Thursday, December 25, 2014

FOOTBALL NEWS AFTER NFL WEEK SIXTEEN



MERRY CHRISTMAS! FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,

Only one week remains in the NFL regular season and three division titles are still undecided.  The playoffs are near.


The bowl games have started, with some dynamite matchups coming up in the next couple of weeks.  Of course that includes the historic playoff games at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, with the winners playing in the national championship game on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, TX.

Enjoy,

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL
(Rumored to be having a Christmas beer with Hank Hill – Ed)
 
NFL

DIVISIONAL RACES

There is only ONE week remaining in the NFL regular season.

Three games in Week #17 will determine division winners.
Detroit (-7h) at Green Bay winner captures the NFC North (and gets a 1st round “bye”).
Carolina (+4) at Atlanta winner captures the NFC South and a playoff spot.
Cincinnati (+3h) at Pittsburgh winner captures the AFC North.  Both teams are already guaranteed a playoff spot.

And one more critical game to consider:
Tampa Bay (2-13) will clinch the #1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft with a home loss to New Orleans on Sunday.
If Tennessee (2-13) also loses, the two teams would be tied for the worst record; but the TB Bucs would win the tiebreaker based on a lesser “strength of schedule”.

AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE (AFC)

AFC NORTH:
Cincinnati (10-4-1) holds a ½-game lead over Pittsburgh (10-5), but they play each other in Week #17 and the winner is the division champion.  Baltimore at 9-6 cannot win the division, even with a CIN Bengals’ loss.  However, the BAL Ravens can still get a wild card spot with a home win over Cleveland if San Diego loses at Kansas City.

AFC WEST:
Denver (11-4) clinched the division and is playing for a “bye” in Week #17 vs. OAK.
San Diego (9-6) will clinch a playoff spot with a win at KC on Sunday.
If Kansas City (8-7) wins, the Chiefs will still only make the playoffs if both BAL and HOU lose.

AFC SOUTH:
Indianapolis (10-5) is the division winner.
Houston (8-7) can still make the playoffs with a home win vs. JAX and also losses by both SD and BAL.


AFC EAST:
New England (12-3) clinched the division title and the #1 seed in the playoffs.
Buffalo and Miami at 8-7 have both been eliminated from the playoffs.

NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE (NFC)

NFC SOUTH:
Carolina (6-8-1) plays at Atlanta (6-9) on Sunday, with the winner claiming the division title and the #4 seed in the playoffs. 
New Orleans (6-9) lost at home to Atlanta last weekend and has been eliminated from playoff competition.
[Just in case you’re wondering, if the CAR Panthers and ATL Falcons tie in Week #17, Carolina at 6-8-2 would beat out New Orleans, even if the NOR Saints win in Week #17 to finish the regular season at 7-9.  Why?  Carolina’s record would translate to 7-9 and then the Panthers would win the tiebreaker with a better divisional record of 3-2-1 (vs. 3-3 divisional record for the Saints)].

NFC EAST:
Dallas (11-4) clinched the division title with a home win on Sunday over Indianapolis, 42-7.  The Cowboys have the #3 seed currently, but will move up if both Seattle and Arizona lose in Week #17.
Philadelphia lost at Washington in Week #16, and now even with a decent 9-6 record has been eliminated from the playoffs.

NFC NORTH:
The winner of the Detroit (11-4) at Green Bay (11-4) game in Week #17 captures the division title and gets the #2 seed in the playoffs; the loser gets the #5 seed.
If Green Bay wins and Seattle loses, the Packers get the #1 seed.
If Detroit wins and both SEA and AZ lose, the Lions will get the #1 seed.

NFC WEST:
Seattle (11-4) has clinched a playoff spot and will clinch the division and the #1 seed with a home win over St. Louis in Week #17.
Arizona (11-4) has clinched at least the #6 seed in the playoffs, and will claim the division title with a win at SF on Sunday coupled with a Seattle loss.  The AZ Cardinals can still get the #1 seed if both SEA and GB lose.


WILD CARD RACES

NFC
With one week to go, five of the six playoff teams have already been determined. 
The Carolina-Atlanta game on Sunday will determine the sixth and final playoff team in the NFC.  The loser of this game is “out”, and all other teams have been eliminated.


AFC
With one week to go, three division winners are already in the playoffs, and the two teams playing for the AFC North title are already in the playoffs.  The remaining spot will be filled by only one of these teams: SD (9-6), BAL (9-6), KC (8-7), or HOU (8-7).  All other teams have been eliminated.

PROJECTED PLAYOFF SEEDINGS (but it’s still preliminary)

         NFC                            AFC

#1 SEED                   Seattle                         New England (clinched)               
#2 SEED                   Detroit /Green Bay       Denver
#3 seed                      Dallas                         Indianapolis
#4 seed                     Carolina/Atlanta          Cincinnati/Pittsburgh
#5 seed WC              Green Bay/Detroit      Pittsburgh (tiebreak over BAL)
#6 seed WC              Arizona                      San Diego

NFL UNDERDOG WINNERS

Overall, an amazing SEVEN underdogs won outright in 16 NFL games, for a 44% upset rate this week (31% last week).

On Saturday night, San Diego (+1h) made a miraculous comeback at San Francisco to win 38-35 in overtime and the Chargers stayed in the playoff hunt (and now control their own playoff destiny).
The SF 49’ers led 28-7 at halftime and still 35-21 after three quarters (even after allowing San Diego to recover a fumble in the end zone for a TD), but the Chargers scored two unanswered TDs in the 4th quarter at 5:15 and 0:29 to send the game into overtime.  The Niners got the ball first in overtime, but lost possession on a fumble and set up the winning FG for the visitors.

Also on Saturday, Washington (+7h) beat visiting Philadelphia, 27-24, to eliminate the Eagles from the playoffs.  The WSH Pig’Skins ended a 6-game losing streak on the season.  PHI QB Mark Sanchez threw an interception with 1:31 remaining in the game to set up the winning FG with 5 seconds left.  WSH QB Robert Griffin III had his first complete game in 13 months.  The Eagles committed 13 penalties for 102 yards and missed two FG’s.

Atlanta (+6) won at New Orleans, 30-14, to eliminate the Saints from the playoffs.  The NOR Saints lost their last five home games of the season.

Houston (+4h) beat visiting Baltimore, 25-13, to keep its faint playoff hopes alive; and the Ravens now need help to make the playoffs.

NY Giants (+6h) won at St. Louis, 37-27.

Oakland (+6h) beat visiting Buffalo, 26-24, to eliminate the Bills from the playoffs.  The BUF Bills have not won in Oakland since 1966.

On Monday night, Cincinnati (+3) beat visiting Denver, 37-28, to clinch a playoff spot.
The CIN Bengals led 20-7 at halftime, but by the end of the third quarter the DEN Broncos had taken the lead, 28-27.  Cincy kicked a FG to retake the lead with 8 minutes remaining in the game and then iced the victory on a Pick 6 with 2:41 on the clock.

BIZARRE ENDING
Minnesota (+6h) led 35-28 after scoring a TD with 4:35 remaining in the game, but host Miami responded with the tying TD with only 1:11 left in regulation play.  The Vikings’ drive on the ensuing possession stalled and they were forced to punt – bad snap, the punt was blocked and bounded out the back of the endzone for a safety with 0:41 on the clock.
FINAL: MIA 37, MIN 35

COLLEGE

THE BOWL GAMES

Saturday Dec 20th
Louisiana-Lafayette (Pk) vs. Nevada                   New Orleans, LA
RESULT: ULL 16, NEV 3

Utah State (-10) vs. UTEP                          Albuquerque, NM
RESULT: UT.ST 21, UTEP 6

Utah (-3) vs. Colorado State                                   Las Vegas, NV
RESULT: UTAH 45, CSU 10

Western Michigan (Pk) vs. Air Force                    Boise, ID
RESULT: AIRF 38, WMU 24

South Alabama (-2h) vs. Bowling Green            Montgomery, AL
UPSET RESULT: B.GRN 33, S.ALA 28

Monday Dec 22nd
Memphis (-1) vs. BYU                                 Miami, FL
RESULT: MEMP 55, BYU 48 (2OT)

Tuesday Dec 23rd    
Marshall (-10) vs. Northern Illinois                        Boca Raton, FL
RESULT:  MARSH 52, NIU 23

San Diego State (-2h) vs. Navy                 San Diego, CA
RESULT: game is ongoing

Wednesday Dec 24th          
Western Kentucky (-3) vs. Central Michigan                  Bahamas
RESULT: to be determined

Fresno State (+2) vs. Rice                                      Honolulu, HI
RESULT: to be determined

FFHL RESULTS – WEEK SIXTEEN

Overall, we aren’t finished for the week, as we picked bowl games through Wednesday.  So far in our college picks, we are a stellar 16-5-0 ATS (76.2%), and in the NFL we were a brutal 18-34-0 ATS (34.6%).

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

                                    ATS Picks
Team                          For-Against   Result / Unsolicited comments

On our 52 NFL picks, we had only 6 contrary picks.
On our 32 college bowl game picks, we had 3 contrary picks.

BAL Ravens -4h at HOU    8-1      LOSS, Houston won outright, 25-13
NE Patriots -10 at NYJ        6-0      LOSS, Jets barely lose to Pats, 17-16
DET Lions -8 at CHI                        5-0      LOSS, Detroit wins only 20-14 to not cover
GB Packers -11 at TB                      5-2      WIN, Green Bay wins 20-3 to cover by 6
CAR Panthers -3h vs. CLE            3-0      WIN, Carolina wins 17-13 to cover by ½
SF 49’ers -1h vs. SD           3-0      LOSS, San Fran blows lead, loses 38-35 OT
DEN Broncos -3 at CIN       3-2      LOSS, Denver loses at Cincy, 37-28
DAL Cowboys -3 vs. IND    2-1      WIN, Dallas blows out the Colts, 42-7

Utah -3 vs. Colorado State 7-0      WIN, Utes blow out CSU, 45-10
SDSU -2h vs. Navy             4-1      Game being played tonight
Marshall -10 vs. N.Illinois   3-0      WIN, Thundering Herd win easily, 52-23
BYU +1 vs. Memphis                      3-0      LOSS, Cougars lose in double OT 55-48
Fresno St +2 vs. Rice                      3-1      Game to be played Wednesday
Air Force (Pk) vs. W.Mich   3-1      WIN, AF Falcons win 38-24


CUMULATIVE RECORDS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS) and STRAIGHT UP

COLLEGE BOWLS
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 – FFHL WEEK #16

                                                ATS                            STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                       Record

FAVORITES             6-10-0  (37.5%)         9-7-0  (56.3%)          
            HOME TEAMS         10-6-0 (62.5%)          9-7-0   (56.3%)

The favorites didn’t do well, and the home teams finally came alive this week.

NFL - CUMULATIVE
                                                ATS                            STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                       Record

FAVORITES             115-117-4 (49.6%)   159-76-1  (67.6%)   
            HOME TEAMS         111-121-4 (47.9%)   134-101-1  (57.0%)

OTHER FOOTBALL NEWS

FCS SEMIFINALS PLAYOFF RESULTS

FRIDAY – DEC 19th
Sam Houston State at #2 North Dakota State (12-1) in Fargo, ND
RESULTS: NDSU 35, SHS 3
The NDS Bison were only ahead 7-3 at halftime, but ground out a solid victory in the second half.  North Dakota State will be attempting to become the only team to win four straight FCS titles.  Sam Houston State lost to ND State in the 2011 and 2012 title games.

SATURDAY – DEC 20th
#5 Illinois State at #1 New Hampshire in Durham, NH
RESULTS: ILL ST 21, NH 18
The ISU Redbirds scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter including the winning TD with 8 minutes remaining in the game, earning their first-ever appearance in the FCS Championship Game.
This year marked New Hampshire’s 11th straight appearance in the FCS playoffs.

FCS PLAYOFF TITLE GAME
JANUARY 10, 2015
FRISCO, TX
North Dakota State vs. Illinois State
Each of the finalists has just one loss this season, and it was the University of Northern Iowa that inflicted those losses on the two title contenders.

DIVISION II TITLE GAME
Colorado State-Pueblo beat Minnesota State-Mankato, 13-0, to win the Division II title.
Mankato suffered its first loss of the year.
Pueblo’s only loss was in October at Fort Lewis, 23-22; they had beaten Division III Sam Houston State in September, 47-21.

DIVISION III TITLE GAME
Wisconsin-Whitewater faced Mount Union in the Division III title game for the 9th time in the last 10 years, and won 43-34 for the Division III title.  UWW was the defending champion and now has a 6-3 record over MU in title games in the last decade.
Whitewater was ahead 30-14 at halftime, but Mount Union scored 17 unanswered points to take the lead, 31-30, with 5 minutes to go in the third period.  After that, it was a tight game and the scoring ended with the “game-clinching” FG by UWW with three minutes remaining in the game to take a two-score lead.

OTHER SPORTS-RELATED MINUTIA

NON-FOOTBALL NEWS

Seymour “Sy” Berger, the father of the modern baseball trading card, has died at the age of 91 (December 14th).  He is credited with designing the famed Topps card styles in the 1950’s.  Using scissors and cardboard at his kitchen table, Berger played around with ideas for trading cards until he struck upon a design that endured for decades – a card with team logos and simulated player autographs on the front and biographies and season statistics on the back.
Berger said, “We wanted to make something attractive that would catch the eye.  And we gave you six cards and a slice of gum for a nickel.”

Excerpt from Wikipedia (and edited by me):
Berger's first day as an employee at The Topps Company was also the first day that Topps began to produce Bazooka Gum.  In the autumn of 1951, Berger (then age 28) designed the 1952 Topps baseball card set with Woody Gelman on the kitchen table of his apartment in Brooklyn.  The card design included a player's name, photo, facsimile autograph, team name and logo on the front; and the player's height, weight, bats, throws, birthplace, birthday, stats and a short biography on the back. The basic design is still in use today. Berger would work for Topps for 50 years (1947–1997) and serve as a consultant for another five years, becoming a well-known figure on the baseball scene, and the face of Topps to major league baseball players, whom he signed up annually and paid in merchandise, like refrigerators and carpeting.
In later years, Berger had the equivalent of three garbage trucks full of 1952 Topps baseball cards loaded onto a barge. The barge was tugged a few miles, and the cards were dumped into the Atlantic Ocean.


How much would those cards be worth in today’s market?  Of course, the value of collectibles is dependent on condition.  Following are the “near mint” retail values (roughly) of some of these 1952 Topps cards (and the high-numbered cards #311 to #407 are worth more, because there were less of them printed/circulated):

The Complete Set of 407 cards    $65,000
Card #1 Andy Palko                        $  5,000 (hard to find in NrMt condition because
                                                collectors put it on top of their stack after sorting
                                                the cards in numerical order, so it was more likely
                                                to be damaged)
#37 Duke Snider                  $500
#175 Billy Martin                  $500   (his rookie card)
#191 Yogi Berra                   $800
#261 Willie Mays                  $3,000 [his 1951 Bowman rookie card: $2,500]
#311 Mickey Mantle                       $30,000 [his 1951 Bowman rookie card: $8,000]
#312 Jackie Robinson                    $  2,500
#314 Roy Campanella                    $  2,500
#407 Eddie Mathews                     $10,000 (rookie card, and condition issues because
                                                the card was at the bottom of the stack after sorting)

A high-numbered card for any player (“common card”) is about $250.
Suffice it to say that Berger dumped a lot of “tea” into the sea.

COACHING CHANGES (back to football)

San Diego State offensive coordinator Bob Toledo (age 68) retired after his team played in the Poinsettia Bowl Tuesday night.  Previously, Toledo had been the head coach at UCLA (1996-2002) and Tulane (2007-2011).

Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman will be the new head coach of the Houston Cougars in 2015.

Bo Pelini, fired as Nebraska’s HC, has accepted the head coaching job at FCS Youngstown State.  He was born and reared in Youngstown, Ohio.  Former Ohio State HC Jim Tressel is currently the president of Youngstown State University.

Wisconsin hired Paul Chryst (U. of Pittsburgh HC, 2012-2014) to take over for departed Gary Andersen.  Chryst is a Madison, WI native and was the UW Badgers offensive coordinator and QB coach from 2006-2011.

Pittsburgh has chosen its new head coach – Pat Narduzzi, former defensive coordinator for Michigan State (not official until Friday).

Miami Dolphins’ HC Joe Philbin will be back in 2015.  And Atlanta Falcons’ HC Mike Smith will likely be back next year if they win the NFC South on Sunday (and maybe even if they lose).

Detroit Lions’ “thug” defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh has been keeping his nose clean this year, but one of his teammates is not.  Long-time starting center Dominic Raiola performed a leg-stomp on a Chicago Bears’ defensive lineman last weekend (he said it was inadvertent -- sure).  Last month he was fined $10,000 for clubbing a New England DL in the head, and in the same game he took a cheap shot at the same lineman’s knees on a kneel-down play at the end of the game.
UPDATE: On Monday, he was suspended one game.  He will miss the critical game at Green Bay on Sunday to determine the NFC North winner (an appeal was denied).

Colorado State hired Mike Bobo as its new head football coach.  He has most recently been the offensive coordinator for the University of Georgia.   Bobo is a Georgia native, played quarterback at Georgia, and had been an assistant coach at Georgia for all but one season since 1998.

LOOKING AHEAD

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

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

Saturday        Cincinnati (-2h) vs. Virginia Tech             Annapolis, MD
Dec 27th         Arizona State (-7) vs. Duke                                    El Paso, TX
                        Miami (FL) (-3h) vs. South Carolina                     Shreveport, LA
                        Boston College (-2h) vs. Penn State                    Bronx, NY
                        Southern California (-7) vs. Nebraska     San Diego, CA
                       
Monday          West Virginia (-3h) vs. Texas A&M                       Memphis, TN
Dec 29th         Clemson (+3h) vs. Oklahoma                               Orlando, FL
                        Arkansas (-6) vs. Texas                              Houston, TX
Tuesday         LSU (-7) 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 16 GAMES ARE ON SUNDAY, DEC 28TH
to finish up the NFL regular season.

All 16 games are divisional matchups:
Carolina (+4) at Atlanta
Cleveland (+8h) at Baltimore                     Manziel is out; Hoyer is hurt
Detroit (+7h) at Green Bay                        Lions’ OC is out
Jacksonville (+9h) at Houston      
San Diego (+2h) at Kansas City  
NY Jets (+5h) at Miami                  
Chicago (+6) at Minnesota                        Bears’ QB starter will be Jay Cutler
Buffalo (+4h) at New England     
Philadelphia (+2h) at NY Giants  
Cincinnati (+3h) at Pittsburgh                  
New Orleans (-4) at Tampa Bay   
Indianapolis (-7) at Tennessee    
Dallas (-6) at Washington             
Oakland (+14) at Denver               
Arizona (+6) at San Francisco      
St. Louis (+12h) at Seattle             

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 (-5) vs. Minnesota                                    Orlando, FL
Baylor (-3) vs. Michigan St COTTON BOWL       Arlington, TX

Plus CFP playoff games:
ROSE BOWL #2 Oregon (-9) 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 (-6h) vs. East Carolina                   Birmingham, AL
Jan 3rd

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

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)

QUIZ QUESTION

QUESTION #1:  North Dakota State has won the last three FCS title games (2011-2013) and can break the record with a win in the 2014 title game against Illinois State.  With what school are the ND State Bison currently tied?
HINT:  The other team with three straight titles (2005-2007) is now an FBS school.
ANSWER #1:
The Appalachian State Mountaineers won titles in 2005, 2006, and 2007, including a 21-16 win over Northern Iowa after the 2005 regular season.
Georgia Southern has won back-to-back FCS titles three different times (1985-86, 1989-90, and 1999-2000).  GA Southern has since transitioned into the FBS.

Division I college football was split into two divisions to start the 1978 season, labeled Division I-A (renamed FBS in 2006) and Division I-AA (renamed FCS in 2006).


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