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Which of your preseason predictions are you kicking yourself for making?

May
12

Schoenfield: I didn’t expect the Orioles to be a .500 team, but their abysmal start and tough division means they could be headed for 100 losses. This is a bad, bad team, which we should have realized when they still had Chris Tillman in the rotation. Free Manny Machado.

Doolittle: It’s not like I thought the Reds would contend, but I am shocked they are ’62 Mets-level awful. Eugenio Suarez is tied for the team lead in WAR and he hasn’t played since April 8. The closer, Raisel Iglesias, is dynamic, and as Cincinnati tries to sort through this mess, hopefully he can be moved to a team that can leverage his talents. Then again, you have to wonder at this point just how likely it would be for the Reds to successfully develop the prospects he’d bring back. A strong rookie run by Nick Senzel is about the best thing you can hope for at this point if you’re a Reds fan.

There would be no yelling, no need for brute force this time around. Shortly after taking the job, he gathered everyone connected to the program — hundreds of personnel, including coaches, graduate assistants, academic counselors, trainers and more — and went line by line through a nearly 80-page binder, detailing the expectations of everyone in the organization. It was an eye-opening experience to those who sometimes felt adrift under the previous leadership of Jim McElwain and Will Muschamp before him. The meeting was long, clocking in at roughly two hours, but it had a clear sense of purpose.

This was memorable for the inevitability of it all. The Capitals entered the game 4-10 in in franchise history in Game 7s, and the Penguins made it 4-11 with a 2-0 shutout by Marc-Andre Fleury in Washington. It didn’t matter that the Capitals had rallied from a 3-1 series hole. Once it reached Game 7, it was just a matter of how it was going to go down this time, considering that Washington had also never defeated Pittsburgh in a Game 7. As Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said after the game, you could just feel the tension and sense of doom in the arena.
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There was perhaps no greater example of the Penguins occupying the Capitals’ headspace than when owner Ted Leonsis commissioned a computer program for the 2009 semifinals that prevented fans from Penguins-centric area codes to purchase tickets online.

Steelers’ Joe Haden ‘training like I never have before’

Apr
26

Joe Haden ‘s arrival and performance in Pittsburgh all came as a pleasant surprise in 2017.

After all, he was supposed to be lining up for the team located 90 minutes northwest of the Steel City. But when Cleveland deemed him too expensive and his injury history too long to keep, he ended up traveling down Interstates 80 and 76 to join the Steelers just before the season. It set off a whirlwind of playbook cramming and environmental adjusting, which he handled better than most.

The massive storm damaged or leveled more than 470,000 houses, according to The Economist and also destroyed about 80 percent of the island’s agricultural crop, including coffee and banana plantations that will take years to grow back. But the US Department of Housing and Urban Development announced last week that it is giving about $18.5 billion in aid — the largest grant in HUD history — to repair and fortify houses, businesses and infrastructure wrecked by Hurricane Maria. And President Trump signed a $90 billion disaster aid package in February expected to give Puerto Rico about $50 billion in federal assistance over the next six years.

“There aren’t too many head coaches out there that do that. And if they do that to you, you’re special and most likely that school is special… because head coaches are very busy.”

Ash went the extra mile in securing the physical South Jersey DB to the fold, providing him feedback on training and technique when asked.

“He coached me up as a player and he isn’t even my coach yet. That’s crazy. I’ll send him my workout clips and he’ll tell me the things he likes, the things he doesn’t like and the things I can work on and I’ll fix it. I really like that,” Williams said. “One of my fears before I even did that was what if I send him this and he doesn’t like it at all and he just stops liking me, period. But I’m like, forget it, let me just send it.”

Ultimately, things worked out in a way Williams didn’t initially expect.

Josh Rosen has his doubters, and now that list includes the man who recruited him to UCLA.

Apr
20

Jim Mora, the former Bruins head coach, said Monday he would take USC QB Sam Darnold over Rosen at No. 1 in April’s draft.

“Because of fit, I would take Sam Darnold if I were the Cleveland Browns,” Mora said on NFL Network. “I think [he has] that blue-collar, gritty attitude. I think his teammates will love him. I think the city will love him. He’ll say the right things. He’ll come in and represent well. I think he kind of represents what Cleveland is.

“And then if I was one of the New York teams, I’d take Josh like that,” Mora added with a snap of his fingers. “I think they’re both going to be great pros.”

“But Josh has that way, like all the great ones … that kind of slip and slide around in the pocket and find the window and then they get it there on time. They’re both going to be great, but Josh is one of my guys, I gotta go with him.”

“I know Jerry. He’s an outstanding person,” McNair told reporters at the owners’ meetings in Orlando, Fla., later adding, “Some of the comments he might have made could have been made jokingly and misunderstood. I’m sure he didn’t mean to offend anybody.”

He didn’t mean to offend anybody on “Jeans Day,” when Richardson allegedly would ask female Panthers employees to turn around so he could admire their figures.

And McNair probably didn’t mean to offend anybody, either. The polarizing owner has become a prominent face of the anti-national anthem protest movement, speaking up again against it Sunday — “Our playing field, that’s not the place for political statements.” McNair got into hot water last season over the protests, when he likened allowing the players’ voices to be heard to “inmates running the prison.”

As for Richardson, he’s leaving the NFL, but his billionaire friends still have his back.

“I’m very sad,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in December. “Jerry is one of the really, really, really outstanding men of football that I’ve ever met, and I really admire him.”
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Philadelphia put runners at the corners with one out in the ninth, but Jeurys Familia finished the three-hitter for his second save.

Apr
06

In theory, the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles have the NFL’s best quarterback situation. When healthy, rising star Carson Wentz is the starter. Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles is the backup.

But what if Wentz’s rehab from a torn ACL progresses more slowly than expected Or he makes it back in Week 1 but clearly isn’t as mobile as he was during his breakout 2017 season

Philadelphia put runners at the corners with one out in the ninth, but Jeurys Familia finished the three-hitter for his second save.

First baseman Wilmer Flores, who had just entered as a pinch-hitter, leaned over the dugout railing to make a nice grab of Scott Kingery’s foul popup. Pinch-hitter Andrew Knapp grounded out to end it.

Harvey struck out five, walked one and refused a jacket on the bases after his leadoff single in the third. The strikeouts were his most in a game since mid-June last year.

Obviously, going five innings and not giving up a ton of runs is definitely a plus, he said. It’s something I haven’t usually been used to here, so it was nice to get that done.

The only hit Harvey permitted on 86 pitches was a leadoff single by Rhys Hoskins in the second.

The team’s two biggest signings to date have been a soon-to-be 33-year-old wide receiver (Jordy Nelson) and a 29-year-old tailback (Doug Martin) who looked their age and then some in 2017. The former came after the Raiders cut bait on Michael Crabtree.

There’s still a long way to go before Week 1. Nelson and Martin could recapture their past form. With a strong draft and a couple of breaks, the Raiders may well contend in the AFC West in 2018.

But in the early going, it appears as though Oakland’s worst-case scenario this year may already be happening. Their $10 million head coach looks to be trapped in the past.

Schoenfield: Winning 10 games. Even if the Angels stick to a six-man rotation all season, he should get 25 or 26 starts. The key will be keep his pitch counts low enough, like he did Sunday, for him to remain in the game for six or seven innings to get those decisions.

Which is more likely: Ohtani’s 2018 features a stint in the minors or Ohtani’s 2018 ends with a Rookie of the Year award
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Bridgewater was a first-round pick in 2014 out of Louisville and was largely considered a rising star at his position.

Mar
20

New York dealt its first-rounder — No. 6 overall — along with two second-rounders and next year’s second-rounder for Indianapolis’ top pick this year. The Jets have re-signed Josh McCown, who will likely head into the offseason programs as the starting quarterback, but both he and Bridgewater are on one-year deals. So, the focus next month in the draft will be on finding the future of the franchise.

He made the Pro Bowl after his second NFL season, but his career was thrust into uncertainty when he suffered a serious non-contact knee injury during a team practice the following summer. Bridgewater tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and dislocated the knee joint, along with other structural damage. For his career, Bridgewater has thrown for 6,150 yards and 28 touchdowns with 22 interceptions and a 64.7 percent completion rate.

He’s had one 1,000-yard season out of four in the NFL, and no 10-touchdown seasons, and he caught 39 balls last year in an extremely wideout-friendly offense with the Rams. My jaw hit the floor when I saw this money. 2. I think —gut feeling—that Buffalo will try hard to move up in the first round to the Giants at two. Now that the Jets pick third, the Bills know there’s a good chance the top three picks will be quarterbacks. How can Buffalo risk waiting till four and, presumably, dealing with Cleveland to move up

Dangerous move. 3. I think this is a really fun offseason, one of the best of the 34 NFL offseasons I’ve seen in my years covering the league. 4. I think this is an interesting history lesson: Exactly 25 years ago this week, NFL free agency dawned— and I was on a plane with Reggie White covering it. 5. I think the Giants will go quarterback at two, but as one NFL GM told me Saturday: Just imagine the Giants taking Saquon Barkley.

They’d have Odell Beckham, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley. Wow! Respectively, they’d be 25, 23 and 21 years old. 6. I think Deadspin’s Dom Cosentino did a good job putting the Richard Sherman contract into perspective the other day.patriots_015

Bucks fire Jason Kidd, seek ‘fresh approach’

Mar
09

The Milwaukee Bucks fired head coach Jason Kidd in a surprise move Monday.

The Bucks (23-22) have lost four of their last five entering Monday’s game against Phoenix and have a slim one-game lead on the Pistons for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Assistant coach Joe Prunty will lead the team against the Suns.

“We appreciate everything that Jason has done for the Bucks organization, but we have decided to make a coaching change,” general manager Jon Horst said in a release. “We believe that a fresh approach and a change in leadership are needed to continue elevating our talented team towards the next level, bringing us closer to our goal of competing for championships.

“And there’s no coaching, there’s nothing that you can do but go through it and learn. And we can keep telling them what’s coming, as a coach, and we can tell them what to do, but it’s a finally, the final, it’s up to them to make that decision.”

Well, the Bucks front office made a decision Monday — a decision that maybe a different coach can produce wins.

Kidd, 44, went 139-152 in three-plus seasons with the Bucks and made the playoffs twice.

Lamoureux’s brilliant shootout goal will go down as one of the most important moments in U.S. hockey history. But without Rooney’s subsequent save, it’s a footnote lost in a bigger narrative, like what Melodie Daoust’s Peter Forsberg impression in the shootout became when Canada lost.

Whether or not it was wishful thinking, Lamoureux knew that Rooney was going to turn her shootout goal into a medal winner.

“After I scored, I knew Maddie was going to stop it. I threw my stick to the back of the bench when I got back to it, I was so confident,” she says.

Rooney, meanwhile, saw that support emanating from her teammates. “Everyone on my bench was jumping up and down, pointing at me, saying ‘one more,'” she says.

She saved one more shot, swept the puck away with her glove and sparked a wild celebration.indians_002

Griffin could be an option in Dallas — he was a Heisman-winning star just down the road at Baylor — now that the Cowboys reportedly are souring on Manziel.

Feb
22

Kaepernick, meanwhile, faces an uncertain future with the 49ers after getting benched last season and receiving a tepid greeting from new coach Chip Kelly.

Kaepernick is set to count $16 million against San Francisco’s cap in 2016, which is far too expensive for a backup. He could be released next month before his scheduled $11.9 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed April 1.

The NFL’s dreaded catch rule — still confusing to player, coach, fan and even referee alike — likely is to be upheld upon review this offseason.

They have yet to address the defensive front that allowed 121.9 yards per game on the ground. Allen gives the Bears flexibility with their defensive scheme on all three downs. His medical issues, though, could impact his standing, given his shoulders have been a problem. If they’re a major red flag, he may fall a bit on draft night. If Allen doesn’t hear his name here, expect the Bears to take one of the draft’s top corners, three years after choosing Kyle Fuller in the first round.

Arden Key, DE/LB, LSU. The Jets have needs up and down the roster, so expect them to go best player available with this pick. In terms of talent, that should be Key, who has the ability to be a special pass-rusher on the outside despite dealing with various injuries throughout the season.

One of those games is between the surprising 3-2 Jets and the 3-2 Patriots. The winner owns sole possession of first place in the AFC East. Perhaps the best game of the week is the Steelers playing the Chiefs in Kansas City. Pittsburgh is a team in a state of flux, 3-2 and coming off a bad loss to the Jaguars. Kansas City is the only remaining undefeated team in the league at 5-0.

35. Doug Baldwin, wide receiver, Seahawks (NR): The player dubbed “Angry Doug” was known mostly for his media outbursts until last season, when he inexplicably erupted the second half of the year into the most prolific wideout in football with a league-high 14 TD catches. That was almost as many as Baldwin recorded in his first four seasons combined (15).

46. Dan Snyder, owner, Redskins (42): The notoriously meddlesome Snyder turned the keys over to a highly respected general manager in Scot McCloughan and was rewarded with a division title. But Snyder can’t seem to stand football prosperity, and his history shows he will wrest control back from McCloughan any day now. Snyder is still the NFL ownership version of a car wreck you can’t help but rubberneck.
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Seahawks players receive their share of the blame for the chaos at the end of the loss in Jacksonville.

Feb
03

Could there actually be an argument by season’s end about which of L.A.’s two winning NFL teams is better? Few could have seen that coming at the outset of the season.

The fans should have behaved better. So, too, should have Seattle’s players. The Seahawks’ on-field performance wasn’t so great, either.

On Friday, in addition to the Patriots losing Julian Edelman to a knee injury, the Chiefs saw Spencer Ware with a serious-looking knee injury. Unlike with the Patriots receiver, Ware is expected to have avoided a torn ACL, but if his injury turns out to be just a knee sprain, it’s still possible he’ll be sidelined several weeks into the regular season, opening the door for Kareem Hunt. For more on those injuries as well as the performances of Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Eddie Lacy, Patrick Mahomes and more, check out Friday’s daily roundup.

There are some members of NFL teams’ front offices who believe that Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league office erred by taking on Trump; they are convinced that the controversy would have dissipated more quickly and with less potential damage to the NFL if Goodell and the league had not responded to Trump’s original remarks. That is highly questionable. The story was immense before the NFL ever said anything. The players certainly were not going to refrain from responding.

John Fox, Chicago Bears: The Bears parted ways with Fox after the team finished in the NFC North cellar for the third straight season under his guidance. Fox leaves Chicago with a 14-34 record over three seasons with the team. He’s posted a 133-123 record over his career.

Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions: The Lions fired Caldwell a day after the team missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. The Lions finished the season at 9-7 for the second straight year. Following a promising 6-4 start, the Lions quickly lost ground in the highly competitive NFC playoff race, hitting rock bottom in a Week 16 loss to a struggling Bengals team that annihilated Detroit’s postseason aspirations.chargers_034

Vikings DE Everson Griffen had priceless reaction to ‘Minneapolis Miracle’

Jan
27

Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen had a priceless reaction to Minnesota’s stunning 29-24 divisional-round win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Stefon Diggs’ unlikely game-winning touchdown made Griffen jump up from the bench and react like a contestant who had just won the Showcase Showdown on The Price Is Right.

It’s the second such honor this season for Thomas, who also was player of the week on Dec. 4. The 5-foot-11 forward is fifth in the ACC in scoring average at 18.5 PPG, and she’s in the top 15 in the league in rebounding (7.4).

New England was allowing 119.7 rushing yards per game prior to the acquisition of Harrison. They are giving up 52.5 with him taking snaps. It’s a small sample size, but it certainly looks like Harrison has had a positive effect. Add that to how he approaches every game with professionalism and the Patriots can only benefit.

I approach every game the same, except now it’s single elimination, he told reporters Friday. If you don’t get everything done to an appropriate level now, you go home.

The PFWA also named Rams running back Todd Gurley as the NFL Offensive Player of the Year and Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

It’s Brady’s third PFWA MVP award, as he also won in 2007 and 2010. Only Peyton Manning, with four MVP awards from the PFWA, has more. Manning is a five-time AP NFL MVP winner.

Brady becomes the oldest player to win NFL MVP honors from the PFWA. Manning had been the previous oldest winner, at age 37 in 2013.

At an age when most NFL players, certainly quarterbacks, are long retired, Brady posted one of his finest seasons, leading the NFL in passing yards (4,577) and tossing 32 touchdown passes. The Patriots will play the Jaguars on Sunday in the AFC championship game.
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The Jaguars entered the season with a lot of question marks, especially surrounding quarterback Blake Bortles.

Jan
19

The Bills needed some help to make it into the postseason, relying on their win that pushed them to 9-7 in the regular season and a Baltimore Ravens loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite some serious issues and some questionable coaching — like the decision to bench Tyrod Taylor in favor of Nathan Peterman, who then went on to throw five interceptions in a single game — the Bills are right where they want to be.

Taylor has completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 2,799 yards, 14 touchdowns, and four interceptions. He’s also rushed for 427 yards and four touchdowns. He’s assisted by LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 1,138 yards and six touchdowns on the season.

Many Jaguars fans felt that Bortles wasn’t the answer at quarterback, but he’s played well this season. He’s completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,687 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.

I don’t believe any ownership effort has the 24 votes necessary to force out Goodell. I also don’t believe there are 24 votes to slash Goodell’s compensation right now. And however some owners feel about Goodell, it’s going to be hard in an era of huge NFL wealth to slash his compensation … particularly when the contract extension is going to cover the next labor negotiations, which could be hugely rancorous.

The Raiders still have to interview candidates and comply with the league’s Rooney Rule by talking to at least one minority candidate. But at this point, it seems like we’re getting a Jon Gruden sequel in Oakland — even if everyone’s still waiting for it to officially be greenlit.

Since drafting Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, the Steelers have a losing home record against two teams (including playoffs).

Cardinals give Adrian Peterson a home. It’s fair to question the sustainability of what Peterson did in his Arizona debut. After all, he went for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, after picking up just 81 yards on 27 carries in his four previous games as a Saint. And he’s 32 and closing in on 2,500 career carries. But it’s important to remember the situations in New Orleans and Arizona are different.wings_1406