Steelers schedule 2018: Pittsburgh faces familiar road in title hunt

The Steelers’ 2018 schedule is yet another first-place schedule to which the defending AFC North champions have become accustomed. That means Pittsburgh will get another shot at Jacksonville, which knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs in the divisional round last season.

Biggest breaks: The Chargers have to make a cross-country trip to play the Steelers. As for the Chiefs, they haven’t beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh since Dec. 21, 1986.

Bottom line: The road game against Jacksonville should be interesting. That’s the team that beat the Steelers twice last year and upset the pecking order in the AFC. Something else to watch: Pittsburgh has lost just three AFC North games in the last three seasons It shouldn’t see much of a slide in 2018. Record prediction: 12-4

Philadelphia, coming off its first Super Bowl championship, released a statement last month confirming that the team was in the early stages of planning a visit.

“We are honored to receive this invitation and view this not only as an opportunity to be recognized for our on-field accomplishments, but also as an opportunity to engage in productive dialogue with the leaders of our country,” the statement read, via NJ Advance Media.

It’s been a longstanding tradition for championship teams across all leagues to visit the White House, but there has been some controversy since President Donald Trump took the office. The Warriors did not visit last year after the president “uninvited” the team in response to comments made by Stephen Curry. But the Astros attended a ceremony last month to celebrate being World Series champions.

Horford can help them. If Thompson and Nance take away his slips and fades, Horford is under no obligation to use them. Just set some solid screens to open runways for his guards. If those guards inflict more damage, Cleveland will have to adjust — perhaps unlocking those slips and fades again.

NFL free agent news: Cowboys uninterested in re-signing Dez Bryant

The Cowboys are happy with the way their receiving corps looks — at least they don’t think they need Dez Bryant back in the mix.

Speaking Tuesday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it clear his team is not interested in re-signing Bryant to a smaller deal after releasing him earlier this month.

Blach allowed three runs and four hits in five innings. After the game, Bochy said the left-hander suffered from food poisoning last week and was given an IV on Monday. “That was a really gutty effort that he gave us,” Bochy said.

Nationals: Placed RHP Shawn Kelley on the 10-disabled list with ulnar nerve irritation in his right elbow. Infielder/outfielder Matt Reynolds was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse and outfielder Rafael Bautista and infielder Adrian Sanchez were called up.

Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (4-1, 1.36 ERA) and Giants RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00) take to the mound for the series finale at AT&T Park on Wednesday. Samardzija is making his second start after beginning the season on the disabled list.

Jackson is widely expected to be the fourth or fifth quarterback off the board, falling somewhere in the bottom half of the first round, in what is one of the deepest quarterback classes in NFL history. The Patriots, who may feel the need to draft an eventual replacement for 40-year-old Tom Brady, have the No. 23 overall pick in the draft.

While many mock drafts have the Pats choosing either a linebacker or offensive lineman at that spot, they might not be able to resist a player with Jackson’s huge upside.

There’s also the possibility that the Patriots could trade a package of draft picks to move up in the first round. In addition to the No. 23 pick (which New England acquired from the Rams), the Pats own the No. 31 selection, as well as the two second-round picks (Nos. 43 and 63 overall).

One interesting mock draft in the Louisville Courier-Journal has the Patriots choosing Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, with Jackson going at No. 17 to the Chargers.

Throughout the night, DeRozan did much of his work off the catch, cutting crisply off the ball, attacking in stride rather than pounding the rock into submission and spelunking through the morass of bodies awaiting him in the paint, as he did in Washington. The result was an efficient outing — 32 points on 12-for-24 shooting from the field, including a 3-for-4 night from beyond the arc and 5-for-6 from the line.

Saints Not Planning To Match Ravens’ Willie Snead Offer Sheet

After four years in New Orleans, Willie Snead looks like he will head north. The Saints are not planning to match the Ravens’ offer sheet, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link), which will send the RFA wide receiver to Baltimore.

The Ravens only submitted this two-year offer sheet on Friday, but as of Saturday, it doesn’t look like the Saints are planning to retain Snead.

“If I don’t think this guy can win a championship, I’m not gonna have a conviction. You have to believe that. If you don’t believe that then don’t pick a quarterback high. Because if you’re wrong, it could set you back — this may sound like an exaggeration — it could set you back 8-10 years. Because you’re gonna play him, very rarely do they play well the first two or three years. You’re not gonna know, is he just adjusting or is he a bust? You’re gonna have to give him time.’’

Running back Saquon Barkley, defensive end Bradley Chubb and guard Quenton Nelson are widely viewed as can’t-miss prospects. These riches were not available to Accorsi in 2004. If he had not been able to secure Manning or Roethlisberger, the next player he coveted was receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who went No. 3 to the Cardinals.

“There weren’t a lot of options after that,’’ Accorsi said.

The Giants were fortunate the Raiders selected tackle Robert Gallery at No. 2, a player Accorsi was not going to take.

“They’re going to see a freak-a-leek when I come back,” Gronk joked. “That’s what.”

A reporter then followed up by asking if that means Gronk will play next season, and he only said “oh, maybe.”

Given all we have heard, it would be pretty shocking if Gronkowski doesn’t return. Still, there could be truth to the reports that the business-like atmosphere surrounding the Patriots is starting to weigh on him. According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, Gronk is currently content “having fun and generally just taking a little extra time away.”

Lucic: I was like, “Aw, thank God.” There was a sense of relief but also a sense of excitement. I’m sure [Bergeron will] tell you the same thing I’ve told you: That it’s one of those special games you think about a lot.seahawks_189

Phillip Gaines signs with Bills

Phillip Gaines has a new home. The cornerback is joining the Bills, the team announced Thursday.

Gaines, 27, joins projected starters Vontae Davis and Tre’Davious White, solidifying the Bills at the position.

Gibson is right there too, registering a .927 even-strength save percentage this season in 60 starts. In 22 career playoff starts, he has an .842 high-danger save percentage, the best over the past four postseasons. Then there’s Quick. He is notably one of the best active playoff goalies in the NHL (perhaps the best), and to top it all off, he has produced his best statistical season in more than half a decade. Give me one of them and I would feel pretty damn good.

Chris Peters, NHL prospects writer: I’m still a big believer in Rinne as well. He wasn’t amazing in last year’s Stanley Cup Final and he has carried a heavy workload over the past two seasons, but he’s on top of his game right now. Combine that with the way Nashville defends and the layers teams will have to have to cut through to try to score against the Preds and you and you can see why this team keeps opposing coaches up at night. As long as Rinne is healthy, I would definitely want him on my side heading into this postseason.

Butler made only 15 catches in 2017 and has 73 in his five-year career for 1,177 yards and eight touchdowns. He played 261 offensive snaps last season in Dallas.

Shohei Ohtani has captured most of the Los Angeles Angels’ headlines thus far, but it’s the team’s other hitters who stand out in Week 2 — particularly the right-handers. The Angels are slated to face three left-handed starters, plus another four right-handers who possess league-average-at-best strikeout rates, and they’ll play three of their seven games at Texas’ hitting-friendly Globe Life Park. Beyond the obvious trio of Angels hitting options (Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons), Albert Pujols (available in roughly 60 percent of ESPN leagues) stands out as a particularly advantageous fantasy option.

As the team’s cleanup hitter with the squad facing a strong week of hitting matchups, Pujols’ runs/RBIs (not to mention plate appearances, since the lineup should turn over more often) should benefit. In addition, keep tabs on Ian Kinsler’s (DL, groin) status heading into Monday’s weekly lineup deadline because if he needs only the minimum, 10-day stay on the disabled list, as expected, he’d be eligible to return Tuesday, would presumably be slotted directly back into the leadoff spot and therefore would warrant instant activation in all leagues.flames_021

The Eagles had the best group touchdown celebration in the NFL this week

The Philadelphia Eagles played a complete game on Sunday in their 34-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Even the touchdown celebrations were top notch!

“The fact that he’s not definitely out, that’s obviously good news,” said Koetter, adding that Winston won’t attempt to throw until later in the week, if he throws at all.

The team will make a decision to determine if he can play Sunday against the Buffalo Bills later this week. The issue is more about pain tolerance than anything. Koetter said there is no risk of further injury.

“The way I understand it, he will be cleared medically to play,” Koetter said. “I know Jameis can handle a lot of pain — that’s not gonna be an issue — I think it’s going to be more of, ‘Does Jameis feel like he can play at the level he needs to play at?’ Obviously, the No. 1 thing in all of this is Jameis’ long-term health. That has to be the No. 1 thing.”

When the Panthers brought Peppers back, they were hopeful he would be able to fill a ‘veteran depth’ role on the defensive line while the young guys got the chance to have break out seasons. Instead, it is Peppers who is having another break out season and is reminding Panthers that this new guy in town might just be the same guy they drafted in 2002. I’d say the Panthers made a good decision to bring him back, wouldn’t you?

He’s second on the Bears in rushing yards (181), and he’s second on the team in receiving yards (150). He leads the Bears in both targets (29), and in receptions (24). He’s eighth in the league, and first among all rookies, in catches. Cohen is also Chicago’s primary punt returner.

He’s been used in the slot, on the wing, split out wide, and at running back. He’s the most electric playmaker that the Bears have had since Devin Hester.

Despite falling into the fourth round of this year’s draft, Lawson has easily been one of the best defensive rookies across the NFL.lakers_018

Todd McShay’s updated Top 32: Ranking 2018 NFL draft prospects

We’re nearly halfway through another exciting college football season, and the standout prospects are cominginto focus.

There aren’t too many changes to this new list, but we have a new cornerback making his debut in the top 15.

Here are my top prospects for the 2018 NFL draft right now:

Wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who suffered a thumb injury in Week 4 that required surgery, was cleared Wednesday to return to practice on a limited basis. Coach Sean McDermott said it has yet to be determined whether Matthews will be able to play against the Buccaneers on Sunday, and he is designated as day-to-day. If Matthews can’t play, expect the Bills to turn to Zay Jones as their top wideout again. — Mike Rodak

Wide receiver DeVante Parker missed his first game of the season last week with an ankle injury and also missed Wednesday’s practice. Coach Adam Gase described Parker as day-to-day, but Thursday’s practice will be huge in determining Parker’s status against the Jets. Miami needs Parker to help stretch the defense. — James Walker

That was the plan here. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner had worked with Hester on the play that week, an out-and-up. The Bears tried to call the play earlier in the game, but didn’t like the coverage. Down seven with less than two minutes to play, it was time.

“Ron (Turner) told him, ‘You’re going to score a touchdown on this play,’” wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said about those practices. “And he did.”

Indeed, Hester took off from the 19, shimmied a bit to his right on the out, and then bolted up the field. Griese took a deep drop and a couple of launch pad steps up in the pocket and unloaded. The pass traveled 53 yards to Hester, who caught it two steps ahead of the defender.

“It seemed like a type of cover-two,” Hester said later. “The safety bit on the out route.”falcons_014

Aaron Gordon had 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks in the first half. He finished with 14 points.

Heat: All five of Miami’s starters scored in double figures. Kelly Olynyk had 10 points in his first game with the Heat and Dion Waiters had 15. бн Whiteside had 10 rebounds in the first half.

Magic: Rookie Jonathan Isaac, the No. 6 overall pick in June’s NBA Draft, converted his first NBA attempt on a put-back late in the first quarter after coming in with 3:10 to play. бн Gordon took a hard hit from Whiteside on a baseline drive late in the second quarter. Gordon remained on the floor momentarily before getting up. The play was reviewed and ruled a common foul.

Kaepernick had been linked to a handful of teams last summer, including the Ravens and Dolphins. Still, there’s been little interest in a 29-year-old quarterback who ranked 17th in the league in passer rating last fall. He’s languished as a free agent while players like Mark Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick landed backup deals.

Earlier this week, his management reached out to the Tennessee Titans after starter Marcus Mariota was forced out of a blowout loss to the Texans with a hamstring strain. The franchise decided to sign Brandon Weeden, 6-19 as a starter and with a career 31:30 touchdown-to-interception ratio, instead.

Kaepernick remains a free agent in a season where players like Mike Glennon, Blake Bortles, Matt Cassel, Josh McCown, Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, and Case Keenum have all earned starts. If the league’s struggling teams reverse course and decide they need him, he’ll be ready to answer the call.

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant’s trade request is more fantasy football

With 4:41 left in the second quarter of their game Sunday in Kansas City, as the Steelers drove toward still another of this season’s many field goals, Antonio Brown caught a pass over the middle and dashed through the Chiefs secondary for a 26-yard gain.

“We first learned through media reports today that Mr. Kaepernick filed a grievance claiming collusion through our arbitration system and is represented by his own counsel. We learned that the NFL was informed of his intention to file this grievance before today. We are scheduling a call with his advisors for early this week.”

Kaepernick became a controversial figure last year when he became the first player to refuse to stand for the national anthem as a sign of protest against what he called racial injustice in the U.S. Many other players have since followed his lead, leading to fan protests and concern among owners and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that the players’ actions are hurting TV ratings and attendance.

The Browns are stuck in the mud for the most part offensively, but someone has to emerge as a consistent pass-catcher, right? (Well, apart from Duke Johnson Jr.) Louis has back-to-back five-catch games. This is a deeper-league add, as the Browns’ top receiver job has also been a merry-go-round so far this year.

I also think the union has a case in that NFL players’ contracts not only include how players are supposed to act on the field, but also off the field. You can therefore make the case that what they are doing in protesting is taking part in that civic duty.”tigers_048

The NFC West is vying with the AFC South to be the NFL’s saddest division

The first two weeks of the season haven’t been kind to the NFC West. Right now, the division looks similar to 2010, when the Seahawks won it with a 7-9 record.

The Seahawks didn’t score a touchdown this season until the fourth quarter in Week 2. Seattle is sitting at 1-1 right now, leading the division by virtue of beating another NFC West team, the 49ers. Otherwise they might still be winless.

I DM’ed Chuck on Tuesday to find out what the scuttlebutt with the Foot Gang is. He seemed confused by my question. So I asked him what he and the other Toe Boys were talking about. That outright offended him. I apologized, then asked what he saw this weekend.

He replied: Lot of [Raiders kicker] Giorgio Tavecchio talk. Kid is good but I worry about some hip stiffness and him falling off to his left too much — could end up missing right if his mechanics get out of whack.

Look at that. Boom. Bust that out at your next cocktail party. Everything you need to know about Giorgio Tavecchio, who was born in Milan, Italy and also has the name of someone my wife would leave me for. Curse you, you handsome, Italian, kicking bastard. CURSE YOU.

Chargers kicker, internet sensation, and my best friend he just doesn’t know it yet Younghoe Koo missed a potential game-tying field goal at the end of Los Angeles’ game against the Broncos when his kick was blocked. Some people argued that Koo was partially to blame, as his kick’s trajectory was low and allowed the Broncos’ Shelby Harris to get his arm on the ball, and those people are idiot monsters who deserve to spend eternity choking on a piece of meat.
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