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Friday's Dirty Dozen: Things I'm looking for this weekend
12) From 1993-2003, home teams were 34-10 in the Wild Card round; the last eight years, home teams are just 13-15 in Wild Card round. Whatever happened to home field advantage?
11) Wisconsin already has two conference losses at home; they go to Michigan Sunday, hoping to avoid a dismal start in Big Dozen play.
10) You forget how great Sunday afternoons are during the NFL’s regular season; Sunday will be a grim reminder, now that the regular season is over. Little hoops, couple football games, but my thumb will be in withdrawal from not hitting the remote every 30 seconds for six hours. And you think I'm kidding.
9) Unbeaten Missouri is down to seven scholarship players; they visit Kansas State Saturday, after the Wildcats lost to rival Kansas for the 43rd time in their last 46 meetings- this should be a very good game.
8) Detroit Lions made Packer backup QB Matt Flynn look like freakin’ Dan Fouts last week, in a meaningless game for Green Bay; now they’re up against Drew Brees in the Superdome. Good luck there.
7) Can the Texans shake their December funk and get a win in their first-ever playoff game? Weird game, with both starting QBs rookies.
6) Much-improved Fordham beat Georgia Tech/Harvard in its last two games, now reeling Xavier visits the Bronx, having lost five of last six games. Interesting game.
5) Sunday is the Giants’ 4th straight home game, thought technically their Week 16 game against the Jets was a road tilt, but it wasn’t. Figure big Blue to come out flat against Atlanta, having won two big-hype games the last two weeks.
4) Florida at Tennessee at 11am Saturday? Why?
3) Pittsburgh-Denver is lead-in to 60 Minutes Sunday night; CBS better hope Tebow doesn’t go 6-22 again. Could we get a shot of Brady Quinn during this game, just to make sure he’s still alive?
2) Monday night we get LSU-Alabama II; hopefully this time, there are a couple touchdowns scored. If the Crimson Tide wins, chaos will ensue over who wins the mythical national title-- until we have a real playoff, like other sports do, any national title is purely mythical. .
1) Over last 20 years, #6 seed in NFC is 11-9 against the #3 seed; the #6 seed in the AFC is just 5-15, but 4-2 the last six years. More than ever before, just getting in the tournament gives you a legit chance to win it.
Saturday's Dirty Dozen: Things I've (re-)learned this football season
12) Back in September I made a sarcastic joke in this space to effect that we’ll know when college conference realignment is done, when Cal-Santa Barbara joins America East. Eight weeks later, San Diego State joined the Big East (just for football). Real life is stranger than fiction.
11) Jerry Jones is a better owner than a general manager. Much better. His worst fault as an owner is that he won’t fire the GM.
10) Most underrated place in Las Vegas to watch Saturday/Sunday football is the sports book at SouthPoint casino I am told; seats were available all weekend, there are 75 cent hot dogs very close to the betting windows and there are a lot of big screens.
9) Mike Martz doesn’t get along well with others. None of this mattered until Jay Cutler got hurt, but he’s now coached in five different places since 1998, all in the NFC, by the way.
8) Best way to impress your girlfriend or wife? Buy her a Lexus for Christmas. Commercials say it works like a charm. My wife already has one by the way. Its okay, not crazy about it.
7) Apparently, Urban Meyer’s family would rather he go back to work coaching and earn millions, rather than spend more time with them.
6) Addition by subtraction, 2011 edition: Chad85Johnson left Cincinnati, and the Bengals made the playoffs. Go figure.
5) Apparently, the Chiefs’ players like Romeo Crennel a lot better than they liked Todd Haley, which is why Haley is currently unemployed.
4) This isn’t football-related, but there are people in this world who are basically dishonest, which is both disappointing and educational.
3) Very delicate situation playing out in Indianapolis, where the star QB is nearing the end of a brilliant career; when do the Colts draft his replacement? This season showed graphically that the team, as it is built now, is useless without him, which isn’t the way teams are supposed to be built. At some point, they have to move on to the future, but when?
2) NFL Sunday ticket was not as much fun when your favorite team was 0-16 a few years ago.
1) ACC teams are 2-13 in BCS bowl games; they expanded the league with football riches in mind, but at same time hurt the league's basketball, its traditional strong suit. Someone has some 'splainin' to do........
Over last seven seasons, home teams are 13-15 SU in this round, after being 34-10 from 1993-2003; why has home field advantage become less of an advantage?
Bengals (9-7) @ Texans (10-6)—Battle of rookie QBs in Texans’ first-ever playoff game; Houston (+3) won 20-19 at Cincinnati four weeks ago, rallying back from down 16-3 at half to win with score in final minute- that clinched AFC South for them but they haven’t won since, losing last three games, last two by combined total of four points. Bengals were 3-5 in second half of season, limping into playoffs because Oakland lost in Week 17; they’re 5-3 on road this year, 5-2-1 vs spread, 4-1-1 as road dogs, losing away games by 2 at Denver, 7 at Baltimore, 28 at Heinz Field. Houston is 6-2 vs spread at home this year, losing last two at home after the division was clinched. Favorites are 7-3 vs spread in the AFC 3-6 game the last ten years, with #6 seed winning the last three; average total in this game last five years is 34.0. Cincy split two visits here, with last one in ’08- last playoff game was home loss to Jets in ’09.
Lions (10-6) @ Saints (13-3)—New Orleans lost 31-21 at 2-14 St Louis in Week 8, game they trailed 24-0; since then, Saints won/covered all eight games, with six of eight wins by 11+ points; they’re 8-0 as home favorite this year, scoring average of 41.1 ppg in Superdome- they beat Lions here 31-17 (-7.5) five weeks ago, game they led 24-7 at half. Lions were just 2-11 on 3rd down that day, and had 11 penalties for 107 yards. That was only Detroit road game this year that didn’t go over total; average total in a Lion road game is 56.8. Detroit won three of last four games but lost 45-41 at Lambeau last week, giving up 469 passing yards to a backup QB. NFC’s 36 seed is 5-4 vs #3 seed last nine years (#6’s are 10-8 league-wide last nine years), but favorites covered this game three of last four years. Over last decade, favorites of 7+ points are 5-5 vs spread in this round. Saints are very sharp right now, scoring 13 TDs on last 17 red zone drives. Lions failed to cover last three tries as an underdog.
Falcons (10-6) @ Giants (9-7)—Atlanta played only one of its last 12 games outdoors, winning 31-23 at Carolina; they’re 2-3 as an underdog this, 4-4 SU on road- they’re 8-0 when they score 24+ points, 2-6 when they don’t. Giants just had must-win, emotional play-in wins over rivals the last two weeks after losing five of six games before that, hard to believe they won’t come out flat here against team they’ve beaten in last three meetings, last of which was two years ago. Big Blue scored 29+ points in four of last five games; they’re 3-5-1 as a favorite this year, were just 5-4 SU at home. Atlanta is dome team playing in northeast in January, but Ryan is Philly kid who went to BC, so he should be able to cope. Falcons Over last nine years, underdogs are 8-1 vs spread in NFC’s 4-5 game, with average total of 75.7 in last three; NFC’s #4 seed is 15-3 against the 5-seed the last 18 years, winning the last three. Falcons’ last playoff win was back in ’04; Giants’ last win was their Super Bowl win over New England four years ago.
Steelers (12-4) @ Broncos (8-8)—Over last 13 years, previous year’s Super Bowl loser is 2-5 in playoff games, 0-3 vs spread as favorite. Big Ben’s gimpy ankle makes this game risky business; he hasn’t thrown TD pass in last three games, as Steelers slept-walked to three wins in last four games (two over Browns, one over Rams). Pitt is 5-3 on road, but scored total of 29 points (two TDs, five FGs on 31 drives) in last three games on foreign soil. Denver limps into playoffs with three straight losses and QB who completed 40% of his passes in those games; Broncos are 5-4 as underdog this year, winning four of last five as dog SU- they’re 3-5 at home this year, with three of five losses by 5 or less points. These teams have split six playoff meetings, with four of six surprisingly played here. Steelers lost six of last nine visits here overall, but won 28-10 in last visit two years ago. This is Broncos’ first playoff game in six years. Again, over last nine years, #5 seed is 10-8 vs #4 seed in this round, 5-4 in each conference.
So its been since 1992 that we have had the taste of winning a playoff game and as a lifelong Lions fan that is the only playoff victory I have even seen in my lifetime. They have not won a playoff game since the 1950's outside that game. Crazy. Hopefully this season is the start of a new era and it has just begun.
There is no way I will even think of picking New Orleans today. Not that they may not win but its a matter of principal. So take these picks for what they are worth. I do like Houston a lot.
HOUSTON TEXANS -4 (Played them at 3 earlier in the week)
-- Saints gained 626 yards in pounding Detroit 45-24, sending Lions to the offseason with questions about their defense. It was the most yards any NFL team has ever gained in a playoff game.
-- Big day for Houston Texans in their first-ever playoff game, as three Cincinnati turnovers paved the way for a 31-10 Houston win.
-- Missouri went to Kansas State and ran into a buzzsaw, as Wildcats led from start-to-finish of a decisive 75-59 win, Mizzou's first loss.
-- Its good to play for your dad; the McDermott kid on Creighton went for 44 in a 92-83 win at Bradley. Bluejays are a nice team, and this kid is a superior finisher around the basket........Damian Lillard had 38 with five assists as Weber State won 88-81 at Portland State in the Big Sky.
-- Best game of the night was one of the last ones, out in Corvallis, as Stanford outlasted Oregon State 103-101 in four fun-filled OTs.
-- Supposedly Jay-Z spent $1M+ to rent an entire floor at Lenox Hill Hospital for Beyonce; $1M buys an awful lot of bedpans.......
13) So Elin Nordegren, the former Mrs Eldrick Woods, bought a $12M house in Florida, then had it leveled a few months later? No one seems to know why, but early returns are bashing her wastefulness pretty good. If she hated the house so much, why spend $12M to buy it?
12) UL-Lafayette beat Western Kentucky with a last-second basket Thursday when they had six players on the court; Friday morning, WKU fired its coach, Ken MacDonald. No word on whether the refs involved have been fired. They should be.
11) Over last two seasons, Dallas Cowboys are 4-16-1 vs spread as a favorite, 7-4 as an underdog. That’s underdogs covering 74.2% of the time, if you’re scoring at home.
10) Georgetown was picked to finish 10th in the Big East this season; last two years, West Virginia and UConn were picked to finish 10th—both teams made the Final Four.
9) Greedy bastard update: It is January 8, and gas has already gone up 16 cents a gallon this year. Terrific. Can’t wait to hear someone blame George W Bush for this. Bottom line: I’m not sure there are political parties anymore; just two different sets of corrupt fatcats who could give a rat’s ass about the average American.
8) Speaking of which, who is the genius that put the Republican debate on a Saturday TV opposite the NFL playoffs? Who the hell is going to see that, or is that the idea?
7) Say what you want about Alex Rodriguez, but seems like he has a hell of a lot of fun. Hanging around with those WWE divas isn’t going to do anything to help the PED rumors go away, though.
6) Didn’t realize the Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game since 2000.
5) Barry Sanders Jr chose Stanford over Oklahoma State (his dad’s alma mater) as his college choice. Being the son of a celebrity has its burdens; going to a place like Stanford eliminates a lot of them, since lot of the kids there are related to celebrities or are famous themselves.
4) Miami Marlins sure are assembling an interesting cast of characters for their first season in that new ballpark. From the owner right on down, seems like they’ve got lot of people who like to run their mouth. We’ll see how this turns out.
3) Cubs saved $3M by dumping Carlos Zambrano on the Marlins; they still have to pay $15M of his $18M salary this year for him not to pitch for the Cubs, thats how much they think of Zambrano.
2) People in New York City have donated a total of $2,076,065 to a fund for the four daughters of a NYPD detective who murdered in the line of duty a few weeks ago; while scanning thru Facebook last week, I was surprised/saddened to see some comments critical of the memorial fund, basically saying that if a person gets shot by a cop, no one takes up a collection for their family. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but.....
......people are actually jealous of youngsters who lost their dad to a senseless murder. What a world this is becoming.
1) Thoughts and prayers go out to one of my childhood heroes, Dave Duncan, who has left the Cardinals to be with his wife as she bravely battles cancer. Duncan was a catcher for the A’s teams in late 60’s/early 70’s; he had a big game in Game 7 of the 1972 World Series, in my opinion the greatest baseball game ever played (I’m an A’s fan, and I was a very happy 12-year old that day). Hopefully someday soon Duncan will be the first pitching coach inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame.