FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Hello Football Fans,
The NFL playoffs will start this weekend.
The inaugural college football playoff semifinals will be played on Thursday, New Year's Day.
The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL
Here we go!! The post-season tournament begins this weekend.
PLAYOFF SEEDINGS (ACTUAL)
#1 SEED Seattle (12-4) New England (12-4)
#2 SEED Green Bay (12-4) Denver (12-4)
#3 seed Dallas (12-4) Pittsburgh (11-5)
#4 seed Carolina (7-8-1) Indianapolis (11-5)
#5 seed WC Arizona (11-5) Cincinnati (10-5-1)
#6 seed WC Detroit (11-5) Baltimore (10-6)
In the NFC, Philadelphia (10-6) missed the playoffs; no other non-playoff team was over .500. SF finished 8-8.
In the AFC, four teams finished at 9-7 and missed the playoffs: SD, KC, BUF, and HOU.
Miami finished at 8-8. The BUF Bills had their first winning regular season since 2004.
Five playoff teams from last year didn’t make the playoffs this year – PHI, SD, KC, NOR, and SF. That means five non-playoff teams from last year qualified this year: AZ, BAL, DAL, DET, and PIT.
WILD CARD WEEKEND
All of the home teams are the favorites in this weekend’s wild card games.
#5 Arizona (+4h) at #4 Carolina Saturday 4:20PM ET (Jan 3rd)
#6 Detroit (+7) at #3 Dallas Sunday 4:40PM ET (Jan 4th)
#6 Baltimore (+3) at #3 Pittsburgh Saturday 8:15PM ET
#5 Cincinnati (+4) at #4 Indianapolis Sunday 1:05PM ET
FACT: Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1991 season.
Week #17 -- PLAYOFFS SOLIDIFIED
Green Bay (-7h) beat visiting Detroit, 30-20, to win the NFC North and secure a “bye” week in the playoffs. The losing Lions slipped to the #6 seed in the playoffs.
Bonehead Lions’ DL Ndamukong Suh stomped on QB Aaron Rodgers during the game and has been suspended one game for his indiscretion (and it’s a big game—the playoff game on Sunday at Dallas). Suh is appealing, but I doubt the suspension will be overturned (looked obviously intentional to me). Suh was suspended in 2011 for stomping on an offensive lineman’s arm, and then did the groin kick to a QB in 2012. Mr. Dumass!
Seattle (-12h) woke up in the 4th quarter to break a 6-6 tie and beat visiting St. Louis 20-6, as the Seahawks won the NFC West and secured a “bye” week and the #1 seed in the playoffs.
Carolina (+4) crushed the Falcons in Atlanta, 34-3, to win the division and capture the #4 seed in the playoffs. Believe it or not, the CAR Panthers (12-4 last year) are the only NFC South team to repeat as division champion since the realignment in 2002.
Tampa Bay (2-14) lost at home as a 4-point underdog to visiting New Orleans, 23-20, to cover ATS and secure the #1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Buccaneers will be seriously looking for a QB (probably Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston).
Denver (-14) beat visiting Oakland 47-14 to secure a “bye” week and the #2 seed in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh (-3h) beat visiting Cincinnati 27-17 to capture the AFC North division title and earn the #3 seed, giving them a home game this Saturday.
San Diego (+3) lost at KC 19-7 on Sunday, opening up the last of six playoff spots to three other teams. Baltimore (-8h) was next in line, but they trailed at home against Cleveland 10-3 going into the fourth quarter. Houston (-9h) was next in line, but they were behind visiting Jacksonville 17-14 after three quarters. Next in line would have been Kansas City.
RESULTS: The BAL Ravens scored 17 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to outlast the CLE Browns, with undrafted rookie Connor Shaw (South Carolina) as Cleveland’s starting QB.
FINAL: BAL 20, CLE 10; the Ravens grabbed the last playoff spot and got a cover ATS.
Tennessee (2-14) lost at home as a 7-point underdog to visiting Indianapolis, 27-10, to secure the #2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Titans will likely be looking for a QB (the leftover after Tampa Bay picks either Mariota or Winston).
Jacksonville (3-13) has secured the #3 overall draft pick, and Oakland (3-13) gets #4, followed by #5 Washington (4-12) and #6 NYJ (4-12). USC defensive end Leonard Williams has declared for the 2015 NFL Draft and will most probably go to one of these teams.
NFL UNDERDOG WINNERS
Overall, FOUR underdogs won outright in 16 NFL games last Sunday for a 25% upset rate this week (44% last week).
Buffalo (+5) won at New England, 17-9. The Patriots had “nothing to play for” and pulled the starters early in the game. After the game, BUF Bills QB Kyle Orton retired after 10 years in the league to spend more time with his family.
NY Jets (+5h) won at Miami, 37-24.
Carolina (+4) won at Atlanta, 34-3.
Philadelphia (+2h) won at NY Giants, 34-26.
THE BOWL GAMES
Tuesday Dec 23rd
San Diego State (-2h) vs. Navy San Diego, CA
UPSET RESULT: NAVY 17, SDSU 16
Wednesday Dec 24th
Western Kentucky (-3) vs. Central Michigan Nassau, Bahamas
RESULT: WKU 49, CMU 48
Did you see the famous end to the 1982 Stanford-California football game? Visiting Stanford and QB John Elway drove from their own 13-yard line into field goal range with time running out in the 4th quarter (including a 4th-and-17 conversion to keep the drive alive). The Cardinal converted on the go-ahead FG with 4 seconds remaining in the game to take a 20-19 lead. On the ensuing kickoff return (the last play of the game), the Cal Golden Bears had to run through Stanford band members, who had poured onto the field to celebrate victory (prematurely). The Bears reached paydirt after five laterals (several maybe not quite legal) and scored the winning TD, after which the ball carrier bowled over a Stanford trombone player in the endzone (unintentionally) to accent the shocking 25-20 Cal victory.
Anyway, back to the inaugural 2014 Bahamas Bowl in Nassau. The ending to this bowl game on Christmas Eve in the Bahamas was arguably even more incredible than the Stanford-Cal game. Even though the last play was not as spectacular, the 4th quarter comeback following by the last play from scrimmage made this game a momentous event.
Western Kentucky had dominated the game and was ahead 42-14 at halftime and extended the lead to 49-14 after three quarters. But the CMU Chippewas had not surrendered. They scored a 4th quarter TD with 11½ minutes remaining, and then another with 8 minutes to go, and then another with 3 minutes to go (uh-oh, the score is 49-35), and then again with 1:09 showing on the clock to trail only 49-42. But the ensuing onside kick was unsuccessful. The WKU Hilltoppers tried to milk the clock, with CMU using up their timeouts. WKU had to punt, and Central Michigan got the ball back on their own 25-yard line with 1 second remaining in the game – time for one last play, which was a Hail Mary pass that was completed at the WKU 27-yard line and then lateraled back to a teammate and two more laterals later the Chippewas had scored a touchdown with the ball carrier diving and stretching out as the ball touched the goal line pylon. Score: 49-48, and CMU decided to go for the win with a 2-point conversion try. It was “no good” – the coaches called a fade route pass to the corner of the end zone and it failed miserably. I hate that play, almost any time, but in this situation it seemed to nearly guarantee their ultimate demise (although Central Michigan did miraculously cover the spread!!).
Fresno State (+2) vs. Rice Honolulu, HI
RESULT: RICE 30, FRES 6
See Quiz Question at end of letter.
Friday Dec 26th
Louisiana Tech (-6) vs. Illinois Dallas, TX
RESULT: LA.TK 35, ILL 18
North Carolina (-3) vs. Rutgers Detroit, MI
UPSET RESULT: RUTG 40, UNC 21
Central Florida (-2h) vs. North Carolina St. St. Petersburg, FL
UPSET RESULT: NC.ST 34, UCF 27
Saturday Dec 27th
Cincinnati (-2h) vs. Virginia Tech Annapolis, MD
UPSET RESULT: VA.TK 33, CIN 17
Arizona State (-7h) vs. Duke El Paso, TX
RESULT: ASU 36, DUKE 31
Miami (FL) (-3h) vs. South Carolina Shreveport, LA
UPSET RESULT: USC 24, MIA 21
Boston College (-2h) vs. Penn State Bronx, NY (Yankee Stadium)
UPSET RESULT: PSU 31, BC 30 (overtime)
Tied at 24-24 in regulation play, the BC Eagles got the first possession in OT and scored a TD, but the extra point kick was hooked “wide right” by the left-footed kicker. The PSU Nittany Lions scored a TD on their possession and then the graduating senior kicker (who was reportedly using Derek Jeter’s old locker for the game) kicked the game-winning PAT.
Southern California (-7) vs. Nebraska San Diego, CA
RESULT: USC 45, NEB 42
The USC Trojans were ahead 45-27 after three quarters, but by the end of the game the Cornhuskers were down only three points and looking for a Hail Mary to win. Southern Cal found a way to defend against this type of play and hung on for the victory (but not the cover ATS; ten of us twelve FFHL’ers got harpooned on this one).
Monday Dec 29th
West Virginia (-3h) vs. Texas A&M Memphis, TN
“UPSET” RESULT: TXAM 45, W.VA 37
The West VA quarterback decided to retire several days before the bowl game, as five concussions in 14 months took their toll.
Clemson (+3h) vs. Oklahoma Orlando, FL
UPSET RESULT: CLEM 40, OKLA 6
Arkansas (-6) vs. Texas Houston, TX
RESULT: ARK 31, TX 7
Tuesday Dec 30th
LSU (-7) vs. Notre Dame Nashville, TN
RESULT: to be determined
Georgia (-7) vs. Louisville Charlotte, NC
RESULT: to be determined
Stanford (-14) vs. Maryland Santa Clara, CA
RESULT: to be determined
Wednesday Dec 31st
PEACH BOWL Atlanta, GA
TCU (-3) vs. Mississippi
RESULT: to be determined
FIESTA BOWL Glendale, AZ
Arizona (-3) vs. Boise State
RESULT: to be determined
ORANGE BOWL Miami, FL
Miss St (-7) vs. GA Tech
RESULT: to be determined
FINAL STATS AFTER WEEK #16 (FFHL Regular Season ended)
After last week’s newsletter, we were still competing in FFHL Week #16 with a few bowl games on Tuesday and Wednesday. The final stats for the week are as follows:
On our college picks, we were decent at 18-14-0 ATS (56.3%), and in the NFL we were a brutal 18-34-0 ATS (34.6%). Overall, we ended up 36-48-0 ATS (42.9%).
After seventeen weeks of picks, we have collectively made 1,428 picks (12 of us picking 7 games each week for 17 weeks, including Week Zero). It has been just a brutal year for us amateur handicappers, as we have won only 46.8% ATS. Only two of us are above 50% ATS on our picks:
THE ROUNDERS 52.9% ATS
MOORE MONEY 52.1% ATS
On our 819 college picks for the year, we are collectively only 46.8% ATS.
On our 609 NFL picks for the year, we are collectively only 47.0% ATS.
In a “normal” year, we do much better on college games; but it has been a strange year and hard to predict for the likes of us.
Our regular season is over, and three teams from each of the six-team divisions make the playoffs.
In Division A (playoff teams from last year), THE ROUNDERS captured the division title in a rout with a 12-4 record. TOMMY BOY (9-7) got 2nd place and YO MAMA (7-9, representing the NFL’s NFC South Division) ended up alone in 3rd place and made the playoffs with a losing record.
In the tougher Division B (non-playoff teams from last year), 1-800-OPPOSITE (10-5) captured the division title in the last week on a tiebreaker over runner-up SOUR KRAUT (10-5). MOORE MONEY (9-7) got the last playoff spot on a tiebreaker over WILD MAN (9-7) and THE FUGITIVE (9-7).
The two division winners play each other in the playoff semifinals in Week #17 for the right to play in the FANTASTIC BOWL for the FFHL Championship in Week #18.
The other semifinal playoff game in Week #17 matches up the four teams that claimed 2nd and 3rd places in each division. The best of those four teams in Week #17 advances to the Fantastic Bowl in Week #18.
2nd in Division B KRAUT Double home field advantage (HFA)
3rd in Division B MOORE MONEY Single HFA (on tiebreaker over Tommy Boy)
2nd in Division A TOMMY BOY
3rd in Division A YO MAMA
FFHL2 – “THE DEUCE” POINTS COMPETITION
We still have two weeks to go in the Deuce competition, with the top four spots bringing home some bacon (or clams, if you prefer). Through 17 weeks, following are the standings:
THE ROUNDERS 166.0
MOORE MONEY 151.0
YO MAMA 138.5
HAWKEYE 134.0 Best of the non-playoff teams
And still hoping to jump into the Top Four:
TOMMY BOY 126.0
THE FUGITIVE 118.5
WILD MAN 114.5
KID RUST 75.0
MIGHTY DUCK 68.0 More concerned with Oregon winning NCAA title
FILTER KING 41.5 He left his MOJO in Vegas
“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”
With a 7-0 ATS week, a maximum of 39 points will be earned.
With a 0-7 ATS week, the result is negative 14 points.
Of course, so far this year none of us has gone either 7-0 or 0-7.
In fact, in this bizarre year of “unpredictability”, only three times this year has one of us FFHL handicappers even posted a 6-1 record ATS.
On the negative side, one time an FFHL handicapper went 0-6-1, and ten times one of us posted 1-6 ATS for a week.
IN PROGRESS -- WEEK #17 PLAYOFF SEMIFINALS
We aren’t finished for the week, as we picked bowl games through Wednesday. Our college picks started out an almost impossible 2-22-0 ATS (8.3%) and we are trying to recover. In the NFL, we were a stellar 21-11-0 ATS (65.6%).
FFHL LOP-SIDED and CONTESTED PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
Team For-Against Result / Unsolicited comments
FFHL WEEK #17 PLAYOFF SEMIFINALS
On our 32 NFL picks, we had 8 contrary picks.
On our 52 college bowl game picks, we had ONLY TWO contrary picks.
USC -7 vs Nebraska 10-0 LOSS, “backdoor” cover by ‘Huskers in 45-42 loss
TCU -3 vs Mississippi 5-0 to be determined
Arizona -3 vs Boise St 5-0 to be determined
LSU -7 vs Notre Dame 5-1 to be determined
AZ State -7h vs Duke 4-0 LOSS, ASU wins only 36-31 to not cover by 2h
BC -2h vs Penn State 4-0 LOSS, Boston College flubs PAT in 31-30 OT loss
GA Tech +7 vs Miss St 4-0 to be determined
UCF -2h vs NC State 3-0 LOSS, NCS Wolfpack wins outright, 34-27
Stanford -14 vs Maryland 2-1 to be determined
DAL Cowboys -5h at WSH 5-0 WIN, Dallas wins handily in D.C., 44-17
PIT Steelers -3h vs CIN 3-1 WIN, Pittsburgh 27-17 victory gets cover ATS
SEA Seahawks -12h vs STL 3-1 WIN, late surge lets Seattle win 20-6 & cover ATS
GB Packers -7h vs DET 3-1 WIN, Green Bay wins 30-20 to cover by 2h
CUMULATIVE RECORDS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS) and STRAIGHT UP
I’ll send out a separate analysis (same format as last year) for all of the bowl games – by conference, based on how teams performed against the spread and straight up.
NFL – WEEK #17 (final week of regular season)
FAVORITES 8-8-0 (50.0%) 12-4-0 (75.0%)
HOME TEAMS 7-9-0 (43.8%) 9-7-0 (56.2%)
NFL - CUMULATIVE (through end of regular season)
FAVORITES 123-125-4 (49.6%) 171-80-1 (68.1%)
HOME TEAMS 118-130-4 (47.6%) 143-108-1 (56.9%)
OTHER FOOTBALL NEWS
COACHING CHANGES – “BLACK MONDAY”
SF Forty-Niners’ HC Jim Harbaugh is “out” in San Francisco; there was a mutual agreement to part ways. Harbaugh has signed a $48 million, 6-year deal to resurrect the University of Michigan football program (his alma mater). The search is now ongoing by the current Brass in the Bay.
GM Trent Baalke has been retained.
Atlanta Falcons’ HC Mike Smith has been fired. GM Thomas Dimitroff has been retained.
Da Bears are cleaning house in Chicago. HC Mark Trestman and GM Emery and the Bears’ offensive coordinator have been fired.
NY Jets’ HC Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik have been fired.
The Oakland Raiders had fired HC Dennis Allen mid-year, and interim coach Tony Sparano finished out the year. GM Reggie McKenzie has been retained and will no doubt be instrumental in selecting the next head coach (maybe Sparano).
With new ownership (Terry and Kim Pegula), will there be changes in Buffalo?
Former Bills’ general manager Bill Polian could be coming back in some capacity.
FFHL WEEK #18 – FFHL PLAYOFF FINALS
(picks will be due by 9PM on Wednesday, New Year’s Eve, December 31st , and then every Friday by 7PM in the following weeks – total of seven picks through Super Bowl)
ELIGIBLE COLLEGE BOWL GAMES:
Thursday Auburn (-6) vs. Wisconsin Tampa, FL
Jan 1st Missouri (-4h) vs. Minnesota Orlando, FL
Baylor (-2h) vs. Michigan St COTTON BOWL Arlington, TX
Plus CFP playoff games:
#2 Oregon (-8h) vs. #3 Florida State ROSE BOWL Pasadena, CA
#1 Alabama (-8h) vs. #4 Ohio State SUGAR BOWL 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 (-6h) vs. East Carolina Birmingham, AL
Sunday Toledo (-4) vs. Arkansas State Mobile, AL
Plus, all eleven NFL PLAYOFF GAMES through the Super Bowl.
(four wild card games, four conference semifinal games, 2 conference finals games, and the Super Bowl)
PLUS: the NCAA Championship Game on January 12th
QUESTION #1: Fresno State lost its bowl game to finish the season with a 6-8 record. Name the only other FBS school in NCAA history to produce the same infamous record.
BONUS: Name the only other (two) FBS schools to ever enter their bowl game with a losing record.
HINT: This all happened in the 21st century.
QUESTION #2: The Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) made the playoffs this year with a losing record. Name the last team to accomplish this feat (and the year).
HINT: This happened in the 21st century.
UCLA in 2011, finishing 6-8 after losing the PAC-12 title game and then its bowl game.
This year, Fresno State lost the MW title game, and then their 6th straight bowl game.
North Texas (5-6) in 2001, and lost its bowl game to finish 5-7
Georgia Tech (6-7) in 2012, and won its bowl game to finish 7-7
In the 2010 season, Seattle got into the playoffs with a 7-9 record. It was controversial because the NOR Saints (11-5 record) had to play a road game at Seattle. The rule still exists; division winners get the higher seeding and are automatically awarded a home game over the wild card teams (#5 and #6 seeds). This year, #4 seed Carolina at 7-8-1 gets a home game against wild card #5 seed Arizona (11-5). There will be discussions this offseason on whether to change the rules that award home field advantage to the team with the better record.
In 2011, the DEN Broncos (8-8) were awarded a home game against the PIT Steelers (12-4). In 2012, the BAL Ravens (10-6) hosted a playoff game against the IND Colts (11-5). In 2013 (last year), the SF 49’ers (12-4) had to play in dangerously cold conditions at the GB Packers (8-7-1).