Shurmur answers Odell Beckham Jr.’s play calling complaint

Shurmur answers Odell Beckham Jr.'s play calling complaint

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Things are back to normal for the New York Giants.

They lost a tough one to the Eagles after building an early 12-point lead. Odell Beckham’s Jr., who had spoken of running the table and making the playoffs for weeks, got frustrated after the setback and questioned coach Pat Shurmur’s play calling against a banged-up Philadelphia secondary.

It ended with the coach fending off questions Monday about his decisions; his limited use of halfback Saquon Barkley in the second half; Eli Manning’s status as the starting quarterback; and his refusal to rebuke Beckham, saying his star receiver was venting after an emotional, last-minute 25-22 loss.

Really, it was what one would expect with the Giants (3-8) heading into the final five weeks of the season with one of the worst records in the NFL and virtually no hope of getting to the playoffs. They are frustrated after winning six of 27 games over the last two seasons.

With that, Shurmur has to get the team ready to play the Chicago Bears (8-3) at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

“You go into every week with giving your team the best opportunity to win the football game each week,” Shurmur said. “That’s how you do this thing. This isn’t player tryouts, this is do everything in your power to win the next game. Today’s Monday, so we’re in the Monday phase of that process.”

As far as looking back on Sunday, Shurmur downplayed Beckham’s questioning the play calling, noting the Giants threw 37 times and ran 18. He noted the passing game had seven plays of 18 yards or better, one off the team’s high for the season.

“You’ll have to ask him to define it after he watches the tape, but I felt like we were trying to do the things necessary to win the game,” Shurmur said. “We still got production in the running game, had a couple third-down calls in the red zone that were close. If it goes in, that’s a different story.”

Beckham only speaks to the media on Thursday, so he was not available for comment.

The big difference Sunday was the second half. The Giants had five possessions, including a three-play drive in the waning seconds, and gained three first downs. They ran 22 plays as opposed to 38 in the first half, when they scored on their first four possessions in taking a 19-12 lead. They were in position to try a late field goal, but Manning was intercepted on an ill-advised toss.

Shurmur did not hesitate to say the 37-year-old Manning will remain the starting quarterback because he gives the Giants the best chance to win. He did not seem interested in questions suggesting the team should start rookie Kyle Lauletta or backup Alex Tanney with the season going nowhere.

Manning also wasn’t interested in a change, saying he wants to play. He also believes the team will fight.

“We’ve got a good group of guys,” he said. “It’s important to the guys. We feel like we’re going to keep fighting, we’re going to keep preparing, and going out there and still chase that feeling of that locker room after a win. That’s a good feeling. It makes the week go easier.”

The Giants have had trouble finishing the past two seasons, with Sunday the latest example.

“I think we need to learn how to win again here,” Shurmur said. “The last two weeks, we won one by coming back. A week ago, we won one by playing from the front. This week, we got ahead on a team and didn’t hold the lead, so there’s things to be learned in all three of those as you learn to win a game. We’re doing it with a lot of very young players, and a lot of really backup-type players from our initial roster, so it’s a great opportunity for them to help us win.”

NOTES: TE Evan Engram felt his hamstring grab during warmups. He says his status is day to day. … WR-return man Quadree Henderson fractured a shoulder and probably will be put on injured reserve. … The Giants felt Walt Anderson’s officiating crew missed two late calls, both involving Beckham. There was no call when Beckham was clearly held on a third-and-4 play from the Eagles 11 before Aldrick Rosas’ tying 29-yard field goal with 5:52 to play. Beckham also was tackled by Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill with a trip on the final play of the game, a 10-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. It also could have been a leg whip, which is 15 yards. It would have set up a 62 or 67-yard field-goal attempt with the wind. “Anywhere from 70 and in I would’ve had to go out there,” Rosas said. “I would’ve been pretty confident. Just get it up there, hit it nice and let it carry.”

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Christian McCaffrey’s durability keying Panthers’ offense

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — When Carolina's Christian McCaffrey ripped off a 59-yard run against the Seattle Seahawks, there was no tapping his helmet.

He wasn't coming out of the game.

The second-year running back told Cam Newton in the huddle before the next play "I'm ready to go," then took a handoff on the next

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — When Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey ripped off a 59-yard run against the Seattle Seahawks, there was no tapping his helmet.

He wasn’t coming out of the game.

The second-year running back told Cam Newton in the huddle before the next play “I’m ready to go,” then took a handoff on the next play and picked up another 15 yards.

“Any other average running back would’ve tapped his head and said, ‘I need a blow,'” Newton said.

McCaffrey has been the Energizer Bunny of the Panthers’ offense, playing in 97 percent of the team’s offensive plays through 11 games — the most in the NFL.

And he’s showing no signs of letting up.

He became the first Carolina player in franchise history to eclipse 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in the same game last Sunday. Despite the loss to the Seahawks, his 237 total yards set a franchise record.

Entering Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay, McCaffrey is fourth in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage with 1,365. He has 757 yards rushing and five touchdowns, 608 yards receiving yards on 71 catches and five more TDs.

McCaffrey said he never really gets tired — and if he does, he just ignores it.

“I don’t think of it,” McCaffrey said. “When I’m in the game there is so much adrenaline. I never really feel like I’m gasping. You have to push through that.”

“He doesn’t look like it is wearing on him,” said Panthers coach Ron Rivera, whose team is looking to snap a three-game losing streak. “He works hard at everything he does and takes care of himself the way you expect a pro to do. Our other young guys can learn from that example.”

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound McCaffrey is proving to everyone he’s not too small to be an every-down — and basically every-play — running back.

Newton said McCaffrey is always out to prove something and bristles when someone calls him a “small” running back.

“When they take you at the eighth pick, you have a lot of people counting on you,” McCaffrey said. “So I knew it was going to be a pivotal (role). But at the same time, you still have to earn everything. And that’s kind of my mindset, how it’s always been.”

Said Newton: “C-Mac has defied all odds. The thing that has always put me at comfort with C-Mac is he’s always been a workhorse. He’s always been a playmaker. There’s no denying that. C-Mac was everything (we thought he could be), and a bag of chips.”

McCaffrey believes that players like McCaffrey, Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara are changing the running back position in the NFL.

“Those guys are all-down backs,” Newton said. “And they can take a screen pass, score. They can take a trap, score. They can block in the pass game. They’re everything. And they’re changing the game. My hat goes off to all of those guys knowing that they’re a part of the evolving of the game, just like dual-threat quarterbacks.”

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Big time: Browns playing rare significant late-season game

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Other than trying to save a coach's job, secure the No. 1 overall draft pick or simply survive, the Browns haven't played many meaningful games in December or January.

Sunday is an exception.

With a chance to further legitimize themselves as no longer being the "same 'ol Browns," and with their

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Other than trying to save a coach’s job, secure the No. 1 overall draft pick or simply survive, the Browns haven’t played many meaningful games in December or January.

Sunday is an exception.

With a chance to further legitimize themselves as no longer being the “same ‘ol Browns,” and with their playoff pulse accelerating, the Browns go on the road to play the Houston Texans, who have won eight straight games and have perhaps the NFL’s best defensive front seven.

It’s a daunting challenge for the Browns (4-6-1), but they feel up to it.

With back-to-back wins for the first time since 2014, Cleveland’s players are brimming with confidence. They’re following brash rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield’s lead and believe they can not only play with any team, but they can beat any team.

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry isn’t quite ready to say the Browns have arrived. But after so many miserable seasons, they’re headed in the right direction.

“Listen, we’re on our way,” Landry said in a lively locker room earlier this week. “We’re still not there. We’re on our way. We’ve put complete games together, these last two have definitely been complete. But I believe that you never really, truly arrive. You’re always trying to look for ways to get better. You’re always trying to find things individually, as a team, as an offense to get better. But I’ll say we’re on our way. We’re definitely on our way.”

The Browns avoided infamy last week by snapping their 25-game road losing streak with a resounding 35-20 win at Cincinnati, a victory punctuated by Mayfield’s chilly handshake with former coach Hue Jackson afterward.

The Mayfield-Jackson affair created some big headlines and debate, and also overshadowed the bigger story surrounding the Browns, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2002.

With a win on Sunday, Cleveland, which went 0-16 last season and went 1-31 under Jackson, would move deeper into the AFC playoff picture, though still behind several teams.

Imagine that.

The fact the Browns are even playing a significant game in December is an accomplishment, and they’d like to be in a few more.

“If we want to have any postseason dreams, we got to keep this little streak going,” defensive end Myles Garrett said.

Cleveland hasn’t fared well in late-season games, going 2-21 since 2013 in December and January, and 9-38 over the past 10 seasons. But those are past Browns teams, not this one, and after ending several losing streaks this season, Landry said he and his teammates understand what’s in front of them.

“This game,” said Landry, one of the few current Browns who has been to the playoffs — with Miami in 2016. “Win this game. That’s the next step for us.”

If they’re to be taken seriously, and if they intend to become consistent winners, the Browns must beat a quality team and the Texans certainly qualify. Houston is clicking following on 0-3 start. Quarterback Deshaun Watson looks fully recovered following knee surgery that ended his rookie season, and star defensive end J.J. Watt is healthy and terrorizing quarterbacks.

“We don’t care about what they’re doing,” Landry said. “Obviously, we understand that they’re on an eight-game winning streak. But for us, we know it’s going to come down to us executing and doing the things that we do to put us in place to win the game. We’re not really worried about what they’re going to do. Obviously, we understand that they are a good football team, a great football team and we have to play our best game.”

If they can pull off the upset, the playoff talk in Cleveland might be heard from coast to coast. Mayfield, who has thrown seven TD passes and just 10 incompletions in his past two games, knows better than to look too far ahead.

“It is always great to have a big picture mindset, but for us right now, we have to take it one week at a time,” he said. “If we do not take care of business, then it does not really matter. We have to win and focus each week for everything else to fall into place.”

NOTES: S Damarious Randall was added to the injury report with a hamstring issue and his questionable for Sunday. Interim coach Gregg Williams doesn’t think Randall will miss the game.

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Cowboys have reason to think big after ending Saints’ streak

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Leighton Vander Esch howled through the open retractable roof after a booming tackle on a huge third-down stop negated by a potentially crushing roughing-the-punter penalty.

Jourdan Lewis answered an ominous fumble by quarterback Dak Prescott that gave Drew Brees another chance by intercepting the MVP contender , putting the Dallas Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Leighton Vander Esch howled through the open retractable roof after a booming tackle on a huge third-down stop negated by a potentially crushing roughing-the-punter penalty.

Jourdan Lewis answered an ominous fumble by quarterback Dak Prescott that gave Drew Brees another chance by intercepting the MVP contender , putting the Dallas Cowboys in position to finish off a victory that stopped New Orleans’ 10-game winning streak.

When owner and general manager Jerry Jones talked of the season changing in a 13-10 win over the NFC’s hottest team Thursday, he had the rookie linebacker whose nickname is “Wolf Hunter” and a confident backup second-year cornerback in mind.

That’s just to name a couple of players on a team that might now dare to think an NFC East title is just the beginning. The Cowboys (7-5) will have another important game in pursuit of that division crown Dec. 9 against Philadelphia, the last of three straight home games.

“When you win a game like this, it changes you,” Jones said after Dallas’ fourth straight victory guaranteed at least a share of the division lead and the inside track to a home wild-card playoff game going into the final quarter of the season.

“This is a young, impressionable bunch. And so they know now that they can go out there and play our game and play it in a way to beat an offensive machine. I just am so proud for them because they are not going to be the same kids that looked in the mirror this morning.”

The defense kept the Cowboys in games, and ultimately in the playoff hunt, while the offense mostly struggled through the first half of the season.

While the score against the Saints indicated a similar formula, Prescott had 194 yards passing at halftime and finished 24 of 28 without an interception. The third-year pro led a nearly seven-minute drive in the fourth quarter before his fumble with the Cowboys in position for a field goal.

The Cowboys held the ball for more than 21 minutes in the first half and had 100 yards rushing against the NFL’s No. 1 run defense. Making Brees a spectator fit the signature of the Dallas offense, and the same objective will be in play when Carson Wentz visits.

“We didn’t make enough plays on offense,” Prescott said. “We left plays out there. But when we have the defense that we have versus an offense like that, how can you not be confident?”

Vander Esch shared credit for the tackle with Daniel Ross when Mark Ingram was dropped for a 1-yard loss on third-and-2 late in the third quarter. But Randy Gregory ran into punter Thomas Morstead, and Brees threw his only touchdown pass two plays later.

The Cowboys forced a punt on the next New Orleans possession, and Brees didn’t get another chance after Lewis’ interception with 2:08 remaining.

“The battle is won, but the war has just begun,” said defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who forced two fumbles by Brees on sacks but only got credit for one because of an offside penalty. “The rest of the league sees how we are playing football and they will want a piece of us. We have to stay focused and get to work every week.”

Dallas doesn’t have off-the-charts numbers on defense, but the most impressive one just got better. The NFL’s third-best scoring defense held the league’s highest-scoring offense 27 points under that average. The Saints had their fewest yards by nearly 100.

The Cowboys’ season was on the brink less than a month ago at 3-5. Now it would be hard to find a more confident team.

“We have a lot of talent, a lot of young talent, a lot of great players with very bright futures,” said 23-year-old NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott. “But we’re 100 percent not in a place where we can get comfortable. Division up for grabs. We’ve just to make sure we finish this season off the right way.”

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What to Look For – Week 13 Quarterbacks

PRESS RELEASE

TOUCHDOWN TOM: New England quarterback TOM BRADY has 578 touchdown passes (507 regular-season touchdowns and a league-record 71 postseason touchdowns) in his 19-year NFL career.

With two touchdown passes against Minnesota (4:25 PM ET, FOX) on Sunday, Brady would surpass PEYTON MANNING (579 touchdowns) for the most passing touchdowns in

PRESS RELEASE

TOUCHDOWN TOM: New England quarterback TOM BRADY has 578 touchdown passes (507 regular-season touchdowns and a league-record 71 postseason touchdowns) in his 19-year NFL career.

With two touchdown passes against Minnesota (4:25 PM ET, FOX) on Sunday, Brady would surpass PEYTON MANNING (579 touchdowns) for the most passing touchdowns in NFL history (including the postseason) and Pro Football Hall of Famer BRETT FAVRE (508) for the third-most regular-season touchdown passes in league annals.

 

The players with the most passing yards and touchdown passes, including the postseason, in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

PASSING TOUCHDOWNS

Peyton Manning

Indianapolis, Denver

579

Tom Brady

New England

578

 

The players with the most regular-season touchdown passes in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

PASSING TOUCHDOWNS

Peyton Manning

Indianapolis, Denver

539

Drew Brees

San Diego, New Orleans

517

Brett Favre^

Green Bay, New York Jets, Minnesota

508

Tom Brady

New England

507

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

 

KEEP IT BREESY: New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES leads the NFC with 29 touchdown passes this season.

With a touchdown pass on Thursday at Dallas (8:20 PM ET, FOX/NFL Network/Amazon), Brees can become the first player in NFL history to record at least 30 touchdown passes in 10 different seasons.

The players with the most seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

SEASONS WITH 30+ TOUCHDOWN PASSES

Drew Brees

New Orleans

9*

Brett Favre^

Green Bay, Minnesota

9

Peyton Manning

Indianapolis, Denver

9

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Has 29 touchdown passes in 2018

 

KANSAS CITY SHUFFLE: Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES ranks third in the league with 3,628 passing yards, while wide receiver TYREEK HILL ranks third in the NFL with 1,106 receiving yards and running back KAREEM HUNT ranks fifth in rushing yards (824) this season.

With 176 rushing yards by Hunt, the Chiefs would join the 1996 New England Patriots as the only teams to have a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver all at the age of 24 or younger in a single season since 1970.

The teams with a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and 1000-yard receiver all at the age of 24 or younger in a single season since 1970:

TEAM

SEASON

PLAYER (POSITION)

AGE

YARDS

New England

1996

Drew Bledsoe (QB)

24

4,086 passing yards

 

 

Curtis Martin^ (RB)

23

1,152 rushing yards

 

 

Terry Glenn (WR)

22

1,132 receiving yards

 

 

 

 

 

Kansas City

2018*

Patrick Mahomes (QB)

23

3,628 passing yards

 

 

Kareem Hunt (RB)

23

824 rushing yards

 

 

Tyreek Hill (WR)

24

1,106 receiving yards

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Entering Week 13

 

BAKING WITH MAYFIELD: Cleveland rookie quarterback BAKER MAYFIELD completed 19 of 26 passes (73.1 percent) for 258 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 143.9 passer rating in the Browns’ 35-20 victory at Cincinnati last week. Mayfield recorded a 151.2 passer rating in Week 10 and had a bye in Week 11.

Mayfield, who plays at Houston (1:00 PM ET, CBS) on Sunday, can join AARON RODGERS (Weeks 7, 9-10 in 2011) and Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (Weeks 3-5 in 1999) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to record a passer rating of 140 or higher in three consecutive games (minimum 20 attempts). Both Rodgers and Warner were named Associated Press MVP in those seasons.

The players with the most consecutive games with a passer rating of 140 or higher (minimum 20 attempts) in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH 140+ PASSER RATING

Aaron Rodgers#

Green Bay

2011

3

Kurt Warner^#

St. Louis

1999

3

 

 

 

 

Baker Mayfield

Cleveland

2018

2*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

#Named Associated Press MVP

*Active streak

 

RYAN’S 11: Atlanta quarterback MATT RYAN leads the NFL with 3,683 passing yards this season and has passed for 45,479 yards in 11 NFL seasons.

With 150 passing yards on Sunday against Baltimore (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Ryan can surpass PEYTON MANNING (45,628) for the most passing yards by a player in their first 11 seasons in NFL history.

The players with the most passing yards in their first 11 seasons in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASONS

PASSING YARDS

Peyton Manning

Indianapolis

1998-2008

45,628

Matt Ryan

Atlanta

2008-2018

45,479*

*In 11th season

 

Courtesy of NFL Communications

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NFL Playoff Scenarios Week 13

Please enjoy these playoffs scenarios. 

 

2018 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 13

NFC

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-1) (at Dallas (6-5), Thursday night, 8:20 PM ET)

New Orleans clinches NFC South division title with:

1)    NO win + CAR loss or tie OR

2)    NO

Please enjoy these playoffs scenarios. 

 

2018 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 13

NFC

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-1) (at Dallas (6-5), Thursday night, 8:20 PM ET)

New Orleans clinches NFC South division title with:

1)    NO win + CAR loss or tie OR

2)    NO tie + CAR loss


New Orleans clinches a playoff berth with
:

1)    NO win OR

2)    NO tie + WAS loss + SEA loss OR

3)    NO tie + WAS loss + MIN loss OR

4)    NO tie + WAS loss + SEA tie + MIN tie


LOS ANGELES RAMS (10-1
) (at Detroit (4-7), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET)


Los Angeles clinches NFC West division title with
:

1)    LAR win OR

2)    SEA loss OR

3)    LAR tie + SEA tie

Los Angeles clinches a playoff berth with:

1)    LAR tie + WAS loss + MIN loss or tie OR

2)    LAR tie + WAS loss + CAR loss OR

3)    LAR tie + DAL loss + MIN loss or tie OR

4)    LAR tie + DAL loss + CAR loss OR

5)    LAR tie + MIN loss or tie + CAR loss

AFC


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (9-2
) (at Oakland (2-9), Sunday, 4:05 PM ET)


Kansas City clinches a playoff berth with
:

1)    KC win + MIA loss or tie + IND loss + HOU loss + TEN loss or tie OR

2)    KC win + MIA loss or tie + IND loss + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + CIN loss or tie OR

3)    KC win + MIA loss or tie + IND loss + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss + LAC loss

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Inconsistent offense has plagued Eagles all season

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Carson Wentz led an offense that steamrolled opponents last season with perhaps less talent surrounding him than he has now.

He's certain the Philadelphia Eagles will regain their production.

The defending Super Bowl champions are averaging slightly more than a touchdown less than they scored in 2017, down to 20.9 points per

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Carson Wentz led an offense that steamrolled opponents last season with perhaps less talent surrounding him than he has now.

He’s certain the Philadelphia Eagles will regain their production.

The defending Super Bowl champions are averaging slightly more than a touchdown less than they scored in 2017, down to 20.9 points per game from 28.6.

But the Eagles (5-6) are right in the mix in a mediocre NFC East despite the slide.

“Some of the plays that we just miss, it’s usually just one little thing on each play,” Wentz said Thursday. “If this just changes, this little detail of this play, that’s a big play, that’s a touchdown. Instead of degrading guys, we just say, ‘hey, this can be the difference.’ Guys can just focus on the little details and stay encouraged.”

The Eagles parted with four players on offense after winning their first championship since 1960. Tight end Trey Burton and running back LeGarrette Blount were allowed to sign elsewhere in free agency. Tight end Brent Celek was released and wide receiver Torrey Smith was traded.

They were replaced by veteran wideout Mike Wallace, rookie tight end Dallas Goedert, veteran tight end Reggie Rodgers and undrafted rookie running back Josh Adams.

Tight end Zach Ertz is having an exceptional season, but wideouts Alshon Jeffery — he missed the first three games — and Nelson Agholor haven’t had similar success.

Losing running back Jay Ajayi to a season-ending knee injury in Week 5 hurt the offense, but he wasn’t even part of the team until a trade midway through last season. Wallace only played two games and Rodgers recently came off injured reserve.

The Eagles added wideout Golden Tate last month, but he hasn’t made much of an impact and the offense has regressed since he was inserted into the lineup.

“We know we’ve got guys that we want to get involved in the game, and the more they’re involved, the better our chances are to win,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said.

“In the passing game, coverage dictates and sometimes rush dictates where the ball goes. Even though you have certain plays that are set up for a primary guy, it ends up down the line and just things that are beyond your control.”

A major issue for the offense has been slow starts. The Eagles are scoreless in the first quarter in nine of 11 games. They have only 21 points in the opening quarter, fewest in the NFL. Fourteen of those 21 came in the only game they surpassed 30 points this season.

“We have to be better with that,” Wentz said.

Notes: RB Darren Sproles returned to practice Thursday in a limited role. He hasn’t played since Week 1 because of a hamstring injury. He returned to the field earlier this month, but re-injured his leg in the first practice. “He’s such a competitor and a leader of this football team, and he wants to be out there, really, really bad,” Pederson said.

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QBs looking to elevate Panthers, Buccaneers down stretch

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Cam Newton and Jameis Winston know there's no surefire way for a quarterback to lead a team out of a funk.

What works in one situation may not necessarily be the answer in another.

Newton's second-place Carolina Panthers (6-5) have lost three straight games following a 6-2 start, moving closer to

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Cam Newton and Jameis Winston know there’s no surefire way for a quarterback to lead a team out of a funk.

What works in one situation may not necessarily be the answer in another.

Newton’s second-place Carolina Panthers (6-5) have lost three straight games following a 6-2 start, moving closer to the bottom of the NFC South than the top.

Winston’s getting another chance to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) out of the division cellar after spending a month on the bench because of his propensity for making costly mistakes.

“In the NFL, part of winning is not losing, not beating yourself,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said, reflecting on Winston delivering his best performance of the season to help Tampa Bay stop a four-game skid last week.

“You have to just keep it simple,” said Winston, who lost his starting job after turning the ball over 11 times in 14 quarters.

The fourth-year pro said the difference during last week’s 27-9 rout of San Francisco was his decisiveness with the football.

“I’m thinking about one play at a time, one completion at a time, one game at a time,” Winston said. “It’s easier to keep it simple when you’re decisive, making quick decisions and getting the ball out of your hands.”

The Panthers haven’t won since beating the Bucs 42-28 at home on Nov. 4. Kicking woes factored in narrow losses the past two weeks to Detroit and Seattle, however, and Newton said he’s focused on the next opportunity to get back on track.

Win or lose, he has learned you give yourself 24 hours to get over the excitement or disappointment.

“You can either celebrate or sulk and sob,” the Carolina quarterback said. “After that 24 hours is up, let it go. That has been so helpful for me in my growth as a man.”

For Winston, Sunday’s game against the Panthers represents the next test in what amounts to an audition to determine if he’s Tampa Bay’s quarterback of the future.

The 24-year-old didn’t face the Panthers last time. He was benched after throwing four interceptions the previous week at Cincinnati.

Some things to watch when the NFC South rivals meet:

NEWTON LIKES WHERE HE’S AT

Newton said this week he’s playing the best football of his career, despite a three-game losing streak.

Newton has thrown at least two TD passes in 10 straight games and seems to be thriving in Norv Turner’s offensive scheme.

“I’m just feeling in control,” Newton said. “There are no question marks. My assuredness of every single play I know exactly what I’m supposed to do.”

McCAFFREY ON THE RUN

Christian McCaffrey last week became the first Panthers running back to eclipse 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in the same game. His 237 yards from scrimmage against the Seahawks were the most in franchise history.

McCaffrey had 157 yards from scrimmage and two TDs rushing in the last meeting with the Bucs.

Newton joked that you shouldn’t call the 5-foot-10, 205-pound McCaffrey “small,” because he hates being labeled a small back.

“C-Mac has defied all odds,” Newton said. “With C-Mac, he has always been a workhorse. He’s always been a playmaker. There’s no denying that. My thing is when you draft a person, is he comfortable with the game on the line?”

WHERE ARE THE TURNOVERS

Carolina’s defense has thrived on takeaways over the years, but they have been struggling in that area of late. The Panthers haven’t forced a turnover in the three games since they last played the Buccaneers. In that game they intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick twice.

EVANS VS. BRADBERRY

In the last meeting, Carolina cornerback James Bradberry put the clamps on Bucs receiver Mike Evans, holding Tampa Bay’s top receiver to one catch for 16 yards on 10 targets in a 42-28 victory at home.

However, Bradberry has struggled in three games since giving up big plays in each of those games in losses to Pittsburgh, Detroit and Seattle.

Bradberry is expected to draw Evans again.

“They game-planned really well,” Evans said. “Even though they’re a one-high team, it felt like Eric Reid was just coming to me no matter what. And then Bradberry was underneath just pressing. So, I’ve got to be better, more physical, faster and stronger, and I think I will be this time around.”

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AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in Charlotte contributed to this report.

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Mitchell Trubisky works on sliding technique, not passing

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky found a flaw in his game while trying to be patient and sit out with an injured right shoulder.

Trubisky discovered he needs to slide better.

It was while sliding late in a 25-20 win Nov. 18 over the Minnesota Vikings that Trubisky suffered the

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky found a flaw in his game while trying to be patient and sit out with an injured right shoulder.

Trubisky discovered he needs to slide better.

It was while sliding late in a 25-20 win Nov. 18 over the Minnesota Vikings that Trubisky suffered the injury threatening to cost him a second straight start Sunday against the New York Giants.

“I’ve been told I’ve got to work on my slides a little bit, maybe pick one or stick to one,” Trubisky said.

Trubisky slid awkwardly and was hit by Minnesota’s Harrison Smith on the left side, resulting in the shoulder injury to his right side that led to Chase Daniel’s start against the Detroit Lions in a 23-16 Bears win on Thanksgiving.

“Throughout a play I never know whether I’m going to slide forward, get down sideways or just go straight and give myself up early,” Trubisky said in his first comments to reporters since the injury occurred. “That’s something that I’ve just got to continue to be better with, and it also makes it hard for the defense because they don’t know if I’m going to continue to pick up yards or I’m going to go down.

“That’s why defenses are continuing to be aggressive. That’s just me practicing that, being smart and taking care of myself.”

Trubisky called the play when he was injured an awkward one. Smith was fined and penalized for the hit.

“It was just an awkward landing, and then I got hit, and my arm got caught underneath me the wrong way,” Trubisky said. “It was really just a freak play and I didn’t know what happened at the time. Luckily, I was able to finish out the game and, more importantly, we won.”

Trubisky is considered “day to day” by coach Matt Nagy and practiced Thursday for the second straight day, but only on a limited basis. Daniel continued to work with the first team.

“I feel good,” Trubisky said. “I’m definitely not worried about it, and the good news is it’s not something that’s going to prevent me in the long term. So, we’re just making sure it’s right, 110 percent, and when I can come back I’ll be what this offense and what this team needs me to be.”

Caution and safety are the key words the Bears are using in regards to Trubisky’s possible return. No one is suggesting he’ll be able to play this week and an NFL.com report said they’ve already made a decision to sit him.

“I’m going to do as much as they’ll let me,” Trubisky said. “So I’m just trusting what they tell me to do out on the field and then come in and do what I’ve got to do, and then just be out there and make this team better any way we can. And make sure everyone’s locked in during practice and we take care of business.”

Nagy said Trubisky hasn’t thrown yet in practices, but wouldn’t necessarily call this critical to starting this week.

“For us, we feel like timing-wise with the guys, with where he’s at, he’s good there,” Nagy said. “Mentally, just staying in the playbook, he’s good there.

“It’s just the fact that he’s not throwing.”

Trubisky’s frustration with not preparing like he’s going to play is obvious.

“He’s a competitor, he wants to be out there,’ Nagy said. “And so, again, just our communication with every player that we have we’ve always been upfront and said, ‘OK, here’s the plan.’ And so, I think it’s very natural for any player to want to have that competitive nature and be out there, and he’s definitely like that.”

When Trubisky does return, he anticipates running like he had in earlier games. He led the NFL in rushing yards by quarterbacks before his injury and has 363 such yards.

“I would say I’ve done a real good job of getting yardage for this team, creating positive plays and causing trouble for the defenses while also protecting myself,” Trubisky said. “Nothing’s going to change when I get back.”

The one exception is he might make more defined slides to end his runs.

NOTES: DE Akiem Hicks missed a second straight practice due to Achilles tendon soreness. Nagy said he considers it a precaution. Hicks has been a vital part of a defense ranked second against the run. He first mentioned the injury on Wednesday morning before practice.

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Sherman returns with 49ers as Seahawks surge toward playoffs

SEATTLE (AP) — The decision to part with Richard Sherman — along with several other impact veterans — was supposed to be part of the cumulative reason the Seattle Seahawks would finally take a step back. This was going to be the rebuild season, even if no one with the Seahawks ever wanted to use

SEATTLE (AP) — The decision to part with Richard Sherman — along with several other impact veterans — was supposed to be part of the cumulative reason the Seattle Seahawks would finally take a step back. This was going to be the rebuild season, even if no one with the Seahawks ever wanted to use that word.

Sherman will see his former team up close Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers face the Seahawks. He will find a Seattle team that’s not backsliding. Instead, Seattle (6-5) has won two straight and has a direct path to an NFC playoff berth in a season no one really expected the Seahawks to be in the conversation at the beginning of December.

The players who stepped in for the likes of Sherman and other veterans who departed after last season have brought a youthful exuberance. That has created a fun environment in Seattle only amplified by the Seahawks’ success.

“This game is too crazy to not have fun and it’s definitely a point of emphasis for me, just for the guys that came in and were stepping into a lot of key positions, to not worry about who they were replacing or who you were coming behind, ” Seattle star linebacker Bobby Wagner said, “but just to have the fun you’ve been having all your life and everything else will figure out itself.”

Fun has come around sparingly in San Francisco this season. The 49ers (2-9) were supposed to be in Seattle’s position of competing for a playoff spot. But injuries — namely the loss of QB Jimmy Garoppolo — derailed those hopes early in the season. They looked great in thumping Oakland on Nov. 1, only to turn around and drop their next two against the weak Giants and Buccaneers.

“I do think we’re going through this for a reason. I do think it can make us better,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “A lot of guys have gotten to play a lot that normally wouldn’t be able to play, and I hope that helps us find some things out about people this year and helps us build this team better next year.”

Welcoming Sherman back to Seattle starts a stretch of four of the final five games at home for the Seahawks. They’ve been a notoriously good team in the final month of the calendar, and getting to play at home is adding to the belief this season could end in an unexpected playoff berth.

Here’s what else to watch as the Seahawks and 49ers meet for the first of two games in 14 days:

RISING RUSSELL

Seattle QB Russell Wilson is coming off his best performance of the season against Carolina. With Seattle’s running game shut down by the Panthers, Wilson threw for a season-high 339 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 30-27 win, showing that Seattle’s offense can function just fine when its ground game is stymied. The Seahawks have been the best run team in the NFL for most of the season, but Wilson’s performance was a reminder he can be an elite passer when needed.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

The 49ers handed Fred Warner big responsibility when they inserted him at middle linebacker and made him the defensive play caller as a rookie. Warner’s role will only get bigger after San Francisco released second-year linebacker Reuben Foster following his arrest last weekend on domestic violence charges. Warner has been one of the bright spots with his ability to get the defense in the right calls and thrive against both the run and pass. He will have a tough test this week against Wilson.

“He’s a mobile quarterback, so being able to escape the pocket and make big plays with his legs, that’s what he’s known for,” Warner said. “We have to be aware of that.”

TURNOVER TIME

Seattle got its first turnover in three-plus games last week when Bradley McDougald made an acrobatic end zone interception of Cam Newton. The Seahawks also forced five fumbles against the Panthers, but failed to recover any. It was a long drought that saw Seattle drop to 11th in the league with 17 turnovers forced.

That’s nothing compared to the 49ers. San Francisco is last in the NFL with just five takeaways. The Niners have just two interceptions and haven’t forced a turnover in the last three games.

HOUSE OF HORRORS

Playing in Seattle has led only to disappointment for the 49ers in recent years. The Niners have lost their last seven trips, including the 2013 NFC title game, getting outscored by more than 15 points per game. San Francisco’s last win here came in 2011 with Alex Smith at quarterback. Since then, Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert and Brian Hoyer have combined for 10 turnovers, 16 sacks, three TD passes and a 61.4 passer rating in Seattle.

First-year QB Nick Mullens will try to reverse that trend and bounce back from two rough starts following a sterling debut. Mullens has thrown four interceptions the past two games in losses to the Giants and Tampa Bay and faces a much tougher defense this week.

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Gruden praises Mahomes before Chiefs-Raiders game

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Jon Gruden knows he sometimes went over the top in his praise of quarterbacks in his old job as an analyst at ESPN.

It seemed like any time a quarterback went to "Gruden's QB Camp" or was picked in the draft, Gruden was always full of compliments. The praise for

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Jon Gruden knows he sometimes went over the top in his praise of quarterbacks in his old job as an analyst at ESPN.

It seemed like any time a quarterback went to “Gruden’s QB Camp” or was picked in the draft, Gruden was always full of compliments. The praise for Kansas City’s second-year star Patrick Mahomes is on an even different level.

“His overall skill set is sickening. It really is,” Gruden said. “He’s double-jointed. He can throw the ball from any platform possible. Running to his left, fading backward. He can get out of trouble. I compliment everybody, I’ve been accused of that, but this guy has off-the-chart arm talent. Skill level is unbelievable.

“He has a playing style that reminds me of (Brett) Favre. He’s a young Favre. I think that’s why Andy Reid went and got him. He won’t quit on any play. He makes a lot of plays when there’s nothing there. I don’t have time to talk about him anymore.”

Gruden now must devise a plan to slow Mahomes when his Oakland Raiders (2-9) host the Chiefs (9-2) on Sunday in what appears to be a major mismatch.

Led by Mahomes’ 37 touchdown passes — the third most ever through 11 games — the Chiefs have been a nearly unstoppable force on offense. Coach Andy Reid’s squad ranks second in the NFL with 404 points and is on pace to become the first team since at least 1960 to average more than 7.0 yards per play.

But everything hasn’t been perfect for Mahomes, who committed five turnovers in Kansas City’s last game, a 54-51 loss to the Rams on Nov. 19.

“Every experience, bad or good, you have to learn from,” Mahomes said. “You take the positives. We had a lot of successful plays and successful things happen in that game, but you have to find ways to win them in the end.”

Here are some other things to watch:

EB’S BACK, MAYBE

Chiefs safety Eric Berry returned to the practice field this week for the first time since the early weeks of training camp, when he became sidelined by a heel injury. But considering Berry has not played at all since August, it is unlikely he will be available for Kansas City’s trip to Oakland.

“It’s a great thing to see him back healthy,” Reid said. “This is killing him to watch. He loves to play. It tears him up not to be out there, but at the same time we have to do it smart.”

FAST START, SLOW FINISH

One thing the Raiders have done well this year is start games fast. Their 34 points on the opening drive rank fifth best in the NFL this season. What’s happened after that has been the problem. Oakland has the third-worst offense the rest of the game, averaging just 1.32 points per drive after that.

STREAKING JONES

Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones was the AFC’s defensive player of the month, another line to a resume that could land him a big contract extension this offseason. Jones has nine sacks this season, including at least one each of the past seven weeks. He had a pair of sacks against the Cardinals and the Rams prior to the bye week, and he had a season-high three tackles for loss in Los Angeles.

DANGEROUS RETURNS

Oakland was burned last week by a poorly placed punt by rookie Johnny Townsend that led to a 70-yard touchdown return by Baltimore’s Cyrus Jones. Townsend, a fifth-round pick, has struggled this year, ranking 30th out of 32 qualifying punters in net average (37.7 yards), last in gross average (43.5 yards), and last in percentage of punts downed inside the 20-yard line (18.4 percent). That could be an issue against Tyreek Hill, who leads the NFL with four punt return TDs since entering the league in 2016.

“We have to do a better job than we did last week,” Gruden said. “The one punt return we’ve given up, we didn’t hit our landmark. We gave them a low hanging punt that gave him a two-way go, and that’s hard to defend. If we do that against this guy, we’ll have very little chance to win this game. This guy is really unique. Tyreek Hill, he’s a unique skill set. You have to limit his opportunities every way you can.”

REUNION WEEK

The relationship between Gruden and Reid goes back decades to when they spent three years together as offensive assistants on Mike Holmgren’s staff in Green Bay from 1992-94. That’s where the two really started to build the foundation of the offenses they’d eventually run for years as successful head coaches in the NFL.

“We were both young and we were able to learn a ton from a great head coach,” Reid recalled. “Jon and I spent a lot of time together, along with Steve Mariucci, we were the youngest guys on the staff. We all kind of bonded and did our thing. We did a lot of the go-fer work, which we loved. Great learning experience and great foundation to build on.”

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AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report

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Chiefs’ Mahomes learning from (rare) first-year mistakes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes walked out of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum two weeks ago with his jersey stained, his pride no doubt wounded and an uncharacteristic five turnovers blighting his box score.

The only thing he stewed about during the Kansas City Chiefs' bye week was the final score.

The three interceptions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes walked out of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum two weeks ago with his jersey stained, his pride no doubt wounded and an uncharacteristic five turnovers blighting his box score.

The only thing he stewed about during the Kansas City Chiefs’ bye week was the final score.

The three interceptions that he’d tossed in the 54-51 loss to the Rams, and the two fumbles he lost trying to escape trouble, were merely learning opportunities. Mahomes went to work on the Chiefs’ bye week dissecting what went wrong, where he can improve and how he can avoid making the same mistakes.

“Some of those came in crucial moments, knowing when and not to take a chance,” he said. “But every experience, bad and good, you have to take the positive from. We had a lot of good things happen in that game, but at the same time you have to find a way to win.”

Spoken like a seasoned veteran rather than a first-year starter.

There were indeed plenty of good things for Mahomes to think about. He set career highs with 33 completions and 478 yards passing, and he matched a career high with six touchdown passes, all while the Chiefs rallied time and again in a back-and-forth game that came down to the wire.

Yet it was the turnovers that were the first topic tossed at Mahomes when he returned to work.

The big knock on him coming out of Texas Tech — besides the fact that he was a product of the much-maligned “Air Raid” system — was that he was prone to turnovers.

And while it was a largely unfounded knock, considering Mahomes never threw all that many interceptions with the Red Raiders, it continued to follow him through his rookie season and right into his first training camp as starter.

Mahomes answered those critics with a turnover-free opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.

He has continued to value possessions all season, throwing only 10 interceptions total through the first 11 weeks, even though Mahomes has a gunslinger reputation. He also has lost seven fumbles, and that may ultimately be where experience will make the biggest difference.

Mahomes is still learning how to feel the pressure of an NFL pass rush, escape the pocket when the time comes and make sure two hands are on the football when somebody takes a slap at it.

“Those guys made great plays. They swatted directly on the ball both times,” Mahomes said, thinking back to his two fumbles against the Rams. “You have to be secure with the ball. … Two hands on the ball, even when I’m trying to break the pocket.”

Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy made it clear Thursday turnovers are a team problem, not one that Mahomes must shoulder alone. Wide receivers can do a better job with route-running and fighting for the ball while the offensive line can provide better protection.

“One thing that we’ve learned together as a unit,” Bieniemy said, “is that if we eliminate the self-inflicted wounds we’ll have a chance.”

Besides, even the best quarterbacks can have turnover troubles.

The Patriots’ Tom Brady has six games with four interceptions during a career that will likely land him in the Hall of Fame. Ben Roethlisberger once tossed five for Pittsburgh against Jacksonville.

And the player to whom Mahomes is constantly compared, Brett Favre, had a game with three fumbles and two picks and concluded his career with an NFL-record 336 interceptions.

Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson, whose Chiefs record for touchdown throws in a season Mahomes has already shattered, once fumbled seven times in a game against the Chargers.

The difference in some of those dismal days by some of the NFL’s best quarterbacks? They didn’t also throw for nearly 500 yards with six touchdown passes in a game that they nearly won.

“You don’t hide it,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, when asked how he approached the performance by his young quarterback. “You go back and evaluate it. How did those things happen and how do you fix them so they don’t happen again? We’ve done that. The one thing about Pat is he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. That’s been his M.O. here. I’m not worried about that.

“I want him to keep firing,” Reid said. “Learn from his mistakes but keep firing.”

NOTES: DL Chris Jones was voted AFC defensive player of the month. He has nine sacks total, and at least one in each of the past seven games. … WR Sammy Watkins (foot) remained out of practice Thursday. Safety Eric Berry (heel) and C Mitch Morse (concussion) continued to work on a limited basis.

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What to Look For – Week 13 Wide Receivers

PRESS RELEASE

1,400 FOR JULIO: Atlanta wide receiver JULIO JONES leads the league with 1,305 receiving yards and has recorded at least 1,400 receiving yards in each of the past four seasons.

With 95 receiving yards on Sunday against Baltimore (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Jones can become the first player in NFL history

PRESS RELEASE

1,400 FOR JULIO: Atlanta wide receiver JULIO JONES leads the league with 1,305 receiving yards and has recorded at least 1,400 receiving yards in each of the past four seasons.

With 95 receiving yards on Sunday against Baltimore (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Jones can become the first player in NFL history to record at least 1,400 receiving yards in five consecutive seasons.

The players with the most consecutive seasons with at least 1,400 receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASONS

CONSECUTIVE SEASONS WITH 1,400+ RECEIVING YARDS

Marvin Harrison^

Indianapolis

1999-2002

4

Julio Jones

Atlanta

2014-17

4*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Has 1,305 receiving yards in 2018

 

THIELEN MIGHTY FINE: Minnesota wide receiver ADAM THIELEN leads the league with 93 receptions this season.

With seven catches at New England (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Thielen can join ROD SMITH and WES WELKER as the only undrafted players to record at least 100 receptions in a single season in the common draft era.

The undrafted players with at least 100 receptions in a single season since 1966:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

RECEPTIONS

Wes Welker

New England

2009

123

Wes Welker

New England

2011

122

Wes Welker

New England

2012

118

Rod Smith

Denver

2001

113

Wes Welker

New England

2007

112

Wes Welker

New England

2008

111

Rod Smith

Denver

2000

100

 

 

 

 

Adam Thielen

Minnesota

2018

93*

*Entering Week 13

 

COOKING WITH BRANDIN: Los Angeles Rams wide receiver BRANDIN COOKS leads the team with 964 receiving yards this season.

Cooks, who had 1,173 receiving yards with New Orleans in 2016 and 1,082 receiving yards with New England in 2017, needs 36 yards on Sunday at Detroit (1:00 PM ET, FOX) to become the first player in NFL history to have at least 1,000 receiving yards with three different teams in three consecutive seasons.

With 36 receiving yards, Cooks can also become the sixth player in league annals to record at least 1,000 receiving yards in a single season for three different franchises during their career.

The players to record 1,000-yard receiving seasons for three-or-more teams in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAMS

Brandon Marshall

4 (Denver, Miami, Chicago, New York Jets)

Irving Fryar

3 (New England, Miami, Philadelphia)

Tony Martin

3 (San Diego, Atlanta, Miami)

Randy Moss^

3 (Minnesota, Oakland, New England)

Terrell Owens^

3 (San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas)

 

 

Brandin Cooks

2* (New Orleans, New England)

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Has 964 receiving yards with the Los Angeles Rams in 2018

 

Courtesy of NFL Communications

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FANTASY PLAYS: Players to start and sit in NFL Week 13

This is a defining week for many fantasy football teams, especially in leagues where it's the last week of the regular season.

There is little margin for error at this point, although fantasy owners with their backs against the wall should be open to high-risk, high-reward shots in their lineups.

There are a handful of

This is a defining week for many fantasy football teams, especially in leagues where it’s the last week of the regular season.

There is little margin for error at this point, although fantasy owners with their backs against the wall should be open to high-risk, high-reward shots in their lineups.

There are a handful of games (Rams-Lions, Chargers-Steelers, Redskins-Eagles) that could turn into free-for-alls, but there aren’t any locks for explosive fantasy numbers across the board. In fact, there are several games (Bears-Giants, Browns-Texans, Jets-Titans) that could temper scoring.

START: Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions: Golladay has been targeted 36 times in the last three games. The Rams have given up 25 touchdown passes and are 29th in average yards allowed per catch (12.3), numbers that play right into the hands of Matthew Stafford in what could be a high-scoring affair. Golladay is a solid WR2 who should put up WR1-caliber totals.

SIT: Eli Manning, QB, Giants: Facing a Bears defense that leads the league with 20 interceptions doesn’t play well for Manning despite his six touchdown passes over his last three games. Chicago is also sixth in the league with 34 sacks, which will greatly reduce the time Manning will have to throw. A poor game from Manning will have a ripple effect that will also impact Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley, so owners of those players have serious risk of a letdown.

START: Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings: He’s attempted at least 38 passes in four of his last five games and can make it five of six as he takes on a suspect Patriots defense that is 25th in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Cousins has thrown at least two touchdowns in four of his last five as well and will be in line for a huge afternoon, especially if Tom Brady helps turn this into a shootout.

SIT: Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns: The rookie has a 13-2 TD to interception margin in his last five games and has completed 78.2 percent of his throws over the past two games. However, he must hit the road and contend with a Texans defense that is fourth in fewest fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks while also dealing with a pass rush tied for sixth with 34 sacks. Reality will hit both Mayfield and those who start him in brutal fashion on Sunday.

START: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers: Coming off a season-best 17 carries in last week’s loss to the Vikings, Jones has a great matchup against a Cardinals defense that sits 30th in the league in rushing yards allowed. No defense has allowed more rushing touchdowns than the 16 Arizona has given up, bolstering the chances of Jones crossing the goal line for a fourth straight game. He has four touchdowns in his last three games. With Jamaal Williams an afterthought these days, Jones is now a borderline RB1 with room to grow.

SIT: Adrian Peterson, RB, Redskins: Since gouging the Giants for 149 yards in Week 8, Peterson has sputtered, failing to reach 70 yards in each of his last four games. His fantasy numbers would be worse if he hadn’t scored two short yardage touchdowns against the Texans in Week 11. Although the Eagles run defense has struggled against Ezekiel Elliott and Barkley in recent weeks, they are still 12th in stopping opposing ground games and Washington will be more focused on attacking Philly’s banged up secondary.

START: Cameron Brate, TE, Buccaneers: With O.J. Howard done for the season, Brate will see an increase in targets, especially on Sunday against a Panthers defense that is the worst in fantasy when it comes to stopping opposing tight ends. Brate scored his first touchdown since Week 6 last week against the 49ers, and while he has yet to exceed 34 receiving yards in a game this season, his track record shows he can be more than just a presence at the goal line. Look for Jameis Winston to make him a staple of the Tampa Bay passing attack.

SIT: Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers: Goodwin averages 19.9 yards per catch but has yet to have more than five targets in a game this season. The Seahawks would make for a good matchup for Goodwin, as they have given up at least 89 yards to six different receivers in the last five games, but his lack of volume, paired with this being a road game for San Francisco, makes him far too risky to consider even in deeper leagues.

START: Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: The Rams defense makes for a good slump-buster for Stafford, who has just three touchdown passes in his last four games. Los Angeles is tied for 27th with 25 touchdowns passes allowed and tied for 29th in average yards per catch allowed with 12.3. Those who own both Stafford and Golladay will have a great pairing that can put up huge numbers in what should be a fantasy gold mine.

SIT: Marlon Mack, RB, Colts: Even if Mack clears the league’s concussion protocol, he’s facing a Jaguars defense that allows the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. He’s also cooled off after racking up 258 yards and three touchdowns in Weeks 7 and 8, rushing for a combined 175 yards and a score on 43 carries in his last three outings. There is little upside to plugging Mack into a lineup, especially for teams that must win.

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Super Bowl 53 Odds: Updated for Week 13

Key takeaways from week 12:

  • Rams Saints and Chiefs are still favorites to win Super Bowl 53
  • Raiders, Cardinals and 49ers have the lowest odds at 2500/1
  • Biggest jump: Cleveland Browns (+40%)
  • Biggest drop: New York Giants (-233%)
  • No change: Texans, Ravens (0%)

Super Bowl 53 Odds

{{CODE_SB_ODDS_AFTER_WEEK_12}}

Key takeaways from week 12:

  • Rams Saints and Chiefs are still favorites to win Super Bowl 53
  • Raiders, Cardinals and 49ers have the lowest odds at 2500/1
  • Biggest jump: Cleveland Browns (+40%)
  • Biggest drop: New York Giants (-233%)
  • No change: Texans, Ravens (0%)

Super Bowl 53 Odds


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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Ballin’ on a Budget Week 13 Picks

Following our first bad week since the second week of the season, it's time for us to bounce back. There were a lot of games to like upon first glance in Week 13. Upon further examination, there are five you should really be able to hang your hat on. There's nothing a good

Following our first bad week since the second week of the season, it’s time for us to bounce back. There were a lot of games to like upon first glance in Week 13. Upon further examination, there are five you should really be able to hang your hat on. There’s nothing a good betting week can’t fix and we’re going to do exactly that this Sunday. Let’s get to the picks.

Colts -5 at Jaguars (-110)

You could call this a trap game, but you could also look at what’s plainly apparent: Indy is on the rise and the Jaguars are in free fall. For God’s sake, Jacksonville is starting Cody Kessler at quarterback. He’s going up against Andrew Luck, who’s having a great season behind an incredible offensive line. They’ve kept him upright and he’s gashed opposing defenses.

For some reason, Jacksonville’s defense has been really inconsistent and have been prone to poor performances. The differences in momentum for these two teams should all but seal the deal for the Colts in terms of winning the game. Of course, that doesn’t make them a lock to cover five points, but we’ll rely on them winning by a touchdown to cover the spread. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.

Raiders +15.5 vs. Chiefs (-110)

We’ve had very good luck betting huge underdogs this year. When we took the Bills +17.5 against the Vikings, they actually won the game. Then, a couple weeks ago, we took the Cardinals +17 against this same Chiefs team and they covered by losing by 12. This isn’t as safe a bet since Oakland is still in the two score realm. Still, though, they just have to cover two touchdowns.

That’s much easier said than done for a Raiders team that has struggled all year long, but at home, they should be able to do just enough to keep the game reasonably close. If the Chiefs offense looks like it did against the Rams, good night. Coming off a bye, that’s perfectly possible. But when a multi-score line is dangled out in front of you like this in the NFL, we’ve learned something this year: you take it. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.

Jets +7.5 vs. Titans (-110)

I feel iffy taking this, just because the Titans have been so unpredictable this season. One week, their defense looks like world beaters, the next they’re very average. The same can be said for Marcus Mariota who went 22 for 23, 303 yards and 2 TD in a losing effort against the Texans on Monday night. You never know what you’re going to get from them.

For the most part, though, when the Titans win, they win close games. Three of their five wins have come by just a field goal. Yes, their last two wins were by multiple scores, but they’ve also lost their last two games by a collective 45 points, so they’re not exactly riding a hot streak into this game. New York is competent with Josh McCown running the offense and should be able to stay in the game and keep it within a touchdown to cover the spread. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.

Steelers-Chargers OVER 51.5 points (-110)

Despite L.A. having one of the NFL’s top defenses, this has the makings of a shootout. Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger have been on top of their games in recent weeks and it feels like whoever has the last possession in this one is going to win. As with most over/unders, this will hinge on the flow of the game, which will be established early on. If it becomes a field position battle in the first quarter, we’re doomed. If each team gets a quick score, we’re in good shape.

This is going to be a great playoff atmosphere with each team still alive for a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs (although the Chiefs will have plenty to say on if the Chargers can even win the division). With the Chargers’ penchant for the big play, the over looks mighty fine. It isn’t hard to imagine either side winning this game 30-27 or somewhere in that range. That would get us the over with points to spare. The bet: $3 for total payout of $5.70.

Ravens-Falcons UNDER 48.5 (-110)

This game just screams under. There are a few reasons why this seems like such a solid bet. First of all, the Ravens are very run heavy with Lamar Jackson at quarterback. He runs the ball as much as he passes it, it seems and in the NFL, unlike in college where a first down stops the clock, that means the clock will continue to run. If Baltimore is keeping the ball on the ground, even if they’re running effectively, this over is going to be hard to hit, because there just won’t be enough time.

Add to that the fact the Falcons are incompetent in the red zone and we have the perfect cocktail brewing for the under. As we know, field goals don’t help you hit overs and if the Ravens, the top scoring defense in the NFL, can hold Atlanta to field goals instead of touchdowns, this pick is a lock. There are just too many factors working for the under to ignore. This should be the top pick of the week if you’re only going to take one. The bet: $5 for total payout of $9.50.

As always, we can opine about what it would be like to have a perfect 5-0 week and take home considerable dough. On this particular week, if you take your $20 and parlay these five games, you would walk away with $507.06. I swear, we will get you a perfect week by the end of the season. At the very least, we’re going to get back into the win column this week after our first down week since way back in September. We’ll check in with our winning results after the Sunday games have concluded.

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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Seattle talking about return of Richard Sherman with 49ers

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Pete Carroll looked to a Seahawks staffer with a bemused expression as he continued to field questions about a player who is no longer part of Seattle's locker room.

"Pretty good love-fest for Sherm," Carroll quipped.

Richard Sherman's impending return to Seattle this week has dominated the conversation and will dominate

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Pete Carroll looked to a Seahawks staffer with a bemused expression as he continued to field questions about a player who is no longer part of Seattle’s locker room.

“Pretty good love-fest for Sherm,” Carroll quipped.

Richard Sherman’s impending return to Seattle this week has dominated the conversation and will dominate the attention leading into Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and Sherman’s new team in San Francisco. For good reason, too. Sherman remains one of the central figures in Seattle’s success during Carroll’s tenure that included the franchise’s only Super Bowl title.

Yet, his time in Seattle ended with a messy separation this past offseason. It was a business decision that ultimately led to Sherman finding a new home in San Francisco. And while the relationship between Sherman and the Seahawks was at times contentious, there was respect for what he helped the franchise accomplish.

“We had tremendous conversations all the way through the stages of what happened at the end,” Carroll said. “Sherm and I were sitting in my office eye-to-eye talking through everything and it was really straightforward and clear and he was handling his own business and he had to be really on top of it, which he was, and did a fantastic job for himself, too. But our communication was great.”

Sherman was a three-time All-Pro during his seven seasons in Seattle. He developed from a lightly regarded fifth-round pick into one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, an anchor for Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary that’s now been completely taken apart due to departures and injuries. Sherman seemed to always find his way into the center of attention, whether it was talking smack to Tom Brady after beating the Patriots in a 2012 regular-season game, antics directed toward Michael Crabtree after the 2013 NFC championship game, or barking at coaches on the sideline.

It was clearly time for a change and it included some critical comments Sherman had for Carroll on his way out. Carroll said he wasn’t bothered.

“I know who Sherm is. I know him way differently than you guys probably think I do. I think the world of him,” Carroll said. “There was times (when) he was here where he might have said something that I didn’t agree with and had to work through it and all that. He is his own man. He was a stud of a guy when he was here and whatever came out in the transition came out. I could care less about that.”

Cornerback Shaquill Griffin thinks of Sherman as a mentor. When Griffin arrived last year as a rookie, Sherman became a guide to Griffin on how to be a pro.

“I didn’t expect him to take me under his wing the way he did. That was all a surprise to me but I’m grateful that he did,” Griffin said. “I came in, he had open arms for me and whatever it took. I remember he told me, ‘I won’t give you so much you can’t handle unless I know you can.’ I remember after the first couple of games he was like, ‘You know what, I see you’re ready. I’m going to give you everything I know and we’re going to go from there.’ It’s not like he got paid to do stuff like that. He doesn’t. So you can tell he’s really a genuine guy.”

Bobby Wagner joked there will likely be a lot of trash talking and that he won’t let Sherman get an interception even if that means coming off the sideline to make sure it doesn’t happen. Wagner became serious when asked about what kind of reception Sherman should receive. Sports radio has been filled with questions about whether Sherman should be lauded or booed upon his return.

“He should be received with the loudest cheer they could possibly cheer and the warmest of welcomes. It’s not like he said, ‘I hate this team, I want to leave.’ There is a business side of everything,” Wagner said. “I would be surprised if anybody booed. If they did boo him they weren’t a Richard Sherman fan in the first place. I think he deserves the applause. He was part of the team that helped bring the city the first football championship. I wouldn’t expect anything other than respect.”

NOTES: LB K.J. Wright is “away from the team” this week doing rehab on his troublesome knee that has caused him to miss the past two games, Carroll said. Wright will not play this week. … Seattle activated RB J.D. McKissic to the 53-man roster. McKissic had been out all season after suffering a foot injury in the preseason and was placed on injured reserve. He returned to practice last week.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Harris has gone from roster bubble to key cog in Denver

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — After the Broncos' stirring win over the Steelers, Vance Joseph held a game ball up high and called for the man he once wanted to cut.

"Shelby Harris!" Joseph hollered . "What a great week. He had a new baby girl on Friday. And a game-winning interception" in Denver's 24-17 victory

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — After the Broncos’ stirring win over the Steelers, Vance Joseph held a game ball up high and called for the man he once wanted to cut.

“Shelby Harris!” Joseph hollered . “What a great week. He had a new baby girl on Friday. And a game-winning interception” in Denver’s 24-17 victory that shook up the AFC playoff picture.

In between, he had a shared sack, a pass breakup and three hard hits on Ben Roethlisberger, one of which led to a second interception and another that was tantalizingly close to a safety after he bowled over center Maurkice Pouncey and dropped Roethlisberger on his back in the end zone.

Cut a half-dozen times by the Raiders, Jets and Cowboys, Harris signed a futures contract in Denver two weeks after Joseph was hired as head coach in January 2017.

Having missed most of the 2016 season after getting cut in camp by the Jets and signing with Dallas just before Christmas, Harris said, “I felt like Denver was my last chance.”

That didn’t translate to making a good first impression, though.

“He’s got about a week before we cut him,” Joseph said he told defensive line coach Bill Kollar then.

“He was just that bad that spring,” Joseph recalled earlier this week. “I guess the light came on, and the guy’s been playing really good football for a year and a-half since.”

Harris heeded his coach’s admonition to start hustling on every single down every single day.

“They might have thought that he’s a week away from cutting, but the next thing you know he’s leading our defensive tackles in sacks last year,” linebacker Shane Ray said. “And he’s made huge plays this year. That says a lot about his character.”

In 2017, Harris played in all 16 games for the first time in his career and was second on the team with 5½ sacks. This year, he’s been especially stout in the run game but can still make his mark in the pass rush.

Kollar said it all began with a heart-to-heart talk with Harris.

“What happens when you get up here, everybody’s good, everybody’s tough. So, to me, you’ve got to take it to next level. When you’re a guy who’s just never made it, dude, you’ve got to change your (stuff),” Kollar said Wednesday. “So, that’s what I told him: ‘You’ve got to work your butt off or you’re not going to make it. I want you working harder than those guys you’re playing across from.'”

Kollar said it was a classic case of pairing determination with natural ability.

“My job is to get it out of them, to do it all the time,” Kollar said. “But I ride everybody’s (behind) on the D-line.”

It turns out Kollar was the perfect headmaster for Harris.

“Bill got me in better shape, I’ll say that,” Harris said. “But really, we do a lot of reps and then he goes and explains it and it kind of opens your eyes a little bit the way he explains it, the certain blocks and the way you’re supposed to take them on. And the technique that he teaches is kind of natural for me. And so, everything’s kind of just fallen into place with Bill.”

Harris also credited his teammates for helping bring out his best.

“The players on the D-line have really helped me out to just become a better player, a better person,” Harris said. “The whole D-line and Coach Kollar have helped turn my game into what it is today.”

Harris said he’s taken tidbits from Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko, Adam Gotsis and Zach Kerr: “I try to take little pieces from all of them and add them into my game, and it’s kind of worked out perfectly.”

Harris’ only other career interception came for Illinois State against Indiana State in 2013.

The only other time he got a game ball came in 2015, when he made a touchdown-saving tackle against the Chargers, when he was also running on adrenalin from sleep deprivation.

“You want to know something crazy? The first time was after I had my son,” Harris said. “And I missed the Thursday practice that time and half of Friday and came back Friday night.”

He missed practice last Friday for the birth of his daughter .

“It was funny. I was joking around with Zach: ‘You know, every time I have a kid, something good happens,” Harris recounted. “It was just like a joke we had going on — and then you saw what happened.”

Harris insists, however, that it won’t go down as his best game in the pros.

“There’s a lot of room to improve,” Harris said. “I want to put together a complete game where I’m going out there and being dominant in the run and dominant in the pass.”

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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Mayfield doesn’t regret actions, says not ‘cookie-cutter’ QB

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield won't change for anyone and refuses to be a "cookie-cutter quarterback."

Cleveland's outspoken rookie said Wednesday that he doesn't regret calling former Browns coach Hue Jackson "fake" and he has no intention of changing his behavior. Following the Browns' 35-20 win on Sunday in Cincinnati, Mayfield was cold toward

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield won’t change for anyone and refuses to be a “cookie-cutter quarterback.”

Cleveland’s outspoken rookie said Wednesday that he doesn’t regret calling former Browns coach Hue Jackson “fake” and he has no intention of changing his behavior. Following the Browns’ 35-20 win on Sunday in Cincinnati, Mayfield was cold toward Jackson and then said he was unhappy his first NFL coach accepted a job with the Bengals, a division rival.

Mayfield’s comments drew criticism and he fired back with a post on Instagram assailing Jackson. Mayfield declined to elaborate about their relationship.

The No. 1 overall draft pick said he’s entitled to his opinion, and “although I’m an athlete, I’m not a cookie-cutter quarterback, never have been, never will be. I speak my mind. That’s just how I am, so I didn’t like the (Jackson) move and people don’t have to care. I’m not looking for anybody’s approval.”

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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FANTASY PLAYS: NFL crunch time creates shifts in daily game

The crescendo of the fantasy football season also marks a shift across the NFL landscape that starts this week.

Teams learn they'll be in or out of the playoffs, others manage injuries with an eye toward January or next season, while some teams battle for playoff positions.

Understanding those dynamics and how they relate to

The crescendo of the fantasy football season also marks a shift across the NFL landscape that starts this week.

Teams learn they’ll be in or out of the playoffs, others manage injuries with an eye toward January or next season, while some teams battle for playoff positions.

Understanding those dynamics and how they relate to daily fantasy can help separate you from the crowd. Here are a few spots for fantasy players to exploit during Week 13:

JAGS RUNNING BACKS

Leonard Fournette’s suspension opens up value in the Jacksonville Jaguars backfield for Week 13 with T.J. Yeldon and Carlos Hyde both becoming intriguing options. Both running backs cost less than $5,000 on FanDuel, while Yeldon is $4,400 and Hyde is just $3,300 on DraftKings. The Jaguars have a 21-point implied team total this week and both backs could have value.

Yeldon is a target on DraftKings with its point-per-reception format and should maintain his third down role at minimum with upside of receiving 50 percent of the snaps. Yeldon has a floor of four to six targets, with upside for more in a game where the Jaguars will start QB Cody Kessler and are projected to be playing from behind.

At $3,300 Hyde is still in consideration on DraftKings and could be the better play on FanDuel with the more TD-heavy scoring settings. In Week 8, his first game with Jacksonville, Hyde stepped in for Fournette and received the majority of the team’s carries and the first crack as the goal-line back. Now more familiar with the playbook, Hyde could see 15 to 20 carries and should again be featured at the goal. At near minimum price on both sites Hyde doesn’t need to do much to pay off his cheap price tag.

SPOILERY BUCS

While the Buccaneers are all but eliminated from contention, they will look to spoil things for divisional foe Carolina. The Tampa Bay QB position, whether occupied by Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston, is a QB1 in seasonal leagues and has produced top 5 numbers at the position.

Winston will lead the Bucs offense and there could be value at the wide receiver position. DeSean Jackson is seeking a second opinion on his thumb and was ineffective in Week 12, playing less than 50 percent of snaps and catching just three of his eight targets. If Jackson misses time, it will lead to an elevated snap count and target share for both Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries. Both receivers have produced 20-plus point fantasy outputs and can be considered as secondary options for lineups pairing up Winston with top target Mike Evans.

Godwin and Humphries can also be considered as contrarian elements of Carolina Panthers stacks that feature Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey, knowing that Carolina should be able to put up points with a projected team total above 29. The Buccaneers will be forced to throw and one of Godwin or Humphries is likely to pay off their low daily price tag. Users building multiple DFS lineups would be wise to exploit this injury situation.

NOTES FOR WEEK 13

Indianapolis tight end Jack Doyle is out for the season and Eric Ebron will see an increased target share in addition to his high red zone usage. Running back Rex Burkhead returns for New England which could impact Sony Michel and James White. Melvin Gordon’s injury will create value from Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson in the Chargers offense.

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For more Week 13 daily fantasy advice and tips, visit DailyRoto: https://dailyroto.com

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NFL Week 13: 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: Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers

Total: 51

It’s not as though 51 isn’t a high number, but I wonder if the total for Sunday night’s Chargers-Steelers game would be significantly higher if the Bolts weren’t without star running back Melvin Gordon.

If indeed the total has fallen as a result of Gordon’s injury, that could be a mistake. Because Gordon’s backup, Austin Ekeler, has been fantastic. The versatile second-year back is averaging 5.8 yards per carry (more than half a yard better than Gordon) and he’s coming off a 10-catch performance in a blowout victory over the Cardinals.

The Chargers might not score 45 points in Pittsburgh like they did against Arizona, but they should be good for at least 24. They have a better offense than Denver, and the Broncos put up 24 on the Steelers a week ago.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh offense will be hungry to bounce back following a tough road loss to the Broncos. The Steelers are averaging 36.0 points per game at home this season, and they should make a run at that number in what is a huge prime-time game.

Predicted score: Steelers 34, Broncos 26

Under of the week: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Total: 56.5

Carolina and Tampa Bay combined for 70 points when they met last month, which explains why the total is up above 56 for their meeting Sunday in Florida. But expect a correction in this matchup, especially now that…

1. The Bucs defense has straightened out at home, surrendering just 16.0 points per game in their last three outings at Raymond James Stadium.

2. Jameis Winston looks to be back on track at quarterback for the Bucs, which could mean fewer turnovers and thus fewer short fields for Tampa’s opponent.

3. The Carolina offense has come back to earth after a hot streak and is averaging a so-so 22.3 points per game in the last three weeks.

4. The Panthers haven’t scored more than 24 points in a road game this season.

This one might not even come close.

Predicted score: Panthers 27, Buccaneers 13

Good luck, we’re all counting on you. 

Previous results
Last week: 1-0-1
2018 season: 15-8-1

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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