Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Browns 26, Panthers 24:
— Rookie K York drilled a 58-yard FG with 0:08 left for the win.
— Cleveland led 14-0 in second quarter.
— Browns ran ball for 217 yards.
— First three drives: 19 plays, 55 yards, no points.
— Last eight drives: two TD’s, four FG’s; 59 plays, 344 yards.

— Panthers’ first five drives: 19 plays, 13 yards, no points.
— Panthers in 4th quarter: 19 plays, 214 yards, 17 points.
— Carolina kicked FG with 1:13 left to take 24-23 lead.
— Last 3+ years, Carolina is 6-18-1 ATS at home.
— Last 3+ years, Carolina is 15-35 SU

Colts 20, Texans 20
— Colts trailed 20-3 after three quarters.
— Taylor ran ball 31 times for 161 yards.
— Colts gained 245 yards in first 3 quarters, 278 yards in 4th quarter/OT.
— Colts missed a 42-yard FG in overtime.
— Indy has one Week 1 win the last nine years, 

— Colts outgained Houston, 517-299.
— Texans’ last six drives: 30 plays, 75 yards, no points.
— Both of Houston’s TD’s came on drives of only 58 yards.
— Last 2+ years, Houston is 5-2 ATS in AFC South home games.

Steelers 23, Bengals 20, OT
— Bengals missed game-winning PAT with 0:02 left that forced OT.
— Their long snapper was hurt; they also missed a 29-yard FG in OT.
— Bengals were in red zone five times, scored only two TD’s.
— Last 5+ years, Bengals are 7-12 ATS as a home favorite.
— Last 20 years, team that lost Super Bowl is 4-16 ATS in Week 1 the next season.

— Steelers picked off four passes, were +5 in turnovers.
— Boswell walked it off with a 53-yard FG in OT.
— Fitzpatrick scored on a pick-6 2:17 into the game.
— Pittsburgh is 10-2 ATS last 12 games as an AFC North underdog.
— Bengals outgained Pitt 432-267, ran 94 plays to 61 for Steelers.

Commanders 28, Jaguars 22
— Jaguars only scored 16 points in five trips to red zone.
— Jags had six plays of 20+ yards; five of them came on 1st-and-10.
— Jacksonville had 13 penalties for 90 yards.
— Pederson is 9-14 ATS as a road underdog.
— Last 9+ years, Jaguars are 6-32 ATS vs NFC teams.

— Wentz threw TD passes of 49-24 yards in last 10:00 in a comeback win.
— Washington scored on first two drives, led 14-3 at halftime.
— Commanders converted 7-10 on third down, Jaguars 3-12.
— Washington had three 4th down plays that gained 20+ yards. 

Bears 19, 49ers 10
— Last quarter of this game was played in a rainy quagmire.
— Both QB’s completed less than half their passes.
— 49ers led 7-0 at halftime.
— Since 1994, 49ers are 2-9 ATS as a favorite in their road opener.

— Bears in 1st half: 30 plays, 68 yards, no points.
— Bears in 2nd half: 23 plays, 175 yards, 19 points.
— Under is 6-0 in their last six home openers.
— Bears won in Week 1 for only 2nd time the last nine years,

Dolphins 20, Patriots 7:
— Miami had three drives in first half, gained 47-45-92 yards.
— Miami scored defensive TD on a strip/sack in 2nd quarter.
— Last 2+ years, Dolphins were 13-5 ATS at home.
— Last 4+ years, Miami is 9-4-1 ATS in AFC East home games.

— Patriots’ only TD came on a 92-yard drive in 3rd quarter.
— New England lost five of last six visits to Miami.
— Last 2+ years, they’re 5-8 ATS in games with spread of 3 or less.
— NE is 17-17 SU since Brady left; 4-6 ATS as a road underdog.
— Last 6+ years, under is 32-16-1 in their road games.

Saints 27, Falcons 26
— Atlanta led 26-10 with 12:00 left in game.
— Saints kicked 51-yard FG with 0:19 left for the win.
— Saints won their last five visits to Atlanta.
— Since 2010, New Orleans is 2-11 ATS in road openers, 0-7 if favored.

— Falcons scored five of first eight times they had ball.
— Falcons scored only once in their last five drives.
— New Orleans won eight of last ten series games.
— Since 1999, Atlanta is 8-2 ATS as an underdog in home openers.
— Falcons started out 0-1 six of the last seven seasons.

Ravens 24, Jets 9:
— Lamar Jackson threw TD passes of 25-17-55 yards.
— Jackson ran ball only six times, for 17 yards.
— Ravens are 10-5 ATS in last 15 road openers.
— Last seven years, Baltimore is 6-1 ATS in Week 1 games.
— Ravens won field position by 10 yards.

— Jets converted only 2-14 third down plays.
— Jets threw 59 passes, ran ball only 17 times (for 83 yards)
— Jets lost last five home openers (0-4 ATS), scoring 11.2 ppg.
— Last 2+ years, Jets are 11-21 ATS as an underdog.
— Jets started out 0-1 six of last seven seasons.

Eagles 38, Lions 35:
— Eagles scored on a pick-6 that made score 21-7 in 2nd quarter.
— Philly ran ball for 216 yards.
— Four rushing TD’s, by four different Eagles.
— Last 2+ years, Eagles are 2-6 ATS as road favorites.
— Eagles started out 1-0 in 10 of last 12 seasons.

— Lions converted 9-14 on 3rd down, Philly 10-17.
— Detroit went 3/out on four of first five drives.
— Lions scored three TD’s on four 2nd half drives.
— Detroit’s last 12 season openers have gone over the total.
— Lions are 3-14-1 SU in last 18 games, but 12-6 ATS

Chiefs 44, Cardinals 21
— Chiefs’ first three drives: 29 plays, 236 yards, 20 points.
— Kansas City ran 66 plays, only eight of them on 3rd down.
— Chiefs wound up scoring six TD’s on their 11 drives.
— Kansas City started 1-0 the last eight years, scoring 36.3 ppg.
— Chiefs are 18-6-1 ATS last 25 games with a spread of 3 or less.

— Cardinals gave up 9.2 yards per pass play.
— Arizona was 3-12 on third down, Chiefs 5-8.
— Chiefs outgained the Cardinals, 488-282.
— Last 3+ years, over is 15-10 in Cardinal home games.
— Since 2016, Cardinals are 14-23 ATS in games with spread of 3 or less.

Vikings 23, Packers 7
— Green Bay in first half: 25 plays, 101 yards, 6 first downs, no points.
— Packers turned ball over twice (-2), were 3-9 on third down.
— Last 6+ years, Green Bay is 10-14-1 ATS as a road favorite.
— Last 6+ years, Packers are 8-11 ATS in NFC North road games.

— Minnesota led 17-0 at halftime.
— Jefferson caught nine passes for 184 yards.
— Over last 10+ years, Vikings are 18-6 ATS as a home underdog.
— Last 7+ years, Minnesota is 13-8-1 ATS in NFC North home games.

Chargers 24, Raiders 19:
— Carr was sacked six times, threw three picks.
— Raiders were minus-3 in turnovers.
— Chargers had 9-yard edge in average field position.
— Last 6+ years, Raiders are 7-12 ATS in AFC West road tilts.

— Chargers scored three TD’s, kicked FG on first six drives.
— Chargers led 17-3 at halftime.
— Bolts lost WR Allen to hamstring injury; they play on Thursday this week.
— Fourth year in row Chargers started the season with a win.

Giants 21, Titans 20
— Trailing 20-13, Giants scored TD with 1:06 left, went for 2 points and got it.
— Giants trailed 13-0 at halftime.
— Giants in first half: 27 plays, 116 yards, no points.
— Giants in second half: 31 plays, 264 yards, 21 points.
— Last four years, Giants are 20-10 ATS as a road underdog.

— Giants ran ball for 238 yards against Tennessee.
— Titans converted only 3-11 third down plays.
— Henry ran ball for only 82 yards on 21 carries.
— Last 4+ years, they’re 10-12 ATS as a home favorite.
— Since 2013, Titans are 0-6-1 ATS as a favorite in home openers.

Buccaneers 19, Cowboys 3
— Dak Prescott hurt his right thumb, is out multiple weeks.
— Will they call 49ers about Jimmy Garoppolo?
— Elliott ran ball for 52 yards on only 10 carries,
— Cowboys converted only 3-15 third down plays.
— Last 3+ years, Dallas is 6-11 ATS in games with spread of 3 or less.

— Bucs had ball five times in first half, tried five field goals (4-5)
— Fournette ran ball for 127 yards.
— Tampa Bay had 12-yard advantage in average field position.
— Bucs were only team in NFL not to allow a TD this week.
— With Brady at QB, Bucs are 3-1 ATS in games with spread of 3 or less points. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a college football Saturday

Fun day of college football; it is 2:20 am as I start this article; Miss State-Arizona are still playing in Tucson. My TV got a good workout today.
— Excellent day for the Sun Belt Conference:
Sun Belt teams went 7-2 ATS this week.
Georgia State won at Nebraska. 23-point underdog.
Marshall won at Notre Dame. 20-point underdog.
Appalachian State won at Texas A&M. 18-point underdog.

— Memo to big-time programs; do NOT schedule Appalachian State, there is no value to it. If you beat them, no one cares that you beat a Sun Belt team. In reality, App State is a tough team, but it still looks horrible if you lose to a Sun Belt team.

Alabama 20, Texas 19
Crimson Tide kicked game-winning FG with 0:10 left.
Texas lost its starting QB in the first half; the backup got banged up in the second half, but he finished the game.
Longhorns were in the red zone five times, scored only one TD.
Alabama had 15 penalties for 100 yards; their QB Young was great on that last drive.

Texas has a kicker whose last name is Auburn; he made a 49-yard FG with 1:29 left that put Texas ahead 19-17. Auburn almost beat Alabama.

Iowa State 10, Iowa 7
Cyclones end 6-game losing streak to their in-state rivals.
Iowa won 7-3 last week, then this happened. Their offense sucks.
Cyclones outgained Iowa 313-150.
Iowa State was 10-20 on third down, Hawkeyes 3-10.

Tennessee 34, Pittsburgh 27 OT
Total yardage was 416-415; this was a fun game to watch.
Pitt converted only 4-18 third down plays.
Tennessee threw for 325 yards; Tillman caught 9 passes for 172 yards.

Duke 31, Northwestern 23:
Blue Devils led 21-0 early in 2nd quarter.
Northwestern threw for 435 yards, but turned ball over three times (-2)
Duke ran the football for 221 yards.

Arkansas 44, South Carolina 30:
Razorbacks ran ball for 295 yards; they’re a throwback team, trying to run the ball down the other team’s throat. They ran ball 65 times in this game, threw it only 21 times.
South Carolina threw ball for 376 yards, ran for only 40 yards.

Wake Forest 45, Vanderbilt 25:
Dave Clawson 51-48 at Wake, 4-2 in bowl games; that is six bowls in eight years, at a school that has played in only 16 bowls all-time.
Clawson is 15-9 ATS in his last 24 games; he’s a very good coach.
Senior QB Hartman threw for 300 yards in his first game this season.

Appalachian State 17, Texas A&M 14
App State ran 82 plays, A&M ran 38 plays. 82. 38.
Total yardage was 315-186, App State
Aggies ran a kickoff back 95 yards for a TD.
I’m thinking the rich boosters who funded the NIL stuff for A&M’s players were very understanding about losing to a Sun Belt team.

Washington State 17, Wisconsin 14:
Coogs held Wisconsin scoreless in second half.
Badgers outgained Wazzu 401-253, but had 11 penalties for 106 yards.
Both teams turned ball over three times.

Texas Tech 33, Houston 30 OT
Tech led 17-3 at halftime.
Tech kicked a 47-yard FG with 0:03 left to force overtime.
Tech converted a 4th-and-20 when they were losing in OT.
QB Smith ran nine yards for the walk-off TD in overtime
Red Raiders ran 102 plays, Houston 68; Tech had 35 first downs.

Georgia Southern 45, Nebraska 42
It is September 11; Nebraska has already lost this year, when favored by 11 and 23 points.
Eagles scored the game-winning TD with 0:36 left.
Total yardage was 642-575; not a lot of defense.
Nebraska coach Frost is likely not to be Nebraska’s coach next year.

Georgia Southern threw for 409 yards in this game; the last time Georgia Southern had a QB throw for 400 yards in a game was the 1985 I-AA championship game.

BYU 26, Baylor 20 OT
Baylor was 9-18 on third down, BYU 3-14.
Bears had 14 penalties, for 117 yards.
BYU missed two field goals that were shorter than 40 yards.

Upsets of the Week:
— Georgia Southern (+23) 45, Nebraska 42
— Marshall (+20) 26, Notre Dame 21
— Appalachian State (+18) 17, Texas A&M 14
— Washington State (+17) 17, Wisconsin 14
— Kansas (+13.5) 55, West Virginia 42, OT
— Middle Tennessee (+13.5) 34, Colorado State 19
— Duke (+10) 31, Northwestern 23

— Then, there were the teams that lost to I-AA opponents:
Eastern Kentucky 59, Bowling Green 57 OT
Incarnate Word 55, Nevada 41
Holy Cross 37, Buffalo 31— Crusaders hit a Hail Mary on the last play.
Weber State 35, Utah State 7

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

— Major League Baseball put in a pitch clock for next season; they also banned shifts, and announced bigger bases, decreasing distance between the bases by 4.5 inches. This figures to help left-handed hitters, who are losing the most hits because of the shift. 

Boise State 31, New Mexico 14
— Boise outgained the Lobos, 318-123.
— New Mexico was 1-14 on third down; they had only eight first downs, and completed only 9-28 passes.
— Lobos ran a kickoff back 100 yards for a TD with 6:07 left to push the spread, put game over the total.

Louisville 20, Central Florida 14:
— Cardinals held UCF scoreless in second half.
— Louisville outgained the Knights, 427-339
— Teams combined to convert only 8-30 third down plays.
— penalties: Louisville 12-98, UCF  11-111

— UCF coach Gus Malzahn has had an interesting career:
1991-95— Hughes HS (in Arkansas)
1996-2005— Springdale HS (in Arkansas)
2006— WR coach, Arkansas

2007-08— QB coach, Tulsa
2009-11— Offensive coordinator, Auburn
2012— Head coach, Arkansas State
2013-20— Head coach, Auburn
2021- Head coach, Central Florida. 

17 years ago, he was a high school coach; how he makes $2M a year. Good for him.

— Lamar Jackson/Ravens couldn’t agree on a new contract; he’ll play out the last year of his contract this year. Somehow, he’ll have to get by on $23M this season 🙂

Jackson is acting as his own agent; Friday was his deadline for a deal to be made. Now he bets on himself to have a big season, so he can break the bank next spring.

— Emmitt Smith’s son EJ is a junior running back at Stanford; last week, he ran the ball 11 times for 118 yards and two TD’s vs I-AA Colgate. Tougher test tonight; the Cardinal plays USC.

— Braves 6, Mariners 4— Atlanta takes over first place in NL East by a half-game. Braves have won eight games in row, are in first place for first time this season. On June 1, they were 10.5 games out of first place.

— Marlins 6, Mets 3— Mets are 3-4 in their last seven games, vs Nationals-Pirates-Marlins. They are out of first place for first time since April 11.

— White Sox 5, A’s 3— Chicago scored five runs in 9th inning; they didn’t get a hit until the 7th inning. White Sox are 1.5 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central.

— Cubs 4, Giants 2— San Francisco is 65-73 this year; they were 107-55 last year. Giants were 31-17 in one-run games LY; they’re 18-26 this season.

— Rockies 13, Arizona 10— Rockies blew an 8-1 lead, but won it on a 3-run walk-off homer by Elias Diaz, who had 7 RBI in the game.

— Padres 5, Dodgers 4— Right now, San Diego has the #2 Wild Card slot. Jake Cronenworth got the winning hit in San Diego’s 11th walk-off win of the season, a game that was delayed 40 minutes by rain at the start.

— If the playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL: New York, Guardians, Astros. Wild Cards: Rays, Blue Jays, Mariners
NL: Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers. Wild Cards: Mets, Padres, Phillies

— Wild Card races:
AL— Orioles are 4 games out of last Wild Card slot, White Sox are 6.5 games back, Twins 7.5. 

NL— Milwaukee is 3.5 games out of last Wild Card slot; no one else is within 10 games. 

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

13) Thursday afternoon in St Louis, Adam Wainwright/Yadier Molina started together as a battery with the Cardinals for the 324th time, tying Detroit’s Mickey Lolich/Bill Freehan for the all-time record.   

12) Molina is also the third catcher EVER to hit two home runs in a game he was catching, after he turned 40 years old. Carlton Fisk, Rick Dempsey are the other two guys on that list.

11) Cardinals lead the NL Central by eight games, in large part because they traded for Jose Quintana, Jordan Montgomery at the trade deadline. St Louis is 6-1 when Quintana starts, 7-0 when Montgomery takes the mound. 

10) New York P Domingo German has started ten games this season; the home team won all ten games. New York won his four home starts; they’re 0-6 in his road outings.

9) Minnesota P Joe Ryan has been shaky away from home; in his last six road starts, he’s given up 28 runs in 28 IP. He is 6-4, 3.13 in 13 home starts, 

8) One thing about the baseball playoffs will be different this year; in the best-of-3 first round, the higher-seeded team will be home for all three games. 

7) There must be a freakin’ boatload of money in hosting fantasy football leagues; the timeline on my Twitter feed has been jammed with fantasy stuff, mores even than gambling info. 

6) Clemson locked up football coach Dabo Swinney with a 10-year, $115M contract. Swinney is 151-36 in 15 years at Clemson, 11-7 in postseason games. 

5) Saints C Erik McCoy signed a 5-year deal with New Orleans for $63.8M. 

4) Only 8 of the 55 Super Bowl losers got back to the Super Bowl the next season, only one since 1972.

3) I don’t follow tennis much, but late Wednesday night, there was a match at the US Open that went over five hours long; it ended at 2:50am. Great competition.

You have the admire the athleticism of two guys going at it like that for five hours, not to mention the ballboys who had to work that long- that couldn’t have been much fun. 

2) Bills 31, Rams 10:
— Buffalo converted 9 of 10 third down plays
— Buffalo outgained the Rams, 413-243
— Bills sacked Matthew Stafford seven times. 

— Buffalo scored TD on their first drive of each half.
— Kupp caught 13 passes for 128 yards, but other three WR’s caught only six balls for 47 yards.
— Rams were outscored 21-0 in second half. 

1) We all over-react to Week 1 results, whether good or bad, but you wonder if players need to play some in preseason games, just to sharpen up.

It is a fair question; of course, but if they play in preseason games and get hurt, then the coach is Billy Bob Thornton in Friday Night Lights, which isn’t a good thing. He kept his star running back in a blowout win too long, and the kid screwed his knee up, which crippled the offense. 

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

13) Cardinals 6, Nationals 5— St Louis scored five runs in bottom of the 9th; they’re the first team this season to win a game when they trailed by 4+ entering the bottom of the 9th inning.

Teams had been 0-817 this season when they trailed by 4+ runs entering the bottom of the 9th. 

12) There was an interesting article in The Athletic about former MLB manager Joe Maddon, and how he thinks analytics have now gone too far as far as dictating strategy.

“I still love the information. I utilize the information. Information is good. It’s the imposition. I mean, it’s to the point now where actually, our general manager had an analytical guy dressing in the coaches’ room. I mean, that shouldn’t occur. That’s an imposition.”

“I want analytical people on my staff. But I don’t want them in the dugout. I don’t want them in the clubhouse. I want them to do their job, give the work to the coaches, let the coaches then teach the players. I don’t need presenters in the dugout, I don’t need presenters in the clubhouse. … It’s getting to the point where their impact or authority is exceeding that of a coach. And that’s what I think is wrong.”

“……..every day we’d get ready for the game and (Angels GM) Perry (Minasian) and (assistant GM) Alex (Tamin) would come in and they would start talking about how I should use the bullpen that night. Like I haven’t done that for the last 40 years. When you do that, when these people do that, the game becomes cloudy.”

Interesting stuff. 

11) Stat of the Day: Since 2014, NFL divisional underdogs are 28-9-2 ATS in Week 1 games.

10) Indianapolis Colts are 1-11 SU/ATS in their last 12 season openers.

9) 10 NFL teams have a new starting QB in Week 1.

12 NFL QB’s will earn $30M+ this season. 

8) Jets’ QB Zach Wilson is out at least three weeks more with his knee injury; Joe Flacco gets the Week 1 start for the Jets against his old team, the Ravens. 

7) Flacco is 37; Jets’ OT Duane Brown is also 37. This is the first time ever an NFL team is starting a 37-year old QB and 37-year old OT in a Week 1 game. 

6) Alabama visits the Texas Longhorns Saturday; this is Alabama’s first non-conference road game since 2011. True road game, not neutral field.

5) New York 5-7, Minnesota 4-1— Twins have now lost 22 of their last 24 games in the Bronx; since 2002, Minnesota is 13-53 in the Bronx. 

4) Astros 4, Rangers 3 (10)— Jose Altuve scored the winning run on a wild pitch. Texas has lost 10 of its last 11 games.

3) San Diego Padres have been shut out three times in Blake Snell’s last four home starts. 

2) Since 2019, the person with the most walk-off hits in the National League is………

San Diego’s backup catcher, Jorge Alfaro, with seven. Go figure. 

1) Sunday, Washington QB Carson Wentz will be the fifth QB since 1950 to start a season opener for three different teams in consecutive years.

The others:
1997-99— Jim Harbaugh— Colts, Ravens, Chargers
2003-05— Kurt Warner— Rams, Giants, Cardinals
2007-09— Brett Favre— Packers, Jets, Vikings
2009-11— Donovan McNabb— Eagles, Redskins, Vikings

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

13) One of the cool new things in baseball is StatCast; guy hits a home run and they can tell how many big league ballparks it would be a home run in.

Monday night, Toronto’s Matt Chapman hit a double off the left-field wall at Camden Yards; it was the only ballpark in the major leagues where that hit wasn’t a home run. 

12) Clemson 41, Georgia Tech 10:
— Game was scoreless for the first 20:00; midway thru third quarter, it was 14-10.
— Clemson threw for 259 yards, ran for only 119.
— Tech averaged only 4.6 yards per pass attempt. 

11) When Iowa beat I-AA South Dakota State 7-3 last week, their punter had seven of his punts downed inside the 20-yard line, creating great field position for the Hawkeyes. Iowa didn’t score any touchdowns; they scored two safeties, in part because their punter pinned the Jackrabbits close to their goal line most of the day. 

10) Steelers announced that Mitch Trubisky will start at QB in Cincinnati Sunday.

9) Texas Tech QB Tyler Shough will miss 3-6 weeks after re-injuring his non-throwing shoulder in the Red Raiders’ win over Murray State. Backup QB Donovan Smith was 14-16/221 passing against the Racers.

8) So far this season, these teams have had the most players make the major league debut:
16— Oakland
15— Cleveland
14— Cubs

7) Pirates 8, Mets 2— Coupled with Atlanta’s win on the west coast, Mets/Braves are now tied for first place in the NL East.

6) Orioles 9, Blue Jays 6— Baltimore moves within 3.5 games of the last Wild Card slot.

5) Stat that makes no sense: Baltimore RF Anthony Santander has had seven games where he hit two home runs; the Orioles lost all seven games.

4) Padres 6, Arizona 5— Jorge Alfaro gets a walk-off single as San Diego scores twice in bottom of the 9th, extending their lead over Milwaukee to three games for the last Wild Card slot.

3) Philadelphia 76ers signed Montrezll Harrell to a two-year, $5.2M deal with a player option for the second year; he will be the Sixers’ backup center. Harrell had been facing felony drug charges in Kentucky after getting pulled over with three pounds of marijuana in his car, but those charges were reduced to a misdemeanor. 

2) Chicago Bears released their plans Tuesday for the development of a 326-acre Arlington Park property, which includes the construction of a domed stadium; if the stadium is built, it would give NFC North three domed stadiums, which seems like a good idea. 

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they do not):
AL: New York, Guardians, Astros. Wild Cards- Rays, Mariners, Blue Jays
NL: Atl/NY, Cardinals, Dodgers. Wild Cards- Atl/NY, Phillies, Padres

Tuesday’s Den: My 13 favorite movies……..

13) The Fabulous Baker Boys— Two struggling musicians, who are brothers, team up with a beautiful, up-and-coming singer, who revitalizes their careers. Michelle Pfeiffer is the singer; Jeff/Beau Bridges are the two brothers. 

12) Bull Durham— Susan Sarandon is a minor league baseball groupie; Kevin Costner is a journeyman catcher brought in to mentor the team’s young pitching prospect. Durham Bulls were a Class A farm club when this movie was made (1988); they’re a AAA team now. 

11) Major League— The new owner of the Cleveland Indians puts together a horrible team on purpose so they’ll lose and she can move the team to Miami, but it is the movies, so of course, they win the pennant. 

Couple of things:
— Moving a ball club to Miami turned out to be a terrible idea in real life.
— Bob Uecker steals the show in this movie as the team’s radio announcer. 

10) Prince of Tides— A high school football coach from the South (Nick Nolte) talks to his suicidal sister’s psychiatrist (Barbra Streisand) in New York City about their family history and, because it is the movies, they fall in love. George Carlin has a pretty good cameo as a neighbor of the psychiatrist.

9) Cousins— Ted Danson plays a dance instructor in a failing relationship who meets a woman (Isabella Rossellini) at a family wedding and they become great friends- her husband isn’t amused. Lloyd Bridges is excellent as Danson’s father. William Peterson played the unhappy car salesman/husband.

Danson/Peterson both wound being the star of CSI, at different times. Cousins ends with the happy couple literally sailing off into the sunset. 26 years later, in the last scene of CSI, William Peterson/Jorja Fox also sail off into the sunset, a very similar scene. 

8) The Bodyguard— A former Secret Service agent takes the job of a famous singer’s bodyguard,  whose lifestyle is a lot different than a President’s.

Of the 13 movies on this list, Robert Wuhl has a small role in three of them; he plays the host of the Academy Awards in this movie. He was a pitching coach in Bull Durham, and a basketball recruiting guru in Blue Chips. 

7) Leap of Fsith— A huckster faith healer (Steve Martin) is stranded with his entourage in a small Midwestern town that is going thru tough times financially, because of a drought. He decides to set up camp in the town for a few days and put on some shows to make money.

Liam Neeson is the town’s sheriff; Debra Winger, Meat Loaf and Philip Seymour Hoffman are part of his entourage. 

6) Last Vegas— Four longtime friends take a break from their day-to-day lives to throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for their last remaining bachelor friend. Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline; tremendous cast. Mary Steenburgen is a singer in Binion’s Casino who becomes friends with the group. 

5) A Star Is Born— A famous musician helps a young singer find fame/fortune as age and alcoholism ruin his own career; this is the fourth time this movie has been made.

Andrew Dice Clay adds to the movie as Lady Gaga’s father; the guitarist in Bradley Cooper’s band is Lukas Nelson, whose dad is Willie Nelson.

This Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper version is very similar to the 1954 version, with Judy Garland, James Mason. The 1976 movie, with Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson, was a lot different. 

4) Rounders— A young gambler plays big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks, while balancing his relationship with his girlfriend and his commitments to law school. Every movie star who gambles in the movies comes out ahead, except for Mark Wahlberg in The Gambler, who is very grateful to wind up even.

3) Moneyball— Would be ranked higher if the A’s won at the end, or in the beginning; oh well. This is the story of how Oakland GM Billy Beane put together a baseball team on a small budget by using computer-generated analysis to evaluate players.

I was lucky enough to meet Michael Lewis, who wrote the book Moneyball, in 2004. Nice guy. 

2) Blue Chips— A college basketball coach is forced to break the rules in order to get the players he needs to stay competitive; two of the players he recruits are played by Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway. Jerry Tarkanian/Dick Vitale/Jim Boeheim have cameos. Nick Nolte spent some time with the Indiana Hoosiers to prep for this role. 

Basketball scenes were filmed in a high school gym in Indiana; they have some really nice high school gyms in Indiana. 

1) American Underdog— What did you think I would have at #1? This is the story of Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, who went from stocking shelves at a supermarket to becoming a football star, leading the Rams to a Super Bowl title.

Seriously, this movie was better than I thought it would be; it is a great story, but they avoided making the movie too sappy. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports weekend

13) Florida State 24, LSU 23:
— Down 24-10, LSU scored two TD’s in last 4:07, but the PAT with 0:00 left was blocked.
— Florida State converted 11-17 third down plays.
— LSU QB Daniels ran for 114 yards, threw for 209 yards, two TD’s.
— Florida State is 2-0 for the first time since 2016. 

12) It is possible that I watch too much television; for the second time in less than a year, I’ve worn out the remote control for my DirecTV- the 5 button and 0 button don’t work anymore. A new remote is expected to arrive Tuesday, just in time for football season. 

11) Watching lot of movies/TV shows, I’ve noticed that people in TV/movies very seldom watch TV themselves. No one in the movies ever watches TV while eating Cheetos at 3am; am I the only person who does this? 

10) New England Patriots are about to start a season with a 2nd-year QB who is being coached by two assistants who are both two of the worst head coaches in NFL history— Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, neither of whom has a pedigree in offense.

Will Bill Belichick have to coach the offense? Losing Josh McDaniels to the Raiders ain’t going to help Mac Jones’ development any. The QB has a voice in his earpiece before every play; it would be nice if the voice had an expertise in offense. 

9) Minnesota Twins are five games out of the last Wild Card slot; they’re 3-12 on the road this season, when the winning run scored from the 7th inning on.

8) In nine of the 16 NFL games in Week 1, both starting QB’s were first round draft picks.

7) They were saying on TV Sunday that Washington Nationals’ P Erick Fedde has trouble keeping his weight up during the season. As a result, he eats fried rice for breakfast every freakin’ day.

I’ve eaten my share of fried rice; there is a takeout place near my home where if I walk in, the lady at the counter yells out, “One quart, chicken fried rice” with a thick Asian accent before I say anything, but I can’t imagine having it every morning,


6) Old Dominion, Southern Mississippi have jumped from Conference USA to the Sun Belt Conference. All these teams bolting conferences screws up my record keeping. Oy.

Sun Belt games should be on TV more; pretty good league. 

5) Arizona upset San Diego State Saturday night, but not before they blocked one of their own punts. Wildcats were punting out of their own end zone; as the punter kicked the ball, one of his blockers backed into his path, and the ball hit his left arm. The Aztecs recovered the ball for a touchdown, but Arizona still won 38-20, an impressive win. 

4) Utah Utes’ kicker is a 30-year old sophomore from England; Jordan Noyes is a Sociology major who is married with a daughter. Utah also has a punter from Australia.

3) North Texas QB Austin Aune turns 29 years old Tuesday; he was picked in the 2nd round of the amateur baseball draft, then spent six years playing in the minor leagues, before he ever went to college.

Aune threw for 422 yards, three TD’s as the Mean Green split their first two games.

2) ESPN had a knife-throwing league on TV late Saturday night; had no idea something like that existed. Wouldn’t want to be a referee in that league. 

1) This was the last Sunday of 2022 with no NFL games; it figures to be a fun season. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up this season’s first college football Saturday

— This may have been the strangest football game I’ve ever seen:

North Carolina 63, Appalachian State 61
App State scored 40 points in the 4th quarter- they lost.
UNC scored 34 straight points at one point, and damn near had to go to overtime.

Total yardage: App State 649, Carolina 567
App State scored TD’s on their first three drives, then didn’t score again until the 4th quarter, when six different Mountaineers scored a touchdown.

Six of their guys each scored a TD in one quarter, and they still lost.

Kid on North Carolina ran an onside kick back for a TD with 0:28 left, giving them a 63-55 lead, but if he had just fallen down instead of scoring the TD, the game would’ve been over and App State wouldn’t have gotten their last chance to tie the game.

Mountaineers failed on two 2-point plays in the last minute; one would’ve tied the game, the first one would’ve put App State ahead.

Miller Gibbs caught a TD pass for App State; his grandfather is Joe Gibbs, the old Redskins’ coach who won three Super Bowls on his way to the Hall of Fame.

— Mack Brown coached App State for one year, back in 1983; he made $38,500, then bolted to Oklahoma to be an assistant, for a lot more $$$$. He still has a home near App State; he said his neighbors were all rooting against him Saturday.

NC State 21, East Carolina 20— Huge sigh of relief comes from Raleigh- they almost blew a 21-7 halftime lead.

East Carolina missed a PAT and a 41-yard FG in the 4th quarter; their kicker was the best one in the AAC last season.

State completed only 17-33 passes, converted only 4-13 on third down; ECU outgained them, 383-344. Both teams turned the ball over twice.

Iowa 7, South Dakota State 3— Game was 3-3 at the half; Hawkeyes scored two safeties in the second half. Total yardage was 166-120, that’s for the whole freakin’ game. 166-120.

Iowa’s defense scored 4 points, their offense scored 3 points.

South Dakota State is I-AA, but Iowa ran for only 57 yards, completed only 11-25 passes, turned ball over twice, converted 4-17 on third down. Other than that, they were terrific.

Rutgers 22, Boston College 21
Rutgers drove 96 yards for the winning TD (a 22-yard run) with 2:43 left.
Boston College led 14-6 at halftime.
Rutgers ran for 212 yards, BC ran for 29.
Eagles turned ball over three times (minus-2).

Houston 37, Texas-San Antonio 35 OT
Roadrunners kicked a FG at the gun to force overtime, after Houston had kicked one with 0:23 left to take a 24-21 lead.
UTSA led 21-7 after three quarters.
UTSA outgained Houston, 441-346, but the Cougars converted 13-21 on third down.

Wyoming 40, Tulsa 37 OT
Tulsa led 34-24 with 12:00 to play.
Wyoming scored a TD on a blocked punt.
Tulsa outgained the Cowboys, 521-399.
Wyoming completed 20-30 passes for 256 yards; last week, they completed 5-20 passes. 

Arkansas 31, Cincinnati 24
Razorbacks led 14-0 at halftime.
Arkansas ran ball for 224 yards 95 yards/carry)
Arkansas QB Jefferson threw for 223 yards, 3 TDs, ran for another 62 yards and a TD.

Ole Miss 28, Troy 10— Lane Kiffin’s father is Monte Kiffin, who was a defensive coordinator in the NFL (a great one) for many years. The TV guys on this game showed how Lane Kiffin lived in seven different cities, before he even went to college.

This is an under-reported part of football coaching, how coaches are nomadic— it probably has more of an effect on their families, since the coaches spend most of their time in their offices anyway. Kids have to go to different schools, make new friends. Has to be difficult.

Nebraska 38, North Dakota 17— This game was 17-17 with 3:00 left in the third quarter; the final score is misleading. North Dakota is a I-AA team. Lets just say, the natives are restless in Lincoln.

Georgia 49, Oregon 3— Rough start to the Dan Lanning era in Eugene; total yardage was 571-313, a total beatdown. Georgia scored a TD the first seven times they had the ball.

USC 66, Rice 14— USC scored on three pick-6’s; their defense outscored the Rice offense, 21-14.

Florida 29, Utah 26— Good game.
Gators scored game-winning TD with 1:25 left.
Total yardage was 451-446, Florida.
Utah converted 8-13 on third down, Gators 7-12. 

Liberty 29, Southern Mississippi 27 OT
Liberty tied game on a 23-yard TD pass with 0:36 left.
Liberty was 8-20 on third down, USM 3-12.
Southern Miss turned ball over five times (minus-2)

Ohio State 21, Notre Dame 10
Buckeyes outscored Notre Dame 14-0 in second half.
Ohio State outgained Irish, 395-253
Buckeyes ran 69 plays, Notre Dame only 48.
Buckeyes converted 7-13 on 3rd down, Notre Dame 3-13.

Upsets of the Week:
Old Dominion (+8.5) 20, Virginia Tech 17
Rutgers (+7) 22, Boston College 21
Arizona (+6) 38, San Diego State 20
Wyoming (+5) 40, Tulsa 37 OT
Syracuse (+4) 31, Louisville 7
Ohio U 41 (+3.5), Florida Atlantic 38 OT

Saturday’s Den: Wrapping up a busy Friday night……..

— Before we start today, if you live in the Albany area and you like golf or going out for a good time, The Bunker is a good place to go.

Located at 19 Clifton Country Rd, near the Hannaford market, The Bunker has a great bar area that is open air in the summer; there are golf simulators. You can rent a private room for a party. It is a fun place to visit.

Indiana 23, Illinois 20
Hoosiers drove 75 yards for winning TD, with 0:23 left to play.
Illinois gained 451 yards, had 29 first downs, but had four turnovers (minus-2)
Indiana ran ball 26 times for 32 yards, but still won.

TCU 38, Colorado 13:
TCU led 7-6 at halftime.
First half yardage: Colorado outgained TCU 212-67.
Second half yardage: TCU outgained Colorado 346-136.
Horned Frogs’ starting QB Morris left with an injured knee.

— TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley is the brother of USC coach Lincoln Riley.

Old Dominion 20, Virginia Tech 17
Monarchs scored game-winning TD (1-yard run) at the gun.
ODU’s other touchdown was scored by their defense.
Tech outgained ODU 340-245; this is a bad loss for them.

James Madison 41, Charlotte 24:
This is JMU’s first season as a I-A team; big win for them.
Discouraging loss for Charlotte, in their 8th year as a I-A team.
This game was 17-all at halftime.
Total yardage: 559-379, W&M
W&M averaged 13.5 yards per pass attempt.

— They announced Friday that college football will have a 12-team playoff, starting sometime between 2024-26; this will be a financial bonanza for college football, it’ll make the Christmas season a little more festive, except for the teams who lose in the playoff.

— Wagering knowledge: Cleveland’s acquisition of Donovan Mitchell saw their season win total jump from 42.5 to 46.5.

— Week 13 when they host Seattle, the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams will honor their other Super Bowl champs, the 1999 St Louis Rams, with coach Dick Vermeil, who got inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer. Should be a fun day.

Another thing the Rams need to do fairly soon is retire Kurt Warner’s number 13.

— Major League Baseball needs a Hard Knocks-type show to promote their great sport; spring training would be perfect for it, lot of down time, with games almost every day.

Minor leaguers from Latin America take English classes; they could show that. I met a tutor once who worked with an Astros’ farm club in Troy, over the river from where I live.

They could track how pitchers gear up their workload as the regular season approaches.

They could show the meetings where they decide the rule changes each year. 

They would show how teams pack for road trips, how much work is involved.

There is so much they could do to give their game more exposure to the casual fan.

— Under is 15-3 in the Baltimore Orioles’ last 18 games; their pitching is so much improved from last year. Moving the left field fence back has turned out to be a very wise move.

— Mariners 6, Guardians 1— Cleveland scored one run in their last three games.

— Phillies are 1-3 on the road this week; their win was 18-2, their losses were by scores of 13-7, 12-3, 13-1. Lot of runs in those games, not a lot of drama. 

— If the baseball playoffs started today (they do not):
NL: Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers. Wild Cards- Atlanta, Philly, San Diego
AL: New York, Guardians, Astros. Wild Cards- Tampa Bay, Seattle, Toronto

— AL Wild Card race:
1) Rays
2) Mariners
3) Blue Jays
Orioles 1.5 games back
Twins 4 GB
White Sox 6 GB
Red Sox 7.5 GB

— NL Wild Card race:
1) Braves
2) Phillies
3) Padres
Milwaukee 3.5 games behind

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

Pitt 38, West Virginia 31
Pitt scored two TD’s in last 3:41 to pull this game out; the game-winning TD was a pick-6 with 2:58 left.
West Virginia ran for 190 yards, converted 8-16 on third down, but still lost.
Pitt QB Slovis was 16-24/308 passing, 12.4 yards/attempt.

Penn State 35, Purdue 31
Penn State led 21-10 at halftime.
Purdue scored on a 72-yard pick-6 with 8:27 left to take a 31-28 lead.
Nittany Lions scored the game-winning TD on a 10-yard pass with 0:57 left.

 — These were both entertaining games, and with neither team playing exhibition games. Pretty impressive coaching.

— Was talking to a buddy on the phone during the end of the Purdue game; he was saying what happened on each play before I saw it on my TV. I guess DirecTV is kind of slow.

Oklahoma State 58, Central Michigan 44
Cowboys led this game 44-15 at halftime, 51-15 with 12:00 left in third quarter.
Chippewas got the back-door cover on a 54-yard TD pass with 3:15 left.
Central Michigan threw for 424 yards, bad news for the OSU defense.

— Close calls:
Akron 30, St Francis 23, OT
Florida International 38, Bryant 37, OT
Northern Illinois 34, Eastern Illinois 27
San Jose State 21, Portland State 17

Close calls against I-AA teams are red flags going forward, but winning, obviously, is still way better than losing.

— Tennessee 59, Ball State 10— I wanted to watch this game because the great Tom Hart was on the call, but the game was such a hideous mismatch that I turned it off quickly. 

Ball State tried a flea-flicker with its first play; the Cardinals’ QB checked down to a short pass, which was picked off and almost run back for a TD. Things got worse for Ball State, a lot worse.

— Get well soon to White Sox manager Tony LaRussa, 77; he is out indefinitely due to health concerns. He is undergoing additional testing in Arizona now; we wish him well.

— San Francisco Giants on one-run games:
31-17 last year, 17-25 this year.
Giants finished 107-55 last year; they’re 61-68 this year.

— Denver Broncos’ QB Russell Wilson signed a 5-year, $245M contract extension that includes a $50M signing bonus and $160M guaranteed.

Wilson will be 34 in November; he had a 113-60-1 record in Seattle, 9-7 in playoff games, with a Super Bowl win and two conference titles.

— Wilson/Broncos open the season with a Monday night game in Seattle, Wilson’s old home; Denver has lost its last five Monday night games.

— Young man named Jared Bernhardt made the Atlanta Falcons as a WR this week; he has quite a story.

Bernhardt is a great athlete; he is the all-time leader in points (290) and goals (202) playing lacrosse for Maryland for four years- they’re a national power in lacrosse.

After his four years at Maryland, Bernhardt transferred to D-II Ferris State to play football; he was a triple-option QB, throwing for 1,322 yards, 11 touchdowns while running ball for 1,421 rushing yards and 26 TD’s in only 10 games.

Ferris State won the national title that season; Bernhardt got a three-year, $2.6M contract. It seems like down the road, he may have a movie deal coming his way, too.

— Super Bowl champion Rams have 14 undrafted free agents on their 53-man roster; scouting and player development are important parts of having a winning team.

— Utah Jazz traded star Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland Thursday, for three players, three first round draft picks, and two other pick swaps.

Collin Sexton, one of the players Utah required, signed a 4-year, $72M sign/trade deal.

Now we know why Quin Snyder quit as Utah’s coach; they blew up their current roster to build for the future. In the meantime, the next couple years figure to be rough ones. Losing isn’t fun. 

— On Wednesday, Cavaliers were 80-1 to win next year’s NBA title; now they’re 30-1.

— Warriors’ star Steph Curry graduated from Davidson College this week, 13 years after he stopped playing ball there. Curry graduated with a degree in Sociology; he also had his number retired by Davidson, and was inducted into Davidson’s Hall of Fame.

— Sports betting became legal in Kansas this week, the 31st state with legalized sports betting. 

— Phillies’ 18-2 win in Arizona Wednesday was just fourth time since 1999 that a team scored 18+ runs in a game, without hitting any home runs.

— Baltimore Orioles signed free agent 1B Jesus Aguilar to fill the void of Trey Mancini getting dealt to Houston.

— Major league rosters expanded to 28 players Thursday; only one of the two extra players can be a pitcher. This makes for a more equitable situation than when rosters could be expanded to 40 men. Contending teams would expand more than cruddy teams, making it even harder for the lesser teams to win. 

— If the baseball playoffs started today (they do not):
NL: Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers. Wild Cards- Atlanta, Philly, San Diego
AL: New York, Guardians, Astros. Wild Cards- Tampa Bay, Seattle, Toronto

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

13) Random trivia: I was talking about the TV series Bosch last week; it is very good. They re-booted the series this year with Bosch: Legacy, and veteran actor William Devane appears in four episodes.

William Devane was born here in Albany; he’ll be 84 years old next week. He has 126 acting credits on, including a regular role on Knots Landing; this was his first acting role since 2016.

Here is the tidbit: His father was the chauffeur for Franklin Roosevelt when FDR was governor of New York. Albany, of course, is the state capital of New York. 

12) Was wondering how much $$$$ NFL players get paid when they’re on the practice squad. Luckily, you can find most anything on the Interweb.

— players with up to 2 years of experience: $11,500 per week on practice squad
— players with 2+ years of experience: $15,400-$19,900 per week (negotiable)

11) Orioles 4, Guardians 0— Baltimore Orioles have now had three consecutive winning months; before this June, they hadn’t had a winning month since 2017. 

10) Padres 5, Giants 4— Josh Hader got the save for San Diego; since Milwaukee traded him to the Padres, he’s allowed 12 runs in 5.2 IP, but he got three outs in a 5-4 game Wednesday, which helps San Diego’s playoff chances.

9) Mets’ rookie 3B Brett Baty is having thumb surgery, is out for the year. 

8) When WR Terry McLaurin takes the field for Washington next week, it’ll be his 47th NFL game. Carson Wentz will be the ninth different QB he’s played with in those 47 games. 

7) Jacksonville Jaguars added five players off waivers to try and improve their roster; New Jersey Giants added four. Smart teams can help themselves by utilizing the scrap heap. 

6) Carolina Panthers added Eddy Piniero as their new kicker. 

5) Detroit Lions dropped QB David Blough and added Nate Sudfeld, who has thrown 37 passes in four games with the Eagles. That should make for an interesting scene in Hard Knocks. 

Some college football trends:
4) Last ten years, Duke Blue Devils are 32-11 ATS in non-conference games.

3) Last five years, Indiana Hoosiers are 11-2 ATS as a home favorite. 

2) Last four years, Big X teams are 10-3 ATS when playing a Pac-12 opponent.

1) Last two years, teams from Big 14 are 17-4 ATS when playing a MAC opponent.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings………

— Scrolling thru Twitter provides some unusual information: it turns out that former Texas A&M football coach RC Slocum once took Mikhail Gorbachev and the older George Bush out to lunch at On The Border in College Station, TX, back in 2001.

Bush/Gorbachev went to a high school baseball game in College Station; afterwards, Gorbachev wanted some Mexican food, and Slocum picked out On The Border as the place to go.

Something you wouldn’t expect to see at a high school game in Texas; the President of the Soviet Union. Go figure.

— Sometimes you learn stuff just by keeping your ears open; I’m watching the Cubs couple of weeks ago— I have Willson Contreras/Christopher Morel on my fantasy team, and TV analyst Rick Sutcliffe is talking about Morel’s recent struggles. 

“We’re probably looking at a guy who needed 500 more at-bats in AAA” said Sutcliffe, meaning he thinks Morel needs another year of seasoning in the minors, which doesn’t happen as much now as it used to.

— This week is the 45th anniversary of Duane Kuiper’s one and only major league home run; he hit it on August 29. 1977, against Steve Stone 

Kuiper played 12 years in the majors, batted 3,754 times and hit one home run. He was a solid second baseman with very little pop in his bat. He had 917 career hits, a .271 batting average. 

Thru his first nine years in the big leagues, Stone was 78-79 as a pitcher, then broke out in 1979 and went 25-7, winning the Cy Young Award. 1980 was his last year in the majors as a player, but he is still there on TV.

45 years later, and Kuiper/Stone are still both really good TV announcers; Kuiper doing play-by-play for the Giants, Stone the color analyst for the White Sox. 

— Dodgers 4, Mets 3— Dodgers are now 25-7 in their last 32 games against the Mets.

— Albert Pujols hit his 694th career home run Monday night; he’s hit them against 450 different pitchers.

— Astros put P Justin Verlander (calf) on the IL. 

— Gavin Lux plays 2B for the Dodgers; his uncle is Augie Schmidt, who was the #2 pick in the 1982 amateur draft by Toronto, picked three slots ahead of Dwight Gooden. Whoops.

Schmidt never made the major leagues; he played five years in the minor leagues, and is now the baseball coach at Carthage College in Wisconsin— he’s been the coach there for 34 years.

— Tampa Bay’s star P Shane McClanahan skipped his start Tuesday because of a shoulder impingement while warming up; he will likely have a cortisone shot and if things go well, he’ll only miss a couple of weeks.

Tampa Bay is in a heated race for the Wild Card spots; they’re in right now, but McClanahan is a huge part of their success— without him, they’ll struggle to get in the playoffs.

— It drives me nuts when teams shift against Mets’ 2B Jeff McNeil; he is skilled at hitting the ball where the fielders aren’t, a modern-day Wee Willie Keeler “Hit ‘em where they ain’t”

McNeil is hitting .320 this year, with a .372 on-base %age. When the shifts are banned next year, McNeil’s batting average is going to go down- the over-educated morons who dictate defensive positioning now won’t have as much influence going forward.

— Dak Prescott is the only QB on the Dallas Cowboys’ 53-man roster; it is likely that Cooper Rush will eventually return as a backup. Will Grier will be subject to waivers; someone else may take a shot at him. 

— No matter what they say, the 49ers keeping Jimmy Garoppolo around adds pressure to 2nd-year QB Trey Lance.

— I know very little about fantasy football, but someone on TV had Jalen Hurts ranked as the #4 QB in fantasy— can that possibly be true, and if so, how?

— Davis Webb went 30-38/202 passing for the Giants Sunday, and was unemployed 48 hours later. Tuesday was a rough day for #3 quarterbacks around the league, almost all of whom will find a job, albeit for less money. Every team needs to at least keep a #3 QB on the practice squad.

— Tennessee Titans made the playoffs four of the last five years; they have a delicate situation on their hands, when to make rookie Malik Willis their starting QB. It is inevitable.

Ryan Tannehill is 30-13 in the regular season with Tennessee, 2-3 in the playoffs, 0-2 the last couple years. He never made the playoffs in five years with Miami. At some point this season, he will be replaced by Willis, just a matter of when.

— Minnesota Vikings dumped both their backup QB’s and traded for Nick Mullens, who has started 17 games for 49ers/Browns.

— This is the state of college sports these days; West Virginia-Pittsburgh renew a regional rivalry Thursday night, playing for first time in 11 years. The starting QB for each team Thursday was once the starting QB at USC. Quarterbacks who don’t start often depart. 

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

13) Personal opinion: Every NFL team should dress three QB’s for every game, with the third QB being a 54th player on the roster. This would preserve the quality of the game. NFL teams are really, really rich; they can afford adding a #3 QB to rosters.

Say the quarterback gets hurt on the first series of the game; now a team would only have one QB the rest of the game— if he also gets hurt, it is a disaster, so teams would have to throw fewer long passes, since they can’t let the backup QB get hit much. Hurts the quality of the game.

12) Tuesday will be a busy day, a tough day for NFL players, as rosters go from 80 players to 53. Teams can add players off the waiver wire starting Wednesday, and 16-man practice squads will be formed— this is a really busy week for people in the front office. 

11) San Francisco 49ers/QB Jimmy Garoppolo came to an agreement on a 1-year deal, meaning he will stay in San Francisco this season. Could be an awkward situation; Garoppolo led the 49ers to the NFC title game two of last three years, but 2nd-year QB Trey Lance is going to be the starter this season.

It was assumed that Garoppolo would be traded this summer, but:

a) they apparently didn’t get an offer that intrigued them
b) they didn’t want to trade him to division rival Seattle, which needs a QB. 

10) Denver Broncos/Tennessee Titans both cut their veteran punters, giving Buffalo Bills a shot at signing a new punter, after they cut rookie Matt Araiza.

Lot of times, when teams look to free up sone room on their salary cap, they cut the veteran punter and add a younger guy, who makes less $$$. Rams let Johnny Hekker walk this winter, same kind of deal. 

9) Carolina Panthers’ kicker Zane Gonzalez is hurt; Panthers tried out five different kickers on Monday.

Speaking of the Panthers, WR DJ Moore is the only WR in the NFL who had 1,200+ yards from scrimmage in each of the last three years. He had 1,100+ receiving yards all three years; his rushing yards put him over 1,200 all three seasons. 

8) In college football, there are 36 games this week where a I-A team (FBS) is playing a I-AA team (FCS). These are mostly glorified scrimmages, besting on undermanned teams while getting your players some experience, all while charging fans I-A prices. Go figure.

If a I-A teams loses to a I-AA team, and it’ll happen 2-3 teams a year, that team should be disqualified from playing in a bowl that season. 

7) Nebraska Cornhuskers have lost their last seven games, all by less than 10 points; they’re the only team in the last 86 years to lose seven games in a row, all by single-digit margins. 

6) Last year, there were ten games where a Pac-12 football team played a Mountain West team; the Pac-10 team was favored in all ten, but the Mountain West teams went 7-3 ATS. Over the last three seasons, Mountain West teams are 18-12 ATS vs the Pac-12, 16-10 as an underdog. 

5) When Justin Verlander left his start after three innings with a calf injury Sunday, it ended a streak of 41 straight games where the Astros’ starting pitcher lasted 5+ innings, which ties the 2018 Nationals for the longest such streak the last five seasons. 

4) Weird Stat of the Day: Last week, Ryan Aguilar walked in his first major league at-bat; he is the first Angels’ player since Jeff DaVanon in 1999 to walk in his first MLB at-bat. Since then, 163 position players have had their first MLB at-bat with the Angels. None of them walked.

3) Toronto Blue Jays have 17 guys on their roster who have been an All-Star at least once in their career, most of any team in the major leagues. 

2) Rory McIlroy’s strokes gained while putting rankings:
2019-20: 122nd
2020-21: 66th
2021-22: 16th

He ranked 6th on Tour this season on putts from 15-20 feet.

1) RIP to coach Ernie Zampese, who passed away this week at age 86; Zampese was an offensive football guru, the coordinator of the Air Coryell San Diego Chargers in the mid-80’s, later the Rams in the late 80’s, when they had very good teams with Jim Everett at QB.

All in all, he was an NFL assistant coach for 24 years for four different teams. Offenses he coached were always fun to watch.

RIP, sir. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports weekend……..

Jets 31, Giants 27:
— Giants’ backup QB Tyrod Taylor got hurt early; 3rd-stringer Davis Webb went 30-38/202. 38 passes in a preseason game is an awful lot of passes.
— 14 different Giants caught a pass in this game.
— 15 different Jets caught a pass; they scored winning TD with 0:22 left, on drive led by former Cardinal/CFL quarterback Chris Streveler.

Steelers 19, Lions 9:
— Pittsburgh led 16-0 at halftime.
— Trubisky was 15-19/160 passing, is Steelers’ likely Week 1 starting QB.
— Detroit’s backup QB’s completed only 22 of 47 passes. No bueno.
— Penalties: Steelers 11-95, Lions 10-89.

— NFL preseason is over; the next 48-72 hours will be very, very busy for NFL front offices, teams cutting players, signing others, trying to fortify their rosters.

Rosters go from 80 to 53 players Tuesday; 864 players hit the streets, but then starting the next day, teams can sign 16 players to their practice squads, so 512 guys getting a different job. 

— Buffalo Bills still need a punter, after rookie Matt Araiza was released for off-field issues.

— Michigan Wolverines haven’t decided on their starting QB yet; senior Cade McNamara will start at QB against Colorado State this week, sophomore J.J. McCarthy will start the next game, against Hawai’i September 10, 

Harbaugh will then make a final decision on his starter/backup going into their third game, against UConn. The way college sports are these days, the backup will probably hit the transfer portal around September 20.

— Since 2005, Cleveland Browns are 0-16-1 SU in Week 1 games.

— It seems weird that the last 4+ seasons, Florida State is 20-27 SU; they haven’t played in a bowl game since 2019. Seminoles’ game with LSU Sunday night is a big one for FSU.

— In his last ten tournaments, golfer Tony Finau has averaged 66.8 in his final round, with all ten rounds under 70.

— Rory McIlroy won the TOUR Championship, raked in $18M, pretty good week. He may have shunned the LIV Golf thing, but the LIV is forcing purses up on the PGA Tour.

— C Christian Vazquez has played in only 14 of 26 games since the Astros acquired him from the Red Sox. There aren’t a lot of catchers who are quality hitters with fantasy baseball credentials; the people who have Vazquez on their teams can’t be very happy, though he is hitting .333 in those 14 games.

— I watch way too much baseball on TV; one thing I firmly believe but can’t prove, is that older umpires call more strikes on Getaway Days. Seems to me that lot of borderline pitches are called strikes on Sunday; Phil Cuzzi had Orioles/Astros batters mumbling to themselves in Sunday’s 3-1 game.

— Speaking of the Astros, Justin Verlander left Sunday’s game after three innings with a strained calf muscle.

— Seattle Mariners’ star Julio Rodriguez has 21 home runs, 23 stolen bases, he is Seattle’s first 20-20 guy since Mike Cameron back in 2002.

— Washington 3, Cincinnati 2— Patrick Corbin got the win here, ending a streak of 43 games where the Nationals didn’t get any wins from their starting pitchers. That, unfortunately for them, is a major league record.

— New York put reliever Aroldis Chapman on the injured list with “a pretty bad infection” on Chapman’s leg, arising from a new tattoo.

I know someone who works in the tattoo industry; she told me Sunday night that the injury could very well be an allergic reaction to the ink, as opposed to an actual infection.

— TJ Finley won Auburn’s QB job, beating out guys who transferred into Auburn from Oregon and Texas A&M. Finley started the final three games for Auburn last season; he transferred to Auburn from LSU after the 2020 season.

— 20 years ago this week, the Oakland A’s were on their 20-game winning streak that we saw chronicled in the movie Moneyball; that team won honored in Oakland Sunday, including the manager Art Howe, which was great to see.

As an A’s fan, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but the worst part of the film was how Howe was portrayed; they made him out to be kind of a hack, when in reality he went 296-189 in his last three years with the A’s. He is a good baseball man, was a good manager. He deserved better.