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Inside scoop on why Packers, Broncos, Bucs and Cards made coaching hires

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Observations, stories, and some inside stuff on the eight coaching openings that now look filled, with six announced and two more (Brian Flores in Miami, Zac Taylor in Cincinnati) that appear to be done:

Kingsbury’s not apologizing for his past. New Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury, who had a losing record in six seasons at Texas Tech, said “there’s no question defense is an area I have to focus on” after his teams were consistent bottom-feeders in the NCAA on defense. But in hiring former Broncos coach Vance Joseph as his defensive coordinator, Kingsbury will likely have a job situation like Sean McVay with the Rams; McVay allows Wade Phillips to be the de facto head coach of the defense. “The mentorship of Josh Rosen will be extremely important,” Kingsbury said. On his jilting of USC after one month: “That is where I wanted to be. But when this opportunity arose, I took it.” I asked Kingsbury if there’s anything he thinks people should know about him after this stretch of a hire by the Cards. “No, I think I’m good,’’ he said. I get the sense Kingsbury understands why there is widespread skepticism about the hiring of a coach whose teams played exciting football but didn’t win enough, and there’s nothing he can say now to erase that. He’s got to coach Rosen and the offense well, and he’s got to win.

In Tampa, Arians knows the job is to get Jameis Winston to play well. “If Jameis is somewhere between 15 and 20 right now [in performance] among NFL quarterbacks,” GM Jason Licht told me, “is it really absurd to pick up his fifth-year option [at $20.9 million], considering what other quarterbacks make? No.” After being yo-yoed with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Winston will get the same coaching treatment Arians has given Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer in recent years. He’ll be coached hard. Dirk Koetter tried a version of that. Now Arians gets his turn. “I think we can eliminate some of his mistakes and make him play better,” Arians said. “There’s two things with a quarterback. There has to be trust between the coach and the quarterback. You have to be closer to your quarterback than you are to any of your players, because they mean so much to your team. Two, you’ve got to work with them on fundamentals daily. I call it going to the driving range for 25 to 30 minutes every day. That’s how we’ll work with Jameis.” Arians, by the way, said he didn’t expect to return to coaching; he thought he was finished after last year in Arizona. How many times have you heard a coach who walked away say a year later: “I realized how much I missed it?” Ditto Arians.

Elway wanted a traditional coach, and he got it. Not long after arriving at the Broncos practice facility for the first time last Wednesday, late in the day, and before even getting a tour of the place, Vic Fangio went up to his new office, put on Bronco sweats, and started watching tape of his team. That’s who—and what—the Broncos hired. He didn’t politic for the job (“I didn’t ask one person to reach out to John Elway for me,” he said), or for any job over the years; he first was interviewed for a head-coaching job by GM Bobby Beathard in San Diego … in 1997. It’s also amazing to think that Fangio first was a defensive coordinator with the expansion Carolina Panthers in 1995. He reminds me of Arians getting the Cardinals job six years ago—Arians just assumed at his advanced age, he’s never get a shot, and he was bummed by it, but he could live with it. With Elway, Fangio found a guy who was buying what the coach was selling: discipline, unwavering rules for all, and an emphasis on making even the best players better. Fifteen minutes into their interview, Elway said, Fangio’s “death by inches” ethos swayed him. Fangio explained to the Denver media, and then to me. “Death by inches,” he said. “A player is off in the right technique just a little, and you let it go because he’s playing okay. A player’s late for a meeting by 30 seconds. One act. Meaningless. But if you don’t correct it, then two players walk in a minute late the next day. All these things build on each other. It’s death by inches—or, in our business, it’s losses.”

The Packers hope they got a good coach, and a good Aaron Rodgers partner. New coach Matt LaFleur, who has nine years of experience on the staff of Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, spoke to Rodgers as part of his process. “You could hear the passion in his voice,” LaFleur said. “I believe him when he says he wants to be coached, and coached hard.” The year he considers the most significant in his development for this job was 2012 in Washington, when he saw head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan build an offense around the non-traditional skills of Robert Griffin III, and the team went to the playoffs. “That year taught me more about coaching than any other,” he said. “You find out what your players do well, and then you adapt your system to them.” That’s going to be vital in Green Bay, where Mike McCarthy’s system stalled while new offensive coaches around the league became mad scheming scientists. LaFleur is going to have to challenge Rodgers with new play designs, and he’s going to have to do it not only to keep a great quarterback interested. It’s why he was hired, regardless of the quarterback’s resume.

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Defending champion Patriots among early NFL Week 1 betting favorites

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With the completion of the NFL draft, it’s a bit easier to get a handle on how teams will come out of the gate when the regular season begins in early September.

The Week 1 slate of games begins with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots listed as 7.5-point favorites against the Kansas City Chiefs at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Tom Brady and the Patriots are 8-2 straight-up and 6-2-2 against the spread in their last 10 home games where they were favored by at least 6.5 points.

New England is 9-1 SU and 5-4-1 ATS in their last 10 home games played in September. The Chiefs are 4-1 ATS in their last five games as a road underdog.

The Dallas Cowboys are favored by 5.5 points against the New York Giants in the first Sunday Night Football matchup of the season. Dallas is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games against the Giants when it was favored. The total has gone under in eight of the teams’ last 10 matchups in Dallas, according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

The Atlanta Falcons, the defending NFC champion, are favored by 6.5 points on the road against the Chicago Bears in Week 1. Atlanta is 7-3 SU and 5-5 ATS in its last 10 games as a road favorite. Since 2009, the Bears are 2-6 SU as a home underdog of 4.0 or more points.

The Detroit Lions are 2.5-point favorites against the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona is 5-2 ATS in its last seven road games in September. Detroit is 8-2 SU and 5-5 ATS in its last 10 home games as a favorite of 4.0 or fewer points.

The Tennessee Titans host the Oakland Raiders in a pick’em. Oakland is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 regular-season road games. Tennessee is 3-6-1 ATS in its last 10 conference home games.

The Washington Redskins are 2.5-point favorites on the NFL point spreads for Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia is 0-3 ATS in its last three games as an underdog of 3.0 or fewer points. Washington is 4-6 SU in its last 10 divisional home games.

The Green Bay Packers are listed as three-point favorites against the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is 2-8 both SU and ATS in its last 10 road games in September. Green Bay is 7-0 SU and 5-1-1 ATS in its last seven home games against Seattle.

The Minnesota Vikings, who could potentially be facing their former star running back Adrian Peterson, are 3.5-point favorites against the New Orleans Saints in a Week 1 Monday Night Football matchup. Minnesota is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 home games. New Orleans is 6-3-1 ATS in its last 10 conference road games.

And the Denver Broncos are four-point favorites against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second Monday Night Football matchup of opening week. Los Angeles (formerly San Diego) is 1-9 SU in its last 10 divisional road games. Denver is 3-6-1 ATS in its last 10 home games against the Chargers at sports betting sites.

NFL Week 13: Cowboys, Seahawks, Falcons seek wins as favorites

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Dak Prescott and the streaking Dallas Cowboys will face a top pass rush against the Minnesota Vikings, who are tough to defeat twice in a row.

The Cowboys are listed as the 3.5-point favorite against the Vikings in the Thursday Night Football matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Cowboys come in red-hot, going 6-0 straight-up and 5-1 against the spread in their last six games as a favorite.

Prescott has proven unflappable and his strong offensive line will have the challenge of nullifying the Vikings defense, which has an impressive 28 sacks. The Vikings are 8-2 against the spread in their last 10 games after losing the previous game in a matchup, but based on what they have shown, it’s doubtful whether QB Sam Bradford and their mediocre offense can keep pace with Dallas.

The Atlanta Falcons are four-point betting favorites against the Kansas City Chiefs. While Chiefs CB Marcus Peters might negate WR Julio Jones, Atlanta QB Matt Ryan has many more weapons including WR Taylor Gabriel and RB Devonta Freeman. The Chiefs had a thrilling overtime win last week in Denver, but are 0-7 ATS in their last seven games after an ATS win.

The Arizona Cardinals are 2.5-point favorites against the Washington Redskins. Arizona’s No. 1 defense could cancel out Washington’s No. 2 offense. On the other side of the ball, Washington is susceptible to the run and Cardinals RB David Johnson is capable of taking over a game. The Cardinals, who were blown out by Atlanta in Week 12, are 7-3 SU in their last 10 games after a loss.

The New Orleans Saints are five-point favorites against the Detroit Lions. Chances are, quarterbacks Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford might trade touchdowns all afternoon. New Orleans, which is 2-8 ATS over its last 10 games as a favorite of at least 4.5 points, is giving up more yards per game on defense than Detroit but has faced a higher caliber of opposing offenses.

The Baltimore Ravens are favored by 3.5 points against the Miami Dolphins in a matchup of two teams that have crept into the AFC playoff picture. The Ravens’ No. 2-ranked defense, led by ILB Zachary Orr and SS Eric Weddle, should be able to slow down the Dolphins’ balanced offense that is built around QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Jay Ajayi.

The Indianapolis Colts are the one-point road favorite against the New York Jets in the Monday Night Football matchup. Colts QB Andrew Luck is practicing again, and he tends to make his teammates better while struggling Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick does the opposite. The Colts, who are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 Monday games, will have to keep Jets RB Matt Forte and WR Brandon Marshall from taking over the game.

And the Seattle Seahawks are favored by seven against the Carolina Panthers in the Sunday Night Football matchup. The Seahawks, sitting third on the odds to win Super Bowl 51, are 11-1 SU in their last 12 home games against teams with losing records. The Panthers, though, are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven matchups as underdogs of at least seven points.