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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 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.

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.


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.


Heavy snow to hit Buffalo prior to NFL divisional round playoff game

The Buffalo Bills overcame both extreme winter weather and the seventh-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers to earn the opportunity to play host to the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes in the AFC divisional round on Sunday.

Mahomes will be experiencing his first true road playoff game in his career after playing his first 15 either at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City or in neutral site locations for the Super Bowl. He and the Bills will also be playing in frigid conditions once again this week.

A lake-effect snow warning is in place in Western New York, which includes Orchard Park where the Bills’ Highmark Stadium is located. That means Buffalo could receive one to three feet of snow while additional storming could run the total to over four feet. This warning is in place until Thursday at 7 p.m. ET, per Accuweather, Buffalo could receive snow fall through Saturday.

That means the game between the Chiefs and Bills, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, likely won’t be affected by falling snow, but the home team may struggle getting its players and coaches into the team facility for practices and meetings during the week. A week ago, New York governor Kathy Hocul issued a travel ban during the storms a week ago, but there isn’t one in place currently.

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“We’ve got a plan in place to make sure we’re getting the players in at the right time, as well as the staff, and trying to be on top of that from a scheduling standpoint,” McDermott said on Tuesday, per The Associated Press. “So we’ll handle it. Confident in that. And the best thing we can do right now is just have great communication around it for right now.”