Month: December 2016

The Boston Red Sox were the AL East’s top team in 2016

The Boston Red Sox were the AL East’s top team in 2016, and after adding Chris Sale this offseason, they should be the favorites again in 2017. Can the Toronto Blue Jays or Baltimore Orioles keep pace, or will the New York Yankees move back into contention behind some of their young talent? What has to happen for the Tampa Bay Rays to get back in the mix in the division?

There are still a huge number of free agents available, but let’s look at the AL East and where each team stands right now in its hunt for the 2017 postseason (teams are listed in the order they finished in last season’s AL East standings).

Elite Womens Michael Burton Jersey The production crew that has been documenting his final season is back at the hotel. This is the third consecutive year he’s had this crew filming his every move. At first, it was around to film the documentary he produced for Showtime, “Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” which aired in February 2015. This year, Kobe is paying the crew out of his own pocket to document the final throes of his career.

The Lakers and the NBA have given Kobe’s crew unprecedented access. Anywhere Kobe is, his crew can go — the training room, team charters, the crew members could probably follow him into the showers like Ron Artest did after the Lakers lost the 2008 NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics.
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If anything, the Rockets do understand that — regardless of how well James Harden (32 points and 12 assists Monday) plays — their defense can push them to bigger things overall and allows the offense to flow more effectively.

D’Antoni is correct that the second half got away from the Rockets, particularly the fourth quarter, when Harden sat and the Suns outscored Houston 35-24. When the game meant something in the first half, the Rockets controlled it throughout and never lost the lead.

The fact that the Wolves were one of 10 teams scheduled to play on Christmas Day

Womens Chris Archer Jersey The greatest mistake of Bud Selig’s time as baseball’s leader occurred in 2006, when he commissioned George Mitchell to investigate Major League Baseball’s steroid era. For the cost of about $20 million, Mitchell generated what was mostly a cut-and-paste job of previously published confessions and revelations. After reading the report, one baseball executive drolly noted that an office supply store could’ve put together something similar at a much lower cost.
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The former senator did contribute some original work, using his ties to law enforcement to strong-arm former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski into revealing titillating new details.

But in the end, the lasting impact of the Mitchell report was to cast the names of 86 players to the public mob to be tarred and feathered without respect to context.

Most rival executives expect the Magic to rank among the league’s most active teams between now and the Feb. 23 trade deadline; Nikola Vucevic, Mario Hezonja and Elfrid Payton have all been rumored to be in play. Orlando, though, is quietly 11-8 against sub-.500 teams, which actually ranks as the East’s best record among the seven clubs in the conference currently outside the top eight.

The Magic, in other words, are holding their own against teams of the same standard in their bid to sneak into the postseason.

The fact that the Wolves were one of 10 teams scheduled to play on Christmas Day — for the first time in franchise history — tells you everything you need to know about the sort of expectations outsiders had for this team coming into the season.

Drew Brees will play vs. Jaguars in Week 16 despite torn plantar fascia

Elite Kids Ryan Getzlaf Jersey The New Orleans Saints will have quarterback Drew Brees active and in the starting lineup for a Week 16 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, despite a painful foot injury, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Brees suffered a torn plantar fascia in his right foot in the Saints’ Week 15 loss to the Detroit Lions and Rapoport said that sources have told him it’s a wonder he’s walking, let alone continuing to play. Brees was injured in the second quarter but performed well in the Saints’ loss to the Lions, throwing three touchdowns in the second half despite the fact that he was throwing off of his injured foot.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Norman will also appeal his punishment and plans to contend that he was provoked by Beckham and “facemasked him to get him away.”

Authentic Womens Jay Novacek Jersey Norman comes out of the unhinged but entertaining battle between the two looking better, but the NFL felt he did enough himself to warrant punishment. Norman did target Beckham on the ensuing play after the completely inexcusable helmet-to-helmet hit from the Giants receiver. Retaliation is never a good excuse for going after someone in the NFL, and the league wants to make this clear.

Norman didn’t receive a punishment for having a baseball bat on the field in pregame warmups, which reportedly set off Beckham and started the heated battle between the two Pro Bowl players. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has since said that his players are no longer allowed to carry the bat on to the field anymore.

Collins took over as the starting left guard in 2015

Limited Kids St. Louis Cardinals Jersey Smith was even able to move the most powerful and stubborn guy in the NFL: Jones. Smith made the Pro Bowl three times in his first five seasons, and his success helped persuade the Cowboys — and Jones — to take Frederick out of Wisconsin with the 31st overall pick in 2013, a move that was widely criticized.

Since then, Frederick has become an immovable force at the bottom of the pocket, a presence that has allowed Prescott, when pressured on the edge, to step up cleanly, keep his eyes downfield and deliver the ball on target. Frederick also makes the pre-snap reads and blocking calls that are key to the Cowboys’ zone-blocking scheme.

“I felt like regardless of how our defense was playing, if we could set the tone offensively, vis-a-vis it would help out the defense, give them a little confidence when they took they field that they’re not behind or against the field position every single time, as they were many times in that four-game stretch.”

Rodgers has certainly done his part. In the past four games, he has completed 70.7 percent of his passes, has seven touchdowns and no interceptions with a passer rating of 114.5.

That completion percentage ranks fourth in the NFL over this stretch and his passer rating first. He’s the only quarterback in the league to play in multiple games since Week 12 and not throw an interception. Only two other quarterbacks have 4-0 records in this stretch: Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
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And Rodgers is the only one to do it while playing with two separate leg injuries — a strained right calf and a pulled left hamstring.

Can Toledo’s Logan Woodside carve through Appalachian State’s defense?

Limited Cam Fowler USA Jersey Given how Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler had been playing this season, his benching on Sunday wasn¡¯t that surprising.

Osweiler got hooked after throwing two interceptions on his first 11 pass attempts. The Texans survived that and won behind backup quarterback Tom Savage.

Griffen also committed a neutral-zone infraction that gave the Colts a first down on third-and-5. Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford got picked off by Mike Adams, and the Vikings’ defense was dissected by a Colts offense that was content to keep Minnesota in its base personnel, run the ball and exploit throwing windows over the middle.

It’s not the most one-sided defeat of Zimmer’s tenure with the Vikings, but given what was at stake, it might be the most unnerving. And as the Vikings head to Green Bay next week for a date with a Packers team that has won four straight, they have more questions than answers.

Will Peterson — who didn’t play most of the second half after gaining 22 yards on six carries — see the field again this season? Should the Vikings push to get Harrison Smith back for the Packers game, as they’d initially hoped to do? What caused such a collapse in a game in which the Vikings still had everything to play for?
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The Vikings will be asked many of those questions this week, and they’ll have plenty of questions to pose on themselves, too. A season that began with championship aspirations — which seemed to persist even after injuries to Teddy Bridgewater and Peterson — is officially on the brink.

Former Colts general manager Bill Polian’s name has been connected to jobs in Chicago and elsewhere recently

Former Colts general manager Bill Polian’s name has been connected to jobs in Chicago and elsewhere recently. Polian laughed at that this week and said, “There is no job and I’ve spoken to no one on any team about anything.” There is nothing close or in the works.

What a year for Patriots special-teams standout Nate Ebner. First he competed for the U.S. rugby team in the Olympics in Rio, now he leads the NFL in special-teams tackles. He is vying to become the rare athlete to participate in the Olympics and the Pro Bowl in the same season.

“You guys are all going to be successful in life,” the man said, “no matter if it’s here or anywhere else.”

That’s when it hit Vinatieri. He understood that military academies broke down people before shaping them into warriors. “But I kind of like who I am,” Vinatieri told himself. “I’m not sure I want to give up my individuality at this point. I’ve worked my butt off to become who I am, and now you’re trying to tear it down.”

Game Youth Will Lutz Jersey He returned to Rapid City and found an older brother who was angrier than any commanding officer might be 1,700 miles to the east. Adam idolized Chad, a superior athlete, and Chad couldn’t believe his kid brother was already back home. The Vinatieris don’t quit anything, never mind the United States Military Academy.

“You had an opportunity that none of the rest of us ever had,” Chad told him. “I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough to be there, and you were. And you just pissed it away.”

Adam absorbed the withering critique from his big brother and stood his ground. “I’ve proven everybody else wrong all these years,” he told himself. “I’ll prove [everybody] wrong again.”
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When a deal eventually is worked out, as it likely will be, it would make Bell among the highest-paid running backs — a distinction that currently belongs to Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, who signed a six-year, $85.28 million contract in September 2011.

Quarterback Drew Brees has just one year left on his contract

New Orleans enjoyed its most successful run in franchise history under Payton, reaching the postseason five times and capturing its first ever championship with a Authentic Youth Minnesota Twins Jersey 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl 44. Payton holds the highest winning percentage of any head coach in team history as well.

New Orleans’ run of three straight seasons with double-digit wins came crashing to an end in 2012 when Payton was suspended for the entire year due to the Bountygate scandal. The NFL determined Payton knew about the alleged bounty scheme and attempted to cover it up. The four Saints players who were suspended for their supposed role in the scandal had their punishments vacated by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

The Saints bounced back in 2013, going 11-5 with a perfect 8-0 record at home. They advanced to the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs before being eliminated by the Seattle Seahawks, who went on to win the Super Bowl.

Osweiler hasn’t led the Broncos to an explosive, high-scoring offense, but he has protected the football much more than Manning, who had a disastrous year from that standpoint. The Broncos will win the AFC West if they beat the Chargers on Sunday, though they could also clinch with a loss by the Kansas City Chiefs.

A win for the Broncos Game Brad Richardson Jersey over the Chargers, who are well out of the playoff race at this point, will also give them the No. 2 seed in the conference and a first-round bye in the postseason. If the New England Patriots manage to lose to the Miami Dolphins and Denver wins, the Broncos will grab the top seed and seal home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Experts aren’t exactly split on Sunday’s game, though there are a couple siding with the Chargers. Over at CBS Sports, seven of the eight analysts think the Broncos will win, with Jason La Canfora picking the Chargers. Here at SB Nation, it’s a similar spread. Six of the seven panelists, plus the OddsShark Computer, think the Broncos take it. Only Matt Ufford is sticking with San Diego.

Rebuilding White Sox should think about keeping Jose Quintana

The perception of some of Rick Hahn’s peers is that he wanted to start rebuilding long ago, perhaps as far back as before the trade deadline in 2015, given the needs of the Chicago White Sox. They sensed that the general manager wanted to take advantage of Chris Sale¡¯s value in the trade market, to retool and rebuild and, most important, get the White Sox out of the dreaded no-man’s land — the place of teams not quite good enough to seriously contend but with enough talent to be mediocre.

Hahn hauled the franchise out of that place this week, with two big trades of impactful veterans that drew compliments from his peers, and the White Sox already are deep into the marketing of the player currently regarded as their most valuable asset: starting pitcher Jose Quintana. The left-hander, who turns 28 in January, has thrown 814 1/3 innings over the last four seasons, with a 3.35 ERA, despite pitching his home games in the hitters’ haven that is the White Sox home park.

To sum it up: Quintana is really good with virtually no risk, and at the moment, he is the most coveted pitcher in the market.

With Sale, the Red Sox are more likely to win 93 games again, more likely to make the playoffs and thus more likely to win the World Series. With Eaton in the outfield, the Nationals believe they have a better chance of running down the Cubs. Every team is searching for and finding the small edges: shifting, pitch framing, spin rates, exit velocity and on and on, down to new sabermetric studies on things like nutrition, team chemistry and work ethic.
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Elite Youth Kendall Wright Jersey But Chris Sale isn¡¯t a small edge; he¡¯s a big edge. Yes, in five years maybe Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech are starting in the All-Star Game. But finding an advantage in today¡¯s game isn¡¯t as simple as searching minor league numbers for hitters with a good on-base percentage or playing your second baseman 10 feet to his left.

Everybody has the data. Not every GM has the courage to risk making a trade that could get him fired.

The Browns have allowed at least three passing touchdowns in three of their past four

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Others receiving votes: Dec. 6, 2015, was the last time Eli Manning didn’t throw for at least 350 yards or multiple touchdowns in a home game. I expect more of the same against a banged-up Cowboys secondary that has shown some leaks recently. … The Browns have allowed at least three passing touchdowns in three of their past four, and Andy Dalton has more than 15 fantasy points in four of six road games this season, so despite the injuries, the Red Rifle is usable in a solid QB2 sort of way. … I know, I know. Colin Kaepernick killed you last week.

But if you somehow survived it, I’m back on board. Even when you include last week’s stinker, he’s fourth in total QB fantasy points over the past five games, and he’s home with good weather against a Jets D traveling cross country on a short week in a season they seem to have given up on. It’s worth noting the two mobile QBs the Jets have faced, Tyrod Taylor and Russell Wilson, have averaged 24 points against them.

Kirk Cousins, Redskins: A common question I got on Twitter when the initial ranks came out was, “Would you really start Kirk Cousins over Tom Brady?” Hey, I get the question and would certainly understand it if you didn’t want to go there. But since Week 8, no team has allowed more total QB points (and the fourth-most QB points per game) than the Philadelphia Eagles.

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride this season for Russell Wilson in fantasy, but he’s got a good matchup in Green Bay this week.

Albert McClellan Jersey Russell Wilson, Seahawks: I know, I know. Wilson has been shaky this season on the road, but current weather forecasts have this game as simply cold and partly cloudy but not a snowstorm or anything, and this is a pretty good matchup. The Packers have allowed more than 22 points a game to QBs the past four weeks, including games against Carson Wentz and Brock Osweiler, and while Wilson’s fantasy point totals have been inconsistent, he has thrown for more than 270 yards in four of his past five games. He’s also averaging nearly 10 yards a carry the past two games, so I expect a high floor for Wilson with obvious upside.

Del Rio is only the third Raiders head coach in franchise history to have played significant time in the NFL

This isn’t really a huge game in terms of the playoff picture for the Cowboys; they already have clinched a playoff spot and are overwhelming favorites to win the NFC East. Their chances of winning home-field advantage in the NFC would rise from 93 percent to 98 percent with a victory, but even if they lose, they would have a 95 percent chance of winning the division and an 85 percent chance of staying home in Dallas throughout January. Dallas would need to lose two more games to be in any serious threat of missing out on the divisional crown.

The experience has caught the players’ attention.

Drew Stanton Game Jersey Del Rio is only the third Raiders head coach in franchise history to have played significant time in the NFL or AFL, along with Shell and Flores.

“Sometimes you get some coaches that have never played,” Condo continued, “and then some players know that and then they start second-guessing, ‘Who’s this guy? He’s never stepped on the field in his life.'”

Not so with Del Rio’s staff.

“You talk about cool dudes?” Mack mused. “All throughout the staff, former players who just know how it’s supposed to feel, how it’s supposed to be and the energy that’s supposed to be around the football team is exactly what they brought.”
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What is likely to be the first matchup in the to-be-legendary series between Tom Brady and Trevor Siemian could determine whether the Patriots end up with the top seed in the AFC. The Raiders currently hold the top seed in the conference by virtue of the strength of victory tiebreaker, but the Patriots don’t play in the brutal AFC West, which is why they have a 50 percent crack at coming away with the top seed (the Raiders are at 35 percent).