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Week 13 NFL Picks: AFC East lead on the line when Patriots visit Bills on Monday night

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Week 13 NFL Picks: AFC East lead on the line when Patriots visit Bills on Monday night

Game of the week

New England at Buffalo

The Patriots are a 2 1/2-point underdog Monday night despite a six-game winning streak in which they have allowed more than 13 points just once. But Buffalo, which has alternated wins and losses over the last six weeks, plays with urgency and ties the Patriots in the AFC East.

Bills 20, Patriots 17

Lock of the week

Washington at Las Vegas

Not a kind schedule for WFT, which beat Seattle and has to travel cross country on a short week while the Raiders were last seen stunning Dallas on Thanksgiving. The Raiders are a 2 1/2-point favorite and move to 7-5 behind Derek Carr’s three touchdown passes.

Raiders 34, Washington 20

Upset of the week

N.Y. Giants at Miami

A lot of big point-spreads so not a lot of choices for straight upsets, but we’ll go with the Giants, who are a 4 1/2-point underdog. Big Blue is expected to be without injured quarterback Daniel Jones so it will be the defense that carries the day and ends the Dolphins’ four-game winning streak.

Giants 13, Dolphins 10


Around the AFC: New England cornerback J.C. Jackson’s price rising with each interception

John Bazemore, The Associated Press

New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson celebrates after an interception in the end zone during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C.

Impressive Bengals. Cincinnati has rebounded to beat Las Vegas by 19 and Pittsburgh by 31 points since its bye week and among the most impressive Bengals statistics is their discipline/fundamentals. The Bengals have an NFL-low 43 penalties, nine fewer than any other team and a whopping 37 fewer than seven teams. Cincinnati (7-4), which hosts the Chargers (6-5) on Sunday, have been streaky with three two-game winning streaks. If they beat the Bolts, the Bengals will have their first three-game winning streak since starting 2015 with eight consecutive victories. Cincinnati-Broncos in Week 15 is looming as an intriguing showdown.

Missing Henry. Titans running back Derrick Henry’s worth to his team, already documented and significant, has been amplified since he injured his foot Oct. 31 at Indianapolis. Despite missing the last four games, Henry still leads the NFL in carries (219) and is second in yards (937) and third in touchdowns (10). Tennessee, which is off this week, eclipsed 30 points five times in Henry’s eight games, but have managed 28, 23, 13 and 13 points during his absence (2-2 record); it lost at home to Houston and was routed at New England the last two weeks. Fortunately for Tennessee (8-4), it leads the AFC South by 2 1/2 games and holds the tie-breaker over Indianapolis via the series sweep.

Jackson’s price rising. New England cornerback J.C. Jackson is one of the league’s top bargains this year, playing on the second-round restricted free agent tender of $3.384 million. He might make five times that in 2022 via either franchise tag/long-term deal from the Patriots or hitting the open market. Jackson’s 24 interceptions (seven this year, second-most in the league) are the third-most by a player in his first four years since the 1970 merger. The first-place Patriots face Buffalo’s second-ranked scoring offense (29.6 points per game) on Monday.


Around the NFC: Rams’ veteran stars aren’t playing like it during losing streak

Los Angeles Rams' Matthew Stafford warms ...

Aaron Gash, The Associated Press

Los Angeles Rams’ Matthew Stafford warms up before an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.

Reeling Rams. The Rams (7-4) are still looking for their first win since getting outside linebacker Von Miller and receiver Odell Beckham on the field (0-2). Sunday is a must win against Jacksonville because Los Angeles’ next four games are at Arizona, vs. Seattle, at Minnesota and at Baltimore. Quarterback Matthew Stafford needs to play better for the Rams to have any chance in the playoffs, likely as an on-the-road wild card. During the three-game losing streak, Stafford’s passer ratings have been 71.0, 67.4 and 96.6. The passing game misses Robert Woods, who had 45 catches in eight games before sustaining a torn ACL.

Brady rolls on. Can a defending Super Bowl champion be quietly lurking? We say yes about Tampa Bay, which is 8-3 and third in the NFC behind Arizona (9-2) and Green Bay (9-3). The Buccaneers are 23rd in rushing (95.8 yards per game), but first in passing (305.9). Quarterback Tom Brady, 44, continues to defeat Father Time. He enters Week 13 leading the league in pass attempts (457), completions (309) and touchdowns (30) and second in yards (3,403). The extra regular season game should allow Brady to eclipse 40 touchdowns for the first time since 2007 (50).

49ers surging. Like the Broncos, San Francisco has recovered from an early-season four-game losing streak. The 49ers were 3-5 after losing at home to Arizona in Week 9, but have beat the Rams, Jacksonville and Minnesota by 21, 20, and eight points, respectively. The 49ers (6-5) hold the sixth playoff spot heading to dreadful Seattle (3-8). Sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell is another find by veteran running backs coach Bobby Turner and Co. Mitchell carried 27 times apiece in wins over the Rams (91 yards) and Vikings (133 yards). The 49ers have four of their final six games on the road, including Cincinnati and Tennessee.

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Once allies, Stormy Daniels and Avenatti face off at trial

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Once allies, Stormy Daniels and Avenatti face off at trial

By LARRY NEUMEISTER

NEW YORK (AP) — Stormy Daniels, the porn star who catapulted herself and Michael Avenatti to fame with lawsuits against former President Donald Trump, will have a starring role in court beginning Monday when prosecutors try to prove that the California lawyer cheated her of $300,000 in book proceeds.

Her testimony in Manhattan federal court will be pivotal for prosecutors trying to prove Avenatti engaged in wire fraud and aggravated identity theft to keep from giving his client money he had received from her publisher. Opening statements are set for Monday. Daniels is not expected to testify until Tuesday, at the earliest.

Avenatti, 50, has pleaded not guilty to the charges in what will be his third criminal trial in two years.

In early 2020, he was convicted of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to tarnish the sportswear giant’s reputation unless it met his demands. He has not yet begun serving a 2 1/2-year prison sentence. Last year, a mistrial resulted in California on charges that he cheated clients there. He awaits retrial.

The attorney-client relationship between Daniels and Avenatti seemed strong in the spring of 2018 when the pair showed up together at a Manhattan court hearing pertaining to raids on the home and office of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney.

Cohen had played a role in a $130,000 hush-money payment to Daniels to buy her silence 11 days before the 2016 presidential election. He eventually pleaded guilty to charges and served a year behind bars before finishing his three-year prison term at home.

With Avenatti’s help, Daniels sued Trump to try to win back her freedom to speak openly about what she contended was a brief affair with Trump a decade earlier. As a result of the litigation in 2018, a Los Angeles judge ordered Trump to pay Daniels $44,100 in legal fees. Trump has denied the sexual encounter.

With Daniels as a client and his growing reputation as a Trump critic, Avenatti found himself in demand on cable television news programs. He became so popular in some circles that he considered a run for president.

After Daniels signed a book deal, the pair remained close, and Avenatti was enlisted to write the forward to “Full Disclosure,” which was released in the fall of 2018. In the book, Daniels revealed details about what she described as her sexual encounter with Trump and communications afterward.

But a half-year after the book was published, Avenatti was charged in three criminal cases, including the fraud he was alleged to have carried out against Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.

After his arrest, Avenatti insisted in Twitter posts that no money related to Daniels was ever misappropriated or mishandled and that he mostly worked unpaid for Daniels with an agreement that he would receive a percentage of any book proceeds. He said he looked “forward to a jury hearing the evidence.”

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Rams’ pass rush might be only way to tackle Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Real estate Q&A: How can I restore my credit after ex-spouse skipped mortgage payments?

Gary Klein

LOS ANGELES — Von Miller has amassed more than 100 career sacks in the regular season, seven and half in the playoffs. The future Hall of Fame outside linebacker said this week that he could recall every one of the sacks he recorded against Tom Brady, the most successful quarterback in NFL history.

“It’s just one of those things,” Miller said. “Whenever he decides to retire, those are the sacks that you are going to remember.”

Miller, lineman Aaron Donald, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and the rest of the Rams pass rushers aim to create more memories Sunday when they play the Brady and the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC divisional-round game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The Rams’ pass rush, which also will include tackles Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson and at times rotational linebackers Obo Okoronkwo and Justin Hollins, is regarded as one of the major keys for the Rams if they are to advance to the NFC championship game against the winner of Saturday’s game between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers.

The Rams had 50 sacks during the season, which ranked third in the NFL. Last Monday, they recorded two in their 34-11 wild-card victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Brady was sacked four times in a 31-15 wild-card victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday.

Now Brady, 44, will face the Rams behind an offensive line that includes center Ryan Jensen and All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs, both of whom are questionable because of ankle injuries.

Asked if he is worried about pass protection because of offensive line questions marks, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians did not hesitate.

“I’d be worried if they were all healthy,” he told Rams beat reporters during a conference call. “So, yeah, if they’re not healthy, I’m hellaciously worried.”

Arians has reason for concern.

On Sept. 26, the Rams sacked Brady three times in a 34-24 victory over the Buccaneers at SoFi Stadium. Donald and Floyd each had one, former Rams linebacker Kenny Young the other.

And that was before the Rams traded for Miller, the most valuable player in Super Bowl 50. In nine games with the Rams, Miller had five sacks. He produced another against the Cardinals.

“He’s a Super Bowl MVP,” Arians said. “He knows how to ratchet it up.”

So does Donald, a three-time NFL defensive player of the year who had 12 1/2 sacks during the regular season and half a sack against the Cardinals.

The way the Rams move Donald around makes it even more difficult to contain him, Arians said.

“I hope Tom’s not looking at him because he won’t know where the hell to throw it if he’s looking at Aaron Donald,” he said. “Got to trust the guys in front are going to block him.”

Regardless, the Rams expect to see the best from Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion who has 35-11 record in the playoffs.

“The thing about Tom that makes him so special is he processes things, his mind works so quickly,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “And then, he’s one of the best guys that has a feel for moving, manipulating the pocket.”

In their victory over the Buccaneers in September, the Rams took a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter, forcing the Buccaneers to pass. Brady completed 41 of 55 passes for 432 yards and a touchdown.

Asked if the Rams would try to replicate having Brady pass 55 times, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said, “I don’t think you hope to do anything versus Tom Brady other than get a win.”

Rams pass rushers must continue to play well off each other’s talents, collapse the pocket and prevent Brady from stepping up to deliver passes, Donald said.

“You do that with any quarterback,” he said. “You can affect them and get them a little rattled.”

That’s what Miller and the Denver Broncos tried to do in the 2016 AFC championship game against Brady and the New England Patriots. Miller had four of the defense’s 17 hits on Brady and was credited with two-and-a-half sacks.

So, what challenge does Brady present the Rams defense?

“Everything,” said Miller, who including the playoffs has seven-and-a-half career sacks against Brady.

Miller said he hopes the Rams get to Brady quickly.

“Tom Brady, he’s just seen it,” Miller said. “He’s done it all.

“He’s seen the interior blitz, he’s seen the max protection where you drop everybody back. He’s seen all these things. He’s played against Aaron Donald and big-time tackles throughout his entire career.

“We just got to find a way to rattle him.”

©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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49ers stun Aaron Rogers, Packers, 13-10, on Robbie Gould’s last-second field goal

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49ers stun Aaron Rogers, Packers, 13-10, on Robbie Gould’s last-second field goal

Cam Inman

GREEN BAY, Wis. — On and on this dramatic 49ers’ season goes, from one elimination game to the next, with a spot now reserved for them in the NFC Championship Game.

They advanced Saturday night with a fourth-quarter comeback against the top-seeded Green Bay Packers, emerging with a 13-10 triumph in an epic, divisional playoff game further decorated by a dusting of snow at Lambeau Field.

After dramatically keeping their season alive with road wins over the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys, the 49ers (12-7) improved to 4-0 in postseason action against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Next up will be the winner of Sunday’s game (noon PT) between the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the visiting Los Angeles Rams.

How did the 49ers escape this time?

Officially, they won it on Robbie Gould’s 45-yard field goal, a drive keyed by Jimmy Garoppolo’s over-the-middle completions to George Kittle (12 yards) and Deebo Samuel (14 yards).

On third-and-7 from the Packers’ 38-yard line, after a 49ers’ timeout, Garoppolo took a shotgun snap with 1:03 left and handed the ball off to Samuel on a draw. Samuel churned to the 29-yard line, then hopped off the field, unable to put weight on his right foot.

The clock ticked under 30 seconds. Garoppolo got under center. Then Elijah Mitchell ran up the middle — a painful reminder of his failed fourth-and-1 run on the 49ers’ preceding drive from the Packers’ 19. So, with 0:13 on the clock, Garoppolo handed off again, and it was Kyle Juszczyk’s turn up the middle to the right hashmark, all in an effort to set up Gould’s winner.

What really saved the 49ers’ season, however, was the most unlikely of game-tying touchdowns. It was scored on special teams by rookie Talanoa Hufanga with 4:41 remaining. Hufanga scooped the football off the snow-covered grass, once Jordan Willis heroically blocked Corey Bojorquez’s punt.

Willis, despite a high ankle sprain last game, plowed through the Packers’ long snapper and extended his left hand up to block the punt.

That left Aaron Rodgers plenty of time for late-game magic, against a team he needed only 37 seconds to spare for a game-winning drive in the 49ers’ home opener in Week 3. Instead, that Packers drive was harmless, expiring once Rogers’ 45-yard heave toward Davante Adams fell incomplete with 3:33 remaining.

Once Gould’s field goal cleared through the uprights, it gave him a perfect 20-for-20 record on postseason field-goal attempts. It was the most clutch moment of his lengthy career and a game-winning kick that rivaled Adam Vinatieri’s for the 2001 New England Patriots.

The 49ers players and coaches celebrated by racing all over the Packers’ legendary field. Pandemonium.

Before Garoppolo walked off into the locker room, he turned to acknowledge the 49ers’ fans who made the trek — the same fans who surely cursed Garoppolo’s presence after he had a pass intercepted at the Packers’ 4-yard line just before halftime.

But a storybook finish made that a footnote, just as it did the four third-down sacks he endured, just as it did a failed fourth-and-1 run by Mitchell earlier in the fourth quarter.

The 49ers defense, which allowed an opening touchdown drive, proved resilient the game’s remainder, especially so in the final quarter. Arik Armstead’s third-down sack of Rodgers forced the Packers to settle for a 33-yard field goal and a 10-3 lead with 11:27 to go.

It was Samuel who sparked the 49ers’ second-half comeback bid. As snow flurries arrived, Samuel returned the second half’s kickoff 49 yards to midfield. He followed with four more touches (39 yards worth) to set up Gould’s 29-yard field goal and a 7-3 deficit. Stalling out that drive were two penalties in the red zone, Mitchell getting called for grabbing a facemask and then Trent Williams lining up in an illegal formation.

The 49ers trailed 7-0 at halftime, and it could have been much worse had their defense not rallied after the opening touchdown drive. More help came from Jimmie Ward blocking a field goal attempt as the first half expired.

That blocked kick couldn’t take the sting out of what happened earlier, specifically Garoppolo’s pass that got intercepted at the Packers’ 4-yard line by safety Adrian Amos with 56 seconds until halftime.

It’s at this point in the program where Garoppolo detractors will point out the 49ers entered 7-0 in games he doesn’t throw an interception.

The 49ers had reached the 9-yard line after a Garoppolo completion to Kittle, but then came a holding penalty on Williams, who earlier in the drive went in motion as a fullback and punishingly led the way for a Mitchell third-down conversion.

The 49ers had gone three-and-out on their earlier four possessions, which was a stark contrast to how the Packers opened by marching 69 yards (10 plays) en route to an A.J. Dillon touchdown run and 7-0 lead.

©#[email protected] MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at mercurynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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