Hello Football Fans,
There were four NFL playoff games last weekend, and the underdogs finally woke up.
I've got some minutia and one quiz question for you this week.
The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL
DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF WEEKEND
On Saturday the domination by the home team favorites continued, making it six straight betting favorites to win with ease and all of them covered against the spread.
On Sunday, there were two entertaining and close games, with the underdogs not only covering the spread but also winning outright to advance to their respective conference title games.
#4 Houston +16 at #1 New England -16
The NE Pats beat visiting HOU back in Week #3 without QB Tom Brady, 27-0.
In the first half Houston took advantage of two NE Patriots’ turnovers that generated 10 points and the Texans only trailed by one point until New England kicked a FG just prior to intermission to lead 17-13. The HOU Texans threw three interceptions (only one by NE) in the 2nd half and the Patriots walked away with an “easy” win.
FINAL: NE 34, HOU 16
ATS: New England kicked an “insurance” FG and then stopped a HOU Texans drive with an interception in the 4th quarter just to make sure they covered the spread by 2 points.
NFL Record: The NE Patriots’ RB Dion Lewis became the first player in NFL history to score rushing, receiving and kickoff return TD’s in a playoff game, helping New England defeat Houston.
#3 Pittsburgh +1h at #2 Kansas City -1h
Due to an ice storm, the game was postponed seven hours and became a Sunday night game.
KC Chiefs’ HC Andy Reid had posted a 16-2 regular season record after a “bye” week. In the playoffs after a bye week, he had been 3-0 (all as HC in Philadelphia).
The PIT Steelers dominated the game from scrimmage, but were unable to find the end zone and had to settle for an NFL playoff record six FG’s by Chris Boswell to win at Kansas City. The KC Chiefs scored a TD with only 2:43 remaining in regulation play to trail only by 2 points…the
PAT conversion attempt to tie the game is….GOOD, but wait... Chiefs’ holding penalty…KC had to retry from the 12-yard line and the pass was incomplete, 2-point attempt failed. On the ensuing drive, Pittsburgh was able to run out the clock.
FINAL: PIT 18, KC 16
Pittsburgh outgained the Chiefs 389-227, including 170 yards rushing by Steelers’ RB Le’Veon Bell on 30 carries. KC lost the turnover battle, 2-1.
#3 Seattle +4h at #2 Atlanta -4h
The SEA Seahawks beat visiting ATL, 26-24, back in Week #6.
Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan had been 1-4 as a starter in the postseason; his only win was against Seattle.
The visiting SEA Seahawks opened the game with a long 8½ minute TD drive, but on the ensuing possession Atlanta responded with a 7+ minute TD drive to tie the game in the 1st quarter. On the ensuing possession Seattle marched again but had to settle for a FG to take the lead, 10-7. On the ensuing possession Atlanta was forced to punt, and Seattle’s recently signed aging veteran Devin Hester clicked off a 79-yard punt return….oh no, a penalty, line of scrimmage was brought all the way back to the Seattle 7-yard line. On first down a running play was stuffed for a loss of three yards. On 2nd down, an offensive lineman stepped on QB Russell Wilson’s foot and he stumbled back into the endzone for a Falcons’ safety. After the ensuing safety kickoff, Atlanta marched and took its first lead of the game on a FG, ahead 12-10, in mid-2nd quarter (it seemed like there was a subtle momentum shift after the safety). Later, the ATL Falcons scored a TD just before halftime to lead 19-10 at intermission and Atlanta never looked back in the 2nd half.
FINAL: ATL 36, SEA 20
#4 Green Bay +4h at #1 Dallas -4h
The DAL Cowboys won at Green Bay back in Week #6, 30-16.
After starting the season with a 4-6 record, the GB Packers are now a different team; they have won seven games in a row.
Cutting to the chase, Green Bay scored a TD early in the 2nd half to take a commanding 28-13 lead that held up until Dallas scored a TD early in the 4th quarter to cut the lead to 28-20. The DAL Cowboys scored another TD 6½ minutes later, and with a successful 2-point conversion had tied the game at 28-28 with 4:08 remaining in regulation play. On the ensuing possession the GB Packers’ 8-play drive stalled at the Dallas 38-yard line, but kicker Mason Crosby booted a 56-yard FG (somehow eked over the crossbar and through the uprights) to give his team the lead with only 1:33 showing on the clock.
Not to be outdone, the host Cowboys responded quickly and drove down to the Green Bay 33-yard line on six plays, spiking the ball to stop the clock on one play and trying to conserve time. After an incomplete pass to stop the clock again on 3rd down, the Cowboys “settled” for a 52-yard FG to tie the game at 31-31. However, Dallas had left 35 seconds on the clock – oops! That gave QB Aaron Rodgers and the Pack just enough time to get into FG range again to kick the game-winner from 51 yards. WOW!!
FINAL: GB 34, DAL 31
HISTORY GB Packers’ kicker Mason Crosby’s hit a pair of 50-plus-yard field goals in the final two minutes of their win over the DAL Cowboys. He became the first kicker to do that in postseason history.
Previously Crosby had never made a potential game-tying or go-ahead kick of 50 yards or longer in the 4th quarter or overtime; he had been 0-for-4 on such attempts. And, he had only made one 50+ yard FG this season; in his career, he’s only 28-of-54 on the long attempts.
But his 56-yarder with 1:33 left was the third-longest kick in postseason history, and his 51-yard game-winner had to be kicked twice, after the Cowboys used their final timeout to ice him. He hadn’t made two 50+ yarders in a single game in his NFL career, so converting successfully on what amounted to three FG’s in such a short span was impressive.
Crosby now has hit 23 straight field goals in the postseason.
UPCOMING CONFERENCE TITLE GAMES
Sunday, January 22nd
Green Bay +4h at Atlanta 12:05PM Pacific
Pittsburgh +6 at New England 3:40PM Pacific
Winners advance to the Super Bowl !!!
FFHL LOP-SIDED and CONTESTED PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
Listed below is a breakdown of all of our picks for FFHL WEEK #18B (Divisional Weekend).
Team For-Against Result / Unsolicited comments
SEA Seahawks +5 at ATL 5-4 LOSS, Atlanta wins big, 36-20
NE Patriots -16 vs. HOU 6-1 WIN, New England kicks FG to cover in 34-16 win
GB Packers +4h at DAL 5-4 WIN, Green Bay wins outright, 34-31
KC Chiefs -1h vs. PIT +1h 3-3 PITTSBURGH wins outright 18-16 to cover ATS
OTHER FOOTBALL NEWS
NFL COACHING CHANGES
Only ONE team still needs to fill its head coaching position for next year – the SF 49’ers. And the team is still looking for a new GM as well.
The DEN Broncos hired Vance Joseph, age 44, as their new HC. He had been the DC with the MIA Dolphins. Denver also hired former SD Chargers’ HC Mike McCoy to be its new OC.
The BUF Bills hired Sean McDermott, age 42, as their new HC. He had previously been the DC with the CAR Panthers for six years. Buffalo’s new DC will be Leslie Frazier, former HC for the MIN Vikings (2011-2013).
The Los Angeles (formerly SD) Chargers hired Anthony Lynn, age 48, as their new HC. He had been the OC for the BUF Bills for the last two years.
The LA Rams hired Sean McVay, age 30 (will turn a mature age 31 in one week), to be their new HC. He had been the OC with the WSH ‘Skins for three years. The Rams also hired 69-year old Wade Phillips (former Denver DC) to be their new DC.
YOUNGEST HEAD COACHING HIRES
Prior to the LA Rams’ hiring of 30-year old Sean McVay as their next head coach last week, following is a list of the previous 10 youngest NFL head coaching hires in the “modern era” (age at time of hire):
Lane Kiffin, OAK Raiders (31 years, 8 months):
He had a miserable and short tenure in Oakland characterized by major disagreements with Al Davis about QB JaMarcus Russell.
Harland Svare, LA Rams (31 years, 11 months):
He took over in the middle of the 1962 season and surprising kept his job despite mediocre results. Svare resigned from his second HC job with the SD Chargers in the middle of the 1973 season, even though he had signed a five-year contract extension just a year earlier.
John Michelosen, PIT Steelers (32 years, 2 months):
He never took his team to the playoffs in four years with the Steelers, finishing with a 20-26-2 record from 1948 to 1951.
Raheem Morris, TB Buccaneers (32 years, 4 months):
He got fired after three seasons and a 17-31 record from 2009 to 2011; he is currently the assistant HC and WR coach for the ATL Falcons, but didn’t draw a lot of interest for HC vacancies this offseason.
David Shula, CIN Bengals (32 years, 7 months):
He has one of the worst coaching records in NFL history, 19-52. After the CIN Bengals fired him, he left coaching to work in his father’s steakhouse business.
Josh McDaniels, DEN Broncos (32 years, 8 months):
He was fired during his second season after compiling an 11-17 record, and is now a well-regarded assistant with the NE Patriots who is seen as a likely future HC.
John Madden, OAK Raiders (32 years, 10 months): A Hall of Famer with the highest winning percentage of any coach in modern NFL history, Madden retired to become the NFL’s most popular TV broadcaster, a hugely successful commercial endorser and the front man for a video game that has generated billions of dollars in revenues.
Don Shula, BAL Colts (33 years, 4 days):
He led the Colts to the playoffs three times, then jumped over to the MIA Dolphins, where he became the winningest HC in NFL history.
Al Davis, OAK Raiders (33 years, 6 months):
Prior to hiring youngsters Madden and Kiffin as head coaches in Oakland, Davis coached the team himself. He was the 1963 AFL coach of the year, his first year coaching the Raiders.
BEFORE San Francisco’s NEW HIRE
With eight minority head coaches — the LA Chargers’ Anthony Lynn, DEN Vance Joseph, CIN Marvin Lewis, PIT Mike Tomlin, DET Jim Caldwell, CLE Hue Jackson, NYJ Todd Bowles and CAR Ron Rivera — the league in 2017 will tie the record for the most minority head coaches at the start of any season. There were also eight minority HC’s in the NFL in 2011.
The 49ers still have an opening, so it’s possible a ninth minority head coach could be hired. That seems unlikely, however, as the only minorities the 49ers interviewed — Lynn and Joseph — have already been hired elsewhere. It’s looking as if Kyle Shanahan (Atlanta OC) will get the job; Josh McDaniels (New England OC) has removed himself from consideration.
For the 2016 season the NFL had six minority head coaches.
NFL STADIUM & TEAM RELOCATION UPDATE
The Chargers made their decision and have announced that they will become the SECOND Los Angeles team. For the 2017 and 2018 NFL seasons, the LA Chargers will be playing their home games at the StubHub Center, a multi-purpose 30,000-seat stadium on the campus of California State University-Dominguez Hills in Carson, CA (about 10 miles south of Downtown LA), where the LA Galaxy professional soccer team plays its home games.
The Chargers started their professional football existence in the AFL as the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960. With Sid Gilman as their head coach, the Chargers won the Western Division of the AFL with a 10-4 record. The team moved to San Diego in 1961.
Quiz Question: Where did the LA Chargers play their home games in 1960?
Answer: The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
With no viable stadium proposal in Oakland, owner Mark Davis clearly wants to move the team to Las Vegas. He may or may not get a deal that includes the financial support of Sands casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who is driving a hard bargain. If no compromise can be reached, Davis will look for another source for funding a $2 billion Vegas stadium complex. There is $750 million of public funding available to help the Las Vegas “Let’s Make a Deal” project.
The Raiders have a series of one-year leases in Oakland and will still staying in the Bay Area for the 2017 and 2018 seasons (and maybe the 2019 season if the proposed new stadium in Las Vegas is not completed in time).
The Oakland Raiders relocated to Los Angeles for the 1982 through 1994 seasons, and then moved back to Oakland for the 1995 season.
Well, this isn’t really a record. Nonetheless, the 2016 season was the “best ever” for punters in the NFL. According to statistics posted by JAX Jaguars’ Senior VP Tony Khan, the 2016 season was the best since at least 2000 in a wide variety of categories.
The average of 40.1 net yards per punt was the best ever. The percentage of punts landed inside both the 20-yard line (38.8%) and inside the 10-yard line (13.8%) was the best ever. The average post-punt field position -- the 25-yard line -- was the worst ever. And there were more punts of 70 yards or more than ever before.
For what it’s worth.
FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTION
QUESTION #1: The quarterback of the winning team in the AFC Championship Game has been only one of three QB’s for 14 of the last 16 years – namely Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger. Who were the other two AFC quarterbacks to lead their team to the Super Bowl in this century (since 2001)?
Rich Gannon OAK Raiders 2002
Joe Flacco BAL Ravens 2012
Tom Brady NE Patriots Six times, and a 2016 win over PIT would make it seven
Peyton Manning IND Colts Two times
DEN Broncos Two times
Ben Roethlisberger PIT Steelers Three times, and a win over NE Sunday would add another