Carson Wentz goes from MVP contender to cheerleader

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) Carson Wentz made the rounds along Radio Row at last year’s Super Bowl and promised himself he’d back for this one.

He’s here, but only as a cheerleader.

Wentz led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 10-2 start before he tore his left ACL and LCL in Week 14. Nick Foles replaced him, helped the Eagles clinch the NFC East and secure the No. 1 seed, and was spectacular in the conference championship game against Minnesota.

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Wentz watched both playoff games from the sideline: the victory over the Falcons on crutches and the rout of the Vikings on a cane. He’s rooting hard for his teammates and enjoying their success without him. Wentz will be their No. 1 fan Sunday when they take on the New England Patriots and try to win the franchise’s first NFL title since 1960.

It’s not easy for any competitor to be forced to sit out.

“It’s just tough knowing that could be you,” said Wentz, who is walking without assistance now. “I had my sights set on this thing since I knew we weren’t making the playoffs last year. I had my sights set on playing in Minneapolis. It’s right down the road from home. Here we are. It just looks different for me.”

Wentz, from neighboring North Dakota, is more than just a spectator. He has been a major presence around the team following surgery, goes to quarterback meetings, watches film and supports Foles as much as possible.

“He’s been outstanding,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “One of the greatest things about a person is when you see him celebrating somebody else’s success. To be happy for Nick who is at your position, who could potentially be stealing another person’s thunder, that’s the pretty cool thing about, of all the great things that he’s done this year, even more exemplifies the kind of leader that he is.”

Foles has said all the right things since the minute he stepped into the starting lineup. He’s close with Wentz and makes it a point to always give him credit for leading the Eagles from worst to first in the division.

“This is Carson’s team,” Foles said. “I’ve had to take it over, but Carson is a tremendous player. I think he’s the MVP of the league. He’s a huge reason why we’re in this position. It’s been awesome just being around him. He’s handled this thing amazingly and he continues to be such a great leader in our locker room. When we go through game film and we go through everything, he’s an extremely intelligent player, so I listen to everything that he says.”

Wentz, the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft, started every game his rookie season when the Eagles went 7-9. He took a giant leap as a sophomore, tossing 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 13 games.

Wentz was voted to the Pro Bowl and is a contender for the NFL MVP award that will be announced Saturday night.

“He’s done such an amazing job in his two years in the NFL of continuing to create this atmosphere and obviously going out there making electric plays, but really just making everyone believe,” Foles said. “That hasn’t changed though he’s injured. He’s still around, and I love having him around.”

While Foles stood center stage with Tom Brady at media night, Wentz sat in the stands at the hockey arena and spoke to reporters for about 25 minutes. He has relied on his strong faith to get him through the disappointment.

“When it comes to an injury like this, the season we were having, the season I was having personally and it gets taken away, it’s just a chance to practice what I preach and that I play for (God) and it’s not for myself,” Wentz said. “It’s taught me a lot so far. He closed this door on this season for me but I know he’s going to open many other doors and he’s going to use me.”

If Foles leads the Eagles to victory over the Patriots , there still won’t be a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia. Foles is signed through next season and provides insurance if Wentz isn’t ready to start the season opener. Having Foles on the roster allows Philadelphia the luxury of giving Wentz all the time he needs to get his knee right.

“Two years ago, the plan was to acquire a quarterback,” coach Doug Pederson said. “That was our first plan, and we were able to do that in Carson. We do have the quarterback of the future for the Eagles, obviously.”

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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.