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

13) A medical expert posted this on Twitter Tuesday: 

“A Thanksgiving with your family on Zoom is better than Christmas/New Year’s in the ICU”

Over the next 3-4 months, self-discipline will save lives. Please be intelligent. Protect yourself and your family.

12) When I see what a big prospect Georgia’s James Edwards is, then I read this quote:

“To be honest, I can’t watch basketball,” Edwards told ESPN. ”I’m still not really into it. I love basketball, yeah, it’s what I do.”

That red flag couldn’t get any brighter; if he has a great career, more power to him, but I wouldn’t touch him with a 20-foot pole.

11) New Jersey Giants had an interesting day during their bye week; the head coach brought in a consultant to work with the offensive line, the current OL coach wasn’t happy about that, words were exchanged and the consultant replaced the OL coach, who was fired.

Jason Garrett brought the OL coach with him from Dallas when he was hired as the Giants’ offensive coordinator, so might be little awkward for him. 

10) If you’re interested in such things, Steelers are +750 to finish the season 16-0. 

9) NBA exhibition games start December 11, regular season starts December 22. 

8) San Francisco 49ers are 24-9 in last 33 games that Jimmy Garoppolo started, 5-23 in last 28 games he didn’t start. 

7) 38-year old Robinson Cano flunked another PED test, gets a year suspension from MLB— it also frees up $24M in salary for the Mets to use this year, but Cano is still owed $24M in both 2022-23. 

6) New Mexico State’s basketball team will relocate to Phoenix for at least the next five weeks;  they will hunker down at Arizona Grand Resort & Spa, where they’ll have access to a full basketball court in a ballroom along with an up-to-date weight room.

5) Big 14 Conference posted its basketball schedule, with four nationally televised games on Christmas Day:

Wisconsin at Michigan State
Iowa at Minnesota
Michigan at Nebraska
Maryland at Purdue

4) Jay Bilas was on ESPN Tuesday night, basically saying that because the NCAA Tournament is such big business, it has to be played this year— having it cancelled two years in a row would be catastrophic financially. 

3) Iona’s new coach Rick Pitino posted a suggestion that college basketball be moved back a couple months, with the NCAA Tournament in May (May Madness!!!) for one year only, but the idea doesn’t seem to be gaining much traction. 

2) Dodger OF Cody Bellinger hurt his shoulder while celebrating a homer he hit in Game 7 of the World Series; he had that shoulder operated on this week. 

1) Note on the NBA; last season, 77 undrafted players played 20+ games, so skill development is a huge thing, mistakes are made in evaluation and if guys work hard to improve their skills, they can still bank a lot of money, even if they aren’t drafted. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a football Sunday……

Arizona 32, Buffalo 30
— Cardinals scored on a 43-yard Hail Mary with 0:02 left for the win.
— Buffalo scored on a 21-yard TD pass with 0:34 left to take a 30-26 lead.
— Arizona is one of three teams tied for first place in NFC West.
— Cardinals scored 30+ points in last five games, winning four of them.

— Hopkins had 7 catches for 107 yards, including the game-winner.
— Murray threw for 245 yards, ran for 61 more.
— Buffalo is 5-2-1 ATS in last eight games as a road underdog.
— Eight of their ten games went over the total.
— Spread was 2.5 or 3; Cardinals declined to kick the PAT after winning TD, since if it had been blocked and run back, game could’ve been tied.

Detroit 30, Washington 27
— Alex Smith has had 17 operations on his broken leg since he last started a game two years ago; he threw for 390 yards in this game. Tough guy.
— Detroit led 24-3 with 3:00 left in the third quarter, blew the lead.
— Washington’s last three losses are by total of 7 points.
— Washington’s last four drives: 45 plays, 300 yards, three TD’s and a FG.

— Lions’ K Prater drained a 59-yard FG at the gun for the walk-off win.
— Detroit is +6 in turnovers in its wins, minus-7 in its losses.
— Stafford threw for 276 yards, three TD’s.
— All four Detroit home games went over the total.

Cleveland 10, Houston 7

— Texans were stopped on downs on 2-yard line in the 2nd quarter.
— Houston’s only score came with 4:59 left; they never got ball back.
— Texans are 0-6 when they score less than 27 points.
— In Arizona, DeAndre Hopkins won a game for the Cardinals with a great catch. Think the Texans could use him?

— Cleveland is 6-3, despite scoring 10 or fewer points in four games.
— Browns outgained Houston 356-243, running ball for 231 yards.
— Both teams converted 50% of their 3rd down plays, odd in a 10-7 game.
— Cleveland is 2-6 ATS in its last eight post-bye games.

Green Bay 24, Jaguars 20
— Jaguars lost last eight games, are 2-5 ATS in last seven
— Jaguars’ first TD came on a 91-yard punt return.
— Jaguars’ second TD came on a 16-yard drive after a Green Bayfumble.
— Robinson ran for 109 yards, only Jaguar to carry the ball in this game.

— Packers drove 75 yards, scored game-winning TD with 9:03 left.
— Valdes-Scantling caught four balls for 149 yards, including a 78-yard TD.
— Green Bay’s first three drives: 10 plays, 47 yards, three punts.
— Five of last six Green Bay games stayed under the total.

NJ Giants 27, Philadelphia 17
— Eagles are 3-0 if they allow 21 or fewer points, 0-5-1 if they allow more than 21.
— Underdogs covered seven of nine Eagle games this season.
— Philly is 2-7 ATS in last nine post-bye games.
— Eagles are 7-10 ATS in last 17 games as a road favorite.

— Win ends Giants’ 7-game skid against the Eagles.
— Philly was 0-9 on third down conversions.
— Giants covered six of their last seven games overall.
— QB Jones had a 34-yard TD run; Giants scored TD’s on first two drives.

Tampa Bay 46, Carolina 23:
— Game was tied 17-all at halftime.
— Bucs lost a fumble on their 2nd play of the game; they had ball nine more times, and scored five TD’s, kicked four FG’s.
— Tampa Bay outgained Carolina 544-187, ran 77 plays, Carolina 47.
— Last week, Tampa ran ball five times the whole game, for 8 yards; Jones carried ball 23 times in this game, for 192 yards.

  Carolina lost its last five games, giving up 30.8 ppg.
— Panthers lost QB Bridgewater with a knee injury late in the game.
— Panthers are 1-4-1 ATS in last six games as a home underdog.
— Carolina is 0-7 when they allow 23+ points, 3-0 when they allow 21 or fewer.

Las Vegas 37, Broncos 12:
— Denver had ball 12 times, committed five turnovers (-5).
— Broncos gave up 26+ points in seven of their last eight games. 
— Broncos lost their last five visits to Oakland/LV, by 10-6-13-8-25 points.
— Home side won last eight series games.

— Raiders scored 31+ points in five of six wins; 20-23-20 in their losses.
— Las Vegas ran ball for 203 yards; Jacobs ran for 112.
— Raiders converted 19 of last 37 third down plays.
— Las Vegas covered all three of its games as a favorite TY.

Rams 23, Seahawks 16
— Seahawks drove 78 yards on their first drive, for their only TD all day.
— Seattle lost three of last four games, after a 5-0 start.
— Seahawks gained 5.1 yards/pass attempt, their worst mark of the year.
— Seattle, Arizona and the Rams are all 6-3, tied atop the NFC West.

— Rams won all four home games, giving up 17-9-10-16 points.
— Veteran LT Whitworth tore the MCL in his knee late in game.
— LA is 10-2-1 ATS in its last thirteen post-bye games.
— Rams won five of last six series games.

Pittsburgh 36, Bengals 10
— Bengals lost four of their last five games.
— Cincy lost its last five visits to Steel City, by 8-15-3-24-26 points.
— Bengals are 0-4-1 SU on the road, losing by 5-24-4-26 points.
— Bengals are 1-6 ATS in last seven post-bye games.

— Steelers won first nine games (7-2 ATS), scoring 30.1 ppg.
— Roethlisberger threw for 333 yards, four TD’s.
— Steelers are 4-1 ATS as home favorites this year, winning by 5-7-9-31-26.
— Pittsburgh has a 3-game lead over Ravens/Browns in AFC North.

New Orleans 27, 49ers 13:
— 49ers outgained New Orleans 281-237, but turned ball over four times (-2)
— 49ers allowed 16 or fewer points in their wins, 24+ points in their losses.
— SF ran ball 25 times for only 49 yards in this game.
— 49ers drove 75 yards for a TD on their first drive, their only TD all day.

 — New Orleans won its last six games, by 6-3-3-3-35 -14points.
— Brees hurt his ribs in this game, was replaced by Jameis Winston.
— New Orleans won four of five home games, winning by 11-3-3-14 points.
— Saints are 7-2, half-game ahead of Tampa Bay in NFC South.

Miami 29, LA Chargers 21
— Dolphins won/covered their last five games, scoring 31.6 ppg.
— Miami blocked a punt on Chargers’ first drive, got ball on 1-yard line.
— Dolphins are 7-1-1 ATS in last nine games as a home favorite.
— Miami is 6-3, in a 5-way tie for the two AFC Wild Card slots.

— Since Week 2 of last year, Chargers are 2-16 in games decided by 8 or fewer points.
— Bolts lost seven of last eight games, with five losses by 5 or fewer points.
— Last six Charger games went over the total.
— Last three games, LA was outscored 57-39 in the second half.

New England 23, Ravens 17
— Patriots ran for 173 yards on a rainy night in Foxboro.
— WR Meyers, a high school QB, threw a TD pass in 2nd quarter.
— Ravens lost five of their last six visits to Foxboro.
— Penalties: Ravens 8-64, Patriots 3-18

— Last 12+ years, Patriots are 5-0 ATS as a home underdog.
— This was first time in six games that New England led (13-10) at the half.
— Four of their last five home games stayed under the total.
— Ravens gained 25 yards on 13 plays in 4th quarter, when weather got a lot worse.

UCLA 34, California 10:
— Bruins outgained Cal 440-176 in this 9am local time kickoff.
— UCLA ran ball for 244 yards; Felton had 107 of those yards.
— Cal’s loss leaves Utah as the only I-A team that hasn’t played yet. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a college football Saturday

13) USC 34, Arizona 30:
— Trojans won first two games, by combined total of five points.
— USC drove 75 yards for winning TD with 0:25 left.
— Trojan QB Slovis got criticized a lot by FOX TV guys, but he was 30-43/375. Gus Johnson made it clear he doesn’t think much of the USC coaches. 

12) Ole Miss 59, South Carolina 42:
— Rebels scored the last 21 points of the game.
— Both teams need to recruit a lot of defensive players.
— Ole Miss threw for 508 yards, 16.0 yards/attempt.
— Total yardage: Ole Miss 708, Carolina 548

11) Wisconsin 49, Michigan 11:
— Game was 28-0 at half; Wolverines lost last three games.
— Michigan/Penn State/Florida State are a combined 3-13 this year.
— Indiana/Northwestern are a combined 8-0.
— Michigan lost three home games in row, for first time in 11 years. 

10) Miami 25, Virginia Tech 24:
— Miami trailed 24-13 with 2:00 left in third quarter.
— Winning TD was a 35-yard pass play with 5:59 left in game.
— Hurricanes won their last four games, last three by combined total of 9 points.

9) North Carolina 59, Wake Forest 53:
— Wake Forest led this game 45-24 with 5:00 left in third quarter.
— UNC QB Howell threw for 550 yards, six TD’s.
— Spread was 12.5; Deacons scored a TD with 0:57 left for the cover.

8) Indiana 24, Michigan State 0:
— Hoosiers are 4-0; this was first time since 1993 they blanked a conference opponent, other than Rutgers.
— Neither team scored in the second half.
— Indiana plays Ohio State next week; big game.

7) Upsets of the Week- Not many upsets, this week or last.
— Illinois (+6.5) 23, Rutgers 20
— Colorado (+6.5) 35, Stanford 32

6) Cincinnati 55, East Carolina 17— Up 42-10 with 7:59 left Friday night, Cincinnati executed a fake punt, supposedly to impress the pollsters with a bigger margin of victory.

My question is this: who would be more impressed by 55-17 than 42-10? Aren’t those scores pretty much the same? If I was a voter, and I saw a team rub someone’s nose in it by running a fake punt up 42-10, I’d be more likely to vote them lower, because they’re bleeping jerks.

5) Nebraska 30, Penn State 23:
— Cornhuskers led 27-6 at halftime, hung on for their first win.
— Penn State outgained Huskers 501-297, but completed only 19-39 passes.
— Penn State outgained Indiana 488-211 in their loss to the Hoosiers.
— Nittany Lions are 0-4 for the first time since 2001.

4) Texas Tech 24, Baylor 23:
— Baylor led 24-12 after third quarter.
— Bears’ first TD was scored by the defense.
— Tech drove 79 yards, kicked game-winning FG at the gun.

3) Tulsa 28, SMU 24:
— SMU led 24-7 at halftime; their first TD was scored by the defense.
— Tulsa scoring game-winning TD with 2:11 left.
— Penalties: SMU 11-70, Tulsa 13-117. Lot of penalties.

2) Colorado 35, Stanford 32:
— Buffs led 28-9 with 5:00 left in this quarter, hung on for the win.
— Colorado is 2-0 despite allowing 74 points in two games.
— Buffs’ QB Noyer had TD passes of 55-34 yards.

1) Florida 63, Arkansas 35:
— Florida QB Trask threw five TDs, just in the first half.
— Arkansas QB Franks, who was Florida’s QB for three years before he broke his ankle last year, was 15-19/250 with two TD’s, in his return to the Swamp.
— Florida had 36 first downs; they ran 83 plays, only 12 of them on third down. 

Saturday’s Den: 13 Things I’m looking for this weekend

13) Arkansas QB Feleipe Franks started 24 games for Florida the last three years; he broke and dislocated his ankle last year, then transferred after the season to an Arkansas team that used five different QB’s last year, going winless in SEC play. Razorbacks are 3-3 this season.

Arkansas coach Sam Pittman won’t be there Saturday; he tested positive for COVID. 

12) 3-0 Indiana has a trap game at Michigan State today; they play Ohio State next week, but better not look past this game. Hoosiers are heading to their best season since they made the Rose Bowl in 1967- they’re scoring 37 ppg.

11) South Carolina is 2-4; they’ve given up 100 points the last two games, and now coach Will Muschamp is on the hot seat, though paying him $16M to go away seems unfeasible in these COVID-ridden times. Gamecocks visit Ole Miss today; the Rebels are also 2-4, but are scoring 37 ppg— they’ve gained 442+ yards in all six of their games.

Total for this game is 70 or 70.5.

10) Cal-Arizona State, Utah-UCLA both got cancelled, so Cal-UCLA on Sunday is a late addition to this week’s schedule. Golden Bears beat UCLA in Pasadena LY; the teams weren’t supposed to play this season, but schools are being flexible now to get games in, so this is a late addition.

9) Penn State is 0-3, giving up 35-38-35 points, and two of those games were at home; in their last two games, they’ve run the ball for a total of only 138 yards.

Nebraska is 0-2, running ball for 441 yards in road losses at Ohio State/Northwestern; this is their home opener, in a stadium that has been filled to capacity for decades, but will be mostly empty for this game.

8) Oregon ran the ball for 269 yards in its 35-14 win over Stanford last week; now they hit the road to face a Washington State team that won 38-28 at Oregon State LW. Coogs gave up 451 yards in Corvallis last week, but new QB deLaura threw for 227 yards in his first college start.

7) Mapquest says it is 1,248 miles from Fort Worth to Morgantown, so why are TCU and West Virginia in the same league? Anyone?

Home team has won all seven West Virginia games this year; TCU won its last two games, scoring 33-34 points- they won both their road games, at Texas/Baylor.

6) Dolphins won their last four games, scoring 32.3 ppg, despite changing QB’s in the middle of this streak; their defense/special teams have scored three TD’s the last two games. Since Week 2 of last year, Chargers are 2-15 in games decided by 8 or fewer points.

Interesting matchup of rookie QB’s; Chargers have scored 30.6 ppg in their last five games, so hard to blame Herbert for their 1-6 skid. Tagevailoa is 2-0 starting for Miami, but hasn’t had to do too much, their defense has been that good.

5) Tampa Bay lost 38-3 to the Saints last week; in their last three games, Bucs have thrown 123 passes, run the ball only 54 times- they need more balance, but they’re also still 6-3.

Carolina threw for 340 yards in a 31-17 loss in Tampa back in Week 2; Panthers have lost four games in a row, losing a tough 33-31 game in Kansas City last week.

Teams split last ten series games.

4) Two of the better young QB’s in the game hook up in Arizona, when Bills-Cardinals face off.

Josh Allen has the 7-2 Bills atop the AFC East; he threw for 415 yards in their 44-34 win over Seattle last week. Kyler Murray has the 5-3 Cardinals in playoff contention; they’ve won three of last four games overall, but they’ve split their four home games.

3) Big game in NFC West, with Seattle visiting the Rams. Both teams lost two of last three games; Seahawks scored 34 points in both their losses- their defense has been a problem.

Rams have already played four games in the eastern time zone; they’re 3-0 at home.

2) Ravens as a 7-point road favorite in Foxboro? Wow.

New England lost four of its last five games; they beat the winless Jets 30-27 last week. Patriots scored a total of 18 points in losing their last two home games. Interesting Sunday nite game.

1) Vikings won their last two games, scoring 28-34 points after a 1-5 start; Chicago lost its last three games, after a 5-1 start. Pivotal divisional matchup on Monday night; Bears won last four series games, but they’ve been held under 100 rushing yards in their last six games overall. 

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

If you watched the Odd Couple TV show back in the day, this should ring a bell: today is November 13, the day Felix Unger was asked to leave his place of residence.

One of my all-time favorite TV shows, it revolved around two divorced guys who shared a New York City apartment. Tony Randall/Jack Klugman made it a memorable show.

13) Colts 34, Tennessee 17:
— Colts outscored Tennessee 21-0 in the second half- they blocked a punt for a TD.
— Indy won three of its five road games this year.
— Colts are 5-0 when they score 28+ points, 1-3 if they score 23 or fewer points.  
— Both teams are 6-3; they play again in two weeks.

— Titans are 2-3 in their last five games, after a 4-0 start.
— Over is 4-1-1 in Titans’ home games this season.
— Titans are 5-7-1 ATS in last 13 games as a home favorite.
— In last three visits to Nashville, Colts won 33-17/19-17/34-17. 

12) Trevor Daniel was the Titans’ punter in this game, Tennessee’s third punter in three weeks. When Daniel came in to Titans’ facility to take his COVID test, he was wearing the uniform he wore while driving a FedEx truck, which was his job before the Titans signed him.

Daniel had a 17-yard punt in this game, then his next punt was blocked for a TD. He’ll probably be needing that FedEx uniform pretty soon, though the blocked punt wasn’t his fault. Maybe the special teams coach will be working at FedEx.

11) Thru nine weeks, here is how penalties compare, from year-to-year:
offensive holding: 2019- 565, this year- 280
offensive pass interference: 2019- 81, this year- 42

This is a positive development; no one pays to watch officials throw flags. The league always say they want more scoring, this is a good way to get more scoring.

11) AFC North teams are 7-0-1 SU against NFC East teams this year; Eagles-Bengals tie back in Week 2 is the only blemish on that record so far.

10) Through two weeks of MAC-tion, road teams are 7-4-1 ATS.

9) Indiana is favored over Michigan State this week, first time since 2002 that the Hoosiers are favored over Michigan State in football.

8) Boise State 52, Colorado State 21:
— Boise blocked a punt for a TD for their first score of the game.
— Boise also blocked a FG for a TD, blocked another punt for another TD, and scored a TD on defense. Colorado State’s defense didn’t play that badly.

7)  When CBS unveils the field of 68 for the NCAA basketball tournament in March, they should recruit CNN’s John King to show the brackets on his touchscreen. Election Night had to be a long night for the TV pundits, but King and MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki did their best to keep us informed as to what was going on, from a numerical standpoint.

No way is it as easy to do as they make it look.

6) Brett Favre holds an NFL record, starting 321 consecutive games; Colts’ Philip Rivers is #2 on that list, starting his 244th consecutive game at QB last night.

5) Ivy League has cancelled winter sports for this year, so no Friday night basketball games on TV from that league, and one more at-large spot in the NCAA tournament.

4) ESPN2 had a high school basketball tripleheader on last night; first game was from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, the famous prep school that has seen 35 of its players drafted by the NBA. They have those players’ college jerseys hanging on the wall in the Oak Hill gym.

Lebron James’ son played in the late game, not even sure if he was playing for his high school team or an AAU team, but it was high level basketball. The recruiting competition for his services should be pretty interesting.

3) This from ESPN’s Chris Fallica:

This is the first November week of college football since Week 12 of 2009 (Saturday, November 21, 2009) in which there is not a single matchup of AP ranked teams. That week, four ranked teams lost to unranked teams (three on the road).

2) Christmas commercials have started on TV; in one, a woman gives her husband this watch, looks like a FitBit, something small like that- she buys herself one too. He gives her a $40,000 pickup truck, and also buys himself one. Seems fair.

1) Daytime TV is horrendous, lot of contrived arguments to try and create interesting TV; this week, they were discussing whether Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence should go back to college next year, to avoid playing for the New Jersey Jets, who are currently 0-9. Oy.

First of all, the Jets have four first round picks in the next two drafts, nine picks in the first three rounds of those drafts- they’ll be improving fairly soon. If they drafted Lawrence and traded Sam Darnold, they’d acquire even more draft capital. Jets are going to improve a lot over the next couple of years.

Playing well in the New York/New Jersey area can be very lucrative. Jets used to have a QB who had a 60-61-4 record starting for them, throwing 170 TD’s, 215 INT’s. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, do they, but that guy is 77 years old now and he still does TV commercials.

You’ve probably heard of Joe Namath, who had two really good years before injuries took their toll on him. He won one Super Bowl title in New York and was set for life, which is why it would be a big mistake for Trevor Lawrence to pass up playing for the Jets. 

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

13) Russell Westbrook wants out of Houston, after only one year there; he averaged 27.2 ppg for the Rockets LY, but with GM Daryl Morey/coach Mike D’Antoni moving on, Westbrook wants to go elsewhere too. There’s a problem, though.  

Westbrook turns 32 today; his salary the next three seasons:
$41 million, $43.8M, $46.6 million. Thats million, with an M.

Trading a contract like that ain’t easy, especially for a guy who’ll be 35 when the contract ends; chances are he would have to go to a bad team if he were to get traded. Would Westbrook be happy playing for a non-contender? Is he ever happy? 

12) Pitchers Marcus Stroman (Mets), Kevin Gausman (Giants) accepted $18.9M qualifying offers from their teams Wednesday. Good day for those guys.

Four players rejected their offers: DJ LeMahieu, JT Realmuto, George Springer, Trevor Bauer. Those guys become free agents’ and are assuming they’ll make more than $18.9M a year.

11) My Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook came in the mail this week, an early Christmas gift. No schedules in the book obviously, since schedules are still being drawn up, but now I can get down to work and start studying rosters.

If you like college basketball, this is a great book to have; all 357 D-I teams are written up. Tons of information, whether you’re a fan or a handicapper.

10) This is very 2020:
Michigan/Florida State’s football teams are a combined 3-7.
Indiana/Northwestern’s teams are a combined 6-0.

9) Maryland’s football team won the last two weeks— they were underdogs of 18-27 points. Not often a team pulls huge upsets like that in consecutive games. Terrapins’ game with Ohio State this week was cancelled, after a COVID outbreak in the Maryland community.

8) Ball State 38, Eastern Michigan 31— Wish the LA Rams could pluck EMU’s kicker off their roster right now; kid missed a 53-yard field goal in this game, but ball hit the upright halfway up— very strong leg. He’ll be kicking on Sundays very soon.

Ball State converted a 3rd-and-19 on the game-winning drive; this was a fun game to watch; two good teams.

Eastern Michigan, by the way, has now covered 18 of last 21 times as a road underdog.

7) Louisville Cardinals already lost two starters off their basketball team.

Big guy Malik Williams, co-captain and most experienced returnee for the Cardinals, will miss at least 12 weeks due to an injury to his right foot.

Charles Minlend, a grad transfer from San Francisco, will miss six weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee.

6) Western Michigan 41, Toledo 38:
— Broncos scored 13 points in the last 0:45 for the win.
— WMU recovered an onside kick to set up the winning score.
— Toledo was 9-16 on 3rd down, WMU only 2-10. 

5) I saw that clip of Jon Rahm getting a hole-in-one Tuesday at Augusta, when he skipped the ball off the water on the 16th hole, and ball wound up in the hole. These guys are insanely talented, and I’m reminded of why I quit playing a long time ago. They get hole-in-ones when they intentionally hit the ball in the water. I was life and death to break 100. 

It takes a tremendous effort to become good, then stay good at golf. Putting is fun, chipping is kind of fun, watching the ball you just hit go in the woods is no fun at all. Best part of golf, by the way, is driving the cart. Driving a golf cart is tremendous.

4) College football games postponed/cancelled this weekend:
LSU-Alabama, Auburn-Miss State, Georgia-Missouri, Ohio State-Maryland.

3) Actress Jennifer Garner has an excellent agent; no idea who it is, but she is always on TV in commercials for Capital One and Neutragena. She does more commercials than Baker Mayfield.

2) Get well soon to Michigan State hoop coach Tom Izzo, Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman, both of whom tested positive for COVID recently.

1) Guy named Dan LeBatard has been on ESPN radio/TV for long time; I’ve never been a big fan of his show, but he did something pretty cool this week.

A long-time producer on LeBatard’s show was recently laid off, one of 300 people laid off by ESPN. No one saw this coming, and LeBatard was annoyed— he re-hired the guy, and is paying him out of his own pocket. That is loyalty; remains to be seen if the show will be staying on ESPN for much longer. 

Wednesday’s Den: Movies that just missed my all-time favorites’ lists……

Thirteen movies that I really like, but none of these made my favorite 13 lists, either sports or non-sports movies…….if you find them on TV somewhere, they’re worth your time. 

13) Autumn in New York— Richard Gere plays an aging playboy who falls for a much younger, but terminally ill woman (Winona Ryder). Excellent supporting cast: JK Simmons, Jill Hennessy, Vera Farmiga, Anthony LaPaglia. 

12) Ides of March— An idealistic staffer (Ryan Gosling) for a new presidential candidate (George Clooney) gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail. Supporting cast includes Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti.

11) Little Big League— A 12-year old kid inherits the Minnesota Twins from his grandfather (Jason Robards). Ashley Crow plays the kid’s mom; in real life, her son was a first round draft pick of the Mets last June.

10) Wall Street— A young and impatient stockbroker (Charlie Sheen) is willing to do anything to get to the top, including trading on illegal inside information taken through a ruthless and greedy corporate raider (Michael Douglas) who takes the young man under his wing.

Martin Sheen, Hal Holbrook, Daryl Hannah, James Spader are just part of a tremendous cast.

9) Shopgirl— A bored salesgirl (Claire Danes) has to choose between a wealthy but much older businessman (Steve Martin) and an aimless young man.

I’m a big Steve Martin fan; not only a great comedian, but a terrific actor.

8) Lucky You— A hotshot poker player does well playing in tournaments in Las Vegas, but is fighting a losing battle with his personal problems. Robert Duvall plays the guy’s poker legend father, Drew Barrymore plays his girlfriend, and lot of real-life poker pros are co-stars.

7) Lincoln Lawyer— A lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) defending a wealthy man begins to believe his client is guilty of more than just one crime. Supporting cast includes Marisa Tomei, William Macy, Josh Lucas, Bryan Cranston.

6) Heaven Can Wait— An NFL quarterback (Warren Beatty), accidentally taken away from his body by an overanxious angel before he was meant to die, returns to life in the body of a recently murdered millionaire. Jack Warden, Julie Christie, James Mason, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon are part of an impressive cast.

This movie came out in 1978, when the Rams were in midst of making the playoffs every year, but then failing in the playoffs. Seeing the Rams win the Super Bowl, even in a movie, made an 18-year old me a lot happier— I had the theater poster from Heaven Can Wait hanging in my bedroom. Actually, it may still be up there, have to look.

5) Dave— The US President goes into a coma while having an affair; to avoid a huge scandal in the press, an affable temp agency owner with an uncanny resemblance to the president is put in his place. Kevin Kline, Kevin Dunn, Frank Langella, Sigourney Weaver, Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin and Ben Kingsley make up an impressive cast.

4) Random Hearts— A police sergeant (Harrison Ford) and US Representative (Kristin Scott Thomas) lose their spouses in a plane crash, and soon discover that their spouses were having an affair with each other. Supporting cast includes Paul Guilfoyle, Dennis Haysbert, Bonnie Hunt and Charles Dutton.

3) Prince of Tides— A high school football coach from the south talks to his suicidal sister’s psychiatrist in New York City about their family history and falls in love with her in the process. Nick Nolte/Barbra Streisand are the stars; Blythe Danner, George Carlin are supporting actors.

2) Let It Ride— A cab driver/compulsive gambler gets a hot tip on a racehorse and has a very big day at the track. If you’ve ever spent time at the racetrack, this movie will make you laugh. Cast includes Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Jennifer Tilly, David Johansen.

1) The Natural— Robert Redford plays a middle-aged ballplayer who comes out of nowhere to lead the New York Knights to the playoffs. Wilford Brimley, Robert Duvall are terrific in their supporting roles.

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

13) So far in college football this season:
— Home favorites are 58-67-3 ATS
— Home underdogs are 54-45 ATS
— Overall, underdogs are 121-103-3 ATS (54.0%)

12) If you wagered on the underdog in all of Arizona State’s games since Herm Edwards became their coach, you’d have won 18 of 25 wagers— 72%, not too shabby.

— ASU is 3-9 ATS as a favorite under Edwards.
— ASU is 9-4 ATS as an underdog under Edwards.

11) Was fun to watch Pac-12 football late at night Saturday; Washington State-Oregon State game ended at 2:20am, here in the east. Not so sure the 9am Arizona State-USC game in LA was such a brilliant idea, but that’s a decision made above my salary grade.

10) San Diego State RB Greg Bell is a transfer from Nebraska; after he transferred to the Aztecs last year, he juggled school, football and a part-time job working in a warehouse for Amazon, for almost an entire year. He has definitely earned his new scholarship this fall, running ball for 377 yards (5.7 yards/carry).

9) QB Garrett Gilbert made his first NFL start for Dallas Sunday; his father is Gale Gilbert, who played for three NFL teams in six seasons as a pro.

Gale Gilbert is also the answer to a trivia question; he was the winning QB in the famous Stanford Band game in 1982, when Cal ran a kickoff back thru the Stanford band on the last play of the game, beating their rivals and depriving John Elway of playing in his first bowl game.

8) Utah State fired football coach Gary Anderson after an 0-3 start; Aggies have been outscored 114-29 so far this season.

7) Quarterbacks with 4+ games of 300+ passing yards in their first seven NFL starts:
1999— Kurt Warner
2018— Patrick Mahomes
2020— Joe Burrow
2020— Justin Herbert

6) Next two nights, MAC football fills the entertainment void with three games each, on Tuesday/Wednesday night. Lot of good TV exposure for these teams.

5) Toronto Blue Jays signed lefty P Robbie Ray to an $8M deal, plus incentives.

4) TV/movie trivia: actress Mariska Hargitay, who has played Olivia Benson in the Law & Order SVU series for over 20 years, is the daughter of the famous actress Jayne Mansfield, one of the leading sex symbols in movies of the ‘50s/‘60s. Ms Mansfield passed away in a 1967 car crash, with all three of her children in the back seat.

3) Weird schedule in the NFL this weekend; only five 1:00 games, six 4:00 games.

2) NFL home underdogs in divisional games are 12-2 ATS so far this season.

1) New England 30, Jets 27
— New England outscored Jets 13-0 over final 6:04 to snap their 3-game losing skid.
— Patriots ran 76 plays, compared to 44 for the Jets.
— New England won last nine series games, last four by a combined score of 131-44.
— Patriots won their last five visits to Swamp Stadium.

— Winless Jets are 2-7 ATS, losing home games by 18-9-20-8-3 points.
— Jets have been outscored 49-7 in 2nd half of their last four games. 
— Jets are 12-8-2 ATS in last 21 games as a home underdog, 2-2 TY.
— Patriots ran 36 plays in 4th quarter; Jets ran only four. 

 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Buffalo 44, Seahawks 34:
— Seattle allowed 23+ points in every game this year.
— Seahawks have scored 36 TD’s on 83 drives this season.
— Seattle turned ball over four times; they scored on 6 of other 7 drives.
— Seven of their eight games went over the total.

— Buffalo won field position by 21 yards, a huge margin.
— Bills dropped back to pass on 21 of their first 23 plays.
— Allen threw for 415 yards, three TD’s.
— Seven of their nine games went over the total.

Atlanta 34, Broncos 27
— First 3 quarters: Denver ran 41 plays for 184 yards, 6 points.
— 4th quarter: Denver ran 32 plays for 260 yards, 21 points, but that garbage time.
— Broncos gave up 26+ points in five of their last six games. 
— Atlanta won field position by 12 yards.

— Falcons won three of last four games, after an 0-5 start.
— Falcons in first half: 4 drives, 42 plays, 268 yards, 20 points.
— Atlanta led six of its nine games at halftime.
— WR Zaccheaus caught four passes for 103 yards.

Tennessee 24, Bears 17:
— Bears had ball 6 times in 1st half: 26 plays, 92 yards, zero points.
— Foles threw 52 passes; Chicago ran ball only 20 times.
— Bears lost their last three games, after a 5-1 start.
— Chicago converted only 2-15 third down plays.

— Titans led 10-0 at half, scored a defensive TD late in 3rd quarter to go up 17-0.
— Tennessee was outgained 375-228, but they had the lead, and they sat on it.
— Titans were +2 in turnovers, are +9 for the season.
— Tennessee won four of five home games, winning by 3-26-6(ot)-7 points.

Ravens 24, Indianapolis 10:
— Indy led 10-7 at half; Ravens’ only TD was scored by their defense.
— Ravens in first half: 25 plays, 61 yards, five punts.
— Ravens in second half: 39 plays, 211 yards, 17 points.
— Five of seven Raven games stayed under the total.
— Ravens covered 15 of their last 19 post-bye games.

— Colts in second half: 30 plays, 128 yards, no points.
— Indy lost three of its four home games.
— In their last three games, Colts ran ball 54 times for only 229 yards.
— Colts lost four of last five games with Baltimore.
— Teams combined to convert only 7-25 third down plays.

Kansas City 33, Panthers 31
— Carolina lost its last four games, giving up 27 ppg.
— Panthers covered four of their five road games.
— Carolina scored TDs on their first two drives, led 17-13 at the half.
— Panthers outgained KC 435-397.
— Panthers are 16-10 ATS in last 26 games as a road underdog, 4-1 TY.

— Mahomes threw for 372 yards, four TD’s.
— Chiefs won their last four games, covering three of them.
— Kansas City’s last four drives: 21 plays, 164 yards, 20 points.
— Chiefs didn’t punt until their last drive of the game.

Minnesota 34, Detroit 20:
— Lions allowed 27+ points in their five losses; 23-16-22 in their wins.
— Detroit is +5 in turnovers in its wins, minus-7 in its losses.
— Lions were outrushed 394-158 in their last two games.
— Vikings won last six series games, all by 7+ points.
— Minnesota in first half: 4 drives, 22 plays, 238 yards, 20 points.

— Cook carried ball 22 times for 206 yards, two TD’s.
— Minnesota covered five of its last six games.
— Vikings allowed 27+ points in all five of their losses; they allowed 23-22-20 in wins.
— Minnesota has 12 turnovers (-8) in its losses, zero in its wins (+5).
— Vikings are 19-10-2 ATS in last 31 games as a home favorite, 1-2 TY.

NJ Giants 23, Washington 20
— Giants beat Redskins twice, by 1-3 points; they’re 0-7 vs everyone else.
— Giants’ last five games were decided by total of ten points. 
— Big Blue covered all five of their road games this year.  
— Giants are 15-3 ATS in their last 18 games as a road underdog.
— Not often a team is +5 in turnovers and only wins by 3 points.

— Kyle Allen dislocated his ankle; Alex Smith subbed in, threw for 325 yards.
— Washington scored only 10 points in three trips to red zone.
— Washington outgained Giants in both games this year, by 97-52 yards, but lost both games.
— Last three years, Washington is 1-5 ATS as a home favorite.
— Under is 3-0-1 in last four Washington games.

Houston 27, Jacksonville 25
— Texans gained 300 yards in first half, 128 in second half.
— Watson threw for 280 yards, ran for 50 more.
— Houston allowed 28+ points in all their losses- they gave up 25-14 points in wins.
— Texans won their first road game in four tries.
— Houston won last five series games, by average score of 22-8.

— Jaguars scored TD with 1:30 left, but failed on tying 2-point try.
— Jacksonville missed PAT in 2nd quarter which proved costly later.
— 6th-round rookie Jake Luton (Oregon State) threw for 304 yards in his first NFL start.
— Jaguars lost last seven games, are 1-5 ATS in last six.
— Texans won five of last six visits to Jacksonville.

Raiders 31, LA Chargers 26
— Raiders scored 31+ points in four of five wins; 20-23-20 in their losses.
— Raiders won four of their five road games this year.
— Seven of eight Raider games went over the total.
— Only one of the Raiders’ four TD drives was longer than 62 yards.
— Raiders won their last three games with the Chargers.

— Chargers appeared to score game-winning TD on last play, but call was reversed by instant replay.
— Since Week 2 of last year, Chargers are 2-15 in games decided by 8 or fewer points.
— Bolts lost six of last seven games, with two losses in OT.
— Last five Charger games went over the total.
— Chargers outgained Las Vegas 440-320; Herbert threw for 326 yards.
— In last four games, LA scored 15 TD’s on 47 drives; the rookie QB is good.

Steelers 24, Dallas 19
— Steelers outscored Dallas 15-0 in fourth quarter.
— Roethlisberger hurt his knee in 2nd quarter, but led game-winning drive.
— Steelers won first eight games (6-2 ATS), scoring 29.4 ppg.
— They won first four road games, by 10-3-4-5 points. 
— Steelers are 2-6-2 ATS in last ten games as a road favorite, 1-1 TY. 

— Dallas started their 4th QB in nine games; Gilbert was 21-38 for 243 yards.
— Cowboys covered spread for first time this season.
— Last eight games, Dallas is minus-14 in turnovers.
— Last four Dallas games stayed under the total.
— Cowboys are 5-3 ATS in last eight games as a home underdog.

Miami 34, Arizona 31
— Dolphins won last four games, scoring 32.3 ppg.
— Miami scored a defensive TD 4:23 into the game
— Dolphins ran 56 plays, only 8 of them were on third down.
— Miami outscored Cardinals 10-0 in fourth quarter.
— Dolphins are 8-4 ATS in last 12 games as a road underdog.

— Arizona took 31-24 lead with 2:28 left in 3rd quarter, didn’t score again.
— Cardinals outgained Miami 442-312, running ball for 178 yards.
— Murray threw ball for 283 yards, ran for 106 more.
— Redbirds are 5-11 ATS in last 15 games as a home favorite, 1-2 TY.
— Miami won 10 of 13 series games; five of last six meetings were decided by 3 or fewer points.

New Orleans 38, Tampa Bay 3
— New Orleans won its last five games, sits atop NFC South.
— Saints allowed 23-29-27-24-23-3 points in their wins, 34-37 in losses.
— New Orleans outgained the Bucs 420-194.
— Saints scored TD for of first five times they had ball, fumbled in red zone on 5th drive.
— Buccaneers lost their last five games with New Orleans.

— Only second loss in last eight games for Tampa Bay.
— For entire game, Buccaneers ran ball five times for eight yards.
— Last five years, Tampa Bay is 5-13-3 ATS as a home favorite.
— Four of Bucs’ last six games stayed under.
— Tampa Bay went 3/out on their first four drives. 

 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a college football Saturday

13) USC 28, Arizona State 27:
— Trojans scored 14 points in last 2:52 to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
— Total yardage was 556-392, USC
— Soph QB Slovis threw for 381 yards, two TD’s.

12) Indiana 38, Michigan 21
— Hoosiers snapped a 27-game losing streak vs Michigan
— Indiana is 3-0 in Big 14 for first time since 1988.
— Indiana QB Penix threw for 342 yards, three TD’s.

11) Florida 44, Georgia 28:
— Dawgs led this game 14-0, but trailed 38-21 at the half.
— Florida QB Trask threw for 474 yards, four TD’s.
— Georgia QB’s combined to complete only 9-29 passes.

10) Memphis 34, South Florida 33
— Tigers (-17.5) scored two TD’s in last 3:13 to escape an upset.
— Memphis QB White threw for 437 yards, four TD’s.

9) Liberty 38, Virginia Tech 35:
— Liberty kicked a 51-yard FG with 0:01 left for the win.
— 7-0 Flames have wins over two ACC teams (VT, Syracuse)
— Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is Liberty’s coach; he might not be at Liberty much longer.
 
8) Notre Dame 47, Clemson 40 OT:
— Notre Dame drove 91 yards, tied game with 0:22 left.
— Clemson’s freshman QB Uiagalelei threw for 439 yards, two TD’s in his first college road start.
— Notre Dame scored a defensive TD, also fumbled on Clemson’s 3-yard line. 

7) Upsets of the Week:
— Maryland (+27) 35, Penn State 19
— Liberty (+17) 38, Virginia Tech 35
— San Jose State (+9.5) 28, San Diego State 17
— Colorado 48 (+6), UCLA 42
— Notre Dame (+5.5) 47, Clemson 40 OT
— Indiana (+4) 38, Michigan 21

6) Northwestern 21, Nebraska 13:
— Wildcats are 3-0 in Big 14 for first time in 20 years.
— Northwestern hasn’t allowed a 2nd-half point this season.

5) Iowa State 38, Baylor 31:
— Cyclones trailed 21-10 at halftime.
— Iowa State survived four turnovers (-2); they threw three INT’s.
— Cyclones outrushed Baylor 198-71.

4) Maryland 35, Penn State 19
— Terrapins lost their opener 43-3 to Northwestern, scored 80 points in winning last two games.
— Maryland was +3 in turnovers; Tagovailoa threw for 282 yards, three TD’s.
— Penn State is 0-3 for first time since 2001.

3) Louisiana 27, Arkansas State 20:
— Ragin’ Cajuns are 6-1; they’ve covered only one of their last six games.
— ASU led this game 6-0 at halftime.
— ASU tied game with 2:24 left; Cajuns scored game-winning TD with 1:13 left.

2) Colorado 48, UCLA 42
— UCLA turned ball over four times, trailed 35-14 at halftime.
— Colorado had 92 plays from scrimmage, ran ball for 264 yards.
— Buffs led 35-7 at one point; UCLA got as close as 42-35.

1) Oklahoma State 20, Kansas State 18:
— Trailing 13-12, K-State was driving but fumbled; Cowboys returned fumble 85 yards for a pivotal touchdown.
— K-State scored a TD with 2:08 left, but failed on the 2-point play.
— Wildcats led 12-0 at halftime.
— K-State ran ball for 227 yards, outgained OSU 370-256, but lost. 

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

13) Was watching a 1992 Florida-Georgia game on ESPNU Friday; Dick Vermeil was the analyst on the game, working with Roger Twibell. Florida had a sophomore DE named Kevin Carter and coach Vermeil told the story about how he talked with Carter at practice during the week and how he was a fine young man with a bright future. He was right.

Seven years later, coach Vermeil wins the Super Bowl coaching the Rams; one of his DE’s that night was none other than Kevin Carter, who the Rams drafted in the first round in 1995, before coach Vermeil got back into coaching. Small world.

Last week, ESPNU showed an NC State-North Carolina game from 1998; WR Torry Holt was being covered by CB Dre Bly. Both of those guys were also starters on the ’99 Rams.

12) Red Sox are re-hiring manager Alex Cora after his suspension from the Astros’ cheating scandal ended. Cora managed Boston for two years, winning the 2018 World Series.

11) Found something interesting on TV late Thursday night; the Spring League, which is a 6-team developmental football league, with all the games happening in the Alamodome in San Antonio. Games are played on Tuesday/Wednesdays. FS1 showed two of them Thursday.

79-year old Jerry Glanville is one of the coaches; former Ohio State QB JT Barrett is one of the quarterbacks. Games remind me a lot of the AAF/XFL the last two springs. Pretty good ball.

10) Remember the movie Invincible, the true story about the 30-year old bartender who tried out for the Eagles in 1976 and made the team? Vince Papale’s son Vinny is in this league, too. He scored a touchdown in Thursday’s game.

Team called the Alphas have a receiver named Deontez Alexander who was very impressive in their game Thursday; he spent the last two years on the Detroit Lions’ practice squad.

9) Word of the Day: Shenanigans— Secret or dishonest activity or maneuvering.
 
8) Billionaire hedge fund guy Steve Cohen took over the Mets Friday; one of his first moves was to dump the GM and most of the front office.

Mets went 112-110 in two years under GM Brodie Van Wagenen, but now will now install former GM Sandy Alderson as the head of their baseball operations department.

7) Miami 44, NC State 41:
— D’Eriq King threw for 430 yards, five TD’s.
— Wolfpack led 41-31 with 12:00 left to play.
— 6-1 Miami scored winning TD with 2:43 left.

6) San Jose State 28, San Diego State 17:
— Spartans are 3-0 for first time since 1982.
— San Jose’s QB got KO’d on the third play of the game.
— Backup QB Nash threw for 169 yards, ran for 53 more.

5) BYU 52, Boise State 17:
— Unbeaten Cougars improve to 8-0.
— Boise State played three different QB’s.
— This was only 2nd time in last 11 years that Boise was a home dog.

4) Players with most runs of 10+ yards this season:
20— Kareem Hunt, Clev
18— Kyler Murray, Az/Dalvin Cook, Minn
17— Derrick Henry, Tenn
16— Darrell Henderson, Rams

3) NFL teams with highest %age of their first downs coming on 3rd down plays:
33.8%— Steelers
29.0%— Raiders
28.8%— Ravens
28.7%— Chargers

2) NFL teams with lowest %age of their first downs coming on 3rd down plays:
16.5%— Seahawks
17.6%— Vikings
18.9%— Cowboys

1) In 1972, the Philadelphia Phillies were:
— 29-12 in games started by Steve Carlton
— 30-85 in all their other games.

One of the greatest season by any athlete, ever. 

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

13) Packers 34, San Francisco 17:
— Rodgers threw for 305 yards, four TD’s.
— Green Bay have converted 48 of last 97 third down plays (49.4%)
— Rodgers has thrown 24 TD’s with only two INT’s this season.
— San Francisco is 8-11 ATS in last 19 games as a home underdog.
— 49ers scored a TD with 0:04 left that put the game over the total.

12) Detroit’s backup QB Chase Daniel could get the start for the Lions Sunday, if Matthew Stafford (COVID issues) can’t go; either way, Daniel has one of the best jobs in America.

He’s been in the NFL for 11 years now, has played in 65 games, started only five. During that time, Daniel has banked $34,309,164, and thrown only 218 passes- that’s $157,381.48 per pass.

11) Boise State is a home underdog tonight against BYU; it is only the second time in the last 11 years that the Broncos are an underdog on their blue home turf.

10) Nevada 34, Utah State 9:
— Nevada QB Strong threw for 411 yards and three TD’s.
— Wolf Pack outgained Utah State, 542-210.
— Aggies lost their first three games, by combined score of 114-29.

9) Colorado State 34, Wyoming 24:
— Colorado State scored a defensive TD 2:57 into the game.
— Since 2016, Rams are 6-3 ATS as a home underdog.
— Wyoming had won its previous four games with Colorado State.
 
8) Las Vegas Raiders are being fined $500,000, will lose a 2021 6th round pick and Jon Gruden is being fined an additional $150,000 for violating COVID protocols.

7) All the on-air personalities on the FOX college football pregame show are benched this week, because of COVID-related protocol. Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Emmanuel Acho will take their place, along with host Charissa Thompson.

6) Monday night’s game against the Giants was the first time in 31 games that Tampa Bay didn’t score a first half touchdown.

5) When college basketball starts later this month, there will be four new teams in D-I:
Bellarmine in Atlantic Sun, Tarleton State/Dixie State in WAC, UC San Diego in Big West

4) Can’t be much fun being a college coach these days, especially where recruiting is concerned; how do you know who to recruit, when lot of kids aren’t even playing?

3) College football games postponed/cancelled this weekend:
Army-Air Force, Navy-Tulsa, Cal-Washington, Louisiana Tech-North Texas

2) Sounds like the NBA season will start December 22; their draft in November 18, training camp is expected to start December 1. Shorter than usual offseason, obviously— word is that it’ll be a 72-game regular season.

1) ESPN cut 500 jobs this week, as cost pressures from the COVID pandemic are accelerating their move into streaming. There were 300 layoffs; 200 other open positions will not be filled.

If they laid off the highly-paid Mike Greenberg and Stephen A Smith, I wouldn’t complain. Two guys with seven-figure salaries; they could’ve saved $11M or $12M very quickly by getting rid of those two. 

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

13) Arizona State-USC play football at noon this Saturday; that’s noon, eastern time, or 9am in Los Angeles. What genius decided THIS was a good idea???

Pac-12 wants more national TV exposure; they’re going to play 9am local time games so they can get that exposure. Teams will have to eat their pregame meal at 5am. What mental midget even suggested this in a meeting, and who approved it???

Oy.

12) Seattle Seahawks visit Buffalo Sunday; Seahawks have won their last ten games played in the eastern timezone.

11) 1970 Cincinnati Bengals are only NFL team ever to make the playoffs, after starting a season 1-6. With playoffs expanding this year, could it happen again in 2020?

10) Steelers’ linebacker Robert Spillane scored a TD against the Ravens Sunday; he is the grandson of Johnny Lattner, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1953.

9) NFL teams have recovered only 3 of 33 onside kicks this season; league needs to institute that rule where teams can keep the ball after a score and have a 4th-and-15 on their own 35, instead of an onside kick. AAF and/or XFL had that rule; it gives teams a legit chance to keep the ball.
 
8) 41-year old QB Josh McCown, who had been on the Eagles’ practice squad, was signed by the Houston Texans, and is on their active roster. Houston is McCown’s 12th NFL team.

7) MAC football started Wednesday night: MACtion. Over the last five years, 9 of the 12 MAC teams have played in the league championship game.

6) Central Michigan 30, Ohio U 27:
— Lewis ran for 110 yards, two TD’s.
— Chippewas scored the last 10 points of the game.

5) Buffalo 49, Northern Illinois 30:
— Buffalo scored three defensive TD’s, two of them 0:35 apart.
— NIU turned ball over five times, losing four fumbles.
— Buffalo led 21-16 at halftime.

4) Toledo 38, Bowling Green 3:
— Rockets led 21-0 after 12:00 and coasted from there.
— Peters threw for 214 yards, four TD’s.

3) Kent State 27, Eastern Michigan 23:
— Kent blew a 20-9 halftime lead, then scored game-winning TD with 7:31 left.
— Golden Flashes outgained EMU, 431-302.

2) Miami 38, Ball State 31:
— Ball State kicked a 48-yard FG with 1:08 left to tie the game.
— Miami scored game-winning TD with 0:24 left after Ball State threw an INT.

1) Western Michigan 58, Akron 13:
— Zips recovered onside kick on opening kickoff; that was it for them.
— WMU led 30-13 at halftime, and coasted home. 

Wednesday’s Den: 13 of baseball’s top free agents this winter……..

13) Justin Turner, 3B Dodgers— Should thank the good Lord the DH came to the National League; he’ll be 36 in three weeks.

12) Michael Brantley, OF Astros— Will turn 34 next May, has been hurt a decent amount, but he is a consistent hitter. Another guy headed towards being mostly a DH.

11) Marcus Semien, SS A’s— Has worked his butt off to become a good player, but fact of the matter is that he ain’t a big money guy. He is steady, shows up and plays every day but he also has a .322 career on-base %age— his fielding is steady but not brilliant.

10) Joc Pederson, OF Dodgers— Career .236 hitter who hit .190 this year but now owns a World Series ring. Some team will take a chance that he can recapture past glory; he is still only 28, and he hit 36 homers in 2019.

9) Didi Gregorius, SS Phillies— 30-year old shortstop hit .284 for the Phillies; I’d prefer him as a SS option over Semien, but he’ll also be more expensive.
 
8) Liam Hendriks, P A’s— Had two really good years as the A’s closer, but closers come and closers go. Remember Grant Balfour? Someone will pay Hendriks; he had 161 strikeouts, only 24 walks the last two years.

7) Trevor Bauer, P Reds— Had a 1.73 ERA in 11 starts this year; I’d be queasy about him pitching in a big media market— he talks too much.

6) Marcell Ozuna, OF Braves— Had big year this year after two mediocre years in St Louis. Will be 30 next week, figures to strike it rich this winter.

5) Masahiro Tanaka, P Bronx— Had his best ERA since 2016 this year; his WHIP this year was 1.17, hard to imagine he won’t re-sign with Bronx.

4) George Springer, OF Astros— .361 career OB%, but numbers figure to regress if he leaves that small ballpark in Houston.

3) Nelson Crux, DH Minnesota— Whats the market for a 40-year old DH? He knocked in 100+ runs four of last five full seasons, had a .397 OB% this past season.

2) DJ LeMahieu, IF Bronx— Hit .300+ five of last six years, can play multiple positions. He’s also 32, so not sure how long a contract he’ll get.

1) JT Realmuto, C Phillies— Really hard to find catchers who can hit. 

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

13) Didn’t have any Trick or Treaters Saturday night, so I’m stuck with two bags of candy (Three Musketeers, KitKats) that I’ll have to eat— can’t be wasting good candy.

I was reminded Saturday night that the last time Halloween was on a Saturday, I was in Las Vegas, at the SouthPoint Casino, a terrific place. 

That Saturday night, I go downstairs to watch some college football in the sportsbook, but I see them rolling out a red carpet by the front door, complete with TV cameras and everything. I ask the security guard what’s up and he smiles: “Tonight is the Fetish and Fantasy Ball”. Alrighty then. 

There are moments when you’re reminded that Las Vegas is different than most anywhere else, and that night was one of those times. They take Halloween very seriously in Las Vegas, and some of the costumes were, how can I say this…….revealing.

Later that night, I’m riding upstairs in an elevator and a couple (in costume) gets on the elevator; he is a prison warden, she is his prisoner, complete with neck and ankle shackles and a prisoner’s uniform ripped in strategic places. The elevator stops at my floor; I wish them well: as I leave the elevator “I know this won’t be a problem, but have a fun night.” They laugh and the elevator door closes.

Halloween is on a Sunday next year? Hmmmm……

12) Every so often watching NFL games, I’m reminded of something I saw on HBO’s Hard Knocks a few years ago, when they had the Houston Texans on. 

This was the last episode of the summer, always the best episode of the series; they’ve chosen the Opening Day roster, and now the team has gathered in the lecture center where they have their meetings. Coach Bill O’Brien addresses the team and I’ll never forget his first words:

“Welcome to the most competitive business in the world.”

It is true, there is such a fine line between being really good and regressing into mediocrity, a couple breaks here and there can make all the difference.

11) I’m thinking about current events and all the legal hassles that are likely to ensue over the next few weeks, then I think of the great author John Grisham, sitting in his home, taking notes and getting 2-3 new books ready to roll, based on stuff that is happening now. I love reading his books; he is such a great story teller.

10) Was looking thru the 2020 Baseball Prospect Handbook that Baseball America puts out every winter, and they had Randy Arozarena ranked as the Cardinals’ #10 prospect- this was before he got traded to Tampa Bay.

To say that this guy came out of nowhere to be one of October’s stars this year isn’t an exaggeration; they had him as the #10 prospect out of only one roster, when he turned out to be one of the 2-3 best players in the whole playoffs.

9) Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash is the only guy who has:
— Played in the Little League World Series
— Played in the College World Series
— Managed in the World Series
 
8) Weirdest part of the White Sox re-hiring 76-year old Tony LaRussa as manager is that I had forgotten that Hawk Harrelson was once the White Sox’ GM. Oy.

Harrelson was a slugger who quit baseball to try his hand on the pro golf tour- that didn’t last long, but he was popular in Boston because he helped the Red Sox win the pennant in 1967- he hit a combined 65 homers in 1968-69, but didn’t last much longer after that— he was out of baseball at age 29. 

But Harrelson can talk, and he got a gig on Red Sox’ TV and then he moved on to the White Sox when he somehow convinced Jerry Reinsdorf to put him on TV in Chicago, where he remained for 30+ years.

In between there, Reinsdorf actually hired him to be the White Sox’ GM, where he fired both LaRussa, a future Hall of Fame manager and 29-year old Dave Dombrowski, who went on to be an excellent executive. Lets just say the GM thing didn’t go too well and back to TV he went.

Just reminds you that just because Reinsdorf owned the Chicago Bulls when Michael Jordan played there doesn’t mean he was this brilliant executive. His ownership of the White Sox has been checkered at best.

7) Pittsburgh Pirates turned down an $11M option on P Chris Archer, so he is now a free agent- on July 31, 2018, they traded Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows to get Archer from the Rays, then they cut him loose two years later. No bueno.

6) Since Week 2 of last season, Los Angeles Chargers are 2-14 in games decided by 8 or fewer points. They have a rookie QB now, but the kid has been playing well anyway, and they had Philip Rivers last year, so you tell me where the problem lies.

5) Texas Longhorns might be the most interesting team in college football this season; three of their last five games went to OT and one of the other two games ended 33-31.

4) In their last two games, Baltimore Ravens have 242 penalty yards; might be time to bring a retired referee into practice to help the guys straighten out a little. Ravens have also been outscored 49-20 in second half of their last two games.

3) Troy Aikman was saying last Thursday how the Carolina Panthers practice in pads most Wednesdays, and how they hit in practice more than any other NFL team. Will be curious how that effects them as the season goes on. Do they tackle better because of that? Will they get worn down?

2) TV guys were telling a story the other night about LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, who played QB at LSU in the late 70’s. Ensminger was telling stories about how when he got to LSU, they had ten quarterbacks on the roster— no scholarship limits back then. Took a little longer to climb the QB ladder back then,

These days, no one has experienced backups, because if they ain’t starting, then they’ll be departing, to a school where that they can start. Both of LSU’s backup QB’s this year are freshmen. LSU’s star last year, Joe Burrow, was a transfer from Ohio State.

1) RIP to the great basketball coach Billy Tubbs, who passed away this week at age 85; Tubbs was ahead of his time- his teams played fast break basketball back when coaches often strangled the game, before the shot clock/3-point shot. His teams were great fun to watch.

Tubbs’ coaching record:
1971-73: Southwestern: 31-24
1976-80: Lamar: 75-46
1980-94: Oklahoma: 333-132
1994-2002: TCU 156-95
2003-06: Lamar 121-89

Tubbs gave his players the freedom to shoot; he WANTED them to shoot quickly, and that helped his recruiting, since not many coaches did that then. He was definitely ahead of his time. Always enjoyed watching his teams play, RIP, coach.