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

Does Baker Mayfield Make the Browns AFC North Contenders?

baker-mayfield-brownsMany people felt that Baker Mayfield would take the field for the Cleveland Browns this season. They just didn’t think it would happen three games into the season.

Playing the New York Jets, Mayfield took over for Tyrod Taylor, who suffered a concussion in the second quarter. Things looked bleak for the Browns, who trailed 14-0 and had failed to generate any offense.

Mayfield changed this, though, making play after play while leading Cleveland to three touchdown drives. This includes the game-winning drive, which was capped off by a Carlos Hyde run. The Browns got two interceptions within the final two minutes to secure a 21-17 victory — their first win in 19 months.

Cleveland’s football franchise has suffered for years. And nobody expected them to contend for the division title this season. But here we are three games into the season, and the Browns are just half a game out of the division lead at 1-1-1. They’re also ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1), a team that many felt would walk away with the AFC North.

It must be asked whether the Browns actually have a chance to win their division with Mayfield at the helm.

Mayfield Is Definitely a Playmaker

baker-mayfield-browns-1Tyrod Taylor has been very efficient in his NFL career. And he has the ability to run when needed. But the problem with Taylor as a starting QB is that he doesn’t make enough plays out of thin air to help a struggling offense.

Enter Mayfield, who showed the ability to make numerous big plays at Oklahoma. The No. 1 overall pick showed Thursday night that these abilities have translated nicely to the NFL.

The 23-year-old has a strong arm and made a lot of tough throws. He completed 17-of-23 passes for 201 yards and also caught a touchdown pass.

If I’m going to base everything off the two and a half quarters that Mayfield played, he looks like the best Cleveland QB since they re-started the franchise in 1999.

Many rookies might have cracked when the Jets took a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter. However, Mayfield looked like a seasoned veteran when he got the ball back. He completed some very good passes while marching the Browns down for the go-ahead score.

Expect Mayfield to Continue Starting

baker-mayfield-browns-2Coach Hugh Jackson hasn’t officially named Mayfield as his starter yet. But it seems impossible to go back to Taylor after what the rookie accomplished.

The idea this season was to let Taylor start while Mayfield got a chance to learn the pro game. Assuming Taylor and the Browns really went on a run, then he might’ve started all season.

But it doesn’t look like Mayfield needs any more time. In fact, he played far better than Taylor, who was just 4-of-14 passing with 19 yards before being concussed.

It’s a wonder if Mayfield has been the better starting quarterback all along. After all, he wasn’t given much of a chance to win the job in the preseason. Jackson had his mind made up that Taylor would start. He was finally forced to Mayfield a chance when Taylor was ruled out by team doctors.

The latter is unlikely to be ready in 10 days when Cleveland travels to face the Oakland Raiders. Jackson says that he wants to “watch the tape” before making a decision in case Taylor is ready to play.

But even Jackson, who seemed dead-set against playing his rookie, may be forced to hand over the keys to Mayfield. And it’s very likely that the Oklahoma product could be leading the team for years to come.

Is Cleveland at Contender Status in the AFC North?

Cleveland’s defense is really coming together nicely. They forced Ben Roethlisberger into one of the worst games of his career. They gave Drew Brees fits, and would’ve beaten New Orleans on the road if not for a kicking debacle. The Browns also made Sam Darnold look like the rookie he is, forcing the USC product into two late interceptions.

But what Cleveland has been missing is a dangerous offense to match the defense. Assuming Mayfield can keep showing what he did against New York, then the Browns could be strong on both sides of the ball.

This doesn’t necessarily vault them into contender status in the division. After all, the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Steelers all have a chance to win the North. But this division is wide open, meaning that Cleveland has a chance to compete.

Even if they ultimately fall short of winning the AFC North and even making the playoffs, the future looks bright with Baker Mayfield under center.

Does Josh Gordon Change Patriots’ Betting Odds?

josh-gordon-patriotsThe New England Patriots recently pulled off a big trade with the Cleveland Browns, acquiring Josh Gordon in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick.

The Patriots have never been ones to overvalue draft picks. Therefore, this seems like a great risk on paper for them.

Gordon, who’s battled substance abuse problems in his six-year NFL career, finally got his ticket out of Cleveland. It’s unclear if the 27-year-old can remain sober for a full season after issues with marijuana and alcohol. In fact, he admitted last year to using one or the other before every single game at one point in his career.

But the one x-factor here is that Gordon has undeniable talent. Is that talent enough to change the Patriots’ Super Bowl odds dramatically? Find out as I look at what Gordon brings to the table, and New England’s current championship odds.

Gordon Gives the Patriots an Explosive Playmaker

The Patriots didn’t make this deal because they want to resurrect Gordon’s career. Instead, Bill Belichick brought the troubled wide receive here for a selfish reason.

New England’s offense lacks any sort of explosion. Last year, wideout Brandin Cooks and running back Dion Lewis were the two speedy players that kept defenses honest. The Pats traded Cooks to the LA Rams in the offseason and let Lewis walk in free agency.

While Rob Gronkowski is still a downfield weapon, he can’t due it alone. Plus, he also has to worry about blocking duties at the tight end position.

WR Julian Edelman will soon return from suspension. But he’s a possession receiver who doesn’t make safeties back-peddle often.

This brings us to Gordon, who is exactly what New England was missing in their Week 2 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 6’3″, 225-pound wideout runs a 4.4 forty and can stretch defenses like nobody on the Patriots’ roster.

The Gordon deal has been compared to when New England took a chance on Randy Moss, which worked to the tune of over 3,700 receiving yards and 47 touchdowns in three seasons.

Let’s not get this carried away with Gordon, who’s only topped 1,000 yards once in his career. But that one season, 2013, saw him lead the league with 1,646 receiving yards and score nine times.

There’s no doubt that Gordon would’ve been up for more success had he stayed eligible. But he’s missed a slew of games over the past five years, including entire seasons in 2015 and ’16.

Can Gordon Keep from Getting Suspended?

The first key for Gordon will be staying on the field and out of trouble. This might be easier with a perennial winner like New England, rather than the dumpster fire that’s been Cleveland (although they’re better in 2018).

Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel discussed how Gordon now has a chance to embrace the Patriot way:

josh-gordon-suspension“Then he spoke to what is a part reminder to Gordon of what the expectations are in New England, but also, and more notably, a bit of a nod that while Josh Gordon was a problem for the Browns, it stands to reason the Browns were also a problem for Josh Gordon.

“Chaos breeds chaos. Yes, Brady needs to be able to count on Gordon and every other teammate. But Gordon, in turn, can now know that he can count on his quarterback, and Brady knows that’s what he needs to do for Gordon.

“[…] The past is the past. There is no reason to treat someone differently because of that past. An acknowledgement that losing can make losers of good people, and maybe, just maybe, Josh Gordon is good people and just needs a chance to be a winner. To that, it’s a two-way street, and Brady will aspire to be the QB that Gordon deserves.”

If players like Moss and the late Aaron Hernandez can embrace the Patriot way, then it stands to reason that Gordon might be able to as well.

New England Patriots Odds with Gordon

The Patriots’ odds have slightly shifted with Gordon now on the team. Our GTBets sportsbook now has them at -750 on winning the AFC East; +270 on winning the AFC Championship; and +600 on winning the Super Bowl.

The Patriots have opened the season 1-1, losing the Jaguars last weekend. But they’re still heavily favored to win the East.

They don’t have amazing odds of winning the Super Bowl right now. Therefore, you might get value out of this bet if you think that Gordon can transform their offense.

This is a big “if,” though, when considering that he has yet to play a snap for them. Let’s see how things progress over the weeks and if he can quickly pick up New England’s complicated scheme.

Pelicans vs. Warriors Odds – 2018 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals

pelicans-warriors-2018-playoffs-oddsThe New Orleans Pelicans whipped through their first-round playoff matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. No. 6 New Orleans pulled off a surprising sweep of the Blazers and are now locked in a semifinals series with the No. 2 Golden State Warriors.

Predictably, their first game at Oracle Arena wasn’t as easy as their contests against Portland. They dropped the game by a score of 123-101. Now the Pelicans will regroup and try to bring the same fire they did against the Trail Blazers.

But New Orleans will have an even tougher time, given that Steph Curry is expected to take the court for Game 2. Curry has been out since late March with an MCL sprain and will try to shake off the rust tomorrow night against the Pelicans.

The last time that the two-time NBA MVP had a long layoff before returning to the playoffs, he scored 40 points against Portland in a 132-125 victory. For good measure, Curry also grabbed nine rebounds and delivered eight assists.

Fellow Golden State star Kevin Durant looks forward to seeing his teammate back on the court.

“He loves the game just as much as anybody I ever been around and I know he wants to play. I’ve just been thinking about that, just worrying about how he feels not playing,” Durant said.

“Excited for him to get back just to be in a place where he enjoys most, which is playing ball, and the other stuff, we’ll figure it out. But I’m more so excited as his brother that he’s out there, he gets to play basketball, something that he loves to do.”

With another game at Oracle and Curry returning, the odds are stacked against New Orleans more than ever before. And you can see this reflected in our GTBets odds below.

Can the Pelicans shock people and even up the series, or at least play well enough to cover the spread? Find out as I discuss both teams’ prospects in Game 2 of this Western Conference semifinals series.

Warriors Pelicans Odds – 2018 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals Game 2, May 1 at 10:35pm

  • New Orleans +10.5 (-109) / +550 moneyline
  • Golden State -10.5 (-109)/ -755 moneyline
  • Over/under 226.5 (-109)

Why the New Orleans Pelicans Will Cover +10.5

New Orleans struggled to continue the same offensive dominance against Golden State. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that they still have four skilled veterans who can score.

Everything starts with forward Anthony Davis who’s averaging over 30 points in the playoffs. He wasn’t as dynamic against the Warriors in Game 1. But The Brow still put up a solid state line with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.

Jrue Holiday had been on fire after torching Portland. But Golden State cooled him down. Nevertheless, Holiday is still averaging 24.4 PPG in the postseason.

Rajon Rondo has upped his game in the playoffs as usual. He’s averaging 10.6 PPG and giving the Pelicans gritty defense. Sharpshooter Nikola Mirotic remains a threat from anywhere on the court, and he’s averaging 16.4 PPG in the postseason.

New Orleans plays at the league’s fastest pace, with 102.73 possessions per game. This is even quicker than the Warriors, who ranked fifth with 101.5.

The Pelicans are one of the few teams in the NBA that can keep up with Golden State. And Warriors guard Klay Thompson discussed how tough it is to compete against this New Orleans squad.

“Man, it was tiring,” Thompson said. “The Spurs (first-round opponent), they are a little older, so they play a little more methodical. They try to beat us up in the half court and low block. This team is kind of like playing ourselves.

“It’s like, you make a bucket, you can’t relax. You have to sprint back, find a shooter and they are pushing the tempo. It’s a whole different ballgame.”

The Pelicans are up against a seemingly impossible task. They face a team with the NBA’s best offensive rating (112.3) and a strong defense. But they have enough star power, and a lightning fast pace that can give Golden State trouble.

Pelicans Playoffs ATS Record: 4-1 overall; 2-1 on the road

Why the Golden State Warriors Will Cover -10.5

durant-warriors-pelicans-oddsMissing Steph Curry hasn’t slowed the Warriors down too much so far. Kevin Durant is leading the charge with 27.8 PPG, while Klay Thompson has proven a worthy sidekick with 23.3 PPG. Even Shaun Livingston has stepped up his game with 9.5 PPG.

Then there’s the ultimate utility man in Draymond Green, who played a fantastic all-around game against San Antonio. Green is leading the team in rebounds (11.8), assists (8.5), steals (1.7), and blocks (1.2) in the postseason.

“Draymond is going to guard everybody,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “He started on Davis, but when (Looney) came in to guard Davis, Draymond slid over to (Rajon) Rondo. You know how Draymond is. He wants to be in the fray and he wants to be in the middle of the floor.

“Middle of the action, I should say. We’re going to put him on people that are going to be in the middle of the action and probably not guys who are spotting up and shooting, so that he can make an impact.”

Golden State has proven very tough to score on. Holiday is a perfect example, because he couldn’t find his shot with Durant draped on him. He also faced Iguodala, Kevon Looney, Klay Thompson en route to 11 points on just 4-for-16 shooting. Holiday was particularly stifled by Durant, finishing 1-for-9 when guarded by the 7-footer.

“Well, Holiday has been really, really good, in that last series and late in the year so he was a priority for us for sure,” Kerr said. “I thought Kevin’s size factored in and Kevin did a great job on him.”

Golden State also did a good job of throwing different looks at Mirotic. In Game 2, Livingston, Thompson, Looney, and Green all harassed Mirotic into 3-of-9 shooting.

With everybody on their game and Curry coming back, it doesn’t seem like Golden State will have too much trouble winning Game 2. The only question is how much they’ll win by.

Warriors Playoffs ATS Record: 4-2 overall; 3-1 at home

Final Thoughts on Warriors and Pelicans Odds

New Orleans has been a feel-good story so far. They’re the lowest seeded team remaining in the playoffs. And it’s no secret that many fans would love to see this David topple Goliath, especially considering the success that the Warriors have had in the past few years.

But Golden State likely won’t face any serious challenge if/until they play the Houston Rockets next round. They don’t have much to worry about at home. But maybe New Orleans can give them a serious run at the Smoothie King Center in Game 3.

Final Score Prediction: Golden State wins 117-106 – Warriors cover -10.5 spread

Victor Oladipo and the 3-Pointer that Cost Vegas Millions

victor-oladipo-three-pointer-sportsbooksThe Indiana Pacers came up just short in their first-round playoffs series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James torched them for 45 points in what would be the difference maker in a 105-101 loss. But maybe Indiana can find some solace through an interesting story involving Victor Oladipo.

The Pacers guard hit a three-pointer as time ran out. The shot was virtually meaningless, other than to make the score closer. But it has special significance from a betting perspective. Specifically, it caused a multimillion-dollar swing at Vegas sportsbooks.

Oladipo’s Three Helps Pacers Cover Game 7 Spread

victor-oladipo-three-pointer-sportsbooks-1Many Vegas and online sportsbooks opened their Game 7 line with the Cleveland Cavaliers as a 6.5-point favorite. This is understandable, given that James hasn’t lost a first-round playoff series in 13 years, and he was playing at home.

Regardless, people were taking the Pacers at -6.5. This caused most land-based and online sportsbooks to close the Cavs’ line at either 5.5 or 5 points.

Both of these turned out to be losing propositions. Oladipo’s last-second three-pointer helped Indiana close the gap to 105-101. This meant that the Pacers covered their spread anyway you slice it.

How Oladipo’s 3-Pointer Happened

Cleveland point guard George Hill was fouled with six seconds to go in the ballgame. And he made his first free throw to give the Cavaliers a 105-98 lead. This basically iced the game, because it meant that Indiana would need the impossible task of scoring three times in six seconds to win.

Nevertheless, Victor Oladipo wasn’t ready to give up yet. Hill missed the second free throw and Oladipo rebounded it. He then dribbled up the court and hit a wide-open three-pointer to close the game.

Sportsbooks Lost Millions on Oladipo’s Three

vegas-sportsbooks-lose-oladipoFew people feel sorry for the sportsbooks when they lose big. And it appears that Vegas did lose big when Oladipo nailed the three.

According to ESPN’s David Purdum and Darren Rovell, the sportsbooks were seeing a lot of action on Indiana. And this came back to burn them when the Cavs didn’t cover.

“It was probably a swing of $3 million to $5 million in Nevada,” said Johnny Avello, who runs the Wynn’s sportsbook. “These types of things happen five or more times a week in our industry, whether it’s a two-run home run to cover the run line in the bottom of the ninth or an empty-net goal in the last minute of an NHL game.”

Westgate assistant manager Ed Salmons was bold enough to throw his support behind Cleveland before the game.

“We need the Cavs,” Salmons said. “The smart money was on the Pacers.”

The ESPN column also points out how William Hill Nevada saw 70 percent of the point spread money put on Indiana. This means that William Hill took a healthy loss here, because they couldn’t balance both sides of the line.

Scott Shelton, who supervises the Mirage sportsbook, said that his company was in a strange position. Indiana covering the spread meant that the Mirage suffered a five-figure loss. But if the Pacers had won the series, then Mirage would’ve booked a six-figure profit.

The good news for online and Vegas sportsbooks is that we’re still relatively early in the 2018 NBA Playoffs. That said, they have more than enough time left to recoup their losses and win money.

Chiefs Trading CB Marcus Peters to Rams

marcus-peters-tradeThe Kansas City Chiefs have a deal in the works to trade cornerback Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams. Peters is one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks, but he’s also caused some drama in Kansas City.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the deal is nearing completion and should be agreed upon by both teams. However, the trade can’t officially be finalized until March 14, which is considered the first day of the league’s year.

Why are the Chiefs Trading Marcus Peters?

As good as Peters may be, he’s also had his share of on-field problems. In a game against the New York Jets last season, he threw an official’s flag into the stands and left the field, because he thought he’d been ejected.

When Peters found out that he wasn’t ejected, he returned to the field without any socks on. The 2-time Pro Bowler was suspended for a game afterward for a combination of this incident, and an argument with head Coach Andy Reid on the way to the airport before the game.

Marcus PetersDespite the suspension, Peters came back the next game against the Rams and played excellent. His two interceptions helped the team win and clinch the AFC West title.

He also drew heat from Chiefs fans for sitting during the national anthem throughout the entire 2017 season. When asked to explain his reasoning during an interview with the Kansas City Star, he said the following:

“I’m an American, bruh. I’m an African-American that was born in this wonderful country that we all can live in. How about we start all protecting each (expletive) other and come together, you feel me? It will be better for it.”

What are LA and Kansas City Getting in This Trade?

Los Angeles will likely lose cornerback Trumaine Johnson in free agency. That said, they’ll be looking for another elite cornerback to fill this space on their defense. And the trade for Peters will do exactly this.

Peters himself should enjoy the move too, because he won’t be far from his hometown of Oakland, California. And given that Kansas City has been very active on the trade market – they dealt quarterback Alex Smith already – they’ll have no trouble also dealing their star cornerback.

The compensation that L.A. is sending back hasn’t been announced yet. But NFL Media’s Rapoport reports that the team will most likely get draft picks and/or a player in return.

Rapoport believes that the possible player could be outside linebacker Robert Quinn. Quinn had 8.5 sacks for the Rams last year, which pushed his career tally up to 62.5.

Regarding the draft picks, it’s unclear exactly how high these will be. But gaining Quinn along with one or more middle-round picks for Peters wouldn’t be a bad deal.

Chiefs should Have a New Look Next Season

Even after dealing Peters, Kansas City should still have a very strong defense. But many will be interested to see if their offense improves or regresses next season, based on Smith being dealt.

Smith is a veteran who started for the team the past two seasons. By dealing him, Kansas City is ushering in the the future with second-year QB Patrick Mahomes.

The 10th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Mahomes certainly isn’t short on confidence. In fact, he claims that he has an even stronger arm than Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen.

“I’ve seen these things with Josh, but I’m going to say I believe I have the stronger arm,” Mahomes told the KC Star. “I’ve never seen anyone throw harder than me with the football. Until I see it in person, I believe I have the stronger arm.”

He added, “The furthest I have even thrown the ball was 85 yards. But I had a little wind at my back, so I don’t claim that one. At my Pro Day, I threw it like 80 if it was windy, but I didn’t throw it as good as I could have. It was wobbling.”

The Chiefs will also return second-year running back Kareem Hunt, who rushed for 1,327 yards and added another 455 receiving yards. This helped him earn Pro Bowl top honors as a rookie.

Add in explosive wide receiver Tyreke Hill, and the team could have one of the best offenses in the league. But much of this will depend upon how Mahomes performs in his first year as a starter.