NFL insider notebook: Less flags equals more points, James Robinson's jersey gesture, plus Week 1 picks


CBS Sports 10 September, 2021 - 06:48am 11 views

Is TJ Watt signed?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed their All-Pro edge rusher to a new deal. PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally inked All-Pro edge rusher T.J. Watt to a contract extension, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. ... The extension makes Watt the highest-paid pass-rusher in the NFL, annually. Sports IllustratedReport: Steelers Sign T.J. Watt to Record-Breaking Contract Extension

Who is the highest paid defensive player in the NFL?

T.J. Watt became the NFL's highest-paid defensive player just hours before the 2021 NFL season kicked off. He signed a four-year deal worth an excess of $112 million. His $28 million annual salary is the most for a defensive player in NFL history. Sporting NewsThe NFL's highest-paid players on defense in 2021 salary, guaranteed money and total contract value

Cam Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick weigh in on T.J. Watt contract talks with Steelers

TribLIVE 10 September, 2021 - 11:31am

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Another day, another Pittsburgh Steelers captain stumping for All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt to get his long-awaited, long-term contract finalized.

On Thursday, it was defensive tackle Cam Heyward’s turn to throw his support behind Watt in his negotiations on a contract that likely will make the 26-year-old pass rusher the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player.

As he walked away from the podium after spending several moments during his nine-minute interview talking about Watt’s contract situation, Heyward leaned into the microphone and said, “Pay T.J. Please.”

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lobbied on Wednesday for the Steelers to pay Watt “whatever the heck he wants.”

A new contract could exceed the $27 million annually that Los Angeles Chargers pass rusher Joey Bosa is making.

“We all feel like T.J. should be paid,” Heyward said. “He’s put in the time and the work. He’s a productive player. Look at his (lack of) injury history. He’s out there, he doesn’t miss much. He’s a game changer.”

Heyward was in a similar situation in 2020. He was entering the final year of his contract and hoping to get a deal completed before the season began. Heyward signed a four-year, $65.6 million extension that included $20.25 million guaranteed eight days before the opener at the New York Giants.

The Steelers are just three days away from opening this season at Buffalo.

“I let my agent handle most of it, but at the same time, I was like, ‘What is it going to take?’” Heyward said. “I’m sure T.J. is going through it now. We want to focus on the Buffalo Bills. A guy like T.J., I know he wants it behind him, and we need to get it done.”

All-Pro free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who will enter the final year of his contract next offseason, admitted Thursday that he is “paying attention” to the Watt negotiations.

“It’s where I could be next year or in the future, so I have been talking with him and getting a feel for how the organization and everybody else is going about it,” Fitzpatrick said.

The Steelers are one of the few NFL teams that don’t guarantee contracts beyond the signing bonus and first year of the deal. However, they typically restructure contracts when they need to create salary cap space, essentially guaranteeing most of that year’s salary in the form of a signing bonus.

“Everybody has a way they do business, and you have to respect that,” Fitzpatrick said.

With the team’s blessing, Watt didn’t begin practicing with his teammates until Wednesday, and he went through a second full workout Thursday.

Defensive coordinator Keith Butler said the Steelers need to be mindful of Watt’s snap count in the opener Sunday. That is complicated by second-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith’s limited activity in practice this week.

“I think we’ve got to be careful about how many plays he plays,” Butler said about Watt. “He’s a veteran. He knows how he feels. He knows how he’s going to feel when he starts playing. We just have to be smart enough to know how much is too much and how much is too little. We will try to pick a spot in that situation and keep him as healthy as we can.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at or via Twitter .

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Betting On The Detroit Lions For 20 Years: It'd Be Bad. But Just How Bad?

New York Post 09 September, 2021 - 02:34pm

You know how it feels to have rooted for the Honolulu Blue and Silver in those games. Just imagine if you were betting on them.

Thankfully, regulated Michigan online sports betting only became a reality for sports fans here this past January.

On Sunday, it stands to reason that hundreds of Michiganders might be putting their first legal sports bet down on (or against) the Lions as they open the season against the San Francisco 49ers. (And if you’re one of those folks, check out some of our beginner sports betting tips in Michigan, with some of this year’s games as examples.)

After several decades of misery for old-timer fans, and an extra-special two decades of recent suckitude for the newbies, it’s likely a blessing that football betting hasn’t been as mainstream an activity as it is now.

Well, as it turns out, betting on the Lions would not have been nearly as bad as watching them. But … it would’ve been still pretty bad.

Since the target audience for sports betting skews younger than baby boomers who remember names such as Bobby Layne, let’s bring our numbers back to a more modern era.

Besides, with Barry Sanders around in the 1990s, it was a fun time to be a Lions fan. But a couple years after Sanders abruptly retired in 1999, a clear, new, dark era began for the Lions near the turn of the century.

After Michigan State alum Paul Edinger kicked the Lions playoff hopes away to close the 2000 season and ruin Christmas Eve, Lions owner William Clay Ford changed the direction of the franchise with the bold hiring of Millen away from the TV broadcast booth.

As you are painfully aware, the Lions have stumbled to a 110-209-1 mark since Millen took over the team in 2001. That’s only three games better than the Cleveland Browns, the standard-bearer for bad football this century and fellow member of the 0-16 club.

Here’s a look at the NFL’s worst outright teams since Millen was hired in 2001.

Not to throw salt in the wound, but by the way, while Detroit went 110-209-1 overall in that time, the New England Patriots went 239-81, going 30-11 in the playoffs. Detroit is (cue the trumpet fanfare) 0-3.

But what about against the number?

On this front, Lions bettors could actually thank Millen for some betting wins. This era has been full of occasions where the expectations have been so low for the Lions that they have cleared the low bar against the spread (ATS) in a loss.

If you’re new to sports betting, the spread is the established value an oddsmaker puts on an event based on the perceived differences in ability between two teams. Here’s more information on how to bet the spread and other types of football bets in Michigan.

Even though only Cleveland is worse outright than Detroit since 2001, two other teams also have worse records than Detroit against the spread, according to a data analysis from PlayMichigan that included compiling information from TeamRankings, Maddux Sports and Sports Odds History.

The Raiders (140-174-6) franchise has the worst record against the spread since 2001. There’s some sweet irony here, because they now play in the sports betting capital of the world.

Next is the Rams franchise, the new team of quarterback Matthew Stafford, who are 143-169-8 ATS. Those two franchises have since moved to new states, but at least they reached the first two Super Bowls of the Millen era (even though they lost).

Cleveland is the next-worst team against the spread at 143-167-10, 30th-best in the league.

At 144-167-9 ATS since 2001, Detroit is tied with the Tennessee Titans (145-168-7) in percentage points at 29th in the league.

Here are the worst NFL teams against the spread since 2001:

Nothing shows off just how far the Millen era dropped the bar for this franchise than taking a close look at its lowest point.

The Lions were the first team to lose all 16 games in a season, going 0-for during the 2008 campaign. The Browns have since matched that “feat,” going 0-16 in 2017.

To be fair, Millen is definitely not responsible for all the mess since he was hired in 2001, and not even all the 2008 stink. In fact, he was actually fired just a few games into the ’08 season.

But comparing the 0-16 campaigns is interesting. Cleveland was 4-12 against the spread in their disaster year. The Browns continued to consistently play below the level oddsmakers set for them.

However, in 2008, the Lions actually went 6-9-1 against the spread — a fairly respectable mark, given the circumstances. I don’t remember any of those games being close that season (other than the game Dan Orlovsky danced out of the back of the end zone at Minnesota).

But the Millen era had trained oddsmakers to give the Lions such lousy expectations that an 0-16 team covered the spread nearly half the time. That’s quite an accomplishment for Millen to hang his hat on.

Congrats to him! (I’m sure he eagerly awaits the greeting cards.)

All of this to say: Despite being often better than the low bar of perceived expectations: No, the Lions have still not been a smart bet this century.

Taking a look at the 144-167-9 record against the spread since 2001, that means someone who bet on Detroit in all those games is down 23 units. And fading the Lions — or betting against them each game — wouldn’t have been as profitable as one would think, either.

For what it’s worth, if you add in the three playoff games and bet with the Lions to cover, you are actually down 24 units. Seattle (2016) and New Orleans (2011) covered in home wins against Detroit, and the Lions covered the 6.5-point spread at Dallas, losing 24-20 in the first round of the 2014 NFL Playoffs (played in January 2015).

Hey, a playoff cover! Maybe that’s a start.

And just like at the start of every Lions season, there’s always a chance things will turns around. Maybe with the recent good signs around the Detroit Pistons and Tigers, and some renewed hope around the Red Wings, the sad-sack Lions will join the local trend and start moving in an upward direction.

We just wouldn’t bet on it.

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