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Giants vs. Cowboys odds, analysis and predictions for Sunday Week 15 NFL games

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Giants vs. Cowboys odds, analysis and predictions for Sunday Week 15 NFL games

It’s almost the end of 2021, but COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc on NFL handicappers. Sometimes you make a pick on a Thursday night and find out Sunday morning that your team will be missing about 10 players, a la the Lions in Week 14 in Denver.

This week, we know certain teams have crowded COVID lists — Giants, Browns, Washington, Rams — but don’t quite know what to make of the adjustments that already have been made in the point spreads. Were they too much, too little or just right?

We start this week at MetLife Stadium where the Giants play host to the Dallas Cowboys. On Wednesday, Big Blue announced five COVID positives including WR Kadarius Toney and LB Oshane Ximines. Top safety Xavier McKinney, who is said to be an unvaccinated close contact, is expected to be available.

Coach Joe Judge also said the three magic words that preclude a Giants selection: “Mike Glennon starting.” Interestingly, the line did not budge from Dallas -10.5 despite all of this news, so I don’t feel as if I’m paying a virus premium by taking the Cowboys here.

Using more conventional analysis, the Cowboys are looking to close out the NFC East soon and ascend to a good seed in the NFC playoffs.

Though they have just three wins of 11 points or more this season, those were by 20 over the Eagles, 24 over the Giants and 40 over the Falcons, so they are capable of hammering a severely compromised foe.

(Note: All lines are from Friday’s Bettor’s Guide except for the games that were postponed. Raiders-Browns, Washington-Eagles and Seahawks-Rams were updated).
The pick: Cowboys, -10.5.

Mike Glennon
Mike Glennon
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

New York Jets (+9.5) over MIAMI DOLPHINS

Here are some stats you may not know. Even though the Dolphins are 6-7 and the Jets are 3-10, the Jets have more rushing yards (by 64), more passing yards (by 28) and fewer passing yards allowed (by 7). Miami has allowed 446 fewer rushing yards, which is an astounding number but one that might be discounted on Sunday as the Jets expect to get back dynamic rookie Michael Carter. The Dolphins should have the services of RBs Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, but now their top weapon, WR Jaylen Waddle is missing because of COVID.

Carolina Panthers (+10.5) over BUFFALO BILLS

Josh Allen wore a walking boot after the Bills’ overtime loss to the Bucs but now says his ankle is feeling better. Figuring this spread is a touch high considering Allen’s condition, the weather (low 30s with winds gusting into the 20s) and the fact Buffalo needs to win by any score, not necessarily by 11 or more.

Arizona Cardinals (-13.5) over DETROIT LIONS

Have won quite a bit with the Lions as big underdogs, and you know whoever ends up on the field will play hard for Dan Campbell. The Lions expect to get a few players back from last week’s disaster in Denver, including CBs Ifeatu Melifonwu and Bobby Price. The secondary was particularly decimated in that 38-10 loss. Prefer to go with the Cardinals despite the huge spread and absence of DeAndre Hopkins.

Kyler Murray
Kyler Murray
USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (+1) over Tennessee Titans

Pittsburgh nearly covered last week after trailing 29-0 in Minnesota, losing 36-28 as 3.5-point underdogs. Who are the real Steelers? The thing I keep coming back to is Mike Tomlin’s great record as an underdog (43-22-2 ATS by my unofficial count).

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (-4.5) over Houston Texans

The Jaguars became my Lock of the Week seconds after the firing of egomaniacal, young-woman-grinding, placekicker-kicking Urban Meyer. Expecting the team to be freed from Meyer’s clutches and for Trevor Lawrence to have his best game under interim coach Darrell Bevell.

Cincinnati Bengals (+2.5) over DENVER BRONCOS

Feels as if we’re getting the better team and better quarterback with points here. Interesting tidbit: The Bengals have covered in each of their past 10 games when they have traveled 1,000 miles or more, per VSiN.

Joe Burrow
Joe Burrow
AP

Atlanta Falcons (+9.5) over SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

This is a tough number because though I don’t count the Falcons among the dregs of the NFL, they have lost twice as double-digit ’dogs to the Bucs, and been blown out by the Cowboys and Patriots. Thinking Matt Ryan either keeps this close or snares a backdoor cover.

BALTIMORE RAVENS (+5.5) over Green Bay Packers

It was reported late Saturday night that Tyler Huntley will start in place of Lamar Jackson (ankle). I’m not so afraid of Tyler Huntley getting in there, as he’s had a few impressive relief outings, including in last season’s playoffs. Aaron Rodgers is dealing with his own foot problems, and I just like the thought of getting this many points at home with the Ravens.

New Orleans Saints (+10.5) over TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The Saints are 3-0 SU and ATS in the regular season against the Tom Brady Bucs (though Tampa Bay did win 30-20 in the Superdome in last season’s playoffs). Was looking forward to getting double digits with Sean Payton and a healthy Alvin Kamara. Hopefuly, two out of three won’t be bad as the line and Kamara remain but Payton will miss the game with COVID, to be replaced by Dennis Allen.

Monday

Las Vegas Raiders (+3) over CLEVELAND BROWNS

This line flipped from Browns -3.5 to Raiders -3.5 when reports came out about the extent of the Browns’ COVID at midweek. It went back almost to its original spot after the game was pushed back from Saturday to Monday, but we still don’t know how many key Browns — from Baker Mayfield to Jarvis Landry, Jedrick Wills and even coach Kevin Stefanski — will be available. Yes, the Browns won a playoff game in Pittsburgh without Stefanski last season, so you can’t write them off, but the toll may be too high this time.

CHICAGO BEARS (+4.5) over Minnesota Vikings

Not the Bears on national TV again! They did give the Packers a good go last week and should have covered the spread three different times. Hopefully Justin Fields will continue to improve. Not interested in laying this number with the Vikings, as each of their past 10 games have been decided by seven points or fewer.

Tuesday

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-5.5) over Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson has had an upswing, and the Rams added some more players to their COVID list. The went up a point in the Rams’ direction after the postponement from Sunday to Tuesday. The Rams had a bad situation last week and they beat the Cardinals on the road. Odell Beckham Jr. and top RB Darrell Henderson are expected to be available, though Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller are in the protocol.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (-5.5) over Washington Football Team

This line quickly steamed upward to Eagles -9.5 on Thursday as the WFT had nine defensive players in the COVID protocol. The number has come down after the game was shifted to Tuesday, and now it appears Washington could have the services of key defensive linemen Montez Sweat and Jonathan Allen. The bigger problem is at quarterback, where both Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen were on the COVID list as of Sunday. Garrett Gillbert, Kyle Shurmur and Jordan Ta’amu are some the names being thrown around for a potential starter against the Eagles, who come in rested off a bye.

Best bets: Jaguars, Bengals, Falcons.
Lock of the week: Jaguars (Locks 8-5 in 2021)
Last week: 10-4 overall, 3-0 Best Bets.
Thursday: Chiefs (W)
Saturday: Patriots (L)

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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