NFL playoff odds: Redskins underdogs, Cowboys favorites

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The Washington Redskins have followed up their surprising first-place finish in the NFC East last year with a productive offseason, inking pivot Kirk Cousins and free agent cornerback Josh Norman. However, they remain underdogs on the odds to make the NFL playoffs in the upcoming  season at a betting line of +160 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Redskins open the upcoming NFL campaign with a visit from Pittsburgh, followed by a stretch of six games against clubs who amassed losing records a year ago.

But with the division-rival Cowboys and Giants expected to improve on their poor 2015 performances Washington trails on the NFC East futures at +275, and are also pegged as early 3-point home underdogs in their Week 1 game against the Steelers at FedExField.

While the Redskins sit as a -200 wager to miss next year’s playoffs, the Cowboys are favored to return to contention following their worst campaign since 1989.

With their backfield bolstered by the addition of fourth-overall pick Ezekiel Elliott, and a healthy Tony Romo expected back under center, the Cowboys’ odds of returning to the playoffs are a strong -140 at the sportsbooks.

However, Romo’s good health remains central to the club’s success, and is a factor in Dallas’ short +110 odds of missing the playoffs yet again.

Dallas has strengthened their position as favorites to win the NFC East, improving to +175 after opening at +200, while the Giants have risen slightly to +225 and are an even-money bet to clinch a playoff berth after winning just six games a year ago.

Confidence in the Philadelphia Eagles is far lower, with the team tumbling as far as +450 on the NFC East odds, and listed as a -275 wager to miss the playoffs for a third straight season.

Meanwhile, the departure of quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler and defensive tackle Malik Jackson have made it a difficult offseason for the Denver Broncos, but the defending Super Bowl champions are a solid -150 bet to reach the playoffs.

The Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and Seattle Seahawks own the best odds of seeing playoff action, each sitting at -500, while the Carolina Panthers closely trail at -450.

At the other end of the board the Tennessee Titans have taken significant steps to improve on last year’s feeble 3-13 record but maintain low +400 odds of claiming a playoff berth, ahead of the Cleveland Browns at +600 and the San Francisco 49ers at a distant +750.

O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing draws ‘hundreds of letters’ regarding case

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O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing in Nevada on Thursday drew nationwide attention, and the Board of Parole Commissioners demonstrated that by showing the “hundreds of letters of support and opposition” for Simpson.

The commissioner noted that a majority of the opposition letters asked the board to consider Simpson’s 1995 acquittal in the murder case of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman and the subsequent civil case that ordered Simpson to pay $25 million to the victims’ families. But the letters were not considered in the case, in which the board paroled the former football star after he was sentenced to nine years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping in 2007 when he attempted to retrieve memorabilia that he claimed belonged to him.

The commissioner displayed what appeared to be five stacks of letters and said that the board “always encourages public opinion.” The parole hearing received widespread public attention, broadcast live nationally and drawing hundreds of reporters.

Simpson could be released as early as October.

Parole commissioner makes awkward-yet-hilarious slip up in O.J. Simpson’s hearing

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O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing Thursday captured moments of remorse and regret from the former Heisman running back but also a moment that was awkward, embarrassing and, frankly, comedic.

When the chairman of the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners, Connie Bisbee, was verifying Simpson’s information, she made an unfortunate slip.

“We have that you are currently — well very recently you turned 90 years old,” Bisbee said to Simpson. After she realized she added a full 20 years to the 70-year-old Simpson’s actual age, Bisbee quickly apologized and corrected herself.

Laughing, Simpson responded “I feel like it, though.” The courtroom burst out laughing in a short moment of comedic relief.

It was announced shortly after the hearing that Simpson’s parole had been granted. Simpson is on track to be a freed man this year.