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Week 16 NFL opening odds have Giants, Raiders, Steelers as favorites

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There is reason to think Eli Manning and the New York Giants will maintain their record of being a near-lock when favored by a field goal or less.

While they’re on the road, the Giants are listed as 2.5-point favorites against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Thursday Night Football matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

New York is 6-1-1 against the spread in its last eight games as a favorite of three or fewer points, while the Eagles will be out to break a negative trend of being 0-4 straight-up and ATS in their last four divisional games.

Manning and WR Odell Beckham Jr. are facing an Eagles defense whose yards per pass allowed has ballooned to 7.7, 26th in the 32-team NFL. The Giants’ improving defense could fluster rookie QB Carson Wentz, whose complement of receivers might struggle with getting separation from the trio of Eli Apple, Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Elsewhere, the Oakland Raiders are 3.5-point favorites against the Indianapolis Colts. Each team’s chances ride heavily on their respective quarterbacks, Andrew Luck and Derek Carr. The status of Colts RT Joe Reitz (back), who would be matched up on pass rusher extraordinaire Khalil Mack, is in doubt. The Raiders are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 home games according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

The Buffalo Bills are 3.5-point favorites against the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins control their playoff destiny but are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 road games against Buffalo. The Bills’ run defense is a mess and RB Jay Ajayi might be able to provide the necessary support for backup QB Matt Moore, who is coming off a four-touchdown game in Week 15.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 4.5-point favorites against the Baltimore Ravens in a Christmas Day betting matchup. While Baltimore is on a 7-0 ATS streak in AFC North games, Ravens QB Joe Flacco‘s offense is more sporadic than the unit led by Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Ravens are 0-7 SU and 1-6 ATS in their last seven games in the late afternoon.

The Kansas City Chiefs are favored by four points against the Denver Broncos in the Sunday Night Football matchup. Although the Chiefs are coming off a loss against Tennessee, they regularly disrupt quarterbacks through DE Chris Jones, OLB Dee Ford and OLB Justin Houston. Denver QB Trevor Siemian and his offensive line haven’t been able to withstand that very often this season.

And the Dallas Cowboys are favored by seven points against the Detroit Lions in the Monday Night Football matchup. Lions QB Matthew Stafford has a chance to put up some points and Detroit’s defense, which allows an average of 98.9 rushing yards, might be able to limit NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys are not only on an 0-4 ATS streak, but they are 3-10-1 ATS in their last 14 home games against teams with winning records.

Bills Ryan says standing for anthem pays respect to military

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan believes standing for the national anthem is a way for NFL players and coaches to show respect and give thanks to members of the armed forces.

“You’ve got to look at the gifts that we have, the opportunity that we have to play a great game is through the men and women that serve our country,” Ryan said before practice on Sunday. “And I think that’s an opportunity right there just to show respect.”

He was asked his opinion a day after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he is refusing to stand for the anthem because he believes the United States oppresses African Americans and other minorities.

Without specifically mentioning Kaepernick, Ryan said he can appreciate how some players have personal or religious beliefs that lead them to not stand for the anthem.

“Any time when I talk to our team about that, if there’s personal beliefs or whatever that keeps you from doing it, then I understand,” he said.

However, Ryan added, he encourages his players to stand for the anthem, and to do so as a team in a straight line along the sideline.

“That’s kind of our way of giving thanks,” Ryan said. “It’s an important thing for me.”

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly launches ball into stands (VIDEO)

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Jim Kelly still has it.

In the first quarter of the Buffalo Bills’ Week 17 game against the New York Jets, the Hall of Famer and former Bills quarterback reeled in a Jets punt on the sideline and tossed it deep into the seats at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Kelly was drafted by Buffalo No. 14 overall in the 1983 NFL Draft and led the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.