A Quick Guide To: #SpringTraining

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Spring Questions For All 30 Teams:

Will the Cubs live up to the rampant World Series expectations? Are the D-backs for real? Can David Price make his contract worth it? Are the Royals a dynasty in the making? Do the Blue Jays, Astros and Mets have staying power?

Spring Training preview materials will be loaded with these questions and more, but the obvious truth is that Spring Training itself can’t answer those questions. So the goal in this particular preview, mere days away from pitchers and catchers report dates, is to pose an actual, spring-specific question each Major League club is facing on the cusp of camp.

I’m dedicating this column to the memory of my friend and teammate Tom Singer, who suddenly passed away earlier this week. Tom was one of the more inquisitive and creative minds in the business, and I know he was looking forward to showing up at Spring Training camps and asking unique questions of his own.

Here we go….

NL East

Mets: How carefully should the young starters be eased into the season?

For the Mets, it will be a delicate balance between overworking and underworking Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard after they all saw significant innings increases due to the postseason run. Syndergaard jumped 65 2/3 innings from his 2014 total in the Minors, while deGrom and Harvey jumped 37 2/3 apiece. Because of injury, Steven Matz (15 2/3) didn’t see quite as big an increase, though he, like Syndergaard, is entering his first full Major League season, an adjustment in and of itself. These guys need to be properly prepared for the every-five-day grind, but they should also probably see a less rigorous spring workload than the typical big league starter.

Nationals: Is Trea Turner ready for the big leagues?

The Grapefruit League will be a great test of the Nats’ new-look infield. Anthony Rendon is moving back to his natural position at third base — a fine move in isolation (he grades out better defensively there than at second base). But some scouts believe Daniel Murphy would be far better suited at third than at second base and that Rendon is the better defensive option at second. And then, of course, there’s the big question at short, where the Nats’ options come down to a utility guy (Danny Espinosa) who has spent far more of his career at second, a light-hitting free-agent signee (Stephen Drew) and the top prospect (Turner), who has only played 212 games in what has already been a whirlwind pro career (including 27 with the Nats down the stretch in 2015). Lots of questions in this infield.

Marlins: Can Barry Bonds help Marcell Ozuna’s swing?

New manager Don Mattingly and new hitting coach Bonds pleaded with the front office to keep Ozuna despite the rampant trade rumblings and the disconnect between player and organization last season. Ozuna was one of eight players identified as above-average in each of the five-tool categories by Statcast™, so the potential is off the charts. But his decline in production last season — leading to a controversial stay in Triple-A — was as swift as it was stunning, and spring is an important time for Ozuna and Bonds to develop a positive working relationship.

Braves: Will Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn open any eyes with their spring at-bats?

It’s no secret the Braves would love to move one or both of these guys. So they are destined to receive a steady dose of Grapefruit League at-bats as the Braves try to garner enough interest for a salary dump swap. With Freddie Freeman working his way back from a wrist injury, perhaps Swisher will see some time at first base.

Phillies: Is Tyler Goeddel the next Odubel Herrera?

Last year, Herrera arrived as a Rule 5 Draft pickup and wound up leading the Phillies in WAR (and yes, that says as much about the Phils as it does Herrera). Now, Goeddel is the marquee Rule 5 Draft addition (the first overall pick). That he’ll make the big league club is a foregone conclusion, because the Phillies have nothing to lose by keeping him. The question is how much the athletic but unpolished Goeddel will separate himself from Aaron Altherr, Peter Bourjos and Cody Asche in the battle for playing time in Pete Mackanin’s lineup.

AL East

Blue Jays: Will Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion agree to extensions?

In the lead-up to Opening Day, the new-look front office will have to weigh the attraction of satiating the fan base and ensuring stability in the long-term lineup against the obvious risks that come with power hitters in their mid-to-late-30s. These discussions will take place when all parties arrive in Dunedin, Fla., later this month.

Yankees: CC Sabathia or Ivan Nova?

The last rotation spot is the lone source of genuine positional intrigue in Yankees camp. (That said, Starlin Castro’s continued immersion at second base and first-ever trial at third base, where the Yanks might need him as a Chase Headley backup, is interesting). Sabathia is the former Cy Young Award winner coming off a homer-prone year that ended in alcohol rehab. Nova is the Tommy John alum the Yanks tried to trade. General manager Brian Cashman has said Sabathia’s $25 million salary wouldn’t preclude the Yanks from sticking CC in the bullpen if somebody else (Nova is the obvious candidate, though Bryan Mitchell is another) wins the job outright.

Orioles: What’s the outlook for the outfield?

They’re reportedly making progress with Yovani Gallardo to fill a big hole in the rotation, so let’s focus on the outfield here. Big-bodied Hyun-soo Kim, fresh off signing a two-year contract with the O’s, will arrive from South Korea and try to prove he has the range and athleticism to handle the everyday left-field assignment. Adam Jones was tasked with covering a ton of outfield ground last year, and his performance tailed off in the last two months of the season. At the moment, right field likely belongs to Nolan Reimold, though an O’s team familiar with in-spring splashes could still sign somebody to support or replace him.

Rays: Will James Loney, Desmond Jennings or Brandon Guyer be moved?

It’s a question that presumes a healthy camp, of course, but it would solve a logjam. Dealing Loney would allow Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce to share first, Corey Dickerson to spend the bulk of his time at DH and Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. to provide dependable defense in the outfield, with Guyer as a bench option vs. lefties. Or the Rays could move Jennings or Guyer and open up more at-bats for Pearce and Morrison. Whatever the case, one presumes the Rays would be seeking relief help in any deal involving their position player depth.

Red Sox: Can Hanley Ramirez handle first base?

The Red Sox don’t have any position battles, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have position issues. Hanley’s position switch last year — from shortstop to left field — wasn’t subjected to any truly challenging plays during the spring schedule, but obviously the ball is going to find him at first. Because they’re paying Ramirez a ton of money, the Red Sox have no choice but to hope this works — and the same goes for Pablo Sandoval at third. The Panda’s physical condition will, naturally, be a spring storyline all its own.

NL Central

Cardinals: What is Yadier Molina’s timetable?

Molina will spend camp’s early days not swinging the bat or catching bullpen sessions, but building strength back up in his left thumb after having a second surgery this winter. Because there’s no telling how long that process will take and how much it will affect his season preparation, it’s hard to know if Molina will be ready by Opening Day. To say getting him back in a timely matter is important for the Cards is, of course, an understatement.

Pirates: How well is Jung Ho Kang progressing?

Because of the division’s demands, the decisions to deal Neil Walker and non-tender Pedro Alvarez, and the lack of additions of bankable depth options, the Pirates can ill-afford any medical setbacks for Kang, who suffered a fractured tibial plateau and torn lateral meniscus on an ugly takeout slide by Chris Coghlan last September. The move to third base (with Jordy Mercer at short and Josh Harrison replacing Walker at second) will limit Kang’s lateral movement when he returns. As of now, the Pirates are expecting him back in April, with Sean Rodriguez (last seen assaulting a water cooler) filling in and Minor League free agent Cole Figueroa competing for a bench job.

Cubs: Can Kyle Schwarber improve in left field?

As much as we love this Cubs lineup, there’s no denying there are defensive concerns in the outfield, where Jorge Soler had some surprising struggles in ’15, Jason Heyward is moving from right to center and, most importantly, Schwarber was a mess during the NLCS. Schwarber has been working on his first step and flexibility this winter, and that work will be put to the test in Arizona. But his efforts in left coincide with his work behind the plate, where he still hopes to remain an option long-term. Combine all of this with Schwarber’s bid for more at-bats against left-handed pitching, and the kid’s got a lot on his plate.

Brewers: How’s Ryan Braun feeling?

Not that the Brewers are making an earnest effort to contend in 2016, but Braun could stillpotentially play himself into a viable trade chip (provided the Brew Crew is willing to eat some cash, of course) if he’s healthy and producing the way he did for much of ’15. Braun had surgery for a herniated disc in the offseason, but he won’t have a clear idea of how well his back is responding until the regular swings that come in the Cactus League.

Reds: Will a market develop for Jay Bruce?

He only remains in Cincinnati as a function of the unusually deep and late-developing free-agent outfield market this winter, because the Reds, now in full-on rebuild mode, were motivated to move him. Most likely, Bruce will start the season with the Reds and try to piece together enough of a bounce-back campaign to become July trade bait. But all it takes is one spring injury elsewhere to suddenly make the idea of dealing for Bruce more palatable for a contending club. The Reds also have to hope Zack Cozart’s grisly knee injury last year hasn’t affected his defense at short, because he, too, could play himself into trade-chip status.

AL Central

Royals: Can Christian Colon steal playing time from Omar Infante?

In the third year of a four-year deal, Infante will make $7.75 million, and there was a time when that fact alone would settle him into a starting spot for this small-market club. But you might have noticed things are a little different in the realm of the Royals these days, and they’re calling this a legitimate position battle between Infante and Colon, who drove in the winning run in the World Series Game 5 clincher. (Top prospect Raul A. Mondesi will also get consideration but is far more likely to start the season in the Minors). Sure, the Royals are paying Infante a good amount of money, but, hey, they took Colon ahead of Matt Harvey in the 2010 Draft! One way or another, they’ll look for better returns on both of these investments.

Twins: Will Miguel Sano stick in right?

Byung Ho Park’s transition to the bigs is also a major matter in Minnesota, but Sano’s defensive work — directly related to Park’s arrival — will be a more pressing spring concern. Torii Hunter will be in camp as a special assistant to work with the 6-foot-4 Sano in the outfield, and the Twins’ lineup alignment demands that this experiment be successful. Sano was tasked with dropping 20 pounds this winter. Citing a desire to maintain his power, he dropped just five. He’s agile for his size, but this is undoubtedly a big test for him.

Indians: Will Michael Brantley continue his rapid recovery?

He’s the key to the whole darn thing for an Indians team projected by FanGraphs to have the best record in the division despite a less-than-dynamic winter. Brantley didn’t have surgery on his lead shoulder until early November, which means you can count him out for Opening Day and likely all or most of April. But because his recovery has progressed so well so far, Brantley must avoid the temptation to do too much too soon, lest he suffer a setback that crushes a Tribe club already prone toward slow starts.

White Sox: What’s up at short?

Tyler Saladino played terrific defense at third base for the Sox down the stretch last season, but his 68 OPS+ detracted from his value. So it’s an open question whether he’s ready for prime time at a prime spot, and he could be pushed in camp by top prospect Tim Anderson. The other, still-lingering question here is whether the Sox will wind up too tempted by Ian Desmond’s reduced price tag to pass him up. With a protected top-10 Draft pick, the White Sox are better positioned to sign Desmond than many others in the market.

Tigers: Can Bruce Rondon work his way into the bullpen plans?

Well, obviously we’ll be playing close attention to the statuses of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. But they’ve both had a healthy offseason, so, at this point, there’s little reason to doubt they’ll be in the Opening Day lineup and, hopefully, ready to produce. But Rondon’s dismissal from the club due to a lack of effort makes him an interesting figure in camp. The Tigers’ bullpen has a new closer in Francisco Rodriguez and better balance overall, but there’s always room for a motivated flamethrower. We’ll soon learn for sure if Rondon is committed to winning the respect of his teammates.

NL West

Dodgers: Will Hyun-Jin Ryu be ready by Opening Day?

And if so, what does that mean for fellow lefty Alex Wood? The Dodgers have assembled rotation depth to allow Ryu to ease into action, rather than rush back from labrum surgery. So the most likely outcome is that he starts the season in extended Spring Training or on a rehab assignment. But the Dodgers could also be tempted to take advantage of Wood’s ability to be optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Giants: How is Joe Panik’s back?

He’s 25 years old and coming off an All-Star season. But that season was cut short by back woes. Doctors have not discovered any structural damage, so Panik did not have surgery. But only time and performance will dictate whether this will be a persistent problem for a club all too familiar with back issues involving their second basemen (see: Sanchez, Freddy and Scutaro, Marco).

D-backs: Can Yasmany Tomas acquit himself in the outfield?

In their bold bid to take a major competitive step forward, there’s no denying the D-backs sacrificed defense by involving Ender Inciarte in the Shelby Miller swap. The question is how much. Tomas enters the year as an everyday corner outfielder (Arizona is still unsure whether he’ll remain in right or swap spots with left fielder David Peralta) after proving he can’t handle the hot corner. Tomas has indicated he’s more comfortable in right field, though the D-backs might prefer to have the better defender there and use this spring to get Tomas acclimated to left. And oh by the way, Tomas, who had a .707 OPS last season, needs to hit, too.

Padres: Can Andrew Cashner limit walks and neutralize lefties?

Yeah, yeah, the spring results don’t matter. But scouts are in the stands for a reason. Cashner is a guy with ace-quality potential when he’s right — and that’s a big deal for a Padres team either hoping to surprise some people in the NL West or use Cashner as a valuable trade piece midseason (or even sooner). Last year, Cashner’s effectiveness against left-handed hitters spiraled (.383 wOBA vs. a .294 mark a year earlier), and his overall walk rate jumped to 8.2 percent.

Rockies: What will Jose Reyes’ punishment be?

In invoking punishments under the sports’ domestic violence policy for the first time, Commissioner Rob Manfred has big decisions to make with Reyes, Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman. But Reyes is the only member of that group who is facing a criminal procedure. He has pleaded not guilty to domestic abuse charges, and his trial is slated to begin April 4 (Opening Day, of course). Manfred can make his decision independent of those proceedings, and there’s no telling how stiff the penalty will be. Reyes is the Rockies’ highest-paid player and a guy they hoped would rebuild his offensive value (and, ergo, his trade value) at Coors Field. Right now, there’s no way of knowing when or if he’ll be on the field in 2016.

AL West

Rangers: Can Jurickson Profar get back in baseball shape?

We’ll venture away from the obvious intrigue surrounding Yu Darvish’s timetable, because, by all accounts, he’s still on track for a May return. Profar provides intrigue of his own. This is a guy who was once considered the top prospect in the game, but hasn’t played a single inning in the field the last two years because of shoulder issues that eventually required surgery. Profar’s bat action as a designated hitter in the Arizona Fall League caught the attention of scouts, and several teams contacted the Rangers in an attempt to buy low on the middle infielder. The Rangers wisely held onto him, and they’ll ease him back into action in the field this spring. His odds of making the big league club are slim to none, barring injury to somebody else. But the Rangers are about to see if Profar can emerge as an important depth piece in their bid to win the AL West again.

Astros: Will Evan Gattis be ready for Opening Day?

It was revealed this week that Gattis required surgery for a sports hernia, sidelining him for four to six weeks. That’s going to hurt his ability to get his timing back before the end of Grapefruit League play, so the Astros will dole out more playing time to Jon Singleton, Matt Duffy, A.J. Reed, Tyler White and Preston Tucker. While the Astros, in letting Chris Carter walk, might generally be trying to get away from the all-or-nothing approach that was one of their calling cards in ’15, Gattis is still clearly a key cog in this offense. He was also hopeful of increasing his value to the team beyond his DH duties, losing weight and doing catching drills in the offseason.

Angels: What’s Albert Pujols’ timetable?

The Angels are getting crushed in many corners for not doing more to improve their production potential around Mike Trout, opting instead for a more contact-heavy approach. Maybe the Halos have it right, but there’s little denying that their lineup look demands healthy and productivity from Pujols, who is working his way back from November surgery on the plantar plate of his right foot. Pujols is already hitting off a tee but is not expected to resume full baseball activities until March, putting Opening Day in jeopardy. Pujols rushed back to action too quickly in 2013, to the point that it affected his performance, and the Angels don’t want that to happen again.

Mariners: Can James Paxton win a rotation spot?

Technically, it’s Taijuan Walker, Nate Karns and Paxton for two spots, though you’d have to imagine the 29 starts and the progress Walker made as ’15 evolved give him the inside edge on one of those. Karns was Dipoto’s first addition in a busy offseason, but Paxton is the guy who was long lauded as one of the M’s prominent prospects. Injury issues have limited Paxton to 30 career starts over parts of three Major League seasons, but the left-hander has dropped some pounds and will come to camp intent on proving he’s ready to turn his potential into production. Other guys potentially in the mix for that last spot are Mike Montgomery, Joe Wieland and Vidal Nuno. Paxton seemingly has the most upside of those options, but he’s got to earn it.

Athletics: What is the rotation beyond Sonny Gray?

Oakland has probably one of the most — if not the most — unsettled rotation situations in the big leagues. The A’s signed Rich Hill with the intent of inserting him into the rotation, though he hasn’t been a regular starter at this level since 2009. After Gray and Hill, it’s a wide-open competition involving Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin and possibly even Jarrod Parker (who is attempting to come back from two elbow surgeries) and Sean Manaea (a promising trade acquisition who hasn’t pitched above Double-A but who manager Bob Melvin has called a “wild card” in the rotation battle). Should be fun to watch this evolve.

Source: A Spring Training question for all 30 MLB teams.

Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations Entering 2016 Spring Training:

SchwarberPanikRamirez

 

Rejoice! Spring training is almost upon us, bringing to an end what has been a hectic offseason, one that saw a slew of starting pitchers change uniforms, whether via free agency or trade. Keeping up with what your favorite team’s rotation looks like, much less the competition’s, has been challenging at times.

Read: Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations Entering 2016 Spring Training

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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#NFL Week 17 – United Stats of America – Elias Sports Bureau

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Age is no obstacle for NFL’s rushing champion

Adrian Peterson, who turned 30 years old in March, won the NFL rushing race when Doug Martin fell 16 yards short of Peterson’s total heading into the Vikings’ Sunday night game at Green Bay. Peterson is the third player in league history to lead the NFL or AFL in rushing yards in his 30s. The only other players to have done so were Marion Motley in 1950 (at age 30) and Curtis Martin in 2004 (31).

Ryan gains sweet revenge against the Jets

The Bills defeated the Jets, 22-17, and that result, combined with Pittsburgh’s victory at Cleveland, denied the Jets a spot in the postseason. Thus, Rex Ryan became the first head coach in NFL history to help keep a team that he had head-coached in the previous season out of the playoffs by beating that club, head to head, in the season’s final week.

Additionally, Ryan is the first NFL head coach in 85 years to sweep a two-game season series against a team of which he was the head coach in the previous season. The last to do so was Jack Depler, a player-coach with the Orange Tornadoes in 1929 who bolted to coach the Brooklyn Dodgers a year later. The Tornadoes moved from East Orange, New Jersey to Newark in 1930, enduring a 1-10-1 season that included a pair of shutout losses to Depler’s Dodgers: 32-0 at Ebbets Field and 14-0 on the infield of the Newark Velodrome.

nullMarshall makes a great first impression

Brandon Marshall finished the season with 1502 receiving yards, breaking Don Maynard’s team record that had stood since 1967. Notably, Marshall fell six receiving yards short of the NFL record for a player in his first season with a team-any team, that is-a mark that Marshall himself set with the Bears three seasons ago.

Marshall and Eric Decker scored touchdowns in the same game for the ninth time this season, tying an NFL record. The only other teammates to score TDs in the same game nine times in one season were Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith with the Cowboys in 1995.

Brown caps season with another spectacular game

Antonio Brown caught 13 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers’ 28-12 win at Cleveland. For most players, even some great ones, that would be a “career game.” Consider that Tony Gonzalez never gained even 150 receiving yards in one game; Cris Carter never had a 170-yard game; and neither Larry Fitzgerald nor Hines Ward ever had as many receiving yards in one regular-season game as Brown did on Sunday.

But that was Brown’s fourth-highest total this season, following games of 195 against the 49ers, 284 against the Raiders, and 189 against the Broncos. Brown is the first receiver in NFL history to reach the 180-yard mark in four games in the same season.

nullSung to the tune of you-know-what: “Peyton never subbed before”

Peyton Manning made the first relief appearance of his career and he made it count, engineering the Broncos’ rally in a 27-20 come-from-behind win over the Chargers to clinch the top seed in the AFC playoffs. Manning has started 265 regular-season games; this was the first in which he came off the bench. That’s a record of sorts. The last player to start even 200 games before his first game as a substitute was the Raiders’ Hall of Fame guard, Gene Upshaw. Upshaw started 207 games before his first appearance as a sub in 1981.

Carolina ends a great season with a noteworthy victory

The Panthers walloped the Buccaneers, 38-10, to finish their season with a 15-1 mark. It was the largest season-ending victory posted by any of the seven teams that won at least 15 games. The only other club among that group that won its season finale by at least 20 points was Chicago in 1985. The Bears finished their regular season with a 37-17 win at Detroit. Carolina’s head coach, Ron Rivera, was a linebacker on the 1985 Bears.

nullWatt captures sacks title with three in season finale

J.J. Watt sacked Blake Bortles three times in Houston’s 30-6 victory over Jacksonville, to pass Khalil Mack of the Raiders as the NFL leader for the 2015 season. Watt became only the second player to lead the NFL in sacks twice within his first five years in the league. He previously led the league as a second-year pro in 2012. The other player to do so was Reggie White in 1987 and 1988, his third and fourth seasons in the NFL.

It should be noted that Watt’s three sacks on Sunday were enough to catch and pass Mack, but not enough to lead his team in sacks in its win over the Jags. That distinction goes to Whitney Mercilus, with three-and-a-half sacks of Bortles. Over the last four seasons, only one other pair of teammates had at least three sacks each in the same game: Chris Long and Robert Quinn of the Rams in a loss to Seattle in 2013.

Seahawks end season with rout of powerful Cardinals

The Seahawks made a bold season-ending statement with a 36-6 victory at Arizona, crushing a Cardinals team that had a 13-2 record coming into the game. It was the fourth-largest margin of victory in NFL history against a team with a record at least 10 games above the .500 mark. The largest was a 41-0 victory by the Boston Patriots at San Diego on the final week of the 1961 AFL season. The Chargers had a 12-1 mark prior to that game. One week later, San Diego lost the AFL Championship Game to the Houston Oilers, 10-3.­­

nullCousins’ fast start dooms Cowboys

Kirk Cousins threw three touchdown passes to give the Redskins a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and Washington rolled to a 34-23 win at Dallas. Only one other player has thrown three first-quarter touchdown passes in a game against the Cowboys: Randall Cunningham in a memorable 46-36 Vikings win at Texas Stadium on Thanksgiving Day 1998. Cunningham’s early TD passes all covered more than 50 yards. He connected with Randy Moss for first-quarter TDs of 51 and 56 yards and with Cris Carter for a 54-yard touchdown. For good measure, Cunningham found Moss on a 56-yard scoring pass in the third quarter.

nullEagles’ Thurmond asks the Giants, “Hey, remember me?”

Walter Thurmond recovered a fumble by Eli Manning in the third quarter and returned it 83 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in the Eagles’ 35-30 win over the Giants. Thurmond, who played two games for New York in 2014, became the first ex-Giants player to score a second-half game-winning TD against the team since Bobby Hammond did it for the Redskins in 1980, scoring on a 7-yard pass from Joe Theismann in the final minute of a 23-21 victory.

It was yet another blown opportunity for the Giants, who lost nine of the last 18 games in which they led in the second half. New York has lost six of the last nine games against the Eagles in which it led at some point after halftime, dating back to 2009.

Chiefs turn season around, finish with 11-5 mark

Kansas City extended its winning streak to 10 games, capping its season with a 23-17 win over the Raiders. The Chiefs, who lost five straight games after winning their season opener, finished with an 11-5 mark, the best in NFL history by a team that suffered five consecutive losses during the season. The previous record was the Jets’ 10-6 mark in 1986, when they lost their last five games after a 10-1 start.­

nullBengals’ Hill snaps drought with long TD run

Jeremy Hill flashed rarely-seen breakaway ability, running 38 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter of the Bengals’ 24-16 win over the Ravens. That was Hill’s longest run from scrimmage by far this season, snapping a streak of 232 carries for less than 20 yards.

Pats lose second straight intradivision game

The Dolphins finished the season with a 6-10 mark, defeating the Patriots, 20-10, to snap New England’s streak of 20 consecutive wins against teams with a record at least five games below .500. Combined with a 26-20 loss to the Jets last week, it marked the first time that New England lost consecutive games, both to divisional rivals with Tom Brady at quarterback. It’s also the first time that a team head-coached by Bill Belichick lost its last two games of a season since 1991 and 1992, Belichick’s first two seasons as an NFL head coach (both with Cleveland).

Bears end historic season with home loss to Lions

With a 24-20 loss to Detroit, the Bears finished the 2015 season with a 1-7 record at Soldier Field. That is the team’s worst home record, whether based on winning percentage or games below .500, in any of its 96 seasons in the NFL. By either of those standards, the Bears suffered their previous worst home records at Wrigley Field in 1969 and at Soldier Field in 1973 (1-6 in both seasons).

New Colts QBs lead team to win over Titans

With Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck, and Charlie Whitehurst all injured, Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley each threw a touchdown pass in the Colts’ 30-24 win over the Titans. Over the last 25 seasons, only one other pair of teammates both threw a TD pass in the same game in which each was making his team debut. Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski did it in the Bengals’ 2011 season opener.

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

What You Need To Know For Wednesday, Dec. 30 2015

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nationwide_college map

1.

Degenerate Me

Last weekend was a monster for us junkies, despite what looked like insane violence on many football fields – or is it because of it? (shrugs shoulders)  Only the wetheads worry about blood on the grass during times like these, when the football gets better each week and the money you pillage from suckers, lines your pockets like fine silk.  The best being yet to come, except for maybe place like Cleveland and San Francisco who are more like bloated dead bodies floating along the ethereal abyss.

Playing with House-Money has always been risky – however, last week was swimming with sharks.  Many high-altitude rollers got eaten alive on Sunday – those that survived were clubbed like baby seals, causing an eruption of fear and grief in homesteads from coast to coast.  Strong men wept, and women hurled themselves savagely down dirty stairwells in filthy towns like Boston and Cleveland – Cripes, even in the frozen snow out here in the Rockies.

But me?  My own luck was splendid, as the Marquis used to say, as I repeatedly fleeced and humiliated two of the cruelest and most depraved degenerates in America, the infamous McCutcheon brothers from Pittsburgh.  T’was wonderful.  The arrogant swine got exactly what they deserved – a massive public beating they will never forget.  They came out here with huge wads of ca$h and revenge in their hearts for the losses they suffered last year in the very same bunker – where their doom is a constant companion.  It’s even worse during bowl-season.

2.

C’Ya Chipster

Good luck Chipster – your 1st lesson as a professional was a hard one.  You found out that going 10-6, 10-6 and 6-9 don’t mean much in Philly.  Never you mind that the Eagles have no idea how to win, because they haven’t since…….ummm, hold on, it’s right here in my notes….oh yeah, 1960.  It was 20 years later since they returned to play for a title, and another 24 until the next one – losing both – so it’s likely not until 2024 that they contend anyway.

Besides looking for another job in the #NFL – Tennessee, maybe? – you have to deal with Screamin’A dustin’ off an old narrative; as he did appearing on Mike and Mike this morning telling a classic Screamin’A story about a time he was “stopped on the street” by some Eagles players who came up to him and started talking about Chip Kelly.  Sensationalism!

The point is – you had all the control Chip and made some shaky decisions and never quite won enough to earn the cache you need.  Just remember, Bill was run out of Cleveland and it also took awhile in Foxboro before he became the man he is today – You just keep it 100 Chipster and if it doesn’t work out here, you’ll have your pick of places in college – like Baton Rouge if Les doesn’t change.

+ GOODBYE, MR. CHIP: PHILLY FIRES KELLY – Read More

LF=212yds 5TD’s

3.

(Can’t) Hold That Tiger

The Tigers wrapped up a very memorable, drama-filled football season with a record-setting 56-27 win over Texas Tech in the Advocare Texas Bowl, and it sure does feel good. One could argue that last night’s game doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot, but after losing three of the previous four bowl games, and enduring a three-game losing streak in the month of November, it’s nice to head into the offseason on a high note. With last night’s win, the Tigers ended the season 9-3, and let’s not forget that this would have almost certainly been a 10-win season had the season-opener against McNeese State been played.

Source: Dandy Don’s LSU Recruiting and Sports News – LSU Football and More!

4.

Today in History

On December 30, 1978, Ohio State University (OSU) makes the decision to fire its 65-year-old football coach, Woody Hayes, one day after Hayes punched a player on the opposing team near the end of the Gator Bowl.

Source: OSU fires coach Woody Hayes for attacking an opposing player – Dec 30, 1978

5.

Out of Chaos Comes Order

Social issues are a minefield for athletes.  Michael Jordan was never going to be confused for Kareem when it came to social justice and attitudes.  No one is, and athletes that came after never wanted to jeopardize their image to their corporate masters – just as players today are more conscious of their “brand” then they are at times with their play.

Yet, Lebron speaks out after advocates ask him to strike games to honor Tamir Rice – is this what we want our athletes to do when every social crisis occurs?  Read more here.

Source: LeBron Speaks Out After Advocates Ask Him To Strike Games To Honor Tamir Rice

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6.

The More You Know

Week 17 – Situational Trends

By Week 17 Vegas knows which teams are truly bad. In the last five years, home underdogs of a touchdown or greater in the last week of the regular season have gone 1-33 SU and 14-20 (41%) ATS.

  • Games Matching this Criteria: Browns (+10) vs. Steelers and Dolphins (+9) vs. Patriots.

The Cardinals and Chiefs are on fire each having won nine straight games. The last 30 teams to win that many games in a row went 22-8 straight-up in their next matchup but 12-17-1 (41%) against-the-spread.

  • Games Matching this Criteria: Chiefs (-6.5) vs. Raiders and Cardinals (-4.5) vs. Seahawks.

Tom Brady and the Patriots don’t lose often but when they do, New England typically wins (40-10 straight-up) and covers (34-16 against-the-spread – 68%) the next week.

  • Games Matching this Criteria: Patriots (-9) at Dolphins.

  • ATL -4 vs. NO The Falcons are 7-3 against-the-spread in their last ten games as home favorites against the Saints.
  • AZ -4.5 vs. SEA Carson Palmer is 7-1-1 against-the-spread at home with Arizona against non-divisional opponents but 3-3 ATS vs. the NFC West.
  • BAL +7 @ CIN In the last five years, AFC North teams that have been underdogs of a touchdown or greater to the Bengals are 0-5 straight-up and 1-3-1 ATS.
  • BUF +3 vs. NYJ The Bills are 8-2 against-the-spread in their last ten home games against the AFC East.
  • CAR -10.5 vs. TB Cam Newton has never lost as a touchdown or greater favorite, he is 11-0 straight-up and 6-5 ATS.
  • CHI -1 vs. DET The Bears are 2-7-1 against-the-spread in their last ten games against the Lions.
  • CIN -7 vs. BAL The Bengals are playing for a bye in the AFC. All-time, teams that have been favored by a touchdown over the Ravens are 5-1 straight-up.
  • CLE +10 vs. PIT Cleveland has lost eight straight as double-digit underdogs against AFC North rivals but the Browns went 5-3 ATS in those games.
  • DAL -3 vs. WAS The Cowboys are 1-5 against-the-spread at home this year and are now 3-11 ATS the last three years when Tony Romo doesn’t start.
  • DEN -7.5 vs. SD Denver is 3-6-1 against-the-spread in its last ten home games as touchdown or greater favorites.
  • DET +1 @ CHI Detroit is 2-18 straight-up in its last 20 games as road dogs against the NFC North, the Lions went 9-10-1 ATS in those games.
  • GB -3 vs. MIN The Packers can clinch the NFC North with a win, Aaron Rodgers is 18-4 straight-up (14-7-1 ATS) vs. the division as a home favorite.
  • HOU -6.5 vs. JAX The Texans clinch the AFC South with a win, Houston is 15-7 straight-up all-time as a home favorite against the division.
  • IND -6 vs. TEN Indy needs a win (plus a lot of help) to make the playoffs. The Colts are just 3-4 straight-up (3-4 ATS) in home games this year.
  • JAX +6.5 @ HOU The Jags have been road dogs in 13 straight games vs. division opponents. Jacksonville went 8-4 ATS in its previous 12 games.
  • KC -6.5 vs. OAK KC has won nine straight (including four in a row vs. the AFC West) and is 7-2 against-the-spread during the winning streak.
  • MIA +9 vs. NE The Dolphins have been underdogs to the Patriots in 25 straight games, Miami went 11-13 ATS in the previous 24 contests.
  • MIN +3 @ GB The Vikings can clinch the NFC North with a win but Minnesota hasn’t won in Green Bay since 2010 and is 1-4-1 ATS in its last six games in Lambeau.
  • NE -9 @ MIA New England clinches home-field advantage with a win, the Pats have won 18 straight as touchdown favorites vs. the AFC East ( but are only 6-10-2 ATS)
  • NO +7 @ ATL This is the fifth straight division game in which the Saints have been underdogs, New Orleans covered the previous four.
  • NYG -3 vs. PHI The Giants are 2-8 ATS in the team’s last ten home games against the Eagles.
  • NYJ -3 @ BUF The Jets can clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Bills but New York has lost and failed to cover in four straight vs. Buffalo.
  • OAK +6.5 @ KC The Raiders are 14-6 against-the-spread in the team’s last 20 road games against division rivals.
  • PHI +3 @ NYG Philly is 8-2 against-the-spread in its last ten road games as underdogs against division opponents.
  • PIT -10 @ CLE Big Ben has been a double-digit road favorite seven times in his career and failed to cover in each game (including losing outright last week).
  • SD +7.5 @ DEN Philip Rivers has won six of his last ten trips to Denver and the Chargers went 7-1-2 against-the-spread in those games.
  • SEA +4.5 @ AZ In Russell Wilson’s career, the Seahawks following a loss in the regular season are 11-6 against-the-spread the next week.
  • SF +3.5 vs. STL The 49ers have been home dogs to the Rams 11 times. San Francisco is 3-8 straight-up and 5-5-1 ATS.
  • STL -3.5 @ SF The Rams aren’t favored on the road often (just 10 times in the last ten years), but when they are St. Louis covers (7-3 ATS).
  • TB +10.5 @ CAR The Bucs have lost six straight as double-digit dogs to divisional rivals but Tampa Bay went 3-3 against-the-spread in those games.
  • TEN +6 @ IND The Titans have failed to cover in seven straight road games against division rivals (1-6 straight-up as well).
  • WAS +3 @ DAL The Washington professional football team is 8-2 ATS in its last ten trips to Dallas.

#NFL Week 16 – United Stats of America – Elias Sports Bureau

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NFL

Falcons rebound from huge loss to hand Panthers their first loss

The Falcons ended Carolina’s bid for a perfect season with a 20-13 win over the Panthers. Atlanta’s victory came just two weeks after Carolina routed the Falcons, 38-0. But there have been many precedents for such a reversal of form. Since 1970, 12 other teams won a game against an opponent that beat them by at least 38 points earlier that season. And like Atlanta, which had a 7-7 record heading into Sunday’s game, none of those 12 teams had a winning record at the time of its turnaround victory.

Carolina had won 18 consecutive regular-season games (and 10 in a row during December), tying the third-longest winning streak in NFL history. The only other teams to win 18 straight games were Indianapolis (23, 2008-09) and New England twice (18 in 2003-04 and 21 in 2006-08).

nullFitzpatrick, Marshall, and Decker are too much for the Patriots

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall and an overtime game-winner to Eric Decker in the Jets’ 26-20 win over the Patriots. It was the eighth game this season in which both Marshall and Decker caught TD passes, an NFL record for games in which a pair of teammates both had touchdown receptions. The previous mark was set by Cris Carter and Randy Moss with the Vikings in 1998.

With his first catch of the day, Marshall broke the single-season team record that Al Toon set in 1988. Only two other franchises have a single-season record for receptions that has stood that long: the Titans’ record was set by Charlie Hennigan with the Houston Oilers in 1964 (101); and the Browns’ mark was set by Ozzie Newsome in 1983 (89).

The Patriots lost only one other game on a touchdown pass in overtime and it took a pair of future Hall of Famers to do it. In 1981, Lynn Swann scored from 24 yards out on a pass by Terry Bradshaw to give the Steelers an OT victory over New England.

An amazing streak comes to an end in Seattle’s loss

The Rams took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and were never caught, holding on for a 23-17 victory at Seattle. That ended the Seahawks’ extraordinary streak of 62 games in which they led at some point, corresponding exactly to Russell Wilson’s tenure with the team. Check this out: Not only was that the longest such streak in NFL history; but half of the 32 current NFL teams have never had such a streak even half as long as Seattle’s, including three clubs that date back to the 1930s: the Bears, Packers, and Redskins.

nullWeeden finds success in Houston

Brandon Weeden passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the Texans’ 34-6 victory over the Titans. It was Weeden’s first win as a starting quarterback since 2012 with Cleveland. He was the first QB in the NFL’s expansion era to start for a first-place team in the month of December having lost his last 10 starts.

Weeden led Houston on touchdown drives of 65, 80, and 34 yards on Sunday. Coming into the game, he had produced a TD on only two of his last 27 drives. He hadn’t thrown two or more TD passes in the same game since Dec. 1, 2013, in the Browns’ 32-28 loss at Jacksonville.

nullSaints’ combo is tough to beat

Drew Brees passed for 412 yards in the Saints’ 38-27 win over the Jaguars. It was the 13th time that Brees topped the 400-yard mark, but this was the first of those games in which a teammate gained at least 100 yards rushing. Tim Hightower gained 122 yards on 27 carries. Over the last five seasons, the only other player to supplement a teammate’s 400-yard passing performance with 120 or more rushing yards was James Starks of the Packers in 2013. Starks rushed for 132 yards and Aaron Rodgers passed for 480 in a 38-20 win over the Redskins.­

Incidentally, that’s a combination that has never been beaten in the NFL. Teams with a 400-yard passer and a teammate with at least 120 rushing yards have a 7-0-1 record.

nullSmith and Chiefs win ninth consecutive game

The Chiefs extended their winning streak to nine games with a 17-13 victory over the Browns. That matches the longest winning streak of Alex Smith’s NFL career; he previously won nine consecutive starts with Kansas City in 2013 and eight straight with the 49ers in 2011. Only four other quarterbacks won eight consecutive starts in one season for each of two different teams: Jack Kemp, Earl Morrall, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning.

nullGillislee caps unexpected December with big game vs. Cowboys

Mike Gillislee, who spent the first three months of the season on the practice squads of the Cardinals and Bills, gained 93 yards on nine carries and scored a late insurance touchdown in Buffalo’s 16-6 win over Dallas. Gillislee finished the month with 239 yards on 23 carries. His average of 10.4 yards per carry was the fourth-highest in one calendar month by a running back with at least 20 rushing attempts. The only RBs with higher marks were Lenny Moore (12.7 yards per carry in Oct. 1956), Hugh McElhenny (11.6 in Oct. 1952), and Bruce Harper (10.6 in Oct. 1983).

nullFreeney and the Cardinals sack the Pack

Arizona sacked Packers passers nine times, including three by Dwight Freeney, in a 38-8 rout of Green Bay. It was the Cardinals’ highest single-game total since 1986, and the most sacks in one game against the Packers since 1982.

Freeney, who turned 35 in February, had five games with three or more sacks over his first five seasons in the league. But this was his first such game since 2006. Over the last 10 seasons, the only players as old as Freeney with three or more sacks in one game were Michael Strahan (at age 35 in 2007) and 37-year-old James Harrison three weeks ago.

nullPackers suffer their worst loss with Rodgers at QB

Green Bay’s 38-8 loss was its largest margin of defeat in a game started by Aaron Rodgers. While it’s impressive that Rodgers started 117 games before his first 30-point loss, Packers fans can take pride in the fact that Brett Favre started an NFL-record total of 200 regular-season games before losing one by 30 points, and Bart Starr didn’t lose by 30 points or more until start #143 in 1970, with a pair of Super Bowl victories to his credit.

nullCarey scores two short TD for Bears

Second-year running back Ka’Deem Carey scored on a 1-yard run and a 1-yard catch in the Bears’ 26-21 victory at Tampa. Carey was the second Chicago player to score on rushing and passing plays in the same road game this season, following rookie Jeremy Langford who did it at St. Louis last month. The only other Bears player to do that on the road in the last two decades was Matt Forte (at Detroit in 2008).

Since 2000, three other players scored 1-yard TDs by rushing and receiving in the same game: Marshall Faulk (2001), Pierre Thomas (2013), and Eddie Lacy (2014).

nullMallett wins debut with the Ravens

Ryan Mallett, making his first start for the Ravens, passed for a career-high 274 yards and a touchdown in a 20-17 victory over the Steelers. Mallett was the fourth different quarterback to start for Baltimore in its last six games, following Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub, and Jimmy Clausen. Over the last five seasons, the only other team to start four different QBs in a span of six games was Green Bay in 2013 (Aaron Rodgers, Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and Matt Flynn).

Like the Panthers, who also lost on Sunday, Pittsburgh had won its last 10 games in the month of December.

nullStafford maintains sharp form in win over 49ers

Matthew Stafford threw a pair of touchdown passes in the Lions’ 32-17 win over the 49ers. Stafford, who set a team record for completion percentage in one game last week, has now thrown 14 TD passes over his last five games. He has been picked off only once in his last 225 throws dating to November 15.

Source: Elias Says: Sports Statistics

Weekend Update: #NFL wk15 – United Stats of America

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Before we throw at you all the stats from Sunday’s football games – here are all the David Johnson highlights from last night because, Holy Cow was that kid a one man wrecking crew! (h/t Elias Sports Bureau)

NFL – Panthers stay perfect in dramatic fashion

Despite blowing a 28-point lead in the second half, the Panthers remained undefeated on the season after defeating the Giants, 38-35. Graham Gano kicked a 43-yard field goal on the last play of the fourth quarter to preserve Carolina’s streak. The only other players in NFL history to help their teams extend a season-opening winning streak of 10-plus games with a game-ending scoring play were Garrett Hartley (2009 Saints) and Mason Crosby (2011 Packers). Both Hartley and Crosby kicked game-ending field goals to lift their teams’ records to 12-0.

NFL – Newton strengthens MVP case with superhuman effort

Cam Newton was the star as always for Carolina – the MVP candidate threw five touchdown passes while also leading the team with 100 rushing yards. Newton is the first player in NFL history to pass for five or more touchdowns while producing at least 100 rushing yards in the same game. Previously, no player had run for even 50 yards in a 5-TD game.

With the victory, Newton improved to 17-3 in December in his NFL career. Only two other active quarterbacks won at least 17 of their first 20 starts in December – Philip Rivers won 19 of his first 20 such starts for the Chargers, and Tom Brady went 17-3 through 20 December starts for New England.

NFL – Historic day for Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater threw four touchdown passes – one in each quarter – for the Vikings against the Bears and ran for another score early in the fourth quarter in Minnesota’s 38-17 victory at TCF Bank Stadium. Bridgewater’s performance versus Chicago calls to mind the very first game ever played by the Vikings in the NFL. On Sept. 17, 1961, Fran Tarkenton threw four TD passes and ran for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to lead the Vikings to victory at home against the Bears (sound familiar yet?). Bridgewater and Tarkenton are the only two quarterbacks with a “4-and-1” game in franchise history.

Bridgewater, who completed 17 of his 20 passes, also became just the second player in NFL history to run for a touchdown and throw for four or more TDs while completing at least 85 percent of his passes. In the Browns’ final game of the 1964 regular season, Frank Ryan completed 12 of 13 passes (good for 92 percent), throwing for five touchdowns and running for another against the Giants.

NFL – Steelers throw everything into comeback win

Ben Roethlisberger completed a season-high 40 passes in leading Pittsburgh to a 34-27 comeback victory over the Broncos. Antonio Brown was the main target for Roethlisberger, leading the team with 16 receptions, 189 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. Brown, who caught 17 passes in a win over the Raiders on November 8, became the first player in NFL history with two games of 15-or-more receptions within a single season.

Besides Brown, only four Steelers players caught passes on Sunday – Martavis Bryant (10),Markus Wheaton (six), DeAngelo Williams (five), and Heath Miller (three). The Steelers’ victory marked the first time since 1933 – when the NFL first tracked receiving statistics for individual players – that a team had 40 or more receptions in a game with no more than five players catching a pass. Tom Brady and the Patriots had the previous high – Brady completed 38 passes to five receivers in Week 12 of last season against the Lions.

NFL – McCarron’s first win is a clincher for Bengals

The Bengals clinched a spot in the postseason on Sunday after defeating the 49ers, 24-14. AJ McCarron was efficient in his first NFL start, completing 15 of 21 passes including a touchdown in the second quarter. That helped Cincinnati overcome a weak running performance – the Bengals gained 68 yards on 36 carries, an average of just 1.9 yards per rush. In the last 20 years, only one other quarterback earned a win in his first NFL start despite his team averaging less than two yards per rush. Max Hall led the Cardinals to victory over the Saints in his first start in 2010 to make up for a sub-par rushing attack (1.7 yards per run). Arizona was aided that day by three field goals by Jay Feely and two defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

NFL – Cousins heroic at home

Kirk Cousins completed 22 passes – including four touchdowns – for 319 yards in the Redskins’ 35-25 victory over the Bills. If only Washington had more home games – Cousins led the Redskins to a 6-2 record at FedExField this season, and his passing numbers at home (2170 yards, 16 TDs, 2 INTs, 117.0 rating) are much better than his road numbers (1455 yards, 6 TDs, 9 INTs, 74.6 rating). Cousins now owns the franchise single-season records for most passing yards at home, surpassing Jay Schroeder, who passed for 2111 yards at home in 1986. Cousins’s completion percentage at home (74.7 percent) is the highest single-season mark in home games in NFL history by a player who threw at least 75 passes at home.

NFL – Brady, Patriots post 12th win

The Patriots stayed atop the AFC standings by defeating the Titans, 33-16. New England, which improved to 12-2, has won at least 12 games in each of the last six seasons. Bill Belichick is the second head coach in NFL history to win at least 12 games in six consecutive seasons, joining Tony Dungy, who had 12 or more wins in each of his last six seasons with the Colts from 2003 to 2008.

Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes in the Patriots’ win, bringing to 201 his total of touchdown passes at Foxborough Stadium. The only other player to throw at least 200 TD passes in one stadium was Brett Favre, who finished with 214 touchdown passes at Lambeau Field.

NFL – Perfect 10 for Baldwin

Tis the season for Doug Baldwin – the Seahawks wideout scored two more touchdowns on Sunday, helping Seattle defeat Cleveland and extend the Seahawks’ winning streak to five games. Baldwin has caught multiple touchdown receptions in each of his last four games – three versus the Steelers in Week 12, two at Minnesota Week 13, three at Baltimore last week, and two on Sunday against the Browns. Baldwin’s 10 TD receptions are tied for the most in NFL history in a four-game span. That mark was set by Bob Shaw in 1949 (L.A. Rams) and 1950 (Chicago Cardinals), and matched by Art Powell of the Raiders (1963-64) and Jerry Rice (1987).

NFL – Johnson runs wild over Eagles

Cardinals rookie David Johnson scored rushing touchdowns in each of the first three quarters of Arizona’s blowout victory over the Eagles. Johnson, who finished with 187 yards on the ground, is the first player – rookie or veteran – in Cardinals history to total at least three rushing touchdowns and 180 rushing yards in a single game. The 187 yards by Johnson are the most by any Cardinals rookie in a game since Ottis Anderson ran for 193 yards in his NFL debut in 1979. That was Anderson’s highest yards total in any one game of his 14-year NFL career.

NFL – Jones all over Falcons record books

Julio Jones caught nine passes for 118 yards and scored his first touchdown in six games to help the Falcons snap their six-game losing streak in a win over the Jaguars. Jones, who leads the NFL with 118 receptions and ranks second behind Antonio Brown with 1544 receiving yards, is now the franchise leader for most receptions in a single season. Roddy White held the previous record for Atlanta, having caught 115 passes in the 2010 season. Jones, who established a Falcons single-season record with 1593 receiving yards last season, is one of three players in NFL history to produce 100 receptions and 1500 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons. The other two to do so: Marvin Harrison (2001-02) and Andre Johnson (2008-09).

NFL – Defense shines for Chiefs

The Chiefs defense scored as many touchdowns as the offense in their 34-14 victory over the Ravens. Tyvon Branch returned a fumble 73 yards for a score in the first quarter, and Marcus Peters brought back an interception 90 yards to cap the scoring in the fourth quarter. The last team to score touchdowns on a fumble return and an interception return, each of 70-plus yards, in the same game was the Steelers; they had a 77-yard fumble-return TD and an 82-yard interception-return TD in the fourth quarter of a victory over the Vikings in October 2009.

NFL – K.C. extends fourth-quarter shutout streak

The Chiefs, who allowed 77 total points in the fourth quarter through their first nine games of the season, have not allowed a single point in the fourth quarter in their last five games. That’s the longest streak of that kind this season and the second-longest streak for the Chiefs in franchise history. Kansas City shut out its opponent in the fourth quarter in six straight games to close the 1968 season.

NFL – Weeden leads comeback win for Texans

After T.J. Yates left with an injury, Brandon Weeden completed 11 of 18 passes in relief, including a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Texans a 16-10 victory over the Colts. Weeden is the first quarterback in just over three years to come off the bench in his first game for a team and throw a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. The last to do that was Greg McElroy, who relieved Mark Sanchez and completed a one-yard pass for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Jets’ 7-6 victory over the Cardinals in December 2012.

NFL – Houston snaps schneid in Indy

The win for the Texans was their first ever in Indianapolis – Houston had been 0-13 in road games against the Colts entering play on Sunday. Hopefully, the Vikings coaching staff took some notes, as Minnesota is still winless in Indianapolis (0-10). The Vikings’ mark at Indy now stands as the biggest current “0-fer” in road games for one franchise against another.

NFL – Huge day for Woodhead

Danny Woodhead became the first player this season to score four touchdowns in a game in the Chargers’ 30-14 victory over the Dolphins. Woodhead scored all four of San Diego’s touchdowns – three on passes from Philip Rivers and one on a two-yard run. The last time that a team had four or more touchdowns in a game that were all scored by a single player was Week 16 of the 2008 season – DeAngelo Williams scored all four of the Panthers’ touchdowns in a road loss against the Giants. The last Chargers player prior to Woodhead with such a game was LaDainian Tomlinson, who had two games of that kind for San Diego (2005 and 2007).

Woodhead, who turned 30 years old in January, is the oldest player to score four touchdowns in an NFL game since Terrell Owens scored four while with the Cowboys against the Redskins in 2007, just 19 days before his 34th birthday.

NFL – Peppers climbing all-time sacks list

Julius Peppers had 2½ sacks against Derek Carr in the Packers’ 30-20 victory in Oakland, and they were big ones for him. Peppers now has 135 sacks for his career, and moved into the top ten in that category since the NFL began recording sacks for defensive players in 1982. He nudged John Abraham and DeMarcus Ware, who had been tied for 10th place at 133½, out of the top ten.

Source: Stats from the Elias Sports Bureau

Getting Smart With the Tuesday Morning Quarterback

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1. Now There Are 4 – But There Only Can Be 1:

Last night escalated quickly in Charlotte.  Cam Newton tossed two TD passes and ran for 41 yards in the Panthers’ overtime win over the Colts on Monday. Newton has thrown at least one touchdown pass and run for 20 or more yards in every game this year. He’s the first player in NFL history to lead his team to a 7-0 start while passing for a TD and rushing for 20 yards in every game. No other player has done this in five straight wins to start a season.

Colts’ fourth-quarter comeback falls short

Down 23-6 in the fourth quarter, the Colts stormed back to tie the game on a pair of Andrew Luck touchdown passes and a game-tying field goal by Adam Vinatieri as time expired in regulation. However, the Panthers ultimately won the game in OT, as Graham Gano made two extra-time field goals. Carolina is the ninth team to win a game in overtime after leading by at least 17 points in the fourth quarter. The only other team with such a win over the last 10 years is the Cardinals, who defeated the Titans in OT, 37-34, in a December 2013 game after also leading by 17 points in the fourth.

Panthers take another early lead

Graham Gano opened the scoring for the Panthers on Monday, converting a 39-yard field goal attempt. Carolina has scored first in each of its seven games this season. Over the last 10 years, only two other teams began a season in this manner: the 2007 Patriots and 2012 Seahawks, who each scored first in their first eight games of their respective seasons.

Luck intercepted 12 times in six games

Andrew Luck was picked off three times on Monday, increasing his season total to 12 interceptions in six games. That’s the most interceptions through the first six games of a season for the reigning TD pass leader since Ken Stabler was picked off 13 times to start the 1977 season.

Vinatieri sets NFL record with OT field goal

Adam Vinatieri connected on a 50-yard field goal to open the scoring in overtime on Monday. That was Vinatieri’s 10th overtime field goal of his NFL career, passing Jim Breech, Steve Christie, Jason Elam, and Jason Hanson for the most such field goals for any kicker.

2. Side Bar

In case you were wondering about that “fourth-quarterap_599972857381 fumble recovery” that Trumaine McBride of the Giants returned for a 63-yard touchdown on Sunday; it was changed to an interception on Monday. Aside from the implications for fantasy players, this means that Drew Brees became only the second player in NFL history to throw a pick-6 after having thrown at least six TD passes in the game. The first was Len Dawson of the Chiefs on Nov. 1, 1964; Tom Janik of Denver intercepted a Dawson pass and returned it 22 yards for a score.

In case you’re thinking, “C’mon, how many players even threw six touchdown passes in one game?” The answer is 42 – the answer is always 42.


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3. Those Dirty Lil’Nugget Nabbers

First we get the news that the Denver Broncos are serious about trying to win now.  They traded for Vernon Davis to upgrade their turr-able inside-slot passing game by getting a player that can still stretch the field, (for 2, 6th round draft picks) – opening it up for guys like Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.  Denver got Davis for a sack of coal – the kind Charlie Brown gets for Halloween.  Is there anyone left in SF that can/wants/should play football?!  Reggie Bush is out with a knee injury, Mike Davis, who the ‘9ers promoted to RB after releasing Jarrod Hayne, is out with a broken hand and the bigger news is Kaep’N’1read is being benched for…….wait for it……Blaine Gabbert.  Are you kidding me?!  Blaine Gabbert?!  It’s so bad in San Francisco their are rumors that Oakland is actually gonna stay and play in Santa Clara and the 49ers are the ones moving to LA.  To quote Socrates: “I drank what?!” – Jim Tomsula


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Here are the perfect lineups for week 8 in the #NFL

draftkings

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fanduel

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