FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER
Hello Football Fans,
THE LOS ANGELES RAMS are back.
I thought my newsletters were going to get shorter after last week, and I had to cut short some of my comments this week due to vacation.
Nevertheless, it's longer than expected to the delight of at least a few of you.
The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF (CFP) CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
MONDAY, JANUARY 11TH
Alabama -7 vs. Clemson +7
RESULTS: ALA 45, CLEM 40
Alabama won its fourth NCAA title in the last seven years.
After tying the game at 24-24 with 10½ minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Crimson Tide called for an onside kick to give its defense a rest and keep the dynamic Clemson offense off the field. It was well-executed and successful, and the tide of the game turned as ‘Bama scored another TD to lead 31-24.
The CLEM Tigers responded with a FG, but Alabama ran back the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a TD to lead 38-27. Clemson kept firing and scored again with 4:40 remaining in the game to trail only 38-33, but ‘Baba used Heisman Trophy winning RB Derrick Henry on the next drive and punched it into the end zone with only 1:07 on the clock and eventually won the game.
However, Clemson got the “backdoor” cover against the spread. Trailing 45-33 with one minute to go, the Tigers marched down the field quickly and scored on a 24-yard TD pass with TWELVE seconds remaining in the game to lose by only five and cover ATS by 2 points, leaving The Fugitive in a crumpled up mess in the corner of his man cave.
The Rams are back in Los Angeles.
The NFL owners approved the move of the Rams’ from St. Louis to Inglewood, CA by a vote of 30-2. Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke put together a masterful presentation at the owners’ meeting on January 12th showcasing his plan for development of 298 acres in Inglewood on the old Hollywood Park thoroughbred race track (and adjoining land). The six-member LA-Relocation Committee had recommended the competing plan for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders to relocate to Carson, CA, but after Kroenke’s presentation, it was clear the Inglewood plan was much better financially for the NFL (and the owners). The stadium complex will be the NFL’s largest by square footage and have a glass roof with openings on the sides of the building for fresh air. The facility is projected to open for the 2019 football season and construction costs could approach $3 billion (I heard a rumor that Kroenke played Powerball on Wednesday night in hopes of helping with cash flow).
|The force wasn't with St. Louis|
Part of the approved plan is to also allow the San Diego Chargers to move to the Inglewood location as a co-tenant with the LA Rams, and a decision will presumably have to be made before January of 2017. Since the NFL relocation fee is about $550 million, the Chargers may find a way to stay in San Diego.
If San Diego decides not to share the new facility with the Rams, the Oakland Raiders would reportedly get the same opportunity to share the new Inglewood stadium with the Rams.
More details will be forthcoming.
PLAYOFF RESULTS - WILD CARD WEEKEND
In last weekend’s wild card playoff games, all of the road teams won their games straight up (outright), which happened for the first time in the NFL since realignment in 1990. All of these road teams were also favored against the spread; however, two of the four outright playoff winners did not cover ATS.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 9TH
#5 Kansas City -3 at #4 Houston 4:30PM Eastern
The KC Chiefs finished the regular season on a 10-game winning streak that catapulted them into the playoffs. However, the team hadn’t won a playoff game since 1993 and were tied for the longest active losing streak in the playoffs (8 games, tied with the Detroit Lions) dating back to the 1990 season.
QUIZ QUESTION: Who were the veteran leaders of the Chiefs in that 1990 season?
Strangely enough, QB Joe Montana and RB Marcus Allen.
RESULTS: KC 30, HOU 0
Four turnovers in the first half had the Texans trailing 13-0 at intermission, and it didn’t get any better on the scoreboard in the 2nd half.
The Chiefs snapped their ugly eight-game playoff losing streak, winning a postseason game for the first time in 22 years.
Kansas City took the lead on the opening kickoff with a 106-yard return for a TD, which ended up being the winning score -- in the first ELEVEN seconds of the game.
#6 Pittsburgh -3 at #3 Cincinnati 8:15PM Eastern
RESULTS: PIT 18, CIN 16
The PIT Steelers led 15-0 after three quarters (four Cincy turnovers), but Cincinnati fought back and took the lead, 16-15, on a TD with only 1:50 remaining in the game. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the door open for Pittsburgh to win in regulation with a field goal. But on the ensuing drive, the Steelers threw an interception on their first play from scrimmage. The CIN Bengals would now be expected to run down the clock and at least kick a FG to lead by 4 with little time remaining… “not so fast, my friends”. The Bengals fumbled the ball back to Pittsburgh.
The Steelers still struggled to move the ball, but with 28 seconds to go, converted on 4th-and-3 to move the line of scrimmage to midfield. On the next play, Cincinnati’s Adam Jones was flagged for targeting a defenseless receiver (a 15-yard penalty), after which Pittsburgh assistant coach Joey Porter entered the field of play (not allowed, but not flagged by officials) and he started trash-talking Bengals’ players. Cincy’s LB Vontaze Burfict got involved, lost his cool, and was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The double 15-yard penalty moved the ball into easy FG range and the Steelers kicked the game-winning 35-yarder with 14 seconds remaining in the game.
However, Cincinnati still covered ATS by 1 point, losing by only two as a 3-point underdog.
Cincinnati is now 0-7 straight-up in the playoffs under HC Marvin Jones and the franchise lost for the 8th straight time in the postseason (no playoff wins since the 1990 season).
SUNDAY, JANUARY 10TH
#6 Seattle -4h at #3 Minnesota 1:05PM Eastern
The MIN Vikings won the NFC North Division but presumably got the “bad draw” in having to play the NFC West runner-up Seahawks, who had qualified for the last two Super Bowls. Seattle started the season slowly (2-4 record), but finished with a 10-6 record for the regular season.
The temperature during the game was expected to be below zero, and with 10-15 mph winds making it feel even colder. The Vikings will be playing their first outdoor playoff game in Minnesota since 1976 (under HC Bud Grant). After that, the team played indoors in the MetroDome, but are now temporarily playing outdoors again while a new indoor stadium is being finished in time for the 2016 season.
RESULTS: SEA 10, MIN 9
Minnesota led 9-0 after three quarters in sub-zero temperatures, but allowed the visiting Seahawks to take the lead on a FG after a RB Adrian Peterson fumble in Vikings’ territory with 8 minutes remaining in the game. And then the Vikings missed a chip-shot 27-yard FG with 24 seconds to go that would have won the game.
#5 Green Bay -1 at #4 Washington 4:40PM Eastern
RESULTS: GB 35, WSH 18
The ‘Skins led 11-0, but the GB Packers had taken the lead 17-11 by halftime. After intermission, Washington recaptured the lead 18-17, but it was all Packers after that.
Green Bay is headed to Arizona for the next round of the playoffs.
PLAYOFFS - CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
For this upcoming weekend, all of the home teams are favored ATS. That is not considered abnormal, since the home teams are the #1 and #2 seeds in each conference.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 16TH
#6 Pittsburgh +7 at #1 Denver -7
#5 Kansas City +5 at #2 New England -5
SUNDAY, JANUARY 17TH
#6 Seattle +2h at #1 Carolina -2h
#5 Green Bay +7 at #2 Arizona -7
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 and then after the Wild Card games last weekend:
1/12/16 after Before
Wild Card games Playoffs
CAR Panthers 18% 20%
AZ Cardinals 16% 17%
DEN Broncos 14% 15%
KC Chiefs 14% 8%
SEA Seahawks 13% 9%
NE Patriots 11% 13%
PIT Steelers 8% 4%
GB Packers 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 began last weekend and finishes on Super Bowl Sunday.
(winners from Playoff Semifinals in Week #17)
YO MAMA vs. THE FUGITIVE
Results to date:
Yo Mama 2-0 ATS
Fugitive 0-3 ATS
(four losers from the Playoff Semifinals in Week #17)
Results to date:
Rounders 3-1 ATS
Wild Man 1-1 ATS
Kid Rust 0-0 ATS
Moore Money 0-2 ATS
(three winners from the BFD Preliminaries in Week #17)
Results to date:
Mighty Duck 1-0 ATS
1-800-Opposite 1-2 ATS
Tommy Boy 1-4 ATS
FFHL LOP-SIDED and CONTESTED PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
Listed below is a breakdown of ALL of our 34 picks for Week#18A-Wild Card Weekend.
Team For-Against Result / Unsolicited comments
Clemson +7 vs. Alabama 3-3 CLEMSON gets backdoor cover ATS,
Losing only by 5 points
SEA Seahawks -4h at MIN 5-0 LOSS, Seattle wins only 10-9 to not cover ATS
KC Chiefs -3 at HOU 5-2 WIN, Kansas City blows out Texans, 30-0
CIN Bengals +3 vs. PIT 4-3 WIN, Pittsburgh wins only 18-16 to not cover ATS
GB Packers -1 at WSH 5-4 WIN, Green Bay blows out ‘Skins, 35-18
FOOTBALL NEWS and MINUTIA
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE 2016 NFL DRAFT
JAN 18th deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft
JAN 23rd East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, FL
JAN 30th Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL
JAN 31st NFL Pro Bowl in Honolulu, HI (8PM Eastern)
FEB 7th Super Bowl “L” (50) in Santa Clara, CA (home of SF 49’ers)
FEB 23-29th NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, IN
APR 28-30th 2016 NFL DRAFT in Chicago, IL
NFL COACHING CHANGES – activity after “BLACK MONDAY”
New Orleans’ HC Sean Payton is staying with the NOR Saints. In his nine years with the team, he has posted an 87-57 record and gave the city a Super Bowl victory in 2009.
Tampa Bay fired HC Lovie Smith on Wednesday, two days after Black Monday, and after only two years in charge. The Buccaneers were only 2-14 in his first year, but improved to 6-10 with a rookie QB this year (but ended the season on a 4-game losing streak). The reason for Smith’s demise per GM Jason Licht: “only eight wins in two years”. And now the lack of continuity in the coaching staff continues; the Bucs have had three different HC’s in five years, and five in the last nine years.
TB Bucs’ offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, is supposedly a hot commodity and may be either moving up to HC within the organization or taking a HC job with another team.
San Francisco has hired Chip Kelly (former HC at Philadelphia) as its new head coach.
Philadelphia has replaced its old HC (Kelly) by hiring Doug Pederson, now-offensive coordinator of the KC Chiefs.
Cleveland has hired Hue Jackson to be its ninth head coach since the Browns re-entered the league in 1999. Jackson was most recently the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati (2014-2015), and had previously been the HC for the OAK Raiders.
The Browns have also hired non-football guys for key positions in the front office.
Their new GM is an attorney Sashi Brown.
Their new Chief Strategy Officer is Paul DePodesta, who made his name in baseball as a analytics’ whiz (his style was portrayed by the Peter Brand character in the baseball movie “Moneyball”). I don’t think sabermetrics translates very well from baseball to football, but DePodesta is no dummy, so maybe he’ll revolutionize the scouting and player evaluation process in the NFL.
Miami has hired Adam Gase (age 37) as its new HC. He had most recently been an offensive coordinator for Chicago (2015) and Denver (2013-2014).
The Dolphins’ new GM is Chris Grier, promoted within the organization from “Director of College Scouting.”
The NY Giants have hired their former OC Ben McAdoo to become its next head coach. DC Steve Spagnuolo will stay in his current position, and former Miami HC Joe Philbin will take over as offensive coordinator.
The Lions hired former NE Patriots’ Director of Pro Scouting Bob Quinn as their new General Manager. Detroit had been in need of a new GM since firing Martin Mayhew halfway through the 2015 season after a disastrous 1-7 start. The Lions ended up going 6-2 the rest of the way, suggesting that the roster Mayhew had assembled was perhaps not quite so bad, and Quinn may not have quite as big of a rebuilding effort as was initially thought by the organization. But it will be a rebuilding effort for a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991. And he will have to decide whether to retain HC Jim Caldwell.
HC Mike McCoy received a one-year extension on his contract that signed him through the 2017 season.
Point-after-touchdown (PAT) kicks
The NFL changed the extra point rule for the 2015 season, making the PAT kick longer (equivalent to about a 33-yard FG as opposed to 19-yarder in the past). The successful conversion rate dropped from 99.3% in 2014 (1,222 of 1,230) to only 94.2% in 2015 (1,146 of 1,217).
The new rule was supposed to incentivize teams to “go for two”, and the number of attempts increased from 58 two-point conversion tries in 2014 to 94 in 2015, but that is still less than one in every two games.
The PIT Steelers had eight successful 2-point conversions in 2015, and was the only team to defy “the chart” on when to try for the two-point PAT.
Historically, there has been about a 50% turnover in playoff teams from one year to the next. This year, only 4 of the 12 playoff teams changed (33%).
2015 playoff teams that didn’t make it last year: MIN, KC, HOU, and WSH
2014 playoff teams that didn’t make it this year: DET, DAL, BAL, and IND
Last week, I reported the “travesty” of Alabama getting unlimited practice time leading up to the CFP Championship game while its opponent Clemson was restricted to the 20-hours per week rule (based on when each school starts its second semester).
I got prematurely excited (“PE”) for nothing.
Clemson filed for NCAA relief from this restrictive provision just for the CFP game; and it was granted on Wednesday before the big game.
Last year, Ohio State was permitted an unlimited amount of practice time while Oregon was limited to 20 hours. Why? OSU’s spring semester didn’t begin until after the title game, while Oregon’s began prior to the game. Ohio State arguably gained an advantage.
“We’re appreciative of the NCAA working with us in granting this waiver to assist in our preparations for next Monday’s game while maintaining our commitment to student-athlete welfare,” Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich said. “As Coach Swinney pointed out, this was not going to be a big difference maker in our team’s schedule, but it’s great they’ve reached a solution that prioritizes the well-being of our student-athletes while allowing them to adequately prepare for the National Championship.”
And one more CATCH-UP item
The CFP semifinal playoff games were played on New Year’s Eve, not necessarily to the liking of ESPN, the network telecasting the games. And with good reason, since the TV ratings were relatively poor. Maybe it was due to the fact that the games were played on December 31st, or maybe it was because the games were relative blowouts.
Regardless, Executive Director Bill Hancock of the CFP Committee (not the 12-member CFP selection committee) says that there are no plans to make changes in future years; he expects that the games will again be played on New Year’s Eve next year and beyond.
2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists
Three first-year eligible players were among the class of 15 finalists chosen last week for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
QB Brett Favre 1st-year “LOCK” for induction in 2016
WR Terrell Owens May have to wait a year or two
OG Alan Faneca
Five finalists this year made the “Final Ten” last year but didn’t get in:
LB Kevin Greene
QB Kurt Warner
OT Orlando Pace
WR Marvin Harrison
HC Tony Dungy.
The rest of the 15-man class of finalists include:
Kicker Morten Andersen
Safety Steve Atwater
HC Don Coryell
RB Terrell Davis
OT Joe Jacoby
RB Edgerrin James
Safety John Lynch
Only five of these men can emerge from the vote as 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees. The announcement will be made the day before the Super Bowl.
In addition, this year’s senior finalists:
QB Ken Stabler
OG Dick Stanfel
Contributor Edward DeBartolo, Jr.
These three are voted upon separately, and need 80 percent of a yes-no vote to be approved. All, two, one, or none of these three could be inducted.
2016 COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
Below is the complete list of former players who will officially be inducted during a ceremony Dec. 6, 2016 in New York City:
Marlin Briscoe – QB, Nebraska Omaha (1964-67)
Derrick Brooks – LB, Florida State (1991-94)
Tom Cousineau – LB, Ohio State (1975-78)
Randall Cunningham – P/QB, UNLV (1982-84)
Troy Davis – RB, Iowa State (1994-96)
William Fuller – DT, North Carolina (1981-83)
Bert Jones – QB, LSU (1970-72)
Tim Krumrie – DL, Wisconsin (1979-82)
Pat McInally – TE, Harvard (1972-74)
Herb Orvis – DE, Colorado (1969-71)
Bill Royce – LB, Ashland (Ohio) (1990-93)
Mike Utley – OG, Washington State (1985-88)
Scott Woerner – DB, Georgia (1977-80)
Rod Woodson – DB, Purdue (1983-86)
Plus, two coaches will be inducted this year:
FCS New Hampshire’s Bill Bowes
Frank Girardi of Lycoming (PA).
COLLEGE PLAYER AND COACHES CHANGES
CB Desmond King, consensus 2015 All-American and Jim Thorpe Award winner (nation’s top DB), will return for his senior season with the Hawkeyes. He wants to finish up his college career with 2016-senior QB C.J. Beathard.
HC Larry Coker is out as the head coach of the Texas-San Antonio FBS team. He is the only coach the Roadrunners have had since switching from FCS to FBS in 2012. Coker finished his 4-year stint with UTSA as an FBS school with a record of 22-26.
Two QB’s are out, and one QB is in.
Starting QB Kyle Allen, the #1 rated quarterback in the nation when he came out of high school, is leaving the Aggies football program after his sophomore season. He will be transferring to the University of Houston, where incumbent starting QB Greg Ward, Jr. will be back for his senior season. Allen will sit out the 2016 season and be ready for the 2017 and 2018 seasons with two years of eligibility remaining.
Backup QB Kyler Murray, the #2 rated quarterback when he came out of high school, is also transferring. He will be joining the Oklahoma Sooners program.
Those moves left Texas A&M with QB Jake Hubenak, a JUCO transfer, for the Aggies’ 2015 bowl game.
To soften the blow, former Oklahoma backup QB Trevor Knight, the #18 rated quarterback coming out of high school, will be transferring to Texas A&M for his senior season.
Besides the QB musical chairs game, something is going on with HC Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies football program, but it hasn’t yet become public to my knowledge.
Texas A&M announced that HC Kevin Sumlin had selected Noel Mazzone as the Aggies’ new offensive coordinator. Mazzone has spent the past four seasons as the UCLA Bruins’ OC. He will replace Jake Spavital, with whom the football program “parted ways” less than a week ago.
Hall of Famer Barry Sanders is 47 years old. His son, Barry J. Sanders, has been playing college football at Stanford; he just finished his sophomore season. But as a running back, he was languishing behind sophomore RB Christian McCaffrey, the 2015 Heisman Trophy runner-up. So Sanders has decided to transfer to another FBS school, maybe Oklahoma State (his father’s Alma mater). Update later.
FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTIONS
QUESTION #1: The Vikings-Seattle wild card playoff game last weekend kicked off with an air temperature of -6 degrees (that’s below zero, Fahrenheit). It was reportedly tied for the third coldest game in NFL playoff history. Can you name the two “colder” playoff games – participants and years?
HINT: Of course, the record-holding game is quite famous.
The “Ice Bowl” on December 31, 1967 – Dallas at Green Bay -13 degrees
on January 10, 1982 (1981 season) – San Diego at Cincinnati -9 degrees
on January 10, 2016 (2015 season) – Seattle at Minnesota -6 degrees