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UCLA, not Arizona, is generating all of the Pac-12 buzz

Jan
21

Or, to be more specific, this version of UCLA — the 2016-17, Lonzo-Ball-and-TJ-Leaf-led, sprint-the-ball-up-the-floor-and-do-something-like-this (!) UCLA — is irresistible.

The four letters on the jersey connote storied and glorious history, sure, but it has been a long time since a team that wore them had this much fun doing so. Steve Alford has put a very good offense on the Pauley Pavilion floor before (in his first season, in 2013-14). Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook proved a fairly effective pairing (believe it or not) at the height of former coach Ben Howland’s success.

Saturday — when No. 3 UCLA hosts No. 14 Arizona — will bring this dynamic into even starker relief, for two reasons.

The top of the Dodgers’ system rivals anyone’s. They have four top prospects whom you could legitimately give a 20 percent chance to become stars in the big leagues, although two are pitchers, one of whom has already blown out his elbow once and the other of whom struggled to throw strikes when he first signed.

They’ve put money into the international market, aiming for ceiling, and have been more conservative in the draft, looking for lower-floor guys early and taking fliers after the second or third round. The system has also gotten deeper in some ways but lost two elite guys to promotion last year — one of those won Rookie of the Year, you may have heard of him — and depth in the midyear trade that brought in Rich Hill and Josh Reddick.

There are systems that run deeper in likely regulars, because those teams have been able to focus just on building without having to balance that and contention, but for a team this good to have this kind of star potential in full-season ball is remarkable.

2015 NFL training camp schedules and locations

Jan
19

A new NFL season is upon us and the dead period will officially come to an end when players report to training camps that begin at the end of July and the beginning of August.

The preseason will start on Aug. 9 with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. After Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Bill Polian, Junior Seau, Will Shields, Mick Tingelhoff and Ron Wolf are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings will kick off the preseason on NBC.

Devin Taylor Authentic Jersey Just one month later, the 2015 regular season will officially begin with the New England Patriots hosting the Steelers on Sept. 10. For now, teams have a couple of weeks to prepare for their first preseason games of the year.

Will Andrew Luck take the torch from Tom Brady and put together a run of three or four championship seasons? Will it be Russell Wilson leading the Seahawks back to the promised land two or three more times? Will it be Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning or Big Ben going back to the show multiple times? Will any one team manage to find sustained success on the highest level in this parity-driven, salary-capped league?

The starting point for such a projection is mapping out the criteria necessary to put together consistent Super Bowl caliber teams. The first few things I jotted down for my list, keeping in mind the dynasties of the past, were:
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It’s pretty clear that having a highly talented signal caller is an important common denominator for every dynasty in NFL history. So too is the presence of a visionary head coach. I’d throw in a strong defense as a prerequisite to consistent success at that level, and having a front office and owner that work in concert with the team’s coaching staff to build a team and support and develop the players is hugely important as well.

Monday was the deadline for college underclassmen to declare for the 2017 NFL draft

Jan
17

Monday was the deadline for college underclassmen to declare for the 2017 NFL draft. In making the decision to forgo their final year of eligibility, some cited league assurances that they would be selected in the top two rounds.

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, for example, said he received a first-round grade from the NFL — despite a yearlong suspension for assault in 2014 — before filing his paperwork.

Jay Feely Womens Jersey Where do these grades come from? Who issues them? And how accurate are they?

et’s take a closer look at the NFL’s College Advisory Committee (CAC), which provides free evaluations for up to five players per school in every draft season. The advice isn’t always heeded, and it’s not 100 percent accurate, but it still serves as important third-party information.

In a recent telephone conversation, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said the ultimate goal of the program is to “provide the best information for the student-athletes to make an informed decision.”

Jaquiski Tartt Womens Jersey If nothing else, it is a credible tool for players and their advisers to cross-reference with information and projections they’ve heard elsewhere.

In late October, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers came to Atlanta. Rodgers has always been Ryan’s measuring stick, as Montana was for Young, and it always ate at Ryan that Rodgers came of age in a 2011 playoff win at Ryan’s expense. This time, though, Ryan fit a bomb between two defenders for a touchdown to third-string receiver Taylor Gabriel in the first quarter. And in the fourth, Ryan threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu with 31 seconds left. It has taken years, but it’s no stretch to say that, right now, Ryan has realized that being a truly elite quarterback is not about trying to be the next Montana or the next Rodgers. It’s not about deciphering every defense. It’s not about folding his hands into origami as the play clock winds down to check into the perfect play. It’s about unlocking what’s already ingrained in him.

Shazier¡¯s pick increased the Steelers¡¯ chance of winning by 13.5 percentage points

Jan
15

Below are win probability charts that help tell the story of every game in the 2016 NFL postseason. The most recent charts will be added to the top of this post shortly after games conclude. Check back for a look at the biggest moments of the playoffs.

Win probability measures the chance that a team will win a game, given a particular combination of circumstances, including score, time remaining, field position and down and distance. Win probability is based on a model built on actual outcomes of NFL games from recent seasons that featured similar circumstances.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger¡¯s biggest pass of the game was the seven yarder to Antonio Brown that clinched the win just after the two minute warning. But what was his second-most important pass?

While Bell delivered the lion’s share of the Steelers’ offense, kicker Chris Boswell provided all of Pittsburgh’s points, booting an NFL playoff-record six field goals.

“It’s just about doing my job,” Boswell said. “Coming out here, put it through the yellow pipes. Don’t really think too much. Don’t think like I’m the guy or anything. I’m just doing my job and doing my one-eleventh for the team.”
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Bell is one of four players in NFL history with back-to-back playoff games of at least 150 yards, according to Pro-Football Reference. He joins Franco Harris (1975), Marcus Allen (1984) and Terrell Davis (1999).

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told Bell before the playoffs he would be the Steelers’ workhorse, similar to Davis in the late 1990s for the Denver Broncos.

Roethlisberger was right.

Limited Mens Tavon Rooks Jersey Bell outgained the Chiefs’ entire offense (150 yards) through three quarters.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

6 things to know about Jarryd Hayne’s journey from rugby league MVP to NFL rookie

Jan
13

For months now, we’ve been hearing whispers about Jarryd Hayne, the 49ers’ newest recruit. Only it hasn’t been about his supreme athletic form or his speed. Hayne, if you haven’t heard, isn’t from around these parts. Rather, the 6-foot-2 running back hails from Australia, and forged a successful career playing rugby league. Then, he decided to make a leap across continents and sports.

NFL fans can now finally get a glimpse into what Australia, England and New Zealand have known all along: Hayne is a hardworking, passionate athlete who deserves your full attention.

A near-death experience turned his life around.

Hayne wasn’t always Australia’s golden boy. In 2008 he lived a (self-described) “rockstar” lifestyle in Sydney. That party lifestyle almost resulted in him being shot in a nightclub.

Marshall’s support comes one day after Jets head coach Todd Bowles admonished Smith for playing catch too soon after the surgery.

“He shouldn’t be doing it right now,” Bowles said. “He just had surgery. You don’t want it getting infected.”

Smith is expected to be out 6-10 weeks, and the certain members of the Jets don’t seem all that upset about it. Star cornerback Darrelle Revis said last week he holds both Enemkpali and Smith responsible for the fight, and left guard Willie Colon said it was a “smooth groove” when Ryan Fitzpatrick was under center in New York’s 23-3 loss to the Lions Thursday.

With the exception of Marshall, Smith seems to be facing indifference inside his own locker room, and criticism outside of it. ESPN analyst Cris Carter was quick to blame Smith for the fight last week, and NFL Network commentator Willie McGinest said he would have given Enemkpali, who’s now with the Bills, a contract extension.

Meanwhile, in Jets Land, Bowles made his team run gassers over the weekend following two skirmishes in practice.

In Smith’s absence, it appears as if the J-E-T-S haven’t skipped a beat.

The Oakland Raiders finished the regular season with the No. 6-ranked total offense in the NFL

Jan
13

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The Oakland Raiders finished the regular season with the No. 6-ranked total offense in the NFL and scored the seventh-most points in the league, as quarterback Derek Carr ascended into the NFL’s MVP conversation before suffering a broken fibula in Week 16.

Mens Connor McDavid Jersey Despite the Raiders going 12-4, claiming a wild-card spot in their first playoff showing since 2002 and their oft-prolific showing when they had the ball, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will not be retained after his contract expired, sources told ESPN’s Adam Caplan, confirming an NFL.com report.

A source told Caplan that Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio told the rest of his staff Tuesday afternoon that quarterbacks coach Todd Downing has been promoted to offensive coordinator. Sources told ESPN that at least two head-coaching candidates were interested in Downing for their offensive coordinator vacancies. It is not known if Del Rio took that into consideration when deciding to promote Downing.

Heading into last season’s finale, Smith left open the possibility that he could return, saying he was “89 percent sure” he was retiring. Then, after the 27-10 loss at Cincinnati on Jan. 1, he essentially took his final bow when he said, “I enjoyed it, but it’s over and it’s done.”

Smith is one of the fiercest competitors in the NFL and came back last season after announcing his retirement before the 2015 season. Toward the end of last season, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Smith was absolutely welcome to come back and wide receiver Mike Wallace tried to get Smith to delay retirement another year.

Despite being the NFL’s oldest receiver, Smith didn’t show much decline in his game. Last season, Smith finished third on the team with 70 catches, second with 799 yards receiving and first with five touchdown catches.

The Seahawks were road underdogs in their matchup with the Bengals

Jan
09

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A “high-ranking official” for the Falcons told the Journal-Constitution that a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport of trade inquiries was untrue. While Rapoport said three teams called the Falcons with interest in White, the official said that the team received no calls and planned on keeping the four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.

With Jones continuing to deal with hamstring issues and Hankerson suffering from a rib injury that happened in Week 5, White is as valuable to the Falcons offense now as he’ll likely be all season. Still, he will also probably remain a subject of rumors until the trade deadline on Oct. 28.

Of note, Charles suffered a left ACL tear in Week 2 of 2011, underwent surgery and returned to his old form the next season. If he has indeed torn the right ACL this time, there is no reason to believe he won’t have a similar outcome in 2016.

Game Kids Brian Boyle Jersey Remember when the Bears were sure shots for the No. 1 pick, ditching players in a fire sale and tanking on the season? Well, that talk has died down for a bit, and after winning their second straight game, they continue to move up in our rankings. Jay Cutler might have some fans in Chicago before it’s all said and done.

Falling down:

The Seahawks were road underdogs in their matchup with the Bengals, so it’s not totally surprising they lost to a tough team. It’s the way they did it — blowing a 17-point fourth-quarter lead — that really sets them back in our rankings. Seattle, for the briefest of moments in the third quarter, looked like the Super Bowl team we’d seen the last two years, but once again it couldn’t close out the game, and lost in overtime. It was the Seahawks’ third blown fourth-quarter lead this season, and adding in the Super Bowl loss, a troubling pattern.

There are reasons to believe the jump in scoring is a random, self-correcting blip

Jan
07

Bobby Hebert Authentic Jersey Those Raptors have enjoyed pristine roster continuity even while the cap spike sent players flying around the league. It takes time to develop chemistry. A very good team that already has it can prey on weaklings integrating a bunch of new guys learning a new defensive scheme.
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We’ve also hit a rare point at which no one is tanking. Add a few self-saboteurs to the mix, and the league’s overall scoring average might drop toward normalcy. (That is uncertain, since the other teams might puff up their own scoring numbers by blowing away the tank brigade.)

In other words: There are reasons to believe the jump in scoring is a random, self-correcting blip.

Wall did not play in two of the games in which the Wizards dropped below 56 percent assist rate, which points to a second issue with the Wizards, one that compounds the first. The Wizards’ bench plays very little. Washington’s starters all average over 30 minutes per game – of the 143 players in the NBA averaging between 20 and 30 minutes a game this season, none play for the Wizards). No Wizards reserve has a value over replacement player that is positive.

Not only are there no real contributors coming off the bench, none of them have assist rates above 20 percent. When Wall is on the floor, the Wizards have an assist rate of 59 percent, and that drops to 49 percent when he is off. None of the players coming off the bench with more than 300 minutes have a team-level assist rate over 55 percent — when Wall is out of the game, the ball really doesn’t move.

The Wizards need to find a way to keep the ball moving more consistently on offense, and that likely means finding a backup point guard who can run an offense and minimize the isolations.

Firing Fred Hoiberg would be another Bulls mistake

Jan
04

The Bulls are 16-18, a half game out of the No. 8 seed in the East. Chicago has the No. 18 offense and the No. 13 defense. They are mediocre in every sense.
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The preseason concerns have come home to roost: The Bulls are dead last in effective field goal percentage, dead last in three-point percentage, and the only team in the NBA taking fewer than 20 threes per game. (For comparison¡¯s sake, the Rockets are taking a hair under 40.) Less than a quarter of the Bulls¡¯ shots come from beyond the arc (league¡¯s lowest mark) and less than a fifth of their points come from there (league¡¯s lowest mark).

Assuming that dollar figure will be somewhere in the $6-7 million per year range, similar to deals for other young stars like Mark Scheifele and Johnny Gaudreau, and that the salary cap stays at the same level as it was for this season, that still leaves about $17 $16 million to sign a backup goaltender, one defenceman (Nathan Beaulieu is one option, as a restricted free agent this summer) and two forwards.

Despite the protests of the refs and some players, L2Ms aren¡¯t going to disappear. They are, in all likelihood, going to expand. This should prove that NBA referees are really damn good at their jobs, and it should reinforce that eternal sporting lesson that even the best in the world mess up sometimes. They are humans, after all.
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But that waiting game only comes into play if the Twins don¡¯t get an offer that they like this week. The Los Angeles Dodgers have been the frontrunner for Dozier for the better part of a month now, and they¡¯re still the option that makes the most sense. According to Neal¡¯s article, the Twins would want a trade to include young right-handed pitcher Jose de Leon along with another of the team¡¯s top prospects.

Elliott spoke a similar tone in talking to reporters on Wednesday

Jan
02

During the week, Prescott and Elliott were strongly against the idea of the Week 17 game being meaningless.

“No game is meaningless,” Prescott said. “There’s quality reps against a quality opponent that’s in our division that we’ll play for years to come that I’ll face off against. So any reps that I can get against a good team to make myself better to get some momentum going into the playoffs, I’ll take it.”

Elliott spoke a similar tone in talking to reporters on Wednesday.

“You guys say ‘meaningful games,’” Elliott said. “Every game is meaningful. It may not matter if we win or lose, but it matters in the total grand scheme of things. We’re trying to stay sharp so we can go into these playoffs like a high-octane machine. We’re not looking at them as games that aren’t meaningful. Every game is meaningful.”

Prescott and Elliott also indicated that they would be preparing for the week just as they did for the first 16 weeks of the season. Both said that they had not been informed of lesser playing time or any change in the game plan. The team has had a great rhythm, and that’s something that Jason Garrett has said he doesn’t want to disrupt.

Surely Prescott wouldn’t mind seeing Sanchez get in the game and do well. Sanchez has been a good mentor this season for Prescott, as indicated by Prescott himself:

The other clinching team is the New England Patriots, who shook off a two-game skid with a 27-6 thumping of the Houston Texans. The Patriots also reclaimed the top seed in the AFC after the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals stumbled earlier on Sunday.

So what should these four teams this week do?

The examples of the Colts and Saints are why the Giants and Steelers should rest their starters this weekend, two teams with franchise quarterbacks who have been there and done that. The quarterback is the most important position and theirs are playoff tested, having each won a pair of Super Bowls.