Falcons schedule 2018: Atlanta in good position to continue success

Playing in the NFC South has made the Falcons’ schedule tougher than most in recent years. Having to the face the NFC East and AFC North this season only adds to the difficulty level.

Atlanta was faced with a similarly tough slate in 2017 and came out 10-6. With the 13th toughest schedule based on last year’s records, the Falcons have to hope for that same bit of good fortune this year. The six games against the Saints, Panthers and Bucs don’t give much room for error, and having to play the Steelers, Eagles and Packers only adds pressure. Such a tough schedule makes games against teams like the Cardinals and Ravens even more critical.

Bottom line: The breaks are few and far between for Atlanta. From top to bottom, start to finish, there are tough matchups throughout the year. The Falcons are a great team in their own right, though, and despite having to play a number of playoff teams from a year ago and a few that could make a run this year, Atlanta should be in good position to continue its recent success. Record prediction: 11-5

The Capitals played their most physical game of the series, registering 39 hits and wearing down the Lightning in a 3-0 victory to force a Game 7 on Wednesday in Tampa.

“That’s one area where we have an edge is our size and physical play. Over the course of a seven-game series, it’s something we talk about. Take those opportunities. Don’t get out of position. Try to wear them down when we can,” said Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, who tied with forward Tom Wilson with a game-high six hits.

“It’s desperation, really. If you don’t win tonight, you’re not moving on. So you try to empty the tank as much as you can.”

The hitting didn’t necessarily determine the victor — T.J. Oshie’s power-play goal, two penalty kills against the Lightning and Braden Holtby’s 24-save performance for his first shutout of the season were more paramount — but it did alter what the Lightning did, as some apprehension and choppiness entered their offensive game. It was symptomatic of the Capitals’ overall play in Game 6, which exhibited more energy, speed and determination than their opponents could muster.

Jeremy Hill “jumped on a plane as quick as I could” when Patriots called

Running back Jeremy Hill said the Patriots were “the most well-prepared team” he faced while he was a member of the Bengals, which made it a pretty easy choice for him to sign once New England showed interest in him as a free agent.

Timmy Jernigan has also panned out, though more in Philly than Baltimore.

“During big moments in my career, the first guy I was looking for was Jason Witten. I knew where he would be and I knew he would get open and not once, not once did I ever go to him late in the game on a key down when he was one on one and him not deliver. He always came through. “In the playoffs in 2014, it was fourth down against the Lions in the fourth quarter… needing a touchdown to take the lead and being our last drive of the game we called a timeout. As I stood on the sideline deciding what play we wanted to call in the most pressure packed moment of our season, by brain wanted to call Y option.

Davante Adams was on track to bust until suddenly figuring things out in Year 3 and gradually supplanting a now-departed Jordy Nelson as Option No.

Adams can align in multiple places and win on slants, back-shoulders and fades—defining routes in Green Bay’s passing game.

He was taken a few picks ahead of Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry, which few will take umbrage with.

The only other man in this draft to become a long-term starter is Corey Linsley, who grabbed the job in August 2014 when J.C.

Townsend finished second among FBS players with a 47.5-yard gross average while kicking for the University of Florida during the 2017 season. He joins Colby Wadman on the Raiders roster at punter and one would imagine that the draft pick used on Townsend should earn him the inside lane in any competition that may take place in the coming months.

Townsend was the third punter to go during the fifth round with the Seahawks trading up to take Michael Dickson and the Packers taking former Alabama punter J.K. Scott one spot ahead of where the Raiders took Townsend.

What’s next for Avril?

It depends on how his rehab goes and whether or not he’s cleared to play. Avril said in January he’d like to play again.

I believe so, Avril told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche on The Aftermath. Right now it’s all about recovery. I had surgery. I’m in the process of recovering. It’s a long process, a long journey. When I get to the end of that, then I’ll figure out what’s next.

Latest Cheerleader Scandal Challenges NFL’s Hands-Off Policy More The NFL’s cheerleader problems are back. The New York Times reported Wednesday that cheerleaders for the Washington D.C. franchise were made to serve as escorts and pose topless for season ticket holders in Costa Rica in 2013. Earlier this year, a former New Orleans Saints cheerleader sued the team, saying she was improperly fired for posting a photo of herself online that the team deemed too revealing. These incidents follow lawsuits from several years ago from cheerleaders claiming wage theft over contracts that failed to pay cheerleaders minimum wage.

According to ESPN’s Field Yates, $8.26 million of Shazier’s $8.718 million was converted, which means he can receive the money immediately.

The move has no salary-cap implications, meaning it seems a goodwill gesture on the part of the organization.

Shazier is on the physically unable to perform list and will miss the entire 2018 season after suffering a spinal injury against the Cincinnati Bengals last season.

The only certainty about New England’s first round is there will be a dramatic twist, whether that’s selecting Jackson or something completely different with both picks.

The Patriots trade up twice. This happened in 2012, when they slid up from No. 27 to No. 21 to land Jones, and then from No. 31 to No. 25 to get Hightower. There’s a feeling the Patriots might pull off another blockbuster to reach the top 10 and take Mayfield, but they are more likely to make more subtle moves if there are one or two players they like at quarterback or a defensive position.

Punter trade! Giants acquire Riley Dixon from Broncos

Out of a job after Denver upgraded to Marquette King , punter Riley Dixon is on the move.

The Broncos traded Dixon to the Giants in exchange for a 2019 conditional seventh-round pick, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the situation.

Given that 30,000 attended Saturday afternoon’s Mets-Nationals game — in very cold weather — why did approximately only 12,000 attend Sunday’s Mets-Nationals? Could it be because it began at 8:08 p.m. on a 35-degree night, as per ESPN’s purchased orders? Was money — greed — not the determinant for such illogical scheduling?

Jaire Alexander, Louisville: His performance at the combine — particularly his 4.38 in the 40 — spiked his stock. His footwork and agility also opened eyes. But Alexander missed four games because of a knee injury early in 2017, and then dealt with a broken hand that caused him to miss two more games. So there’s risk coupled with his great skills.

JC Jackson, Maryland: When he was measured at the combine he wasn’t close to the 6-foot-1 he was listed at by Maryland. Couple that with some off-the-field issues, and his talent (40 tackles and three interceptions in 2017) may be overlooked. Jackson was kicked out of the Florida program in 2015 following an armed robbery charge (for which he was acquitted). Also, in 2014 Jackson was shot at — with a bullet grazing his eye lid — and a companion of his was shot in the face.

Kameron Kelly, San Diego State: He had 68 tackles with eight passes broken up, three interceptions and two sacks in 2017 after making five interceptions in 2016. His strong 2017 season earned him a Senior Bowl invitation.

Here is a small sampling of Internet reaction, including from Feely’s father — presumably the girl’s grandfather — adding context to the photo. He was a longtime high football coach and a certified teacher and counselor.

Fathers giving a hard time to and even subtly threatening the chosen dates of their teenage daughters is an age-old joke. But Feely’s photo sparked a social media uproar against the current climate of gun violence and gun control laws.

It is an especially sensitive subject when mixed with schools, with the recent 19th  anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre that killed 13 and injured 21 more, and only two months removed from the  Stoneman Douglas High School massacre that killed 17 and injured 17 more. steelers_121

76ers, Mavericks headed to China for NBA China Games 2018

The Process will be heading to China as the Philadelphia 76ers will face the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA China Games 2018.

The Mavericks and Sixers will meet twice in preseason contests, on Oct. 5 in Shanghai and Oct. 8 in Shenzhen. It will mark the first time the Mavericks and Sixers play in China.

“It will be an honor to be the first 76ers team to play in front of the amazing fan base in China in October,” he said.

Chris Herring, FiveThirtyEight: Thunder-Jazz presents a handful of star players, the most evenly matched teams and could easily go seven games. The teams haven’t played since Dec. 23, well before Rudy Gobert was back from injury, and before the Jazz swung a midseason trade that shipped Rodney Hood to Cleveland for Jae Crowder. In other words: We have no idea how these teams match up because these players haven’t really squared off yet.

Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Sixers vs. Heat. There’s something about watching an exciting young team make its maiden voyage into the tumultuous waters of the postseason. Remember the Thunder going punch for punch with the Lakers in 2010? The Sixers have been building for this moment for years, and they not only have the energy of youth but also the momentum of a 16-game winning streak propelling them into the series.

Prior to the Game 2 loss, Philadelphia had been 9-0 during Embiid’s recent absence. Sixers coach Brett Brown has said several times that the club missed Embiid badly in Game 2.

But Brown has stressed that Embiid — who averaged 22.9 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 63 games in the regular season — will not be rushed back if Philadelphia falls behind in the best-of-seven series against Miami.

“It’s about what’s best for Joel’s health,” Brown said earlier this week.

Embiid took “a little bit of contact” during practice on Tuesday, Brown said, although it seems as if he is unable to engage in full contact with defenders.

Brown acknowledged that Embiid’s conditioning will be less than 100 percent if and when he returns.

“Whenever the time comes when he does play, I think [his conditioning will improve] in a more rapid way. His body looks great,” the coach said. “If you just look at him physically, I think he looks fantastic. I feel like it will kick in quicker than most.”

Cardinals offer Jordan Matthews

Jordan Matthews visited the Patriots on Monday, but the receiver has an offer on the table from the Cardinals, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports.

In four seasons, Matthews has played 56 games with 43 starts. He has caught 250 passes for 2.955 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Matthews, 25, also recently visited Green Bay.

All eyes were on the Brewers-Cubs tilt Friday night after Milwaukee took a 4-2 lead. Josh Hader was called upon in the fifth to pick up Brandon Woodruff, suggesting he’ll remain in the Andrew Miller role and not step into the closer role while Corey Knebel is out. The Cubs tied the game, much to the chagrin of fantasy enthusiasts everywhere. Matt Albers did come into the deadlocked affair, earning the win, but the truth is Jacob Barnes tossed two innings on Thursday, so we wouldn’t get a real feel of the pecking order, if there is one, anyway. In fact, we might not see it until all the relievers are on equal rest, which might not transpire until early in the week.

GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. The “*” symbol means the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author’s ratings.

Butler spent the last three seasons with the Cowboys and caught 43 passes for 794 yards and six touchdowns. He opened his career as a Raiders seventh-round pick in 2013 and set a career high with 317 yards last season.

The Cardinals saw John Brown and Jaron Brown leave as free agents last month, leaving Larry Fitzgerald, J.J. Nelson and Chad Williams at the top of a thin receiving group.

Let’s start with a note of caution about this exercise. There are a couple of issues with evaluating coaches based on how much their teams exceed projections. First, for teams that retain most of their roster, to some extent coaching is baked into the projection. That is, if players performed better in the past because of their coaching, we’re already going to expect that to carry over.

Astros reveal World Series rings in Tuesday presentation

The Houston Astros unveiled their World Series rings in a presentation at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night before their game with the Baltimore Orioles.

On the top, the colors of the team, orange and blue, are topped by an H made up of 11 diamonds — one for each game the Astros had to win to claim the title.

The rings feature the Houston skyline on raised side panels, representative of Houston being raised up after the storm, team president Reid Ryan said. Our guys were playing for something bigger than themselves, Ryan said. Earned history. That mantra is also on the rings, as is Houston Strong.

Mets: CF Brandon Nimmo was back in the leadoff spot after getting scratched Sunday because of flu-like symptoms. … SS Amed Rosario was rested in favor of Jose Reyes. Rosario entered on defense in the seventh. … New reliever Anthony Swarzak was placed on the 10-day DL with a strained left oblique and expects to miss at least a few weeks. … Callaway said All-Star OF Michael Conforto (shoulder surgery) could come off the disabled list this week in Washington. New York begins a three-game series against the NL East rival Nationals on Thursday, the first day Conforto is eligible to be activated. He’s ready to go, Callaway said.

Phillies: RHP Aaron Nola pitches the series finale Wednesday afternoon, weather permitting. Nola won both his starts against the Mets last year. He was pulled with a 5-0 lead after only 68 pitches Thursday night in Atlanta, and the Braves rallied for an 8-5 victory.

Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard (1-0) struck out 10 in six innings while beating St. Louis 9-4 on opening day. He is 4-1 with a 1.78 ERA in six career outings against the Phillies.

While Meredith may depart this offseason as a restricted free agent, Chicago already added the No. 1 free-agent option at the position in Allen Robinson. The Bears also gave former Philadelphia Eagles tight end Trey Burton a four-year, $32 million deal to serve as an underneath target for Trubisky.

However, none of that guarantees improvement by Trubisky in 2018. Robinson tore his ACL in Week 1 and missed the remainder of the 2017 season. Burton may have been one of the heroes of Super Bowl LII, but he has only 629 total receiving yards over his four-year career.

Trubisky will be under pressure to take a big step forward as a sophomore, especially given his improved cadre of pass-catchers. However, the new-and-improved Chicago passing game is anything but a sure bet.patriots_016

Julius Peppers set to become only defensive er with $160 million in career earnings

Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers put pen to paper today on a contract that puts him over an impressive career threshold.

Peppers has made $159 million in his career, and he’ll be over $160 million in career earnings this season. He’s the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history.

Among the highest-paid ers in NFL history, only Peppers and Larry Fitzgerald ($151 million) have made it into the Top 15 ing any position other than quarterback.

It’s a two-year, $36 million deal, with all $36 million guaranteed for injury. Of that amount, $25 million is fully guaranteed.

That’s an average of $18 million, matching the average value of Blake Bortles‘ deal in Jacksonville. But Keenum is committed for only two years. So if he has a solid 2018 in Denver, the Broncos may feel compelled to extend the contract before getting into the franchise-tag dance in 2020.

The contract also includes a total of $2 million in incentives, tied to team achievements not individual performance.

Stanton was hit the fifth inning on Thursday, but was ruled to have swung at the pitch.17 retired at Field.Early indications, however, are that Ealy can’t come close to providing the type of impact needed at defensive end.what can we take from thisBottom of the 11th inning a winner-take-all Game 5, and a veteran closer averaging 35 saves over the last four seasons is ready and waiting but doesn’t get the call.

That included his game of the against Arizona, where he had five solo tackles resulting defensive stops, giving him a Run Stop Percentage of 17%.Stainthorp: We put up curtains at one end of the arena to keep the glare off the ice.She said each morning she asks the Lord, What is assignment todayIf Borgata can prove Portis knew he didn’t have such money, then the debts would be non-dischargeable.It does bear pointing out that pulling this move off would require some crafty salary cap work on the Texans’ end.

According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, Seahawks tight end Luke Willson is visiting the Panthers.

Panthers backup Ed Dickson is among the tight ends visiting the Seahawks as they look for a Jimmy Graham replacement.49ers_072

Derek Jeter understands frustrations of’unpopular’ moves

“And even though there have been some unpopular decisions, every decision we make is to make the Miami Marlins organization the best organization, a first-class organization, from the players to the front office to our fans,” Jeter continued. “This is an organization that will be in envy of other major league franchises over time. I’m learning that you have to have some patience, because nobody wants it to happen sooner than I do, but we will have to have some patience.

In terms of cancer or him knowing he has tumors or him knowing that’s why he has chemo, he has no idea about all that stuff, Lexi told the Globe.

Watkins will be just 25 years old next season and brings a unique brand of playmaking ability few other receivers can match. Though Watkins’ impact in LA may not have shined through on the stat sheet, he made his limited touches count for a division champion.

Skating on a top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist, Bertuzzi collected three assists in Monday’s 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks. He also logged nearly 20 minutes of ice time. In that spot, the 23-year-old rookie has the potential to finish up strong on a team already looking forward to what’s next.

The Phillies, who finished last in the NL East at 66-96 a year ago and haven’t posted a winning season since 2011, have been among MLB’s most active spenders in a slow market. They signed first baseman Carlos Santana to a $60 million deal in December and spent a combined $34.25 million on veteran relievers Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek.

With that said, it’s rare for even a capable left tackle to reach free agency.

Trumaine Johnson, CB* Headed to: New York Jets | Age: 28 News: Johnson to sign with Jets Johnson earned $30.7 million while playing under the Rams’ franchise tag over the past two seasons.

He was a reliable starter, but he didn’t approach his seven-interception performance of 2015 — he had just one in 2016 and two in 2017 — and has yet to make a Pro Bowl.

More than just good through 21 AHL appearances since the fall –.942 save percentage, 1.95 goals-against average — Hutchinson sports fantasy value in deeper leagues and DFS play as the Jets likely lean toward giving their No. 1 a bit of rest in their final few games.

McDaniels was being reported as a finalist for the position as early as Jan. 14.

Temperatures and wind chill in the 20s Thursday morning couldn’t keep throngs of Eagles fans from lining Philadelphia streets for the team’s Super Bowl championship parade.

Schools and government buildings, along with businesses, shut down for the affair, which celebrates the Eagles’ first Super Bowl title, a stunning 41-33 victory over the Patriots on Sunday.

The parade began at Broad Street and Pattison Avenue and concluding at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (a.k.a. “the Rocky steps”).

When the parade was over, the players came down the steps in celebration, many of them holding their phones and cameras out to video the crowd.

To the contrary, they spoke collectively and individually after the big win Sunday over the Patriots about how unified they were as a team, along various fronts, at the exact same time some of them confirmed that they had no intention of being “honored” at the White House or of curtailing their activities, much less stopping them.

The lesson, then, should be that in groups as random as the hundred or so personalities in an NFL locker room, everyonehave different views and varied levels of engagement with society and the larger world outside of football … and still coalesce in the game that not only pays them well, but also constantly demands so much physically, mentally and emotionally.

“A quarterback going out on a route?” Foles told reporters after the game. “I was pumped to go over there and talk to Doug [Pederson], and we agreed on it. Like I said, we worked on it for a long time, and we executed it perfectly. That’s probably the best it has looked. So, we hit it at the right time.”

The Colts fired Chuck Pagano on Dec. 31. That was 37 days ago. That was 23 days ago. Obviously McDaniels had other matters to consider during that time. As the Patriots’ OC, it was his job to conjure ideas on how to move the ball past the Titans and the Jaguars and ultimately, though not quite successfully enough, the Eagles.

So the question of whether to leave New England to take over the Colts could not consume his waking hours, but let’s not be coy about this. It’s obvious that wasn’t necessary. He had made up his mind. The Colts stopped searching weeks ago. They were required, under league rules, to wait until the Patriots were finished losing to the Eagles before making it official.nike-youth-cardinals-037