AROUND THE NFL

Looking at the latest Super Bowl odds, who do you like?  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The folks at the Westgate Superbook have updated their Super Bowl odds. And they currently project a matchup of the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl LIV.

 

The Saints are 7/5 favorites to win the NFC title, and the Patriots are 6/5 favorites to win the AFC Championship.

 

Elsewhere in the NFC, the 49ers have 7/2 odds, followed by the Packers at 6/1, the Vikings at 7/1, the Seahawks at 8/1, and the Cowboys at 10/1. The Rams, who opened as 4-1 co-favorites in late January, have had their odds climb to 25-1.

 

In the AFC, the Ravens have 7/4 odds to win the conference, and the Chiefs stand at 9/2. Next are the Texans at 20/1, the Raiders at 25/1, the Colts at 30/1, the Bills at 40/1, and the Steelers and Browns at 50/1.

 

The Patriots are 14/5 favorites to win the Super Bowl, followed by the Saints at 4/1, the Ravens at 9/2, the 49ers at 8/1, the Chiefs at 9/1, the Packers at 12/1, the Vikings at 14/1, the Seahawks at 16/1, and the Cowboys at 20/1.

 

The DB might think about the Ravens at 9/2.  Or maybe the Cowboys at an enticing 20/1.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Who knew that Bill Belichick skied?  Jon Machota of The Athletic:

 

@jonmachota

After Bill Belichick was fired by the Cleveland Browns in the mid-90s, he ran into Jerry Jones at a ski resort. Jones said Bill told the Cowboys owner not to forget about him if he had an opening in the future. Jones says he still thinks about that from time to time

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

The 9-1 49ers are guaranteed a winning season, their first since 2013.  But Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com notes they have a historically tough stretch of games upcoming.

 

@nwagoner

Mentioned this just now on @KNBR  and story for Friday: #49ers about to play the toughest 3-game stretch this late in the season in NFL history.  No team has played three straight games against teams with an .800+ winning percentage this late in the season in the Super Bowl era.

 

@nwagoner

What’s more, only four teams — the 2007 Lions, 1999 Browns, 1990 Redskins and 1990 Vikings — in the Super Bowl era have played three such games (not consecutively) in their 11th game or later.

 

@nwagoner

Stat courtesy of the wonderful folks

@ESPNStatsInfo

 

@nwagoner

Obviously, these games will be tough regardless but also worth keeping in mind that for Niners to be first team to play three straight teams with .800 or better winning percentage, Ravens and Saints will need to take care of business in their next games before they play SF.

 

AFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

This from Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

@MichaelDavSmith

The Chargers are 4-7 but have outscored their opponents 224-218 over the course of the season. They’re the only team in the NFL with a positive point differential and a losing record. All seven losses were by a touchdown or less; two of their wins were by more than two touchdowns

 

And this from Andrew Siciliano:

 

@AndrewSiciliano

Chargers have lost 31 one-possession games since 2015, the most in the

@NFL

– – –

This is a thing at OddsShark, pointed out by Clay Travis:

 

 

@OddsShark

Odds for which will happen first (BetOnline):

 

Philip Rivers announces retirement +120

Announces wife pregnant with baby No. 10 -160

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

QB LAMAR JACKSON is “Freaky L”?

 

@ryanmink

Do we have a new nickname for Lamar Jackson? @gmfb @PSchrags

 

Seth Roberts: “I call him ‘Freaky-L.’ You know he can do anything out there. He’s just freaky. … I’ve never seen anything like ‘Freaky-L.’”

– – –

Ian O’Connor of ESPN.com on “Freaky L” and his coach.

 

Those who know Harbaugh know that he is acutely aware of what it means for Baltimore, with a population that is 63% African American, to have a black star at quarterback, and that he recognizes what it meant to Jackson — and the larger cause of equal opportunity for black quarterbacks — in January when he didn’t bench the overwhelmed rookie in favor of Joe Flacco late in Baltimore’s playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

 

Harbaugh said there will be a better time to talk at length about the deeper significance of his decision to trust Jackson to run his team. But he budged when told that years from now, his choice to stick with Jackson over a Super Bowl MVP might be viewed as a seminal moment in the black athlete’s journey beyond vile stereotypes and toward full acceptance at the sport’s premier leadership position.

 

“That’s great,” Harbaugh told ESPN.com. “It will be good to be remembered for something, especially something good like that. If that turns out to be the case, I’ll be very proud of that.”

 

At 8-2 and owners of a six-game winning streak, the Ravens are being rewarded for recognizing Jackson’s staggering potential before anyone else did. They traded up to take him with the final pick of the first round of the 2018 draft, after four other quarterbacks were selected in the top 10. By midseason of Jackson’s rookie campaign, facing a possible firing at season’s end after 11 distinguished years on the job, Harbaugh needed Jackson as much as Jackson needed him.

 

They had a fair amount in common too. Nobody ever really wanted John as a player, or as a coach, like they wanted his younger brother, Jim, a longtime starting quarterback in the NFL. John was a partial scholarship reserve at Miami (Ohio), before spending nearly a quarter-century as a college and Philadelphia Eagles assistant who never rose to offensive or defensive coordinator. The one NFL team that interviewed him for its head coach opening, Baltimore, really hoped to hire Jason Garrett, who chose to stay with the Dallas Cowboys and stuck the Ravens with their second choice.

 

Jackson? He was a three-star recruit out of Florida’s Boynton Beach Community High School who was seen by some big-time college programs as a wideout in the making and who needed a University of Louisville assistant — former NFL and University of Miami wide receiver Lamar Thomas — to hard-sell head coach Bobby Petrino into believing Jackson could be their guy. Three years later, the NFL wanted Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen a lot more than it wanted Jackson and the alleged injury risk associated with ultra-mobile quarterbacks.

 

The same franchise that gambled on Harbaugh decided to gamble on Jackson too. The new quarterback couldn’t have been more different than the old quarterback, Flacco, who had rushed for 757 yards in 10 NFL seasons before the arrival of Jackson, who had rushed for 4,132 yards in three college seasons.

 

The result is a partnership that has won 14 of 17 regular-season games over two seasons, including Sunday’s 41-7 shredding of the Houston Texans, and that has moved Baltimore into position to contend for its first Super Bowl appearance since John Harbaugh (and Flacco) beat his brother’s San Francisco 49ers seven years ago in New Orleans.

 

“John was close to Joe too,” Harbaugh’s wife, Ingrid, said Sunday in a quiet moment in back of the winning team’s locker room. “But it’s just a different level with Lamar.”

 

That level was obvious during Baltimore’s blowout victory at the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this month, when a microphone caught a bench exchange that opened a window for the football world on the Jackson-Harbaugh relationship. The coach told his quarterback that most of his peers worry about stats and that he appreciated his selfless leadership. Harbaugh and Jackson expressed their love for each other, and the coach for the player’s attacking style.

 

“You changed the game, man,” Harbaugh told him. “You know how many little kids in this country are going to be wearing No. 8 playing quarterback for the next 20 years because of you?”

 

“I can’t wait to see it,” Jackson said, “when I get older. But right now I’ve got to get to the Super Bowl.”

 

And this on how Jackson ended up at Louisville:

 

Jackson? He was a three-star recruit out of Florida’s Boynton Beach Community High School who was seen by some big-time college programs as a wideout in the making and who needed a University of Louisville assistant — former NFL and University of Miami wide receiver Lamar Thomas — to hard-sell head coach Bobby Petrino into believing Jackson could be their guy.

– – –

Swain called Thomas, his former player at Buchholz High School in Gainesville, Florida, and told Thomas that he needed to recruit the best athlete Swain had ever coached. Thomas felt disrespected and was no less skeptical about Jackson than Swain was when he first heard about him. If Thomas himself wasn’t the best athlete Swain had ever coached, the Louisville assistant figured that distinction surely belonged to 13-year NBA player and former all-state football star Vernon Maxwell.

 

“And then I went down,” Thomas said, “and I was amazed at what I saw.”

 

Thomas told his boss at Louisville that Jackson would be the greatest quarterback in the history of a school that suited up Johnny Unitas and Teddy Bridgewater, and Petrino barked back that Thomas didn’t know anything about the position, even though the former receiver had played with a Heisman Trophy winner (Gino Torretta) and an all-time NFL great (Dan Marino). Thomas persuaded Swain to edit Jackson’s highlight tape — to move his impressive throws ahead of his impressive runs on the video — and then delivered it to Petrino. The Louisville coach kept rewinding Jackson’s flawless 50-yard throws on the run, which the assistant took as an encouraging sign.

 

“Can we get this guy?” Petrino finally asked.

 

“I got him,” Thomas answered.

 

He got Jackson by making a promise to Jackson’s mother that the major in-state recruiters weren’t making: Louisville would never, ever move her son to receiver or defensive back. After Jackson’s father died when Lamar was young, Felicia Jones raised him on her own and fiercely protected his quarterbacking dreams. Jones ran with Lamar in the searing summertime heat, performed contact drills with her son in their yard and lorded over his practice dropbacks in the seaside sand.

 

 

 

CLEVELAND

S MORGAN BURNETT is done for the year.  Jake Trotter of ESPN.com:

 

The Cleveland Browns have placed starting safety Morgan Burnett on injured reserve with an Achilles injury.

 

Burnett underwent surgery Tuesday with renowned foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson and is expected to make a full recovery.

 

Burnett started eight games for the Browns this year, tallying 41 tackles and two sacks. He also had an interception Thursday against Pittsburgh, shortly before suffering the injury.

 

Burnett’s injury is the latest blow to a Cleveland defense that was still without safety Eric Murray (knee) and that will remain without defensive end Myles Garrett, who was suspended for the season by the NFL last week.

 

Burnett, 30, was signed by the Browns in April after the Steelers waived him.

– – –

At 4-6, and with two games left with Cincinnati and Miami at home on Sunday, the Browns are closer to the 6-4 AFC playoff line than you might think.  And while the defense is depleted, they might be getting TE DAVID NGOKU back as soon as this week.

 

The Cleveland Browns have designated tight end David Njoku to return from injured reserve according to the team’s official website.

 

Njoku is practicing Wednesday and is eligible to play this week against the Miami Dolphins. He hasn’t been on the field since breaking his wrist in Week 2, but Njoku will catch a plus matchup this Sunday if he is active. Unfortunately, it is unclear if he’ll be able to play a full complement of snaps in his first game back.  The third-year TE, originally a first-round pick out of Miami, saw six targets (4/37/1) and posted a TE7 finish on 92 percent of Cleveland’s snaps in his only full game against the Titans in Week 1.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

As round two looms in two weeks, Coach Mike Tomlin accepts responsibility for the Steelers’ role in last Thursday’s late-game melee, but also declines to say that role had anything to do with starting it.  Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com:

 

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin opened his weekly news conference by accepting responsibility for his team’s role in Thursday night’s melee with the Cleveland Browns.

 

“It was ugly,” said Tomlin, who had refused to take any questions about the incident directly after the game. “It was ugly for the game of football. I think all of us that are involved in the game, particularly at this level, want to safeguard and protect the game, its integrity. And in that instance, it was compromised, obviously, with an unfortunate incident.

 

“None of us want those incidents to transpire. It did. We were a part of it. We accept responsibility for our actions within it.”

 

Because players, including center Maurkice Pouncey, are appealing suspensions, Tomlin declined to elaborate. Pouncey was given a three-game suspension, while Myles Garrett, who struck Mason Rudolph in the head with the quarterback’s own helmet, was given an indefinite suspension. Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was suspended for one game.

 

All three are expected to have their appeals heard this week, and the league is also expected to levy fines to other players involved in the fight, including Rudolph.

 

Tomlin rebuffed the idea that the game-ending fight could be used as a teachable moment for his team.

 

“Nothing to learn there,” he said.

 

He was also asked whether coaches around the league could do anything to prevent future brawls.

 

“I don’t know,” Tomlin said. “You’ve got to ask those guys. … I don’t know that we did anything to make it happen in the first place. That’s why I said we didn’t have anything to learn from it.”

 

The two teams will meet for a rematch in less than two weeks when the Steelers host the Browns on Dec. 1.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Will the Patriots get offensive reinforcements for the playoffs?  Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:

 

Apparently it won’t come in the form of TE ROB GRONKOWSKI.

 

Retired New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski hasn’t ruled out a return to football in the future, but he has no plans to do so in 2019.

 

“I wouldn’t say ‘never coming back,'” Gronkowski told ESPN on Tuesday. “I’m 30 years old. I’m young. I still stay fit, still watch the game whenever I can, still enjoy it. I’m feeling good, but you know, one year off could possibly be the case. Or maybe two years off, man.

 

“It’s always an option in the back of my head. It’s not like I’m not staying in shape and not doing anything. I’m never stressed over it.”

 

Gronkowski’s remarks Tuesday morning came after he announced business-based plans to host a Super Bowl party in South Florida, which potentially spiked hopes of Patriots fans that he would return to play for the team this year. If Gronkowski had planned to return this season, he would have to do so by Nov. 30, per NFL rules.

 

Gronkowski, who retired in March, playfully asked, “What’s better, me playing in the game or me hitting this party?”

 

The 9-1 Patriots could use Gronkowski, as quarterback Tom Brady expressed his frustration with the offense after Sunday’s 17-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Gronkowski, who says he is having fun in retirement, has been watching his former team closely.

 

“The defense is just tremendous, the way they’re coming together with the veteran leadership they have there, and the skill set they have. With the offense, they’re finding ways to make it work like they’ve always done, putting guys in the right situation to make plays. But man, they’re missing some guy who is 6-6, 260 [pounds]. They’re missing that guy, for sure,” Gronkowski said with a laugh, referencing himself.

 

Gronkowski, who once said he never spent a dollar of his football paycheck and instead lived off his endorsements, has capitalized on speculation about his playing future.

 

But what about WR ANTONIO BROWN?  A social media post on Tuesday fueled speculation.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Lost in the Myles Garrett and Colin Kaepernick sagas of last week was the fact that Antonio Brown had his interview with the NFL last Thursday in South Florida.

 

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Brown remains hopeful that a decision will come “very soon.” There’s a sense of optimism from Brown’s perspective that he will be cleared to return to the NFL before the 2019 regular season ends.

 

Brown, who is a free agent, can sign with any team at any time. He would provide a huge lift to a team that is headed for the playoffs or competing for a playoff berth.

 

The Seahawks reportedly have flirted with the notion of signing Brown. He would be a compelling addition to every likely playoff team (except the Raiders), giving someone a chance to put a thumb on the scale as the NFL’s 100th season moves toward a crescendo.

 

Coincidentally (or not), Brown posted an apology on social media today to the Patriots and team owner Robert Kraft. Quarterback Tom Brady reportedly was miffed when Brown was cut, and Brady could be happy to see Brown return for the final weeks of the season.

 

Given the potential benefit of having Brown — and of keeping him from a competitor — a land rush for his services could be sparked if/when he’s cleared. Put simply, it will be much better to have Brown on the roster in December and/or January than to have to face him.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

RB Le’VEON BELL is wondering why his name keeps “randomly” coming up for drug tests.  Dennis Young of the New York Daily News:

 

Le’Veon Bell is fed up with the NFL’s apparent obsession with drug-testing him.

 

The Jets running back tweeted Wednesday morning that the league has done five HGH blood tests on him in 10 weeks.

 

 “I’m not doing another after today,” Bell said. “Whatever y’all lookin for it obviously ain’t there & I’m not about to keep allowing y’all to stick me with those dirty ass needles.”

 

Bell was suspended four games in 2016 while with the Steelers for missing three drug tests in nine months. The league has been all over him after he didn’t play a snap in 2018. He was pulled from two straight practices during Jets training camp for urine tests.

 

The NFL’s drug testing policy says that players are subject to a maximum of six blood tests per year, but the league can test players more than that if they’re “in reasonable cause testing.”

 

Bell also responded to people tweeting about the fact that he’s been suspended for marijuana before, accurately pointing out that a urine test is adequate for weed.

 

“I can easily pee in a cup,” he said.

 

The veteran running back is struggling this year, with just 508 yards rushing and four total touchdowns through ten games. His 3.2 yards per carry is the lowest of his career.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

AIKMAN RATINGS

                                   

 

The Patriots remain in 1st place in the Aikman Combined Ratings through 11 weeks of the 2019 NFL season, followed by the other 1-team, the 49ers.  However, the Ravens with the top Aikman Offense, are rising in 3rd place. 

 

The NFC has six of the top nine teams, with the 7-3 Bills outpacing the other AFC contenders besides the Patriots and Ravens.

 

– – –

 

We note that as the NFL measures things, with “yards only,” the Buccaneers are said to have the NFL’s sixth-best offense.  But with the Aikman Ratings taking into other factors, including Tampa Bay’s NFL-leading 25 turnovers, the Bucs only rank a more realistic 19th in Aikman Offense.

 

Conversely, the Packers are 17th by the NFL’s reckoning in offense.  But with high scores in Offensive Points, Red Zone Points Per Possession and Giveaways, the Packers are a much-more representative 7th in Aikman Offense.                                                    

                                                                                                                       

                                                —–      Aikman——                 —        NFL     ——

Rank    W-L     Team               Comb  Off       Def                  Off       Def            Combined

1          9-1       Patriots            175.5   81.5     94.0                 16          1        17

2          9-1       49ers               172.3   84.9     87.4                   5          2          7

3          8-2       Ravens            169.8   99.3     70.5                   2        14        16

4          6-4       Cowboys         166.1   94.9     71.1                   1          7          8

5          8-3       Vikings            165.5   91.6     73.9                   9        15        24

6          8-2       Seahawks       160.1   90.4     69.7                   4        24        28

7          7-3       Bills                 159.0   84.2     74.8                 19          3        22

8          8-2       Packers           158.6   88.9     69.7                 17        28        45

9          8-2       Saints              158.4   86.2     72.2                 14          6        20

10        7-4       Chiefs              155.2   89.5     65.7                   3        26        29

11        6-4       Colts                154.6   85.6     69.0                 21        11        32

12        5-5       Eagles             154.5   84.5     70.0                 23          9        32

13        6-4       Rams               154.0   80.8     73.2                 13        10        23

14        6-4       Texans            152.5   90.7     61.8                   7        25        32

15        5-5       Titans              151.2   81.4     69.8                 26        18        44

16        4-6       Bears               149.3   74.3     75.0                 30          8        38

17        3-7       Broncos           148.9   73.9     75.0                 25          4        29

18        5-5       Steelers           148.3   71.9     76.4                 28        12        40

19        6-4       Raiders            146.6   86.5     60.1                 11        20        31

20        3-7       Buccaneers     146.5   81.4     65.1                   6        23        29

21        4-7       Chargers         145.6   78.0     67.6                 15          5        20

22        4-         Browns            145.3   76.3     68.9                 22        16        38

23        3-6-1    Lions               144.5   85.4     59.1                   8        30        38

24        3-7       Falcons           143.5   82.5     61.0                 10        21        31

25        4-6       Jaguars           142.6   77.1     65.6                 12        17        29

26        5-5       Panthers          142.1   77.9     64.2                 18        19        37

27        3-7-1    Cardinals         139.5   81.5     58.0                 20        31        51

28        2-8       Giants              139.1   73.4     65.8                 24        27        51

29        3-7       Jets                 131.2   64.5     66.7                 32        13        45

30        1-9       Redskins         127.2   64.0     63.2                 31        22        53

31        0-10     Bengals           125.9   66.3     59.6                 27        32        59

32        2-8       Dolphins          124.0   66.8     57.3                 29        29        58

                                                                                                                       

                        NFL Average:  149.9   81.1     68.8                                        

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Great tweet from Mark Mulvhill:

 

 

Michael Mulvihill

@mulvihill79

Top Five Shows Of Last Week Among Women 18-49:

 

1. CBS NFL National (4:25pm)

2. Sunday Night Football

3. Monday Night Football

4. FOX NFL Single (1pm)

5. Thursday Night Football

 

 

KAEP

 

Thoughts from Jerry Jones on Kaep and his workout.  Calvin Watkins in the Dallas Morning News:

 

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said on “The Fan” KRLD-FM (105.3) Tuesday morning that the Colin Kaepernick workout wasn’t about football, and that it was more a circus than football.

 

The NFL scheduled a workout for Kaepernick on Saturday in the Atlanta area. The workout venue changed, and there were reports from both sides, NFL’s and Kaepernick’s, about the language in a workout waiver and whether it should have been recorded for the media. The Cowboys did not attend the workout.

 

“That situation from the get-go probably had a lot more, that wasn’t about football involved in it,” Jones said, “and consequently we got the results of that dynamic.”