AAFab 4 (eventually)
OK last week was, well it was a disaster.
The under train derailed.
The mixed bag of picks was mixed.
But, there are a handful of near-truths that are almost irrefutable.
If there's a problem, it's almost assuredly Trump's fault.
If there's a solution, it's almost assuredly thanks to your wife/momma. (Hi, hon.)
If there's a line that looks too good to be true, it almost assuredly is.
If there's a story you don't like, it's almost assuredly fake news.
And pickers gotta pick. (Cue up the Roy Clark, because he never picked cotton.)
But I am having a hard time finding the point spreads for Week 6 of the AAF, which is not a good thing for the league or its supporters. (We have been universally consistent that embracing the gambling and the fantasy aspect of football would be critical to the league surviving.)
The TV numbers are down. Last Saturday's game — Orlando-Birmingham — drew a 0.31 rating on TNT and 457,000 viewers, which was more than the MLS game on ESPN on Sunday, but still not good.
So, without the numbers, we are leaning toward the Spurriers and the Fleet, coached by Mike Martz. We also are backing Atlanta at home because the change to Aaron Murray seems to have helped. In the other game, take the home team (Salt Lake City) over a Memphis bunch that is looking for answers.
And yes, I will update either later today or tomorrow when the lines become available.
Last week: 3-5 against the spread (37.5 percent)
This season: 15-13-1 against the spread (53.6 percent)
All-time AAF picks: 15-13-1 against the spread (53.6 percent)
Happy NFL new year
The league has started a new for the NFL. There were a slew of moves, maybe you heard a few of the names before.
Before we get to the biggest winners and losers of the free agency buyingpalooza, arguably the most interesting acquisition of the offseason was Michael Bennett joining the Patriots.
Yes, Michael Bennett, the out-spoken, anti-Trump pass rusher joining the Patriots, who are owned by Trump buddy Robert Kraft and quarterbacked by Trump ally Tom Brady. Bennett said he will remain in the locker room rather than kneel during the national anthem.
In a talk at Princeton this week, Bennett's words spoke volumes about his depth, his passion, his intelligence and an approach that, in truth, I wish more Americans embraced. Bennett's plan is to discuss the issues with Brady and coach Bill Belichick.
"I think it's important not to to run away from those conversations, or not hear their ideas about why they think the way they do," Bennett said. "I think it's an opportunity for growth to have those conversations. ... If we don't allow ourselves to have those conversations, we're stunting our growth."
Kudos, Michael. Kudos.
OK, let's discuss the three biggest winners (other than the Patriots, who always seem to win and refused to overpay their aging players, and does anyone really want to rule out Belichick and the boys signing someone like Eric Berry or Ndamukogn Suh or someone aging superstar who becomes a finalist for NFL comeback player of the year). And let's discuss the three biggest losers.
Winner: Cleveland. Duh. I mean huge Duh. Look at the names and the prices. Kareem Hunt on a one-year, $1 million deal, and if he plays half the season after his domestic violence issues, then it's still a monster bargain. We all know about Odell Beckham Jr., and how his presence gives the entire offense a boost because he demands a double-team on almost every snap. They added Sheldon Richardson at defensive tackle and edge rusher Olivier Vernon. Wow.
Loser: Giants. Double Duh. And don't they have to seriously consider cutting Eli Manning and taking the cap hit this year in a full-blown tanking scenario. If they get the No. 1 pick in 2020, that will feature a slew of coveted QBs — Tua, the big kid at Oregon, the kid at Washington who left Georgia because of Jake Fromm, Jake Fromm — the true rebuild can happen with Saquon Barkley leading the way.
Winner: Raiders. Another team that made a monster trade — getting Antonio Brown for a bag of peanuts and a six-pack of YooHoo — that delivers a player that demands a double team. And that's just the first piece for a team that has four of the first 35 picks in next month's NFL draft. Add in the fact that the Chargers are a year older, the Chiefs cut or dealt their four best defensive players, and the Broncos are run by John Elway, who is the exact opposite of a quarterback whisper, and the Raiders have a chance to take a major stride in the division rather quickly.
Loser: Baltimore. Gone is guts of a top-tier defense. Yes, bringing in Earl Thomas gives the Ravens an elite secondary, but the front seven is filled with question marks after CJ Mosely, Terrell Suggs and safety/linebacker hybrid Eric Weddle among others. Is Mark Ingram an answer for an offense that needs pass-catchers more than ball-carriers.
Winner: New York Jets. Le'Veon Bell is the head-turning headline. Mosely is monster addition. Sam Darnold has to be smiling with the addition of no-worse than the second-best check-down back in the league.
Loser: Indy. The Colts had almost $100 million in cap space and could not pull the trigger on any of the big names or big deals out there. No Dee Ford or Trey Flowers to rush the passer. Despite having a slew of draft capital — four picks in the first 90 selections — no deal for Brown or Beckham. (Could you imagine Andrew Luck's numbers with TY Hilton in the slot and Brown or Beckham demanding a double-team and Jack Doyle running the seam?) The Colts won the draft last year with three Pro Bowl rookies — two of whom were first-team All-Pro — and will have to do it again to improve despite entering the free agency spending spree with the most cash in their pocket.
No this is not Craig Kimbrel signing with anyone.
Later today, baseball's bigwigs and the players association are expected to announce sweeping changes for the game starting in 2020.
The current collective bargaining agreement runs out innate the end of the 2021 season, and the players union is intently focused on addressing the soft free agency market, a dwindling middle level of salaries, team tanking and service-time manipulation like the Braves did with Ronald Acuna to start last season.
Here, according to multiple reports, are some of the changes that should be announced today:
> Rosters will increase by one player to 26, with a maximum of 13 pitchers. On Aug. 31, the rosters could get as big as 28 with 14 pitchers (which is a chance from the traditional 40-man roster in Septembers past);
> Some manipulation of the injured list and recall time;
> Tighter breaks between innings that will be at the MLB's discretion;
> There will be one trade deadline on July 31, and the waiver deadline at the end of August will be no more.
The more impactful changes — pitchers facing a minimum of three batters and the pitch clock — have been tabled for the time being. Although the MLB could still implement the batter-minimum for 2020, the league has announced that it will not touch an industry wide pitch clock for at least two years.
This and that
— In a week full of shockers, this one ranks somewhere between the sun rising in the East and my bulldog named Bo Jackson meeting me at his food bowl at 7 a.m. for breakfast. Beto O'Rourke announced he's entering the 2020 presidential race.
— In other news, apparently Michael is ending all family business in the greater NYC area. On Wednesday, Francesco Cali, the reputed boss of the Gambino crime family, was gunned down in front of his home. (And possibly run over by the getaway car.) Cali was 53. Last October, Sylvester Zollota, a bigwig in the Bonanno crime family, was killed in a McDonald's drive-thru. Bruno Tattaglia better keep his head on a swivel.
—Speaking of picks, a sturdy 3-0 showing last night — Louisville (-7.5) over ND, Syracuse (-7) over Pitt and Texas A&M (-3.5) over Vandy — balanced Tuesday's 1-2. As Jerry Lewis would say every Labor Day, let's check the tote board. We're 56-36-2, which is 60.9 percent against the number. Entertainment for everyone.
— Tip of the visor to the good folks at Shuford's, which was condemned after last month's mudslide at the foot of Signal Mountain. Sad day.
— Hey, we are as excited as anyone for The Players, but can we please stop with the 'Fifth' Major, which has the same weight as a fifth major in tennis and the total impact of being the fifth Beatle. Just enjoy the fun, and yes, we have played that course. (Made par on 17 with a knock-down 8 iron and two putts.)
— Blake Bortles was released by the Jags, who will eat a sizable amount of dead money for the silly decision to sign him to an extension last year. If the current model of finding a young QB and building around him on a rookie deal is called the Seattle Way, we need to realize that extending the mediocre (at best) quarterback because that roster is stacked and thereby crippling the roster because the mediocre (at best) quarterback is getting franchise quarterback money should be called the Bortles Botch.
Happy Pi day on this 3/14.
Albert Einstein was born on this day. He would have been 140 years old. Steph Curry is 31. Michael Caine is 86. Billy Crystal is 71
Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin on this day in 1794.
On this day in 2017, Muirfield voted to allow female members for the first time in its 273-year history.
Rushmore of Billys — not Williams, not Bills. Go, and remember the mailbag.