Friday, December 19, 2014

FOOTBALL NEWS AFTER NFL WEEK FIFTEEN



FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,

After much ado with computer problems, I had to cut to the chase tonight to get something out to you before the next-to-last week of the NFL regular season with many playoff implications on the line.


Enjoy,

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL

(Merry Christmas, Commish, from me and MJ Green - Ed)                       

NFL

DIVISIONAL RACES

Note: There are only TWO weeks remaining in the NFL regular season.

AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE (AFC)

AFC NORTH:
Cincinnati (9-4-1) still holds a slippery ½-game lead over Pittsburgh and Baltimore at 9-5.  The PIT Steelers host the CIN Bengals in Week #17 (regular season finale).
The BAL Ravens have the easiest schedule in the last two games (at HOU, CLE).  
The CIN Bengals host DEN next Monday night and then finish at Pittsburgh.
The PIT Steelers host KC this Sunday.

AFC WEST:
Denver (11-3) clinched the division title with a win at San Diego (8-6).  Kansas City (8-6) and the SD Bolts are still in contention for a wild card berth, but need some help.
The KC Chiefs and SD Chargers face each other in Kansas City in the Week #17 regular season finale.

AFC SOUTH:
Indianapolis (10-4) clinched the division title with a win over Houston (7-7) on Sunday, 17-10.

AFC EAST:
New England (11-3) clinched the division title with a 41-13 win over Miami (7-7).  Buffalo beat visiting Green Bay on Sunday to improve to 8-6 and the Bills are still fighting for a wild card playoff spot (but need some help).
The BUF Bills finish the regular season on the road: at OAK, at NE.

NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE (NFC)

NFC SOUTH:
New Orleans (6-8) won at Chicago on Monday night to take a ½-game lead over Carolina (5-8-1) and a 1-game over Atlanta (5-9), who lost at home to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Atlanta plays at New Orleans on Monday night to finish up Week #16.
[Of course this weak division is stirring up the debate on whether a sub-.500 division winner should be awarded a #4 seed and a guaranteed home game in the wild card weekend of the playoffs.  More on this next week.]

NFC EAST:
Dallas (10-4) won at Philadelphia (9-5) on Sunday to take the division lead by one game with two to go.
The DAL Cowboys finish vs. IND and at WSH;
Philadelphia finishes at WSH and at NYG

NFC NORTH:
Detroit (10-4) and Green Bay (10-4) are now tied for the division lead, with the DET Lions holding the tiebreaker with a home win 19-7 over the GB Pack in Week #3.  However, Detroit must play at Green Bay in Week #17, a game that will likely determine the division winner.

NFC WEST:
Arizona (11-3) clinched a playoff spot with a 12-6 win last Thursday at St. Louis, and the Cardinals held on to its 1-game lead in the division over 2nd-place Seattle (10-4), who beat San Francisco (7-7) on Sunday to eliminate the 49’ers from the playoff race.

WILD CARD RACES
NFC
With two weeks to go, there are seven teams fighting for six playoff spots.  Only Arizona has locked up a playoff berth, and one lousy team that wins the NFC South Division gets a spot.  That leaves five teams to fill the remaining four playoff spots.  Right now, Philadelphia at 9-5 is “out”, and the four teams with 10-4 records are “in” (DAL, GB, DET, SEA).  That could easily change.
AFC
With two weeks to go, there are two teams at 9-5 (PIT and BAL), plus CIN at 9-4-1 all fighting for the AFC North Division title.  The losers in that division and three other teams at 8-6 (BUF, SD and KC) are still fighting for the two wild card playoff spots. 
MIA, CLE, and HOU all lost on Sunday and fell to 7-7 on the year.

PROJECTED PLAYOFF SEEDINGS (but it’s still preliminary)

NFC                            AFC

#1 SEED                     Arizona                        New England (beat Denver)              
#2 SEED                     Detroit                         Denver
#3 seed                       Dallas                          Indianapolis
#4 seed                       New Orleans               Cincinnati
#5 seed WC                Seattle                         Pittsburgh (tiebreak over BAL)
#6 seed WC                Green Bay                  Baltimore

NFL UNDERDOG WINNERS

Overall, FOUR underdogs won outright in 16 NFL games, for a 25% upset rate this week (31% last week).

On Thursday night, Arizona (+6) won at St. Louis, 12-6, using Ryan Lindley as their best healthy QB.

Cincinnati (+1h) won at Cleveland, 30-0.

Buffalo (+4) beat visiting Green Bay, 21-13.

Dallas (+3h) won at Philadelphia, 38-27.

COLLEGE

There was only one regular season game last weekend.
Navy (-15) beat Army 17-10 in Baltimore, MD.

Looking Back at 2014 Regular Season

Following are the teams that showed the biggest improvements (in order) from 2013 to 2014:

TCU:                           from 4-8 to 11-1
Air Force:                    from 2-10 to 9-3
Western Michigan:      from 1-11 to 8-4
Memphis:                    from 3-9 to 9-3
UTEP:                         from 2-10 to 7-5
N.C. State:                  from 3-9 to 7-5
California:                    from 1-11 to 5-7
Louisiana Tech:           from 4-8 to 8-5
Utah:                           from 5-7 to 8-4
West Virginia:              from 4-8 to 7-5
Nevada:                      from 4-8 to 7-5
Kentucky:                    from 2-10 to 5-7
Mississippi State:        from 7-6 to 10-2

Regarding the worst downward slides, South Carolina dropped five wins from 11-2 to 6-6, and Fresno State did the same, falling from 11-2 to 6-7.

THE BOWL GAMES

76 teams have been invited to the expanded slate of thirty-eight bowl games for this year, plus we’ll have another game to finish up the year.  The 39th game will be the NCAA Title game on January 12th in Arlington, TX between the ALA-Ohio State Sugar Bowl winner and the Oregon-FSU Rose Bowl winner.

Four new bowls were created to help out the Group of Five conferences (non-Power 5 teams):
The Miami Beach Bowl to be played in baseball’s Miami Marlins Stadium
The Bahamas Bowl to be played in Nassau (Bahamas) at Thomas A. Robinson Stadium
The Camellia Bowl to be played in Montgomery, Alabama
The Boca Raton Bowl to be played in Boca Raton, Florida

There were 84 teams eligible for a bowl invitation, which means that eight teams got snubbed.  Georgia Southern won the Sun Belt Conference in its first year of FBS competition (in transition from FCS) and was not eligible for postseason play; an appeal to the NCAA to waive that restriction was denied.  The GSU Eagles (9-3 overall, 8-0 SBC) will be staying home this year.  Similarly, Appalachian State (7-5) is in transition from FCS and also did not get a waiver from the NCAA and is out of bowl contention.

That leaves six other eligible teams not getting to play in a bowl game:
Temple (6-6)                           from the AAC
Middle Tennessee (6-6)          from the CUSA
UAB (6-6)                                from the CUSA; football program eliminated permanently
Old Dominion (6-6)                 from the CUSA
Ohio U (6-6)                            from the MAC
Texas State (7-5)                    from the SBC

FFHL RESULTS – WEEK FIFTEEN

Overall, we FFHL’ers improved on a tough week and performed decently at 46-35-3 (56.5% ATS).  In college picks, we were 0-1-0 ATS, and in the NFL we were 46-33-3 ATS (57.2%).

This week we selected 29 underdogs (all NFL) out of 84 total picks and were a modest 15-13-1 ATS (53.4%) with the ‘dogs. 

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

                                    ATS Picks
Team                           For-Against     Result / Unsolicited comments

On our 83 NFL picks, we had 25 contrary picks.

DEN Broncos (-4) at SD         8-1       WIN, Denver wins 22-10 at San Diego
CIN Bengals (+1h) at CLE      5-3       WIN, Cincinnati clobbers Manziel’s Browns 30-0
IND Colts (-6h) vs. HOU        5-3       WIN, Indy ekes out ½-point cover ATS, 17-10
GB Packers (-4) at BUF         5-2       LOSS, Buffalo beats the Pack outright, 21-13
DET Lions (-7) vs. MIN           4-2       LOSS, Detroit wins only 16-14 to not cover by 5
PIT Steelers (-2) at ATL          4-2       WIN, Pittsburgh wins 27-20 at Atlanta
PHI Eagles (-3h) vs. DAL       4-3       LOSS, Dallas wins outright at Philly, 38-27
NE Patriots (-7h) vs. MIA       4-1       WIN, New England routs visiting Miami, 41-13
NY Giants (-6h) vs WSH        4-0       WIN, Washington loses 24-13 at East Rutherford
CAR Panthers (-3h) vs. TB    3-2       LOSS, Carolina wins only 19-17 to not cover by 1½
OAK Raiders (+10) at KC       3-2       LOSS, Kansas City wins handily, 31-13
NOR Saints (-3) at CHI          2-2       Da Bears failed to show & New Orleans won 31-15
NY Jets (-3) at TENN             2-1       WIN, Tennessee loses 16-11 to not cover by 2


SEA Seahawks (-10) vs SF   2-1       TIE, Seattle controls game in 17-7 win to tie ATS
BAL Ravens (-14) vs. JAX     2-0       LOSS, Baltimore looks mediocre in 20-12 win



CUMULATIVE RECORDS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS) and STRAIGHT UP

COLLEGE - CUMULATIVE

                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               331-365-16 (47.6%)    536-167 (76.2%)        
HOME TEAMS           316-365-12 (46.7%)    395-299 (56.9%)

NFL – FFHL WEEK #15
                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               8-7-1  (53.1%)             12-4-0  (75.0%)          
            HOME TEAMS           5-10-1 (34.4%)            9-7-0   (56.3%)

NFL - CUMULATIVE
                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               109-107-4 (50.5%)      150-69-1  (68.4%)      
            HOME TEAMS           101-115-4 (46.8%)      125-94-1  (57.0%)

Amazingly, the home teams struggled big-time ATS again this week and are under 47% win percentage (46.8% ATS) for the year.
In the FFHL, we have collectively done poorly this year, sporting only a 47.1% ATS win percentage.  Maybe we were and still are leaning too heavily on the home teams (or maybe not; I’m not going to do the analysis-KRAUT will get back to us on that next week).



OTHER FOOTBALL NEWS

FCS QUARTERFINALS PLAYOFF RESULTS

The playoff games last weekend were all quite competitive.  Two of the four home teams lost.

FRIDAY
#8 Chattanooga at #1 New Hampshire in Durham, NH
RESULTS: NH 35, CHATT 30
This game had six lead changes.  The Chattanooga Mocs outgained the NH Wildcats 566-328 from scrimmage (and only 1 turnover), but host New Hampshire (12-1) was more opportunistic and prevailed.
New Hampshire’s only loss of the season was its first game of the season at FBS Toledo, 54-20.

SATURDAY
#5 Illinois State at #4 Eastern Washington in Cheney, WA
RESULTS: ILL.ST 59, EWU 46
Illinois State (12-1) never trailed in this game played on red turf and was ahead 45-20 after three quarters.  ISU running back Marshaun Coprich rushed for 258 yards and 4 TDs on 30 carries.  Eastern Washington lost the turnover battle, 3-0, which was its ultimate demise.
The Illinois State Redbirds only loss this season was at Northern Iowa, 42-28.

#7 Coastal Carolina at #2 North Dakota State in Fargo, ND
RESULTS: NDS 39, CC 32
Coastal Carolina took its first lead of the game, 32-31, with a TD early in the 4th quarter, but the NDSU Bison responded with the winning TD with 9:28 remaining in the game.
NDS running back John Crockett rushed for 227 yards on 26 carries.
North Dakota State (12-1) won its 22nd straight home game; the Bison’s only loss this season was at Northern Iowa, 23-3.

Sam Houston State at #6 Villanova in Philadelphia, PA
RESULTS: SHS 34, VILLA 31
Villanova was playing without its starting QB, but the Wildcats’ backup performed well enough.  Sam Houston had to score a late TD to take the lead 34-31 with 4:03 remaining in regulation play.  Villanova subsequently got into FG range (46-yarder), but a delay-of-game penalty pushed the attempt back to a 51-yarder, and it was “no good” to end the game.  Twelve penalties hurt the VU Wildcats’ cause, even though they had zero turnovers in the game.
Unseeded Sam Houston State (11-4) has been in the FCS Title game two of the last three years.


FCS PLAYOFF MATCHUPS THIS WEEKEND

Four victorious teams from last weekend are heading into the semifinals of the FCS playoffs this weekend.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19TH
SAM HOUSTON STATE (11-4) at #2 NORTH DAKOTA STATE (13-1) in Fargo, ND

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20TH
#5 ILLINOIS STATE (12-1) AT #1 NEW HAMPSHIRE (12-1) in Durham, NH

DIVISION II TITLE GAME
Minnesota State-Mankato (14-0) beat #1 seed Concord (W.VA) last weekend 47-13 to reach its first ever Division II title game.  The Mavericks will face Colorado State-Pueblo (12-1), who also earned its first title appearance.
The title game will be played on Saturday at 4PM ET in Kansas City (ESPN2).

DIVISION III TITLE GAME
Wisconsin-Whitewater will face Mount Union in the Division III title game for the 9th time in the last 10 years.  UWW is the defending champion and has a 5-3 record in the series over the last decade.
The Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl will be played Friday at 7PM ET in Salem, VA (ESPNU).
UWW head coach Lance Leipold will be coaching his last game in Division III, as he has taken the HC job at the University of Buffalo (FBS, MAC conference).

HEISMAN TROPHY RESULTS
                                                                                                Points (1st place votes)

WINNER         Marcus MARIOTA      QB OREGON             2534 (788)
Runner-up         Melvin GORDON       RB Wisconsin             1250 (  37)
3rd                   Amari COOPER         WR Alabama              1023 (  49)
4th                    Trevone BOYKIN       QB TCU                        218 (   8)       

followed by #5 Ohio State QB JT Barrett, #6 FSU QB Jameis Winston, #7 Indiana RB Tevin Coleman, #8 Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott, #9 defensive player Arizona LB Scooby Wright III, and #10 Baylor QB Bryce Petty.

Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota won in a landslide, receiving the 2nd-most points (percentage-wise) of all time (90.9%), second only to Ohio State QB Troy Smith in 2006 (91.6% of possible points).

OTHER MINUTIA

Former UCLA QB Brett Hundley has declared for the 2015 NFL Draft.

Former Florida Gator HC Will Muschamp has signed on as the defensive coordinator for the University of Auburn.

Who will be the next head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers?  There is talk of Darrell Bevell, who is currently the offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks (2011-2014) and before that was the OC for the MIN Vikings.  He was a QB at Wisconsin in the 1990’s when current UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez was the head coach.  Nothing has been decided yet.
UPDATE: Paul Chryst (former head coach at U. of Pittsburgh) is the new HC; he’s coming back home to his roots.

And now Pittsburgh needs to find a new head coach.  It could be Greg Schiano, formerly at Rutgers and then Tampa Bay Bucs (idle this season).

Who will become the next HC at Michigan?  Again, nothing is decided yet.  Could they be waiting for SF 49’ers head coach Jim Harbaugh (Michigan alumnus) to finish his NFL regular season?  Just a thought; probably won’t happen.  If Harbaugh stays in the NFL, could he be going to the Oakland Raiders?  Other possibilities could be Atlanta, Miami, or NY Jets.

It does appear Jim Harbaugh is on his way out of San Francisco.  Who could be their next head coach?  Niners defensive line coach Jim Tomsula is a possibility (last 8 seasons with SF), and Mike Holmgren has been mentioned.  Would Jon Gruden come out of retirement and give up his cushy Monday Night Football job?  It’s still way too early to have a handle on this one.

LOOKING AHEAD

FFHL WEEK #16 (picks due by 7PM on Friday, December 19th) 

Saturday         Louisiana-Lafayette (-1) vs. Nevada              New Orleans, LA
Dec 20th         Utah State (-10h) vs. UTEP                           Albuquerque, NM
                        Utah (-4) vs. Colorado State                           Las Vegas, NV
                        Western Michigan (Pk) vs. Air Force             Boise, ID
                        South Alabama (-2h) vs. Bowling Green        Montgomery, AL

Monday           Memphis (-1) vs. BYU                                    Miami, FL
Dec 22nd

Tuesday          Marshall (-10) vs. Northern Illinois                  Boca Raton, FL
Dec 23rd         San Diego State (-2h) vs. Navy                     San Diego, CA

Wednesday     Western Kentucky (-3) vs. Central Michigan             Bahamas
Dec 24th         Fresno State (-1h) vs. Rice                                        Honolulu, HI

Plus, NFL WEEK #16 GAMES (except Thursday game not eligible)

Thursday         Tennessee (+2) at Jacksonville

Saturday         San Diego (-2h) at San Francisco
Dec 20th         Philadelphia (-8) at Washington

Sunday            Divisional games:
Dec 21st          Detroit (-3h) at Chicago
                        Atlanta (+4) at New Orleans
                        New England (-7) at NY Jets
                        Seattle (-3) at Arizona

                        All of the other matchups:
                        Cleveland (+3) at Carolina
                        Baltimore (-2h) at Houston
                        Minnesota (+6) at Miami
                        Kansas City (+3) at Pittsburgh
                        Green Bay (-9h) at Tampa Bay
                        NY Giants (+2h) at St. Louis
                        Indianapolis (+2h) at Dallas
                        Buffalo (+1) at Oakland

Monday           Denver (-1) at Cincinnati
Dec 22nd

FFHL WEEK #17 -- PLAYOFF SEMIFINALS WEEK
(picks due by 7PM on Christmas Day – Thursday, Dec 25th)

Friday              Louisiana Tech (-6h) vs. Illinois                      Dallas, TX
Dec 26th         North Carolina (-3) vs. Rutgers                      Detroit, MI
                        Central Florida (-2) vs. North Carolina St.      St. Petersburg, FL

Saturday         Cincinnati (-3) vs. Virginia Tech                     Annapolis, MD
Dec 27th         Arizona State (-7h) vs. Duke                          El Paso, TX
                        Miami (FL) (-3) vs. South Carolina                 Shreveport, LA
                        Boston College (-3) vs. Penn State                Bronx, NY
                        Southern California (-6) vs. Nebraska            San Diego, CA
                                    (What a great matchup for the HOLIDAY BOWL!!)

Monday           West Virginia (-3h) vs. Texas A&M                Memphis, TN
Dec 29th         Clemson (PK) vs. Oklahoma                         Orlando, FL
                        Arkansas (-6) vs. Texas                                 Houston, TX
Tuesday          LSU (-7h) vs. Notre Dame                             Nashville, TN
Dec 30th         Georgia (-7) vs. Louisville                               Charlotte, NC
                        Stanford (-14) vs. Maryland                           Santa Clara, CA

START OF “NEW YEAR’S SIX” MAJOR BOWL GAMES:
Wednesday     TCU (-3) vs. Mississippi          PEACH BOWL           Atlanta, GA
Dec 31st          Arizona (-3) vs. Boise State    FIESTA BOWL           Glendale, AZ
                        Miss St (-7) vs. GA Tech        ORANGE BOWL        Miami, FL

Plus, NFL WEEK #17 – ALL GAMES ARE ON SUNDAY, DEC 28TH
to finish up the NFL regular season.

All 16 games are divisional matchups:
Carolina (+2) at Atlanta
Cleveland (+4) at Baltimore
Detroit (+4) at Green Bay
Jacksonville (+6) at Houston
San Diego (+3) at Kansas City
NY Jets (+4) at Miami
Chicago (+3) at Minnesota
Buffalo (+7) at New England
Philadelphia (-3) at NY Giants
Cincinnati (+2h) at Pittsburgh
New Orleans (-4h) at Tampa Bay
Indianapolis (-7) at Tennessee
Dallas (-8) at Washington
Oakland (+13) at Denver
Arizona (-2h) at San Francisco
St. Louis (+8) at Seattle

FFHL WEEK #18 – START OF FFHL PLAYOFF FINALS
(picks will be due by 9PM on Wednesday, New Year’s Eve, December 31st)

ELIGIBLE COLLEGE BOWL GAMES:
Thursday         Auburn (-6h) vs. Wisconsin                            Tampa, FL
Jan 1st                        Missouri (-6) vs. Minnesota                            Orlando, FL
Baylor (-3) vs. Michigan St     COTTON BOWL        Arlington, TX

Plus CFP playoff games:
ROSE BOWL #2 Oregon (-9h) vs. #3 Florida State  Pasadena, CA
SUGAR BOWL #1 Alabama (-9h) vs. #4 Ohio State            New Orleans, LA


Friday              Pittsburgh (-3) vs. Houston                 Fort Worth, TX
Jan 2nd                       Tennessee (-3h) vs. Iowa                   Jacksonville, FL
                        Kansas State (-1) vs. UCLA               San Antonio, TX
                        Washington (-5h) vs. Oklahoma St.   Tempe, AZ

Saturday         Florida (-7) vs. East Carolina              Birmingham, AL
Jan 3rd

Sunday            Toledo (-3) vs. Arkansas State           Mobile, AL
Jan 4th

Plus, all NFL PLAYOFF GAMES through the Super Bowl.



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