Falcons’ Jones ignores aches and pains to stay on the field

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Even Julio Jones was caught off guard when someone mentioned all the various body parts he’s had to nurse back to health this season.

Ribs. Thumb. Knee. Hip. Back. Ankle.

The ankle twice, in fact.

“Whew! All that?” he asked, sounding a bit incredulous.

Then, with a slight smile and shaking his head, Jones added, “Long season, man. Long season.”

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He’s got a routine to cope with all the aches and pains.

During the week, Jones is often limited in practice or doesn’t even take the field. But by the time the game rolls around, he’s always ready to go.

“He has a real process to do that,” coach Dan Quinn said. “We’re fortunate that he’s played with injuries and kind of knows the routine of how to do it.”

That will be the case again for Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game against the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles .

After sitting out two days of practice with a sore ankle and going through a limited routine Thursday at the final full workout before the game, the star receiver will be in the starting lineup for the 18th consecutive time this season.

“The thing with being injured, it’s really just blocking it out,” Jones said. “Don’t use it as an excuse.”

Quinn noted that the Falcons usually have an extensive walk-through before each practice, and that’s a session that Jones rarely misses no matter how much he’s hurting. He uses the time to get familiar with the game plan, run some routes and hone his timing with quarterback Matt Ryan.

If Jones is limited during the actual practice, he focuses on plays in which he’ll likely be the primary receiver.

“We try to feature him on plays that are unique for him and Matt to be at full speed,” Quinn said. “When he goes, it’s these full-speed, aggressive routes. So that helps him as far as the timing goes.”

Jones has been on the injury report eight of the last 10 weeks, along with two other weeks early in the season.

None of the injuries were serious enough to keep him from playing, but they did require plenty of tender loving care to make sure there were no setbacks. That’s why, over the course of the last four months, the injury report has listed him as limited or out of practice more times than he’s fully participated.

Game day is a different story.

“If you say you’re gonna go, go. Don’t bring it up in the middle of the game,” he said. “We know it hurts. Don’t let your mind be negative. Just stay positive. If something’s hurting or anything like that, I never relay it back to (the sideline). I know it hurts. You don’t want to talk about it and bring that stuff up during the game. If I suit up, I’m going. I’m not saying anything about it.”

A turning point in Jones’ pain threshold came during his sophomore season at Alabama. He broke his left hand in a game, had surgery the next day and was cleared to play the following week.

He wasn’t at his best.

“I was a little timid to catch just because of the pain,” Jones recalled. “It was messing with me mentally.”

Since then, he’s learned to block out his various injuries.

“It’s gonna hurt,” Jones said. “But I’m out here. I made the decision to be out here. I don’t care about it hurting.”

Jones’ production dipped this season, part of a wider drop-off under first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, and there have been a few more drops than previous seasons – most notably, what should have been an easy 39-yard touchdown catch in a November loss at Carolina .

But, overall, it’s been another huge season for Jones. He had 88 catches for 1,444 yards – an average of 90.3 per game – and earned second-team honors on The Associated Press All-Pro team.

He’s usually even better in the playoffs.

Last week, he had nine catches for 94 yards and a touchdown with just under 6 minutes remaining that finished off a 26-13 upset of the Los Angeles Rams in the wild-card round.

“It’s win or go home,” Jones said. “I’m not a numbers guy. Whatever it takes to get the win.”

Jones also got to do a bit of gloating this week after his alma mater won another national championship with a 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia.

Not that he had any doubt about the outcome. Jones didn’t attend the game, even though it was held at the Falcons’ home stadium, and insisted that he went to bed before halftime.

“I was out,” he said. “I didn’t learn (the score) until the next morning. I was like, `Oh, that was a good game.”‘

Someone noticed he wasn’t wearing any Alabama gear.

No need to rub it in, he quipped.

“When you’re accustomed to things,” Jones said, trying to hold back a smile, “you don’t brag.”

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

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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.