The quarterback landscape was altered this week with the news that AJ McCarron won his grievance against the Cincinnati Bengals and will be an unrestricted free agent. This week’s mailbag question focuses on how McCarron’s sudden availability could impact the New York Jets.
If Jets fail to land Cousins, who would be a better choice McCown or McCarron? #jetsmail
— Google Me (@JCos201) February 16, 2018
@RichCimini: At the start of free agency last year, the Jets received a call from the Bengals, who offered McCarron in a trade. The Jets gave it some thought but nixed the proposal because they were focused on free agents and didn’t want to surrender compensation in a trade. As everybody knows, they wound up signing Josh McCown — a terrific free-agent move.
New year, same outcome?
This time, the circumstances are different because McCarron is a free man, no strings attached. Based on what we know from last year, I have to think he’d be a fallback option if the Jets fail to sign Kirk Cousins. I don’t know where McCarron falls in the pecking order of Plan B candidates, but I can tell you one thing: Personally, I’d take McCown over McCarron.
You know what you’re getting with McCown; McCarron is a mystery man.
McCarron showed promise in three 2015 starts (a 2-1 record, with four touchdown passes and no interceptions), but I think it’s a stretch to say he’s the next Jimmy Garoppolo. Heck, I’m not even sure Garoppolo deserves to be put on that kind of pedestal. After all, he has had only seven starts, the past five of which were meaningless games. At least McCarron has started a playoff game. Should’ve won it, too, except a couple of his numbskull teammates let him down.
I talked to a scout who believes McCarron’s ceiling is that of a solid game manager. (He has topped the 200-yard mark only once.) Is that worth a three-year, $45 million contract, including $18.5 million guaranteed? That’s what Mike Glennon got last year as a free agent, and you can bet someone will pay McCarron at least that much. As for the Jets, it makes more financial sense to re-up with McCown, who probably will command less than $12 million on a one-year deal.
Neither McCown nor McCarron is a surefire answer to the long-term quarterback problem. Obviously, McCarron has more growth potential because he’ll be only 28, but his arrival wouldn’t preclude the Jets from taking a quarterback with the sixth pick. Remember, the Chicago Bears drafted Mitchell Trubisky after paying Glennon. If you’re going to go that route, you might as well stick with the grizzled vet. My hunch is the Jets feel that way, too.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, still in concussion protocol, at practice again Friday
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes was with the Kansas City Chiefs as they began Friday’s practice session, their last one before Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium.
His participation on Friday would appear to put Mahomes on a path to play Sunday. Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Mahomes took all of the snaps in Wednesday’s practice and a majority of them on Thursday.
Mahomes was knocked out of last week’s divisional-round playoff win over the Browns with symptoms of a concussion after he was tackled hard on a running play. He has been in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Three other key Chiefs players who have been fighting injuries were also present for the start of Friday’s practice: wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf), running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (hip, ankle) and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (concussion, shoulder).
Coach Sean McDermott said the Bills were preparing for Mahomes to play.
“I guess at the beginning of the week we weren’t quite sure, and we really won’t know, I guess,” McDermott said. “It’s probably trending in that direction, so that’s what we’re anticipating.”
ESPN’s Mike Reiss contributed to this report.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown ruled out for NFC title game vs. Green Bay Packers
“I just talked to him this morning, and to put him on the plane and fly up there and have it swell more doesn’t any sense,” Arians said. “He wasn’t as close as we’d hoped, so we’ll get him ready for the next one.”
Brown suffered a knee injury in the divisional playoff game at the New Orleans Saints and played only 27 snaps. He did not practice this week.
Arians had described him as “day to day,” but Brown wasn’t able to progress quickly enough in his healing.
The former All-Pro led the Buccaneers in receiving targets the final five weeks of the regular season and had a 36-yard touchdown catch in their wild-card win over Washington. Brown also has experience playing in two league championship games and a Super Bowl, something few other players have on this roster outside of Tom Brady.
“It obviously sucks for Antonio. We wish he could be out there with us,” Brady said. “Other guys are gonna have to step up and do the job. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys that haven’t been out there as much when AB’s been in there.”
Arians said he believes Scotty Miller and rookie Tyler Johnson will be able to step up. Johnson made a key third-down catch for 15 yards against the Saints. Miller had one catch for 29 yards against New Orleans, but he has been on the receiving end of some of Brady’s best deep pass plays this season — a 33-yard touchdown grab against the Las Vegas Raiders and a 48-yard touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings.
“I think if you just look to last week, when Scotty and Tyler made those huge plays in the fourth quarter, the amount of trust that the coaches and Tom have in those guys just because they’ve earned it. Their performances have earned it,” Arians said. “Antonio will be missed, but we’ve got capable people stepping in.”
Arians said there is a possibility that defensive tackle Vita Vea will play after returning to practice this week for the first time since fracturing his ankle in Week 5.
“He’s looked real good. He’s been running around for almost three weeks and had a real good practice yesterday and a good one today,” Arians said. “We haven’t made that determination yet, but we’ll see if we want to activate him or not. There is a chance.”
Behind the Bets, Odds and Ends
We have a special weekend on tap as the AFC and NFC will decide who goes to Tampa for Super Bowl LV, The Notorious One is back in the octagon and the NBA/NHL seasons are in full swing. Here are some betting thoughts for the notable events this weekend.
Much like in life, sports betting questions are extremely nuanced. Nothing is simple and that theory is crystallized with the giant question mark of Patrick Mahomes‘ status in the AFC Championship Game. In the NFL’s version of “Panda Watch”, football fans have been closely monitoring the superstar’s concussion protocol every day this week, trying to read between the lines of basic updates. However, bold and confident oddsmakers posted a point spread Sunday night and the number has not really moved.
Based on the line of KC -3, the market assumes Mahomes will suit up on Sunday. I spoke with a couple of oddsmakers who do not anticipate any line change, if and when Mahomes is officially cleared. First of all, three is the most key number in NFL oddsmaking, since it is the most common margin of victory in NFL history. Since the league moved back PAT distance in 2015, we have seen 14.1% of games decided by exactly three points. Thus, it takes a significant occurrence to move off that number. Additionally, most books are reporting a majority of this game’s public action is on the Bills so oddsmakers see no reason to give those backers a better number.
However, if Mahomes fails to receive clearance, we could see the Bills favored at Arrowhead Stadium by as many as six points. Westgate Superbook Las Vegas head NFL oddsmaker Ed Salmons acutely reminded me that the Chiefs were 5.5-point home underdogs to both the Vikings and Packers in the 2019 regular season, while Mahomes missed time with an injury. “This Bills team is much better than either of those two teams,” Salmons told ESPN.
Lambeau Field forecasts call for 29 degrees without snow, so it’s highly unlikely NFL Films is assigning extra cameras to capture Sunday’s NFC Championship Game for a frozen tundra piece. However, it’s hard not to ignore the weather in January when the Packers host a team from Florida; that could prove to be a deciding factor. Aaron Rodgers is 27-7 overall and 24-9-1 ATS when the temperature is 32 degrees or below.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s foe, Tom Brady, has also thrived, winning 14 of 16 playoff games when the temperature is freezing or below. Overall, Brady is 24-15-3 ATS in such conditions. At the end of the day, those are just fun facts. Quarterback is arguably the most important position in all of sports but QB records do have flaws. For example. some of Brady’s wins and covers are connected to Bill Belichick’s defenses.
There is no bigger UFC draw than Conor McGregor. “Notorious” has starred in six of the organization’s eight largest gates, and the betting needle mirrors that trend. The Westgate SuperBook Las Vegas says its largest betting handles all involve cards that include McGregor. Additionally, his exhibition bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. broke a Nevada boxing handle record. And given growing state legalization, Saturday’s UFC 257 card could set a UFC all-time mark.
“They flock to him. My ticket count is already four-to-one on Conor,” Golden Nugget sportsbook director Tony Miller told ESPN. “We went up to -330, which is the highest downtown. That’s pretty steep, considering he’s -300 or -310 other places but they keep playing him in parlays and straight bets.”
We all want easy winners, and I wish winning money was as simple as blindly betting trends. However, I would not fault anyone for continuing to back the latest NBA streak. The Brooklyn Nets have hit the over in 10 straight games. Unfortunately, oddsmakers are aware of the offensive firepower and defensive issues. Four NBA games have featured a total of at least 240 this season, and all four have involved the Nets.
“For the most part, bettors look at it and say ‘this is easy. I’m betting them to go over again tonight,” Sunset Station Race and Sportsbook Director and Chuck Esposito told ESPN. “We have to adjust sometimes when you’re looking at a team that scores like the Nets do. So you are going to see some totals inflated but we’re not going to get too carried away because we still want to post a total that will get good two-way action.”
Essentially, you’re paying a tax to back the newest Big Three to light it up – but it’s certainly been worth it lately.
It’s actually been eight years since LeBron James won an NBA MVP award. That is hard to fathom, given he’s won three Finals MVP trophies since then and has been widely considered the league’s best player for more than a decade. But sometimes narratives can hamper your status and other superstars have certainly emerged. However, it is starting to feel like this might be the year he captures a fifth MVP.
Following LeBron’s 36 points and the Lakers’ high-profile road win on Thursday, I wagered on James at 8/1 odds at Caesars William Hill. Giannis Antetokounmpo (+450) has demonstrated three-point and free-throw deficiencies and ultimately voter fatigue will likely prevent a third straight MVP. Luka Doncic (+400) is the favorite and while he’s spectacular, LeBron has led the Lakers to the league’s best record. The 36-year-old still continues to dominate games statistically, reminding fans, voters and bettors that he still belongs in the conversation. Kevin Durant (+650), Nikola Jokic (7-1) or Joel Embiid (10-1) might prevail, but to me, it just feels like LeBron will get deference from voters who narrowly chose Giannis over him last year. Buyer’s remorse can be a powerful emotion.
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