Bengals, Texans betting underdogs in AFC Wild Card matchups

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The Cincinnati Bengals will be looking to halt a seven-game straight-up losing streak in the postseason, including Wild Card Weekend losses in each of the past four years, when they play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night as 2.5-point betting underdogs at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The 12-4 Bengals enter the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the conference, and as AFC North champs for the second time in three years. However, Cincinnati struggled in the second half of its campaign, going 4-4 SU in its last eight ahead of Saturday’s Steelers vs. Bengals betting matchup at Paul Brown Stadium, failing to tally a victory against a playoff-bound team during that stretch.

Compounding matters for the Bengals has been the absence of quarterback Andy Dalton, who suffered a broken thumb in the club’s 33-20 loss to Pittsburgh four weeks ago, and remains questionable for this weekend’s contest.

The 10-6 Steelers needed to overcome serious adversity before capturing a playoff berth with last weekend’s 28-12 win over Cleveland. Struck by injuries to rusher Le'Veon Bell and pivot Ben Roethlisberger, who was sidelined twice early in the season, Pittsburgh stumbled to a 4-4 start before coming to life in the second half.

The Steelers are enduring a playoff losing streak of their own, coming up short in their last three, also taking against the spread losses as betting favorites in their past two, but are a solid 4-1 SU and ATS in their past five against the division-rival Bengals according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

In the other AFC Wild Card Weekend matchup on Saturday, the AFC South champion Houston Texans will be gunning for their fourth straight SU win when they welcome the Kansas City Chiefs as 3.5-point betting underdogs.

The Texans have won seven of their past nine games both SU and ATS, and have been dominant during their current hot streak, allowing just 7.3 points per game in crucial wins over divisional rivals.

The 11-5 Chiefs reached the postseason on a torrid 10-game SU win streak, and also posted a 27-20 victory in Houston back on the opening weekend of the NFL season. However, Kansas City has consistently failed to meet increased expectations at the sportsbooks, losing three of their last four ATS, and are 2-4 ATS this season when favored by more than three points.

The Chiefs must also overcome an eight-game playoff losing streak dating back to 1994, scoring 10 or fewer points in five of those contests, and losing three outright as betting favorites.

Bennett doesn’t fear backlash for skipping White House trip

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HOUSTON (AP) Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett says he is not worried about upsetting team owner Robert Kraft by not attending New England’s trip to the White House as Super Bowl champions.

Bennett said after the Patriots’ 34-28 win over the Falcons on Sunday night that he’s “not going to go” to the traditional meet-and-greet with the president. It will be the first visit of a Super Bowl champion to Washington since Donald Trump was sworn into office.

Trump’s positions have alienated some athletes, which has raised questions about whether some might choose to skip the trip while the new president is in office.

But Bennett said he isn’t concerned about it and thinks the team believes “in whatever I want to do.”

Kraft is a supporter of Trump and attended a celebration dinner in Washington for him the night before his inauguration.

Patriots’ Tom Brady earns 4th Super Bowl MVP trophy with epic comeback

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HOUSTON (AP) The greatest quarterback in NFL history led the biggest Super Bowl comeback to be the MVP on Sunday night.

Tom Brady rallied New England from a 25-point third-quarter deficit for a 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history to earn his fifth Super Bowl title and fourth MVP trophy.

“They’re all sweet,” he said. “They’re all different and this was just an incredible team and I’m just happy to be a part of it,” he said.

Brady threw touchdown passes of 5 and 6 yards in the second half and tied things at 28-28 when he connected withDanny Amendola on a 2-point conversion with 57 seconds left.

He then directed the drive in overtime which ended with a 2-yard run by James White to make the Patriots the first team to win a Super Bowl after trailing by more than 10 points.

“We all brought each other back,” he said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle.”

His performance certainly wasn’t without its struggles. His incredible second half and overtime came after a first half where the Patriots managed just three points and he threw an interception which Robert Alford returned 82 yards for a touchdown. He was hurried and harassed for much of the games. The Falcons sacked him five times and hit him on another eight occasions.

He noted the beating he took when he was trying to recount the details of the comeback and couldn’t remember what the score was at one point in the rally.

“There was a lot of (stuff) that happened tonight,” he said. “I got hit pretty hard.”

His 466 yards passing are a Super Bowl record, surpassing the 414 yards Kurt Warner had 17 years ago. He also set a record for most passes completed in a Super Bowl with 43 and most attempts with 62.

He is the first to play in seven Super Bowls and the victory ties him with Charles Haley for most Super Bowl rings.

After all Brady has done in his career, was this his finest moment?

“Tom’s had a lot of great ones,” coach Bill Belichick said. “But, yeah tonight was one of them.”

It’s a triumphant end to a difficult season for Brady, who missed the first four games because of his “Deflategate” suspension and dealt with his mother Galynn Brady suffering through an undisclosed illness. The Super Bowl was the first game she’s attended all season.

“They’re all happy,” he said fighting back tears. “It’s nice to have everybody here and it’s going to be a great celebration tonight.”

He shared a quick moment with her right after the game, but was looking forward to more time with her in the upcoming days.

“It’s kind of madness after the game so I didn’t get much quality time with her but we’ll get it this week,” he said.

But he certainly wasn’t asking for sympathy for his rough road to this title though, chuckling when someone asked about the adversity the Patriots have gone through in the past couple of years.

“We’ve done pretty good over the last few years … so I don’t think anyone’s feeling bad for the Patriots,” he said. “I don’t think anyone feels bad for the Patriots.”

Brady also collected the MVP trophy in 2001, 2003 and 2014.

“It was just a lot of mental toughness by our team and we’re going to remember this one for the rest of our lives,” Brady said.

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