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NFL insider notebook: Jets botching QB situation (again), plus Jon Gruden suing the NFL and Week 11 picks

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That the New York Jets have to turn to 36-year-old, unvaccinated, been-with-the-team-less-than-a-month Joe Flacco says just about everything you need it to for this franchise.

On Tuesday night the Jets rang Flacco, for whom they traded in late October, to tell him he’d start Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. He can handle the blitzing better than young Mike White, and with Zach Wilson out, he’s their only hope. Or so it goes.

It shows just how bad off this franchise is. It has mangled its quarterback position at various points across a decade and a couple of general managers, including current GM Joe Douglas. Not that Wilson isn’t the long-term answer — he might be! and it’s far too early to make that assessment — but that this is what they have when the No. 2 overall pick misses a few weeks is putrid.

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The Jets said they wanted Flacco back once Robert Saleh took over as head coach. But the former Super Bowl MVP wasn’t going to wait around on what the franchise would do with Sam Darnold, so he signed with Philadelphia in late March. About two weeks later, the Jets traded Darnold to Carolina, and the entire league knew they’d be selecting Wilson after the Jaguars took Trevor Lawrence.

So the J-E-T-S went without a veteran in the room for months. It’s not like Flacco is Josh McCown, jumping at the chance to mentor a younger guy, but at least a veteran could have shown the rookie the ropes. Instead the Jets played contract games with Wilson and forced him to miss the start of training camp.

Fast-forward to the midpoint in the season: White’s first five quarters looked better than any five quarters Wilson put on tape. The knee injury has already sidelined Wilson for three games, but Saleh, as recently as this week, called Wilson “day-to-day.”

But…

Calling Flacco on Tuesday to give him the starting job, and stating Wednesday that White will be the backup, inherently means that Wilson is not day-to-day. Unless you’re using some sort of funky, Genesis 1 meaning for the word “day.”

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The Jets feel Flacco’s experience gives him a better shot against the Dolphins than a young, prospective QB in White or a hobbled Wilson. And I don’t mind they aren’t playing Wilson. Whether he’s healthy enough to go or not, it seemed clear he needed a rookie reset anyway. Take another week off if needed.

But to not see what you have in White? To start an immobile Flacco against a blitz-heavy Dolphins defense that’s on the rise? It must be because of Flacco’s experience against Miami, right?

“Well listen, it wasn’t like they were lining up crazy and bringing guys from, oh, they’re chilling over here and bringing over here and then they’re doing the opposite,” Flacco said of watching film of the Dolphins. “It looks like the last couple of weeks, and I can go back to when we played them last year in Miami and I was playing in that game.”

Except… Flacco went 21-of-44 for 186 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. They sent at least one extra pass-rusher 23 times. They pressured Flacco 17 times in total.

“Last year is irrelevant,” Saleh said to that point. “Completely different O-line, different receivers, different coach, different coordinator, different everything.”

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Lastly, the Jets brought in an unvaccinated backup quarterback midway through the season. I’m not sure how many unvaccinated players were traded for this year, but it can’t be many. Flacco brought (and brings) with him the threat of being out for a week due to being a close contact, as well as being more susceptible to testing positive himself and threatening the entire quarterbacks room. A mind-numbing decision all around.

So Flacco goes out Sunday, not as the Jets’ best hope to win, but as the best hope to not lose the game by 40. And he likely won’t be there next year. And White, who may very well be with the Jets next year, will be on the sidelines.

And the Jets will be no better for any of this.

Gruden lawsuit

I do not at all get the sense the NFL is shaking in its boots at the sight of the Jon Gruden lawsuit.

It was an obvious lawsuit for Gruden to file, and although there are some Very Serious Words in there, folks I speak with don’t imagine it’ll amount to much. The league contends it didn’t leak the emails, and the contents of those emails would get most people in high-profile jobs canned in 2021.

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Perhaps the league settles with Gruden to make it go away. It may even be likely, considering the league’s propensity to do such a thing. But don’t expect this to be a protracted suit that takes years.

Week 11 picks

Another ho-hum week for me at 7-6-1, where I picked some good upsets but missed on the others. That’s OK, though. My season-long record improves to 96-53-1 (thanks Pittsburgh) as we move into Week 11. On Thursday, I took the rejuvenated Patriots.

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: 
CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)  

I know Frank Reich will have some good stuff dialed up for his old team, but I don’t think it’s going to matter that much. The league’s best defense is going to leave Carson Wentz befuddled.

The pick: Bills

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Football Team at Panthers

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: 
Fox | Stream: fuboTV (click here

I cannot wait for this game. As much as I want to see Ron Rivera get the win back in Charlotte, it’s hard to trust Taylor Heinicke on a week-to-week basis. Also… Cam has to win, right?

The pick: Panthers

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: 
Fox | Stream: fuboTV (click here)  

The Eagles are playing extremely well right now and Jalen Hurts is better than folks allowed a month ago. But Dennis Allen’s defense is playing too well right now for whatever Nick Sirianni has cooked up.

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The pick: Saints

Which picks can you make with confidence, and which Super Bowl contender goes down hard this week? Visit SportsLine now to see which teams will win and cover the spread, all from a model that has returned almost $7,500 since its inception.

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Roman Wilson vs. Riley Moss, other Week 5 matchups NFL scouts will be watching

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NFL scouts will be paying special attention to these key matchups in college football’s Week 5.



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South Carolina vs. South Carolina State prediction, odds: 2022 college football picks from expert on 14-1 roll

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The South Carolina Gamecocks look to remain perfect in the all-time series when they host the South Carolina State Bulldogs on Thursday. This game was originally scheduled for Saturday but it was moved to Thursday evening due to concerns surrounding Hurricane Ian. South Carolina (2-2) won both of the previous meetings between the schools at home, cruising to a 38-3 victory in 2007 and a 38-14 triumph two years later. The Gamecocks are coming off a 56-20 win against Charlotte on Saturday, while the Bulldogs (1-2) lost 41-27 at North Carolina A&T in their last outing.

Kickoff at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC is set for 7 p.m. ET. The Gamecocks are 39.5-point favorites in the latest South Carolina vs. South Carolina State odds from Caesars Sportsbook, while the over/under for total points scored is 55.5. Before making any South Carolina State vs. South Carolina picks or college football predictions, you need to see what SportsLine college football expert Mike Tierney has to say.

A veteran sportswriter whose work appears periodically in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, Tierney has converted college football of all levels for decades. He has emerged as one of SportsLine’s leading analysts in all sports and is 13-10 on his last 23 against-the-spread college football picks.

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What’s more, he has a keen sense for the trajectory of the Gamecocks. He is 14-1 in his last 15 picks involving South Carolina, returning almost $1,300 to $100 bettors.

Now, the Tierney has set his sights on South Carolina vs. South Carolina State and just locked in his picks and CFB predictions. You can visit SportsLine now to see his picks. Here are the college football odds and betting lines for South Carolina State vs. South Carolina:

  • South Carolina vs. South Carolina State spread: Gamecocks -39.5
  • South Carolina vs. South Carolina State over/under: 55.5 points
  • SC: The Gamecocks haven’t posted back-to-back wins since starting 2021 with a 2-0 record
  • SCS: The Bulldogs have allowed 106 points in their first three games this season
  • South Carolina vs. South Carolina State picks: See picks at SportsLine

Why South Carolina can cover

The Gamecocks have won 35 of their last 41 home games versus non-conference opponents, including triumphs over Georgia State and Charlotte this season. They are 38-12 overall in their last 50 non-conference games, with seven of the losses coming against Clemson. The team also has enjoyed tremendous success versus schools that currently do not reside in a Power Five conference, posting a 51-4 record in such contests since 2001.

South Carolina ran for six touchdowns in last week’s victory against the 49ers and already has matched its total of rushing TDs in 2021. MarShawn Lloyd registered half of the team’s ground scores on Saturday and has five on the season after notching one in 11 games last year. The sophomore, who also has a receiving touchdown this campaign, more than doubled his output of 75 rushing yards over his first three outings of 2022 by gaining 169 on 15 carries — both of which were career highs.

Why South Carolina State can cover 

Quarterback Corey Fields came up with one of the best performances of his career in Saturday’s loss to the Aggies, throwing for 316 yards and four touchdowns. The senior has made four TD tosses in two of his last four outings, also accomplishing the feat in the Bulldogs’ 31-10 victory against Jackson State in last year’s Celebration Bowl. Fields’ favorite target was junior wideout Shaquan Davis, who hauled in six passes for 127 yards and extended his streak to five straight games with a TD reception dating back to last season.

South Carolina State will be hoping for a better effort on the ground as it rushed 22 times for only 12 yards versus North Carolina A&T. Coach Buddy Pough is optimistic about the availability of Kendrell Flowers, who made one catch for six yards but did not have a carry in last week’s contest due to an undisclosed injury. The sophomore running back is averaging 6.5 yards per rushing attempt this season after recording 153 and two touchdowns against Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 10.

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How to make South Carolina State vs. South Carolina picks

Tierney has analyzed this matchup, and while we can tell you he’s leaning Over on the point total, he also has discovered a critical X-factor that has him jumping all over one side of the spread. He’s only sharing what it is, and which side to back, at SportsLine.

So who wins South Carolina vs. South Carolina State? And what crucial X-factor makes one side of the spread a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the South Carolina State vs. South Carolina spread you need to jump on Thursday, all from the expert that has crushed his college football picks, and find out.



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Michigan vs. Iowa D, a key Big 12 showdown, more we're watching in Week 5

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Can Iowa shut down the high-powered Michigan offense? RJ Young and Laken Litman preview Week 5 of the college football season.



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