FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER
NFL WEEK #3
It was another bizarre week in pro football. Four games were decided by a winning TD late in the 4th quarter, including three inside of one minute [TENN at 0:15 to beat SD, CLE at 0:51 to beat MIN, MIA at 0:43 to beat ATL, and ugly ending for the Pack with CIN scoring defensive TD at 3:47 to finish the scoring and win].
After three weeks, I’m told historically that teams starting a season 0-3 have only a 3% chance of making the playoffs (hard to believe, huh?). That means six teams: JAX, PIT, TB, MIN, NYG, and WSH have only a slim chance to make the playoffs this year, as they are all winless in 2013. Of course it makes sense that an 0-3 team is probably not very good, and thus would not be expected to make the playoffs. Even “decent” teams that start this poorly have dug themselves a 5½ foot hole, and will have a tough time climbing out and surpassing other teams that got off to a better start.
Historically, teams starting 3-0 have about an 85% chance to make the playoffs. There are seven undefeated teams this year: CHI, NOR, SEA, NE, MIA, KC, and DEN. Statistically, 6 of these 7 teams will make the playoffs (meaning that one probably won’t).
Teams starting the season 2-1 have a bit better than a 50% chance of making the playoffs. Those 8 teams are: DAL, DET, NYJ, CIN, BAL, HOU, TEN, and IND. Thus, probably 4 teams in this group will make the playoffs.
The 11 teams starting 1-2 have about a 24% chance of reaching the postseason: PHI, GB, ATL, CAR, STL, SF, AZ, BUF, CLE, SD, and OAK. That means probably 2 or 3 of these teams will make the playoffs.
NFL ACTION – UNDERDOG WINNERS
In pro games this week, SIX underdogs won their games outright out of 16 games, or 37.5%.
On Thursday night, HC Andy Reid led the KC Chiefs +3h into his old stomping grounds and beat Philadelphia, 26-16. The PHI Eagles have now lost 8 home games in a row; isn’t that unbelievable? I had to go back and check to make sure. They haven’t won in Philly since Week #4 of last year (a 2-point victory).
SHOCKER OF THE WEEK:
Indianapolis +9h traveled to the West Coast to play San Francisco and shockingly dominated on the scoreboard in the second half to win 27-7. Total yards from scrimmage favored the Colts only 336-254, but the Niners were hurt by two turnovers (none for Indy) and six penalties (only 1 for Colts).
Cleveland +6h had just traded their starting RB Trent Richardson to Indianapolis during the week and then had to travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings with their #3 QB, Brian Hoyer. The Browns were ahead 24-17 at halftime, but Minnesota took the lead with a FG at 10:47 in the fourth quarter. The visitors finished with a 2½ minute drive of 11 plays for 55 yards and the winning TD, leaving only 51 seconds on the clock.
Baltimore +2h beat visiting Houston, 30-9.
Detroit +1 won at Washington DC, 27-20. The Lions had not won the previous 21 times visiting the capital city, and now the long losing streak is over.
UNCANNY LOSS OF THE WEEK:
Cincinnati +3 hosted the Packers of Green Bay and jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but the Pack scored 30 unanswered points. The Bengals came back with 2 more TD’s to trail only 30-27 in the 4th quarter. Green Bay was grinding out yardage, eating up the clock .With under 4 minutes remaining in the game, GB faced 3rd and 4 and picked up a 1st down. But wait….Cincy threw the red flag to challenge the spot. The call on the field was reversed, the first down was taken away, and the Pack faced 4th and inches on Cincinnati’s 41-yard line. A simple running play up the gut resulted in a fumble, picked up by …fumble, bumble.. the Bengals and taken 58 yards to paydirt for the final score of the game with 3:47 on the clock. FINAL: CIN 34, GB 30.
San Diego +3 was never behind in its game at Tennessee until the Titans scored a TD with 15 seconds remaining in the game to win 20-17, which resulted in a tie ATS. The Titans outgained the Chargers from scrimmage, 452-277, but committed 11 penalties for 116 yards.
FBS ACTION – UNDERDOG WINNERS
In FBS college games this week, I believe some kind of record was broken. Only TWO underdogs won their games outright out of 44 games, or 4.5%.
In the Holy War, Utah +6h won at BYU, 17-10.
Memphis +4 handily beat visiting Arkansas State, 31-7.
San Diego State +9h was ahead 27-14 after three quarters, but Oregon State got a Pick-6 touchdown with 2½ minutes remaining in the game to win, 34-30.
Connecticut +18 nearly beat visiting Michigan, but the Wolverines outscored the outmanned Huskies 10-0 in the 4th quarter to prevail and avoid the upset, 24-21.
“UPSETS” -- FCS (Division 1-AA) beats FBS (Division 1-A)
Georgia State, just moving into the FBS this year, lost its fourth straight game that included losses to three FCS schools.
The Panthers lost last Saturday to visiting Jacksonville State, 32-26.
Cumulatively for the first four weeks, the total FCS wins over FBS teams has now grown to FOURTEEN, including the three losses by GA State.
FCS UPSETS – “NOT QUITE”
Northern Illinois eked out a victory over Eastern Illinois in Dekalb, IL, 43-39.
I take back my previous statement that Nebraska has a better team than last year. The ‘Huskers were tied at 14-14 with South Dakota State before taking control of the game in winning 59-20. Something is amiss in Lincoln. “Big” Red has a bye week to regroup this weekend.
COLLEGE GAMES AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
If you ever think you are a good gambler and that you can make money betting on games, call me at 1-866-URP-ATSY. Even if you have a game figured out ahead of kickoff, that doesn’t mean you’ll win ATS. Following are a few examples.
Wisconsin -24 was ahead only 14-10 against visiting Purdue in mid-2nd quarter, but it was all Badgers from that point. However, UW needed an “insurance” TD in the 4th quarter to cover ATS in winning 41-10. The Badgers outgained the Boilermakers 546-180 from scrimmage (388 yards rushing), but still could have easily not covered the spread.
Host UCLA -42 (that means the Bruins have to give six touchdowns to the other team) had to score a “meaningless” TD using 3rd and 4th team players with 4:38 remaining in the game to actually cover that huge spread by 4 points in winning 59-13 over hapless New Mexico State. HAWKEYE in the FFHL was the beneficiary.
Texas A&M -28h is highly regarded and has last year’s Heisman Trophy winner as its QB. Of course the Aggies dominated against the visiting SMU Mustangs, but they missed three extra points in the 2nd quarter. No problem; A&M won 42-13 to win by 29 and cover ATS “by the hook” (1/2 point). It’s easy to pick the favorites and win. Good luck next week.
Footnote: TX A&M only outgained SMU from scrimmage by a margin of 581-434.
Alabama, the consensus #1 team in the country, was favored by 39 points at home against Colorado State. The Crimson Tide was only ahead 17-6 at the end of the 3rd quarter, but ended up winning 31-6, still way short of covering ATS (missed by 14 points).
Another SEC team, host LSU -17 faced West Division opponent Auburn. The home team Tigers were ahead 21-0 at halftime and already covering ATS. But by the end of the game, the other Tigers (Auburn) had stayed close enough to cover ATS in their loss, 31-17.
This happens all of the time; should I keep going? OK, I will. The stuff above happens every week, but this next one is not normal at all.
This is the most amazing happenstance for the week, and I’m not being melodramatic on this one:
Virginia Tech -8 (favored by eight), scored the tying TD at home against Marshall with 3:08 remaining in regulation to tie the score at 21-21. The game went to overtime. The likely scenarios in OT are wins by 3, 6 or 7, meaning that the VA Tech Hokies were not likely to cover ATS. But, of course, because The Fugitive’s opponent had picked the Hokies in our pool, all convention went out the window. After two overtimes, the game was still tied at 21 since in the first two overtime periods VA Tech had missed two FG’s and Marshall had missed one FG. In the third OT, teams can no longer kick the extra point after a TD, but are forced to go for “two”. Sure enough, the Hokies got the ball first in the 3rd overtime and scored a TD and 2-point conversion to lead by eight. Marshall fumbled away their opportunity to tie and the game was over. FINAL: VA.TK 29, THUNDERING HERD 21, and it was a tie ATS. Unbelievable!
And in case you missed the wild game of the week, a game decided by ½ point ATS, Pittsburgh -3h won at Duke, 58-55 in a non-overtime game to not cover ATS.
The Panthers scored 3 TD’s in the 4th quarter, including the last two with 5:30 and 3:43 on the clock to win the game. Duke lost the turnover battle, 4-0. Pitt’s QB Tom Savage threw 6 TD passes without an interception.
Don’t forget to call me if you think you are really good at picking games against the spread. Here is a prime example:
Florida -16 was ahead 31-10 in the fourth quarter, but the Gator backups let Tennessee score a meaningless TD to win only 31-17 and not cover ATS. The TENN Vols got the “backdoor” cover. MOORE MONEY got lucky, but YO MAMA’s #1 pick and 1-800-OPPOSITE and FILTER KING also got burned.
I’m stopping now. This could go on forever. And my fellow handicappers in the FFHL probably have even better stories than the ones I just mentioned.
Reading this letter is better for you than going to your Gamblers Anonymous meeting.
Once again I have to say that these polls mean very little so far. The AP and USAToday Polls both have the exact same Top 10 and Top 25, with slightly different orders. The largest discrepancy is the University of Washington (U-Dub), 16th in the AP and 20th in the coaches’ poll.
Oregon is getting a few more first place votes, taken away from Alabama. In the AP, it’s Alabama 56 and the OU Ducks 4. In the USAToday, it’s ‘Bama 59 and Oregon 3.
We’ll find out a lot more in the next few weeks, as a full slate of conference games gets started in this upcoming fifth week.
FFHL RESULTS – WEEK THREE
This week, we FFHL’ers collectively performed pretty much like monkeys again at 40-39-5 (50.6% ATS). In college, we were 25-20-1 (55.4% ATS), and in the NFL we were 15-19-4 (44.7% ATS).
We selected only 19 underdogs out of 84 picks, and those ‘dogs were 4-12-3 ATS (28.9% ATS, and an even uglier 1-9-3 ATS in the NFL. That should get all of us betting favorites even more heavily next week.
Our #1 and #2 picks are the worst after four weeks, each at 41.7% ATS. Our best pick is #6, at 62.5% ATS year-to-date.
Cumulatively, we are 51.0% ATS so far this year. We are 55.5% in college on 219 picks and only 42.7% in the NFL on 117 picks.
FFHL LOP-SIDED and CONTESTED PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
Listed below is a breakdown of some of our significant picks.
Team For-Against Result / Unsolicited comments
Stanford -6 vs. AZ State 5-0 WIN, (almost) no doubt after 29-0 halftime lead
Oregon St -9h at SDSU 4-0 LOSS, Beavers lucky just to win SU, 34-30
USC -6h vs. Utah State 4-0 LOSS, “pathetic” mediocre victory, 17-14
Texas A&M -28h vs. SMU 3-0 WIN, unbelievable ½ point cover ATS, 42-13
Baylor -30 vs. UL-Monroe 3-0 WIN, blow again by Bears, 70-7
Florida -16 vs. Tennessee 3-1 LOSS, backdoor cover by Vols in loss, 31-17
GB Packers -3 at CIN 4-0 LOSS, Bengals win outright after red flag, 34-30
NY Giants +1 at CAR 3-0 LOSS, Gnats were annihilated at Carolina, 38-0
MIN Vikings -6h vs. CLE 3-0 LOSS, outright defeat by 3rd QB and Browns, 31-27
CHI Bears -2h at PIT 5-1 WIN, Chicago is hot & beat Steelers easily, 40-23
SD Bolts +3 at TENN 3-1 TIE, Titans score TD at 0:15 to win 20-17
MIA ‘Phins -2h vs. ATL 2-2 WIN, big Dolphins comeback TD at end, 27-23
NOR Saints -6h vs. AZ 2-1 WIN, New Orleans wins going away, 31-7
NE Pats -7 vs. TB Bucs 2-1 WIN, as Tampa Bay shows little in 23-3 defeat
In the 4th week of college games:
FAVORITES 25-18-1 (58.0%) 42-2 (95.5%) WOW!!!
HOME TEAMS 26-15-1 (63.1%) 28-14 (66.7%)
AP TOP 10 3-4-0 (42.9%) 7-0 (100.0%)
Cumulative percentages through three weeks:
FAVORITES 77-93-3 (45.4%) 146-27 (84.4%)
HOME TEAMS 87-74-3 (54.0%) 111-53 (67.7%)
AP TOP 10 14-12-1 (53.7%) 24-3 (88.9%)
NFL – 3rd week:
FAVORITES 9-6-1 (59.4%) 10-6-0 (62.5%)
HOME TEAMS 10-5-1 (65.6%) 11-5-0 (68.8%)
Cumulative percentages through three weeks:
FAVORITES 23--23-2 (50.0%) 34-14-0 (70.8%)
HOME TEAMS 27-19-2 (58.3%) 32-16-0 (66.7%)
LOOKING AHEAD – selected games, not the full slate
COLLEGE FOOTBALL - FFHL WEEK #4
Thursday Iowa State +2h at Tulsa
Virginia Tech +7 at Georgia Tech
Friday Utah State -10 at San Jose State (Aggies’ 4th road game in 5 weeks)
BYU -21h at Middle Tennessee
Saturday BIG GAMES OF THE WEEK:
LSU +3 at Georgia
Wisconsin +7 at Ohio State
Oklahoma -3h at Notre Dame
OTHER INTERESTING GAMES:
Iowa -1 at Minnesota
Stanford -10 vs. WA State in Seattle
USC +6 at Arizona State
Tulane Green Wave +13 at Louisiana-Monroe
Army -2h vs. Louisiana Tech in Dallas
Houston -3 at Texas-San Antonio (UTSA)
Toledo +2h at Ball State (Rockets’ 4th road game in 5 weeks)
NFL WEEK #4 – SELECTED GAMES
BYE WEEKS: CAROLINA, GREEN BAY
Thursday San Francisco -3 at St. Louis
Sunday Divisional Matchups:
Cincinnati -4 at Cleveland
Chicago +2h at Detroit
Indianapolis -7h at Jacksonville
Other interesting games:
Pittsburgh -1 vs. Minnesota in London
Seattle -2h at Houston
New England +1 at Atlanta
Monday Miami +6h at New Orleans
NFL TRADE AND INJURIES
Last Wednesday, Cleveland traded its 1st-round draft pick from 2012 (#3 overall), RB Trent Richardson (ALA), to the Indianapolis Colts for their first round pick in 2014. Indy badly needed a power back after losing starter Vick Ballard (injury) for the year in Week #1. Cleveland must have seen a flaw in their “franchise” running back; otherwise, this was a bad trade for the Browns and their fans.
Denver lost stellar OLT Ryan Clady for the year (joint damage in foot). This could be a problem for the Broncos’ offense and Peyton Manning’s blind side and health.
UPDATE: No problem for Peyton. He has now thrown 12 TD passes in the first 3 games (an all-time record), and has thrown zero interceptions.
Indianapolis lost one of their two starting TE’s, Dwayne Allen for the year (hip surgery).
UPDATE: Injuries don’t seem to be a problem for the Colts, as they dominated at San Francisco Sunday.
New Orleans lost cornerback Patrick Robinson for the year (knee).
UPDATE: Saints were a big winner on Sunday.
Cincinnati lost DE Robert Geathers for the year (elbow).
UPDATE: Bengals are 2-1 after beating Green Bay on Sunday.