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."
CFB: I covered the Wisconsin COVID-19 situation in Thursday Notes but an update is that the Wisconsin football program now has 16 active cases of COVID-19. The positive tests recently received include those of head coach Paul Chryst and QB Graham Mertz. Mertz is out three weeks and Chryst is required to isolate for 10 days and will be able to return to the team in person on Nov 7 at the earliest. That, coincidentally, is the date Wisconsin is scheduled to play Purdue. Is Wisconsin's season in the balance? If that news wasn't bad enough, I woke up this morning to the news that Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence has also tested positive. Here's what we know.
Lawrence will miss Saturday's home game against Boston College, as the Tigers go for their 39th straight regular season win, which would tie Miami for the second-longest streak in college football history ('Canes run came from 2000-03). The longest regular season winning streak is 45 in a row by Oklahoma from 1953-57. Lawrence is said to have mild symptoms but at this time, his status for Clemson's Nov 7th game at South Bend with the 4th-ranked Fighting Irish remains in question. Lawrence will be required to isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms. That begs the question, when did his 10-day clock start? The best-case scenario for Lawrence's return is if he began experiencing symptoms on Tuesday and that began his 10-day isolation clock, which would potentially allow him to play on Nov 7. However, this also requires the player to show no symptoms, defined as no respiratory issues or fever, without the aid of fever-reducing medication. Lawrence will also have to pass a battery of cardiac tests to ensure he isn't showing symptoms of myocarditis. If he clears all those hurdles, it's possible he could play against the Irish, albeit with no practice under his belt beforehand. As I opined Thursday, fingers crossed.
NFL Week 8 opened with Atlanta winning 25-17 at Carolina on Thursday night. The Falcons fired Dan Quinn after a 23-16 home loss in Week 5 to the Panthers but have now won TWO of three under interim head coach Raheem Morris. Atlanta bounced back from last Sunday's emotionally-draining one-point loss to Detroit, when the Lions drove 75 yards in 1:04 and scored the winning TD (and extra point) with no time remaining. As for Carolina, the Panthers have now lost THREE in a row, after winning THREE in a row. Carolina has played each of its last SIX games without All-Pro RB Christian McCaffrey.
Sunday's NFL "Game of the Week" is the 6-0 Steelers playing the 5-1 Ravens in Baltimore at 1:00 ET. The current Baltimore Ravens are "the original Cleveland Browns" and rivalry has never let up with Browns/Ravens moving from Cleveland to Baltimore. It has produced vicious hits, close games, dramatic finishes and now a historic matchup of head coaches. The Steelers hired Mike Tomlin in 2007 and he's led Pittsburgh to a 139-74-1 (.652) record in the regular season while capturing six AFC North titles and one Super Bowl championship. John Harbaugh was hired by the Ravens the following season (2008) and owns a 123-75 (.621) regular season record winning four AFC North Titles and one Super Bowl title. Sunday's meeting will be the 25th matchup between Tomlin and Harbaugh, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the duo will become the first pair of head coaches in the Super Bowl era to face off 25 times in the regular season (Harbaugh holds a 13-11 edge over Tomlin). For you history buffs, there are only two head-coaching matchups in NFL history that eclipse Tomlin-Harbaugh. George Halas (Bears) and Curly Lambeau (Packers) met 48 times plus Lambeau and Steve Owen (Giants) coached against each other 28 times. I mentioned above something about "close games" and two-thirds of the 25 games have been decided by FOUR points or less, including four overtime games. The Ravens are favored by 3 1/2-points and the over/under is 46 1/2.
The Pittsburgh/Baltimore matchup is not the only game in which the winner will take over first-place with a victory. In Week 8's SNF game (8:20 ET on NBC) the 2-5 Cowboys (0-7 ATS) will be in Philadelphia to take on the 2-4-1 Eagles, with the winner walking away as the NFC East's division leader. Now you CAN'T make that up! Philly is favored by 9 1/2-points and the over/under is 43. There are two more division showdowns with important implications. The SF 49ers are not just defending NFC West champs but they are also defending NFC champs. The Niners opened 2-3 but have won two in a row (24-16 at home against the Rams and 33-6 at the Pats) to get back to 4-3. However, the 49ers still find themselves in last-place in the NFL's toughest division, behind the 5-2 Cards and Rams plus the 5-1 Seahawks. Seattle welcomes the 49ers to CenturyLink Field off the team's first loss of 2020, a 37-34 OT loss last Sunday night in Arizona. Seattle is favored by three points and the over/under is 54. Then we have the 2-4 Patriots heading to Buffalo to take on the 5-2 Bills. The Patriots have won the AFC East in each of the last 11 years and in 17 of the last 19 seasons. A win by the Bills would move Buffalo to 6-2, with New England falling to 2-5. Could Buffalo win its first AFC East title since 1995 in 2020? The Bills are favored by four points and the over/under is 41.
Week 8 also features an important non-division NFC matchup, as the 4-2 Saints are in Chicago to take on the 5-2 Bears. The Saints currently trail 5-2 Tampa Bay in the NFC South and with the Bucs playing the 1-6 NY Giants on MNF, the last thing New Orleans needs is to lose at Chicago, while Tampa Bay wins as expected in New Jersey. The Bears trail the 5-1 Packers in the NFC North and with Green Bay hosting the 1-5 Vikings, the Bears can ill afford a loss AND what is expected to be a Packers win. The Saints are favored by 4 1/2-points and the over/under is 43 1/2. I'll close with the NFL's lone winless team, the 0-7 (1-6 ATS) Jets, who can't possibly be expected to win at the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs. KC welcomes the Jets to Arrowhead Stadium as a 19 1/2-point favorite (over/under is 49).