Both teams’ seasons hanging on the brink

The Pittsburgh Steelers host the Buffalo Bills in Week 10. Both teams are desperate for a win, sitting in last place in their respective divisions.

The Bills are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Steelers’ poor season hit another new low, getting whipped by the New England Patriots. Playoff hopes look dim for both teams, but a win will go a long way toward improving morale.

Trailing 17-10 in the third quarter, Ryan attempts a deep pass up the right side of the field against Carolina’s four-deep, three-under defense. As you can see, with Carolina’s forward-looking deep cover-2 look, that’s a very tough throw.

The Tony Gonzalez route (right hand side of the offense at tight end) doesn’t draw the intended attention from the playside safety, Quinton Mikell, and he flips his hips in time to put himself in a position to make the play. Mikell tips the ball and linebacker Thomas Davis (look at how deep he’s playing!) makes an athletic play to catch the tipped pass:

What’s worse than losing to the Oakland Raiders? Probably setting a franchise record for most points allowed the very next week. The Patriots hung 55 points on the Steelers, leading to questions about defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s ability to build a competitive defense in the modern NFL. The offense has its own problems — Antonio Brown was benched during the fourth quarter for poor performance.

The Steelers are now 2-6 and their divisional title hopes are all but dead. It’s fair to wonder if the coaching staff will see any shakeup after missing the playoffs two years in a row.9

The veteran lineman is surprised by the claims by fellow offensive lineman Jonathan Martin.

Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito is reportedly “shocked” and “betrayed” by the claims being made by teammate Jonathan Martin, according to ESPN’s James Walker.

In response to Cornwell’s claim that there was “malicious physical attack” on Martin, fellow offensive lineman Tyson Clabo said, “Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen anything like that.” Defensive end Olivier Vernon added, “I never really seen anything like that.”

However, Vernon also did say, “Most of the time, I thought it was joking. I don’t know how he felt. Everybody was just having fun.” It’s unclear if that implies that there was something that could be construed as physical attacks against Martin, but it’s still a pretty ambiguous statement.

According to the report, tight end Michael Egnew and cornerback Nolan Carroll were also among those who denied that there is a violent locker room in Miami.

Martin left the team on Oct. 28 following an incident in the cafeteria and has not yet returned to the team. Incognito is the primary reason for Martin’s departure, by all reports. The team has since suspended Incognito pending an investigation.

After whittling the lead from 22 points to eight, San Diego’s offense took possession with 6:43 left and moved near midfield but had a bad snap, a sack, and an incompletion before punting the ball away for good.

The Chargers were smart enough to realize that controlling the clock was their best defense against Peyton Manning and the Bronco receivers. That part of the plan worked; five different San Diego drives lasted at least seven plays and took up 4:30, and Denver was held to a season-low 28 points. There’s a second part to that plan, though – you have to actually score points on those drives, and that’s where the Chargers failed, only generating 10 points off those 5 possessions.
9

Is Russell Westbrook still averaging a triple double? Yes.

Through SEVENTY-ONE games, he is! We’re keeping track all season long.

The only player in NBA history to average a triple-double throughout an entire season is Oscar Robertson. This year, Russell Westbrook is trying to become the second.

“Yeah, he could do it. He could do it,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told the Norman Transcript on Nov. 28. “I’m not gonna say he is or isn’t because I think the more important thing is Russell is winning, but he’s a guy that has great impact on generating assists. He has a great impact on rebounding the basketball, and he can score. So, there’s certainly a possibility that can happen.”

QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson released a top seven consisting of UCLA, Michigan, Florida State, Cal, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Oregon, in no order. He has already guaranteed that UCLA and Michigan will make his final five.

I think I got played by Colson Yankoff, the Idaho QB who committed to Washington Wednesday. Not once in our open-ended conversation Sunday did he mention Washington, a school who had not yet offered. He raved about Cal, and talked about wanting to visit TCU and Nebraska.

The Badgers picked up Jack Sanborn, a four-star linebacker out of Illinois. I have not yet seen him play, but will be in Chicago in a few weeks.

QB Cammon Cooper of Lehi (Utah) recently picked up an Ole Miss offer. I asked him which schools are standing out the most.

“It could change because a lot of schools are talking to me now, but based on relationships with coaches probably Washington State, Boise State, Tennessee, maybe ASU,” Cooper said. “Ole miss is just really new and I haven’t made a relationship with their staff yet, which I look forward to doing.”
19

NFL free agents 2017: Current top 100 players available in free agency

Thursday, March 9, 4 p.m. ET. Mark it on your calendar. Call in sick to work. Make plans to be on your phone or in front of a computer hitting refresh on your browser because that day is when the opening bell rings on NFL free agency for 2017.

There is no shortage of optimism for NFL fans in the spring, and nothing says hope springs eternal like a brand new free agent acquisition. The player your team just signed is totally going to be the difference this year; you just know it!

As a responsible media organization, we should probably caution you not to put too much faith in free agency. You don’t have to be a complete Ted Thompson-style skeptic about it, but landing a whole new batch of veteran players is never a panacea for covering up bad management or terrible coaching.

It is the smartest thing. But some of our coaches in our league don’t have the stature that Pop has, and our head coach doesn’t have it, so he gets killed for it.

The Cleveland Cavaliers drew widespread criticism for resting James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love in their nationally televised March 18 game against the Los Angeles Clippers. They lost that game, 108-78, and scored just 16 points in the first quarter.

But the Cavaliers had also played a grueling stretch of games leading up to their matchup against the Clippers, which was the first game of a road back-to-back. It would have been the big three is second set of back-to-back games on the road in a nine-day span. There is science that shows injuries are 3.5 times more likely to occur during those games.

In the memo sent to teams, Silver urged owners to be more involved in the decision-making process as it pertained to resting starters. James seemed bewildered by the idea.
36

Woods will see his share of work in the passing game

Woods is getting $39 million for a five-year deal with the Rams, with just $15 million guaranteed. If you consider that deal alongside the $42 million contract, with a stunning $28.5 million guaranteed, the Rams gave Tavon Austin last year, the team now has more than $80 million committed to a pair of role playing receivers, neither one of whom has topped 700 yards in a season.

Woods will see his share of work in the passing game, but the Rams need a true No. 1 receiver, especially after letting Kenny Britt walk.

If the team does end up trading Brandin Cooks, and it sounds like they will, Ginn gives them another deep threat, though probably not a guy who can pull out a 1,000-yard season like Cooks.

Going slow is good when you’re winning, because it limits chances for the opponent to make up the gap. It can be good or bad in a tight game, depending on how you’re shooting. It’s a downright problem when you fall a few scores behind, as UVA has done in its last couple of tournament losses.

If your defense is making stops, of course, you can play at whatever pace you want. Virginia’s defense spends entire seasons doing almost nothing but stopping teams. That Virginia’s defense has stopped making stops in critical games, right as the offense has also faltered, is partly just rotten luck. It has to be.

But when it’s happened, Virginia’s inability to change its offensive style couldn’t have helped. Bennett does not have a tempo offense he can go to during times of trouble. That contributes to a feast-or-famine problem, where bad things can easily compound.
9

Panthers vs. Buccaneers: Betting odds, preview, picks and trends

Doug Martin is out and Tampa Bay’s chances of beating Carolina Thursday night probably went out the window at the same time.

The winless Buccaneers declared their star running back out of the Thursday Week 8 battle where the spread opened at 3 points and climbed all the way to -7 for the Panthers at one book monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Browns have seen enough of Brandon Weeden and are starting Jason Campbell. Weeden had his worst game yet in last week’s loss to the Green Bay Packers, and the Browns are going in a different direction as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive at 3-4.

The Chiefs improved to 7-0 and all but have a playoff spot locked up. They also sit in first place in the AFC West after the Denver Broncos dropped their first game.

The Chiefs are unanimous favorites across the board in almost every online outlet. Of the eight ESPN analysts who made their picks, they’re all going with the Chiefs. It’s another clean sweep at CBS Sports, where all nine experts are picking Kansas City. Over at Yahoo Sports, Frank Schwab and Les Carpenter are also picking the Chiefs, along with a majority of users in their poll.

The Dolphins are so desperate for offensive line help that they traded for Bryant McKinnie, who was one of the worst in the league this season before being replaced by Eugene Monroe. Maybe the Miami night scene will help his production. Either way, the Dolphins have now dropped three in a row and a once-promising season is threatening to go off the rails. They will need their defense to step up against a Patriots offense that has Rob Gronkowski back. Not an easy task with Cameron Wake still gimpy.9

SB Nation Bracket War Room 2017: Selection Sunday session

Welcome to the 2017 SB Nation Bracket War Room! SB Nation has run a fantasy football live chat during the NFL season called the Fantasy War Room. The notion behind it was to put our experts at your disposal to help you answer those burning questions for your fantasy football lineups.

Perez hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to give Venezuela a 10-8 lead over Italy. He was 2-for-4 with a walk in the game.

What makes this injury even more notable is that Perez is the most durable catcher in baseball. The four-time All-Star has averaged 134 starts behind the plate in the last four years, and counting the postseason set a major league record with 2,725 innings caught in 2014-2015 with the Royals, the most ever by a catcher in a two-year span in major league history.

The story takes an even weirder turn in that Butera is the backup to Perez with the Royals. Had Butera scored on the play, Italy would have won the game.

“I feel really bad,” Butera told reporters, per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. “I thought the ball was going to be in the gap and I was just trying to score. When I saw that I was going to be out by a lot, I just stopped. It was unfortunate that I hit him where I did. Obviously, I wasn’t trying to hit him. I hope he is OK.”

And while Gastelum, who is now 14-2 afterhis 10th career finish, still seems to want to fight at welterweight, he hinted he’d like to fight another middleweight legend next.

“There’s a guy I really want,” Gastelum said. “I’m on a legends ass whuppin’ tour, June 3 maybe, Anderson [Silva] in Rio?” Of the eight teams in contention for the quartet of “Last Four In” spots, only the Rhode Island Rams can take matters out of the Selection Committee’s hands. If Dan Hurley’s team wins this afternoon’s Atlantic 10 Tournament final (12:30 p.m. ET, CBS), it’s in and out of the First Four in Dayton.11

Texans shockingly trade Brock Osweiler to Browns

The Houston Texans have traded Brock Osweiler, a 2018 second-round pick, and a sixth-round pick this year to the Browns, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Houston receives a fourth-found pick this year, saves $10 million in cap space, and $16 million in cash in the deal.

The Texans made the trade official just after 4 p.m. on Thursday. Texans GM Rick Smith said, “The decision to trade Brock was made because it was in the best interest of the team. It frees up both cash and salary cap room to continue to improve our football team. We appreciate Brock’s effort and leadership while he was with us and we wish him and his family well.”

RELATED

Brock Osweiler trade from Texans to Browns affects the entire NFL

Osweiler had a tough season in his first year with the Texans. He was 8-6 in 14 regular season starts, where he completed 59 percent of his passes, accumulating 2,957 yards. He threw just 15 touchdowns against 16 interceptions.

As far as the Browns go, they struggled at the quarterback position all throughout the season. They had six different players take snaps at quarterback during the 2016 season. Injuries to Robert Griffin, Cody Kessler, and others made for no consistency under center all season.

Yet, Ian Rapoport reported that the Browns are deciding whether or not to just release him, with Adam Schefter reporting that teams are inquiring about a trade.

From what I understand, the #Browns are weighing simply releasing Brock Osweiler after trading for him. NBA style

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2017
Teams already have reached out to Browns to inquire about Brock Osweiler’s availability, per team sources.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2017
In October, Osweiler had one of the worst Monday Night Football performances ever seen in the NFL. For quarterbacks who have attempted at least 40 passes, he threw for 131 yards, which was the second worse only next to Jesse Palmer’s 110.

10

Now all Wilson has to do is top himself.

According to SMI’s 2015 annual report, New Hampshire’s seating capacity is 89,000. Las Vegas is listed at 104,000.

Both the spring and fall Las Vegas NASCAR weekends will also feature Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series races, making it the lone track to host two triple-header weekends.

As part of the revised schedule, SMI will move the Truck Series race at New Hampshire in September and the standalone Xfinity race at Kentucky in September to Las Vegas, which already hosted Xfinity and Truck Series in March and September, respectively.

“It’s taken a tremendous amount of work to make this happen,” SMI CEO Marcus Smith said. “We are very thankful to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and NASCAR for their support in our endeavor to create a triple-header NASCAR weekend in such a world-class destination.”

To be sure, UTSA went only 6-7 with an S&P+ ranking of No. 103 in 2016. The Roadrunners weren’t exactly dominant. But the improvement was undeniable: UTSA’s S&P+ rating (presented as an adjusted points per game average) improved by 4.4 points on offense, by 1.9 points on defense, and by 1.2 points on special teams.

Most important: UTSA doubled its win total. The Roadrunners overcame a 1-3 start, then walloped bowl teams Southern Miss, North Texas, and Middle Tennessee by a combined 57 points. There were plenty of missteps — a damning home loss to UTEP, a 28-point destruction at the hands of Louisiana Tech — but this level of success wasn’t expected.

And then Wilson followed up by signing the No. 3 class in Conference USA, behind only Lane Kiffin’s FAU and Southern Miss.

That’s pretty good proof of concept in Year 1. Now all Wilson has to do is top himself.
16

NBA Wrap: Bulls stun cold-shooting Warriors, Trail Blazers defeat Thunder in thriller

THE Chicago Bulls got the best of a cold-shooting Golden State Warriors, while the Portland Trail Blazers picked up an exciting win.

That, and more, is in the NBA Wrap.

Jimmy Butler scored 22 points and the Chicago Bulls beat Golden State 94-87 on Thursday night in the Warriors’ first game since Kevin Durant injured his left leg.

Golden State was breathing a little easier after learning Durant probably will play again this season. He was hurt two nights earlier in a loss at Washington.

The NBA-leading Warriors’ league-record regular-season streak without consecutive losses ended at 146 games.

Stephen Curry scored 23 points, and Klay Thompson finished with 13. The star guards combined to hit just 3 of 22 3-pointers, and the Warriors made it back-to-back losses for the first time since April 2015.

The Titans own both the No. 5 and No. 18 picks in the first round. The Eagles will roll with the 14th pick, after winning their coin toss with the Colts on Friday. Every one of those selections are incredibly valuable and likely too precious to part with.

Cooks is a talented receiver, but the idea of paying him like a top-five wideout is problematic. If he were truly this valuable, the Saints wouldn’t spend the week aggressively shopping him.

“Right now, I’m comfortable, we’re comfortable with him in a Saints uniform, and we think the world of him and his skill set,” coach Sean Payton told the team’s official website on Thursday. “It would have to be something real significant. That’s part of being at the combine and that’s one of the things that takes place down here and that news certainly spreads quicker now than it would 10 years ago.”
10