Hello Football Fans,
The NFL playoffs continue with only four teams still alive for the title, after four games last weekend were all decided by a touchdown or less.
The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL
PLAYOFF RESULTS – CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
For last weekend’s games, all of the home teams were favored ATS. That is not considered unusual, since the home teams this year were the #1 and #2 seeds in each conference.
All of the home teams won their games straight up, by either six or seven points.
However, the favorites ended up only 2-2 ATS again this week, the same results as last week.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 16TH
#6 Pittsburgh +7h at #1 Denver -7h
RESULTS: DEN 23, PIT 16
The PIT Steelers supposedly had almost everything going against them in this game. QB Roethlisberger was injected with pain medication before the game and their best WR and RB were out. But Pittsburgh led 10-9 at halftime and was still ahead 13-12 after an exchange of field goals in the 3rd quarter.
And the Steelers were on the march in the 4th quarter, trying to extend the lead, but fumbled at the Denver 35-yard line with 10 minutes remaining in the game, after which the DEN Broncos went on a 13-play, 65-yard TD drive that ate up seven minutes of clock. The two-point conversion was good, and Denver led 20-13 with 3 minutes to go.
Handicappers: all of a sudden, the game is getting interesting ATS, but Pittsburgh is still covering ATS by ½ point.
Pittsburgh’s next drive stalled at their own 45-yard line and they faced 4th-and-5, decided to go for it with only 2 minutes left, but failed to convert and possession went back over to the Broncos on downs. Denver then played it conservatively and settled for a 45-yard FG to extend the lead to 23-13 to make it a “two-score” game with 0:53 showing on the clock (and now Denver was actually covering ATS).
On the ensuing possession, the Steelers marched quickly down the field with completions of 22, 7, and 22, but there were only a precious 19 seconds left, so they decided to kick a 47-yard FG and then try for an onside kick. The field goal was good – Pittsburgh now trailed by seven (and was back to covering ATS by the hook). The onside kick failed, and Denver hung on for the victory, but failed to cover ATS.
#5 Kansas City +4h at #2 New England -4h
RESULTS: NE 27, KC 20
The smack talk after this game was how Kansas City could waste so much of the clock at the end of the game. Trailing 27-13 with 6½ minutes to go and all of their timeouts remaining, the KC Chiefs burned 5:16 of clock in their 16-play, 80-yard TD drive to get within seven points (it took at least 25 seconds between plays on eight of the plays in this drive). Kansas City was trailing only 27-20, but there was only a minute remaining in the game. The ensuing onside kick failed and New England was easily able to run out the clock to secure the victory.
Chiefs’ HC Andy Reid has a history of poor clock management, and this game showed a weakness. Going back to 1998 and looking at 2,111 games with a similar situation as in this NE-KC game (that is, under 7 minutes remaining in a game, trailing by 9 to 17 points), only one time did it take longer than Andy Reid’s Chiefs to score a TD.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 17TH
#6 Seattle +2 at #1 Carolina -2
RESULTS: CAR 31, SEA 24
The CAR Panthers led 14-0 within the first four minutes of the game after a “Pick 6”, and were ahead 31-0 at the intermission. But the SEA Seahawks made an interesting game of it, scoring two TD’s in the first half of the 3rd quarter, then going for broke with a successful fake punt from their own 22-yard line in the 3rd quarter (sending a message to the Panthers that they were serious about winning the game), and then actually scoring another TD in the fourth quarter with six minutes left to trail only 31-21, and then kicking a 36-yard FG with 1:12 on the clock to trail only 31-24, still having a chance to tie the game in regulation. But the onside kick was unsuccessful, ending the Seahawks’ impressive comeback attempt.
Seattle had two turnovers as compared to none for Carolina.
#5 Green Bay +7 at #2 Arizona -7
RESULTS: AZ 26, GB 20 (OT)
Unbelievable (ATS, anyway)!
A lot of things happened in this game, but in the fourth quarter a strange play gave Arizona the lead, 17-13, with 3:44 remaining in regulation. Packers’ CB Damarious Randall, who moments earlier had made a key interception in the end zone, deflected a pass intended for AZ Cardinals’ WR Larry Fitzgerald inside the 5-yard line and the ball sailed into the end zone and into the hands of another receiver, Arizona’s Michael Floyd, for a 9-yard touchdown.
The GB Packers took the ensuing kickoff but went nowhere and turned the ball over on downs, which subsequently set up a FG for Arizona to increase the Cardinals’ lead to 20-13 with only 1:55 to play (and now the game was TIED against the spread).
The Packers were not done.
With 55 seconds to go, Green Bay was pushed back into a 4th-and-20 at its own 4-yard line. In desperation, QB Aaron Rodgers scrambled and threw a mini-“Hail Mary” sixty
yards to WR Jeff Janis at the Arizona 36-yard line. A penalty pushed it back to the 41, and then Rodgers threw an incomplete, leaving only 5 seconds on the clock – time for one last play.
And it was another “Hail Mary” completion – to Jeff Janis, this time in the end zone for a TD to tie the score and send the game into overtime.
THE COIN “FLIP”
The coin flip for overtime was a coin TOSS, as the coin didn’t flip (probably because the ceremonial coin was nearly the size of a manhole cover). Green Bay lost the flip, but the referee ruled that it needed to be re-tossed, because the coin didn’t turn over even once. The Packers were not allowed to change their call for the second flip, and they lost the second flip as well. Arizona elected to get the ball first, scored a TD in three plays and the game was over without the Packers’ offense being able to touch the ball. The Cardinals won by only six points and lost ATS.
[Editorial Comment: This overtime rule needs to be changed so that both teams’ offenses get a chance, at least for playoff games. More on this in the summer.]
Green Bay WR Jeff Janis had only logged two receptions in the whole regular season, but due to injuries to wide receivers Davante Adams (out for the game) and Randall Cobb (chest injury in 1st quarter), Janis was called into duty. On the day, he grabbed 7 receptions for 145 yards and two TD’s.
PLAYOFFS - CONFERENCE FINALS
The #1 and #2 seeds in both conferences advanced to the conference championship games. One of the #2 seeds is actually favored ATS on the road – New England Patriots over the Denver Broncos.
#2 Arizona +3 at #1 Carolina -3
Last year, the AZ Cardinals had to travel to Charlotte, NC without their starting QB Carson Palmer. This year, Palmer is looking forward to the matchup that he missed in 2014 playoffs.
#2 New England -3 at #1 Denver +3
Brady vs. Manning (old guy not showing his age vs. old guy Peyton… well, you decide).
See Quiz Question at end of newsletter.
SUPER BOWL ODDS
According to www.fivethirtyeight.com, using an ELO-based simulation (*), following were the percentage chances projected for each team to win the Super Bowl before Wild Card weekend (far right), then after the Wild Card games last weekend (middle column), and then after last weekend’s conference semifinal games (left column):
1/18/16 1/12/16 after Before
After Semis Wild Card games Playoffs
CAR Panthers 33% 18% 20%
DEN Broncos 26% 14% 15%
AZ Cardinals 22% 16% 17%
NE Patriots 19% 11% 13%
KC Chiefs eliminated 14% 8%
SEA Seahawks eliminated 13% 9%
PIT Steelers eliminated 8% 4%
GB Packers eliminated 7% 3%
CIN Bengals eliminated 5%
MIN Vikings eliminated 3%
WSH ‘Skins eliminated 1%
HOU Texans eliminated 1%
(*) This ELO-based model uses estimates for each team’s skills based only on final scores and location of games. Then 20,000 simulations are run and updated after each game.
Week #18 continues and finishes on Super Bowl Sunday.
Following are the updated results with three games to go.
As you can see, we are struggling mightily with these NFL playoff games, especially after last week’s picks.
YO MAMA vs. THE FUGITIVE
It’s already over.
Results to date:
Yo Mama 2-2 ATS The FFHL Champ already
Fugitive 1-6 ATS From Penthouse to Poor (“Bastard”) House
in two weeks; I could write a book on how
to lose convincingly ATS
Results to date:
Wild Man 2-2 ATS
Kid Rust 2-2 ATS
The Rounders 3-4 ATS
Moore Money 0-5 ATS
Results to date:
Mighty Duck 2-2 ATS
1-800-Opposite 2-3 ATS
Tommy Boy 2-5 ATS
FFHL LOP-SIDED and CONTESTED PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
Listed below is a breakdown of ALL of our 32 picks for Week#18B-Conference Semifinals Weekend.
It was really quite amazing that in these critical games we had almost complete agreement on our picks – only three contrary picks (9%). And we stunk it up, too, going 1-3 ATS with our lopsided picks, combining for a 9-23-0 record ATS (28.1% - ugly).
Team For-Against Result / Unsolicited comments
AZ Cardinals -7 vs. GB 10-0 LOSS, Hail Mary avoids Arizona tie ATS
CAR Panthers -2 vs. SEA 6-0 WIN, Carolina holds on to barely cover ATS
KC Chiefs +4h at NE 8-2 LOSS, New England wins 27-20 to cover by 2½
DEN Broncos -7h vs. PIT 5-1 LOSS, Denver wins only 23-16 to not cover by ½
FOOTBALL NEWS and MINUTIA
NFL COACHING CHANGES – UPDATES since last week’s newsletter
The Buccaneers hired Dirk Koetter as their new head coach; he was most recently the OC for the TB team (2015), and previously the OC for the ATL Falcons (2012-2014).
Former ATL Falcons’ HC Mike Smith will be the new DC for the Bucs.
HC Jim Caldwell is staying; he has been the Lions’ HC for two years, and has posted an 18-14 record, making the playoffs in 2014.
CORRECTION (my mistake): Tom Coughlin withdrew from consideration for the HC job; instead, the real new head coach of the Eagles is Doug Pederson (current OC for KC Chiefs, until they lost at New England on Saturday). Well, we think Pederson is the new head coach.
The PHI Eagles presumably offered and finalized the deal with Pederson before they were allowed to do so, since his KC Chiefs’ team was still participating in the playoffs. But it appears right now that the NFL is not going to pursue improprieties and rescind the deal.
The new offensive coordinator for the Chargers is Ken Whisenhunt, fired as HC by the Tennessee Titans during the 2015 season. He’s back; Ken was the OC for the Chargers in 2013.
The new offensive line coach for the Colts is former Miami HC Joe Philbin, who decided not to join the NY Giants’ coaching staff.
The new HC is in fact Mike Mularkey, hired from within the organization (former assistant HC/tight end’s coach). He was previously the HC of the JAX Jaguars in 2012.
The new GM for the Titans is Jon Robinson, who is a native of West Tennessee and has been a Titans’ fan since 1997 when the Houston Oilers moved to Nashville, TN.
Los Angeles Rams – UPDATE
The LA Rams and “San Diego” Chargers are negotiating to determine if the Bolts and former St. Louis team will share the new facility in Inglewood, CA. Both teams have committed to not discussing any of the negotiations, so the media and we fans don’t have the slightest clue what is going on.
Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke is probably playing the Chargers against the Oakland Raiders, who will step in if a deal with the Chargers and owner Dean Spanos cannot be finalized because the Raiders offer a much better financial deal than the Chargers are willing to make.
2016 CFP SELECTION COMMITTEE
The 2015 College Football Playoff Committee ended up having only 12 members. For 2016, it is anticipated that the committee will get back to its original 13 members.
Four former members are out:
Mike Tranghese, Pat Haden, Tom Osborne, and Mike Gould.
Potential replacements (none have been officially named yet):
Lloyd Carr (former Michigan HC for 13 years and College FB Hall of Famer); he will probably replace “Big 10 representative” Osborne.
There are maybe five to seven other candidates, but I don’t have any names yet.
COLLEGE PLAYER AND COACHES CHANGES
The final college head coaching vacancy has been filled. After Larry Coker’s resignation, the UTSA Roadrunners have hired new HC Frank Wilson, who is a reputed great recruiter and has been the LSU RB coach for the last six years.
In the final analysis, there will be a significant turnover in FBS head coaches from 2015 to 2016: 27 HC changes (21%-wow!), including 13 at Power 5 schools; 8 new HC’s were DC’s last year and 8 were OC’s last year.
Compare that to prior years:
2014 to 2015: 15 HC changes; only 1 new HC was a DC and 5 were OC’s the prior year.
2013 to 2014: 19 HC changes
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (UAB)
A decision was made at the end of the 2014 season to discontinue the UAB football program for lack of funds. Boosters stood up and resurrected the program with financial support. The school has retained its football coach, Bill Clark, who decided to stay around during the dormancy period to bring the program back; he was signed to a five-year contract extension. The team will start playing again in the 2017 season with a totally “non-conference” schedule that includes eight games against Conference USA teams.
FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTIONS
QUESTION #1: New England QB Tom Brady will be playing at Denver this weekend in the AFC Championship game. He has accumulated only a 2-6 lifetime record in the Mile High City. Against which two quarterbacks did he win in Denver?
HINT: Both are currently football commentator/analysts/talk show hosts on TV.
QUESTION #2: What two sports generate the most gambling in this world?
HINT: The biggest sports gambling comes from the most popular sport worldwide.
Danny Kanell and Tim Tebow.
Number One is soccer, which you may have known.
But #2 is TENNIS, mainly because there are many events throughout the world. This has become a topic of conversation recently with a possible uncovering of “fixed” matches and a potential major scandal in the sport. Stay tuned.