NFL Betting Odds: Week 7 Line Movements & Last-Minute News
Back in January, the Indianapolis Colts fired general manager Ryan Grigson, and while you hate for anyone to lose their job it was very much deserved. Grigson had a superstar quarterback in Andrew Luck on a rookie-level salary but could never surround him with enough talent. You must take advantage of your QB making relatively little money while you can before he gets a mega-extension and gobbles up salary-cap space. The Seahawks did that with Russell Wilson in winning one Super Bowl and coming one yard short from a second. The Cowboys are in the midst of this with Dak Prescott.
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About a week later, the Colts hired Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard as Grigson's replacement. That was widely hailed around the NFL as a smart move. Actually, if Ballard had stayed he might be the Kansas City GM right now because the Chiefs shockingly fired John Dorsey in June. But I'm getting off track here. My point is this: No matter how good your GM is, if your owner meddles then it doesn't matter (in Dallas, Jerry Jones is both).
I don't pretend to know what goes on in the Colts' front office, but it has been established that owner Jim Irsay sticks his nose into everything. Colts fans deserve a legitimate explanation of who bungled the Luck situation. The former No. 1 overall pick had shoulder surgery in January. All summer, we heard that Luck should be ready for camp and Week 1. Of course, that wasn't even close. Luck had only recently returned to practice and perhaps looked on track to play as early as next week. However, he suffered a setback with some shoulder soreness this week that required a cortisone shot. He has been shut down from throwing for the time being.
There's simply no way the team can let him play in 2017 at this point. Luck is too valuable in terms of talent, not to mention he got a six-year, $140 million contract extension in June 2017 with $87 million guaranteed. Ballard made a fine trade in landing QB Jacoby Brissett from New England for bust receiver Philip Dorsett. Brissett has been respectable, but the Colts are 2-4 with their only victories over winless Cleveland and San Francisco by a field goal each. They are likely to lose this Sunday as 3-point home dogs to Jacksonville and probably enter their bye week at 2-8. Might as well chalk this up as a lost season and get as high a draft pick as possible to land a running back, offensive lineman or receiver to help a fully healthy Luck in 2018.
Here are some line moves or potential game-changing injury notes for Week 7.
Cowboys at 49ers (+6, 47): This opened with the 49ers at +4, and I'd imagine the jump is due to the ruling on Tuesday that indeed Ezekiel Elliott will play this week (and next). You have no idea how little I want to talk about this stupidity, but some judge gave Elliott a temporary restraining order to block the NFL's six-game suspension after the league had won in appeals court last week. Oh, and now we must wait for some presiding judge who is on vacation for two weeks until we get a resolution on this for 2017. The NFL is going to win eventually, but at least we can stop talking about whether Elliott is playing or not every week this season by the end of this month. The 49ers are the first team in NFL history to lose five games in a row by 3 points or fewer (two in overtime). Naturally, Bovada offers a prop on if it happens again this week: No -250 and yes +170. For what it's worth, the Niners were beaten 24-17 at home by Dallas last year, blowing an early 14-0 lead. San Francisco's quarterback then was Blaine Gabbert. On Sunday, it will be Iowa third-round rookie C.J. Beathard making his first start. He looked OK in relief of a struggling Brian Hoyer in last Sunday's 26-24 loss in Washington, completing 19 of 36 for 245 yards with a pick and TD. Consider that Beathard has the worst group of receivers in the NFL west of Chicago.
Titans at Browns (+5.5, 45.5): Bovada also has a prop linking the Browns and 49ers, asking which team wins a game first. Cleveland is +200 and San Francisco -300. Frankly, I think the Browns could do it Sunday as the Titans are on a short week after beating Indianapolis on Monday. Tennessee could be without running back DeMarco Murray due to a hamstring injury, which would mean a huge dose of Derrick Henry. The Titans' best receiver is tight end Delanie Walker, and he's in question with a calf injury. If the Browns don't win here, they could next Sunday at home vs. Minnesota and Case Keenum (assuming he's still the QB then). I don't give the Niners a chance of winning until Week 9 vs. Arizona. The Browns are going back to second-round rookie DeShone Kizer at QB here. The one-week Kevin Hogan experiment was a disaster. Among QBs with at least 75 attempts this season, no quarterback has thrown a higher percentage of his passes off target than Hogan (25.3 percent) or Kizer (26 percent). So it really doesn't matter which is under center. Why not give Cody Kessler a shot? He has replaced Hogan as the No. 2.
Panthers at Bears (+3, 40.5): Carolina has two key injuries to monitor here, and if they both sit I give the Bears a reasonable shot at an upset. All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly suffered yet another concussion in last Thursday's loss to Philadelphia. While Kuechly did return to practice on Thursday, he remains in the concussion protocol and when contact drills started was spotted wearing a green jersey and with the scout team. The third stage of the protocol apparently allows players to participate in non-contact, football-specific drills. The Charlotte media says it's unlikely Kuechly plays. Meanwhile, No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin hasn't practiced in full as of Thursday with swelling in his knee. You could thus see even more of Christian McCaffrey as a receiver. Bovada has a prop on the former Stanford star, asking if he breaks the rookie record of 101 receptions in a season (no -600, yes +350). That was set by Anquan Boldin in 2003. McCaffrey has done nothing rushing-wise but has 37 catches for 293 yards and two scores in six games. To get 102 catches in 16 games, he'd have to average nearly 6.5 receptions per. He has topped that total twice. I'd say no.
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