Chirping the hottest team in hockey? Should they be genuflecting at this point?

James Neal’s phone has been blowing up after every Golden Knights game, filled with messages from former teammates who are following Vegas’ unprecedented success.

“Oh, I hear it,” he said. “I definitely hear it. Guys are chirping a little bit. But it’s all good.”

“That’s right,” said Neal, with a laugh.

After three straight losses, the sky is figuratively falling in Gainesville. Jim McElwain is out, and the fun of a coaching search in the social media age — Steve Spurrier was spotted tubing down the Ichetucknee River with Bob Stoops and Chip Kelly, talking about the Florida job — begins.

The Falcons’ offense is officially in disarray. They don’t know when to pass or run, or whom should do the pass-catching or running. Steve Sarkisian’s play-calling has caused Matt Ryan to regress. It’s good that Dan Quinn’s young, fast defense keeps playing better. They’ll find a way to score enough to squeak by the low-flying Jets.

Both you and Giannis always make it clear that there are other players on the team. How is he received by his teammates?

Most of the guys who have been here the longest with him have seen him grow and seen him work. I think it makes it easy for them to be around him because of that. I think they also understand how talented he is and what he does to help the game become easy for them. He causes a lot of problems [for other teams], he gets a lot of attention, and it’s just a matter of if you can catch and shoot and make an open shot, you’re going to benefit from that. I think we have some guys who can do that.ducks-099

Arizona is another place where Cousins could be set up to thrive.

The Sixers, who beat the Houston Rockets 115-107 on the road Monday to improve to 3-4, also held on for a 112-110 victory in Dallas on Saturday night, the first time they have won in those two cities in the same season since 2000-01.

They also ended an eight-game slide in Houston, and won back-to-back games for the first time since March 17 and 19, when they beat Dallas and Boston.

Marchand came out of the box and tied the game 40 seconds later, scoring the Bruins’ second power-play goal of the night with assists by Bergeron and Pastrnak. It was Marchand’s eighth goal of the season and the 200th of his career.

“We put ourselves in a bad spot and we fought our way out of it, so that’s the positive,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I don’t like to see us start like that. I take a lot of pride in being ready to go. I thought we weren’t as a group. We corrected it and gave ourselves a chance to get two points. It just didn’t work out in the shootout.”

That’d leave a lot of money to work with and a big hole at quarterback to fill. While the Cardinals’ roster has taken a step backward recently, it still has stars on defense like Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. The team also has one of the best offensive talents in the NFL in running back David Johnson.

For a team that everyone thought was well on its way toward tanking for a quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Jets have done surprisingly well so far in 2017 with long-in-the-tooth Josh McCown under center. Their 3-5 record has even come with close losses to the Patriots and Falcons.

Perhaps now he can fulfill the original expectations and at least act as a RB1. Ajayi enters Week 9 tied for 30th among running backs in PPR scoring after being selected as the No. 8 running back and 16th overall in ESPN average live drafts.raiders_076-223x223

The Jaguars and Bears are trying to win without their quarterbacks. Can it be done?

Quarterback is unquestionably the most important position in football, but at least two teams in the NFL are trying to win without one. Sure, there’s someone under center for the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars, and yes, they occasionally throw passes, but both teams are aiming to throw as infrequently as possible.

It was exactly what the Cowboys failed to do in their 42-17 loss to the Broncos. Denver’s game plan was to force Dak Prescott to pass, and the Broncos were able to lock in on that because they completely shut Elliott down. It’s much more difficult for defenses to contain this balanced Dallas offense.

Elliott’s 219 combined yards — 147 rushing, 72 receiving — and three touchdowns were the most he’d had in a single game as a pro. His stat sheet doesn’t tell the whole story, though:

All four of Jacksonville’s wins have been by at least 20 points. To put that in perspective, the team had three such wins over the previous seven seasons.

And the Jaguars feel like they should be 5-1. They gave up 17 points on three special teams blunders in a 27-17 home loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 6. Two weeks before that, they gave up 17 points on three running plays totaling 177 yards in a 23-20 overtime loss at the New York Jets. Those included a 75-yard TD run in which defenders failed to touch Bilal Powell when he fell to the turf.

84.0 percent. The AFC East might look closer than ever in the standings, but FPI still indicates the Patriots are the clear favorites to win the division. It’ll take some big efforts from the Bills, Dolphins or Jets to top the team that has won 14 of the past 16 division titles.

86.4 percent. Carson Wentz leads the NFL in passing touchdowns (17) and already has surpassed his TD total from last season (16). He also has led the Eagles to their best start since 2004 and has given them the best chance of winning the NFC East.nike_49ers_2377_7df40b40c162f099-150x150

Goodell has tried to persuade the players’ union to help him to persuade the players to stand for the anthem.

“What privilege do we have?” he asked. “The privilege to be blessed that our hard work and dedication paid off, and we were able to change our families’ lives, to change our lives, and to live better. But that doesn’t change our memories or what we remember happening in our childhood. I think that’s something that sticks true to him [Baldwin] as well, and sticks true to a lot of players.

“That’s why guys are so passionate about coming together and making a difference and making a stand, and doing everything they can in terms of making a difference for social injustice because no matter what, before we had all of this money, and after we’re dead and gone, our skin is still black, we’ll still be looked at a certain way, and all we want is equality for everyone. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, and it’s just great to have a guy like Doug continuing that fight, and continuing to take it beyond what others have done.”

Orlando often struggled in the third quarter last season, but the Magic came out of halftime strong in their first game.

After leading 58-55 at the break, Orlando stretched its advantage 15 points early in the third behind key shots from Fournier, Payton and Vucevic.

The Magic were stronger on the boards and on the break in the opening half. The Magic outrebounded Miami 26-20 and had 15 second-chance points compared to six by the Heat. Orlando also had seven fast-break points while the Heat didn’t convert any during the first 24 minutes.
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The defense looks sound with Patrick Beverley and DeAndre Jordan bookending it.

Perhaps the toughest team in the league to peg, in part because of the health questions that always swirl around Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari. There is a 50-win team in here with Griffin as fulcrum, lording over the action from the center of the foul line as everyone orbits him. The four rotation guards are dangerous in different ways, and crafty enough on the pick-and-roll to draw double teams — and free Griffin to slip into open space, where he is an expert playmaker.

The defense looks sound with Patrick Beverley and DeAndre Jordan bookending it. For all the talk about how helpless the Clippers were when Chris Paul rested — and they were G League-level bad — a huge chunk of those minutes came with both Griffin and Jordan also on the pine. The Clips actually outscored opponents by almost five points per 100 possessions in the 342 minutes Jordan and Griffin logged without Paul, per NBA.com.

Denver has a whole cupboard full of malleable young players who could blossom into the key piece, the most promising of which is Jamal Murray. Entering his second season, Murray projects for 2.7 RPM wins in 2017-18, which would exceed Green’s RPM wins from the 2012-13 season. While Green contributed far more in his second season, it’s also worth pointing out that Murray entered the league three years younger than Green. There’s plenty of time to play catch-up.

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Sorry, NFL, shortening the overtime period won’t improve player safety

At the NFL’s owners meetings in March, the competition committee discussed a proposal to shorten the regular season overtime rules period from 15 minutes to 10. The proposal was tabled at that meeting, but according to NFL Network’s Judy Battista, it’s expected to be approved when the owners revisit it next week.

The proposed change is ostensibly driven by player safety, but shortening overtime wouldn’t make much of a difference.

Battista reported in March that the proposal was centered around the idea that playing in overtime on a Sunday ahead of a Thursday Night Football game — with just three days between — gives players even less time to recover. Taking away the potential for five minutes of that overtime is unlikely to make a big difference in player health and safety, unlike, say, getting rid of Thursday games completely.

For one thing, the proposed change would impact a small percentage of games, based on recent history:

“So, that was part of my lack of understanding what had just happened. I didn’t get the whole gestalt,” she admits. “It really started to dawn on me. I realized what a huge issue this was. It was right up my bailiwick.”

But right now, everything the Bears gave up to get him leave some big questions in play. They had plenty of other needs, particularly on defense, that went unfilled during free agency and the draft.

Each has a suggested dress code, though they don’t overlap unless you’re Dad Wearing His Team Polo And Leaving After Communion Because Traffic Is Awful. But if you regularly attend religious services (which aren’t always Christian and don’t always occur on Sunday, I know) in an NFL city, you may have, at least once, seen a fellow believer wearing a jersey.
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At Michigan’s Pro Day, Peppers said he’d be the steal of the draft.

It’s likely Samuel will play wide receiver for the Panthers, and regardless — they just got much more dangerous. Cam Newton has been playing amazing football but the Panthers have had a lack of playmakers next to him on offense. They now have two more.

Sticking with the running back position, the Vikings took Cook out of Florida State. With the last few years of the Adrian Peterson era being tumultuous at best, the Vikings are now finally ready to move on with Cook, who will step right in and be a contributor from Day 1.

The Cleveland Browns, who took Myles Garrett with the first pick of the draft, passed up taking a quarterback twice despite having nothing interesting at the position. They finally took DeShone Kizer off the board at No. 52 overall, a pick they received from the Titans. Kizer has so much potential, but his tendency for frustrating mistakes make him a gamble. But he’s a gamble that will now be in Cleveland.

At Michigan’s Pro Day, Peppers said he’d be the steal of the draft.

“Whatever team takes me, it’s going to be a steal,” Peppers said, via the AP. “I don’t care what the draft experts — and things like that — what they have to say. I only care about what these GMs and coaches think about me. I just need the opportunity. That’s it.”

Hooker was languishing behind then-starters Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell, and he was tired of not playing. The Pennsylvania native was also homesick. He told his mother, Angela Dennis, that he wanted to transfer somewhere closer to home. She wasn’t having it.

“Her exact words were: ‘I don’t know what you’re going to do. But you’re not coming back home,'” Hooker said.

It’s a good thing he stuck it out, because he became a star.nike_broncos_3097

John Wall showed the Hawks why he’s a master of his craft

John Wall’s third quarter was a tour de force that made something clear: we are watching a master of his craft. In a 114-107 win, Wall steadily and methodically picked apart Atlanta’s defense, including one stretch where he scored or assisted on 19 of the Washington Wizards’ 20 points. It was a full, loaded display that blended excellence with flair and creativity, and it left anyone watching shaking their head.

Washington led most of the game, even though Atlanta never let them pull away. But the Hawks couldn’t find anyone that could bother Wall. He finished with 32 points and 14 assists on 12-of-24 shooting, breaking down Atlanta’s defense repeatedly with a feathery touch. Take this pass, for example.

Blandino’s decision is not an unusual move. Given the complexities of the NFL rulebook, it’s nice when the broadcast networks have people who can actually understand it and translate it for the fans at home who just can’t understand why Dez Bryant didn’t catch the ball even though it sure looked a lot like he did.

That doesn’t change the fact that his departure, which becomes official at the end of May, leaves a big void at a critical juncture in how the league handles officiating and replay. Blandino would have been the one making the calls with the new centralized replay system.

The league will need to find a replacement for a job that will almost certainly make that person the most hated suit in the sport (except for maybe Roger Goodell himself). Several options have already been kicked around, including assistants under Blandino or veteran referees.

Mike Carey has more than two decades of experience as an NFL referee, but he’ll be forever immortalized as CBS’ rules expert who NEVER made the right call on the broadcast.
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I certainly feel a little better than I did four weeks ago

“He was not only a great player for us, but he was a great leader. I just think back to him during the 2007 season and the leadership he showed getting us to the Super Bowl and then winning that game and there’s no way we have a Super Bowl season if Michael Strahan’s not on the team.

“He meant a lot to this organization, and still does.”

This year’s Giants, of course, got off to an unthinkably poor 0-6 start. They have rebounded to win four straight, making Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium vs. the Dallas Cowboys a critical one. How does Mara feel about this year’s version of the Giants?

“I certainly feel a little better than I did four weeks ago,” Mara said. “Obviously we were all disappointed and surprised by the poor start that we had, but I am proud of the fact that our team stuck together and we’re now at the point where we can play meaningful games late in the year. Hopefully we can keep this thing going and make a run.”

There’s a problem in the Navy. Someone has been planting homing beacons on battle cruisers — and I only just realized I’ve never seen an episode of NCIS in my life. It’s something about Navy lawyers, and for CBS to be on-brand there has to be a character who hates millennials. Okay got it.

Tony Romo is: Special executive prosecutor Lance “Turmoil” Riggerson and things will never be the same again. He’s a no-nonsense Texan who doesn’t take guff, especially when that raucous Abby steals his fruit snacks — WHICH WERE A GIFT FROM HIS DAUGHTER! These homing beacons won’t investigate themselves, and who better to bust an international conspiracy than Tony Romo?

There will be a scene where he knocks the homing beacon off the battleship with a football, turns to the camera and says “Fourth quarter comeback complete.” — James Dator
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Colin Kaepernick responds to Trent Dilfer’s criticism

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick doesn’t appreciate criticism leveled at him following his team’s loss to the Carolina Panthers. The third-year quarterback responded to ESPN’s Trent Dilfer, who called him a “remedial” passer that struggles when teams take away his first read.

Dilfer’s core criticism stemmed from a perceived lack of development, which he elaborated to Sports Illustrated on Tuesday.

The 49ers’ tight end depth was tested on Sunday with Vernon Davis leaving the game with a concussion and backup Garrett Celek exciting with a hamstring injury. Neither player returned to the game. The 49ers’ offense has struggled mightily without Davis, so his health will be something to watch moving forward.

Davis wasn’t the only 49er to leave with a concussion, with rookie safety Eric Reid also suffering a concussion. This is the second concussion Reid has suffered this season and the safety is likely to miss Sunday’s game against New Orleans.

The Falcons dropped to 2-7 on the season with a loss to Seattle and Atlanta continues to deal with injury issues. Tight end Tony Gonzalez suffered a toe injury against Seattle. Gonzalez returned to the game and played through the injury, but said he would have to wait and see how it responds during the week, according to Vaughn McClure. Gonzalez has not missed a game since 2006.

Sam Baker missed Sunday’s game and head coach Mike Smith said he is concerned about the left tackle’s knee injury because it has lingered all season. There is a chance Baker will be placed on injured reserve. Atlanta will get some good news, with the return of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who is expected to be activated from injured reserve early this week.

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