It WAS too good to be true! The recent hot streak of the Los Angeles Chargers slammed into a wall Saturday night in Kansas City. NFL numbers and notes plus a recap of Day One of the bowl extravaganza in this special SUNDAY edition of VSiN City.
Saturday NFL: Kansas City now a virtual lock to win the AFC West after routing the LA Chargers 30-10
Kansas City’s magic number is down to one in the AFC West race thanks to a surprisingly one-sided victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs hold a one-game lead with two to play…but own the tie-breaker thanks to a two-game season sweep head-to-head. As long as Kansas City can beat one of Miami or Denver (Chiefs will be favored for sure over Miami, and in Denver if there’s need)…it will be hosting a game on Wildcard Weekend. Let’s see how KC reclaimed the driver’s seat.
Kansas City (plus 1) 30, LA Chargers 13
Yards-per-Play: LA Chargers 5.1, Kansas City 6.3
Third Down Pct: LA Chargers 36%, Kansas City 43%
Turnovers: LA Chargers 4, Kansas City 0
Rushing Yards: LA Chargers 98, Kansas City 174
Passing Stats: LA Chargers 20-36-3-209, Kansas City 23-30-0-223
TD Drive Lengths: LA Chargers 75-88, Kansas City 80-69-65
There’s a lot to love there from the Chiefs’ perspective. Watching the game, it felt like the three interceptions thrown by Philip Rivers were a relapse into “same old Chargers.” But KC owned the boxscore in dominant fashion even without the turnover edge. All three TD drives were 65 yards or longer. Very safe, efficient performance from an offense that’s trying to re-find its top gear by January.
Kansas City is 8-6. It might host the Chargers again in a few weeks. LAC falls to 7-7, and will wait to see what happens Sunday to other AFC Wildcard contenders (Tennessee 8-5, Baltimore 7-6, Buffalo 7-6, Miami 6-7, Oakland 6-7).
Saturday NFL: Detroit Lions move to 8-6 to stay alive in NFC Wildcard race with win over the Chicago Bears
Mostly a yawner, which tells you things were going the way Detroit Lions’ head coach Jim Caldwell preferred. He wants to grind out wins with boring football. “Safety first” can work in a league with so many kid quarterbacks. Ask your veteran to play smart and safe, hope the opposing offense keeps screwing up. That can get you into the playoffs, but it’s awful hard to win that way in January.
Detroit (-5) 20, Chicago 10
Yards-per-Play: Chicago 5.5, Detroit 5.1
Third Down Pct: Chicago 42%, Detroit 46%
Turnovers: Chicago 3, Detroit 1
Rushing Yards: Chicago 43, Detroit 91
Passing Stats: Chicago 31-46-3-306, Detroit 25-33-0-202
TD Drive Lengths: Chicago 92, Detroit 92-41
Safety first. The Lions only threw 8 incomplete passes with no picks. Chicago threw 15 incomplete passes with 3 going to the wrong team. Many of the other stats are misleading because Detroit was “running clock with its defense” most of the second half. If you use “drive yardage” off the drive charts (slightly different than total yardage because penalty yards count), Chicago’s drives totaled 235 yards, the Lions just 37 after it was 20-3. Detroit was in control of the straight up decision all day, though bettors had to sweat the spread until that final Trubisky pick. The Lions could have cranked up YPP and overall production if needed.
Detroit rises to 8-6 to stay in the NFC Wildcard race. The Lions have to win at Cincinnati next week, then at home vs. Green Bay to reach 10-6...which may not be enough anyway. Chicago falls to 4-10. Last week’s win at Cincinnati may have misled many into thinking this would be more competitive. The Bengals no-showed off the draining Pittsburgh loss. Detroit wasn’t likely to no-show. In retrospect, the line of Lions -3 in Chicago a few weeks back should have risen more than this to a home rematch, as we discussed back on Tuesday when we posted estimated “market” Power Ratings.
Look for the Lions to keep grinding next week against the Bengals, particularly if winter weather is going to help. Chicago hosts Cleveland, which gives the Bears a soft opponent Trubisky has a better chance of impressing against.
Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State embarrasses Oregon in slop-fest
If you didn’t watch this game, it’s tough to fully capture how bizarre the first half was. Boise State led 24-0 late in the second quarter (having wasted an additional scoring opportunity by throwing an interception in the end zone from a few yards away). They were knocking on the door again, but got cute with a “statue of liberty” play where the QB tried to blindly hand off behind his back to his running back’s face mask. Oregon picked up the loose ball, and ran it 86 yards for a TD. Moments later, Boise State was back near the goal line again, and quarterback Brett Rypien missed on another end zone pass…which was returned 100 yards for second straight Oregon defensive TD.
The Ducks’ hadn’t driven the ball past midfield in the first half, yet it was now within 24-14 thanks to Boise State’s “look at how cute we can be” miscues. Both teams traded long TD drives in the second half.
Boise State (plus 7) 38, Oregon 28
Yards-per-Play: Boise State 5.3, Oregon 4.5
Total Yardage: Boise State 481, Oregon 285
Third Down Pct: Boise State 43%, Oregon 29%
Turnovers: Boise State 3, Oregon 4
Rushing Yards: Boise State 112, Oregon 52
Passing Stats: Boise State 23-43-2-369, Oregon 26-36-2-233
TD Drive Lengths: Boise State 67-32-75-86, Oregon 78-75
Oregon obviously missed its star running back. Overhyped quarterback Justin Herbert couldn’t do much without that buffer against a quality Boise State defense until very late in proceedings. You can see that Oregon couldn’t move the chains, couldn’t run, and turned the ball over four times. One of those two Herbert picks was returned for a Boise TD. As we discussed yesterday, Herbert had posted great stats vs. the weakest teams on Oregon’s schedule, but was out with an injury against the toughest opponents. He’s better than he showed here, obviously. The Ducks weren’t helped by off-the-field coaching turmoil. They still had so much roster talent that they were favored by a TD even though the market knew about the coaching turmoil and the absence of Royce Freeman.
Boise State finishes at 11-3, but is nowhere near where the program used to be in national Power Ratings (or it wouldn’t have been 7-point dogs to a team in transition). Oregon finishes 7-6.
College Bowls: Georgia State, Marshall, and Middle Tennessee also score Saturday upsets
Four other bowl games on the first day of the college postseason. After a favorite won and covered the opener, it was nothing but upsets the rest of the way. Let’s run the numbers.
Troy (-5.5) 50, North Texas 30
Yards-per-Play: Troy 6.3, North Texas 3.7
Total Yardage: Troy 435, North Texas 295
Third Down Pct: Troy 45%, North Texas 29%
Turnovers: Troy 2, North Texas 5
Rushing Yards: Troy 240, North Texas minus 8
Passing Stats: Troy 24-31-1-305, North Texas 30-54-2-303
TD Drive Lengths: Troy 80-14-81-27-92-13-47, North Texas 75-41-60
Misleadingly high scoring because you’re not supposed to score 50 points on just 435 yards, or 30 points on just 295. North Texas had a fumble return TD to help boost its total. You can see that Troy had cheapies on drives of 14, 27, and 13 yards after a few of the many Mean Green giveaways. Troy owned the point of attack, as expected given the mismatch in rush defense that we discussed in the Bowl Guide. North Texas lost “incomplete passes” 24-7 because its only hope was to force things in the air.
Good win for the Sun Belt co-champs, who finish at 11-2 in a season that featured a road win at LSU. North Texas finishes 9-5, which included two rout losses to Florida Atlantic and this disappointment. You can probably trust this team next year under this head coach when he’s not outclassed in talent. A lot to like about a team that was 8-3 against the spread when NOT playing Florida Atlantic or Troy.
Georgia State (plus 7) 27, Western Kentucky 17
Yards-per-Play: W. Kentucky 5.7, Georgia State 5.9
Total Yardage: W. Kentucky 349, Georgia State 419
Third Down Pct: W. Kentucky 42%, Georgia State 50%
Turnovers: W. Kentucky 3, Georgia State 1
Rushing Yards: W. Kentucky minus 2, Georgia State 143
Passing Stats: W. Kentucky 26-40-2-351, Georgia State 20-28-0-276
TD Drive Lengths: W. Kentucky 75-87, Georgia State 83-80-74
Ugly result for the Hilltoppers, who were steamed up to the key number of seven before kickoff. They were outgained in total yardage and per-play by a previously 6-5 team that had played the #142 ranked schedule according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. The first two CUSA entries to take the field Saturday (UNT and WK) both registered negative rushing yardage, while also defending poorly against the pass.
Georgia State finishes 7-5 after losing an early season game to weather. Western Kentucky ends at 6-7, but just 3-10 against market expectations The Hilltoppers were supposed to win their conference with a high-octane offense. Instead, they lost a regular season game to horrible Illinois, and a bowl to the team many considered the worst postseason entry.
Marshall (plus 3.5) 31, Colorado State 28
Yards-per-Play: Marshall 7.7, Colorado State 4.7
Total Yardage: Marshall 501, Colorado State 390
Third Down Pct: Marshall 36%, Colorado State 47%
Turnovers: Marshall 2, Colorado State 0
Rushing Yards: Marshall 239, Colorado State 70
Passing Stats: Marshall 17-32-2-262, Colorado State 25-52-0-320
TD Drive Lengths: Marshall 76-75-75-90, Colorado State 75-75-79-85
You can deduce that Marshall made a lot of big plays because 7.7 yards-per-play is huge, while 36% on third downs is disappointing. Marshall had to sweat the straight up result after blowing much of a 31-14 fourth quarter lead. Turnovers didn't help, but didn't set up any cheap TDs for CSU.
Marshall finishes 8-5, and is poised to be a team that matters in Conference USA next season given returning talent. Colorado State was another big point spread disappointment this season…finishing 4-9 ATS (3-9 after a red herring rout of Oregon State in its season opener).
Middle Tennessee (plus 3) 35, Arkansas State 30
Yards-per-Play: MTSU 5.5, Arkansas State 4.9
Total Yardage: MTSU 352, Arkansas State 467
Third Down Pct: MTSU 43%, Arkansas State 45%
Turnovers: MTSU 3, Arkansas State 3
Rushing Yards: MTSU 120, Arkansas State 109
Passing Stats: MTSU 19-35-3-232, Arkansas State 32-58-1-358
TD Drive Lengths: MTSU 65-50-73-75, Arkansas State 85-58-47-51
Middle Tennessee helped CUSA end the day on a good note. Upset wins for Marshall and MTSU after North Texas and Western Kentucky missed the market by double digits. Total yardage was a bit warped because Arkansas State was playing from behind all night. The Red Wolves trailed 21-10 at the half, and 28-17 entering the fourth quarter. On a per-play basis, Middle Tennessee was better. Both teams had turnover troubles. Not a well-played game (though two other bowls actually had more turnovers!).
Note that the dog had a fumble return TD in the first half, which helped push their scoreboard total higher than it should have been. A lot of that going around today. We’re not dealing with the elites of college football this early in proceedings.
Middle Tennessee finishes 7-6. Arkansas State falls to 7-5.
Before finishing up the bowls, we wanted to note that a virtually unanimous pick from VSiN experts won easily with Boise State (plus 7) over Oregon. If you purchased our Bowl Guide, you know that both Brent Musburger and Steve Makinen had the Broncos. Dave Tuley and Matt Youmans also tabbed them as “Best Bets.” In a separate website article, Brett Lawson also backed Boise State. Remember that Brent and Steve picked the whole board in that publication. See if you can top them the rest of the way. Still more than 30 bowl games left. Less than a dollar a bowl if you purchase our “Bowl Guide” for just $19.99 to get in-depth stats and trends for every single postseason matchup.
Saturday College Basketball: Shockers and near shockers for ranked teams
We had initially planned to run boxscore summaries if there were one or two upsets of ranked teams. It’s easy to lose track of college basketball on a big football day. We wanted to make sure you didn’t lose track.
But FIVE shockers of ranked teams…and three other near-shockers that actually missed the spread by more than some of the upsets?! No room to crunch the boxscores from all that!
A quick summary…
#3 Wichita State (-7.5) lost to Oklahoma 91-83
#15 Seton Hall (-8.5) lost to Rutgers 71-65
#18 Notre Dame (-6.5) lost to Indiana 80-77 in overtime
#19 Florida State (-6) lost to Oklahoma State 71-70
#22 Florida (-6.5) lost to Clemson 71-69
Only a partial pun intended that the first team on the list is the Wichita State Shockers. They lost at home to a dangerous Oklahoma team that’s hoping to contend in a loaded Big 12. Notre Dame continued to disappoint in high profile spots, as did Florida. That’s quite a list. It was almost lengthened by THESE…
#10 Xavier (-21.5) only beat East Tennessee State 68-66
#12 Gonzaga (-30) only beat North Dakota 89-83 in overtime (!)
#13 Kansas (-12) only beat Nebraska 73-72
That’s a 21.5-point favorite almost losing outright…and a 30-point favorite only managing a regulation tie! Kansas continues to struggle, lucky to get out of Lincoln with a straight up victory as a double-digit favorite. (Note that Jeff Sagarin of USA Today had Xavier at #4 nationally in his rankings.)
We’ll expand our college basketball coverage early in the new year, once college football is down to its final two teams. Conference play will be underway across the land. We can already tell that several leagues are going to have very interesting races.
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