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NHL Hockey News

This game could decide which team wins this year’s titles.

Wilkins completed a Hail Mary to Kyle Williams on the final play of the first half, a play initially ruled short of the goal line by the officials.

Back when that was announced — back when it became clear they had let him play the last three games of 2016 with a developing rotator cuff tear — the question was asked: Do the Panthers even like Cam Newton? With the Panthers sending away Benjamin, flaws and all, someone explain why that question shouldn’t be asked.

The Panthers are one loss behind the Saints in the NFC South, and one win ahead of next week’s opponent, the defending NFC champion Falcons. How they got better in their quest to overcome both of them is terribly unclear.

“Terribly unclear” should be the team slogan. Newton recognized it Sunday. The Panthers reinforced it Tuesday by giving him a lesser team to be optimistic about.

“That turned our season around and ultimately, really, our program. We never looked back from that point for a long, long time. I really think that was one of the signature wins in the series without a doubt.

“After that, we have had a lot of battles with these guys.”

Over the past 17 meetings, the Hokies have won nine, the Hurricanes eight, but more significantly, the Hokies have won six Coastal Division and four ACC titles since the league split in 2005. The Hurricanes are still looking for their first division and conference crowns.

The victor will have a leg up in the division race, especially if it is Miami. A win over the Hokies would make the Hurricanes only undefeated team in the conference and would give them a two-game lead over the Hokies in the division race plus the advantage in any potential tiebreaker with the Hokies.patriots_116

It’s a long season, so teams rely on sunflower seeds, gum and funny faces to keep them sane.

We rank their antics to determine which postseason clubs you should want to spend four weeks in a meta-relationship with.

Whether you’re a future Hall of Famer, a relative nobody or even a relief pitcher, you could be holding a bat on your shoulder as the other team celebrates a world championship. We did the math to find out who is most likely to be this year’s goat.

Playing because of injuries to Miami’s other quarterbacks, Pederson started for what proved Dolphins head coach Don Shula’s record-setting 325th career victory in 1993.

What happened? Signed after backup Ty Detmer was lost to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury during the 2000 preseason, Pederson was thrust into action after Tim Couch broke his thumb. Pederson could only muster one win in eight starts for what proved the league’s lowest-scoring offense at 10.1 points a game. Incidentally, Pederson’s first game as an NFL head coach came when he guided Philadelphia to a 2016 season-opening win against … Cleveland.

If I get Antetokounmpo or Davis with my first pick, it’s unlikely that I can get Jokic in Round 2. The only scenario where this makes sense is if I’m in a 10-team league and Davis slides to pick seven or eight and Jokic is still there at pick 13 or 14. Jokic has an ADP of 13.9, so this is the range he’s going in, but it’s not a reach to see him going a pick or two earlier than that. Like Antetokounmpo and Davis, Jokic positively impacts virtually all the categories — including assists — but what sets him apart is for him to do that as a center. Only 22, he averaged 16.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG and 4.9 APG in under 28 minutes a game in his second year in the league last season. Continued improvement and more minutes are expected for this rising star in 2017-18.

For Michael Vick, Falcons and Atlanta, a Super chance for closure

Imagine living in a world where Michael Vick, Atlanta and the Falcons are of one mind, heart and soul. Where they are at peace and in harmony with each other, where the embrace is given and returned equally. Where there is closure, forgiveness, acceptance, redemption and full reunion.

It has been a while. But it could happen. In Vick’s view, it’s almost there, closer than it ever has been, after all three traveled the rockiest of roads to get here.

If the Falcons beat the Patriots and win the Super Bowl on Sunday, the franchise, the city, the fans and the most dominant, singularly identifiable, yet most polarizing player in team history, will come “full circle.”

Those are his words, from his lengthy Players’ Tribune first-person story this week, one of two detailed musings on his life’s journey as the Super Bowl approached.

Like with Quinn when he split for Atlanta following Super Bowl 49, Shanahan won’t be around having to clean up the mess left behind.

No team that lost in the Super Bowl has returned the following year since the Bills of the early 1990s — and none of them blew it nearly as badly as the Falcons. The tight-knit “brotherhood” Falcons players built will be tested when looking back at an offense that imploded on its final possession and defense that couldn’t keep Brady and Co. out of the end zone on New England’s final two drives.

WATCH: Brady’s postgame comments

“He tears people’s hearts out,” Patriots defensive end Chris Long said of Brady. “He just did it again tonight.”

And in the process, he broke the heart of a team that couldn’t do what Quinn had preached to his players at halftime.texans_097

The young defender saved his best for the Badgers’ most important games

“Looks the part. Has NFL pedigree with both older brothers in the NFL. Has great length. Is a plus athlete who tested very well in Indianapolis. Has shown ability to use hands to defeat blockers. Has the lower-body flexibility to bend around the corner. Has shown hip fluidity in coverage. Makes creative plays against the run. Made big plays in big games.” — Read More at Bucky’s 5th Quarter

The young defender saved his best for the Badgers’ most important games, playing a huge role for a team that won three games against top-10 competition in 2016. Watt exploded for 2.5 sacks against then-No. 8 Michigan State, had 11 tackles, including a pair for losses, against then-No. 4 Michigan, and added a sack and forced fumble in the Big Ten Championship Game against then-No. 7 Penn State.

His penchant for big plays — and last name — made him something of a known commodity, but his showing at the NFL combine made him a first-round pick. Watt rated out among the event’s top linebackers across five different drills, ranging from vertical leap to the 3-cone drill. His 128-inch broad jump was longer than top tailback prospects like Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey. His 20-yard shuttle outclassed most of the Combine’s wide receivers.

“We did a lot of role playing to prepare for what the combine interviews entailed,’’ Fisher said. “I asked those combine questions of players for the last 30 years. So, I was able to guide him through that, press him some, come harder with him.

Fisher said Garrett as a pass-rushing specialist has a natural knack and feel for it, that he keeps his pad level correct and hand use effective. He said Garrett is a technician at it, that he studies opponents and quarterbacks.

Women have played college football before, but Becca Longo might be the first on scholarship

College football has had a few women play kicker over the years, but Becca Longo might be the first one to sign a National Letter of Intent and arrive on scholarship.

Longo signed an LOI with Division II Adams State, in Colorado, on Wednesday. She’ll be a kicker on the football team and also play basketball there.

AZCentral reported Longo’s coach introduced her at her signing ceremony “as the first girl in the country to sign a college football letter of intent for a program in NCAA Division I or II.” That indicates the LOI is for football, not hoops.

It’s been more than a decade since the last one, but there have been several female kickers to come through the college game. It’s difficult to say anything with certainty about students’ financial-aid packages over the years, but I don’t think anybody else has signed an LOI, as Longo’s coach indicated. The women who have kicked for college teams in the past have been walk-ons.

Adams State went 2-8 last season and was 5 of 8 on field goals as a team. The Grizzlies play in D-II’s Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

The rationale given by the NCAA as to why this isn’t happening immediately is simple. While big schools with big budgets could add an assistant tomorrow and be fine, other schools with smaller budgets would rather plan ahead:

If the effective date is amended to occur to the conclusion of the 2017 football season, member institutions will have the opportunity to budget for the addition of a full-time countable coach and associated costs related to recruiting. In addition, a delayed effective date will better fit the hiring timeline for a football staff and will not require readjustments following the spring practice period.

What the hell happened to the Texans???

After the stunt they pulled with DeMarcus Cousins at the trade deadline, the Kings’ reputation has been tarnished. They’ll need to overpay lesser prospects to build their credibility again.

Sacramento is in position to be a player in free agency if it renounces the rights to Tyreke Evans ($15M cap hold) and Darren Collison ($9.9M). Ntilikina is a fundamentally sound playmaking guard who has impressed in limited time in France. Signing and building around the lanky floor general could be the beginning of change in Sacramento.

The whole situation is reminiscent of another Redskins great: Sean Taylor. Sean was notoriously terse with the media. He didn’t trust them. He thought their mission was to bring people down, and he was known around DC as a guy who would talk to a fan for half an hour at a gas station, but wouldn’t give Jason La Canfora a sound bite.

Taylor might have figured out that scandal and tension generate revenue for TV shows, newspapers, talk radio, and websites. If you don’t give them a scandal, they’ll find one if you’re good enough. For as big a blazing ball of talent as Sean Taylor was, we knew very little about him until after he died, when Colin Cowherd and Michael Wilbon went out of their way to prove that he was right all along.

A brief word about Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone suffices to make the NFC North make sense.

And in the AFC South . . . wait a minute. What the hell happened to the Texans???

With apologies to the Falcons (whose defensive problems, at least, were pretty easy to forecast), the Texans are the less-than-proud owners of 2017’s most shocking breakdown. And a breakdown of that magnitude deserves its own breakdown — an in-depth look at both sides of the ball that incorporates advanced stats, player metrics and the good old Eyeball Test yield five key insights on how things went so wrong, so fast.

It’s a man waving an invisible gun at an invisible army, swearing that they will never take him alive.

ore to the point, though, it’s boring. It’s just a pissed-off man, alone with a microphone, fuming about what he imagines Guy Stuff to be, which he defines more or less as you expect, and which he personifies through his ranting as utter abject defeat and ulcerous loneliness. It’s a man waving an invisible gun at an invisible army, swearing that they will never take him alive.

To find a worse four-game stretch in a single season by a Raiders quarterback, you have to go back to 1964 – the Raiders’ fifth season of existence — when Tom Flores had a passer rating of 27.8 from the second game of the season thru the fifth. He attempted just 60 passes in those four games, completing 24 passes with no touchdowns to 7 interceptions.

Even the other Raiders QB number 2 – Aaron Brooks — didn’t have a stretch like this in his disastrous single season in Silver & Black. Brooks was plagued by what is still considered arguably the worst offensive line in Raiders history that season. He played in eight games and finished the season with a passer rating of 61.7 and outside of the game in which he went out with injury after two run plays, never had less than a 49.9 rating that season.

The one thing Pryor obviously has that Russell didn’t have is athleticism and the rushing yards to prove it. But lately those rushing abilities have worked against him. He is too quick to flee the pocket when even the slightest pressure is put on him and reverts to the skills that got him through college. But this isn’t college.

In the NFL the quarterback must put the ball in the air. Passer rating isn’t everything but it is still extremely important.

The Wolverines had a quote printed out and taped on a locker room wall of an Illinois center calling them a “white-collar team.”

Maybe this year’s moves will work. Maybe they won’t. In the meantime, all we can do is assign them letter grades.

The Cowboys are going to have to do some work to replenish the secondary after losing Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency. Claiborne is a solid addition for the Jets at a position of need, as long as he remains healthy. That hasn’t been his forte.

Cook gives Derek Carr another big receiving target, and it’s a smart signing for Oakland. The Raiders have a dynamic receiving corps, but lacked a quality tight end. As long as Cook can stay healthy, he should be a great addition to the Raiders’ produtive offense.

His contributions may not always show up on the stat sheet, but Carr is a versatile defensive back who can play on either side of the field or in the slot. The Ravens needed to upgrade the secondary, and already did so when they brought in safety Tony Jefferson from the Cardinals. Carr isn’t a splashy playmaker, but he is a solid veteran addition.

Flying on the day of a game isn’t unheard of in college basketball, but it typically only happens under unexpected circumstances. Illinois, like every other team in the Big Ten tournament, had gotten to D.C. at least a day before its first game. That’s the standard operating procedure, but Michigan’s situation wasn’t standard.

Michigan beat Illinois that afternoon, 75-55. The Wolverines had a quote printed out and taped on a locker room wall of an Illinois center calling them a “white-collar team.”6

Was the kick in Crosby’s range?

It was the first game back for Jared Cook, who’d been out since Week 3 with an ankle injury. Now Cook, who was signed in the offseason, didn’t exactly light it up in those first three games of the season. He was targeted just 11 times and caught six passes for 53 yards and zero touchdowns.

But the tight end, in his eighth season, can line up anywhere, giving the Packers’ offense great flexibility and often forcing defenses to reveal their coverage. In Sunday’s playoff game against the Cowboys, Cook caught six passes for 103 yards.

When Cook made his return at Washington in November, it was the first time, Rodgers said, that things started to click.

Doubletruck is the home for ESPN storytelling, a place to find great features and character portraits on the most important players in this weekend’s AFC and NFC championship games.

Crosby was left with a 56-yard field goal, having gone just 28-of-54 from 50-plus yards during his career. Was the kick in Crosby’s range? Yes, in the way that a 30-footer might still be considered to be in Klay Thompson’s range, even if he’s far less likely to make that shot than he would a 23-footer. Coaches often treat “field goal range” like a binary proposition, feeling safe once they get to a certain yard line, even though all kickers improve dramatically as you get closer to the end zone. The Packers did burn two Dallas timeouts, but they lost 3 yards while leaving 1:38 and one timeout on the clock for the Cowboys. They were in worse shape than they had been on first down.

As much as McCarthy makes mistakes, it’s more the way he runs through those decisions that is troubling. It’s one thing for McCarthy to throw out the challenge flag at the wrong time, as he did in 2012.

Bruce Arians says football is ‘being attacked’ by moms

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians defended football at a coaching clinic on Friday and blamed mothers for an ongoing attack on the game.

“We feel like this is our sport. It’s being attacked, and we got to stop it at the grass roots,” Arians said at the “Arizona Cardinals High School Football Coaches Clinic” on Friday, according to Ed Cole of NBC Sports 1060 in Phoenix. “It’s the best game that’s ever been f——?? invented, and we got to make sure that moms get the message; because that’s who’s afraid of our game right now. It’s not dads, it’s moms.”

The message isn’t much different Richard Hamilton Authentic Jersey than one he delivered at league meetings in March when Arians told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that parents are “fools” if they won’t let their kids play football. But on Friday, he narrowed the scope from “parents” to “moms.”

The Browns hired DePodesta in January to serve as the organization’s Chief Strategy Officer after a two-decade run working in MLB. DePodesta got his start in baseball with the Cleveland Indians before working his way up to become Billy Beane’s top assistant with the Oakland A’s (a character based on DePodesta was played by Jonah Hill in the 2011 Moneyball blockbuster). In 2004, the Dodgers hired him to be their general manager, but he lasted only two years. DePodesta most recently served as the vice president of player development and scouting for the New York Mets.

If any organization in the NFL needs a dramatic upheaval, it’s the Browns. They’ve only finished above .500 twice since returning to Cleveland in 1999 Scottie Pippen Authentic Jersey and have been mired in turmoil ever since Jimmy Haslam purchased the team in 2012. They went 3-13 last season, which was four games worse than their performance the previous year. But is a “Moneyball” approach the kind of makeover the Browns need?

What is the “Moneyball” philosophy?
Given the lack of a salary cap in MLB, certain teams are at a significant financial disadvantage. Thus, one of the only ways for small revenue clubs to win is to find undervalued assets in the marketplace.

The A’s have embodied this approach under Beane. In his best-selling book, Moneyball, author Michael Lewis chronicled the A’s battle to compete with a Goliath such as the New York Yankees, who spend well over $100 million more in payroll than them. In the early 2000s, a hitter’s ability to work the count and simply get on base was often overlooked, which is why the A’s loaded up on previously unheralded hitters with high on-base percentages.

“Moneyball” is more a financial philosophy than anything else. It stresses the importance of staying ahead of the curve and identifying market trends before the competition.