Monday’s Den: Wrapping up Week 17 of the NFL

Buffalo 56, Miami 26
— Dolphins get hammered here, don’t make the playoffs.
— Total yardage: 455-454, Buffalo
— Miami lost its last five games against the Bills.
— In two games vs Miami this year, Buffalo threw for 790 yards.

— Bills’ first three drives: 15 plays, 37 yards, zero points:
— Bills’ next nine drives: 43 plays, 420 yards, six TD’s.
— Buffalo won nine of its last ten games, covered last eight.
— Bills host Indianapolis in playoffs Saturday afternoon.

Indianapolis 28, Jacksonville 14
— Colts win, pass Miami and make the playoffs.
— Indy ran ball for 273 yards, outgained Jaguars 437-283.
— Colts are 9-0 when they score 27+ points. 2-5 when they do not.
— Colts visit Buffalo Saturday afternoon in the first Wild Card game.

— In two games vs Indy this year, Jaguars were outgained 882-524.
— Jacksonville lost its last 15 games, going 5-9 ATS in last 14.
— Jacksonville gave up 35 ppg in their last four games.
— Jaguars can start negotiating with Trevor Lawrence’s agent.

Green Bay 35, Chicago 16
— Packers’ win gets them the #1 seed, and a bye next week.
— Green Bay won six in row, eight of last nine games.
— Packers scored five touchdowns on seven drives.
— Green Bay won 19 of its last 22 games with the Bears.

— Chicago made the playoffs when the Cardinals lost in LA.
— In two games vs Green Bay TY, Bears allowed 10 TD’s on 14 drives.
— In five trips to red zone, Chicago scored one TD, kicked three FG’s.
— Bears visit New Orleans for a Wild Card game Sunday.

Cleveland 24, Pittsburgh 22
— Browns win, make playoffs for first time since 2002.
— These two teams meet again Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
— Cleveland won six of its last eight games.
— Browns are 3-13-1 in last 17 games vs Pittsburgh.

— Steelers scored TD with 1:23 left, but 2-point conversion failed.
— Backup QB Rudolph threw for 315 yards in a losing cause.
— Last four games, Pittsburgh was outscored 57-20 in first half.
— Steelers lost four of last five games, thought this result didn’t matter.

Tennessee 41, Houston 38
— Sloman banked in 37-yard FG off right upright for game-winning points at gun.
— Henry carried ball 34 times for 250 yards, went over 2,000 yards for season.
— Tennessee converted 7 of 10 third down plays.
— Titans are a home underdog to Baltimore in Sunday’s early game.

— Tennessee scored 22 TD’s on their last 51 drives.
— Houston tied game on a 51-yard FG with 0:18 left.
— Texans lost last five games, giving up 32.4 ppg. 
— Tennessee ran ball for 571 yards in two games vs Houston this year.

New Orleans 33, Carolina 7
— Saints picked off five passes, three in red zone.
— New Orleans ran for 156 yards, despite most of their RB’s missing game.
  Saints won eight of last nine series games
— In two games vs Carolina TY, New Orleans converted 18-28 third down plays.

— Carolina lost four of last five, nine of its last 11 games.
— Last three weeks, Panthers were outscored 30-0 in second half.
— Carolina was 0-11 when they allowed 23+ points, 5-0 if allowing 21 or fewer.
— Panthers covered two of eight home games this season.

New England 28, NJ Jets 14
— Jets fired coach Adam Gase Sunday night.
— Jets lost their last ten games with New England.
— Jets went 2-6 ATS on the road this season.
— Jets were outscored 148-84 in 2nd half of their last 11 games.

— Game was 14-14: Patriots scored TD’s 2:14 apart early in 4th quarter.
— In two wins against Jets this year, Patriots ran ball for 159-166 yards.
— Only one of New England’s four TD drives was longer than 58 yards.
— Jets lost their last ten visits to Foxboro, last five by 14+ points.

Minnesota 37, Detroit 35
— Vikings went 0-6 ATS in their last six games.
— This was only second time all year Minnesota won field position.
— Cousins threw for 405 yards, three TD’s.
— Vikings won last seven series games, winning last four visits here.

— Detroit scored TD with 4:26 left, but tying 2-point play failed.
— Lions allowed 27+ points in nine of their last ten games.
— Detroit lost four in row, eight of last ten games.
— Last three weeks, Lions were minus-7 in turnovers

Tampa Bay 44, Atlanta 27
Falcons lost their last five games, only one by more than 5 points.
— Last four games, Atlanta was outscored 72-27 in second half.
— Falcons lost field position in this game, by 15 yards.
— Average total in last ten series games, 59.0

— Buccaneers won their last four games, scoring 37 ppg.
— Last six games, Bucs converted 39-81 third down plays.
— Tampa Bay is 11-0 when it scores 25+ points, 0-5 when it does not.
— Buccaneers visit Washington in Wild Card game Saturday night.

Baltimore 38, Cincinnati 3
— Ravens ran ball for 404 yards in this game; not sure I’ve seen that before.
— At one point in this game, total yardage was 255-7.
— Ravens’ first seven drives: 58 plays, 440 yards, five TD’s and a FG.
— Ravens are a 3.5-point favorite at Tennessee Sunday.

— Bengals’ first three drives: nine plays, minus-3 yards, three punts.
— Cincinnati completed only 6-21 passes, threw two INT’s.
— 3rd down conversions: Ravens 11-17, Bengals 1-9
— Last eight games. Cincinnati was outscored 121-47 in 2nd half.

LA Chargers 38, Kansas City 21
— Chargers won their last four games, after a 3-9 start. 
— Bolts scored five touchdowns on eight drives.
— Chargers won field position by 11 yards.
— This was only Chargers’s 2nd win in last 14 games against KC.

— Chiefs scored TD’s on first two drives; ran 30 plays for 143 yards rest of game.
— Kansas City already had top seed clinched, Mahomes didn’t play.
— In two games vs Chargers TY, KC trailed 14-6/24-14 at the half.
— Last time Chiefs covered was November 1st against the Jets. 

Seattle 26, San Francisco 23
— Seattle’s first seven drives: 39 plays, 120 yards, two FG’s.
— Seattle’s last three drives: 25 plays, 177 yards, three TD’s.
— Seattle won 13 of last 15 games against the 49ers.
— Seahawks host the Rams in a Wild Card game Saturday.

— 49ers’ first four drives: 15 plays, 24 yards, four punts.
— With 12:00 left in this game, SF led 16-6.
— 49ers lost seven of their last nine games SU.
— SF is 6-17 SU in last 23 games Garoppolo didn’t play

Las Vegas 32, Denver 31
— Trailing 31-24, Raiders scored TD with 0:24 left, went for 2 and got it.
— Las Vegas was minus-5 in turnovers, had 14 penalties for 111 yards but still won.
— Raiders turned ball over 16 times in last six games (-12)
— Last seven games, Raiders gave up 20.1 ppg, just in second half.

— Lock threw a 92-yard TD pass to Jeudy, passed for 339 yards.
— Denver lost eight of its last ten games.
— Broncos gave up 37 ppg in their last three home games.
— Raiders won four of their last five games with Denver.

Rams 18, Arizona 7
— Arizona’s only TD came on a 14-yard drive after an INT.
— Murray sprained ankle on first drive, didn’t return until 14:25 left in game.
— Cardinals covered twice in their last nine games.
— Last three games, Redbirds converted 9-35 third down plays.

— Hill had an 84-yard pick-6 with 0:20 left in first half that put LA ahead.
— Wolford threw for 231 yards, ran for 56 more in his NFL debut.
— Rams won last eight series games, seven of them by 10+ points.
— Rams visit Seattle Saturday for a Wild Card game.

Washington 20, Philadelphia 14
— Last seven weeks, Washington allowed 15.9 ppg.
— Washington outscored last 11 opponents 155-44 in second half.
— Washington won five of its last seven games. (5-2 ATS) overall.
— Washington hosts Tampa Bay in a playoff game Saturday night.

— Trailing 17-14 in 3rd quarter, Eagles passed up easy FG to tie game, went for it on 4th down, and never came close to scoring again.
— Philly replaces QB Hurts with 3rd-stringer Sudfeld after that; it didn’t go well.
— Eagles lost seven of their last eight games overall.
— Last four games, Eagles were outscored 48-13 in second half.

NY Giants 23, Dallas 19
— Loss ends Cowboys’ 7-game win streak against the Giants.
— Dallas had four red zone drives, scored only 13 points.
— Cowboys had 12 takeaways in their last four games (+10)
— Dallas is 4-7 ATS in last 11 games as a road favorite.

— Giants won despite converting 0-7 third down plays.
— Giants had six sacks, held Dallas to 3.8 yards/pass attempt.
— Giants were 4-2 SU, 5-1 ATS inside their division.
— Under was 9-1-1 in Giants’ last eleven games.

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) Kentucky 78, Mississippi State 73 2OT:
— Kid named Dontaie Allen scored 23 points off the bench for Kentucky, as they broke a 6-game losing skid.
— Thing is, in Kentucky’s first seven games, Allen had played a TOTAL of 19:00, scored 7 points. Good things happen to people who work hard and don’t complain. 

12) Must’ve been a bad day for SEC refs; John Calipari, Eric Musselman both got tossed out of their games. Either that, or refs can just hear better in the mostly-empty gyms.

There were 73 free throws almost evenly divided in the Arkansas game; lot of whistles. 

11) What does it say about a mid-major program when its head coach quits to become an assistant at a bigger school? When Musselman got tossed out of the Arkansas game, associate coach David Patrick took the reins.

Patrick had been head coach at Cal-Riverside; they had their first winning season in 11 years LY, but Patrick bolted to become an SEC assistant. Couple years ago, Doc Sadler quit at Southern Miss to be an assistant for Fred Hoiberg at Nebraska.

Maybe being a mid-major head coach ain’t all it is cracked up to be. 

10) Marquette 64, Georgetown 60:
— Hoyas led this game 52-37 with 9:55 left to play.
— This is Patrick Ewing’s fourth year as Georgetown’s coach; he is now 20-42 in Big East games. 

9) Colorado State 70, San Diego State 67— Aztecs led this game 33-7 with 8:57 left before halftime. Biggest comeback win in Mountain West history. Rams are 6-1, 3-0 in conference.

8) Oklahoma 75, West Virginia 71— Sooners were up 38-20 at halftime; Mountaineers tied game in second half- they made 14-24 3-pointers, but shot only 27.8% inside the arc. 

7) There were lot of upsets Saturday:
— Morehead State (+13.5) 61, Murray State 56
— Oakland (+11) 81, Wright State 71
— Alabama (+10) 71, Tennessee 63
— Colorado State (+9) 70, San Diego State 67
— Oklahoma State (+8) 82, Texas Tech 77 OT
— Northern Colorado (+8) 64, Montana 62
— Wichita State (+7.5) 83, Ole Miss 79

6) Boise State 87, San Jose State 86:
— Thursday night, Boise hammered the Spartans 106-54, dropping San Jose to 1-5, but San Jose junior Jalen Dalcourt made his debut Saturday. Dalcourt scored 23 points in 24:00 off the bench, as this game went right down to the wire.  It’ll probably be last time he doesn’t start. 

5) Iowa 77, Rutgers 75:
— Rutgers will make the NCAAs this year for first time since 1991, but they better improve their free throw shooting if they want to advance. Scarlet Knights were 4-12 on the line in this game. 

4) There is a freshman on Mississippi State who is 1-11 on the foul line this season; I’m 61 years old, have been holed up in my house here for the last ten months, but I’m pretty sure I could go to a playground today and, after a little warmup, make half my foul shots, and I’d be annoyed if I only made half of them.

If you go to college on a basketball scholarship, 1-11 ain’t getting it done. 

3) Texas Longhorns fired football coach Tom Herman replaced him with Steve Sarkisian; Herman was 32-18 at Texas, 22-13 in Big X games, 4-0 in bowls, but it wasn’t enough. School ate $21M to terminate his contract.

Sarkisian knows Nick Saban and all, but he also went 46-35 as head coach at Washington/USC, 31-26 in conference games. No way is this an upgrade, it is change for the sake of change. 

2) Dallas Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Kellen Moore turned down Boise State’s offer to become its new football coach; he’ll be staying with Dallas. Moore played QB at Boise State not that long ago; where do they turn now? 

1) Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is the scapegoat for the Eagles’ bad year; he is “taking next year off” while head coach Doug Pederson appears to be keeping his job. Always has to be someone’s fault. Eagles won the Super Bowl three years ago; people have a short memory. 

Saturday’s Den: Wrapping up the first day of 2021

13) Ohio State 49, Clemson 28
— Buckeyes racked up 639 yards, led 35-14 at halftime.
— Fields threw for 385 yards, six touchdowns.
— Buckeyes will play Alabama for the national title. 

12) Alabama 31, Notre Dame 14:
— Game was 14-0 after 11:00, wasn’t very interesting.
— Harris ran for 125 yards, Smith caught seven balls for 135 yards.
— Alabama averaged 9.9 yards/pass attempt. 

11) Georgia 24, Cincinnati 21:
— Horrendous, awful time management by Cincinnati in last 2:00, when they were supposed to be trying to run out the clock.
— Dawgs kicked GW 53-yard FG with 0:03 left, then got a safety on last play.
— Georgia threw for 404 yards, outgained Cincy 449-305. 

10) Northwestern 35, Auburn 19:
— Wildcats ran for 166 yards, outgained Auburn 457-361.
— Northwestern converted 7-17 on third down, Auburn 2-13.
— Auburn has now lost four of its last five bowl games. 

9) Dallas 93, Miami 83— Luka Doncic had 27 points, 15 rebounds, as Mavericks won for only second time in five games. 

8) Atlanta 114, Brooklyn 96— 4-1 Hawks appear to be a much improved team; they haven’t made the playoffs since 2017, went 73-158 the last three years. 

7) Washington 130, Minnesota 109— Wizards win for first time in six tries; Russell Westbrook didn’t play. Go figure. 

6) Western Kentucky 67, Charlotte 63— Hilltoppers were down 8 at halftime, they rallied and won for sixth consecutive time. Only two Hilltoppers shot a foul shot in this game, which is very unusual. 

5) Cleveland State 65, IUPUI 62— Vikings are 5-0 in Horizon; previous five years, Cleveland State went 27-53 in conference games. 

4) Marist 63, Niagara 61— Red Foxes are 6-1; their last winning season was 2008, when they went 18-14 under Matt Brady. 

3) Mike Krzyzewski won’t coach Duke in their game at Florida State Saturday, due to contact tracing. Jon Scheyer will be the acting head coach. Krzyzewski will be 74 next month; he can’t be messing around with COVID.

Update: Duke-Florida State game was postponed. 

2) New Mexico’s basketball team is playing “home” games at Lubbock Christian University in Texas this season; Lobos have a very young team (#246 experience, #300 continuity), not having their own gym to practice in isn’t an ideal situation.

New Mexico scored 53 ppg in losing its first three Mountain West games. 

1) Long time ago, 1955, there was a Caribbean baseball team called the Santurce Cangrejeros who had a pretty good outfield— Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and a guy named Bob Thurman, who played four years with the Cincinnati Reds. I’m guessing not a lot of teams in the Caribbean League had two Hall of Famers. 

Friday’s List of 13: Our first Den of 2021…….

13) I’m sick and tired of people ripping Jared Goff; seriously, I’m sick of it. Guy played with a broken thumb for a quarter and a half last week, but people still rip the guy. He’s a damn good quarterback. 

Last four years, Goff is 44-22 as the Rams’ QB; he helped them win the NFC title couple years ago. Super Bowl didn’t go too well, but Dan Marino lost his only Super Bowl and no one complains about him. Dan Fouts never played in a Super Bowl; he was pretty good.

12) There is a Brooklyn wiseass named Sal Iacono who passes himself off as a sports expert on TV, but he only got on TV because he is Jimmy Kimmel’s cousin. Iacono posts Rams +3 on Twitter Thursday, for this reason:

“I went on Wikipedia to look up this John Wolford to seek out reasons to bet the Rams and it said he’s not Jared Goff, that’s good enough for me.” He goes on to shred Kyler Murray; he doesn’t like Murray’s body language.

Thats what passes for “expert analysis” these days. What a jackass. 

11) Bad news for a Dolphins team trying to make the playoffs for first time since 2016, third time since 2002; QB Ryan Fitzpatrick tested positive for COVID, is out for Sunday’s game in Buffalo.
Jake Rudock was signed to back up Tua Tagovailoa this week; Rudock’s NFL experience consists of five passes he threw for Detroit three years ago.

10) Green Bay Packers star LT David Bakhtiari tore his ACL in practice Thursday, is done for the year. Bad news for Green Bay’s offensive line. 

9) College football head coaches who didn’t play college football:
— Mike Leach, Mississippi State
— David Cutcliffe, Duke
— Hugh Freeze, Liberty
— Sonny Dykes, SMU
— Manny Diaz, Miami
— Ryan Silverfield, Memphis
— Jedd Fisch, Arizona

8) Louis Hedley is the punter for the Miami Hurricanes; he is a 26-year old Australian who wears number 94, because one of his heroes used to wear #94 for Miami- Dwayne Johnson, better known as pro wrestler/actor The Rock.

Miami QB D’Eriq King tore his ACL in the Hurricanes’ bowl game. 

7) I’m glad the Big 14 Network shows a lot of basketball games, but their announcers are really annoying; we know every team in the league is great, every game is competitive, every player is incredibly skilled and a great student. Just announce the games, please????

Big 14 is the best league this year, it was the best last year, but before that, last time it was the best league was 2013. So says kenpom.com, the authority on such things.

Someone should tell these geniuses that the last Big 14 team to win the basketball national title was Michigan State, in 2000. Thats 21 years ago. 

6) Bulls 133, Wizards 130: Washington is now 0-5, but Russell Westbrook becomes 2nd player ever (Oscar Robertson is other) to start a season with four triple-doubles in his first four games.

5) It is January 1st, and Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Michigan State are a combined 15-15, 1-5 in conference games. 

4) There must be a lot of money in selling pillows; lot of late-night commercials for pillows, either the guy who looks like Rollie Fingers, or the pillows that look like pool floats. 

3) Nets 145, Hawks 141: If you’re in an NBA fantasy league, you might want to acquire some Nets or Hawks; they both play very fast tempos. Hawks scored 128.8 ppg in their first four games this season. Brooklyn scored 121.6 ppg in their first five games. 

2) In November, 56.5% of all the money wagered on sports in Nevada was wager on mobile apps; the number is way higher in New Jersey. Will be interesting to see if New York ever allows mobile sports betting.

1) UCLA 72, Utah 70— Bruins improve to 6-2, 2-0 in conference play. 

Thursday’s Den: Our last den of 2020……

13) We’ll start today with a pet peeve of mine; don’t mean to end 2020 with a complaint, but I’m going to. Too many people mistake kindness for weakness; just because I’m nice to you doesn’t mean you can label me as a sucker. It happens way too often. 

12) I read Monday where 90% of Americans live within ten miles of a Wal-Mart; surprised the hell out of me, but it seems to be true. 

11) Clemson Tigers covered 10 of their last 12 bowls; they were an underdog in 10 of those 12 games. Quite a juggernaut Dabo Swinney has built; ironically, he is an Alabama graduate. 

10) Ben Roethlisberger will sit out this week’s game in Cleveland; Mason Rudolph will play in his place. Will be interesting to see what teams do, if they’re already in the playoffs. Steelers are already in the playoffs; they’re letting some regulars rest up. 

9) Odd stat of the day: Last nine times someone on the Knicks had a triple/double, it was nine different guys. Julius Randle had one Tuesday in the Knicks’ win at Cleveland. 

8) Michigan State is off to an 0-3 conference start, first time since 2002 that they lost their first three Big 14 games. Spartans did make the MCAA’s back in 2002. 

7) 13 of Louisville’s 16 basketball players are freshmen/sophomores, which helps explain why the Cardinals have been struggling. This is a particularly bad year to have such a young team. 

6) Arizona Wildcats self-imposed a one-year postseason ban on themselves, hoping to soften the blow that will eventually come down from the NCAA. Auburn did the same thing earlier this fall; we’ll see if LSU/Kansas follow suit, since they’re both headed towards probation. 

5) Toronto Raptors are playing home games in Tampa this season; they’re off to an 0-3 start, first time since 2006 they lost their first three games. 

4) Conference USA teams went 0-6 in bowl games this season; no bueno. 

3) NBA injuries:
— Kevin Love (Cavaliers) is out 3-4 weeks (calf)
— Ja Morant (Grizzlies) is out 3-5 weeks (ankle)

2) Phil Niekro started 716 games in his 24-year major league career; the knuckleballer was difficult to catch, since knuckleballs float around a lot. These two catchers caught the most Niekro starts:

— Bruce Benedict caught 145 of the games; he later became an SEC basketball ref.
— Biff Pocoroba (a 1978 All-Star) caught 92; he was also one of my boyhood heroes, since we have the same first name. Sadly, Biff Pocoroba passed away last May. 

1) 2020 has been a tough year for all of us; glad it is ending. Hopefully 2021 will be the start of our recovery as a country, and that all of us can be healthy going forward. Some suggestions:

— Lets be nicer to each other. Every day.
— We should be more tolerant of people who disagree with us
— If it isn’t fatal, its no big deal.

Happy New Year, everyone. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……

13) Buffalo Bills’ QB Josh Allen is having a great season, which makes college football recruiting gurus look even dumber. Recruiting/drafting are fascinating, because no one KNOWS. They THINK they know, but no one knows for sure.

When Allen was coming out of Reedley College, a JC in California, he got two scholarship offers; Eastern Michigan and Wyoming. Now he’s an All-Pro quarterback; go figure. 

12) Washington told QB Dwayne Haskins to take a hike Monday, then he went unclaimed on the waiver wire. SOMEONE will take a chance on him; he was a first-round draft pick last year, so someone will take a shot at developing him as a QB of the future. Good luck there. 

— It is an underreported thing how many totally obscure guys are backup QBs in the NFL:

11) John Wolford is making his NFL debut when he starts for the Rams Sunday; he started for four years at Wake Forest, starting as a true freshman, which ain’t easy. He went 15-11 the last two years at a school that isn’t a football factory. Not a lot of QB’s are 4-year college starters.

Wolford also played for the Arizona Hotshots in the AAF in the spring of 2018; he was leading the AAF in touchdown passes when the league shut down. Rick Neuheisel was his coach, an old QB himself. Wolford is mobile; will be fascinating to see how he does Sunday. 

10) Rams have other issues; two of their three running backs have ankle injuries, WR Cooper Kupp is on the COVID list (status unknown). LA signed QB Blake Bortles to back up Wolford. 

9) Social media is funny; people are so damn fickle; everyone is either great or needs to be cut, no middle ground. The typical fan is like “We’re with you win or tie and we aren’t crazy about ties”

But when I woke up Tuesday morning, and I’m scrolling thru Instagram, someone had posted  these film packages on Wolford playing in the AAF— I probably saw 30-40 of his plays, which was interesting. 

8) Arizona Cardinals’ backup QB is Chris Streveler, who helped the Winnipeg Blue Bombers win the Grey Cup before coming to Arizona; he played college ball at Minnesota for two years, where he threw 11 passes, ran ball 40 times, before he transferred to I-AA South Dakota. Reading about him, he seems like the Taysom Hill of Canada; he played some WR for Winnipeg. 

7) Tennessee Titans’ backup QB is Logan Woodside, who was a 3-year starter at Toledo; he’s thrown three passes this season, landing with Tennessee after hanging around with the Bengals for a while in 2018. 

6) Seattle’s backup is Geno Smith, who went 12-19 as a starter in New Jersey. Smith had a great college career at West Virginia, where his WR’s were Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, both of whom wound up with the Rams (Austin is with Green Bay now). 

5) I’m going to do a whole thing pretty soon on how Ohio State quarterbacks have fared in the NFL; the results, up to now, have not been good. Justin Fields could turn the whole thing around, but so far, the best Buckeye to play QB in the NFL seems to be Joe Burrow, who transferred out of Columbus and starred at LSU. 

4) NFL stuff:
— Washington outscored its last ten opponents in 2nd half (total 152-44)
— Last three weeks, Buffalo outscored opponents 58-14 in second half.
— Last three weeks, New England was outscored 43-6 in second half.

3) Until couple days ago, I had no idea that Ron Reiner was the director of A Few Good Men, which is a great movie. I usually associate the Reiner family with comedies, but that movie is no comedy. The courtroom scene at the end with Jack Nicholson is a classic.

2) Oklahoma State 37, Miami 34:
— OSU stormed out to a 21-0 lead, had to hang on for dear life.
— WR Presley caught six passes for 118 yards, three TD’s for the Cowboys.
— Miami QB King (knee) got hurt in 2nd quarter, didn’t return.
— Backup QB Perry threw for 228 yards, two TD’s; Miami gained 512 yards. 

1) Alamo Bowl was in San Antonio last night; I was in San Antonio for a couple days, maybe in  2003, anyway it was a while ago, but San Antonio is a cool place. There is a river that goes right thru part of the city, and they have restaurants with patios where you can sit by the water on either side and watch boats go by while you eat.

The actual Alamo is very small; it looks like an old convenience store. People were nice enough, I enjoyed my brief time there. Should’ve gone during basketball season, I guess. 

Tuesday’s Den: Nobody asked me, but……

13) An ethical question to start off today: if you owned an NFL team (an average NFL team is worth $3B), and your team had the worst record in the league in December, would you to tell the coach to make sure the squad kept losing, to make sure you get the #1 pick in the draft?

Drafting Trevor Lawrence will sell a lot of tickets, when fans can go to games again; trading the first pick would bring a back a big haul of draft picks, which would fill a lot of holes that a bad team obviously has. 

Lot of money at stake; these conversations would have been interesting to hear. 

12) CBS analyst/former NFL QB Rich Gannon had the Bears-Jaguars game Sunday; he was very critical of the Jacksonville coaches as Chicago pulled ahead and routed the Jaguars, but it has to be a possibility that Doug Marrone was doing his job, making sure Jacksonville lost and clinched the #1 pick in the draft, which they did Sunday.

For the long-term success of the Jaguars, having that #1 pick is probably the best way for them to become good again.

11) An unnamed someone bet $500,000 on the Carolina Panthers’ money line Sunday; that person mustn’t think much of Dwayne Haskins as a quarterback. Panthers won 20-13, and the gambler had a big day, just in time, too. Washington released Haskins Monday. 

It takes a lot of onions to wager $500,000 on the Panthers to win straight up- they had lost eight of their previous nine games.

10) Haskins was Washington first round draft pick LAST YEAR, the 15th pick in the draft, and they freakin’ cut him before his second year was over, making him the only QB in the last 20 years who was drafted in the first round, then cut before his second year was over.

Four 1st round QBs in the last twenty years were traded/cut after their second year in the NFL: Paxton Lynch, Johnny Manziel, Josh Rosen and Brandon Weeden. 

9) Mike Glennon played QB for Jacksonville Sunday; he’s had a nomadic career:
2009-12: NC State, started last two years, replacing Russell Wilson
2013-16: Tampa Bay- Was 5-13 as a starter, with 30 TD’s, 15 INTs
2017: Chicago- Went 1-3 as a starter, with 4 TD’s, 5 INT’s
2018: Arizona- Threw 21 passes in two relief stints.
2019: Oakland: Threw 10 passes in two relief stints.
2020: Jacksonville: 0-4 as a starter, with 5 TD’s, 5 INT’s

6-20 as a starter, still making seven figures a year ($1.19M this year)

8) Was a little odd Sunday, watching NFL games on the dish, and CBS get doing promos for the Ball State-San Jose State bowl game, but both teams have really good years. San Jose is actually undefeated; good for them!!! 

7) Baseball stuff:
— Texas Rangers signed Japanese P Kohei Arihara.
— San Diego signed Korean IF Ha-seong Kim 

6) RIP to Phil Niekro, the knuckleballer pitcher who won 318 games in a 24-year career, mostly for the Braves. Niekro pitched until he was 48 years old; he passed away this weekend. RIP, sir. 

5) College hoop scores of note:
— Maryland 70, Wisconsin 64
— Drake 66, Indiana State 63 (Drake is 11-0)
— Evansville 84, Southern Illinois 72

4) In their 52-33 win over Minnesota Christmas Day, the Saints had 11 first downs on their first 14 plays, which is incredibly bad defense by the Vikings (and good offense by the Saints).

52 points the Saints scored are the most points the Vikings gave up since 1963, when the Cardinals drilled them 56-14.

3) Rams’ QB Jared Goff had his broken right thumb surgically repaired Monday, is out for this week’s game with Arizona. Backup QB John Wolford will get his first NFL start; he started for four years at Wake Forest, then played for the Arizona Hotshots in the AAF in 2018- they were 5-3 when the league stopped playing, and Wolford was leading the league in TD passes. 

2) Minnesota Timberwolves’ star Karl-Anthony Towns dislocated his left wrist, will be evaluated every week. Timberwolves are obviously hoping for a short absence for their star.

Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie partially tore his ACL, is out for the season.

1) Bills 38, New England 9
— Bills sweep New England for first time since 1999.
— Buffalo won eight of last eight games, covered last seven.
— Bills outscored last six opponents 128-61 in first half.
— Over is 11-4 in their games this season.

— New England lost last three games, are out of playoffs for first time since ‘08.
— Last three games, Patriots scored only one touchdown.
— Patriots converted only 9 of last 34 third down plays.
— This was Buffalo’s 7th win in last 42 series games. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Sunday

Jets 23, Browns 16
— Browns were missing their three best WR’s (contact tracing)
— Cleveland in first half: 38 plays, 113 yards, 3 points.
— Cleveland was outrushed 131-45; they threw 53 passes, ran ball only 18 times.
— Browns are in a massive tie for AFC Wild Card; one of six teams will miss out.

— Jets won their second straight game after an 0-13 start.
— Jets are 6-3 ATS in their last nine games.
— Jets are 14-9-2 ATS in last 25 games as a home dog
— Jets have a +2 turnover ratio this season.

Cincinnati 37, Texans 31
— Second straight win for Cincinnati, scoring 27-37 points.
— QB Allen threw for 371 yards; he is now 2-5 as an NFL starter.
— Bengals in 2nd half: 35 plays, 305 yards, three TD’s, two FG’s.
— Bengals trailed at halftime only twice in last ten games.

— Texans lost last four games, giving up 31.5 ppg. 
— Houston has zero takeaways in last three games (-7).
— Texans allowed 11 TD’s on opponents’ last 29 drives.
— Total yardage in game: 540-488, Cincinnati.

Steelers 28, Indianapolis 24
— Colts led 24-7 with 4:00 left in third quarter.
— Indy’s last five drives: 25 plays, 97 yards, zero points.
— Colts are 8-0 when they score 27+ points. 2-5 when they do not.
— Eight of their last 11 games went over the total.

— Pittsburgh snaps a 3-game losing streak, clinches AFC North title.
— Steelers’ last four drives: 24 plays, 232 yards, 21 points.
— Pittsburgh still ran for only 20 yards on 14 carries.
— Steelers won last seven series games, last three by total of 9 points.

Bears 41, Jacksonville 17
— Jaguars had ball in 10-10 game with 0:24 left in first half; they threw INT, Bears kicked FG, and the was the end of that.
— Chicago’s first four 2nd half drives: 30 plays, 204 yards, four TD’s.
— Bears are in playoffs if they beat Green Bay next week.
— Last five games, Chicago scored 33.0 ppg.

— Jaguars lost their last 14 games; they clinched 1st pick in 2021 draft.
— Jacksonville gave up 27+ points in 12 of their last 13 games.
— Jaguars in 2nd half: 24 plays, 84 yards, four first downs. No bueno.
— Jaguars are 8-11-2 ATS in last 21 games as a home dog. 

Baltimore 27, NY Giants 13
— Giants lost last three games, outscored 73-26. 
— Giants are 2-8 SU, 4-6 ATS outside their division.
— Last four games, Giants were outscored 51-6 in first half.  
— Despite all that, Giants win NFC East if they win and Eagles win next week.

— Baltimore won last four games, scoring 37 ppg. 
— Baltimore scored 18 TD’s on their last 37 drives.
— Ravens won field position by 18 yards in this game.
— Right now, Baltimore is odd-man out in playoff logjam.

Kansas City 17, Falcons 14
— Atlanta missed 39-yard FG with 0:09 left.
Falcons lost five of their last six games.
— Atlanta trailed in only two of last 10 games at halftime.
— Nine of their last 12 games stayed under the total.

— Chiefs won their last ten games, are 0-6-1 ATS in last seven.
— KC won its last seven games by 6 or fewer points, longest-such streak in NFL history.
— Chiefs scored game-winning TD with 1:55 left.
— Kansas City clinched #1-seed in AFC with win here.  

Panthers 20, Washington 13
— Carolina won for only second time in last ten games.
— Panthers in second half: 29 plays, 79 yards, zero points.
— Carolina is 5-0 when they allow 21 or fewer points, 0-10 when they allow 23+.
— Panthers won field position in this game by 10 yards. 

— QB Haskins was relieved by Heinicke, playing in NFL for first time in two years.
— Somehow, Washington still leads the NFC East.
— Washington outscored last seven opponents 130-37 in second half.
— Last six weeks, Washington allowed 16.2 ppg.

Seahawks 20, Rams 9
— Seattle wins AFC West fir fifth time under Pete Carroll.
— Seattle won five of its last six games overall.
— Last five games, Seahawks allowed 12.2 ppg. 
— Last seven Seattle games stayed under the total.

— Down 13-6 in 3rd quarter, Rams had 1st-and-goal on 1-yard line, did not score.
— In their six losses, Rams were outscored 96-31 in first half.
— QB Goff dislocated his right thumb in 3rd quarter, finished the game.
— Ten of LA’s last 12 games stayed under the total.

Dallas 37, Eagles 17
— Eagles lost six of last seven games; they were 1-7 SU on road.
— Philly gained 413-422-477 yards in Hurts’ first three starts at QB.
— Last four games, Philly allowed 458.5 yards/game.
— Eagles are 4-0 if they allow 21 or fewer points, 0-10-1 if they allow more than 21.

— Dallas won its last three games, scoring 30-41-37 points.
— Dalton threw for 377 yards and three TD’s.
— Cowboys have ten takeaways in those three games (+9)
— Dallas was leading at halftime in six of last eight games.

LA Chargers 19, Denver 16
— Broncos had ball in red zone four times, scored only 10 points.
— Denver lost seven of their last nine games.
— Broncos turned ball over 21 times (-13) in their last ten games.
— Denver outgained the Chargers 396-316, but the red zone killed them.

— Badgley kicked 37-yard FG with 0:37 left for the win.
— Chargers won their last three games, all in last minute.
— Bolts won five of eight games in their new home.
— Four of last five Charger games stayed under the total.  

Green Bay 40, Tennessee 14
— Tennessee was outgained 448-260 on a snowy night at Lambeau.
— Titans are still tied for first with Indy in AFC South.
— Tennessee gave up 234 rushing yards.
— Over is 10-3-1 in Titans’ last fourteen games.

— Green Bay won five in row, seven of last eight games.
— Packers scored 32.8 ppg in their last six games, 
— Green Bay has converted 85-173 third down plays (49.1%)
— Davante Adams caught 11 passes for 142 yards, three TD’s. 

2) Halftime score of the day: Mavericks 77, Clippers 27. Really. 77-27. Dallas wound up winning by 51. 

1) College hoop scores of note:
— Providence 95, DePaul 90 (2OT)
— Cal-Irvine 75, UCSB 56
— Drake 81, Indiana State 63 (Drake is 10-0)
— Southern Illinois 63, Evansville 57

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) 49ers 20, @ Arizona 12:
— Chicago now holds its own playoff fate in its hands.
— Wilson ran for 183 yards for the 49ers, who averaged 7.6 yards/rush.
— Kittle caught four passes for 92 yards in his return from injury.
— Just third win in last dozen series games for San Francisco.

— Cardinals were 5-2 before their bye, are 3-5 since the bye.
— Arizona converted 4-16 third down plays, 4-6 fourth down plays.
— Redbirds are 7-13 ATS in last 20 games as home favorites, 2-4 TY.
— Arizona trailed at halftime in 10 of its 15 games.

12) Buccaneers 47, Lions 7
— Detroit didn’t have most of its coaches; this was an embarrassment to the NFL, a totally non-competitive game.
— Plus, Detroit QB Stafford (ankle) went out in first quarter.
— Tampa Bay is in playoffs for first time since 2007.
— Detroit is 1-6-1 ATS in its last eight games.

11) Dolphins 26, Las Vegas 25:
— Fitzpatrick came off bench, was 9-13/182 passing to save their butts.
— There were five scores (22 points) in last 4:13 of this game.
— Dolphins won nine of their last 11 games.
— Dolphins covered nine of their last ten games.

— Raiders kicked FG with 0:19 left to take 25-23 lead.
— Las Vegas lost five of their last six games overall. 
— Raiders lost six of their last eight home games this year.
— Over is 12-3 in Raider games this season.

10) All three of the Cleveland Browns’ top WR’s — Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones — are out of Sunday’s game with the Jets, due to contact tracing. 

9) Louisville 62, Kentucky 59:
— Kentucky lost its last six games for first time since 1911.
— Wildcats were held to 64 or fewer points in six consecutive games, for first time since 1946. 

8) Last week, John Calipari asked freshman Cam’Ron Fletcher to “take some time away from the team” after Fletcher pouted about his lack of playing time during a loss to North Carolina.

This is what is called a euphemism, which is defined as: “amild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.”

Truth is, they suspended the kid, but didn’t want to announce that.

7) Northwestern 71, Ohio State 70:
— Wildcats are 3-0 in the Big 14 for first time since 1968.
— Northwestern already has three top 40 wins. 

6) Was looking thru some old stuff the other day: after the 1981 college football season, there were only 15 bowl games- the last ones were on January 1st. Times have changed. 

5) Liberty 37, Coastal Carolina 34 OT:
— Coastal Carolina, Liberty have only been I-A programs for a combined seven years; they met here as ranked teams with a combined 20-1 record. Things change fast these days.
— Liberty led 31-19 in 4th quarter; Coastal tied it with 3:01 left. 

4) Sunday is December 27, and the favorite in the MAAC, the Siena Saints, haven’t played a game yet. They’re supposed to play Monmouth January 3-4; we’ll see how that goes. 

Lets look at how some teams are doing as far as team over/unders; these stats are prior to the games played Friday/Saturday:
3) Buffalo/Arizona went over their team total in 10 of their first 14 games this season; Cardinals weren’t so lucky Saturday, so now they’re 10-5 to the over.

2) Texans, Patriots, Giants, Eagles have been held under their total in nine of 14 games.

1) Steelers were 7-1-1 to the over in their first nine games, but stayed under their total in their last five, losing the last three.

Likewise, Seattle went over in seven of first eight games, but was held under their total in five of their last six games.

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

13) New Orleans 52, Minnesota 33
— Vikings lost four of last six games; they’ve been eliminated.
— Minnesota is 0-6 ATS in their last six games.
— Minnesota allowed 32.2 ppg in its last six games.
— Minnesota is 9-14-1 ATS in last 24 games as a road dog. 

— New Orleans had 36 first downs, ran ball for 264 yards.
— Kamara is first player since 1929 to rush for six TD’s in a game.
— Saints are 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight games.
— New Orleans clinched NFC South title for 4th year in a row.

12) Troy Aikman was saying on TV how tackling in the NFL has gotten a lot worse, because teams don’t practice much in pads anymore, because of the collective bargaining agreement. Like any other skill, tackling takes practice. 

11) Friday was the 50th anniversary of the Miami-Kansas City playoff game that went to double OT, the longest game in NFL history. Dolphins won 27-24; there were 16 future Hall of Famers in that game.

There were a total of 149 plays in that game; 61 passes, 87 runs, one sack. The game has changed a lot over the last fifty years. 

10) Favorites covered five of the first seven college bowl games this fall; five of the seven games stayed under the total. 

9) There are four unbeaten hoop teams in the SEC:
— Arkansas is 8-0, all home games, vs schedule #296.
— Missouri is 6-0, with 4 home games, vs schedule #54
— Tennessee is 6-0, all home games, vs schedule #244.
— Georgia is is 7-0, all home games, vs schedule #282.

Tough to project which of these teams will wind up the best, but Tennessee/Missouri would appear to be the favorites there- they’ve been tested more so far. 

8) Wisconsin 85, Michigan State 76:
— Badgers start five seniors, only play eight guys. Their future is now.
— Wisconsin was 23-30 on line in this game, Spartans 14-16. 

7) Western Carolina is off to a 7-2 start in basketball; coached my Mark Prosser, son of the late Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser, the Catamounts have already won four overtime games- their last three wins have all come in OT. 

6) Purdue 73, Maryland 70:
— Terps never led in a game that was tied in last minute.
— Purdue was 10-22 on the arc; Maryland had only five turnovers. 

5) it is a pleasure to listen to NBA games with Mark Jackson/Jeff Van Gundy as analysts; it is like eavesdropping on two friends talking ball. To me, that is the ultimate compliment when you’re talking about game analysts. 

4) Nets 123, Celtics 95:
— Brooklyn won its first two games by 26-28 points.
— Steve Nash is going to think this coaching stuff is easy.

3) Golden State Warriors lost their first two games this season by 26-39 points, not a good sign that they’re any better than last year’s 15-50 disaster.

From 2013-19, Golden State averaged 62.2 wins a year. Now? Not so much.

2) Warriors have a player named Marquese Chriss; at age 23, he’s done a lot of moving:
2014-15: Pleasant Grove HS, Elk Grove, CA
2015-16: U of Washington, scored 13.7 ppg in 24.9 mpg.
2016-17: scored 9.2 ppg in all 82 games for the Phoenix Suns.
2017-18: scored 7.7 ppg in 77 games for the Suns.
2018-19: split season between Houston/Cleveland, scored 4.3 ppg in 11.6 mpg
2019-20: scored 9.3 ppg in 59 games for Golden State

At 6-foot-9, Chriss has a chance to eventually make himself a lot of money, but he needs to lock himself inside a gym and become a shooting threat. He has the ability; will he do the work?

1) Miami 111, New Orleans 98:
— Miami G Duncan Robinson scored 23 points in this game, made 7-13 3-pointers. 

— Robinson started his college career a D-III Williams, before transferring to Michigan. The odds of a D-III player making it to the NBA are very, very long. He has an interesting story.

If Duncan Robinson can make a living in the NBA, Marquese Chriss should also be able to.

Friday’s Den: Merry Christmas, everyone…….

13) NFL playoffs were expanded to 14 teams this year, so only the #1 seed in each conference gets a bye; over the last seven years, of the 14 teams to make the Super Bowl, 10 were one-seeds and four were 2-seeds. Having the bye has obviously been an advantage. 

12) Last five years, teams that had the first round by e were 12-7-1 ATS on the second weekend, which was their first playoff game that year. 

11) Over last three years, underdogs are 8-2-1 ATS on first weekend of the playoffs; one game was pick ‘em. 

10) 2012 Ravens are last Super Bowl champ that didn’t have a first round bye. 

9) Underdogs are 12-7 ATS in last 19 Super Bowls, though favorites covered the last two.

8) Baseball doings:
— Pirates traded 1B Josh Bell to Washington, for two young pitchers.
— Detroit signed free agent pitcher Jose Urena.

7) Atlanta Hawks led Chicago 83-59 at halftime Wednesday; are the Hawks that good, or are the Bulls terrible? (With Billy Donovan coaching, they won’t be bad for very long). 

6) Charlotte Hornets C Cody Zeller broke his left hand Thursday, is out 4-6 weeks. 

5) Pitt Panthers’ best player, Justin Champagnie, is out 6-8 weeks hurting his knee in practice this week. Pitt is off to 5-2 start, 1-1 in ACC games. 

4) Hawai’i 28, Houston 14:
— Rainbows picked off three passes, jumped out to a 21-0 lead.
— After Houston but the lead to 21-14, Rainbows ran a kick back for a TD, sealing the deal.
— This was Hawai’i’s first bowl on the mainland since the Sugar Bowl after the ’08 season. 

3) Wednesday’s UCLA-Oregon basketball game was postponed, not because any players or coaches had COVID, but because of COVID-19 testing protocols for the refs. 

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t scored a first quarter point in their last four games; they signed QB Drew Stanton to their practice squad, replacing the departed Josh Rosen. Stanton was with Bruce Arians in Arizona; he knows the offense.

1) Way back when, when Steve Alford was a great college player at Indiana, I was convinced that someday, he would be coach of the Hoosiers. His dad was a high school coach in Indiana, it just made sense that someday, Steve Alford would run the Hoosiers, but it hasn’t happened.

This is a goofy idea, but Indiana/Nevada should trade coaches; Indiana is 26-33 under Archie Miller in conference games, not very good. Alford has gone from Missouri State to Iowa to New Mexico to UCLA to Nevada- he’s made four Sweet 16’s, but no Elite 8’s.

Alford is 25-15 at Nevada, while totally remaking the roster after Eric Musselman left; it would be good theater if got to come home and coach Indiana.

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

13) First things first today; happy 80th birthday to Dr Anthony Fauci, the scientist who has tried to educate all of us about COVID-19. Dr Fauci has been a bastion of knowledge during these hideous times; hope he has a very happy birthday. 

12) Detroit Lions are hosting the Buccaneers Saturday, but interim coach Bevell and DC Cory Undlin are among Detroit coaches who are in isolation and unable to be at the Lions’ facility due to contact tracing after a player and coach tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday.

No one has said who will call plays for Detroit if Bevell isn’t there; Lions also fired their special teams coach Monday, so the players might be coaching themselves Saturday. 

11) College football coaching changes:
— Illinois hired former Wisconsin/Arkansas coach Bret Bielema.
— Auburn hired Boise State coach Bryan Harsin.
— UL-Monroe hired former Auburn/Akron coach Terry Bowden.
— Arizona hired Patriots’ QB coach Jedd Fisch. 

10) Harsin probably left Boise in part because the Broncos aren’t happy in the Mountain West, and may want to move on to the AAC, at least on the football side. That would mean a lot of very long road trips, and they wouldn’t be a big fish in a small pond anymore (they’d lose more!!!)

9) For six years from 2004-10, Phoenix Suns averaged 55.3 wins/year, but they lost twice in the Western Conference final, once in NBA Finals; Phoenix hasn’t been in the NBA playoffs since then, averaging 30.6 wins/year.

Watching Phoenix play in their opener with Dallas, looks like the Suns have a chance to end their drought and make the playoffs this season. 

8) Ohio State 80, Rutgers 68:
— Rutgers led this one 48-32 with 14:51 left in the game.
— Which means, over last 14:51, Buckeyes outscored Rutgers 48-20.
— Ohio State outscored Rutgers 22-10 on the foul line. 

7) Illinois 98, Penn State 81:
— Penn State led 19-4 5:01 into this game.
— Illini has split its last six games; they were 23-28 on foul, PSU 4-7.
— Both teams shot 63%+ inside the arc; lot of easy baskets.

6) Northwestern 74, Indiana 67:
— Nothing is more 2020 than the Wildcats beating Michigan St/Indiana to start league play.
— Northwestern  outscored Hoosiers 24-13 over last 8:57 of the game.
— Wildcats shot 67.7% inside the arc.

5) Celtics 122, Bucks 121:
— Antetokounmpo scored 35 points, but missed game-tying foul shot with 0:01 left.
— Milwaukee was +22 with Brook Lopez on floor (29:00), -23 with him on bench.
— Tatum/Brown combined for 63 points for Boston.

4) Cal-Bakersfield 79, Pepperdine 51:
— Waves are disappointing; they’ve already lost to three Big West teams.
— Bakersfield starts five seniors, is #2 experience team in country.
— Pepperdine star Ross scored only 10 points in 36:00. 

3) Kings 124, Nuggets 122 OT
— Buddy Hield tipped in a missed layup at the buzzer for the win.
— Three Sacramento starters scored 20+ points.
— Jokic scored 29 points, had 15 rebounds, 14 assists for Denver.

2) Creighton 66, Xavier 61:
— Bluejays won 3rd straight game, last two by 2-5 points.
— Creighton was 14-20 on foul line, Musketeers 5-7.
— First loss for Xavier after an 8-0 start.

1) Was kind of sad to see that they’re taking Jack Murphy Stadium down in San Diego; Chargers/Padres played there for decades, there was a Super Bowl there. San Diego is the 8th biggest city in the country; hard to believe there isn’t an NFL team there. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

13) Much like the 49ers did in September, Cleveland Browns are playing back/back games in the Meadowlands, playing the Jets this week after beating the Giants last week. 

12) Speaking of the 49ers, San Francisco QB Nick Mullens may need Tommy John surgery on his elbow; the 49ers added QB Josh Rosen to their roster, plucking him off Tampa Bay’s practice squad. He will back up CJ Beathard for the 49ers’ last two games.

11) Monday night was first time since 1986 the Steelers didn’t have any first downs in their first five series of a game- they had only two first downs the whole first half.

10) NBA teams have skill development coaches who work with players on improving shooting, passing, all kinds of skills; it makes a huge difference. Take Kawhi Leonard.

In two years at San Diego State, Leonard shot 20.5%/29.1% behind the arc; he shot 49.7% inside the arc in two years as an Aztec. He was the 15th pick in the 2001 pick. Go figure.

In the NBA, Leonard is a 38.3% shooter behind the arc, a longer shot than in college and he is a 53.3% shooter inside the arc. San Antonio had a shooting coach named Chip Engelland- he played for Duke- who worked wonders with Leonard and helped make him really, really rich. 

9) NC State 79, North Carolina 76:
— State beat Carolina for only 4th time in last 30 series games.
— Wolfpack led 46-29 in first half.
— State’s freshman G Moore scored 17 points off the bench. 

8) Texas Tech 69, Oklahoma 67:
— Tech’s first two Big X games (1-1) were decided by total of three points.
— Oklahoma was 17-27 on the foul line, Tech 9-10. 

7) Kansas 79, West Virginia 65:
— Jayhawks were 16-37 behind the arc; they’ve won their last eight games.

6) Iowa 70, Purdue 55:
— Hawkeyes bounce back from their Gonzaga loss with strong effort here.
— Iowa was 10-14 on foul line, Purdue 1-3. 

5) Wichita State 82, South Florida 77 OT
— Shockers win first two AAC games, by 5-4 points.
— USF jumped out to a 27-14 lead.
— Lot of whistles: Bulls were 27-41 on foul line; Wichita 22-33. 

4) Former big league OF Sam Fuld was named general manager of the Phillies; Fuld played in the majors as recently as 2015. 39 years old is young to be a major league GM, but the guy who will make the final decisions in Philly is Dave Dombrowski. 

3) College football coaches lead a nomadic existence; LSU had a lousy year, so they’re shuffling lot of their coaches. Same thing at Michigan, where they fired their defensive coordinator, who had been there five years, which is a long time for a college assistant. 

2) Nevada 38, Tulane 27:
— Nevada QB Strong threw for 271 yards, five TD’s.
— Wolf Pack had two guys run for 100+ yards each. 

1) BYU 49, Central Florida 23:
— Cougars rang up 655 yards, led 35-10 at halftime.
— BYU QB Wilson threw for 425 yards, three TD’s. 

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

13) Its never fun to lose your job, but losing it four days before Christmas as to be especially bad; Carolina Panthers fired GM Marty Hurney Monday- the teams wants someone who is more analytical and data-driven to be their GM.

12) Detroit Lions fired special teams coach Brayden Coombs Monday; apparently he called a fake punt Sunday without consulting any of the other coaches. When you do that, the play damn well better work, but it did not, and now Coombs is unemployed.

Lions trailed 32-18 when they faked the punt; game ended with Tennessee winning 46-25.

Coombs is son of Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, who was the defensive backs coach for the Titans last year. 

11) Kentucky Wildcats are 1-5 so far this basketball season, their worst start since 1927; the last time a team got an at-large bid to the NCAAs after starting a season 1-5 or worse was 1999, when the Texas Longhorns went 19-13 (13-3 in Big X) in Rick Barnes’ first year in Austin. 

10) NHL will have a 56-game regular season, starting January 13.

NBA starts its regular season with two games Tuesday, a full slate of games Wednesday. 

9) Was interesting to hear how some college teams have opted out of bowl games because their players just want to go home for the holidays. Kids have been in a routine since June/July where they have been tested for COVID three times a week, and isolated from their families. 

8) Tennessee Vols’ senior QB Jarrett Guarantano will transfer away from Knoxville; he got benched in favor of younger guys recently. Guarantano winds up with 6,174 yards passing, 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 41 games played for the Vols.

Guarantano has another year to play due to this year being a free year for all the players, it doesn’t count against their eligibility.

Speaking of Tennessee, they opted out of the Liberty Bowl because of COVID issues; Army takes their place and will play West Virginia in Memphis Saturday. 

7) RIP to Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene, who passed away Monday at age 58. Greene was a great player for the Steelers/Rams/Panthers. RIP, sir. 

6) 9 of the 32 current NFL head coaches grew up in Pennsylvania, which seems like a lot. 

5) Eagles coach Doug Pederson baffles me; he loves to go for two points when the Eagles score a TD, but trailing 16-0 in Arizona Sunday, Philly scores a TD and they kick the PAT instead of trying for a 2-point play that would’ve cut the lead in half. Go figure. 

4) Anyone who tells you that Randy Moss was a better receiver than Jerry Rice is wrong, and this is coming from a Rams’ fan who has no love for anything 49er-related. Rice was the best wide receiver ever, and he did it quietly. Nothing wrong with that. 

3) Washington is only NFL team this season that hasn’t scored a point on their first drive of a game, but with two weeks left in the season, they lead the NFC East.

2) Appalachian State 56, North Texas 28:
— App State ran ball for 502 yards (12.9 yards/carry)
— Cameron Peoples ran ball 22 times for 319 yards.
— Both teams had 100+ yards in penalties.
— App State won its last six bowls, scoring 31+ points in all five. 
— North Texas lost last four bowls, giving up 49.0 ppg.

1) Cincinnati 27, Steelers 17:
— Steelers were 11-0 at one point; now they’re 11-3.
— Last four games, Steelers scored 17 ppg.
— Pittsburgh in first half: 30 plays, 119 yards, 2 first downs, 0 points.
— Steelers are now only game ahead of Cleveland in AFC North.

— Cincinnati gets its first win over Steelers in last dozen tries.
— Bengals had lost previous five games overall by combined 124-50.
— Bengals’ first two TD drives were 38-26 yards.
— Cincinnati is 4-1-1 ATS this season as a home underdog. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Sunday

Indianapolis 27, Texans 20:
— WR Coutee fumbled on Colts’ 1-yard line in last minute.
— Texans in red zone: 4 drives, 13 points. Indy: 4 drives, 24 points.
— Houston is 0-9 this year when they score fewer than 27 points.
— Texans’ last five drives: 50 plays, 363 yards, 2 TDs, 2 FGs, one fumble.

— Colts won seven of their last nine games overall.
— Indy/Tennessee are tied for first in AFC South.
— Indianapolis won seven of last nine series games.
— Last five games, Colts outscored opponents 92-33 in 2nd half.

Tennessee 46, Lions 25:
— Lions are 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven games.
— Detroit allowed 27+ points in seven of its last eight games.
— Detroit scored 27.0 ppg the last four weeks.
— Six of last eight Lion games went over the total.

— Titans converted nine of 11 third down plays.
— Tennessee won four of last five games, is tied for first in AFC South.
— First three drives: 21 plays, 243 yards, three TD’s.
— Last three drives: 25 plays, 160 yards, three TD’s.

Buccaneers 31, Atlanta 27
— Buccaneers trailed this game 17-0 at halftime.
— Bucs’ first three drives in third quarter: 22 plays, 231 yards, three TD’s.
— Last five games, Bucs converted 29-60 third down plays.
— Bucs won last four road games, scoring 37.0 ppg.

Falcons lost four of their last five games.
— Atlanta lost six of its eight home games.
— Atlanta led seven of its last nine games at halftime.
— Falcons’ last five drives: 19 plays, 33 yards, 3 points. 

Miami 22, Patriots 12:
— New England misses playoffs for first time since 2008.
— Last two Patriot games: no TD’s, five FG’s on 19 drives.
— New England lost five of its last seven visits to Miami. 
— Under is 9-2 in their last 11 games.

— Dolphins won eight of their last ten games.
— Dolphins covered nine of their last ten games.
— Miami is 9-1-2 ATS in last 12 games as a home favorite.
— Dolphins have 16 takeaways in last seven games (+9)

Seahawks 20, Washington 15:
— Seattle won four of its last five games overall.
— Seahawks take over first place in NFC West.
— Last five games, Seahawks outscored foes 71-21 in first half. 
— Last six Seattle games stayed under the total.
— Seahawks won field position by ten yards.

— Backup QB Haskins was 38-55/295 passing; he is 3-9 as an NFL starter.
— Loss snaps Washington’s four-game win streak.
— Washington outscored last seven opponents 120-37 in second half.
— Washington converted 10-17 third down plays, outgained Seattle 353-302.

Bears 33, Minnesota 27
— Bears ran for 199 yards, scored seven of nine times they had ball. 
— Last four games, Chicago scored 31.0 ppg.
— Bears won field position by 13 yards in this game.
— Bears won five of their last six games with Minnesota.

— Vikings split last four games, giving up 27 ppg.
— Minnesota is 0-5 ATS in their last four games.
— Vikings won field position in only one game so far this year (1-12-1)
— Minnesota is 1-6 ATS as a home favorite TY.
— Seven of eight Viking home games went over the total.

Baltimore 40, Jaguars 14
— Jaguars lost their last 13 games; they’re now in line for #1 pick in draft.
— Last four weeks, Jacksonville gave up 190 rushing yards/game. 
— On first series, Jaguars picked off pass on 1-yard line, then gave up a safety on offense.
— Jacksonville in first half: 5 drives, 61 yards, outscored 2-0 by Ravens’ defense.

— Baltimore won last three games, scoring 34-47-40 points. 
— On their first eight drives, Ravens scored 5 TD’s, tried 2 FG’s.
— Ravens lost field position in only one game this season.
— Over is 4-1 in Baltimore’s last five games. 

Arizona 33, Eagles 26:
— Eagles lost five of last six games; they’re 1-6 SU on road.
— Philly is 2-7-1 SU outside their division.
— Eagles are 4-0 if they allow 21 or fewer points, 0-9-1 if they allow more than 21.
— Eagles trailed 16-0 after first quarter, would’ve led had they not failed on 2-point plays when it was 26-20/26-26.

— Cardinals drove 86 yards for game-winning TD with 7:17 left.
— Arizona has a one-game lead for the #7-seed (last playoff spot)
— Murray threw ball for 406 yards, three TD’s.
— Hopkins caught nine passes for 169 yards.

NJ Jets 23, Rams 20
— Jets scored TD on first drive of each half.
— Jets scored on first drive in their last eight games, best in NFL.
— Jets blocked punt in 2nd quarter, started consecutive drives on LA’s 27/22-yard line.
— Third down conversions: Jets 7-17, Rams 2-11.

— Rams fall out of first place in NFC West.
— LA’s first six series: 23 plays, 68 yards, zero points.
— Rams lost three of four games vs AFC East this year.
— LA had only two plays that gained 20+ yards.

Chiefs 32, New Orleans 29:
— Chiefs won their last nine games, are 0-5-1 ATS in last six.
— Kansas City won all eight of its road games this year (3-4-1 ATS)
— Chiefs outgained Saints 411-285; they had 34 first downs, Saints 15.
— Last six games, Kansas City allowed 26.3 ppg.

— New Orleans lost its last two games, both by 3 points.
— Saints ran only 52 plays; Chiefs ran 92 plays.
— Third down conversions: Chiefs 9-18, Saints 1-11.
— Saints scored only once on seven first half drives.

Dallas 41, 49ers 33:
— 49ers lost six of their last seven games SU.
— SF is 5-16 SU in last 21 games Garoppolo didn’t play.
— Last seven games, SF was outscored 101-55 in first half.
— 49ers are 5-7 ATS in last 12 games as a favorite away from home.

— Dallas was outgained 458-291, but was +4 in turnovers. 
— Cowboys won field position by 17 yards.
— Dallas was leading at halftime in five of last seven games.
— Four of last five Dallas games went over the total. 

Browns 20, NJ Giants 6:
— Cleveland won five of their last six games. 
— Browns converted 9-13 third down plays.
— First three drives, Cleveland ran 33 plays for 219 yards, 14 points.
— Cleveland won five of seven road games SU.

— Giants had ball in red zone on first three drives, scored 3 points.
— Big Blue is 0-6 SU when they run ball for less than 100 yards.
— Giants are 3-14 ATS in last 17 games as a home dog, 2-4 TY.
— Under is 7-1-1 in their last nine games.

Sunday’s key college basketball scores:
— Creighton 76, UConn 74 OT
— Rutgers 91, Illinois 88
— Texas 77, Oklahoma State 74
— Xavier 91, Marquette 88
— Providence 80, Seton Hall 77 OT
— Northwestern 79, Michigan State 65