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Rams without TE Higbee; Donald questionable



THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams on Friday officially ruled tight end Tyler Higbee out and listed defensive tackle Aaron Donald and right guard Austin Blythe as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

Higbee suffered a lung contusion last Sunday in a win over the New Orleans Saints. The fourth-year pro, who has six catches for 41 yards and a touchdown, did not practice throughout the week.

Third-year tight end Gerald Everett will start in Higbee’s absence. Johnny Mundt, who is typically inactive on game day, will be the backup.

Donald has been dealing with a back strain that he suffered in the second quarter against the Saints, but the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year said Friday that he was “100 percent” and would play against the Browns.

“I feel good,” Donald said.

When asked how he suffered the strain, Donald responded: “I’m just so fast, I was moving so fast and I strained it. That’s what happened, honestly.”

Donald was limited in practice throughout the week and was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game out of caution, Rams coach Sean McVay said.

“Unless something really unforeseen happens, this guy is going on Sunday night,” McVay said.

A Pittsburgh native, Donald is expecting several family members to make the two-hour drive to attend the game.

“I got to show up and show out,” Donald said.

Blythe, a second-year starter, sprained his left ankle last Sunday.

“With these ankle injuries, it’s one of those deals we’re going to use all the time that we do have,” McVay said. “See if we can get some of that swelling out and if he feels good enough, then we’ll make a decision on that.”

If Blythe is unable to play, the Rams will have three first-year starters on the interior of their line with Jamil Demby expected to start in Blythe’s absence.

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NFL clarifies rules proposal on alternative for onside kicks



NEW YORK — The NFL has clarified the rules proposal for an alternative to an onside kick.

The Philadelphia Eagles have proposed allowing one fourth-and-15 scrimmage play from the 25-yard line of the team kicking off. It can only be done in regulation time, and be used twice in a game. Should the team attempting the play succeed, it would keep the ball. If the defense is successful, its offense gets the ball at the spot where the play is blown dead.

A regular onside kick would remain an option.

Team owners will discuss and possibly vote on the Eagles’ suggestion on Thursday during a league-wide conference call. The idea is to virtually eliminate the onside kick that is considered more dangerous than most other football plays, while offering a substitute that could be exciting — and game changing.

Recent rules changes regarding alignments on onside kicks and run-ups for kicking team players have turned the exercise into something of a relic attempted only in desperate situations. In the last two years, less than 10% of onside kicks succeeded.

After the kicking team notifies the referee it wants to attempt the fourth-and-15 play, it would need to reach its 40-yard line to convert. However, penalties incurred on the previous play, such as a field goal or extra point, would apply and would change the line of scrimmage for the play, which would remain a fourth-and-15 attempt.

Once a team has opted for the scrimmage play, that decision sticks — unless the team calls a timeout before running the fourth-and-15 play. It could then notify the referee it has decided to kick off instead, and do so.

If the offense has run the alternative play and been flagged for a penalty, the yardage is marked off and another scrimmage play is run. Switching to kicking off instead is barred in that scenario.

The game clock would not run for the play, though a 25-second play clock would be in force.

Some people within the NFL find the proposal gimmicky, and there’s some support for trying it in the preseason as an experiment, then evaluating its impact. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s uncertain if the NFL will have a preseason or what it would look like.

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Five worst NFL franchises to bet on during the Super Bowl era



The NFL season doesn’t kick off for a while, but we do know the 2020 schedule, and opening lines have been released for Week 1, Monday Night Football games and some other key matchups.

As we prepare to get back into the swing of things and return to betting, we decided to take a look back at the worst teams to bet on over the course of the Super Bowl era.

Our NFL Nation reporters offer their input while discussing the bottom five franchises to bet on against the spread, percentage-wise, using research from ESPN Stats & Information.

The Cardinals’ overall futility as an organization extends beyond their win-loss record. There hasn’t been a worse team against the spread in the Super Bowl era than the Cardinals, first of St. Louis and then of Arizona. They are 386-435-11 (.470) against the spread — but that’s a better mark than their actual on-field record of 326-442-8 (.425) during that span.

The Cardinals are the league’s oldest franchise but have just 13 winning seasons since 1970, including in 2013 and 2014, which were two of their three best seasons against the spread. Arizona just hasn’t been able to find any consistency winning or as an organization. With Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals are on their 16th head coach since the merger and have been to the playoffs just eight times in 49 years with one trip to the Super Bowl, which they lost. And since the merger, 43 quarterbacks have started for the Cardinals. — Josh Weinfuss

The Raiders have been a literal black hole for bettors, as their 390-429-13 (.476) ATS mark suggests. It only seems like it was a lifetime ago when the Raiders were one of the most dominant teams in the league, winning three of the first 18 Super Bowls while playing in nine AFL or AFC titles games between 1967 and 1977. Ancient history, right? Especially since the Raiders have had only one — one! — winning season since playing in Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003. It’s a trend the franchise hopes to reverse as it, ironically, makes the move to the gambling mecca of Las Vegas. Bettors beware. — Paul Gutierrez

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Choosing right pants among lessons Tom Brady learned from ‘The Match’



TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady took to Instagram on Wednesday to reflect on the lessons he learned from participating in “The Match” charity golf tournament with Peyton Manning, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods this past weekend.

“Amazing what happens when groups of people come together for the common good,” Brady wrote of the event, which raised more than $20 million for coronavirus relief and drew a record 5.8 million viewers.

Among the most notable lessons Brady learned was choosing more appropriate attire.

“I shouldn’t wear the same pants to golf that I wear to church,” Brady said.

After a rocky first six holes, Brady made the shot of his life, birdying the Par-5 seventh hole from 100+ yards, but splitting his pants right down the seam, in front of the camera while bending over. Thankfully, Brady was able to get ahold of another pair to finish the tournament.

Brady joked on Twitter after the event, “Pants wanted in on social distancing I guess.”

He and Mickelson wound up losing by one hole.

“Peyton is as clutch as ever,” Brady wrote, adding, “As great as @philmickelson is as a golfer, he is a better man, coach and teammate and potentially had the best calves on the PGA tour” and “@tigerwoods was a great host and champion, and I was especially thankful he missed the putt on the 7th hole…had he made it, I would have just went home.”

Brady also said, “I really enjoy golf…At halftime of football games, we get checked for concussions. In golf, we get refreshments.”

Most importantly though, and to no one’s surprise if they watched the event, Brady said, “I’m sticking to my day job.”

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