Sunday Night Football NFL odds: Rams nearly two-touchdown favorites

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Oddsmakers are putting a lot of trust in the Los Angeles Rams’ ability to bounce back with a statement game, against a Philadelphia Eagles team that was having trouble covering on the road even with a healthy roster.

The Rams, with Jared Goff behind center, are 13-point betting favorites on the Week 15 Sunday night NFL odds against the Eagles with a 52.5-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

News that Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz (vertebrae) seems unlikely to play has led to the line moving significantly after the Rams opened as 8.5-point favorites. The Eagles are also 1-5 against the spread in their last six road games, while the Rams are 2-6-2 ATS over their last 10 games.

Prospects for the Eagles, whose record of 6-7 SU and 4-9 ATS puts them a half-game out of a NFC wild-card spot, are yoked to whether Wentz or Nick Foles starts. Philadelphia famously won Super Bowl 52 last season with Foles filling in, but the support from the ground game that a backup quarterback typically needs could be wanting thanks to injuries along the offensive line.

If Jay Ajayi and an Eagles run game that is 26th in the NFL in yards-per-rush (4.1) sputters, Foles could face a plethora of obvious passing downs against interior pass rusher extraordinaire Aaron Donald. The Rams allow 7.7 yards per pass, but their 14 interceptions (tied for fifth in the NFL) have somewhat negated that and their best cover cornerback, Aqib Talib, is back in the lineup.

The Rams, who are 11-2 SU and 5-6-2 ATS, have been a double-digit favorite at betting sites on three previous occasions since relocating to Southern California in 2016, and covered each time with the total going UNDER. Whether they can go 4-for-4 on the former count largely rests on the Goff-led offense, which scored a season-low six points last week against the Chicago Bears.

The Rams offensive line has to contend with a formidable defensive tackle, Fletcher Cox, but Los Angeles is sixth in the NFL in yards-per-rush (4.8) and the Eagles are 28th in yards-per-rush allowed (4.9), thanks to recurring containment issues that a running back such as the Rams’ Todd Gurley can exploit. Rams wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Josh Reynolds and Robert Woods would seem to have the matchup edge against an Eagles secondary further depleted by injuries with cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring) hobbled, but it will be on Goff to take advantage of that.

On paper, the Rams seem to be in good shape. Bettors will have to decide whether their record of 1-4 SU and 0-5 ATS in their last five games at home after consecutive road games is an ongoing flaw or something they are due to correct.

The total has gone OVER in six of the Eagles’ last seven road games, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, with an average combined score of 56.  The total has gone OVER in four of the Rams’ last five home games, with an average combined score of 71.

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 fans apparently don’t want an 18-game regular season

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In the news this week, as the league gets back to business for the 100th season of American professional football:

• The owners and players meet Wednesday in another formal bargaining session for a new CBA. A three-day meeting is scheduled between the NFL’s Management Council and the NFLPA’s Executive Committee (a 10-player unit including president Eric Winston and VPs Richard ShermanBenjamin Watsonand Adam Vinatieri). This will be the fourth bargaining session between owners and players this spring/summer, with the hope being the two sides can reach an agreement on a new bargaining agreement in 2019. (The CBA has two more seasons to run, and expires in the spring of 2021.)

Commissioner Roger Goodell recently told CNBC that it is “certainly our intent” to try to get a new CBA before the start of the season. In a round of calls Saturday, I got some optimism from a team source who felt the chance of making a deal on a new CBA was 50-50 this year if the union would stick with the current economic formula of the game; currently players get about 47 percent of the game’s gross revenue.

But I talked to a source on the player side who wasn’t nearly as hopeful, in part because he felt the players need a bigger cut of the pie to agree to a new deal two seasons out from the end of the current CBA. This person called the first three meetings positive, but baby steps toward a deal. I do know that there have not been any significant discussions on a change in the revenue split yet. Those talks will have to progress for anything to get done.

• The 18-game schedule is nowhere near a reality. I heard that one or two teams are interested in what the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the NFL has proposed discussing with the players as part of the CBA talks: an 18-game regular-season schedule, with each player eligible to play a maximum of 16 games. This is not a new idea—it’s been thrown around at league meetings as one idea to expand the inventory and enrich the league’s TV deals for years.

“I can’t see it,” one plugged-in club official told me. “Imagine you pay to see Tom Brady and the Patriots, and the Patriots announce that week it’s one of the two games he’ll sitting out this year. Now you’re seeing Brian Hoyer throw to some practice-squad guy. I don’t see any way we could ever do that.”

I’ve always thought in an era when the reduction of head trauma is job one in everything the league does, the only way the NFL could even consider 18 games is with teams playing players a maximum of 16 weeks. But the details make it too hard. How would a team divvy up the starts, say, for the starting offensive line? Would they figure the starting tackles should play every week with the starting quarterback, and thus doom the backup in his two games to a run-for-your-life offensive scheme?

The continued pursuit—or the continuing broaching—of an 18-game schedule is such a short-sighted and greedy thing. The NFL paid each team $275 million out of the league share of total revenue in 2018, and teams paid about $215 million annually in player costs (cap plus benefits). After that, teams can reap major raw profits over what they did in local team revenue.

Someone in the NFL seems determined to kill the most golden of geese by pursuing, even in a passing way, this stupid idea. Greed, in this case, is not good.

• Fans don’t want 18 games either. I put out a Twitter poll Saturday and Sunday, asking if readers preferred a 16 or 18-game schedule. Of 13,533 voters, 79 percent said 16. Great comment from a Vikings fan, Jason Altland: “If I pay out the nose for decent tickets in Baltimore or New York to see my Vikings, I want to see all the healthy stars play. I don’t want to pay and end up with a [Stefon] Diggs or {Adam] Thielen bye game.”

Pro Football Talk also polled its readers over the weekend about the 16/18-game idea, with more options than I offered … and 62 percent said they favored 16 games—with 8 percent saying they favored 18 with a maximum of 16 games per player per season.

Read more from Football Morning in America here

Why Melvin Gordon’s holdout with the Chargers could get ugly

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I think this Melvin Gordon-Chargers impasse could get ugly. The Chargers running back, entering his fifth season, could hold out from training camp into the season if he doesn’t get either a new contract or a significant raise from his $5.6-million salary in 2019. There’s a few reasons the holdout could last a while, starting with the fact that Chargers GM Tom Telesco, who grew up in the Bill Polian front office of the Colts, is not afraid to take a hard line. But mostly, it’s about what happens in recent years when teams have either paid runners or drawn a hard line with them. Examples:

• Le’Veon Bell balked at the Steelers’ offer of $14.5 million on the franchise tag last year. James Conner wasn’t quite as productive as vintage Bell—270 touches, 1,470 yards, 13 touchdowns—but he was close. And Conner, who made $754,572 last year, cost 1/19th of what Bell would have commended. No one in Pittsburgh is bemoaning the loss of Bell, though he’s a great player.

• Todd Gurley is a great back too, and the Rams paid a guaranteed $45 million last year. They’ll say they aren’t regretting what they paid Gurley, but an odd and persistent knee problem last year limited him to 88 carries in the Rams’ last nine games—including a 35-yard rushing performance in the Super Bowl. The Rams picked up C.J. Anderson off the street in December, and in five games, he rushed for 488 yards.

• David Johnson of the Cardinals responded to his new $13-million-a-year deal on the eve of the 2018 season by rushing for 940 yards (3.6 yards per carry).

• Devonta Freeman signed with Atlanta for $22 million guaranteed in 2017. He’s missed 16 of the Falcons’ last 32 regular-season games and averaged 58 yards per game in the 16 he’s played.

In 30 games over his two NFL seasons, Charger understudy Austin Ekeler has proven elusive and reliable, averaging 5.3 yards per rush and 10.3 yards per catch, with just two lost fumbles. I don’t think Telesco will be afraid to take the slings and arrows of a holdout. So if you’re drafting your fantasy team very early, I’d give a long look at Ekeler.

Read more from Football Morning in America here