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Tuesday's List of 13: Our bottom 8, top 5 in NFL......
13) Colts—Can now win a game and still get first pick, but the Barkley kid at USC is starting to impress some people as much as Andrew Luck; the ability to cash in here with a trade bonanza may not be what it once was.
12) Rams—I’m tired of complaining about my favorite team, but getting pounded twice by the hideous 49ers this December isn’t going to do much for my holiday spirit.
11) Browns—I’m curious if they really think Colt McCoy is their QB of the future. Not saying he can’t be, just wondering if they think he is. Their games are really hard to watch.
10) Panthers—On the other hand, Carolina is fun to watch, because their QB can play a little, and their defense stinks, so there are lot of points scored in their games. If you’re going to have an awful team, have an awful team that’s fun to watch. That’s my advice for the day.
9) Redskins-- Somewhere in the afterlife, Al Davis looks on and smiles at Mike Shanahan’s struggles. Its not quite as easy without Elway under center.
8) Texans—Matt Leinart, the stage is yours. We’ll find out quickly if you’ve prepared well enough.
7) Bears—Wouldn’t worry about Caleb Hanie. No one coaches up backup QBs like Mike Martz. He even made Marc Bulger look good.
6) Steelers—Think they’re better than Ravens, but since they lost twice to them…….
5) Ravens— Haven’t played good games back-to-back; starting to look old on defense. Don’t trust Flacco unless he’s throwing deep.
4) Saints—Week 11 bye had to be welcome, but teams can’t like having Monday night game after the bye; sets up a short week right after.
3) Patriots— Opposed Tyler Palko is his first NFL start this week, get Vince Young Sunday; Palko was the reason Joe Flacco transferred from Pitt to Delaware.
2) 49ers—Haven’t allowed a first half TD in last four games (48-12); for season, have started 24 drives in enemy territory. Opponents have started six in 49er territory.
1) Packers—Soon the debate will begin; would they be better off losing a game and if so, how do you orchestrate that without openly tanking a game?
-- Broncos cut Kyle Orton, which makes Brady Quinn the backup QB; will be interested to see which team picks up Orton.
-- Eldrick Woods is 8-1 favorite to win the 2012 Masters; McIlroy is at 10-1, Mickelson 15-1. Woods hasn't won anything in two years.
-- Former Clemson coach Cliff Ellis brought his Coastal Carolina team to Littlejohn Coliseum and upset the Tigers 60-59; Chanticleers are the best team in the Big South. Could make some noise in March.
-- Memphis' 99-97 double OT win over Tennessee was a Maui Classic. Weird that teams in same state had to go 2,000 miles for that game.
-- Missouri was very impressive in crushing the Cal Bears; veteran team will be tough in their final season in the Big X.
-- Kansas beat UCLA by 16, but at least the Bruins showed some life in the second half. Very strange team Ben Howland has.
Wednesday's List of 13: Doing some thinking out loud.......
13) OK, so the Jets’ defensive coordinator is a guy named Mike Pettine; turns out this guy was on a TV reality show back in 2002, when he was a high school coach in Pennsylvania, and his team’s arch-rival was the area's traditional power, coached by his father.
Cameras followed both teams; lot of interesting stuff, but if you told me this guy would’ve wound up as an NFL coordinator, I would’ve scoffed. You put the TV on and there he is. Good for him.
12) Oregon’s prize basketball recruit, Jabari Brown, has left the Ducks after two games; going to be very, very interesting to see where he winds up. Imagine having a big bucks job where your future hinges on the flightiness of an 18-year old and his "people"?
11) Usually on Selection Sunday, the last two teams announced are a 7-10 first-round game, because it builds drama, with the 10-seed generally being a bubble team. I can already see it this year; Northwestern has never been in the NCAAs, but you know CBS wants them in, because they’d carry the Chicago market, which is big. Wildcats are going to play in a 7-10 first round game, and their reaction on TV when their name goes up on the board is going to be priceless.
10) Surprising stat: Tony Romo has a career record of 18-2 as a starter in November.
9) They started a College Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, which is great, but if you’re going to do it, do it right. Eddie Sutton is being inducted and Jerry Tarkanian isn’t. I want to hear the argument for this; what imbeciles vote on this? No matter which direction you come from, Tarkanian is the stronger candidate. Remember now, you can’t throw ethics at Tark if you’ve voted Sutton in.
8) Julius Erving’s 1974 ABA championship ring sold at auction last week for a whopping $460,741. All in all, he sold 144 items at auction for a combined $3,552,627. Hopefully that’s enough to get him out of his financial mess. Athletes need to learn how to handle their money better.
7) UCLA suspended Reeves Nelson for the Middle Tennessee State game, then re-instated him, but the kid missed UCLA’s flight to Maui. Whoops. Nelson played OK against Kansas, but Bruins are clearly a team in trouble. Could to be long year for Ben Howland in Westwood.
6) Phillies traded for Ty Wigginton, which means he finally gets to play on a good team; Wigginton will platoon at 1B with John Mayberry until Ryan Howard’s torn Achilles tendon is healed next summer.
5) Eagles didn’t miss injured WR Jeremy Maclin that much against the Giants, because backup QB Vince Young has good chemistry with Maclin’s backups, who practice with Young on the scout team. They will need both Maclin and Jackson against the Patriots this week.
4) Steeler fans will be glad to know that NBC chose Lions-Saints for the December 4 Sunday night game; Bengals-Steelers was the other strong option. Who wants to sit out in the December cold at night, when you have to work the next day?
3) Big pat on the back to Jim Boeheim for staunchly defending his friend Bernie Fine in his greatest moment of need; the two have been friends for almost 50 years. Boeheim showed he is no politician, and that’s a compliment. No idea if Fine is guilty or innocent, but you're innocent until proven guilty and Fine needs friends right now.
2) In their last four games, Seahawks have been whistled for 47 penalties worth 368 yards; their opponents have been called for 23 penalties for 231 yards. No coincidence that Seattle’s offensive line coach is former Raiders’ head coach Tom Cable.
1) The six NFL teams playing Thanksgiving Day have a combined record this year of 47-18, which takes many of this week’s best matchups away from Sunday TV, which has to both surprise and disappoint the league.
Packers (10-0) @ Lions (7-3)—Green Bay won 10 of last 11 series games, winning four of last five here, losing 7-3 LY in game Rodgers missed; Pack is 5-0 on road, 3-2 as road favorite, scoring 25+ points in all five games (15 TDs/50 drives), with wins on foreign soil by 7-10-11-6-7 points. Detroit had lost three of last four games and trailed Carolina 24-7 at home last week, before finishing game on 42-11 run; they’ve scored 24+ points in all seven wins this year, 19-16-13 in its three losses- they’re 2-1 as underdog. In last four games, Packers scored TD’s on opening drive, going 91-63-70-88 yards. Six of last eight series totals were 46+; last four Packer games, last three Detroit games all went over the total.
Dolphins (3-7) @ Cowboys (6-4)—Resurgent Miami won last three games after 0-7 start, allowing no TD’s on last 32 drives; Dolphins are 1-4 on road, 3-2 as road underdogs, losing away games by 1-10-18-3 points, so only twice in five road games have they lost by more than a FG. Cowboys won last three games, are now tied atop NFC East; they’re 4-1 at home, 2-3 as home faves, winning by 2-27-10-37 points, with only loss to Detroit, when offense self-destructed. Road team won six of last seven series games, with Fish winning four of last five visits here. Under is 8-0-1 in last nine Miami games. NFC East non-divisional home favorites are 3-8 vs spread; AFC East road underdogs are 5-3.
49ers (9-1) @ Ravens (7-3)—First time in NFL history brothers oppose each other as head coaches; long trip east on short week for red-hot 49ers, who won/covered last eight games, already winning four games in eastern time zone. Niners are 3-0-1 as underdogs this year; only loss was by 3 in OT to Dallas in Week 2. Raven defense has outscored opposing offense 7-0 on opening drives this year, allowing average of just 10.3 yards/drive, but defense allowed Bengals 483 yards last week with leader Lewis inactive. Baltimore is 3-1-1 as home favorite, wining at home by 28-17-15-3-7 points. Niners lost 44-7 in ’03, in only previous visit to this stadium. Four of last five 49ers games stayed under; seven of ten Raven games went over.
Cardinals (3-7) @ Rams (2-8)—Hard to believe St Louis is favored; way their offense is playing, they shouldn’t be favored over a CFL team. In last three games, St Louis has two TD’s on 39 drives, converting 12 of 41 on 3rd down. Arizona won first meeting 19-13 in OT on Peterson’s 95-yard punt return TD in OT; Cardinals won via special teams, blocking 42-yard FG on last play of regulation that would’ve won game. Rams outgained Arizona 383-262 that day, but still lost for ninth time in last ten series meetings. Redbirds won their last six visits here, but are 1-5 on road this year, 3-2 as road dog. Last three Arizona games, six of last seven St Louis tilts stayed under total. Remember, bad teams don’t have nearly as much home field advantage.
Bills (5-5) @ Jets (5-5)—Two teams desperate for win; mouthy Jets lost to Patriots/Broncos last two weeks, scoring three TD’s on 24 drives. Home fans will turn on them here if they start slowly. Buffalo is on road third week in row, losing 44-7/35-8 last two weeks; Bills turned ball over 13 times (-9) in last five games- they have no takeaways in last two games. Last four Buffalo TD drives were all 80 yards long; defense/special teams not setting up short field. Hard to drive 80 yards on Jets. Jets won four in row, six of last seven series games, taking last three by combined score of 102-32; they won first meeting this year 27-11 (+2) three weeks ago (was 3-0 at half). Jets had three extra days to prep for this after loss in Denver.
Browns (4-6) @ Bengals (6-4)—Cincinnati won 11 of last 14 series games, including 27-17 (+6.5) upset in season opener, but teams split season series in three of last four years; Browns lost six of last seven visits here, losing by 10-3-17-5-9-2 points. Cleveland is only team not to score point on opening drive of game this year; they’ve gained only 86 yards on 38 plays, an average of 8.6 yards/drive, not good game-planning; overall, they’ve been outscored 36-6 on first drive of a half, while Bengals have 40-34 edge in their games. Cincy is 2-1 as a favorite this season; Browns are 0-3 as road dog, losing by 7-10-18 points. Five of last six Cleveland games, three of last four Bengal home games stayed under total.
Texans (7-3) @ Jaguars (3-7)—Backup QB Leinart steps in spotlight as new starter with Schaub out (foot); before Schaub’s in jury, Texans were on serious roll, winning/covering four games in row- they scored TD on opening drive in six of last eight games. Home team won eight of last nine series games- Texans lost last four visits here, by 20-3-5-7 points. Houston also lost five of last six post-bye games. Jaguars allowed 14 or less points in their three wins; they’re 0-6 allowing more than 14, 2-2 SU at home. Jags scored only six TD’s on last 52 drives, and scored more than 27 points in only one game; they’re 2-4 as an underdog, 1-1 at home. Under is 7-3 in Houston games this season, 9-1 in Jaguar games.
Panthers (2-8) @ Colts (0-10)—Indy’s best remaining chance to win a game, and it wouldn’t even cost them #1 pick in draft, since everyone else has 2+ wins. Colts are 0-6 vs spread in last six games, losing last four by combined score of 137-27, outscored 59-10 in second half. Only two of ten Indy losses are by less than seven points. Carolina lost three in row, six of last seven games; they’re 0-4 on road, allowing average of 35.5 ppg, hardly a rock-solid favorite. Home team lost three of four series games, with Panthers winning previous two visits here, in ‘98/’03. AFC South underdogs are 6-12-1 vs spread, 2-3 at home. Three of four Carolina road games went over total; Colts’ last three games stayed under.
Buccaneers (4-6) @ Titans (5-5)—Slumping Tampa Bay lost last four games, allowing 30.8 ppg; they’ve given up 13 TD’s on just 31 drives in last three games. Underdogs are 7-2-1 vs spread in Titan games this year; Tennessee is 1-3 as home favorite, 3-2 SU at home, with wins by 13-3-17 points. Home side won eight of nine series games; Bucs are 0-6 at Oilers/Titans, losing 31-28/33-13 in two visits here, last of which was in 2003. Bucs have been outscored 55-22 on first drives of a half this year, 27-3 on opening drive of game, so they’re getting out game-planned by opponents. AFC South home favorites are 2-5 in non-divisional home games; NFC south road teams are 6-8 vs spread on road, 4-5 as road dogs.
Vikings (2-8) @ Falcons (6-4)—Peterson’s injury puts onus on Minnesota passing game, bad thing for rookie QB on foreign soil. Over last three games, Minnesota has been outgained 225-31 on first drive of a half; Atlanta has four TD’s/FG on first drive of its last six halves, so one coaching staff is preparing better, making better halftime adjustments. Vikings are 1-4 on road, 2-2 as road underdog, losing away games by 7-5-29-38 points. Falcons won four of last five games, but they’re just 1-3-1 as favorite this year, with home wins by 4-14-6, and losses to Packers/Saints. Vikings won four of last five visits here, but haven’t been here since ’05. Last six Atlanta games stayed under total; four of last five Viking games went over.
Bears (7-3) @ Raiders (6-4)—Caleb Hanie steps into spotlight as Chicago starter, replacing injured Cutler (thumb), but he will play well; no one coaches up backup QB’s better than Mike Martz, maybe because it makes him simplify things. Chicago won/covered last five games, scoring 32.2 ppg (14 TD’s/57 drives)- they’re 6-1 outdoors this year, with losses coming at Saints/Lions. Oakland scored 24-24-27 points in three games since its bye, which gave Palmer time to get game-ready; Raiders also have 11 sacks, seven takeaways in last two games. Only Sunday matchup this week between teams with winning records. Four of last five Chicago games went over; five of last seven Oakland games stayed under.
Redskins (3-7) @ Seahawks (4-6)—Odd series where Redskins won last five regular season meetings, but lost to Seattle twice in playoffs during that span. Skidding Skins are 0-6 (1-5 vs spread) since their bye, not scoring a TD in last two road games (20 drives); they’re 1-4 on road, with losses by 3-13-23-11 points, and only win at woeful Rams. Seattle won its last two games, allowing two TD’s on 24 drives, with six takeaways; Seahawks are favored for first time this year- they’re 2-2 at home, with three of four games decided by five or less points. NFC East underdogs are 3-5 vs spread in non-divisional games. Seven of last nine Washington games, four of last five Seattle games stayed under the total.
Patriots (7-3) @ Eagles (4-6)—Think about how banged up Patriot secondary is, and think about if Jackson/Maclin both play here; how will Patriots stop them? They had a freakin’ QB-turned-WR (Edelman) playing DB last two games, but they continue to win, scoring 37-34 points in last two games (outscored last two foes 48-7 in second half). Patriots allowed 34-25-24 points in their three losses; they’re 6-0 (5-1 vs spread) allowing less than 24. New England won last three series games by 21-3-3 points, one of which was a Super Bowl; they’re 1-5 in six visits here, winning 31-10 in last visit eight years ago. Both teams have gone under total in four of last five games. Eagles were dog for first time last week.
Broncos (5-5) @ Chargers (4-6)—Denver is 4-1 with Tebow as starting QB, winning three road games; Broncos have run ball for 209 ypg in those five games, which eats clock and takes pressure off their defense, which allowed 418 yards in 29-24 Week 5 home loss to Chargers, San Diego’s ninth win in last 11 series games, but also last game Orton started. San Diego lost last five games overall, turning ball over 14 times (-5); they’re 3-0 when allowing 17 or less points, but that hasn’t happened since Week 4, as mistakes are creating short field for opponents—of Bears’ four TDs last week, three came on drives of 44 or less yards. Chargers have only run ball for 70.7 ypg the last three weeks. Under is 3-1-1 in San Diego home games.
Steelers (7-3) @ Chiefs (4-6)— Four of Chiefs’ six losses are by 28+ points; with journeyman QB Palko now starting QB, doesn’t bode well for Haley’s job security. His team figures to get pounded here by Steelers, team Haley’s dad worked for when he was a kid. Roethlisberger hurt his thumb in pre-bye game, so he’s not 100%; Steelers are 5-2 in last seven post-bye games, winning last three by scores of 38-10/28-10/28-10. Chiefs fell apart in second half of loss in Foxboro Monday night, their third straight loss by combined score of 82-16. Home side won four of last five series games, with Steelers losing three of last four visits here (win in ’01). Seven of last eight Kansas City games stayed under the total.
Giants (6-4) @ Saints (7-3)— Saints won last two post-bye games 48-27/34-19; they’re 4-0 as home favorites this year, winning by average score of 40-17. Giants are 4-0 when they run ball for 100+ yards, 2-4 when they don’t; they’ve run ball for average of 72.8 ypg in four post-bye games. Saints held only one of last eight opponents under 100 rushing yards (Bucs had 84) so chance for Giants to control ball on ground here in Eli’s second homecoming to Crescent City. Home side won six of last seven series games, with Giants losing last three here, last two by 45-7/48-27 scores; last time Giants won here was in ’93. Giants lost last two games, with three TD’s, 10 3/outs on their last 22 drives.