FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER
Hello Football Fans,
In the NFL, there are only two weeks remaining in the regular season and one-half of the playoff teams have been determined.
In college, Division II and III champions have been determined, and in the FCS (fka Division I-AA) the two finalists emerged. The bowl games continue.
The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL
There are only TWO weeks remaining in the regular season.
Six teams have now clinched a spot in the playoffs – two in the AFC: New England and Cincinnati, and four in the NFC: Carolina, Arizona, Green Bay, and Seattle.
That leaves six more playoff spots still up for grabs.
The CAR Panthers have clinched a “bye” week in the first round of the playoffs, but have not yet secured the #1 seed.
New England has clinched the AFC East division and a first-round bye, but not the #1 seed yet.
The AZ Cardinals have clinched the NFC West division title, but not a “bye” yet.
The CIN Bengals and GB Packers have both clinched a playoff spot but are still battling to win their divisions.
The SEA Seahawks have clinched a wild card spot in the playoffs, and will get either a #5 or #6 seed in the NFC.
NFL ACTION – UNDERDOG WINNERS
FOUR underdogs won outright in 16 NFL games this week for an upset rate of 25.0% (37.5% the previous week).
Atlanta (+3) won at Jacksonville, 23-17, and the Falcons kept their faint playoff hopes alive.
Houston (+2h) won at Indianapolis, 16-10, to capture a one-game lead in the AFC South Division with a 7-7 record.
Washington (+1) beat visiting Buffalo, 35-25, to capture a one-game lead in the NFC East Division with a 7-7 record.
On Monday night, Detroit (+3) won at New Orleans, 35-27.
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
The NY Jets (9-5) won at Dallas on Saturday, 19-16, and are still battling with Pittsburgh (9-5) and Kansas City (9-5) for two wild card playoff spots.
CINCINNATI (11-3) has a two-game lead over Pittsburgh (9-5) and will clinch the division title and a first-round “bye” with a win at Denver next Monday night.
DENVER (10-4) lost for the second straight week, this time blowing a 27-10 first-half lead at Pittsburgh on Sunday, losing 34-27, and now the Broncos have only a one-game lead over the KC Chiefs (9-5), who won at Baltimore, 34-14 on Sunday.
Neither team has clinched a playoff berth yet.
The Mediocre AFC SOUTH (no teams over .500)
HOUSTON (7-7) snagged the division lead with a road win over Indianapolis (6-8) on Sunday, 16-10.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
NFC SOUTH: CAROLINA (14-0)
GREEN BAY (10-4) maintained the division lead by one game over Minnesota (9-5), as the GB Packers won at Oakland on Sunday, 30-20, and the MIN Vikings beat visiting Chicago on Sunday, 38-17.
NFC WEST: ARIZONA (12-2)
The Cardinals clinched the division title with a blowout win at Philadelphia, 40-17.
Seattle (9-5) beat visiting Cleveland on Sunday, 30-13, to clinch a wild card berth.
The Mediocre NFC EAST (no teams over .500)
WASHINGTON (7-7) crept into the top spot in the division, now holding a one-game lead over Philadelphia (6-8) and the NY Giants (6-8). The WSH ‘Skins will clinch the division title with a win at the PHI Eagles on Saturday.
Only one of these three teams will qualify for the playoffs, and it will be the team that wins this division.
NFL PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Just for the record, there are a total of 12 playoff spots, 6 in each conference. Four spots in each conference are reserved for the division winners (the #1 through #4 seeds), leaving two spots in each conference for “wild card” teams (the #5 and #6 seeds).
With only 2 games remaining in the regular season, following is a snapshot of how the playoff picture looks at this point:
NFC SEEDINGS PROJECTION
#1 Carolina (14-0)
#2 Arizona (12-2)
#3 Green Bay (10-4)
#4 Washington (7-7)
#5 Seattle (9-5)
#6 Minnesota (9-5)
Atlanta (7-7), but must win 2 and have MIN lose 2
NY Giants or Philadelphia only if division winner (6-8)
Dallas (4-10) lost on Saturday night to visiting NY Jets, 19-16
Chicago (5-9) lost at Minnesota on Sunday, 38-17
Tampa Bay (6-8) lost at St. Louis on Thursday night, 31-23
St. Louis (6-8)
New Orleans (5-9) lost on Monday night to Detroit, 35-27
San Francisco (4-10)
AFC SEEDINGS PROJECTION
#1 New England (12-2)
#2 Cincinnati (11-3)
#3 Denver (10-4)
#4 Houston (7-7)
#5 & #6 Kansas City (9-5), Pittsburgh (9-5), NY Jets (9-5)
Indianapolis (6-8) only if division winner
Oakland Raiders (6-8) lost on Sunday to Green Bay, 30-20
Buffalo Bills (6-8) lost at Washington on Sunday, 35-25
Jacksonville (5-9) lost on Sunday to Atlanta, 23-17
San Diego (4-10)
FBS COLLEGE BOWL GAMES
SATURDAY, DEC 19TH
Arizona -8 vs. New Mexico New Mexico Bowl Albuquerque, NM
RESULTS: AZ 45, N.MEX 37
The AZ Wildcats kicked a late “insurance” FG to take an 8-point lead, and then held off the NM Lobos to get the victory and salvage a TIE against the spread.
CFP#22 Utah -2h vs. BYU Las Vegas Bowl Las Vegas, NV
RESULTS: UTAH 35, BYU 28
The UT Utes had everything going right for them early, leading 35-zip in the FIRST QUARTER, and then had to hold off the BYU Cougars’ charge to not only win the game but also cover ATS.
Appalachian St -7h vs. Ohio U Camellia Bowl Montgomery, AL
RESULTS: APPAL 31, OHIO 29
The ASU Mountaineers were behind 24-7 after three quarters of play, but scored 24 points in the final stanza to eke out the win, although the OH Bobcats covered the spread.
Georgia State +2h vs. San Jose St Cure Bowl Orlando, FL
RESULTS: SJSU 27, GA.ST 16
The SJ State Spartans got the victory to raise their season record to 6-7, and the losing GSU Panthers also ended the season at 6-7.
Arkansas St +2 vs. Louisiana Tech New Orleans Bowl New Orleans, LA
RESULTS: LA.TK 47, ARK.ST 28
The game was tied 17-17 at halftime, but the LA Tech Bulldogs controlled the second half to win handily. Both teams ended the season with 9-4 records.
MONDAY, DEC 21ST
W. Kentucky -2h vs. South Florida Miami Beach Bowl Miami, FL
RESULTS: WKU 45, USF 35
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers trailed 14-10 at halftime, but scored 28 points in the 3rd quarter to take charge and win handily.
TUESDAY, DEC 22ND
Utah State -6h vs. Akron Idaho Potato Bowl Boise, ID
RESULTS: to be played tonight
CFP#24 Temple -2 vs. Toledo Boca Raton Bowl Boca Raton, FL
RESULTS: to be played tonight
WEDNESDAY, DEC 23RD
Boise State -8h vs. Northern Illinois Poinsettia Bowl San Diego, CA
RESULTS: to be played tomorrow night
Bowling Green -7h vs. GA Southern GoDaddy Bowl Mobile, AL
RESULTS: to be played tomorrow night
THURSDAY, DEC 24TH (Christmas Eve)
W. Michigan -3h vs. MID Tennessee Bahamas Bowl Nassau, Bahamas
RESULTS: to be played Xmas Eve
San Diego State -1 vs. Cincinnati Hawaii Bowl Honolulu, HI
RESULTS: to be played Xmas Eve
FCS PLAYOFF SEMIFINALS
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18TH (8PM Eastern)
#7 Richmond at #3 North Dakota State (Fargo, ND)
RESULTS: NDSU 33, RICH 7
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19TH (4PM Eastern)
Sam Houston State at #1 Jacksonville State (Jacksonville, AL)
RESULTS: JAX.ST 62, SHSU 10
North Dakota State and Jacksonville State will play in the title game on Saturday, January 9th in Frisco, Texas; the game will be televised on ESPN2 at Noon (Eastern).
The NDSU Bison will attempt to win the FCS Championship for the fifth straight year.
The Bison (pronounced BI-zen, not BI-sen) have lost two games this season, at Montana in their season opener 38-35 and later home vs. South Dakota, 24-21.
The JAX State Gamecocks have only one blemish on their record for the season, a 27-20 overtime loss at FBS Auburn. JSU had two close wins, both against FCS-ranked Chattanooga. The Gamecocks won at Chattanooga 23-20 in the season opener, and then beat them again in the playoffs at home, 41-35 in overtime.
DIVISION II CHAMPIONSHIP
Northwest Missouri State beat the Shepherd Rams in Kansas City, KS on Saturday, 34-7, to finish off a perfect 15-0 season and the Bearcats captured their second Division II title in three years.
The NW Missouri Bearcats won their fifth Division II title (1998, 1999, 2009, 2013, 2015), which ties them with North Dakota State for the most titles since the playoffs started in 1973. NDSU’s last title was in 1990, after which the Bison moved to Division I (FCS).
The Shepherd Rams (13-1) lost for the first time this season under HC Monte Cater, who was coaching in the title game for the first time in his 29 year career at the small school in historic Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
DIVISION III CHAMPIONSHIP
Mount Union (Alliance, Ohio) finished a perfect 15-0 season, beating St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN) in the Division III title game in Salem, Virginia, 49-35, to win its 12th Stagg Bowl. The MU Purple Raiders have appeared in the title game for the last eleven years, winning only five (Wisconsin-Whitewater won all of the other six titles during that span). Mount Union had beaten WI-Whitewater last weekend, 36-6, to qualify for the championship game.
UPCOMING FBS COLLEGE BOWL GAMES – FFHL WEEK #16
SATURDAY, DEC 26TH
Marshall -4h vs. UConnSt. Petersburg BowlSaint Petersburg, FL
WA State -2h vs. Miami of FLSun BowlEl Paso, TX
Washington -8h vs. S. MississippiHeart of Dallas BowlDallas, TX
Indiana -2 vs. DukePinstripe BowlYankee Stadium, NYC
Virginia Tech -13h vs. TulsaIndependence BowlShreveport, LA
UCLA -6h vs. NebraskaFoster Farms BowlSanta Clara, CA
MONDAY, DEC 28TH
Pittsburgh +3 at CFP#21 NavyMilitary BowlAnnapolis, MD
Minnesota -6 vs. Central MichiganQuick Lane BowlDetroit, MI
TUESDAY, DEC 29TH
California -7 vs. Air ForceArmed Forces BowlFort Worth, TX
CFP#17 Baylor -1h vs. CFP#10 UNCRussell Athletic BowlOrlando, FL
Colorado State -3 vs. NevadaArizona BowlTucson, AZ
CFP#20 LSU -7 vs. Texas TechTexas BowlHouston, TX
WEDNESDAY, DEC 30TH
Memphis +3 vs. AuburnBirmingham BowlBirmingham, AL
Mississippi St -5h vs. NC StateBelk BowlCharlotte, NC
Texas A&M +4h vs. LouisvilleMusic City BowlNashville, TN
CFP#25 USC -3h vs. WisconsinHoliday BowlSan Diego, CA
FFHL RESULTS – WEEK FIFTEEN
The FFHL week continues through Thursday, December 24th.
FFHL LOP-SIDED and CONTESTED PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
Listed below is a breakdown of ALL of our 84 picks for the week.
In college bowl games, we had 3 contrary picks (10%) out of 29 picks.
In the NFL, we had 7 contrary picks (13%) out of 55 total NFL picks.
Team For-Against Result / Unsolicited comments
NOR Saints -3 vs. DET 7-0 LOSS, ‘dog Detroit wins outright, 35-27
JAX Jaguars -3 vs. ATL 5-0 LOSS, ‘dog Atlanta wins outright, 23-17
AZ Cardinals -3h at PHI 5-0 WIN, Arizona blows away Eagles, 40-17
GB Packers -3 at OAK 5-0 WIN, Green Bay covers by 7 with 30-20 win
CIN Bengals -4h at SF 5-1 WIN, Cincinnati covers by 5½ with 24-14 win
PIT Steelers -6h vs. DEN 4-0 WIN, Pitt covers by the hook with 34-27 win
NY Jets -3h at DAL 3-0 LOSS, Dallas loses only 19-16 to cover by ½ point
SEA Seahawks -14h vs. CLE 3-0 WIN, Seattle wins 30-13 to cover by 2½ points
WSH ‘Skins +1 vs. BUF 3-2 WIN, Washington wins outright 35-25
CAR Panthers -5 at NYG 3-2 LOSS, Carolina ahead 35-7 but wins only 38-35
NE Patriots -14 vs. TEN 2-1 WIN, New England late FG gets cover in 33-16 win
MIA Dolphins +2 at SD 2-1 LOSS, San Diego crushes Miami, 30-14
KC Chiefs -7 at BAL 1-0 WIN, Kansas City wins 34-14 at Baltimore
CHI +5h at MIN (no takers on this game)
HOU at IND was “off” in our pool due to QB concerns for both teams
Arizona -8 at New Mexico 5-0 TIE, AZ ‘Cats win only 45-37 over host Lobos
Utah -2h vs. BYU 4-0 WIN, UT Utes hang on to win and cover, 35-28
Temple -2 vs. Toledo 3-0 Tuesday night game
SDSU -1 vs. Cincinnati 3-1 Thursday night game
Appalachian St -7h vs. Ohio 2-0 LOSS, ASU wins only 31-29, fails to cover ATS
Utah St -6h vs. Akron 2-0 Tuesday night game
B. Green -7h vs. GA South 2-0 Wednesday night game
W. Kentucky -2h vs. USF 2-1 WIN, WKU Hilltoppers dominate 2nd half, 45-35
Boise St -8h vs. N. Illinois 1-1 Wednesday night game
LA Tech -2 vs. ARK State 1-0 WIN, Louisiana Tech wins by 19 points, 47-28
San Jose St -2h vs. GA State 1-0 WIN, SJ State wins by 11 points, 27-16
In the 15th week:
FAVORITES 10-6-0 (62.5%) 12-4 (75.0%)
HOME TEAMS 9-7-0 (56.2%) 7-9 (43.8%)
NFL - CUMULATIVE after 15 weeks:
FAVORITES 104-113-7 (48.0%) 141-83 (62.9%)
HOME TEAMS 103-110-7 (48.4%) 117-103 (53.2%)
FOOTBALL NEWS and MINUTIA
NFL – RACE FOR THE #1 OVERALL DRAFT PICK
The #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft is still up for grabs.
The first tiebreaker is “strength of schedule”, with the team that played the weakest schedule picking first. Tennessee was ahead after Week #14 (.471 vs. CLE .512).
The second tiebreaker is based on worse conference record.
NFL RULE CHANGE
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has allowed for a change to the officiating of games for the playoffs, but it appears the change will not be instituted for the remainder of the regular season. The change allows for communications between the on-field officials and Dean Blandino, NFL Vice President of Officiating, who watches the action back at New York headquarters. He will be a resource to “correct application of rules”, covering administrative matters that are not currently reviewable. This change will NOT include Blandino’s ability to call or change a foul/penalty or otherwise become involved in on-field judgment calls not otherwise allowed under the current replay system. I suspect most of this will happen behind the scenes and will not be noticeable to the TV viewer, but thought you should know.
Hawkeyes’ HC Kirk Ferentz won the national Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, the first Iowa coach to ever earn the honor in the award’s 59-year history. It is the first time since 2002 that a Big 10 Conference coach has won the award (Jim Tressel, Ohio State).
The Associated Press named Clemson HC Dabo Swinney as AP Coach of the Year.
The new HC for the Cougars will be Kalani Sitake (age 40), who was most recently the defensive coordinator for Oregon State (2015). Previously, he was an assistant coach with the Utah Utes (2005-2014). Sitake played as a fullback for BYU and graduated in 2000.
The HC at Navy, Ken Niumatalolo, had been in the running but he decided to stay with the Midshipmen.
The Warhawks’ new HC is Matt Viator, formerly the head coach at FCS McNeese State, where he posted a 77-33 record over ten years.
The new HC for the Eagles is former Colorado State defensive coordinator Tyson Summers.
The OU Ducks are getting another transfer QB for next year – Dakota Prukop from FCS Montana State. He chose Oregon over Alabama.
After the 2014 season, QB Marcus Mariota moved on to the NFL and Vernon Adams transferred from FCS Eastern Washington to take over during the 2015 season in his last year of eligibility.
Two Saturdays ago in the Army-Navy game, Navy QB Keenan Reynolds set the NCAA Division I record for career touchdowns by scoring his 85th TD. That record lasted a whole week. On Saturday night, Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon upped the record to 87 with four touchdowns in a New Orleans Bowl victory over Arkansas State in the final game of his collegiate career.
But hold on…QB Reynolds still has one more game to play. Navy will take on Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl on Monday, December 28th, with the game being played at Navy’s home stadium in Annapolis, MD. This season, Reynolds has scored at least three touchdowns in a game three times. Reynolds had a five-TD game against East Carolina, four TD’s against SMU and three against Connecticut. Reynolds also had four games with at least three touchdowns during the 2014 season, so he has a legitimate shot at reclaiming the all-time Division I record from Dixon.
A PARTIAL NFL INJURY REPORT
Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck once again is not going to play this week; that leaves 40-year old backup QB Matt Hasselbeck, who is reportedly “beat up from the feet up” (per HC Chuck Pagano) and 3rd stringer Charlie Whitehurst, with punter Pat McAfee volunteering for the emergency QB role.
Houston QB T.J. Yates is out for the season with a torn ACL; he was the backup for Brian Hoyer, who is still not cleared from the concussion protocol and his status for Sunday’s game is uncertain. QB Ryan Mallett had been discarded earlier in the season.
That leaves QB Brandon Weeden, who was signed by the Texans on November 19th and took over last Sunday’s game after Yates was injured. He finished up the game at Indianapolis, making him the fourth Houston QB to get a victory for the Texans this season. Weeden was 11 of 18 for 105 yards and a touchdown in his first appearance for the Texans. Early this season, he played four games (three starts) for the DAL Cowboys but was released by the team when Tony Romo returned from his first collarbone injury.
And for a little insurance, the HOU Texans signed B.J. Daniels from Seattle's practice squad to take Yates’ roster spot. Daniels was a QB in college at South Florida, but has played both QB and WR in the NFL.
Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton is out for Week #16, and A.J. McCarron will start his second NFL game.
Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota was knocked out of last week’s game with a strained MCL. He may not be out for the remainder of the year. The Titans’ backup is Zach Mettenberger.
Dallas will start left-handed QB Kellen Moore in Week #16.
Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy has a torn MCL, and is considered “week-to-week” for the remainder of the season.
Arizona safety Tyrann Mathieu, the “Honey Badger”, is out for the year with a torn ACL.
NY Giants WR Odell Beckham, Jr. was suspended for one game for his out-of-control behavior on the field in last weekend’s game, constantly fighting with Carolina CB Josh Norman. The NFL cited six instances of unsportsmanlike acts including a flagrant and vicious helmet-to-helmet shot that wasn’t even part of the play on the field (he was flagged for three penalties during the game, but not ejected by the on-field officials). Beckham will appeal, and the results will be determined later in the week prior to their game at Minnesota on Sunday night, December 27th.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL - FFHL WEEK #16
The postseason bowl games continue; a total of 40 bowl games will be played through January 2nd, after which the CFP title game on Monday, January 11th, will wrap up the season.
The bowl games through next Wednesday, December 30th, are listed above.
NFL WEEK #16 – THE FULL SLATE OF GAMES
ThursdaySan Diego (+5) at Oakland
SaturdayWashington (+3) at Philadelphia
Dec 27thCarolina (-7) at Atlanta
New England (-3) at NY Jets
Houston (NL yet) at Tennessee
St. Louis (+13h) at Seattle
Pittsburgh (-10) at Baltimore
Dallas (+6) at Buffalo
San Francisco (+8) at Detroit
Cleveland (+12h) at Kansas City
Indianapolis (NL yet) at Miami
NY Giants (+6) at Minnesota
Jacksonville (NL yet) at New Orleans
Chicago (+3) at Tampa Bay
Green Bay (+4h) at Arizona
MondayCincinnati (+3h) at Denver LAST Monday game of the season
FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTIONS
QUESTION #1: Only one quarterback in NFL history has ever thrown 3 or more TD passes with zero interceptions in five straight games. Who is he?
HINT: It happened last Sunday.
QUESTION #2: On Sunday, the Carolina Panthers were ahead of the host New York Giants 35-7 in the third quarter (and were covering the 5-point spread eeeeeeasily). But with a huge comeback, the Giants tied it up 35-35 before Carolina ended up kicking the winning field goal on the last play of the game. Final score: CAR 38, NYG 35 (Giants covered ATS by 2 points).
If the Giants would have won the game, it would have tied the all-time NFL record for overcoming the largest regular season deficit to secure victory (28-point deficit). What NFL team holds that record?
HINT: It happened in 1980.
QUESTION #3: In the game referenced in Question #2 on Sunday, Carolina QB Cam Newton passed for 300+ yards and rushed for 100 yards in a single game. He is only the second player in NFL history to perform this feat. Who was the other quarterback to do this?
HINT: He is an active player in the NFL.
Russell Wilson, QB for the Seattle Seahawks.
And he is missing his top two running backs. Marshawn Lynch is out with an abdominal injury, and backup Thomas Rawls is out for the year with a broken ankle. Wilson is now working with RB-by-committee – Christine Michael, Bryce Brown, and Derrick Coleman.
On December 7, 1980, San Francisco beat the visiting New Orleans Saints in overtime, 38-35 (the same final score as the CAR-NYG game on Sunday).
The NOR Saints were led by Archie Manning, father of Peyton and Eli.
The SF 49’ers’ quarterback was Hall of Famer Joe Montana, who was in the second year of his illustrious career.
New Orleans jumped out to a 35-7 lead in the first half, but didn’t score another point and behind three Montana touchdowns (two passing and one rushing), the 49ers scored 28 points in the second half to send the game into an extra period. The Niners prevailed over the Saints 38-35 in overtime on a 36-yard Ray Wersching field goal.
If you include playoff games, the biggest comeback was……. (you may know this one):
January 3, 1993
Houston Oilers vs. Buffalo Bills
HOU Oilers’ QB was future Hall of Famer Warren Moon.
BUF Bills’ QB Jim Kelly (future Hall of Famer) was injured and his backup was Frank Reich.
The Oilers led 28-3 at halftime and tacked on another TD with a Pick 6 early in the 2nd half to lead 35-3 (a 32-point lead). The Bills then scored five unanswered TD’s (4 TD passes by Reich) to take the lead 38-35 (again, that same score pops up). But wait…Houston kicked a FG to send the game into overtime. Buffalo’s Steve Christie kicked the game-winning 32-yard field goal in OT, and the NFL all-time biggest comeback (including the playoffs) was complete.