Darius Slay

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Stafford-led Lions beat Bears 20-10, stay in playoff picture

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DETROIT (AP) Matthew Stafford threw two touchdown passes and avoided mistakes, allowing the Detroit Lions to stay in the playoff picture with a 20-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Saturday night.

Detroit (8-6) has won two straight and needs to close the regular season with two more wins to keep its postseason hopes alive.

The Bears (4-10) have lost six of seven, sealing a third season with double-digit losses in three years under embattled coach John Fox.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

Stafford threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to TJ Jones with 6:10 left in the first half after Fox chose to punt on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 45. He threw an 8-yard pass to Eric Ebron for a 20-3 lead early in the third quarter after Darius Slay‘s first of two interceptions in the game.

Stafford was 25 of 33 for 237 yards and didn’t turn the ball over for the first time since Week 11.

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Steelers road favorites against Lions in Sunday Night Football matchup

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Picking between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions on Sunday night could simply come down to Ben Roethlisberger‘s record in primetime games compared to that of quarterback counterpart Matthew Stafford.

The Steelers are 3-point road favorites against the Lions with a 46-point total for the Week 8 Sunday Night Football matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

On top of having never lost a game at Ford Field, the Steelers are 6-1 straight-up and 5-1-1 against the spread in their last seven road games as a favorite of 3.0 or fewer points. Pittsburgh is also 4-0 SU in its last four primetime games that Roethlisberger started.

The Lions are 3-13 SU in their last 16 games at night. However, they are coming off a bye and are 6-2 both SU and ATS in their last eight games after a bye week.

The Steelers, which are 5-2 SU and 4-3 ATS, have gotten away with having an oversized chunk of their offense come from RB Le'Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown. With Brown likely to be covered by CB Darius Slay most of the night, Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offensive brain trust might need to look elsewhere.

With WR Martavius Bryant (inactive) scratched, rookie JuJu Schuster-Smith will get plenty of looks as Pittsburgh tries to revive its deep passing game. Roethlisberger will also have to clean up some turnover issues against a Lions defense that is tied for third in the NFL with nine interceptions.

Up front, Pittsburgh has allowed just 10 sacks and the line’s consistent push in the rushing phase has helped Bell find daylight. While the first point of reference with the Lions defense is likely the embarrassing 52 points they allowed two weeks ago against the New Orleans Saints, they are in the top 10 of the league in yards-per-rush.

For the Lions, which are 3-3 both SU and ATS, priorities 1A and 1B for their offense during their week off were presumably first-half production (only five of their 14 offensive touchdowns are before halftime) and pass protection. The possibility of leading receiver Golden Tate (shoulder) being unable to play would definitely hurt their prospects of a fast start, but Stafford does thrive at distributing the ball among several targets.

The issue for Detroit in the passing phase is giving Stafford time to set up. Detroit allowed 17 sacks in its three games immediately prior to the bye, and now it has to stymie a Steelers pass rush that is tied for the second-most sacks with 24.

The Steelers defense is giving up 4.7 yards per carry, so this could be a game where Lions RB Ameer Abdullah sees bigger holes than he’s been accustomed to this season.

The total has gone under in 15 of the Steelers’ last 20 games after a win. The total has gone over in seven of the Lions’ last eight home games in October according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com

AP survey: Concussions not most NFL players’ chief concern

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During a 15-year NFL career that sent him pinballing over the middle of the field too many times to count, absorbing hits as wicked as they come, former Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley endured injuries that literally ran from head to toe.

And while, by his own estimate, that included at least a dozen concussions, the only health issue that made him seriously contemplate quitting the game was a problem with a small bone in the middle of his foot in his fourth season.

“I told my wife, `This is it. I’m done. I can’t deal with this pain every day,”‘ Stokley said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Yet he pressed on. Eventually the foot pain subsided. The concussions? Those kept accumulating. Stokley, essentially, shrugged them off, despite the seemingly unending drumbeat of news about the dangers of head injuries. During his playing days, he was more worried about short-term effects than later-in-life ones.

“The thing with concussions is, usually, you’re out a week or two, and then you’re back fine,” said Stokley, 39, who caught passes from one of this week’s Super Bowl quarterbacks, Peyton Manning, while both were with the Broncos and, before that, the Indianapolis Colts. “But you mess your knee up, you’re out a year. You mess your shoulder up, you’re done for a year.”

That nonchalant attitude toward concussions that Stokley held while he was active in the league is not all that different from what was expressed by many current NFL players in an AP survey conducted this season and released Sunday. Less than half of the group – only 39 of the 100 players – said they are more worried about the long-term effects of concussions than those of other injuries.

Of the remaining 61 players, 20 either said they are not concerned at all about concussions or less concerned about them than other injuries, while 41 said the concern is equal for all injuries.

“Personally, I don’t think about head injuries. They don’t affect me,” said Nikita Whitlock, a New York Giants special teamer. “I wonder: What are my joints going to be like in 20 years? How will my knees hold up in 20 years? What about my shoulders and wrists? These are the real weak points of your body.”

That sort of sentiment was heard repeatedly by AP reporters, as if players were ignoring everything related to head trauma and football.

Just last week, a member of the Giants’ 2012 Super Bowl championship team who died at age 27, safety Tyler Sash, was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The disease is linked to repeated brain trauma and associated with symptoms such as memory loss, depression and progressive dementia.

Sash was just the latest CTE headline: The suicide of Pro Football Hall of Famer Junior Seau. The sudden retirement of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland. The concussion-related lawsuits brought by former players. Various safeguards added by the NFL, including attempts to increase in-game monitoring of head injuries and more vigilant policing of illegal hits.

During regular-season games, the NFL said Friday, there were 182 reported concussions, a 58 percent increase from a year ago.

And yet …

“Not worried,” Oakland Raiders running back Jamize Olawale said. “I think it’s blown out of proportion.”

“You can get a head injury from anywhere,” Houston Texans cornerback Charles James said. “A dude could sucker-punch me, and I could get the same injury I get from hitting a running back head-on.”

There is, to be sure, a segment of the NFL population that takes concussions and their consequences seriously.

A few players interviewed by the AP mentioned the ability to repair knees or hips, “but you can’t get a brain replacement.”

“I’m not trying to lose my memory. I need to know what’s going on in my life,” Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay said. “If you get hit in the head and have a concussion, you might forget who your son is, your momma is. I ain’t got time for that. … You can take the legs.”

As eight-year defensive end Chris Long of the Rams put it: “I try not to think about it, but the evidence seems to be mounting that we’re in trouble. Eight years in, the damage is done.”

Now out of the NFL for two years, Stokley was asked if he has any concussion symptoms.

His reply: “I’m not really wanting to discuss my standing right now.”

As the conversation continued, he noted that he thinks the NFL is improving how it handles head injuries. And that, in turn, is changing how concussions are discussed in the locker room.

“If a guy’s out for a couple weeks with a concussion, you’re not getting the same kind of stares you did 10 or 12 years ago,” he said. “It’s a serious injury, and they need to treat it like that.”