Sunday Divisional Round Matchups: Cowboys, Chiefs Both Favorites

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The dynamics for a team with a red-hot quarterback often change when they go on the road, which is why Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys are a solid favorite against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

The Cowboys are listed as 4.5-point favorites against the Packers with a 51.5-point total, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Dallas is 7-0 straight-up and 5-2 against the spread in its last seven home games, but the fact that the Packers are 6-1 ATS in their last seven playoff games as a road underdog will no doubt give bettors pause.

The Packers, who are 11-6 SU and 9-7-1 ATS, need QB Aaron Rodgers to stay in peak form to have a shot at taking down Dallas, which does happen to be 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS in its last four divisional round games.

That doesn’t leave the Packers with much margin for error, especially since WR Jordy Nelson (ribs) may not play and the Cowboys will be able to pay more attention to WR Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Running the ball against OLB Sean Lee and Co. could also be tough for Green Bay.

The Cowboys, 13-3 SU and 10-5-1 ATS, have one of the NFL’s most balanced offenses outside of New England with the combo of Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. Provided LT Tryon Smith is healthy and handles OLB Clay Matthews, Dallas is capable of setting the pace. The Packers’ pass defense is spotty and as a team that is 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games after bye weeks, Dallas surely will have used the extra prep time to develop schemes to use WR Dez Bryant (seven TD in his last nine games).

The total has gone over in five of the Packers’ last six games on the road, according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

In Sunday’s other game, the Kansas City Chiefs are listed as the 1.5-point favorite against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 44-point total.

The Steelers, 12-5 SU and 10-6-1 ATS, with QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell, are experts in staying explosive even in the type of cold weather forecast for Kansas City on Sunday.

However, thanks to FS Eric Berry, the Chiefs excel at limiting long completions, and their defense, thanks to the return and/or emergence of DE Chris Jones, OLB Justin Houston and ILB Ramik Wilson, is much improved since that embarrassing defeat.

The Chiefs, 12-4 SU and 9-7 ATS, are the more likely team to come out ahead in the all-important turnover battle. Kansas City’s M.O. offensively is misdirection and the Steelers defense, which has had a steady diet of mediocre matchups over the last two months, are prone to missing tackles.

Having to account for speedster Tyreek Hill may create some big openings for RB Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware. Quarterback Alex Smith and his offensive line have also improved at providing ball security as the season has progressed.

Kansas City coach Andy Reid is 3-0 SU in divisional round games after a bye. The total has gone under in the Chiefs’ last six games after consecutive wins.

Last year all four home teams won in the divisional round. In the last three years the visiting team is 7-3-2 ATS in the divisional round.

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.