Brady, Patriots fall 20-18 to Broncos in AFC title game

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DENVER — Tom Brady isn’t perfect. Stephen Gostkowski? He almost always is.

While Brady made the best out of a less-than-ideal day, the single mistake Gostkowski made – missing his first extra point in nine years – played a big role in New England missing out on a trip to the Super Bowl.

The Patriots’ reign as the NFL champions ended with a 20-18 loss to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the AFC championship game Sunday.

“At the end, we just couldn’t make enough plays,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “Disappointing, disappointing result. There’s such a fine line today between winning and losing.”

The NFL wanted to spice things up by moving the extra point back this season. They certainly did at that.

With a chance to tie the game early, Gostkowski sent his extra point fluttering off to the right. This from a kicker who made an NFL-record 523 consecutive PATs. It put Brady and the offense in chase mode the rest of the way.

“I just feel terrible,” Gostkowski said. “All day, these guys put their bodies and lives on the line, and for me to come out here and miss a kick, it’s a nightmare scenario. I can’t even explain how I feel right now. It’s just a complete shock and I let a lot of people down.”

Not that his teammates were blaming the right foot of Gostkowski in a game where the Patriots (13-5) turned the ball over twice on interceptions and two more times on downs.

“You definitely shouldn’t put the heat on him. It’s a team game,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “You can’t put it on the hands of Steph. There’s no way.”

This was also far from Brady’s best performance. He was constantly hounded by Denver’s top-ranked defense, especially Von Miller as the linebacker finished with an interception and 2 1/2 sacks. Brady was 27 of 56 for 310 yards and two interceptions.

He led the Patriots on a TD drive in the waning seconds, hitting Gronkowski for a 4-yard score on fourth down. Pulling within two points at 20-18 and 12 seconds left, the Patriots went for the 2-point conversion.

Aqib Talib stepped in front of Brady’s pass and deflected it toward the sky. Bradley Roby made the pick.

The Broncos (14-4) recovered the onside kick and, after a knee by Manning, the celebration began. Manning is now 3-1 against Brady when it has counted the most – with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line.

“I’m sure everyone can look at different plays throughout the game when it’s that close and say, `Man I wish I had made that play,”‘ Brady said. “But I’m proud of the way we fought and we certainly fought to the end.”

A big game decided near the goal line? The Patriots have certainly been in that situation before. They won the Super Bowl a season ago with an interception at the goal line in the final seconds against Seattle.

This time, they lost a chance at a return by throwing a pick at the goal line.

“You’ve just got to go out there and make more plays,” Gronkowski said.

Manning gave Brady a hearty handshake before No. 12 left the field. This town has been a house of horrors for Brady, who’s now 2-7 in the Mile High City.

“We just didn’t play well enough. You know, you get to the AFC championship and you get down, you’ve got to play well,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty. “You’ve got to play, really your best football of the year. Today, we just fell short. A couple of plays here and there where they made better plays really were the deciding factors of the game.”

The Patriots had several promising drives in the fourth quarter end when they gave up the ball on downs. The Patriots drove to the Denver 16, only to be stopped on a fourth-and-1 when Julian Edelman was tackled short of the first line after catching a floating pass.

Later, the Patriots faced fourth-and-6 at the Denver 14, but Brady missed Gronkowski over the middle.

Asked why he eschewed field goals, Belichick simply said: “‘Cause of the scoring situation in the game.”

“There were a lot of plays in the game, a lot of big plays,” Belichick added. “We had a chance at the end.”

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

Giants among odds favorites for final week of NFL preseason action

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Just like in those Super Bowls a few years back, the New York Giants have got the better of the New England Patriots in their preseason matchups.

The Giants are 2.5-point favorites on the NFL preseason odds against the Patriots with a 38.5-point total for their meeting on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

It’s the 14th consecutive year they have concluded the preseason against each other and the Giants are 8-2 straight-up and 6-2-2 against the spread in their last 10 preseason meetings against the Patriots, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, with the total finishing UNDER in seven of those matchups.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning hasn’t played in the preseason finale since 2014, which could leave the duties to Davis Webb and Kyle Lauletta. For New England, it’s a near-certainty Tom Brady will be an onlooker, leaving the options to either career backup Brian Hoyer or third-stringer Danny Etling.

Elsewhere, the New York Jets are 1-point road favorites against the Philadelphia Eagles with a 34-point total. The Jets are 1-6 SU and 2-5 ATS in their last seven preseason road games. The Eagles are 3-0 SU and ATS in their last three preseason games against the Jets.

The Baltimore Ravens are 6.5-point favorites against the Washington Redskins with a 35-point total. The total has gone UNDER in seven of their last 10 preseason meetings, with the Ravens owning a record of 7-3 SU and 6-4 ATS.

The Cleveland Browns are 2.5-point road favorites against the Detroit Lions with a 35.5-point total. The total has gone UNDER in six of the Browns’ last seven preseason road games. The Lions are 5-1 ATS in their last six games as preseason home underdogs.

The New Orleans Saints are 5.5-point favorites against the Los Angeles Rams with a 34.5-point total. The Saints are 1-6 SU and ATS in their last seven preseason games as a favorite of 3.0 or more points, with the total finishing UNDER all seven times.

The Tennessee Titans are 1-point favorites against the Minnesota Vikings with a 36-point total. The Vikings are 4-2 ATS in their last six preseason road games. The total has gone OVER in six of the Titans’ last seven preseason home games.

The Houston Texans are 4-point betting favorites against the Dallas Cowboys with a 34.5-point total. The Cowboys are 0-9 SU and 3-6 ATS in their last nine preseason games as a road underdog. The Texans are 8-0 SU and 7-0-1 ATS in their last eight preseason games as a home favorite of at least 3.0 points.

The San Francisco 49ers are 3.5-point favorites against the Los Angeles Chargers with a 35.5-point total. The Chargers are 1-6 SU and 2-5 ATS in their last seven preseason games as a road underdog of 3.0 or more points. The 49ers are 8-0 SU and 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight preseason games against the Chargers.

And the Seattle Seahawks are 3-point favorites against the Oakland Raiders with a 34.5-point total. The Raiders are 1-11 SU and 2-10 ATS in their last 12 preseason games as a road underdog. The Seahawks are 10-2 SU and 11-1 ATS in their last 12 preseason games against the Raiders.

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 listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

NFL preseason odds: Cardinals road favorites at Cowboys for Sunday

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Indications that neither Dak Prescott nor Ezekiel Elliott will be exposed to injury while working behind a banged-up offensive line have made the Dallas Cowboys an underdog at home – and that’s proven to be a telling indicator in the preseason over the years.

The Arizona Cardinals are 1-point road favorites on the NFL preseason odds against the Cowboys with a 40.5-point total in a matchup on Sunday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. It’s only the fifth time the Cardinals have been road favorites in the preseason in the last 25 seasons.

The Cowboys are 3-8 straight-up and 3-7-1 against the spread in their last 11 games as  home underdogs in the preseason, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, with the total going UNDER on seven of those last 11 occasions.

With center Travis Frederick (auto-immune disorder) and guard Zack Martin (knee) each out of the lineup, the Cowboys may follow suit with their quarterback and leading rusher. Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen (swollen thumb) might also be a game-time decision for Arizona, which is 7-3-2 ATS on the road in the preseason since 2013.

The Cleveland Browns are 3-point betting favorites against the Philadelphia Eagles with a 41-point total in a Thursday matchup. The Eagles are 3-8 SU and 4-7 ATS in their last 11 games as an underdog of 2.5 or more points in the preseason. The Browns are 2-5 both SU and ATS in their last seven preseason games as a home favorite, with the total finishing UNDER all seven times.

The New York Jets are 2.5-point favorites against the New York Giants with a 41.5-point total in a Friday matchup. The designated road team is 5-0 ATS in their last five games in this annual preseason matchup, with the total finishing OVER in four of those five games.

The Carolina Panthers are 1-point favorites against the New England Patriots with a 45.5-point total. The total has finished UNDER in five of the Patriots’ last eight preseason road games. The total has finished UNDER in four of the Panthers’ last six preseason home games.

The Minnesota Vikings are 3.5-point betting favorites against the Seattle Seahawks with a 40-point total. The Seahawks are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 preseason road games as the underdog.

The Chicago Bears are 2-point favorites against the Kansas City Chiefs with a 47-point total in a Saturday matchup. Since 2010, the Chiefs are 2-9 SU and 3-7-1 ATS in 11 preseason matchups as a road underdog, with the total going OVER eight times.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 4-point favorites against the Tennessee Titans with a 45-point total. The Titans are 3-5 SU and ATS in their last eight preseason road games as the underdog. The Steelers are 0-6 ATS in their last six games as a home favorite of 3.0 or more points.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are 3-point favorites against the Atlanta Falcons with a 40-point total. The Falcons are 2-10 SU and 5-7 ATS in their last 12 preseason games as a road underdog. The total has gone OVER in six of the Jaguars’ last nine preseason games when they were favored at home.

And the Buffalo Bills are 1.5-point betting favorites against the Cincinnati Bengals with a 41.5-point total in a Sunday matchup. The total has gone UNDER in six of the Bengals’ last eight preseason games as a road underdog. The Bills are 3-7 SU and ATS in their last 10 preseason home games

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 listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.