Ness Notes: Thursday, Nov 26

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."

The 2020-21 college basketball season tipped off on Wednesday and just like in college football, COVID-19 issues will continue to force postponements and cancellations until a vaccine can be distributed. The final count was 32 games either canceled (27) or postponed (5). The most notable cancellation was No. 2 Baylor and No. 18 Arizona's tourney game being played at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Three other ranked schools fell into that category as well, as No. 9 Duke and No. 20 Oregon postponed their respective games, while No.12 Tennessee canceled its game. However, Arizona St was able to quickly reschedule and played Rhode Island at the 2K Empire Sports Classic in Uncasville, Ct. ASU was one of 17 ranked schools to play on Wednesday and 16 of the 17 won, going an impressive 12-5 ATS. No. 22 UCLA (DON'T remind me!) was the only loser, falling 73-58 at San Diego St. SIX top-10 schools played on Wednesday, as No. 3 Villanova,  No. 4 Virginia, No. 5 Iowa, No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 8 Illinois and No. 10 Kentucky all won, although 'Nova and Wisconsin failed to cover. 

It's a busy Thanksgiving Day schedule and so far, just four games have been canceled. The "marquee" matchup is Kansas taking on Gonzaga at the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Melbourne, Fl. Kansas was ranked No. 1 in the final poll of the unfinished 2019-20 CBB season and Gonzaga (which finished No. 2 Kansas) opens No. 1 in the AP's preseason poll this year (Kansas is No. 6). The game tips at 1:30 ET on FOX, with Gonzaga favored by four points. No. 3 Villanova and No. 18 Arizona St meet in the 2K Empire Classic, giving us the first two of what will be many meetings between ranked opponents throughout the season (Villanova is favored by 4 1/2-points). Two more ranked teams play on Thursday, No. 8 Illinois at home against Chicago St (Illinois is favored by 39 points) and No. 15 West Va at the Crossover Classic against VCU in Sioux Falls, SD (West Va is favored by 9 1/2-points).

NFL Week 12 was scheduled to kick off with THREE games on Thanksgiving but COVID-19 had "other ideas." 10-0 Pittsburgh was expected to host 6-4 Baltimore Thanksgiving evening but that game has been moved to Sunday (fingers crossed). Going on as scheduled will be Detroit and Dallas hosting their annual Thanksgiving games. The Houston Texans entered the 2020 season having won the AFC South in FOUR of the previous five years but will visit Detroit with just a 3-7 record. The Lions check in at 4-6 and are almost guaranteed to miss the playoffs for the 18th time in the 21 seasons since 2000. The game kicks off at 12:30 ET on CBS, with Texans favored by three points (over/under is 51). Of note is the fact that Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is set to make his 10th career Thanksgiving Day start, which would tie Troy Aikman for the most in NFL history. Stafford is 4-5 in those starts and it may surprise some (it did me), that Aikman was just 5-5. Washington visits Dallas at 4:30 ET in a game televised by FOX. Washington and Dallas each enter the contest at 3-7 on the season but the winner will own first place in the cynically-named "NFC Least!" That is until Monday, when the 3-6-1 Eagles will have a chance to regain the division lead if they can upset the Seahawks. Dallas is favored by three points and the over/under is 46.

Moving ahead to Sunday, let's start at the top and the bottom! The Pittsburgh Steelers are 10-0 and New York Jets are 0-10. This marks just the SIXTH time in the Super Bowl era in which a team has opened 10-0 and another 0-10 in the same season. The most recent occurrence was back in 2011, when the Packers and Colts did so. Green Bay would go 15-1 but lose their first playoff game (at home to the Giants), while the Colts finished 2-14 in a season in which Peyton Manning never played because of a neck injury. Prior to the Steelers starting 10-0 this season, 17 teams have started 10-0 in the Super Bowl era. Of those teams, SIX won the Super Bowl (2009 Saints, 1998 Broncos, 1991 Washington, 1990 Giants, 1985 Bears and undefeated 1972 Dolphins). Of the 21 previous teams to start 0-10 in the Super Bowl era, just THREE ended up winless with the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns going 0-16 and the expansion 1976 Buccaneers losing all 14 games. Enough history.

Baltimore won its final 12 games of the 2019 regular season to finish 14-2 but then got upset in its first playoff game, 28-12 at home by the Titans. The 6-4 Ravens are in real danger of missing the postseason in 2020, as they've fallen short in EVERY important game so far. Will that change here in Pittsburgh? The Steelers are favored by four points and the over/under is 45 . The NY Jets have lost 10 straight games in the same season for the first time in club history and they are two losses from matching their longest losing streak ever, a 12-game skid that bridged the 1995-96 seasons. New York will host a 6-4 Miami team which comes in after seeing its five-game winning streak snapped last Sunday in a 20-13 loss at Denver. Miami is favored by seven points and the over/under is 44.

The Steelers and Jets own the longest active winning and losing streaks in 2020, respectively. However, the 8-2 Saints opened the season 1-2, before winning their last SEVEN (just 4-3 ATS but have three straight ATS wins). The Saints will be in Denver to take on the 4-6 Broncos and are favored by six points (over/under is 43 1/2). The Jacksonville Jaguars upset the now 7-3 Colts 27-20 in Week 1 as a seven-point home dog but have since lost NINE in a row, going 3-6 ATS. The Jags host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, a team which is trying to navigate a COVID-19 outbreak. However, through it all, the Browns enter 7-3 and look as if they will have their first winning season since 2007 and could make the playoffs for the first time since 2003! Cleveland is favored by 6 1/2-points and the over/under is 49 .

Speaking of the 7-3 Indianapolis Colts, they will host the Tennessee Titans (also 7-3), with the winner taking the lead in the AFC South. The Colts just beat the Titans 34-17 at Tennessee in Week 10 and an Indy win would not only give them a one-game lead in the division but a 2-0 season sweep of their division rivals. The Colts are favored by three points and the over/under is 51 1/2. The defending champion KC Chiefs are 9-1 in 2020, as Patrick Mahomes has thrown for 3,035 yards with 27 TD passes and just two INTs in 374 attempts (both INTs have come against the Raiders).  Mahomes will lead the Chiefs, who have won 18 of their last 19 games (including 2019 playoff run), into Tampa for a game with the 7-4 Bucs. Tampa Bay has lost TWO of its last three games, with Brady looking more than a little shaky in the losses (five of his nine INTs have come in those games). The Bucs will have a hard time catching the Saints but even if they lose here, the good news is that after a Week 13 bye, they finish with games against Minnesota, Atlanta, Detroit and Atlanta, again. NONE of those teams own a winning record. However, a win would put Tampa in very good shape in the NFC wild card race. Is this a showdown between the G.O.A.T and the future G.O.A.T? It may just be. KC is favored by  3 1/2-points and the over/under is 56. 

SNF features 5-5 Chicago at 7-3 Green Bay and MNF has 7-3 Seattle at 3-6-1 Philadelphia. The Packers are favored by 8 1/2-points (over/under is 45) and the Seahawks are favored by five points (over/under is 50). My Friday Notes will recap NFL and CBB action from Thanksgiving but mainly feature Friday and Saturday CFB games.

Good luck...Larry

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