Wednesday’s Den: No list, I just research/rant about the Rams

While you were asleep late Sunday night, I was sitting here, doing some research. December 1 is this week (Thursday) and another football season is flying by. As a Rams fan (since 1966, the year of the first Super Bowl), this has been another dismal season.

I like Jeff Fisher well enough as a coach, but he is finishing his 5th season with the Rams and has yet to have a .500 season. Was trying to think of anyone else in the NFL who lasted this long with one team without a winning season. So I decided to research the topic. Here is some of what I learned:

— Here is Fisher’s resume with the Rams: 7-8-1/7-9/6-10/7-9/4-7.

Fisher inherited a dumpster fire from his predecessor, Steve Spagnuolo (10-38 in three years) and he has made the Rams competitive again. He gets credit for that.

When Spags was coaching the Rams, I knew when I got out of bed on Sunday morning that we were getting whupped that day. Now I am pretty sure the Rams will have a chance to win, but because the offense sucks, they probably won’t.

— I limited my search to the Super Bowl era, starting in 1966. During that time, only six NFL head coaches started their tenure in a city with four consecutive losing seasons. The rest either all got fired before that or had at least one .500 season or at least one winning season. Here are the five coaches:

  1. Dan Hennng (Falcons) 1983-86: 7-9/4-12/4-12/7-8-1.
  2. Sam Wyche (Bucs) 1992-95: 5-11/5-11/6-10/7-9
  3. Joe Bugel (Cardinals) 1990-93: 5-11/4-12/4-12/7-9
  4. Lou Saban (Broncos) 1967-71: 3-11/5-9/5-8-1/5-8-1 (fired in ’71, during a 4-9-1 year)
  5. Jeff Fisher (Rams) 2012-16: 7-8-1/7-9/6-10/7-9/4-7
  6. David Shula (Bengals) 1992-95: 5-11/3-13/3-13/7-9 (fired in ’96, after which Bengals rallied for a 8-8 season)

— The thing is, Fisher may already have a contract extension with the Rams, no one knows. He would be the only NFL coach in the last 50 years to start off with five consecutive losing seasons with a team and be offered a sixth year with the same team.

Coach Fisher has been an NFL head coach for 22 years, has been in the playoffs exactly six times. The ultimate irony is that his best year with the Tennessee Titans ended with a Super Bowl loss……to the Rams.

— Then there is this: I go back a little further, to 1960 and do the search again. Look for a coach who started his tenure with five consecutive losing seasons, was retained and wound up doing really well. It actually has happened……once and yes, you’ve heard of the guy.

Ever hear of Tom Landry?

Here are the Cowboys’ records their first five years as an NFL team:
0-11-1/4-9-1/5-8-1/4-10/5-8-1.

Despite five straight losing years, Landry was not fired, he was retained; Dallas went 7-7 in 1965 and in the seven years after that, they went 83-27-2 and split two Super Bowl appearances.

I know what you’re thinking: Dallas was an expansion team, but in a lot of ways, it is easier to build from scratch than it is to clean up a mess and then build a winner.

— Am I comparing Landry and Jeff Fisher? Not really, but I am saying that the only time in modern NFL history this scenario has played out, it worked out very well for the team that didn’t fire the coach. Stability has its advantages.

Rams just moved to a new city; they have a young QB who they finally let on the field and the kid looks like he can play a little. They have a really good defense and decent special teams.

I’d check with Norv Turner to see if he was interested in being OC and helping Goff turn into a quality QB, the way he did with Troy Aikman.

— I think way too much about this and still I don’t have a concrete opinion on what owner Stan Kroenke should do, but I do firmly believe he should keep GM Les Snead, who drafted Goff, Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley the last three years. Do not fire Les Snead.

This is a billion dollar franchise with a beautiful new stadium being built for the 2019 season; lot of money hangs in the balance. I hope the hell they make the right decision, whatever it is.

No matter what, I’ll still sit there on Sundays and root like hell for the Rams; if that makes me a damn fool, then so be it.

Tuesday’s List of 13: nobody asked me, but………

13) Cleveland Browns are 0-12 as they head into their bye week; 18 of their 53 players Sunday were rookies. They’ve used six different QB’s in 12 games. In a league where close games are the norm, Browns have lost eight games by 11+ points.

A young man named Taylor Gabriel scored four TD’s in his last four games for the Falcons, who are a playoff-bound team. How did Atlanta get him?

Cleveland cut him in September, after he caught 64 passes for 862 yards for them in 2014-15. They cut a guy who is a productive player for a playoff team, and who was also productive for them. Oy.

This is why the Browns are 0-12; they cut productive players.

12) Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles has been in all 50 states; I’ve only been in 27, which is fine. No desire to see Alaska or the Dakotas. No offense, just not interested. Hawai’i could be a different story.

11) So the dust settles and Tom Herman is the football coach at Texas, while the team he coached this year gets ready for a bowl game with an interim coach and a depleted staff. Herman’s agent is former NFL lineman Trace Armstrong, who played 15 years in the NFL.

Herman’s first job in football was as a grad assistant at Texas Lutheran; his salary was $5,000 and a meal card, so he has earned his way to the top.

10) San Diego State-Wyoming play for the Mountain West title this weekend; problem is, they lost their games last weekend by a combined score of 119-66. Hard to get fired up about a championship game in a bad league where the teams that are playing aren’t much better than average.

9) Evidence of that: Mountain West rivals San Jose State/Nevada already fired their football coaches this week, as coaching carousel begins to spin, slowly.

8) In its last four games with rival Florida State, Florida Gators have had the ball 50 times and scored two touchdowns. Thats 2 out of 50. No bueno.

7) Wasn’t happy to hear CBS Sports Network TV guys infer that the Alaskan Shootout may be in danger of not continuing. Reading between the lines of what they said this weekend, and looking at who plays in the event, the main leagues commit teams to the tournaments ESPN run and the Shootout isn’t one of them.

Too bad; Alaska used to be a great event but now they have events in all these tropical places that obviously are more fun to visit than frigid Alaska, plus their TV exposure is better, but it is still too bad, if true.

6) Smart move by NFL this week, with Minnesota-Dallas the Thursday game. Both teams played on Thanksgiving last week, so they’ll be playing with a full week’s rest and chances are you’ll see a higher quality game.

5) Bengals kicker Mike Nugent is the first NFL kicker since 1986 to miss three PATs in a row.

4) In four games in November, Navy’s football team punted TWICE; they scored 66-75 points in their last two games. Thats what happens when you run the ball in a league where no one else cares about anything but throwing the ball. AAC teams mostly suck on defense.

3) Northwestern has a better basketball team under Chris Collins; they’ve lost tough games to Butler/Notre Dame already, as they try and build a resume that will get them into March Madness. They’re going to be a bubble team, unless they get hot in conference.

It is a little heart-wrenching when the Wildcats play on TV; at some point during the game, they usually cut to a shot of Doug Collins sitting by himself somewhere in the arena, agonizing over his son’s team. It is cool that he cares so much, but you feel for him.

If Northwestern makes the NCAA’s, they’ll be one of the main stories on Selection Sunday, seeing how they’re one of five original college teams that has never made the tournament.

Who are the other four, you ask? Wm & Mary, Army, Citadel, St Francis NY

2) Good trivia; the longest overtime field goal in NFL history: 57 yards by Sebastian Janikowski of the Raiders.

1— Tulsa’s kicker made a field goal Friday that actually hit both uprights; you don’t see that every day. Not sure I’ve ever seen it before.

Monday’s List of 13: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Chargers 21, Texans 13— First home loss for Texans; Chargers are now 2-4 on road. Houston turned ball over four times (-3); teams who were -2 or worse in turnovers this week are 0-5 this week, 7-59 for the season.

Titans 27, Bears 21— Tennessee is 6-6 and heads into its bye week half a game behind the Texans in a lame AFC South. Barkley threw for 316 yards in his first NFL start, converted 9-17 on third down, but also threw two picks and Bears fell to 2-9. Over is 8-1 in Titans’ last nine games.

Bills 28, Jaguars 21— Jax has now lost six games in a row, last four all by 7 or less points. Bills are 6-5 but winning a Wild Card in AFC is an uphill climb. Over is 8-2 in last ten Buffalo games. I’m guessing Jaguars are changing coaches after the season; curious to see if they hire Tom Coughlin, who is approaching 70 but would be better than some guys who have HC jobs.

Ravens 19, Bengals 14— Justin Tucker nailed three 50+-yard FG’s, all in the first half. Cincy is 1-5-1 in its last seven games, losing last five true road games; I am not a fan of promoting from within when hiring coordinators, which Cincinnati has done a lot recently, losing three coordinators to HC jobs the last three years. Go out and find new blood, new ideas. Bengals’ last four games (0-3-1) were decided by a total of 7 points. Under is 6-1 in last seven Baltimore games.

Falcons 38, Cardinals 19— Hope coach Arians is alright after a medical scare earlier in week; his team isn’t alright, losing three of last four games. Arizona was outscored 41-16 in second half of last three games. Falcons scored five TDs on nine drives, with two TD drives of less than 50 yards. Over is 9-2 in Atlanta games this season.

Dolphins 31, 49ers 24— Miami won its sixth game in row, will be tied for second Wild Card with loser of KC-Denver game. Dolphins led 31-14 with 8:00 left but Kaepernick led comeback which fell a couple yards short as time expired. 49ers have lost ten games in a row, with over 7-3 in those games. Miami is +10 in turnovers during its winning streak.

Saints 49, Rams 21— This game was personal between Sean Payton/Gregg Williams, who won a Super Bowl together in New Orleans. Saints threw a pass with 2:30 left, up 49-21. They’ll be another day for that stuff. NFC West underdogs are 4-11 vs spread outside their division this season.

Jeff Fisher is in his fifth year coaching the Rams: he makes $7M a year. His teams have been 7-8-1/7-9/6-10/7-9 and now this 4-7 disaster (they still have games at both New England/Seattle). If I was paying someone $7M a year to coach, I’d expect better results and most of all, I wouldn’t be very freakin’ happy when my team quit on the field, the way the Rams did in this game.

Giants 27, Browns 13— Cleveland is now 1-4-1 as a home underdog; they’ve been outscored 83-24 in second half of their last five games. Giants won their last six games, getting a defensive TD from Pierre-Paul to put game out of reach. If season ended today, Giants would host Washington in NFC Wild Card game. Good news for Cleveland; next week is their bye.

Buccaneers 14, Seahawks 5— Just second 14-5 game in NFL history; 49ers-Falcons played one in 1984. Bucs had six sacks, held Seattle to 1-11 on third down- they’ve won three games in a row, allowing total of 32 points. This is same Tampa defense that gave up 37 points to the Rams in Week 3. Everyone in NFC West lost today.

Raiders 37, Panthers 32— Oakland has won/covered five games in a row; Derek Carr had a dislocated pinky in third quarter, when Carolina had ball four times, scored four TDs, but they also had PAT blocked and went 0-2 on 2-point conversions. Carr played 4th quarter with a glove on his right hand.

Only two defensive TDs of day were scored by Giants/Raiders. Newton was 3-12 passing for 18 yards in first half, 11-17 for 226 yards in second haldf, including an 88-yard TD pass to Ted Ginn Jr. Over is now 9-2 in Raider games this season.

Patriots 22, Jets 17— New England is 4-0 (3-1 vs spread) with Brady on road; Jets are now 1-4 at home. NFL-wide, home underdogs are 13-8 vs spread this season. Jets’ last four games were all decided by 5 or less points. under is 6-1 in New York’s last seven games.

Chiefs 30, Broncos 27 OT– Santos banked game-winning FG in off left upright to give Chiefs win after they blew lead late in regulation. Denver tried but missed a 62-yard FG to end game earlier in OT. Dolphins are glad game didn’t end in a tie; would’ve left them behind both teams in Wild Card race.

Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a college football Saturday

13) Ohio State 30, Michigan 27 OT— Urban Meyer is a walking advertisement for hypertension. Please smile now and then; he was like that in his year on TV too, totally humorless. He made broadcast partner Chris Spielman sound like Carrot Top and Spielman is no barrel of laughs, either. Meyer must be a joy to be around every day. Great coach, wins a ton of games, but if you do not enjoy it, what good is it?

Wolverines fumbled in red zone, threw a pick-6, they’ll be sick about this game for months, maybe years. Not sure how Ohio State can make a 4-team national playoff if they couldn’t make a 2-team playoff in their own league, but I could be wrong about that.

12) Colorado 27, Utah 22— Last 8 years, Buffs were 11-58 in conference games; they are now in the Pac-12 title game against Washington next Friday.

11 and 58 for eight years. 8-1 this year. Tremendous coaching job by Mike MacIntyre.

11) LSU 54, Texas A&M 39— I’m trying to process this: LSU fired Les Miles and replaced him with freakin’ Ed Orgeron, who is beloved by people around him but went 10-25 in three years as head coach at Ole Miss (3-21 in SEC games!!!!). If you’re an LSU fan and read the book Meat Market, about Orgeron’s recruiting efforts at Ole Miss, you’re probably a little queasy today. Maybe a lot queasy.

10) Two scores from around the country Saturday:
Pittsburgh 76, Syracuse 61
South Carolina 64, Syracuse 50

One of these was a football game, one was a basketball game. Neither was good for the Orange.

When college football has its Signing Day in February, the first thing I’m going to look at is how any defensive players Dino Babers signs for Syracuse- they need a lot of them.

9) Kentucky 41, Louisville 38— Lamar Jackson fumbled on the Kentucky 10 with under 2:00 left in a tie game; Cardinals lost their last two games, allowing 77 points. This snaps a five-game winning streak against their in-state rivals.

8) Memphis 48, Houston 44— Coach Herman gets really rich in Austin, Cougars players get to go to the Boca Raton Bowl or the Bahamas Bowl, not exactly what they expected after starting this season with an upset of Oklahoma.

You can do worse than a few days in the Bahamas, but a New Year’s Day bowl was what they wanted.

7) TCU 31, Texas 9— Charlie Strong gets $10.5M to go away after Texas told him to take a hike with three straight losses to TCU and a 16-21 record in three years with the Longhorns.

6) USC 45, Notre Dame 27— Trojans scored two TD’s in 0:17 span of second quarter, one on a punt return, one on a pick-6. Adoree’ Jackson scored three TDs and he is mostly a DB. Late at night, while I’ve been typing this, there is stuff on TV about Brian Kelly looking for a new job.

I’m guessing the Notre Dame people will write him a very nice letter of recommendation if he wants to leave.

5) Navy 75, SMU 31— Middies ran for 496 yards, have now scored 141 points in their last two games, all while throwing 14 passes. Wouldn’t want to be the team Navy plays in a bowl; going to be a long afternoon for whoever that is.

4) California 36, UCLA 10— Vincent Rivera is a Cal WR and Ron Rivera’s nephew; Coach Rivera was on the field for Senior Day ceremonies. Ron Rivera’s Panthers play in nearby Oakland today; think Carolina requested to be in the Bay Area this weekend, or was this just a really fortunate coincidence?

3) Idaho 38, South Alabama 31– I’m pretty sure this is the Vandals’ last year of I-A football and they’re going to a bowl game; good for them. Idaho’s QB is Matt Linehan, whose dad Scott is OC for the Dallas Cowboys. Been a terrific year for both father and son.

2) Vanderbilt 45, Tennessee 34— Commodores become bowl eligible with this win; they actually won their last two bowls, by 14-17 points. Vandy is now 3-2 in its last five games vs Tennessee, after a 1-14 stretch against the Vols.

This is where I’m supposed to write something unkind about Vols’ coach Butch Jones, but I’ll politely decline. I’m guessing he’ll take enough grief on talk radio for the next nine months or so.

1— Florida State 31, Florida 13— Seminoles didn’t have Senior Night at their last home game, they had it when they played Boston College; Jimbo Fisher didn’t want any distractions for any of the real important games, like this one.

Florida State defense had allowed 450+ TY in five of last nine games before this one, but they held Florida to 191 yards and 0-12 on third down conversions. Great night for the Seminole defense.

Saturday’s List of 13: Midnight musings……..

13) Memphis 48, Houston 44— This coaching carousel stuff in college football is terribly unfair to the players playing now. Houston Cougars beat Oklahoma/Louisville this year, but every time they win a game, speculation starts about coach Herman’s next job.

Houston has now lost to Navy-Memphis-SMU; what should have been a great year will now be a very good one- they’re going to have a new coach next year. Such are the realities of major college football. Life changes quickly.; have to win as much as you can while you can

12) So the latest Herman update is that LSU will probably keep Ed Orgeron if Herman goes to Texas and Charlie Strong will keep his job if Herman goes to LSU. We forget that coaches have assistant coaches and everyone has families and a lot of people are affected by this stuff.

11) Miami Ohio’s football team started this season 0-6, obviously a disaster, but the Red Hawks recovered and finished the regular season at 6-6 and bowl eligible. Good for the kids and the coaches who didn’t quit on the season- you don’t see that very often.

10) Pirates signed utility guy Sean Rodriguez for two years, $11.5M. Versatile guy; seems like every team has a guy like him now.

9) I mentioned last week how Long Beach State hoop coach Dan Molson makes $600K a year; well the 49ers are now 1-6 this year and lost to Binghamton/Florida Gulf Coast the last two days. Not exactly $600K worth of coaching.

8) ESPN is televising the Wooden tournament from Cal State-Fullerton this weekend; during UCLA’s game Thursday night, they did something that bugged me. During the game, reporter Jeff Goodman interviews Lonzo Ball’s dad in the stands. Why?

Since when do kid’s parents get interviewed during the game? Why is this a good idea?

7) I’m convinced that NFL teams should throw more towards their sideline, especially on longer passes; you see lot of flags thrown when guys on the sideline scream for a call— you yell loud enough, long enough, you’re going to get one (or two) calls.

6) Long time ago, Ole Miss hoop coach Andy Kennedy was a good player; he took recruiting trips across the south, one of which was to Georgia Tech, where his player/host was Craig Neal, now the coach at New Mexico. Kennedy wound up playing for NC State and later UAB.

Apparently the two guys remained friends thru the years, so when Neal’s son Cullen transferred away from his dad’s team to a place where the home fans were less hostile (seriously) he went to play for his dad’s friend Kennedy at Ole Miss. Very good get for the Rebels.

5) James Madison fired coach Matt Brady LY, despite the Dukes going 40-25 the last two years; they made the NCAAs in 2013. No sure why he was fired but this year JMU is 0-5 and they’re looking stupid for firing Brady, a mostly successful coach. None of JMU’s losses are to a top 100 team, so it doesn’t bode well for their conference games, either.

4) Steve Levy/Brian Greise have been a very good announce combo on college football games this year and Justin Kutcher does well on FS1, mostly with Bill Raftery. Some people just have great chemistry together and the broadcast becomes us listening to two guys talking about ball, which is ideal and what we want. No shtick, just conversation.

3) Virginia Tech has a very good point guard (Justin Robinson) which is why the Hokies are 24-16 the last year-plus, a marked improvement. Robinson played 76 of a possible 80:00 in Tech’s first two games out at Fullerton. They’ll need to get him a little more rest in ACC play.

2) Texas Tech 54, Baylor 35— Wow the wheels really fell off for Baylor; they’re 6-5 and headed straight south, losing five in a row after a 6-0 start. Bears allowed 47.6 pts/game during the skid. You wonder if they’ll even bother going to a bowl game.

1— I was lucky enough to put myself thru college as a student manager of a small college hoop team; it was mostly great fun. One night we’re playing a local rival; one of their players dives for a loose ball and crashes into the scorer’s table, about ten feet from me on the bench. Great effort by the kid, but he didn’t save the ball. Looked like he could even be hurt.

His coach was a pretty intense guy; he comes over, I figure the coach is going to help the kid up, see if he is OK. He looks down at the kid, who is slowly getting up and screams “Next time, get it!!!!” and storms away.

Not a great moment, but it was part of why we almost always beat them. How about patting the kid on the back for a great try? No bueno.

Friday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but……..

13) Coaching carousel in college football is about to get rolling; there were rumors Thursday night that LSU has a deal with Houston coach Tom Herman, but others are saying it is a ploy to get Texas to ante up some more cash as it pursues Herman to be its coach.

Once jobs start getting filled, there is usually a domino effect, with guys moving upward on the financial scale, but one effect of Herman going to LSU instead of Texas would be that Charlie Strong probably will not get fired unless the Longhorns can get Herman to replace him.

12) LSU 54, Texas A&M 39— Tigers gained 622 yards and Leonard Fournette stayed home. His replacement Derrius Guice ran for 285 yards, a new school record and four TDs.

11) Georgia’s basketball team was getting hammered by the Kansas Jayhawks earlier this week, so the Dawgs called a timeout; after the timeout as the team went back on the court, a mangled dry-erase board was seen on the floor in front of the Georgia bench.

Apparently coach Mark Fox tried to make a point by sacrificing the board, which looked like it had been run over by a Humvee. Coaches do strange things to try and motivate players. Jayhawks wound up winning by 11 on a friendly “neutral” court in Kansas City.

10) Former Jets’ DL Marty Lyons was a great player at Alabama under Bear Bryant, over 30 years ago. He once promised coach Bryant he would get his college degree and on December 10, he will fulfill his promise to a man who passed away almost 34 years ago.

9) UConn’s basketball season is in trouble; the Huskies are 1-4 vs D-I teams, their bench is already #340 (out of 351) in minutes played and now their second-best player (Terry Larrier) is out for the year with a torn ACL. UConn’s 8-man rotation has three freshman, two sophomores; they can’t afford any more injuries and the season is only two weeks old.

8) Herb Sendek got fired as basketball coach at Arizona State in large part because he couldn’t beat rival Arizona; now he is at Santa Clara but his Broncos gave Arizona a good run for their money at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas last night. Sendek is an excellent tactician, not that great a recruiter.

During a late-game timeout, the FS1 camera was right in Santa Clara’s huddle and it was great TV as Sendek was talking to his team. Then he looks up at the camera and says “Please get that out of here”. Dammit!!! Wanted to hear what he was going to say. Arizona won 69-61.

7) On Hard Knocks this summer, Rams coach Jeff Fisher referred to some of his players’ stupid behavior as “7-9 bullshit”, in other words, the stuff losing teams do.

Last Friday night, Rams’ starting CB Troy Hill got a DUI roughly 36 hours before LA lost a home game to the Dolphins. The ultimate “7-9 bullshit” move. Rams didn’t suit him up for the Miami game, released him Monday, then re-signed him to the practice squad, meaning he is probably getting a two-game suspension, in effect, for his stupidity.

Rams are 4-6; they’ll do fairly well to finish 7-9. Another cruddy season, in part because players do not know how to act off the field.

6) Morehead State suspended basketball coach Sean Woods indefinitely, apparently for mistreating one or more of his players. Morehead is 77-55 under Woods but hasn’t made the NCAA tournament; his predecessor made it twice in six years. Awful early in the season to be suspended; curious to see how this plays out.

5) Since the beginning of the 2015 season, Raiders’ QB Derek Carr has thrown 11 4th quarter TD passes that either put Oakland ahead or tied the score. During that time, no other NFL QB  has more than six of those.

4) Did Indiana hoop coach Tom Crean do the right thing scheduling a road game at Fort Wayne earlier this week? It is 175 miles from Bloomington to Fort Wayne, and there are a hell of a lot more Hoosier fans than Mastodon fans along those 175 miles, even as there were in Fort Wayne’s home arena Tuesday night.

But the Hoosiers played a true road game and lost; no Top 25 teams do that anymore. Jim Boeheim would rather smile than play a true road game and he ain’t much for smiling. You can bet all over America, coaches are taking note of Fort Wayne’s win and adding more home games or at best, neutral court games to their teams’ schedules.

3) I roll my eyes every time an NFL ref throws a flag in the defensive secondary, then immediate another flag (or 2) is thrown, like the foul is the most obvious call in football history. It happens all the time.

This is known as “selling the call” making it obvious to the crowd that the right call was made, even if it wasn’t. The NFL is terribly over-officiated and this is a small part of it.

2) Is this the best sports week of the year? It is probably the busiest if not the best. College football and basketball; NBA-NHL-NFL. Baseball hot stove stuff is starting, the NASCAR year ended Sunday. Lot of good entertainment.

1) Ralph Branca passed away this week at age 90; he is best-known for giving up the homer Bobby Thomson hit to win the 1951 NL pennant, but Branca was more than that.

A 3-time All-Star, Branca was 88-68 in 322 games (188 starts) in an era where no one counted pitches or cared if a pitcher’s arm was abused. He won 21 games in 1947. If he was on the mound at that critical time of a decisive game, you know he was a damn good pitcher.

His daughter is married to former Mets manager Bobby Valentine.

My dad grew up in New York City, was a huge Brooklyn Dodger fan; sometime in the early 90’s, I can’t remember exactly when, Branca did an appearance at Mohawk Mall about seven miles from my dad’s house. I picked him up but didn’t tell him where we were going.

Mr Branca was sitting at a card table, not many people there; I introduced the two of them and soon they were talking like long-lost friends from the neighbohood, reminiscing about Dodgers like Ernie Lombardi, Gene Hermanski, Roy Campanella. It was great fun to listen to.

RIP sir.

Thursday’s List of 13: NFL’s top 10, bottom three teams…….

32) Browns— Next weekend will be a little more fun for Cleveland fans; its the Browns’ bye week.

31) 49ers— Lost last nine games; play red-hot Dolphins in Miami this week. Chances are that’ll be ten losses in a row.

30) Jaguars— Lost last five games, last three by 7 or less points.

10) Dolphins— They’ve got lot of good receivers; was mystified why they had less than 100 yards of offense thru 53:00 in LA last week. Not a big Tannehill fan, but he’s on a roll right now.

9) Falcons— Someone is going to give Atlanta OC Kyle Shanahan a head coaching job next season; will his dad come along to help out?

8) Giants— Seven wins by a total of 27 points; expect to see them pummel Cleveland this week or I’ll list them as a suspect for a quick exit in January.

7) Broncos— 7-0 when they score 20+ points, 0-3 when they do not. Still think QB Siemian is a suspect, but as long as he doesn’t screw things up, he’s OK for now. Their defense is that good.

6) Redskins— Jay Gruden is an underrated coach; he’s helped make a dysfunctional franchise successful. Washington took lot of grief for drafting Cousins the same year they traded the farm to draft RGIII; seems like a good idea now.

5) Chiefs— 18-4 in last 22 games, but offense has struggled last three weeks. Big game in Denver Sunday; NBC chose that game instead of Patriots-Jets.

4) Seahawks— Drafting is such an inexact science; Russell Wilson, Joe Montana were 3rd round picks, Tom Brady a 6th round pick. Look at Dak Prescott; he was a 4th round pick after a DUI a month before the draft. Then look at some of the stiffs drafted first. Go figure.

3) Raiders— Jack Del Rio was once the catcher on USC’s baseball team, when one of the pitchers was a guy named Mark McGwire.

2) Patriots— Will Brady/Belichick retire at same time? Imagine the poor bastards who would have to step into those big shoes? When does Jimmy Garoppolo hit the free agent market?

1) Cowboys— Very seldom does a team win/cover nine games in a row, and never, ever with a rookie QB. Interesting game today with the Redskins.

Wednesday’s List of 13: Doing some thinking out loud…….

13) Fort Wayne 71, Indiana 68 OT— This is why big-name teams don’t go on the road, even though in this game, the crowd was split at least 50-50, with the Hoosiers being so popular in Indiana. TV guys said there was more red than blue in the crowd, so maybe Indiana had more fans.

Fort Wayne is a pretty good team in the Summit League, 66-36 the last three years, 31-15 in Summit games, but they’ve never made the NCAA tourney- this could be the year.

This was just a great game for college basketball; a mid-major getting a big boy in their own gym, then beating them. Good for the sport, good for the city of Fort Wayne, good for people at home watching on TV.

12) The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is in Springfield, MA but there is also a college basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City. Somehow, Jerry Tarkanian is not in this Hall of Fame, which makes the decision-makers there look plain stupid.

How can you have Norm Stewart, Gene Keady and Lou Carnesecca in there, but not Tark? It is an oversight that needs to be corrected, and don’t give me his NCAA issues— Eddie Sutton had more baggage than a full airplane and he’s been inducted.

11) I’d love to know what the financial bottom line was for the Texans-Raiders game in Mexico City Monday night; Oakland gave up a home game- they played in a bigger stadium and it was full. Just curious who made how much money; you’ll know it was REALLY profitable if they do it again next season.

10) North Carolina has won the Maui Classic three times; they made the Final Four that year all three times, and won the national title two of the three years.

9) Mississippi State’s most productive player, Quandarry Weatherspoon, is out for the year with a wrist injury. 3-1 Bulldogs were already the 2nd-youngest team in America, and not especially deep.

8) Philadelphia 76ers have improved a lot; they’ve won their last four home games and are 7-2 vs spread as a home underdog- they still haven’t been favored to win a game.

7) It is funny in college basketball; once you beat a team, especially in a non-league game, then you become their biggest fan- every game they win helps your NCAA tournament profile. Good example is Northwestern, which beat Texas Monday- they need the Longhorns to have a great year, so that win looks better in March than it does now.

6) Why would Jimbo Fisher leave Florida State for LSU? As long as Nick Saban is at Alabama, LSU is a high-paying job where you’re going to take a ton of grief for being second banana to the Crimson Tide. If they fired Les Miles, they’ll fire you.

Fisher is King of the Castle at Florida State; he is in an easier league and in a better state for recruiting. I’m assuming he is very well-paid, with less grief. He ain’t going anywhere.

5) I’m not sure what this says exactly, but when UConn had their preseason conditioning run, head coach Kevin Ollie finished third. I know Ollie played in the NBA and all, but you probably want your players to be in better shape than the coach.

4) How much is a quarterback worth in Las Vegas? Looks like Andrew Luck won’t play Thursday against the Steelers; point spread went from Pittsburgh -3 to Steelers -9. Six points is a big jump. Scott Tolzien (0-1-1 as an NFL starter) will play QB for Indy. Looks like former Miami U QB Stephen Morris would come off the practice squad to be the backup.

3) Speaking of Las Vegas, the new NHL team in Vegas will be called the Golden Knights. The Maloof family, who used to own the Sacramento Kings and the Palms Casino, own 15% of the Golden Knights- they begin play next season at T-Mobile Arena.

2) TV analyst/former Illinois hooper Stephen Bardo told a great story on TV Tuesday about when he played in college, Illinois played in the Maui Classic one year. TV analyst Bill Raftery rode on the Illini’s flight home, so Bardo was picking his brain about the television business, knowing that one day, he wanted to do that.

Bardo went on to say that Raftery sat next to him the whole (long) flight home and answered every question Bardo had about TV “….and thats why I consider Bill Raftery to be the best.”  A very nice tribute; Bardo is a good TV analyst by the way.

1— Quite a day at the White House Tuesday: President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor to 21 people, including Vin Scully, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Tom Hanks, Robert Deniro, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Redford, Bill Gates.

Imagine what that room was like? Incredible star power.

No doubt that Hanks becomes the first former vendor at the Oakland Coliseum to get this prestigious award.

Tuesday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but……

13) Watching the Maui Classic Monday, got to hear Bill Walton do two games, along with Roxy Bernstein on ESPN2. Walton is a classic, a true original. Here is a partial list of the things he was discussing during the Tennessee-Wisconsin and Oregon-Georgetown games:

— Scrabble
— Grateful Dead and his love of music
— the Dakota Pipeline (Roxy got him off this subject pretty quickly)
— Banana bread
— the world record for amount of time holding your breath (24 minutes?)
— the origin of Georgetown’s mascot (Hoya)
— Davey Crockett (he is from Tennessee)

Walton does a lot of prep; I learn something new every time I listen to him, just that often it has zero to do with basketball. He is upbeat and fun to listen to.

12) Get well soon to Arizona Cardinals’ coach Bruce Arians, who was hospitalized Monday with chest pains. Original prognosis was apparently positive; hopefully he’ll be back on the sidelines very soon.

11) NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets have a player named Matt Calvert, who got 36 stitches in his face during a game with the Rangers last week. Mr Calvert got his stitches, came back into the game and wound up scoring the game-winning goal. Hockey players are tough.

10) Ryan Fitzpatrick is back at QB for the Jets this week; they play New England Sunday, in a game that was supposed to the Sunday night game until NBC flexed out of it and into the Chiefs-Broncos game.

9) LSU has to hire a football coach soon; Les Miles leaves big shoes to fill, but rumors are out there that big-name candidates are shying away from LSU, because AD Joe Alleva has a bad rap amongst coaches and administrators. People are hesitant to work for a guy who fired a coach with a record as good as Miles has.

8) Bears QB Jay Cutler may be out for the year with a shoulder issue; Matt Barkley is the backup right now— he’s played in five NFL games, but has never started one.

7) Quick basketball story: Long time ago I’m watching a high school basketball tournament with some friends; this is the first night of the tournament. Best player on the team that is losing gets his layup blocked, and he goes down in a heap, pounding the floor in pain. Three people carry him off and help him to the locker room.

One of my friends speaks up: “He isn’t hurt; his pride is hurt. He was getting his ass kicked and didn’t want to play anymore.” It was a bold statement bordering on rude, but we’re there again the next night, and the kid is out there against a lousy team, scores 30 points without a limp.

My friend was right; the kid had begged out of the game the first night. Go figure.

6) UCLA’s football team is not having a great year, in part because they had eight kids drafted by the NFL in April, the most Bruins picked in one draft since 1988.

5) Jim Grobe is the Interim football coach at Baylor this year, where one of the two best players they’ve had is Robert Griffin III. It is ironical that RGIII’s first game at Baylor was against Wake Forest, where the coach at the time was……Jim Grobe.

4) Mexico City is twice as big a city as Houston and Oakland….combined.

3) West Virginia got spanked at home by Oklahoma Saturday, but RB Justin Crawford ran ball 24 times for 330 yards, creating 11 missed tackles. He also fumbled near the goal line, which hurt West Virginia when they still had a chance to win, but 13.8 yds/carry is damn good.

2) FS1 (channel 219 on DirecTV) mainly televises just Big East basketball, which means you get to see a lot of low or mid-majors from now until Christmas, since Big East teams mostly take it easy with their pre-conference schedules.

It is fun to watch how low-major teams who are usually getting whacked use the game as an education, calling timeouts to teach certain situations; that’ll hopefully pay off for them when their conference play starts in January. But there are other reasons these games are played, too……

1) Speaking of which, I may not have these numbers exactly right, but if not I’m close; I got into a Twitter dialogue about this with ESPN’s Seth Greenberg last year.

Long Beach State pays basketball coach Dan Molson roughly $200K a year, but he actually makes around $600K, lot of money for a guy who has taken the 49ers to one NCAA tourney in his nine years in Long Beach. Where does the extra $400K come from?

Here are Long Beach State’s first five D-I games this season, all on the road, all coming with sizable guarantee checks attached: Wichita State-North Carolina-Louisville-UCLA-Washington. The extra $400K comes out of the guarantee money Long Beach gets for playing these games.

Long Beach has lost the first four of those this month, allowing 96.8 pts per game, with 26 points the closest loss of the four. Wonder what the players think about getting their butts kicked, just so their coach can fatten his bank account?

Monday’s List of 13: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Colts 24, Titans 17— Indy led 21-0 19:35 into game, held on for dear life; they’ve now won 11 in row over the Titans and 24 of last 28. Tennessee lost its last nine visits here. Indy stays within 1.5 games of Texans in AFC South. Colts have now covered 10 of their last 12 post-bye games, eight in row when favored.

Lions 26, Jaguars 19— Detroit has still trailed every game this year in 4th quarter; all ten of their games were decided by 7 or less points- they actually covered this game on a late FG. Jax lost its last five games; in three games since changing OC’s, Jaguars lost by 5-3-7 points, scoring 18 pts/game while turning ball over nine times on 34 possessions.

Buccaneers 19, Chiefs 17— Tampa Bay is 4-1 on road, 1-4 at home; go figure- they converted 11-16 on 3rd down which is huge in a low scoring game. KC had won 18 of previous 21 games, but in their last three games, have scored three offensive TDs on 30 drives, with nine FGAs. Bucs outgained KC by 99 yards.

Giants 22, Bears 16— Chicago led 16-9 at half, never scored again. Big Blue’s seven wins are by total of 27 points; their biggest win was 17-10 over Rams in London, when one of their two TD’s was scored by defense. Only one of ten Giant games was decided by more than 7 points.  Chicago lost five of last six games, is 0-6 on road, 1-4 as a road dog, losing away games by 9-14-6-16-26-6 points.

Vikings 30, Cardinals 24— Minnesota had TD on both defense/special teams, now has six such TDs this year; they snap 4-game skid, are 4-1 at home are tied for first with Lions in NFC North. Arizona allowed 28.5 pts/game in losing three of first four road games, with only win at SF; Cardinals turned ball over eight times in last three games, is 0-2-1 this year in games with spread of 3 or less points.

Bills 16, Bengals 12— When Houston Texans were on Hard Knocks in 2015, Bill O’Brien said this to his team: “You’re a part of the most competitive business in the world.” There is such a fine line between winning/losing these games. One play, one bounce of the ball makes all the difference. Bengals are 1-4-1 in last six games and their season is in freefall.

Cowboys 27, Ravens 17— Baltimore had 136 penalty yards, Cowboys 45. Dallas won/covered nine games in row; Cowboys are 4-1 at home, 3-1 as home favorites, winning home games by 14-14-6-7 points, heading into a Thanksgiving game with their rivals from Washington. NFC East teams are now 16-7 vs spread outside their division. Meanwhile Joe Flacco is taking grief from former Ravens; we’re a fickle society.

Steelers 24, Browns 9— Not only is Cleveland terrible (outscored 70-17 in second half of last four games), they haven’t had their bye yet so they’re tired too. Browns are 1-6-1 vs spread in its last eight games; QB kessler got KO’d, so it is McCown’s turn to get pummeled. All five Steeler wins this year are by 8+ points (wins by 22-8-29-18-15 points).

Dolphins 14, Rams 10— On their first 11 drives, Miami ran 42 plays for 92 yards; they were totally inept. Trailing 10-0 with 6:40 left, they won game with drives of 77-75 yards on 15 plays (10.1 yards per play, with penalties added in). Dolphins have now won/covered five games in a row; playoff teams find a way to win, cruddy teams find a way to lose. Miami is only a game out of the Wild Card slot.

Patriots 30, 49ers 17— There were three 4:00 games Sunday; funny thing is, only one of the three were it didn’t rain was the game in Seattle. 49ers are now 6-20 since Jim Harbaugh took off for Michigan; they were 44-19-1 while he was with Niners. Maybe they should’ve kept him.

Seahawks 26, Eagles 15— Wilson looks like his old self (almost); speed of new RB Prosise (was WR in college) makes Seahawk offense lot more dangerous. Seattle is 5-0 at home this year, 2-3 as home favorites, winning at home by 2-19-2-6-11 points. Eagles lost five of last seven games after a 3-0 start; they lost last five road games, allowing 27.7 pts/game.

Redskins 42, Packers 24— Green Bay is in free fall, losing last four games while allowing 153 points, most they’ve allowed in any 4-game stretch since the year before Vince Lombardi came to Green Bay (1958)— Pack lost last four road games, by 3-1-22-18 points; their only road win was in opener at Jacksonville. Redskins are 6-1-1 in last eight games after an 0-2 start (two home losses).

Under is 11-2 in NFL games this weekend. There were 12 extra points missed today; three of them in domes. Kicking is mental.

Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a sports Saturday…..

13) Ohio State 17, Michigan State 16— Spartans scored with under 5:00 to go to make it 17-16, then went for 2 points and the lead, letting the Buckeyes off the hook. Spartans are 3-8; I’m just not a fan of going for two when you’re the underdog— all the pressure is on the other guys.

12) Wyoming 34, San Diego State 33— Aztecs had to beg for a replay review on a Hail Mary on the last play of the game, and they won it, making score 34-33 with time expired. Great catch by the San Diego State kid, by the way.

Surprisingly they go for 2 points and the win but it doesn’t work. Wyoming wins. Aztecs were the favorite; no clue why they went for two points; the replay review was pretty long, but they did and they lost. It has been a great year for Wyoming, though.

11) Oregon 30, Utah 28— Ducks scored with 0:02 left on a 17-yard pass play; they’re 4-7 and trailed this game 14-3. Bad loss for 8-3 Utah (are there good losses?)

10) Tennessee 63, Missouri 37— Mizzou ran 110 plays for 743 yards, had 42 first downs (42!!!) and lost by 26.

9) Georgia Tech 31, Virginia 17— Tech had only 8 first downs, ran only 41 plays, but three of them were TD’s of 67-54-60 yards, then they added a defensive TD with 4:03 that covered the spread, so if you wagered on Virginia today, this is a bad beat.

8) Virginia Tech 34, Notre Dame 31— Irish led 24-7 but now they are 4-7 and not going to a bowl. I grew up as a USC fan in a houseful of Notre Dame fans; if this game had been played when I was a little kid, undoubtedly I would’ve been grounded within 10 minutes of the game ending.

7) Oklahoma State 31, TCU 6— Horned Frogs have only eight seniors on scholarship. The scholarship limit is 85, but because so many kids red-shirt, thats divided by five classes, so 17 kids a year would be average. In other words, TCU should be a whole lot better next year than this year (they’re 5-5).

6) Kansas 24, Texas 21— Time for Charlie Strong to…..take a hike. Losing to the Jayhawks is no bueno; Kansas hardly had enough students in the stands to rush the field. Texas is 4-7 and will be hiring a new coach (Tom Herman?) fairly soon.

Iowa State 66, Texas Tech 10— If you coach a team that trails Iowa State 45-3 at halftime, your job is in jeopardy, especially if your team is 4-7. Lot of schools in Texas are going to be looking for new coaches in a few weeks.

5) Alabama 31, Chattanooga 3– At the risk of sounding like Nancy Kerrigan, why are the Crimson Tide playing a I-AA team?

Why? Why? Why? Play a Sun Belt team, play a MAC team, play freakin’ Rutgers, there are plenty of stiffs out there.

4) Florida 16, LSU 10— Gators stopped LSU at the 1-yard line on the last play to preserve the win. Tigers’ RB Leonard Fournette was supposedly hurt, but after he got into a verbal dispute with a Florida coach before the game, he asked to suit up and he did, running ball 12 times for 40 yards.

Fournette is a great talent but he misses a lot of games. If I was an NFL team, I’d be hesitant to spend a high draft pick on him.

3) I have lived in upstate NY my whole life; I despise snow, even on TV. Watching it snow in Michigan, West Virginia  today made me put a sweatshirt on in my house. Terrible stuff, snow. Very cold.

I’m wondering if there were kids playing for Oklahoma (or freshmen on West Virginia who might be from Florida) who have never seen snow before, or at least never played in it.

2) Old Dominion 42, Florida Atlantic 24- Monarchs are 8-3 and heading to their first bowl game; they were 7-17 in their first two years in I-A football. Good for them; it ain’t easy to build up a football program— takes lot of bodies, a lot of work.

1— I’m writing this tonight with a heavy heart; my friend Joe passed away this week, way too young at age 53. I found out today; I knew he was ill, but didn’t know how serious it was.

A good guy, a regular guy despite being a boss at work, Joe and I met a year before my retirement and bonded over our mutual love of sports. I’d duck into his office and we’d talk/laugh a little bit each day.

A good ballplayer and a basketball ref, Joe was respected by all; a big man with a big heart. He will be missed. RIP, my friend.

Saturday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but…….

13) Winning helps and losing doesn’t: Jerry Jones said this week that the Cowboys have already sold 1.5M+ jerseys this year, ten times more than they had $old at thi$ time laSt year. Do the math on that one.

12) Last week, Pitt, USC and Iowa all won as underdogs of 22-9-24 points; out in Las Vegas, a guy put $2 on a money-line parlay of those three teams and collected $792 for this troubles. Thats a 396-1 shot.

11) Justin Verlander was left off of two Cy Young ballots, both by writers in Tampa Bay area; his girlfriend is actress Kate Upton, who let her feelings be known on Twitter (she wasn’t happy).

Verlander was 16-9, 3.04 LY and pitched well (2 runs in 7 IP) in his one start against the Rays LY. No idea why those two writers left him off their ballot- it makes no sense.

10) There are 351 Division I college basketball teams, only so many players to go around, so teams get creative in recruiting: Eastern Washington has five players from Australia; Davidson has players from seven different countries.

9) Rams’ punter Johnny Hekker is first NFL punter since 1984 (Luke Prestridge) to have punts of 75+ yards in consecutive games.

8) Maryland’s football team was outscored 121-6 in its last two games.

7) Clemson got a technical foul during its game with Davidson on Thursday; one of their players wears #00, but it was put in the scorebook as #0, which isn’t the same.

6) Central Michigan has a QB named Cooper Rush who is being touted as an NFL prospect, in a year where the NFL Draft might be a little light on QB prospects.

5) Ravens’ kicker Justin Tucker is also an opera singer and a pretty good one. He sang at a Christmas concert in Baltimore last December and got a standing ovation.

4) Last year, Georgetown played at Maryland and the Terps shot 20 more FTs than the Hoyas. This year, the Terps won by a point at Georgetown, but the Hoyas took 20 more FT’s than Maryland. Funny how that works.

3) Georgetown also lost Thursday as a 23-point home favorite to Arkansas State; Hoyas dropped in rankings from #30 to #46. ASU jumped from #274 to #235.

2) Was reading thru UTEP’s basketball preview for this year; coach Tim Floyd says that El Paso is the biggest city in America without a major league sports team.

1) Our thoughts/prayers go out to Chiefs’ long-snapper James Winchester; his dad was the airport employee murdered earlier this week in Oklahoma City. RIP, sir.

Friday’s List of 13: What I’m looking for this weekend

13) Jared Goff makes his NFL debut against Miami Sunday; Dolphins won/covered their last four games, so this’ll be an interesting challenge for the #1 pick in the draft.

If I’m calling plays, we let him chuck one deep on first play, just to send a message to defensive coordinators- the kid has a gun.

12) Big weekend in LA, with USC-UCLA in Rose Bowl Saturday; last nine of these rivalry games were decided by 10+ points. Bruins won three of last four meetings, but USC is the hot team right now.

11) Green Bay is in free fall, losing last three games while allowing 111 points- they were down 35-10 in 2nd quarter in Nashville LW. Redskins are 5-1-1 in last seven games after an 0-2 start- interesting Sunday night game.

10) Xavier-Clemson is an excellent college hoop game at 1:30 today from down in Orlando. This was supposed to be the Puerto Rico tournament but was moved to the Disney Wide World of Sports, due to concerns about the Zika virus.

Other semi-final in Orlando is Northern Iowa-Oklahoma.

9) Stanford beat California the last six years; Golden Bears’ defense has apparently gone on strike- they’ve been terrible last three weeks, but this is a bitter rivalry.

8) Detroit Lions are a 7-point favorite over Jacksonville; all nine Lions games have been decided by 7 or less points. Detroit has trailed in 4th quarter of every game.

7) As payment for being allowed to play ACC basketball, Notre Dame has to play so many ACC teams in football every year. This week is their first meeting with Virginia Tech; should be a fun game.

6) In its last three games, Tennessee averaged 12.2/7.3/9.8 yards/pass attempt- they’ve averaged 32 pts/game in their last six games, but Titans are 4-23 against the Colts, losing last eight visits here.

5) Underdogs won all three Duke-Pittsburgh games SU and two of them were wild shootouts (51-48/55-52). Panthers pulled a huge upset at Clemson last week; now they’re favored to win.

4) Minnesota is 5-4 after starting season 5-0; now Cardinals come limping into the Twin Cities at 4-4-1, in a pivotal game for both sides. That first round pick the Vikings dealt for San Bradford is beginning to look like it might’ve been too much.

3) West Virginia is a home underdog despite having only one loss this season; Oklahoma’s defense isn’t so good, but Sooners have won seven games in row, with only three of those at home.

2) Washington State-Colorado is the under-the-radar game of the week; both teams are vastly improved the last couple of years— this could be a preview of the Pac-12 title game.

1) Oakland-Houston play in Mexico City Monday night, where I’m guessing the locals weren’t too excited about our elections last week. Wonder if the 7-2 Raiders are regretting giving up a home game, now that they’re contenders?

Thursday’s List of 13: NFL’s top 9, bottom 4 teams……

32) Browns— Hurting Steelers come to Lake Erie this week needing a win. Chances are they will get it. Cleveland was outscored 60-8 in second half of its last three games.

31) 49ers— They’ve lost eight games in a row (1-7 vs spread); now Tom Brady is coming back near his hometown this week, so very little shot that New England will let down. Not good.

30) Jaguars— Offensive coordinator they fired few weeks ago is rumored to be candidate to be the new coach at Purdue. Jacksonville is -12 in turnovers the last five games.

29) Bears— Read few different national writers Monday speculating that Jay Cutler’s days in the Windy City may be numbered. Usually when there is speculation, someone has tipped off the person doing the speculating.

9) Dolphins— Won/covered last four games, picked Rivers off four times, just in 4th quarter last Sunday. Interesting game in the Coliseum this week, against the Rams in Jared Goff’s NFL debut.

8) Giants— Six wins by total of 21 points; they’re finding ways to win close games, just like they found ways to lose close games the last three years.

7) Chiefs— They’re 18-3 in their last 21 games, but they’ve also scored only one offensive TD in their last two games.

6) Broncos— 3-3 in last six games after a 4-0 start; if the defense doesn’t force turnovers, they are going to struggle.

5) Falcons— Bye week comes after their worst offensive game of the year. At 6-3, Atlanta is in good shape to return to the playoffs for first time in four years.

4) Seahawks— Wilson looked more nimble in Foxboro last week; if he is mobile, then Seahawks are very good.

3) Raiders— Haven’t been in the playoffs since 2002, when they lost the Super Bowl to the Bucs, but right now, they’re as good as anyone.

2) Patriots— Still think they’re the best team, but if Gronkowski is out for any length of time, then no.

1) Cowboys— Not often an NFL QB holds a news conference to say his former backup deserves to be the starter. Thats how well Dak Prescott is playing this season- he might be the MVP if the season ended today.

Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings…….

13) Jared Goff gets his long-awaited first start for the Rams this week against the Dolphins. LA scored one TD on its last 32 drives, so the bar has been set low for improvement over his predecessor.

12) 30 years ago today was November 16, 1986, Jim Everett’s debut with the Rams. He didn’t start, but rallied the Rams back from down 13-0 to lead New England 28-16, but the day didn’t have a happy ending. Patriots scored on a Hail Mary on the last play of the game to win 30-28.

I hope this Sunday has a happier ending.

11) Trivia: Steve Dils started that ’86 game at QB for the Rams, one of only nine games he started for LA.

10) ESPN’s college basketball marathon was last couple nights; very difficult to keep a normal sleep schedule this week. The best games were oddly enough, the 4:15am/6:30am games, from Hawai’i and Hartford.

Long time ago, maybe 25 years ago, friend of mine and I used to joke that “….if ESPN wanted teams to play at 3am, they would”, then it turned out to be true, for at least one night a year.

9) Northeastern 64, UConn 61— Huskies are 0-2 for first time since 1968.

8) New Hampshire 57, Temple 52— Owls lost two players to injuries during the summer, are down this year, but losing to New Hampshire is especially ominous.

7) Gonzaga 69, San Diego State 48— Been long time since the Aztecs got spanked like this; they’ve got lot of injuries right now, and maybe Gonzaga is really good, but this was a bad game.

6) Underdogs were 9-3 vs spread in NFL Sunday, making it a very good day for Las Vegas sportsbooks. Public bets favorites and with eight underdogs winning SU, they had a rough day Sunday.

5) Seattle-New England game on NBC Sunday night was highest-rated Week 10 game since 1998.

4) Giants’ six wins are by a total of 21 points; they’re 3-1 this year in games decided by 3 or less points, after being 2-10 in such games from 2012-15.

3) Minnesota Vikings cut kicker Blair Walsh, who missed eight kicks this year and also a big kick in their playoff loss to the Seahawks last year. He is expected to be replaced by former Redskins’ kicker Kai Forbath.

2) Maryland 76, Georgetown 75— Epic gag job by Hoyas, who led by 5 with 0:20 left. Big win for Mark Turgeon; I saw their first game against American and they didn’t look that good. This was an intense game.

1) Bengals/Falcons are only NFL teams who’ve started the same five offensive linemen in every game this season.