NFL power poll
Before we get to the poll — Stardust to the main stage — we were very prepared to kick around midseason award winners as we make the turn for home in this NFL season.
OK, let's move quickly on them: MVP Russell Wilson, Offensive player of the year Christian McCaffery, Coach of the Year Sean Payton, Defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore, Offensive rookie Josh Jacobs, Defensive rookie Joey Bosa (but as great as Bosa has been — and he may get DPoY — Chas will gladly tell you Josh Allen is having every bit the year in Jacksonville as Bosa is in S.F.), Comeback player of the year Teddy Bridgewater (while he likely won't get it in the end, he would have my vote at this point).
Now let's review the biggest ripple effect from last season heading into the 2019 season.
I wish we could go back and give the Aaron Rodgers R-E-L-A-X message to everyone up in arms back in late January going ape-crazy about that pass interference call that was missed in the NFC championship. Remember the hubbub and the call to action about the integrity of the game? (Heck we had elected officials weighing in and class action lawsuits against the NFL for Pete Rozelle's sake.) I warned of more replay then and what have we gotten. More replay with very little satisfaction.
After last night's Monday Night Football game capped week 9 with another P.I. challenge from a coach that was denied, the officials are clearly waving the middle finger to the teams who wave the red flag on pass interference calls.
Check the numbers: There have been 11 challenges on pass interference calls that were made in live action. All 11 were upheld. As for the no flags on possible P.I. calls that were challenged, four of 24 have been called after a booth review.
That's four out of 35, which is about 11.4 percent, which is roughly what my picking percentage on ACC games has been this year, which is assuredly not good.
So the much-debated rule change was a change in wording but hardly a fix of policy or procedure, no, because we all knew then and are reminded with each review, you could likely call PI (and holding) on every play.
So there's that. And like Stardust, we headed to the poll.
1. New England (8-1). Sorry, I'm not buying the San Fran stock. Still. I know you are what your record says you are, especially in the (cue Ron Jaworski) NATIONAL Football League. But if Pats played at San Fran tomorrow I'm laying the 5.5. Period. (And yes, the bye this week comes at a perfect time for the Pats — and for me, since Weston Wamp, this week's foe for Team Greeson in Fantasy Football has the point-stealing Pats as his defense.)
2. New Orleans (7-1). Read the above, and know, when healthy, the Saints are close to the Pats equal defensively and have two superior playmakers in Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Which leads us to our Sean Payton CoY vote; who else in the league has managed injuries better than the Saints, who had Drew Brees for two games in the first half and have missed Kamara the last several weeks? In fact, in a league in which everyone is hurt at some point, managing injuries and finding ways to steal wins without your full 1-to-22 may be the best testament for any head coach in the (cue Ron Jaworski) NATIONAL Football League.
3. San Francisco (8-0). In about any other year, Kyle Shanahan would be running away with the CoY, right? Dude has done a great job. But you know who deserves a metric ton of credit? That'd be GM John Lynch, the former Bucs star safety. Sure, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to trot out a defensive line built on first-round dudes that generate pressure, highlighted by Bosa, who leads the NFL in tackles for loss and is top 10 in sacks. Since Lynch was hired in 2017, Lynch has assembled 18 of the 22 starters the 49ers deploy, and he has been a magician in the draft, which int this day and age of cap structure is the quickest springboard to relevance in the (cue Ron Jaworski) NATIONAL Football League.
4. Green Bay (7-2). Did anyone else notice that Aaron Rodgers certainly noticed that a lot of his teammates had a really good time in L.A. before the debacle against the Chargers? There's a fine line between R-E-L-A-X and rehab apparently in the (cue Ron Jaworski) NATIONAL Football League.
5. Baltimore (6-2). Yes, this is a narrow call over Seattle and Russell Wilson, but the Seahawks seem like a struggle every week, no? (Overtime against the Bucs? Really?) It was a perfect storm for the Ravens' destruction over New England on Sunday. Juiced home crowd. Night game. Quick start. Defensive touchdown. In fact, if the fumble-turned-70-yard-score does not happen early in the third quarter, I still think the Pats find a way. And while we are here, can I get $1 (a gambling dollar) or even a nickel on the Pats minus-whatever over the Ravens when these teams meet in the playoffs? Because here's a hunch that in every spare waking moment between now and January, Bill Belichick will be in the lab watching Lamar Jackson film. Because he's the best in the (cue Ron Jaworski) NATIONAL Football League.
At the midway point of the season, we're going to occasional mix in the chase for Chase (as in Young, defensive end at THE Ohio State, who is the best future pro in the 2020 NFL draft if I had to guess right now) among the dregs for the league.
28. Atlanta (1-7, 1 game back for No. 1). Of all the stinkers, the Falcons, who still have not recovered from botched No. 1 pass-rushing picks Vic Beasley and Tak McKinley, who have combined for 24 total tackles and 2 sacks in eight games for a dreadful defense, could use Young the most. And good news Falcons fans, Atlanta has the hardest schedule of all the stinkers listed here.
29. Miami (1-7, 1 game back for No. 1). Only the Dolphins can actually lose by winning. And they are chips-in for Tua, Young's potential be danged.
30. New York (1-7, 1 game back for No. 1). Another team that doesn't know whether to win, lose or draw. I'd vote draw — it can be quite cathartic. I believe the Jets would look hard at Alabama wide out Jerry Juedy after taking a D-Lineman in the top three last year.
31. Washington (1-8, half game back for No. 1). Because, well, they are the Redskins, who knows what Washington would do. They have so many holes but they defensive front seven is arguably already the strength of this team, so Young would feel like a luxury for a complete debacle. And the quarterback chase may be irrelevant since Washington took Dwayne Haskins in round one last year. A true disaster in the nation's capital.
32. Cincinnati (0-8, in place 1 for No. 1). The Bengals were the only winner in the Jets-Dolphins disaster in my opinion. And arguably the most important back-half of the season debut will be Bengals rookie QB Ryan Finley getting his chance in Cincinnati with A.J. Green returning. (Hopefully, got him in Fantasy Football too, which is way different than saying, "I have AJ Green in my fantasy" you know?)
College football initial poll
OK, the first poll that matters in the sport with the greatest regular season known to man or beast — or in the case of K'Lavon Chaisson, the folks that check both boxes.
Here's my best guess with reasoning for each team that will comprise the top of the charts and some questions that the committee's answers will be rather telling:
LSU, THE Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama is my top four, because LSU has the best resume; THE Buckeyes have the most complete team (and man oh man, how much more likable is THIS Ohio State bunch without Coach Urban Liar?), Clemson has a slightly better schedule than Alabama's. Granted, none of that matters with what lies in front of Alabama, starting Saturday vs. LSU.
Penn State will be fifth, and from there the questions are more important than the actually rankings.
Which one-loss team will be No. 6? I originally had Georgia there, but I would not be shocked if an Oregon is there, but again, for Georgia, the road ahead will determine more than the path travelled. It also will be telling to see how far down Oklahoma ranks considering the Sooners' loss to K-State was less than thrilling. In fact, of that group, Oregon may have the 'best' loss, so give me the Ducks at 6.
Speaking of Oklahoma, that leads us to, what does the committee think about unbeaten Minnesota and Baylor? Two of the surprising stories of college football — and the two front-runners in coach of the year in Gophers boat-rower PJ Fleck and Baylor boss Matt Ruhle — will be in that 9-12 range if I had to guess, but each will have a chance to move up. Minnesota has Penn State at home this week, and for Baylor to run the table it will likely have two wins over Oklahoma.
Which two-loss team will ranked the highest? I think it likely will be Florida, but Auburn has the best chance to become relevant among the two-loss teams with home dates against Alabama and Georgia still ahead. (Not sure that matters all that much anyway since hey Auburn just ran at right guard to set-up an overthrown go route. Sigh.)
Which Group of Five team is going to stake its claim? Many thanks to Pitt for bouncing UCF early on because, well, you know. Right now Cincy is 17 and the top-ranked Group of Five team, but do not sleep on a Memphis bunch that made a nice offensive impression over the weekend on ABC in a pinball shootout with SMU.
Game on. And like Stardust, let's get to the poll.
Thinking about the start of college basketball season, here are a few big-picture thoughts:
> For those of us expecting a let down from the glorious 2018-19 run with Duke and UT and Zion and Ja and all the rest, well, let's remember at the start of last season, we were not expecting that much awesomeness either. Let's hope for the best shall we?
> The gasbaggery storyline that I am already tired of? That will be the pounds of preaching from Dickie V and his ilk about the 'paying the players for NIL' is going to KILL college sports. First of all, Dickie V has been banging the drum for Rick Pitino to get another college coaching job. So no matter how great a dude Dickie V is — and he is — taking a stance on principle seems pretty hollow at this point. And for all the other talking heads that will bag on paying the players for NIL, well, they are fine with the NCAA making billions, the schools and the TV networks making hundreds of millions, the coaches making tens of millions and the announcers making hundreds of thousands to millions while the players have to wait for a chance to go get a paying job.
> The gasbaggery storyline that I am already tired of, part II? Speaking of the NIL, if the NCAA is not going to do anything about all the FBI charges and evidence — Bill Self, Will Wade, Bruce Pearl and Al Capone, er Sean Miller, are still cashing checks — for the kids getting paid from the shoe companies, then who really cares? Bet Dickie V won't mention that tonight.
As for tonight, 1-2 in Michigan State vs. Kentucky will be fun. I think 3-4 in Kansas vs. Duke in the prelim is going could be one-sided. (First college hoops pick of the year: Kansas plus-3.)
But the greatest of November in college hoops — all these great non-conference matchups — becomes the drudgery of the winter and the simple fact that playing out the string to be ready for March is more important than the march to March.
As for the season, well, to be honest, I got some SEC views and some big picture national thoughts.
Duke will be better in 2020 (as in January and February) than they will be for the next six weeks. And possibly for the first time in a decade, Duke may not have a lottery pick which is strange. But it may make the Devils more balanced and team-oriented come March, which would be cool.
Michigan State is talented and experienced, but doesn't it seem like Izzo does less with more as much as anyone in college hoops?
I think Kansas is legit, and would any of us be surprised if Bill Self goes on a double middle-finger tour and starts thrashing folks? May ride some Kansas on the betting wheel for a while.
UNC may have this year's Zion in Cole Anthony. And let's all be truthful, college hoops is better when UNC is relevant, and Anthony will make them at the very least that.
Speaking of a freshman, for the first time since Litterial Green, Georgia hoops is going to be fun to watch because of Anthony Edwards. (Let me be the next to make a Goose from Top Gun or a Revenge of the Nerds reference here.)
What do we make of Memphis? I think Penny is going to drop bombs on anyone he can. for the notoriety, the highlights and to continue to get Memphis' name out there. And know this: James Wiseman can flat play.
I will leave the UK breakdown to Chas take the wheel my man, and my preseason thoughts on the SEC order of finish are Florida, UK, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn and then the rest.
But I will reserve judgement on that until after Christmas. Deal? Deal.
This and that
— Arkansas is now going to start freshman Stephen Jones at quarterback. Hey, any change at any position at the fuego de la dumpster that is Razorbacks football is understandable. But did we mention that Jones — Arkansas' sixth different starting QB in the last 20 games — is also the grandson of monster Hogs booster Jerry Jones? (Yes, that Jerry Jones, owner of the Cowboys.)
— Speaking of college sports, but at the other end of Arkansas football, did you know that this is the first week in college sports history that we are getting a 1-2 meeting in college football and college hoops? Kinda cool, huh?
— Speaking of the Monday night game, well, in this divided landscape on everything from sports to politics to parenting to culture to coat racks, we can all agree that Kevin Harlan is the voice we need when a strange occurrence happens in a football game right? Here's Harloan's dulcet tones when the cat darted across the field last night. (Side question: Dulcet is one of those words that is always used to describe the same thing right? Dulcet tones is like billowing smoke. The verb version is wreaking havoc, right Spy?)
— New segment on the 5-at-10 'This and that' — Let's call it a Tune-In Tuesday and kick around what I am listening to on Tuesdays as I prepare this daily missive. Deal? Deal. And feel free to offer suggestions friends, especially those of you like Jules and 'Dro who have quality musical tastes. (Spy, well, you know.) This morning, we started with a little Ashley McBryde at the Grand Ole Opry with "Girl Goin' Nowhere." Here you go and enjoy.
— Nick Markakis resigned with the Braves for $4 million. You have to believe that the Braves and Nick — a local kid from nearby Woodstock, Ga., who is an all-around good guy and an excellent clubhouse leader — have had the conversation that he's going to be an outfield version of Crash Davis to mentor the young fellas named Drew Waters and Cristian Pache. Or as his manager told Crash, then the erstwhile Durham Bulls hero asked, "Yeah, where can I go?" "You can keep coming to the ballpark, and keep getting paid to do it. Beats the Hell out of working at Sears." (Cue Larry: "Yeah, Sears sucks Crash. Boy, I once worked there. Sold Lady Kenmores. Nasty. Nasty work.")
— Kellen Winslow Jr. pled guilty and will serve 12-to-18 years for sex crimes. As he famously told then-young-TFP-UT-beat-ace Wes Rucker, Winslow better be a "Bleepin' Soldier" when he its the yard as a sexual predator who, among other crimes, admitted to raping an unconscious teen and sexual batter against a 54-year-old hitchhiker.
True or false Tuesday. True.
True or false, you'd have Pats over Niners in your NFL rankings.
True or false, Oregon should be the top-ranked one-loss team.
True or false, the eventual college hoops national champion is playing in the ESPN doubleheader tonight?
Answer the T or F, ask some T or Fs.
As for today, Nov. 5, this one is easy.
Monopoly was launched on this day in 1935.
Rushmore of board games. Go.