How Tom Brady is like Rupert Murdoch

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“What’s different about this year?” I asked owner Robert Kraft in his office two hours before the game. “What’s new?”

Kraft, 77, struggled to answer, because he couldn’t think of anything exactly new or different. But he answered in a bit of a different way.

“There are two people I know accomplishing far more than people their age would normally accomplish. [News Corp. CEO] Rupert Murdoch—he’s a guy going on 88, and he’s still making brilliant business deals. I know guys 10 years younger than me who are just hanging on till retirement. And there’s Tommy, who’s still playing great football at 41, and he’s going to keep going. Forty-one, and three Super Bowls in the last four years, and he’s still going.

“What these two men have accomplished, it’s just sick. They defy the normal rules of business, the normal rules of life.”

“Rupert Murdoch!” Brady said when I told him post-game, and he phewed out a whisp of air.

This game was a struggle for Brady after a brilliant up-tempo opening drive of 59 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. But he rebounded in the fourth quarter for two touchdown drives, including a 55-yard insurance touchdown to Josh Gordon, one of those players the Patriots find and no other team can. “It’s the culture,” tight end Dwayne Allen said. “You come here, you’ve got to fit in.” Gordon, suspended multiple times by the Browns in a disappointing career in Cleveland, has shut up and worked here—so far.

It was just as much a struggle for Rodgers, again betrayed by a huge fourth-quarter turnover. Eventually these mistakes—the misbegotten Ty Montgomery kickoff-return fumble in L.A. last week, the Patriots’ Lawrence Guy stripping Aaron Jones on the first play of the fourth quarter in Foxboro—could get Mike McCarthy fired. For now, they’ve gotten the Pack to below .500 at 3-4-1. But the Brady-Rodgers duel was just OK; neither threw for 300 yards, and in a year when touchdown passing is through the roof, they combined for three scoring passes.

After the game, though, Brady, who broke the record for combined regular-season and post-season passing yardage, wasn’t much of a stat guy. He never has been. Player after player walked by him toward the New England night as he talked to me, and he pumped them up, telling them how great they played.

He was particularly glowing around Gordon, who scored once, and Cordarrelle Patterson, the 6-2, 230-pound receiver/returner-turned-running back. In the first 88 games of Patterson’s NFL life, he’d never run the ball 10 times in a game. Last week in Buffalo, he ran it 10 times. And Sunday night, 11 more. “We thought we had good depth at running back and we did at one point in the year,” Belichick said. “But depth in August and depth in November are two different things.”

Brady told me: “A lot of guys have watched us play for a long time. I think they know they’re going to an organization that it’s really just about winning, about being selfless. If you gotta play running back, like CP [Patterson], you play running back. If you gotta block because you’re a receiver, you block. You gotta run a clearing route, you clear.”

Murdoch at 87 is ancient for a big deal-maker. Brady is simply old for football, not ancient, because he and guys like Drew Brees, 39, keep raising the bar. But he still sounds very much like a long-termer Sunday night, reveling in this win. “I’d like to go till I’m 45,” Brady said. “I know I said that hundred times, and no one believes me. But I mean, I feel good. I could go play another game tomorrow. I know what to do. It’s fun. What else would you rather do than run out in front of 70,000 people and throw a football?”

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

Saturday NFL Division Round odds: Rams, Chiefs both betting favorites

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On top of concerns about how Jared Goff will fare against a true defensive test, the Los Angeles Rams have been less than convincing as a big home favorite in the last 12 months.

The host Rams, with Goff behind center, are 7-point favorites on the NFL odds against the Dak Prescott-led Dallas Cowboys with a 49.5-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in a Divisional Round matchup at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday.

The Rams’ loss at this stage of last season’s playoffs was the start of a stretch where they have gone 6-2 straight-up and 3-4-1 against the spread as a home favorite of 5.5 or more points. The OddsShark NFL Database also notes that the Cowboys are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games as the underdog.

The Cowboys, 11-6 SU and 9-7-1 ATS, seem well-constructed for traditional playoff football, and the fact that the total has gone UNDER in 10 of their last 12 road games, with an average combined score of 36.0 points, might augur well for their chances of hanging around if Goff struggles for the Rams.

Prescott will have to avoid turnovers, and he could have a depleted receiving corps with wide receiver Allen Hurns (leg/ankle) done for the year and slot receiver Cole Beasley (ankle) hurt, but running back Ezekiel Elliott is facing a defense that allowed an NFL-worst 5.1 yards per rush.

The Rams are 13-3 SU and 7-7-2 ATS, and had a tailspin late in the regular season. Between Goff having a regression and leading rusher Todd Gurley (knee) being limited in practice this week, there are concerns with their pivotal performer in each offensive phase, which could pile on to the uneasiness about the Rams being 0-5 ATS in their last five Saturday games.

Gurley and other Rams’ runners will contend with a Dallas run defense that was the league’s fifth-most proficient (3.8 yards per rush). The Rams are much healthier in Dallas in the receiving corps, with Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and tight end Gerald Everett facing a team that allowed a pedestrian 7.4 yards per pass.

Also on Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs are 5.5-point betting favorites against the Indianapolis Colts with a 57-point total in the early Divisional Round matchup.

The Colts are 11-6 SU and 9-7-1 ATS, which includes being 10-1 SU and 7-3-1 ATS over an 11-game run that has been distinguished by a proficient pass-run balance between quarterback Andrew Luck and running back Marlon Mack. Luck’s offensive line has allowed the fewest sacks in the league while the Chiefs, for all their defensive woes, tied for the league lead in the regular season, so someone will have to give.

Luck’s favorite receiver T.Y. Hilton has been nursing a sore ankle but is expected to play on Saturday. Mack is facing a team whose 5.0 yards per rush allowed was second-worst in the NFL.

The Chiefs are 12-4 SU and 9-6-1 ATS, and prolific young quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his supporting cast might be asked to win a scorefest. The narrative of the Chiefs being 1-11 SU and ATS in their last 12 games in the playoffs will be there until it isn’t, but what will be more relevant is that they also thrived at avoiding disruptions (26 sacks allowed) and the Colts lack a strong pass rush.

On the back end of the pass defense, the Colts could have their hands full with speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill and Kansas City’s ability to use tight end Travis Kelce. Spencer Ware (hamstring) is Kansas City’s likely starter at running back.

Five of the Chiefs’ last six games have gone OVER at sports betting sites, with an average total of 65.6 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.

Bears, Ravens favorites on NFL wild card Sunday

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The playoffs are a different game, and so too are the Chicago Bears’ recent home trend vis-à-vis the team’s historic playoff trend.

The Bears are 6-point betting favorites on the NFL odds against the Philadelphia Eagles with a 41-point total in their NFC wild-card matchup on Sunday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Bears, who won the NFC North under rookie head coach Matt Nagy, are 5-0 straight-up and against the spread in their last five home games, but only 2-6 ATS in their last eight playoff contests, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. The Eagles, the defending Super Bowl champions, are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games in January.

The Eagles, 9-7 SU and 6-9-1 ATS this season, seem to be finding their groove behind quarterback Nick Foles and they did defeat a top-ranked defense during their 2017 Super Bowl run, handling the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. That was at home, though, and these 2018 Eagles aren’t as balanced offensively, with the ground game having the third-worst yards per carry (3.9) in the NFL after finishing fourth in 2017.

Back in the present, Chicago allowed the fourth-lowest rushing average (3.8) and led the league in fewest yards per pass (6.3) and interceptions (27).

The Bears, 12-4 SU and ATS, are more of a blank slate on offense since Trubisky, drafted to be a franchise quarterback, is making his playoff debut against a Super Bowl-seasoned team. But the second-year passer, whose supporting cast includes a diverse ground game with Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard, should be able to pick his spots to really attack an Eagles defense that was 14th in yards per pass (7.4) allowed.

The total has gone UNDER at betting sites in the Bears’ last four games, with an average combined score of 29.75 points.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens are 3-point betting favorites against the Los Angeles Chargers with a 42-point total in an AFC wild-card matchup on Sunday. Since the 2011 season, the Ravens are 7-1 ATS in the playoffs.

The Chargers, who are 12-4 SU and 9-7 ATS, face a 10 a.m. Pacific time kickoff against a Ravens team that held them to 10 points in their home environment two weeks ago. Quarterback Philip Rivers has led them to a 6-0 SU record in their last six road games, but he and running back Melvin Gordon are facing a Baltimore defense that was third in both fewest yards per carry (3.7) and yards per pass (6.3).

The AFC North-winning Ravens are 10-6 SU and 8-8 ATS, finding their form in the second half of the season after rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson became the starter. Jackson faces a Chargers defense that is 12th in yards per rush (4.3) and ninth in yards per pass (7.1).

Trends-wise, the Ravens are just 1-5 ATS in their last six home games, with outright losses against the only two teams (New Orleans and Pittsburgh) that they faced who had winning records. Bettors face a choice between putting stock in the 7-1 ATS record Baltimore compiled under coach John Harbaugh from 2011 to 2014, or opting to fade the Ravens due to a 4-14 SU record in their last 18 games after consecutive wins.

The total has gone UNDER in the Ravens’ last six playoff games at home.

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.