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Thread: Cnotes 2017 NFL Trends/Stats/News/Picks Thru The Super Bowl

  1. #901  
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    LeBeau vs Belichick meet in rare battle
    January 10, 2018



    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Dick LeBeau vs. Bill Belichick.


    Doesn't get much better than that for NFL fans. Tennessee linebacker Wesley Woodyard believes the rare matchup is a showdown for the ages.


    ''Oh man, it's going to be a battle of the masterminds,'' Woodyard said when the Titans defensive coordinator tries to outwit Belichick and his New England Patriots.


    ''Two Hall of Fame coaches, I'm sure Belichick will be there hands down. Coach LeBeau's seen a lot, coached a lot of playoff games, so we're relying heavily on his experience and to go out there and play hard man. That's all we can do for our coach.''


    Well, LeBeau is only in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his 14-season career as a cornerback, though he certainly qualifies for consideration for designing the zone blitz on defense. LeBeau also has an NFL-record 45 consecutive seasons as a coach, putting ahead of only one man - Belichick with 43 - in that category.


    The two will be very instrumental in determining the outcome on Saturday night when the upstart Titans (10-7) visit Belichick and his defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (13-3) for a spot in the AFC championship game.


    And Belichick made it very clear that coaching against LeBeau is not something he enjoys.


    ''I wouldn't use that word, no,'' Belichick said. ''It's very challenging. Coach LeBeau is a great coach, he does a tremendous job, (he) has for his entire illustrious career as a player and as a coach. Really revolutionized the game, and his system has certainly withstood the test of time.''


    Belichick ticked off how LeBeau's Titans have led the NFL in rushing defense over the past two seasons and led the league this season for the fewest big plays allowed of 20 yards or longer. Belichick says the foundation of LeBeau's defense remains the same over the years, modified for the players he has and the teams he's facing.


    The man with five Super Bowl titles as head coach in New England made clear he has great respect for LeBeau, whom he considers a good friend.


    ''He's such a great person, very humble guy that accomplished so much but he's very modest about it,'' Belichick said. ''I learn an awful lot from watching him, watching his defenses and watching the way that he does things. Techniques and adjustments and schematics and so forth. He's one of the great coaches to ever walk the sidelines in this league.''


    Told that Belichick said he learned a lot from him, LeBeau said he was humbled.


    ''Not very many coaches have the record Coach Belichick's gotten, in fact he's probably closing in on the best ever,'' LeBeau said Wednesday. ''That's quite a compliment.''


    The two haven't coached against each other in the playoffs but once before with Belichick overseeing the Patriots. LeBeau and the Pittsburgh Steelers won home-field advantage in 2004 by beating the Patriots 34-20 on Oct. 31, then Belichick and New England won the AFC conference championship Jan. 23, 2005, beating the Steelers 41-27.


    ''It'll be interesting to see how it comes out,'' LeBeau said.


    LeBeau said preparing for a Belichick-coached team means understanding the players won't beat themselves. Add in Tom Brady, one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game makes the Patriots always a formidable opponent, according to LeBeau.


    The Titans trust that LeBeau, who turned 80 the day before this season opened in September, will put them where they need to be. Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan said that's what LeBeau did in the second half of the Titans' upset of Kansas City 22-21 in the wild-card game. The Titans allowed only 61 yards total offense and no points in the final 30 minutes.


    ''He has all the experience in the world, probably been to 50 playoff games give or take,'' Morgan said. ''We have a lot of confidence in him that he's going to put us in the right positions.''


    After kickoff, LeBeau said both coaches will be focused only on what's happening on the field.


    ''Once we walk on that field,'' LeBeau said, ''we won't know who the hell's on the other side of the field to be honest with you.''


    Everyone else will know.
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    NFL notebook: Seahawks fire OC Bevell, Cable
    January 10, 2018



    The Seattle Seahawks have fired offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and offensive line coach Tom Cable, the team announced Wednesday.


    Bevell was dismissed after seven seasons with the team. Cable has been with the Seahawks since 2011.


    The Seahawks may be looking for a new defensive coordinator too, as multiple reports indicate Kris Richard, the leader of Seattle's defense since 2015, will be let go as well.


    Seattle's offense was unable to find consistency this season despite Russell Wilson leading the league in touchdown passes with 34. The Seahawks finished 15th in total offense (330.4 yards per game) and 11th in scoring (22.9 points) this season, but struggled to move the ball in a Week 15 loss to the Los Angeles Rams and a Week 16 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.


    --Pittsburgh Steelers starting cornerback Artie Burns sustained an injury to his right knee during Wednesday's practice, multiple media outlets reported.


    It was a non-contact injury, which is worrisome. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported that Burns' ligaments are intact. That suggests Burns may be ready for Sunday's game, although the team has not announced an official diagnosis.


    Burns started every game this season and had 54 tackles and one interception during the 2017 regular season.


    --Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray has been ruled out for this weekend's AFC divisional round game versus the New England Patriots, ESPN reported.


    Murray, the team's starting running back during the regular season, is dealing with an MCL tear he sustained two weeks ago. It's an injury that can take from two to six weeks to heal.


    --The Cleveland Browns named Eliot Wolf as the team's assistant general manager.


    Wolf, who is the son of Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf, is the third former Green Bay Packers executive recently to head to the Browns staff -- joining current GM John Dorsey and vice president of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith.


    The Browns also made the hiring of Highsmith official. He spent the past 19 seasons with Green Bay, and was its senior personnel director in 2017.


    Cleveland also cut ties with Ryan Grigson, who spent one season with the team as a senior personnel executive. He was fired as general manager of the Indianapolis Colts in January 2017.


    --The Green Bay Packers filled both of their vacant coordinator positions quickly.


    Just hours after Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday night that the Packers hired Mike Pettine as their defensive coordinator, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Joe Philbin has returned to Green Bay as the Packers' offensive coordinator.


    Philbin was the Indianapolis Colts assistant head coach and offensive line coach the past two seasons, but he spent nine seasons with the Packers from 2003 through 2011, filling a variety of roles. He was Green Bay's offensive coordinator from 2007 through 2011 before becoming the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.


    Philbin was fired by the Dolphins four games into the 2015 season following a 1-3 start.


    --Tom McMahon agreed to terms with the Denver Broncos to be their special teams coordinator, the club announced.


    Also, the Broncos named Chris Strausser as their offensive line-tackles coach, Greg Williams as their defensive backs coach and Zach Azzanni as their wide receivers coach.


    --Steelers safety Mike Mitchell told Sports Illustrated that he expects the Steelers to face the New England Patriots in the postseason -- and feels his team will redeem itself.


    "We're going to play (the Patriots) again," the 30-year-old Mitchell said. "We can play them in hell, we can play them in Haiti, we can play them in New England. ... We're gonna win."


    Mitchell and the second-seeded Steelers might be better served to focus on the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars, the team's opponent in the AFC divisional round on Sunday. The top-seeded Patriots host the fifth-seeded Tennessee Titans on Saturday.


    --Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier attended his first practice since suffering a serious spinal injury early last month.


    Shazier, who was at the Steelers' practice facility in a wheelchair, posted a photo and a message on his Instagram account, calling his visit a "first down" in his progress.


    "I was finally able to make it to practice with my teammates. It's great to be back for practices and meetings. Just to be able to feel a part of it means the world. So I'm working harder than I ever have to get back. I've been making strides over the past month and continue to make progress. Taking it day-by-day, but I'm far from done," wrote Shazier as part of the message.


    Shazier was injured on Dec. 4 in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.


    --Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton will replace Cincinnati Bengals wideout A.J. Green on the AFC roster in the upcoming Pro Bowl, the league announced.


    Green is nursing an undisclosed injury and will sit out the event on Jan. 28 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.


    --Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano and guard Trai Turner were added to the Pro Bowl roster as injury replacements.


    Turner will take the place of Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin, who was forced to miss the game after undergoing elbow surgery. It marked the third consecutive Pro Bowl selection for Turner. Gano earned his first Pro Bowl honor.


    --The Los Angeles Chargers signed kicker Roberto Aguayo to a reserve/future free-agent contract, the team announced.


    The Chargers used five kickers in 2017 and connected on an NFL-worst 67 percent of their field-goal attempts.


    --New York Jets cornerback Rashard Robinson was arrested for possession of edible marijuana after he was pulled over for careless driving last month.


    According to the Hanover Township (N.J.) police report, Robinson's 2018 Mercedes Benz smelled like marijuana at the time he was pulled over on Dec. 15 in Morris County. Police then found "THC infused Peanut Budda Buddah Candy" in the 22-year-old's possession.


    A spokesman for Hanover police told NJ Advance Media that Robinson did not appear for his initial court date on Monday. Should Robinson fail to show for his next court date on Jan. 29, a warrant will be issued for his arrest.


    --Three Alabama players announced their intention to enter the NFL Draft.


    Wide receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne and running back Bo Scarbrough -- all juniors -- will not return for their final seasons at the school, Alabama.com reported, citing sources.


    Ridley, who had 63 receptions for 967 yards and five touchdowns this season, later confirmed his future plans via social media.


    No player boosted his stock at the end of the season more than Payne, who earned defensive MVP honors in both the national title game as well as the Alabama's semifinal win over Clemson. Scarbrough rushed for 596 yards and eight touchdowns this season after racking up 812 yards and 11 TDs during his sophomore campaign.


    --Virginia Tech defensive players Terrell Edmunds and Tremaine Edmunds plan to leave college and enter the NFL Draft this year, multiple media outlets reported.


    Redshirt junior safety Terrell Edmunds and true junior linebacker Tremaine Edmunds are brothers and are expected to be drafted in the first three or four rounds.


    Tremaine Edmunds is ranked as the No. 64 overall prospect in the draft by NFLDraftScout.com, and is ranked No. 4 among outside linebackers.
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    Saturday's Best Bets
    January 11, 2018


    NFL Playoffs Divisional Round – Saturday Best Bets



    We are down to eight in the NFL playoffs as one of the eight teams left in the 2017-18 NFL playoffs will experience euphoria in a few weeks when they hoist the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl 52. Our job is to figure out which teams will get there though, and now that Divisional Weekend is here, there are some important things to keep in mind.


    For one, this is the week where we get the best of the best in the NFL this year at home and expected to move on. We've got a curve ball in that regard this year with #1 seed Philadelphia being the first ever top seed as a home dog in this round because of the Carson Wentz injury, but home teams are expected to win these games on the whole and many bettors approach these contests that way. Yet, there is something that can be said about the old “rest vs rust” argument and the idea that all the visiting teams this week experienced and got rid of those playoff jitters a week ago while these home teams are still yet to go through that. In the win-or-go-home scenario that is the NFL playoffs, sloppy or slow starts can end up burying these good teams too much that they can't come back.


    Which leads me to my second point and that is that aside from Super Bowls, historically it's the Divisional Round that produces the most surprising upsets in the NFL playoffs. Just off the top of my head it's impossible to not think of the 2005 Steelers (over Indianapolis), 1996 Jaguars (over Denver), 1987 Vikings (over San Francisco), and the 1983 Seahawks (over Miami) as some of the most shocking upsets the NFL playoffs have ever had, and those all came during the Divisional Round. So with both #1 seeds in action on Saturday and one of them possibly falling into that shocking upset category should they lose as heavy favorites (New England), let's get right to the best bets on the day

    Best Bet #1: Philadelphia Eagles +3



    Oddsmakers had to come out with Atlanta as road chalk given the Wentz injury and the Falcons holding a decided “edge” in experience as the defending NFC Champions, but this number is flat out disrespectful to an Eagles team that was good/great all year. It also suggests that the consensus opinion of Wentz is that he's already a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer and his presence was the ONLY reason Philly won 13 games and got the #1 seed. Make no mistake about it, Wentz is a solid signal caller, but I'm not close to ready to anoint him yet and with Foles having plenty of experience in this league as a starter I'm comfortable backing him as well. Oh, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the rest of this Eagles team rally around him as they've all got to feel disrespected here.

    On the flip side of things, let's look at this game from a historical perspective regarding the Atlanta Falcons. We all know that they are the reigning “runners up” in the NFL after losing the Super Bowl and while they did manage to make the playoffs again this year, Divisional Weekend is usually what spells doom for these teams.


    Since the 1994 season – the year after Buffalo lost their 4th straight Super Bowl – reigning Super Bowl losers have never gotten back to the Super Bowl, but more importantly for our purposes, they've only got back to the Conference Championship game twice; the 2012 New England Patriots and 2013 San Francisco 49ers. Those teams that did make it to this week like Atlanta has are 2-6 SU in the Divisional Round, including 1-5 SU on the road. That is not good news for a Falcons team that is not only on the road, but are the first team ever to be favored over a #1 seed this week and it's all because of one injury.


    Add in their troubled playoff past in outdoor venues, which includes an 0-5 SU record all-time as an organization on the road against NFC East foes in the playoffs (0-2 SU vs Philly), and I'm grabbing the points with the home side here in a game I believe the Eagles win outright.


    Best Bet #2: Tennessee Titans +13


    Tennessee surprised the majority of bettors last week with their comeback win in Kansas City, as sportsbooks were thrilled with the result as the Titans wins killed all those KC teasers right out of the gate. Well, we've got a similar situation here as everyone has already written New England into the Conference Championship game as the Pats will be a favorite of teaser players again this week. But New England isn't without their flaws and their biggest one on defense plays right into Tennessee's strength on offense.


    New England finished 31st in the NFL in yards allowed per rush at 4.7 and the Titans prefer to beat you with their ground attack of RB Derrick Henry, QB Marcus Mariota, and any other RB's that get time on the field. The Titans finished 9th in the league with 4.3 yards per rush on the year, and we just saw Henry go off for 156 yards on the ground against the Chiefs. The Titans path to a shocking upset has to have some element of them finding success running the ball, sustaining long drives and putting up TD's rather than FG's at the end of them. Given New England's weakness against the run, logic suggests that Tennessee should have some success in that regard.


    Tennessee will also need their defense to step up and play the way they did in the 2nd half of that Wildcard game and not the 1st. That's where DB Logan Ryan's acquisition can pay dividends here (at least ATS) as he's very familiar with the Patriots system and what they look to do against you. Tennessee was able to keep the Chiefs off the scoreboard the entire 2nd half, and while the same result probably won't occur against New England, Ryan's knowledge of New England's system should help out the entire Tennessee defense stay stout. If the Titans give New England fewer possessions with long offensive drives of their own, the more pressure the Pats feel having to execute on each and every snap. If Brady or anyone else has a few mistakes in there with turnovers or such, then we've got another key ingredient for how these big Divisional Round upsets happen as I'm not ready to write in New England to the Conference Championship quite yet.


    So with oddsmakers likely looking for a Pats win by less than six points (to kill all teasers), I believe Tennessee comes through for them again this week and keeps this game well within this double-digit number on the spread. And if you've got some stones or aren't afraid of big risks, a Titans ML play at +600 odds may be worth a flyer as well.
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  4. #904  
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    Saturday's Top Wagers
    January 11, 2018



    Creating hard lined rules that ignore the current atmosphere and context of a betting line is a pretty silly way to go about business. I’m not a huge fan of blanket statements unless they have some data to back them up. And leaning on the home teams in divisional playoff betting is by no stretch the smartest play.


    The Falcons look to dismiss the faultering Eagles who will forever be plagued by a “what could’ve been” season had Wentz not been injured. After that, the Derrick Henry and Tom Brady show will attempt to captivate our attention. Here’s who I’ve got and why.


    Atlanta Falcons (11-6) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
    Saturday, January 13th – Lincoln Financial Stadium – 4:35 p.m. ET
    NFL Divisional Playoff Betting Line: ATL -3 (41
    )


    This one won’t take much time. The Falcons have seemingly gotten their act together in the past few weeks, and laid waste to the Los Angeles Rams which included a complete performance from all three sectors of their team. Special teams performing well is the type of attention to detail that separates a champion from a contender.


    I’ve been down on the Falcons all season long, and I’m still not wholly convinced that they’re as good as people are saying they are. But it goes without saying that they’re playing at a strong level right now and they’re gaining momentum in a scary way.


    Odds To Win NFC Championship and Super Bowl LII
    Atlanta Falcons +375 / +750
    Philadelphia Eagles +400 / +1200



    The most comical thing about this NFL divisional playoff betting line is the fact that the TOTAL has careened to just 41.0 points. Poor Nick Foles. Even the Eagles players are saying that everyone is treating them like they’re the Cleveland Browns. Ouch. The Eagles have looked awful offensively since Wentz went down, and despite the fact that they keep winning games, Foles looks like the dud we feared he was.


    That TOTAL in and of itself should have you screaming for the Falcons as the only road favorites this weekend. Three points is a layup, and the UNDER has to be the play given what Atlanta’s defence managed against Los Angeles. This one doesn’t require me ranting on and on for thousands of words (I’ll save that for Titans-Patriots).


    In short, you know exactly what to do already.


    NFL Divisional Playoff Best Bet: Atlanta -3 (UNDER 41)


    Tennessee Titans (10-7) vs. New England Patriots (13-3)
    Saturday, January 13th – Gillette Stadium – 8:15 p.m. ET
    NFL Divisional Playoff Betting Line: NE -13.5 (48)



    Well you know that the oddsmakers have created a good line when the action is basically split 50-50. The Titans rolled to a comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs on the backs of Derrick Henry, a giant killer of a player who will have the spotlight all to himself with DeMarco Murray sidelined once more due to an MCL tear. A lot of the attention is on whether Henry can have another momentum changing game, and most opinions suggest that he will.


    Excluding the Week 17 matchup against the New York Jets, the Patriots have allowed 73.8 yards per game on just 20.3 carries to Shady, Le’Veon, Kenyann Drake (they played Buffalo twice in this span). That’s a relatively healthy 3.6 yards per carry just for the feature back. This doesn’t take in to account the damage that Mariota can also manage. All told, the Patriots have allowed 114.8 yards against on the ground, ranking 20th overall. They’re vulnerable. We all know this.


    But Henry is a throwback type of player. At full steam, he is seemingly impossible to bring down but he does take a while to get there. I’ve been a bit worried about his first step, which is the major difference between him and almost every type of running-back that the Patriots have faced. Elusiveness is not his strength, but Henry does grade out along the same lines as Melvin Gordon who rumbled for 132 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries.


    All things told, this is a “talk yourself in to it” bet. Henry is a very difficult star to gauge simply because we don’t have a ton of actual information on him. He was a game changer against the Chiefs that’s been curiously absent for the entirety of the season in a meaningful way. As I’ve written multiple times, the majority of his yardage this season has come in garbage time or on singular long carries.


    I wouldn’t say that the Patriots are a “bend don’t break” type of defence, but they sure seem like one on paper. Their 366.0 total yards allowed this season is ranked just 29th in the NFL, but they mitigate that with a staunch red zone defence that’s helped them rank just 5th in points against. They don’t allow a lot of touchdowns. It’s the Patriot way.


    Odds To win AFC Championship and Super Bowl LII
    New England Patriots -175 / +175
    Tennessee Titans +2200 / +4000



    If Henry gets within sniffing distance of the goal line then a touchdown is probably coming, but that’s not really the backbone of what Tennessee usually does. They love kicking field goals, with 35 made (5th) on 42 attempts (3rd). Ryan Succop wasn’t especially busy against Kansas City where Tennessee scored three touchdowns that are going to be harder to come by against New England for obvious reasons.


    One of the reasons to bet on the New England Patriots is that they do have a habit of being dream killers in the divisional round. Over the past six years, the Patriots have been undefeated in the divisional round and won by an average of +16.3 points. The exceptions to that average were when they came back against Baltimore in a 35-31 thriller in 2015 and during a 27-20 win over Kansas where the Patriots dominated the entire second half while the Chiefs scored a late touchdown that ended up being meaningless.


    You can clearly see the point here. New England is the superior team in this game by every stretch, and Matt Patricia can scheme something to at least contain Henry. To be fair, Kansas tried the same thing and failed and they probably have a better personnel for that task. Generally speaking, it’s difficult to pander to the Titans defence against Brady. They could do a good job, but it’s far more likely that Brady goes in to clock killing, wood chipper mode and chews them up one play at a time.


    A solid running game featuring a workhorse back sometimes takes time to have impact but I suspect that Henry will have his say by the end of the day. He’s impossible to contain for the duration of the game and frees up running room for Mariota as well. The Titans have cheeky ways of advancing the chains, and have been doing it all season. New England’s defence has also been suspect for much of the year so the logic points to a Titans cover.


    Both teams will be looking to eat as much clock. The Titans need to keep Brady off the field, and Brady has excelled at the dink-dunk offence which ramps up his time of possession. I do think there is lots of potential for the OVER despite this line of thinking, but the UNDER is by far the smarter play. As you guys know, I’m inclined to do dumb things every now and then.


    Patriots win cleanly, but the Titans will press for four full quarters and put this game within two touchdowns. The fact that the public seems to love this line in favor of the underdogs so much means that it is likely to stay where it is, which is just fine by me.


    Divisional Playoff Best Bet: Tennessee +13.5 (OVER 48)
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    DP Notes - Falcons at Eagles
    January 10, 2018



    The Philadelphia Eagles are officially the most disrespected No. 1 seed in the playoffs in NFL history. Few believe they actually have a shot to win the Super Bowl, and they have the longest odds left among the four teams to win the conference.


    Now, the No. 1 seed in the NFC is a dog to the last team that snuck into the playoffs in the conference. The Atlanta Falcons aren't your typical No. 6 seed, though; this is a team that won the NFC just last season and won't be intimidated going into the City of Brotherly Love.


    Getting No Respect


    Being the No. 1 seed in either conference doesn't necessarily mean that you were the best team, but it does mean that you were good enough to win a bunch of games in the regular season. The Eagles were no slouches, beating the Panthers and Rams on the road this season while winning a bunch of games against teams that just missed out on the postseason.

    That said, with Nick Foles under center in place of the injured Carson Wentz, this feels like a much different team. The Eagles have gone seven quarters without an offensive touchdown dating back to Christmas Day, and they don't figure to score a ton in this game either.


    That's why Philadelphia is the first No. 1 seed to ever be a dog in its first playoff game in either the AFC or the NFC.


    This is also the first time a No. 1 seed has been an underdog to a No. 6 seed at any juncture of the playoffs in NFL history.


    No Fly Zone


    The Eagles have played seven home playoff games dating back to 2004, and they all have one remarkable thing in common: They've all gone under the total.


    Philadelphia has averaged just 20.0 points per game in those seven home playoff games, and it's sporting a suspect record of just 4-3 SU and 2-5 ATS in that span.


    Let's give a tip of the cap to the Eagles' defense, though. This unit has only allowed more than 21 points twice at home since New Year's Eve 2000 in playoff games.


    Riding High in the A-T-L


    Heading into last season, the big knock on Matt Ryan was that he was never able to win games when they counted in January. Matty Ice had won just one postseason game before last season, but now, he's won three of his last four, including winning a postseason game on the road for the first time against the Rams last week.


    Atlanta has now won and covered three consecutive playoff games, and without a big fourth-quarter collapse against the Patriots in the Super Bowl, we'd be talking about a team that has both won and covered four straight in the postseason, a feat that is virtually impossible to pull off.


    Falcons vs. Eagles Playoff History
    1979 (at Atlanta): Falcons 14, Eagles 13
    2003 (at Philadelphia): Eagles 20, Falcons 6 (Philadelphia -7.5 / Under 38.5)
    2005 (at Philadelphia): Eagles 27, Falcons 10 (Philadelphia -4.5 / Under 41)


    Falcons vs. Eagles Opening NFL Odds
    Falcons at Eagles (+3, 43.5)


    Falcons vs. Eagles Current NFL Odds (Updated 1/7)
    Falcons at Eagles (+3, 41.5)
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    DP Notes - Titans at Patriots
    January 10, 2018



    Many will argue that the New England Patriots have effectively been given a bye all the way into the AFC Championship Game. The Tennessee Titans shouldn't theoretically have much of a shot against the best franchise in the NFL over the course of the last decade and a half.


    Every dog has his day, though, and Mike Mularkey and the Titans will be hoping that they'll be able to pull off their own rendition of the Music City Miracle in Foxboro.


    No Go in Foxboro


    The Tennessee Titans have never beaten the Patriots in Foxboro. Neither did the Tennessee Oilers.


    You have to go all the way back to the Warren Moon/Tecmo Bowl/"Chuck and Duck" days to find the last time this organization beat the Patriots in New England.


    Since the Oilers' 1993 victory in New England, the franchise is 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS, including getting whipped by an aggregate score of 92-16 over the course of the last two meetings.


    The Titans, in fact, haven't had much of any luck against the Tom Brady-led Patriots at all. The Brady Bunch has won each of the last six meetings in this series, going 5-1 ATS in said games.


    6th Time's the Charm


    With all of the reports of turmoil in the New England locker room, it's notable to go back and look at what this team really has accomplished over the course of the last decade and a half. The Robert Kraft/Bill Belichick/Tom Brady triumvirate is a double-digit favorite in the playoffs for the sixth time. The rest of the NFL in that span only has only had seven such other playoff games where a team has been favored by 10+.


    The Patriots have only been beaten in one of those previous five games in which they were double-digit underdogs. That, of course, was the Super Bowl in 2008 that prevented the '07 Patriots from being known as the "Perfect Patriots."


    The Pats are just 2-3 ATS in their last five as double-digit chalks in the playoffs, but all three ATS losses came in those '08 playoffs.


    A Titanic Spread


    The Titans weren't larger than +7 in a single game this season, but they're now facing their second-straight biggest spread of the year. They pulled off the upset at +8.5 against Kansas City, but they're up against a significantly better team and significantly longer odds in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.


    Tennessee was last a double-digit dog on December 20, 2015, a game that happened to be played right here at Gillette Stadium. The Titans were +14.5 that day and were blown out 33-16.


    The last time the Titans won as double-digit underdogs was in 2006 at Philadelphia.


    A total of 18 teams have been 13.5-point underdogs or greater in NFL playoff history. They're a respectable 8-9-1 ATS but are only 3-15 SU.


    Titans vs. Patriots Playoff History
    1979 (at New England): Oilers 31, Patriots 14
    2004 (at New England): Patriots 17, Titans 14 (Tennessee +6 / Under 34.5)


    Titans vs. Patriots Opening NFL Odds
    Titans at Patriots (-13.5, 47)


    Titans vs. Patriots Current NFL Odds (Updated 1/7)
    Titans at Patriots (-13.5, 47)
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    NFL notebook: Steelers' Bell threatens to sit out if franchise tagged
    January 11, 2018



    Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell told ESPN.com that he is willing to sit out a season, and perhaps even retire, if the franchise tag is placed on him for the second year in a row.


    "I hope it doesn't come to that, but I would definitely consider it," Bell said Thursday, according to ESPN.com.


    The 25-year-old Bell was named to the first-team All-Pro squad this season, and he played on a $12.1 million franchise tag in 2017. That made him the NFL's highest-paid running back this season.


    The franchise-tag figure is expected to increase to about $14.5 million for next season.


    The Steelers offered Bell a long-term contract last year, but he rejected a contract that reportedly would have paid him $30 million in the first two years of the deal.


    --The Chicago Bears have hired former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich as the team's offensive coordinator, according to multiple reports.


    The move comes one day after Chicago hired Harry Hiestand as its offensive line coach as part of the team's staff under new coach Matt Nagy.


    Helfrich served as the offensive coordinator for the Ducks from 2009-12 before being elevated to head coach after Chip Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was fired after going 4-8 during the 2016 campaign.


    --Rich Gannon will not follow the recently traveled path of Jon Gruden, which is out of the broadcast booth and back to the Oakland Raiders.


    Gannon, who played under Gruden from 1999-2001, told 95.7 The Game that he spoke with the team's new head coach on Wednesday and declined an opportunity to be the Raiders' quarterbacks coach.


    The Raiders reportedly did add two assistants, however. Jemal Singleton, who spent the past two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, has agreed to become the Raiders running backs coach, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.


    Alabama defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley has been hired to work with the Raiders secondary, multiple media outlets reported.


    --The NFL will feature three games to be played on consecutive weeks in London next season, the league announced.


    The Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders will kick off the festivities on Oct. 14 at the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium.


    The Philadelphia Eagles will play the Jacksonville Jaguars while the Tennessee Titans will challenge the Los Angeles Chargers, with both games to be contested at Wembley Stadium. The order of those games - Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 - will be announced closer to the season.


    --Shortly after reports that Frank Pollack was dismissed by the Dallas Cowboys, he was named the offensive line coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, the team announced.


    Pollack replaced longtime Bengals assistant Paul Alexander, who, according to some reports, is a candidate to take Pollack's place in Dallas.


    Pollack, 50, was the assistant offensive line coach with the Cowboys for two seasons before succeeding Bill Callahan as offensive line coach following the 2014 season.


    --Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones returned to practice as he works his way through an ankle injury.


    Jones was listed as a non-participant in workouts on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Despite his absences this week, coach Dan Quinn told reporters that Jones was still "on the right trajectory" to play for sixth-seeded Atlanta on Saturday when it visits the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.


    --The New England Patriots had all roster player participate in practice, including wide receiver Chris Hogan.


    Hogan, who missed seven of the last eight games with a shoulder injury, was not on the injury report, indicating he will play in Saturday's playoff game against the Tennessee Titans.


    Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who missed two games and played only 12 snaps in the regular-season finale because of a calf injury, also was absent from the injury report, meaning he is likely to play as well.


    Three running backs - Mike Gillislee (knee), Rex Burkhead (knee) and James White (ankle) -- as well as Marquis Flowers (illness), defensive tackle Alan Branch (knee) and defensive lineman Eric Lee (ankle/finger) are listed as questionable.


    --Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey remained limited in practice with an Achilles injury as the Jaguars prepare for Sunday's AFC divisional round matchup against the No. 2-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers.


    If he plays, Ramsey is expected to draw the assignment of covering Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, the AFC Offensive Player of the Year after recording 101 catches for a league-high 1,533 yards.


    Wide receiver Jaydon Mickens (hamstring) also was limited in practice for a second straight day, while the Jaguars downgraded linebacker Blair Brown (ankle), who was unable to practice Thursday after participating on a limited basis Wednesday.


    Cornerback Aaron Colvin (illness), linebacker Telvin Smith (ankle) and linebacker Paul Posluszny (abdomen), who all sat out Wednesday, were limited at practice.


    --Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffenwas limited in practice due to a foot injury.


    The Pro Bowl selection, who tied for fourth in the league with 13 sacks, has been dealing with plantar fasciitis during the season and was forced to miss a game against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 12.


    Nose tackle Shamar Stephen (ankle) practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day while cornerback Terence Newman (foot) missed practice Thursday after participating on a limited basis one day earlier.


    --Pittsburgh Steelers starting cornerback Artie Burns, who suffered a hyperextended knee on Wednesday, did not practice Thursday but still expects to play in Sunday's playoff game against the Jaguars.


    The other Steelers players who did not practice were defensive end Stephon Tuitt (elbow) and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (back).


    --Two Philadelphia Eagles defensive players were listed as questionable for Saturday's playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons.


    Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who started the final two games of the regular season, and cornerback Sidney Jones are both questionable with hamstring injuries.


    --The Fritz Pollard Alliance has altered its stance regarding the compliance of the Oakland Raiders with the Rooney Rule.


    After downplaying concerns last week over the Raiders' potentially side-stepping the Rooney Rule amid reports that Jon Gruden was expected to get the team's vacant head coaching job, The Fritz Pollard Alliance offered the following statement on Wednesday:


    "We are deeply concerned by reports that the Oakland Raiders' owner, Mark Davis, came to an agreement with Jon Gruden about him becoming the Raiders' next head coach before interviewing any candidates of color. If so, the Club violated the Rooney Rule, which was instituted by the NFL in 2003 and requires teams to interview at least one candidate of color for open head coaching and general manager positions.


    "As soon as we learned of the reports, we formally requested that the NFL thoroughly investigate the matter to conclusively determine whether the Rooney Rule was violated -- and if it was violated, to impose an appropriate punishment."


    --National champion Alabama is losing at least five juniors to the NFL, including four who could go in the top half of the first round.


    Coach Nick Saban said at a press conference that defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne, running back Bo Scarbrough and safety Ronnie Hamilton are turning pro, joining receiver Calvin Ridley, who announced his decision on social media earlier this week.


    As of Thursday morning, 101 underclassmen had announced their intention to enter the 2018 NFL Draft, with the number sure to grow by Monday's deadline. The record number of early entrants had been 98 in 2014.
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  8. #908  
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    Total Talk - DP Saturday
    January 12, 2018



    Wild Card Recap


    The ‘under’ went 3-1 in last week's Wild Card round and while two of the results were never in doubt, the Titans and Chiefs were on pace at halftime (21-3) to go to the high side but Kansas City failed to score in the final 30 minutes. Including those results, the ‘under’ has gone 17-5-1 in the first round of the last six seasons.

    Divisional Playoff History



    The ‘over’ went 3-1 in the Divisional Playoffs last season and we’ve seen now totals go 8-8 the last four years in this round. From 2010 through 2012, there was an ‘over’ surge with an 11-1 record to the high side. New England will be making its eighth straight appearance in this round while Atlanta is showing up for the second consecutive season and they’re both in action on Saturday. Philadelphia and Tennessee haven’t played in this Divisional Playoffs since the 2008 postseason.


    TOTAL HISTORY (2010-2016)


    2016 (OVER 3-1) 2015 (TOTAL 2-2)
    Seattle 20 Atlanta 36 - OVER 51.5 Kansas City 20 New England 27 - OVER 44
    Houston 16 New England 34 - OVER 44.5 Green Bay 20 Arizona 26 - UNDER 49.5
    Pittsburgh 18 Kansas City 16 - UNDER 45.5 Seattle 24 Carolina 31 - OVER 42
    Green Bay 34 Dallas 31 - OVER 53.5 Pittsburgh 16 Denver 23 - UNDER 41.5


    2014 (TOTAL 2-2) 2013 (UNDER 3-1)
    Baltimore 31 New England 35 - OVER 47.5 New Orleans 15 Seattle 23 - UNDER 44
    Carolina 17 Seattle 31 - OVER 40 Indianapolis 22 New England 43 - OVER 51
    Dallas 21 Green Bay 26 - UNDER 52.5 San Francisco 23 Carolina 10 - UNDER 41
    Indianapolis 24 Denver 13 - UNDER 52.5 San Diego 17 Denver 24 - UNDER 55


    2012 (OVER 4-0) 2011 (OVER 3-1)
    Baltimore 38 Denver 35 - OVER 44 New Orleans 32 San Francisco 36 - OVER 46.5
    Green Bay 31 San Francisco 45 - OVER 45 Denver 10 New England 45 - OVER 50
    Seattle 28 Atlanta 30 - OVER 46 Houston 13 Baltimore 20 - UNDER 33
    Houston 28 New England 41 - OVER 50.5 N.Y. Giants 37 Green Bay 20 - OVER 54



    For the playoffs, I’m going to break down every game and offer up my quick handicap and predictions for all the matchups. For those keeping track, my leans were 3-3 in the Wild Card round. As always, Press, Pass or Fade but in the end – Good Luck!


    Saturday, Jan. 13


    Atlanta at Philadelphia (NBC, 4:35 p.m. ET)



    The consensus opener on this game ranged from 43 to 44 and the sharps showed their hand right away and came in with a flurry of ‘under’ bets. Scott Cooley of BookMaker.eu offered his thoughts on the move. He said, “The under has definitely seen a ton of sharp money. But we've got the public mostly on the over so that's offsetting much of the liability.”


    As of Friday afternoon, the majority of books are holding 41 and it’s hard to disagree with downward move.


    The Falcons have watched the ‘under’ go 12-5 this season and they enter this game on a 6-0 run to the low side. Last Saturday, Atlanta shut down the league’s best offense as they stifled the Rams 26-13 at Los Angeles. The Falcons put together a great game plan and kept Los Angeles off the field with a dominating edge in time of possession (37-23 minutes).


    Philadelphia enters this game with the third ranked scoring offense at 28.6 points per game but a lot of that production came with Carson Wentz at quarterback. After he went down, Nick Foles looked like a formidable replacement as he tossed four touchdowns in a 34-29 road win over the Giants. Then he looked below average in home games against the Raiders and Cowboys as the offense only managed 12 points. When you look at those performances coupled with Atlanta’s road win last week, you can see why the Eagles are listed as home underdogs.


    Foles does have playoff experience, which came in 2013 in his first stint with the Eagles. Philadelphia dropped a 26-24 decision at home to New Orleans and he played rather well (23-of-33, 195 yards, 2 TDs) in the tight loss.


    Similar to the Falcons, the Eagles boast a great defense. The unit was ranked fourth in both total defense (306.5 YPG) and scoring (18.4 PPG) this season. At home, they were even better as they surrendered just 13.4 PPG at Lincoln Financial Field and that helped the ‘under’ go 5-3.


    These teams have met twice in the last three years. Atlanta earned a 26-24 win at home in 2015 while Philadelphia captured a 24-15 victory last season from the “Linc” as the defense stifled the Falcons to 303 yards and just 11 first downs as quarterback Matt Ryan couldn’t find any rhythm (18-of-33, 267 yards). The ‘under’ cashed in both of those games.


    Fearless Prediction: I’m going to play the ‘under’ (41) for the game and take the Falcons Team Total Under (21 ) as well. Atlanta has played back-to-back road games three times this season and they’ve averaged 18.3 PPG in the second contest. Plus, they’ve had trouble scoring touchdowns and that was evident last week with four field goals and two touchdowns versus the Rams. I believe Philadelphia will keep Atlanta in check and I would’ve taken the Eagles Team Total Under (19 ) as well but I believe the Birds defense could score or at least create more chances. The main trend that sticks out for the ‘under’ in the game is what Atlanta’s defense has done against top teams. Including last week’s win at the Rams, the Falcons have allowed 17.8 PPG in eight games against playoffs teams this season and the ‘under’ has cashed in all eight.


    Tennessee at New England (CBS, 8:15 p.m. ET)


    Can Tennessee go into Foxboro on Saturday night and slow down the Patriots? Based on the opening line of New England -13 and a total of 47, the oddsmakers certainly aren’t buying the Titans and it’s hard to make a case for the visitors in this particular playoff round.


    In the last six appearances in the Divisional Playoffs round, New England is averaging 37.5 PPG and not surprisingly the 'over' has gone 6-0 plus they covered five of those six games.


    2017 - New England 34 vs. Houston 16 (Over 44 )
    2016 - New England 27 vs. Kansas City 20 (Over 44 )
    2015 – New England 35 vs. Baltimore 31 (Over 47 )
    2014 – New England 43 vs. Indianapolis 22 (Over 51 )
    2013 - New England 41 vs. Houston 28 (Over 50)
    2012 – New England 45 vs. Denver 10 (Over 50 )



    Tennessee put forth a great effort last week as it won 22-21 against Kansas City despite turning the ball over twice. The Titans held the Chiefs to 69 rushing yards and they shut out Kansas City in the second-half. The unit was fortunate as the Chiefs lost tight end Travis Kelce to a concussion in the first-half. His absence was felt as Kansas City QB Alex Smith was 19-of-23 for 231 yards in the first 30 minutes but he only completed five passes in the second-half for 33 yards.


    The Tennessee defense has been great against the run (No. 4, 87.6 YPG) all season but the pass defense (No. 25, 240.2 YPG) has been suspect and that’s not great news when facing New England. The Patriots own the second-best passing attack in the league and they have the 10th ranked rushing offense (118.1 YPG).


    New England’s offense is based on QB Tom Brady’s arm and he’s had success in his career against Tennessee (6-0) plus he’s also diced up the Titans legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. In eight games when he’s been the DC of the opponent, Brady is 6-2 and the Patriots posted 37.5 PPG in the wins and 17.5 PPG in the two setbacks. LeBeau does like to pressure QBs and Tennessee was ranked fifth this season in sacks (43) plus they posted four against the Chiefs last week.


    Defensively, New England is still ranked near the bottom of the league in yards allowed (366 YPG, No. 28) but a lot of that damage came early in the season. The Patriots saw the ‘over’ cash in their first four games as they allowed 32 PPG. In the final 12 games, the ‘under’ went 10-2 and the defensive effort dropped to 14 PPG.


    Titans QB Marcus Mariota has the ability to run and bettors should make a note that Carolina’s Cam Newton (44 yards) and Houston’s Deshaun Watson (41 yards) kept the chains moving early in the season with their legs against the Patriots at Foxboro, plus they both passed for 300-plus yards.


    Unfortunately for Mariota, he doesn’t have the same type of weapons on offense that those teams have but maybe Tennessee head coach Mike Mularkey decides to let him loose this Saturday instead of trying to ground-and-pound with running back Derrick Henry.


    Knowing Tennessee is only averaging 20.9 PPG this season, it would be a bit of a surprise to see the Titans light up the scoreboard. However, the Titans have scored 30-plus points three times this season and they’ve gone 3-0 in those games with two of the wins coming against quality opponents (Jaguars, Seahawks).

    Fearless Prediction:
    The Patriots-Over combination in the Divisional Playoff round has been practically automatic and the ticket count will likely lean that way on Saturday and I think it's a mistake. I believe this Patriots team has an uphill climb this postseason and even though they’re the No. 1 seed in the AFC, they have thrown up some clunkers this season and most of them took place in night games. The Week 1 opening loss at Foxboro to Kansas City (42-27) was alarming plus the offense struggled in a tight road win at Tampa Bay (19-14) before losing at Miami (27-20) in a Monday Night matchup in December. The primetime games usually receive a ton of ‘over’ support and that creates inflated lines. Did you know the ‘under’ is 11-4-1 (73%) in the last 16 night games this season? I’m going to lean ‘under’ (48) for the game and New England Team Total Under (30 ) too. Also, I believe the Titans are going to score some points which has me leaning Tennessee Team Total Over (17 ) in this matchup.
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  9. #909  
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    Total Talk - DP Sunday
    January 12, 2018



    The two Divisional Playoff round matchups on Sunday will be rematches from this year’s regular season as Pittsburgh and New Orleans will be looking to avenge losses to Jacksonville and Minnesota respectively.


    If you’re handicapping leans to experience, this will be the third trip in the last four seasons to the second round of the NFL Playoffs for the Steelers. Meanwhile, the Saints (2013), Vikings (2009) and Jaguars (2007) could be a tad nervous come Sunday.


    Similar to my first three playoff pieces, I’m going to break down every game and offer up my quick handicap and prediction for all the matchups. For those keeping track, my leans went 3-3 in the Wild Card round. As always, Press, Pass or Fade but in the end – Good Luck!


    Sunday, Jan. 14


    Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (CBS, 1:05 p.m. ET)



    This total was sent out at 41 and the number has held steady all week with just a couple shops showing 41 as of Friday afternoon. The weather in Western Pennsylvania was in the high fifties on Friday but this game is expecting to be played around the thirties. No precipitation or serious wind is expected.


    In Week 5, Jacksonville posted an eye-opening 30-9 win over Pittsburgh as a 7 -point road underdog and the ‘under’ (41 ) was clearly the right side. The Jaguars led 7-6 at the break and actually trailed 9-7 in the third quarter before their defense took over. The unit blew the game open with a pair of interceptions for touchdowns before running back Leonard Fournette padded the margin and his stats with a 90-yard run late in the fourth quarter.


    Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tossed a career-high five interceptions in the loss and the Steelers couldn’t do anything on the ground, rushing for 70 yards on 20 attempts. Pittsburgh will have wide receiver Antonio Brown (calf) back in the lineup this Sunday and he did have 10 receptions for 157 yards in the first meeting against the Jaguars.


    Since that result, the Steelers have scored 20-plus points in 11 of their last 12 games and have posted 30 or more points four times during that span. Having that success on Sunday certainly won’t be easy against Jacksonville, who is ranked second defensively in scoring at 15.9 points per game, total yards (284.8) and sacks (57).


    That defensive production was key in its Wild Card round last Sunday as Jacksonville dropped Buffalo 10-3 at home and the ‘under’ (40) easily connected. The Jaguars have seen the ‘under’ cash in two straight games and is 9-8 on the season, largely due to the defense but lately the Jacksonville offense has been a mess.


    QB Blake Bortles hasn’t looked great the past three weeks and his confidence appears to be shaken too. Earlier this week he said to reporters, "Hopefully, we can throw less." It’s safe to say the entire team feels that way knowing the Jaguars led the league in rushing (142.2 YPG) and they’ll be facing a Steelers defense without linebacker Ryan Shazier. Since he went down with the spine injury, Pittsburgh has allowed 100-plus rushing yards in three of four games.

    The Steelers watched the ‘under’ go 10-5-1 this season but the ‘over’ was 5-3 at home. The one theme with Pittsburgh over the past few seasons that I’ve noticed is how it performs in the early Sunday games (1:00 p.m. ET). Tossing out the Week 17 meaningless game versus Cleveland, the Steelers only averaged 19.8 PPG in six other games played in this slot and that includes the aforementioned meeting versus Jacksonville. Not surprisingly, the ‘under’ cashed in all those games.


    Before you run to the betting counter and bang the low side, it should be noted that the Steelers have watched the ‘over’ go 8-1 in home playoff games with Big Ben at QB and the team has averaged 26.2 PPG in those games.


    Fearless Prediction: When you have totals this low, bettors normally have to put in a full 60-minute session and one or two big plays can turn the result upside down. I’m going to keep it simple and go with one ticket – Jacksonville Team Total Under (17). The Jaguars OFFENSE has scored 16, 17, 16 and 3 points in four games against playoff teams this season and two of those touchdowns came on long runs by Fournette. Barring more big plays from the Jaguars, I don’t see them finding the end zone more than once on Sunday.


    New Orleans at Minnesota (FOX, 4:40 p.m. ET)


    The last game on the board is always the most dangerous and the bookmakers have put themselves into a tough position with the total. Scott Cooley of BookMaker.eu admitted to VegasInsider.com that his shop made a slight mistake with their opener.


    He explained, “The total we'll be sweating the most is that Saints-Vikings. We opened too low, 44.5, and we just recently moved to 47. The smart guys know this is a great Vikings defense, but it is up against Drew Brees. And they also understand that this isn't your average Minnesota offense. It's creative and it can score points in bunches.”


    It is a little surprising to see the total go up knowing the Vikings are the league’s best defensive team in both scoring (15.8 PPG) and yards (275.9 YPG).


    Minnesota has only seen two totals listed above 47 all season and the totals went 1-1 in those games. The Vikings earned a 14-9 road win at Atlanta in Week 13 as the ‘under’ (48 ) connected easily and the other contest took place in Week 1 against New Orleans.


    The Vikings posted a 29-19 win over the Saints in the Monday Night opener and the ‘over’ (47 ) barely got there with a late score by New Orleans but the high side was definitely the right play. The pair combined for over 800 total offensive yards and 11 scores. It was a clean game as neither team turned the ball over but the difference was three short field goals by New Orleans (24, 21, 20) and leaving those points off the board cost the Saints.


    A lot has changed since that meeting, most notably New Orleans ability to run the football. The Vikings only allowed 60 rushing yards in the opener but the Saints finished the season ranked sixth (124.2 YPG) in rushing offense.


    New Orleans couldn’t get anything going on the ground (41 yards) last Sunday in its Wild Card win over Carolina and you wonder if it can muster up any yards against Minnesota’s run defense (83.6 YPG), which is ranked second in the league. Fortunately for New Orleans, QB Drew Brees had a great game (376 yards, 2 TDs) last week and the defense did enough to withstand a rally from the Panthers.


    Brees and the Saints offense (25.9 PPG) haven’t been as potent on the road and that’s translated into mixed total results (4-4). Helping a few of those ‘under’ tickets was the New Orleans defense. The offense gets all the headlines in ‘The Big Easy’ but the defense only allowed 20.7 PPG this season, compared to 28.4 PPG in 2016 and that’s a ridiculous improvement. On the road, the unit has been even better when it comes to scoring defense (18.2 PPG).


    I did find one seasonal trend on New Orleans that could help you handicapping the side on this matchup. The Saints went 4-0 as visitors when holding teams under 20 points but 0-4 when allowing 20 or more.


    Can the Vikings put up at least 20 on Sunday?


    Based on what we’ve seen this season, the answer would be ‘Yes’ but let’s be clear that Minnesota’s offense isn’t a juggernaut (23.9 PPG, No. 10). Backup QB Case Keenum has played great since taking over for the injured Sam Bradford and a lot of pundits are waiting for him to collapse but he closed the season with an 11-1 record and captured division title.


    Keenum reminds me of former San Francisco 49ers QB Jeff Garcia, another solid player that got the job done consistently yet never really amazed you. Keenum is very accurate (67.6%) and has the ability to make plays with his legs, something Bradford didn’t offer. It also helps to have a pair of great receivers (Thielen, Diggs) and a big tight end (Rudolph) as well.


    In seven home games, Keenum led the Vikings to 20-plus points in six of seven games but the ‘under’ went 5-2. That record was obviously helped with dominating defensive numbers (11.5 PPG) in those games.


    While Keenum has never started a playoff game, Brees has played in 12 and New Orleans has watched the ‘over’ go 9-3 in those games with him under center. In true road games, the Saints are 1-4 with Brees but the defense (32.6 PPG) didn’t exactly come to play in those contests.


    Minnesota has been in 10 playoff games since 2001 and the ‘under’ has gone 7-2-1. Two of those postseason contests were against New Orleans and the ‘over’ went 1-0-1, the most recent meeting taking place in the 2009-10 NFC Championship. The Vikings had a great shot to win that game but a careless Brett Favre interception late in the fourth quarter cost the team dearly as they dropped 31-28 overtime decision at the Saints, who went on to win Super Bowl XLIV against Indianapolis.

    Fearless Prediction:
    In the three of the last four Divisional Playoff rounds, the last game has watched the 'under' cash and we saw some tight games too. I believe this game will be decided by one score and even though the indoor environment might have you thinking shootout, I'm buying both defensive units and going against the betting public and money moves. I’m leaning to the game ‘under’ (47) and playing the New Orleans Team Total Under (20 ) and Minnesota Team Total Under (24 ) as well.
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    Saturday, December 13



    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    NFL Divisional Playoff betting preview and odds: Falcons at Eagles
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles (+3, 41)


    Although the Philadelphia Eagles boasted the NFL's top mark throughout much of the season and tied a franchise record with 13 wins, they find themselves as the first team in league history to enter its opening playoff game as an underdog. The Eagles aim to silence the critics on Saturday when they host the sixth-seeded Atlanta Falcons in an NFC divisional round contest at Lincoln Financial Field.


    "What bothered me was we were 12-2 (at the time of Carson Wentz's injury) and treated like we were the (winless) Browns," Philadelphia Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson said. "It happens, but I think although we don't like it, it's a good motivator to have people not write good things." Philly's newspapers haven't been kind since potential NFL MVP candidate Wentz was lost for the season with an ACL injury, as the team hasn't given its fickle fans much to cheer with 16 points in its last nine quarters. Last season's NFL MVP Matt Ryan, who hails from Exton, Pa., recorded his fifth consecutive playoff game with at least a 100.0 passer rating in Atlanta's 26-13 win over the Los Angeles Rams last weekend. "We're not here just to get here. We want to make noise while we're here," Ryan told reporters.

    TV:
    4:35 p.m. ET, NBC.

    LINE HISTORY:
    The Falcons opened as 3-point road favorites and that number came down briefly to 2.5 before returning to the opening figure. The total hit betting boards at 44.5 and has been bet all of the way down to 41.

    WHAT SHARPS SAY:
    "The Eagles find themselves in a rare home dog role knowing that No. 1 NFC seeds are 22-3 SU in Divisional round games sic the 1990 season. On the flip side, the Falcons have won 10 of their last 12 games adjacent NFC East opponents but finds themselves favored the playoff road for the first time in franchise history. The bottom line is this game will likely come down to how Philadelphia backup QB Nick Foles fares against an Atlanta pass defense that surrendered more than 300 passing yards on only occasion this season." - Marc Lawrence.

    WEATHER REPORT:





    INJURY REPORT:



    Falcons - WR Mohamed Sanu (Probable, Knee), TE Levine Toilolo (Probable, Knee), WR Julio Jones (Probable, Ankle), QB Matt Ryan (Probable, Personal), LB LaRoy Reynolds (Questionable, Knee), RB Devonta Freeman (Questionable, Knee), LB Sean Weatherspoon (Questionable, Illness), LB Jordan Tripp (I-R, Concussion), G Andy Levitre (I-R, Tricep), S Quincy Mauger (I-R, Knee), DE Jack Crawford (I-R, Bicep).


    Eagles - T Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Probable, Knee), DE Brandon Graham (Probable, Ankle), CB Jalen Mills (Probable, Ankle), RB Jay Ajayi (Probable, Knee), CB Sidney Jones (Questionable, Hamstring), LB Dannell Ellerbe (Questionable, Hamstring), QB Carson Wentz (I-R, Knee), K Caleb Sturgis (I-R, Quadricep), S Chris Maragos (I-R, Knee), LB Joe Walker (I-R, Undisclosed), LB Jordan Hicks (I-R, Achilles), T Jason Peters (I-R, Knee), RB Darren Sproles (I-R, Knee), RB Donnel Pumphrey (I-R, Hamstring), CB Randall Goforth (I-R, Knee), WR Dom Williams (I-R, Achilles), DT Aziz Shittu (I-R, Knee).

    ABOUT THE FALCONS (11-6 SU, 8-9 ATS, 5-12 O/U):
    Julio Jones, who reeled in nine receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown last week against the Rams, traditionally has flustered Philadelphia in his career. The Pro Bowl wideout had 10 catches for 135 yards in the teams' last meeting in 2016 and has 428 receiving yards in four contests with the Eagles. The potent running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 1,493 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns this season, but the duo will test the mettle of Philadelphia's top-ranked rushing defense (79.2). Speaking of defense, Atlanta has stepped up its game by allowing just 16.3 points per contest over the last six.

    ABOUT THE EAGLES (13-3 SU, 10-6 ATS, 8-8 O/U):
    Nick Foles answered a sterling four-touchdown performance versus the New York Giants in Week 15 by completing 23 of 49 passes for 202 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions over his last two appearances. "My message to Nick is, 'Listen, you have a great opportunity. Just go be Nick. Go play. Let's go executive the offense,'" coach Doug Pederson said. Zach Ertz is a key part of that offense after earning his first Pro Bowl selection by finishing third among all NFL tight ends with 74 receptions for 824 yards. Ertz and wideout Nelson Agholor each had eight touchdown receptions, one shy of team leader Alshon Jeffery.

    TRENDS:



    * Falcons are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 Saturday games.
    * Eagles are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 Divisional Playoffs games.
    * Under is 6-0 in Falcons last 6 games overall.
    * Under is 7-0-1 in Eagles last 8 playoff home games.
    * Under is 8-3-1 in the last 12 meetings.
    The public is siding with the road favorite Atlanta Falcons at a rate of 53 percent and the Over is getting 63 percent of the totals action.
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    Saturday, December 13



    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    NFL Divisional Playoff betting preview and odds: Titans at Patriots
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (-13.5, 48)


    Amid the background of a reported rift between the owner, coach and star quarterback, the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots host the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night. The Patriots have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in two of the past three seasons and look to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since they accomplished it in 2003-04.


    New England, the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, dealt with a rare off-the-field distraction when ESPN detailed a power struggle between coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft -- a report the team disputed. "The reputation that Coach tries to get us to have is just ignore the noise -- ignore the noise from the outside and I feel like that's what myself and a lot of other players have been doing," Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski said. While Brady has 25 playoff wins under his belt, the upstart Titans will arrive in Foxborough fresh off their first postseason win since 2003 -- stunning the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21 after trailing by 18 points at halftime. Tennessee, which lost three straight before beating Jacksonville in Week 17 to clinch a playoff slot, has not won at New England since 2003, when the franchise was still located in Houston.

    TV:
    8:15 p.m. ET, CBS.

    LINE HISTORY:
    The Patriots opened as massive 13.5-point home favorites and that number has yet to move. The total hit betting boards at 47 and has been bet up slightly to 48.

    WHAT SHARPS SAY:
    "The Titans journey to Foxborough following last week’s stunning comeback win at Kansas City hoping they can reverse an ugly playoff trend that has found the last four teams to knock off the Chiefs in the postseason only to 0-4 SUATS the following games. The good news is Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota is 3-2 Su and 4-1 ATS adjacent .666 or greater foes in games i which the Titans sports a .500 or greater record. Meanwhile, New England is 18-0 SU and 12-6 ATS against AFC South opponents since 2010, but QB Tom Brady is only 2-3 ATS in his NFL career as double-digit chalk in the playoffs." - Marc Lawrence.

    WEATHER REPORT:





    INJURY REPORT:



    Titans - G Quinton Spain (Probable, Back), CB Logan Ryan (Probable, Ankle), RB DeMarco Murray (Out, Knee), LB Aaron Wallace (I-R, Back), CB LeShaun Sims (I-R, Hamstring), DL DaQuan Jones (I-R, Bicep), QB Alex Tanney (I-R, Foot), WR Tajae' Sharpe (I-R, Foot), LB Victor Ochi (I-R, Knee).


    Patriots - DL Alan Branch (Probable, Knee), WR Chris Hogan (Probable, Shoulder), RB James White (Probable, Ankle), RB Rex Burkhead (Probable, Knee), LB Marquis Flowers (Questionable, Illness), LB Kyle Van Noy (Questionable, Calf), DL Eric Lee (Questionable, Ankle), RB Mike Gillislee (Doubful, Knee), DT Vincent Valentine (Questionable, Knee), WR Malcolm Mitchell (Questionable, Knee), OL Marcus Cannon (I-R, Ankle), OL Tony Garcia (I-R, Illness), OL Andrew Jelks (I-R, Knee), DB Nate Ebner (I-R, Knee), TE Martellus Bennett (I-R, Shoulder), LB Dont'a Hightower (I-R, Pectoral), LB Shea McClellin (I-R, Concussion), LB Harvey Langi (I-R, Back), DL Keionta Davis (I-R, Neck), CB Cyrus Jones (I-R, Knee), WR Julian Edelman (I-R, Knee), DE Derek Rivers (I-R, Knee).

    ABOUT THE TITANS (10-7 SU, 9-7-1 ATS, 9-8 O/U):
    Quarterback Marcus Mariota threw for more interceptions (15) than scoring passes (13) this season, but he guided Tennessee to three long touchdown drives in the second half, including a TD pass to himself at Kansas City. Mariota also rushed eight times for 46 yards but the Titans' best hopes are to feed backup running back Derrick Henry, who punished the Chiefs for 156 yards and a score on 23 carries. Tight end Delanie Walker had a team-high 74 catches while Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker added 53 and 54, respectively. Tennessee is 25th against the pass (239.3 yards) but tied for fifth in the league with 43 sacks.

    ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (13-3 SU, 11-5 ATS, 7-9 O/U):
    Brady put up his usual flashy numbers, leading the league with 4,577 yards and tossing 32 touchdowns versus eight interceptions, but he had just six scoring passes and five picks over the past five games. Dion Lewis has rushed for at least 92 yards in four of his past six games and scored five times in the past three, and should get some help with the expected returns of Rex Burkhead and James White from injury. Gronkowski and speedster Brandin Cooks each went over 1,000 yards and combined for 15 touchdowns for New England's top-ranking offense (394.2 yards). The Patriots limited 10 of their last 12 opponents to 17 points or fewer.

    TRENDS:



    * Titans are 7-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
    * Patriots are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 playoff games.
    * Under is 9-2-1 in Titans last 12 Saturday games.
    * Over is 7-0-1 in Patriots last 8 Divisional Playoffs games.
    * Titans are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 meetings.

    CONSENSUS:
    The public is siding with the home favorite New England Patriots at a rate of 54 percent and the Over is getting 55 percent of the totals action.
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    SATURDAY, JANUARY 13
    GAME TIME(ET) PICK UNITS



    ATL at PHI 04:35 PM
    ATL -3.0
    U 40.5



    TEN at NE 08:15 PM
    TEN +13.0
    U 48.0
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    Thanks & GL Cnotes
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    Thanks Hache Man............right back at ya
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    Eagles use goal-line stand, Elliott FGs to beat Falcons
    January 13, 2018



    PHILADELPHIA (AP) Nick Foles was steady, Jake Elliott had a big leg and the defense made one final stop.


    The underdog Philadelphia Eagles are heading to the NFC championship game following a 15-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday. They'll host the Saints-Vikings winner next Sunday.


    Despite going 13-3 to earn the No. 1 seed, the Eagles entered the game as 3-point underdogs against the sixth-seeded Falcons (11-7). They used it as motivation and now it's onto the next one as they continue pursuit of the franchise's first Super Bowl title.


    ''If we believe the outsiders, we will be all messed up,'' Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. ''We went out and proved we can be the real winning team.''


    Matt Ryan's final pass sailed through Julio Jones' arms in the corner of the end zone as Jalen Mills had tight coverage on fourth down from the 2 to secure Philadelphia's win. It was another disappointing finish for the Falcons, who blew a 25-point lead against the Patriots in last year's Super Bowl.


    ''The reason I play this game is to win a championship,'' Ryan said. ''That's why we put all of the hard work we put in. When you don't get that result, it's difficult.''


    Foles outplayed Ryan, bouncing back from a pair of subpar games with an efficient performance. He completed 77 percent of his passes (23 of 30) for 246 yards, no touchdowns and no turnovers.


    ''The biggest thing in our locker room is that we believe in one another and that showed,'' Foles said. ''We kept working, kept grinding, had faith in one another. In any sport there's going to be criticism. You're aware of it because you're human but we blocked it out.''


    Here's some things we learned following Philadelphia's first playoff win in nine years:


    OVERCOMING TURNOVERS:
    The Eagles committed the only two turnovers and won anyway. Jay Ajayi fumbled on the second play from scrimmage inside Falcons territory and a short punt bounced off an Eagles player setting up Atlanta's 18-yard touchdown drive.

    INCONSISTENT OFFENSE:
    These weren't the Falcons who lit up the scoreboard on their way to winning the NFC championship last year. Under first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, the Falcons weren't quite as sharp throughout the season and their inconsistency showed up at the wrong time. They were shut out in the second half and held to just 118 yards in the final two quarters.


    ''I think that's something we have to look at and evaluate this offseason,'' Ryan said. ''There were too many times we were a little bit inconsistent.''


    JAY TRAIN: Ajayi shook off the fumble and ran well until he inexplicably went to the bench for a long stretch. Ajayi had 50 yards rushing on eight carries through Philadelphia's first drive of the second quarter, but didn't get the ball again until the second half. He finished with 54 yards on 15 carries and also dropped a third down pass. He did have 44 yards receiving on three catches.


    ''I feel like I played poorly,'' Ajayi said. ''The fumble, can't do that in a big game. I feel like I could have executed a lot better. A lot of the teammates picked up the slack. The defense played lights out.''


    CALL OF THE GAME: Eagles coach Doug Pederson ran an inside counter to wide receiver Nelson Agholor that went for 21 yards to the Falcons 3 on third-and-3 on Philadelphia's touchdown drive. It was the first time he called that play this season.


    ''It's a play we've had in our arsenal, but never got to it,'' Pederson said. ''This was just an opportunity to put it in Nelson's hands with Lane Johnson as a puller and just executed extremely well.''


    JAKE'S LEG: Elliott, who joined the Eagles after Caleb Sturgis was injured in Week 1, bounced back after missing his fourth extra point of the season by connecting on all three of his field goals. His 53-yarder at the end of the first half was his sixth in seven tries from beyond 50. That includes a game-winning 61-yarder against the Giants in Week 3.


    ''It was definitely tricky out there, just really gusty (wind),'' Elliott said. ''You don't know what it's really going to do out there so you just have to hit the best ball you can and take care of what you can control.''
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    Patriots beat Titans 35-14 to head back to AFC title game
    January 13, 2018



    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) First, the Patriots tuned out a week full of off-field drama. Then, they silenced the Titans to earn yet another trip to the AFC championship game.


    Tom Brady passed for three touchdowns and 337 yards, and New England cruised past Tennessee 35-14 on Saturday night to advance to their seventh consecutive conference title game.


    New England (14-3) will host the winner of Sunday's divisional matchup between Jacksonville and Pittsburgh.


    It was Brady's 10th career postseason game with at least three TD tosses, moving him past Joe Montana for the most in NFL history. James White caught a touchdown pass and ran for another, and Danny Amendola had 11 catches for 112 yards.


    New England's victory came on the heels of a week filled with turmoil following reports of discord involving Brady, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft.


    None of that showed on the field Saturday.


    ''I've been around long enough,'' Brady said. ''So, 18 years, there's so many nice things said about me. It just goes with the territory.''


    The Titans (10-8) took an early 7-0 lead, but New England scored 35 straight points to take control.


    Marcus Mariota completed 22 of 37 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, but was under duress for most of the second half. He was sacked eight times, a Patriots playoff record.


    Coach Mike Mularkey said after the game his quarterback strained a quadriceps in the first quarter.


    ''It had an impact,'' Mularkey said. ''We had to get out of some of our scheme with him.''


    New England also held Derrick Henry to just 28 yards rushing on 12 carries.


    The Titans came back from an 18-point deficit in the second half to beat the Chiefs 22-21 in the wild-card round last week - the largest comeback on the road in the Super Bowl era. But the Patriots didn't give them a chance for an encore.


    Leading 14-7, the Patriots stretched their lead to 14 just before halftime thanks to a trio of careless penalties on the Titans.


    Tennessee initially forced a three-and-out, but gave up a first down via a fourth-and-5 neutral zone infraction on Brynden Trawick before New England's punt attempt.


    Armed with a new set of downs, Brady went to work moving the Patriots down the field with a steady diet of short passes. The Titans helped along the way with illegal contact and unnecessary roughness penalties. It eventually culminated in a 4-yard TD pass from Brady to Chris Hogan in the back of the end zone that made it 21-7.


    Brady threw a short shovel pass to White, who ran it in from the 5-yard line to make it 7-7 early in the second quarter.


    The Patriots appeared to have a touchdown three plays earlier, when Dion Lewis caught a pass from Brady and was tackled by Wesley Woodyard at the 19. Lewis landed on top of the defender, then got up and continued to the end zone.


    The officials initially ruled that he had never been down and called it a touchdown. But replays showed Lewis' butt hit the ground at the 19.


    Corey Davis made a one-handed catch on a 15-yard pass from Mariota in the corner of the end zone to give the Titans a 7-0 lead. Mariota had a pair of 11-yard runs to help set up the score.


    Davis added an 11-yard TD reception with 1:55 left in the game - and the Titans' season.


    INJURIES


    Titans: Right tackle Jack Conklin walked off on his own power after injuring a knee in the first quarter. He did not return. ... Tight end Jonnu Smith was carted off in the third quarter with a right leg injury.


    Patriots: Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle left with a knee injury early in the third quarter. ... Cornerback Jonathan Jones was helped off the field late in the fourth quarter.

    UNFORCED ERRORS



    The Titans had 85 penalties in the regular season - the second-fewest in the NFL.


    They were flagged 10 times for 62 yards on Saturday, just the second time they had 10 or more this season.


    MOVING ON UP


    Gronkowski finished with six catches for 81 yards and touchdown. It was his 10th career postseason TD. He's tied with five others for third all-time. But it's the most for a tight end.


    Gronk also moved into second all-time for a tight end with 835 postseason receiving yards. He passed Keith Jackson, and only Dallas Clark is ahead of him.


    UP NEXT


    The Patriots will play the winner of Sunday's matchup between the Jaguars and Steelers in the AFC championship game.
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    Total Talk - DP Sunday
    January 12, 2018



    The two Divisional Playoff round matchups on Sunday will be rematches from this year’s regular season as Pittsburgh and New Orleans will be looking to avenge losses to Jacksonville and Minnesota respectively.


    If you’re handicapping leans to experience, this will be the third trip in the last four seasons to the second round of the NFL Playoffs for the Steelers. Meanwhile, the Saints (2013), Vikings (2009) and Jaguars (2007) could be a tad nervous come Sunday.


    Similar to my first three playoff pieces, I’m going to break down every game and offer up my quick handicap and prediction for all the matchups. For those keeping track, my leans went 3-3 in the Wild Card round. As always, Press, Pass or Fade but in the end – Good Luck!


    Sunday, Jan. 14


    Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (CBS, 1:05 p.m. ET)



    This total was sent out at 41 and the number has held steady all week with just a couple shops showing 41 as of Friday afternoon. The weather in Western Pennsylvania was in the high fifties on Friday but this game is expecting to be played around the thirties. No precipitation or serious wind is expected.


    In Week 5, Jacksonville posted an eye-opening 30-9 win over Pittsburgh as a 7 -point road underdog and the ‘under’ (41 ) was clearly the right side. The Jaguars led 7-6 at the break and actually trailed 9-7 in the third quarter before their defense took over. The unit blew the game open with a pair of interceptions for touchdowns before running back Leonard Fournette padded the margin and his stats with a 90-yard run late in the fourth quarter.


    Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tossed a career-high five interceptions in the loss and the Steelers couldn’t do anything on the ground, rushing for 70 yards on 20 attempts. Pittsburgh will have wide receiver Antonio Brown (calf) back in the lineup this Sunday and he did have 10 receptions for 157 yards in the first meeting against the Jaguars.


    Since that result, the Steelers have scored 20-plus points in 11 of their last 12 games and have posted 30 or more points four times during that span. Having that success on Sunday certainly won’t be easy against Jacksonville, who is ranked second defensively in scoring at 15.9 points per game, total yards (284.8) and sacks (57).


    That defensive production was key in its Wild Card round last Sunday as Jacksonville dropped Buffalo 10-3 at home and the ‘under’ (40) easily connected. The Jaguars have seen the ‘under’ cash in two straight games and is 9-8 on the season, largely due to the defense but lately the Jacksonville offense has been a mess.


    QB Blake Bortles hasn’t looked great the past three weeks and his confidence appears to be shaken too. Earlier this week he said to reporters, "Hopefully, we can throw less." It’s safe to say the entire team feels that way knowing the Jaguars led the league in rushing (142.2 YPG) and they’ll be facing a Steelers defense without linebacker Ryan Shazier. Since he went down with the spine injury, Pittsburgh has allowed 100-plus rushing yards in three of four games.

    The Steelers watched the ‘under’ go 10-5-1 this season but the ‘over’ was 5-3 at home. The one theme with Pittsburgh over the past few seasons that I’ve noticed is how it performs in the early Sunday games (1:00 p.m. ET). Tossing out the Week 17 meaningless game versus Cleveland, the Steelers only averaged 19.8 PPG in six other games played in this slot and that includes the aforementioned meeting versus Jacksonville. Not surprisingly, the ‘under’ cashed in all those games.


    Before you run to the betting counter and bang the low side, it should be noted that the Steelers have watched the ‘over’ go 8-1 in home playoff games with Big Ben at QB and the team has averaged 26.2 PPG in those games.


    Fearless Prediction: When you have totals this low, bettors normally have to put in a full 60-minute session and one or two big plays can turn the result upside down. I’m going to keep it simple and go with one ticket – Jacksonville Team Total Under (17). The Jaguars OFFENSE has scored 16, 17, 16 and 3 points in four games against playoff teams this season and two of those touchdowns came on long runs by Fournette. Barring more big plays from the Jaguars, I don’t see them finding the end zone more than once on Sunday.


    New Orleans at Minnesota (FOX, 4:40 p.m. ET)


    The last game on the board is always the most dangerous and the bookmakers have put themselves into a tough position with the total. Scott Cooley of BookMaker.eu admitted to VegasInsider.com that his shop made a slight mistake with their opener.


    He explained, “The total we'll be sweating the most is that Saints-Vikings. We opened too low, 44.5, and we just recently moved to 47. The smart guys know this is a great Vikings defense, but it is up against Drew Brees. And they also understand that this isn't your average Minnesota offense. It's creative and it can score points in bunches.”


    It is a little surprising to see the total go up knowing the Vikings are the league’s best defensive team in both scoring (15.8 PPG) and yards (275.9 YPG).


    Minnesota has only seen two totals listed above 47 all season and the totals went 1-1 in those games. The Vikings earned a 14-9 road win at Atlanta in Week 13 as the ‘under’ (48 ) connected easily and the other contest took place in Week 1 against New Orleans.


    The Vikings posted a 29-19 win over the Saints in the Monday Night opener and the ‘over’ (47 ) barely got there with a late score by New Orleans but the high side was definitely the right play. The pair combined for over 800 total offensive yards and 11 scores. It was a clean game as neither team turned the ball over but the difference was three short field goals by New Orleans (24, 21, 20) and leaving those points off the board cost the Saints.


    A lot has changed since that meeting, most notably New Orleans ability to run the football. The Vikings only allowed 60 rushing yards in the opener but the Saints finished the season ranked sixth (124.2 YPG) in rushing offense.


    New Orleans couldn’t get anything going on the ground (41 yards) last Sunday in its Wild Card win over Carolina and you wonder if it can muster up any yards against Minnesota’s run defense (83.6 YPG), which is ranked second in the league. Fortunately for New Orleans, QB Drew Brees had a great game (376 yards, 2 TDs) last week and the defense did enough to withstand a rally from the Panthers.


    Brees and the Saints offense (25.9 PPG) haven’t been as potent on the road and that’s translated into mixed total results (4-4). Helping a few of those ‘under’ tickets was the New Orleans defense. The offense gets all the headlines in ‘The Big Easy’ but the defense only allowed 20.7 PPG this season, compared to 28.4 PPG in 2016 and that’s a ridiculous improvement. On the road, the unit has been even better when it comes to scoring defense (18.2 PPG).


    I did find one seasonal trend on New Orleans that could help you handicapping the side on this matchup. The Saints went 4-0 as visitors when holding teams under 20 points but 0-4 when allowing 20 or more.


    Can the Vikings put up at least 20 on Sunday?


    Based on what we’ve seen this season, the answer would be ‘Yes’ but let’s be clear that Minnesota’s offense isn’t a juggernaut (23.9 PPG, No. 10). Backup QB Case Keenum has played great since taking over for the injured Sam Bradford and a lot of pundits are waiting for him to collapse but he closed the season with an 11-1 record and captured division title.


    Keenum reminds me of former San Francisco 49ers QB Jeff Garcia, another solid player that got the job done consistently yet never really amazed you. Keenum is very accurate (67.6%) and has the ability to make plays with his legs, something Bradford didn’t offer. It also helps to have a pair of great receivers (Thielen, Diggs) and a big tight end (Rudolph) as well.


    In seven home games, Keenum led the Vikings to 20-plus points in six of seven games but the ‘under’ went 5-2. That record was obviously helped with dominating defensive numbers (11.5 PPG) in those games.


    While Keenum has never started a playoff game, Brees has played in 12 and New Orleans has watched the ‘over’ go 9-3 in those games with him under center. In true road games, the Saints are 1-4 with Brees but the defense (32.6 PPG) didn’t exactly come to play in those contests.


    Minnesota has been in 10 playoff games since 2001 and the ‘under’ has gone 7-2-1. Two of those postseason contests were against New Orleans and the ‘over’ went 1-0-1, the most recent meeting taking place in the 2009-10 NFC Championship. The Vikings had a great shot to win that game but a careless Brett Favre interception late in the fourth quarter cost the team dearly as they dropped 31-28 overtime decision at the Saints, who went on to win Super Bowl XLIV against Indianapolis.


    Fearless Prediction: In the three of the last four Divisional Playoff rounds, the last game has watched the 'under' cash and we saw some tight games too. I believe this game will be decided by one score and even though the indoor environment might have you thinking shootout, I'm buying both defensive units and going against the betting public and money moves. I’m leaning to the game ‘under’ (47) and playing the New Orleans Team Total Under (20 ) and Minnesota Team Total Under (24 ) as well.
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    NFL notebook: Texans name Gaine GM, extend O'Brien
    January 13, 2018



    The Houston Texans hired Brian Gaine as their new general manager and extended the contract of head coach Bill O'Brien, the team announced Saturday.


    Gaine signed a five-year deal and O'Brien was extended for four years, with both contracts running through 2022. O'Brien had one year remaining on the five-year contract he signed when he took over as Texans coach before the 2014 season.


    Gaine returns to the Texans after one year as the Buffalo Bills' vice president of player personnel. He previously served as Houston's director of pro personnel and director of player personnel under general manager Rick Smith before leaving for Buffalo.


    Smith has taken an extended leave of absence to be with his wife, Tiffany, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in September and has been receiving treatment in Arizona. Smith, who will retain the title of executive vice president, has worked for the Texans since 2006.


    --The Chicago Bears announced Kevin M. Gilbride as their tight ends coach. Gilbride, 38, is the son of former longtime NFL offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.


    The younger Gilbride, 38, spent the last eight seasons with his father on the New York Giants, with the last four as the team's tight ends coach. He has also been a position coach or offensive assistant with Syracuse, Georgetown and Temple.


    Gilbride is the newest addition to the offensive ranks under new coach Matt Nagy. He joins offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, running backs coach Charles London and receivers coach Mike Furrey.


    Under Gilbride's watch, Evan Engram led all NFL rookie tight ends in receptions (64) and receiving yards (722) and tied for first in receiving touchdowns (six). Engram also led the Giants in receptions and touchdown catches while finishing second on the team in receiving yards.


    --The Minnesota Vikings activated quarterback Sam Bradford off injured reserve, the team announced.


    Bradford was placed on injured reserve after undergoing knee surgery on Nov. 7. The surgery was not related to the two procedures he had to repair a torn ACL in 2013 and 2014.


    It's not immediately known if Bradford will sit ahead of Teddy Bridgewater on the depth chart and serve as the backup quarterback behind Case Keenum in Sunday's NFC divisional round playoff game versus the visiting New Orleans Saints.


    Bridgewater has served as the backup since Week 10 for the Vikings, who have not had three quarterbacks listed as active since Mike Zimmer became their coach. Bridgewater was activated off injured reserve on the same day that Bradford was placed on IR.


    --The Seattle Seahawks have reportedly found their replacement for former offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.


    Brian Schottenheimer, who spent the past two seasons as quarterbacks coach of the Indianapolis Colts, has been offered the offensive coordinator's job with Seattle, multiple media outlets reported.


    ESPN, citing a league source, reported that Schottenheimer was expected to be hired by Seattle, while the NFL Network reported that the Seahawks offered him the job "before other teams got involved."


    The son of former NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer, the younger Schottenheimer was the offensive coordinator with the New York Jets from 2006-11 and held the same position with the St. Louis Rams from 2012-14.


    --Tom Cable is on the verge of returning to the Bay Area.


    Cable is expected to become the offensive line coach for the Oakland Raiders, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.


    The 53-year-old Cable worked as the Raiders offensive line coach in 2007 before becoming the team's interim head coach four games into the 2008 season after Lane Kiffin was fired. Cable was named head coach the following season and posted a 17-27 mark over parts of three seasons at the helm.


    Cable has spent the last seven seasons working as the assistant head coach/offensive line coach for the Seattle Seahawks before being dismissed on Wednesday.


    ---The three men most responsible for turning the New England Patriots into a perennial power will wait until after the season to settle any differences, according to a report.


    Patriots owner Robert Kraft will sit down with head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady to "clear the air" of any lingering tensions, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported.


    Reigning Super Bowl champion New England was set to host the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night in an AFC divisional round playoff game.


    The report comes a week after the Patriots denied there was friction among the trio, which reportedly stemmed from a dispute over the trade of backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco earlier this season.


    --Patriots running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee are expected to sit out Saturday's AFC divisional round playoff game against the visiting Tennessee Titans, multiple outlets reported.


    Burkhead and Gillislee are both listed as questionable with knee injuries.


    Fellow running back James White, however, is expected to play, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported. Last year's Super Bowl hero has missed the past two games with an ankle injury and is officially listed as questionable to play versus Tennessee.


    White, 25, reeled in 56 receptions for 429 yards and three touchdowns to go along with his 171 rushing yards this season.


    --The NFL is considering a knee injury that may have contributed to quarterback Cam Newton's fall to the ground as the league investigates whether the Carolina Panthers properly followed concussion protocol last weekend, ESPN reported.


    Newton was also poked in the eye during the fourth quarter of Sunday's 31-26 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC wild-card game. The NFL reportedly learned of his knee injury while interviewing Panthers officials over the phone this week.


    The 2015 NFL MVP slowly got to his feet after a hard hit to the head from Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata. Newton made his way toward the sideline but then dropped to a knee before getting off the field.


    Newton was taken to the team's blue medical tent but not the locker room, which is a violation of the new NFL rules.


    --Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was active for Saturday's playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons.


    However, rookie cornerback Sidney Jones, the other Philadelphia player who was listed as questionable, was among the team's inactives.


    Ellerbe, who signed with the Eagles in November, was expected to play after he was a full participant in Thursday's practice. He made eight tackles while starting the final two games.


    Jones, a 2017 second-round pick, was activated in Week 17 after recovering from a torn Achilles tendon sustained in a workout before the draft. He played in the final regular-season game against the Dallas Cowboys and recorded two tackles.


    --San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster was arrested and charged with second-degree marijuana possession on Friday, according to records from the Tuscaloosa County (Ala.) Sheriff's Office.


    Bond was set at $2,500 for Foster, who was a first-team All-American for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2016 and also won the Butkus Award as the best linebacker in college.


    California legalized recreational marijuana on Jan. 1. Under Alabama state criminal law, second-degree possession is a Class A misdemeanor.


    Foster recorded a team second-best 72 tackles in 10 games during his rookie season after being selected with the 31st overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft.
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    NFL


    Sunday, December 14



    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    NFL Divisional Playoff betting preview and odds: Jaguars at Steelers
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7, 41)


    Ben Roethlisberger gets a chance to atone for one of the worst games of his career when he guides the Pittsburgh Steelers into Sunday's AFC divisonal round matchup against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars. Roethlisberger has guided No. 2 seed Pittsburgh to 10 wins in 11 games since a wretched performance in a 30-9 home loss to Jacksonville in Week 5.


    Roethlisberger questioned whether he still had "it" after throwing a career-worst five interceptions -- two of which were returned for touchdowns -- against Jacksonville in October. "We've evolved since then. They have evolved a lot since then," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "I am sure that they are as different as we are since the last time we've seen them." Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh rebounded to win eight in a row following the loss to the third-seeded Jaguars, who set up the rematch with a 10-3 victory over Buffalo in the wild-card round. While Jalen Ramsey picked off Roethlisberger in the first meeting and clinched last week's win with an interception, fellow cornerback A.J. Bouye had a ready response -- "be careful what you ask for" -- upon hearing that the quarterback wants another crack at the Jaguars.

    TV:
    1:05 p.m. ET, CBS.

    LINE HISTORY:
    The Steelers opened as 8-point home chalk and money coming in on the Jaguars have brought that number down to a converted touchdown at most books. The total hit the betting boards at 41 and was briefly bet down to 40.5 before returning to the opening number.

    WHAT BOOKS SAY:
    "This is the least exciting game from an action standpoint. We've got a few sharps on each side of the spread, and the squares are almost split as well, although there is slightly more public money on Pittsburgh. Currently, the money handle favors the Steelers 60-40." - Scott Cooley, odds consultant for offshore sportsbook Bookmaker.eu.

    WEATHER REPORT:



    INJURY REPORT:



    Jaguars - RB T.J. Yeldon (Questionable, Illness), LB Paul Posluszny (Questionable, Hip), OL Chris Reed (Questionable, Knee), WR Jaelen Strong (I-R, Knee), WR Arrelious Benn (I-R, Knee), LS Matt Overton (I-R, Shoulder).


    Steelers - Antonio Brown (Probable, Calf), CB Coty Sensabaugh (Questionable, Shoulder), RB James Conner (I-R, Knee), LB Ryan Shazier (I-R, Spine)

    ABOUT THE JAGUARS (11-6 SU, 9-8 ATS, 8-9 O/U):
    The biggest question mark on offense for Jacksonville is the erratic play of fourth-year quarterback Blake Bortles, who was intercepted five times in the final two regular-season games and threw for only 87 yards in last weekend's win over Buffalo. Bortles did rush for 88 yards last week but the Jaguars likely will try to play keep-away by feeding rookie running back Leonard Fournette, who rumbled for a season-high 181 yards and a 90-yard touchdown in the first meeting against Pittsburgh. Calais Campbell leads a pass rush that amassed 55 sacks -- second in the league to Pittsburgh -- while the Jaguars permitted an NFL-low 169.9 yards per game and ranked No. 2 overall with an average of 16.8 points surrendered. Ramsey and Bouye combined for 10 of the team's 21 interceptions, also No. 2 in the league.

    ABOUT THE STEELERS (13-3 SU, 7-9 ATS, 6-10 O/U):
    Roethlisberger finished the season with multiple touchdown passes in his last seven games, connecting on 18 TDs versus five interceptions in that span. Antonio Brown, sidelined since injuring a calf in Week 15 against the Patriots, practice fully Wednesday -- the same day he was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Year after hauling in 101 passes for a league-high 1,533 yards, including 10 for 157 versus the Jaguars. Rookie wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster came on strong over the second half of the season while Le'Veon Bell provides a lethal dual threat out of the backfield, finishing third in the league in rushing (1,291) yards to go with a career-best 85 catches. The Steelers led the league with 56 sacks, but defensive end Stephon Tuitt and cornerback Artie Burns each were hurt in Wednesday's practice.

    TRENDS:



    * Steelers are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 home games.


    * Under is 6-0 in Jaguars last 6 games following a ATS loss.


    * Under is 4-1 in Steelers last 5 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.


    * Road team is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 meetings.


    * Underdog is 9-1 ATS in their last 10 meetings.

    CONSENSUS:
    The public is siding with the home favorite Pittsburgh Steelers at a rate of 52 percent and the Under is getting 58 percent of the totals action.
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  20. #920  
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    NFL


    Sunday, December 14



    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    NFL Divisional Playoff betting preview and odds: Saints at Vikings
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (-5, 46.5)


    The Minnesota Vikings defeated the visiting New Orleans Saints in their season opener and have won five straight at U.S. Bank Stadium heading into the teams' NFC divisional round contest on Sunday. The Vikings are banking their home success pays dividends as they continue their pursuit of becoming the first team to host a Super Bowl when they face off against Drew Brees and the Saints.


    Case Keenum watched as Sam Bradford earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the 29-19 win over the Saints on Sept. 11 before the journeyman quarterback was ushered into action. Keenum became a dark-horse NFL MVP candidate after recording career highs in completions (325), attempts (481), yards (3,547), touchdowns (22) and passer rating (98.3) while posting an 11-3 mark as a starter. "I always root for guys like that, kind of the undersized guy coming out that nobody wants to give any credit and just always plays with a chip on his shoulder," said Brees, who is a sentimental darling in his own right as he approaches his 39th birthday. Brees penned one of his best performance of the season last weekend by throwing for 376 yards and two touchdowns as the Saints defeated the Carolina Panthers for the third time this season with a 31-26 win in the wild-card game.

    TV:
    4:40 p.m. ET, FOX.

    LINE HISTORY:
    Oddsmakers opened the Vikings as 3.5-point faves and that wasn't enough for bettors as money came in on the home team pushing that line as high as 5, where it currently sits. The total hit the board at 44.5 and has been bet up two full points to 46.5.

    WHAT BOOKS SAY:
    "No surprise that the public is siding with the Saints to the tune of 70 percent. Over the last 48 hours the sharps have jumped all over Minnesota. The over in this game is our biggest total liability thus far. Sharps and squares love the over, and it’s the most wagered option by the wiseguys in the Divisional Playoffs thus far." - Scott Cooley, odds consultant for offshore sportsbook Bookmaker.eu.

    WEATHER REPORT:
    Dome

    INJURY REPORT:



    Saints - DT Tony McDaniel (Questionable, Leg), OT Andrus Peat (Out Indefinitely, Shin), FB John Kuhn (Questionable, Bicep), TE Garrett Griffin (I-R, Foot), DE Hau'oli Kikaha (I-R, Ankle), DT John Hughes (I-R, Biceps), S Kenny Vaccaro (I-R, Wrist), LB A.J. Klein (I-R, Groin), NT David Parry (I-R, Ankle), DL Mitchell Loewen (I-R, Ankle), TE Coby Fleener (I-R, Concussion).


    Vikings - C Pat Elflein (Probable, Shoulder), TE Kyle Rudolph (Probable, Ankle), DB Tramaine Brock (Questionable, Foot), DT Shamar Stephen (Questionable, Ankle), FB C.J. Ham (Questionable, Neck), QB Sam Bradford (Doubtful, Knee), LS Kevin McDermott (I-R, Shoulder), C Nick Easton (I-R, Ankle), TE Blake Bell (I-R, Shoulder).

    ABOUT THE SAINTS (12-5 SU, 9-8 ATS, 10-7 O/U):
    Like Minnesota, New Orleans also changed quite a bit after the season opener as former Vikings great Adrian Peterson was jettisoned to Arizona in favor of the two-pronged attack of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. The potent pair became the first running back duo in league history to gain more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage and helped New Orleans lead the NFL with 4.7 yards per carry and 23 rushing touchdowns. Kamara finished second among running backs in catches with 81 during the regular season, but had just one against the Panthers last weekend. Michael Thomas more than picked up the slack, however, reeling in eight of nine targets for 131 yards in his playoff debut.

    ABOUT THE VIKINGS (13-3 SU, 11-5 ATS, 7-9 O/U):
    Swapping quarterbacks isn't Minnesota's only notable change from the season opener as Latavius Murray's workload was nondescript before impressive rookie Dalvin Cook saw his season end due to an ACL injury. Murray recorded eight touchdowns in his last 10 games of the season while fellow running back Jerick McKinnon reeled in 43 of his 51 receptions over the last 12. Wideout Stefon Diggs found the end zone on two occasions in the first meeting with the Saints and scored a touchdown in each of the last three games of the season.

    TRENDS:



    * Saints are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall.


    * Vikings are 11-1 ATS in their last 12 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.


    * Over is 13-3 in Saints last 16 games after accumulating more than 350 total yards in their previous game.


    * Over is 5-0-1 in the last 6 meetings in Minnesota.


    * Favorite is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 meetings.

    CONSENSUS:
    The public is siding with the road dog Saints at a rate of 62 percent and the Over is getting 57 percent of the totals action.
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    Steelers' WR Antonio Brown (calf/illness) is officially active today vs Jaguars




    ********************




    NFL Playoff Betting Stats (through 6 games):


    Favorites: 1-5 ATS
    Home Teams: 2-4 ATS
    Home Favorites: 1-4 ATS
    Home Underdogs: 1-0 ATS


    Over/Under: 2-4
    Over/Under Outdoors: 1-4
    Over/Under Indoors: 1-0
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  22. #922  
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    SUNDAY, JANUARY 14
    GAME TIME(ET) PICK UNITS



    JAC at PIT 01:05 PM
    PIT -7.0
    U 41.0



    NO at MIN 04:40 PM
    MIN -5.5
    O 47.0
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    Vikings put past behind them in stunning victory
    January 14, 2018



    MINNEAPOLIS -- Kyle Rudolph had showered and dressed after the Minnesota Vikings' improbable walkoff victory on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, and was ready to put the first playoff victory of his career into perspective.


    Rudolph, the longest-tenured member of Minnesota's offense, had watched quarterback Case Keenum throw the ball up and receiver Stefon Diggs make a leaping catch before spinning and staying inbounds on his way to a game-winning, 61-yard touchdown in the Vikings' 29-24 win.


    The most unlikely of endings ignited one of the unluckiest of franchises.


    Forget the four Super Bowl losses. Those are ancient past. No, the fan base had been through plenty in recent years to consider themselves cursed.


    It was Gary Anderson's miss in the NFC Championship Game that kept the 15-1 Vikings from reaching the Super Bowl after the 1998 season. There was the 41-donut two years later in the NFC Championship loss to the New York Giants.


    Another expected Super Bowl run in 2009 was derailed at the hands of Sunday's opponents, the New Orleans Saints, when Brett Favre was intercepted and Minnesota lost in overtime. Just two years ago, Blair Walsh's chip-shot, 27-yard field goal sailed left with 26 seconds left in a 10-9 loss to Seattle.


    "It's about time," Rudolph said. "Just what this organization has been through, what we as a group have been through if you think back to the last time we were in the playoffs, and then just rewind over the last two years of all the injuries and all the adversity we faced."


    Rudolph continued, listing off the bad breaks for the Vikings like losing quarterback Sam Bradford after he was NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 1 against New Orleans and impressive rookie running back Dalvin Cook suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 4 as Minnesota fell to 2-2.


    "For a lot of people, they could have been just, 'OK, here it goes again. It's not meant to be,'" Rudolph said. "But that's not this group. That's not this group of men. It's not the leadership that we have. All we know is the fight. They say all the time, 'fight for 60 minutes.' As long as we do that, you look up and you'll be happy. I never actually thought after 60 full minutes it would end the way it did today."


    With one catch and run, the Vikings hope to have exorcised any playoff demons.


    There was seven seconds on the clock when Keenum let the ball go. Diggs went high to make the catch and safety Marcus Williams went low and missed a hit on Diggs, perhaps trying to avoid a penalty. Diggs landed, turned and had no one between him and the purple of the end zone. He did a high-wire balancing act along the sideline to stay in bounds and celebrated in the end zone with no time left on the clock.


    "I think that crystal ball and that wood spirit is working," Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer said. "If there was a curse, then we probably would have lost today."


    There is no curse, but these Vikings are living a charmed life.


    Previously a journeyman, Keenum took over for Bradford and had an MVP-quality season. There's nothing lucky about one of the league's best defenses, even though it received its own fortunate turn on Sunday.


    Defensive end Everson Griffen had his back to quarterback Drew Brees and simply threw up his hand. He tipped a Brees pass and linebacker Anthony Barr was there to make the interception.


    "I didn't believe it," a stunned Griffen later said about Diggs' touchdown. "I'm sitting here and I'm in complete shock. It's unbelievable. I'm going to say it over again, God is good. He showed me something. It's amazing, about time. It don't matter how you win. Like Vin Diesel said, you win by an inch or mile, winning is winning and we won the game."


    "It's about time" was echoed by several players after the game.


    Minnesota Pro-Bowl receiver Adam Thielen had lived through all of the recent playoff letdowns as a boy growing up in Detroit Lakes, Minn.


    "2009, 1998, just being a Vikings fan since Day 1, I've been through a lot, obviously, as a fan," he said. "But it's different when you're a part of the team. You don't really think about those things. You think about these guys in the locker room; how hard we've fought, how much we've been through, how close this group is and that's why we want to win."


    Even as Diggs celebrated, other players and coaches were hesitant. The crowd was frenzied. But everyone looked toward the field to see if there was a penalty on the play.


    Not this time, not for these Vikings.


    "I figured the play was dead or something's going to happen because that don't happen to us," Barr said. "We don't get stuff like that. But we did today, so I'll take it."
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    Jaguars ride offense, swagger to AFC title game
    January 14, 2018



    PITTSBURGH (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars haven't faced the New England Patriots in a game that matters in more than two years. That's OK. They know a pretty good place to go to get a heads up on their opponent in the AFC title game.


    ''We need the notes the Steelers have on the Patriots because they were doing a lot of advanced scouting,'' safety Barry Church said Sunday after the Jaguars stunned Pittsburgh 45-42 to earn a trip to Foxborough next weekend to face the defending Super Bowl champions. ''We need all the notes they got on the Patriots. Other than that, it's time to roll to New England baby.''


    With their brute force rookie running back, their enigmatic quarterback and more than a little bit of swagger in tow.


    ''You can do all the talking you want on Twitter, to the media, all of that,'' Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. ''But when you get on the field you're going to have to produce, you're going to have to show us what you're about. We're confident because we know the work we put in. We're going to go out there confident.''


    It showed.


    Ticked off by several Steelers openly talking about a rematch with the Patriots with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line, the Jaguars took it out on Pittsburgh one touchdown at a time. They earned the franchise's third trip to the conference championship game in the process.


    Now it's on to New England, a place they've never won and where the Patriots hung 51 on them in 2015. But that was before coach Doug Marrone put together the NFL's best defense. Before Leonard Fournette arrived. Before Blake Bortles embraced his role as the enigmatic touchstone for a team that suddenly looks like a threat on both sides of the ball.


    Third-seeded Jacksonville (12-6) never trailed and was only rarely threatened on an afternoon it matched the most points the Steelers have given up in their storied playoff history. Fournette churned for 109 yards and three scores . Bortles bounced back from an ugly performance against Buffalo by throwing for 214 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to at least temporarily hit mute on his critics.


    ''I have no animosity against anyone who said anything,'' Bortles said. ''I'm happy to be able to come here and do this with this team. There are a lot of guys on the couch watching this.''


    That group now will include the Steelers. Pittsburgh (13-4) lost at home in the divisional round for the second time in 11 tries, unable to overcome a sluggish start that allowed the Jaguars to take a 21-point lead.


    The Steelers only had the ball with a chance to tie once over the final three quarters, the lone shot evaporating when Ben Roethlisberger threw incomplete on fourth-and-1 at the Jacksonville 39 early in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars responded with a drive that culminated in Fournette's third touchdown, and that was it.


    Roethlisberger, who finished with 469 yards passing and a franchise-record five touchdowns , said he will be back in 2018, though the sting of a stunning upset will linger into an offseason longer than planned.


    ''If you don't win the Super Bowl, you've underachieved, right?'' Roethlisberger said. ''Because that is always our goal. It wasn't our day. It wasn't our year.''


    JUGGERNAUT JAGUARS: Though Jacksonville's offense has endured dry spells this season, the Jaguars did finish the regular season fifth in scoring. While the defense chipped in a touchdown on a 48-yard fumble return by linebacker Telvin Smith, Bortles kept the Jaguars moving. Jacksonville converted 8 of 14 third downs and its lone fourth-down conversion came on Fournette's 1-yard leap in the first quarter.


    ''All week everybody was talking about our offense wasn't going to do good, they were going to shut down our offense,'' Jacksonville linebacker Myles Jack said. ''As you saw, Blake Bortles, he was hitting the open man. He had a plethora of big throws. Fournette was running the ball the hardest I've seen them. The offense did a hell of a job.''


    INSPIRING STEELER: Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier tried to rally the Steelers with a halftime visit to their locker room.


    Shazier, who underwent surgery to stabilize his spine last month, spoke with his teammates as they were fighting back from a 28-14 deficit. Still in a wheelchair during his recovery, Shazier was also around following the 45-42 loss, a stunning setback that concluded a challenging season for the AFC North champions.


    The 25-year-old Shazier has made significant progress, but his playing future remains uncertain because of the injury he suffered making a routine tackle on Dec. 4 against Cincinnati.


    Pittsburgh's crowd roared when Shazier was shown on the Heinz Field scoreboard in the third quarter.

    UNDERACHIEVERS:
    Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown returned from a left calf injury to catch seven passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns . Yet, the only player in NFL history with five consecutive 100-catch seasons will again watch the Super Bowl at home.


    ''We cannot seem to get the job done,'' Brown said. ''That's what's so sad about the journey. You come so close.''
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    AFC Notes - Jags at Pats
    January 14, 2018



    The New England Patriots have had plenty of challengers to their throne over the course of the last several seasons, but most comers end up bowing out gracelessly.


    The AFC South had been dominated by the Colts and Texans over the course of the last decade, and that left the Titans and Jaguars out of the playoffs most seasons. Tennessee made a big stink about the fact that New England didn't know anything about it. The results, though, were exactly the same.


    Will the Jacksonville Jaguars have a different fate when they pay their first visit to Foxboro in the playoffs since the Patriots were nearly perfect in the '07 season?


    No Luck in New England


    Last week, the Jaguars had a lot of confidence against the Steelers after pounding them into submission back in Week 5. They have had a great history in Pittsburgh and walked out of Heinz Field with yet another victory.


    Gillette Stadium, though, is a totally different animal. The Jaguars have never won in this building, and in fact, they're only 1-10 all-time against the Patriots regardless of the venue.

    Super Bowl Shufflin'



    The Robert Kraft/Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Patriots have a history of beating the snot out of teams that aren't ready for this moment. Already this season, we've seen New England dismiss Marcus Mariota in his first season in the playoffs, and now, it can do the same to Blake Bortles this week.


    There is only one man who has beaten the Patriots in their history in the playoffs while playing in his first ever postseason, and you have to go back to 1985 to find him. The Super Bowl Shufflin' Chicago Bears were led by a first-time playoff quarterback in Jim McMahon, and he's the only man to beat the Pats while playing in his first year in the postseason.


    All Over the Under


    The playoff history between these two teams has been an interesting one. The Jaguars actually have a win over the Pats in the second season, but you've got to go back to the Drew Bledsoe days to find that win in 1999. This is going to be the fifth all-time meeting of these teams in the playoffs, a stunningly high number of meetings considering the fact that the Jaguars have only been around for two and a half decades.


    The common thread in these games is the under. All four postseason duels between these two sides failed to reach the total, and three of the four games didn't get beyond 35 points.


    Do You Believe in Miracles?


    Coming into this season, the AFC had never had a team win three games or fewer the previous season and reach the AFC Championship Game the next year.


    No more.


    The Jags are the second team since the merger to reach a conference championship game after winning three games or fewer the year prior. The only other team to do so was the 2006 New Orleans Saints who, of course, went on to win the Super Bowl.

    Jaguars vs. Patriots Playoff History
    2008 (at New England): Patriots 31, Jaguars 20 (Jaguars +13.5 / Under 51.5)
    2006 (at New England): Patriots 28, Jaguars 3 (Patriots -7.5 / Under 37.5)
    1999 (at Jacksonville): Jaguars 25, Patriots 10 (Jaguars -8.5 / Under 41)
    1997 (at New England): Patriots 20, Jaguars 6 (Patriots -6.5 / Under 44)


    Jaguars vs. Patriots Opening NFL Odds
    Jaguars at Patriots (-8, 47)
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