Bizarre holdout of Le’Veon Bell not affecting Steelers

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One thing has become pretty obvious about the bizarre holdout of Le’Veon Bell, and the resulting impact on the Steelers’ season: It’s not having much of an effect on the team he hoped would miss him terribly.

The easy thing to say about Bell’s decision to stay away from the team through the first nine weeks of the season is that he’s preserving himself for his run at free agency in 2019, when he will be a 27-year-old player in search of the biggest contract an NFL running back has ever received. Some team may well pay him handsomely. But the Steelers so far have saved more than $7 million (Bell’s missed pay: $7.68 million; James Conner’s entire salary this year; $578,000) by Bell not being on the team.

Through eight games—half a season—since Bell entered the league in 2013, the relative production of Conner versus Bell is just about a wash. There is one asterisk, as noted on Bell’s 2016 and 2013 totals. He was suspended for the first three games in 2016 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy; in 2013, he missed the first three games of the seasons with a mid-foot sprain. In each season, I chose to use the totals from his first eight games of the season (games four through 11).

The results:

Conner, 2018     189 touches, 1,085 yards, 5.74 yards per touch, 10 TD.
Bell, 2017           229 touches, 979 yards, 4.28 yards per touch, 5 TD.
Bell, 2016           208 touches, 1,136 yards, 5.46 yards per touch, 4 TD.*
Bell, 2015           Active for only six games.
Bell, 2014           183 touches, 1,086 yards, 5.93 yards per touch, 2 TDs.
Bell, 2013           169 touches, 711 yards, 4.21 yards per rush, 4 TDs*

On average, Bell’s first eight games of the four seasons: 197 touches, 978 yards, 4.96 yards per touch, 3.8 touchdowns.

Conner’s first eight games this season: 189 touches, 1,085 yards, 5.74 yards per touch, 10 touchdowns.

In essence, Bell has gambled $7.68 million to prove his worth. Other than keeping him fresher for free agency in 2019, which is certainly part of this, Bell has lost his gamble.

Editor’s Note: Read the rest of Football Morning in America here.

Sunday Night Football odds: Bears slim favorites hosting rival Vikings

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A first-place showdown in the NFC North is a study in contrast twice over, with a young Chicago Bears team trying to buck a long-term betting trend, while the more seasoned Minnesota Vikings try to maintain one.

The Bears, with the rookie head coach / second-year quarterback combo of Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky, are 2.5-point favorites on the Sunday Night Football odds against the Vikings with a 44.5-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The first-place Bears are 5-1-1 against the spread in their last seven home games against teams with winning records, but since 2012 they are 4-6 straight-up and 3-6-1 ATS as a home favorite of 3.0 or fewer points. For what it might be worth, over that same span the Vikings are 8-2 both SU and ATS in 10 games as a road underdog, according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

Minnesota is also on a 6-0-1 SU run over its last seven games against NFC North counterparts.

The Vikings, who are 5-3-1 SU and 4-3-2 ATS, are firmly in the middle of the NFL pack in offensive proficiency after betting big on quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency. Minnesota has had turnover issues and the fourth-ranked Bears defense, built around outside linebacker Khalil Mack, thrives at takeaways and creating opportunities for points off of turnovers.

Minnesota expects to have both of its top two wide receivers, Stefon Diggs (ribs) and Adam Thielen, healthy, as they try to break down a Bears pass defense whose 6.8 yards per attempt is the third-best in the league.

While a bye in Week 10 might have given Minnesota extra time to work on their ground game with Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, they are only 2-6 ATS in their last eight post-bye week games. The Bears lead the league with 3.6 yards per rush allowed, which mean Cousins will likely face his share of obvious passing downs.

The Bears, who are 6-3 SU and ATS on the season, are on roll behind Trubisky, a quarterback in the modern mold who can create havoc for defenses with his arms and legs. Whether the Bears continue a trend of being 8-2 ATS in their last 10 home games against the Vikings, a team they play twice a season, will come down to whether Trubisky will keep his wits about him against a fifth-ranked Vikings defense whose 31 sacks are second in the NFL.

The Bears have the benefit of having a cadre of receivers – Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller out wide; Trey Burton at tight end; and Tarik Cohen coming out of the backfield – whose varying skillsets could force Minnesota into a guessing game.

Bettors will have to decide whether the fact the Vikings allow a full yard per pass, 7.8 yards, more than the Bears speaks more to scheme or health. Defensive stalwarts such as nose tackle Linval Joseph, defensive end Everson Griffen, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Andrew Sendejo are all expected to be available after missing games. Despite those injuries, Minnesota played the run well, allowing 3.6 yards per rush, a close fourth in the league rankings.

The total has gone UNDER in eight of the Vikings’ last 10 games at night. The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Vikings’ last nine games against the Bears, with an average combined score of 38.33 points. The total has gone OVER in five of the Bears’ last six games, with an average combined score of 54.33 points.

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

NFL Week 11 odds: Rams, Seahawks, Bears all betting favorites

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The NFL’s top two teams have decidedly different trends in Monday night contests.

The Los Angeles Rams, led by quarterback Jared Goff, are 3.5-point betting favorites against the Kansas City Chiefs with a 63-point total on the NFL odds for Monday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Rams are 1-7 straight-up and 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games on a Monday, as well as 5-12 SU and 4-12-1 ATS in their last 17 games at night, although much of that was compiled before coach Sean McVay came on the scene. The Chiefs, led by MVP candidate Pat Mahomes, are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games on a Monday, as well as 7-2 SU and 8-1 ATS in their last nine games as an underdog.

Elsewhere this week, the Seattle Seahawks are 3-point favorites on the NFL Week 11 odds against the Green Bay Packers with a 48.5-point total in a Thursday matchup. The Packers are 0-6 SU and 1-5 ATS in their last six road games, with an average losing margin of 11.5 points. The Seahawks are 7-0-1 ATS in their last eight games on a Thursday.

The Houston Texans are 3-point road favorites against the Washington Redskins with a 42.5-point total. The Texans are 4-10 ATS in their last 14 games. The total has gone UNDER in 10 of the Texans’ last 14 games after a bye. The Redskins are 6-2 SU and ATS in their last eight home games.

The Atlanta Falcons are 3-point favorites against the Dallas Cowboys with a 48.5-point total. The Cowboys, who defeated the Philadelphia Eagles during Week 10, are 0-5 SU in their last five games after a win. The total has gone UNDER in eight of the Cowboys’ last nine road games, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, with an average combined score of 33.0. The Falcons are 4-10 ATS in their last 14 games in the early afternoon.

The Indianapolis Colts are 2-point favorites against the Tennessee Titans with a 48.5-point total. The Titans are 6-0 SU and ATS in their last six games against divisional opponents. The total has gone UNDER in 12 of the Colts’ last 17 home games, with an average combined score of 43.41.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 5.5-point road favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a 47-point total. The Steelers are 9-0-1 SU in their last 10 road games, with an average winning margin of 7.9 points. The total has gone UNDER in 11 of the Jaguars’ last 15 games in the early afternoon.

The New Orleans Saints are 8.5-point betting favorites against the Philadelphia Eagles with a 56-point total. The Eagles are 2-6 ATS in their last eight games. The Saints are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games. The total has gone OVER in 13 of the Saints’ last 17 games in the late afternoon.

And the Chicago Bears are 2.5-point favorites against the Minnesota Vikings with a 45-point total in the Sunday night matchup. The total has gone OVER in five of the Bears’ last six games, with an average combined score of 54.33. The Vikings are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 road games against the Bears.

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