Armchair Quarterback

I don’t really know just what to make of this University of Michigan sign-stealing investigation.

Let me state here that I’ve never been a fan of the Wolverines; in fact for most of my life, I was very much a “hater” — rooting for Michigan State instead.

I’ve softened that stance over the years, especially once I switched allegiances — at least in football — to Northwestern close to 30 years ago.

Right now, there’s a black cloud hanging over all three of those programs, at least in football.

But I feel somewhat neutral about approaching this whole issue.

Just from my reading of what you also get the chance to read, it was an eye-opener just two days ago when an anonymous staffer who’s supposed to be from a rival Big 10 school said he — or I suppose it could be she — had evidence of other schools compiling lists.

These were lists of the same type that the Wolverines are accused of gathering.

That didn’t really surprise me, considering that the rules about all this scouting come from an antiquated time, the 1990s, a time I of course remember quite well and I’m guessing a whole lot of you reading this also remember.

But when it comes to technology, and certainly with information gathering, that was light years ago. Well, kind of, since a light year is actually a measure of distance, not time.

But without quibbling about that, now anyone can take their smart phone and sit even in a nosebleed seat at Michigan Stadium and take video of what teams are flashing on the sidelines down to their players on the field.

In the 1990s, you’d have to find a whole camera crew and have videotape to get all this down. And who knows how good the quality would’ve been.

I get the feeling lots of major — and not so major — college football programs have been doing just what Michigan is accused of, feeling that if they don’t that just about everybody else will.

It just seems the Wolverines got caught at it, or maybe more accurately, somebody with an axe to grind wanted to rat them out.

It still doesn’t make it right, but I’m going to be interested in seeing how widespread this practice is, and whether U of M took it to another level or if the Wolverines are just typical of at least what big programs do in their scouting.

OK, since that only very peripherally has anything to do with the NFL, let’s take a look at this week’s games:

Today, 8:15 p.m.

Carolina at Chicago — Gawd, what a perfectly awful game to start the week out. But that’s why it may become one of the most entertaining. I’m seeing that Bears quarterback Justin Fields may return, depending on how much pain he has in his throwing thumb. But considering that Chicago was more competitive last week without Fields than Carolina was, plus being at home, I’ll take the Bears, 20-16.

Sunday, 9:30 p.m.

Indianapolis at New England — Now this is more like the typical kind of game played outside the good ol’ USA. One a struggling team without its young QB, and the other the Patriots. Indy took care of the aforementioned Carolina Panthers last week, while New England just keeps thrashing around trying to find a way to win. Keep thrashing, Bill Belichick. Colts, 17-11.

Sunday, 1 p.m.

Cleveland at Baltimore — This looks to be a bit of a trap game after the way Baltimore has manhandled the Lions and the Seahawks over the past three weeks. But credit is being given to NFC teams not knowing how to handle run-like-the-wind Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. The Browns, with a Super Bowl-caliber defense, are a divisional opponent that sees Jackson twice a year every year. The difference should come down to Baltimore’s stout defense handling the weak Cleveland offensive attack. Ravens, 27-19.

Houston at Cincinnati — As long as QB Joe Burrow is pretty healthy, I don’t see Cincy star receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s absence as that consequential for a week or two. Bengals, 31-27.

San Francisco at Jacksonville — An intriguing matchup — the 49ers are wounded having lost their last three after starting the season 5-0. Both teams coming off their bye, but San Fran is supposed to be getting healthier including with its pass rushers, bad news for an iffy Jaguars’ offensive line. 49ers, 24-16.

New Orleans at Minnesota — Brand-new QB Joshua Dobbs pulled out a miracle for the Vikings last week, joining the team on, I think it was Tuesday, not taking reps in practice as he wasn’t supposed to play right away, then being forced to come into the game on Sunday even as he introduced himself to his offense while in the huddle. And then he went 20 of 30 for 158 yards in a comeback win! I’ll take a flyer that at home he can at least approximate that this week. Vikings, 29-23.

Green Bay at Pittsburgh — Good news for Packers fans, I didn’t pick your team last week, either, and look what they did. I’ve got to go with the buttoned-up Pittsburghers taking care of all the loose ends Jordan Love & Co. seem to leave on the field each week. Steelers, 28-22.

Tennessee at Tampa Bay — Seems like another dud game like Panthers-Bears until you remember both teams put up fights before losing by four points (Tennessee) and two points (Tampa Bay) last week. It feels like the Bucs have more quality areas on their team, while the Titans basically have Derek Henry. Probably not quite true, but since Tampa’s at home, Buccaneers, 20-15.

Sunday, 4 p.m.

Atlanta at Arizona — Though Atlanta lost that game to the emergency backup QB from Minnesota, the Falcons did force 21 QB hurries and had five sacks on the various Vikings’ signal callers. And what does Arizona have? Oh yeah, lots of sand right out the front door. Falcons, 24-17.

Detroit at Los Angeles Chargers — Lots of people see this as a trap game for the Lions, or lacking that, the beginning of a Chargers’ resurgence. Why would that be? I don’t know, this L.A. team has an awful pass defense (third worst in yards), and that doesn’t begin to consider all the bad coaching decisions this team makes, particularly late in games. As long as they play a smart game, I like the Lions, 33-27.

New York Giants at Dallas — Remember what happened the first time these teams met? The Cowboys won 40-0 in a Week 1 Sunday night blowout that felt like 80-0. And that was when the Giants has some semblance of a professional QB under center. Now they’re looking at Matt Barkley or Tommy DeVito, who I’m told are NOT the sons of Charles Barkley and Danny DeVito. Yikes! Cowboys, 33-4.

Washington at Seattle — The Commanders got a win last week, while Seattle was blown out in Baltimore. If these were robots, it would be easy to take Washington. Since it’s not BattleBots, I’m taking the Seahawks, 24-19.

Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

New York Jets at Las Vegas — The Jets really need a bye week (even though they’ve already had one), and if this had been the Josh McDaniels-led Raiders, they might’ve been able to treat this game like the bye. But now that Antonio Pierce is the head man, Las Vegas might make a little noise. And this is the perfect team to strut their stuff against. Raiders, 33-17.

Monday, 8:15 p.m.

Denver at Buffalo — Denver’s coming off its bye having just pummeled the Chiefs, while the Bills lost a close one on Sunday night at Cincinnati. I’m trying to throw my “recency bias” goggles on the ground, but actually “reverse momentum” agrees with my heart and my head. Give me the Bills, 36-19.

Last week — 9-5, 64 percent. Season — 83-53, 61 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 552. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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