Saturday, January 18, 2014

FOOTBALL NEWS AFTER NFL DIVISIONAL CONFERENCE PLAYOFF GAMES



FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,

I've got a bunch of quiz questions this week, as many of you seem to like those more than my
commentary.

This week I tried to give you some minutia that you may not have noted from just watching or reading about the four NFL playoff games.

Please respond and comment if you feel the urge.  Are any of you FFHL'ers still alive out there, or has picking games ATS beat y'all up too badly? (I can relate).

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL


NFL

NFL DIVISIONAL SEMIFINAL PLAYOFF RESULTS

NFC

Saturday, January 11th

#6 NEW ORLEANS +8 at #1 SEATTLE -8
FINAL:  SEA 23, NOR 15; a tie ATS.
This matchup was highlighted by a meeting between the two shortest QB’s in the 2013 NFL – the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson at 5’11” and the Saints’ Drew Brees at 6’0”.  The winning QB did not perform all that well.  Wilson was only 9 of 18 for 103 yards and no TD’s (but no INT’s, either); he let RB Marshawn Lynch control the game on the ground (28 carries for 140 yards and 2 TD’s).
QB Brees was 24 of 43 for 309 yards, 1 TD and no INT’s.

Historical Note:  Because NFC #1 seed Seattle won this game, it guaranteed that #2 seed San Francisco would not get a home playoff game.  After the Seahawks win, Candlestick Park in San Francisco was officially closed (permanently).

Sunday, January 12th

#5 SAN FRANCISCO -1 at #3 CAROLINA +1
FINAL: SF 23, CAR 10
Two goal-line stands by the Forty-Niners’ defense from the 1-yard line kept this game from being a lot closer.

DID YOU KNOW?  This was the 49’ers and HC Jim Harbaugh’s third straight road playoff game victory.  For his career, Harbaugh is 1-2 against the Seahawks in Seattle, 4-2 against Seattle overall, and 6-3 head-to-head against Pete Carroll (now HC of Seattle) including a 2-1 mark while HC at Stanford.

ATS:  Since the playoffs expanded in 1978, this was only the sixth time in the divisional round of the playoffs in which the home team was the underdog.  The ‘dog had covered ATS in 4 of those 5 previous meetings, but Carolina did not succeed as the underdog.

SU (“straight up”, ignore the point spread):  From 1990 through 2004, the teams that earned a “bye” week won in the divisional games at an 81.7% rate.  In contrast, from 2005 through 2012 those same teams getting a “bye” won only 56.3% of the time (or in other terms, producing only an 18-14 record over the last 8 years).
Draw your own conclusions, but the NFL is happy with the trend and parity is alive and well.

AFC

Saturday, January 11th

#4 INDIANAPOLIS +7 at #2 NEW ENGLAND -7
FINAL: NE 43, IND 22
Four interceptions by Colts’ QB Andrew Luck caused their ultimate demise.  Still, Indy trailed only 29-22 after three quarters and it was still a game at that point.  The Patriots racked up SIX rushing TD’s for the game, including 4 by RB LeGerrette Blount (24 carries for 166 yards).

DID YOU KNOW?  New England has been in the top 3 in the NFL in rushing TD’s for the last four seasons.
DID YOU ALSO KNOW?  Eight starters and 27 total players on the NE Pats current active roster were undrafted free agents coming out of college (e.g., Blount, WR Amendola).
ONE MORE:  Let us not get too critical of young Andrew, who has 6 TD passes and 8 interceptions in his first three playoff games (in his 1st two years in the league).  For perspective, Peyton Manning had just ONE touchdown pass in the first three playoff games of his career (and two interceptions).
QB Luck had only 9 interceptions during the whole 2013 regular season.

Sunday, January 12th
#6 SAN DIEGO +9 at #1 DENVER -9
FINAL: DEN 24, SD 17; Chargers get late FG to cover ATS.

Denver dominated early in the game, and the Chargers were fortunate to only be trailing 17-0 at halftime.  Still trailing by 17 after a scoreless third quarter, San Diego finally began its comeback on a TD with 13 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.  Denver fans had to be feeling the “déjà vu” from last year’s debacle against Baltimore at home.  Or maybe not quite yet.  The game once again appeared out of reach for the underdog Chargers after the Broncos responded with their own TD with 8 minutes left in the game, making the score 24-7.  But San Diego answered with 6 minutes remaining, recovered an onside kick, and then kicked a 30-yard FG with just under 4 minutes on the clock to trail only 24-17, (and now covering ATS).  Déjà vu!?! The Chargers didn’t try for the onside kick this time, and the game ended with Denver picking up several first downs on 11 plays, eating up the entire clock.

DID YOU KNOW?  Denver didn’t have to punt in the game, converting 9 of 13 third down situations.  It was just the 8th time any team had accomplished this feat in NFL playoff history (three times by the team quarterbacked by Peyton Manning).

SAN DIEGO had no turnovers in the game (Denver 2), but the Chargers’ running game was significantly slowed down by injuries to their running backs.  They rushed for only 65 yards from scrimmage; Ryan Mathews had to leave the game early in the first half.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

PLAYOFFS?  PLAAAAYOFFS!!??

If the new playoff system had started this year instead of next year, how would the games have played out?  It is mere speculation, but it could have looked something like this:

Semifinal: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
Semifinal: #2 Auburn vs. #3 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans, LA

Title Game:  #1 Florida State vs. #3 Alabama in Cowboy Stadium, Arlington, TX

COMMENTS:
The top four teams in the final BCS rankings this year were (in order): FSU, Auburn, Alabama, and Michigan State.  This was the exact same results that all three human polls produced – AP, USA Today, and Harris Interactive.

This would have created an “ugly” rematch of Auburn and Alabama at a neutral site.  Remember that Auburn won on the last play of the game at home with a 109-yard return after a missed FG try by Alabama in the last regular season game for both teams.  I believe ‘Bama would have gotten revenge in this “fictional” semifinal matchup, similar to the 2011 season when they got beat by LSU at home during the regular season, somehow got into the title game anyway, and then got a rematch with the Tigers and smoked them 21-0 in the BCS Championship Game.

I’m afraid Alabama may have beaten Florida State in this fictional title game.  I’m glad that didn’t happen.  Seven titles in a row for the SEC was already more than I could handle.  Eight in a row would have sent me off the cliff.

THE REAL 2014 “COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS”

We’ll get into the details of how the new playoff system is structured – later, next summer.  But one of the questions being debated is how many teams should get invited to the postseason.  For now, it will be a 4-team playoff.  But many people are already clamoring for 8 teams or maybe even 16.  I’m a proponent for FOUR only.  As more teams become eligible to get into the playoffs and thus become “eligible” to win the NCAA title, the less meaning a loss in the regular season will mean for many teams.  However, the positive effect of the new playoff system may be that teams will have to schedule tougher non-conference games in order to impress the playoff selection committee (you know, in basketball they look at RPI to determine strength of schedule), just in case they end up being one of the teams “on the bubble”.
Again, more on this over the summer.

Speaking of playoffs, the NFL wants to expand their playoffs from 12 teams to 14, and probably eventually to 16 teams (50% of the league’s 32 teams).  This is likely to happen, and could happen as soon as next year.  We’ll follow up on developments in the summer.

COACHING CHANGES FOR NEXT YEAR

Vanderbilt’s HC James Franklin has taken the head coaching job at Penn State, foregoing potential opportunities in the NFL.

Much maligned Lane Kiffin, formerly head coach for the Oakland Raiders, the Tennessee Vols, and USC, has taken the OC job at Alabama under HC Nick Saban.

UNDERCLASSMEN DECLARING FOR NFL DRAFT

Last year a record 73 underclassmen declared for the 2013 NFL Draft.  This year, at least 80 underclassmen have already declared for the 2014 NFL Draft with the deadline to declare quickly approaching this Wednesday, January 15th (tomorrow).

Following is a partial list of players RETURNING TO COLLEGE next year:

QB Braxton Miller (Ohio State)
QB Brett Hundley (UCLA)
QB Marcus Mariota (Oregon) [projected as maybe a 1st rounder if he declared]
QB Bryce Petty (Baylor)
QB Sean Mannion (Oregon State)
RB Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska)
OT Cedric Ogbuehi (TX A&M) [projected 1st round grade]

And here is a partial list of players DECLARING for the 2014 NFL DRAFT, roughly in order of projected draft position:

QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)  [potential #1 overall pick]
QB Blake Bortles (Central Florida)  [projected 1st round and 2nd QB prospect]
QB Johnny “Football” Manziel (TX A&M)  [projected 1st rounder]
DE Jadeveon Clowney (S.CAR)  [projected 1st rounder]
OT Cyrus Kouandijo (ALA)  [1st round projection]
WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson)  [projected 1st rounder]
FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (ALA)  [1st round projection]

RB Ka’Deem Carey (Arizona)
RB De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)  [sorry, Shawn]
LB Ryan Shazier (Ohio State)  [projected 2nd rounder]
WR Marqise Lee (USC)
RB Lache Seastrunk (Baylor)
DT Timmy Jernigan (FSU)
RB Tre Mason (Auburn)
WR Mike Evans (TX A&M)
WR Brandin Cooks (Oregon State) [2013 Biletnikoff Award Winner]
RB Jeremy Hill (LSU), plus LSU’s top two WR’s
RB Devonta Freeman (FSU)  [projected 3rd rounder]
OT Greg Robinson (Auburn)
RB Henry Josey (Missouri)
DE Kony Ealy (Missouri)
RB Terrance West (Towson, FCS title runner-up); he holds all-time FCS single season
                                    records with 2,509 rushing yards and 42 total TD’s in 2013
                                    [projected 3rd rounder]
RB Kapri Bibbs (Colorado State) [sorry, Eric of FC]
QB Brett Smith (Wyoming)  [sorry, Sam and Rhonda]



FFHL – WEEK EIGHTEEN (in progress)

Week #18 is our finals week of the FFHL playoffs.  It started with the January 2nd bowl game and ends with the Super Bowl.  We have only three more games from which to choose – the two Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl.

FANTASTIC BOWL

KID RUST vs. MIGHTY DUCK

So far in the Fantastic Bowl matchup, Mighty Duck at 2-4 ATS leads Kid Rust at 2-4 ATS (on the first tiebreaker) with each of them having only one more pick.  For Kid Roy to win the title, he must win ATS on his final pick and have M-Duck lose on his pick (or win vs. tie, or tie vs. loss).  If they both pick the same team ATS, Mighty Duck will win the FFHL Championship.

CONSOLATION BOWL

The Rounders (with Home Field Advantage) have taken the lead with a 4-1-1 record ATS, followed by Hawkeye at 3-3 ATS, Yo Mama at 2-2-1 ATS, and Tommy Boy at 3-4 ATS.  That means The Rounders have clinched at least 4th place, and could still get 2nd place.  Yo Mama still has a chance to win the Consolation Bowl, and could get still get anything from 2nd to 6th place, depending on how he does on his final two picks of the season.


BFD BOWL

Kraut is 3-2 ATS, Moore Money is 3-2-1 ATS, and Wild Man is 1-2-1 ATS.  It’s winner-take-all, and we still have a three-way race.


FFHL LOP-SIDED and CONTESTED PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)

Listed below is a breakdown of all of our picks for Week #18B – the four NFL Conference Semifinal games over the weekend:

                                    ATS Picks
Team                           For-Against     Result / Unsolicited comments

DEN Broncos -9 vs. SD         4-3       LOSS, Chargers cover ATS late in 24-17 loss
SF 49’ers -1 at CAR               4-1       WIN, as Niners “D” steps up in 23-10 win
SEA Seahawks -8 vs. NOR    3-2       TIE, Seattle wins 23-15 win by exactly 8
IND Colts +7 at NE               3-1       LOSS, New England wins game 45-23


NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
NFL – 19th week (Divisional Semifinals Weekend)

ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES              2-1-1  (62.5%)             4-0-0  (50.0%)
HOME TEAMS          1-2-1  (37.5%)             3-1-0  (75.0%)

NFL
Cumulative percentages through 19 weeks:

ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES              126-126-9  (50.0%)     179-81-1  (68.8%)      
            HOME TEAMS          134-118-9  (53.1%)     155-105-1  (59.6%)

With only three games remaining in the NFL season, including the playoffs, the favorites are exactly 50% ATS.





FINALS OF FFHL PLAYOFFS
FOOTBALL GAMES - FFHL WEEK #18 (through Super Bowl)

NFL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES (WEEK #18C)

Sunday, January 19th

San Francisco +3h at Seattle -3h

New England +4h at Denver -4h

SUPER BOWL XLVIII (WEEK #18D)

Sunday, February 2nd
Right now, the NFC team is favored over the AFC team by 1½ points, a bet that can be made even before the Super Bowl teams are determined.

MINUTIA FOR FOOTBALL LOVERS

UPDATE ON COACHING CHANGES - NFL

I’m trying to keep up with the latest.
 [HC=head coach; GM=general manager; OC=offensive coordinator; DC=defensive coordinator]

TENNESSEE             New HC is KEN WHISENHUNT, who was the head coach for the AZ Cardinals from 2007 through 2012, and then OC for the SD Chargers in 2013.

WASHINGTON        New HC is Jay Gruden, formerly the OC for the Cincinnati Bengals.

DETROIT                New HC is Jim Caldwell, previously a head coach with the IND Colts (2009-2011) and Wake Forest (1993 to 2000).  Last year, he was the OC for the BAL Ravens.  Caldwell, who turns 59 on Thursday, posted a 26-22 record with Indianapolis after replacing Tony Dungy. The Colts reached the Super Bowl in Caldwell's first season and went to the playoffs the following season. In fact, Caldwell has more career playoff wins (two) than the Lions organization has over the last 55 years combined. Since winning the NFL title in 1957, the Lions are 1-10 in the postseason. (sorry, Mitch).

CLEVELAND            Still no HC replacement has been hired.
           
MINNESOTA            Still no replacement has been hired.

MIAMI                     HC Joe Philbin still has his job.  The front office is still in flux.

NY GIANTS             HC Tom Coughlin is still at the helm.  Still need assistant coaching positions to be filled.

FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTION

If you get 2 right, you get a “B+”.
If you get 3 right, you get an “A”.
If you get 4 right, you get an “A+”.
If you get all 6 or 7 (depending how you count my multi-part questions), you must take over my job of writing this newsletter for two weeks.

QUESTION #1:  Diminutive QB’s Wilson and Brees faced each other last weekend in a playoff game in Seattle, the two shortest QB’s in the NFL this year, and the shortest pair to play against each other in the playoffs since 1978.  Name the two short-ish QB’s that faced each other back then in a playoff game (each of them 6’0” or shorter).

QUESTION #2A:  Who is the oldest active player in the NFL at age 41?
HINT: He just broke an all-time NFL playoff record last weekend.

QUESTION #3:  How is new Washington ‘Skins HC Jay Gruden related (if at all) to Jon Gruden, former HC for the Oakland Raiders and TB Bucs?

QUESTION #4:  After the Patriots victory over Indianapolis last weekend, New England HC Bill Belichick now has 19 career playoff victories, tied for 2nd all-time in NFL history.  What former head coach has the most career playoff wins?
BONUS QUESTION: With whom is Belichick now tied for 2nd all-time?
HINT:  Maybe this is obvious, but we are talking about two big names here.

ANSWER #1:
Minnesota’s Fran Tarkenton (6’0”) faced off against the Los Angeles Rams’ QB Pat Haden (5’11”) in a 1978 playoff game.

ANSWER #2A:
Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri now holds all-time playoff records for number of converted field goals (51, with two at New England last weekend), extra point kicks converted (60), and total number of playoff points (213).  Of course it helps that he has played in the second most playoff games of anyone else who ever played in the NFL – he played in 27 postseason games.
BONUS QUESTION #2B:  What player has played in more playoff games than Vinatieri?
HINT:  It’s not a kicker, and if you can read this newsletter, he played in the NFL during your lifetime.
ANSWER ---- (see below)

ANSWER #3:
They are brothers, not just colloquially (both are white).  Was that funny, or just stupid?
In college Jay was QB for Louisville, and later won four Arena Football League titles for the Tampa Bay Storm.
From 2002 through 2008, he was an assistant coach for the TB Buccaneers and served under his brother Jon while in Tampa Bay.
He was OC for the CIN Bengals from 2011 through 2013.  Prior to that, he had served in various coaching capacities in the AFL and in the upstart UFL.

ANSWER #4:
Dallas’ HC Tom Landry was 20-16 in the postseason.
Miami’s HC Don Shula was 19-17.
Bill Belichick is an amazing 19-8 in his career, and could tie the all-time record this Sunday with a win in Denver.

ANSWER #2B:
Jerry Rice, who played with San Francisco from 1985 through 2000, and then played for Oakland (2001-2004) and Seattle (2004) before retiring with a bounty of NFL records.
He played in 28 playoff games during his career (23 SF, 5 OAK).
Among his many records, during his career he played in the more games than any other position player (303).

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