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Tennessee safety Kevin Byard is hoping to scratch one more thing off his bucket list.
The second-year safety tied for the league-lead with eight interceptions and led the NFL with 10 total takeaways Darqueze Dennard Jersey , though he has yet to reach the end zone. Byard sees no better time than Saturday when the Titans (9-7) visit the Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) in an AFC wild-card game in his postseason debut.
”I’m just hoping to get in the end zone this time I can get an interception,” Byard said. ”That’s just my whole thing, trying to help this team anyway I can.”
Byard just earned his second AFC defensive player of the week award for adding two more interceptions in a 15-10 win over Jacksonville in helping the Titans clinch their first playoff berth since 2008. Scoring off Alex Smith won’t be easy with the Chiefs quarterback having been intercepted only five times all season.
Coach Mike Mularkey believes Byard is the kind of player who can help the Titans win their first playoff game since January 2004. Mularkey also has no problem with how confident Byard is.
”He backs it up, that’s the best part about it,” Mularkey said. ”He’s not a big talker, trash talker. He’s not cocky at all. He’s a good football player, has a lot of confidence. We all have a lot of confidence in Kevin. He deserves it. He shows if you do what you’re asked to do and you’re in the right place, good things happen and it continues to happen for him.”
The Titans took advantage of geography in making Byard the first pick of the third round in 2016 after he set a school record with 19 interceptions at Middle Tennessee where he landed after Kentucky pulled a scholarship late. His performance wasn’t enough to earn Byard an invitation to the NFL combine.
Once with the Titans, the 5-foot-11, 212-pound Byard impressed coaches and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau with how quickly he picked up the complicated schemes. Byard started the final seven games of his rookie season. Byard didn’t get his first interception in the NFL until his 20th career game Dre Kirkpatrick Jersey , but he’s the kind of safety that gets his hands on passes in bunches.
Byard picked off three passes in a win at Cleveland on Oct. 22, then he grabbed two more in a win over Baltimore on Nov. 5. That put him atop the NFL for a few weeks with six interceptions .
That’s a big reason why Byard won the fan voting to start at safety for the AFC in the Pro Bowl. But Byard wound up as an alternate after voting by coaches and players, though he said Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle reached out to him after the roster was announced. He says Weddle told him to keep his head up and offered to watch film with him.
LeBeau isn’t about to compare Byard to safeties he’s coached in the past, like Troy Polamalu who’s among Byard’s football role models with Ed Reed and Brian Dawkins. That would be too much pressure for any young player. But LeBeau says like Polamalu, he knew quickly that Byard would do OK in the NFL.
”He’s a player that’s on the rise no question about it, and he’s playing great football,” LeBeau said.
Atlantic City and southern New Jersey have always been Philadelphia Eagles country.
And with the local team in the Super Bowl, the seaside gambling resort can only dream of the extra millions of dollars it might have taken in had it been able to offer sports betting.
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide New Jersey’s challenge to a law banning sports betting in all but four states later this year.
But the decision won’t come in time to make up for the business Atlantic City thinks it would have gotten from die-hard Eagles fans, as well as casual fans, looking to bet on the Eagles-Patriots championship game on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis.
Tropicana president (and lifelong Eagles fan) Tony Rodio said sports betting would generate a lot of new business for Atlantic City.
”The northeast corridor is a giant sports betting market Geno Atkins Jersey ,” he said. ”If you take the Eagles and put them into the mix, I just can’t even imagine how big that would be. It would take it to a whole new level.”
Alas, that is not to be, at least this season. The Supreme Court ruling might not come until June. Legal analysts predict New Jersey has a decent chance of winning the case with a ruling that would permit sports betting in the state or across the nation.
Sports betting would be offered at Atlantic City’s casinos and the state’s horse racing tracks.
City Councilman Marty Small, an Eagles season-ticket holder who organizes an annual flight to see an Eagles road game, said Eagles fans would have booked every available hotel room in the city weeks ago in anticipation of watching – and betting on – their team in Atlantic City.
”We would have been totally sold out by now, the whole city,” he said. ”Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest party day of the year, and people would have come from near and far to claim Atlantic City as their party place. We’re missing a golden opportunity this year.”
This year, casinos in Las Vegas expect betting on the Super Bowl to surpass last year’s record of $138.5 million.
Drew Leonard Carlos Dunlap Jerse , lifelong Eagles fan from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who grew up in southern New Jersey and used to visit Atlantic City twice a month, said he would go to the resort to bet a few hundred dollars on the Eagles, if it were legal.
”Anything that would bring in more people and business would definitely help,” he said, predicting Philadelphia will beat New England by a touchdown.
Of course, if sports betting were legal, a sizeable number of people would be expected to come to Atlantic City to place bets regardless of which two teams were playing in it.
Kevin Ortzman, regional president of Caesars Entertainment Patriots Danny Shelton Jersey , which owns three of Atlantic City’s seven casinos, said the northeastern U.S. ”is probably the biggest driver of sports betting,” noting that there are hard-core sports fans who would come to Atlantic City to bet on football, even if it involved the Cleveland Browns.
But the presence of the local market-favorite Eagles would have added some ”extreme excitement and vibe” to the game, he said.
Even without sports betting, Atlantic City casinos are trying to cash in on Eagles mania. The Caesars Entertainment casinos (Harrah’s Bally’s and Caesars) are considering bringing in retired Eagles players to meet and greet customers.
The Tropicana is using green lights to illuminate two indoor fountains, and all last weekend, it sprinkled the recorded sound of an eagle screech from time to time into the overhead music playing in the casino.
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