NFL Divisional Round Odds: Falcons, Steelers highlight favorites

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The Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles have made some NFL betting line history on a weekend where the recent trends have seen favorites win and away teams get the cover. Of course, the Falcons match both descriptions.

Favored teams are 16-3 straight-up in the last 19 NFL divisional round games, while away teams are 9-5-2 against the spread in the last 16 games held on the second weekend of the postseason.

For the first time in playoff history, a No. 1 seed is an underdog. The Falcons are listed as three-point road favorites against the Carson Wentz-less Philadelphia Eagles with a 41-point total in a Saturday matchup, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Atlanta is only 1-7 SU and 1-6-1 ATS in its last eight road games against the Eagles.

Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Falcons offense will need to be sharp against defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and the Eagles’ No. 4-ranked defense. The Eagles, who are 5-2 ATS in their last seven home games, probably need to build a lead through running back Jay Ajayi and their ground game, rather than rely on backup quarterback Nick Foles.

Like with any game in the Northeast in January, weather, especially the wind, will be a factor. The total has gone under in nine of the Falcons’ last 12 games against the Eagles.

Meanwhile, the New England Patriots are 13.5-point favorites against the Tennessee Titans with a 47.5 total in the late Saturday matchup. Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota and his offense could have issues keeping pace with Tom Brady and the Patriots’ No. 1-ranked attack.

The Titans, who are just 7-20-1 ATS in their last 28 games after a win, will need a stronger pass rush than they usually get in order to stymie Brady, who has helped New England fashion a 9-1 ATS record in its last 10 games. New England is also 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS in its last three games as a double-digit favorite in the playoffs.

The total has gone over in six of the Titans’ last seven games on the road against the Patriots. The total has also gone over in seven of the Patriots’ last 10 home games.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are listed as 7.5-point favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a 41 total in Sunday’s early matchup. The Jaguars, who boast strong head-to-head trends – try 4-1 SU and ATS in their last five games on the road against the Steelers – must hope that running back Leonard Fournette can gash Pittsburgh’s 10th-ranked run defense. Relying on quarterback Blake Bortles to perform miracles is a likely non-starter.

It’s not yet confirmed that all-everything wide-out Antonio Brown will play, but he is practicing for the Steelers, who are 10-2 SU in their last 12 home games. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers have had a soap opera-like season, but they are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five games at this stage of the playoffs.

The total has gone over in 18 of the Steelers’ last 25 playoff games.

And the Minnesota Vikings, second only to the Patriots on the Super Bowl 52 odds, are five-point favorites against the New Orleans Saints with a 46.5 total in the late Sunday matchup. New Orleans is only 2-7 ATS in its last nine games against Minnesota, but Drew Brees leads a No. 4-ranked offense that is complemented by a much more dynamic rushing attack than the one he had during a loss to the Vikings in Week 1 of this season.

The Vikings have changed their look since then, too, with quarterback Case Keenum taking over, but two constants are their No. 1-ranked defense and 9-2 ATS record over their last 11 games. The Vikings are also 6-2 SU in their last eight home games against teams with winning records.

The total has gone over in five of the Saints’ last seven games as an underdog. The total has also gone over in seven of the Saints’ last nine games against the Vikings.

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.

Peyton Manning takes on new TV series about NFL history

Peter King / NBC Sports
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CHICAGO — Early one morning in June, 40 months after stepping off a football field for the final time as a player, Peyton Manning climbed into the back of a black SUV outside his Chicago hotel. At 43, smiling and trim and wearing a blue striped polo and pressed khaki shorts, Manning looked exactly like he did late in his career—not a pound heavier or lighter. This was the start of another day in his current but not permanent job as a TV host. At the beginning of it, he wanted to make one thing clear.

“I do not like the ‘R’ word.”

“Retirement?” I said.

“Right,” he said. “Because I’m not.”

The car merged into light traffic, headed for Wrigley Field. Manning was in town for one of the last days of taping for “Peyton’s Places,” the 30-episode series on pro football history set to debut on ESPN+ (the cable outlet’s streaming subscription service) on July 29. Four episodes will drop that day, then one will be released per week through the end of the football season.

I’ll explain how Manning is getting into this project with the verve he used to be one of the best quarterbacks ever, because it’s still a significant part of his ethos. But a few words first about why I’m opening my second season with NBC writing this Football Morning in America column with Peyton Manning and a TV show. With the NFL embarking on the 100th season of professional football, you’re going to get hit over the head with history and momentousness in NFL storytelling a lot this year. I thought a piece on the league’s most ambitious project in the 100th-season celebration was in order, and this is it. During the course of the year, I’ll get into some history stories as well—including naming my all-time top 100 players later in the year—without, I hope, overwhelming you with it. I realize history is cool, but the present is more of why you read this column. And mostly, the present is what this column will be this season, and there’s plenty of the present (the 18-game season, CBA negotiations, the reviewable pass-interference conundrum) for you to read today.

But back to the car with Manning, headed for the Bears’ home of a half-century, Wrigley Field.

“This has been a journey for me,” said Manning, who is also the executive producer of the series. “I’ve learned a lot about 100 years of football. I thought I knew a lot. There’s been a ton that I did not know. There’s been fascinating stuff. In 1929, when the stock market crashed, a guy named Bert Bell basically lost his tail and what does he do? He goes out and buys a football team for $50,000. Which at the time, is probably the worst investment you could make. A bunch of guys in leather helmets running into each other. That’s what he does. That team, the Frankford Yellowjackets, turns into the Philadelphia Eagles. Bert Bell starts the draft. He gets them to play on Sundays. He puts the blackout rule in. He was kind of a founding pioneer of the NFL.”

Manning sounds like he sounded so many times in his career, telling a story in intricate detail about why a play worked or what was said in the huddle. I try to think of others who could have done this series, players or former players with cache and a name. Michael Strahan, maybe. Cris Collinsworth. Maybe Tony Romo. But whoever did it would have to be all-in, the way Manning sounds this morning. “I don’t think anyone else could have done this,” said Neil Zender, honchoing the project for NFL Films. “Peyton’s been interested in every detail of every shoot.”

Read more from Football Morning in America here

NFL TV, radio host Rich Eisen explains new pass interference replay

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Peter King is on vacation until July 15, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, it’s Rich Eisen, the popular NFL television and radio host.

Previous guest columns: Fred Gaudelli (June 3) | Nick Hardwick (June 10) | Pro Football Focus (June 17)

By Rich Eisen

It was an overcast 30-degree night at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, a classic setting for an exhilarating finish to the Week 15 Thursday game. Despite entering the contest having won nine of their previous 10 games, the Chargers still needed a victory to have a chance at the AFC West title that the Chiefs, thanks to their wunderkind eventual MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes, would eventually win.

Just not on that night.

Coming back from a 14-point first-quarter deficit, Philip Rivers some how some way had his team stationed on the Kansas City 10-yard line down seven points with 13 seconds to go. Rivers flipped one in the end zone to Mike Williams and Chiefs defensive back Kendall Fuller got flagged for interference. It was a huge penalty, turning a Chargers’ 3rd-and-goal from the 10 into a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

On the next two snaps, Rivers connected with Williams, one for his second touchdown of the night and then on a remarkable two-point conversion dice roll by Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn. Los Angeles won and celebrated in the Kansas City cold, providing Friday morning coast-to-coast water-cooler material that’s the envy of every other major American sports league.

Cut to last week—six months later, almost to the day—to a hotel conference room in June gloomy Santa Monica. Video of the defensive pass interference call on Fuller was now up on a screen and the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron had a video game remote controller in his hands, toggling the play back and forth. I was in the audience as part of the NFL Media Group’s annual talent symposium, hanging onto every word coming out of Riveron’s mouth during his presentation to the group.

Our jaws were about to drop.

You see, between that Thursday Night Week 15 monster finish and our annual symposium to prepare us for the 2019 regular season, a seismic event took place at the Superdome that’s still reverberating across the football landscape. Yes, the ending of the NFC Championship Game between the Saints and the Rams. The mother of all blown calls, leading to the mother of all course corrections: the NFL allowing pass interference to be a reviewable penalty under the auspices of instant replay in a one-year experiment.

Look, I’m not gonna lie. I’m not spending a good chunk of my downtime to bang out about 3,000 words for my good friend Peter King and post them on a special day in my life (more on that in a moment) just to BS you. That non-call in the NFC Championship Game in New Orleans was the worst non-call I’ve ever seen. It was a terrible day for the NFL and Al Riveron, and all the NFL executives making the rounds to present at all the summer symposiums for CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN and NFL Network know it.

So when Riveron stepped to the mic at the NFL Network gathering last week  and finally matriculated his way to the pass interference replay portion of his two-hour presentation to the group, it was like a large piece of filet mignon steak being plated for the whole room to consume. It not only offered a remarkable glimpse of the difficult task his officials will undertake in 2019, but also how unintended consequences of the new replay wrinkle might cause occasional confusion and frequently stoke fan anger anew.

To read more about the pass interference replay, click here