NFL playoff picture: Wacky NFC seeding mirrors unpredictable start to season

It’s still early in the 2017 NFL season, but with the halfway point just around the corner, it’s time to see which teams’ strong starts have them positioned to make the playoffs.

What stands out in our first look at the NFL playoff picture this year is the fact that the AFC field looks similar to that of last season, minus disappointing Oakland (2-4). As for the NFC, things are totally out of whack, as four new teams are making strong cases to crash the postseason party.

No. 2 seed — Steelers (4-2): First place, AFC North. That was a big win in Kansas City to make the Steelers feel like they’re back near the top of the AFC after last week’s Jaguars debacle. Feeding Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown like that can win them a ton more games. Winning the division has become easier with Baltimore fading fast.

Notably, running back Ezekiel Elliott had 125 yards on the ground for the Cowboys. They need him to be good in Sunday’s game, too. Through four games, Elliott has 277 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. Prescott has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 941 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions.

Rodgers has completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 1,146 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions in four games this season. They’ve had a lot of trouble getting the running game going, with Ty Montgomery leading the team with 46 carries for 152 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Green Bay has won its past two games, dominating the Chicago Bears in their last outing and beating the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-24 prior to that. Their lone loss on the year came to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2.

Dallas is 2-2, having lost to the surprisingly decent Los Angeles Rams in their last outing. That was a close game, but the Denver Broncos completely dominated them in Week 2. Their wins are over the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals.sabres_009

Ezekiel Elliott Jersey suspension and appeal, explained

On Aug. 11, the NFL finally announced a six-game suspension for Ezekiel Elliott to start this season, after an investigation spanning more than a year. The suspension stems from domestic violence allegations made against Elliott in July 2016.

A woman who identified herself as Elliott’s ex-girlfriend filed a police report claiming Elliott had been abusive over the course of five days in July 2016. She filed two separate reports with the Columbus Police Department. Witnesses who claimed to have been present did not corroborate her statements, and police and prosecutors decided not to bring charges against Elliott.

Elliott filed an appeal, as expected. The NFL and NFLPA are publicly at odds over this situation, and this thing could drag on for some time.

The NFL also reviewed forensic photographic evidence and consulted with two medical experts to determine the timeframe in which Elliott’s accuser’s injuries were likely to have occurred. The NFL said in its letter to Elliott that on three occasions the medical experts agreed photographs of the woman’s injuries looked “recent and consistent” with her version of what happened.

Baby steps. None of this is to suggest that Brissett makes Andrew Luck irrelevant. It’s the Colts we’re talking about here, so Brissett’s main contribution was not being part of Authentic Dan Skuta Jersey the problem, at least early in the game. He didn’t turn the ball over and managed the game effectively. Plus, he wasn’t a statue in the pocket, giving the beleaguered offensive line some help by being able to scramble outside the Prince Amukamara Youth Jersey pocket when he needed to.

This is from our high school scouting report on Fournette.

During a recent track meet, the St. Augustine star posted a 100m time of 10.68, absolutely elite for a running back of his size, which gives him the speed to break long runs to the outside — he’s not just a downhill, between-the-tackles runner.

As a result, arm tackle attempts are not nearly enough at the high school level to bring down Fournette, in part because he does a good job in traffic of getting low and behind his pads to present the smallest possible tackling surface, a key trait to possess for a tall running back. Whether low or high, it’s extremely difficult to bring him down, a big part of the reason why he scored a touchdown roughly once every six touches as a junior.
As destructive as his power is, his agility’s pretty good, too. He had a poor NFL Scouting Combine in some ways, but he also further demonstrated he’s a huge dude who can move, which is a definite good thing.

This would be the unfortunate intersection of a quarterback-hungry league and a weak crop of passers. Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, and Mahomes have emerged as the most desirable of the bunch, but none looks like a bonafide building block for a struggling franchise. The scarcity of their position may push them into the first round, but teams could exercise patience when it comes to flawed prospects.

The bigger revelation from McShay’s rumor may be that another quarterback has usurped Kizer’s place in the pecking order. The Notre Dame product was once thought to be neck and neck with Trubisky and Watson as the draft’s top passer. Now, he may struggle to crack the top five.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player in Bucks-Raptors.

There are many good and smart reasons that you can think of for why the Toronto Raptors will beat the Milwaukee Bucks. There’s one reason to think they won’t, and that one exhibited itself in the Bucks’ 97-83 Game 1 win: they don’t have the best player on the floor.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was incredible on both ends of the floor as Milwaukee stole Saturday’s game on Toronto’s home floor. Let his stat line do the talking: 28 points on 13-of-18 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one emphatic block.

Magloire recorded 153 tackles, 112 of them solo, with 9 1/2 tackles for loss and 2 1/2 sacks in his two seasons with the Wildcats. But he went from someone off most people’s radars to the talk of the town in St. Petersburg, Fla., with an excellent week at the East-West Shrine Game in January.

With Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards as the West team’s head coach and Cardinals linebackers coach Larry Foote as his position coach, Magloire had a great week of practice and then shined during the game.

“Being around those coaches and scouts was productive and really helped me play better that whole week,” Magloire said. “One thing it showed was that I can pick up an NFL system fast and show how tough I am — running through gaps and putting my hands on linemen and making big hits.”

Foote actually put Magloire through his drills at Arizona’s pro day, where he posted a 4.68-second 40-yard dash and an impressive 25 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, leaving scouts with “a happy face.” The Cardinals then brought him in for a private workout, as did the Buccaneers.

Their supporting cast is quite talented

Get ready to hear the names of Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers for a long time. The pair emerged this season as an offensive threat worthy of mention. Scheifele especially, who has 76 points in 73 games to lead the Jets offense as a 24-year-old.

Their supporting cast is quite talented, too, with the likes of Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien, Bryan Little, and Mathieu Perreault playing big parts in making the Jets offense the eighth-deadliest in the NHL this season.

Add some college hockey standouts in Andrew Copp and Kyle Connor to the mix, and Winnipeg’s offense has never been deeper in this incarnation of the franchise.

The slot WR on the line of scrimmage (second WR from the bottom) is ineligible to catch a pass (because the bottom WR is on the line; here’s more on that rule). This is a formation you run the ball out of, and OSU’s willingness to cancel out one of its WRs makes that fairly transparent, but the unbalanced design can make it hard for defenses to handle the run concepts. Oklahoma struggled all night with this set.

Indiana, on the other hand, tended to rely on normal spread formations, execution, and attacking the appropriate part of the field.

With “Fleck to [Insert P5 School]?” rumors taking up more and more oxygen, the Broncos remained focused and welcomed ESPN College GameDay to Kalamazoo. (The signs were good, too.) Their reward: a trip to the Cotton Bowl and a competitive loss to Wisconsin.

Fleck left. That’s what happens. He’s at Minnesota, though from an WMU perspective, all that matters is what’s next.

After taking a flyer on a relative unknown last time, the school elected to go with a familiar face. At least, to WMU fans.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is still trying to recover from a nagging hamstring injury

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant has a back injury but practiced on Thursday and is expected to play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Bryant has missed just one game since the start of the 2011 season. Fellow Cowboys receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) missed another practice and his status is uncertain for Sunday. Cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring) missed practice as well.

The Eagles got good news on Thursday with wide receiver Riley Cooper returning to practice after missing Wednesday with an illness, and he’s expected to play against the Packers on Sunday. All the better for quarterback Nick Foles if he wants to throw another seven touchdowns.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is still trying to recover from a nagging hamstring injury, and it will likely keep him out of action for another week, as he is officially listed as doubtful for the team’s Week 10 game against the Green Bay Packers. One week removed from Nick Foles tossing seven touchdown passes against the Oakland Raiders, Vick’s chances at starting for the Eagles were slim anyway, and it’s possible that he spends the season on the sideline, injured or not.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder left the team’s Thursday night victory over the Washington Redskins early with a non-throwing shoulder injury that was revealed to be a dislocation on Friday. Despite the injury, Ponder believes he’ll be able to play in the team’s Week 11 game against the Seattle Seahawks. Head coach Leslie Frazier was noncommittal about the possibility of Ponder returning so soon, but said that it was a possibility if the third-year quarterback could return to practice by Thursday. If not, the team will likely turn to Matt Cassel rather than Josh Freeman.

The Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels are set to play games at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena where flags were flown on Sunday.

Four years, $32.5 million for Britt, who posted his first 1,000-yard season at age 29. The good news for the Browns is that he did that with Case Keenum and Jared Goff throwing him the ball, so he should get better QB play even with the Browns’ relatively low standards in that department.

What makes this deal a bad one is that it likely means the Browns are moving on from Terrelle Pryor. They reportedly balked at a rate starting at $10 million per season, but they also spurned one of the few players who expressed a desire to play in Cleveland, not to mention a 27-year-old talented receiver who posted his own first 1,000-yard season with the Browns rotating cast of signal callers.

It’s a three-year, $15 million deal, which could end up being one of the biggest steals in free agency this year. It gives Carson Wentz a veteran speedster at a fraction of the cost it would’ve taken to land DeSean Jackson.

The NCAA, which moved the games to South Carolina from North Carolina because of the discriminatory, anti-LGBT law dubbed House Bill 2 — “HB2” for short — released a statement about the matter. Dan Gavitt, the body’s senior vice president of basketball, said that the league is committed to assuring that their events are safe and accessible to everyone.

“No symbols that compromise that commitment will be permitted to be displayed on venue property that the tournament controls,” Gavitt said. “Freedom of speech activities on public property in areas surrounding the arena are managed by the city of Greenville and we are supportive of the city’s efforts.”

The Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels are set to play games at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena where flags were flown on Sunday. The group at the parking structure waving the flag did so from the back of a pickup truck. The group told the Associated Press that their goal was to make their presence known to the NCAA.23

Dan Quinn is 19-13 in the regular season and 1-0 in the playoffs as coach of the Falcons

You might argue that McCarthy was unlucky to lose the coin toss and have his defense give up a season-ending touchdown within three plays from scrimmage after his decision to kick the extra point, that it was the worst possible outcome for his decision. That’s fair. It’s also fair to say he got the best possible outcome for making the same sort of bizarrely conservative mistake again last Sunday against the Cowboys.

Again, playing as an underdog on the road, McCarthy’s team took an early lead before beginning to scuffle in the second half. The Packers failed to score on two consecutive drives, which was enough to let Dallas back into the game for what turned into a 28-28 tie with 4:12 left. A pass-interference penalty set up the Packers on the Cowboys’ 35-yard line with 1:52 to go. The Cowboys had all three of their timeouts, but with Rodgers at the helm, the Packers could move further into field goal range, burn off significant clock or force Dallas to use their timeouts.

Somehow, they ended up with the worst of all three worlds. Instead of trusting their MVP-caliber quarterback to make plays and keep the ball in bounds, the Packers turned their offense over to Ty Montgomery, who ran the ball twice for a combined loss of 3 yards. Faced with third-and-long, Rodgers ended up throwing a deep incomplete pass on a play where there was no outlet for a short gain to make Mason Crosby’s field goal any easier, with three of the four receivers running 15-plus yards downfield.

There are players in this system with viable cases to be in the global top 100 but struggle to crack Atlanta’s top 10. They just took Ian Anderson third overall in the draft and he couldn’t even crack their top six.

Who deserves credit for the Cowboys’ success on offense? Ezekiel Elliott? Dak Prescott?

Who deserves credit for the Cowboys’ success on offense? Ezekiel Elliott? Dak Prescott? The offensive line? If only it were that simple.
But analytics long ago debunked the idea that you need to run to set up the pass-and besides, even the worst teams in the league rush more than 20 times Kyle Rudolph Authentic Jersey a game, so you especially don’t need to run to set up fake handoffs.

It starts with good health, as a season-low three players were listed on the club’s initial injury report of the week. The high mark for the injury report was 14 players in Week 6. Belichick has spoken at length about the Patriots’ good health, which has surprised some given his general reluctance to discuss injuries.

Meanwhile, quarterback Tom Brady Lestar Jean Authentic Jersey is playing at an otherworldly level since returning from a four-game suspension to open the season, making up for lost time by putting his name in the midseason discussion for Most Valuable Player honors.

Optimism is high in New England, as it’s been popular sports-talk radio fodder to look at the final eight games and pick out potential losses. Sunday night’s home game against the Seahawks has been highlighted by some as one of the team’s toughest remaining games.

How can it be anyone other than Brady at this point? According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Brady is just the third player in NFL history with at least 12 touchdown passes and no interceptions in a player’s first four games of a season, joining Peyton Manning (2013, 16 TD/0 INT) and Don Meredith (1966, 14 TD/0 INT).

Some more Brady dominance: Despite missing the first four games, he leads the NFL in completion percentage (73.1), yards per attempt (9.8), passing touchdowns per game (3.0 avg.) and total QBR (91.3).

In pressure situations, he’s also executing at a significantly higher level than the NFL average when it comes to completion percentage. In the red zone, he’s at 83.3 percent (league average 56.8), in the fourth quarter it’s a 79.2 clip (league average 62.5) and on third down it’s 77.1 percent (league average 59.8).

Now, play-action is based on faking out the opposition. So if you use it more frequently, won’t its effectiveness decline? Well, yes. Eventually, defenders will stop biting on false handoffs, and linebackers will keep clogging the middle of the field rather than rushing toward the line of scrimmage. But until the advantage of play-action erodes completely, it makes sense to keep trying. A team hasn’t optimized its offense until the gains from various play types are equal-until there’s no reason to switch from one to another.

Washington hired Dusty Baker on Tuesday to become the franchise’s sixth full-time manager

After being unable to reach the postseason this past, the Nationals dismissed manager and informed their entire coaching staff that their contracts would not be renewed. Washington hired Dusty Baker on Tuesday to become the franchise’s sixth full-time manager. Now that a skipper is place, the Nationals put together their coaching staff. However, changing the coaching staff can only do so much. The Nationals need to improve their roster — especially Justin Britt Authentic Jersey the bullpen, which faltered when it faced teams like the Mets July and. We are going to investigate all those things after the when we do our postseason analytics on what went wrong, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. Suffice to say, no one is more disappointed than I am about the way the transpired. Stay tuned, it could be interesting. Rotation: With Zimmermann and Fister expected to leave, look for and Tanner Roark to fight for rotation spots. Giolito, the Nationals’, is expected to be big league camp for the first time next year. He could get a to be the rotation. Could the Nationals sign another free agent like they did when they signed Max Scherzer January? It’s possible. Keep mind that Greinke is expected to opt out of his contract with the Dodgers after the World Series. The Nationals had a to acquire Greinke after the 2010, but he accepted a trade to the Brewers instead. Bullpen: It was the weakest link this past and it be overhauled. Expect Storen to be traded; the team has told him three times during his career it doesn’t trust him as a closer. Papelbon could be gone, too, because of his dugout altercation with Bryce Harper. So look for the Nationals to acquire a closer. If the Nats want a player like Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis, they likely have to give up a lot. They do have some jewels the bullpen. Rivero and Treinen were used important situations. Treinen must learn K.J. Wright Authentic Jersey to get left-handed hitters out. Stammen, who missed most of the because of a forearm injury, is expected to be healthy next. The Nationals missed him as a long and setup. Carpenter could be a valuable setup if his shoulder holds up. Catcher: Ramos has caught three no-hitters during his career, but privately, the team was not happy with his overall performance this year. He had his poorest as a hitter and he had problems catching throws from the outfield. Some have even questioned his game-calling. Could the Nationals try to acquire another starting catcher? It’s possible. Wieters is a free agent and his agent, Scott Boras, has a great relationship with the Nationals’ front office. Lobaton is a solid backup and Gio Gonzalez ‘s personal catcher. Lobaton’s pitch-framing skills are elite. First base: Zimmerman be the starter with Clint Robinson as the backup. The question is, can Zimmerman stay healthy? He hasn’t played 100 a since 201He plans to change his workout routine — not lift as weights as he did the past. If he can’t stay healthy, Robinson can fill and provide some power. Second base: When he was healthy, Rendon saw a lot of time at second, but the Nationals feel his future is at third base. That would mean the Nationals would have to do something about Yunel Escobar, who was a solid hitter, but a below-average defender at the position. Who play second is anyone’s guess at this point. Espinosa showed he was no longer easy out and could reclaim the position next year. He’s also still one of the best defensive second basemen the game. That alone would help him reclaim his starting spot at second base Shortstop: is not expected to be back 2016, so the job belongs to Trea Turner, who is the Nationals’ No. 2 prospect. In his short time with the club, he showed he could play the position and is a career.322 hitter the Minors. Third base: After Harper, Escobar was Washington’s best hitter, and he ended up having the best of his career. His defense was another story. He doesn’t have the range that Zimmerman or Rendon had at the position. Hit a slow roller to Escobar, it’s almost a given the runner beat it out. It would not come as a surprise if Escobar is used as trade bait order to get another pitcher. If that happens, Rendon would be back at third base. Outfield: With Span expected to be gone, the Nationals need a leadoff hitter. If they can’t find one, look for Werth to be first the order. He hit.318 with a.388 on-base percentage while hitting the leadoff spot this past. Going into the, the outfield be Harper right field, center and Werth left. However, Werth had his poorest as a member of the Nationals. It didn’t help that he had to deal with shoulder and wrist injuries. is excellent defender, but needs to improve his batting average. For now, seems best to hit near the bottom of the order.