Ness Notes: Friday, Nov 20

by Larry Ness

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."

As my very favorite pop icon (the legendary Britney Spears) once opined, "Oops!... I Did It Again." Regulars know that I've charted games featuring ranked teams against unranked opponents all season (ranked teams opened the week 94-23, .803 SU but just 53-62-2, 46.1%  ATS) and the current CFB week features 13 such games. The first of those games was played last night, as No. 25 Tulsa (ranked for the first time since 2010) hosted Tulane. Tulsa opened the current season with a competitive 16-7 loss at then-No. 11 Oklahoma St but then ripped off FOUR straight wins. The Golden Hurricane fell behind the then-No. 19 Mustangs 21-0 last Saturday, before outscoring them 28-3 the rest of the way. So what else was new? Tulsa trailed 16-2 at UCF on Oct 3 but came back to win 31-26 and on Oct 30 at home, trailed East Carolina 17-3 before winning 34-30. Nothing to it! Well, "Oops!... Tulsa Did It Again!" Tulsa fell behind Tulane 14-0 last night but for the FOURTH time this season, erased a double-digit deficit. Third-string QB Davis Brin (1st and 2nd string QBs got hurt) ran for one TD and passed for two, including a 37-yard Hail Mary TD pass as time expired in the fourth quarter. The teams traded FGs during the first overtime and on the first possession of the second overtime, Tulane moved to the Tulsa 7-yard line but on third-and-goal, Michael Pratt was intercepted by Zaven Collins, who returned it 96 yards for the game-winning TD in Tulsa's 30-24 victory. The pointspread? It was anywhere from Tulsa favored by four to seven points, depending on when you played it! And the Over/Under ranged from 53.5 to 56 points.  So, for many bettors, this game -- which was 0-0 at halftime -- went OVER the total!  You just CAN'T make this stuff up! 

The NFL opened its Week 11 with a "Battle 4 First" in the NFC West between the Cards and Seahawks in Seattle. There was a three-way tie at the top of the division when the Cards and Seahawks kicked off last night. Carlos Hyde, back in action after missing three games due to a hamstring injury, rushed for a season-high 79 yards and a TD. Russell Wilson had  a season-low 197 passing yards but completed 23 of 28 with two TDS and zero INTs (119.8 QB rating). However, the 'game ball' should go to the Seattle defense, which held the Cardinals' top-ranked offense to 314 yards, more than 100 below their average (425.5). Arizona gained just 57 yards rushing after entering with a league-best average of 168.9 per game. Note that the Seattle defense entered the game allowing a league-high 448.3 YPG. The Seahawks broke a three-way tie atop the NFC West by moving to 7-3 (Cards are now 6-4), although the Los Angeles Rams (6-3) can join them atop the division by winning at Tampa Bay on Monday night (see Monday's Notes).

Sunday's NFL: Let's start at the top AND the bottom. The NFL's only unbeaten team, the 9-0 Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3 ATS), will play at the 1-8 Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags actually won their Week 1 game, upsetting the now 6-3 Colts 27-20 as a home dog, but have since lost EIGHT in a row. Maybe the Jaguars can build on a stretch in which they have lost their last two games by a combined six points or perhaps Pittsburgh could be peeking ahead to an AFC North showdown against Baltimore on Thanksgiving. Then again, maybe the Steelers are simply DUE for a loss. Pittsburgh is favored by 10 1/2-points and the over/under is 46. The 0-9 Jets (coming off a bye week) are surely "DUE for a win," as they travel to Inglewood, Ca for a game with the 2-7 LA Chargers. The Jets have lost nine straight games in the same season for the first time in club history and  they are three losses from matching their longest losing streak ever, a 12-game skid that bridged the 1995-96 seasons. As for the Chargers, all SEVEN of their losses this season have been by EIGHT points or less and more troubling, FOUR times they have blown leads of 16 points or more (are you kidding me?). Could this be the week the Jets break through? New York opened 0-6 ATS but is 2-1 ATS its last three, while after opening 5-1 ATS, the Chargers enter on an 0-3 ATS skid. LA is favored by 9 1/2-points and the over/under is  46.

My Thursday recap cap touched on one division leader (Seattle) and I've just mentioned Pittsburgh, the leaders of the AFC North. Let's move on to the remaining division leaders, beginning in the AFC. SNF features a classic AFL rivalry, the Chiefs and Raiders. The defending champs are 8-1 and are coming off a bye to visit Las Vegas, where they will take on the 6-3 Raiders. The Raiders shocked the Chiefs 40-32 at Kansas City back in Week 5, as 11-point underdogs. The Raiders got crushed 45-20 at home by the Bucs in their next game but enter this contest on a 3-0 SU & ATS run.  Mahomes is completing 66.9% for 2,687 yards with 25 TDs and just one INT (115.9 QB rating) but Carr is not far behind, completing 69.3% for 2,56 yards with 16 TDs and just two INTs (107.4 QB rating). The Chiefs are favored by 7  1/2-points and the over/under is 57. The AFC East leading Buffalo Bills (7-3) are on their bye week, meaning the 6-3 Miami Dolphins can move into a tie atop the division with a win at 3-6 Denver. Miami has won FIVE straight (Tua is 3-0 as a starter) and covered each win by averaging 31.6 PPG during its current streak. Buffalo last won the AFC East back in 1995 and Miami last won it in 2008, going 11-5 a year after going 1-15! Miami is favored by 3  1/2-points and the over/under is 45. The Colts and Titans are tied atop the AFC South at 6-3 (will meet in Week 12) and BOTH have tough tests on Sunday. The Colts will host the 7-2 Packers (leaders of the NFC North), while the Titans will play at 6-3 Baltimore. Aaron Rodgers (67.8% for 2,578 yards with 26 TDs, three INTs and a QB rating of 116.4) leads a Green Bay offense averaging 30.8 PPG, while the Colts defense allows a league-low 290.4 YPG and a modest 19.7 PPG. The Colts are favored by two points and the over/under is 51. The Titans return to 'the scene of the crime,' which is the way the Ravens likely view this game. Lamar Jackson was league MVP in 2019, posting a 113.3 QB rating (36-6 ratio) while rushing for 1,206 yards (6.9 YPC / 7 TDs), which set a single-record for QBs. Baltimore set a single season record for team rushing yards and became the first team since at least 1950 to average 200-plus pass YPG (201.6) and 200-plus rush YPG (206) in the same season. The D was not quite in the class of the Ray Lewis era units but the Ravens ranked 3rd in points allowed (17.6 PPG) and 4th in yards allowed (300.6 YPG). However, the Ravens were unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs last season, losing 28-12 at home to the Titans as 10-point favorites. In that game, Baltimore outgained Tennessee 530-to-300 in yards and 29-15 in FDs. Jackson passed for 365 yards and ran for 143 but coughed up THREE turnovers and was 0 of 4 on fourth down attempts. The Ravens will surely remember but they have 'flopped' in their biggest games so far in 2020 and Pittsburgh looms on Thanksgiving Day. Baltimore is favored by five points and the over/under is 49 1/2.

Over in the NFC, I mentioned the North leader (Green Bay) just above and have also earlier set the stage in the NFC West. That leaves the NFC East and the NFC South. The 3-5-1 Eagles sit atop the NFC 'Least,' as their competition is the 3-7 NY Giants plus Washington and Dallas (both 2-7). Talk about being in the right place at the right time? However, the Eagles will be tested by a vastly-improved Cleveland Browns team that is 6-3 and eyeing a wild card berth in the AFC. The Browns are favored by three points and the over/under is 47 1/2. The New Orleans Saints have won SIX in a row and at 7-2, lead the 7-3 Tampa Bay Bucs in the NFC South by just a half-game. However, they own the important tiebreaker, having beaten the Bucs in BOTH regular meetings, including a 38-3 beatdown at Tampa in Week 9. It's 'lucky' Week 11 but the Saints will be without QB Drew Brees for an indefinite period of time due to rib and lung injuries. Visiting New Orleans on Sunday will be the 3-6 Atlanta Falcons, who are coming off a bye week and have turned things around after a 0-5 start with a 3-1 record under interim head coach Raheem Morris. This contest marks the first of two matchups between the Falcons and Saints in a three-week span, as the Saints will visit Atlanta for a Week 13 game. When Atlanta lost 23-16 at home to Carolina to fall to 0-5, head coach Dan Quinn was fired (should have been gone right after that INCREDIBLE Super Bowl collapse). The Falcons named Raheem Morris as interim head coach and the Falcons are 3-1 but with ANY luck would be 4-0 (lost to Detroit on the game's final play). Many will remember that the Saints went 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater at QB in 2019 while Brees recovered from thumb surgery. Former Tampa Bay starter Jameis Winston is expected to replace Brees, although Taysom Hill could also take some snaps from center in addition to his usual reps at a variety of skill positions. The Saints are favored by 3  1/2-points and the over/under is 50.

Good luck...Larry

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