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."
NFL Week 16 opened on Christmas Day with RB Alvin Kamara scoring SIX rushing TDs, as the Saints routed the Vikings 52-33. His effort tied him with Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Cardinals in 1929 for the most in NFL history. He is only the FOURTH player to score six TDs of any kind in a game, joining Nevers, Dub Jones (1951) and Gale Sayers (1965). The week concluded last night as the Bills CRUSHED the Pats 38-9 in New England. Buffalo QB Josh Allen threw three of his four TD passes to Stefon Diggs, completing 27 of 36 passes for 320 yards. His 34 TD passes on the season set a franchise record, surpassing the mark set by Hall-of-Famer Jim Kelly in 1991. The 12-3 Bills now hold the No. 2 seed in the AFC by virtue of their 26-15 victory over the 12-3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) back on Dec 13. Buffalo can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win over visiting Miami on Sunday or a Pittsburgh loss at Cleveland. The defending champion KC Chiefs (14-1) own the No. 1 seed, which gives them the ONLY bye in the AFC in this season's revamped postseason. There are SO many playoff-positioning implications in Week 17 (all games will be played on Sunday, Jan 3), that I will once again offer a "special" Saturday Ness Notes to preview the 'state of the NFL.' I will note that the Jaguars "kept up their end" in losing for a 14th straight time, 41-17 at home to the playoff-bound (?) Chicago Bears. Checking in on the 'race' for the NFC's No. 1 seed (and ONLY bye). 12-3 Green Bay (NFC North champs) currently own the No. 1 seed, one game ahead of 11-4 New Orleans (NFC South champs) and 11-4 Seattle (NFC West champs). The Packers will clinch the top-seed with a win at Chicago but the Saints can wrest the No. 1 seed back from the Packers with a win and if Green Bay loses in Week 17 and Seattle wins, as New Orleans would have the best conference record among the trio (note: If Green Bay and New Orleans are tied at 12-4 alone, the Packers own the head-to-head tiebreaker). To add more intrigue to the mix, if the Seahawks and Packers both finish 12-4 (meaning the Saints would have lost), Seattle wins the tiebreaker by virtue of a superior record in common games with Green Bay, Got it? Home teams finished Week 16 9-7 SU & ATS, with home dogs going 3-5 SU and 4-4 ATS. Games averaged 47.6 points, with seven overs, eight unders and one push. Don't forget to check out Saturday's NFL-only edition of Ness Notes.
The college bowl season resumes after a two-day break. Favorites were 5-2 SU & ATS to open the bowl season. The first three bowl games averaged 73.7 PPG but the UCF/BYU total closed at 79 1/2, so the overs were 2-1, not an expected 3-0. However, the next four bowl games averaged just 36.3 PPG, with all going under. That made it two overs and FIVE unders heading into Saturday's tripleheader. The only ranked team (I use the AP poll, not the CFP rankings) to have played through the first seven bowls was No. 13 BYU, which routed UCF 49-23 in the Boca Raton Bowl. However, two ranked teams took the field (both from the Sun Belt) on Saturday, as No. 16 ULL (9-1) met 7-4 UTSA in the First Responder Bowl and No. 9 Coastal Carolina (11-0) met 9-1 Liberty in the Cure Bowl. Saturday's third bowl was 5-6 Western Kentucky playing 5-4 Georgia St in the LendingTree Bowl.
The Ragin' Cajuns led 24-7 but saw the Roadrunners score 17 straight points to tie the score at 24al,a one-yard TD midway through the fourth quarter gave ULL the win (10-1) but NOT the cover. The Cure Bowl was a mano-a-mano showdown between QBs Willis (of Liberty) and Grayson McCall (of Coastal Carolina). Willis did not throw a TD pass and had two INTs but threw for 220 yards and ran for 137, while scoring four TDs. McCall threw for 318 yards and three TDs plus ran for 96 yards and a score. The game went into OT and Liberty won 37-34, ending Coastal's perfect 11-0 season (had a 12-game winning streak). Liberty won the game by blocking Coastal's FG attempt in OT to finish 10-1. It must have been 'sweet,' as Liberty's lone loss came at NC St, when the Wolfpack blocked a potential game-winning FG attempt by the Flames, VERY late in the game! The third Saturday bowl saw Georgia St easily beat Western Kentucky 39-21. Heading into Tuesday's two bowl games, favorites are 7-3 SU and 6-4 ATS. The three Saturday bowls averaged 62.0 PPG with two games going over and one under. That makes it four overs and six unders. ULL won but failed to cover and Coastal Carolina lost SU, making the three ranked teams playing unranked opponents 2-1 SU but 1-2 ATS in the bowls to-date.
Tuesday's bowls: The 7-3 Oklahoma State Cowboys take on the 8-2 Miami Hurricanes in the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando, Fl at 5:30 ET on ESPN. OSU is ranked 21st in the CFP rankings but is unranked in the AP, after opening the season 15th in the preseason poll. Miami was NOT ranked in the AP's preseason poll (coming off a 6-7 season, including an 'ugly' 14-0 bowl loss to La Tech) but enters the game ranked 18th in both the AP and CFP. Some may be surprised that ESPN also carries the Alamo Bowl (you'll NEVER guess which city it's being played in!) at 8:00 ET. It features 6-3 Texas and 4-1 Colorado. The Longhorns are ranked 20th in both the AP and CFP rankings, while the Buffs fell out of both polls when it lost 38-31 at home to Utah on Dec 12. It was a disappointing season for the Longhorns but the Alamo Bowl marks the 57th all-time bowl appearance for Texas, the second-most in the country behind only Alabama. The Buffaloes were the surprise team of the Pac-12 this season, despite head coach Karl Dorrell not being hired until February. They made the most out of their limited opportunities, finishing the regular season with a 4-1 mark, and 3-1 in league play for a second-place finish in the South Division. Oklahoma St is favored by 1 1/2-points over Miami-Fl (over/under is 62) and Texas is favored by 7 1/2-points over Colorado (over/under is 64 1/2).
I'll catch up on CBB and the NBA in Wednesday's Notes.