Packers underdogs against the Falcons in NFC Championship game

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The best defense is an unstoppable offense, and Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons simply haven’t been stopped when they are a healthy favorite.

The Falcons are listed as five-point favorites against red-hot Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers with an eye-popping 60-point total on the NFL lines for the NFC Championship Game at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

It is the sixth time this season the Falcons have given between 3.5 and 6.0 points, and while they are 3-2 straight-up and against the spread in that scenario they scored at least 28 points every time.

While the Falcons have to turn around some negative trends – such as 1-6 SU in their last seven games against the NFC North, according to the OddsShark NFL Database – it’s doubtful any collapse would be attributable to their offense.

The Packers, who are 12-6 SU and 10-7-1 ATS, have relied on Rodgers and his stellar pass protection to shred opposing defenses during their eight-win streak. It seems the only way to contain Rodgers is to blitz him. Although OLB Vic Beasley had 15.5 sacks in the regular season, the Falcons play straight defense more frequently than the NFL average.

It’s possible the Packers could repeat the scenario of recent weeks, with Rodgers getting scads of time to wait for a receiver to get open. That is contingent on the health of those receivers. Leading receiver Jordy Nelson (ribs) is a remote shot to play while Davante Adams (ankle), Geronimo Allison (leg), Jeff Janis (quadriceps) are each banged up.

Both RB Ty Montgomery and TE Jared Cook have become reliable cogs for the Packers since their loss to the Falcons last week. Atlanta does not have an overly strong run defense.

The Falcons, who are 12-5 SU and 11-6 ATS, do have to be concerned with how many snaps WR Julio Jones (toe) will be able to play on Sunday. The true linchpins in Atlanta’s attack, though, are RB Tevin Coleman and RB Devonta Freeman, whose versatility as ball carriers and receivers has to be accounted for at all times.

The Falcons are very physical in the rushing phase and it will be interesting to see whether the Packers are up to it after so many do-or-done games, including last week’s instant classic against Dallas where they gave up 125 yards to the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott.

Jones, WR Taylor Gabriel and WR Mohamed Sanu are facing a Packers pass defense that has struggled all season. Green Bay was among the NFL leaders in sacks, but the Falcons’ continuity along the offensive line (all five starters have been intact all season) should help them with making adjustments.

The favored team is 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS in the last three years in conference championship games.  The total has gone over in seven of the last 10 conference championship games.

NFL’s burning questions generate betting props at the sportsbooks

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The revolving door that is the Cleveland Browns quarterback job and props predicated on whether brilliant but sometimes brittle superstars Rob Gronkowski and J.J. Watt can stay healthy comprise some of the best NFL preseason betting props.

With the Browns holding what is tantamount to an open competition for their quarterback job, Cody Kessler is the -165 favorite on a prop based on who will be Cleveland’s Week 1 starter at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Kessler started eight games in 2016 before his season was cut short by a brain injury, and he’s been demoted in practice. Brock Osweiler (+130), whom the Houston Texans essentially paid the Browns to take off their hands, does have starting experience and has started so far in the preseason. Osweiler might be the safe pick for Cleveland coach Hue Jackson and bettors alike.

However, rookie DeShone Kizer (+800) out of Notre Dame offers the best value and has been splitting first-team reps at practice. But most teams are loath to start a rookie right away unless forced to by injury, like the Dallas Cowboys with Dak Prescott after Tony Romo got hurt in 2016.

Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt (+250) is the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year after an injury-shortened season that led to two back surgeries. Two other pass rushers extraordinaire, the Oakland Raiders DE Khalil Mack (+400) and Denver Broncos OLB Von Miller (+400), are also high on the board.

If Watt is able to play a full season, he’s a reasonable chalk pick, especially since he should have a lot of sack opportunities going against some weak pass blocking groups in the AFC South, as well as the NFC West, the division’s cross-over opponent.

Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald (+1200) will likely sign at some point and join what is a very strong D. While only three interior linemen have won DPOY in the last 40 years, Donald is just that good, though. No player on a losing team has won since recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Jason Taylor (2006 Miami Dolphins).

The total on how many games Gronkowski will play is 10.5, with over at -150 and the under pegged at +120. Gronkowski has played half the regular season or less twice in the last four years. The law of averages would push one toward the over; “Gronk” has never had two shortened seasons in a row.

Last but not least, the Washington Redskins’ failure to lock down QB Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal has led to oddsmakers taking bets on where Cousins will play in 2018. The San Francisco 49ers (+175) are favored, with Washington (+300) high on the board. The Miami Dolphins (+2000) might be in play as a darkhorse with starter Ryan Tannehill out for the season with a torn ACL.

The New York Jets (+2500) have the highest available price, but chances are they will look for their next QB in the 2018 draft.

Key & Peele paid Von Miller’s twerking fine

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D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

The former New York Jets lineman might not know it, but his epic polysyllabic name inspired more than just Key & Peele’s viral “East/West College Bowl” video, in which the comedic duo portray football players with increasingly creative names.

It also led them to pay Von Miller’s fine for twerking during a game.

The Broncos linebacker borrowed the celebration another popular Key & Peele video — “McCringleberry’s Excessive Celebration” — in which a football player learns just how much twerking he can do after scoring a touchdown.

“Jordan and I paid Von Miller’s fine. He had perfect form,” Keegan Michael Key said on “The Dan Patrick Show” Thursday morning. “It was 15 grand, so we each paid $7,000 to his foundation in Denver.”

Key gave Peele credit for coming up with most of the names in the videos, which Ferguson would eventually appear in as himself, but did reveal that he came up with “Dan Smith,” the fictional player in the video who attends BYU.

“The way I’ve always described Jordan creatively, is like if you had a vase of roses at a party, 100 people in the room and 99 people would say ‘Look at that gorgeous bouquet of roses,'” he said. “Jordan would say, “I wonder if that vase was made in Taiwan.'”