Weather could turn Lions-Giants matchup into defensive battle

Eddie Goldman Authentic Jersey Will Matthew Stafford’s right throwing hand negatively affect him against the Giants? Leon Halip/Getty Images
Throughout almost three seasons as the Detroit Lions’ head coach, Jim Caldwell has been able to keep his team remarkably focused. Yes, it’s clich¨¦ to mention just the next game over and over again, but somehow, Caldwell has defied human nature and gotten his team to buy in.

Steve McNair Limited Jersey “I hope you don’t think that I’m able to brainwash these guys where they don’t think for themselves and look at different scenarios and all that kind of stuff, because they do,” Caldwell said. ¡°But the fact of the matter is we have to keep them focused on what we can control. What I worry about is when those processes become a distraction, which they can become.”

Detroit has consistently gotten better as the season has gone on in each of Caldwell’s three seasons with the Lions but now they have their toughest three-game stretch of this season, starting Sunday against the New York Giants followed by games at Dallas and a home finale against the surging Green Bay Packers.

That focus, along with team unity, is part of the reason Detroit has a two-game lead in the NFC North with three games left despite a roster that has dealt with injuries to big names throughout the year and only one definitive star in quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Cold-weather gloves have more padding and are thicker than the standard gloves we see wide receivers, running backs and defensive backs wear. But they still aren’t warm enough, in my opinion. And no one wants to play the game with numb fingers. The solution? Put some thin, cloth gloves (like little kids wear) under game-issued gloves.

Sit your butt down on those heated benches and warm up that helmet. That’s key to playing in the cold.

The Bengals can run that seam route from a number of personnel groupings and formations

McCleod is now beat, and Eifert’s slow arching route up the numbers lands him in the vulnerable part of the zone. Easy money.

The Bengals can run that seam route from a number of personnel groupings and formations, though, and this “four verts” play against the Ravens is a great example. This is a throw that AJ McCarron can make — want to know how I know? This is AJ McCarron making this throw.

After motioning right to left, Eifert settles in behind Mohamed Sanu in the tight slot. He then runs another long, arching route as he widens out toward the numbers, and he finds himself in a soft spot in the zone.

This is not just a thought exercise. There are deadlines approaching, and hard choices for a small-market franchise that will have a tough time paying all five of its best players: Gobert, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, George Hill, and Rodney Hood. The Jazz face an urgent need for information about how those players fit.

Garret Sparks Elite Jersey “We still need to go through a process that we had hoped would be done by now,” Snyder now. “Derrick and Rudy would be the most obvious example.”
Elite Womens Mikko Koivu Jersey
Ah, Derrick and Rudy. The two bouncy behemoths have played 1,886 minutes together over the two-plus years since the Jazz excised Enes Kanter and stumbled upon a monster-movie defense that redefined the direction of the franchise. The results have been mostly good, even on offense, where the two can clutter the same real estate — and block driving lanes for their teammates.

With Favors eligible for a big-money extension now, six weeks after Gobert got his, the Jazz wish they had double that minutes sample to investigate. They really wish some of those minutes had come in the playoffs, so they would know whether those double-big lineups could squeeze out points against elite defenses primed for them.

Projected dollars, best fits for top free agents

This free-agent class, known as the 2017 class, is one of the weakest in recent memory, but it does have a couple of impact middle-of-the-lineup bats (Edwin Encarnacion, Yoenis Cespedes), a couple of shutdown closers (Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman), strong defensive catchers (Matt Wieters, Wilson Ramos, Jason Castro) and outfielders with speed/power tools (Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond). As such, we should have plenty of bidding and negotiating to track this offseason.

This year’s free-agent class is light on top-tier talent and depth, but there’s plenty of power to go around, including a few 40-homer guys.

But because of the weak class, one common theme I think we’ll see compared with previous years is that teams will offer fewer years but slightly more AAV (average annual value). Contracts that normally would be 6-8 years will now be 4-5 years, but clubs will pay more per year. Also, as MLB revenue continues to grow, player salaries should rise as well.

To that end, Nationals pitching coach Mike Maddux mentioned that he thinks Strasburg might opt for a tweaked between-starts throwing program in 2017.

“We’re going to sit down with him and discuss it,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said, noting that Strasburg had been in town to meet with the team’s medical staff and strength and conditioning staff.
Elite Womens Matt Prater Jersey
“Through spring training,” Rizzo added, “we’ll devise a workout program to handle the forearm soreness.”

Youth Sidney Crosby Jersey Strasburg will start his offseason throwing, as usual, in late December or early January. Until then, strengthening his forearm is key.

“I did stuff like that in the past, but it wasn’t as much as I’m doing right now,” Strasburg said. “When you get older and you’ve had Tommy John, you’ve got to kind of tweak it a little bit, because the muscles in your arm are just going to maybe change a little bit. I’ve just got to make more of an emphasis on slowing everything down and just making the most of the exercises.”

The Dallas Cowboys failed to cover the spread for the second straight game

The Dallas Cowboys failed to cover the spread for the second straight game, but are still an impressive 9-2-1 ATS and atop the NFL ATS Standings.

The Cowboys beat the Minnesota Vikings 17-15 in Week 13’s Thursday-night opener but were favored by 3 points. That came a week after beating the Washington Redskins 31-26 on Thanksgiving after closing as 6-point home favorites.
Dwayne Allen Authentic Jersey
The New England Patriots are half a game back at 9-3 ATS after covering as 13.5-point home favorites in their 26-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. The Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints are all 8-4 ATS. The Detroit Lions are the only other team above 60 percent at 7-4-1 ATS, as they’ve covered four straight games (tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the longest current cover streak).

D. J. Swearinger Limited Jersey True story: When Thomas got drafted and was leaving for the NFL, he decided he needed to settle all of his debts. The cable bill was in his name, so as he was packing, he told his roommate Ben Strickland that he owed $17.83 for the bill. Strickland was half asleep and thought his soon-to-be-millionaire friend was kidding, but the Badgers’ cornerback wrote the check just so he could go back to bed. “A couple of days later,” Strickland says, “I notice the check was cashed.”

He is not a man with wild thoughts or unrealistic dreams. Thomas doesn’t jet off to exotic places in the offseason. One of his favorite things to do is to work in his backyard garden. His dreams involve good health, a happy family and winning in the place he loves.

Strickland, now an assistant coach at Florida Atlantic, wonders whether Thomas is so determined not to miss a snap because it’s one of the only ways he can still compete. He is fighting his body, the wave of younger players and time. In a world in which so much is out of his hands, the playing streak is something Thomas can control, something he can dominate.

NFL playoffs 2016 schedule: Seahawks vs. Vikings, Packers vs. Washington wrap up Wild Card round

Kids Greg Zuerlein Jersey After the AFC took the stage on Saturday, it’s the NFC’s turn for some postseason football with the Seattle Seahawks taking on the Minnesota Vikings, and the Green Bay Packers traveling to face Washington.

Demar Dotson Authentic Jersey The tone was set early between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans when Chiefs return man Knile Davis returned the opening kickoff 106 yards to the house. The Chiefs would go on to win 30-0 — a score that may not indicate how lopsided the game really was. The night game was even wilder, replete with crazy catches, on-field scuffles, boneheaded penalties and an unbelievable ending that amounted to a 18-16 Pittsburgh Steelers win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Vikings are the division winners, the higher seed and the hosts of a Sunday wild card matchup, but most are picking the Seahawks to blaze right through Minnesota en route to the NFC Divisional round. While the Vikings have the better record at 11-5, the Seahawks finished 10-6 with wins in six of the last seven weeks of the season, including a 36-6 destruction of the Arizona Cardinals.

Seattle won’t have Marshawn Lynch to lean on though, and the Vikings are sure to give Adrian Peterson more touches than the eight he received in a 38-7 loss to the Seahawks in the first week of December. The Seahawks are No. 1 in rushing defense and No. 1 in scoring defense, but if any running back can find room and get some offense going against Seattle, it’s Peterson, who led the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns.

Washington didn’t wildly exceed expectations, but they did take advantage of a poor NFC East and took the crown that nobody else seemed to want. They finished atop the division at 9-7, making it through the regular season with four consecutive wins to pass the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.

They are set to host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, a slight favorite. Our panel is split on whether or not Washington can pull off the upset.

Packers send Cardinals to OT on preposterous 41-yard Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary

Authentic Youth Kevin Zeitler Jersey The Packers had already completed one miracle Hail Mary this season, but they added another and an even more impressive one against Arizona. Five seconds left, down by seven from the 41-yard line AND THAT HAPPENS.

The throw is even more incredible! Usually a quarterback is able to step into the throw on a Hail Mary. Not this time. Rodgers threw that while falling away from a defender.

That is the same strategy the Packers used against the Lions. The defenders just hang back too deep and let Jeff Janis come under it and make the catch. To make this even better, it was just the second touchdown of Janis’ career — and his first came earlier in the game.

It is reported that in the early hours of Jan. 10 in Foxborough, Mass., New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, had a bad reaction after smoking synthetic marijuana. He was told to go to the police and get help. The station was not too far from his house.

In an NFL run by me, referees would have the discretion to say NO THAT CATCH WAS TOO COOL TO WIPE OUT. But in the actual NFL, the penalties offset, so they replayed third down. No 51-yard catch, no penalties, no play at all.

To make matters worse, Cobb was injured on the play, and he’s out for the rest of the game.

Rodgers will probably keep trying to snap the ball while the opponent is in bad positions though — he’s pretty good at it.

That won’t be easy, though, considering the Seahawks had the No. 2 ranked defense in football this season. After an inconsistent start, Seattle’s D regained its championship form.
Authentic Austin Howard Jersey
The Seahawks have reached the Super Bowl in two straight seasons and seem poised to make a third run despite narrowly qualifying for the playoff as a wild card. But in order to do that, they’ll have to take down the upstart Panthers.

Show and tell: Steelers eye Giants WR who tips off plays

Once a week, a group of Pittsburgh Steelers defenders get with team scouts to scour the opposing team for tendencies — or, in some cases, telling signs.
Jason Garrison Limited Jersey
Safety Mike Mitchell, who organized the growing meeting, might learn from the scouts how a specific player struggles to get off jams or gets flustered easily.

For Sunday’s matchup against the New York Giants, Mitchell caught something specific with a New York playmaker.
Drew Stafford Authentic Jersey
“I can’t use the name, but there’s a receiver that you know where every time he touches his gloves, it’s a pass,” Mitchell said. “Got that from a scout. It’s 100 percent. Little things like that.”

Steelers safety Mike Mitchell meets with scouts each week to look at opposing teams’ tendencies. Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz are the Giants’ primary receivers.

In the short term, very little should change for the Patriots, who are huge favorites to win the AFC East. At 9-2, their closest competition is the 7-4 Dolphins, who have won six straight games with the past five coming by seven points or fewer. FPI gives the Patriots a 97.7 percent chance of winning their division, more than any other division leader. Even if their true team strength drops with Gronkowski and FPI can’t yet realize that, the Patriots have a two-game lead and the tiebreaker on the Dolphins with five games left.

This should really benefit the trio of contenders in the AFC West more than the Dolphins or Bills. The Patriots currently have a 68.5 percent chance of coming away with the top seed in the AFC, per FPI, even though their 9-2 record is identical to Oakland’s. The Raiders are in second at 22.8 percent, mostly thanks to concern about their end-of-season slate, with three road games to come against their AFC West brethren. If the Chiefs beat the Raiders next Thursday and move into first place in the West, they would suddenly be a threat to the Pats, given that the Chiefs would then be 7-2 in the conference, lurking just behind the Pats, who are currently 7-1 in those games.

The margin of error for everyone on the Patriots, actually, is dramatically reduced by the Gronkowski injury. An offensive line that has been better this year after the return of legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia needs to keep things up; right tackle Marcus Cannon, in particular, can’t revert to the guy who made Patriots fans groan before an impressive 2016 season. The Patriots’ pass defense, a dismal 28th in DVOA heading into this week, can’t allow the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick to post 115.2 passer ratings.

And of course, as it always does, it comes down to Brady to elevate his game without his best receiver around. As Chris Wesseling of NFL Network noted in November, Brady has been a superstar with Gronkowski and basically a league-average passer without him. Here are Brady’s numbers since Gronk entered the league in 2010 in games with and without his longtime tight end.

Sean Payton: Brandin Cooks with zero targets was ‘unusual’

Coach Sean Payton said he is “not concerned” about receiver Brandin Cooks’ apparent frustration with his role in the New Orleans Saints’ offense.

Cooks wasn’t targeted despite playing 45 snaps in the Saints’ 49-21 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. Cooks then made reference on Instagram to needing to become a “businessman,” and sources told ESPN that he has expressed growing frustration throughout this season — mostly over being used as a clear-out receiver instead of a primary option.

“Listen, Cooks is a real good football player, and we work extremely hard on these game plans,” Payton said Wednesday. “I’d say it’s a little unusual that we have a game where all of a sudden he’s not targeted. But the first play of the game is supposed to be his play, and we don’t get the right coverage look. We’ll keep working at finding those opportunities for him to get those touches.
Game Youth Toni Kukoc Jersey
Lewis is going through struggles of his own this year with the Bengals potentially heading toward one of their worst records in his 14-season tenure (he went 4-11-1 in 2008 and 4-12 in 2010).

“I think coaches work harder, turn over more stones, they become better coaches, better people when … you’re a touch off,” he said.

“When you’re winning, you’re doing the same thing, you’re just not questioned by the masses here. It doesn’t change your outlook on things. I think the players have a hard time wondering why you’re climbing up their butt when you’re winning. Now they won’t have to question that right now. That’s part of it. It’s what we are in professional sports.”

That’s all I can tell you. And then the next year after that, and the next year after that, some of those things that seem so insurmountable that first season, you realize you’re going to get through, things are going to work out and you’re going to find a way and it’s going to work well for you. I think that’s important in a tough season we all go through.”

Game Youth KeiVarae Russell Jersey

The Vikings could save $13 million in cash and against the salary cap in 2015 by releasing him

Hopefully that goes over well. It’s still exciting.”

He also seemed prepared for the Reshad Jones Authentic Womens Jersey idea of not wearing a New England uniform in 2015, though he admitted that scenario was the last thing on his mind while the Patriots were making their Super Bowl run last month.

At one point a Cleveland Browns beat writer asked him about Johnny Manziel and how last year’s must-see rookie quarterback’s first-year struggles will impact him. Winston waved it off, for one of the more refreshing moments of the 10-minute melee. He wasn’t worried about it, and reminded the audience that he was “not Johnny Manziel.” At least he wasn’t asked to “talk about” it.

The highlight of the whole affair came with just a few questions left on the clock when he reminded the huddle masses of pleated khakis about his weight.

“A lot of people thought I was fat, but I’m proving everybody wrong. I look good and I know it.”

The Vikings could save $13 million in cash and against the salary cap in 2015 by Ryan Tannehill Authentic Womens Jersey releasing him. Despite rumors over the weekend that the Vikings asked him to take a pay cut and that Peterson was seeking a trade to the Dallas Cowboys, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that neither was true.

In 2014, there wasn’t a defensive or offensive starter that ranked among the top-14 players in special teams snap counts, per Demovsky.

He’s dealt with multiple injuries that have slowed him down and he wound up being the No. 4 receiver on a middling Dolphins team in 2014. He caught just 29 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown last season, but should be able to find a backup job somewhere in the league at 27 years old.

The advanced metrics also gave him high marks, with Pro Football Focus rating him as the eighth-best safety in the league and giving him strong grades in coverage and against the run.

NBA shopping season is starting to warm up as Dec. 15 draws near

The passage of Thanksgiving does not typically spark a shopping frenzy in the NBA.

You’ll realistically have to wait another three weeks for that, until Dec. 15 hits and nearly 130 players who signed new contracts in the offseason become eligible to be stuffed into deals.

Yet there is a hint Laurent Duvernay-Tardif Authentic Womens Jersey of trade chatter in the air as November dribbles to a close. You wouldn’t describe it as anything super saucy yet, but there are players and situations to monitor. Such as:

Greg Monroe: Seven, zero, two and eight. Those are the minute totals Monroe logged in Milwaukee’s four games leading into Thanksgiving. The esteemed Zach Lowe and I had a good discussion on the Lowe Post podcast this week about the challenges in trading big men in the current market — specifically big men who are defensively challenged. The Bucks have explored the possibility of trading Monroe since last season’s deadline in February, which illustrates how hard it can be, but the limited role he has in Brewtown these days is akin to screaming that the 26-year-old is available.

Maybe it’s because Kerr lived on the periphery of so many rosters, and maybe it’s just best practices, but Kerr does intend to use everybody, even if it drives some fans crazy. It’s good for overall morale, and it’s insurance for when things go wrong and an understudy must step up.

Stephen Curry delivered a smooth, 34-point night after a rougher outing Len Dawson Authentic Womens Jersey Friday in Los Angeles. Again, Durant was casually excellent, this time to the tune of 28 points on 17 shots. Klay Thompson pitched in with 23 points on 17 shots. The trio did as they needed in Green’s absence, demonstrating how this superteam might differ from others: The Warriors can be down an All-Star and still look like the Warriors.

It requires everyone else to do their jobs, as happened on Saturday night, but it’s perhaps a unique advantage. The Warriors are better off having everyone, but they have so much and use so many, they can weather the moments when they don’t.