NFL power rankings 2017: Tracking where teams are entering Week 7

With the NFL season nearing the halfway mark, the power rankings continue to see a major shakeup. With the Chiefs being the last unbeaten team to fall and several other teams suffering major losses, the rankings are nearly a free-for-all.

Butker jumped to the NFL as a Panthers’ 2017 seventh-round draft pick after four years as Georgia Tech’s top kicker. After rocky sophomore and junior campaigns, he finished his college career with a 15-17 performance as a senior to put himself on the NFL radar. He couldn’t beat out Graham Gano for the team’s primary role, but he landed on Carolina’s practice squad after a perfect preseason (two field goals, four extra points).

Opportunity knocked when the Chiefs placed Santos on injured reserve. Coach Reid, looking for a new field-goal specialist, turned to the former Yellow Jacket. Butker signed with Kansas City on Sept. 26, just five days before his pro debut. While he started off shaky by pushing his first NFL field-goal attempt wide left from 46 yards, he recovered in time to push his new team to a prime-time victory.

Through five games, the Patriots had yet to hold an opposing quarterback to fewer than 300 passing yards. Journeyman Jets passer Josh McCown was supposed to be the guy to break that streak — instead, he’s breaking New England.

McCown carved up the Patriots’ defense in the first half of their AFC East showdown, getting his team out to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter before New England stormed back in a 24-17 victory. Despite the loss, McCown managed to throw for 354 yards to keep the Pats’ ignominious streak alive.

The Atlanta Falcons were the only other undefeated team heading into Week 4, but they dropped down the list after a disappointing home loss to the Bills. Speaking of which, the Bills are 3-1 and surprising some people along the way.
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the Blazers are better than the team that was outscored by 43 points last season.

The Blazers are optimistic that Evan Turner, Lillard, and McCollum have worked out the kinks after an awkward start together. Lineups with all three outscored opponents by nine points per 100 possessions after mid-January, per NBA.com. Turner can handle, turning Lillard and McCollum into spot-up weapons, and all three can catch-and-go through tiny creases. Cramped spacing doesn’t do as much damage to teams with three playmakers who slither through those corridors in rapid-fire drive-and-kick sequences.

If the Nurkic Fever lasts, the Blazers are better than the team that was outscored by 43 points last season. That still might not be good enough in the West. Egads.

I might have PTSD from all those times the Bucks were bad when they were supposed to be good, and good when they were supposed to be bad.

If you narrow the focus to those special skills — Jokic’s passing and Curry’s shooting — Jokic still reigns supreme with respect to their peer groups. Jokic averaged 6.3 assists per 36 minutes last season, 174 percent greater than the league-average starting center. Conversely, Curry’s made 3s per 36 rated 120 percent greater than the league-average starting point guard. Point-center Nikola Jokic is truly a game-changer. Even if Jokic’s playmaking doesn’t rewrite the record books like Curry’s shooting has, the fact that only Russell Westbrook, James Harden and LeBron James had more triple-doubles last season is a testament to his ability to control all facets of the game.

Although the advanced metrics indicate that Jokic already is a superstar, all signs point to this being the season that public perception catches up. Of course, Jokic will have some more help this season in the form of four-time All-Star Paul Millsap.tigers_015-115x115

Redskins vs. Chiefs: Score, results, highlights from Monday night game in KC

Rookie kicker Harrison Butker delivered for the Chiefs with time running down against the Redskins on Monday night.

Butker kicked a tiebreaking 43-yard field goal with four seconds Authentic Tom Rathman Jersey left and the Chiefs added a defensive touchdown on the final play to secure a 29-20 victory over Washington at Arrowhead Stadium. The win moved Kansas City to 4-0 on the season.

Trevathan appealed the suspension and appeals officer and former Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks cut it in half. The suspension is for a violation of the league’s player safety rules as he flew in with a wicked helmet-to-helmet collision that left Adams unconscious on the Lambeau Field turf.

The Packers receiver had been stood up by Bears safety Adrian Amos after making a short catch on a third-and-goal from the 16-yard line in the third quarter of Green Bay’s 35-14 win.

Trevathan apologized for the hit after the game and reached out to Adams, who said the following day he is fine. Neither Bears coach John Fox nor Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy thought the hit was intentional and Adams could be in the lineup when the Packers face the Cowboys on Sunday.

What has gone right: With nine touchdowns passing and rushing in roughly 3 1/2 games, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has built a sizeable lead in the NFL Joel Ward Jersey Offensive Rookie of the Year race. Watson has wisely made DeAndre Hopkins (31 catches for 311 yards and two touchdowns) the league’s most targeted receiver.

What has gone wrong: Starting inside linebacker Brian Cushing was suspended for 10 games following a second PED violation. The special teams coverage units remain among the league’s worst.

Chiefs cheerleader obliterated by absent-minded sound guy running across field

I know working an NFL game is a high-pressure job, but surely you can at least watch where you’re running, right? This cheerleader was just doing her job and completed an impressive forward roll AND kept dancing only to get steamrolled.

We know sometimes football is so exciting you want to run through a brick wall, but there’s a time and a place.

Denver’s defense looks legit. It’s not a surprise that the Broncos defense is dominant, but it can be easy to forget after the team was 9-7 a year ago. With an improved Trevor Siemian at the helm of the offense, the Broncos are even more dangerous when the team can get an early lead.

After putting the Cowboys in a hole and emphasizing a stop of the run, the Broncos were able to take advantage of a one-dimensional Dallas offense.

The second-year quarterback finished with 238 passing yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. His second interception was returned by Aqib Talib more than 100 yards for a touchdown — the 10th of his career, making him the fourth player to ever reach that mark.

Coleman had an X-Ray on his hand after the Ravens’ 24-10 victory. The Browns never divulged any information concerning the injury, but they said Coleman will go though more tests on Monday.

It’s a low bar in Indianapolis these days.

The Patriots will try to take away the running game and force a rookie QB to beat them in the air from the pocket in that matchup. While the philosophy is always to blitz bad offensive lines to create five or more 1-on-1 matchups, Watson’s ability to extend plays in and out of the pocket makes me nervous about potentially taking players out of coverage.
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Packers not happy with how officials called pick plays in loss to Falcons

The Green Bay Packers weren’t happy with the officiating in their Sunday night game against the Atlanta Falcons — specifically when it came to pick plays.

Officials called tight end Martellus Bennett Preston Smith Jersey for offensive pass interference with 55 seconds left in the second quarter, wiping out a 36-yard gain by Randall Cobb. Two plays later, Aaron Rodgers threw an interception, giving the Falcons the ball at Green Bay’s 36.

“I don’t know how you call pass interference on that when Marty is running a drag route, Cobb runs a shake route, and Marty is looking back at me and gets run into,” Rodgers said.

If you still think the cavalry is coming with trades, in-season free-agent acquisitions or a massive re-shuffling of who plays where on the Giants’ offensive line, Schwartz squashed all of that talk:

“They can talk about scheming a lot of chips in but that’s not really Ben McAdoo’s offense. The way he schemes in a chip is throwing the ball as quick as possible. Possibly Brandon Williams Jersey he’ll have some new formations, some new ways to get the ball out really quick and that is how they fix the offensive line,” Schwartz said. “There’s no magic pill, they’re not inserting anybody. That’s reason why I think McAdoo has remained really positive toward Ereck Flowers publicly, because what are you going to do? You can’t threaten to bench him and then not do it, right, if he plays poorly. So you’re not going to threaten him. That’s where they’re at right now.

“They did not address the offensive line position in the offseason and this is the offensive line they have going forward.”

Schwartz addressed a variety of other Giants-related topics during our conversation. There will be one more post this week, likely about Eli Manning, that will include some of Schwartz’s observations. Click the player above to listen to the entire show.

the Falcons have a new stadium this season.

There are weaknesses. The Pats are thin at defensive end, where they’ll hope Trey Flowers continues to develop into an above-average pass-rusher. There’s not much depth along the interior of their offensive line. Everyone has problems, though, and the other 31 teams would kill to have New England’s minor issues as their most pressing concerns. The Patriots aren’t perfect. They might just be good enough, though, to finish with a perfect record.

Meanwhile, the Falcons have a new stadium this season. The early reviews are mostly positive (lots of additional info here), though there are some problems with the retractable roof, which won’t be able to open for at least the first few games of the season.

After eight seasons of having players wear pink accessories during October to raise awareness of breast cancer, the NFL is taking a more diversified approach this season. Teams will now be able to designate a specific anti-cancer initiative to promote during a three-week period in October. The Packers, for example, have announced that they’ll be raising funds for the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation. It’s not yet clear whether teams will wear colored accessories for these games, but the early indications are that they will not, at least for 2017. Additional info here.

Although there has been no official announcement, expect to see the league’s other well-established monthlong uniform promotion — camouflage trim to salute the military in November — rolled out once again.

There has also been no official announcement about a reprise of last year’s “My Cause, My Cleats” promotion, in which players were permitted to wear custom footwear designs devoted to various charities in Week 13. But that initiative was popular with players and fans, so it’s likely to be revived for 2017.hornets_023

‘NBA 2K18’ reveals soundtrack featuring big names like Kendrick Lamar, Damian Lillard

Video game publisher 2K Sports has successfully used soundtracks in recent years to reach larger audiences, leveraging popular musicians like Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams and DJ Khaled (plus the likes of LeBron James) to put their names on the box as curators of the playlists.

While there is no one in that position with “NBA 2K18,” the soundtrack offers a wide variety of current-day hits and blasts from the past that goes 50 songs deep.

Among the artists featured are Kendrick Lamar, Future, Drake, Pitbull, OutKast, Naughty by Nature, Def Leppard, Nas and even Trail Blazers star point guard Damian Lillard, who raps under the name Dame D.O.L.L.A. He actually has two songs in the game, with one of them hidden away to be unlocked through the game’s MyPlayer career mode.

The Chargers’ ability to give the Broncos fits in 2016 means it’s safe to assume their season-opening matchup is far from an easy win for Denver. It also will cost the Broncos at least day of preparation for their Week 2 showdown against the Cowboys. A cross-country trip to Buffalo isn’t exactly a comfortable way to end the first month of the season.

Denver’s annual home game against Oakland comes early in the season this year, a week before a bye the Broncos probably wish would have been scheduled later in the season. The break in the schedule at least will give the Broncos plenty of time to prepare for a primetime, home showdown against the Giants before they close the month on the road against the division-rival Chargers and Chiefs.

Gelbaugh was drafted by the Cowboys out of Maryland. He got a second NFL chance from the Bills out of the CFL and a third with the Cardinals after shining in Europe in the World League of American Football. The Seahawks got the worst out of him in 1992, when he went 0-8 as a starter. He rated only 52.9 as a passer, with a 47.5 completion percentage.pacers_022

Gurley barely got touched, which is rare for a man his size.

It’s hard to miss Gurley on the gridiron. He has the size of a linebacker, but he is faster than some receivers. When Gurley was a rookie, you could tell teams underestimated his speed due to his size. The Arizona Cardinals were one of those teams. Unfortunately for them, Gurley made them pay with this 52-yard scamper.

As you can see, Gurley barely got touched, which is rare for a man his size.

Speed is one of the most overlooked elements of Gurley’s game. No, he’s not as fast as Chris Johnson in his prime or LeSean McCoy, but he has the wheels to break off long plays. If Gurley sees a hint of daylight up front, he’ll burst through the hole quickly and get to the second level. It’s a rare blend of power and speed.

But the realistic answer is that the Ravens don’t actually want to upgrade their quarterback situation.

“Those are two different categories of players,” Harbaugh told reporters when asked about the Ravens signing Olson instead of Kaepernick.

“It has to do with our need. Joe is day-to-day,” he added.

It won’t be much longer until Flacco is ready to return to action in training camp. When he does, he’ll be the unquestioned starter for Baltimore with Ryan Mallett ready to back him up.

That’s a stable quarterback situation, regardless if it can be improved or not.

By signing Olson, the Ravens can have a third quarterback throwing passes in camp and maybe brew some competition with Dustin Vaughan for the third-string job. When Flacco is ready to return, it could mean the end of the road for Olson, unless he can show he brings more value than Vaughan.patriots_003-180x180

Lou Williams loving Rockets’ offense because ‘everybody eats’

Lou Williams went from flirting with the Western Conference cellar to a contender this week, and he couldn’t be happier.

The sweet-shooting guard was sent to Houston from the Lakers before Thursday’s trade deadline, and he enjoyed a fine debut scoring 27 points off the bench in a 129-99 win against the new-look Pelicans.

Williams praised his new teammates for allowing him to find a comfortable rhythm in the offense.

“It’s easy to play with these guys,” Williams said, via the Houston Chronicle. “It’s a very open style. Everybody eats. Everybody’s happy. It fits my style.”

James Harden had been criticized for his willingness to shoot, while sometimes seemingly forgetting he had other guys on his team. But this season’s move to point guard has seen the former shooting guard re-invent his career.

If Williams continues to find open looks, he could form a dynamic backcourt duo with Harden, one of the front-runners for league MVP.

Under D’Antoni, Harden has gone from averaging 7.5 assists per game to 11.2 assists per game. That’s a 49.3 percent increase over his previous career-high. Assuming D’Antoni could do the same for Wall, he’d go from averaging 10.7 assists per game to 15.9 assists per game.

That number is obviously insane. John Stockton holds the NBA record for the most assists per game in the regular season with 14.5. He then averaged 14.2 assists per game in the following season and 13.7 the season after that. Furthermore, the only other players in NBA history who have averaged at least 13.0 assists per game in a season are Magic Johnson, Kevin Porter and Isiah Thomas. And here we are talking about Wall blowing all of them out of the water by averaging 15.9 assists per game.
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Al Horford proves worth as Celtics take control of series

Al Horford couldn’t believe his luck. With 7:56 to play in the fourth quarter and the Celtics holding to a four-point lead in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference opening round, Horford was trying to keep up with Bulls center Robin Lopez out near halfcourt as Jimmy Butler attempted to inbound the ball. Butler made the pass to Lopez just as Lopez turned to cut inside, and the ball bounced innocently past the winking Celtics leprechaun logo.

Horford thought, “Don’t screw this up.”

He collected the ball just beyond the 3-point line, took one dribble and swept in for a dunk ahead of Butler’s pursuit. The locals erupted and momentum, which had been trickling toward Boston, rapidly swung the Celtics’ way. Horford’s dunk was part of a six-minute, 20-4 run that transformed a one-point deficit into a 15-point lead, which the Celtics were able to carry to a 108-97 win and a 3-2 series advantage Wednesday night.

The Cavs prioritized health over seed, choosing to sit their stars for key games in the final week of the regular season. They will see a Pacers team coming off a five-game winning streak to end the year. Something to note: LeBron James has made the NBA Finals all five times he has been a two seed.

Toronto locked up the No. 3 seed in the East early, so DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka didn’t play Wednesday night. Milwaukee wanted to have its squad at full strength as well, so coach Jason Kidd sat Giannis Antetokounmpo, Matthew Dellavedova and Tony Snell in a loss to the Celtics.

Much like the teams above, Washington and Atlanta were already comfortable in their spots before Wednesday, so the Wizards benched John Wall and Markieff Morris while the Hawks sat Dwight Howard, Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr.falcons_004