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Prisco’s NFL Week 17 picks: Steelers upset Browns to keep playoff hopes alive, Chiefs edge Bengals in shootout

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Time is running out.

We have just two more weeks of the regular season, which means it’s crunch time for NFL teams and for those of us who make picks.

Last week didn’t go as planned for me, as I went 8-8 ATS, 11-5 straight up and 2-4 with my Best Bets as part of the Pick Six Podcast. That brings my season records to 125-112-3 ATS, 148-91-1 straight up and 51-48 with my Best Bets.

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That’s solid.

I need to close better than just being solid the last two weeks. Let’s ride high into the playoffs with two outstanding weeks. Can I get the triple crown, with winning weeks in all three areas? Let’s just hope COVID doesn’t brutalize the picks like it has in recent weeks.

Latest Odds:

Washington Football Team
+3.5

If the Eagles win their last two, they are in the playoffs. That makes this a huge game for them. The Eagles blew out Washington two weeks ago with their rushing attack, which will key this game as well. The Washington defense is struggling and Jalen Hurts will take advantage of that. Eagles will keep it rolling.

Pick: Eagles 23, Washington Football Team 14

Which NFL picks can you make with confidence, and which Super Bowl contender will go down hard? Visit SportsLine now to see which teams win and cover the spread, all from a proven computer model on a 134-96 roll on NFL picks.

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Latest Odds:

New Orleans Saints
-6.5

The Saints have been crippled by COVID, which is why they had almost no chance against Miami on Monday night. But they should be getting a lot of guys back here against a Carolina team that isn’t very good. Carolina’s offensive line is bad, while the Saints’ front is good. That’s a combination that will lead to a Saints’ victory with a few big takeaways.

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Pick: Saints 24, Panthers 16

Latest Odds:

New York Jets
+13

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Tom Brady has to be licking his chops as he readies to face this Jets defense, which is bad and has been hit hard by COVID. The Bucs blew out Carolina on the road last week and they will do the same to the Jets here. The Bucs pass rush will own the line of scrimmage, forcing a lot of short fields.

Pick: Bucs 34, Jets 13

Latest Odds:

Tennessee Titans
-3.5

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The Dolphins are playing on a short week after a Monday victory, while the Titans are rested after having played on a Thursday. That’s a huge edge for Tennessee. The Titans played much better on offense with A.J. Brown back against the 49ers, but this Miami defense is playing well. Look for a low-scoring game with the Titans winning it. Ryan Tannehill gets a victory against his former team.

Pick: Titans 23, Dolphins 17

Latest Odds:

New England Patriots
-15.5

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The Jaguars are a complete disaster, and now they are playing consecutive road games against a Bill Belichick team that is coming off a home loss. Good luck with that. The Patriots will get back on track here with a defensive showing that will force Trevor Lawrence into some turnovers. This will be ugly.

Pick: Patriots 31, Jaguars 7

Latest Odds:

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Indianapolis Colts
-7.5

This will have a playoff-like feel to it. The Raiders almost have to have it to stay alive in the playoff chase, while the Colts can lock up a playoff berth with a victory. The Colts could be without quarterback Carson Wentz because of COVID, which would make Sam Ehlinger the starter. That will challenge the offense. The Colts have played really well the past two weeks, using their run game with Jonathan Taylor, so maybe they can overcome it. But I think the Raiders will come in and hang around in this one.

Pick: Colts 26, Raiders 24

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Latest Odds:

Cincinnati Bengals
+5

This is the game of the week. The Bengals are riding high after blowing out the Ravens last week, while the Chiefs are the top seed in the AFC. This has all the makings of an offensive shootout, with Joe Burrow trying to match Patrick Mahomes. It will be a treat to watch. It will be close, too.

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Pick: Chiefs 33, Bengals 31

Latest Odds:

Chicago Bears
-6

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This game features two teams that will be making big changes after the season. Both have quarterback issues because of health. I think the Bears defense is the best unit in the game, and it will play that way. The Giants can’t protect whoever plays quarterback. Bears take it.

Pick: Bears 25, Giants 13

Latest Odds:

Buffalo Bills
-14.5

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The Bills are now in first place in the AFC East after beating the Patriots last week. That’s the Bills team many expected to see. The Falcons are still alive in the playoff race, but this will be a steep task for Atlanta. Look for Josh Allen and gang to once again have a big day on offense.

Pick: Bills 31, Falcons 17

Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers (-12.5)

Latest Odds:

San Francisco 49ers
-12.5

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The Texans impressed in beating the Chargers last week, but this is a tough trip for a team playing for nothing. The 49ers need this game in the worst way. I think Davis Mills will struggle some this week as the 49ers pass rush gets to him a lot. The 49ers bounce back after losing to the Titans — even if it’s Trey Lance for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo.

Pick: 49ers 29, Texans 10

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (-5.5)

Latest Odds:

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Los Angeles Chargers
-5.5

Both these teams are coming off bad losses last week and now must regroup with their playoff lives on the line. The Chargers were bad in losing to the Texans, but I think they bounce back here. Denver will run the ball at the bad Chargers run defense, but I don’t think it’s enough. Chargers take it.

Pick: Chargers 23, Broncos 17

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Latest Odds:

Baltimore Ravens
+3.5

The Ravens have been crippled by injuries and COVID and hardly look like the same team we saw seven weeks ago. But they will be getting guys back this week, and one should be Lamar Jackson at quarterback. The Rams are playing consecutive road games and Matt Stafford has struggled some lately. Look for the Ravens to fight for their playoff lives here and pull off a mild upset.

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Pick: Ravens 27, Rams 26

Latest Odds:

Seattle Seahawks
-7

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This is one of the dog games of the week, featuring two non-playoff teams. The Lions are playing a second straight road game, while Seattle is home after losing Sunday to the Bears. The Lions should have Jared Goff back, which will help keep them in this game. It’s close, but Seattle takes it.

Pick: Seahawks 28, Lions 25

Latest Odds:

Dallas Cowboys
-5.5

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The Cardinals have lost three straight, yet they are still in the playoffs. They need to play better. Dallas seemed to right things last week against Washington, especially on offense. The Cowboys will use their running game to push around the Cardinals in this one. Arizona keeps on losing as the Cowboys take it.

Pick: Cowboys 27, Cardinals 20

Latest Odds:

Green Bay Packers
-6.5

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The Vikings still have slight playoff hopes, while the Packers are looking to lock up the No. 1 seed. Green Bay lost to the Vikings earlier this year, but that won’t be the case in this one. Aaron Rodgers will lead Green Bay to a victory in a high-scoring game as both defenses struggle some.

Pick: Packers 34, Vikings 27

Latest Odds:

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Pittsburgh Steelers
+3

These two still have playoff hopes, but the loser is dead. The Browns will be getting a lot of guys back off the COVID list, which will help. The Steelers looked terrible last week in losing to the Chiefs, but being back home against a rival means they will play much better. The Steelers will find a way to win this one.

Pick: Steelers 24, Browns 20 

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Chargers HC Brandon Staley Is Pushing The Envelope

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(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

 

The NFL has been changing and evolving over the years, as it has become more of a pass-friendly league through the past decade or two.

Part of that evolution has been the offensive philosophy on fourth down, which was, until recently, strictly a punt-only situation.

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But now, more and more teams are going for it on fourth downs, and Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley is one of the men who is leading the way in that department.

Last season, his team went for it on fourth down 34 times, which was third in the NFL.

But the Chargers went for it on 31.5 percent of their fourth downs, the highest percentage in the league.

Staley explained his mindset regarding such situations in an interview with Daniel Popper of The Athletic.

“There has to be a fearlessness to play in this game, and what I wanted to establish was that,” Staley says. “The history of this team when I got here, it was like someone’s going to get hurt, they’re going to blow a lead, something catastrophic is going to happen. There’s this ‘Chargering’ thing. There’s all of these external factors that I know in my life, they’re just all excuses. They’re just all excuses.

“And so, how do you change that? Well, you have to do things different, you have to have a different approach. … Our mindset’s going to be on us, it’s not going to be on the opponent. It’s going to be on us. So creating that fearless mindset of, we are going to be aggressive, we’re going to put the ball in our hands, we’re going to trust our guys to make plays.

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“If we lose, we’re going to do it on our terms, not someone else’s terms.”

There is certainly an argument to be made for leaving your offense on the field during a fourth down, but some feel the Chargers overdid it last season, and in doing so, possibly cost themselves a playoff berth.

 

Live By The Sword, Die By The Sword?

For most of the NFL’s century-plus history, teams usually only went for it on fourth down if it was in a desperate situation at the end of a game where it was down to its last chance.

But over the last several years, that has been changing, as fourth-down attempts have been rising, as have fourth-down conversion rates.

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Analytics, which have taken over multiple team sports over the past decade-plus, has been a big factor in this change in philosophy.

Staley is absolutely right when he says that fearlessness must be present in order to win in the NFL, even more than in baseball, basketball, hockey or any other team sport.

But sometimes, one’s aggressiveness can go from his greatest asset to his greatest flaw, as it can be a double-edged sword.

With quarterback Justin Herbert running and gunning his way to a Pro Bowl appearance in just his second pro season, L.A. forged an 8-5 record and had a real shot at finishing first in the AFC West.

Its next contest in Week 15 versus the Kansas City Chiefs was billed as the that would likely decide the division winner.

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But in the first half, the Chargers failed to convert on two fourth-down situations inside the Kansas City 10-yard line, and they trailed 14-10 at intermission.

They failed on another fourth-down conversion attempt in the second half, and given that they lost 34-28 in overtime after leading 21-13 in the fourth quarter at one point, those failed attempts look bad in retrospect.

Then came the season-finale versus the Las Vegas Raiders, which was a doozy.

The Chargers converted six of seven fourth-down attempts, but the one they failed on was one even Staley may have wanted to take back.

The argument in his favor is that Herbert is an MVP-caliber QB who is turning into a clutch signal-caller, as evidenced in that contest against the Raiders.

But even with someone as talented as Herbert on your side, sometimes a bit of caution is a good thing.

The post Chargers HC Brandon Staley Is Pushing The Envelope appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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Kevin Durant shuts down 'comical' retirement rumors | UNDISPUTED

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According to Marc Stein, an NBA executive was hearing that Kevin Durant was more apt to retire than play for the Brooklyn Nets again. However, Durant went to Twitter to shoot down that notion, tweeting quote: ‘I know most people will believe unnamed sources over me but if it’s anyone out there that’ll listen, I don’t plan on retiring anytime soon.’ Durant would go on to say the situation as a whole is quote: ‘comical.’ Shannon Sharpe weighs in on the soap opera-like reports, including why it is not a good look on KD.



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MLB Insider Shares A Yankees Silver Lining

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(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

 

For the New York Yankees, things keep going from bad to worse.

Since the start of the second half, they have stumbled out of the gates and have lost a few very important series, the most notable ones being the series losses to the Seattle Mariners and the sweep they suffered at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals.

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That recent slide has caused them to lose their hold on the best record in baseball and in the American League.

However, there is one silver lining to all of this, as pointed out by Bob Nightengale.

The Yankees remain at the top of the AL East and lead it by 10 games.

 

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A Silver Lining

That’s one way of looking at it.

It’s better to be glass half full than glass half empty.

The AL East is beyond a shadow of a doubt, the toughest division in all of baseball.

The fact that four teams are above .500 and the Yankees still lead the division by a full 10 games should be somewhat reassuring for Yankees fans.

However, it does not change the fact that they have struggled to start the second half.

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Injuries have proven to be costly, most notably the right elbow fracture suffered by stalwart reliever Michael King.

Chad Green is also down for the season thanks to elbow troubles.

The Yankees are on a slide, and that’s putting it simply.

They’ve lost 10 of their last 12, including last night’s 4-0 loss at the hands of their division rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays.

It’s been hard to stomach for Yankees fans.

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At the very least though, they still have command over the AL East, but if they’re not careful, that lead could start to shrink.

The post MLB Insider Shares A Yankees Silver Lining appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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