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Kaepernick, Niners Underdogs vs. Chargers as NFL Preseason Concludes

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Colin Kaepernick, who has been the most talked about athlete in America after his sitdown protest during the national anthem, will be in at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers when the NFL preseason ends on Thursday.

From a talent standpoint, Week 4 is the least exciting stage of the preseason, as most teams will rest stars and take a last look at players on the bubble ahead of final cuts. The 49ers haven’t decided on a starting QB between Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, and have confirmed that Kaepernick will play in their game against the San Diego Chargers.

The Chargers are listed as three-point favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, with a total of 39 points. The 49ers are 6-4 both straight up and against the spread in their last 10 preseason games as road underdogs. Six of those games have gone under the posted total. San Diego, which will count on backup QB Kellen Clemens, is 4-0-1 ATS in its last five tuneup games at Qualcomm Stadium according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

With Tony Romo injured, the Dallas Cowboys have a dilemma over whether to risk injury with rookie QB Dak Prescott or get him more experience by playing on Thursday. The Cowboys are one-point underdogs against the Houston Texans, with a total of 39. Dallas already plans to sit out their entire offensive line. Houston has an all-time 5-3 ATS record in preseason games against the Cowboys. Dallas is 4-12 SU and 6-10 ATS in the preseason since 2013.

The Philadelphia Eagles are listed as four-point favorites against the New York Jets, with a total of 39. It appears unlikely that the Eagles will use rookie Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick, and might in fact sit every starter except LB Mychal Kendricks.

The Jets have not ruled out playing backup QB Geno Smith, a former starter who could be sought out by a team in need of a seasoned second-stringer. The Eagles are 6-1 SU and ATS since 2013 in the preseason. New York is 3-6 SU and 3-6 ATS on the road over the last five preseasons.

The New England Patriots-New York Giants matchup will mark the last time that Tom Brady can play before serving his four-game Deflategate suspension. Still, the Patriots, who are listed as 2.5-point underdogs, don’t need Brady to prove anything, and nor do the projected winners of the AFC East need to get temporary starter Jimmy Garoppolo injured.

New England is 3-7 SU and 3-5-2 ATS versus the Giants in their annual preseason meeting. Six of those games went under the posted total. The Giants have a seasoned backup QB, Ryan Nassib, and WR Victor Cruz will likely get a lot of run as he returns from the knee injury that has cost him the last two seasons.

Veteran backup Matt Schaub has had a strong preseason, and his – well, Matt Ryan’s – Atlanta Falcons are listed at 3.5-point favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars for Thursday night. The total is 40. Atlanta is on a 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS run at home in the preseason. Over the last five preseasons, the Jaguars are 3-6 SU and 5-4 ATS while on the road

NBC Sports’ Josh Norris attempts the combine

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The lengths I go to entertain you.

Since I attempt to evaluate these prospects’ athleticism, my friends at NBC Sports thought it was only fair if I went through the same circuit of drills and tests as the future NFL players.

So what did I learn? I learned that I am no longer an in shape 18-year-old. I learned how important flexibility is for every single drill. I can’t even touch my toes, which does not help with the broad jump or turning the corner on a three cone. And I’m jealous of the rest these prospects get between their attempts.

For more of Josh’s drills, check out the full lineup here

T.O. controversy underscores need for Hall of Fame transparency

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I started down the T.O. Hall of Fame time out rabbit hole a week ago due primarily to concerns regarding a lack of transparency in the selection process. After a week of arguments, counterarguments, and a few condescending comments from voters who resent being questioned or criticized by people who don’t know the inner working of the process, I’m back to where I started.

Those who criticize the process indeed don’t know the inner workings of the process because the process is kept completely secret. And the T.O. case proves that the time has arrived for transparency.

As Peter King of TheMMQB.com pointed out earlier this week, those who voted against Owens largely have slipped into hiding.

The fact that Owens didn’t make it from the final 15 to the final 10 suggests that the nays are more plentiful than necessary to transform him from one of the final five into a Hall of Famer. Don’t underestimate, however, the possibility that the voters collectively realized that enough of them would never get behind Owens on the final ballot (where it takes only 10 to put the kibosh on Canton) to make pushing Owens to the final 10 or the final five an exercise in futility.

It ultimately may be only 10 people who are anti-T.O. Maybe there aren’t that many; maybe the handful was loud enough and zealous enough that they managed to convince enough of their peers to think that pushing Owens through to the final five would set the stage for an ugly filibuster at best or a complete waste of time (and a spot that could have gone to someone else) at worst.

The only obvious “no” votes currently known (by me) are Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News (he wrote a column about it), Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (ditto), Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts (he made his case against Owens in a radio interview), and Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report (his Twitter account makes his position clear). All of the “no” votes should be known, and those who have kept quiet while the process has been challenged generally and a small handful of their colleagues have been attacked specifically should speak up.

Even if all the “no” votes were known, we still won’t know everything that needs to be known. Those voters who have chosen to disclose their position on Owens refuse to disclose the identity of other Hall of Famers, players, and/or coaches who have privately said that Owens doesn’t belong. Setting aside the question of whether these non-voters should have so much sway over the process, the refusal to name them makes the process even harder to accept.

It’s one thing to gather facts anonymously. Gathering opinions anonymously allows for those anonymous opinions to be tainted by personal animus. Also, it makes objective assessment of the basis for the opinions impossible, allowing for all sorts of subjective factors to be twisted and warped — and for the voters to abdicate their responsibility to assess the candidate to the whispers of those who, given the benefit of secrecy, are far more likely to yield to the temptation of human factors.

The broader concern is this: When evaluating a player based on what he did on a 100-by-53-yard patch of grass or FieldTurf or green cement, it’s easy to assess the opinions of the voters and to develop opinions on the accuracy of the outcome of the votes. When things that happened from the sideline to the parking lot become relevant to the process, it becomes impossible to know what is being considered, why it’s being considered, which others have made it through despite similar concerns, and whether those standards will be applied to future candidates.

There can be no consistency without transparency, and with no transparency it’s impossible for those who view Owens as a knee-jerk Hall of Famer to understand his omission for a second straight year. The voters who oppose Owens can either sneer at those of us who think they got it wrong or they can heed the criticisms, lobby for meaningful change, and bring a different approach to the process in 2018.

If it’s the former, there will be more sneering at those of us who think they got it wrong, both as to Owens and as to others who seem to pass the Hall of Fame eyeball test but can’t get in.