Super Bowl 51: Odds steady for New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons

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With each team seemingly as much of a picture of health as it can be after 18 games, the New England Patriots remain a field-goal favorite against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Patriots are listed as three-point favorites against the Falcons with a 59.5-point total in the Super Bowl 51 matchup, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The NFL championship game takes place at NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday, where 13 seasons ago the Patriots won the second of their four titles.

New England is 4-6 straight-up and against the spread in its last 10 games as a favorite of four or fewer points. Since Dan Quinn took over the Falcons in 2015, they are 8-2 SU and ATS as a underdog of four points or fewer, but obviously none of those were playoff games, let alone a Super Bowl.

The reason the lines have not shifted is that both teams got through the NFC and AFC Championship Games relatively unscathed. The Falcons, who are 13-5 SU and 12-6 ATS, have two major components of their league-leading offense, WR Julio Jones (sprained toe) and C Alex Mack (left fibula), back on the field at practice.

Quinn was the defensive coordinator when the Seattle Seahawks went to two Super Bowls, routing the Denver Broncos at the end of the 2013 season and coming up one yard short – thanks, Pete Carroll – against the Patriots in 2014.

Quinn-guided teams are 7-1 SU in their last eight playoff games. Atlanta, which has NFL sack leader Vic Beasley Jr. helping it generate pressure with a four-man pass rush – a must since Tom Brady shreds blitzes – is allowing five fewer points per game in the playoffs than in the regular season.

Incidentally, there are +300 odds on Matt Ryan winning regular-season MVP and Super Bowl MVP, which hasn’t been accomplished since Kurt Warner in the 1999 season. Seven of the last eight quarterbacks who collected regular-season MVP hardware after leading their team to a conference title lost in the Super Bowl, including Tom Brady in 2007.

The Patriots are 16-2 SU and 15-3 ATS and their only new injury of note is run-stuffing DT Alan Branch (toe). The bye week should be a salve for WR Chris Hogan (thigh), WR Danny Amendola (ankle) and TE Martellus Bennett (knee).

Brady will be facing an Atlanta defense that finished the regular season with an unsightly 31-to-12 TD/interception ratio. The Falcons’ 4.5 yards per rush allowed was also 26th in the NFL, and they might have been fortunate that neither of their NFC playoff opponents, the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, were strong in the rushing phase.

This will be the 10th time Bill Belichick has had direct control of a defense in the Super Bowl and the previous nine opponents averaged 22.3 points, compared to a cumulative 25.2 through the regular season. Belichick’s team has also prevailed two of three times (against the 1990 Bills and 2001 Rams, with a loss against the 1996 Packers) when it has faced the No. 1-ranked offense. Of course, both wins came down to the final seconds and a placekicker.

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.'”