NFL Week 4 Picks
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NFL Week 3 Picks: No way Jaguars beat Seahawks but they'll cover 19.5
It's an absurd line for a professional team playing a sport that prides itself on parity. And while nobody expect Jacksonville to go into Seattle and pull off the biggest upset since the Giants upended the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, there's a chance for the Jags' first moral victory of the season.
According to ASHNSports.com, the NFL's biggest spreads since 1972 range from 21 to 27 points.
* Dec. 5, 1976: Steelers (-27) vs. Buccaneers. Pittsburgh won 42-0.
* Nov. 25, 2007: Patriots (-24.5) vs. Eagles. New England won 31-28.
* Dec. 5, 1998: 49ers (-24) vs. Bengals. San Francisco won 21-8.
* Oct. 11, 1987: 49ers (-23.5) vs. Falcons. San Francisco won 25-17.
* Oct. 2, 1977: Cowboys (-23) vs. Buccaneers. Dallas won 23-7.
* Dec. 23, 2007: Patriots (-22.5) vs. Dolphins. New England won 28-7.
* Dec. 12, 1976: Patriots (-21) vs. Buccaneers. New England won 31-14.
Of those seven games, only one of the favorites, the 1976 Steelers, covered. So that's encouraging for the Jagaurs. They'll lose, yes, but history suggests that they won't get their doors blown off.
Except that the Seahawks just put a whuppin' on the 49ers, 29-3, one of the NFC's best teams.
But there are a couple things working in Jacksonville's favor this week. For starters, Seattle's coming off a huge win and a modified version of the trap game* is a possibility. Plus: Jaguars players get paid too. They take no joy in getting curb-stomped every week and no doubt want to prove that. Unfortunately, they don't have the personnel to win on the road in Seattle, but they can be competitive. Then there's this: First-year Jags coach Gus Bradley arrived in Jacksonville from Seattle where he was best bros with coach Pete Carroll.
It's reasonable to think Carroll might take it easy on his former assistant. He only saves the beatdowns for arch-nemisis Jim Harbaugh, right? We're going with yes.
The Seahawks will win, duh, but the Jaguars will cover.
Other Week 3 games
Houston over BALTIMORE: The Texans whipped up on the Ravens during the 2012 regular season but couldn't find a way to beat them in the playoffs back in 2011. Maybe that changes this year. While we wait, we expect Houston to outplay the Ravens on Sunday, finally putting together a complete game, and head into Week 4 as unquestionably one of the two-best teams in the AFC. Baltimore, meanwhile, will continue to have issues with that suspect secondary, and depending on Ray Rice's health, they could need to find depth at running back, too.
Green Bay over CINCINNATI: We remain wholly unimpressed with Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, although some of that falls squarely on offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Cincy's front seven could have a field day with Green Bay's offensive line ... except that Aaron Rodgers knows something about playing behind that group of pourous pass blockers. (At this stage of the proceedings, he's a rich man's Ben Roethlisberger, which, Monday's game aside, portends bad things for the Bengals.) How Dalton handles the Packers' pressure will go a long way in determining the outcome, and based on us liking Green Bay, you can probably deduce that we don't expect Dalton do have much success.
PITTSBURGH over Chicago: The Steelers can't start 0-3, can they? And does anyone really believe the Bears are a 3-0 team? We feel more confident in the latter than the former, especially after watching whatever that was Pittsburgh called an offense on Monday night. But we've seen Chicago do this before: Come out of the blocks hot only to peter out by midseason. This really is a must-win game for the Steelers. Because if they lose, we're going to have to have the "So, should they take Jadeveon Clowney next April?" conversation.
* Modified version of the trap came: When the favorite plays poorly, but not poorly enough to lose to a decidedly dreadful opponent.
Giants trade up to take Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib
The Giants created a little Ben Affleck betting odds to win Poker Madden Betting Pandemonia buzz early Saturday, making a trade to move up and grab Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib as a backup for two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.
''If he doesn't ever play, that would be great,'' general manager Jerry Reese said after the pick. ''That's a good problem to have. If he needs to play, we're hoping that whatever time that is that he'll be up and ready to go if it ever happens that way.''
Being Manning's backup is akin to not playing. Manning has started 135 straight regular-season games and 11 consecutive postseason contests. The last player to start for New York other than Manning was Kurt Warner in 2004.
Veteran David Carr has been Manning's backup in recent years and just the latest veteran to back up the 32-year-old Manning. That could change this year if Nassib beats out Carr or Tom Coughlin elects to go with three quarterbacks on his roster, something that he hasn't done in recent years.
Nassib is the first quarterback drafted by the Giants since Sam Houston State's Rhett Bomar in the fifth round in 2009. The previous year, they selected Kentucky's Andre' Woodson in round six. Each of them had a short stay with the Giants, as did free agent Ryan Perrilloux in 2011.
Entering the fourth round, Reese said Nassib, who started the past three years for the Orange, stuck out like a sore thumb.
''He had too much value,'' Reese said. ''We had been talking about developing a quarterback to back up Eli for a while and this was the perfect opportunity for us to get a young quarterback with a lot of talent.''
So the Giants shipped their fourth- and sixth-round picks to the Arizona Cardinals to move up six spots and grab Nassib, who some felt had first-round talent.
Marc Ross, the team's director of college scouting, said Nassib has more than arm strength.
''That's something secondary to me,'' Ross said. ''I look at leaders and winners and players who raise the level of the team and when they are on the field have a presence about them and those are attributes about him that stood out to me.''
Coughlin didn't want to say how many quarterbacks the team will keep this season, but he believes the competition between Carr and Nassib will help the team.
''This is a great opportunity for Ryan,'' said Coughlin, who noted he had not called Manning to explain the pick, saying there was no need to discuss something with a quarterback who still getting better. ''He'll be in the classroom with Eli and he'll get a chance to learn.''
Nassib completed 791 of 1,312 passes for 9,190 yards and 70 touchdown passes with the Orange, leading them to 21 wins in three seasons as a starter.
Nassib had just gotten home to West Chester, Pa., when Coughlin telephoned him after the pick.
''To be honest with you, I blacked out,'' said Nassib, who had not talked with the Giants much before the draft. ''I didn't get everything. What I did get from him was that first off I had to cut my ties with the Philadelphia Eagles and switch, which won't be a problem. He complimented me on coming from a good school and being a good football player and told me what I great opportunity I had to play behind Eli.''
The 23-year-old wasn't shy when asked about his abilities. He's confident and said that he is somewhat like Manning in that he was durable in his final three years in college, never missing a game or a practice. He was admittedly disappointed staying on the board until the fourth round.
''I always compared myself to Eli so it is going to be crazy that I am going to be playing with him,'' Nassib said. ''He is a tough, durable, smart guy who doesn't say much. That's the kind of quarterback I always wanted to be. Being able to sit behind him and learn from him, like some great quarterbacks did in the past, an elite veteran like Aaron Rodgers, it's going to be a great opportunity for me.''
Nassib is going to have some company with the Giants. They drafted Syracuse offensive tackle Justin Pugh in the first round. Pugh is from Holland, Pa., about 30 miles from Philadelphia.
''We're from the same area and had many a drive home from Syracuse,'' Nassib said. "I can't believe that of all the situations that we are going to be back together again.''
Pugh, the 19th pick overall, is expected to push David Diehl for the starting job at right tackle. The other offensive line taken was guard Eric Herman of Ohio University.
''He is a big, tough, nasty kid,'' Reese said.
Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins of Ohio State and defensive end Damontre Moore of Texas A&M were taken on Friday with the second and third picks, respectively. They should help a defense that was ranked 31st oveall and allowed 129.1 yards rushing per game. Hankins is a run stopped, while Moore had 26 1/2 sacks in three seasons.
The other selections on Saturday were safety Cooper Taylor of Richmond, Herman and UMass running back Michael Cox, who was taken with the penultimate pick.
Taylor is 6-foot-4 and showed speed and a big upside. He had 78 tackles, four interceptions and free forced fumbles this past season.
A Michigan transfer, Cox only gained 715 yards rushing but Reese said he played on a weak team and gained most of it on his own. He has size at 6-3 and speed.
The Giants also needed help at linebacker and cornerback heading into the draft, but they were unable to find the right players. They will be looking to free agency and undrafted players to possibly fill the needs.
Packers sign Rodgers to $110M contract extensio
On another late April weekend with the NFL draft unfolding anew, there was Rodgers again, expressing his appreciation of the Packers for their latest sign of faith.
The Packers signed their franchise quarterback Friday to a five-year contract extension through the 2019 season, eight years after they stopped his slide down the draft board and took him with the 24th pick in the first round. The deal, according to a person with knowledge of the contract who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not released the details, is worth as much as $110 million, with $40 million guaranteed.
Rodgers had two seasons remaining on his current deal for a total of roughly $20 million. So this is essentially a seven-year contract, right there with the $120.6 million that the Baltimore Ravens gave quarterback Joe Flacco last month over six years. Judged by the new part of the deal, Rodgers will be the highest-paid player in NFL history, with an average annual salary of $22 million over those five seasons.
''I'm excited to know my future is here and I'll be here for a lot longer,'' Rodgers said inside the locker room at Lambeau Field.
Locking up Rodgers was a priority for the Packers, who also reached a long-term extension with linebacker Clay Matthews this month worth as much as $66 million over five years. The Packers are 53-27 in five years with Rodgers as the starter, and he led them to the Super Bowl title following the 2010 season.
President Mark Murphy said leaving enough space under the salary cap to consistently field a competitive team around Rodgers for the life of his deal was ''crucial.'' He also acknowledged that the Packers not only gave Rodgers a market-rate contract but set a new market in the process.
''But he's a pretty good quarterback, too,'' Murphy said, laughing.
Rodgers, the longest-tenured Packers player, the only one still on the roster from that 4-12 team in 2005, said he's confident the front office will continue to be able to build a winner around him.
''I like where we're at. Obviously, there were some discussions about not doing a lot in free agency,'' Rodgers said. ''Like I said, this seems to be the Packer way where you draft a guy in your system and you pay them.''
Rodgers has thrown for 21,661 yards and 171 touchdowns in his career, and he has had a quarterback rating of 101.2 or better in all but one season as a starter. His quarterback rating of 122.5 in 2011 is an NFL record.
The former standout at Cal was expected to be taken early in the first round in 2005, but he soon found himself alone in the green room. Rodgers acknowledged that prove-the-doubters-wrong attitude he's used to his benefit throughout his career since that day he was ignored by so many in the draft.
''I have a good memory, and I'm driven to be the best,'' Rodgers said. ''Obviously, there's a couple less critics out there now, but I still put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve the goals I set for myself here and enjoy trying to meet the challenge that those goals bring and also opposing teams bring.''
Draft day wasn't the only rough spot for Rodgers in his career.
He arrived in Green Bay as the backup to Brett Favre, who wasn't thrilled the team had found his heir apparent. Favre kept fans and the franchise on their toes every offseason from then on, flirting with the idea of retiring but always coming back. When the tension finally snapped in 2008 - Favre retired, changed his mind and asked for his job back - Rodgers found himself in the middle of the most-bitter divorce in Wisconsin history.
Favre was traded to the New York Jets during training camp, but many fans remained loyal to him. They took their anger at the organization out on Rodgers, even booing him at the team's ''Family Night'' scrimmage. Rodgers kept his composure, never firing back at fans or even publicly criticizing Favre.
Despite a 6-10 record in his first year as a starter, he showed flashes of why general manager Ted Thompson had such faith in him, and fans began to come around. Any lingering animosity disappeared after Favre joined the rival Minnesota Vikings and Rodgers led the Packers to the playoffs following the 2009 season.
Now? He's of the most beloved figures in the state's rich sports history. The Wisconsin Legislature designated Dec. 12, 2012, as ''Aaron Rodgers Day,'' and students and workers throughout the state were encouraged to celebrate by wearing his jersey. When he was shown on the scoreboard at the Milwaukee Bucks' playoff game against the Miami Heat on Thursday, he got one of the biggest cheers of the night.
Rodgers will be 36 when the deal ends. He said he thinks he has at least eight years left in his legs and his body, when asked if wondered if this would be his last contract.
''A lot of times you don't see a deal all the way through if you're playing well. It's just the nature of some of these contracts. That's a long way off. In order to even get to that conversation, it's going to take many years in a row at a consistently high level of play for me, which I expect to do,'' Rodgers said. ''And I'm going to get myself in the best shape mentally and physically to do that, and hopefully we can have that conversation in seven years where I can still play and maybe we can keep this thing going.''
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York and AP National Writer Nancy Armour from Milwaukee contributed to this report.
2015 Kentucky Derby Odds
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Odds to Win 2015 Kentucky Derby
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