Crystal Ball

WEEK ELEVEN CRYSTAL BALL: GURU Ready for Most Important Week of the Football Year

My friends, THE GURU is ready to roll, anticipating the best annual weekend of this – or any – football season.

Yes, it is Lehigh-Lafayette week, the annual rite of passage when these two bitter rivals engage to see who has bragging rights for the next 365 days. This Saturday in bucolic Bethlehem, Pa., marks the 153rd edition of The Rivalry, which is both the most played and longest running in college football. As a bonus, I’ll be accompanied by THE CHIEF and THE TRE MAN with THE FAIR CLAUDINE and MRS BRAVE happily shopping as the rain falls throughout the afternoon.

This year’s contest is at mother Lehigh and my beloved Mountain Hawks (nee Engineers) are favored with most expecting them to win handily. To that I say: not so fast, my friends. While LU is 4-1 in Patriot League play, we are still under .500 overall (4-6) and Lafayette (3-7, 3-2) has an outstanding defense that has yielded an average of just 7.4 points in five conference games.

Yes, the Leopards have an offense every bit as impotent as a rapidly aging BROTHER BLUENIK, but Lehigh allowed at least 35 points in each of the first eight games this season and, despite holding its past two opponents to just 21 apiece, has yielded an average of 40 ppg this year (32 ppg in league play).

Offensively, Lehigh is fourth in total yards in Division I FCS football with 475 yards per game, led by quarterback Brad Mayes, he of the 3,156 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, and running back Dominic Bragalone, the FCS leader with 19 touchdowns and the first LU running back to post three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Both young men are juniors, and fine Americans, by the way.

But, while the Leopards offense is dead last in FCS, producing a paltry 212 yards per game, the LU defense ranks 120th (out of 123), allowing 488 yards each week and an FCS-worst 7.54 yards per play, more than half a yard worse than anyone else.

What I’m saying is this: something – or someone – has to give. My hope is that the givers will be the turnover-prone Leopards’ offense, which has a Salvation Army-like charity streak and threw three pick-sixes in Patriot League play alone. And let’s hope their defense folds under the pressure of defending a Lehigh offense which is unlike any they’ve faced in 2017. We shall see.

The Week Ten record was 10-4 and the season mark is now 73-47 (.608). And this week we’ve got six teams on the bye: Carolina (7-3), Indy (3-7), Miami (4-5), the New York Jets (4-6), San Fran (1-9) and Tampa (3-6). On to the games.

THURSDAY

8:25 PM, NFL Network, NBC

Take Pittsburgh (7-2) at home vs Tennessee (6-3). The Steelers are gonna be something else once they hit full stride.

 

SATURDAY

12:30 PM, Patriot League Network

Lafayette (3-7, 3-2) at Lehigh (4-6, 4-1).It says something about the tough season the Patriot League has had when you notice that Lehigh and Lafayette both have good league records but neither won a single game in non-conference play. Each team has plenty to play for – Lehigh wins the PL title with a victory and Lafayette could finish with a surprising 4-2 league record in a rebuilding season, the team’s first campaign under coach John Garrett, brother of Dallas head coach Jason. (Aside: you have no idea how much it hurts to type “Lafayette” and “Dallas” in the same sentence.)

I expect a tough game with Lafayette playing well but just think Lehigh will have a little too much Bragalone this weekend. The weather could be muddy, a day built for LU’s physical style of running and tailgating. LEHIGH, 23-20.

 

SUNDAY

1 PM, CBS

Jacksonville (6-3) at Cleveland (0-9).The Jags have taunted the Browns this week and Cleveland players claim to be offended by the remarks. Just a thought, Brownies: maybe spend more time practicing and less time reading the paper. JAGS, 17-16

…Kansas City (6-3) at New York Giants (1-8). This week Coach Ben McAdoo gave his team a tongue lashing for lack of effort. That’s too-little, too-late to the tune of sending a 45ish OBNOXIOUS MIKE to charm school. This game does have upset special possibilities, but I say KC squeaks by. CHIEFS, 27-24

…Baltimore (4-5) at Green Bay (5-4). A year which began with such promise for the Ravens, who were once 2-0, is now in danger of slipping away. I like the way Hundley is playing. PACK, 23-20.

1 PM, FOX


Dee-troit (5-4) at Chicago (3-6).
Even with Stafford, it’s hard to trust Dee-troit on the road. BEARS, 20-17….

…Arizona (4-5) falls at Houston (3-6) and the Los Angeles Rams (7-2) continue their winning ways in Minnesota (7-2)…

…Skins (4-5) at New Orleans (7-2). Washington is in a tough spot but, along with the boneless wings I’ll be enjoying Sunday with THE BURGUNDY MING, I’ll give you something to chew upon: The Skins bring pressure more often than any other defense in the league and the Saints’ Drew Brees, surprisingly, has the worst QB rating of anyone in the NFL when pressured. Smells like a DC victory – and more boneless – to me. SKINS, 23-20

…Tampa Bay (3-6) falls at Miami (4-5) in a game rescheduled due to the devastating weather which hit South Florida in Week One. How underachieving are the Bucs? The cast of Ishtar thinks the team is a disappointment.

4:05 PM, FOX

Buffalo (5-4) doesn’t get it done against the host Los Angeles Chargers (3-6). Tyrod Taylor is now on the bench so new Bills QB Nathan Peterman, a rookie, gets to meet Joey Bosa & Co. up close. That’ll leave a mark.

4:25 PM, CBS

Cincinnati (3-6) at Denver (3-6). The Bengals fall again but the real loser is the viewing public…

…New England (7-2) at Oakland (4-5). THE GURUloves the Pats to lay waste to an overmatched Raiders squad. How was it that some folks thought these folks were SB-bound?

8:30 PM, NBC 

Philadelphia (8-1) at Dallas (5-4). It’s rare when yours truly roots for Philly and the legions of mouth breathers comprising the team’s fan base but this, folks, is one of those weeks. Others I’d cheer for against Dallas: Al Gore, chronic ringworm and Coke Zero. BIRDS, 27-23.

 

MONDAY

8:30 PM, ESPN

Atlanta (5-4) at Seattle (6-3).Anyone who thinks that Atlanta got back to business with last week’s thumping of Dallas doesn’t realize how bad the Cowboys are without Ezekiel Elliott. Look for Seattle to roll over the latest one-year wonder. SEAHAWKS, 30-19.
That’s it for this week, all. Enjoy the games and God bless!

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