73 Seconds…

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1.

Drop In The Bucket…

Did we forget about Klay?  As Draymond rises and Steph improves beyond icons, we seem to have forgotten about Klay.  Thompson dropped 45 on the Mavericks last night, getting payback for one of their losses, by 20pts – Is Carlyle now on Hot-Seat?  ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss expands on Kerr’s thoughts on Klay: “…he’s fine taking a back seat to Steph. It works well. They obviously play well together, but I think there always has to be a little bit of a pecking order in the NBA. Klay’s personality suits that second option perfectly.”  Thompson is a quiet all-star that fits perfectly with Golden State.

2.

Spurred On…

What did we think they were gonna do?  Quit?  Lose by 30 and announce the season was over?  So while Golden State came back down to earth and beat the Mavs by twenty, The Spurs treated Houston like a birthday party and blew them out by 31.  So you can say the Spurs bounced back and showed Houston how far away from contending they still are, plus 5 more things.  You think that at some point, while Aldridge is getting better and showing chemistry, he’ll have to be less passive.  If Aldridge can be more like young Dirk and drive to the basket, the way the Spurs play would make more noise in the playoffs.

3.

Started From the Bottom, Now We Here…

The 65th NBA All-Star Game will be the first All-Star Game held outside of the U.S. The game will be seen by fans in more than 200 countries and territories and will be heard in more than 40 languages. TNT will televise the All-Star Game in the U.S. for the 14th consecutive year, marking Turner Sports’ 31st year of NBA All-Star coverage.

…And all of that is nice.  The Game is even on Valentine’s Day, awwww.  So who will be coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars?  The answer is a guy who just started, Tyronn Lue – because he deserves the honor.  So tune in to TNT at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 14 from Air Canada Centre in Toronto, and watch history in the making – just make sure you take the over.

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4.

Under-rated…

The winter that was — and, in some cases, still is — defined by the nine-figure notables (David Price, Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward, Chris Davis, Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann), some blockbuster swaps (Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Todd Frazier, Shelby Miller and Andrelton Simmons, to name a few), some international intrigue (Kenta Maeda and Byung Ho Park), the rewarded hand-wringing of the Mets faithful (welcome back, Yo), the limits-testing patience required of the likes of Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, Howie Kendrick, etc., and, as usual, the art of surprise.

Lost in all that discussion, though, are the people on the periphery. So let’s round up some of them here with the best acquisitions nobody’s talking about (until now)……

+ Keep Reading: The 10 best MLB pickups nobody is talking about.

5.

Might As Well Jump…

From Deadspin: The second period of the Predators’ 2-1 win over the Flames featured a strange moment, as Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman absolutely leveled linesman Don Henderson on his way back to the bench. The hit sure looks intentional, but Wideman had just been checked hard into the boards, and looked pretty woozy sitting on the bench.

Wideman wasn’t penalized, and both he and Henderson stayed in the game. Afterwards he told reporters that he apologized to Henderson on the ice, and that the hit was entirely accidental.

Thankfully Wideman recieved treatment for a concussion before returning to the ice, as per NHL protocol. Of course that protocol is to pop 2 Percocets and wash them down with a can of LaBatts, but still.

6.

If a Tree Falls…

Further proof that the NFL tries too hard to make you care about a game that the players don’t care about, unless your these guys in the picture…I give you the 2016 NFL ProBowl Draft – Are You Not Entertained?!!  Is there some possibility of interest?  Sure, I’m curious about Julio Jones and Russell Wilson on the same team.  But more to the point, are you gonna play it on DraftKings, or bet the Under?  Before you do read more about the drafting of Team Rice and Team Irvin here, from ABC News:

+ Keep Reading: Russell Wilson, Eli Manning top picks in 2016 Pro Bowl draft

7.

A Man Named $uh…

We’ve talked a lot about this guy and how he was not worth the scratch Miami paid him.  Word is, Suh’s monster deal is already causing cap issues for the Dolphins.  

8.

Aloha…

Hawaii’s attorney general has issued an opinion that says daily fantasy is illegal gambling under state law, becoming the umpteenth state attorney general to do so. [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]


73 seconds.

30 years ago today, that was all we saw of the Space Shuttle Challenger.  I remember exactly where I was and still I am reminded by the thoughts that went thru my head of disbelief.  Being at school, being told over the speaker system what happened, hoping the falling cabin contained life…still is hard to believe that 7 people lost their lives because of an O-ring.  18 years and 6 days later there was the second shuttle disaster, when Endeavour disintegrated in re-entry over Texas and Louisiana.  Now, no more shuttles…Prometheus stole fire to provide us a spark, to generate creativity and explore – what shall we do if we never venture out into the unknown?  Bless those that took the chance to peel back the curtain of the great beyond.

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Countdown to Spring Training – #MLB #NBA #NFL

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1.

3…2…1…

These are the dog days of winter. Football season is (all but) over, the NHL and NBA are in the uneventful middle of their seasons, and Major League Baseball’s free-agent flurry has just about ended. But we’re still just under a month away from the unofficial start of baseball season.

So here’s a list of things to do until Spring Training begins — one every day, Jan. 27 through Feb. 23, the latest date any team’s pitchers and catchers report (looking at you, Rangers and White Sox).

Wednesday, Jan. 27: You’re reading this, aren’t you? Anything else is gravy.

Thursday, Jan. 28: No. 3 Iowa! No. 8 Maryland! 7 p.m. ET on ESPN! Could be a sneaky-good game in a wide-open college basketball landscape.

Friday, Jan. 29: MLBPipeline.com’s top 50 prospects will be unveiled on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. The new top-100 list will go live on MLB.com, too.

Saturday, Jan. 30: What’s the record for largest margin of victory in an NBA game? The Warriors are visiting the 76ers. It starts at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT on NBA League Pass, so you even get most or all of your night if this game isn’t as fun as it sounds. (You’ll have to stay up pretty late to catch the Australian Open men’s singles final live, which usually airs around 3 a.m. ET on ESPN or ESPN 2.)

Sunday, Jan. 31: Watch the Pro Bowl. Nah, read a book instead…...(Continue Reading: Counting down the final days till Spring Training.)


2.

…Ummm Just One More Thing:

Some have called it a non-story. Others think there’s more to it.

Wherever you fall on the whole Peyton Manning HGH controversy, get ready for it to start creeping into your timeline again because the NFL says it will open its own investigation into allegations that the Broncos QB received the illegal drug at his house during his days with the Colts.

Whether you trust the NFL or not to run an unbiased and thorough investigation—in light of the one they ran regarding Tom Brady and Deflategate—is another story, but it looks like the league is going to sniff around the whole Manning controversy while he prepares for possibly his final game in Super Bowl 50 Feb. 7 against the Panthers.

According to the Indianapolis Star, league spokesman Brian McCarthy said the inquiry, “which began two weeks ago, involves reviews of records, interviews and coordination with other agencies.”…….(Continue Reading: Peyton Manning Under NFL Investigation Over Alleged HGH Shipments)


3.

Shake It Off…

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is enjoying the best season of his career, as he’s led his team to a 17-1 record and an appearance in Super Bowl 50, in addition to being the odds-on favorite for the NFL MVP Award. Instead of celebrating Newton’s brilliance, a large chunk of fans and media pundits have grown to hate Newton because his joy is being misconstrued as cockiness. If you’re one of the haters, here are five reasons why you’re wrong……(Continue Reading: 5 Reasons Why Cam Newton Haters Are Wrong)


4.

Tell The Truth…

This story originally appeared in the Jan. 25, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Certain statistics and sections have been updated to reflect the most recent developments. Subscribe to the magazine here.

The few inarguable facts about Ben Simmons are that he was born in Melbourne, Australia, 19 years and six months ago; he is a 6′ 10″ freshman at Louisiana State who averages 19.8 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game; and he is the player most likely to be picked No. 1 in the 2016 NBA draft. After that, Simmons becomes more difficult to define. Is he a point-forward, a point-center, a giant floor general—or positionless? Is he lefthanded or (given all those righty finishes) ambidextrous? Should he be a primary ballhandler, to capitalize on his court vision and passing skills, or should he play in the paint, to exploit his advantage in athleticism over opposing big men? Is his game more Aussie-influenced or American-influenced, considering that he developed it in both countries and has one parent of each nationality? Can he responsibly be called the second coming of Magic or of King James? And can he be called the best player in the college game when his team is only 13–7?

It’s easier, at this stage, to define Ben Simmons by what he is not…….(Continue Reading: The truth about LSU star freshman Ben Simmons)


5.

We’re Off To See The…

The Boston Celtics are the most confusing team in the NBA. Their best player stands just 5-foot-9. Their head coach had no NBA experience before taking the job in 2013. They don’t have a single player who would be a top-three guy on a championship contender. Yet here they are in the middle of the Eastern Conference’s second-tier teams: fighting for the right to lose to the Cavaliers in the Conference Finals, playing well above their individual talent level, and creating massive headaches for opponents in every game.

Brad Stevens has been on the job for two-and-a-half years and is already……(Continue Reading: Brad Stevens: The wizard of Boston)


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6.

Drops Mic…

When the subject involves the NBA, and the debate features Hubie Brown versus me, I lose. Take, for instance, my belief that you can pick anybody out of the Oakland telephone directory, and that person still would lead the Golden State Warriors to the NBA championship this season.

 All you need to know is that Brown’s 82-year-old head nearly exploded this week from such heresy. He said coaching does matter in the league. In fact, the veteran head coach turned splendid television commentator on national NBA broadcasts went even further……(Continue Reading: Hubie Brown defends importance of NBA coaches.)


7.

He Said/He Said…

LeBron James is now a coach-killer. Or least, he really wants to be. Fingers are pointing at LeBron in the firing of David Blatt. And now a Miami Heat minority owner has claimed that LeBron wanted Erik Spoelstra fired throughout his tenure in Miami and that was why he ended up leaving for Cleveland. Raanan Katz, who played professionally in Israel, was a panelist on an Israeli sports talk radio show to talk about Blatt’s firing when he shared this story about LeBron leaving Miami……(Continue Reading: LeBron James May Have Been a Coach Killer His Entire Career and We Just Didn’t See It)


8.

Last One Out Of The Circus…

Troy Aikman knows what it takes to be a quarterback in Dallas, so we’ll take his word for it when he says that either Johnny Manziel or Robert Griffin III will back up Tony Romo in 2016……(Continue Reading: Aikman: Manziel or RGIII will be Cowboys backup QB)


9.

No Place Like Home…

Perhaps the most memorable and most surreal scene of the 2015 college football season took place on thenight of Nov. 28 in LSU’s Tiger Stadium. With rumors flying about his job security, Les Miles led the Tigers to a win over Texas A&M, then was hoisted on his players’ shoulders and basked in the scene as the place known as Death Valley made it clear that it wanted nobody else to be its coach. Moments later, the wish was granted: Miles kept his job.

The LSU-Texas A&M game turned into a sort of pep rally for Miles, the most intimidating venue in college football proving to be the friendliest possible home for its coach. But it’s not just Death Valley that gives LSU one of the greatest home-field advantages in sports; it’s the entire state of Louisiana.

One week before National Signing Day, Tiger Stadium occupies the most valuable real estate in college football……(Continue Reading: Home-state advantage makes LSU a recruiting power.)

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United Stats of America #NBA Edition + 6 Other Things

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Steph Curry and the dominant Warriors aren’t just beating teams anymore, they’re throwing staggering knockout punches against the NBA’s best – make that second-best.

In a span of eight days, Golden State have 30-point wins over Cleveland, Chicago and San Antonio. Curry scored 37 points and hit six three-pointers in three scintillating quarters Monday night, and the reigning champions showed they still rule the West by routing the Spurs 120-90.

“No moment’s too big, obviously,” Curry said. “We know this is just another regular-season game, but there was some hype around it. Every time we have an opportunity to prove who we are and take another step in the journey, we’re ready for it. It wasn’t always that way. This core has been together for a while and understands how to mentally prepare for nights like this.”……(Continue Reading: Gregg Popovich: Warriors’ slaughter of Spurs was ‘like men and boys’ | The Guardian)

+ Warriors win the first round of 2015-16 duel with Spurs

In a highly anticipated matchup, Stephen Curry (37 points) and the Warriors coasted by the Spurs, 120-90, in what was the first matchup in NBA history between two teams with winning percentages of .830 or higher (minimum 40 games played for each team). Golden State’s 30-point victory soundly ended the Spurs’ 13-game winning streak. That’s the third largest margin of victory against an opponent with a winning streak of at least 13 games entering the matchup. The Knicks defeated the Mavs, 128-94, in March 2010, ending a 13-game streak, and the Magic routed the Rockets, 114-82, in March 1991, stopping a Houston winning streak at 13.

+ Cousins with another huge game

DeMarcus Cousins scored 56 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Kings’ double-overtime loss to the Hornets on Monday. Cousins, who totaled 48 points and 13 rebounds in his last game on January 23, is the fourth player with at least 100 points and 25 rebounds in consecutive games over the last 40 years. Michael Jordan did so in March 1990 (118 points and 30 rebounds; the first of the two games was his 69-point performance against the Cavaliers), David Robinson in April 1994 (100 points and 30 rebounds; he scored 71 points in the second of the two games), and Antawn Jamison accomplished this feat in December 2000 as a member of the Warriors (102 points and 27 rebounds).

Cousins’ 104 points over his last two games are the most for any player in Kings history; the previous high was 92 points by Oscar Robertson in February 1965 (when the franchise was known as the Cincinnati Royals). The last player with 100 points over a two-game span wasKobe Bryant in March 2007, netting 110 points.

+ A rare 50-point and 20-assist pairing

As though DeMarcus Cousins‘ 56-point performance was not enough, his Kings teammate Rajon Rondo dished out 20 assists in Sacramento’s overtime loss to the Hornets. It’s just the fourth game in NBA history in which one player scored at least 50 points and his teammate had at least 20 assists. The first such game was on March 2, 1962, in Wilt Chamberlain‘s 100-point game for the Warriors versus the Knicks; his teammate Guy Rodgers had 20 assists. And just under a year later, Chamberlain and Rodgers were at it again; Chamberlain scored 54 points and Rodgers totaled 20 assists for the Warriors against the Royals on March 1, 1963. The third instance was on February 10, 1998, when the Wizards’ Tracy Murray (50 points) and Rod Strickland (20 assists) did so versus the Warriors. In all three of those prior instances, the 50-point/20-assist team won the game.

+ A first for three young players

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 26 points, Zach LaVine added 21 points, and Andrew Wiggins had 20 of his own in the Timberwolves’ loss to the Cavaliers on Monday night. Towns, LaVine, and Wiggins, all 20 years old, are the first trio of teammates under 21 years old to put up at least 20 points in the same game in NBA history. Only one other trio did so at 21 years or younger: Kevin Durant (21 years old), Russell Westbrook (21), and James Harden (20) for the Thunder against the Wizards on November 20, 2009.

Towns also grabbed 11 rebounds, becoming the first rookie with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds in a game against LeBron James.


1.

Wait A Second…

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball’s Top 10 prospects at each position. There has been quite a bit of turnover from last year to the 2016 edition of the Top 10 second-base prospects, with six new names joining the list, thanks to two graduations and four who dropped off the list. Scouting reports, grades, stats and video on Prospect Watch……(Continue Reading: Prospect Watch: Top 10 second basemen for 2016 | MLB.com)


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2.

Helping The Homeless…

With the Mets bringing back Yoenis Cespedes, most of baseball’s big-name free agents are off the board.

That doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare, however. There are many players left who could help plenty of teams.

Still, finding a spot at this point in the game of musical chairs is a challenge. Many clubs have filled their vacancies and/or reached their budgetary limits.

Pitchers and catchers are now less than a month from reporting, which means time is running out for the stragglers to sign before their unemployment lags into Spring Training. With that in mind, let’s spend other people’s money and see if we can find a home for 10 of the top players remaining on the market……(Continue Reading: Let’s play matchmaker for MLB players still unsigned.)


3.

Where There’s A Will There’s An Elway…

If Peyton Manning soon has the option to pull a John Elway and end a Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacking career in the glorious aftermath of a Super Bowl triumph, it will be because Elway provided him with a team capable of making it happen.

But few people in the room deserved more credit than the quarterback already enshrined in Canton who…...(Continue Reading: John Elway has put Peyton Manning in position to follow in his footsteps – The Washington Post)


4.

Get Over Yourself…

Seattle fans are still upset about something the Carolina Panthers QB did to the 12th man flag. Nevermind the crouch-grabber on your own team Seattle Fan.  Cam Newton has long moved on from thinking about the Seattle Seahawks, the team his Carolina Panthers beat two playoff rounds ago before beating the Arizona Cardinals last weekend to reach the Super Bowl.

Angry Seahawks fans have not forgot about Cam, though. #Stalker #StayClassy

Continue Reading: Bitter Seahawks fan starts petition to ban Cam Newton from CenturyLink | FOX Sports


5.

A Look Back…

Even though the Bears were 10-point favorites, the New England Patriots approached Super Bowl XX in New Orleans with confidence.

“We’ve been underdogs all year,” cornerback Raymond Clayborn said a few days before the game. “I accept it. We’ll go out and beat the Bears just like we beat everybody else. Do football players pay attention to the spread? We notice it. But we have confidence in ourselves.”……(Continue Reading: Pats thought they’d win Super Bowl XX)


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6.

#FanDuel Ultimate Value Lineup

Giving you the Perfect Lineup is easy and we tweet it, post it on Facebook and create an entire post about it in our RESULTS, so……What about if you had the greatest value lineup of all time?  A Lineup that every player chosen had low ownership, way less, and never cost you more than $6,500 – well my friends this is the #NBA Ultimate Value Lineup – culled directly from the numbers and our reports – Check Back Before 4:30p MST everyday and see who we like, and let us Teach You How To #Win!!!

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Your #NFL Weekend Update + #Superbowl50 Forecast

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Daniels helps Denver punch ticket to Super Bowl 50

In the 17th and quite possibly the final edition of “Manning versus Brady,” it was Peyton Manning and the Broncos emerging victorious over Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Manning completed 17 passes for 176 yards and threw two touchdowns, both to tight end Owen Daniels. Daniels caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and a 12-yard TD pass in the second quarter, and those were his only two receptions of the game. Daniels tied the NFL postseason record for receptions in a game, all of which went for scores, last done by the Colts’ LaVon Brazill, also against the Patriots, in the 2013 playoffs.

Daniels is the fourth player to catch two touchdown passes from Peyton Manning in a playoff game. The previous three did so for the Colts against the Broncos: Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley in the 2003 playoffs and Reggie Wayne a year later.

Rare struggles for Patriots’ offense

Though a late touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski made the final score close, it was a day-long struggle for the Patriots on offense. Brady completed 27 of 56 passes, marking the first time in his professional career that he completed fewer than half of his passes in a postseason game. The 29 incomplete passes on Sunday were also a career-high for Brady in a postseason game.

The Patriots as a team converted two of 15 third-down attempts, good for just 13.3 percent. That’s New England’s lowest third-down percentage in a postseason game under Bill Belichick. The last time the Patriots converted a lower percentage of third downs in a postseason game was Super Bowl XX – New England lost to the Bears, 46-10, and were 1-for-10 (10%) on third downs.

Panthers pound Cardinals in NFC Championship

The Panthers are headed to Super Bowl 50 after overwhelming the Cardinals, 49-15, in the NFC Championship Game. The 49 points by Carolina are the second-most scored by a team that clinched a berth in the Super Bowl – the Bills scored 51 points in the AFC Championship Game in January 1991 against the Raiders. The Panthers, who forced seven turnovers in their blowout victory, are the second team in the last 20 postseasons to score at least 49 points and record seven or more takeaways in a postseason game. The other team to accomplish that feat in that span is the Jaguars, who racked up 62 points and forced seven turnovers in their divisional round victory over the Dolphins in January 2000.

nullSuperman Cam is clutch for Carolina

Cam Newton put up an MVP-like performance in the Panthers’ victory, throwing for 335 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a pair of scores. Newton is the fourth quarterback to total multiple touchdown passes and touchdown rushes in a single postseason game. Otto Graham had two such games for the Browns in back-to-back NFL Championships (1954 and 1955). The other two players to do so prior to Newton were Jay Cutler (Jan. 2011 against the Seahawks) and Colin Kaepernick (Jan. 2013 versus the Packers).

nullPalmer ties ignominious record in loss

Carson Palmer struggled against the mighty Panthers defense, throwing four interceptions and losing a pair of fumbles. Palmer’s six turnovers are tied for the most turnovers by a player in a postseason game. The last player to turn the ball over six times in a postseason game also did so in a Panthers-Cardinals matchup – Jake Delhomme had five interceptions and lost a fumble for Carolina in January 2009 against Arizona.

A first look at Super Bowl 50: Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers

LAS VEGAS – The Carolina Panthers will go to San Francisco favored by more than a field goal to win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

Oddsmakers didn’t even wait until the Panthers finished off the Arizona Cardinals to install them as favorites for the game against the Denver Broncos on Feb. 7. At most books, the Panthers were a 4-point pick, though the early line varied, with the over/under settling in at 45.

Five Quick Hits

* I wish there had been more time in between games on Sunday. The nail-biter in Denver ended minutes before kickoff in Carolina, and if the game had gone into overtime, that creates a conflict for viewers.

* Even if you DVR the NFC Championship Game while you watch the end of the AFC Championship Game, good luck avoiding the scroll at your bottom of your screen, telling you that it’s 17-0 Carolina before you’ve even switched over. There should be a hour, minimum, between the conference championship games. Probably one and a half. I’d rather watch a pre-game show for 15 minutes than miss the first drive of the NFC Championship Game.

* Anyone else catch Rob Gronkowski complaining to the back judge near the end of the early game? He mimed that the Broncos had basically attempted to murder him, on a play that rightfully drew no penalties. Hey Gronk, there’s another sport where crying and faking does draw penalties. It’s called soccer. Either sign with the New England Revolution, or grow up.

* Cam Newton is an all-pro QB and league MVP, and he played great on Sunday. But I’ve never seen a quarterback so willing to throw a 4-yard pass on 3rd-and-10.

* Congratulations to this year’s finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award: Anquan Boldin, Eli Manning, and Ben Watson. Boldin is the favorite. This is the second year in a row he’s been a finalist. Thomas Davis, who won last season, had also been a finalist for the second year in a row.

* Get an early look at the 2016 Super Bowl commercials.

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The Ghost of Christmas Future

Super Bowl 50: Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos
Santa Clara, California
February 7, 2015

For the third year in a row, the top seeds from both conferences will meet in the Super Bowl. But this result wasn’t as likely as that stat would imply. The hottest teams coming into the playoffs were the Chiefs (on a 10-game win streak), the Cardinals (who lost a 9-game streak with a half-hearted Week 17), and the Seahawks (whose last four wins came by a combined 139-32). The Panthers had a tough road to the big game, and the Broncos just didn’t look particularly intimidating at the end of the regular season.

This is the first Super Bowl for both head coaches, though both have been to Super Bowls in other capacities. The Broncos’ Gary Kubiak becomes the seventh head coach to make a Super Bowl in his first year with the team, joining Don McCafferty, Red Miller, George Seifert, Bill Callahan, Jon Gruden, and Jim Caldwell. Additionally, Peyton Manning will become the oldest QB to start a Super Bowl, breaking the record held by his employer, John Elway.

CAROLINA ON OFFENSE

Denver has a great defense, but this is a bad matchup. The Broncos thrive on pressure, but Cam Newton’s running ability means he can evade pass rushers, and he’ll run through openings if you leave them. The Broncos will get some sacks, but their pressure won’t have the same effect it did against the Patriots. Denver’s pass defense is better than its rush defense, and Carolina is one of the most balanced offenses in the league, with a good ground game. New England prefers to throw, which played to Denver’s strength, but if Mike Shula is smart, I’d expect the Panthers to run about 50% of the time, more if they get a big lead. I’d also look for some sort of trick play to break things open.

The Broncos need to contain the rush, while preventing big plays downfield: make Newton throw short and intermediate passes, string together long drives. He’s capable of that, but the Broncos can’t get run over on the ground, or killed on sudden, momentum-generating big-play strikes. The Broncos have won with their defense all year, and they’ll need a low-scoring game if they’re going to win, so giving up a 50-yard TD would be devastating. Force the Panthers to work the ball down the field, preferably through the air, and hope you can force a couple of turnovers.

DENVER ON OFFENSE

This still seems weird to say about a Peyton Manning offense, but the Broncos are best when their offense is smart and conservative, with an emphasis on ball control. You expect to see what the team has shown its last few games. They’ll stick with the run, mostly grinding out short gains to keep the defense honest, and probably break a long one at some point. Manning has to take a few shots downfield, but his role is more to find the right plays and pick up first downs on 3rd-and-6. The priority is avoiding turnovers. The Broncos aren’t going to win a shootout, and they’re not expecting to win with explosive offense; they want big plays from their defense.

Carolina’s priority is probably to prevent Denver from establishing its run game and getting into a rhythm. Don’t make mistakes, and force Manning to win with his arm. The Panthers are effective ballhawks, as we saw in the NFC Championship Game, but they probably don’t need to force turnovers as long as they’re solid throughout the game. They need to be creative enough that Manning doesn’t pick them apart with his calls at the line, but they don’t need to be aggressive, exactly. Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman are terrific players, but Carolina’s most important defender in this game might be Kawann Short. Manning can’t overcome a good interior pass rush.

SPECIAL TEAMS

This might be a small advantage for Denver, which has a slightly better kicker, slightly better punter, and a more consistent return game. For the Broncos to win, they’ll probably need an edge from special teams: a big return or a blocked kick or something.

THE FORECAST

The three best teams in the NFL this year were all in the NFC: the Panthers, Cardinals, and Seahawks. The Panthers have already beaten the other two, pretty handily, and they’re 4-point favorites to win Super Bowl 50. Denver has a great defense, though, and you should never underestimate great defensive teams in a championship. The Broncos were in the Super Bowl two years ago, so they have Super Bowl experience, which the Panthers do not – not that it matters a damn. And it’s widely assumed that this will be Manning’s last game. I hate to imply that players don’t always perform at their peak, especially in a game of this magnitude, but sometimes you see a little more when emotions are running high. Who’s to say the Broncos don’t find something extra to help the Sheriff ride off into the sunset?

All the intangibles point in Denver’s direction. But the Panthers are a better team. They have a good defense, too, as their seven takeaways against Arizona would attest, and they have an offense that scores more points. Their ground game plays away from Denver’s strengths, and interior defensive pressure could radically disrupt Manning’s gameplan.

Source: Sports Central NFL – Super Bowl 50 Preview

Here Are The #AFCChampionship + #NFCChampionship Situational Trends

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NFL Conference Championship – Situational Trends

This is the first time since the 2004-05 NFL Playoffs that the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in both the AFC and NFC advanced to their Conference Championship games. In the last five postseasons that this has occurred (2004-05, 2002-03, 1998-99, 1994-95 and 1991-92), the top overall seeds went 6-4 straight-up and 5-5 against-the-spread.

  • Games Matching this Criteria: Panthers (-3) vs. Cardinals and Broncos (+3) vs. Patriots.

All-time in Conference Championship games, home underdogs are 5-8 straight-up and 5-7-1 against-the-spread.

  • Games Matching this Criteria: Broncos (+3) vs. Patriots.

If your team is favored in the Conference Championship it will likely win. All-time, favorites in the conference title games have gone 52-22 straight-up and 42-31-1 against-the-spread.

  • Games Matching this Criteria: Patriots (-3) vs. Broncos and Panthers (-3) vs. Cardinals.

Additional Notes
Since 1990, when the NFL Playoffs expanded to 12 teams, there have been 32 Conference Championship games that were rematches from the regular season. In those games, the winner of the last regular season meeting (there were inter-division rematches where the teams had played each other twice in the regular season) went 20-12 straight-up in the Conference Championship game.

In those same games, when a team won the regular season matchup and then was an underdog in the Conference Championship game, the dog went 10-1 against-the-spread.

  • Games Matching this Criteria: Broncos (+3) vs. Patriots.

NFL Trends – Conference Championship
(Note: In our date “All-time” goes back to 1978 or when the team joined the league.)

AZ +3 at CAR This is just the second game all season that Arizona has been an underdog. The Cardinals won the previous game (Week 10 vs. Seattle).
Carson Palmer starting for the Cardinals on the road is 13-5 straight-up and 14-4 against-the-spread.
The Cardinals as road underdogs in the playoffs are 4-5 straight-up and 5-4 against-the-spread.
Arizona won and covered in its only Conference Championship appearance (2009 vs. Philadelphia).
CAR -3 vs. AZ Carolina is 9-0 straight-up at home this year and has gone 7-2 against-the-spread in those games.
All-time in the playoffs, the Panthers at home are 4-2 straight-up and against-the-spread.
All-time in Conference Championship games, Carolina has been on the road and an underdog each time.
In those games the Panthers went 1-2 straight-up and against-the-spread.
DEN +3 vs. NE Peyton Manning has never been an underdog in the playoffs with the Broncos but he is 5-5 straight-up and ATS in the regular getting points with Denver.
Manning as an underdog in the postseason has gone 2-3 straight-up and 2-3 against-the-spread.
In his career, as a home underdog, Manning has gone 11-8 straight-up and against-the-spread.
Manning is 2-1 straight-up and against-the-spread vs. Tom Brady in championship games.
NE -3 at DEN This is the Patriots fifth straight AFC title game: New England went 2-2 straight-up and 1-3 ATS in the previous four games.
Tom Brady and New England have been in nine previous Conference Championships, the Pats went 6-3 straight-up and 4-5 ATS in those games.
Brady has only been a true road favorite (not counting Super Bowls) in the playoffs once, he won and covered that game (2005 at Steelers).
Brady is 11-5 straight-up vs. Peyton Manning and 9-6-1 against-the-spread vs. his rival.

Additional Manning vs. Brady Trends

In the playoffs, Manning and Brady have faced each other four times. Each has won two games. Each has covered twice as well.

Brady holds the all-time head-to-head record but Manning has gotten the better of him in Conference Championship games going 2-1 straight-up.

For as often as these two quarterbacks play, neither has beaten the other on the road since 2007.

Source: A betting trend for every NFL team heading into the Conference Championships. | National Football Post

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10 Things We Are #FridayFeeling

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1.

Is Peyton Manning playing his final games in the NFL? John Elway doesn’t know. The Broncos GM told James Palmer that Manning “is staying in this moment now.”

As storied as Peyton Manning‘s football past has been, his future in Denver remains just as unclear.

The 39-year-old Broncos quarterback is at the tail end of the worst statistical season of his career during which he missed six games due to a torn plantar fascia. Compound that reality with Brock Osweiler performing admirably in relief, questions concerning Peyton’s potential Denver departure have started swirling around the Rockies.

Read: Elway: Peyton Manning ‘is staying in this moment’ – NFL.com

2.

New England is just 2-6 in Denver with Tom Brady as quarterback.

There isn’t much Tom Brady hasn’t accomplished or been able to conquer in his New England Patriots career.

Except for figuring out how to win consistently in Denver.

Including the playoffs, the Patriots are 2-6 against the Broncos in Denver with Brady as quarterback, and with a 5-6 record against the AFC West club, the Broncos are the only team he doesn’t have a winning mark against in his career.

Read: Patriots looking to defeat their Denver history in AFC championship | Shutdown Corner – Yahoo Sports

3.

Is prayer the only defense against Tom Brady? Not exactly, but the Broncos can’t play soft like the Chiefs. Here’s the winning blueprint. After Further Review,

What are the secrets to stopping Tom Brady and the New England Patriots offense?

Former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed offered his analysis on Showtime’s Inside the NFLthis week.

“Pray,” he said.

Read: After Further Review: How Broncos can slow Brady, Gronk and the Pats – CBSSports.com

4.

Major League Baseball fans will soon have more options for watching their favorite team. And non-sports fans yearning for a cordless future will have reason to cheer as well.

MLB has settled a class-action lawsuit over its broadcasting practices and will offer discounted streaming packages for individual teams as well as limited streaming options for previously blacked-out home games, moving fans one step closer to cutting the cord from cable and satellite.

Read: Next Big Player in Digital Media: Baseball – Bloomberg View

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5.

Oakland and Tampa Bay just aren’t cutting it as major league homes, explains Christina Kahrl, who offers up new cities for both franchises that would maximize revenue for baseball.

The change: Baseball needs to figure out where the Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays should be playing. This isn’t just about doing something about O.co Coliseum and Tropicana Field, two inadequate venues that aren’t coming close to filling up with fans. It’s about sorting out whether those teams should be serving those markets, or if baseball would be better off with one or both playing somewhere else.

Read: MLB 2.0: Reimagining baseball — Move the Oakland A’s to San Jose and the Tampa Bay Rays to Montreal

6.

Josh Smith is headed back to Houston, as the team acquired the veteran in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Rockets announced.

The Houston Rockets acquired Josh Smith in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Rockets announced Friday.

The Rockets sent the draft rights to Maarty Leunen to the Clippers for Smith and the draft rights to Serhiy Lishchuk. The Clippers also will send cash to Houston to cover the balance of Smith’s salary.

“I’m excited. I feel great,” Smith told Fox 26 Houston about the deal. “It’s a place that I probably should have never left.”

Read: Houston Rockets acquire Josh Smith in trade with Los Angeles Clippers

7.

BOSTON – Derrick Rose’s best defense of the year may have come Friday morning. Following the team’s shootaround at the TD Garden, Rose was asked about All-Star voting and his status in the NBA hierarchy as far as fans were concerned, and seemed to have little regard for the process. “Nope, not at all,’’ Rose …

Read: Derrick Rose gets defensive about the All-Star Game and where he is as a player

8.

With worries about terrorism heightened following attacks in France and California, baseball owners began their two-day meeting Wednesday by discussing threat protection with the U.S. Homeland Security secretary.

Read: Homeland Security head addresses baseball owners – StarTribune.com

9.

DENVER — The Rockies met on Thursday with representatives for free-agent right-handed starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo. And MLB Network reported that the two sides will meet again on Friday. The Rockies’ interest in Gallardo fits with general manager Jeff Bridich’s mantra that the club will explore any avenue for improvement. Gallardo was extended a qualifying offer from his 2015 team, the Rangers.

Read: Yovani Gallardo, Rockies scheduled to meet | MLB.com

10.

LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles landed his second crucial in-state commitment in a 24-hour span Friday morning, picking up a pledge from prized defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence:

The 5-star prospect selected LSU over fellow finalist Ohio State during a ceremony at Neville High School in Monroe, Louisiana

Read: Will LSU Keep No. 1 Class After Landing 5-Star DT Rashard Lawrence? | Bleacher Report

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United Stats of America #NFL Divisional Round + MMQB

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Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Hail Mary heaves, coins that don’t flip and a play Bruce Arians had been saving for two years: Everything from the Cardinals-Packers playoff game for the ages. Plus a look at the wins by Carolina, New England and Denver, title game previews and more…

A day later, it still felt unreal to Bruce Arians. All of it. Since 1967, Arians has played high school and college football, then coached college and pro football … 48 years altogether … and on Sunday morning in Arizona, he considered this question: Of all the games you’ve ever played and coached, where does Saturday night’s overtime win over Green Bay rank?

Forty-eight years now. Keep that in mind. Coaching under Bear Bryant, coaching Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck and now Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald—14 coaching jobs in all.

“That probably was the most dramatic up-and-down, end-to-end game and finish of my life,” Arians said. “We stop ’em on fourth down. Game over. Nope. We got ’em fourth-and-20 way back at the goal line. Game over. Nope. We blew that one. Then they throw a Hail Mary on the last play of the fourth quarter and we get good pressure. Game over. Nope.

“And then overtime. They can’t even flip a coin. Then Larry makes that first play—unbelievable—75 yards, thought he was going to score. And then the play I’ve been saving for two years. I love that touchdown play.”……

Continue Reading: Cardinals-Packers craziness headlines NFL divisional playoffs | The MMQB with Peter King


 

+ United Stats of America – Divisional Round – Elias

 

1.

Chiefs @ Patriots

Gronkowski’s two TDs help Patriots knock out Chiefs

For the first time in their 56 seasons of existence, the Patriots and Chiefs squared off in a postseason matchup (they had been the only two of the original eight AFL franchises that never met in the postseason). And it was New England that came away victorious, defeating Kansas City, 27-20, to advance to the AFC Championship Game next week. The Patriots scored a touchdown in each of the first three quarters, including two touchdown passes from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski, who had a TD reception in each of the Patriots’ three postseason wins last year, is the first tight end in NFL history with a touchdown reception in at least four consecutive postseason games. His career total of eight receiving TDs in the postseason is also tops among all tight ends in league history, surpassing Dave Casper and Vernon Davis, who each had seven.

nullBrady passes early and often for New England

Tom Brady, who completed 28 passes for 302 yards, was hard at work right out of the gate for the Patriots. Brady led an 11-play touchdown drive on New England’s opening possession, and all 11 plays were pass attempts (he had eight completions, capped by Gronkowski’s touchdown). The last team before New England to score a touchdown in a postseason game on a drive of at least 11 plays – all passes – was the Falcons in December 1995 at Green Bay. Atlanta had an 11-play touchdown drive spanning the third and fourth quarters; Jeff George went 9-for-11 on the drive, including a 27-yard TD pass to J.J. Birden.

That opening drive was a sign of things to come for the Patriots, as New England passed on 75 percent of their plays from scrimmage – not to mention that four of their 16 rushing attempts were kneeldowns by Brady. Only three other teams won a postseason game with pass plays accounting for at least 75 percent of their plays. New England did so last year in a divisional-round victory over the Ravens (80 percent), as did the Rams (78 percent in Super Bowl XXXIV against the Titans) and the Packers (76 percent in Super Bowl XLV versus the Steelers).

nullPlenty of throws for Smith as well

It was also a pass-happy day for the Chiefs in a losing effort with Alex Smith throwing 50 passes, completing 29 for 246 yards. Smith’s yardage total is the third-lowest in NFL postseason history for a quarterback with at least 50 pass attempts. The top two on that list are Jay Schroeder, who had 195 yards on 50 attempts for the Redskins in a loss to the Giants in January 1987, and Drew Bledsoe, who threw for 235 yards on 50 attempts in New England’s loss at Cleveland in January 1995. Bill Belichick was also on the opposing sidelines for both of those games – he was defensive coordinator for the Giants versus Schroeder and the Redskins and head coach of the Browns against Bledsoe and the Patriots.

2.

Packers @ Cardinals

Fitzgerald finishes off Packers after late scare

It looked like another miracle comeback was in the cards for the Packers after Aaron Rodgers completed a 41-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Janis at the end of regulation to force overtime. Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals had other plans – the longtime Cardinals receiver had a 75-yard reception to start overtime and, two plays later, crossed the goal line after catching a screen pass from Carson Palmer to give Arizona a 26-20 victory over Green Bay. The game-winning score was Fitzgerald’s 10th touchdown reception in just eight postseason games. No other player in NFL history had at least 10 touchdown catches in their first eight postseason games. The previous fastest to 10 TD receptions in the postseason was Jerry Rice, who scored his 10th receiving TD in his ninth postseason game.

Rodgers finds Janis for miracle TD

The overtime loss was a bitter blow for the Packers, who drove 86 yards with no timeouts in less than two minutes to conclude the fourth quarter. The touchdown pass by Rodgers to Janis to complete the drive marked the first game-tying or game-winning passing touchdown at the end of regulation in NFL postseason history.

nullAnother OT loss for Rodgers, Packers

The Packers have lost their last five postseason games that required overtime, which now stands as the longest losing streak of its kind in NFL postseason history. Green Bay had been tied with the Colts, who have lost their last four postseason games that required overtime. Aaron Rodgers has yet to register an overtime win in his NFL career – with Rodgers under center, the Packers are 0-4 in regular season overtime games and 0-3 in the postseason.

3.

Seahawks @ Panthers

Carolina dominates first half in victory over Seattle

The Panthers started fast, built a 31-0 halftime lead, and held off the Seahawks’ bold comeback to advance to the NFC Championship Game with a 31-24 victory over Seattle.

Jonathan Stewart opened the game with a 59-yard run that set up Carolina’s first score. During the expansion era, only two other players ran for 50 yards or longer on the first play from scrimmage of a postseason game: Ray Rice, 83 yards for Baltimore against New England; and Tim Hightower, 70 yards for Arizona against New Orleans. They did it six days apart in January 2010.

The Panthers’ 31-point lead was the third largest in a first-half shutout in an NFL playoff game. Oakland led the Houston Oilers, 35-0, at halftime of a 56-7 victory in 1969; and the Giants led the Vikings, 34-0, at intermission in the 2000 NFC Championship Game (Jan. 2001).

Panthers-Seahawks was like two different games

By outscoring Carolina, 24-0, in the second half, Seattle made Sunday’s game the fourth in NFL postseason history in which each team scored at least 24 unanswered points. Predictably, the others were a memorable bunch:

– Chargers 41, Dolphins 38 (Jan. 1982): San Diego led, 24-0, after 15 minutes. But Don Strock replaced David Woodley at quarterback and by early in the third quarter, Miami had tied the game. Strock passed for 403 yards and four touchdowns, but the Chargers prevailed in overtime after each team’s kicker missed a short field-goal attempt in the extra period. Dan Fouts passed for 433 yards, including 13 completions to Kellen Winslow.

– Bills 41, Oilers 38 (Jan. 1993): Frank Reich, subbing for injured Jim Kelly, led Buffalo to the greatest playoff comeback in NFL history. The Bills trailed 35-3 in the third quarter, actually led late in regulation time, and won the game in overtime on Steve Christie’s field goal after Nate Odomes picked off Warren Moon.

– 49ers 39, Giants 38 (Jan. 2003): The 49ers trailed, 38-14, late in the third quarter, after Amani Toomer had caught three TD passes from Kerry Collins. But in the game’s last 18 minutes, Jeff Garcia threw two TD passes and ran for another score. Still, the Giants had a chance to win the game but botched the snap on a 41-yard field-goal attempt as time expired.

nullNewton’s running game shut down by Seattle

It wouldn’t be Elias Says without a bit of pure trivia, right? Cam Newton carried the ball 11 times on Sunday but netted only 3 yards. He became the seventh player with less than 10 yards on more than 10 carries in an NFL playoff game. Among the others were Cecil Isbell, better known for throwing more TD passes than anyone else to Hall of Famer Don Hutson, for the Packers in 1941; and Barry Sanders, who was held to minus-1 yard on 13 carries by the Packers in 1994.

4.

Steelers @ Broncos

Broncos rediscover the end zone in the nick of time

When it mattered most, Denver drove 65 yards on 13 plays for its only touchdown of the game. C.J. Anderson‘s 1-yard run with 3:00 to play was the winning score in the Broncos’ 23-13 victory over the Steelers. It also snapped Denver’s streak of 22 consecutive drives without a TD over its last two playoff games. That was the longest TD drought by any team over the last 10 postseasons.

nullManning joins Favre, Simms

Peyton Manning became the third quarterback to start a postseason game at age 39 or older. The others were Phil Simms for the Giants following the 1993 season (a win against the Vikings and a loss to the 49ers), and Brett Favre for the Vikings following the 2009 season (a win over the Cowboys and a loss to the Saints).

Steelers were missing key players in loss at Denver

Pittsburgh played without Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams on Sunday. It was only the second postseason game in NFL history in which a team was missing its leaders in rushing yards and receiving yards-that is, two different players-from the preceding regular season.

The only other such instance was the 1934 NFL Championship Game, in which the Giants hosted the Bears at New York’s Polo Grounds. The Giants prevailed despite playing without their rushing leader, Harry Newman, and their receiver leader, Red Badgro. Newman had suffered broken bones in his back in a game against the Bears in November; Badgro broke a leg in New York’s regular-season finale.

That game lives in NFL lore as the “Sneakers Game,” in which the Giants overcame a 13-3 deficit by scoring 27 fourth-quarter points for a 30-13 win, ruining what would have been a perfect season for George Halas’ Bears, who went 13-0 during the regular season. The Giants were aided by a change of footwear. Having played the first half of the game on an icy field, several Giants players changed at halftime from football cleats to basketball shoes. The sneakers were borrowed from the Manhattan College locker room by Andy Cohen, a part-time Giants trainer who happened to work at the college and had a key to the storage room.

nullBryant stars in Steelers’ loss

In Antonio Brown‘s absence, wide receiver Martavis Bryant was a noteworthy performer for Pittsburgh, with a pair of long gains: a 40-yard run and a 52-yard pass reception. Only four other players had gains of 40 yards or longer on both a run and a reception in the same postseason game: Hugh McElhenny (49ers vs. Lions in 1957), Oscar Reed (Vikings vs. Redskins in 1973), Chuck Foreman (Vikings vs. Rams in 1976), and James Lofton (Packers vs. Cowboys in Jan. 1983).

Bryant also had a 44-yard run against the Bengals in Pittsburgh’s Wild Card win a week ago. Five other players had runs of 40 yards or longer in consecutive postseason games, but all were running backs: Joe Cribbs, Marcus Allen, Merril Hoge, Terrell Davis, and Brian Westbrook.

Source: Elias Says: Sports Statistics – Stats from the Elias Sports Bureau

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