Byron Maxwell

Sunday wild-card matchups: Giants, Dolphins seek underdog payouts

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The anticipated Arctic chill could be more foe than friend of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, if their postseason track record at Lambeau Field is any indication. The Packers are listed as 4.5-point favorites against the Giants in the NFC wild-card matchup slated for Sunday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

While Green Bay is 7-2 straight-up in their last nine home outings against teams with winning records, they are also only 2-6 against the spread in their last eight playoff games as home favorites.

The Giants, who are 11-5 SU and 8-6-2 ATS, have had protracted offensive struggles over the last month, although QB Eli Manning typically gets it together for the playoffs. Wide receiver Odell Beckham should also be good for a big play, or three, against a Packers defense that allows an NFL-worst 8.1 yards per pass.

The cold weather might mandate more use of the running game, which might bode poorly for the Giants since their offensive line struggles to control the line of scrimmage.

The Packers, who are 10-6 SU and 8-7-1 ATS, have a big X-factor with Rodgers’ ability to keep plays alive with his scrambling. While the Giants’ pass coverage is the most improved area of their team this season, it’s going to be tough to completely stymie Rodgers and the quartet of Jordy Nelson, Geromino Allison, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams.

For all their explosiveness, the Packers do have issues with dropped passes and failed red-zone visits. Cleaning that up would go a long way to preventing an upset.

Led by DE Olivier Vernon, the Giants are stout against the run. Green Bay also has an unimpressive running game.

With the weather and two pass-dependent offenses, it could be a low-scoring game. In fact, the total has gone under in five of the Giants’ last six games in the playoffs. The total has gone under in 10 of the Packers’ last 14 games at home.

In the day’s AFC wild-card matchup, the Pittsburgh Steelers are listed as 10-point favorites against the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins, 10-6 SU and 9-6-1 ATS, are counting on backup QB and first-time playoff starter Matt Moore, whose efficiency declines markedly when he faces pressure. While RB Jay Ajayi went off for 204 yards when the teams played in south Florida in October, the Dolphins stand to encounter frigid weather and a firmer Steelers run defense.

While WR Kenny Stills and slot WR Jarvis Landry are a tough combo, Miami might be hard-pressed to extend their trend of being 13-4 ATS in their last 17 games as a double-digit underdog.

The Steelers, who are 11-5 SU and  9-6-1 ATS and have far better odds to win Super Bowl 51, have the triplets – QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le'Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown – together in the playoffs for the first time.

Roethlisberger was injured in that October defeat in Miami, but this time it is the Dolphins defense that is nicked up, with top CB Byron Maxwell (ankle) struggling to get healthy by game time. Strong safety Bacarri Rambo (undisclosed) is also doubtful.

The total has gone over in three of the Dolphins’ last four games against the Steelers.  The total has gone over in 22 of the Steelers’ last 28 games in January. The favored team is 3-7-2 ATS in the last three years in wild card games. Wild card games are 3-12-1 over/under in the last four years.

Eagles fire head coach Chip Kelly after three seasons

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PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles fired Chip Kelly with one game left in his third season, dumping the coach after missing the playoffs in consecutive years.

Kelly was released Tuesday night just before the end of a disappointing season that began with Super Bowl expectations. The Eagles are 6-9 after going 10-6 in each of Kelly’s first two seasons. They were eliminated from playoff contention after losing to Washington at home on Saturday night.

Eagles CEO Jeffrey Lurie issued a one-sentence statement to the media, saying he appreciates Kelly’s contributions and wishes him success going forward.

Lurie told fans in an email that he decided to make a change after “evaluating the many factors involved in our performance as a team.”

The Eagles also fired Ed Marynowitz, who was vice president of player personnel.

Kelly made several bold moves that backfired after assuming full control of personnel decisions last offseason. Since March 2014, he released three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson, traded two-time All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy, didn’t re-sign 2014 Pro Bowl wideout Jeremy Maclin, cut two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis and traded quarterback Nick Foles and a 2016 second-round draft pick for Sam Bradford.

He also gave big money in free agency to running back DeMarco Murray and cornerback Byron Maxwell. Murray has been a bust and Maxwell has underperformed.

Kelly replaced Andy Reid and led the Eagles to an NFC East title in 2013 after they were 4-12 a year earlier. The Eagles lost at home to New Orleans in the playoffs and missed the postseason in 2014 after starting 9-3.

They were 7-12 in Kelly’s last 19 games.

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will coach the team in the season finale at the New York Giants on Sunday.

Lurie told fans President Don Smolenski and Howie Roseman, the executive vice president of football operations, will assist him in the search for a new coach.