NFL power rankings, Week 15: Packers hold, Patriots and Seahawks move up

Week 14 is in the books. The Packers remain our top-ranked team after holding off the co-NFC South leading (cough) Falcons. Aaron Rodgers continued his absurd tear at Lambeau Field with a cool 24-of-36 passing for 327 yards and three touchdowns, and he still hasn’t thrown a pick at home since something like 1990 (Note: it’s actually “only” been two years, but the 396 straight pass attempts without an interception there is an NFL record). The Packers’ rush game looked dominant as well, running all over the Falcons for 179 yards at 6.0 yards per carry. The Falcons put up a fight despite falling behind 31-7 before halftime, but ultimately Rodgers and the Packers’ offense was too potent. This has been the case for nine of the last 10 teams that Green Bay has run across.

“What I would say is we all know Jay is more than capable of getting it done,” Marshall said. “It doesn’t always fall on him. I guess that’s why those guys are the highest paid players out there. Because when you win and everything is going good, they get all the glory. And when it’s bad, they take more than what they should take.

“But I can understand that as far as as a business man, I would have buyer’s remorse, too.”

The Bears are in the midst of a 5-8 season, and Cutler has absorbed a lot of the blame (though, it should be noted, he is posting a career high 91.7 quarterback rating). Cutler has struggled especially of late, throwing 13 touchdowns to nine interceptions over his last seven games. The numbers aren’t disastrous, but they’re not befitting a quarterback who is being paid like the best player at his position in the league. The Bears are 2-5 over that seven-game stretch.

Teams get a maximum of 15 spring practice days, including the intra-squad game that typically caps a spring slate. This doesn’t include sessions when players are limited to the film room or the weight room. Everything has to take place within a 34-day window, but spring break and exam days don’t automatically count toward that. So some schools spread spring practices over a month and a half.


Nine days in, no franchise tags yet

When the franchise-tag window opened nine days ago, I pointed out that no one would be using the franchise tag any time soon. And, of course, I assumed that three or four tags would end up being applied that same day.
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It hasn¡¯t happened. And for good reason. The NFL is, and always will be, a deadline-driven business. It¡¯s not about procrastination; it¡¯s about not doing anything until the time comes for doing it.

That said, there¡¯s a chance that the time will be coming as soon as today for a tag or two to be applied. With teams switching into Scouting Combine-mode next week, they may want to make a final decision and act on it before they begin to focus on taking a very close look at the next wave of incoming draft picks.

Even if no tags happen today, it wouldn¡¯t be a surprise to see tags be applied on Monday or Tuesday, if for no reason other than to avoid an unfortunate snafu that would result in the tag not officially attaching before the window closes at 4:00 p.m. ET.

The players most likely to be tagged this year include Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, Chiefs safety Eric Berry, and Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short. Time permitting (and if I don¡¯t forget), I may cobble together over the weekend a team-by-team look at who could get tagged.
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At a 2017 cap of $165 million, that¡¯s $18.82 million guaranteed for injury for a fifth season with Bortles. Based on Coughlin¡¯s convoluted answer to a straightforward question, it¡¯s hardly a slam dunk that they¡¯ll pick up the option on or before May 3.

Pelicans’ DeMarcus Cousins to switch jersey number from 15 to 0

DeMarcus Cousins will be officially introduced as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, but he’s already making changes.

Cousins will wear No. 0 when he plays his first game as a Pelican on Thursday at home against the Rockets. In a text to The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears, Cousins said simply “New life …” as an explanation for the change from No. 15 to No. 0.
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Although Cousins is focusing on the future, he took time Tuesday to thank the people of Sacramento for his more than six seasons in the city.

Words can’t even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It’s hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul.

As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don’t just consider you all as fans, you all are my family…and a couple thousand miles aren’t going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento.

Limited Cameron Artis-Payne Jersey Cousins also talked to Sacramento media before leaving for New Orleans and said he was “shocked” by the trade.

Super Bowl 2016 start time and kickoff for Patriots vs. Seahawks

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Super Bowl Sunday isn’t a nationally recognized holiday, but it may as well be. It has the main characteristic — an ability to bring together friends and family around a gross display of food — and is only really missing a requisite day off work. This year, Super Bowl 49 will feature the New England Patriots against the Seattle Seahawks, ensuring that fans can look forward to a good game in addition to good cheer.

The Super Bowl actually garnered a reputation for being an uninteresting game in the 90s, but recently (and last year’s blowout notwithstanding) the game has been much higher quality. Five of the last seven Super Bowl have been decided by six points or fewer. The Seahawks’ demolition of the Denver Broncos ended a three-year streak of classic matchups, with the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants and Green Bay Packers all winning championships in dramatic fashion from 2011 to 2013.

Rent was also where Menzel met fellow original cast member Taye Diggs, to whom she was married from 2003 until 2014.

After a lengthy run on Rent and several years in successful Broadway shows, she was cast in what would be her second iconic role; one even more successful and lasting: the original Elphaba (AKA the Wicked Witch of the West) in Wicked. The role netted her the Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Musical and gave her what would be (until 2013) her signature song: the 11 o’clock number “Defying Gravity.”

Game Kids Tyron Smith Jersey It’s been a long and rewarding journey to stardom for Idina Menzel. Now she’s going to perform the national anthem at the biggest sporting event of the year. She’s definitely earned it.

The Royals are wearing “Ace 30” patches on their uniforms and plan to honor Ventura this season

With all that said, there are some benefits for tagged players, if only because it’s their biggest paycheck yet. Case in point: Kirk Cousins, a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The former Michigan State QB was expected to just hold the clipboard for Robert Griffin III, but when RGIII flamed out, Cousins stepped up and managed to establish himself as an above-average QB.

He had some major turnover issues in his early career, so Washington was understandably gun-shy about handing him a major long-term deal last offseason. Cousins played under the franchise tag in 2016 and delivered another solid season, making $19.953 million in the process.

Now Washington finds itself in a difficult position — commit big money to Cousins, or kick the can down the road again and see if he can keep his production up? Right now, rumors suggest that Washington will tag Cousins for a second straight year, which would net him around $24 million. If the sides are able to work out a long-term deal, Cousins is more likely to earn a yearly salary in the $16-18 million range.

The Royals are wearing “Ace 30” patches on their uniforms and plan to honor Ventura this season, but in many ways they’ll be flying blind in their mourning. Manager Ned Yost steered his team through tragedy during the Royals’ 2015 championship season, when Mike Moustakas, Chris Young and Edinson Volquez all lost parents during a painful 10-week span. But it will take a collective effort for the players to soldier on in Ventura’s absence. Yost still catches himself writing out his starting rotation and inserting Ventura’s name by force of habit.

“This happens every day to countless people all over the country,” Yost said. “They lose family members and it’s very, very difficult to move on. It takes time. There’s no statute of limitations on missing somebody. When this happened, I don’t think anybody thought about his contributions on the field. What we’re going to miss is the relationships we built over the last three or four years with him. That’s where the hole is.”

The Bears are better positioned than most to go after one of the more promising options at quarterback

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Make a big move at quarterback. The Bears are better positioned than most to go after one of the more promising options at quarterback. Their defense started to improve last season under Fox and Vic Fangio, rising from 31st to 22nd in DVOA despite missing key players like Eddie Goldman and Danny Trevathan for chunks of the year.

The injuries eventually hit in the second half, as Chicago fell from 16th in defensive DVOA to 30th over the final eight weeks of the season. Chicago also found a burgeoning running game with rookie Jordan Howard, who helped Bears fans forget about Matt Forte. The Bears were 1-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less last year and were the league’s unluckiest team on special teams. They’re closer than you think.

“Some people would say a players’ coach is someone that wants to be a player’s friend and doesn’t want to disappoint the players,” Lynn said. “And those guys usually last three or four years until there’s total, undisciplined chaos and they’re gone.

Aaron Lynch Jersey “And then you have the dictator, and he’ll last three or four years until the players can’t stand him. I’ve always tried to be right in the middle of that. I don’t want to be a players’ coach or a dictator. I want to be a winning coach and a leader.”

The Bucs have not used the franchise tag since Jason Licht became general manager in 2014. The Bucs do have 17 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this year, but no one jumps out as a realistic candidate. Defensive end William Gholston is probably the best among them on defense, but it’s unlikely things get to that point. Their most realistic candidate for the tag, punter Bryan Anger, already was signed to a five-year extension worth $17 million in December, which means the Bucs locked him in below the $4.9 million figure he’d play in under the tag.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills tweeted that he will also withdraw from the trip

Bennett cited the influence of Muhammad Ali, whose support for the Palestinian people never wavered. Bennett said that participating in this trip would keep him from being a ¡°voice for the voiceless¡± Palestinian people.

Kids Donte Moncrief Jersey Bennett¡¯s teammate, Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril, is still planning to attend. Delanie Walker (Tennessee Titans), Mychal Kendricks (Philadelphia Eagles), Cameron Jordan (New Orleans Saints), Calais Campbell (Arizona Cardinals), Carlos Hyde (San Francisco 49ers), and Dan Williams (Oakland Raiders) will all make the trip.

Mens Cody Parkey Jersey Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills tweeted that he will also withdraw from the trip.

The Pistons guard finished with 21 points, helping wipe out a 16-point fourth quarter deficit and moving his eighth-seeded team further away from the Eastern Conference¡¯s bottom half. Detroit was outscored by 25 with lineups on the floor that included either Reggie Jackson or Jon Leuer, but their bench combined for 58 points headlined by Tobias Harris¡¯ 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field.

Detroit overcame a Raptors team led by All-Star starter DeMar DeRozan, who poured on 26 points on 10-of-21 shooting. But Kyle Lowry only contributed 15 points, and Jakob Poeltl, who started at the power forward, scored just five points.

Detroit (26-29) is now tied with Chicago for the East¡¯s seventh seed and is just 3.5 games behind the Indiana Pacers, who have lost their last three games.

Barnes, who has racked up nearly $400,000 in fines from the NBA since 2011, said in an interview with ESPN-Tencent’s Yuan Fang on Sunday night that the Kings have the right pieces to reach their potential. Sacramento sits in 10th place in the West and 1? games out of the eighth and final postseason spot after beating the New Orleans Pelicans 105-99.

Anthony wondered why Jackson always brought up his name in interviews

Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans will sit out Wednesday’s home matchup against the Utah Jazz with a left ankle sprain, his first missed game outside of planned rest since returning from an 11-month absence in mid-December.

Evans, who was originally listed as doubtful, suffered the injury in the Pelicans’ road loss on Saturday to the Washington Wizards and was forced out of the second half of Monday’s win at home over the Phoenix Suns.

In a Tuesday interview with SportsCenter, Warriors star Kevin Durant referred to the season-long storyline pitting him against former teammate Russell Westbrook as “fake drama.”

“I was doing an interview with someone and I used the word ‘unselfish’ to describe my teammates here [with] the Warriors and someone asked Russell the question, asked if he heard what I said about being unselfish and he phrased the question as if I was saying that the Thunder and the organization and the team was selfish. And once I heard that, I was like, ‘They are trying to get in between this thing and make it bigger than what it is.’

Elite Womens Justin Verlander Jersey “Obviously Russell wasn’t going to hear that [full] interview I had about me just talking about my teammates I have now and someone in Oklahoma City phrased it to him as if I was calling them selfish. It’s that easy. It’s that easy for the media to twist something up and for the media, you know, [to] make a feud between us.”

Elite Womens Nolan Carroll Jersey An extended version of the conversation will air Wednesday night on SportsCenter after the Warriors play host to the Chicago Bulls.

In the meeting, Anthony wondered why Jackson always brought up his name in interviews.

Tom Brady has been a crunch-time magician since college

As a part-time (and eventual full-time) starter at Michigan, Tom Brady earned the nickname “Comeback Kid,” a handle he’s both outgrown and maintained all the way through his fifth Super Bowl title, the most unbelievable comeback (and/or collapse) in football history. In 1999, Brady helped lead four Michigan comeback wins of varying difficulty, including over Alabama in the first-ever overtime BCS bowl after falling behind both 14-0 and 28-14.

That’s continued, obnoxiously. The top five close-game (touchdown or less) NFL career win percentages by QBs with multiple Super Bowl rings, via an excellent post by Sports on Earth’s Matt Brown:

My colleagues Bud Elliott and Bill Connelly often discuss the theory that close games in football are basically coin flips, except when teams have exceptional talent at head coach, quarterback, or kicker. Then, it’s similar to the difference that a top bullpen can make in a close baseball game. The Patriots have the best-ever head coach, probably the best-ever quarterback, and haven’t exactly been hurting at kicker, either. And at Michigan, the Wolverines evidently had a better QB than anybody on earth realized at the time.

Since leaving Michigan, Brady has repeatedly praised his alma mater and showed his face in Ann Arbor, including at one of Jim Harbaugh’s big recruiting productions. He ended his Super Bowl MVP presser, which furthered the Wolverines’ all-time lead in those particular trophies, with a “Go Blue.”

The Falcons received a second chance to kick an extra point after Matt Ryan’s 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper

Many put Jones’ tenure in categories that include Johnson and don’t include Johnson, but he does not apologize for the structure by which he runs the Cowboys.

“I’ve always believed that that gives us, [it] did then, [it] did when we first bought the team, and in my mind [it] does now, allows us to make the kind of decisions that we made early on. It allowed us to make those crisp, clean, fast, aggressively, passionately, it allowed us to do better than the traditional way these clubs are set up as far as I’m concerned,” Jones said. “There’s no question that structure helped us early. I think it just hasn’t dominoed for us relative to getting some more Super Bowl wins, but I think it’s been a continued plus on making decisions regarding football.”

Limited Kids Phoenix Suns Jersey Over the years, Jones has admitted mistakes. He regretted not maintaining a relationship with Johnson, who was a teammate on that bus when Jones was reading about Modell. Jones regretted firing coach Chan Gailey after only two seasons. The owner/GM has made mistakes in personnel, from not selecting Randy Moss in the first round in 1998, to signing Greg Hardy as a free agent two years ago. The Super Bowl drought bothers him.

“I have a high tolerance for ambiguity,” Jones said. “I don’t have to know what is going to happen on Friday every week. I may operate better by not knowing. A Mississippi riverboat gambler may be at his charming best when the next card may get him thrown off the boat. That’s when he operates the best.”
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Call No. 2: The Falcons received a second chance to kick an extra point after Matt Ryan’s 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper. Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin, who was trying to time his leap to block the kick, was penalized for an illegal formation. McClellin was ruled to have been lined up over long-snapper Josh Harris on the line of scrimmage at the snap. But replays revealed that McClellin actually was in between the long-snapper and guard Chris Chester. Place-kicker Matt Bryant aborted the kick. NFL rules call for an illegal formation penalty if the player is not fully outside of the long-snapper’s shoulders. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was livid, and actually showed the officiating crew photographs of the play shortly afterwards.