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Like anything else involving a large group, there was unlikely to be a unanimous opinion among Cleveland Browns players on the coaches' decision to stick with Brian Hoyer at quarterback.

Maybe, but the Pittsburgh Steelers star did neither on Wednesday. Coach Mike Tomlin gave his quarterback a rare day off with a showdown at AFC North leader Cincinnati looming this weekend.

Roethlisberger and Tomlin said the decision to skip practice had nothing to do with the wrist Roethlisberger slammed against a helmet during last Sunday's 35-32 loss to New Orleans. While his teammates went through drills Roethlisberger watched in sweatpants wearing black gloves on both hands, though he did his customary post-workout throwing with a handful of skill position players.

The 32-year-old downplayed the idea his wrist is anything more than sore. Quarterbacks always have their hands heading toward places they're not supposed to go. So when his throwing hand smacked the helmet of New Orleans linebacker Curtis Lofton in the first quarter last weekend, he didn't panic.

''It was just loss of feeling in the two fingers and nothing that you can't play through,'' Roethlisberger said.
He didn't miss a snap while throwing for 435 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions, a performance that looked better on paper than it did in person. Both scoring tosses came in garbage time when the Steelers (7-5) were hopelessly behind and Roethlisberger struggled to find any sustained rhythm on a day he completed just 32 of 58 passes, his second-most inaccurate day of a mostly sublime season.
An MVP candidate a month ago after throwing for an NFL record dozen touchdowns in wins over Indianapolis and Baltimore, Roethlisberger has come back to earth in recent weeks. So has his team.

The Steelers (7-5) are just 1-2 since Roethlisberger's 340-yard, six-score masterpiece in a 43-23 demolition of the Ravens on Nov. 2. His quarterback rating over the last three games is a pedestrian 79.3 and he's thrown more passes to the other team (five) than he did in the first nine games combined (three).

Whether it was the wrist or the conditions or poor mechanics, Roethlisberger lacked his usual crispness against New Orleans. At least a dozen passes either sailed high and out of reach to his receivers or were batted down at the line of scrimmage. When he gambled, it didn't work. He threw a jump ball to a double-covered Darrius Heyward-Bey in the first half that was picked off in the end zone. The Saints then drove the length of the field for a touchdown to go up 14-6.

While Tomlin excused Roethlisberger's mini-slump, the 32-year-old is well aware that Pittsburgh's pursuit of a playoff spot will rely heavily on how his ability to bounce back quickly starting.

''If we're not always playing our best, me particularly, then that hurts because the ball goes through my hands every single play,'' he said. ''I need to play better and that will hopefully in turn help the rest of the offense play better.''
Seeing the Bengals (8-3-1) on the other side of the line of scrimmage generally helps. Roethlisberger is 14-6 against Cincinnati in his career and is typically at his best late in the year. Roethlisberger is 31-13 in games played after Dec. 1, though the Steelers have split with the Bengals in each of the last two years.

''I've been here a long time and so it's easy for me to know what this game means and what this part of the season means,'' he said. ''We'll keep an eye on the young guys and make sure that they understand the importance of it as well.''

A victory Sunday and Pittsburgh is right back in the mix for the division title. A loss and the Steelers likely need to win out to have any shot at the playoffs. As explosive as the offense has looked at times, Pittsburgh is averaging just 18.3 points a game on the road compared to 35 at home. It's a disparity that Roethlisberger knows needs to even out.

''We're a confident group,'' he said. ''We feel that we've got some players that are some of the best playmakers in the game of football. We just need to come out and execute and play good football when it counts.''

NOTES: LB James Harrison (knee), tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and safety Troy Polamalu (illness) also did not practice on Wednesday. ... Rookie LB Ryan Shazier was a full participant and should play for the first time in a month barring a setback.


The Panthers are hoping to nfl football betting Online Bingo Play Slots Online in US NFL Betting Lines win their sixth straight game when they host the Patriots on Monday night.
Carolina is coming off of a defensive battle with the 49ers in which it came out on top 10-9, marking its fifth consecutive win (SU and ATS). New England, however, won a 55-31 shootout with the Steelers before last week's bye. That win moved the Patriots to 5-4 ATS for the season, but they are just 1-3 ATS on the road. The Panthers are 6-3 ATS overall, and 3-1 ATS at home. The last time these teams met was in December of 2009 when New England won 20-10, but failed to cover a 12.5-point spread at home. Since the Panthers entered the league in 1995, the Patriots hold a 3-2 SU series advantage, but Carolina is 4-1 ATS in the series. Both teams have some positive trends, as New England is 23-7 ATS (77percent) after gaining 175 or more rushing yards in their last game since 1992 and they are 79-45 ATS (64percent) as an underdog during that time. However, over the past three seasons, the Panthers are 14-4 ATS (78percent) after playing their last game on the road, and 7-3 ATS after allowing 14 points or less in their previous game. The Patriots are excited to finally have RB Shane Vereen (wrist) back on the field, but top CB Aqib Talib (hip) is still questionable for Monday night. Carolina enters this one pretty healthy, with the biggest concern being G Chris Scott, who is questionable with a knee injury.

New England finally got its offense going against the Steelers last game, racking up 610 yards of total offense. QB Tom Brady threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns in the game, giving him 13 touchdown passes on the season and just six interceptions, a far cry from his 34 TD and 8 INT in 2012. TE Rob Gronkowski and WRs Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson all had more than 120 receiving yards and a touchdown, with the rookie Dobson scoring twice. RB Stevan Ridley extended his touchdown game streak to four with 115 yards and two touchdowns on 26 attempts (4.4 YPC). Brady now plays against the Carolina defense, which has been dominant all season. New Englands defense will have to do a better job stopping the run in order to slow down QB Cam Newton and his Panthers offense. The Patriots allow 128.2 rushing yards per game (30th in NFL) and that does not bode well for them against Carolina. They are, however, a solid team against the pass as they allow just 232.8 yards per game through the air (12th in NFL). New England's defense has done a poor job of getting of the field on third down (40.3percent conversions, 24th in NFL), but has held strong in the red zone (48.3percent, 7th in NFL). CB Aqib Talib, who is the Patriots best man-to-man defender in the secondary hasn't played since injuring his hip in Week 6, and could be a key addition if he's able to suit up on Monday night. New England will be looking to strip the football, having produced 11 takeaways over the past five games.

NFL Player Contract Formulation

NFL players belong to a players association derived from the National Football League. This association plays very vital roles to the players especially when it comes to the issue of remuneration, contracts and other benefits. The union normally negotiates contract matters for all players in a collective bargaining agreement document.
This document which has been in existence since 1993 governs how negotiations for individual player contracts are done. It was amended in 1998 and 2006 to be favorable to both the players and the administrative units of the league and it is expected to expire in 2012 although some of the stakeholders already requested to sign-out two years before this expiry date.
Since 1987 however, there has not been any work related stoppages following stability in administration of NFL. Other leagues and associations have had to rub shoulders with players a number of times since that period.
The rights to negotiate for contracts are divided into three categories with which each player can bargain. In the first place, players who have already been drafted and have not yet played in their first year can only bargain with the particular team that drafted them or decide to hold on out of the game until they agree. Holding out has been used by many players as a means to have their teams pay for example Baltimore Colts player John Elway in 1983 refused to play until the terms of payment were agreed upon. The Colts sold his rights to another team Denver Broncos which made him to play the game. Another player, Bo Jackson, refused to play for the whole year in 1986 and decided to play baseball for Kansas City royals rather than Tampa Bay Buccaneers which had initially drafted him. In the subsequent year, he entered the draft again and was signed in with Los Angeles Raiders team.
The second category contains players who have played for three full seasons in the league but whose contracts have expired. They are usually considered as retired free agents and have very limited rights negotiating with a club. Finally, there is a group of players who have played four and more full seasons while in the league but have their contracts expired. In this case, they have unlimited rights to bargain with any of the clubs. Such a player is called an unrestricted free agent.
In other instances, teams name a player annually to enter the franchise list and such players are eliminated from much of the negotiation rights even though this affects only few players. The remuneration of players also depends on length of time they have been playing in the league or club and this means some earn decently than others.

Heisman Trophy Dark Horses

The Heisman Trophy is unique because oftentimes, the winners come from virtually nowhere to have amazing seasons. Just last year, Mark Ingram won the award after virtually nobody talked about him as a preseason contender. Here are some dark horses who could have amazing years and walk away with the trophy:

Jake Locker- Locker may be this year’s version of Tim Tebow: a dual-threat quarterback capable of scaring teams just as much with his legs as with his arm. He has incredible speed and his rushing stats of 338 yards and seven touchdowns would have been much higher had his coach given him more carries. He improved greatly as a passer last year, throwing for 2,800 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions with his rocket arm. Locker stayed in school rather than potentially being taken with the number one overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and is determined to lead his team to a bowl game for the first time since he’s been there. The Heisman is often predicated on team success and if Locker can put up Tebow-esque numbers and lead his team to eight or more wins, he may become the first Heisman winner in the history of the University of Washington. has Jake Locker at a +1200 to win the Heisman this year.

Jacquizz Rodgers- Rodgers is one of the most dynamic players in the country, a running back who gets it done as a rusher and receiver. As impressive as his 1,440 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns were last year, his ability to catch 78 passes for over 500 yards out of the backfield is perhaps more impressive and unusual for a running back. The Pac 10 is wide open this year and Rodgers’ Heisman hopes would get a tremendous surge if his Oregon State Beavers were to prevail in a tough division.

Jacory Harris- Harris was the centerpiece last year on a much-improved Miami team. He orchestrated important drives in some big upsets, especially early in the season against Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Oklahoma. He put up big numbers, throwing for over 3,300 yards and 24 touchdowns. Harris has the poise and talent needed to continue his vast success, but the one improvement he’ll need to make is to limit his mistakes. He threw 17 interceptions last year, far too many for a potential Heisman winner. If he can become more consistent and limit his spurts of bad play, he should become a bona fide Heisman contender. With his penchant for clutch play, he could deliver some game-winning drives that would sear him into the conscience of Heisman voters.

Dion Lewis- Lewis may have been the best true freshman in the country last season, surpassing all realistic expectations with nearly 1,800 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. He saved his best performances for last, rushing for over 150 yards in each of Pittsburgh’s last four games. He’ll carry this momentum into the upcoming season on a Pitt team that won ten games and is poised to win The Big East and a spot in the BCS. If he can separate himself from the herd of elite running backs and his team lives up to the expectations, he’ll be in the thick of the conversation.

Ryan Williams- Virginia Tech’s Williams is another standout underclassman running back. Although a redshirt, he turned heads with a forceful season last year after not even being expected to start. He ran for 1,655 yards and showed a penchant for finding the end zone, scoring 21 rushing touchdowns. Williams should expect his quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, to continue to mature and take some of the burden off of him. Williams scored 10 touchdowns and had a combined 420 yards in Tech’s last three games last season. If he can continue this pace and play well in his team’s nationally televised opening game against Boise State, he should get lots of early attention that may last.

Andrew Luck- Stanford’s Luck is getting tons of attention from the NFL and scouts are raving about his ability and potential. However, if he wants to grab the attention of Heisman voters, he’ll need to make up for the loss of Toby Gerhart, his running back and the Heisman runner-up last year. Defenses will be focused on Luck but he has proven to be incredibly poised, throwing only four interceptions last year and leading the Pac 10 in passing efficiency while at the helm of the Cardinal. Although Gerhart is now gone to the NFL, Luck has one of the best receiving duos in the country with Chris Owusu and Ryan Whalen. Luck complements his passing ability with a running ability that is a threat to all defenses. Although only a redshirt sophomore, recent history has shown that underclassmen can win the Heisman. Luck would be the fourth straight sophomore to win the award. At +1500 at to win the Heisman Andrew Luck might just be that Dark Horse that could net you a big win.