Category Archives: NFL Football

NFL Football

Your guide to Wednesday’s LDS games: Indians, Nationals asking who’s available for elimination games

Happy Wednesday! We get a Game 5 that is one of the juiciest Division Series games we’ve ever had, with the Yankees of all teams playing underdog versus the mighty Indians. As a bonus, we also get Game 4 between the Nationals and Cubs. We won’t, however, be getting Stephen Strasburg.

Smart, giving up 6 inches, got a hand on the ball and clung to it as Holmes tried with two arms to prevent Smart from wrestling it away. Eventually, as the two do-si-doed, the ball popped loose near the free throw line. Smart immediately launched himself between the legs of T.J. McConnell and snared the loose ball. Smart even had the presence of mind to roll on his back and somehow feed teammate Terry Rozier, who then lobbed an alley-oop that rookie Guerschon Yabusele finished with a layup.

Yates: It’s Roethlisberger, given his supporting cast. The offensive line is a tenured and cohesive group that has standout players, his receivers are highlighted by arguably the best in the game with Brown and Le’Veon Bell is a game-changer. It’s difficult to pinpoint why Roethlisberger’s most recent struggles (six interceptions over his past two games and just one touchdown) have occurred. Pittsburgh has a tough test to get on track as it faces the league’s best team, Kansas City, this week.

The Memphis Grizzlies also had a stronger track record of exceeding projections early in the Grit n’ Grind era. (Memphis beat its retroactive RPM projection by at least six wins each season from 2009-10 to 2012-13.) To the extent the Grizzlies have exceeded expectations lately, it has often been by outperforming their point differential.

I’d give Memphis a pretty good shot at beating this year’s RPM projection (also 34.8 wins before accounting for schedule) just because it’s so low.

But Smart also knows how much he impacts winning, and box score stats cannot fully quantify his impact. So when Stevens highlighted Smart’s hustle during that recent film session, it resonated with Smart.
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Will Johnson: “Of all the plays Johnny made, that’s the most speechless I’ve been.”

Linebacker Jatavis Brown, the Bolts’ leading tackler, suffered a right foot injury during the opening quarter of last week’s loss to the Eagles. Brown wore a protective boot on Monday but said after the Chargers’ medical staff evaluated him that he would be good to play Sunday against the Giants. However, Brown’s injury status is worth monitoring this week. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said Brown wouldn’t practice Wednesday. — Eric D. Williams

McCarron threw an interception. A&M took over and what came next was a play that won’t soon be forgotten: On third-and-goal from the Alabama 10-yard line, Manziel ran into right tackle Jake Matthews, bobbled the football, caught it, rolled to his left and found a wide-open Ryan Swope in the back of the end zone.

Will Johnson: “Of all the plays Johnny made, that’s the most speechless I’ve been.”

Kingsbury: “I just remember the whole crowd was going crazy … and then it was complete silence when Ryan catches that ball.”

Nico Johnson: “When I saw Johnny drop the football, pick it up and shake three or four guys, and rolled out and shook another guy and threw it off his back foot in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, I was like, ‘This is not meant for us to win today, man.’ It had that feeling like nothing would go our way.”

A stunned crowd watched as Alabama went three-and-out and the Aggies marched downfield yet again. Sure enough, just as Sumlin told his players earlier that week, they were up 20-0 — except it was still the first quarter.
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Bartolo Colon designated for assignment by Braves

Veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon has been designated for assignment, the Braves announced Thursday.

The Braves called up left-handed pitcher Rex Brothers from Triple-A Gwinnett in a corresponding move.

Colon, who returned to action Wednesday after being on the disabled list since June 6, said he felt good in his first game back despite giving up six runs on eight hits with three walks over four innings in a 7-4 loss to the Padres.

“I felt good, I just feel like I’ve kind of hit a rough streak to be honest and it’s tough to just snap out of it,” Colon said through a translator after the game, via ESPN. “The reality is that I’ve been getting hit hard, and that’s the truth and you can’t dance around it.”

Colon, 44, was 2-8 with an 8.14 ERA in 13 starts while dealing with a strained oblique and stiff back this season after being an All-Star with the Mets last year.

A player who is “Designated For Return” must have suffered a major football-related injury or non-football-related injury or illness after reporting to training camp and must have been placed on the applicable Reserve List after 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the day after the final roster reduction.

A player whom the club wishes to designate for return is permitted to return to practice for a period not to exceed 21 days. The club is required to notify the League office that the player has been “Designated For Return” on the first day the player begins to practice. The player cannot be returned to the Active/Inactive List until eight weeks have elapsed since the date he was placed on Reserve.browns_032

College football’s leaping rule could be getting big expansion

23, like the NFL, has a rule designed to prevent players from landing on each other while trying to block kicks. Through what’s known as the “leaping” rule, both the professional and college games prohibit players from running and jumping to block a kick and then landing on another player from either team. The landing portion is key.

In college, that’s probably about to change. The NCAA’s College Football Rules Committee is proposing a rule change that would outlaw defenders running toward the line of scrimmage and hurdling blockers — whether they land on them or not. Such a rule change won’t be official until it gets approval from the NCAA’s Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is slated to discuss it on April 19.

The same rules committee decided not to change the sport’s controversial targeting rule this season. It recommended that players be required to wear kneepads that cover their knees, so players like Pitt’s Ejuan Price might not be able to wear shorts. It also recommended that players’ nameplates be included in the horse-collar tackle rule.

The leaping rule isn’t invoked often, but it can be a big deal.
Michigan State lost a game at Indiana last season after a Spartan defender hurdled Indiana’s protection unit. The Hoosiers kicker missed his field goal attempt in overtime, but he got another try because of the leaping foul, and he hit it.

Watch Michigan State’s No. 34, Drake Martinez, the leaper:

Mount Etna is one of the world’s most-active volcanoes and some adventurous skiers took it on themselves to explore a massive smoldering lava bomb when it came rolling down the slope past them.

When it finally came to a resting spot the skiers got astonishingly close. For all they knew it was a Godzilla egg. Okay, probably not — but we can dream.

Bengals’ Andrew Whitworth likely to test free agency

“Cincinnati’s been wonderful and it’s been something that I enjoyed thoroughly. I loved the challenge and the opportunity and I still love it,” Whitworth told SiriusXM NFL Radio this week, via ESPN.com. “I’ve enjoyed our adventure together and I hope it continues, but for me, it’s just been one of those things. Being a mentor and a leader, I’ve always urged guys if you’re ever allowed to be a free agent to take advantage of that opportunity.”

It’s no surprise that the Bears are turning the page at quarterback. When general manager Ryan Pace and John Fox arrived in Chicago two offseason ago, they immediately — and unsuccessfully — shopped Cutler around the league. When backup Brian Hoyer showed initial promise as an injury fill-in last October, Fox made it clear that he would usurp Cutler’s starting job if he maintained that pace.

Although Cutler went on to reclaim the QB1 spot when Hoyer went down with a season-ending injury, he ended up missing the final six games with a labrum tear that required surgery to his throwing shoulder. Rapoport reported Friday that Cutler is continuing to rehab following surgery and is expected to pass a physical by March.

What is Cutler’s trade value in advance of his age-34 season?

The Bears couldn’t find a taker two years ago. He’s now coming off of the second-lowest passer rating of his career. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season since his first year in Chicago, back in 2009. He has been benched for Jimmy Clausen and statistically outplayed by several of his backups. Perhaps most problematic, he has feuded with multiple teammates and coaches.

In other words, the Bears will eventually release Cutler once they find his replacement.

Philip Rivers, Chargers agree on 4-year contract extension

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has agreed to a multi-year contract extension, the team announced on Saturday. It’s a four-year extension that will keep him with the team through 2019. The deal is worth approximately $84 million in new money, with $65 million guaranteed, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

That means Rivers is just about on par with the other highest-paid quarterbacks of the league. All of Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Drew Brees are making an average of at least $20 million per season, and Rivers’ deal fits right in that tier. Rodgers still leads the group with an average of $22 million per season.

Rivers was already set up for significant payday, but the numbers likely went up when Ryan Tannehill and Cam Newton both signed massive contracts. Tannehill is earning an average of $19.25 million per season through 2020 with the Miami Dolphins, while Newton is making more than $20 million per season in Carolina with his five-year, $103.8 million extension.

Kickers have made nearly 93 percent of 33-yard field goals over the last five years, so it remains to be seen if this rule change will dramatically affect how the game is played. So far this preseason, clubs have converted 4 of 13 two-point conversions.

If those numbers hold out into the regular season, the two-point conversion probably won’t become a bigger part of the game. NFL coaches are generally a conservative bunch, and the extra point remains a high percentage play. But it can no longer be taken for granted, as Parkey reminded us Sunday.

Jay Gruden defends coaching gambles as players praise aggressiveness

The decisions were curious and didn’t work out. The natural inclination is to rip the coach. Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden certainly left himself open to second-guessing after taking gambles that even at the time seemed curious.

Full disclosure: I didn’t like Christian Okoye Authentic Womens Jersey the 55-yard field goal attempt with a kicker who hasn’t been in the same groove; I did not like the onside kick almost midway through the fourth quarter. Neither move worked out, and both failures left the Dallas Cowboys in great field position — once at their 45-yard line, the other time at their 47. And each one led to a touchdown drive.

The Cowboys entered Thursday with a two-game Thanksgiving losing streak. The last time the Cowboys lost three in a row on Thanksgiving was a four-game run of defeats from 1986-89. Last year the Cowboys trailed the Panthers 23-3 at halftime. The year before, they trailed 23-7 to the Philadelphia Eagles at halftime.

“It’s a huge swing,” right guard Zack Martin said. “Last year was ugly. I don’t know if we’ve ever, since I’ve been here, got beat like that [33-14 to the Panthers]. To come in here, short week and just focus and prepare the right way and get a big win, that’s huge for us.”

Since their last Super Bowl season in 1995, the Cowboys have had just six seasons with at least 10 wins. They won 12 games in 2014. They won 11 in 2009. They won 13 in 2007.

Turnovers determine the results of a lot of games, but that’s particularly true for De’Anthony Thomas Authentic Womens Jersey the Chiefs, who have forced at least two turnovers in six of their seven victories this season. The Chiefs don’t get a lot of big offensive plays and they tend to stall once inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, so they depend on turnovers to provide field position and to directly score points.

Cam Newton’s performance in Oakland: The Carolina Panthers are two games out of first place in the NFC South and will need a monster game from Newton to end the Raiders’ four-game winning streak.

Thanksgiving is a lonely time for young NFL players

The menu was pretty light from my first Thanksgiving in the NFL as a rookie with the St. Louis Rams. Instant mashed potatoes — the kind of stuff that comes in the big red box. Easy to make. I handled that. A precooked turkey. Throw it in the microwave? Yeah, cool. I guess that works. And a case of Icehouse. Longneck bottles, too. You know, dress it up nice for Keith McGill Authentic Jersey Thanksgiving.

That’s it. Dig in.

Gross? No doubt. But when four lonely rookies got together back in 2000 — without family — it was the best we could do. And we tried to have some sense of normalcy. Dinner, then turn on the Cowboys game, throw in a movie after. More beers. We laughed a lot. But it wasn’t the same. Not even close.

The pecan pie Mom makes? Nope. Or the sweet potatoes with the marshmallows on top? Nah. And the family, the little kids running around, all the traditions you love about Thanksgiving? Didn’t have any of that either.

Only two of Sam Bradford’s 31 completions on Thursday went for more than 10 yards.

It appears, now as much as ever, the Vikings’ fortunes the rest of this season will hinge on their offense’s ability to mitigate the effects of injuries that have marred their line almost beyond recognition. The Vikings used their sixth different tackle this season on Thursday, when fourth-round pick Willie Beavers — whom the team had released at the end of training camp — stepped in at right tackle once Jeremiah Sirles hurt his hip.

When the Vikings aren’t able to throw downfield more frequently, they Kelechi Osemele Authentic Jersey run the risk of defensive backs being able to drive downhill on shorter throws, like Darius Slay did on his interception of Bradford on Thursday and Preston Smith did in the Vikings’ final drive in Washington in Week 10. And though they were able to put enough of a drive together to take the lead, they couldn’t bleed the clock or execute a two-minute drill once the Lions tied the game.

The Vikings are 6-5, and have to be two games better than the Lions over the last five weeks to win another NFC North title. With the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys coming to town next Thursday, the task will be tall. But no matter whom the Vikings play, with the state of their offensive line, it’s going to be difficult.

Who will drive MLB’s free-agent market?

In an ideal world, the best free agent at each position would be the first to sign, inking a record-breaking contract that sets the tone for the rest of his position mates.

Obviously, that rarely happens. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite, with the top free agents getting their best offers later in the process.

I call these head-of-class guys — the players I think will be the highest-paid at their positions — the “primary” free agents. Then comes the next level, the “secondary” free agents, who also have a hand in setting the market for the rest of Sharrif Floyd Authentic Womens Jersey their positions.

Still, while the Yankees load their farm system, they can use their finances to add new chips. They subtracted $23 million in salary by unloading McCann. Now, if they want to, they could go out and re-sign Chapman and Beltran, which would make them stronger for 2017, even as they prepare for the future.

In other words, the Yankees can rebuild and contend at the same time. That’s the beauty of being the Yankees.

That doesn’t mean they will be successful. McCann’s tenure in the Bronx is evidence that money can’t buy you wins. The winter prior to the 2014 season, the Yankees spent nearly a half-billion dollars. While Masahiro Tanaka’s contract and Beltran’s were good ones, McCann’s and Jacoby Ellsbury’s were not.

McCann wasn’t a bad player in Shaun Hill Authentic Womens Jersey New York, but he wasn’t great. He struggled against left-handed pitching and eventually lost his job to wunderkind Gary Sanchez. There was a sense from people close to McCann that he would welcome leaving the Bronx, because he didn’t want to be relegated to catching once a week and then only DHing against righties.

Instead, the Yankees possibly could bring Beltran back to DH. It will come down to money, but Beltran really likes New York. Chapman or Mark Melancon might be had for the bullpen. And they can still make a run at starting pitcher Rich Hill.

With the deal, the Yankees didn’t receive immediate help, but they did build for the future and still can compete in the AL East.

Despite shortcomings in the outfield, Tebow seemed to make strides at the plate as the AFL season progressed, especially in terms of catching up to fastballs. He repeatedly was rolling over and sending weak grounders to the right side of the infield during the opening week. In fact, excluding an 0-for-13 start, Tebow hit .245 the rest of the way in the league.

Dave Roberts goes from bullpen maestro to manager of the year

The pitching moves came early each night — and as a result, often — for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dave Roberts in his first season as a major league manager.

Rich Hill no-hit bid: Sept. 10 at Marlins

Many managers will never be faced with removing a pitcher with a no-hitter intact, but Roberts did so twice in his debut season as manager. Rich Hill had thrown seven no-hit innings in just his third start since returning from injury. Hill, like Stripling, had dealt with injuries in recent years. And again, the caution paid off: Hill made three postseason starts for the Dodgers.

NL West champions: Sept. 25 vs Rockies

He didn’t just make pitching changes. Roberts Shaq Lawson Authentic Jersey guided a team that was without Clayton Kershaw from late June until the second week in September to a division title. They’d trailed by as many as eight games, but won the division on a walk-off HR by Charlie Culberson in late September. It was just the third time in Dodgers history they’ve trailed by at least eight games and still won the division.

“I think that all players feel comfortable Stephon Gilmore Authentic Jersey with certain roles, but everyone, for me, outside of the closer, when you are talking about the pen specifically the role is to pitch after the starter,” Roberts said. “So I think our guys, fortunately, bought into that role as far as pitching when called upon.”

Over stretches when Roberts was barely able to get five innings from his starters, while Kershaw was out for 75 days, Roberts turned a revamped offense and his bullpen’s performance into victories. The Dodgers went from a season-worse eight games behind the San Francisco Giants to a division title with a week to play.

Yet there may have been two bullpen moves that stood out over all the rest. On April 8, Roberts removed rookie Ross Stripling from a no-hitter at San Francisco. The bullpen was not able to finish the job. On Sept. 10 at Miami, Rich Hill had a perfect game through seven innings when Roberts removed him from the game. Again, the bullpen was not able to complete the task.

Both moves were made for health concerns. Stripling was two years removed from Tommy John surgery and in his first major league start. Hill was just two starts removed from a lengthy disabled list stint because of blister issues. The moves might have prevented history, but they also prevented losing both pitchers, who went on to participate in the postseason.

Looking back at it, Roberts would not change a thing.

“The thing that surprised me was the next day after dealing with some scrutiny — or second guessing, if you will — how I told myself I would do the same thing again,” Roberts said. “I think that under what I went through and how it was received, for me to say I would do the same thing over again really surprised me in a good way.”