MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Cincinnati 5 Chicago Cubs 2

Milwaukee 6 Texas 5

Oakland 7 Chicago White Sox 0

Houston 3 Baltimore 2

Toronto 8 NY Yankees 2

Boston 16 LA Angels 4

Detroit 5 Kansas City 2

Cleveland 6 Minnesota 2

Tampa Bay 5 Seattle 3

NY Mets 7 Washington 6

Atlanta 8 Miami 4

St. Louis 6 Pittsburgh 2

Arizona 3 LA Dodgers 2 (11)

San Diego 7 Colorado 1

Philadelphia 9 San Francisco 6

FRIDAY’S BOX SCORES: http://hosted.stats.com/mlb/scoreboard.asp

 

MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Durham 9 Indianapolis 5

Dayton 6 Fort Wayne 1

Lansing 12 South Bend 2

 

NFL PRE-SEASON

Pittsburgh 30 Tampa Bay 28

Minnesota 34 New Orleans 25

FRIDAY’S BOX SCORES: http://hosted.stats.com/fb/scoreboard.asp

 

WNBA

Minnesota 89 Connecticut 57

Chicago 87 Las Vegas 84

FRIDAY’S BOX SCORES: http://hosted.stats.com/wnba/scoreboard.asp?day=20190809

 

HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS GOLF

Union County 227, Lincoln 244, Tri Inc.

UNION COUNTY:

Emma Kassens 50

Olivia Curry 52

Kady Karmack 62

Morgan Ball 63

LINCOLN:

Sarah Dungan 57

Allison Frost 62

Shana Mooris 62

Lindsay Schonk 63

Aaron Raider 68

TRI:

Lexi Armstrong 67

Cameyon Ewing 68

Mercades Rayeiy 68

 

PGA

NORTHERN TRUST (PGA)
Pos Name Score Thru
1 D. Johnson -12 18
2 J. Spieth -11 18
3t A. Ancer -10 18
3t P. Reed -10 18
3t J. Rahm -10 18
3t T. Merritt -10 18
7t A. Putnam -9 18
7t L. Oosthuizen -9 18
7t W. Clark -9 18
7t R. McIlroy -9 18

FULL LEADERBOARD: http://hosted.stats.com/golf/final.asp?tour=PGA

 

LPGA

Ladies Scottish (LPGA)
Pos Name Score Thru
1 M. Hur -14
2 M. Jutanugarn -12
3t M. He -10
3t J. Lee -10
3t A. van Dam -10
6 M. Lee -9
7 J. Park -8
8t C. Choi -7
8t A. Jutanugarn -7
10t N. Choi -6

FULL LEADERBOARD: http://hosted.stats.com/golf/final.asp?tour=LPGA

 

NASCAR

2019 Consumers Energy 400
Qualifying
1. Brad Keselowski
2. Kevin Harvick
3. William Byron
4. Alex Bowman
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Chase Elliott
7. Ryan Blaney
8. Joey Logano
9. Paul Menard
10. Jimmie Johnson

FULL GRID: http://hosted.stats.com/racing/index.asp?page=grid&series=NASCAR&id=20190811014

 

TOP HEADLINES

Hagerstown names a familiar face as the new baseball coach

The Hagerstown Tigers baseball program has had great success over the years and now Jay Hale will get a shot at continuing that winning tradition. Hale knows about winning as a player and assistant coach at Hagerstown after helping the Tigers to the 2006 Regional Championship under then Head Coach Lloyd Michael. Hagerstown went 26-2 this past season and won the TEC Championship under Brad Catey. The Tigers lost in the regional semi-final to Indianapolis Scecina 4-0.

After high school Coach Hale went on to play collegiate baseball at Vincennes University and then at Northern Kentucky University.  In 2012, Jay transitioned from player to coach, taking an assistant junior high coaching position in Washington, Indiana. Since then, he has continued to follow his passion for coaching. In 2014, he moved his family to Hagerstown and shortly thereafter began a three‐year stint as a volunteer coach for the Hagerstown Tigers where he was part of two sectional titles. In 2017, Jay co‐founded Hagerstown Kids, a nonprofit baseball club focused on providing quality training and travel baseball experiences to the youth of the community. In addition to operating the baseball club, Jay also volunteered in 2018 as Vice President for the Hagerstown Little League program. Jay now uses all of this experience and knowledge in his role as the head coach of the Hagerstown Tigers varsity baseball team.

 

Trevor Bauer fans 11 in Reds home debut, beats Cubs 5-2

Trevor Bauer made quite a first impression in his new ballpark. The Reds are looking for a lot more in their final push to get back into the race.

Bauer fanned 11 batters in his Reds home debut Friday night, and Aristides Aquino homered again as Yasiel Puig’s replacement, leading Cincinnati to a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Stuck on the outer edge of the NL Central race all season, the Reds made a deal to shake things up last week, sending Puig – their hottest hitter at midseason – to Cleveland for Bauer as part of a three-team trade. The deal worked out both ways in Bauer’s first start with the Reds in front of 31,569 fans at Great American Ball Park.

“It’s a great sign,” manager David Bell said. “You saw what he’s capable of doing. That was a big start for our team.”

Bauer (10-8) struggled in his first start with the Reds, trying too hard during a 5-4 loss in Atlanta. On the mound at hitter-friendly Great American, he kept a hot Cubs offense in check, allowing three hits in seven innings, including Nicholas Castellanos’ third homer of the series.

“It’s nice to be able to get back on track,” said Bauer, who threw 106 pitches. “That was a really good time.”

No surprise that Bauer dominated Chicago. He has won each of his four career starts against the Cubs, allowing a total of two runs in 26 2/3 innings.

“He’s got World Series experience,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s got really good stuff. And he got better – he smelled it at the end there. The last two innings were probably his best innings. Early on he made some mistakes, but we just didn’t get him.”

Chicago was coming off a 12-5 win in the series opener that featured a season-high 19 hits. Bauer escaped two-on threats in the fourth and sixth innings, fanning Ian Happ on a 96 mph fastball to finish off the sixth.

 

Mets rally for 4 in 9th, rock Nats 7-6 for 7th win in row

Michael Conforto celebrating with his jersey ripped off. Dominic Smith joining the party on his scooter. A crowd that kept cheering long after the last swing.

Hard to believe for a team that seemed cooked only a month ago, but the New York Mets and their fans are feeling like serious contenders.

Todd Frazier clobbered a tying, three-run homer and Conforto then lined a game-ending single as the Mets stormed back in the ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals 7-6 Friday night for their seventh straight win.

Trailing 6-3, the Mets rallied against closer Sean Doolittle to win for the 14th time in 15 games at pulsating Citi Field – New York had been 0-44 this year when trailing after eight innings. The Nationals hold the top spot in the NL wild-card race, the Mets are 1 1/2 games behind them.

“You don’t feel like you’re out of a game when you’re on a run like this. You can’t really explain it to people,” Frazier said.

In what was once considered a lost season for each club at different points, a playoff atmosphere was palpable both in the stands and between the lines. It was arguably the biggest tilt at the ballpark since the 2016 NL wild-card game, with a near-sellout crowd seemingly hanging on every pitch.

“The crowd brought it,” said Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman, who sprinted from the clubhouse to the dugout in his boxer shorts when Frazier connected. “I don’t think they realize how much we feed off that and how much that kind of gets us going.”

Mets rookie Pete Alonso homered in his fourth straight game, hitting his 38th of the season off Stephen Strasburg. J.D. Davis also connected as New York overcame an early 3-0 deficit.

Davis and Wilson Ramos led off the ninth with hits off Doolittle and Frazier sent a drive into the second deck in left, sending the fans into a frenzy.

 

Gardner tossed, streak ends at 9 as Yankees lose 8-2 to Jays

Brett Gardner was at a loss for words to describe his latest ejection.

That was ironic, considering Gardner insisted he hadn’t opened his mouth before getting tossed.

Gardner lost his cool and the New York Yankees lost their nine-game winning streak, beaten by the Toronto Blue Jays 8-2 Friday night.

“Just super frustrating,” Gardner said. “Just when you think you’ve seen it all. I don’t even know what to say.”

Teoscar Hernandez homered twice, Danny Jansen hit a three-run blast and Randal Grichuk added a two-run shot. Toronto connected three times off homer-prone lefty J.A. Happ (9-7).

Blue Jays rookie Bo Bichette went hitless for the first time in his 12-game career, ending a major league record streak that saw him hit at least one double in nine consecutive games. Instead of contributing with his bat, the 21-year-old shortstop bailed the Blue Jays out with his glove, making a run-saving catch on Didi Gregorius’ bases-loaded liner to end the fifth.

Bichette walked and scored in the first, grounded out in the third and fourth and struck out in the seventh. His average dropped from .408 to .385.

Gardner was ejected and had to be restrained from going after home plate umpire Chris Segal in the fourth inning.

Segal called Cameron Maybin out on a third strike that appeared to miss low but was lifted into the strike zone by catcher Danny Jansen. Yankees manager Aaron Boone, bench coach Josh Bard and Gardner protested from the dugout before Segal ejected Gardner following another low strike during Mike Tauchman’s at-bat.

“He just wanted to assume or wanted to take a guess, and he was wrong,” Gardner said of Segal. “Then he lied to me about it which was a huge problem, and that’s what made me a little upset.”

 

Miley helps Astros beat Orioles 3-2 for 7th straight victory

If Wade Miley pitched this well for the Baltimore Orioles, they never would have let him get away.

The resurgent left-hander extended his unbeaten streak to nine games, throwing impressively against his former team to help the surging Astros beat Baltimore 3-2 Friday night.

Jose Altuve hit a pivotal RBI triple in the seventh inning and Alex Bregman keyed a two-run first for the Astros, who have won seven straight and 17 of 20 to open a 10-game lead over Oakland in the AL West.

Miley (11-4) allowed one run, five hits and a pair of walks over 5 2/3 innings. He’s 5-0 in nine starts since June 17.

Miley pitched for Arizona, Boston and Seattle before going 10-20 with Baltimore in 2016-17. The Orioles had no interest in re-signing him, so he spent last year in Milwaukee before joining Houston in free agency.

Because of his background, pitching in Baltimore again wasn’t exactly emotional or nostalgic.

“I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve been with like six different teams, seven different teams,” he said. “I’ve been to some other ballparks where I’ve played. It’s good to come back.”

Though it wasn’t 32-year-old’s best effort of the season, it was good enough against the last-place Orioles.

“It was probably his worst command that he’s had in recent memory, and yet he still pitched very well and got to the sixth inning,” manager A.J. Hinch said.

After Ryan Pressly struck out two in the eighth with the tying run at second base, Roberto Osuna got three outs for his 26th save, retiring Chris Davis on a liner into the shift to end it.

 

Indians beat Twins 6-2, pull even for Central Division lead

Newcomers Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes engaged with their new teammates in a high-volume conversation, the jokes seeming to flow easily between the two arrivals from the trade deadline.

With an infusion of liveliness in Puig and Reyes and now a tie for the American League Central lead, the Indians are feeling good.

Shane Bieber pitched into the eighth inning, Jose Ramirez had three hits and Cleveland pulled into a tie in the Central with a 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

“We were all super excited coming into this series and I think you’ve seen that the first few games,” Bieber said. “It’s just an incredible group to be able to do this … being back tied at the top is a huge deal for us, and really for everybody. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of right now.”

The Indians trailed Minnesota by 11 1/2 games on June 3 before putting together a 41-16 run, the best record in the majors since June 4. The Twins are 30-28 in those games and their division lead finally slipped away with their first four-game losing streak of the season.

“I think you find out more about your team when things aren’t going well,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “We were 28-29 and they kept at it enough to be able to get hot, not bury ourselves.”

Bieber (12-4) allowed a pair of home runs but struck out 11 batters in seven innings. The All-Star MVP owns a 1.69 ERA over his last four starts, pitching at least seven innings in each outing.

Devin Smeltzer (1-2) surrendered six runs in 4 1/3 innings for the Twins.

Jason Castro and Eddie Rosario homered for Minnesota, which broke its franchise record for home runs in a season with its majors-leading total of 226.

 

Kelly blasts 2 late homers, D-backs beat Dodgers 3-2 in 11

Instead of walking off with another win, the Los Angeles Dodgers walked right out onto the field to confront Archie Bradley.

They were met by Bradley, Robbie Ray and the Arizona Diamondbacks, who had their own complaints about this extra-sensitive extra inning.

Although no punches were thrown in the bench-clearing postgame confrontation, these NL West rivals are well fueled for the rest of the weekend.

Carson Kelly hit a tying two-run homer in the ninth inning and a tiebreaking solo shot in the 11th, propelling the Diamondbacks to a 3-2 comeback victory over the major league-leading Dodgers on Friday night.

But Kelly’s first career multi-homer game was overshadowed when both benches cleared after the final out.

After Bradley completed his third save, he shouted and pointed at the players yelling at him from the Dodgers’ dugout, sending both teams onto the field for a meeting that stopped just short of a fight.

“As a competitor, you’re only going to take so much before you chirp back,” Bradley said. “I think it’s just competing. I don’t care how many games back we are from them. I don’t care who it’s against. We’re trying to win baseball games, and we’re going to come out and play with an edge and not take anything from anyone.”

The postgame trouble featured Dodgers manager Dave Roberts getting angry with Diamondbacks starter Ray, who came onto the field in shorts.

“I just saw something over there where things were getting defused, and then you see another person that’s really trying to instigate, and it’s just like, it’s not necessary,” said Roberts, who claimed he didn’t know he was yelling at Ray.

 

MLB pitcher has some reservations about ‘Field of Dreams’ game

Most fans reacted with some interest after Major League Baseball announced Thursday that it will stage a game at the “Field of Dreams” field in Iowa, but one MLB pitcher had some serious practical reservations.

The league announced that the game between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox will be staged there in 2020 at the site of where the renowned baseball movie was filmed in the late 1980s. The field in question is still there today and has become a tourist attraction.

Veteran MLB pitcher Phil Hughes, however, had some practical concerns — namely how the ballpark would play.

And people are concerned about Yankee Stadium’s dimensions.

Hughes’ concerns are valid. The good news is they’re also easily addressed. As noted in MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince’s story about the game, a temporary field will be constructed for the event that will pay tribute to the original Comiskey Park. That field will, presumably, also have MLB-worthy dimensions. Otherwise, this would be a total joke.

 

Mets sign infielder Joe Panik before game vs Nationals

The Mets signed second baseman Joe Panik on Friday before their series opener against the wild card-leading Washington Nationals, a homecoming for the New York native.

Born about twenty miles north of Citi Field in Yonkers, Panik lived in suburban Dutchess County where he attended John Jay High School in the hamlet of Hopewell Junction. He played college baseball for St. John’s not far from his new team’s Queens stadium

“It couldn’t have worked out any better for myself, personally, a lot of family, a lot of friends in the area,” Panik said. “For me to be coming to a club that’s hot right now… It’s very exciting. For me, it’s a great situation.”

The 28-year-old Panik was designated for assignment by San Francisco this week and later released. The Giants selected him in the first round out of St. John’s in 2011, and the former Gold Glove winner played a key role during the club’s 2014 World Series run.

“I think what we have in that clubhouse is something very special. There’s chemistry,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “Any player that we were going to bring into this clubhouse, we wanted to make sure that he fit in.”

An All-Star in 2015, Panik hit .271 with 36 home runs and 221 RBIs in six seasons with San Francisco. He has struggled this year, batting just .235 with a career-low .627 OPS in 103 games.

“You just don’t know what to expect when something like this happens. For me, it’s the first time in my career being DFA’d and changing teams,” Panik said. “I’ve been with the same organization since 2011 so it’s a lot of excitement right now.”

Panik fills a significant void, with everyday second baseman Robinson Cano out with a torn left hamstring. There is no timetable for Cano’s return, and he could miss the rest of the season.

 

Painful calf will continue to keep Luck on Colts’ sideline

The Indianapolis Colts are taking no chances with Andrew Luck – or Adam Vinatieri.

Coach Frank Reich said Friday he expects the starting quarterback to miss at least three more practices with a strained left calf, likely keeping him off the field until Wednesday, when the Cleveland Browns come to town for a joint practice.

“He is continuing to progress with his strength, which is awesome,” Reich said on a conference call. “But there still is a degree of pain that he is not comfortable with. Obviously, we are not comfortable with putting him out there.”

The injury kept Luck out of the Colts’ offseason workouts and he was sidelined again after practicing three times over the first four days of training camp, though he never took a snap in full team drills.

Backup Jacoby Brissett has worked with the starting offense. Brissett played most of the first quarter in Thursday’s 24-16 loss at Buffalo before turning things over to Phillip Walker and Chad Kelly, the nephew of former Bills star Jim Kelly.

Reich declined to say whether Luck’s injury might prompt the Colts to activate three quarterbacks for the Sept. 8 season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.

“We remain confident and optimistic on Andrew’s situation,” Reich said. “But again, it’s still day-to-day and working through that plan, what is the best plan for him, for the team. So we will just adjust as needed, if needed.”

Luck led the Colts to the playoffs for the first time in four years last season and won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award after returning from shoulder surgery that caused him to miss the 2017 season.

Luck isn’t the only star player dealing with an injury.

The Colts also acknowledged Friday that Vinatieri was held out of Thursday’s game because of a knee injury. The 46-year-old, four-time Super Bowl champion broke the league’s career scoring record last season and would become the third player in league history to suit up for a game at age 47 – if he plays in Indy’s regular season finale at Jacksonville.

Reich doesn’t anticipate being without Vinatieri for long.

“He is dealing with a little bit of a knee issue but not anything that’s going to be a problem,” Reich said.

Reich said no decision has been made yet about whether receiver Parris Campbell or defensive end/linebacker Ben Banogu, two draft picks who have sat out with hamstring injuries, will return to practice Saturday.

 

Browns’ Callaway suspended 4 games by NFL for drug violation

Browns wide receiver Antonio Callaway has stepped out of bounds again.

The NFL suspended Callaway four games without pay on Friday for an unspecified violation of the league’s policy and program on substance abuse. Callaway will sit out the first four regular-season games.

The 22-year-old can practice and play in preseason games before his suspension begins. He will be eligible to return to the Browns’ active roster on Sept. 30, the day after the team plays in Baltimore.

Callaway started Thursday night’s exhibition opener against Washington because Browns coach Freddie Kitchens rested star receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. He finished with three receptions for 42 yards.

“I take full responsibility for my actions,” Callaway said in a news release sent by the Browns. “I made a mistake and I own that. I have taken steps to make myself better and I appreciate the Browns standing by me and supporting me during this time. I know there’s nothing I can say to regain trust; it will all be about my actions.”

Browns general manager John Dorsey said the team was disappointed by Callaway’s actions.

“Freddie and I have had a direct conversation with him about where we stand,” Dorsey said. “He understands our expectations of him. We will continue to support him as long as he remains committed to taking advantage of the resources made available to him by our club and the league to help him become the best version of himself as a person first and foremost.”

The Browns drafted Callaway in the fourth round in 2018 despite his troubled stay at Florida, where he had a series of off-field issues ranging from a suspension for using stolen credit cards to a sexual assault allegation for which he was cleared.

 

Winners, losers from Friday’s preseason Week 1 NFL action

After a packed slate of preseason action on Thursday, the NFL delivered for fans once again on Friday with two exciting games that featured plenty of surprises.

The first week of the preseason is always about making strong impressions. Whether it’s a new offense trying to show a glimpse of what it’s capable of or a young player trying to impress coaches, it all makes for compelling action.

While many players stepped up and provided coaches with plenty of good tape to analyze, several others came off the field with plenty of regrets. Here are the winners and losers from Friday’s preseason action in the NFL.

Winner: Bruce Arians’ offense makes a strong first impression

Arians is certainly saving most of his playbook for the regular season, but he should come away from Friday’s game feeling even more confident in his starting offense.

Tampa Bay walked through Pittsburgh’s defense with ease and didn’t even need any of the vertical shots down the field we typically see from Arians’ offense. Jameis Winston completed five-of-six attempts for 40 yards with a touchdown, while Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones combined for 36 rushing yards on seven carries.

If any coach can help fix Winston’s issues and unlock more of this team’s potential, it will be Arians. Fans saw a glimpse of a high-powered, efficient offense on Friday, and Arians will have even more tricks up his sleeve when the games really matter.

Loser: New Orleans Saints offensive line depth

If the team’s preseason opener is any indication of what’s to come, New Orleans should fear for the safety of Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara if injuries hit the offensive line.

Minnesota threw the standard mix of blitzes and stunts at the Saints and regularly created havoc in the backfield. Marshall Newhouse, Will Clap and Michael Ola allowed plenty of pressure and got caught for penalties.

No one is expecting them to completely shut down any pressure and rack up pancakes, but this was ugly. Losing even one starter along the offensive line this season could be a massive blow for New Orleans if no one behind the starters steps up.

Winner: James Washington makes his case for a larger role

While Donte Moncrief might be the favorite to serve as Pittsburgh’s No. 2 receiver right now, Washington made a strong case with a dominant performance against the Buccaneers.

It started with a leaping catch for a 44-yard play in the first quarter that established early momentum. He followed it up with a clutch 22-yard grab when Pittsburgh’s drive was prepared to stall on a long third down.

He just missed out on a touchdown when he couldn’t get a second foot down, but made up for it later in the game with a score. The 23-year-old’s 84-yard performance and play-making ability should earn him a shot for more reps with the starters.

Loser: Benny Snell Jr. can’t take advantage of opportunities

The Steelers gave Snell an opportunity to thrive in his first preseason game and make an argument to be part of their running back rotation this season. Instead, the rookie couldn’t find any room to make a run.

While Jaylen Samuels needed just a single run to rack up 22 yards, Snell required 13 carries to surpass him. The rookie’s longest run came on a five-yard burst, he averaged just two yards per carry and his two big receptions came against third-string players.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering he tested poorly at the combine and was expected to be more of a short-yardage back at the next level. Pittsburgh’s fourth-round pick investment seems headed for a small role in 2019.

Winner: Devin Bush shows why Pittsburgh traded up for him

While one of Pittsburgh’s draft picks might have disappointed, Bush will be the talk of the city after his outstanding NFL debut on Friday.

Even fans who missed the game will be impressed looking at the box score to see Bush’s team-high seven solo tackles and 10 total tackles. The film also showed plenty of great plays, including a huge tackle for a stop on fourth down and some great coverage that nearly resulted in an interception.

There’s a reason the Steelers gave up the No. 52 overall pick and a 2020 third-round pick to move up in the first round and take Bush. He’s going to make an instant impact for this defense, and fans will quickly fall in love with him just like they did with Ryan Shazier.

Loser: Andre Ellington makes worst impression in a loaded backfield

In a game where many of his peers delivered notable performances, Ellington failed to provide any meaningful value to Tampa Bay’s offense.

The 30-year-old turned four carries into just nine rushing yards and got stuffed when Tampa Bay trusted him in a fourth-and-one situation. He made only a lone reception in the passing game, and his pass protection led to a sack and fumble for the Buccaneers.

Fortunately for Ellington, his reputation as a reliable receiver out of the backfield and a trusted weapon in Arians’ offense will give him some breathing room. Of course, that can only last for so long if his peers keep outperforming him.

Winner: Teddy Bridgewater shows he is the future in New Orleans

Whenever Drew Brees decides to hang up the cleats and head into the Hall of Fame, New Orleans should be in good hands with Bridgewater.

The 26-year-old performed nicely in the first half despite only having the team’s top playmakers for a short amount of time. Bridgewater showed off great placement on a deep ball down the sideline then wrapped up his clutch drive before halftime with a touchdown against his former team.

He finished the night with 134 passing yards and a 110.4 quarterback rating with 14-of-19 passes completed. While there are still a few things he’ll need to clean up, Bridgewater continues to prove he is capable of being a starting quarterback.

Loser: Fans of disciplined football

While people expect the first week of the preseason to feature more penalties than usual, the amount of yellow flags on the field seemed preposterous during Friday’s two-game slate.

Tampa Bay led the way with its undisciplined play by racking up a jaw-dropping 14 penalties for 112 yards. The Steelers did their part as well with nine penalties accepted for 69 yards lost.

The penalty frequency also became a common theme for the Vikings and Saints. Both teams combined for 21 penalties and 209 yards lost as a result. Let’s all hope that everyone, including the officials, cleans things up before the regular season hits.

 

Robert Quinn’s agent blasts league in statement over suspension

Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Robert Quinn received a two-game suspension Thursday for violating the NFL’s drug policy, and it resulted in one of the more critical rebuttals to a ban we’ve seen.

Quinn’s agent, Sean Kiernan, issued a statement on Twitter when the news broke going into detail of what happened. He writes that Quinn has a medical history of seizures which requires medication, and Quinn was suspended for a trace amount of the banned substance probenecid, which allegedly was the result of contamination. Quinn’s agent even specifically calls out an NFL attorney by name and says the league’s response was “tone deaf.”

The suspension comes on top of a broken hand that Quinn suffered during training camp. His season is off to a rough start, but he’ll be back for Week 3.

 

Jalen Ramsey already has ideas for where he’d go as a free agent

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey has never been shy about talking about getting his financial due, so perhaps it’s no surprise that he’s considering free agent destinations with two years left on his contract.

Ramsey appeared on the Bussin’ With the Boys podcast, hosted by Tennessee Titans lineman Taylor Lewan and former teammate Will Compton. He told them he’d like to play for either the Titans or the Las Vegas Raiders — and yes, there are financial incentives involved in both.

“It would probably be either here or Vegas,” Ramsey said, via Adam Maya of NFL.com. “I like Vegas. … It’s got no state income tax. Here don’t either.”

Ramsey’s current home state of Florida doesn’t have a state income tax either, but he was dismissive of that being pointed out.

“But we’re thinking about, we were making moves,” Ramsey replied. “And Vegas, you got everything there.”

This is a guy who sent the Jaguars a pretty clear message about his priorities when he showed up to training camp. Ramsey wants to get paid, and you can hardly blame him. Maybe they should be a little worried that he’s apparently been doing his research despite having two years to go in Jacksonville, at least as it currently stands.

 

Eagles QB Nate Sudfeld to undergo surgery for broken wrist

The injury news on Nate Sudfeld is not positive.

Sudfeld suffered a broken left wrist while breaking a fall following a hit in the second quarter of Thursday’s preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans. The former Indiana quarterback was placed in an air cast and carted into the locker room after the injury.

Following the game, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said that Sudfeld had broken his wrist and would undergo surgery on Friday. There is not currently a timetable on the quarterback’s recovery.

Sudfeld has seen action in three games over the past two seasons and even threw a touchdown pass last year. He was 10/18 for 177 yards and a touchdown pass before getting hurt in Thursday’s game.

Sudfeld was expected to be the backup quarterback to Carson Wentz. Cody Kessler and rookie Clayton Thorson are the other quarterbacks on the team’s roster.

 

Saints back NFL in bid to dismiss fans’ NFC title game lawsuit

The NFL’s bid to get a lawsuit stemming from the NFC Championship game blocked has a supporter in the New Orleans Saints organization.

The league appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court in a bid to get the lawsuit, filed by a Saints fan furious over the no-call that likely cost the team a Super Bowl bid, thrown out. That motion was backed by the Saints themselves, who argued that they had achieved a rule change in light of the error.

That rule change was making pass interference controversies subject to video review, which the Saints successfully pressed for in light of the infamous no-call.

The suit had previously been allowed to go ahead, with a judge even scheduling depositions for commissioner Roger Goodell and the referees involved. The league will do everything in its power to avoid getting to that point, which brings us to this latest step — with the support of the Saints.

 

49ers rule Nick Bosa out for preseason with ankle sprain

Highly-touted rookie Nick Bosa has some work to do if he’s to be ready for the start of the regular season.

According to 49ers general manager John Lynch, the defensive lineman has an ankle sprain that will rule him out for the entire preseason. From that point, he’ll be evaluated for Week 1, and the team will go from there.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan is “hoping” Bosa will play in Week 1.

This was the way things had been trending, especially for a player with an injury history like Bosa. Things don’t sound extremely serious, but there’s no harm in being cautious.

 

Antonio Brown rumors: Retirement threatened over helmet dispute, timeline on injured feet up in the air

Something’s afoot with Antonio Brown.

The seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver is carrying the hopes of the Oakland Raiders on his shoulders, after heading west following a trade that sent a 2019 third- and fifth-round selection to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for his talents. That occurred in March, and with deafening fanfare, but the cheers are slowly devolving into questions about his availability going into the 2019 season. Brown has not participated in 10 of the 11 Raiders’ training camp practices, and for one of the oddest reasons you’ll ever hear — having suffered severe frostbite on the soles of his feet caused by wearing inappropriate footwear in a cryotherapy machine.

But wait, there’s more.

It appears that an issue with his helmet could tie into an absence that was previously thought to be solely based upon his feet, with details of just how irate Brown has become about his headwear being made public. And according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the issue around his helmet is important enough to Brown that he won’t play if he doesn’t get his wish.

The unabashedly verbose Brown reportedly made his disdain for the new helmet known back in OTAs, per NFL insider Michael Silver, which led to an early wedge being driven between the mercurial wideout and the coaching staff. It’s believed this also plays a part in why Brown is purportedly “staying away” from Napa — where the Raiders are holding training camp — with at least one person calling Brown’s helmet tirade “the most insane thing I’ve ever heard,” per Silver.

When told in May of the new rule and how he’d no longer be able to wear his old helmet, Brown reportedly accused quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers of defying the rule, and believed he should be allowed to as well. Brown reportedly stormed out of the facility and Raiders officials later sent him footage via text of Brady and Rodgers at practice in the new league-mandated helmets. Things cooled noticeably the following day, and Brown began wearing the new helmet, but he had a trick up his sleeve.

Over the next couple of weeks, it was discovered Brown had again attempted to take the field with his old helmet — this time spray-painted to mirror the new one, per Silver. He was again told it was not allowed and replaced it with the new version. Fast forward to training camp in Napa and the issue again surfaced. At camp, Brown attempted to sneak his old helmet onto the field, as he did in May, but was again caught and chastised by the Raiders.

“He’s still freaking out about it,” an unnamed Raiders player told Silver. “He hasn’t been here for a while, and no one knows where he’s at.”

The lengthy oddity of a story continues by describing how Brown routinely uses devices to distract himself during team meetings, by looking through bank accounts and double-tapping Instagram images. While that can be viewed as unacceptable behavior, especially for a veteran player who the organization looks upon to set an example, the unbridled attempts at circumventing league policy regarding the helmet combine with the cryotherapy mishap to scroll Instagram during a meeting look mostly inconsequential.

And so, we come to Brown’s potential retirement if the helmet issue doesn’t go his way. This would be historically bad news for Oakland, but it would at least allow them to recover some or all of the near $15 million Brown is set to earn this season. Sitting out with the injury to his feet would protect his salary, but holding out to prevent complying with a league rule would not. The exception here is if the Raiders place him on the non-football injury list, which would relieve their obligation to pay him a single cent this season, per Over The Cap.

The Raiders would rather have him on the field, though, because they can’t recover the two draft picks they gave up for him.

If Brown wins in arbitration regarding the helmet, the ruling will open up the floodgates for every other player who takes issue with the new helmet regulations. If he loses, however, the Raiders will now be forever concerned about Brown’s repeated attempts at sneaking in his old helmet — teams are subject to penalty from the league office if they’re found to not be in compliance. That punishment could amount to sizable fines or worse, but it’s pretty obvious Brown either isn’t taking that into account, or he simply doesn’t care.

Then again, he might simply retire, and if somehow the helmet situation is resolved — there’s still the matter of his feet.

That’s the only part of the Brown foot saga that is concrete thus far, because the timeline for his return from the injury itself sure isn’t. Initially, it was reported the 31-year-old had no timetable for return, and a recent — also nauseating — Instagram image of the soles of his feet supported that claim. From there, it was claimed Brown had begun ignoring the Raiders’ brass altogether, going “radio silent” and leaving the organization with “zero clue” about the progress of his foot, or lack thereof — per Chase Williams of WPXI in Pittsburgh.

Not long after Williams’ claim, an alternate report directly refuted it, with Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal labeling Williams’ report as false, and citing a team source that says there have been conversations with Brown and that he is expected to return “in the near future”. While there’s still no date attached to the eventual return, it does sound more promising than having the recently-acquired No. 1 wideout — who is set to earn upwards of $14.96 million in 2019 — supposedly ghost coaches and team execs during training camp.

That is, of course, assuming the report that refutes the other report holds true. At this point, all the Raiders can do is remain in contact with Brown and wait for his feet to heal fully. They hope that’s soon because Brown will be needed on an offensive unit that was anything but impressive last season.

When the six-time All-Pro does eventually suit up, there’s a new matter he’ll be contending with — this time against the league itself. Brown has reportedly filed a grievance against the NFL over rules that will not permit him to wear the helmet of his choosing, but rather the one mandated by commissioner Roger Goodell and the National Operating Committee for Standards and Athletic Equipment, per Adam Schefter of ESPN. The league installed new rules for 2019 that impacted several top players and will force Brown out of the helmet he’s played in his entire career.

A hearing is expected within the next several days, and an arbitrator will determine if Brown is forced into the new helmet. Where this story goes from there, or from any angle, is anyone’s guess.

From an uncomfortable cranium to frostbitten feet, Brown literally has issues from head to toe in 2019, and it’s only August.

 

To avoid cold start, Raiders need Antonio Brown to put best feet forward

What exactly is going on with Antonio Brown? What has been reported, that his feet are bothering him after he suffered a “cryogenic chamber mishap,” borders on farcical.

Former San Diego Chargers team physician Dr. David Chao offered a more plausible theory: that Brown is suffering from a version of “trench foot” and his feet were chewed up because they were too moist while he was working out. Chao added that a “cryogenic mishap” may have exacerbated Brown’s condition, but that it wasn’t the root issue.

This ailment seems like the kind of thing that would sideline a naïve high school freshman, not a future Hall of Famer who is known to be maniacal about his training and taking care of his body. One would think that changing socks regularly would be part of his routine, but perhaps it’s not. The whole episode is strange.

Brown’s absence, though it shouldn’t persist much longer, as HBO’s Tuesday “Hard Knocks” episode detailed, is an inauspicious start to his Raiders tenure.

Oakland traded for Brown and gave him $30.1 million guaranteed. It did so assuming it would get the wide receiver who was a first-team All-Pro from 2014-2017, and who, even in a “down” 2018, still led the league in receiving touchdowns (15). From 2014-2018, Brown averaged 115 catches, 1,529 yards and 12 touchdowns per season. No other wide receiver in the league can claim similar numbers. The Raiders might get exactly what they paid for, but right now, Brown is missing important reps every day he doesn’t practice.

Before you scoff at the importance of practice, especially for a player of Brown’s caliber, consider that much of his greatness in Pittsburgh came as a result of his well-honed, refined connection with Ben Roethlisberger. The two might have had major differences off the field, but their rapport on it led to them becoming the league’s best quarterback-wide receiver duo for the last half-decade.

That’s the biggest problem with the current situation. Brown and Derek Carr need time to mesh, because so much of Brown’s excellence is based on precision and detail. He’s not a physical specimen the way fellow elite receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones are. He wins by doing all the little things perfectly, and being in lockstep with his quarterback is part of that equation.

The Raiders’ defense, ranked 26th in 2018, should be improved this season, because it probably can’t get any worse. But if a big turnaround is in the offing in Oakland, it will be because Brown energizes and transforms the offense. If this saga drags out much longer, it’s reasonable to expect Carr and Brown to be rusty early in the regular season. Brown certainly is too big an investment to risk playing much, if at all, in the preseason.

Wins and losses aren’t the only thing at stake here. Brown has doubters to prove wrong, detractors to silence. Last season proved he wasn’t good at ignoring them. When The Undefeated’s Jesse Washington wrote a long feature about Brown’s perpetually upbeat social media presence, juxtaposing it against less-flattering details from his personal life, the receiver’s response was a threatening tweet, since deleted, that said, “@jessewashington wait to I see you bro we gone see what your jaw like.”

It didn’t stop there. When a former Steelers public relations staffer tweeted this about Brown, his response was a quote-tweet: “Trade me let’s find out.”

The only way to prove that he, not Roethlisberger, was the more important member of their partnership is to produce at the same level with a lesser quarterback. That would satisfy critiques about Brown as an individual player. To completely win the battle against his doubters, Brown must lead the Raiders to the playoffs and be a model citizen in the process. He was seen as a divisive force after his ugly exit in Pittsburgh. In Oakland, which opens its preseason schedule Saturday against the Rams, he must be a positive influence.

Missing time because of injured feet isn’t indicative of a character flaw. Fairly or not, however, Brown has been under a microscope since the minute the trade became official. Posting pictures of mangled skin on the bottoms of his feet while not practicing is not the start Jon Gruden and the Raiders envisioned for their prized acquisition. There is no definitive timetable for his return, and with uncertainty comes unease.

That’s the last thing Brown and Oakland need.

 

Five NFL trades we want to see before Week 1, like A.J. Green to 49ers and Eagles adding a QB

The bulk of the NFL’s offseason action comes in March, when the free agency floodgates first open, but that doesn’t mean teams aren’t eyeballing big moves as the regular season draws near.

The Houston Texans are fresh off a trade for Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson, and just last fall, the league saw a flurry of deals for notable names: Teddy Bridgewater, for example, went from New York to New Orleans in late August, and Khalil Mack’s blockbuster move to Chicago came all the way on Sept. 1.

All that’s to say there could easily be a headlining move or two still around the corner. With trades in mind, here’s a look at five we think would make lots of sense during the 2019 preseason:

WR A.J. Green

49ers get: WR A.J. Green

Bengals get: 2020 fourth-round pick, 2021 seventh-round pick

Green would’ve been an obvious trade candidate even before Marvin Lewis was canned and the Bengals went full into rebuild mode, as he’s set to hit the open market in 2020. Now, there’s almost no reason for either side to ride this out. From Cincy’s point of view, why not try to get something for a 31-year-old impending free agent with a $15 million cap hit? With Green expected to miss multiple games with an ankle injury, opening the door for an internally praised Josh Malone alongside a recently paid Tyler Boyd, and new coach Zac Taylor just beginning his overhaul of the roster, why not try to sell the Pro Bowler now?

The 49ers would obviously be betting on Green returning to health by surrendering at least one premier pick here, but they can afford the gamble. Jimmy Garoppolo is entering a huge prove-it season under center, and his receiving corps, while injected with youth, lacks a lot of pop or proven production. San Fran has more than enough cap space to swallow Green’s 2019 cap charge, and if the rental works out down the stretch, the Niners will have the option to either re-up one of the league’s top outside targets (when healthy) or cash in on a compensatory pick by allowing Green to test his market. It’s a win-win across the board.

QB Trevor Siemian

Eagles get: QB Trevor Siemian

Jets get: 2020 fifth-round pick

A true Howie Roseman blockbuster would be assembling a package for a top pass rusher to rotate with Derek Barnett opposite Brandon Graham (like, say, Jerry Hughes, who plays for a team that might have use for a guy like Halapoulivaati Vaitai). But after Thursday night, priority No. 1 has suddenly become finding an experienced backup for Carson Wentz, who — in case you forgot — has been prone to miss games. Nate Sudfeld may very well be sidelined for much of the 2019 season after suffering a broken wrist in his preseason debut, and Siemian — even more proven than Sudfeld — would make for an instant upgrade over Cody Kessler.

The Jets, of course, signed Siemian to be the No. 2 behind their own youngster, Sam Darnold. But they signed him months before new general manager Joe Douglas, a noted member of the Eagles’ title-winning front office, came over from Philly. That’s not to say Siemian’s unwanted, but is the drop-off from him to, say, free agent Josh Johnson so steep that Douglas would turn down a future pick for his Jets reconstruction? (Fun fact: Johnson once signed with the Bears back when Douglas was in Chicago’s front office, too.) Douglas could help his old friends out and gain some draft capital for a guy the Jets will likely replace after 2019 anyway.

OT Trent Williams

Texans get: OT Trent Williams

Washington gets: 2020 second-round pick

Williams is apparently bent on forcing Washington’s hand after disagreements over either the team’s medical operations or a future contract, so unless Dan Snyder decides to fork over a lucrative raise, the NFC East’s leading candidate to bottom out early in 2019 could be forced to consider dealing their longtime left tackle. It’s hardly ideal for new quarterback Dwayne Haskins, but it can also be justified: Williams is 31, he hasn’t played a full season in six years, and he’ll save the club a lot of cap space through 2020. Plus, there’s one team in particular that looks especially primed to cough up considerable compensation.

The Texans are operating without a general manager, and that might explain why Houston gave up what could be a third-rounder for Duke Johnson, a change-of-pace running back. That alone should tell you they’d probably jump at the chance to land Williams for a two — a price most teams would probably balk at considering Williams’ salary and injury/suspension history. Regardless of how you feel about the compensation, though, this is clear: The Texans need to protect Deshaun Watson. They brought in Matt Kalil for added competition at LT this offseason, but Williams is on another level — or three. This would intensify their title hopes.

DE Everson Griffen

Seahawks get: DE Everson Griffen

Vikings get: OT George Fant, 2021 seventh-round pick

Seattle made headline after headline while tearing down its aged and injured “Legion of Boom,” but the team all but admitted to overstepping in that mission by prioritizing upgrades for its depleted D-line this offseason, first with the early selection of L.J. Collier and then the signing of Ezekiel Ansah. While Ansah is now expected to be healthy for Week 1, the Seahawks’ front four is still entering the season rather bare, and Griffen is exactly the kind of proven pass rusher they’d be able to instantly plug in, play and be excited about. As a bonus, he’s got a steep price tag beyond 2019 but can be released without much penalty.

Why, exactly, would Minnesota part with Griffen, though? The answer is twofold: First, because the Vikings’ pass rush is in good, young hands after 2018 confirmed Danielle Hunter as a freak off the edge and indicated that Stephen Weatherly, Griffen’s backup and a candidate for an extension, has untapped potential. Secondly, because the Vikings could really use cap space, especially considering the money they’ve spread around to other parts of a dominant defensive lineup. They’re talented enough to endure Griffen’s loss, take the extra cash and, in this scenario, collect some much-needed right tackle insurance for Kirk Cousins and Co.

CB Josh Norman

Chiefs get: CB Josh Norman

Washington gets: 2020 fifth-round pick

Trent Williams might be the only big name openly campaigning for a move out of Washington, but if his team stumbles out of the gate, things could get ugly fast, whether that means a Jay Gruden dismissal or further roster upheaval. Snyder’s front office has reason to purge bloated contracts with Haskins in the fold and the future now a priority, and it’s hard to find a contract that fits that category better than Norman’s. While the 31-year-old is one of the top names in Washington’s secondary, he’s set to count almost $30 million against the cap through 2020, and that’s after already being demoted to the bench on several occasions.

Kansas City isn’t hiding its desperation to upgrade a cornerback group that got toasted week after week in 2018, inking Morris Claiborne to a one-year deal despite the former New York Jets starter expected to serve a four-game suspension. And with loads of cap space entering the season, the Chiefs can afford to take a swing on someone like Norman, who’d likely embrace a change of scenery, would be reunited with former ‘Skins teammate Kendall Fuller and benefit from playing alongside a rangy safety like Tyrann Mathieu. Andy Reid has jettisoned outspoken CBs before (see: Marcus Peters), but this risk might be worth it.

 

2019 NFL Predictions: Steelers, Broncos, Bills (not Browns or Packers) lead list of teams to make leap back into playoffs

Man, optimism is so much easier. After writing about five teams who would miss the playoffs and, frankly, struggling to find five good candidates to fall back, it’s onto the teams who will make a leap.

What’s crazy is I’m not even taking the two obvious layups in Cleveland and Green Bay. The Browns and Packers could definitely make it back to the postseason and no one would be surprised, but I’m passing on the low-hanging fruit. I’ll save that for someone else. I’m also barely passing on the Falcons, but only because I feel bad for cursing them last year.

Last year, I went three of five for teams that would miss the playoffs, and I would give myself partial credit for the Eagles simply because things basically went as I predicted and then Nick Foles magic happened late. In 2017, I managed to successfully hit on four of five teams who would take a step back.

I’ve been less successful at predicted who would leap up and make the postseason, going two for five in 2018 and two for five in 2017 as well. Let’s try and fix that below. Speaking of below, you can also listen to the Pick Six Podcast where we break the teams down below and by subscribing to the only daily NFL pod on the planet.

Carolina Panthers

2018 Record: 7-9

2018 Expected Wins: 7.8

2019 Vegas Win Total: 7.5 (over -185)

Overview: The Panthers have been a bit of a juxtaposition in this space recently, with me putting Ron Rivera on the hot seat rankings and also putting Carolina’s offense on the potential breakout list. Both can be true, and I’m not sure the former is actually a problem for the Panthers having a great season. Ron Rivera actually performs very well following a down season/when he’s on the hot seat. Remember when the Panthers were about to can him in 2013 after EJ Manuel and the Bills beat Carolina and sent Rivera to 0-2? Then “Riverboat Ron” was born and the Panthers ripped off a 12-2 run to close the season. Rivera’s been up and down almost every year of his career in Carolina, going 12-4, 7-8-1 (division winner!), 15-1, 6-10, 11-5 and 7-9 over the last six seasons. Those two recent seasons down coincide with Cam Newton’s season ending early with shoulder surgery. Since 2013, a healthy Cam has equated to a playoff run. It’s why Newton is the most important figure in the entire NFC South.

Why they might not make the playoffs: Newton is coming off his second shoulder surgery and is still ramping up his throwing plan. Carolina was 6-2 when he got hurt and finished the season 7-9, with the only other win coming in a meaningless Week 17 victory over Teddy Bridgewater and the Saints. I don’t want to cut this section short, because there are other reasons the Panthers could miss the playoffs — potential offensive stars get injured (Greg Olsen) or don’t actually break out (Curtis Samuel) or maybe the offensive line is much worse than we thought or perhaps the new-look defense doesn’t gel or maybe the division is just too tough — but the bottom line is if Cam isn’t healthy Carolina won’t be playing in January. And it will be an interesting offseason to say the least.

Why they will make the playoffs: Newton has been healthy, especially after a season when he misses games. He should be motivated for contractual/status reasons in Carolina this year. Offensively, Carolina has maybe the most talent yet around Cam. The offensive line is surprisingly talented and deep — it could challenge to be a top-10 unit this year if everything breaks right. Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Samuel and Olsen is a lethal amount of talent for Norv Turner to work with. Defensively, Rivera has the most unique group he’s had in a while. Adding Gerald McCoy, Bruce Irvin and Brian Burns this offseason as Rivera moves this team to a hybrid-style 3-4 front is one of the most interesting storylines in the NFL. McCoy gets his old team, the Bucs, twice in the first six weeks of the season. He should come out warm. Burns has been unblockable in training camp. Luke Kuechly appears to be healthy and Shaq Thompson will finally get a chance to showcase his skillset in this defense. The schedule isn’t that difficult — Warren Sharp’s Vegas total strength of schedule has Carolina at 22nd but there are some bottom feeders on there, playing the Saints twice alters things and I think Vegas has the wrong number (7.5) for Carolina. It’s going to move to eight at some point with the juice. The Panthers also went a ridiculous 2-7 in one-score games last year, with most of the losses coming after Cam was injured. That should regress to the mean in 2019.

Minnesota Vikings

2018 Record: 8-7-1

2018 Expected Wins: 8.5

2019 Vegas Win Total: 9 (over -110)

Overview: After signing Kirk Cousins to a monster $84 million deal last offseason the Vikings quickly became a trendy Super Bowl pick and couldn’t keep pace with expectations. They slept-walk through a loss to the Bills at home and then got in a shootout with the Rams on primetime four days later; they fell to 1-2-1 and maybe didn’t ever recover. Tough road games — New England, Seattle and Chicago — late in the year spelled doom for a team that wasn’t prepared for primetime nor the outdoors (oddly, being from Minnesota and all). John DeFillipo was fired midseason as Mike Zimmer grumbled about running the ball more. The defense was good but not elite, per se, largely driven by the midseason absence of Everson Griffen. Dalvin Cook didn’t play the whole season and after a nuclear start, Adam Thielen cooled down the stretch. Zimmer is now fully embracing the pressure of perhaps coaching for his job — or at least being relatively near the hot seat? — and people doubting him.

Why the might not make the playoffs: For starters, this is a tough neighborhood to deal with. The Packers have an angry Aaron Rodgers under center, the Bears look like a budding superpower and there’s a lot of Vegas buzz about sharp money taking the Lions to make the playoffs. The NFC as a whole is just difficult too; someone is getting squeezed in a tough crowd of wild-card contenders. Revamping the offense should fix some of the problems, but it’s not a guarantee. Cousins has to win some freaking prime-time games already. Even if the defense is top tier again — and there’s no guarantee it moves from top 10 back to top 5 — it can’t carry a questionable/uneven offense.

Why they will make the playoffs: Because I think the offense is poised to explode this season. Adding Gary Kubiak (one of the OG zone-blocking coaches) to an offense featuring Cook (ran the scheme at FSU) and Cousins (drafted by Mike Shanahan, Kubiak’s mentor) and then drafting Garrett Bradbury (90 percent of his rushing snaps in his senior year at NC State were zone blocking plays) could kickstart things on that side of the ball. Thielen and Diggs and Kyle Rudolph flooding across the field on play action? Yes please. The defense is definitely older, but it’s loaded with stars. Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph are a stout defensive line. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are locked into linebacker roles. Harrison Smith is begging for a bounce-back and the cornerbacks (Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes leading) are a deep and talented group. The schedule looks fairly tough but it interests me that starting in Week 10 they have just one game (at Seattle, Week 13, after their bye) that could potentially be bad weather. A hot start for this team, would put them in great position. I like the offense to surprise out of the gate.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2018 Record: 9-6-1

2018 Expected Wins: 9.6

2019 Vegas Win Total: 9 (over -1)

Overview: Last year was a drama-filled disaster for Mike Tomlin’s team, with Le’Veon Bell’s holdout capturing the first half of the season and then Antonio Brown deathgripping the back end with his petulant behavior. Bell would eventually be set free into the wild, while Brown was sent to Oakland for a third-round pick. Things got so bad, the Steelers were willing to eat $25 million in dead cap space this year just to give away the best receiver in football for a mid-round pick. A slow start to the season beget a hot middle stretch but Pittsburgh’s playoff aspirations were ultimately undone thanks to a late-season loss to the Raiders in Oakland that capped off a three-game losing streak. James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster emerged as viable superstars (and first/second-round fantasy picks) and Ben Roethlisberger led the league in passing yards, but there’s no doubt last season was a major disappointment.

Why they might not make the playoffs: It’s entire possible that losing two offensive superstars is too much to overcome. What if JuJu isn’t ready to be a No. 1? What if Conner can’t stay healthy for a full season? The departure of Mike Munchak isn’t getting enough attention for what it could do the offensive line. It’s been a hot minute since the Steelers actually had a good defense. There’s no guarantee it magically flips around this season.

Why they will make the playoffs: I am HERE for the Big Ben vengeance tour. If you think he’s OK with everyone pinning the Steelers missing the playoffs on him you’re insane. Additionally, he knows that if he goes out and has a monster year without Bell and Brown, he’ll be highly praised both for his play and his leadership. Hell hath no fury like a QB spurned. More importantly, I just think the Steelers are loaded on both sides of the ball. Offensively they still have a very good offensive line, even without Munchak coaching. Conner showed he’s very capable of being a feature back while Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell give Pittsburgh plenty of depth. JuJu is a stud. He’s on his third team but Donte Moncrief just turned 26 years old, he’s a veteran with upside. People are sleeping on James Washington — JuJu is the rare breakout first year wideout for the Steelers. Vance McDonald is flying under a lot of radars. He and Samuels can soak up a ton of targets, especially in the red zone, this year. Devin Bush could change this defense. There’s always been talent on the defensive line and the secondary is improved. Adding a sideline-to-sideline linebacker could turn this defense back to the level it displayed a few years ago before Ryan Shazier went down. It’s an odd variable but the Steelers being listed as underdogs in this division? They will be aware of that.

Denver Broncos

Overview: Actually a good team last year, the Broncos suffered from some bad coaching late in games. Out goes Vance Joseph and in comes Vic Fangio. Case Keenum was traded to the Redskins and Joe Flacco was acquired. Drew Lock was drafted, although there haven’t been a ton of rave reviews for his play just quite yet. Defensively this has been a good team for several years now, even if the Broncos weren’t THE BEST defense the last two years like they were in 2015 and 2016. John Elway feels a little sizzle near his seat, putting some pressure on his latest quarterback decisions and the need to win now.

Why they might not make the playoffs: Flacco could get hurt and Lock might have to step in. Even with optimum health, this is a brutal division. Philip Lindsay was a breakout in 2018, but he’s been hurt throughout the preseason. Who, exactly, are the stud pass catchers on this team? Protection and run blocking has been a problem for this team over the last several years. The offense is largely an unknown without a veteran for Flacco to lean on or someone to really stretch the field. Man the division is really, really hard. That’s probably my biggest concern, because you need to get three teams in and hope no second team emerges from the AFC East or AFC North.

Why they will make the playoffs: There are a few underlying factors that really get me excited about this team. For one, stealing Munchak from the Steelers is one of the most underrated moves of the offseason. It ranks up there with the Vikings getting Kubiak (ironically, from the Broncos) in terms of being able to make a difference. There’s talent on this offensive line, with Ronald Leary, Garrett Bolles, Ju’Waun James and rookie Dalton Risner currently lining up to start. I’m buying a lot of shares of Royce Freeman this offseason, while Lindsay could still bounce back and Theo Riddick could be a sneaky addition. You’ll laugh, but Flacco was GOOD last year before he got hurt. Lamar Jackson’s emergence made him expendable, but I think he fits well with this Rich Scangarello offense. The new OC is unknown, but assuming he’ll run something in line with a Kyle Shanahan system, it’s easy to see Flacco fitting right in. I’m concerned about the pass catchers, but Courtland Sutton can break out right?? Emmanual Sanders coming off an Achilles tear is problematic. Noah Fant could be a guy Flacco just leans on, even as a rookie. Defensively why can’t this unit be the best in football? We covered it more on Friday’s Pick Six Podcast — subscribe here to get it downloaded as soon as it lands! — but this could be the best defense in football. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are superstars. Chris Harris got some money, but he’s underrated and underpaid. Justin Simmons is emerging. Fangio turned the Bears into the best defense in football. There’s no reason he can’t do it with this team too.

Buffalo Bills

Overview: The most obvious “come back to Earth” team last year, the Bills obliged quite easily, going 6-10 after Sean McDermott shocked the world with a playoff berth in his first season as head coach. All things said, it’s pretty remarkable he’s 15-17 so far in his career considering what he’s worked with in Buffalo through two seasons. The Bills had lots of ups and downs last season and we saw lots of fights about whether Josh Allen is a good quarterback or not. Those shouldn’t slow down this season, although Buffalo did an excellent job adding low-key quality options around him, both on the offensive line and in terms of pass catchers. Defensively there are some legit weapons on this team. Playing in Tom Brady’s division does not help things, but the Bills have a decent shot at ascending to the king slayer role in the next year or so (probably not in 2019…?).

Why they might not make the playoffs: There aren’t any STARS on this team. LeSean McCoy is the most “famous” player? Not that fame matters — there are budding stars on this roster, but we can’t be sure they will bud this year. This division is pretty tough. Perhaps you’ve heard of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? They’ve had this division on lock for all but basically one year in the last two decades. You better be planning on a wild card berth. The Bills outperformed their win expectancy last year, as their point differential indicated they were a five-win team. They were 30th in points scored, so the offense wasn’t, uh, good. And it’s not like they picked up monsters on offense either: Allen is throwing to Zay Jones, John Brown, Cole Beasley, Robert Foster and an assortment of injured/young tight ends. There’s nothing young about the running backs! Shady McCoy and Frank Gore are ancient. Devin Singletary and T.J. Yeldon are younger but we don’t know if they can be feature backs. Maybe the defense doesn’t take the step everyone expects this season.

Why they will make the playoffs: Look, if we’re being perfectly frank, I don’t have the stones to put the Patriots on a list of teams that could miss the playoffs. But maybe THIS could be the year they take a step back and Brady falls off a cliff? Probably not, but it’s more likely than it’s ever been just because of the inevitable march of time. If that were to happen it would change the AFC landscape. Even if it doesn’t, the Bills could take a leap forward. Allen is talented. No one denies this. The protection that adding Quinton Span, Mitch Morse and Cody Ford this offseason should provide will help in a huge way. That group of wideouts isn’t sexy but it’s somehow a massive upgrade from — *checks notes* — Kelvin Benjamin and Corey Coleman. If Allen takes a leap watch out. I think Shady will actually bounce back OK this year and Singletary could be a sneaky impact draft pick. There’s some potential STUDS on defense (they’re just not famous) in the form of Tremaine Edmunds (now legally able to drink!) and Tre’Davious White (he could be the NFL’s top corner by the end of this year). McDermott gets the most out of his team and the Bills almost always find a way to win some surprising games at home. I think McDermott’s undervalued as a coach, I think the Bills have been the most stable (!) non Pats team in the AFC East the last few years and I think if Allen takes a jump they can get back to the playoffs.

 

Scout’s take: Sizing up NFL’s best big-men groups

The big men in the NFL don’t accumulate much in the way of statistics. There aren’t fantasy leagues for linemen, and they aren’t talked about nearly as much as their skill-position brethren. But without question, controlling the line of scrimmage is as important as ever in the league.

So we decided to combine the offensive linemen and defensive tackle types and picked the best big-men groups in the league. More or less, this is just for the 300-pounders, give or take. Guys like Von Miller, Khalil Mack and even JJ Watt, who mostly lines up on the edge, are not included. This is just a ranking of the big men who play big-men positions on the field.

What the NFL really looks for with these trench players is their ability in the passing game. So, without question, pass protection and interior pass-rush are paramount in these evaluations.

There is an excellent theory that if an offensive lineman is both smart and tough, he becomes extremely difficult to get off the field. But, taking it a step further in today’s athletic NFL, a new huge key is an offensive lineman’s ability to change direction. This applies to hitting a moving target in space or reacting to the pass rush of a great athlete.

The gap in pure athletic ability with the big men on defense over their offensive counterparts is staggering across the league. But there is more technique with great defensive line play than many might realize.

Fletcher Cox had 10.5 sacks last season for the Eagles.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles

Other than the Rams’ Aaron Donald (280 lbs.), overall, the big man who carries the most weight for this exercise is Fletcher Cox (310 lbs.). The fact that Cox also has Timmy Jernigan (295 lbs.) and Malik Jackson (290 lbs.) alongside him at defensive tackle is somewhat amazing. That alone would have Philadelphia high on this list, but the Eagles also are in the conversation for having the NFL’s best offensive line. How many teams in this league can trade up for a left tackle in the first round and not even start him? That is exactly what Philadelphia did in drafting Andre Dillard (315 lbs.), who is in an ideal position to learn from one of the best left tackles of this generation: Jason Peters (328 lbs.). Meanwhile, Jason Kelce (295 lbs.) and Lane Johnson (317 lbs.) are very much in the conversation for being the NFL’s best center and right tackle, respectively. And Brandon Brooks (335 lbs.) is an excellent guard. Philadelphia has an embarrassment of 300-pound riches.

Steelers Stephon Tuitt (91) and Tyson Alualu (94) add to the team’s stout defensive line.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers offensive line has amazing continuity and a huge component of sustained offensive line play — as well as depth. Pittsburgh has eight offensive linemen who could conceivably start on other teams and also has Pro Bowlers in Maurkice Pouncey (304 lbs.), David DeCastro (316 lbs.) and Alejandro Villanueva (320 lbs.). Pittsburgh’s big men on the other side of the ball are equally as impressive. Cameron Heyward (295 lbs.) is a solid player, and Stephon Tuitt (303 lbs.) is even more talented, often showing flashes of greatness. Javon Hargrave (305 lbs.) is very much a breakout candidate who has not seen as much playing time because of the team’s two other excellent defensive linemen, and Tyson Alualu (304 lbs.) also provides strong depth. The Steelers being loaded with great big men has become the foundation of their franchise.

Former Bucs star Gerald McCoy may rotate with Carolina’s other top-notch interior defensive linemen.

  1. Carolina Panthers

It might shock some people that Carolina is this high on the list, but the Panthers did a great job this offseason at improving on both sides of the ball. After being released by the Buccaneers, Gerald McCoy (300 lbs.) was quickly snatched up by his former divisional rival. With Kawann Short (315 lbs.), the straw that stirs the drink for Carolina’s front, along with Dontari Poe (346 lbs.), the up-in-age McCoy should be able to rotate in and stay fresh, causing huge problems for interior offensive lines. The Panthers also have 2016 first-round pick Vernon Butler (330 lbs.). Matt Paradis (300 lbs.), one of the league’s top centers, was added this offseason as the Kalil brothers are now out of town. Greg Van Roten (305 lbs.) is an underrated guard and the weakest link of what is now a good young line. To make this group even stronger, Carolina grabbed Greg Little (310 lbs.) with a second-round pick. There is now plenty here for the Panthers to work with on both lines of scrimmage.

310-pounder David Bakhtiari helps protect the Packers’ most valuable player: Aaron Rodgers.

  1. Green Bay Packers

It is amazing that David Bakhtiari (310 lbs.) doesn’t get more national recognition, as he very well could be the best pass-blocking offensive tackle in the league. Opposite Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga (314 lbs.) has been a higher-end right tackle for some time now, but his health is a concern. Aside from that great set of bookends, the interior got a major shot in the arm with the signing of Billy Turner (310 lbs.) and the drafting of Elgton Jenkins (311 lbs.). Like Bakhtiari, it is incredible that Kenny Clark (314 lbs.) doesn’t get the recognition he deserves as a fantastic interior defensive presence. Finally, Dean Lowry (296 lbs.) is better than most realize.

Ryan Ramczyk, a first-round pick in 2017 from Wisconsin, has started 31 of 32 games for the Saints.

  1. New Orleans Saints

Losing Max Unger, who retired, is a blow to this group, but the Saints did sign Nick Easton (303 lbs.) and were fortunate enough to land Erik McCoy (314 lbs.) in the second round of the draft. But where the New Orleans offensive line really shines is at the tackle spots. Ryan Ramczyk (314 lbs.) has been simply a rock since joining the NFL. Terron Armstead (304 lbs.) hasn’t always been able to stay on the field, but he is one of the best talents at the position and plays up to that ability when healthy. This accomplished offensive line is also quite young. The Saints added 26-year-old Malcolm Brown (320 lbs.), who should occupy space in the middle of the defense quite well. But it is David Onyemata (300 lbs.), also 26, who needs to be recognized as a real up-and-coming defensive tackle.

Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks had 7.5 sacks last season.

  1. Chicago Bears

Akiem Hicks (332 lbs.) might get overshadowed a bit by Khalil Mack in Chicago, but he is an immense talent who throws offensive linemen around like ragdolls at times. He is much more than just a run-stuffer. Eddie Goldman (320 lbs.) is another huge interior defensive lineman who makes those around him better by eating up double teams. The offensive line also is talented, even though there isn’t a true star in the group. Injuries have been a problem for Kyle Long (316 lbs.), who has missed 23 games over the past three years. But when Long is right, he is highly impressive. James Daniels (295 lbs.) looks to have a bright future, especially now that he is a full-time center, his natural position. Charles Leno (306 lbs.) seems to get better every year, and Cody Whitehair (310 lbs.) has been extremely effective wherever he has been asked to line up. Ted Larson (323 lbs.) also provides quality offensive line depth.

Honorable Mentions: (Alphabetical, with big-man standout for each):

Dallas: Zach Martin, guard (315 lbs.)

Detroit: Damon Harrison, nose tackle (350 lbs.)

Indianapolis: Quenton Nelson, guard (331 lbs.)

Los Angeles Rams: Aaron Donald, DT (284 lbs.)

New England: Shaq Mason, guard (311 lbs.)

San Francisco: DeForest Buckner, DT (287 lbs.)

Tennessee: Jurrell Casey, DE (300 lbs.)

Ranking the skill-position groups for each NFL team

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Against no other serious bidders, the Jaguars guaranteed Nick Foles $50 million. He will have a tough time living up to the deal given his weaponry. The Jags have a collection of supporting-casters at receiver — headed by Dede Westbrook, ex-Chiefs auxiliary cog Chris Conley and would-be WR1 Marqise Lee, whose return from an August 2018 injury remains unknown — but no one particularly scary. After the Giants altered the Jags’ T.J. Hockenson path, this tight end depth chart features little. Leonard Fournette (zero 4.0 yards-per-carry seasons; 13 missed games) will need to stay healthy.

  1. Miami Dolphins

Kenny Stills’ profile (Year 7, two 800-yard seasons) sticks out among this lesser group, but both Albert Wilson (Year 6) and DeVante Parker (Year 5) bring considerable experience. They’ll be charged with learning a new system and working as placeholders while the Dolphins tank rebuild. There should be some targets to go around for 2018 second-rounder Mike Gesicki (202 receiving yards as a rookie), so the Fins will have a better idea of his potential. Miami ranked 18th in rushing last season. We’ll see if new OC Chad O’Shea is a bigger Kenyan Drake fan than Adam Gase, who used him in moderation.

  1. Washington Redskins

This Redskins iteration will need a Josh Doctson contract-year breakout; otherwise, this is a bad setup for Dwayne Haskins. Paul Richardson is 1-for-5 in 275-plus-yard seasons, and 2018 Mr. Irrelevant Trey Quinn is favored to succeed Jamison Crowder in the slot. Doctson has not justified his first-round billing but figures to be a bigger part of this year’s attack. Jordan Reed’s 13 games last year were his most since 2015, and Derrius Guice has not enjoyed a smooth ACL rehab. Adrian Peterson may end up with another big role.

  1. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks received a trial run at post-Doug Baldwin life during his injury-limited 2018, and they made the playoffs. Chris Carson quietly thrived (1,151 rushing yards, 4.7 YPC) in a run-oriented attack, and following Mike Davis’ exit, 2018 first-rounder Rashaad Penny will play a bigger role. Russell Wilson does not have a surefire chain-mover, outfitted with combine phenom D.K. Metcalf and a low-profile tight end corps. Deep threat Tyler Lockett (965 receiving yards, 10 TDs) led the NFL in receiver DVOA last season; the Seahawks will need to milk the Wilson-to-Lockett combo for all it’s worth.

  1. Baltimore Ravens

Now committed to Lamar Jackson, who averaged 17 rush attempts in his seven starts last season, the Ravens smartly didn’t waste time chasing free-agent wideouts who may have been skittish about this situation. First- and third-rounders Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, respectively, flank slot man Willie Snead. Baltimore receivers’ numbers mostly tanked after Jackson took over, so how rookies assimilate will be interesting. Mark Ingram will attempt to stretch his prime another year, with 2018 first-round tight end Hayden Hurst healthier after a limited rookie year. Defenses figure to be more prepared for this unorthodox offense this season.

  1. Buffalo Bills

Buffalo undoubtedly upgraded its weak skill-position corps this offseason, adding deep threat John Brown, slot Cole Beasley and tight end Tyler Kroft. That will help Josh Allen, who resorted to scrambling often with last season’s group. But the weaponry still profiles as a lower-echelon array — especially if LeSean McCoy cannot bounce back from a disappointing 2018 (514 rushing yards, 3.2 YPC). If nothing else, members of this cadre complement one another. Frank Gore averaged 4.6 yards per tote last season — his most since 2012 — and until further notice should be taken seriously as a viable complementary back.

  1. Denver Broncos

Save for first-round tight end Noah Fant, Denver’s cast is mostly the same. But with top cogs Emmanuel Sanders and Phillip Lindsay coming off injuries and the Broncos’ top three other wideouts in their second seasons, considerable variance exists for Joe Flacco’s weaponry. Royce Freeman is also entering Year 2 but should be more productive after an ankle injury hampered him as a rookie. The Broncos will need their 32-year-old WR1 to free up their younger talents, but if Sanders is not the same player post-Achilles tear, an offense themed around Flacco turning back the clock could go south quickly.

  1. New York Jets

Was it more Le’Veon Bell or the Steelers offensive line? James Conner’s Pro Bowl year lent credence to the latter view, but the big-spending Jets bought in — regardless of Adam Gase’s wishes. Bell will be fresh, but his yards-per-carry figure dropped from 4.9 in 2016 to 4.0 in ’17, and he has missed 17 games due to injury or suspension. The Jets lured slot Jamison Crowder (46.9 career air yards per game) from Washington; he joins holdovers Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. With tight end Chris Herndon shelved for four games, does this corps look like one that will help Sam Darnold reach the next level?

  1. Tennessee Titans

The Titans possessed one of the NFL’s worst passing attacks last season; Marcus Mariota threw 11 touchdown passes — tied for the fewest of any quarterback with at least 13 starts this decade. Adam Humphries is now Mariota’s slot target, and the Titans should at some point have Delanie Walker back (at 35) from injury. There will again be plenty on Derrick Henry’s shoulders. After a deceptive Henry season (12 sub-60-yard rushing games, then four north of 80), and 3.3 yards per carry from Dion Lewis, do the Titans have enough here? They’ll need a third-year leap from Corey Davis.

  1. Green Bay Packers

If Aaron Rodgers were not the Packers quarterback, this would be an iffy-looking situation. Green Bay does boast touchdown maven Davante Adams, fresh off easily his best season (1,386 yards, 13 TDs), and per-touch dynamo Aaron Jones (5.5 YPC in back-to-back years). Beyond them? Questions. The Packers front office clearly believes in Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, with Randall Cobb gone and no wideouts acquired, and hopes its Jimmy Graham expenditure is not a sunk cost. If Green Bay’s sophomore receivers don’t progress, this could be another frustrating year for Rodgers.

  1. Houston Texans

DeAndre Hopkins has ascended to the point where he can challenge Antonio Brown and Julio Jones for wideout supremacy; Madden raters believe he’s already there. No one else in this group is close to Hopkins’ level, but the Texans do feature flashy, injury-prone deep threat Will Fuller (17 missed games in three seasons) and potential slot weapon Keke Coutee. Lamar Miller is not well-regarded (27th, 21st in Football Outsiders running back DYAR the past two years) but did average 4.6 yards per carry behind a bad 2018 offensive line. Houston has no notable tight end threat.

  1. Arizona Cardinals

Fox should send one of its better crews to Week 1’s Lions-Cardinals game because this will be one of the more fascinating season openers in recent NFL history. Little is known about Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid-to-NFL experiment, but the Cards do have two Pro Bowlers and a slew of young receivers. Both Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson suffered in 2018’s offensive disaster; both should benefit under Kingsbury. Christian Kirk and a three-WR draft will support Fitz, with possibly little help from tight ends. (Texas Tech TEs caught four passes last season.) With extreme outcome variance, this will be must-see.

  1. Detroit Lions

One of the NFL’s middle-class operations, the Lions added the latest model from Tight End U (Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson) and will attempt to squeeze a productive year out of almost-34-year-old Danny Amendola. Only one rookie tight end this decade has eclipsed 600 yards in Year 1, so Hockenson expectations should be tempered. The Lions have emerging wideout Kenny Golladay atop their passing hierarchy, after a quiet 1,000-yard season, and will have Marvin Jones (1,101 yards in 2017) back. The team will supplement Kerryon Johnson with the underappreciated C.J. Anderson too. Some potential exists here.

  1. Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton has never enjoyed one of the NFL’s better skill-position arsenals; his 2019 contingent again falls shy of the top tier. But two young talents provide upside. Christian McCaffrey authored a monstrous Year 2 breakout, nearly doubling his yards-from-scrimmage figure from 2017 (1,086 to 1,965). D.J. Moore is this equation’s other part; the first-round wideout averaged 7.91 yards after contact as a rookie — second in the NFL. Greg Olsen (16 missed games since 2017) has totaled 482 yards in that span, and Chris Hogan (33.3 YPG last season) wouldn’t be the first ex-Patriot to struggle.

  1. Chicago Bears

Ace play-caller Matt Nagy proved his worth in his first Bears season, a Coach of the Year outing, and the Bears mostly stood pat this offseason. They did add mid-rounders David Montgomery, a stealth Offensive Rookie of the Year threat, and Riley Ridley. While Allen Robinson needs to average north of 58 yards a game, having Anthony Miller healthy will help the Bears’ cause. So will Tarik Cohen, who will surely take on more without Jordan Howard around. This has the potential to be a balanced, unpredictable crew.

  1. San Francisco 49ers

Overseeing one of the NFL’s few pass attacks to center around a tight end, Kyle Shanahan has an intriguing set of George Kittle complementary pieces. The single-season tight end yardage record holder now has two second-round wideouts (Deebo Samuel and 2018 YAC leader Dante Pettis) joining him, and the 49ers have bizarre backfield depth. Somehow guaranteed $13 million more than Tevin Coleman (4.8 YPC in 2018), Jerick McKinnon (3.8 in his pre-injury 2017) will join forces with the former Shanahan pupil. Is Matt Breida now trade bait? There are enough pieces here to give Shanahan his best 49ers skill cadre.

  1. New England Patriots

On the surface, the Patriots — without Rob Gronkowski and featuring a 33-year-old Julian Edelman — have a questionable group. Their replacement for the most dominant tight end ever: 2018 Broncos TE3 Matt LaCosse and, ideally, Ben Watson post-suspension. Identifying receiver prospects has been a Bill Belichick blind spot, but N’Keal Harry will have to play early. New England will rely heavily on its Sony Michel-James White combo, and behind a perennially elite O-line, that is not a bad idea. Roger Goodell green-lighting a Josh Gordon fourth chance would aid the defending champs, as it’s no lock that they’ll keep Demaryius Thomas.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers

No team replaces wideouts like the Steelers, but this will be their ultimate challenge. Antonio Brown built a Hall of Fame resume and helped turn Ben Roethlisberger into a statistically dominant passer. A lot falls on JuJu Smith-Schuster, but Pittsburgh has Day 2 investments James Washington and Diontae Johnson, with Donte Moncrief joining them. The Steelers’ first post-Brown corps has more depth but obviously could be much less dangerous. James Conner went off for 1,470 yards from scrimmage in 12 starts and will be more important this year. How much will the Steelers miss ace offensive line coach Mike Munchak?

  1. Cincinnati Bengals

Although Las Vegas has the Bengals a prime threat for the 2020 No. 1 overall pick, they boast a skill group many teams would take. Tyler Boyd became the Bengals’ first non-A.J. Green 1,000-yard receiver since Chad Johnson in 2009, and while Green has battled injuries in two of the past three years, the 31-year-old remains one of the game’s best. John Ross has yet to remotely justify his draft slot, however, and Tyler Eifert might be the league’s most malady-prone player. Joe Mixon (1,168 yards in 14 games) quietly broke out last season. This group is not on the list of Bengals issues.

  1. Oakland Raiders

The NFL’s most remade skill array lifts the Raiders’ hopes going into their final Oakland slate. Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and Ryan Grant look like Oakland’s 2019 top three at receiver, while Josh Jacobs enters the pros as a uniquely fresh commodity (251 carries at Alabama). Williams (1,059 yards in 2016) should fare better in a surefire WR2 role after a less stable Chargers gig the past two years. Darren Waller (18 catches since 2015) profiles as a strange tight end starter, but the Raiders did not bring in a Jared Cook replacement.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The exits of DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries stripped the Bucs of their super-deep air corps, and 2018 second-round running back Ronald Jones was a rarely seen rookie. But Tampa Bay still has five-year 1,000-yard wideout Mike Evans and a bigger workload for emerging sidekick Chris Godwin. They join one of the better tight end tandems in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Howard enters Year 3 averaging 16.6 yards per catch. Tampa seems set to try Peyton Barber (871 rushing yards, 3.7 per carry) again. The Bucs are banking on more Bruce Arians magic; he has a bit less to work here with than Dirk Koetter did.

  1. Indianapolis Colts

Three new possible T.Y. Hilton wingmen are in the mix this season, with the Colts signing Devin Funchess, drafting Parris Campbell in Round 3 and having intriguing 2018 pick Deon Cain back from injury. This offense will still run through Hilton, but he should have more help. Campbell (1,063 yards, 12 TDs as an Ohio State junior) will work out of the slot but have help in Indianapolis’ Eric Ebron-Jack Doyle duo. Doyle totaled 690 yards with Jacoby Brissett in 2017. Marlon Mack (4.7 YPC last season) rounds out this group, which represents another reason to invest in Colts stock.

  1. Dallas Cowboys

Much of this is dependent on the Cowboys’ running game, with a fully available Ezekiel Elliott being the class of the NFL. Elliott is 2-for-2 in rushing titles when not suspended. Jason Witten may not have much left, but the 11-time Pro Bowler should give Dak Prescott more security than Dallas’ 2018 tight ends did. Amari Cooper had a full offseason to work in 29-year-old OC Kellen Moore’s scheme. Will that help him finally re-establish consistency after two unpredictable seasons? A less featured role should suit Randall Cobb at this stage of his career. With Cooper, Witten and Cobb, this group laps 2018’s.

  1. New York Giants

It’s the best feature of a Giants team that became a punching bag. If an improved offensive line can protect Eli Manning, Big Blue’s offense has potential. It would have more if Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t traded for a nose tackle and a box safety, but Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate are fine receivers. This is obviously Saquon Barkley’s show, and the most talented back in the franchise’s 95-year history should have more running room in 2019. Evan Engram’s 722 rookie-year yards in 2017 were the most by a tight end this decade (by a lot). His 2018 featured a better YPG figure (52.5). The Giants also need to find a viable WR3.

  1. Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota’s chain-moving assortment is mostly the same, with Dalvin Cook and the now-more expensive Adam Thielen-Stefon Diggs duo leading the way. The Vikings did draft Irv Smith Jr. (710 yards while sitting out some fourth quarters last season), O.J. Howard’s Alabama successor, in Round 2 yet still extended middling starter Kyle Rudolph. Slow WR3 Laquon Treadwell has been a major disappointment, and little wideout depth exists behind him. Cook insurance now falls on Boise State prospect Alexander Mattison (1,415 yards, 17 TDs in 2018). It’s a top-heavy collection but still one of the best.

  1. Los Angeles Chargers

Mid-range virtuoso Keenan Allen spearheads a thinner group this season, with Tyrell Williams now in Oakland. But the Chargers have their main bases covered, with Melvin Gordon, Mike Williams and a now-healthy Hunter Henry manning the key roles. Receiver-return man Travis Benjamin (15.5 yards per game last season) should have more to do without Tyrell Williams, and RB2 Austin Ekeler may become more important as Gordon holds out. There is a lot to like here; it’s just a cut below the best units.

  1. New Orleans Saints

This remains a top-heavy group, but the top (Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara) is made up of an enviable pair. Coming off a career year and profiling as the best receiving tight end the Saints have employed since Jimmy Graham, Jared Cook joins the Saints’ elite tandem. Latavius Murray may be a downgrade from Mark Ingram, but he still should have juice (fewer than 900 carries in five seasons). New Orleans again lacks certainty opposite Thomas. Even at 34, Ted Ginn would help stabilize the group. From 2013-17, he didn’t miss a game due to injury. Third-rounder Tre’Quan Smith should be more ready as an auxiliary piece in Year 2.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles

Up against the cap again, the Eagles still managed to reload. One “new” part: DeSean Jackson. The four-time yards-per-catch kingpin should fill the deep-threat role better than Torrey Smith or Mike Wallace. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who profiled as a top-flight, catch-rate wideout while at Stanford, should work his way into the mix. If Nelson Agholor is not traded (and with salaries already in place, why should he be?), this Zach Ertz-and-Alshon Jeffery-fronted group may be the NFL’s deepest. The Eagles’ ground game sputtered in 2018; this year’s needs Saquon Barkley’s Penn State successor, Miles Sanders, to assimilate quickly.

  1. Atlanta Falcons

This is the Super Bowl LI crew, with Taylor Gabriel and Tevin Coleman swapped for Calvin Ridley and Ito Smith. If Devonta Freeman can stay healthy, this could be a better skill group than 2016’s. Will new OC Dirk Koetter be close to Kyle Shanahan’s level? Julio Jones is as reliable as it gets, and Mohamed Sanu produced his best season (838 yards) last year. Ridley almost certainly will have a bigger 2019 role. Freeman took just 14 handoffs, offsetting injury rehab with a year free from wear and tear. With tight end Austin Hooper coming off a Pro Bowl bid, Matt Ryan has a loaded supporting cast.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs

The 2018 Chiefs would comfortably rank first on this list, but Kareem Hunt is gone. The NFL’s premier tight end, Travis Kelce, holds Patrick Mahomes’ group together, and it looks like the polarizing Hill will be a Chief when the smoke clears (with seeming replacement Mecole Hardman set to join him). Sammy Watkins predictably underwhelmed on his $16 million-per-year salary (519 yards) but remains one of the NFL’s more talented WR2s. Damien Williams joined Watkins in carrying the Chiefs offense in the AFC title game, but he and Carlos Hyde are a cut below what Hunt offered.

  1. Cleveland Browns

Jarvis Landry has 481 career catches — 55 more than anyone else in his first five seasons. One of the all-time receiver talents now joins him in Cleveland. So does Hunt, who for 2019 will be a controversial luxury for the Browns. Even with Hunt out eight games, Nick Chubb (5.2 YPC as a rookie) will be in better position — thanks to Odell Beckham Jr.’s arrival — to grow as a runner. David Njoku posted 639 yards in his second season. The Browns, who return two other 500-yard 2018 receivers (Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins) despite losing Breshad Perriman, have done well to arm Baker Mayfield.

  1. Los Angeles Rams

If it turns out if Todd Gurley will be reduced to a part-time player, the Browns do have the NFL’s best skill armada. But until that happens, the Rams’ locked-in top four, Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, is the game’s safest bet. Sean McVay uses mostly three-receiver sets, and those three could threaten to become the first 3×1,000 group since the 2008 Cardinals. Kupp is expected back for Week 1. Will the Rams use second-round tight end Gerald Everett (career 17.6 YPG) more this season? If not, this offense becomes slightly easier to contain — slightly, because this remains the class of the NFL.

 

Notre Dame football 2019 season preview: Best and worst-case scenario

After making the College Football Playoff last year, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have big hopes once again but will they live up to them in 2019?

Despite the fact that many college football fans decried it, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rode an undefeated regular season in 2018 into the College Football Playoff. Of course, those detractors were seemingly proven right as Brian Kelly’s team was run off the field against Clemson in the CFP semifinal. Now they enter the 2019 campaign with the unwieldy task of trying to better an unbeaten regular season and chance at a National Championship.

On one hand, Notre Dame is in a good spot due to stability at quarterback, thanks to Ian Book. After taking the reins from Brandon Wimbush — who’s since transferred to UCF — Book never looked back and took the offense to new heights. Moreover, Tommy Kraemer and the offensive line are elite, while wide receiver Chase Claypool and running back Jafar Armstrong are strong weapons.

At the same time, the Irish suffered some big losses. Dexter Williams and Miles Boykin are gone from the offense while Jerry Tillery, Julian Love, Drue Tranquill and Tevon Coney are gone from the defense. Yes, there are high-end players like Julian Okwara ready to lead the defense but there is some turnover to contend with.

Given the blend of talent and turnover, how Notre Dame fares in 2019 could swing a few ways. So then, what are the best and worst-case scenarios for the Irish this season? Why not take a look.

Notre Dame football best-case scenario

Sept. 2 – at Louisville – W

Sept. 14 – vs. New Mexico – W

Sept. 21 – at Georgia – W

Sept. 28 – vs. Virginia – W

Oct. 5 – vs. Bowling Green – W

Oct. 12 – vs. USC – W

Oct. 26 – at Michigan – W

Nov. 2 – vs. Virginia Tech – W

Nov. 9 – at Duke – W

Nov. 16 – vs. Navy – W

Nov. 23 – vs. Boston College – W

Nov. 30 – at Stanford – W

Record: 12-0

Yes, the Fighting Irish have the chance to go undefeated in the regular season for the second-straight year. That all starts with the fact that their schedule as an independent isn’t littered with a murderer’s row of opponents for much of the year.

Getting to play mid-tier SEC teams and then having two Pac-12 matchups against USC and Stanford, two teams that are wild variables coming into the 2019 season, is an overwhelmingly positive thing for Notre Dame’s chances this season. Put simply, they shouldn’t have much trouble through that stretch.

The two games that stand out, of course, are road trips to play both Georgia and Michigan. While these two teams may be as good or better than Kelly’s squad on paper, they are also teams that have been prone to letdowns in big games over the past few seasons. If Notre Dame plays at their best, they have the ability to get past those two teams. The result of that should be an undefeated campaign and another berth in the College Football Playoff.

Notre Dame football worst-case scenario

Sept. 2 – at Louisville – W

Sept. 14 – vs. New Mexico – W

Sept. 21 – at Georgia – L

Sept. 28 – vs. Virginia – W

Oct. 5 – vs. Bowling Green – W

Oct. 12 – vs. USC – W

Oct. 26 – at Michigan – L

Nov. 2 – vs. Virginia Tech – W

Nov. 9 – at Duke – W

Nov. 16 – vs. Navy – W

Nov. 23 – vs. Boston College – W

Nov. 30 – at Stanford – W

Record: 10-2

As mentioned, Notre Dame should not have a great deal of trouble with their matchups against the ACC and Pac-12, in addition to the other games on the schedule. Yes, tilts against Virginia, USC and Stanford won’t be walk-overs but the Irish have the firepower to still win those games even if they aren’t at their best.

Subsequently, the turning point for this season in South Bend is those two away matchups against Georgia and Michigan. Those are the two games that Kelly and his team no doubt have circled on the schedule and for good reason. If this Fighting Irish team is going to lose this season, it’s more than likely going to come in one of those two games or, in a worst-case scenario, in both.

Hopes should undoubtedly be high for Notre Dame in the 2019 season as they have the horses to race with the elite in college football. But how they perform in their two biggest matchups of the season will determine whether they’re a contender once again or not.

 

NCAA defends reasoning behind ‘Rich Paul rule’

The NCAA has taken significant heat for a proposal that bars agents without a degree from participating in pre-draft representation, but they are doubling down in defense of their policy.

In a statement, the NCAA said they value earning a degree, and consultation with agents and advisors indicated that the standards for agents needed to be raised. Essentially, they said they stand by their policy.

The degree requirement has been particularly controversial, as it’s been interpreted as blocking Rich Paul from becoming involved in the process. The NCAA has denied this, but it will do little to quiet that speculation, especially with them doubling down on the policy.

 

Report: Russell Westbrook changed his pay schedule to facilitate Rockets trade

Russell Westbrook made a change to his payments schedule to facilitate his trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets, according to a report.

The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported on Thursday that Westbrook agreed to amend his pay schedule to make his payouts more team-friendly and less front-loaded.

Westbrook was traded to the Rockets on July 16 in exchange for Chris Paul, two future first-round picks (top-4 protected) and two pick swap rights. He has four years remaining on the 5-year, $206 million contract extension he signed with the Thunder in 2017. He is due $38.5 million next season, then $41.3 million, $44.2 million, and $47 million in his final season.

Stein does not include any further details in his report about how this will be executed, but it seems like this is unrelated to how much money Westbrook will count against the salary cap each year.

In MLB, some players who sign contracts agree to have money deferred and receive their payments over time. Due to inflation, receiving the money in future years would be viewed as less valuable than receiving it all in the present day/during the life of the contract (this is something the Nationals reportedly tried to do with Bryce Harper). Teams sometimes prefer these arrangements because it eases their financial obligations and allows them to meet payroll and avoid other cash flow issues.

 

In playing small, big decisions loom for Team USA

LAS VEGAS — Day 3 of training camp for the US men’s senior national team brought more scrimmaging against the Select Team. And the media was able to see more of it than on Tuesday.

Both of the quarters that the media witnessed ended in ties. At the end of the first of those two, Khris Middleton got Jonathan Isaac to bite on a pump fake and then made three free throws with 0.7 seconds on the clock to tie it at 23. And with the score tied 24-24 at the end of the last 10-minute scrimmage, Derrick White missed a pull-up 3 that would have given the Select Team the win.

Some small lessons

The Senior Team had a solid lead midway through that last period, but they lost it when coach Steve Kerr went small with a lineup of De’Aaron Fox, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Middleton and Kyle Kuzma. The Select Team, playing with a frontline of Jonathan Isaac, Marvin Bagley Jr. and Mitchell Robinson for the last few minutes, scored too easily inside against the smaller Senior lineup.

Kuzma said afterward that he wasn’t surprised when Middleton checked in for one of the Senior Team centers and told Kuzma that he was now playing the 5 and guarding Jarrett Allen (before Robinson checked in).

“[Coach Gregg Popovich] and the rest of staff said that they like my defensive versatility, how I can guard multiple positions,” he explained. “With the Euro game, there’s not too many people posting up. So, it’s going to bring guys out who have to guard me. That will open penetration for our elite guards.”

Kerr, meanwhile, made it clear that experimenting with the small lineup was just part of the process.

“We’re just trying stuff,” he said. “We’re looking at different players at different positions to see how they fit. [Playing small] is something that we will definitely consider, but it’s Day 3 of training camp. Who knows if it’s something we’re going to do?”

Previous versions of the national team haven’t played small (without a 4 or 5 at “center”) very often in international competitions. But it will be interesting to see which centers make the final roster. They’re all very different players.

“You’ve got an offensive guy in [Brook] Lopez,” said US team managing director Jerry Colangelo. “Fundamentally, [Mason] Plumlee is excellent in everything he does. Bam [Adebayo] is young. And [Myles] Turner, who was slow to start in the first couple of days, came to life today, I thought.”

One observation from the scrimmaging that the media has seen: The bouncy Adebayo seems to rebound everything.

Neither team has been able to run much in the scrimmages — transition defense, FTW — but Wednesday’s highlight was a fast-break alley-oop from Kemba Walker to Donovan Mitchell.

Brown tried to top that, but he couldn’t finish a dunk attempt over Allen.

From what the media has seen, Mitchell has been playing the 2, alongside Walker or Fox. In those last couple of quarters, Mitchell shot well, both off the dribble and off the catch. In fact, in a role-reversal situation, he hit two 3-pointers off of nice drive-and-kick feeds from Joe Harris.

Smart shelved; Roster decisions loom

Marcus Smart sat out of practice on Wednesday, dealing with a sore left calf. He’s out for the rest of this week and will be re-evaluated when the team reconvenes in Los Angeles next week.

Kyle Lowry, recovering from thumb surgery, is also on the shelf and set to be reevaluated next week. Colangelo said Wednesday that the preliminary plan is to bring 15 players to Los Angeles for three practices and an exhibition game against Spain, but that 15 number is “a moving target” (meaning that it’s not set in stone).

It’s safe to assume that two of those 15 (or so) are Lowry and Smart. So we may see two healthy players cut from the roster between Friday’s intrasquad scrimmage and next Tuesday. That will be a difficult process, both in distinguishing a group of players that seem to be on the same level and telling guys that they’re no longer needed.

“They’re all tough decisions, because you have a whole roster full of really good players,” Kerr said. “Cutting players is always hard, even in [NBA] training camp every year. We bring in guys for camp who we know aren’t going to make the team, they know they’re not going to make the team, and yet to sit down with them and say, ‘This is it,’ it’s brutal.

“We’re going to have to do that with a handful of players here, and it’s going to be even more difficult, because they’ve all cut time out of their summers to come here and try to play for their country. Everybody’s excited to be here and wants to be part of it, but we can only take 12. So it’s going to be tough.”

Colangelo said that the staff meets at the hotel after practice and evaluates every player, even those on the Select Team, every day.

Select Team standouts

Colangelo cited Bagley and White as two Select Team players who have stood out over the last couple of days. Bagley shined in the portion of practice that the media saw. He’s big, he’s skilled, and he’s athletic.

Trae Young remains a dangerous offensive player (he had one nifty dish off a baseline drive on Wednesday) and a liability defensively. Jalen Brunson seemed to be holding his own.

Isaac said afterward that he’s played almost entirely at small forward for the Select Team. Their 12-man roster (coached by Jeff Van Gundy) includes five guys — Allen, Bagley, John Collins, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Robinson — that are power forwards or centers.

 

Carmelo Anthony wanted to play for U.S. at World Cup, team passed

Carmelo Anthony still hopes to resurrect his NBA career by latching on with a team for the 2019-20 season, but the veteran apparently wanted to sign on with another squad first.

According to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, Anthony reached out to Team USA brass in a bid to join the roster for the upcoming FIBA World Cup. The team politely passed.

“I love Carmelo,” Team USA director Jerry Colangelo said. “He made a great contribution. He was a very good international player. But for where we are and what we’re doing, that conceivably could have been a distraction. I understand why the request was made. He’s trying to reestablish himself. I think that has to be done in the [NBA].”

Anthony has been a dominant force in international basketball for Team USA. He’s the only player to be part of four medal-winning squads as well as the only player to boast three gold medals. Anthony is also Team USA’s all-time leading Olympic scorer and has played the most games for the U.S. in international play history.

Given the dearth of top stars on Team USA’s roster with the likes of Anthony Davis, James Harden and Damian Lillard, among others, opting out of the World Cup, the case can be made Anthony would have been a welcome addition.

That said, it’s difficult to gauge exactly where Anthony’s game is at the moment after he sat out most of last season. Further, Anthony’s productivity is not what it used to be in previous seasons, either.

Between those potential concerns and Colangelo’s assertion Anthony would have been a distraction, Team USA’s decision to pass on the NBA star probably was a wise move.

 

Trae Young had to withdraw from Team USA due to eye infection

Trae Young has become the latest big name to withdraw from USA Basketball this summer, but his departure is due to a much more unusual reason.

The Atlanta Hawks guard announced on Thursday “with deep sadness” that he was leaving Team USA minicamp to deal with “a minor injury.”

Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported that an eye infection was the cause behind Young’s exit.

The 20-year-old guard, who had a strong chance to make the final cut due to his stellar play combined with Team USA’s lack of backcourt depth, now has about a month-and-a-half to get right before the Hawks begin training camp.

Eye injuries can adversely affect play (as we once saw with another top guard), so it sounds like Young’s decision to withdraw from the team is for the best.

 

Kemba Walker bonding with new Celtics teammates in Team USA training

Kemba Walker has gotten a chance to bond with some of his new Celtics teammates at Team USA’s training camp in Las Vegas, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com relays.

“I’m the new guy; they already know each other,” Walker said. “They are just kind of reeling me in and getting me acclimated to how things go. With four of us here now, it gives us an opportunity to play with each other and learn each other’s tendencies.”

Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown are all attending the camp. Coach Brad Stevens also made an appearance. Boston had some chemistry concerns last season, though the team is excited about turning to a new chapter.

“It can only be positive for us because it’s chemistry added,” Brown said about the four players’ experience at Team USA’s camp. “I just want to hoop. I don’t want any politics. We’re artists and this season is a new canvas.”

Here’s more from Boston:

Walker is a lock to make Team USA’s roster and Jayson Tatum has a strong chance to make the team as well, Windhorst adds in the same piece. Smart and Brown each making the team is not as much of a sure thing. “We’re all grateful to be here,” Tatum said. “Hopefully, all four of us make it; that would be amazing. Me and [Brown] play one-on-one all the time, and we’ve always tried to push each other and it’s been that way since day one. Ultimately, we have the same goal with our teams and here.”

Smart has missed several days of practice with a left calf injury and he’ll be reevaluated next week, as the AP’s Tim Reynolds tweets. “Right now, for me, I’m trying to grow as a player… taking those precautions,” said Smart (via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports).“Last year, or two or three years ago, I probably would have still been out there trying to fight through it. It’s nothing serious so we just want to make sure it doesn’t turn into anything serious.”

Coach Stevens said the team has moved past their issues from last season, as Forsberg passes along in a separate piece. “We turned that page a long time ago. That’s what you should do after a season. I think, whether you had success or it wasn’t as good as you want, you learn from it and move on,” Stevens said.

 

Team Canada dealing with depleted roster

Much has been made of the withdrawals from Team USA by prominent players as it prepares for the FIBA World Cup in China this summer. Team Canada has experienced similar issues.

Canada Basketball unveiled its training camp roster in a press release and many notable names are missing. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, Luguentz Dort, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Mfiondu Kabengele, Naz Mitrou-Long, Trey Lyles, Dwight Powell, Marial Shayok, Nik Stauskas and Tristan Thompson were among the invitees who opted not to participate.

Knicks lottery pick RJ Barrett and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray are on the roster but will participate only in training camp. Barrett is dealing with a mild calf strain, while Murray is nursing an ankle injury, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets.

Among the NBA players who are on the roster and intend to participate in the tournament are Kings guard Cory Joseph, Heat forward Kelly Olynyk, Magic center Khem Birch and Raptors big man Chris Boucher. Toronto’s Nick Nurse is the head coach of the team, which will play seven exhibition games before its FIBA opener against Australia on Sept. 1.

 

Johnson takes 1-shot lead over Spieth at Liberty National

Dustin Johnson has missed nine birdie chances from 10 feet or closer at Liberty National, which ordinarily might annoy him.

He’s hitting it so well that he still leads The Northern Trust Open.

Johnson birdied three of his last six holes Friday, finishing with an approach to 8 feet on the 489-yard closing hole, for a 4-under 67 that gave him a one-shot lead over Jordan Spieth (64) going into the weekend.

Johnson has won this FedEx Cup playoffs opener twice at other courses. He was at 12-under 130.

“I’ve got a lot of control with the golf ball and hitting a lot of really nice shots and rolled in a couple putts today which is nice, but still feel like I left quite a few out there,” Johnson said. “I’m in a good position heading into the weekend, and if I can keep swinging the way I am, I think it’s going to be a good weekend.”

The weekend does not include Masters champion Tiger Woods, and neither did Friday.

Woods, who opened with a 75, withdrew a few hours before his second round was to begin because of what he described as a mild strain to the oblique that Woods says was causing pain and stiffness. It’s the first time he withdrew in the middle of a tournament since February 2017, two months before fusion surgery on his lower back. He said he was hopeful to play next week at Medinah.

Spieth might be finding some form at just the right time. Winless in more than two years, he started the PGA Tour’s postseason at No. 69 in the FedEx Cup with no assurance of staying among the top 70 who advance to next week at Medinah.

 

Woods withdraws from Northern Trust, citing oblique strain

Masters champion Tiger Woods withdrew Friday from the opening FedEx Cup playoffs event with what he described as a mild oblique strain.

It was the first time Woods has pulled out in the middle of a tournament since the Dubai Desert Classic in February 2017, two months before he had a fourth surgery on his back to fuse his lower spine.

“Due to a mild oblique strain that led to pain and stiffness, I have to withdraw from The Northern Trust,” Woods said in a statement released by the PGA Tour. “I went for treatment early Friday morning, but unfortunately I’m still unable to compete.”

Woods, playing in only his second tournament since the U.S. Open in June, opened with a 4-over 75 on a Liberty National course so soft that only one other player had a higher score. It was his second-worst score in 89 rounds in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

He has said all year that there are days when his back doesn’t feel as limber. In March, he decided not to play the Arnold Palmer Invitational on the road to the Masters because of lingering soreness in his neck. At the PGA Championship, he played only nine holes of practice in cold weather at Bethpage Black, where he missed the cut.

Woods stopped hitting full shots on the back nine of his pro-am Wednesday at Liberty National. After his opening round, he said his back was “a little stiff, but that’s just the way it’s going to be.”

He said he is hopeful to play next week in the BMW Championship at Medinah, where he won two of his PGA Championship titles.

If he plays, Woods likely would need to move back into the top 30 in the FedEx Cup to advance to the Tour Championship, where he is the defending champion. It was last year at East Lake that he capped off his comeback from four back surgeries with his first victory in five years.

That comeback included a busy schedule to get back among the elite in the game.

 

Hur shoots 62, leads weather-delayed Ladies Scottish Open

Mi Jung Hur surged into a two-shot lead Friday in the rain-delayed second round of the Ladies Scottish Open, getting the best of the draw and finishing in the early evening with a 9-under 62.

Players with morning tee times dealt with heavy wind and rain at The Renaissance Club, and play was suspended in the early afternoon, delaying the start times for half of the field and giving them a huge advantage as the sun came out and the wind died. The second round could not be completed Friday because of darkness.

Hur, who started on No. 10, made only one par over her first 12 holes. The South Korean began with two birdies and then holed a 25-yard pitch-and-run from the rough for eagle on the par-5 12th. She made six more birdies, along with two bogeys, over her next nine, and added one more birdie to post a two-day total of 14-under 128.

“I got a really lucky draw for this week. I had the morning yesterday and afternoon today,” Hur said. “I know it was really tough this morning, but sometimes I need luck for those things.”

None of the players who started in the morning was inside the top 20.

Moriya Jutanugarn was 12 under after a 66. Sharing third at 10 under were U.S. Women’s Open champion Jeongeun Lee6 (65) and Anne van Dam, who followed her opening-round 63 with a 69.

“I think if we get decent weather, low scores are out there,” van Dam said. “If it will get rainy and more windy, maybe two rounds around par will be fine. So I have no clue.”

Muni He was 9 under with three holes to play, the best score among those who did not finish.

Former U.S. Women’s Open champion Na Yeon Choi, who has struggled with back injuries for the past four years, was 6 under after a 64. She tied for third in her previous tournament, the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, her best finish since 2016.

 

RSC Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll picks Asbury (Ky.) as 2019 favorite, IU East second

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — The 2019 River States Conference Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll has predicted Asbury (Ky.) University as the top team for this year. The poll was conducted with voting from the 11 RSC women’s soccer head coaches.

Asbury won the RSC Championship last year posting a record of 10-8-2 overall and 6-2-1 RSC. The Eagles went on to the NAIA National Championship Opening Round after being second place in the RSC regular season. Asbury received 91 total votes in the preseason poll and five of the 11 first-place votes.

IU East was picked second this preseason with 82 votes and four first-place votes. The Red Wolves had the best overall record in the conference last year at 12-4-4 and made it to the RSC finals last year. They were edged out by Asbury on penalty kicks, 7-6, after the game ended, 0-0, after two overtimes.

Point Park (Pa.) was chosen third in the poll coming off its RSC regular-season title of 2018. The Pioneers were 11-8 overall, 7-2 RSC and earned 75 votes in the poll. Carlow (Pa.) was picked fourth with 71 votes after being 9-8-1 overall, 6-2-1 RSC last year. That was good for third place in the standings. University of Rio Grande (Ohio) followed close behind at fifth in the poll. The RedStorm had 70 votes — including one first-place vote — and were fourth place in the conference last year at 5-3-1 RSC.

Ohio Christian University was predicted in sixth place and earned 59 votes. The Trailblazers were 7-7-4 overall, 4-2-3 RSC last year. They are picked to once again take the final postseason spot. WVU Tech received 51 votes to take seventh place in the poll. The Golden Bears received the final first-place vote making it four different teams to be mentioned in the top spot.

Cincinnati Christian University was next in eighth place with 37 votes followed by Midway (Ky.) University in ninth with 31. IU Kokomo, a first-year program for 2019, was chosen 10th with 24 votes followed by Brescia (Ky.) University in 11th

 

2019 RIVER STATES CONFERENCE WOMEN’S SOCCER PRESEASON COACHES’ POLL (AUG. 9, 2019)
(First-Place Votes in Parenthesis)

School Votes
1. Asbury (Ky.) (5) 91
2. IU East (4) 82
3. Point Park (Pa.) 75
4. Carlow (Pa.) 71
5. Rio Grande (Ohio) (1) 70
6. Ohio Christian 59
7. WVU Tech (1) 51
8. Cincinnati Christian 37
9. Midway (Ky.) 31
10. IU Kokomo 24
11. Brescia (Ky.) 14

 

 

RSC Men’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll picks Rio Grande (Ohio) on top again in 2019, IU East fifth

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — The 2019 River States Conference Men’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll has picked University of Rio Grande (Ohio) as the conference favorite this upcoming season. The poll was voted on by the 10 RSC men’s soccer head coaches.

Rio Grande is coming off an incredible 2018 season that had the RedStorm post an overall record of 20-1 on the year. The RedStorm, which has won four of the last five RSC Championships, went a perfect 9-0 in the RSC regular season and won another conference tournament title. Rio Grande did not lose until the quarterfinals of the NAIA National Championship.

Rio Grande received 81 votes in the preseason poll and earned all nine of its possible first-place votes. WVU Tech was picked second in the poll with 73 votes and the remaining first-place vote. WVU Tech suffered a 4-3, overtime loss to Rio Grande in last year’s RSC Championship finals and were 14-2-4 overall, 7-1-1 RSC.

Point Park (Pa.) University was picked third in the poll with 60 votes. The Pioneers went 10-6-1 overall, 5-3-1 RSC and are predicted this year in the same spot they finished 2018. Likewise, Asbury (Ky.) University was chosen fourth in the poll with 56 votes. The Eagles were 9-9-1 overall, 5-3-1 overall for fourth place last year. Continuing the trend was IU East taking fifth in the poll with 48 votes. The Red Wolves took fifth place last year at 10-10 overall, 5-4 RSC on their way to an RSC semifinals appearances.

Midway (Ky.) University was predicted sixth in the poll with 41 votes, and Brescia (Ky.) University was next in seventh place with 37 votes. Brescia (4-4-1 RSC) edged out Midway (4-5 RSC) for the final playoff spot last year and went on to win a quarterfinal game.

Cincinnati Christian University (24 votes), Ohio Christian University (18 votes) and Carlow (Pa.) University (12 votes) rounded out the preseason poll in eighth through 10th place.

 

2019 RIVER STATES CONFERENCE MEN’S SOCCER PRESEASON COACHES’ POLL (AUG. 8, 2019)
(First-Place Votes in Parenthesis)

School Votes
1. Rio Grande (Ohio) (9) 81
2. WVU Tech (1) 73
3. Point Park (Pa.) 60
4. Asbury (Ky.) 56
5. IU East 48
6. Midway (Ky.) 41
7. Brescia (Ky.) 37
8. Cincinnati Christian 24
9. Ohio Christian 18
10. Carlow 12

 

Brad Keselowski right at home, lands Busch Pole Award at Michigan

Home-state favorite Brad Keselowski flexed some muscle in Friday’s Busch Pole Qualifying at Michigan International Speedway, snaring the No. 1 starting spot for Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 (NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM).

Keselowski, the final driver to make a qualifying lap, guided the Team Penske No. 2 Ford to a best speed of 190.471 mph around the 2-mile, D-shaped track. His second pole position of the season was his second at Michigan and the 16th of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.

Defending race winner Kevin Harvick will start alongside Keselowski in an all-Ford front row after locking up the second starting spot at 190.089 mph in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4. William Byron is set to start third with teammate Alex Bowman fourth and Clint Bowyer filling out the top five.

Chase Elliott, last week’s winner at Watkins Glen International, was sixth-fastest in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet. Joey Logano, winner of the series’ most recent race at Michigan, grabbed the ninth starting spot.

Two practice sessions for the Monster Energy Series are scheduled Saturday. Sunday’s 400-mile main event is the 23rd of 36 points-paying races for the circuit.

 

TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY

1889       At the Seventh Street Park in Indianapolis, future 300 game winner Mickey Welch becomes the first pinch hitter in major league history. Although the Giants right-handed pitcher strikes out in his historic plate appearance, New York prevails, beating the Hoosiers, 9-6.

1901       At Cleveland’s League Park, the Blues (Indians) beat Chicago, 11-7. White Sox right-hander Frank Isbell strands eleven runners on the basepaths to set an American League record.

1929       In the nightcap of a twin bill, 42 year-old Cardinal right-hander Grover Cleveland Alexander earns his final career win, pitching the final four innings of the team’s 9-7 victory over the Phillies at the Baker Bowl. ‘Old Pete’ will retire next season tied with fellow Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson for the most victories in the National League history with 373, including a league-leading ninety shutouts.

1944       At Crosley Field, Braves’ hurler Charles ‘Red’ Barrett throws only 58 pitches, beating the Reds, 2-0. The nine-inning night game takes only seventy-five minutes to play.

1946       Although Tiny Bonham gives up two hits in the first frame, he retires the side on four pitches in the Yankees’ 7-5 victory over the Red Sox. After Wally Moses singles on the first pitch of the game, he is thrown out stealing on the first ball thrown to Johnny Pesky, who singles on the next offering, but is forced out when Dom DiMaggio hits into a double play on the right-hander’s fourth pitch of the inning.

1957       Mickey Mantle becomes the first player to clear the center field-hedge at Memorial Stadium with his 460-foot homer in the Yankees’ 6-3 victory over the Orioles. Baltimore’s Boog Powell (1962) and Twins’ slugger Harmon Killebrew (1964) will also accomplish the feat.

1961       Dave Philley, with his twenty-first pinch hit of the season, breaks an American League record, set by Ed Coleman of the Browns in 1936. The 41 year-old Texan, coming off the bench to hit for Dick Williams in the eighth inning, sets the new pinch hitting mark when he doubles to right field in the Orioles’ 8-0 win over Kansas City at Memorial Stadium.

1963       Boog Powell becomes the first Oriole to hit three home runs in the same game. The Baltimore first baseman’s offensive output accounts for half of the runs in the Birds’ 6-5 victory over Washington at D.C. Stadium.

1969       Cesar Tovar, for the second time this season, breaks up a no-hit bid by an Oriole pitcher when his ninth inning single stops Mike Cuellar’s streak of 35 consecutive retired batters, spoiling the southpaw’s attempt for no-no. In May, the Twins utility player also broke up Dave McNally’s hitless game with a one-out single in the final frame.

1971       At Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis, Harmon Killebrew becomes the tenth player to join the 500 home run club when he hits the historic homer in the first inning off Mike Cuellar. Later in the game, the 36 year-old first baseman connects for #501, but ‘Killer’s’ two round-trippers are to no avail when the Twins lose to the Orioles in 10 innings, 4-3.

1971       At San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, Juan Marichal records his 50th career shutout as the Giants blank the Expos, 1-0. The Dominican hurler’s ninth inning double helps to build the winning run.

1974       Jorge Lebron, believed to be the youngest professional player ever, makes his debut for the Auburn Phillies, Philadelphia’s short season-A affiliate. The fourteen year-old shortstop plays three games before returning to Puerto Rico to finish junior high school.

1979       Dodger hurler Don Sutton sets a franchise record with his 50th shutout, blanking San Francisco at Candlestick Park, 9-0. The 34 year-old right-hander has previously shared the mark with Don Drysdale.

1980       Steve McCatty goes the distance in the A’s extra-inning loss to Seattle. Joining Matt Keough, Mike Norris, and Rick Langford, the Oakland right-hander becomes the fourth hurler on the team this season to throw a 14-inning complete game, fueling the criticism that manager Billy Martin overworks his pitching staff.

1981       Attempting to break Stan Musial’s National League record for hits, Pete Rose hits a wicked infield grounder to Garry Templeton that the official scorer rules an error, rather than giving the Phillies first baseman his historic hit. Amidst the loud booing by the large vocal crowd at Veterans’ Stadium, fireworks begin as an anxious stadium engineer ignites the planned celebration prematurely, thinking he heard Bill Giles said ‘go’ into the walkie-talkie, when the Phillies president had really said ‘no’.

1981       After tying the mark in June in the last game played before the two-month baseball strike, Pete Rose finally becomes the all-time National League hit leader when he singles to the opposite field off Cardinal hurler Mark Littell for his 3,631st hit. The Phillies first baseman is congratulated on the field by Stan Musial, who previously held the mark, in front of 60,561 enthusiastic fans at Veterans Stadium.

1986       “I may not have been the greatest Yankee to put on the uniform, but I am the proudest.” – Billy Martin, on his day at Yankee Stadium. During Billy Martin Day at Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Bombers retire uniform #1 and dedicate a plaque in Monument Park which reads, ‘There has never been a greater competitor than Billy’. The team’s former scrappy second baseman and four-time manager tells the sold-out crowd, “I may not have been the greatest Yankee to put on the uniform, but I am the proudest.”

1989       After fifteen months of recovery from cancer surgery to his arm, Dave Dravecky pitches one-hit baseball for seven innings, blanking the Reds to get the victory. The Giant bullpen holds on for a 4-3 win at Candlestick Park.

1994       In his last appearance of the year, two-time Cy Young Award recipient Brett Saberhagen picks up his 14th and final victory of the campaign when the Mets beat the Phillies at Veterans Stadium, 6-2. The 30 year-old right-hander, in his 24 starts, will finish the strike-shortened season with more wins than walks (13) and home runs allowed (13).

1994       The Expos win for the 20th time in their last 22 games when they blank Pittsburgh at Three Rivers Stadium, 4-0. The victory puts the team 35 games over .500, a franchise record, but sadly it will be the last game Montreal will win, due to the impending players’ strike that will eventually end the season.

1995       The first forfeit in the majors in sixteen years occurs when the fans for the third time during the night throw promotional souvenir baseballs onto the Dodger Stadium field. At the time of the decision to halt the game, Los Angeles is trailing the Cardinals, 2-1 with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

1998       Joining Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, and Babe Ruth, Albert Belle becomes only the fourth player to drive in 100 runs and hit 30 homers for seven consecutive seasons. The White Sox left fielder, who played in every game for the White Sox this season, will continue the streak next year with the Orioles.

1998       At Qualcomm Stadium, Harry Wendelstedt and his son, Hunter, become the first father-son combination to umpire a major league baseball game together. Dad is behind the plate calling balls and strikes, and his son, who will remain on the same crew for the remainder of the season, makes the calls at third base when the last-place Marlins beat the first place Padres, 3-2.

2000       Winning for the first time in 16 starts, David Cone ends the worst slump of his career as the Yankees beat the A’s, 12-6. Newly acquired Jose Canseco hits a three-run homer into the upper deck to help Cone stop the skid.

2001       In Kotna, Poland, Khovrio of Moscow becomes the first Russian team to qualify for the Little League World Series. The team, which is also the first to be made of all native Europeans, defeats the Tbilisi YMCA of Georgia, 12-2.

2002       Sammy Sosa hits three home runs in consecutive at bats in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, tying a Cubs’ record with nine RBIs, established by Heinie Zimmerman in 1911. With his sixth career three-homer game performance, the Chicago right fielder also ties the major league record set by Johnny Mize and becomes only the fifth player in big league history to homer in three straight innings.

2002       Barry Bonds breaks another Giant slugger’s major league record when he receives his 46th intentional walk of the season, surpassing the mark established in 1969 by Willie McCovey. The third of the three free passes issued by the Pirates to the San Francisco left fielder proves to be costly when Benito Santiago follows with a grand slam to put the home team ahead, 8-3.

2003       Rafael Furcal becomes the 12th player to turn an unassisted triple play in big league history. With Cardinals runners on first (Orlando Palmeiro) and second (Mike Matheny) in the fifth inning, the Braves shortstop makes a leaping catch of pitcher Woody Williams’ liner and steps on second base to double up Matheny before tagging out Palmeiro, who is attempting to get back to first base.

2004       At Great American Ball Park, Adam Dunn crushes a ball to dead center field that clears the wall by over 100 feet before bouncing into the Ohio River. The Reds first baseman’s Ruthian blast off LA’s Jose Lima, believed to have traveled 535 feet, is the longest home run ever hit in the Cincinnati ball yard.

2004       Taking a cab to Shea Stadium from nearby LaGuardia Airport, Mets starting pitcher Tom Glavine is injured as the taxi collides with an SUV. The 38 year-old two-time Cy Young Award winner loses his front two teeth and needs over 40 stitches to close facial lacerations.

2004       After signing the American League Rookie of the Year to a five-year, possible $16 million deal on May 6, the Royals send Angel Berroa to the Wichita Wranglers, their Double-A affiliate in the Texas League. The struggling shortstop is hitting only .249 with five homers and 30 ribbies, compared to last season’s award-winning performance, when the 26 year-old Dominican batted .287 with 17 homers and 73 RBIs in his first full season in the major leagues.

2005       For the second consecutive season, Mike Lowell employs the hidden ball trick on an unsuspecting base runner. Representing the tying run in the eighth inning, Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Terrero is the Marlins third baseman’s latest victim.

2005       Jackie Robinson’s former Negro League roommate 103 year-old Ted Radcliffe, probably the oldest professional baseball player, dies after a long battle with cancer. The 1943 Negro American League Most Valuable player was dubbed ‘Double Duty’ by Damon Runyon after catching a shutout in the opener of a 1931 Negro League World Series Yankee Stadium doubleheader and then hurling one of his own in the nightcap.

2005       After being released from the hospital, an 18 year-old fan appears in court to face criminal charges of trespassing, reckless endangerment, and criminal mischief stemming from his 40-foot plunge last night from the upper deck of Yankee Stadium into the netting behind home plate. Team owner George Steinbrenner called the incident “… the only exciting thing that happened today,” after his struggling club loses to the first-place White Sox, 2-1.

2005       Radio talk-show host Larry Krueger, who caused an uproar in the team’s clubhouse, is fired by KNBR, the flagship station of the Giants, for making inappropriate racial remarks. During a postgame rant, the controversial the on-air personality said the team had too many “brain-dead Caribbean hitters” and tells his listeners that manager Felipe Alou’s mind “has turned to Cream of Wheat”.

2006       In the finale of the three-game sweep by the Royals, Red Sox ace Curt Schilling surrenders 10 extra-base hits, tying an American League record. The nine doubles and homer equal the dubious mark set by Dale Gear (1901 Senators) and Luis Tiant (1969 Indians).

2007       The Indians pay tribute to Larry Doby on his day at Jacobs Field by collectively wearing his number 14 on their uniforms. In 1947, the future Hall of Fame outfielder became the first black to play in the American League, making his debut in Detroit with Cleveland as a pinch-hitter.

2008       The first-place Rays, with their 11-3 rout over the Mariners at Safeco Field, improve their record to 71-46. The victory establishes a record for wins in the 11-year history of the franchise.

2009       Troy Tulowitzki collects five hits, completing the cycle with a three-bagger in the seventh inning of the Rockies’ 11-5 victory over the Cubs at Coors Field. The Colorado shortstop is the fifth player in franchise history to accomplish the feat, and the sixth major leaguer this season to have a single, double, triple, and home run in the same game.

2010       In an ugly first-inning brawl at Great American Ball Park, Cardinals’ backstop Jason LaRue suffers a mild concussion and bruised ribs, with his batterymate Chris Carpenter also receiving bruises on his back during the seven-minute scrum. Reds’ starting pitcher Johnny Cueto, who will be suspended for seven games for kicking the Redbirds’ catcher and pitcher, draws the wrath of his opponents for lashing out with his spikes during the altercation.

2014       After rallying from a 5-0 deficit, the Blue Jays win the longest game in franchise history when Jose Bautista’s single in the bottom of the 19th inning drives in Munenori Kawasaki, giving Toronto a 6-5 walk-off victory over Detroit. Jose Reyes’s ninth-inning single with two outs off Joba Chamberlain sent the Rogers Centre contest into overtime.

 

THIS DAY IN SPORTS HISTORY-1928

AMSTERDAM, Holland (AP)-In the final round of trials and eliminations today in the Olympic water sports carnival, Johnny Weissmuller, Chicago speedster and defending champion in the 100-meter free-style, set a new Olympic record in the semi-finals of that event. Weissmuller, ace of the American swimming forces, flashed over his favorite distance with huge, space-devouring strokes in 583/5 seconds. István Bárány, Hungarian, who finished second, gave the American speed king a fight through every inch of the first fifty meters, making the turn with him on even terms. Weissmuller forged ahead with a tremendous burst of speed in the final thirty meters, flailing the water with mighty strokes.

With Weissmuller in the final tomorrow will be George Kojac, the New York schoolboy, and Walter Laufer of Chicago. Victory in the men’s 100-meter dash already is conceded Weissmuller, with Laufer and Kojac likely to complete the first three names on the board. Alberto Zorilla, the Argentinian, who won the 400- meter championship in spectacular style yesterday; Katsuo Takaishi, the Japanese, and Bárány of Hungary, other finalists, appear only as dangerous contenders to Laufer and Kojac. They hold little threat to Weissmuller’s supremacy.

Arne Borg, Swedish champion, who came to grief yesterday, losing to Zorilla and Charlton of Australia in the 400-meter finals, was scratched from the second heat of the 100-meters in which he was scheduled to start. The official reason given was that he was stale. Swimming pool devotees and others said that Borg was none too eager to try conclusions with Weissmuller and risk a second defeat. In Swedish circles there has been much comment of Weissmuller’s being scratched in the 400 meters, and hints were broadly expressed that the American feared Borg. Weissmuller was being quoted as having promised to give “Mr. Borg a little medicine in the 100 meters.”

Weissmuller, who shattered the oneminute barrier at the Olympic Games at Paris in 1924 in 59 seconds even, swam with such apparent care-freeness in his heat that some spectators interpreted his attitude as contemptuous. After permitting Spence, who was swimming in the adjacent lane, to remain head to head with him for seventy-five meters, the American put on a little spurt at the finish and won by about a yard.

Johnny Weissmuller won the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle the following day, equaling his Olympic record as he edged Istvan Bárány for the fourth of five career gold medals. Weissmuller won his fifth later in the Games in the 4×200-meter freestyle. While training for the 1932 Los Angeles Games, he was spotted by a Hollywood producer and cast in the starring role of Tarzan, the ape man. Weissmuller would make 12 Tarzan movies.

 

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL STANDINGS

American League
East
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
NY Yankees 76 40 .655 43 – 18 33 – 22 43 – 15 14 – 12 9 – 6 9 – 1 L 1
Tampa Bay 67 50 .573 9.5 31 – 28 36 – 22 30 – 26 15 – 12 11 – 8 8 – 2 W 1
Boston 62 56 .525 15 30 – 30 32 – 26 28 – 31 17 – 8 14 – 12 3 – 7 W 2
Toronto 48 71 .403 29.5 21 – 35 27 – 36 20 – 32 17 – 18 9 – 10 6 – 4 W 1
Baltimore 38 77 .330 37.5 17 – 42 21 – 35 18 – 35 7 – 15 8 – 17 3 – 7 L 4
Central
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
Cleveland 70 46 .603 38 – 24 32 – 22 15 – 9 33 – 19 16 – 13 8 – 2 W 4
Minnesota 70 46 .603 35 – 25 35 – 21 18 – 11 27 – 15 19 – 11 5 – 5 L 4
Chi White Sox 51 63 .447 18 27 – 29 24 – 34 15 – 18 26 – 24 4 – 10 5 – 5 L 1
Kansas City 41 76 .350 29.5 23 – 35 18 – 41 7 – 19 22 – 36 7 – 16 1 – 9 L 2
Detroit 35 78 .310 33.5 16 – 39 19 – 39 10 – 13 17 – 31 3 – 19 4 – 6 W 2
West
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
Houston 76 40 .655 43 – 15 33 – 25 14 – 10 14 – 10 38 – 12 9 – 1 W 7
Oakland 66 50 .569 10 37 – 23 29 – 27 13 – 14 16 – 4 27 – 26 7 – 3 W 1
Texas 58 57 .504 17.5 35 – 22 23 – 35 7 – 6 17 – 9 26 – 32 5 – 5 L 3
LA Angels 56 61 .479 20.5 29 – 28 27 – 33 12 – 12 8 – 13 25 – 30 1 – 9 L 8
Seattle 48 69 .410 28.5 27 – 34 21 – 35 7 – 9 14 – 13 23 – 39 4 – 6 L 1

 

National League
East
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
Atlanta 69 49 .585 32 – 25 37 – 24 29 – 19 20 – 13 14 – 12 6 – 4 W 1
Washington 61 54 .530 6.5 31 – 25 30 – 29 30 – 23 5 – 11 18 – 16 5 – 5 L 1
NY Mets 60 56 .517 8 33 – 20 27 – 36 28 – 24 12 – 15 10 – 13 9 – 1 W 7
Philadelphia 60 56 .517 8 34 – 26 26 – 30 26 – 26 13 – 10 13 – 15 4 – 6 W 1
Miami 43 72 .374 24.5 23 – 36 20 – 36 17 – 38 7 – 16 11 – 9 2 – 8 L 1
Central
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
Chi Cubs 63 53 .543 41 – 19 22 – 34 14 – 11 26 – 22 13 – 12 7 – 3 L 1
Milwaukee 61 56 .521 2.5 34 – 24 27 – 32 16 – 9 30 – 24 10 – 14 5 – 5 W 4
St. Louis 59 55 .518 3 32 – 23 27 – 32 16 – 14 27 – 20 9 – 10 3 – 7 W 1
Cincinnati 55 59 .482 7 32 – 27 23 – 32 11 – 9 25 – 29 11 – 12 6 – 4 W 1
Pittsburgh 48 67 .417 14.5 24 – 32 24 – 35 8 – 14 20 – 33 10 – 16 2 – 8 L 6
West
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
LA Dodgers 77 41 .653 46 – 16 31 – 25 18 – 6 22 – 11 34 – 18 8 – 2 L 1
Arizona 59 57 .509 17 27 – 28 32 – 29 15 – 12 10 – 10 20 – 29 6 – 4 W 3
San Francisco 57 60 .487 19.5 26 – 32 31 – 28 9 – 16 12 – 10 30 – 27 3 – 7 L 1
San Diego 54 61 .470 21.5 27 – 30 27 – 31 12 – 17 10 – 13 23 – 26 5 – 5 W 2
Colorado 52 64 .448 24 29 – 27 23 – 37 11 – 15 10 – 9 23 – 30 3 – 7 L 4

 

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER STANDINGS

Eastern
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Philadelphia 25 12 6 7 46 37 9 7-3-2 5-3-5 42
Atlanta 24 12 3 9 41 29 12 9-3-1 3-0-8 39
New York City FC 22 10 8 4 40 29 11 6-4-1 4-4-3 38
New York 24 11 4 9 41 34 7 8-1-4 3-3-5 37
D.C. 25 9 9 7 32 31 1 5-5-3 4-4-4 36
Montreal 25 10 3 12 34 44 -10 6-1-4 4-2-8 33
New England 24 9 6 9 34 41 -7 6-2-5 3-4-4 33
Toronto FC 24 9 5 10 38 40 -2 6-3-4 3-2-6 32
Orlando City SC 24 8 5 11 32 33 -1 5-1-6 3-4-5 29
Chicago 25 6 9 10 35 35 0 5-6-2 1-3-8 27
Columbus 25 7 4 14 25 37 -12 5-2-6 2-2-8 25
FC Cincinnati 24 5 2 17 23 55 -32 3-1-7 2-1-10 17
Western
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Los Angeles FC 23 16 4 3 61 23 38 9-1-0 7-3-3 52
Minnesota 23 11 5 7 39 30 9 7-4-1 4-1-6 38
San Jose 23 11 5 7 40 34 6 8-2-3 3-3-4 38
Seattle 23 11 5 7 35 31 4 8-2-2 3-3-5 38
Los Angeles 23 12 1 10 30 34 -4 8-0-4 4-1-6 37
Real Salt Lake 23 10 4 9 33 31 2 8-1-2 2-3-7 34
FC Dallas 24 9 6 9 31 28 3 6-5-1 3-1-8 33
Portland 22 9 4 9 35 33 2 3-2-1 6-2-8 31
Houston 24 9 3 12 34 39 -5 7-3-3 2-0-9 30
Sporting KC 23 7 7 9 36 41 -5 4-3-4 3-4-5 28
Vancouver 25 5 9 11 25 42 -17 3-4-5 2-5-6 24
Colorado 23 6 5 12 39 48 -9 5-2-6 1-3-6 23

 

WNBA STANDINGS

Eastern Conference
W L Pct GB Home Road Conf Last 10 Streak
Connecticut Sun 16 7 .696 11-1 5-6 10-3 7-3 1 L
Washington Mystics 16 7 .696 7-3 9-4 9-2 6-4 1 W
Chicago Sky 14 9 .609 2.0 9-3 5-6 8-4 8-2 3 W
New York Liberty 8 14 .364 7.5 4-6 4-8 1-8 3-7 4 L
Indiana Fever 8 16 .333 8.5 4-8 4-8 4-7 3-7 1 L
Atlanta Dream 5 18 .217 11.0 4-9 1-9 2-10 2-8 8 L
Western Conference
W L Pct GB Home Road Conf Last 10 Streak
Los Angeles Sparks 14 8 .636 8-2 6-6 7-4 8-2 4 W
Las Vegas Aces 15 9 .625 9-4 6-5 8-4 7-3 1 L
Seattle Storm 13 11 .542 2.0 9-4 4-7 7-5 5-5 1 W
Minnesota Lynx 12 11 .522 2.5 7-5 5-6 4-6 5-5 2 W
Phoenix Mercury 11 11 .500 3.0 7-2 4-9 5-6 5-5 1 L
Dallas Wings 6 17 .261 8.5 6-6 0-11 3-9 2-8 2 L