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Ravens vs. Steelers odds, spread, picks: Bettors banging Pittsburgh with Baltimore's numerous COVID absences – SportsLine.com – SportsLine

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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.

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Brady bests Brees as Buccaneers advance to NFC Championship – Sportsnet.ca

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NEW ORLEANS — Tom Brady‘s best game in three tries against New Orleans kept the Buccaneers moving on in the NFL playoffs, and has Saints quarterback Drew Brees headed home — perhaps for good.

Brady and the Bucs’ offence turned three of four Saints turnovers into touchdowns and Tampa Bay beat New Orleans 30-20 in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday night.

Two of those touchdowns came on short passes to Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette. And after linebacker Devin White snagged the second of thee interceptions thrown by Brees, Brady drove the Bucs to the 1, from where he scored himself with 4:57 left to virtually ensure his 14th trip to a conference championship game — his first in the NFC.

That game will take place in Green Bay next week, where the 43-year-old Brady will try to advance to his 10th Super Bowl in a showdown with Packers All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers.

“We worked hard to get to this point. Two road playoff wins is pretty sweet,” Brady said. “We’ve got to go beat a great football team we know pretty well. Aaron’s playing incredible.”

Meanwhile, the Brees era in New Orleans could be over after 15 seasons.

While just 3,750 tickets were distributed in the 73,000-seat Superdome to comply with local COVID-19 restrictions, the fans made themselves heard with an eruption of cheers when the 42-year-old Brees first took the field for New Orleans (13-5), seemingly sensing this could be their last chance to see him play at home.

Brees, under contract for one more year, declined to say whether he’s retiring. After he’d changed in the locker room, he walked back onto the field and watched his four children play, at one point sharing a long embrace with his wife, Brittany.

“I appreciate all that this game has given to me,” Brees said. “There are obviously so many incredible memories.”

If it was his last game, it won’t be one he’ll want to remember. The NFL’s all-time leader in completions and yards passing was 19 of 34 for 134 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

“A couple of them I probably shouldn’t have thrown and maybe forced it,” Brees said. “That’s what this game came down to is those turnovers because all of those gave them the ball deep in our territory, and you can’t do that with (Tampa Bay’s) offence. They’re too good and they’re going to capitalize on that, which they did.”

Brady finished 18 of 33 for 199 yards in what often resembled more of a defensive struggle. Unlike his previous two meetings with the Saints — both losses — he was not intercepted and largely avoided pressure, taking only one sack.

“Really just locking in and playing a lot better than we did the first two times we played them,” he said. “We had a bunch of turnovers last time. This time they turned it over and that’s usually the story of football games.”

After Brees’ third interception on a tipped pass late in the fourth quarter, the Bucs were able to close out the game with Brady, in his first season with Tampa Bay (13-5) after 20 with New England, taking a knee.

“Obviously they beat us twice in the regular season,” Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith said. “We came around in Round 3 with the knockout.

“We’ve been building. You got to get hot at the right time.”

THIEVING BUCCANEERS

The Saints led 6-3 when Brees, while trying to flee pressure, underthrew Michael Thomas and was intercepted by Sean Murphy-Bunting, who raced 36 yards along the sideline to the Saints 3. Brady hit Evans one play later to put the Buccaneers up 10-6.

Brees’ 16-yard pass to Tre-Quan Smith put the Saints ahead 20-13, and New Orleans appeared primed to build on that lead when Brees found Jared Cook across the 50. But Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr. stripped Cook from behind and White snagged the loose ball, returning it 18 yards to the New Orleans 40.

“It wasn’t nothing Brees did. It was everything our defence did,” White said. “Our mindset the whole week was they won the first two rounds, we had to win round three.”

Five plays later, Brady hit Fournette over the middle for a 6-yard score.

Ryan Succop’s 36-yard field goal made it 23-20 before White’s interception of a pass intended for Alvin Kamara gave the Buccaneers the ball at the New Orleans 20, setting up Tampa Bay’s final TD.

WINSTON’S MOMENT

Jameis Winston, forced out of Tampa Bay when Brady became available, threw a 56-yard touchdown pass against his old team on a trick play.

Kamara took a direct snap and gave the ball to receiver Emmanuel Sanders on a reverse before Sanders lateraled back to Winston. The reserve QB launched an accurate pass down the middle to an open Smith.

STATS

Fournette finished with 107 yards from scrimmage, 63 on the ground. He had 40 yards in one drive that set up a field goal that tied it at 13 as time expired in the first half.

Kamara had 105 yards from scrimmage, with 85 on the ground. Thomas was held without a catch in his final game of an injury-plagued season.

INJURIES

Buccaneers: Linebacker Jack Cichy went out with an elbow injury in the first quarter.

Saints: Deonte Harris, who returned the first Tampa Bay punt 54 yards to set up a field goal, left with a neck injury in the first half.

UP NEXT

The Bucs will try to advance to the second Super Bowl in franchise history with Brady, no stranger to high-stakes games in cold weather after his two decades in New England.

New Orleans might have to ponder life without Brees.

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Why the Maple Leafs put Jason Spezza, Aaron Dell on waivers – The Athletic

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The fact is this was always going to happen.

The Maple Leafs were going to run into a cap crunch — either due to injuries or COVID-19 or performance issues — and they were going to have to put more people on waivers.

They tried to wait that process out, through the tail end of training camp, when it felt like half the league was in the bargain bin. They thought, maybe, they could sneak a few players through later on, when rosters were set around the league.

The Leafs were willing to eat a little cap space in order to keep a few veterans on the roster those extra five days, but when rookie Nick Robertson went down with a knee injury on Saturday in Ottawa, that became more difficult.

They needed some more flexibility. And that’s why, in a nutshell, they put Jason Spezza and Aaron Dell on waivers on Sunday afternoon.

More moves are coming, too. The majority of them have to do with the complex machinations of the collective…

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Brady, Buccaneers top Brees, Saints to reach NFC Championship – TSN

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NEW ORLEANS — Tom Brady‘s best game in three tries against New Orleans kept the Buccaneers moving on in the NFL playoffs, and has Saints quarterback Drew Brees headed home — perhaps for good.

Brady and the Bucs’ offence turned three Saints turnovers, including two interceptions of Brees, into touchdowns, and Tampa Bay beat New Orleans 30-20 in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs Sunday night.

Two of those touchdowns came on short passes to Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette. And after Brees was intercepted by linebacker Devin White in the middle of the fourth quarter, Brady drove the Bucs to the 1, from where he scored himself to all but ensure his 14th trip to a conference championship game — his first in the NFC.

That game will take place in Green Bay next week, where the 43-year-old Brady will try to advance to his 10th Super Bowl in a showdown with Packers All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers.

“We worked hard to get to this point. Two road playoff wins is pretty sweet,” Brady said. “We’ve got to go beat a great football team we know pretty well. Aaron’s playing incredible.”

Meanwhile, the Brees era in New Orleans could be over after 15 seasons.

The game may have been the last in the Superdome for the 42-year-old Brees, who is under contract for one more year but has not discussed any plans to play beyond this season, and has sometimes hinted at his impending retirement.

While just 3,750 tickets were distributed in the 73,000-seat Superdome to comply with local COVID-19 restrictions, the fans made themselves heard with an eruption of cheers when Brees took the field for New Orleans’ first offensive series.

If it was his last game, it won’t be one he’ll want to remember. The NFL’s all-time leader in completions and yards passing was 19 of 34 for 134 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Brady finished 18 of 33 for 199 yards in what often resembled more of a defensive struggle. Unlike his previous two meetings with the Saints — both losses — he was not intercepted and largely avoided pressure, taking only one sack.

“Really just locking in and playing a lot better than we did the first two times we played them,” he said. “We had a bunch of turnovers last time. This time they turned it over and that’s usually the story of football games.”

After Brees’ third interception on a tipped pass late in the fourth quarter, the Bucs were able to close out the game with Brady, in his first season with Tampa Bay after 20 with New England, taking a knee.

The Saints led 6-3 when Brees, while trying to flee pressure, underthrew Michael Thomas and was intercepted by Sean Murphy-Bunting, who raced 36 yards along the sideline to the Saints 3. Brady hit Evans one play later to put the Buccaneers up 10-6.

The Saints answered, helped by a drive-extending third-down defensive holding call on Murphy-Bunting. New Orleans drove to its 44 before unleashing a trick play.

Kamara took a direct snap and gave the ball to receiver Emmanuel Sanders on a reverse Sanders lateraled back to Jameis Winston. The reserve QB launched an accurate pass down the middle to Tre’Quan Smith for a 56-yard score.

Ryan Succop’s 37-yard field goal capped an up-tempo Bucs drive powered by Fournette’s 40 yards from scrimmage, tying the score at 13 to end the half.

Brees’ 16-yard pass to Smith put the Saints ahead 20-13, and New Orleans appeared primed to build on that lead when Brees completed a third-down pass to Jared Cook across the 50. Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr. stripped Cook from behind and White snagged the loose ball as it bounced to him, returning it 18 yards to the New Orleans 40.

Five plays later, Brady hit Fournette over the middle for a 6-yard score.

Succop’s 36-yard field goal made it 23-20 before White’s interception of a pass intended for Kamara gave the Buccaneers the ball at the New Orleans 20.

STATS

Fournette finished with 107 yards from scrimmage, 63 on the ground. Kamara had 105 yards from scrimmage, with 85 on the ground. Thomas was held without a catch in his final game of an injury-plagued season.

INJURIES

Buccaneers: Linebacker Jack Cichy went out with an elbow injury in the first quarter.

Saints: Deonte Harris, who returned the first Tampa Bay punt 54 yards to set up a field goal, left with a neck injury in the first half.

UP NEXT

The Bucs will try to advance to the second Super Bowl in franchise history with Brady, no stranger to high-stakes games in cold weather after his two decades in New England.

New Orleans might have to ponder life without Brees.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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