Patriots QB Brady missing from start of Friday practice

After taxing stretch, Brady to use bye to recharge, improve

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was absent at the start of practice on Friday, the team’s last before its game against the New York Jets.

The 41-year-old three-time NFL MVP hurt his knee when he slipped after receiving a pass in last week’s game against Tennessee. He was listed on the injury report as limited for Wednesday’s workout; the team did not practice on Thanksgiving Day.

Since taking over as the starter when Drew Bledsoe was injured in the second game of the 2001 season, only once has Brady missed games for injury, when he tore apart his knee in the 2008 opener. He also missed the first four games of the 2016 season to serve a suspension for his role in the team’s illegal football deflation scheme.

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Report: NFL could move AFC title game from Chargers’ stadium

Report: NFL could move AFC title game from Chargers' stadium

Report: NFL could move AFC title game from Chargers’ stadium

If the Los Angeles Chargers beat the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend, and the Indianapolis Colts top the New England Patriots, the NFL will have a decision to make.

Will the Chargers be allowed to host the AFC championship game at their temporary home, the 30,000-seat Dignity Health Sports Park in suburban Carson, Calif., or will it be played elsewhere in a stadium with larger capacity?

CBS Sports reported Friday that the NFL league office will be discussing contingency plans should the fifth-seeded Chargers and sixth-seeded Colts advance. That would give the Chargers home-field advantage in the championship game.

The league discussed the possibility of where the Chargers would host a potential title game when they were vying with the Chiefs for the No. 1 seed, but that talk died down when the Chargers landed as a wild-card team, CBS’ Jason LaCanfora reported.

He said that last month, officials had discussed the potential of moving the game to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of the Rams. That could still be a Plan B, LaCanfora said, but if the Rams host the championship game, both games could not be played on Sunday. Instead, one of the conference championship games could be played on Monday night under that scenario, he said.

–Field Level Media

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What To Look For – Divisional Playoffs

PRESS RELEASE

WHAT TO LOOK FOR – DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

LOWER SEED SUCCESS: The INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-6) and PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-7) both earned victories on Wild Card Weekend as the No. 6 seed in their respective conferences.​

The Colts, who travel to Kansas City on Saturday (4:35 PM ET, NBC), and the Eagles, who

PRESS RELEASE

WHAT TO LOOK FOR – DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

LOWER SEED SUCCESS: The INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-6) and PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-7) both earned victories on Wild Card Weekend as the No. 6 seed in their respective conferences.​

The Colts, who travel to Kansas City on Saturday (4:35 PM ET, NBC), and the Eagles, who play at New Orleans on Sunday (4:40 PM ET, FOX), look to become the first No. 6 seeds to reach the Conference Championship since 2010, when both the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets accomplished the feat.​​​​

The No. 6 seeds to reach the Conference Championship since the 12-team playoff format began in 1990:

SEASON

TEAM

CONFERENCE

ADVANCED TO

2010

Green Bay

NFC

Won Super Bowl XLV

2010

New York Jets

AFC

Conference Championship

2008

Baltimore

AFC

Conference Championship

2008

Philadelphia

NFC

Conference Championship

2005

Pittsburgh

AFC

Won Super Bowl XL

 

 

 

 

2018

Indianapolis

AFC

???

2018

Philadelphia

NFC

???

 

In the AFC, the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (13-4, No. 5 seed), who face New England on Sunday (1:05 PM ET, CBS), and the sixth-seeded Colts are both still alive. With victories by both teams in the Divisional Playoffs, it would mark the first Conference Championship game featuring a No. 5 and No. 6 seed since the 12-team playoff format began in 1990.

 

WINNING WAYS: The DALLAS COWBOYS, who defeated Seattle 24-22 on Wild Card Weekend, and the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, who had a bye last week, will each be playing in the Divisional Playoffs.

Dallas, who plays at the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET, FOX), has 35 playoff wins and can tie the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (36) for the most postseason victories all-time. New England, who hosts the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday (1:05 PM ET, CBS), has 34 postseason victories and can surpass the GREEN BAY PACKERS (34) for the third-most playoff wins all-time.

The teams with the most postseason wins in NFL history:

TEAM

WINS

LOSSES

WIN PCT.

SUPER BOWL WINS

Pittsburgh

36

25

.590

6

Dallas

35

27

.565

5

Green Bay

34

22

.607

4

New England

34

20

.630

5

San Francisco

30

20

.600

5​

 

TOUCHDOWN LEADERS: Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES and the Chiefs are s​et to face off against Indianapolis quarterback ANDREW LUCK and the Colts in the Divisional Playoffs on Saturday (4:35 PM ET, NBC).

Mahomes, who led the NFL with 50 touchdown passes, and Luck, who ranked second with 39 touchdown passes in 2018, have the most combined regular-season passing touchdowns (89) among any opposing quarterbacks in a playoff game in the Super Bowl era.

With Mahomes and Luck ranking first and second in regular-season touchdown passes, Saturday will mark the fifth time since 2002 that the top two passing touchdown leaders from the regular season will face off in the postseason.

The postseason games between the top two regular-season passing touchdown leaders since 2002:

SEASON

PLAYER (TEAM)

TD PASSES

PLAYER (TEAM)

TD PASSES

PLAYOFF ROUND

2016

Aaron Rodgers (GB)

40

Matt Ryan (Atl.)

38

NFC Championship

2014

Andrew Luck (Ind.)

40

Peyton Manning (Den.)

39

AFC Divisional

2009

Drew Brees (NO)

34

Peyton Manning (Ind.)

33*

Super Bowl XLIV

2009

Drew Brees (NO)

34

Brett Favre^ (Min.)

33*

NFC Championship

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018

Patrick Mahomes (KC)

50

Andrew Luck (Ind.)

39

AFC Divisional

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Tied for 2nd

 

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER: New England quarterback TOM BRADY and the Patriots welcome quarterback PHILIP RIVERS and the Los Angeles Chargers to Gillette Stadium on Sunday (1:05 PM ET, CBS).

Brady, who will be 41 years and 163 days old on Sunday, and Rivers, at 37 years and 36 days old, combine for a total of 28,688 days old, the oldest combined age by opposing starting quarterbacks in a postseason game in NFL history.

The oldest combined age by opposing starting quarterbacks in a postseason game in NFL history:

DATE

QUARTERBACK

TEAM

QUARTERBACK

TEAM

COMBINED DAYS OLD

1/13/19

Tom Brady

New England

Philip Rivers

Los Angeles Chargers

28,688*

1/24/16

Peyton Manning

Denver

Tom Brady

New England

28,603

1/9/99

John Elway^

Denver

Dan Marino^

Miami

27,704

1/16/94

Warren Moon^

Houston Oilers

Joe Montana^

Kansas City

27,306

1/22/17

Tom Brady

New England

Ben Roethlisberger

Pittsburgh

27,162

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Total days as of Sunday, January 13

 

 

RATED WELL: Philadelphia quarterback NICK FOLES and the Eagles head to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday (4:40 PM ET, FOX) to face New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES and the Saints.

Foles, who has the highest postseason passer rating (105.2) in NFL history, and Brees, who ranks fifth with a 100.7 passer rating, are two of five quarterbacks to have a passer rating of 100 or higher in the postseason (minimum 150 attempts).

The quarterbacks with the highest career postseason passer rating (minimum 150 attempts):

QUARTERBACK

COMP.

ATT.

YARDS

TDS

INTS

RATING

Nick Foles

125

179

1,432

10

3

105.2

Bart Starr^

130

213

1,753

15

3

104.8

Kurt Warner^

307

462

3,952

31

14

102.8

Matt Ryan

237

351

2,672

20

7

100.8

Drew Brees

354

537

4,209

29

9

100.7

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Foles (69.8 percent) has the highest postseason completion percentage in league annals (minimum 150 attempts) and Brees (65.9 percent) ranks fifth.

The quarterbacks with the highest career postseason completion percentage (minimum 150 attempts):

QUARTERBACK

COMP.

ATT.

PCT.

Nick Foles

125

179

69.8

Matt Ryan

237

351

67.5

Kurt Warner^

307

462

66.5

Ken Anderson

110

166

66.3

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

 

SHOWDOWN IN SO CAL: Dallas running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT and the Cowboys head to Southern California to take on defensive tackle AARON DONALD and the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET, FOX).

Elliott, who led the NFL with 1,434 rushing yards in 2018, rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown in Dallas’ Wild Card Weekend victory over Seattle. Elliott has recorded at least 125 rushing yards in each of his first two playoff appearances and can become the fourth player in NFL history to record three consecutive postseason games with at least 125 rushing yards.

The players with the most consecutive postseason games with at least 125 rushing yards in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

DATES

CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH 125+ RUSH YARDS

Terrell Davis^

Denver

1/11/98-1/17/99

4

Arian Foster

Houston

1/7/12-1/5/13

3

John Riggins^

Washington

1/15/83-1/30/83

3

 

 

 

 

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas

1/15/17-1/5/19

2*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Active Streak

 

 

Donald, who led the league with 20.5 sacks and earned the 2018 Deacon Jones Award as the NFL’s sack leader, became the 11th different player since 1982 to record at least 20 sacks in a single season.

With a Rams win on Saturday, Donald would join Pro Football Hall of Famer LAWRENCE TAYLOR (1986) as the only players to record at least 20 sacks and advance to the Conference Championship in the same season since 1982.

The players to record at least 20 sacks and advance to the Conference Championship in the same season since 1982:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

SACKS

ADVANCED TO

Lawrence Taylor^

New York Giants

1986

20.5

Won Super Bowl XXI

 

 

 

 

 

Aaron Donald

Los Angeles Rams

2018

20.5

???

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Courtesy of NFL Communications

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Reports: Bengals hope to hire Rams QB coach Taylor

Reports: Bengals hope to hire Rams QB coach Taylor

The Cincinnati Bengals would like to

Reports: Bengals hope to hire Rams QB coach Taylor

The Cincinnati Bengals would like to hire Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor to be their next head coach, multiple media outlets reported Thursday.

No team can hire Taylor until the Rams’ season is over, but Taylor reportedly is the Bengals’ top choice. ESPN reported that Taylor also wants to be in Cincinnati, where he coached as the Cincinnati Bearcats’ offensive coordinator in 2016.

Taylor, 35, would become the second-youngest active head coach in the NFL, behind only his current boss, Rams head coach Sean McVay, who turns 33 on Jan. 24. He interviewed for the Denver Broncos’ and Arizona Cardinals’ head-coaching vacancies before those teams hired Vic Fangio and Kliff Kingsbury, respectively.

A former Nebraska quarterback, Taylor is in his first year as QBs coach with the Rams after spending 2017 as assistant wide receivers coach. He also coached for the Miami Dolphins, one year as assistant quarterbacks coach (2012), three as quarterbacks coach (2013-15) and part of the 2015 season as interim offensive coordinator.

NFL Network earlier Thursday that the Bengals told several assistant coaches they would not be returning, as the team’s next head coach has other assistants in mind to replace them. That indicated the hire would come from outside the organization.

Other candidates for Cincinnati job include Hue Jackson — who joined the Bengals midseason after being fired as the Cleveland Browns’ head coach — former Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

Taylor would be the third head coach hired during this cycle who has ties to McVay.

New Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur spent 2017 as the Rams’ offensive coordinator under McVay.

Meanwhile, McVay offered Kingsbury a job on L.A.’s staff for the remainder of the 2018 season after the latter was fired by Texas Tech. Kingsbury instead joined the University of Southern California as offensive coordinator before getting the Cardinals’ job a month later.

Taylor’s brother, Press Taylor, is in his first season as the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterbacks coach.

–Field Level Media

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Jets QB Darnold strongly supports hiring of Gase

Jets QB Darnold strongly supports hiring of Gase

Jets QB Darnold strongly supports hiring of Gase

The New York Jets’ hiring of Adam Gase as head coach has received a major vote of approval from at least one important voice on the team — starting quarterback Sam Darnold.

“It was a tough decision, but I think Gase and the things he’s able to do, the way he’s able to lead, I think is the best thing for our team,” Darnold told ESPN during a phone interview on Thursday.

Darnold had an up-and-down 2018 rookie season (17 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions) with the Jets, who finished 4-12 and ranked 29th in total offense. He also supported former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken, but said he thought the team made the right choice with Gase, the former Miami Dolphins head coach who was fired on Dec. 31 after they finished 7-9 and ranked 31st in total offense.

“I’m really, really excited about this opportunity and all the things Adam can bring this team,” said Darnold, who spoke with Gase on FaceTime for 10 minutes on Monday. “For us, it’s about winning. How do you do that? You score more points than the other team. I’m really excited about the opportunity to get to work with him, and score a load of points. I think it’s going to be really fun.”

If there was a backlash by fans about the Jets’ decision to hire Gase, Darnold expects it to subside, saying, “I don’t think they’ll be upset when we start winning games.”

Eight known candidates interviewed for the position, including former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy. It came down to a final four: Gase, Monken, McCarthy and Baylor coach Matt Rhule.

“Adam is an awesome dude. First of all, a really trustworthy guy,” Darnold said of Gase, who previously worked with Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler and Ryan Tannehill. “He just knows ball. He knows football. He’s very, very passionate about it. I think that’s what’s going to be awesome about this whole thing.”

Manning reached out to Jets CEO Christopher Johnson on Tuesday night to throw his support Gase’s way.

“His passion is going to be super, super contagious,” Darnold added about his new coach. “Guys are going to want to go out there and play the game all the time. I think that’s kind of his leadership style, and I think that’s really where he’s going to thrive. I think our guys are going to take on that kind of attitude.”

–Field Level Media

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NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend: Over and Under Best Bets

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we're making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we're offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Over of

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we’re making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we’re offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Over of the week: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams

Total: 49

The Cowboys offense has come alive. Dak Prescott is playing well, Ezekiel Elliott has picked up steam and the offensive line is healthier than it was during much of the regular season. As a result, Dallas has averaged 32.3 points per game the last three weeks.

Meanwhile, the Rams might not be projected to load up on points considering the way they finished the regular season — they averaged “just” 27.0 points per game during the final four weeks of the year — but they still averaged a league-high 37.1 points per game at home this season, and star running back Todd Gurley is now healthier than he’s been in weeks.

Both defenses have stellar playmakers, but the Rams have the league’s worst run D in terms of rushing yards allowed per attempt. That bodes well for Elliott. The Dallas D is excellent against the run but remains vulnerable through the air and struggled when defending running backs in the passing game. And that, of course, bodes well for Gurley and the rest of L.A.’s high-powered, innovative offense.

It’d be a huge surprise if the Cowboys and Rams didn’t combine for 50-plus points Saturday night in front of a split crowd at the L.A. Coliseum.

Predicted score: Cowboys 30, Rams 27

Under of the week: Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs

Total: 57.5

Whaaaat?

OK, the Chiefs have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and that unit was at its worst when it gave up 35.6 points per game between Week 11 and Week 16 before recovering in finale against Raiders. But let’s not forget that Indy’s shockingly strong defense has surrendered a league-low 15.5 points per game dating back to Week 7.

Both offenses will undoubtedly move the ball and find the end zone, but I get the feeling oddsmakers have given too much credit to NFL touchdown pass leaders Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck and not enough credit to Indy’s all-around stellar D and Kansas City’s under-the-radar pass-rush.

The Chiefs can be had on the ground and in the secondary, but don’t be surprised if Bob Sutton dials up some stops with his sneaky-good pass-rush, and be less surprised if the still-mistake-prone Mahomes experiences some growing pains in his first career playoff start.

After all, the same thing happened to Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky last week, as well as Jared Goff in his maiden playoff voyage last January.

This game won’t be low-scoring by any stretch, but I doubt these teams combine for more than 50 points.

Predicted score: Colts 27, Chiefs 24

Good luck, we’re all counting on you. 

Previous results
Last week: 2-0
2018 season: 21-14-1

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL since 2007 and is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America, despite the fact he actually lives in Canada. The Toronto-based sports journalist’s work can also be seen at Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Awful Announcing and The Guardian. He can be found on Twitter @brad_gagnon

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Super Bowl 53 Future Book Odds: Start To Finish

Wildcard weekend is out of the way and Super Bowl 53 coming up fast.  Here are the current odds for teams in the playoffs. We've also put together a visualization of the odds for teams throughout the season below. The Saints have been the consistent favorite throughout 2018, with the Chiefs following close behind.

Wildcard weekend is out of the way and Super Bowl 53 coming up fast.  Here are the current odds for teams in the playoffs. We’ve also put together a visualization of the odds for teams throughout the season below. The Saints have been the consistent favorite throughout 2018, with the Chiefs following close behind.

NFL Odds

Super Bowl LIII Line

AFC                  +3

NFC                  -3

 

Who will win Super Bowl LIII?

AFC Team         +130     (13/10)

NFC Team         -150     (2/3)

 

Odds to Win Super Bowl 53       

New Orleans Saints                                      5/2

Kansas City Chiefs                                        4/1

Los Angeles Rams                                        9/2

New England Patriots                                   6/1                   

Los Angeles Chargers                                  9/1

Indianapolis Colts                                        10/1

Dallas Cowboys                                           12/1

Philadelphia Eagles                                     12/1

 

Exact Super Bowl Matchups (Most likely to least likely)

New Orleans Saints vs. Kansas City Chiefs                    4/1

New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots                 5/1

Los Angeles Rams vs. Kansas City Chiefs                      6/1

Los Angeles Rams vs. New England Patriots                  8/1

New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Chargers                8/1

New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts                      10/1

Los Angeles Rams vs. Los Angeles Chargers                  12/1

Los Angeles Rams vs. Indianapolis Colts                        14/1

Dallas Cowboys vs. Kansas City Chiefs                          16/1

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs                     16/1

Dallas Cowboys vs. New England Patriots                       20/1

Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots                 20/1

Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Chargers                      28/1

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Los Angeles Chargers                28/1

Dallas Cowboys vs. Indianapolis Colts                            33/1     

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Indianapolis Colts                      33/1

 

Here you can select a team and see what the probability of them winning the Super Bowl was throughout each week of the season.



Martin is a data analyst that has been applauded for his ability to make the complex simple. He grew up on a farm in northern Vermont and spent his summers helping his mom lead llama treks at Smugglers’ Notch Resort.

Martin graduated from University of Vermont with a degree in Mathematics. After graduation he left Vermont to work for an educational nonprofit called City Year for two years, and followed that up by attending the data science immersive program at Galvanize in Denver. He is an avid Green Bay Packer fan, and spends his free time playing football and soccer.

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Chargers RB Gordon sits out, TE Henry practices

Chargers RB Gordon sits out, TE Henry practices

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon sat

Chargers RB Gordon sits out, TE Henry practices

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon sat out practice Wednesday due to a knee injury, giving him extra rest as he hopes to play Sunday against the New England Patriots.

NFL Network reported Tuesday that Gordon is expected to play through a mild left knee sprain, which is similar to the injury on his right knee that kept him out of three games in the regular season.

“There’s not a lot of backs in the league right now that are 100 percent, to be honest with you,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn told reporters before practice Wednesday. “He’s one of those guys that he’s not 100 percent, but sometimes you don’t feel like it because of the way he competes.”

Meanwhile, tight end Hunter Henry was a full participant in his first practice since being activated off the reserve/physically unable to perform list on Monday.

Henry has practiced with the team for three weeks, but the Chargers were not obligated to list him on an injury report until he was placed on the 53-man roster. The designation suggests Henry is on track to play against the Patriots, just 7 1/2 months since he tore his anterior cruciate ligament during organized team activities.

Joining Gordon on the sideline Wednesday was center Mike Pouncey, who is battling a thumb issue. Fullback Derek Watt (shoulder) was limited, as were linebacker Kyle Wilson (concussion) and cornerback Brandon Facyson (concussion).

Lynn was not available for comment after the injury report was issued.

–Field Level Media

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Arians: Leftwich will call Bucs’ plays

Arians: Leftwich will call Bucs' plays

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians will not

Arians: Leftwich will call Bucs’ plays

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians will not call offensive plays for the team, instead handing that responsibility to offensive coordinator/pass-game coordinator Byron Leftwich.

“Obviously I’ll have a big hand in it,” Arians added Wednesday on the Rich Eisen Show, in his first public appearance since being named the Bucs’ head coach on Tuesday. He said he feels “very, very comfortable” with Leftwich calling plays.

Arians has called plays in 14 NFL seasons, including all five years of his tenure as the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach, but he clearly has faith in Leftwich, who turns 39 on Monday. In June 2017 — just a few months after Arians made Leftwich the Cardinals’ quarterbacks coach — Arians said Leftwich will be a head coach “early and fast.”

A former top-10 pick as a quarterback, Leftwich was promoted to interim offensive coordinator in Arizona midway through this season after the firing of Mike McCoy, but the Cardinals released him after the season. This year will be his third as an NFL coach, in addition to one year as a coaching intern.

Meanwhile, Arians also sounded sure that former New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles will be his defensive coordinator, despite reports Wednesday saying the addition is not a done deal yet, with the Chicago Bears also seeking Bowles’ services to run their defense after Vic Fangio’s departure to join the Denver Broncos.

“He’s like a son to me,” Arians said of Bowles. “He thought hard about [being the Bucs’ defensive coordinator]. I was doing my best sell job and this happened. We’re really excited to be back together.”

Bowles was Arizona’s defensive coordinator under Arians from 2013-14 before landing the Jets’ lead job. The Cardinals finished those years ranked seventh and fifth, respectively, in points allowed.

Arians also voiced full support in quarterback Jameis Winston, saying, “this thing will be built around him.”

“I think he can win it all,” Arians continued of Winston. “He has the intelligence, the toughness and obviously the arm ability to lead a team. Now we’ve gotta put the right pieces around him, we’ve gotta do some things defensively, but if anybody can do things defensively, Todd Bowles can do it.”

The Buccaneers officially will introduce Arians on Thursday.

–Field Level Media

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Report: AAF to follow NFL eligibility rules

 

After Clemson's dominant

 

After Clemson’s dominant victory over Alabama on Monday night in the College Football Playoff championship game, social media was flooded with fans wishing Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence could play pro football right away.

 

They’ll need to wait until 2021. Probably.

 

NBC Sports reported Tuesday that a spokesman for the upstart Alliance of American Football said the league will use the same eligibility rules as the NFL. That means a player can’t join the league until at least three years have passed since his high school class graduated.

 

So under that scenario, Lawrence and other players who were true freshmen in the 2018 season can’t be selected by the NFL until the 2021 draft, or join the AAF until then.

 

The AAF opens play in its inaugural season on Feb. 9.

 

The XFL, however, hasn’t committed to such a timeline. The eight-team XFL is scheduled to begin in 2020.

 

In an interview with podcast host Brian Berger of the Sports Business Radio Road Show in December, XFL commissioner Oliver Luck said, “We’re not subject to that.”

 

“Theoretically we could take a player right out of high school. I doubt we’ll do that,” Luck said, taking note of the physical differences between teenagers and players in their mid-20s.

 

“But I wouldn’t rule it out,” he said. “Nor would I rule out taking a player who played a year of college football and let’s say isn’t eligible academically, which happens. Or a player who is two years out of college, and is transferring, and would have to sit out a year. A lot of guys don’t want to.”

 

–Field Level Media

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Report: ‘Good chance’ Kitchens will be Browns’ head coach

Report: 'Good chance' Kitchens will be Browns' head coach

Report: ‘Good chance’ Kitchens will be Browns’ head coach

Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens may be looking at his second promotion in less than three months, according to a report Tuesday by Cleveland.com, which says Kitchens has “a good chance” of being named head coach of the Browns.

The report adds that several assistant coaches already have been asked to stay aboard, a sign that the Browns will stay inside the organization for the hire. NFL Network reports it doesn’t appear Cleveland has made a decision yet, but Kitchens is getting “strong consideration.”

Kitchens, 44, interviewed with the Browns on Monday, and interim head coach Gregg Williams also interviewed for the job last week.

Last week, multiple outlets reported that the Browns blocked several NFL teams from interviewing Kitchens for their offensive coordinator positions so they could keep him, either as head coach or offensive coordinator.

Kitchens was promoted from Cleveland’s running backs coach to offensive coordinator — his first time holding a coordinator position — in Week 9 of the regular season, and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield thrived after the change. In eight games with Kitchens as OC, Mayfield threw for 2,254 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions and was sacked just five times.

–Field Level Media

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McDaniels: ‘Book is closed’ on interviews, staying with Patriots

McDaniels: ‘Book is closed’ on interviews, staying with Patriots

New England Patriots

McDaniels: ‘Book is closed’ on interviews, staying with Patriots

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday that the “book is closed” on doing any more head coaching interviews, adding, “I’ll be here moving forward.”

McDaniels made the comments during a conference call with reporters, multiple outlets reported.

It comes a day after the Green Bay Packers reached a deal with Matt LaFleur to be their next head coach, replacing Mike McCarthy. McDaniels was among several candidates interviewed by the Packers, and it was the one job McDaniels was reportedly very interested in during the current coaching cycle.

“It’s always a humbling experience,” McDaniels said Tuesday. “I’ve said before, I think I have one of the best jobs in the world.”

McDaniels previously turned down an invitation to interview with the Cincinnati Bengals, and said Tuesday that he has had “no contact” with the Cleveland Browns, contradicting reports that he had shown interest in their vacancy.

McDaniels told reporters he’s “completely focused” on the Patriots’ game against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Patriots play host to the Chargers in a divisional round playoff game Sunday at 1 p.m.

McDaniels, 42, was 11-17 as the head coach of the Denver Broncos from 2009-10, and he spurned the Indianapolis Colts at the 11th hour last year after reaching an agreement with the team to replace Chuck Pagano.

McDaniels returned to the Patriots after getting fired by the Broncos. He first joined the Patriots in 2001.

–Field Level Media

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Ballin’ on a Budget Wild Card Weekend Results, Super Bowl Value Picks

We didn't exactly go out with a bang. If we were an NFL team, we would have been eliminated from the playoffs this weekend. It turns out as the games get tougher for the players, they get tougher for bettors too. We went 1-4 this week, our worst week of the season, but

We didn’t exactly go out with a bang. If we were an NFL team, we would have been eliminated from the playoffs this weekend. It turns out as the games get tougher for the players, they get tougher for bettors too. We went 1-4 this week, our worst week of the season, but let’s not let that distract us from the fact we picked at a 58 percent clip during the rest of the year. We’re going to recap what went wrong this week and as we put a bow on the 2018 season of this column, we’ll look at who presents the best Super Bowl value.

LOSS: Texans -1.5 vs. Colts (-105): Colts 21, Texans 7.

This was a true beatdown. I’ll be the first to admit that we underestimated just how hot the Colts were. Their offensive line looks impenetrable and Andrew Luck, as a result, looks like an elite quarterback once again. They took Houston out of the game from the jump by rushing out to a big lead. Deshaun Watson and Co. were simply never able to recover.

Watch out for Indy against the Chiefs in the Divisional Round, they match up really well against Kansas City. If K.C. isn’t able to generate a pass rush on that tough offensive line, they could be in for a long day, whether they have the league MVP playing at his best or not. Teams surprise us in the playoffs and our first surprise came thanks to Indy.

LOSS: Seahawks to beat Cowboys (-105): Cowboys 24, Seahawks 22.

If only we would have taken the spread, which was Seahawks +2.5, we would’ve had the greatest backdoor cover of all time. Boy, kicker Sebastian Janikowski getting injured in the first half really threw this game through a loop with Seattle having to go for two and having to go for it on fourth down deep inside Dallas territory. Of course, having to go for two (and succeeding) at the end of the game, pushed the final score to a two-point margin instead of four.

However, we took Seattle to win straight up, because that was the better value and Pete Carroll’s unwillingness to pass the ball in the first half bit us right where it hurts. It really doesn’t make sense to be running the ball so much when you have one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the league, but what do I know? This was a tough game to watch and an even tougher game to lose a bet on.

WIN: Chargers-Ravens UNDER 41.5 points: Chargers 23, Ravens 17.

For a while there, it seemed like we were solidly in the clear, but scoring picked up in the fourth quarter. Had Lamar Jackson led an improbable comeback drive in the final minute, it would have pushed the over. Let’s be honest, though, that would’ve been pretty cool regardless. Los Angeles held on as they continue to look like a team of destiny and they saved the over by a couple points.

This is the only game we picked correctly this week, which makes it our last correct game pick of the season on this column. Don’t be surprised if the Chargers end up knocking off the Patriots on the road next week. L.A. is now 8-1 on the road this season and is coming for a New England team, which was the only team in the league to go a perfect 8-0 at home in the regular season.

LOSS: Bears -5.5 vs. Eagles (-110): Eagles 16, Bears 15.

Writing this recap makes me physically ill, because I’m a Bears fan. I was in a fit of blind rage for about an hour after Cody Parkey’s game-winning 43-yard field goal attempt clanked off two different posts. While that field goal wouldn’t have won us this bet anyway, it doesn’t make it any easier a pill to swallow.

What we should blame this on is Matt Nagy’s vanilla play calling in the first half. It seemed like he was playing not to lose and didn’t let QB Mitch Trubisky push the ball down the field. That may have been a mistake given the fact he torched the Eagles in the second half, giving him the most overall passing yards of any QB playing on wild card weekend. It still should have been enough as he led the team down for a very makeable game-winning field goal, but a fingertip re-directed Parkey’s attempt and the play that will forever live in Chicago sports infamy was born.

LOSS: Texans-Colts OVER 48.5 (-110): Colts 21, Texans 7.

This game is really the gift that keeps on giving, huh? When one team scores just seven points, you can be pretty certain you aren’t hitting the over. I expected this to be a much closer game in the mid-20’s hence the pick. I couldn’t have anticipated Houston’s offense stalling out for most of the game. Credit to Indy for jumping out to an early lead and not giving it up, but that game flow really put us in a bind.

Since Indy went up so big so soon, Houston had to go into predictable play calls and that hindered them on offense. Up big, Indy just ran the ball and continued running out the clock. It was the perfect storm to lose us the over pretty quickly.

Okay, this bad betting week behind us, let’s jump to some Super Bowl picks. I’ll give you two Super Bowl values I really like and two I don’t like so much as you look to make a longer term bet in the coming weeks. These are all based on teams’ odds of winning the Super Bowl going into the Divisional Round.

Like: Chargers +1000. Yes, I get that the Chargers now have to take on the Patriots on the road to even advance to the AFC Championship, but this is really good value. A 10-to-1 that I really could see going all the way. Since they were a wild card team, it’s easy to forget they were tied for the best record in the AFC this season.

Saints +250. It’s weird to call the Saints a “value” pick, because they are the favorites to win it all. However, even a 2.5-to-1 payout is great for them and here’s why: they have the path of least resistance to get there. With the Bears eliminated, the NFC is now theirs for the taking and that alone, makes them a good value.

Dislike: Chiefs +400. The Chiefs are the most overrated team in football and it’s because they have the league MVP and the league’s most dynamic offense. However, in the playoffs, when games get tighter, you need a defense to win you games and K.C. has the worst defense remaining in the playoffs. They simply can’t slow down opponents in the passing game and they have a less-than-stellar match up this week with the Colts coming to town. They’re tied for the second-best odds to win it all and that’s just bad value.

Rams +400. I dislike this for many of the same reasons I dislike the value of taking the Chiefs. First of all, the team hit a rough patch in the final quarter of the season. They should beat the Cowboys at home, but that’s not a given. One thing they have over the Chiefs is a game wrecker like Aaron Donald. Even with a subpar overall defense, Donald can change a game with a big strip sack at any time. Overall, though, you just can’t convince me they’re going to march into New Orleans and beat the Saints. They, along with Kansas City, are the second-best odds behind the Saints and I just don’t see value in that.

Jacob Kornhauser is a sports reporter in Southern Oregon covering all sports, including Oregon and Oregon State athletics. He has been a national baseball writer for Bleacher Report and Rant Sports and has written two baseball books. He also specializes in sports betting analysis. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School.

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New Raiders GM Mayock: Gruden has ‘final say’ on personnel

New Raiders GM Mayock: Gruden has 'final say' on personnel

For anyone who

New Raiders GM Mayock: Gruden has ‘final say’ on personnel

For anyone who feared the Oakland Raiders’ hiring of Mike Mayock to be the general manager would create some sort of power struggle between the new guy and head coach Jon Gruden, Mayock is doing his best to alleviate that fear.

When push comes to shove, the GM is deferring to the coach.

“In all honesty, Jon’s got final say, if it ever comes to that, and I’ve got zero problems with that,” Mayock told ESPN’s Steve Levy on Monday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Mayock was attending the College Football Playoff championship game, scouting perennial NFL pipelines Alabama and Clemson.

“Now, having said that, I think we’re going to come to a consensus and I like a little yelling, a little screaming, a little fighting for what players you believe in,” Mayock continued. “But at the end of the day, I guarantee you, Jon Gruden and I are going to know what a Raider looks like and smells like. I don’t think we’re going to have any issues.”

After a brief playing career in the early 1980s, Mayock shifted his focus to the media. He has never held any sort of NFL management or coaching position, and he has worked as an analyst and draft expert for the NFL Network since 2004.

After shadowing Gruden for parts of the offseason, Mayock was named the replacement for the fired Reggie McKenzie on New Year’s Eve.

The Raiders finished the 2018 season with a 4-12 record, collecting a cadre of draft picks along the way.

Oakland had a 39-70 record, including a playoff loss, under McKenzie. He helped orchestrate trades that shipped out former first-round picks and Pro Bowl performers Khalil Mack (Bears) and Amari Cooper (Cowboys) during Gruden’s first season back on the sidelines since his “Monday Night Football” run.

In addition to the franchise’s own first-round pick, the Raiders will have first-round picks from Chicago and Dallas. The order of those selections will be determined by playoff results.

The Raiders are slated to begin playing in Las Vegas in 2020, but with their lease at the Oakland Coliseum up following the 2018 season and their new stadium in Sin City not ready until 2020, their home for the 2019 season remains uncertain.

–Field Level Media

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Steelers’ Smith-Schuster replacing Brown as Pro Bowl WR

Steelers’ Smith-Schuster replacing Brown as Pro Bowl WR

Steelers’ Smith-Schuster replacing Brown as Pro Bowl WR

Now the Pro Bowl knows what the Pittsburgh Steelers feel like.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown, who missed Pittsburgh’s regular-season finale for what was listed as a knee injury, is also out of the postseason all-star contest for apparently the same reason. The Steelers announced Monday that teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster will replace Brown on the roster for the game, set for Jan. 27 in Orlando, Fla.

Smith-Schuster was voted as the Steelers’ Most Valuable Player by his teammates after making 111 catches for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He ranked fifth in the AFC and 12th in the NFL with 1,439 yards from scrimmage.

Brown was out with a knee injury for the Steelers’ Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, per the injury report. However, it was later revealed that Brown missed the final walkthrough and was benched by head coach Mike Tomlin for missing other meetings and practices leading up to the game.

While the Steelers beat the Bengals 16-13 to finish 9-6-1, they were knocked out of playoff contention when the Baltimore Ravens held off the Cleveland Browns. Last week, NFL Network reported teammates doubted Brown’s knee injury claims.

Tomlin, who admitted there was no MRI or X-ray on the knee, said he had no reason to doubt the wide receiver was hurt. He followed that up with a completely different feeling, saying at an end-of-year news conference, “We’re talking about our darkest hour. The guy not communicating is a very real element of discussion.”

Tomlin denied Brown requested a trade, as CBS Sports reported last week.

“I talked to him prior to the game on Sunday,” Tomlin said. “I have not talked to him since then. … I’m not going to frame any expectation or conversation. I’m having conversations with a lot of people in terms of assessing what transpired. I will certainly talk to him.”

Brown led the NFL with 15 touchdown catches this season, and had 104 receptions for 1,297 yards.

Other Steelers scheduled to play in the Pro Bowl are running back James Conner, defensive lineman Cameron Heyward and offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Alejandro Villanueva.

–Field Level Media

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Bears K Parkey: ‘Thought I hit a good ball’

Bears K Parkey: 'Thought I hit a good ball'

Bears K Parkey: ‘Thought I hit a good ball’

A distraught Cody Parkey was at a loss to explain his miss of a potential game-winning field goal at the end of Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, which knocked the Chicago Bears from the playoffs.

“I feel terrible,” Parkey told reporters after the 16-15 loss. “There’s really no answer to it. I thought I hit a good ball.”

Parkey’s 43-yard attempt hit the left upright, caromed down, went off the crossbar and then back into the end zone, preventing Chicago from reaching the divisional playoffs. Slow-motion replays appeared to show Eagles defensive tackle Treyvon Hester getting a finger on the ball with his left hand, and Eagles teammates confirmed afterward that Hester tipped it.

It was Parkey’s sixth kick this season that hit an upright and missed.

Fans booed the kicker heavily as he left the field.

“It’s one of the worst feelings in the world to let your team down,” Parkey said. “I feel terrible. Continue to put things into perspective, continue to just put my best foot forward and just sleep at night knowing that I did everything in my power this week to make that kick, and for whatever reason it hit the crossbar and the upright.”

Moments before the miss, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson had used a timeout to ice Parkey just before the Bears snapped the ball, and Parkey made the meaningless attempt as whistles blew. He had also hit each of his first three field-goal attempts of the game, though none was from further than 36 yards.

Parkey, who turns 26 in February, spent the first two years of his career with the Eagles, reaching the Pro Bowl in 2014 as a rookie.

Former teammate and Eagles left tackle Jason Peters told NFL Network after the game he knew Parkey’s second attempt — after Pederson called a timeout — would miss.

“I told him thank you after the game,” Peters said.

Parkey joined the Bears on a four-year, $15 million deal in free agency in March, but he made just 23 of 30 field-goal attempts (76.7 percent) and missed three extra points in the regular season.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles survive Bears on bizarre missed FG

Eagles survive Bears on bizarre missed FG

Eagles survive Bears on bizarre missed FG

Nick Foles found Golden Tate for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 56 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and the Philadelphia Eagles held on for a 16-15 win over the host Chicago Bears on Sunday in the NFC divisional playoffs.

The Eagles were stuffed on three plays from the 2-yard line before Tate hauled in the pass just beyond the goal line with the season at stake. The defending Super Bowl champions will travel south to face the top-seeded New Orleans Saints next week.

Bears kicker Cody Parkey missed a 43-yard field goal in the final seconds for Chicago as teammates watched in disbelief from the sideline. Parkey’s kick hit the left upright and then hit the crossbar before bouncing back into the end zone. It was the sixth time he hit the upright this season.

Foles completed 25 of 40 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Tate and Dallas Goedert each had a touchdown catch.

Mitchell Trubisky completed 26 of 43 passes for 303 yards and one touchdown in his playoff debut. His top target was Allen Robinson, who finished with 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown.

Robinson hauled in a 22-yard score along the right sideline to give Chicago a 15-10 lead with 9:04 remaining in the fourth quarter. Taylor Gabriel was stuffed in front of the goal line on a rushing attempt for a failed two-point conversion.

The Eagles grabbed a 10-6 lead with 5:20 to go in the third quarter. Foles looked to his left and connected with Goedert on a slant route toward the end zone for a 10-yard score. The completion — which came with only 10 Bears on the field — capped a seven-play, 83-yard scoring drive.

Chicago pulled within 10-9 with 14:13 remaining in the fourth quarter. Parkey made a 34-yard field goal for his third strike of the game.

Philadelphia opened the scoring on the first possession of the game with a 43-yard field goal from Jake Elliott.

The Bears’ offense had back-to-back punts before Parkey evened the score at 3 with a 36-yard field goal with 9:38 to play in the second quarter. An interception by Bears linebacker Roquan Smith on the previous drive helped to set up the score.

Chicago took a 6-3 lead as time expired in the half on Parkey’s 29-yarder.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Steelers want to trade Brown despite cap hit

Report: Steelers want to trade Brown despite cap hit

Report: Steelers want to trade Brown despite cap hit

The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to trade Antonio Brown in the next several weeks, despite the salary cap hit the team would take, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday morning.

That comes after Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged Wednesday that a time could be near when Brown is more of a distraction than he’s worth in Pittsburgh after a week of discord in advance of their regular-season finale.

“The reason why it’s a high — I call it a high probability, and we have until March 13 new league year to see this come to fruition, he’s due a $2.5 million roster bonus five days after that date,” Mortensen said. “The Steelers, certainly because of what happened this week but what’s been festering behind the scenes even a couple of years beyond that, they will move him in a trade.”

If they deal Brown, the Steelers will face $21 million in dead salary cap space — about 8 to 10 percent of their total cap space. Mortensen said the Steelers expect to have $14 million in salary credit from running back Le’Veon Bell and plan to restructure quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s contract to clear cap space.

NFL Network reported the asking price for Brown likely would be a first-round draft pick or multiple high picks.

Brown had 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and scored 15 touchdowns in 2018. The 30-year-old is a four-time, First Team All-Pro.

–Field Level Media

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49ers S Exum fined $53K for hit on Robert Woods

49ers S Exum fined $53K for hit on Robert Woods

49ers S Exum fined $53K for hit on Robert Woods

The NFL on Saturday fined San Francisco 49ers safety Antone Exum Jr. $53,482 for a hit he put on Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods last Sunday.

This fine marks the third time Exum has been penalized this season for a hit.

Exum was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play against Woods, which took place in the third quarter of the Rams’ 48-32 victory over the 49ers. Exum hit Woods in the midsection after breaking up a long pass attempt.

Exum was also fined $53,472 for a hit on Denver WR DaeSean Hamilton in Week 14 and $26,739 for one on Kansas City WR Sammy Watkins in Week 3, though that one was reduced to $5,000 after an appeal.

Other players who were hit with fines from Week 17 games:

The Rams’ Samson Ebukam $26,739 for unnecessary roughness.

Miami’s Kiko Alonso and Robert Quinn $10,026 for unnecessary roughness.

Buffalo’s Jordan Mills $13,369 for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick $10,026 for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Chicago punter Pat O’Donnell $15,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct after the side judge tripped over him.

Bears safety Deon Bush $10,026 for a face mask penalty against Minnesota.

Cincinnati’s Alex Redmond $26,739 for unnecessary roughness.

Indianapolis’ George Odum $20,054 for unnecessary roughness.

Pittsburgh’s Ramon Foster $10,026 for unnecessary roughness.

Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill and Demarcus Robinson $10,026 for taunting.

Dallas’ Antwaun Woods $10,026 for taunting.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs QB Mahomes, four rookies named All-Pro

Chiefs QB Mahomes, four rookies named All-Pro

Chiefs QB Mahomes, four rookies named All-Pro

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald headline the 2018 NFL All-Pro team announced Friday.

Mahomes entered the season as a first-time starter and helped Kansas City secure the No. 1 spot in the AFC playoffs with 5,097 yards and 50 touchdown passses.

Donald was the only unanimous selection by the 50-member Associated Press panel. The fifth-year pro had 20.5 sacks after signing the largest contract in NFL history for a defensive player.

Four rookies — including Colts teammates in guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard — were first-team All-Pro picks. Chargers safety Derwin James and Seahawks punter Michael Dickson are the others.

Kansas City, with wide receiver Tyreek Hill, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and tight end Travis Kelce — whose brother, Eagles center Jason Kelce, was also picked — joining Mahomes, and the Chicago Bears had four players named All-Pro. The picks for the Bears are linebacker Khalil Mack, cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson and punt returner Tarik Cohen.

Donald was joined by running back Todd Gurley in representing the Rams.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was second-team All-Pro and received just five first-team votes while his top target, wide receiver Michael Thomas, was a first-team pick along with DeAndre Hopkins of the Texans.

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Running Back: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

Flex: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

Tight End: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Wide Receivers: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints; DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

Left Tackle: David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers

Right Tackle: Mitchell Schwartz, Kansas City Chiefs

Left Guard: Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts

Right Guard: Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys

Center: Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles

DEFENSE

Edge Rushers: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans; Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears

Interior Linemen: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams; Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles

Linebackers: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers; Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks; Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

Cornerbacks: Kyle Fuller, Chicago Bears; Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots

Safeties: Eddie Jackson, Chicago Bears; Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers

Defensive Back: Desmond King, Los Angeles Chargers

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens

Punter: Michael Dickson, Seattle Seahawks

Kick Returner: Andre Roberts, New York Jets

Punt Returner: Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears

Special Teamer: Adrian Phillips, Los Angeles Chargers

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Running Back: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Flex: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

Tight End: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

Wide Receivers: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons; Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

Left Tackle: Duane Brown, Seattle Seahawks, and Terron Armstead, New Orleans Saints

Right Tackle: Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints

Left Guard: Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns

Right Guard: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens

Center: Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers

DEFENSE

Edge Rushers: Von Miller, Denver Broncos; Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints; Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings

Interior Linemen: Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs; J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

Linebackers: Von Miller, Denver Broncos; C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens; Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys

Cornerbacks: Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys; Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins

Safeties: Jamal Adams, New York Jets; Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Back: Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekicker: Aldrick Rosas, New York Giants

Punter: Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams

Kick Returner: Cordarrelle Patterson, New England Patriots

Punt Returner: Desmond King, Los Angeles Chargers

Special Teamer: Cory Littlejohn, Los Angeles Rams

–Field Level Media

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NFL Wild Card Weekend: Over and Under Best Bets

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we're making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we're offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Over of

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we’re making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we’re offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Over of the week: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys

Total: 42.5

Just 34 percent of games involving the Seahawks or Cowboys fell short of the total this season, and Saturday’s over/under of 42.5 indicates we’re still under-estimating both teams’ ability to score points.

The Cowboys put up 63 points in their final two games of the regular season and averaged 25.0 points per game at home this season, while Seattle scored 65 points in its last two games and averaged 26.8 points per game overall.

That made the Seahawks offense the sixth-highest-scoring unit in football, thanks partly to the league’s highest-ranked running game and a suddenly-respectable offensive line. Plus, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett have been crushing it in that receiving corps,

Meanwhile Amari Cooper has teamed up with Ezekiel Elliott to give Dallas one of the most dangerous offenses in the game. The Cowboys scored at least 27 points in five of their last eight games with Cooper, and Elliott once again gained steam during the second half of the season.

That doesn’t bode well for a Seahawks run defense that surrendered 4.9 yards per carry during the regular season, especially as the Dallas offensive line gets healthier.

Predicted score: Cowboys 26, Seahawks 23

Under of the week: Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens

Total: 42

I can’t comprehend why this total is above 40. After all, the Los Angeles Chargers offense has gone a little cold, scoring just 33 points in their last two regular-season games. Just 10 of those points came in Week 16 against these Ravens, who scored just 16 offensive points of their own in that prime-time matchup.

Baltimore’s top-rated defense surrendered just 17.9 points per game during the regular season, while the Chargers ranked in the top 10 with just 20.6 points per game allowed.

Look for Baltimore’s D — which has been known to rise to occasions in the playoffs — to be just as strong at home as it was in that road victory over the Chargers. And look for L.A. to do an even better job at limiting the Ravens’ unique rushing attack, now that it has more tape and experience to work from.

It’s a lot easier to trust these defenses than these offenses, especially considering the Chargers’ history with big-game duds and L.A.’s turnover-filled final few games of the 2018 regular season.

Predicted score: Ravens 20, Chargers 17

Good luck, we’re all counting on you. 

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Last week: 0-2
2018 season: 19-14-1

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL since 2007 and is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America, despite the fact he actually lives in Canada. The Toronto-based sports journalist’s work can also be seen at Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Awful Announcing and The Guardian. He can be found on Twitter @brad_gagnon

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