NFL Betting Odds: Week 13 Line Movements & Last-Minute News
Legendary former Dodgers executive Branch Rickey is credited with this quote: "Better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late."
What does this have to do with the NFL? I give you Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Bortles had a decent 2017 season and helped lead the Jaguars on a surprise run to the AFC title game - although in reality the team won more in spite of Bortles than because of him.
That success and near trip to the Super Bowl - the Jags came very close to upsetting the Patriots - could prove to set the Jacksonville franchise back a couple of years. That's because the team for some stupid reason gave Bortles a three-year, $54 million extension this offseason. Yes, it did give the Jaguars salary-cap space entering 2018 that they used to beef up the offensive line, but it essentially tethered Bortles to the franchise through at least 2019.
In the wake of their seventh straight loss last Sunday, Coach Doug Marrone fired his good friend and long-time OC Nathaniel Hackett (they go back to the Syracuse days) and benched Bortles for Cody Kessler, who is 0-8 as a starter in his NFL career. Has Bortles taken his last snap for the franchise? That depends. Team boss Tom Coughlin surely would like to say yes, but if the Jaguars release Bortles prior to next June 1, they'll take on a $16.5M dead cap hit for 2019, the largest single hit in history for one player (up to $6.5M of it can be offset should he sign elsewhere, but good luck with that).
What Jacksonville might have to do is trade Bortles to some team with gobs of salary-cap space, but it would probably cost at least a 2019 second-round pick; that's what Houston not long ago gave Cleveland to swallow Brock Osweiler's contract in a salary dump. You see salary dump trades in the NBA and MLB all the time, but it's pretty unusual in the NFL with how contracts are so based around bonuses and not guaranteed.
There have been rumors the Jaguars are interested in Detroit's Matthew Stafford, who could be available with his annual average salary of $27 million that for a while was the NFL's highest. He would carry a cap hit of nearly $30 million next year and hasn't played up to that contract. I have no idea what the Jaguars could offer the Lions, who aren't taking Bortles. Oakland's Derek Carr also could be had. More likely, the Jags look to sign a free agent like Eli Manning (Coughlin's old QB) or Teddy Bridgewater this offseason. The Jags are largely built to win now, so it doesn't make a ton of sense to take a QB with their 2019 first-round pick. A Bovada special asks if Bortles is the team's Week 1 QB next year: yes is +200 and no -300.
Jacksonville is +5 this Sunday at home vs. the surging Colts. That line opened as low as Indy -3. Here are some line moves or potential game-changing injury notes for Week 13.
Ravens at Falcons (-1.5, 48): When we looked at this game Monday, the Ravens were -2.5 and there was no total. Interesting shift on the side considering the Falcons have squat to play for and the Ravens are in the wild-card hunt. Baltimore QB Joe Flacco (hip) returned to practice on Thursday, but rookie Lamar Jackson is still expected to start. Jackson has the most rushing yards (190) by a quarterback in his first two NFL starts but those were both at home. Baltimore has gone old-school under Jackson, rushing for a combined 509 yards the past two games. That's the most rushing yards in a two-week span in the NFL this season and the most in franchise history. Top linebacker Deion Jones is expected to play for Atlanta. Jones has been out since injuring his foot in the season opener.
Bears at Giants (+4, 44.5): Line is moving down a bit and could continue to do so because it's now all but apparent that Bears starting QB Mitchell Trubisky will not play a second straight week. This is a modest surprise because the Bears downplayed his absence on Thanksgiving with a shoulder injury, and most thought the team rested Trubisky because it thought it could beat the Lions with backup Chase Daniel, which it did. Perhaps the coaching staff feels the same thing here and wants Trubisky 100 percent healthy for upcoming games against the Rams and Packers. Giants tight end Evan Engram is expected to sit a second straight week with a hamstring injury. One wonders if this is the week the Giants finally get a look at rookie Kyle Lauletta at QB. Probably not if they are winning, but if they get down big don't be surprised. Then again, this week Coach Pat Shurmur said the remaining schedule "isn't player tryouts." The Bears interviewed Shurmur for their head-coaching job in early January but always were focused on Chiefs OC Matt Nagy.
49ers at Seahawks (-10, 46): Seattle is one of four double-digit favorites this week, along with Kansas City (-15.5 over Oakland), Green Bay (-14.5 over Arizona) and LA Rams (-10) over Detroit. I'd probably take the dogs in those three but would go Seattle here while buying it down to -9.5. San Francisco QB Nick Mullens was a nice story in his NFL debut in a Week 9 win over Oakland, but he has since shown why he was an undrafted free agent in back-to-back losses with two picks in each game. He will start here but is expected to have a short leash. Also will be Richard Sherman's return to Seattle. Sherman made four Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro three times during his seven seasons with the Seahawks. More important, this game allows me to address a Bovada prop on which team gets the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft. San Francisco is the even-money favorite and would get it by losing out. However, Arizona and Oakland have matching 2-9 records - Niners "win" a tiebreaker vs. Cards but lose one vs. Raiders.
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