FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER
Hello Football Fans,
The fireworks started early this year, and I'm not talking about the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul (JPP). Are some NFL teams in playoff limbo already, even though it has only been two weeks? And in college, what about the SEC West?
The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL
Whoa! It didn’t take long for the season to get exciting. In the 2nd week, more underdogs won games outright than did the favorites (that is, 9 ‘dogs won straight up, but only 7 favorites won their games outright).
After two weeks there are nine teams that haven’t won a game yet. Since the divisional realignment in 1990 -- statistically and historically speaking, teams starting the season with an 0-2 record have only an 11.2% chance of making the playoffs. That means statistically only one of the nine winless teams is going to make the playoffs. Are you thinking otherwise and going against documented history?
Here are the nine teams at 0-2:
Seattle Projected to contend with Green Bay for the NFC Title; 12-4 last year
Indianapolis Projected by EVERYONE to win the AFC South-same as last year
Philadelphia Finished 10-6 last year and projected to contend in the NFC East
New Orleans Finished only ½ game behind in NFC South last year
Baltimore Finished 10-6 last year and made the playoffs
Detroit Finished 11-5 last year and made the playoffs
Houston 9-7 last year; if Indy doesn’t win the AFC South, who will? JAX? TEN?
NY Giants Struggling to stay healthy & failing to close out in 4th quarter so far
Chicago QB is probably out for a few weeks; not looking great for Da Bears
If you had to pick just ONE team, it seems logical to choose either IND or HOU to win the AFC South; however, JAX or TEN could surprise, as they both have 1-1 records and an early lead in the division race (albeit a slim one-game lead). That would leave Seattle OUT of the playoffs. Food for thought; we’ll see how it all unfolds.
STUNNER OF THE WEEK
And the week got started with a stunner on Thursday night.
Underdog Denver (+3) was not looking good in Kansas City and the “Sea of Red” Chiefs’ fans were pumped up (just ask King Kenny). KC jumped out to a 14-0 lead with two TD’s in the 2nd quarter, but the DEN Broncos responded with two TD’s in the last 2½ minutes of the half to knot the score and stun the crowd. It was still tied (17-17) heading into the 4th quarter, but the KC Chiefs broke the tie on a TD with only 2½ minutes remaining in regulation play, ahead 24-17. On the ensuing Broncos’ possession, the aging and weak-armed Denver QB led his team on an impressive 10-play, 80-yard drive to tie the game again with only 36 seconds to go (24-24). After the ensuing kickoff and precious few seconds left, Kansas City was still hoping to maybe get into FG range with conservative play-calling if a running play would pop open. Something popped alright – it was the ball popping out of RB Jamaal Charles’ grasp and popping up into the hands of a Broncos’ defender who ran to paydirt to win the game – two Denver TDs in a nine-second span of time. FINAL: DEN 31, KC 24, and the “Sea of Red” was bloodied.
NFL ACTION – UNDERDOG WINNERS
As I mentioned, NINE underdogs won outright in 16 games in the second week of NFL action for an upset rate of 62.5% (wow!), including the Thursday night “stunner”.
SHOCKER OF THE WEEK
Tampa Bay (+10) was the only greater-than-a-touchdown underdog for the week, playing at New Orleans. The Bucs had laid an egg at home last week against Tennessee, but they rebounded nicely in Week #2 and broke a 7-game losing streak against the NOR Saints in winning 26-19. With this ugly performance in the Superdome, New Orleans lost its sixth straight home game.
Cleveland (+1) beat visiting Tennessee 28-14 with sophomore Johnny “Football” Manziel starting at QB for the Browns (CLE starter Josh McCown had not cleared the concussion protocol). Manziel didn’t have a great game, but he avoided turnovers and the Browns led 21-0 at halftime with the help of a 78-yard punt return for a TD. The TEN Titans fought back and trailed only 21-14 after scoring a TD with 7 minutes to go, but Manziel threw a 50-yard strike for a TD to end the Titans’ 4th quarter threat.
Washington (+3h) beat the visiting STL Rams, 24-10. The ‘Skins took a 17-0 halftime lead and WSH QB Kirk Cousins avoided turnovers while the team rode rookie RB Matt Jones to victory (123 yards rushing, 2 TDs; 3rd rounder out of Florida).
Atlanta (+2h) won at the NY Giants’ home in East Rutherford, NJ, 24-20. The Gnats blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead (20-10), reminiscent of its most recent collapse in Dallas last week. The ATL Falcons produced the game-winner on a 7-play, 70-yard TD drive, leaving only 1:14 on the clock and not enough time for NYG to respond.
Oakland (+6h) beat visiting Baltimore, 37-33. An entertaining first half ended in a 20-20 tie, but the Raiders led 30-20 heading into the 4th quarter. The BAL Ravens scored 13 unanswered points (FG, TD, FG) including the go-ahead 31-yard FG with only 2:10 remaining in the game. But OAK Raider sophomore QB Derek Carr led his team on a 9-play, 80-yard drive for the winning TD, leaving only 26 seconds on the clock.
Jacksonville (+6) beat visiting Miami, 23-20. The JAX Jaguars never trailed in the game and led 20-13 at halftime. But the Dolphins tied the score in the 3rd quarter before the Jags ended the scoring with the only points of the 4th quarter – a 28-yard FG with 40 seconds remaining in the game.
Dallas (+4h) won at Philadelphia, 20-10 to improve to 2-0 on the season, but lost QB Tony Romo for 8 weeks with a broken collarbone (same injury ended his season in 2010). Immediately after the devastating injury, Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones described his feelings: I’m “just about as low as a crippled cricket’s ass” (Jerrah said it; I didn’t). Now, two days later, he is bragging up his backup QB – Brandon Weeden (old CLE Browns’ cast-off). The only other quarterbacks on the roster were two practice squad guys – Kellen Moore (Boise State, age 26, lefty) and Jameill Showers (UTEP, age 24). Dallas just traded for Buffalo QB Matt Cassel today. In Week#3, it will be Weeden starting, Moore as backup, and Cassel #3. But in future weeks, Cassel will probably move into the backup role, and maybe end up as the starter if Weeden fails to lead his team to victories.
On Monday night, the NY Jets (+6h) won at Indianapolis, 20-7, to give the highly-touted Colts an 0-2 record to start the season. Indy finally got on the scoreboard with 10 minutes remaining in the game on a 91-yard drive to trail only 10-7, but on the next possession the Jets responded with a 4-minute “insurance” TD drive.
The Colts had five turnovers to only one for the unbeaten J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL – 3RD WEEK
FBS ACTION – UNDERDOG WINNERS
Only EIGHT underdogs won outright in 52 FBS games for an upset rate of 15.4%.
SHOCKER OF THE WEEK (for 2/3 of us FFHL handicappers)
Stanford (+10) won at USC, 41-31. The Trojans dominated on their first offensive drive and after scoring a TD easily, it looked as if it were going to be a blowout victory. But Stanford bounced back and scored two TDs in the last four minutes of the first half to lead 24-21 at intermission. The Trojans regained the lead in the 3rd quarter, but the Cardinal followed with two TDs and never relinquished the lead after that.
The yardage statistics were even and there were no turnovers in the game, but Stanford had nearly a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession (39:29 minutes to 20:31 minutes).
This Cardinal victory marked the team’s fourth straight outright win as a double-digit underdog:
2009 at USC (-10h) 55-21
2012 at Oregon (-20h) 17-14 OT
2013 vs. Oregon (-10h) 26-20
Mississippi (+7) won at then-#2 ranked Alabama, 43-37, to turn the tide in the SEC West. The Ole Miss Rebels hadn’t won in Tuscaloosa, AL since 1988. Alabama had won 23 straight SEC openers, but lost to Ole Miss for the 2nd straight year.
The Rebs led 30-10 after a FG with 4 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter before the Crimson Tide made its comeback; but it was too little, too late and five ‘Bama turnovers (compared to zero for the Rebs) was too much to overcome.
Texas Tech (+12) won at Arkansas, 35-24. This was a Big XII “also-ran” beating up on one of the SEC West powerhouses; need I say more?
Notre Dame (+2h) beat visiting Georgia Tech, 30-22. The Irish never trailed in the game, and scored two TDs early in the 4th quarter to take a 30-7 lead with seven minutes remaining in the game. But the Yellowjackets didn’t give up; GA Tech scored a TD in the last minute of the game, recovered an onside kick and scored another TD, and then trailing only by eight made an unsuccessful attempt on the second onside kick and the Golden Domers prevailed for the “upset”.
The injuries in South Bend continue to mount. Safety Drue Tranquill tore his ACL while celebrating with teammates on the field (he pulled a “Gramatica”) and is out for the year.
Northwestern (+3h) won at Duke, 19-10.
South Alabama (+17h) won at San Diego State, 34-27 in overtime.
Southern Mississippi (+3) won at Texas State, 56-50.
Buffalo (+1) won at Florida Atlantic, 33-15.
Massachusetts (+10h) was ahead of Temple 23-20 in the NE Patriots’ Gillette Stadium after scoring a TD with only 1:20 remaining in regulation. The UMass Minutemen’s extra point kick was blocked and run back all the way to the opposing endzone for a 2-point score for the defense. [I mention this because this is now allowed in the NFL starting with the 2015 season; it could happen]. Score: UMASS 23, TEMP 22. And of course, the Temple Owls received the ensuing after-TD kick and marched 50 yards in 10 plays and kicked the game-winning 32-yard FG with 12 seconds to go.
FINAL: TEMP 25, UMASS 23.
Louisville (+5h) recorded a 100-yard kickoff return with 9:41 remaining in the game to trail visiting Clemson only 20-17, and then had a 38-yard FG to tie with 2½ minutes to go but missed it. The Cardinals still got another chance, but an interception ended the threat.
FINAL: CLEM 20, LOUIS 17.
Connecticut (+21h) took a 6-2 halftime lead at Missouri by scoring a TD (missing the PAT kick) and then giving up a safety when the MU Tigers blocked a punt out of the end zone. Mizzou mustered up a TD in the 3rd quarter to take the lead 9-6, but UConn was in position for a 30+-yard FG with 39 seconds remaining in the game….FAKE, the pass is intercepted and the 2-time defending SEC East Champion held on to win.
FINAL: MIZZU 9, UCONN 6
Texas (+6h) scored a TD with only 1:11 remaining in the game to trail 45-44 and set up for the extra point kick to tie; the kick was …. wide right and visiting California held on to win. FINAL: CAL 45, TEX 44.
Pittsburgh (+5) trailed at halftime 17-7 and never held the lead in its game at Iowa, but blocked an Iowa punt in the 3rd quarter to tie the game at 17. The Hawkeyes responded by scoring a TD with 6 minutes remaining in the game, but that was matched by the PIT Panthers with 0:52 on the clock -- game tied at 24-24. The Hawkeyes got into position for a lengthy 57-yard FG attempt on the last play of regulation time… it’s up, it’s GOOD! [I know, Hawk fans, the game was much more exciting than I made it sound here].
FINAL: IOWA 27, PIT 24
BYU (+16h) held the lead 23-17 after kicking a FG with 5½ minutes remaining in the 4th quarter at UCLA. The Bruins had never held the lead in the game, but on the ensuing kickoff drove 80 yards in 7 plays to take the lead 24-23 with 3 minutes to go and held on for a one-point victory.
FINAL: UCLA 24, BYU 23
AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
There were four games on the gridiron that ended up in a TIE against the spread. All four games were tied at the end of regulation and the outcomes were determined in overtime – amazing!
Underdog Nebraska (+3) scored 23 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to tie the game at 30. After kicking a FG in OT, the Cornhuskers gave up a TD to host Miami of Florida to lose 36-33 and tie ATS.
Underdog Iowa State (+7) was tied 20-20 at Toledo and set up for a 32-yard FG on the last play of regulation to win the game….”wide right” (barely), and the Cyclones lost in OT 30-23 and only got a tie ATS.
Underdog Colorado State (+3) played rival Colorado in neutral site Denver and lost 27-24 in overtime but got a tie ATS.
Underdog New Mexico State (+3) hosted UTEP and lost 50-47 in overtime but got a tie ATS.
The AP rankings are still in flux so early in the season; we got a decent (for some) shake-up after last weekend’s upsets (#1 votes in parentheses).
As of 9/20/15
Team Current Last week Results
Ohio St #1 (42) #1 (59) Lucky to win last Sat.; cupcake schedule
Michigan St #2 (7) #4 ( 2) Big 10 holds top two spots
Ole Miss #3T (11) #15 Rebels upset #2 ALA on the road Saturday
TCU #3T #3 Horned Frogs play at Texas Tech on Sat.
Baylor #5 #5 Not tested yet
Notre Dame #6 #8 Big win as home ‘dog vs. #14 GA Tech Sat.
Georgia #7 #7 “Not tested yet” (phrase used loosely by me)
LSU #8 ( 1) #13 Keep an Eye on the Tigers & RB Fournette
UCLA #9 #10 Barely beat #19 BYU last Saturday;
Bruins play at #16 Arizona on Saturday
FSU #10 #9 Not tested yet
Clemson #11 #12 Eked out win at Louisville Thursday night
Alabama #12 #2 Home loss to SEC West Ole Miss on Sat.
Oregon #13 #12 Ducks host #18 Utah on Saturday
Texas A&M #14 #17 Aggies host Arkansas on Saturday
Oklahoma #15 #16 Kind of a shaky 3-0 start
Arizona #16 #20 Not tested yet; hosts #9 UCLA on Sat.
Northwestern #17 #23
Utah #18 #21 Plays at #12 Oregon on Saturday
USC #19 #6 The pesky Cardinal wins in LA again
GA Tech #20 #14 Lost at then-#8 Notre Dame last Saturday
Stanford #21 NR Cardinal rebounded after ugly loss at NW
Wisconsin #22T #24 Lost badly to ALA in neutral site opener
BYU #22T #19 Blew 10-pt. 4th quarter lead at UCLA to lose
Oklahoma St #24 #25 Not tested yet; plays at Texas on Saturday
Missouri #25 #22 Almost lost to weak UConn at home, 9-6
Auburn NR #18 #6 two weeks ago; crushed at LSU on Sat.
Arkansas NR NR #18 two weeks ago; humbled by TX Tech
(I just wanted to point out the deflating sounds coming from the over-pumped SEC West)
In the third week of the season, there was one FCS team that beat an FBS school:
Unranked FCS Furman won at Central Florida out of the AAC, 16-15, by kicking a 55-yard FG in the 4th quarter.
FCS UPSETS – “NOT QUITE”:
Now-FCS#25 William & Mary gave host University of Virginia out of the Power 5 ACC a real tussle before eventually losing 35-29.
Unranked FCS Wofford nearly beat host FBS Idaho last Saturday in a 41-38 loss.
After losing their opener at FBS Iowa State 31-7, Northern Iowa beat visiting FCS#15 Eastern Washington 38-35 and won at Cal Poly-SLO 34-20 to move up to #6 in the latest FCS Coaches Poll (see below).
North Dakota State started the year as the unanimous #1, garnering all 24 votes. But after the first couple of weeks, there have been significant developments in the FCS Coaches Poll rankings. Here are the current Top 11 rankings and number of 1st-place votes (last week’s 1st place votes in parentheses):
#1 Coastal Carolina 18 (14)
#2 North Dakota State 4 ( 0)
#3 Jacksonville State 3 ( 5) Nearly beat Auburn; lost in OT
#4 Villanova 0 ( 0) Was ranked #3 last week
#5 Illinois State 0 ( 1) Won at E. Illinois 34-31
#6 Northern Iowa 0 ( 0) Jumped from #11 after 34-20 win at Cal Poly
#7 South Dakota State 1 ( 2)
#8 James Madison Currently 3-0; plays at FBS SMU on Saturday
#10 Liberty Beat visiting then-#7 Montana, 31-21;
Moved up from FCS#14 this week
#11 Eastern Washington Lost at then-#14 UNI 38-35; the next week
beat visiting then-FCS#9 Montana St. 55-50
#13 Montana State Hosts #22 Cal Poly-SLO on Saturday
#14 Sam Houston State Was ranked #5 last week; lost to Lamar
#22 Cal Poly-SLO Another challenge at #13 Montana State Saturday
#15 Eastern Washington
#25 William & Mary Almost won at FBS Virginia Saturday, 29-35
FFHL RESULTS – WEEK TWO
Overall, we FFHL’ers are getting worse each week. This week we went 0-12 on our Pick#1 and ended up only 29-54-1 ATS (35.1%). In the NFL, we posted a weak record of 16-22-0 ATS (42.1%), but stunk it up worse in college (again) at 13-32-1 ATS (29.3%). For the season after three weeks, we are only 42.7% ATS in college games, and in two weeks of NFL games we are 51.5% ATS.
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
STL Rams -3h at WSH 5-0 LOSS, ‘Skins win outright, 24-10
TEN Titans -1 at CLE 4-0 LOSS, Browns win outright, 28-14
GB Pack -3h vs. SEA 4-1 WIN, Green Bay prevails at home, 27-17
AZ Cards -2 at CHI 4-1 WIN, Arizona blitzes Da Bears, 48-23
MIA ‘Phins -6 at JAX 3-0 LOSS, Jaguars win outright, 23-20
ATL Falcons +2h at NYG 2-1 WIN, ‘dog Atlanta wins outright, 24-20
CAR Panthers -3 vs. HOU 2-1 WIN, Carolina wins at home, 24-17
USC -10 vs. Stanford 8-0 LOSS, Cardinal shocks Trojans again, 41-31
Mich St -25h vs. Air Force 5-1 LOSS, MSU Spartans back off & win only 35-21
Ohio St -34h vs. N. Illinois 3-0 LOSS, OSU Buckeyes lucky just to win, 20-13
Utah -14 at Fresno 3-0 WIN, Utes get 45-24 victory to cover ATS by a TD
UCLA -16h vs. BYU +16h 2-2 LOSS, Bruins lucky just to win late, 24-23
RECORDS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
This week – FFHL Week #2:
FAVORITES 18-30-4 (38.5%) 44-8 (84.6%)
HOME TEAMS 17-30-3 (37.0%) 30-20 (60.0%)
It is no wonder that we had a bad week, since we tend to take favorites and home teams, and neither did well ATS this week. It is interesting to note that the favorites and home teams still did well straight up (meaning that a lot a teams were favored by a large margin and didn’t win big enough to cover the spread). This certainly didn’t happen this week in the NFL; see below.
CUMULATIVE after three weeks:
FAVORITES 61-76-5 (44.7%) 115-27 (81.0%)
HOME TEAMS 64-67-4 (48.9%) 81-54 (60.0%)
In the second week:
FAVORITES 7-9 (43.7%) 7-9 (43.7%)
HOME TEAMS 9-7 (56.3%) 9-7 (56.3%)
In the NFL, you could have gone 16-0 ATS this week if you could just have picked the outright winner of each game. Just pick the winners; ignore the point spreads. Of course, that’s not very easy to do when over ½ of the underdogs win straight up (i.e., win the game outright).
CUMULATIVE after two weeks:
FAVORITES 15-16-1 (48.4%) 17-15 (53.1%)
HOME TEAMS 17-14-1 (54.7%) 19-13 (59.45%)
FOOTBALL NEWS and MINUTIA
Texas A&M (-34) beat visiting Nevada to record its 19th straight non-conference victory, 44-27; that is the longest current streak in the FBS.
Boise State QB Ryan Finley is out about 8 weeks with a broken ankle. The BSU Broncos’ backup QB’s are a freshman and a sophomore with no experience.
Group of Five (non-Power 5) Conference contenders:
Toledo, then Memphis, Houston, Temple, Navy
“Say What?!?” You remember, don’t you? Last year the Fall Experimental Football League (FXFL) started up as a “minor league” for the NFL.
This year there will be four teams and each team will field 40 players. The pay is from $1,000 to a max of $1,250 per week.
The four teams:
Brooklyn Bolts Just signed QB Josh Freeman (KSU; TB 1st round draft
pick); cool logo: bolt laced through the Brooklyn Bridge
The Blacktips (no city) The team has a shark logo, as you may have guessed
Hudson Valley Fort Home field in Fishkill, NY
Mahoning Valley Brawlers Home field in Niles, OH
Potential new teams in future years: Portland, OR and Texas Outlaws (Austin, TX)
The 2015 schedule:
Nine games total for regular season
First game is Friday, October 2nd: Blacktips at Brooklyn
Followed by Saturday, October 3rd: Hudson Valley at Mahoning Valley
Seven more games through Friday, November 6th
LOOKING AHEAD – selected games, not the full slate
COLLEGE FOOTBALL - FFHL WEEK #3 (college FB’s 4th week)
Thursday Cincinnati (+10) at Memphis
Friday Boise State (-2h) at Virginia BSU QB is out for 8 weeks or so
Sept 25th Stanford (-14h) at Oregon State
Saturday BIG PAC-12 GAMES:
Sept 26th Utah at Oregon (no line yet) Ducks contemplating QB situation
UCLA (-4) at Arizona
USC (-5h) at Arizona State
California (-4) at Washington
BYU (+5h) at Michigan
Central Michigan (+27) at Michigan State
Maryland (+17) at West Virginia
Rice (+34h) at Baylor
Texas A&M (-7) at Arkansas
Tennessee (+1) at Florida
TCU (-7) at Texas Tech
Oklahoma State (-3) at Texas
Fresno State (+4h) at San Jose State
NFL WEEK #3 – SELECTED GAMES
Thursday Washington (+3h) at NY Giants
Sunday Early Divisional Matchups:
Sept 27th New Orleans (+3h) at Carolina Saints’ QB Brees has bruised
rotator cuff; backup: Luke McCown
Cincinnati (+2h) at Baltimore
Indianapolis (-3) at Tennessee
San Francisco (+6) at Arizona
Buffalo (+3) at Miami
Others of interest:
Atlanta (-1) at Dallas Battle of Unbeatens
Monday Kansas City (+6h) at Green Bay
FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTION
None this week. Sorry, Krueg and Debbie.
(Sorry Sports Fans, but technical issues kept the first few Commish reports from being posted. Those issues have been resolved. Thank you for your patience - Ed)