Wednesday, September 18, 2013



Hello Football Fans,

The NFL has gotten off to an exciting start. 

Unfortunately, there have been plenty of devastating injuries, which I have not mentioned in this letter.  You handicappers will have to do your own homework.

In college, this week's slate of games is a bit weak.


The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL


For the first two weeks of NFL games, 22 of the 32 games were decided by 7 points or less (an NFL record, I’m told).  And three games in Week #2 were decided by 1 point, surprisingly a quite uncommon event (BUF 24-23, KC 17-16, and CHI 31-30).  And there were some wild finishes, with four games decided by winning touchdowns late (HOU in OT, BUF at 0:02, CHI at 0:10, and AZ at 1:59).

And more NFL records are being eclipsed because the league rules clearly favor the offense, specifically passing.  In Week #2 three QB’s threw for 400 or more yards without an interception, an NFL single-week record (GB Rodgers 480, SD Rivers 419, PHI Vick 428).  That makes five such performances for the year, and the record for a whole NFL season is only six.

Following up on last week’s oddity of three games starting off with a 2-0 score, it happened again (just once) this week.  In the SF-Seattle game on Sunday night, the Seahawks got a safety with 6 minutes remaining in the second quarter for the first score of the game when the Niners were caught holding in the end zone.  The home team dominated thereafter in a 29-3 win, and the Seattle fans -- the “12th Man”, supposedly set a new Guinness World Record for the highest decibel level at a sporting event (131.9), breaking the previous record of 131.7 set at a 2011 Turkish soccer match.  It was definitely loud, and it was evident just watching/listening on TV.  The two young QB’s Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick combined for only 8 completions and 94 yards in the first half of their Sunday night game.

Historically in the NFL, teams that start a season 0-2 have only a 12% chance of making the playoffs; still a chance, but the window of opportunity is closing.  Eight 0-2 teams are nearly desperate to get a win in Week #3: CAR, MIN, WSH, CLE, PIT, NYG, TB, and JAX.  At least two teams will be 0-3 by next Monday, because the Giants play at Carolina and Cleveland plays at Minnesota on Sunday.  And Jacksonville’s chances aren’t looking good, as the Jaguars travel across country to Seattle as a …..NINETEEN and a HALF point underdog. – wow!

Dateline-Jacksonville: A Facebook group called “Jags-Tebow Why Not?” organized a rally that was to be held at 3:16PM (religious reference….OMG!) on Monday outside EverBank Field, the Jaguars’ home field, and was loosely scheduled to last for 3 hours and 16 minutes.  The idea was to encourage the Jaguars’ front office to sign Tim Tebow, who is unemployed and available to any NFL team.  The “revival” attracted about a dozen people.  It was probably a poorly scheduled gathering, as the team is staying on the West Coast for the week, having played Oakland last Sunday and playing in Seattle this Sunday.


In pro games this week, only 4 underdogs (including the shocker above) won their games outright out of 16 games, or 25.0%.

San Diego +7h traveled across country on six days’ rest to Philadelphia, having just blown a big lead to lose on Monday Night Football.  The Chargers were given little chance against the new up-tempo Eagle offense.  But the Bolts never trailed until Philly scored a TD with 7 minutes remaining in regulation to take the lead 27-23.  The Chargers responded with a TD, the Eagles kicked a FG to tie inside of 2 minutes, and then San Diego finished off the upset with the winning 46-yard FG with 7 seconds left.
FINAL: SD 33, PHI 30.

Miami +2h won at Indianapolis, 24-20, as the Dolphins scored the winning TD with 4:40 remaining in the 4th quarter.  Dolphins’ QB Ryan Tannehill actually had a better game statistically than did Colts’ QB Andrew Luck.  The ‘Phins had zero penalties, and improved to 2-0.

Buffalo +2h beat visiting Carolina, 24-23.  With only 1:39 remaining in the game and behind by six, rookie QB EJ Manuel engineered a 9-play, 80 yard drive and threw the winning TD pass with 0:02 on the clock to tie the score.  The extra point kick was good, and the Bills won by 1 point and covered ATS.  The Panthers lost five players in their secondary due to injury during the game.  Safety Charles Godfrey is out for the year with a torn Achilles tendon.

Arizona +1h beat visiting Detroit, 25-21.  The Cardinals were behind 21-13 midway through the 3rd quarter, but kicked two FG’s and then scored the winning TD with 1:59 remaining in the game on a 1-yard run after a pass interference penalty.
FINAL: AZ 25, DET 21.


Tennessee +9h scored two fourth-quarter TD’s in a 2-minute span including a Pick-6 to take the lead, 24-16, but host Houston responded with its own TD and 2-point conversion to tie it up with 1:56 remaining in regulation.  With 57 seconds remaining, the Texans had gotten the ball back and lined up for the go-ahead FG.  The kick is up…it’s good; but wait, the Titans had called time out just before the snap in an attempt to “freeze” the kicker.  Re-snap, the kick is …. BLOCKED; but wait, the guy who blocked the kick was offsides.  Re-snap, the kick is up… it’s no good; but wait, the Titans had again called timeout to shake up the kicker, so Houston got a fourth chance.  Re-snap, the kick is up …. BOINK, off the left upright and no good, and the game was still tied at the end of regulation.
FINAL: HOU 30, TEN 24, as the Texans scored a TD in overtime to win (but not cover ATS).

Minnesota +6 had trouble getting into the end zone, settling for three unanswered 2nd-half field goals from 28, 28, and 22 to lead 30-24.  But host Chicago finished the game with a 10-play, 66-yard drive for a TD with 0:10 on the clock.
FINAL: CHI 31, MIN 30.


The big game last Saturday had AP#1 Alabama (-7h) traveling to AP#6 Texas A&M.  The host Aggies jumped out to a 14-0 lead early, after which the Crimson Tide scored 35 unanswered points by the early 3rd quarter and the visitors were still ahead 42-21 going into the 4th quarter.  A&M fought back with 2 TD’s, but ‘Bama responded with a TD at 2:28 remaining in regulation to lead by two touchdowns, 49-35.  A&M launched one last TD drive ending with only 15 seconds left.  FINAL: ALA 49, TXAM 42; and, you will notice that the underdog Aggies covered ATS by ½ point, even though they lost the game straight up (SU).

Michigan was favored by 37 points at home against lowly Akron (with HC Terry Bowden in his 2nd year there).  The Zips had several shots at the end zone to win the game late from inside the Wolverine’s 10 yard line.  A fourth-down pass fell incomplete, but it was too close for Big House fans.  FINAL: MICH 28, AKRON 24, a “near miss” that would have rivaled the Wolverines’ loss to FCS Appalachian State not that long ago.


In FBS college games this week, 11 underdogs won their games outright out of 45 games, or 24.4%, including the shocker mentioned above.

On Thursday night, Texas Tech (+3) beat visiting TCU 20-10, and Tulane (+7) won at Louisiana Tech, 24-15.

AP#16 UCLA (+4) won big at AP#23 Nebraska, 41-21.  The Cornhuskers led 21-3, after which the Bruins scored 38 unanswered points including 28 points in the 3rd quarter.

Visiting AP#25 Mississippi (+3) handily beat downtrodden Texas, 44-23.  The Longhorns suffered their 2nd ugly loss in consecutive weeks (at BYU 40-21 last week), albeit with their #1 QB David Ash out for the week.  The UT fans are restless, similar to what was going on in Los Angeles last week with the USC Trojan fans.

Central Florida (+5h) won at Penn State, 34-31.

Oregon State (+3) won at Utah in overtime, 51-48.

Ohio U. (+8) beat visiting Marshall, 34-31.

Louisiana-Monroe (+3) won at Wake Forest, 21-19.

South Alabama (+9h) beat visiting Western Kentucky and HC Bobby Petrino, 31-24.

North Texas (+3h) beat visiting Ball State, 34-27.

Florida Atlantic (+13) won 28-10 at South Florida, and the Bulls are a pathetic AAC (formerly known as the Big East) team so far.


Wisconsin +5 traveled to Arizona State to face their PAC-12 opponent and a PAC-12 officiating crew.
The Sun Devils struggled with miscues and missed opportunities most of the game, but nevertheless went ahead 32-24 after scoring on a 1-yard TD run at the end of the 3rd quarter.  Wisconsin answered with a scoring drive of its own and scored a TD with 3:23 on the clock that pulled the Badgers within 32-30, but the 2-point conversion failed.
After an Arizona State drive stalled, Wisconsin took over at its 17-yard line with 1:36 left. The Badgers moved quickly down the field, thanks to a 51-yard completion and had the ball at Arizona State's 13 with 18 seconds remaining.
With the ball on the right hash mark, Wisconsin QB Joel Stave took a snap and ran left toward the center of the field to set up the potential game-winning field goal. Stave started to kneel, but ran into one of his offensive linemen and awkwardly placed the ball on the ground before quickly bouncing back up.
Players from both teams stood around for a few seconds in confusion and Arizona State's players tried to dive on the ball, but the officials pointed to the ground, appearing to say it was a dead ball.
Realizing the clock was still running, Wisconsin's players scrambled back to the line of scrimmage with about 2 seconds left. They weren't able to get a last snap off before the clock went off, sending Arizona State's players streaming off the field in joy.
Stave and the rest of Wisconsin's players and coaches tried to argue the call, but the officials trotted off the field, leaving the Badgers stunned.
FINAL: ASU 32, WISC 30 (only consolation is that Badgers covered ATS).

“UPSETS” -- FCS (Division 1-AA) beats FBS (Division 1-A)

And the FCS upsets continue into the third week of the season.
FBS Florida International lost badly at home to FCS#23 Bethune-Cookman, 34-13.
FBS Temple lost at home to FCS Fordham, 30-29.
Cumulatively for the first three weeks, the total FCS wins over FBS teams has now grown to THIRTEEN.


FBS Buffalo barely beat FCS#13 Stony Brook at home, 26-23, in overtime.


The Associated Press (AP) and USAToday (coaches) polls are nearly identical again.
The Top 10 and the Top 23 teams are the same, with a slightly different order.  The biggest discrepancy is the University of Washington, AP#17 and #20 in the USAToday poll.
Alabama is still #1 in both polls, with 59 of 60 first place votes in the AP and 61 of 62 votes from the coaches (Oregon gets the one other first place vote in each poll).
It’s still too early to focus on these “meaningless” polls in the last year of the BCS system.

In one last glimpse at the FCS until the end of the season, following is the current Top 10:

#1 ND State               Unanimous #1 (26 first place votes)  Beat Kansas State in opener
#2 Eastern WA           beat Oregon State, lost to FBS Toledo; plays #4 SH State on 9/28
#3 Montana St.           lost by 1 point to SMU
#4 Sam Houston St.    lost big to Texas A&M; two blowout FCS wins
#5 Central ARK          lost to Colorado
#6 Towson                beat FBS UConn, plus 2 blowout FCS wins; was preseason #12
#7 SD State               3 FCS wins
#8 New Hampshire     lost by 3 to Central Michigan
#9 Northern Iowa       beat Iowa State 28-20; was #16 in preseason poll
#10 Cal Poly               lost to FBS Fresno by 16 and FBS Colorado State by 17     


This week, we FFHL’ers performed pretty much like monkeys at 40-38-6 (51.2% ATS).  In college, we were 20-20-6 (50.0% ATS), and in the NFL we were 20-18 (52.6% ATS).
We selected only 15 underdogs out of 84 picks, and those ‘dogs were 10-5-0 ATS (7-2 ATS college), or 66.7% ATS.  That means we performed below average on our “favorites” picks at 30-33-6 ATS (47.8%). 

Our #1 picks and #2 picks are the worst after three weeks at 37.5% and 41.7% ATS, respectively.  Our best picks are #4 and #6, both at 63.9% year-to-date.
Cumulatively, we are 51.2% ATS so far this year after three weeks and 252 picks (Weeks Zero, One, and Two).  We are 55.5% in college on 173 picks and only 41.8% in the NFL on 79 picks.

Listed below is a breakdown of some of our significant picks. 

                                    ATS Picks
Team                           For-Against    Result / Unsolicited comments

OAK Raiders -5h vs. JAX      5-0       WIN, Jags lose RB and game, 19-9
NOR Saints -3h at TB            4-1       LOSS, New Orleans wins by only 2, 16-14
BAL Ravens -6h vs. CLE       4-0       WIN, Baltimore wins 14-6 to cover by 1½
DEN Broncos -4h at NYG     3-1       WIN, Denver blowout 41-23 over Gnats
SEA Seahawks -2h vs. SF     2-1       WIN, Seattle “D” dominates in 29-3 win
KC Chiefs -3 vs. DAL           2-1       LOSS, Kansas City wins only 17-16

Louisville -14 at Kentucky     4-0       TIE, Cardinals win only 27-13
Oregon -28 vs. Tennessee     3-0       WIN, blowout of SEC Vols, 59-13
Alabama -7h at Texas A&M   3-0       LOSS, Tide wins only 49-42 to miss by hook
Michigan -37 vs. Akron         3-0       LOSS, ugly ‘Gander win only 28-24
UCLA +4 at Nebraska           3-1       WIN, Bruins start slow, finish strong, 41-21 win
Penn State -5h vs. UCF         2-1       LOSS, Central FL wins outright, 34-31

In the 3rd week of college games:
                                                ATS                             Straight-up
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES                              15-28-2  (35.6%)        34-11 (75.6%)

Big favorites did not fare well last weekend
HOME TEAMS                         18-24-2  (43.2%)        26-18 (59.1%)

            AP TOP 10                     4-3-1     (56.2%)         7-1     (87.5%)

Cumulative percentages through three weeks:
                                                ATS                             Straight-up
                                                Record                        Record
FAVORITES               52-75-2  (41.1%)        104-25 (80.6%)         
HOME TEAMS           61-59-2  (50.8%)         83-39 (68.0%)
AP TOP 10                  11-8-1    (57.5%)        17-3   (85.0%)

NFL – 2nd week:
ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

            FAVORITES               7-9-0  (43.8%)                12-4-0  (75.0%) 
            HOME TEAMS          9-7-0  (56.2%)                 12-4-0  (75.0%)

Cumulative percentages through two weeks:
ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

          FAVORITES               14--17-1  (45.3%)        24-8-0  (75.0%) 
            HOME TEAMS          17-14-1  (54.7%)        21-11-0  (65.6%)

LOOKING AHEAD – selected games, not the full slate

Thursday         Clemson -13h at North Carolina State

Friday             Boise State +3 at Fresno State

Saturday          Utah +7 at BYU in the “Holy War”
                        Rice +2h vs. Houston at neutral site Reliant Stadium (NFL HOU Texans)
                        Michigan State +7 at Notre Dame
                        Colorado State +40 at Alabama (Go Rams!)
                        Auburn +17h at LSU
                        Texas-San Antonio +1 at UTEP
                        Utah State +6h at USC
                        North Carolina +5h at Georgia Tech
                        Purdue +24h at Wisconsin
                        Tennessee +17h at Florida    


Thursday        Kansas City (+3h) at Philadelphia

Sunday            Divisional Matchups:
Buffalo +2h at NY Jets
                        Other interesting games:
                        Houston -2h at Baltimore
                        Atlanta +1h at Miami             Falcons have some key injuries

Monday          Oakland +14h at Denver


Several years ago, the State of Delaware failed to get sports gambling legalized in the state.  Now New Jersey has suffered the same fate, although a limited panel of judges ruled 2-1.  The next step is a rehearing by the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit with a full panel of judges.  If unsuccessful there, the State could potentially apply for the US Supreme Court to hear the case.


QUESTION #1:  CBS announced that the Alabama-Texas A&M game on Saturday afternoon earned the highest ratings for a regular season college football game in 23 years (on CBS), hitting an overnight household rating of 9.0 (whatever that means).  What game in 1990 had the previous high rating for an afternoon regular-season college football game for CBS?

Miami of Florida vs. Notre Dame earned a 10.1 rating on October 20, 1990.
It was a “Convicts vs. the Catholics” game in Notre Dame Stadium, the last game in their 23-year series dating back to 1955.  Miami coach Dennis Erickson stated, “It’s a travesty that we're not playing anymore.”
The Irish won 29-20 to end the national championship hopes of the Hurricanes, as Rocket Ismail returned a kickoff for a TD, Craig Hentrick kicked 5 field goals, and Rick Mirer threw a TD pass for HC Lou Holtz and Notre Dame.

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