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Through his first two seasons, Taillon is a respectable 13-11 with a 3.98 ERA over 43 starts.

I don’t want to say I feel things are easier now, because this game is never easy, but I do feel a lot more comfortable, Taillon said. Not just with the pitching aspect, but just everything that goes into playing in the major leagues.

You’ve got to put yourself in position to finish those races, and those guys have been positioning themselves, Harvick said. Whether it be fast cars, strategy, driver decisions, it takes a lot.

And who prevailed at Talladega last fall? Keselowski, who on the final lap, used a timely push from his teammate Logano to nudge by leader Ryan Newman.

There is some luck involved to not wrecking, without a doubt, Keselowski said. Last year in the [Daytona] 500, we missed three wrecks but got in the fourth one. That’s just timing. I don’t feel like there was anything I could do different, so that part takes a lot of luck. But to think that the person who wins [Sunday] is just lucky, his success is solely reliant on luck, is probably false.

Kiermaier, who is entering his fifth season with Tampa Bay, is the latest prominent player to comment on the Rays’ moves.

Rays ace pitcher Chris Archer said Sunday that designating Dickerson for assignment was perplexing, while former Tampa Bay star Evan Longoria, now with the Giants, also questioned the moves.

It’s kind of a shame,” Longoria said Sunday. I don’t understand it. [Dickerson] was an All-Star last year. He’s in his early prime. … It just doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. Corey will end up somewhere and continue to be the player that he is. But I kind of just feel bad for the Rays’ fan base.

It’s business as usual in the Ohio Valley, where Belmont and Murray State both appear to be a step or three ahead of the rest of the conference as we near the postseason. The Bruins beat Murray State in the only between the OVC powers, so they get the status of being the favorite as both teams stare down the final three games of the regular season.bears_039

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Teams will be eager to trade down and obtain additional picks, draft analysts say.

The group getting hosed here, though, are the Bengals coaches, who currently do not have contracts and who must decide if they should seek employment elsewhere or if they should wait and see if Lewis gets extended.

But the deals still could come once the draft begins Thursday night.

“Beyond [No.] 10 or 12 in this draft, about 40 guys all look alike,” said former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt. “And if there’s any possibility that you can move down and pick up an extra choice by moving down and still probably get a player from the same plateau, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t consider doing it.”

Of course, this requires finding a team willing to trade up. That’s the tricky part.

Late Sunday night, as he prepared to retreat to the sanctuary of his dressing room, where several family members were gathered, Pederson proudly broke down Foles’ final touchdown pass — the third-and-goal strike to Jeffery in the back of the end zone on the second play of the fourth quarter.

“He’s now getting into that rhythm,” Pederson said. “That throw he made to Alshon — in the back of the end zone, high, above the facemask — he couldn’t have put that any other place. And that comes from repetition with his guys; that’s Nick repping that route every single day in practice.”

These days, an Eagles’ practice might feature a quarterback and his receivers gelling and a chagrined coach yelling — all part of a dream the Eagles are selling to a growing legion of believers, with only Brady and Belichick left to spoil it.

When the world first got a glimpse of the year 2018, things were supposed to get wild in the NFL coaching circles, with one of the bloodiest Black Mondays in recent years coming down the pipe. Instead we were treated to a totally different situation, as only six jobs opened up over the course of the first 24 hours. jaguars_114

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Ateman did his thing against the Hokies.

He showed off his rebounding ability on a deep ball and was a safety valve for Rudolph as he scanned through his progressions. Ateman obviously doesn’t win with separation. His body and length provide him the requisite separation as the ball arrives.

Adams’ ability to win quickly in the short area bodes well for his fit in likely a zone-blocking scheme in the NFL. Playing with toughness as well as composure speaks to his tenacity as a blocker.

Scales is an All-American linebacker who has been a centerpiece to the Hoosier defense for the last four seasons. He is a good overall athlete who possesses solid speed and lateral agility. He has quickness as a blitzer and can get a good jump to put himself in position to provide pressure on opposing QBs. He is solid as a run defender, displaying good gap discipline, and he keeps his shoulders square when he’s filling at the point of attack.

The Dallas Cowboys learned that running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension was upheld by arbitrator Harold Henderson on Tuesday night, but because of the timing of the announcement, Elliott will be allowed to play against the New York Giants on Sunday.

Elliott rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2016, plus caught 32 of 39 targets for 363 yards and a touchdown in the passing game, earning him the fourth-highest player rating at the position by the game charters at Pro Football Focus.

The Giants were the second-best team against the run last season per Football Outsiders, yet they struggled stopping the rusher at or behind the line of scrimmage (17 percent stuff rate, 20th in the league). Elliott, meanwhile, averaged close to three yards per carry after contact.

Coach Bill Belichick did little to tamp the speculation Tuesday, when he praised Rowe and had little to say about Butler, as Stephen Hewitt writes. Last year, the Patriots dealt linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns after it became clear he wanted a new deal. jaguars_076

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Rubio averages 11.3 points per game on 50.1 percent true shooting, making 29.7 percent of his 3-pointers.

Though these differences are stark, their shot-types can be broken down further to really tease out how they score. Let’s break down the primary perimeter options each year in this way, per Second Spectrum:

Hayward made 59.5 effective field goal percent (eFG%, field goal percentage factoring in 3-pointers made) of his 178 driving-layup attempts (out of 1,339 total shots), but most of his work was from the perimeter. He was outstanding in catch-and-shoot situations, making 74.4 eFG% of his 125 shots, and he was fine on the move as well, making 48.0 eFG% of his 122 catch-and-shoot-relocating shots. He was also relatively strong as a scorer off the dribble, taking 334 pull-up jumpers at a 44.9 eFG% clip and also took 155 shots over screens, hitting them at 52.3 eFG%.

“I was the one telling Zak if there was still some seat available for the Daytona 24, and in 10 minutes, we managed to finish everything [to do it].”

Alonso has one other non-F1 event on his radar: LeMans remains a possibility for this year.

“It is one thing I would like to do,” Alonso said. “I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and LeMans is one of the top races. One day I would like to do it. If that day will be this year or not, it’s to be discussed.”

Early in the second quarter, the Eagles went up 14-7 on an 11-yard run by LeGarrette Blount. Shortly before halftime, Foles, his play seemingly improving with every drive, hit Alshon Jeffery on a third-and-10, 53-yard pass play for a 21-7 lead. To top it off, they added a field goal for a 24-7 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, Foles, who turned 29 on Saturday, found Torrey Smith for a 41-yard touchdown pass that made it 31-7 and stunned the Vikings’ defense. It looked for a brief bit as if Keenum had found Thielen for a touchdown that would have narrowed the score to 31-13, but the ball clearly bounced off the ground on the fourth-down play.

The offense was unproductive Sunday in Atlanta, as QB Cam Newton was off target in a 14-for-34, three-interception performance. That won’t be nearly good enough against the Saints, who will demand the Panthers put forth a decent scoring performance to keep pace. TE Greg Olsen and RB Christian McCaffrey must be major factors. The defense is good enough. It’s all about whether Newton and the offense will come around.jaguars_039

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When it comes to the injuries, those within the league can’t believe the amount of misfortune.

Griffin turned it over again on an out-of-bounds pass before Rivers was tossed out after assistant Sam Cassell drew a technical on the Clippers’ bench. Woodson got a technical and then was booted.

“I literally got thrown out for saying, `You guys gave us some tough calls tonight,” Rivers said. “That was it. No swear words, nothing. … Just like players can lose their composure, officials can lose their composure as well. Sam got a technical for saying, `Three seconds.’ Blake said, `Over my back’ and got a technical.”

Obviously, Senior Bowl week is important for every player invited to the marquee college football all-star game. But these 10 future pros have the most riding on their week in Mobile. Each of these players is fighting a negative perception — whether it’s based on their level of competition in college or their overall game. The Senior Bowl is really their last shot in a true football atmosphere to change those perceptions.

Lee is seen as a “tools” prospect who didn’t put up great numbers during his collegiate career. He started the majority of two seasons at Tulane before transferring to Lincoln, but has struggled with interceptions, throwing 37 during his career against 46 touchdowns. Lee has a pro arm and good mobility, looking the part of a potential starter in the league. He needs to rely less on his arm and more on good decision-making during his time in Mobile, however, for scouts and coaches to convince their general manager that he is worthy of a selection in top 100 picks.

“I don’t think that’s going to affect people from saying, ‘I’m going to do what’s in the best interest of my football team and give my team the best chance to win,’” the commissioner said, “because that’s what every team wants to do.”

Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck hasn’t played all season, and Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s season ended with a knee injury in the preseason. The Dallas Cowboys are about to play their sixth straight game without suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott.

“Well, it’s certainly been frustrating to us,” Packers President Mark Murphy said this week at the NFL owners’ meetings in Dallas.

But Murphy, a former safety for the Washington Redskins, knows it’s about more than his own team. It’s about the entire league.jaguars_024

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On Tuesday, Gruden acknowledged his candidacy for the job, and provided a bit of a troll in the process.

That play may not have happened if it weren’t for a conversation Mariota had with a couple of the Titans linebackers in the week leading up to this game. Brian Orakpo and Wesley Woodyard sought out their quarterback and encouraged him to just go out there and make plays as John Glennon detailed in his piece after the game.

It took the Saints 20 years in the NFL to even post a single winning season. They finished 12-3 in 1987, and the Vikings — who barely finished above.500 — marched into New Orleans and handed the Saints a 44-10 beatdown.

That means Moore likely fight Brandon Tate and any rookie receivers added to the team for the fifth, sixth and possibly seventh receiver spots on the 53-man roster.Teams have run effectively recent seasons with a fullback and without.To hold the Vikings’singular weapon, Peterson, to 86 rushing yards and get beat by Christian Ponder throwing and running and by a defense that started the day 18th total defense was hard to swallow.

The problem for Jacksonville is they’ve been capable of giving up big runs this season (although the rush defense got much better after acquiring Marcel Dareus) and Le’Veon Bell is itching for a monster game.

The Steelers can establish the run, throw the ball over the middle and then take some shots down the field to Antonio Brown, who may or may not be healthy. Don’t forget that, despite Ben Roethlisberger throwing five picks during Week 5’s loss to Jacksonville, AB still had 10 catches for 157 yards. The Steelers come out hot, put the Jags defense on its heels and are able to salt away this game in fairly convincing and comfortable fashion. The Jags just don’t have the offensive firepower to keep up. Prediction: Steelers 28, Jaguars 10

We can tell you that the model is loving the Under (45.5) in Jaguars-Patriots. It’s hitting in 61 percent of simulations, and that’s in stark contrast to the general public, who is only backing it 44 percent of the time, even with the hand injury to QB Tom Brady.sabres_009

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Sunday afternoon was not the highest point of Mike Tomlin’s coaching career.

Losing 45-42 to the Jaguars in an AFC divisional round game is bad enough just on the surface, but digging deeper it’s not hard to find multiple instances of the Steelers being outcoached by the Jags and unprepared for certain scenarios. And now some Steelers minority owners are reportedly getting in Art Rooney’s ear about firing Tomlin over the game.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported Tuesday that he’s hearing some of the team’s limited partners intend to lobby owner Art Rooney to fire of Tomlin and to hire a new coach.

The source specifically pointed to those key 47 seconds, noting that the players were moving without any real sense of urgency as the clock was ticking and the Steelers needed two scores, Florio writes.

It truly looked like the Steelers either didn’t know what to do or that they didn’t care, that they were assuming the game was basically over. It was not the best look for a playoff team, especially a playoff team that has not advanced to the Super Bowl since 2010.

Tomlin is just 3-5 in the playoffs since that 2010 run to the Super Bowl in Dallas (a loss to the Packers), but it’s hard to argue with his consistent success. He’s won 11, 10, 11 and 13 games the last four years.

Playing against a Giants defense that still featured several first-string players, Kizer finished 8 of 13 for 74 yards, while also racking up 35 yards on the ground. If Kizer looks good against the Buccaneers on Saturday, and Osweiler struggles, Hue Jackson is going to have an interesting decision to make when it comes to picking a starter for the season opener.

After the Browns defense forced a rare three-and-out, Giants punter Brad Wing got off an impressive 52-yard punt that looked like it was going to pin the Browns deep in their own territory. Only that didn’t happen, because after Peppers caught the punt, the Giants couldn’t catch him.sabres_1559

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Josh Rosen seemingly would rather land anywhere but Cleveland and isn’t clearly a better prospect than Sam Darnold.

Both are tremendously talented but might need some time before they mature into franchise quarterbacks in the NFL.

In that case, let’s assume the Browns pick Darnold with thoughts of him as their unquestioned starter by 2019. If the Giants pass on Rosen at No. 2, he could sink a little … and wind up in Denver with John Elway’s Broncos.

The wild card for me early is the Colts. Do they fortify their offensive line or go with Saquon Barkley? Maybe they would even look into a cornerback like Minkah Fitzpatrick?

Vrabel is a young coach, at just 42 years old, but he is also 11 years older than Rams coach Sean McVay, who became the youngest NFL head coach when Los Angeles hired him last year. Going from a college linebackers coach in 2011 to being an NFL head coach in 2018 is wild, though. That’s a fast move up the ranks.

Teams were trying to lure him away last season to run their defenses, but Vrabel remained. The opportunity to take over the Titans was apparently too much.

3. And that the NFL develop some sort of program to reinvest into the communities in which they serve, where there are high rates of unemployment, high rates of mass incarceration. To re-invest those funds into the community, Green says.

Typically speaking, the noise surrounding an issue like this dies out once the games start being played. But this is not a typical situation: Kap doesn’t have a job, which means with each week that passes and each horrific quarterback performance that we watch unfold, the noise could get louder.

This is hardly the last thing we have heard about concerns over Kaepernick’s employment as the 2017 season nears.

And so we’re going to bring you the reasons a number of these teams decided it was unnecessary to even go to ownership with the possibility of signing Kaepernick, not so much to prove the point I’ve been trying to make, but rather to illustrate why his situation is more complicated than many want to concede.sabres_809

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The only thing that went the Patriots’ way in the first half of Sunday’s AFC Championship game might have been the officiating.

After being shut down on offense for nearly the entire first half, the Patriots finally scored a touchdown late in the second quarter after Tom Brady drove them 85 yards on just six plays. However, the key play on the drive wasn’t anything Brady did, it was a pass interference call that went against Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye.

Bonus: the Patriots turned him into an offensive threat! Vrabel was targeted 14 times in his career and caught 10 passes, all for touchdowns. It was wild how teams would know the Pats (and later Chiefs) were throwing the ball to him in the red zone and no one could stop it. Here’s a big old package of highlights set to some terrible music:

The presumption when the Titans fired Mike Mularkey was that they would go out and grab an offensive mind. Vrabel is, quite clearly, not an offensive guy (despite his frequent trips to the end zone as a player). But the Titans have to figure out a way to improve the situation for franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota and to get the most out of Derrick Henry and Corey Davis.

Meanwhile, the NFL’s best defense, by both yardage and points, allowed 456 yards and 31 points to Nick Foles, with another touchdown coming on a pick-six. The Eagles had five separate scoring drives of 60 yards or more. That’s two more than the number of times they punted.

What was even more surprising than the level of dominance exhibited by the Eagles, however, was exactly how it happened. The Vikings did a whole lot of things well during their run to the NFC’s No. 2 seed and in getting to the NFC title game in the first place. And then they did exactly none of those things well with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

Although the Patriots get mentioned a lot when we talk about the Super Bowl, one team that almost never comes up is the Jaguars and there’s a good reason for that. The Jags have never made it to the Super Bowl and this week’s game will mark only the third time in franchise history that they’ve even played in an AFC title game.bears_132-223x223

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