For the first time since Week 1 of the 2012 season, there will be an NFL game played on a Wednesday as the Baltimore Ravens visit the Pittsburgh Steelers with the incredibly unusual kickoff time of 3:40 p.m. ET on NBC from Heinz Field. Of course, this game has been postponed three times since last Thanksgiving Night due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the Ravens. Pittsburgh is a 10-point favorite on the William Hill Sportsbook NFL odds and bettors are backing the Steelers fairly heavy.
A total of 78 percent of all money bet on the spread at William Hill are on Pittsburgh and 68 percent of all tickets. Interesting considering that 19 of the last 25 Steelers-Ravens games have had one-score margins of victory (including Pittsburgh’s four-point win in Week 8). On the very low Over/Under total of 42.5, 78 percent of the money and 79 percent of the tickets are on the Over.
It almost might be easier to say which key Baltimore players will be able to go instead of those who aren’t. The team’s top two running backs, Mark Ingram and JK Dobbins, reportedly were going to be eligible to return but in fact WILL NOT. That means plenty of Gus Edwards.
The Ravens also could activate some off the reserve/COVID-19 list early Wednesday, but according to the team site seven Pro Bowlers remain on it as of Tuesday night. That includes quarterback Lamar Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews and outside linebacker Matthew Judon. Those guys are not playing. Neither is arguably the team’s most consistent receiver, Willie Snead IV.
Obviously, Jackson is the reigning NFL MVP. Both Judon and Andrews have played every game this season as well. Andrews leads the team in touchdown catches (six) and receiving yards (454) while Judon is tied with Calais Campbell for the team lead in sacks with four. Campbell is also on the list.
Defensive tackle Brandon Williams and quarterback Trace McSorley came off the list Tuesday. Williams hasn’t played since suffering an ankle injury on Nov. 15, though, and will not suit up, while McSorley presumably will back up Robert Griffin III. Otherwise, the team would have to call up undrafted Tyler Huntley from the practice squad.
Pittsburgh’s biggest name on the reserve-COVID-19 list is leading rusher James Conner, who reportedly tested positive, so the Steelers will use a committee of Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland to replace Conner. Pittsburgh is the 18th team in the Super Bowl Era to start 10-0 straight up and the previous 17 were 12-5 in their 11th game.
This will be the 38th Wednesday game in league history. Assuming the rest of the regular season is played as scheduled, this would be the first season ever with a game played every day of the week. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday already have had games. There’s Wednesday here, Saturday games starting Week 15 and one game scheduled on Christmas Friday.
Who wins every NFL game this week? And which teams cover more than 50 percent of the time? Get picks here from the SportsLine Projection Model, which simulates every NFL game 10,000 times and ranked in the Top 10 on NFLPickWatch three of the past four years on straight-up NFL picks.
New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job
The New York Rangers plan to interview Gerard Gallant for their head coaching job, TSN reported.
The Vegas Golden Knights, who fired Gallant during the 2019-20 season, reportedly have granted permission.
A first conversation between the Rangers and Gallant was expected to take place quickly, before Gallant heads to Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, which runs from May 21-June 6.
Gallant, 57, was the first coach of the expansion Golden Knights and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. The Washington Capitals won in five games.
He was fired 49 games into his third season when the team was 24-19-6, and he had an overall record of 118-75-20 with Vegas.
He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-07) and Florida Panthers (2014-17) and has a career record of 270-216-4-51 in 541 career games as a head coach.
The Rangers are in the midst of an overhaul. They fired head coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches on Wednesday, following the dismissal last week of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.
The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after posting a 27-23-6 record in 2020-21. They finished in fifth place in the East Division.
Quinn, 54, compiled a 96-87-25 record during his three seasons as coach of the Rangers after taking over for Alain Vigneault on May 23, 2018.
–Field Level Media
NHL wants answer on Canada border crossing soon
The Canadian teams played only each other during the 2020-21 season in a revamped North Division because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that will continue during the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s what happens after that — in the semifinals and finals — that is up in the air.
“The conversations are ongoing. We’ve told them we really do need to know by the end of the first round, and that’s around June 1,” Steve Mayer, the league’s chief content officer, told ESPN. “That’s pretty much the date that we’ve talked to them about, saying we have to know one way or another.”
Last season, the playoffs were held in bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto.
Under current rules, American-based teams couldn’t play in Canada without mandatory quarantines, which would make travel for home-and-away games impossible under the playoff calendar.
The NHL and government representatives last talked a week ago, and the Canadian officials submitted a variety of questions for the league’s response.
In the interim, Mayer said, the league has discussed the possibility of the Canadian team that advances from the North Division being based in the U.S. for the duration of the postseason. Talks have occurred with officials at NHL arenas where teams didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
An NHL source told ESPN this week that the league expects “a positive resolution” to the issue, however.
–Field Level Media
Canada to play 2 more home World Cup qualifiers in U.S.
As Canada continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s national soccer team will play two more of its home World Cup qualifying matches south of the border in June.
Canada will face Aruba in Bradenton, Fla., on June 5, and will take on Suriname in suburban Chicago on June 8, Canada Soccer confirmed Monday.
The games are Canada‘s last two of four matches in CONCACAF Group B. A March 26 Canadian home match against Bermuda was held in Orlando, Fla., which Canada won 5-1. Also, the Caymen Islands were the host team on March 29, when Canada rolled, 11-0.
Only one national team advances to the next round, and Canada and Suriname top the group and the game against Suriname in Bridgeview, Ill., figures to be the deciding match in both teams’ efforts to advance.
Thirty nations from Central and North America are competing in this first round with six group winners advancing to a second round of head-to-head knockout matches for the right to compete in the CONCACAF final round of eight teams competing for four places in the 2022 World Cup. A fifth team from CONCACAF advances to an intercontinental play-in round.
As was executed in Orlando, the match in Chicago will be staged in accordance with the FIFA International Match Protocols supported by the relevant public health requirements.
“We had hoped to play these matches at home with Canadian fans providing the support and momentum to play a tough nation like Suriname in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” said John Herdman, coach of the Canadian men’s national team. “The reality of the global pandemic and the priority to keep our communities in Canada safe means the match will be played at a neutral site in Chicago with no home advantage, but we will embrace that challenge.
“Whatever comes at us, we will take it on and do whatever we need to do to advance to the next round.”
-Field Level Media
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