January 2018

Playing against the NFC’s best defense on a slick, frozen field, McCarthy didn’t allow his players to challenge the Vikings. Because the Packers were playing with a makeshift offensive line, McCarthy called a variety of short passes to get the ball out of Brett Hundley’s hands quickly. Trying to nickel-and-dime the Vikings speedy defense didn’t work as the Packers were just 4 of 15 on third downs as Hundley consistently threw short of the yard to gain.

Hundley, who was the victim of several drops, finished 17 of 40 for only 130 yards and two interceptions and did scramble for 48 rushing yards. Harrison Smith’s first interception of Hundley squelched a Packers scoring opportunity just before halftime.

He wasn’t the best playmaker for the team and the ball was often stuck in his hands with him trying to make a play for better or worse. With Thomas, there’s still movement. It doesn’t stick. He still cuts hard despite playing in an isolation-heavy offense. He still moves the ball in transition to find the best play.

Yes, it’s a small sample. But five points and one assist in four minutes is pretty good. And +16 is awesome. If he keeps this up maybe James will get some much-needed rest with the postseason just over the horizon.

Darnold remains a top prospect, but what about all those interceptions? Jackson produced video-game like stats, but can he improve on a 57.4 completion percentage? Rosen might be the most talented, but why didn’t he have more success?

How do we solve this? Let’s play our own version of Match Game. You remember that game show hosted by Gene Rayburn? Brian Billick was even a contestant once. Only in this game, we’ll give a few hints to match an NFL franchise with the right first-round quarterback. Let’s have some fun.

However Brady’s struggles have coincided with a revitalized New England ground game, which exceeded 190 yards in three of the past six games (all three were wins). Dion Lewis, the Patriots’ healthiest back at the moment, has been especially good lately. He’s accumulated 366 yards and five TDs from scrimmage in the last three games while also handling kickoffs. But daylight could be harder to find against a Tennessee defense that ranks fourth against the run and did a nice job limiting Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt to 47 total yards in the wild-card round.

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Mayfield has been compared to just about everybody: Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Johnny Manziel. He’s a confident quarterback with a few design flaws, but the same thing could have been said about John Elway in 1983. We know Mayfield was the best player in college football this year, and he has the arm and play-making ability to do some work at the next level.

The Nets’ win over the Wolves isn’t their first upset of the season. Brooklyn has defeated Cleveland, Oklahoma City, and Washington ā€” three teams with aspirations for deep postseason runs ā€” as well as the Jazz and the Trail Blazers. The Nets also forced the Pacers to overtime and lost by only three to the first-place Celtics.

Brooklyn isn’t a .500 team yet, but it’s losing games by fewer points than last season. The Nets average margin of loss is -2.3, according to data from NBA.com, and that’s a drastic improvement from minus-6.7 last year and minus-7.4 in 2015-16.

Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson and Josh Rosen are college stars, but it’s time to take their games to the 2018 NFL Draft.

Of course, Darnold, Mayfield and Rosen have not yet declared, but once they do, the nit-picking will begin on these four quarterbacks before a franchise spends a first-round pick. Get ready for this:

So you’re saying there’s a chance? Tennessee was a prohibitive underdog against the Chiefs, and the Patriots are already being installed as two-touchdown favorites in some quarters. And who can argue given New England’s 9-1 record in divisional games at Gillette Stadium?

We wanna make another step, and it’s two things: It’s beating really good teams, especially at home here at the Barclays with the great crowd, Kenny Atkinson said after Brooklyn’s win over Minnesota. And then it’s our consistency, doing it a little more consistently over a long period of time.

For a young group like ours, it was great togetherness for our group. I think it’s really going to help our confidence going forward.

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With 10 games in the books, we figured it was a good time for a subjective ranking of their relative greatness. We’ve assigned a score of 1 to 10 in three categories for each outdoor game. There’s Environment, which covers the novelty of the venue and the elements that challenged teams during the game; there’s Hype, which covers the buzz leading up to the Winter Classic as well as the allure of the teams involved; and then there’s the Game itself, and whether it was competitive, boring or rendered unwatchable by the conditions.

The matchup was a course correction from the 2015 edition, as the NHL jumped back into the rivalry business with this Original Six battle. The fans ate it up: 67,000 tickets were sold for the Winter Classic and there were 42,000 in the house for the alumni game held the same weekend in Foxborough.

Walton wisely didn’t go after ESPN over publishing the quotes. The Lakers didn’t threaten any credentials or suggest reporters should side with coaches over critics. In fact, in true Waltonian fashion, the coach joked with reporters after the game, claiming that he pulled Lonzo earlier than usual because his dad was talking sā€”t. He deflated the elephant in the room with ease and aplomb.

And that’s someone who’s caught between two truths. Hurts’ numbers — 59 touchdowns and 6,442 total yards the past two seasons — say he’s a superstar. But his actions — or lack thereof — suggest otherwise.

The moment Alabama lost to Clemson in the national championship game last January, doubt crept in. Now, Hurts has gone from the Next Big Thing to the most criticized 24-2 starting quarterback on the planet. The back-and-forth is enough to cause whiplash.

Paul George makes his first appearance as an opponent at Staples Center this season when Oklahoma City takes on the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday and then the Clippers on Thursday night. This will likely be the only two times he plays at Staples Center this year, but if PG-13 has it his way, he could end up on the West Coast after this season.

George has been outspoken about his desire to play in Los Angeles, for his hometown Lakers team, donning the same purple and gold his idols wore while he watched them growing up in Palmdale, Calif. He can, and is expected to, exercise his player option and opt out of the final year of his contract and enter unrestricted free agency this summer.

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Just a few days ago, the #MeToo movement hit baseball when Betsy Bissen, a freelance photographer, accused Minnesota Twins’ All-Star third basemen Miguel Sano of assaulting her two years prior at a mall in suburban Minneapolis. That story came a few days after a Wall Street Journal report that said Bob Bowman, the former 17-year head of MLB Advanced Media, was forced out following allegations related to workplace misconduct.

Or, as Roethlisberger can attest, as bad as it sounded afterward. The sound bite was just that, a bite, one that in a way played a role in his resurgence. One that ended with his sixth Pro Bowl selection and a very real shot to become the fourth quarterback in NFL history with three Super Bowl titles.

He’s confident in his ability and he’s confident in his receivers, Heyward-Bey said. He knows that we’re going to go out there and try and make plays for him. That’s what a quarterback needs. He has to have confidence in his guys.

CB Artis Burns (hyperextended right knee) did not practice Thursday but is hoping to play Sunday. DE Stephon Tuitt (elbow) also did not practice but plans to play. … LB Ryan Shazier, recovering from spine stabilization surgery, attended practice again in a wheelchair and hung out in the locker room after practice.

If the Titans end up sitting at home for the playoffs, they will curse their loss to the 49ers most, no matter how much of a prodigy Jimmy Garoppolo seems to be. The regret will be greater with the Rams on deck, because the Rams seem in no mood to let anyone deter them from an NFC West title and their best possible playoff seeding as they proved with that beatdown they laid on the Seahawks. Marcus Mariota can’t feel much ease about this after seeing what the Rams did to Russell Wilson.

Logic dictates that the Chargers’ pass rush (Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have a combined 21.5 sacks) will feast on an inexperienced quarterback like Bryce Petty (second start of the season, sixth of his career). The Jets didn’t seem to miss Muhammad Wilkerson against the Saints, and they might be preparing to not miss him anymore this season. Philip Rivers slipped off track last week against the Chiefs for the first time in a month, but with their postseason lives on the line, he has reason to get back on.

That’s a good team. Nobody wants to play for him. I can see it. No high-fives when they come out of the game. People don’t know why they’re in the game. He’s too young. He’s too young. … He ain’t connecting with them anymore. You can look at every player, he’s not connecting with not one player, he continued.

He complained that Walton didn’t know how to coach Lonzo Ball earlier in the season.

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Harrison, who remains the Steelers’ all-time leader with 80 1/2 career sacks, was cut by Pittsburgh Saturday to make room for tackle Marcus Gilbert’s return but signed with New England following a visit to Gillette Stadum Tuesday. It could make for an interesting reunion if the Steelers and Patriots meet in the AFC Championship game, though Roethlisberger isn’t concerned about potentially shared intel.

My wife and I were talking about it last night, Roethlisberger said Wednesday. She was asking me if he knew our no-huddle stuff. I said I don’t think he knows a lot of it. I’m sure he’s heard some of the same things for a lot of years now so maybe some of it. But that’s a long way off.

James has to do what James has to do. It’s not like he called (and) asked me if he should or not. James was out there as a free agent. He has to do what’s best for his family. I wish him the best. I had a lot of good years with him.

The Steelers and Patriots each secured a bye through to the divisional round, though New England can clinch homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win over the Jets in its regular season finale Sunday.

Smart’s message to his team was clear: They haven’t seen our best. We played 30 minutes, and they haven’t seen our best.

I really just think the emotion in the players settled down, and they played with a little more discipline and a little more passion and energy, Smart said. It wasn’t like there was magic sprinkle dust. We called the same defenses we called in the first half. We just played them better.

Georgia’s defense opened the second half with five straight stops, while Bulldogs tailbacks Nick Chubb and Michel scored on long touchdown runs to tie the score at 31.

There wasn’t any panic, Georgia cornerback Aaron Davis said. We knew what we did in the first half wasn’t us.

Two mistakes by the game’s star performers set the stage for the thrilling finale. First, it was Mayfield, who threw an interception that led to a Georgia touchdown, giving the Bulldogs their first lead.

We got to [Mayfield] in the second half, and it felt good, Georgia defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter said. We got him on the ground, and that’s what we wanted to do. You kind of just go into savage mode, and a lot of guys did just that. It was a lot of hungry dudes out there eating.

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We’re playing the Jets this week, Belichick said. I don’t even know what that has to do with it. Maybe I’m missing something, I don’t know.

Harrison, who remains the Steelers’ all-time leader with 80 1/2 career sacks, was released by Pittsburgh Saturday to make room for tackle Marcus Gilbert’s return but signed with New England following a visit to Gillette Stadum Tuesday.

Despite having to watch his former teammate join his rival’s roster, Roethlisberger has no hard feelings toward Harrison.

James has to do what James has to do, Roethlisberger said. It’s not like he called (and) asked me if he should or not. James was out there as a free agent. He has to do what’s best for his family. I wish him the best. I had a lot of good years with him.

Fleury was right in line with the average for the past two seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, sporting a penalty-kill save percentage over that span of .874. His hot start with the Golden Knights this season and continued strong play following a concussion have him sitting pretty with a penalty-kill save percentage of .930 so far this season. That’s almost assuredly going to bottom out. Combine that with Fleury’s even-strength save percentage of .938, also a near-unsustainable level, and his ratios are due for a dip. Not to mention, the workload is pretty equally shared with Malcolm Subban at this point.

The statement, in part, explained that the doctors hadn’t seen video of Savage in a so-called fencing posture, a response to a concussion in which the victim’s arms are flexed or extended after impact:

The review showed that following a hard tackle, Mr. Savage was immediately removed from the game and evaluated for a concussion. The Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant (UNC) and team physician reviewed the initial broadcast video, saw the play and Mr. Savage’s response and followed the Protocol by performing a complete sideline concussion evaluation on Mr. Savage, which he passed. The slow-motion video, which focused more directly on the fencing posture, was not broadcast until after the doctors had begun the sideline evaluation and thus was not seen by the medical staff prior to the evaluation. The Texans medical staff continued to monitor Mr. Savage after the initial evaluation and shortly after his return to the game, identified symptoms that had not been present during the sideline evaluation and took him to the locker room for further evaluation.

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