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Football Thoughts – Week 2 – 2021

Posted in Sports - football, mostly by EloiSVM42 on September 16, 2021

College Football: In week 2 of the college season, many big-name schools play vastly inferior non-conference opponents – little sisters of the poor in the vernacular – as a way to warm up safely for the coming conference competition.

Case in point: my beloved Oklahoma Sooners played Western Carolina, who they beat 76-0. This game was so lopsided that tv networks wouldn’t touch it. The only ways to see it were to be in the stadium or pay-for-view. I didn’t see the game because I won’t pay to see lions devour Christians.

After the first full week of football, my beloved Oklahoma Sooners dropped from #2 to #4, which I could not disagree with, given their less than stellar performance against a surprisingly good Tulane team.

What disappointed me most was the play of the defense. I thought they were improving.  The coaching staff told us they were. But they looked like they were regressing to their own terrible form.

I was not surprised therefore, by this Western Carolina blowout because I watched Lincoln Riley’s post game show after the Tulane. He was his usual calm self, but it was obvious he was seething over his team’s performance. I knew they were going to have a long week of strenuous practices.

One interesting statistic from this game: OU quarterback Spencer Rattler threw for five touchdown passes in a half. What is interesting is that Rattler’s performance wasn’t unique. Two other OU quarterbacks have done this, making Rattler third in a long list of OU standout quarterbacks. No wonder aspiring quarterbacks want to come to OU.

The Sooners rose to #3 in the latest rankings.

Another case in point was Notre Dame, who played Toledo, a typical tomato can that the Fighting Irish were favored to win by about 20 points. But Toledo took them to the wire, losing 32-29. It will be interesting to see how Notre Dame fares if/when they have to play somebody.

There were a few games featuring good teams, some of which were delicious. Not the least of these was Oregon, which unset Ohio State 35-28 in Columbus.

I lost all respect for Oregon after they cheated to win a game against my beloved Sooners in Eugene. But this is a reformed program with an administration that won’t tolerate that kind of thing, and a competent, tough coach, so I was happy to see them get this win. It spoke volumes about the current status of the Big 10.

Another delicious game was Arkansas’ win over Texas 40-21. That’s 19 points, folks. I’m always glad to see Texas lose, but this kind of loss tells me that this is not yet a Texas team to be feared…unless you are OU. I don’t delude myself that Texas won’t play better in our annual game; they always do.

#9 Iowa State lost to #10 Iowa 17-27 in Ames in the week’s only game between top 10 ranked teams. I thought Iowa State was ready to win this game, but they suffered the last half collapse that has characterized their play recently. I like where coach Campbell has gotten this team, but the still have a way to go.

NFL Football: The season opening game between The Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday night was among the best openers I have ever seen. The Cowboys are my beloved Cowboys again. I was very impressed with their play. However, they are not yet my favorite team. They need to show me a lot more.

I’m thinking Dak Prescott has his throwing shoulder in the whirlpool this week. He threw 58 passes! Knowing they couldn’t run against the Titans, the Cowboys didn’t even try to. I was concerned that Prescott might tire near the end of the game, but he held up.

For the record, three recent OU quarterbacks started NFL games this weekend, and two of them won. Let’s start with the loser first.

Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 29-33, in Kansas City. No shame in that. Mayfield played well in a losing effort, and I think they will win a lot of games, but they are still not as good as the Chiefs.

The Oscar for the best performance by an OU quarterback went to Tyler Murray, who threw for four touchdowns and rushed for another, as the Cardinals (my new favorite team) beat the breaks off the Tennessee Titans 38-13. So, Murray scored all of Arizona’s points except for one field goal.

Perhaps the sweetest win by OU quarterbacks was that of Jalen Hurts, whose Eagles beat the Falcons 32-6. Hurts threw for three touchdowns. True, this was against the hapless Atlanta Falcons, but Hurts showed he is plenty good enough to start for the Eagles.

Thoughts on the 20-21 NFL Draft

Posted in Sports - football, mostly by EloiSVM42 on May 10, 2021

The draft was characterized by three factors: There were more good quarterbacks in this draft than is typical. However, it was not a strong draft class overall. Finally, the teams had to make decisions based on much less information than they usually have, due to the constraints and disruptions caused by Covid-19. That said, I think most of the teams did a good job of it. I only saw one pick in the first round that I thought was a reach. (Cough, Raiders.)

Many of the top tier teams got better. Baltimore, Kansas City, Cleveland, Buffalo and Tampa Bay all did well, I thought. In fact, though I’m biased, I think KC may have gotten the steal of the draft taking center Creed Humphrey in the second round. Humphrey started for my beloved Oklahoma Sooners as a freshman and anchored the line for four years. He’s an intelligent load.

As predicted, the first three players off the board were quarterbacks. Two were expected – Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) to Jacksonville and Zach Wilson (BYU) to the Jets. The suspense was who San Francisco would take at #3. The rumors were true: the 49ers switched late in their deliberations and took Trey Lance from North Dakota State. This left Justin Fields (Ohio State) and Mac Jones (Alabama) blowing in the wind.

Fields fell to #8 where he was taken by the Chicago Bears, which made their day. After years of disappointment, I think they will be very happy with this pick. As I opined, New England grabbed Mac Jones when he fell to #15. So, the Pats won’t trade for Jimmy G at San Francisco, leaving him to start for the 49ers until Lance is ready. (The Pats also got two good players from OU: Perkins and Stevenson. OU didn’t have many players in this draft because they are so young, but these two can play and they will help New England.)

At #4, Atlanta took tight end Kyle Pitts, which was a no brainer. Except for quarterbacks, Pitts is probably best player at his position than anyone else in the draft at theirs, and perhaps even better than the three quarterbacks.

The Cowboys need defensive help, especially in the backfield, and they targeted Jaycee Horn (South Carolina) and Patrick Surtain II (Alabama) at #10. Unfortunately, they had the rug pulled out from under them when Horn and Surtain went at #8 and #9 in that order just ahead of Dallas. (I was surprised at the order. I had Surtain ahead of Horn.)

But Dallas made a brilliant recovery, dropping back from #10 to #12, for a 3rd round pick, and taking linebacker Micah Parsons at #12. Parsons is a linebacker, and there is some risk with him, but he is arguably the best defensive player in the whole draft and the Cowboys definitely need help at linebacker. Hell, they need help everywhere on the defense. It is among the very worst in the NFL, full of disappointments and overpaid underachievers. (Dallas’ first six draft picks and eight of their 11 were defensive players.)

I was surprised by how many wide receivers went in the first round. Typically, this doesn’t happen, but it seems to be trending this was as the NFL becomes more of a passing league every year. The thinking on the importance of wide receivers seems to have changed.

By the fourth round, picks scattered like a covey of quail as different teams had different needs and varying willingness to take a flyer in the later rounds. As Mark Twain said, “It’s a difference of opinion that makes a horse race.)

Correction: In my blog about the upcoming draft last week, I said Trevor Lawrence would go #1 to the Carolina Panthers. Oops. This was incorrect. The #1 pick belonged to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who did, in fact, take Lawrence. In my defense: Panthers, Jaguars. Two big pussycats. You can see the possible confusion, can’t you?

Thoughts on Winter Sports in 20/21

Posted in Sports - football, mostly by EloiSVM42 on April 29, 2021

I want to get these reminiscences about the winter sports season posted before the NFL draft today.

Full disclosure: other than the NCAA basketball tournament, I didn’t spend a minute thinking about winter sports, even though my beloved Oklahoma Sooners had some excellent winter and spring sports seasons. All other sports, including even the basketball tournament, should have an asterisk beside them due to the disruptions of Covid-19, so what was the point of watching them?

NCAA Basketball Tournament: When the tournament began, I thought only one team had an outside chance of beating Gonzaga, and that was Baylor, though I didn’t expect it would happen. Baylor did beat Gonzaga in the championship game, which didn’t shock me, but the ease with which they dismantled the Bulldogs did.

In retrospect, this was a clear case of peaking. Baylor peaked at the right time, and Gonzaga peaked two games too soon. Overall, the Big XII Conference had several exceptionally good basketball teams, and this helped harden Baylor for the tournament.

No, the real excitement over the winter mostly occurred in the off season maneuvering in the NFL.

Quarterbusts: Three quarterbacks who went extremely high in recent drafts – Goff, Wentz and Darnold – were all traded away this off-season, and their erstwhile teams had to take a heavy hit against their salary caps. It’s surprising that all three of these quarterbacks were such a disappointment, though I was pretty sure that at least one and possibly two of them would be busts. Picking thoroughbred quarterbacks turns out to be a very risky, potentially expensive proposition, and I expect it will be the same with this draft.

Which brings us to the NFL Draft. There are at least five first round quarterbacks in this draft, with relatively little difference between them. Also, due to the pandemic, there is less tape and intelligence than there usually is upon which to make judgements.  It is conceivable, but unlikely in my view, that these quarterbacks could go #1 through #5 in this draft. They’re all going to go in the first round. It’s more a matter of in what order.

The conventional wisdom is that the first two players taken will be Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) to Carolina and Zack Wilson (BYU) to the New York Jets.

Next up is San Francisco, who mortgaged the ranch to move up from #12 to #3 to take who, exactly? The 49ers may have had a specific quarterback in mind when they traded up, but they have three tantalizing prospects from which to choose – Justin Fields (Ohio State), Mac Jones (Alabama) and Trey Lance (North Dakota State) – and they will almost certainly take one of them. But which one we are left to wonder. The scuttlebutt is that the team is coming off Jones and moving toward Lance. We’ll see. And what then happens with the remaining two, whoever they are?

In any of these scenarios, it is possible that San Francisco could trade Jimmy Garoppolo back to New England for their #2 pick. (Wouldn’t that be a hoot?)

So, that’s three quarterbacks with the first three picks and counting. But I don’t think the Atlanta Falcons will take a quarterback at #4. They have a serviceable one in Matt Ryan, and Tyler Pitts, arguably the best player in the draft, is still on the board. If I were the Falcons, I would take Pitts and live with Ryan for another season or two. Pitts will help Ryan enormously during that time, starting day one.

Beyond that, it’s hard to imagine Justin Fields going beyond the #6 pick, but it could happen. (It could also happen that Fields could go #2 or #3.) As for Jones, if Atlanta doesn’t take him, he could fall as low as #19 to the Washington Redskins.  However, if New England doesn’t trade for Jimmy G, I think they would take either Jones or Fields if they are still on the board.

Now for the Dallas Cowboys. Dak Prescott finally got his money from Dallas, who could have gotten him cheaper had they been ready to commit to him sooner, though I can understand their hesitation. But at least the position is settled for the Cowboys while the rest of the NFL Least is still trying to sort theirs out.

The Cowboys pick at #10, and if they pick anyone but a defensive backfield stud, they are as lost in space as Jerry Jones seems to be. There are three possibilities, but the one they should take is Patrick Surtain II (Alabama), who is prototypical and should be a no brainer for anyone but Dallas.

Rumor has it that Dallas is moving off of Surtain II and onto Jaycee Horn (South Carolina), another excellent corner, but not as good as Surtain II in my view.

Another possibility is Micah Parsons (Penn State), an excellent player, but he is a linebacker, and there is too little tape on him because he opted out of the 20-21 season due to Covid-19. And there have been some off the field issues with him.

No, the Cowboys need defensive backfield help more than anything else, and I hope they will take Surtain II. They may have to tie Jerry Jones down and put a sock in his mouth, but if that’s what it takes…

All that being said, except for signing Dak, the Cowboys did little to improve themselves this off season, and remember, they were a bad team last year. Still, they might be able to prevail in the NFC Least with what they have plus some defensive upgrade from the draft.

After the quarterback/Pitts drama is settled, the rest of the draft should become more conventional. There are plenty of good offensive and defensive linemen on the board for teams whose quarterback position is settled.

The teams I am currently following since I’ve quit on the Cowboys – Arizona and Cleveland – upgraded themselves during the off season intelligently, and I expect both teams to be impressively competitive this season.

I’m ready for the draft and I can’t wait for the regular season to begin. We’re about to go into my annual summer of discontent, which runs from after the draft to the start of preseason games.

Football Thoughts plus a Basketball Bonus

Posted in Sports - football, mostly by EloiSVM42 on March 17, 2021

Dak Prescott gets his money: On the day before he would be franchised for the second time, Dak Prescott finally signed the deal he and the Cowboys have been working on for two years.

Jerry Jones says he was bested by Dak on this deal, but by most accounts, including mine, both sides got much of what they wanted. Dak got a lot of money, including $75 million at signing, though only $22 million will count against the Cowboys’ cap this year. Someday, somebody must explain to me how this could be, but there it is.

Dak got a four-year deal, not five years, as Jerry wanted, but Jerry got some cap space with which to sign some more players. But most important, the Cowboys got a franchise quarterback.

As a practical matter it is impossible to win a Super Bowl without a top tier quarterback, and now the Cowboys have one. Dak is among the top 10 in the league. More than two thirds of NFL teams want for a quarterback capable of getting their team to a Super Bowl. As any one of them if they would have paid Dak’s price and they all would have jumped at it.

But before we start putting Super Bowl and Cowboys in the same conversation, remember that the Cowboys are still a mediocre team at best, with overpaid underperforming players and a coaching staff that can’t coach a team across the street with a green light, let alone get it to the big game. The Cowboys may win the NFL East because it is so weak presently, but that is the best they can ever hope to do in their present circumstances, which haven’t changed with the Prescott contract and are unlikely to any time soon.

NCAA Basketball Tournament: I don’t follow basketball, college or pro. In fact, I don’t watch basketball at all, except for the Championship Tournament in March, which I consider one of the best events in sports of any kind.  

But this year, the basketball tournament, as with all sports, has been disrupted and diminished by Covid-19. Already, at least three teams that would make the tournaments have had to withdraw due to the virus.

We should put an asterisk on the entire sports year. I write this even though my beloved Oklahoma Sooners are tearing up almost every spring sport. They make walk away with several national championships.

So, I will watch some tournament games this March, but probably not as many as usual.

Football Thoughts – Carson Wentz Trade

Posted in Sports - football, mostly by EloiSVM42 on February 22, 2021

A little news and entertainment before the NFL draft. When the Philadelphia Eagles fired coach Doug Pederson, the report was that Pederson wanted to trade Carson Wentz and start Jalen Hurts at quarterback, but owner Lurie didn’t want to take the financial hit. I opined at the time that Pederson should have been fired for poor coaching anyway.

Perhaps that was the case, because the Eagles did trade Wentz, to the Baltimore Colts for not much: a third-round pick in 2021 and a conditional second round pick, which could become a first-round if Wentz performs well in the 21-22 season. (The Eagles traded up twice, at a cost, to take Wentz #2 in the 2016 draft.)

To trade Wentz, Philadelphia will take the biggest financial hit in NFL history: $33 million in dead cap space.

Financing aside, this was a good call by the Eagles. We can’t say he is a complete bust – he may still work out with the Colts – but it clearly didn’t work out with the Eagles. He couldn’t stay healthy, he became shaky, even panicky in the pocket, he wasn’t popular in the locker room and it’s being said was hard to coach.

An interesting side note for Oklahoma Sooners fans: assuming Jalen Hurts starts for the Eagles this fall, which is likely, it will mean that three NFL starting quarterback will be young products of the OU system: Baker Mayfield (Cleveland), Kyler Murray (Arizona, my new favorite team), and now Jalen Hurts (Philadelphia).

That’s almost 10% of the 32 total starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Quite a record, and a reason OU gets a lot of top tier quarterback recruits, such a Spencer Rattler, a #1 recruit and current starter for OU today. They want to be coach by Lincoln Riley, and what quarterback wouldn’t with this record?

Football Thoughts – The Super Bowl

Posted in Sports - football, mostly by EloiSVM42 on February 16, 2021

Skip Bayless was right. Never bet against Tom Brady when all the chips are on the table. Brady can be beaten, but you are foolish to bet on it.

Prognosticators opined this game would go in one of three ways and it did. One opinion, with which I happened to agree, was that the game would turn on the absence of Kansas City’s two starting tackles. This allowed Tampa Bay to get to Patrick Mahomes as no team has before and had him running for his life the entire game.

But it was also a factor that, though KC had three of the top five offensive players on the field, the Buccaneers had the better team top to bottom. You picked your new team well, Tom.

Overall, I thought the commercials this year, which are usually among my favorite parts of the event, were disappointing. I like the Rocket Mortgage spot.

As for the halftime show, I had never even heard of The Weekend, which shows that they are no longer interested my demographic, I suppose. But I don’t even know what to think about a celebrity whose name is a daypart.

Next on the football calendar is the NFL draft, after which I will segue into my summer of discontent until fall practice.

Football Thoughts – Week 20

Posted in Sports - football, mostly by EloiSVM42 on January 27, 2021

Skip and Shannon both had something to be happy about Monday morning. Shannon’s Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills and Skip’s GOAT (I don’t believe in GOATS, only tiers) Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers eliminated the favored Green Bay Packers. It was the second straight week of quarterback duels and we will be treated to another one in the Superbowl.

In the Be Careful What You Wish For category, Aaron Rodgers said he wanted to play a Conference Championship game on his home field in winter conditions. He got it, but Brady outplayed him, aided by a poor call by the Packers coach, and won the game. In the second game, Kansas City was simply better than a good Buffalo team.

The games being the last step to get to the Superbowl, the pressure was palpable, and while the games were hard fought, there were several pressure-induced mistakes made (Brady had three interceptions, for instance).

Oddly, I thought the referees performed pretty well under the stress, arguably better than they have during the regular season. But the referring reminded me of another reason I oppose instant replay: Opera.

I enjoy operatic music, but I don’t like operas, because after every aria, the show stops, the curtain closes and the singers come out an take a long bow, after which the action resumes. It’s what’s wrong with instant replay. The action stops for interminable reviews, which in most cases stand. In football more even than opera, these reviews adversely affect the flow of the game. Let the refs work and there be reviews for only the most obvious and egregious misses.

The Philadelphia Eagles finally fired head coach Doug Pederson ostensibly for how his mishandling of the season, his quarterback dilemma and for tanking in their last game to try to move up to a higher drafting position. They should have fired him on the spot for that. I would have. Pederson had become bad for the game.

Philadelphia asked for permission to talk with Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore about the job. I was momentarily excited because I would like to see Moore gone. He’s a holdover from the old Cowboys regime that drove the Cowboys into years of mediocrity. Sadly, Philadelphia wised up and signed someone else.

Apparently, the decision to fire Pederson was made by the owner, Lurie. It was doubtless a financial decision, because it’s reported Pederson wanted to trade Wentz and start rookie Jalen Hurts, but Lurie didn’t want to have to eat Wentz’s enormous contract. Perhaps a sound financial decision, but a poor football one. So now Hurts may be traded to some team where he can prosper. We’ll see.

Football thoughts – Week 20

Posted in Sports - football, mostly by EloiSVM42 on January 18, 2021

Kansas City v Cleveland: This game went almost exactly as I expected. I figured the Chiefs would win; they are the better team. But I also expected Baker Mayfield to take them to the wall, which he did.

In fact, Mayfield had them within range of an upset, until, well, another of my expectations were met, that the referees would make a spectacular, game changing screw up sometime during the playoffs. As it happened, they did it in the first playoff game of the weekend.

The refs failed to call an obvious helmet to helmet penalty that caused a fumble by Cleveland at the Kansas City goal line, which resulted in a touchback giving the ball to Kansas City on their 20. A touchdown there and Cleveland could well have won the game.

I’m thinking again about that numb nuts football commentator who opined that if Mayfield didn’t win the first game against Pittsburgh to get into the playoffs, Cleveland should get rid of him. What a moron! That said, the Browns need a serious upgrade on defense before they can expect to advance much further.

Baltimore v Buffalo:  I expected Baltimore to win this game, but Buffalo upset them, 17-3. The Ravens laid a playoff egg, which is becoming a bad habit of theirs. Lamar Jackson becomes mortal in the playoffs, and the Harbaugh brothers both seem to have trouble getting teams up for a big game.

That said, Buffalo is a good team and deserved the win, which is not to say they can beat Kansas City, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

Green Bay v Los Angeles: The Packers went through the Rams like a hot knife through butter. The score was 32-18, but the game wasn’t that close. L.A.  was never really in it, and the Packers could have scored another touchdown at the end of the game, but Packer coach Matt LaFleur had the Pack take a knee at the Rams’ goal line. (LaFleur and Rams coach Sean McVay are close friends.)

Aaron Rodgers, who has played well all season, is actually peaking for the playoffs. The Packers will have home field advantage in cold, snowy Green Bay for the Championship game, Rodgers very first home playoff game.

Tampa Bay v New Orleans: This was the most anticipated and, in many ways, the best game of the weekend. It was thrilling to see NFL royalty, two certain Hall of Fame quarterbacks, both now over 40, duke it out on the field and also embrace before and the game. The Bucs won 30-20, but this was one of those historic games that almost transcended the score.

I agree with Skip Bayless that the one man in sports you can never bet against is Tom Brady. He can be beaten, but not very often and almost never with all the chips on the table. Brees did not have a good what may have been his final game, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered.

So, after this exciting game pitting two certain Hall of Fame quarterbacks Sunday evening, we will have nearly the same thing next week when Brady faces Rodgers for the Championship at Lambeau Field. The Packers will probably be favored. Want to bet against Brady?

Football Thoughts – Week 19

Posted in Sports - football, mostly by EloiSVM42 on January 13, 2021

NFL: Wildcard Weekend is among my favorite dates on the sports schedule. It features better teams in a win-or-go-home tournament format, with the result the games are good and strongly contested. It was so again this year, and even a little better because there was another game added to the format. I got to watch some, most or all of six games and it was worth every minute.

The game I was most interested in was between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The Browns got into the playoffs by beating the Steelers in the last game of the season, when the latter was resting a lot of starters. Conventional wisdom, including my own, was that Pittsburgh would win this game when its starters returned, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

But that didn’t happen. Cleveland won the game after the Steelers had a disastrous first quarter, losing three turnovers – one on the first play of the game that went for a Cleveland touchdown – and falling behind 28-0 in the quarter.

Overall, Pittsburgh had five turnovers, while Mayfield had a good, steady game and Cleveland didn’t have a single turnover. That’s how you win playoff games, which Cleveland did, 48-37.

Cleveland’s award for this upset is to play the Kansas City Chiefs, in KC, where they are about a 10-point underdog. But they’ve advanced in the playoffs with a win, Cleveland’s first payoff win in forever, and fans are happy.    

The other game that went differently than I was expecting was Rams v Seahawks. I expected Seattle to win but the Rams kept Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson in check all day and won the game 30-20.

Wilson didn’t play particularly well, and the offensive line simply could not protect him. The defense is not what it has been recently either. Seattle has some work to do in the off season. (It’s just been announced that the Seahawks fired their offensive coordinator.)

So, we move on to the next round, where the Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers, who had byes, step onto the field. Another week of good games between good teams. I’ll be watching.

College: I’ve been reporting Monday night NFL games as if they were part of the previous week’s lineup. There was no Monday night NFL game, but the NCAA Championship game was played Monday night, so I’ll cover it this week and we’re done with college ball until the draft.

I’m delighted to report that the Alabama Crimson Tide wiped up the floor with Ohio State University in an absolute rout, 52-24. OSU should never have been in the game in the first place, having played only six regular season games. They are a good team, but Alabama was demonstrably better, and in my view, justice was served on the Buckeyes.

Football Thoughts – Week 17

Posted in Sports - football, mostly by EloiSVM42 on December 31, 2020

After much interesting football a week ago, things went wobbly in the sports this week.

College: After winning the Big XII Championship against Iowa State last weekend and moving up to #6 in the polls, my beloved Oklahoma Sooners were idle this week and are preparing for a matchup with Florida in the Cotton Bowl. Various other college teams still have games to play and others are preparing for their minor bowls.

Regarding those bowls, many are starting to cancel because one or more of their chosen teams cannot meet the bell due to Covid-19 concerns. In fact, some bowls have been unable to find two teams with enough wins to be eligible for a bowl game. I don’t see the point of these bowls this year anyway because there won’t even be any fans to watch and enjoy them live and they have no bearing on the national race.

Among the games I did watch this weekend, further evidence how bad refereeing has gotten abounded.

NFL: In the comparison and contrast between Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, both Cleveland and Arizona laid an egg against seriously inferior competition. Baker was beaten by the lowly New York Jets 16-23 and the decimated 49ers upset Arizona 20-12. Both teams remain on the sidelines looking in on the playoffs. Though both teams still have a chance to get in, their options have narrowed.

The Dallas Cowboys beat Philadelphia handily, while Baltimore pounded the New York Giants 13-27 and the Carolina Panthers improbably upset Washington 20-13. The result of all this is that the winner of the NFC Least is still undecided and hinges on the last game of the season.

If the Cowboys beat the Giants in New York and Philadelphia beats Washington in D.C., the Cowboys are in. If either of these things doesn’t happen, the Redskins are in. If the Giants win and Washington loses, they are in. This all assumes, of course, that the teams will avoid Covid-19 disaster and be able to finish the season.

The best teams are rounding into playoff form. Green Bay pounded the Titans, Seattle beat the Rams and Buffalo routed the now hapless New England Patriots. Aaron Rodgers looked stronger than a bear’s breath and may well win MVP.

Scandalously bad refereeing in the pros, as well. A couple of games would have been better if the refs hadn’t been on the field at all.