21 points in the 4th quarter.

The Super Bowl was the third post-season game they won after trailing by double digits. The Chiefs started the post season by falling behind the Texans 24-0. A Super Bowl victory seemed unlikely at that point, which makes it sweeter now.

The Onion’s take: “Victorious Patrick Mahomes Thanks Bears For Drafting Mitchell Trubisky

All the 2020 Super Bowl commercials are here.

Bryant, 41, was killed along with one of his daughters, 13-year-old Gianna, in a helicopter crash

“In 2006, at age 27, Bryant scored an amazing 81 points in a single game against the Toronto Raptors. Two years later, he earned the league’s Most Valuable Player award, calling the trophy a blessing at the time. At 34, Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to earn 30,000 career points, edging other scoring greats such as Abdul-Jabar, Chamberlain, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan. He is currently the fourth-highest scorer of all-time in the league.”

(Kareem is the #1 scorer of all time. LeBron should be in the future, if he plays three more seasons.)

Jeter was an obvious selection. Although he was not as great as some seem to think, he is certainly a Hall of Famer. 3400+ hits, a .310 average and a complete handful of rings speak for themselves. He missed being a unanimous selection by a single vote.

The selection of Larry Walker was more contentious.

Many people believe he is the best Canadian baseball player ever, but I went back and forth on his HoF merits for some years until I finally concluded that he was a Hall of Famer. To place my logic in a nutshell, Walker was exactly as good as Duke Snider, and Duke Snider is a solid Hall of Famer, therefore Larry Walker is a solid Hall of Famer. Normally I don’t accept the logic of “X should be in because Y is” because when people make that argument X is usually being compared to a Y who shouldn’t be in there. If we based the HoF on that logic, about half of the players who ever played should be in because they were better than Tommy McCarthy, who was a totally average player (lifetime wins above average: 0.2). But the “X vs Y” logic is valid in this case, because The Duke is a bona fide, solid Hall of Famer.

To take Denver out of the equation, Walker’s numbers outside of Coors are just about identical to Snider’s outside of Ebbets Field. When I place them side-by-side, you won’t be able to tell which is which because they are virtually identical:

Player A Player B
Batting Average .282 .286
On Base Percentage .375 .372
Slugging Average ,501 .505
OPS .876 .877
HR/550AB 26 28
RBI/550AB 91 96

Moreover, I think you can fairly argue that Walker was a better overall player than the Duke outside the batter’s box, even though Duke played a more difficult position. Walker was a better baserunner, stole more bases, had a better arm, and actually had comparable range factors on those occasions when he was called upon to play center field.

Of the three New York center fielders in the famous baseball song, Larry Walker was not as good a player as Willie and Mickey, but he was as good or better than the Duke, who is not only in the Hall of Fame, but definitely belongs there.

As does Walker.

The longer version of this article can be found in Uncle Scoopy’s Ballpark

Joe Burrow demonstrated why he won the Heisman as he passed for 5 TDs and ran for another, leading LSU to 600 yards of offense from scrimmage.

LSU won by 17, but that’s misleading. The boys from Baton Rouge pulled away a bit at the end, but Clemson was up by 10 at one point, and it was 28-25 late in the third quarter. The two teams left no doubt that they were exactly where they belonged – as the last men standing.

LSU won only one championship in the 20th century (1958), and even that one was disputed. There was no official championship game back then, and there were three major polls declaring champions. Two of them called it for LSU, but the football writers association picked Iowa. (That seemed like a questionable call, given that Iowa had a loss and a tie while LSU was 11-0.) 1

The Tigers have certainly made up for that in the 21st century. This is their third national championship in this millennium despite the fact that they have to play in the same conference as mighty Alabama, which has won five flags of their own, and Florida, which has two titles. Add one more for Auburn, and that means the SEC has won 11 of the 20 in this century.

———-

FOOTNOTE:

1. They sure played a lot of ties in the old days. For example, the 1958 Big Ten had four teams with only a single loss. They were 8-1-1, 7-1-1, 6-1-2 and 6-1-2!! Over in the SEC, Vanderbilt’s conference record was 2-1-3.

DIGRESSION:

That’s nothing compared to the 1932 Chicago Bears in the NFL – they finished the regular season 6-1-6 after starting the year with three consecutive scoreless ties. (And they lost their fourth game 2-0 on a safety. Exciting offense! After four games they had not scored, yet they finished as the league champions.)

Here’s how screwy the NFL was in 1932, with all the ties: the Packers won ten games, but got to watch from the sidelines as a special championship playoff game featured two teams with six wins apiece! The aforementioned Bears won that special playoff, and the Portsmouth Spartans’ loss dropped them officially into third behind the Packers. Therefore, the Packers, who did not make the championship game, finished ahead of the poor Spartans, who did make it.

During the regular season, those three teams could not have been more even. Portsmouth split 1-1 against the Packers, and 0-0-2 against the Bears, while the Bears and Packers played three times, finishing 1-1-1.

This week’s results:

How often in football does each team have a 20 point lead in the same game? Only once in post-season history. Today. The Chiefs became the first team in NFL history to win a playoff game by at least 20 points after trailing by at least 20 (24, to be precise). Next up: the Titans.

And the Pack almost blew an 18-point lead of their own, but clung to a narrow victory in storied Lambeau Field. Next up: The 49ers.

 

Earlier this year:

  • The Niners blew the Packers away 37-8. Green Bay had no offense. They were one for 15 on third-down conversions.
  • The Titans edged the Chiefs 35-32.

 

Next week’s odds:

  • Niners favored by 7 at home over the Pack
  • Chiefs favored by 7.5 at home over Tennessee, but the Tuxedos seem to be oblivious to long odds in road games.

 

Odds to win the Super Bowl:

  • Kansas City Chiefs 7/5
  • San Francisco 49ers 3/2
  • Green Bay Packers 7/1
  • Tennessee Titans 8/1

I’m not a betting man, but given the Titans’ hot streak and the fact that they’ve already beaten the Chiefs once, they seem like a decent risk at 8-1. Derrick Henry has been unstoppable in his last three games.

Scoreboard:

Interesting weekend. The visiting teams won three out of four games. Two teams with serious Super Bowl aspirations, the Saints and Pats, fell by the wayside on their home turf. That Pats lost at home in Foxboro after losing last week to the Dolphins, truly marking the end of a dynasty.

You’d think that things would get easier for the Titans after beating the Pats in Foxboro. You’d be wrong. Now they have to face the juggernaut that is the Ravens, who last lost in the Hoover administration. Well, it seems that long. It was actually September. The Ravens are favored by 10 in that one.

The other lines for next week:

Packers by four over the Seahawks in Green Bay.
Niners by seven at home against Minnesota.
Chiefs by ten at home over the Texans

Larsen memories:

  • He was the last living St. Louis Brown.
  • He was an excellent hitter for a pitcher. Over the course of his career he batted .242 and poled 14 homers in just 596 at bats. One year he batted over .300 with an OPS over .900. He got into 75 games as a pinch hitter, and even played occasionally in the outfield.
  • And I hear he pitched a pretty good World Series game once, a game which ended with one of the most famous baseball images of all time (below). And he was either drunk or hungover when he did it! Teammate Mickey Mantle said, “Where was Don the night before he pitched the perfect game? I haven’t the slightest idea, but you could smell liquor on his breath all day. I’ll tell you this: He came to the ballpark feeling pretty good. In fact, to Don, the whole game was a joke. After each inning, guys left him alone, not because of the smell, but because they didn’t want to jinx him, and he’d say with a smile and a laugh ‘You think I’m gonna do it?’”

Here’s his obit at ESPN.

I became a baseball fan in 1957, the year after Larsen’s perfecto, so he seemed like he should have possessed superhuman skills. He always disappointed my juvenile expectations. He was a sub-.500 pitcher for his career and never won more than 11 games in a season. He did lose 21 one season, with only 3 wins. Ouch. That’s not one to tell your grandkids about. But he had his moment.

And what a moment it was.

He was arguably the most successful sports commissioner in history. Under him, a semi-major niche sport became mainstream and major, everyone prospered, and the fan base just kept growing. He was a tough, pugnacious s.o.b., so he made enemies, but he ultimately made all of that tension work for the league.

And he was also lucky enough to have MJ show up at exactly the right time.

This says it all:

“A league that couldn’t get its finals on live television in the pre-Stern era began to eclipse its fellow pro leagues in follower counts and influence. The NBA’s explosive growth since Stern took over in 1984 is a tidy narrative: The Portland Trail Blazers, as just one example, were sold for $70 million in 1988 and are now valued at $1.6 billion.”

Recap of all bowls

Baylor produced another humiliation for the Big 12. The conference played in six bowl games and lost five of them. In the process, their conference champ allowed 49 points in the first half of their own bowl game. Unlike the rest of the conference, Baylor can play some D. Unfortunately, they just don’t have enough O. Their leading rusher amassed a whopping 23 yards, and their passing game was just as bad. In 50 passing attempts, they gained only 234 yards, and their QBs pissed even that small amount away with two interceptions and a lost fumble.

The Big 10 only won one in three opportunities on New Year’s Day, but Wisconsin dominated all the stats in the process of losing, and the conference went 1-1 against the SEC, so it was a decent day. Minnesota was the positive surprise of the day, and (in my opinion) the year. Even Michigan, which was probably overrated at #14, put up a good fight against the Crimson Tide for the first half – then the bubble burst.

That was only a few weeks ago, but it seems like it never could have happened at all. They got pulverized by a 7-5 Texas team, 38-10, in the Bardahl Okefenokee Swamp Toilet Bowl, or some such obscure thing. Although they did not make the playoff, undoubtedly sparing themselves some major embarrassment against LSU, Utah did somehow finish the regular season ranked 11th in the nation.

The first-round byes go to Green Bay, SF, Baltimore and KC, with the permanent home field going to the Ravens and Niners.

The Eagles and Titans snuck in as the final two teams. The Steelers lost big, even though the Ravens had nothing at stake and rested many key players. The Ravens dusted off RG3 (remember him?) to be today’s QB, not that it mattered, since they called mostly running plays.

Speaking of meaningless games, the Bengals already had last place sewn up for draft purposes, so they actually won a game!

The Patriots blew their shot at a bye with a loss to the lowly Dolphins, and will therefore have to face Tennessee in the first round. The other AFC game will be Texans v Bills. In the NFC next week, it’ll be Saints/Vikings and Eagles/Seahawks.

Clemson took down THE Ohio State University in a close contest. OSU had more yards, more first downs and more time of possession, but Clemson had more of the only thing that really matters – points. Well, they also led in interceptions, which was the most significant factor in the second half, allowing them to overcome a 16-point Ohio State lead and to stave off a last-minute OSU touchdown. Exciting game.

As expected, Oklahoma was not competitive. LSU’s QB had seven passing touchdowns in the first half, and the Tigers basically spent the second half using up the clock, even playing the subs in the final quarter. Perhaps someday a team in the Big 12 will play some defense. Not today.

Scoreboard, and playoff odds.

With one game left to play for most teams, five of the six playoff spots are already settled in each conference:

As of Sunday, the Eagles are now favored to take the NFC East (72% likelihood), thanks to their victory over the Cowboys (now down to 28%).  It seems that nobody wants to win the final AFC Wild Card. The Steelers and Titans both lost, so the new probabilities are:

Steelers 30%
Titans 55%
Raiders 15% (!! Wouldn’t that be a pisser.)

The Titans only need to win. The Steelers need to win while the Titans lose. The Raiders can only make it if they win and the other two lose.

The Ravens have clinched the home field advantage and a first-round bye in the AFC, but the NFC is much more complicated. Four teams are still contending for the top seed (49ers, Saints, Packers, Seahawks). One will get the top seed, permanent home field edge, and a first-round bye. Another team will get the second seed and the other first-found bye. A third team (Seahawks or 49ers) will end up as a wild card team, and the fourth will have to play against a wild card team in the first round. If the season ended this minute, the Niners would get the top seed and the Saints would get the other first-round bye, but that could change dramatically based on the remaining games.

The lesson from Saturday’s games: an undefeated record in Mountain West play don’t mean jack. Boise State got its collective ass kicked by Washington, a mediocre Pac-12 team (4-5 in conference play). The final score was 38-7.

In other news, the kids of Kent State and Liberty won the first bowl games in the history of their schools. Pretty much nobody cared except their proud parents. Kent State had started the season 3-6 and won their last three to somehow qualify for a bowl in the first place. I sound like I’m ridiculing them, but I have to give them credit for some big cojones. That 6-6 record was hard-earned because they did not play a pussy schedule. Their regular season opponents included Auburn and Wisconsin in two games they lost by 39 and 48.

This week’s news:

The Cowboys came into the game with a 6-7 record, but totally annihilated the Rams, who were fighting for a playoff spot which, while not now mathematically impossible, seems to have been put out of realistic reach by this loss. In order for the Rams to earn a playoff spot, they need to win the last two games while the Vikings lose both of theirs. That gives them an estimated 2% chance to make it. Meanwhile, the Cowboys, despite their 7-7 record, can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Eagles next week. The oddsmakers calculate about a 67% chance to make the post season.

The 49ers suffered a surprising home loss to the otherwise undistinguished Falcons. That was costly. After spending most of the season as the NFL’s best team, he 49ers are now in second place in their own division and face the prospect of entering the playoffs as a wild card team. (They can still win the division back. They will go head-to-head against the Seahawks in their final game.) There is some good news for the Niners: they, like the Seahawks, have clinched a post-season slot, so the only question is “Which slot?”

The Raiders lost their last-ever home game before moving to Las Vegas. That’s truly the end of an era and a tradition. The Oakland Raiders were a founding franchise of the old AFL. Their first stint in Oakland was memorable, including two Super Bowl wins. They were arguably the best team in football in the 1967-1980 era. Their best season in that epoch was 1976, when they went 13-1 in the regular season, then won the Super Bowl under John Madden. Their return to Oakland has not been so impressive, marked by declining attendance and poor performance on the field. (Only one of their last 17 seasons has been above .500.)

The Bengals unwisely showed up for their game against the Patriots. I guess it would have been difficult to claim they got lost on their way to a home game. Before finally losing by a zillion, they actually held a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. They will be telling their grandchildren about that. “I remember when we had ol’ Tom Brady down, but just couldn’t hold it.”

The Bills beat the Steelers, meaning that the Bills are in the playoffs and the Steelers are still battling to hang in there, with about a 30% chance to make-the post season.

Jameis Winston became the first player in NFL history to throw for 450 or more yards in consecutive games. He finished the first half with 308 yards. That was the 7th consecutive loss for the Lions.

“A 6-6 Ohio vs. a 7-5 Nevada — two programs with virtually nothing in common — is essentially the poster child for the idea that there are too many bowl games.”

Best name (given that there is no Ty-D Bowl, inexplicably): Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

When I was a fresh-faced lad, mankind had almost nothing: no cable TV; no streaming computers or phones. We would sit by the telegraph with our hungover, racist uncles on New Year’s Day and listen for the short and long clicks that brought us news from the faraway Rose, Cotton, Sugar and Orange Bowls. Aunt Elsie would bring us body temperature milk she had just squeezed out of ol’ Bossy, and regale us with tales of how she had once seen the real Orange Bowl in a black and white postcard. Uncle Florian would take out his squeezebox and play some tunes for a private halftime show, often after he had emptied a pint of hooch into his glass of milk. It was difficult for them to teach us the proper racist attitudes toward “negroes” and “DPs,” because they only had a few minutes on a single day to impart all of their wisdom, so they had to hold on to our sleeves and continue to mumble drunkenly as we stood in the doorway and tried to take our leave.

Today I can conveniently pass down that racism at a leisurely pace to my own nephews during 40 bowls on several weekends. It’s truly a tribute to mankind’s eternal progress.

Not only did he toss five TDs with only 23 pass attempts, but he also broke the single-season rushing record for a QB. He’s leading the NFL quarterbacks in both rushing yardage and passing TDs, and he’s leading ALL backs in rushing yards per carry. There are four running backs who have gained more rushing yards than Jackson, but they all have about 250 rushing attempts while Jackson has only about 150!

If ol’ Casey were alive, he’d say “amazin’.”

Of course, none of last night’s accomplishments will count in the record books because the rules require the achievements to take place against a professional team, and he was playing the Jets. Hell, I give the Jets credit. They did show up for the game. Heaven knows why. They’d have been better off taking the forfeit and resting up.

The Ravens continue to be the hottest team in the league. That makes ten wins in a row. They have clinched their division, and seem to be on their way to the AFC home field advantage. (They are the only 2-loss team at the moment.)

There were some good match-ups this week.

  • The Ravens stayed hot, beating the Bills.
  • The Patriots suffered a rare home loss. The dropped one to the Chiefs.
  • The 49ers barely edged the Saints in an epic shootout, 48-46. Drew Brees tossed 5 TDs with no picks and no sacks – and lost!
  • The Rams beat the Seahawks

It looks like a sub-.500 team may make the playoffs in the NFC East. (The Cowboys are leading the division with a 6-7 record.)

#1 will be LSU, and they will take on #4 Oklahoma in the semi-finals. In the other contest, two undefeated teams, Ohio State and Clemson, will face off against each other.

I think you could have made a case for any one of the three undefeated teams to be the #1 seed.

That #1 seed should be an edge this year, at least in theory, because the other two undefeated teams will have to play one another in the semi-finals, while the top seed got a (presumably) easier opponent.

The former #4 and #5 lost, so #6 Oklahoma claimed the fourth seed with a hard-earned victory over #7 Baylor for the second time this year.

——–

ESPN takes a look at every bowl game

It was obvious. Undefeated #2 LSU was going to beat #4 Georgia, thus allowing #5 Utah to slip into the tournament as the fourth seed, and the most unlikely entrant ever.

That was clear to everyone except Utah, which got completely destroyed (37-15) in the Pac-12 Championship game by Oregon. (It was 20-zip at halftime.)

Oops.

It now appears that, in the event of that predicted Georgia loss, the most likely fourth seed will be the winner of the Oklahoma-Baylor rematch. Oklahoma is favored by 9. Of course, if one of the undefeated teams loses, the entire pattern could fall apart faster than a third-world street vendor sharing a movie scene with a black sedan.

This week’s scoreboard

For the second time this year, the Jets have lost to a previously winless team. First they dropped one to the Dolphins, but even more impressively, this week’s humiliation involved a convincing thrashing by the 0-11 Bengals. The 2019 Jets became the first team in NFL history to lose to two teams that entered a game 0-7 or worse.

Meanwhile, in serious football competition, the Patriots lost, and the Ravens won a hard-fought game over the 49ers in what could be a Super Bowl preview. Since their humiliating loss to the Browns in late September, the Ravens have gone 8-0, including defeats of the Patriots, Niners and Seahawks, plus total curb-stompings of the Texans and Rams.

It’s kind of interesting that nearly every significant conference is expected to produce a lopsided conference title game.

The most dramatic example is that Clemson is favored by 28 over Virginia. (First meeting this year.)

THE Ohio State University is favored by 17 over Wisconsin. (Ohio State won their first match-up by 31.)

LSU is favored by 7 over Georgia. (They have not met this year.)

Oklahoma is favored by 9 over Baylor. (Oklahoma won by three earlier in the year, after Baylor blew a 25-point lead.)

The narrowest odds are in the Pac-10, where Utah is favored by 5 over Oregon in the only match-up of the season between those two teams.

In the “who cares” conference, Memphis is favored by 11 over Cincinnati, which makes sense since the same two teams just played yesterday and Memphis won by 10! (The home field edge is not a factor since both games are in Memphis.) You can’t fault Cincinnati for cowardice in their scheduling. Their only other loss this year occurred because they took on THE OSU earlier in the year. Of course, dragons usually beat saints and goliaths usually beat undersized shepherds. Cincinnati’s scheduling was brave, but foolhardy. They were crushed 42-0 in front of an SRO crowd of 104,000 in Columbus.

This week’s scoreboard

Well, the Alabama/Georgia debate is finished. Alabama lost to Auburn by surrendering 48 points, so for the first time since time immemorial, Alabama is not in the national title picture. They will not be in the top four at the end of the year, and they will not play in their conference championship game, which will pit Georgia against LSU. The interesting question now becomes, “Which team will get the #4 slot if LSU beats Georgia in that conference finale, as expected?” Is it possible that Utah will make the Final Four? Who could have guessed that at the beginning of the season?

In another big match-up Saturday, Wisconsin had no problem disposing of Minnesota. That win put the Badgers in the Big Ten conference championship game, but they are not expected to have much of a chance. THE Ohio State University has blown away everyone in the conference this year, including Wisconsin in their previous meeting (38-7). The Buckeyes are averaging 50 points per game.

For reasons not immediately apparent, the committee reversed the positions of LSU and THE OSU. Ohio State is now #1.

The two polls still place LSU in the catbird’s seat.

Sagarin’s computer system agrees with the committee that OSU is #1. In fact, it ranks LSU fourth.

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

Weird computer stat o’ the day: Sagarin places TCU in the top 30 despite their 5-6 record. According to that system, TCU has played the second most difficult schedule in the country.

Scoreboard

In battles among elite teams, the only major development this week was that the 49ers made mincemeat out of the Pack. They scored 37 themselves while holding Green Bay to 81 net passing yards and sacking Aaron Rodgers five times! The Packers did manage one second-half TD, but apart from that were unable to get within field goal distance.

It was an embarrassing week for the Steelers, who barely managed to hold off the 0-11 Bengals.