Without Brady, Patriots Set as Betting Underdogs on Road at Cardinals

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The New England Patriots have more intrigue than usual entering their daunting matchup against the Arizona Cardinals in the first Sunday Night Football game of the NFL season.

The Patriots, ahead of backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo making his first NFL start in place of suspended Tom Brady, are 6.5-point underdogs against the host Cardinals with a total of 45.5 points at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The line has shifted since reports that All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring), along with LT Nate Solder and RG Jonathan Cooper, did not travel on the Patriots’ flight to Arizona on Friday, although there is the possibility they have stayed back for treatment. New England has not been an underdog by this large a margin since Brady was out with a knee injury in 2008.

The Patriots are 3-4 straight up and 3-4 against the spread in their last seven games as a road underdog according to the OddsShark NFL Database. Garoppolo, a third-year NFLer, did not throw an interception in the preseason, but he might be hard-pressed to keep that up against a talented Arizona pass defense that includes All-Pro CB Patrick Peterson and FS Tyrann Mathieu.

If Gronkowski, who is officially listed as questionable, is unable to play, the next TE up for the Patriots is Martellus Bennett, a former starter with the Chicago Bears. The Patriots’ concerns on the offensive line also raise questions about whether they will be able to limit disruptions by Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones, whom New England traded away last season.

Arizona is 8-2 SU but only 2-8 ATS in its last 10 home games vs. AFC teams, and was also just 3-6 ATS last season at University of Phoenix Stadium. Quarterback Carson Palmer, RB David Johnson and veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald have their work cut out for them against what was a top-10 defense last season and has playmakers such as OLB Jamie Collins and CB Malcolm Butler.

Who will generate a pass rush for New England in the Sunday Night Football matchup remains in question, since Jones is gone and DE Rob Ninkovich is suspended for testing positive for a banned substance.

The Cardinals are 20-4 SU in Palmer’s last 24 starts, as well as 7-0 SU in their last seven September games. The total has gone over six of the last seven times that New England was listed as an underdog. The total has gone under in four of the last five Patriots-Cardinals games.

Drew Brees, Le’Veon Bell Favorites in NFL Season Leader Props

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When it comes to betting props on NFL individual leaders, the tried-and-true works for picking a passing yards leader while rushing and receiving leaders are a little more random.

With training camps set to open in a matter of days, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a +300 favorite to lead the NFL in passing yards at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Brees has led (or co-led) the NFL in aerial yards five times in the last six seasons, with the lone exception coming in 2013 when Peyton Manning complied a NFL-record 5,477.

Brees will still have Willie Snead and Michael Thomas as outlets for his passes and, assuming the Saints’ defense stays near the bottom of the league, will have the opportunity to get into a few offensive shootouts.

The Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan (+400) and New England Patriots’ Tom Brady (+500) are the next two on the board. Ryan and the Falcons are likely to face a tougher schedule than what it turned out they had in 2016. Brady has only led the NFL in yards once, in 2007, and would be the oldest player to do so if he succeeds this season.

Based on 2016 won-loss records, the Indianapolis Colts and QB Andrew Luck (+1400) have the easiest schedule in the league, which could lead to Luck putting up some big numbers against softer competition. Another valid darkhorse play is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston (+1600), since he will have a 1-2 punch at receiver with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson and a team that still relies on being pass-heavy.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell (+300) and Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott (+350) are tightly bunched atop the NFL rushing champion futures board. Bell will no doubt be among the leaders in yards from scrimmage per game, but he’s only played 16 games once in four seasons. While there hasn’t been a back-to-back rushing leader in 10 years, Elliott will be running behind an excellent Dallas offensive line.

The Los Angeles Rams’ third-year workhorse Todd Gurley (+2000) will be in a new offensive system and, hopefully for the Rams, will be better complemented by second-year QB Jared Goff in the passing phase. That would give Gurley a fairer shot at breaking big runs on the regular.

Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (+400) and Atlanta’s Julio Jones (+400) are co-favorites on the odds to tally the most receiving yards, with the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham (+500) also coming in highly touted. Brown had two fewer targets per game in 2016 than in ’15, meaning he might be a less high-volume receiver now that he is 29. Jones has a receiving title from 2015, but last season the Falcons were most efficient when they spread the ball around.

Last year, the Indianapolis Colts’ T.Y. Hilton (+1200 this year) led the league in yards after being listed at +3300 in the preseason. Among the potential 2017 replicants are New England’s Brandin Cooks (+3300), who is expected to be the field-stretching target the Patriots have managed to do without since the Randy Moss days a decade ago. The aforementioned Mike Evans (+1200) is also close to a sure thing to get 11-12 targets per game in Tampa Bay and the continued development of Winston could make him a 1,500-yard receiver.

The last 12 league leaders in receiving yardage have been less than 30 years old at the start of the season. That trend has been consistent dating to the mid-1990s, with 19 of the last 21 receiving leaders being players who were no older than 29 at the start of the season.

Internet reacts to O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing

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In case you weren’t aware, O.J. Simpson was granted parole and the internet went crazy.

Cue hilarious tweets.