December 2016

It’s that time again in the NFL season, time to play the “should ____ rest their starters in this meaningless Week 17 game?” Heading into this week, there are exactly two spots remaining for the playoffs, but there’s plenty of work left for seeding. Here’s where it stands.

In the NFC, Dallas is locked into the No. 1 seed. Atlanta and Seattle have won their divisions and are in. With a win Sunday, Atlanta would wrap up the two seed, followed by Seattle, the NFC North winner (Packers or Lions), the Giants in the fifth spot, and a frantic finish for the sixth spot between the loser of the NFC North and Washington, with Tampa having less than a 1 percent chance of making it.

In the AFC, the six spots are secured. Division winners New England, Pittsburgh (third seed), and Houston (fourth seed) are in, as well as Oakland and KC, and Miami. The only drama here is the first seed and the AFC West. If the Patriots win, they are the first seed. The winner of the AFC West will secure the second seed and a first-round bye. If Oakland wins and New England loses, the Raiders get the top seed.

So there are four teams who have the option of resting starters: the Cowboys, Giants, Steelers, and Texans. As usual, with any important decision, there are plenty of factors to take into account. I’ve been a part of two games, one with a team that was resting and another playing against a team resting its starters. I’ll get into my experiences as well.

After a weekend where two starting quarterbacks, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota, broke their legs, it would scare any team that this could happen to them. However, there is no evidence that injury likelihood goes up in Week 17. Injuries are always a risk and part of the game, but I get where this would be the top factor.

How well the is team functioning on either side of the ball is a harder thing to judge because it’s on a team-by-team basis. If you’ve made the playoffs but are struggling on one side of the ball, getting reps in Week 17 may help correct some issues.

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Game Womens Ryan Goins Jersey They’re 9-5, have won three games in a row and have scored 30 or more points in their last six contests. All that hasn’t allowed that Pittsburgh Steelers to clinch a playoff spot yet, but they’re getting close.

First up will be their Sunday trip to Baltimore, where they’ll take on a depleted 4-10 Ravens team that will either be starting Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Mallett or Matt Schaub (Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to announce who will get the nod). Pittsburgh can clinch an AFC Wild Card spot with a win coupled with a Jets loss.

Last time these two teams met in Week 4, the Ravens won on the road in overtime, 23-20. This time around, the game is in Baltimore, where the Steelers have also lost nine of their last 12 games.

With playoff football a lock, Washington will look to exorcise one more franchise demon — its inability to beat the Seattle Seahawks in the postseason. The team previously made the playoffs three times in the 21st century (2005, 2007, 2012) and were knocked out by the Seahawks every single time. The last loss was particularly heartbreaking, because it was the game where RGIII tore his ACL and hasn’t been the same since then.

If the playoffs started today, the Seahawks would travel to D.C. as the No. 5 seed. Washington fans would love to get that particular monkey off their back this January.

Unfortunately for the Chargers, that field goal sailed wide left and San Diego went from three to seven to no points in a matter of minutes.
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At that point, the game was 17-12 thanks to a Raiders safety — the first sack of the game for Oakland — and the Chargers were in trouble. They forced a Raiders punt on the next possession, but after three plays, David Johnson fumbled after a catch and the Raiders recovered. That them up in position to score, which they did on the first play of their drive to make it 20-17.

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Joshua Comenetz, assistant chief of the Population Division’s Population Geography staff and manager of the surnames project, explained the tendency to

“There is more surname clustering,” Comenetz said. “Twenty-six surnames cover a quarter of the Hispanic population, and 16 percent of Hispanic people reported one of the top 10 Hispanic names.

Comenetz went on to explain: “The pattern is similar for Asians and blacks. Names are not distributed among racial and ethnic groups the same way the population is distributed,” Comenetz said. “It takes fewer names to cover a large segment of the Hispanic, Asian or black populations, compared to the white population, which has higher surname diversity.”

About 30 percent of today’s players are Latino. In the 2015 census, the overall percentage of Hispanics in the U.S. was about 17 percent.
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Before the 1996 season, Florida GM Dave Dombrowski had upped the team¡¯s payroll by 38 percent,3 from 25th in baseball to 16th, reeling in such big-name free agents as Kevin Brown, Al Leiter and Devon White.
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Unsurprisingly, all that aggressive free-agent spending gave new Marlins manager Jim Leyland significantly more talent to work with.

If we use Tom Tango¡¯s WARcel projections as a simple way to judge how many wins Florida could have expected to get out of its new acquisitions (as well as the cost of losing the players it jettisoned in the process), the Marlins picked up more than 15 net WAR in talent for 1997 alone through Dombrowski¡¯s wheeling and dealing over the previous two offseasons, another modern-era4 record for an eventual World Series winner.

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Pure survival.

That the Pittsburgh Steelers could look this sloppy at times Sunday and still beat the Cincinnati Bengals 24-20 in Paul Brown Stadium displayed serious resolve, which is the only way to combat 104 penalty yards, missed opportunities and the Bengals’ fierce tackling.
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Pittsburgh will enter its Christmas Day clash against the Baltimore Ravens fortunate that its big three — QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown — remained healthy and intact in Cincinnati. This game was that physical, and it will be felt all week: December football turned cage match, with Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict taking center stage.

Replays showed that Eli Manning’s pass bounced off Beckham’s left hand and fell to the ground. The ball then rolled between Beckham’s legs before he reached back and “secured” the ball. Back judge Todd Prukop appeared to have a clear view of the drop, but referee Tony Corrente’s crew ruled it a catch to set up a second down on what became a touchdown drive for the Giants.

Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell did not challenge the call, probably because of the minimal payoff. His defense would face either second-and-6 or second-and-10.(Update: After the game, Caldwell said: “That’s four yards. You’re not going to challenge that play. It was late when we saw it, but we weren’t going to challenge it anyway in that situation.”)

Limited Kids Rashad Vaughn Jersey Still, the screenshot of the ball between Beckham’s legs will live on as one of several bad looks the NFL has had this season.

My personal favorite remains Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson Jr. holding a fumble recovery over his head while officials on referee Jeff Triplette’s crew appeared still to be looking for the ball under the pile. Some might favor Triplette’s gaffe last week — he called a penalty on the wrong team — but to each his or her own.

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C.J. Fiedorowicz, Texans: Long a popular streamer, I am looking elsewhere as CJF has had more than 45 yards just once since the team’s Week 9 bye. As mentioned in the Hopkins post, Jacksonville actually has a good pass defense and is top-10 in terms of fewest points allowed to opposing tight ends. Now, the Jags did give up two scores to tight ends the last time these two played, but neither was to Fiedorowicz. That’s sort of fluky, but whatever. It’s the playoffs, and his quarterback is Brock Osweiler.

Forsett is a new addition to the Elite Youth Mikkel Boedker Jersey Broncos, claimed off waivers last week, days before he played against the Tennessee Titans Sunday. Tight end A.J. Derby was acquired in a trade with the New England Patriots last month and suddenly finds himself as the Broncos’ best receiving option at the position.

A.J. Derby’s late fumble was the death knell for the Broncos against the Titans.

Both players also experienced the Authentic Kids Mychal Kendricks Jersey sting of a misstep in this past Sunday’s 13-10 loss to the Titans. Forsett fumbled on his first carry with the Broncos.

While fumbles happen, they don’t usually happen to Forsett. It was the first time he had dropped a football and had it recovered by the opponent since 2009.

“I hate losing that ball,” Forsett said. “That is exactly what you don’t want to happen. That brings the whole game down for you. You want to help your team win. All you can do is show your teammates you’ll keep working and battling and when you get the opportunity again, do better. So my focus is always trying to be better.”

Derby, who has been exactly the kind of addition the Broncos hoped he would be when they sent a draft pick to the Patriots, also fumbled Sunday. Derby’s came in the closing minutes as the Broncos were attempting to drive to at least tie the game with a field goal.

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The career of cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman could be over after the Carolina Panthers defender suffered a torn ACL in the team’s regular season finale on Sunday, according to Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer.

Jori Lehtera Mens Jersey Tillman, 34, was a second-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears and spent 12 years with the team before joining the Carolina Panthers in the 2015 offseason. According to Jones, Tillman suffered a partial tear of his ACL in a Week 10 game against the Tennessee Titans, but returned to action in Week 15 and eventually fully tore the ligament in Week 17 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Carson Palmer put up an MVP-caliber performance in his continued career renaissance, setting career highs in passing touchdowns, yards, and yards per attempt. Moving Larry Fitzgerald into the slot has been a revelation, and the future Hall of Fame receiver set career highs for receptions himself. More important than stats, though, with balance in all three phases, the Cardinals look like a true contender to rep the NFC in the Super Bowl.

On the back of a very strong finish in which they won their final 10 games, the Chiefs come in third on our list, tops among the AFC field despite their No. 5 seeding. That’s what a 1-5 start will buy you, I guess.

Dan Skuta Elite Jersey The AFC’s No. 1 seed in the Broncos aren’t far behind, but lingering questions about the quarterback situation cloud their potential to take it all the way to Santa Clara. Will it be Peyton Manning’s team again or will Brock Osweiler get another shot? More important, is it clear which option is worse? Neither Manning nor Osweiler have been impressive this year, but Denver’s elite and suffocating defense carried them. That pass rush, combined with that secondary, will be a big deal in the postseason.

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The St. Louis Cardinals’ offseason search went from calculus-problem difficult to second-grade math the minute a trade that had nothing to do with them happened about a thousand miles away.

Limited Youth Sam Acho Jersey It wasn¡¯t so much that the Cardinals had fixated on Adam Eaton as the only solution to the problem they had set out to solve: How to patch their leaky defense and squeeze a little action into their listless baserunning. What changed their thinking was what it took the Washington Nationals to land Eaton — three bona fide pitching prospects, a haul of talent the Cardinals didn¡¯t have and, if they did, couldn¡¯t afford to move.

During spring training, a bemused-looking Chapman answered questions every day at his locker. The Yankees media — with 11 outlets covering the team full-time — is very different from Cincinnati’s. But with the use of a translator, Chapman did not seem to have much trouble.

After repeatedly stating he would not compromise on his suspension, and proclaiming his innocence, the lure of not losing out on free agency after the 2016 season helped Chapman agree to a 30-day ban to begin the season.

Jared Veldheer Youth Jersey By May 9, Chapman was finally in pinstripes, wowing the fans with his 105 mph fastball. He joined a team that was 11-18. By the time he was traded to the Cubs, they were 49-48. His 20 saves and 2.01 ERA surely helped. And he also helped the Cubs, saving 16 games (plus four more in the playoffs) and posting a 1.01 ERA en route to the biggest party in Wrigleyville in more than a century. Along the way, his Cubs downed the Dodgers — remember them? — in the NLCS. And the Reds? They finished last in the NL Central, matching the Padres with a league-worst 94 losses.

For Cincinnati in 2016, Renda batted .182 in 32 big-league games. Cotham¡¯s ERA was 7.40 in 24 1/3 innings for the Reds. Davis had a 3.82 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. Jagielo hit .205 at Double-A.

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In 28 games since the start of the 2015 season, running back David Johnson has scored 28 touchdowns — the most in the NFL in that span. Johnson has done it a variety of ways: 19 rushing touchdowns, eight receiving scores and a kickoff return for a touchdown.

Brandon Allen Authentic Jersey If Johnson rushes for a touchdown Sunday in the Arizona Cardinals’ game at the Miami Dolphins, he would join Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers as the only players in NFL history with 20 or more rushing touchdowns, five or more receiving touchdowns and a kickoff return touchdown in their first two seasons.

In his first two seasons with the Chicago Bears (1965 and 1966), Sayers rushed for 22 touchdowns, caught eight scoring passes and returned three kickoffs for TDs. (He also had a punt return for a touchdown.)

What should the Browns do with the first pick: best player or best QB?

Kiper: The Browns have too many needs. It has to be the best player, and as I mentioned above, there’s no surefire top quarterback in this class. Cleveland needs everything. No way should the Browns reach for a quarterback in this draft.

McShay: Dalvin Cook and Chris Johnson. The Florida State RB has the speed, suddenness and big-play ability that Johnson had when he was still in his prime. Cook has 15 touches of 25 yards or more this season, tied for second among Power 5 running backs.

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has 65 career receiving touchdowns, tied with Michael Irvin for second most in team history. Bob Hayes has the most with 71.

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Tom Coughlin is set to meet with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday about the team’s coaching vacancy, but it’s more of a “feeling-out” between the two parties than an actual interview, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. However, the Eagles did request and were granted an interview with the former New York Giants head coach.
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Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports first reported the Eagles’ interest, but noted that the team’s impatience with Chip Kelly could hurt their chances of hiring Coughlin.

Coughlin, 69, said in his exit press conference with the team that he was “not necessarily” done with coaching and that he’d be open to taking over for another team. However, he praised the Giants during the press conference for the team’s patience with him early in his tenure, just days after he said he was surprised Kelly was fired in the first place.
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The Chiefs had a great first half, though that has more to do with how bad the Texans looked and less about them looking great, especially on offense. Alex Smith threw for 73 yards and had a rare interception, though the Chiefs did manage a touchdown and a pair of field goals to take a 13-0 lead. The running game also put up a total of 70 yards in the opening half.

Where Kansas City really caught a break was the horrible showing from Houston quarterback Brian Hoyer. In the first half, he completed seven of 14 passes for just 61 yards with three interceptions and a forced fumble. They were all bad interceptions, and the fumble was even worse.

It was a disastrous performance for Hoyer, and the Texans went into halftime incredibly lucky that the Chiefs didn’t have a massive lead. Kansas City missed some big plays that would have led to points in the first half and the Texans were still well in the game heading into the third.

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The Kansas City Chiefs have knocked down one postseason opponent, but their next game is much tougher on paper. A dominant win over the Houston Texans will be great for morale, but the Chiefs (11-5) will now travel to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (12-4) in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Dwayne Gratz Womens Jersey The Patriots field the league’s No. 6 offense in yardage and No. 3 offense in points scored per game, with 29.1. But the Chiefs match up well with them on the other side of the ball, ranking No. 7 in the league in yards allowed and No. 3 in the league in points allowed per game at 17.9. The Patriots aren’t that much worse on defense, ranking 10th in the league in points allowed.
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Peppers also flushed Kirk Cousins from the pocket and into a Mike Neal sack on fourth down late in the fourth quarter, after Peppers beat Trent Williams around the edge while running an Ex game with Matthews. That play all but ended any chance of a comeback by Washington, but I bet most folks didn’t even notice it was Peppers who forced Cousins to leave the comfort of the pocket in the first place.

There was another play that Peppers made Sunday that maybe wasn’t so impressive at first glance, but it was huge in the grand scheme of things. With 3:57 left in the first quarter, Washington led 5-0 thanks to a safety forced by their impressive rookie defensive lineman Preston Smith, and a field goal on the drive after the Packers punted to them because of the safety. The Packers went three-and-out on their next drive. I imagine there had to be a whole lotta “here we go again” thoughts starting to filter in on their side line.

“You want the tough team, man,” Norman said Monday about facing the Seahawks, via the Seattle Times. “I don’t know why you want the easy way out. That’s not the way you should live life, taking the easy way out. You always want to do something the hard way, just because it means that much more.”

Cam Newton has been mediocre in his three previous playoff games, throwing five touchdowns go along with five interceptions. Given that Newton is the MVP favorite, he’ll be expected to perform better Sunday.

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