Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Sunday

Browns 37, Cincinnati 34
— Mayfield threw a 24-yard TD pass with 0:11 left to win this exciting game.
— Browns’ last five drives: 40 plays, 379 yards, five TD’s (34 points)
— Cleveland split its four road games, giving up 37 ppg.
— Last 4+ years, Cleveland is 1-5 ATS as a road favorite.
— Five of their last six games went over the total.

— Bengals had ball in Cleveland red zone on 7 of their 8 drives.
— Rookie QB Burrow threw for 406 yards; Bengals scored TD’s on their last two drives.
— Bengals scored 30-34 points against Cleveland this year, but lost both games.
— Cincinnati is 5-1-1 ATS this season.
— Divisional home underdogs are 8-0 ATS so far this season.

Washington 25, Cowboys 3
— Dallas is first team EVER to allow 20+ first half points, six games in a row.
— Last six games, Dallas is minus-14 in turnovers.
— Cowboys are 0-7 ATS this year; their two wins by total of 4 points.
— Cowboys are 3-7 ATS in last nine games as a road favorite.
— Dallas offense in 2nd half: 19 plays, 30 yards, 3 first downs, zero points.

— Washington outrushed Dallas 208-83.
— Washington had lost its previous five games, before this easy win.
— This is only 2nd win for Washington in last nine series games.
— Washington in 1st half, on 5 drives: 33 plays, 276 yards, three TD’s.
— Washington sacked two Dallas QB’s 6 times; they KO’d Andy Dalton.

Lions 23, Atlanta 22
— Stafford threw an 11-yard TD pass on the last play of the game for the win. 
— Prater made FG’s of 50-51-49 yards; the game-winning PAT was 50 yards long.
— Lions allowed 27+ points in their three losses; 22-23-16 in their wins.
— Detroit won field position by 12-yard average.
— NFC North teams are 13-5 ATS outside the division.

— Atlanta scored a TD with 1:04 left, instead of taking a knee that would’ve ended the game, and that gave Detroit the chance they needed to win the game.
— Atlanta lost all four of its home games, giving up 28.5 ppg.
— Falcons are 5-10 ATS in last 15 games as a home favorite.
— Home side lost six of last eight series games.
— NFC South teams are 1-7 ATS in non-divisional home games.

New Orleans 27, Panthers 24
— Carolina just barely missed a 65-yard FG with 1:55 left that would’ve tied it.
— Panthers ran ball only 14 times for 37 yards- they only ran 43 plays overall.
— Carolina converted 6-9 third down plays; New Orleans 12-14.
— Carolina is 15-10 ATS in last 25 games as a road underdog.
— Team leading at halftime won all seven Carolina games.

— New Orleans outgained Panthers 415-283.
— Saints allowed 23-29-27-24 points in their wins, 34-37 in losses.
— New Orleans is 7-14 ATS in its last 21 games as a home favorite.
— Saints had ball six times; three TD’s, two FG’s and a fumble.
— All six of their games went over the total.
  Saints won seven of last eight series games; four of their last five series wins were by 5 or fewer points.

Bills 18, NJ Jets 10
— Buffalo won game without scoring a TD; they made 6-8 FG’s.
— Bills had ball nine times, and tried FG’s on 8 of the 9 drives.
— Buffalo won field position by 10 yards, ran 72 plays, to 51 for Jets.
— Total yardage in game: 422-190, Bills.
— Bills won last three visits here, by 31-1-8 points.

— Jets haven’t won yet, but they covered here- they’ve lost all their home games by 18-9-20-8 points.
— Weird thing is, they’re +4 in turnovers the last four games, but were still outscored by a combined 109-48.
— Jets in second half: 16 plays, four yards, 2 first downs, no points.
— Four of their last five games stayed under the total.
— Divisional home underdogs are 8-0 ATS so far this season.

Packers 35, Houston 20
— Packers scored TD’s on four of their first six drives.
— Green Bay won five of its six games, losing in Week 6 to Tampa.
— Packers are 3-0 in domes this season, scoring 43-37-35 points.
— Green Bay converted 7-12 3rd down plays; they did have a punt blocked.
  NFC North teams are 13-5 ATS outside the division.

— Texans lost six of their first seven games, giving up 28+ points in every game.
— Total yardage was close: 379-365 Packers, but Green Bay led 21-0 at the half.
— Houston is 3-6 ATS in last nine games as a home underdog.
— AFC South non-divisional underdogs are 3-6 ATS.

Steelers 27, Tennessee 24
— Steelers won first six games (5-1 ATS), scoring 30.5 ppg.
— Pittsburgh’s first two drives: 29 plays, 136 yards, two TD’s, TOP: 16:23.
— Steelers led 24-7 at halftime, then hung on for dear life.
— Pittsburgh won six of last eight series games.
— Over is 3-1-1 in their last five games.

— Tennessee has played five games decided by 3 or fewer points or in OT.
— Titans scored 17+ points in 2nd half, in each of their last four games.
— Tennessee ran only 56 plays in this game; Steelers ran 74.
— Over is 3-1-1 in Titans’ last five games.
— AFC South teams are 7-10 ATS outside the division.

Sunday’s 6-pack, Quote, Quiz of the Day

Write-ups on baseball games are on the MLB page
College football write-ups are posted on the college football page.
Week 7 NFL write-ups are posted

Sunday’s 6-pack
NFL leaders in receiving yardage:
601— DeAndre Hopkins, Az
566— Robby Anderson, Car
555— Stefon Diggs, Buff
546— Calvin Ridley, Atl
537— Justin Jefferson, Minn
503— Amari Cooper, Dal
Americans who have died from COVID-19: 224,771
PLEASE wear a mask when you go out.

Quote of the Day
“One play to win it. We’ve been close, and I’m sick and tired of being close.”
Indiana coach Tom Allen, on why he went for two points after a TD in OT Saturday

Sunday’s quiz
Which two starting QB’s in the NFL played college football at NC State?

Saturday’s quiz
Eight teams have played in a Super Bowl, but have never won one.

Friday’s quiz
Four NFL teams have never played in a Super Bowl: Detroit, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) Indiana 36, Penn State 35 OT— I could write about this game for an hour.
— Hoosiers snapped a 41-game losing skid to top 10 teams, which dated back to 1987.
— Penn State led 21-20, had the ball with 1:40 left and could’ve run out the clock, but Indiana let them score a TD and Penn State stupidly did so- take a knee, win 21-20. Then they didn’t go for 2, when that would’ve put them up 29-20 and ended the game.
— Indiana tied the game with 0:22 left in regulation.

— Both teams scored a TD in OT; when Indiana scored to make it 35-34, they went for two- their QB scrambled and appeared to be stopped short of the goal line, but the linesman called it good, replay declined to overturn the call and the Hoosiers had their upset.
— If I was James Franklin, I would’ve found the replay official after the game and given him a piece of my mind. To me, the ball hit out of bounds before it hit the pylon.

— Anyway, Penn State outgained Indiana 488-211, outrushed them 250-41. Game shouldn’t have gotten to overtime.
— Penn State had ten penalties for 100 yards, Indiana four for 36.

12) Middle Tennessee 40, Rice 34 OT— You have to find a replay of this on the Interweb; Owls tried a 45-yard FG to win the game earlier in OT, the ball hits:
— the right upright
— the crossbar
— the left upright
— the crossbar again, and bounces out, no good.

I’ve never seen that happen before; rough way to start your season- this was Rice’s first game.

11) Auburn 35, Ole Miss 28
— Rebels are only 1-4, but they’ve been fun to watch.
— Auburn threw a 58-yard TD pass with 1:11 left for the win.
— Teams combined to convert 21-32 third down plays.

Watching these games with teams that didn’t play any non-conference games, you understand why teams schedule stiffs to play before conference play begins— they get the kinks out, gain some continuity, so they don’t look terrible when conference play begins.

10) Rutgers 38, Michigan State 27
— Spartans turned ball over seven (7!!!) times; hard to win that way.
— Switching head coaches from Mark D’Antonio to Mel Tucker is not an upgrade. Tucker was 5-7 in his only season as a head coach, at Colorado LY.
— Rutgers turned ball over three times themselves; they were outgained 369-276. 

9) Nevada 37, Wyoming 34 OT
— Nevada’s punter was a star of the game; had a 75-yard punt, then a 72-yarder that pinned Wyoming back on their 2-yard line. Of course, if Wyoming’s punt returner would actually catch a punt, he would’ve helped his team’s cause a lot.
— Cowboys kicked a 42-yard FG with 0:23 left to send the game to OT; freshman walk-on kicker made 4-4 field goals, while wearing a red shoe. Give the kid a scholarship; make sure he keeps using the red shoe.
— Nevada led 28-6 with 3:00 left in third quarter, before Wyoming stormed back to tie it.

— Fun to see Mountain West football on TV again; this was a wild game.
— Nevada coach Norvell lost his father earlier this week. Our condolences to him. 

8) They’re building the Aztecs a new football stadium on the site of what used to be Jack Murphy Stadium, so San Diego State is playing home games in a soccer stadium in Carson, where the Chargers played home games the last few years.                            

7) Upsets of the Day:
— Rutgers (+11) 38, Michigan State 27
— Wake Forest (+10.5) 23, Virginia Tech 16
— Jacksonville State (+10) 19, FIU 10— Gamecocks are a I-AA team
— San Jose State (+7.5) 17, Air Force 6
— Indiana (+6) 36, Penn State 35 OT
— Purdue (+4) 24, Iowa 20
— Missouri (+3.5) 20, Kentucky 10

6) Clemson 47, Syracuse 21— Clemson was favored by 46 or 47 points, but Syracuse had the ball, down 27-21 in third quarter, before reality set in. Clemson coasted here, and star RB Etienne left with an injury. 

5) Missouri 20, Kentucky 10: Random observation: Week-to week, teams are having wildly erratic performances. Mizzou outgained Kentucky 421-145 in this game, after Wildcats won their previous two games by a combined score of 58-9. Missouri ran 92 plays in this game, Kentucky ran only 36 plays.

4) North Carolina 48, NC State 21:
— Tar Heels ran the ball for 326 yards, gained 578 yards on the day.
— NC State’s receivers were terrible in this game; they’re juggling backup QB’s with the starter breaking his leg. One of the WR’s dropped an easy TD, juggling it until a defender picked it off.
— State threw the ball for 358 yards; 11 different kids caught a pass, but they were useless when the game was close. 

3) If you bet first half lines in college football, you probably know that Liberty is 26-7 ATS in their last 33 first halves. Independent Flames are 6-0 SU this season. 

2) This is a very 2020 thing: Army already accepted a bowl bid, to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, where they’ll play a Pac-12 opponent.

The thing is, Pac-12 won’t even start their football season for a couple more weeks, and one of their teams’ bowl opponents has already been decided. Very unusual. Very 2020. 

1) Rays 8, Dodgers 7 (series 2-2)
— Brett Phillips, with a .202 lifetime average, had the game-winning hit.
— Seager/Turner both had four hits for LA.
— There was a run scored in eight consecutive half-innings, setting a World Series record.
— This was third World Series game ever that, with today’s save rules, there were 3+ saves blown in the same game- the others were in 1960, 2011.
— Hunter Renfroe finished this game at 1B, where he had played for an entire 9 innings in his entire big league career. 

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

13) Dodgers 6, Rays 2 (LA leads World Series 2-1)
— Turner homered in the first inning.
— Buehler struck out 10 Rays in six IP.
— Tampa Bay had only four hits in the game.

12) NBA came out with a surprising proposal to start the 2020-21 season a few days before Christmas, play a 72-game regular season with only a 10-week offseason. Players have to sign off on these changes, but if the league shows it is financially beneficial, why wouldn’t they?

11) NBA Draft will be a virtual draft on November 18; hopefully, they’ll show coaches/GM’s in their homes, the way the NFL did.

10) Tulsa 42, South Florida 13:
— Tulsa ran ball for 227 yards, threw for 235; they also had a defensive score.
— USF is 0-5 vs I-A teams, with four losses by 20+ points.
— Tulsa covered its first three games (2-1 SU); they haven’t played at home yet. 

9) Louisiana 24, UAB 20
— UAB kicked a FG with 0:34 left in the half to go up 13-3; Louisiana ran the kickoff back 100 yards for a TD.
— UAB led 20-10 with 1:00 to go in third quarter, but was held scoreless rest of the way.
— Louisiana drove 86 yards for the winning TD with 6:35 left. 

8) Wisconsin 45, Illinois 7:
— Badgers scored two TD’s in last 1:06 of first half to break game open.
— Illinois’ only TD was a defensive score in second quarter.
— Wisconsin outgained the Illini 430-218.                              

7) WR Antonio Brown signed with Tampa Bay; he is likely to play for the Bucs in two weeks, when Tampa Bay hosts the Saints.

6) Big West Conference announced their conference basketball schedule; they’re doing something different, not playing home/home series, but having teams visit an opponent and play on consecutive nights, with half the series at home, half on the road, to reduce travel.

For instance, Cal Poly is at Cal-Irvine Jan 22-23; Northridge visits Cal Poly Jan 29-30. 

5) When Daniel Jones had his 80-yard run Thursday night, I wondered who had the longest run by a quarterback; over the last 25 years, Terrelle Pryor appears to have the longest run by a QB— he had a 93-yard TD run for the Raiders in 2013. 

4) Who are the best teams in the red zone, so far this season?
Seattle 6.17 points/possession, Arizona 6.15 ppp, Tampa Bay 5.95 ppp

3) Who are the worst teams in the red zone, so far this season?
Giants 3.19 ppp, Jets 3.23, Denver 4.07

2) What NFL teams have had the most TD plays of 20+ yards?
7— Atlanta (17 TD’s overall), Seattle (23 TD’s)
6— Arizona, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh

1) What NFL teams have had the fewest TD plays of 20+ yards?
0— Colts (12 TD’s, longest TD play, 17 yards)
0— Patriots (11 TD’s, longest TD play, 11 yards)
1— Denver/Jacksonville both have one TD play of 20+ yards, on 15 TD’s. 

Friday’s Den: Random stuff with the weekend here

13) Eagles 22, Giants 21:
— Eagles scored two TD’s in last 4:38 to pull out this win.
— Daniel Jones had an 80-yard run; Giants ran ball for 160 yards.
— Giants lost their last five visits here, by 1-5-3-3-6 points.

— Eagles won last seven series games; five of those wins were by 6 or fewer points.
— Underdogs covered six of seven Eagle games.
— Philly survived 2nd quarter where they had ball in red zone three times, but scored only three points- they missed a 29-yard FG.

12) NFL jerked around their TV schedule for this Sunday; Seattle-Arizona moves to the Sunday night slot, Bucs-Raiders moves to 4:05, probably because Las Vegas put several players on the COVID list this week, including several offensive linemen.

11) Had this been a normal baseball season, Dodgers’ payroll would’ve been $222,115.000; Tampa Bay’s payroll would’ve been $72,489,233. 

10) LSU will start true freshman QB TJ Finley this week, in place of injured starter Myles Brennan; this will be Finley’s first college start. Another true freshman QB, Max Johnson, is also expected to play some for the Bayou Bengals. 

9) The Holiday Bowl will not be played this season, bowl organizers announced Thursday, citing the coronavirus situation; the Holiday Bowl had been played every year since 1978.                                 

8) Baltimore Ravens traded a 2021 3rd-round pick and a 2022 conditional 5th-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for Yannick Ngakoue. NFL trade deadline is November 3rd. 

7) When Pac-12 starts their football season, teams will need to have 53+ players active and ready to play, with 7+ of those 53 being offensive linemen. 

6) In their first four games, Buffalo Bills had 24 plays that gained 20+ yards; in their last two games, they’ve had only three plays of 20+ yards. 

5) Jordan Spieth’s father is caddying for him this week at the ZoZo Championship; Spieth’s regular caddy had a death in the family and was unavailable. 

4) Indiana Pacers named Nate Bjorkgren their new head coach; he spent the last two years as an assistant coach in Toronto, helping them win the 2019 title. As recently as 2007, Bjorkgren was a high school coach in Arizona. 

3) It snowed in Minnesota Tuesday. On October 20. No bueno. 

2) Dallas Cowboys have trailed by 17+ points at halftime in three of their four home games. 

1) Appalachian State 45, Arkansas State 17:
— App State ran ball for 305 yards, outgained Ark State 521-368.
— App State converted 10-15 third down plays.
— App State had three TD plays of 46+ yards. 

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

13) Rays 6, Dodgers 4 (series 1-1)
— Blake Snell didn’t allow a hit until 5th inning; bullpen got the last 16 outs.
— Brandon Lowe snapped out of a slump, homered twice for the Rays.
— Joey Wendle knocked in three runs for Tampa Bay.
— Game 3 is Friday night in Arlington.

12) Dodger OF Cody Bellinger hit 47 homers last year, seems headed to becoming a big star, but he’s got a ways to go before he catches up with his dad, at least in one category. 

Clay Bellinger played in 193 big league games over parts of four seasons with Bronx and the Angels; he hit 12 career homers, struck out 82 times, bur he also won THREE World Series rings, two in New York, a third one with the Angels. Cody is trying for his first one this year. 

Today, I’m looking at how NFL teams do on drives that start 75+ yards from the goal line; can.a team’s offense carry the team, if need be? Lot of strong teams have really good special teams and defenses, so the offense’s job is a somewhat simpler, but which offenses drive the field the best?

11) Top teams in points/possession on drives that start 75+ yards from goal line:
— Raiders 3.37 points/possession
— Steelers 3.16
— Chiefs 2.95
— Dolphins 2.62
— Rams 2.58

10) Worst teams in points/possession on drives that start 75+ yards from goal line:
— Jets 0.48 points/possession
— Washington 0.69
— Broncos 0.86
— Bears 1.24
— Cleveland 1.43

If a team gives up a defensive TD/safety, it goes against them in this category. 

9) Obviously, teams that have better field position are more likely to win. These teams have started the lowest %age of their drives 75 yards from the goal line:
47.5% (29 of 61)— Ravens
50%— Colts
51.0%— Steelers
57.8%— Buccaneers   
60.8%— Titans

All teams with winning records.                                    

8) These teams have started the highest %age of their drives 75 yards from the goal line:
85.7% (48 of 56)— Jets
82.5%— Vikings
81.5%— Chargers
79.4%— Cowboys
78.3%— Patriots

Interesting that New England has started 36 of 46 drives 75+ yards from the goal line. 

7)  Since 1986, NFL teams that started the season 0-6 won an average of 3.0 games the rest of the season.

6) Clemson is a 46-point favorite over Syracuse Saturday; there is one sportsbook in America offering a money line on this game. Risk $1,000 on Clemson, win a dollar, One dollar. 

5) Dallas Cowboys are 3-10 in their last 13 playoff games, losing their last eight road playoff games- their last road playoff win was 1993, in San Francisco. 

4) Jets have been outscored 114-29 in the second half of games this year. 

3) Only one person has won an Olympic Gold Medal and also played on a Super Bowl champ; Bob Hayes, who was a very fast receiver for the Cowboys, from 1965-74. He won a gold medal in the 100 meters sprint at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. 

2) Memphis Tigers’ WR Damonte Coxie has opted out of this season, and is headed to prepare for the NFL Draft; he caught 16 balls for 175 yards in two games this year, then sat out the UCF game Saturday, and now he’s bolted the team for greener pa$ture$.

Last two years, Coxie caught a combined 148 passes for 2,450 yards and 16 TD’s. 

1) 3-3 Miami Dolphins are changing QB’s after their bye week; rookie Tua Tagovailoa will get his first NFL start against the Rams next week, replacing veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had been playing really well. 

Wednesday’s Den: My running diary of Sunday’s 1:00 NFL games

12:59: We have eight games on one screen on channel 702 of DirecTV, a good way to follow the early games, as long as the Rams aren’t playing- they play tonight. Bengals-Colts is the one game that isn’t being shown on this screen. 

1:04: Minnesota QB Cousins throws an INT on the Vikings’ first play; no bueno. If there were fans in the stands, they’d be grumbling right now.

1:07: Falcons take advantage; Ryan-to-Jones gives Atlanta a 7-0 lead, first TD of the day in the league.

1:08: 4-1 Bears score an early TD, lead the Panthers 7-0 early on in Charlotte. 

1:12: Lamar Jackson scrambles, throws a TD, Ravens lead 7-0 in nPhilly, as the NFC East’s struggles continue. Coming into this week, NFC East squads are 3-12-1 ATS outside the division.

1:14: Washington misses a field goal against the Giants; Detroit scores an early TD  against the the Jaguars in Jacksonville. 

Speaking of Jacksonville, if I owned the Jaguars and we were home underdogs to Detroit, I’d have a talk with my football people and ask what the BLEEP is going on????

1:15: Baker Mayfield throws a pick-6, Browns are down 10-0 in Pittsburgh- they’ve lost 16 games in a row in Pittsburgh, and appear to be on a fast track to #17.

1:19: Tannehill throws a TD for the Titans; they led Houston 7-0.

When Tannehill was a rookie with Miami, they were on HBO’s Hard Knocks, and there was a conversation where Tannehill and Matt Moore, the other QB, are talking in a meeting room. Tannehill tells Moore that he doesn’t know who the other three teams in the AFC East are. 

“How do you not know that?!?!?!” Moore was as incredulous as I was.

1:22: Denver leads 6-0 in Foxboro, kicking field goals on their first two drives, but not taking full advantage of scoring opportunities. 

1:23: Giants 3, Redskins 0— The moveable force leads the resistible object.

1:25: Falcons lead 10-0 in Minnesota; this is where I’m supposed to point out that Kirk Cousins makes $28M a year, but won only one playoff game (1-2). He is 20-18-1 in 2+ years QB’ing the Vikings.

I admire Vikings’ coach Mike Zimmer; guy has had eight operations on one of his eyes but he still coaches. I’ve had two eye operations in the last 13 months; has to be very difficult for him to work as hard as coaches do while properly maintaining his eye, or maybe that’s why he’s had to have eight operations- could be he isn’t maintaining the eye.

1:27: Carolina kicks a FG, trail Chicago 7-3, first game today where both teams have scored. 

1:32: Giants lead 10-0; Jones throws a 23-yard TD pass to Slayton.

1:35: Titans lead Houston 14-0; the Texans traded star WR DeAndre Hopkins, then fired the guy who traded him four games later— not a well-run franchise. Great players help win games. 

1:42: Ravens lead 14-0 in Philly; Eagles drafted Carson Wentz in 2016, won the Super Bowl the next year, but Wentz had gotten injured during the season and Nick Foles was the hero, but now Foles plays for the Bears and Wentz is increasingly viewed as a suspect.

1:45: Denver leads 9-0 in Foxboro; they have Drew Lock back at QB, and have FG’s on their first three drives. It is super-ironic that John Elway is struggling to find a franchise QB for the team he once starred for.

1:50: Daniel Jones runs for 49 yards; problem is, he runs better than he throws, which isn’t so great for an NFL QB.

I miss watching NFL games at the Westgate Theater in Las Vegas, the same room where Barry Manilow performs. Seats 1,500 people; there is a concession stand on the left, betting windows in the back, and people have always been cool when I’ve been there.

One Sunday in the Westgate 2-3 years ago, I’m talking to this guy wearing a Cardinals’ jersey; we’re shooting the breeze about sports, gambling, Las Vegas; all of a sudden, it dawns on me that this guy is betting $6,000 a game, while I’m stressed out about my $30 wager. Oy. 

Las Vegas is the big time of gambling; can’t wait to get back there.

2:00: Denver leads 9-3 in Foxboro; over bettors are queasy. Teams are moving the ball, but not scoring touchdowns.

Bengals led 21-0 in Indy, now lead 21-7; at one point, Joe Burrow was a 3rd-string QB at Ohio State, playing behind JT Barrett and Dwayne Haskins. Anyone want to ask Urban Meyer about that?

2:03: Baker Mayfield scrambles, throws another INT; Cleveland QB’s are measured by how they do against the Steelers/Ravens, who rule the AFC North. This ain’t going well. 

2:07: Tannehill has Tennessee ahead of the Texans 21-7; in a couple weeks, Titans play Cincinnati, and Tannehill will meet up with Zac Taylor, whose father-in-law is Mike Sherman, the guy who moved Tannehill from WR to QB while they were both at Texas A&M.

2:14: Denver leads 12-3 at halftime in Foxboro; four possessions, four FG’s. 

This is where I break down Bill Belichick’s career as a head coach:
— With Tom Brady at QB: 219-64, six Super Bowl titles
— Without Tom Brady at QB: 56-65, and down 12-3 at halftime today

2:16: Giants lead 13-10; Washington’s Kyle Allen throws a TD with 0:13 left in the half. Giants have mostly dominated the half, but lead only 13-10.

2:28: Eagles get stopped on 4th-and-a in the red zone, trail 17-0 with 0:56 left in the half, and may be at least a little grateful there are no fans there to boo them off the field.

Note to self; buy some Halloween candy, Reese’s cups or KitKats. That way, if no kids show up, I’ve still got a bowlful of candy I like.

With most of the games at halftime, time for a nutritious meal, a bowl of Fruit Loops.

2:48: Broncos lead 15-3 in Foxboro; five possessions, five FG’s. Has this ever happened before, a team with field goals on their first five drives?

2:53: Houston has rallied, cutting the Titans lead to 21-17.

Jennifer Garner must have a great agent; she does a ton of commercials.

2:55: New England’s tight end fumbles, Denver has the ball in NE territory- they kick yet another FG, now lead 18-3.

3:00: There was a time 10-11 years ago when Jacksonville owner Shahid Khan tried to buy the Rams, when they were in St Louis. Mercifully, that didn’t happen, because Stan Kroenke moved the Rams to LA and that’s a good thing.

3:02: Falcons lead 23-7 in Minnesota; Mike Zimmer is a defensive-minded coach, and has gone thru offensive coordinators very quickly. Watching the Vikings gag away that game in Seattle Monday night, it had to be a dispiriting loss, and today they look like a depressed team.

3:05: Guy on the Eagles runs 70+ yards, fumbles, and a teammate recovers for a TD, but then Philly goes for two points- why? When was it decided that going for two all the time was such a great idea?

3:09: Jones throws a terrible INT in the end zone, Giants still lead, but only 13-10.

3:11: Matt Ryan throws another TD pass, Falcons lead 30-7, and interim coaches are about to go 2-0 this season in their first game after the firing.

3:13: Lamar Jackson runs 37 yards for a TD; he could’ve run to Newark before he got hit, and the Ravens are jogging, 24-6.

3:19: Tennessee misses a FG, still trails 23-21, in what looks like the best of these early games.

3:20: Steelers lead Cleveland 31-7 and Case Keenum is in at QB for the Browns; I’ll be doing a look at Keenum’s unusual career pretty soon. Guy moves around a lot.

3:25: Cam Newton gets the Patriots in the end for the first TD of the day, but they miss on the 2-point play, trail 18-9 with 8:31 left. First TD of the game for either side.

3:27: Tennessee’s Derrick Henry runs 94 yards for a TD, Titans lead 29-23 with 9:23 left.

3:29: Washington kicks a FG; they’re 13-13 with the Giants, 8:56 left. My cousin bet the Giants on the money line. Kind of glad I’m not there right now. 

3:32: Deshaun Watson throws a 53-yard TD pass, Houston leads 30-29 with 8:29 left. Thisis really a good game.

3:37: Denver QB Lock throws an awful INT; Patriots get the ball on Denver’s 25, but only kicks a field goal, and trails 18-12 with 3:23 left.

3:42: Lock throws ANOTHER interception, and New England is going to steal this bleeping game. Denver just cut Blake Bortles, who can’t possibly be worse than the guys the Broncos have been using at QB.

3:44: Giants get sack/fumble/TD, take a 20-13 lead with 3:29 left.

3:50: Former QB Julian Edelman throws an 18-yard pass to Cam Newton on a trick play; Newton is way bigger than the DB’s, is bigger than lot of linebackers. Patriots are on the move.

3:52: Eagles’ tight end Zach Ertz sprains his ankle; the Philly offense is messed up.

3:53: Houston scores a TD, leads 36-29; they go for 2 to get ahead by nine points (two scores) but miss on the try. I have no problem with that strategy.

3:54: Denver holds on, wins 18-12 in Foxboro, without scoring a TD. Belichick falls to 56-66 in his career with a QB other than Brady.

3:56: Redskins score TD with 0:36 left, trail 20-19, and Rivera has them go for two points- they don’t get it, much to the relief of a certain living room on Long Island.

Unless your QB is a great runner, I’m a firm believer in kicking the PAT and going to OT, but football coaches have this macho attitude that we can run them over, but it makes very little sense. Then again, no one asked me.

4:00: Titans score with 0:04 left to force overtime, and now the TV guys are killing Romeo Crennel for going for two after Houston’s last TD.

4:07: Tennessee wins coin toss in OT, Watson winces noticeably, not showing whole lot of faith in his defense.

4:12: Once down 21-0, Colts have rallied to lead Indianapolis 31-27; Burrow throws a pick in Colt territory with 0:32 left.

Philip Rivers grew up in Alabama, but neither Alabama/Auburn saw him as a starting QB, so he went to NC State, where he started for four years, and since has played 17 years in the NFL.

Go figure.

4:14: Derrick Henry scores TD, puts Houston’s defense out of its misery, 42-36. He ran the ball for 221 yards and looked like a man amongst boys.

Tennessee is 5-0, but they have a four wins by 3 or fewer points, plus this overtime win.

4:19: Eagles have rallied, have ball down 30-22, after Baltimore killed off only 0:27 on their last drive. After a terrible interference call on Baltimore, Wentz sneaks in for a TD with 1:55 left, but the 2-point try fails, and Ravens hold on, 30-28.

Eagles scored four TD’s, but never tried an extra point- they went for two four times.

Pretty good card of early games, considering it is October, when league tries to hide lot of the lesser-appealing non-divisional matchups. 

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

13) Chiefs 26, Buffalo 17
— Chiefs won all three of their road games, 2by 3-14-9 points. 
— KC is 11-7 ATS in last 18 games following a SU loss.
— Under is 4-1-1 in their games this season.
— Chiefs are 7-3 ATS in last ten games as a road favorite.

— Buffalo lost its last two games, giving up 68 points, after a 4-0 start.
— Buffalo is 5-10 ATS in its last 15 games as a home underdog.
— Game was played on a rainy, cruddy night in western New York.
— Chiefs ran the football for 245 yards; they outgained Buffalo, 466-206.

12) Cardinals 38, Dallas 10:
— Arizona’s first three drives: 16 plays, 23 yards, three punts.
— Redbirds’ next four drives: 26 plays, 240 yards, four TD’s.
— Arizona ran the ball for 261 yards.
— Cardinals scored 38 points despite Murray completing 9-24 passes.
— Arizona is 3-1 on the road this season.

— Last five games, Dallas has allowed 39-38-49-34-38 points.
— Ezekiel Elliott lost fumbles on two of his first eight touches.
— With 11:30 left in 3rd quarter, play-by-play guy said that Dallas lacked enthusiasm, a nice way of saying they quit. No one disagreed with him.
— NFC East teams are 4-14 ATS outside their division, 1-9 at home. 

11) Why did Red Sox trade Mookie Betts? Isn’t it good to have great players on your team? 

10) Last three Georgia-Alabama games, Dawgs led all three games at halftime, then got outscored by a combined 68-17 in second half and lost all three. 

9) Tennessee Vols signed a new defensive line coach to a 2-year contract this year, but they fired the guy Sunday, after only four games. Must be an interesting story there. 

8) Social media flipped out Saturday night, when Tampa Bay took starter Charlie Morton out of the game despite Morton having thrown only 66 pitches. Everything worked out and the Rays won, but analytics people are obsessed with the idea that facing hitters a third time in a game is a bad idea, even if the pitcher doing it is way better than the reliever.

Thats part of what makes life interesting, different ideas being debated. 

7) When the Tampa Bay Rays won the American League in 2008, it was also their first-ever winning season; they became a franchise in 1998. Starting in ’08, they’ve been over .500 nine of the last 13 years. 

6) Of the 32 current NFL head coaches, 11 of them were also head coaches at a previous stop.

10 defensive coordinators, 7 offensive coordinators have previously been head coaches.

5) Tennessee Titans lost OT Taylor Lewan for the year with a torn ACL; big loss.

4) You wonder how much playing these weeknight games on national TV will help recruiting for Sun Belt, AAC football programs that are getting an unusually high amount of TV exposure.

It is good football, the games have been fun to watch; kids are going to see the games, and it has to help their recruiting a little bit, no? 

3) Long time ago, there was a guy who played in the ABA named Wes Bialosuknia; he played at UConn in college, played one year for the Oakland Oaks, scoring 8.7 ppg. 

He had a great nickname; the Typographical Terror. 

2) Leads seem to less safe in the NFL this year; in six weeks of play, at least one team every week has blown a lead of 16+ points, with the Bengals doing it this past week- they led the Colts 21-0 in Indianapolis Sunday, lost 31-27.

1) One of the great broadcasters of all-time announced his retirement this week; Mike Emrick is one of, if not the best hockey play-by-play guy ever (with the late Dan Kelly). Few years ago, Emrick was very nice to a friend of mine’s son, who is an up-and-coming hockey announcer. He is just a classy guy and was great fun to listen to. Enjoy your retirement!!! 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Tennessee 42, Texans 36 OT
— Houston scored TD with 1:50 left to go up 36-29; they went for 2 points to get ahead by two scores, but missed.
— Texans lost despite a 10-yard edge in field position.
— Texans lost four of last five visits to Nashville, losing by 7-11-6 points.

— Titans gained 601 yards, had 31 first downs.
— Henry ran ball 22 times for 22 yards, including a 94-yard TD.
— Tennessee drove 76 yards for the tying TD with 0:04 left.
— Tennessee drove 82 yards for the winning TD on the first drive in OT.
— Bad beat if you took the points with Houston (+3.5)

Ravens 30, Philadelphia 28
— Ravens led 17-0 at halftime, had to stop tying 2-point play in last 2:00.
— Baltimore won its three road games, 33-16/31-17, spring 30+ points in all three games.
— QB Jackson ran ball for 108 yards, threw for 186 more.
— Penalties: Ravens 12-132 yards, Eagles 3-20.

— Eagles went 3/out on their first six drives.
— In 2nd half: Philly ran 36 plays for 319 yards, four TD’s.
— Eagles went for 2 points after all four of their TD’s.
— Underdogs covered five of their six games this year.

Indianapolis 31, Bengals 27
— Bengals led 21-0 after first play of the 2nd quarter.
— Cincy’s first three drives: 23 plays, 191 yards, 21 points.
— Bengals rest of the game: 53 plays, 207 yards, 6 points.
— Cincy is 16-9 ATS in its last 25 games as a road underdog.

— Colts won their three home games, 28-11/36-7/31-27.
— Rivers threw for 234 yards, just in the 2nd quarter.
— Indy converted 7 of 11 third down plays.
— Colts averaged 8.2 yards per pass attempt.

Broncos 18, New England 12
— Broncos kicked FG’s on each of their first six drives; never saw that before.
— Denver’s last four drives: 12 plays, 26 yards, two INT’s.
— Broncos had 3 takeaways (+1), after having only two takeaways in first four games.
— Denver is 7-3 ATS in its last ten games as a road underdog.

— Newton had 76 of Patriots’ 117 rushing yards.
— New England’s only TD, only TD of the game, came on their 8th drive.
— Total of only three penalties were enforced in this game, for 24 yards.
— Belichick’s career record as a head coach without Brady: 56-66.

Bears 23, Carolina 16
— Chicago’s average starting point: their own 44 (won field position by 26 yards)
— Bears are 5-1, with four wins by 4 or fewer points.
— Chicago won its three road games, 27-23/30-26/23-16.
— Four of their last five games stayed under the total.

— Carolina converted only 3-13 on 3rd down; Bears were 7-14.
— Panthers had one TD, two FG’s on three red zone drives.
— Panthers are 10-14 ATS in last 24 games as a home favorite.
— Chicago won five of last six games overall vs Carolina.

Lions 34, Jacksonville 16
— Detroit ran ball for 180 yards, outgained Jaguars 403-275
— Lions scored four TD’s, kicked FG on five red zone drives.
— Detroit’s first two drives: 16 plays, 125 yards, 14 points.
— Detroit covered 8 of its last 9 post-bye games.

— Jaguars lost their last five games, giving up 30+ points in all five.
— Jacksonville ran ball only 16 times for 44 yards.
— Cole caught six passes for 143 yards, including a 51-yarder.
— Jacksonville has been outsacked 18-5 this season.

Falcons 40, Minnesota 23
— Falcons win in first game with interim coach Morris.
— Atlanta scored four TD’s; only one TD drive was longer than 44 yards.
— Falcons converted 9-17 on 3rd down, had three INT’s, won field position by 14 yards.

— Cousins threw an INT on first play of game; it went downhill from there.
— Vikings in 1st half: 6 series, 24 plays, 135 yards, 3 turnovers, 0 points.
— Minnesota has lost field position by 10+ yards in five of its six games.

NJ Giants 20, Washington 19
— Redskins scored TD with 0:36, but went for 2 points and the win- they lost.
— Washington lost its last five games, giving up 28.2 ppg.
— Last four games, Washington was outscored 46-16 in second half.
— Last 4+ years, Redskins are 16-12 ATS as a road dog.

— Giants had a sack/fumble/TD for winning points with 3:29 left.
— Giants have scored only six TD’s on 52 drives this year- their one TD drive here was 27 yards.
— Washington ran 69 plays, Giants 46 in this game.
— Daniel Jones is 4-14 as an NFL starter, but 3-0 vs Washington. 

Pittsburgh 38, Browns 7
— Cleveland went 3/out on six of their 12 drives.
— Browns converted only 1-12 third down plays, lost field position by 12 yards.
— Cleveland is 11-19-1 ATS in its last 31 games as a road underdog.
— Browns lost their last 17 visits to Steel City.

— Pittsburgh won its first five games (4-1 ATS), scoring 31.2 ppg.
— Steelers’ first five drives: 28 plays, 190 yards, 17 points.
— Neither team gained 300+ yards in this game; unusual.
— Steelers are 13-2-1 SU in last sixteen series games. 

Tampa Bay 38, Packers 10
— In its first four games, Green Bay went 3/out one time on 35 drives; they went 3/out 7 times on 11 drives in this game.
— Packers led 10-0 orly in 2nd quarter, then Rodgers threw a pick-6 and things unraveled.
— Green Bay’s last nine drives: 39 plays, 52 yards, four first downs.
— Packers are 1-4-1 ATS in their last five post-bye games.

  Tampa Bay won its first three home games, scoring 31-38-38 points.
— Buccaneers allowed only 2.7 yards/pass attempt in this game.
— For only 2nd time time in their history,  Tampa Bay didn’t have any penalties.

Miami 24, NJ Jets 0
— Jets lost their first six games (0-6 ATS), giving up 30.8 ppg.
— Jets have been outscored 114-29 in first half of games.
— Gang Green lost its three road games, 27-17/36-7/24-0.
— Jets are 8-19-2 ATS in last 29 games as a road underdog.

— Miami scored TD’s on two of their first three drives.
— Teams  combined to convert 3-26 third down plays.
— Dolphins won field position by 18 yards.
— Miami is 6-1-1 ATS in last eight games as a home favorite.

San Francisco 24, LA Rams 16
— Rams were outgained 390-311, converted only 4-12 on third down.
— LA’s four 1st half drives: 21 plays, 92 yards, 6 points (missed PAT).  
— Rams had only two plays of 20+ yards.

— 49ers’ first four drives: 35 plays, 256 yards, 21 points.
— SF averaged 8.1 yards/pass attempt, LA 5.2.
— 49ers ran 70 plays from scrimmage, LA only 57. 

Dodgers 4, Braves 3 (LA wins 4-3):
— Bellinger homered in 7th inning for winning run.
— Urias pitched three perfect innings to get the win.
— Atlanta OF Nick Markakis has played in 2,154 regular season games and has had a really good career, but he’s still never played in a World Series. 

 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a busy Saturday

13) Kentucky 34, Tennessee 7:
— Wildcats had lost 17 games in a row in Knoxville, which was the longest losing skid in one visiting stadium in the country- their last win at Tennessee was in 1984.
— Kentucky won its last two games by a combined 58-9.
— Tennessee changed QB’s twice; Kentucky’s first two scores of the day were pick-6’s.

12) Memphis 50, Central Florida 49:
— Total yards: UCF 798-703
— First downs: Memphis 41-34
— UCF’s QB Gabriel threw for 601 yards in a losing cause.
— Golden Knights missed a 42-yard FG for the win with 0:04 left. 

11) Florida State 31, North Carolina 28— Seminoles led 31-7, missed a FG, then had to fight like hell to hang on for the win. UNC threw for 374 yards, outgained FSU 558-432, but converted only 2-12 on third down.

10) Texas A&M 28, Mississippi State 14— MSU lost its last three games; in their last two games, Bulldogs scored a total of 16 points, 9 by their defense, only 7 by their offense. 

9) Alabama 41, Georgia 24— Crimson Tide outscored Georgia 21-0 in 2nd half; they gained 564 total yards, picked off three Georgia passes. Dawgs completed only 18-40 passes; I’m guessing that USC transfer QB Daniels will get medically cleared to play next week. 

8) Arkansas 33, Ole Miss 21— Not often a QB stays in the game long enough to throw six INT’s, but that happened here. Arkansas led 20-0, had lead cut to 20-14, when Rebels converted only 4-16 on third down and turned ball over seven times- hard to win that way.

Arkansas WR Treylon Burks made one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen for a TD, as good as any catch you’ll see on a Sunday. 

7) Upsets of the Week:
— Florida State (+13.5) 31, North Carolina 28
— Coastal Carolina (+9) 30, Louisiana 27
— Kentucky (+6.5) 34, Tennessee 7
— North Texas (+6) 52, Middle Tennessee 35
— South Carolina (+3) 30, Auburn 22

6) Liberty 38, Syracuse 21— Last year, Syracuse was a 19-point favorite at Liberty, and they blanked the Flames, 24-0, but Liberty ran the ball for 338 yards in this game- they were favored by 2.5 points on the road, over an ACC team. Hugh Freeze won’t be at Liberty much longer. 

5) South Carolina 30, Auburn 22— Gamecocks hadn’t beaten Auburn since 1933; this was their first win over Auburn in SEC play. Tigers outgained Carolina 481-297, but threw three INT’s. 

4) Temple 39, South Florida 37— A gambler at SouthPoint in Las Vegas risked $50,000 to win $10,000 that Temple would win SU; they were down 31-20 with 2:00 left in third quarter, but rallied to win. Had to be a long three hours for that guy, but he did win. 

3) I was flipping channels Saturday afternoon, hit the wrong button and found a pro bowling tournament; guy had a perfect game heading into the 10th frame. Francois Lavoie struck out and got his 300 game, which is such a cool event that his opponent was taking pics of him with his cellphone after the game. 

2) Dodgers 3, Braves 1 (series 3-3):
— Seager/Turner homered in the first; that was enough.
— Braves had nine hits, were 2-11 with RISP.
— Buehler tossed six shutout innings. 

1) Rays 4, Astros 2 (Tampa Bay wins 4-3):
— Morton threw 5.2 scoreless innings.
— Arozarena homered in the first inning.
— Tampa Bay plays Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday. 

Saturday’s Den: Looking at the successful but very unusual coaching career of Larry Brown

Larry Brown needs to write a book; he’s had a fascinating career, changing jobs a lot, which is a huge understatement. Coach Brown is 80 now; his mom lived to 106. Here is a brief outline of his coaching stops, most of which were very successful.

1972-74) Carolina Cougars, ABA— Went 104-64 in two years; some of his players were Joe Caldwell, Ed Manning (Danny’s father), Billy Cunningham.

1974-79) Denver Nuggets, ABA/NBA— Went 125-43 with Denver in the ABA, 126-91 in the NBA; he had David Thompson, Dan Issel, Paul Silas, Mack Calvin.

1979-81) UCLA Bruins— Went 42-17 in two seasons, lost the 1980 national title game 59-54 to Louisville. But the NCAA vacated these wins because they used two ineligible players during these two seasons.

1981-83) New Jersey Nets— Went 91-67 in two years, then left. He did this more than once.

1983-88) Kansas Jayhawks— Went 135-44 in five years, won the 1988 national title behind star Danny Manning (his dad Ed played for Brown’s Carolina Cougars).

Just as soon as he won the national title, Brown bolted back to pro ball……..

1988-92) San Antonio Spurs— Went 153-131 over 3.5 years, was canned during the 4th year. The next year, San Antonio replaced him with Jerry Tarkanian.

1992-93)  Los Angeles Clippers— At one point during his career, I suggested that he might change jobs during a TV timeout; we’d come back and he’d be coaching the other team. It didn’t seem impossible. 

He went 64-53 in 1.5 seasons; I mean, the guy won all the time, but never stayed anywhere.

1993-97) Indiana Pacers— Went 190-138 in four seasons, then 22-16 in playoff games, losing twice in Eastern Conference finals.

1997-2003) Philadelphia 76ers— Six years had to feel like an eternity, but he was coaching Allen Iverson. Sixers went 255-205 under Brown, 28-30 in playoff games, losing the 2001 Finals.

2003-05) Detroit Pistons— Won the NBA title the first year, lost in Finals the second, then just like that, he was gone.

2005-06) New York Knicks— Went 23-59 in one very forgettable season. 

2008-11) Charlotte Bobcats— Went back to his Carolina basketball roots, went 88-104, made the playoffs the 2nd year, left 28 games (9-19) into the third year.

2012-16) SMU Mustangs— Went 85-39 at SMU, got them to the NCAA’s and to an NIT Final Four, but just like UCLA, he also ran afoul of the NCAA, and left unexpectedly.

— Brown was a good point guard; he was the MVP of the first-ever ABA All-Star Game
— Brown won a national title in the NBA and in college ball, the only guy to do that.
— Brown played for Dean Smith in college at North Carolina, was a very good point guard; his story is unique in basketball- he and his family must be great at packing. 

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

13) How would you like to be a fly on the wall at Nick Saban’s house Saturday night, when he is in quarantine while Alabama plays Georgia in the week’s biggest college football game? 

Saban and the Alabama AD both tested positive for COVID, so he is stuck at home for a while, and the rules say coaches in the booth cannot communicate with outside places while the game is going on. Hopefully, Mrs Saban takes the dog for a long walk and gives Nick some space. 

Part of me says there is no way Saban isn’t texting some student manager and having the kid deliver messages to Steve Sarkisian.

Semi-related side note: Alabama’s basketball coach Nate Oats said Thursday that he had COVID back in July.

12) News Item of the Day: Utah Jazz hired Sergi Olivia away from the 76ers’ front office, to join their coaching staff. Olivia had been the Vice President of Strategy for the Sixers. 

This isn’t really big news, but that is a tremendous job title; Vice President of Strategy

I’ve been retired from my job for almost six years now, but I’ve worked in basketball analytics in both college/high school basketball— I’d love to be someone’s Vice President of Strategy. It just sounds so freakin’ important.

11) A new casino that is rumored to have an excellent sportsbook will open in downtown Las Vegas October 28; the Circa will be a 2-story casino with a 3-story sportsbook. It appears as if  the top level of the sports ook is a very large swimming pool in front of huge TV screens. They’re billing it as the biggest sportsbook in Las Vegas history.

10) Jets dump RB Le’Veon Bell and the Chiefs jump in and sign him; problem is, Bell hasn’t been a productive player for quite a while. He’s out of excuses now; he better produce in that offense, or his career is history.

9) In September, $748.5M, that’s million with an M, was wagered on sports in New Jersey.

8) Houston Rockets let GM Daryl Morey resign Thursday, rather than fire him- guys don’t quit jobs like that unless they’re jumping to another lucrative gig.

Morey is an MIT graduate, an analytics guy who sparked a rift between the NBA and Chinese government when he tweeted support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong about this time last year. That cost the NBA a boatload of money in China, and money talks, so Morey walks.

7) Indiana Pacers have never won an NBA title, but four of their head coaches have, three of them after they left Indiana, one before he got there:
— Jack Ramsay, Portland
— Larry Brown, Detroit
— Rick Carlisle, Dallas
— Frank Vogel, Lakers

6) White Sox are interviewing 76-year old Tony Larussa for their open managing job; he last managed in the majors with St Louis, in 2011. He started as a manager with the White Sox way back in 1979.

5) Just when I thought ESPN couldn’t be more annoying, they’re starting to show football games from Newman HS in Louisiana, because Peyton Manning’s nephew is the QB there- the kid is in 10th grade, let him be a kid. He doesn’t need his games shown on national TV.

4) Arkansas State 59, Georgia State 52:
— Said this yesterday; ESPN needs to show more Sun Belt football.
— Arkansas State plays two QB’s; in their last two games, they’re a combined 61-97 for 968 yards and 14 TD’s throwing the ball.
— Total yardage in this game: 609-583, ASU

3) Astros 4, Rays 3 (Tampa Bay leads 3-2)
— Carlos Correa hit a walk-off homer, series is 3-2 Tampa Bay.
— First five pitchers Houston used in this game are rookies. 

2) Braves 10, Dodgers 2 (Atlanta leads 3-1):
— Atlanta broke open a 1-1 tie with six runs in 6th inning.
— Bryse Wilson allowed one hit, one run in six outstanding innings.
— Marcell Ozuna homered twice for the Braves.

1) Before I go, let me settle an argument; Michael Jordan isn’t the best basketball player ever, and neither is Lebron James, though they’re both in the top five.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the best basketball player ever; after his freshman season at UCLA, when the Bruins’ freshman team beat the UCLA varsity by 20, the NCAA outlawed the dunk, a ban that lasted for ten years. (Freshman weren’t allowed on the varsity back then)

When Kareem was a rookie in the NBA with Milwaukee, the Bucks went 56-26 and lost in the Eastern Conference final- it was their 2nd year of existence- they won the NBA title the next year. Kareem may not have a big personality or be the face of a shoe company, but he was the most dominant basketball player ever. 

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

13) What are the odds of a guy hitting a home run in a playoff game two nights in a row, have both homers go into his team’s bullpen, and have the same relief pitcher catch the baseballs on the fly? It happened this week. 

Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies homered twice and closer Mark Melancon caught both balls, once when he was warming up to close the game out. 

Later that night, Dr Tom House tweeted this out: 

“It’s very fun to catch a teammate’s HR in the bullpen. Trust me.”

Tom House was a reliever for the Braves in 1974; he was in the Atlanta bullpen and caught Hank Aaron’s 715th home run that broke Babe Ruth’s record.

12) Sunday in Baltimore, the Bengals kicked a field goal in the last minute when they trailed 27-0, making them only the second NFL team in the last 25 years to kick a field goal in the last minute, just to avoid being shut out. 

In 2006, Jon Gruden’s Buccaneers kicked a last-minute FG when they trailed Pittsburgh 20-0.

11) Coastal Carolina 30, Louisiana 27:
— Sun Belt is good football; ESPN needs to show more of their games.
— Total yardage was 414-413, that’s how good a game this was.
— Chanticleers kicked a 40-yard FG with 0:04 left for the win.
— Both teams ran the ball for 200+ yards.

10) Quick story, with the joke on me:

October 2009, I’m sitting in the sportsbook at Planet Hollywood; love the place, great 24-hour coffee shop (generous video poker machine right near that coffee shop), lot of good places to eat and people-watch, and lot of TV’s. 

Anyway, I’m watching the Texas-Oklahoma game and Sooners’ QB Sam Bradford is getting pummeled by the Longhorns; he looks like he’s about to fall apart and I’m thinking to myself, “Which NFL team will be stupid enough to draft this guy? He can’t stay healthy in college ball, how will he ever last in the NFL?”

So of course, six months later, the Rams draft him in the first round; no bueno. He went 18-30-1 starting for the Rams, got hurt a lot, made a boatload of money. What a disaster.

9) Want to win a bar bet? Micheal Williams of the Timberwolves holds the NBA record for consecutive free throws made; he knocked down 97 in a row, back in 1993.

8) Tuesday was the anniversary of a couple of interesting sports days:
— In 1960, Bill Mazeroski hit a walk-off homer for the Pirates in Game 7 of the World Series.
— In 1967, the ABA started its first season, with an Oakland-Anaheim game.

7) These days, I’m re-reading a 1990 book called Loose Balls, the history of the ABA, which was a fun league that made basketball a lot better. If things get slow again this winter like they did last winter, I could spend a week in this space telling stories from this book.

6) I’m usually in Las Vegas this week, relaxing and watching the baseball playoffs, football and resting up before college basketball prep begins, but because 2020 sucks, I’m reading books and eating PopTarts at 3am, which ain’t bad, but it ain’t Vegas.

5) Five weeks into the NFL season, and the Rams have already played/beaten all four teams in the NFC East, which is actually fortunate scheduling, seeing how three of those teams have new coaches this season. Rough season to be breaking in a new program.

4) NBA commissioner Adam Silver was apparently very happy with how the NBA bubble went; all NBA employees got a $1,000 bonus, and four extra days off this fall.

3) Get well soon to Alabama football coach Nick Saban and AD Greg Byrne, both of whom tested positive for COVID.

2) Astros 4, Rays 3 (Tampa Bay leads 3-1)
— Houston stays alive; Rays had tying run on 3rd in last inning.
— This was first AL playoff game this year where both starting pitchers went 6+ innings.
— Altuve homered in first inning in 3 of 4 games in this series.

1) Dodgers 15, Braves 3 (Atlanta leads 2-1):
— Dodgers scored 11 runs in top of the 1st, the most runs scored in an inning in any playoff game, ever.
— Game started with a ground out to 3B that was overturned by replay; then all hell broke loose.
— Seager scored in three runs, knocked in three more.
— Braves are now 7-1 in the playoffs. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

13) Tennessee 42, Bills 16
— Total yardage: 370-334 Buffalo, very misleading stat.
— Four of six Tennessee TD drives were 30 or fewer yards.
— Buffalo converted 13-17 third down plays, and only scored 16 points.
— All five Buffalo games went over the total.

— Tennessee won its first four games, scoring 30.5 ppg.
— Titans are +8 in turnovers, best ratio in the league.
— Tennessee is 4-0 for first time since 2008.
— Titans won field position by 29 yards, biggest margin I’ve seen.

12) With Buffalo playing last night, their Thursday night game with the Chiefs this week was pushed back to Sunday afternoon— NFL won’t have a Thursday night game this week, but there are a couple college games on the board to amuse us.

11) Dallas Cowboys signed QB Garrett Gilbert to fill out its QB room; Gilbert was the leading passer in the AAF before it folded (Orlando Apollos)- he was drafted by the Rams, played at Texas/SMU in college and was most recently on Cleveland’s practice squad.

10) How will the Dallas offense change with Dak Prescott out? Andy Dalton is obviously a competent NFL QB, but he isn’t as mobile- I figure the Cowboys will run the ball more. 

Dallas has taken 76.2 snaps/game so far this year, most in the league; only 15.7% of those plays came on 3rd down, 2nd lowest %age in the NFL, behind Seattle. Cowboys’ tempo figures to slow down some, don’t you think? 

9) Thru five games, Seattle has run 76 fewer plays than their opponents, but they’re 5-0; 12 of their 23 touchdowns have come on plays of 18+ yards.

Surprising stat: Seattle has allowed 25+ points in each of its last 10 home games.

8) Last four games, LA Chargers have been outscored 64-29 in 2nd half/OT; they lost all four games, all by 7 or fewer points, two of them in OT.

7) So far this season, AFC teams are 11-9-1 SU vs NFC opponents.

6) This is the first time ever that Iowa State is in the college football top 25, while Texas and Oklahoma are outside the top 25.

5) Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall is being investigated by the school after he was charged with mental/physical abuse by former players. Marshall has been at Wichita for 13 years; he led the Shockers to the 2013 Final Four, has made the NCAAs 7 of the last 8 years it was played- they were 23-8 LY, so they would’ve made it again.

4) Some good news in college basketball; Mountain West will play an 18-game conference season, starting December 29.

3) Kansas State QB Skyler Thompson is out for the year, with an arm/shoulder/collarbone injury. Freshman Will Howard steps in to replace him- he was 8-19/117 yards and an INT in the Wildcats’ 21-14 win at TCU last week.

2) Rays 5, Astros 2 (Tampa Bay leads 3-0)
— Yarbrough threw five strong innings; five relievers closed the game out.
— Rays scored all five of their runs in 6th inning; Wendle knocked in two runs.
— Altuve homered in first inning in 2 of 3 games in this series, but he also had a huge throwing error. After not having a throwing error all season, he has three in this series. 

1) Braves 8, Dodgers 7 (Atlanta leads 2-0):
— Braves are 7-0 in the playoffs, but hung on for dear life in this game.
— Atlanta led 7-0 in 7th inning; Dodgers had tying run on third in last inning.
— Atlanta’s rookie P Anderson was lifted after four shutout innings (85 PT).
— Albies homered into the Atlanta bullpen again; for 2nd straight night, closer Melancon caught the ball on the fly. 

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

13) New Orleans 30, Chargers 27 OT
— Chargers lost their last four games, two of them in OT.
— Under Lynn, LA’s record in games decided by 8 or fewer points is 3-13.
— Chargers missed a PAT, hit the upright on a 50-yard FG at gun in regulation.
— Chargers are 9-7-2 ATS in last 18 games as a road underdog.

— Saints scored 30+ points in four of their five games.
— Sanders caught 12 footballs for 122 yards.
— All five New Orleans games went over the total.
— Saints allowed 34-37 points in their losses; 23-29-27 in their wins.
— New Orleans is 7-13 ATS in its last 20 games as a home favorite.

12) Tonight’s Buffalo-Tennessee game won’t be the first NFL regular season game played on a Tuesday; 10 years ago, Vikings beat Philly 24-14 on a game postponed because of a blizzard in Philadelphia. It was Michael Vick’s first full year with the Eagles; Joe Webb was the Vikings’ QB.

11) Thru five weeks, NFC East doesn’t have a team at .500 or better; this is only third time this ever happened- the 2013 NFC East (Eagles wound up winning it at 10-6) and 1968 Century Division (Browns wound up 10-4, after starting out 2-3). 

10) One of the coolest things about baseball is that heroes come in all shapes and sizes; Mike Brosseau got Tampa Bay into the ALCS when he homered in the 8th inning of Game 5 in the ALDS.

Brosseau played college ball at Oakland in Michigsn- he was undrafted out of college, didn’t get to AA until 2018, but he got to AAA and the majors last year, and hit .302 in 86 AB’s this year. Now he’s hit one of the, if not THE biggest home run in Rays’ history.

9) Random fact: 8 of 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL transferred while they were in college, and that doesn’t count the guys who went to junior college.

8) Dak Prescott’s shattered ankle means that Andy Dalton is now the Dallas QB; his backup is rookie Ben DiNucci, a 7th round draft pick from I-AA James Madison.

Guy on social media wrote a factual tweet about how Prescott was playing this year on a 1-year tender, rather than signing a lucrative multi-year deal, and the shattered ankle makes giving him a multi-year deal very risky. The guy got roasted by others for reporting facts- welcome to 2020.

7) Seahawks won 27-26 in dramatic fashion Sunday night, but they went 0-7 on third down conversions. Not often a team scores 27 points without converting one third down play- they did convert both their 4th down tries, including the game-winning TD with 0:15 left.

6) The Wall Street Journal reports that Red Sox owner John Henry “is in talks to join with an investment vehicle for an $8 billion deal that would take his famed sports holdings public, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Fenway Sports Group’s holdings include:
— Boston Red Sox
— Fenway Park
— New England Sports Network
— Liverpool soccer team
— Salem Red Sox
— Roush Fenway Racing
— Fenway Sports Management

5) Chicago White Sox fired manager Rick Renteria Monday; White Sox went 35-25 this year, lost in the Wild Card round in three games to Oakland. Overall, Renteria went 236-309 as skipper of the Pale Hose, after going 73-89 in his one year managing the Cubs- they fired him when Joe Maddon became available.

White Sox were 32-16 at one point this season, but went 4-11 in their last 15 games, and that was enough to get Renteria shown the door.

4) Clemson Tigers have now won 36 consecutive regular season football games.

3) Lakers’ championship this year is their 17th ever; five of those 17 titles came when the team was in Minneapolis (Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes).
— Rajon Rondo joins Clyde Lovelettte as only players ever to win a title as both a Laker and a Celtic.
— Lebron James took some heat for passing to Danny Green for an open 3-pointer at the end of Game 5; to me, that is part of what makes James so great, he trusted his teammate to make a shot (Green is a career 40% shooter on the arc). Green missed, but that’s not the point. Great teams have players who trust each other, and addition to great talent, that is why they win.

2) Rays 4, Astros 2 (Tampa Bay leads 2-0)
— Bregman flied to center with bases loaded to end the game.
— Margot hit a 3-run homer in the first inning, after an Altuve throwing error.
— Zunino hit a 454-foot homer for the Rays- he has three homers this postseason, after he hit .147 during the regular season.
— In MLB history, teams that went up 2-0 in best-of-7 series have won the series 72 of 85 times (84.7%). 

1) Braves 5, Dodgers 1 (Atlanta leads 1-0):
— Braves scored four times in ninth inning; they’re 6-0 in the playoffs.
— Riley, Albies homered in the decisive 9th inning.
— Teams were a combined 1-14 with runners in scoring position.
— Roughly 11,000 fans were allowed to come in and watch this game, in Arlington TX.