Mind games between Patriots-Broncos before big game Sunday

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Gronk pushes off. Brady whines.

If it’s AFC championship week, somebody must be complaining about the New England Patriots.

This time around, it’s the Denver Broncos, who have delivered a few hits through the media – both traditional and social – in a not-so-subtle attempt to get inside the heads of both the Patriots and, quite possibly, the officials who will call Sunday’s game.

The biggest pokes have, not surprisingly, been directed at Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, with the Broncos suggesting he likes to push off and how it’s really best to tackle him by going after his delicate knees. Gronk didn’t appreciate that and responded in R-rated fashion on Twitter.

Tom Brady took some shots, too, labeled a crybaby for complaining to refs.

“Just talk. Just talk,” Broncos tight end Vernon Davis said. “I don’t think they would say anything to target anyone on the Patriots side.”

These early week doses of trash talk have calmed down now that the real preparation has begun. Still, they’ve made for a decent story line to go beside the hundreds of different takes on Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, Part 17.

The highlights:

– Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall weighed in on Gronkowski, saying he uses his big frame to push off.

– Defensive lineman Antonio Smith didn’t hold back on Brady with his comments: “I’ve never seen any quarterback look to the referee right after he gets sacked more than Brady. Every time he gets sacked he looks at the ref like, `You see him sack me?”‘

But the comment that caused Gronk to throw a flag was mention by several Broncos of going after his knees, since he’s so hard to bring down. Gronkowski responded with a tweet that let his feelings be known in a comical, yet not exactly fit for print sort of way. He added a few emoji for good measure.

“I was just having a little fun with it, hoping to get a little laugh, which I think it did,” Gronkowski said. “It’s just all fun and games with that.”

Still, linebacker Danny Trevathan didn’t exactly find Gronkowski’s tweet endearing. He took it as more of a stab at his defense.

Trevathan insisted the banter stokes the fire.

“I’m glad they feel confident in themselves. I think people are looking for attention,” Trevathan said. “It’s not my job to give it to them until Sunday. My job is to shut them down when they come here, keep his mouth closed as much as I can.”

Broncos defensive back Bradley Roby finds all the back-and-forth highly entertaining. It’s juicy stuff.

“We’re not worried about the trash talking, just makes it more exciting,” Roby said. “Brings more attention to the game.”

As for the assertion that Brady lobbies more than most for penalties with the officials, well, the iconic QB took the high road. He said he’s “not sure” if he works the referees more than other quarterbacks around the league.

“If the refs want to throw the flag, I love when they throw flags on the defenders, absolutely,” Brady said. “It advances our team, so that’s just part of football.”

So is trying to get under a team’s skin. Davis experienced the same sort of thing when he was with San Francisco and preparing to face rival Seattle.

“Everyone is talking – you can say this, you can say that – but at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words,” Davis said. “When it comes to the talking, I stay away from it.”

Hard to ignore social media barbs, though. Unless, of course, you’re offensive lineman Ryan Harris.

“I don’t even know what Twitter is. What’s Twitter?” Harris deadpanned. “Whoever is going to win this game, it’s going to be decided on the field this Sunday, not on some social media site, or some quotation that may or may not have been taken out of context.”

Online: AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Sunday Night Football odds: Eagles laying touchdown against Cowboys

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The fact that the Philadelphia Eagles are coming off a bye while the Dallas Cowboys had a short week to work on their road woes should tip off straight-up bettors, but the spread might be another story.

The Eagles, led by quarterback Carson Wentz, are 7-point favorites on the Sunday Night Football odds against the Cowboys with a 43.5-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Philadelphia is 16-3 straight-up and 12-6-1 against the spread in its last 19 games after having at least a full week off, while Dallas is 0-9 SU in its last nine games after playing the Monday prior.

Dallas carries a good head-to-head trend of being 5-1 SU and ATS in their last six road games at Philadelphia, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, and is also 6-3 ATS in its last nine road games as an underdog of 6.5 or more points.

The Cowboys are 3-5 both SU and ATS after a home loss against the Houston Texans on Monday. Dallas and quarterback Dak Prescott have habitually struggled to score points on the road, and a nicked-up offensive line faces a very strong Eagles defensive line led by tackle Fletcher Cox. For all the formidability of its front four, though, the Eagles are giving up 4.5 yards per rush and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott should find some room to the outside as both a rusher and pass receiver.

Dallas will be without wide receiver Tavon Austin (groin) and will need more out of Amari Cooper in the passing phase as the ex-Oakland Raider enters his second game for the Cowboys.

The Eagles, who are 4-4 SU and 3-5 ATS and need the win to have any reasonable chance at defending their Super Bowl crown, are 7-1 SU and 6-2 ATS over their last eight games at night. Bettors’ confidence in the Eagles’ offensive capabilities might come down to the health of right tackle Lane Johnson (knee), who is expected to play and provide resistance to the Dallas pass rush.

Quarterback Carson Wentz now has wide receiver Golden Tate, recently acquired via trade, in his arsenal against a Cowboys pass defense that allows the sixth-worst opponents’ passer rating (101.1) in the NFL.

The ground game has generated middling results for the Eagles, who are still hoping either Corey Clement or Wendell Smallwood can take a lead role. Dallas also allows the second-least yards per rush in the NFL, which is a small reason to think the Cowboys will offer some resistance by forcing Wentz into obvious passing downs.

Wentz will likely face some long-yardage scenarios, though, as the Cowboys allow the second-least yards per carry.

There are pronounced UNDER trends in this matchup. The total has gone UNDER in the Cowboys’ last three games against the Eagles, with an average combined score of 30.67 points. The total has gone UNDER in the Cowboys’ last eight games on the road, with an average combined score of 31.25 points. And the total has gone UNDER in eight of the Eagles’ last nine games at home, with an average combined score of 31.89 points.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

NFL Week 6 odds: Bengals, Eagles, Patriots are all betting favorites

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The Cincinnati Bengals usually handle struggling teams, but it’s fair to wonder if that trend will be cancelled out by their long-running difficulties against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Bengals, led by quarterback Andy Dalton, are 2.5-point favorites against the Pittsburgh Steelers on the NFL Week 6 odds with a 53-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

According to the OddsShark NFL Database, it is only the sixth time in the last 14 seasons that the AFC North-leading Bengals are favored at home against the Steelers, but they are 14-4 straight-up in their last 18 home games against teams with losing records, and are also 6-1 SU and against the spread in their last seven games.

The Steelers, 2-2-1 SU on the season, have dominated the matchup with a 16-2 SU record in their last 18 road games against the Bengals, but they are also 1-6 ATS in their last seven games in the early afternoon.

The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-point road favorites against the New York Giants  with a 43-point total for the Thursday Night Football matchup. The Eagles are 14-6 ATS in their last 20 games against the Giants. The total has gone OVER in the Eagles’ last five games against the Giants, with an average combined score of 54.6. The Giants are 2-8 SU and 3-7 ATS in their last 10 home games.

The Seattle Seahawks are 3-point favorites against the Oakland Raiders with a 48-point total in a matchup at Wembley Stadium in London. The Seahawks, who will be idle in Week 7, are 7-0 SU and 6-1 ATS in their last seven games before a bye. The Raiders are 2-5 SU and 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven games before a bye. The total has gone UNDER in 10 of the Raiders’ last 12 games, with an average combined score of 43.33.

The Chicago Bears are 3-point road favorites against the Miami Dolphins with a 42-point total. The Bears are 1-9 SU in their last 10 games on the road against teams with winning records. The total has gone UNDER in five of the Bears’ last seven games, with an average combined score of 37.43. The Dolphins are 0-7-1 ATS in their last eight games at home after consecutive road games.

The Washington Redskins are 1-point favorites against the Carolina Panthers with a 44.5-point total. The Panthers are 4-0 ATS in their last four games against the Redskins. The Redskins are 3-10 SU in their last 13 games in Week 6. The total has gone UNDER in four of the Redskins’ last five games in the early afternoon.

The Los Angeles Rams are 7-point road favorites against the Denver Broncos with a 52.5-point total. The Rams are 8-2 SU and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games in the late afternoon. The total has gone OVER in eight of the Rams’ last 10 games on the road, with an average combined score of 54.5. The Broncos are 4-13 SU and 2-14-1 ATS in their last 17 games.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are 3-point road favorites against the Dallas Cowboys with a 40.5-point total. The Jaguars are 4-22 SU and 6-20 ATS in their last 26 games in the late afternoon. The Cowboys are 0-5 SU and ATS in their last five games in the late afternoon.

The New England Patriots are 3.5-point favorites against the Kansas City Chiefs with a 59.5-point total in the Sunday Night Football matchup. The Chiefs have covered in every game so far this season and are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games after consecutive ATS wins. The total has gone OVER in 10 of the Chiefs’ last 14 games at night. The Patriots are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games at night.

And the Green Bay Packers are 9.5-point road favorites against the San Francisco 49ers with a 46.5-point total for Monday night’s game. The 49ers are 0-14 SU and 5-9 ATS in their last 14 road games as an underdog of 7.5 or more points. The Packers are 8-2 SU and 6-4 ATS in their last 10 home games as a favorite of 7.5 or more points.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.