Thursday, September 25, 2014

FOOTBALL NEWS AFTER NFL WEEK THREE



FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,

Attached are some tidbits from last weekend's games.

The Big 10 lives! (for now)


Enjoy,

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL, on the lam from the gambling police

The continuing saga from domestic violence and other societal issues in the NFL is still detracting from play on the field.  Rightfully so, as the NFL has a huge platform and gets more attention than most other venues (such as corporate America and its employees).
I’ll give some brief updates on a few of the ongoing cases (below), since my letter last Wednesday morning just missed some new information on the high-profile cases.

But just to give some perspective on crisis situations in football, I take you back to 1905.  College football had become so brutal that more than one hundred student players had died.  College presidents were disbanding teams.  Several state legislatures were giving serious consideration to making football illegal.  In October of 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt convened an urgent summit meeting at the White House to discuss the rising public outcry that would eventually force him into a decision on whether to ban the game.  As a result, Teddy called for reform and a new rules committee was formed to make major changes to the game.  One committee member was John Heisman, and he suggested legalizing the “forward pass”, which he anticipated would open up the game and reduce dangerous mass collisions in the middle of the field.  The New York Times called the idea “radical”, and the head of the rules committee was opposed to it.  Nevertheless, it was adopted for the 1906 season along with rules that outlawed holding and unnecessary roughness and required a team to gain ten yards (instead of five) for a first down.  Back then, an incomplete pass automatically resulted in the other team getting the ball (a “turnover”).  Though football purists decried the changes, they would end up making the game not only safer but also more popular than ever. [excerpts from and paraphrasing of  “The Greatest Stories Never Told”, 2003, presented by The History Channel, written by Rick Beyer, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.].



COLLEGE

The Big 10 rebounded a bit last weekend after having lost virtually every important game in the first three weeks of non-conference play.  Last weekend, the struggling conference won 12 games out of their 13 nonconference matchups (Michigan-3h lost at home to Utah), including four underdogs that won road games outright (Indiana+13h vs. SEC, Iowa+7 vs. ACC, Rutgers+6h vs. Independent, Maryland+1h vs. ACC).  Ohio State was idle; Purdue and Northwestern beat FCS schools.  These most recent results probably won’t help much when the College Football Playoff committee makes its selections.



FBS UNDERDOG WINNERS

Overall, NINE underdogs won their games outright in 46 FBS vs. FBS games, for a 20% upset rate (22% last week).

Indiana +13h won at Missouri, 31-27.  In a tight game, Mizzou kicked the go-ahead FG with 2:20 remaining in the game before the Hoosiers retaliated on a game-winning TD with 22 seconds to go.

Mississippi State +9 won at LSU, 34-29.  The MSU Bulldogs were ahead 34-10, but Louisiana State scored 19 points in the 4th quarter to mount a furious comeback which ended on a failed desperation pass into the end zone to end their rally.  MS State snapped a 14-game losing streak in the series, and the Bulldogs are the first team in the LSU Les Miles Era to win at night in Death Valley (other than teams ranked #1 in the nation).

Iowa +7 won at Pittsburgh, 24-20.  The UI Hawkeyes were down 17-7 at halftime, switched to QB C.J. Beathard for the 2nd half, and grabbed the lead for the first time in the game on the winning TD with 7 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter.  The PITT Panthers outgained Iowa 435-311 from scrimmage, but they were flagged 8 times for 80 yards (Iowa only 2 for 20 yards) and the Hawkeyes were 3-for-3 on 4th down conversions.

Maryland +1h won at Syracuse, 34-20. 

Wake Forest +2h beat visiting Army, 24-21.  The Demon Deacons were behind 21-14 at the half in their homecoming game, but scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to prevail.

Utah +3h won at Michigan, 26-10.  The Utes won the 2nd half 13-0 to shut down the ‘Ganders and put HC Brady Hoke firmly on the “hot seat”.  The Wolverines are 2-2, but their wins were at home against Appalachian State (1-2, only win vs. FCS) and Miami of Ohio (0-4).

Rutgers +6h won at Navy, 31-24.

Georgia Tech +7h won at Virginia Tech, 27-24.  The VA Tech Hokies took a 24-17 lead on a TD and 2-point PAT with 8 minutes remaining in regulation, but the GA Tech Yellowjackets scored the tying TD with 2 minutes to go and then followed that up with the game-winning FG on the last play of the game.  The Hokies’ QB threw three interceptions, including a “Pick 6” to give Georgia Tech the lead 17-16 early in the 4th quarter.

Old Dominion +6 won at Rice, 45-42; the OD Monarchs were playing their first-ever Conference USA game.  Favored Rice never led in the game, but the Owls did tie it up at 42-42 with two straight TD’s in the fourth quarter including the tying TD with 1:05 on the clock before OD drove 67 yards in 6 plays for the game-winning 25-yard FG with 0:00 on the clock.

UPSETS – “NOT QUITE”:

Kansas State +7h missed three FG’s and a short pass into the endzone went through the receiver’s hands for an interception, allowing the visiting Auburn Tigers to escape with a victory, 20-14.  KSU still covered ATS.

Georgia State +34h was expected to be the worst team (ranked #128 of 128) before the season, but the Panthers took an early 14-0 lead before the Washington Huskies rallied in a big way at home to take over.  FINAL: U-Dub 45, GSU 14 (“not quite”).

Appalachian State +3 was behind 21-14 late, but scored on a TD with six seconds remaining in the game...overtime?  Nope; the Mountaineers’ extra point kick was blocked and host Southern Miss survived, 21-20.  ASU still covered ATS.

Texas State +13 was ahead 21-6 in the 2nd quarter at Illinois and the Bobcats were still leading 28-25 after three quarters before the Illini took charge in the final stanza.  FINAL: ILL 42, TSU 35.
The statistics for both teams were virtually the same.

California +8 was ahead at Arizona after three quarters, 31-13 and still leading 45-30 after scoring on a TD with 5:21 remaining in the game, but the Wildcats scored two TD’s to trail only 45-43 (missed 2-point PAT).  Arizona got the ball back on their own 30-yard line with 52 seconds left, and got only to the Cal “Bad News” Bears’ 47-yard line with one final play to go …you guessed it (or saw it)…. The Wildcats threw a “Hail Mary” for a TD to win the game, 49-45; AZ scored 36 points in the 4th quarter.

AP#1 Florida State -14h suspended Heisman-winning QB Jameis Winston for the first half of this game for disciplinary reasons related to an off-field incident, cutting the original point spread of -20 down to just 2 touchdowns.  On Friday night, the athletic director and the President of the University stepped in and increased the suspension to the full game (I didn’t see what happened to the point spread after that).  The FSU backup QB was 21 of 39 for 305 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INT.  Visiting Clemson outgained the Seminoles from scrimmage, 407-318, but missed two FG’s and passed on a FG try in overtime on 4th-and-1 and didn’t convert, effectively giving FSU the win.
FINAL: FSU 23, CLEM 17 (OT)

AGAINST THE SPREAD – “STRANGE TWISTS”

Hawaii +8 was behind at halftime in Colorado, 21-6, and could muster only two FG’s in the second half (four FG, no TD for game) to lose 21-12 and not cover ATS by 1 point.  The CU Buffaloes WR Nelson Spruce caught 13 passes for 172 yards.

Florida +14 scored a TD early in the 3rd quarter at Alabama to tie the score, 21-21, but then the Crimson Tide responded with three unanswered touchdowns to win going away and covering ATS by seven.  FINAL: ALA 42, FL 21.
‘Bama significantly outgained the Gators from scrimmage, 645-200.

New Mexico -3h won at rival New Mexico State, 38-35, but failed to cover ATS by ½ point.

FCS WINNERS over FBS

FCS unranked Northwestern State beat Louisiana Tech, 30-27.  Tech led 27-17 in the fourth quarter before NW State scored on 2 FG’s and a TD in the last five minutes of the game to prevail.  LA Tech QB Cody Sokol did not have a good game (20-34-280, 1 TD, 3 INT), and my “Sokol Watch” is being abandoned (since Iowa switched QB’s and now maybe has a more productive signal caller).

Cumulatively for the year, six FCS teams have beaten FBS teams, as compared to a total of 16 upsets during the whole 2013 season.

NFL

After only three weeks, the unbeaten teams have been whittled down to only three: Philadelphia, Arizona, and Cincinnati.
And the winless teams have also been cut down to only three teams: Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, and Oakland.
The other 26 teams are either 2-1 or 1-2, so playoff spots are obviously still up for grabs.

NFL UNDERDOG WINNERS

Overall, SIX underdogs won their games outright in 16 NFL games, for a 37.5% upset rate in the 3rd week of the regular season (37.5% upsets last week).

San Diego +2h won at Buffalo, 22-10.

NY Giants +2 beat visiting Houston, 30-17.  NYG running back Rashad Jennings rushed for 176 yards and a TD on 34 carries.

Arizona +3 beat visiting San Francisco, 23-14, after trailing 14-6 at halftime.  The 49’ers have not scored a TD in the second half of any game this year, and they have racked up 225 yards in penalties (25) in the last two weeks, and that’s not including declined penalties and several crucial offsetting penalties.

Kansas City +4 won at Miami, 34-15, and the injury-depleted Chiefs are showing some life.

Pittsburgh +3 won at Carolina, 37-19.

On Monday night, Chicago +3 won at NY Jets, 27-19.

AGAINST THE SPREAD

Denver (+4h) lost in overtime at Seattle, 26-20, in a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl.  The Seahawks kicked a FG with only 1:04 remaining in the game to lead 20-12, but the Broncos tied it at the end of regulation with an 80-yard, 4-play TD drive with no time outs and a successful 2-point conversion.  In overtime, Seattle won the coin toss, got the ball and scored a TD to win by six and cover ATS by 1½ points.  Denver QB Manning languished on the bench, unable to affect the outcome.  Had the Broncos held the ‘Hawks to a FG, under the new overtime rules their offense would have gotten an opportunity to score.

St. Louis (+1) was leading 21-0 in mid-2nd quarter, but visiting Dallas made the comeback and finally took the lead on a TD with 6 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, followed 15 seconds later by a “Pick 6” for another TD to make it 34-24.  And then the Cowboys held on for the win and covered ATS by 2 points.
FINAL: DAL 34, STL 31
The STL Rams outgained the Cowboys from scrimmage, 418-340, but committed 8 penalties for 119 yards.

Baltimore (-1h) was trailing 21-17 after three quarters at Cleveland, but then the Ravens kicked two FG’s including the 32-yard game-winner with no time left on the clock.
FINAL: BAL 23, CLE 21, and the Ravens covered ATS by the hook (1/2).
The CLE Browns committed 12 penalties for 94 yards, but had zero turnovers (1 for Ravens).

FFHL RESULTS – WEEK THREE

Overall, we FFHL’ers posted our first above-.500 week at 44-40-0 (52.4%) ATS, which represents the exact percentage that allows you to break even with the “house” after paying the “juice” (vigorish, or “vig”, representing what you give up by having to bet $11 to win $10; a 4.55% house advantage).  In college picks, we were a putrid 22-30-0 ATS (42.3%); but in the NFL we had a great week at 22-10-0 ATS (68.8%).  That is quite contrary to our “normal” handicapping week in the FFHL.

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

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

                                    ATS Picks
Team                          For-Against   Result / Unsolicited comments

Missouri -13h vs. Indiana   7-0      LOSS, Hoosiers pull off upset, 31-27
S. Carolina -21h at Vandy  4-1      LOSS, Gamecocks win only 48-34 to not cover
LSU -9 vs. Miss. St               3-1      LOSS, MSU Bulldogs win outright, 34-29
Alabama -14 vs. Florida      3-1      WIN, Tide’s late surge gets cover in 42-21 win
Nebraska -8 vs. Miami.FL   3-1      WIN, ‘Huskers win 41-31 to cover ATS by 2 pts
Oklahoma -7h at West VA  3-0      WIN, Sooners win 45-33 to cover ATS by 4 pts
Oregon -23h at WA State   3-0      LOSS, Ducks eke out a 38-31 win to not cover ATS
Navy -6h vs. Rutgers                       3-0      LOSS, Scarlet Knights win outright in upset, 31-24

DAL Cowboys -1 at STL     3-0      WIN, Dallas comeback to win 34-31 & cover by 2
SF 49’ers -3 at Arizona       3-0      LOSS, undisciplined Niners lose outright, 23-14
CIN Bengals -6h vs. TENN            3-0      WIN, Cincinnati blowout of the Titans, 33-7
NOR Saints -9h vs. MINN  3-0      WIN, N’Orleans ekes out cover ATS with 20-9 win
IND Colts -7 at JAX              3-0      WIN, Indy gets 1st win in big way, 44-17
PHI Eagles -6h vs. WSH+6h         2-2      WASHINGTON loses only 37-34 to cover by 3½

CUMULATIVE RECORDS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS) and STRAIGHT UP

COLLEGE – 4th week (FFHL WEEK #3)
                                                ATS                            STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                       Record

FAVORITES             24-22-0  (52.2%)       37-9  (80.4%)           
            HOME TEAMS         24-22-0  (52.2%)       29-18 (61.7%)


COLLEGE - CUMULATIVE (after 4 weeks)
                                                ATS                            STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                       Record

FAVORITES             86-91-2  (48.6%)       142-37  (79.3%)       
HOME TEAMS         85-83-0  (50.6%)       101-68 (59.8%)

           
NFL – 3rd week (FFHL WEEK #3)
                                                ATS                            STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                       Record

FAVORITES             8-8-0  (50.0%)                       10-6  (62.5%)           
            HOME TEAMS         7-9-0  (43.8%)                       9-7 (56.2%)

NFL - CUMULATIVE (after three weeks)
                                                ATS                            STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                       Record

FAVORITES             21-27-0  (43.8%)       29-19  (60.4%)         
            HOME TEAMS         20-28-0  (41.7%)       28-20 (58.3%)

Home teams and favorites are still struggling ATS.


COLLEGE FOOTBALL MINUTIA

GROUP OF FIVE
East Carolina, out of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and part of the “Group of Five” (or Little 5 conferences), is making a run at the one automatic major bowl berth awarded to the best non-Power 5 team.  The ECU Pirates racked up 70 points last weekend against visiting North Carolina (Power 5 ACC).  And by the way, the over/under was 66½, meaning that the Pirates covered the “over” bet by themselves.  Of course, undefeated BYU is still battling to claim the same automatic major bowl berth.  Stay tuned.

EMERGING RUNNING BACK
Oklahoma lost its starting RB Keith Ford to injury, but freshman Samaje Perine rushed for 242 yards and 4 TD’s on 32 carries at West Virginia last weekend to allay any concerns at that position.  Perine is listed at 5’11”, 238 lbs., and was the #22-ranked running back coming out of high school.

HIGHLY TOUTED RUNNING BACK
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah rushed for 229 yards and 2 TD’s on 35 carries to lead Nebraska (-8) to a 41-31 victory over visiting Miami of Florida.  And the Cornhuskers covered ATS by 2 points.

NFL NEWS and MINUTIA

At the beginning of the season, it appeared that no rookie QB’s would start, but then Oakland decided to declare rookie Derek Carr the starter in Week #1.  He’s still starting, and who knows if the Raiders’ backup QB Matt Schaub still has an ailing elbow?  It looks as if there will be two additional rookie starting QB’s for Week #4.  In Minnesota, Matt Cassel has a broken foot and is out for at least a month, I suspect.  Rookie Teddy Bridgewater is taking over, for now.  In Jacksonville, Blake Bortles was supposed to learn from the sidelines this year, but the coaching staff has already elevated the rookie to starting status.  Meanwhile, the man getting all of the preseason hype, Johnny “Cleveland” Manziel, is riding the bench behind the Browns’ starter Brian Hoyer.

INJURIES UPDATE (difficult to keep up; here are a few)

WSH CB DeAngelo Hall is out for the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
BAL TE Dennis Pitta re-injured his hip (dislocated) and is out at least 2 weeks.
SD LB Melvin Ingram is out 8 weeks with a hip injury.
More San Diego: RB Danny Woodhead is out for the year with a broken leg.
TB QB Josh McCown is out 2 weeks (or so) with a thumb injury.
Carolina’s top three RB’s are either banged up or out for Week #4 (DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, FB Mike Tolbert).
MIN QB Matt Cassel is expected to be out for at least 2-4 weeks with broken foot (update by team on Thursday).
CHI CB Charles Tillman is out for the year with a ruptured triceps (same injury that required surgery last year, and now he’s age 33).

UPDATE ON NFL NEW DRUG POLICIES

The new “substance abuse policy” was just announced last week (separate from the PED policy).  Briefly, a player will be fined in increasing amounts for the first three violations, and then the 4th violation will be a 4-game suspension, 5th a ten-game suspension, and the 6th one-year suspension.

And in addition to that, the NFL’s “personal conduct policy” is being re-written, and Commissioner Roger Goodell is charged with the assignment from the owners.  They want a new written policy some time before the Super Bowl.  Goodell appears to be taking his homework seriously, as he will be interviewing at least a dozen retired NFL players to get their input.  He was embarrassed (we are led to believe) by his handling of the Ray Rice case, and he presumably wants to make amends (I think).  The NFL company line is: “We want to make it right”.

UPDATE ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE and CHILD ABUSE CASES

CHILD ABUSE
Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson has been placed on the “Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List” that had been used only for special cases in the past (e.g., Michael Vick).  This allows the Vikings to not have to make a decision right now on whether to cut or trade him.  So now the team can keep a 53-player roster and not have to relinquish Peterson.  However, he will be inactive and not on the field until his court case is settled.  Realistically, it looks right now as if he may have played his last game for the Vikings.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Carolina DE Greg Hardy, already found guilty of domestic violence by a judge in July, has filed an appeal which will be heard by a jury starting in November.  The Carolina Panthers also placed him on the “Exempt” list (with Commissioner Goodell’s permission, of course) until his appeal is settled.

San Francisco DE Ray McDonald was arrested on August 31st for suspicion of domestic violence.  He played in Weeks #1, #2, and #3 and is still on the roster for Week #4, as the Niners are taking the stance that no action will be taken until the case is settled in court.  Former WR Jerry Rice and some Bay Area politicians think he should be deactivated.

Former BAL RB Ray Rice, currently suspended indefinitely, has filed an appeal of the suspension with the league office.  No action has been taken by the NFL regarding the appeal to date.

And another new case surfaced last week.  Arizona Cardinals’ RB Jonathan Dwyer was arrested and is accused of “aggravated assault” on a 27-year old woman and 18-month old child stemming from an incident in July.  He allegedly head-butted his wife and broker her nose.  Dwyer has been placed on the “Non-Football Illness” list (illness because of his prior suicide threats), and this means he will not be on the field for the remainder of the season.  The team also cut RB Chris Rainey from their practice squad; he had been arrested on a battery charge (slapping his girlfriend) in 2012 while with the Steelers, who cut him in January of 2013.

JUST ONE OF MANY 49’ERS PENALTIES
The NFL instituted a new rule this year that would penalize players for “offensive language”.  The first player nailed under the new rule was SF QB Colin Kaepernick (congratulations, son), and he was fined $11,025.  Kap claims he didn’t say anything, the official who threw the flag said he did, but the opposing player Kaepernick supposedly directed “it” toward (Chicago DE Lamarr Houston), said he didn’t hear anything.  The fine is being appealed with the league office.
UPDATE: Kap still says he didn’t say anything, but Houston now says the Niners’ QB busted out the “N” word.  We’ll probably get the true story eventually, since 49’er WR Michael Crabtree was “miked up” for the game and was close to the official when he threw the flag.



LOOKING AHEAD – selected games, not the full slate
COLLEGE FOOTBALL - FFHL WEEK #4 (college 5th week)

Thursday       Appalachian State +18h at Georgia Southern
Sept 25th        Texas Tech +14 at Oklahoma State
                        UCLA -4 at Arizona State  (ASU QB is out this week)

Friday             Middle Tennessee State +3 at Old Dominion
Sept 26th        Fresno State -5h at New Mexico

Saturday        Missouri +6 at South Carolina
Sept 27th        Notre Dame -12 vs. Syracuse at neutral site East Rutherford, NJ
                        Texas A&M -8h vs. Arkansas at neutral site Arlington, TX
                        Stanford -8 at Washington
                        Florida State -19 at North Carolina State
                        Northwestern +11 at Penn State
                        Baylor -21 at Iowa State
                        Oregon State +9 at USC
                        Iowa -10 at Purdue
                        Illinois +20 at Nebraska
                        North Carolina +15 at Clemson
                        Colorado +13h at California
                        UNLV +17 at SDSU




NFL WEEK #4 – SELECTED GAMES

BYE WEEKS:  AZ, CIN, CLE, DEN, SEA, STL

Thursday      NY Giants +3h at Washington
Sept 25th                              
                                                                                   
Sunday         Divisional Matchups:
Sept 28th       Green Bay -1h at Chicago
                        Tennessee +7h at Indianapolis
                       
Other interesting matchups:
                        Miami -4 vs. Oakland in LONDON
                        Philadelphia +5h at San Francisco
                        Carolina +3h at Baltimore
                        New Orleans -3 at Dallas

Monday         New England -3h at Kansas City
Sept 29th

QUIZ QUESTIONS

QUESTION #1: Since the start of the 2006 NFL season, which QB has the most 4th quarter comeback wins?  How about #2 and #3 on the list?
HINT:  I don’t want to give this one away, but you can probably guess that the top three in this category are all current starting quarterbacks.

QUESTION #2:  Atlanta kick returner (and part-time WR) Devin Hester broke the all-time NFL record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown last Thursday night against Tampa Bay on a 62-yard punt return for the 20th return TD of his career.  Whose record did he surpass?

ANSWER #1:
Dallas QB Tony Romo has 21 come-from-behind victories in the 4th quarter, and he didn’t step into his starting gig until Week #7 of the 2006 season.
Runner-up is Peyton Manning (20) and then brother Eli Manning (19) is third.

ANSWER #2:
“Neon” Deion Sanders (and part-time Leon Sandcastle), a close friend of Hester’s.


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