The Lakers can be called league leaders in at least one respect

As time goes on, it would appear to make more and more sense for Miami to keep Goran Dragic beyond the Feb. 23 trade deadline. For at least two reasons. (1) As expertly pointed out by our own Zach Lowe in his latest “Ten Things” dispatch, Miami is sinking into prime draft position just fine even with Dragic on the roster because so much else is missing. (2) Isn’t it smarter for the Heat to wait to see where they lands in the lottery in May — and what kind of shot they’ll have at selecting someone like Washington’s Markelle Furtz or UCLA’s Lonzo Ball — before surrendering The Dragon? As long as Pat Riley is headed for an upper-echelon lottery pick as it is, there’s little reason to rush into a deal. The wiser move might well be waiting to get a better handle on what sort of player Miami will be drafting.
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The Colts will not re-sign linebacker Erik Walden, who led the team in sacks with 11 this season. General manager Ryan Grigson proved with Jerrell Freeman last offseason that he’ll go only so far financially when it comes to re-signing free agents. Walden just happened to nearly double his career high in sacks during his contract year, w

Kyle Hendricks Limited Jersey The Jaguars will not bring tight end Julius Thomas back. He has been a disappointment since signing a five-year, $46 million ($24 million guaranteed) contract in March 2015 and has missed 11 games in two seasons due to various injuries. He does have nine touchdown catches, but the Jaguars have him catching short passes and trying to turn up field and break tackles when he’s more successful down the field and on seam routes. Jacksonville didn’t miss him when he was out of the lineup for the final four games. He also has the fourth-highest cap figure ($8.3 million) in 2017. — Mike DiRocco

The Titans will have two new starting cornerbacks. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau might not love relying on rookies at the spot, but Tennessee needs an influx of better players who can cover outside. Maybe 2016 fifth-rounder LeShaun Sims can earn a spot. But the Titans would be well-served to spend draft and free-agency resources to revamp the position to such a degree that the team has two newcomers in the lineup. — Paul Kuharsky

Now it gets real for the Patriots: Two more wins to title No. 5

The Gillette Stadium soundtrack during TV timeouts is ripped from a 1980s middle school dance, but somehow it fits. As The Outfield wails that they don’t wanna lose your love tonight, Rick Astley swears he’s never gonna give you up and The Knack thumps out an ode to their Sharona, it can feel as if the New England Patriots have been playing the same playoff game here for 30 or 40 years.
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The Patriots moved on to their sixth consecutive AFC title game on Saturday, but their performance against the Texans was a bit too uneven.

Three scores, three different ways. Patriots running back Dion Lewis became the first player in NFL history to score rushing, receiving and kickoff return touchdowns in a playoff game.
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Why the Falcons will win: Quarterback Matt Ryan, the league’s presumptive MVP, can match Rodgers throw for throw. In his past nine games, Ryan has thrown 22 touchdown passes and three interceptions.

The Falcons’ entire pass offense will be a matchup nightmare for the Packers, whose mediocre defensive secondary has been perpetually limited by injury. The Packers don’t have a lead cornerback to match up on receiver Julio Jones, let alone the other 12 players that caught touchdown passes from Ryan this season (an NFL single-season record). The Packers’ defensive options will be limited.

Their blitz was not effective Sunday against the Cowboys; Dak Prescott completed seven of eight passes against it for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan was great against the Seahawks’ blitz on Saturday, completing 10 of 13 throws for 154 yards. He’ll get his on championship Sunday.

Fantasy football running back bust candidates in 2015

The old saying goes that you can’t win your league in the first round, but you can lose it. Here, we’re focusing on the second part of that saying. It means that your first-round pick has to at least provide a reasonable return. You don’t need to take the number one guy in fantasy to make a first-round pick worth it, but if you end up with 2013 Trent Richardson, well, see you next year.

There are two categories of busts. The first is an injury bust, a guy you draft early who is then lost for some or all of the year. Those hurt, but are fixable. Maybe you drafted the guy’s backup, or maybe you have a strong bench. Either way, you can bench and/or drop the hurt guy and get on with your life. It’s not ideal, but it’s fair game.

Below, we’ve got the full schedule and something to watch for during each game (all times ET, stations via 506sports):

As noted above, the 49ers had an absolutely wretched offseason. There’s a new coaching staff; they lost Patrick Willis, Anthony Davis, Justin Smith and Chris Borland to retirement (only one of them — Smith — was expected to retire anytime soon). They saw Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver leave in free agency. Aldon Smith got arrested again, prompting his release from the team.

He and Beckham figure to be the biggest boom-or-bust guys in this tier. Personally, I don’t see how you can let Demaryius, Dez or Julio fall out of the first round.

Let’s take a quick look at how our rankings compare beyond the top 10 to others out there. This is based on our rankings vs. the average ADPs of MyFantasyLeague.com and Fantasy Football Calculator.

Tom Brady is “the most poised quarterback in the NFL,” Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said

“He’s a very intelligent guy,” O’Brien said. “He’s a guy that’s very well-prepared. He’s seen it all. I think it’s important for us to just make sure we know what we’re doing, execute our game plan and make sure we’re doing our job.”

Houston’s secondary is one of the best in the NFL; the Texans ranked second in the league by allowing just 202 passing yards per game during the regular season.

Tom Brady is “the most poised quarterback in the NFL,” Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said.

Authentic Kids LaDainian Tomlinson Jersey One way the Patriots could rattle Brady is by pressuring him in the pocket. New England’s offense, though, is known for quick throws. The Patriots’ offensive line is a stout unit as well, allowing 24 sacks in the regular season, fifth-fewest in the NFL. Houston’s defense notched 31 sacks during the regular season, tied for seventh-fewest in the league.
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Jim Caldwell: Keeping Caldwell made sense since he took the Lions to the postseason. But with four straight losses to end the season, there are still questions about his long-term viability as Detroit’s head coach. The longer Quinn keeps Caldwell, the more he becomes tied to the coach.

Contracts: He’s done well so far, extending Martin, Theo Riddick and Darius Slay — critical pieces for the future of the franchise. He also introduced more incentive-laden contracts, which should be better motivators. But he hasn’t had to handle a truly big contract yet, and those are coming with quarterback Matthew Stafford and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. How those deals are handled could be a gauge for his progress as a GM.

Irving knows Avery Bradley is prepped to chase him over LeBron’s pick

Small decisions like these across the league are driving the unprecedented boom in 3-point shooting. If you can make shots that count for an extra point, the NBA will find a place for you. Just survive on defense, and you might steal minutes from a shakier shooter who outdoes you in every other facet of the game. The NBA, in doling out roster spots and playing time, is erring on the side of shooting more than ever before.

The 3-point explosion is not new, though it is accelerating. The NBA smashes the all-time record for 3-point attempts every season. A full 31 percent of shots have come from deep this season, up from 28.5 percent last season and a positively charming 24 percent in 2012-13. It is not stopping anytime soon.
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Irving knows Avery Bradley is prepped to chase him over LeBron’s pick, and that he might juke Bradley by stunting toward LeBron and then crossing back the other way. He knows exactly how that move, if successful, will scramble the Celtics: They’ll either double Irving, leaving LeBron rampaging to the rim, or switch themselves into an untenable mismatch. The Celtics choose the switch, and LeBron slices them apart.

Chemistry matters. You can’t replace the power of shared experience.

The Wiz are 10-6 in their past 16 games, and that counts as progress. They were on a nice roll before a dispiriting loss in Dallas on Tuesday on the second night of a back-to-back. They played the Rockets to a hilt the night before in Houston, and threw a bunch of different looks at James Harden.

Jack Roslovic Limited Jersey Wall, of course, is at the center of everything, and he has rediscovered his peak turbo explosiveness after surgeries on both knees. When Wall’s engine is revving, the Wiz will sometimes set screens for him almost at half-court, foisting an uncomfortable choice on the poor sap guarding Marcin Gortat: try to corral Wall 35 feet from the basket, or lay back and provide Wall a sprinter’s runway.

Detroit’s buzzer-beater goal sent the Centennial Classic into overtime

Outdoor games aren’t boring after all! The Red Wings climbed back from a three-goal deficit in the Centennial Classic on Anthony Mantha’s buzzer-beater goal with just 1.1 seconds remaining.

Yes, it was exactly as close Demar Dotson Authentic Jersey as it sounds. Detroit was a mere heartbeat from another loss, and instead they tied the game 4-4 to draw overtime against the Maple Leafs.

The goal was Mantha’s second of Womens Charles Sims Jersey the game, and it almost wasn’t. The referees looked at goaltender interference on Frederik Andersen, but none was found.

The game went off without a hitch and on schedule despite a light rain at the beginning of the game and a few wonderful hiccups before puck drop. As the rain went away, the pace of the game picked up significantly.

Chicago, playing in its fifth outdoor NHL game, got on the board first. Artemi Panarin tossed a puck off the boards to Michal Kempny at the blue line, and the rookie fired the puck past Allen for the 1-0 lead.

It took St. Louis until midway through the second period to even the score. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester drove deep into the Blackhawks’ zone and passed back in front of the net, where Patrik Berglund netted the game-tying goal.

Perhaps the weather conditions affected special teams, considering both teams went a combined 0 for 5 through the first two periods on the power play. That included a missed opportunity for Chicago when Blues forward Robby Fabbri got penalized for boarding late in the second period.

The daggers didn’t come until the final 10 minutes of regulation when Tarasenko buried the game-winning goal. Or, rather, the Blackhawks buried it for him.

the Saints rested starters in Week 17 as well. I played against the Saints that season

Stafford will have to overcome a Packers offense once again led by an MVP candidate. Aaron Rodgers has been on fire lately, The Green Bay quarterback hasn’t thrown an interception since a blowout loss to the Titans in November, but he has thrown 14 touchdowns in the intervening weeks. The Packers, not coincidentally, are 5-1 over that stretch.

But our experts aren’t banking on another strong-armed miracle Sunday night.

Or the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons getting in, while the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks miss out?

They’re far from the likely scenarios. In fact, they’re about as unlikely as it gets, but the NFL has no shortage of wackiness and thinking of the most ridiculous possibilities sure is fun.

Two teams in the NFC East improved to 6-7 on Sunday and a third can do so on Monday Night Football when the New York Giants play the Miami Dolphins. With a Week 16 game between Washington and Philadelphia still on the schedule, the division winner will have to be a seven-win team, at least, barring a tie.

That means the only chance the Cowboys have at the postseason is to win out and hope for a tie at the top of the division. Luckily for Dallas, three of its four wins came against NFC East opponents and a fourth divisional win in Week 17 against Washington would give the Cowboys the tiebreaker over any other team in the division.

That season, the Saints rested starters in Week 17 as well. I played against the Saints that season, with Carolina. We were 7-8; they were 13-2. That game always stands out to me because it was a game like no other one I’ve played. The Saints were playing to not get hurt. They weren’t going hard, they weren’t trying to score. Just bleed out the clock.

I remember the end of the game, they were down and instead of driving to win the game, they just ran it a few times, punted, and the game was over. I had never seen that before. But it worked. They won the Super Bowl.

Matt Barkley, Bears crumble in ugly loss to Washington

Many praise John Fox for motivating his Chicago Bears no matter the circumstances.

The narrative died on Saturday.
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Fox¡¯s team committed countless blunders as the Washington Redskins bulldozed the Bears 41-21. Name the mistake, and it probably happened to the home team — busted coverages, blown assignments, questionable playcalling, poor decision-making, missed tackles, turnovers, untimely penalties … the list keeps going.

The effort was there, but mentally the Bears (3-12) looked unprepared from the opening kickoff.

Bears quarterback Matt Barkley threw five interceptions and two touchdowns in Saturday’s loss to the Redskins. Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports
Genuine fear existed in the nation¡¯s capital that the Redskins (8-6-1) — on a super-short week — would be upset by Fox¡¯s (9-22 in Chicago) feisty squad.

The Bears quickly eased those concerns.

Nose tackle Eddie Goldman became the 19th player to land on injured reserve Friday, so the talent gap between the Bears and Redskins is obvious.

Barkevious Mingo Authentic Jersey The Bears, however, suffered from serious lapses of judgment in all three phases — starting on offense with the quarterback.

Matt Barkley (five picks) has moxie. Chicago doesn¡¯t usually throw in the towel when Barkley is the quarterback.

the Lions dropped to 24th overall, according to the NFL Vegas power rankings

The New England Patriots — already the 9-5 Super Bowl favorites at the Westgate SuperBook and the No. 1 team in the NFL Vegas Rankings here at Chalk — have also extended their lead atop the NFL ATS Standings.

Graham Glasgow Game Jersey The Patriots are 11-3 ATS after their 16-3 win as 3-point road favorites at Denver with the Dallas Cowboys falling 1.5 games back at 9-4-1 ATS, as they failed to cover for the fourth straight game in their 26-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as 7-point home favorites. There is then a cluster of six teams at 9-5 ATS: Oakland, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Washington, Tampa Bay and New Orleans.
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Following an 11-point loss to the Giants in Week 15, the Lions dropped to 24th overall, according to the NFL Vegas power rankings. Our handicappers give ratings for all 32 teams.

Bortles is talking about Gus Bradley, whom the Jaguars (2-12) fired Sunday night after his 48th loss in 62 games as the team’s head coach. The players embraced Bradley, who emphasized positivity and concentrated on being your best instead of stressing wins and losses. He spent nearly as much time speaking with the players about their lives, mindset, beliefs and attitudes nearly as much as he did about football.

Bradley certainly wasn’t an old-school, hard-ass coach. He was more new-age in his approach.

Most of the players loved it, but it didn’t result in many victories. Just two this season, which is the ninth year in which the Jaguars have failed to have a winning season and the sixth year in a row with double-digit losses. Their latest loss, 21-20 at Houston last Sunday, was the ninth in a row and GM Dave Caldwell fired Bradley after the game.

Man proposes marriage via brick at Vikings stadium

Two years ago, Indianapolis Colts fan Nick Running met Jane Momany, a Minnesota Vikings fan, at a game in Minnesota.

Three months after that meeting, Running saw that the Vikings were selling bricks to fans surrounding U.S. Bank Stadium, which would open in 2016.

Despite only knowing Momany for a short time, he was ready to make the purchase.

On the brick was inscribed: “Jane, will you marry me? Love, Nick.”

Roethlisberger’s overall attempts per game are down from 39 to 36.6, but he maintains that his stats are secondary to wins. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who’s seen Roethlisberger over the years change his game to become a quick-strike passer who takes fewer sacks, said Antonio Brown and other Steelers playmakers understand throwing 40 passes isn’t best for the game plan some weeks.

“He’s seeing what he needs to see, doing a great job preparation-wise,” Haley said of Roethlisberger. “The ball’s coming out when it needs to come out. And he’s able to give you those big plays when you need them. I think he’s just continued to get better each and every year.”

And he’s three touchdown passes away from 300, a feat just nine quarterbacks in NFL history have reached.
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Game Youth Alexey Shved Jersey Bell has been a central figure in the Steelers’ game plan, with 118 carries over the past four weeks and 166 total touches for 933 yards over his last five weeks. But if the Bengals put that extra safety in the box, deep balls to Brown might be there. And despite a miserable last two months, deep threat Sammie Coates had a few big gains against Cincinnati in Week 2 and hopes to duplicate that production.