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 TheMMQB.com 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.

Eagles face big test as road favorites at Seattle on Sunday night

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This might be a week to expect regression from the Philadelphia Eagles, who are in rarefied territory in betting trends and in hostile territory on the field with a primetime road game against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Eagles and quarterback Carson Wentz are listed as 5.5-point road favorites against the Russell Wilson-led Seahawks with a 47-point total for the NFL’s Week 13 Sunday Night Football  matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Philadelphia, which is on an 8-0 streak against the spread, is threatening to become just the fourth team in the last 10 seasons to notch nine covers in a row.

The favored team is 7-2 both straight-up and ATS in the last nine editions of this matchup, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, but Seattle has some strong personal trends. The Seahawks, who are home underdogs for the first time since 2012, are 23-9-2 in their last 34 games as the underdog, as well as 21-5 ATS in their last 26 games in December.

The Eagles, who are an NFL-best 10-1 SU and 9-2 ATS, can likely look forward to the Seahawks trying to force Wentz and his receivers to beat them with the pass. Philadelphia running backs such as LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi might see fewer opportunities than usual to get into the open field against a front seven strengthened by defensive tackles Jarran Reed and Sheldon Richardson, along with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Seattle will likely have free safety Earl Thomas back, but the secondary has still been prone to lapses in pass defense, so look for tight end Zach Ertz and the Eagles receiving corps to exploit some busted coverages.

The likelihood of the Seahawks, who are 7-4 SU and 4-6-1 ATS, coming through with a cover – or outright win – will be pegged on whether Russell Wilson’s ability to scramble can frustrate the Eagles’ sixth-ranked defense. Seattle is 10-3 SU and 9-4 ATS in December home games since 2012, when Wilson took over as starting quarterback.

While Seattle finally does have left tackle Duane Brown and left guard Luke Joeckel side by side, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and defensive end Brandon Graham usually play on the other end of the line and will have the chance to blow up a few plays. Seattle’s running game, which is just 23rd in the NFL in yards per rush, will likely struggle against an Eagles defense that is allowing the fourth-lowest yards per rush.

However, the Eagles haven’t seen a quarterback as resourceful as Wilson, so Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson are likely to get some big opportunities.

The total has gone under in three of the Eagles’ last four games against the Seahawks, while the total has gone under in 13 of the Seahawks’ last 18 games in December.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Washington improves to betting favorite at Cowboys for Thursday Night Football

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Kirk Cousins has played well in Dallas, while the Cowboys and Dak Prescott haven’t performed well anywhere lately.

Washington, with quarterback Cousins at the controls, has improved to a one-point road favorite against the Dallas Cowboys with a 44-point total for the NFL Week 13 Thursday Night Football matchup after opening as a 2.5-point underdog at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The best spin one can put on trends for the game is that both teams are due to break some trends. Washington is just 2-7 straight-up in its last nine games against NFC East rival Dallas, but the Cowboys are a dreadful 1-8 against the spread in their last nine Thursday games. Dallas is also 1-8 SU in its last nine games where it got points at home.

The Redskins, who are 5-6 both SU and ATS, have to win out to have any chance of grabbing an NFC wild-card playoff berth. Cousins has averaged 9.2 yards per pass with six touchdowns and zero interceptions in two career starts in Dallas. The Cowboys seldom blitz with a five-man rush due to coverage issues, so if Washington gets LT Trent Williams (knee) back on Thursday, Cousins should have plenty of clean pockets as he looks for targets such as WR Jamison Crowder.

The Cowboys are allowing the fourth-highest opposing quarterback rating in the NFL.

In the rushing phase, Samaje Perine has been promising as Washington’s feature back. The Redskins rushed for only 50 yards in their last game against Dallas, but the loss of OLB Sean Lee (hamstring) has compromised the Cowboys’ rush defense.

Washington is 2-2 ATS in its last four road games, with the losses coming against the NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs, who got a backdoor cover with a defensive touchdown on the game’s final play.

The Cowboys, who are 5-6 both SU and 5-6 ATS, need to break out of a major offensive funk. Prescott, RB Alfred Morris and an offensive line that has had consistency issues – but does have LT Tryon Smith healthy – are facing a Washington defense that has allowed 100 or more rushing yards in six of their last eight games, so there’s a chance Dallas might be able to control the line of scrimmage.

In the passing phase, Prescott and WR Dez Bryant have been struggling to get on the same page, and Bryant has struggled in the past when he is covered by Redskins CB Josh Norman. The matchup could be more favorable for TE Jason Witten and WR Terrance Williams.

The total has gone over in nine of the Redskins’ last 12 games vs divisional opponents. But the total has gone under in Dallas’ last five homes games as the underdog, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, and has also gone under in six of the Cowboys’ last seven games at night.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.