Monthly Archives: December 2016

Washington was an early pacesetter in the league’s Most Disappointing Team derby before the Wiz began to right themselves

A bright spot amid the ongoing debate about Hassan Whiteside’s true effectiveness and the growing curiosity surrounding the Heat’s plans with Goran Dragic between now and the Feb. 23 trade deadline is the progress of Tyler Johnson.

Miami’s $50 Million Man uncorked 32 points in a double-overtime loss to Orlando last week, accounting for the highest total for a Heat reserve in franchise history. Johnson’s 13.4 points per game is the second-highest scoring average among players with no starts this season, behind only the Lakers’ Lou Williams (19.7 PPG) and ahead of OKC’s Enes Kanter (13.1 PPG).

We always say that paying too much attention to the L10 category in the standings feels somewhat remedial in this era of advanced stats, but the Trail Blazers’ ongoing 1-9 funk is like the car crash you can’t look away from.

Washington was an early pacesetter in the league’s Most Disappointing Team derby before the Wiz began to right themselves — while Minnesota, Atlanta and Detroit are all still on that list — but the Blazers have to top it as 2016 dribbles to a close.
Youth Boyd Gordon Jersey
There’s a risk for further disappointment as well Monday night, with Damian Lillard’s ankle woes threatening to derail the scheduled showdown between the league’s two highest-scoring backcourts: Lillard and C.J. McCollum versus Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

Elite Mens Mike Weaver Jersey (We should note, for posterity’s sake, that the Nets are the first team to lose at home by 15 or more points after leading by 15-plus at halftime in — gulp — 30 years. It hasn’t happened since the Suns endured a similarly painful turnaround against the visiting Clips on Dec. 30, 1987.)

Colts vs. Dolphins 2015 live stream: Game time, TV schedule and how to watch online

Game Braden Holtby Jersey Alongside the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, the Indianapolis Colts were supposed to be the class of the AFC this year. They were expected to compete with the best teams in a bid for the top seed in the playoffs and, if all went as planned, a spot in the Super Bowl. Andrew Luck has been a first-rate quarterback since the Colts took him No. 1 overall and he made them into an elite team. This season, however, has been anything but elite.
Game Bobby Hull Jersey
Luck has been banged up all season and has played in just seven games. Indianapolis now holds a 6-8 record, second in the AFC South behind the Houston Texans with two crucial games remaining on the schedule. The Colts will take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, and will then face the Tennessee Titans in Week 17.

Through the first 15 weeks, Beckham leads the NFL in touchdown receptions with 13 and is behind only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones in receiving yards. In Week 14, he joined Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens and Lance Alworth as the only receivers in NFL history to post at least 1,300 receiving yards and 12 touchdown receptions in back-to-back seasons.

I know, I know. 14-0, something to play for, Josh Norman, MVP, yada yada yada. And if you’ve somehow avoided using the Panthers until now, then yes, you’re likely getting them out of the way this week. But in a road division game against a team that has essentially tanked all other contests just waiting for this moment, I’m admittedly terrified.

Difference in opinions but, well, I wouldn’t pick the Broncos because of backup quarterback questions, a defense that has struggled of late, inconsistent play among all the skill positions, and a weaker second half than a first half. And I wouldn’t pick the Bengals because of … all those exact same reasons.

The Braves for example, have been doing it in a different way than how the Cubs did it

Anecdotal evidence bears this idea out, as well. Before the 2016 Cubs made good use of their massive talent influx, the 2004 Boston Red Sox were the last team to win a championship with anything close to the same expensive quick-build strategy as the 1997 Marlins employed. And they were the exception to the rule that most free-spending title bids fall short.

Jake Gardiner Authentic Jersey But having an existing talent base is still preferable to buying one. According to my regression, each extra WAR a team starts with before a two-year stretch of acquiring players is worth about a 60 percent bigger boost to its World Series odds than a WAR of talent snagged from outside the organization over the following two years.9

Interestingly, they are all going about it in different ways.

The Braves for example, have been doing it in a different way than how the Cubs did it. The Braves have focused mostly on pitching while the Cubs focused their rebuild on hitters. The Padres have taken a high-risk, high-reward strategy, while the White Sox and Phillies have rebuilt mostly through the trade market. There is no single right answer on the best way to build a franchise and it can be done in several different ways.

The Padres have put together the best long-term rebuilding program of all of the teams. Their philosophy is all based on high-ceiling players from the draft, international signings and trades.

Chris Ivory Authentic Jersey They don’t care about how close a player is to the majors, they just want impact players. They’re OK with the reality that they might hit on only one of five players, but when they do hit they¡¯re looking for All-Star-caliber, difference-making players. Every trade they¡¯ve made has been about getting the best prospect, not about the level of risk or distance to the big leagues.

Reed played last week after sitting out Week 13 but was limited to just 10 snaps

Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins, shoulder, (Q): Reed played last week after sitting out Week 13 but was limited to just 10 snaps, a disappointment for fantasy owners Limited Mens Sammie Coates Jersey and for Washington fans.

It sounds like he has turned a corner this week in terms of how his shoulder feels, which should provide some optimism for Monday night. Not only has he been seen making catches with greater ease in practice, but as ESPN.com’s John Keim notes, Reed says he is learning to manage the pain better. The hope for everyone is that translates into more action on Monday night. Despite being listed as questionable, Reed is expected to play.

Martellus Bennett, ankle/shoulder, New England Patriots, (Q): Bennett’s status is never really in doubt. Just last week he equated himself to the Energizer Bunny, as in, he just keeps on going. Limited Game Mens T.J. Lang Jersey in practice throughout the week, just as he has been for multiple weeks, Bennett is expected to play Sunday.

Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions, knee, (Q): Despite the questionable tag, Ebron is expected to play against the Giants. Listed as a limited participant daily, Ebron followed the same routine as last week. This is a homecoming for Ebron, who was born in New Jersey; perhaps it will translate into a better performance this week.

Ebron missed three games earlier this season due to knee and ankle issues. He has posted 43 catches for 521 yards and one touchdown in 2016.

With running back Theo Riddick inactive for the second straight week due to a wrist injury, expect the Lions to use a lot of Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner in the backfield. Both have their own injury concerns, though.

Alshon Jeffery returns from his four-game suspension

A.J. Green, Bengals: Playing in a cold-weather game with a not fully healed hamstring against the No. 1 scoring defense and the No. 6 pass defense over the past six weeks? He’s a big name who needs only one play to make the day worth it, but he’s also the franchise and I’m not convinced he plays a full complement of snaps, or even makes it through the game, because if he feels something twinge, they’re pulling him ASAP. If this were the middle of the season, I’d probably risk it, but in the playoffs? Too risky.

Alshon Jeffery returns from his four-game suspension, not an injury, but do you trust him to produce right away with Matt Barkley throwing it to him?

Hackett has put Star Wars into his offensive playbook at various coaching stops. He tried to put in a couple named after the movie franchise with the Jaguars, but his quarterback vetoed them.

“He was trying to call something ‘Han Solo,'” Bortles said. “We changed the name [to] Sugar.

“Han Solo made zero sense.”

It didn’t to Bortles because he’s 24 years old and has never seen any of the movies. But to Hackett, it’s a way to mix two of his favorite things.

Hackett said he’s used Star Wars plays as the offensive coordinator in Buffalo (2013-14) and as a quality-control coach in Tampa (2006-07), among other stops. At one point, he had a play in the playbook called Yoda.

“My whole career I’ve had numerous ones,” Hackett said. “Actually had one just named Star Wars with a Han [Solo] check and [Princess] Leia check.

“We’ve had screens off of it. We’ve had Y screens. We’ve had halfback screens. We’ve had slants, runs, all the things off of specific formations, so it was a special formation. We actually had a Star Wars package at Tampa at one point. We’ve had all kinds of good stuff.”

Titans will search for a new GM after dumping Ruston Webster

The Tennessee Titans have moved on from general manager Ruston Webster, the team announced Monday. After firing head coach Ken Whisenhunt during the regular season, the Titans want to reboot completely and bring in a new regime.

Webster had previously said that he expected to be in the process of hiring a new head coach after the season ended. In late December, ESPN reported that Webster was on an expiring contract and that an extension had not been reached at the time. Officially, Webster’s contract was not renewed and he wasn’t fired.

Interim head coach Mike Mularkey will interview for the permanent job, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Webster will not be a part of that process.

The Steelers only needed to beat the Cleveland Browns and hope the Buffalo Bills beat the New York Jets for the second time in 2015. And Sunday was Pittsburgh’s lucky day because that’s exactly what happened. Rex Ryan got revenge against his former team again and kept the Jets out of the playoffs with a Buffalo win, while the Steelers handled the Browns in Cleveland.

The games in the later slate only matter for their effect on the playoff seeding. If the Kansas City Chiefs can beat the Oakland Raiders, and the Denver Broncos lose to the San Diego Chargers, it would be the Chiefs finishing on top of the AFC West. The Chiefs haven’t lost since Week 6 and have a chance to win a playoffs game for the first time since January 1994.

Thanks to the New England Patriots’ loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Broncos can grab the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win over the Chargers. If the Broncos lose, the Patriots will be the top seed and the Cincinnati Bengals can earn a first-round bye with the No. 2 seed.

In the regular season finale, the Green Bay Packers lost the NFC North crown to the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. The Vikings were 1-10-1 in their last 12 matchups against the Packers, including a 30-13 loss in November, and hadn’t won in Green Bay since 2009. After a 20-13 win, they’ll be hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2009.

The Mariners seem more intent on adding a starter after they traded Taijuan Walker to Arizona

Jerry Crasnick’s take: The Mariners currently have a platoon arrangement at first base, with Danny Valencia and Dan Vogelbach, so they can afford to stand pat at the position. Mike Napoli would provide an obvious power upgrade, but he’s looking for a multiyear deal, and that might not be part of Seattle’s plan. The Mariners seem more intent on adding a starter after they traded Taijuan Walker to Arizona. General manager Jerry Dipoto has said the team will most likely try to fill that need via a trade.

Dombrowski and Farrell aren’t guaranteeing that Sandoval will be the Opening Day third baseman. But the Red Sox this week traded two alternatives — Travis Shaw to the Milwaukee Brewers for eighth-inning reliever Tyler Thornburg and top prospect Yoan Moncada to the Chicago White Sox in the Chris Sale blockbuster — and said that 20-year-old Rafael Devers is bound for Double-A.

Save for a potential challenge from utility man Brock Holt, it will be Sandoval or bust at third base.

“I am not taking anything for granted,” Sandoval said. “I am here to work hard. I’m not thinking about the position or not. I am starting from scratch, and I am here to show what I can do on the field.”

The Red Sox also have not replaced the middle-of-the-order production they got from retired franchise icon David Ortiz. Instead, they agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million contract with first baseman Mitch Moreland, who will play primarily against right-handed pitching.

“Things definitely happen for a reason. [The surgery and rehab process] have helped revitalize that fire in me to win again.”

Asked how the Sox plan to balance out a lineup that leans heavily right-handed, Farrell brought up Sandoval.

Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott lead NFL Pro Bowl voting

The Dallas Cowboys’ dynamic duo of running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott has turned heads this season. NFL fans have taken notice, and the result is that the Cowboys rookies currently lead all NFL players in fan voting for the Pro Bowl.

Elliott has received 681,361 votes, and Prescott is just behind him, with 607,621 votes. The Cowboys are 11-1 and were the first team to lock up a postseason spot, and Elliott and Prescott’s performances have paved the way for Dallas’ success this season.

So, of course, he would do the same thing the following offseason. Except it didn’t work out as planned. Flacco threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots, while Brady had 292 yards and one touchdown, but it wasn’t enough. The Ravens lost, 23-20.

If this was the case, we really don’t blame Flacco for trying. When you’re in the same conference as Brady you better be doing all you can to get an edge.

Brady is currently in third place with fan voting with 519,210 votes. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is in fourth place with 508,913 votes, and Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr landed in the top five with 500,770 votes.

The defensive player with the most fan votes is Oakland defensive end Khalil Mack with 279,466. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is just behind Mack with 245,637.

NFL television ratings have been down this season, prompting some to wonder if the league’s popularity is diminishing. If Pro Bowl voting tendencies are any indication, it is not.

Except for a pair of red-zone turnovers against Tennessee, Barkley has played winning football the last two weeks

The relationship stretches far beyond pleasantries — like, 8,000 miles farther. Kelly, the Buffalo Bills great who has valiantly battled oral cancer since 2014, said in a phone interview Thursday between hunting trips that he’s taking Roethlisberger and a few others to New Zealand this offseason for a red-stag archery tournament.

“But if Luke’s out there and Luke’s healthy, it’s certainly a better defense. And again, that’s not taking away from anybody. That’s just respect to Luke. We prepare as if he is going and really what changes in that preparation is nothing.”

Roethlisberger and Kelly have experience hunting turkeys together. But more importantly for Kelly, hunting is simply an extension of fellowship with Roethlisberger, who met one of his childhood idols at a golf tournament many years ago.

Those Cowboys were trying to win a title before Romo, their then 34-year-old quarterback, succumbed to Father Time because his replacement wasn’t on their roster.

There was a desperation to their quest because owner Jerry Jones had moved into his 70s and the questions about when his son, Stephen Jones, would take a larger role became more frequent.

“If you wanted the country flavor in Troy Aikman. If you wanted the hard core rock flavor or Michael Irvin. Or if you wanted the R&B flavor of Emmitt Smith, you had it all. It was pretty exciting.”

“I think it made me hungry,” Barkley said. “Seeing Carson work gave me a new perspective on what it means to be an NFL quarterback. Coming from a veteran with his experience and how he still works his butt off every day, harder than anyone else on the team, gave me a new perspective on the position and made me hungry to want to play.”

Barkley has been a pleasant surprise in Chicago. Except for a pair of red-zone turnovers against Tennessee, Barkley has played winning football the last two weeks. The 26-year-old quarterback did an excellent job navigating through sloppy conditions versus the 49ers – completing 11-of-18 passes for 192 yards and no turnovers in the Bears’ 26-6 victory.

Alabama and Clemson have provided the NFL with some damn good WRs

In the last six NFL Drafts alone, the Alabama Crimson Tide have had 44 players selected, the most of any school. Clemson’s 29 draft picks since 2010 ranks ninth, but the two programs’ best products have been their wide receivers and the difference is razor thin.

When the two teams meet in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley and Clemson’s Artavis Scott are certainly worth keeping an eye on, but both pale in comparison to some of the alumni currently tearing up the NFL.

Alabama alum Julio Jones earned first-team All-Pro honors from The Associated Press after racking up 1,871 receiving yards for the Atlanta Falcons in 2015, the second most ever in a single season. But an argument could certainly be made that the 1,521 yards tallied by Clemson alum DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans was even more impressive considering he got there with four different starting quarterbacks.

“He sits right beside me, so he’s welcomed every day, you know what I mean? I have to deal with him, and being that you have to deal with him, I grew accustomed to a misunderstood person and I got to know him a little better than a lot of people here,” Mincey said. “It was tough. It was tough. You know, you got this guy, who you want to be a leader, and then you got that guy. It was just too much.”

But Mincey, a 32-year-old defensive end who failed to record a single sack this season, admitted that being a free agent made him a biased observer. He also pointed out why he thinks he’d be a better fit for the Cowboys going forward.

“It’s hard to have two type of line mentality guys in one room, so it’s tough to figure out who the younger guys are going to follow,” he said. “Of course they’re going to look up to a [guy] who’s a prolific player. But I just understand the game, and I know what it takes to win.”

The Cowboys have yet to indicate this offseason what they plan to do with Hardy going forward.

The decision to let Philbin go was made prior to a bye week, which gave Campbell time to adjust to his new role. The Dolphins dominated the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans in their next two games and Campbell drew positive reviews for being a “players’ coach.”