They finished as Lambs under Jeff Fisher, but Sean McVay has made their offense much richer.

They finished as Lambs under Jeff Fisher, but Sean McVay has made their offense much richer. Now here comes Wade Phillips on his side of the ball, developing a team that’s more complete, y’all.

I use a pretty basic recipe for that. I usually do equal parts beef and spicy Italian sausage. Then I add a little bit of prosciutto, chopped up, to add saltiness; it’s a little change of pace. Then the usual stuff: eggs, bread crumbs, some chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese. I pan fry them and let them simmer in the sauce for a while.

The Patriots are as motivated as usual and appear to have smoothed out their early-season glitches. The Raiders couldn’t be more motivated, hanging around the fringes of the playoff chase but also within view of the AFC West lead despite their terrible recent losing streak.

Who saw this coming before the season, the Rams doing a 180 from the end of the Jeff Fisher regime, the Vikings cruising without their starting quarterback? What the Vikings should worry about, though, is how last week Case Keenum went from unstoppable to a nightmare and back over the course of that game in Washington. The Rams, who had four takeaways and three sacks in Houston last week,take advantage.

The Saintsstart scoreboard-watching, as they’ve climbed to within range of the Eagles and are even with the Rams and Vikings atop the NFC. (Not to mention just ahead of the Panthers.) They need to keep handling their business, and against a team that had no answer for the Vikings on the ground or in the air, they should with their newly-balanced offense. Washington is already in danger of losing sight of the NFC wild-card teams.steelers_122

Steelers’ Martavis Bryant resumes working with starters in practice

Martavis Bryant is working his way back to the starting roster.

The Steelers wide receiver resumed practice with Pittsburgh’s first-team offense on Monday following the Week 9 bye, though it remains to be seen if he’ll be in the same position Sunday when the team visits the Colts.

Still, Bryant is confident about his availability going forward.

“The scout team was for me to work on my craft when I wasn’t playing,” Bryant said. “It was nothing permanent. People took it the wrong way. бн We’ve got a long season to go, still. I have to finish, work hard and make the best of all situations and go from there.”

The Steelers (6-2) are scheduled to visit the Colts (3-6) at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.

Miller was released from the New Orleans hospital on Nov. 6 and transported back to Chicago. He has provided updates throughout his rehabilitation and thanked those who offered support. He also recognized fans for a standing ovation he received when the Bears hosted the Packers at Soldier Field in Week 10.

Marvin Jones Jr. caught 4 of 7 targets for 85 yards and one touchdown against a Bears defense that has been good against the pass this season. Believe it or not, Jones now trails teammate Golden Tate by only nine fantasy points on the season, though Jones has played 145 more snaps. In fact, Jones has been on the field for 401 of the Lions’ 405 pass plays this season, which has helped allow him to handle 21 percent of the team’s targets.

Jones sits 16th among wide receivers in fantasy points (Tate is 12th) and his 5.8 OTD ranks 13th in the NFL. Jones should be locked into lineups most weeks but is certainly a risky play against Minnesota on Thursday. Jones has posted targets-receptions-yards-touchdowns lines of 5-2-42-0, 11-4-54-0 and 5-1-5-0 in three games against the Vikings while with the Lions. Same as in Week 4, expect Xavier Rhodes to shadow Jones this week.
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Why Colts should shut down Andrew Luck, look to 2018

If the Indianapolis Colts could skip ahead and simulate the remainder of the 2017 season, you suspect they would happily fast-forward to February.

14.2 percent. The Lions have lost three of their past four games and have struggled to keep Matthew Stafford upright, as he has taken 23 sacks, second most in the NFL. Detroit’s chances of winning the division are low, but with five division matchups remaining and Aaron Rodgers out, they could start to climb.

5.7 percent. The Broncos have lost three of their past four games, with Trevor Siemian throwing two touchdowns (and five interceptions) over that stretch. The offense hasn’t mustered more than 16 points in the past four contests, and Denver’s chances of winning the division have dropped below 6 percent as a result.

Dan Graziano, NFL writer: Sure, it has to. Attrition via injury is such a huge part of any NFL season, and the healthier teams tend to be the ones standing at the end. If this were one stand-alone injury, the Patriots likely could weather it. But set in the larger context of the defensive attrition they’ve already endured, it makes you wonder how much more they can take. Buffalo and Miami both are mounting challenges in the AFC East, and Pittsburgh looks like it could cruise to a No. 1 seed. This has to affect the way you view New England’s chances, even if they’re still your favorite.

Our definition of tanking is when a team with little to no chance of contending purposefully plays a weakened roster, knowing that losing will make it more likely it comes away with a cornerstone piece for the future in the draft(s) to come. You might fairly raise moral questions about a team that doesn’t try to win with all its heart every single time out, but the economic structures leagues have built in American sports — the combination of a player draft alongside the artificially depressed salaries of young players — incentivizes teams to either be very good or very bad. It’s not going anywhere.
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Packers vs. Cowboys 2017 live stream: Start time, TV schedule, and how to watch online

The last time the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers played was the divisional round of the 2016 playoffs. That game saw the Packers come out on top, 34-31, and the Cowboys go into their Week 5 matchup seeking revenge. The game will begin at 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX (live streaming via Fox Sports GO).

Green Bay had a last-second completion followed by a field goal in the fourth to give them the win over the Cowboys in that playoff game. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had 355 yards and two touchdowns through the air, along with one interception. Dak Prescott had 302 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for the Cowboys.

Goodell wrote in a memo to all 32 teams last week that the current dispute over the national anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country.

The Steelers have found success running the ball on this drive. Pittsburgh has already totaled 57 yards on the ground so far and they have it deep in Kansas City territory. They’ll have a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line to start the second quarter.

No. 1 seed — Chiefs (5-1): First place, AFC West. Here we go again. They were rolling offensively with Alex Smith, but one afternoon of major struggles on both sides of the ball against Pittsburgh — the team that also beat them in last year’s playoffs at Arrowhead Stadium — and here comes the familiar doubt. The good news is all of their division competition looks weaker than expected, boosting their chances to repeat.
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Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams on saving lives, overweight cats and his future

DeAngelo Williams is the oldest running back in the NFL, and he’s set to become a free agent after playing the last two years with the Steelers.

His first season in Pittsburgh was a success, as he led the NFL in rushing touchdowns, and finished just shy of 1,000 yards. He didn’t get quite the same workload this past season with Le’Veon Bell healthy, and his playing days are numbered as he approaches his 34th birthday in April, but he still has some unfinished work to do.

Eli Manning is 36, and the last word that would describe his 2016 season is “elite.” Despite being settled in coach Ben McAdoo’s offense, Manning threw it back a little to his disastrous 2013 season. The NFL’s ironman QB isn’t far from true deficiency.

If the Giants really do love Kizer as potential successor, they would need to pull the trigger in the first round. Kizer, being a less polished but more skilled overall prospect than Trubisky and Watson, could use the time to learn McAdoo’s efficiency-leaning system. Ryan Nassib isn’t the answer to go from unused No. 2 to sudden No. 1 in a few years.

Drew Brees, 38, keeps defying his age, but at some point soon, likely tied to whenever Sean Payton’s time in New Orleans ends, he will walk away from the game. There’s no worry about that in 2017, though.

Trubisky’s talents — especially his accuracy — are tailored to what New Orleans does well. Absorbing everything from Brees and Payton with a strong supporting cast is a much better scenario for Trubisky than being throw into the fire elsewhere. The potential of a parallel to the Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers smooth hand-off is there with this move.
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Jack Ham and Jack Lambert are inner-circle Steelers all-timers

That freak athleticism goes a long way in explaining his success on the field. Watt is a three-down linebacker who can chase down quarterbacks around the edge or shoot gaps between blockers. At Wisconsin, he’d roam throughout the backfield to find weak points in blocking schemes, attacking to create havoc so he or his teammates could capitalize. Here’s an example of that cerebral pre-snap planning, courtesy of the Big Ten Network.

He also has the flexibility to shadow tight ends or drop into zone coverage, notching four passes defended and a pick-six last fall. Solid fundamentals — strong hits at the point of contact and good wrapping of ball carriers — make him a sound tackler. That, combined with his ability to attack and shed blockers, should make him the kind of defensive player whose name is called over the PA several times each game.

Jack Ham and Jack Lambert are inner-circle Steelers all-timers, just as critical to Chuck Noll’s teams as Greene and L.C. Greenwood. The franchise has had 17 linebacker Pro Bowlers, by far the most of any position. The Steelers sucked in the ‘80s, but Ham and Lambert eventually gave way to Jason Gildon and Joey Porter, two star outside backers, at the turn of the millennium.

Porter, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, and ageless wonder James Harrison have all keyed Super Bowl runs. A few of those occupy the top slots on the Steelers all-time sacks list, with Harrison at No. 1 with 79.5 career takedowns. The Steelers have had Hall of Fame-level QBs, but defense has been their central theme.

Linebackers are the ones who get cheered loudest when they run out of the tunnel at Heinz Field. They’re the ones whom we, as Pittsburghers, use to rationalize why other teams will always cower against us. (I’m not saying it’s a rational thing; it’s just a thing.) Pittsburghers love linebackers as much as they love eating french fries on their sandwiches, which is to say we really love them a lot.
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Dirk Nowitzki will return for his 20th season with the Mavericks

After playing his 19th season with the Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki has informed the team he will return for his 20th NBA season, according to Mavs.com. He will exercise his player option to opt into the final season of his two-year, $50 million contract.

Nowitzki joins just Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Kevin Willis, and Robert Parrish as the only players in NBA history to play 20 seasons. He and Bryant are the only players to spend two decades with one team.

Note where Game 5, if it happens, would be played: April 26 at Oracle Arena. Now check out Chance the Rapper’s tour schedule this spring.

Chance is getting bigger and bigger, but I initially thought maybe he wasn’t slated to perform at Oracle. I saw him in Dallas last year, and he played at a large concert venue rather than an even larger arena. (Highly recommend it, by the way.) But …

Welp.

We reached out to Warriors PR, and they gave us this statement.

When booking concert events at the arena during a playoff run, we typically schedule contingency dates for that event. The Warriors will have the priority on April 26th.

A formal announcement for the Chance the Rapper show is in the works, pending that the show will be moved.
There’s a good, maybe even great, chance the Warriors do sweep. That’s definitely possible, even though Portland is feisty and ended the season playing better basketball than when the year started. So it’s possible this all works out.

If not, and if you have tickets to both, start praying for a Golden State sweep. (Or just have a flexible schedule and you’ll be fine.) The Warriors will bring in at least 10 times the revenue that the Chance show will, and it’s televised. Of course they have priority. That’s no surprise.

Either way, it’s a nice little wrinkle if Golden State does go up 3-0.
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Gary Kubiak’s offenses were fueled by elite play from the front five

With the offseason near, and Vegas throwing a wrench into the draft plans, most teams will likely be scrambling to sign and make deals to accommodate their biggest players. The Jets, however, will have just four unrestricted free agents to deal with and have a projected $6.3 million in cap space to work with.

The only big-name UFA coming off the books at the end of the season will be Pavelec, and with their cap space they’ll have plenty of room to get Marko Dano, Copp, Brandon Tanev, Ben Chiarot, and Hellebuyck under contract. Some smart management this offseason can set them up well for a bright future.

No one knows what the penalty would be for players who do defy the NHL and head to Pyeongchang in the middle of the 2017-18 season. It could range from fines — for the players themselves and/or the owners — to suspensions, much like how players sit out a game if they miss the All-Star Game.

And if players do get “permission” from either the league or their owner, will the national teams even accept them? The European teams might, and Russia no doubt will, but the catch is a bit more for the United States and Canada. The NHL has the most sway over Team USA and Team Canada as the countries are the league’s center of power, and it’s not unreasonable to wonder if the league would attempt to come down on the national teams as well.

In their heyday, Gary Kubiak’s offenses were fueled by elite play from the front five, consistently creating cutback lanes on Houston’s signature Outside Zone play while providing harassment-free pockets for Schaub (and the weird gallimaufry of QBs that Schaub’s injury thrust on the scene in 2011). But all good things must come to an end, and debatable resource allocation by the Texans’ front office, along with the cruel dictates of Father Time, hastened that end along.

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There’s really no tequila in this Gronk-tini?

Over at Mile High Report, Bronco Mike is looking ahead to the matchup between the Chiefs and Broncos on Nov. 17:

This game is just the beginning of the best to come. The only home game in this 4 game stretch occurs Sunday, November 17th. Finally, we get to see if that sterling 9-0 record is all it’s cracked up to be. The unstoppable force (Bronco offense) meets the immovable object (Chiefs defense), and the first in two epic battles will play out in primetime. Manning and company are no strangers to primetime. Over the course of 24 regular season games, they have played 8 under the lights with all of America watching. Their record? 6-2. The gameplan? Simple: Win.

Kyle Posey of Bolts From The Blue want to know why Ryan Mathews does not get the ball more:

As we learn a little more about the event, I learn that the “fastest girl at camp” gets to hug Gronk. Assuming “fast” refers to running, I am suddenly grateful for my knee problems. We are told repeatedly to “drink up.” If you insist.

Some 45 minutes into the event, Rob Gronkowski finally makes his big entrance, in camouflage Zubaz pants, no less. As someone who actually owns a pair of Zubaz, I immediately regret my outfit choice. We do the Gronk chant, as practiced.

Gronk briefly greets the group with some Q&A, starting with “who is the center for the Patriots?” Pffft, like anyone knows that. (Apparently no one does know that.) This segues pretty quickly into a seemingly rehearsed bit that results in the host asking “what is a tight end?” and Gronk turning around, wiggling his butt, and yelling ” THIS IS A TIGHT END!” The women go ballistic; I begin to question my life choices. There’s really no tequila in this Gronk-tini? How?8

Louisville player got so excited he fell off the bench

The first half of Sunday’s Michigan-Louisville game was a barn burner. Louisville’s Deng Adel had a couple highlights, including when he annihilated a basketball with a thunder dunk. Near the end of the first half, Adel made back-to-back threes to extend Louisville’s lead, and it was so exciting, Ryan McMahon fell out of his seat and a coach angrily ran up to yank him off the ground.

I don’t care if it was intentional or not, the guilty party must be brought to justice.

Thankfully, Verne is a pro’s pro who played through the pain and even made light of the incident during the West Virginia-Notre Dame broadcast.

This was a team that probably wouldn’t have even made the field of 68 if it had lost its first game in the Big East tournament. Now it’s rolling into the Sweet 16 after an 11-point win over sixth-seeded Maryland, and a 25-point drubbing of third-seeded Florida State. Teams that make deep runs in March typically have star guards who are playing their best basketball of the season, and that’s the case with the Musketeers and Trevon Bluiett.

On paper, Notre Dame seemed like the worst possible second-round matchup for West Virginia. The Mountaineers win games by using their trademark pressure to feed off of opponents’ mistakes. The Fighting Irish don’t make many mistakes. They entered Saturday’s game ranking second in the nation in fewest turnovers per game, and were leading the nation in both assist-to-turnover ratio and team free-throw percentage.

Somehow, the Mountaineers still forced a team with that makeup to play right into their hands. West Virginia forced Notre Dame into 14 turnovers (six above their season average), and held them to 10-of-28 shooting from beyond the arc, and to 40.7 percent overall from the field as a team.25