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NFL playoffs – Betting nuggets for the divisional round



This is the first time the Chiefs and Packers both had the best outright record in their league/conference since 1966, when Kansas City had the best record in the AFL and Green Bay had the best record in the NFL and they met in Super Bowl I. Will history repeat itself?

Here are betting nuggets for each divisional playoff game this weekend and the full schedule.

Odds listed are from Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill and subject to change.

Saturday’s games

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (-6.5, 45.5), 4:35 p.m. ET

• Since the NFL added the wild-card round in 1978, teams that pulled off outright upsets in that round are 25-35-1 ATS in the divisional round.

Aaron Rodgers is 6-0 ATS in his career against the Rams, and Green Bay has covered seven straight meetings overall dating back to 2007.

• All five Green Bay playoff games since 2016 have gone over the total.

• Twelve of the 17 Rams games this season have gone under the total.

• All seven outdoor playoff games in weather below 32 degrees since 2017 went over the total. All four outdoor games below 32 degrees this season went over the total.

Jared Goff is 0-2 ATS and outright in his career in games below freezing with zero passing touchdowns and five interceptions.

• The current spread of 6.5 is tied for the second-largest underdog spread in a Rams game since Sean McVay took over.

• The Rams are 21-13 ATS on the road under McVay.

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (-2.5, 50), 8:15 p.m. ET

• Baltimore is 9-1 ATS and 7-3 outright as an underdog since drafting Lamar Jackson in 2018. Jackson is 6-1 ATS and 5-2 outright as an underdog.

• Jackson is 14-3-2 ATS in his career on the road.

• Buffalo has covered eight of its last nine games, though its eight-game cover streak ended last week against Indianapolis.

• Buffalo is 7-1 ATS this season when the line is between +3 and -3.

• Bills games are 12-4-1 to the over this season, tied for the second-highest mark in the league.

• Baltimore is 11-5-1 ATS this season, tied with Miami (11-5) for the best mark in the league. Buffalo is 11-6 ATS, the third-best mark in the league.

Sunday’s games

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-10, 57), 3:05 p.m. ET

• Kansas City is 1-7 ATS in its last eight games. The only cover in that span was a three-point win over New Orleans when the line closed at -2.5 after being -3 most of the week. The Chiefs are 0-4 ATS at home in that span and 0-3 ATS as a double-digit favorite in that span.

• Cleveland is the 10th team since 1997 to win at least 11 games in the regular season and be a double-digit underdog in the playoffs. The previous nine went 8-1 ATS and 4-5 outright. And since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, 11-win teams are 11-5-1 ATS as double-digit playoff underdogs.

• The current total of 57 (as of Wednesday) ties the highest in a divisional playoff game in the last 35 seasons. In the 2009 divisional round, New Orleans beat Arizona, 45-14, going over the number of 57. All four playoff games since 1986 with a total of 57 or higher went over.

• Double-digit favorites are 6-1 ATS in the divisional round since 2010.

Patrick Mahomes is 4-1 ATS in the playoffs (3-0 last season).

• Mahomes is 5-7 ATS in his career as a double-digit favorite and 26-13 ATS in all other games.

• Since 2014, reigning Super Bowl champions are 4-1 ATS in their first playoff game the following season.

Baker Mayfield is 0-4 ATS in his career as more than a 7-point underdog. He is 0-2 ATS as a double-digit underdog.

• Cleveland is 3-10 ATS in conference games this season.

• Cleveland has lost 22 consecutive games as a double-digit underdog, the longest active streak in the league. The Browns’ last win as a double-digit underdog came in 2010 at New Orleans.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-3, 52), 6:40 p.m. ET

• New Orleans has won and covered five straight meetings. Tom Brady has never gone 0-3 ATS or SU against one team in a single season in his career.

Drew Brees is 5-2 outright and ATS in his career against Brady. Brees’ 5-2 record is the best among 17 quarterbacks to face Brady at least five times (including the playoffs).

• History shows the cliché of “it’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season” is overblown. In the Super Bowl era, teams that won the first two meetings are 14-8 outright in the third meeting, though they are just 10-11-1 ATS.

• New Orleans beat Tampa Bay by 46 combined points in its regular-season sweep. That’s the highest point differential in a sweep for any team entering a third meeting against an opponent in a single season. However, in each of the previous three highest instances, the team that got swept in the regular season won the playoff rematch outright as at least a 6-point underdog.

• All four New Orleans playoff games since 2018 have gone under.

• New Orleans has covered the last four times it has been a home favorite.

• Tampa Bay is 2-1 ATS and 1-2 outright as an underdog this season. Brady is 39-17-1 ATS as an underdog in his career (34-23 outright). Brady is 4-3 ATS and outright as a playoff underdog.

• Tampa Bay is 1-4 outright and 2-3 ATS against teams that finished with winning records. Since 2015, the under is 21-8 in Tom Brady starts with a total in the 50s (15-5 since 2017).

• New Orleans is 7-1 ATS and outright when Michael Thomas plays this season.

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With Carson Wentz gone, will Eagles hand the keys to Jalen Hurts? – Philadelphia Eagles Blog



PHILADELPHIA — OK, Carson Wentz has been traded. What’s the plan at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles and how does it include Jalen Hurts?

The questions become the central focus of the offseason now that Wentz Watch wrapped with a deal to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round draft pick in 2021 and a conditional second-round pick in ’22.

The Eagles have several options, including:

  • Hand the keys to Hurts, their second-round pick from a year ago, and add a supportive veteran to back him up.

  • Sign or trade for a quarterback to compete for the Eagles’ starting role.

  • Use the No. 6 overall pick, or even trade up, to select a quarterback in April’s draft, whether it be Zach Wilson (BYU), Trey Lance (North Dakota State), Justin Fields (Ohio State) or Mac Jones (Alabama).

We know, for starters, that the Eagles’ decision-makers like Hurts. There were mixed opinions of him inside the building leading up to last year’s draft, but he had some strong advocates, including Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, sources said. Hurts breathed life into the offense when he took over for Wentz over the final quarter of the season and led Philadelphia to an upset Week 14 win against the New Orleans Saints in his first career start. But Hurts cooled some down the stretch and finished with a 52% completion rate and six touchdowns to four interceptions while rushing for 354 yards and three scores.

Last season confirmed to management Hurts has a chance to succeed in the NFL, but given the small sample size and mixed results on the field, it would be impossible to know for sure whether he is the guy.

We know investing heavily in the quarterback position is a principal organizational philosophy. It has worked out spectacularly at times, as the statue of former Philly QB Nick Foles outside Lincoln Financial Field reminds us, and it backfired on them in a huge way this past year, with Wentz recoiling from the organization following the drafting of Hurts. Through the good and bad, the Eagles remain hyper-aware of the importance of getting that position right, and will continue to be aggressive toward that end.

Finally, we know the Eagles are salary-cap strapped. They absorbed a dead-cap hit of more than $33 million by trading Wentz and are currently projected to be about $50 million over the 2021 cap. They are not in great position to add a QB with a significant salary in free agency, and given that they’re in the midst of a rebuild, will be more reticent than normal to part with draft picks.

Given all those factors, expect the Eagles to look very closely at the top quarterbacks in this draft. They don’t intend on drafting this high up very often, and are feeling the weight of making the right decision with that No. 6 pick. If the best player is a non-QB, so be it. But if the Eagles identify what they believe to be a long-term solution at the most important position in football, and can have that player locked into a rookie contract for the next several seasons, then don’t be surprised if they pounce, even if it means another quarterback controversy in Philadelphia.

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Expect Buffalo Bills’ tight end room to feature new faces in 2021 – Buffalo Bills Blog



BUFFALO, N.Y. — Brandon Beane didn’t mince words during his end-of-season news conference in January, particularly when it came to the Buffalo Bills‘ tight ends.

The general manager had just seen his Bills’ defense get torched by the best tight end in the NFL for the second time during the 2020 season and admitted that his roster didn’t have a player comparable to Kansas City’s Travis Kelce. The combination of Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith and 2019 third-round pick Dawson Knox combined for 442 yards and eight touchdowns during the 2020 season, which will likely convince Beane to upgrade the position this offseason.

“We just never really got that position,” Beane said. “At the end of the year, I thought we did a little bit, Dawson started to get his groove. But it was never where the opposing defense was like, ‘man, we’ve got to stop their tight ends from going off.’ So we’ll into look to that group.

“At the end of the day, we’d love to have a guy like what we just faced in Kansas City — they don’t come very often. But that’s what we want. We’ve got some guys here we want to continue to develop and see what happens. Obviously, if there’s ways to add competition, whether that’s in free agency or the draft, we would do that, as well.”

Buffalo’s tight ends, to be fair, dealt with adversity this past season.

Knox, 24, entered the season on the heels of a promising rookie campaign, in which he dropped a league-high 20% of his passes but flashed some playmaking ability that enticed Beane to trade up for him in 2019. Although his drop percentage declined significantly, Knox missed four games in 2020 as he battled a calf injury and COVID-19, and thus struggled to find his rhythm.

Kroft, on the other hand, was twice placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list — once as a close-contact and again after registering a positive test. He played 10 games but was a healthy scratch when all the Bills’ tight ends were healthy.

Beane mentioned adding competition this offseason and there are several options.

Buffalo should keep tabs on a couple of big-name veterans this offseason, starting with Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith, who essentially matched the Bills tight ends’ production by himself this past season (he had 41 catches, 448 yards and eight touchdowns). Spotrac lists Smith’s market value at $8 million per year, which is on the higher end of affordability for Buffalo this offseason. With the NFL salary cap set to be no lower than $180 million, the Bills could be anywhere between $1 million over the cap and roughly $4 million under it, factoring in some of the Bills’ decisions on their own free agents. Buffalo’s in Smith could depend on how badly it wants to upgrade the position.

Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz is believed to be available via trade, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported. It might be worth the Bills exploring a trade for a player who put together six consecutive seasons of 700 or more receiving yards entering the 2020 season.

The Bills can also look to the draft to improve their tight end room. The clear-cut gem of the 2021 draft class is Florida’s Kyle Pitts — but with the No. 30 pick, it’s highly unlikely the Bills trade up for the tight end who is expected to be a top-10 pick.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. offered a few options for Buffalo later in the draft, suggesting Pat Freiermuth from Penn State as a possible second-round option. The 6-foot-5, 250-pouind tight end could instantly impact the Bills’ passing offense if they decide to spend the No. 61 pick on him. Kiper also listed Boston College’s Hunter Long as a third-round option, and Georgia’s Tre’ McKitty or Mississippi’s Kenny Yeboah as options in the fifth round.

Regardless of which route Beane decides on, expect the Bills’ tight end room to look a bit different by the time training camp comes around.

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Even with additional cap room, Dallas Cowboys face a space crunch – Dallas Cowboys Blog



FRISCO, Texas — When it comes to the 2021 NFL salary cap, every little bit helps the Dallas Cowboys.

With the NFL moving the salary cap floor from $175 million to $180 million, that extra space would help the Cowboys whether they use the franchise tag on quarterback Dak Prescott for a second straight year or sign the quarterback to a multiyear deal.

Even with the $5 million increase, the Cowboys would not have the room to fit the $37.7 million franchise tag figure, nor the likely first-year cap number on a new contract for Prescott. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cowboys are projected to have $14.5 million in room, which includes the unused space the team carried over from the 2020 cap.

In order to create the room necessary to keep Prescott, add free agents and sign draft picks, the Cowboys will have to restructure contracts or cut players.

The issue with restructuring is it takes away future salary-cap space and can make it more difficult to release players in the years to come because the dead money hit is so great.

Last year, the Cowboys restructured the deals for offensive tackle Tyron Smith, guard Zack Martin and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence to create $27 million in salary-cap space that was always intended to carry over to 2021. In a perfect world, the Cowboys would not touch those contracts now, but it’s not a perfect world.

Smith’s contract is the one to avoid. He has not played a full season since 2015, and he played in two games last season before undergoing neck surgery. While Smith, 30, remains one of the best left tackles in the NFL when healthy, the “when healthy,” part is a major issue.

There is guesswork involved with Martin and Lawrence because of their health, too. Martin, 30, missed six games last season because of a concussion and a calf strain. Lawrence, 28, has dealt with knee issues recently. Do the Cowboys take a risk and rework their deals, which could create about $17 million in space?

The most obvious candidate for a contract restructure is wide receiver Amari Cooper. The Cowboys can turn about $19 million of his $20 million base salary into a signing bonus and create $14 million (or so) in room. But what’s the downside? The plus of the Cooper deal at the time of signing was the Cowboys could get out of it after the second year with a $6 million cap hit in 2022. If they restructure Cooper in 2021, they could chew up almost all of the savings they would have gained should they walk away.

Again, not a perfect world.

Offensive tackle La’el Collins is another candidate. The Cowboys could gain a little more than $6 million in room by reworking his contract. Even though Collins did not play last season because of hip surgery, he turns 28 in July, so he should be entering the prime of his career. Last week his agent, Deryk Gilmore, tweeted that his client is not retiring, cutting down a rumor Collins might have been considering walking away.

Again, not a perfect world.

What about running back Ezekiel Elliott? His $9.6 million 2021 base salary is already fully guaranteed. His $12 million base salary in 2022 becomes fully guaranteed in March. In all likelihood, he is tied to the Cowboys the next two seasons. By restructuring Elliott’s contract, the Cowboys could gain about $6 million in space but would add signing bonus proration to future years that could make it harder to cut.

There are some other options, such as releasing linebacker Jaylon Smith, but only as a post-June 1 designee, which would open up $7.2 million in space this year and cost Dallas $6.8 million in 2022. Releasing punter Chris Jones would net them $2 million, and it’s important to note that Hunter Niswander, who took over after Jones had core muscle surgery last season, performed well. Most of the remaining moves would be like finding coins under a couch cushion.

None of the options are perfect decisions for the Cowboys, but the extra $5 million for the cap helps at least a little. (Of course, another $5 million-$10 million toward the cap floor wouldn’t hurt Dallas, either.)

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