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Garoppolo, Patriots among favorites on Week 2 NFL betting slate

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With Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting quarterback, the New England Patriots are out to continue their pattern of getting a boost from winning as an underdog.

The Patriots are listed as 6.5-point favorites, with a total of 41.5, for their home opener vs. the Miami Dolphins at sportsbooks monitored by New England is 9-1 straight-up and 5-4-1 against the spread in its last 10 September home games, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. New England is 7-0 SU in its last seven games after winning as an underdog. The Dolphins are 2-6 ATS over their last eight games.

The Green Packers are 2.5-point road favorites against the Minnesota Vikings with a total of 45 for their Sunday Night Football matchup. The Packers are 10-2-1 SU in their last 13 games against Minnesota, but the Vikings are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games against teams with winning records. The NFC North rivals’ last three games have gone under.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3.5-point home favorites against the Cincinnati Bengals, with a total of 47.5. The Steelers are 5-1 SU in their last six games against Cincinnati. The Bengals are 7-0 SU and 6-0-1 ATS in their last seven September games.

The Houston Texans are two-point favorites against the Kansas City Chiefs, with a total of 43.5. The Texans are 6-2 SU and ATS in their last eight games with a closing total of 43.5 or less. The Chiefs are 10-1 SU in their last 11 games after a win. The total has gone under in Houston’s last five home games.

The Washington Redskins are favored by 3.5 points against the Dallas Cowboys, with a total of 44.5. Washington is 4-1 SU and ATS in their last five NFC East matchups. The Cowboys are 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games against the Redskins. The total has gone under in five of the teams’ last seven meetings.

The New York Giants are 4.5-point favorites at home against the New Orleans Saints, with a 52.5 total, the highest of the week. The favored team is 9-1 SU in the last 10 games in this matchup. The Saints are on a run of being 10-3 ATS as an underdog. The total has gone over in six of the Giants’ last seven home games.

The Thursday Night Football matchup between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills is listed as a pick’em, with a total of 40.5. The Bills are 8-3 SU and ATS in their last 11 games after a loss. The Jets are 0-5 SU and ATS in their last five games against the Bills. The total has gone under in 10 of the Bills’ last 14 games as home favorites.

The Chicago Bears are three-point favorites against the Philadelphia Eagles with a total of 43 for their Monday Night Football matchup. The Bears are 1-7 ATS in their last eight games as a favorite of three points or more. The total has gone over in six of the Eagles’ last seven games with a closing total of 42.5 or more.

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 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.