Previewing NFL Week 4

–The highlight game of the week will be 3-0 Miami at 2-1 Buffalo.  It is not too early to speculate that one of these teams will play Kansas City in the AFC title game. But it will be a 1 p.m. game on CBS so it won’t get a national audience as they share the time slot with the Ravens at Cleveland, Pittsburgh at Houston and in a battle of winless 0-3 team, the Broncos at the Bears.

–There will be five 1 p.m. games on Fox, but none of them with much national appeal. They are Washington at Philadelphia, the Bengals at Tennessee, the Rams at the Colts, the Bucs at New Orleans and in a battle of two winless teams, the Vikings at the Panthers. The Chargers host Las Vegas in the lone CBS late game.

–Fox also has the doubleheader game and games figure to be one-sided with the Patriots at Dallas and San Francisco going to Arizona. San Francisco figures to remain unbeaten while the Cowboys are likely to bounce back from last week’s stunning loss to Arizona. 

–The Sunday and Monday night games both feature New York teams but both figure to lose with Jets hosting the Chiefs and the Giants hosting the Seahawks. Patrick Mahomet vs. Zach Wilson is a mismatch with the only drama being- whether Taylor Smith will show up to cheer on Travis Kelce.

–In the first London game this year, the Falcons are the home team against Jacksonville, which will be the home team next week against Buffalo.  The Falcons-Jaguars game will only be shown in Atlanta and Jacksonville and ESPN+ with a start at 930 am in the local markets and 630 am on the West Coast. If the Jaguars win, both will be 2-2 while if the Falcons win, they will be 3-1 and the Jaguars 1-3 so it will be a pivotal game even though it wont get a big audience.

Legendary La. high school coach has story worth reading

You know who Nick Saban is.

You probably don’t recognize the name of Lewis Cook Jr.

All you need to know about Cook is that Saban called him “one in a million” as a high school head football coach.

To find out more about this legendary Louisiana coach, you should read Gaylon H. White’s book, “Coach of a Lifetime.” Saban wrote the introduction, and it was published by Rowman & Littlefield.

Cook noted that he and Saban had similar backgrounds. They were both born in 1951. They both married a coed who was a year behind them in high school and were majorettes. Saban’s dad ran a gas station. Cook’s dad did the same thing, but also sold cars. 

“Obviously, we went in a little bit of a different direction as coaches, but we’ve both been coaching a long time,” Cook said. 

Saban, of course, went on to become rich and famous as he won national championships at LSU and  Alabama and signed an $84.8 million deal with the Crimson Tide.

Except for a brief stints as a college assistant coach, Cook was content to coaching in high school and has had an amazing 392-92 2 record in 38 year as  a high school head coach.

Cook likes to joke he was the “clown” who took a $6,000 pay cut to leave a job as a college assistant to return to the high school ranks.

And he never looked back. The nomad coaching life wasn’t for him. 

“That just wasn’t for me,” he said. He has spent his entire career living with his family in the same house so he didn’t have to move around the way so many coaches do.

“Dad and Saban are polar opposites,” said his son Jeff, who admitted he didn’t like playing for Saban at LSU. 

 “The work ethic is the same. The drive to win is the same. The difference is how they treat people. The development of kids is where my dad excels. He makes everybody better. He pulls the underdogs up.”

With all his success, you might think Cook spent most of his career at a big school with a lot of Division I prospects.

But he spent much of his career at a small school — Notre Dame High School in Crowley, La. — and didn’t recruit. He takes the players who attend the school and turns them into overachievers.He was as likely to coach future priests as future college stars or NFL players. And he has coached grandsons of players he coached back in the day.

He coached five state title teams, four at Notre Dame and lost six finals, mainly because he faced better teams.

Saban  watched one of the losses in a title game, said he enjoyed watching his team play and added, “Don’t. take this the wrong way but that team was probably three or four touchdowns better than y’all and they were lucky to get by you.”” Cook’s team lost only by a touchdown.

Cook’s legacy, though is much more than the wins and losses. It will be how he developed the players to be the best they could be on and off the field.

NFL Week 3 in review

–The Kansas City Chiefs got their offense rolling again and their best player, Travis Kelce, was the center of attention on and off the field. The Chiefs crushed the Chicago Bears, which was good news for all the fans who had them in the survivor pool. But the easy victory was overshadowed by the fact Kelce’s girlfriend, Taylor Swift, was at the game with his mom. Swift seemed to get more attention than the game in the post game chatter. Coach Andy Reed said he set them up.  And even Bill Belichick gave an answer when he was asked about the couple and Kelce’s touchdown catch. He said Kelce has made a lot of big catches but that was the biggest. Swift’s appearance even overshadowed Patrick Mahomes suffering an ankle injury late in first half although he returned in the second half. Imagine the scene if Swift is at the Super Bowl rooting for Kelce if the Chiefs make it. 

–It was a bad day for fans who had the Cowboys and Jaguars, who were both favored over winless teams, in the survivor pools. The Cowboys lost to the Cardinals and the Jaguars to the Texans. Josh Dobbs, who joined the Cardinals in late August after the Cardinals made a trade with Cleveland, posted his first victory as a quarterback. Meanwhile, Houston rookie C.J. Stroud in his third game, outplayed third year quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was the top pick in 2021 draft.  This is a pivotal year for Lawrence, who has yet to pick up where he left off last year.

–Sean Payton, in his first year as the Denver coach, may regret knocking last year’s coach, Nathaniel Hackett. Not only is his team 0-3 but the Broncos were routed by Miami, 70-20. The Dolphins were the fourth team to score 70 or more points in the history of the NFL. They could have tied Chicago’s record of 73-0 in maybe the most famous score ever when they routed Washington 73-0 in the 1940 title game.  But coach Mike McDaniel decided to take a knee.  The last team to get to 70 didn’t take a knee. In 1966, Washington was leading the New York Giants, 69-41, late in the game with Sam Huff yelled field goal and Charlie Gogolak kicked a 29-yarder to make it 72-41.  Huff was irate that Giants coach Allie Sherman had traded him to Washington and wanted to score as many as possible. The trade actually worked out well for Huff because he became a long time announcer for the team. But years later, he still relished getting that extra field goal. 

Coaches Brandon Staley of the Chargers and Josh McDaniels of the Raiders made very puzzling decisions Sunday. With the Chargers Leading by four points, Staley went for it on 4th and 1 from his on 24 late in the game. The Chargers didn’t make it but he escaped with the victory when the Chargers intercepted a deflected pass in the end zone. McDaniels had the Raiders kick a field goal with 2:22 left to cut the Raiders against the Steelers to five instead of going for it and trying to tie the game with a touchdown and two point conversion. The field goal cut the deficit to five but the Raiders never got the ball back.

–There are only four winless 0-3 teams after three weeks. Barring a tie there will only be two next week since the four winless teams play each other. The best of the four (Minnesota) is a 3.5 point choice over the Panthers while the Broncos, who gave up 70 points to Miami, are three point choice over the Bears. Shows how bad the oddsmakers think the Beas are. Meanwhile, there are only three unbeaten teams in the league – Miami, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Is it too early to predict the conference title games will match Miami vs. Kansas City and Philadelphia vs. the 49ers?

Previewing NFL Week 3

–Not a great week for can’t miss viewing. The NFL is showing this week it doesn’t have enough good matchups for a 17 game season. Two games – Buffalo at the Commanders on Sunday afternoon and Eagles at Tampa Bay Monday night- -feature 2-0 teams with the winners going 0-3. But Buffalo and the Eagles should have the edge in these two games so they may not be worth watching.

–The Sunday night feature game is Pittsburgh at the Raiders. This was a great rivalry in the 1970s when they met in the playoffs five years in a row. The first game is remembered for the Immaculate Reception and the last three were in the AFC title game with the winner winning the Super Bowl. That was then and this is now. Both are 1-1 but Pittsburgh avoided a 0-2 start on two defensive touchdowns against the Browns even though they were minus seven yards in fourth quarter. The Raiders were thrashed by Buffalo 38-10 to fall to 1-1 but both teams have national followings so they are being featured on Sunday night.

–Fox gets the doubleheader on Sunday but half the country gets Chiefs-Bears and the other half gets Dallas-Phoenix. The Chiefs and Cowboys figure to win easily but Chiefs are the defending champions and the Cowboys are, well, the Cowboys so they hope to get decent ratings.

–The Patriots will try to avoid a 0-3 start when they go to the Meadowlands to face the Jets, who are playing without Aaron Rodgers. The Patriots figure to win their 15th game in a row against the Jets but the odds are against them making the playoffs since they are in the same division with the Dolphins and Bills.

–The Chargers and Vikings are two disappointing 0-2 teams and one will fall to 3-0 when they meet at Minnesota. Both teams made the playoffs last year. If the Vikings lose, there is chatter they could trade Kirk Cousins and go into a tanking mode. Chargers coach Brandon Staley can’t afford to tank because he could be on the hot seat if the Chargers don’t turn things around. He can’t afford to keep losing with Justin Herbert as his quarterback, especially after the 27-0 meltdown against the Jaguars in the playoffs last January.

NFL Week 2 in review

–For the second week in a row, the league lost a major star for the season with an injury on Monday Night Football. Last week, Aaron Rodgers of the Jets went down with a torn Achilles. This Monday night, Nick Chubb was lost for the season with a knee injury that was so disturbing that ABC declined to show the injury on replay. The Steelers showed it on their video board and the crowd gasped and became silent. The injuries show once again that despite the league’s attempt to make the game safer for the players, injuries remain part of the game.

–Unlike the Jets who rallied to win without Rodgers, the Browns lost the game in Pittsburgh without Chubb on the Steelers second defensive touchdown. The Steelers had a minus seven yards on offense in the fourth quarter, but pulled out the game when T.J. Watt picked up the ball and scored after Deshaun Watson, who also threw a Pick Six on the first play of the game, was strip sacked. The Steelers now own MNF with 53 wins and have now won 21 home wins in a row and 13 of the last 14. 

–Times have changed in the AFC East. Back in 2001, the Patriots started out 0-2 with Drew Bledsoe at quarterback. The next week, Tom Brady took over after Bledsoe was injured and went to nine Super Bowls, winning six and losing three before he left for Tampa Bay after the 2019 season and won a seventh. Meanwhile, without Brady, the days of the Patriots winning division titles and playoff games appear to be over. Buffalo won the last three division titles and Miami beat the Patriots to drop them to 0-2 for the first time since 2001 while the Dolphins are one of nine 2-0 teams.

–The Bengals were the only team to start off 0-2 and make the playoffs last year. They are off to a 0-2 start this year but it will be more difficult to make the playoffs because Joe Burrow is dealing with a calf injury. Two of the other 0-2 teams, Chargers and Vikings, made the playoffs last year. The other 0-2 teams are Pats, Bears, Panthers, Broncos, Texans and Cardinals. Since 1990, 265 teams have started off 0-2 and only 30 made the playoffs. Only two 0-2 teams, 1993 Cowboys and 2001 Patriots, won the Super Bowl after starting off 0-2 but there were extenuating circumstances. Emmitt Smith held out and missed the first two Cowboy games in 1993 and Brady didn’t take over until the Patriots third game in 2001 after Bledsoe was injured. There are nine 2-0 teams but just two, Dolphins and Ravens, are in the AFC. The other seven are the in the NFC – Eagles, Cowboys, 49ers. Falcons, Bucs, Commanders and Saints.

–The home field edge isn’t what it used to be. After two weeks, the visiting teams hold a 19-13 edge.