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2024 NBA picks, January 18 predictions from proven model

The Sacramento Kings will face off against the Indiana Pacers at 10 p.m. ET on Thursday at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. Both teams are 23-17; Sacramento is 13-7 at home, while Indiana is 10-9 on the road. The Kings have won and covered two of the three games they’ve played against the Pacers since the blockbuster trade that sent Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento and Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana to reshape both franchises.

This season, the Kings are 22-18 against the spread while the Pacers are 23-16-1 against the number. For Thursday, Sacramento is favored by 7.5 points in the latest Kings vs. Pacers odds, per SportsLine consensus, and the over/under is 248 points. Before entering any Pacers vs. Kings picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions from the model at SportsLine.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters Week 13 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a sizzling 42-23 roll on all top-rated NBA picks this season, returning nearly $2,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

The model has set its sights on Indiana vs. Sacramento. You can head to SportsLine to see its picks. Here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Pacers vs. Kings:

Kings vs. Pacers spread: Kings -7.5
Kings vs. Pacers over/under: 248 points
Kings vs. Pacers money line: Kings: -304, Pacers: +243
Kings vs. Pacers picks: See picks at SportsLine
What you need to know about the Kings
The Kings’ recent rough patch got a bit rougher on Tuesday after their third straight loss. They fell just short of the Phoenix Suns by a score of 119-117. The defeat came about despite the Kings having been up 22 with 8:22 left in the fourth quarter but Sacramento was ultimately undone by eight fourth-quarter turnovers.

The Kings’ loss shouldn’t obscure the performances of Sabonis, who dropped a triple-double on 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists, and De’Aaron Fox, who went 6 for 10 from beyond the arc en route to 33 points and six assists. However, Sacramento was outrebounded 46-31 in the defeat, which is unusual for it as the Kings allow the lowest defensive rebound percentage in the NBA. See which team to pick here.

What you need to know about the Pacers
Meanwhile, the Pacers found themselves on the business end of a 132-105 beatdown against the Utah Jazz on Monday. All five starters scored in double-figures for Indiana but nobody scored more than 14 points. However, there were even bigger issues defensively, as the Jazz were able to shoot 55.6% from the floor and 44.0% from the 3-point line.

However, Indiana should have some reinforcement on the way as All-Star point guard Haliburton (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Thursday’s contest after missing the last four games. Aaron Nesmith (leg) is also questionable after missing two games, while Bennedict Mathurin (ankle) and Obi Toppin (calf) are game-time decisions as well. See which team to pick here.

Key Betting Info
The Pacers might be without Haliburton in this one and you’ll want to keep a close eye on his status. For the season, Haliburton has averaged 23.6 points, 12.5 assists and 1.1 steals.

Some of the betting trends to consider are:

The Pacers are 22-10-2 against the spread in their last 34 games after a day off.
The Kings are 9-5 against the spread in their last 14 games vs teams that win more than 55% of games.
The Kings are 21-13 against the spread in their last 34 games after a day off.
How to make Kings vs. Pacers picks
The model has simulated Kings vs. Pacers 10,000 times and the results are in. We can tell you that the model is leaning Over and it’s also generated a point-spread pick that is hitting in well over 50% of simulations. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.

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2024 NBA picks, January 18 predictions from proven model

The Minnesota Timberwolves will take on the Memphis Grizzlies in an exciting Western Conference matchup on Thursday. Minnesota is 29-11 overall and 16-2 at home, while Memphis is 15-25 overall and 11-10 on the road. The Timberwolves have won their first two meetings this season by an average of 23 points.

Tip-off is set for 10 p.m. ET at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Minnesota is a 12-point favorite in the latest Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies odds, according to the SportsLine consensus, and the over/under is 214 points. Before entering any Grizzlies vs. Timberwolves picks, you need to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine’s advanced computer simulation model.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters Week 13 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a sizzling 42-23 roll on all top-rated NBA picks this season, returning nearly $2,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

The model has set its sights on Memphis vs. Minnesota. You can head to SportsLine to see its picks. Here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Grizzlies vs. Timberwolves:

Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies spread: Timberwolves -12
Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies over/under: 214 points
Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies money line: Timberwolves: -775, Grizzlies: +533
MEM: The Grizzlies are 12-9 ATS on the road this season
MIN: The Timberwolves are 10-6-2 ATS at home this season
Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies picks: See picks at SportsLine
What to know about the Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are significantly banged up at the moment with Ja Morant (shoulder) out for the season, followed by fellow guard Marcus Smart suffering a finger injury in the ensuing game to cost him six weeks. Then Desmond Bane, who was averaging 24.4 points per game and controlling the offense during the stretches Morant’s been out with injury after a suspension, suffered a sprained left ankle this week and is expected to miss six weeks. With Derrick Rose (thigh) also out, the Grizzlies can’t catch a break lately, especially in the backcourt.

Memphis will likely need a huge performance from Jaren Jackson Jr. to cover the margin on Thursday. The 24-year-old power forward is averaging 21.2 points per game this season and will likely be the focal point of the offense over the next few weeks. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft has never had this much offensive pressure on him, but Memphis will need him to produce. See which team to pick here.

What to know about the Timberwolves
The Timberwolves have the second-best record in the NBA and best mark in the Western Conference at 29-11 nearing the midway point of the 2023-24 NBA season. They’ve built a young core around Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, who have elevated themselves to superstar status since both were selected as No. 1 overall picks. But even the most optimistic Timberwolves fan wouldn’t have seen a potential No. 1 seed in the West coming this season after being in the play-in tournament last year.

Edwards is averaging 26 points, 5.4 rebounds and five assists with Towns adding 21.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. But it’s the Minnesota defense that has elevated it above the rest in the West. The Timberwolves are allowing 107.6 ppg this season, the lowest in the NBA by nearly three points. The Grizzlies averaged 100 ppg in their two matchups against Minnesota this year with the Timberwolves winning both contests by at least 22 points. See which team to pick here.

How to make Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies picks
The model has simulated Grizzlies vs. Wolves 10,000 times and the results are in. We can tell you that the model is leaning Under, and it also says one side of the spread hits almost 70% of the time. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.

Byadmin

Warriors vs. Mavericks game postponed following death of Golden State assistant Dejan Milojevic

The Golden State Warriors’ home game against the Dallas Mavericks scheduled for Friday has been postponed following the death of Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic, the NBA announced on Thursday. Milojevic, who was 46, died Wednesday morning. He was hospitalized on Tuesday night in Salt Lake City after having a heart attack at a team dinner.

Golden State’s game against the Utah Jazz, scheduled for Wednesday in Utah, was also postponed. Neither game has yet been rescheduled.

“This is a shocking and tragic blow for everyone associated with the Warriors and an incredibly difficult time for his family, friends, and all of us who had the incredible pleasure to work with him,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Milojevic in a statement. “In addition to being a terrific basketball coach, Dejan was one of the most positive and beautiful human beings I have ever known, someone who brought joy and light to every single day with his passion and energy.”

The Warriors-Mavericks game was set to air nationally on ESPN. Instead, the Los Angeles Lakers’ game against the Brooklyn Nets will be broadcast in that spot on Friday.

The next scheduled game for Golden State (18-22, 12th place in the Western Conference) is Wednesday, Jan. 24 at home against the Atlanta Hawks.

Dallas’ next scheduled game is Monday, Jan. 22 at home against the Boston Celtics. On Wednesday in Los Angeles, Mavericks coach Jason Kidd told reporters that they would fly back to Dallas on Thursday if the league decided to postpone the game against the Warriors.

Byadmin

Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic dies at 46 after suffering heart attack in Utah

Golden State Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic died Wednesday after suffering a medical emergency in Salt Lake City, Utah on Tuesday night, the team announced. He was 46 years old. Milojevic was hospitalized after suffering the emergency at a restaurant during a team dinner. The NBA postponed Wednesday night’s game between the Warriors and Jazz in Utah as well as Friday’s Warriors vs. Mavericks game in San Francisco.

“We are absolutely devastated by Dejan’s sudden passing,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said in a statement. “This is a shocking and tragic blow for everyone associated with the Warriors and an incredibly difficult time for his family, friends, and all of us who had the incredible pleasure to work with him. In addition to being a terrific basketball coach, Dejan was one of the most positive and beautiful human beings I have ever known, someone who brought joy and light to every single day with his passion and energy. We grieve with and for his wife, Natasa, and their children, Nikola and Masa. Their loss is unfathomable.”

Milojevic, a native of Serbia, was added to the Warriors coaching staff in 2021 and helped the franchise win a championship in 2022. He played in Serbia, Spain, Montenegro, and Turkey during his 14-year professional career and was named the MVP of the Adriatic League three times (2004-06). He joined Kerr’s staff after coaching stints with Mega Vizura in Serbia and Buducnost in Montenegro, where he won the Montenegrin League Championship.

Milojevic made the most of the talent available to him during his time coaching overseas and helped establish a strong pipeline from Mega Vizura to the NBA. Eleven of the players Milojevic coached during his eight seasons with Mega Vizura went on to be selected in the NBA Draft. Among them were Nikola Jokic, Ivica Zubac, Goga Bitadze, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Vlatko Cancar.

“The NBA mourns the sudden passing of Golden State assistant coach Dejan Milojevic, a beloved colleague and dear friend to so many in the global basketball community,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “In addition to winning the 2022 NBA championship in his first season with the Warriors and mentoring some of the best players in the world, Dejan had a decorated international playing career and was a distinguished head coach in his native Serbia. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Natasa, their children, Nikola and Masa, and the Warriors organization during this tragic time.”

The game in Utah was set to be the last matchup on Golden State’s four-game road trip. With the Friday game against the Mavericks also postponed, the team’s next scheduled game is Wednesday, Jan. 24 against the Hawks at the Chase Center.Golden State Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic died Wednesday after suffering a medical emergency in Salt Lake City, Utah on Tuesday night, the team announced. He was 46 years old. Milojevic was hospitalized after suffering the emergency at a restaurant during a team dinner. The NBA postponed Wednesday night’s game between the Warriors and Jazz in Utah as well as Friday’s Warriors vs. Mavericks game in San Francisco.

“We are absolutely devastated by Dejan’s sudden passing,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said in a statement. “This is a shocking and tragic blow for everyone associated with the Warriors and an incredibly difficult time for his family, friends, and all of us who had the incredible pleasure to work with him. In addition to being a terrific basketball coach, Dejan was one of the most positive and beautiful human beings I have ever known, someone who brought joy and light to every single day with his passion and energy. We grieve with and for his wife, Natasa, and their children, Nikola and Masa. Their loss is unfathomable.”

Milojevic, a native of Serbia, was added to the Warriors coaching staff in 2021 and helped the franchise win a championship in 2022. He played in Serbia, Spain, Montenegro, and Turkey during his 14-year professional career and was named the MVP of the Adriatic League three times (2004-06). He joined Kerr’s staff after coaching stints with Mega Vizura in Serbia and Buducnost in Montenegro, where he won the Montenegrin League Championship.

Milojevic made the most of the talent available to him during his time coaching overseas and helped establish a strong pipeline from Mega Vizura to the NBA. Eleven of the players Milojevic coached during his eight seasons with Mega Vizura went on to be selected in the NBA Draft. Among them were Nikola Jokic, Ivica Zubac, Goga Bitadze, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Vlatko Cancar.

“The NBA mourns the sudden passing of Golden State assistant coach Dejan Milojevic, a beloved colleague and dear friend to so many in the global basketball community,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “In addition to winning the 2022 NBA championship in his first season with the Warriors and mentoring some of the best players in the world, Dejan had a decorated international playing career and was a distinguished head coach in his native Serbia. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Natasa, their children, Nikola and Masa, and the Warriors organization during this tragic time.”

The game in Utah was set to be the last matchup on Golden State’s four-game road trip. With the Friday game against the Mavericks also postponed, the team’s next scheduled game is Wednesday, Jan. 24 against the Hawks at the Chase Center.

Byadmin

Lakers’ LeBron James shocked to learn he has played against 35 percent of all players in NBA history

LeBron James is certainly one of the most accomplished players in NBA history. However, one new statistic of his comes across as absolutely mind-boggling.

After facing the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, the ESPN on ABC broadcast revealed that James has now played against 35% of all of the players that have ever played in the NBA.

INSANE.

LeBron has played against 35% of all players in NBA history 🤯 pic.twitter.com/Xr6Qz7IExz

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 18, 2024
It definitely was a very surprising statistic to many, including James himself. Following Wednesday’s 127-110 win against the Mavericks, James responded to the crazy stat on his Instagram story by calling it “insane.”

James was the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, and made his debut in the 2003-04 campaign. The Los Angeles Lakers star has scored 39,591 points in 21 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Lakers. In February 2023, James passed Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most points in NBA history.

The NBA came into existence in 1946, so there were obviously several decades of players who took to the hardwood before James made his NBA debut. Still, James’ longevity has allowed him to play 21 seasons and become one of the greatest players that the league has ever seen.

Byadmin

Trae Young widens gap on Damian Lillard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander chasing Steph

The third and final All-Star voting returns are in, and the guard spots are still the only real races to monitor. In the Eastern Conference, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks has increased his lead for the second spot, with 85,862 more votes than Milwaukee Bucks guard Damian Lillard. In the Western Conference, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder gained a bit of ground on Stephen Curry, but is still trailing the Golden State Warriors superstar by 285,041 votes.

Just like they did in the last two weeks of returns, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks leads all vote-getters (4,309,630 votes), while LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers leads all players in the West (3,938,571).

In the frontcourt, the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic has a 31,642-vote lead over the Phoenix Suns’ Kevin Durant for the No. 2 spot in the West, and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid has a 3,691-vote lead over the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum. For these “races” to matter, though, the media and player voting would have to differ fairly drastically from the fan voting. The top three frontcourt players and top two backcourt players in their respective conferences will start in the All-Star Game, which will take place in Indianapolis on Sunday, Feb. 18.

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo lead their respective conferences in the third fan returns of #NBAAllStar Voting presented by AT&T.

Fans account for 50% of the vote to decide All-Star starters. NBA players and a media panel account for 25% each. pic.twitter.com/fyGeQXgEhH

— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) January 18, 2024
You can vote until Saturday at 11:59 p.m. ET. All fan votes received on Friday, the last “3-for-1” day, will count three times. The results of this voting do not determine the starters outright; fans account for 50% of the overall vote, with the other half split between NBA players and a panel of media members.

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The All-Star starters will be announced next week (Jan. 25) on TNT. The reserves, which will be chosen by NBA coaches, will be announced the following week (Feb. 1) on TNT.

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Stallions QB J’Mar Smith thinks a championship game between rival leagues will happen ‘soon’

Birmingham quarterback J’Mar Smith’s primary goal is leading the Stallions in their pursuit of back-to-back USFL titles. But if the opportunity to face the XFL’s best team also presented itself, Smith would certainly welcome that opportunity, too.

Ahead of his Birmingham’s season opener on Saturday night against the New Jersey Generals, Smith was asked about his possible interest in a game pitting the two leagues’ top-two teams. While the question was hypothetical, Smith thinks a championship game between the two leagues is certainly a possibility.

“That would be nice and what the fans want,” Smith said in a text message to CBS Sports. “Merging two spring pro leagues, champion vs. champion, to see the competition between the two leagues. … I think it should happen and will soon!”

Given that the two leagues enforce different rules, Smith posed the interesting question of which rules would be utilized should the two leagues face off. There are several rules within each league, especially on kickoffs, that are vastly different from each other. For example, the USFL gives scoring teams a chance to keep the ball if they are able to complete a 4th-and-12 play from their own 25-yard line. While the XFL has a similar option, the scoring team must convert a 4th-and-15 play in order to retain possession.

Rules aside, a USFL-XFL championship game would certainly generate attention, especially during the dog days of summer. The Super Bowl, after all, was initially between the National Football League and the upstart American Football League. The NFL’s Green Bay Packers won the first two contests before Joe Namath’s Jets shocked the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The leagues merged shortly after the AFL’s Chiefs defeated the NFL champion Vikings in Super Bowl IV.

Often lost in history is the fact that the AFL and NFL had already agreed to a future merge prior to playing in their first AFL-NFL Championship Game. At this point, the USFL and XFL are entirely different entities that start their seasons at different points. It seems that there would have to be some sort of connection between the two leagues before games between the two would actually happen.

Both leagues are currently trying to coexist while becoming the first successful spring league. When they kick things off this weekend, the USFL will be the first spring league in nearly 40 years to return for a second consecutive season. The XFL, currently in its third incarnation, is nearing the end of its 10-game regular season.

Neither league is trying to compete with the NFL. In the USFL’s case, helping provide players with a new pathway to the NFL is one of the league’s primary goals, along with being a league that prioritizes its fans with affordable tickets.

“We’re about football,” USFL president Daryl Johnston recently told CBS Sports. “We’re about the why, what motivates the guys, what you are trying to accomplish here and trying to do everything we can from a coaching and from an exposure standpoint to give them an opportunity to continue to chase that dream.”

When it comes to a possible USFL-XFL championship game, it’s interesting that Smith answered the question with such honesty. Instead of ignoring the other league, Smith welcomes the conversation and would welcome the prospect of facing the XFL’s best team at the end of the USFL’s season. Rest assured that Smith isn’t the only player who would like to see such a game take place.

Byadmin

Defending champ Birmingham Stallions start at top, Philadelphia Stars No. 2

Fresh off of last year’s successful campaign, the USFL is gearing up for what could be an even better 2023 season — but which team will capture the title?

Led by quarterback J’Mar Smith, the Birmingham Stallions begin their defense of last year’s championship when the league kicks off this Saturday, April 15. The Philadelphia Stars, who came up just short against Birmingham in last year’s USFL Championship Game, are expected to once again be in the mix with the return of their quarterback, Case Cookus. The league’s two other playoff teams last year, the New Jersey Generals and New Orleans Breakers, are also expected to make a run at the crown.

Joining the fray of USFL teams for the 2023 season are the Memphis Showboats, who will be one of three teams that will get to play in front of their home fans this season (check out everything to know in our 2023 season primer, the complete season schedule and much more). After all the league’s regular-season games were held in Birmingham last year, three new venues have been added to the mix for 2023: Memphis, Canton and Detroit. The Showboats are in essence the Tampa Bay Bandits, who are on a hiatus in 2023 after going 4-6 in 2022.

With Week 1 on the horizon, who are the top teams? Here’s how we rank them in our Week 1 Power Rankings:

  1. Birmingham Stallions
    Last season: 9-1, defending champs, defeated New Orleans and Philadelphia in playoffs
    Skip Holtz’s team returns the majority of last year’s championship roster. That includes Smith, who said he is roughly 10-15 pounds lighter than he was last year. Running backs Bo Scarbrough, C.J. Marable and linebacker Scooby Wright are three other key members of Birmingham’s championship team that are back for the 2023 season.

Smith is expecting more of a contribution this season from receiver Marlon Williams, who last season finished second in the USFL in touchdown catches and third in receiving yards. The two connected on a deep touchdown pass in last year’s championship game win over Philadelphia.

In 2023, Birmingham will try to do something that no NFL team has done in nearly 20 years: repeat as champion.

“I love having a target on my back,” Smith recently told CBS Sports. “It makes me play harder. I know that everyone is going to give us their best shot. I’m not going run away from their shot. I love to step up to the challenge.”

  1. Philadelphia Stars
    Last season: 6-4, defeated New Jersey in playoffs, lost to Birmingham in championship game
    The Stars have their sights set on a championship after coming up just short in last year’s championship game. A big reason for Philadelphia’s optimism is the return of Cookus, who went 6-3 as the team’s starting quarterback last season. Cookus led a Stars offense that averaged a league-high 26.2 points per game.

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Cookus will again be aided on offense by running back Matt Coburn II (who scored nine total touchdowns) and Jordan Suell, who caught a touchdown in the USFL Championship Game. Cookus will have a new target this season in former Browns first-round pick Corey Coleman, who caught 20 touchdowns during his final season at Baylor back in 2015.

  1. New Jersey Generals
    Last season: 9-1, lost to Philadelphia in the playoffs
    New Jersey, which tied Birmingham with the league’s best record during the 2022 regular season, is motivated this season after last year’s playoff upset at the hands of the Stars.

“The guys come in with a chip on their shoulder, kind of like unfinished business a little bit,” said offensive coordinator Steven Smith, via the league’s website. “The guys came in ready to go and focused on getting it done and making things happen that we didn’t finish last year.”

The Generals lost one of their key players from last year’s team to the NFL in Cowboys All-Pro return specialist KaVontae Turpin. Reigning Offensive Player of the Year Darius Victor is back, however, along with fellow running back Trey Williams. Last season, the duo helped the Generals average a league-high 161 yards on the ground per game.

Quarterback is the big question mark. De’Andre Johnson, the team’s backup last season, is looking to win the job over Kyle Lauletta, a former Giants draft pick who made two starts for the Maulers last season.

  1. New Orleans Breakers
    Last season: 6-4, lost to Birmingham in the playoffs
    One of the league’s four playoff teams in 2022, New Orleans will usher in a new era in 2023. The team has a new coach in John DeFilippo, who won a Super Bowl in 2017 as the Eagles quarterbacks coach.

New Orleans’ top-ranked defense is expected to again be among the league’s best. The big question is at quarterback, as the Breakers have a three-man competition between McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Davis Cheek and Aqeel Glass. The front-runner to win the job is the 34-year-old Bethel-Thompson, a two-time Canadian Football League champion who decided to move to the USFL instead of spending another season in Winnipeg.

“It’s all betting on one year, which is tenuous but also challenging,” he recently told the Toronto Sun. “Every game matters. Every practice matters. Every throw matters. If I don’t perform physically or mentally, or maybe play half the year and then get benched, I could very well have ended my career as opposed to having four more years in the CFL. It’s moving all your chips in on a pretty bizarre hand.”

  1. Memphis Showboats
    Memphis’ possible advantage at quarterback moved them up several spots on this list. Showboats coach Todd Haley recently announced that his starting quarterback will be Brady White, who enjoyed a prolific college career at Memphis that included throwing for a school-record 10,690 yards and 90 touchdowns.

“Brady has kind of cemented himself as the starter here as we get the season going,” Haley recently told Fox Sports. “But Ryan (Willis) and Cole (Kelley) are talented guys that have impressed us throughout this process. I don’t think it’s beyond thinking that you’ll see all these guys play at some point.

“The name of the game is winning. So, whoever gives us the best chance to win will be the guy handling the football most of the time. But Brady, having been with us most of the time last year, definitely had a head start. I know he’s excited about being in Memphis, where he played his college football. He’s like a superstar walking around town down here. I know he’s enjoying and embracing that, and we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

Memphis’ offense also includes Alex Collins, a veteran NFL running back who nearly ran for 1,000 yards in 2017 with the Seahawks.

  1. Houston Gamblers
    Last season: 3-7
    Houston was much better than its 2022 record indicated. You could say the Gamblers were snake-bitten after losing five straight games where they led in the fourth quarter. The defense was Houston’s strength, but the unit underwent a total transformation this offseason. The defense will include 14 new players, including expected standouts in defensive end Eli Howard and linebacker Isaiah Pryor.

The Gamblers’ offense is expected to be significantly better, largely because of the expected uptick in play from quarterback Kenji Bahar. If Bahar is able to complement Houston’s talented running game (led by Mark Thompson), this could be the surprise team for 2023.

  1. Pittsburgh Maulers
    Last season: 1-9
    On and off the field, the Maulers underwent massive changes this offseason. They changed their color scheme to mimic the black and gold flavor of the city they represent. Speaking of Pittsburgh’s fabled football history, the team hired a former Steelers Super Bowl-winning assistant coach, Ray Horton, as their new head coach.

One of the things that is expected to stay the same in Pittsburgh is a Maulers defense that was one of the USFL’s better units last season, led by former NFL first-round pick Reuben Foster. Pittsburgh’s offense has the weapons to be a solid unit, but its success will likely come down to whether James Morgan or Troy Williams can provide steady play at quarterback.

  1. Michigan Panthers
    Last season: 2-8
    Michigan might be the USFL’s biggest enigma. Led by first-year head coach Mike Nolan, the Panthers could make a surprise playoff push while turning Ford Field into a massive home-field advantage. Michigan has a formidable rushing attack and is expected to field a good defense.

As with several other teams, quarterback is the big question in Michigan. The Panthers’ offense will be led by either Josh Love (who spent time with the NFL’s Rams and Panthers) or Carson Strong, an undrafted rookie last season who spent time with the Eagles and Cardinals.

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Kickoff starts at 20-yard line, emergency third QB highlight changes

The USFL will kick off its second season Saturday, and there will be new rules for Year 2. The first spring league to play a second season since the original USFL in the 1980s, the USFL has updated playing rules to make the game more exciting than its first season.

Here are some highlights of the new rules (and what the NFL does in comparison):

Kickoffs
Kickoffs will start from the 20-yard line. Kicking team members must line up within one yard behind the 20 and must be stationary when the ball is kicked. Receiving teams must have a minimum of eight — and up to a maximum of nine — players lined up in the set-up zone (between their 30- and 40-yard lines).
Kickoffs out of bounds will be placed 30 yards from the spot of the kick — normally, the receiving team takes possession at the 50-yard line.
NFL: Kickoffs start from the 35-yard line with a running kickoff. Kicks out of bounds result in the receiving team getting the ball at their own 40-yard line (25 yards from the kickoff line if penalty is accepted).

Option to retain ball after scoring
Teams will have two options to retain possession of the ball after scoring. The first option will be a traditional onside kick attempt from the 20-yard line. The second will be running a “4th-and-12” play from their own 33-yard line. If the team makes a first down, it retains possession. If it fails to make a first down, then the opposing team takes over at the dead ball spot.
NFL: Onside kick attempt. No fourth-down conversion to retain possession.

Overtime shootout
Overtime remains a best of three-play shootout. The winner of a coin toss may choose to go on offense or defense first and the USFL Command Center will determine which side of the field will be used.
Each team’s offense will alternate possessions against the opposing defense from the 2-yard line. Each successful scoring attempt will receive two points. The team with the most points after three possessions wins. If the score is tied at the end of three possessions for each team, overtime advances to sudden death. Each team will get one possession and will continue until there is a winner.
NFL: Team that has possession and scores touchdown on initial possession wins (regular season). A field goal or punt results in other team getting possession with opportunity to win. In postseason, both teams get possession of ball.

Extra points
Scoring teams will have three options to attempt extra points. Teams will receive one point for a successful kick between the uprights snapped from the 15-yard line, two points for a successful scrimmage play from the 2-yard line, three points for a successful scrimmage play from the 10-yard line.
If the defense scores on an attempted try, it will be a 2-point score regardless of the try attempt.
Prior to the extra point, the scoring team cannot change its original option unless a timeout is used or the defense commits a foul prior to the snap.
NFL: Teams have option to kick extra point from 15-yard line or go for two-point conversion from 2-yard line.

Emergency third quarterback
Each team will carry an inactive emergency third quarterback. To ensure fairness, if he is activated and enters the game anytime in the first three quarters, the first two quarterbacks cannot reenter the game. If he enters in the 4th quarter, the original two quarterbacks may reenter.
NFL: Teams can not dress a third quarterback.

Fumbles
A ball fumbled forward from the field of play into the end zone and out of bounds will be returned to the spot of the fumble and the fumbling team retains possession.
NFL: A fumble out of the back of the end zone or out of bounds results in a turnover and change of possession.

Defensive pass interference
The penalty for defensive pass interference will mirror the NCAA rule with exceptions. First, a defender intentionally tackling a receiver beyond 15 yards would become a spot foul (determined by USFL Command Center).
The penalty will be a spot foul if it occurs 15 yards or less from the line of scrimmage or a 15-yard penalty from the line of scrimmage if the spot of the foul is beyond 15 yards.
NFL: All defensive pass interference penalties are spot fouls.

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2024 NFL divisional round picks, predictions by model on 183-129 roll

After enjoying a bye week, the San Francisco 49ers will host the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the 2024 NFL playoffs on Saturday. San Francisco won the NFC West and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFL playoff bracket, while Green Bay earned a wild card and began the 2024 NFL Playoffs with a 48-32 upset of the Cowboys last week. However, the Packers have been knocked out of the NFL postseason by the 49ers in two of the last four seasons and the 49ers are the current odds-on favorites to win the 2024 Super Bowl (+176).

Kickoff from Levi’s Stadium is set for 8:15 p.m. ET. San Francisco is a 9.5-point favorite in the latest 49ers vs. Packers odds via SportsLine consensus, while the over/under for total points scored is 50.5. Before locking in any Packers vs. 49ers picks, you need to see the latest NFL predictions from SportsLine’s proven projection model.

The model, which simulates every NFL game 10,000 times, is up well over $7,000 for $100 players on top-rated NFL picks since its inception. The model enters the divisional round of the 2024 NFL playoffs on an incredible 183-129 run on top-rated NFL picks that dates back to the 2017 season. It is also on a 37-21 roll on top-rated picks since Week 7 of last season and nailed seven straight top-rated picks entering the 2024 NFL playoffs.

The model also ranked in the top 10 on NFLPickWatch four of the past six years on straight-up NFL picks and beat more than 94% of CBS Sports Football Pick’em players four times during that span. Anyone who has followed it is way up.

Now, the model has zeroed in on 49ers vs. Packers and just revealed its picks and predictions. You can see the model’s picks only at SportsLine. Here are several NFL odds and betting lines for Packers vs. 49ers:

49ers vs. Packers spread: San Francisco -9.5
49ers vs. Packers over/under: 50.5 points
49ers vs. Packers money line: San Francisco -454, Green Bay +349
SF: 49ers were 3-5 against the spread as home favorites in the regular season
GB: Packers are 5-3 ATS as road underdogs this campaign
49ers vs. Packers picks: See picks here
49ers vs. Packers live stream: fubo (try for free)
Why the 49ers can cover
San Francisco should be well-rested coming into Saturday’s matchup, having rested key starters in a Week 17 loss to the Rams and also coming off a bye week during NFL Super Wild Card Weekend. Now the 49ers will look to unleash the full potential of one of the most versatile offenses in the NFL against a Packers defense that ranked bottom half of the NFL in yards allowed and that just gave up 510 yards of offense to Dallas.

The 49ers were top five in the NFL in passing yards and rushing yards, with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle giving Brock Purdy a quartet of extremely talented playmakers to work with. They combined to produce over 5,500 yards from scrimmage and score 46 touchdowns and figure to give the Green Bay defense all sorts of problems on Saturday. See which team to pick here.

Why the Packers can cover
Green Bay played a near-perfect game against Dallas on Sunday en route to its seventh victory in its last nine contests and becoming the first No. 7 seed to record a win since the playoffs expanded in 2020. Quarterback Jordan Love completed 16-of-21 pass attempts for 272 yards and three touchdowns in his first career postseason game after finishing second in the NFL with 32 during the regular season. The 25-year-old has thrown 21 TD passes and just one interception over his last nine contests.

After rushing for just two touchdowns in each of the last two regular seasons, Aaron Jones had three scoring runs against the Cowboys on Sunday. The 29-year-old tied the franchise record for most rushing scores in a playoff game and the NFL marks for most in a road playoff game and a wild-card contest. The Packers were 31st in the league with seven interceptions in the regular season but had two in Dallas, including one that safety Darnell Savage returned 64 yards for a touchdown. See which team to pick here.

How to make 49ers vs. Packers picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Under the point total, predicting 45 total points. The model also says one side of the spread has all the value. You can see the model’s NFL picks and analysis only at SportsLine.