— Six of seven Steeler games stayed under the total.
— Steelers scored 26-23-17-24 points in wins, 7-6-10 in losses.

Panthers 15, Texans 13
— Piniero kicked a 23-yard FG at the gun for the win.
— Panthers ran ball 24 times for only 44 yards.
— You’re reading armadillosports com
— Carolina is 6-2-1 ATS in last nine games as a home underdog.
— In Young’s six starts, Carolina averaged 5+ yards/pass attempt once.

— Total yardage in game: 229-224, Houston.
— since 2016, Houston is 1-6-2 ATS as a road favorite.
— Texans scored 37-30-20 points in wins (9-20-19-13 in losses)
— Texans are 1-5 ATS in last six post-bye games. 

Cowboys 43, Rams 20
— Cowboys led 33-3 with 2:00 left in first half.
— Dallas scored TD on pick-6, got a safety on a blocked punt.
— Prescott was 25-31/304 passing with four TD’s.
— Stafford hurt his right thumb, sat out most of second half.

— Five Dallas wins were by a combined score of 171-50.
— Cowboys won their three home games, 30-10/38-3/43-20.
— Dallas is 13-5 ATS in last 18 games as a home favorite.
— Cowboys are 6-2 ATS in last eight post-bye games.

Dolphins 31, Patriots 17
— Patriots lost four of their last five games. 
— Patriots were outscored 82-26 in first half of those games.
— Dolphins outgained New England, 390-218.
— Since Brady left, NE is 27-31 SU in regular season, 0-1 in playoffs.

— Waddle had 121 receiving yards, Hill 112.
— Dolphins are 8-2 ATS in last ten AFC East home games.
— At home, Miami has scored 24 TD’s on 44 drives.
— Dolphins’ six wins are over teams with a combined 10-30 record

Jets 13, Giants 10 OT
— Jets kicked 35-yard FG at gun to force overtime.
— Jets won their last three games (3-0-1 ATS in last four)
— Jets’ only TD drive was one play, 50 yards.
— Jets’ opponents’ team total: under 6-1

— Giants went 3/out on 11 of their 17 drives.
— Taylor/DeVito completed 6-14 passes, for 7 yards. Seven.
— Giants were 2-19 on third down, Jets 2-15.
— Giants lost five of their last six games (2-0-1 ATS last three)

Titans 28, Falcons 23
— Rookie QB Levis was 19-29/238 with 4 TD’s, in his NFL debut.
— Tennessee led 14-3 at halftime.
— Titans won/covered three of their four home games.
— Tennessee won its last eight post-bye games (7-0-1 ATS)

— Falcons in first half: 30 plays, 90 yards, 3 points.
— Falcons in second half: 38 plays, 253 yards, 20 points.
— Backup QB Heinicke was 12-21/175 passing off the bench.
— Atlanta has been outscored 97-49 in first half of games.

Vikings 24, Packers 10
— Minnesota QB Cousins left in 4th quarter with an achilles injury.
— Vikings converted 10-18 on third down, Green Bay 5-14.
— Under is 7-1 in Minnesota games this season.
— Vikings allowed 13-13-17-10 points in wins, 27.3 ppg in losses.

— Green Bay lost last four games, scoring 20-13-17-10 points.
— Last five games, Packers were outscored 73-9 in first half.
— Vikings outgained Green Bay in this game, 346-270.
— Green Bay is 4-7 ATS in last eleven games coming off a loss.

Seahawks 24, Browns 20
— Seattle drove 52 yards, scored game-winning TD with 0:38 left.
— Seahawks’ first three drives: 20 plays, 183 yards, 17 points.
— Seahawks’ next seven drives: 30 plays, 117 yards, no points.
— Seattle won five of its last six games (4-1-1 ATS).

— Last 3 weeks, backup QB Walker was 48-97/618, with one TD, 5 INT’s
— Browns’ last three games (2-1) were decided by total of seven points.
— Last three weeks, Cleveland ran ball for 160-150-155 yards.
— Browns are 11-19-3 ATS in last 33 games with spread of 3 or less.

Broncos 24, Chiefs 9
— Denver ends a 16-game losing streak to the Chiefs.
— Denver’s TD drives were short: 39-50-10 yards.
— Broncos ran ball for 153 yards, converted 6-14 on third down.
— Broncos are 12-6-1 ATS in last 19 games as a home underdog.

— Kansas City turned ball over on three of first six drives.
— In two games vs Denver TY, Chiefs scored one TD on 20 drives.
— KC is 11-15-1 ATS in last 27 games as a road favorite (2-2 TY).
— Team total this season: under 6-2

Bengals 31, 49ers 17
— Bengals won four of their last five games (3-1-1 ATS).
— Cincy’s first two drives: 16 plays, 143 yards, 14 points.
— Only eight of Bengals’ 62 plays were on third down.
— 134 rushing yards, 7.6 yards/pass attempt are Bengal season highs.

— 49ers lost last three games, were outgained 1,186-1,000, scoring 17-17-17 points.
— SF scored 30+ points in all five of its wins.
— In this game, 49ers lost despite averaging 10.5 yards/pass attempt.
— 49ers turned ball over on three of their last four drives.

Ravens 31, Cardinals 24
— Last five games, Ravens outscored opponents 91-16 in first half.
— Ravens scored 24+ points in its wins, 19-10 in losses.
— Baltimore is 3-9 ATS in last 12 games as a road favorite (0-2 TY)
— Edwards carried ball 19 times for 80 yards, with three TD’s.

— Arizona is 0-5 SU/1-4 ATS last five games, losing by 19-14-17-10-7 points.
— Cardinals scored 17 points in last 6:32 for the backdoor cover.
— Last six games, Arizona gave up 27.7 ppg.
— Cardinals have lost 18 of last 21 games SU (8-10 ATS in last 18).

Chargers 30, Bears 13
— Chargers’ first five drives: 46 plays, 294 yards, 27 points.
— Herbert was 31-40/298 passing, with three TD’s.
— under Staley, Bolts are 8-6-1 ATS as a home favorite.
— Chargers have 7 takeaways (+4) in wins, three (minus-1) in losses.

— Bears’ first three drives: 14 plays, 67 yards, no points.
— Chicago ran ball 25 times for only 73 yards.
— Chicago is 6-13-1 ATS in last 20 games as road underdogs.
— Last 2+ years, Bears are 11-31 SU/15-25-2 ATS.

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

— Diamondbacks 9, Rangers 1
Tommy Pham was 4-for-4, with two runs scored.
Merrill Kelly is first P in 4 years to pitch 7 innings in a World Series game.
Series is 1-1, resumes Monday night in Arizona.

— This year, four teams moved up in class to the Big X: BYU, Central Florida, Houston and Cincinnati— they’re not faring well. Sometimes it is better to be a big fish in a small pond, instead of a small fish in a big pond.

So far this season (not counting the BYU-Cincinnati game), those four teams are a combined 2-16 straight up, 4-14 against the spread against Big X teams.

— Kansas 38, Oklahoma 33
Jayhawks drove 80 yards, scored game-winning TD with 0:55 left.
First score of day was a pick-6 by Kansas 5:35 into game.
This is first time Kansas beat Oklahoma since 1997.

— USC 50, California 49
Cal led 28-17 at halftime.
Golden Bears scored TD with 0:58 left, went for two points but failed.
Caleb Williams was 23-40/369 passing for USC, with two TD’s.

— Georgia Tech 46, North Carolina 42
Tar Heels led 42-32 with 11:00 left in the game.
Not much defense; Tech won total yardage, 635-557.
Yellow Jackets ran ball 48 times for 348 yards (7.3 yards/carry)

— NC State 24, Clemson 17
Wolfpack scored on a pick-6 early in third quarter.
Clemson is 4-4 this year, 5-6 in last 11 games overall.
Tigers outgained State 364-202, but they were minus-2 in turnovers.

— Tulane 30, Rice 28
Since start of last season, Green Wave is 19-3 straight up; would expect to see coach Willie Fritz mentioned for job openings in bigger $$$ leagues later this year. 

Rice QB JT Daniels will be an interesting player when the NFL Draft rolls around next spring; he’s had quite the journey thru college:
2018-19— USC— started in 2018
2020-21— Georgia— was mostly the backup there
2022— West Virginia— started there
2023— Rice— Owls are 4-4; their last winning season was in 2014.

— Upsets of the Week:
Northwestern (+13.5) 33, Maryland 27
Georgia Tech (+11.5) 46, North Carolina 42
Kansas (+10) 38, Oklahoma 33
Louisiana (+10) 33, South Alabama 20
UMass (+10) 21, Army 14
NC State (+10) 24, Clemson 17
Miami OH (+7) 30, Ohio U 16
West Virginia (+6.5) 41, Central Florida 28

— Word of the Day: Tragedy— an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress.

— There are seven I-A head coaches this season who have also been NFL head coaches. 

— There are eight unbeaten teams left in college football.

— UCLA 28, Colorado 16
Bruins outgained Colorado, 487-242.
UCLA turned ball over four times, twice in red zone.
Bruins were 7-13 on third down, Colorado 4-15.

— Louisiana 33, South Alabama 20— South Alabama is having an odd year:
beat Oklahoma State as a 7-point underdog.
lost to Central Michigan as a 16-point favorite.
won their previous two games by a combined 110-10
lost this game, as a 10-point favorite

— Miami 29, Virginia 26 OT
Miami tied game on a 48-yard FG with 1:23 left.
Virginia outgained the Hurricanes, 377-276.
Miami wins in overtime for the second week in a row.

— Memphis 45, North Texas 42
Memphis led this game 31-10 at halftime.
Tigers drove 75 yards in 0:35, scored game-winning TD with 0:12 left.
North Texas QB Rogers was 32-49/411 passing, with five TD’s.

— James Madison 30, Old Dominion 27
Unbeaten Dukes improve to 8-0 this season.
JMU led 14-3 early on, held on at the end.
LY, when JMU got in top 25, they lost their next three games; this is an improvement. 

Saturday’s Den: Wrapping up a fall Friday

— Rangers 6, Diamondbacks 5 (11)
Adolis Garcia hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning.
Corey Seager tied game with a dramatic ninth inning home run.
Texas bullpen threw 6.1 scoreless innings.
Rangers lead series, 1-0.

— If the ghost runner rule in extra innings is such a great rule, why don’t they use it in the playoffs? This is the way baseball was meant to be played, no ghost runners.

— Two years ago, Rangers were 60-102, Arizona was 52-110.

Texas spent a boatload of $$$ to get better, Arizona developed lot of young players, many of whom benefitted from the new rules, which help players who run fast.

Diamondbacks also ripped off Miami, acquiring P Zac Gallen for Jazz Chisholm. I’m told that pithing is an important part of baseball.

— Congrats to Dusty Baker, who retired as manager of the Astros this week. Hopefully he’ll get elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame soon, like next year.

Long time ago, when I was 15, I met Dusty Baker at Shea Stadium in New York— he signed an autograph for me and we talked for a few minutes. Good guy who has had a great career.

— Can’t process the fact that next year, Cal, Stanford and SMU are joining the ACC, seeing how the A in ACC stands for “Atlantic”……..as in Ocean.

SMU is in Dallas, in the southwest. Cal/Stanford are in California, which is close to the PACIFIC Ocean, not the ATLANTIC Ocean. Why is Stanford in same league as Boston College, Miami???

— There is a college basketball player who transferred this year, from Cal-San Diego to Vermont. This is a person who doesn’t value good weather; who would rather live in Vermont than in San Diego?

— Florida Atlantic 38, Charlotte 16
FAU threw for 218 yards (8.1 yards/attempt).
Owls are 4-4, need two more wins to be bowl eligible.
Charlotte was 4-19 on 3rd down; they had 12 penalties for 106 yards.

— In the NHL, last time the Montreal Canadiens had a 40-goal scorer was 1994, when Vincent Damphousse scored 40 goals, with 51 assists. That is the longest current drought in the NHL; team that has gone the next-longest without a 40-goal scorer is Arizona (1998).

— Word of the Day: Prodigy— a person who is gifted with exceptional qualities or abilities.

— In the NBA, LA Lakers started the season saying they wanted to put a cap on Lebron James’ minutes played. So far, in two games:

game 1- Lebron played 29:00 (+7). Lakers were minus-19 with him on bench
game 2- Lebron played 35:00 (+22). Lakers were minus-17 with him on bench

In two games, Lakers are +29 with Lebron playing, minus-36 with Lebron on bench.

So much for a minutes restriction.

— Phoenix Suns were docked a 2024 2nd-round draft pick over tampering with Drew Eubanks. NBA found that the Suns engaged in free-agency discussions involving Eubanks before the permitted date (June 30).

— ESPN replaced Jeff Van Gundy/Mark Jackson with Doc Rivers/Doris Burke as the #1 team on its NBA broadcasts. Then again, they have Stephen A Smith and Michael Wilbon on their studio shows, showing how little they care about teaching people about basketball.

Doc Rivers is good as an analyst; the addition of former Warriors GM Bob Meyers should wind up being good. They’ve been in the arena, can tell us what it is like.

Ex-players, ex-coaches, that’s what makes viewers smarter.

— Garrett Temple is in his 14th NBA season; he is playing for Toronto this year, his 12th NBA team, after playing in college at LSU. He could write a very interesting book.

— Dereck Lively scored 16 points for the Mavericks in his NBA debut; the most points he ever scored in college was 13 points, last year for Duke.

— There are 125 international players on NBA rosters this year, a new record, including 26 players from Canada, 14 from France. All in all, 41 countries are represented in the NBA.

— Thunder 108, Cavaliers 105— Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 34 points, took only two foul shots, which suggests that Cleveland didn’t guard him aggressively enough. 

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

Bills 24, Buccaneers 18
Bills in first half: 33 plays, 234 yards, 17 points.
Bills in 2nd half: 35 plays, 184 yards, 7 points.
Bills allowed 10-3-20-9-18 points in wins, 22-25-29 in losses.
Allen was 31-40/324 passing, with two TD’s.

Buccaneers lost four of their last five games.
Tampa is 3-0 ATS as road dog this year (6-13-3 from 2017-22)
Tampa scored 20-27-26 points in wins, 11-6-13-18 in losses.
Bucs’ opponents’ team total: under 6-0-1

Tampa Bay threw a Hail Mary 55 yards to the end zone on the last play; had Bucs’ WR Chris Godwin looked up a little quicker, ball would’ve hit him in the hands.

— Steelers/Cardinals are only NFL teams that have been outgained in every game this season; the 4-2 Steelers have been outgained by 110 yards/game, the 1-6 Cardinals by 48.4 yards/game.

— Odd scheduling by the NFL; six teams had last week off, so only 13 games were played, while this week, all 32 teams are playing, then next week, four teams have the week off.

— Sounds like Tennessee Titans are going to start rookie QB Will Levis against Atlanta Sunday, but will also use backup Malik Willis at times. Starting QB Ryan Tannehill (ankle) like won’t play in the game, which sets Levis up to make his first NFL start.

— Minnesota Vikings have thrown 16 TD passes this season; they haven’t run for a TD yet. 

— Air Force football team is 7-0 this season; they’re ranked in the top 20 in the country for the first time since 2002.

— Movie of the Day: Punchline (1988)— A medical school dropout and a housewife/mom try to make it as stand-up comedians. They become friends and help each other out at a Manhattan comedy club.

Tom Hanks, Sally Field, John Goodman; hard to go wrong with those stars.

— Tough stretch for Philadelphia sports teams; they’ve lost seven Game 7’s in a row, with 76ers losing last four Game 7’s, Flyers losing last two and now the Phillies losing Game 7 of the NLCS.

— This year’s Diamondbacks are second team ever (1987 Twins) to make it to the World Series, even though they had a negative run differential (-15) during the regular season. Twins had a minus-20 run differential in ’87. 

— Only twice in MLB history has the road team won all seven games in a best-of-7 series; the 2019 Nationals won the World Series, the 2023 Rangers won the ALCS— both of them beat the Astros in those series.

— Odds to win the World Series: Rangers -170, Diamondbacks +150

— Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series with a payroll of $116.5M, 21st in MLB.

By way of contrast, in the near future, two guys on the Milwaukee Bucks, Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, will be earning a total of $122.1M/year. Two guys.

— Dodgers’ 1B Freddie Freeman has missed only 11 games the last six years, while knocking in 557 runs, scoring 626 runs in 859 games. A Hall of Famer, for sure.

— Jacksonville State 41, FIU 16
Gamecocks are 7-2, in their first year of I-A football.
Jacksonville State ran ball 55 times for 265 yards.
FIU had nine penalties for 92 yards; JSU had one penalty, for 15 yards.

— Texas-El Paso 37, Sam Houston State 34
0-8 Bearkats led 27-13 with 2:00 left in third quarter.
UTEP kicked 32-yard FG with 0:03 left for the win.
Miners ran ball 40 times for 222 yards.

— Virginia Tech 38, Syracuse 10
Hokies led 30-3 at halftime.
Rushing yards: Tech 318, Syracuse 0
3rd down conversions: Tech 8-16, Syracuse 0-9

— Georgia Southern 44, Georgia State 21
Eagles threw for 334 yards (9.3 yards/attempt)
Georgia State ran ball 40 times for 290 yards.
Both teams are 6-2. 

A story from the past……..

One of my favorite movies was on today, Searching for Bobby Fischer; Joe Mantegna is a sportswriter who is surprised to find out that his 11-year old son is a chess prodigy. It is a great movie: Mantegna, Ben Kingsley, Lawrence Fishburne, William H Macy.

Anyway, when I was in 8th grade 50 years ago, chess was a big deal. Bobby Fischer was a quirky chess grandmaster who was playing Russian Boris Spassky for the world title, and it got a ton of attention— for a couple years in the early 70’s, chess was a big deal.

A friend of my parents had taught me how to play; in May of 1973, there was a tournament of all the Catholic grade schools in Albany County, probably 50 or so kids on a Saturday morning. Two kids from our school went; I had never beaten the other kid. Ever.

So our 8th grade teacher picks us up at the other kid’s house to go to the tournament, but we played a game before he got there, and I beat him. This had never happened before.

We get to the tournament, played in a ratty old gym, and the games begin. I won my first game, but the other kid, who seriously was a much better player than me, he got beat and just like that, he was eliminated. He very rarely played sports as a kid, and the competition apparently wasn’t his thing. I sucked at sports, but enjoyed playing.

Thinking about it, it was a lot like the scenes in this movie; just a bunch of nerdy kids hunched over chess boards, studying their moves.

While my parents’ friend taught me how to play chess, I had my own ideas, which weren’t better ideas, but I was incapable of grinding out moves, playing patterns, the way great players do.

I just played fast, got my queen out as quickly as possible, tried to do damage with the queen, and it often got people off their games, because it was different.

So I win two more games, and now there are a lot fewer kids in the gym; my 4th game, the board is set up with plastic chess pieces. My opponent requests that we switch to a wooden chess set, a classic Bobby Fischer mind game move, which I had no idea of at the time.

He crushed me, not even close and my teacher took the two of us home. I was happy that at least I won a few games— had never played in a tournament before.

The phone rings in our house and it is a nun from the chess tournament; I had lost, but I wasn’t done playing yet, there were still games to be played to determine who won the championship, so my father drove me back to the gym and he had to sit there watching his nerdy kid play chess.

I won two more games, and the whole event came down to this: I was playing this girl in the last game of the tournament. If she won, she won the championship and I finished 3rd.

If I won, the jerk who beat me won the championship and I finished 2nd. (don’t ask, I can’t remember how/why they ran the tournament like this, but they did)

Seriously, I didn’t like that kid after he beat me; I went over to look at the 2nd/3rd place prizes. If the 3rd place prize was good, I was considering losing on purpose so he wouldn’t win the tournament, but the 3rd place price was cruddy, and the 2nd place prize was this small plastic scroll that at least looked like a trophy, so I tried to win.

(This is where I realize that I was an over-thinker, even at age 13)

Anyway, we sit down and play the last game; my opponent was very nervous; her hand was shaking when she moved her chess pieces. It didn’t take long to beat her, and the jerk won the championship trophy.

50 years later, the small plastic scroll is still hanging in my living room. That was a fun day. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

— Diamondbacks 4, Phillies 2
Arizona’s bullpen tossed five scoreless innings.
Corbin Carroll went 3-4 with two runs scored, two RBI.
Arizona-Texas World Series starts Friday night in Dallas.

— Texas Rangers the last six years:
2018: 67-95
2019: 78-84
2020: 22-38
2021: 60-102
2022: 68-94
2023: 90-72

Texas hired Bruce Bochy as their new manager last winter; now they’re in the World Series. Bochy has previously led the Giants and Padres to four World Series. When this season is over, they should fly him to Cooperstown and induct him into the Hall of Fame. He deserves it.

Bochy is 6-0 in winner-take-all playoff games, by the way.

— For three days in February 2021, Adolis Garcia was a free agent, could’ve been scooped up by any major league team. You’re telling me that none of these over-educated Ivy League geniuses that run major league teams knew enough to sign him up?

Go figure.

— Houston Astros the last seven years:
2017- won World Series
2018- lost ALCS
2019- lost World Series
2020- lost ALCS
2021- lost World Series
2022- won World Series
2023- lost ALCS

Pretty nice run they’re on; there are rumors that manager Dusty Baker is going to retire— he is 74 years old. If he does retire, it’ll be interesting to see who they turn to as manager— they figure to be a contender for the next few years, at least.

Astros were 40-47 at home this season, 56-30 on the road; it makes no sense.

— New Mexico State 27, Louisiana Tech 24
New Mexico State kicked 31-yard FG with 5:16 left for the win.
Aggies ran ball 40 times for 232 yards.
New Mexico State has won four games in row, for first time since 2002. 

— Liberty 42, Western Kentucky 29
Flames led 14-10 at half; they’re 8-0 this season.
Liberty ran ball 54 times for 323 yards, 6.0 yards/carry.
WKU QB Reed was 30-44 passing for 365 yards, 4 TD’s.

— Word of the Day: flummoxed— utterly confused or perplexed.

Handicapping NFL games this season has me flummoxed; lot of erratic play.   Can’t get a handle on things yet.

— Saturday night in Seattle, Arizona State led Washington 7-6 with about 8:30 left; ASU had the ball deep in Washington territory, 4th-and-3.

8:30 left in the game, Washington hadn’t scored a TD the whole game. If the Sun Devils kick a field goal, they’re up 10-6, and Washington has to score a TD to win, something they hadn’t done the whole game. So they kick the field goal, right? Did I mention that Washington hadn’t scored a touchdown the whole game?

No- this is 2023, and football coaches are screwing up situational football; it actually is OK to be conservative now and then, really it is. ASU goes for it on 4th-and-3, and they throw a pick-6, and Washington winds up winning, 15-7.


— Oregon QB Bo Nix started his 54th college game last week, the most by any college QB ever, passing Colt McCoy and Kellen Moore (now the Chargers’ OC).

— USC lost 34-32 to Utah Saturday: after the game, no Trojan players were made available to the media, which is a bad look for USC. How are you preparing your players for the next level when they don’t have to answer questions after a tough loss?

Also makes you wonder how Lincoln Riley would do if he coached in the NFL; media access is a given there, and their seasons are a lot longer than college seasons.

— Morehead State guard Mark Freeman, preseason OVC Player of the Year, hurt his wrist and is likely out for the season. Freeman scored 15 ppg last year and helped Morehead upset Clemson in the first round of the NIT.

— Montana Grizzlies have a shooting guard who is in his 7th year of college basketball; the guy is married with two kids.

— Zach Collins plays for the San Antonio Spurs; in five years, he’s started 42 of the 245 games he’s played in, playing 18.9 minutes a game. Last year, he scored 11.6 ppg while starting 26 of the 63 games he played in. He is complimentary player, nothing wrong with that, but for sure, he isn’t a star.

I remember seeing him play in a high school tournament in Las Vegas when he was in 10th grade, December 2013. He played for Bishop Gorman HS in Las Vegas.

Now he is really rich, just signed a 2-year deal with the Spurs for $35M. Playing in the NBA is really profitable, when subs are banking $17.5M a year.

— Washington Commanders on 3rd down, last four games:
Week 4- 8-17 @ Philadelphia
Week 5- 6-12 vs Chicago (14-27 in consecutive games)
Week 6- 2-10 @ Atlanta
Week 7- 1-15 @ NJ Giants (3-25 in last two games. Not good)

— Rams cut their kicker Tuesday; he missed two field goals and an extra point Sunday. The new kicker is Lucas Havrisik, who was on the Browns’ practice squad- he was on the Colts’ practice squad last year, after kicking in college at Arizona.

— San Francisco Giants made a good move and hired Bob Melvin as their new manager. 

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

— Giannis Antetokounmpo signed a 3-year, $186M contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, meaning he will earn $62M a year, which works out to $756,097 per game.

Antetokounmpo averaged 32.1 minutes/game last year; if he does that this year, it works out to $23,554.44 per minute played.

— NFL Films and HBO also hit the jackpot; Miami Dolphins will be the featured in-season team for Hard Knocks this year, it was announced Monday. Coach Mike McDaniel should be interesting to see in action.

Colts/Cardinals were the in-season teams on Hard Knocks the last two years. Dolphins were last featured on Hard Knocks in the summer of 2012.

Vikings 22, 49ers 17
Kirk Cousins was 35-45/378 passing, with two TD’s.
Vikings on their first six drives: 52 plays, 377 yards, 22 points.
Minnesota converted 8-13 third down plays.
All seven Viking games have been decided by 8 or fewer points.

Both teams turned the ball over on their first possession.
Last two games, 49ers were outgained 786-540.
McCaffrey carried ball 15 times for only 45 yards.
49ers are 0-5 SU/1-4 ATS in last five visits to Minnesota.

— College football conference trends:
AAC— home favorites 4-10 ATS, home underdogs 2-7
ACC— home underdogs 8-3 ATS
Big X— home underdogs 8-3 ATS
Big 14— home favorites 7-9 ATS, home underdogs 2-10 ATS
C-USA— home favorites 5-6 ATS, home underdogs 2-5

MAC— home favorites 6-7 ATS
Mountain West— home favorites 4-7 ATS
Pac-12— home underdogs 6-3 ATS
SEC— home favorites 11-7 ATS, home underdogs 4-8
Sun Belt— home favorites 7-8 ATS

— NFL divisional trends:
NFC East teams are 12-9-1 ATS outside the division
NFC North teams are 9-11-1 ATS outside the division
NFC South teams are 4-14 ATS outside the division
NFC West home teams are 5-2 ATS outside the division

AFC East home teams are 6-4 ATS outside the division
AFC North home teams are 6-2-1 ATS outside the division
AFC South teams are 11-5-1 ATS outside the division
AFC West teams are 6-12 ATS outside the division

— Saturday afternoon, the 4:00-7:00 window, I’m watching four games on one screen on my YouTube TV account; one game each from the Big 14, Big X, SEC, Pac-12.

Big 14— Minnesota-Iowa— Both teams should’ve punted on first down.
Big X— Texas-Houston— Teams that jumped from AAC to the Big X have some catching up to do.
SEC— Ole Miss-Auburn— Rebels are lucky to have Lane Kiffin as coach; he’s been a head coach in the NFL.
Pac-12— Washington State-Oregon— Wazzu QB Ward threw for 438 yards in a losing cause.

Interesting contrast in styles between the leagues.

— Utah declared that QB Cam Rising is out for the year with a knee injury; Utes are 6-1 with backup QB Barnes under center.

— When baseball free agency starts, obviously Shohei Ohtani will be a big topic, but there is another Japanese pitcher, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is expected to draw lot of interest from teams with lot of $$$ who need pitching.

— Word of the Day: Focus— the ability to concentrate attention or to sustain concentration. 

If you’re easily distracted, you lack focus.

— Long time ago, there was a 2B named Nellie Fox; he is a Hall of Famer who played 19 years in the major leagues. In his career, Fox struck out only 216 times in 10,351 plate appearances.

This season, Kyle Schwarber struck out 215 times in 720 plate appearances.

— Outside Camden Yards in Baltimore, there is a statue of the great 3B Brooks Robinson, who passed away recently. It is a pretty normal statue of Robinson playing the field, except that his glove is gold, as it should be.

— Last week was the 50th anniversary of the day when Rams’ DE Fred Dryer got two safeties in the same game, a 22-5 win over Green Bay. Both safeties were in the 4th quarter and it was two different QB’s he sacked for the safeties (Scott Hunter, Jim Del Gaizo).

— What bowl game is going to get stuck with the Iowa Hawkeyes? Iowa is 6-2, but their offense is putrid; they’ve gained 300+ yards in only one game this year- they lost 12-10 to Minnesota Saturday, gaining a total of 127 yards, on 56 plays. Not good.

Former Rams’ coach Mike Martz is out there somewhere; why wouldn’t Iowa call a guy like Martz and hire him to jazz up their offense? Iowa’s last two games were 15-6/12-10; if they hired a real offensive coordinator like Martz, 15-6/12-10 would be a thing of the past.

— Monday was the first time since 2004 that the baseball playoffs had a Game 6 and a Game 7 on the same day.

Diamondbacks 5, Phillies 1
Arizona scored three runs in top of the second inning.
Pham and Gurriel hit back-to-back home runs.
Merrill Kelly tossed 5 IP, giving up a run; they took him out after 90 pitches.
Game 7 is tonight in Philadelphia.

Rangers 11, Astros 4
Adolis Garcia homered twice; he hit five home runs in the last four games.
Texas scored 20 runs in winning Games 6-7 of this series.
Road team won all seven games in this series.
Rangers host the World Series, starting Friday night.

— Baseball is a fascinating business; on February 10, 2021, the  Rangers designated Adolis Garcia for assignment and cleared a spot on the 40-man roster for P Mike Foltynewicz.

All 29 of the other teams let Garcia clear waivers, and on February 13, 2021, Texas invited him as a non-roster player to camp. Lucky for them they did. 

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

Browns 39, Colts 38
Browns drove 80 yards, scored winning TD with 0:15 left.
Cleveland outscored the Colts 16-0 in last 2:00 of each half.
QB Watson left game in first quarter (concussion), didn’t return.
since 2013, Cleveland is 4-12 ATS as a road favorite (0-2 TY).

Colts outgained Cleveland, 456-316, but were minus-2 in turnovers.
Colts gave up 31-29-37-38 points in losses; 20-19-16 in wins.
Over is 5-2 in Indy’s games this season.
Last four weeks, Colts were outscored 74-37 in first half.

Patriots 29, Bills 25
Bills in first half: 30 plays, 113 yards, 3 points.
Bills in second half: 38 plays, 232 yards, 22 points.
Last three games, Buffalo scored one first half TD on 15 drives. 
Bills allowed 10-3-20-9 points in wins, 22-25-29 in losses. 

Patriots drove 69 yards, scored game-winning TD with 0:12 left.
Mac Jones was 25-30/272 passing, with two TD’s.
Only nine of New England’s 55 plays came on third down.
Just 2nd win for Patriots in last nine games with Buffalo.

Falcons 16, Buccaneers 13
Atlanta kicked a 51-yard FG at the gun for the road win.
They won, despite QB Ridder losing three fumbles, all in red zone.
Falcons are 4-3, but haven’t led (0-5-2) at halftime yet.
Under is 13-2 in their last 15 games overall, 6-1 TY.

Down 13-10 in last 1:00, Bucs had ball on Atlanta 8-yard line, but could only kick FG.
Bucs have 13 takeaways in six games (+7 turnovers)
Tampa Bay is 2-6-1 ATS in last nine games as home favorites.
Tampa Bay scored 20-27-26 points in wins, 11-6-13 in losses.

Bears 30, Raiders 12
Rookie QB Bagent won his first NFL start (21-29/162 passing, one TD)
Chicago was 8-13 on 3rd down, Raiders 2-9.
Last four games, Bears outscored opponents 68-25 in first half.
Six of their seven games went over the total.

Bears outgained Raiders 323-235, were +3 in turnovers.
Raiders ran the ball 14 times for only 39 yards.
Last 2+ years, Las Vegas is 0-7 ATS as a road favorite.
AFC West teams are 7-12 ATS outside the division.

Ravens 38, Lions 6
Ravens’ first four drives: 32 plays, 315 yards, 28 points.
Baltimore averaged 12.8 yards/pass attempt.
Only eight of Ravens’ 55 plays were on third down.
Baltimore is 15-2 ATS in last 17 games with spread of 3 or less.

Detroit in first half: 25 plays, 65 yards, 4 punts, no points.
Lions were 5-16 on third down, Baltimore 4-8.
Ravens outgained Detroit, 503-337.
NFC North teams are 7-12-1 ATS outside the division.

Giants 14, Commanders 7
Washington went 3/out on eight of 14 drives.
Commanders were 1-15 on third down, Giants 5-16.
Last five weeks, Commanders were outscored 77-37 in 1st half.
Commanders’ TD drives last two weeks: 11-47-24-21 yards. 

Giants scored 9-14 points in Taylor’s first two starts.
Giants are 6-2-1 SU in last nine series games.
Under is 7-1 in last eight meetings.
Last five games, Giants have three TD’s, 17 3/outs on 51 drives.

Seahawks 20, Cardinals 10
Arizona averaged only 3.2 yard/pass attempt.
Arizona is 0-4 SU/ATS last four games, losing by 19-14-17-10 points.
Cardinals lost 17 of last 20 games SU (7-10 ATS in last 17).
Cardinals have been outscored 104-30 in 2nd half of games. 

Seattle was 7-13 on third down, Arizona 5-15.
Seahawks won/covered four of last five games. 
Seahawks scored 37-37-24-20 points in wins, 13-13 in losses.
Under is 7-3 in last ten series games.

Steelers 24, Rams 17
Steelers in first half: 25 plays, 66 yards, 3 points.
Steelers in second half: 31 plays, 189 yards, 21 points.
Pitt is 29-15-1 ATS in last 45 games when spread was 3 or fewer points.
Steelers scored 26-23-17-24 points in wins, 7-6 in losses.

Stafford was 8-12/154 throwing to Pacua, 6-17/77 to everyone else.
LA scored 30-29-26 points in its wins, 23-16-14-17 in losses.
Rams were 9-16 on third down, Steelers 4-12.
Rams are 6-12-1 ATS in last 19 games coming off a win.

Chiefs 31, Chargers 17
Chargers’ first four drives: 26 plays, 200 yards, 17 points.
Chargers rest of game: 35 plays, 143 yards, 2 INT’s, no points.
Opponents are 5-25 on 3rd down in LA wins, 21-46 in losses (6-11 this game).
Bolts are 4-8-1 ATS in last 13 AFC West road games.

Mahomes was 32-43/424 passing, with four TD’s.
Chiefs won last six games, by 8-31-3-7-11-14 points (5-1 ATS).
Chiefs converted 36 of last 65 third down plays.
Kansas City won 16 of last 19 series games SU.

Broncos 19, Packers 17
Green Bay in first half: 26 plays, 100 yards, no points.
Green Bay in second half: 37 plays, 236 yards, 17 points.
Last four weeks, Packers were outscored 63-6 in first half.
Packers are 6-9-1 ATS in last 16 games vs AFC opponents.

Lutz kicked 52-yard FG with 3:54 left for game-winning points.
Denver ran ball 25 times for 145 yards (5.8 yards/carry). 
Broncos are 2-5, but led four of seven games at halftime.
Denver has been outscored 116-72 in 2nd half of games.

Eagles 31, Dolphins 17
Game was tied 17-17 late in 3rd quarter, after Miami got pick-6.
Eagles’ next two drives: 21 plays, 158 yards, 14 points.
Under Sirianni, Eagles are 10-4-1 ATS as home favorites
Hurts was 23-31/279 passing, with two TD’s.

Miami’s five wins are vs teams with combined record of 8-25
Eagles outgained Miami, 355-244.
Under McDaniel, Miami is 3-4 ATS as a road underdog.
Last four games, Miami is minus-5 in turnovers (2-7).

Rangers 9, Astros 2
Eovaldi got 19 outs, allowed two runs.
Garcia broke game open with 9th inning grand slam.
Garver and Heim also homered for Texas.
Road team has won all six series games; Game 7 is tonight. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a college football Saturday……..

— Utah 34, USC 32
Game was 14-14 at halftime.
Utah led 28-14 with a minute left in third quarter.
USC scored TD after long punt return to take 32-31 lead with 1:46 left.
Utes kicked a 38-yard FG at the gun for a dramatic win.

— Alabama 34, Tennessee 20
Tennessee led 20-7 at halftime.
Last year, Alabama had 17 penalties for 130 yards vs Tennessee.
In this game, Crimson Tide had one penalty for five yards.

— Oklahoma 31, Central Florida 29
UCF scored TD with 1:16 left, but failed on 2-point conversion.
Former Knight Gabriel was 25-38/253 passing, with three TD’s.
Central Florida is 0-4 in its first year in the Big X. 

— UNLV 25, Colorado State 23
Rebels are 6-1, bowl eligible for first time since 2013.
UNLV kicked FG, took 22-20 lead with 1:27 left.
Colorado State kicked FG, took 23-22 lead with 0:44 left.
UNLV kicked 28-yard FG to win the game with 0:03 left.

— Ohio State 20, Penn State 12
Buckeyes outgained Penn State, 365-240
Nittany Lions converted 1-16 third down plays.
HC James Franklin is 1-9 against Ohio State.

— Air Force 17, Navy 6
Air Force threw a 94-yard TD pass, longest play in school history.
Other Air Force TD was a pick-6 with 3:51 left.
Under is now 25-3 in the last 28 Armed Forces games.

— Upsets of the Week:
Virginia (+23.5) 31, North Carolina 27
Nevada (+13.5) 6, San Diego State 0
Jacksonville State (+7.5) 20, Western Kentucky 17
Charlotte (+7) 10, East Carolina 7
Utah (+6.5) 34, USC 32
Old Dominion (+6.5) 28, Appalachian State 21
Mississippi State (+6) 7, Arkansas 3
Florida International (+5) 33, Sam Houston State 27, OT
Boston College (+4.5) 38, Georgia Tech 23
Ball State (+4.5) 24, Central Michigan 17
BYU (+4.5) 27, Texas Tech 14

— Word of the Day: Chicanery— the use of trickery to achieve a goal.

Arkansas could use some more chicanery in their offense.

— Mississippi State 7, Arkansas 3
Arkansas has lost six games in a row; the natives are restless.
Five of the six losses were by 7 or fewer points.

— Miami 28, Clemson 20, OT
Clemson led 17-7 after three quarters.
Miami was 9-18 on third down, Tigers 4-14
Clemson ran ball 34 times for 31 yards.
Clemson is 4-3; they’re not used to being 4-3. 

— Wake Forest 21, Pittsburgh 17
Deacons threw 15-yard TD pass with 0:07 for the win.
Marucci was 12-21/151 passing; he is/was Wake’s 3rd-string QB.
Pitt outgained Wake 414-323, was +2 in turnovers, still lost.

— Texas 31, Houston 24
Longhorns led 21-0 with 7:00 left in first half.
Houston tied game twice after that; their last drive ended on Texas 10-yard line.
Texas QB Ewers (shoulder) left game early in 4th quarter.

— Tulane 35, North Texas 28
Tulane led 28-7 with 4:00 left in third quarter.
North Texas tied game, scoring 21 points in 8:57.
Green Wave drove 75 yards, scored game-winning TD with 2:34 left.

— Minnesota 12, Iowa 10
Hawkeyes led 10-3 at halftime.
Minnesota snaps 8-game losing skid vs Iowa.
This was Gophers’ first win in Iowa City since 1999.
Total yards in the whole freakin’ game: 239-127, Minnesota

— Wisconsin 25, Illinois 21
Illinois led 21-7 after three quarters.
Freshman QB Locke threw two 4th quarter TD’s, in his first college start.
Badgers converted 10-17 third down plays.

— Phillies 6, Diamondbacks 1
Wheeler tossed seven strong innings to get the win.
Schwarber, Realmuto homered for Philadelphia.
Phillies lead series, 3-2. 

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

Astros 10, Rangers 3
Altuve hit a 3-run homer in top of the 9th.
game was 1-1 after five innings.
Astros used three relievers to get 10 outs.
Astros lead series, 3-2; road team won all five games.

Diamondbacks 6, Phillies 5
Alek Thomas hit a pinch-hit, 2-run HR in bottom of 8th
Phillies led 5-2 in seventh inning.
Arizona amazingly used eight pitchers in a 9-inning game.
series is tied, 2-2; home side won all four games.

SMU 55, Temple 0
Mustangs led 24-0 at halftime.
SMU QB Stone was 23-36/300 passing, with two TD’a.
Temple QB EJ Warner (concussion) didn’t play

— Dillon Gabriel was the quarterback at Central Florida from 2019-21; last year he transferred to Oklahoma, and since then, UCF jumped to the Big X, because next year, Texas/Oklahoma are jumping to the SEC.

This week, Central Florida visits Oklahoma, in what will be their only meeting as conference rivals. Dillon Gabriel gets to play against some of his old teammates.

— Will Venable is associate manager for the Texas Rangers; this week he turned down a chance to interview for the vacant managing job with the Mets. Who turns down an interview for a managing job, especially in a big market with a really rich owner?

Only a cynical person would read into this and guess that Venable has a promise to become the Rangers’ manager when Bruce Bochy retires.

— This week, Astros’ 1B Jose Abreu became the oldest player in the last 100 years to hit a home run and steal a base in the same playoff game.

— This made me feel old; kid named Johnny Backus just signed to play baseball for Michigan Wolverines. His mother is actress Mira Sorvino, his grandfather was Paul Sorvino.

— Word of the Day: karma— effects of one’s actions that determine his or her destiny.

In other words, right actions produce good results while wrong actions produce bad ones.

— Modern baseball: Arizona-Phillies are 0-0 in 6th inning, and Brandon Pfaadt is breezing thru the Phillies’ lineup, but as soon as he faces his 18th batter they yank him, because over-educated nerds in the Arizona front office said so. Pfaadt had only thrown 70 pitches.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. At least let him allow a baserunner before you take the guy out.

— Lot of college basketball teams took foreign trips this summer; this is a big advantage in the transfer portal age, since foreign trips let teams have 10 extra practices before the trip, and those practices are very valuable.

Lot of teams are just totally re-booting their rosters, which makes handicapping November games virtually impossible (if you want to win). Coaches don’t even know what’s up; they use the pre-conference games to establish their rotations for conference play.

— People kept saying how Jaguars’ QB Trevor Lawrence had a bad leg, might not play Thursday night; he wore a brace on his knee, and then the game started, and Lawrence ran the ball eight time for 59 yards and he looked pretty nimble and Jacksonville won. Go figure.

In a perfect world, where I make all decisions…….
— NBA needs to sponsor a 32-person (or 64) 1-on-1 tournament in the summer, with each player posting a charity that he is playing for. This would be wildly popular: can you imagine?

Steph Curry vs Lebron James
James Harden vs Kevin Durant
Giannis Antetokounmpo vs Jayson Tatum

This needs to happen; the league had a 1-on-1 tournament for two years back in the 70’s, but it died because Julius Erving’s agent wouldn’t let him play in it.

— NFL officials need to call fewer holding penalties; league says they want more scoring, then call fewer holding penalties.

— We need more game shows on TV, and fewer of these talk programs with contrived arguments; bring back Hollywood Squares. That was an excellent gameshow. 

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

Jaguars 31, Saints 24
— Kirk caught 44-yard TD pass with 3:08 left for game-winning TD.
— Jaguars led 24-9 after a pick-6 with 6:47 left in third quarter.
— Jaguars won/covered their last four games.
— Jacksonville outscored last four opponents 66-19 in first half. 

— Saints lost four of their last five games.
— New Orleans converted 3-18 third down plays.
— Saints had ball in red zone on last drive, but couldn’t tie game.
— Saints are 6-9-1 ATS in last 16 games with spread of 3 or less.

Diamondbacks 2, Phillies 1
Game was scoreless thru six innings.
Neither starting pitcher finished the sixth inning.
Ketel Marte had walk-off single in 9th inning.
Phillies lead series, 2-1; home side won all three games.

Astros 10, Rangers 3
Altuve went 3-4, with three runs scored.
Alvarez went 2-4, with 3 RBI
Astros used four relievers to get 20 outs.
Series is tied 2-2; road team won all four games.

Roof was open at the Rangers’ ballpark, first time that happened since mid-May.

— This week, Max Scherzer joined David Wells as the only pitchers ever to start a playoff game for five different teams.

— Denver Broncos lost the last ten games they led at halftime, which isn’t good.

— Thru six games, Bears’ WR DJ Moore has 582 receiving yards; last year, Cole Kmet led the Bears in receiving yards for the whole season, with 544.

— This is the first time since 2017 that no NFL team started the season 6-0. 

— Las Vegas Raiders have ruled QB Jimmy Garoppolo out for this week’s game in Chicago; rookie Aidan O’Connell is likely to start, even though Brian Hoyer played the whole second half in last week’s win over New England.

— Word of the Day: shenanigans— devious tricks used, especially for an underhanded purpose

— Rice 42, Tulsa 10
Well-traveled QB Daniels threw for 342 yards, two TD’s.
WR McCaffrey caught six passes for 99 yards and a TD.
Owls ran for 170 yards (5.5 yards/carry)
Rice outscored Tulsa 21-0 in second half.

— James Madison 20, Marshall 9
7-0 James Madison led 3-0 at halftime.
JMU’s punter pinned Marshall inside their 20-yard line seven times.
Dukes outgained Marshall, 405-169.
Marshall’s only TD was a 94-yard kick return.

— This past June, Michigan Wolverines had two players taken in the top 15 of the NBA Draft, the 49th team since 1979 to do that.

Of those 49 teams, Michigan was the only one that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament.

— Last six years, the defending NBA champ has gone under their win total for that next season. All in all, 22 of the last 28 defending champs stayed under their win total.

— Retired Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is going to do some TV work for ESPN this winter; he is already signed up to do NCAA Tournament games on Westwood One radio.

— NCAA is investigating Michigan Wolverines’ football team for stealing opponents’ signs; someone posted a halftime interview with Rutgers’ coach Greg Schiano, who seemed to imply that he knew there were shenanigans going on when his team trailed 14-7 at halftime in a game in Ann Arbor.

— RIP to actor Burt Young, who passed away this week at age 83; he played Paulie in six of the Rocky movies. He has 166 acting credits on IMDB.com, he was in the original version of The Gambler, with James Caan in 1974, and he was also in the Marines for two years, in real life.

RIP, sir. 

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

— Astros 8, Rangers 5
Jose Altuve homered; Astros led 5-0 in 4th inning.
Cristian Javier got 17 outs, allowed only two runs.
Texas leads series 2-1; road team won all three games.

— New Jersey Jets traded WR Mecole Hardman to Kansas City, for two draft picks, a 6th and 7th round pick. Hardman had previously won two Super Bowl rings playing with the Chiefs, but he signed with the Jets as a free agent last spring.

— 49ers QB Brock Purdy is earning $870,000 this season; there are 20 starting QB’s in the NFL who make more than $870,000 PER GAME!!!!

— According to kenpom.com the top six college hoop teams to start this season:
1- Purdue
2- Kansas
3- Houston
4- UConn
5- Gonzaga
6- Arizona

— Justin Minaya is a 6-7 forward who is trying to make the Portland Trailblazers; his father is Omar Minaya, who used to be general manager of the New York Mets. Justin Minaya played his college ball at both South Carolina and Providence.

— NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder likes to accumulate draft choices; over the next seven drafts, the Thunder has 37 (37!!!!) draft picks. Seeing how rosters are 15 players and the Thunder was halfway decent (40-42) last year, it is unclear what they’ll do with all that draft capital. 

I mean, in 2029, the Thunder has seven second round draft picks, and a first round pick.

— Movie of the Day: Percy vs Goliath (2020)— A Canadian farmer takes on a giant corporation after their GMOs interfere with his crops. As he speaks out against the company’s business practices, he realizes he is representing thousands of other disenfranchised farmers around the world fighting the same battle.

Christopher Walken plays the farmer; he is the reason to watch this movie, which apparently is a true story; Zach Braff plays his lawyer, Christina Ricci plays another lawyer who comes out of nowhere and encourages the farmer to challenge the big company.

— Florida International 33, Sam Houston State 27, OT
Panthers snap a 3-game skid, even their record at 4-4.
FIU forced OT with a 36-yard FG with 0:05 left in regulation.
0-7 Bearkats outgained FIU, 410-331

— New Mexico State 28, Texas-El Paso 7
Game was 7-7 at halftime.
Aggies ran ball 35 times for 253 yards.
UTEP converted only 2-12 third down plays.

— Liberty 42, Middle Tennessee 35
Game was 21-21 at halftime.
Liberty ran ball 61 times for 401 yards.
MTSU threw for 332 yards (9.0 yards/attempt).

— Jacksonville State 20, Western Kentucky 17
Gamecocks kicked 41-yard FG at the gun to win the game.
WKU led 17-7 with 6:00 left in third quarter.
Jacksonville State is 6-2, in its first season as a I-A team.

— South Alabama 55, Southern Miss 3
La’Damian Webb ran ball 20 times for 102 yards, four TD’s.
Jaguars outgained Southern Miss 647-149.
South Alabama won its last two games by a combined 110-10

— NFL commish Roger Goodell got a three-year contract extension through March 2027; financial stuff wasn’t announced, but supposedly he was banking around $60M a year the last few years.

Goodell has been NFL commissioner since 2006; the last NFL team that got sold before his tenure started sold for $600M (Vikings). Earlier this year, Washington Commanders were sold for $6.05B, so obviously, the NFL has profited greatly with Goodell as commissioner.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings………

— Phillies 10, Diamondbacks 0
Game was 2-0 after five innings; Arizona’s bullpen got hammered.
Kyle Schwarber homered twice for Philadelphia.
Phillies lead best-of-7 series, 2-0

— Fan in the stands in Philadelphia had a #21 Phillies jersey, a Bake McBride jersey; the guy last played for the Phillies in 1981. McBride was a very fast outfielder, a .299 lifetime hitter, but it is time for that fan to buy himself a new jersey.

— NFL Draft is a fascinating process:
Patrick Mahomes was the 10th pick of the 2017 Draft; he might be wind up being the best quarterback of all time.

QB Josh Rosen was the 10th pick of the 2018 Draft: he is one of the biggest busts in draft history, going 3-13 as a starter for Cardinals/Dolphins. He was out of the NFL at age 24.

NFL teams are worth $5B or so; how do you make a mistake like that?

— Only five of the 30 NFL teams who played last week scored more than 21 points; quality of NFL offenses is way down so far this season. Under was 12-2-1 in Week 6 games.

Young QB’s get rushed into the lineup, coaches are too conservative in close games. Defenses definitely have the upper hand so far this season.

— Texas A&M’s football team is 4-3 this season, after losing close games to Alabama, Tennessee the last two weeks. Last two years, Aggies are 0-6 in true road games; the natives are restless.

There are rumors that Texas A&M may tell Fisher to take a hike, but if they do that this year, they have to pay him $67.5M to go away. Imagine getting paid $67.5M to go away?

— Flag football is going to be a sport at the 2028 Summer Olympics, which will he held in Los Angeles. Curious how many different countries will field team for that event.

— Fairfield basketball coach Jay Young quit three weeks before the Stags are going to open the season at Boston College. Young was 50-73 in four years at Fairfield; assistant coach Chris Casey will serve as interim coach this season.

— Word of the Day: palaver— Empty nonsense or useless talk.

— Field position is important in the NFL; if your defense/special teams are doing really well, they will create opportunities for the offense to work on a short field, so they have to do less to score a touchdown.

So far this season, teams with most TD drives shorter than 60 yards:
8— Bills
7— Commanders
6— Lions, Jaguars, Chargers, Dolphins, 49ers

— So far this season, teams with most TD drives allowed shorter than 60 yards:
8— Panthers
7— Broncos, Raiders
6— Dolphins

— Not only has New England allowed five TD drives shorter than 60 yards, their offense has also given up four TD’s to opposing defenses.

— Offenses with most touchdown plays of 20+ yards:
10— Dolphins
8— Lions
6— Bears, Jaguars

— Defenses with most touchdown plays allowed of 20+ yards:
9— Broncos
7— Commanders
5— Colts, Buccaneers

— Brian Hoyer is a backup QB for the Raiders; he played the second half against New England Sunday, going 6-10/102 yards as Las Vegas held on for a 21-17 win.

Hoyer has been in the NFL for 15 years, starting 40 games (16-24). Last time Hoyer started a game his team won was in 2016, when his Chicago Bears beat Detroit 17-14.

— There are 11 unbeaten teams left in college football. 

— Michael Jordan’s teams played 30 games against teams with Sherman Douglas on them; Jordan’s teams went 30-0 in those games. That is the most wins without a loss by one player over another in NBA history.

— Chicago Bears’ QB Justin Fields dislocated his right thumb Sunday; he may be out for year, no one is really saying, but obviously that is a especially bad injury for a quarterback.

Bears’ backup QB is rookie Tyson Bagent, who played college football for Shepherd U in West Virginia, a D-II school. He is going to get a chance to show his stuff the rest of the season.

If the season ended right now, the Bears would have the top two picks in the 2024 NFL Draft; they have Carolina’s pick next year. Will they move on from Fields?

— Genius of the Day: South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer broke his foot Saturday, when he kicked something in frustration after his Gamecocks lost 41-39 to Florida, blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. Not good. 

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

Cowboys 20, Chargers 17:
Dallas kicked a 39-yard FG with 2:23 left for the win.
Cowboys’ first seven drives: 39 plays, 220 yards, 10 points.
Cowboys’ last two drives: 22 plays, 129 yards, 10 points.
Dallas is 9-4 ATS in last 13 games as a road favorite.

Chargers ran ball 23 times for only 53 yards.
Last four games, Chargers converted only 17-53 third down plays.
Chargers’ two TD drives were short: 42 and 20 yards.
Chargers are 1-3 in games decided by 4 or fewer points.

— AFC is now 15-11 against the NFC this season.

— Under was 12-2-1 in NFL games this week.

Rangers 2, Astros 0
— Texas scored 4 runs in first inning, three before they made an out.
— Astros hit three home runs, all with bases empty.
— Texas leads best-of-7 series, 2-0.
— Rangers are 7-0 this postseason.

— Astros are 40-45 at home this season; no team has ever been under .500 at home and made it to a World Series.

Phillies 5, Diamondbacks 3
— Phillies hit three solo homers in first two innings.
— Wheeler allowed only three baserunners in six IP.
— Phillies lead best-of-7 series, 1-0.

— Final Four of baseball are those four teams: Rangers, Astros, Arizona, Phillies, In the history of baseball, only one player has played for all four teams.

Matt Kata played in 278 games over five years for five different teams; he was a utility player who hit .239 with 12 home runs in his career. If you’re wondering, Pittsburgh was the fifth team he played for.

— Miami Marlins had a good year this year, going 84-78 and making the playoffs for the first time in a 162-game season since 2003, but Monday, GM Kim Ng surprisingly resigned.

Apparently the Marlins wanted to hire a president of baseball operations who would’ve been  ranked above Ng in the team’s hierarchy, so she hit the bricks. 

— College football conference trends:
AAC home teams are 6-11 ATS, 4-7 if favored.
ACC home underdogs are 7-3 ATS.
Big X home teams are 14-8 ATS, 8-5 if favored.
Big 14 home underdogs are 2-7 ATS.
Conference USA home teams are 5-9 ATS.

MAC home teams are 7-11 ATS, 2-5 if they’re an underdog.
Mountain West home teams are 7-9 ATS.
Pac-12 home teams are 14-6 ATS
SEC home favorites are 9-6 ATS, home underdogs are 4-7 ATS
Sun Belt home teams are 7-8 ATS.

— NFL divisional trends:
In divisional games, home teams are 11-15-1 ATS.
NFC North teams are 6-9-1 ATS outside the division.
NFC South teams are 4-12 ATS outside the division.
NFC West teams are 4-1 ATS as a non-divisional favorite.

In non-divisional games, home favorites are 18-16 ATS
In non-divisional games, road favorites are 11-10 ATS
Over last few years, NFL teams who turned down a bye the week after playing a game in England have gone 9-4 SU.

AFC East teams are 9-7 ATS outside the division.
AFC North teams are 8-5-1 ATS outside the division
AFC South teams are 9-6 ATS outside the division.
AFC West teams are 6-11 ATS outside the division.

— Colts’ owner Jim Irsay said Monday that rookie QB Anthony Richardson is probably done for the season with a shoulder injury.

— Wisconsin QB Tanner Mordecai broke his throwing hand against Iowa Saturday, a big blow to the Badgers’ season. Redshirt freshman Braedyn Locke is Wisconsin’s new starting QB; this week will be his first college start.

— NC-Charlotte’s basketball team went 22-14 last year, 9-11 in Conference USA; their KenPom rating jumped from #208 to #106- they had a good year, but now the 49ers have moved to the AAC, and their coach, for whatever reason, quit to become an assistant coach at Virginia.

Somehow, Charlotte kept all their returning players; the new coach has been a head coach in pro leagues overseas, so things should be alright, but it is a red flag when the head coach quits after a good year to become an assistant somewhere else.

— Toronto Maple Leafs’ star Auston Matthews had a hat trick in each of Toronto’s first two games; he is only the second player in the last 100 years to do that (Alex Ovechkin, 2017 is the other).

— Word of the Day: Conundrum— a problem that doesn’t have a clear solution or an obvious correct answer.

Handicapping football games can be a conundrum, especially since coaches have become morons about game management situations.

— College football teams that are 6-0 against the spread:
UNLV, Oklahoma, Penn State. Who would’ve thought that?

— Oregon State is 15-1 ATS in its last sixteen home football games.

— Last three games, New England was outscored 26-6 in the first half. 

— Last three games, Ravens outscored opponents 49-9 in the first half.

— Last three games, Giants were outscored 51-15 in the second half.

— Golden State Warriors have four players whose fathers played in the NBA.

— Boston Celtics hired Jeff Van Gundy as a senior consultant, after ESPN stupidly let him go as its lead TV analyst.

— Last week in Los Angeles, a 15-year old kid named Robby Thomas was chosen to shoot during the timeout of a Lakers’ exhibition game; if he made a layup and a 3-pointer within a minute, he won whatever the prize was.

ESPN’s commercial got fouled up, so they were live on air as the kid was finishing up; he has good form for a kid that young, and sure enough, he made his last shot to win the contest. Funny thing, he didn’t seem the least bit excited about winning.

The Lakers’ cheerleaders are surrounding him as photographers take pictures and the kid kind of shrugged it off. Unusual for this day and age.