Jaguars’ Ramsey relishes All-Pro matchup vs Steelers’ Brown

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Blake Bortles remembers the first time Jalen Ramsey got under his skin.

Bortles was trying to get through a two-minute drill during the 2016 season. It was a weekly walkthrough routine in which players were supposed to go half-speed while practicing plays. Normally, there’s no contact and every pass is complete.

At least that had been the case until Ramsey arrived.

Bortles threw several passes in Ramsey’s direction. The rookie intercepted or knocked down each one.

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It happened week after week until Bortles finally stopped throwing Ramsey’s way.

“It was so annoying,” Bortles recalled Thursday.

It also set the tone for Ramsey’s career. The trash-talking cornerback has a flair for frustrating quarterbacks and receivers and the ability to essentially shut down one side of the field. After 33 games, Ramsey’s already considered among the best players in franchise history – a 23-year-old rising star who openly aspires to be as good as Hall of Famer Deion Sanders and often looks the part.

“The best I’ve ever seen in person,” Bortles said. “He’s freakish.”

Ramsey is a major piece of Jacksonville’s defensive turnaround, and he’ll take center stage Sunday when the Jaguars (11-6) play in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs at Pittsburgh (13-3).

Ramsey will shadow Antonio Brown , widely considered the best receiver in the NFL.

All-Pro vs. All-Pro, undoubtedly the most intriguing matchup of the postseason game.

“It’s not many receivers I’m going to come in here in front of y’all and say they’re one of the best in the league,” Ramsey said. “He is, though. That’s the truth about him.”

Brown caught 10 passes for 157 yards in the first meeting against Jacksonville, which won 30-9 in early October. Ben Roethlisberger targeted Brown a staggering 19 times, with three of those ending up as interceptions.

“He’s an elite player,” Ramsey said. “Highly regarded by everybody, honestly, around the nation or maybe internationally. So, yeah, it’s going to be a challenge. We’re going to have to be on our Ps and Qs and try to execute the game plan as best we can.”

Jacksonville’s game plan has changed slightly since the first meeting.

Ramsey and fellow Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye played sides to start the season, covering whatever receiver lined up in front of them. But Ramsey has since started following the top wideout for every opponent all over the field, and he’s had rousing success against Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins, Indianapolis’ T.Y. Hilton, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, Los Angeles Chargers’ Keenan Allen and San Francisco’s Marquise Goodwin.

Ramsey angered Green so much with his constant verbal jabs that the mild-mannered receiver grabbed the cocky cornerback in a headlock and tossed him to the ground. Both players were ejected.

“He’ll get in a guy’s head now,” linebacker Telvin Smith said.

Added Bouye: “Everything he’s accomplished, he’s worked for it. He’s capitalized. He’s learned from his mistakes and he keeps getting better week in and week out.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Ramsey has allowed 47 receptions for 586 yards and three touchdowns this season. He has five interceptions, including one to seal a 10-3 victory against Buffalo in a wild-card game.

It was about what the Jaguars have come to expect from the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft. He has a rare combination of size, speed, instincts, ball skills and body control. And he’s no longer a rookie.

“You see the maturity in the meetings and you see the maturity on the grass,” defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. “We always knew he was a freak athlete and we always knew he could play. But that maturity level is getting better and better each day.”

His matchup against Brown will be his next – and maybe his best – challenge.

“It’s going to be an unbelievable thing,” Jaguars safety Barry Church said. “I’m just glad I’m on the field for it. Those guys, they both like to talk a bit of trash and they’re going to be matched up with each other the whole game. It’s going to be a great one. We’ll see who gets the better of the two, but my money’s on Jalen.”

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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.