Smith’s fourth season in the middle of the Jaguars’ defense was another good one.

He set a new career high with three picks on the year (one for a touchdown). He recorded 76 tackles (plus 26 assisted), one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, one sack and five passes defensed in the regular season.

In his fourth season with the Jaguars, Linder remains Jacksonville’s best (and most versatile) offensive lineman. He is vital to a team that has relied on its pass protection and running game in 2017.

The season sweep of the Panthers puts the Saints firmly in control of the NFC South race. But they still must face the Falcons twice, beginning with Thursday night’s game in Atlanta.

The Seahawks still are capable of beating anyone, as the triumph Sunday night over the Eagles demonstrated. Unfortunately for them, they haven’t looked like that consistently enough to believe with much conviction they can make a run through the entire NFC playoffs and reach another Super Bowl.

A small-school sleeper with top edge-rusher capabilities, Davenport has gradually gotten better in each of his seasons at Texas-San Antonio, and that maturation culminated with a 8.5-sack, 17.5-tackle-for-loss senior season for the 6-7, 255-pounder.

Jones was mostly bottled up against Ohio State, yet flashed his suddenness between the tackles on a few occasions. That outing doesn’t change an otherwise spectacular campaign for the junior with a bright NFL future due to his vision and explosiveness.

Kansas City Coach Andy Reid stuck with Alex Smith as the Chiefs’ starter at quarterback even during the 1-6 downward spiral that threatened to undo the team’s season. Reid resisted the temptation to switch to prized rookie Patrick Mahomes.

Wesley Johnson (available in 95.3 percent of leagues) has also played well in Jordan’s absence, with averages of 14.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks with 2.3 3-pointers during his past three games. chargers_072

The Minnesota Vikings are two wins away from becoming the first team ever to host the Super Bowl.

But first, they have to take care of business in the Divisional Round, and they got a tough opponent in the New Orleans Saints. This game begins at 4:30 p.m. ET on FOX (live streams at Fox Sports Go, Yahoo! Sports, and FuboTV).

The Vikings had one of their best regular seasons of the decade and won the NFC North with ease. They finished 13-3, their highest win total since that infamous 15-1 squad in 1998. Led by a crushing defense and surprisingly good play by Case Keenum, Minnesota steamrolled its competition for most of 2017.

In 2016, Stills worked with the Miami Dolphins and Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) to host a town hall meeting that brought influential local leaders together with law enforcement to discuss actionable steps that could be taken to address issues of racial inequality and unite the community.

Items that came from this meeting included a police ride-along program and CommUNITY tailgates, which bring local student-athletes, coaches, parents, community leaders, law enforcement and military personnel together at every Dolphins home game.

Peppers isn’t sure if he’ll be back on the field next season.

“I want to have some time to reflect and think about everything,” he said after the wild card loss. “Spend some time with my kids and see where my heart takes me.”

Carolina grabbed the running back-slash-receiver with the eighth overall pick in 2017. He quietly set a new franchise high for the most receptions ever by a rookie when he finished with 80 for 651 yards and five touchdowns. That’s particularly impressive for a player who’s listed on the roster as a running back.

Face it — not many actual wide receivers can make this one-handed snag look this easy.

His explosiveness made him a big-play threat in the passing game no matter where he lined up.

He wasn’t as effective in the run game. But he did enough to get Panthers fans excited about McCaffrey when he puts it all together.

Knowing Wilson, there’s no way, even for a good left tackle, he’d want Graham out. Graham was in Wilson’s 2016 wedding. Wilson went to the funeral of Graham’s manager and mentor in 2015.
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NFL senior VP of officiating advises against use of index cards

bengals_035NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron does not want to see any official use an index card to determine a first down again.

Referee Gene Steratore used an index card to determine whether the Cowboys had made a first down on a fourth-and-1 in their Sunday Night Football matchup with the Raiders. Social media exploded after the play, calling into question the odd way Steratore determined his measurement ruling.

It’s noteworthy that be on the same field as the Ravens’ his first postseason game.Houston sent Corey Brewer and a first-round draft pick to Los a trade for three weeks ago.Soundlessly, the gunman took aim through the basement window of the secluded bungalow Rankin shared Please confirm your details below.Via the ‘s Finder: A year later, father and first collided a professional ball game, and tried to get tossed.Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman has a pretty impressive resume with his 14 cup wins was named to the Order of Hockey Canada.They’re not at the point the Cowboys were 2014 where they can run it how they want it, whenever they want it, but this is by far the best the Titans have been at running the ball since at least 2013, and maybe the best the offensive line has been the game since 2009.To his credit, he graded 12th among tight ends 2012 at +12.That’s kind of a growing relationship.

Alyssa Lang of First Coast News reports that Jags fans have been shipping trash cans and trash bags to Houston’s NRG Stadium. The cans are addressed to Clowney, and some bear humorous messages. Of course, fans have been eager to share photos of their gifts and their “trash-talking” messages on social media.

One clever message noted, “Hi Jadeveon, wanted you to have something to sit on while you watch Bortles in the playoffs!”

Clowney refused to discuss his comment about Bortles Thursday. Bortles, however, had some fun with the remark Wednesday, noting, “If how we’re playing and how I’m playing, if that’s trash, then I’m fine with being trash.”

Bortles has taken his game to a new level in recent weeks. Against the Texans, he completed 21-of-29 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Thanks in large part to his play, the Jags (10-4) clinched their first playoff spot in a decade last weekend.

76ers: F J.J. Reddick missed the game with lower back tightness.

Coach Justin Fuente’s club has won three in a row since dropping a 31-17 decision to Clemson, including a 59-7 rout of a North Carolina team that pushed Miami to the brink before losing 24-19 last week.

“Justin Fuente has done a really outstanding job — not just a good job, a great job — of putting his team together,” Richt said of the Hokies coach who, like Richt, is in his second season with his current team. “He has got a great place to coach, and I’m sure he inherited some wonderful players.

This game has been a key matchup for both teams since they began competing against each other on a regular basis back in the 1990s when they were Big East colleagues. After losing the first 12 meetings, Virginia Tech won five in a row from 1995-99 to really ignite the rivalry that has continued since both joined the ACC for the 2004 season.

The Mavericks opened the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run and kept the game close, but couldn’t regain the lead in their final outing before a two-game road trip.

Dario Saric started in Reddick’s place and had 12 points in 29 minutes. … Philadelphia led 57-56 at halftime.

Mavericks: F Dirk Nowitzki had 11 points and recorded his 1,788th career 3-pointer in the third quarter, moving past Rashard Lewis for sole possession of 13th place on the NBA all-time list. … 76ers assistant coach Jim O’Brien served as the Mavericks lead assistant during the 2012-13 season. … Dallas had won 11 straight at home against Philadelphia heading into Saturday.

The Mavericks’ bench helped keep the game close as Ferrell, Barea, Devin Harris and Dwight Powell all had a positive plus-minus showing. Nowitzki, who played with the group most of the game, was the only starter with a positive plus-minus while on the floor. “Generally when those guys were in we were digging out of some kind of hole,” Carlisle said.
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Contrarian NFL betting strategy for Week 7

Yesterday, I went out to my car to head to work and was greeted with a thin coat of frost on my windshield. Fall is finally here! Although we aren’t expected to see any games in freezing temperatures any time soon, something that is perhaps even more important to the outcomes of NFL games is wind.

But Elliott will still play in Week 1 while the NFLPA awaits a ruling on its attempt to block a suspension. That won’t come until Friday:

Just got out of court and got phone back. NFL took position Ezekiel Elliott CAN play Sunday. Judge rules by 5 pm Friday on restraining order

Although Agholor has three top-15 fantasy weeks under his belt this year, he finished 47th or worse in the other three weeks. Agholor has been on the field for 73 percent of the team’s pass plays and is handling a 15 percent target share (5.0 per game). That isn’t enough to sustain high-end fantasy production, let alone flex value.

Tom Brady has been as sharp as ever, but a lackluster defense has the Patriots in a three-way tie atop the AFC East — right alongside the Jets. The 2017 season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for New York, but wins over the Dolphins, Jaguars, and Browns have pushed a depleted roster over .500 after five games. The Jets are still looking for a quality win after beating some low-octane teams; toppling the defending champions would certainly qualify.

Derek Carr returned from injury in Week 6, but he was limited to 21 completions on 30 attempts for 171 yards, one touchdown and a pair of interceptions. Carr has exactly one touchdown in three straight games (though one was the injury-shortened Week 4 outing), and hasn’t eclipsed 171 passing yards since Week 2. Despite Carr’s improvement in play over the past two years, his yards per attempt (7.0) were below league average both season.steelers_033

This strategy isn’t going to work well for Carolina.

The remade Celtics, with their collection of A-minus/B-plus max players, have a lot to prove before we bump them into the hallowed tier above. They were only a hair better than league average on defense last season, and they tossed away two ballhawks — Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder — in turning over 75 percent of their roster.

Rebounding will be an issue again, though Brad Stevens may deploy Aron Baynes as something of a utility glass-eating starter. Opponents shot just 33 percent from deep and 34 percent on corner 3s — the second-lowest marks in the league. How much of that was luck? We’ll see. Boston is stocked with huge wings; Gordon Hayward starts as the nominal shooting guard. If the team switches a ton, dial in on closeouts, and gang rebound, Boston will retain some of last season’s peskiness.

Touchdown, Panthers. After a 25-yard return from McCaffrey, a season-best, the Panthers need just four plays and less than two minutes to get into the end zone. Newton scores on a 16-yard touchdown run and Gano’s extra point is good. The Panthers lead 10-3 with 10:34 remaining in the half.

Panthers running backs have four carries for minus-8 yards after one quarter.

Eagles defense showing up once again today. Have given up just one touchdown on last 14 possessions going back to last week.

Tilman Fertitta called off shooting for his reality show, “Billion Dollar Buyer,” one day this summer because he felt sick. His attempt to buy the Houston Rockets — 24 years after he finished second in the bidding for the franchise — had taken a toll on him.ravens_121

Patriots fans finally have power to end Deflategate, but they probably won’t

This really, really, really is … not the end of Deflategate.

Nobody’s naive enough to believe it is. If nothing else, the next act was all but telegraphed last week in the annual state-of-the-NFL press conference.

Roger Goodell talked around the idea of visiting Gillette Stadium again, about avoiding it the last two years, about the protocol of a commissioner going to a game involving one of the 32 teams he oversees.

And now that the Patriots have won another Super Bowl — their second since the day the PSI may or may not have been too low — we know almost exactly when the next chance for Goodell to visit Foxborough will be. It will be the first Thursday of next season, the banner-raising, the ring ceremony … the event he skipped two years ago.

If he shows up, he’ll get booed back into the Stone Age. If he skips it again, the crowd will shame-chant him again.

Former Bear and Super Bowl champion Gary Fencik and NFLPA president Eric Winston kicked off the program, and were quickly followed by U.S. Women’s National Team soccer player Brandi Chastain and NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., who sat out much of the 2016 Cup Series season with concussion-related symptoms.

Said Springs, who played contact football for more than 20 years in high school, college and the NFL: “As we start to see the effects of football, we want to learn more. Why wouldn’t I give my brain to help with the research so people can become more educated and more aware?”

Although football has driven the national conversation about CTE, February as Brain Pledge Month is focused on expanding donations in other sports that involve frequent, repetitive blows to the head, such as soccer, hockey and lacrosse, as well activities related to military service.
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it’s not like his immediate durability is more questionable than that of Anderson.

That won’t fly under new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who is ready to ramp up the passing game. Dump-offs and other quick passes to backs in 2017 will be a much bigger part of what Denver does. In the running game, with McCoy and new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, the Broncos are transitioning from zone blocking to gap-based power blocking.

Both the passing attack and the run-blocking scheme fall in line with Charles’ strengths. The Broncos can’t afford to trust Booker in a bigger role or give Henderson too much of one early in his career. Charles is looking at a No. 2 role at worst as the preferred primary insurance to Anderson.

As Anderson and Booker adjust to an altered scheme and rebound from their respective adversities, Charles is an ideal, low-risk, high-reward signing. The only question mark regarding Charles’ production in Denver in a complementary role is health. But at this point, it’s not like his immediate durability is more questionable than that of Anderson.

Throughout the offseason, it had been uncertain whether the Broncos would go big and bold to address their backfield. It came down to being aggressive early in the draft and selecting either Christian McCaffrey or Dalvin Cook. They picked neither.

The knee-jerk reaction? Winner, Houston Texans. Winner, Bill O’Brien. Winner, Watson. Winner, winner, winner.

Houston has posted a 9-7 record three straight seasons with O’Brien while starting eight different quarterbacks, and Watson was the backup plan after the Texans couldn’t land Tony Romo in the aftermath of the Osweiler trade. Trubisky and Mahomes were top 10 picks, but Watson will have the most success among that group in 2017 and beyond.

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Cris Carter pledges to help Michael Floyd’s journey into recovery

Hall of Famer Cris Carter says he’s there for Michael Floyd and wants to be a mentor to the Vikings’ new receiver.

According to Twincities.com, Carter and Floyd spoke earlier about their shared history of battling alcohol abuse.

The former Alabama star, picked No. 8 overall by the Raiders in 2010, has had issues with substance abuse the past couple of years. The NFL suspended him four games during the 2015 season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, and he was suspended 10 games in 2016 for again violating that policy. Although he was eligible to return late last season, the Cowboys did not activate him.

Last December, the NFL suspended McClain indefinitely for missing a drug test, which the league views equivalent to a failed test.

McClain had signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Cowboys in March 2016.

Ogden reaching out to the NFL Trust paid relatively fast dividends. They got him a grant (from a fund named for longtime union executive director Gene Upshaw) to pay his rent, health insurance and bills for four months. The check arrived from the trust, he recalled, just as his aforementioned cars were about to be repossessed and his phone had been turned off. (He also got a health assessment through the trust and is keeping track of the post-career aches and the warning signs of degenerative brain disease.)

Long story short: It was.

Ogden, 36, whose older brother, Hall of Fame tackle Jonathan, was his Ravens teammate for two years, is in the middle of post-football career No. 2. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s married and has two daughters, he’s gotten football out of his system (he went to one last tryout in Vero Beach, Fla., for a CFL team last month, then called it quits) and, two years ago, he published a memoir, “Sleepless Nights,” with another in the works for next year.
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What will the San Francisco 49ers be thinking in the 2017 NFL Draft?

Yes. Even after Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett (presumably) goes No. 1 to the Browns, the 49ers would be reaching if they tried to jump on a quarterback. The team also is not in a luxury position to take another offensive skill player, and the best offensive linemen in this class aren’t worth such high picks.

Although a safety such as LSU’s Jamal Adams or Ohio State’s Malik Hooker wouldn’t be shocking, San Francisco’s choice should come down to a couple of defensive lineman, Stanford’s Solomon Thomas or Alabama’s Jonathan Allen. Thomas is a better scheme fit and has the better overall pass-rush potential wherever he lines up in the 3-4. GM John Lynch can kick off his drafting career with a fellow Cardinal product who can be a cornerstone.

But will any of these first-round series end in an upset? The consensus from our panel is no. The Clippers-Jazz matchup is the closest, but most of our voters believe Los Angeles will emerge. Even Houston-Oklahoma City, which is a competitive battle between top MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, is a series most believe the favorite will win.

That said, most of us are expecting these series to go long. Only a few of us predicted sweeps, even with the most lopsided of series.

The cliche is that leaders lead by example, but a leader’s true power comes from the authority that his subordinates grant him. There’s not much Chris Paul can do when he scores and scores, yet no one responds to his example. There’s not much that he can do when he forces turnovers even against bigger opponents, and his teammates turn around and give up easy buckets. There’s not much that he can do when he creates and his teammates miss great opportunities.
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