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NFL MVP, Super Bowl futures watch

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The MVP race is starting to crystallize a bit, as some of the contenders have seemingly become pretenders. Obviously things can still change with 10 weeks remaining but the main candidates are currently correlated to team success.

MVP options

Following losses by both Arizona and Tampa Bay, Josh Allen has established himself as the betting favorite (+300). This is something we anticipated at a 10-1 price, given Buffalo’s relatively easy remaining schedule at the time. The Bills are also the Super Bowl betting favorites, cementing the concept yet again that this award is connected to the QB of a top seed.

Dak Prescott (+750) looms as an attractive price but his team also just won without him. Will the Dallas Cowboys take additional precautionary measures this season? I would pass. Matthew Stafford (+600) is a strong candidate, as the Rams are one of four one-loss teams atop the NFC. I’d pass right now.

The two guys that have caught my eye are Tom Brady (+550) and Aaron Rodgers (+900). Brady is entering the bye week but the Bucs next face four teams with losing records and then host both the Bills and Saints. Those could be huge games for this race. Rodgers’ case is pretty self-explanatory, after waltzing into Arizona and dethroning the league’s remaining undefeated team without his top three wide receivers. The Packers do have some difficult games left but two opponents seem more beatable now, given Kansas City’s struggles and Seattle having to endure life without Russell Wilson.

MVP Favorites

Josh Allen +300
Kyler Murray +500
Tom Brady +550
Matthew Stafford +600
Dak Prescott +750
Aaron Rodgers +900
Lamar Jackson +2000
Justin Herbert +3000
Derek Carr +4000
Patrick Mahomes +5000
Joe Burrow +5000

Super Bowl options

The Kansas City Chiefs demonstrated once again on Monday night why they should not be considered Super Bowl contenders but their 13-1 odds still seem way too favorable. There is nothing about them that feels like they warrant a wager. Additionally, for me, Kansas City sort of serves as a line of demarcation where I would not consider any team below them on the betting board. However, the Los Angeles Chargers (25-1) and New England Patriots (60-1) offer some intrigue though.

Among the favorites, the Bills truly feel like they are poised for the top seed. I understand they stumbled in Tennessee but the remaining schedule is so favorable. In my eyes, they are the conference’s best team so I could not fault anyone for a play at +550. Remember, if they land home-field advantage, The Ralph will be raucous and chilly for visiting teams.

As for the NFC, you could certainly make a strong case for the Cowboys at 10-1. I still believe the defense has some concerns and a Mike McCarthy mishap will likely cost them a key game, perhaps in the playoffs. But Dak Prescott makes this team so offensively potent so the defense just needs to be decent and McCarthy hasn’t even cost Dallas a cover (7-0 ATS), let alone a loss. He just feels like the guy at third base on the blackjack table who’s making horrendous decisions; eventually, you’re going to leave the table – and possibly be broke.

Super Bowl futures

Buffalo Bills +550
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +600
Los Angeles Rams +650
Green Bay Packers +900
Dallas Cowboys +1000
Arizona Cardinals +1100
Baltimore Ravens +1100
Kansas City Chiefs +1300
Tennessee Titans +1600
Los Angeles Chargers +2500
New Orleans Saints +3000
Cleveland Browns +4000

Other awards to watch

  • The Tennessee Titans just lost Derrick Henry for the season but they are still -1600 favorites to win the AFC South. That’s clearly because they hold a three-game lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Indianapolis Colts. Carson Wentz reverted back to the 2020 version and now it seems farfetched envisioning Indy surpassing Tennessee. But then again, +900 for a team that has a stout defense and is well-coached does seem tempting, given Henry’s injury. For example, I’d much rather bet on the Packers (-2000) to win their division than I would the Titans. However, neither is a logical wager.

  • The conversation is officially underway. Caesars Sportsbook is offering +425 on the Lions becoming the NFL’s first 0-17 team. After getting blown out as 3.5-point home underdogs, Detroit is making me a believer. I do think Dan Campbell has established healthy morale but at some point the losing becomes too much. I only see two potential wins. The first is at home to the Bears, who defeated them by 10 points at Soldier Field. The other is hosting the Packers in Week 18, when Green Bay could rest several starters. I am probably going to pull the trigger this week.

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San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, LB Fred Warner out 1-2 weeks, coach Kyle Shanahan says

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers breathed a collective sigh of relief Monday after receiving important injury news on two of their best players.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that receiver Deebo Samuel and linebacker Fred Warner suffered groin and hamstring strains, respectively, in San Francisco’s 34-26 victory Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings.

The bad news is that both will miss at least Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. But Shanahan was more pleased by the fact that both players aren’t expected to miss more than a game or two as the 6-5 Niners make their push for an NFC playoff spot.

“That’s what I was kind of telling you guys last night that I hope for that it was just a strain,” Shanahan said. “And strains usually [last] anywhere from one to two weeks. I think it was very good news considering what it could have been.”

According to Shanahan, both Samuel and Warner could return as soon as the Dec. 12 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Barring a setback, both would be expected back in time for a Dec. 19 home game against the Atlanta Falcons.

While the Niners got relatively good news in the big picture, the loss of Samuel and Warner even for one week is significant.

Samuel has been the team’s most productive offensive player, establishing himself as the league’s premier multidimensional weapon.

On Sunday, Samuel became just the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards, five rushing touchdowns and five receiving scores in the same season.

Without Samuel, the Niners will look to second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk to continue building on his recent surge, as well as the likes of tight end George Kittle, wideout Jauan Jennings and a burgeoning running game.

“He’s been a big part of our offense,” Shanahan said. “But I think we’re in a spot right now that we can overcome that.”

Replacing Warner also won’t be easy, especially since it’s something the Niners haven’t had to do at any point in his three-plus seasons. When he misses Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, it will be the first contest Warner has missed since he came into the league in 2018, snapping a streak of 59 consecutive regular-season starts.

When Warner departed in the third quarter against the Vikings, the Niners turned to Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles to step in at middle linebacker with Azeez Al-Shaair remaining at weakside linebacker.

How that plays out this week will depend on the status of fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Greenlaw also left Sunday’s game with what Shanahan described as an “irritation” of the core muscle injury that had kept him out since Week 1. Greenlaw is considered day-to-day this week.

And with strongside linebacker Marcell Harris in the concussion protocol, the 49ers figure to enter the Seattle game woefully thin at linebacker. That puts even more onus on Al-Shaair, who had an interception and a fumble recovery in the win against Minnesota.

“Azeez has been ready for anything we’ve asked him to do,” Shanahan said. “He always runs around and plays like his hair is on fire and he loves playing the football game. That’s not changing, but he’s just getting more and more confident of where to be, what to anticipate … He’s been playing at a high level all year and whether he’s inside or outside, I expect it to continue, we need it to continue, because he’s one of the reasons we’re playing pretty good right now.”

Elsewhere on the injury front, running back Trey Sermon suffered an ankle sprain that Shanahan said will keep him out “for a little while” and makes him a candidate to head to injured reserve with a chance to return later in the season.

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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers not expected to have surgery to repair broken toe during bye week

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are expected to use rest — not surgery — to help the quarterback’s fractured pinkie toe heal.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Monday that Rodgers is “gathering other opinions, so we’ll see where that goes,” but a source said those opinions are not expected to lead to surgery during this week’s bye.

The Packers (9-3) are off until Dec. 12, when they’ll face the Chicago Bears in a Sunday night prime-time game.

“The most important thing is healing and taking care of my toe,” Rodgers said Sunday when asked about his bye-week plans.

NFL Network reported earlier on Monday that Rodgers does not plan to have surgery.

Rodgers said he fractured the toe during his COVID-19 quarantine earlier this month, and he has played in the past three games since with almost no on-field practice preparations.

The only full-fledged practice he took part in during that stretch was on Nov. 19, two days before the Packers’ loss at Minnesota. He said he received a pain-killing injection at halftime of the game against the Vikings but did not need one to play in Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Rams.

“The difference is I didn’t have to get shot up again at halftime, so definitely the healing this week not practicing [helped],” Rodgers said after he threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s 36-28 win over the Rams.

“Last week, I tried to do some stuff on Friday, felt like we needed maybe a little jolt and that kind of impacted Sunday a little bit from a pain standpoint. This week, I just did a walk-through on Saturday and obviously all the walk-throughs during the week, but no practice time, I think really helped. It definitely helped looking at the scans. The healing, kind of get to a better spot, so I’ve definitely felt better, but third quarter, late third, early fourth and I got stepped on early in the game, there was definitely some pain I was dealing with.”

Rodgers even had a rushing touchdown on Sunday, beating Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey around the edge for a 1-yard score. In the past two games combined, Rodgers has thrown for 692 yards and six touchdowns without an interception.

He said after Sunday’s game that he would make a decision about surgery after additional tests on Monday.

“The toe felt good most of the game,” Rodgers said. “Was just actually in talking with the docs. Not sure at this point; we’re going to do some more testing in the morning and get a better view of what’s going on in there, and then make a decision at that time.”

LaFleur said previously that he would leave the decision up to Rodgers and the medical staff.

“I’m not involved in any of those decisions, so I just take any information and hear it,” LaFleur said. “I don’t have ‘M.D.’ after my name. So I’ll let them handle that.”

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Dallas Cowboys DT Trysten Hill suspended two games for punching Las Vegas Raiders OG John Simpson

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The NFL suspended Cowboys defensive tackle Trysten Hill without pay for two games on Monday for punching Raiders guard John Simpson following Dallas’ Thanksgiving Day loss to Las Vegas.

The suspension was issued by NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan for violations of unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct rules.

“After the Las Vegas Raiders-Dallas Cowboys game on November 25, you engaged in conduct that this office considers unnecessary roughness and displays a lack of sportsmanship. Specifically, as both teams were shaking hands, you waited more than 50 seconds for your opponent at the 50-yard line. When you located him, you then walked toward him in the opposite direction of your locker room. You both engaged in a verbal chest-to-chest confrontation which you escalated by throwing an open hand punch to his facemask, forcible enough to cause your opponent’s helmet to come off,” Runyan wrote in the letter to Hill.

Hill is appealing the suspension, a source told ESPN’s Todd Archer. Derrick Brooks or James Thrash, who are jointly appointed and paid by the NFL and the NFLPA, will issue a ruling on the appeal.

If Hill’s suspension stands, he would be eligible to return to the Cowboys’ active roster on Monday, Dec. 13. He would miss games against the New Orleans Saints this Thursday and against the Washington Football Team on Dec. 12.

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