Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Colts will be without linebacker Erik Walden on Sunday against the Cardinals.

The NFL has upheld the one-game suspension handed down to Indianapolis Colts linebacker Erik Walden for his headbutt on Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Walden used his helmet as a weapon in the Colts’ win over the Titans when he smashed his head into Walker, who was not wearing the protective headgear.

A second-year player out of Western Kentucky, Rainey didn’t see any action in his rookie season. The Bucs claimed him in October after he got waived by the Cleveland Browns. He finally got his chance this week after the Bucs lost Martin and James, and is making the most of it. He did an admirable job as a mid-game replacement against the Dolphins last week, recording 45 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.

Barring a complete collapse, the Bucs will win their second game in a row, and Rainey has been a key part in their slight resurgence. Company Man Favoritism Tour 2K13 rolls on with Mr. Roth, who brings up a verse of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” that I’ve taken a personal interest in. Specifically, the bit in which Mr. Carter claims the officer accused him of driving 55 miles per hour on a road with a speed limit of 54 miles per hour. I feel that that is a strange speed limit to post, and would further like to suggest that the officer in Mr. Carter’s report should not have applied such an inflexible interpretation of the law, especially given the unusual nature of the speed limit posted.

As long as we’re in the realm of video games, I may as well cop to my greatest gaming failure. I never beat the Water Temple. Ocarina of Time was an absolute masterpiece, and if you called it the greatest video game ever, I wouldn’t be mad at you.
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Will Jacksonville rebound after a bye?

Despite a three-game losing streak earlier in the season, the Tennessee Titans are in the thick of the AFC playoff race. The Titans have a favorable stretch of schedule upcoming, beginning this week with a home game against the 0-8 Jaguars.

The Titans snapped their losing streak last week with a 28-21 win against St. Louis. The win moved Tennessee back to .500 on the season and just behind the 5-4 Jets for the final wild card slot. The Titans have played well most of this season, but ran into a brutal stretch of schedule against Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco.

Jacksonville should be fresh off a bye week, but the Jaguars are still searching for ways to be competitive. They have struggled to even challenge teams this year, and their minus-178 point differential is more than double the second-worst team.

On paper, Sunday’s game shouldn’t be much of a contest, but the teams have been fairly well-matched in recent seasons, splitting their last eight meetings.

“The feeling on both of our parts was that what he’s used to and accustomed to playing, at a certain speed and a certain level and certainly what we’ve seen, still wasn’t there. But he’s progressing,” Payton said. “It was more of just an overall knowing we’ve got eight weeks left in the season, and is he going to be able to progress enough to where he’s comfortable and we’re comfortable enough with his progress?”

Vilma’s absence shouldn’t affect the Saints’ defense too harshly. The unit has been without him for almost the entire season, and has still performed admirably through nine weeks.
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Christian Ponder to remain Vikings starter, provided he can win

Whoever is running the event decides that in order to save time, we will alternate between football drills and taking team photos with Gronk. When it is their turn, women sprint toward Gronk, who is already sitting in a folding chair, in order to be as close to him in the group photo as possible. Some even try to sit on his lap. I am instructed to sit near his legs because I am short. I maintain a safe distance.

And then I hear the familiar sounds of “Teach Me How to Dougie,” a song that had permanently etched itself into my brain and probably yours three years ago. But wait… this is not “Teach Me How to Dougie.” This is some kind of Rob Gronkowski remix. This is a thing. I begin to wonder if the tackling drills gave me a concussion. This can’t be actually happening.

But it is happening. The women have started to dance. Both Gronkowski brothers have joined in. This is what we were warned about. THE DANCE OFF IS HAPPENING. I haven’t worked on my moves yet! Wait…is that woman doing the worm? Is this football? How hard did that tackling dummy hit me?

The Minnesota Vikings are willing to commit to quarterback Christian Ponder, but only so long as the third-year quarterback is winning, according to Ian Rapoport.

Asking Ponder to keep winning is no easy feat. The team’s next five opponents are extremely difficult outside of a Week 10 matchup against the Washington Redskins. Minnesota is slated to face the Seahawks, Packers and Bears — all sitting above .500 and leading their respective divisions.

It’s unclear whether Ponder will remain with the Vikings in 2017, but the key for now is to win games — and there’s no indication Minnesota knows how to do that.

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It was more difficult to notice afterward, but the transition continued to unfold after ’06.

Gonzaga continued to make the tournament every year, but most of the time they were seeded somewhere between 7-11. Sometimes they won a game or two, sometimes they didn’t. Like a middle-of-the-road Eastern Conference team in an era of NBA superpowers, the Bulldogs were just sort of there.

Then, the 2012-13 season happened. Gonzaga navigated through a strong non-conference schedule with just two losses, rolled to a perfect record in the West Coast Conference’s regular season, and claimed the conference’s tournament title. On Selection Sunday, the Bulldogs were given a No. 1 seed in a West Region that the public agreed appeared to be the worst of the four the Selection Committee had put together. It was time for Mark Few’s team to finally cash in and make the world a believer again.

The Zags were stunned by ninth-seeded Wichita State in the second round.

Trying to build the next superteam hasn’t ever seemed to work for any NFL franchise —remember the 2011 Eagles? Free agency’s biggest spenders almost always seem to be the teams that are perennial losers.

One Madden-like move teams often make is taking a chance on that injury-prone player who would be awesome if he could just stay healthy. This year, guys like Danny Woodhead (Ravens), Menelik Watson (Broncos) and JC Tretter (Browns) look like early candidates to become last year’s Matt Forte and Ladarius Green. While all three can play, their age and past durability issues should immediately raise red flags.

Ball made controversial comments about James’ sons, LeBron James Jr. and Bryce Maximus James, on March 10 as a guest on the In the Zone with Chris Broussard podcast when he predicted a tougher road to NBA stardom beneath their father’s shadow. Those remarks prompted a response from James, who sent a message through ESPN’s Dave McMenamin to “keep my kids’ name out of your mouth.”
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The United States might have built the best lineup in baseball history

As a baseball writer, it is exceptionally strange to write about a team that has a location, but no nickname. After two paragraphs of Boston, Boston, Boston, I Would snap and write Red Sox all over my walls, like Jack Torrance at the Overlook. Yet that is what we have with the United States and the other teams in the World Baseball Classic. It is United States here, United States there, Puerto Rico here, Venezuela. They all need nicknames.

This was a good deal for New Orleans to move a talented player who didn’t quite mesh with its spread-it-around passing offense, getting New England is 2017 first- and third-round draft picks in return. The Saints’ wideout corps remains strong, anchored by Michael Thomas and Willie Snead.

Meanwhile, Cooks gives the Patriots another versatile chess piece of speed and quickness with whom to create matchup problems.

Cleveland also got a second-round pick in 2018 out of this deal. There is a good chance it cuts Osweiler, seeing it as a move to spend some major money under the salary cap to get another prospect. For Houston, it opens up a ton of cap space and creates quick relief from its bust of a 2016 signing. It opens the door to deal for Tony Romo.

San Francisco needed receivers of any kind after it moved on from Torrey Smith. Garcon is on the other side of 30, but he is a solid route-runner and blocker with good hands who will be a good No. 2 glue guy for whoever the 49ers anoint as their true go-to, big-play guy outside.

Tampa Bay needed a playmaker opposite Mike Evans who could stretch the field against one-on-one coverage with a knack for home runs. Jackson has lost some speed as he hit 30 last December, but not too much. Jameis Winston will want to show off his big arm.44

AFC West injuries, Week 8: Julius Thomas, Jamaal Charles banged up

The Denver Broncos won on Sunday against the Washington Redskins, but lost an important player in tight end Julius Thomas.

Sunday was just another weekly reminder that the talent difference between the Jaguars and the upper-echelon teams of the NFL is large. Still, glimpses of talent from players like Mike Brown and Denard Robinson continue to offer optimism for a team that actually looks like it might be halfway-functional on offense with a decent quarterback.
David Fucillo of Niners Nation thinks that the defense could have played a bit better, despite holding the Jaguars to 10 points:

The 49ers defense was relatively strong early, but you could argue it was a bit of a listless performance at times. This was as much about how bad the Jaguars offense was as how good the 49ers defense performed. Chad Henne couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn at times, and it cost the Jaguars. The 49ers defense did make some plays, but the pass rush managed no sacks. The defensive did force one turnover, as Dan Skuta scooped up a Marcedes Lewis fumble and ran it back 47 yards for the final touchdown.
In Week 9, the Jaguars and 49ers will be on byes as they rest from the long trip back-and-forth from London.

Miami is having an issue creating a link between Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace. Outside of a Week 2 win over the Indianapolis Colts, there’s a pattern between the Dolphins winning and Wallace not producing. Perhaps it’s a product of him asking too much of Tannehill, but Miami needs these two players to get on the same page if they want to have offensive success moving forward.

Some wide receivers are divas — it’s the nature of the position — but it felt like Bryant was falling into the trap of believing Sunday’s game was more about him vs. Calvin Johnson, rather than the the two teams. Managing adversity is more important than coping with success, and it’s something Bryant will need to learn moving forward.
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Cowboys, Dolphins and Lions chosen for NFL’s 2016 London games

The National Football League has declared the three games being played over in London, England next season, per their official release.

The Dallas Cowboys will face the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders will square off, and the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions will meet in Wembley Stadium to showcase the game internationally. Jacksonville, Oakland and Atlanta are the “home” teams in those games, which was announced a few weeks ago.

The Lions lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-24, and dropped out of first place in the NFC North. The good news is that Calvin Johnson appears to be over his knee injury, going off for nine catches, 155 yards and two touchdowns.

Online experts are pretty split on picking this game. Five out of eight ESPN analysts are going with the Cowboys, while there’s a bigger consensus at CBS Sports. Seven panelists are picking the Lions, with only Will Brinson and Jeremy Eisenberg going with Dallas. Over at Yahoo Sports, both experts are taking the Lions, and the fan poll is also selecting Detroit.

The Vikings get to play on primetime two weeks in a row and might be going back to Christian Ponder after Josh Freeman got concussed. This is definitive proof that God exists, and really hates football fans. The Walking Dead might be more watchable than this one, and that should not be construed in any way as an endorsement of The Walking Dead. You’ll be better off hitting up Netflix that evening.17

Devastated bear mascot gets heartwarming hug from kindhearted child

Think of the saddest song you ever heard. Maybe it’s Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” or Brandy’s “Brokenhearted,” or Sufjan Stevens’ “The Only Thing.” Now apply that sadness to this sad bear mascot, sitting all alone at the top of the bleachers, wondering where everything went wrong.

Last year, Kansas was also a No. 1 seed, and made it all the way to the Elite Eight before losing to eventual national champion Villanova. They’re led this season by Frank Mason III, who leads the team in scoring with 20.8 points per game. After the Bruins, Wildcats, and Ducks, the Pac-12 has USC as a likelier-than-not tournament team. The Trojans only lost eight games in the regular season, all in league play, and have great wins against UCLA and SMU.

They’ll start their run to a potential Final Four against the winner of a play-in game between NC Central and UC Davis on Friday in Tulsa, Okla. Should the Jayhawks win their first two games, they’ll play very close to home in the Sweet 16 with the Midwest regional site being in Kansas City.

Tournament darlings Michigan make it into the tournament as a No. 7 seed, and they’ll face 10-seeded Oklahoma State. Tricky matchups for other teams include No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 12 Nevada and No. 8 Miami vs. No. 9 Michigan State.

You can see the full bracket here, and you can print one out here.

Krzyzewski also noticed a difference in Giles in recent weeks, and it started with him being more enthusiastic and trusting his abilities.

“Instead of being methodical and trying to think about everything, he’s been more athletic,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m so happy for him. And us too.”

Giles will admit that it’s hard not to compete against his former self, but comparing 2017 Giles to 2015 Giles becomes tough to avoid when he shows those bursts of brilliance.19

The World Baseball Classic just kicked into high gear

The World Baseball Classic rolled on yesterday, with Pool B playing its final two games. Japan beat China, though thankfully China scored a run. And Cuba advanced over Australia thanks to a grand slam from Alfredo Despaigne. But more importantly, Pools C and D opened play on Thursday night, and it was somehow even more exciting than it was supposed to be.

The excitement from the game between Canada and the Dominican Republic came from the DR players and the crowd at Marlins park. It’s really bad luck that Canada had to face the DR in their first game. The DR team is made up almost completely of actual MLB All-Stars, and you could tell how grim the task was by the looks on the Canada players’ faces. Yeah, not pleasant.

Still, from Cutler’s point of view, a trade back to the place he started his NFL career would make sense from a pragmatic standpoint, if not an emotional one. It’s just unlikely the franchise would feel the same way. If the Broncos want a veteran passer, Romo will be the sole option.

Teaming with first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan could be the panacea that cures Cutler’s inefficient ways, but that’s a theory that failed to pan out in the past with coordinators like Mike Martz and Marc Trestman. Still, the 49ers offer a clean slate — and he could reunite with his two backups last year, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.

This would also give him a chance to revive his value as a passer. San Francisco’s roster is relatively bare, but the club has nearly $99 million to spend in free agency this spring and has started revamping its receiving corps, most notably with productive veteran Pierre Garcon. Add in a dynamic young tailback in Carlos Hyde, and you can begin to see the foundation for a revival for one of the league’s storied franchises.
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WBC 2017: Schedule, scores, highlights, and more

The greatest international baseball tournament on Earth is back, with 16 countries battling it out in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Some of the best players in Major League Baseball are a part of the event, including MVP winners Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey, and Andrew McCutchen, Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, and younger stars like Jose Altuve, Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor and Manny Machado.

He’s been magical ever since. On Tuesday he became the sixth player in history to score 30,000 points, dropping 25 on the Lakers in a Mavericks win. Dirk scored the Mavs’ first eight points and 18 in the first quarter. He’s 38 years old. He’s hitting a crazy milestone late in his career and he’s still winning games for his team. Nowitzki is a big part of the reason Dallas still has hope for making the postseason despite beginning the season 2-13 and 6-20.

Now, in theory, the improvement could really kick in. UTSA’s returning production figures (18th overall, 19th on offense, 33rd on defense) are strong, and at worst, recent recruiting should make for more competition in key areas like the receiving corps, offensive line, and secondary.

S&P+ projects UTSA to win seven games, but the upside on the schedule is obvious. The Roadrunners are given at least a 52 percent chance of winning in nine games (including seven of eight C-USA battles) and a 40 percent chance in a 10th. If this seasoned squad can close out close games, the Roadrunners could contend for the C-USA West title.

There are obvious potential limitations. We don’t know that the passing game will ever be as efficient as it needs to be, and there’s nothing saying that the secondary will be any better at preventing big plays. But the ceiling is high in San Antonio.6