5-at-10: NFL power poll, 'Yellowstone' season premiere review, college hoops big night

Duke coach Jon Scheyer speaks with Tyrese Proctor during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina-Upstate in Durham, N.C., Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

NFL power poll

So we learned a couple of interesting gambling factoids in Monday’s Plays of the Day newsletter. (Side note: Yes, it is still free and you can still sign up here. We took a brutally bad bad beat Monday. We’ll share more in a moment.)  

First, care to guess which two NFL franchises are the most successful in Vegas parlance? The Tennessee Titans and the New York Giants are each 7-2 against the spread this year. That matters. If you are curious, the Super Bowl champion Rams are a league worst 2-6-1 against the number. So there’s that.

The other was that if you bet all the underdogs on the NFL slate every week, you would have made money every week this season. Crazy right?

Doing a little more digging, heading into November, road underdogs in the NFL this season were 42-30-1 against the spread. And over the last three seasons, that trend has held true as road underdogs are 221-180-4, which, according to oddsshark.com, would have a player up almost 21 units following that scenario blindly. 

Like firemen when the bell rings, let’s get to the poll.

Powerful

1 Philadelphia (8-1). Is there a more useless conversation than the week 9 discussion of “Can they go undefeated?” Hey, even the best team in the league loses as a double-digit home favorite when you turn it over four times. 

2 Minnesota (8-1). The Vikings are never out of any game. Ever. Heck, they used a path — recovering a last-minute defensive fumble in the end zone after failing on fourth-and-goal — not seen since Coach Nickerson (Craig T. Nelson) gave the ball to Salvucci and he fumbled away Ampipe’s chance at the upset against Walnut Heights. And while that “All the Right Moves” reference may have escaped you, get your head around this no-longer-far-fetched idea: Kirk Cousins, NFL MVP.

3 Kansas City (7-2). The Chiefs’ addition of former Florida speedster Kadarious Toney will, come the end of the season, be one of those, “Wow, nice get. That’s a true-difference-making move right there.” It’s hard to argue with the big-picture logic the Chiefs are deploying. Find an arsenal of really, really, REALLY fast dudes and extend the field vertically. Have a QB with one of the five strongest arms in recent NFL memory. Work an athletic tight end who is built like a filing cabinet with a helmet over the middle. Deploy a bevy of backs between the tackles and at the edges. Easy-peasy-lemon squeezy. No wonder all the Chiefs have all this time to do StateFarm commercials.

4 New York Giants (7-2). OK, want to know the happiest player in your fantasy league? The guy who was less-than-thrilled to land Saquan Barkley in the late stages of round 1 (or later) in August. Because depending on league depth and position, Barkley’s average draft position heading into the season was 24, which late in round 2. The only person close to as tickled is the guy who took a last-round flier on Justin Fields. And if that person is one in the same, well, go ahead and give them half the pot, redraft and play a second season from now through Week 18.

5 Buffalo (6-3). Yes, they are a half-game back of Miami. Yes, they have some head-scratching and inexplicable losses. Sunday against the Vikings, after the Bills held on fourth-and-1 with less than a minute, the win index had Buffalo with a 99.9-plus% of victory. Moreover, the health and ball security issues of quarterback Josh Allen should be troubling. But friends, this is the one roster no one — no one — wants to see come the -ry months.

Powerless

28 Los Angeles Rams (3-6). Yes, a team with at least three Hall of Famers on the roster — and that’s not counting Cooper Kupp, who is on that kind of track — is one of the worst in the league. Hey, the Rams pushed in their chips to win a Super Bowl — dealing for big stars and big contracts of Jalen Ramsey and Matt Stafford — and they claimed their title. Kudos. But then teams raid your affordable dudes who are looking for new deals, and the contracts escalate, which magnifies every injury or missed personnel decision. And now the Rams are staring right at the Cardinals for last place in the NFC West.

29 Las Vegas (2-7). When your QB is crying in the postgame news conference and your newly acquired star wideout is saying, “I don’t have enough dudes” around him, well you have some serious locker room issues. Good thing a wise and worldly Josh McDaniels is at the helm to right the ship. He only got out-maneuvered this week by Jeff Saturday, who rightly posted on social media two weeks ago that the Raiders were garbage. Of course, he did that in his then-job as an NFL analyst for ESPN.

31 Pittsburgh (3-7). Man, that’s a bad offense because that is a dreadful offensive line. And I love former Alabama running back Najee Harris. Can we have a quick side conversation and say plainly that if you were a dude in Tuscaloosa, you are likely going to be a dude in (cue Ron Jaworski) THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE? Yes, former LSU players may be the two best wide receivers in the league, but dang, look around. Feels like every time I watch an NFL game when I hear “so-and-so on the tackle” or “so-and-so with 8 yards on first down” it feels like so-and-so went to Alabama.   

32 Houston (1-7-1). So, the Texans are so bad, let’s cover something else. Saw “Black Panther 2” last weekend. Strongly recommend it. And without offering spoilers, I was very pleased and impressed with the respect and honor and emotion with which the Chadwick Boseman storyline was handled. My son is a Marvel Universe megafan and he said leaving the theater, “That’s the best MCU movie I’ve ever seen.” Granted he can be a prisoner of the moment like a lot of us, but it was excellent.      

Speaking of spoilers

OK, so the Duttons returned, and “Yellowstone” season five debuted Sunday.

We have obligated our “You get one day” rule to catch up before discussing. If you are not caught up, go ahead and skip to the next segment.

I love “Yellowstone.” Not as much as Denzel’s character in “Glory” loves the 54, but my appreciation is deep and centers on a lot of the things that I value.

Family. The beauty that is that country. The peace of life away from cities. Good dark liquor. Good country music.

But I am fearful that we are about to slide into a murky place with this season.

There was too much politics in this season’s debut, and to be honest, I’m trying to find less and less political discourse in my daily life. I find less of that makes me more enjoyable to those around me.

And this one was filled to the brim with politics. Yes, it was the road map to the season. Yes, those storylines can go a million different ways, either deeper into the political sphere or away from it. But I am more than a touch concerned if I’m being honest.

Second, just because you are on Paramount and have the right to cuss, why does every fifth word have to be an F bomb or worse? Just because you can doesn’t mean you have to, or even should.

Third, I need less — way less — screen time devoted to Kayce’s marriage. Deal? Deal.

“Yellowstone” was the originator of the Dutton storyline, but dang “1883” was so extremely great, and “1923” looks amazing. I just hope the creative teams have not put the original on cruise control while developing the other projects. And that includes “Tulsa King” with Sly, which was so self-promoted during the “Yellowstone” season premiere that Paramount almost matched the unmatchable record of TNT’s house ads during the NBA playoffs.

Thoughts, and yes, I know we’re two episodes in so maybe my fears are overblown?

College hoops’ big night

For most of the early part of the college basketball season, the results have been rather blah-tastic.

Not a lot of highlights, at least for a casual fan like myself of the sport until we get into mid-February. 

A few upsets but a lot of ugly basketball — including from my favorite team the Fightin’ Pearls of Auburn.

Tonight that changes, or at least it should.

Tonight is UK-Michigan State, KU-Duke and Auburn-Winthorp in a match-up of some of the bigger names and programs in the country. Looking good, Winthorp; feeling good, Billy Ray.

I guess my question is why is this not the season-opening splash down? Why not make this the first Tuesday night of the season and do like college football has embraced and sprinkle the other games elsewhere across that debut week?

I asked someone in the office last week — yeah, going back to the office again, crazy right? — about college hoops and they asked when did it start.

Exactly. 

That said, I love, Love, LOVE Kentucky laying the 7 tonight. 

This and that

— Prayers and sympathies for all of those in and around the University fo Virginia after the tragic shooting deaths of three football players over the weekend. How horrific, and every parent’s nightmare.

— As it should be, the Braves Michael Harris and Spencer Strider finished 1-2 in the NL rookie of the year voting. Nice job to the entire organization and those two in particular. Side question: When the silly season starts in earned, you have to think other teams are going to come hard after AA’s minions, right?

— Former Chattanooga Lookouts slugger Yaisel Puig is in hot water. Again. Yes, it was Puig who was clocked doing close to triple digits on Amnicola Highway during his days with the Lookouts. Now he’s potentially facing jail time for his role in an illegal gambling operation and lying about it to federal authorities. No bueno. 

— So the Tennessee Neighbors for Liberty were among the folks protesting the nonsensical controversy of the drag brunches that have become a deal in our neck of the woods. OK, a couple of questions here. If you are for liberty, and hence, freedom, why are you protesting someone else exercising their liberty and freedom? Don’t like the drag show brunch, here’s an idea: Don’t go. In fact, according to the TFP story, the controversy and protests have increased ticket sales and support for the theater and the Sunday drag shows. Plus, let’s be really careful here about which outside groups get to say what and how parents are allowed to raise their kids, can we? Whether you agree or disagree — and you are safe to assume the 5-at-10 will not see a drag brunch unless a burlesque show’s tour bus breaks down after early church outside the Cracker Barrel — I wish more folks understood the concept of actual liberty, and you don’t get to decide how I exercise my freedoms as long as I’m not infringing on yours. 

— You know the rules. Here’s Paschall on the "running it up" conversation about UT scoring in the final minute against MIssouri. Josh Heupel’s quotes are fine, and in truth, if you have the subs in, and get a reserve running back a TD, that has value to your program in a lot of ways. But the most telling quote belongs to Mizzou coach Eli Drinkwitz, who said, “He coaches his team. I coach our team. I've got no issues with their team and what they do." And in truth that should quash this controversy because if the Missouri coach doesn’t have an issue with it, why should the rest of us?

— OK, we mentioned a bad beat for the Plays of the Day and it went a little something like this. NBA action, Hawks-Bucks, under 226. Hawks have the game in hand. Benches cleared. Both teams playing out the clock. As the shot-clock expired Hawks reserve rookie A.J. Griffin launches a 28-footer and it finds the mark on the final shot of the game. Your final score, Hawks 121, Bucks 106. Ouch-standing.

— Also ouch-standing, was the news of an Arizona bettor who had a three-leg, same-game parlay this weekend that had Arizona winning (check), James Connor scoring a TD (check) and Arizona getting a defensive TD. Yeah, about that last one, the refs mistakenly stopped a play that was going to be a JJ Watt scoop and score and denied the bettor a four-figure return on a $27 bet. Watt has said he will make it good to said bettor, which is kind. And kind of foolish, considering the precedent it sets.     

Today’s questions

True or false, it’s Tuesday. Morning Ernie.

True or false, Kirk Cousins, MVP is somewhere deep in the end of the New Testament that the apocalypse is approaching.

True or false, you liked the “Yellowstone” season premiere from Sunday night.

True or false, you will watch college basketball tonight.

True or false, Josh Heupel showed poor sportsmanship Saturday.

True or false, you would trade five-plus years of irrelevance for your favorite sports team to win world championship.

You know the drill, answer some T or Fs, leave some T or Fs.

As for today, Nov. 15, let’s review.

On this day in 1986, the Beastie Boys released one of the great debut albums of all time in “License to Ill.” Truly a masterpiece. And no I’m not kidding.

On this day in 1492, Chris Columbus records the first reference to tobacco. (Cough, cough.)

Rushmore of best movie scenes with a cigarette. Go.