Sunday, November 25, 2018

N.Y. Giants: Stop The Madness

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

On The Giants Way

New York Football Giants: With History and Experience as His Teacher, No Person Should Understand the Need for a Complete Rebuild Better Than John Mara.

My rooting interest in the Giants goes back more than 40-years.  Therefore I'm in no mood for being sold on false hope.  That's why I say back-to-back victories be damned.  Watching the Giants defeat the Niners and Buccaneers did nothing to sway my opinion.  An arguably gamely effort against the Eagles on Sunday only confirms my position.

I maintain the belief this team must finally commit to a full blown rebuild.  When a football team manages just six victories over their last 27 games, not only are major changes in order, reconciliation between emotions and opinion versus cold critical analysis and corrective action are prerequisite.

What I find slightly bewildering is that John Mara understands this.  He is a third-generation football man, born in a football world, raised by a football family.  He is a witness, and therefore knows exactly what both building and rebuilding sustained success entails.  He's been through this before and understands the process perfectly.  Yet, John Mara presently makes no clear distinction between rebuilding and retooling.  To be fair, John Mara's father was never burdened by costs involved with building a new stadium.  Thus when you consider Giants Football is indeed the family's primary business enterprise, calling for a full blown rebuild understandably poses a resistible proposition.  Nevertheless, I believe there's only one manner at this juncture in which Mr. Mara can correct this huge mistake, and that's by moving forward with unwavering conviction.


The mess Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur are presently charged with cleaning up was created by John Mara's unyielding loyalty to former general manager Jerry Reese.  And for good reason: Jerry Reese begins his Giants career in 1994 as a college scout at a time when Wellington Mara is still hanging out at practice, George Young is still general manager, and Dan Reeves is head coach.  John Mara is also around, serving in his sixth year as a team executive.  Meanwhile, Ernie Accorsi is beginning his first season as assistant general manager.  When George Young in 1997 hands the reigns over to Accorsi, Jerry Reese spends the next decade serving as pro scout and director of player personnel.  When The Duke passes away in 2005, John Mara assumes the role of team president.  In 2007, Jerry Reese succeeds Accorsi as general manager.

We fans call this, the Giants Way.  And we appreciate the organization's respective families greatly for it.

Giants history further speaks for itself ...

When Ray Perkins accepts the head coach position at Alabama, George Young elects to promote from within by elevating defensive coordinator Bill Parcells.  Two Super Bowls later, Parcells retires.  Pitifully, the Giants have no plan in place geared towards retaining Bill Belichick.  Two miserable seasons under Ray Handley lay ahead.  Former Broncos head coach Dan Reeves watches from afar, and calls George Young offering his services.  Young accepts, and in 1993 Reeves squeezes the last bit of goodness out of that old school Giants team in the form of a playoff victory over the Vikings.

How do the Giants follow up?  They cut Phil Simms, as George Young and Dan Reeves commit to a full blown rebuild.  Three years later, Ernie Accorsi and new head coach Jim Fassel pick up where Young and Reeves leave off.  By the late 1990s the Giants are contending again, and by 2000 they're back in the Super Bowl.  After which, the team culture goes somewhat awry.  But Accorsi medicates the situation with an apple picked off the old Bill Parcells tree.

Enter head coach Tom Coughlin, and the dawn of the Eli Manning era.  The stage is set for a second run on Super Bowls (eerily reminiscent of the first).  Only this time, the Giants woefully mismanage the aftermath.  John Mara above and beyond the dictates of today's colder impersonal NFL remains paralyzed by loyalty and commitment to Jerry Reese.  As such, Mara allows Reese to oversee the deconstruction of a championship operation.  Draft results, salary cap management, and the team's overall level of success since 2011 all speak for themselves.  The list of scapegoats is also numerous: Kevin Gilbride to Tom Coughlin, Perry Fewell and even Ben McAdoo.  When truth be told, the fall from Super Bowl contender to NFL bottom feeder starts with Reese.

Ben McAdoo is this era's Ray Handley.  And the Giants reappearance in the 2016 playoffs turns out being less than that of their 1993 playoff victory under Dan Reeves.  However, whereas George Young recognizes the time to rebuild has come; whereas Ernie Accorsi recognizes a need for culture change has come; Jerry Reese fails to recognize either.  And unless John Mara further clarifies his intentions for the team's future, he likewise remains guilty as charged.

Trading JPP during the off-season, trading Snacks Harrison and Eli Apple in-season, are trivial salary cap maneuvers.  Whereas the Giants present deficiencies and future needs are great.  After Odell Beckham, Saquon Barkley, Landon Collins, and even Will Hernandez, who else is worthy of debate and/or retention?  Janoris Jenkins?

I agree with naysayers insofar Eli Manning deserves his full share of criticism.  However, I feel at times as if he receives too much blame for the team's greater malfunction and misfortunes.  I'm on record saying that if the Giants had no intention of selecting Eli Manning's replacement during the most recent draft, I would have preferred they trade out of the number two pick.  Because far beyond Eli's own personal decline, the depletion of complimentary talent and deterioration of supportive play have been far more debilitating.

Eli is who he has always been, which is a non-elusive pocket passer.  Once upon a time, he was allowed to develop behind a record-setting offensive line constructed by Ernie Accorsi.  Jerry Reese however would inexplicably stick through thick and thin with a woefully inept cast of replacements, or lack thereof.  Dave Gettleman after just one year on the job has now employed at least ten different offensive linemen to date with little variance in results.  The signing of Nate Solder is again demonstrating how throwing money at a problem often proves ineffectual.  Hence, no other quarterback in the NFL this season has been sacked more than Eli Manning (3.6 times per game according to

Eli surpasses 3,000 yards passing this Sunday against the Eagles.  With a slightly better performance of late from the offensive line, he demonstrates that he indeed is still a very capable NFL quarterback.  I've said it before: in light of a new generation of quarterbacks, I still trust him.  I'm merely calling it like I see it.

  • WIN vs. Niners: 19/31 for 188 yards; 3 touchdowns; no INT; 1 sack; 4 QB hits.
  • WIN vs. Bucs: 17/18 for 231 yards; 2 touchdowns; no INT; 4 sacks; 6 QB hits.
  • LOSS vs. Eagles: 26/37 for 297 yards; 1 touchdown; 1 INT; 2 sacks; 5 QB hits.

Make of it what you will.  But, is it coincidence the Giants, Packers, and Ravens, have absurd portions of respective salary cap devoted to quarterbacks, while everything else is collapsing around them (if it hasn't already)?  The Falcons are arguably making the same mistake.

Tom Brady has throughout his career worked out financial deals with the Patriots for sake of greater quality turnover.  And lest we forget Bill Belichick routinely trades top talent a too early (rather than too late) for sake of draft picks and maintaining quality control.  How has that worked out for them?

Drafting is still the way to lay and build upon a solid foundation.  Meanwhile, young quarterbacks are proving extremely cost effective in today's NFL.  In turn, that money theoretically gets spent elsewhere.  In the most recent draft, however, the Giants arguably had one or two available quarterbacks for the taking.  They select a running back instead.  In lieu of a quarterback I would have swapped the number two overall pick (in return for two picks) and devoted them towards reestablishing a dominant line of scrimmage (which in part involves drafting a potential Pro-Bowl caliber center).

I love Saquon Barkley, by the way.  And it's a shame that both he and Odell Beckham are such superior talents.  I can not say the same about 80% of starting players on either side of the ball.

The Giants lacking a legitimate pass rusher is just one example.  That said, how well are the huge sums of cash Jerry Reese poured into the defense serving the team now?  How did that work out Sunday against the Eagles?

Again, spending bad money while simultaneously accumulating dead money is not the answer.  Initiating a rebuild breaks this vicious cycle.  The resulting byproduct of drafting and development is replenishment of salary cap reserves.  Talent and spending are reset, together.

Contending in a weak NFC East is also false justification.  It's nothing short of complete folly.  This team is ill-equipped to go up against any of the NFL's other division leaders; not last season; not this season; not next season.  Exactly when, is up to Mr. Mara (and Mr. Tisch), for I believe vision and directive come from the top.  In turn, the executive's responsibility lies in planning and execution.

For all these reasons I believe Dave Gettleman needs orders post haste to begin rebuilding anew ... like Ernie Accorsi did, and George Young did before him.

Do It For The Duke.

PIGSKIN 2018: Week Twelve

Week Twelve

Week Eleven
Thanksgiving Day

Week Eleven Record:  4-7
Thanksgiving Day:  2-1
Overall Record:  60-77-5
Schmear of the Week:  5-6
Bagels in the Basket:  -27

  • Since beginning the season 0-3, the AFC South leading Texans have gone 7-0.
  • Jerry Jones and his brilliant general manager seized first place of the weak NFC East away from the fading D.C. Hogs.
  • Did not envision by Week Twelve NFC North leading Bears would be one of three NFC teams with 300+ points scored.
  • What if every game was like last week's Chiefs/Rams game?   Not so fun anymore ... aye?
  • No Surprise: AFC East leading Patriots have committed the least penalties in the NFL..!
  • The .500 club in second place with respective 5-5 records: Miami, Baltimore; Cincinnati; Indianapolis; Tennessee; Seattle.
  • Marcus Mariota playing a week after suffering a stinger?  Surely someone will be second guessing that.
  • San Darnold missing his second straight game.

Well wishes to Mike Ditka, recovering from a mild heart-attack.
Bob McNair, founder/owner of the Houston Texans, passed away.

Friday Line ~ NYDN

Giants +6 (EAGLES)
Back in September, no one anticipated this game being a battle between dregs of the NFC East.  That said, more false hope is heading the Giants way.  I'm reluctantly throwing my own team of rooting interest a bone ... only because the Eagles secondary is so bad.  Philly is faced between defending Barkley or Beckham; don't think they can successfully account at this very moment for both.
WIN; 25-22 Eagles

Patriots -9 1/2 (JETS)
Welcome to the Tiger Balm Bowl featuring 41-yr old Tom Brady vs. 39-yr old Josh McCown.  The Jets are coming off a shameful performance against Bills; the Patriots are coming off a no-less embarrassing loss against the Titans.  Gronk may be pondering his retirement, but he'll be just fine this Sunday.  Brady should have a full compliment of offensive weapons back on the field.  And everyone knows what happens when Belichick has two weeks to prepare.  Meanwhile, Todd Bowles is on the hot seat.  The Jets have no pass rush worthy of Brady's consideration.  Playing without Sam Darnold only worsens the situation.
WIN; 27-13 Patriots

Jaguars -3 (BILLS)
Jeez ... what's a degenerate gambler to do?  The Jags are losers of six straight in which they've averaged a mere 14.6 points per game.  The Bill are 2-4 over the same stretch, in which they averaged just 9.2 ppg through the first five games, then exploded last week for 41-points against the Jets.  I repeat, that came against the Jets.  There's no disputing JAX has the better defense.
LOSS; 24-21 Bills

Raiders +11 (RAVENS)
After losing three straight tough games, the Ravens last week finally squeaked by the Bengals, over which span they allowed exactly 100 points.  After Buffalo, the Raiders this season have scored the least points in the AFC.  Joe Flacco's absence, however, will allow (a still capable albeit very pissed off) Derek Carr and the Raiders to stay within covering range.
Loss; 34-17 Ravens

BUCS -3 1/2 (49ers)
ALERT!! The Bucs average more total yards (458.5) per game than both the #2 Rams (446) and #3 Chiefs (434.3).  How about that!   They average 102-yards more per game than the #16 Niners.  Bucs are also averaging 3.7 more points per game than are the Niners.  I don't think it matters which Tampa QB starts.  The Niners are 0-5 on the road.
WIN; 27-9 Bucs

BENGALS -3 (Browns)
This spread suggests to me Vegas believes the Bengals are very flawed.  And for good reason: A.J. Green is out, and the Bengals are first in NFL to surrender 300 points within ten weeks (it took Atlanta eleven weeks).  The Browns have allowed the fourth most in AFC.  It's right around this time every season when I accuse the Bengals of doing their worst work at home.  That's why I can't believe Marvin Lewis still has a job.  Nevertheless, the Bengals for a change should be able to entreat their fans with an important late season victory by a comfortable margin at home.
Loss; 35-20 Browns

Seahawks +3 1/2 (PANTHERS)
There go those Jekyll and Hyde Panthers again, now losers of two in a row.  They follow up getting blown out by the Steelers with a failed attempt at a two-point conversion vs. the toothless Lions.  I'm  anticipating a no-nonsense defensive battle at Carolina while giving Seattle a slight edge.  I would argue the Seahawks are the grittiest, most troublesome 5-5 team in the league.  They'll continue running the ball, and somewhere along the way Coach Carroll will get the best of Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who's beginning to sweat.
WIN; 30-27 Seahawks

COLTS -9 (Dolphins)
I'm starting to buy into coach Frank Reich being this master game planner.  With improved play from the offensive line, Andrew Luck and the Colts are right up there in the AFC with the Chiefs and Steelers in points scored.  The Sea Mammals are just fine when playing in the comfort of their own waters.  But they're just 1-4 when away from the Florida coast.
Loss; 27-24 Colts

CHARGERS -11 1/2 (Cardinals)
The Bolts defense is top three in the AFC, on par with that of Baltimore and Houston.  Philip Rivers and the Bolts should be looking to redeem themselves after suffering a short circuit last week at home against the Broncos.  This match-up may prove too much for Arizona rookie QB Josh Rosen to handle.
WIN; 45-10 Chargers

Steelers -3 (BRONCOS)
I realize on any given Sunday that .... stop!  I say this line is completely off.  Last week was a hiccup for the Steelers; nothing more.  They'll be just fine.  Denver has the mile high altitude working in their favor, but nothing more.  After sixty-minutes, they'll be the ones sucking wind.  Both offensively and defensively, PITT is the better team.  They seem quite united in the post Le'Veon Bell era.
Loss; 24-17 Broncos

VIKINGS -3 1/2 (Packers)
Gee I wish the Vikings still played outdoors.  These teams played to a stalemate in Week Two.  Both are now coming off loses and desperate for a win.  Minnesota's list of achievements is far from great, while losses against the Rams, Saints, and Bears, makes me question their potential playoff competitiveness.  However, Green Bay's season reads like an EKG; they're too up and down; too inconsistent; even more so than the Vikings.  The Packers have been hard luck losers of late, but they are nonetheless 0-5 on the road, and just 4-5-1 against the spread.
WIN; 24-17 Vikings

Schmear of the Week:
Steelers -3

Good Luck, and have a great Football Sunday, everyone!

Post Game:
Week Twelve Sunday Record:  6-5
Overall Week Twelve Record:  8-6
Overall Season Record:  68-83-5
Schmear of the Week:  5-7
Bagels in the Basket:  -28

Thursday, November 22, 2018

PIGSKIN 2018: Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day

Week Eleven


Week Eleven Record:  4-7
Overall Record:  58-76-5
Schmear of the Week:  5-6
Bagels in the Basket:  -28

LIONS +3 (Bears)
Never bet against the Lions, at home, on Thanksgiving.  Right?  The Bears previously defeated the Lions two weeks ago with Mitch Trubisky playing.  Chicago will now lose without him.  Lions just barely defeated the Panthers last week, but it was a victory nonetheless.
Loss; 23-16 Bears

COWBOYS -7 (D.C. Hogs)
Jerry Jones is fixing to enjoy himself some Thanksgiving Day glory hole.  Alex Smith merely adds to the growing list of Washington's injuries.  Backup quarterback Colt McCoy has his supporters, but I'm not one of them.
WIN; 31-23 Cowboys

SAINTS -13 (Falcons)
Atlanta only lost by six points when these teams last met in Week Three.  A lot has changed since then.  The Falcons own a minus-13 point differential.  They have lost their last two in which they failed to score 20-points against the Browns and Cowboys, and are just 1-3 on the road.  New Orleans owns an NFL best +139 point differential.  Their defense has been good enough; one or two key stops should push the Saints over the spread.
WIN; 31-17 Saints


Saturday, November 17, 2018

LIU/Brooklyn Blackbirds: Straight Out of Flatbush

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Go West, Young Men!

LIU/Brooklyn Blackbirds
University of San Francisco Dons

LIU/Brooklyn Blackbirds: Flatbush Takes Their Game to San Francisco, California, Where a Clash of Undefeated Teams Awaits.

The hiring of Derek Kellogg continues paying handsome dividends.  In his first season as head coach at Brooklyn, he leads LIU to a 10-8 conference record, and 18-17 record overall.  However, the Blackbirds save their best for last, unending tourney favorites to capture last year's NEC championship, and thus a return to trip to March Madness.  This season to date, the Blackbirds are off to a 3-0 start after winning their first two games at home, and their most recent first game on the road.

Next stop, California.

As part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic, Flatbush opens with a match against the U of San Francisco Dons on Sunday.  Following games against Wisconsin and NJIT, the Blackbirds will fly out to Belfast, Ireland.

Sunday's match-up features a clash of undefeated teams.  Both the Blackbirds and Dons enter Sunday with identical 3-0 records.  Through three games, the Dons are averaging 85.6 ppg, while allowing a stingy 48.6 ppg, for an impressive plus-37 point differential.  Although the Blackbirds are averaging 93.6 ppg on offense, they've been much more generous on defense allowing 81.3 ppg, for a plus-12 point differential.

Art of the Two-Point Victory

Julian Batts Leads LIU Over Brown; Blackbirds Win Second Straight

Brown       81
Brooklyn  83

Last Friday, the Blackbirds lead Brown 43-40 at halftime, but find themselves trailing by eleven in the second session with under six minutes left to play.  Ignited by a Julian Batts' three-pointer at the 5:24 mark, Brooklyn embarks on a 16-4 run.  Batts punctuates LIU's comeback with a short range jumper in the paint (and one), giving the Blackbirds an 81-79 lead with 1:08 to go.  The Bears tie with 0:46 left.  LIU then misses a three-point attempt on the ensuing possession, but secure the rebound and earn a whistle.  Jashaun Agosto converts both free throw attempts giving the Blackbirds an 83-81 margin of victory.  Lulian Batts leads all players with 26-points.

Raiquan Clark Leads Brooklyn to Third Straight Victory

Brooklyn  89
Fairfield   87

Flatbush travels to Connecticut this past Tuesday where they take on Fairfield University in their first road game of the season.  The Blackbirds jump out to a 47-43 halftime lead over the Stags, then expand their margin in the second half by as many as thirteen points.  With just over five minutes remaining, LIU still leads by nine.  But the Stags nail a three at the 2:35 mark, then convert (and one) off an LIU turnover to take a one point lead.  Raiquan Clark's three-pointer gives LIU an 87-85 lead with 0:37 remaining, but Fairfield ties at the 0:24 mark.  On the ensuing possession, LIU drains the clock before Raiquan Clark connects on the final two of his twenty second-half points.  Clark finishes with a game high 33-points.  In the meantime, Ty Flowers keeps LIU moving forward with 21 first-half points.

PIGSKIN 2018: Week Eleven

Week Eleven

Week Six
Week Seven
Week Eight
Week Nine
Week Ten

Week Ten Record:  6-6-1
Overall Record:  54-69-5
Schmear of the Week:  5-5
Bagels in the Basket:  -22

1st and Ten:
  • AFC: Patriots; Texans; Steelers; Chiefs.  #1 Wild Card: Chargers
  • NFC: D.C. Hogs; Saints; Bears; Rams.  #1 Wild Card:  Panthers
  • The Oakland Raiders quest to secure the number one overall pick of next year's draft is in high gear; other #1 picks contenders are the Giants, Cardinals, and 49ers.
  • Halle Berry!  Halle Berry!  hut..Hut...HUT!!
  • Can't wait for Thanksgiving Day!

2nd and Long:
  • Second-hand store: Steelers players raid Le'Veon Bell's locker.
  • Second place teams with losing records: Cowboys and Seahawks.
  • Raiders canceled two practices due to continuing California wildfires/quality of air conditions.  My cousin lives within the affected areas; my concern goes out to all.

No Gain:
  • The Jets need this bye-week to lick their wounds.  Last week's 41-10 embarrassment against the Bills will likely get Todd Bowles fired ... eventually.  I've tried defending him over the past two seasons, although even I can admit much of which transpired last week (especially at home) can be directly attributable to the head coach himself.  However, I would look to upgrade both coordinators first (namely Jeremy Bates) and bring in a reputed quarterback coach for sake of developing Sam Darnold in a manner unlike Todd Bowles can.  Despite Darnold's own foot injury, he seems to be falling victim more so to other injuries occurring around him.  Therefore, not until general manager Mike Maccagnan empties out his war chest and spends money on some premium players should Todd Bowles be held largely responsible for the Jets overwhelming failures.  Give him back some talent.  It was the front office whom stripped down an 11-5 team after the 2015 season, not Todd Bowles.
  • Is it coincidence that the Giants, Packers, (and Ravens), have absurd amounts of their respective salary caps devoted to quarterbacks, meanwhile everything else is collapsing around them (if it hasn't already)?  The Falcons are arguably making the same mistake, as well.  And isn't this precisely what the Steelers are trying to avoid where it concerns Le'Veon Bell?  Young QB's come cheaply.  In turn, that money gets spent elsewhere.  Tom Brady has always worked out deals with the Patriots for sake of greater quality cast turnover.  How has that worked out for them?

  • Le'Veon Bell's 2018 season.  I respect his reasoning.  He's quite literally putting his money where his mouth is.
  • Do I hear Cheese-Heads calling for Mike McCarthy's job?
  • !Ay Caramba! A recent Shakira concert held at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City rendered the playing field unfit for Monday Night's scheduled Chiefs/Rams showdown - since moved back to Los Angeles.

Friday Line ~ NYDN

GIANTS -2 (Bucs)
The Giants have more problems than a math book.  And, yes, Eli Manning absolutely deserves his fair share of criticism.  But I still trust him.  You get sacked 32 times in just nine games then tell me how you feel about life.  The Niners only sacked Eli once last week.  Perhaps being able to stay on his feet last week in part allows him to throw three TD passes.  That said, the Niners defense is really bad.  Outside from JPP trying to psych himself up for Sunday's game against his former team, the Buccaneers defense is even worse than Frisco's.  Although Giants victories at this point are self-defeating, Big Blue wins their second straight.
WIN; 38-35 Giants

Panthers -2 1/2 (LIONS)
The Panthers no doubt are looking to bounce from last week's drubbing against the Steelers.  I've been saying all season how they're such a Jekyll and Hyde team, yet they remain in firm control of the Wild Card standings.  They should be trying their darnedest to keep it that way as there may be no catching up with the Saints in the NFC South.  There's a reason the Lions are in last place, and being forced to practice in the snow may be one of them.  Players are looking at Mat Patricia like WTF?  Detroit's fourth straight loss is most certainly on the docket.
Loss; 20-19 Lions

Cowboys +3 (FALCONS)
I suspected a Cowboys win over the Eagles last week, yet still picked against them.  Shame on me.  Look for Dallas to carry their momentum into this clash against the unforeseen hapless Falcons.  Atlanta is still reeling over last week's collapse against the Browns as their defense this season has fallen apart like wet toilet paper.  If they haven't gotten things figured out by now, there's no reason to believe matters will change by Sunday.  Dallas can run, eat clock, and keep Matt Ryan off the field.
WIN; 22-19 Cowboys

Bengals +4 1/2 (RAVENS)
The Ravens defense remains stout, but the team is fading fast.  After starting strong, the Ravens have lost four of their last five games partly because Joe Flacco is playing on a compromised leg, and partly due to a malfunctioning offensive line.  Flacco's availability is presently in question, maybe even in doubt.  The Ravens still rush well, but won't be able to ride the run game all day.  These are prime conditions for a big Bengals win.
WIN; 24-21 Ravens

BEARS -2 1/2 (Vikings)
See Giants: I'll take a home team laying less than three points almost every time.  Vikings can make this as close as they want just as long as they lose by a field goal.  A potential statement game for the Bears.  If there's a killer instinct within them, they can effectively plant their flag atop the NFC North this week.
WIN; 25-20 Bears

Eagles +9 (SAINTS)
Drew Brees and the Saints have put up nearly 100-points over the last two weeks.  I'm just hoping the defending Super Bowl champions play with some pride and cover the spread; nothing more.
Loss; 48-7 Saints

Titans +2 (COLTS)
Knee-jerk opinion alert:  Don't look now, but here comes Tennessee's late season display of promise and competence.  When I shun them, the burn me.  When I show them love, they still burn me.  Thus I'm getting a little tired of their crap.  However, last week's dismantling of the Patriots speaks to me.  Their defense is playing well, just ask Tom Brady.  Andrew Luck's turn to see them close up.
Loss; 38-10 Colts

Texans -2 1/2 (D.C. HOGS)
Houston is undefeated over their last six games, albeit against suspect competition.  Despite their 6-3 mark this season against the spread, my unwavering belief in Washington's inevitable collapse trumps all.  For a first place team, the Hogs only possess a plus-one point differential.  Adrian Peterson means nothing to me.  If the Hogs have problems this week at left tackle as is being reported, expect a bad day getting worse.
Loss; 23-21 Texans

CHARGERS -7 (Broncos)
Seven points is a stretch, but Denver does not match up well.  Chargers are getting it done with defense and a red-hot Philip Rivers.
Loss; 23-22 Chargers

CARDINALS -5 (Raiders)
Raiders players might as well form a picket line and strike.  They've already tuned out John Gruden and effectively shut down on-field operations.  Why go all out and risk potential injury under these conditions?
Loss; 23-21 Raiders

Steelers -5 (JAGUARS)
Highlighted by a woefully inadequate offense, the Jags have lost five in a row.  It's gotten so bad, that Ereck Flowers (HAH!) is scheduled to start at left tackle this week for Jacksonville.  Their defense in turn has been spending way too much time on the field.  Meanwhile, the Steelers are presently in the midst of a five game win streak in which they've averaged 35.4 points per game.  Overall, they've scored the sixth most points in the NFL.
Loss; 20-16 Steelers

Schmear of the Week: (5-5)
Texans -2 1/2

Good luck, and have a great Football Sunday, everyone!

Post Game
Week Eleven Record:  4-7
Overall Record:  58-76-5
Schmear of the Week:  5-6
Bagels in the Basket:  -28

Friday, November 16, 2018

N.Y. Mets: A Celebration of Jacob deGromination Metsian Podcast

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


Feature Guests
and the man we affectionately call 

98 Minutes


Mets Cy Young Award winners: Seaver, Gooden, Dickey, deGrom
Astonishing statistical comparisons, I promise!
How well does deGrom's season rank among Mets six Cy Young seasons?
Breakdown of deGrom's 2018 record breaking regular season
Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Pennants, Oh My!
Age ~ Contract ~ Arbitration ~ Free Agent ~ Money ~ Commitment
Dave Eiland effect ~ King Cole ~ Mickey Callaway effect
Jerry Grote, Gary Carter, and Jacob's cornucopia of Mets catchers
Steve Somers/WFAN and the lone rogue writer from San Diego,
Dave Kingman, and so much more!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Firing Up the Hot Stove with Another Metsian Podcast

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

with Sam, Rich, and Mike


First, I'm a veteran, but may have exercised poor judgement with regards to a joke said in poor taste.
I know better; guilty as charged.
*         *         *
Changes ~ Pat Roessler ~ Rickey Bones ~ J.P. Ricciardi
Radio Days: The Move to WCBS-88 AM
Howie Rose ~ Josh Lewin ~ Ed Coleman ~ Wayne Randazzo
The Syracuse Mets ~ Since when have there been Cy Young finalists?
Peter Alonso ~ Dominic Smith ~ Dave Kingman
Arizona Fall League ~ Andres Gimenez ~ Desmond Lindsay ~ Ali Sanchez
Jacob deGrom ~ Amed Rosario in Japan Series
BVW expectations ~ What's the New Plan ~ Are Mets Hands Are Tied 
Chris Bryant ~ Corey Kluber ~ Manny Machado ~ Bryce Harper ~ Asdrubal Cabrera
The never ending debate behind the plate ~ a plan for the bullpen
and so much more!

N.Y. Jets: Players Owe Coach Bowles Victory Over Buffalo

From the desk of:  WALT MICHAELS REVENGE

Buffalo Bills
New York Jets

New York Jets: Talk of Blaming Todd Bowles Just a Bunch of Buffalo Patties.  After Week of Venting, Players Owe Their Head Coach Better Performance.

If I'm not mistaken, this is supposed to about progress, right? 

After going 10-6 in Coach Bowles first season as head coach, the team makes a concerted effort to overhaul the roster.  And that's why I say his 13-28 record since 2016 is more reflective of that decision than anything else.  But it is the right decision.

The Jets go on to post back-to-back 5-11 seasons by stitching up their quarterback situation with the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown.  The 2016 season actually reflects fairly well upon Bowles, but the 2017 season for some reason not so much. 

This year, the Jets finally draft whom many believe is their long awaited franchise quarterback.  The team enters Sunday's game with an unsettling 3-7 record.  In their three victories this season (against the Lions, Broncos, and Colts), Darnold and the Jets average a whopping 41.3 points per game.  But we all know they're not that good.  In their six losses this season (against the Jaguars, Vikings, Bears, Browns, and two against the Dolphins), the Jets average just 12.3 points per game.  But few believe they're really that bad.  Therefore somewhere in the middle lies the truth.

All coaches have their detractors no matter what.  The media and a growing faction of fans have been busy these last few years listing their every critique of Bowles play calling ability and game management, down to his seeming inability to extinguish repeated and sometimes potentially ruinous mistakes regarding comportment and/or execution.  Now they're insisting Todd Bowles be graded according to his record.  Moreover, they're even saying a loss against Buffalo would be unforgivable.  As if to say his entire narrative will be written during this one game.

That's where the naysayers lose me, because they along with everyone else know damn well Sam Darnold is out this week with a foot injury.  And that the same dude whom helped the Jets to a 5-11 record last season will be the same dude taking snaps this Sunday.  I would also argue some of this vitriol is being fueled by the Jets present three game losing streak, which is completely understandable.  But I think people lose sight of recent injuries to Bilal Powell and center Spencer Long which negatively affect the ground game, not to mention Sam Darnold being deprived of several wide receivers.

Woody and now Christopher Johnson must slam the breaks on their repeated acts of impetuousness.  They are on their fourth head coach and general manager, respectively, of the new century.  That averages out to 4.5 years per tandem.  That's no way to build a winner.  What they need now most of all is patience and to maintain continuity.  Not until Mike Maccagnan reaches deep into his treasure chest of salary cap reserves and starts spending for high-end talent should Todd Bowles be judged for his results.

As an aside, Mark Sanchez had a much better offensive line and a pro-bowl center protecting him than does Sam Darnold.  Something for Maccagnan to consider.  Something else to consider, either Jeremy Bates is offensive coordinator, or quarterback coach.  He shouldn't be both.  Let Bates continue as the OC if they must.  However, Maccagnan might want to seek out a new quarterback coach this off season for his prized player.

In the meantime, the education of Sam Darnold continues.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

PIGSKIN 2018: Week Ten

Week Ten

Week Six
Week Seven
Week Eight
Week Nine

Week Nine Record:  8-3
Overall Record:  48-63-4
Schmear of the Week:  5-4 
Bagels in the Basket:  -18

1st and Ten:
  • ... and the Rams suffer their first loss of the season.
  • ... and Sam Darnold sustains his first NFL injury.
  • After 0-3 start, Texans are winners of six in a row.
  • Most precarious first place lead: Chicago Bears.
  • Worst first place team: the fading D.C. Hogs. 
  • AFC clearly the better conference, with five teams with six wins or better; NFC have three teams with at at least six wins.
2nd and Long:
  • Defending Super Bowl champs are in second place with a 4-4 record; Miami Dolphins are in second place with a 5-4 record.
  • The Paper Tigers: With six wins, the second place Chargers are begging for attention.  Meanwhile, did you see what the Steelers did to the second place Carolina Panthers?  Yikes!
  • On the Giants having a better second half, Odell Beckham says anything is possible.  Thanks, man.
  • Cornerback Eric Reid, unfairly being targeted by stripes?  Panthers want NFL taking a second look.
No Gain:
  • The Tennessee Titans season.
  • What's happening to the Ravens?
  • Steelers: Le'Veon Bell who?
  • Poor Todd Bowles ...
  • Former Patriot Malcolm Butler faces off against Bill Belichick.  Everyone is till wondering what happened.
  • Next time just send a text: That phone call placed by Saints Michael Thomas cost him $30G.
  • Dez Bryant's game availability: NONE.  Can't blame the Saints for trying, though.
  • Fans are calling for Jason Garrett's dismissal.  But what will it take for Jerry Jones to fire that damn general manager of his?
  • Giants offensive line carnage continues: Right guard Patrick Omameh, cut.
  • Remaining Oakland Raiders players bailing out on John Gruden, and the season.

Friday Line ~ NYDN

Bills +7 (JETS)
  ICYMI: Players Owe Coach Bowles This Victory Over Buffalo
It really does get worse before it gets better.  Sam Darnold is out, but Josh McCown has been in this position before.  Not that he'll fair any better.  But what about Buffalo's QB of the day, Matt Barkley?  He's a fresh face but will he pose a new problem?  Jets defense needs to answer that.  Some players have vented their frustrations throughout the week.  This is a show-me game for them.  They owe Todd Bowles better, but I still say the Bills cover.  Both teams are 3-6 against the spread.
WIN; 41-10 Bills

Falcons -4 (BROWNS)
My Spidey sense tells me this will be a blowout.
Loss; 28-16 Browns

Saints -5 1/2 (BENGALS)
Bengals are on pace to surrender the most yards from scrimmage ever(!), and their best receiver is out.  Saints pick up where they left off last week.
WIN; 51-14 Saints

BUCS -3 (D.C. Hogs)
Tampa is prepping for Washington's pass rush.  In the meantime, the Hogs entire offensive line is decimated by injury.  If their offense can not maintain possession, watch for Ryan FITZMagic to pop back out of his hat.
Loss; 16-3 Hogs

Patriots -6 1/2 (TITANS)
Gronk will most likely miss this game, but that does little to sway my opinion of the Titans.
Loss; 34-10 Titans

PACKERS -10 (Dolphins)
I do not lay these points with the greatest of ease.  The Sea Mammals can smell it ... contention, that is.  They enter the week with a 5-4 record, but find themselves this week outside their element at Green Bay.  The Packers are by far the more desperate team.  Aaron Rogers will be on the field; Ryan Tannehill will not.
WIN; 31-12 Packers

COLTS -3 (Jaguars)
Hate this game ... Jags waiting long time for return of Leonard Fournette.  He is still too "iffy" for me.  Jags need him to carry a heavy load otherwise the game is placed right back in the hands of Blake Bortles.  Only three AFC teams have put up more points than the Colts.  Indy averages ten more points per game than the Jags.
PUSH; 29-26 Colts

Lions +6 1/2 (BEARS)
For what ever reason, the Lions play well against the Bears.  Sometimes Matthew Stafford goes a little under spoken (because the Lions are generally a mess).  A victory puts them right back into the NFC North mix.
Loss; 34-22 Bears

Cardinals +16 1/2 (CHIEFS)
There's a lot of guys left on that Cardinals defense who I'm sure feel disrespected.  Go Josh Rosen! Go!
WIN; 26-14 Chiefs

Chargers -10 (RAIDERS)
The Raiders are unplugged.  Take Philip Rivers in your fantasy league.
WIN; 20-6 Chargers

Seahawks +10 (RAMS)
Can't figure out the Seahawks, but I'll certainly take my chances with Russell Wilson and double-digit points.  Rams are only 4-4-1 against the spread.
WIN; 36-31 Rams

EAGLES -7 (Cowboys)
Stay away ... that's what I say.  Both teams can, and will (eventually) overtake the Redskins.  Cowboys can still have that one day when everything goes right.  Seven points is very inviting.  By taking the Eagles, eight points is needed to cover.  Defensively, they might be a wash.  Offensively, Philly appears better.  This game has PUSH stamped all over it.  This is a home team pick all the way.
Loss; 27-20 Cowboys

Schmear of the Week:
Falcons -4

NINERS -3 (Giants) *Monday Night
No comment ... (I'm a NYG fan).  I'll have something up by tomorrow.
Loss; 27-24 Giants

Good luck, and have a great Football Sunday, everyone!

Week Ten Record:  6-6-1
Overall Record:  54-69-5
Schmear of the Week:  5-5
Bagels in the Basket:  -22

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

LIU Blackbirds: Defending NEC Champs Open Season With Victory

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH


New Rochelle    76
LIU Brooklyn  109

LIU/Brooklyn Blackbirds: Defending NEC Champs Cruise to Season Opening Victory Over College of New Rochelle.

Behind Raiquan Clark's game-high 22-points, the defending NEC champion Blackbirds open the 2018-2019 regular season with a resounding 109-76 victory over the CNR Blue Angels Tuesday evening at the Steinberg Wellness Center.

LIU senior Raiquan Clark finishes with nine boards and five assists while clocking a team high 31-minutes.  However, big man in Flatbush winds up being forward Ty Flowers (a redshirt sophomore coming to LIU from UMass) who leads the floor with six assists, and posts a double-double with ten boards and 21-points.  Raul Frias adds nine boards and 19-points off the bench, as the Blackbirds feature five players in double-digit scoring.

The Blackbirds take a 59-40 lead into halftime en route to a 33-point margin of victory.  They shoot 51.9% from the field, and 32.4% from three-point range.  New Rochelle struggles shooting 31% from the field.  LIU also outscores CNR 48-26 in the battle of the benches, and outworks them 58-45 on the boards.

Derek Kellogg enters his second season as head coach at LIU.  His first season went very well, leading the Blackbirds to an 18-17 overall record, and a 10-8 conference finish.  In the conference tourney, they dispatch St. Francis College of Brooklyn and Fairleigh Dickinson University, then overcome favored Wagner to capture last season's NEC title.

The Blackbirds pick up where they left off last season.  Tuesday night's victory is their fourth straight at the Wellness Center.  LIU posted a 12-4 home record last season, winning their final two regular season home games, then their first round conference match-up against FDU at Brooklyn. 

LIU/Brooklyn was just 5-11 last season playing away from home, and 8-9 in non-conference games.

Next on the docket, the Blackbirds host Brown University on Friday.  These teams last met last year on Nov. 25, at Providence, where Brown prevails by a 94-86 margin of victory over LIU.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

N.Y. Mets: The Not So Strange New World of Brodie Van Wagenen

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

The Brodie Van Wagenen Era Begins.

New York Mets: Another Pledge of the Wilpon Collegial Front Office School of Baseball?

I previously offered my opinion regarding the hiring of Brodie Van Wagenen, but through an ownership polluted point of view.

Consider this PART II.

Brodie Van Wagenen is a (super) agent by trade.  As co-founder of CAA Baseball, he is undoubtedly intelligent, and practiced in the art of business development and administration.  He now becomes the 13th general manager of the New York Mets.

There are instances of agents taking on executive positions in the NBA.  However, outside of the college draft, international scouting, and the recently established G-League, the scope of basketball operations palls in comparison to the multi-layered minor/major league operations of baseball.  

However, the full weight of Queens is not necessarily being thrown in Brodie's lap.  Both he and Jeff Wilpon reiterate numerous times during the introductory press conference how both look forward towards developing a more refined system of collaboration within a greater front office enterprise (which Jeff Wilpon is holding out hope will include Omar Minaya, J.P. Ricciardi, and John Ricco).  This strikes me as being no different than Fred's and Jeff's self-described collegial system - shared responsibility among colleagues.  Therefore, is Brodie Van Wagenen coming in to implement his own plan, or is he merely here to help Jeff Wilpon realize his?

We know agents lurk in the shadows during high school and college.  The minute these athletes turn pro, agents spring into action (if not sooner).  They have unique insight into player's needs, and understand how to get their clients noticed, and paid.  In turn, they have knowledge into the thoughts and minds of scouts and general managers.  After all, they spend time gathering the same type of information as front offices do.  Good agents collect insight into varying organizational philosophies throughout baseball.  They are able to compare, contrast, and contemplate a club's respective effectiveness of lack thereof.  Being an agent these days also requires a comprehensive understanding of baseball analytics, and knowledge into its practical applications.  With all that being said, it appears Brodie Van Wagenen has already convinced Jeff Wilpon into expanding the club's analytics staff.  Now he must stress the need for doubling their scouting efforts both domestically and internationally.

Brodie Van Wagenen just happens to represent several clients presently employed by the Mets.  A potential conflict of interest immediately comes into question.  Although Jeff Wilpon seems to have satisfactorily settled such issues with both MLB and the Player's Union, I still foresee this impacting (in some form) future negotiations involving Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Brandon Nimmo, etc.  But to what extent remains to be seen.  In any event, he's on the other side of the negotiation table now.  The decision is his now to either extend deGrom or trade him - just as he petitioned the Mets this past season.  I also wonder as a newly minted organizational man, if he now views any differently the respective contracts he helped secure for Yoenis Cespedes or Todd Frazier.

What is one of the major criticisms presently being levied against the Mets?

They spend money, just not wisely.  

I would argue Jeff Wilpon hired Brodie with this very criticism foremost in his mind.  If Van Wagenen uplifts the Mets public perception by indeed spending more wisely and effectively, that in turn makes Jeff look good.

The general managers meetings are right around the corner.  But outside of acquiring a catcher and/or upgrading the bullpen, the Mets hands are somewhat tied due to the existing contracts of Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Vargas, Anthony Swarzak, etc.  And not until 2020 will the Mets have finally paid off all their remaining Madoff related debt.  Flexibility is coming, just not yet.  I'm just trying to exercise some pragmatism.

In the meantime, the next two seasons at the very least will test Brodie's financial creativity.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

N.Y. Mets: The Four-Headed New World Order

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


New York Mets: Meet the New Boss, Son of the Old Boss.

Ponder this if you will ...

Fred Wilpon never hired a general manager who he didn't previously know personally well.  Now his son is following in his footsteps.

On very good advice, Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday upon purchasing the team in 1980 hand over their baseball operations to Frank Cashen.  By the end of his tenure in 1991, Cashen cultivates a crop of front office executives (Al Harazin, Joe McIlvaine, Jerry Hunsicker, and junior member Steve Phillips) that at the time become the envy of the league despite their growing reputation as notorious infighters.

Entering the 1992 season, Frank Cashen and Fred Wilpon promote Al Harazin (the least qualified of the lot) to the rank of general manager.  Angered at being passed over, both Hunsicker and McIlvaine leave the organization.  Jerry Hunsicker becomes general manager of the Houston Astros; Joe McIlvaine accepts the San Diego Padres position.  Fred realizes his mistake two years too late, and phones Jerry Hunsicker pleading for his return, but is rebuffed.  Fred then dials-up Joe McIlvaine, who agrees to rejoin the Mets and succeed Harazin as its next general manager.

After McIlvaine is fired, Fred promotes Steve Phillips, who in turn is responsible for bringing into the Mets front office fold Jim Duquette and Omar Minaya.  However, Minaya soon accepts the Montreal Expos' general manager position.  When Fred Wilpon fires Phillips, he turns to his lone remaining in-house front office executive, Jim Duquette.  However, his time in office is short-lived.  Duquette is replaced when Fred reverts to past practice, and dials up old friend Omar Minaya, who gladly returns to the Mets.

The main point to be taken away from all this is, familiarity.  Firing Omar Minaya ends Fred Wilpon's run of in-house general managers.  All Fred's previous hires are selections from house stock furnished by Frank Cashen and Steve Phillips, and he exhausts them all.  For the first time since purchasing the team and handing over operations to Frank Cashen, the Wilpons are forced to seek out a new general manager through their own volition.

After receiving professional consultation, both Fred and Jeff Wilpon conduct a rather ineffectual search that leaves them no closer to hiring a legitimate executive than when they first begin.  Not until Bud Selig intervenes by making Sandy Alderson (working for MLB in Dominican Republic) available do the Mets reconcile their front office.  I would also argue Alderson is more than just a friendly recommendation.  His primary function (IMO) is to keep MLB's National League club in an operational state while ownership attends to their unfolding financial calamity.  In any event, the Mets fruitless search for a general manager ends post haste.  What should have been a joint decision involving Fred Wilpon making his last hire, and Jeff Wilpon making his first general manager hire, turns out being neither.

Sandy Alderson stepping down this past summer due to health reasons puts the Mets back in the same situation they found themselves in 2010, only this time the way is finally clear for what will certainly be Jeff Wilpon's first effectual hire.

Before even formulating a list of potential candidates, Jeff Wilpon in no uncertain terms sets preconditions for the team's next executive.  Both he and Fred want Mickey Callaway back to start the 2019 season.  Jeff, meanwhile, prefers Omar Minaya, J.P. Ricciardi, and John Ricco, be retained as part of a greater front office enterprise.

This makes me wonder what right-minded, confident, and qualified executive of high regard (with a backbone) would accept such preconditions particularly coming from an ownership which promises autonomy, but who's reputation for being overly sensitive, reactive, and meddlesome, precedes them.  I also question Jeff Wilpon's decision regarding John Ricco's involvement through the first round of screening.

It's not unreasonable of me to say being general manager of New York City's National League club should be one of baseball's most highly sought out positions, but it's not.  Once the likes of Ben Cherington, Thad Levine, and Mike Chernoff express little to no interest, I sense the Mets are in big trouble.  The remaining list of candidates itself is not overly impressive: Gary LaRocque; DeJon Watson; Casey Close; Dave Littlefield; Kim Ng; Doug Melvin; Chaim Bloom; Brodie Van Wagenen; etc.

All the while an internal struggle is simmering between Fred and Jeff Wilpon.  Fred wants to hire an old school executive with a traditional background in scouting and development.  However, Jeff wants the Mets veering off in a new direction and catching up with 21st century analytics.  Ben Cherington was my main consideration, but I would have been agreeable with Kim Ng.  Her resume speaks for itself.  However, the list of candidates is whittled down to three finalists: Doug Melvin, Chaim Bloom, and Brodie Van Wagenen.  Melvin initially emerges as the favorite, but then is suddenly declared out of the running. 

That leads me to believe one thing: Jeff wins the tug-o-war with his father.  If you were unsure before, know this now: Jeff Wilpon is firmly in control of the New York Mets.  And I submit to you he is making the same mistake as his father.

At first glance, hiring Brodie Van Wagenen appears out of the box.  I beg to differ.  Above all else, Ben Cherington, Kim Ng, Doug Melvin, Mike Chernoff, Chaim Bloom, et al, are all unknowns.  They all also represent contrarian opinions and ideas.  Outside of Frank Cashen, hiring Van Wagenen is no different than Fred hiring Harazin, McIlvaine, Phillips, Duquette, or Minaya, because they were all friends to Fred first, and executives second.  Likewise, Brodie Van Wagenen and Jeff Wilpon are friends.  They've formed quite a relationship over the years.  That gives Van Wagenen a great personal understanding into Jeff (and his father).  Said another way, Jeff ensures himself of having a compassionate friend by his side.  Chaim Bloom would truly have been thinking outside the box.  But he's a stranger, and a contrarian.  Now we go from a three-headed monster, to a four-headed monster.  Lest we forget Jeff Wilpon's stipulations.

Never once did Fred willingly go out of his comfort zone.  Sandy Alderson was the lone exception.  By hiring Brodie Van Wagenen, Jeff Wilpon gets to remain in his.

Like father, like son.

The organization now moves forward according to Jeff's vision.

PIGSKIN 2018: Week Nine

Week Nine

Week Six
Week Seven
Week Eight

Week Eight Record:  8-4
Overall Record: 40-60-4
Schmear of the Week:  4-4
Bagels in the Basket:  -26

1st and Ten:
  • First half of the season is done ... no surprises.
  • Rams remain lone undefeated team.  Other first place teams: Patriots; Texans; Steelers; Chiefs; D.C. Hogs; Saints; Bears.
  • Browns are first team this season to fire their head coach and offensive coordinator, putting all eyes squarely are on Baker Mayfield.
2nd and Long:
  • Let the second half begin!
  • Second place teams with five wins: Panthers, Bengals, Chargers.
  • Cowboys are the second team to fire a coach (offensive line).
No Gain:
  • Although Todd Bowles is off to his third straight 3-5 start, he doesn't deserve to be solely graded on this roster (or that of the last few years).  Sure, he makes in-game management mistakes, and hasn't been able to stop players from doing stupid things, but he's never been handed a playoff caliber roster, yet.  That's up to Mike Maccagnan, who's priority has been clearing cap space.  Once Maccagnan does get around to spending that money, Sam Darnold will have had a full season under his belt.  Next year Todd Bowles is fair game.  Until then, the Brothers Johnson might want to exercise something called, continuity.
  • Cardinals released Sam Bradford.
  • Eli Manning has been sacked 31 times this season.  With half a season to go, he is only eight away from tying his career record.
  • Giants back-up QB-Kyle Lauletta, who in the weeks to come was slated for playing time in relief of Eli Manning, got arrested for stupid driving tricks on his way to work.  He now faces a short suspension by the Giants.
  • You are what you're record says you are: with respective 1-7 records, the Raiders and Giants are the worst teams in football.  The battle for the first overall draft pick is on.  That said, John Gruden is acting with conviction by gutting his team with haste.  In his latest move, he just released his leading pass rusher, Bruce Irvin.  The Giants on the other hand have been wishy-washy (and somewhat delusional).  Once again, I question their lack of activity with the passing of the league's trading deadline.  Despite earlier trades of Snacks Harrison and Eli Apple, the front office (or John Mara) still seems tepid about initiating a full blown rebuild.

Friday Line ~ NYDN

DOLPHINS -3 (Jets)
This is partly bad timing, and partly bad luck for the beleaguered Coach Bowles.  If anyone needs a victory here, it's him.  On any other day, the Jets are the better team, at least when healthy.  Unfortunately, Sam Darnold is in for another long day.  Like last week, he will not be receiving much support again this Sunday at Miami.  Let's just say the Jets offense right now is a little shy of complimentary players, too much for the rookie to overcome.  The Jets defense could still keep this reasonably close.  With Ryan Tannehill out, they can perhaps pressure Brock Osweiler into making mistakes.  Even then, something about this game says PUSH.
WIN; 13-6 Dolphins

VIKINGS -4 1/2 (Lions)
The NFC North is tightening like a tourniquet.  Both teams are coming off big losses.  The Vikings have a tie-game on their record, and therefore need a victory in order to keep pace with the Bears.  The Lions got neutered at home by the Seahawks last week, and just traded Golden Tate.  Yet, I'm still dying to take the points..!  But even if Detroit were playing at home and laying a point and a half to the Vikings, I'd still take Minnesota.  Wouldn't you? (Sunday: Vikings now laying five).
WIN; 24-9 Vikings

Chiefs -8 1/2 (BROWNS)
Steady as she goes.  If the Chiefs play mistake free football, everything should be fine.  Andy Reid is  coaching too long for him to allow the Chiefs succumbing to a trap game.  They may go about Sunday's game in a more methodical manner considering their opponent, but Reid knows very well the perils of playing down to the competition.  Cleveland has coaching issues.  A generous Kansas City defense could make this game an entertaining watch for Brownie fans, but I doubt it. (Sunday: Chiefs only laying -7 1/2).
WIN; 37-21 Chiefs

Steelers +3 (RAVENS)
The PAYBACK BOWL:  Two teams heading in different directions passing each other by.  Since losing to the Ravens in Week Four, the Steelers have won three in a row (averaging 34-points a game, while allowing just 18-points against).  The Ravens are 1-3 since defeating the Steelers.  They enter this game having allowed back-to-back 20+ point games for the first time all season. (Sunday: Ravens now -2 1/2).
WIN; 23-16 Steelers

PANTHERS -6 1/2 (Bucs)
I called the Panthers bluff last week, and got burned.  However, I refuse getting caught up in this cyclone of Ryan Fitzpatrick mania.  The Jekyll and Hyde Panthers last week took themselves seriously for a change, and it showed. They enter Sunday trailing the Saints by a game, and so I expect and even greater effort on both sides of the ball.  Carolina keeping the ball on the ground would be a good way of keeping FitzMAGIC off the field.
WIN; 42-28 Panthers

Falcons +1 1/2 (D.C. HOGS)
Talk about a desperate team ... what happened to the Falcons?  If Atlanta's defense shows up for a change, the Falcons should come away with a victory.  The Hogs are so unimpressive. (Sunday, WASH now favored by two).
WIN; 38-14 Falcons

BILLS +10 (Bears)
Khalil Mack is hobbling on a bad ankle, and the Bills have done stranger things this season.  I'll take my chances with Nathan Peterman and double-digit points.
Loss; 41-9 Bears

Texans +1 (BRONCOS)
I like the match-up.  Big day for Houston's defense.
WIN; 19-17 Texans

SEAHAWKS -1 1/2 (Chargers)
Are reports of the Seahawks demise premature?  Very intriguing match-up between Russell Wilson and Philip Rivers.  Looking forward to a defensive grudge match with the home team edging out the Chargers. (Sunday: this game is now PK).
Loss; 25-17 Chargers

Rams +2 (SAINTS)
I do not believe the Rams will finish the regular season undefeated.  This would certainly be a good week to pick against them.  However, Todd Gurley forces the Saints into playing a more honest brand of defense.  If the Rams accomplish that, Jared Goff exploits Eli Apple and the Saints secondary.  I have more faith in L.A.'s defensive ability to thwart a last minute drive than I do New Orleans' given the same situation.  (As of Sunday morning, the Rams are now -2 1/2 favorites, a 4 1/2 point swing).
Loss; 45-35 Saints

PATRIOTS -5 1/2 (Packers)
As usual, everyone on the Patriots is listed as questionable.  That means they're in mid-season form.  Matt Patricia, who?  The Patriots continue adjusting and adapting; it's what they do best.  The next best thing they do is win at home.  Meanwhile the Packers last week almost become the first team to defeat the Rams, but arguably fell two-points short due to a mental gaffe.  Although Green Bay is desperate for a win, Bill Belichick knows Aaron Rogers is hobbling on a bum knee, and is less likely to flee the pocket.  Look for Belichick's classic bend-don't break preventing Green Bay from covering this one.
WIN; 31-17 Patriots

**I'm not changing picks in light of Sunday line changes.  It is what it is.

Schmear of the Week:
Chiefs -8 1/2

Good luck, and have a great Football Sunday, everyone!

Week Nine Record:  8-3
Overall Record:  48-63-4
Schmear of the Week:  5-4

Bagels in the Basket:  -18