Football is back! Here are five things to watch this NFL season

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After an offseason filled with players returning from retirement, celebration rule changes, and Gronk being Gronk, football is back!

Before the Hall of Fame game gets underway, here are five storylines to watch as the new football season approaches.

Heavy is the head that wears the Star

Dallas entered last season with a rookie backup quarterback that wasn’t expected to see a lot of time until Tony Romo got injured and a rookie running back that was supposed to make an immediate impact. Now, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott enter this season with expectations the size of Texas. The Cowboys are looking to win the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995, or when TLC’s “Waterfalls” was the No. 2 song on the Billboard charts.

Undefeated Patriots? It could happen…

Even Seahawks fans can admit that Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever and Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches of all time. The amazing thing about the Patriots is their ability to reload (specifically from the Buffalo Bills, but that’s a longer story). Lose Martellus Bennett? Bring in Dwayne Allen. Lose LeGarrette Blount? Pick up Rex Burkhead. Top it off with an electric Brandin Cooks and the NFL’s best offense may be even better in 2017.

Falcons’ Super Bowl hangover recovery

28-3. The rallying cry of Patriots fans everywhere that makes Falcons fans cringe and want to crawl into a hole. Everyone talks about the Super Bowl hangover, but will a series of changes, including offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan departing to run his own team in San Francisco, be enough for the Falcons to return to the Super Bowl? Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will have a major role in that.

Kaepernick’s role

As of this post, Colin Kaepernick is still without a spot on an NFL roster. That could change at any moment. Kaepernick potentially has two landing spots: Miami Dolphins or Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco has been dealing with a back injury in camp, and the Dolphins are fearing the worst with Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury Thursday. On the field, Kaepernick makes sense for both teams as a backup quarterback. But will one of these teams actually sign the former 49ers quarterback?

Raiders’ Resurgence

Before the Falcons’ brutal Super Bowl collapse, the Raiders held the crown for the most devastating way to have your season end, with quarterback Derek Carr breaking his leg two games before the playoffs started. Now, with Carr back and healthy, the Raiders look poised to make a big run and make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2002. One person who remembers that run well? Oakland native and new Raider Marshawn Lynch, who was a student at Oakland Tech high school.

Just think of it this way-you’ll now have football every Thursday until January, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the season.

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Texans set to host Chiefs in a pick’em betting matchup on Sunday night

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The prospect of untested linemen trying to block the likes of J.J. Watt has the sharps projecting the Kansas City Chiefs for their first loss of the season. The Houston Texans and the Chiefs, the NFL’s last unbeaten team, meet in a Sunday Night Football matchup that has moved to a pick’em on the betting lines at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Chiefs were initially laying 3.5 points against the Texans, who they are a 3-1 straight-up against in their last four meetings, but QB Alex Smith (ankle) might have to be careful with an injury, while various ailments will mean backups will step in for RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and C Mitch Morse.

Each team takes an extreme against-the-spread trend into this rematch. The Chiefs are 8-0 SU and ATS in their last eight road games. The Texans are 3-21-1 ATS in their last 25 games at night.

The Chiefs, who are 4-0 SU and ATS, have endless ways to attack a defense and get linebackers to take themselves out of the play. That could mean some big opportunities for RB Kareem Hunt in both the rushing and passing phases. Smith, who has the NFL’s highest passer rating, will need to be somewhat nimble to avoid the Texans’ fierce pass rush of Watt, OLB Jadeveon Clowney and OLB Whitney Mercilus.

Houston is allowing 7.6 yards per pass, 23rd in the NFL, so there’s questions of whether the Texans will be able to keep WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce completely contained.

The Texans are 2-2 SU and 3-1 ATS. Three starts into his NFL career, QB Deshaun Watson has shown that his mobility and vision can flummox even legendary defensive minds such as New England coach Bill Belichick and Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau.

Against a pass rush that will once again not have OLB Dee Ford (back) to pair with OLB Justin Houston, Watson might be able to buy some time with his legs. That could give an extra advantage to the WR combo of Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins, who have a tough matchup on the outside against the CB tandem of Marcus Peters and Terrance Mitchell for some long-yardage strikes.

Houston is 1-8 SU in its last nine Week 5 games, but seem to finally have a balanced offense, with RB Lamar Miller churning out yards between the tackles and also catching short-range passes. The total has gone under in three of the Chiefs’ last four games against the Texans, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. The total has gone over in 11 of the Texans’ last 13 games in October.

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.

 

Sunday Night Football has Seahawks as large favorites hosting the Colts

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October has been the cruelest month for bettors who back the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson for a cover at home, but they are facing a quarterback making his first road start.

The Seahawks are listed as as 13-point favourites against the Indianapolis Colts with a 41.5-point total for their Week 4 Sunday Night Football matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Seattle  is 10-1 straight-up in its last 11 games following losses, and they are 0-5 against the spread in their last five October home games.

The Colts, who are out of the gate at 1-2 SU and 2-1 ATS, will be sending young QB Jacoby Brissett into one of the NFL’s loudest stadiums, CenturyLink Field. Brissett’s chances of success could hinge largely on how much support he gets in the rushing phase, which pits the Colts’ struggling ground game against a Seattle run defense that is third-worst in the NFL.

Based on form and personnel, the Seahawks might be more apt to break out and keep Colts RB Frank Gore below 100 yards.

Indianapolis, which is 6-4 SU and 7-3 ATS on the NFL betting lines in its last 10 games against NFC teams, will likely need to rely on Brissett’s mobility, since the Colts offensive line has allowed 11 sacks and will be up against premier pass rushers such as DE Michael Bennett.

However, Seattle’s opponents have had some success challenging CB Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom secondary, and Colts WR T.Y. Hilton has given Seattle fits in the past (140 yards in a 2013 game).

Taking the Seahawks, who are 1-2 SU and 0-3 ATS, and the points is a gamble as long as QB Russell Wilson and the offense persist in having slow starts. While it’s hard for defensive guys on struggling teams to get noticed, the likes of ILB Jon Bostic and ILB Antonio Morrison have helped the Colts toughen up on that side of the ball. For all its issues with run blocking, the Seahawks have at least identified a primary running back in Chris Carson.

Wilson’s favorite target, WR Doug Baldwin (groin), has an injury that bettors should keep tabs on right up until kickoff. But where Indianapolis is really struggling in pass defense is against throws to the middle of the field, especially to tight ends and running backs. That means there’s a big opportunity for TE Jimmy Graham, as well as Carson, to be X-factors on Sunday.

Seattle is 10-0 SU and 6-3-1 ATS in its last 10 home games against AFC teams, but was a double-digit favorite in all three of those against the spread losses. The total has gone over in seven of the Colts’ last eight games as road underdogs. The total has gone over in 18 of the Seahawks’ last 24 games when hosting a East Coast team.

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.