Sunday Night Football odds: Rams field-goal favorites at Bears

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It is, perhaps, a sign of the times – and of the Los Angeles Rams’ capabilities – that a first-place Chicago Bears team is an underdog at home in December.

Los Angeles, with quarterback Jared Goff behind center, are three-point road favorites on the NFL odds for Week 14 against the Bears with a 51-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

This is the first time since 2013 that a Bears team with a winning record has been an underdog in a December game at Soldier Field. The Rams are 12-2 straight-up and 8-6 against the spread on the road over the last two seasons. The Bears, who are getting No. 1 quarterback Mitch Trubisky back from a shoulder injury, are 6-1 SU and ATS in their last seven games at home.

The Rams, favorites on the Super Bowl odds, are 11-1 SU and 5-5-2 ATS this season, but this is only their second game where they have been favored by fewer than 6 points. The main question surrounding the Rams will be how often Goff will have a clean pocket in the face of a pass rush led by Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack.

Chicago’s defensive unit is in the top five of the NFL in total defense and scoring defense. The teams are also Nos. 1 and 2 in the NFL in takeaway/giveaway ratio. Bettors will need to make a call on what they think is more likely – the Rams’ offense and running back Todd Gurley, whose 11 turnovers include zero lost fumbles in the running game, coughing up the ball or the Bears, with a NFL-most 30 takeaways, continuing their ball-hawking ways.

The Bears, 8-4 both SU and ATS, have shown a strong tendency to be a first-half team this season, allowing just 6.2 offensive points in the first two quarters vis-à-vis 13.3 in the last two quarters. Those in doubt about the final outcome could scoot over to taking Chicago to cover as 1.5-point underdogs for the first half in NFL betting at the sportsbooks.

Whether Chicago can avoid another second-half regression could depend on whether dual threat Trubisky and running back Jordan Howard, the main options in a ground game that is sixth-last in the NFL in yards per rush, can produce sustained drives, giving the defense time to rest in between bouts with Gurley.

Another concern regarding the Bears is whether an offensive line that gives up sacks at a higher rate than its Rams counterparts can slow down Los Angeles’ Aaron Donald, whose 16.5 sacks have him on the verge of the NFL single-season record for a defensive tackle.

The total has gone OVER in six of the Rams’ last seven games in December. The total has gone OVER in four of the Bears’ last five home games, with an average combined score of 52.4 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.

Patrick Mahomes may have wrapped up MVP after incredible win vs Ravens

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The more I watch Patrick Mahomes, the more I find myself saying, as I did Sunday night: Relax now. Fourteen starts. That’s all he’s done. Fourteen games.

Mostly, I’m okay doing that, okay with respecting the process. No quarterback is great after 14 games. But then I listen to what Andy Reid says about him, and then I watch fourth-and-nine with the undisputed lead of the AFC West on the line, and I think maybe it’s okay to speed up on the road to greatness for the kid. Because Mahomes was Favre-in-his-prime spectacular Sunday at Arrowhead in the 27-24 win over Baltimore. This kid can throw from every angle with accuracy—over the top, three-quarter, pure sidearm, and even no-look jobs. He’s got some Omar Vizquel in him. Fitting that, last month, when I talked to his dad, former big-league pitcher Pat Mahomes, he told me these weird and accurate throws are the same types younger Patrick would make playing shortstop as a Texas teen.

That play first. The fourth-and-nine play, down 24-17, with 1:29 left in the fourth quarter at the KC 40-yard line. I’ve seen it 25 times by now. I can recite it by heart. Mahomes, flushed from the pocket back around his 30-yard line, chased by Za’Darius Smith and Brandon Williams of the Ravens, now running laterally toward the right sideline at the 28. In a dead sprint, actually. Smith, surprisingly fast for 275 pounds. Mahomes, at the 30 yard-marker on the field, veered slightly upfield as he wound up to throw on the run, to throw somewhere. “His eyes connected with my eyes,” Hill told me afterward. “In that situation, you’re just thinking, ‘Stay alive, stay alive! Let him see you.’ “

Crazy thing was, 39 yards downfield, and just approaching the left hashmark running a crosser to get within range, Hill had two Ravens on him. And Hill was a wounded animal. “My foot’s bad,” he’d say after the game.

Mahomes pulled the ball way back. As Smith’s hands were inches from beginning a hard shove of Mahomes out of bounds, Mahomes flung the ball with a strong flick to a target about 39 yards downfield and another 30 yards to his sharp left, past the center of the field, aiming for a spot right near the left hash.

“I knew he had a chance,” Mahomes said of Hill. “I always say he’d be the best center fielder of all time from the way he tracks the ball.”

Splat! Down went Mahomes, hard, at his own 37-yard line near the right boundary. Desperation heave. The ball was coming down just inside the left hash at the Baltimore 27-yard line. Linebacker C.J. Mosley dove at Hill as the ball hit his hands. But Hill, even with the bum foot, was too quick for Mosley and the trailing corner, Jimmy Smith. Hill skittered toward the right sideline and went out of bounds, limping on the bum wheel, at the 12-yard line.

Gain of 48.

“Our people did a tremendous job wrapping my foot,” Hill said. “I was still feeling my heel, but at the same time, I knew that man, if you want the W, if you want to be a great receiver, this is your moment to make plays.”

Felt like a formality after that. Chiefs tied it on a short TD strike by Mahomes with 53 seconds left, then won it in overtime on a Harrison Butker field goal.

There were other ridiculous throws from the shortstop. The no-look throw across his body to the left, to wideout Demarcus Robinson for 17 yards late in the first half, elicited this from the CBS broadcast team:

Tony Romo: “It’s almost a no-look! That’s incredible!”
Jim Nantz: “No-look sidearm!”
Romo:“Watching him … [giddy Romo voice] How do you not like watching him play!”

Just then, on the next snap, Mahomes evaded three Ravens and spied Kareem Hunt-replacement Spencer Ware gamboling up the left sideline. Mahomes pushed a sidearm laser into a small gap, right into Ware’s hands. Gain of 31.

“The things he does, it’s hard to practice that,” said Mosley.

Last month, I spent time with Reid after a win over Arizona. We went back to the Favre days, when he was the gunslinger’s quarterback coach for a time in Green Bay. History’s repeating. “I was lucky enough to coach Brett Favre, who was able to throw from every angle possible. I’ve seen it done before. But [now I] just go, ‘Whoa,’ a lot during the game, as you did. You just have to remind yourself that it’s a football in his hand because he does it so easy with grace.

“Certain guys just know where everybody is on the field. And he has that. He can just go on a play, and he sees. They talk about Ted Williams and that feel. He’s got that … He can see everything, feel everything.”

You got the feeling Sunday that this win meant a little more to the Chiefs. On one snap, Mahomes saw 11 Ravens within three yards of the line. Cover zero and then some. Who does that? Who says, We’re going to blitz the tar out of you. Complete it downfield if you have time—and you won’t. Baltimore did. On one of those plays, Mahomes just folded himself into a spot just behind the line, surrendering. But not for long.

This game will be terrific for Mahomes, because he had to play in a very uncomfortable situation. Seems like he loved it, because it forced him to learn. Other teams—starting with the 10-3 Chargers on Thursday night at Arrowhead—will go to school on what made Mahomes uncomfortable. Mahomes knows. It’s part of the chess games.

“These are the best wins,” Mahomes said. “These are the wins that satisfy you the most.”

They get bigger as it gets colder, kid.

MORE: Read Peter King’s full Football Morning Morning in America column by clicking here

Kenyan Drake saw Gronk en route to TD, but ‘he wasn’t stopping me’

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Twenty-nine minutes after making the play of the year in the National Football League (and oh, there was some competition for it, even Sunday), man-of-the-hour Kenyan Drake of the Dolphins picked up the phone and told me a story about the weekend he was drafted in 2016. Miami plucked him in round three. When Drake got to team facilities after the draft, rookie coach Adam Gase greeted him with a smile.

“When I met Coach Gase,” said Drake, “he told me, ‘We drafted you to beat the New England Patriots.’ “

Now isn’t that convenient? What happened at 4:10 p.m. in south Florida, on a play the Dolphins call “Boise,” was so weird and so unlikely that the NFL didn’t even know what to call it. On the official National Football League Game Summary, the play that beat the aforementioned New England Patriots 34-33 with :00 left on the clock was listed thusly:

K.Drake 69 yd. pass play by R.Tannehill (1-69, 0:16)

Drake was credited with 55 receiving yards on the play, and a 52-yard touchdown, somehow, and you get the feeling everyone in Hard Rock Stadium was trying to figure out exactly what just happened. Including Drake, who was left on the phone trying to process the incredible play and the enormity of its meaning.

“Could you imagine ever making a play like that, to beat Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots?”

“In my dreams,” Drake said, with a lot of mayhem in the background from the Miami locker room.

“Really. In my dreams.”

Remember: This was not only a cool play to beat the Goliath of the division. Miami has a trip to dangerous and likely desperate Minnesota coming this week, and if the Dolphins had lost, they’d have been 6-7, tied for ninth with Denver in the AFC playoff pecking order with three games to play. In other words, they’d have been on life support with a loss. “It was do-or-die for us, and we knew it,” Drake said.

“What helped us,” Drake told me, “is how much we practiced this exact play. We actually walk-through or jog-through the play every week. We go, like, half-speed. So we all knew what to do. It’s just a matter of doing it, and hoping it goes your way.”

“Why ‘Boise?’ “ I asked.

“You know, as a testament to that Boise State-Oklahoma game,” Drake said. The 2007 Fiesta Bowl, you may recall, when Boise use a hook-and-lateral play, a 42-yard miracle, to upset the Sooners.

Here, Sunday: Patriots 33, Dolphins 28. Ball at the Miami 31, seven seconds left. No timeouts. Ryan Tannehill took the snap, dropped to his own 21, and threw a strike to Kenny Stills at the Miami 45; he advanced it two yards and lateraled to DeVante Parker back at the Miami 45, and Parker ran to midfield. There he saw Drake, romping up the right sideline, with ace patriot linebacker Kyle Van Noy in close pursuit. Van Noy dove and caught Drake at the heels, but it was only enough to make him stumble, not go down.

“Then,” said Drake, “I was just looking for someone to toss it to. That’s the way we practice—there’s always someone for me to toss it to.”

Uh-oh. No one there, and no clear lane up the sideline. Drake cut inside, looking for daylight, and still looking for a pitchee. Unless you count Patriot defenders Adam Butler and J.C. Jackson, there were no good options for pitches. Miami guard Ted Lawson hustled downfield to make a key block on Patriot safety Patrick Chung at the New England 30.

And then, space.

“I was still looking for one of my guys, but then I had some open space,” Drake said. “That was amazing.”

Inside the 20, and here, at about the New England 12-yard line, came Rob Gronkowski, who was in the game at deep safety because New England had its Hail Mary hands team in the game. A rare mistake by Belichick; tackler extraordinaire Devin McCourt was not on the field for the play. But surely, Gronk would stonewall Drake.

Wouldn’t he?

“I saw him,” Drake said. “And I know how great he is. I know he’s going to the Hall of Fame. Awesome player. But regardless of who was there, he wasn’t stopping me. That I know for sure.” Gronk stumbled and never got a clear shot at Drake. Amazingly, with the division title on the line, after Van Noy, no Patriot had a legit chance to tackle Drake.

Drake threw the football half-a-section into the stands. Surrounded and pummeled in the end zone, all he remembers is a loud hum. “No words, just the hum. Dumbfounded. I am still in awe. Greatest play of my life.”

Well, what play could ever compete with that?

As for what it means, it gives Miami life; the Dolphins are one of four 7-6 teams in the conference now, and very likely only one of those will make the playoffs. Regarding the Patriots: It would take a very non-Belichickian collapse for 9-4 New England to lose the division, with a two-game lead over Miami with three to play, and the Patriots exit Sunday the number two seed in the conference. So they still have a good shot at the two seed and an outside shot at the one seed entering Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh.

Knowing the Patriots, they’ll be able to erase the bitterness by Sunday in Pittsburgh. Just don’t expect it to go away in the next day or two.

MORE: Read Peter King’s full Football Morning Morning in America column by clicking here