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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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.