‘The NFL Handle’: NFL Week 2 Breakdown And Week 1 Reflections, Disappointments

The post ‘The NFL Handle’: NFL Week 2 Breakdown And Week 1 Reflections, Disappointments appeared first on SportsHandle.

On The NFL Handle, Las Vegas-based sports talk voice Matt Perrault and veteran bookmaker Robert Walker of USBookmaking dive into select NFL games, line movements and bookmaker liabilities, plus greater sports betting topics and stories that may have nothing to do with football. Walker has seen it all behind the counter and Perrault the same from behind the microphone, so they’ll have you prepared for anything.

NFL Week 2, also known as “overreaction” or “adjustments” week, has arrived. In Week 2 we’ll see an AFC Championship rematch with the Patriots -1.5 at the Jaguars, the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles -3 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — who just beat the Saints outright in New Orleans as a nearly 10-point dogs — and various other lines of interest. How will the Lions and Bills respond after their respective debacles?

Your comments are welcome at @sports_handle. (Link coming for iTunes listeners). Time codes for the episode follow below.


0:35: Reflections on Week 1, the excitement of the first kickoff and how the sportsbook fared.

1:35: “Automatic” plays — a viable strategy? Not all home dogs have the same bite.

7:17: Miami Dolphins +3 at New York Jets — a line that’s bounced around a bit. What should the line actually be and where might it go?

11:30: Los Angeles Chargers -7 at Buffalo Bills — typically it’s elite teams that open as 9 point favorites on the road. Bills rookie QB Josh Allen will start his first game for Buffalo, who will probably have the backing of the “pros.”

14:52: Detroit Lions +6.5 at San Francisco 49ers — both teams coming off disappointing (or extremely disappointing) performances. Line’s moved based on how bad the Lions looked. Early marriage trouble for Matt Patricia and Detroit.

21:00: Cleveland Browns +9  at New Orleans Saints —The Browns, off to their best start since 2004 (0-0-1), visit the Saints, who at least showed up offensively in their Week 1 defensive faceplant.

23:40: Arizona Cardinals +12.5 at Los Angeles Rams — Just how good are the Rams? So far they’re gobbling all the wagers.

26:53: A few words about environment and atmosphere — with a major hurricane, Florence, set to hit the East Coast.

29:10: New England Patriots -1.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars —An AFC Championship rematch.

33:25: New York Giants +3 at Dallas Cowboys — Cowboys are in trouble. Giants are the play.

35:30: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (off the board): Aaron Rodgers, worth about 6 or 7 points, most likely will play.

38:30: Houston Texans -2 at Tennessee Titans — another quarterback injury question hangs over this AFC South contest with Marcus Mariota (elbow) not a lock to suit up.

41:00: Kansas City Chiefs -4 at Pittsburgh Steelers —  Are the Chiefs really good or the Steelers not so good? Highest total on the board in this game (52.5).

42:45: Indianapolis Colts +6 at Washington Redskins — Who’s willing to lay the six points?

42:50: Favorite play of the weekend! Or at least the most interesting and probably the biggest decision of the week. The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles are (just) a 3-point favorite on the road against Tampa Bay? Also looking hard at Arizona and perhaps giving the Raiders a second chance.

48:40: Bonus bookmaking question about Canelo vs. GGG Part II and discussion of “open scoring” in boxing.

Have a profitable Week 2, folks. Follow Perrault on Twitter @sportstalkmatt and Walker @robertusfsports.

Thanks for listening and see you back next week, tell a friend, sign up for our newsletter and also check out our Cover City Podcast, featuring sports bettor Eric Rosenthal.

 

Seahawks’ Moore trying to move past loss to Chargers

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — David Moore tried his best not to let the final pass in Seattle's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last week bother him for long.

It's not easy when it's a throw that could have potentially tied the game and forced overtime, but instead bounced off Moore's shoulder and fell incomplete

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — David Moore tried his best not to let the final pass in Seattle’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last week bother him for long.

It’s not easy when it’s a throw that could have potentially tied the game and forced overtime, but instead bounced off Moore’s shoulder and fell incomplete on the final play of Seattle’s 25-17 loss.

It was shown on seemingly every TV broadcast playing highlights of the game , and while it would have been an exceptionally difficult catch after getting tipped by a Chargers defensive back, Moore wishes he could have made the grab.

“I tried to stay away from it,” Moore said on Thursday. “After a while, I’d say Monday after meetings, I tried to watch it and then I was like, ‘It’s over with now. I’m on to (the Rams).'”

The incompletion was the most difficult moment the second-year wide receiver has faced since becoming part of Seattle’s wide receiver rotation. The Seahawks had an untimed down from the 6-yard line needing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to force overtime.

Quarterback Russell Wilson stepped up away from the pass rush and Moore had flashed open running across the back of the end zone.

Wilson zipped his pass in Moore’s direction, but just a couple of yards away from finding the receiver’s hands, the ball was tipped by the Chargers’ Jahleel Addae. The tip slightly changed the trajectory of the pass and it started severely wobbling offline. Moore was unable to adjust his hands in time and the ball thudded off his shoulder pads and to the turf.

“I (saw) it get tipped. I saw the dude come across and I tried to adjust to it but it was a little bit too late,” Moore said. “It was a fastball coming in hot, getting touched, it’s kind of hard to get your hands where it needs to be after that.”

Moore said he spent time Sunday night wondering if there are even drills to mimic having a pass change as that one did so close to the receiver.

“It’s a really tough catch. He’s tracking the ball, he sees it coming and all of a sudden the ball takes kind of a strange turn,” Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “He was really dejected, really upset. Got a chance to talk to him after the game, said a lot of things still had to happen. That wasn’t the reason we won or lost that game, but it was a very difficult play.”

Moore’s development has been one of the big stories of the season for Seattle. His progression from an unknown seventh-round pick in 2017 to becoming the Seahawks’ No. 3 receiver was so rapid Seattle felt comfortable releasing veteran Brandon Marshall last week to open a roster spot.

While it wasn’t a dropped pass, the final play is the first major adversity Moore has faced this season. He was emotional after the game, but said the moment was quickly put in perspective.

“At first I took it kind of hard, but then I had Doug (Baldwin) and Tyler (Lockett) and all the brothers and stuff, and all the coaches tell me stuff like this happens all the time,” Moore said.

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Mullens to share stage with Manning when 49ers host Giants

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Nick Mullens remembers getting the phone call from Archie Manning inviting him to the prestigious Manning Passing Academy two summers ago.

Mullens savored the chance to take part in the four-day clinic run by Archie and his two NFL quarterback sons, Eli and Peyton. Mullens especially relished the opportunity to

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Nick Mullens remembers getting the phone call from Archie Manning inviting him to the prestigious Manning Passing Academy two summers ago.

Mullens savored the chance to take part in the four-day clinic run by Archie and his two NFL quarterback sons, Eli and Peyton. Mullens especially relished the opportunity to watch Eli Manning take part in some of the drills.

“To see how he moves in the pocket, he has very quick feet and is just very smooth,” Mullens said. “I definitely remember just sitting there and watching him throw. I took that all in.”

Mullens now will get another chance to see Manning up close when he makes his second career start for the San Francisco 49ers (2-7) on Monday night against Manning and the New York Giants (1-7).

Mullens is coming off a scintillating debut, completing 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 151.9 passer rating in a 34-3 victory over the Oakland Raiders. That’s the highest rating since the merger for a player in his debut with at least 20 attempts.

Things might not be as easy now that the Giants have an idea of what Mullens can do.

“I think they’re going to be like, ‘Oh crap. This guy is good,'” running back Matt Breida said. “I think they’ll put more people back there to cover because of the throws he made and can do.”

While Mullens is just getting started, Manning is nearing the end of his career as he plays his 15th season for a team that is struggling mightily. New York has lost five straight games and the questions are mounting about how much longer the two-time Super Bowl MVP Manning has as quarterback.

“I think there’s urgency to get things going, for sure,” Manning said. “We got to get some wins. We got to get going, and everybody wants it. The team needs it, for the morale and for just the hard work and everything we put in. Just need to reap the benefits of the work, and feel good about what we’re doing.”

Here are some other things to watch:

SPLENDID SAQUON

Rookie Saquon Barkley has been a rare bright spot for the struggling Giants, topping 100 yards from scrimmage in seven of his first eight games. Barkley has been a bit hit and miss with 16 runs for negative yards, tied for fifth worst in the league, and 11 plays that gained at least 20, which is tied for second most among running backs. Barkley is just the ninth player to gain at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage in the first eight games of his rookie season.

“I’m not one of those guys that says, let me see my stats, let me see how much I ran for this or that. I just play,” he said. “I’m not going to stand here and lie, I am very active on social media, so there’s fan pages of me and I can go on Instagram or even on my explore page and they just happen to pop up. I’ve seen predictions of what I’m capable of doing, but it means nothing to me.”

PRESSURE POINT

The struggling pass rush for the 49ers broke through in a big way last week with eight sacks against Oakland. Cassius Marsh led the way with a career-best 2 ½, and Dekoda Watson had 1 1/2 in his first game after coming off IR. San Francisco had eight sacks in a game only once in the previous two decades, doing it against the Rams in 2009.

KITTLE’S CATCHES

San Francisco tight end George Kittle has been a big-play threat all season. He had a 71-yard catch and run last week against the Raiders, making him the first tight end since Rich Caster in 1972 to have two 70-yard catches in the same season. Kittle ranks second among all tight ends with 692 yards receiving and is second to Barkley among all players with 496 yards after the catch.

STRUGGLING FRANCHISES

Twenty-eight years after these franchises met in the best matchup in “Monday Night Football” history, they now play in one of the worst. Back in 1990, the 49ers beat the Giants 7-3 in a matchup of 10-1 teams that provided the highest winning percentage ever for a Monday night game played after Halloween. The teams come into this meeting with a combined winning percentage of .176, the second lowest for a Monday night game played Nov. 1 or later. The lowest combined winning percentage is .167 for a matchup of the New York Jets (3-9) and the Chargers (1-11) in 1975 that featured Hall of Fame QBs Joe Namath and Dan Fouts.

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Larry Fitzgerald closing in on yards receiving milestone

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Larry Fitzgerald is closing in on another milestone, and it's an impressive one.

The 35-year-old receiver needs to catch just 33 yards worth of passes Sunday at Kansas City to move past Hall of Famer Terrell Owens into second place on the NFL's all-time yards receiving list.

As usual, Fitzgerald brushed

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Larry Fitzgerald is closing in on another milestone, and it’s an impressive one.

The 35-year-old receiver needs to catch just 33 yards worth of passes Sunday at Kansas City to move past Hall of Famer Terrell Owens into second place on the NFL’s all-time yards receiving list.

As usual, Fitzgerald brushed aside talk of the milestone in his weekly meeting with the media Thursday.

“Honestly, I don’t really think about it,” he said.

Modesty aside, there’s no doubt that Fitzgerald is very aware of his place among the greats in the game.

Halfway through his 15th season, Fitzgerald has 15,902 yards receiving, behind Owens’ 15,934 and Jerry Rice’s phenomenal 22,895.

Fitzgerald needs 58 catches to pass Tony Gonzalez for second on the NFL career receptions list. Fitzgerald has 1,268 catches to Gonzalez’s 1,325 and Rice’s 1,549.

Fitzgerald also is closing in on Rice’s record for receptions with one team. Fitzgerald, who has spent his entire career with the Cardinals, needs 14 receptions to pass the 1,281 catches Rice had with the San Francisco 49ers.

There are numbers that Fitzgerald will talk about with pride, and that’s what he’s accomplished in the postseason.

He has 942 yards receiving in nine postseason games, most of any player in his first nine playoff contests. His three 150-yard playoff receiving games are most in NFL history. His five 100-yard games are tied for third all-time, behind Michael Irvin and Rice. Fitzgerald is tied for third in postseason TD receptions (10), behind John Stallworth and Rice. And Fitzgerald did it in only nine games.

Fitzgerald’s performance in Arizona’s surprise run to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season shattered NFL records for yards receiving (546), receptions (30) and touchdowns (7).

In Arizona’s divisional game against Green Bay in 2015, Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 176 yards, including the two biggest plays of overtime. He is the only player in NFL history to average at least 100 yards receiving and a touchdown in every postseason game.

“I think every player wants to be at their best in the biggest moments,” Fitzgerald said. “I think my numbers in the playoffs say that I’m a guy who steps up in the bigger moments. I think that’s something you look at the greats in history, the Jerry Rices and the Michael Jordans and the Kobe Bryants, the Reggie Jacksons of the world, those guys , when their teams needed them the most, they were able to find something to make a difference in the games.”

But Fitzgerald may never appear in the playoffs again.

The Cardinals limp into Kansas City at 2-6 and Fitzgerald repeated Thursday that he hasn’t decided whether this is his last season. It’s hard to imagine him ever playing for another team.

Fitzgerald has been conspicuously absent from the statistics as the Arizona offense sputtered through seven games, leading to the firing of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. With Byron Leftwich as the new coordinator, Fitzgerald had his best game of the year in the team’s 18-15 victory over San Francisco two weekends ago, catching eight passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, just his second of the season.

Notes: S Budda Baker, a critical component of Arizona’s defense, did not practice Thursday due to a foot injury. He was not on the injury report Wednesday. He was the only player who did not practice on Thursday.

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Steelers RT Gilbert out for 3rd straight week

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert will miss his third straight game while dealing with a knee injury.

The Steelers made Gilbert inactive for Thursday night's game against Carolina. Matt Feiler will start in place of Gilbert.

Pittsburgh will also be without reserve nose tackle Dan McCullers, who is dealing with an

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert will miss his third straight game while dealing with a knee injury.

The Steelers made Gilbert inactive for Thursday night’s game against Carolina. Matt Feiler will start in place of Gilbert.

Pittsburgh will also be without reserve nose tackle Dan McCullers, who is dealing with an ankle injury. Quarterback Mason Rudolph, wide receiver Justin Hunter, safety Marcus Allen, cornerback Brian Allen and offensive lineman Zach Banner are also inactive for the Steelers.

The Panthers will be without wide receiver Torrey Smith, who will sit out a third straight week due to a knee injury. Jarius Wright will start in place of Smith.

Carolina center Ryan Kalil will play despite skipping practice on Tuesday with an ankle injury.

Cornerback Josh Hawkins, running back Cameron Artis-Payne, linebacker Andre Smith, guard Brendan Mahon, defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. and defensive end Marquis Haynes are also inactive for the Panthers.

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Mayfield hopes NFL officials find consistency on helmet hits

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield has become the NFL's unwanted poster boy for helmet-to-helmet hits.

Twice this season, Cleveland's rookie quarterback has been struck in the head by tacklers during games and both times the officials failed to call a penalty for the obvious infractions.

Mayfield's trying not to take oversights personally.

"They just

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield has become the NFL’s unwanted poster boy for helmet-to-helmet hits.

Twice this season, Cleveland’s rookie quarterback has been struck in the head by tacklers during games and both times the officials failed to call a penalty for the obvious infractions.

Mayfield’s trying not to take oversights personally.

“They just have to find their consistency,” he said of the erratic calls. “With every ref it’s different — how they see it, how they’re seeing the plays, momentum with the whistle, when it’s blown, stuff like that. So as they continue to try to enforce the same rule, I think the consistency will grow. But right now, that’s why you’re seeing some confusion.”

On Oct. 21 at Tampa Bay, Mayfield slid after a 35-yard run and was drilled from the side by Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead, who wasn’t flagged but was fined $26,739 fine by the NFL, which acknowledged days after the hit that it should have been a penalty.

Last week, Kansas City safety Ron Parker delivered a glancing blow with his helmet to Mayfield while the quarterback was being wrapped up by defensive tackle Chris Jones. Again, no penalty was called, but Mayfield was forced to leave the game after an independent medical observer called the officials and requested the QB undergo a concussion evaluation.

Mayfield passed the test and was allowed to return three plays later. He fought to stay in the game.

“Yeah. I guess that is the new rule,” he said. “I have to come off the field for a checkup.”

Parker could be fined by the league, which announces its weekly punishments on Saturday.

Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, joked that Parker’s hit fortunately didn’t do any damage.

“It would be more frustrating if it hurt,” Mayfield said. “I was more frustrated they took me out of the game, to be honest with you. But they’re protecting me. They’re doing their job. So ultimately what can I complain about?”

Mayfield has sympathy for the officials, who are doing what they can to protect players — especially quarterbacks — while presiding over a game that’s moving very fast. Mayfield smiled when asked if the officiating was as uneven when he played in college at Oklahoma.

“No,” he said, grinning. “I had a bunch of friends out there, so it was good.”

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FANTASY PLAYS: Players to start and sit in NFL Week 10

Like winter, fantasy football playoffs loom. Successful fantasy owners shouldn't go into victory formation yet, as one bad week or unfortunate injury can change the complexion of the whole season.

Those still pushing for a postseason berth should pull out all the stops without fear. Week 10 brings opportunity for players who have otherwise been

Like winter, fantasy football playoffs loom. Successful fantasy owners shouldn’t go into victory formation yet, as one bad week or unfortunate injury can change the complexion of the whole season.

Those still pushing for a postseason berth should pull out all the stops without fear. Week 10 brings opportunity for players who have otherwise been disappointments along with a rookie or two who should be used to exploit favorable matchups.

START: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears: With four touchdowns in his last three games, Howard is showing signs of finally breaking out of his season-long funk. Howard is no longer a component in the Chicago passing game, but he’s averaged 19 touches per game over the past three weeks. Now he faces a Lions run defense that gives up 5.1 yards per carry and is ranked 27th in stopping the run. He’s still a long way from the RB1 many envisioned he’d be on draft day, but Howard will fit in most fantasy lineups as a solid RB2 this Sunday.

SIT: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: Yes, him. Gronkowski hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1 and has exceeded better than 70 receiving yards just twice after tagging the Texans for 123 yards in the regular season opener. He missed last Sunday’s win against the Packers and is questionable for Sunday’s game versus the Titans. There are good streaming options available at tight end (Chris Herndon of the Jets, for example) but the days of Gronkowski as a must-start fantasy beast appear to be reaching their end.

START: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Packers: Since joining the starting lineup, Valdes-Scantling is averaging just over nine targets per game and has a pair of 100-yard outings to go along with two touchdowns. Green Bay’s pass, pass and pass again mindset makes the rookie a strong WR2 who continues to gain the trust of Aaron Rodgers. He’ll keep building his rapport with Rodgers at the expense of a Miami defense that is 25th in receiving yards allowed and 29th in yards per catch allowed. Valdes-Scantling has averaged 21.1 yards per catch, as seven of his 17 receptions have been for 20 yards or longer.

SIT: Derek Carr, QB, Raiders: The optimism about Carr following a strong performance against the Colts was critically shattered after a near-lifeless effort against the 49ers. Things will not get better for Carr, who must contend with a Chargers defense that is a solid 12th in net passing yards allowed and is tied for sixth with 10 interceptions. While Carr has 10 touchdown passes this season, keep in mind that seven of those came in two games. Los Angeles held him to just 14 fantasy points when the two teams met in Week 5.

START: Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys: Dak Prescott has gotten the rookie wideout more involved over the past two games, with 11 of his 28 targets this season coming in that span. He’s responded well, catching six passes for 132 yards and a touchdown and will continue his upward trend going against a suspect Eagles pass defense that is 20th in net passing yards allowed. Gallup has shown he doesn’t need a lot of targets to make an impact, which makes him an intriguing WR3/flex option.

SIT: Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions: Even with Golden Tate no longer in the lineup, Golladay was a non-factor in last week’s loss to the Vikings, catching just three passes for 46 yards on four targets. Things don’t get easier for Golladay, who faces a Bears defense that is ninth in fewest net passing yards and is second only to the Dolphins with 14 interceptions. Golladay should see more targets after having a mere seven in his last three games combined, but there’s little to feel good about playing him, especially in a PPR format.

START: Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans: He’s starting to round into shape and comes off his second game of better than 20 fantasy points with a great chance at a third against the Patriots. New England is 28th in net passing yards allowed and have given up 19 touchdown passes and must deal with Mariota’s running ability. While he’d be a gamble in standard leagues, Mariota is a good play in deeper leagues. There’s a good chance he steps his game up and turns this contest into a high-scoring affair.

SIT: Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: Stafford hasn’t recorded a game of better than 20 fantasy points since Week 4 and after being sacked 10 times by the Vikings last week, his body will go through another brutal afternoon against the Bears, who have 24 sacks along with 14 interceptions. Chicago is ninth in fewest net passing yards, and if the Lions fall behind early, Stafford had better brace for a long afternoon of uncomfortable meetings with Chicago’s withering pass rush.

START: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers: Sooner or later, the Packers will catch on to giving Jones more than 12-14 carries per game. Sunday would be a good time to do so, as Green Bay gets a Miami defense ranked 31st against the run and allows a healthy 4.6 yards per carry, which bodes well for Jones’ six yards per attempt. Yes, there is some disappointment in Jones after his fumble against the Patriots, but there’s a great rebound opportunity awaiting any fantasy owner willing to use him as an RB2.

SIT: Wendell Smallwood, RB, Eagles: In fact, avoiding Eagles running backs altogether is a sound move. The backfield by committee style is a fantasy killer, one whose level of pain is increased by facing a Cowboys run defense that is seventh in fewest yards allowed and gives up a mere 3.6 yards per carry.

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For more Week 10 fantasy insight and tips, visit RotoExperts: https://rotoexperts.com

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Rivers rolling, Carr stalling entering Chargers-Raiders game

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr had appeared to pass Philip Rivers in the pecking order of AFC West quarterbacks two years ago. He put together a season worthy of MVP consideration while Rivers led the NFL in interceptions on the way to a last-place finish.

Carr looked like one of the NFL's up-and-coming stars,

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr had appeared to pass Philip Rivers in the pecking order of AFC West quarterbacks two years ago. He put together a season worthy of MVP consideration while Rivers led the NFL in interceptions on the way to a last-place finish.

Carr looked like one of the NFL’s up-and-coming stars, while Rivers seemed to be on the downside of a career that started in 2004.

The script has flipped heading into Sunday’s meeting between Rivers’ Los Angeles Chargers (6-2) and Carr’s Oakland Raiders (1-7). Rivers is playing as well as he has at any point in his 15-year career, while Carr is struggling to find his way in coach Jon Gruden’s offense.

“Obviously quarterbacks get way too much credit and way too much blame already, but I think we don’t give enough credit to guys who have played that long,” Carr said. “I’ll say it this way, the hardest part mentally going through a season is the days leading up to the game. Sunday is fun, man. You cut it loose and you give it everything you have. Having to recover, ice tub, wake up early to get treatment, the lift, to lift heavy when everything hurts, that’s when those guys don’t get enough credit.

“Here I am at five years, I’m fine. I’m good. I’ll keep doing this and I’m good. But, those guys that are in their 15th, 20th season, we don’t give them enough credit to mentally be that strong. It’s awesome.”

Rivers has career highs in yards per attempt (9.1) and passer rating (116.5), and is on pace for a career-high 38 touchdown passes while leading the Chargers to five straight wins.

The Chargers have strengthened their offensive line, have a potent running threat in Melvin Gordon, have plenty of outside targets with Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams, and a strong defense.

That has all taken pressure off Rivers to carry too much of the load.

“These last almost 20 games or so, we’ve had good balance,” Rivers said. “Leaning on one another offensively and defensively taking care of the ball — all of those things are important. So we’ve done a nice job of it so far.”

Here are some other things to watch:

GORDON’S RUN

Melvin Gordon has rushed for 407 yards and scored five touchdowns in his last four games. He also has three 100-yard games in three of his past four, the first time that has happened in his career. The only game when Gordon did not go over the century mark was Week 5 against the Raiders; he had just 58 yards on 19 carries. The Raiders are last in the league in rushing defense, but Gordon knows he has a tough test ahead.

“They played me pretty tough last time we went up against them. It is never easy since they are a rival. As a group the offensive line is hitting on all cylinders. We hope to keep getting stronger.”

PRESSURE POINT

The Raiders have struggled to generate any sort of pass pressure all season after trading away Khalil Mack. Oakland ranks last in the NFL with seven sacks and last with 35 QB pressures, according to SportRadar, 28 fewer pressures than the next-lowest team. Fixing that will only get harder after the team released top pass rusher Bruce Irvin last week. That puts more pressure on a trio of rookies — P.J. Hall, Arden Key and Maurice Hurst — that has three sacks this season.

“We put a lot on their plate and that’s because they’re the future of this team,” teammate Frostee Rucker said. “They have to come along and play.”

KINGS OF PICKS

The Chargers have seven interceptions during their five-game winning streak and have 189 yards in returns, which leads the league. Second-year cornerback Desmond King has three of the interceptions and returned one 42 yards for a touchdown last week at Seattle to put the Chargers up by two scores.

MISSING WIDEOUTS

Oakland has struggled to get any production from wideouts in recent weeks. Since the start of Week 5, Oakland ranks last in the NFL with 37 catches and 428 yards receiving from wide receivers. Amari Cooper had one catch for 10 yards in two games in that span before being traded to Dallas. Seth Roberts leads Oakland’s pass catchers with 12 receptions over those four games, while Martavis Bryant has the most yards with 138.

NEW KICKER (AGAIN)

The Chargers have become the Bermuda Triangle for placekickers. Michael Badgley is the team’s sixth since the start of last season and moved into the role fulltime this week after Caleb Sturgis was released on Monday. Badgley made all three of his field goals and seven extra points in the two games he kicked when Sturgis had a quadriceps injury.

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AP Sports Writer Joe Reedy contributed to this report

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Mahomes, Rosen to face off when Chiefs welcome Cardinals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Patrick Mahomes Reunion Tour rolls on Sunday when the young, record-setting quarterback leads the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs against the Arizona Cardinals at Arrowhead Stadium.

Last week, Mahomes shredded the Cleveland Browns while outplaying their rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield. The two met when Mahomes was being recruited to Texas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Patrick Mahomes Reunion Tour rolls on Sunday when the young, record-setting quarterback leads the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs against the Arizona Cardinals at Arrowhead Stadium.

Last week, Mahomes shredded the Cleveland Browns while outplaying their rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield. The two met when Mahomes was being recruited to Texas Tech and Mayfield helped to serve as his host, and their relationship continued even when Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma.

This week, Mahomes gets to reminiscence about his time working at Peyton Manning’s football camp with his old roommate, Josh Rosen — now the quarterback on whom the Cardinals are pinning their future.

“I’ve met him a couple times, been out to California and met him,” Mahomes said. “He throws a beautiful ball. It’s always a really tight spiral. I know he’ll have a lot of success.”

It’s going to be tough to top the success Mahomes is having.

The Chiefs’ first-year starter is setting benchmarks just about every time he steps on the field, and the next one might be consecutive 300-yard passing games. Mahomes has eight straight to match Andrew Luck from the 2014 season, and he’s shown no signs of slowing down.

“I thought he was pretty good,” Rosen said, reflecting on those days working camp together. “We weren’t really throwing, we were mostly just coaching the kids. So we didn’t get to really throw too much, but I liked him as a dude. We got along really well.”

Rosen hasn’t seen a whole lot of Mahomes with the Chiefs (8-1) this week, either, because he’s spent all his time focusing on the defense. But Cardinals coach Steve Wilks has seen enough to know that stopping him may be impossible, and slowing him down is nearly as difficult.

That goes for the entirety of the Kansas City offense.

“One thing we talked about all week is really trying to limit those big plays, understanding exactly who they’re trying to target,” Wilks said. “This is a very explosive offense. Going against Andy Reid for several years in different places, going all the way back to the Eagles, this is part of his M.O. So, we’ve got to try to limit the big plays as much as possible.”

The Cardinals (2-6) have struggled much of the season, particularly on offense. But they’re coming off an uplifting, fourth-quarter comeback victory over San Francisco that was capped by Rosen’s touchdown strike to Christian Kirk in the final minute.

“You can let point spreads and all these things — ‘trap game’ — and all these terms that pop up and things that happen come into it,” Reid said of perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Chiefs this week. “But if you can honestly focus on the process and discipline yourself to do that, that normally takes care of things. … You’re not going to let distractions get in the way.”

As the Chiefs and Cardinals prepare to meet Sunday, here are some interesting notes:

GETTING HEALTHIER

Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen is expected to play after returning from injured reserve, where he’d been since breaking his leg in training camp. The Chiefs also could have top pass rusher Justin Houston back from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him the past four games.

ROSEN AND REID

Rosen’s father, noted physician Dr. Charles Rosen, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and the youngster was an avid fan of Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles growing up.

“I used to have an Eagles shirt when I was a kid that said, ‘Our coach will eat yours.’ I was a huge Andy Reid fan,” Rosen said. “Him and Mike Vick and the DeSean Jackson days were very fun to watch.

FITZGERALD’S NUMBERS

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been climbing into the upper reaches of the NFL’s career receiving marks, and he is closing in on a couple very high rungs.

Fitzgerald has 15,902 yards receiving, and he needs 33 more to pass Terrell Owens for second place behind Jerry Rice on the career list. Fitzgerald also needs 58 catches to pass former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez for second behind Rice in career receptions.

Fitzgerald had eight catches for 102 yards and a TD in last week’s 18-15 win over San Francisco.

PERFECTION, ALMOST

Reid was asked this week how often his creative plays are executed properly — when all 11 guys do exactly what they are supposed to do. And his answer was quite candid.

“I’d probably give you 85 percent of the time,” Reid said. “Now, they can get beat and that would bring it down a little bit, but mostly guys will attempt to do the right thing. It amazes me how they can digest all this and in a split-second know — there’s 200 plays on that sheet, and you have to figure it out like that, and these guys do it.”

MAKE WAY, LEN

Mahomes already has thrown 29 touchdown passes, which means he needs just two more to pass Len Dawson’s franchise record. The Hall of Famer set one of the Chiefs’ longest-standing records in 1964, an era in which passing generally took a back seat to running the ball.

“It would be awesome,” Mahomes said, “because Len had a lot of success in the NFL and was kind of ahead of his time, throwing all those touchdowns. It would be awesome to pass that.”

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Giants tight end Engram trying to overcome dropped passes

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Evan Engram understands that he has all the tools to be a top tight end in the NFL.

The New York Giants' second-year player, the team's first-round selection in 2017, has the size, speed and the drive to be a star.

There's only one problem. Engram has a propensity of

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Evan Engram understands that he has all the tools to be a top tight end in the NFL.

The New York Giants’ second-year player, the team’s first-round selection in 2017, has the size, speed and the drive to be a star.

There’s only one problem. Engram has a propensity of dropping passes, especially in clutch situations.

Engram caught 64 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns last season. Engram also dropped 11 passes and vowed in the offseason to work on rectifying that problem.

Now, in his second season, Engram has caught 17 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, but he has also dropped three passes.

“It’s pretty tough,” Engram said Thursday before the team practiced in preparation for facing the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.

“It’s not where I want to be. I have to put some of these plays behind me and keep working on getting better and staying positive.”

Engram’s problems are also magnified because the Giants have a 1-7 record for the second straight season.

“We just have to go out and get a win,” Engram said. “We have to get some of the bad tastes out of our mouths. It’s going to feel good to get out there on the big stage Monday night.”

The Giants are coming off their bye week, which should make the beleaguered team feel a little better.

“I think it’s important to put the bad things behind me,” Engram said. “A couple of those drops are catches that I can make in my sleep. I just want to go out there and give us enough an opportunity to win the game Monday night.”

Engram was the first rookie tight end to lead the Giants in receptions. His six touchdown catches were a franchise record for a rookie tight end in 2017.

So the potential is there. He just has to make sure to hold on to the ball, something that coach Pat Shurmur also realizes.

“Evan is a pass-catching tight end,” Shurmur said. “I think we all realize that. But it’s important that he catches the ball. He’s had a couple of drops. But he works at it. He has worked all along at catching the ball. He does a lot of drills, a lot of extra work. He works hard at catching the ball. He always puts the drop behind him and continues to work hard at trying to catch the ball.”

Quarterback Eli Manning recognizes Engram’s passion for improving.

“Evan works hard and wants to do everything right,” said Manning, who will remain the team’s starter for the time being. “He puts in a lot of work. He’s too good of a player and an athlete to let the little things bother him.”

Manning knows that the Giants have had their difficulties scoring touchdowns this season.

“I feel like we’re moving the ball well,” Manning said. “We’re getting yards and moving the ball down the field. We just need that to translate into scoring touchdowns. It always comes down to execution. We have to avoid the negative plays. We just have to execute better in the red zone.”

Manning did not want to talk about whether Monday night’s game against the Niners might be his last as a starter this season.

“I’m worried about this week,” he said. “I have a job to do right now. We’re just going to try to go out there and get the win this time. Sure, there’s a sense of urgency. We all need to get going. We need to improve. We need to score some points. I feel like we’re close. We just have to get back on track, keep improving and play some football.”

The improvement might have to begin with the second-year tight end.

“I watch film of other tight ends,” Engram said. “There are a lot of athletic tight ends in the league, so I try to pick up plays that can make me more effective. I love watching (Kansas City TE) Travis Kelce. He’s so polished and smooth as a tight end. It’s fun watching him. I always try to steal things from him.”

So Engram took the practice field Thursday with the idea that the dropped passes, 14 over his first 1½ seasons, are a thing of the past.

“I think we all strive for perfection,” Engram said. “I just have to put it (the dropped passes) behind me. I understand that it’s part of the game and it’s something that makes you work harder.”

NOTES: Shurmur continued to hint that newly acquired OG Jamon Brown might start Monday night, just a week after being claimed on waivers from the Los Angeles Rams. “We’re putting him in there and getting him ready like he’s going to start,” Shurmur said of Brown. “He’s a big man, a really big man (6-foot-4 and 340 pounds). He was a starter on a team that won more than 10 games last year. He’s a really fast learner.” … Standout safety Landon Collins did not want to comment on a report that said the Giants were either going to place the franchise tag on him for next season or work on a long-term contract. “There has been no talk about that,” Collins said. “When we get to that, we get to that. If something happens, I’ll let you know.” … Manning said that he spoke with QB Kyle Lauletta about his arrest last week for motor vehicle violations in Weehawken, N.J. “It’s a tough situation for him,” Manning said. “I’m trying to support him. This whole thing will be forgotten about and will be water under the bridge very shortly.”

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History on the line: Porous Bengals try to stop Saints

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Steelers piled up 481 yards against Cincinnati's historically bad defense.

The Chiefs and the Buccaneers each went well over 500 yards the next two weeks, putting the Bengals on the cusp of NFL history.

No defense has allowed three straight 500-yard games. In order to avoid the ignominy, the Bengals (5-3)

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Steelers piled up 481 yards against Cincinnati’s historically bad defense.

The Chiefs and the Buccaneers each went well over 500 yards the next two weeks, putting the Bengals on the cusp of NFL history.

No defense has allowed three straight 500-yard games. In order to avoid the ignominy, the Bengals (5-3) are going to have to stop an offense that’s been lighting it up.

Hello, Drew Brees.

The Saints (7-1) have won seven straight and are coming off a 45-35 win that sent the Rams to their first loss. New Orleans piled up 487 yards behind Brees, who leads the NFL in completion rate (76.3 percent) and passer rating (120.6). He’s been sacked a league-low nine times.

If the Bengals fail to get a hand on him, it could be history .

“They go as Brees goes,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. “We’ve got to find a way to slow down that future Hall of Famer.”

The biggest challenge for the Saints will be keeping the momentum in their only road game during a four-week span. They return home to play the Eagles and Falcons the next two weeks.

Although the Bengals have given up the most yards in the NFL, the defense has scored four touchdowns on interception and fumble returns, playing a big factor in three of their wins.

The Saints can’t afford to get off to a bad start that gives the Bengals the advantage. Also, it would help if the Saints tidied up their defense a bit.

While the Bengals are historically bad — on pace to give up more than 7,000 yards — the Saints are also struggling on defense. They rank 25th overall, including second-worst in pass defense. They’ve been among the worst at stopping opponents inside the 20-yard line. The Rams overcame an 18-point halftime deficit and tied it 35-35 in the fourth quarter.

New Orleans would like fewer shootouts in the second half of the season.

“There’s a ton of things we have to improve on and we need to improve on, or it’s going to hurt us later,” coach Sean Payton said.

Some things to watch Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium:

THE NEW GUY

New Orleans signed former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant on Wednesday . It’s unclear what role — if any — he’ll play this week as he tries to learn the offense. Deep threat Ted Ginn Jr. is hurt, and the Saints hope Bryant can add another dimension to the offense once he gets acclimated.

“I look forward to building a rapport with him,” Brees said. “I look forward to getting him involved in this offense and just become a complement to all the guys that we already have.”

THOMAS’ TIME

While Bryant’s arrival gets attention, Michael Thomas remains the Saints’ biggest threat. He set a franchise record last week with 211 yards receiving, including his 72-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. With half the season still remaining, Thomas has 70 catches for 880 yards and five TDs.

BIGGEST BLEMISH

The Saints’ most glaring problems on defense have come near the goal line. New Orleans’ opponents have scored touchdowns on 20 of 28 drives (71.4 percent). That ranks 28th out of 32 teams in defensive red zone efficiency.

“You can’t find any team having success later in the season with the numbers that we currently have,” Payton said. “We’ve got to find a way to improve that.”

The Bengals lead the league in scoring touchdowns once they get inside the 20-yard line, reaching the end zone on 20 of their 26 such possessions. They’ve scored touchdowns on eight of their past nine trips inside the 20.

“We’ve had some really good schemes,” Andy Dalton said. “At the end of the day, our guys have made the plays.”

OH THAT HISTORY

No NFL team has given up three straight 500-yard games. The 1963 Jets gave up three 500-yard games within a four-game span — 510 to the Chargers, 505 to the Raiders, 317 to the Broncos and 528 to the Chargers again. In its past three games, Cincinnati has allowed 481 to the Steelers, 551 to the Chiefs and 576 to the Buccaneers.

“We’re underachieving right now,” Dunlap said. “We’re playing well enough to win some games, which is why we’re 5-3. If we work on the negatives, we can be that elite defense and that elite team.”

MISSING GREEN

A.J. Green caught a 13-yard touchdown pass with 7 seconds left for a win in Atlanta. He had two catches that moved the Bengals into range for their winning field goal against Tampa Bay before they headed into their bye last week. He also hurt a toe on his right foot on the final catch and is sidelined indefinitely, costing Cincinnati its most dependable receiver.

“It is a huge impact,” Payton said. “He is someone that commands a ton of coverage respect.”

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AP Sports Writers Brett Martel in Metairie, Louisiana, and Joe Reedy in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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MGM GVC Interactive Taps Sportradar As Exclusive Supplier of U.S. Sports Data

The post MGM GVC Interactive Taps Sportradar As Exclusive Supplier of U.S. Sports Data appeared first on SportsHandle.

Sports data provider Sportradar, currently the only data provider working directly with the NBA and NHL as a distributor of league data, announced Thursday a deal through which it will

The post MGM GVC Interactive Taps Sportradar As Exclusive Supplier of U.S. Sports Data appeared first on SportsHandle.

Sports data provider Sportradar, currently the only data provider working directly with the NBA and NHL as a distributor of league data, announced Thursday a deal through which it will now be the exclusive betting data provider to MGM GVC Interactive LLC for certain leagues.

MGM GVC Interactive is a shared venture between British-controlled bookmaker GVC Holdings PLC, which owns the Ladbrokes Coral Group PLC gambling company, and MGM Resorts International.

 
 

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Week 11 College Football Picks: Fresno Over Boise, Washington State A Short Road Favorite And More

Each week we’ll be providing our top college football picks. Season Record: 17-13.

This week we have six plays, including Fresno State laying a short number on the road in Boise and fading Duke as a big favorite.

Also check out our NFL Week 10 “Lookahead Lines” story, finding value (or not) by comparing earlier

Each week we’ll be providing our top college football picks. Season Record: 17-13.

This week we have six plays, including Fresno State laying a short number on the road in Boise and fading Duke as a big favorite.

Also check out our NFL Week 10 “Lookahead Lines” story, finding value (or not) by comparing earlier lines, and identifying recency bias. Back to the college game:

Week 11 College Football Picks: Fresno State Bulldogs -2.5 at Boise State, Fading Duke, And More Miami Dominance Over Georgia Tech


Fresno State -2.5 over Boise State (Friday)

This is a huge game in the Mountain West Conference. Fresno State is 8-1 and Boise State 7-2. It might be surprising to see the Broncos as the home dog here but there’s a reason for it. Fresno State is just a much better team.

The Bulldogs are 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings and won last year in Boise 28-17. Boise State has already lost at home to San Diego State and its offense struggles against better defenses. Fresno State is holding conference opponents to 93 yards below their season average, while quarterbacks hit just 48 percent of their passes against the Bulldogs.

A Las Vegas oddsmaker recently stated he would make Fresno State around a field goal favorite over UCF on a neutral field. The Bulldogs are the best non-Power 5 team this season. There’s value taking the Bulldogs under a field goal. They should win rather easily on the road in a showcase game.

 

 

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Texans shake off terrible start with 6-game winning streak

HOUSTON (AP) — Ask Jadeveon Clowney how the Houston Texans turned around their season by winning six straight games after an 0-3 start and the hulking defensive end breaks into song.

"Started from the bottom now we're here," he bellows. "Started from the bottom now the whole team here."

While the 2013 Drake tune is

HOUSTON (AP) — Ask Jadeveon Clowney how the Houston Texans turned around their season by winning six straight games after an 0-3 start and the hulking defensive end breaks into song.

“Started from the bottom now we’re here,” he bellows. “Started from the bottom now the whole team here.”

While the 2013 Drake tune is a little old to be the team’s anthem, the sentiment of the song couldn’t be more fitting for these Texans.

They occupied the basement of the AFC South after opening the season with losses to New England, Tennessee and the New York Giants by a combined 13 points. After falling into such a big hole early, the Texans were written off by many as headed to a lost season.

Everyone insists that such a defeatist sentiment never took hold within the team, with the struggles galvanizing them to get on track and prove the doubters wrong.

“Don’t quit. Everyone keeps fighting. Everyone keeps believing,” quarterback Deshaun Watson said. “Everyone keeps fighting to the very, very end. That is what we do. Regardless of the situation or the adversity, we are always going to keep fighting. That is how we feel.”

Houston is the second team in NFL history to win six in a row after opening 0-3, the first since the Giants in 1970. The winning streak has the Texans in first place in their division and in good position to compete for their third AFC South title in the last four seasons.

A big reason for Houston’s turnaround has been the play of Watson and defensive end J.J. Watt. Both have started each game this year after having their 2017 seasons cut short by major injuries. Watson tore a knee ligament in practice after appearing in seven games in 2017. Watt played just eight games in the previous two years because of back surgeries and a broken leg.

Watt is tied for third in the NFL with nine sacks and his four forced fumbles are tied for most in the league.

“I know he probably doesn’t want to talk about it too much, but I’ve never seen anything like it,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “To come back from what he’s been able to come back from, some really serious injuries, and to be able to play at the level that he’s playing at, it just says all you need to know about him and how much he cares about the team and how much he wants to help this organization win.”

Watson, the 12th overall pick in last year’s draft, has thrown for 2,389 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions despite being slowed by lung and rib injuries. O’Brien said his diligence in coming to the facility every day after his injury last season to study film and talk to coaches has helped Watson take a step forward this year.

“He’s grown a lot,” O’Brien said. “He’s just an awesome guy to work with. He cares about studying, he cares about putting time in to prepare for each game. I think he’s learned a lot about NFL defenses. He’s had a lot thrown at him defensively this year, whether it’s third-down defenses, red-area defenses. He’s improved every week.”

Watson has been helped by the stellar play of receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who is No. 3 in the NFL with 894 yards receiving and whose seven touchdowns are tied for second. The Texans hope that new addition Demaryius Thomas, acquired in a trade with Denver last Tuesday, will make more of an impact after the break with some time to learn the offense.

Hopkins, who has five touchdowns in the last four games, said despite this strong stretch the Texans are approaching things the same way they did when they were desperate for a victory.

“We’ve got the same mentality, and that’s win,” he said. “That’s why we go to practice and that’s why we wake up every day. It’s the same mentality we had when we were 0-3. Nothing’s changed.”

They know that if they let up, their season will end prematurely, just as it did when they went 4-12 in 2017.

O’Brien let out a slight chuckle when asked if 0-3 feels like forever ago.

“It’s not a really long time ago,” he said. “I think our players understand that, and I think the difference between 0-3 and where we are now is not a big difference. We’re just making some more plays, we’re coaching some things better. I think our guys have to — and they do — understand that every week is going to be difficult.”

First up is a trip to Washington on Nov. 18 before a Monday night matchup with Tennessee on Nov. 26 in the first of three straight home games when a win would be key in moving closer to taking their division.

“It’s just important to note that we haven’t been blowing anybody out,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “I don’t think we are a complacent group of guys. We’ve been in some fist fights, some real close ballgames, so it’s not like everything is cookie cutter and everything is going all good for us.”

“We still have things we can improve on and work on, so I think that’s what’s going to keep us pushing forward.”

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Linebackers are paying price for NFL’s video-game numbers

DENVER (AP) — With the NFL's volcanic offenses, can't-hit-them-too-hard rules and bewildered officials, linebackers today aren't the snarling 250-pound thumpers who used to just give running backs fits.

"Now we have to cover well, too," Denver's Brandon Marshall said. "We still have to tackle well. So, you can't be real light and only playing pass

DENVER (AP) — With the NFL’s volcanic offenses, can’t-hit-them-too-hard rules and bewildered officials, linebackers today aren’t the snarling 250-pound thumpers who used to just give running backs fits.

“Now we have to cover well, too,” Denver’s Brandon Marshall said. “We still have to tackle well. So, you can’t be real light and only playing pass or too heavy and only playing run. You’ve got to be able to do all of it, man.”

Which means finding a sweet spot on the scale so they can run like a gazelle and still hit like a truck.

Today’s inside linebackers not only need to have the stamina to go sideline to sideline, but they also require:

—sufficient strength to shed 320-pound linemen;

—enough vigor to cover towering tight ends;

—ample speed to keep up with receivers no longer timid about going over the middle;

—enough recognition and quickness to keep up with shifty running backs and ever-more-mobile quarterbacks.

It’s also handy to have a thick skin, knowing linebackers will bear the brunt of fans’ frustrations as offenses pick apart apparently defenseless units at a record-setting pace.

Sounds impossible.

“It almost is,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “It almost is.”

“It’s definitely very difficult,” Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr said. “You have tight ends that provide mismatches, you’ve got running backs that are great receivers. You’re asked to be in a lot of positions. But that’s what we get paid to do. So, we’ve got figure out a way to do it and do it well.”

As do the officials, whom Joseph said are allowing illegal blocks with the run-pass option rage that has seeped from the college game and is prominently featured in places such as Kansas City, Philadelphia and Seattle.

Take the Broncos’ loss to the Chiefs in Week 8.

Linemen aren’t allowed to block more than a yard from the line of scrimmage on a pass play. But the Chiefs’ guards and center got a few yards downfield several times, causing Denver’s linebackers to instinctively commit to the run — only to see quarterback Patrick Mahomes pull the ball back from running back Kareem Hunt’s belly and zip it to wide-open tight end Travis Kelce.

“It’s the league we’re in,” Joseph said. “Those guys blocking up front don’t know the ball is being thrown. They’re blocking zone, so absolutely it’s an issue. We have to fix this issue in this league, unless it’s going to be college football.

“It’s tough for the linebackers to play both, and you see it on tape. Todd Davis is having hell trying to fit his gap and chase the guy in the flat. When you see Kelce in the flat over there with no one around him, (Davis is) playing his run gap because the guard and center are four and five yards down the field.”

Joseph added, “That’s an issue. It’s a leaguewide issue and it’s a Chiefs issue. Everyone is running these plays, so we have to figure out a way to officiate this better to help the game.”

Marshall isn’t so sure the league’s competition committee will do anything about it, though, saying more points equals more eyeballs.

“They’re not going to change it,” he said.

So it’s the linebackers who are changing.

Davis, the Broncos’ leading tackler, said he’s dropped his weight to 233 and “I do a lot more training with DBs and corners. I add that on to what I already did in the weight room and running and conditioning. But now I have to be ready for everything in the pass game, as well.”

The linebackers who are modifying their bodies and games are embracing the challenge.

“It’s the NFL,” Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “There’s great players at every position.”

Including linebacker.

“I love it,” Davis said. “It’s on us to play well and it’s on us to set the tempo and be great for our team. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Marshall said linebackers ultimately benefit from the ever-increasing challenges brought on by the RPO trend, faster rushers, bigger tight ends and plucky receivers.

“It’s made me a better player,” Marshall said. “It’s also made me more valuable.”

“I think that’s why teams put a premium on athletic ‘backers,” Marshall said. “Because we have to be out there to cover the Kelces and the Gronks and the Dion Lewises and the James Whites of the world. And then we’ve got to be able to tackle (Todd) Gurley. That’s just how it is.”

Defenses are employing more defensive backs, as many as seven, to combat the RPO trend.

“I think schematically we have to adjust as far as personnel and put faster athletes, better athletes at cover linebacker positions to nullify some of this stuff,” Joseph said. “Because right now it’s almost impossible physically.”

Joseph thinks he has an antidote in Su’a Cravens, and the 6-foot-1, 220-pound safety from USC who’s used as a dime linebacker certainly agrees.

“The way the rules are, they handicap defenses. We’re basically on the field to get in the way, we’re not supposed to stop the offense,” Cravens said. “Defense is already hard enough. They’re making it harder.

“So, with guys like me, I think it’s an opportunity for us to showcase what we can do because they’re making it hard for traditional linebackers who are heavy-handed, heavy-footed. They’re ready to be physical at the line of scrimmage and they can’t do that anymore.”

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AP Pro Football Writers Teresa M. Walker and Dave Campbell contributed

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Chiefs using screen plays in creative new ways on offense

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes had been shredding the Patriots defense all night with his incredible arm strength and downfield precision in a back-and-forth shootout last month when it looked as if the Chiefs quarterback might be finally corralled by a well-timed blitz.

With a deft flip of his wrist, Mahomes instead tossed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes had been shredding the Patriots defense all night with his incredible arm strength and downfield precision in a back-and-forth shootout last month when it looked as if the Chiefs quarterback might be finally corralled by a well-timed blitz.

With a deft flip of his wrist, Mahomes instead tossed a soft screen pass to Kareem Hunt out of the backfield, and he raced up the field as the Patriots were forced to chase him.

The timing was perfect. The execution was spot-on.

It was just one of dozens of examples through the first nine games this season of coach Andy Reid using the screen pass to impressive effect.

Whether it’s Hunt out of the backfield, Tyreek Hill or Sammy Watkins on a bubble screen or even tight end Travis Kelce catching a short pass behind the defense, the Chiefs may use their myriad variations of the screen better than any other team.

“You are really just taking a blocking scheme and moving it out into space,” Reid explained. “Our backs are good with it, quarterback gives them an opportunity and the big guys get out and run.”

The intricate timing plays are fun for just about everybody.

Mahomes likes them because the throws are fairly easy and often lead to big gains. Hunt and fellow running back Spencer Ware like them because they can use their talent in space. And even the offensive linemen like them because they often get to plow through smaller defensive backs, rather than tangle with big defensive tackles as they would do on a traditional running play.

Oh, and the Chiefs’ fans like them for obvious reasons.

Screen passes are hardly new in the NFL, and indeed, they have been part of Reid’s basic West Coast offense since he was learning the scheme from its originator, Bill Walsh.

But with so many playmakers at his disposal, and a quarterback who is finally capable of executing the variety of plays, Reid has taken the old-school notion of screen passes to another level.

They might incorporate elements of the run-pass option, a relatively new development that has swept through the NFL.

Or they might call for guys to line up in unique spots, such as running backs split wide or a wide receiver in the backfield. Or they might call for exotic blocking schemes.

“It’s a timing thing. We have to be in sync with our offensive line,” Ware said. “Our releases are a big part of it — how we escape. The downfield ball with Tyreek, Sammy, Travis and Mahomes throwing it opens it up for us. Then when you have Kareem running how he’s running, they come up and play the run and it’s like, ‘No, it’s not a run, it’s a pass. You’d better get back.’ That gives us some cushion.”

Such screen plays often look simple, but are in fact quite difficult to execute.

Mahomes has to read the defense correctly in the seconds before a snap. The designated target needs to be on the same page. And as Hunt explained, “there’s just a lot of timing involved.”

“Yeah,” Mahomes added, “but with how well Coach Reid explains it, everything goes off each other. I think we had a screen and it went off a shovel pass to Kareem the week before, things like that, where we build on top of each other every single week. We are never set in our ways.”

That’s another reason the Chiefs’ screen passes are so difficult to defend: They may run a play to one target one week, giving the next opponent film to review, then run the play to a different target out of the exact same formation the following week.

Good luck trying to stop that.

“Asking these guys to go against faster players, for your offensive linemen to go against these defensive backs and block them in space, that’s tough to do,” Reid said.

“We’re fortunate our backs do a nice job of this. They help set up the defense so you can run fast. There’s nothing worse than watching a screen, you get out there and the offensive linemen are out there trying to dance a little bit.

“A back can take care of you with that,” Reid concluded. “As long as you know where he’s at, he’s going to kind of force the issue downhill, good things can happen.”

Notes: Strong safety Eric Berry (heel), OL Cam Erving (illness), LB Anthony Hitchens (ribs), WR Sammy Watkins (foot) and C Mitch Morse (concussion) remained out of practice Thursday. … Special teams coach Dave Toub dismissed a couple of recent missed PATs, saying Thursday that “nobody is harder on himself” than PK Harrison Butker. Toub said snaps have been part of the problem, “and again, it’s a 33-yard field goal. It’s not a chip-shot like it used to be.”

___

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

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DraftKings Rolls Out ‘Sportsbook Pools’ For The Newbie, Novice Bettor

For novice sports bettors who want to dip their toes in the gaming pool, but don’t have a good understanding of odds, moneylines or spreads, DraftKings has a new product that essentially dumbs down sports betting to the office-pool level.

The Boston-based company rolled out the new product on Thursday, the company’s “DraftKings

For novice sports bettors who want to dip their toes in the gaming pool, but don’t have a good understanding of odds, moneylines or spreads, DraftKings has a new product that essentially dumbs down sports betting to the office-pool level.

The Boston-based company rolled out the new product on Thursday, the company’s “DraftKings Sportsbook Pools,” a simplified way to bet that mimics those NCAA office pools that blanket the nation in March. The product was made available to New Jersey bettors this morning. According to a company press release, the Sportsbook Pools games will allow less experienced bettors an opportunity to play without having to understand the intricacies of sports betting.

“Millions of Americans have been playing in sports pools for years with their friends and coworkers, and now one of the most popular ways that fans can get ‘skin in the game’ is live on DraftKings Sportsbook,” said Matt Kalish, Chief Revenue Officer and co-founder of DraftKings. “DraftKings Sportsbook Pools features simple predictions, such as picking the winner of each NFL game weekly, combined with the potential to win jackpot-style prizes.”

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Super Bowl 53 Odds: Updated for Week 10

Key takeaways from week 9:

  • Saints replace the Chiefs, joining the Rams and Patriots as the top three spots
  • 49ers have the lowest odds at 2000/1
  • Biggest jump: Atlanta Falcons (+31.8%)
  • Biggest drop: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills (-100%)
  • No change: Chiefs, Texans, Colts, Dolphins, Cardinals, Giants (0%)

Key takeaways from week 9:

  • Saints replace the Chiefs, joining the Rams and Patriots as the top three spots
  • 49ers have the lowest odds at 2000/1
  • Biggest jump: Atlanta Falcons (+31.8%)
  • Biggest drop: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills (-100%)
  • No change: Chiefs, Texans, Colts, Dolphins, Cardinals, Giants (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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‘Pro Football Handle’: NFL Week 10 Breakdown: Bengals Host Red-Hot Saints, Pros On Underdog Titans (+6.5) vs. Patriots

The post ‘Pro Football Handle’: NFL Week 10 Breakdown: Bengals Host Red-Hot Saints, Pros On Underdog Titans (+6.5) vs. Patriots appeared first on SportsHandle.

On The Pro Football Handle, brought to you by PropSwap.com, Las Vegas-based sports talk voice Matt Perrault and veteran bookmaker Robert Walker of USBookmaking dive into select NFL games, line

The post ‘Pro Football Handle’: NFL Week 10 Breakdown: Bengals Host Red-Hot Saints, Pros On Underdog Titans (+6.5) vs. Patriots appeared first on SportsHandle.

On The Pro Football Handle, brought to you by PropSwap.com, Las Vegas-based sports talk voice Matt Perrault and veteran bookmaker Robert Walker of USBookmaking dive into select NFL games, line movements and bookmaker liabilities, plus greater sports betting topics and stories that may have nothing to do with football. Walker has seen it all behind the counter and Perrault the same from behind the microphone, so they’ll have you prepared for anything.

Somehow, it’s already NFL Week 10. There are some funky lines this week including three double digit games. Will the public continue their red hot October into November? Keep an eye on the dogs this week, they are consistently hitting (69-60-3 ATS on the season), although popular favorites have been covering recently. Listen for some key teaser opportunities and the contrarian pick of the week.

Spotify fans go here to listen. Download the PropSwap app for iOS systems here and Android here. Time codes for the episode follow below.


1:10 — The public is red hot: a recap of the season so far.

12:47 —  PropSwap.com, Future Focus — Are the L.A. Chargers and Carolina Panthers getting the respect they deserve?

15:16 — Carolina Panthers +3.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers — Carolina is a team to be reckoned with and the public is paying attention.

21:00 —  Buffalo Bills +6.5 (or +7) at N.Y. Jets — Without their young QBs playing, the only reason to watch this game is if you bet on it.

23:35 — Atlanta Falcons -4 at Cleveland Browns-– The Browns are home dogs? Tempting, but can you trust them?

26:04 — New Orleans Saints -5 at Cincinnati Bengals — Contrarian play of the week!

29:25 — Washington Redskins +2.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — FitzMagic money is pouring in, but which version will we see this week?

31:30 — New England Patriots -6.5 at Tennessee Titans — Pros are on the dog. Great teaser opportunity.

34:09 — Arizona Cardinals +16.5 at Kansas City Chiefs — If you have to play KC, play the first half.

36:00 — L.A. Chargers -10 at Oakland Raiders –– Robert is done with the Raiders but Matt will tease it.

39:06 — Seattle Seahawks +9.5  at L.A. Rams — Seattle is the livest dog you’ve ever seen.

41:31 — Miami Dolphins +9.5 at Green Bay Packers — This game is Dolphins vs. Aaron Rodgers. And the public loves Aaron Rodgers.

42:49 — Detroit Lions +6.5 at Chicago Bears — Has media spin superficially inflated the Lions?

44:22– Dallas Cowboys +7 at Philadelphia Eagles — Without Sean Lee the Cowboys suffer on defense.

45:34 — NY Giants +3 at San Francisco 49ers  — San Fran is terrible but shouldn’t be favored over anybody… even the Giants.


Have a profitable Week 10, folks. Thanks for listening and see you back next week, tell a friend, sign up for our newsletter and also check out the Cover City Podcast, featuring sports bettor Eric Rosenthal.

Follow Perrault on Twitter @sportstalkmatt and Walker @robertusfsports.

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The post ‘Pro Football Handle’: NFL Week 10 Breakdown: Bengals Host Red-Hot Saints, Pros On Underdog Titans (+6.5) vs. Patriots appeared first on SportsHandle.

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NHL Executive Suggests New Gambling Revenue Could Actually Keep Ticket Prices Down

The NHL’s 180° on the virtues of sports betting is causing whiplash among people who for two decades saw NHL commissioner Gary Bettman shout about the dangers of legal sports betting and its potential to ruin sports. 

Following a flurry of recent NHL announcements including deals with MGM Resorts International to

The NHL’s 180° on the virtues of sports betting is causing whiplash among people who for two decades saw NHL commissioner Gary Bettman shout about the dangers of legal sports betting and its potential to ruin sports. 

Following a flurry of recent NHL announcements including deals with MGM Resorts International to become an official sports betting partner, and a partnership with FanDuel to become the “exclusive official daily fantasy partner and an official sports betting partner of the NHL” —  Los Angeles Kings president Luc Robitaille on Wednesday said that gambling revenue derived from such deals and other channels could actually lower ticket prices or at least prevent them from rising at the same rate.

Robitaille made the remarks during an appearance on ESPN’s On Ice podcast with Greg Wyshanski and Emily Kaplan on Wednesday, saying in part: “I’m not going to guarantee it’s going to bring down ticket prices, but it might hold the raise a little bit. If a team plans on raising ticket prices by 8 percent, they might only raise them by 5 or 4 percent. If there’s a lot more money at the table, it makes everybody’s life easier.”

We’ll put the likelihood of a reduction of prices and/or slowing of their incremental increases at 25-1. Let’s now explore the reason for that line a bit deeper.

 

Read more NHL Executive Suggests New Gambling Revenue Could Actually Keep Ticket Prices Down on SportsHandle.

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Ballin’ on a Budget Week 10 Picks

Welcome to Week 10 of the NFL season as we have been on a roll with this column lately. Luck never seems to last long in the sports betting world, but we will ride this wave as long as we can. Since we went 3-0 on point spreads/underdog game picks last week, we're

Welcome to Week 10 of the NFL season as we have been on a roll with this column lately. Luck never seems to last long in the sports betting world, but we will ride this wave as long as we can. Since we went 3-0 on point spreads/underdog game picks last week, we’re going back to that well heavily today. We’re going to have four point spread picks with one over/under kicker. There are some interesting lines out there this week, so let’s get to it.

Panthers +4 at Steelers (-115)

Both these teams are red hot and this should be one of the best games of the week. For once, we get a really good Thursday Night game. On a short week, both teams are going to be tired and it might be a little sloppier than we’ve seen from Carolina and Pittsburgh the last several weeks. The nod probably goes to Pittsburgh, because they’re at home, but when it’s two really good teams, you have to take the side getting four points.

We’ll be hoping for a Steelers three-point win or even the Panthers to pull this one out on the road and keep their hot play going. Either of those will win us some money, so we won’t be picky. The bet: $3 for total payout of $5.61.

Redskins +135 over Buccaneers

One week after picking against the Redskins when they were home favorites, we’re turning the tables and picking them to win straight up as road dogs this week. Washington was embarrassed by Atlanta in D.C. a week ago and to keep pace with the Eagles, this is a game they have to win. Jameis and Tampa have looked terrible as of late and there’s no reason to think that ends this week.

Look for Washington to get back on track and rather than betting on them +3 with a -115 payout, just go for it and bet them straight up to win at +135 payout. It’s much better value and you have to like their chances of winning outright. The bet: $5 for total payout of $11.75.

Cardinals +17 at Chiefs (-110)

No matter how one-sided the match up, I just can’t bring myself to believe that an NFL team can’t cover a three-score spread. We had this same feeling when we bet the Bills +17 against the Vikings earlier in the season. Somehow, the Bills won that game outright, the biggest upset statistically in a few decades. That ain’t happening with the Cardinals, but Arizona’s defense is nothing to scoff at.

While Kansas City has been blowing most teams out of the water, this feels a lot more like a 10-point game, because the Cardinals are going to try and control the clock and keep the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands. If a team can’t cover a 17-point spread, we deserve to lose the bet anyway, so let’s roll with it. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.

Seahawks +10 at Rams (-110)

Both these teams lost last week and Seattle is now on the brink of falling out of playoff contention. With L.A. losing home field throughout the playoffs for the time being based on their loss to the Saints, each of these teams is going to be playing desperate. Expect the Rams to win this game, but it should be much closer than the spread indicates.

Certainly, Seattle plays much better at home (where they pushed a +3 spread against the Rams earlier this season), but they’ve shown they can hang offensively when they need to. With two opponents so familiar with each other, it’s hard to bet against the team getting 10 points. Betting with the team getting points seems to be the theme this week, but that’s just how the spreads have played out. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.

Saints-Bengals OVER 54 (-115)

This very well could be an overreaction on my part to the Saints and Rams shattering my under pick last week (it was 60, the teams combined for 80). However, this really does seem like a solid bet. With A.J. Green out, the Bengals offense will be less dynamic, but as long as they get Joe Mixon in space, that will open up passing lanes for Andy Dalton to hit Tyler Boyd and others.

New Orleans should certainly be seen as the favorite in this game and we will be in good shape if they open up an early lead, because that will force Cincinnati to play catch up. That’s what happened to the Rams last week and we saw the end result there. Here’s to righting that wrong and taking the over this week instead of the under when it comes to the Saints. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.40.

As we do every week, let’s calculate our dream scenario where we go 5-for-5. We’ve been on a hot streak, so never say never. In that case, a $20 parlay would make us $598.95. We’ll keep dreaming of that, but I’m sure you’d all be fine going 3-for-5 every week as we’ve been doing all season long. Happy betting and we will check in after this weekend’s games.

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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