Edelman, Ingram, Burfict Among Suspended Players Returning in Week 5

julian-edelman-patriotsSeveral NFL teams are going to get a boost this week as key players return from suspension. New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is one of the biggest names coming off a suspension. New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram is another strong player will be returning to his squad in Week 5.

These aren’t the only players, though, who’ll give their teams a boost. That said, I’m going to look at several players who are coming off suspensions and how they’ll impact their respective teams.

Multiple Teams Get Help at Just the Right Time

mark-ingram-saintsHere are the players who’ll be returning to their teams this week (including one free agent), along with analysis on how they figure to provide an impact:

Patriots WR Julian Edelman — Edelman went for 1,106 receiving yards on 98 catches in 2016, before missing all of 2017 with an ACL injury. He’s presumably healthy at this point and will start immediately.

Saints RB Mark Ingram — Ingram has topped 1,000 rushing yards in two consecutive seasons. This feat was particularly impressive last year, as he shared duties with the electric Alvin Kamara.

Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict — Burfict, who’s recorded three seasons with 100+ tackles, will add some nastiness to a Bengals defense that’s already tough.

Cowboys DT David Irving — The Cowboys have shown flashes of greatness. If Irving can keep his off-field issues to a minimum, Dallas’ defensive unit may be great more often.

Chargers DT Corey Liuget — This 300-pounder will help San Diego plug the middle and make it harder for AFC West rivals to run on them.

Colts RB Robert Turbin — The Colts’ backfield is fair game, as nobody has established themselves as a full-time starter. Turbin, who had seven touchdowns for Indianapolis in 2016, could be in line for some more work this season.

Ravens CB Jimmy Smith — Baltimore is off to a solid 3-1 start. Getting Smith back will only help more, given that he’s one of the league’s best corners.

Raiders CB Daryl Worley — Worley is a solid cover corner who can help this beleaguered Oakland defense.

Free agent OL Vadal Alexander — Former Oakland Raiders guard Vadal Alexander can help provide depth for any team with offensive line issues.

Which Suspended Players Will Have the Biggest Impact

baltimore-cornerback-jimmy-smith-suspendedMuch of who has the biggest impact will depend upon who can stay on the field and out of trouble. That said, Edelman figures to provide a big boost for New England, which has had some serious offensive struggles up until last week’s 38-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Edelman is a good possession receiver who’s sorely needed on a team without many healthy wideouts.

Ingram is also another player who’ll help his team out immensely. Last year, Ingram and Kamara formed the league’s most powerful running back duo. The Saints need them to repeat their 2017 success in order to win the NFC South.

Burfict is another high impact player who can boost his team. The Bengals have gotten off to a surprising 3-1 start, but they can do even better with Burfict on the field.

Jimmy Smith is yet one more player to watch for as he comes off suspension. Smith is a top cornerback who should make Baltimore’s defense even stronger.

Jameis Winston Starting Against Falcons in Week 5

jameis-winston-week-7-injuryRyan Fitzpatrick had a magical start to 2018. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 400 yards in the first three games of a season.

However, Fitzmagic ended in brutal fashion with a 48-10 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday. That said, Jameis Winston looks to start moving forward.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter has already named Winston as the starter for their Monday matchup against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6, after their upcoming bye week.

Why Is Winston Starting & Fitzpatrick Benched?

Jameis Winston started the 2018 season suspended for three games due to off-field issues. The Buccaneers convinced Ryan Fitzpatrick to avoid retiring at age 35, so that he could help them out in the season’s first three games.

What ensued was the best start to a season for any NFL quarterback in terms of numbers. Fitzpatrick threw for 1,230 yards and 11 touchdowns in the team’s surprising 2-1 start. This delayed Winston’s return as a starter by one game, because Tampa Bay wanted to ride the hot hand.

Unfortunately for Fitzpatrick, he got off to a bad start against a tough Chicago Bears’ defense. This motivated Koetter to bench him in favor of Winston, who was drafted number one overall in 2015.

Winston should be Ready to Start the Rest of the Season

jameis-winston-tampa-bayThe 48-10 loss to the Buccaneers was no doubt humiliating. But the good thing about it is that Winston got a little game experience this season before he presumably starts the rest of the year.

It wasn’t a great start to the year, as he threw for 145 yards on 16-of-20 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions. But then again, this is a Chicago Bears’ defense led by Khalil Mack that’s been giving all of their opponents’ fits. Now, Winston has an entire bye week to prepare for his Week 6 start against Atlanta.

“[Winston] is a guy who will be here way longer than me and needs to be playing,” said Koetter.

He’ll have some talented wide receivers to throw to, including Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Chris Goodwin. Tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard are also a strong receiving duo.

This is likely a make or break season for Jameis Winston, who’s struggled with mediocre play and off-field issues. Assuming he and the Bucs can show some life, then he’ll have a longer chance to prove that he’s a franchise quarterback. If not, then the team could undergo a big overhaul that sees the franchise change direction again.

Earl Thomas Injury Nixes Trade to Chiefs

earl-thomas-seattleSeattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas broke his leg during Sunday’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. The All-Pro safety will now be out for the rest of 2018 and heads into the off-season with an uncertain future.

Thomas isn’t the only one who will be missing out, though, due to his injury. The Seahawks were apparently on the brink of completing a deal to send him to the Kansas City Chiefs.

NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport said that Seattle came down on their asking price, which made this almost a done deal.

“Here is how it went going into Sunday: From what I am told, the Seahawks wanted two second-round picks, actually lowered their price to one second-round pick,” Rapoport said.

“The Kansas City Chiefs were then in the process of freeing up money, creating salary cap space to make room for Thomas’ $8.5 million salary.

“This is something that likely would have happened, and Earl Thomas would have been a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. He just needed more time.”

What would Thomas Have Brought to the Chiefs?

Rapoport noted that the Chiefs weren’t looking to give Thomas a long-term contract. But they were hoping to get one of the top safeties in football as a one-year rental.

He would’ve immediately bolstered a defense that’s strong enough as it is. Furthermore, he’d have formed one outstanding safety duo with Eric Berry, whenever Berry can play again.

earl-thomas-seahawksThe only issue here was that the Chiefs needed to make $6.6 million in cap space available. They would’ve had to make some additional moves to free up this money. Nevertheless, they were willing to do so in order to bring in Thomas.

Seattle, meanwhile, would’ve gotten a second-round pick. The Seahawks are no longer a serious Super Bowl contender, meaning they need all the young talent they can get moving forward.

Rapoport notes that the Seahawks never considered sitting Thomas until the deal was completed. After all, both sides still needed time to work through the details.

“I don’t want to make it seem like it was something that was going to happen in a matter of hours,” the insider explained.

“It would have taken some time, but when two sides get close to a trade and you sort of know it’s going to happen, the Chiefs could have cleared cap space relatively quickly.

“I have not heard any consideration of sitting Thomas, but it’s probably something that could have happened in a matter of days or weeks.”

Thomas Extremely Unhappy about the Situation

Earl Thomas held out briefly to start the season, because he wanted an extension. However, he returned to the team and paid the price after breaking his leg, which will leave him without a deal entering the 2019 offseason.

Thomas flipped off the Seattle sidelines as he was carted off the field. This was likely meant for the team’s front office, which never gave him an extension.

He’s no doubt played his last game in Seattle. That said, it’ll be interesting to see where Thomas goes in the 2019 campaign. As for Seattle, they get nothing in return for their All-Pro.

This is a tough pill to swallow when considering that they could’ve instead received a second-round pick. Perhaps Thomas got his revenge on the franchise in a roundabout way, although it’s not currently benefiting him either.

Steelers Seeking Player & Second Round Pick for Le’Veon Bell

leveon-bell-vs-new-englandThe Pittsburgh Steelers are apparently giving up on star running back Le’Veon Bell returning to the team. That said, it’s no surprise that recent reports indicate they’re shopping Bell.

Backup James Conner has shown that he’s a starting caliber running back. Therefore, this makes it easier for the Steelers to offer Bell in a potential.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reports that the team’s asking price is fairly high.

Will Any Team Pay This Price for Bell?

The Steelers don’t just want any player for Bell – they want a good player along with the second-round pick. This might be reasonable if Pittsburgh were only mildly interested in trade offers.

But the problem right now is that they don’t have much leverage. It’s clear that Bell doesn’t want to report to the team unless he gets a lucrative, long-term contract. And even if a team is still interested, they’ll have to negotiate a new deal with Le’Veon so that he doesn’t simply leave in the offseason.

Of course, Pittsburgh has drawn plenty of interest ever since it became apparent that they wanted to part ways with Bell. He’s a game-changing running back who can impact the game through both his running and pass-catching abilities.

Jets Interested in LeVeon Bell Trade

leveon-bellNot much has been reported on the exact teams that are inquiring about Le’Veon. But the New York Jets have surfaced in several reports.

It’s pretty clear that the Jets could benefit from having a bonafide running back. Right now, they’re going with a committee backfield of Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell.

But adding Bell to their roster would help take some of the pressure off rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who’s struggled in his early starts. Donald should get better, though, which would help him form a powerful offensive duo with Bell as the tailback.

Indianapolis Colts also Interested

The Indianapolis Colts are another team that’s interested in acquiring Bell. Like the Jets, Indianapolis could also benefit greatly from adding a star running back to their roster.

Their backfield is a mess right now, as they try to sort out who should carry the ball between Jordan Wilkins, Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and the soon to return Robert Turbin.

leveon-bellOne advantage that the Colts have is salary cap space. As it stands right now, they’ll have $73 million in cap space when the offseason starts.

Considering that the key issue between Bell and the Steelers is money, the Colts are one of the few teams that can give him a serious upgrade on his $14.54 million contract.

Colts owner Jim Irsay would also like to put some pieces around star quarterback Andrew Luck, who’s had to do most of the work himself over the past several years. Bell would give the team another legitimate offensive star, thus providing Luck with more room to work.

Steelers can Simply Let Bell Walk

The other scenario here is that Pittsburgh could continue their standoff with Le’Veon until the end of the year. At this point, Bell would go into free agency and Pittsburgh would receive compensation.

While the compensation isn’t set in stone, it’s been reported that Pittsburgh would likely receive a third round draft pick. Obviously this is a low return for such a great player. However, ownership may take the third round pick over having to deal with this fractured relationship.

Odds are that Bell won’t be playing in a Steelers jersey ever again. The only question, though, is whether he’ll be traded from the only franchise he’s known in his NFL career, or be forced to continue this waiting game until the off-season.

Pittsburgh Steelers Odds of Winning AFC North

The Steelers are obviously taking a hit without Bell on the field. Conner may be playing well, but he’s still not Le’Veon. The offense hasn’t seemed the same through four games this year.

Pittsburgh currently sits at 1-1-2, which ties them for last in the AFC North with the Cleveland Browns. This is a far cry from how many experts expected them to win the division and challenge for the North title.

Here’s a look at the current Steelers futures odds:

Odds of Winning AFC North

  • Baltimore +150
  • Cincinnati +210
  • Pittsburgh +250
  • Cleveland +1000

Alabama Bettor Risks $1,600, Wins $1.60 Profit

alabama-louisiana-lafayette-bettorThey say there’s no such thing as a guaranteed win in sports betting. But one bettor put this saying to the test by making a very risky wager on the Alabama Crimson Tide beating the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.

Alabama was a giant favorite to beat Louisiana-Lafayette. Many bookmakers had them at -99,000 odds of defeating the Ragin’ Cajuns.

It’s little wonder why sportsbooks gave the Tide such great odds of winning, considering that they’re coming off their fifth national championship in nine years. Meanwhile, Louisiana-Lafayette finished 5-7 last season and has started this year 1-3.

The most puzzling thing, though, is why anybody would want to bet on Alabama. After all, one stood to earn a very, very small profit by winning this bet. On the other hand, they needed to risk a large amount for such a small payout.

One Sports Gambler was Willing to Take the Risk

As reported by ESPN’s Dave Purdum, one sports bettor put $1,600 on Alabama winning this game. And their wager came through when the Crimson Tide won by a score of 56-14.

The crazy thing is that the gambler only collected a $1.60 profit for their $1,600 bet. That said, their profit was worth 1,000x less than their wager.

This was a moneyline bet, meaning that the person only needed Alabama to win the game. Those who wagered on the Tide the covering the spread were beaten, though.

Alabama was favored by 49 points at most sportsbooks, and they “only” won the game by 42 points. This being said, there was little incentive for anybody to bet on Alabama all around. They were facing a much weaker opponent and had to win by a massive amount to cover the spread. Furthermore, moneyline bets weren’t offering many profits, as you can see in this story.

Alabama Odds Against Arkansas

alabama-linebackers-injuriesThe Crimson Tide are number one in the polls, which is no surprise when considering that they’re the defending champions and have started the season 5-0.

They’re also heavily favored to win the College Football Playoff (CFP) for a second straight year. Of course, there are some other good schools that could challenge them at the end of the season.

This week, Alabama will play Arkansas in an SEC contest. The Razorbacks don’t stand to fare much better against a superior Tide squad. Here’s a look at our GTBets odds on this game:

  • Alabama: -34.5 (-110); -23000; O 61 (-110)
  • Arkansas: 34.5 (-110); +8500; O 61 (-110)

Ohio State Eyeing CFP Berth After Win Over Penn State

ohio-state-beats-penn-stateThe Big Ten had a huge showdown this weekend, with the Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions facing off. Both teams were battling for first place in the Big Ten West, and the Buckeyes prevailed 27-26.

This game was a thriller, with Ohio State needing a fourth quarter defensive stand to stop Penn State from scoring with 1:16 left in the game.

PSU quarterback Trace McSorely had been lighting up the Buckeyes throughout the game, racking up 286 passing yards and 175 rushing yards. But Penn State made the strange call to hand the ball off to senior Miles Sanders on fourth down, which resulted in a 2-yard loss and turnover on downs.

Many questioned why Penn State didn’t simply put the game in McSorely’s hands, given how he was having such a great night against the vaunted Buckeyes’ defense.

Whatever the case may be, Ohio State is now 5-0 (2-0 conference) and in firm control of the Big Ten West. Meanwhile, Penn State falls to 4-1 (1-1 conference) and will need some help to win their division.

Does Ohio State Have a Clear Path to the CFP?

ohio-state-2018-cfpThe Buckeyes appear to be in the driver’s seat to win the West after beating their next-closest challenger. Ohio State doesn’t have a real test until mid-November, when they face Michigan State (#20 in polls). They also play Michigan (#15) on the road to end the season.

The Big Ten East doesn’t seem to present any big-time challengers. Wisconsin is a perennial favorite in the East, but Ohio State had no problem beating them last year in the conference championship game. The way things look right now, it doesn’t feel like the result will be much different in 2018.

Much will depend upon OSU quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who’s remained a Heisman candidate for the first half of the season. The sophomore sometimes still looks like a newcomer. He threw for 197 yards against Penn State, but was outclassed by McSorely most of the night.

However, Haskins did come through in the clutch by leading his team down for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter. 73 of Haskins’ passing yards came on this drive, which ended with a 24-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Hill. The 2-point conversion failed, but it didn’t matter in the end.

Ohio State was far from perfect and looked bad at times on both sides the ball. But even without standout defensive lineman Nick Bosa, they still managed to win a very tough road game.

The Buckeyes aren’t automatically going to win the conference now. After all, the Big Ten schedule can get rather tricky as Ohio State has found out in years past. For example, they lost 55-24 to the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2017, which ultimately caused them to miss out on the CFP.

However, the Buckeyes are still favorites to win the conference and earn a playoff bid in doing so.

Where Does Penn State Stand?

trace-mcsorley-penn-stateThis is a very tough loss for the Nittany Lions to take. They essentially won the battle all night long, racking up more passing and rushing yards than Ohio State.

Penn State was poised to go into the half with a shutout. But they fumbled the ball, which led to the Buckeyes scoring a touchdown that gave them new life.

Now, PSU will need Ohio State to lose, and win tiebreakers in other areas for shot at the CFP. It’s not impossible for this to happen, especially with how early we are in the season. But Penn State has to be hurting after missing out on yet another opportunity.

Penn State coach James Franklin said that his team has shown that it can play with the game’s best. And they certainly proved it last night, despite losing on the big stage yet again.

Don’t count on PSU giving up, though, because anything can happen over the next six games. Again, they’ll need some help and have to win out the rest of their schedule. But with half a season left to go, there could be more upsets in the works, clearing the way for a Penn State conference title shot.