Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) and quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) participate in training camp Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.

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Aaron Rodgers’ post spurs Packers QB prop markets

Aaron Rodgers’ “Monday Night Gratitude” Instagram post ignited a firestorm of speculation about the future of the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

It also spurred multiple sportsbooks to set odds on who will be under center for the Packers in Week 1 of the 2022 season — if it’s not Rodgers — and where the four-time NFL MVP might be if it’s not with Green Bay or enjoying retirement.

Rodgers said Tuesday on “The Pat McAfee Show” that he had not made a decision about his future.

Packers backup quarterback Jordan Love was among the numerous people Rodgers expressed gratitude for in his Monday night post. The 23-year-old has been waiting in the wings since his controversial selection in the first round two years ago.

The former Utah State quarterback saw his first regular-season action in 2021, completing 36 of 62 passes (58.1 percent) for 411 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s the clear favorite to take over the starting job if Rodgers moves on, with MaximBet offering him at 2-1.

The next shortest odds belong to San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (5-1), who is widely expected to be traded this offseason with the 49ers spending the third overall pick on Trey Lance last year. He’s followed by Russell Wilson at 6-1, despite Seattle’s quarterback saying earlier this month that his “hope and goal” is to remain with the Seahawks.

BetMGM is offering -350 odds that Wilson takes the first snap for Seattle in Week 1 compared to +240 odds that it will be any other quarterback for the Seahawks.

Any rookie quarterback taking over for Rodgers and starting in Week 1 has 8-1 odds at MaximBet, followed by Las Vegas backup Marcus Mariota (9-1) and Minnesota starter Kirk Cousins (10-1).

The sportsbook is offering odds on 14 possibilities, all the way down to the Packers luring Tom Brady out of retirement at 25-1.

Packers Week 1 QB Odds:
Jordan Love (2-1)
Jimmy Garoppolo (5-1)
Russell Wilson (6-1)
Rookie Quarterback (8-1)
Ryan Tannehill (8-1)
Marcus Mariota (9-1)
Kirk Cousins (10-1)
Carson Wentz (10-1)
Ryan Fitzpatrick (10-1)
Jameis Winston (12-1)
Gardner Minshew (16-1)
Cam Newton (20-1)
Derek Carr (20-1)
Tom Brady (25-1)

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Could Russell Wilson replace Tom Brady in Tampa?

Russell Wilson’s future in Seattle remains a topic of debate despite saying earlier this month that his “hope and goal” is to remain with the Seahawks.

BetMGM is offering -400 odds that the 34-year-old will remain with Seattle compared to +280 odds that another quarterback will be under center for the Seahawks in Week 1 next season.

But with several playoff contenders likely to be in the market for a quarterback upgrade this offseason and a draft class widely considered to be weak at the position, Seahawks general manager John Schneider may well receive tempting offers for Wilson.

Tampa Bay (Tom Brady) and Pittsburgh (Ben Roethlisberger) lost their starting quarterbacks to retirement shortly after their seasons ended. They are among 20 potential NFL destinations SportsBetting.ag is offering odds on landing Wilson if he departs Seattle.

Russell Wilson Next Team Odds:
Buccaneers (+350)
Saints (+400)
Steelers (+400)
Dolphins (+500)
Raiders (+800)
Panthers (+1000)
Bears (+1000)
Broncos (+1200)
Browns (+1400)
Colts (+1400)
Patriots (+2000)
Commanders (+2000)
Titans (+2500)
Packers (+3300)
49ers (+3300)
Jets (+3300)
Eagles (+4000)
Falcons (+4000)
Ravens (+4000)
Texans (+5000)

Wilson reiterated in an interview with Chris Russo’s “Mad Dog Sports Radio” that he aims to be back with the Seahawks in 2022 and beyond.

“I’ve been fortunate to be able to play 10 amazing years in Seattle,” Wilson told Russo earlier this month. “My hope and goal is to be back there and keep winning there. That’s the vision, that’s the goal. That’s always been it. It’s never really been anything different.”

Wilson’s future in Seattle looked murky at best when he publicly lobbied for more offensive line help after the Seahawks lost in the wild-card round following the 2020 season. His agent then told ESPN that Wilson had not asked for a trade, but that the Super Bowl-winning quarterback would waive his no-trade clause to go to the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints and Las Vegas Raiders.

The quarterback landscape has changed since then, with the Cowboys locking up Dak Prescott long-term and the Bears drafting Justin Fields. Wilson is coming off a challenging 2021 season. He missed games due to injury for the first time and missed the playoffs with a losing record altogether, all career firsts.

In 14 games, Wilson threw for 3,113 yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions with a 64.8 completion percentage.

Near the end of the season, Wilson told reporters that he hoped he wasn’t nearing his last game as a Seahawk and said he planned to win more Super Bowls with the franchise.

“I want to win three more Super Bowls,” Wilson told Russo. “That’s my focus, is to get back and win again and for us to overcome all the obstacles. There’s nothing more fun than that.”

–Field Level Media

November 7, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) smiles on the sideline during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyler Murray favored to stick with Cardinals

Despite his recent social media breakup with the Cardinals, Kyler Murray is still the favorite to be Arizona’s starting quarterback in 2022.

A prop bet at the BetMGM sportsbook lists Murray at -1000 to take the first snap in Week 1 of the regular season with “any other quarterback” listed at +550.

As of Wednesday morning, Murray had received 83 percent of the tickets and 79 percent of the total handle.

Earlier this month, Murray unfollowed the Cardinals on social media and took down all photos with logos of the team from his Instagram account. Some media outlets speculated his actions indicated there was friction between him and the team due to an early playoff exit, which Murray later called “nonsense.”

Murray, 24, is entering the final year of a four-year contract. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2019 draft is a two-time Pro Bowl selection with 11,480 passing yards, 70 touchdowns and 34 interceptions in 46 starts.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) runs the ball during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Divisional Playoffs could feature historically low point spreads

After a wild-card weekend marked by several blowouts, the divisional round is shaping up to feature four of the closest combined matchups in NFL playoff history.

The lowest combined point spreads for four divisional playoff games was 13.5 points in 1971, according to data from TheLines.com. This weekend’s games opened with a combined consensus point spread of 14 from opening odds at DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, BetRivers, Caesars and PointsBet.

According to TheLines.com, the combined opening point spread average for the divisional round over the past 15 years has been 27 points, with the lowest during that span being 21 points last season.

Tight contests would be a welcome sight for fans after four of six wild-card games were decided by at least 16 points.

The divisional round will begin with Cincinnati traveling to Tennessee on Saturday. The Titans opened as 3.0-point favorites but the line has moved to 3.5 at several books including BetMGM, where Tennessee is being backed by 62 percent of the bets and 71 percent of the spread-line handle.

The 3.5-point spread at DraftKings has seen an even amount of bets but 66 percent of the money is backing the Titans.

San Francisco will travel to Green Bay for the second game Saturday, with the Packers opening as the biggest favorite of the weekend. The 49ers were the only underdog to win last weekend, but the Packers are also well-rested as the NFC’s top seed.

Green Bay opened as a 5.5-point favorite and is being backed by 77 percent of the bets and 78 percent of the spread-line handle at BetMGM. The spread is 6.0 points at DraftKings with the Packers supported by 74 and 75 percent, respectively.

Fresh off their resounding victories to open the playoffs, the Los Angeles Rams and Buccaneers will square off in Tampa on Sunday.

Tampa Bay is a 3.0-point favorite at both sportsbooks with the Bucs backed by 64 percent of the bets and 67 percent of the spread-line money at BetMGM. However, the action has been split at DraftKings, with the Bucs backed by 53 percent of the bets but the Rams drawing 58 percent of the early handle.

The divisional playoffs will conclude with a heavyweight bout between the Buffalo Bills and Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

Kansas City is a 2.5-point favorite and is being backed by 54 percent of the bets and 60 percent of the handle at BetMGM. The story is similar at DraftKings with the Chiefs supported by 54 and 52 percent, respectively.

The Bills and Chiefs also feature the highest Over/Under of the weekend at 54.5 points at BetMGM and 55.0 points at DraftKings. That hasn’t dissuaded the public, with the Over backed by 90 percent of the bets and 95 percent of the money at the former and 71 and 95 percent, respectively, at the latter.

“All four of these games have the potential to be classic NFL playoff games and we expect to see bettors pay significant attention to this weekend,” TheLines.com lead analyst Brett Collson said. “The home team is the favorite in all four games, but the relatively narrow lines show just how tight these matchups could be.”

Super Bowl LVI Odds (preseason odds)
–Green Bay Packers +375 (+1400)
–Kansas City Chiefs +400 (+500)
–Buffalo Bills +500 (+1150)
–Tampa Bay Buccaneers +550 (+650)
–Los Angeles Rams +750 (+1500)
–Tennessee Titans +750 (+3000)
–San Francisco 49ers +1000 (+1400)
–Cincinnati Bengals +1200 (+15000)

BetMGM reported that the Packers are the sportsbook’s biggest Super Bowl liability with 10.2 percent of the bets and 10.2 percent of the money placed on Green Bay. Second is the Bucs, who have been backed by 9.9 and 11.8 percent, respectively.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) warms up prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers face long odds to keep season alive at K.C.

The Super Bowl defeat suffered by the Kansas City Chiefs last season provides motivation entering the playoffs but remains a setback that can be compartmentalized.

After all, considerable work remains for the two-time reigning AFC champion before booking a Super Bowl appearance in mid-February. The path begins to unravel Sunday when the Chiefs host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round at Kansas City, Mo.

The Chiefs are easily the biggest favorites of Wildcard Weekend, with the line at 12.5 points at BetMGM and FanDuel. That has led to split action, with Pittsburgh backed by 55 percent of the bets and 50 percent of the spread-line money at BetMGM while Kansas City has been supported by 55 percent of both markets at FanDuel.

“It’s in the back of my mind but for the most part it’s a new year,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said about the NFL’s ultimate prize. “You’ve got to focus on things that have happened this year. We’re on a goal to prove to ourselves who we think we are, and we know we are, and that’s Super Bowl champions.”

The Pittsburgh matchup will be a rematch of a Dec. 26 clash Kansas City dominated 36-10 with Kelce sidelined in COVID-19 protocol. The Chiefs went on to go 12-5 while winning nine of their final 10 games and claiming their sixth consecutive AFC West title.

Kansas City has reached the AFC championship game in each of the previous three seasons, primarily engineered by stalwart quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“When you get to that playoff game day, you have a little bit different intensity knowing that every play is critical and it could really end your season by making a mistake,” Mahomes said. “At the same time, you want to be loose, you want to have fun and you want to enjoy it.”

Mahomes passed for 258 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting with the Steelers. The Chiefs also forced three turnovers and limited Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to 159 yards passing.

The Chiefs’ defensive intensity that day followed a trend that began after acquiring a longtime Steeler, Melvin Ingram. Ingram proved instrumental a week ago when he crashed into the backfield to generate a bone-jarring strip the Chiefs converted into a late touchdown return in a 28-24 win at Denver.

“He’s the swag champ,” Kelce said, adding that “you saw how much more fun people were having” after Ingram joined the defensive front.

At times, Mahomes has struggled with his accuracy, but he overcame an early-season rash of mistakes to lead the Chiefs to the league’s third-best production, 396.8 yards on average.

He passed for 4,839 yards while counting on Kelce and Tyreek Hill as 1,000-yard receivers. The committee approach to the backfield could continue with Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) ruled out and Darrel Williams (toe) listed as questionable.

Second-seeded Kansas City, a two-time Super Bowl champion, will make its seventh consecutive postseason appearance and last faced Pittsburgh in the playoffs in 2016. The Steelers won 18-16. Pittsburgh, a six-time Super Bowl champion, reached the playoffs for the second straight season but last won a postseason game in 2016.

Roethlisberger, whose career could end with the Steelers’ next loss as he considers retiring from football, lamented the long odds his team faces after going 9-7-1 and drawing the No. 7 seed.

“I would assume, as a group, you understand that we probably aren’t supposed to be here,” said Roethlisberger, who is dealing with a strained pectoral and shoulder.

“We probably are not a very good football team. Out of 14 teams I think are in, we’re probably number 14. We’re double-digit underdogs in the playoffs. So, let’s just go play, have fun and see what happens.”

Tongue in cheek? Probably. A dose of realism? Yes, that too.

Still, Pittsburgh got in by defeating Baltimore in the season finale and getting help from Jacksonville beating Indianapolis and Las Vegas beating the Los Angeles Chargers in overtime.

Running back Najee Harris (elbow) was deemed good to go on Saturday. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster also is expected to be activated from injured reserve, where he’s been since sustaining a shoulder injury in October. Cornerback Arthur Maulet (concussion) also has been cleared to play against the Chiefs.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gained some satisfaction getting to restrict the all-out aggression of Harris, a 1,200-yard rusher as a rookie.

“It’s a good issue and problem to have,” Tomlin said, “when you have a guy that’s wired the way that he’s wired.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 8, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA;  Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys slight home favorite ahead of 49ers showdown

The Dallas Cowboys have Super Bowl dreams but perhaps the toughest matchup of all the home teams in the NFL Wild Card round.

That’s because the NFC’s third seed drew the sixth-seeded San Francisco 49ers in the late-afternoon window on Sunday.

The Cowboys opened as 3.0-point favorites at BetMGM and FanDuel.

The line has moved to 2.5 at the former, with the 49ers backed by 54 percent of the bets and 51 percent of the spread-line money. The action has favored Dallas more at FanDuel, where the team is being backed by 55 percent of the bets and 67 percent of the money.

San Francisco boasts a strong running game and a stronger run defense. It enters with momentum after finishing a 10-7 season with seven wins in their last nine games.

“We know we have a chance to do something special,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “You don’t get that opportunity every year. I’ve been on a number of teams that went to the Super Bowl… there’s a feeling and you want to make them count as long as you have them.”

Some believe the 49ers’ chances of making a deep postseason run hinge on what Garoppolo does. The version of him that led a rally from a 17-0 second quarter deficit in a 27-24 overtime win at the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday can help San Francisco win multiple playoff games.

Garoppolo connected on 23 of 32 passes for 316 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, spearheading an 88-yard touchdown drive in the final 90 seconds that forced overtime. And he did that with a thumb injury suffered in a Dec. 23 loss at Tennessee that will require surgery when the season ends.

When asked about the thumb on Wednesday, Garoppolo said, “It was a little sore after the (Rams) game, but it’s feeling great right now.”

The 49ers are seventh in the league in rushing at 127.4 yards per-game despite losing Raheem Mostert after two carries in the season opener with a knee injury. Rookie Elijah Mitchell returned from a December injury to average 102 yards per-game over his last two outings.

San Francisco also expanded Deebo Samuel’s role when necessary, using him like Atlanta used Cordarrelle Patterson. In addition to his 1,405 receiving yards, Samuel rushed for 365 yards this season — good enough for second on the team — and led the club with eight rushing scores.

But the game’s most intriguing portion figures to occur when Dallas (12-5) owns the ball. That’s because its high-powered offense must cope with a defense ranked second in the league against the rush and fifth in the league in sacks with 48.

The good news for the Cowboys is that left tackle Tyron Smith has been activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and is expected to start. That should ease the mind of quarterback Dak Prescott, who will lean on Smith to keep the likes of Nick Bosa from disrupting his pocket.

Prescott is coming off a highly efficient, highly productive performance in Dallas’ final regular season game. In a 51-26 road rout of Philadelphia on Jan. 8, Prescott completed 21 of 27 attempts for 295 yards and five touchdowns in three quarters and 22 seconds of action.

The Cowboys finished the season as the NFL’s top-scoring team at 31.2 points per game and set a franchise record with 22 different players scoring at least one touchdown.

Prescott spread the wealth around, with CeeDee Lamb, Dalton Schultz and Amari Cooper each catching at least 68 passes. Four other players caught between 35 and 47 balls, and Ezekiel Elliott squeaked out a 1,000-yard season on the ground with 87 yards at Philadelphia, giving him 1,002 in the regular season.

The matchup also features a reunion of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. They were together in Atlanta when the Falcons made Super Bowl 51 with Quinn as the head coach, only to infamously blow a 28-3 lead and lose in overtime to the New England Patriots.

Quinn invoked the memories of some early 90s playoff showdowns between these franchises when asked about this game.

“I can hear (John) Madden and (Pat) Summerall talking it through,” Quinn said. “My first Dallas and Niner playoff game — I’m pretty fired up to do it, man.”

The 49ers and the Cowboys have met in the playoffs seven previous times, but this will be their first postseason matchup since Jan. 15, 1995, a 38-28 49ers win.

Cowboys linebacker Keanu Neal was ruled out with a biceps injury along with backup running back Tony Pollard (foot). Backups Luke Gifford and Francis Bernard are expected to be called upon to play more significant roles with Neal out.

The 49ers listed four players as questionable on their final injury report: linebackers Azeez Al-Shaair (knee) and Marcell Harris (Achilles), punter Mitch Wishnowsky (concussion) and safety Talanoa Hufanga (knee).

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) drops back to pass against the New York Jets during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Trilogy metting between Patriots, Bills splitting public

A rare third meeting between Buffalo and New England will settle the score between the two AFC East rivals as the third-seeded Bills host the sixth-seeded Patriots in an AFC wild-card matchup on Saturday night in Orchard Park, N.Y.

The Bills opened as 4.5-point favorites at DraftKings and BetMGM, where the line has moved to 4.0 points with the action split and Buffalo backed by a slight margin at 52 percent of the spread-line money. Meanwhile, Buffalo has been backed by 60 percent of the bets and 65 percent of the money at DraftKings.

After splitting their two regular season meetings, the Bills and Patriots are set to meet in the playoffs for the first time since Dec. 28, 1963. Back then, a Boston Patriots team overcame the Bills 26-8 at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo in a divisional round matchup.

“Playing at home in the divisional round against our division rival — a team that’s been the standard for long-term success in the NFL for the last 25, 30 years — it’s going to be a great challenge,” Bills quarterback Josh Allen said. “It’s going to be another dogfight.”

New England has dominated the all-times series with Buffalo, posting a 77-46-1 record. In Buffalo, the Patriots are 38-23-1 and have gone 31-17 at the Bills’ current venue of Highmark Stadium.

However, the departure of Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady has opened a window for the Bills. Buffalo ended New England’s 11-year reign as AFC East champions one year ago as the Patriots finished 7-9 in their first season without Brady.

This year, a revamped New England team bounced back to make the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 seasons after finishing 10-7.

Yet even finding Brady’s successor in former Alabama champion quarterback Mac Jones and a nearly $200 million free agent spending spree wasn’t enough to keep the Bills from a second straight division crown after an 11-6 season.

Buffalo ended the regular season with four consecutive victories while New England limped to the finish line with three losses in its final four contests.

“Regardless of what level you’re playing on, you understand what’s at stake (in the playoffs),” Jones said. “We know the Bills are a really good team, they have a great defense — top in the league — and we understand that they have great players.”

On the heels of its first AFC East title since 1995 last season, Buffalo forged a deep playoff run with a narrow win over Indianapolis in the wild-card round and a statement victory against Baltimore in the divisional round before ultimately falling short at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game.

This season, the Patriots and Bills each took different routes to winning on the others’ home field.

On Dec. 6, New England used an unorthodox and weather-altered game plan to win at Buffalo 14-10 in snowy and windy conditions. Jones attempted a franchise-record-low three passes and totaled 19 yards as Damien Harris’ 111 rushing yards paced the Patriots’ powerful run game to a victory.

In the rematch on Dec. 26 in Foxborough, Mass., Allen got his revenge after completing 30 of 47 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns in Buffalo’s 33-21 triumph. With their receiving corps depleted, lesser known wideout Isaiah McKenzie had a breakout performance for the Bills with 11 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown.

Conditions for the completion of this season’s trilogy between the teams appear more likely to be similar to those of the first meeting in Buffalo. Forecasts are calling for bitter cold temperatures in the single digits at the time of kickoff.

New England starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn (hip/ankle) was ruled out on Friday. He could be replaced by Yodny Cajuste, who has two starts among seven career appearances. But their options to replace Wynn also include veteran Trent Brown, who’s been starting at right tackle, and second-year lineman Michael Onwenu, who has played both guard and tackle.

Several other key New England players remain questionable for the game, including center David Andrews (shoulder), defensive lineman Christian Barmore (knee), linebacker Jamie Collins (ankle), kicker Nick Folk (knee in non-kicking leg), running back Damien Harris (hamstring) and linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee).

The Bills are largely healthy, with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (knee) able to practice fully all week.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals heavily backed against Raiders on short rest

The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, while the Raiders franchise now housed in Las Vegas last claimed a postseason victory during a 2002 season run to the Super Bowl.

A long drought will end for one of the franchises on Saturday when the fifth-seeded Raiders (10-7) battle the fourth-seeded Bengals (10-7) in an AFC wild-card contest in Cincinnati.

The Bengals opened as 5.0-point favorites at BetMGM but the line moved to 5.5 with Cincinnati being backed by the most tickets at the sportsbook. The Raiders have now been backed by 43 percent of the bets and 44 percent of the handle at BetMGM.

The line has remained at 5.0 at DraftKings, where the Bengals are being backed by 63 percent of the bets and 73 of the spread-line bets – both are the highest among the six games on Wildcard Weekend.

The Bengals have dropped eight consecutive playoff games, a skid that began with a 20-10 loss to the then-Los Angeles Raiders in the 1990-91 divisional round.

In recent years, Cincinnati locals have attributed the lack of postseason success to the “Curse of Bo Jackson.” In that game against the Raiders 31 years ago, linebacker Kevin Walker tackled Jackson after a 34-yard gain and Jackson injured his hip and never played another down of football.

The curse was news to third-year Bengals coach Zac Taylor when he was quizzed about it.

“We’re just way more focused on 2021, the present and going forward,” Taylor said. “So it’s OK to be aware of what’s gone on previously, but that’s not anything that takes up our time or our focus.”

The Raiders are in the postseason for just the second time since being clobbered 48-21 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.

They reached the postseason as the Oakland Raiders during the 2016 season, but quarterback Derek Carr missed the 27-14 wild-card loss to the Houston Texans due to a broken right fibula.

Carr and running back Jalen Richard are the team’s only players left from the 2016 squad.

“I hurt for him back then in 2016 when he wasn’t able to finish the season the way he wanted to finish it because again he was having such a stellar season,” Richard told reporters. “But now he’s coming in and he’s glowing. … I can’t wait to see him out there.”

Carr passed for a franchise-record 4,804 yards this season to go with 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

He helped the Raiders win their last four games — each victory pivotal as Las Vegas didn’t clinch a berth until the final second of a 35-32 overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. The Raiders went 4-0 in OT games.

They now travel to Cincinnati on a short week to play another must-win game.

An unpleasant memory for Carr was the home game against the Bengals on Nov. 21 when Cincinnati pulled away in the fourth quarter for a convincing 32-13 victory.

Carr passed for 215 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Bengals back Joe Mixon was the star with 123 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.

“I felt that we didn’t put our best foot forward,” Carr said. “But at the same time, I don’t want to take anything away from them because they beat us and they did a good job of stopping us and getting the ball from us and all those things.

“It will be an exciting challenge for us.”

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow passed for a career-low 148 yards in the November contest. However, the second-year pro was hot down the stretch with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions over his final four appearances.

Burrow passed for 971 yards in his last two games — a career-high 525 against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16 and 446 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs the following week.

Overall, Burrow set franchise records of 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns while being intercepted 14 times.

However, the 25-year-old quarterback is more interested in snapping that long stretch of feebleness in the postseason.

“I grew up in Ohio,” Burrow said. “I knew exactly everything that everybody says about the Bengals. I had a bunch of friends that are Bengals fans growing up, and I knew they hadn’t won a playoff game in a long time.”

The Bengals likely will be without defensive tackle Josh Tupou (knee), who was listed as doubtful after not practicing all week. Defensive back Ricardo Allen (concussion) and wide receiver Stanley Morgan (hamstring) are questionable after taking part in limited practice Wednesday and Thursday.

The Raiders will be without defensive tackle Darius Philon, who sustained a season-ending knee injury against the Chargers. Defensive tackle Johnathan Haskins (back, knee) returned to limited practice Thursday and is questionable.

Tight end Darren Waller (knee), running back Josh Jacobs (ribs) and cornerback Casey Hayward (ankle) were limited all week but are expected to play.

The Raiders are 2-0 in the postseason against Cincinnati, also prevailing 31-28 in the divisional round of the 1975 season playoffs.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Giants’ next coach odds: Brian Daboll tops deep list

New York Giants co-owner John Mara vowed to take his time in rebuilding the team’s leadership from “the ground up” after firing coach Joe Judge on Tuesday.

That was immediately followed by another word: “again.”

Judge became the third consecutive coach to be fired by the Giants after only two seasons at the helm. And his departure came a day after embattled general manager Dave Gettleman announced his retirement.

Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch began interviewing general manager candidates Wednesday and plan to fill that void first. That GM will be tasked with rebuilding a team that has reached the playoffs just once since winning the Super Bowl after the 2011 season.

While the GM has yet to be identified, the early list of favorites to replace Judge is heavy on respected offensive minds.

That includes offensive coordinators Brian Daboll (Buffalo), Eric Bieniemy (Kansas City), Byron Leftwich (Tampa Bay) and Josh McDaniels (New England) along with former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.

Daboll was installed as the +350 favorite by BetMGM, and those odds have shortened to +325 as he leads with 30.8 percent of the bets and an overwhelming 70.1 percent of the early money wagered at the sportsbook. It helped that Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen was the first to interview with the Giants on Wednesday.

Pederson has the second-shortest odds at +400, followed by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who has moved from +500 to +550 despite being tied with Daboll with 30.8 percent of the early tickets backing him.

Flores is a Brooklyn native who was a long-time assistant for the Patriots. Then again, Judge also came from the Bill Belichick coaching tree.

Bieniemy, who interviewed for the Giants’ job two years ago, is +600 followed by Leftwich and current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh at +700. McDaniels is being offered at +800 followed by current Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham at +900. Graham is close to Judge and is considered a longshot.

Three other names that could quickly emerge depending on the GM hire are Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and defensive coordinators Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay) and Dan Quinn (Dallas). Each currently has +1000 odds at BetMGM.

Daboll is the sportsbook’s biggest liability with the heavy early action supporting him. Harbaugh is third with 15.4 percent of the bets, while Leftwich had the third-most money backing him at 8.5 percent compared to Harbaugh’s 5.0.

Mara and Tisch are set to hire their fourth head coach since 2016 — following Judge, Pat Shurmur, Ben McAdoo. The Giants went 4-13 in 2021.

All of the losses and uncertainty created a fan base short on patience and trust. Mara said he grasps that he hasn’t given fans a reason to believe the Giants will get it right, and senses the franchise has a bridge to rebuild with fans.

“That’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.

–Field Level Media

Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) looks on before the game gainst the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Watt, Cooper Kupp chasing hallowed NFL records

One of the most compelling storylines entering the final week of the regular season is whether Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt will set a new single-season NFL sack record.

Watt brought himself within one of Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5 set in 2001 with a career-high four sacks of Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield on Monday night. Pittsburgh closes the season at Baltimore, with both teams still mathematically in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the AFC, although they both need a win and significant help.

Watt leads the NFL with 21.5 sacks this season, followed by Chicago’s Robert Quinn (18.0), Cleveland’s Myles Garrett (15.0), San Francisco’s Nick Bosa (15.0) and Cincinnati’s Trey Hendrickson (14.0).

BetMGM is offering +180 odds that the sack record will be broken in Week 18, compared to -225 odds that the outright record will either be tied or not reached. The season-long struggles of Baltimore’s offensive line had contributed to 98 percent of the bets and 99 percent of the money backing the record to be broken shortly after the sportsbook posted the prop bet.

By contrast, DraftKings is offering -130 odds that Watt will record at least 1.5 sacks on Sunday.

Watt cleared COVID-19 protocols in time to record 3.5 of his 21.5 sacks this season in a 20-19 Steelers win at home against the Ravens last month.

Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson has missed the past three games with an ankle injury and didn’t practice Wednesday. If he can’t play Sunday, Tyler Huntley will get the start.

There has been some debate as to whether an asterisk should be associated with single-season records that are set with the NFL moving to a 17-game schedule. However, Watt will be listed as the officially record holder by the NFL if he breaks Strahan’s mark.

Watt did miss two games earlier this season and has already joined Reggie White as the only players in NFL history to record at least 21 sacks in 14 games or less. Watt and White are also the only players in league history with at least 13 sacks in four consecutive seasons since the NFL officially began tracking sacks in 1982.

Just before this season, Watt inked a four-year, $112 million contract extension that made him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. He was the runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 and is averaging 0.93 sacks per game since entering the league in 2017 – the most in league history.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp will also be chasing two of the league’s most hallowed records on Sunday.

He currently leads the NFL in catches (138), receptions (1,829) and touchdowns (15). Kupp has a chance to break Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,964 receiving yards set with Detroit in 2012.

The Lions’ quarterback that season? That would be current Rams signal-caller Matthew Stafford.

Kupp has recorded at least 136 receiving yards in three different games this season. He had 11 catches for 122 yards in the first meeting against San Francisco this season.

He also needs 11 receptions to tie Michael Thomas’ record for catches in a single season.

DraftKings is offering +160 odds that Kupp will record over 135.5 receiving yards and +380 odds that he will have more than 11.5 receptions.

However, Kupp said Monday that breaking the record “wouldn’t hold the same weight” by accomplishing the feat in a 17-game season.

“In all honesty, in my opinion, we’re in a very unique season,” he said. “We’re the longest football season ever played.

“What the guys did that set those records – Mike Thomas, Randy Moss for the touchdowns, what Calvin Johnson did with the yards. What those guys did in 16 games, it wouldn’t seem right to, I don’t know, for those to be broken in 17 games.

“Those are incredible things, incredible accomplishments. You kind of have to separate the two. I have just an incredible respect for what those guys were able to do, what they were able to accomplish and what they were able to produce for their teams in those 16 games.”

–Field Level Media