FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER
Hello Football Fans,
Attached is my attempt at an abbreviated letter, although there is just too much happening and I'm afraid I failed this week.
Anyway, it was the first week of the NFL season, and I hope your fantasy leagues and other pools got off to a good start.
The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL
I was going to write a long summary of last weekend’s games on the gridiron, but I decided to take some extra time and write a shorter one, based on advice from Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain).
LAST THURSDAY’S NFL KICKOFF
The 2014 NFL season kicked off on Thursday night, with the favored Seattle Seahawks (-5h) winning handily, 36-16, over visiting Green Bay and running their home record since the beginning of the 2012 season to 18-1 (including playoff games). And after the ‘Hawks looked good in the victory; every prognosticator is now on Seattle to get to the Super Bowl.
NFL UNDERDOG WINNERS
Overall, SEVEN underdogs won their games outright in 16 NFL games, for a 44% upset rate in the first week of the regular season.
Atlanta +3 beat visiting New Orleans in overtime, 37-34, which finished with a Falcon 51-yard FG at the end of regulation to tie the score, and then a 52-yard FG in OT to win.
Minnesota +3h won handily at St. Louis, 34-6. With STL quarterback Sam Bradford out for the year, the Rams were starting backup QB Shaun Hill; he got hurt and was replaced by Austin Davis in the 2nd half.
Cincinnati +1h was ahead at Baltimore 15-0 at halftime, but the Ravens took the lead 16-15 on a TD with 5:46 remaining in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing drive, the CIN Bengals responded with a 77-yard TD pass to WR A.J. Green to retake the lead for good.
FINAL: CIN 23, BAL 16.
Baltimore outgained the Bengals 420-380, but lost the turnover battle 2-0.
Buffalo +6h won at Chicago in overtime, 23-20. The Bears jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, but were trailing at halftime 17-7; they tied it up at the end of the third quarter and then kicked a FG with 30 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game into OT before losing to the Bills. Chicago outgained Buffalo 427-360, but lost the turnover battle 3-1.
Tennessee +3 won handily at Kansas City, 26-10. The Chiefs were significantly outgained 405-245 and lost the turnover battle 3-0.
Miami +4 beat visiting New England, 33-20. The Dolphins trailed 20-10 at halftime, but the home team ‘Phins dominated in the 2nd half to win. After Week #1, the NE Patriots are in the cellar by themselves in the AFC East division.
Carolina +2h won at Tampa Bay, 20-14, without their star QB Cam Newton (ribs-he ate too many before the game). The Panthers and Backup QB Derek Anderson built up a 17-0 lead early in the 4th quarter, and then two Buccaneer TD’s at 7:23 and 2:06 made it close.
The TB Bucs lost the turnover battle 3-0.
UPSETS – “NOT QUITE”:
Cleveland +7 was trailing 27-3 in Pittsburgh at halftime, but fought back to tie the game 27-27 with a FG and TD early in the fourth quarter. The Steelers prevailed with a 41-yard game-winning FG as time expired. FINAL: PIT 30, CLE 27.
Browns backup QB Johnny Manziel did not play in the game.
San Diego +3h was ahead 17-6 at Arizona after three quarters, but the AZ Cardinals took the lead with two TD’s in the fourth period including the go-ahead score with 2:25 on the clock after a 11-play, 91-yard drive.
FINAL: AZ 18, SD 17
AGAINST THE SPREAD – “STRANGE TWISTS”
The NY Jets (-5h) were leading 19-7 in the fourth quarter until visiting Oakland got the “backdoor cover” after scoring a TD with 1:21 showing on the clock.
FINAL: NYJ 19, OAK 14, and the Raiders lost but covered ATS by the hook (1/2 point).
FFHL handicappers Moore Money and Wild Man got a win ATS on this game, but neither was able to win their matchup for the week in spite of this good fortune.
Denver (-7h) hosted Indianapolis and was making a mockery of the matchup, leading 24-0 in the first half after scoring a TD on a 7-play, 71-yard drive with 2 minutes remaining in the half. But Colts’ QB Andrew Luck engineered a TD drive late in the half to keep Indy’s faint hopes alive. After a TD early in the 4th quarter, the DEN Broncos were still ahead 31-10, but the IND Colts scored two TD’s after that including the score that allowed them to cover ATS by the hook.
FINAL: DEN 31, IND 24.
FFHL handicappers Kid Rust and Kraut got burned on this game, but both still won their matchups for the week.
FBS UNDERDOG WINNERS
Overall, only SEVEN underdogs won their games outright in 45 FBS vs. FBS games, for a 16% upset rate (26% last week).
On Friday night, Nevada (+3h) beat visiting Washington State, 24-13; the Wolfpack never trailed in the game.
Northern Illinois (+7h) won at Northwestern, 23-15, a game tied at halftime, 0-0.
Central Michigan (+3h) won handily at Purdue, 38-17, after barely beating an FCS school last week. The Boilermakers’ fans are stewing, and their head coach is already on the hot seat.
USC (+3) won at Stanford, 13-10, as the Trojans kicked a 53-yard FG with 2½ minutes remaining in the 4th quarter for the game-winner. Stanford was inside the USC 32-yard line eight times in the game (netting only 10 points). The Cardinal outgained Southern Cal from scrimmage, 413-291, but lost the turnover battle, 2-0.
Louisiana Tech (+14) won convincingly at Louisiana-Lafayette, 48-20, in the teams’ 86th meeting. The ULL Ragin’ Cajuns lost the turnover battle 3-0. The LA Tech Bulldogs have not lost to ULL since 1996. Tech QB Cody Sokol was 22-33-295yds, 2TD, 0 INT.
Virginia Tech (+11) won convincingly at Ohio State, 35-21, wrapping up a horrible day for the Big 10 Conference (Michigan +3h lost at ND 31-0, Michigan State +12 lost at Oregon 47-26 after leading at halftime, Nebraska and Iowa won squeakers against “weak” opponents, etc.). The Big 10 Conference champion could easily be the “odd man out” in the 4-team College Football Playoffs this year, having lost all of the key nonconference battles so far this season.
Wyoming (+2h) beat visiting Air Force, 17-13. The Cowboys were down 10-0 but finally tied the score with a FG in the 4th quarter. The AF Falcons retaliated with a FG at 3:25 remaining in the game before Wyoming put together a 9 play, 75 yard drive for the winning TD with just under 1 minute on the clock. FINAL: WYO 17, AIRF 13.
UPSETS – “NOT QUITE”:
Iowa State (+11h) trailed visiting Kansas State 13-0 early and looked terrible, but scored the next 28 points in the first half to take a “commanding” 28-13 lead. KSU blanked the Cyclones from that point on and scored 19 unanswered points to prevail, 32-28.
Ball State (+17) led 13-3 at Iowa until the Hawkeyes scored two TD’s in the last 3 minutes of the game to prevail (“Whew!”). Iowa outgained the Cardinals 455-219 from scrimmage, but squandered opportunities, missed FG’s, and lost the turnover battle 2-1.
Massachusetts (+17) just barely lost to visiting Colorado, 41-38.
Memphis (+23) was trailing at UCLA 35-21 after three quarters, but the Tigers scored two TD’s early in the 4th quarter including a “Pick 6” to tie the game. The Bruins responded with a quick TD at 10:52 remaining and hung on to win.
FINAL: UCLA 42, MEMP 35
UTEP (+20h) allowed host Texas Tech to score a TD with 2½ minutes remaining in the game to surrender the lead and suffer a heart-breaking loss, 30-26.
And by the way, BYU Cougar fans, your crushing of Texas in Austin, 41-7 does not count as an upset because Brigham Young was favored by 1½ points in this game (Longhorn’s starting QB David Ash and several offensive linemen were out; not that it would have made much if any difference in the final outcome of the game).
AGAINST THE SPREAD – “STRANGE TWISTS”
Alabama (-40) was ahead of visiting Florida Atlantic 41-0 with 7:53 remaining in the game when it was called “final” due to a lightning storm in the area. Even though the Crimson Tide was covering ATS at the time, the game could not be counted for the FFHL because there was still more than five minutes remaining in a regulation-length game (trying to mirror how Las Vegas sports books handle such games/bets).
Tennessee (-17) settled for a 38-yard FG on their last drive of the game with 1:41 on the clock against visiting Arkansas State to win only 34-19 and not cover ATS by 2 points.
Illinois (-6) was trailing visitor Western Kentucky 27-21 after three quarters, but scored 21 points in the final period to win 42-34 and cover ATS by 2 points.
New Mexico State (-1h) (had been 2-point underdog at beginning of week) took their first lead of the game at Georgia State with 8 minutes to go, and finally scored a TD with 15 seconds remaining in the game to win 34-31 and cover ATS by 1½ points.
Penn State (-14h) led only 7-3 against visiting Akron until scoring a TD late in the 3rd quarter and then tacked on an insurance TD in the 4th quarter to cover ATS by 3½ points.
The Nittany Lions outgained the Redhawks 425-277 (but lost the turnover battle 3-0).
FINAL: PSU 21, Akron 3.
And, it’s all smiles in Happy Valley as the Nittany Lions are eligible for post-season play – THIS YEAR, after the NCAA lifted their bowl ban originally scheduled to stand through the 2015 season. PSU also will be able to give out their full allotment of scholarships next year.
In the FFHL pool, THE FUGITIVE (me) got some revenge on the oddsmakers after last week’s 113-point negative point spread differential massacre. I actually had positive point spread differentials of 42, 31½, and 27½ this week (LA Tech +14 winning 48-20, MIN Vikings +3h winning 34-6, and Florida -37h winning 65-0). Thus, my positive differential on three games this week added up to 101 points. I didn’t quite break even against the house, but that’s good enough for me. I’ll quit keeping track now.
FCS WINNERS over FBS
Only FCS unranked Eastern Kentucky beat an FBS team last weekend, a 17-10 victory over Miami of Ohio. The EKU Colonels were down 10-3 in mid-3rd quarter but then scored two unanswered TD’s including the game-winner with 5 minutes remaining in the game.
Cumulatively for the year, only 3 FCS teams have beaten FBS teams.
UPSETS – “NOT QUITE”:
Power 5 Nebraska was tied 35-35 with visiting FCS#13 McNeese State until scoring the game-winning TD on a 58-yard dump-off pass to RB Ameer Abdullah with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.
FINAL: NEB 42, McNeese Cowboys 35
FCS#2 Eastern Washington was ahead of Power 5 host Washington after three quarters, 45-44, before the UW Huskies scored two TD’s early in the final period and then held off the EW Eagles to win, 59-52.
Power 5 Kansas beat FCS Southeast Missouri State, 34-28.
Connecticut beat FCS Stony Brook 19-16.
UNLV beat FCS Northern Colorado, 13-12.
Southern Mississippi was leading 23-7 after three quarters, and then held on to beat FCS Alcorn State, 26-20.
FFHL RESULTS – WEEK ONE
Overall, we FFHL’ers posted the exact same total as last week, a mediocre 40-44-0 (47.6%) ATS. In college, we were 21-18-0 ATS (53.8%); but in the NFL we were only 19-26-0 ATS (42.2%). In the NFL, both the favorites and home teams performed poorly ATS (see below).
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
Michigan St +12 at Oregon 3-2 LOSS, Ducks fly in 2nd half, win 47-26 to cover
USC +3 at Stanford 2-1 WIN, Trojans PAC-12 road victory, 13-10
Florida -37h v. E. Michigan 2-1 WIN, Gators chew up EMU 65-0
CHI Bears -6h v. Buffalo 5-0 LOSS, overtime win by Bills, 23-20
KC Chiefs -3 v. Tennessee 4-0 LOSS, Titans win outright, 26-10
NOR Saints -3 at Atlanta 3-0 LOSS, overtime win by Falcons, 37-34
NE Patriots -4 at Miami 3-0 LOSS, Dolphins win outright, 33-20
DET Lions -6 v. NY Giants 3-0 WIN, Lions thump messed-up Gnats, 35-14
MIN Vikings +3h at STL 4-1 WIN, ‘dog Minnesota wins big, 34-6
HOU Texans -3 v. WSH 3-2 WIN, Houston beats Pig’Skins 17-6 to cover ATS
CUMULATIVE RECORDS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS) and STRAIGHT UP
COLLEGE – 2nd week (FFHL WEEK #1)
FAVORITES 21-23-0 (47.7%) 38-7 (84.4%)
HOME TEAMS 20-23-0 (63.3%) 23-21 (52.3%)
Alabama not counted ATS
One neutral game last week
CUMULATIVE COLLEGE (after 2nd week)
FAVORITES 40-42-0 (48.8%) 66-17 (79.5%)
HOME TEAMS 39-34-0 (53.4%) 42-32 (56.8%)
NFL – 1ST week (FFHL WEEK #1)
FAVORITES 5-11-0 (31.3%) 9-7 (56.3%)
HOME TEAMS 6-10-0 (37.5%) 10-6 (62.5%)
CUMULATIVE NFL (after 1ST week)
FAVORITES 5-11-0 (31.3%) 9-7 (56.3%)
HOME TEAMS 6-10-0 (27.5%) 10-6 (62.5%)
COLLEGE FOOTBALL MINUTIA
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden is one of the 13 committee members that will determine the four teams to participate in the inaugural College Football Playoff. He has just been fined $25,000 for his indiscretion at the USC-Stanford football game last Saturday. Trojan HC Steve Sarkisian called on a phone up to Haden in the booth during the game, (supposedly a violation, but with no penalty) as there was some disagreement with the officials on the field. Haden ended up coming down to the field and confronting the officials (a violation; only the head coaches are allowed to converse with officials, supposedly). I don’t think there will be much fallout from this incident, but one has to wonder how the voting process by the CFP selection committee will work.
I smell a rat.
NFL NEWS and MINUTIA
MICHAEL SAM UPDATE
Rookie DE Michael Sam, the first openly gay player trying to make an NFL team, was signed by the Dallas Cowboys to its practice squad. He is not likely to be activated to the 53-man roster during the year unless there are injuries or other attrition at his position.
RAY RICE UPDATE
Baltimore RB Ray Rice is no longer a Raven. He was cut by the team after an ugly video of him punching out his fiancée in an Atlantic City casino elevator was made public. Rice had earlier been suspended by the league for a mere two games, which led to a new league policy on domestic violence after numerous people complained about the insufficient penalty assessed. The NFL never saw the video of the incident prior to doling out its suspension, and is catching flack for not obtaining a copy.
After the death of long-time Buffalo Bills’ owner Ralph Wilson, the family put the team up for sale. It appears a deal is now in place with Terry Pegula, who is currently the owner of the Buffalo Sabres’ NHL hockey team. Pegula supposedly is paying in the range of $1.4 billion for the NFL team. The family wants to keep the team in Buffalo, and Pegula is on the same page with them and Mr. Wilson’s wishes.
DRUG POLICIES and HGH TESTING
The league and players’ association are negotiating to change the drug policies regarding length of suspensions for violations in exchange for starting an HGH testing program. Nothing has been finalized, but there has reportedly been significant progress in those discussions. A new policy could be in place within weeks. More later.
If it happens soon, both Denver WR Wes Welker (4-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug (PED) positive test) and Cleveland WR Josh Gordon (1-year suspension for DUI, marijuana, and other things) could have their punishments reduced and could be back on the field earlier than expected.
LOOKING AHEAD – selected games, not the full slate
COLLEGE FOOTBALL - FFHL WEEK #2 (college 3rd week)
Thursday Louisiana Tech +4h at North Texas
Sept 11th Houston +19 at BYU
Friday Toledo +11 at Cincinnati
Sept 12th Baylor -32 at Buffalo
Sept 13th Georgia -6 at South Carolina
Iowa State +11 at Iowa
UCLA -7h vs. Texas in neutral site Arlington, TX
Tennessee +20h at Oklahoma
Purdue +28h vs. Notre Dame in neutral site Indianapolis, IN
Central Florida +9 at Missouri
FCS Northern Iowa at Hawaii
NFL WEEK #2 – SELECTED GAMES
Thursday Pittsburgh +2h at Baltimore
Sunday Divisional Matchups:
Sept 14th Miami -1 at Buffalo Matchup of two undefeated teams
Kansas City +13 at Denver
Other interesting matchups:
Detroit +2h at Carolina
Atlanta +5 at Cincinnati
Seattle -5h at San Diego
Chicago +6h at San Francisco
Monday Philadelphia +3 at Indianapolis
QUESTION #1: After the Denver Broncos’ win over Indianapolis last Sunday night, QB Peyton Manning has now beaten all 32 NFL teams as a starting quarterback. He had beaten the other 31 teams while in Indianapolis, but was obviously not able to beat Indy back then. Who is the only other QB in NFL history to beat all 32 NFL teams as a starting quarterback?
BONUS: Name the three starting QB’s who have beaten 31 NFL teams (the 3rd one could be tough).
Bonus: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Kerry Collins.