Monthly Archives: December 2016

Ryan declared upon taking the Buffalo job that his defense would lead the NFL

Coach Jim Caldwell, who is again under scrutiny about his future after the Lions lost their second straight game by double digits, says he is focused on the team’s next game, not on his job.
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“I saw it happen out there; I didn’t think it was a penalty. I don’t think it was a penalty today,” he said Tuesday.

Caldwell again referred to following “protocol” to make sure the NFL knows how the Lions feel about the call, “rather than complain about things that, really, to me, that borders in on starting to worm in on excuse-making, which I don’t want to have any part of.”
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He said, however, that overall, officials make the fewest mistakes during the course of a game.

Ryan delivers little impact on the offensive side of the ball, but defense is where he was expected to deliver results. He arrived in Buffalo proud of his Jets defenses finishing 11th or better in all six of his seasons in New York, as well as his track record of coaching an aggressive and blitz-heavy scheme that often gave rival quarterback Tom Brady trouble.

Yet in the Bills’ three games against Brady under Ryan, the Patriots quarterback averaged 352 passing yards per game and a 103.8 quarterback rating while throwing for eight touchdowns and only one interception.

Ryan declared upon taking the Buffalo job that his defense would lead the NFL, but in his 31 games as Bills coach, that group has ranked 24th in DVOA, 23rd in yards allowed per game, 15th in points allowed, 21st in yards allowed per play, 30th in yards allowed per rush, 15th in net yards per pass attempt, 29th in sacks per pass attempt, 20th in third-down conversion rate and 24th in red zone conversion rate.

Ryan also has overseen a defense that allowed the franchise’s most passing yards in a game (466 by Brady in September 2015) and most rushing yards in a game (236 by Le’Veon Bell in December 2016).

My expectation is that whenever Lynch is back out there

Authentic Kids Michael Jordan Jersey Even predating the Super Bowl, there have been numerous reports about a rift between Lynch and Darrell Bevell regarding Lynch’s use. (Lynch once flipped off Bevell in 2013, or it sure looked like he did, anyway when his number didn’t get called on a goal-line play, and that quarrel was made even more famous this year when Lynch’s mother took to Facebook to criticize Bevell’s playcalling/)

Stephen White: Reading Coach Cable’s quotes reminds me of how it seemed like Lynch struggled some this year with the zone running game, which was odd considering how great he had looked in essentially the exact same scheme in years past. He looked much more comfortable behind a fullback and running power plays instead.

His teammates look to him for that emotional boost. He brings an identity of toughness. He’s historically been the engine that drives that offense, so even if he’s not the man anymore (Russell Wilson is now), it doesn’t detract from what he can do when he gets the football into his hands.

Seattle’s been to the Playoffs five times out of the six seasons that Lynch has been a Seahawk. He’s scored nine touchdowns with a 4.9 YPC average, with 917 rushing yards in 10 games (plus 112 yards receiving). That kind of production would be a nice little bonus for the Hawks. He won’t be back this week, but I expect he’ll be back on the field for Seattle by Week 17 or the Wild Card round.

Limited Brett Hull Jersey It seems like he’s constantly breaking up passes, breaking on quick routes and tackling them quickly, or sniffing out screens to blow them up before they start.

It’s time for something big

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In 2011, just three months after he was officially named Cowboys head coach, Jason Garrett persuaded Jerry Jones to select the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Smith with the ninth overall pick.

The decision signaled a big shift in Dallas. Jones, himself a former lineman and co-captain of the 1964 Arkansas national championship team, went his first 22 seasons as owner and GM in Dallas without using a single first-round pick on a blocker.

In Jones’ defense, the Great Wall of Dallas, the dominant and deeply troubled line that anchored the Cowboys’ three Super Bowl wins in the 1990s, was for the most part a collection of misfits and castoffs. What’s more, the current proliferation of the spread offense and quick-release passing attacks is perceived to have devalued linemen.

Case for Brady: As long as you don’t mind the fact that he has played 10 games and the other candidates have played 14, Brady is your guy. His numbers projected over 16 games would end up at 4,902 yards, 35 touchdowns and three interceptions — and he’s 9-1.

Case against Brady: He has played only 10 games, and the other candidates have played 14.
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“Run the table,” the man said. And so far Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have. Green Bay has won four in a row to improve to 8-6 since Rodgers uttered those words, and as a result, look who has sneaked into the back end of this week’s poll.

Also moving up is Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who trashed the red-hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense on Sunday. But sitting pretty at the top? The guy people think of when they hear those three little letters.

Methodology: Each of our 13 panelists nominated their top five candidates. First-place votes are worth five points, second-place votes worth four, third-place votes worth three, fourth-place votes worth two and fifth-place votes worth one.

Tom Savage leads Texans to comeback win after Brock Osweiler benching

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The Houston Texans’ best passing game of the season came Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it wasn’t from their starting quarterback.

Brock Osweiler was benched after two first-quarter interceptions, and backup Tom Savage stepped in to deliver the best performance from a Texans quarterback this season, leading Houston to a 21-20 comeback victory.

Savage played well in relief of Osweiler, directing the Texans to their lone touchdown of the game without turning the ball over. For an offense that has struggled and been forced to find its identity through the running game this season, that is a huge step for the Texans, who need to find some consistency from their offense.

It’s a costly move for the Texans, who have guaranteed Osweiler $37 million in his contract, tied with Tyrod Taylor for the third-most among 2016 quarterbacks. It was a hefty deal, given that Osweiler ranked 20th out of 32 quarterbacks in Total QBR with the Broncos last season. The Texans used a combined six quarterbacks in 2014 and 2015 and were hoping for stability at the position — not having to bench their top guy.

But it became a necessity, given that Osweiler, who has 14 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions this season, entered the day ranked 22nd in the NFL in Total QBR. He’s one of three qualified quarterbacks with more interceptions than touchdowns, along with Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Jets and Case Keenum of the Rams. Osweiler has 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in his past 4 games.

The biggest problem for Osweiler is that he doesn’t throw the ball well downfield. He entered the day with the NFL’s worst completion percentage on throws more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Of his 16 interceptions, 14 have come on passes of that length. The 14 (including two on Sunday) are the most in the NFL.

Limited Kids Rashad Jennings Jersey The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Savage became the second quarterback in the past four seasons whose first game-winning drive came in a relief appearance. The other was Landry Jones for the Steelers against the Raiders in 2015.

the Patriots and Colts met again after the 2006 season

Elite Mens Sam Mills Jersey It’s between these extremes that you can really see the NFL’s compression: With two games remaining, 12 teams were on track to win eight to 10 games and were therefore at the lower end of playoff contention. That’s a large group; only nine clubs posted eight to 10 wins in each of the past two seasons. And I think one reason for the big number is that many of these teams have lopsided rosters.

Consider Atlanta, tied atop the NFC South and gaining more yards per play and scoring more points than any other team in the NFL. The Falcons’ offense is in fact 11.1 points per game above average after adjusting for opponents, according to Pro Football Reference’s simple rating system, and their defense is 3.5 points per game below average. That difference is the largest since the 2013 Broncos, and that kind of disparity has become more common. Think of Houston, Indianapolis, Seattle … Overall, eight teams have a gap of more than a TD per game between their offensive and defensive units this season — twice as many as in any of the past three seasons.

To add a piece of that big-game aura and belief required to get Peyton Manning and Dungy a desperately needed ring.

Sure enough, the Patriots and Colts met again after the 2006 season, and, sure enough, Vinatieri had landed Indianapolis in that matchup by going 5-for-5 at Baltimore in the divisional round.

“I’m pretty low-key and quiet, but I wanted to win that game badly.”
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To a man, the Colts say that game felt like the Super Bowl more than their eventual Super Bowl triumph over Chicago did. Indianapolis stormed back in the second half, and Vinatieri made it 31-31 on a 36-yarder with 5:31 left, setting up the winning touchdown drive to come. When it was over, the focus remained on Manning, who had finally beaten Brady in a big game, and on Dungy, who had finally beaten Belichick in a big game.

But Vinatieri had proved his own point. “I think everybody in this town needed it for their own reasons,” he says. “My reasons may be different than their reasons, but we all had to beat New England.”

The Raiders will have a lot of options on defense with this pick

New Orleans Saints: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
There’s going to be some questions Nkemdiche will have to answer about his off-field actions, but at 12 he’s too talented to pass up. Nkemdiche has the size and athleticism to play Elite Youth Marcus Cooper Jersey inside or out and that versatility is what the Saints need.

Atlanta Falcons: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
This scenario is ideal for Atlanta. Jack could slip a little in the draft because he’s currently rehabbing from injury. For Atlanta he could be a force. He’s an ultra-athletic linebacker with range to make plays all over the field. He’s not a high-level pass rusher, but that may be his only flaw.

While Coughlin remains in limbo, the Eagles already have decided that they’ll have a new coach in 2016. The team fired Chip Kelly on Wednesday and promoted offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to be the interim head coach for their season finale against the Giants on Sunday.

Kelly authored back-to-back Game Kids Ryan Strome Jersey 10-win seasons and a playoff berth in his first season, but the team collapsed in 2015, going 6-9. His 26 wins were tied for the third-most by an Eagles coach in his first three seasons, but his failures as a personnel director proved to be his downfall. Nearly all of the moves he made this offseason backfired, and the team badly regressed on both sides of the ball this year.

In addition to the coaching storylines, this game has significant implications for the 2016 schedules of both teams. The winner will secure second place in the division and the loser will drop to third. Second place means a home game against the Atlanta Falcons and a road game versus the Seattle Seahawks. Third place means a home game against either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or New Orleans Saints, and a trip to London to play the St. Louis Rams.

Nearly all of the experts are picking the Giants to end their season on a high note by beating the Eagles. The CBS Sports panel is 6-2 in favor of New York, while seven of the eight guys here at SB Nation are also picking the G-men.

White Sox nailing the art of the sale

There’s an old expression you hear from general managers every winter. It goes kind of like this:

Buying is easy. Selling is hard.

So for a team that hasn’t held a storewide clearance sale in almost 20 years, you have to hand it to the Chicago White Sox. They’re turning out to be every bit as good at this as Macy’s.

Two days and two monster trades into their Everything Must Go sale, they’ve made two of the best winter-meetings sell-off deals of modern times. And it has changed the face, and the direction, of their franchise. Already.

“I don’t know where their farm system was ranked before this week,” said one rival farm director Wednesday night. “But it’s ranked really high now.”

One day after reeling in two potential superstars (Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech) in the trade that sent Chris Sale to Boston, the White Sox didn’t quite top that haul Wednesday, when they agreed to the stunning trade that shipped off Adam Eaton to Washington. But all three pitchers they received — Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning — have top-of-the-rotation upside.

From big-name signings to blockbuster trades, what will be the moves that shape this year’s winter meetings and beyond? Keep up with all of the latest action.

After all the abuse heaped on the franchise’s powers that be back then, it took nearly two decades for this team to be able to face reality and understand it was time, once again, to sell, sell, sell. But here we are.

It’s a decision that was actually made over a month ago. Hahn and executive vice president Kenny Williams gathered their most trusted scouts and decision-makers in their annual organizational meetings. And after several days of kicking around all their options, they came to a conclusion they’d been talking themselves out of for years.

Game Kids Terron Armstead Jersey They’d been patching the roof long enough. And the damned thing was still leaking.

The direction they chose, Hahn said this week, “doesn’t fit with how we have acted over the last several years. We’ve been in a more of a ‘win now and patch and play’ type of situation.”

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It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride this season for Russell Wilson in fantasy

Before we get to it, a few quick pieces of housekeeping. Jimmy V Week continues, but even after it ends, my offer to unblock or try to get others at ESPN to unblock on your behalf will never expire. The response has been great and, so far, I have managed to get every other ESPN personality I have asked to get the person unblocked. If you’d like to get unblocked (or just make a donation and have me read your note), goto Make a donation of whatever you can afford. Send a copy of the receipt and your social media handle to: [email protected] It might take a few days to weed through everything, but rest assured, we will get to it.

Marcus Mariota, Titans: It’s hard to bench the fourth-best QB in fantasy, and the No. 1 guy since Week 9 in points per game, but you know, Denver.

Womens Devin McCourty Jersey Others receiving votes: Jason Witten always kills the Giants and recently, every tight end has, as over the past five games tight ends have totaled 497 yards and two scores against the G-Men. … I realize Antonio Gates has burned you two weeks in a row now, but no team allows more points to the position than Carolina. Even in a disappointing start last week, Gates ran a route on 65 percent of his snaps. The Panthers have coughed up a TE TD in three straight.

The Broncos have allowed fewer than 15 fantasy points to opposing QBs in 10 of their past 11, and you know they will bring pressure — they lead the league in sacks. Mariota is in the bottom half of the league in QBR versus pressure. He’s a risky QB2 this week against a Denver team that has given up more than one passing touchdown in a game only twice all season.

Henri Richard Womens Jersey If you’re really stuck, Mike Gillislee has scored five touchdowns in his six career games in which he has received at least eight carries. As mentioned in the Tyrod Taylor part, I expect Buffalo to run a lot here, making Gillislee worthy of flex consideration.

And from the something’s gotta give category, Jarvis Landry can’t score, but Arizona has allowed a slot TD in four straight games. In a game where I think Miami struggles to run the ball, I like Landry as a WR3 this week.

Jack Del Rio’s culture change has brought smiles all around Raider Nation that have been absent for over a decade

“My rookie year, [Allen] switched up the schedule and kind of like manipulated the mind,” All-Pro defensive end/outside linebacker Khalil Mack said. “You wake up later and all that stuff.

In fact, it was Reece who hailed Del Rio in training camp as being the catalyst for culture change, just as Madden did a few weeks ago.

“The team just needed a man; they needed an adult running them,” Madden told the San Jose Mercury-News. “They [tried] the young guys, the new guys, the inexperienced guys, and that didn’t work. When Jack Del Rio walks into a room, a man just walked in the room.”
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A man with a hearty NFL resume, one that includes 11 seasons, a Pro Bowl nod and one gnarly story to tell about the time he got into a knockdown, drag-out fight with Chiefs legend Otis Taylor during the 1987 strike. Del Rio, in his first season playing for the Chiefs, scrapped with Taylor, an older team employee who was leading replacement players outside the facility, and pictures of the brawl — Del Rio’s fashionable mullet and all — were immortalized in the pages of Sports Illustrated.

The status of safety Tyrann Mathieu for Sunday’s game at Miami is in the air after he missed Wednesday’s practice because of a lingering shoulder injury. Coach Bruce Arians didn’t seem optimistic that Mathieu will be returning anytime soon, saying he was surprised Mathieu is still dealing with the issue. The Cardinals appear to have found a routine that works for WR John Brown, who has been dealing with symptoms related to carrying the sickle-cell trait.
Which school will be this year’s Ohio State and dominate the early rounds?

Who’s the underclassman who could use another year of development?
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McShay: All of the underclassman quarterbacks (see above). Texas A&M wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones, too.

Buccaneers hire Mike Smith as new defensive coordinator

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hired Mike Smith as their new defensive coordinator, new head coach Dirk Koetter announced on Friday. Smith, formerly the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, sat Elite Youth Tommy Wingels Jersey out the 2015 season.

Smith got his start in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens, first as a defensive assistant coach and later as a linebackers coach. Smith joined the staff of the Jacksonville Jaguars as their defensive coordinator in 2003. After a disastrous 2007 season, the Falcons hired Smith to take over for Bobby Petrino, who snuck out of Atlanta Authentic Barry Bonds Jersey in the middle of the night after a Week 13 loss to accept the head coaching job at the University of Arkansas.

The Browns fired Mike Pettine this offseason after a 10-22 mark in two years. He dropped 18 of his final 21 games as head coach. Jackson will have more to worry about than the underperforming offense, however — the Browns ranked 27th in the league in total defense.

Jackson served as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator in 2015 and was previously the team’s running backs coach and assistant special teams coach. Prior to joining the Bengals, he spent one season as head coach of the Oakland Raiders and led the team to an 8-8 record.

The Raiders were a team in turmoil at the time and his struggles didn’t seem to follow him to Cincinnati, where Dalton developed a nice rapport with wide receiver A.J. Green under Jackson’s watchful eye. Under Jackson, Dalton posted a quarterback rating of 106.2 in 2015, much higher than the 83.5 he had in 2014.

Jackson has been coaching in the NFL since he joined Washington in 2001. That was after several years of coaching in college. He was the Bengals’ wide receivers coach from 2004 to 2006 and also spent time with the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons.

This is the first offseason in which Jackson’s name rose to the top of lists for coaching candidates, likely due to his strong work with Dalton and the Bengals in 2015.