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Wow, Julen Lopetegui is having an extremely bad time at Real Madrid
Tactically Naive discusses Madrid, Jose Mourinho’s struggles, and Arsenal’s resurgence. Football? Football! Soccer? Soccer! Welcome back to Tactically Naive, in which you can call this wonderful game whatever you want, as long as you are prepared to admit that it is Good. Even when it’s Bad. Onwards. Irreal Madrid Julen Lopetegui wakes up. It is a beautiful summer day. He leaps out of bed, a song in his heart,and throws open the curtains. Oh no! He is immediately hit in the face with a large custard pie. This is football. Things go wrong. Success is the punctuation that separates failure from failure, and joy the pinch of salt that really brings out the flavour of the persistent misery. But! Have things ever gone so wrong, so quickly, as they have for Julen Lopetegui? Outraged, Lopetegui storms outside. Unfortunately, somebody has left a large bucket of whitewash outside his door. He steps in it. It’s stuck on his foot! He starts to clatter around, getting whitewash everywhere. Just a few months ago Lopetegui was at the World Cup in Russia. He was in charge of Spain, who were going into the tournament as one of the favourites. His squad had come through qualifying unbeaten, scoring 36 goals on the way. Things were looking good … and then Real Madrid gave him a call. He said yes. Spain said “what the hell, Julen?” Fast forward to now, through Spain’s early exit from the tournament, and Real Madrid side have lost five games on the bounce. They didn’t score a goal for eight solid hours of football. They are seventh in La Liga. They are Bad. Finally, he gets the bucket off, and goes in pursuit of the pie-slinging miscreat. He sees some workmen with ladders working on the outside of the house. However, as he approaches them, a man with a ladder over his shoulder turns around. Poor Julen is caught flush in the head! He tumbles to the ground in a heap. There is of course a sense in which none of this is Lopetegui’s fault. The unwritten rules of football serve to impose tragic flaws on its managers. You do not say no to Real Madrid. You just don’t. Even when you’re their fourth, fifth, sixth choice. Even when saying yes is an extremely silly idea, just a few days before a World Cup. Even when Cristiano Ronaldo’s gone. Julen scrambles to his feet and begins to remonstrate with the man, who is extremely unapologetic. Other workmen clamber down and join the argument. Eventually they take their ladders and storm away. Angry, Julen thumps the side of his house, then sits down to have a good cry. There is a moment’s pause … Because to say no to Real Madrid would be to betray the fundamental drive of the football manager. That whole tangled collection of ambitions — to work with the best, to win the shiniest, to make the most money, to make the most of your time — that, when taken all together, add up to reaching the top. Even when the top turns out to be a barren spot, cold, with a miserable view. And only the prelude to an embarrassing fall. Managers have said no to Real Madrid, of course; either secure in their own projects or chary of the churn. Perhaps in some alternate universe, Lopetegui is striking matches on the World Cup trophy, puffing cigars as Spain take the Nations League by storm, and as some other sucker tries to navigate Madrid’s post-Ronaldo contractions. But not this one. In this one, there’s nothing left for him except the final phone call, and the only question is: when? … and then the front wall of his house collapses on top of him. He sits covered in dust, inside the open window frame, looking at the rubble all around him. Then he looks, blank-faced, at the camera. Fade to black. The continued decline of Jose Mourinho Plot twist: Manchester United are fun! Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea was the second game in a row in which United have stepped up to the demands of the Competition Formerly Known as The Barclays, and delivered the untethered chaos and giddy silliness that the sponsors crave. This doesn’t mean Manchester United are a good football team. Not yet. A good football team wouldn’t have been two down at home to Newcastle in the first place; a good football team would have squeezed out the win at Chelsea. But there’s definitely something starting to take shape in that jumble of a squad. Paul Pogba may still be losing his man at corners, but he’s also creating equalisers with spinning shoulder-drops and nutmegs. A balance in midfield, at last. A hammering from Juventus might kill this renascence stone dead, of course, and a hammering from Juventus is eminently possible. But for the moment, things are at least engaging. United look like they’re going somewhere, even if that somewhere might end up being nowhere again … … and just as well, since the game at Stamford Bridge also served as final notice that Jose Mourinho is not the man he once was, and may never truly return to his glorious, inglorious majesty. We’re talking, of course, about the not-fight at the end. It was almost perfect: the hold-me-back-hold-me-back Scrappy Doo stylings. The walloping hypocrisy of Mourinho — coat-flapper, eye-gouger, sprinkler-provoker — complaining about somebody else’s touchline conduct. The sheer glorious mess of it: ego and flailing machismo. Being Jose Mourinho requires performing the part of Jose Mourinho, and it’s been a while since that performance had been anything other than just a bit sad. Here at least — at last! — it was funny. Until an apology was offered and quickly accepted. What the hell? That’s not going to rumble on through the season. That’s not going to let bad feeling fester into bad blood. That’s not going to convince United’s players that everybody hates them and the only thing to do is show them, show them all, show them by by wasting time, by making tactical fouls, by winning. The man can’t even beef anymore. It’s terribly sad. Arsenal might be a thing again On Monday night, Arsenal went 1-0 down at home to Leicester City, then roared back to win 3-1. Mesut Ozil was divine, in his ethereal way, and they scored another gorgeous, length of the pitch passing goal. Becoming a bit of a habit, that. Maybe passing the ball out from the back is … good? Anyway, that’s ten wins in a row for the north Londoners, which isn’t bad going. Early days for Unai Emery, of course, but Tactically Naive is hear to warn you all that we may need to do some repunctuating in the near future. A change of emphasis may be coming. Because if this football club is actually going to be consistently good, then we’re going to need to swap out “Oh, Arsenal …” for “Oh, Arsenal!” Maybe even “OH! ARSENAL!” It’s going to be a big shift. They’ve been a comedy event for so long that it’s going to be hard to take them seriously. So be aware. The world may be changing, and you’ll need to change with it. There’s nothing so embarrassing as being caught out in public wearing last season’s punchlines. And the season before that. And the season before that. And the— no, no, we’ll stop now.
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Friends, the Champions League schedule is very good
We couldn’t reasonably ask for a better slate. Things are getting spicy in the third round of Champions League, with some big teams having suffered setbacks during the first two matchdays. Tottenham are in an absolute must-win scenario, while Manchester City, PSG, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Manchester United would put themselves into deep trouble with a loss. United and a very frustrated Jose Mourinho have a tough matchup with Group H favorites Juventus, in what looks like the week’s marquee matchup. It’ll probably be a bit of a defensive slog, though, so you might want to pick something else if you’re mainly interested in seeing high-tempo action. All games can be found on Turner’s live streaming service, B/R Live. You can buy games individually on a PPV basis, pay $10 for a one-month subscription, or just sign up for the whole year for $80. For listings from outside the United States, check out Live Soccer TV. Champions League: Tuesday, Oct. 23 Real Madrid should coast to a win, but they’re still worth watching since manager Julen Lopetegui is on the hottest of hot seats heading into this weekend’s Clásico. The best game of the day might actually be Hoffenheim-Lyon. Champions League: Wednesday, Oct. 24 Mauro Icardi and Inter Milan keep pulling off last-minute miracles. Icardi sunk Tottenham with a stunner in the first round of the Champions League, and he scored a 93rd minute winner against AC Milan this weekend. Barcelona is a big step up in competition, but a result would see the Nerazzuri solidify their position ahead of Spurs. For the soccer hipsters in the house, Dortmund-Atléti is an absolute dream matchup. Europa League: Thursday, Oct. 25 early games The first really great slate of the Europa League season is here! All four of the top games from this slate are extremely watchable. Honestly, it might be worthwhile to get a couple monitors. Yes, for Europa League. Europa League: Thursday, Oct. 25 late games Well, at least we had the early slate. Sad they couldn’t split up the really good games.
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The best ways to pee during a football game, ranked
Let’s get wizzy wit it. Monday Night Football was kind of a snoozer. The Falcons are banged up, and it showed against a terrible 1-6 Giants team. The most interesting part of the game was when Odell Beckham Jr. made his way down the tunnel... for a pee break, per ESPN. "Eli's washed. I'm out" pic.twitter.com/nvjj7OAEGM— Mostly Football (@MostlyFBShow) October 23, 2018 That also led to this, from former NFL player and Monday Night Football’s Analyst On A Scooterized Platform, Booger McFarland, in which he argues Beckham is a diva because he didn’t just pee his pants: BOOGER A COMFIRMED PISS DAWG pic.twitter.com/QQA6UWi3Jf— Quigs (@BigSeanQ) October 23, 2018 Now stay with me here — I don’t think that refusing to pee your pants makes you a diva. It makes you a lot of other things, but not a diva. However, I would also argue that Booger ain’t far off when he floats your pants as a fine place to relieve yourself during a game. Yep, I said it. That got the ol’ juices flowing (pun absolutely intended) and here we are, ranking the best places to fight a fire during a game. Let’s begin. 1. Go to the locker room That’s what Beckham did. It might not be the quickest way, but it’s the cleanest, and most private way to go about business. If you can get this done without missing a play, by all means, make the bladder gladder. Now let’s move along and get to the fun stuff. 2. Assemble members of the training staff to form a Gatorade towel curtain This is a true showing of teamwork. The individual looking to test their hydraulics can assign anywhere from one to any number of individuals to create a makeshift stall to expel their pee. Nick Novak did this in a 2011 game, before missing a 53-yarder to give the Chargers a lead against the Broncos. He had a single Gatorade towel curtain, and used the rest of the cooler to shield himself: If you’re a little tad more insecure and would like extra privacy, you can assemble a larger crew, as Dexter McDougle did last season in a game against the Chiefs. A couple of more folks in on the act, and they had enough for a pickup basketball game: You can’t be certain, but it looks like Alex Smith (better days right now, amirite Chiefs fans?) saw the leak occurring, and thought to be sure he wouldn’t run into McDougle. It would have been a more unfortunate spill than say, Gatorade. 3. In a Gatorade cup on the sideline, no cover The privacy level severely drops here, which is going to be a Big No for most. During a 2016 game between Washington and the Lions, Washington special teams coach Ben Kotwica was caught with his funny business out and in a cup. The fan and her children who witnessed The Pissening didn’t appreciate it, as one might imagine: special teams coach Ben Kotwica got caught peeing into a cup during the game yesterday pic.twitter.com/zFo1Flmc02— Luke 4-12 (@McLukeMD) October 24, 2016 A little cover never hurt nobody. 4. Just pee your pants Just as Booger suggested. It’s also a pretty widely-accepted practice in football circles, it seems. Booger wasn’t being a smartass, former NFLer Mark Schlereth has also made it clear in the past that letting loose in your own synthetics was his preference as well. From ESPN’s David Fleming, and his feature on all kinds of athletes finding an escape: Former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder’s solution was fairly simple: He says he wet his pants ... in every one of his 82 games as a pro. If the player is more self conscious, I suggest doing it in a fumble pile where there are more people to blame. Last season, it looked like the Packers’ Mike Daniels peed himself: Packers' Mike Daniels appears to have peed himself today pic.twitter.com/62HCjazodv— SB Nation (@SBNation) November 19, 2017 Goes without saying, this option isn’t doesn’t work particularly well if your pants are going to snitch on you. After the game, he claimed that the wetness around his crotch was not pee. “I sweat a lot down there,” he said. “Everybody was like, ‘Did you pee your pants?’ No, I did not pee my pants.” Buddy, that’s pee.
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The Falcons are experiencing the ultimate grind year
Injuries have dropped them from “Super Bowl?” to “just stay in the playoff race for now and see what happens.” Update: It happened again, the Falcons bent but didn’t break in a close contest against the New York Giants, winning 23-20. This is the Falcons’ formula for the season. Just how far will it take them? Read on for more on that question! Jameis Winston charged forward from the 20, catching everyone off-guard. A defender finally got in his way around the 10, and he blindly winged the ball to his left, where Adam Humphries briefly picked it up, advanced to the 5, and lost control of the ball. Mike Evans picked it up, jumped 180 degrees, and fired it to DeSean Jackson, who was somehow open at the 5 along the sideline. The pitch was bad, though, and the ball flew out of bounds, ending the game. Tampa Bay had almost pulled off a crazy, miraculous win, but Atlanta had survived, 34-29. We often want to assign meaning — catalyst, beginning of the end, anything that Changed Everything — to crazy finishes like that one. For Atlanta in 2018, though, it was just another game. There is no meaning to the Falcons’ 2018 season this time around, no pieces to fall together. There is only the grind, only the next tricky hurdle in an endless series of them. Atlanta hosts the New York Giants on Monday night with a chance to move to 3-4 for the season. That would put them still 2.5 games behind the Saints in the NFC South race, sure, but it would keep them just a game behind in the race for the final wild card bid. In a vacuum, this is disappointing. The Falcons went 11-5 in 2016 and reached the Super Bowl, then went 10-6 despite the loss of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to the 49ers, coming within a late red zone stop of beating the eventual Super Bowl champions in the playoffs. With what they had returning, it appeared another potential Super Bowl run was in the cards. But then everyone started getting hurt. Linebacker Deion Jones and safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, not only three starting defenders, but three of their best starting defenders, are all on injured reserve. So is starting guard Andy Levitre. Running back Devonta Freeman officially joined them last Tuesday, having managed only 14 carries this season to date. Hell, even ageless kicker Matt Bryant is currently hobbled by a hamstring issue. Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports Foye Oluokun has seen far more action than expected as a rookie In college football — at Jones’ LSU, Freeman’s Florida State, or Neal’s Florida, for instance — you might have the depth and raw talent necessary to withstand some bad breaks. In a league so dedicated to parity, however, a run of injuries can be all she wrote. The result of the injuries has been pretty obvious: Atlanta can’t run the ball very well and, with a leaky sieve in the back of the defense, can neither stop the pass nor create passing downs. They’re still good enough, however, to make virtually every game close. They lost at Philadelphia by six in a stout defensive battle, then lost shootouts to the Saints (in overtime) and Bengals (by one). They’ve also narrowly beaten 3-2 Carolina and, again, kept hope alive with the odd last-second thriller over Tampa Bay. They’ve played zero truly good games and only one truly bad one (a 41-17 loss to the Steelers). Atlanta has lost games because of bad drive finishing and won them because of good drive finishing. They’ve lost games with good field position and won games with bad field position. They’ve won games in which they were out-done from an efficiency standpoint and lost them with clear efficiency advantages. Every week the Falcons are a different team with different challenges. Again, this isn’t going to change. And if the injuries continue, the grind is only get grittier. But as long as the Falcons win some of these grinds, they will remain in the playoff chase. So let’s take stock and figure out what the Falcons can and can’t still do well approaching the midpoint of the season. 1. They still take advantage of their opportunities Comparatively speaking, the offense has been far less affected by the run of injuries. They have, after all, managed to 36 or more points and lose twice this season. And despite losing Freeman and Levitre, they are still 11th in Offensive DVOA (sixth in passing) and ninth in the league in scoring. As crazy as it sounds, considering both how last year ended and how this year began, one of the Falcons’ clear strengths has been finishing drives. Since recording a horrid 13 percent red zone success rate and blowing a series of chances against Philadelphia, Atlanta’s been brilliant near the opposing end zone — they have a 58 percent red zone success rate post-Philly, as good a rate as you’ll ever see. Freeman’s injury has opened up opportunity for rookie Ito Smith, and the former Southern Miss Golden Eagle has recorded a 46 percent rushing success rate in the red zone. Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports Ito Smith has been a sturdy red zone option. More importantly, though, Matt Ryan is finding passing windows. Julio Jones remains a decoy — it doesn’t appear he’s even been targeted by a red zone pass since the Philly failure — but since that game, Calvin Ridley has caught five of five red zone passes for 56 yards and four touchdowns, and tight end Austin Hooper has caught three of four for 28 yards and two scores. Running back Tevin Coleman has carried five times for just 10 yards, but he’s also caught three passes for 20 yards and two scores. After calling all the wrong red zone plays from all the wrong formations in Philadelphia, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has spread things out and found immense success. 2. They’re still making big plays Atlanta’s big-play rate during the 2016 run to the Super Bowl was mind-blowing. In open-play situations (snaps between your 10 and your opponent’s 30), the Falcons ripped off 20-yards or more on 10.9 percent of their snaps, and 74.9 percent of their first downs came on either first or second down. Both figures were best in the league. That level of explosiveness is unsustainable, but despite regression, Atlanta’s still making some connections downfield. Jones has nine receptions of 20-plus yards, Ridley has six, Mohamed Sanu has four, and Hooper has two. While picking Ridley in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft didn’t address any specific needs, it did give the Falcons one more weapon than opponents can account for in the passing game, and Ryan and Sarkisian have taken advantage. Ridley’s on pace for nearly 1,000 receiving yards, Sanu’s on pace for 800, and despite no red zone presence whatsoever, Jones is on pace for nearly 2,000. Ryan is completing a career-high 70 percent of his passes (75 percent since Philly) and is on pace for his first 5,000-yard season. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports Julio Jones: still amazing Granted, the volume comes in part because of deficits and the shaky run game. Still, Atlanta has demanded more of its passing game, and the passing game has responded beautifully. 3. The defense ... isn’t getting burned deep, at least? Look, it’s really hard to find nice things to say about the Atlanta defense. Obviously. That’s what happens when you start out thin and lose maybe your three best players. According to data provided by Sports Info Solutions, Atlanta allowed just a 24 percent success rate and 1.9 yards per play in the 37 snaps it got out of Neal this season. In 68 snaps with Jones, it was a 29 percent success rate and 3.3 yards per play. Without them, and eventually without Allen (204 snaps, 41 percent success rate, 5.6 yards per play), too, it’s been an obvious struggle. Second-year safety Damontae Kazee has gotten far more action than expected and has struggled (316 snaps, 48 percent success rate, 6.4 yards per play), as has rookie linebacker Foye Oluokun (130 snaps, 49 percent success rate, 6.9 yards per play), who, as a Yale standout, was playing against teams like Holy Cross and Columbia this time last year. There aren’t many good tactical options when you are this limited with your personnel, and that goes double when your defensive line has been disappointingly ineffective in terms of both run defense and pass rush. So with their hands tied behind their backs, head coach Dan Quinn and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel have elected to simply go full-on bend-don’t-break. Hey, it works in college sometimes. And it’s ... sort of working in Atlanta? A little bit? Granted, bend-don’t-break can just delay the inevitable if you bend too much, but in their two wins, they have at least managed to hold opponents to 4.1 points per scoring opportunity — not great, but acceptable considering how dominant the offense has been. They forced two turnovers against the Bucs, too. This is how the season has been defined at this point. Of the Five Factors — efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers — the Falcons simply have to try to break even in three and win two (usually finishing drives and either explosiveness or turnovers). It’s possible that can continue. Over the next month, they face visits from the Giants (not good) and Cowboys (not good away from Dallas); win those games and go 1-1 in trips to Washington and Cleveland, and you’re 5-5. The home stretch is dreadful, with road games against New Orleans, Green Bay, Carolina, and Tampa Bay, but hey, in grind seasons, you don’t look more than a week ahead. With Ryan approaching 34 years old, you hate to waste a remaining year of his prime on a grind season, but this is the hand Atlanta’s been dealt. The path to victories is slim but relatively clear; we’ll see how long the Falcons can follow it.
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It Seemed Smart podcast
The Sportsperson’s Guide to Cheating Poorly. It Seemed Smart is a six-part storytelling experience brought to you by SB Nation and Vox Media Podcast Network that enters the amusing, diabolical, and entertaining world of sports trickery and mayhem. SB Nation’s Editor-at-Large Spencer Hall shares the absurd stories of stolen bats, pirated play calls, renegade cross-country road racers, and fantasy football’s own insider trading scandal.
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Red Sox betting favorites for Tuesday’s World Series Game 1
The Boston Red Sox host the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first game of the World Series on Tuesday night, with the sportsbooks siding with the home side at Fenway Park. The Boston Red Sox were the best team of the regular season with a record of 108-54, and they have successfully carried the momentum of that excellent season into an impressive postseason run. The Red Sox will try to complete their postseason run with a World Series title when they take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. Boston is a -150 home favorite in Tuesday night’s series opener at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Staff ace Chris Sale will get the start for the Red Sox going up against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers as +130 road underdogs. Los Angeles Dodgers at Boston Red Sox When: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 8:09 p.m. ET Where: Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts Betting Line / Total: Boston -150 / 7.5 Runs Dodgers at Red Sox OddsShark Matchup Report Boston Red Sox To get to this point, the Red Sox have had to beat a pair of 100-win teams; their hated rival New York Yankees and the defending champion Houston Astros. Boston passed both of these tests with flying colors, defeating the Yankees, 3-1, in the ALDS and the Astros, 4-1, in the ALCS. Even against such elite competition, Boston has managed to dominate the postseason averaging 6.22 runs per game while allowing only 3.78 runs per game. In the last 10 meetings between the Dodgers and the Red Sox, Boston is 7-3 straight up and 6-4 on the runline per the OddsShark MLB Database. Los Angeles Dodgers While the Red Sox were making it look easy against Houston, the Dodgers were pushed to the brink by a very solid Milwaukee Brewers club. In the end, Los Angeles got the job done on the road in Game 7, defeating Milwaukee, 5-1, to return to the World Series. The Dodgers have received sensational pitching from their bullpen this postseason as the unit owns a dazzling 1.30 ERA through 60.2 innings pitched. Los Angeles is 50-37 on the road this season. Tuesday night’s total is set at 7.5 runs. The OVER is 7-3-1 in Boston’s last 11 games. This should be a very entertaining series. This Red Sox team is on a historic run and is going off as the favorite on the odds to win the World Series at -165. But after clawing all the way back to this point after falling a game short of the championship last year, don’t expect the Dodgers to go down without a fight. For more odds information, betting picks, and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.
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4 keys for the Red Sox to beat the Dodgers in the World Series
Here’s how Boston could take home their fourth World Series trophy in 14 years. The Red Sox are back in the World Series for the first time since 2013, and for the fourth time since 2004. They’re undefeated in their last three trips to the Fall Classic and this time will be facing the Dodgers, returning to the World Series for the second year in a row after losing to the Astros in seven games in 2017. Boston won 108 games and has looked great this postseason, so here are some keys to beating the Dodgers that will help them keep their winning streak going. Keeping J.D. Martinez in the lineup Boston already has a theoretical plan in place for this one, but there’s no guarantee they’ll use it. J.D. Martinez is hitting .313 with two home runs and nine RBI this postseason, but now that it’s the World Series there are up to three games at Dodger Stadium where Martinez won’t be able to be the designated hitter thanks to National League rules. Alex Cora has said that Martinez will play every game in the series, but who will he be replacing in the field? One option is to put him in right, where he’s played 213 innings this season, and start Mookie Betts at second base — where he used to play and has been taking reps during workouts in recent days to prep for this possibility. Martinez is not the most reliable defensive asset, with -3 defensive runs saved in right field compared to Betts’ +20 and Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s +2 in the same spot. Even Brock Holt had one defensive run saved in right this year (in 52 innings). You can’t compare anyone to what Betts’ does in the outfield, but not having him manning right is a big risk and might outweigh the positives of Martinez’s bat. That might is a big one, though, so they should at least try. Scoring against relievers Obviously hoping their bats are hot against any and all Dodgers pitchers is important, but with the likes of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, and Walker Buehler starting for LA the Red Sox have to hope they can chase the starters and also do some damage against the arms they face after that. At the very least do the latter if they can’t consistently do the former. The Dodgers bullpen put up a 1.45 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP and 12. 9 K/9 in the NLCS against the Brewers. They had 40 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 31 innings in that series. Many of Milwaukee’s hot bats were downright anemic at the plate against Dodgers relievers. Throughout the postseason, they have a 1.30 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 13 walks in 41⅔ innings. Red Sox bats can put fear in the heart of any pitcher when they’re on, and keeping things that way against the Dodgers is going to go a long way to getting LA back on their heels early. Just because LA’s bullpen numbers are unexpected doesn’t mean they’re not legit. The Red Sox pushed the Astros’ pitching staff to a 5.52 ERA in the ALCS (compared to 4.18 in the postseason and 3.11 during the year) so if any team is set up for this, it’s Boston. Continue their defensive prowess (and lucky breaks) From Andrew Benintendi’s outfield heroics, to Mookie Betts being a defensive marvel, to Steve Pearce constantly doing splits at first base to hide throwing errors from Eduardo Nuñez or Rafael Devers at third, the Red Sox defense has saved the rest of the team’s butts more than few times. It’s been a mix of pure talent and luck though, and to win it all it’s going to have to stay that way. Mookie Betts can make eighteen awe-inspiring plays a game but the rest of the team failing to do the same leaves them in the lurch. Especially when they’re facing a team that has looked defensively shaky so far this postseason but can look just as good in the field as Boston. The Red Sox might not get the same opportunities to capitalize on defensive mistakes that the Brewers did in the NLCS, but if they can keep their defensive gaps minimal and keep some luck on their side then they’re in great shape against LA. Starting pitching Some of Boston’s best laid plans with starting pitching didn’t pan out in the ALCS, with Chris Sale’s velocity down in Game 1 in a 7-2 loss where he only got through four innings, allowing two runs off of one hit but four walks. He had a -0.023 win probability added in that start and was hospitalized with a stomach illness the next day. That’s not what you want from your ace. But Sale is healthy for the World Series — healthy enough to joke about the illness stemming from a belly button ring infection at least — and David Price finally pitched in a postseason win for the first time in too many tries, while Craig Kimbrel apparently isn’t tipping his pitches anymore. Even the bullpen looks to have permanently stabilized (famous last words). Fewer potential heart attacks for Red Sox fans all around there. That those things stay the same isn’t guaranteed against a Dodgers team who couldn’t quite keep their bats going throughout the NLCS, but certainly have the ability to go on a streak at any given point. Sox pitchers keeping those bats quiet from start to finish would be huge.
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NFL Power Rankings Week 8, 2018: Surprising teams rise up the ladder
In addition to this week’s regularly scheduled power rankings, we’re taking a look at how each NFL division stacks up against each other. There’s no change at the top of this week’s power rankings after the top five teams all won on Sunday and the Ravens (No. 6) came close in a loss to the Saints (No. 4). While there’s still many questions to be answered regarding contenders and pretenders, the top teams (the Rams, Patriots, Chiefs, Saints, and Chargers) are starting to paint a clear picture of who they are this season. Let’s take a division-by-division look at this week’s power rankings and how each team is stacking up. The divisions below are shown in order of how many wins their teams have combined for. One thing you’ll find is the AFC is a lot better than many expected it to be heading into the season. AFC West It’s not just the 6-1 Chiefs who are among the NFL’s biggest threats, but the 5-2 Chargers are making their case, too. Even the Broncos had a good week by destroying the Cardinals on Thursday Night Football. As for the Raiders, you can’t lose if you don’t play! Their bye week afforded them a nice break from disappointment. Total wins: 15 NFC North The NFC North is a weird division right now. The Bears were in first place, now they’re tied for last with the Lions. The Vikings and Packers have been up-and-down and even finished their first head-to-head matchup with a tie. The Lions were blown out by the Jets, beat the Patriots with relative ease, and just this week beat the Dolphins by 11. No team has proven to be the division’s top threat, though the Bears may be, despite landing on the bottom of the standings after their loss to the Patriots. The NFC North is the only division in which no team has a losing record and the standings will likely keep changing until the end of Week 17. Total wins: 14 AFC North Going from third to first place in your division in one week is pretty impressive. It’s even more impressive when you don’t play. That’s what happened to the Steelers who had one of the nicest bye weeks imaginable as the Bengals embarrassed themselves on primetime television and the Ravens were let down by Justin Tucker for maybe the first time ever. Of course, the Browns lost, too. So while the Steelers didn’t play, they became the AFC North’s current first place team and climbed up the power rankings as a result. Meanwhile, despite their loss, Baltimore is looking like one of the NFL’s top teams — even better than the Steelers (despite the division standings). Total wins: 14 NFC South The NFC South started the season strong but has fizzled out due to lackluster play from the Buccaneers and a ton of injuries (along with terrible defensive play) from the Falcons. The Saints and Panthers are still competing like two of the league’s best teams. Drew Brees is showing no signs of slowing down as his age takes him to a place where he’s breaking NFL records on a near-weekly basis. The Panthers are squeaking out wins thanks to Cam Newton playing (mostly) mistake-free football. On Sunday he threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns in addition to rushing for 49 yards. The Panthers offense didn’t turn the ball over once. Both teams face tough tests this weekend as the Panthers play host to the Ravens and the Saints take on the Rams in New Orleans. Total wins: 14 AFC East The Dolphins are making the AFC East competitive this year as it’s not just the Patriots who have a winning record in the division. With that said, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than New England winning the AFC East as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick shook off a rough start and have won four straight. The Jets are better than they were last year now that they have a franchise quarterback under center in Sam Darnold, but they’re not real contenders this year. As for the Bills, they’re pretty much a lost cause. At least Buffalonians can look forward to rookie quarterback Josh Allen’s eventual return from elbow injury. Unfortunately, that return won’t come in time for Monday Night Football against the Patriots. Total wins: 14 NFC West It’s the Rams ... and then everyone else in the NFC West. The Rams won their seventh straight game (at the hands of the 49ers) and look completely dominant as the NFL’s top team. The Seahawks had their bye this week while the Cardinals were trampled over on Thursday night and fired their offensive coordinator as a result. The 49ers were dealt a tough blow with the Jimmy Garoppolo injury back in Week 3, but it looks like they’ll get a top 10 draft pick again next year to add a nice piece to their roster. With that said, the Rams own the NFC West right now. Total wins: 12 AFC South Hello, Texans! After losing their first three games to start the season, Houston has taken over the AFC South lead thanks to four-straight wins. The Titans started the season strong but are collapsing, which is also true of the Jaguars. Jacksonville went as far as to bench Blake Bortles in their loss to the Texans on Sunday. As for the Colts, they finally got their second win of the season, but it came against the Derek Anderson-led Bills. That’s not all that impressive. Total wins: 12 NFC East The NFC East seems like the clear worst division in football. The Eagles are in a post-Super Bowl slump (still). The Giants are paying the price of continuing to trust Eli Manning. The Cowboys think trading away a first round pick in exchange for Amari Cooper is going to solve their problems. And Washington is now on top of the division, and looking like the best team in a bad division. Who thought Adrian Peterson would be among the best players on a division-leading team in 2018? Total wins: 11
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_elcome to the _estern Conference, LeBron
We have that and more in Tuesday’s NBA newsletter. The Lakers were valiant in defeat to the cardiac Spurs on Monday, but they found themselves in defeat nonetheless. LeBron James had a strong second half and hit a 30-footer to send it to overtime, but missed some crucial free throws in extra time and Patty Mills sealed the San Antonio victory with a Bibbyesque curl and swish. San Antonio is now 2-1 despite not looking particularly good at any point. The Lakers are now 0-3 despite being in every game. That might fly in the East, but LeBron’s team is digging itself a wee bit of a whole. Obviously, one week in is too early to actually determine anything. But if one week becomes two, and two becomes four, L.A. could be in a pickle. You can’t win a playoff spot in the first month of the season, but you can absolutely lose one. We’ve seen in the West over the last few years how much comes down to how little. Three games separated the No. 3 seed from the No. 9 seed last year. Every loss matters in this conference when you’re fighting for a playoff spot. So remember this one if the Lakers are on the verge of failure in April. They all count. On the bright side, the Lakers might have found another player who isn’t a disaster! Scores Magic 93, Celtics 90Hornets 106, Raptors 127Knicks 113, Bucks 124Pacers 91, Timberwolves 101Bulls 109, Mavericks 115Grizzlies 92, Jazz 84Wizards 125, Blazers 124 (OT)Suns 103, Warriors 123Spurs 143, Lakers 142 (OT) Schedule Only three games on Tuesday, but all of them watchable ... Sixers at Pistons, 7 p.m. ET, NBA TVClippers at Pelicans, 8 p.m. ETKings at Nuggets, 9 p.m. ET Links Remember Darius Bazley, the high-end prospect who committed to Syracuse but then pulled out to join the G League but then pulled out to just work out for the year? He’s getting paid $1 million to rep New Balance this year, reports the Times’ Marc Stein. Hella good internship. Also, he’s the first New Balance endorser in the NBA since James Worthy! Six players worth overreacting about from Week 1. Jayson Tatum is making the leap. He’s 20. And the Celtics traded down to get him plus a premium pick! The beef between Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul has been stewing for 10 years! Luka Doncic does cool stuff. Breanna Stewart is still on fire. Forty points on 75 percent shooting in her overseas season debut. I wrote about why you shouldn’t panic about the 0-3 Thunder. Dan Devine has a slightly different take. Honestly, I’d probably believe him! Candace Parker talks about analyzing the NBA and the Clippers’ season. Rembert on Trae Young. As God intended. Kevin Pelton on the scoring surge. Nikola Jokic is the perfect star for the Nuggets. In less golden news, Will Barton is out at least five weeks. Michael Malone has had some crummy injury luck in his head coaching career. This GQ profile of Joel Embiid includes some important Embiid life story insight and also some problematic quotes about women. Kevin O’Connor with some interesting takeaways from the first week. James Dolan, whose sports team paid the biggest sexual harassment settlement in history a decade ago, is pursuing revenge against a media member who dared point that out. Seems like a good strategy for the rest of the media would be to keep pointing it out. Why has Avery Bradley struggled so much as a Clipper? And finally: this guy in a Cavaliers jersey is really, really mad at DeMarcus Cousins for signing with the Warriors. Boogie has the perfect bewildered, amused reaction. Be excellent to each other.
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16 reasons to watch the 2018 World Series
There are good players on the Dodgers and Red Sox. There are good reasons to watch. The 2018 World Series is here, and you don’t need reasons to watch it. It’s the World Series, you goober. It’s the Boston Red Sox vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers, two historically significant, rich, powerhouse teams loaded up with talent. Take a week or two off work and relax a little. Watch the danged Series. However, there’s the slightest chance that either you’re not excited, or you need a little more convincing. I can help with that. Below are some extremely compelling reasons to watch the World Series. Do you want storylines? Players? Drama? This World Series has a whole mess of it, and I’ve curated the 16 points of interest that I recommend wholeheartedly. These are 16 reasons why you should be extremely excited about the 2018 World Series: Mookie Betts I hereby declare that Mookie Betts is the Most Watchable Baseball Player Alive. This is a tremendous honor. There will be a small ceremony and reception to follow. In order to be the Most Watchable Baseball Player Alive, you need all six tools: Hitting for average Hitting for contact Base running/speed Fielding Arm Playing baseball like you’re constantly thinking, “Holy crap, I’m playing baseball right now. This is awesome.” Ichiro had the six tools. Andrew McCutchen had the six tools. Francisco Lindor has the six tools. Mike Trout kinda has the six tools, but he’s just reserved enough to make people argue about the last one. Mookie Betts has the six tools. And they aren’t subtle tools. His bat control is stellar, and his power swing is a tightly coiled beauty. His speed is elite, as is his range in right. His throw to nab Tony Kemp in Game 5 of the ALCS was one of the most unholy things I’ve ever seen on a baseball field. Then there’s sixth tool. Dude has fun and it seems like he likes baseball. When he’s broadcasting a World Series game in 30 years, I don’t think he’ll spend a ton of time talking about golf. Like Ichiro and McCutchen before him, and like Lindor and maybe a couple of others today, there’s a sense of wonder that goes with his all-time talent. It makes an eminently watchable player just that much more watchable. Oh, also, there’s a seventh tool: People my height or shorter get bonus points. Betts would still be the Most Watchable Baseball Player Alive if he were as big as Carlos Correa, sure. But putting him in a body that would absolutely fit on the front of a 1959 Topps card is a very nice touch. Game 1 is Chris Sale vs. Clayton Kershaw I plan on returning to this idea at some point this World Series, so I’ll save most of my bullets, but we’re in an era where the starting pitcher doesn’t have to be the story of the game. Five-and-dive used to be a slanderous way to describe the wink link in a rotation; now it’s the organizational expectation in a lot of cases. Just get us through five, and we’ll take it from there. With Game 1, though, we’re getting a treat. Both of these pitchers are expected to go deeper into the game, just like the old-timey days of 2013. Both of these pitchers will bite off his manager’s ear if he thinks he’s being taken out too soon. There’s a chance -- maybe a one-percent chance -- that both pitchers will throw so well and economically that they’re still pitching in the eighth inning. There might be a half-percent chance that they’ll still be there in the ninth, and I can’t express just how incredible that kind of World Series game would be. It would be the kind of World Series game we would still remember years later. I can’t really tell you an awful lot about Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, which I both attended and wrote 3,000 words about, but I can sure wax rhapsodic about Game 5. I’ve probably forgotten more about the 2014 World Series than I remember, but I can almost give you a play-by-play of Game 7. Sale vs. Kershaw has a chance of being that kind of game, even if it’s a little unlikely. (And there could be a Game 4 and maaaaybe a Game 7, too.) To see Yasiel Puig take a bite out of third base like it was a big ol’ marshmallow That is, you should always watch to see if Puig does anything that will make you call someone in from the other room. It doesn’t have to be Puig taking a bite of a base. That’s just the likeliest scenario. He might also put the tarp over the entire infield after attempting to catch a foul ball. Don’t ask how, just know that it’s entirely possible to read the following in Joe Buck’s voice: Puig gives chase, but he’s out of room. And now ... the tarp is covering the infield, and I gotta say, I think Justin Turner is still under there. Everyone is scrambling, trying to figure out what’s going on, and, oh god, is that blood? Close your eyes. You can hear it. But, fine, if you’re looking for realism, what we’re really looking for is one of the following: A double on an infield hit A bat flip that goes into the stands A throw from the outfield wall that reaches home plate on the fly, even though there’s no runner on base You don’t have to like Puig. You do have to enjoy watching him, though. So you can pretend you are intimately familiar with every single member of both bullpens, and developing strong opinions based on this Oh, heck yes, this is very much my jam. Two weeks ago, I was squinting at the name “Ryan Brasier” as if it was the name in a wallet I found on the street. In two days, though, I’ll be like ... Yeah, Brasier can’t really get away with that kind of mistake. He needs to let that movement work for him and saw bats off. It will be completely affected and irritating! And it is also a constitutional right. Come and take it from me. The violent swings of Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger There are other violent swings in baseball, but the Dodgers have a pairing that’s notable for the lefty-righty symmetry. Both Taylor and Bellinger swing like they’re trying to win a carnival prize, selling out with each and every swing. It’s fun to watch, but it’s also a fantastic way to explain how the modern game has changed. Taylor and Bellinger represent a class of players who have dramatically improved their career prospects through the magic of a horrifically violent swing. Taylor was a non-prospect with the Mariners before the Dodgers got a hold of him, and Cody Bellinger lasted until the fourth round of the 2013 Draft. Any team could have had either player. Nobody knew they were going to swing hard enough to push the Moon out of orbit. Neither player is having the success they had last year, so for now pitchers and scouts have at least partially figured out the paper to their rock. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a treat to watch them force-whip their bats through the zone fast enough to affect the weather in a different county. The controlled perfection of J.D. Martinez’s swing Oh, Martinez swings hard, too. But there’s a difference between flipping a table over and calmly taking the table over to the window and defenestrating it. They’re both violent acts, but one is calm and calculated. Martinez is one of the most fanatical swing dorks in the game, going so far as to recording his batting-practice sessions and re-watching them when convenient. Martinez probably has a name for is swing. Lucille, or something. He probably talks to it, as if it were a dog or old car. When it works, it’s an intensely smooth swing. The hook-armed gnarliness of Craig Kimbrel Craig Kimbrel throws hard, and it’s the setup that makes it even better. He hunkers down with his beet-farm beard, squints, and crooks his arm out to the side before coming set and annihilating hitters. All pitchers who throw 99 mph are fun in their own special ways, but give me a guy who can do it with some theater. It’s great when he’s rolling, but it might even be more entertaining when he’s in a bind. And about that last part ... Both the Red Sox and Dodgers have bullpens that are just a li’l bit sketchy To be fair, the Dodgers’ bullpen has been amazing so far. Dodgers relievers had a 1.45 ERA in the NLCS, with 40 strikeouts and 12 walks in 31 innings.So far this postseason the LA bullpen has a 1.30 ERA with 51 K, 13 BB in 41⅔ IP— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) October 21, 2018 However! Kenley Jansen allowed twice as many home runs this year has he has ever allowed in a season. Kimbrel’s outings have made hearts stop consistently this postseason, as if they were a phone ringing in the middle of the night. Behind the two closers, both teams have a mixture of quality and above-average arms, all complemented with regular-season starters in the grandest of postseason traditions. Both teams can go deep. But Josh Hader isn’t coming through that bullpen door. The Red Sox and Dodgers have two utterly dominant bullpen arms between them, and both of those pitchers have looked mortal at times this year. It all suggests that we could be in for at least one or two chaos games, and if there’s anything that we learned last year, it’s that chaos games are the best. Fenway Park Dodger Stadium is a marvel in its own right, but it can’t compete with screwy dimensions. Fenway comes equipped with a giant wall that goes “WHUMP” or “CLORNG” when a ball ricochets off it, often in an unexpectedly haphazard way. It’s also the park where home runs look the absolute best, offering the unique aesthetic experience of watching the ball sail over an enormous structure and into the abyss at the end of the world. At least, that what I’ve always believed is behind the Green Monster. Please don’t correct me. The Red Sox have been successful enough in recent years that Fenway Park isn’t an October anomaly, so it’s not exactly a novel idea to watch a World Series there. But there is “WHUMP” and “CLORNG,” and there are left fielders playing the balls off the wall perfectly, and there are left fielders who ... don’t. Plus, there’s a hilariously tiny wall on the other side of the field, which allows players to dive in, combined with a right-field foul pole that’s about 38 feet away from home plate. There is no ballpark in baseball that is better at inserting itself into the game than Fenway, and one of the best reasons to love baseball is because it’s a sport where the stadium is supposed to insert itself into the game. What I’m getting at is that the Super Bowl needs to be played at a stadium with a moat in the middle of the field. A big ol’ moat. The outfield defense of the Red Sox The superlative “three center fielders” can be overused as shorthand for “three athletic, speedy dudes,” but it’s pretty rare to find a true three-CF outfield. Not just today, either. It’s hard to find a lot of them throughout baseball history. The Red Sox have one of them, though. We’ve already talked about Betts, but one of the reasons he’s in center is that it’s just as satisfying to watch Jackie Bradley, Jr. glide around. Andrew Benintendi is the weak link of the bunch, except he’s absolutely qualified to start in center field for a contending major-league team, and he also happens to be the one who made a remarkable pennant-winning catch that will be shown in highlight reels until society collapses. So, two months, then. But it will be a wild two months, and contrast between Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium means that you’ll get to watch them shine in a couple of different formats. You’ll get the acoustic and electric sets. Yasmani Grandal, wyd Most of these blurbs have been about the reasons why these two teams are here and 28 other teams aren’t. But there has to be one that’s for the ghouls out there, the people who revel in pain and suffering. These twisted folks will find a compelling storyline with Grandal, who is usually a sweet-swinging catcher who can field his position perfectly well. Usually. Something happens to Grandal in the postseason, though. Or, if you want to be a proper stathead, you can hedge with something appears to happen to Grandal in the postseason, but the sample sizes are small. They aren’t that small. Over 85 plate appearances, Grandal is now hitting .100/.250/.200 in his postseason career. Out of the eight postseason series he’s played, his best batting average came in the just-finished NLCS against Milwaukee. To be more specific, his .182 average in the last series was the best of his fairly extensive career. This is all before you get into Grandal’s fielding. It’s the kind of fielding that’ll make Mary Hart yell at you. Mary Hart has not had any Entertainment Tonight from Yasmani Grandal.Here she is yelling at him for another passed ball. pic.twitter.com/Ljl5vaFqmO— Ryan Walton (@RyanWaltonSBN) October 16, 2018 And that’s a special kind of fielding. This postseason, Grandal has let wild pitches sneak by and has also allowed some of the most egregious passed balls of the entire 2018 season. Will it continue? Don’t see why it should, but ... you should probably be a little curious. Manny Machado, acting the heel I wrote about this in great detail, but the main thrust is that Machado is perfect at being a completely oblivious villain. When he kicked Jesús Aguílar in the ankle, I don’t think he was thinking, “Yeah, screw THIS guy.” He was just looking for an advantage. Maybe if he does this, the umpires will just give him first! It’s an almost endearing brand of optimism, except for all the parts that are irritating. Also, it would appear as if Boston fans have ... let’s see, hrmm, yeah, it says right here that they’re aware of him and have opinions to share. That’s great. Opinions are great. Manny Machado is great. Everything is great, y’all. Walker Buehler Do I like the fire-spitting rookie because he spits fire and throws baseballs hard? Yes. This is a great reason to watch him. Do I like the fire-spitting rookie because it can be incredibly intense to watch a rookie realize he’s pitching in the World Freaking Series and grip the ball just that much tighter? Yes. This is a great reason to watch any preternaturally talented rookie. Both the positive and negative outcomes would be a story. Rookies are great in that respect. I would also like to take this time to note that Walker Buehler’s start on the 163rd game of the season won me $150 in my fantasy league, and I used that money to buy an Instant Pot™. I have cooked some absolutely fantastic white-bean chili and chicken noodle soup so far, and with every bite, I was thinking about both Buehler’s unmistakeable talent and the fact that the dummies in my league didn’t have the vision to pick a top prospect in a well-run organization that plays in a pitcher’s park. I mean, come on. Also, it’s fun to watch Buehler pitch. Because if FOX references Dave Roberts’ steal of second base over 100 times, you get a free taco from Taco Bell* Did you know that Dave Roberts stole a base in the 2004 American League Championship Series? It’s true. It was in the ninth inning of Game 4, and it helped spark a ninth-inning comeback against Mariano Rivera. Dave Roberts is the manager for the Dodgers now, you see. The Dodgers are playing the Red Sox. Which means that FOX is developing the technology to make you acknowledge that you have seen the highlight of Dave Roberts stealing a base in the ALCS. Wait, but my TV doesn’t have a touch screen ... Doesn’t matter! Push the button. Puuuuuush the button. Confirm you’ve seen this message. Well, too late, you were too slow, so here’s the highlight again. * probably There are David Price and Clayton Kershaw narratives to settle Both pitchers sure ripped some monkeys off their back in their respective LCS, and you would think that would be the end of all the close scrutiny for the postseason careers of both pitchers. Ahahaha, that’s not how this works. Easy narratives only ask us to consider the bare minimum of information with which to form an opinion. That means I don’t have to remember those LCS performances if I want to grumble about either pitcher. I’ve already forgotten about them, suckers! Going straight back to “David Price and Clayton Kershaw can’t win in the postseason”! Which is unfair. But, yessir, this adds spice to the postseason narrative. Last year, in Game 5 of the World Series, Kershaw had a four-run lead and was looking invincible. Then there was that nagging voice in the back of all of our heads that reminded us that there were still demons to slay. The demons were not slain. There was a piece of demon still embedded in the skin, and those suckers regenerate quickly and without mercy. I’m not sure how a Price-Kershaw matchup would actually happen, so we’ll take them a la carte for now. These extremely talented and great starting pitchers have something of a reputation. I think baseball is better if they shed it, but one of them probably won’t. Them’s the odds. Crowd shots Specifically, I want two things: 1. Shots of celebrities in the Dodger Stadium crowd. Specifically, I’m talking about actual celebrities -- Mary Hart, hello, follow me on Twitter -- and the celebrities who are starting in the new FOX sitcom Gizzards, Wednesdays at 9:00. These celebrities are endlessly entertaining to me, because I’m someone who doesn’t actually consume entertainment that isn’t baseball. This is because they block all non-baseball content from being transmitted to the cell they keep me chained in PLEASE CALL FOR HELP IF YOU CAN READ THIS MESSAGE so I’m living vicariously through these FOX shots. 2. Shots of drunken Fenway bros screaming, “AND ‘ERE COMES A PIZZER” but not referencing the actual incident. They’re just saying, “AND ‘ERE COMES A PIZZER” unironically because they’re actually trying to convey that a pizza is, in fact, on its way to its destination. Both of these are great. I’m also very much into some crowd-noise shaming if you have some. I’m guessing Fenway will be louder than Dodger Stadium, but I’m also guessing that Fenway isn’t as loud as usual because the World Series is when the Corporate Dinks come out. They got tickets from Cody in outside sales. Don’t ask how, ha ha. They’re looking forward to watching the crowning event for The MLB. They totally know who Mookie Best is, just ask them. The Dodger Stadium organist This isn’t the main reason to watch the World Series, but, seriously, the Dodgers’ organist is awesome. Dieter Ruehle puts a tremendous amount of effort into his craft, doing his best to subtly dig at opponents with his mid-at-bat song choices. Will Chris Sale get an organ version of the Scissor Sisters? Or will he get Belly’s “Feed the Tree” as a nod to his belly button infection? Don’t know, but I do know that Ruehle is busy researching stuff right now. He’ll play “Brass Monkey” when Max Muncy is up, unless he’s playing the overworld theme to Legend of Zelda. Don’t you worry. But he’ll also needle the other team juuust a little bit. Think of him like a partisan college crowd doing oppo research, but ... much, much gentler and light-hearted.
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The Giants’ final drive in their loss to the Falcons was pure comedy
The Giants opted for two Eli Manning runs on the goal line. The joke writes itself. The New York Giants are off to a truly terrible start this season, but they still had a slight chance to win late against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. They didn’t make it easy on themselves to get the job done, though. The Giants were down 23-12 with 45 seconds left on the Falcons 1-yard line. At this point it’s still a long shot to win, but a touchdown and a two-point conversion would give the Giants a chance to try an onside kick and send the game into overtime with a long field goal attempt. Well, the first part happened, but the second couldn’t because of how they executed. As the clock was dwindling down, the Giants opted to run TWO sneaks with Eli Manning. And both of them failed: No timeouts? Let’s run back-to-back QB sneaks with the least athletic QB in the league! Over 40 seconds gone after Eli Manning’s failed sneaks. This is beyond baffling. #giants pic.twitter.com/RxO7LxgsFu— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) October 23, 2018 That not only wasted about 40 seconds of time, but here’s a reminder that Manning is 37 and has exactly one rushing touchdown in the last four seasons (and just six in his career). The Giants FINALLY ran a short pass play to Odell Beckham for a touchdown ... with 5 seconds remaining on the clock. Since the Giants didn’t have any timeouts, they had to hurry to the line of scrimmage. Beckham’s touchdown was a thing of a beauty: This 1-yard touchdown by Odell Beckham was super impressive #MNF #ESPN pic.twitter.com/PXKHVF9Qqn— Jimmy Clarke (@JimmyClarke) October 23, 2018 But it could’ve happened earlier in the drive, especially when they couldn’t stop the clock. The Giants had called all three of their timeouts before the two-minute warning on Atlanta’s previous drive, when the Falcons kicked a 56-yard field goal to make the game 23-12. Hindsight is always 20/20, but the Giants probably should’ve left one of those timeouts in their back pocket for this situation. After the Beckham score, Saquon Barkley ran in for a two-point conversion to get the Giants to within three: Final score 20-23 @Giants fail to the @AtlantaFalcons as @saquon punches in the two point conversion #NYGVSATL pic.twitter.com/Z6ziR2mTZV— Jared Wilder (@jwildog) October 23, 2018 So where were these play calls when the Giants first got to the 1-yard line? This offseason, the Giants paid Beckham $90 million and drafted Barkley with the No. 2 pick. It would’ve made sense to use those players when the game is on the line. Beckham was having a monster night too — he finished the game with eight catches for 143 yards and a touchdown. At one point in the game, Giants coach Pat Shurmur was visibly upset with Manning for not throwing the ball to Beckham on fourth-and-goal that would’ve tied the game at 10. Pat Shurmur“What? Throw to Odell”@MattLombardoNFL @BruceBeck4NY @JordanRaanan pic.twitter.com/QhSYXUONXe— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) October 23, 2018 After the game, Shurmur, who had been aggressive all game long, defended his calls to run back-to-back quarterback sneaks rather than pass earlier on the last drive. “No, that’s a defeatist deal. You should be able to convert on a sneak, and we’ve all seen [Manning] do that.” Perhaps that’s a reasonable explanation for one quarterback sneak, but two? And burning THAT much time off the clock? The Giants had the right idea on the onside kick, but awful execution. The Giants missed badly on a long onside kick attempt to set them up in field goal range, but there were only 5 seconds left on the clock. Trying to hit a normal onside kick would leave them in a Hail Mary situation, had they recovered it. They needed get the ball a little further downfield so they could kick a field goal if they recovered. Unfortunately for the Giants, they kicked it right behind Julio Jones, who was able to easily recover the ball. The Giants just produced one of the worst onside kicks in NFL history pic.twitter.com/JuvdQsFTyB— BetQL (@betqlapp) October 23, 2018 Then Atlanta hit a quick kneel to end the game, holding on to a 23-20 win. That dropped the Giants to 1-6 on the season, making them dead last in the NFC East. But at the very least, this loss puts them in the driver’s seat for a premium pick at the top of the 2019 NFL Draft.
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Why Shurmur made the right call on Giants’ failed 2-point try
The result wasn’t favorable, but Pat Shurmur made the right call in going for the two-point conversion late against the Falcons. Against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football, New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur made a controversial call ... that shouldn’t be considered controversial at all. In the fourth quarter, Shurmur and the Giants went for a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown when his team trailed by 14 points. The attempt was a pass to Odell Beckham Jr., who was open enough to throw to, but the defender managed to get in and break it up at the last moment: .@AtlantaFalcons D not giving up those two points pic.twitter.com/qPVsUxUTgH— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 23, 2018 The two-point conversion failed, and plenty of people — especially the Monday Night Football broadcast crew — piled on Shurmur for the decision: I’ll say it again to hell with analytics when ur defense is busting their ass to keep u in the game and U score and u go for 2 because of %’s Bad coaching decision by Pat Shurmur.— Booger (@ESPNBooger) October 23, 2018 Others, though, pointed out exactly why it makes sense to go for two in that situation. You can reach this conclusion through a mystical art form known as “basic mathematics.” Just a couple weeks ago, people were talking about Doug Pederson’s smart move by going for two against the Vikings. From that same decision, Football Perspective gave us some ... perspective on the matter. Math is simple here. The move works 50% of the time, is neutral 25% (miss, then make) and backfires 25% of the time (miss, miss). https://t.co/XxGlCOsYKE— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) October 7, 2018 Or if you’re a more visual learner, you can see a nice chart here: It's simple math guys, but still shocked Shumur did it. Other teams must have studied it after Pederson finally did it a couple weeks ago https://t.co/JsdzJumHdq pic.twitter.com/nVTj6Fy0eL— Kevin Cole (@Cole_Kev) October 23, 2018 “We’ve discussed, internally, the math on that,” Shurmur said after the game. “You increase your chances by 50 percent if you go for it and make it there. ... Because then if we score a touchdown, we just kick the extra point and win.” “I felt like we had a good play. I liked our two-point play selections, and we just didn’t quite get it done.” On the next drive, the Falcons gambled on a 56-yard field goal attempt by new kicker Giorgio Tavecchio. It paid off, making it a 23-12 game. If they hadn’t tried the field goal — or missed instead — the Giants would have had a chance to tie. “But at the end there, you saw, had they not kicked the field goal, I felt good about our second two-point play, which we scored on,” Shurmur said. The Giants scored a touchdown on their next drive and converted their second two-point conversion attempt, when they handed it to Saquon Barkley to make it a three-point game: Final score 20-23 @Giants fail to the @AtlantaFalcons as @saquon punches in the two point conversion #NYGVSATL pic.twitter.com/Z6ziR2mTZV— Jared Wilder (@jwildog) October 23, 2018 This is all on top of the fact that the NFL is trending more and more toward high-powered offenses as the rules change. ”I felt like I wanted to be aggressive for our guys,” Shurmur said. The Giants wound up losing Monday’s game, 23-20. Despite the late touchdown and two-point conversion, they had just five seconds on the clock while trailing by three points. They then failed to convert the onside kick. But make no mistake, they didn’t lose because Shurmur tried to go for two.
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Booger McFarland calls Odell Beckham Jr. a ‘diva’ because he won’t pee his pants 
“As a defensive lineman, we didn’t go to the bathroom.” The Monday night game between the Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants wasn’t very interesting or entertaining, but it did give us a ... candid moment from Booger McFarland. Odell Beckham Jr. ran off the field for a second to use the restroom while the Falcons were on offense — a perfectly fine and normal thing to do. For some reason, this prompted Booger to reveal that he used to use the bathroom on the sidelines (???) during the games while he was a player. Booger McFarland wyd? pic.twitter.com/FYd39Gijl7— Ryan Day (@ryaneatscake) October 23, 2018 “You know, back in my day ... we would do that on the sideline. I didn’t need to go to the back for that. We just kind of sat down on the bench and do your business and move on,” Booger said. Even though Jason Witten and Joe Tessitore decided that was TMI, Booger kept going. “These diva wide receivers want to go to the bathroom. As a defensive lineman, we didn’t go to the bathroom.” For some reason, Odell was labeled a “diva” because he opted to use a real toilet instead of his football pants. It’s also kind of funny that Odell had a rush to use the bathroom considering that he doesn’t drink water. The Monday Night Football broadcast has been underwhelming this year to say the least. But at least that moment was better than most of the game, a 23-20 win for the Falcons.
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The SEC won’t overturn Devin White’s suspension, despite LSU’s ask
It might not have been impossible, but it was always unlikely. Officials ejected LSU linebacker Devin White from the Tigers’ win against Mississippi State on Saturday. White’s ejection came in the second half of LSU’s romp, which means he’s suspended for the first half of the Tigers’ next game. That happens to be a Week 10 blockbuster against Alabama, which makes it an enormous blow to LSU. Here's the targeting call that got #LSU LB Devin White ejected and will force him to miss the first half vs Alabama. pic.twitter.com/qKKtF6QBmy— Shea Dixon (@Sheadixon) October 21, 2018 LSU athletic director Joe Alleva’s was reportedly fighting the suspension, but not successfully. White will miss the first half against Bama. On Sunday, The Advocate reported Alleva had “been on the the phone with league officials since the call was made,” though there’s not a formal appeals process. And, Monday, Nola.com confirmed it wouldn’t happen: “Discussions with the SEC made clear there is no process for appeal,” Munson said. “The suspension will stand.” The discussions were not contentious, Munson said. The rule as written just left no chance at an appeal. Alleva spent the past 48 hours trying, but there wasn’t much he could do. There’s now a GoFundMe for a billboard to go outside the SEC’s Birmingham office, “to let them know it’s time to #FreeDevinWhite.” It had raised more than $4,000 by Monday night and was trending on the site: #FreeDevinWhite We’re putting up a billboard for two weeks in Birmingham, AL, the home of SEC headquarters, to let them know it’s time to #FreeDevinWhite. A downtown Birmingham billboard will cost $2305. An I-65 billboard will cost $1845. We’ll fund as many billboards as possible, with any excess funding going as a donation toward the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, in honor of Devin’s love of horses. That’s a Geaux Tigers. The SEC might have been able to void White’s one-half suspension, because conferences administer games. But this is all about an NCAA rule, and it’d be highly unusual for a league to just flaunt the national rulebook. The NCAA book’s pretty clear on the penalty for second-half targeting fouls: For fouls in the second half: Disqualification for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next game. Conferences have their own rules on a host of issues. For instance, different leagues allow road teams to have different-sized travel rosters. Different leagues have different transfer rules. Different leagues have different policies about fans storming the field. On these subjects, conferences can pretty much do what they want, subject to certain NCAA rules. But the actual playing rulebook, which includes the line about players being suspended for the first half of the next game after a second-half targeting foul? It covers every NCAA game, whether that’s in the SEC, the Pac-12, or Division III. I have no idea what the NCAA could’ve done to the SEC if it scrapped White’s suspension. Maybe the SEC could have gotten around it by retroactively overturning the targeting call, but given that the league’s review officials upheld that call and have since gotten a public statement of support from the league office, that would’ve been quite odd.. The rationale for White’s ejection was simple enough, though people widely disagree about the rule in the first place. White appeared to hit Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald near his head while Fitzgerald was throwing a pass. Here’s the relevant part of the NCAA’s targeting rule: No player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent (See Note 2 below) with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting (See Note 1 below). When in question, it is a foul (Rules 2-27-14 and 9-6). (A.R. 9-1-4-I-VI) Note 1: “Targeting” means that a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball. Some indicators of targeting include but are not limited to: *Launch—a player leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make forcible contact in the head or neck area *A crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area, even though one or both feet are still on the ground *Leading with helmet, shoulder, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area Lowering the head before attacking by initiating forcible contact with the crown of the helmet Also key: the definition of a “defenseless player.” Among those: A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass. The targeting rule also prohibits making forcible contact with the crown of the helmet. That’s not what got White in trouble on this play, however. As the SEC explained: “By rule, no player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent. The QB on the play was defenseless at the time of the contact. By rule, all targeting calls are reviewed. The call was reviewed and confirmed.” LSU fans were furious with the call, and they continued to boo an entire drive later, long after White had left for the locker room. That seemed like an abnormally long time for people to stay upset about a targeting call. The cycle usually finishes a lot quicker. What’s happened since then is unique.
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The Jaguars must be sticking with Blake Bortles for one reason: London Bortles
Blake Bortles has been a different player at Wembley Stadium. Blake Bortles is not playing good football right now. His third consecutive disastrous game was finally enough to get him benched Sunday, but the Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t stick with that for long. Bortles is back in the starting lineup for a Week 8 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. “I spoke to both quarterbacks this afternoon and told them that Blake will be our team’s starting quarterback,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said Monday. “I believe this gives us the best opportunity to win.” That’s not saying much considering Bortles has completed 54.5 percent of his passes so far in October with two touchdowns, five interceptions, and three fumbles. That’s a 60.2 passer rating this month compared to the 93.6 rating he put up in September. On the other hand, Bortles in London is a different animal. He won’t have a long leash for the Week 8 game at Wembley Stadium, but if he plays at all like his last three trips overseas, the Jaguars will be just fine. Blake Bortles was benched Sunday, but next week the Jaguars head overseas. London Bortles has been tough to beat in recent years.Blake Bortles Last 3 Seasons in LondonW-L 3-0Team PPG 36.0TD-Int 8-1 pic.twitter.com/ySCPfO1MsM— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 21, 2018 In the Jaguars’ most recent trip to London, Bortles threw 244 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions in a 44-7 win against the Ravens. He’s such a different player in the United Kingdom that it doesn’t feel right to keep calling him Blake Bortles next week. Bloke Bortles? London Broitles? Blake Chortles? Is “chortles” even a British enough word to count? Or maybe he’ll just be the same ol’ Blake Bortles who tanked a 3-1 start for the Jaguars and got benched for Cody Kessler. That wouldn’t be surprising considering the luck of NFL fans in London. Before the exciting end to the Chargers’ 20-19 win against the Titans in Week 7, the five previous games in London were decided by at least 17 points. The NFL did them a solid by booking a matchup at Wembley between two of the best teams in the league, the Eagles and Jaguars. Now they’re both 3-4 and it’s a battle of desperation between two teams trying to avoid a hole they can’t climb out of. It’s up to unlikely London superhero Bloke Bortles to come to the rescue.
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Trae Young has already turned shots ‘from the logo’ into his trademark
Three games into his NBA career, Trae Young already dropped a 30-point game. Now, it’s a T-shirt. Trae Young isn’t messing around. No seriously, the Atlanta Hawks rookie is cooking. On Sunday, in just his third NBA game, Young put up 35 points and 11 assists in the Hawks’ 133-111 win over the Cavaliers. In classic Trae Young fashion, he was chucking (and hitting) 3-pointers from deep. Very deep. Case and point: 35 PTS. 11 ASTS. Trae Young put on a show in the @ATLHawks victory! #TrueToAtlanta pic.twitter.com/mmn1GP2FI5— NBA (@NBA) October 22, 2018 Young finished the game 6-of-14 from three to help the Hawks earn their first win of the season. Fans who saw him at Oklahoma last season already know this, but there’s no limit to Young’s range. The dude can knock down shots easily from the logo, and he’ll be doing it for a long time. Settle in, Hawks fans. BreakingT From The Logo T-shirt for $26 Here’s a few more ways Trae Young fans can buy into the hype We’re only in Week 2 of the NBA season, but if you’re already sold on Young’s superstar potential, here’s a few more items to check out. DICK’S Sporting Goods Trae Young Nike Black T-shirt for $35 DICK’S Sporting Goods Trae Young Nike Statement Edition T-shirt for $35 With his spectacular performance on Sunday, Young became the first rookie since Stephen Curry (!) to drop at least 35 points and 10 assists in a game. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. Looking for more product reviews, shopping guides, and good deals on sports merchandise and apparel? Check out our new Buy Stuff section.
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Urban Meyer’s not even coaching well any more
Meyer’s managerial shortcomings were already laid plain. He’s now doing a poorer job coaching football, too. Ohio State lost to Purdue on Saturday. The Buckeyes actually got routed. Going undefeated is difficult for anybody, Purdue was clearly a dangerous team, and Ohio State has recently struggled badly in West Lafayette. Road upsets happen, and one disappointing game wouldn’t normally be anything to get too worked up over. But the way Ohio State lost to Purdue wasn’t a fluke or a blip. You don’t have to look very hard to see some problems at Ohio State that extend beyond just this one game, that there aren’t any easy solutions, and that they’re all tied to Urban Meyer. Ohio State has a bunch of on-field problems. The Buckeyes, a team with two NFL-caliber running backs and one of the best quarterbacks in college football, have become incapable of running the ball. Ohio State rushed for 3 yards per carry against Purdue, a slight jump up from 2.9 the week before. Until now, the average had declined each game after Week 1’s game, which was against the Pac-12’s worst team. Struggling to run against Penn State or another solid front in the Big Ten East is one thing, but the Buckeyes couldn’t convert regularly against Indiana or Minnesota, either. If you can’t run the ball at all, you run into red zone issues. Ohio State had four red zone trips against Purdue, amounting to six points. Finishing drives inside the 10 has been a recurring issue all season, against defenses good and bad. A big reason for all of that? The decline in quality from the offensive line. The Buckeyes have linemen playing out of position, linemen playing after injuries, and linemen just struggling. For a unit that starts three seniors and is the product of Ohio State’s blue-chip recruiting, there is no excuse for the line to be the weak point of the team. OhioState has been held below 4 yards per carry in each of the last five games. Surprising since the Buckeyes had only been held below 4 yards a rush six times in the previous five YEARS combined.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) October 21, 2018 The running issue is a new one at Ohio State. But struggles on offense, especially in big moments, are now new. The Buckeyes have had issues, building over the last three seasons, around over-conservative play-calling and a lack of execution. Until Dwayne Haskins came along, they hadn’t been able to develop a consistent downfield passing game. It’s not a coincidence that Meyer’s three worst losses as a head coach have all happened in the last three seasons. These problems exist because the program hasn’t developed players well enough, despite recruiting at an elite level. Ohio State has not lacked for raw talent, though its recruiting is tracking in the wrong direction for 2019. For now, the Buckeyes one of the best rosters in the country and easily the best in the Big Ten, going by recruiting rankings. But at positions of need, like the offensive line or secondary, not all of the younger players have been able to get meaningful playing time. If O-lineman Michael Jordan, a productive guard, had to slide over to center, what does that say about players like high-four-star signee Josh Myers or the rest of Ohio State’s centers? If the Buckeyes can’t open holes in the running game and a guy like Wyatt Davis, the top guard prospect in the country in 2017, can’t push for playing time, was he mis-evaluated or not developed enough? If Ohio State signed top talent all over the field, and those players aren’t ready to push weaker performers at safety, cornerback, or elsewhere, what’s happening? This is on Ohio State’s coaching staff. Meyer hired that staff. One of the biggest causes of Meyer’s decline at Florida was his inability to adequately replace excellent assistant coaches who left for other jobs. Replacing Dan Mullen with Steve Addazio is the move most frequently cited by Florida fans as an example of a poor choice. That might have happened again. There’s plenty of experience on staff, including ex-FBS head coaches Greg Schiano and Kevin Wilson. But both coordinators’ units have declined, especially Schiano’s defense. He’s been badly out-coached numerous times this year and famously allowed a big day by Iowa the year before. When the Buckeyes needed a new linebackers coach, Meyer tabbed Billy Davis, a close personal friend who hasn’t managed to get enough production from his players. Meyer’s managerial ability was already in doubt, to say the absolute least. Among all of the things you could take away from the Zach Smith story that came into public view this summer, the school’s investigative report is clear: Meyer let a personal relationship interfere with his ability to discipline a clearly ineffective assistant coach, who should have been fired even before considering multiple accusations of domestic abuse against him. And when Meyer was on suspension, the team’s other offensive coordinator, Ryan Day, filled in for him — because obvious choices Schiano and Wilson were unfit due to their own pasts. Smith’s case was far more serious than linebackers not playing well. But there’s now a boatload of evidence that Meyer shouldn’t be trusted to make the managerial decisions a program needs its leader to make. These problems don’t feel like ones that a bye week can fix. Meyer is one of the most successful coaches in college football history. But Ohio State’s issues require the humility to make wholesale changes, especially with personnel, and that’s never been Meyer’s strength. The best solution, for many reasons, might be for Meyer to retire after the end of the season. That would allow Ohio State to either elevate Day, whom they reportedly have considered making the official head coach-in-waiting. Or they could look for a replacement on the open market. If the school and coach stand pat, things might get worse before they get better.
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It’s time to talk to your kids about UVA maybe playing in the ACC title game
But seriously, it could happen. Sit down. I have some shocking news. The Virginia Cavaliers are actually good at football. Like, American football. In Bronco Mendenhall’s third season in Charlottesville, the Wahoos are sitting at 5-2 overall with a 3-1 mark in the ACC. Virginia has big wins over then-No. 16 Miami and on the road against Duke and have made it through the toughest part of their conference schedule. In fact, there is a real possibility that this Cavalier squad could win the rest of their games and finish 10-2. Here’s what is left for UVA in the last five weeks of the season: vs. North Carolina (1-3 ACC) vs. Pitt (2-1 ACC) vs. Liberty @ Georgia Tech (1-3 ACC) @ Virginia Tech (3-0 ACC) The Hoos will be favored in three or four straight games, potentially leading to a winner-take-all rivalry game. Virginia Tech is in the driver’s seat in the ACC Coastal, but the Hokies still have Pitt, Miami, Georgia Tech, and Boston College to go before playing UVA. Miami’s matchups with Georgia Tech, Boston College, Pitt, Duke, and Virginia Tech are no gimmes, either. The ACC Coastal — which is, as always, a complete mess — is wide open for the taking. A mere win over North Carolina would send Virginia to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2004-05. Yes, you’re reading that right. If Virginia can pick up one win in the last five — which includes a home game against Liberty — UVA will have two bowl trips in as many seasons for the first time in 13 years. Granted, in order for the Hoos to represent the ACC in the conference title game, that means they would most likely need to beat Virginia Tech as well, something that hasn’t happened since 2003, when Matt Schaub and Heath Miller headlined the offense. Things have been bleak in Charlottesville for over a decade, as they struggled to find consistent success under head coaches Al Groh and Mike London. Under Groh in 2008, Virginia started 5-3, but dropped its last four games of the season. With London at the helm in 2014, they got off to a 4-2 start, but finished 5-7. Since the ACC Championship became a thing in 2005, Virginia has only sniffed at the title game twice. In 2007, the Hoos and Hokies were both 6-1 heading into the final conference game of the season. Virginia lost their fourth straight to VT and finished one game out. In 2011, UVA once again went into their rivalry matchup with a berth to the ACC Championship game on the line. The Hoos lost that game in embarrassing fashion, falling 38-0 in their eighth straight loss to the Hokies. This season just seems different. First of all, Virginia’s defense is outstanding. Only Miami and Clemson are allowing fewer yards and points than the Cavaliers in the ACC, and UVA’s 10 interceptions on the season are behind just Boston College and Miami. After getting off to a shaky start, Virginia’s defensive backs have been elite, picking off five passes combined against Miami and Duke. Cornerback Bryce Hall is first in the ACC and tied for first in the nation with 14 pass breakups, and safety Juan Thornhill is tied for first in the ACC with four interceptions. In their two conference home games, the Virginia defense held Louisville and Miami to just one touchdown combined. Against Miami, Hall clocked in at 22 miles per hour while tracking down Travis Homer for a touchdown-saving stop. Offensively, it has been a while since the Cavaliers had anyone as dynamic as quarterback Bryce Perkins. A transfer from Arizona State via Arizona Western Community College, Perkins is 119-for-192 (63 percent) on the season for 1,406 yards and 12 touchdown passes to go with seven interceptions. On the ground, he’s added another 463 yards (sack adjusted) and five touchdowns. Oh, and he’s caught a pass for nine yards because why the hell not. He has an accurate arm, but when he hits the open field, he can do this: Saturday against Duke, Perkins showed off his arsenal as he passed for 189 yards and a touchdown and added 61 yards and two rushing touchdowns on the ground. Holding on to a 20-14 lead over the Blue Devils, Perkins pulled off a magic act to find his tight end Evan Butts in the end zone to effectively seal the game. @UVAFootball pic.twitter.com/7s46B7KFPm— FOX Sports South (@FOXSportsSouth) October 20, 2018 That doesn’t even take into account running back Jordan Ellis (619 yards, seven touchdowns) and wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus (582 yards, six touchdowns), both of whom are in the top-5 of their respective ACC positions. Mendenhall was a bona fide winner at BYU, and we’re starting to see that in Charlottesville. “Time working increases execution, and when increase your execution under duress like that when you play an opponent, the outcome usually starts to shift over time,” Mendenhall said after the Duke game. “The outcome starts to shift over time and that’s what’s happening now at the two-and-a-half year mark. We can just [see] it shifting, not shifted, but shifting. We’re watching it happen right in front of us.”
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Don’t panic about the Thunder ... yet
But worry? Absolutely. There are warning signs after an 0-3 start. The Oklahoma City Thunder are 0-3. On Sunday, the team got Russell Westbrook back after a minor offseason knee procedure. That didn’t keep the Thunder from losing at home to the then-winless Kings while giving up 131 points. Even in a season with some wild scoring numbers early on, giving up 131 points to the Kings at home is a real bad sign. How worried should the OKC faithful be? Well, we’re three games in, and the former MVP on the roster has played one game. Patience is a good plan here. Overall, the Thunder’s defense hasn’t been out of line with the league as a whole. OKC is giving up 110 points per 100 possessions so far, which would normally be among the league’s worst marks, but is actually average (16th) right now. Where the Thunder have fallen way short is on offense. OKC ranks No. 30 in the league in offensive efficiency despite dropping 120 in Sunday’s loss to Sacramento. That won’t hold: the Thunder had a top-10 offense in 2017-18, and likely upgraded on that end by removing miscast Carmelo Anthony and adding Dennis Schroder. Westbrook’s return just put OKC’s offense back on track — that combo feature him and Paul George is deadly in a way that units featuring just one of the two are not. George proved to be a great fit with Westbrook on offense last season because his lack of ball-dominance requires Russ to spend less time off the ball (where he’s not particularly useful). Once Westbrook is back into the flow, Oklahoma City’s offense should be back near the best in the league. That defense probably isn’t going anywhere until Andre Roberson gets back, however. The Thunder had a top-10 defense through the All-Star break last season. In fact, OKC was one of the best teams in the league by point differential despite an underwhelming record (33-26). But Roberson went down for good at the end of January with a knee injury, and the numbers reflected how deeply his absence was felt. Even as OKC held on in the standings, the defense fell to No. 14 after the All-Star break, reflecting the team’s sudden lack of a second top-line perimeter defender. Given the defensive limitations of Westbrook, Melo, and the parade of wing replacements, losing Roberson took away what had been one of the team’s strengths. Roberson might be back in December — he was expected to be back sooner, but suffered a setback during training camp. Second-year wing Terrance Ferguson, OKC’s starter at the two-guard through three games, has been an outright disaster so far, shooting 2-15 from the floor on the season and getting roasted by Iman Shumpert on Sunday. He has more fouls than points right now. It’s early, but he wasn’t all that good last year either. It’s hard to ignore how much better the post-Roberson Thunder were with Alex Abrines playing with the starters than they were with Ferguson last year. (Abrines left Sunday’s game against the Kings after getting elbowed in the mouth). There are two real reasons to use Ferguson as a starter over Abrines: because you believe the reps will help unlock Ferguson’s potential quickly, and because you need Abrines’ shooting ability with the second unit. But if the current output keeps up, that needs to be revisited. Even if it means starting Jerami Grant over Patrick Patterson to add shooting from a different position to the second unit, Ferguson is quickly becoming untenable. Billy Donovan never found a perfect starting lineup in 2017-18 because he was unwilling to bring Carmelo off the bench. Now there’s no possible perfect starting lineup with Roberson’s extended absence. That seems destined to cap OKC’s interim defense at average at best. In that case, given that Ferguson isn’t a capable defender as of yet, it would make sense to elevate Abrines to at least get that offense fully on track, assuming Abrines’ issue isn’t serious. But beyond tinkering at that position and giving Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot a look, there’s not a whole lot the Thunder can do but wait for the offense to come uncorked under Westbrook’s watch and hope for the best with Roberson’s recovery. There’s no sense in panicking now. If this keeps up another week or two? Then you panic. What that means for the team — A coaching change? A desperate trade attempt involving Steven Adams? — is anyone’s guess.
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Even the Colts’ mascot is trolling the Bills now
Just when you think things couldn’t get worse for Buffalo’s quarterbacks ... No one expected much out of the Bills this year, let alone their offense. How they have two wins is one of the season’s greatest mysteries. But they still came in to Sunday with a better record than the team they were playing: the Colts. The Bills were trotting out 35-year-old quarterback Derek Anderson, who had been signed less than two weeks earlier to serve as a mentor to rookie Josh Allen. Days later, Allen was injured against the Texans, a loss that happened because Nathan Peterman was his most Nathan Petermanish. That gave the Week 7 quarterback job to Anderson, who completed a whole two passes last season with the Panthers. He was not much better against the Colts. Anderson completed 20 of 31 passes (not bad) for 175 yards (ehhh), no touchdowns (eeek), and three interceptions (yowzers). He also lost a fumble. If nothing else, it was an incredibly Bills QB game — somehow, Anderson’s 39.8 passer rating was better than Allen’s against the Packers in Week 4 (36.3) and Peterman’s in Week 1 against the Ravens (uh, 0.0). But it was a worse passing day than everyone else at Lucas Oil Stadium. That includes Blue, the Colts’ mascot who usually gets his kicks by trolling kids or humping the air: Passer rating at Lucas Oil Stadium today:1. Colts QB2. Colts Mascot3. Bills QB https://t.co/HXbG537c5h— Blue (@blue) October 22, 2018 In his return this season from a longtime shoulder injury, Andrew Luck has been both prolific and doesn’t have much to show for it. No quarterback has attempted more passes this year than Luck, but he has also thrown for just 6.3 yards per attempt. It didn’t matter on Sunday, when Luck threw for just 156 yards but also had four touchdowns. That upped his total to 20 touchdown passes in 2018, with 15 of those coming in the last four games. Those four touchdown passes are also more than the Bills have had ALL season. In less surprising news, the Bills lost by double digits, this time for a Scorigami of 37-5: The #Bills played their 24th game under Sean McDermottThey lost their SEVENTH game by 20+ points— Dan Fetes (@danfetes) October 21, 2018 The quarterback situation doesn’t look any more promising in the near future, either. Allen’s status remains up in the air. Peterman is still Peterman. Anderson is feeling the effects of being 35 and starting your first game in two years: Asked how he felt physically, Anderson told reporters after the game, “I don’t feel great right now, I’m not gonna lie to you." https://t.co/B9SxchoabH— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) October 21, 2018 Oh yeah, and their next game is against the Patriots on Monday Night Football in Week 8. As ominous as that sounds, at least it’s a fitting way to celebrate Halloween week.
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This 16-year-old toppled the 7-time champion to become the king of Tetris
Simply amazing. The world of Tetris has a new king after 16-year-old Joseph Saelee took a three game series over reigning world champion Jonas Neubauer to become the new Tetris Classic World Champion. Saelee is relatively new to the Tetris scene, with his YouTube channel only dating back to March of this year. In seven short months he’s gone from setting a personal best of 746,212 points to now winning the world championship with a score of 934,880. It’s not just that Saelee is a Tetris wizard considering his age, it’s who he had to beat to get here. Neubauer had won seven of the last eight world championships, Vice ran a profile on him just a few days ago as he prepared to try and win his 8th World Championship — instead Saelee pulled off one of the biggest upsets in competitive gaming this year. Up 2-0 in the best-of-three final, Saelee overcame a long drought where he couldn’t find the straight block needed to complete his tetris — but instead of getting nervous he played smart, waited for his moment and it finally came. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that there’s not a lot of money in the world of competitive Classic Tetris. Saelee won $1,000 for his performance, but it’s much more about being able to hoist that T block over his head.
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Jason Garrett is the spiritual heir to Jeff Fisher
The NFL needs its mediocrity, and the Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is doing his best to fill the void. This season has been a refreshing one for long-suffering NFL fans fed up with the standardized levels of mediocrity that plagued the league for so long. You had your Jeff Fishers, your John Foxes, punting on fourth-and-short and settling for field goals no matter the situation. Not this year. Coaches like Sean McVay and Sean Payton have proven that coaching not to lose is not a winning strategy. And then there’s Jason Garrett in Dallas. All he did this week was throw away a hard-fought comeback and a chance for a win that would have given the Cowboys the lead in the NFC East. He could taste that tie, and no amount of clock time or timeouts in hand could keep him from it. With less than two minutes to play, Dak Prescott did it his own damn self, running in a 1-yard touchdown. The extra point made it 20-17, Washington. After that the defense did exactly what it needed to do, forcing Washington to three-and-out. Dallas used two of its three timeouts to help keep some time on the clock, and the Cowboys got the ball back with 1:09 left in regulation. Four plays and one Washington timeout later, Dallas has a second-and-1 at Washington’s 37-yard line with 28 seconds on the clock. Prescott hit Cole Beasley over the middle, which raises its own question, but he caught it for a 6-yard gain. Officials had to review the catch, giving the Cowboys all the time they needed to map out their next play or two. Remember, they still had a timeout left at this point. Nope. They ran the ball from Washington’s 29-yard line, giving it to Ezekiel Elliott to get the ball placement they wanted to kick the game-tying field goal. Then, they took a timeout, with three seconds on the clock. A weird penalty on the long snapper, a fluke penalty, turned a 47-yard field goal to a 52-yarder that Brett Maher ended up missing. Cowboys lose. Romo knew With 12 seconds and 29 yards to go, the smart move there was to take a shot at the end zone, you know, to try and win the game. With a timeout remaining, they might have had time for two more plays. They could have even tried to shorten the field for Maher with a smarter play call there. That way in the event of a rare, weird snap infraction they still would have been in manageable range to tie the game. Tony Romo suggested as much from the booth. If they spike it on the first down with 12 seconds left, instead of run Elliott up the middle, that gives them one shot to get the play they want. Hand it off if the defense is dropping men deep or throw it down the sidelines on a go route, is what Romo suggested. Even if you didn’t like those plays, there were other options. Washington didn’t have its guys deep. They expected Garrett to play for the field goal, so the defenders were playing up close, leaving the deep part of the field ripe for mismatches. Maybe even a touchdown! Tony Romo just out-coached his old coach from the booth. He never considered it Garrett was pretty open about wanting to play it safe there. He was going to kick that field goal and go to overtime. Here’s how he explained it after the game: “The biggest thing after we got ourselves into field goal range was to try to get up there and clock the ball, preserve that last timeout and then give us the freedom. I think we were trying to get the ball down to 12 seconds. So once we got down to that point, the biggest thing that we wanted to do was maximize the field goal opportunity and run the ball, make some yards, use the timeout and then kick the game-tying field goal.” He could have taken a shot AND still kicked the field goal. But no, why bother to try for the win when you have the tie?! This crap happens a lot This is not a new problem for Garrett and the Cowboys. Two weeks ago in an overtime loss to the Texans on Sunday Night Football, conservative play-calling cost the Cowboys another game. With a fourth-and-1 from Houston’s 42-yard line on their first possession in overtime, Garrett punted. The Texans got the ball back, drove 72 yards and kicked the game-winning field goal. Odds favored the Cowboys in that situation too. Precedent did too. But Garrett got cold feet because they didn’t pickup the first down on third-and-2 the play before that one. That decision didn’t leave Jerry Jones very pleased. “Again, we were being outplayed there, not out of effort but we were being outplayed. It’s time for risk at that particular time. That’s not 2nd guessing. ...But we’re all extremely disappointed,” Jones said after the game. And it’s not like this is exclusive to 2018 either. Here’s an article from 2011 predicting a dire outcome for Garrett’s coaching career if he stayed married to his penchant for fittering away the clock and opportunities to win games in favor of kicking a long field goal. So much for that. He got a contract extension in 2015, and there were rumors last week that another extension may be in the offing. Jones himself tamped that down, saying that no talks were happening. Garrett’s under contract through 2019, so he’s not a lame duck yet. If he keeps coaching like this, maybe he should be. Then again, there’s a void in the universe. With so much innovative coaching going on elsewhere, the NFL needs mediocrity to bring balance. Garrett’s only in his ninth season. It took the league 22 years to finally see the real Jeff Fisher.
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Four keys for the Dodgers to beat the Red Sox in the World Series
The Los Angeles Dodgers are back in the World Series, and instead of getting a rematch against the team that beat them in 2017, they will play the team that beat the team that beat them. The Boston Red Sox were great in 2018, winning 108 games, and are a force to be reckoned with in the Fall Classic. Here are some factors for the Dodgers to beat Boston. Clutch hitting This seems obvious, and is magnified during the postseason. But the team that executes more in crucial moments will likely prevail. I realize this is cliché and I apologize, but it is an issue for the Dodgers. They led the National League in runs scored (4.93 per game), but with runners in scoring position they were in they fell off a bit. So far during the postseason the Dodgers have struggled in the clutch, hitting just .190/.330/.333 with runners in scoring position, so they will have their work cut out for them to keep pace with Boston. Another way to do that is ... Dingers! The Dodgers set a franchise record with 234 home runs this season, tops in the National League. They were second in baseball only to the mighty Yankees, who broke the major league mark. The Red Sox did a great job at throttling New York in the American League Division Series, holding the Yankees to just four home runs in the four-game series, including none in the final two games at Yankee Stadium. In the NLCS the Dodgers hit only five home runs against the Brewers, but the two biggest came in Game 7. Cody Bellinger hit a two-run shot to give Los Angeles a lead, then Yasiel Puig broke it open with a three-run shot in the sixth. The Dodgers will need more long balls in the World Series. Their best bets might be against Rick Porcello (27 home runs allowed in 33 starts) or David Price (25 homers allowed in 30 starts). The Dodgers need to score to keep up with Boston, who led the majors in runs per game (5.41). But the Dodgers are no slouch. If we remove all the plate appearances from pitchers, here is how these two offenses hit in 2018: Red Sox: .269/.339/.454, 111 wRC+ Dodgers: .257/.341/.458, 118 wRC+ Nominally that’s as close to the Spiderman meme as we will see, but after factoring in park and competition the Dodgers offense actually rates a little better, sporting a higher adjusted weighted runs created. Go figure. Now they just have to do it over the seven-game series. Backstop production Dodgers catchers have been a problem this postseason. Yes, Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes factor in greatly in implementing game plans for opposing hitters, and that can’t be discounted. In 11 postseason games the Dodgers have allowed just 32 runs, under three per game. Something is going right. But the Dodgers absolutely have to get something at the plate from their catchers in the Fall Classic. So far this postseason Grandal and Barnes are a combined 5-for-42, hitting just .119/.213/.214. During the regular season Dodgers catchers — with Grandal doing the heavy lifting — hit .240/.348/.438. leading the majors in walks (91), slugging percentage, OPS (.786) and wRC+ (117), and second in home runs. Both catchers are considered excellent pitch framers, but the other defensive aspects of the position were exposed in the NLCS for Grandal, who had three passed balls and two errors in the series, and didn’t start after Game 3. Yasmani Grandal made history in the NLCS, but not the good kind. Grandal only caught two more innings the rest of the series, but managed to let a wild pitch get past him for a run in that limited time. The ball always finds a way, it seems. Limit Boston’s big hitters The Red Sox have a deep and stellar offense, but the focus will be on stopping Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, which is easier said than done. The Dodgers allowed a grand slam to budding superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. in the NLDS, but held him to just 3-for-16 (.188) in the series. In the NLCS the Dodgers did a great job of keeping Christian Yelich at bay, holding the Brewers outfielder to just 5-for-28, .179/.303/.321 for the series. After withstanding one likely MVP in Yelich, the Dodgers will have their hands full with another in Betts, who hit .346/.438/.640 during the regular season, with 32 home runs, 47 doubles and 30 steals. Betts has been relatively quiet so far in October, hitting .205/.295/.282 (8-for-39, no home runs) so far, but it seems like only a matter of time before he breaks out. Martinez gave the Dodgers all they could handle in 2017 after getting acquired midseason by the Diamondbacks. He had a four-homer game against them in September, then was 4-for-11 (.364) with a home run in last year’s NLDS, though the Dodgers swept Arizona in three games. The Dodgers will have their hands full with Martinez, who figures to play even when the World Series moves to Los Angeles with no designated hitter, with talk of Betts moving to second base to create room for Martinez in the outfield. Wherever they play, Betts and Martinez are tough matchups and will need to be limited to help the Dodgers’ chances.
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The best early bets for Week 9 of college football
The early betting lines often allow for the most value. All wagers at -110 odds and for 1 unit unless otherwise noted. My picks are in bold, with that team’s spread attached. Visit Odds Shark for updated lines throughout each game week. Season record ATS: 99-80 (55.3%) (+$1085) Last week I went 16-12. If I can do that every week I’ll quit sports writing and move to Vegas. I often tell readers that the best bets can be found in the opening lines on Sunday afternoons. Lines tend to be sharper after they’ve been bet all week. Most of my plays are made early in the week. Note that some of the lines below have since changed. Of course, if you’re trying to bet thousands of dollars on each game, the low limits (typically $250-500 max bets per game) early in the week can be a hindrance, but I’m figuring most of my readership is playing $100 per game or less. Because I make these wagers throughout the week, I order them by when they were made. Picks made Sunday, October 21 Troy at South Alabama +11 (-105) (Tuesday game): On a weird Tuesday night game in which there is minimal travel involved, I figured the line would come out between seven and ten. But 11 at reduced juice is too much to pass up with Troy’s starting QB out. Toledo at Western Michigan +1.5 (-115) (Thursday game): Western Michigan should be favored here. The Broncos have been improving down the stretch. Appalachian State at Georgia Southern +12 (Thursday game): App State has basically been an ATM this year, but Georgia Southern is a legitimate team and I’ll take the points at home in a game in which the Eagles look to control pace. Miami at Boston College +4 (Friday game): The Eagles can run the football. BC’s defense is sketchy, but so is Miami’s offense. Wyoming at Colorado State +3.5 (Friday game): Wyoming cannot score. It should not be laying points on the road. Clemson -14 at Florida State: I do not believe FSU can block Clemson. And the Tigers are by far the best team FSU has played. If you power rate Clemson with a healthy Trevor Lawrence, you’ll probably have the Tigers by three touchdowns. Oregon State +24 at Colorado: This is just a ton of points for a Colorado offense which struggles to score. Oregon State should be able to run the ball some. Hawaii at Fresno State -21.5: Fresno is a rare favorite I played this week. Hawaii’s offense is going to be in for a rude awakening against the Fresno defense. Arkansas State at ULL +5: Again taking points at home. In my opinion, this line should be under a field goal. ULL’s commitment to the run game should help. Iowa +8.5 at Penn State: Apparently the public has not figured out that Iowa is a damn good football team. Its defense is disciplined, and its offense is opportunistic. UNLV at San Jose State +5: San Jose State is improving and should be no worse than a field goal dog at home. Southern Miss at Charlotte +8.5: Not that Charlotte has some amazing home-field advantage, but why is Southern Miss laying over a touchdown? The Golden Eagles are also in the bottom quarter of CFB teams by almost any advanced metric. TCU at Kansas +14: TCU’s offense is not good. Kansas is not good. But can TCU get enough stops for its offense to win by more than two touchdowns on the road? NIU +8 at BYU: These are two physical teams and I’ll gladly take the points in what should be a close one. Illinois +17.5 at Maryland: I do not trust Maryland’s offense to put up a ton of points. I also said this two weeks ago when the Terps embarrassed Rutgers. Ongoing Futures/Props I made 26 futures or prop bets which I published between May and August. My reasoning for making them can be found at the link. Updated analysis to come later in the week.
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Harbaugh vs. Dantonio: Internet detectives study pregame dustup
Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio had differing stories, so web sleuths went to work. Michigan and Michigan State got a little chippy before the 2018 iteration of their rivalry game, won by the Wolverines. Michigan State took its pregame walk — a show of unity that plenty of teams do — while a few Michigan players were on the field warming up. Neither side wanted to back down, so things came to a head near the 35-yard line. Already some pushing, shoving and yelling. Michigan players didn't get out of the way for MSU walk. Devin Bush screaming in Spartans' faces as they run back to locker room after this. Bush in yellow. pic.twitter.com/Us9GWyVQch— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) October 20, 2018 There was some further chippiness with linebacker Devin Bush scuffing the Spartan midfield logo, but the crux of this investigation will focus on the walk. We must start with a note about timing. This is the building block of the spat. There is indisputable photographic evidence that the Spartans did indeed make the walk ... but when did they do it? Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports Apparently the pregame schedule is in the eye of the beholder, because it could tell us who’s in the wrong ... but only if only both sides agreed on it. Per Michigan spokesman Dave Ablauf, Michigan thought MSU was going to make its pregame walk — something the Spartans do every game — at 9:50 a.m., and believed they were able to take the field at 10 a.m. for pre-warmups. MSU was, per U-M, 10 minutes behind schedule. According to a tweet by MSU’s football account, the Spartans left Kellogg Center hotel at 9:45 a.m., which is their usual departure time for the team walk to the stadium. Michigan players were on the field warming up before 10 a.m., and the Spartans’ walk began at 10:02 a.m. The Kellogg Center hotel is a .5 mile walk from Spartan Stadium per Google Maps. It appears, per MSU, that they took the 12-minute route. In Harbaugh’s postgame press conference, he described the incident as it was relayed to him. “Apparently they clotheslined two of our guys. Came out in their helmets, Lawrence Marshall — they just went up and clotheslined him. Old-fashioned clothesline. “One of the guys ripped off Lavert [Hill’s] headphones. You know, total bush league. Apparently Coach Dantonio was five yards behind it all, smiling. So, yeah i think it’s bush league, that’s my impression of it.” Harbaugh says Dantonio was “5 yards behind smiling” during pregame issue Called it “bush league” pic.twitter.com/mL1QZ2cUMI— angelique (@chengelis) October 20, 2018 The picture Harbaugh paints is something like a professional wrestling move done to one of his players. Contact of some sort was kinda inevitable, given that one of his players was stuck trying to break through a chain of linked arms and given that these teams hate each other. Picture yourself on the playground trying to play Red Rover and break through. As the linked people try to hold firm, they may end up with their elbow pocket in your general neck area. It’s unclear how forcefully this actually happened to Marshall. This is the best angle of the walk, albeit not one zoomed in. Dear CFB journalist/sportswriter,Harbaugh & Dantonio did not "trade barbs" after the game. Here, let me write your story for you:After the game, Harbaugh explained what happened then Dantonio lied about it. The video below proves it.#GoBlue#MICHvsMSU pic.twitter.com/fXrymP5S2h— M Go Humor (@MGoHumor) October 21, 2018 On one end, Michigan State politely broke its line around Michigan linebacker Khaleke Hudson. But that’s not the controversial line break. It’s hard to see here, but on the right below, you can see that Marshall may or may not have been “clotheslined.” We can identify both Bush (not pictured, but wearing yellow) and Hudson. The before angle: Michigan's 'lights-out' defense made it a 'dream game' for Jim Harbaugh pic.twitter.com/jbVH07hgoK— Mgotweet (@jgushen) October 21, 2018 It’s pretty hard to tell, but you can see the three main Michigan players impeding the wall of Sparty players, and something does fall off Marshall at the end of the altercation, if you look closely. Marshall made it through ok, though. His Beats were perfectly intact on his head, which indicates “clotheslined” might be a slight exaggeration, given that if a Spartan’s arm plowed directly into his neck, his headphones probably wouldn’t have stayed put. So perhaps it is Harbaugh who is overstating a claim, based on the information given to him? But then there is the matter of Mark Dantonio. He’s a few yards behind the line. But what he’s doing there, and particularly his facial expressions at the time, are the most contentious part of the whole deal. A reporter asked Dantonio after the game directly what happened here, using part of Harbaugh’s postgame quote about Sparty’s head man smiling. Dantonio’s response was blunt. “That’s BS,” the coach said. Then he repeated himself after the reporter said he didn’t hear him. “You heard me. That’s BS.” Dantonio asked about pregame scuffle and Harbaugh’s comments pic.twitter.com/G2D5ZA6doW— Kyle Austin (@kylebaustin) October 20, 2018 And that is the most Zapruder’d part of this whole deal by Michigan folks. If you remember, UM fans had a field day with misleading screenshots about a certain spot against a certain other rival in a certain loss two years ago. The bulk of the Zaprudering this time around has to do with what Dantonio was or wasn’t doing behind his players as they traversed the field. Dantonio is typically stoic, so finding evidence of him smiling is noteworthy in and of itself. Here, Michigan fans are ready to point out what they perceive to be Dantonio’s hypocrisy as well. They’re pointing out he was indeed right behind the altercation, as Harbaugh said. Can’t cover this one up pic.twitter.com/u8Tujd4Qc3— Coconut La Croix (@kthalacker) October 20, 2018 Intimidate or be intimidated. “Bush league” stuff and “Mike Dantoni” knows it. pic.twitter.com/hk38dNhCIB— Todd J. Anson (@TJA4Michigan) October 21, 2018 I know Dantonio is used to covering things up and lying with no questions asked, but it’s a little tougher when there are hundreds of photographers around. #SpartanDawgs #SpartansWill pic.twitter.com/VXEYIOWhwA— Patrick (@PankDankTank) October 21, 2018 Circles are Mark Dantonio (Left) and Devin Bush (Right). Quite literally Dantonio is like 5 yards behind the line of players. So it’s really not “BS”. pic.twitter.com/hdj3MMC9Tz— Steven Crompton 〽️ (@SCrompton37) October 20, 2018 And he was indeed smiling during the pregame incident, as Harbaugh said. Mark Dantonio said it's "BS" to say he was right behind his players smiling during pregame skirmish with Michigan.Man of his word I guess. pic.twitter.com/LwJ3OV7EBd— Troy Turbeville (@VilleontheVille) October 21, 2018 @UMichAthletics @michiganstateu dantonio caught lying.. No BS. #ESPN #THANKS ESPN pic.twitter.com/pA1AG53c9u— Wolveryank (@DniceOneToo) October 21, 2018 Dantonio clearly seen walking behind laughing. Total Bush League.@stoolpresidente pic.twitter.com/Xf0cvG5CVQ— Crypto Lily (@CryptoLily) October 21, 2018 Lol y'all salty even though there's video and photo proof that Dantonio's lying and sad cause the antics didn't work. https://t.co/CA6tS35w43 〽️ pic.twitter.com/j5CUwBDIjd— Samit Sheth (@samitbks) October 21, 2018 All in innocence right. With Dantonio right next to it smiling (dude has smiled like 3 times ever). pic.twitter.com/wUCArLPgJb— Chad Smeaton (@smeaton_chad) October 21, 2018 He’s not lying, Dantonio was actually 3 yards behind the team laughing. pic.twitter.com/zgSYu3l45n— MISTEROWENS (@misterowens99) October 20, 2018 So a miscommunication might’ve led to both rivals staring each other down at midfield, with at least one or two players on each side refusing to yield. One head coach might’ve exaggerated the outcome, while the other seems to have been caught in a mistruth, and internet detectives were there to pounce on all of it. But that’s not all. There was further conspiratorial tweeting about the merits of the walk itself, as to which team was showing #class during the entire pregame incident. Because, I dunno, I guess you’re not allowed to take a walk at your own stadium? And on the flip side, what are you supposed to do when you’re warming up at midfield and a wall of humanity is bearing down on top of you? Michigan State football pregame field walk before Notre Dame game https://t.co/s0Pk5JPHz6 via @YouTube. Hmmmmm. No helmets? #MICHvsMSU— Bill Hengesbach (@BHengesbach) October 21, 2018 A lot happened between :11 and :13 on the video I shot of MSU-Michigan in pregame, but Marshall raised his hands off his knees to initiate contact. Zapruder-style footage:The full video: https://t.co/v1NxYKCfPMThe breakdown of what happened: https://t.co/ek2ybBDFie pic.twitter.com/VP9BZFBT2a— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) October 21, 2018 Complete bravado move & instigation by MSU. MSU knows members of UofM is warming up & deliberately takes entire width of the field as they march down it. Should Bush have responded the way he did for having his warm up interrupted? No. But don't act like you wouldn't be mad too.— Nate W. (@nlwolfe80) October 20, 2018 Or....Michigan state got in the way of Michigan players warming up.....— Ben Ricciardi (@bricc1) October 20, 2018 Yes, but they do it before the field schedule allows the visitors on the field for warmups. MSU was late. Convince me it wasn't on purpose to rile UM? Won't happen!— Chris Jenkins (@chrisdjenkins) October 20, 2018 They do it before every game, usually before the opposing team is allowed to be in the field. Today they were running behind schedule and started the walk after U of M was allowed on the field for warm ups. The U of M players could have shown respect and moved, but chose not to.— Dave (@davdominguez96) October 20, 2018 Does Michigan need a definition of sportsmanship? Clearing the field before the game? Really ?! ‍♀️ — Alyssa Seaton (@ncalyssa8083) October 20, 2018 Wait...did MSU go 10 minutes late...and in those 10 minute UM took field for warmups...as allowed...coincidence?— Kevin Shields (@kshields8426) October 20, 2018 Big Ten office better discipline these assholes— Bill Beliew (@Hailyes1) October 20, 2018 Sparty has no right to force their opponents off the field very arrogant of them glad bush scraped their logo— jbgolfer (@jbjbgoblu) October 20, 2018 How can the other team interfere in another warm up? That’s some wild shit and Devin Bush has a right to show his ass — Ray Lover (@Richbyheart) October 20, 2018 Michigan’s rivalries appear to be the gift that keeps on giving, as it pertains to conspiracies. However, the Wolverines won this time.
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1 thing to know about every Sunday NFL Week 7 outcome
The Rams continued their undefeated season. That was expected. But a lot of less expected things (like a Justin Tucker missed extra point) made for an exciting week in the NFL. Week 7 in the NFL brought us missed kicks, many points, and another Rams win in which Todd Gurley absolutely dominated. Here’s one thing you need to know about each of Sunday’s 12 games. Chargers: 20, Titans: 19 Quirky fact about the NFL London experience: Because Tennessee is in the eastern time zone and Los Angeles in the west, the Titans’ visas expired two hours before the Chargers’. That explains the decision to go for two (with some terrible playcalling) at the end of the game. Just kidding, the Titans just made some bad decisions and deserved to lose as a result. Texans: 20, Jaguars: 7 Blake. Bortles. Was. Benched. Enough said. Panthers: 21, Eagles: 17 The Panthers rallied from down 17 to score touchdowns on three straight fourth-quarter drives en route to a victory over the Eagles. The Panthers seem to play their best in the fourth quarter. Patriots: 38, Bears: 31 The Bears came so close -- ONE YARD -- away from forcing overtime against the Patriots but Mitchell Trubisky’s Hail Mary came up just short. Colts: 37, Bills: 5 37-5 might have been the weirdest score on Sunday as the Colts secured a much-needed win over the lifeless Bills. Derek Anderson threw three interceptions in his Bills debut, which was bad, but not bad enough for him to be benched in favor of Nathan Peterman. In fact, it was hardly the Bills’ worst quarterback performance this season. Vikings: 37, Jets: 17 Another week, another 100+ yard game for the unstoppable Adam Thielen. That’s seven-straight games with 100+ receiving yards for the Vikings wide receiver. If he can do it again next week (against the Saints on Sunday Night Football), he’ll join Calvin Johnson as the only two players in NFL history with eight consecutive 100+ yard games. Lions: 32, Dolphins: 21 The 3-3 Lions are one of the NFL’s weirdest teams. One minute they look great, the next minute they look terrible. Their win over the Dolphins was a great moment for Detroit that put the joys of Brocktober on hold. But Brock Osweiler actually did well (again) in Miami’s loss. He was 22 of 31 with two touchdowns and a 114.9 passer rating in his second start for the Dolphins. Osweiler is expected to continue filling in for Ryan Tannehill for a few more weeks. Buccaneers: 26, Browns: 23 The NFL’s streak of weeks with an overtime game continued, thanks (once again) to the Browns who have now played in four overtime games this year (1-2-1). Considering all of the Buccaneers’ kicker woes from the last few seasons, it’s crazy to think Tampa Bay won with a 59-yard Chandler Catanzaro field goal. Catanzaro missed a 40-yarder with time expiring in regulation. Saints: 24, Ravens: 23 Justin Tucker has won many (MANY) games for the Ravens. Prior to Sunday, he had never missed an extra point in his career, connecting on 222 straight. That changed when the Ravens had the opportunity to tie up their game with the Saints with 28 seconds remaining. Tucker missed and the Saints won. Rams: 39, 49ers: 10 Another week, another Rams win. Todd Gurley continued to add to his league-leading touchdown count with two rushing scores and a receiving touchdown, too. The Rams have some tough tests ahead in Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and Drew Brees and the Saints. Who will be the first to beat Los Angeles? Washington: 20, Cowboys: 17 Washington leads the NFC East after a win over the Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott had one of the least productive games of his career, notching 33 yards on 15 rushing attempts (2.2. yards per carry). Dak Prescott briefly left the game to be evaluated for a concussion after taking a hit to the head that did not force a flag from the officials. As for Washington, Adrian Peterson continues to be their best player (99 yards on 24 carries and one catch for eight yards). Chiefs: 45, Bengals: 10 The Chiefs walked all over the Bengals on primetime. Stop us if you’ve heard that before. The Bengals’ primetime record under Marvin Lewis is abysmal; they’re now 1-9 on Sunday night under Marvin Lewis. The Chiefs had more than two times the number of first downs and total yardage as the Bengals. Pretty much nothing went right for Cincinnati, unless they wanted to know more about backup quarterback Jeff Driskel who entered in garbage time of Cincinnati’s blowout loss.
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College Football Empires Maps: PURDUE now leads Historic version
Every FBS team started with land, and every week winners take more and more. Welcome to Week 9 of the 2018 College Football Empires Map. There is also a different version of the map at the bottom of this post, which began in 2017. Here are the rules: To begin the season, each FBS team was given control of its surrounding territory. Each game that involves one or two teams with territory results in the winner claiming all of it. Results carry on week to week, so teams are always in the process of trying to regain or expand land. For more detailed rules, check out Week 1’s explanation. Here’s the updated 2018 map, with notes to follow. Land changes this week After 15 years of sending Ol’ Crimson across the country to attend every College GameDay, fans came home and watched Washington State defeat Oregon. In doing so they found themselves once again spread out across the country with territory in Wisconsin, Kentucky, North Carolina, Utah, New Mexico, and California. Purdue pulled off the big upset of the weekend, as the Boilermakers handed Ohio State its first loss of the season and conquered all of the land Ohio State had collected. Temple gave Cincinnati its first loss of the season also and expanded its empire to contain Cincinnati and Oregon State. Utah scored 34 straight in a destruction of USC. The Utes’ win also gave them ownership of about half of all of the Pac-12’s current land. Clemson doubled its territory by defeating NC State and taking control of several territories in the Midwest as well as a small swatch in Texas. North Carolina A&T managed to win back the land it controlled for weeks 1 through 3 by defeating Bethune-Cookman. Changes from last week Biggest games next week Iowa State-Texas Tech is the only game in Week 9 in which both teams possess land. However, Georgia will look to take the lead in land area owned in its game against Florida. Washington State will play Stanford and look to defend its land as well as Pac-12 championship hopes Purdue brings a three-game winning streak and a bi-coastal empire to East Lansing. Texas A&M and Mississippi State face off with the opportunity for Mississippi State to win its homeland back. Progression this season The updated leaderboards Territories 1. Notre Dame- 18 t2. Purdue & Clemson- 12 t4. Texas & Washington State- 8 Counties Michigan - 306 Utah - 268 Clemson - 250 Alabama - 241 Purdue - 240 Population Notre Dame - 58,746,297 Purdue - 44,483,938 Clemson - 24,114,545 Washington State - 16,463,931 South Florida - 14,658,163 Land Area (sq. miles) Florida - 700,256 Utah - 454,000 Notre Dame - 320,513 Michigan - 281,653 Washington State - 258,252 We’re also tracking a Historic version of the map, which started in 2017 and carried over into 2018. On that one, Purdue now controls almost everything. Purdue blew out our former leaders of the Historic map on Saturday night against Ohio State. They are now the leaders in every Historic ranking category after making their way onto this map for the first time since week 3 last season. Elsewhere on the Historic map: Purdue and Michigan State face off for all of the land Purdue just picked up from their win over Ohio State. Iowa State plays Texas Tech with hopes of defending the land they took from West Virginia and to keep their Big 12 title hopes alive. Notre Dame will take on Navy and their triple option to defend their title hopes and their territories scattered across the country. Houston will look to give USF their first loss of the season and take their land as well. Florida-Georgia will host GameDay and play for several pieces of land on the Historic map. Oklahoma State will look to upset Texas and change the color of their territories to a slightly less burnt orange. North Dakota State will look to continue their undefeated season as they take on South Dakota.
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A spit take on the Lakers’ suspensions
We have that and more in Monday’s NBA newsletter. On Saturday, on national TV, the Lakers and Rockets got into a brawl. It involved Brandon Ingram shoving James Harden in frustration, Rajon Rondo spitting at Chris Paul, Chris Paul booping Rajon Rondo, Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul punching each other in the face, and Brandon Ingram belligerently tossing a long-range fist at Chris Paul. On Sunday, the NBA handed down suspensions: two games for Chris Paul, three games for Rajon Rondo, and four games for Brandon Ingram. Thus continues Kiki Vandeweghe’s campaign completely arbitrary punishment. Ingram deserved a couple of games for the wild punch he threw, but tacking on two more games because he supposedly instigated the whole thing by pushing Harden and coming crazy at ref is unfair. Brandon Ingram isn’t the reason Rondo spit at CP3. Giving Ingram extra time because the situation got out of hand is punishing him for the crimes of other. Two games for CP3 is absurd. He didn’t swing on Rondo when he got spit on -- he swung only once Rondo started throwing haymakers. The NBA concluded that Rondo spit on CP3. That’s the instigation to the actual fight. Rondo then threw the first punch in the ordeal. Rondo should be getting punished at least double of what CP3 is getting, if not more. And there’s no way Ingram should have a bigger sanction than Rondo, who has a decent disciplinary record. (This is something that’s supposed to matter.) Of course, this is all a far cry from the 15 games Carmelo Anthony once got for swinging on some Knicks. But there remains little rhyme or reason to the NBA’s suspension rulings. Scores Galore Friday scoreboard Saturday scoreboard Hawks 133, Cavaliers 111Kings 131, Thunder 120Warriors 98, Nuggets 100Rockets 112, Clippers 115 Schedule Check Players’ Only on NBA TV:Magic at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. ETSpurs at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET Other games worth checking out:Pacers at Timberwolves, 8 p.m. ETGrizzlies at Jazz, 9 p.m. ETWizards at Blazers, 10 p.m. ET Full schedule here. Links Galore The Nuggets beat the Warriors on Sunday. Something does indeed seem different about this edition of Denver. Seerat Sohi on how Kawhi Leonard has already changed minds about the Raptors. Here’s Seerat on how Danny Green can make the big trade work. Kristian Winfield on Caris LeVert, the Nets’ best kept secret. On Friday, Timberwolves fans went from booing Jimmy Butler to showering him with MVP chants in two quarters. (I assume there’s a split within the Church of Timberwolf on Butler, and the anti-Jimmies are booing and the pro-Jimmies are cheering.) Six NBA trade requests, ranked by efficiency. The game of the season so far had to be Jazz vs. Warriors on Friday. It featured an 81-point half for Utah, a Joe Ingles career game, a massive Steph Curry-led comeback and Jonas Jerebko’s revenge. I wrote about how insignificant the NBA’s G League select contract effort will be in the grand scheme. Spencer Dinwiddie wore some custom shoes thanking the ... news media? What if Mo Bamba isn’t a long-term project? Trae Young! Don’t look now but the Kings are fun. Good news: Russell Westbrook is back. Bad news: the Thunder are 0-3. Be excellent to each other.
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THIS WEEK IN SCHADENFREUDE, Ohio State gets the anger spotlight
Ohio State owns this week’s tour of the angry college football internet. Welcome back to THIS WEEK IN SCHADENFREUDE, your weekly hike through the most bitter forests of the college football internet. Often, this feature visits several different fanbases in a given week. But after Week 8, there’s only one place it cares to spend time: Columbus, Ohio (and associated message boards). Ohio State lost to Purdue, 49-20, continuing its annual tradition of taking one embarrassing blowout. This makes three years in a row that Urban Meyer’s had one of the worst losses of his entire coaching career, but I’m sure the coach’s best days are still to come. Buckeye fan feelings ran the whole emotional spectrum. But nothing captures the general sentiment better than this piece of sad/mad poetry. From a poster at Eleven Warriors: After My Sports Team Loses the Sports Game, I Walk in Starlight “the glaring shortcomings we have were exposed,” -Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer “I am completely at peace ... there are worlds beyond this one” -Li Po I know now what those fans of the other team have felt all the times I have been happy. I go out for a walk around the apartment block. Even the stars seem to be laughing at me, at my fandom, unaware that they too are drifting in someone else’s orbit, that they too will run out of fuel, that one day entropy will do something about their everything, their superficial forever. I tell them so. What am I doing with my life, starting a fight with the sky? Man, fuck Purdue. In response, another fan wrote a haiku: Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck Fuck Purdue fire everyone Fuck Michigan most If your eyes aren’t welling up with tears after that, are you even a person? College football is a hell of a drug in general. Ohio State football is, like, the potent old quaaludes Leonardo DiCaprio takes in Wolf of Wall Street. Ohio State fans found so many things to be mad about. A common refrain is that it’s departing defensive end Nick Bosa’s fault, even though Bosa reportedly wouldn’t have been healthy enough to play until December and the defense has been really bad both with and without him. Did Bosa’s departure ruin Ohio State’s culture and prevent the Buckeyes from bearing down on the task at hand? I’ve added some paragraph breaks: I’m going to call a spade a spade... Bosa has clearly been talking to guys ahead of time about his decision. No way this was decided in a couple of hours. Between he and Ward last year, I seriously believe there are fractures in the locker room. Again, I understand the getting back to full health, but I will never agree with him leaving altogether. This is a culture program that is affecting us first and will only get worse, ruining the college game. Of course, well have the fools on here talking about how they should protect their future. I don’t buy that shit. 83 percent of ex NFL players end up bankrupt because they buy stupid shit like 500,000 dollar diamond earrings, ten cars, 2 houses that really only billionaires can afford, and then many blow money on cling on boys who do nothing but suck these guys dry. So, to sum this rant up, I think some of these guys are in love with their potential draft stays and should forget about it. This next thing’s actually from before the game, but I’m putting it here anyway: Are fb players need to play in bowl games before heading to the pros? Of course not. Neither is the alumni required to support OSU with any monetary donations. Fans can stop buying any merchandise and tickets. Folks may wise up and realize that 4 years at OSU costing over $100,000 is very expensive and you can get a quality education somewhere else for a fraction of that cost. Most businesses in the U.S. could care less what state University you attended. It is about your work experience that matters. That is how capitalism works. If you are selling a product like college football, don’t piss off and alienate your customer base. “That is how capitalism works” is the greatest start to a sentence about college football that anyone has ever written. I am clapping like a seal. Back to the present. What if the reason Ohio State lost is that Meyer had to serve a preseason and three-game suspension, which ended more than a month before this game? OUR HC MISSED ALL OF FALL CAMP ...had his character assassinated daily for a month, returns with a forced apology by our idiot university president, and some of our fans think Meyer is to blame for this season? Try preparing a team under those circumstances and see how you do. Meyer hasn’t been the same, but I don’t blame him. The root of the problem is there are people who set him up to fail; and they would do the same to the next coach. That’s right: the Deep (Ohio) State was out to undermine him. Ohio State fans were so aggrieved that even my colleague Matt Brown, probably the least mad person I know, was mad. He didn’t want to admit it at first ... folks, I'm not mad online. I'm too tired to be mad online.I'm just disappointed online.— Matt BOO-rown (@MattSBN) October 21, 2018 ... but he was, indeed, mad: okay I lied maybe I'm actually a teensy bit mad online— Matt BOO-rown (@MattSBN) October 21, 2018 Ohio State fans were furious with ESPN, the network that last year conspired* to keep the Buckeyes out of the Playoff while putting in two SEC teams. *That’s how a bunch of Ohio State fans felt last December. In this view, the TV channel just doesn’t like money and thus doesn’t want to show one of the sport’s biggest eyeball magnet teams, Ohio State, which drives interest unlike pretty much anyone else. Multiple Ohio State fans in different places felt victimized by ESPN’s decision to showcase the story of Tyler Trent, a Purdue fan and terminal cancer patient who’s formed a close bond with the Boilermakers and said it was his wish to attend this game and watch Purdue win: Tyler I’m not heartless, and I’m glad he got his moment. But, ABC and Tom Rinaldi interrupted the live-action twice for extended periods of time. It’s almost like ABC was going to force this tear-jerking story down our throats. We all have tragic stories and sorrow in our lives; we don’t what more during our escape into a football game. That’s not the only Buckeye to apparently be seriously bugged about this: This game had shades of Iowa all over it. All the way down to the sick kids... away game, black and gold colors, pathetic defense, anemic offense, and emotional element of the ailing kid/s close to the program. Another poster wrote: I had to check my channel guide to make sure my TV hadn’t switched to the Oprah Channel. A few others found the story irrelevant, because football doesn’t improve medical outcomes. It’s good to see that everyone kept things in perspective. So, so many Ohio State fans thought play-by-play man Chris Fowler was out to get their team. All from this big page, here are various Fowler complaints: “Turning the sound off for the entire 2nd half helped ease the pain of hearing Fowler’s Boilergasms.” “Eff Fowler” “Fowler so happy and with the O face” “Fowler LOL man he hates OSU” “Go suck one Fowler” “F... Fowler” “No more games with Fowler please” “I haven’t heard Fowler this giddy since.......” (it’s never cleared up) “I want neutral announcers, not one that jizzes his pants on every good play from the other team” “It’s funny listening to Fowler when out of the room. The glee is palpable.” This is a somewhat recurring thing and not merely confined to message boards: Chris Fowler obviously hates Ohio State. He'll deny and claim impartiality but the glee at any Buckeye struggle is obvious.— Buckeye Nation Ambassador (@216minor) October 21, 2018 Could Chris Fowler be anymore anti-Ohio State?— Coach Bosch (@HunterBosch) October 21, 2018 Another thought, Chris Fowler coukd never call a Buckeye game ever again and I would be happy. It’s clear he is anti-Ohio State.— Nate Hines (@OhioStateNate) October 21, 2018 I’m ok with the loss as long as Chris Fowler never calls a Buckeyes game again.— fast and furious: Tokyo Crisp (@TheCrisp21) October 21, 2018 Fowler’s booth partner is a former Ohio State quarterback. But there’s always reason to be optimistic, even when your team’s just given up four touchdowns of 40-plus yards in one quarter to Purdue. If Purdue wins out... ... jobs 1 & 2 are obviously for us to get our sh*t together and win out, but for those of us looking for optimism: if Purdue wins out, we’d likely face them in the B1G CG, where a victory would perhaps return credibility & put us back in the NC conversation. Here’s some wishful thinking: Ohio State is the new “Clemsoning” 2016 season: 31-0 loss to Clemson 2017 season: 55-24 to Iowa 2018 season: 49-20 loss to Purdue Only unlike Clemson where they blew leads, we are good for one ass kicking a year. Ohio State needs to score a point in the Playoff before it can truly become Clemson. Another positive? Pure intrigue. The Buckeyes are really gonna take it to 1-6 Nebraska now. The Huskers will never see it coming. THE SEASON JUST GOT EXCITING AGAIN That was a rough game to watch. There was a loss lingering, but that was reality check for the team. They’ll stew on that for two weeks. It makes things interesting. I love Ohio state after a loss. At #2, they played with a lot to lose. Weren’t loose. All the pressure was on them. I think they might be underdogs again if Michigan continues to win. Would rather they get a reality check now, and not the end of November. Side note: the polls will be interesting for the first time this season I wouldn’t bet on Nebraska. Go Bucks And now, Ohio State gets to play the role Ohio State’s always wanted: LAST NIGHT’S TRUE WINNER? CHAOS. scUM leads the B1G East, heading into November. The pressure is yours, scUM! ... Meyer’s program for winning championships has included making defeat the juice that fuels the angriest college football team in America. Honestly, the Buckeyes might have been Week 8’s biggest winners. Regardless, the loss ruined Buckeyes’ fans faith in their program. Things are so bad that this O-Zone poster thinks Ohio State’s going to lose to Indiana, which is biologically incapable of beating ranked Big Ten teams The 2019 annual ass whipping will be early - 9/14 at Indiana. This guy’s just not going to watch until after Thanksgiving: not gonna watch till mich I need a break from this noncents. Gonna hang with my 2 boys or take the broad out for mini golf. I need to repriotoeoeize my life. This loss also provided the most important thing a big upset can provide: message board posters making fun of each other for being overconfident. My favorite of the genre this week comes via OSU’s 247Sports board: Go Bucks.
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Pleighbook: Watson couldn’t fly, but he COULD beat the Jaguars
Eric Reid picked up Zach Ertz like it was nothing, Cordarrelle Patterson literally walked into the end zone, and Michael Bennett might as well not wear pads in Week 7’s Monday Morning Pleighbook. It doesn’t sound like Deshaun Watson should even be playing football on Sunday, considering his circumstances. But the Texans had him do it anyway. Watson rode 12 hours on a bus from Houston to Jacksonville, because his rib and lung injuries are bad enough that the team’s training staff was concerned with how the cabin pressure on an airplane might affect the injury. That’s right: Watson wasn’t healthy enough to fly on an airplane, per his own team. Watson downplayed the injury before Sunday’s game during the week, saying, “I didn’t worry about the injury or anything during the Cowboys game because I didn’t know what was going on. No one did, and then last week I was fine. I was cleared to play and I was healthy.” I certainly hear that. None of us can truly know the extent of his injuries. But I would also suggest that if your presumed franchise quarterback isn’t healthy enough to fly a plane, he probably shouldn’t be playing in a professional football game. You know, a game where he could be running into 6’8, 300-pound Calais Campbell. Watson came into the game having been sacked 25 times on the season, which was second-most in the NFL. So it’s not like the Texans were doing a great job of protecting their franchise quarterback in the first place. Going up against one of the league’s most fearsome defenses seemed less than ideal given his health issues. He ended up being sacked just once this game, while being hit five times. It didn’t matter since the Texans were able to pull out a 20-7 win over the Jags and escape without further injury to Watson. The game was so bad for the Jaguars, they were forced to turn to Cody Kessler because there’s only so much bad football to be tolerated from Blake Bortles. Watson’s numbers weren’t great. He completed 12 of his 24 passes for one touchdown with a quarterback rating of 43.3. But there were still bright spots, like this dime to DeAndre Hopkins, who made a stupid good grab over Jalen Ramsey: .@DeAndreHopkins just pulled it down with 1 hand on Ramsey pic.twitter.com/DnRAKtlo5R— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 21, 2018 Hopkins had 50 yards and a touchdown on Ramsey, showing why out of all quarterbacks and receivers in the league, Ramsey has yet to have a bad thing to say about Nuk. Regardless of how you feel about Watson playing, it is impressive that he couldn’t fly in a plane, and still managed to win an NFL game. Bob Wylie is somewhere with cold, un-stretched muscles, incredibly proud. Eric Reid’s takedown It was a combative afternoon for Eric Reid, Malcolm Jenkins, and the Eagles. But the best moment came after Reid was able to get to Carson Wentz, and Zach Ertz took exception to how aggressive Reid was with his quarterback. It didn’t end well for Ertz: Reid hits Wentz late. Ertz retaliates lol pic.twitter.com/XMjdlFgCRi— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) October 21, 2018 You have to respect Ertz’s instinct to protect his quarterback here, but it certainly didn’t go well. Reid took him down with ease, and in this instance, it was more of the thought that counts as opposed to anything Ertz actually did. Because Reid threw that ass. We knew that Reid was ready for all the smoke though, especially after this pregame look: Reid also had what probably should have been the game-sealing interception, but it was overturned. Either way, he held it down from start to finish. You can read all about the friction between him and Jenkins here, which stems from the Players Coalition, and their respective involvements. Cordarrelle Patterson literally walked into the end zone We hear it somewhere at least once almost every Sunday: “He’S GoInG tO WaLk InTO tHe EnDZOne!” But that’s not exactly the case, and usually said individual is jogging faster than you’d drive in a residential area. However, on this Cordarrelle Patterson kick return for a touchdown, that was 100 percent the case: So. Much. SPEED.@ceeflashpee84 goes 95 yards to the HOUSE!: CBS #GoPats pic.twitter.com/7rh79ipuRK— NFL (@NFL) October 21, 2018 Patterson, quite literally, walked into the end zone. That’s also after he was able to give a high-five to his teammate J.C. Jackson. There has never been a cooler conclusion to a 95-yard touchdown than that one. The most “WTF LOL OK” catch of the season This is probably going to be the most aggressive catch we see all season, and it’s courtesy of New England Patriot Josh Gordon: 4th & 1...Get the ball to @JOSH_GORDONXII.Move the sticks.: CBS #GoPats pic.twitter.com/itEEOjVvs9— NFL (@NFL) October 21, 2018 There’s a few things about this catch that make it amazing: Gordon actually caught it His head slammed to the ground with an intensity that popped his helmet off He’s not concussed He flips the football and reaches for his helmet like nothing happened The Browns didn’t want this guy lmaoooooooo The catch wasn’t for some gigantic gain, but was another reminder that 1. the Browns decided to trade him 2. to the Patriots and 3. no other team thought to stop this. Michael Bennett’s pads SB Nation’s Adam Stites has documented the ongoing tale that is Aggressively Small Shoulder Pads Worn By Michael Bennett. Do a quick Google image search for his pads, and you’ll see that it doesn’t look like he’s wearing much of anything. But Sunday’s attire looked egregiously small, even for him: "pads" pic.twitter.com/pzdfUH3WdD— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) October 21, 2018 That genuinely looks like a Philadelphia Eagles version of a basketball jersey. There’s no coverage on the top of the shoulders, and the inside is even going towards his chest. At this point, he’s checking off a box so he won’t get fined. Because if he could play football without pads, it certainly seems like he would. The Eagles lost at football, but won the other kind The Eagles got into baseball last season across multiple games. This year, it appears they’ve taken into fútbol, led by Alshon Jeffery once again: Handball on number 13 @nelsonagholor pic.twitter.com/JwK4YAuoTG— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 21, 2018 That was their better game on Sunday, after they blew a 17-0 lead to the Panthers at home. They just might have to pull out those underdog masks once again. When YOU are the successor to The Peter Man Derek Anderson has a legendary thousand-yard-stare. pic.twitter.com/zjrKpHLFn8— Prescott Rossi (@PrescottRossi) October 21, 2018 The bar is so low in Buffalo. OTHER THINGS FROM WEEK 7 Andrew Luck got this ‘fit off. The Titans played that London game you didn’t watch and had a bad play call for a 2-point conversion. The Great James Dator has everything you need to know on Eric Reid and Malcolm Jenkins. The Dolphins’ stadium has proven dangerous yet again. The Cowboys got hosed on this snap penalty.
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College football odds, Week 9: UGA a TD favorite in huge rivalry
Clemson and Notre Dame look to keep rolling with wins away from home this Saturday, with the sportsbooks making them among the double-digit betting favorites on the board. Three teams in the SEC East enter this Saturday with only one loss, but the conference picture will become much clearer after this weekend. No. 9 Florida and No. 7 Georgia (-6.5) meet in Jacksonville and the No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats visit the Missouri Tigers (-7). Florida has won and covered the spread in three of its last four games against Georgia. College Football Week 9 Betting Lines Kansas State at Oklahoma (-23.5) Notre Dame (-21.5) vs. Navy Clemson (-13.5) at Florida State Washington (-10.5) at California Kentucky at Missouri (-7) Florida vs. Georgia (-6.5) Iowa at Penn State (-5) Washington State at Stanford (-3.5) Texas (-3) at Oklahoma State See the complete list at OddsShark The No. 2 Clemson Tigers made quick work of the NC State Wolfpack on Saturday in cruising to a 41-7 victory at home. The Tigers will try to keep the momentum going this Saturday on the road when they visit the Florida State Seminoles. Clemson is a 13.5-point road favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. With Ohio State’s loss to Purdue on the weekend and Clemson’s convincing win, the Tigers have taken over the No. 2 spot in the AP Top 25 and are firmly in control of their own destiny. The Tigers are just 2-9 SU in their last 11 games at Florida State, so this week’s trip won’t be taken lightly. No. 3 Notre Dame needed a fourth-quarter touchdown drive to pull away from Pittsburgh for a 19-14 win as a 21-point favorite in its last game. The Fighting Irish have had a bye week to work on fixing the errors that plagued them in that game and enter the second half of their season with a 7-0 SU and 5-2 ATS record. This Saturday, Notre Dame is a 21.5-point favorite taking on the Navy Midshipmen at the SDCCU Stadium in San Diego. Navy is 4-1 ATS in its last five games against the Fighting Irish. Ohio State’s loss significantly improved the chances that a one-loss Big 12 champion could potentially make the College Football Playoff. The No. 6 Texas Longhorns (-3) visit the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners (-23.5) host the Kansas State Wildcats as the two rivals look to remain in contention for a playoff spot by winning out the rest of the way. Oklahoma is 11-3 ATS in its last 14 games at home per the OddsShark College Football Database. Other big games on the schedule this Saturday include No. 18 Iowa at No. 17 Penn State (-5), No. 14 Washington State at Stanford (-3.5) and No. 15 Washington at California. Washington State is 6-1 SU and 7-0 ATS this season. For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.
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Winners and losers from Week 7 of the 2018 NFL season
Kickers giveth, kickers taketh away. We saw some order restored in Week 7. If there were any questions about the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs heading into the week, they were answered for the time being. The Rams beat Denver by a field goal in Week 6, and bounced back with a 39-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs lost by a field goal to New England in Week 6, and bounced back with a 45-10 thumping of the Cincinnati Bengals. The week closes out with a matchup of last place teams as the Atlanta Falcons host the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. Every week will bring its share of wild games, unexpected results, and plenty of money changing hands. Sports gambling is not new, but the Supreme Court’s decision allowing states to legalize it opens the door for a huge expansion. And so, it’s time to keep an eye on the important news, the gut-wrenching news, the quirky news, and how we can best help you make a few bucks each week. Welcome to The Vig! Kickers giveth the bad beat, kickers taketh away the bad beat Kickers in organized football are in quite the situation. They get celebrated for successful field goals and extra points, but it feels like we hear a higher degree of negative commentary when things go bad. Really, the kicker is more often than not just there to not screw up. And bettors feel it week in and week out. Week 7 gave us the worst of it, and I just hope you did not bet on both the Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys. The Ravens were a field goal home favorite against the New Orleans Saints. The two sides went back and forth, until New Orleans scored a touchdown and field goal to take a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter. The Ravens took over at their 19-yard line with 2:03 to go. Joe Flacco wasted no time, moving Baltimore down to the New Orleans 14 with 24 seconds left. Flacco found John Brown for what should have been the game-tying score. Kicker Justin Tucker had converted 222 consecutive extra point attempts, and was the only NFL kicker to not miss an extra point dating back to the new kick rule. And then he missed it. The Ravens might not have gotten the win in overtime, but losing this game on Tucker missing an extra point was just brutal. A short while later, the Dallas Cowboys found themselves in trouble, trailing 20-17 with 1:09 left in the fourth quarter. Dak Prescott led Dallas down to Washington’s 28, setting up a 47-yard field goal. It was not a chip shot, but it was very do-able for Brett Maher. And then the Cowboys committed a shaky false start. There are questions about it, and Cowboys players are still pissed off. But the penalty stood and Maher missed a 52-yard attempt after the Cowboys were pushed back five yards. There is no guarantee the Cowboys would have won the game in overtime, but much like the Ravens loss, it was a brutal way to end the game. Curse the point total The NFL is on pace to shatter records for points scored, and over bets have been regular winners — until Week 7. Four separate games finished a field goal or less under the point total, and all four featured opportunities for more points. Saints 24 - Ravens 23 (point total = 49): Justin Tucker misses his first extra point attempt in 223 tries, which would have forced overtime. A tie was possible, but an OT field goal would have put this one over. Washington 20 - Cowboys 17 (point total = 40): Brett Maher misses a 52-yard field goal at the end of the game after a false start penalty penalty bumps the Cowboys back from a 47-yard attempt. Rams 39 - 49ers 10 (point total = 51.5): The 49ers turned the ball over four times and the game ended with a pair of punts and a turnover on downs at the Rams 18. Chiefs 45 - Bengals 10 (point total = 56): The Chiefs went for it on 4th and 4 at the Bengals 5 on their final drive, rather than get the extra three points. Futures assessment The Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots have made it clear they are the two teams to beat in the AFC. The Patriots edged out Chicago, while the Chiefs crushed Cincinnati. Heading into Week 7, you could bet on whether or not the Chiefs and Patriots would play each other in the AFC Championship Game. Yes was installed at +200, while No was installed at -300. I’m curious how long it takes for Yes to eventually become the favorite. Drew Brees has quietly moved into MVP favorite status. Brees entered Week 7 listed at 4/1 odds to take home the top individual honor. He ranked ahead of Tom Brady, Jared Goff, and Todd Gurley all at 6/1. The Saints got a road win over Baltimore this week, and Brees was a critical part of that win. His stats have not been video game-like this season, but he is quietly chugging along. If the Saints win the NFC South, Brees could take home the MVP as almost a career achievement award. He set the career passing yard record, and also surpassed the 500 passing touchdown mark. I would not be surprised if that influenced the voters. If Aaron Donald takes home Defensive Player of the Year honors at the end of the season, we’ll look back at Week 7 as when things changed. He entered the week with four sacks on the season, and 9/1 odds to win the award. His odds were behind Khalil Mack (5/9) and J.J. Watt (8/1), and were a bit more based on reputation than 2018 production. That changed against the San Francisco 49ers. Donald had four sacks in a dominant display that will see him climb past Watt in the odds. Monday Night Football pick New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons (-4): The Falcons’ injury report is a mess right now, but they benefit this week facing an atrocious Giants squad. Saquon Barkley is looking really good, but Eli Manning is having a difficult time playing with a fork sticking out of his back. That being said, the Falcons defense is enough of a mess that I think the Giants can keep this game competitive. I’d take the Falcons money-line, but it’ll be a close one. Looking ahead to Week 8 The first lines for Week 8 have arrived by way of OddsShark, and there are some lines of note. It’s fitting that two games involving four of the worst teams in the leagues are early pick ‘ems. We might see some movement in Colts-Raiders and 49ers-Cardinals, but I don’t see heavy majorities of money on either team. The biggest line of the week will be on Monday Night Football, with the Patriots already a 13-point favorite over the Bills. Miami Dolphins @ Houston Texans (-7)Philadelphia Eagles @ Jacksonville Jaguars (+3)Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs (-9)New York Jets @ Chicago Bears (-6.5)Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5)Washington @ New York Giants (+1)Seattle Seahawks @ Detroit Lions (-2.5)Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Cincinnati Bengals (-6)Baltimore Ravens @ Carolina Panthers (+1)Indianapolis Colts @ Oakland Raiders (Pick ‘em)San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals (Pick ‘em)Green Bay Packers @ Los Angeles Rams (-9)New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings (-1.5)New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills (+13)
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One of football’s wildest endings ever, explained by the winning coach
Three untimed downs, a near kick six, and more. With 12 seconds to go, Old Dominion trailed WKU by a touchdown. With nine seconds to go, the score was tied as ODU kicked off. And then one of the strangest football endings ever happened. OK, FINE. Here's the full breakdown of how ODU beat WKU in the weirdest of circumstances pic.twitter.com/SKkzjaYJqp— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) October 21, 2018 Seeking a better sense of how it happened, SB Nation talked with ODU head coach Bobby Wilder on Sunday evening. A WKU touchdown gave the Hilltoppers what figured to be a decisive lead with 1:37 left. Old Dominion, 1-6 with an offense that ranked around 80th in yards per play, would have to drive 79 yards in 1:32 after an underwhelming kickoff return following the TD. The Monarchs did. Their tying drive was a journey through football Narnia. Their first play was a completion for a loss of 1 yard. The second was a false start, because while the Monarchs rushed to the line, a receiver got lost and never stopped moving. ESPN ODU moved the sticks with a 3-yard run on fourth-and-2 after a tipped Blake LaRussa pass almost became a game-ending pick. The Monarchs spiked the ball at their own 32 with 34 seconds left. ODU then completed 31-yard passes on back-to-back plays, the first to Keion White and the second to Isaiah Harper. (Remember Harper as you scroll down this page.) LaRussa then threw a 6-yard touchdown to Travis Fulgham. The rest of this post is about how ODU won in regulation without going for 2. With nine seconds left, ODU ran a pooch kickoff into what Wilder said was a 30-mile-per-hour wind gust. WKU needed 30 or 40 yards in eight seconds just to try a prayer field goal to win. And with ODU in a prevent defense, it almost happened. On the first play, WKU running back Garland LaFrance got the ball on what Wilder calls a “very basic inside zone play.” Normally, that gets bottled up quickly. “We had our defensive line in, but then we had our linebackers at 15 yards, and we had all of our defensive backs at about 40 yards,” Wilder said. LaFrance scampered 15 yards. Timeout, WKU, with two seconds let. WKU coach Mike Sanford got creative. Instead of a Hail Mary, he called a hook-and-lateral like Boise State once used to beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. But it didn’t work, because the receiver who had to catch the pass to start the play dropped it. ESPN Wilder figured his guys would’ve tackled whoever had the ball. They didn’t even need to, and that was supposed be the end of regulation. But the referee flagged ODU nose tackle Pat Toal for a pretty weak-looking roughing the passer behind the play. This was problematic for the Monarchs in two ways: It created an untimed down. The game can’t end on a live-ball penalty on the defense. It moved WKU up 15 yards, from its own 45 to the ODU 40. So, out of nowhere, WKU had a 57-yard field goal to win the game. But ODU quickly made a plan. There are two ways for a block unit to deal with a long field goal attempt. One is to try furiously to block it. Another is to force the kicker to hit the ball on a high trajectory, rather than let him hit a line drive. ODU decided for the latter against Alex Rinella. The Monarchs had two tall defensive ends — 6’4 Oshane Ximenes and 6’6 Tim Ward — stand behind their tackles. And both jumped straight up, trying to force Rinella to hit a pop-up. “So immediately through the kicker’s head, he’s thinking, ‘Damn, I’ve gotta get this thing up in the air, or it’s gonna get blocked,’” Wilder said. “All you need is just a little more trajectory on a 57-yarder. Don’t let him drive it, particularly with the wind.” The jumpers are supposed to move up to the heels of the tackles, then go vertical. They’re instructed not to jump over the line, a 15-yard foul for leaping. It worked. Rinella’s boot landed 5 yards short of the uprights. But the game still wasn’t over, because ODU had 12 men on the field. How the hell do you that? you’re wondering. Fair question. The short answer: college football is messy. The long answer: ODU didn’t believe WKU would try that long of a prayer field goal instead of just heading to overtime. “We thinking at that point, ‘There’s no way they’re gonna try a 57-yarder,’” Wilder said. “We’ve still got our prevent in. Then all of a sudden, they run their PAT/field goal unit out on the field, and in the confusion, we ended up with 12 men on the field.” That gave WKU another untimed down and 5 more yards, setting up a 52-yarder to win. But it also gave Old Dominion time for another plan. At the Monarchs’ Friday practices, they work on a kick-six play. It’s nothing anyone who watched the 2013 Iron Bowl hasn’t seen before, but ODU has Harper, Conference USA’s 2017 Special Teams Player of the Year. He ran back three kickoffs for touchdowns last year, and the Monarchs have long looked for opportunities to play the lottery with him back deep on long field goals. “At that point,” Wilder said, “now that we knew, ‘OK, they’re trying to kick a field goal to win it,’ we put in our Harper Special play.” (Every cool play in 2018 is called the Something Special. Blame the Eagles.) ODU’s missed field goal return plan is elaborate. The first thing is still an attempt to just block the field goal. But there are no jumpers trying to swat the ball away. The tackles just try to push both guards backward, into the holder. The jumpers are elsewhere in the formation, getting ready for ... ... the second thing, per Wilder: “Our block unit goes to whatever sideline we’re on, and they set a wall on that sideline,” with blockers staggered every 5 yards. Two reasons it has to be the ODU sideline: 1) because the kicking team might absentmindedly jog off to its own sideline, and 2) because it’s easier for blockers to remember which way to run amid the chaos. “It may not seem like much, but in the heat of the moment, when the pressure’s on and the game’s on the line, that’s a lot to ask your players to try to process in that environment,” he said. The third thing: If the kick’s short, Harper catches it and starts running. ESPN The Monarchs build a wall for Isaiah Harper. WKU’s second game-winning field goal try was also short. Harper had to make one man miss at about the ODU 25. He got a series of blocks that carried him across the 50, the Harper Special working to perfection. He eluded the WKU holder at the Hilltoppers’ 45 and appeared ticketed for a game-ending miracle. But, incredibly, at around the 20, WKU lineman Mason Brooks — 6’6 and 280 pounds — caught up with Harper. He went out of bounds at the 17, following an 83-yard return. After allof that, there’d be overtime. Except the lineman who pushed Harper out of bounds grabbed his face mask. That meant a third untimed down. Officials assessed it from the 17. If the play had ended there, ODU would’ve had a 35ish-yard field goal for kicker Nick Rice, who’d drained six in a row. But the penalty moved the ball up to the 9, and Rice only had to kick a 26-yarder to win. ODU felt comfortable kicking anywhere from 40 yards and in, Wilder said. Even the chip shot was difficult, though. Wind was swirling, so much so that both goalposts were swaying. The kicker started the ball toward the right upright, and it still had to sneak inside the left to give the Monarchs a 37-34 win. “The ball moved at least 10 feet, even on that short of a kick,” Wilder said. All told, the game had 15 plays in the last 97 seconds, six plays in the last nine seconds, and three plays in the last zero seconds. The NCAA doesn’t track records along those lines, but let’s just declare this one together: there’s no way all of that has ever happened before. ODU moved to 2-6. The Monarchs’ two wins are the biggest upset of the season and the wildest finish I have ever seen in my life. Their defeat of Virginia Tech as 28-point underdogs in Week 4 is comfortably the most shocking point-spread upset of the season. “This is the craziest 2-6 scenario I’ve ever seen or heard of,” Wilder acknowledged. “The euphoria after the game, the celebration was identical to Virginia Tech,” he added. “The locker room was identical to Virginia Tech. This one felt different because it happened on the road, it happened against a team we’d never beaten, and it happened in a game where at least a half dozen times in the last 1:32, we could’ve lost.”
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The 10 surprising things from Sunday your co-workers will be talking about
Drew Brees finally beat the Ravens in an unexpected way, the Jaguars really benched Blake Bortles, and Aaron Donald might, somehow, be better than we thought. NFL Sunday started early in Week 7. And so did the surprises. Before the 1 p.m. games even started, we got a curveball from abroad. The Titans and Chargers finally gave London fans a little bit (emphasis on little) of excitement when the Titans scored a touchdown on fourth-and-1 with 30 seconds left. Rather than go for the tie, Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel decided to go for 2. The aggressiveness was admirable, the play call was not. Marcus Mariota’s throw fell incomplete and the Chargers got to head back home jet-lagged and sitting at 5-2. Then prior to the Eagles and Panthers kicking off, things away from the playing field took a more serious tone. Eric Reid and Malcolm Jenkins had a heated confrontation that reverberated throughout the day. The NFL is still predictable in other ways, though. Jason Garrett’s conservative coaching cost the Cowboys a chance at a win, and the day ended exactly how you would expect it to: Patrick Mahomes was an offensive machine, while Marvin Lewis’ team was humiliated in primetime. Here’s what else everyone will be talking about Monday: 1. Drew Brees finally beat the Ravens ... thanks to Justin Tucker missing an extra point Coming into Sunday, Drew Brees was 0-4 against the Ravens. They were the only team he had yet to beat in his illustrious career — and that included his own Saints, a team he handed a 43-17 loss to almost 14 years ago when he was with the Chargers. It was already a milestone day for Brees, who became the fourth quarterback ever to throw 500 career touchdowns. Then late in the second half, it looked like Brees had wrapped up that elusive win in Baltimore. But the Ravens came roaring back. Joe Flacco’s touchdown strike to John Brown with 14 seconds left on the clock appeared destined to send the No. 1 scoring offense vs. No. 1 defense battle to overtime. Brown’s catch made it 24-23, putting a game-tying extra point on the trusted shoulders of the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Justin Tucker had never missed an extra point or any field goal from 33 yards or less — a span of 300 professional kicks. It turns out 300 was a natural stopping point for the All-Pro’s streak. Tucker’s kick sliced wide right, effectively dooming his team to a one-point loss at home. Everyone was surprised — but none more so than Tucker himself. And just like that, Brees joined Peyton Manning and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks to ever beat all 32 NFL teams. Now that we think about it, though, maybe this was another conspiracy ... 2. Old man Adrian Peterson tripled up Ezekiel Elliott’s rushing total There were plenty of weird stories coursing through the NFC East showdown between Washington and Dallas. Dak Prescott got smashed to bits and returned moments later to absolutely dust the Washington secondary with an absolute bomb to a wide-open Michael Gallup: "Dak Prescott can't throw deep" pic.twitter.com/OJx18nHMjy— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) October 21, 2018 Brett Maher saw a game-tying 47-yard field goal attempt turn into a 52-yarder thanks to a rarely called penalty on his long snapper, then watched in horror as a kick that would have been good from 47 clanged off the left upright as it came in hot from 52. But the most surprising development from Sunday’s game may have been Adrian Peterson using his old man strength to triple Ezekiel Elliott’s rushing output. The veteran tailback proved he’s still an upper-tier runner, even at age 33, after cutting up the Dallas defense for 99 yards on 24 carries. Elliott, on the other hand, came in to Week 7 averaging nearly 98 yards per contest but ran the ball 15 times for just 33 yards. 3. The Bucs DON’T fall victim to their kicker curse Kickers cost two different teams a chance at a win Sunday. Shockingly, the Bucs were not one of them — barely. With 45 seconds left in regulation, the Buccaneers took their foot off the gas against the Browns. Instead of trying to drive the last 24 yards for a game-winning touchdown — or at least a closer field goal — Tampa Bay did a run play for 3 yards and set up a 40-yard field goal to break a 23-23 tie. That painfully conservative approach might’ve been a safe, smart finish for most teams, but this is the Buccaneers. They’ve been cursed at the kicker position for years. So, of course, Chandler Catanzaro missed it and the game went to overtime. What was so surprising about the way the game finished was that the Buccaneers actually got a successful field goal to win it. And from 59 yards too! Just look at Baker Mayfield trying to comprehend what he saw: The Buccaneers’ kicking woes may not be gone altogether, but they disappeared long enough for Tampa Bay to escape with a win against the Browns. 4. Jalen Ramsey was on the other side of some well-earned trash talk Ramsey is an All-Pro cornerback, so when he talks trash, he’s usually right. One wide receiver who has typically escaped his scorn is Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins. He showed us all why on Sunday. Hopkins, paired off against Ramsey much of the afternoon, only had three receptions on eight targets, but the balls he did catch were tailor-made to frustrate the Jaguars. One was a morale-draining touchdown grab that gave the Texans a 20-0 lead in the third quarter. Before that, a one-handed catch on a deep ball down the sideline left Ramsey visibly annoyed. .@DeAndreHopkins IS THAT DUDE.#HOUvsJAX pic.twitter.com/BXcq7uQZpv— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) October 21, 2018 But Hopkins’ burns weren’t limited to the playing field. DeAndre Hopkins was asked about his rivalry with Jalen Ramsey. He replied: How can that be a rivalry? What’s the Texans’ record vs the Jags with Ramsey on the team?As he left the room he said: “7-2”— Aaron Reiss (@aaronjreiss) October 21, 2018 The Texans are actually only 3-2 against Jacksonville when Ramsey is on the field, but still. Ouch. And now, after starting 0-3, the Texans lead the AFC South — somehow. 5. The Jaguars actually benched Blake Bortles It finally happened. The Jaguars finally said “enough” to the Bortles era — at least for an afternoon. Jacksonville benched its embattled starter following a third-quarter fumble against the Texans, instead turning to Cody Kessler — a passer who couldn’t even crack the Browns starting QB lineup during their 0-16 2017 campaign. It wasn’t hard to see why Doug Marrone made the call; Bortles had led the Jaguars to just 21 points in his last 10 quarters. He had scored zero points in the first half of three straight games for the first time in franchise history and was 6-of-12 for 61 yards and zero touchdowns when he got yanked from the lineup. Kessler wasn’t much better, but at least he found the end zone. His third-quarter scramble-and-strike to T.J. Yeldon served as his team’s only points of the afternoon in a game we should all agree to never speak about again. What a play @CodyKessler6 and @T_Yeldon!#DUUUVAL pic.twitter.com/V8RX3vlGL4— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) October 21, 2018 6. The Bears’ last-ditch comeback effort landed 1 yard short of amazing, unlikely redemption Mitchell Trubisky had trouble dealing with the Patriots’ dialed-up pass rush Sunday — at least with his arm — coughing up a 17-7 first half lead and eventually trailing Bill Belichick’s team 38-24 with six minutes to play. But the second-year quarterback rose to the challenge, engineering a 63-yard drive that put his Bears within seven points and then getting the ball back at his own 20 with 24 seconds to play. Trubisky took advantage of New England’s stretched defense to drive Chicago to its own 45-yard line with a single second left on the clock, then uncorked a Hail Mary that traveled 54 yards through the air and into the waiting hands of Kevin White ... ... who was then stopped at the New England 1-yard line. The Bears were *that* close : CBS #NEvsCHIpic.twitter.com/FX8NKL6kzT— ESPN (@espn) October 21, 2018 7. Cordarrelle Patterson was the template for the Patriots’ ability to fix their own mistakes Patterson has provided value for the Patriots as a unique wide receiver for a shallow depth chart, but with Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman now on the active roster his best opportunity to impact a game with New England comes on special teams. And he impacted the hell out of Sunday’s Patriots-Bears game, on both sides of the ball. Patterson’s first kickoff return of the day saw him fumble a ball so cleanly to Chicago’s DeAndre Houston-Carson that it looked like a planned lateral. Five plays later, Mitchell Trubisky’s 72-yard, 8-yard touchdown run gave the Bears their first lead of the game. But the dynamic returner got back to even two kickoffs later, dusting Chicago’s kick coverage so thoroughly that he was able to high-five his teammates before dancing his way into the end zone without a single Bear within 30 yards. dusting a team's kickoff coverage so thoroughly that you can high-five a teammate at the 5 and low-kick into the end zone is a power move pic.twitter.com/Y8uDLaca6z— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) October 21, 2018 It was Patterson’s sixth career kickoff return touchdown — three times as many as any other player in the league has since his debut in 2013. More importantly, it set the tone for the Patriots, who spent much of Week 7 cleaning up their own mistakes. New England gave up 24+ points for the fifth time in seven games this fall, but big plays from the offense and special teams — Kyle Van Noy added a blocked punt return for a touchdown — prevented those problems from becoming fatal. Of course, those corrections didn’t apply to Bill Belichick’s sartorial decisions. Bill Belichick doesn't care about your "the logo is upside down". pic.twitter.com/8Nk8c2WsZP— Pats Pulpit (@patspulpit) October 21, 2018 8. The Panthers and Eagles swapped bodies in the fourth quarter For most of the afternoon, the Eagles were comfortably ahead. They weren’t lighting up the Panthers, but they had found a nice rhythm and Carson Wentz looked sharp. The Panthers, meanwhile, had put together some drives that ended in a lot of punting, a disappointing follow up to their loss last week to Washington. Then the fourth quarter happened. The Panthers offense came alive, once again, late in the game. Unlike last week, this time it wasn’t too little, too late. Instead, Cam Newton led three straight touchdown drives, going 16 of 22 for 201 yards in the fourth quarter. No play mattered more than on fourth-and-10 right before the two-minute warning, when he juuuuust managed to get the ball out of his hands to find Torrey Smith for a first down: Absurd throw and catch from Cam Newton and Torrey Smith. Carolina is somehow still alive pic.twitter.com/H5P2QjJWyA— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) October 21, 2018 Three plays later, he hooked up with Greg Olsen for the touchdown — and it turned out to be the game winner. It’s not the first time the Panthers have come back. It’s not the first time the Eagles have blown a big lead. But after last week, when the Panthers couldn’t pull things together at the end of the game and the Eagles looked like they were finally cooking in a big win over the Giants, this came as a surprise. It especially leaves the defending champs with some questions. They’re just 3-4, and should be better than that. 9. The Lions’ running game is for real We had hope that Kerryon Johnson could be the answer to the Lions’ long-suffering running back woes when he became their first player to rush for 100 yards in a game since 2013. But in the two games after that, Johnson was held under 100 yards both times. Then he exploded Sunday against the Dolphins for 158 yards, the most by a Lions running back since Jahvid Best racked up 163 on the ground in 2011. Between Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, and cameos from Golden Tate, Matthew Stafford, and Ameer Abdullah, Detroit ended up with 248 rushing yards. That was the most for the team since Nov. 23, 1997, when they beat a Colts team led by quarterback Jim Harbaugh. The Lions rushed for 248 yards today, the most by Detroit in a single game since Barry Sanders retired.— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) October 22, 2018 The Lions even finished with more rushing yards than passing (217) in their 32-21 win over Miami. 10. Aaron Donald had how many sacks now? There’s not much Aaron Donald can do that would surprise us. But we admit, we kinda tuned out what was an easy win for the Rams over the 49ers. So this was our reaction at the end of the LA’s 39-10 beatdown: Wait 4 sacks for Donald today?!— Stephen White (@sgw94) October 21, 2018 That’s the most ever in a game for Donald, and the most by any player in a game this year. Also worth a reminder that Donald, who currently leads the NFL with eight sacks this season, is a defensive tackle who now has 47 career sacks. That’s not all either, Donald also had nine tackles, six tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery against the 49ers. Poor C.J. Beathard. But good thing for the Rams that they made sure Donald is rich.
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7 times Patrick Mahomes lived up to his ‘Showtime’ nickname on SNF
Mahomes brought the excitement once again on “Sunday Night Football.” The Kansas City Chiefs have played three primetime games in the last four weeks. And they have put on a show each time, in three different ways: a comeback win. A comeback loss. A blowout win. Most of that is because of one man: Patrick Mahomes, everyone’s new quarterback crush. In the Chiefs’ 45-10 rout of the Bengals on Sunday Night Football, Mahomes was lights out again. He threw for 358 yards and rushed for another 43. He added four more touchdowns to his MVP campaign. That increased his total to a league-leading 22 passing touchdowns this season — the most ever for a quarterback in his first eight career games, at least since the Super Bowl has existed. But he didn’t do it alone Sunday night. Kareem Hunt was responsible for 141 yards and three touchdowns (one rushing, two receiving). The Chiefs defense, which came into Week 7 allowing yards at a frighteningly historic pace, held the Bengals to just 239 yards. And Marvin Lewis still knows how to lay an egg in primetime games. Yet, Mahomes was the star once again. As we’ve seen all season, there’s a reason his dad gave him “Showtime” as a nickname when he was growing up. It’s not always about the gaudy numbers he puts up, though. Mahomes is also a source of entertainment whenever the cameras are on him. So while those stats may have helped him lead the Chiefs to the top-scoring offense in the league and a 6-1 record, let’s highlight some of the other ways Mahomes kept the party going Sunday night. He gave an overlooked teammate a chance to shine Long snappers usually don’t get much attention — and when they do, it’s probably not for a good reason (just ask the Cowboys). So here, when Mahomes just had to throw it away, he was a gentleman enough to cede the spotlight to long snapper James Winchester for a brief moment: The only way your long snapper gets a catch during primetime pic.twitter.com/Upm6xt4DHq— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 22, 2018 He waved off trash talk After a 23-yard scramble, Mahomes ran out of bounds, where Bengals safety Shawn Williams started jawing at him. Mahomes ran off and did a little wave on his way back on the field: Mahomes swagger! pic.twitter.com/ajykRdqqId— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) October 22, 2018 Wait a second, was that a Little Rascals wave? It’d make sense — after all, his voice does sound a bit like Froggy’s. He shook off a defender Even when a pass-rushing monster like Carlos Dunlap got a hand on him, it didn’t matter: [Mahomes promptly throws it a million yards] pic.twitter.com/lAmjL02G35— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) October 22, 2018 50 yards later, that’s a complete pass to Sammy Watkins, just in case you needed a reminder that Mahomes’ arm is stupid strong: .@patrickmahomes5's arm strength: Ridiculous. : @snfonnbc #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/OstWblqLXU— NFL (@NFL) October 22, 2018 He dropped the ball He mishandled the snap? That’s no problem, especially when Tyreek Hill his waiting in the corner of the end zone for a fast ball: Another @chiefs TD!It's @PatrickMahomes5 to the @Cheetah!: @snfonnbc #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/ZSEDc0nvft— NFL (@NFL) October 22, 2018 He danced like no one was watching Early in the second quarter, Mahomes hit Hunt for a 15-yard touchdown, their second of the game. They celebrated with a little dance party: MAHOMES IS DANCING pic.twitter.com/goTHenx4EC— Clay Wendler (@ClayWendler) October 22, 2018 We don’t know what kind of dance that was, but apparently Mahomes didn’t either: I'm a serious journalist, so I asked Mahomes what was going on in this dance: “They didn’t really let me on what we were doing, so I just tried to go along with it. It wasn’t my best effort, but hopefully by the end of the season, I can combat that.”— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) October 22, 2018 At least we know it wasn’t the Macarena: SNF played La Macarena before going to break. That song is two years older than Patrick Mahomes.— SB Nation (@SBNation) October 22, 2018 He sang along to “Sweet Caroline” No matter how you feel about “Sweet Caroline,” you know the words. Mahomes does too, and he wasn’t shy about singing with the fans at Arrowhead Stadium: Good times never seemed so goooood pic.twitter.com/9LCh6NuLD6— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 22, 2018 If the Red Sox win the World Series, blame/credit Mahomes. He brought us back to 2003 And if you ever doubted Mahomes’ throwing skills, then you should see what he was able to to with a basketball back when he was a kid. That’s more of a football throw than a basketball heave. The accuracy was already there! For your viewing pleasure: 8-year-old @patrickmahomes5 drilling an absolute laser to beat the buzzer in youth basketball! : @NBC #CINvsKC pic.twitter.com/FW2mBclVjv— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) October 21, 2018 With Mahomes at quarterback, the Chiefs have been incredibly fun to watch all season. Unfortunately, we have to wait another month until they’re in primetime again. Fortunately, that game is against the league’s other most fun offense, the Rams. So it should be worth the wait.
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The stakes in Week 9’s top-25 games, quickly categorized
Keeping track of top-25 schedules and results, with notes on each game. We’re now one weekend away from the first College Football Playoff rankings of 2018, and we’ve got a mix of table-setters and potential upset spots on the Week 9 schedule, with 15 of 19 active ranked teams playing away from home. Below, we’re keeping track of each top-25 game’s impact, both before and after final scores, mostly paying attention to CFP committee business, not highlights and stuff. Remember the things the committee has mostly demonstrated it rewards: wins over final top-25 teams, wins over bowl teams, road wins, dominant wins, weirdly excusable losses, being Alabama, and not being a mid-major. It does not care what your opponent’s AP ranking was at kickoff. All rankings AP, for now. All times ET on Saturday, unless noted. Final scores in bold. Probably important Games in which the winning team will likely have a pretty high-quality Week 9 victory by season’s end. Or: really meaningful upsets. No. 7 Georgia (6-1) vs. No. 9 Florida (6-1) in Jacksonville, 3:30, CBS: The winner’s very likely the SEC East champ, and the loser still has a good chance at a New Year’s Six bowl. Been a while since the Cocktail Party had stakes like that! No. 14 Washington State (6-1) at No. 24 Stanford (5-2), 7, P12N: The winner’s your Pac-12 North favorite (and probably thus your Pac-12 favorite), but still has to get past Washington. No. 17 Penn State (5-2) vs. No. 18 Iowa (6-1), 3:30, ESPN: Readers of this space saw this fact coming a week ahead of time: the winner of this game has a good path to the NY6. Maybe important Games in which the winner will probably have beaten a decent bowl team. I’m being somewhat generous to a few of these unranked teams, as far as chances of making a bowl go. No. 2 Clemson (7-0) at Florida State (4-3), noon, ABC: I don’t yet have FSU finishing .500, but the Noles have improved since their disastrous start. No. 6 Texas (6-1) at Oklahoma State (4-3), 8, ABC: The Longhorns are quite overrated right now, and their fans would likely be furious with the committee if it’d already published rankings. But a road win over a decent team is available all the same. No. 12 Kentucky (6-1) at Missouri (4-3), 4, SECN: Say Florida beats Georgia and UK beats Mizzou. The Wildcats would officially lead the SEC East in late October. What a time. No. 13 West Virginia (5-1) vs. Baylor (4-3), Thursday at 7, FS1: WVU might be the best bet to face Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship. No. 15 Washington (6-2) at Cal (4-3), 4:30, FS1 No. 16 Texas A&M (5-2) at Mississippi State (4-3), 7, ESPN: A&M vs. LSU for a New Year’s Six spot isn’t hard to envision. No. 19 Oregon (5-2) at Arizona (3-5), 10:30, ESPN No. 20 Wisconsin (5-2) at Northwestern (4-3), noon: With a win at home and help elsewhere, the Wildcats would officially lead in the Big Ten West in late October. What a time. No. 22 NC State (5-1) at Syracuse (5-2), 7, ESPN2 Important for the Group of 5 race Since the committee’s essentially showed non-power teams aren’t eligible for the Playoff, let’s have a separate section for the race to be the top-ranked mid-major champ. No. 10 UCF: Idle No. 21 USF (7-0) at Houston (6-1), 3:30, ABC/ESPN2: USF’s a pretender right now, but controls its destiny regardless. No. 25 Appalachian State (5-1) at Georgia Southern (6-1), 7:30 on Thursday, ESPNU: Not only do these teams hate each other, there’s a chance this has major stakes, if the AAC and MWC champs reach December with damage. Buffalo: Idle Fresno State (6-1) vs. Hawaii (6-3), 10:30, ESPN2: S&P+ LOVES Fresno heading into this game. San Diego State (6-1) at Nevada (4-4), 10:30, ESPNU UAB (6-1) at UTEP (0-7), 7:30, ESPN+ Utah State (6-1) vs. New Mexico (3-4), 4, Stadium Probably not important The committee tries not to care about your wins over teams that finish with bad records, though you can get some credit for winning on the road or really laying it to folks. So for the ranked teams here: just don’t lose! No. 1 Alabama: Idle! Free day! The cruel reign takes an intermission! No. 4 LSU: Idle No. 3 Notre Dame (7-0) vs. Navy (2-5) in San Diego, 8, CBS: Apologies for jinxing the Irish by putting this game down here. Option teams cover huge spreads, and Navy plays Notre Dame tough. No. 5 Michigan: Idle No. 8 Oklahoma (6-1) vs. Kansas State (3-4), 2:30, Fox No. 11 Ohio State: Idle No. 23 Utah (5-2) at UCLA (2-5), Friday at 10:30, ESPN
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The Cowboys blew their chance at the NFC East lead with a rare snap penalty
Brett Maher got screwed by his long snapper — and the Cowboys’ too-conservative play calling. The Dallas Cowboys were on the brink of taking Washington to overtime in a game pivotal to the NFC East standings. And then a violation from the team’s long snapper led to their demise. The Dallas defense forced a vital three-and-out with 1:09 to play, and Dak Prescott led his team to the Washington 28-yard line to set up a 47-yard field goal that would have send a 20-17 game into overtime. But before the Cowboys could get the snap off on the final play of regulation, L.P. Ladouceur flinched with the ball, drawing Washington’s defensive line forward and pushing Dallas five yards in the wrong direction. Here's the explanation on the L.P. penalty at the end of the game. pic.twitter.com/ehFq4kIZoe— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) October 21, 2018 It was a penalty that making rookie Brett Maher’s kick significantly more difficult. The Cowboys reset for the game-tying try, only to watch Maher’s 52-yard try hook to the left as it neared the goal line. The kick eventually clanged off the upright to secure Washington’s spot atop the division with a three-point victory over their longtime rival: Would have been good from 47.Penalty pushes it back five yards. Maher misses from 52. Cowboys lose.#CowboysNation #DALvsWAS pic.twitter.com/LHLe9BQgUK— Joey Hayden (@_joeyhayden) October 21, 2018 The long-range miss broke a streak of 16 straight field goals from the first-year specialist. He’d previously drained a kick from 47 yards to cut Washington’s lead to 13-10 early in the fourth quarter. Maher didn’t take the miss lightly. He trudged back to the locker room without even removing his helmet. Brett Maher misses from 52 and keeps his helmet on after the Cowboys lose 20-17. pic.twitter.com/JWN58zaTQF— Edward Egros (@EdwardEgrosFox4) October 21, 2018 But Maher never should have been in that position Forget the false start that turned a makeable 47-yarder into a crushing miss from 52 — Maher should have been looking at a much more reasonable kick from the get go. The Cowboys had the ball at the Washington 46 yard line with 52 seconds to play when Prescott connected with Cole Beasley for a 9-yard gain that put the club in field goal range. Then Dallas took 24 seconds to stage their next play — a six-yard diving catch from Beasley. The Cowboys didn’t rush up to the line to stop the clock, even as it ticked down to 20 seconds, but got a reprieve when the officials called for a review of the catch. That forced a timeout that allowed head coach Jason Garrett to coordinate his team while the replay crew confirmed Beasley’s catch. And Garrett used that opportunity to call ... an Ezekiel Elliott run up the middle. The Cowboys were content to settle for a long field goal despite having the time to run three to four more plays while holding a timeout. Rather than eat up more yardage, the Cowboys went conservative, protecting the ball and putting the trust in their special teams to come up big. They didn’t, and Dallas gave up its claim to the top spot in the NFC East in the process. And in a season where Garrett’s seat is hotter than ever and his playcalling is under a bigger microscope than ever before, that’s a big deal.
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Justin Tucker, the NFL’s most accurate kicker of all time, missed a game-tying PAT vs. the Saints
Tucker hadn’t missed a kick from 33 yards or less in 300 tries as a pro. Trailing 24-17 with 24 seconds to play, Joe Flacco hit John Brown with a 14-yard touchdown pass to send a pivotal cross-conference showdown between the Ravens and Saints to overtime. Or so Baltimore thought. The touchdown cut the lead to 24-23, but Justin Tucker — the most accurate kicker in NFL history — sliced the ensuing extra point wide right to effectively doom the Ravens to a home loss. The All-Pro had made all 222 extra point tries in his NFL career before Sunday’s game-changing miss. Joe Flacco finds John Brown for the Ravens TD.Justin Tucker's extra point attempt is NO good.Saints leading 24-23 with :24 left to play.: FOX #NOvsBAL pic.twitter.com/KimNCxIHZg— NFL (@NFL) October 21, 2018 Not only had Tucker never missed an extra point, he’d never missed a single field goal from inside 33 yard in his seven-year career. No one seemed more surprised by the miss than the prolific kicker himself: The veteran had one more chance to redeem himself with a suddenly-vital onside kick attempt, but his kickoff bounced into the waiting arms of Alvin Kamara. The 2017 offensive rookie of the year dove on the ball to seal his team’s win and push the Saints to 5-1 on the season. The Ravens fell to 4-3, dropping them to third place in the AFC North.
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Baker Mayfield’s face is the newest meme
Mayfield captured the pain of playing for the Browns perfectly. For the fourth time in seven games, the Cleveland Browns went to overtime. And, as is tradition, they lost in heartbreaking fashion. Chandler Catanzaro pushed the Buccaneers to a 26-23 victory in Week 7 behind the strength of a walk-off 59-yard field goal: BUCS WIN!!!!#GoBucs | #CLEvsTB pic.twitter.com/5vjtRH4PTq— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 21, 2018 His kick sailed through the uprights with room to spare just moments after botching a potential game winner from 19 yards closer. And that gave us this reaction from Mayfield, who may have finally realized what being a Cleveland Brown is really about. Cleveland battled back from a 23-9 fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game at 23-all, then held on as Buccaneers kicker Chandler Catanzaro pulled a game-winning 40-yard field goal wide right as time expired. That forced the extra frame against Tampa Bay, but the Browns’ first two possessions of overtime ended in punts — including one that started at the Bucs’ 45-yard line following a Jameis Winston interception. But Tampa was similarly inept, and a three-and-out was set to put Baker Mayfield in position for a game-winning drive. Only it never happened. Jabrill Peppers fumbled during his punt return, and the Bucs used six plays to drive from the Cleveland 48 to the Cleveland 41 and set up a 59-yard opportunity for redemption for Catanzaro. The Browns are now 2-4-1 on the season.
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Bengals vs. Chiefs 2018 live stream: Time, TV schedule, and how to watch online
Patrick Mahomes and Andy Dalton will duel under the bright lights of “Sunday Night Football.” The Kansas City Chiefs suffered their first loss of the season in Week 6, falling to the New England Patriots, but it was still a good game for them, for the most part. Patrick Mahomes was excellent, and remains the focal point of Kansas City’s dominance this season. He’ll try to get his team to 6-1 on the year in Week 7, with a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals, set for 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC for Sunday Night Football (live streaming via FuboTV, NBC Sports). The Bengals have been pretty good this season as well, and lead the AFC North with a 4-2 record. The big issue, though, is that they just lost to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, and have a slate of tough games for much of the season. Their losses thus far are to the Panthers and Steelers, with wins over the Colts, Ravens, Dolphins and Falcons. Andy Dalton hasn’t been quite as good as Mahomes, but he’s still been pretty good in his own right. He’s thrown for 1,674 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Mahomes has 1,865 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions. Below is all you need to know to watch the action on Sunday. Time, TV, and streaming info Time: 8:20 p.m. ET Location: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo. TV: NBC Streaming: FuboTV, NBC Sports Odds: The Chiefs opened as 6-point favorites over the Bengals. Bengals vs. Chiefs news The Chiefs have been pretty bad on defense, especially when it comes to tackling. Derrick Johnson is a legendary Chiefs player, but he’s not the answer to their defensive woes, no matter how much Chiefs fans want him to be. Only Eric Berry, Justin Houston and Mitch Morse missed practice for the Chiefs on Wednesday, with the other six players listed on the report practicing in full. Patrick Mahomes is so good, the NFL is already seeing an increase in its TV ratings when he’s playing. Check out this very in-depth look at Patrick Mahomes’ Week 6 — it’s the second of three parts. The first part is here. For the Bengals, Billy Price is no longer in a walking boot, but there’s still no timetable for the offensive lineman’s return. Both Darqueze Dennard and Shawn Williams could be out for the Bengals against the Chiefs. Bengals vs. Chiefs prediction In the latest SB Nation expert NFL picks, six of the seven experts picking think the Chiefs will win, leaving one picking the Bengals. The OddsShark computer is going with Kansas City as well, while the coin flip landed on Cincinnati.
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Mitchell Trubisky’s arm couldn’t beat the Patriots. But his legs almost did
Trubisky’s Hail Mary came up just a yard short. The Patriots had a plan for Mitchell Trubisky. They were going to bring plenty of pressure on the second-year quarterback and force him to make rushed throws downfield. Trubisky had other ideas. When New England’s defensive linemen broke through the line of scrimmage, he decided to just outrun them. And it nearly worked — even when the Chicago QB was called on to uncork a last-second Hail Mary to lead his team back from the dead. Trubisky almost rewrote his own narrative with one last-ditch drive. Trailing by seven points with 24 seconds to play, the quarterback completed three of four passes to set up a Hail Mary effort from the Bears’ 45 yard line. The young passer rolled left, stood up to Kyle Van Noy’s pressure, and launched a pass that traveled 54 yards — on a play where his team needed 55. The Bears were *that* close : CBS #NEvsCHIpic.twitter.com/FX8NKL6kzT— ESPN (@espn) October 21, 2018 Those last second near-heroics nearly papered over Trubisky’s up-and-down afternoon against the Pats. The Bears’ signal caller led his team in rushing yards in a 38-31 loss, picking up his team’s biggest play of the afternoon — that is, until the Hail Mary — in the process. That included this run that saw Trubisky cover nearly 72 total yards and go from sideline to sideline to cap off an 8-yard touchdown scramble. He’d set up his team’s third touchdown of the afternoon — and give Chicago a fleeting 24-21 lead — with another long run that saw him gain 39 yards and give the Bears a first-and-goal opportunity. Mitchell Trubisky did it again. Trubisky covered 65.1 yards of distance on his 39-yard run, the 2nd-most scramble distance a quarterback has covered on any play this season. His run in the first quarter is still the longest QB scramble run (71.9 yards).#NEvsCHI #DaBears pic.twitter.com/x0XVIeFjDl— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 21, 2018 Trubisky finished his day with 81 rushing yards on six carries and a touchdown — more yards than the dynamic platoon of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen combined. This was important, because Trubisky’s passing was off-target all afternoon When the Patriots brought the pressure Trubisky couldn’t turn into yards downfield, the Bears’ offense languished. Chicago scored 31 points on the afternoon, but 14 of those points came as the direct result of New England turnovers deep in their own territory. A third touchdown came after a Tom Brady interception at the Bears’ 34. Only two of the team’s scoring drives weren’t preceded by a Patriot mistake. He completed just 5 of his first 17 passes, only recovering against a New England prevent defense to close out the final seconds of the second quarter. When given the chance to sling the ball into the end zone from the NE 40-yard line with one second left on the clock, Trubisky instead settled on a 5-yard route to tailback Tarik Cohen instead. alright Mitchell Trubisky, you've got the ball at the Patriots' 40 yard line with 1 second left before the half. show us what you've got....oh. pic.twitter.com/wWtBc2dbUs— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) October 21, 2018 Trubisky stabilized late in the game to push his completion rate over 50 percent, but he still missed countless throws — sometimes in the face of pressure, and other times in a relatively clean pocket. He finished his day with 25 completions on 49 passes for 279 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions — though one of those picks, arguably, wasn’t his fault He only completed six passes to his wide receivers. And Trubisky’s line should have been even worse than it was. He also had two interceptions bounce off the hands of Patriot defenders in the end zone. But the Bears were still in this game until the final whistle thanks to their young quarterback. Just not because of his arm. Trubisky kept the New England defense guessing with some impressive scrambles out of the backfield — and that’s a skill that’s going to make Chicago difficult to plan against going forward.
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Jaguars bench Blake Bortles for Cody Kessler after third straight disastrous game
The Jacksonville Jaguars benched Blake Bortles in a Week 7 game after his second fumble of the game set up the Houston Texans for an easy touchdown to take a 20-0 lead. Taking over for the Jaguars early in the third quarter was former Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler.
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PAPN: LSU and Iowa are the same team
We treat them very differently, but you know it’s true. We know the top two teams in college football at the moment. After that, *shrugs*. Today’s topics: The updated S&P+ top 25. Wazzu got its party. Iowa just erased Maryland. Utah is rising awfully quickly, and it appears sustainable. Ole Miss’ bad defense was more powerful(ly bad) than Auburn’s bad offense. LSU’s either gonna live up to its human rankings or down to its computer rankings when Bama comes to town. But either way, LSU and Iowa are basically the same team, and we talk about them very differently. App State finally failed to exceed projections. (Utah State, too.) Fresno State’s a runaway truck at this point, and UCF’s got plenty of company in that G5 race. Penn State really probably needs to play offense late in games. Ohio State’s defense is a damn mess. Washington is increasingly Washington. Shea Patterson and Michigan is still a weird marriage. Damn, Clemson.
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The Dolphins’ dangerous stadium just caused a security guard to get hurt
Kenny Stills cut his leg earlier this season and now a security guard went down hard because of Hard Rock Stadium’s obvious flaw. The inexplicably close walls behind the end zones at Hard Rock Stadium have created dangerous situations in the past. On Sunday, it caused an injury to a security guard who got destroyed by Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills. Stills caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone against the Lions, but then collided with the security guard after he was pushed, causing her to land hard on her right arm. BRUHSecurity guard down! pic.twitter.com/cdzHDGKVZT— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) October 21, 2018 The Dolphins receiver quickly came to check on the security guard and gave her the touchdown ball: Kenny Stills took a moment to sit with the security guard he accidentally ran into on his touchdown. ❤️ @KSTiLLS pic.twitter.com/GfjfJvCEhM— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 21, 2018 It was a nice moment after a scary collision, but she was taken to the locker room for further evaluation. The real question is: why was this allowed to happen in the first place? It’s the second time this year it’s been a problem for Stills, who crashed into the wall behind the end zone in Miami earlier in the year. Stadium capacity may need to be reduced in interest of NFL player safety. Wall collisions far too easy for players competing for end-zone passes. Bucs S Isaiah Johnson tonight the latest impacted. This was Dolphins WR Kenny Stills on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/1pJyVToCp1— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 25, 2018 After the game, he was less concerned about the location of the wall than the amount of people it puts close to the field: Kenny Stills has a gash on his right leg, the battle wound of crashing into a cameraman on his TD. Calls for the league to change its policy in how many people it allows behind the end zone.— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) September 24, 2018 There’s a similar issue in Tampa Bay where Buccaneers safety Isaiah Johnson was injured earlier in the year when he ran into a wall behind the end zone. The NFL has made plenty of rule changes in the interest of player safety. Removing a few seats to avoid preventable disasters like the injury suffered by a security guard Sunday seems like an easy fix.
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United States Grand Prix live winners, highlights & more
Will Lewis Hamilton clinch the Drivers’ Championship at the Formula One United States Grand Prix? Follow along with our live blog of the action on Sunday. 2:00 p.m.: The drivers are getting ready and we’re just a few minutes away from the start of the Formula One United States Grand Prix. Keep it here for a live blog of the action! Lewis Hamilton has a commanding lead in the Formula One Drivers’ Championship, and he has pole position for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix from Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The race is set for 2 p.m. ET on ABC (live streaming via WatchESPN, ESPN App, F1 TV Pro). Hamilton’s only competition in the championship is Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, who takes a three-place grid penalty and will start fifth on Sunday. Vettel’s penalty came after he failed to slow sufficiently under red flags in the first practice session. Both Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso were sent to the back of the grid for power unit changes, while Max Vertappen of Red Bull had a car issue after the first qualifying session. Verstappen usually makes it to fifth on the grid behind the Mercedes and Ferrari cars, but he’ll start 13th on Sunday. Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari, Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes and Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull separate Hamilton and Vettel. The rest of the top 10 is made up of Force India’s Esteban Ocon, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Force India’s Sergio Perez. Hamilton needs to out-score Vettel by just eight points to be crowned champion for this season. The gap to first- and second-place is seven points, so if Hamilton wins, he’ll need Vettel to finish in third or worse, while Bottas’ task be will be ensuring that happens. Ferrari have provided boosts to their power unit, but it would take an incredible string of unlikely events for Hamilton to be denied his fifth world championship. Only two other drivers — Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio — have previously accomplished five career championships. Below is all you need to know to watch the action. How to watch the 2018 F1 United States Grand Prix Date: Sunday, Oct. 21 Location: Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas Time: 2 p.m. ET TV: ABC Online Streaming: WatchESPN, ESPN App, F1 TV Pro
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What we know about the confrontation between Eric Reid and Malcolm Jenkins
History between the two is boiling over on Sunday. Panthers safety Eric Reid is having multiple run-ins with Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins during the game on Sunday between the two teams. marcel_lj: Here's the TV replay of the altercation between Eric Reid and Malcolm Jenkins. That look in Reid's eyes says a lot Fox NFL Football: Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles https://t.co/mU4M5aJchu pic.twitter.com/v8VYJvL9Kc— FanSportsClips (@FanSportsClips) October 21, 2018 Reid was standing on his own while the teams met at midfield prior to the game when the pair approached each other. The two exchanged words, before things began getting heated. Torrey Smith, Reid’s teammate, pulled him away from the situation and walked with him to the sideline. Since that time, things haven’t calmed down. Reid has been gesturing toward the Eagles’ sideline following plays, and was penalized for a late hit on Carson Wentz, before slamming Zach Ertz who ran over to retaliate for the hit on the quarterback. Reid hits Wentz late. Ertz retaliates lol pic.twitter.com/XMjdlFgCRi— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) October 21, 2018 We don’t know exactly what happened, but there is clear friction between Reid and Jenkins. Reid has made several comments about Jenkins’ involvement in protests by NFL players during the anthem. During his introductory press conference with the Panthers, Reid called the NFL Players Coalition (of which Jenkins is a founding member) “an NFL-created subversion group,” and was critical of the Eagles’ safety last year for his involvement in discussions with the NFL. In late 2017 Reid said that Jenkins was working directly with the NFL without the knowledge of players, and speaking for protesting players without talking to them directly. This led to Reid leaving the NFL Players Coalition as a result. “(We’re not) satisfied with the structure of the Coalition or the communication that Malcolm has been having with the NFL on his own, speaking on behalf of protesting players,” Reid said. Jenkins took exception for Reid’s comments at the time responding by saying: “They understood the entire scope of the plan. The last time we had conversations with (Roger) Goodell and Troy Vincent, Michael Thomas and Eric Reid were on that call. They understood the proposal. What we didn’t have was a conversation with players in the coalition based on some of the responses that we got from the league. We then talked about myself contracting Troy Vincent just to give them some updates on some of our feedback, which I did. That call did not have Mike or Eric on it. Everybody kind of agreed to that.” Reid was not signed by an NFL team for several months and is currently involved in a lawsuit against the league for colluding against him during this time. Upon his return Reid has continued to protest, kneeling during the national anthem. Meanwhile Jenkins has chosen not to protest during the anthem this season, but remains active in the community and continues to work with the NFL Players Coalition. Before we enjoy this game lets take some time to ponder that more than 60% of the prison population are people of color. The NFL is made up of 70% African Americans. What you witness on the field does not represent the reality of everydayAmerica. We are the anomalies... pic.twitter.com/gCeNKuTl1d— Malcolm Jenkins (@MalcolmJenkins) August 9, 2018 We will likely hear more about precisely what happened between the two after the game, but for now emotions are high in Philadelphia and it’s unclear whether this powderkeg will explode further.
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The Titans are giving 2-point conversions a bad name
Tennessee was right to play for the win. But so, so wrong with its play call. Mike Vrabel is in his first season as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans. And in the midst of a three-game losing streak, he is seriously overthinking things. Vrabel turned to gadget plays late in a 20-19 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, turning to his passing game in fourth-and-1 situations and ultimately paying for it. The Titans had the chance to take a one-point lead with 30 seconds to play in London, but Vrabel’s decision to throw a slant just one good step from the LA end zone doomed Tennessee to a 3-4 record and a long, “what-if” filled flight back to Nashville. The Titans had dominated the time of possession at Wembley Stadium, but their inability to finish drives left them trailing 20-13 with fewer than five minutes to play. But a big drive led by tailback Dion Lewis created a first-and-goal situation from the Chargers’ two-yard line with 47 seconds to go. Their first attempt ended with a Lewis carry and one-yard loss. The second was an incomplete pass to the end zone that belied the team’s lack of timeouts (forced by a combination of bad luck — a late injury to guard Josh Kline — and Vrabel’s fourth-quarter insistence on challenging a play that in no way looked like it would be overturned). And then things got screwy. The Titans did so many things wrong, but still had a chance to win this game With the pocket collapsing around him, Mariota was forced to use his legs to turn third-and-goal from the three-yard line into a Titans touchdown. As he broke through the line of scrimmage, he had one man to beat. A juke to the right would give him the space to crash into the end zone on his feet. A juke to the left would make him an easy target for the Chargers defense. He went left — and still nearly scored anyway: That play was originally ruled a touchdown before a review spotted the ball at the half-yard line. The Titans, with a mobile quarterback and a 240-pound tailback in Derrick Henry, seemed destined to run the ball. After one Chargers timeout, Tennessee snapped the ball, faked the give to Henry, and threw to the left side. It was a smart idea that survived its own awful execution. The Titans sent two tight ends to the end zone with only a single linebacker in coverage in the area. But they sent them to the same side, and those two targets were so closely grouped together one man was able to cover both of them once he got a read on Mariota’s eyes. Only the solid hands of Luke Stocker kept the play from failing: It was ugly, but it worked. And that just emboldened the awful calls to come. The Titans were right to roll the dice and go for two. And then, eeeeeeaaargggghhhh Vrabel’s decision to go for two and attempt to grab a late lead rather than play for a tie made sense. After all, his bold playcalling on fourth down in overtime in Week 4 turned a potential tie or Titans defeat into a victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. It wasn’t a surprise to see him keep his kicker on the sideline and put his team in position to win. But from there, his decisions were...lacking. The Titans’ first attempt at a two-point conversion saw Mariota completely blank Dion Lewis — the player who had carved up the Los Angeles defense for 155 yards to that point — in the end zone before scrambling into nothingness and eventually throwing an incomplete pass. A holding call on Casey Heyward, who scrambled late to jump on Lewis and cheated in the process, effectively gave Tennessee another fourth-and-1 situation with the game on the line. And rather than trust Lewis, Mariota, or the pile-pushing Henry, Vrabel dialed up another pass play: The Titans didn’t even bother to put a tailback behind Mariota, leaving the Chargers’ second level to read pass all the way. The play was a slow-developing slant to Taywan Taylor, a player who’d had one catch on one target at that point. It never had a chance. The LA defense, not sucked toward the line of scrimmage by the threat of the run, was able to fill the end zone in coverage. Mariota’s pass had to zip past the outstretched arm of safety Adrian Phillips, then through the hands of cornerback Michael Davis, who’d undercut the route, to find its target. It didn’t. And the Chargers lost. Vrabel defended the call to go for two after the game, but didn’t address why he thought a pass play from the one was the right move with the game on the line: Vrabel on going for it. #Titans. pic.twitter.com/9WuXwtRl7V— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) October 21, 2018 Vrabel gambled and lost Sunday, but the issue wasn’t his decision to go for two. Tying the game with 30 seconds left was no guarantee of overtime. The Chargers had two timeouts and had already scored a pair of touchdowns of 55+ yards. Giving Philip Rivers 4-5 plays to gain 40 yards or so would have been a good deal for Los Angeles, even with the franchise’s history of awful kickers. No, the issue was dialing up an end zone slant that, time and time again, has been the bane of teams trying to win games from the one-yard line. Just ask Pete Carroll. But hey, maybe it’s a good thing that Taylor Lewan wasn’t rewarded with a win after this: this is fine pic.twitter.com/wYqqXl0VxB— Adam Stites (@AdamStites_) October 21, 2018
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Did Rajon Rondo actually spit in Chris Paul’s face? A SpitGate investigation
There’s some damning camera angles. Rondo will have some explaining to do. Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo traded punches in the fourth quarter of Rockets vs. Lakers Friday night, and Paul said he threw the first punch because Rondo spat on him. But Rondo denied the accusation, and so did Lakers management after watching the tape. Carmelo Anthony called spitting “blatant disrespect.” No one knows what to believe. It’s time for an investigation. What happened? The mini brawl started with about 4:13 left in the fourth quarter when James Harden barreled into Brandon Ingram during a fast break and was awarded with a trip to the free throw line. Shortly after, Ingram shoved Harden, was assessed a technical foul, then started jawing with a referee. Lance Stephenson grabbed Ingram and separated him from the mess. That’s when things started to escalate. In all video angles, you can see Paul and Rondo have an extended, heated discussion while the attention is on Ingram. Then Paul appears to wipe his face before putting his finger into Rondo’s face. Saw this Rondo/CP3 brewing. CP3 dead ass wrong for putting his finger in Rondo’s face. Rondo suppose to swing on him.— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) October 21, 2018 Rondo then landed a left cross on Paul, who retaliated with some punches of his own. It was stuff that got Floyd Mayweather out of his court side seat. Ingram darted back into the scene and used his height and length to land a punch on Paul, too. LeBron James grabbed his friend, CP3, and Anthony grabbed Ingram after he threw a punch. It was mayhem — more punches the NBA has seen on one of its courts in a long time. But was there spit? Chris Paul says so. He told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that was the case, and you can definitely see him wiping his face before mushing Rondo with his finger. Chris Paul told our broadcast crew this all started because Rajon Rondo spit in his face. When the second replay cycles through you can see Chris wiping his face before he goes at Rondo. pic.twitter.com/2DxPjWdYCu— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) October 21, 2018 Carmelo Anthony also told reporters Rondo spit at Paul. He called it “unacceptable,” adding “you don’t even see that in the streets.” Carmelo said Rondo spit at Paul and "That's unacceptable, unacceptable. That's blatant disrespect."— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) October 21, 2018 Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni also told Nichols, “some spit was thrown.” Rockets Coach Mike D’Antoni: “some spit was thrown” https://t.co/KVC1TWsLyv— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) October 21, 2018 But Rondo asserted he did not spit on Paul during their heated discussion prior to the fight, and according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Lakers’ guard was “livid over the accusation.” Lakers management spoke with Rondo and both watched the altercation again. Neither saw spit from Rondo on the tape. Is Rondo innocent? It doesn’t look like Rondo spat at Paul. He also wore a mouthpiece during the game. If you’ve ever worn one, you know it’s borderline impossible — unless you’re a Level 5,000 expert spitter — to spit with a mouthpiece in place. But it’s undeniable that CP3 wipes something off his face before putting his finger in Rondo’s face. And in an Instagram post from Ballgod, there’s an angle that actually shows spit leaving Rondo’s mouth! If this video is real and unedited (and we don’t know that for certain), it’s pretty damning evidence. View this post on Instagram Best angle of Rondo spitting on Paul A post shared by BALLGOD (@ballgod) on Oct 21, 2018 at 9:22am PDT Another possibility? Friendly fire. An alternative theory has emerged in the aftermath, with some considering the idea that it may have been a teammate that was inadvertently responsible. Here’s an angle that shows Carmelo Anthony talking in Paul’s direction before CP3 wipes his face. Anthony was having words with a referee, and when the official walked behind Rondo away from the action, Melo looked in Paul’s direction and shouted something at the ref. #SpitGate Part 2WAS IT MELO???? pic.twitter.com/59wz1xVVef— Sherwob Holmes (@World_Wide_Wob) October 21, 2018 But again, looking at this camera angle, it doesn’t look like spit from Anthony’s words toward the referee could have angled its way onto Paul’s face. Pay closer attention to Melo in this video. #SpitGate You be the judge. pic.twitter.com/us6w5dRiJf— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) October 21, 2018 So what’s the verdict? Chris Paul was definitely spat on — you can see the visceral reaction when he wipes his face. And in the Instagram video posted earlier, you can see spit leaving Rondo’s mouth in Paul’s direction. Look at it again. Best angle I've seen of Rondo CP3 #SpitGate and uhhhhhh pic.twitter.com/PULiw2fmMF— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) October 21, 2018 It’s pretty hard for Rondo to deny that one. Rondo’s best bet now is making the case that the spit was unintentional, and it didn’t go directly toward Paul’s face. This clip clearly shows Chris Paul was spat on, but Rajon Rondo likely making case it was unintentional since he had in a mouthguard. https://t.co/C5Vk3NNCoM— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) October 21, 2018 Paul and Rondo had already been jawing back and forth all game, and they’ve had history over the years. Rondo vs. Chris Paul has been brewing for a decade pic.twitter.com/4kV9qnNNwt— Sherwob Holmes (@World_Wide_Wob) October 21, 2018 Spitting, though, is a new level of disrespect, and the evidence is mounting up in Paul’s favor. Our investigation’s results: Rajon Rondo, guilty. And he, Paul and Brandon Ingram are all going to hear from the league office for this one.
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